The Tet Offensive (Tết Mậu Thân)
In many areas in Saigon the Tet Offensive was quickly over, but it could have easily gone the other way. The willingness of the MPs and General Irzyk’s HAC, Headquarters Area Command, personnel to put on flak jackets and react to the attacks throughout the city saved Saigon. These troops were not combat troops; in fact they were policemen, security guards, cooks, and clerks, but they managed to engage the enemy and hold their ground long enough so that American combat troops and ARVN troops on leave could return to the city and finish the job. Throughout the battle of Saigon, twenty-seven MPs were killed and forty-four were wounded. The ARVN troops, though undermanned and new to their job of defending the city, fought bravely, turning the tide of the offensive against the communists.
In some areas, like Cholon, the fighting dragged on for days or weeks. Many civilians were killed in the crossfire or assassinated by the VC squads for political reasons, or to keep them from warning the authorities of the impending offensive. The result, beyond the casualties, was a massive amount of damage to Saigon and its citizens. Tens of thousands of houses were destroyed and virtually overnight refugees flooded Saigon. By the middle of May there were over 325,000 refugees within the city limits. The South Vietnamese government quickly set up an aid program to provide food and necessities. The general uprising of the people to join the communist cause never happened, much to the surprise of the communists. Instead, the people became more determined than ever to defeat them.