Study Guide

The 1950s Timeline

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Oct 14, 1890

Ike Born

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.

Sep 1, 1915

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.

Jul 1, 1916

Marriage to Mamie Eisenhower

Eisenhower marries Mamie (really Mary) Geneva Doud, daughter of a well-to-do Denver family.

Jan 2, 1921

Death of Son

The Eisenhower's first son Doud Dwight, known as Icky, dies of scarlet fever at age three.

Nov 8, 1942

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.

Jun 6, 1944


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.

Feb 7, 1948

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.

Jan 1, 1951

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.

Nov 1, 1952

Eniwetok H-Bomb Test

The U.S. 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.

Nov 4, 1952

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.

Jan 20, 1953

First Inaugural Address

Eisenhower is sworn in as the 34th President of the United States. In his inaugural address, he says, "Forces of good and evil are massed and armed and opposed as rarely before in history."

Mar 5, 1953

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.

Jul 27, 1953

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 anticommunist South.

Aug 14, 1953

Soviet H-Bomb

The Soviet Union sets off its first hydrogen bomb, adding to the risk of nuclear war.

Sep 30, 1953

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, and Eisenhower will later regret the choice.

Apr 22, 1954

Army-McCarthy Hearings

The nationally televised Army-McCarthy hearings begin on national television. They continue for more than a month, ending in McCarthy's disgrace.

May 7, 1954

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 U.S. military force.

May 17, 1954

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.

Aug 1, 1954

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.

Oct 27, 1954

Disneyland Premieres

The show Disneyland premiers on television to promote the amusement park set to open in Anaheim, California in the summer of 1955.

Jan 28, 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.

Apr 12, 1955

Polio Vaccine

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.

Jul 18, 1955

Geneva Summit

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.

Aug 12, 1955

Minimum Wage

Eisenhower signs the Minimum Wage Act, raising the minimum wage from $.75 to $1.00 per hour.

Eisenhower's Heart Attack

While vacationing in Colorado, Eisenhower plays 27 holes of golf and eats a hamburger with raw onion. That night, he suffers a heart attack and he'll remain in the hospital until November 11th.

Dec 1, 1955

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.

Feb 24, 1956

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.

Jun 8, 1956

Eisenhower's Intestinal Surgery

Eisenhower falls ill with an inflammation of the small intestine. He undergoes surgery the next day.

Jun 29, 1956

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 U.S. history.

Oct 23, 1956

Uprising in Hungary

A revolt against Soviet domination begins in Hungary and soon spreads throughout the country.

Nov 4, 1956

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.

Nov 6, 1956

Ike Reelected

Eisenhower is elected to a second term as president.

Aug 26, 1957

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.

Sep 24, 1957

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.

Oct 4, 1957


The Soviets launch Sputnik, the first manmade satellite. The achievement shocks Americans, who begin to fear that the Russians are pulling ahead in technology.

Dec 18, 1957

First Nuclear Power Plant

The first full-scale nuclear power plant begins operation in Shippingport, Pennsylvania, supplying electricity to Pittsburgh.

Jan 31, 1958

U.S. Launches Satellite

The U.S. launches its first satellite, Explorer I, marking U.S. entry into the "space race" with the Russians.

Jul 15, 1958

Intervention in Lebanon

Eisenhower orders 14,000 U.S. Marines into Lebanon to support the Christian government against Muslim rebels.

Oct 4, 1958

Transatlantic Air Travel Begins

The British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC) begins the first regular jet airline service across the Atlantic Ocean.

Jan 1, 1959

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.

Jul 24, 1959

Kitchen Debate

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 U.S.

Sep 13, 1959

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."

Sep 15, 1959

Khrushchev Tours America

Khrushchev arrives in the United States for a 12-day trip. He travels across the country and holds talks with Eisenhower, easing U.S.-Soviet hostilities.

Feb 1, 1960

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.

May 1, 1960

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.

May 9, 1960

Birth Control Pill Debuts

The Federal Drug Administration approves sales of the first contraceptive pill, called Enovid.

Nov 8, 1960

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.

Jan 3, 1961

Break with Cuba

The United States breaks diplomatic relations with Cuba over Prime Minister Fidel Castro's alliance with the Soviets.

Jan 20, 1961

Eisenhower Presidency Ends

John F. Kennedy is inaugurated as President of the United States.

Apr 17, 1961

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 U.S. prestige.

Mar 28, 1969

Death of Eisenhower

Dwight D. Eisenhower dies of congestive heart failure at age 78.

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