1973-1980 Limits: The Can't-Do Mentality

In the '70s, doubts began to darken the nation's psyche

The quintessential image of World War II was the flag raising at Iwo Jima. For Vietnam, it was a helicopter scrambling off the U.S. embassy roof in Saigon. Apocalypse Then: the chaotic endgame of the Vietnam War fatally charged the atmosphere of the 1970s, a decade in which America discovered limits to its power and wealth. For a nation long accustomed to expansion--material, geographic and psychological--this was something new and unwelcome. Only the Great Depression--an apt name--had presented a comparable challenge to national optimism, and that was followed by the reassuring wartime victory and postwar boom. In the '70s that boom...

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