About the National Archives

Welcome Remarks for "Vietnam: The Tet Offensive"

Good evening, and welcome to the William G. McGowan Theater at the National Archives. I’m David Ferriero, Archivist of the United States, and I’m very pleased you could join us, whether you’re here with us in the theater or joining through YouTube.

At the end of this month, we mark the 50th anniversary of one of the key events of the Vietnam War—the Tet Offensive. Tonight we’ll hear from a panel of experts about its consequences in Vietnam and in the United States. Our partner for this program is the U.S. Army Center of Military History, and we thank them for their support.

We are honored to have former Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel as our keynote speaker for today’s panel discussion of the Tet Offensive.  Following the discussion, Erik Villard will sign copies of his book, Combat Operations.

But before we start, I want to let you know about two other programs coming up soon.

Tomorrow at noon, constitutional law professor Gerard Magliocca will be here to talk about his new book, The Heart of the Constitution: How the Bill of Rights became the Bill of Rights.

And on Thursday, February 1, at 7 p.m., we will partner with the U.S. Association of Former Members of Congress for a program called “Meet the Better Half: Congressional Partners, Spouses, and Families.”

To learn more about these and all of our public programs and exhibits, consult our Calendar of Events online at Archives.gov. You can also sign up at the table outside the theater to get email updates.

Another way to get more involved with the National Archives is to become a member of the National Archives Foundation. The Foundation supports the work of the agency, especially its education and outreach programs. Pick up your application for membership in the lobby or become a member online at archivesfoundation.org.

Tonight’s program is part of a series of discussions, films, lectures, and other programs that tie into our current special exhibit, “Remembering Vietnam,” in the Lawrence F. O’Brien Gallery upstairs.

The exhibit is a fascinating collection of newly discovered and iconic original documents, images, film footage, and artifacts that illuminate 12 critical episodes in the war that divided the peoples of both the United States and Vietnam.

One of those episodes focuses on the Tet Offensive. Documents and photographs from the National Archives and its Presidential libraries describe the attacks and their consequences. A particular blow to American public opinion of the war was the Viet Cong infiltration of the U.S. Embassy in Saigon, represented in the exhibit by a map of the defense of the embassy and a memo describing the breach.

If you haven’t already gone through the exhibit, I encourage you to return and spend some time there. “Remembering Vietnam” explores the war not only through documents but also through interviews with American and Vietnamese veterans and civilians with first-hand experience of the war’s events.


Now I ask all Vietnam veterans or any United States veterans who served on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces at any time during the period of November 1, 1955, to May 15, 1975, to stand and be recognized.

Veterans, as you exit the McGowan Theater after today’s program, National Archives staff and volunteers will present each of you with the Vietnam Veteran Lapel Pin. On the back of the pin is embossed:   “A Grateful Nation Thanks and Honors You.”

The United States of America Vietnam War Commemoration is a national initiative, and the lapel pin is the nation’s lasting memento of thanks.


To get our discussion started, I’ll turn the lectern over to Charles R. Bowery, Jr., who is the Executive Director of the U.S. Army Center of Military History, Department of the Army. A retired colonel, Charles Bowery was commissioned to the aviation branch of the U.S. Army in 1988. He has seen service in the Pentagon and also served overseas in Korea, Iraq, and Afghanistan. He taught history at West Point from 2001 to 2003 and served as the Chief of Doctrine and Lessons Learned at the U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence.

Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Charles R. Bowery, Jr.