In the Tet Offensive of 1968, Viet Cong and North Vietnamese forces launched a massive countrywide attack on South Vietnam. Though the Communists failed to achieve their tactical and operational objectives, James Willbanks claims Hanoi won a strategic victory. The offensive proved that America's progress was grossly overstated and caused many Americans and key presidential advisors to question the wisdom of prolonging combat.
Willbanks also maintains that the Communists laid siege to a Marine combat base two weeks prior to the Tet Offensive& mdash;known as the Battle of Khe Sanh& mdash;to distract the United States. It is his belief that these two events are intimately linked, and in his concise and compelling history, he presents an engaging portrait of the conflicts and singles out key problems of interpretation. Willbanks begins with a historical overview of the events leading up to the offensive, the attack itself, and the consequent battles of Saigon, Hue, and Khe Sahn. He continues with a critical assessment of the main themes and issues surrounding the offensive, and concludes with excerpts from American and Vietnamese documents, maps and chronologies, an annotated list of resources, and a short encyclopedia of key people, places, and events.
Willbanks (military history, U.S. Army Command & General Staff Coll., Fort Leavenworth; Abandoning Vietnam: How America Left and South Vietnam Lost Its War) has written a brief, readable, and balanced account of what historians see as the crucial battle of the Vietnam War, the 1968 Tet Offensive launched by the North Vietnamese and the Vietcong. His own text, which makes up roughly half of the book, discusses North Vietnamese plans and reasons for the offensive, the American response to it, short-term and long-terms results, and the role of the media in reporting the communist attacks. He tries to present multiple points of view, especially in debates over the relative success of the offensive and its results. The remainder of the work consists of very helpful ancillaries, including a chronology, definitions, brief biographical sketches, selected documents (primary sources from both America and Vietnam), and a first-rate annotated guide to resources. An excellent supplementary text for college and university courses, this is appropriate for such libraries, as well as larger public ones. A.O. Edmonds, Ball State Univ., Muncie, IN Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.