Vietnam War/Tet Offensive

Published: 1968
Play Audio Archive Story - UPI
The scene is Hue, during its darkest moment-the infamous TET offensive. U.S. marines are keeping low because of intense sniper fire from communists units which seized two-thirds of the ancient imperial Capital 2/4/1968. The Marines were pinned down behind this wall near the old citadel and radioed for support. U.S. spokesmen reported that leathernecks hauled down the North Vietnamese flag after seven days of fighting and recaptured the city. (UPI photo)

Announcer: In Vietnam, the Tet Offensive, the Battle of Ka-San, the peace talks, and the bombing halt, captured the headlines during 1968. The fighting in the streets of Saigon during the New Year or Tet Offensive made the war too real for UPI reporter, Bill Reilly.

Bill Reilly: “A young Negro man is head wrapped in a bandage, a combat bandage, being helped across the road now. Three others went out ahead of him, they are pulling him, telling him, come on, come on; they are about 100 feet from here. Two more wounded, three, four, five, coming out, just barely making it to the walls, the walls around the villa. The helicopter is circling over, one man chips over a piece of debris at the outside of the alley, at the end of the alley.”

Announcer: We will be right back with United Press International, 1968 News In Review, and the story of Vietnam.

Announcer: These are the sounds of war, war in Vietnam. They are sounds that become dreadfully familiar to American soldiers in Kaesong, Hué, and to reporters like Bill Reilly in Saigon.

Bill Reilly: "The alleyway where I can see now just outside the side gate of the Joint General Staff of the South Vietnamese Command is littered with bodies … to the U.S. … stretchers and a burned-out truck that carried in military policemen early in the morning. It looks like a scene from World War II as depicted on the -- here comes a -- one of the fire teams; we have to get down now."

Announcer: UPI reporter Bill Reilly was describing the scene in Saigon at the beginning of a Viet Cong major offensive. By American estimates, the offensive was a major military defeat for the Communist-supported troops.

For UPI audio newsman Roger Norum, 1968 in Vietnam meant his first look at death. Norum arrived in Vietnam in March. Two months later, he and UPI photographer Charlie Eggleston were scampering from building to building covering the fighting just outside of Saigon.

Robert Norum: "Oh, no! No! Charlie's been shot!

"Oh, my god! My god, he’s … Charlie's been killed. Oh, my god, blood is … streaming out of his nose and mouse. He's got it right in the head. Oh, Jesus."

Announcer: More of the story of Vietnam and a hope for peace coming up on United Press International’s 1968 in Review.

The night President Johnson said he would not seek reelection in 1968, he made another announcement.

President Lyndon Johnson: "Tonight, I have ordered our aircraft and our naval vessels to make no attacks on North Vietnam. The area in which we are stopping our attacks includes almost 90 percent of North Vietnam’s population and most of its territory."

Announcer: This action paved the way for preliminary peace talks to begin. After some haggling about where the peace talks would take place, Paris was finally selected, and on May the 13th the talks began.

Unknown Speaker: "America’s chief negotiator of these Vietnam talks, Avriel Harriman, is certainly not optimistic about any speedy agreement to end the fighting. In a sidewalk news conference, the Presidential envoy was asked how long he expected to remain here in Paris …

Unknown Speaker: "I did make a speculation when I went to Moscow for the Test Ban Agreement that I thought it would take us ten days to come to agreement; we came to agreement on the 10th day, but I wouldn’t want to make any such prediction this time."

Announcer: During the summer, the talks appeared to get nowhere. It was not until Halloween night, when the President announced a full bombing halt of North Vietnam, that any progress was made.

The South Vietnam Government, after initially refusing to enter the talks at this stage, did agree to meet in Paris, and the hope for peace in Vietnam was encouraged.