Why was 1968 a turning point in America as well as the Vietnam War? 

Why was 1968 a turning point in America as well as the Vietnam War?


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pholland14 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

1968 was a turning point in America due to the turmoil in the nation during that year. In 1968, James Earl Ray shot civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr., one of the most leaders of the movement. 1968 also saw the assassination of Robert Kennedy, a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination that year. Kennedy was quite popular with young people due to his antiwar rhetoric. In 1968, former Alabama governor George Wallace ran for office on the platform of ending desegregation. In 1968, antiwar protesters violently attacked the Democratic convention in Chicago. The protests and police response was televised, giving the party bad publicity and helping guarantee a Nixon victory in 1968. Nixon won the presidency due to his promise to leave Vietnam with our "national honor" intact.  

1968 was a turning point in Vietnam as well; by this point, actions in Vietnam are hard to separate from actions in America due to the war being televised and most Americans having a strong opinion about the war. In 1968, Americans had been told by Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara that the war was winnable and that it would be over soon. That same year, the North Vietnamese Army and Vietcong invaded American-backed South Vietnam in a surprise attack known as the Tet Offensive. The attack briefly overran major U.S. bases in the region and the communists briefly breached the American embassy in Saigon. Though the North Vietnamese were driven back with severe casualties, Americans watching the action unfold on television were shocked an already-defeated enemy could do such a thing. Walter Cronkite, then the most famous American journalist, questioned Lyndon Johnson about the true progress of the war. Soon after this interview, Johnson stated he would not seek the presidency in 1968.   

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