A newly discovered CBS News clip broadcast by Walter Cronkite while still in Saigon following the Tet Offensive reveals the influential newsman had a much different perspective on the battle than he expressed in the history-making commentary he delivered after returning to New York days later.
Anyone who had reached the age of awareness when Cronkite delivered his famous live editorial Feb. 27, 1968, knew the significance of what “the most trusted man in America” was saying: The U.S. had lost the Vietnam war. President Lyndon Johnson’s famous reaction told the story: “If I’ve lost Cronkite, I’ve lost middle America,” he is reported to have said.
“Tonight, back in more familiar surroundings in New York, we’d like to sum up our findings in Vietnam, an analysis that must be speculative, personal, subjective,” he said in opening his brief closing report. “Who won and who lost in the great Tet Offensive against the cities? I’m not sure. The Viet Cong did not win by a knockout but neither did we.” . . .
But buried in the dusty archives of CBS News was another Cronkite report from Saigon broadcast days earlier – nearly two weeks earlier to be exact. The “lost” Feb. 13 clip, shows Cronkite had a much different and unambiguous view of the recent Tet battlefront immediately after it was over.
“First and simplest, the Viet Cong suffered a military defeat,” he reported. “Its missions proved suicidal. If they had intended to stay in the cities as a negotiating point, they failed at that. The Vietnamese army reacted better than even its most ardent supporters had anticipated. There were no defections from its rank, as the Viet Cong apparently had expected. And the people did not rise to support the Viet Cong, as they were also believed to have expected.” (Read more from “Serious Shocker in ‘Lost’ Cronkite Broadcast” HERE)