August 2s can be defined as an era characterized by a number of hallmark activities, legendary personalities, and signs, particularly in the history of the United States, but with significant spillover effects to other regions across the world. The majority of these events had accumulated effects and concerns, which matured and manifested in the 1960s.
This paper seeks to discuss some of the significant events and legends that are still reckoned for their perpetual impacts that shaped the generations of the 1960s, and they are still being cherished today for the great role they play in shaping contemporary society.
This paper will discuss different events, including the Vietnam War, the Berlin Wall, the Project Apollo 11, and the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy and Robert Kennedy. This paper will show that the aforementioned events largely affected the 1960s and shaped the lives of many people even to date.
The Vietnam War
August 2, 1964, marked another critical moment in American history. Gunboats of North Vietnam were claimed to have fired on the United States’ Navy ships in the Gulf of Tokin, which severed further the relationship of the US with North Vietnam (Kisseloff, 2007). The US navy was taking the guard off the coast of North Vietnam in a move geared towards giving support to the South Vietnamese navy.
Later on, the same month, more shootings were reported, and thus President Johnson of the US was compelled to allow retaliation from the congress. With backing from the senate and the congress, Johnson was mandated to take quick measures and respond to North Vietnam’s provocation. In February 1965, the US troops responded by bombing North Vietnam and particularly the targeted groups, in an exercise dubbed Operation Rolling Thunder.
Initially, the only victims were the military personnel, but with the escalation of the war, civilians were also hit. The US targeted the Ho Chi Minh trail, which was allegedly issuing North Vietnam with supplies. In early 1965, Commander William Westmoreland instituted the ‘search and destroy’ program. The main challenge was identifying the enemy without harming the peasants. This aspect was even complicated when the North Vietnamese guerilla fighters disguised as peasants during the day and attached the US soldiers at night.
The Vietnam War was one of the events that tore the American society to scary extents. The social psyche and economic growth were altered, and the public faith in the government and military being questioned highly. The Vietnam War led to the formation of the antiwar movements such as the Free Speech Movement of the University of California and students for a democratic society in 1964. These movements questioned the escalating role of the US in the Vietnam War.
This war was believed to cause an economic burden by draining the much-needed resources by the US locals. In addition, the war shaped the political succession of Johnson. In 1968, Johnson faced heightened opposition from peace crusaders such as Robert Kennedy and Richard Nixon, among other democrats. This opposition exacerbated the situation, thus forcing Johnson to withdraw from the race.
The Berlin wall
During the post-World War II, in August 1961, the Berlin wall was erected to mark a border between the eastern part of Berlin under the control of the Soviet Union and the western part, which was controlled by the US. The German Democratic Republic (GDR) claimed that the wall was meant to prevent its population from the western ideologies, which were perceived to prevent the development of a socialist entity in East Germany (the Mur, 2004). Essentially, the wall ensured that defection through migration was barred entirely.
Protesters marched angrily condemning the act, those that tried to escape were harshly contained, and at times, they were brutally killed by the guards. The West Germany government was not happy with the reluctance of the US to act, but President John F. Kennedy opted to avoid any war with the Soviet Union by arguing that the wall was better than the explosion of war.
As a show of togetherness with the West German, F. Kennedy visited the Berlin wall in June 1963 and expressed his support for the West Germans. The conscious stand by the then US president and the antiwar movements were crucial in avoiding what was perceived as an imminent threat of war (Kisseloff, 2007)
The project Apollo 11
After a deep study coupled with unparalleled expenditures and unending determination to make one of the largest technological advances in the history of the US, President John F. Kennedy announced to the public the nation’s objective of the decade to send an American to space. This announcement was made public on the 25th day of August 1961 after an extensive review of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the civil space programs (Chaikin, Kohl & Bean, 2009).
After great technological endeavors, a piloted orbital program to try the Apollo space equipment was done in October 1968. Preceding the Project Apollo 11 was the Apollo 8, which managed one and a half orbits, thus raising hope by acknowledging that the time was due for a lunar landing. This mission ushered the tremendous event Project Apollo 11, which lifted for space on July 16, 1969, and intended to conduct a three-day survey on the moon by astronauts Neil A. Armstrong and Edwin E. Aldrin.
Upon landing on the lunar surface, Armstrong stepped on the surface, thus making a huge achievement for humankind. The two astronauts erected an American flag and set up scientific tests before collecting soil and other sample material for testing (Dean, 2006). The following day they commenced the return trip, and on July 24, 1969, they splashed at the Pacific Ocean.
Project Apollo 11 was a great success for many people across the globe. The attainment of this objective was met with a blissful reaction at a time, which the US was experiencing trying moments due to the problems of the Vietnam War, race issues, and social democratic uprisings. Public reactions and enthusiasm justified the need to conduct more landing missions that served to rekindle goodwill not only within the US but also abroad.
Apollo 11 demonstrated the tenacity and virtuosity of the US’s technology over that of rival nations, particularly the Soviet Union (Floca, 2009). The primary objective by President John F. Kennedy of landing an American on the moon and back to earth was achieved before the end of the 1960s.
The assassination of President John F. Kennedy
President John F. Kennedy met his death in the past noon of November 22, 1963, during a planned two-day political event. In his company were “his wife Jackie, John Connally, the Democratic Governor of Texas, and his wife, Vice President, Lyndon Johnson, and his wife in a different limousine with Ralph Yarborough, the Texas Democratic senator” (Bugliosi, 2007, p. 111). At around the Texas School Book Depository, the cheering atmosphere was silenced by the sound of gunshots that hit the president.
The presidential motorcade rushed to the Parkland Hospital, where the President was pronounced dead, having suffered from gunshot wounds. The alleged bravo, Lee Harvey Oswald, tried to get away from the shooting point, but he was captured. Oswald faced similar death as he was assassinated two days later as he was escorted to the Dallas County Jail (Bugliosi, 2007).
The assassination brought people close together in sorrow and disbelief, thus dissolving the people’s differences coupled with d bringing a moment of superfluous unity. Activities around the world were altered in honor of the departed hero. His death made people focus even more on working towards his objective as the US president. For instance, his commitment to land an American to space was actualized before the end of the decade (Kelin, 2007). American citizens became more focused and united in an effort to combat crimes.
The assassination of Robert Kennedy
The 1960s proved yet again a difficult decade for the American citizens following the assassination of Robert Kennedy, who was the then-Democratic Party, Presidential aspirant. Early June 5, 1968, as “Robert Kennedy walked through a kitchen corridor exiting the ballroom of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, he was assassinated” (Clarke, 2008, p. 161).
As he walked through, Sirhan confronted and fired at him. Kennedy fell on the floor. He was rushed to the Central Receiving Hospital after which brain surgery was deemed necessary, and he was quickly transferred to the Good Samaritan Hospital, where he died from the gunshot wounds on June 6, 1968 (Nugus & Martin, 2007).
The nation was in disbelief since his death marked the third assassination of the decade alongside his brother’s, John F. Kennedy, and that of civil rights activist Martin Luther King. His assassination prompted the secret service to offer protection to all aspiring future presidential aspirants (O’Sullivan, 2008).
This event created fear, but confidence was regained amongst the Americans as they sought hope to emulate Robert’s motivation for doing what was right regardless of the consequences. This event influenced American history in the late 1960s by marking a period, which the US lost a visionary leader in which many people had vested their hope for change.
The 1960 decade was a revolutionist period, which marked the new awakening of American society. The technological endeavors demonstrated not only the economic might of the US but also the resilience of management in the US departments, which instilled hope amongst the American citizens. Loss of prominent people through assassinations did not shake the state of the nation. On the contrary, people dissolved their esteems and differences in an effort to advance what the fallen leaders had initiated.
During this decade, the American citizens opened up in many aspects and sought to work together to defeat their perceived common enemy. Quest for civil liberties characterized this era coupled with unparalleled technological maneuvers.
The Vietnam War threatened to tear the American cohesiveness as the public opinion on the issue differed greatly. Despite the challenges in losing prominent leaders through assassinations, the American dream remained bright, as demonstrated in the technological advances, particularly the Project Apollo 11.
Bugliosi, V. (2007). Reclaiming history: The assassination of President John F. Kennedy. New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Co.
Chaikin, A., Kohl, V., & Bean, A. (2009). Mission control, this is Apollo: The story of the first voyages to the moon. New York, NY: Viking.
Clarke, T. (2008). The last campaign: Robert F. Kennedy and 82 days that inspired America. New York, NY: Henry Holt.
Dean, S. (2006). The Fire That NASA Never Had. Baltimore, MD: PublishAmerica LLLP.
Floca, B. (2009). Moonshot: The flight of Apollo 11. New York, NY: Atheneum Books for Young Readers.
Kelin, J. (2007). Praise from a future generation: The assassination of John F. Kennedy and the first generation critics of the Warren report. San Antonio, TX: Wings Press.
Kisseloff, J. (2007). Generation on fire: Voices of protest from the 1960s: an oral history. Lexington, KY: University Press of Kentucky.
Mur, C. (2004). The Berlin Wall. San Diego, CA: Greenhaven Press.
Nugus, P., & Martin, J. (2007). The assassination of Robert F. Kennedy. London, UK: British Broadcasting Corp.
O’Sullivan, S. (2008). Who killed Bobby? The unsolved murder of Robert F. Kennedy. New York, NY: Union Square Press.