Don Oberdorfer, a long-time diplomatic correspondent who covered the Vietnam War for The Washington Post and was the author of the well-regarded look at the 1968 Tet Offensive, Tet! (1971), died July 23 in Washington, D.C. He was 84 and had Alzheimer’s disease.
Born in Atlanta, Oberdorfer graduated from Princeton University in 1952 and served in the U.S. Army in Korea after the end of the war. He worked for The Charlotte Observer, The Saturday Evening Post and Knight Newspapers, then in 1968 was hired at The Washington Post. He retired from journalism in 1993, and was Distinguished Journalist in Residence and Adjunct Professor of International Relationsat John Hopkins University’s Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, D.C.
“By every standard and almost every account, the Tet Offensive was among the great events of the 1960s and possibly one of the great events of our times, ” he wrote in The Post in 1978. “It is also among the most paradoxical and seemingly inexplicable. How . . . could Tet have been both a defeat for the attacker abroad and a defeat for the government at home?”
The Tet Offensive, he said, was “the first international Big Event, via television, remains one for historians to ponder.”