OCEAN PINES — In a solemn, quiet ceremony yesterday, about a dozen U.S. veterans and their supporters gathered at the wind-swept Worcester County Veterans Memorial at Ocean Pines to commemorate the 45th anniversary of the Tet Offensive, a major attack by communist forces on South Vietnam in 1968 that helped escalate the ill-fated conflict.
After a few brief remarks, Vietnam veterans Bob Bates, Ray Updike and Worcester County Sheriff Reggie Mason placed a wreath with a sash simply saying Tet 45 at the base of the memorial along Route 589 in Ocean Pines. It was the fifth time the anniversary of the Tet Offensive was recognized with a ceremony at the memorial and each time, the number of attendees has grown by a small measure.
American Legion Post 166 Past Post Commander Sarge Garlitz, who has coordinated the anniversary recognition for the last five years, said on Thursday commemorating the 45th anniversary of the Tet Offensive was a fitting and proper thing to do.
“We’re here today to honor those who served and are with us still,” he said. “And, we’re here to honor those who did not make it back and their families.”
On Jan. 20, 1968, North Vietnamese troops and their guerilla allies, the Viet Cong, launched a major offensive across a large front throughout South Vietnam, attacking around 100 major cities and towns. The attack came as a surprise to U.S. troops and their South Vietnamese allies because it came during an agreed-upon ceasefire called to honor the Vietnamese holiday of Tet, the lunar new year.
In some cities and towns, the communists were quickly repelled within hours, but in many areas, the fighting raged on for weeks and massive casualties were sustained. At the height of the Tet offensive, North
Vietnamese forces were able to seize the U.S. embassy in Saigon. U.S. troops were able to retake the embassy after about eight hours, but it took U.S. and South Vietnamese forces about two weeks to retake Saigon.
There has been some debate over the years about the impact of the Tet Offensive in escalating a war that had largely been fought in smaller skirmishes with guerilla forces in the years leading up to 1968. In military terms, the U.S. was the clear victor in the Tet Offensive because North Vietnamese troops were unsuccessful in maintaining control over any of the attacked areas in South Vietnam.
The communist forces also suffered heavy losses with a reported 45,000 killed. The Tet Offensive escalated the war in Vietnam and in the wake of the concerted attacks, an additional 200,000 American troops were called into the conflict, necessitating the activation of reserves.