What happened in the aftermath of the Tet offensive to the Viet Cong? Was it actually broken or did it just incorporate into the North Viet Nam army?

Edit: I am fully aware that the USA lost the Vietnam war. I am not interested in reiteration of that fact. What I am interested in is the operations against the Viet Cong. The fact that the North invaded the South and took over is not debatable. But how much was the Viet Cong part of that victory? How much did it contribute to it or was it eradicated/assimilated into the North Vietnam army?

This question focuses on the counter insurgency part of the war which could be won but the overall war lost -- again, I know the USA lost the Vietnam war.

4 Answers 4


The fall of South Vietnam was due to an invasion from North Vietnam in 1975, with little or no support from South Vietnamese insurgents. As the US was essentially gone from South Vietnam, it's arguable that the US didn't lose the war (although the South Vietnamese certainly did).

In 1972, there was a similar attack from the North, but there were still US forces in South Vietnam, and US air support was very important.

The last big Viet Cong action I know of is in 1968, including the Battle of Hue, and it was overall a defeat for the Viet Cong, although the US didn't come out well in the media.

So, it's a matter of definitions. South Vietnam was independent when the US pulled out. The US and allies defeated the last big insurgency. However, the US national will was sapped by the effort (having over 50,000 soldiers killed defending a far-off dictatorship wasn't the easiest sell for any administration), and the US left, allowing a North Vietnamese win later on. Call it what you will; you could definitely call US vs. insurgents a US victory, although hollow.

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    IMHO, a Pyrrhic victory is a victory only in name. The US had some tactical successes, but failed miserably, completely and thoroughly with their goals, political and military. Therefore, saying "it's arguable that the US didn't lose the war" & "you could definitely call US vs. insurgents a US victory" is nothing but spinning the truth around so that it seems less humiliating. 50,000 Americans, not a small amount of whom draftees, died in the middle of the jungle for a political reason, and it didn't amount to anything. That's not a victory. Jul 30, 2015 at 12:55

I hate to be flip here, especially since the echoes of Vietnam still reverberate, and our domestic politics still suffers from that war. The nature of the Vietnam war was a war of attrition. The official name of Saigon now is Ho Chi Minh city. Nuff said.

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    Case in point; well said. The U.S.A. lost, and big-time. Maybe they won the big battles; but the guerilla warfare never suited them and they never gained any real control.
    – Noldorin
    Oct 18, 2011 at 20:50
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    @Noldorin: any evidence or source for the guerilla warfare not suiting the US in Vietnam? Oct 19, 2011 at 8:34
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    @Sardathrion: No, but I think it's common view. :-) The U.S. military was not at all trained for guerilla warfare; indeed hadn't really been involved in any since that fought the Native Americans! I think the result of the war and testimonies of the soldiers is proof enough, hopefully.
    – Noldorin
    Oct 19, 2011 at 22:18
  • @Sardathrion to your question about sources, of the books I've read about the Vietnam War, "A Bright Shining Lie" by Neil Sheehan most powerfully illustrates America's inability to adapt to guerrilla warfare. It's a well-constructed account, and it does a good job of describing in practical terms how the American Way of War at the time was inadequate to the task of fighting determined native insurgents. Feb 10, 2012 at 18:38
  • Sorry, downvote. This is a history forum - you can't just dismiss a question like that, no matter how painful the subject is. Jan 24, 2013 at 12:38

The wording of your question seems to suggest that you are looking for an answer that is framed solely in terms of armed engagements. Answered in those terms, the Viet Cong were severely weakened by the time the US withdrew completely. But ultimately that doesn't matter. The VC had the will and wherewithal to continue. The US and ARVN did not.

One of the key tenets of counterinsurgency doctrine is that battles are only a part of the equation. While weakened, the Viet Cong were still able to keep the South Vietnamese government from asserting control over the countryside. Their political and logistical infrastructure was thorough and efficient. Though battered, they were the last man standing, and they were able to provide not insignificant support to the NVA effort. The Communists built a strategy in which the VC and NVA efforts complemented each other, and it paid off.

Reassessing the Viet Cong Role After Tet by Peter Brush

  • The Viet Cong were mostly ineffectual after 1968, and whether they gave up or not wouldn't have affected the outcome. The 1975 offensive was basically the NVA. Feb 14, 2012 at 13:32
  • @DavidThornley - Could you address the Peter Brush article directly? Feb 15, 2012 at 21:15
  • "Hmmmm... we can't find that page." Apr 2, 2015 at 22:26
  • Vanderbilt University has changed their online collection, and the Brush article is now behind a wall, though the abstract is here: discoverlibrary.vanderbilt.edu/VANDERBILT:TN_gale_ofa120734339 Apr 2, 2015 at 23:29

Considering that some people consider Vietnam a loss, or the one we returned from without achieving our objectives, then I would suggest that there was no "win" here. As user44 rightly notes, the government and cities in Vietnam changed hands in the 1970's so that pretty much says it all. Although if you look at it the Tet Offensive was more a public relations victory in that it went against what many Americans had been led to believe about the NLF and their strengths. Sure the US beat the offensive back and inflicted horrendous losses, but public opinion at home turned moreso against the war in the years after.

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