Year
1963

U.S. policymakers express optimism

In the light of a deepening ideological rift between the Soviet Union and China, U.S. officials express their belief that Russian leader Nikita Khrushchev will seek closer relations with the United States. Unfortunately, the optimism was somewhat misplaced. Although China and the Soviet Union announced a serious split in mid-July 1963, Khrushchev’s days in office were numbered.

Officials in the U.S. government watched with tremendous interest the developing rift between the Soviet Union and China in the early 1960s. The ideological split centered around the Chinese perception that the Russians were becoming too “soft” in their revolutionary zeal and too accommodating to Western capitalist powers. In mid-1963, Chinese and Soviet representatives met in Moscow to try to mend the damage. U.S. diplomats were convinced that the rift was irreversible. As a consequence, they believed Khrushchev would become much more receptive to better relations with the United States in order to isolate further the communist Chinese. Thus, on July 6, 1963, the New York Times carried several related stories, based on statements from “responsible” figures in the administration of President John F. Kennedy, about the hopes for a meaningful “peaceful coexistence” between the Soviet Union and United States. Khrushchev himself had coined the term “peaceful coexistence” in the late 1950s, indicating that the hope for better U.S.-Soviet relations was not entirely one-sided. Kennedy obviously hoped to build on these feelings to prepare the way for the success of arms control talks with the Soviets scheduled for later in the month. This hope was realized when the Soviet Union and United States signed a treaty banning the aboveground testing of nuclear weapons in August 1963.

Just a few days after the newspaper stories concerning improved U.S.-Soviet relations, the Russians and Chinese officially announced their ideological split. Any benefits the United States hoped would accrue from this development in terms of a closer working relationship with Khrushchev, however, were swept away in 1964 when the Russian leader was removed from power by more hard-line elements of the Soviet government. Almost overnight, talk of “peaceful coexistence” disappeared and the Cold War divisions once again hardened.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Satchmo dies

Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong, one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century, dies in New York City at the age of 69. A world-renowned jazz trumpeter and vocalist, he pioneered jazz improvisation and the style known as swing. Louis Daniel Armstrong was born in New ...read more

The Hartford Circus Fire

In Hartford, Connecticut, a fire breaks out under the big top of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum Bailey Circus, killing 167 people and injuring 682. Two-thirds of those who perished were children. The cause of the fire was unknown, but it spread at incredible speed, racing up the ...read more

Women inducted into U.S. Naval Academy

In Annapolis, Maryland, the United States Naval Academy admits women for the first time in its history with the induction of 81 female midshipmen. In May 1980, Elizabeth Anne Rowe became the first woman member of the class to graduate. Four years later, Kristine Holderied became ...read more

Frank family takes refuge

In Nazi-occupied Holland, 13-year-old Jewish diarist Anne Frank and her family are forced to take refuge in a secret sealed-off area of an Amsterdam warehouse. The day before, Anne’s older sister, Margot, had received a call-up notice to be deported to a Nazi “work camp.” Born in ...read more

Althea Gibson wins Wimbledon

On this day in 1957, Althea Gibson defeats Darlene Hard 6-3, 6-2 to become the first black player ever to win Wimbledon. Gibson was born in South Carolina on August 25, 1927, and raised in Harlem. She started playing tennis in 1942 at the Cosmopolitan Tennis Club under the ...read more

George Walker Bush is born

On this day in 1946, George Walker Bush, the son of future President George Herbert Walker Bush, is born in New Haven, Connecticut. When he was two years old, Bush’s parents moved to Texas. where the elder Bush worked in the oil industry. Bush was nicknamed “Dubya” for his middle ...read more

Explosion on North Sea oil rig

On this day in 1988, an explosion rips through an oil rig in the North Sea, killing 167 workers. It was the worst offshore oil-rig disaster in history. The Piper Alpha rig, which was the largest in the North Sea, was owned by Occidental Oil and had approximately 225 workers ...read more

George “Bugs” Moran is arrested

FBI agents arrest George “Bugs” Moran, along with fellow crooks Virgil Summers and Albert Fouts, in Kentucky. Once one of the biggest organized crime figures in America, Moran had been reduced to small bank robberies by this time. He died in prison 11 years later. Bugs Moran’s ...read more