President Kennedy issued an executive order establishing the Peace Corps, a program where American citizens can volunteer in underdeveloped countries, as a mode of preventing the spread of communism.
April 12, 1961
The whole world watched as Soviet Yuri Gagarin made history as the first person to travel into outer space. The spaceship he was on completed one orbit around the earth before it reentered earth's atmosphere.
April 17, 1961
The U.S. failed in its attempt to overthrow Fidel Castro in the Bay of Pigs. Castro had forced U.S.-backed Dictator Fulgencio Battista to flee Cuba, instituted a communist government, seized American property, and developed a strong relationship with the Soviet Union, resulting in the end of diplomatic and economic relations with the U.S. The CIA trained and financed 1,500 Cuban exiles to start an uprising and overthrow Castro's regime, but the mission was poorly executed and ultimately would be an embarrassment to the U.S.
May 25, 1961
President Kennedy declared that the United States would put a man on the moon by the end of the decade in a Congressional address.
June 1, 1961
Joseph Heller published Catch-22, a book based on his Air Force experience in World War II. It would become one of the greatest protest novels during a time when Americans were questioning government authority with the onset of the Civil Rights Movement and anti-war sentiment.
August 15, 1961
East Germany constructed the Berlin Wall as a political means of keeping people from escaping to democratic West Germany. Almost thirty years would pass before the wall is torn down.
December 14, 1961
President Kennedy established the Presidential Commission on the Status of Women, chaired by Eleanor Roosevelt, to address women's rights in regards to education, employment, childcare, and other policies like Social Security and taxes.