"It certainly was a defining moment," said professor Michael Gillen, who served in Vietnam as a member of the Merchant Marine and now teaches courses on the war and Asian history at Purchase College and Pace University.
"The government had been telling us that we were winning in Vietnam.Then, all of a sudden, we're seeing the U.S. Embassy
in Saigon being overrun on television.You can't overemphasize the effect that had on how people viewed the war." Gillen
said recent demonstrations against a possible U.S. attack on Iraq are reminiscent of the nation's mood after Tet.
"Many of us came out of that experience realizing that it was our duty to question and criticize our leaders," he
said."Part of the legacy of the Tet Offensive and of the Vietnam War experience is that we look more carefully, we think about what we're being told and we have public debate."
From a military standpoint, the Tet Offensive was a major U.S. victory.In three weeks of savage fighting, more than 33,000 enemy soldiers were killed, while the United States suffered 1,600 deaths.The North Vietnamese were driven out of every city, town and base they had captured.But media images of the surprise attacks and of soldiers engaged in desperate firefights shook the public's confidence.