President Johnson holds a secret meeting with some of the nation’s most prestigious leaders, who were collectively called “the Wise Men.” This group included former Secretary of State Dean Acheson, General of the Army Omar Bradley, Ambassador-at-Large Averell Harriman, and former Ambassador to South Vietnam Henry Cabot Lodge.
Johnson asked them for advice on how to unite the U.S. in the Vietnam War effort. They reached the conclusion that the administration needed to offer “ways of guiding the press to show the light at the end of the tunnel.” In effect, they decided that the American people should be given more optimistic reports. When Johnson agreed, the administration, which included senior U.S. military commander in Saigon Gen. William Westmoreland, began to paint a more positive picture of the situation in South Vietnam. In early 1968, this decision came back to haunt Johnson and Westmoreland when the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese launched a major surprise attack on January 30, the start of the Tet New Year holiday. Stunned by the scope of the Communist attack after the administration had painted such an upbeat picture of Allied progress in the war, many Americans began to question the credibility of the president and antiwar sentiment increased significantly.