Editors Note: We're blogging through We Didn't Start the Fire by Billy Joel.
In July 1956, Egyptian leader Gamel Abdel Nasser announced he was nationalizing the Suez Canal, owned at the time mainly by Britain and partially by France. Britain had refused to give up full control of the canal two years before. Egypt had offered full compensation for the canal, but Britain and France refused to give it up. Britain then enlisted Israel to help get the canal back. The US attempted to create a deal to settle the dispute, but it ultimately failed.
Israel attacked on October 26, 1956. The British and the French joined on the 28th. They ended up behind schedule, and that pause gave the Egyptians and their backers, the Soviet Union, time to make a stand. They supplied Egypt with weapons and financial backing behind the Aswan Dam. Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev also backed Egypt verbally, announcing his intentions to get nuclear weapons involved if the invading forces didn’t move out.
The US chose then to get involved. Eisenhower warned the Soviets to stop escalating the situation with the nuclear talks. He also warned the British, French, and Israelis of potential economic sanctions if they continued their attack. The Brits and French withdrew in December. Israel hung in Egypt until March of 1957 before finally leaving the canal to the Egyptians.