Walter Cronkite, A Reporter's Life (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1996).
David Brinkley, A Memoir (New York: Random House, 1996).
Howard K. Smith, Events Leading Up To My Death (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1996).
On January 30, 1968, the beginning of the Chinese lunar new year festival known as Tet, 70,000 communist troops launched a surprise offensive throughout South Vietnam. The attackers surged into more than a hundred cities and towns, and, for the first time, Saigon and the vast U.S. Embassy complex in the heart of the city came under rocket fire.
A few weeks later, the U.S. military claimed that because of the heavy losses the Viet Cong had suffered, "Tet" was a defeat for the communists. That was literally true, but Tet was nevertheless both a political and propaganda victory for the communists, and a key turning point in the war in Vietnam. This was because the intensity and scope of the Tet Offensive shocked most Americans, who had been led to believe that given American superiority in firepower and technology, victory in Vietnam was inevitable if not imminent.
This sense of shock acquired a significant amplification in the key electronic media--television. At a time when television news anchormen rarely left their studios, CBS News' Walter Cronkite hurried to Vietnam to prepare a special report on the Tet Offensive and its implications for American involvement in the war. As a veteran war correspondent, with the clout and contacts that only an anchorman can have, Cronkite was certainly qualified to do such a report. And, of course, according to numerous polls, he was at that time "the most trusted man in America."