1968- A turning point

Quan Nguyen

Tet offensive

On January 31, 1968, some 70,000 North Vietnamese and Viet Cong forces launched the Tet Offensive (named for the lunar new year holiday called Tet), a coordinated series of fierce attacks on more than 100 cities and towns in South Vietnam.Though U.S. and South Vietnamese forces managed to hold off the Communist attacks, news coverage of the offensive (including the lengthy Battle of Hue) shocked and dismayed the American public and further eroded support for the war effort.

Despite its heavy casualty toll, and its failure to inspire widespread rebellion among the South Vietnamese, the Tet Offensive proved to be a strategic success for the DRV. Before Tet, West more land and other representatives of the Johnson administration had been claiming that the end of the war was in sight; now, it was clear a long struggle still lay ahead. West more land requested more than 200,000 new troops in order to mount an effective counteroffensive, an escalation that many Americans saw as an act of desperation

Democratic Convention

On this day in 1968, at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, tens of thousands of Vietnam War protesters battle police in the streets, while the Democratic Party falls apart over an internal disagreement concerning its stance on Vietnam. Over the course of 24 hours, the predominant American line of thought on the Cold War with the Soviet Union was shattered. Since the end of World War II, the U.S. perspective on the Soviet Union and Soviet-style communism was marked by truculent disapproval. Intent on stopping the spread of communism, the United States developed a policy by which it would intervene in the affairs of countries it deemed susceptible to communist influence.
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Assassination of Robert Kennedy

Shortly after midnight on June 5, 1968, presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy was shot three times by Palestinian immigrant Sirhan Sirhan after giving a speech at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, California. Robert Kennedy died of his wounds 26 hours later. Robert Kennedy's assassination later led to Secret Service protection for all future major presidential candidates.

The summer of 1968 was a tempestuous time in American history. Both the Vietnam War and the anti-war movement were peaking. Martin Luther King Jr. had been assassinated in the spring, igniting riots across the country. In the face of this unrest, President Lyndon B. Johnson decided not to seek a second term in the upcoming presidential election. Robert Kennedy, John’s younger brother and former U.S. Attorney General, stepped into this breach and experienced a groundswell of support.

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Assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.

In early April 1968, shock waves reverberated around the world with the news that U.S. civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. had been assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee. A Baptist minister and founder of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), King had led the civil rights movement since the mid-1950s, using a combination of powerful words and non-violent tactics such as sit-ins, boycotts and protest marches (including the massive March on Washington in 1963) to fight segregation and achieve significant civil and voting rights advances for African Americans. As a result of this opposition, King sought to widen his appeal beyond his own race, speaking out publicly against the Vietnam War and working to form a coalition of poor Americans–black and white alike–to address such issues as poverty and unemployment.
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Election of 1968

The 1966 elections reinstated the Republicans as a large minority in Congress, and social legislation slowed, competing with the Vietnam War for the available money. Despite the Civil Rights Act (1964) and the Voting Rights Act (1965), many African Americans became disenchanted with progress on civil rights. Thus, a “Black Power” movement arose, hitting into Johnson’s popularity even among African Americans. A general crime increase and sporadic violence in the cities raised apprehension in white communities. A call for “law and order” was the response, and it became not only an issue but, many believed, a code word for African American repression.

Early in 1968, Michigan Republican Gov. George Romney announced his candidacy for the presidency. Many believed New York’s governor, Nelson Rockefeller, might also be a challenger, and George Wallace, former Democratic governor of Alabama and a segregationist during his tenure, began hinting of his interest in the office. Peace factions and black militants talked of nominating their own candidates, and a rerun of the four-way race of 1948 seemed possible.

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