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The Cold War and President JFK
In 1960, Eisenhower’s Vice President, Richard Nixon, ran for the Republican Party for the Presidency. He faced off against a young Democrat named John F. Kennedy. They had the first televised Presidential debate. Television greatly helped JFK due to his youthful appearance and communication skills. JFK was only 43 years old when he became President. He became the icon for change in the USA. He asserted in his inaugural address that, “The torch has been passed to a new generation.”
JFK supported one of the chief issues of his day, the Civil Rights Movement to give African Americans and other minorities the rights they deserved. He wanted to see Jim Crow Segregation end and for African Americans to possess the rights they were due by the Constitution. As the Cold War continued, JFK was afraid impoverished countries would embrace Communism. He encouraged aid to be given to these nations and for Americans to volunteer to work in groups like the Peace Corps to assist these countries.
Instead of Brinkmanship, JFK wanted the USA to be able to fight ground wars as well, not just threaten the USSR with nuclear annihilation. This strategy was called the “Flexible Response.”
Fidel Castro made Cuba Communist, with the help of the USSR. In 1960, President Eisenhower let the CIA train Cuban exiles to invade and try to gain control over Cuba. In April of 1961, President JFK allowed the group to invade Cuba at an area called the Bay of Pigs. However, the Soviet Union gave aid to Cuba and the exiles were crushed by Castro. This was a massive failure and embarrassment for the USA. Cuba remained under Communist control. The USSR and Cuba began working together to secure the Communist government of Cuba. The Soviet Union wanted to be Cuba’s ally because it would give their nation a close area to keep nuclear weapons pointed at the USA. Nikita Khrushchev, dictator of the USSR, sent missiles to be planted in Cuba and pointed at the USA. This was called the Cuban Missile Crisis. JFK sent a blockade around Cuba. Many feared that nuclear war was about to erupt between the USA and the USSR. Khrushchev and JFK reached an agreement to remove the missiles, if the USA decided not to invade Cuba. It was learned later in history that the USA also secretly removed missiles in Turkey to appease the USSR too. Cuba remained an independent, Communist government. It is still a Communist government today.
After the USSR was not able to maintain a nuclear presence in Cuba, they began to be more aggressive with their control of Eastern Europe. Khrushchev began to take actions to try and control the border of West Berlin. He was angry that many were fleeing to West Berlin to escape Communism. He built the Berlin Wall to try to ensure that people could not flee to the West to pursue freedom and Democracy.
The USSR was the first nation to launch a Satellite, Sputnik, into space in 1957. Also, the USSR was the first nation on Earth to put a man in space. Soviet Cosmonaut, Yuri Gagarin, made it to space in 1961. The USA felt that the Soviets were gaining an edge in space technology. JFK promised that the USA would be the first to the moon. His promise was fulfilled in 1969 as Neil Armstrong became the first human ever to walk on the moon.
On November 22, 1963, while on a trip to Dallas, JFK was assassinated by Lee Harvey Oswald. Oswald’s motives were not well known. However, he was a former Marine who had traveled to the USSR and supported their ideology. A man named Jack Ruby killed Lee Harvey Oswald while he was under arrest.