Thursday, May 31, 2012

Today's Trivia – 1950s Events

I always enjoy learning about things that happened in history. This week focuses on world events of the 1950s...


- North Korea invades South Korea and captures Seoul in the first weeks of the conflict. At the United Nations, the Soviet Union is boycotting proceedings, so the U.S. is able to push through a resolution to fight back against North Korea. The Korean "Conflict" begins with U.S. General Douglas Macarthur as commander of U.N. troops. He is able to stop the Communist advance, land troops at Inchon and push the North Koreans almost to the Chinese border. In November 1950, the Chinese invade and push UN troops half way back down the peninsula.

- Nationalist China leader Chiang Kai-shek establishes an anticommunist government on the island of Taiwan (Formosa) after being defeated on the mainland.

- The Soviet Union begins putting nuclear missiles on submarines.

- U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin tells President Truman that the State Department is infiltrated with communists and communist sympathizers. This initiates a period of witch hunts and blacklists.

- Former U.S. State Department official Hiss is convicted of perjury and sentenced to five years in prison. He was accused of being a Soviet spy in 1948.

- Israel's new "Law of Return" grants automatic citizenship to any immigrant Jews from around the world. Iraq's Jewish community migrates to Israel, as do many others. The Arab League institutes an economic boycott of Israel.

- Palestinian refugee camps are set up overseen by the UN Relief and Works Agency. They are given a budget of just $27 per person.

- The postwar baby boom dramatically increases birthrates in North America, Europe, Australia and Asia.

- There are 1.5 million television sets in the U.S. this year. By 1951, there are 15 million – ten times as many in one year. By 1960, Americans own 85 million TV sets. In 1950, CBS broadcasts the first TV program in color.

- The Diner's Club card is introduced and becomes the first "credit card" accepted at multiple retail establishments.


- General Douglas MacArthur is relieved of his command by President Truman after the General criticized Truman's policy of limiting the war to the Korean Peninsula. A stalemate in the Korean Conflict begins to take shape.

- The 22nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is passed, limiting the president to a maximum of two terms in office. Franklin Delano Roosevelt was elected to four terms beginning in 1932. He died within months of beginning his fourth term. He was the first and only president to be elected to more than two terms.

- The UNIVAC is introduced as the first commercial computer. It's sold by Remington Rand, a typewriter maker. It gains fame by crunching the numbers that allow pollsters to predict the winner of the 1952 presidential election.

- Electric power is produced from the first atomic power reactor in Arcon, Idaho. The U.S. tests nuclear weapons in Nevada and the South Pacific throughout the 50s.

- Julius and Ethel Rosenberg are sentenced to death for espionage against the U.S. for selling classified information about the atomic bomb to the Russians. They are executed in 1953.

- Cleveland disc jockey Alan Freed coins the term "rock-and-roll."


- Dwight D. Eisenhower is elected president of the United States, the first Republican president in 20 years. Richard Nixon is his Vice-President.

- King George VI of England dies, and he is succeeded by his young daughter, Queen Elizabeth II.

- Japan regains official independence, ending over six years of American occupation. Japan and the U.S. put into effect a security treaty that makes these former enemies into allies.

- Israel and Germany agree on restitution for damages done to Jews by the Nazis before and during World War II.

- Mother Teresa opens the Home for Dying Destitutes in Calcutta, India.


- The Korean War ends after three years of inconclusive fighting. An armistice is signed and the boundary between North and South Korea is drawn at the 38th parallel.

- Nikita Khrushchev is appointed First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party after Joseph Stalin dies. He will rule the Soviet Union through the most turbulent years of the Cold War. He was succeeded by Leonid Brezhnev in October 1964.

- The Soviet Union detonates its first hydrogen bomb with much more power than the atomic bomb.

- Cambodia gains independence from France. Next door, the French fight to hold onto Vietnam.

- Heavy flooding in Holland kills 2,000 people.

- The Shah of Iran is returned to power in a coup that is supported by the U.S. and Great Britain. The former Prime Minister, Mohammed Mossadegh, had taken over western-owned oil companies and was becoming a Soviet ally.

- Cigarette smoking is reported to cause lung cancer for the first time.

- British physicist Francis Crick and American biologist James Watson publish their famous paper on the double-helix structure of DNA, the material in chromosomes that control heredity.

- Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay become the first humans to reach the summit of Mount Everest, the world's tallest mountain.

Clockwise, from left: United Nations soldiers during the Korean War, which was the first UN authorized conflict; Two atomic explosions from the RDS-37 and Upshot-Knothole (Soviet and American, respectively) nuclear weapons, symbolizing the escalation of Cold War tensions between the two nations in the 1950s; Israeli troops prepare to fight the Egyptians during the Suez Crisis of 1956; A replica of Sputnik I, the world's first satellite, launched by the Soviet Union in 1957; Fidel Castro leads the Cuban Revolution in 1959; North Sea flood of 1953


- U.S. President Eisenhower formulates the domino theory that says that once one country falls to a communist regime others in the region will be vulnerable, too. It is this theory that will be invoked by President Lyndon Johnson to escalate the war in Vietnam.

- The Brown v. Board of Education decision is handed down by the U.S. Supreme Court saying that "separate but equal" school systems are unconstitutional. An era of desegregation of schools is instituted.

- A rebellion against French colonial rule begins in Algeria. It will last for eight years before Algeria wins independence.

- Vietnamese communists take Dien Bien Phu and occupy Hanoi, forcing a complete French withdrawal from Indochina. In July, at a conference in Geneva, the country is divided into North and South Vietnam along the 17th parallel.

- The U.S. enters into the SEATO Treaty, the Southeast Asian Treaty Organization, to oppose communism in Asia. The mutual defense organization included Australia, Thailand, the Philippines, New Zealand, Pakistan, France, England and the U.S. The treaty was disbanded in 1977.

- China's Yangtze River overflows, killing 40,000 and forcing 10 million people to evacuate.

- First human trials of "the pill" oral contraceptive for women.

- RCA introduces the first color TV sets, and NBC begins regular broadcasts in color.

- The U.S. launches the first nuclear powered submarine, the Nautilus.


- Winston Churchill resigns as Prime Minister in England and is defeated for re-election.

- The Soviet Union and its satellite communist regimes in Eastern Europe ratify the Warsaw Pact. Later, Churchill calls this act the equivalent of forming an "Iron Curtain" across Europe. The Cold War deepens.

- Rosa Parks, an African American woman, is arrested after refusing to give up her bus seat to a white person in Montgomery, Alabama. Her arrest sparks a bus boycott led by local minister Martin Luther King, Jr., and sets the American civil rights movement in motion.

- Sony – then known as Tokyo Telecommunications Engineering – produces the first pocket-size transistor radio. Before that, all radios had to have tubes and were large, heavy machines.


- Dwight Eisenhower reelected as President of the United States. That same year, he signs the Interstate highway into law.

- Nikita Khrushchev tells Western ambassadors, "We will bury you." He also begins "de-Stalinization," releasing millions of political prisoners and liberalizing Soviet politics. Still, Soviet troops invade Hungary to crush an uprising against the Communist government there.

- The second Arab-Israeli war is fought after Egypt seizes the Suez Canal from the British. Israeli invades Egyptian territory east of the Canal with British and French help. However, eventually the UN declares the canal Egyptian property.

- Pakistan becomes an Islamic republic.

- Former colonies gain independence – Sudan from England, and Tunisia and Morocco from France.

- Elvis Presley releases the first of more than 170 hit songs, "Heartbreak Hotel."

- American movie star Grace Kelly marries Prince Rainier of Monaco.


- The Soviet Union launches the Sputnik satellite, the first man-made object to orbit the earth. About the same time, the Soviets test their first Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) that's capable of delivering nuclear warheads in minutes to the U.S.

- North Vietnam, through the Viet Cong, begins a guerilla war against South Vietnam.

- Arkansas governor Orval Faubus calls the National Guard to prevent nine African American students from integrating Little Rock's Central High School. He defies the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Brown v. Board of Education.

- Martin Luther King, Jr., forms the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) to promote nonviolent solutions to segregation.

- Ghana gains independence from Great Britain.

- In the U.S. the baby boom peaks as 4.3 million Americans are born, the highest number in 30 years. During the 50s, 29 million babies are born.

- The British allow women to become members of the House of Lords for the first time.


- The U.S. and Canada develop NORAD, a radar system close to the North Pole to detect and provide the U.S. with an early warning of a Soviet missile attack.

- In Cuba, Fidel Castro launches a revolution against the Batista government. Batista flees in 1959, and Castro becomes premier of Cuba.

- The European Economic Community – also called the Common Market – is begun to give Europe the same economic leverage as the U.S. and the Soviet Union.

- Iraq's King Faisal is assassinated by the army. Iraq becomes a republic, withdraws from the Baghdad Pact and allies itself with the Soviets.
- The former colonies of Madagascar, French West Africa and French Equatorial Africa gain their independence but maintain ties to the French Community.

- NASA, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, is founded and starts the Mercury project to take the first Americans into space.

- Charles de Gaulle is elected president of France in large part because he is in favor of allowing former colonies gain independence. He proposes the creation of the French Community giving former colonies the right to independence.


- Fidel Castro installs the first communist regime in the Western Hemisphere. The U.S. breaks off diplomatic relations in 1961.

- In Vietnam, the first U.S. noncombatant military advisers die in a Viet Cong attack. In 1961, the U.S. agrees to supply South Vietnamese troops.

- Alaska and Hawaii become the 49th and 50th states in the United States.

- Yasser Arafat establishes the militant Arab group al-Fatah that is dedicated to building a Palestinian state and the destruction of Israel.

- Xerox introduces the first commercial photocopier to the market.

- American Airlines launches the jet age in the U.S. transportation industry with the first transcontinental flights with a Boeing 707 aircraft.

- The Soviet Union's unmanned Luna 2 rocket reaches the moon. This same year, the U.S. launches into space and safely retrieves two monkeys.

- Albert Sabin develops a live-virus polio vaccine that can be taken orally and offers longer immunity than the Salk vaccine.


  1. That was really interesting. It seemed to be intense time for the residents of this world.

    1. I've always been fascinated by the 1950s. It seems like such an interesting period.

  2. Interesting that by 1953 they already knew cigarettes caused cancer... and here we are almost sixty years later and they're still sold at the corner store! I agree with WebDebris - this seems to be a time of great change and tension - the hydrogen bomb thrown into the mix! Thank goodness for Happy Days and the Fonz, hehe :)

    1. Ha ha...yes, thank goodness for some more lighthearted stuff. The 1950s does seem like a period of a lot of change and tension. I'm sure World War II played a huge part in shaping the years past it.

  3. Jeesh! You forgot year I started school, the year I got my first skort (skirt/shorts combo), the year I got my hoola hoop, and the year I didn't get a poodle skirt enen though I asked Santa.

  4. Sounds like fun, Francie! I'm sure there are cute stories to all this. Perhaps you will indulge us with some of them on your blog?