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1950s / 1960s: The Koren War, the so-called McCarthyism, The Cuba Missile Crisis, The Civil Rights Movement and The Vietnam War


  1. The American Society of the 1950s and 1960s

During the 1950s and the 1960s the United States became a more and more powerful country; and while becoming important, the nation is confronted with a certain number of political and social event which leave their traces up to our time. The most important of these events were The Koren War, the so-called McCarthyism, The Cuba Missile Crisis, The Civil Rights Movement and The Vietnam War. Finally you can say that these two decades changed the United States drastically. People started to think about the society they were living in and about the values which determined their lives at that period.

    1. The Korean War


After the Secound World War the Korean War (1950-53) was a consequence of the tensions between the two different political systems which controlled the world. Communists had established a communist regime in North Korea. The United States supported a Western-based dictatorship in South Korea. After an almost complete occupation of the North by South Korean and American troups, South Korea attacked and almost completely occupied by North Korean and Chinese troups which were once again chased from the Southern part of the peninsula. The war finally ends with the armistice of Panmunjôm. Two million Korean civilians have been killed, there are 350,000 American and South Korean army casualties and about 1.5 million Chinese dead servicemen. Although the Southern part of the peninsula remains part of the Western hemisphere and its system, America is faced with a relatively  new situation. Half of Korea is left over to the communists. As a consequence fear from communism grow more and more.

    1. McCarthy and McCarthyism


While being confronted with communist countries outside the borders, the fear from being menaced by Communism from inside was growing.
„Americans looked abroad after 1945 and saw Communism taking over in East Europe (1945-48), China (1949), Korea (1950). For many it was simple. Communism was taking over the world.“
When the Republican Senator Joseph McCarthy claimed that he had a list of members of the Communist Party of the United States, the so-called `witch hunt´ began. As a result of the famous list 9,500 civil servants were dismissed and 15,000 resigned, 600 teacher lost their jobs and many artists were not able to work anymore. 400 Americans went to prison without having a fair trial. By 1954 he was forced to stop his action when he even claimed that the American Army was infiltrated by communists. According to what was going on in the contemporary society Arthur Miller wrote his text The Witches of Salem (1953), where he tries to encourage the opponents of this modern form of inquisition. As the nation was shocked by communism, people accepted laws limitating their personal freedom, but although the Cold War determined their life to their will of liberty.

    1. The Cuba Missile Crisis


Not only the Korean War and McCarthyism have to be seen in context of communism and the Cold War, but also the so-called Cuban missile crisis. Cuba had been under US-influence at this period and had serious problems in terms of corruption. On the one hand there is extreme luxury, and on the other hand great part of the Cuban population live in misery. In 1959 Fidel Castro the Cuban leader. Three years later the world come closely to a possible destruction by nuclear weapons. The Soviet Union had built up missiles on the Caribbean island; on the one hand to protect the island from a possible US-American invasion and on the other hand to enlarge its pressure on the United States. In October 1962 both sides signed an agreement which contains a guarantee of non-invasion and the withdrawal of the Soviet missiles from Cuba.          

    1. The Civil Rights Movement


The Civil Rights Movement became more and more important during the 1950s and the 1960s. The Afro American group was the only one who was forced to come to America, this group is especially important when we talk about American values like freedom. After several years of protest actions the black community, and with it its most known member Martin Luther King, obtained more and more rights and finally in 1964 the Civil Rights Act passed the House of Representatives and the American Senate. The law supported by President Johnson gave full civil equality to African Americans. From 1964 on they could no longer be excluded from restaurants, hotels and other public facilities. Once again the Afro American emancipation is a further main point which shows a possible realisation of the ideal of liberty and equality.      

    1. The Vietnam War


In 1950 first American soldiers are sent to Indochina. In 1954 Ngo Dinh Diem becomes prime minister and declares, backed by the U.S., South Vietnam an independent state in 1955. Diem is assassinated in 1963. Two years later American combat troops arrive in Vietnam. In 1965 there are more than 500,000 American soldiers in the South-East Asian country. U.S.-President Johnson authorizes his offensive operations, but also North Vietnam rejects aid in exchange for peace. In October 1967 50,000 Americans demonstrate against the war. In 1968 Vietnamese Communists attack Hué and other major towns, 150 civilians are killed in My Lai. In 1969 250,000 people demonstrate against the war in Washington. The last prisoners of war are released in 1973. On October 29th and 30th, 1975 Saigon falls. U.S. navy evacuates U.S. personal and South Vietnamese refugees.



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