No reader has ever likely been stuck at the airport to find themselves in a situation like a couple of American visitors to Japan 60 years ago today. Not only was it inconvenient for their host (U.S. Ambassador to Japan Douglas A. MacArthur, II), who had gone out to Tokyo International Airport to meet them and also had to be evacuated himself, but the incident that kept them there for a couple of hours had great implications for the Japan-U.S. relationship afterward and was one of the major factors leading to the cancellation of a visit by U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower a week later.

James C. Hagerty, press secretary to Eisenhower, had arrived with the president’s appointments secretary, Thomas E. Stephens, on June 10, 1960, from Okinawa to coordinate the presidential visit. Ike, as he was affectionately known, was scheduled to arrive on June 19, which was the day that the revised Japan-U.S. security treaty would automatically pass the Upper House. The itinerary had been officially announced on May 31, but planning had begun in January, when Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi issued the original invitation during their summit meeting to sign the renegotiated treaty in Washington.

Eisenhower’s trip to the Far East was originally meant as a peace tour following a summit in Moscow, which also got cancelled due to the breakup of the four-power summit in Paris in mid-May as a result of an incident at the beginning of the month when an American U-2 spy plane was shot down over the Soviet Union and the U.S. government badly mishandled the publicity over it. Eisenhower eventually took personal responsibility for it.