1968 Vietnam War Turning Point

1968 Vietnam War Turning Point


1960s Potpourri 

The 1960s:  sexual revolution, LSD, civil rights, black nationalism, feminism, political unrest, assassinations, the Great Society, and Vietnam come to mind with a magical mystery tour soundtrack played by the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Jefferson Airplane, Janis Joplin,and Jimi Hendrix.


1968

And if one had to pick one year of that tumultuous decade that was “more” 1960s than any other, 1968 would be a prime candidate.


And if Vietnam was the decade’s salient feature, 1968 was a year that many Americans decided that the war was a waste of life and limb.


January 26, 1968
Light at the end of the tunnel (again)

On January 26, 1968 in Time Magazine, General Westmoreland said, “the Communists seem to have run temporarily out of steam.” The government had convinced us that the number of enemy killed, not the gaining and holding of territory, determined success. Such a policy had led to generals inflating the number of enemy killed even including civilians killed as the by-product of battles.


Three days later, the nation that heralded and commemorated George Washington’s Christmas night crossing of the Delaware River and sneak attack on the Hessian troops barracked in Trenton, was angered when the North Vietnamese and Vietcong launched the surprise Tet Offensive.


The US and South Vietnamese forces defeated the attacks which did not spark the popular uprising the North had  hoped, but back home in the USA those confident military reports of a weakened enemy became highly questionable.


The Battle of Hue during the Tet Offensive typified this turning point. While the American and South Vietnamese forces defeated the Communist forces,  the Pyrrhic victory cost the Allied victors 668 dead and 3,707 wounded . (NYT book review of  HUE 1968,  A Turning Point of the American War in Vietnam by Mark Bowden)


On February 27, 1968, well-respected CBS News anchor  Walter Cronkite editorialized that “...it is increasingly clear to this reporter that the only rational way out [of the war] then will to negotiate, not as victors, but as an honorable people who lived up to their pledge to defend democracy, and did the best they could.”


On March 31, 1968, President Johnson announced that he would not run for a second term. (NYT retrospective article) (full text of LBJ’s announcement)


1968 Vietnam War Turning Point


December 31, 1968:  the bloodiest year of the war came to an end. 536,000 American servicemen were stationed in Vietnam, an increase of over 50,000 from 1967.


Estimates from Headquarters U.S. Military Assistance Command Vietnam indicated that US and Vietnamese forces had killed 181,150 Viet Cong and North Vietnamese during 1968.


However, Allied losses were also up: 27,915 South Vietnamese, 14,584 Americans (a 56 percent increase over 1967), and 979 South Koreans, Australians, New Zealanders, and Thais were reported killed during 1968.


Since January 1961, more than 31,000 U.S. servicemen had been killed in Vietnam and over 200,000 U.S. personnel had been wounded.


The war that year had cost $77 billion (1968) dollars–$542 billion today!


In 2017, American troops strength in Afghanistan was approximately 11,000 and 11 Americans had died there that same year. We had spent approximately $5.7 billion.


1968 Vietnam War Turning Point
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Cream Mountain Felix Pappalardi

Cream Mountain Felix Pappalardi

Happy Birthday

Felix Pappalardi was born on December 30, 1939 in the Bronx.


Pappalardi is famous in the lore of 1960s music mainly because of his association with Cream (as a producer) and as the bassist for Mountain.


Pre-Cream

He studied classical music at the University of Michigan and returned to NYC,  but couldn’t earn a living .  Like so many other musicians of his time, he gravitated to the Greenwich Village folk scene.


He became an arranger and producer of that scene working with Tim Hardin, the Youngbloods, Joan Baez, Richard & Mimi Farina, Ian & Sylvia, and Fred Neil.


Strange Brew

It was his work with Creme that brought fame to his name. He and his wife, Gail Collins, wrote “Stange Brew” with Eric Clapton.



Leslie West

In 1968, Pappalardi began working with Leslie West and produced a solo album for him.


After Cream disbanded, Pappalardi and West formed  Mountain. A New York Times article read: A new rock group called Mountain may not entirely replace the late, honestly lamented British band Cream, but it is carrying on the tradition with power and respect. 


Woodstock Music and Art Fair

Mountain performed at the Woodstock Music and Art Fair on Saturday of that famous weekend. Here is Pappalardi singing “Theme from an Imaginary Western” at Woodstock



After Mountain’s breakup, Papparlardi returned to  production, a return reputedly forced due to hearing loss from Mountains loud performances.

Felix Pappalardi solo

In 1979, Pappalardi released his first proper solo album, Don’t Worry, Ma


Cream Mountain Felix Pappalardi
Felix Pappalardi’s solo album cover

On April 17, 1983, Gail Colins shot Pappalardi once in the neck and he died. She claimed it was an accident, but a jury found her guilty of criminally negligent homicide. She was sentenced to four years.


More from the Ultimate Classic Rock site about Gail Collins’s death in 2013 >>> Gail Collins’s death)F

Cream Mountain Felix Pappalardi
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Remembering Rick Danko

Remembering Rick Danko

Born on December 29, 1942
Thank you for that voice. Did you come out singing?
Thank you for that smile. Did you come out smiling?

Without your love I’m nothing at all

Like an empty hall it’s a lonely fall

Since you’ve been gone it’s a losing battle

Stampeding cattle they rattle my walls



Opportunity denied

Because I was wet, tired, hungry, and worried whether our car was still where we left it on the side of 17B, Tony and I left the Woodstock Music and Art Fair after Sunday afternoon’s deluge.


No Hendrix. No Crosby Stills and Nash. And no Band. Damn it, no Band. Big Pink. Bob Dylan. Tears of Rage. Woodstock.


I did see the Band later and they were as good as I’d hoped. And I had great hopes.


Next generation

And later still I got to see a solo Rick a few times at The Turning Point in Piermont, NY. One of those times, my wife and I brought our young teenage son who was a fan and an aspiring guitarist. At a point, Rick, with a smile as big as the stage, asked the audience, “Does anyone have a heavy?” meaning a guitar pick.


Our son had one, handed it to Rick and got Rick’s in return.


Get much better? I think not.


Rick did make a difference.



Remembering Rick Danko

Carol Gaffin wrote after Rick’s death:


On December 10, 1999, Rick Danko died as he had lived – simply, without fanfare, pomp or pretense. If the tears, prayers and tributes that followed are any indication, this country boy whose goal was to “help the neighborhood” certainly succeeded. The world is a much better place because of Rick Danko, and a much sadder one without him.


Link to Band site bio >>> Rick bio


The NYT article about Rick when he died >>> NYT article


And just because he was a December baby so close to Christmas…


Remembering Rick Danko

 

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