June 27, 1950 — The U.S. commits itself to the Korean War

On June 25, 1950, North Korean forces poured over the border separating the North and South parts of the peninsula, invading South Korea. This was considered a threat by the United States for two reasons: first, because the North Korean regime was Communist, and the Domino Theory was still widely believed; and second, because if South Korea fell, it would threaten American and allied forces in Japan.

Two days later, America announced that it would come to the aid of South Korea. Aside from the desire to oppose Communism, the Truman administration was keenly aware of the failures of appeasement at the start of World War Two, and did not wish to repeat this mistake.

In the end, the Korean War would last a little more than three years, cost nearly 4 million lives in total, and set the precedent for the Vietnam War – all for some very minor changes in the border between the two states.

May 16, 1960 – Khrushchev demands that Eisenhower apologise for U-2 spy flights

On May 1, American pilot Gary Powers was shot down while flying a Lockheed U-2 over the USSR on a covert surveillance mission, photographing military and other targets. Four days later, the American government released disinformation stating that Powers had gone missing and was presumed dead while flying over Northern Turkey. On May 7, Khrushchev released information demonstrating that the Americans had lied, causing a massive loss of face to the Eisenhower administration, and heightening Cold War tensions. Not only was Powers still alive, but his plain had been captured mostly intact. Indeed, the Soviets were even able to develop some of the photos Powers had taken.

This was unfortunate timing, to say the least, as the Four Powers summit in Paris was due to begin on May 14. Krushchev demanded an apology from the United States, and when Eisenhower proved recalcitrant, he walked out of the summit. Soviet-American relations deteriorated notably as a result of these incidents.

Powers was tried for espionage, pleaded guilty and was convicted on August 19, Although his sentence called for 3 year’s imprisonment and 7 years of hard labor, he served only one and three-quarter years of the sentence before returning to the West in a hostage swap deal.