On January 30, 1968, after months of preparation, North Vietnamese Army (NVA) troops and Viet Cong (VC) guerrillas launched a massive, coordinated assault on nearly every city, town, and military installation in South Vietnam in what became known as the Tet Offensive. One of the fiercest engagements of the offensive would be the Battle of Hue.

The Tet Offensive occurred during the Lunar New Year known locally as Tet, the most important celebration in Vietnamese culture. Because of this many South Vietnamese troops were on leave and away from their bases during the attack. Further, great numbers of VC units were able to sneak into major cities and towns due to the holiday celebrations.

During the attack, more than 80,000 NVA and VC troops attacked over 100 cities and towns including 36 of the 44 provincial capitals, about a third of the district towns, and the capital of South Vietnam. It was the largest offensive conducted during the war up to that point.

The North Vietnamese believed that the South Vietnamese government had such poor support among the people and that its army such little will to fight, that the offensive would ignite a popular uprising allowing the forces of the North to sweep victory and oust the Americans from the country.