1968 was one of the most godawful, horrible, miserable years in U.S. history. It changed who we are as Americans, and “fueled a general sense that the nation had gone mad; that the normal rules and constants of politics could no longer be counted on.” How Robert Kennedy’s Assassination Changed American Politics.
The Tet Offensive at the end of January stunned both the U.S. and South Vietnamese armies, causing them to temporarily lose control of several cities and the U.S. embassy in Saigon. It had a profound effect on the U.S. government and shocked the U.S. public, which had been led to believe by its political and military leaders that the North Vietnamese were being defeated and incapable of launching such an ambitious military operation.
A month later, Walter Cronkite reported on his recent trip to Vietnam to view the aftermath of the Tet Offensive in his television special Who, What, When, Where, Why? He chastised American leaders for their optimism, and advised negotiation “… not as victors, but as an honorable people who lived up to their pledge to defend democracy, and did the best they could.” American support for the war declined.
In February, Richard M. Nixon (R-CA) declared his candidacy for the presidency. In March, Sen. Eugene McCarthy (D-MN) and his “children’s crusade” nearly defeated President Lyndon Johnson in the New Hampshire Democratic primary. Days later, Sen. Robert F. Kennedy (D-NY) declared his candidacy for president. By the end of March, President Johnson delivered his Address to the Nation Announcing Steps To Limit the War in Vietnam and Reporting His Decision Not To Seek Reelection. His Vice President, Hubert H. Humphrey, would run in his stead.
Excerpts from the Letter from John Adams to Abigail Adams, 3 July 1776:
The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America.
I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.
Celebrations, yes, but never forget the solemn sacrifice that generations of Americans have made to maintain and defend our democracy from its inception.
You will think me transported with Enthusiasm but I am not. — I am well aware of the Toil and Blood and Treasure, that it will cost Us to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States. — Yet through all the Gloom I can see the Rays of ravishing Light and Glory. I can see that the End is more than worth all the Means. And that Posterity will tryumph in that Days Transaction, even altho We should rue it, which I trust in God We shall not.
Happy 240th birthday, America!
There are two op-eds today on the fifth anniversary of the mass shooting in Tucson, one from former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords who was wounded in the shooting, and one from President Barack Obama.
Gabrielle Giffords writes at the Washington Post, We can no longer wait for a Congress in the gun lobby’s grip to act:
The new year is a time of optimism and new commitments. For me, it’s also a powerful time for an additional reason: Every Jan. 8, I think about how close I came to losing my life on a bright winter morning five years ago in Tucson, when a would-be assassin opened fire on me and a group of my constituents, injuring 12 others and killing six.
I was shot in the head from three feet away, but somehow I survived.
I made a decision that my new life would be lived as my old life was: in service of our country. One thing that means for me today is using my second chance to do everything I can to make this great country safer from the kind of gun violence that took the lives of those around me and changed many others’, and mine, forever.
On August 14, 1945, it was announced that Japan had surrendered unconditionally to the Allies, effectively ending World War II. Emperor Hirohito gave a recorded radio address across the Empire on August 15 (August 14 in the United States), announcing the surrender of Japan to the Allies.
President Harry S. Truman announced news of Japan’s surrender in a press conference at the White House: “This is the day we have been waiting for since Pearl Harbor. This is the day when Fascism finally dies, as we always knew it would.” Truman Announces Japan’s Surrender (audio). Jubilant Americans declared August 14 “Victory over Japan Day,” or “V-J Day.”
On September 2, Allied supreme commander General Douglas MacArthur, along with the Japanese foreign minister, Mamoru Shigemitsu, and the chief of staff of the Japanese army, Yoshijiro Umezu, signed the official Japanese surrender aboard the U.S. Navy battleship Missouri, effectively ending World War II.