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The bloodiest month of the bloodiest year of the war America lost in Vietnam…


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Author Topic: The bloodiest month of the bloodiest year of the war America lost in Vietnam…  (Read 11 times)
Kiwithrottlejockey
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« on: May 27, 2018, 05:25:24 pm »


On Friday, The Washington Post published a couple of fascinating articles by Joel Achenbach about the Vietnam War as part of the lead-up into Memorial Day in America (Monday, 28th May this year).

I was 14 years old back in 1968, and I can still remember the snippets of recorded footage bringing the war into living rooms via the main evening news bulletins (broadcast at 7pm on NZ's four television stations at the time: AKTV1, WNTV2, CHTV3 and DNTV2, directly to the main centres and via translators to the provinces).

It was vivid stuff to a young teenager, watching a distant war unfold like that, as the broadcasts gradually got more and more graphic as the years passed by.

Here are the two Washington Post articles....




from The Washington Post....

The men killed on a single, bloody day in Vietnam,
and the haunting wall that memorializes them


The names on the iconic Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall begin and end with those lost on May 25, 1968.
Here's why.


By JOEL SCHENBACH | 6:00AM EDT — Friday, May 25, 2018

Private First Class John H. Anderson Jr., left, and Sergeant Jessie C. Alba, right. Both died in Vietnam on May 25, 1968, at the age of 20. — Photo montage: Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post.
Private First Class John H. Anderson Jr., left, and Sergeant Jessie C. Alba, right. Both died in Vietnam on May 25, 1968, at the age of 20.
 — Photo montage: Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post.


JOHN H. ANDERSON Jr. had just turned 20 years old when he arrived in Vietnam on the last day of April in 1968. Like so many of the 500,000 Americans who served in Vietnam in 1968, he’d been drafted.

The young soldier, who lived in Wellsville, Pennsylvania, arrived in Southeast Asia at a moment of peak violence. The communists had launched a May offensive, also known as mini-Tet. American generals were aggressively pushing a counteroffensive. May 1968 would turn out to be the bloodiest month of the bloodiest year for Americans in Vietnam.

Private First Class Anderson served in the 1st Battalion, 508th Infantry, 82nd Airborne Division, and was soon engulfed in fighting in the northern part of the country, near the ancient imperial capital of Hue. He survived less than four weeks. He was killed in a place named Nui Ke, known as Hill 618.

At the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, Anderson's name is the first one visitors see as they approach the west side of the iconic black wall. If they come from the east, the first name they encounter belongs to Jessie C. Alba, a sergeant from Port Lavaca, Texas, who served in the 101st Airborne Division and was killed near Hue in a mortar attack.

Alba was engaged to be married, and his fiancee, Mary Ann Lopez, once penned a tribute to him online.  “Even now,” she wrote, “after so many years past, I still think of him and what our lives, could of been.”

She visited the memorial in 1996 at night. “It was so overwhelming for me,” she remembered. “The wall is so huge and very scary, in a way. I finally found his name, and how ironic it was that his name is the last one, almost all by itself at the end.”

Like Anderson, Alba was 20 years old. Anderson and Alba had something else in common: Both were killed on May 25, 1968, half a century ago.


The Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C. — Photograph: Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post.
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C. — Photograph: Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post.

The midpoint of the war, as measured in the 58,000 American lives lost, is how visitors encounter the wall. Architect Maya Lin conceived of the wall when, as a senior at Yale working on a class project, she visited Washington and saw the site of the proposed Vietnam War memorial.

“I had a simple impulse to cut into the earth,” she wrote in The New York Review of Books. “I imagined taking a knife and cutting into the earth, opening it up, an initial violence and pain that in time would heal.”

She had another idea, also radical: The names would be chronological rather than alphabetical. That proved controversial, like so much else about the design. Lin initially figured the chronology would be left to right when facing the wall, starting in 1959 and ending in 1975. But at a professor's urging she changed the design to make the chronology of deaths begin and end at the apex, creating a closed loop.

The single most lethal day of the war for American troops was January 31, 1968, when 246 personnel were killed or mortally wounded as the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army regulars launched the Tet Offensive.

But if you had to pick a random date to represent the U.S. combat experience in Vietnam, May 25 would be a defensible choice. It was a day of hard, relentless fighting all over South Vietnam, from the Mekong Delta to the demilitarized zone, and much of that combat has been overlooked by historians or overshadowed by more famous events such as the Battle of Hue or the siege of Khe Sanh earlier in the year.

Ronald Spector, a professor of history and international relations at George Washington University, remembers visiting a Marine base near the DMZ during his 1968-69 tour as a Marine corporal.

“During my brief unhappy stay there, because it was in artillery range, it used to be shelled right around lunchtime,” said Spector, author of After Tet: The Bloodiest Year in Vietnam. He said the high casualty rate in 1968 led to a great deal of fatalism day in and day out.

“You're counting the days until you're going home,” he said. “You wanted to accomplish the mission, whatever the mission was, and get back alive.”


John H. Anderson Jr.'s name appears on the wall. — Photograph: Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post.
John H. Anderson Jr.'s name appears on the wall. — Photograph: Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post.

The brutal May fighting was inextricably connected to the peace talks that had gotten underway in Paris. Both sides in Vietnam had intensified their efforts to inflict casualties, hoping to influence the talks.

The Viet Cong had suffered heavy losses in the Tet Offensive, and the U.S. generals and the South Vietnamese government wanted to press their perceived military advantage and regain control of rural areas. Field commanders received an order to go all-out — “kind of a pep talk,” one military spokesman said in downplaying press accounts of the order.

Vietnam rarely had set-piece battles but, rather, was seen by the United States as a war of attrition, with success measured in body counts and kill ratios. The United States had vastly superior firepower, including air dominance. But combat success for the Americans did not seem to sap the fervor of the communists, who saw this as a fight to the death against an occupying power.

“It is better to die than to be a slave. There is nothing more precious than freedom and independence,” North Vietnam's president, Ho Chi Minh, told the National Assembly on May 24.

Those words about freedom and independence became famous — and could be seen decades later on billboards in Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon), noted Meredith Lair, a George Mason University historian who teaches and writes about the Vietnam War.

She said the American war of attrition in Vietnam “involves this kind of aimless, open-ended campaign to inflict as much damage on the enemy as possible so that at some future point in time they give up,” including abandoning the idea of a unified Vietnam. “They were simply not going to do that.”


Jessie C. Alba's name is etched on the memorial. — Photograph: Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post.
Jessie C. Alba's name is etched on the memorial. — Photograph: Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post.

The United States inflicted heavy losses on the communists, but that didn't translate into strategic success. As 1968 progressed, public opinion in the United States pivoted against the war.

“The enemy has not conceded defeat. There is no sense of geographic progress being made as in World War II. There is increasing concern on the home front that the war may not in fact be winnable,” said Gregory Daddis, a retired Army colonel and now a professor at Chapman University.

By May 1968, he said, with upward of 500 Americans dying every week in Vietnam, many Americans were asking: “Why are we still fighting? Why is the enemy not giving up? Why are we still being asked to sacrifice more?”

More Americans died in May — 2,403 — than in any other month of the war.

As for May 25, that brutal Saturday half a century ago, the names of the fallen go from A to Z, from Jessie C. Alba to Robert E. Zeske. There are 87 names in between.


__________________________________________________________________________

• Joel Achenbach writes about science and politics for The Washington Post's National desk. He has been a staff writer for The Post since 1990. He started the newsroom's first online column, Rough Draft, in 1999, and started washingtonpost.com's first blog, Achenblog, in 2005. He has been a regular contributor to National Geographic since 1998, writing on such topics as dinosaurs, particle physics, earthquakes, extraterrestrial life, megafauna extinction and the electrical grid. A 1982 graduate of Princeton University, he has taught journalism at Princeton and at Georgetown University.

__________________________________________________________________________

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https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/retropolis/wp/2018/05/25/the-men-killed-on-a-single-day-in-the-vietnam-war-and-the-haunting-wall-that-memorializes-them



from The Washington Post....

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

Or did they reveal a vital truth that needed to be told?
The debate, like the war, seems unlikely to ever really end.


By JOEL ACHENBACH | 8:05AM EDT — Friday, May 25, 2018

CBS News anchor Walter Cronkite went to Vietnam to provide viewers with an assessment of the war's progress. His one-hour special report aired on February 27, 1968.
CBS News anchor Walter Cronkite went to Vietnam to provide viewers with an assessment of the war's progress.
His one-hour special report aired on February 27, 1968.


UNTIL 1968, Walter Cronkite believed what his government told him about the Vietnam War. He was an old-school journalist, a patriot, a man who came of age covering World War II as a wire-service reporter and then taking over as the anchor of “The CBS Evening News” at the height of the Cold War. Like most journalists of his generation, he embraced the fight against communism and understood why the United States had intervened in the war raging in Vietnam.

When he'd visited Vietnam on a reporting trip early in the war, he'd been annoyed by the attitude of the young reporters who seemed to be “engaged in a contest among themselves to determine who was the most cynical,” as he wrote in his autobiography.

Cronkite's nightly newscasts helped shape public opinion about Vietnam, which became known as “the living-room war,” in the words of Michael Arlen of The New Yorker. Until 1968, network news operations tended to edit out the blood and gore and avoid direct criticism of military operations while American lives were on the line. There was no government censorship, but negative news reports infuriated President Lyndon Baines Johnson and he didn't hesitate to let the networks know it.

That had been the case in August 1965. CBS News correspondent Morley Safer and his colleagues had followed Marines into a hamlet named Cam Ne, which was allegedly infested with the communist guerrilla fighters known as the Viet Cong.

The Marines briefly encountered sporadic gunfire, which Safer later described as friendly fire. The Marines found no Viet Cong or firearms. Following orders, they burned down the hamlet. Safer's report showed Marines using flamethrowers and Zippo lighters to ignite the thatching on the huts amid wails of despair from Vietnamese women and children.

The day after the report aired on the CBS Evening News, President Johnson called network executive Frank Stanton, according to a book Safer wrote many years later.

“Hello, Frank, this is your president.”

“Yes, Mr. President.”

“Frank, you trying to fuck me?”


The Tet effect

The Cam Ne dispatch by Safer is a classic moment in journalism, but an even more legendary report came from Cronkite. His trip to Vietnam in February 1968 and the hour-long prime-time broadcast that followed has been so mythologized among journalists that they call it the Cronkite Moment.

Like so much about Vietnam, the Cronkite Moment 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.

Journalists stationed full-time in Vietnam had a contentious relationship with U.S. officials from the start. The U.S. intervention was built on a scaffolding of deception. The U.S. initially claimed, for example, that American military personnel were merely observers, not combatants. If wounded in the early years they weren't even eligible for a Purple Heart.

Much of the U.S. effort was aimed at rooting out communist guerrilla fighters in South Vietnam — the “pacification” effort. This became known as the struggle for the “hearts and minds” of the Vietnamese people. Meanwhile, a similar battle was happening on the home front. Public approval of the war effort gradually eroded.

Johnson vowed not to be the first American president to lose a war. His generals claimed to see light at the end of the tunnel. In November 1967, the U.S. commander in Vietnam, General William Westmoreland, declared, “The enemy's hopes are bankrupt.”

Then came the Tet Offensive. At the end of January 1968, at the start of the Tet Lunar new year, the Viet Cong broke a cease-fire by launching surprise attacks on dozens of cities across South Vietnam.

Until then, journalists based in Saigon had to go find the war. Now the war came to them. In Saigon, 19 guerrilla fighters entered the U.S. Embassy compound through a hole they'd blown in the outer wall. The embassy invaders were all killed, but more battles raged across Saigon and the rest of the country.

When the first bulletins arrived at CBS headquarters, Cronkite was aghast. “What the hell is going on? I thought we were winning the war!” he said.

In fact, the U.S. military and its South Vietnamese allies were winning at the tactical level, repulsing the attacks, killing tens of thousands of Viet Cong fighters. The communists failed to topple the government in Saigon or persuade the rice farmers in the countryside to join their cause.

Even so, images of street fighting in Saigon shocked the American public. This didn't look like a war the Americans were winning. “Tet was the first sustained period during which it could be said that the war appeared on television as a really brutal affair,” writes Daniel C. Hallin in his 1989 book The ‘Uncensored War’: The Media and Vietnam

On February 2, Johnson said at a news conference that, when the American people knew the facts, “I do not believe that [the communists] will achieve a psychological victory.” He relied, like the other architects of the war, on the enemy kill count as the key metric of success. “They say 10,000 died and we lost 249 and the South Vietnamese lost 500. Now that doesn't look like a communist victory. I can count,” the president said.

But as Lee Lescaze, a Washington Post reporter stationed in Saigon, wrote, “The casualty figures … are thrown into question by the incredibly favorable ratios claimed and by the assertion of precise figures in battles for which even the most general of details are lacking.”

The significance of the Tet Offensive was in doubt. Who was truly winning this war? At CBS News, Cronkite decided to go look for himself.


Cronkite's verdict

“Uncle Walter” had developed a reputation as the ultimate straight shooter, “the avatar of objectivity,” in the words of Richard Perloff, a professor of communications at Cleveland State University. He'd never taken a public position on the war. That, he thought, would give him special standing to assess what was really going on.

He flew to Vietnam and at first stayed at the Caravelle Hotel, a favorite place for journalists who wanted to witness the war in comfort in a place where the bar stayed open late. But then he went to Hue, the ancient imperial capital, where the most intense urban fighting of the war was grinding along day after day, house to house, room to room. It took most of February for the Americans and their South Vietnamese allies to drive the communists from the city. Cronkite left Hue in a helicopter carrying the remains of 12 Marines in body bags.

“He was just doing the gumshoe reporting all over Vietnam and the print reporters all swooned over Cronkite for doing it,” says historian and Cronkite biographer Douglas Brinkley.

U.S. General Creighton W. Abrams Jr. told Cronkite the war effort needed another 200,000 American troops. The general engaged in what Cronkite described in his memoir as a “brutally technical discussion of the fire power and kill ratios and the like. How, in effect, we could kill more Vietnamese. I wanted us to win the war, but this emotionless professionalism was hard to take.”

He flew home, and on February 27, at 10 p.m. Eastern time, CBS News aired “Report from Vietnam: Who, What, When, Where, Why?

The program opens with Cronkite, in a short-sleeve safari shirt, standing in harsh daylight in front of Saigon ruins. It looks like a home movie. Cronkite doesn't talk about military casualties. There are no images of body bags. One would not know that 416 Americans were killed in Vietnam in the week ending February 3 and another 543 in the week ending February 17 — each a record to that point.

Instead, Cronkite and his producers assess the progress of the war on the terms set by U.S. commanders, such as whether the “pacification” program had suffered a setback from the Viet Cong.

“Who won and who lost in the great Tet Offensive against the cities? I'm not sure,” he says early in the report. “The Viet Cong did not win by a knockout, but neither did we. The referees of history may make it a draw.”

At the close of the hour, Cronkite, back at his desk in New York, delivers his verdict. He acknowledges that what he is about to say is “subjective.” It's his opinion.

“It seems now more certain than ever that the bloody experience of Vietnam is to end in a stalemate … It is increasingly clear to this reporter that the only rational way out then will be to negotiate, not as victors, but as an honorable people who lived up to their pledge to defend democracy, and did the best they could.

“This is Walter Cronkite. Good night.”


A swift reversal

President Johnson was deflated by Cronkite's report, saying, “If I've lost Cronkite, I've lost Middle America.”

That anecdote from a presidential aide is, like so many things involving this war, the subject of dispute. What's certain is that political dominoes fell rapidly after Tet. The antiwar Democratic presidential candidate, Senator Eugene McCarthy of Minnesota, had sudden momentum heading into the March 12 New Hampshire primary. Robert F. Kennedy, the heir to Camelot, for the first time delivered a speech attacking the administration's dissembling about Vietnam.

Kennedy then had an important lunch, with … wait for it … Walter Cronkite.

Cronkite told Kennedy that he should run for president. Kennedy told Cronkite that the Democrats wanted him — Cronkite! — to run for a U.S. Senate seat in New York.

Shenanigans, maneuverings.

McCarthy ran a shockingly strong second to President Johnson in New Hampshire. A few days later, Kennedy jumped into the race. On March 31, LBJ went on national television and announced a partial halt to bombing in North Vietnam amid new peace negotiations. Then he stunned the nation: “I shall not seek, and I will not accept, the nomination of my party for another term as your president.”

Journalists look for direct causality, while historians see complexity. Did the media coverage of Tet change the way Americans viewed the war? Not measurably. The Gallup organization had been asking Americans since 1965 if the U.S. made a mistake by getting involved in Vietnam. The responses were remarkably static in the first half of 1968, despite Tet, the Cronkite Moment and heavy U.S. casualties. Not until August 1968 did the Gallup numbers reveal a significant plunge in support for the war.

But something did pivot when Cronkite crossed the line into opinion. Cronkite mainstreamed antiwar sentiment. The U.S. intervention ceased to be framed by TV news reporters as “our” fight against the Viet Cong. The news media distanced itself from the government's agenda, and that paved the way, a few years later, for the publication of the Pentagon Papers.

A Cronkite Moment is no longer possible, because the news ecosystem today is too fragmented. The role of the news anchor has been diminished. Many Americans would be hard-pressed to name the current anchor of “The CBS Evening News”.

Cronkite's great persuasive power emerged from his long history of not attempting to be persuasive at all. That allowed him to fly to Vietnam like an intercontinental ballistic missile of objectivity. But the past half century has seen a steady erosion in the trust Americans place in institutions such as the news media. Partisan journalists, wielding verbal flamethrowers, view their “objective” counterparts as retailers of false balance. The media culture no longer requires or wants someone with the authority to say, as Cronkite did every night at the close of his broadcast, “And that's the way it is …”

And thus today Cronkite's daring, historic, precedent-busting words about Vietnam would probably be greeted with hot takes of outrage, for one reason or another — in the brief moments before those words were lost in the noise.


Shifting perspectives

Conservative pundits and historians have declared that Cronkite, who died in 2009, bungled the biggest story of his life by failing to see that the Viet Cong were clearly defeated in the Tet Offensive. Peter Braestrup, who worked for The Washington Post in Saigon during Tet, wrote in his 1977 book “Big Story” that journalists unfamiliar with combat or military tactics got the story of Tet wrong. Braestrup's conclusion is embraced in many revisionist retrospectives.

But there is revisionism to the revisionism. In the 2017 book The Myths of Tet Edwin Moďse pushes back, saying the news media largely got it right. And Mark Bowden, author of a new book on the Battle of Hue, wrote in an op-ed in The New York Times, “Cronkite was right. The war was not being won, nor would it be.”

Cronkite, who retired from his anchor position in 1981, worked on a 1987 documentary series on the Vietnam War. In the episode on Tet, he addressed the criticism that reporters got the story wrong.

“Let me show you what we did report,” Cronkite says, cutting to a clip from “The CBS Evening News” on February 14, 1968. There's Cronkite in Saigon. He says to the viewer, “First and simplest, the Viet Cong suffered a military defeat.” And then he goes on to explain multiple ways the Viet Cong failed to achieve their objectives.

When you root around in the history books you realize there's little consensus about anything. Something as simple as the notion that Vietnam was a “TV war” incites academic blowback. Barbie Zelizer, professor of communication at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania, says news photos — such as the famous Eddie Adams photo of the national police chief executing a Viet Cong fighter — were just as central in shaping public opinion.

That photo incited revulsion, depicting a callous disregard for human life. Except that the executed fighter had just killed the police chief's close friend and the friend's family. Adams, whose photograph won the Pulitzer Prize, later said he felt his photo unfairly tarnished the police chief.

And was it really a “living-room war”? When Michael Arlen coined the term, he didn't say that television brought the reality of the war into people's homes. He argued the opposite. He said that, because of the scale of a television, the war is “a picture of men three inches tall shooting at other men three inches tall, and trivialized, or at least tamed, by the enveloping cozy alarums of the household.”

The disputed narrative of the Vietnam War, and what it meant, and why it unfolded the way it did, highlights the genius of the wall at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on the Mall. There are no dubious metrics of enemy deaths, no media reports, no speeches. There are just the names of the Americans who lost their lives in Southeast Asia.

More than 58,000 U.S. military personnel died in the Vietnam War, and by far the bloodiest year was 1968, when 16,899 Americans perished — an average of 46 a day.

The east and west ends of the memorial feature the names from the very midpoint of the war, as measured by Americans killed. It was May 25, 1968.

When Cronkite reported from Vietnam earlier that year and predicted the conflict would end in a stalemate, he did not imagine that this terrible war was not even half over.


__________________________________________________________________________

• Joel Achenbach writes about science and politics for The Washington Post's National desk. He has been a staff writer for The Post since 1990. He started the newsroom's first online column, Rough Draft, in 1999, and started washingtonpost.com's first blog, Achenblog, in 2005. He has been a regular contributor to National Geographic since 1998, writing on such topics as dinosaurs, particle physics, earthquakes, extraterrestrial life, megafauna extinction and the electrical grid. A 1982 graduate of Princeton University, he has taught journalism at Princeton and at Georgetown University.

__________________________________________________________________________

Related to this topic:

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https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/did-the-news-media-led-by-walter-cronkite-lose-the-war-in-vietnam/2018/05/25/a5b3e098-495e-11e8-827e-190efaf1f1ee_story.html
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« Reply #1 on: May 31, 2018, 06:52:46 am »

Soak your head in the lefty bullshit bucket 24/7 and you will only believe lefty bullshit. Sad.
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Kiwithrottlejockey
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Having fun in the hills!


« Reply #2 on: May 31, 2018, 06:57:16 am »


Go and fuck yourself with your retarded rightie crap.
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