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Issues of the 1960's

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Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.
Helen Keller

The Vietnam War

U.S. Involvement

In 1961, South Vietnam signed a military and economic aid treaty with the United States leading to the arrival (1961) of U.S. support troops and the formation (1962) of the U.S. Military Assistance Command. Mounting dissatisfaction with the ineffectiveness and corruption of Diem's government culminated (Nov., 1963) in a military coup engineered by Duong Van Minh; Diem was executed. No one was able to establish control in South Vietnam until June, 1965, when Nguyen Cao Ky became premier, but U.S. military aid to South Vietnam increased, especially after the U.S. Senate passed the Tonkin Gulf resolution (Aug. 7, 1964) at the request of President Lyndon B. Johnson.

Political Assasinations

J.F.K. Is Assassinated 

   A large and enthusiastic crowd greeted the presidential party when it arrived at the Dallas
airport on the morning of November 22. Along the route of the motorcade into downtown
Dallas the people stood 10 to 12 deep, applauding warmly. Next to the president in the big
open limousine sat his wife. In front of them, on jump seats, were John B. Connally, the
governor of Texas, and his wife, Nellie. The third car in the procession carried Vice-
President and Mrs. Johnson. As the cars approached a triple underpass, Mrs. Connally
turned around and said, "You can't say Dallas doesn't love you, Mr. President."
   At that moment three shots rang out. The president, shot through the head and throat,
slumped over into his wife's lap. The second bullet hit Governor Connally, piercing his
back, chest, wrist, and thigh. A reporter, glancing up, saw a rifle slowly disappear into a
sixth-floor corner window of the Texas School Book Depository, a textbook warehouse
overlooking the highway. It was 12:30 PM in Dallas.

Martin Luther King was killed by a sniper on April 4, 1968, at 6:01 p.m. as he stepped onto the balcony outside the Motel Lorraine in Memphis, Tennessee. See the original New York Times news story on this day.

A small-time thief named James Earl Ray shot Martin Luther King from the bathroom of the flophouse across from where King was staying. Allegedly, Ray balanced on the edge of a bathtub, rested his rifle on the window sill, and fired a single shot that with trained-sniper perfection entered King in the head. No witness saw Ray shoot, although one claimed he saw a man leaving the bathroom around that time. A bag was found in front of a store near the rooming house, and the bag had a rifle sticking out of it. The rifle bore James Earl Ray's fingerprints.

James Earl Ray confessed in court to the crime, and was sentenced to life instead of being given the death penalty due to that confession.

June 4, 1968, was an important but nerve-wracking day for Robert Francis Kennedy, senator from New York. . A week earlier he had lost a vital race for West Coast votes in the state of Oregon to Senator Eugene McCarthy in the Democratic Primary, dampening the spirit of the Kennedy campaign. But, now, here in California, his supporters foresaw good things to come. With its 174 delegates as the prize, California was a very strategic ballot box for any one of the nominees to walk away with, and, best for RFK, it was believed to be a "Kennedy state". Taking a California victory into the Democratic Convention in Chicago would be powerful. And it was really no secret that the Democratic Party itself preferred Kennedy to win, for if anyone could beat Republican Richard M. Nixon in the upcoming Presidential run it would be a Kennedy. That had been proven in 1960.

Pop Culture

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More changes arguably took place in American society during the 1960's than in any other decade of the 20th century. Of all the events of those years, perhaps none was more emblematic of the counterculture than the Woodstock Music and Arts Festival, held in Bethel, NY, in mid-August of 1969. I was there, and I've written my memories here of what was simply the best party ever on Planet Earth. I doubt anyone who was at Woodstock was ever quite the same afterwards. 

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The impact of the Beatles upon popular music cannot be overstated; they revolutionized the music industry and touched the lives of all who heard them in deep and fundamental ways. Landing on these shores on February 7, 1964, they literally stood the world of pop culture on its head, setting the musical agenda for the remainder of the decade. The Beatles' buoyant melodies, playful personalities and mop-topped charisma were just the tonic needed by a nation left reeling by the senseless assassination of its young president, John F. Kennedy, barely two months earlier. Even adults typically given to scorning rock and roll as worthless "kid's stuff" were forced to concede that there was substance in their music and quick-witted cleverness in their repartee. Without exaggeration, they transfixed and transformed the world as we knew it, ushering in a demographic shift in which youth culture assertively took over from its stodgy Eisenhower-era forbears.

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One of the most widely known symbols in the world, in Britain it is recognised as standing for nuclear disarmament – and in particular as the logo of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND). In the United States and much of the rest of the world it is known more broadly as the peace symbol. It was designed in 1958 by Gerald Holtom, a professional designer and artist and a graduate of the Royal College of Arts. He showed his preliminary sketches to a small group of people in the Peace News office in North London and to the Direct Action Committee Against Nuclear War, one of several smaller organisations that came together to set up CND.

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