With World War II over, there was a new war in the news. The Cold War was a driving force behind many events of the ’50s and ’60s. The many nuclear tests and the ubiquitous duck and cover drills, and the strategic moves from the USSR left little doubt that we were still fighting, but in a different way.
1955 Operation Teapot
A-bomb testing (Operation Teapot) in Nevada makes big news over the course of the 14 nuclear bomb tests and Russia calls for new restrictions on nuclear weapons. Newspapers across the country report on the harmless fallout from the tests and the many photos of the bombs in action become synonymous with American ingenuity and safety.
1956 Suez Crisis
President Nasser of Egypt claims the Suez Canal and its revenue for Egypt, leaving the investing nations in the cold and prompted military action by France, Britain, and Israel. The Suez Crisis marked the first time that UN peacekeeping forces were deployed.
The Soviet space satellite, Sputnik 1, is launched and, despite having no sensors on board, did provide scientists with information about the atmosphere and the earth’s rotation. The launch of Sputnik 1 marked the beginning of the Space Race between the U.S. and the USSR and heralded a new age of technological advances.
NASA is formed in 1958, which is the same year that Explorer 1 is launched. The first U.S. satellite was equipped with radiation-measuring sensors and made just over 12 orbits of Earth per day.
1959 Fidel Castro
After a lengthy overthrow process, Fidel Castro assumed power in Cuba. As the new prime minister and controversial public figure, Castro made headlines around the world with his grand speeches and Communist ideals.
1960 Woolworth’s Lunch Counter
Though Brown v. Board of Education had been ruled on 6 years earlier, there had been few changes to the deep-seated segregation in the South. In February of 1960, a group of four young men sat and the Woolworth’s lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina. They were refused service because they were not white, but were not asked to leave. Their non-violent protest meant that they were permitted to stay seated at the counter which gave the press plenty of time to cover this historic event. In the next two months, the concept of civil rights sit-ins had spread to 55 cities across the U.S. beginning a movement which would rock the status quo for many years.
1961 Bay of Pigs
One of the biggest headlines was, of course, the inauguration of John F. Kennedy as president in January of 1961. One of the first crises Kennedy had to deal with the the Bay of Pigs invasion. When U.S.-directed forces failed to seize control of the problematic Communist Cuba, the troubled relationship between the two nations became even more turbulent.
1962 Cuban Missile Crisis
As a response the Bay of Pigs Invasion, the Russians placed nuclear missiles in Cuba to help ease the encroachment of U.S. forces. The panic felt across the U.S. was palpable during the 13 days that weapons were aimed at us and we had weapons aimed at the USSR and Cuba, with no one quite sure if it would end in war. The blockade that President Kennedy put in place to stop more weapons from getting into Cuba has remained in place. Check out the video below of the presidential address given on October 22, 1962.
1963 JFK Assassination
On the fateful day of November 22, 1963, President Kennedy was shot in the Dealey Plaza in Dallas, TX, from his motorcade. The nation was stunned and full of loss. Every adult and teen remembers where they were when they heard the sad news that day. Lyndon B. Johnson was sworn in on Air Force One on the tarmac of Love Field in Dallas. Click here to watch the first-hand account of the photographer who took the famous photo below.
1964 Tonkin Gulf Resolution
Though we had been involved in the conflict in Vietnam since 1954, the Tonkin Gulf Resolution escalated our military actions considerably, marked a new period of increased numbers of troops sent overseas to fight. Anti-war sentiments became more common after President Johnson enacted this legislative work-around.