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Timeline: 1961

Jan 1  President Sukarno swings a hoe at a ground-breaking ceremony launching an eight-year development program to achieve "Indonesian socialism."  He hopes that in eight years the income of Indonesians will have risen 11.6 percent.

Jan 3  President Eisenhower announces that a limit of endurance has been reached and has caused the US to sever relations with Cuba.

Jan 6  Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev speaks of  a mighty upsurge of anti-imperialist, national-liberation revolutions and says that "Communists fully and unreservedly support such just wars."

Jan 8  A referendum in France results in seventy-five percent favoring the granting of independence to Algeria.

Jan 17  In his final State of the Union address, Eisenhower expresses concern over military spending and an arms race, warning of the increasing power of a military-industrial complex.

Jan 17  The Belgian Minister for African Affairs has ordered the Congo to send Prime Minister Lumumba, a prisoner, to Katanga Province. In Katanga Province, Lumumba is beaten and taken by convoy into "the bush," where he is killed by a firing squad commanded by a Belgian.

Jan 20  John F. Kennedy is inaugurated President of the United States.

Jan 23  A  B-52 bomber breaks up in mid-air over North Carolina. Two hydrogen bombs, each 260 times more powerful than the Hiroshima atom bomb, fall to earth. According to a meticulous report in 2013 drawing from the Freedom of Information Act, trigger mechanisms engaged, and only one low-voltage switch prevented untold carnage and lethal carnage deposited over Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia and as far north as New York city.

Jan 25  A  military coup in El Salvador ousts the military junta that had been ruling for the past three months. The new junta accuses the old junta of  "leftist excesses."

Feb 6  Kennedy's Secretary of State, Dean Rusk, announces that the US is ready to cooperate with other American states in ending tyranny in the Western Hemisphere whether that tyranny is of the Left or Right.

Feb 17  President Kennedy discusses with his advisors the invasion of Cuba planned during the Eisenhower administration. He considers claiming that the purpose of the invasion is to destroy fighter aircraft and rockets in Cuba because they are a danger to US security.

Mar 1  President Kennedy wants to counter notions of the "Ugly American" and so-called "Yankee imperialism." By executive order he creates the Peace Corps.

Mar 1  Britain is granting internal self-government to its colony in Uganda. Uganda's first elections are held.

Mar 3  Hassan II succeeds his father as King of Morocco. He proclaims his role as Commander of the Faithful and continues to rule Morocco as a theocracy.

Mar 4   Prime Minister Hendrik F. Verwoerd of South Africa says his government will not tolerate any effort by other members of the Commonwealth to force a change of his country's racial policies.

Mar 18  A ceasefire is established in Algeria.

Mar 20  During a Charter Day ceremony, Clark Kerr, President of the University of California, raises the issue of the speaker ban created by the university's conservative Board of Regents. He says, "The university is not engaged in making ideas safe for student. It is engaged in making students safe for ideas." The ban had excluded Henry Wallace from speaking at UCLA in 1947 and a British member of parliament, Harold Laski, als from speaking at UCLA. And in May this year Malcolm X will not be allowed to speak on the Berkeley campus on the grounds that he is a religious leader.

Apr 5  The Dutch are still in control over what had been called Dutch New Guinea – the western half of New Guinea. They have been preparing people there for full independence. A locally elected council takes office. The Dutch are looking forward to the continued presence of Dutch commercial interests there.  

Apr 12  Yuri Gagarin of the Soviet Union becomes the first human in space.

Apr 13  An English-language radio broadcast in Moscow announces that an invasion of Cuba will happen within a week.

Apr 15  Pursuing what he calls a guided democracy, President Sukarno signs regulations permitting only eight political parties, one of which is Indonesia's Communist Party.

Apr 17  The invasion of Cuba begins. Cuban exiles are deployed in swamp land at the Bay of Pigs and they are easily surrounded. Secretary of State Dean Rusk announces that "there is not and will not be any intervention there by United States forces."

Apr 18  The CIA chief, Richard Bissell, tells President Kennedy that the invasion force is trapped and encircled. He asks Kennedy to send in US forces. Kennedy replies that he still wants "minimum visibility."

Apr 20  The CIA's belief that grateful Cubans would join the invaders against Castro has not happened. Castro announces the invasion's total defeat. Sixty-eight of the invasion force are dead and the remaining 1,209 are captured.

Apr 21  A Soviet army newspaper announces that the Soviet rocket that has put Yuri Gagarin into space could be used for military purposes.

Apr 22  In Algeria, French military officers begin a coup against France's government.

Apr 26  Conscript soldiers have responded to a radio broadcast by President de Gaulle and have refused to follow the coup leaders. The coup is a failure.

Apr 30  In the United States, exiles from the Dominican Republic announce their appeal to the US government for "effective help" against the dictatorship of Trujillo.

May 1-31  In the California State Legislature complaints are made about leftist professors and free speech at University of California at Berkeley. State Senator Hugh Burns announces imminent publication of his committee's report on Communist activity on the Berkeley campus. "Most kitchens have their cockroaches," Burns says, "and most universities have their Communists."

May 4  "Freedom Riders," blacks and whites, leave Washington DC for a bus tour of the South. The trip is organized by the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) for the purpose of testing the Supreme Court's decision on segregation of interstate transportation. In South Carolina, John Lewis (a future Congressman), and another rider are beaten, and another rider is arrested for using a white restroom. The event is widely broadcast across the nation.

May 5  The US sends its first astronaut, Alan Shepard, into space.

May 14 At Anniston, Alabama, the Ku Klux Klan has been given permission to attack the Freedom Riders without fear of arrest. The bus arrives and is attacked by an angry crowd, with no police around. The bus moves on to Birmingham. There riders are beaten severely while police stand by. The leader of CORE, James Farmer, ends the tour and has the riders flown to the original destination: New Orleans.

May 14 Howard K. Smith, veteran journalist from World War II days, witnessed the Klan beatings. A television documentary that follows will lead to Smith leaving CBS. The Head of CBS News, William Paley, will object to Smith's lack of objectivity. Smith will reply: "They [CBS] said it was against the rules to take sides on a controversial issue. I said, I wish you had told me that during World War II, when I took sides against Hitler."

May 16  In South Korea people are tired of political chaos. Many welcome a military coup led by Major General Park Chung-hee. 

May 20  Some have decided to continue the "Freedom Rides." Attorney General Robert Kennedy has asked that Alabama state police protect the Freedom Riders. When the Freedom Riders enter Montgomery, Alabama, the police disappear. A crowd of about 300 attack the riders with baseball bats, pipes and sticks. One rider is covered with kerosene and set afire. Robert Kennedy sends federal marshals to the city.

May 21  In Montgomery, a crowd begins throwing stones through the windows of a church where Martin Luther King is to speak. Armed federal marshals with tear gas move against the crowd, joined by baton wielding local police. In his speech, King calls for a massive campaign to end segregation in Alabama.

May 23  Alabama's Governor John Patterson blames the violence against Freedom Riders on the Freedom Riders. He accuses them of intenteding "to inflame local people" and "to provoke violent reactions."

May 23  The US State Department accuses the Trujillo regime of persecuting Roman Catholic officials. 

May 25  The Kennedy administration, wanting a "cooling-off period," has asked civil rights leaders for a moratorium on Freedom Rides. The Freedom Rides continue, into Mississippi. Attorney General Kennedy has won an agreement from the Governor of Mississippi that the Freedom Riders will not be beaten – merely arrested.

May 25  President Kennedy tells his fellow Americans that he aims to have the US be the first to put a man on the moon.

May 29  The Kennedy administration announces that it has directed the Interstate Commerce Commission to ban segregation in all facilities under its jurisdiction. "Freedom Rides" are spreading to train stations and airports across the South. Students from across the US are buying bus tickets to the South and crowding Mississippi's jails.

May 30  In the Dominican Republic, after thirty-one years in power, on a lonely road to meet one of his mistresses, the dictator Trujillo is killed by officers of his private army. 

May 31  South Africa leaves the Commonwealth of Nations, becoming completely independent. 

Jun 1  In the Dominican Republic, nominal power resides with the vice president, Joaquín Balaguer. Real power is with the military. The search for the assassins of Trujillo is underway.  

Jun 3  Spain's dictator, Francisco Franco, condemns the capitalism and the "liberalism" of other Western nations. He calls Spain's style of rule the "wave of the future."

Jun 4  In Vienna, President Kennedy meets with Khrushchev. Khrushchev concludes that Kennedy will be unwilling to negotiate meaningful concessions in the arms race. Khrushchev is concerned with the US having more nuclear missiles than the Soviet Union and that some US missiles are based in Turkey, near the Soviet Union's border.

Jun 13  The Soviet Union supports Sukarno's claim that Dutch New Guinea is a part of Indonesia.

Jun 17  Rudolf Nureyev, in France with the Kirov Ballet, requests asylum.

Jun 19   Kuwait gains independence from Britain.

Jun 26  President Kennedy arrives in Berlin and makes his "ich bin ein Berliner" speech. He says "And there are some who say in Europe and elsewhere we can work with the Communists. Let them come to Berlin."

Jun 27 Iraq's ruler, Kassem, believes that Kuwait belongs to Iraq. Kuwait has requested protection from Britain, and Britain sends troops.

Jul 2  President Kennedy's favorite author, Ernest Hemingway, has recently received electroshock treatment that he believes has damaged his memory.  At 61 and suffering ill-health, he commits suicide.

Jul 4  President Kennedy responds to a letter from Khrushchev: "I wish to thank you personally and on behalf of the American people for your greetings on the occasion of the 185th Anniversary of the Independence of the United States ... I am confident that given a sincere desire to achieve a peaceful settlement of the issues which still disturb the world's tranquility we can, in our time, reach that peaceful goal which all peoples so ardently desire."

Jul 8  Premier Khrushchev announces that he has ordered the suspension of projected reductions in the Soviet armed forces. It is to be said that he is challenged by the charge from within governing circles that he is too weak regarding threats from the capitalist West.  

Jul 10  East Germany announces that after it signs a peace treaty with the Soviet Union it will assume full control over Allied land and air access to Berlin.

Jul 12   West Germany's chancellor, Konrad Adenauer, proclaims Western rights regarding access to Berlin.

Jul 26  President Kennedy requests an increase in military spending. The Soviet Union accuses Kennedy of exploiting the Berlin dispute as a pretext for accelerating the arms race.

Jul 27  Governor Nelson Rockefeller of New York, a leading Republican, calls for public support of President Kennedy's military build-up. He says that Americans must "refuse to be bluffed, bullied or blackmailed."

Aug 1  In the past 24 hours, 1,322 have fled into West Berlin.

Aug 2  East German police confiscate identity cards from among the 50,000 residents of East Berlin who cross into West Berlin each day to work.

Aug 7  Khrushchev warns that Soviet divisions might mass on West Europe's frontiers as a defense measure. He calls for an international conference on Berlin.

Aug 13  East Germany begins constructing the Berlin Wall. Soldiers stand in front of the construction, on East German territory, with orders to shoot anyone who attempts to defect.

Aug 15  The United States, Britain and France formally protest against the closing of the border between East and West Berlin.

Aug 16  The Soviet Union warns Japan that the presence of United States military bases there makes it subject to an attack should war occur.

Aug 19  The East Germany newspaper, Leipziger Volkszeitung, claims that people criticizing the closing of the border were being "brought to reason by the hard fists of the workers."

Aug 21  In Kenya, the British release Jomo Kenyatta from prison.

Aug 24  In the US Congress it is said that Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru's support for the Soviet stand regarding Berlin has damaged relations between the US and India.

Aug 24  The Kennedy administration issues a "solemn warning" that interference with Allied access to West Berlin will be considered "an aggressive act" for which the Soviet government will bear full responsibility.

Sep 1 Turkey's former prime minister, Menderes, is hanged publicly. 

Sep 5  In Ghana, opposition to President Kwame Nkrumah erupts into strikes and demonstrations. Nkrumah orders strike leaders and opposition politicians arrested.

Sep 12  According to information received from physicians who work in East Berlin hospitals, the suicide rate has risen sharply.

Sep 12  In the Dominican Republic, tanks line streets following a day of disorders.

Sep 28  In Syria, nationalization of industries has enhanced opposition to Nasser's United Arab Republic. The military seizes power and proclaims Syria's independence. Egypt keeps the UAR name and Nasser chooses not to resist the break. 

Oct 11  In Vietnam, Viet Cong attacks have increased, and Diem's regime wants military aid but not US combat troops. In Washington D.C. the National Security Council (NSC) meets. An estimate by the Joint Chiefs of Staff is presented, claiming that  40,000 US troops would be required to "clean up the Viet Cong threat" and another 128,000 men would be needed to oppose North Vietnam's intervention. Secretary of Defense McNamara says that "it is really now or never if we are to arrest the gains being made by the Viet Cong."

Oct 12  Khrushchev calls for the disengagement of armed forces in Central Europe and a ban on supplying nuclear weapons to either East and West Germany.

Oct 17  In Paris, police attack a demonstration against a curfew that applies only to Muslims. The official death toll is 3. Human rights groups claim 240 dead.

Oct 19  British protection of Kuwait passes to the Arab League (headquartered in Egypt). British troops leave. 

Oct 20  The Dominican police use semi-automatic rifles, water hoses and tear gas against demonstrators. 

Oct 27  Mongolia and Mauritania join the United Nations.

Oct 31 The 22nd Congress of the Soviet Union's Communist Party ends. Chairman Khrushchev has announced his plan to move the country to a communist society within twenty years and to surpass the United States in per capita production. 

Nov 1  In the United States, the federal order by the Interstate Commerce Commission banning segregation at all interstate public facilities officially comes into effect. Desegregationists decide to test the train terminal in Albany, Georgia.

Nov 1  Kennedy has sent an advisor, retired General Maxwell Taylor, to Vietnam. Taylor concludes that "If Vietnam goes, it will be exceedingly difficult to hold Southeast Asia," His "eyes only" report to Kennedy is that Communist guerrillas are ""well on the way to success in Vietnam." He recommends more US support for Diem's regime. Appendices to the Taylor Report, written by others, speak of Diem's troops, the ARVN, lacking aggressiveness and that it would be a mistake for the US to make an irrevocable commitment to defeat the Communists in South Vietnam. It claims that foreign (US) troops cannot win battles at the village level, where the war must be fought, and that primary responsibility for saving Vietnam is with the Saigon regime.

Nov 2  The US Secretary of Defense, Robert McNamara, has relieved General Edwin Walker of his duties in Germany. Walker resigns from the army. He was accused of having distributed John Birch Society literature and of having described Harry Truman, Eleanor Roosevelt and Dean Acheson as "definitely pink."

Nov 2  China warns the United States against sending troops to Vietnam.

Nov 7  Albania's Communist leader, Enver Hoxha, celebrates the 44th anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution.  He praises international solidarity but attacks "Soviet leaders" for considering Albanian Communists "anti-Marxist,"  "dogmatist," and "sectarian."  He describes the soviet leaders and the Yugoslavs as "revisionists."

Nov 11  A McNamara-Rusk memorandum to the US Ambassador to Vietnam, Frederick E. Nolting, mentions an increase in US military involvement and instructs Nolting to tell President Diem that "We would expect to share in the decision-making process in the political, economic and military fields as they affect the security situation."

Nov 15  Two of Trujillo's sons return to the Dominican Republic and attempt to seize power.

Nov 19  US Secretary of State Rusk warns that the United States is considering "further measures" to make sure the Trujillo family does not "reassert dictatorial domination." US warships with 4000 Marines appear off the coast of the Dominican Republic. A jet fighter flies overhead. Members of the Trujillo family flee the country, to live thereafter on savings from Swiss banks.

Dec 2  Fidel Castro declares that he is a Marxist-Leninist and that Cuba will adopt Communism.

Dec 9  Tanganyika becomes independent of Britain and a member of the Commonwealth of Nations.

Dec 10  The Soviet Union severs diplomatic relations with Albania.

Dec 11  Two US helicopter companies (33 H-2IC helicopters and 400 men) arrive in Vietnam to strengthen Saigon's faltering military efforts, giving Saigon an advantage in airpower and transport. 

Dec 16  In Albany, Georgia, a movement to desegregate the city has resulted in the arrest of hundreds, including Martin Luther King, accused of parading without a permit, disturbing the peace, and obstructing the sidewalk. Albany's sheriff, Pritchard, has ordered his officers to be as non-violent as possible and to prevent brutality. His strategy is to avoid federal intervention, and it works. People have been denied their constitutional rights of free speech and assembly, but there will be no federal intervention. Albany holds out against the slightest accommodation with desegregation.

Dec 17  Nehru's patience with Portugal has run out. He sends Indian troops into Goa to end its status as a Portuguese colony.

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