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3 November 2018


Tag(s): History, Politics & Economics, Technology, Languages & Culture
This week I joined in the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the foundation of Sony UK in 1968. More later. Last month my wife and I went to the USA to celebrate the 50th anniversary of my graduation from my American High School in 1968. More later. 1968 was an exceptional year. All years have memorable, stand-out events, so to assert that one is somehow special may seem foolish, particularly if that was the year when one came of age. But I am going to do it anyway. I started the year in Minnesota on an international exchange student scholarship. I ended it with my first term at Oxford. I have already blogged this year on the fiftieth anniversary of the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert F. Kennedy. The fact that I was in the US, and indeed only 450 miles from Memphis when King was assassinated, had an even bigger impact on me. The year marked a turn in the Civil Rights movement, an intensification of the Vietnam War and an explosive General Election Campaign. Back in Europe there was the Prague Spring, the Paris riots and the invasion of Czechoslovakia by the Soviet Union. It seemed there was violent upheaval everywhere. 

Consider the following articles that have been published:
·         “1968: The Year That Shaped a Generation”,, January 11, 1988
·         “1968: The Year That Made Us Who We Are.” 19 November, 2007 NEWSWEEK Magazine
·         “1968: The Year That Changed the World.” TIME Magazine, 40th Anniversary Special (2008)

And consider these events that all took place in 1968:

Vietnam War:
·         21 January. Battle of Khe Sanh; one of the most publicised and controversial battles of the war.
·         30 January. The Tet offensive begins, as Viet Cong forces launch a series of surprise attacks across South Vietnam.
·         31 January. Viet Cong soldiers attack the US Embassy, Saigon.
·         1 February. A Vietcong officer named Nguyen Van Lém is executed by Nguyen Ngoc Loan, a South Vietnamese National Police Chief. The event is photographed by Eddie Adams. The photo makes front pages all over the world, eventually winning the 1969 Pulitzer Prize, and sways US public opinion against the war.
·         12 February; Massacres in Phong Nhi, Phong Nhat; 25 February; Ha My, 16 March; My Lai in last of which US troops kill many civilians. The story only became public in November 1969 and helped undermine public support for the war.
·         31st October: Citing progress in the Paris peace talks, U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson announces to the nation that he has ordered a complete cessation of “all air, naval, and artillery bombardment of North Vietnam” effective  November 1. Two weeks later Operation Command Hunt is initiated to interdict men and supplies on the Ho Chi Minh trail, through Laos into South Vietnam. By the end of the operation, 3 million tons of bombs are dropped on Laos, slowing but not seriously disrupting operations.
·         The Khmer Rouge is officially formed in Cambodia as an offshoot movement of the Vietnam’s People’s Army from North Vietnam to bring communism to the nation. Later led by Pol Pot they would win the Cambodian Civil War and murder up to 25% of the population.

Prague Spring
·         5 January: Alexander Dubcek is chosen as leader of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia.
·         20-21 August: Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia: The ‘Prague Spring’ of political liberalisation ends, as 750,000 Warsaw Pact troops and 6,500 tanks with 800 aircraft invade Czechoslovakia, the largest military operation in Europe since the end of World War II.
·         13 September. Albania officially withdraws from the Warsaw Pact upon the Soviet Union led invasion of Czechoslovakia.

Coups d’état, Revolutions, Repression
·         19 May. Nigerian forces capture Port Harcourt and form a ring around the Biafrans. This contributes to a humanitarian disaster as the surrounded population already suffers from hunger and starvation.
·         17 June. The Malayan Communist Party launches a second insurgency and the state of emergency is again imposed in Malaysia.
·         17 July. Saddam Hussein becomes Vice Chairman of the Revolutionary Council in Iraq after a coup d’état.
·         29 September. A referendum in Greece gives more power to the military junta.
·         3 October. In Peru, Juan Velasco Alvarado takes power in a revolution.
·         11 October. In Panama, a military coup d’état, led by Col. Boris Martinez and Col. Omar Torrijos, overthrows the democratically elected government of Arnulfo Arias.
·         19 November. In Mali, President Modibo Keita’s regime is overthrown in a military coup led by Moussa Traoré.
·         28 December. Israeli forces fly into Lebanese airspace, launching an attack on the airport in Beirut and destroying more than a dozen aircraft.

·         4 April. Martin Luther King Jr. is shot dead at the Lorraine Hotel in Memphis, Tennessee. Riots erupt in major American cities, lasting for several days afterwards.
·         11 April. Josef Bachman tries to assassinate Rudi Dutschke, leader of the left-wing movement (APO) in Germany, and tries to commit suicide afterward, failing in both, although Dutschke dies of his brain injuries 11 years later.
·         5 June U.S. presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy is shot dead at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, California.
·         28 August. John Gordon Mein, U.S. Ambassador to Guatemala, is assassinated on the streets of Guatemala City, the first U.S. Ambassador assassinated in the line of duty.

Protests and Riots
·         8 February. A civil rights protest staged at a white-only bowling alley in Orangeburg, South Carolina is broken up by highway patrolmen; three college students are killed.
·         8 March. The first student protests spark the 1968 Polish political crisis.
·         17 March. A demonstration in London’s Grosvenor Square outside the U.S. Embassy against U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War leads to violence; 91 people are injured, 200 demonstrators arrested. [i]
·         19-23 March. Students at Howard  University in Washington D.C. stage rallies, protests, and a 5-day sit-in, laying siege to the administration building, shutting down the university in protest over the Vietnam War, and demanding a more Afrocentric curriculum.
·         22 March. Daniel Cohn-Bendit (“Danny the Red”) and seven other students occupy the administrative offices of the University of Nanterre, setting in motion a chain of events that lead France to the brink of revolution in May.
·         11 April. German left-wing students blockade the Springer Press HQ in West Berlin and many are arrested including Ulrike Meinhof.
·         23-30 April. Student protesters over the Vietnam War at Columbia University in New York City take over administration buildings and shut down the university.
·         13 May. One million march and riot through the streets of Paris.
·         26 June. The “March of the One Hundred Thousand” took place in Rio de Janeiro as crowds demonstrated against the Brazilian military government.
·         23-28 July. Black militants led by Fred (Ahmed) Evans engage in a fierce gunfight with police in the Glenville Shootout of Cleveland, Ohio.
·         22-30 August. Police clash with anti-war protesters in Chicago outside the 1968 Democratic National Convention. 
·         7 September. 150 women arrive in Atlantic City, New Jersey to protest against the Miss America Pageant, as exploitative of women. It is one of the first large demonstrations of Second Wave Feminism as Women’s Liberation begins to gather media attention.
·         2 October. A student demonstration ends in bloodbath at La Plaza de las Tres Culturas in Tlatelolco, Mexico City, ten days before the inauguration of the summer Olympics. 300-400 are estimated to have been killed.
·         5 October. Police baton civil rights demonstrators in Derry, Northern Ireland, marking the beginning of The Troubles.

·         31 January. Nauru president Hammer DeRoburt declares independence from Australia
·         12 March. Mauritius achieves independence from British rule.
·         6 September. Swaziland becomes independent.
·         12 October. Equatorial Guinea receives its independence from Spain.

Events at sea
·         23 January. North Korea seizes the USS Pueblo, claiming the ship violated its territorial waters while spying.
·         25 January. The Israeli submarine INS Dakar sinks in the Mediterranean Sea, killing 69.
·         28 January. The French submarine Minerve sinks in the Mediterranean Sea, killing 52.
·         8 March. The Soviet ballistic missile submarine K-129 sinks with all 98 crew members, 90 nautical miles from Hawaii.
·         10 April. The ferry TEV Wahine strikes a reef at the mouth of Wellington Harbour, with the loss of 53 lives, in Cyclone Giselle, which created the windiest conditions ever recorded in New Zealand.
·         22 May. The U.S. nuclear powered submarine Scorpion sinks with 99 men aboard, 400 miles southwest of the Azores.
·        7 September. The crash of Air France Flight 1611 kills 95 people, including French Army General René Cogny as the Caravelle jetliner plunges into the Mediterranean Sea while making an approach to Nice following its departure from Corsica.

U.S. politics
·         12 March. U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson barely edges out antiwar candidate Eugene McCarthy in the New Hampshire Democratic primary.
·         16 March. U.S. Senator Robert F. Kennedy enters the race for the Democratic Party presidential nomination.
·         31 March. President Johnson announces he will not seek re-election.
·         4 April. Martin Luther King is assassinated.
·         11 April. President Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act of 1968.
·         5 June. U.S. presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy is assassinated.
·         5-8 August. The Republican National Convention in Miami Beach, Florida nominates Richard Nixon for U.S. President and Spiro Agnew for Vice President.
·         22-30 August. The Democratic National Convention in Chicago, Illinois nominates Hubert Humphrey for U.S. President and Edmund Muskie for Vice President.
·         22 October. The Gun Control Act of 1968 is enacted.
·         5 November. In the U.S. presidential election the Republican candidate Richard Nixon defeats the Democratic candidate, Vice President Hubert Humphrey, and American Independent Party candidate George C. Wallace.
·         14 November. Yale University announces it is going to admit women.

·         17 January. President Johnson requests a bill ending the gold convertibility of the U.S. dollar.
·         18 March. The U.S. Congress repeals the requirement for a gold reserve to back U.S. currency.
·         4 June. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index closes above 100 for the first time at 100.38.
Science & Technology
·         23 April. Surgeons at the Hôpital de la Pitié, Paris, perform Europe’s first heart transplant on Clovis Roblain.
·         18 July. The semiconductor company Intel is founded.
·         11 August. The last steam passenger train service runs in Britain.
·         24 August. France explodes its first hydrogen bomb in a test at Fangataufa atoll in French Polynesia.
·         30 September. Boeing introduces its largest passenger aircraft up to that time, the Boeing 747.
·         11 October. NASA launches Apollo 7, the first manned Apollo mission (Wally Schirra, Donn Eisele, and Walter Cunningham). Mission goals include the first live television broadcast from orbit and testing the lunar module docking manoeuvre.
·         17 November. British European Airways introduces the BAC One-Eleven into commercial service.
·         9 December. Douglas Engelbart publicly demonstrates his pioneering hypertext system, NLS, in San Francisco, together with the computer mouse, at what becomes retrospectively known as “The Mother of All Demos”.
·         24 December. The manned U.S. spacecraft Apollo 8 enters orbit around the Moon. Astronauts Frank Borman, Jim Lovell and William A. Anders become the first humans to see the far side of the Moon and planet Earth as a whole.

Other major events
·         8 April. In the U.S. The Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs (under Department of Justice) is created.
·         20 April. Enoch Powell makes his controversial Rivers of Blood speech.
·         25 July. Pope Paul VI publishes the encyclical entitled Humanae vitae on birth control.
·         20 October. Former U.S. First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy marries Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis on the Greek island of Skorpios.

·         22 January. Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-in debuts on NBC
·         29 April. The musical Hair officially opens on Broadway.
·         14 May. The Beatles announce the creation of Apple Records in a New York press conference.
·         31 July. BBC TV series Dad’s Army was broadcast for the first time.
·         20 September. Hawaii Five-O debuts on CBS.
·         25 October. Led Zeppelin make their first live performance at Surrey University.
·         22 November. The Beatles release their self-titled album popularly known as the White Album.
·         22 November. “Plato’s Stepchildren”, 12th episode of Star Trek third season is aired, featuring the first ever interracial kiss on U.S. national television between Lieutenant Uhura and Captain James T. Kirk.
·         3 December. The NBC television special ELVIS marks the comeback of Elvis Presley.
·         6 December. The Rolling Stones releases Beggars Banquet, which contains the classic song “Sympathy for the Devil.”

·         29 May. Manchester United wins the European Cup Final, becoming the first English club to do so.
·         23 June. A football stampede in Buenos Aires leaves 74 dead and 150 injured.
·         4 July. Yachtsman Alec Rose, 59, receives a hero’s welcome as he sails into Portsmouth, after his 354-day round-the-world trip.
·         17 September. The MCC cricket tour of South Africa is cancelled when the South Africans refuse to accept the presence of Basil D’Oliveira, a Cape Coloured, in the team.
·         16 October.  In Mexico City African-American athletes, Tommie Smith and John Carlos raise their fists in a black power salute after winning, respectively, the gold and bronze medals in the Olympic men’s 200 metres.
·         18 October. U.S athlete Bob Beamon breaks the long jump world record by 55 cm/ 21¾ ins at the Olympics. His record stood for 23 years, and is still the second longest in history.

Sony UK was founded in May 1968, the first Sony sales company in Europe. To celebrate the 50th anniversary my successor as Managing Director Steve Dowdle and his team organised a terrific party at the Waldorf Hilton in London. Several former MDs were there and also Sir Howard Stringer, former Chairman and Chief Executive of Sony Corporation. Overall 140 former and current employees and friends enjoyed the party with a great deal of reminiscing aided by a continuous slide show of 800 photographs on current TV screens lent by the company.

In June 1968 I graduated Summa Cum Laude from the Blake Country Day School for Boys in Hopkins, Minnesota after my year there as an American Field Service exchange student. The American attitude to a graduating class is very different from the British. One is forever a member of ‘The Class of ‘68’. There were 56 of us in that class and sadly 13 of those are no longer with us, an actuarial outlier. But of the surviving 43 no less than 25 showed up, half with their partners,  for several days of visits to the school, dinners and other activities. Again the festivities were aided by an abundance of photographs but the organising committee had also gone to considerable trouble in arranging video interviews and collecting 500 word statements from all of us which the school published as a special supplement to our yearbook. And there is one more 50th anniversary reunion to come later this month with the 50th anniversary of our matriculation at New College, Oxford. 1968 was quite a year!

[i] My sister Angela proudly took part in this.

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