Cold WarUS threatens the USSR with a nuclear strike if it does not remove its troops from northern Iran (now Azerbaijan). (ZMag)
Minority rightssenator Theodore Bilbo says, "The best way to keep the n*gger from the polls is to see him the night before." (Washington Post/Eric Alterman and Mark Green)
Vietnam WarChinese Nationalists under Chiang Kai-shek agree to withdraw from North Vietnam and allow the French to return in exchange for French concessions in Shanghai and other Chinese ports. (Vietnam War Timeline)
Cold Wara grim analysis that defines Soviet Communism as fundamentally incompatible with western capitalism, and says that war between the two systems is inevitable. The US ambassador to the USSR, George Kennan, sends a message famously remembered as "The Long Telegram" on February 22 that bluntly summarizes the USSR's hostility towards the US and its allies: "We have here," Kennan writes, "a political force committed fanatically to the belief that with the United States there can be no permanent modus vivendi, that it is desirable and necessary that the internal harmony of our society be disrupted, our traditional way of life be destroyed, the international authority of our state be broken, if Soviet power is to be secure." Kennan's proposed responses, both in the telegram and in an anoymous 1947 article in Foreign Affairs magazine, will shape the direction of American foreign policy for the next forty years. Kennan recommends that the US resist Soviet expansionism by maintaining a global balance of economic and political power that would work to keep the USSR from broadening its influence in Western Europe and Asia. Over time, this policy broadens to emphasize the role of the US and its Western allies in keeping the USSR in check, a doctrine that comes to be known as the "policy of containment." (Philip Taubman)
Vietnam WarHo Chi Minh spends four futile months in France attempting to negotiate full independence and unity for Vietnam, but fails to obtain any guarantee from the French. In June, the French high commissioner for Indochina proclaims a separatist French-controlled government for South Vietnam (Republic of Chochinchina), deeply offending Ho and setting the stage for the guerrilla resistance to come. (Vietnam War Timeline)
US nuclear programThe first test was of a bomb dropped on the atoll by a B-29, the second set off on a ship in the center of a target fleet. A single Russian scientist is invited along as an observer. The natives living on the island agree to be relocated to another, much less habitable island nearby after being told by US governor Commodore Ben Wyatt that the US needed their island for nuclear tests "for the good of mankind and to end all world wars." The Department of the Interior's Fish and Wildlife Service agreed to sign off on a statement declaring that two nuclear explosions taking place at ground level on the tiny atoll would have no detrimental effect on the environment (including the tens of thousands of whales and tuna killed in the blast). Over 400 pigs and goats staked out at Ground Zero were vaporized. The tests were nicknamed "Operation Crosswinds," as the Navy chose to park 98 supposedly surplus battleships, carriers, and other vessels collectively worth $400 million ($3.6 billion in 2002 dollars) to be blown to bits. Congressmen worried about the waste of destroying so many dollars' worth of sophisticated naval hardware were told not to worry, as the salvage value of these boats were less than a cent on the dollar. The first person to die due to the testing was Louis Slotin, a Los Alamos scientist who was exposed to a lethal dose of radiation during the preparation phase of the tests. More died later; the blast failed to sink most of the ships in the target fleet -- "Not so much after all," mutters the Russian observer -- and a group of sailors was delegated to swab the hulls and decks of the ships, earning an often-fatal dose of radiation in the process. (Most of the fleet was eventually scuttled after it was realized that they were heavily contaminated with radiation.) The hasty conclusion to the two tests was that nuclear explosions such as these were quite manageable -- it was only later that mainstream science accepted the horrific dangers associated with radiation -- and further tests in the South Pacific will be scheduled, the first at Eniwetok Atoll, but under far more secretive conditions.
World War IIHaving interrupted its TV broadcasting for seven years because of the war, the BBC resumes its television broadcast -- with the same Mickey Mouse cartoon that was interrupted seven years before. (BBC)
George W. Bushone of the richest towns in the United States and an enclave of transplanted Ivy Leaguers -- more Rolls-Royces are owned, per capita, in Midland than any other community in the US, and the town boasts Princeton, Yale, and Harvard clubs. As a boy and teenager, he would entertain himself by, among other activities, inserting firecrackers in frogs' throats and watching them explode. "We were terrible to animals," recalls Bush's childhood friend Terry Throckmorton, laughing at the memory. Bush will later spend quality time hunting trapped animals on a variety of Texas hunting preserves, which are fenced in to prevent the prey from escaping. Though Bush will spend a short time in the Midland public schools, most of his primary education is obtained at exclusive boarding schools, a Bush family tradition. (The White House, Animals in Print, Kevin Phillips)
Bush family"By the mid-twentieth century, connections and crony capitalism had become the family economic staple, with emphasis on the rewards of finance, and instinctive policymaking fealty to the investment business. The Bushes have produced no college presidents or stonemasons, no scientists or plumbing contractors -- generally speaking, their progeny have become almost exclusively financial entrepeneurs." (Kevin Phillips)
Rise of Jewish nationJewish terrorists belonging to the Irgun attack the headquarters of the British Mandate for Palestine, located inside the King David Hotel in Jerusalem (killing 91 British, Arabs, and Jews), and capture and hang two British officers. (Dan Cohn-Sherbok, Dawoud el-Alami, Pat Buchanan)
Richard NixonNixon runs an extremely dirty campaign, accusing Voorhis of accepting support from a group falsely accused of being a Communist front. Aided by the Los Angeles Times, who supported Nixon and refused to run anything positive about Voorhis, Nixon wins. He would later admit, "Of course I knew Jerry Voorhis wasn't a Communist, but I had to win." (David Fremon)
Vietnam WarThe French army shells Haiphong harbor, killing over 6,000 Vietnamese civilians, and, by December, open war between France and the Viet Minh begins. (Chronology of US-Vietnam Relations)
Joe McCarthyWhile in the Senate, he will accept $20,000 in kickbacks from Pepsi-Cola for his assistance in helping them circumvent post-war sugar rationing; he also accepts $10,000 from the prefabricated housing industry. McCarthy earns that money by publicly opposing public housing for veterans, instead advocating prefab housing for them. (HUAC Timeline)
US foreign policyKennan, one of the most influential voices in US foreign relations during the twentieth century, is in many ways a microcosm of what's right and what's wrong with America's approach to foreign policy. Historian Derek Leebaert uses Kennan's colleagues' comments to describe Kennan, and by extension America's foreign policy approach during the Cold War, as "intensely emotional, backward-looking, dismissive of the details of economics and technology, often racist, and occasionally 'reckless' and riddled with 'impulsiveness.'" Kennan, one of the loudest and most convincing voices that warned against Soviet expansionism, is described by Leebaert as "a highly polished time capsule of the disillusioned 1920s, during which his generation found, as F. Scott Fitzgerald announced, 'all Gods dead, all wars fought, all faiths in man shaken.' Disgusted with excesses at home and dismayed by miseries abroad, Kennan seems to have viewed the Foreign Service as an escape. Not only did he choose the Foreign Service, but he chose to become one of a handful of diplomats focusing on huge, burgeoning Russia, so recently ruled by the czar." Kennan admired most things German, particularly its hierarchical and orderly, yet dynamic, culture, and, reflecting the Nazis' obsession with "pure" bloodlines, frequently boasted that "you could comb [his] family records for three centuries back and you won't find a person who wasn't of straight Anglo-Saxon origin." He actively disliked Jews and for years advocated having African-Americans set up their own, separate state; he openly supported South Africa's apartheid state for decades. He let it be known that Congress should be populated strictly with wealthy white males, and was enough of an all-around elitist to alienate many Beltway insiders, even many of his fellow conservatives.
Cold WarUS intelligence photography specialist Richard Leghorn delivers a speech entitled "Objectives for Research and Development in Military Aerial Reconnaissance." Though the speech receives little public notice, it is, in Philip Taubman's words, "one of the most visionary documents of the cold war and [lays] the basis for a new era in overhead intelligence." Leghorn says that in the new era of potential atomic bombardment, it is imperative that the US develop a means of long-range aerial reconnaissance that can gather information about enemy military installations and nuclear facilities without being detected itself. The speech marks the beginning of the development of the U-2 spyplane. (Indeed, conventional spy flights are already entering Soviet airspace, drawing hot protests from Moscow and the loss of more than a few American pilots. The program is so secret that even the families of the pilots flying the missions will not be told for four decades about the missions. Taubman writes in 2003, "As the secrecy has lifted in recent years, the full dimensions of the reconnaissance campaign have become clear. It was one of the most daring and dangerous elements of the cold war, and the only one that involved frequent military clashes between Soviet and American forces. The costs linger, including grieving families that still do not know if long-missing husbands, fathers, and brothers were killed when their planes were attacked or if the men were captured and lived for years in Soviet captivity. The history of the spy flights is filled with heroism and patriotism, bonds of fellowship that endure to this day, and achievements for which an unknowing nation never gave proper thanks. Hundreds of men in the Air Force and Navy risked their lives flying along or across the Soviet frontier in an effort to learn about Russian air defenses and military forces." No precise accounting is available, but at least 252 air crewmen will be shot down between 1950 and 1970, most in flights over the Soviet Union. The fate of at least 138 of these crewmen is still not known, as the United States, in efforts to keep the existence and dimensions of the spy plane program secret, will make little or no efforts to ascertain their fates and arrange for their return.) (Philip Taubman)
Vietnam WarThus begins an eight year struggle known as the First Indochina War. "The resistance will be long and arduous, but our cause is just and we will surely triumph," declares Viet Minh military commander Vo Nguyen Giap. (Vietnam War Timeline)
Cold WarWhile it seems that most of the work done to break the Soviet codes were done by reconstruction and recovery (i.e. work with pencil, paper, and brain), the FBI may have purloined documents helpful in the cryptanalysis. The analysis of several years' worth of WWII-era secret communiques, and the ensuing analysis of those documents, will become known as "the Venona project." The Venona project itself will become a 38-year enterprise, and will be classified top secret for 15 more years, even though the Soviets will become aware of the code break shortly after the initial discovery and will move quickly to change their codes. In 1995, a bipartisan Commission on Government Secrecy, with Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan as chairman, will be responsible for the release of Venona project materials (although many inside the NSA have also come to believe that the time had come to make it public, and will argue internally for such a release). Moynihan will write, "The Venona intercepts contained overwhelming proof of the activities of Soviet spy networks in America, complete with names, dates, places, and deeds."
Cold WarTruman and many of his advisors, includng George Marshall, Dean Acheson, Robert Lovett, and James Forrestal, see Stalin as strictly a short-term problem, a Communist with no understanding of Marxism and who got Hitler all wrong, but with a deep understanding of the uses of intrigue and terror. Winston Churchill summed up Stalin's character nicely with his tale, retold by historian Derek Leebaert, "of Stalin's witty observation that the problem of Hungary was merely one of cattle trucks, meaning that nationalism was just a logistical question of shipping entire races of people to the gulag." Many felt that Stalin's intentions for Germany were to let it dissolve into its prewar chaos of different squabbling jurisdictions, perhaps aided by periodic, supervised famines overseen by the Red Army. Truman and his advisors were determined not to let this happen.
US foreign policyrealizing that the American people will likely balk at the open discussion of Cold War opposition to the Soviet Union, tells a group of colleagues that US foreign policy must be presented as strictly "non-partisan" and that all political argument must "stop...at the water's edge. ...If we can do that," Acheson says, "we're off to the races." (Lewis Lapham)
Attack on civil libertiesRankin is famous for race-baiting his opponents in Congress, calling fellow congressman Vito Marcantonio and Mayor La Guardia of New York "those two dagos," Walter Winchell a "kike," and a certain black leader as the "big n*gger up in Washington." Rankin ensured that HUAC would have subpoena powers, and uses the powerful allegations of "Commie" against anyone who tried to allay the racial conflicts in the South. John Henry Faulk notes that much of the blacklisting and public spectacles such as the Alger Hiss denunciations were none-too-cloaked attacks against Roosevelt's New Deal: "Roosevelt had for years been called a Bolshevik. They tried to beat him in 1936, 1940, and 1944. Hell, he just handed them their heads each time. But with Roosevelt gone, the Republicans' weapon -- namely, that of charging a Communist threat -- began to work. They declared to the country that the Democratic Party was the party of treason. It all added up to a carefully orchestrated anxiety. ...This caused a proliferation of...self-appointed vigilantes throughout the land. Damn near every community in the country had its anti-communist group" Faulk also notes that, as is so often typical of Democrats, they respond to the Republican slanders, not by standing up for themselves, but by running for cover: "You would find Democratic leaders making these idiotic speeches prefacing every speech with, 'I hate communism worse than their Republicans do,' and trying to out-do them. ...[T]he Republican Party swept into victory in 1952 by utilizing precisely the technique of the manipulation of fear and exploiting it for political purposes." Though the ugly era of McCarthyism will come to an ignominious end in 1954 with the censure of Joe McCarthy, HUAC itself will not be disbanded until 1975, "its increasingly petty harassments," in Derek Leebaert's words, "backed by an annual reauthorization vote in Congress." (Ruth and Bud Schultz, Texas Legacy Project, Derek Leebaert)
Attack on civil libertiesThomas is a conservative and a powerful opponent of Roosevelt's, often accusing Roosevelt's New Deal policies of "sabotag[ing] the capitalist system." Thomas also objects to the idea of government-subsidized theater, and led the attack on the Federal Theater & Writers Project, claiming that "[p]ractically every play presented under the auspices of the Project is sheer propaganda for Communism or the New Deal." Inevstigative reporter Jack Anderson characterizes him thus: "Thomas was moved principally by caricatures. Confronting a world that abounded in real Communist threats, he was obsessed with phantom, even ludicrous slapstick ones. One was his notion that the saccharine movies of that day, produced and monitored as they were by the most conformist capitalists, represented a New Deal conspiracy to Communize the free world.
US actions in Latin AmericaUS implicitly threatens Uruguay with a nuclear strike during that nation's elections; US bombers fly in Uruguayan airspace. (ZMag)
Attack on civil libertiesand has been pilloried as a Communist and "a termite undermining the Constitution," publishes an essay in Harper's that reads in part, "It is easier to say what loyalty is not than what it is. It is not conformity. It is not passive acquiescence to the status quo. It is not preference to everything American over everything foreign. It is not an ostrich-like ignorance of the other countries and other institutions. It is not the indulgence in ceremony -- a flag salute, an oath of allegiance, a fervid verbal declaration. It is not a particular creed, a particular vision of history, a particular body of economic practices, a particular philosophy. It is tradition, an ideal, and a principle. It is a willingness to subordinate every private advantage for the larger good. It is an appreciation of the rich and diverse contributions that can come from the most varied sources. It is allegiance to the traditions that have guided our greatest statesmen and inspired our most eloquent poets -- the traditions of freedom, equality, democracy, tolerance, and the tradition of Higher Law, of experimentation, cooperation, and pluralism. It is the realization that America was born of revolt, flourished on dissent, became great through experimentation." (Lewis Lapham)
Ronald ReaganReagan, a B-list actor whose career is already beginning to decline, is a creature of the Hollywood conglomerate MCA, founded in 1924 by Chicago opthalmologist Jules Stein and which quickly became tied to organized crime. Investigative journalist Dan Moldea writes, "Every facet of Reagan's life, from his careers in acting and politics to his financial successes, were directed by MCA, which, with the help of the Mafia, was the most powerful force in Hollywood from the mid-1940s until the Bronfman family purchased the company in 1995." As he himself has admitted in later years, as SAG president, Reagan immediately aligns himself with the Teamsters and other mob-connected unions to keep Communists, socialists, and other left-wing elements from influencing Hollywood. In 1952 Reagan, on his fifth term as SAG president, oversees a deal allowing MCA to engage in unlimited film production, a deal that violates SAG's bylaws prohibiting talent agencies from employing their own clients. No other talent agency is granted such a waiver. A Justice Department memo notes that the waiver becomes "the central fact of MCA's whole rise to power." Though Reagan was elected to represent the interest of actors, his term at SAG is marked by continued and successful efforts, with Reagan's enthusiastic cooperation, to strengthen the power of talent agencies and film production companies at the expense of actors. (Dan Moldea)
British colonization of KenyaJohnstone "Jomo" Kenyatta returns to Kenya, where he assumes the leadership of the Kenya African Union, the organization formerly known as the Kikuyu Central Association. The KAU is far more radical and resistant to British colonial rule than the relatively complicit KCA. Outside of the KAU's purview, thousands of Kikuyu natives forced to resettle in the Olenguruone area of Kenya revive and transform the traditional Kikuyu practice of "oathing," which forms the basis for the Mau Mau resistance. The oath unites the Olenguruone settlers in opposition to British rule. (Caroline Elkins)
Cold WarPresident Truman formally commits the US to assisting "free peoples around the world" to resist Soviet efforts to impose totalitarian regimes in their countries, a policy that comes to be known as the Truman Doctrine. Historian Derek Leebaert later writes, "But what became known as the Truman Doctrine also enunciated a heavy precedent for un-thought-out aid and commitments to unassessed regimes in ill-defined places. ...The vague assumptions and very real spending that summoned the energy for this portentious step eventually created an assembly line of involvement that would grind on for decades, repeatedly fixed by ever more strained rationalizations. In retrospect, it is not much of an exaggeration to say that the passage of aid to Greece meant that 'the road from Athens ultimately led to Saigon.'" Under this doctrine, the US will go to war in Korea under Truman, in the Middle East under Eisenhower, and in Vietnam under Kennedy and Johnson. The modifications imposed by Ronald Reagan in the 1980s will see the US giving aid to anti-Communist rebels fighting in, among other places, Nicaragua, Angola, and Afghanistan. US allies were not always on board with the American foreign policy of resistance and containment, as was quickly shown in Britain's decision to sell cutting-edge jet technology to the Soviet Union, technology that would be put to use in the skies over Korea. (Philip Taubman, Pat Buchanan, Derek Leebaert)
Attack on civil libertiesTruman signs Executive Order 9835, known as the "Loyalty Oath," requiring all federal employees to swear their allegiance to the United States, and empowering the Justice Department to winnow from the ranks any "disloyal persons" with any connections to "totalitarian, fascist, Communist, or subversive" organizations. (Lewis Lapham)
Oppression of Jewsthe UN Special Committee on Palestine, to report on conditions in Palestine between Jews and Arabs. Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko supports the establishment of a Jewish homeland in Palestine. The execution of three captured Irgun terrorists and Irgun's subsequent murder of two British soldiers in retaliation for the execution sparks widespread antipathy and outright opposition to Jewish rule in Britain; British troops riot in Tel Aviv, killing five Jewish citizens. Meanwhile, Jewish refugees from Europe continue to flood into Palestine. (Dan Cohn-Sherbok)
Marshall Planan ambitious and highly effective set of initiatives designed to help European countries devastated by three decades of war rebuild themselves, usually but not always in a manner consistent with American democracy and US foreign policy aims. The initiatives are tremendously successful in Western European countries, but when Czechoslovakia, the only Eastern European country with a freely elected government, opts to participate in the plan, essentially attempting to align itself with the US-British axis, the Soviets block Czech participation; a Communist coup in February 1948 erases the last vestiges of democratic rule in Czechoslovakia. Secretary of Commerce Averell Harriman's Harriman Commission works tirelessly to sell the American people on the necessity of the plan; historian Derek Leebaert writes of Harriman, "He was a classic transition figure for a commercial democracy entering upon world power." (Philip Taubman, Derek Leebaert)
US actions in Latin AmericaArbenz will be replaced by a brutally repressive military junta headed by American puppet Colonel Carlos Castillo Armas. Between Arbenz's tolerance of the Communists in his country, the outcries of the wealthy landowners (2% of Guatamalans owned 72% of the arable land, and only 12% of that land was being used), and Arbenz's desire to rid his country of the stifling influence of American companies such as United Fruit, leads the US's Eisenhower to approve of the coup. Former Marine colonel Philip Roettinger recalls, "Well, of course there was not even a hint of Communism in his government. He had no Communists in his Cabinet. He did permit the existence of a very small Communist party." But Roettinger, at that time a young, gung-ho Marine recruited for the operation by the CIA, is told that he and his fellows are being sent to Guatamala to stop a Soviet beachhead from taking hold in the Western Hemisphere and preventing Communism from gaining hold in "our" part of the globe. As part of the coup, Guatamalan and American forces engage in the bloody oppression of an Arbenz-supporting nationalist revolt. US bombers based in Honduras make devastating strikes on Guatamalan targets, and the threat of nuclear bombing is made. The situation in Guatamala has not changed drastically in half a century. For example, Mario Sandoval Alarcon began his career in the CIA's Guatemalan operation. Today he's known as the Godfather of the Death Squads. In 1981, after successfully lobbying Ronald Reagan's advisors for military aid to the Guatemalan government, Sandoval danced at the Inaugural Ball." (ZMag, Wikipedia, PBS/Addicted to War)
Cold Warforeign policy, and intelligence apparatus in preparation for the Cold War. The Act merges the Department of War and Department of the Navy into the Department of Defense, to be headed by the Secretary of Defense. It also mandates the creation of a separate US Air Force from the old Army Air Forces. The Act also establishes the National Security Council, a central place of coordination for national security policy in the Executive Branch, and the Central Intelligence Agency, the United States' first peacetime intelligence agency. Former admiral Gene La Rocque says that the NSA is the first step towards the establishment of "a national security state." Tellingly, one of the first major operations of the new US security machine is the overthrow of Iran's democratically elected Mossadaq government in 1953 because of Mossadaq's nationalization of Iran's oil fields and his attempts to drive the US oil companies out. (Wikipedia, PBS/Addicted to War)
Creation of Jewish nationwith an international zone for the holy places revered by Jews, Muslims, and Christians alike. Britain and the Arabs both oppose the recommendations, but the UN, in a bitterly divided vote, supports the recommendations. Britain announces that it will continue to rule Palestine under the Mandate until May 1948. Between now and then, British forces will not intervene in conflicts between Arab and Jewish forces. (Dan Cohn-Sherbok)
Attack on civil libertiesNeoconservative author Ayn Rand testifies to the pro-Communist slant in the film Song of Russia. Ten screenwriters, including Ring Lardner, Jr. and Dalton Trumbo, are sent to prison. 320 individuals are blacklisted and are unable to work in the industry. As an adjunct to the investigation, eleven Americans in New York City are sentenced to jail in 1948 for advocating Marxist-Leninist principles; their incarceration is upheld by the Supreme Court. (Lewis Lapham, HUAC Timeline)
Cold Warmilitary forces assist far-right political forces in Greece. (ZMag)
Attack on civil libertiesWilliam Bennett, the publisher of the Encyclopedia Britannica, is investigated for suspected sympathizing with Communism, as are entertainers and filmmakers such as Orson Welles, Lucille Ball, Dashiell Hammett, and Lillian Hellman. Most submit quietly to the investigation, but a few, including writers Arthur Miller and Henry Steele Commager, resist and are publicly pilloried. (Miller's 1953 play The Crucible is widely seen as a criticism of HUAC and the Red Scare.) The State Department purges 30,000 books from its library for suspected Communist sympathies, including The Selected Works of Thomas Jefferson. Hollywood responds by cranking out 50 anti-Communist films, including I Married a Communist and I Was a Communist for the FBI. Mickey Spillane publishes a best-seller, One Lonely Night, featuring his private-eye hero, Mike Hammer, slaughtering scores of "Commies, Red sons-of-b*tches who should have died long ago. ...I shot them in cold blood and enjoyed every minute of it." In 1956, the New York Times publishes an editorial proclaiming its offices to be free of Communist taint: "We would not knowingly employ a Communist Party member in the news or editorial department...because we would not trust his ability to report the news objectively or comment on it honestly." In Wheeling, West Virginia, the city manager discovers that some vending machines dispense chewing gum with pasteboard trinkets giving information about the Soviet Union ("USSR, pop. 211,000,000, capital Moscow") immediately sends out an alert about Communist infiltration and demands a federal investigation. He turns over the names of every store owner whose stores house the machines to the FBI. (Lewis Lapham, HUAC Timeline)
US control of PhillipinesCIA directs the Filipino government's opposition to the Huk Rebellion. (ZMag)
Vietnam WarAverell Harriman, complains that half of the US aid funds sent to France and the Netherlands are being used to crush the leftist regimes in Vietnam and Indonesia, respectively. CIA officials warn that perhaps US objectives in Europe and the Far East are mutually exclusive. (Derek Leebaert)
Cold WarSuch endless crises tend to manifest themselves most at budget time, when rumors of fleets of Soviet submarines off the US coast appear just in time to justify huge increases in defense spending. The British Embassy reports to London with carefully concealed glee that, "as in the recent case of flying disks [UFOs], it is likely that 'submarines' will be sighted around the coasts of the United States for some weeks to come." Partially because of the endless drumbeat of crisis and fear, the American electorate willingly approves defense expenditures of a size not seen except in time of war. Most Americans even support a reinstatement of the military draft, though Republican senator Robert Taft warns that peacetime conscription would transform the United States into a "militaristic" country. Civil rights leader A. Philip Randolph's Committee Against Jim Crow in Military Service is answered by Truman's Executive Order 9981, calling for equality in the military and warning that the US must present a united front against global Communism. Historian Derek Leebaert writes, "Just as the Confederacy started recruiting blacks a month before the end of the Civil War, so the prospect of mass warfare began the movement towards a crude mass justice." A limited military draft will become law; though it was supposed to be temporary in nature, it would last a quarter-century, "with an increasingly unfair range of exemptions for millions of draft-age men." Americans believed that it might not be long before their military would be ordered to Europe to confront the Soviet military juggernaut over, say, Berlin. (Derek Leebaert)
George H.W. BushHis school, Phillips Andover, has its own ties to the US intelligence community. His history teacher at Andover is a CIA asset who wrote an exhaustive, and until 1989 highly classified, history of the CIA's early years. While it is doubtful that Bush was recruited as a teenager at Andover, it is far more likely that he was recruited during his years at Yale, the spawning ground for much of America's intelligence community. From Yale's graduating class of 1943 alone, at least 42 members joined US intelligence. Bush's own initiation into American intelligence probably did not come from his father, but from his connections in Yale's Skull and Bones fraternity. He may have also been recruited by his crew coach, Allen Waltz, another CIA asset.
Cold WarThough the US refuses to intervene in the Czech repression, US officials take it as a warning that it could not count on its allies to help in its attempts to contain the spread of Communism. Historian Derek Leebaert writes, "Emergency would lead to emergency, begetting an atmosphere of crisis. There was the awe of Soviet power, a belief that Moscow would choose world war rather than tolerate the slightest insubordination within its sphere of influence. The 'madman theory' of statesmanship, later deliberately fostered by Richard Nixon, was already in bloom." The fact that East Germany and Czechoslovakia were, at the time, the Soviet Union's primary sources of uranium was not lost on American analysts. (Derek Leebaert)
Oppression of Jews and ArabsDeir Yassin, near Jerusalem, and slaughter 107 Arab citizens, who had up until the attack lived peacefully with their Jewish neighbors. The attack leads to Palestinian Arabs fleeing en masse from areas near large Jewish settlements. Many leave Palestine altogether, seeking refuge in neighboring Arab countries. A reprisal attack by Arabs on a medical convoy kills 77. Outraged Jewish leader David Ben-Gurion determines to crush the Irgun. (Dan Cohn-Sherbok, Dawoud el-Alami, Pat Buchanan)
Cold WarGiven the green light by his mentor, secretary of state George Marshall, Kennan creates and heads the blandly named Office of Policy Coordination. The OPC functions within the CIA, and primarily works to bring together military and political-subversive planning and executions. Kennan drafts a mandate to inflict ferocious "political warfare" on the Soviet Union, countering Soviet assassinations and black ops with its own. The result is a peacetime resort to "propaganda, economic warfare, preventative direct action, including sabotage, anti-sabotage, demolition and evacuation measures; subversion against hostile states." The few who know about the OPC become, in their estimation, a "band of brothers" actively, and covertly, fighting the Soviet threat by any means necessary. They are quite successful in enticing and buffaloing funds from a willfully ignorant Congress. Among other operations, the OPC funds anti-Communist electoral activities in France and Italy, and, less effectively, backing anti-Communist organizations and political parties behind the Iron Curtain. Kennan will later admit that his idea of political warfare "did not work out at all the way I conceived it."
Creation of IsraelThe document names the Land of Israel as the birthplace of the Jewish people, details the persecution of the world's Jews throughout the centuries, and declares the necessity for the immediate creation of a Jewish state in what is now Palestine. The Declaration welcomes the Arabs living in the area as equal citizens and participants in the new nation. This is widely recognized as the official birth of the state of Israel, in the wake of the UN-mandated partition of Palestine. On May 15-16, Syrian, Lebanese, Iraqi, and Jordanian troops launch an attack on the new state. Egyptian aircraft bomb Tel Aviv, and Arab troops push into central Galilee. The Israeli garrison in Jerusalem is forced to surrender. Meanwhile, both the US and the USSR formally recognize Israel as a legitimate nation. The US introduces a resolution in the UN condemning the Arab attacks; Britain agrees to stop shipping arms to the Arab forces. On May 28 the Israeli Defense Force is officially created from the former Haganah, unifying the disparate elements of Israeli military resistance to the Arab invasion, though the terrorist group Irgun refuses to join the IDF. On June 11 a UN-mandated cease-fire goes into effect. Arab military leader Musa el-Alawi says that the Arabs lost the war because the Israelis fought as a single unit, while the Arab forces fought as disparate units. (ZNet, FactMonster, A Timeline of Oil and Violence, Dan Cohn-Sherbok, Dawoud el-Alami)
Cold Warwith his hands and feet tied and a bullet wound from point-blank range in his head, after disappearing days before. Polk was covering the civil war raging in Greece between right-wing fascists and Communist-leaning leftists; being highly critical of both sides, it was not immediately clear which faction might have kidnapped and killed the CBS reporter. (One of Polk's most unpopular investigations involved the willingness of the Athens government to take in large amounts of American aid and splurge it on high living.) A communist journalist, Gregorios Stahtopoulos, is eventually tried and convicted of the murder, but there is little doubt that the murder was committed by someone else. Former OSS officer James Kellis, on contract for the Wall Street law firm of former OSS head William "Wild Bill" Donovan, is hired by media maven Walter Lippman to investigate Polk's death; Kellis concludes that the Greek Communists lacked the power and influence to cover up Polk's murder so effectively. Kellis begins to find evidence that Greek right-wing organizations had plotted and executed Polk's murder, but when he begins revealing this evidence, the US government shuts down his investigation and recalls him home. The US is supporting the right-wing junta to the tune of about $1 million a day, mostly to prevent a Communist takeover. The Greek government had been supported by the British Government throughout 1941-1945 but this became an impossibility after the war, so the US government took over.
Cold WarOn June 22 and beyond, US forces assist in the "Berlin Airlift," the supplying by air of US forces besieged by Soviet and German Communist forces in Berlin. Over 278,000 flights, a third of which were made by Britain's RAF, will be made; Pentagon planners revile the RAF as "shirking" its duty. During part of the airlift, nuclear-capable US B-29 bombers patrol the skies over Germany. In July 1948, triggered by the blockade, the US, Canada, and several Western European countries open talks on forming an alliance designed to counter Soviet expansion in Europe. US and European forces continue to supply West Berlin with aid for nearly a year, until the USSR lifts the blockade in May 1949. (NATO and UN History, Philip Taubman, ZMag, Berlin Airlift, Derek Leebaert)
Oppression of Jews and Arabscarrying refugees and Irgun terrorists led by Menachem Begin on fire on the beach near Tel Aviv. Begin prevents an incipient civil war by refusing to allow Irgun reprisals against the IDF, but declares that Irgun will continue operations. (Dan Cohn-Sherbok, Pat Buchanan)
Oppression of Jews and ArabsA second cease-fire is enacted, but only after half a million Palestinian Arabs flee Israel for either Jordan or the disputed Gaza Strip. Israel will gain control of much of the Negev because of the fighting. (Dan Cohn-Sherbok, Dawoud el-Alami)
Minority rightsissues a thundering denunciation of civil rights and desegregation, saying, "And I want to tell you, ladies and gentlemen, that there's not enough troops in the Army to force the Southern people to break down segregation and admit the n*gger race into our theatres, into our swimming pools, into our homes and into our churches." (Rotten)
Attack on civil libertiesRepresentative Richard Nixon, using information illegally obtained from the FBI, leads the charge to vilify and demean Hiss. In response to a libel suit from Hiss against Chambers, Chambers produces documents that supposedly prove Hiss's Communist activities; the documents are later shown to be largely fraudulent. Hiss is charged with perjury; during the trial, Chambers is forced to admit that he consistently lied about Hiss during his ten-year persecution of the man. Nevertheless, Hiss is convicted of perjury and sentenced to prison, where he serves 44 months before being released. Nixon assistant John Dean will later write in his memoirs that Nixon indirectly admitted to helping to frame Hiss, with the assistance of the FBI's J. Edgar Hoover; in July 1971 Nixon will privately admit illegally leaking confidential information about Hiss to the press to influence the case. He will tell aides, "I played it in the press like a mask. I leaked out the papers. I leaked everything. I mean, everything I could. I leaked out the testimony. I had Hiss convicted before he ever got to the grand jury."
Realignment of US political partiesThurmond and others found the States' Rights party, and issue a manifesto advocating "segregation of the races and the racial integrity of each race," oppose "the elimination of segregation, the repeal of miscegenation statutes, [and] the action of the Democratic Party in sponsoring a civil rights program calling for the elimination of segregation [and] social equality by Federal fiat...." The defection is born in reaction to Harry Truman's fiery speech in favor of civil rights in February of the year; fear of the elimination of segregation and the concurrent economic policies of the Democrats under Truman spark a "states' rights" movement led by a small number of conservative Southern Democrats led by Thurmond. After failing to mount opposition to Truman's nomination by national Democrats, Thurmond and his Dixiecrats leave the party. (Thurmond is actually less hard-line about segregation and opposing civil rights than many of his Dixiecrat colleagues, and is not fully trusted by many of the new third party's founding members. Until his February reaction to Truman's speech, many South Carolina liberals looked to Thurmond for leadership, and are bitterly disappointed in his decision to break with the Democrats over civil rights.)
Realignment of US political partiesthat the national Democratic party managed to hold on to Southern Dixiecrats for years by making an implicit deal -- no Democrat would tamper with segregation if Southerners supported key economic legislation. In the early 1960s, the Kennedy and Johnson administrations will break that pact, and trigger a fundamental realignment of the two parties. James Moore and Wayne Slater write, "Conservative blue-collar Democrats, often those with a strong evangelical streak, began moving to the Republican party. White liberals, moderates, and minorities were becoming the dominant expression of the Democratic party." (James Moore and Wayne Slater)
Oppression of Jews and Arabsis murdered by terrorists belonging to Lehi, an offshoot of Irgun. The UN General Assembly adopts a revised version of Bernadotte's peace plan, and partitions Palestine between Israel and Jordan, though no one is happy with the plan. Ben-Gurion disbands Irgun and arrests known members of Lehi. Bernadotte is temporarily replaced by his chief aide, Ralph Bunche. (Jewish Virtual Library, Dan Cohn-Sherbok)
US foreign policythe Chinese revolution under Mao tse-Tung, uprisings in Africa and among former British colonies, and the news that the USSR was about to test their own atomic bomb, diplomat George Keenan promotes the concept of "the necessary lie," the premise of which is that, since Communists and other opponents of American freedoms routinely lie, then Americans must do the same to keep the playing field level. Lapham writes that Keenan's doctrine embraces "the virtues of plausible deniability, the vocabularies of misleading statement, the manufacture of ideological consent." Keenan writes in a memo to the State Department, "We have about 50% of the world's wealth, but only 6.3% of its population...in this situation, we cannot fail to be the object of envy and resentment. Our real task in the coming period is to devise a pattern of relationships which will permit us to maintain this position of disparity without positive detriment to our national security. To do so, we will have to dispense with all sentimentality and daydreaming." (Lewis Lapham)
Truman administrationThe victory produces one of the most famous photographs in American political history, featuring a grinning Truman displaying a Chicago newspaper whose headline reads "Dewey Defeats Truman." Truman's second term is marred by his inability to ram his extension to Roosevelt's New Deal economic legislation, which he calls the "Fair Deal" policy, through Congress; he also publicly feuds with General Douglas MacArthur, losing a great deal of public support. The "outing" of government official Alger Hiss as a supposed Communist spy also takes a toll on Truman's presidency. He also countenances the spread of McCarthyite anti-Communism within the government, already having ordered the creation of "loyalty boards" within federal departments, partly to deflect charges of Communist sympathies on the part of the Democrats. He authorized the Attorney General to create lists of "subversives" that would be ineligible for government employment; these lists will exist unchanged for the next thirty years. (Wikipedia)
1948 presidential electionsWallace, who had preceded Truman as Roosevelt's Vice President, is a liberal visionary and avowed eccentric who is regarded by many as dangerous because of his perceived naivete towards Stalin. Wallace has been in recent years a vociferous critic of Truman's foreign policy; part of the reason why he is seen as so untrustworthy is because in 1943, as rumors of Roosevelt's failing health began focusing attention on Wallace as a possible successor to Roosevelt, Wallace let it be known that he would appoint to his cabinet Laurence Duggan and Harry Dexter White, both of whom were feeding information to Moscow. A US agent inside the Third Reich reported that Wallace's indiscretions had betrayed the details of the 1943 Moscow foreign ministers' conference to Hitler. Wallace was dumped in favor of Truman on the 1944 ticket, and, after being fired by Truman as Secretary of Commerce in 1946, took the post of editor of The New Republic, which he used as a vehicle for relentless criticism of Truman. He said that the Truman Doctrine would promulgate "a century of fear" around the globe, a prediction that was sadly all too true.