vietnamwarera: Battle of Saigon Dates: 31 Jan 1968 – 31 Mar…

Americans viewed through the hole blasted in the US Embassy wall.

American military and civilian members outside the US Embassy.

A large section of rubble is all that remained in this one block square area of Saigon on Feb. 5, 1968, after fierce Tet Offensive fighting. (AP Photo/Johner)

First Lt. Gary D. Jackson of Dayton, Ohio, carries a wounded South Vietnamese Ranger to an ambulance Feb. 6, 1968… Cholon, Saigon (AP Photo/Dang Van Phuoc)

ARVN Rangers defending Saigon


Battle of Saigon

Dates: 31 Jan 1968 – 31 Mar 1968

Area of Operation: Saigon Circle – The capital and the two nearby major US and ARVN bases of Long Binh and Bien Hoa

Allied Units: ARVN, 5th Ranger Group; VNMC; US Army

Allied Casualties: Unknown

Enemy Units: NVA 7th Division; VC

Enemy Casualties: Unknown

Objectives: The plan for the Saigon area called for eight main objectives.

  • Capture  and neutralize key government command, control, and communication centers
  • Go Vap artillery and tank depots
  • Neutralize Tan Son Nhut Air Base and the MACV center located there
  • Seize Cholon district
  • Destroy Newport Bridge
  • Bien Hoa targets: Bien Hoa Air Base and ARVN III  Corps headquarters
  • Long Binh targets: Logistics depot an US II Field Force headquarters
  • Block any attempt at reinforcement, particularly any made by the USA 25th Infantry Division from Cu Chi along Highway 1, and those of the USA 1st Infantry Division from Lai Khe along Highway 13

Significance/Notes: There was a deep psychological impact of an attack on the US Embassy in the capital of South Vietnam on American citizens at home. Though the Viet Cong sappers who attacked the embassy breached the wall, they were killed before they could enter the building. However, the fact that they had managed even that much was startling to the public, who were hearing from the president and Gen. Westmoreland that the US and her allies were winning the war.

Lt Gen Weyand, commander of II Field Force (corps-level organization), is attributed with having “turned the battle before it even started” due to his interpretation of signals in the Saigon area. Before the attacks on Tet, there were only 14 battalions inside the Saigon Circle. However the lack of contact in certain areas (mostly along the border with Cambodia) and an increase in enemy radio traffic around Saigon led him to request more units be pulled into the area in a 10 Jan 1968 meeting with Westmoreland. As such, there were 27 battalions in the area when attacks began, nearly double what originally would have been present.

Other notes:

  • It wasn’t until 7 March that the Cholon district was cleared. However there was sporadic fighting throughout Saigon for the rest of the month. 
  • The famous photograph of police chief Major Nguyen Ngoc Loan executing a VC prisoner in the street, taken by Eddie Adams, occurred on 1 February.
  • Defense of the city had been turned over to the ARVN in December 1967, with support from American artillery units.


Further Reading:

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