1968: 13 Events Change History and Shape the Future

Chicago riots

The bloody death of the 60's Peace-and-Love Movement

In 1968, lightning flashed and thunder rolled.
The nation was at war with the world and at war with itself. It was a year of blood and anger.

The national debate over Viet Nam raged, as Hawks and Doves squared off on college campuses, in the streets and across dinner tables.

And right here at home, Martin Luther King and Robert F. Kennedy were killed within two months of each other.

And who would have thought, in centuries past, that in the year that humans first travelled to the Moon, the news of that achievement would be an almost forgotten footnote for the year.

January Viet Nam and North Korea

1 - Eartha Kitt denounces the Viet Nam War in the White House
Actress-singer Eartha Kitt reduced First Lady Lady Bird Johnson to tears when, during a White House Luncheon concerning street crime, she declared angrily that the Viet Nam War was the underlying cause of rebellion and rioting in US cities.

The response? Eartha Kitt was consequently investigated by several US government agencies and declared in a CIA report to be a sadistic nymphomaniac.

eartha kitt

2 - The Battle of Khe Sahn begins and is fought until April
The battled raged for 77 days in the Quang Tri Province in Viet Nam. Over 700 US troops were killed over the course of a battle that was considered a military victory but one of no strategic importance.

3 - North Korea seizes the USS Pueblo
Viet Nam wasn't the only military hotspot in 1968.

4 - The Tet Offensive begins
The Tet Offensive was a major and coordinated attack by Communist forces on allied troops across 100 Viet Nam towns and villages.

This military operation helped to make 1968 the deadliest year in the war, during which 16,59 US soldiers were killed.

February Atrocities of war

5 - The televised execution of a Viet Cong soldier
A South Vietnamese Army officer, acting as judge-and-jury, executed a Viet Cong soldier on the streets of Saigon. This iconic photo by Eddie Adams captured the murder and helped to tilt the national mindset about the war.

March The My Lai Massacre

6 - The atrocities at Abu Ghraib are pale in comparison to Viet Nam's My Lai Massacre.

7 - Unrest over Viet Nam puts an end to President Lyndon Johnson's plans for re-election

April The Assassination of Martin Luther King

8 - Martin Luther King is gunned down on a motel balcony in Memphis TN
The shooting sparks a wave of riots throughout the nation.

June The Assassination of Robert F. Kennedy

9 - Senator Robert F. Kennedy is shot to death during his victory celebration after the California Democratic Primary.

rfk shooting

August The Democratic Convention

10 - TV images of the riots surrounding Democratic Convention are broadcast around the world
CBS News anchor, Walter Cronkite calls Chicago a police state.

The Olympics and the Civil Rights Movement collide

11 - The Black Power salute at the Olympiad in Mexico City causes an uproar.

November A Change in the White House

12 - Nixon wins the presidency with a secret plan to end the war
A nation weary of war hands Richard Nixon a narrow victory over Hubert Humphrey in the presidential election. Third party candidate George Wallace received 14% of vote.

The legendary news team, Huntley-Brinkley report the close popular vote results of the election.

December The Space Race

13 - Three men orbit the Moon
After 12 months of war, violence and assassination, the year ended with one of humankind's greatest achievements when, on Christmas eve, astronauts Frank Borman, Jim Lovell and Bill Anders became the first people to orbit the moon.

They marked the occasion and the holiday by broadcasting back to Earth a heart-felt reading of passages from the Bible's Genesis.