Fifty years ago, the stunning Tet Offensive shattered the American war effort in Vietnam. But its impact wasn’t limited to Vietnam — it created a shadow that has darkened American military strategy ever since.
On Jan. 31, 1968, 84,000 North Vietnamese troops attacked 100 cities across U.S.-backed South Vietnam, including the key targets of Hue, Da Nang and Saigon. They aimed to spark a widespread uprising, which didn’t happen.
Instead, North Vietnam stumbled into a costly war-winning strategy. Costly because more than half its attacking forces were killed, wounded or captured. Winning because the carnage forced Americans to confront the reality of the war: a savage, endless conflict that contradicted official talking points.
Let's never forget the role of the press. Just two weeks before Cronkite's famous "stalemate" broadcast, he was in Vietnam and reported that, “First and simplest, the Viet Cong suffered a military defeat.” Something he "forgot" when he was back in the states.
Cronkite spoke for the American people. A people who had been told there was a light at the end of the tunnel. People who had been defrauded by the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution.