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Tet Plus 43 Years

Monday, January 31, 2011 — Today marks the 43rd Anniversary of the start of the Tet Offensive, the most catastrophic success in U.S. military history, and Vietnam’s most successful military failure ever.

In the early morning hours of January 31st, 1968, more than eighty thousand North Vietnamese Army and Viet Cong troops carried out hundreds of attacks on almost every significant city and town in South Vietnam.

No one was more surprised that the Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (MACV), the Pentagon’s headquarters in Saigon. The most shocking attack was on the U.S. Embassy, less than 6,000 yards southeast of the MACV compound, where Embassy personnel resorted to firing handguns out the windows in self-defense.

The Pentagon, we learned a few days ago, is now gearing up for a 50th Anniversary Commemoration of the Vietnam War. That’s quite an undertaking. It’s just starting now. We can only presume that the Commemoration will continue for another fourteen years, until the spring of 2025 — the 50th Anniversary of the day North Vietnamese tanks crashed through the gates of the Presidential Palace and re-unified Vietnam, for better and for worse.

The Commemoration has a website online now, which features prominently a quotation about the war, from an American president: “No event in American history is more misunderstood than the Vietnam War. It was misreported then, and it is misremembered now.” — Richard Nixon, New York Times, March 28, 1985

There was a kernel of truth in what Nixon said, but he didn’t intend to reveal it. For reasons too obvious to state, the official website of the 50th Anniversary Vietnam War Commemoration neglects to mention the fact that “[Richard] Nixon, aided by Kissinger, struck a deal with South Vietnamese President Nguyen van Thieu in fall 1968 to block Johnson’s negotiated end to the Vietnam War.”

As it happens, the alleged Editor of this newspaper was in Saigon the morning the balloon went up. That day, and 360 others in that general vicinity, made him who he is, for better and for worse. Even if that were not the case, and even without the Nixon quote, there is something about this whole arrangement that makes him think this enterprise bears watching. So watch it we will.


Comment from David Brewster
Time: February 2, 2011, 12:42

I can only respect you for having gone through all that. I feel bad about the reception you guys got coming home. Myself, I turned 18 a week after the war ended. That summer I trained a refugee who replaced me when I left my summer job. He was a father and spoke no English. I commuted to college for a year with a veteran, Mike. For 2 years I never saw him smile. He told me a few stories. My girlfriend lost her first husband to the effects of agent orange. I feel very fortunate. I also enjoyed the letter you got from Dr. Maluf in the Dec 31st issue.

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