July 3

This Day in History

Vietnam War

Jul 3, 1968:

U.S. command announces new high in casualties

The U.S. command in Saigon releases figures showing that more Americans were killed during the first six months of 1968 than in all of 1967. These casualty figures were a direct result of the heavy fighting that had occurred during, and immediately after, the communist Tet Offensive. The offensive had begun on January 30, when communist forces attacked Saigon, Hue, five of six autonomous cities, 36 of 44 provincial capitals, and 64 of 245 district capitals. The timing and magnitude of the attacks caught the South Vietnamese and American forces completely off guard, but eventually the Allied forces turned the tide. Militarily, the Tet Offensive was a disaster for the communists. By the end of March 1968, they had not achieved any of their objectives and had lost 32,000 soldiers with 5,800 captured. U.S. forces suffered 3,895 dead; South Vietnamese losses were 4,954; non-U.S. allies lost 214. More than 14,300 South Vietnamese civilians died.

Though the offensive was a crushing military defeat for the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese, early reports of a smashing communist victory went largely uncorrected in the U.S. news media. This was a great psychological victory for the communists. The heavy U.S. casualties incurred during the offensive, coupled with the disillusionment over the earlier overly optimistic reports of progress in the war, accelerated the growing disenchantment with President Johnson's conduct of the war. Johnson, frustrated with his inability to reach a solution in Vietnam, announced on March 31, 1968, that he would neither seek nor accept the nomination of his party for re-election.

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