1968 was a year of progress, protests, untimely deaths, and new beginnings in the United States. Americans were literally soaring to new heights with the success of the Apollo 8 moon landing. On Christmas Eve, astronauts Jim Lovell, Bill Anders, and Frank Borman became the first human beings to travel to the moon, and the lunar surface was broadcasted on television for the first time. It was a rare joyous event during a year of so much tragedy.
In January, Americans had faced a deadly surprise attack by the North Vietnamese on over one hundred cities and outposts in South Vietnam, called the Tet Offensive. The event was a strategic victory for the North, and resulted in heavy casualties on all sides. News coverage of the violent Tet Offensive shocked the American people, and the conflict is seen as a turning point in the war, as enthusiasm and support back home began to diminish.
Later on, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Senator Robert F. Kennedy, two of the nation’s most prominent leaders, were assassinated within months of one another. The death of Dr. King, the most prominent face of the Civil Rights movement, furthered the rift between black and white Americans and led to unrest in many U.S. cities. The death of RFK led to uncertainty among the Democratic Party. At the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, a wave of violent protests between antiwar demonstrators and police forces took place. The disturbances were broadly publicized by the mass media, with some cameramen and reporters being caught up in the violence.