Year
1963

Kennedy assassinated

President John F. Kennedy is assassinated during a visit to Dallas, Texas. His death caused intense mourning in the United States and brought Vice President Lyndon Johnson to the presidency. Kennedy’s untimely death also left future generations with a great many “what if” questions concerning the subsequent history of the Cold War.In the years since Kennedy’s death, a number of supporters argued that had he lived he would have done much to bring the Cold War to a close. Some have suggested that he would have sharply curtailed military spending and brought the arms race under control. The most persistent claim, which served as the centerpiece of Oliver Stone’s 1991 film JFK, is that Kennedy would have withdrawn U.S. troops from Vietnam after being re-elected in 1964. Stone went on to charge that right-wing militants in the U.S. government coordinated the assassination plot.It is difficult to say what Kennedy would have done had he not been killed in November 1963, but the arguments raised by Stone and others do not seem supported by the available evidence. During his brief presidency, Kennedy consistently requested higher military spending, asking for billions in increased funding. After the humiliating defeat at the Bay of Pigs in Cuba, his administration approved Operation Mongoose, a CIA program that involved plots to destabilize the communist government in Cuba. There was even discussion about assassinating Cuban leader Fidel Castro. In Vietnam, Kennedy increased the number of U.S. advisers from around 1,500 when he took office, to more than 16,000 by the time of his death. His administration also participated in the planning of the coup that ultimately overthrew South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem, who was murdered by his own military just three weeks prior to Kennedy’s assassination. If Kennedy was going to become less of a cold warrior after 1964, there was little to suggest this change prior to November 22, 1963.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Stealth bomber unveiled

In the presence of members of Congress and the media, the Northrop B-2 “stealth” bomber is shown publicly for the first time at Air Force Plant 42 in Palmdale, California.The aircraft, which was developed in great secrecy for nearly a decade, was designed with stealth ...read more

Margaret Thatcher resigns

Margaret Thatcher, the first woman prime minister in British history, announces her resignation after 11 years in Britain’s top office.Margaret Hilda Roberts was born in Grantham, England, in 1925. In 1959, after marrying businessman Denis Thatcher and giving birth to twins, she ...read more

Blackbeard killed off North Carolina

Edward Teach, also known as Blackbeard, is killed off North Carolina’s Outer Banks during a bloody battle with a British navy force sent from Virginia.Believed to be a native of England, Edward Teach likely began his pirating career in 1713, when he became a crewman aboard a ...read more

John F. Kennedy assassinated

John Fitzgerald Kennedy, the 35th president of the United States, is assassinated while traveling through Dallas, Texas, in an open-top convertible.First lady Jacqueline Kennedy rarely accompanied her husband on political outings, but she was beside him, along with Texas Governor ...read more

Soviets encircle Germans at Stalingrad

On this day in 1942, a Soviet counteroffensive against the German armies pays off as the Red Army traps about a quarter-million German soldiers south of Kalach, on the Don River, within Stalingrad. As the Soviets’ circle tightened, German General Friedrich Paulus requested ...read more

Westmoreland claims U.S. victory at Dak To

General William Westmoreland, commander of U.S. Military Assistance Command Vietnam, briefs officials at the Pentagon and says that the battle around Dak To was “the beginning of a great defeat for the enemy.”The battle for Dak To began on November 3 when 4,500 U.S. troops from ...read more

JFK assassinated in Dallas

On this day, President John F. Kennedy is assassinated in Dallas.Kennedy took office on January 20, 1961. From the start of his term, he was faced with a deteriorating situation in Southeast Asia, in which both Laos and South Vietnam were threatened by communist insurgencies. ...read more

First B-52 shot down over North Vietnam

The United States loses its first B-52 of the war. The eight-engine bomber was brought down by a North Vietnamese surface-to-air missile near Vinh on the day when B-52s flew their heaviest raids of the war over North Vietnam. The Communistss claimed 19 B-52s shot down to date. ...read more

Jack London dies of kidney disease

Jack London, one of the best novelists to chronicle the last wild western frontier of Alaska, dies from kidney failure in Glen Ellen, California.Born in San Francisco in 1876, John Griffith London was the child of an unmarried mother who had come from a once wealthy family that ...read more

George Eliot is born

Mary Ann Evans, later known as George Eliot, is born on this day in Warwickshire, England.Eliot attended several schools until her mother’s death in 1841, after which she moved to Coventry with her father. In Coventry, Eliot grew close with her neighbors, the radical intellectual ...read more

Commuter trains collide in New York City

Two Long Island Railroad (LIRR) commuter trains collide on this day in 1950, killing 79 people. Defective equipment caused this horrific rear-end collision, the worst in the history of the LIRR.The accident occurred in the Richmond Hills section of Queens. A 12-car train carrying ...read more

President Kennedy is assassinated

President John F. Kennedy is shot and killed as his motorcade drives through Dealey Plaza in Dallas, Texas. Kennedy’s suspected assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, was believed to have used a mail-order rifle in order to shoot the president from the sixth story window of the Texas ...read more

Hood enters Tennessee

On this day in 1864, Confederate General John Bell Hood invades Tennessee in a desperate attempt to draw Union General William T. Sherman out of Georgia.This movement was part of the saga of Hood’s Army of Tennessee in 1864. In the spring, the army, commanded then by Joseph ...read more

First Mercedes goes for a test drive

On this day in 1900, the first car to be produced under the Mercedes name is taken for its inaugural drive in Cannstatt, Germany. The car was specially built for its buyer, Emil Jellinek, an entrepreneur with a passion for fast, flashy cars. Jellinek had commissioned the Mercedes ...read more