Billy Joel released the song We Didn't Start the Fire in 1989. It's made up of a list of historical events and people from 1949-1989. He decided to include the following topics in his song because they are important to history and relevant to his lifetime.
1. Harry Truman- Harry S. Truman served as the United State's 33rd president and came into office after Roosevelt died in the last months of WWII. He was in office from 1945 to 1953. The Cold War began under Truman's watch and he was responsible for dropping the atomic bombs on Japan and ending World War II.
2. Red China- Communists took control of China after a struggle that started before World War II and renamed the country the People's Republic of China. It was called Red China by the United States to indicate they were Communists. Red China entered the Korean War in the 1950s, when it looked like the U.N. forces would defeat Communist North Korea.
3. Joe McCarthy- Joe McCarthy was a Senator from Wisconsin. He was best known for his work chairing the Senate Committee on Government Operations, which focused on suspected communists in the government. He was known for his brutal interrogations of suspects, resulting in ruining the lives of both guilty and innocent people. Politically active from 1944-1957.
4. Richard Nixon- Richard Nixon was a member of the House of Representatives from California when he became involved in the trial of Alger Hiss, who was accused of being a Communist and a spy. Nixon presented evidence that help prove Hiss guilty in 1950. This advanced Nixon's political career, and he soon ran for the Senate and won. Nixon later became Vice-President under President Dwight Eisenhower. Years later, he became President of the United States in 1969.
5. Television- Television became popular in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Color was introduced in 1951, but it was years later until color television became universally popular.
6. North & South Korea- Korea was split into north and south after World War II. North Korea became established as a Communist dictatorship by Soviet Union and Red China, after Japan was defeated. In 1950, North Korea attacked South Korea, starting the Korean War. The United Nations entered the war to defend South Korea. The Soviet Union made the mistake of walking out on the U.N. vote, allowing the measure to pass. Since declaring war was not acceptable without the approval of Congress, President Harry S. Truman declared the fighting a "police action" to allow the entry of American troops. The war resulted in a stalemate, and Korea is still divided to this day.
7. Hydrogen Bomb- The hydrogen bomb was way more powerful than an the atomic bomb, and it was developed by Dr. Edward Teller. The United States use the first H-bomb and a few years later the Soviet Union then exploded their version of the bomb. The first full scale thermonuclear test was carried out by the United States in 1952.
8. Vaccine- The vaccine to the dreaded disease polio was discovered by Jonas Salk in 1953 and distributed to the world. In 1952, an epidemic year for polio, there were 58,000 new cases reported in the United States, and more than 3,000 died from the disease.
9. Elvis Presley- In 1954, Elvis began his singing career with the legendary Sun Records label in Memphis. In late 1955, his recording contract was sold to RCA Victor. By 1956, he was an international sensation. He was called "Elvis the Pelvis" because of the way he shook his hips while dancing. Many religious leaders and school officials banned his songs, which only made them more popular. He later went on to be nicknamed "The King" as the most popular singer ever.
10. Little Rock- In a key event of the American Civil Rights Movement, nine black students enrolled at Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, in September 1957, testing a landmark 1954 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that declared segregation in public schools unconstitutional. Governor Faubus ordered the Arkansas National Guard to surround Central High School to keep the nine students from entering the school, because he believed black and whites should be segregated, despite Federal laws on integration.
11. John F. Kennedy- Kennedy was an American politician who served as the 35th President of the United States from January 1961 until his assassination in November 1963. He was the youngest man to be elected president.
12. Pope Paul- Pope Paul VI was leader of the Catholic Church from 1963 to 1978. He followed Pope John and completed the implementation of the goals of the Second Vatican Council. He became the first pope to visit six continents, but he also known to be an indecisive leader. His views were important to the world's Catholics.
References: http://www.school-for-champions.com/history/start_fire_facts.htm#.WJJIcPkrLIU, http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/salk-announces-polio-vaccine, http://biography.elvis.com.au/, http://www.history.com/topics/black-history/central-high-school-integration, https://www.whitehouse.gov/1600/presidents/johnfkennedy