APUSH 1968

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Gulf of Tonkin Incident

American Destroyers Maddox and Turner Joy claimed to have been attacked by North Vietnamese gunboats. A couple days later, they reported having been attacked again, a claim that raised questions on its accuracy, but President Johnson used it to justify the use of air strikes on targets in North Vietnam. In retrospect, it is clear that there was an "attack" and that the US boats were not in international waters as claimed. It was a minor incident that Johnson used as a pretext for war.

Gulf of Tonkin Resolution

The Gulf of Tonkin Resolution was a joint resolution of the U.S. Congress passed on August 7, 1964 in direct response to a minor naval engagement known as the Gulf of Tonkin Incident (the Maddox and Turner Joy had been attacked). It is of historical significance because it gave U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson authorization, without a formal declaration of war by Congress, for the use of military force in Southeast Asia, escalating the war in Vietnam from 16,000 when JFK was assassinated to 542,00 in 1969.


"To some, 1968 was the year of sex, drugs, and rock and roll. Yet it was also the year of the Martin Luther King, Jr., and Bobby Kennedy assassinations; the riots at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago; Prague Spring; the antiwar movement and the Tet Offensive; Black Power; the generation gap; avant-garde theater; the upsurge of the women’s movement; and the beginning of the end for the Soviet Union" – 1968: The Year That Rocked the World, Mark Kurlansky

Vietnam War

By 1968, Johnson could no longer avoid the fact that the U.S. could not win the Vietnam War. Later that year, he agreed to stop the bombing, began withdrawing American forces, and agreed to peace talks in Paris.

My Lai Massacre

The mass murder conducted by a unit of the U.S. Army on March 16, 1968 of hundreds of unarmed citizens in the South Vietnamese town of My Lai. Majority of victims were women, children (including babies) and elderly people. Lieutenant Calley, the officer who ordered the killings, was tried for murder. He claimed he was only following orders, but was convicted and served several years in prison.

Tet Offensive

The Tet Offensive was an attacked launched by the Vietcong towards the South Vietnamese.There was a prior agreement to cease fire during the Lunar New Year celebrations, however the VietCong broke the agreement hoping to use the surprise attack to their advantage.Saigon the South Vietnam capital was the focal point of the offensive. They did have success in taking over the US Embassy in Saigon, and the National Radio Station. It was a major shock to the Americans because they head previously been under the conception that the United States was winning the war. It caused an intense crisis within the Johnson administration, which was unable to convince the American people that it was possible to win the war.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Assassinated

On April 4, 1968, Martin Luther King, Jr., was assassinated at a Memphis hotel. James Earl Ray, white man who resented the increasing black influence in society. King’s murder set off a new round of riots across the country, while both blacks and whites mourned the tragic death of a charismatic leader.

Robert F. Kennedy Assassinated

RFK, brother of JFK and anti-war candidate, is assassinated after he wins the California presidential primary. His assassin was Sirhan Sirhan, an Arab nationalist. He targeted Kennedy because of his support for Israel. assassinated at hotel after giving victory speech

Democratic Convention 1968

In Chicago. Democratic delegates gathered to nominate Vice-president Hubert Humphrey while anti-war protestor gathered outside to take advantage of television coverage to get their message across. Delegates inside the convention were bitterly divided by war policies and there were charges of discrimination and tampering (made by supporters of George McGovern and Eugene McCarthy–two challengers to Humphrey). The hall was protected with barbed wire, and police officers to keep the protesters away. Police and protestors battled in the streets of Chicago. Consequences: Democrats were divided and lost the 1968 election, reforms to the nominated process (it had largely been in the hands of party leadership, but changed to primaries and caucuses), and the "Chicago Seven" were arrested and tried for rioting–many of them leaders of protest movements.

Election of 1968

At the end of a difficult year, the presidential election of 1968 was held. Republican candidate Richard Nixon appealed to a nation tired of violence and unrest. Nixon vowed he would end the Vietnam War and win peace. Democratic nominee, Hubert Humphrey, Johnson’s vice president, seemed a continuation of the old politics. In the end, Richard Nixon won.

Civil Rights Act of 1968

Prohibited discrimination based on race, religion, sex & national origin in employment & housing.

Students for a Democratic Society

Founded in 1962, the SDS was a popular college student organization that protested shortcomings in American life, notably racial injustice and the Vietnam War. It led thousands of campus protests before it split apart at the end of the 1960s. In 1968, SDS took over Columbia University’s president’s office, classroom buildings, and kidnapped the dean to protest the university’s plan to build a new gym that would displace black residents.

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