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1968 Chicago riots.


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.

07 – A team of American surgeons successfully transplant the heart of a 43-year-old housewife into a 54-year-old steelworker.

09 – Surveyor 7 makes a safe moon landing to complete a seven-year program leading to mechanised reconnaissance for a manned landing.

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.

17The 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 – An American Air Force B-52 carrying four H-bombs crashes near the Arctic air base of Thule in Greenland. It takes 700 men over nine months to remove all the contaminated material including snow from the crash site.

23 – North Korean forces seize the US Navy intelligence ship Pueblo and hold the crew of 83 onboard 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 – South Vietnamese President Nguyen Van Thieu is forced to proclaim martial law after heavy fighting with Viet Cong forces. Over 5,000 people are reported dead after two days of intensive fighting.


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.

04 – Another 96 Indians and Pakistanis from Kenya arrive in Britain today, the latest in a growing exodus of Kenyan Asians fleeing from laws that prevent them from making a living.

05 – A trawler from Hull sinks off the coast of Iceland with all hands on board. Over the past three weeks, 60 lives have been lost on British fishing boats in Arctic waters as Iceland is battered by the worst storms since 1925.

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

13 – The US rushes 10,500 more combat troops to South Vietnam.

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.

19 – A settlement agreed in the High Court means that the Distillers Company (Biochemicals) Ltd will pay damages to 62 children born with deformities after their mothers took the drug Thalidomide during pregnancy. Distillers produced and marketed the drug in Britain.

24 – US forces recapture the Vietnamese port of Hue after a battle lasting three weeks. General Westmoreland is calling for 206,000 reinforcements.

Wounded US Marines in the Battle of Hue.

26 – 24 female patients die in a fire that sweeps through a wing of the Shelton Mental Hospital near Shrewsbury in Shropshire. Another 14 women are hurt in the blaze.

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.


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.

16US 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.

23Blur/Gorillaz vocalist Damon Albarn is born.

27Colonel 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 – With the words, “I shall not seek, and I will not accept the nomination of my party as your President,” President Lyndon B. Johnson shocks the US by announcing he will not run for another presidential term.


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 Dr Martin Luther King, 39, is shot and killed by a sniper in Memphis, Tennessee, as he stands on a hotel balcony. Reverend Jesse Jackson is on the balcony with Dr King when the single shot hit him.

05 – Riots in 167 cities and on various campuses follow the slaying of Martin Luther King. At least 19 people have died so far in the arson, looting and shootings.

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.

07 – Racing driver Jim Clark, 32, twice world champion, dies when he suffers a tyre failure in a Formula Two race at Hockenheim in Germany. His Lotus-Cosworth leaves the track at 170mph (274km/h), somersaults through the air and collides with a tree on a remote part of the German track.

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

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

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

11President 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 house painter 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, Conservative right-winger 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 the five new pence and ten new pence coins 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.


02 – Britain’s first liver transplant is performed by Sir Roy Calne and Roger Williams at Cambridge on a woman with a primary hepatic malignancy. She dies 2½ months later from sepsis.

03 – Britain’s first heart transplant is successfully carried out by a team of 18 doctors and nurses on 45-year-old Frederick West at the National Heart Hospital in Marylebone, London.

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 – The Viet Cong kills three Australian journalists 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 riot police’s tear gas with barricades, bricks, paving stones and Molotov cocktails.

07Robert 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.

22French 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 become the first English club to win the European Cup, beating Portuguese side Benfica 4-1.

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


01 – Helen Keller dies in Westport, Connecticut, aged 87.

03 – Artist Andy Warhol is shot and seriously hurt by radical feminist Valerie Solanas, an actress in one of his films. The bullet pierces both the artist’s lungs and passes through his spleen, stomach, liver, and oesophagus. Warhol undergoes a five-hour emergency operation and has to wear a surgical corset for the rest of his life.

05 – Senator Robert Kennedy (b. 1925) is shot in Los Angeles after winning the 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.

08Robert Kennedy is buried in Arlington Cemetery.

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

townsend_79312de Gaulle bans open-air demonstrations in France.

14 – Dr Spock and three others are found guilty in Boston 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.

21 – The government-appointed Reorganisation Commission Marketing Board publish a report which says the Egg Marketing Board should be scrapped and a free market established. It also recommends that the Little Lion trademark stamped on eggs should be dropped.

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

24Tony Hancock take his own life in a Sydney (Australia) hotel room. The English comedian was in Australia to film a 39-part comedy series for the Seven network. Only three episodes had been completed at the time of his death, but all were deemed unsuitable for broadcast.

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.


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

04 – Solo yachtsman Alec Rose, 59, returns to Britain after sailing around the world in 354 days.

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.

17The 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: On the Regulation of Birth 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.


02 – A major earthquake hits Manila in the Philippines, with hundreds feared dead.

06Dwight D Eisenhower suffers a sixth heart attack.

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

14 – US-North Vietnamese peace talks in Paris reach a stalemate after three months.

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

16Dwight D Eisenhower has a seventh heart attack.

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’.


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

06 – Former British colony of Swaziland becomes independent.

07 – American aircraft carrier USS John F Kennedy is commissioned.

12 – Albania abandons the Warsaw Pact.

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

16 – The first day of the new two-tier postal system in Britain has a mixed reaction from the public, with some queuing to buy the new 5d first-class stamps and others complaining the new system makes sending letters more difficult. The Post Office is promising overnight delivery for letters with a fivepence stamp on, while fourpence buys you a slower service.

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

24 – The American hippie musical Hair opens in London.


02 – More than 25 people are killed during a vicious gun battle in Mexico City just days before the Olympic Games are due to begin.

02 – Sheila Thorns from Birmingham gives birth to six babies  – four boys and two girls – in what is being hailed as the first recorded case of live sextuplets in Britain. Only three of the sextuplets survive.

03 – George Wallace announces American Independent Party candidacy for US elections.

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

05 – Police use batons and water cannons to break up a civil rights march in Londonderry, Northern Ireland. The demonstrators retaliate with petrol bombs and at least 30 people, including MP Gerard Fitt, are injured.

11 – America launches the 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.

12XIXth Olympic Games open in Mexico City.

17 – Black American athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos stage a silent protest against racial discrimination at the Mexico Olympics by standing with their heads bowed and black-gloved hands raised as the American National Anthem played during the award ceremony for their gold and bronze medals in the 200m. The two athletes are suspended from their national team, expelled from the Olympic village and sent home to America.

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

19Jackie Kennedy marries Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis.

22 – Apollo 7 astronauts splash down after their 11-day earth-orbiting flight.

27 – Trouble flares in Grosvenor Square, London, after an estimated 6,000 anti-Vietnam marchers face up to police outside the United States Embassy.

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.


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

05Richard 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.

07 – Crowds in Prague burn the Russian flag and battle with the police.

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.

26 – The new UK Race Relations Act comes into force, making it illegal to refuse housing, employment or public services to people because of their ethnic background.

30 – The Trade Descriptions Act comes into force, making it a crime for a trader to knowingly sell an item with a misleading label or description.


12 – Pan Am jet crashes off Venezuela killing 61 people.

12 – Actress Tallulah Bankhead dies in New York, aged 65.

14 – North Vietnamese troops invade Laos.

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

17 – 11-year-old Mary Bell is sentenced to life in detention after being found guilty at Newcastle Assizes of the manslaughter of two small boys. Bell strangled the boys – Martin Brown, aged four and Brian Howe, aged three – “solely for the pleasure and excitement of killing”.

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

21 – First Saturn V rocket launches Apollo 8 into space with astronauts Frank Bormann, James A Lovell and William Anders onboard.

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. Astronauts Frank Borman, James Lovell and William Anders spent 20 hours in orbit around the Moon before returning to Earth.

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

27Apollo 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 the USA.
  • Abortion becomes legal in Britain if the pregnancy is harmful to the woman or child’s physical or mental health.
  • ‘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

Quote of the year

“Like the Roman, I seem to see the River Tiber foaming with much blood”.
Enoch Powell, Birmingham. 20 April.