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The 1950s was a decade spanning from January 1, 1950 to December 31, 1959. This decade was notable for the early phases of the Cold War between NATO and the Bucharest Pact, as well as the first "hot conflicts" to take place during the stand-off.



1950 saw the beginning a new decade, with the icy relations of the Cold War coming to a climax.

Flag of the United Nations

Flag of the United Nations

At the start of the year, with recognition of the People's Republic of China spreading from Soviet-bloc nations to other nations, such as India and the United Kingdom, and the ratification of the Sino-Soviet alliance, the Soviet Union demanded that the Chinese delegation to the United Nations be from the People's Republic. When the request was not met, the Soviet Union boycotted the UN.

Meanwhile, in the United States, the year begins with tension as Wisconsin Senator Joseph McCarthy accuses 205 State Department workers of being Communist spies. This starts the Second Red Scare, with panic and anti-Communist mania spreading throughout the nation. Tensions are only made worse when Puerto Rican nationalists attempt to start a rebellion but fail to assasainate American president Truman.

Korean war

Battle scene from the Korean War

On June 25, with the tacit support of the Soviet Union and People's Republic of China, North Korea declares war upon the South Korea. The Communist forces make substantial progress before, in early July, the Soviet-boycotted United Nations authorizes the use of military assistance against the North. The United States heads this mission, under the leadership of General Douglas MacArthur.

Elsewhere in Asia, Tibet was invaded and incorporated int the People's Republic of China in October. The long process of integration also began. In French-controlled Vietnam, the United States sends military advisors to take part in the Indochina War.

In the United Kingdom, the Labour Party, led by Prime Minsiter Clement Attlee remains in office, despite Winston Churchill's Tories gaining seats in the House of Commons. Elsewhere in the world, West Germany decides to purge all communists from political office. Formal apartheid also began in South Africa. In the 1950 World Cup, Uruguay defeated Brazil 2-1.


1951 was marked by the third use of atomic weaponry in warfare. The situation began late in 1950, as Allied Commander MacArthur recommended the use of a tactical atomic bombing on Chinese forces to bring the Korean War to a close. President Truman soon thereafter relieved MacArthur of his post in a political move. MacArthur returned to the United States and convinced party leaders across Congress to pressure Truman to use the atomic bomb, which he authorized in April 23.

Atomic explosion 625

"Big Boy" explosion over Teng Sha Po, China

On April 24, the American-led forces, under Commander Matthew Ridgway, dropped the Big Boy Atomic Bomb on the Teng Sha Ho military base, outside of Dalian, Liaoning, China. As many as 200,000 Chinese, mostly military personnel, were killed instantly. Thus weakened, the Allied forces pushed the communists back past the 38th parallel. China withdrew from the war in early June. By June 25, 1951, the last of the communist forces had been defeated. The Treaty of Seoul led to the official reunification of North and South Korea into the Republic of Korea.

Back in the United States, the Red Scare continued. Wisconsin Senator Joseph McCarthy continued his investigations into alleged communist presence at the State Department and also took on Secretary of Defence George C. Marshall. His popularity soared after he predicted the dismissal of MacArthur. Meanwhile, the Rosenbergs were convicted of atomic espionage for the Soviet Union and sentenced to death.

In Europe, the reach of NATO was extended to include the anti-Soviet nations of Greece and Turkey. In the United Kingdom, a new general election was called by Attlee's government in efforts to expand the Labour majority which was dwindling. Instead of the expected Labour victory, Winston Churchill led the resurgent Tories to their first majority since 1945. Another hallmark of post-War Europe was also modified, as the Marshall Plan was replaced with the Mutual Security Plan.

Libya declares independence from its British and French occupiers after its seizure from Italy in World War II, igniting a wave of independence sentiment among North African states, including French and Spanish Morocco, French Tunisia, the British-occupied Suez Zone, and French Algeria.


With the Korean War over going into 1952, the United States had time to turn introspective for the upcoming Presidential Election. On the incumbent, Democratic side, President Harry S. Truman sought renomination (as the newly-ratified 22nd Amendment didn't bar the current president for serving an additional term). Alongside Truman were Alben W. Barkley, Vice President, and Estes Kefauver, Senator from Tennessee. Truman, who was viewed as somewhat unpopular by the general populace, still managed to win the party leaders into the nomination.

On the Republican side, former General of the Army Douglas MacArthur began to be convinced to run for President soon after he delivered his 1951 Congressional Address. A large, national "Draft MacArthur" movement gained steam, giving him good reason to throw his hat into the race. Against him ran his former Congressioanal ally, Robert Taft (Senator from Ohio), and Earl Warren (Governor of California). Warren eventually endorsed MacArthur, giving him the support he needed to win against Taft's political machine.

1952 Electoral Map, 6-2-5

1952 Electoral College Map

The general election focused on attributing success for the Korean War (which was mostly attributed to MacArthur), corruption, real and perceived, in the Truman administration, and the global fight against Communism. MacArthur had a large leg-up nationally, especially when he received endorsements from Chiang Kai-shek of the Republic of China and Syngman Rhee of Korea. Furthermore, Truman's decision to pick a northerner (up-and-coming Massachussetts Congressman John F. Kennedy) proved a tactical error with much of the South  going with MacArthur in what ends up being a landslide Republican victory.

Across the pond, King George VI died at the young age of 56 after years of struggling with his health. He would be remembered for founding the Commonwealth of Nations. His elder daughter, Elizabeth Windsor, was crowned as Queen Elizabeth II, the first female monarch of Great Britain since Queen Victoria's reign.

Elsewhere in Europe, the Nordic Council (comprised of SwedenFinland , Norway , and Iceland ) is formed and initiates common labor market and free movement. The European Coal and Steel Community (comprised of France, West Germany, Italy, Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands) is also formed and begins post-War European integration.

In Africa, a coup led by Muhammad Naguib and Gamal Abdel Nasser ousts King Farouk of Egypt. This heightens tensions between Israel and Egypt, as well as between Egypt and the West (particularly France and the United Kingdom). In Kenya, the Mau Mau Uprising begins against the British colonists.


At his final State of the Union, outgoing President Truman announces that the United States has developed a hydrogen bomb. Soon thereafter, Douglas MacArthur is sworn into office during the first nationally-televised inauguration ceremony. Weeks later, he delivers the MacArthur Doctrine in his first State of the Union address. The Doctrine called for an active American presence to destroy communism around the world, including taking the fight to the Soviet Union.

Under the Doctrine, MacArthur soon began to increase American involvement in the Indochina War, pointing to Soviet and Chinese backing for the Viet Minh of Ho Chi Minh.

Joseph Stalin dies in March

Lavrentiy BeriaGeorgy Malenkov vs Nikita Khrushchev, Molotov in Power Struggle

Tito takes over; Yugoslav-Albanian War begins

Fidel Castro launches the Cuban Revolution against Fulgencio Batista of Cuba.

US CIA and the UK's MI6 led the 1953 Iranian coup d'état.



Berlin Conference (?)







See Main Article: List of Wars

Political Leaders

Technology, Science, and Culture

The major technological advances in the 1950s primarily involved consumer products and spaceflight. The television, which had become available in the 1940s, was suddenly in high demand and, by the end of the decade, a majority of families owned a TV. Meanwhile, automobiles began to be designed around chrome and light, fiberglass bodies while passenger air travel becomes more common.

In 1957, the Soviet Union launched Sputnik 1, the first ever artificial satellite. In 1958, the United States followed suit, launching its own satellite and starting the space race. The first hydrogen bomb test took place this decade, led by the United States, while the Soviet Union opened the first nuclear power plant.


1952 - Mechanical heart
1953 - DNA structure
19553/5 - Polio vaccine


1953 - First Chevrolet Corvette