Quote of the Day
Captain's log. Using the lightspeed breakaway factor, the Enterprise has moved back through time to the twentieth century. We are now in extended orbit around Earth, using our ship's deflector shields to remain unobserved. Our mission, historical research. We are monitoring Earth communications to find out how our planet survived desperate problems in the year 1968.
It has been 50 years since 1968, and I have been seeing quite a few retrospectives on television about that tumultuous year. I was in 6th-grade in 1968 and the chaos of that year is still very clear in my memory – I remember spending quite a bit of class time on the Paris peace talks. One lesson was about how the Paris Peace negotiators argued about the shape of the table at which they would sit. Arguing about the shape of a table while people were dying seemed ridiculous to a 12-year boy. After hearing all these recent discussions about 1968, I decided to look at the US Vietnam casualty data (Figure 1) to see what insights I could gain on that year. All my work is done in Excel and my workbook is here.
The war was a regular topic at my family's dinner table. My father was a Republican and my mother was a Democrat, which meant that they did not agree on the war at all. To show you how strange the situation was, my father supported Nixon because Nixon was going to turn up the war's intensity. My mother thought Nixon might work out because he was Quaker and they are opposed to war. Dad's view of Nixon turned out to be closer to fact.
My family used to watch Walter Cronkite on the news every weeknight, and the rise in the weekly casualty reports was very worrisome. You could feel a change in people's attitudes when Walter gave a devastating war critique that created real doubt about the future of the war (Figure 2).
|Figure 2: Walter Cronkite Vietnam War commentary on 27-Feb-1968. I remember this news broadcast. It left people stunned.|
In Figure 3, you can see how the war's intensity ramped up by looking at how the monthly casualty rates varied. I have highlighted in red the two months (February and May) with the highest casualty rates of the war; these months correspond to two major Vietnamese pushes during the Tet Offensive.