December 21, 1968 – Apollo 8 launches and becomes the first maned flight to leaves the Earth’s orbit and travel to another planet. These very brave men left home and travelled for three days to the Moon which they orbited ten times. They were the first humans to see the whole planet, as well as the far side of the moon. On Christmas Eve, they made a live television broadcast and read the first ten verses from the Book of Genesis which was, at the time, the most watched television broadcast ever. Back on Earth, the world marveled when, for the first time, we actually left our planet and were able to see it as it looks from space. The dreams of man, from the very earliest days were soon at hand.
In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.
And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.
And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.
And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.
And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.
And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so.
And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day.
And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so.
And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called the Seas: and God saw that it was good.
December 20, 1960 – Human beings have been living in Southeast Asia for a long, long time. For roughly a thousand years, the Chinese dominated the area between China and India. Then there followed several hundred years of evolution, as the borders of China and Southeast Asia were defined. Between 1859 and 1885, French Colonial Imperialism [a system whereby European powers like France could seize control of an area, its assets (a/k/a capital), and claim it as their own — forcing their government, religion and culture on the indigenous peoples] gradually eroded the power of Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos and in 1890 consolidated them into French IndoChina with its capital in Hanoi. Establishing large plantations for the export of indigo, tobacco, tea and coffee [a familiar formula in India, Africa, and the Americas] the greatest French influence centered around Saigon in South Vietnam. During WWII, the Vichy French administered the area under Japanese occupation. [When the Third Republic (1870 – 1940) surrendered to Nazi Germany in 1940, the Vichy Government (1940 -1944) were forced to conceded control to Germany’s ally Japan and exports were diverted to the Japanese war machine.] In 1941 the Viet Minh, lead by communist Ho Chi Minh, was formed to fight for independence from the French Empire. During the war they fought underground against the Japanese. After the war, the French were driven out and the Geneva Accords of 1954 split the country in two. Ho Chi Minh founded the communist Democratic Republic of Vietnam with Hanoi as its capital in the north while in the south, an anti-communist State of Vietnam was formed. In 1960, at a communist party meeting, the National Front for the Liberation of Vietnam was formed to combat the government formed in Saigon with the objective a forming a unified, communist Vietnam. Their ideology was extreme, and they would stop at nothing to win. These were not nice people.
December 19, 1972 – When the North Vietnamese walked out on the Paris Peace talks on December 13, 1972, then President Nixon told Hanoi to get back to the table “or else.” When they refused, he ordered Operation Linebacker II, a massive bombing campaign of the densely populated areas between Hanoi and the port city of Haiphong to commence on December 18. On December 19th, the Vietnamese call the acts “barbaric” and “insane” and condemnation reigned down on Nixon from around the world calling this the “Christmas Bombing” and deliberately targets civilians. Over the next 11 days, the U.S. dropped over 20,000 tons of bombs in 1700 missions. Approximately 1600 Vietnamese civilians were killed in the largest bombing attack since World War II. On December 26, the North Vietnamese indicated they were willing to return to negotiations, and on December 29, President Nixon ordered the raids stopped. The talks resumed on January 2 and The Paris Peace Accords were finally signed on January 27, 1973. By the time the bombing stopped, 43 Americans were killed with another 49 taken prisoner.
Walk softly and carry a big stick.
December 16, 1965 – General Westmoreland, Commander of U.S. troops in Vietnam, sends Defense Secretary McNamara a request for additional troops. At this point there were nearly 200,000 soldiers in Vietnam and Westmoreland states that he will need and additional 243,000 by 1966 and 600,000 by the end of 1967. His vision was never fully realized, but U.S. involvement would max at 540,000 by 1969. Most of them drafted.
Any wonder why they protested in the streets? Ever wonder what would have happened if they drafted for Iraq and Afgahnastan?
May 25, 1961 in a speach to joint Houses of Congress, JFK proposes sending a man to the moon: “I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out,
of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth. No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish… ..This decision demands a major national commitment of scientific and technical manpower, materiel and facilities, and the possibility of their diversion from other important activities where they are already thinly spread. It means a degree of dedication, organization and discipline which have not always characterized our research and development efforts.”
May 24, 1971 – In honor of Bob Dylan’s 30th birthday, Charles Schulz’s Peanuts comic strip features Linus telling Charlie Brown that Bob Dylan was turning 30. Charlie Brown replies “That’s the most depressing thing I’ve ever heard.” Born Robert Allen Zimmerman in Duluth, Minnesota in 1941, Dylan became the poet, musician and songwriter of his generation and has gone on to release more than 500 songs in his career, including such ballads as Blowin’ in the Wind, Lay, Lady Lay, and House of the Risin’ Sun. He burst upon the music scene during the folk music movement and was often associated with Joan Baez, civil rights and the anti-war protest. In a 2004 interview, he revealed that he was influenced by poetry of Dylan Thomas and explained changing his name: “You’re born, you know, the wrong names, wrong parents. I mean, that happens. You call yourself what you want to call yourself. This is the land of the free.” Perhaps the Peanuts comic strip inspired Bob Dylan to write “Forever Young” which was released a few years later in 1974. Dylan himself marks the occasion at Jerusalem’s Wailing Wall. Later he became a born-again Christian but then quietly returned to something between a devout Jew and man seeking his God.