30
Jan
09

On This Day, January 30: Tet

January 30, 1968

Tet Offensive begins

At dawn on the first day of the Tet holiday truce, Viet Cong forces–supported by large numbers of North Vietnamese troops–launch the largest and best coordinated offensive of the war, driving into the center of South Vietnam’s seven largest cities and attacking 30 provincial capitals from the Delta to the DMZ.

Among the cities taken during the first four days of the offensive were Hue, Dalat, Kontum, and Quang Tri; in the north, all five provincial capitals were overrun. At the same time, enemy forces shelled numerous Allied airfields and bases. In Saigon, a 19-man Viet Cong suicide squad seized the U.S. Embassy and held it for six hours until an assault force of U.S. paratroopers landed by helicopter on the building’s roof and routed them. Nearly 1,000 Viet Cong were believed to have infiltrated Saigon, and it took a week of intense fighting by an estimated 11,000 U.S. and South Vietnamese troops to dislodge them.

By February 10, the offensive was largely crushed, but with heavy casualties on both sides. The former Imperial capital of Hue took almost a month of savage house-to-house combat to regain. Efforts to assess the offensive’s impact began well before the fighting ended. On February 2, President Johnson announced that the Viet Cong had suffered complete military defeat. General Westmoreland echoed that appraisal four days later in a statement declaring that Allied forces had killed more enemy troops in the previous seven days than the United States had lost in the entire war.

Militarily, Tet was decidedly an Allied victory, but psychologically and politically, it was a disaster. The offensive was a crushing military defeat for the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese, but the size and scope of the communist attacks caught the American and South Vietnamese allies by surprise. The early reporting of a smashing communist victory went largely uncorrected in the media and led to a psychological victory for the communists. The heavy U.S. and South Vietnamese casualties incurred during the offensive, coupled with the disillusionment over the earlier overly optimistic reports of progress in the war, accelerated the growing disenchantment with President Johnson’s conduct of the war. Johnson, frustrated with his inability to reach a solution in Vietnam, announced on March 31, 1968, that he would neither seek nor accept the nomination of his party for re-election.

“Tet Offensive begins.” 2009. The History Channel website. 30 Jan 2009, 03:57 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=1642.

On This Day

1798 – The first brawl in the U.S. House of Representatives took place. Congressmen Matthew Lyon and Roger Griswold fought on the House floor.

1862 – The U.S. Navy’s first ironclad warship, the “Monitor”, was launched.

1900 – The British fighting the Boers in South Africa ask for a larger army.

1933 – Adolf Hitler was named the German Chancellor.

1948 – Indian political and spiritual leader Mahatma Gandhi was murdered by a Hindu extremist.

1972 – In Northern Ireland, British soldiers shot and killed thirteen Roman Catholic civil rights marchers. The day is known as “Bloody Sunday.”

1996 – Gino Gallagher, the reputed leader of the Irish National Liberation Army, was shot and killed as he queued for his unemployment benefit.

U2:  Sunday Bloody Sunday

January 30, 1994

Dan Jansen skates world-record 500 meters

On this day in 1994, the American speed skater Dan Jansen sets a new world record of 35.76 at the World Sprint Championships in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

Born in 1965 in Wisconsin, Jansen had been the youngest skater to compete at the 1984 Winter Olympics in Sarajevo, where he came in fourth place in the 500 meter event. Favored to win in Calgary in 1988, Jansen was devastated by the death of his sister Jane from leukemia on the day he was scheduled to race in the 500 meter final. He raced that night in hopes of winning in her honor, but fell 100 meters into the race. Four days later, he fell again during the 1000 meter event, and left Calgary without a medal. In Albertville, France, in 1992, Jansen came up short again, finishing fourth in the 500 meters and 26th in the 1000.

In December 1992, Jansen became the first man ever to skate 500 meters in less than 36 seconds, when he set a new world record mark of 35.92 seconds in Hamar, Norway. The January 30, 1993 finish marked the sixth time that Jansen had either tied or broke the world record in the 500 meters. He had come to dominate that event and the 1,000 meters in international competition, but an Olympic medal still eluded him.

The next Winter Olympics–Jansen’s fourth–were held in 1994, in Lillehammer, Norway. By that time, he had won an overall total of seven World Cup titles and set seven world records. After he slipped in the 500 meter skate, it looked like Jansen’s hopes for Olympic glory might be shattered. When he took to the ice for the 1,000 meter event four days later, however, Jansen turned things around, skating to a world record finish of 1:12.43 to finally win Olympic gold. He retired from competition after the Lillehammer games.

“Dan Jansen skates world-record 500 meters.” 2009. The History Channel website. 30 Jan 2009, 03:59 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=57429.

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