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1968

January

04 – Number of US troops in Vietnam reaches 486,000.

04 – The search for Australian Prime Minister Harold Holt‘s body at Portsea in Victoria is called off.

05 – Dr Benjamin Spock is indicted for his anti-draft activities.

10 – John Grey Gorton takes over as Australian Prime Minister.

12 – Soviet writers Alexander Ginsburg and Yuri Galanskov receive labour camp sentences for ‘slandering the Soviet state’.

14 – Rap artist LL Cool J (James Todd Smith) is born.

17 – The Seekers are named Australians of the Year.

19 – Australian artist Judy Cassab wins her second Archibald Prize.

20 – Actress Sharon Tate marries Polish-born director Roman Polanski in London.

21 – North Korean raiders invade Seoul and attempt to kill South Korean president Pak Chung Hee.

22 – A United States B52 carrying four H-bombs crashes in Greenland Bay.

23 – North Korean forces seize the US Navy intelligence ship Pueblo and holds the crew of 83 on board as spies.

24 – US Olympic Gymnast, Mary Lou Retton, is born.

25 – Escaped Great Train Robber Charles Wilson arrested in Canada.

26 – In Britain, the National Provincial and Westminster banks merge to form the National Westminster Bank.

30 – The Viet Cong’s Tet Offensive begins, surprising US forces in South Vietnam and hitting at the heart of Saigon.

31 – Martial law is proclaimed throughout Vietnam after heavy fighting with Vietcong forces.

February

01 – South Vietnamese National Police Chief Nguyen Ngoc Loan executes a Viet Cong officer with a single pistol shot to the head on a street in Saigon. The photograph of the execution by Eddie Adams wins a Pulitzer Prize and becomes a memorable image of the Vietnam War.

01 – Lisa Marie Presley (daughter of Elvis and Priscilla Presley) is born.

04 – The world’s largest hovercraft (165 tonnes) is launched at Cowes, England.

12 – Jimi Hendrix returns to Seattle and plays for students at his alma mater, Garfield High. He is awarded an honorary degree, despite the fact that he dropped out at the age of 14.

14 – US actress and Brat-Packer Molly Ringwald is born in California.

15 – Blues harmonica king Little Walter dies after being stabbed in a street fight. He is 38.

24 – US forces recapture the Vietnamese port of Hue. General Westmoreland is calling for 206,000 reinforcements.

28 – Singer Frankie Lymon is found dead from a heroin overdose on the bathroom floor of his grandmother’s apartment at 470 West 18th Street in New York.

29 – The first Pulsar (pulsating radio source) is discovered by Cambridge boffins.

March

04 – British actress and singer Patsy Kensit is born.

06 – Singer Sandie Shaw marries fashion designer Jeff Banks.

06 – Three Africans are hanged in Rhodesia, despite having been reprieved by the Queen.

12 – Mauritius becomes independent.

16 – US troops massacre the hamlet of My Lai, South Vietnam.

17 – Demonstrators against the Vietnam War attempt to storm the American embassy in London. 300 arrests are made and 90 policemen are hurt.

22 – Antonin Novotny, president of Czechoslovakia, is succeeded by General Ludvik Svoboda.

23 – Blur/Gorillaz vocalist Damon Albarn is born.

27 – Colonel Yuri Gagarin, the world’s first spaceman, is killed when an obsolete MiG-15 jet trainer he is flying loses height and crashes into the ground 40 miles north of Moscow. He is 34.

28 – Violence mars a Martin Luther King-led march in support of striking Memphis sanitation workers. Dr King promises to return for another march in April.

31 – President Johnson announces he will not seek or accept presidential re-nomination.

April

01 – Evangelist Billy Graham tours Australia.

03 – TV and Radio Licenses are combined in New Zealand. The fee is $16.

04 – US Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King, 39, is shot and killed by a sniper in Memphis.

05 – Riots in 167 cities, and on various campuses, follow the slaying of Martin Luther King.

05 – Czech premier Alexander Dubcek begins the process of liberalisation known as the “Prague Spring“.

05 – Dr Ralph Abernathy takes over as leader of Martin Luther King‘s Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

05 – The Cunard liner Queen Elizabeth is sold to an American syndicate for £3,230,000 ($4,200,000).

06 – Millionaire Jesuit Pierre Elliott Trudeau becomes prime minister of Canada on the retirement of Lester Pearson.

09 – More than 150,000 people follow the body of Dr Martin Luther King to burial in Atlanta. The coffin is drawn by two mules on a plain wooden farm cart. Among the mourners are Mrs Jacqueline Kennedy and the Vice President Hubert Humphrey.

09 – Racing driver Jim Clark, twice world champion, dies at Hockenheim.

09 – Publication of the US Race Relations Bill which aims to protect non-whites.

10 – The New Zealand ferry Wahine sinks at Wellington with the loss of 104 lives.

11 – President Johnson signs the Civil Rights Bill which makes it illegal to refuse housing on the grounds of race.

11 – Attempted assassination of student leader, Rudi Dutschke, in West Berlin triggers student riots across Europe. The shooter was Joseph Bachmann, a housepainter from Berlin.

15 – Chicago Mayor Richard J Daley issues a ‘shoot to kill’ order to the city’s police force for anyone involved in cases of arson, looting or rioting.

18 – US oil tycoon Robert McCullough buys London Bridge from the British for £1 million US.

19 – The FBI says it is seeking James Earl Ray (alias Eric Galt) for the murder of Martin Luther King.

20 – 122 die in South Africa when a London-bound Boeing 707 crashes.

20 – In Birmingham Enoch Powell makes his infamous “rivers of blood” speech on race relations in Britain. Edward Heath dismisses him from the Shadow Cabinet.

23 – The first two decimal coins come into circulation in Britain, but will be used as shilling and two shilling pieces until decimalisation in 1971.

26 – Police seize LSD worth £1.5 million in Britain’s biggest drug haul to date.

26 – Jim Cairns says he will challenge Gough Whitlam for leadership of the Australian Labor party.

27 – Hubert Humphrey says he will run for US President.

27 – The Abortion Law becomes effective in the UK.

May

02 – Britain’s first liver transplant is performed at Cambridge.

02 – 1,000 set out on a Poor People’s March from Memphis to Washington.

04 – Sorbonne students and teachers go on strike. Police surround the university and arrest 442 during intense fighting.

05 – 500 are arrested and the Sorbonne is closed as French students riot. Mayhem persists through the month until the government yields to student demands.

05 – Three Australian journalists are killed by the Viet Cong in Saigon. A fourth escapes.

06 – Spain closes the border between Spain and Gibraltar to all but Spaniards.

06 – A poll result shows that 74% of Britons support Enoch Powell on immigration issues.

07 – Up to 30,000 French students, locked out of their own campus yesterday by the Sorbonne Rector, Jean Roche, are fighting the tear gas of the riot police with barricades, bricks, paving stones and Molotov cocktails.

07 – Robert Kennedy wins his first primary in Indiana.

13 – US talks begin in Paris about peace in Vietnam.

16 – Alex Smith, aged 15, becomes Britain’s first lung transplant patient.

18 – West Bromwich Albion beat Everton 1-0 in the British FA Cup Final.

19 – More than 2,000,000 workers are on strike in France.

21 – Pete Townshend of The Who marries dress designer Karen Astley.

21 – Indian PM Indira Gandhi visits Australia.

22 – French strikers are estimated to total 9,000,000.

22 – In Britain, Bobby Charlton scores a record 45th goal for England in his 85th cap.

22 – French Premier Georges Pompidou survives a vote of censure by 11 votes.

28 – Student unrest reaches the UK, as they take over Hornsey Art College and later, the London School of Economics.

28 – British lung transplant patient, Alex Smith, dies.

28 – Eugene McCarthy beats Robert Kennedy in the Oregon primary.

28 – Australian singing goddess Kylie Minogue is born.

29 – In the UK, ‘Sir Ivor’ wins the Derby.

29 – Manchester United wins football’s European Cup, beating Benfica 4-1.

29 – The Australian National Service Act is passed increasing penalties for evasion of military training.

June

03 – Artist Andy Warhol is shot and seriously hurt by radical feminist Valerie Solanas, an actress in one of his films.

05 – Senator Robert Kennedy (b. 1925) is shot in the head in Los Angeles after winning California primary. His killer is a 24-year-old Jordanian Arab, Sirhan Sirhan, who claims “I did it for my country”. It is the first anniversary of the Arab-Israeli six-day war.

07 – In the UK, Matt Busby receives a knighthood.

08 – James Earl Ray, Dr Martin Luther King‘s murderer, is arrested at Heathrow Airport in London while disembarking from an aircraft en route from Lisbon to Brussels. He is subsequently extradited to the United States.

08 – Robert Kennedy is buried in Arlington Cemetery.

11 – West Germans now need to apply for visas to cross into East Germany.

townsend_79312 – de Gaulle bans open-air demonstrations in France.

14 – Dr Spock and three others are found guilty of encouraging draft evasion.

14 – Australian journalist Simon Townsend (later to become a famous children’s TV presenter) is granted exemption from National Service (pictured at right).

17 – Frederick West, Britain’s first heart transplant patient, dies.

18 – Warringah Expressway opens in Sydney.

23 – Vietnam War officially becomes the longest war in US history. The death toll passes 30,000 by the end of the year.

24 – Comedian Tony Hancock commits suicide in a Sydney (Australia) hotel room.

25 – Pierre Trudeau’s Liberal Party celebrates its biggest general election victory in ten years.

27 – Czech National Assembly abolishes censorship and Czech intellectuals produce “2,000 words” – an appeal to speed democracy.

July

02 – 50 students are arrested during an anti-Vietnam demonstration in Martin Place, Sydney, Australia.

04 – 45 people are arrested during a 2,000 strong anti-war demonstration outside the American Consulate in Melbourne, Australia.

04 – General Westmoreland is sworn in as US Army Chief of Staff.

10 – Maurice Couve de Murville becomes Premier in succession to Pompidou.

10 – Dr Benjamin Spock is jailed for two years for encouraging draft-dodging.

15 – Soviet, East German, Hungarian, Polish and Bulgarian leaders declare Czechoslovakian reforms unacceptable.

17 – The Beatles‘ full-length animated movie Yellow Submarine premieres at the London Pavilion.

18 – James Earl Ray (alias Ramon George Sneyd) is extradited to the US from Britain for complicity in the murder of Martin Luther King.

23 – An Israeli Boeing 707 en route from Rome to Tel Aviv is hijacked in Algeria.

29 – Pope Paul VI issues the Humanae Vitae denouncing the use of any form of artificial contraception.

30 – Dubcek, Brezhnev and other Eastern Bloc leaders meet to discuss the Czechoslovakian reforms.

31 – The cross-Channel Hovercraft service is inaugurated.

August

08 – Richard M Nixon nominated for US Presidency by Republican National Convention.

15 – Nigeria refuses to allow International Red Cross supplies to be flown in to starving Biafrans.

1968_prague20 – Soviet troops invade Czechoslovakia to restore strict communism and crush what was known as ‘the Prague Spring’ (pictured at right). Government leaders are arrested and ‘normality’ is restored via curbing freedom of the press, limiting public assembly and banning new political organisations.

24 – France explodes its first atom bomb in the South Pacific.

26 – Hubert H Humphrey is nominated for Presidency at the US Democrat Party Convention in Chicago.

26 – Mayor Richard Daley’s Chicago police use truncheons, mace and tear gas on demonstrators marching from Grant Park to oppose the Vietnam war. Later they drag at least two delegates from the Democrat Party Convention floor, and national television records them brutally beating demonstrators and others outside the Hilton Hotel.

27 – Princess Marina, Duchess of Kent, dies aged 61.

31 – An earthquake in Iran claims over 20,000 lives.

31 – Cricketer Gary Sobers hits six Sixes in one over at Swansea.

31 – Actor Robert Redford opens his ecological ski resort, called ‘Sundance’.

September

03 – Governor Reagan declares a State of Civil Disaster at Berkeley University following fervent anti-Vietnam War demonstrations.

06 – Former British colony of Swaziland becomes independent.

12 – Albania abandons the Warsaw Pact.

14 – The USSR launches Zond 5 to reach and orbit the moon. It carries tortoises, wine flies, meal worms, bacteria, plants and seeds. It returns successfully to splash down in the Indian Ocean.

19 – Chester Carlson, the inventor of the Xerox photocopying process, dies.

24 – The musical Hair opens in London.

October

03 – George Wallace announces third party candidacy for US elections.

04 – Czech leaders accede to Soviet demands to dismantle liberal reforms.

11 – America launches first manned Apollo mission. Captain Walter Schirra, Major Donn Eisele and R Walter Cunningham are launched in Apollo 7 and make 163 orbits in 260 hours 9 minutes and 3 seconds. They make live TV broadcasts from space.

12 – XIXth Olympic Games open in Mexico City.

18 – John Lennon and Yoko Ono are arrested for possession of marijuana during a raid on Ringo Starr‘s London apartment.

19 – Jackie Kennedy marries Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis.

28 – Australian suburban postal deliveries are reduced from twice to once a day.

31 – US President LBJ orders an end to Vietnam bombing.

31 – Australian troops admit they have tortured Vietcong prisoners.

31 – The blood-spattered corpse of 69-year-old silent movie star Ramon Novarro is found sprawled in the bedroom of his Hollywood home. It seems that he choked to death on a lead Art Deco dildo – a present from Rudolph Valentino – which had been rammed down his throat by his assailants, two young hustler brothers from Chicago, Paul and Tom Ferguson.

November

03 – Severe storms and floods in Northern Italy result in more than 100 deaths.

05 – Richard Nixon is elected President of the United States, winning 301 votes in the electoral college, compared to 191 for the Vice-President and 46 for former Alabama Governor George Wallace, running as an American Independent.

05 – First black woman is elected to House of Representatives.

14 – National “Turn In Your Draft Card Day” inspires draft-card burning at college campuses across the USA.

18 – A fire at a warehouse in Glasgow, Scotland, kills 22.

19 – The Cunard Liner QE2 makes her first voyage.

December

16 – The world premiere of the film Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

20 – American novelist John Steinbeck (The Grapes of Wrath) dies in New York.

21 – First Saturn V rocket launches Apollo 8 into space.

23 – In North Korea, the 82 crew members of US Naval Intelligence ship Pueblo, seized in January, are released.

25 – Crewmen on Apollo 8 see the far side of the moon for the first time.

26 – An Israeli Boeing 707 is attacked in Athens by two Arab gunmen, killing one passenger.

27 – Apollo 8 spacecraft splashes down in the Pacific, only 5,000 yards from the recovery ship. The crew – Frank Bormann, James A Lovell and William Anders – “look great and are very happy”.

31 – Maiden flight by first supersonic airliner, the Soviet Tupolev TU-144.

Also This Year . . .

  • X Winter Olympics in Grenoble, France.
  • Calvin Klein starts his own fashion business in USA.
  • Abortion becomes legal in Britain if the pregnancy is harmful to the physical or mental health of the woman or child.
  • ‘Rain Lover’ wins Melbourne Cup.
  • Shadow leader Edward Heath appoints 43-year old Margaret Thatcher as Conservative Party shadow transport minister.
  • Cost of one week at Butlin’s = £7.50
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