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Tet Offensive: Bibliography

Tet Offensive Documents Offer Analysis & Insight into IC and Military Activities - Part of the #tetdeclassified Series

In recognition of the 50th anniversary of the Tet Offensive—which began on January 30, 1968 and marked a turning point in the U.S. public’s support of the war in Vietnam—Director of National Intelligence Daniel R. Coats directed intelligence agencies to review their holdings to reveal previously classified details to the public. Documents will be released in three tranches, with the first tranche to be published on Intel.gov in July 2018.

U.S. Government agencies have already made a number of documents and other materials about the Tet Offensive available to the public, per the list below. The National Archives in Washington, DC, is also holding an exhibition about the Vietnam War—including a section dedicated to the Tet Offensive—through January 6, 2019. A link to the online version of the exhibition is below.


Central Intelligence Agency

“Episode 3—1967-1968: CIA, the Order-of-Battle Controversy, and the Tet Offensive”
Author: Harold P. Ford
Published: 1997

“Episode 3” is a chapter in a book about CIA’s involvement in the Vietnam war, titled, CIA and the Vietnam Policymakers: Three Episodes, 1962 – 1968. As explained in the book’s forward, it “reviews the Intelligence Community's analytic performance during the chaotic Vietnam era, with particular focus on the efforts of CIA analysts. It offers a candid view of the CIA's intelligence assessments concerning Vietnam during three episodes between 1962 and 1968 and the reactions of senior U.S. policymakers to those assessments.”

CIA and the Wars in Southeast Asia, 1947-75
Editors: Clayton D. Laurie and Andres Vaart
Published: 2016

The Tet Offensive is discussed in two sections of this anthology, which was prepared by the Center for the Study of Intelligence “as a contribution to the Department of Defense-led interagency efforts to commemorate the passing of 50 years since the large-scale engagement of” U.S. and other nations’ military forces in Vietnam. Read an overview of the anthology.

“A CORDS Advisor Remembers: The 1968 Tet Offensive in Vietnam and the Seizure of Hue”
Author: Raymond R. Lau
Published: December 2017

Lau, a former advisor in the Military Assistance Command Vietnam’s Civil Operations and Revolutionary Development Support program and later a CIA operations officer, recounts his experience on the ground during the seizure of the central Vietnamese city of Hue on January 31, 1968 as part of the Tet Offensive.

CIA and the Generals: Covert Support to Military Government in South Vietnam
Author: Thomas L. Ahern, Jr.
Published: 1998; declassified 19 February 2009

Ahern was a member of the history staff at the CIA’s Center for the Study of Intelligence and wrote three volumes about the Vietnam war, which have all now been declassified. This book is notable for its focus on “actions and operations of CIA officers in the field,” particularly those in Saigon Station, many of whom were interviewed for the book. Chapter 4 is about the Tet Offensive.

Vietnam Declassified
Author: Thomas L. Ahern, Jr.
Published: 2009

In this book, originally published internally in 2001 as a classified history entitled CIA and Rural Pacification in South Vietnam, Ahern provides many answers, formed with the benefit of hindsight, deep research into classified documents, candid and revealing interviews, and his own experience as a clandestine service officer. The book is narrowly focused on operations related to “the struggle to suppress the Viet Cong and win the loyalty of the peasantry”, although major military and political events—including the Tet Offensive—are mentioned for context. Read a summary of the book on the CIA’s website.

Department of Defense, including Air Force, Army, Marines, and Navy

“101st CAB Tet Offensive Historical Article”
Author: Staff Sgt. Sarah Bleistein (101st Airborne)
Published: November 2, 2009

This article recounts U.S. forces’ response to the assault on the U.S. embassy in Saigon during the Tet Offensive, particularly the use of helicopters from the 101st Aviation Battalion to repel the attackers and secure the grounds.

“The 50th Anniversary of the Tet Offensive”
Publisher: Office of Marine Corps Communications
Published: January 30, 2018

A short video montage of original footage commemorating the Tet Offensive and the Marine Corps’ involvement in it.

The Battle for Khe Sanh
Author: Captain Moyers S. Short II, USMC
Published: 1969; reprinted in 1977

The Khe Sanh plateau in central Vietnam, near the border with Laos, held strategic significance for the North Vietnamese Army, who attacked Khe Sanh Combat Base on January 21, 1968. Although the attack on Khe Sanh was not strictly part of the Tet Offensive, that offensive overlapped with the months-long battle by U.S. and South Vietnamese forces to hold the Khe Sanh plateau.

Air War over South Vietnam, 1968-1975
Author: Bernard C. Nalty
Published: 2000

One volume of a lengthy series focusing on the role of the U.S. Air Force in the Vietnam War, this book covers the Tet Offensive in January 1968 through the final collapse of South Vietnam in 1975. Per the book’s Forward, it “deals with the role of the Air Force in advising the South Vietnamese Air Force and waging war in South Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos” during that period.


U.S. Marines in Vietnam: The Defining Year, 1968
Authors: Jack Shulimson; Lieutenant Colonel Leonard A. Blasiol, USMC; Charles R. Smith; Captain David A. Dawson, USMC
Published: 1997

This is the ninth and final volume in an operational history series covering the Marine Corps’ involvement in the Vietnam War. It is written largely from the perspective of the III Marine Amphibious Force and South Vietnam’s I Corps, but also includes activities of other Marine units involved in the war. Chapter 8, in particular, focuses on the events of the Tet Offensive.

National Archives

Remembering Vietnam Exhibition: Twelve Critical Episodes in the Vietnam War
Exhibition at National Archives, Washington, DC
Open November 10, 2017–January 6, 2019

From the exhibition’s website: “This exhibition presents both iconic and recently discovered National Archives records related to 12 critical episodes in the Vietnam War. They trace the policies and decisions made by the architects of the conflict and help untangle why the United States became involved in Vietnam, why it went on so long, and why it was so divisive for American society.” The Tet Offensive is Episode 7. Experience the online version of the exhibition.


Vietnam’s Tet Offensive: 50 Years Later
Presented by the National Archives

A host of resources about the Tet Offensive from the National Archives catalog, including video, original documents and records, lesson plans, and an image gallery of very moving historical photos.

National Security Agency

American Cryptology during the Cold War, 1945-1989, Book II: Centralization Wins, 1960-1972
Author: Thomas R. Johnson
Published: 1995; declassified July 26, 2013

Chapter 13 of this lightly redacted, formerly-classified book is dedicated to the Tet Offensive (chapters 11-13 are about the Vietnam War) and the role of Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) in supporting U.S. and allied troops before and during those attacks by the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong.

“Damage Assessment of the Compromise of Operational Intelligence Broadcast Messages on-board USS Pueblo (AGER-2)”
Author: Prepared by a joint team composed of members from the Central Intelligence Agency, the Defense Intelligence Agency, U.S. Navy (NrC) U.S. Air Force (AFNIN), and U.S. Army (ACSI)
Published: 17 March 1969; declassified December 14, 2012

The USS Pueblo, a U.S. Navy ship, was captured by North Korea in early January 1968. The report concludes that information about U.S. troop levels and capabilities—gleaned from thousands of recent communications received by and still onboard the Pueblo at its time of capture—was passed to North Korea’s Communist allies and gave the North Vietnamese an advantage in the Tet Offensive later that month.

Spartans in Darkness: American SIGINT and the Indochina War, 1945-1975
Author: Robert J. Hanyok
Published: 2002; additional material released 2008

Published by NSA’s Center for Cryptologic History, this lightly redacted, previously-classified volume gives a detailed history of cryptology and SIGINT during the Vietnam War. The author does not shy away from examining controversial policy and political implications stemming from SIGINT interpretation and usage. Chapter 7 covers the period of the Tet Offensive.


Part of the #TetDeclassified Series

Declassified | Bibliography