History Timeline 1950's

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U.S. Timeline - The 1950s

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  • Timeline

  • Detail - 1954

    September 8, 1954 - In Bangkok, Thailand, the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization is formed by the U.S., Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand, France, the Philippines, Pakistan, and Thailand, creating a mutual defense pact.


    SEATO flag and John Foster Dulles


    After the ravages of World War II and the apparent ability of several nations; Germany and Italy in Europe and Northern Africa, and the Japanese in Southeast Asia, it had been the policy of the Allied nations against that aggression to form pacts for their security in the future. The most noted, of course, is NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, founded in 1949. The nations of the South Pacific wanted a pact of their own of mutual defense, not only against invasion, but subversion from neighboring countries that were embracing communism, the largest of which was China.

    How did it evolve and who was involved? Two men are often mentioned as the driving force behind the idea and eventual implementation. American diplomat and Soviet expert George F. Kennan was behind the effort to thwart communist expansionism, and Secretary of State John Foster Dulles under President Eisenhower was the force pushing SEATO's creation. Although called the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization, there were only two truly Southeast Asian nations who joined; Thailand and the Philippines, although the inclusion of Australia, New Zealand, and Pakistan may have broadened its scope and made the name problematic, they were certainly in the vicinity and had similar concerns. The other nations involved; the United States, Great Britain, and France had protected and assisted in the freedom of those nations during World War II and would likely form the backbone of any use of SEATO in the future.

    First, why did Thailand and the Philippines join? Thailand was concerned about a new "Thai Autonomous Region" in Yunnan Province in South China, and whether it would cross their border and subvert them toward communisim. The Philippines was having its own internal problems with a new communist insurgency which threatened their government and already had strong ties to the United States. For various reasons, other Southeast Asia nations did not join; some preferred neutrality (Burma, Indonesia, and Singapore) while others chose an observer status (Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos). Pakistan chose to be involved due to its problems with India.

    For the United States, it was a Cold War imperative to fight the spread of communism everywhere in the world, and that Southeast Asia was an imperative and crucial era of containment. There was already communist aggression in Korea, Malaysia, and the Philippines. On September 8, 1954, the nations met in Bangkok, Thailand, and signed the Southeast Asia Collective Defense Treaty, and hammered out a structure of the organization, i.e. SEATO. The treaty and organization came into force on February 19, 1955. Its headquarters would be in Bangkok.

    The tenants of the organization's charter would include no composite SEATO military force. There would be joint military exercises once a year between the nations. They worked to improve the economic structures and living standards of the nations so that they could combat the internal subversion tactics of the communists who increasingly used those topics as a way to make inroads. Those reasons were also the rationale for including South Vietnam within the scope of SEATO, and the United States would use the election of 1956 meant to unify North and South Vietnam as a rationale to get involved and not allow the Northern commmunist regime to infiltrate South Vietnam. Two other non-member nations were protected under the pact; the Khmer Republic in Cambodia, and Laos.

    What were SEATO's weaknesses and outcome? The defense treaty only called for consultation between members, leaving the individual countries to battle internal guerrilla threats. This was in contrast to NATO. Because of a lack of Southeast Asian members, it was also subject to accusations of being just a new way toward colonization.

    The Southeast Asian Treaty Organization began to lose members in the 1970's amid disagreements over the War in Vietnam. France and Pakistan were against it and started to pull away from SEATO. Various sources state that Pakistan did not support SEATO beginning in 1968 and Pakistan formally withdrew in 1973 as it did not get the support it wanted in their battles with India. France withdrew financial support in 1975. The final joint military exercises were held on February 20, 1976. The entire organization ceased to exist on June 30, 1977.




    Text, Southeast Asia Collective Defense Treaty (Manila Pact); September 8, 1954


    The Parties to this Treaty,

    Recognizing the sovereign equality of all the Parties,

    Reiterating their faith in the purposes and principles set forth in the Charter of the United Nations and their desire to live in peace with all peoples and all governments,

    Reaffirming that, in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations, they uphold the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples, and declaring that they will earnestly strive by every peaceful means to promote self-government and to secure the independence of all countries whose peoples desire it and are able to undertake its responsibilities,

    Desiring to strengthen the fabric of peace and freedom and to uphold the principles of democracy, individual liberty and the rule of law, and to promote the economic well-being and development of all peoples in the treaty area,

    Intending to declare publicly and formally their sense of unity, so that any potential aggressor will appreciate that the Parties stand together in the area, and

    Desiring further to coordinate their efforts for collective defense for the preservation of peace and security,

    Therefore agree as follows:

    ARTICLE I - The Parties undertake, as set forth in the Charter of the United Nations, to settle any international disputes in which they may be involved by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security and justice are not endangered, and to refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force in any manner inconsistent with the purposes of the United Nations.

    ARTICLE II - In order more effectively to achieve the objectives of this Treaty, the Parties, separately and jointly, by means of continuous and effective self-help and mutual aid will maintain and develop their individual and collective capacity to resist armed attack and to prevent and counter subversive activities directed from without against their territorial integrity and political stability.

    ARTICLE III - The Parties undertake to strengthen their free institutions and to cooperate with one another in the further development of economic measures, including technical assistance, designed both to promote economic progress and social well-being and to further the individual and collective efforts of governments toward these ends.

    ARTICLE IV - 1. Each Party recognizes that aggression by means of armed attack in the treaty area against any of the Parties or against any State or territory which the Parties by unanimous agreement may hereafter designate, would endanger its own peace and safety, and agrees that it will in that event act to meet the common danger in accordance with its constitutional processes. Measures taken under this paragraph shall be immediately reported to the Security Council of the United Nations.

    2. If, in the opinion of any of the Parties, the inviolability or the integrity of the territory or the sovereignty or political independence of any Party in the treaty area or of any other State or territory to which the provisions of paragraph 1 of this Article from time to time apply is threatened in any way other than by armed attack or is affected or threatened by any fact or situation which might endanger the peace of the area, the Parties shall consult immediately in order to agree on the measures which should be taken for the common defense.

    3. It is understood that no action on the territory of any State designated by unanimous agreement under paragraph 1 of this Article or on any territory so designated shall be taken except at the invitation or with the consent of the government concerned.


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    ARTICLE V - The Parties hereby establish a Council, on which each of them shall be represented, to consider matters concerning the implementation of this Treaty. The Council shall provide for consultation with regard to military and any other planning as the situation obtaining in the treaty area may from time to time require. The Council shall be so organized as to be able to meet at any time.ARTICLE V - The Parties hereby establish a Council, on which each of them shall be represented, to consider matters concerning the implementation of this Treaty. The Council shall provide for consultation with regard to military and any other planning as the situation obtaining in the treaty area may from time to time require. The Council shall be so organized as to be able to meet at any time.

    ARTICLE VI - This Treaty does not affect and shall not be interpreted as affecting in any way the rights and obligations of any of the Parties under the Charter of the United Nations or the responsibility of the United Nations for the maintenance of international peace and security. Each Party declares that none of the international engagements now in force between it and any other of the Parties or any third party is in conflict with the provisions of this Treaty, and undertakes not to enter into any international engagement in conflict with this Treaty.

    ARTICLE VII - Any other State in a position to further the objectives of this Treaty and to contribute to the security of the area may, by unanimous agreement of the Parties, be invited to accede to this Treaty. Any State so invited may become a Party to the Treaty by depositing its instrument of accession with the Government of the Republic of the Philippines. The Government of the Republic of the Philippines shall inform each of the Parties of the deposit of each such instrument of accession.

    ARTICLE VIII - As used in this Treaty, the "treaty area" is the general area of Southeast Asia, including also the entire territories of the Asian Parties, and the general area of the Southwest Pacific not including the Pacific area north of 21 degrees 30 minutes north latitude. The Parties may, by unanimous agreement, amend this Article to include within the treaty area the territory of any State acceding to this Treaty in accordance with Article VII or otherwise to change the treaty area.

    ARTICLE IX - 1. This Treaty shall be deposited in the archives of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines. Duly certified copies thereof shall be transmitted by that government to the other signatories.

    2. The Treaty shall be ratified and its provisions carried out by the Parties in accordance with their respective constitutional processes. The instruments of ratification shall be deposited as soon as possible with the Government of the Republic of the Philippines, which shall notify all of the other signatories of such deposit.

    3. The Treaty shall enter into force between the States which have ratified it as soon as the instruments of ratification of a majority of the signatories shall have been deposited, and shall come into effect with respect to each other State on the date of the deposit of its instrument of ratification.

    ARTICLE X - This Treaty shall remain in force indefinitely, but any Party may cease to be a Party one year after its notice of denunciation has been given to the Government of the Republic of the Philippines, which shall inform the Governments of the other Parties of the deposit of each notice of denunciation.

    ARTICLE XI - The English text of this Treaty is binding on the Parties, but when the Parties have agreed to the French text thereof and have so notified the Government of the Republic of the Philippines, the French text shall be equally authentic and binding on the Parties.

    UNDERSTANDING OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA - The United States of America in executing the present Treaty does so with the understanding that its recognition of the effect of aggression and armed attack and its agreement with reference thereto in Article IV, paragraph 1, apply only to communist aggression but affirms that in the event of other aggression or armed attack it will consult under the provisions of Article IV, paragraph 2.

    In witness whereof, the undersigned Plenipotentiaries have signed this Treaty.

    Done at Manila, this eighth day of September, 1954.

    Notes: Ratification advised by the Senate Feb. 1, 1955; ratified by the President Feb. 4, 1955; entered into force Feb. 19, 1955.

    Thailand deposited its instrument of ratification Dec. 2, 1954; the remaining signatories (the United States, Australia, France, New Zealand, Pakistan, the Philippines, and the United Kingdom) deposited their instruments Feb. 19, 1955.

    Image above: Montage (Right) John Foster Dulles while Senator from New York, 1949, bioguide.congress.gov. (Left) Cropped version of SEATO flag, Unknown date, sn1per. Both Courtesy Wikipedia Commons. Image below: Photo of leaders at the SEATO Conference in 1966; (Left to Right) Prime Minister Nguyen Cao Ky (South Vietnam), Prime Minister Harold Holt (Australia), President Park Chung Hee (South Korea), President Ferdinand Marcos (Philippines), Prime Minister Keith Holyoake (New Zealand), Lt. Gen. Nguyen Van Thieu (South Vietnam), Prime Minister Thanom Kittikachorn (Thailand), President Lyndon B. Johnson (United States), 1966, Frank Wolfe, White House Photo Office. Courtesy LBJ Library via Wikipedia Commons. Source Info: Office of the Historian, Department of State; britannica.com; "American Foreign Policy 1950-1955, Basic Documents Volumes I and II, Department of State Publication 6446, General Foreign Policy Series 117, Washington, DC: U.S. Governemnt Printing Office, 1957," via Avalon Law Project, Documents in Law, History, and Diplomacy, Yale Law School; Wikipedia Commons.

    SEATO Conference 1966





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