June 25. North Korean forces invaded the independent state
of South Korea, without warning. Korea had been occupied by America
and Russian troops at the end of the Second World War and divided
into two states along the 38th parallel.
As the United Nations met to debate the Korean crisis, Russia
was absent in protest at the continued presence of non-communist
China at the UN. It proved a fatal mistake. Unable to veto UN
action, Russia watched helplessly as the Security Council urged
all members of the UN to go to South Korea's aid.
What followed was the first post-war trial of strength between
Communism and the West. Red China supported the North Korean invaders
with tanks, jet fighters and hundreds of thousands of ground troops.
The UN forces, dominated by US troops, took a hammering from
massed attack by Korean tanks in the early stages of the war.
But in September an armada of more than 250 boats landed UN troops
on the west coast of Korea at Inchon, outflanking the Communists
and driving inland with massive artillery support.
UN forces almost reached the Chinese border before China struck
back with what one observer called "the bottomless well of Chinese
manpower." The war, involving thousands of British conscripts,
raged back and forth for three years. An estimated two million
died, including many civilians. Both sides ended exactly where
they had begun, at the 38th parallel.
February 10. With the Cold War well under way the 50s
started with a move on the international front which sent a chill
wind through the whole of the free world.
and China, the two great Communist nations, announced they had
formed a united front against the rest of mankind.
After three months of protracted negotiations Stalin and Mao
Tse Tung concluded the formal alliance which included a mutual
The talks between the two men - both noted for their devilish
cunning - lasted so long that rumours started in diplomatic circles
that Chairman Mao had been taken hostage.
The treaty itself was destined to be short-lived.
November 29. A life and career dogged by controversy
and scandal reached its height of respectability when British
mathematician and philosopher Bertrand Russell was awarded the
It was quite a year for Russell who won the prize for his book
"Marriage and Morals" but who by this time had abandoned learning
to campaign against nuclear arms.
The grand old man of British letters, who was to live into the
1970s and nearly reach his century, had previously won the Order
of Merit and delivered the Reith lectures for the BBC.
March 31. It was the stuff of Boy's Own and Ripping Yarns
and brought a whiff of adventure to one of the more austere years
of the decade.
A Norwegian anthropologist called Thor Heyerdahl made a 5,000-mile
journey across the Pacific on a raft made of balsa wood and logs
- just to settle an argument.
What became known as the Kon-Tiki Expedition was immortalised
in a book of that name which is still selling today.
It was based on Heyerdahl's theory that Polynesian islanders
must have originally sailed from South America - a journey the
so-called experts claimed was impossible.
Ultimately the remarkable act of seamanship proved nothing other
than that anything was possible.
November 1. One of the more audacious attempts to assassinate
a US head of state involved a bid by two Puerto Rican nationalists
to shoot President Truman.
They tried to force their way into Blair House - where the president
was staying during repairs to the White House - and a fierce gun
battle followed during which one of the would-be killers was shot
dead and the other captured. One guard was killed and two others
An unperturbed President Truman merely stayed well away from
the window and kept his appointments for the rest of that day.