American Leadership and Decision-Making Failures in the Tet Offensive: Vietnam War Milestone, Deception and Warnings, Missed Opportunity, Intelligence Structure, Solutions, Communist Activities

This excellent report has been professionally converted for accurate flowing-text e-book format reproduction. Officers in today’s United States military can learn from the policy and military decision-making failures and successes in American history. The hope is that in future military operations, they will not repeat the mistakes of the past. This thesis will address the question of how the American leadership failed to correctly assess the indications of an impending offensive in the months preceding the 1968 Tet Offensive in Vietnam. The thesis will analyze and investigate the following weaknesses that contributed to the failure to foresee the Tet Offensive: North Vietnamese and Viet Cong deceptive actions, American inability to analyze those actions, measures the United States had in place to detect and to counter North Vietnamese preparations for the offensive, and the incomplete organization of the American intelligence organization in theater. The Tet Offensive serves as a cautionary parable for modern-day and future military leadership.


The 1968 Tet Offensive demonstrates how a leadership inability to properly analyze the battlefield can reshape a war and influence the domestic political landscape. Due to flaws in this analytical process, the Tet Offensive ultimately became a major negative turning point in the United States’ involvement in the Vietnam War. Tet accelerated a change in how the American public viewed the progress of the conflict. Despite the tactical defeat of the North Vietnamese Army (NVA, also known as the People’s Army of Vietnam [PAVN]) and People’s Liberation Armed Forces (PLAF, or more commonly known as the Viet Cong), many Americans now viewed Vietnam negatively and the Johnson administration with distrust. Increasingly, more and more people began to question the legitimacy of US involvement in Vietnam.

Did the American military leadership fail to correctly assess the indications of an impending offensive in the months preceding the Tet Offensive? In 1967, did the leadership ignore or misinterpret critical intelligence on the offensive including the movement of NVA and Viet Cong troops and supplies? Did Communist activities cause the American military and government to misread preparations being made for a larger operation? Based on information available at the time, what measures could the US have taken to correctly interpret NVA and National Liberation Front (NLF) preparations for the Tet Offensive? Was the American intelligence structure and decision-making process optimized, in terms of organization, to analyze the intelligence it possessed?

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