Timeline: 1968

Targets of Tet Offensive

Major targets of the Tet Offensive

U.S. Marines and Khe Sanh

US Marines at Khe Sanh

Hugh Thompson

Warrant Officer Hugh Thompson,  from Atlanta, Georgia

My Lai

My Lai  Photo of bodies at My Lai

Alexander Dub?ek

Alexander Dubcek in 1968

Jan 5  In Czechoslovakia, the Communist Party's Central Committee votes out Antonin Novotny as First Secretary and replaces him with Alexander Dubcek. Novotny remains the country's president, but it is the beginning of what will be known as the Prague Spring – a reference to the blossoming of reform.

Jan 31 General Giap of North Vietnam launches the Tet Offensive, with minimum and maximum goals of success. The Viet Cong emerges from hiding to do most of the fighting. The offensive involves simultaneous attacks in the larger cities and against major US military bases.

Feb 1  US forces launch a counter-attack against Giap's offensive. The Viet Cong suffers heavy losses. 

Feb 2  President Johnson describes the Tet Offensive "a complete failure." The offensive is to continue for two more months.

Feb 4  Addressing his Atlanta congregation about the US in Vietnam, Martin Luther King Jr. says, "And we are criminals in that war. We've committed more war crimes almost than any nation in the world, and I'm going to continue to say it. And we won't stop it because of our pride and our arrogance as a nation. But God has a way of even putting nations in their place." King predicts this response from the Almighty: "And if you don't stop your reckless course, I'll rise up and break the backbone of your power."

Feb 8  Communist forces kill 21 US Marines at Khe Sanh.

Feb 24  US Marines occupy the Imperial Palace in the heart of the city of Hue. The Marines lose 142 killed and 857 wounded. The US Army's loss is 74 killed and 507 wounded. Saigon's forces lose 384 killed and 1,830 wounded. Communist forces dead are estimated at over 5,000.

Feb 27 Television news anchorman Walter Cronkite has just returned from Saigon and tells his viewers that "the bloody experience of Vietnam is to end in a stalemate."

Feb 28  In the US, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, at the behest of General Westmoreland, asks President Johnson for an additional 206,000 soldiers and mobilization of reserve units.

Mar 1  President Johnson's popularity drops below 30 percent and endorsement for war policies falls to 26 percent.

Mar 8-11  In Warsaw, Poland, university students are protesting against policies of the Communist regime. The government arrests ten students and sentences them to prison on charges of hooliganism and insulting the police. Tens of thousands of Poles clash with policemen in front of Communist party headquarters and at the statue of the national poet, Adam Mickiewicz.

Mar 12  In Poland three government officials are fired and Jewish Zionists and some other Jews are accused of having organized the disturbances.

Mar 12  President Johnson barely wins the New Hampshire Democratic primary against a critic of the war, Senator Eugene McCarthy.

Mar 15  In Czechoslovakia, those who have been censoring printed materials ask permission to end their censorship.

Mar 15  Student defiance of the Communist regime in Poland enters its second week. A boycott of classes spreads from the city of Krakow to Warsaw. 

Mar 16  Robert F. Kennedy, now a US Senator from New York, announces his candidacy for the presidency. Polls indicate Kennedy is more popular than the President.

Mar 16  A US Army company enters the hamlet of My Lai and finding no Viet Cong soldiers they vent their frustration on people in the hamlet, killing everyone in sight – an estimated 300. A helicopter lands, and pilot Hugh Thompson, door-gunner Lawrence Colburn and crew chief Glenn Andreotta put themselves in the line of fire between the troops and fleeing civilians and begin evacuating the wounded civilians.

Mar 18  The US Congress repeals the requirement for gold as the backing of US currency.

Mar 18  In Paris, youths set off bombs in the offices of Chase Manhattan Bank, the Bank of America and Trans World Airlines. They believe these companies are involved in the war in Vietnam. 

Mar 19  Wladyslaw Gomulka, the Polish Communist party leader, seeks to moderate the anti-Zionist campaign that has spread across the country in the past week. 

Mar 22  Antonin Novotny resigns as President of Czechoslovakia.

Mar 22  In Paris, police arrest five young persons concerning the recent bombings. A group of about 150 gather at the University of Paris to protest the arrests, and they begin what they call the Movement of March 22.

Mar 25-26  In Washington D.C. the wise men gather again, including Clark Clifford, former Secretary of State Dean Acheson and General Omar Bradley. Their non-unanimous recommendation is withdrawal from Vietnam. 

Mar 26  Communist East Germany's leading ideologist, Kurt Hager, denounces Czechoslovakia's Communist Party reformers.

Mar 28  A report of the My Lai incident by the participating Army company leaders describes 69 Viet Cong killed and mentions no civilian casualties.

Mar 31  President Johnson announces: "I shall not seek, and I will not accept, the nomination of my party for another term as your President."

Mar 31  In Poland the government closes eight departments at Warsaw University, expels 34 students and suspends 11.

Apr 1  Alexander Dubcek affirms his determination to make Communism in Czechoslovakia democratic.

Apr 4  In Memphis, Tennessee, in the motel where he and his associates were staying, Martin Luther King Jr. is assassinated by a rifle shot.

Apr 11  President Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act of 1968. The act prohibits housing discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, physical handicap or family status.

Apr 23-30  In New York City, protesting the war in Vietnam, students at Columbia University take over administration buildings and shut down the university.

May 4  At the University of Paris – the Sorbonne – police are called in to end student rioting. 500 are arrested.

May 6  In the Latin Quarter in Paris pitched battles are fought between radicals and police.

May 11  Thousands of students fight again in the streets in the Latin Quarter. They erect more the 60 barricades.

May 13  French labor unions, students and teachers begin a 24-hour general strike. Labor unions turn their factory yards into fairgrounds in support of the student uprising. The celebrated intellectual Jean Paul Sartre and 121 other intellectuals sign a statement asserting "the right to disobedience," and Sartre speaks approvingly of student barricades.

May 15  Two thousand workers occupy the aircraft construction plant of Sud-Aviation at Nantes, and they are holding the plant manager and his principal aides prisoner.

May 17  Gold prices soar in London to $41.37 per ounce.

May 19  Military maneuvers by Warsaw Pact forces along the Czechoslovak border is making Czechs nervous. I have passed from East Berlin to Prague, and in Prague I walk in a demonstration which has banners reading "it is our business" (eto nasha dyelo) – a message meant for the Russians. Demonstrators who learn I am an American complain about being depicted in the US as anti-Communist. 

May 20  In France millions more workers occupy factories, mines and offices.

May 21  In Prague I hope to get permission from a sitting group of hard-looking Polish officials who don't want to let student trouble makers pass into their country. I don't dare tell them I'm from Berkeley. Instead I tell them I'm a fisherman from California. Maybe it is my visa for the Soviet Union that gets me permission to enter Poland.  

May 23  In southwestern France, dissident farmers have formed command squads to disrupt highway traffic to  protest government agriculture policies.

May 23  In Belgium, students occupy the Free University of Brussels and say they will remain until their demands are met for changes in curriculum, teaching methods, examinations and the structure of the university.

May 25  In Paris, a student demonstration that started peacefully the day before turns into the most violent and widespread battle with the police since the student revolt began more than two weeks ago.

May 26  France's striking workers gain a 35 per cent increase in minimum wages.

May 26  The American writer, Eric Hoffer writes of nations such as Turkey, Russia, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Algeria and Indonesia having driven out "thousands, even millions of people." He wonders about Arabs displaced by Israel's warring having created eternal refugees and complains that "everyone insists that Israel must take back ervery single Arab." Hoffer appears to dislike what he describes as Arnold Toynbee calling "the displacement of the Arabs an atrocity greater than any committed by the Nazis."

Paris with overturned cars


May 27  In Warsaw I've been staying with students in a large university dormitory. Sudents who fill a small room tell me how unhappy they are with the Communist regime in power. Two Cubans among them walk with me around Warsaw and tell me how much they like Castro and fault the Polish students for not appreciating socialism. The Polish student who brought me in to stay at the dormitory as his guest is questioned by a government agent.

May 28  Paris has been hosting peace talks between Washington and Hanoi. The US has reduced its bombing in North Vietnam to encourage Hanoi to end its struggle.  A frustrated President Johnson calls on the negotiations "to move from fantasy and propaganda to the realistic and constructive work of bringing peace."

May 29  Hanoi's spokesman at the peace talks accuses Johnson of using "hypocritical, false, lying words" in charging Hanoi with obstructing the talks.

May 30  President de Gaulle dissolves France's National Assembly and warns France that if necessary he will take measures to prevent a Communist "dictatorship."  France's middle class rallies. In Paris, hundreds of thousands march in support of de Gaulle.

May 30  Gen. William C. Westmoreland reports to President Johnson that the forces of the enemy in Vietnam are "deteriorating in strength and quality."

Jun 3  I am in Moscow. My ballpoint pen has stopped working. I walk around the city looking for a shop that sells ballpoint pens. I find none. I try to buy a pen from a couple of secretaries, with no luck. At the train depot, while waiting to depart for Siberia, I find a ballpoint pen cartridge with other items for sale under glass. I buy it and on the trip east will write with just a cartridge.

Jun 5  Robert Kennedy wins the California primary and appears to be on his way to becoming the Democratic Party's nominee for president.

Jun 6  On the Trans-Siberian railway, a Russian passenger politely approaches and tells me that Robert Kennedy has been shot and killed.

Jun 10  General Chreighton Abrams replaces William Westmoreland as US military commander in Vietnam. Westmoreland pursed a strategy of "search and destroy" to defeat an elusive enemy. Abrams is open to the idea that force can be counterproductive and he will look more also to winning hearts and minds.

Jun 23  In parliamentary elections in France the relatively conservative Gaullist party triumphs, increasing its seats in parliament from 200 to 297. With its allies the Gaullist party will hold 385 of the 487 seats in the Assembly. The Socialists drop from 118 seats to 57. Communist Party seats decrease from 73 to 34.

Aug 8  Richard Nixon is chosen as the Republican Party's presidential candidate. He promises "an honorable end to the war in Vietnam."

Aug 1 In Japan, the many nearby family-owned shops make the country charming for me and a consumer's paradise compared to the Soviet Union.

Aug 20-21  Warsaw Pact forces with tanks and aircraft enter Czechoslovakia. Alexander Dubcek urges people not to resist.  Dubcek and other reformers are taken to Moscow on a Soviet military transport aircraft.   

Aug 22-30  In Chicago, police riot against antiwar demonstrators, and the Democratic National Convention nominates Johnson's vice president, Hubert Humphrey, as its candidate for president. 

Aug 27 In Moscow, comrade Brezhnev has scolded Alexander Dubcek concerning what he considers unfair,"rightist" criticisms in Czechoslovak publications. Now, Dubcek and others are returned to Prague and Dubcek retains his position as the First Secretary of Czechoslovakia's Communists Party.

Arthur Ashe

Arthur Ashe

Sep 9  Arthur Ashe defeats Tom Okker of the Netherlands to win the US Open.

Sep 27 Antonio Salazar, 79, conservative dictator of Portugal since 1932, has suffered a stroke and is replaced by another authoritarian conservative, Marcello Caetano.

Sep 29  In Greece, the military junta, in power since April, 1967, maintains press censorship and martial law.  The junta leader, Papadopoulos, warns those he has released from prison that he hopes that they "will not make another false step and force me to put them away again." His regime holds a referendum on its new constitution, claiming that it is a step democracy. The yes vote is tallied at 95.2 percent.

Sep 30  The 900th US aircraft is shot down over North Vietnam

Oct 2  Student unrest has plagued Mexico City since summer. Discontented students want those responsible for police brutality dismissed from government, and they want to exploit world attention on the city from the coming Olympic games. The government of Luis Echeverría uses the army and police, tanks and armored cars to crush the student demonstration. Ammunition is fired at the demonstrators, which also strikes people who are not a part of the demonstration. The government will describe 4 dead and 20 wounded. Most sources will report between 200 and 300 deaths. A study will conclude that the demonstrators were unarmed. In 2006 Echeverría will be charged with genocide and placed under house arrest.

Peter Norman, Tommie Smith and John Carlos

Oct 11  In Panama a military coup overthrows the democratically-elected government of President Arnulfo Arias.

Oct 12-27 The Olympic Games are held in Mexico City. On the victory stand, during the playing of the US national anthem, sprinters Tommie Smith (center) and John Carlos raise their fists to show support for black power and unity and both are suspended from the US Olympic team.

Oct 31  Citing progress in the Paris peace talks, President Johnson announces that he has ordered a complete cessation of "all air, naval and artillery bombardment of North Vietnam" effective November 1.

Nov 2  Presidential candidate Nixon is afraid that President Johnson is plotting a peace deal with North Vietnam will help the Democratic Party's candidate Hubert Humphrey win the election. Nixon promises Saigon's President Nguyen Van Thieu a better deal for South Vietnam under a Nixon presidency and urges him to reject any peace settlement that Johnson is pursuing with his bombing halt. Johnson will be furious and call it treason. It's not an exaggeration: The Logan Act of 1799 forbids citizens, including presidential candidates, from interfering with negotiations between the United States and foreign governments.

Nov 5  The left-of-center in the United States has fragmented. The AFL-CIO is deeply into Cold War rhetoric, hardline regarding dealing with communism, including supporting President Johnson's war in Vietnam. There are those for patience and working for peace with the Soviet Union and critical of Johnson's policies regarding Vietnam. And there are those blue-collar workers who dislike the civil rights movement and are supporting George Wallace. The Democratic Party suffers from the fragmentation. In today's presidential election, Richard Nixon wins the presidency with 43.4 percent of the vote. Hubert Humphrey, the Democrat, takes 42.7 percent. George Wallace, with Curtis Lemay as his running mate, receives 13.5 percent of the popular vote and wins in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia. 

Dec 3 Elvis Presley's singing career has been in decline. His last single was in 1962. His movie box office has also been in decline, and there are fears that he is considered not cool. Presley likes Nixon, perhaps irrelevant as today he stages a comeback on a NBC television show. Presley will visit with Nixon in 1970 and give him a hug and a Colt 45 semi-automatic pistol.

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