Cronkite & Tet Offensive + LBJ & Gulf of Tonkin: 2 wrongs still don’t make a right?

Walter Cronkite, replete with green Army pisspot helmet, reporting from Vietnam circa 1968.
Uncle Walter reporting from Vietnam

I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Marty Strones, who was an officer in the Army stationed in Vietnam during the 1968 Tet Offensive. Summoned back to the battlefield of his youth in 2017 to find the mass grave he and his soldiers had dug to bury the 750+ Vietcong he and his men had killed in the counteroffensive Marty had led in the immediate aftermath of the North Vietnamese Army’s surprise attack, I was struck by the massive discrepancy in casualties after Marty related the number of men he’d lost had been 3.

The absurd disproportionality of those body counts reminded me of how the Big Media has been lying to the American people well before most people alive today were even born.

During the first few days of the Tet Offensive, the NVA lost tens of thousands of men while American deaths totaled 249 according to Robert W. Merry’s 2012 article CRONKITE’S VIETNAM BLUNDER published 2012 in ‘The National Interest.’ Mr. Merry went on to write that even one year later (after Johnson had left office), Richard Nixon’s CIA director Richard Helms told Newsweek that the loss of life the communists had suffered in the months-long Tet Offensive had critically damaged their ability to wage war.

At the juncture of hostilities, when the North had thrown everything it had at the South (and their American allies) and come out of it suffering a 10-to-1 body count differential for its efforts, Walter Cronkite’s famous Tet Offensive editorial painted a non-factual doom-and-gloom scenario at a time when the North, due to horrendous casualties sustained, was at its weakest and most vulnerable. Cronkite’s February 27th, 1968 broadcast of the CBS Evening News ignored the overwhelming evidence pointing to an NVA defeat and told a distinctly dreary story, closing the broadcast speaking of stalemate and an ultimately unwinnable war, ignoring the devastating losses it had cost the NVA.

Of course, ultimately, its not about body counts either, but the rightness of the reason for going to war. The Gulf of Tonkin Incident that had escalated the Vietnam conflict back in 1964 was a nothing provocation that wouldn’t have been a blip on anybody’s radar screen unless they were dead set on ginning up a war, as in retrospect it most certainly seems was the intent of the Johnson administration. The short version of the incident is that the USS Maddox, while patrolling the Vietnamese coast, was engaged by three hostile vessels, with two firing torpedoes from a distance of 5 nautical miles. The torpedoes missed the Maddox by a combined distance of two football fields. The resulting American retaliation left two torpedo boats badly damaged and one dead in the water while the USS Maddox came through the encounter unscathed.

The Johnson Administration, probably recognizing the weak case this “provocation” made for a pre-text for war, wasted no time taking advantage of rough seas and the false readings of inexperienced sonarmen aboard the USS Maddox to jigger up another ‘incident’ that, according to National Security Agency docs declassified in 2005, never happened: “The overwhelming body of reports, if used, would have told the story that no attack had happened (Aug. 4th),” an NSA historian wrote. “So a conscious effort ensued to demonstrate that an attack occurred.” …

LBG seated at a dark oak desk surrounded by the his cabinetmembers, the so-called Best and the Brightest, as he signs the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution that would plunge America irrevocably deep into the far-flung war.
Aug. 7, 1964 signing of Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, giving LBJ blank check to wage war.

From the elevated vantage of the guard tower in the old fort from where he’d led his troops into battle 49 years before, Marty Strones gazed over the still-intact fort walls, out along the road that he remembered from those long ago days of war, trying to spark the memory from the once-remembered point of orientation.

Marty eventually guided the DNA teams and their heavy construction equipment counterparts to the proper location of the mass grave along the road, and was able to close another chapter in his book and give those relatives of his one-time enemies the bitter sweet resolution of knowing their ultimate end.

It was such a long time ago, Marty said to me in regard to any animosity that the Vietnamese people still might have been harboring toward him for that long-ago frivolous war. They were actually very gracious. It was important for so many of them to finally know where their sons’ bones had been buried.

The possibility that such a vicious irony could actually be, the propaganda of a newsman to turn public opinion against a bloody conflict that was almost won and actually prolonged it, costing thousands of more lives is so overwhelmingly unfathomable that perhaps its best it remain obscured forever in the fog of war.