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Eisenhower “I Like Ike” The Cold War Grows Hotter 1953-1963

America’s Nuclear Force Eisenhower was deeply concerned that the expense of maintaining a conventional military would bankrupt the nation.  Eisenhower turned to the Air Force and the threat of nuclear war as the United States main defense against military conflict.  As a result, the size of the standing military was “drawn down” to cut costs. 

Sputnik This tiny, man-made satellite struck fear into an already nervous American population.  How could the Soviets catch-up to and surpass the United States in technology?  If the evil Soviet Union could put military satellites in space, they could launch a nuclear attack with impunity. 

Space Race   

The space race was further escalated when the Soviets successfully orbited a dog around the planet. The Soviet school system was also doing a better job of teaching math and the “hard sciences.” With American children lagging behind in these critical subjects, how could the United States catch-up and retake the lead in development of new technologies? Even the American school systems were part of the Cold War.

Arms Race  

The arms race, particularly the nuclear arms race, escalates even further. The U.S. was at a server disadvantage in terms of conventional military preparedness. For example, the Sherman and Pershing tanks were no match for the T-34s and Stalin tanks of the Korean War era. The U.S. was even lagging in military aircraft technology, despite having the German scientists who designed the ME-262 working for them. The MiG fighter shocked the U.S. Air Force.


A Dangerous Idea The idea of brinksmanship was a dangerous one, given the nuclear stakes.  Eisenhower would push the Soviets to the “brink” in negotiations.  This constant pushing to the brink could have had disastrous consequences.  The tension from this practice made the Cold War atmosphere even more poisonous. 

Suez Crisis ď Ž

ď Ž

Following several years of raids and retaliatory attacks between Israel and Egypt, President Nassar of Egypt made the decision to nationalize the canal, making this vital transportation link a property of Egypt. The nationalization of the canal, which was managed by a British company and crucial to British and French economic interests, led to military intervention by Israel, Britain and France.

The 1956 Arab-Israeli War A secret treaty was made between Israel, Great Britain and France in which it was agreed upon that Israel would attack Egypt, liberate the canal and then Britain and France would intervene and create a neutral zone around the canal. ď Ž From a military view point, the war was an outstanding success for Israel. ď Ž

The Scorecard Casualties:  Israelis: 189 KIA unknown no. of WIA 


4 POWs

1,650 dead, 4,900 wounded 

6,000 POWs

Political Disaster ď Ž

ď Ž

The situation may have been a military success for the victors, but it was a political disaster for the United States. Eisenhower was in the position of having to criticize the Soviet crushing of the Hungarian revolt against communism, yet its allies were attack another third world nation that was, in the opinion of many, defending its rights by nationalizing the Suez Canal.

Punishing Britain Eisenhower forced a cease fire on Britain, who had now entered the war, along with France, on the side of the Israelis. ď Ž Threatening to devastate the British pound and thus destroy the British economy, Eisenhower forced a withdrawal of the British forces, their place being taken by a UN Peacekeeping Force instead. ď Ž

The French De Gaulle, the leader of the French, felt that only French interests should be considered and that from the French viewpoint, the U.S. could no longer be counted on to do the bidding of France when it came to France’s foreign policy.  As a result, De Gaulle withdrew France from the NATO military alliance. 

The Egyptians Secretary of State John Foster Dulles punished the Egyptians for provoking the incident by withdrawing U.S. financial backing for the construction of the Aswan Dam. ď Ž The United States, along with the British, began to work to isolate Nasser and Egypt, making the nation vulnerable. ď Ž

Who Was To Blame? Primarily the British and the French.  British Prime Minister Anthony Eden mistakenly believed that Britain was still a superpower.  Eden intended to maintain British control over the region.  His misreading of the situation and the alliance with Israel created the crisis. 

Eisenhower Doctrine On January 5, 1957, President Eisenhower addressed Congress and stated that the U.S. would use armed forces upon request to imminent or actual aggression to the Middle East. ď Ž Any nation that took a stance opposed to Communism would be given a variety of forms of aid. ď Ž

The Lebanon Crisis The military component of the Eisenhower Doctrine was put to use in 1958 at the request of Lebanon. ď Ž On a global scale, the Doctrine was in response to the threat of the Soviet Union who had desired to intervene militarily in the Suez War as a pretext to occupy Egypt. ď Ž

The Doctrine Regionally 

The intent of the Doctrine regionally was to provide an alternative for Arab nations to the pressure of Communism and Egypt’s Nasser. The Doctrine failed in this regard, but Egypt’s relationship with the Soviet Union deteriorated, allowing the U.S. to adopt a policy of accommodation, keeping the region and its vital oil supplies free of communism.

The Blackbird A U-2 Spy Plane

U-2 Incident On May 1, 1960, a U-2 spy plane piloted by Francis Gary Powers was brought down near Svedlovsk in the Soviet Union. ď Ž The event had a permanent negative impact on the relationship between the Soviet Union and the United States ď Ž

How did it happen?  

There is controversy over how the U-2 was brought down in the Soviet Union. The U-2 was designed to fly at ultra high altitudes which were out of the range of Soviet surface-to-air missiles. The three most common theories are:  The

U-2 was flying too low, bringing it into SAM range.  Power actually landed the plane in the Soviet Union.  There was a bomb on board the plane.

The other theory The least plausible theory is that a Soviet pilot rammed his plane into the U-2. ď Ž This claim comes from a Soviet pilot involved in the incident. This pilot claims to have been ordered to ram the U-2 in order to cause it to crash. ď Ž There is little evidence to support this claim. ď Ž

The U-2 Chill 

While there are still questions about how the U-2 was brought down, there are no questions about what happened afterwards. Powers was convicted of espionage and sentenced to 3 years of prison and 7 years of hard labor. Powers served 1 year, 9 months and 9 days before he was released in a trade for the Soviet spy colonel Rudolph Ivanovich Abel.

The Paris Summit Collapses The Paris Summit collapsed.  Krushchev demand an apology from Eisenhower. Eisenhower refused.  The mistrust from this incident, according to the Soviets, led to missiles being placed on the island of Cuba. 

Dien Bien Phu     

The massacre which ended the FrenchIndochina War. This humiliating defeat for the French caused the French to abandon their claim to Vietnam. The Vietminh had hoped this would lead to independence for Vietnam. Instead, as the French withdrew, the nation was partitioned into a North and South like Korea. The North was communist and the South was technically a democracy.

Military Advisors 

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With the partitioning of Vietnam, the communists rested only briefly before they resumed their war of insurgency designed to unify the nation under communism. The South Vietnamese government, at French urging, requested American military aid. Eisenhower, who saw the situation as a quagmire was hesitant to make a large military commitment.

Containment Theory and The Domino Effect 

Fearing the spread of communism in Southeast Asia and the resulting Domino Effect, Eisenhower sent small groups of military advisors to train the ARVN. This was done with the Containment Doctrine in mind – that the spread of communism must be contained to those nations already infected with it. The Domino Effect was the idea that if one nation fell to communism, like dominoes, the nations bordering would fall to communism as well.

Kennedy: The Camelot Presidency 1961-63


The Bay of Pigs 

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The Bay of Pigs was the failed invasion by Cuban Exiles in an attempt to remove Castro from power. Kennedy denied air strikes to the American trained Exiles after they landed. With Marine units waiting off-shore in landing craft, the Exiles were slaughtered and captured. Kennedy refused to allow the Marines to rescue the Exiles.

The Bay of Pigs American air power may have made a difference.  Even if the Exiles could not have overthrown the Castro government, they might have been able to cover the distance to the mountains where they could have launched an insurgency war.  With no air cover, they were doomed. 

The Blame Game   

Kennedy and his administration blamed the CIA for the fiasco. The CIA had trained the Exiles and planned the attack. It was later revealed that Kennedy altered the plan and withheld critical air support once the action started. Kennedy claims to have done so because he did not want to have direct American intervention that would turn into a war with Cuba.

The Berlin Wall On Sunday, August 13, 1961, the Communist East German Government, with the approval of the Soviet Union, began construction of what became known as the Berlin Wall. ď Ž It was designed to stop the wholesale flight of Easter German citizens to the West in search of freedom. ď Ž

The Berlin Wall  

West Berliners were also entering East Berlin and purchasing the cheap goods available in East Berlin. Because of the communist command economy, it was necessary for these goods to be subsidized by the government so they would be affordable. The economic drain of the Westerners taking advantage of these low prices threatened to collapse the East German economy, which was the star of the Soviet Bloc despite being heavily subsidized by the Soviet Union.

The Wall The entire city of Berlin was divided into East and West.  The entire city of West Berlin was completely surrounded and cut-off by the wall.  A practical success, the wall became a propaganda nightmare as it came to symbolize communist oppression. 

Kennedy and the Wall The only way to realistically defend West Berlin was with nuclear weapons.  Kennedy told the Soviets that the U.S. accepted the wall as a practical matter but would not allow incursions into West Berlin.  It created a tense situation. 

Kennedy Visiting The Berlin Wall

The Famous Checkpoint Charlie Sign

Checkpoint Charlie One of the most infamous symbols of the Berlin Wall and the Cold War.  Checkpoint Charlie was one of three crossing points in the divided city of Berlin.  Checkpoint Charlie was in the American Zone and was the site of the infamous tank stand-off. 

A would-be escapee bleeds to death. 

Peter Fechter lies bleeding to death after having been shot by East German border guards. American and West German guards were unable to reach him and the communists let him bleed to death. This unfortunate event took place August 17, 1962.

The Wall 

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Built by the communists to stop movement between the two zones, the wall would stand until 1989-1990. The unofficial fall of the wall is November 9,1989. The official fall of the wall is June 13, 1990 when the official dismantling of the wall started. November 9 is the night of the infamous Kristallnacht in 1938 and thus was not favored as the official date or holiday.

Cuban Missile Crisis Considered by many historians to be the most dangerous moment in the Cold War.  The U.S. discovered that the Soviet Union had constructed missile sites in Cuba and had missiles on site.  More powerful IRBMs were to be shipped to Cuba, starting the crisis. 

Kennedy’s Response      

Kennedy confronted Krushchev. Kennedy drew a line in the Atlantic Ocean, referred to as The Quarantine Line. Soviet missiles bound for Cuba by ship would not be allowed to cross this line. The American Navy waited at the Quarantine Line. An invasion of Cuba by U.S. forces, including a parachute drop by the fabled 101st Airborne was planned. Krushchev backed down and the missiles were removed.

Soviet Missile Silos In Cuba NSA Archival Photos

The Reason For The Fear: Soviet Missiles On Parade In Moscow

An Airborne Version Of The Same Weapon

Nuclear Missile Bunker Under Construction

Soviet Missile Crews Encamped

October 25, 1962, Showdown At The UN:

The U.S. Presents The Evidence

Surfaced Soviet F-Class Submarine Approaches The “Quarantine Line”

The Soviet Freighter Grozny Crossing The Quarantine Line. It stopped after the U.S. Navy fired warning shots across its bow.

The Poltava turning back for Moscow. The missiles and their launch rings are circled.

U.S. Invasion Plan For Cuba

Missile Range Map ď Ž

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This map was shown to Kennedy to demonstrate the dangers of the missiles in Cuba. The map was codenamed Psalm as indicated by the handwritten on the map.

Kennedy Alone In The Oval Office

Vietnam Kennedy increased the number of American military advisors in Vietnam.  The Viet Cong were increasingly making inroads in the Vietnamese conflict.  Fears of failure to contain communism were raising their ugly head. 

A Sad Day In Dallas   

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With his numbers sagging in political polls, JFK traveled to Dallas to campaign. On November 22, 1963, JFK was shot to death. Conspiracy theories abound about his death, ranging from the official “lone gunman” to the “Umbrella Man” and the “grassy knoll” theories. Lee Harvey Oswald is the man “given credit” for killing President Kennedy. Oswald himself was killed by Jack Ruby two days later.

Kennedy and Governor John Connally in the motorcade shortly before the assassination.

The “Moorman Polaroid” Kennedy has just been shot.

Postcard of Dealy Plaza and JFK’s assassination. This postcard supports the “lone gunman” theory.

The “shooters” view from the grassy knoll.

Lee Harvey Oswald’s Mug Shot 

The ex-U.S. Marine had lived in the Soviet City of Minsk for 30 months. He was married to a Russian girls with whom he fathered two children. Oswald was a Marxist Communist.

Jack Ruby Shooting Oswald ď Ž

ď Ž

Jack Ruby, a Dallas Nightclub owner, with connections to both the Dallas police and the criminal underworld, is seen in this Pulitzer Prize winning photo shooting Oswald. It was the first live murder ever televised.

Referred to as the “Eternal Flame� this is the grave marker for President John F. Kennedy.

Jackie Grieving At JFK’s Grave