Vietnam Escalation

  • The Communist activity in Vietnam was a direct challenge to the American mission to lead the free world into the next century.
  • Dean Rusk, who had been the assistant secretary of state for Far Eastern Affairs in both the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, making him one of the chief architects of the Vietnam War.
  • At 2:00 A. M. on February 7, Viet Cong soldiers attacked the U. S. base at Pleiku in the Central Highlands, killing eight soldiers and destroying ten U. S. planes. There were ten additional (but less damaging) Viet Cong attacks launched that same day against U. S. and ARVN installations throughout the South. Johnson immediately ordered reprisal strikes against the North. Another attack against Americans at Qui Nhon provoked the president to order additional bombings of the North.
  • Within three weeks of the Plieku attack, Johnson had approved Operation Rolling Thunder, a massive sustained bombing operation against North Vietnam. In 1965 the U. S. Air Force flew 25,000 sorties against the North. A year later the number had grown to 79,000. By the end of 1966 the United States was sending in 12,000 sorties a month.
  • Rolling Thunder was a massive demonstration of U. S. firepower and military might, but it did little to affect the North Vietnamese prosecution of the war. In the three years that Rolling Thunder was under way, the North was able to increase dramatically its flood tide of men and supplies south. Rolling Thunder did not succeed because such bombing campaigns are most successful against fixed targets, such as industry.
  • In late February Johnson moved escalation of the war one step forward by sending two marine landing teams to protect the U. S. air base at Danang. They came ashore on March 8, the first U. S. combat units in Vietnam. It was the beginning of the Americanization of the war
  • When Rolling Thunder was an obvious failure through 1965, the only solution, so Johnson and his advisors saw, was to escalate the bombing.
  • Johnson tried desperately to bring the war to an end before his term expired in January. But the Paris peace negotiations produced little, and in May the Viet Cong launched another offensive, quickly dubbed the “Mini-Tet Offensive” by the press.

Prague Spring

  • On 5 January 1968, Antonin Novotny, Czechoslovakia’s Stalinist President, was replaced as the KSC (Czechoslavak’s Communist Party) first secretary by a reluctant reformer, Alexander Dubcek.
  • By March 1968, the KSC had liberalized the press, abolished cultural censorship, and recognized academic freedom. Students clashed with police, spreading demands for civil freedoms across Poland. Warsaw Polytechnic University was occupied as students demanded a process of reform.
  • The Action Program of April 10 revived the party, and the calling of the Fourteenth Congress for September focused a process of radicalization. This occurred via thousands of public meetings, mass rallies, and new associations
  • Organization of victims of Stalinism (called K-231) and the Club of Non-Party, were refounded, including the illegally revived Social Democratic Party. The pivotal event was the “2,000 Words Manifesto, ” drafted by the writer Ludvík Vaculík and distributed in three hundred thousand copies on 27 June.
  • Leonid Brezhnev, General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, moved toward military intervention, collaborating secretly with the KSC Presidium’s anti-reformers
  • Flushed with the excitement of May Day, which had huge support, KSC leaders went to Moscow seeking Soviet endorsement. Despite the reformers’ lingering optimism, by 29 July the Soviet position had become brutally clear
  • The Warsaw Pact armies arrived in Prague on 20 August to reestablish normal rule. Dubcek, and his associates were abducted to Moscow, joined by President Ludvík Svoboda on his own decision.
  • The Vysocany Congress was annulled. Censorship was reintroduced. Reform of the security apparatus was shelved. The public sphere was closed down. Gustav Husák, based in the Slovak CP, took charge. By April 1969, the reformers were entirely dispossessed, the party purged of 21.7 percent of its membership, and Soviet order restored.
  • After 1968, no democratic impulse could begin from Eastern Europe’s Communist parties.

Gulf of Tonkin Incident

  • The first incident occurred on the morning of August 1,1964 when the U. S. destroyer Maddox, engaged in electronic espionage off the coast of North Vietnam, was attacked by North Vietnamese torpedo boats. The Maddox may have sunk one boat in the encounter and U. S. planes from the carrier Ticonderoga damaged two others.
  • On the night of August 4, the Maddox returned to the area, this time accompanied by the destroyer Turner Joy. Both boats claimed to have come under torpedo attack that night.
  • The commander on the Maddox, Captain John Herrick, radioed to his superiors that an attack may not have occurred, and that a complete evaluation of the incident should be made before Washington took any hasty action in response.
  • McNamara pushed Johnson to retaliate immediately, and the president ordered a retaliatory air attack on North Vietnamese torpedo boat bases and nearby oil tanks. He then spoke to the American people in a televised address explaining his actions. He would, he said, seek a congressional resolution allowing him to “take all necessary measures to repel any armed attacks against the forces of the United States.” He received that resolution from Congress with near-unanimous approval. On August 5 the Senate voted 98 to 2 in favor of the resolution. The House vote the same day was unanimous. Johnson’s approval ratings in the polls nearly doubled over night. It was just three months before the election.
  • In Saigon the condition had gone from bad to worse. General Khanh, using the Tonkin Gulf Incident, declared a military emergency on August 6 that, in effect, made him the dictator of South Vietnam.
  • The first response from Washington was to avoid expanding the war further as long as Saigon was unstable. In addition, Johnson’s election campaign, based on a moderate foreign policy, demanded that the bombing of the North begin after the election and not before. Consequently, Washington was forced to stand by as the situation in Saigon worsened through the first week of November.
  • Johnson’s management of the situations in Vietnam, particularly the Tonkin Gulf Incident, catapulted him into a landslide victory in the 1964 election.

Space Race

  • In December 20th, 1968, Apollo 8 carried Americans into lunar orbit while the manned flight of a Russian Zond spacecraft around the moon was delayed.
  • Three weeks after Apollo 8’s lunar-orbiting astronauts returned to a hero’s welcome on earth, the first Luna (un-manned Soviet Space Program) soil-sample return mission was launched.
  • Fire on the launch pad in January 1967, claimed the lives of Gus Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chaffee.
  • Borman was put in charge of restructuring the Apollo command module during the investigation of the fire. Borman had commanded Gemini 7, a different NASA manned spacecraft program, and was one of the most respected astronauts at the time.
  • Borman was named commander of the Apollo 8 mission, and he chose James “Jim” Lovell, also on Gemini 7, and a rookie William “Bill” Anders. Apollo 7 was supposed to be launched soon on an 11-day earth-orbiting flight in October 1968, and they were not sure what to do with the Apollo 8.
  • George Low, one of the engineers working on the command module suggested sending the team to orbit the moon. On October 22, 1968 after the Apollo 7 missions was near perfect, the Apollo 8 lunar mission was approved.
  • December 21-27 1968; 6 days, 3 hours, 1 minute
  • First manned flight around the moon, made 10 orbits of the moon on Christmas Eve, and took photographs to help plot landing sites of future missions.
  • Flew within 69 miles of the moon
  • 4 am made first orbit; on December 24 Bill Anders took the infamous “earthrise” shot from space.
  • Frank Borman, Jim Lovell, Bill Anders read aloud the first ten verses of Genesis
author avatar
William Anderson (Schoolworkhelper Editorial Team)
William completed his Bachelor of Science and Master of Arts in 2013. He current serves as a lecturer, tutor and freelance writer. In his spare time, he enjoys reading, walking his dog and parasailing. Article last reviewed: 2022 | St. Rosemary Institution © 2010-2024 | Creative Commons 4.0

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