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Cold War Events (1956 - 1961)


Cold War Events (1956 - 1961): Key Cold War Events covering the Secret Speech, the Hungarian Revolution, U-2 Incident, Bay of Pigs Invasion, Cuban Missile Crisis, the Berlin Wall and the Checkpoint Charlie Incident.

The Cold War Presidents
There were nine Cold War Presidents between 1945 - 1991. The names of the Cold War Presidents were Harry Truman, Dwight D Eisenhower, John F Kennedy, Lyndon B Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan and George H Bush. Many of the Cold War presidents used the Policy of Containment to resolve serious, diplomatic incidents involving the Communist countries.

Definition of the Suez Crisis (1956)
President Eisenhower’s goal in the Middle East was to prevent Arab nations from aligning with the Soviets. To further this goal, and in line with the US policy of containment, the United States offered Egypt financial support for the construction of a dam on the River Nile. The deal collapsed when it emerged that Egypt had purchased weapons from Communist Czechoslovakia. On July 26, 1956, Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser announced the nationalization of the Anglo-French Suez Canal Company and Egyptian troops seized control of the Suez Canal. Nasser and the Egyptians intended to use the profits from the Suez Canal to pay for the new dam on the River Nile. British and French troops responded by invading Egypt. The Soviet Union intervened by offering to send troops to help Egypt and threatening rocket attacks on France and Britain. The United States immediately went on to nuclear alert and to avoid war pressurized France and Britain to call off the invasion. By offering their support the Soviets had gained a foothold in Egypt and soon other Arab nations in the Middle East also began accepting Soviet aid.

Definition of the Eisenhower Doctrine
The Eisenhower Doctrine was presented to Congress on January 15,1957 in response to the Suez Crisis. Inline with the policy of containment,  the  Eisenhower Doctrine asserted that countries in the Middle East could request U.S. military aid or economic assistance if it was under threat by armed aggression and communism. The Soviet threat of communist expansion was singled out in the doctrine, as was the threat to the US supply of oil.

Definition of the Secret Speech (1956)
Summary and Definition: The "Secret Speech" was an address given to a a closed session of the Soviet Congress by Nikita Khrushchev on February 25, 1956 in which he denounced the tyranny, brutality and “abuse of power” perpetrated by the Soviet government under Joseph Stalin. The "secret speech" was subsequently read to groups of party activists and “closed” local party meetings and contributed to the revolts that occurred later that year in Hungary and Poland. The "Secret Speech" was not made officially public until 1989.

Definition of the Hungarian Revolution (1956)
Summary and Definition: The Soviet Red Army had invaded Hungary in September 1944. Hungary’s communists were led by Matyas Rakosi, followed by Erno Gero, adopted a hard-line Stalinist rule destroying all political opponents with oppression and violence. Joseph Stalin died on October 16, 1952 and the dictator's death, and the change of leadership in the USSR, brought people in many Eastern European countries the hope of freedom. The Hungarian Revolution began on October 23, 1956 when students in Budapest staged a demonstration after drawing up a list of 16 reforms and the demand for a new government. The peaceful demonstration turned into the Hungarian Revolution as workers, students and soldiers in Hungary attacked the secret police and Russian soldiers, and smashed a statue of Joseph Stalin. There was freedom in Hungary for just five days, until November 4, 1956. The Hungarian revolution ended as 1,000 Russian tanks rolled into Budapest.

Definition of the U-2 Incident (1960)
Summary and Definition of the U-2 Incident: The U-2 spy plane, designed by Kelly Johnson in 1954, was high altitude reconnaissance aircraft, essentially a glider with a jet engine. The U-2 spy plane was so light it could fly at an altitude of 70,000 feet and travel distances over 4,000 miles. The U2 incident involved an American U2 spy plane that was shot down over Russia on May 1, 1960. The USA at first claimed that it was an off-course weather plane, but the Americans were forced to admit it was a spy plane when the Russians revealed that much of the plane had survived and produced the American pilot, Gary Powers. The U-2 incident occurred 13 days before an important scheduled summit meeting between the US and the USSR to discuss the problem of Berlin and the Test Ban Treaty. Soviet President Khrushchev demanded an apology from President Eisenhower at the summit. When Eisenhower refused, Khrushchev went home, and the summit collapsed bringing the two nations to the brink of a nuclear war.

Definition of the Bay of Pigs Invasion (1961)
Summary and Definition: The Bay of Pigs invasion occurred on April 17, 1961 when 1400, CIA-backed Cuban exiles, launched a botched invasion at a beach on the south coast of Cuba called the Bay of Pigs. The purpose of the CIA funded invasion  was to overthrow Fidel Castro and establish a non-communist government friendly to the United States. The CIA funded, armed, trained and transported 1,400 men to invade Cuba at the Bay of Pigs. The Bay of Pigs invasion was a disaster, 1200 of the invasion force were captured and President Kennedy was humiliated and had to negotiate a deal with Castro to release the prisoners. The Bay of Pigs invasion led to the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Definition of the Cuban Missile Crisis (1962)
Summary and Definition: The Cuban Missile Crisis (October 14, 1962 – October 28, 1962) was a major Cold War confrontation between the United States and the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union began to install nuclear missiles in Cuba and an American U-2 spy plane captured photographs of them. JFK decided on a naval blockade, effectively placing Cuba under "quarantine". Khrushchev warned that the Soviets would see the naval blockade as an act of war. Khrushchev and Kennedy  came to an agreement, the Cuban Missile Crisis was over and a nuclear war was avoided.

Definition of the Berlin Wall (1961)
Summary and Definition: The Berlin Wall was the fortified barrier erected by the East German government in August 1961 to halt the exodus of East Germans fleeing Communist rule. On the night of August 12, 1961, the borders between East and West Berlin were closed, along with all the rail stations. Thousands of East German soldiers guarded the border while workers began constructing barbed wire fences. The Berlin Wall completely surrounded West Berlin, which was bordered by East German territory on all sides. Concrete walls were added to the barbed wire fences and guard towers were erected at strategic points. The west side of the Berlin wall was covered in graffiti, the East side was not. Between 1961 and 1989, the Berlin Wall prevented almost all movement between the East and the West of the city. The Berlin Wall divided East and West Berlin from 1961 to 1989 and was a symbol of Cold War division until the
Fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.

Definition of the Checkpoint Charlie Incident (1961)
Summary and Definition: Checkpoint Charlie was the name given to the US-manned gateway on the border of East and West Berlin. The Checkpoint Charlie incident involved a standoff between U.S. and Soviet tanks at the gateway. Soon after the construction of the Berlin Wall, the Checkpoint Charlie incident began on October 22, 1961 over a dispute as to whether East German guards were authorized to examine the travel documents of a U.S. diplomat named Allan Lightner, the US Chief of Mission in West Berlin, who was passing through to East Berlin to see the opera. By October 27, 1961 the incident had escalated into a standoff as 10 Soviet tanks and an equal number of American tanks that stood 100 yards apart on either side of Checkpoint Charlie. Leaders on both sides were concerned that, in all the tension, a nervous soldier would fire his weapon and start a shoot-out. The standoff ended peacefully on October 28, 1961 as both sides agreed to withdraw their tanks.

JFK Assassination
Summary and Definition of the JFK Assassination: President Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas, on November 22, 1963.

US American History
1945-1993: Cold War Era

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