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World War II divided Korea into a Communist, northern half and an American-occupied southern half, divided at the 38th parallel. The Korean War (1950-1953) began when the North Korean Communist army crossed the 38th Parallel and invaded non-Communist South Korea. As Kim Il-sung's North Korean army, armed with Soviet tanks, quickly overran South Korea, the United States came to South Korea's aid. General Douglas MacArthur, who had been overseeing the post-WWII occupation of Japan, commanded the US forces which now began to hold off the North Koreans at Pusan, at the southernmost tip of Korea. Although Korea was not strategically essential to the United States, the political environment at this stage of the Cold War was such that policymakers did not want to appear "soft on Communism." Nominally, the US intervened as part of a "police action" run by a UN (United Nations) international peace- keeping force; in actuality, the UN was simply being manipulated by US and NATO anti-Communist interests.Although President Truman hoped to end the war quickly and pressed MacArthur to be more tactful, the brilliant strategist went against presidential orders and continued spouting incendiary lines about his hopes to reunify Korea. After gaining the support of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS), Truman relieved MacArthur of command. The move was extremely unpopular in America; MacArthur was perceived as a popular war hero. Only the support of the JCS saved Truman from impeachment after the firing.
The next piece of the puzzle comes from the location of Columbia University - New York City. If he had accepted the presidency of a smaller institution in podunksville USA then our story might be different. But being in NYC, Eisenhower fell into company with many moderate Republican businessmen. These were the real movers and shakers of the business world who courted him. For two years Ike stayed at Columbia - but with the outbreak of the Korean War, the old soldier could not resist the pull of contributing in some fashion. While he did not command UN troops in the field such as MacArthur - he did go to Europe to command the new NATO forces there. And this is where the final piece of the puzzle drops into place. While in Europe Eisenhower was shocked at the rise of Joseph McCarthy and the more conservative elements of the Republican Party. He was appalled at the insubordination of MacArthur to President Truman and could not believe the popularity of MacArthur upon his return to the US. Eisenhower was concerned with the possible candidacy of MacArthur on the Republican ticket. He also disliked the conservative direction the party underwent the leadership of Ohio Senator Robert Taft (who ran for the Republican nomination in 1940, 1948 and again in 1952) and he was repulsed by the red baiting of Republican Senator McCarthy. His business friends asked Ike to consider running - they wanted a moderate in the White House. Eisenhower was not a free enterprise Republican, nor did he wish to see the Democratic New Deal programs ended. After extensive lobbying by moderate elements within the Republican Party - Ike agreed to seek the party's nomination for the presidency in 1952.
At the Republican convention Eisenhower beat Senator Taft's bid for the nomination but had to make some form of concession to the conservative wing of the party. That concession was the acceptance of Richard Nixon as the VP running mate. The former general never personally like Nixon nor his politics. Nixon made his way into the House of Representatives in 1946 and make quite a name for himself with HUAC (House UnAmerican Activities Committee). The freshman Congressman jumped into the headlines in the late 1940s with his work with HUAC and the Alger Hiss - Whittaker Chambers Affair. Images of Nixon reading the "Pumpkin Papers" microfilm and his rapid anti-Communist speeches made the young Congressman known to Americans across the nation. With only four years under his Congressional belt, Nixon saw opportunity in the 1950 Senatorial election. A fairly liberal female Democratic candidate, Congresswoman Helen Gahagan Douglas, fell victim to the extremely nasty campaign run by the Nixon camp. Nixon inferred Douglas was sympathetic to the Communist elements in the nation and went to far to publicly state Douglas was "pink right down to her underwear." Nixon trounced Douglas and went on to continue his extreme anti-Communist tactics in the Senate.

And with the Eisenhower-Nixon ticket, Republicans seemed assured victory over Adlai Stevenson and the Democrats. There were a few bumps in the campaign - the Republicans soon found out the Ike was not the most comfortable nor fluid on the campaign circuit. But most biggest bump would come from Nixon...
What surfaced almost cost Nixon the VP spot on the ticket. In short, the press caught wind of an $18,000 slush fund that was established by Nixon supporters. The Democrats charged that here was Nixon being so self-righteous and he is accepting money from supports - tisk-tisk. It was not difficult for Eisenhower to contemplate dumping Nixon from the ticket. The former general was not fond of having the red-baiting Congressman on the ticket to begin with. Understanding his tenuous position Nixon turned to the relatively new medium of television in an effort to go around Republican bosses and plead his case directly to the US people.

Nixon purchased airtime on radio and TV and directly told the American public his finances. The tactic worked - calls and telegrams poured in supporting Nixon. Eisenhower had been placed in a corner - Nixon would stay on the ticket. Together with the Rosser Reeves "I Like Ike" ads, the Checker's speech proved the value of television. It was not just a medium of entertainment - it had tremendous power over the electorate, from this moment on politics would never be the same. The Eisenhower and Nixon ticket went on to trounce Stevenson in the electoral votes winning all but a handful of Southern states. Ike, the reluctant president was on the way to the White House. Eisenhower, with his perpetually smile and fatherly image was what the country wanted in the 1950s. He was the right man at the right time for the job. Although Eisenhower would suffer a heart attack during his first term in office - Ike would still win against Stevenson again in 1956.
Chances are if you grew up in the 1950s and 1960s you are familiar with Duck and Cover. The concept of Duck and Cover is simple - children and adults were instructed in the event of hearing the loud blasts of the attack warning sirens or in there was a bright flash off in the distance you were to not too look toward the flash and proceed to Duck and Cover. In the case of school children this would be hiding under the desk, if you are out in the street walking about it could mean laying on the sidewalk with your hat or a newspaper or whatever you had handy to cover your head, if you were out in the middle of the park you were told to grasp the picnic blanket and use it as a shield. Now back in the 1950s men wore hats - real hats with brims - and in the event of nuclear attack it was thought the brim of the hat could protect the facial area if the man directed the top of the hat toward the blast. Sure this all sounds silly to us today but remember the idea with all Civil Defense was to reassure the public that nuclear war was survivable. And in many senses the nuclear attack could be survivable if you were not in the immediate blast area. That is what Civil Defense was alluding too - they would never publicly say "your goose is cooked if you are in the blast area," but you can survive if you are in the outer areas of the blast. They simply said if this happens, then do this and you could survive. And if you are a mile or two from an atomic blast you could survive the initial blast, the question then became for how long and that depended on your level of exposure. They next question was also - for how long? That was another message of Civil Defense - after the blast. CD published many brochures and pamphlets on how to build and stock a fallout shelter.
Despite all the pressures to end the boycott, blacks continued to stay off the buses. One white bus driver stopped to let off a lone black man in a black neighborhood. Looking in his rear view mirror, he saw an old black woman with a cane rushing towards the bus. He opened the door and said, "You don't have to rush auntie. I'll wait for you." The woman replied, "In the first place, I ain't your auntie. In the second place, I ain't rushing to get on your bus. I'm jus' trying to catch up with that ****** who just got off, so I can hit him with this here stick."

By this point, some members of Montgomery's business community were becoming frustrated with the boycott, which was costing them thousands of dollars because blacks were less likely to shop in downtown stores. Although they were as opposed to integration as the next white Montgomery resident, they realized that the boycott was bad for business and therefore wanted the boycott to end. They formed a group called the Men of Montgomery and tried negotiating directly with the boycotters. Eventually, however, these discussions broke down, and the boycott continued.

But blacks had already begun to fight to end the boycott in court. They would no longer settle for the moderate desegregation plan that they had first proposed. Now, they would accept nothing less than full integration. The city was fighting a losing battle. The blacks were armed with the Brown decision, less than two years old, which said that the "separate but equal" doctrine had no place in public education. Surely it must follow that the doctrine had no place in any public facilities. In addition, the city was not in the prejudiced local courts but in federal court, where even a black man could hope to have a fair trial. When the city defended segregation by saying that integration would lead to violence, Judge Rives asked, "Is it fair to command one man to surrender his constitutional rights, if they are his constitutional rights, in order to prevent another man from committing a crime?" The federal court decided 2-1 in favor of the blacks, with the lone dissent coming from a Southern judge. The city, of course, appealed the ruling, but on November 13, 1956, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the federal court's ruling, declaring segregation on buses unconstitutional. The Montgomery Bus Boycott was officially over.
but it was a significant piece of legislation. The 1957 Civil Rights Bill aimed to ensure that all African Americans could exercise their right to vote. It called for the created of a new division within the federal Justice Department to monitor civil rights abuses. Once introduced the bill faced fierce opposition by Southern Democrats. (In the 1950s the South was still solidly Democratic) Senate Majority Leader Lyndon Johnson (D-TX) realized as proposed the bill had little hope of gaining the necessary Southern support for passage. With his tremendous political abilities, Johnson set out to alter the bill to obtain Southern support - no easy task. Johnson reasoned if he watered the bill sufficiently, he could convince Southerners that the bill was so weak it would not really change anything in the South. In fact their support of the final watered down bill would help their image throughout the nation. The plan worked as Johnson cobbled together enough support in the South to obtain the bill's passage. However, Johnson's plan was far more cleaver that what the Southern delegates had ever realized. By gaining passage of any Civil Rights Bill, regardless of its strength, that bill was a foundation that future and stronger pieces of Civil Rights legislation could be built upon. While the watered down act did not guarantee the voting rights of blacks, it did create a Civil Rights division within the Justice Department and it was the first piece of Civil Rights legislation passed since the end of Reconstruction.
the nationally televised debates of September 26 and October 7, 14, and 21; an estimated 115 million people watched at least one of them. The first was the most important, because it fixed perceptions of the two candidates and drew the largest audience, 70 million viewers. To most observers the confrontation appeared to be a draw. Yet a draw was a plus for Kennedy, for it demonstrated that he had mastered the issues as well as his more experienced opponent. But it was the physical comparison of the two men that most hurt Nixon. Kennedy appeared tan, fit, composed; Nixon, having lost weight in the hospital, appeared haggard, pale, menacing. Kennedy himself believed that without the debates he would have lost the election. Kennedy also enhanced his standing among blacks in October when civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. was arrested in Atlanta during a sit-in. Kennedy personally called Mrs. King to express sympathy and offer assistance, while brother Robert Kennedy interceded with a local judge to arrange for King's release on bail. Soon after the civil right leader's father issued a statement that he had intended to vote for Nixon but was switching to the Democratic nominee because "Jack Kennedy has the moral courage to stand up fro what he knows is right." Vice presidential nominee Lyndon Johnson was instrumental in carrying the state of Texas, where Nixon won a majority of the Anglo vote, but the Democratic ticket swept the Chicano barrios to carry the state by less than 50,000.
President Johnson escalated the U.S. role in Vietnam. In August 1964 North Vietnamese torpedo boats reportedly attacked the U.S. destroyer Maddox and, possibly, the Turner Joy, in the Gulf of Tonkin. The United States promptly retaliated with air strikes against naval installations in North Vietnam. In a televised address, President Johnson condemned North Vietnam for "open aggression on the high seas," defended U.S. reprisals as "limited and fitting," but reassured his audience, "We will seek no wider war." Within days of the attack Johnson requested and received broad, open-ended congressional authority to "take all necessary measures to repel any armed attack against the forces of the United States and to prevent further aggression." The Gulf of Tonkin Resolution passed both houses of Congress. The Congress gave the administration and our military a "blank check" to conduct the Vietnam War. In February 1965 the United States launched Operation Rolling Thunder; air raids over North Vietnam. The next month President Johnson dispatched the first contingent of 3,500 Marines to Danang, marking the beginning of 8 years of U.S. ground combat in South Vietnam, a war of attrition that was to spark violent antiwar protests in the United States and ended in a Communist victory. The number of US troops in Vietnam reached 180,000 by the end of 1965, 400,000 at the end of 1966, 470,000 by late 1967, and peaked at 550,000 in 1968. Even while escalating the war, the Johnson administration continued to press for a negotiated settlement, but the North Vietnamese refused to talk until the US unconditionally stopped bombing the North. In January 1968 the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong launched the Tet Offensive. Although the campaign failed to topple the government in South Vietnam, its intensity and scope dealt a severe psychological blow to an administration that had been predicting victory. In March 1968 President Johnson, handicapped by the "credibility gap" between promise and performance, announced a halt to the bombing of North Vietnam and his decision not to seek reelection in order, he said, to devote his full energies to achieving peace. Meanwhile the antiwar movement continued to grow. In 1967 demonstrators marched on the Pentagon; an antiwar rally in New York attracted 125,000 protesters. Young men openly burned their draft cards in defiance.
To offset his youth and inexperience in foreign affairs, President Kennedy decided to take a tough stand against Communism. This led him to expand America's nuclear arsenal, to redesign America's fighting forces, to speed up America's space program, and to attend to the third world with a program of economic development. Although Lyndon Johnson pledged to concentrate on domestic affairs, the threat of communism led him to commit increasing attention and resources to skirmishes in Vietnam and Latin America. The war in Vietnam was like no other. Soldiers were transported to war in commercial airliners. In Vietnam, enemy bombings occurred on America's military bases, carried out by harmless-looking villagers. The Vietnam War was a civil war, in which American soldiers often could not distinguish friend from foe. Its sacrifices were enormous. It cost President Johnson his presidency. The poor lost when funding for Great Society programs was withdrawn to support the war. The war cost the lives of over 50,000 American soldiers and more than one million Vietnamese soldiers and civilians. Probably more important it left scars on the lives of all who fought or lived during the Vietnam Era, scars that have yet to heal completely. President Nixon was elected in 1968 pledging to end the war in Vietnam, but in fact he wanted to win that war. After "Vietnamizing" the war, he, at the same widened the war. In the end a truce was signed and American withdrew the troops, but by 1975, the North had united Vietnam under a communist government and Nixon had been driven from office in disgrace.
President Nixon both steadily reduced U.S. involvement in the war and expanded the fighting beyond the borders of Vietnam into Cambodia and Laos, a policy critics dubbed "widening down" the war. Under the Vietnamization program, South Vietnamese forces were trained and equipped to take over for U.S. troops as they were withdrawn. From a 543,000 man contingent in 1969, U.S. forces in Vietnam were cut to 340,000 in 1970, 177,000 in 1971, and 25,000 in 1972. To coincide with Vietnamization, the president also announced the Nixon Doctrine, which called for reduced presence of U.S. forces in Asia generally. On April 30, 1970, 70,000 U.S. and South Vietnamese forces invaded Cambodia to strike enemy sanctuaries along the border and disrupt supply lines. A main objective, to capture the Communist headquarters in Cambodia, failed. President Nixon justified the raid as necessary to protect the dwindling ranks of U.S. forces in Vietnam and to ensure the success of the Vietnamization program. But it drew a firestorm of protest in the United States, most dramatically on the campus of Kent State University, where the Ohio National Guardsman fired into a crowd of 2,000 demonstrators, killing four and wounding nine. To counter the growing wave of violent protests on campuses and in cities across the country, President Nixon considered but never carried out the hiring of Teamster union "thugs" to "go in and knock their heads off", according to a transcript of a White House tape recording obtained by the New York Times in 1981. Meanwhile doves in Congress stepped up the pressure to end the war. In 1970 the Senate repealed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which had been cited as equivalent to a congressional declaration of war. Adding to the growing American distaste for the war was the disclosure of the My Lai massacre of March 1968, in which unarmed South Vietnamese civilians were slaughtered by U.S. troops.
On June 17, 1972, five agents of the Committee to Reelect the President (CREEP) were arrested in the act of burglarizing the Democratic National Headquarters at the Watergate complex in Washington D.C. What was dismissed by the White House as a "third-rate burglary attempt" touched off a chain of events that was to unravel the worst political scandal in U.S. history and for the first time force a president to resign in disgrace. Over the next two years numerous misdeeds committed by or in the name of President Nixon were disclosed by investigative reporters, notably Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein of the Washington Post, and the Senate Select Committee on Watergate, chaired by Democratic Senator Sam Ervin of North Carolina:Nixon campaign officials had installed eavesdropping devices inside Democratic headquarters at Watergate
A Republican dirty tricks squad had attempted to sow dissension among Democratic candidates
White House officials, including the president, authorized payment of hush money to Watergate defendants and otherwise attempted to cover up criminal acts
A White House unit created to plug leaks of classified information, had burglarized the office of psychiatrist Daniel Ellsberg, the former government official who had distributed the Pentagon Papers, a top-secret study of the origins of the Vietnam War, to the press
The Nixon administration had drawn up an Enemies List in order to, according to a White House memo, "use the available federal machinery to screw our political enemies." Including on the list were black Representative John Conyers of Michigan, with a notation "Has known weakness for white females"; CBS newsman Daniel Schorr "a real media enemy"; show business celebrities Carol Channing, Bill Cosby, Jane Fonda, Paul Newman, and Tony Randall; businessmen and academics.
President Nixon repeatedly denied any wrongdoing. His principle accuser, White House counsel John
President Nixon repeatedly denied any wrongdoing. His principle accuser, White House counsel John Dean, maintained that although the president may not have authorized the Watergate break-in, he did direct the cover-up that followed. The truth probably never would have been known were it not for the existence of an elaborate White House taping system installed by President Nixon, presumably as an aid in reconstructing the events of his administration for his memoirs. While vowing his innocence, Nixon at first refused to turn over the tapes to the Senate investigating committee, citing executive privilege. Only after the Supreme Court unanimously ordered him to release them did he do so. One tape arrived with a mysterious 18 1/2 minute gap that sound experts concluded had been deliberately erased. The tapes generally supported Dean's version of events and thoroughly discredited the president. Nixon later regretted not having destroyed the tapes. Meanwhile, special prosecutor Archibald Cox and successor Leon Jaworski proceeded with prosecution of Nixon officials. Besides the original burglars and John Dean, those convicted of or pleading guilty to unlawful activity were secretary Dwight Chapin, special presidential counsel Charles Colson, adviser John Ehrlichman, chief of staff Bob Halderman, White House consultant E. Howard Hunt, personal attorney to the president Herbert Kalmbach, White House aides Bud Krogh and Fred Larue, CREEP counsel G. Gordon Liddy, CREEP director Jeb Magruder, attorney general John Mitchell, CREEP director, Herbert Porter, CREEP dirty trickester Donald Segretti, commerce secretary and CREEP finance director Maurice Stans. President was named an unindicted co-conspirator.
President Ford, the only man to enter the White House without having won a national election as president or vice president, began the campaign more than 30 points behind in the polls. Capitalizing on the powers of incumbency and exploiting Carter's image as a man "fuzzy on the issues", he managed to close the gap by election day to "too close to call". The most damaging issue to Ford's campaign was his pardon of former president Richard Nixon for crimes relating to the Watergate scandals. The Carter campaign was sidetracked temporarily on publication of a controversial interview with Playboy magazine. In it Carter candidly confessed: "I've looked on a lot of woman with lust. I've committed adultery in my heart many times." With Ford steadily gaining in the polls, the outcome seemed to depend on the debates. Most observers believed Ford outperformed Carter in the first debate, in Philadelphia September 23, limited to domestic issues, an encounter best remembered for a 20-minute loss of the audio portion of the program caused by a defective amplifier. In the second debate, in San Francisco October 7, on foreign policy, Ford stumbled badly, asserting that Eastern Europe was free of Soviet domination. Carter, pointedly addressing ethnic voters, responded, "I'd like to see Mr. Ford convince Polish-Americans that they're not under Russian domination." Carter continued to take the offensive in the third debate, in Williamsburg, Virginia, October 22, on general issues. Meanwhile, in the first nationally televised vice presidential debate, Senator Robert Dole, to the chagrin of his party, reinforced his image as the Republican hatchet man in blaming the Democrats for all the wars of the twentieth century. In the end, Carter was able to combine support in the South, the industrial North, and among blacks, white ethnics, and labor to offset narrowly Ford's strength in the West and among upper-income white-collar voters. Carter was the first man from the Deep South elected president since Zachary Taylor in 1848.
On November 4, 1979, Iranian militants seized the U.S. Embassy in Teheran and took more than 60 American hostages. For their safe return, the militants demanded that the deposed Shah Reza Pahlevi, then in New York undergoing medical treatment, be returned to Iran to stand trial. On the order of Iranian leader the Ayatollah Khomeini, nearly all the women and blacks plus one very ill hostage were released. The remaining 52 Americans were held captive for more than a year, pawns in a global war of nerves that outraged and frustrated the American government, provided an anti-American focus to the chaotic Islamic revolution in Iran, and contributed to the 1980 defeat of President Carter. Following the embassy takeover, the Carter administration undertook a massive diplomatic, economic, and, eventually, military offensive to win release of the hostages. In November 1979 President Carter suspended oil imports from Iran and froze Iranian assets in the United States. In December 1979 the UN Security Council called for the immediate release of the hostages, and President Carter expelled all 183 Iranian diplomats in the United States. Canadian embassy personnel hid six Americans who had eluded capture in the embassy takeover and in January 1980 arranged for them to slip out of Iran posing as Canadian diplomats. In early April 1980 Carter imposed more economic sanctions and barred all Americans except journalists from traveling to Iran. With no resolution in sight, Carter on April 24, 1980 dispatched a military force to rescue the hostages. The unit landed in Iran, but the malfunction of three helicopters caused the commander to abort the raid prior to the assault on Teheran. During the evacuation, two aircraft collided, killing eight servicemen. To foil any such future raids, the Iranians scattered the hostages among locations throughout Iran. The death of the shah in Cairo in July 1980 spurred hopes that the hostages might soon be freed, but Khomeini now demanded return of the late shah's assets, cancellation of all U.S. claims against Iran, unfreezing Iranian assets in the United States, and a U.S. pledge of noninterference in Iranian affairs (See how what we did in Iran in the 50s came back to bite us?) Meanwhile war broke out between Iraq and Iran, making the latter now even more vulnerable to economic pressure. In November 1980 the militants relinquished the hostages to the Iranian government. With Algeria acting as intermediary, a deal was stuck. Khomeini agreed to release the hostages in exchange for unfreezing Iranian assets in the United States, thus dropping his other demands. The hostages left Iran on January 20, 1981, ending 444 days of captivity, as President Carter turned over the government to Ronald Reagan.