This is the first stanza of Billy Joel’s song “We Didn’t Start the Fire”

This stanza covers personalities and events related to the early 50’s

Harry Truman, Doris Day, Red China, Johnnie Ray

South Pacific, Walter Winchell, Joe DiMaggio

Joe McCarthy, Richard Nixon, Studebaker, television

North Korea, South Korea, Marilyn Monroe

Rosenbergs, H-Bomb, Sugar Ray, Panmunjom

Brando, “The King and I”, and “The Catcher in the Rye”

Eisenhower, vaccine, England’s got a new queen

Marciano, Liberace, Santayana goodbye

The first stanza is explained below.

Harry S Truman: Personality

US President (1945 – 1952)

He was the Vice President under FDR, took over presidency after FDR’s death in 1945. Was later re-elected in 1948. Saw off the end of WWII, took the fateful decision to drop the bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Doris Day: Personality

US Singer and Actress (born: 1924).

Birth name Doris Mary Ann von Kappelhoff. Sang for big bands like Barney Rapp, Bob Crosby and Les Brown. Sang Que Sera Sera in Hitchcock’s 1956 The Man Who New Too Much and won the Oscar for best song in a film

Johnnie Ray: Personality

US singer (born 1927 – died 1990).

Considered by many the father of rock and roll. He was gay.

South Pacific: Musical

A Broadway musical by Rodgers and Hammerstein that opened in 1949 later a musical film in 1958.

Walter Winchell: Personality

US Journalist (born 1897 – died 1972)

Invented the gossip column exposing private lives of people.

Joe Di Maggio: Personality

US Baseball star (1914 – 1999)

Born Giuseppe Paolo DiMaggio and nicknamed “Joltin’ Joe, one of the greatest baseball players in history, second husband of Marilyn Monroe

Joe McCarthy: Personality

US Senator (1807 – 1957)

Famous for his anti-communist witch hunts after the end of the second world war. Origin of the word “McCarthyism”

Richard Nixon: Personality

US President (1969-1974)

Vice President under Eisenhower (1953-1961), lost the 1960 elections to Kennedy. Considered one of the most notorious presidents in history, had to resign in the aftermath of the Watergate scandal. Known for his strong action against anti-Vietnam protestors

Studebaker: Brand

Automobile brand named after Henry Studebaker started off making wagons and stagecoaches. Exited automobiles in 1966

Television: Fad

Television in the 1950’s boomed in the US with shows like I Love Lucy and talks shows.

North Korea: Place

Democratic People’s Republic of Korea formed in 1948 which led to the Korean War. Capital: Pyongyang

The Korean War was first major conflict of the Cold War

South Korea: Place

Republic of Korea, Capital: Seoul

Marilyn Monroe: Personality

US Actress and all-time great sex symbol (1926 – 1962)

Sang Happy Birthday Mr President for JFK besides dating the president.

Rosenberg: Personality

US Civilians

Ethel and Julius Rosenberg were arrested in 1953 in US, tried and executed as spies of the Soviet Union.

H-Bomb: Event

Hydrogen Bomb, fusion bombs, probably refers to the bomb tests at Bikini Atoll

Sugar Ray: Personality

US Boxer

Sugar Ray Robinson (1921 – 1989) was one of the top boxers in the middleweight divisions in the 1940s and 1950s. Famous for his rivalry with Jake LeMotta.

Panmunjom: Place

Village in the border of North and South Korea where the 1953 Korean War armistice was signed.

Brando: Personality

US Actor (1924 – 2004)

Took over the position of James Dean as the symbol of youth rebel with films like A Streetcar Named Desire and On the Waterfront in the early 50’s

The King and I: Musical

Broadway muscial by Rodgers and Hammerstein opened in 1951 with Gertrude Lawrence as Anna and Yul Brynner as the King. Later Hollywood film starring Yul Brynner and Deborah Kerr.

The Catcher in the Rye: Literature

Novel by JD salinger published in 1951 which projected Holden Caulfield as a symbol of teenage angst.

Eisenhower: Personality

US President (1953 – 1960)

Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces during the Second World War, tookover the presidency from Harry Truman.

Vaccine: Event

Probably refers to the discovery of the polio vaccine in 1952

England’s got a new queen: Event

Queen Elizabeth II was coronated on Feb 6, 1952

Marciano: Personality

US Boxer (1923 – 1969)

Rocky Marciano was the only Heavyweight champion to retire undefeated. Won the title for the first time in 1952 defeating Jersey Joe Walcott.

Liberace: Personality

US Entertainer

Wladziu Valentino Liberace, classical pianist had his own show on television in the 50s. In 1957, sued the Daily Mirror of London for libel. Famous quote “I don’t mind the bad reviews but George (Manager) cried all the way to the bank”

Santayana goodbye: Event

Spanish philosopher (1863 – 1952)

George Santayana, born in Spain, moved to Boston where he was philosophy professor at Harvard. Died in 1952

Stay tuned till the next week for the next stanza.


3 thoughts on “20th Century Post War History in 5 minutes

  1. good one.

    wud be more interested in the intention of the author (if there was one) to include that name…

    – venkatesh

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