General William Westmoreland was made permanent commander of MACV and given command of all US forces in Vietnam. Commanding 16,000 men in 1964, Westmoreland oversaw the escalation of the conflict and had 535,000 troops under his control when he departed in 1968. Employing an aggressive strategy of search and destroy, he sought to draw the forces of the Viet Cong (National Liberation Front) into the open where they could be eliminated. Westmoreland believed that the Viet Cong could be defeated through large-scale use of artillery, air power, and large-unit battles. In late 1967, Viet Cong forced began striking US bases across the country. Responding in force, Westmoreland won a series of fights such as the Battle of Dak To. Victorious, US forces inflicted heavy casualties leading Westmoreland to inform President Lyndon Johnson that the end of the war was in sight. While victorious, the battles that fall pulled US forces out of South Vietnamese cities and set the stage for the Tet Offensive in late January 1968. Striking all across the country, the Viet Cong, with support from the North Vietnamese army, launched major attacks on South Vietnamese cities.
Responding to the offensive, William Westmoreland led a successful campaign which defeated the Viet Cong. Despite this, the damage had been done as Westmoreland's optimistic reports about the war's course were discredited by North Vietnam's ability to mount such a large-scale campaign. In June 1968, Westmoreland was replaced by General Creighton Abrams. During his tenure in Vietnam, Westmoreland had sought to win a battle of attrition with the North Vietnamese, however he was never able to force the enemy to abandon a guerilla-style of warfare which repeatedly left his own forces at a disadvantage.
by Henry T. August 21, 2011