A half-century after the Tet Offensive punctured American hopes of victory in Vietnam, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is visiting the former enemy in search of a different kind of win: incremental progress as partners in a part of the world the Pentagon has identified as vital for the United States to compete with China and Russia.
Mattis, a retired general who entered the Marine Corps during Vietnam but did not serve there, arrived in Indonesia on Monday where he’ll spend two days before visiting Hanoi for talks with senior government and military leaders.
By coincidence, Mattis will be in Vietnam just days before the 50th anniversary of the communist offensive on Jan. 30-31, 1968, when North Vietnam attacked an array of key objectives in the South, including the city of Hue, a former imperial capital and cultural icon on the Perfume River. At the time, Mattis was a senior at Columbia High School in Richland, Washington. The following year he joined the Marine Corps Reserves.
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