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"'50s" redirects here. For decades comprising years 50–59 of other centuries, see List of decades.
See also: United States in the 1950s
Clockwise, from left: United Nations soldiers during the Korean War, which was the first UN authorized conflict; Two atomic explosions from the
RDS-37 and Upshot-Knothole (Soviet and American, respectively) nuclear weapons, symbolizing the escalation of Cold War tensions between the two nations in the 1950s; Israeli troops prepare to fight the Egyptians during the Suez Crisis of 1956; A replica of Sputnik I, the world's first satellite, launched by the Soviet Union in 1957; Fidel Castro leads the Cuban Revolution in 1959; North Sea flood of 1953
Millennium: 2nd millennium
Centuries: 19th century – 20th century – 21st century
Decades: 1920s 1930s 1940s – 1950s – 1960s 1970s 1980s
Years: 1950 1951 1952 1953 1954 1955 1956 1957 1958 1959
Categories: Births – Deaths – Architecture
Establishments – Disestablishments
The 1950s or The Fifties was the decade that began on January 1, 1950 and ended on December 31, 1959. The decade was the sixth decade of the 20th century. By its end, the world had largely recovered from World War II and the Cold War developed from its modest beginning in the late 1940s to a hot competition between the United States and the Soviet Union by the beginning of the 1960s.
Clashes between communism and capitalism dominated the decade, especially
in the Northern Hemisphere. The conflicts included the Korean War in the
beginnings of the decade and the beginning of the Space Race with the
launch of Sputnik I. Along with increased testing of nuclear weapons (such as RDS-37 and Upshot-Knothole), this created a politically conservative climate. In the United States, the Red Scare (fear of communism) caused
public Congressional hearings by both houses in Congress and
anti-communism was the prevailing sentiment in the United States throughout the decade (this is what primarily led the country to intervene in the Korean War and later the Vietnam War). The beginning of
decolonization in Africa and Asia occurred in this decade and accelerated in the following decade, the 1960s.
; 1 Wars and conflicts
o 1.1 Internal conflicts
o 1.2 Decolonization and Independence
o 1.3 Prominent political events
; 2 International issues
o 2.1 Africa
o 2.2 Americas
o 2.3 Asia
o 2.4 Europe
; 3 Disasters
; 4 Economics
; 5 Science and technology
o 5.1 Technology
o 5.2 Science
; 6 Popular culture
o 6.1 Music
o 6.2 Film
o 6.3 Art movements
o 6.4 Sports
; 6.4.1 Olympics
; 6.4.2 FIFA World Cups
; 7 People
o 7.1 World leaders
o 7.2 Entertainers
o 7.3 Musicians
o 7.4 Bands
o 7.5 Sports figures ; 8 See also
o 8.1 Timeline ; 9 References
; 10 Further reading
o 10.1 United States ; 11 External links
 Wars and conflicts
Israeli troops preparing for combat in the Sinai peninsula during the Suez
; Cold War conflicts involving the influence of the rival superpowers
of the Soviet Union and the United States:
o Korean War (1950–1953) – The war, which lasted from June
25, 1950 until the signing of the Korean Armistice Agreement on
July 27, 1953, started as a civil war between North Korea and the
Republic of Korea (South Korea). When it began, North and South
Korea existed as provisional governments competing for control
over the Korean peninsula, due to the division of Korea by outside
powers. While originally a civil war, it quickly escalated into
a war between the western powers under the United Nations Command
led by the United States and its allies and the communist powers
of the People's Republic of China and the Soviet Union. On September
15, General Douglas MacArthur conducted Operation Chromite, an
amphibious landing at the city of Inchon (Song Do port). The North
Korean army collapsed, and within a few days, MacArthur's army
retook Seoul (South Korea's capital). He then pushed north,
capturing Pyongyang in October. Chinese intervention the following
month drove UN forces south again. MacArthur then planned for a
-scale invasion of China, but this was against the wishes of full
President Truman and others who wanted a limited war. He was
dismissed and replaced by General Matthew Ridgeway. The war then
became a bloody stalemate for the next two and a half years while
peace negotiations dragged on. The war left 33,742 American
soldiers dead, 92,134 wounded, and 80,000 Missing in action (MIA)
or Prisoner of war (POW). Estimates place Korean and Chinese
casualties at 1,000,000–1,400,000 dead or wounded, and 140,000
MIA or POW.
o The Vietnam War began in 1959. Diem instituted a policy of
death penalty against any communist activity in 1956. The Vietcong
began an assassination campaign in early 1957. An article by French
Bernard Fall published in July 1958 concluded that a new scholar
war had begun. The first official large unit military action was
on September 26, 1959, when the Vietcong ambushed two ARVN companies.
; Arab–Israeli conflict (Early 20th century-present)
o Suez Crisis (1956) – The Suez Crisis was a war fought on
Egyptian territory in 1956. Following the nationalisation of the
Suez Canal in 1956 by Gamal Abdel Nasser, the United Kingdom, France
and Israel subsequently invaded. The operation was a military
success, but after the United States and Soviet Union united in
opposition to the invasion, the invaders were forced to withdraw.
This was seen as a major humiliation, especially for the two Western
European countries, and symbolizes the beginning of the end of
colonialism and the weakening of European global importance,
specifically the collapse of the British Empire.
; Algerian War (1954–1962) – An important decolonization war, it
was a complex conflict characterized by guerrilla warfare, maquis
fighting, terrorism against civilians, use of torture on both sides and counter-terrorism operations by the French Army. The war
eventually led to the independence of Algeria from France.
 Internal conflicts
Fidel Castro becomes the leader of Cuba as a result of the Cuban Revolution
; Cuban Revolution (1953–1959) – The 1959 overthrow of Fulgencio
Batista by Fidel Castro, Che Guevara and other forces resulted in the
creation of the first communist government in the western hemisphere. ; The Mau Mau began retaliating against the British in Kenya. This
led to concentration camps in Kenya, the retreat of the British, and
the election of Jomo Kenyatta as leader of Kenya.
; The wind of destruction began in Rwanda in 1959, following the
beating up of Hutu politician Dominique Mbonyumutwa by Tutsi forces.
This was the beginning of decades of ethnic violence in the country,
which culminated in the 1994 Rwandan Genocide.
 Decolonization and Independence
; Decolonization of former European Colonial empires. The French
Fourth Republic in particular faced conflict on two fronts within the
French Union, the Algerian War and the First Indo-China War. The
Federation of Malaya peacefully gained independence from the United
Kingdom in 1957. French rule ended in Algeria in 1958, Vietnam left
French Indo-china in 1954. The rival states of North Vietnam and South
Vietnam were formed. Cambodia and the Kingdom of Laos also gained
independence, effectively ending French presence in Southeast Asia.
Elsewhere the Belgian Congo and other African nations gained their
independence from France, Belgium and the United Kingdom. ; Large-scale decolonization in Africa first began in the 1950s. In
1951, Libya became the first African country to gain independence in
the decade, and in 1954 the Algerian War began. 1956 saw Sudan, Morocco,
and Tunisia become independent, and the next year Ghana became the
first sub-saharan African nation to gain independence.
 Prominent political events
This section requires expansion.
; European Common Market – The European Communities (or Common
Markets), the precursor of the European Union, was established with
the Treaty of Rome in 1957.
; On November 1, 1950, two Puerto Rican nationalists staged an
attempted assassination on U.S. President Harry S. Truman. The leader
of the team Griselio Torresola had fire arm experience and Oscar
Collazo was his accomplice. They made their assault at the Blair House
where President Truman and his family were staying. Torresola mortally
wounded a White House policeman, Leslie Coffelt, who shot Torresola
dead before expiring himself. Collazo, as a co-conspirator in a felony
that turned into a homicide, was found guilty of murder and was
sentenced to death in 1952 but then his sentence was later commuted
to life in prison..
 International issues
; Establishment of the Non-aligned Movement, consisting of nations
not formally aligned with or against any major power bloc.  Africa
; Africa experienced the beginning of large-scale top-down economic
interventions in the 1950s that failed to cause improvement and led
to charitable exhaustion by the West as the century went on. The
widespread corruption was not dealt with and war, disease, and famine
continued to be constant problems in the region.
; Egyptian general Gamel Abdel Nasser overthrew the Egyptian monarchy,
establishing himself as President of Egypt. Nasser became an
influential leader in the Middle East in the 1950s, leading Arab states
into war with Israel, becoming a major leader of the Non-Aligned
Movement and promoting pan-Arab unification.
; In the 1950s Latin America was the center of covert and overt
conflict between the Soviet Union and the United States. Their varying
collusion with national, populist, and elitist interests destabilized
the region. The United States CIA orchestrated the overthrow of the
Guatemalan government in 1954. In 1958 the military dictatorship of
Venezuela was overthrown. This continued a pattern of regional
revolution and warfare making extensive use of ground forces.
; In 1957, Dr. François Duvalier came to power in an election in Haiti.
He later declared himself president for life, and ruled until his death
; In 1959 Fidel Castro overthrew the regime of Fulgencio Batista in
Cuba, establishing a communist government in the country. Although
Castro initially sought aid from the US, he was rebuffed and later
turned to the Soviet Union.
; NORAD signed in 1959 by Canada and the United States creating a
unified North American aerial defense system.
; Brasília was built in 41 months, from 1956, and on April 21, 1960,
became the capital of Brazil
The maximum territorial extent of countries in the world under Soviet
influence, after the Cuban Revolution of 1959 and before the official
Sino-Soviet split of 1961
; Reconstruction continued in Japan in the 1950s, funded by the United
States, which ended its occupation of the country in 1951. Social
changes took place, including democratic elections and universal
; Within a year of its establishment, the People's Republic of China
had invaded Tibet and intervened in the Korean War, causing years of
hostility and estrangement from the United States. The Chinese allied
with the Soviet Union, which then provided considerable technical and
economic aid. Although relations between the two communist giants
remained friendly throughout the 1950s, cracks were forming in their
alliance by the end of the decade. The Great Leap Forward in 1958–1960
was an attempt by Mao Zedong to rush the country's economic development
with the creation of huge rural communes. It failed ignominiously, and
combined with a series of natural disasters triggered an enormous
famine in which several million people died.
; In 1953 the French colonial rulers of Indochina tried to contain
a growing communist insurgency against their rule led by Ho Chi Minh.
After their defeat at Dien Bien Phu in 1954 they were forced to cede
independence to the nations of Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. The Geneva
Conference of 1954 separated French supporters and communist
nationalists for the purposes of the ceasefire, and mandated
nationwide elections by 1956; Ngo Dinh Diem established a government
in the south and refused to hold elections. Conflict then resumed
between the communist north and American-supported south .  Europe
With the help of the Marshall Plan, post-war reconstruction succeeded,
with some countries (including West Germany) preferring free market capitalism while others preferred Keynesian-policy welfare states. Europe continued to be divided into Western and Soviet bloc countries.
The geographical point of this division came to be called the Iron Curtain.
It divided Germany into East and West Germany. In 1955 West Germany joined NATO.
The Soviet Union continued its domination of eastern Europe. In 1953 Joseph Stalin, the leader of the Soviet Union, died. This led to the rise of Nikita Khrushchev, who denounced Stalin and pursued a more liberal domestic and foreign policy, stressing peaceful competition with the West rather than overt hostility. There were anti-Soviet uprisings in East Germany and Poland in 1953.
This section requires expansion.
North Sea flood of 1953
; On 15 August 1950 an earthquake and floods in Assam, India killed
574 and leave 5,000,000 homeless.
; Mount Lamington erupted in Papua New Guinea on 18 January 1951,
killing 3,000 people.
; On 31 January 1953 the North Sea flood of 1953 killed 1,835 people
in the southwestern Netherlands (especially Zeeland) and 307 in the United Kingdom
; On 9 September 1954 an earthquake centered on the city of
Orléansville, Algeria killed 1,500 and left thousands homeless.
; On 11 October 1954 Hurricane Hazel crossed over Haiti, killing
; On 19 August 1955 Hurricane Diane hit the northeastern United States,
killing over 200 people, and causing over $1.0 billion in damage. ; On 27 June 1957 Hurricane Audrey demolished Cameron, Louisiana, US,
killing 400 people.
; Typhoon Vera hit central Honshū on 26 September 1959, killing an
estimated 5,098, injuring another 38,921, and leaving 1,533,000
Nagoya area. homeless. Most of the damage was centered in the
; On 2 December 1959, Malpasset Dam in southern France collapsed and
water flowed over the town of Frejus, killing 412.
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 Science and technology
There were some new technologies in the fifties, including television. In 1950, Paper Mate made its first leak free ball point pen. The first copy machine was made in the same year. The Chevrolet Corvette becomes the first car to have an all-fiberglass body in 1953. In 1954 Bell Telephone labs produced the first solar battery. In 1954 you could get a yard of contact paper for only 59 cents. Polypropylene was invented in 1954. In 1955 Jonas Salk invented a polio vaccine which was given to more than seven million American students. In 1956 a solar powered wrist watch was invented. A surprise came in 1957; a 184-pound (83 kg) satellite was launched by the Soviets. They named it Sputnik 1. The space race begins