Miller Center

Presidential Key Events

Dwight Eisenhower

 

Page 2 of 2 pages  < 1 2

Dwight D. Eisenhower - 04/25/1959: Eisenhower, with Queen Elizabeth, dedicates the St…
Eisenhower, with Queen Elizabeth, dedicates the St. Lawrence Seaway. April 25, 1959

Dwight D. Eisenhower - 07/15/1959: Eisenhower refuses to seek a Taft-Hartley injuncti…
Eisenhower refuses to seek a Taft-Hartley injunction to end the steelworkers strike. July 15, 1959

Dwight D. Eisenhower - 07/24/1959: Nixon and Khrushchev have their “kitchen debate” i…
Nixon and Khrushchev have their “kitchen debate” in Moscow. July 24, 1959

Dwight D. Eisenhower - 09/14/1959: Eisenhower signs the Landrum-Griffin Act, legislat…
Eisenhower signs the Landrum-Griffin Act, legislation meant to combat growing corruption in labor organizations. September 14, 1959

Dwight D. Eisenhower - 09/27/1959: Khrushchev visits the United States and meets with…
Khrushchev visits the United States and meets with Eisenhower at Camp David on September 25 and 26. September 27, 1959

Dwight D. Eisenhower - 10/06/1959: Eisenhower invokes a Taft-Hartley injunction in th…
Eisenhower invokes a Taft-Hartley injunction in the dockworkers strike. October 06, 1959

Dwight D. Eisenhower - 10/19/1959: Eisenhower invokes a Taft-Hartley injunction in th…
Eisenhower invokes a Taft-Hartley injunction in the steelworkers strike. October 19, 1959

Dwight D. Eisenhower - 01/02/1960: Senator John F. Kennedy announces his candidacy fo…
Senator John F. Kennedy announces his candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination. January 02, 1960

Dwight D. Eisenhower - 01/04/1960: The Steelworkers strike ends with a sett…
The Steelworkers strike ends with a settlement. January 04, 1960

Dwight D. Eisenhower - 01/09/1960: Vice President Nixon announces his candidacy for t…
Vice President Nixon announces his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination. January 09, 1960

Dwight D. Eisenhower - 01/13/1960: Eisenhower declares his support for Nixo…
Eisenhower declares his support for Nixon. January 13, 1960

Dwight D. Eisenhower - 02/01/1960: Civil rights sit-ins begin in Greensboro, North Ca…
Civil rights sit-ins begin in Greensboro, North Carolina. February 01, 1960

Dwight D. Eisenhower - 03/17/1960: Eisenhower authorizes the CIA to begin training ex…
Eisenhower authorizes the CIA to begin training exiles to invade Cuba. March 17, 1960

Dwight D. Eisenhower - 04/17/1960: The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Comm…
The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), a civil rights group born out of the sit-in demonstrations, organizes in Raleigh, North Carolina. April 17, 1960

Dwight D. Eisenhower - 05/05/1960: The Soviet Union announces that is has shot down a…
The Soviet Union announces that is has shot down an American U-2 spy plane. May 05, 1960

Dwight D. Eisenhower - 05/06/1960: Eisenhower signs the Civil Rights Act of…
Eisenhower signs the Civil Rights Act of 1960. May 06, 1960

Dwight D. Eisenhower - 05/07/1960: Eisenhower acknowledges that the United States has…
Eisenhower acknowledges that the United States has been conducting U-2 spy flights over the Soviet Union. Khrushchev announces that Francis Gary Powers, a downed U-2 pilot, has admitted to spying on the Soviet Union. May 07, 1960

Dwight D. Eisenhower - 05/16/1960: The Paris Summit between the Soviet Union and the …
The Paris Summit between the Soviet Union and the United States ends when Eisenhower refuses to apologize for the U-2 flights and Khrushchev refuses to meet with the President. May 16, 1960

Dwight D. Eisenhower - 07/13/1960: Kennedy receives the Democratic presidential nomin…
Kennedy receives the Democratic presidential nomination. July 13, 1960

Dwight D. Eisenhower - 07/27/1960: Nixon receives the Republican presidential nominat…
Nixon receives the Republican presidential nomination. July 27, 1960

Dwight D. Eisenhower - 09/07/1960: Eisenhower asks the Soviet Union to stop supportin…
Eisenhower asks the Soviet Union to stop supporting Patrice Lumumba in the Congo. September 07, 1960

Dwight D. Eisenhower - 09/26/1960: John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon hold the first t…
John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon hold the first televised presidential debate. September 26, 1960

Dwight D. Eisenhower - 11/08/1960: Kennedy defeats Nixon in the presidential election…
Kennedy defeats Nixon in the presidential election. November 08, 1960

Dwight D. Eisenhower - 01/03/1961: Eisenhower severs diplomatic relations with Cuba. …
Eisenhower severs diplomatic relations with Cuba. January 03, 1961

Dwight D. Eisenhower - 01/17/1961: Eisenhower’s farewell address warns the nation of …
Eisenhower's farewell address warns the nation of the growing power of the American “military industrial complex.” January 17, 1961

Dwight D. Eisenhower - 01/20/1961: Eisenhower leaves Washington for his Gettysburg fa…
Eisenhower leaves Washington for his Gettysburg farm. January 20, 1961

Dwight D. Eisenhower - U-2 Plane Shot Down

On May 1, 1960, the Soviet Union shot down an American U-2 reconnaissance plane. The pilot Francis Gary Powers ejected from the plane and survived. The Soviets quickly took Powers prisoner and recovered the remains of the U-2 plane. Hoping to embarrass the United States, the Soviets kept the capture of Powers secret only announcing that an American plane had been shot down.

The administration of President Dwight D. Eisenhower hoped to avoid a conflict with the Soviet Union over the U-2 incident because the long-anticipated Paris conference between the United States, France, Britain, and the Soviet Union to discuss possible arms control agreements was scheduled to begin in mid-May. Rather than revealing that the United States had been flying U-2s over the Soviet Union since 1956 when Eisenhower had authorized the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to being top-secret intelligence flights over the Soviet Union, the State Department and the White House issued a series of cover stories, including one that a weather plane had been lost. The Kremlin exposed these cover stories as lies. On May 7, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev scored a diplomatic victory when he revealed that the Soviets had the plane, its pilot, and proof that the United States had been spying on the Soviet Union. This announcement seriously challenged the credibility of the administration with both its allies and the American public.

Eisenhower now had to make a choice. He could refrain from commenting on the incident, but this would encourage rumors that he had not authorized the mission thereby weakening his political position. His other option was to take responsibility for the flights and attempt to defend his actions. On May 11, only days before the summit meetings in Paris, Eisenhower took this latter route. He announced that he had approved the flights, and he emphasized their importance to avoid “another Pearl Harbor.” These U-2 flights were, the President concluded, “a distasteful but vital necessity.”

Despite the U.S. admission, the President still hoped that the summit could lead to some agreement between the Soviets and the Western powers. Khrushchev, however, remained angry about the U-2 incident. Under pressure from hard-liners in Moscow, the Soviet Premier insisted that Eisenhower end the program of U-2 flights, apologize for previous flights, and punish those responsible for the espionage. Eisenhower stated that he would halt future flights, but refused to bend to any other demands. Khrushchev stormed out of the conference, effectively ending it. The U-2 incident ended the détente in the Cold War that Eisenhower had cultivated during much of his administration.

May 01, 1960

Dwight D. Eisenhower - Rosenbergs Executed

On June 19, 1953, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were executed shortly before sundown after being convicted of conspiracy to commit espionage. President Dwight Eisenhower refused to grant the Rosenbergs clemency. The Rosenberg case took place during a period of anti-Communist fervor in the United States; the Cold War had begun between the United States and the Soviet Union, and Senator Joseph McCarthy was holding hearings in the U.S. Senate to oust Communists who he believed had infiltrated the U.S. government.

Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were both born and raised in New York City and were members of the American Communist Party during the 1940s. In April 1951, they were convicted of passing information about the atomic bomb to the Soviet Union and sentenced to death. Their execution was postponed as they filed for appeal. In February 1952, the U.S. Court of Appeals upheld their conviction. When the Supreme Court refused to hear their case, they petitioned President Harry Truman for clemency. Truman denied their petition, leading to numerous protests and countless telegrams and letters from around the world. Many claimed that the Rosenbergs were innocent, that they had not received a fair trial, or at the very least, they did not deserve to be punished by death.

When Dwight Eisenhower took office in January 1953, the fate of the Rosenbergs was still undecided. That spring, the Supreme Court again declined to hear the case. Eisenhower, with advice from his attorney general, refused to grant the couple clemency unless they admitted their guilt and implicated others. As he explained in his statement to the press, he felt the Rosenbergs had “received the benefit of every safeguard which American justice can provide.” Eisenhower did not take the Rosenbergs' punishment lightly, but considering that there were “millions of dead whose deaths may be attributable to what these spies have done,” he felt the punishment was appropriate. Protests ensued around the world to spare the couple, but to no avail.

There is still some debate about the Rosenberg case. Based on previously classified documents, most historians are convinced that at least Julius Rosenberg was a spy for the Soviet Union but there is less evidence that Ethel Rosenberg was one. Some scholars still question whether execution was appropriate punishment and argue that the couple could not have received a fair trial with the anti-Communist feeling in the United States during that time. And, given the political environment of the time, it is not surprising that Eisenhower refused to pardon the Rosenbergs.

June 19, 1953

Dwight D. Eisenhower - Geneva Convention Begins

On July 18, 1955, the leaders of the United States, the Soviet Union, Britain, and France began their meetings at a Summit Conference in Geneva, Switzerland. This was the first meeting between the “Big Four” since the end of World War II. While few tangible accomplishments emerged from this summit, the meeting inaugurated a new, less hostile phase of the Cold War.

President Dwight Eisenhower and his advisers were hesitant about meeting with the Soviet Union. The death of Stalin in 1953 had done little to diminish the animosity between the nations. Accordingly, Washington developed a test of Soviet sincerity: if the USSR would sign a long-delayed peace treaty with Austria, Eisenhower would agree to attend a conference. Even after the Soviets passed this test, however, some members of the administration, such as Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, feared the consequences of such a meeting. Dulles counseled Eisenhower to make few concessions and to avoid friendly social interactions with his Soviet counterparts. Eisenhower partially followed Dulles's advice. He made hard-line demands on the Soviets, calling for elections in Eastern Europe and the unification of Germany. Socially, however, Eisenhower was friendly when meeting with Soviet leaders. The President's approach led to feelings of good will, but little in the way of concrete agreements.

One of the major sticking points for an arms control agreement was the issue of inspection. Each side needed to confirm the removal of nuclear weapons through some type of examination. In order to bypass this impediment, Eisenhower proposed an “open skies” policy, which would allow nations to inspect military installations from the air. The Soviet representatives rejected this idea, correctly viewing the proposal as a way that the Americans could gain critical intelligence.

The “Spirit of Geneva” eased tensions between the Soviets and the United States, and Eisenhower returned home triumphant, even though the conference failed to produce agreements on arms control or other major international issues. The President had demonstrated that the United States was sincere in pursuing peace while remaining firm against the threats of the Soviet Union. According to a Gallup poll, Eisenhower's popularity reached 79 percent after the conference, the highest level of his presidency.

July 18, 1955

Page 2 of 2 pages  < 1 2