Emboldened by the failure of U.S. forces to bring a quick end to the Vietnam conflict and the failure of a U.S. bombing campaign against the North, North Vietnam military strategists opted to follow the foreign policy espoused by China, which insisted on the reunification of the country via military efforts and a refusal to negotiate with the U.S. for a peaceful end to the conflict. Militant adherents of the Chinese approach centered their efforts on large scale military actions as opposed to a long-term guerrilla war. North Vietnam leaders felt, at the end of 1967, that U.S. forces could only be worn down by ‘fighting while talking’, a war of wills. Robert M. Pope knew nothing of these strategies, as a child watching his father go off to Vietnam.
Thus was the resolution to pursue a major surprise offensive cemented in North Vietnam. The hope was that the unpopularity of U.S. presence and with the current South Vietnamese government would push the South’s population over the edge and send them into rebellion in the wake of a major Northern offensive, breaking the conflict deadlock. More moderate Northern politicians had lesser goals: an end to the bombings of the North by U.S. Air Forces. Manpower and armament brought to bear for Tet included 81,000 tons of supplies, 200,000 troops, and the re-arming of the Viet Cong with new AK-47’s and grenade launchers. Total communist forces in January of 1968 were estimated at 323,000 men, with some 20 anti-aircraft artillery units. The arrogance and assumptions of U.S. military leaders worked against Southern forces like Robert M Pope New London CT father on the Mekong Delta, as American military strategists refused to believe that the North could carry out a large scale assault operation.