The 1950s Timeline
How It All Went Down
Dwight David Eisenhower is born in Denison, Texas. While he's still an infant, his family moves to Abilene, Kansas, where he will grow up.
West Point Graduation
Eisenhower graduates from the United States Military Academy at West Point. He's not sure he wants to pursue a military career.
Marriage to Mamie Eisenhower
Eisenhower marries Mamie (really Mary) Geneva Doud, daughter of a well-to-do Denver family.
Death of Son
The Eisenhower's first son Doud Dwight, known as Icky, dies of scarlet fever at age three.
North Africa Campaign
Now a general, Eisenhower commands the invasion of North Africa by Allied Forces during World War II. His important duties include planning the logistics of the enormous operation and dealing with the strong personalities of combat generals like George Patton.
As Supreme Allied Commander, Eisenhower directs the D-Day invasion of Normandy. He will help lead the Allies to victory over Germany the following May.
President of Columbia University
Eisenhower retires from the military and takes a job as president of Columbia University in New York, where he will write his memoirs.
NATO Supreme Commander
Eisenhower takes over as the top commander of NATO, the military alliance of America and the nations of Western Europe. He gains a first-hand view of the tense confrontation between the western democracies and the Soviet empire.
Eniwetok H-Bomb Test
The US sets off its first hydrogen bomb on the South Pacific island of Eniwetok. The blast is even larger than expected, enough to destroy an entire city. Possession of such a lethal weapon vastly increases the dangers of any nuclear confrontation.
Election of 1952
Running as a Republican, Eisenhower defeats Democrat Adlai E. Stevenson and is elected president. He is the first professional soldier to take the office since Ulysses S. Grant in 1869. On the same day, the Republicans ride Ike's coattails to win control of both houses of Congress by narrow margins.
Eisenhower is sworn in as the 34th president. "Forces of good and evil are massed and armed and opposed as rarely before in history," he says in his inaugural address.3
Death of Stalin
Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin dies from a cerebral hemorrhage at age 73. A battle for succession among Kremlin insiders will last almost two years before Nikita Khrushchev emerges as the undisputed Russian leader.
Ceasefire Ends Korean War
A ceasefire is agreed to in Korea, ending the war that had started in 1950 and leaving the country divided between the Communist North and non-Communist South.
The Soviet Union sets off its first hydrogen bomb, adding to the risk of nuclear war.
Warren Nominated Chief Justice
Eisenhower names California Governor Earl Warren as chief justice of the Supreme Court. Warren's tenure will encompass some of the Court's most far-reaching decisions; as its leader, he will become the focus of controversy. Eisenhower will later regret the choice.
The nationally televised Army-McCarthy hearings begin on national television. They continue for more than a month, ending in McCarthy's disgrace.
Dien Bien Phu
French forces at Dien Bien Phu in Vietnam surrender to Vietnamese Communist/nationalist forces after a two-month siege. Eisenhower has resisted the temptation to intervene to help the French with US military force.
Brown v. Board
The Supreme Court, in a unanimous ruling known as Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, rules that segregated schools are illegal and that authorities must move at "all deliberate speed" to integrate them.
St. Lawrence Seaway
Work begins on the St. Lawrence Seaway, a joint U.S.-Canadian venture that will allow oceangoing ships to reach the heart of the American continent via the Great Lakes.
The show "Disneyland" premiers on television to promote the amusement park set to open in Anaheim, California in the summer of 1955.
Crisis Over Taiwan
The Senate passes a controversial resolution allowing the president to use the armed forces to defend Formosa (Taiwan) and nearby islands, territories disputed by the governments of Communist mainland China and the nationalist Chinese on Taiwan.
A study showing the Salk polio vaccine to be effective is released. Mass inoculations will follow and the disease, which has been a serious threat for generations, will virtually disappear.
The first summit conference between Soviet and American leaders, along with those of France and Great Britain, begins in Geneva, Switzerland. No important agreements are forged, but the meeting eases some Cold War tensions.
Eisenhower signs the Minimum Wage Act, raising the minimum wage from $.75 to $1.00 per hour.
While vacationing in Colorado, Eisenhower plays 27 holes of golf and eats a hamburger with raw onion. That night he suffers a heart attack. He will remain in the hospital until November 11.
Rosa Parks Arrested
In Montgomery, Alabama, the black seamstress Rosa Parks refuses to give up her seat on a city bus to a white man and is arrested. The ensuing boycott, coordinated by a young Reverend Martin Luther King Jr., will mark an important turning point in the African American freedom struggle.
Khrushchev Denounces Stalin
Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev denounces the policies and methods of former Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin. The move encourages the people of Eastern Europe, who are hoping for an easing of Soviet repression.
Eisenhower falls ill with an inflammation of the small intestine. He undergoes surgery the next day.
Interstate Highway System
Eisenhower signs the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956, which will create the Interstate Highway system, one of the biggest public works projects in US history.
Uprising in Hungary
A revolt against Soviet domination begins in Hungary and soon spreads throughout the country.
Soviets Crush Hungarian Revolt
Soviet tanks and troops pour into Hungary to suppress the uprising. More than 40,000 Hungarians will die in the fighting.
Eisenhower is elected to a second term as president.
Soviets Test ICBM
Officials of the Soviet Union announced that they have launched the first intercontinental ballistic missile. The Americans will have such a weapon of their own ready for launch four months later.
Little Rock Desegregation
Eisenhower sends federal troops to Little Rock, Arkansas, to enforce the court-ordered desegregation of the city's public schools. As a result, nine black students are allowed to attend classes at Little Rock Central High School.
The Soviets launch Sputnik, the first manmade satellite. The achievement shocks Americans, who begin to fear that the Russians are pulling ahead in technology.
First Nuclear Power Plant
The first full-scale nuclear power plant begins operation in Shippingport, Pennsylvania, supplying electricity to Pittsburgh.
US Launches Satellite
The U.S. launches its first satellite, Explorer I, marking U.S. entry into the "space race" with the Russians.
Intervention in Lebanon
Eisenhower orders 14,000 U.S. Marines into Lebanon to support the Christian government against Muslim rebels.
Transatlantic Air Travel Begins
The British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC) begins the first regular jet airline service across the Atlantic Ocean.
Castro Leads Cuban Revolution
In Cuba, rebel Fidel Castro leads a group of guerilla fighters into Havana, overthrowing the regime of pro-American dictator Fulgencio Batista.
American Vice President Richard Nixon and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev debate the merits of capitalism versus communism during Nixon's visit to the Soviet Union. The talk takes place beside a model kitchen at a trade exhibition and becomes known as "the kitchen debate." The confrontation boosts Nixon's status in the US.
Soviets Land Spacecraft on the Moon
The Soviets reach the moon with an unmanned spacecraft, spurring Americans' fears that the Russians are leading in the so-called "space race."
Khrushchev Tours America
Khrushchev arrives in the United States for a twelve-day trip. He travels across the country and holds talks with Eisenhower, easing US-Soviet hostilities.
Lunch Counter Sit-Ins
Sit-in demonstrations begin in Charlotte, North Carolina as black students protest segregation at a Woolworth's lunch counter. The movement spreads across the South in the weeks that follow.
U-2 Shot Down
An American U-2 spy plane is shot down over the Soviet Union. Pilot Gary Powers survives the crash and admits spying. The incident sours U.S.-Soviet relations and dooms the Paris summit conference later in the month.
Birth Control Pill Debuts
The Federal Drug Administration approves sales of the first contraceptive pill, called Enovid.
JFK Defeats Nixon to Win Presidency
John F. Kennedy becomes the youngest elected president. Eisenhower is disappointed by Kennedy's defeat of his former running mate Richard Nixon in a close election.
Break With Cuba
The United States breaks diplomatic relations with Cuba over Prime Minister Fidel Castro's alliance with the Soviets.
Eisenhower Presidency Ends
John F. Kennedy is inaugurated as President of the United States.
Bay of Pigs
A force of 1,500 Cuban exiles, trained and financed by the United States, lands at the Bay of Pigs in Cuba in an attempt to overthrow the Castro regime. The operation, initiated and planned during the Eisenhower administration but launched under Kennedy, is a fiasco that badly damages US prestige.
Death of Eisenhower
Dwight D. Eisenhower dies of congestive heart failure at age 78.