The 1968 Tet Offensive was a major turning point during the Vietnam War. Prior to the offensive, the U.S. civilian and military leadership had convinced the majority of the American public that the war was going well and that victory was around the corner. Although U.S. forces achieved clear military success during the Tet Offensive, media coverage of the bloody fighting, particularly in Saigon and Hue, persuaded many people in the United States that the war was far from over. As a result, President Lyndon B. Johnson's popularity continued to plummet, and General William Westmoreland's request for additional troops was rejected. Many military leaders blamed the media for changing public opinion of the conflict, believing that the Tet coverage focused on gory scenes from Saigon and Hue instead of victorious U.S. actions there and elsewhere in Vietnam. Others, however, believe that U.S. public opinion of the Vietnam War had already begun to turn, and that Tet only hastened the inevitable.
Read the Background Essay to get a better understanding of the situation in Vietnam in the months leading up to Tet, as well as details of the Tet Offensive itself and the aftermath of Tet. The biographies on Walter Cronkite, Vo Nguyen Giap, Johnson, Ho Chi Minh, Cao Van Vien, and Westmoreland offer background information on some of the key players involved in the Vietnam War. The Communist Party member's evaluation of Tet provides insight into the North Vietnamese view of the Tet Offensive. The document concerning Cronkite's criticism of U.S. policy, David Halberstam's keynote address on Vietnam and the presidency, and the Vietnam Panel Discussion titled "Media and the Role of Public Opinion" reveal how many prominent members of the media who covered Vietnam felt about the conflict.