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  • 1940
    • Roosevelt makes destroyers-for-bases deal with the British
    • Fall of France
    • First peacetime draft
  • 1941
    • Lend-Lease, Battle of Britain, Hitler attacks USSR
    • Atlantic Charter
    • Japan attacks Pearl Harbor
  • 1942
    • Allied year of disaster
    • U. S. interns Japanese
    • U. S. halts Japanese at Coral Sea and Midway>
  • 1943
    • Tide turns against Axis
    • Russia wins at Stalingrad, unconditional surrender demanded
    • Italy invaded
  • 1944
    • France invaded
    • Bombing of Japan begins
    • Russia sweeps through Eastern Europe
    • Philippines liberated
  • 1945
    • Yalta
    • FDR dies
    • Germany surrenders
    • Atom bombs
    • End of WW 2
  • 1946
    • U. S. - USSR relations worsen
    • "Iron Curtain" speech
  • 1947
    • Cold War begins
    • Marshall Plan
    • Containment
  • 1948-1949
    • Berlin Airlift
    • Taft-Hartley
    • Military integrated
  • 1949
    • NATO
    • Russia explodes the bomb
    • Communists control China
  • 1950
    • Korean War
    • Joseph McCarthy
  • 1951: Twenty-second Amendment limits the President to two terms
  • 1952: Dwight Eisenhower elected President
  • 1953: Industries agree on guaranteed annual wage
  • 1954
    • Brown v. Board of Education, Supreme Court strikes down "separate but equal."
    • Vietnam divided
  • 1955: Montgomery Bus Boycott, emergence of Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • 1957
    • Sputnik
    • Eisenhower Doctrine
    • Little rock Crisis
    • Civil Rights Act
  • 1958
    • First U. S. satellite and ICBM
    • NASA
    • U. S. occupies Lebanon
  • 1960
    • U-2 shot down over Russia
    • Soviet and Chinese split
    • John F. Kennedy elected President
    • non-violent protests against segregation

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How to cite this note (MLA)

Aboukhadijeh, Feross. "1940-1960" StudyNotes.org. Study Notes, LLC., 17 Nov. 2012. Web. 14 Mar. 2018. <https://www.apstudynotes.org/us-history/timelines/1940-1960/>.

Main article: History of U.S. foreign policy

The diplomatic history of the United States oscillated among three positions: isolation from diplomatic entanglements of other (typically European) nations (but with economic connections to the world); alliances with European and other military partners; and unilateralism, or operating on its own sovereign policy decisions. The US always was large in terms of area, but its population was small, only 4 million in 1790. Population growth was rapid, reaching 7.2 million in 1810, 32 million in 1860, 76 million in 1900, 132 million in 1940, and 316 million in 2013. Economic growth in terms of overall GDP was even faster. However, the nation's military strength was quite limited in peacetime before 1940.

This is a dynamic list and may never be able to satisfy particular standards for completeness. You can help by expanding it with reliably sourced entries.

Brune (2003) and Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., ed. The Almanac of American History (1983) have specifics for many incidents.

18th century[edit]

  • 1721 – Treaty with South Carolina established with the Cherokee and the Province of South Carolina which ceded land between the Santee, Saluda, and Edisto Rivers to the Province of South Carolina.
  • 1730 – Treaty of Nikwasi established a trade agreement between the Cherokee and the Province of North Carolina
  • 1761 – Treaty of Long-Island-on-the-Holston established with the Cherokee and the Colony of Virginia which ended the Anglo-Cherokee war with the colony.
  • 1762 – Treaty of Charlestown established with the Cherokee and the Province of South Carolina which ended the Anglo-Cherokee war with the colony.
  • 1776 – Thirteen Colonies declared independence as the United States of America on July 2; Declaration of Independence adopted on July 4
  • 1776 – Three commissioners sent to Europe to negotiate treaties
  • 1776 – Treaty of Watertown
  • 1777 – European officers recruited to Continental Army, including Marquis de Lafayette, Johann de Kalb, Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben, and Tadeusz Kościuszko
  • 1777 – Treaty of Dewitt's Corner between the Overhill Cherokee and the State of South Carolina which ceded the lands of the Cherokee Lower Towns in the State of South Carolina, except for a narrow strip of what is now Oconee County.
  • 1777 – France decides to recognize America in December after victory at Saratoga, New York
  • 1778 – Treaty of Alliance with France. Negotiated by Benjamin Franklin, the US and France agreed to a military alliance; France sends naval and land forces, and much-needed munitions.
  • 1778 – Carlisle Peace Commission sent by Great Britain; offers Americans all the terms they sought in 1775, but not independence; rejected.
  • 1779 – Spain enters the war as an ally of France (but not of America); John Jay appointed minister to Spain; he obtains money but not recognition.[1]
  • 1779 – John Adams sent to Paris, to negotiate peace terms with Great Britain
  • 1780 – Russia proclaims "armed neutrality" which helps Allies
  • 1780–81 – Russia and Austria propose peace terms; rejected by Adams.[2]
  • 1781 – Benjamin Franklin, Henry Laurens and Thomas Jefferson named to assist Adams in peace negotiations; the Congress of the Confederation insists on independence; all else is negotiable
— Robert R. Livingston named first United States Secretary of Foreign Affairs
  • 1782 – The Dutch Republic recognizes American independence and signs treaty of commerce and friendship; Dutch bankers loan US$2 million for war supplies
  • 1783 – Treaty of Paris ends Revolutionary War; US boundaries confirmed as British North America (Canada) on north, Mississippi River on west, Florida on south. Britain gives Florida to Spain.
  • 1783 – A commercial treaty with Sweden[3]
  • 1784 – British allow trade with America but forbid some American food exports to West Indies; British exports to America reach £3.7 million, imports only £750,000; imbalance causes shortage of gold in US.
— May 7 Congress votes to begin negotiations with Morocco.[4]
— New York–based merchants open trade with China, followed by Salem, Boston and Philadelphia merchants.
— October 11 Moroccan corsair seizes the American ship Betsey and enslaves the crew; the Moroccans demand that the US pay a ransom to release the crew and a treaty to pay tribute to avoid future such incidents.[4]
— March 11 Congress votes to appropriate $80,000 to pay in tribute to the Barbary states of Morocco, Algiers, Tunis and Tripoli.[4]
— July 9 The Moroccans release the Betsy and her crew.[4]
— July 25 Algerine pirates seizes the American ship Maria off the coast of Portugal; Algiers declares war on the US, and the dey Muhammad V of Algiers demands that the US pay $1 million in tribute to end the war.[4]
— March 25 A team of American diplomats arrive in Algiers to begin talks on paying tribute and a ransom to free the enslaved American sailors.[4]
— June 23 Moroccan-American treaty is signed in the US agrees to pay tribute to Morocco in exchange for a promise that Moroccan corsairs will not attack American ships.[4]
  • 1789 – Jay–Gardoqui Treaty with Spain, gave Spain exclusive right to navigate Mississippi River for 25 years; not ratified due to western opposition
— March 1 United States Congress succeeds Congress of the Confederation
— July 27 Department of Foreign Affairs signed into law
— September, changed to Department of State; Jefferson appointed; John Jay continues to act as foreign affairs secretary until Jefferson's return from France; from 1789 to 1883. Much of the routine overseas business is the responsibility of navy officers.[6]
— February 22 Congress votes to send another team of diplomats to Algiers to pay a ransom for the enslaved Americans and to negotiate a tribute treaty.[4]
  • 1793–1815 – Major worldwide war between Great Britain and France (and their allies); America neutral until 1812 and does business with both sides
  • 1794 -:— March 20 Congress votes to establish a navy and to spend $1 million building six frigates.[4] Birth of the United States Navy.
  • 1795 –
— June 24 Jay Treaty with Britain. Averts war, opens 10 years of peaceful trade with Britain, fails to settle neutrality issues; British eventually evacuate western forts; boundary lines and debts (in both directions) to be settled by arbitration. Barely approved by Senate (1795) after revision; intensely opposed, became major issue in the formation of First Party System.[7]
— September 5 United States signs a treaty agreeing to pay tribute to Algiers in exchange for which the dey Ali Hassan will free the 85 surviving American slaves.[4] The treaty with Algiers is considered a national humiliation.
— July 11 Algiers frees the 85 American slaves.[4]
— The pasha Yusuf Karamanli of Tripoli, hoping for a similar treaty that Algiers has achieved starts attacking and seizing American ships.[4]
— President Adams asks Congress to spend more money on the navy and to arm American merchantmen in response to the Barbary pirate attacks.[8]
— August 28 Treaty of Tripoli; treaty with Barbary state of Tripoli approved unanimously by Senate and signed into law by President John Adams on June 10; states "the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion."[9]
— April Tripoli threatens war if the US does not pay more tribute.[10]
— July The Tripolitan warship Tripolino takes the American merchantman Catherine and enslaves the crew.[10] Much outrage in the US
— September 30 Convention of 1800 (Treaty of Mortefontaine) with France ends the Quasi-War and ends alliance of 1778. The treaty frees up the US Navy for operations against the Barbary pirates.[10]

19th century[edit]

[10] The beginning of the First Barbary War. President Jefferson does not ask Congress for a declaration of war against Tripoli, but instead decides to begin military operations against Tripoli, arguing that the President has the right to begin military operations in self-defense without asking for permission from Congress.[11]

— July 24 An American naval squadron begins the blockade of Tripoli.[10]
— August 1 The U.S.S. Enterprise takes the Tripolitan ship Tripoli.[10]

1802 -

— April 27 Second American naval squadron sent to the Mediterranean.[10]
— June 19 Morocco declares war on the United States.[10]
  • 1803 – Louisiana Purchase from France for $15,000,000; financed by sale of American bonds in London, and shipment of gold from London to Paris.
— June 2 Captain David Porter leads raid into Tripoli; first American amphibious landing in the Old World.[10]
— February 23 The American diplomat William Eaton meets with Hamet Karanmanli, the exiled brother of the pasha Yusuf Karamanli of Tripoli in Egypt and agrees that the US will depose Yusuf and put Hamet on the throne; the first American effort at "regime change".[12]
— March 8 A force of American sailors, marines, Tripolian exiles and Egyptian mercenaries under the leadership of Eaton leaves Alexandria with the aim of deposing pasha Yusuf of Tripoli.[13]
— April 28 Eaton's force takes Derna, the road is wide open to Tripoli.[14]
— June 4 Tripoli and the US sign a peace treaty.[14]
  • 1806 – Essex Case; British reverse policy and seize American ships trading with French colonies; America responds with Non-Importation Act stopping imports of some items from Great Britain[15]
  • 1806 – Napoleon issues Berlin Decree, a paper blockade of Great Britain
  • 1806 – diplomats negotiate treaty with Britain to extend the expiring Jay Treaty; rejected by Jefferson and never in effect as relations deteriorate
  • 1807 – US Navy humiliated by Royal Navy in Chesapeake–Leopard Affair; demand for war; Jefferson responds with economic warfare using embargoes
  • 1807-09 – Embargo Act, against Great Britain and France during their wars
  • 1807-12 – Impressment of 6,000 sailors from American ships with US citizenship into the Royal Navy; Great Britain ignores vehement American protests
  • 1812 – America declares war on Great Britain, beginning the War of 1812.
  • 1812 – US forces invade Canada to gain a bargaining chip; they are repeatedly repulsed; The US Army at Detroit surrenders without a fight.
  • 1813 – US wins control of Lake Erie and what is now Western Ontario; British and Indians defeated and Tecumseh killed; end of Indian threats to American settlement
  • 1814 – Treaty of Fort Jackson
  • 1814 – British raid and Burn Washington; are repulsed at Baltimore
  • 1814 – British invasion of northern New York defeated
  • 1814 – December 24: Treaty of Ghent signed; providing status quo ante bellum (no change in boundaries); Great Britain no longer needs impressment and stops.
  • 1815 – British invasion army decisively defeated at the Battle of New Orleans
— Treaty of Ghent goes in effect in February; opens long era of friendly trade and peaceful settlement of boundary issues.
— March 2 The US declares war on Algiers.[14] The beginning of the Second Barbary War.
— June 28 Commodore Stephen Decatur arrives off Algiers, after threatening bombardment, the dey agrees to a peace treaty two days later in which he releases the American slaves and agrees to the end of the United States's tributary status.[14]
— Siam. Roberts Treaty of 1833; stipulates free trade with few limitations, most favored nation status, and relief for US citizens in cases of shipwreck, piracy, or bankruptcy.
  • 1837 – Caroline affair; Canadian military enters US territory to burn a ship used by Canadian rebels.
  • 1838 – Aroostook War re: Maine-New Brunswick; no combat
— Second Sumatran expedition, in retaliation for the massacre of the crew of an American merchant ship.
  • 1842 – Webster–Ashburton Treaty-settles US-Canada border, settling Aroostook War and Caroline affair.
  • 1843 – Treaty of Bird’s Fort
  • 1844 – Oregon Question; America and Great Britain at sword's point; "54–40 or fight" is American slogan[16]
  • 1844 – Treaty of Wanghia.
  • 1845 – Annexation of Republic of Texas; Mexico breaks relations in retaliation
  • 1845 – Slidell Mission fails to avert war with Mexico
  • 1846 – Oregon crisis ended by compromise that splits the region, with British Columbia to Great Britain, and Washington, Idaho, and Oregon to America.
  • 1846 – Mexican–American War begins; Oregon settlement with Britain.
  • 1848 – Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo; settled Mexican–American War, Rio Grande as US border; territory of New Mexico rest of west ceded to America, especially California. US pays Mexico $15,000,000 and assumes $3,250,000 liability against Mexico.
  • 1849 – Hawaiian–American Treaty of Friendship, Commerce and Navigation signed with the Kingdom of Hawaii
  • 1850 – Clayton–Bulwer Treaty. America and Great Britain agreed that both nations were not to colonize or control any Central American republic, neither nation would seek exclusive control of Isthmian canal, if canal built protected by both nations for neutrality and security. Any canal built open to all nations on equal terms.
  • 1851 – Treaty of Mendota
  • 1853 – Gadsden Purchase: purchase of 30,000 square miles (78,700 km²) in southern Arizona for $10,000,000 for purpose of railroad connections
  • 1854 – Kanagawa Treaty; Matthew Perry to Tokyo in 1853; returning 1854 with seven warships; treaty opened two Japanese ports and guaranteeing the safety of shipwrecked American seamen.
  • 1855 – Quinault Treaty
  • 1856 – Siam. Harris Treaty of 1856; adds extraterritoriality status for US citizens to provisions of Roberts Treaty of 1833, and appointment of a US consul (representative).
  • 1857 – Nicaragua; US Navy forces the surrender of filibustererWilliam Walker, who had tried to seize control of the country.
  • 1858 – Modern–era Japan. Harris Treaty of 1858.
  • 1858 – Yankton Treaty
  • 1858 – Outrages at Jaffa resulted in significant US efforts to coordinate with and pressure Ottoman officials, growing US influence and strength in the region.
  • 1859 – Pig War: tense confrontation over the boundary between the US and British North America, settled by arbitration, the pig the only casualty
  • 1861 – President Abraham Lincoln proclaims blockade of Confederate States of America, giving it some legitimacy
  • 1861-65 – Lincoln threatens war against any country that recognizes the Confederacy; no country does so
  • 1864-65 – Maximilian Affair: In defiance of the Monroe Doctrine, French Emperor Napoleon III placed Archduke Maximilian on Mexican throne, America warns France against intervention, with 50,000 combat troops being sent to the Mexican border by President Andrew Johnson; Maximilian overthrown
  • 1867 – Alaska Purchase: America purchases Alaska from Russia for $7,200,000.
  • 1868 – Treaty on Naturalization with North German Confederation marked first recognition by a European power of the right of its subjects to become naturalized US citizens.
  • 1868 – Burlingame Treaty established formal friendly relations with China and placed them on most favored nation status, Chinese immigration encouraged; reversed in 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act.
  • 1871 – Alabama Claims. During the American Civil War, Confederate States of America raider CSS Alabama built in Great Britain, America claimed direct and collateral damage against Great Britain, awarded $15,500,000 by international tribunal.
  • 1875 – Reciprocity Treaty of 1875 with the Kingdom of Hawaii established free access to American markets for Hawaiian sugar and other products, and also ceded Puʻu Loa, which became Pearl Harbor
  • 1891 – Baltimore crisis, minor scuffle with Chile over treatment of soldiers.
  • 1893 – Hawaii; January 16 to April 1. American businessmen unhappy with Queen Liliuokalani attempt to set up absolute monarchy; overthrows her with no violence and proclaims provisional government; US Marines landed to protect American lives; Hawaii and President Harrison agree to annexation but treaty withdrawn (1893) by President Grover Cleveland who rejects annexation
  • 1895 – Venezuela Crisis of 1895 is a dispute with Britain over the boundary of Venezuela and a British colony; it is finally settled by arbitration.[17]
  • 1897 – The Olney-Pauncefote Treaty of 1897 is a proposed treaty with Britain in 1897 that required arbitration of major disputes. Despite wide public and elite support, the treaty was rejected by the US Senate, which was jealous of its prerogatives, and never went into effect.[18]
  • 1897-98 – American public opinion is outraged by news of Spanish atrocities in Cuba. President McKinley demands reforms.
  • 1898 – De Lôme Letter: Spanish minister to Washington writes disparagingly of President McKinley, casting doubt on Spain's promises to reform its role in Cuba
— Spanish–American War; "splendid little war" with American quick victory
— Treaty of Paris; US gains Philippines, Guam and Puerto Rico; pays Spain for claims; Cuba comes under temporary US control
— Hawaii seeks to join US; with votes lacking for 2/3 approval of a treaty on July 7. The Newlands Resolution in Congress annexes the Republic of Hawaii, with full US citizenship for Hawaiian citizens regardless of race


  • 1901 – Hay–Pauncefote Treaty. American agreement with Great Britain nullifying Clayton–Bulwer Treaty of 1850; guarantee of open passage for any nation through proposed Panama Canal.
  • 1901 – Platt Amendment, March 2. Rider attached to the Army Appropriations Bill of 1901 designed to protect Cuba's independence from foreign intervention. The amendment effectively makes Cuba a US protectorate and allowed for American intervention in Cuban affairs in 1906, 1912, 1917, and 1920. It also permitted America to lease Guantanamo Bay Naval Base. Rising Cuban nationalism and widespread criticism led to its abrogation in 1934 by the Ramón Grau administration.[19]
  • 1902 – Drago Doctrine. Foreign Minister Luis María Drago of Argentina announced policy that no European power could use force against any American nation to collect debt, supplanted in 1904 by Roosevelt Corollary to Monroe Doctrine.
  • 1903 – Big Stick diplomacy: Theodore Roosevelt refers to US policy as "speaking softly and carrying a big stick", applied the same year by assisting Panama's independence movement from Colombia. US forces sought to protect American interests and lives during and following the Panamanian revolution over construction of the Isthmian Canal. US Marines were stationed on the isthmus (1903–1914)
  • 1903 – Hay–Bunau-Varilla Treaty with Panama; leased strip of land increased to 10 miles (16 km) wide.
  • 1903 – Alaska boundary treaty resolved the Alaska boundary dispute between the United States and Canada in favor of US; Canada angry at Britain.
  • 1906 – Algeciras Conference. Roosevelt mediated the First Moroccan Crisis between France and Germany, essentially in French favor.
  • 1908-09 – America negotiates arbitration treaties with 25 countries (not Germany)
  • 1911 – Reciprocity treaty with Canada fails on surge of Canadian nationalism led by Conservative Party.
  • 1911-20 – Mexican Revolution; hundreds of thousands of refugees flee to America; President William Howard Taft recognizes Francisco I. Madero's regime; Madero assassinated by Victoriano Huerta, not recognized by America
  • 1912-25 – Nicaragua; America controls Nicaraguan affairs through control of tariff revenues under the Bryan–Chamorro Treaty.
  • 1912-41 – China. US forces sent to protect American interests in China during chaotic revolution. In 1927, America had 5,670 troops ashore in China (mostly Marines) and 44 naval vessels in its waters.
  • 1913-15 – Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan negotiates 28 treaties that promised arbitration of disputes before war broke out between the signatory countries and the United States. He made several attempts to negotiate a treaty with Germany, but ultimately was never able to succeed. The agreements, known officially as "Treaties for the Advancement of Peace," set up procedures for conciliation rather than for arbitration.[20]
  • 1914 – Veracruz Incident a standoff between America and Huerta; Congress authorizes force at president's discretion; ABC Powers try to mediate; America seizes Veracruz; Huerta breaks diplomatic relations; war seems near
  • 1915 – British passenger liner RMS Lusitania torpedoed off Irish coast by German submarine; 1,200 dead include 128 Americans; Theodore Roosevelt demands war; Woodrow Wilson issues strong protest
  • 1915-34 – Haiti. US forces maintained order and control customs revenue during a period of chronic political instability.
  • 1916-24 – Dominican Republic; US naval forces maintained order and control customs revenue during a period of chronic and threatened insurrection.
  • 1916 – Pancho Villa raid into America; the Mexican Punitive Expedition under John J. Pershing chases Villa deep into Mexico; verge of war
  • 1917 – Zimmermann Telegram. Germany proposes military alliance between Germany and Mexico against America. Publication outrages American opinion; Mexico rejects proposal.
  • 1917 – April. America declares war on Germany and later on Austria (but not Turkey or Bulgaria); remains independent of Great Britain and France
  • 1917 – Lansing–Ishii Agreement. America recognizes Japan's claim to special interests in China, particularly in contiguous territory. Objection to Japan assuming German Asian territories.
  • 1917 - November --Britain announces the Balfour Declaration which promises a homeland in Palestine to the Jews; it checked with Washington before hand, and gained America's quiet approval
  • 1918 – Fourteen Points. Statement of American war aims by Wilson, served as basis for Treaty of Versailles and the League of Nations.
  • 1918–20 – Allied intervention in the Russian Civil War sees US troops sent to Siberia
  • 1919 – Versailles Treaty – Wilson one of "The Big Four" negotiators; signed by Wilson but not ratified by Senate.
  • 1919 – League of Nations – part of Versailles Treaty; US never joins.
  • 1922 – Washington Naval Conference held in Washington, D.C. concluding in the Four-Power Treaty, Five-Power Treaty, and Nine-Power Treaty; major naval disarmament
  • 1924 – American-led conference results in the Dawes Plan. Eased reparations for Germany and improvement of its economic situation.
  • 1924 – Rogers Act establishes the Foreign Service by merging the low-paid high prestige diplomatic service with the higher paid, middle class consul service. The act provided a merit-based career path, with guaranteed rotations and better pay.[21]
  • 1926-33 – Nicaragua; The coup d'état of General Emiliano Chamorro Vargas aroused revolutionary activities leading to the landing of US Marines intermittently until January 3, 1933.
  • 1927 – Naval Disarmament Conference in Geneva; failure to reach an agreement.
  • 1927 – Clark Memorandum repudiates Roosevelt Corollary to Monroe Doctrine.
  • 1928 – Kellogg–Briand Pact, multilateral treaty outlawing war by moral force of 60 signatory nations.
  • 1929 – Young Plan reduces amount of reparations due from Germany to $8.0 billion over 58 years.
  • 1930 – Smoot–Hawley Tariff Act raised American tariffs on imports; 1000 economists protest it will worsen depression; retaliation by Canada and others.
  • 1931 – Stimson Doctrine America will not recognize Japanese takeover of parts of China; policy endorsed by the League of Nations.
  • 1932 – Lausanne Conference cancels 90 percent of reparations owed by Germany; the remainder was quietly paid off in October 2010 with a final payment of $94 million.[22]
  • 1933 – Montevideo Convention. President Franklin D. Roosevelt declares the "Good Neighbor policy", US opposition to armed intervention in inter-American affairs.
  • 1933 – London Economic Conference, to deal with Great Depression, collapses after US withdraws.
  • 1933 – US extends diplomatic recognition of the Soviet Union.
  • 1935 – Neutrality Act of 1935; when war breaks out prohibits all arms shipments (allowing shipment of oil, steel, chemicals); US citizens can travel on belligerent ships only at their own risk
  • 1936 – Neutrality Act of 1936; no loans to belligerents
  • 1936 – Spanish Civil War; US neutral; American Catholics support Nationalist forces; left-wing elements support Republican forces
  • 1937 – Neutrality Act of 1937; 1935 laws apply to civil wars
  • 1937 – Japan invades China, with full-scale war and many atrocities against Chinese; Japan conquers major cities and seacoast; Americans strongly sympathetic to China; Roosevelt does not invoke neutrality laws
  • 1938 – Munich Pact sacrifices Czechoslovakia in the name of appeasement; US not involved but does not object


Main article: Diplomatic history of World War II § United States

  • 1939 – World War II begins, America initially neutral.
  • 1940- American intelligence breaks the Japanese diplomatic code with MAGIC.[23]
  • 1941 -
— July 29 Japan occupies the southern half of French Indochina, seen as a threatening move.
— July 30 US together with Britain and the Dutch government in exile imposes trade embargo against Japan, most crucially in oil.
— August 13 Atlantic Charter. Anglo-American summit off the coast of Newfoundland. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill agree (1) no territorial gains sought by America or Great Britain, (2) territorial adjustments must conform to people involved, (3) people have right to choose their own govt. (4) trade barriers lowered, (5) there must be disarmament, (6) there must be freedom from want and fear ("Four Freedoms" of FDR), (7) there must be freedom of the seas, (8) there must be an association of nations. Charter is accepted by Allies, who call themselves "the United Nations".
— October 31 American destroyer USS Reuben James sunk by a U-boat. Rise in German-American tensions.
— December 6 American intelligence fails to predict attack on Pearl Harbor.[24]
— December 7 Attack on Pearl Harbor. United States is hit by surprise by Japanese Navy.
— December 11 Germany and Italy declare war on the U.S.
  • 1942 -:— August 8 Riegner Telegram received in Washington. Gerhart M. Riegner of the World Jewish Congress has received reliable information that Germany is engaged in a campaign of extermination against the Jews of Europe.
  • 1943 –
— January Casablanca Conference. Roosevelt and Churchill meet to plan European strategy. Unconditional surrender of Axis countries demanded, Soviet aid and participation, invasion of Sicily and Italy planned
— October 30 Moscow Declaration. Joint statement by the United States, United Kingdom and the Soviet Union promises that German leaders will be tried for war crimes after the Allied victory.
— November Cairo Conference. Roosevelt, Churchill and Chiang Kai-shek meet to make decisions about postwar Asia: Japan returns all territory, independent Korea.
— November Tehran Conference. Roosevelt and Churchill meet with Stalin.


  • 1945 – US eager to help establish United Nations at San Francisco Conference on International Organization.
  • 1945 – June 26 – United Nations Charter signed in San Francisco. America becomes a founding member and has veto power on the Security Council along with Great Britain, France, China and the Soviet Union.
  • 1945 – August—Nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki; surrender of Japan (V-J Day); beginning of the nuclear age.
  • 1945-47 – Marshall Mission to China tries and fails to force coalition government of Chiang Kai-shek's Nationalists and Mao Zedong's Communists
  • 1945-53 – U.S. provides grants and credits amounting to $5.9 billion to Asian countries, especially China/Taiwan ($1.051 billion), India ($255 million), Indonesia ($215 million), Japan ($2.44 billion), South Korea ($894 million), Pakistan ($98 million) and the Philippines ($803 million). In addition, another $282 million went to Israel and $196 million to the rest of the Middle East.[25] All this aid was separate from the Marshall Plan.[26]
  • 1946 – In the Blum–Byrnes agreement, the US forgives $2.8 billion in French debts (mostly World War I loans), and gives an additional low-interest loan of $650 million. In turn, France allows American films in its cinemas.[27]
  • 1947 – Truman Doctrine gives military and economic aid to Greece and Turkey to halt spread of Communism
  • 1947–89 – Cold War, an era of high tension and hostility—but no major "hot" war—between the US and its allies (Western Europe, Canada, Japan, etc.) and the Soviet Union and its satellite states.[28]
  • 1947 – General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) includes US and 22 nations who agree to eliminate trade barriers of all kinds on industrial and agricultural goods. Replaced in 1995 by World Trade Organization/[29][30]
  • 1948-51 – Marshall Plan (formally, "European Recovery Plan"); US gives out $13 billion to rebuild and modernize Western European economies. Increased trade between Europe and the America; no repayment asked for.[31]
  • 1948
— June 24 Berlin Blockade imposed by the Soviet Union, blocking traffic into western sectors of Berlin, followed by Operation Vittles, America airlifted massive amounts of food, fuel and supplies into city. Soviet blockade lifted on May 12, 1949.[32]
— January 21 Dean Acheson appointed Secretary of State. He will hold this office until 1953 and is remembered as one of the more abler Secretaries of State.
— April 4 America and eleven other nations sign the North Atlantic Treaty, creating NATO, a military alliance with the purpose of countering the Soviet Union and its allies.
— 23 May 1949 The United States, Britain and France grant independence in their zones in Germany to a new state called the Federal Republic of Germany.
— June 25 Korean War begins. US sends in troops to stop North Korean invasion; UN votes support; (Soviet Union boycotted UN and did not veto.) US forces deployed in Korea exceeded 300,000 during the last year of the conflict.
— September US-led invasion defeats North Korean army; UN authorizes rollback strategy, with North Korea to come under UN control
— November Chinese forces enter North Korea; roll back UN-US-South Korean forces to below 38th parallel
— March 28 President Vincent Auriol of France visits Washington to meet President Truman. During his visit, the US agrees to pay for entire French war effort in Vietnam, and to provide unlimited military aid.
— April President Truman fires General Douglas MacArthur as blame game escalates regarding Korean war stalemate.
— June Talks for an armistice in the Korean War open. The major issue that divides the Communist and UN sides is the return of the POWs with the Communists demanding that all POWs from their nations be repatriated while the UN insists on voluntary repatriation.
— September 1 ANZUS Treaty united America, Australia and New Zealand in a defensive regional pact
  • 1952 – Dwight D. Eisenhower defeats isolationist element in GOP; denounces stalemate in Korea and promises to go there himself; elected president in landslide
  • 1953 –
— May Eisenhower threatens use of nuclear weapons in Korean War; China agrees to negotiate.
— July 27 armistice signed ending the Korean War (it is still in effect).
— March 13 The Battle of Dien Bien Phu begins. As the French are faced with defeat in Vietnam, Eisenhower considers intervention with tactical nuclear weapons to break the siege of Dien Bien Phu, and orders the Joint Chiefs of Staff to start work on Operation Vulture, the plan to intervene in Vietnam. Operation Vulture is ultimately rejected as a policy option.
— April 26 Geneva conference opens. Through called to consider a peace treaty for the Korean War, the conference is soon dominated by the question of Vietnam. The Secretary of State John Foster Dulles heads the American delegation.
— June 18 Guatemala. Dwight D. Eisenhower authorizes Operation PBSUCCESS, a program of "psychological warfare and political action" against anti-US regime; Guatemalan military overthrows the left-wing government of Jacobo Árbenz and installs Carlos Castillo Armas.
— July 20 The Geneva conference closes with an agreement on the partition of Vietnam into two states with a promise to hold a general election in both by June 1956. Dulles does not sign the Geneva accords, but promises that the US will abide by them.
— September 8 SEATO alliance in Southeast Asia is founded. South Vietnam not a signatory


— February 24 Baghdad Pact is founded. Later known as the Central Treaty Organization (or CENTO) initiated by John Foster Dulles, members were Iran, Iraq, United Kingdom, Pakistan, and Turkey, US aid.
  • 1957 – Eisenhower Doctrine gives the president authority to determine the necessity to assist any nation requesting assistance against armed aggression from any country controlled by international communism, applied in Lebanon the following year.
  • 1957 – Americans embarrassed when Soviets launch Sputnik, the first space satellite and leapfrog America in high technology.
  • 1958 – US foreign aid appropriation, $3.2 billion for military and economic aid; lending authority of the Export-Import Bank raised to $7 billion; US admits 32,000 Hungarian refugees from 1956 revolt
  • 1959 – Cuba. Fidel Castro comes to power. The first of 1 million Cuban exiles go to US, concentrating in Miami
  • 1960 – Nikita Khrushchev cancels summit conference with Eisenhower after US U-2 spy plane shot down over the Soviet Union
  • 1960 – Act of Bogotá makes social reform a prior condition for American economic aid
  • 1960 – Cuba seizes $1.5 billion of American properties; America imposes complete trade embargo (except food, medicine) continues in effect in 2012
  • 1961 – President John F. Kennedy launches Space Race, promising Americans on the Moon; they landed July 20, 1969
  • 1961 McGeorge Bundy becomes US National Security Advisor.
  • 1961 – Cuba. America breaks diplomatic relations as Castro aligns with Soviet Union.
  • 1961 – Alliance for Progress. inter-regional agreement funded by America to counter the growing regional appeal of the Cuban Revolution.
  • 1961 – Bay of Pigs Invasion in April; CIA-trained Cuban exiles invaded Cuba and were defeated at the Bay of Pigs; captured and ransomed by President Kennedy
  • 1961 – Berlin Crisis. Soviets give East Germany control over East Berlin; in August the Berlin Wall is built to stem the wave of refugees escaping to the Western side. Kennedy proclaims "Ich bin ein Berliner" ("I am a citizen of Berlin") to cheering West Berliners.
  • 1962 – Organization of American States (OAS) excludes Cuba, sets up trade embargo; dropped in 1975.
  • 1962 – Cuban missile crisis. John F. Kennedy on October 22 announces that there exist Soviet missiles in Cuba and demanded their removal while imposing an air-sea blockade. Soviet missiles are withdrawn on condition that America will not invade Cuba.
  • 1963 – Partial Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. US and the Soviet Union agreed not to conduct nuclear tests in space, in the atmosphere or underwater. Underground tests permitted; signed by 100 nations, excluding France and the People's Republic of China.
  • 1964 – Gulf of Tonkin Resolution gives President Lyndon B. Johnson Congressional approval to act in Vietnam; repealed in 1970.
  • 1965 – Intervention in Dominican Republic.
  • 1968 – Tet Offensive in Vietnam causes political crisis at home.
— November 1 The first "accelerated pacification" of launching land reforms in South Vietnam intended to persuade South Vietnamese peasants not to support the Viet Cong is launched; a success.
— January 28 Nixon launches policy of Vietnamization, in which American ground troops in Vietnam were to be steadily reduced and the American role was to provide military training, equipment, and air support for the South Vietnamese. Vietnamization was intended to reduce American losses in Vietnam, and thus reduce the domestic pressure for a total withdrawal of American forces. Nixon's aim in Vietnam is to force a Korean War-type armistice, which requires that the war go on until Hanoi agreed to the American terms while at the same time forcing Nixon to deflect pressure from domestic anti-war protests. With the same aim of achieving an armistice that would allow South Vietnam to continue to exist, Nixon begins a policy of seeking better relations with the Soviet Union and China, hoping those two states would reduce, if not end their arm supplies to North Vietnam in return for better relations with Washington, and thus forcing Hanoi to accept peace on American terms.
— February Following the success of the first "accelerated pacification" and the Phoenix Program of "neutralizing" (i.e. assassinating) Viet Cong operatives, Nixon applies strong pressure for more "accelerated pacification" campaigns and the Phoenix Program killings in South Vietnam as a part of the effort at breaking the Viet Cong. For Nixon, "accelerated pacification" and the Phoenix Program killings both have the effect of weakening the Viet Cong without the use of American troops, which serves to achieve both his aims of reducing American forces and applying pressure for the Vietnamese Communists to accept peace on American terms.
— March 8 President Nasser of Egypt launches the War of Attrition against Israel. The US supports Israel while the Soviet Union supports Egypt.
— July 25 Nixon announces the Nixon Doctrine in which Nixon warns that the United States will not to any lengths to defend its allies, especially in Asia, and henceforth American allies must do more for their own defense. The doctrine is especially aimed at South Vietnam and is intended to pressure the South Vietnamese government to do a more effective job of fighting the Communists.
— July Nixon visits Pakistan and meets with the Pakistani President General Agha Yahya Khan, tells him that he wants to use Pakistan as an intermediary for talks with China.[33] Yahya Khan agrees to Nixon's request.
— September 9 Walter Stoessel, the American ambassador to Poland is ordered by Nixon to make contacts with Chinese diplomats in an informal way.[33]
— October 16 Pakistani ambassador to the United States Agha Hilaly tells Kissinger that President Yahya is going to visit China early the next year, and is there any message that Kissinger would like Yahya to pass on to Mao.[33]
— November 3 Nixon gives a TV speech claiming that there was a "silent majority" supporting his Vietnam policies, states that he needs some more time for his policies to work, denounces anti-war protestors as a threat to world peace, and asks for the support of the "silent majority" to help him "to end the war in a way that we could win the peace."
— February 23 Hilaly tells Kissinger that after Yahya's visit to Beijing that the Chinese were interested in the American offer, but did not want to negotiate from a position of weakness.[33]
— March Under the "accelerated pacification", more than million hectares of land have been redistributed in American-encouraged land reform in South Vietnam.[34]
— March 7 Chiang Kai-shek who has heard reports of Sino-American talks in Warsaw writes to Nixon to protest.[33]
— April 29 Nixon orders the Cambodian Incursion. American and South Vietnamese force invade eastern provinces of Cambodia with the aim of clearing out the Viet Cong/North Vietnamese forces based there. Sparks much protest in the United States.
— June By this point in the War of Attrition between Israel and Egypt, there are regular clashes occurring between Israel and Soviet forces in Egypt, leading to fears that this might cause a world war, which in turn leads to strong pressure for a ceasefire.
— October 25 During a Pakistani-American summit, President Nixon asks President Yahya to pass on another message to Beijing about the American wish for rapprochement with China.[33]
— October 31 Kissinger meets with Romanian President Nicolae Ceaușescu and asks him to pass on a message to China that the US wishes for a normalization of relations with the People's Republic of China.[33]
— January 12 Corneliu Bogdan, the Romanian ambassador to the US tells Kissinger that Ceaușescu has passed on the American message, and that for Mao, normalization would be possible if the US would end the "occupation" of Taiwan as Mao calls American support for Taiwan.[33] This poses a major problem for Nixon as allow China to take Taiwan would greatly damage America's image and pose domestic problems.
— March 4 Nixon gives press conference, and warns that better Sino-American relations cannot come at the expense of Taiwan.[33]
— March 26 Pakistan launches Operation Searchlight intended by President Agha Yahya Khan to crush the Awami League in East Pakistan, and to eliminate the intelligentsia, political class and Hindu minority of East Pakistan.[35] As General Yahya is a key conduit in the talks between the US and China, the Nixon administration does not protest Operation Searchlight as it fears this might offend General Yahya, as part of its marked "tilt" towards Pakistan.[35]
— April 6 The Blood telegram sent by Archer Blood, the American consul in Dhaka and 20 other diplomats protesting the Nixon administration's silence about the Pakistani government's repression in East Pakistan and what the telegram argues is a campaign of genocide by the government against the Hindu minority in East Pakistan.[35] The Blood telegram does not affect American policy towards Pakistan, and effectively cuts the career of Blood and the other diplomats.[35]
— April 14 Ping-pong diplomacy. The American table tennis team is allowed to visit China, causes a sensation.[33] During a phone conversation, Kissinger says "It's a tragedy that it has to happen to Chiang at the end of his life but we have to be cold about it", to which Nixon replies "We have to do what's best for us".[33]
— April 21 Pakistani President Yahya informs Nixon that he had spoken with Zhou Enlai, and that the Chinese wished for a senior American envoy to make a secret visit to Beijing.[33]
— April 27 About the Chinese offer of a secret American envoy to visit Beijing, Kissinger tells Nixon that "If we get this thing working, we will end Vietnam this year."[33]
— July 9 Kissinger visits Islamabad, Pakistan, and from there goes on to a secret trip to Beijing to meet Zhou Enlai and Mao Zedong.[33] During the secret summit in Beijing, it is agreed that President Nixon will visit China the next year.[33]
— December 3 Indo-Pakistani war begins. The US supports Pakistan while the Soviet Union supports India.
— December 11 Nixon orders Task Force 74 to the Bay of Bengal in an attempt to intimidate India into accepting a ceasefire before the Indians defeat Pakistan.
— December 16 The war ends in Pakistan's defeat. Nixon fails in his efforts preserve Pakistan's unity.
HMS Leopard (right) mauls the USS Chesapeake in 1807
New York Times April 3, 1917

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