In January Nguyen Xuan Oanh, an economist, replaced Huong as the Prime Minister of South Vietnam. He remained on his post not even for three weeks, being replaced by Phan Huy Quat. Also in January operation Game Warden begun - patrols of South Vietnam's waterways, which combined length amounted many thousands of kilometers.
On 7th of February the american airbase in Pleiku was attacked, resulting in death of 8 american soldiers, 126 injuried and 10 aircraft destroyed. Americans replied with operation Flaming Dart - an airstrike on North Vietnamese Army camp, conducted by aircraft from USS Ranger aircraft carrier. Three days later barracks in Qui Nhon were attacked, 23 american soldiers died. Americans responded with Flaming Dart II, airstrikes conducted by USAF, VNAF and US Navy. In March an even greater air operation started, the Rolling Thunder, a series of many airstrikes against targets in North Vietnam, with the aim of coercing their government to cease its commitment to guerilla operations in South Vietnam. To protect the airbase at Da Nang, taking part in Rolling Thunder campaign, the US Marines were selected. 3 500 Marines executed a large scale amphibious landing on the 8th of March. These were the first american combat troops in Vietnam. To date the number of American military advisors in Vietnam amounted 23 000.
Also in March the operation Market Time begun, conducted by naval forces of the USA and South Vietnam. It's objective was to cut the naval resupply lines, through which supplies went fron North Vietnam to the guerillas in the South. From the beginning of April on, President Johnson authorised two additional Marines batallions to be moved to Vietnam, and allowed the ground forces to conduct offensive operations in South Vietnam. This decision was kept secret before the public opinion for two months. In May, the first combat unit of the US Army arrived in Vietnam - 173rd airborne brigade with 3 500 men. From 13th to 18th of May US forces interrupted the bombings in order to give the North Vietnam a chance to begin the peace negotiations, instead they use the bombing break to repair some of the damage and reinforce their anti-aircraft defences.
In June government changes again in South Vietnam: Nguyen Cao Ky, the commander of South Vietnamese air force, becomes the prime minister, and Nguyen Van Thieu - the President of South Vietnam. This is a 10th government of South Vietnam in 20 months. In the end of July president Johnson announces his decision to raise the number of US troops in Vietnam to 125 000. On 24th of July Northw Vietnam shot an American airplane using a surface to air misille (SAM) for the first time in the war.
In August, American CBS television shows the destruction of a suspect village near Da Nang by a Marines unit, raising controversies with the American public. Two days later Viet-Cong destroyed about 8 millions litres/two millions of galons of fuel in storage tanks near Da Nang. In the end of August the Marines conducted operation Starlite, a preventive strike on Viet-Cong units in the vincinity of the Chu Lai airbase. Using helicopters and air and naval artilerry support the Marines killed 614 Viet-Cong partisans, losing 45 dead and 120 wounded. A decisive first victory greatly improved the morale of the US forces.
Meanwhile, on 31st of August President Johnson signed a law introducing a fine up to 1000$ and prison sentence up to 5 years for draft card burning. Despite such punishments, the burnings became common during anti-war demonstrations. In October, in the United States such protests took place in 40 cities and also in Rome and London. In the meantime on 30th of October a march in Washington in support of U.S. involvement in Vietnam attracted 25 000 people. It was led by five Medal of Honor recipients.
In the beginning of November North Vietnamese Army's strike on special forces camp in Plei Me started the battle of Ia Drang valley on the Vietnamese Central Plain. The main battle was fought from 14th to 16th of November, between First Cavalry Division (Airmobile) and North Vietnamese Army regiment. The Americans fought depending heavily on helicopters for troop transport, resupply and also air support, and for the first time B-52s were called in for close air support. The battle ended with a withdrawal of the North Vietnamese forces, whose losses were estimated at 2000. American losses were 79 killed and 121 wounded. Next day the initial victory is overshadowed by the withdrawing North Vietnamese forces who ambushed American unit moving on foot and killed 155 and wounded 124 US soldiers.
In the end of November 35 000 people took part in anti-war protests in Washington. At the beginning of December Viet Cong terrorists bombed a hotel in Saigon used by Americans, killing 8 and wounding 137. On 25th of December air strikes on North Vietnam are halted for the second time, for 37 days, to allow for peace talks, but the North Vietnamese denounced this as "trick" and continued their activities in South Vietnam.
At the end of the Year the number of American soldiers in Vietnam reached approximately 184 300. It was estimated, that about 35 000 North Vietnamese soldiers infiltrated South via Ho Chi Minh trail. About half of the rural areas of South Vietnam were under communist control.
At the end of January operation Masher begun, and went on until the beginning of March. This was first of a series of American operations of "search and destroy" type directed against concentrations of Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army. Afraid of public opinion's reaction, President Johnson orders a name change to a less agressive sounding "White Wing". During the 42 days of the operation, conducted on the Bon Son plain, soldiers of the 1st Air Cavalry Division once again tried the Airmobility concept and engaged in heavy fighting. American losses were 228 killed and 788 wounded, the Americans declared North Vietnamese losses at 1342 dead. Additional 808 dead were accounted for South Vietnamese and South Korean units, wich also took part in the operation. The term "search and destroy" caught on in the media and from then on begun to be associated with pictures of American soldiers burning Vietnamese villages.
On 31st of January, because of lack of reaction of the North Vietnamese government to American proposal for peace talks, President Johnson announced the resuming of bombings. The President's decision was criticised, among others by senator Robert F. Kennedy. On the 1st of March senator Wayne Morse tried to renounce the Tonkin Gulf Resolution, but did not succeeed (92 votes against 5). News, announced at the beginning of March, about destruction of 20 000 acres of food crops in Vietnamese villages suspected of supporting communists raised heavy criticism among American academic community.
Also in March, South Vietnamese buddhists begun a brutal campaign against Prime Minister Ky after he dismissed general Nguyen Chanh Thi, supported by the buddhists. The most violent riots happened in Saigon, Da Nang and Hue. At the beginning of April in Da Nang buddhist renegades took over the city. American forces tried to keep the neutrality, while government forces fight the rebels. From late May to the beginning of June Prime Minister Ky personally commanded 3 000 South Vietnamese Marines while they were "liberating" the city from the rebels. The fall of Da Nang ended the existence of buddhist movement in Vietnam as a political organization.
On 26th of March anti-war protests were held in New York, Washington, Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston and San Francisco. At the beginning of April B-52 bombers were used against targets in North Vietnam for the first time. Target selection was strictly supervised by president's staff. On 13th of April Viet Cong attaced Tan Son Nhut airbase, on the outskirts of Saigon, destroing 2 Vietnamese and damaging 62 american aircraft, killing 7 Americans, 2 Vietnamese and wounding 111 Americans.
In the end of June the Americans bombed fuel depots, for the first time in the vincinity of Hanoi, stating increased co communist infiltration of South Vietnam as a reason. United States were very careful designating targets near Hanoi, fearing reaction from Vietnam's military allies: The Soviet Union and People's Republic of China. The same concerns prevent Americans from invading North Vietnam, despite such recommendations from some military leaders in Washington. In july numbers of airstrikes against Ho Chi Minh trail in Laos were inreased (to more than 100 missions daily).
In mid-July Operation Hastings begun. 8 500 Marines and 2 000 South Vietnamese soldiers took action against concentrations of communist forces in the Quang Tri province, near the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ). It was the biggest joint operation of this conflict to date. It's mission was denying the Quang Tri province to the North vietnamese Division 324B. The operation was a strategic success, although the North Vietnamese division retreated through the DMZ. The ease with which it was done, caused the Americans to create a network of Marines outposts along the Zone. At the end of July American aircraft bombed North Vietnamese Army units in the DMZ.
In the end of August Hanoi anounced, that China provides technical and economical assistance for North Vietnam. In the beginning of September General de Gaulle, while in Cambodia, called for American withdrawal from Vietnam
On 26th of August American 196th Light Infantry Brigade arrived in Vietnam. On 14th of September this unit, in cooperation with South Vietnamese Army, started Operation Attleboro, 80 kilometres north of Saigon, near the Cambodian border. At first they found increasing number of hidden supply caches intended for the communist forces, then heavy fighting begun, with the enemy occupying fortified positions. The Americans utilised tanks, artillery and air support, including B-52 and AC-47 aircraft. Operation ended on 24th of November. American losses were 155 dead and 494 wounded, the communist losses were estimated at 1 106 dead. The greatest Amrican success was the capture of big quantities of equipment and supplies.
In the beginning of October Soviet Union announced, that it will provide economical and military support to North Vietnam. In the end of the month President Johnson holds a conference in Manila with the allies of the United States in Vietnam: Australia, Philippines, Thailand, New Zealand, South Korea and South Vietnam. The allies agreed that they would withdraw completely from Vietnam, if North Vietnam would withdraw completely from the South.
In November Secretary of Defence, Robert McNamara, is confronted by students protesting against war in Vietnam durin his visit in the Harvard University. A few days later press informs, that 40% of United States' economical support for Vietnam was stolen or ended up at the black market.
In December North Vietnam rejected President's Johnson's proposal for discussions on treatment and exchange of prisoners of war. In mid-December American bombers destroyed the village of Caudat, causing heavy criticism from the international public opinion. In spite of increased attention the press payed to the growing numbers of civilian casualties, American Department of Defence admitted, that accidential bombing of civilian targets might have taken place.
On 16th of December American Nineth Infantry Division arrived in Vietnam. This newly reactivated unit is to become the army component of the joint army-navy Mobile Riverine Forces operating in Mekong Delta. In this region, at the end of December, Americans mounted a large-scale air assault against suspected Viet Cong positions, using Napalm and hundreds of tons of bombs.
At the end of the year, the number of American soldiers in Vietnam reached approximately 385 000. At their side, there are 45 000 Koreans and 7 000 Australians fighting. In this year 5008 Americans died and some 30 000 got wounded in Vietnam. About 89 000 North Vietnamese soldiers infiltrated the South through the Ho Chi Minh trail.
In the beginning of January the Americans conducted operation Bolo - F-4 "Phantom" fighters disguised as F-105 "Thunderchief" bombers and managed to attract North Vietnamese MiG-21 fighters and engage them, shooting down 7 such aircraft. American pilots were still not allowed to attack airfields, where North Vietnamese fighters were stationed. In January US Navy formed Mobile Riverine Force/Task Force 117 which, together with 9th Infantry Division of the US Army operated in the Mekong delta region.
From 8th to 26th of January operation Cedar Falls was conducted in the vicinity of Cu Chi, in the so called "iron triangle". During this operation the American forces found Viet Cong's elaborate tunnel complexes and for the first time "tunnel rats" were used - volunteers who explored tunnel complexes in search for communist soldiers and their equipment and supplies.
From 8th to 12th of February a truce was announced for Tet - the lunar new year celebrations. Because of failure of diplomatic talks, President Johnson ordered on 13th of February bombings of North Vietnam to be resumed on full scale.
From 22th of February to 14th of May the biggest land operation of the conflict was conducted: Operation Junction City. It was intended to attack on a communist stronghold located at the border with Cambodia, north-west of Saigon. During this operation, the only large troops airdrop occurs, conducted to free up helicopters for tactical troop movements, according to the "airmobility" concept. American operation resulted in killing of 2728 Viet Cong fighters and capturing 34. American losses amount 282 killed and 1576 wounded. North Vietnamese Army moved their command center to Cambodia, thus saving it from the Americans.
At this time anti-war protests in the USA got more intensive. Martin Luther King declared, that the war in Vietnam was undermining the presidential "Great Society" social reform programs. Increasing the military spending caused, according to King: "poor white and Negro bear the heaviest burdens both at the front and at home". At the same time General Westmoreland blamed the protesters of giving the North Vietnamese soldier "hope that he can win politically that which he cannot accomplish militarily".
On the 20th of April American bombers attacked targets in the Haiphong harbor, North Vietnam, for the first time in the war.
From 24th of April to 11th of May heavy fights went on near the Laotian and North Vietnamese border, around Khe Sanh, where an airbase belonging to Marines was located. Resulting from the fights 940 soldiers of the North Vietnamese Army were killed, American losses amounted 155 killed and 425 wounded.
On the first of May Ellsworth Bunker replaced Henry Cabot Lodge as the American Ambassador in the Republic of Vietnam
From 2nd to 10th of May the so called Vietnam War Crimes Tribunal, also known as "Russell Tribunal" conferred in Stockholm on its first session. The Tribunal was an informal organization created by Bertrand Russell, British mathematician and philosopher. Members of this organization were 26 remarkable individuals, peace activists, literats and politicians, many of them Nobel prize winners. Meetings of the Tribunal resulted in accusing the USA of violating numerous international agreements, aggression against Vietnam, using weapons forbidden by war law, treating prisoners of war in discord with war law and genocide on Vietnam's civilian population. The US government ignored the proceedings of the Tribunal.
On the 9th of May Civil Operations and Rural Development Support (CORDS) organization was constituted. It was led by Robert W. Komer, appointed by President Johnson, deputy commander of MACV former CIA analyst. CORDS objective is winning back the "hearts and minds" of the rural population of South Vietnam by providing security, distributing material help and training self-defense forces. On the 13th of May 70 000 people marched in support for the war in Vietnam, led by the New York City fire captain.
In June Mobile Riverine Force - MRF started operating. MRF consisted of US Navy and US Army units in the Mekong Delta region. Their objective is securing delta's waterways against communist insurgents. On the 29th of July an accident on board of USS Forrestal in the Gulf of Tonkin caused a massive fire, in which 134 sailors died, 161 were wounded and 21 aircraft were lost. It was the most dangerous accident in the sea since World War II.
On the 21st of August the Chinese shot down two American aircraft which accidentally crossed the Chinese border while conducting a mission over North Vietnam.
On the 3rd of September national elections are held in the Republic of Vietnam. Eighty percent of eligible voters were participating. Nguyen Van Thieu was elected the President of the Republic of Vietnam and Nguyen Cao Ky became the Vice-President, with 35% votes.
In September a plan to build the so called McNamara Line was announced. It was planned to consist of fencing and seismic sensors, emplaced along the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) to block the communist infiltration. In Vietnam the 23rd Infantry Division (Americal) was formed. The new division contains the previously independent 196th Light Infantry Brigade and soon to arrive in Vietnam 11th and 198th Infantry Brigades. Marines establish a combat base at Khe Sanh.
On 11th of September begun a siege of Con Thien - a Marines fire base located some 3 kilometers from the Demilitarized Zone. The fight turned into a long range artillery duel, both sides expended numerous rounds - North Vietnamese Army 42 000, the Americans 281 000, they also used B-52 strikes to break the encirclement. The battle ended on 31st of October, North Vietnamese losses were estimated at 2 000 killed.
Towards the end of october "March on the Pentagon" attracted 55 000 protesters. In London, protesters were storming the American embassy.
In November American political and military leaders announced successes fighting communists in Vietnam and promised quick ending of the war. This was largely caused by Viet Congs's decreasing tempo of their operation, in turn caused by climatic conditions of that time of year, Viet Cong's losses and preparations for future operations, distorting American judgment of the conflict.
From 3rd of November to 1st of December the battle of Dak To was fought. Dak To is located on the central highlands, near the Cambodian and Laotian border. The battle is a culmination of long series of bloody fights in that region. On the American side fought the 4th Infantry Division and the 173rd Airborne Brigade. On 15th of November North Vietnamese artillery fire, that went on for three days finally destroyed two C-130 aircraft and an ammo and fuel storages at the Dak To airfield. In the next days the concentration of American troops prevented the communists from taking the town. Then the fights moved to the hills surrounding it, closer to the Cambodian and Laotian border. In the evening of November 19th, the worst case of "friendly fire" in the conflict occurred during the fights of Hill 875 - a Marines fighter dropped two 500 pound bombs directly on an American unit location, killing 42 and wounding 45 soldiers - among them wounded, medics and officers. After the fights ended the American losses amounted 376 killed and 1441 wounded. Americans announced the North Vietnamese losses to be 1664 killed, but the number was soon admitted to be overestimated. The North Vietnamese Army didn't reach their objective of taking Dak To or destroying a major American Unit, but they succeeded in drawing the American forces away from major cities and military bases, which was a part of the North Vietnamese plan.
On 29th of November Robert McNamara, for many years the Secretary of Defense, resigns. As reason for this, a difference in opinions with the President Johnson is stated.
On 4th of December a four-day anti-war demonstration begun in New York. Among 585 of it's participants who were arrested is Dr. Benjamin Spock, famous children psychologist, accused of advocating permissiveness in children raising and "spoiling the entire generation".
On 23rd of December President Johnson begun his second, last visit to Republic of Vietnam
At the end of the year the number of American soldiers in Vietnam reaches 463 000. Until that date over million American soldiers were rotated through Vietnam. 16 000 of them died.
In January the communist troops started the siege of Marines base at Khe Sanh. This was one of the decisive battles of the Vietnam War. The communists tried to repeat the success from Dien Bien Phu. On the other hand, the Americans waited for a chance to face a major enemy unit in an open fight, unlike other engagements, where the enemy ambushed and evaded the American forces. 5 000 Marines who defend Khe Sanh had aircraft on their hands for resupply and fire support (including the B-52s), independent of weather or time of day.
On 30th of January a Viet Cong offensive started, which violated the cease-fire agreement, announced earlier by both sides for the new lunar year - Tet - a traditional Vietnamese holiday. One of the first targets attacked is the US embassy in Saigon, heavy fighting also erupted on the Tan Son Nhut airbase and the nearby MACV compound. A similar situation occurred in every major town throughout South Vietnam. The fighting was transmitted live by American television, shocking the American public, previously assured of favorable course of the war in Vietnam for America.
Until the 7th of March fights rage through Saigon. General Fred C. Weyand, a veteran from the Pacific and an officer having experience in military intelligence, sensed the imminent communist attack and requested relocation of several military units back to Saigon. It is believed to be one of the most critical decisions of the whole conflict. The relocation allowed the Americans to counter-attack Tan Son Nhut on the 1st of February, thus making the taking of Saigon, and especially the American HQ complex, by the communists impossible.
Even more tragic were the events at Hue, the historical capital of Vietnam, which was occupied by the communists. Many influential Vietnamese citizens were murdered by the communists during the ocupation as "enemies of the people". The Marines were commanded to re-take the city, which they did in a brutal urban combat, in process destroying big parts of the city, including many historical buildings. The fighting went on until the 2nd of March, 74 Americans were killed and 507 wounded, ARVN losses amounted 384 killed and 1830 wounded, and communist losses are estimated at 5 000 killed.
On the 1st of February General Nguyen Ngoc Loan, Republic of Vietnam's police chief shot a member of Viet Cong suspected of killing police officers and their families. This event was filmed by NBS News' cameraman and photographed by Associated Press' photographer. The pictures shocked the global public.
On the 2nd of February President Johnson called the Tet offensive a "complete failure". In military terms the communists failed badly, with great losses in equipment and, most important in people. National Liberation Front, also scornfully called Viet Cong practically ceased to exist in many areas of South Vietnam. In political terms, however, the communists gained a decisive if unexpected victory, influencing the minds of the citizens of the USA, who in turn decided to withdraw their support for fighting until victory and finally decided to withdraw from Republic of Vietnam.
On the 6th of February North Vietnamese Army attacked the Special Forces Camp Lang Vei, located in the vicinity of Khe Sanh and overran it. During that action, for the first time in the conflict the communist forces used tanks, in this case the Soviet built PT-76s.
On the 1st of March Clark Clifford, renowned Washington lawyer and President Johnson's close friend becomes the new US Secretary of Defense. After researching the situation in Vietnam Clifford discovered there was no concept or overall plan anywhere in Washington for achieving victory in Vietnam. Clifford recommended not escalating the war.
On 10th of March New York Times reported about General Westmoreland's request for additional 206 000 soldiers for Vietnam. The White House denied the existence of such request, but Dean Rusk, the Secretary of State was called before Senate Foreign Relations Committee and interrogated for two days on live TV about the troop request and the overall effectiveness of President's war strategy.
In March the preparations for the next presidential elections went on. President Johnson defeated Eugene McCarthy in the New Hampshire Democratic primary election by a very slim margin on 12th of March. Robert F. Kennedy secretly offered President Johnson not to run in the presidential elections in exchange for creating a committee, of which Kennedy would be a member, that would create a new strategy for Vietnam. Because President Johnson rejected this proposal, Robert Kennedy announced his candidacy for the presidency on the 16th of March. The polls indicated Kennedy to be more popular than the current President. On 31st of March President Johnson surprised the public opinion by announcing that he would not seek re-election. He also announced a complete bombing halt north of 20th parallel and calls for peace talks, which started soon thereafter.
On 23rd of March, during a secret meeting on the Philippines, General Wheeler, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told General Westmoreland, that out of 206 000 soldiers requested only 13 500 would be granted. General Wheeler also instructed General Westmoreland to urge the Republic of Vietnam to increase their own war effort.
In march the so called My Lai massacre happened - American soldiers from the 23rd Americal Division killed over 300 civilians. After entering the village of My Lai and not finding the Viet Cong, they started murdering civilians. A helicopter pilot, Warrant Officer Hugh Thompson assessed the situation, landed his machine and started evacuating the civilians. Initially the action report didn't mention civilian casualties, just after Ronald Ridenhour, a Vietnam Veteran described the tragedy in a letter to his senator, an official prosecution was started. Captain Ernest Medina, Lieutenant William Calley and 14 other soldiers were tried in effect. The massacre caused outrage in the USA and in the world.
On the 1st of April operation Pegasus started - an effort by 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) to reopen Route 9, leading to Khe Sanh. This reopening, on the 8th of April ended the Siege of Khe Sanh. North Vietnamese forces retreated, their losses were estimated at 15 000 killed. Losses of the Marines were 199 killed and 830 wounded, and the losses of the 1st Cav were 92 killed and 629 wounded. In June the Khe Sanh combat base would be quietly deactivated.
On the 4th of April Martin Luther King died, shot by an assassin.
On the 27th of April in New York 200 000 students didn't attend the classes in a protest against the War in Vietnam.
From 30th of April to 3rd of May the battle of Dai Do was fought, near the Demilitarized Zone. The North Vietnamese forces tried to open a route for invading south, but were stopped by a Marine battalion known as the "Magnificent Bastards" under Lieutenant Colonel William Weise. Under a heavy fire from aircraft and artillery, including naval bombardment, the North Vietnamese lost 1568 killed. American losses were 81 killed and 297 wounded Marines and 29 killed and 129 wounded supporting US Army soldiers. That defeat ended North Vietnamese attempts of invasion for many years.
On the 5th of May Viet Cong shells Saigon and some 100 other civilian and military targets in a coordinated attack, known as "Mini Tet". The Americans answered with air strikes.
On the 10th of May the special forces camp at Kham Duc located at the Laotian border in 1963 to monitor the infiltration by the communist forces was attacked by a battalion of the North Vietnamese Army. Because of the encirclement it was decided to evacuate the camp. On the 12th of May, after the end of the evacuation it was found out, that three US Air Force's tactical air controllers were left in the camp. Although the camp was already over-run by the North Vietnamese and two C-130s have previously been shot down, Lt. Col. Joe M. Jackson managed to land a C-123 Provider on the air strip under intense fire, picked up all three controllers and then took off. For this action Jackson was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, the highest US military decoration.
Also on the 10th of May peace talks started in Paris. At the very beginning a crisis was encountered - the Americans insisted on withdrawal of North Vietnamese forces from the Republic of Vietnam, North Vietnam wanted the National Liberation Front in a coalition government of South Vietnam. The peace talks would take next 5 years, with numerous pauses.
On the 5th of June Robert Kennedy was shot directly after announcing his victory in California Democratic presidential primary election in Los Angeles.
On the 27th of June Marines started to withdraw from Khe Sanh.
On the 1st of July general Creighton W. Abrams replaced General Westmoreland as the commander of the US armed forces in Vietnam. Also on the 1st of July program Phoenix started, aimed to destroy the so called Viet Cong Infrastructure - secret operatives responsible for terrorist actions directed against Americans, Republic of Vietnam's officials, village leaders and civilians loyal to the government. Program Phoenix coordinated by the CORDS (led by Robert Komer) generated controversy in the USA, concerning killing of Viet Cong activists by the South Vietnamese trained by Americans. The controversy, intensified by North Vietnamese propaganda led to hearings of Komer's successor, William E. Colby before the US Senate. Colby stated: "The Phoenix program was not a program of assassination. The Phoenix program was a part of the overall pacification program". Colby admitted that 20,587 Viet Cong had been killed "mostly in combat situations...by regular or paramilitary forces".
On the 3rd of July Hanoi released 3 American prisoners of war. On the 19th of July Presidents Johnson and Thieu meet on Hawaii.
On the 8th of August Richard Nixon became the Republican Party's candidate for the presidential election, promising "an honorable end to the war in Vietnam". On 28th of August, after the Democratic national convention in Chicago a 10 000 anti-war protesters were opposed by 26 000 policemen and national guardsmen. The brutal encounter were transmitted live on TV. About 800 of the protesters were wounded. The United States were then experiencing social unrest of biggest intensity since the American Civil War. There have been over 220 student protests against the War in Vietnam thus far in 1968.
On the 8th of October operation SEALORDS (South East Asia Lake Ocean River & Delta Strategy) started, the largest combined naval operation of the entire war conducted by United States and Republic of Vietnam navies. The objective of the operation was interdiction of communist forces' resupply lines in the southern part of Republic of Vietnam, on the coast from the Cambodian border to Mekong delta and along numerous waterways of that region. The operation would be successfully continued until 1971, when it was turned over to South Vietnamese Navy.
On the 21st of October the United States released 14 North Vietnamese prisoners of war. On the 27th of October 50 000 people protested in London against the war.
On the 31st of October President Johnson ended the operation Rolling Thunder and announced a complete halt of American bombing of North Vietnam in the hope of restarting the peace talks. The operation Rolling Thunder was the biggest air campaign since the bombing of Germany in the Second World War, and the hardest the US Air Force got to execute. Due to objectives not set clearly and consequently enough, political limitations, but also due to the nature of targets in the North Vietnam and stubbornness and determination of the Vietnamese, the operation was a strategic failure. It was calculated, that Americans dropped 864 000 tons of bombs over North Vietnam (by the end of 1967), flew 306 183 sorties and lost 922 aircraft in the course of the operation Rolling Thunder.
On the 5th of November Richard Nixon narrowly defeated Hubert Humphrey in the US presidential election and became the 37th President of United States of America. On the 27th of November President-elect Nixon offered Harvard professor Henry Kissinger the post of National Security Advisor. Kissinger accepted. Also in November William E. Colby replaces Robert Komer as the head of CORDS.
At the end of the year there were 495 000 American soldiers in Vietnam. About 30 000 died to date. In 1968, over a thousand a month were killed. It was estimated that in this year 150 000 North Vietnamese soldiers infiltrated South Vietnam along the Ho Chi Minh Trail. Most of them never made it back.