This timeline focuses on some major events of 1968. When necessary or
indicated, contextual background material, or certain subsequent events
will be referenced in the text. This brief document cannot hope to touch
on all or even most of the important happenings in what was perhaps an
uniquely "eventful" year, but focuses especially on events referred to in
the text of the interviews. A number of books have been particularly
helpful in preparing this timeline, including: Daniels (1989)
especially on events in Paris and Czechoslovakia; Kaiser (1988) for
material on the US counterculture; Trager (1992) overall; and Witcover (1997) on US
politics. Please refer to the
bibliography for additional reference materials and memoirs by many of
the important participants in the events of the year.
January | February
| March | April | May
| June | July
August | September
| October | November
- January 5
- Dr. Benjamin Spock; William Sloan Coffin the
chaplain of Yale University; novelist Mitchell Goodman; Michael Ferber, a
graduate student at Harvard; and Marcus Raskin a peace activist are
indicted on charges of conspiracy to encourage violations of the draft laws
by a grand jury in Boston. The charges are the result of actions taken at
a protest rally the previous October at the Lincoln Memorial. The four
will be convicted and Raskin acquitted on June 14th.
- January 17
- President Lyndon Baines Johnson (1908-1973) (an
LBJ Library photo by Kevin Smith taken this day) delivers the State of the
- January 23
- North Korean patrol boats capture the USS Pueblo, a US
Navy intelligence gathering vessel and its 83 man crew on charges of
violating the communist country's twelve-mile territorial limit. This
crisis would dog the US foreign policy team for 11 months, with the crew of
the Pueblo finally gaining freedom on December 22.
- January 31
- At half-past midnight on Wednesday morning the North
Vietnamese launch the Tet offensive at Nha Trang. Nearly 70,000 North
Vietnamese troops will take part in this broad action, taking the battle
from the jungles to the cities. The offensive will carry on for weeks and
is seen as a major turning point for the American attitude toward the war.
At 2:45 that morning the US embassy in Saigon is invaded and held until
- February 1
- During police actions following the first day of the Tet
Nguyen Ngoc Loan,
a south Vietnamese security official is captured on film executing
a Viet Cong prisoner by American photographer Eddie Adams. The
Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph becomes yet
another rallying point for anti-war protestors. Despite later
claims that the prisoner had been accused of murdering a Saigon
police officer and his family, the image seems to call into
question everything claimed and assumed about the Amrican allies,
the South Vietnamese.
- February 2
- Richard Nixon, a republican from California, enters
the New Hampshire primary and declares his presidential candidacy.
- February 4
- Martin Luther King
Jr. delivers a sermon at his Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta which
will come to be seen as prophetic. His speech contains what amounts to his
own eulogy. After his death, he says, "I'd like somebody to mention that
day that Martin Luther King Jr. tried to give his life serving others.
I'd like for somebody to say that day that Martin Luther King Jr. tried to
love somebody... that I tried to love and serve humanity,. Yes, if you
want to, say that I was a drum major for peace... for righteousness."
- February 7
- International reporters arrive at the embattled city of
Ben Tre in South Vietnam. Peter Arnett, then of the Associated
Press, writes a dispatch quoting an unnamed US major as saying, "It became
necessary to destroy the town to save it." The quote runs nationwide
the next day in Arnett's report.
- February 18
- The US State Department announces the highest US
casualty toll of the Vietnam War. The previous week saw 543 Americans
killed in action, and 2547 wounded.
- February 27
- Walter Cronkite reports on his recent trip to Vietnam
to view the aftermath of the Tet Offensive in his television special
Who, What, When, Where, Why? The report is highly critical of US
officials and directly contradicts official statements on the progress of
the war. After listing Tet and several other current military operations
as "draw[s]" and chastising American leaders for their optimism, Cronkite
advises negotiation "...not as victors, but as an honorable people who lived
up to their pledge to defend democracy, and did the best they could."
- March 12
- The New Hampshire primary election brings shocking
results. The Eugene McCarthy campaign, benefitting from the work of 2,000
full-time student volunteers and up to 5,000 on the weekends immediately
preceding the vote comes within 230 votes of defeating the sitting
president Lyndon Johnson. These students, participants in what McCarthy
refers to as his "children's crusade" have cut their hair, modified their
wardrobes, and become "clean for Gene" to contact the conservative voters in
- March 16
- Senator Robert Kennedy, former Attorney General and
brother of former president John F. Kennedy (1961-63) ends months of debate
announcing that he will enter the 1968 Presidential race.
- March 16 (same day)
- Although it will not become public knowledge
for more than a year, US ground troops from Charlie Company rampage through
the hamlet of My Lai killing more than 500 Vietnamese civilians from
infants to the elderly. The massacre continues for three hours until three
American fliers intervene, positioning their helicopter between the
troops and the fleeing vietnamese and eventually carrying a handful of
wounded to safety. View the BBC
Special Report on the incident.
- March 22
- In Czechoslovakia Antonin Novotny resigns the Czech
presidency setting off alarm bells in Moscow. The next day leaders of five
Warsaw Pact countries meet in Dresden, East Germany to discuss the crisis.
- March 28
- Martin Luther King Jr. leads a march in Memphis which
turns violent. After King himself had been led from the scene one 16 year
old black boy is killed, 60 people are injured, and over 150 arrested.
- March 31
- President Lyndon Johnson delivers his
Address to the Nation Announcing Steps To Limit the War in Vietnam and
Reporting His Decision Not To Seek Reelection. The speech
announces the first in a series of limitations on US bombing, promising to
halt these activities above the 20th parallel.
- April 4
- Martin Luther King Jr. spends the day at the Lorraine
Motel in Memphis working and meeting with local leaders on plans for his
Poor People's March on Washington to take place late in the month. At
6pm, as he greets the car and friends in the courtyard, King is shot with
one round from a 30.06 rifle. He will be declared dead just an hour later at
St. Joseph's hospital. After an international man-hunt James Earl Ray will
be arrested on June 27 in England, and convicted of the murder. Ray died
in prison in 1998.
Robert Kennedy, hearing of the murder just before he is to give a speech in
Indianapolis, IN, delivers a powerful extemporaneous eulogy in which he
pleads with the audience "to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the
life of this world."
The King assassination sparks rioting in
Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Kansas City, Newark, Washington,
D.C., and many others. Across the country 46 deaths will be blamed on the
- April 11
- United States Secretary of Defense Clark Clifford calls
24,500 military reserves to action for 2 year commitments, and announces a
new troop ceiling of 549,500 American soldiers in Vietnam. The total
number of Americans "in country" will peak at some 541,000 in August this
year, and decline to 334,000 by 1970.
- April 23
- A rally and occupation of the Low administrative
office building at Columbia University, planned to protest the university's
participation in the Institute for Defense Analysis is scuttled by
conservative students and university security officers. The demonstrators
march to the site of a proposed new gymnasium at Morningside Heights to
stage a protest in support of neighbors who use the site for recreation.
The action eventually results in the occupation of five buildings -
Hamilton, Low, Fairweather and Mathematics halls, and the Architecture
building. It will culminate seven days later when police storm the
buildings and violently remove the students and their supporters at the
Columbia administration's request.
- May 3
- The US and North Vietnamese delegations agree to begin peace
talks in Paris later this month. The formal talks will begin on May 10.
- May 6
- In France, "Bloody Monday" marks one of the most violent days of the
Parisian student revolt. Five thousand students march through the Latin
Quarter with support from the student union and the instructors' union.
Reports of the ensuing riot conflict, either the police charge unprevoked,
or demonstrators harass them with thrown stones. The fighting is intense
with rioters setting up barricades and the police attacking with gas
grenades. Over-night the battle will subside, but only after engaging the
sympathies of large numbers of French unionists.
- May 11
- Ralph Abernathy, Martin Luther King Jr.'s designated
successor, and the Southern Christian Leadership Corps are granted a permit
for an encampment on the Mall in Washington, DC. Eventually, despite
nearly a solid month of rain, over 2,500 people will eventually occupy
Resurrection City. On June 24th the site is raided by police, 124
occupants arrested, and the encampment demolished.
- May 13
- The actions taken by the students and instructors at the
Sorbonne inspires sympathetic strikes throughout France. As many as
nine million workers are on strike by May 22. President de Gaulle takes
action to shore up governmental power, making strident radio addresses and
authorizing large movements of military troops within the country. These
shows of force eventually dissipate the French revolutionary furor.
- June 3
- Andy Warhol is shot in his New York City loft by Valerie Solanis, a struggling
actress, and writer.
- June 4/5
- On the night of the California Primary Robert Kennedy
addresses a large crowd of supporters at the Ambassador Hotel in
San Francisco. He has won victories in California and South Dakota and is
confident that his campaign will go on to unite the many factions stressing
the country. As he leaves the stage, at 12:13AM on the morning of the
fifth Kennedy is shot by Sirhan Sirhan, a 24 year old Jordanian living in
Los Angeles. The motive for the shooting is apparently anger at several
pro-Isreali speeches Kennedy had made during the campaign. The forty-two
year old Kennedy dies in the early morning of June sixth.
- June 8
- Robert Kennedy's funeral is held at St. Patrick's
Cathedral in New York. Senator Edward Kennedy, the youngest brother of John
and Robert delivers the eulogy. After the service, the body and 700 guests
depart on a special train for the burial at Arlington National Cemetery in
- June 27
- As the "Prague Spring" continues in Czechoslovakia Ludvik Vaculik releases his manifesto "Two Thousand
Words". This essay, criticizing Communist rule in Czechoslovakia and
concluding with an overt threat to "foreign forces" trying to control the
government of the country was seen as a direct challenge to the Soviet
Administration who extended ongoing military exercises in the country, and
began planning for their invasion later in the summer.
- June 28
- A bill adding a 10 percent surcharge to income taxes and
reducing government spending is signed by President Johnson. The president
effectively admits it has been impossible to provide both "guns and
- July 7
- Abbie Hoffman's "The Yippies are Going to Chicago" is
published in The Realist. The yippie movement, formed by Hoffman,
Jerry Rubin and Paul Krassner, all committed activists and demonstrators,
is characterized by public displays of disorder ranging from disrupting
the trading floor of the New York Stock Exchange to the destruction of the
Clocks at Grand Central Terminal, the main commuter station for workers in
New York City. The Yippie's will be in the center of action six weeks
later at the Chicago Democratic National Convention, hosting a "Festival of
Life" in contrast to what they term the convention's "Festival of Death."
- July 24
- At the Newport (Rhode Island) Folk Festival singer Arlo
Guthrie performs his 20 minute ballad "Alice's Restaurant" to
- August 8
- At their Party convention in Miami Beach the Republicans
Milhouse Nixon to be their presidential candidate. The next day Nixon
will appoint Spiro Agnew of Maryland as his running mate. Nixon has been
challenged in his campaign by Nelson Rockefeller of New York, and Ronald
Reagan of California.
- August 20
- The Soviet Union invades Czechoslovakia with over 200,000
warsaw pact troops, putting an end to the "Prague Spring," and
beginning a period of enforced and oppressive "normalization."
- August 26
- Mayor Richard Daley opens the Democratic National
Convention in Chicago. While the convention moves haltingly toward nominating
Hubert Humphrey for president, the city's police attempt to enforce an 11
o'clock curfew. On that Monday night demonstrations are widespread, but
generally peaceful. The next two days, however, bring increasing tension
and violence to the situation.
- August 28
- By most accounts, on Wednesday evening Chicago police
take action against crowds of demonstrators without provocation. The
police beat some marchers unconscious and send at least 100 to emergency
rooms while arresting 175.
Mayor Daley tried the next day to explain
the police action at a press conference. He famously explained: "The
policeman isn't there to create disorder, the policeman is there to
Twenty-eight years later, when the Democrats next held a convention in Chicago, some
police officers still on the force wore t-shirts proclaiming, "We kicked
their father's butt in '68 and now it's your turn."
- September 1
- Democratic nominee Hubert Humphrey kicks off his
presidential campaign at New York City's Labor Day parade.
- September 7
- Women's Liberation groups, joined by members of New
target the Miss America Beauty Contest in Atlantic City. The protest
includes theatrical demonstrations including ritual disposal of traditional
female roles into the "freedom ashcan." While nothing is actually set on
fire, one organizer's comment - quoted in the New York Times the next
day - that the protesters "wouldn't do anything dangerous, just a symbolic
bra-burning," lives on in the derogatory term "bra-burning feminist."
- September 29
- This date marks the thirtieth anniversary of Neville
Chamberlain's Munich agreement ceding Czechoslovakia's Sudatenland to
Hitler. This action widely seen as a major contributing factor to the
devastation of World War II. The domino theory which underlay so much of
American action in Vietnam can be seen as a direct response to the failure
of international response to the German dictator.
- October 2
- Police and military troops in Mexico City react violently
to a student - led protest in Tlatelolco Square. Hundreds of the demonstrators
are killed or injured.
- October 3
- George Wallace, who has been running an independent
campaign for the presidency which has met significant support in the
South and the Midwest, names retired Air Force Chief of Staff Curtis E.
LeMay to be his running mate. At the press conference, the general is
asked about his position on the use of nuclear weapons, and responds: "I
think most military men think it's just another weapon in the arsenal... I
think there are many times when it would be most efficient to use nuclear
weapons. ... I don't believe the world would end if we exploded a nuclear
- October 11
- Apollo 7
is launched from Florida for an eleven day journey which will orbit the Earth
- October 12
- The Summer Olympic Games open in Mexico City. The games
have been boycotted by 32 African nations in protest of South Africa's
participation. On the 18th Tommie Smith and John Carlos, US athletes and
medalists in the 200-meter dash will further disrupt the games by
performing the black power salute during the "Star-Spangled Banner" at
thier medal ceremony.
- October 20
- Jacqueline Kennedy is married to Aristotle Onassis, a
Greek shipping magnate on the private island of Skorpios.
- October 31
- President Johnson announces a total halt to US bombing in
- November 5
- Election Day. The results of the popular vote are
31,770,000 for Nixon, 43.4 percent of the total; 31,270,000 or 42.7
percent for Humphrey; 9,906,000 or 13.5 percent for wallace; and 0.4
percent for other candidates.
- November 14
- National Turn in Your Draft Card Day is observed with
rallies and protests on college campuses throughout the country.
- November 26
- After stalling for months, the South Vietnamese
government agrees to join in the Paris peace talks.
- December 11
- The unemployment rate, at 3.3 percent, is the lowest it
has been in fifteen years.
- December 12
- Robert and Ethel Kennedy's daughter, Rory, their
eleventh child is born.
- December 21
- The launch of Apollo 8
begins the first US mission to orbit the Moon.