It was the year that encapsulated all the tumultuousness, the
violence, the anger and the idealism of the 1960s. So many important and
tragic events occurred in 1968 that it is rightly considered the most
pivotal year in recent American history.
Vietnam was on everyone's mind in 1968 and it was the bloodiest year
of the entire War. The astonishing Tet offensive by the North Vietnamese
forces that swept through South Vietnam and even threatened to over-run the
American Embassy in Saigon exploded the myth of an imminent American
victory in the War. The event shocked the
Thebrief optimism generated by Kennedy's candidature was tragically nipped inthe bud when he was assassinated on June 5 in San Francisco. American public and convincedthem about the futility of the Vietnam War. Senator Robert Kennedy decided to run for thePresidential election and evoked enthusiastic support from a broad range ofAmericans, including the increasingly estranged African Americans. The year is also significant in American history as the Americanpublic elected Richard Nixon, albeit by a narrow margin, as their Presidentin 1968. The decision served to extend the Vietnam War as Nixon, despitehis campaign pledge to withdraw from the War, further escalated it bybombing Cambodia in 1970. , and the idealism of BobbyKennedy but ended with continuing violence and the flawed "realism" ofRichard Nixon. The President Johnson, confronted by the ferocity of the anti-warsentiments, saw the writing on the wall and announced his decision not toseek re-election. The My Lai Massacre, in whichAmerican soldiers killed hundreds of unarmed Vietnamese civilians on March16, 1968, outraged the world and further reduced support for the War in theUS. dead averaged over 300 a week in 1968 ("1968: United States"). 1968 was indeed a pivotal year in American history that signified allthe complexities and contradictions of the time. It contained the promiseof peace, the dreams of Martin Luther King Jr. Coming as itdid on the heels of the killing of Martin Luther King just two monthsearlier, the event signified to many the unraveling of the Americansociety.