Updated:
Original:
Year
1959
Month Day
September 15

Khrushchev arrives in Washington

Nikita Khrushchev becomes the first Soviet head of state to visit the United States. During the next two weeks, Khrushchev’s visit dominated the news and provided some dramatic and humorous moments in the history of the Cold War.

Khrushchev came to power in the Soviet Union following the death of long-time dictator Joseph Stalin in 1954. Many observers believed that Khrushchev, a devoted follower of Stalin during the 1930s and 1940s, would not provide much difference in leadership. He surprised them, however, by announcing that he sought “peaceful coexistence” with the United States and denouncing the “excesses” of Stalinism. During the late 1950s, Khrushchev continued to court a closer relationship with the United States and often praised President Dwight D. Eisenhower as a man who also sought peace. In 1959, the U.S. and Soviet governments shocked the world by announcing that Khrushchev would visit America in September and meet with Eisenhower face to face.

Khrushchev’s first day in America was mostly taken up with formal receptions and a motorcade from the airport to downtown Washington. At the airport, Khrushchev announced that he had arrived in America “with open heart and good intentions. The Soviet people want to live in friendship with the American people.” Groups of spectators and several military bands lined the way of the motorcade procession from the airport, and Eisenhower, Khrushchev, and Mme. Khrushchev sat together in the back of a convertible to wave at the crowds. Once in town, Khrushchev almost immediately sat for a nearly two-hour talk with Eisenhower and his advisers. Longer and more involved talks were scheduled for later in the Soviet leader’s visit. “Because of our importance in the world, it is vital that we understand each other better,” Eisenhower declared at a state dinner that night. Khrushchev agreed, adding that friendship was necessary “because our two countries are much too strong and we cannot quarrel with each other.”

During the next few days, Khrushchev took the opportunity to tour the United States before his summit meeting with Eisenhower. Although Khrushchev’s trip was more of a goodwill visit than an opportunity for significant negotiations, the tour provided some moments of high drama and low comedy, particularly during the Soviet leader’s trip through California.

FACT CHECK: We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us!

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Lehman Brothers declares bankruptcy

On September 15, 2008, the venerable Wall Street brokerage firm Lehman Brothers seeks Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, becoming the largest victim of the subprime mortgage crisis that would devastate financial markets and contribute to the biggest economic downturn since the ...read more

Tide turns in the Battle of Britain

The Battle of Britain reaches its climax when the Royal Air Force (RAF) downs 56 invading German aircraft in two dogfights lasting less than an hour. The costly raid convinced the German high command that the Luftwaffe could not achieve air supremacy over Britain, and the next ...read more

Tanks introduced into warfare at the Somme

During the Battle of the Somme, the British launch a major offensive against the Germans, employing tanks for the first time in history. At Flers Courcelette, some of the 40 or so primitive tanks advanced over a mile into enemy lines but were too slow to hold their positions ...read more

U.S. forces land at Inchon

During the Korean War, U.S. Marines land at Inchon on the west coast of Korea, 100 miles south of the 38th parallel and just 25 miles from Seoul. The location had been criticized as too risky, but U.N. Supreme Commander Douglas MacArthur insisted on carrying out the landing. By ...read more

First trenches are dug on the Western Front

In the wake of the Battle of the Marne—during which Allied troops halted the steady German push through Belgium and France that had proceeded over the first month of World War I—a conflict both sides had expected to be short and decisive turns longer and bloodier, as Allied and ...read more

Future President William Taft born

William Howard Taft is born in Cincinnati, Ohio on September 15, 1857. Taft was born into a politically active family; his father had served as President Ulysses S. Grant’s secretary of war. He attended college at Yale University, graduating second in his class. He then attended ...read more

A Bible school instructor abducts a teenage girl

Thirteen-year-old Melissa Benoit disappears in her hometown of Kingston, Massachusetts, on her way home from a friend’s house. Although the town detective talked to everyone who lived on the path between the two houses, no one admitted to having seen Benoit. Soon afterward, the ...read more

Confederates capture Harpers Ferry

Confederate General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson captures Harpers Ferry, Virginia (present-day West Virginia), and some 12,000 Union soldiers as General Robert E. Lee’s army moves north into Maryland. The Federal garrison inside Harpers Ferry was vulnerable to a Confederate attack ...read more

Nuremberg race laws imposed

On September 15, 1935, German Jews are stripped of their citizenship, reducing them to mere “subjects” of the state. After Hitler’s accession to the offices of president and chancellor of Germany, he set about the task of remaking his adopted country (Hitler had to pull some ...read more