This Cold War timeline contains important dates and events from 1960 to 1969. It includes events such as the presidency of John F. Kennedy, the building of the Berlin Wall, the Cuban missile crisis and increasing American military involvement in Vietnam. This timeline has been written and compiled by Alpha History authors. If you would like to suggest an event for inclusion in this timeline, please contact Alpha History.
January 2nd: John F. Kennedy announces his intention to run for the United States presidency in November.
January 10th: British prime minister Harold McMillan delivers his first ‘Wind of Change’ speech in Accra. His speech hints at a move towards decolonisation of British possessions in Africa.
January 19th: The United States and Japan sign a Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security, a defence treaty allowing the US to maintain military bases in Japan.
February 11th: Skirmishes on the Chinese-Indian border cause the deaths of 12 Indian soldiers.
February 13th: France becomes the world’s fifth nuclear power, after testing its first nuclear weapon in northern Africa.
March 17th: US president Dwight Eisenhower endorses a CIA plan to overthrow the Castro regime in Cuba by supporting an invasion by Cuban exiles. This gives rise to the Bay of Pigs invasion in April 1961.
April: The US deploys Jupiter missiles in Italy and Turkey. These missile bases allow the US to launch a short-range nuclear strike on the Soviet Union.
April 25th: South Korean leader Syngman Rhee is forced out of office and replaced by a democratic government.
May 1st: Soviet ground defences shoot down a U2 spy-plane and detain its US pilot, Gary Powers. Five days later Soviet leaders unveil evidence of American spying, embarrassing the US and sparking an international incident.
May 7th: After previously claiming that Powers’ U-2 was collecting weather information, the US government finally admits that it was on a surveillance mission.
May 16th: Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev demands an American apology for the U2 incident (above). This leads to the abandonment of a planned US-Soviet summit in Paris.
July 1st: A Soviet fighter jet shoots down an American reconnaissance plane over the Barents Sea. Four American crewmen are killed and two others taken prisoner by the Soviets.
July 28th: Richard Nixon is affirmed as the Republican candidate for the US presidential election in November.
July 31st: British and Commonwealth forces defeat communist guerrillas in Malaya.
August 6th: Cuban leader Fidel Castro orders the nationalisation of all American-owned property.
October 12th: While addressing the United Nations, Nikita Khrushchev becomes agitated at criticisms of Soviet policies in eastern European. Khrushchev removes his shoe and thumps it on the lectern.
October 19th: The US places a partial embargo on Cuba, banning the export of all items except food and medicine.
November 8th: John F. Kennedy is elected US president, defeating Richard Nixon in one of the closest presidential elections in American history.
December 20th: The National Liberation Front, a nationalist-communist insurgency, is formed in South Vietnam. The West comes to know the NLF as the Viet Cong.
January 3rd: The US announces the severing of diplomatic ties with Cuba.
January 9th: British authorities announce the discovery of a Soviet spy ring based in the town of Portland.
January 17th: Outgoing US president Dwight Eisenhower delivers his farewell address and warns of the growing influence of a “military-industrial complex”.
January 20th: John F. Kennedy is sworn in as US president. In his inauguration speech, Kennedy warns that the US will “bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend [and] oppose any foe” to ensure the continuation of freedom.
April 12th: The Soviet Union launches the first man in space, cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin.
April 17th: The CIA-backed invasion of Cuba, focused on the Bay of Pigs, commences. It is defeated within three days.
May 5th: Alan Shepard becomes the first American to travel into space.
May 16th: The democratic government in South Korea is overthrown following a military coup led by General Park Chung-hee.
June: The US begins installing nuclear-capable Jupiter missiles in Turkey, increasing its capacity to launch against the USSR.
June 3rd: Nikita Khrushchev and John F. Kennedy begin a two-day summit in Vienna, Austria.
June 4th: Khrushchev ends the summit with another ultimatum, giving the allies until December 31st to withdraw from Berlin. This marks the start of the Berlin Crisis, which contributes to the construction of the Berlin Wall.
June 16th: While visiting Paris, Russian ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev defects and requests political asylum. Nureyev’s defection causes a sensation around the world.
July 25th: John F. Kennedy rejects Khrushchev’s ultimatum on Berlin and calls for US military reinforcements in western Europe.
August 13th: East German troops close the border with West Berlin and begin construction of the Berlin Wall.
September 18th: A plane crash in eastern Africa kills United Nations Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjold and 15 others.
October 26th: The beginning of a tense two-day standoff between US and Soviet tanks at Checkpoint Charlie in Berlin.
October 31st: The Soviet Union detonates ‘Tsar Bomba’, at 50 megatons the most powerful nuclear device ever tested.
November 18th: John F. Kennedy authorises the deployment of 18,000 military advisors to support the struggle against communist insurgents in South Vietnam.
December 2nd: Fidel Castro addresses the Cuban people and affirms his commitment to Marxist socialism.
January 9th: Cuba and the Soviet Union sign a trade agreement.
January 22nd: The Organisation of American States suspends Cuba’s membership, following intensive lobbying by Washington.
February 7th: The US embargo on Cuba (October 1961) is further extended to include most food and medicines.
February 10th: Detained U2 pilot Gary Powers is returned to the US, in exchange for a captured KGB agent.
February 20th: John Glenn becomes the first US astronaut to orbit the Earth.
May 5th: East German university students complete a 150-metre long tunnel under the Berlin Wall. Twelve people use it to escape to West Germany.
August 17th: East German Grepo officers shoot Peter Fechter, 18, as he attempts to escape into West Berlin. Unassisted by the Grepo, Fechter slowly bleeds to death.
October 15th: The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reports that surveillance photographs have revealed the installation of Soviet ballistic missiles in Cuba.
October 20th: The beginning of a month-long war between China and India, sparked by border disputes, incidents and political tension.
October 22nd: John F. Kennedy appears on television and addresses the American people. Kennedy announces a naval blockade of Cuba, to remain in place until the removal of Soviet ballistic missiles there.
October 26th: US military commanders set DEFCON 2, prepare ballistic missiles and stock B-52 bombers with nuclear weapons.
October 29th: Khrushchev announces the withdrawal of the missiles, following backroom negotiations with the US.
November 20th: Kennedy suspends the American naval blockade of Cuba.
May 23rd: Cuban leader Fidel Castro begins a visit to the Soviet Union.
June 11th: Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Quang Duc commits suicide by setting himself on fire on a street in Saigon. Duc’s suicide, a protest against the persecution of Buddhists in South Vietnam, is captured by television crews and photographers.
June 16th: Soviet cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova becomes the first woman in space. Soviet propaganda hails this as evidence of gender equality in the USSR.
June 20th: The US and USSR agree to install a hotline to allow direct communication in the event of a nuclear crisis.
June 20th: Swedish air force colonel Stig Wennerstrom is arrested for espionage, after passing secret documents to the Soviets. He is later sentenced to life in prison but paroled after serving 11 years.
June 26th: While visiting West Berlin, John F. Kennedy delivers his famous “Ich bin ein Berliner” speech.
July 30th: British spy Kim Philby is granted political asylum in the Soviet Union.
August 5th: The US, UK and USSR sign the Partial Test Ban Treaty, which prohibits non-underground nuclear test explosions. This treaty takes effect in October.
October 10th: From Russia with Love, the second film to feature fictional secret agent James Bond, opens in Britain.
October 16th: Konrad Adenauer resigns as the chancellor of West Germany.
November 2nd: South Vietnamese leader Ngo Dinh Diem is assassinated during a coup by army officers. The coup proceeded with the backing of the CIA and the White House.
November 22nd: US president John F. Kennedy is assassinated in the streets of Dallas. Kennedy’s vice president, Lyndon Johnson, becomes president.
March 30th: A military coup in Brazil, possibly supported by the CIA, overthrows left-wing president Joao Goulart.
April: US president Lyndon Johnson and Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev agree to reduce production of nuclear weapons materials.
August 4th: The Gulf of Tonkin incident: North Vietnamese torpedo boats allegedly fire on the American warship USS Maddox. As a result of this incident the US becomes directly involved in the Vietnam War.
August 7th: The US Congress passes the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, authorising president Lyndon Johnson to take action to protect American personnel and allies in Vietnam.
October 14th: Leonid Brezhnev replaces Khrushchev as Soviet leader.
October 16th: China tests its first atomic weapon, becoming the second nuclear-capable communist state.
November 3rd: Lyndon Johnson is reelected president of the United States.
January 24th: The death of former British prime minister Winston Churchill.
March 2nd: US and South Vietnamese planes commence Operation Rolling Thunder, an ongoing bombing campaign against military and industrial targets in North Vietnam.
March 8th: US combat troops begin arriving in Vietnam. By 1968 there will be a half million American soldiers deployed there.
April 28th: US forces invade the Dominican Republic to head off a communist revolution there.
April 29th: Australian prime minister Robert Menzies announces that his government will deploy a battalion of combat troops to Vietnam, to support American forces there.
July 28th: US president Lyndon Johnson announces that another 50,000 combat troops will be sent to Vietnam.
October 8th: The Indonesian military begins a series of mass killings, targeting communists, suspected communists and ethnic groups. Ten days later the Indonesian government outlaws the local communist party.
November 6th: The US and Cuban government agree to allow Cubans to resettle in the United States if they wish.
November 14th: The Battle of Ia Drang, the first major battle between US and North Vietnamese forces in the Vietnam War.
December 5th: Several hundred civilians attend a public demonstration in Moscow, protesting against the arrest of two dissident writers.
December 21st: A Soviet newspaper reports that the government has shipped anti-aircraft missiles to North Vietnam.
January 26th: Robert Menzies retires as prime minister of Australia. He is replaced by Harold Holt.
February 10th: Two Soviet writers, Yuli Daniel and Andrei Sinyavsky, are sentenced to prison terms for criticising the government.
March 31st: The Soviets launch Luna 10, the first man-made probe to orbit the Moon.
April 8th: Leonid Brezhnev becomes general secretary of the Soviet Union, further consolidating his power.
April 27th: Soviet foreign minister Andrei Gromyko visits the Vatican and meets Pope Paul VI.
May 16th: Mao Zedong and his followers initiate the Cultural Revolution. It soon becomes a mass movement driven by radical students, who target those suspected of disloyalty.
June 20th: French president Charles de Gaulle begins a visit to the Soviet Union.
June 30th: France withdraws its military commitment to NATO.
July 7th: A Warsaw Pact conference promises support to North Vietnam.
June 23rd: US president Lyndon Johnson meets Soviet leader Alexei Kosygin in New Jersey.
August 8th: Five nations sign the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) declaration in Bangkok, a commitment to co-operate in the struggle against communism.
January 5th: Alexander Dubcek becomes leader of the Communist Party in Czechoslovakia.
January 21st: The Thule incident: an American B-52 bomber carrying four hydrogen bombs crashes into the sea near Thule, Greenland. This leads to an expensive salvage operation and radioactive contamination of the area.
January 21st: The Blue House attack: a group of North Korean commandos cross the demilitarised zone on a mission to assassinate the South Korean president, Park Chung-hee. They fail to gain access to his mansion, however, dozens of South Korean police and civilians are killed in the ensuing firefight.
January 23rd: USS Pueblo, an American naval vessel being used to gather intelligence, is boarded and seized by North Korean troops. The ship is claimed as a prize of war. Its 82 crewmen are detained, interrogated and tortured for 11 months, before being released in December 1968.
January 30th: The Tet Offensive in Vietnam suggests that a US victory there may be years away, or possibly unachievable.
March 31st: With the Vietnam War unpopular and his own approval rating at a low ebb, US president Lyndon Johnson announces that he will not seek re-election in November.
April: Czechoslovakian leader Alexander Dubcek unveils a raft of proposed reforms, including greater freedoms, economic changes and a transition to democratic socialism.
May 10th: The commencement of the Paris peace talks on Vietnam, involving the US, North and South Vietnam and the Viet Cong.
August 3rd: Warsaw Pact nations sign the ‘Bratislava Declaration’, affirming their loyalty to socialism in both government and the economy.
August 20th: Soviet and Warsaw Pact armies enter Czechoslovakia, resulting in the rollback of the Prague Spring liberal reforms.
September 13th: Albania withdraws from the Warsaw Pact, in response to the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia.
November 5th: Former vice president Richard Nixon is elected 37th president of the United States, carrying 32 states.
November 12th: Leonid Brezhnev says the Soviet Union will intervene in the affairs of Soviet bloc nations if Moscow believes socialism is under threat. This becomes known as the Brezhnev Doctrine.
January 20th: Richard Nixon is inaugurated as US president.
March 2nd: Tensions between the USSR and China reach flashpoint when Chinese troops ambush Soviet patrols on the Ussuri River. This marks the beginning of the Sino-Soviet border war.
July 20th: The US space program reaches its pinnacle, with the landing of two Apollo XI astronauts on the Moon.
July 25th: In a speech on Guam, Richard Nixon declares that Asian nations must take responsibility for their own defence. This position becomes known as the Nixon Doctrine and forms the basis for Nixon’s policy of Vietnamisation.
September 1st: Colonel Muammar Gaddafi seizes power in Libya and forges links with the USSR.
November 3rd: Nixon unveils his policy of Vietnamisation, announcing that US combat troops will be gradually withdrawn from Vietnam, their roles taken by South Vietnamese troops.
November 17th: US and Soviet negotiators begin talks on strategic arms limitation.
This page was written by Jennifer Llewellyn, Jim Southey and Steve Thompson. To reference this page, use the following citation:
J. Llewellyn et al, “Cold War timeline: 1960 to 1969”, Alpha History, accessed [today’s date], https://alphahistory.com/coldwar/cold-war-timeline-1960-69/.