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A Timeline: Artists Respond American Art and the Vietnam War

Year: 1965 Quote/headline: “We will stand in Vietnam”-U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson Event: People walking towards a boat in the ocean. Image description: President Johnson orders air attacks on North Vietnam and deploys ground troops to South Vietnam. Event: Audience Image description: First “teach-in” against the war is held at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. First major public demonstrations, both for and against the war, take place in the United States. Event: Vietnam map Image description: U.S. troop levels in Vietnam at the end of 1965: 184,300 Event: Battle of Ia Drang map Image description: First major engagement between the U.S. and North Vietnamese forces takes place at the Battle of Ia Drung

Year:1966 Quote/headlines:”We have to clean this place up, it is dirty from the war.”-Guerilla Art Action Group, U.S. artists Event:Picture of U.S. senators Image description: Senator William Fulbright (L) (D-Arkansas) holds televised hearings that question U.S. involvement in Vietnam. Event: Peace tower with audience Image description: Artists erect the Peace Tower in Los Angeles to protest the war. Event: Explosions on field Image description:Public outcry against the use of napalm, a flammable jelly used in bombs and flamethrowers, leads to a nationwide campaign against its primary manufacturer, Dow Chemical Company Event: Vietnam map Image description: U.S. troop levels in Vietnam at the end of 1966: 365,300 Event:Person is on fire Image description: Buddhist protests erupt against the military government in South Vietnam after a political struggle between Prime Minister Nguyễn Cao Kỳ and a Buddhist general, Nguyễn Chánh Thi.

Year:1967 Quote/headlines: “The end is not in sight” -U.S. General Westmoreland Event:Martin Luther King is giving a speech Image description: Martin Luthe King, Jr., publicly denounce the war in Vietnam. University of Wisconsin-Madison student protests of the Dow Chemical Company garner national news coverage as the first U.S. university protests to turn violent. Event: Injured Vietnamese boys Image description: Ramparts magazine publishes an essay featuring photographs of South Vietnamese children injured by U.S. napalm. Event: Washington protest Image description: An antiwar demonstration in Washington D.C., draws hundreds of thousands of protesters. Event: Muhammad Ali signing papers Image description: Professional boxer Muhammad Ali is arrested for draft evasion. Event: Vietnam map: Image description: U.S. troop levels in Vietnam at the end of 1967: 485,600

 

Year: 1968 Quote/headlines: “It seems now… That the bloody experience of Vietnam is to end in a stalemate.”- Walter Cronkite, TV news anchor Event: Military police vehicle Image description: Police violence erupts at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago artist and galleries organize protest exhibitions in its wake. Event: Smoke covered sky above a city Image description: Previously unscathed South Vietnamese cities including Sài Gòn (Saigon) are attacked during the Tết offensive Event: President Johnson broadcasting Image description: U.S. President Johnson announces he will end bombing in North Vietnam and decline to be nominated for reelection. Event: Soldier standing in the middle of an intersection Image description: Martin Luther King, Jr., is assassinated in Memphis. Massive civil unrest follows in Washington, D.C., and other U.S. cities. U.S. presidential Robert F. Kennedy is assassinated on the campaign trail. Event: President Nixon is in a parade Image description: Richard M. Nixon is elected U.S. president.

 

Year: 1969 Quote/headlines: “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”-Neil Armstrong, U.S. astronaut Event: Soldiers in the woods Image description: The Art Workers Coalition, an activist group, forms in New York City. U.S. forces sustain heavy losses at the Battle of “Hamburger Hill” (Đồi A Bia). Event: Neil Armstrong on the moon Image description: Hồ Chí Minh, the revolutionary leader and president of North Vietnam, dies. The United States lands the first person on the moon. Event: Newspaper reveals photos of dead bodies Image description: Investigative reporter Seymour Hersh breaks the news of the atrocities committed the year before by U.S. soldiers at Sơn Mỹ (My Lai). Event: Vietnam map Image description: U.S. troop levels at the end of 1969: 475,200 Event: Under headline Image description: U.S. President Nixon secretly orders bombings on the neutral countries of Cambodia and Laos. U.S. President Nixon announces his plan of “Vietnamization,” which is intended to shift military responsibility from U.S. troops to South Vietnamese soldiers. Event: 3 boys listening to the radio Image description: The first televised military draft lottery is held. Large demonstrations take place across the United States as part of the Moratorium to End the War in Vietnam.

 

Year: 1970 Quote/headlines: “Sooner or later the artist is implicated or devoured by politics without even trying.” —Robert Smithson, U.S. artist Event: President Nixon points to Cambodia Image description: President Nixon sends U.S. troops into neutral Cambodia. Event: Construction hats on a table Image description: Anticommunist construction workers and student Vietnam War protesters violently clash in New York City’s Hard Hat Riot. Event: Crowd running Image description: At Kent State University in Ohio, four students are killed by National Guardsmen during a protest against President Nixon’s Cambodia order. Eleven days after the Kent State shootings, two students are killed by police at Jackson State College in Mississippi. Event: (NCM) marching Image description:Tens of thousands participate in the National Chicano Moratorium March in Los Angeles. Event: Vietnam map Image description: U.S troop levels in Vietnam at the end of 1970: 334,600 Event: Under Vietnam map Image description: The “Art Strike against Racism, War, and Repression” calls for New York City museums to close for a day. Artists organize the People’s Flag Show in New York to protest flag desecration laws.

 

Year: 1971 Quote/headlines: “Pentagon Study Traces 3 Decades of Growing U. S. Involvement” —The New York Times Event: Protesters against the Vietnam war Image description: Vietnam Veterans against the War organizes a national protest in Washington, D.C. Event: Above headline Image description: A Harris public opinion poll shows that 58 percent of Americans believe the war in Vietnam is not only a mistake, but “morally wrong.” Event: New York Times Newspaper Image description: The Pentagon Papers, a U.S. Department of Defense study detailing the secret history of U.S. involvement in Vietnam, is leaked by Daniel Ellsberg. The papers are first published by The New York Times, resulting in a landmark Supreme Court decision upholding freedom of the press. Event: Vietnam map Image description: U.S. troops levels in Vietnam at the end of 1971: 156,00 Event: Pile of dead bodies Image description: U.S. Lt. William Calley is convicted for murdering 22 Vietnamese civilians at Sơn Mỹ (My Lai).

 

Year: 1972 Quotes/headlines: “The picture becomes evidence of the general human condition. It accuses nobody and everybody.” —John Berger, U.S. art critic Event: President Nixon shares drink with Chinese official Image description: President Nixon takes steps to ease tensions with China and the Soviet Union. He is the first U.S. president to visit the People’s Republic of China and signs the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT) with the Soviet Union. Event: To the right of the headline Image description: The U.S. government announces that no new draftees will be ordered to Vietnam. Event: Soldiers on Army tank Image description: North Vietnam launches the Easter Offensive, an invasion of South Vietnamese territory. Event: Airplane bombing bridge Image description: President Nixon orders the “Christmas Bombing” of North Vietnam in the hope of forcing concessions at the negotiating table. The effort is unsuccessful. Event: Vietnam map Image description: U.S. troop levels in Vietnam at the end of 1972: 24,200 Event: Below Vietnam map; to the right of Airplane bombing bridge The Watergate scandal begins when five men are found breaking into the Democratic National Committee’s headquarters at the Watergate Hotel in Washington, D.C. The investigation exposes a cover-up and abuses of power by the Nixon administration.

 

Year: 1973 Quote/headlines: “I’m not a crook.” —U.S. President Richard M. Nixon Event: Men in suits at a table Image description:The Paris Peace Accords are signed, and a general cease-fire goes into effect. Event: Above Vietnam map Image description: Congress votes to end all U.S. military action in Southeast Asia. President Nixon vetoes the bill but agrees to stop bombing in Cambodia. Event: People hold welcome signs Image description: 591 U.S. prisoners of war are released from North Vietnam Event: Vietnam map Image description: U.S. troop levels in Vietnam at the end of 1973: fewer than 250 Event: New York Times publishes picture of Daniel Ellsberg Image description: Judge Matthew Byrnes dismisses all charges against Daniel Ellsberg for releasing the Pentagon Papers to the press.

 

Year: 1974 Quote/headlines: “I have not sought this enormous responsibility, but I will not shirk it.” —U.S. President Gerald R. Ford Event: President Ford reads off paper Image description: Richard Nixon resigns, and Gerald R. Ford becomes U.S. president. Nixon receives a full pardon for any crimes committed in office. Event: Below headline; to the right of “President Ford reads off paper” Image description: The remains of 23 U.S. servicemen listed as “missing in action” are returned. Event: Document paper Image description: Nearly 210,000 U.S. draft evaders are offered amnesty by presidential proclamation. Event: Below document paper Image description: Despite a cease-fire, full-scale war resumes between North and South Vietnamese troops.