1) Kennedy’s first year in office brought him considerable success in enacting new legislation. This legislation were known as the New Frontier. Congress passed as major housing bill, a law increasing minimum wage, and a bill granting federal aid to economically depressed areas of the United States. The most original legislation was the bill that created the Peace Corps. This was an agency that trained American volunteers to perform social and humanitarian service overseas. The programs goal was to promote world peace and friendships with developing nations. Kennedy found it increasingly difficult to enact his programs into law. The Medicare bill, a bill to make Medicare for the aged a national benefit was defeated. Although Kennedy faced Southern Democrats Congress managed to pass a civil rights bill, bill to cut taxes, and also won the approval of his bill to lower tariffs.
2) The Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962 was Kennedy’s most serious confrontation with the Soviets. Fidel Castro, believing that the United Sates were planning another attack on Cuba, had asked for more Soviet military aid. The United States learned that the Soviets had put nuclear missiles in Cuba, and that these missiles could reach U.S. cities within minutes. Kennedy stated, “The greatest danger of all would be to do nothing.” In a frightening showdown between these two superpowers, the Soviets agreed to remove the missiles, and the U.S. promised not to invade Cuba.
3) Lyndon Johnson, vice-president at the time, rose to power when President Kennedy was assassinated. He addressed his goals and programs in the “Great Society”. He had used this expression from time to time, but he had not emphasized it until he gave his speech at the University of Michigan on May 22, 1964. He promised to solve pressing problems that existed in society. Almost immediately after, 14 separate task forces began thoroughly studying nearly all major aspects of United States society, each working without publicity it did its job. During June, the task forces were recruited. Each task force wad assigned a specific subject: cooperation among government agencies in dealing with financial questions; making the federal government more efficient and less costly; developing policies to prevent economic recessions; developing policies on economic issues related to other countries; and determining how best to help individuals maintain their income. LBJ next received recommendations and went over them. He then passed the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, the Medical Care Act of 1965, the Model Cities Act of 1966, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
4) Between 1949 and 1961, more than 2.7 million people fled from East Germany. In 1961, the East German government decided to stop this flight to the West, which was depleting the country’s labor force, among other things. The Berlin Wall was built in 1961 by Khrushchev and was maintained by the German Democratic Republic. This wall was 4 meters high and 103 miles long, of which 28 miles lay between two sides of the city. Where a wall was not possible, buildings were bricked up. Although the GDR announced that the wall was needed to prevent military aggression and political interference from West Germany, the East German government built tank traps and ditches along the eastern side of the wall, suggesting that it was constructed to keep East German citizens in.
5) The U.S began its involvement in Vietnam in 1950. The United States got involved when France requested the U.S. for aid to help them fight the Viet Minh. One reason was that the U.S leaders needed French support in opposing the Soviets in Europe. Another reason was that the United States did not want Vietnam to become Communist.
6) The U.S. destroyer Maddox had been patrolling in the Gulf of Tonkin when North Vietnamese torpedo boats fired on it. Two days later, on August 4, the Maddox and another destroyer reported a second attack. However, no one could confirm this attack. Despite the doubts, Johnson asked Congress to pass the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution. This gave the president the power to use military force in Vietnam. In March 1965, Johnson began bombing North Vietnam. At about the same time, he sent the first combat ground groups to Vietnam. Their numbers grew from 75,000 to 184,000 by the end of 1965. This policy of escalation continued over the next few years. General William Westmoreland, the commander of the U.S. forces in South Vietnam, kept asking for more and more troops. By the end of 1968, there were more than 536,000 American military personnel in South Vietnam.
7) The Vietnam War ended on January 27, 1973 when the United States and South Vietnam signed a peace agreement with North Vietnam and the Viet Cong. The United States agreed to withdraw all its troops, and North Vietnam agreed to not invade South Vietnam. On March 29, the last U.S. troops left Vietnam. For the United States, the war was over.
8) The Vietnam War was so controversial because the U.S. did not contain communism in Vietnam and lost many lives. About 58,000 soldiers died, and more than 300,000 were wounded. Many suffered permanent, disabling injuries. Returning soldiers often had recurring nightmares, and other stress-related problems. To make things worse, they came home to a public that treated them coldly. The Vietnam War was a huge loss of American lives for no reason. It was a civil war not involving the United States that they should not have fought, considering that Vietnam became communist anyway.
9) That summer, the Democratic National Convention in Chicago reflected the country’s turmoil. Democrats chose Hubert Humphrey, Johnson’s vice-president, as their nominee. Outside the convention hall, TV cameras showed police clubbing antiwar demonstrators and bystanders. The chaos helped Republican candidate Richard Nixon to win the election. In his campaign, Nixon promised to “bring an honorable end to the Vietnam War.”
– Martin Luther King was assassinated in April of 1968
11) In July 1969, President Nixon announced his strategy of Vietnamization. It called for the gradual withdrawal of U.S. forces and turning the ground fighting over to the South Vietnamese. Nixon promised to withdraw 25,000 of the 543,000 U.S. ground groups in Vietnam by the end of the year.
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