January 31

This Day in History

Vietnam War

Jan 31, 1968:

Viet Cong attack U.S. Embassy

As part of the Tet Offensive, Viet Cong soldiers attack the U.S. Embassy in Saigon. A 19-man suicide squad seized the U.S. Embassy and held it for six hours until an assault force of U.S. paratroopers landed by helicopter on the building's roof and routed them.

The offensive was launched 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 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 and had 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.

While the offensive was a crushing military defeat for the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese, the early reporting of a smashing communist victory went largely uncorrected in the media and this led to 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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