Dwight D. Eisenhower - Key Events
Dwight D. Eisenhower is inaugurated as the thirty-fourth President of the United States.
Author Ralph Ellison wins a National Book Award for his novel Invisible Man, which TIME magazine later called "the quintessential American picaresque of the 20th century.”
The Soviet Union announces the death of Josef Stalin.
All price controls officially ended by the Office of Price Stabilization.
The Department of Health, Education, and Welfare is created by joint congressional action.
Eisenhower delivers his “Chance for Peace” speech, also knowns as the “Cross of Iron” speech, to the American Society of Newspaper Editors, speaking against increased military spending.
Eisenhower signs the Submerged Lands Act, allowing states to submerge navigable lands within their borders to create waterways such as rivers.
Julius and Ethel Rosenberg are 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.
Eisenhower addresses the American public and announces an armistice in Korea.
Eisenhower proposes broadening the provisions of the Social Security Act to cover more than 10 million additional Americans.
Eisenhower signs the Refugee Relief Act of 1953, admitting 214,000 more immigrants than permitted under existing immigration quotas.
Iranians, with the backing of the CIA, overthrow the government of Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh, ensuring Mohammed Reza Shah Pahlavi's hold on power.
Secretary of Labor Martin Durkin resigns, in large part to protest the failure of the Eisenhower Administration to propose amendments to the Taft-Hartley Act.
Eisenhower appoints Earl Warren Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.
Eisenhower announces that the Soviet Union has tested a hydrogen bomb.
Eisenhower gives his “Atoms for Peace” speech to the U.N. General Assembly in New York, addressing growing international awareness of and potential peaceful uses for atomic energy.
Eisenhower sends a special message to Congress asking for changes in the Taft-Hartley labor law.
The United States and Japan sign a mutual defense agreement that provides for the gradual and partial rearmament of Japan.
The Army-McCarthy hearings begin to resolve conflict between the U.S. Army and Senator Joseph McCarthy concerning McCarthy’s pressuring of the Army to make certain appointments and McCarthy’s aggressive anticommunism; these continue for two months.
France surrenders its garrison at Dien Bien Phu to the Vietminh.
Eisenhower signs the Wiley-Dander Seaway Act, creating jointly with Canada the St. Lawrence Seaway, a canal, lock and river system which allows for water travel from the Atlantic Ocean to the Great Lakes along the St. Lawrence river.
Brown v. Topeka Board of Education The Supreme Court announces a decision in Brown v. Topeka Board of Education, ruling that racial segregation in public schools is unconstitutional.
A CIA-sponsored coup in Guatemala overthrows the government of Jacobo Arbenz Guzman.
The first “White Citizens Council” is organized in Indianola, Mississippi to oppose the integration of schools and other public spaces and to promote white supremacy.
The Geneva Agreements of 1954, or the Geneva Accords, are signed, withdrawing French troops from the region and establishing a cease-fire and partition of Vietnam, ending the First Indochina War. The United States refuses to sign.
The United States and seven other nations sign the SEATO (South East Asian Treaty Organization) Pact aimed at preventing communism in South East Asia.
The Democratic Party narrowly regains control of both houses of Congress.
The United States signs a mutual defense pact with Taiwan.
The Senate votes to censure Senator Joseph McCarthy (R-WI).
Chinese Communist Air Force raid the Chinese nationalist-controlled Tachen Islands and seize Ichiang Island.
The first filming of a presidential press conference.
Eisenhower meets with Secretary of State John Dulles and Secretary of Defense Charles Wilson to discuss a resolution that would authorize the U.S. defense of Taiwan and the Pescadores. Congress approves the resolution on January 28.
Eisenhower announces that the United States would use atomic weapons in the event of war with Communist China.
Roy Wilkins becomes Executive Secretary of the NAACP, succeeding Walter White.
hastens integration In Brown II, the Supreme Court orders schools integrated “with all deliberate speed.”
Eisenhower tells congressional leaders that the Geneva Conference will not be another Yalta, a conference surrounded by controversy.
The Geneva Conference opens, attended by the heads of state of Britain, France, the U.S.S.R, and the United States.
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.
Eisenhower makes his “open skies” proposal at Geneva, calling for the Unites States and the Soviet Union to share maps indicating locations of military installments. Though this particular proposal is not accepted, it lays the foundation for Reagan’s future “trust, but verify” policy.
Plans for the first artificial satellites, scheduled to be launched in 1957, are announced by the United States.
Fourteen-year old black boy Emmett Till is kidnapped and brutally murdered in Money, Mississippi. After a local white woman, Carolyn Bryant, accuses Till of having whistled at her in a grocery store, Till is kidnapped by Bryant’s husband Roy and Roy’s half-brother J.W. Milam. Till’s mutilated body was found in the Tallahatchie river three days later. His open casket funeral, of which photos appear in popular publications The Chicago Defender and Jet, challenged public complacency with racially motivated violence.
Eisenhower suffers a “moderate” heart attack in Denver, Colorado.
The Supreme Court orders Autherine Lucy admitted to the University of Alabama.
Adlai Stevenson announces that he will run for President in 1956.
The Interstate Commerce Commission bans racial segregation on interstate trains and buses.
Civil Rights activist Rosa Parks, at 42, is arrested in Montgomery, Alabama, for refusing to give up her seat to a white passenger in compliance with segregation laws. Her actions and subsequent arrest spark a bus boycott in Montgomery which lasts for more than a year.
The merger of the American Federation of Labor (AFL) and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) is ratified.
Eisenhower tries to persuade Richard Nixon to take a cabinet post and not stand for re-election in 1956 as vice president.
African American student Autherine Lucy is admitted to the University of Alabama following a court order.
Eisenhower releases $1 billion worth of Uranium-235 for peaceful atomic purposes.
Eisenhower announces that he will run for a second term as President.
Nineteen white senators and eighty-one white representatives sign the “Southern Manifesto,” promising to use “all lawful means” to resist racial integration and to reverse the Brown desegregation decisions.
Eisenhower again urges Nixon to take a cabinet post.
Eisenhower announces that Nixon will be his running mate in 1956.
Eisenhower approves U-2 spy flights over the Soviet Union.
After a successful year of bus boycotts against segregation in Montgomery, Alabama, a three-judge district court rules in Browder v. Gayle that bus segregation in Montgomery is unconstitutional.
Eisenhower signs the Federal Aid Highway Act, providing federal funding for the construction of a system of interstate highways for transportation and national defense.
Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser nationalizes the Suez Canal.
The recently discovered Salk Polio Vaccine is sold on the open market.
Eisenhower signs the Social Security Act 1956, permitting women to retire at age sixty-two and disabled workers at age fifty.
The Democratic National Convention nominates Adlai Stevenson for President.
Eisenhower attends the Republican National Convention and accepts nomination as the party's candidate for President.
Eisenhower appoints William J. Brennan to the Supreme Court.
The Hungarian Revolution, or Hungarian Uprising of 1956, begins as a nationwide revolt against the Soviet policies of the communist Hungarian People's Republic. It lasts until November 10 of the same year.
Israel, Britain, and France attack Egypt; Eisenhower condemns the attack.
The Soviet Union crushes the Hungarian Revolution via armed intervention.
A cease-fire is established in Egypt.
Eisenhower defeats Stevenson by nine million votes to win a second term. Congress remains in the hands of the Democratic Party.
Supreme Court holds up Browder v. Gayle, deeming segregated bus travel unconstitutional.
The Montgomery Bus Boycott successfully comes to an end.
Eisenhower proposes the “Eisenhower Doctrine” regarding defense of the Middle East.
Elvis Presley makes his third appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show; concern that his gyrating dance style is too lewd leads network executives to show him only from the waist up.
Eisenhower is inaugurated for a second term as President.
The civil rights organization known as the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) is organized in New Orleans. Martin Luther King, Jr., is elected president of the organization.
Congress sanctions the “Eisenhower Doctrine.”
John F. Kennedy wins a Pulitzer Prize for his book Profiles in Courage.
Secretary of the Treasury George Humphrey resigns; Eisenhower selects Robert B. Anderson as his replacement.
The Surgeon General reports that scientific research has established a link between cigarette smoking and lung cancer.
Senator Strom Thurmond (D-SC) filibusters against pending civil rights legislation for a record twenty-four hours, twenty-seven minutes.
Eisenhower signs the Civil Rights Act of 1957, mainly a voting rights legislation, which was the first civil rights bill since Reconstruction.
Eisenhower orders federal troops to Little Rock, Arkansas, to end white supremacist violence and protest against the desegregation of local schools.
The Soviet Union launches Sputnik, heightening American anxieties and increasing American desires to get ahead in the “space race.”
Eisenhower suffers a vascular spasm.
Eisenhower asks Congress for federal aid for education.
Eisenhower signs legislation he hopes will stimulate housing construction and help combat a developing economic recession.
Eisenhower recommends the formation of a civilian agency to direct space exploration.
Vice President Nixon embarks on an eighteen-day tour of Latin America.
Eisenhower orders 1,000 troops from Caribbean bases to rescue Nixon, if necessary, after the Vice President was threatened on his tour of Latin America.
Eisenhower doubles the strength of the Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean.
Eisenhower finally meets with civil rights leaders Martin Luther King, Roy Wilkins, A. Philip Randolph, and Lester Granger, who have been critical of Eisenhower’s slow pace of progress and lack of strong support for Civil Rights legislation.
Eisenhower signs a bill making Alaska the forty-ninth state.
Eisenhower orders the U.S. Marines into Lebanon.
The People's Republic of China resumes the shelling of Nationalist Chinese islands Quemoy and Matsu.
Eisenhower signs the National Defense Education Act, which increased funding to improve schools and to promote secondary education.
Eisenhower accepts the resignation of Sherman Adams, his Chief of Staff, after Adams is found to have accepted improper gifts from businessmen.
Eisenhower orders the withdrawal of the last U.S. Marines from Lebanon.
Fidel Castro's revolutionaries overthrow Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista.
Eisenhower signs a bill admitting Hawaii as the fiftieth state.
Eisenhower asks Nikita Khrushchev for a partial nuclear test ban agreement.
Secretary of State John Foster Dulles resigns because of illness; he dies on May 24.
Eisenhower names Christian Herter Secretary of State.
Eisenhower, with Queen Elizabeth, dedicates the St. Lawrence Seaway.
Eisenhower refuses to seek a Taft-Hartley injunction to end the steelworkers strike.
Nixon and Khrushchev have their “kitchen debate” in Moscow, where the two enter an impromptu debate on communism versus capitalism in the middle of a model kitchen set up for the American National Exhibition being held in Moscow.
Eisenhower signs the Landrum-Griffin Act, legislation meant to combat growing corruption in labor organizations.
Khrushchev visits the United States and meets with Eisenhower at Camp David on September 25 and 26.
Eisenhower invokes a Taft-Hartley injunction in the dockworkers strike.
Eisenhower invokes a Taft-Hartley injunction in the steelworkers strike.
Senator John F. Kennedy announces his candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination.
The Steelworkers strike ends with a settlement.
Vice President Nixon announces his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination.
Eisenhower declares his support for Nixon.
Civil rights sit-ins begin in Greensboro, North Carolina, at the local Woolworth department store lunch counter. Protestors, resisting taunts and violence from disgruntled patrons, quietly sat side by side, black and white, in a show of support for desegregation. These peaceful protests led the Woolworth department store chain to desegregate its stores.
Eisenhower authorizes the CIA to begin training exiles to invade Cuba.
The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), an initially student-led civil rights group born out of the sit-in demonstrations, organizes in Raleigh, North Carolina.
The Soviet Union announces that is has shot down an American U-2 spy plane.
American 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.
Eisenhower signs the Civil Rights Act of 1960; like the Civil Rights Act of 1957, this act mainly concerns voting rights.
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.
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.
Kennedy receives the Democratic presidential nomination.
Nixon receives the Republican presidential nomination.
Eisenhower asks the Soviet Union to stop supporting Patrice Lumumba in the Congo.
John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon hold the first televised presidential debate.
Kennedy defeats Nixon in the presidential election.
Eisenhower severs diplomatic relations with Cuba.
Eisenhower's farewell address warns the nation of the growing power of the American “military industrial complex.”
Eisenhower leaves Washington for his Gettysburg farm.