War in Vietnam

War in Vietnam

Volumes have been written about the Vietnam War, from its beginnings in the 50s to the withdrawal of US troops in the 70's. More Americans were killed in 1968 than any other year.

The events of 1968 played a pivotal role in the overall progress of the war. The frustrating routines of the fighting throughout 1967 were shattered by the attack on Khe Sanh and the start of the Tet Offensive, which brought greatly escalated battles throughout South Vietnam. The American Embassay in Saigon was attacked and briefly occupied. The military under General Westmoreland could no longer just exaggerate their victories; instead they demanded more troops.


The increase in American involvement was becoming a major point of contention in the election-year rhetoric, and President Johnson continued his aggressive approach even after declaring he would not run for reelection. Eugene McCarthy proved that anti-war sentiment could be a successful political stance, and Robert Kennedy took advantage of that sentiment in planning his campaign strategy.

Both Robert McNamara, the Secretary of Defense, and General Westmoreland left their positions in 1968, as the administration struggled to find a policy that worked in Vietnam. By November, it was clear that Richard Nixon would be directing the future of America in Vietnam, even though the country was becoming more polarized in its opinion of the merits of the war effort. In the meantime, the war was taking a terrible toll on the soldiers who had been sent to serve and the families they left behind. This section explores the events of the war as well as the impact of the war on the culture of America in 1968.

American involvement in the war in Vietnam had disastrous consequences. It created some of the most bitter splits between family members since the Civil War, and left the entire country questioning the judgement of its leaders and the role of America on the international stage. In 1968, it wasn't a question of whether to go to war--we were already there.

The nation agonized over what to do next. The doves wanted to get out of the conflict entirely. The hawks wanted to "win and get out." America's pride was at stake, and the generation that had fought World War II was not about to see the nation defeated by a tiny country in southeast Asia. The military effort in Vietnam was requiring an endless supply of men and equipment, all in pursuit of a "light at the end of the tunnel." Most Americans had only the vaguest notion about how we had gotten into the war in the first place, and wanted to support the war effort as a matter of patriotism.

One factor in the changing face of popular opinion was the new immediacy of the news coverage on television. Daily reports on Vietnam brought the war into American livingrooms night after night. When the Tet Offensive began on January 31, 1968, viewers saw images that were much more graphic than the black-and-white newspaper photos that brought home previous wars—and for the first time, many people sat these reports in “living color.” When Walter Cronkite, anchor of the CBS Evening News, stated in an editorial report during the Tet Offensive that the Vietnam War was unwinnable, President Lyndon Johnson is reported to have said, "If I've lost Cronkite, I've lost middle America."

Anti-war demonstrations were largely peaceful through 1968. Involved students and political activists were increasingly taking a stand against the war, to the dismay of their parents who had embraced the patriotism of World War II.

Over 16,000 Americans died in the Vietnam War in 1968—bringing the total to over 35,000 since the start of the war. In addition to approximately 58,000 U.S. soldiers killed by the time the war was over in 1975, 3 to 4 million Vietnamese from both sides and 1.5 to 2 million Laotians and Cambodians had also lost their lives.



This website is currently under development and will be updated periodically. Images are from the editor's collecton of photos, and scans from print journals from 1968. If you would like to offer comments or suggestions contact the webmaster at thatwasthen1968@gmail.com

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