The Tet Offensive and the Media
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Title: Battle of Hue
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Media coverage of the Vietnam War remains a source of controversy in the United States. Nowhere is that controversy more evident than in discussions of the media's coverage of the Tet Offensive in 1968. Up until that point, the media had mostly provided the American people with fleeting glimpses of the North Vietnamese forces in action, since the People's Army of Vietnam (PAVN, North Vietnamese Army) and the Viet Cong (VC) stayed mostly in the dense jungle or paddy areas of South Vietnam. During the Tet Offensive, however, much of the fighting took place in urban areas, providing ample opportunity for the media to get graphic footage of the fighting. In particular, the attack on the U.S. Embassy in Saigon received an inordinate amount of attention from the media because the Western press was stationed nearby. Back in the United States, millions of Americans watched scenes and viewed photographs of the embassy attack and the bloody Battle of Hue, witnessing the tenaciousness of the enemy for the first time. Doubts about U.S. progress toward ending the war were heightened during this time and prompted President Lyndon B. Johnson's decision not to seek reelection.

Jerry Morelock, the author of the first essay, asserts that the media missed the big picture of the Tet Offensive while focusing on individual combat actions. He points out that the attack on the U.S. Embassy in Saigon was a minor, failed action that received a disproportionate amount of attention from journalists stationed nearby. In addition, he states that the nearly month-long Battle of Hue provided the media with numerous opportunities to take gruesome photographs of dead soldiers and civilians, obscuring the fact that U.S. forces achieved a major military victory at Hue. Clarence R. Wyatt, the author of the second essay, argues that the Tet Offensive was not the turning point in public opinion about the war that many make it out to be. He points out that support for the war had been steadily declining since 1965, and that by October 1967, three months before Tet, the majority of Americans believed U.S. involvement in Vietnam was a mistake.

 

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