tv Reel America Saigon - Target Zero - 1968 CSPAN August 6, 2018 3:04pm-3:27pm EDT
as tet. many historians consider the tet offensive as it came to be known, as a turning point in the vietnam war. next on "real america," saigon, target zero, a film shot and edited by south vietnamese armed forces who documented their efforts to capture and kill vietcong. the film contains graphic scenes of dead bodies that may be disturbing to some viewers. ♪ ♪
at the end of january, 1968 saigon was alive with a festive spirit as everyone prepared for the lunar new year. for the people of vietnam, tet is a joyous and sacred time of the year. the first spring of the second republican of vietnam. the tet truce, proposed by the communist north vietnamese, seemed to promise the people a safe holiday, free from the anxiety of war. at the temples, the people gathered to pay respect to their ancestors. on the eve of the new year, thousands prayed for the altars of their ancestors. they prayed peace might be
restored to their homeland. this year, however, the traditional firecrackers became the fireworks of war. the vietcong taking advantage of the noisy celebration, launched a savage attack on saigon, violating the truce they themselves had proposed. the city became a blazing inferno. columns of spoke rose as block after block burned with the fires of vietcong treachery. as people fled, many fell victim to the enemy gunfire. government soldiers reacted quickly to counter the communist offensive and to protect civilian life and property.
>> many of the terrorists attempted to hide. the soldiers found them and brought them out. in a few areas of saigon, the enemy seized and held the upper floors of tall buildings. tanks were immediately deployed to these areas to help dislodge the vietcong. the enemy used his elite troops to attempt the capture of the saigon radio station. unable to seize his objective, the enemy set fire to the building.
the vietnamese airborne troops were quickly on the scene, along with firefighting squads to put out the blaze. these bodies are evidence of the miscalculation of north vietnamese four star general, who was credited with having planned the communist tet offensive is the same officer who was victorious in 1954. times, however, have changed. the loss of thousands of men and weapons have taught the communist general a grim lesson. this carefully planned attack by the north vietnamese has been described as their all or
nothing, go for broke effort. it ended in dismal failure. ten communist dead for each allied soldier lost is proof for the tremendous price they paid for their desperate attempt. >> side by side with the combat soldiers, they entered the dangerous areas. they called on the people to remain calm. fearful civilians ran to government soldiers for
protection. the soldiers led them out to safety and temporary refugee centers. ♪ >> doctors and nurses of the medical corps came to the aid of the civilian wounded in the city. the military and civilian ambulances heeded the evacuation of the seriously wounded. among the real heroes of if day were the firefighting squad. throughout the city, the vietcong set fires to heavily populated areas to cover their retreat. each time, the fires had to be put out to keep them from spreading. the firemen braved the flames and the enemy guns to save
saigon. ♪ >> wherever the fighting was the heaviest, civic action teams were on hand, using their loud speakers to tell the people the truth about the attack and how they could best escape to safer areas. the teams used their loud speakers to appeal to the enemy to lay down his arms and surrender. many vietcong responded to the calls to surrender. in some areas, entire squads surrendered as a unit. they proved an excellent source of information. they told of the lack of morale and fighting spirit in their
ranks. some told how they had been forced to fight, but when their leaders had been killed, they willingly surrendered to the government soldiers. as the battle progressed, the bodies of stubborn vietcong littered the street. piles of red chinese were taken from the dead and defeated communist troops. this elderly man, a life long resident of saigon, showed the soldiers the best way to surround the area the communists had infiltrated. communist violence quickly turned large sections of the capital city into an inferno, with residents trying to save themselves. the homeless numbered tens of
thousands in just a few hours. the focus of the conflict focused on a heavily populated area. the fighting lasted for days. among the bloodiest firefighters occurred outside of downtown saigon. once civilians were evacuated, the army sa yy saturated the arh a lethal display of firepower. the entire ba tattalion of vc
regulars prove nod match. they quirkily encircled the enemy and annihilated him. many of these dead vc and north vietnamese were forced from their farms and villages and sent to saigon to face what their superiors knew was certain death. ♪ >> hundreds of their wounded and bleeding were abandoned on the streets of saigon by the vietcong. they were provided medical care by both civilians and military
areas of the city. when the fire subsided, the residents returned into the ashes of their homes and sadly shuffled through the ruins to salvage what they could. many of these people have been born in these houses and had reared their children in them. now there was nothing left but ashes and memories. the homeless stand around dazed, confused and helpless.
while the paratroopers and marines were flushing out the last of the communists from the city, other army units were busy relocating the homeless at refugee centers where they could receive food and medical attention. ♪ their fathers and husbands are dead. here they are, helpless with their homes destroyed and possessions burned. the government now has the responsibility of caring for
these orphans and widows as best it can while trying to prevent the communists from launching another devastating attack. ♪ >> civic action teams also began a disease prevention campaign among the citizens, especially the refugees. religious and civic action organizations from all over the world responded to the government's request for aid. food, medical supplies and clothing all poured into the refugee camps and were distributed to the victims. truck after truck carried water in from outlying areas to the stricken city to help it get back on its feet. the food in the camps was simple
but nourishing. ♪ children are children, even in refugee camps. supervised their play and recreation. as a health measure, the army engineer corps began to collect the mounds of garbage and debris that piled up on the streets during the fighting and its aftermath. tons of garbage were loaded into army trucks and hauled away in an effort to help the residents
get their neighborhoods back to normal. the people of saigon have cleaned up the city and begun to rebuild. barbed wire and barricades have given way to the traffic typical of the big city. life is returning to normal. yet the citizens of saigon will never forget how the communists shattered the tet crew with such devastations and violence. c-span, where history unfolds daily. in 1979, c-span was created as a
public service by america's cable television companies. and today, we continue to bring you unfiltered coverage of congress, the white house, the supreme court, and public policy events in washington, d.c. and around the country. c-span is brought to you by your cable or satellite provider. the war in vietnam lasted for 17 years, starting in 1955. but in 1968, the north vietnamese and the vietcong launched the tet offensive against a u.s. military base. the south vietnamese, with u.s. troops, responded. the u.s. added more troops in vietnam and increased spending. over the next several hours, american history tv is going to talk about that transforming year of 1968. and then how 1968 changed u.s. politics and public opinion, which led to ending the war. that's followed by a film about
the tet offensive made by south vietnamese armed forces at the time of the military drive. this is some of the american history tv programming normally seen weekends here on c-span3. we're able to show it to you while congress is on its august break. this week, watch the first of our series "1968, america in turmoil" where we look back 50 years to that tumultuous year. starting tonight, we'll discuss the vietnam war. tuesday, a look at the presidential campaign of that year. wednesday, civil rights and race relations. on thursday, a discussion on liberal politics. friday, conservative politics. on saturday, women's rights. watch "1968 america in turmoil" this week at 8:00 p.m. eastern on american history tv on c-span3.
and all nine programs are available as a podcast or watch at c-span.org on our 1968 page. senate confirmation hearings for brett kavanaugh to be a supreme court justice are expected in september and senators are likely to question him about roe versus wade, the 1973 decision that struck down many restrictions on abortion. on tuesday, at 8:00 p.m. eastern, c-span's landmarks cases presents an in depth look of roe versus wade. we'll also hear from david savage discussing kavanaugh's nomination and the abortion issue. 1968 is considered a turning point in the vietnam war. c-span produced a detailed look into 1968, american in turmoil, covering the major military, political, and diplomatic developments in the war that year. our guests are vietnam veteran
and former navy secretary jim webb. we begin with a video on the state of the war in 1967, produced by the u.s. naval photographic center. this is american history tv. these marines just returned from a tough battle in the north. their weapons are cleaned and cared for. a matter of importance in the life of a professional fighting man. this is not a clean or easy life but they learn to accept the physical hardships of battle as their fathers did before them. ♪ marines recount battles. fought in every clime and place. here in vietnam, except for snow, they prove it. from the soft ooze of the ric