Military History is Your Friend: Tet Offensive, 1968

The Lies of Tet –  Arthur Herman, Wall Street Journal Online, Feb. 6, 2008

To sum it up:

  • The Tet Offensive was launched because North Vietnam and the Viet Cong were losing, i.e., it was a desperation move.
  • It was a complete disaster for them. They lost 100,000 troops (killed and wounded) in a little over a month, and captured not a single province.
  • A hoped-for popular uprising never happened.
  • Most reporters were based in Saigon, where the fighting was furious, and since most of them had never even seen any real fighting, they basically panicked and reported accordingly. Ernie Pyle, these guys were not.
  • Back home, reporters and anchors like Walter Cronkite — “the most trusted man in America” — spun this into defeat for the U.S.
  • Hanoi took notice and shifted it’s strategy to play to the media and the anti-war effort — hmm, sound familiar? — and to focus on causing American casualties rather than on winning the war.
  • By 1970, the Viet Cong “had ceased to exist as a viable fighting force” and “over 70% of South Vietnam’s population was under government control”.
  • In 1972, a peace treaty is signed.
  • Quoting from the article: “By August 1972 there were no U.S. combat forces left in Vietnam, precisely because, contrary to the overwhelming mass of press reports, American policy there had been a success.”
  • Hanoi ignores the peace treaty, and in 1975, launches a massive invasion. South Vietnam turns to the U.S. for the arms we had promised them in the “peace process”. Congress refuses.
  • Saigon falls.
  • “The Killing Fields” era begins in Cambodia.

I think it’s safe to say that while the phrase “Tet Offensive” resonates with most Americans, those same Americans have no idea what really happened. Or more accurately, they have no idea that what they think happened is exactly 100% opposite of what really happened.

“The most trusted man in America”? That’s pretty amusing.

This event, really, was the clarion call for the activist journalism that we see everywhere around us today.