The United States in 1960Historians/History
Author’s Afterword (written in 2008)
The wording of the following essay is precisely that placed in the mail on December 30, 1960. It was written for the New International Year Book for 1961. Although I was duly paid for this after working hours effort, the manuscript was returned to me, for there was a dispute between the publishers and the writer over the paragraphs dealing with Fidel Castro’s degree of attachment to Communism, for example, “…the Castro regime…turned to the Communist Bloc for military and economic aid and for ideological comfort.” That sentiment may have been regarded by the encyclopedia’s final review persons as conjectural, or too pessimistic, as unsuitable for their audience, likely to provoke overseas readers or, perhaps they thought me downright wrong. As for me, then a confident administrative editor who read Cold War material almost daily as a RAND Corporation staff member, my assessment of Castro’s movement toward the Third International seemed fully warranted and not to be edited out. In addition, after looking at the unsigned and much shorter version ultimately run by the yearbook, I think there may have been editorial decisions of which I was not made aware at the time.
I was left with a manuscript probably publishable “somewhere,” but I was very busy with daily writing and editing. I quietly routed a few copies of my text to friends and several superiors. (It was not eligible to be issued within the D, RM, or R system of publication, for it was in reality a scholarly hobby, just like a book and various articles I published during three and a half years with RAND.)
Summary assessments of calendar years have been commonly prepared and published by encyclopedias from that day to this and long before. I apprenticed for this effort by twice writing the long articles “United States” in 1956 and 1957 for the Encyclopaedia Britannica yearbooks--of 1957 and 1958 respectively). The methodology was not unique: clipping and saving from the better periodicals of the day—in my case especially the sober New York Times that then came days late in the mail. I outlined repeatedly, wrote rapidly toward year’s end, and made sure to meet the troublesome deadlines that made publication possible in February. Payment was by the word.
Anyway, here is a contemporary appraisal of what the year 1960 seemed like to one who was living and observing it. Readers will see instantly that there is no awareness of the future Bay of Pigs, the Cuban Missile Crisis, advisors building up toward a Vietnam War, JFK assassination, a War on Poverty and new laws on civil rights, two more assassinations, a Moon Landing, and the birth of environmentalism. The Nixon mentioned here is not yet the one who will run for California governor, beat Hubert Humphrey for President, be reelected in a landslide, and leave the office after abusing the public trust. Isn’t it sobering to think that at the very moment one is living, that is, now, there are momentous events in the offing that could change our appraisal of reality and modify our lives profoundly?
Original Text: The United States in 1960
Introduction. The Year 1960 was for the people of the United States a time of expectant hopes—and developing apprehensions; of accomplishments in science and productivity—and weaknesses in humanity; of triumphant self-government—and unsolved economic problems.
It was a Presidential election year and a census year; the beginning of a new decade: “the Sixties;” and for the national image a period of unusual distortion. The red, white, and blue emblem came to boast fifty stars on July 5 and the population topped 180 million (April 1: 179,323,175). Yet the year saw a powerful President, Dwight D. Eisenhower, in his last year of eight in office, forced to endure the ignominy of having invitations extended by two major powers to visit their lands withdrawn in the glare of world publicity.
The year began with professional business forecasters proclaiming a forthcoming economy that would warrant the term “Soaring Sixties.” Year’s end, however, saw steel production at a dismal low, unemployment climbing slowly, and uncertainty in federal government finance.
The national, state, and local elections received more attention from the mass public and mass media, perhaps, than any in ready memory. The drama in the persons and conduct of the youthful Presidential candidates, tensions born from a religious element last raised in 1928, the central role of television in the quick magnification of particular issues, and the uneasy realization that the world was watching every move with intense self-interest—all served to make the election of 1960 memorable. The startling closeness of the final result provided a fitting climax to the spectacle of a free people choosing those they wished to lead them in peace or, if need be, in war.
Better housed, clothed, and fed than ever before, Americans were reminded repeatedly of the plight of migrants, slum dwellers, the unemployed, and the handicapped in their midst. The health status and financial status of aging citizens was debated, and facts and figures were assembled in many patterns to prove various legislative cases. As the nation prepared to commemorate the coming centennial of a Civil War born in large part of issues deriving from the enslavement of the black man, the problems faced by America’s largest minority race were still headline news.
Soviet-U.S. relations were often given top billing in 1960 by journalists who knew the uneasiness with which the man-in-the-street was gradually coming to view Khrushchev’s technologically accelerating and obviously imperialist nation. While specialists followed the news of disarmament negotiations in Geneva, every taxi driver could and did pontificate on the U-2 debacle. And even school children by year’s end had been indoctrinated on the whereabouts of Quemoy and Matsu, the continuing existence of a darkest Africa, and the reality of a satellite (Echo I) that all could see as it ignored the existence of national boundaries. Events in Cuba and Laos disturbed policymakers in Washington; and looking to the South it was considered expedient by the President (but not the Congress) to permit the flying of the Panamanian flag side by side with the stars and stripes in one place in the Canal Zone.
All mankind in 1960 knew that the United States was a power in the world; more than at any time since it had risen to first rank among the nations; however, the leaders of foreign governments felt it necessary to listen—not only to the latest word from Washington—but to that from Moscow. The year was one in a rapidly changing period when thermonuclear or biochemical catastrophe might accompany a breakdown in one’s relations with the outwardly volatile Communists. Thus high posts in national capitals and in the United Nations contained many leaders disturbed that even competent leadership might not be able to guarantee the future of mankind.
The Election. Victorious in the congressional election of 1958 with 56.5 percent of the vote, and free of the necessity for running against Eisenhower, the Democratic Party had looked forward with optimism to the Presidential race of 1960. But a noticeable rise in the popularity of Vice President Richard M. Nixon in 1959 and the abrupt withdrawal of Governor Nelson Rockefeller on December 26 disturbed many who favored the fortunes of Senators Stuart Symington Hubert H. Humphrey, John F. Kennedy, and Lyndon B. Johnson. Backers of Adlai Stevenson hoped that their favorite might be selected in 1960 to do battle with a political figure rather than a war hero. Close observers in January thought the election might possibly turn on peace, prosperity, and personality (but not necessarily in that order).
Kennedy announced his candidacy on January 3; Nixon did likewise on the 9th, with President Eisenhower coming to his support on March 16. Humphrey had long been a candidate. Not until March 24 did Symington announce, while Johnson held off until summer (July 5). Victorious in the New Hampshire, Wisconsin, West Virginia, and Oregon primaries, Kennedy was a Democratic frontrunner on the eve of the Los Angeles convention of his party—although former President Truman called him “immature.” Stalwarts such as Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt expressed sharp misgivings, and reaction to his Catholic religion was adverse in the South (but not among Northern city politicians).
The first ballot Kennedy victory in the convention was decisive. He partially disarmed disgruntled Southerners by the designation of Senator Johnson of Texas as his running mate, and somewhat cheered uneasy or dismayed Americans for Democratic Action and Adlai Stevenson elements by a forceful acceptance speech pledging national movement toward New Frontiers. Senator Henry Jackson of Washington replaced Paul M. Butler as national chairman.
The Democratic platform was more of an issue in 1960 than in recent elections. Entitled “The Rights of Man,” it made clear an intention to use federal machinery to do a multitude of things that were thought to need doing. There should be a restoration of national military, political, economic, and moral strength, it stated, pledging reaction against job discrimination and the inability to pay for medical care, and the institution of many new services and controls. The platform was exceedingly popular with liberal elements in the party, unpopular in the South, and a prime Republican target.
The expected nomination of Vice President Nixon was quickly made by the Republicans in their Chicago convention, and his last minute choice of photogenic U.N. ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge for a running mate quickly met with gratifying approval. Since the Democrats had charged declines in American power and prestige in Republican years, party speakers tended to evoke images of American greatness and called on their opponents to exhibit increased patriotism. The Republican platform “Building a Better America,” tried to avoid unduly complacent pointing with pride at the Eisenhower years. A dramatic convention-eve conference between Nixon and Governor Rockefeller had helped to shape its planks to minimize committee and floor fights. Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona, recognized spokesman for classic conservatism, was not entirely appeased, however. Indeed, the platform was a far cry from those of only a few campaigns back. Compared to the Democratic document, it was less inclined to rely on federal as against state power, more concerned with the concept of freedom from government intervention in private matters, less alarmist in assessing national strength, and did not offer as many promises of benefits that would flow from a party victory.
Both Democratic and Republican platforms showed the concern of their framers for foreign affairs in general and national defense in particular. Both platforms opposed admission of Communist China to the U.N., but the Democrats added that they would “welcome any evidence that the Chinese Government is genuinely prepared to create a new relationship based on respect for international obligations….” Both parties spoke well of the United Nations. As for the “captive nations” behind the Iron Curtain, both parties displayed sympathy and a willingness to use peaceful means to hasten their day of freedom. Indeed, in foreign affairs, despite numerous references by the Democratic platform to 7 l/2 years of ineptitude in Republican performance, the platforms were basically similar.
In the defense area, the Republicans saw U. S. military might as “second to none,” while the Democrats called for the recasting of military capacity to provide “diversity, balance, and mobility sufficient in quantity and quality to deter both limited and general aggressions.” The Republicans pointed to the maintenance of peace since Korea; while the Democrats referred to a “missile gap, space gap, limited war gap.” The length and strength of language in the planks of both parties in this area showed the underlying concern of responsible political leaders for the national safety.
Planks on labor, agriculture, and social welfare reflected partisan divisions in Congressional voting during the Eisenhower years, although in the civil rights area in particular there was promise of greater federal regulation than legislators of either party had been willing to legislate thus far. No extensive floor fight on civil rights developed in either convention, but it was widely understood that the strong language of the Democratic platform was unlikely to be reiterated in the national campaigning to come.
Republicans accused the Democrats of having promised, in the welfare area, federal action so extensive as to amount to the “buying” of votes; yet there was nothing new in Democratic Party platform calls for federal action, control, or financing in areas such as housing, health, and aid to depressed areas. The memory of New Deal and Fair Deal was frequently evoked by Democratic speakers as the campaign progressed. Eleanor Roosevelt came to Kennedy’s support, and Harry Truman (although absenting himself from his party’s convention) did likewise. Governor Rockefeller campaigned long hours for the Nixon-Lodge ticket, and Senator Goldwater did so in Southern states.
In the long and intensive campaigning that began virtually as soon as the conventions adjourned, the four candidates labored daily and nightly with an intensity seldom equaled. To experts who had once predicted that TV would sound a death knell to barnstorming, this exhibition must have come as a shock. Nixon traveled over 60,000 miles and visited every state, even going to Alaska the Sunday before election day, and Kennedy covered 75,000 miles while going to 44 states. Republicans made much of the fact that Senator Johnson largely limited his efforts to his native South, and charged that the Kennedy-Johnson ticket did not see eye-to-eye on civil rights and other matters. Slips by Lodge (such as a later modified assertion that the Republicans would appoint a Negro to the cabinet), and his indication that he thought parochial schools should receive certain benefits from government, indicated that neither ticket was free of individualism in viewpoint. Republican handled unimaginatively an argument over American overseas “prestige.”
While there was much talk of Kennedy’s religion in the press, in pulpits, and in private, the big news of the election of 1960 was made in four television debates between Kennedy and Nixon. These were unprecedented. They brought millions to TV screens—especially for the first of the discussions. Many newspapers carried full texts of what was said, and citizens of a serious bent in many instances continued to debate the issues at length. Persons whose voting had long been determined by the quality of “the man,” disregarding issues, felt in 1960 that the debating device gave them a new window for peering at a future President fit to govern the nation.
It was generally asserted, and widely believed, that for reasons of lighting or makeup—or because of physical or personality factors—the first TV debate fatally damaged the then existing Nixon image. Although the heavy-browed, perspiring, overly severe Nixon in the TV screens of the first debate faded in those that followed (and was completely eliminated for many of the housewives who ironed or sat through his four-hour TV “telethon” from Detroit the Monday before election day), the damage endured.
Kennedy, not widely and certainly not universally known before his nomination, presented to the public a dynamic and personable young figure, articulate and upright. Some thought they saw a new “FDR.” While both candidates drew vast crowds as they moved through New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and many lesser cities and towns (often speaking briefly at suburban shopping centers), it was probably true that Kenney’s demonstrative and more youthful audiences surpassed Nixon’s measurably in overt enthusiasm. The belated participation of President Eisenhower in partisan campaigning did much to raise Republican hopes in the closing weeks. Yet it was hard to overcome damage done by an ambiguous press conference remark the President had made months before to the effect that it would be hard for him to think of areas where the Vice President’s counsel had been influential on decisions….
An AFL-CIO endorsement of Kennedy-Johnson (and all that went with it) was helpful to that ticket, and many business executives and physicians worked openly for the Republicans for the first time. Polls showed, even before the counting of the votes, that the war hero’s image had not been transferable to the intelligent, articulate, dedicated, and capable—but not quite electric—Vice President. Considering carefully the persons of Nixon and Kennedy, veteran Socialist observer Norman Thomas, approaching 76, judged, “They are exceedingly similar men as far as I see it, and I think they are very able.”
The counting of the votes proved an exciting and long-drawn-out process, as the result in some states proved indecisive for a week or even more. Absentee ballots swung California from Kennedy to Nixon (Hawaii vice versa), and recounts threatened for a time to reverse the result in Illinois. Accustomed to quick and definitive announcement of election results, citizens were disconcerted by the possibility that the apparent Kennedy victory might be overturned—even in mid-December. With charges of corruption in Chicago and elsewhere and intimations that certain Southern electors might switch allegiance from the apparent victors, relief greeted the not unexpected announcement that the Electoral College had certified John Fitzgerald Kennedy as the next President of the United States. The final electoral vote was 303 to 219, with 15 for Senator Harry F. Byrd. The popular vote, 68,832,788, was divided: Kennedy 35,221,531, Nixon 35,180,474, others 502,773. Nixon carried 26 states, Kennedy 23. Clamor for Electoral College system revision, not unusual, was especially strident.
Minor parties amounted to little in 1960, either as salesmen for ideas or ideologies, or as recipients of concentrated votes. Yet enough votes were gained by the Socialist Labor, Socialist Workers, Prohibition, Constitution, Conservative, National States’ Rights, and other parties to keep the victors margin from being a true majority of votes cast. For the first time in the century the Socialists did not offer a candidate. The new Senate would be divided 65 D, 35 R; the House would be 262 D, 173 R (for a noticeable Republican gain).
Following the election, both Kennedy and Nixon dragged themselves to Florida—the vanquished Nixon and his hard-campaigning wife, Pat, to think through the problem of how best to spend the next four years. The winner would take counsel on distributing the spoils of victory that accompanied capture of the executive branch of the government. Relations between the outgoing administration and the Kennedy forces were outwardly cordial, and a visit to the White House was proclaimed “unusually informative in nature.” The hearts of voters of both persuasions were particularly taken during this interregnum by the highly newsworthy caesarian birth of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, Jr.
The Kennedy cabinet was announced with unusual deliberateness. The cabinet consisted of: Secretary of State: Dean Rusk, 51; Treasury: Douglas Dillon, 51; Defense: Robert S. McNamara, 44; Attorney General: Robert F. Kennedy, 35, brother of the President-elect; Postmaster General, J. Edward Day, 46; Interior, Stewart L. Udall, 40; Agriculture: Orville L. Freeman, 42; Commerce: Luther Hodges, 62; Labor: Arthur J. Goldberg, 52; HEW: Abraham A. Ribicoff, 50. There were six Protestants, two Jews, a Catholic and a Mormon; two (Defense, Treasury) were Republicans. Rusk and young Kennedy were quickly singled out for attack by partisans.
When President Eisenhower referred after the election to narrowly defeated candidate Nixon as “the head of the Republican Party for the next four years” the designation was unacceptable to Governor Rockefeller (who endorsed “collective leadership”), while Senator Goldwater indicated that party ideology would have to move to the right by 1964, so far as he was concerned. Representative Charles A. Halleck, House Minority Leader, said the consensus he sensed was that the initial and primary responsibility for Republican policy formulation would rest on “Republicans in Congress.” (These had sponsored during the campaign a policy document on “America’s Strategy and Strength.”) Nixon soon signified the intention of providing leadership in preparation for 1962; at year’s end his personal plans were not yet ready to be revealed.
Foreign Affairs. On August 9, at a time when the election was beginning to occupy the minds of Americans, Secretary of State Christian Herter told a press conference that there should be no illusions that U.S. foreign policy was going to be immobilized by the campaign. The nation could still move “with speed, force and unity.” Americans take pride, he said, that their mass media are preoccupied with the determination of who is to guide their destinies for the next four years. “The world would be a safer and a better place in which to live,” he reflected, “if the countries of the Sino-Soviet bloc enjoyed the same freedoms of expression, of thought and of choice.” Unimpressed by the concept of electoral choice made without fear of defeat, and attuned to a single party, the Soviet press and public were reported to see the American election as no more than a useless choice between Tweedledum or Tweedledee—between “political twins.”
There was little doubt in 1960 that the United States was in and of the world. News of the Congo, of Laos, Cuba, Korea, Algeria, Turkey, and Ethiopia vied with accounts of major power activities in the mass media. The meeting of the U.N. General Assembly brought Khrushchev and a full house of Communist dignitaries from Iron Curtain countries as well as rulers of new African nations. De Gaulle and Macmillan were other visitors to the U.S.
The long awaited signing of the treaty with Japan took place in the White House on January 19, replacing that of September 18, 1951. Full sovereignty was restored to Japan in defense matters; U.S. land, air, and naval forces were granted use of facilities and areas in Japan; and “international peace and security in the Far East” seemed to have been advanced. Attacks on Japanese territory would be resisted by joint action of both nations. Ratification by Congress came on June 22. Crown Prince Akihito and his wife visited the nation in late September, tending to offset slightly the embarrassment created by the leftist riot-caused cancellation in June of Japan’s invitation to be the nation’s guest.
The U.S. in April rebuked the Rhee regime on the death of 125 youths in Korea; the aging Rhee soon resigned and fled his country, coming to Hawaii. The riots in Japan and Korea were followed by similar disturbances in Turkey, Italy, and elsewhere, all of them watched closely by Washington officials apprehensive of Communist expansion through riot techniques.
Anglo-American relations were unmarred by major disputation in 1960, although an agreement to lend a harbor in Scotland for a Polaris submarine base, and a Ford Motor Company plan to purchase control of its British subsidiary, both irritated residents of our leading ally. British decision to abandon construction of her IRBM, Blue Streak, and to purchase Sky Bolt, a future Douglas Aircraft Company missile, seemed to seal Anglo-American interdependence for some years to come.
Senate ratification of a 12-nation Antarctic treaty as a means of keeping that frigid part of the globe peaceful was hailed by some as a sign that the U.S. and U.S.S.R. could reach agreement on some matters. An Eisenhower visit to Latin America in the spring, though marred by a tragic plane crash involving a substantial part of the U.S. Navy Band, was a successful good-will tour, as was a later visit to Manila. French explosion of a nuclear device in the Sahara, accounts of Israeli construction of a reactor, and continuing speculation on the date in the 1960’s when the Red Chinese might possess one or more atomic weapons, disturbed persons concerned with the apparent problems that might come with the spread of nuclear weapon capabilities.
On July 8 some of the native army in the new Republic of Congo mutinied, and the situation there quickly became chaotic and (in the view of whites on the scene) virtually barbaric. As the Security Council urged evacuation of Belgian troops and a U.N. force was flown in, a veritable comedy of jungle-style overturns of local government brought strange names like Kasavubu and Lumumba into American living rooms. The U.S. soon charged the Soviets with trying to make political hay in central Africa, and on September 19 the U.N. General Assembly told the Russians by a vote of 70 to 0 to keep hands off.
U.S. aid to foreign countries for civil and military purposes continued in 1960, as it was revealed that total military aid to 12 Western European countries, 1950-1959, had come to $13,704,990,000. There were signs in 1960 that the nation was increasingly anxious that prosperous European powers increase their aid to underdeveloped countries to ease the burden on the U.S. Senator Goldwater urged that aid be stopped entirely, and there were misgivings as the civil war in Laos in autumn, fought in large part with U.S.-supplied weapons, brought realization that the supplying of aid was no cure-all; yet the situation there was very complex—and by December 31 dangerous. The campaigning of the election year had revealed no evidence that highly placed leaders intended to cut back the giving and lending of foreign aid in many forms as part of our routine foreign policy.
U.S., British, and Soviet negotiations in Geneva, aimed at a treaty to discontinue nuclear weapons tests as a first step toward some degree of disarmament, continued in early 1960. The 14-month old conference boiled down to Soviet desire to sign a test-ban treaty first and to study problems of detecting small underground explosions later. The U.S. continued to insist on enforceability and safeguards. Full East-West disarmament talks resumed, after a two and a half year gap, on March 15, but the Soviets walked out late in June. U.S. offers then (and later) before the U.N. Disarmament Commission, were rejected by the Soviets. There was little meeting of the minds in this area in 1960. Although it was revealed that arms costs in the world came to some $320,000,000 per day, the U.S., at least, was decidedly unwilling to pay the possibly catastrophic costs in unilateral or uninspectable disarmament in a world half Communist.
U.S.-Cuban relations hit an all time low in 1960 as the Castro regime seized virtually all American property on the island, treated civil rights cavalierly, and turned to the Communist Bloc for military and economic aid and for ideological comfort. The U.S. eschewed military action and relied chiefly on an embargo on exports and on mobilization of Latin-American opinion. Reliance lay on the hope that the Cuban populace would come to its senses before an attack by the ever more heavily armed Castro army on our Guantanamo naval base, or some equivalent event, might start a tragic shooting war.
Represented at the U.N. by Henry Cabot Lodge until his resignation to campaign actively, the United States showed once again in 1960 that in the 15th year since the founding of the U.N. it was prepared to meet more than its share of financial obligations and to participate fully at almost all levels of service. The nation was glad to see the Soviet candidate for Assembly president beaten, to see Red China again kept from membership (though by a narrowing margin), and to have Dag Hammarskjold beat off Soviet attempts to have him ousted from office. It was hoped that the non-parliamentary conduct of the Soviet premier before the Assembly had clarified for some neutralist delegates among those of the 99 member nations the traditional Communist contempt for the daily procedures of representative government. Eloquent Adlai Stevenson would be the new U.S. ambassador to the U.N., beginning in 1961.
U.S.-Soviet Relations. The Soviets made headlines as 1960 began with an announcement of a 1,200,000 man reduction on their armed forces (2,423,000 would remain under arms). Firepower was by no means being reduced, however, and rocket equipment would be relied on heavily. President Eisenhower prepared during the winter months for a scheduled Summit Conference with Khrushchev in Paris and for a later visit, by the Premier’s invitation, to Russia.
The meaning to the U.S. of extended Soviet-Chinese autumn negotiations on the inevitability of international war, and on the proper Communist line to take in an age of thermonuclear threats, remained unclear in 1960, although the agreement’s ultimate importance to peace, war, and coexistence was unquestioned.
The nation was electrified on May 5 by a Khrushchev announcement that an American aircraft, something called a U-2, had been shot down deep within Soviet territory. This was probably the year’s most dramatic single event. After high Administration officials charged with press relations operated at cross-purposes, it was formally admitted on May 7 that the captured and unharmed pilot, Francis Gary Powers, had been on what was almost unprecedentedly defended by President Eisenhower as an entirely justifiable photographic reconnaissance (i.e., spy) mission. The world watched apprehensively as the Soviet Premier, professing extremes of surprise and indignation (although the flights had been known to the Soviets for a long period), walked out of the Paris meeting with open rudeness and cancelled his invitation for an Eisenhower visit.
The U.N. Security Council subsequently refused, 7-2, to censure the U.S. on the U-2 incident, perhaps persuaded on the validity of the American position that the flights had long been a real protection for the Free World against surprise (“Pearl Harbor”) attacks. Refusing to give in on the principle involved, the U.S. announced abandonment of further flights of the U-2 type. The decision seemed to stem in part from the fact that the world-wide publicity given the flights had compromised them, and it was also related to the extreme threats made by the Soviets against any of our allies who would in the future facilitate take-offs for unauthorized flights over Soviet borders. The heavily publicized trial of civilian pilot Powers in the Soviet Union took place under a code of justice new and strange to Americans, who read about the proceedings with some bewilderment.
On July 11 the Soviets admitted shooting down a U.S. RB-47 reconnaissance plane over the Barents Sea ten days earlier; the U.S. said it had been 30 miles from the U.S.S.R. A U.N. vote of 9-2 went in favor of the U.S. Refusal to release two captains who survived, and Soviet firing on a U.S. observation plane over Laos in December, were other unpleasant aspects of Soviet-U.S. relations, as the “spirit of Camp David” seemed forgotten. Still, some cultural exchanges continued—even though American tourists within Soviet borders were occasionally accused of spying. Two National Security Agency employees were revealed in September to have defected to Moscow. The FBI soon revealed in a 63-page document that Soviet spying in the U.S. made the U-2 incident “pale into insignificance.” Aerial photographs of the U.S. had been standard items of conspiratorial purchase. Two Soviet spies were arrested October 27. A Soviet threat on July 9 to use rockets if the U.S. intervened in Cuba brought a prompt Presidential reply that the Soviet Union was to keep its hands off the Western Hemisphere. Khrushchev later took an occasion to dilute the earlier threat, as the Castro government displayed an extreme degree of belligerency and the U.S. chose to display unusual naval activity in the Caribbean for a time.
Premier Khrushchev ended a 25-day stay in the New York City area on October 13. During his visit he made daily headlines. He appeared as an interviewee on a long regularly scheduled and (normally) commercially sponsored TV broad-cast, delivered belligerently outspoken addresses at the U.N.—and interrupted speeches by others—and purchased vast quantities of American-made consumer luxury goods to take home.
FBI Chief J. Edgar Hoover stated in December that internal Communist activity in the U.S.—far from abating—was being stepped up, especially among youths. The House Un-American Activities Committee continued to hold hearings despite a bloodless riot at its legally constituted San Francisco meeting in the public courthouse. Federal agencies enforced a variety of security measures in a continuing effort to protect technological know-how from foreign agents.
The Military and Space. Satellites of many kinds made Jules Verne-style news in 1960; it could be said that the year brought to the public a greater realization of the potentialities of space activities in communication, weather observation, navigation, and increased knowledge of the universe. Military uses of rockets were brought home in public discussion of ICBM’s and IRBM’s. There was serious controversy on matters of national strategy. Soviet accomplishments, particularly in elevation of objects of large weight and constant professions of their enormous destructive capability made even casual Americans assume a growing concern for the national safety and “prestige” (a subject much debated).
An Eisenhower declaration made in some heat during his Press Conference of January 13 set the stage for partisan political debate on weapons and strategy throughout the year. “I’ve spent my life in this [Defense],” he said, “and I know more about it than almost anybody I think that is in the country….” Secretary of Defense Thomas S. Gates revealed quantities of facts and figures at various times on weapons in the national arsenal, but critics took the view that in the coming Sixties some new weapons, and certain types of problems, would vastly outweigh traditional ones in significance—especially for survival. At year’s end the whole discussion had become more sophisticated.
The successful debut of Polaris heartened the nation. Discussion of such subjects as civil defense, “hardening” of aircraft storage and missile launching sites, problems in maintaining full command, mobility of weapons, capacity to fight “limited wars,” threats from radiation, and the degree (and possibility) of possible survival in the event of full-scale attack were becoming more common at year’s end among serious observers. The degree of safety the U.S. could offer NATO and particularly West Germany through various means began to be discussed at home---as it had long been abroad. A new Chief of Staff, General Lyman L. Lemnitzer, was named in August, and a Symington Committee plan for armed forces reorganization was debated at year’s end. The Triton, a nuclear submarine, circled the globe under water (41,519 miles in 84 days).
Space news was made by Echo I, a balloon-shaped communications satellite; Explorer VIII, heavily instrumented; Transit I-B, forerunner of a space navigation system; the manned X-15 experiments; Pioneer V, an artificial planetoid; Midas, a surveillance satellite; the Discoverer series—which provided airborne recovery of capsules from space; and Trios, a meteorological (“weather-eye”) package of camera equipment. In mid-November, the U.S. had 17 satellites still in space, while the Soviets had only two—but they still exceeded the nation in capacity to orbit great weights (4 ½ tons on May 15). Werner Von Braun foresaw a U.S. man-in-space effort late in 1961. All in all, 1960 would go down in history as a time of much advance by mankind in the penetration of outer space. The U.S. batting average on launchings, .470 in 1958 and .580 in 1959, was .500 by May 11, 1960.
The Domestic Scene. While no single dramatic incident highlighted “the economic situation” in 1960, the outwardly prosperous year was marked by quiet misgivings, uneasy appraisals, and routine politically inspired extremes in prediction. In December, 1959 the Director of the Bureau of the Budget foresaw possible ultimate disaster in a U.S. “public debt and future commitments” total of some $750,000,000,000 (not including annual operating expenses). But public demand for additional government services was shown in many ways in the year; much of the talk of somehow increasing the rate of annual growth in the economy was designed in part to facilitate passage of legislation to enlarge government operations (as well as to finance national survival).
The nation’s employed reached 67,767,000 in early autumn, while unemployment had reached 3,400,000 in August (about 800,000 of these were persons out of work for more than 15 weeks—a figure well under the 1,700,000 of a year earlier). Un-employment was very spotty and was severe in certain communities. Three million citizens for various reasons had one or more jobs in addition to their regular employment.
National income in 1959 had reached the $400 billion level for the first time, despite the long steel strike, and in 1960 the GNP passed $500 billion. The Consumer Price Index in mid-year stood at 126.5 (1947-49 =100), little changed in a year (June, 1959 = 125.3), but by October, 1960 it had climbed another 0.8.
A “gold outflow” was the big economic news of late 1960, and the government made a variety of efforts to stop it. High interest rates in Europe, a sluggish U.S. economy, heavy U.S. public and private expenditures overseas, foreign competition in the American market, and distrust of the dollar were factors in the steady transfer of gold out of the country; their individual importance as causes, and the particular remedies to be pursued, were debated at year’s end. Government spending abroad was to be sharply reduced. American companies were scheduled to invest $3,852,000,000 in facilities abroad during the year. Although annual exports exceeded imports by more than $4 billion, hope was expressed that the differential could be broadened. U.S. investment abroad reached a total of $65.8 billion, as opposed to foreign investment here of $40.7 billion.
Auto output in 1960 reached 6,700,000 units, the second highest on record. Some optimism for the future could be seen in ATT plans to spend $2.5 billion for expansion in 1961, and General Motors plans to spend $1.2 billion, an increase of fifty million over 1960.
The federal debt exceeded $290 billion in 1960, but the revenue surplus came to $1.2 billion even though expenditures reached $76,539,412,799.
It was by no means a year for important legislation by the Congress. Appro-priations for welfare items climbed, and a civil rights bill achieved passage despite the longest filibuster on record (82 hours, 3 minutes). It was the second such measure since 1875 and the first since 1957. That the law would one day be important was unquestioned, but it did not fully satisfy liberal and Negro groups. Legislators clashed, as usual, on expenditures for defense, foreign aid ($3.7 billion) and on aid to “depressed areas” at home. There was much jockeying for political advantage in an election year as a “postscript session” of Congress in August achieved no more than had been predicted. Decision on Forand-type legislation for medical care for the aging on social security rolls was only postponed by passage of a bill that would plug major loopholes in states inclined to participate, but not in the others.
Supreme Court decisions in 1960 appeared to be routine. The session saw disposal of 1,822 cases out of 2,178. Off-shore oil rights were awarded to the states. Decisions on individual rights remained the area of effort most closely observed by the public; the year saw rulings on both sides of this controversial matter. Overall, the divisions in the highest court of the land seemed once again to be on methods of change rather than fundamentals. Charges that the Court was overworked and not able to study cases sufficiently brought stinging rejoinder from world traveler and author Justice William O. Douglas, who asserted there was, more than ever, ample time for “research, deliberation, debate, and meditation.”
As in 1959, the year brought ample evidence that differences over racial equality as concept and reality ran deep in the national culture. In Alabama, Tennessee, South Carolina, Florida, Georgia, and in New Orleans, clashes over Negro rights evoked national attention. “Sit-ins” were born of Negro resistance to traditional chain store restaurant efforts to exclude Negroes. Clashes over school integration scheduling under the Supreme Court ruling of 1954 (particularly in New Orleans) were not unusual in Southern states; meanwhile, surveys showed continuing discrimination in housing in the North and West. Still, 12 Negroes quietly began the new school year at Central and Hall High Schools in Little Rock, Arkansas, and integration victories were achieved elsewhere. Vice President Nixon’s federal committee in December brought in a hard-hitting report against job discrimination, fully endorsed by the recently defeated candidate for President. Senator Lyndon Johnson would inherit this political whirlwind on assuming the Vice Presidency.
As he prepared to leave office, President Dwight D. Eisenhower, at 70, had become the oldest man ever to sit in the White House. Dean of the nation’s aging citizens (average life expectancy for Americans in 1959: 69.7); he planned to retire to his Gettysburg farm after January 20, 1961.
College enrollment hit 3,610,007 in 1960-61, an increase of 6 percent. Local taxpayers approved $387 million in school bond issues on November 8 in an effort to keep classroom space abreast of needs. Voters approved 137 such issues, defeating 34.
The increasingly urbanized nation came to have about fifty cities with populations over 258,000 (1787: 24 towns with more than 2,500). There was an 11 percent rise in serious crime, most of the increase in cities. California’s execution of Caryl Chessman on May 2 after long years of litigation aroused renewed interest in eliminating the death penalty. A White House Conference on Children and Youth called for federal action in various fields to meet defined needs.
The United States was still experiencing a cultural boom (mixed with evidence of bad taste in some motion pictures and a rise in “pornographic” literature on newsstands). Over 3.9 millions visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art, a figure over twice the number who watched the Yankees in home baseball games and more than twice the number who attended the Louvre overseas. The Detroit Art Museum had more visitors than the British Museum, and Houston’s Museum of Fine Arts had more than the museum of The Hague. Some 1,142 symphony orchestras and 35 million concert goers also showed the national interest in culture. The deaths of musical greats Leonard Warren, Laurence Tibbett, John Charles Thomas, Oscar Hammerstein, 2, Lucretius Bori, and Dmitri Mitropoulos reminded the musically inclined of past American contributions, while the passing of philanthropist John D. Rockefeller, Jr., Walter Yust (editor of Encyclopaedia Britannica) comedy’s Mack Sennett, and society’s respected Emily Post were evidences of America’s accomplishments in fields of diverse interest. Clark Gable would be difficult for the motion picture industry to replace (or for the public to forget). Youngsters—and many not so young—would miss Ward Bond of the wholesome and vastly popular Wagon Train TV show.
A ten-man study group, The President’s Commission on National Goals, brought in a report on November 16 which attempted to paint horizons for the growing nation. The final report with its additional statements and essays made a 372-page book entitled Goals for Americans. While it was clear that the panel had been unable to agree in certain areas (labor, welfare, civil rights, federal action in general, and the Connelly amendment), the net result was important. The paramount goal of the nation, it was agreed in a summary, is “to guard the rights of the individual, to ensure his development, and to enlarge his opportunity.” A call was made for a new sense of responsibility, for an increase in personal effort, and for enlargement of attitudes beyond “the materialistic ethic.”
Challenged by the imponderability of daily events in an awesome missile age; concerned over burgeoning population and frustrating economic stresses; and clinging to ever-increasing leisure in which to enjoy consumer goods, the American people lived their respective lives in 1960.
For them it had been another year without war. They were glad. Immersed in the routine of daily living, they looked toward 1961 with fingers crossed—hopeful that it would miraculously bring some degree of freedom from the tensions of modern life on a troubled planet.
comments powered by Disqus
- A New Target for Old Spies: Congress
- Antigua and Barbuda Asks Harvard University for Slavery Reparations
- Historian: Nixon DID contest the 1960 election
- Killer took selfie after stabbing historian over rare ‘Wind in the Willows’ book
- VW fires corporate historian who drew attention to wartime ties to Nazis
- British historian Sheila Lecoeur is on trial for defamation
- Jim Downs laments that Americans still aren’t being taught LGBT history
- Historian Jeremy Kuzmarov calls on Obama to pardon Ethel Rosenberg
- Garry Wills says there’s one human test we can use to decide who’s the better candidate: Trump or Clinton
- Get to Know the Semifinalists for the National Book Award