United States and American History: Early 1962

About the history of the United States in early 1962, U.S. involvement in Vietnam and South Asia increases, John Glenn orbits the earth, U.S. Steel tries and fails to raise prices.


--Rachel Carson's expose of the widespread damage to all life caused by pesticides in her best-selling book Silent Spring heralded an increasing concern with ecology and the risks of destruction inherent in man's technological progress.

Jan. 26 Orson Welles's Citizen Kane (U.S. 1941) was voted the best movie ever made in a poll of 70 film critics from 11 countries.

Feb. 8 The U.S. established the Military Assistance Command (MAC) in South Vietnam. At this time, 5,000 U.S. troops were in Vietnam with the official purpose of providing training and technical assistance. On March 9, the Pentagon admitted U.S. pilots were flying combat missions in Vietnam.

Feb. 20 Lieut. Col. John Glenn orbited the earth 3 times in space capsule Friendship 7, becoming the 1st American in orbit. Television beamed his flight to 135 million Americans.

Apr. 11 U.S. Steel and 5 other major steel companies announced a 3 1/2% ($6 a ton) steel price raise. This increase evoked the anger of President Kennedy: "The American people will find it hard, as I do, to accept a situation in which a tiny handful of steel executives, whose pursuit of private power and profit exceeds their sense of public responsibility, can show such utter contempt for the interest of 185 million Americans." On April 13, the Defense Dept. awarded a $5 million contract to a small steel company that had not raised prices. On April 14, the big steel companies backed down.

Apr. 20 The segregationist New Orleans Citizens Council initiated a plan to give free one-way transportation to blacks wishing to move to northern cities. By October 7, 96 persons had taken the "reverse freedom rides."

Apr. 25 The U.S. resumed nuclear tests in the atmosphere over the South Pacific in response to the Russian breach of a 4-year unofficial test moratorium the previous fall. The U.S. exploded 36 nuclear bombs through November 4.

May 12 The New York Times reported:

U.S. aid to South Vietnam reached a peak and will start to level off, Robert S. McNamara, Defense Secretary disclosed today. Before departing for Washington Mr. McNamara said he doubted whether U.S. military personnel assigned to South Vietnam would be increased above the present strength. After 48 hours in South Vietnam Mr. McNamara was tremendously encouraged by developments...."I found nothing but progress and hope for the future," he said.

May 12-15 The U.S. sent 1,500 troops to Thailand in order to force the pro-communist Pathet Lao to stop the offensive in Laos and negotiate. The 3 rival Laotian factions began negotiations May 16 and agreed to a cease-fire and coalition Government June 11. On July 23, 14 nations, including the U.S., Russia, China, and North and South Vietnam, signed a pact in Geneva guaranteeing the freedom and neutrality of Laos. By April, 1963, however, there was civil war in Laos again.

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