Timeline January 1961

The 1960 presidential election had taken place during a time of increasing hostility between the United States and the Soviet Union. Tensions were rising in Berlin, and the Soviets had shot down an American U-2 reconnaissance plane over Soviet territory. Senator John Kennedy campaigned as a tough anti-Communist cold warrior. In a televised debate between Vice President Richard Nixon and Senator Kennedy, Kennedy charged that the "missile gap" had given the Soviets military superiority and he was determined to make the United States "number one" again. Kennedy won the election by a slim margin.

In his inauguration speech, President Kennedy said, "Let every nation know whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and success of liberty." He cautioned the Soviets against "aggression or subversion anywhere in the Americas." He also said, "We dare not tempt them with weakness. For only when our arms are sufficient beyond doubt can we be certain beyond doubt that they will never be employed."