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Cornell University Cornell Brooks Public Policy

Assessing Saigon’s “Year of Sand”: The 1968 Tet Offensive and Rise and Fall of South Vietnam’s Second Republic 1967-1975

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In many accounts of the Vietnam War, the 1968 Tet Offensive – a sweeping series of communist attacks against military bases, provincial capitals and even the United States Embassy in Saigon – is recalled as a defining moment when American public opinion turned against the war. Long overlooked, however, is the equally significant political impact of Tet in South Vietnam itself. Far from evincing public sympathy as Communist strategists had intended, the attacks saw a wave of anti-Communist solidarity sweep through South Vietnam’s cities and provincial towns. Partisan rivals set aside their differences, while the South Vietnamese military seized the opportunity to expand into Communist-dominated rural areas.

Drawing on American and Vietnamese-language sources, Sean Fear explores the aftermath of the 1968 Tet Offensive in South Vietnam. Challenging conventional views of the Vietnam War as a clash between Cold War superpowers and their proxies, it also asserts the centrality of overlooked Vietnamese political actors in determining the outcome of the war.

About the Speaker

Sean Fear is a Lecturer in International History at the University of Leeds.  His research focuses on South Vietnamese domestic politics and diplomacy during the Second Republic (1967-1975).  He is a 2022-23 Visiting Professor of History and Vietnam Studies at Fulbright University in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.