Vietnam WarUS offers France nuclear weapons for use in fighting the rebellion against French colonial rule in Vietnam. The French refuse. (ZMag)
US actions in Latin Americaand the nationalization of a number of US companies in that country, results in the bloody oppression of the nationalist revolt by Guatamalan troops organized and overseen by the CIA. US bombers based in Nicaragua make devastating strikes on Guatamalan targets, and the threat of nuclear bombing is made. (ZMag)
Downfall of Joe McCarthyand launches a sweeping investigation of the Army for Communist infiltration. (McCarthy has already reaped headlines by claiming that both Roosevelt and Truman represent "twenty years of treason" by Democrats against their country.) By this time the government and the country is tiring of McCarthy's Red-baiting; with the help of President Eisenhower and the unedited broadcasts of journalist Edward R. Murrow, the hearings vindicate the Army and expose McCarthy for a fraud and a liar. (A number of more principled, or at least more moderate, Republicans, including Senator Prescott Bush, join in criticizing their colleague.) On June 9, during a heated exchange between McCarthy and Army attorney Joseph Welch, Welch blasts McCarthy with the famous phrase, "You've done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?" On December 2, the Senate votes to censure McCarthy for "conduct contrary to Senatorial tradition." McCarthy's career as a senator and an anti-Communist crusader is finished.
Minority rightslast racially segregated unit of the US Armed Forces is abolished. (Michael Cooper)
Bilderberg GroupThe group is composed of politicians, industry leaders, academics, and other influential people, and is the subject of numerous conspiracy theories centering around "secret world governments." The first group is initiated by Polish emigre and political adviser Joseph Retinger, who, concerned about the growth of anti-Americanism in Western Europe, proposes an international conference at which opinion leaders from European countries and the US would be brought together with the aim of promoting understanding between the cultures as well as opposing Soviet expansion and the spread of Communism. The idea wins the support of Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands, a former SS officer who, along with Belgian prime minister Paul Van Zeeland, promotes the idea. The guest list is made up of two attendees from each nation, one each to represent conservative and liberal points of view.
Middle East unrestIn Egypt, the monarchy is overthrown by a band of socialists led by Gamal Abdel Nasser, after a coup attempt that began in 1952; Nasser is proclaimed premier of Egypt . Nasser will become one of the most powerful voices for Arab unification in the world. British troops subsequently leave Egypt. (Gamel Abdel-Nasser Biography, ZNet)
Kikuyu, or Mau Mau, rebelliona systematic effort to "purge" the Kenyan capital of Nairobi of virtually all Kikuyu natives, using a plan similar to the British effort to "clean up" the city of Tel Aviv of Palestinians before World War II. 25,000 security force members employ "Gestapo-like" tactics to sweep up African residents, who are taken to barbed-wire enclosures. Many are "screened" on the spot and then delivered to detention camps based mostly on ethnicity. Within two weeks, virtually no Kikuyu are left in Nairobi. Many are forced to labor in "work camps" whose conditions violate international law. Many Christian missionaries cooperate with the British in detaining, working, and torturing Kikuyu detainees. (Caroline Elkins)
Vietnam Warattended by the US, Britain, China, the Soviet Union, France, Vietnam (both Viet Minh and representatives of the puppet Bao Dai regime in the South), Cambodia and Laos, all meeting to negotiate a solution for Southeast Asia. (The CIA will establish a military mission in Saigon in June.) By late July, an agreement is reached at the conference, dividing Vietnam at the 17th parallel, with Ho Chi Minh ruling a Communist government in the north and Bao Dai ruling in the South. A "demilitarized zone" will divide the two. The accords also provide for elections to be held in all of Vietnam within two years to reunify the country. The US opposes the unifying elections, fearing a likely victory by Ho Chi Minh; the elections will ultimately not be held. Ho formally returns to Hanoi after eight years of hiding in the jungle and takes over the North Vietnamese government. In the South, Bao Dai's prime minister Ngo Dinh Diem predicts another, more deadly war will soon erupt in Vietnam. Diem, a Roman Catholic in an overwhelmingly Buddhist country, encourages Vietnamese Catholics living in Communist North Vietnam to flee south. Nearly one million leave. At the same time, some 90,000 Communists in the south go north, although nearly 10,000 Viet Minh fighters are instructed by Hanoi to quietly remain behind. (Vietnam War Timeline, Chronology of US-Vietnam Relations)
Minority rightsBy a 9-0 vote, the Court declares that segregation of US public schools is illegal and destructive, and must end "with all deliberate speed." Chief Justice Earl Warren worked tirelessly to bring even the most conservative justices on board with the decision, feeling that the issue was important enough for the Court to present a unified front to the American people. The Court is not sure exactly how to mandate implementation of their ruling, and puts it off for a year. A firestorm of complaint and opposition to the ruling erupts throughout the country, and many states, particularly in the South, deliberately slow down the process of desegregation in their schools. Ten years later, only 1% of Southern black children will attend school with their white classmates. (Fireside and Fuller)
Middle East unrestIsraeli intelligence decides to use terrorist methods inside Egypt, and misdirect investigators into believing the terrorist strikes were Arab in origin. Israel's head of military intelligence, Colonel Benyamin Gibli, initiated what was then code-named "Operation Suzannah." A number of Egyptian Jews and other Israeli intelligence operatives, all part of the top-secret Unit 131, began firebombing targets in Cairo and Alexandria. The bombs did little damage, and after one 131 member, Robert Dassa, was captured when his bomb ignited prematurely in his pocket, Egyptian intelligence and law enforcement were hot on the trail of the firebombers. A number of suspected Israeli agents were tried for various crimes relating to the firebombings; two were convicted and later executed, two were acquitted, two committed suicide in prison, one escaped and fled the country, and the rest served long jail terms. (Israel maintained for a time that it had nothing to do with the operation, and condemned the entire proceedings as anti-Semitic.) Many observers complained that the proceedings were merely show trials, and that many of the captives were tortured to extract confessions. In 1967, the Israeli agents still in jail were freed as part of a secret POW deal.
US militaryThe Air Force redesignates the plane as a "utility aircraft" to maintain its secret status as a spy plane; since the Air Force already has two utility aircraft designated the U-1 and the U-3, the plane is redesignated the U-2. The Groom Lake facility in Nevada will eventually become better known as "Area 51." (Philip Taubman)
Cold WarEisenhower makes a dramatic proposal for Washington and Moscow to permit each other to make aerial reconnaissance flights over their respective military installations. Though Eisenhower does not reveal the existence of the U-2, the new spy plane's existence is a key element of his proposal. He tells his aides that if the USSR refuses to accept his proposal, called the "Open Skies" initiative, that he will allow U-2 flights over the Soviet Union. Although Soviet delegation leader Nikolai Bulganin is responsive to Eisenhower's proposal, Soviet premier Khruschev quickly scotches the idea, and informs Bulganin that he considers the entire idea a transparent espionage plot. He will later tell his son Sergei that he believes the proposal was part of a plan for the US to refine its targeting plans for a nuclear strike against the USSR. As a result of the Soviet refusal to accept the "Open Skies" proposal, Eisenhower clears the way for the U-2 to begin operations. (Philip Taubman)
Kikuyu, or Mau Mau, rebellionLabour MP Barbara Castle declares her party's intention to fight the suppression and torture of Kenyans in a September 30 article printed on the front page of the Tribune. The late 1954 resignation of Arthur Young as Kenya's commissioner of police, and his outraged testimony about the conditions of the British concentration camps in Kenya, further outrages Labour members, who continue to demand inquiries without success. Conservatives in Britain's government counterattack with unsubstantiated allegations that Castle and other Labour politicians are secretly aligned with Communist elements. (Caroline Elkins)
Attack on civil libertiesTexas comedian and television personality John Henry Faulk, along with several other industry colleagues, wins an American Federation of Radio/Television Artists union election on an anti-blacklisting campaign (in the process defeating union magnates such as Bud Collyer and Ed Sullivan, both of whom have routinely flogged the anti-communist horse for their own ends -- Sullivan is fond of making his entertainers rehearse for hours without pay, and slams them as "Reds" if they protest). Unsurprisingly, Faulk is almost immediately cited as a "known Communist" by the private outfit AWARE, an investigative organization on permanent retainer to several networks, ad agencies, and big corporate sponsors. AWARE cites Faulk seven times in its so-called "Red Channels." (AWARE is hugely fraudulent. According to the terms of its contract, AWARE only makes money when it "successfully" outs Communists, so it is very much in its financial interests to find and expose Commies in the entertainment industry. AWARE's head, Vincent Hartnett, has a deal with his pal Laurence Johnson, a grocery store magnate from upstate New York, for Johnson to publicly yank a sponsor's products from his stores' shelves if that company wasn't quick enough to fire or punish the "Commies" on its payroll outed by Hartnett. Faulk later writes of the pressure, "A nice, big-jowled Republican gentleman would say, 'Good God, tell us what to do to stop it.'") Johnson, along with his pals on the House Un-American Activities Committee, put tremendous pressure on corporate sponsors to drop his show from CBS's lineup, which it did despite the fact that Faulk's ratings were excellent (CBS will eventually fire Faulk while Faulk is out of town on vacation). Faulk, unlike so many others, refuses to take all of this lying down. Faulk files a lawsuit against Hartnett, Johnson and AWARE that, after over six years of legal wrangling, brought down the edifice of legal blacklisting and wins Faulk the biggest judgment for damages ever awarded by a civil jury. In the process, Faulk's entertainment career will be destroyed.
Vietnam WarEisenhower pledges US military and economic aid to the government of South Vietnam. (Chronology of US-Vietnam Relations)
Algerian revolution against FranceFrom Cairo, the FLN broadcasts a proclamation calling on Muslims in Algeria to join in a national struggle for the "restoration of the Algerian state, sovereign, democratic, and social, within the framework of the principles of Islam." The French minister of interior, Francois Mitterrand, responds that "the only possible negotiation is war." It is the reaction of Premier Pierre Mendes-France that sets the tone of French policy for the next five years: on November 12, he declares in the National Assembly that "One does not compromise when it comes to defending the internal peace of the nation, the unity and integrity of the Republic. The Algerian departments are part of the French Republic. They have been French for a long time, and they are irrevocably French.... Between them and metropolitan France there can be no conceivable secession." French Algerians and loyalists carry out vigilante hunts against suspected FLN members, and the guerrilla war for Algerian liberation from French rule escalates. UPI's Martin Walker writes that the FLN "fought French rule with a ruthless terror campaign, using Arab women dressed as fashionable young Frenchwomen, to place bombs in cafes, dancehalls, and cinemas. The French fought back ferociously, and in the Battle of Algiers, General Jacques Massu's battalion of paratroopers broke the FLN network in the casbah, or Arab quarter, with ruthless interrogations and the widespread use of torture." (OnWar)
Cold WarBissell's orders require his team to produce a radical new spy plane in less than eight months. In order to do so, Bissell and his team allows private corporations such as Lockeed and Pratt & Whitney, and civilians such as designer Kelly Johnson and photography expert Edwin Land, to operate with little or no government scrutiny. (Lockheed's secret advanced projects department, which helped develop the CL-282, would later become known as "skunk Works," and would become the source of a number of secret military technological developments.) The unprecedented amount of leeway allowed the private operators to develop what would later be designated the U-2 spy plane in record time; unfortunately, the precedent of virtually independent operations set by the program would be abused by corporations in later years, which would pocket millions of defense dollars in return for little or no production. The spy plane project operated behind a thick veil of secrecy, to the point that corporate engineers were not told what they were designing. In 1955, the project required a new jet fuel that would not boil off at 70,000 feet; Shell Oil developed such a fuel, which required the use of chemicals used in its popular pesticide Flit; consumers who wondered why they could no longer obtain Flit had no idea that the unavailability of the pesticide was due to the secret spy plane project. The plane itself was so light, primarily made of aluminum, that engineers joked that the plane was made of Reynolds Wrap. Pilot Bob Ericson later recalls that "You picked the wing up and it bent, and -- holy smokes -- you know, this thing is made out of toilet paper." (Philip Taubman)
Kikuyu, or Mau Mau, rebellionMau Mau who are captured alive are taken en masse to any of several "interrogation centers" where they are usually tortured and brutalized, and often killed outright. These centers will later become large detention camps. One of the first and most brutal of the British commanders of the Kenyan Criminal Investigation Department, Ian Henderson, who is credited with perfecting the torture techniques used against Mau Mau prisoners, will later be awarded the George Medal and sent to Bahrain, where for thirty years he will head that tiny protectorate's office of state security. (Caroline Elkins)