Cronkite was dead wrong about the Tet offensive and who was winning in Vietnam

Washington Post:
Did the news media, led by Walter Cronkite, lose the war in Vietnam?

Cronkite’s report remains controversial because it’s at the center of a seemingly endless debate about news coverage of the war, and whether the media exposed an unfolding debacle or undermined the American cause.
The Democrats lost the war because they wanted to.  Cronkite was just part of the misinterpretation of events in Vietnam along with other liberals in the media.  Peter Braestup wrote the definitive book on the failure of the media Big Story  How the American Press and Television Reported and Interpreted the Crisis of the Tet 1968 in Vietnam and Washington.  Cronkite, in particular, misinterpreted Tet and the battle around the Khe Sanh Combat Base near the Laotian border.

The Seige at Khe Sanh started before the Tet offensive and petered out of the Tet offensive was defeated by US and South Vietnamese forces.  The North Vietnamese were concerned about the vulnerability of their supply lines running through Laos and feared that the Marines might cut them when the Tet offensive got underway.  The media kept interpreting the siege as a replay of Dien Bien Phu where the French were cut off and defeated.

Khe Sanh had within its perimeter special forces troops known as SOG units which had been conducting raids on NVA supply lines in Laos.  There were several such SOG units along the border, but the one at Khe Sanh was an obvious concern for the NVA.

What was called the first battle of Khe Sanh involved a Marine patrol that found a well dug in observation post on Hill 881 which overlooked the base.  I think this was an NVA attempt to gain intelligence on the SOG units which would be dropped into Laos usually with choppers early on.

In the lead up to Tet, the NVA decided to isolate the base and wound up paying a heavy price for doing so.  It was one of those rare battles where the forces conducting a siege came down with the plague.  The NVA dug trenches or "saps" around the base that approached the Marine perimeter.  Their efforts were met with a furious artillery barrage as well as constant bombardments including by B-52's.  When I  was on a Top Secret mission to the base shortly afire the siege was lifted the surrounding hills looked like a moonscape and the trenches were pulverized.

The media by its misreporting and misinterpretation of events turned a disastrous defeat of the NVA effort into a strategic victory.


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