January-April, 1968: Siege of Khe Sanh Summary

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

As part of the Tet Offensive, in January, 1968, North Vietnamese troops directed by General Vo Nguyen Giap attacked the marine air base at Khe Sanh, scoring an early direct hit on the base’s main ammunition dump, which detonated more than 1,500 tons of explosives. With little food and a precarious water supply, marines and other soldiers were besieged for seventy-seven days. The United States retaliated with massive round-the-clock air strikes, one of the most concentrated aerial bombardments in the history of warfare.

As part of the Tet Offensive, in January, 1968, North Vietnamese troops directed by General Vo Nguyen Giap attacked the marine air base at Khe Sanh, scoring an early direct hit on the base’s main ammunition dump, which detonated more than 1,500 tons of explosives. With little food and a precarious water supply, marines and other soldiers were besieged for seventy-seven days. The United States retaliated with massive round-the-clock air strikes, one of the most concentrated aerial bombardments in the history of warfare.

General William Westmoreland, seeking a decisive set-piece battle, placed the defense of Khe Sanh over all other military operations, with an estimated five tons of artillery and aerial munitions deployed for every North Vietnamese soldier. During the siege, 205 U.S. Marines and an estimated 10,000 to 15,000 North Vietnamese were killed in action. After the battle, Khe Sanh reverted to its previous status as a strategically unimportant site. Although the United States claimed victory, the siege at Khe Sanh brought about serious debate on U.S. military strategy in Vietnam. Soon after, General Westmoreland was relieved of his command.

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