Middle East unrestCIA-supported coup in Syria replaces the government with one more friendly towards Western interests. (ZNet)
US intervention in Southeast Asiaopposition leader Kim Koo is assassinated with the assistance of US agents. (ZMag)
US nuclear programincluding half the Navy and most of the Air Force, the huge cost of maintaining such a military presence is giving way to a reliance on nuclear deterrence -- the American people, though supportive of the country's anti-Communist foreign policy, balks at increasingly higher taxes, and Truman refuses to indulge in deficit spending. Conventional wisdom in Washington has the country writing off Korea to Soviet control. The small peninsula is seen as of limited strategic value, and by June 1949, impelled by the advice of General MacArthur, the US had withdrawn completely from South Korea. The South receives a paltry $10 million in military aid, mostly for the maintenance of its outmoded artillery, small arms, and strictly rationed ammunition. Instead, as Pacific neighbors Australia and New Zealand uneasily observe, the US seems bent on rebuilding Japan as an industrial dynamo. US officials such as George Kennan fought against MacArthur's 1947 attempts to dissolve Japan's traditional zaibatsu (money cliques), saying that such forced "socialization" of Japan's business community would open that country up to Communist influence. MacArthur then shelved much of his programs to democratize Japan in favor of building it up as an anti-Communist bastion -- "a step," Leebaert writes, "that helped perpetuate an arrogant bureaucracy at the price of more autonomy for the ordinary Japanese, and one for which Japan is still paying." (Derek Leebaert)
US government's collusion with former Nazisand who had testified to such during the Nuremberg trials, surfaces in the West, claiming to have escaped Soviet captivity, and is promptly brought to the US to work in America's defense industry. Democratic congressman Jacob Javits threatens an investigation, but the Joint Intelligence Objectives Agency (JOIA) advises the State Department that "allegations by minority groups" of Schrieber's human experiments could not be proven, and the US government quietly relocates Schrieber to South America. During the same year, a Jewish immigrant living in New York encounters Theodore Dussik, a Nazi neurologist, in the Alamac Hotel, where new Nazi recruits are being housed while their contracts are being written. Democratic senator Herman Lehman, told by the shocked immigrant of Dussik's presence, is told, falsely, by government officials that Dussik is not in the country.
Attack on civil libertiesjoin to have a National Education Association panel demand that any suspected Communists be barred from teaching in America's public schools. Left-leaning academics, virtually all of whom have no Communist ties or sympathies, find themselves increasingly on the defensive, as their universities become more and more beholden to CIA and Defense Department monies, and trustees and administrators become more and more fawning towards the government in their willingness to comb their faculties for supposed Commies. (Derek Leebaert)
Cold Warwrites in his essay "The Conquest of America," "Never in the history of the world was one people as completely dominated, intellectually and morally, by another as the people of the United States were by the people of Russia in the four years from 1946 through 1949. American foreign policy was a mirror image of Russian foreign policy; whatever the Russians did, we did in reverse. American domestic were conducted under a kind of upside-down Russian veto: no man could be elected to public office unless he was on record as detesting the Russians, and no proposal could be enacted, from a peace plan at one end to a military budget at the other, unless it could be demonstrated that the Russians wouldn't like it. American political controversy was controversy sung to the Russian tune.... All this took place at a time not of national weakness or decay but precisely at the moment when the United States, having engineered a tremendous triumph and fought its way to a brilliant victory in the greatest of all wars, had reached the highest point of world power ever achieved by a single state." (Lewis Lapham)
Freedom of the pressThe doctrine requires stations to broadcast opinions about political and social issues, and requires that contrasting views be aired. Stations are given wide latitude about how "equal access" may be provided. The overarching view is that broadcast stations, both radio and television, are "public trustees" and must behave as such. In 1967, two corollaries were added to the doctrine: if a station editorializes either for or against a candidate, it must offer equal time for the opposing candidate(s) within 24 hours; the second, if a person or group's character or integrity is impugned, they must be offered equal time for rebuttal within a week. The doctrine will be unsuccessfully challenged in the Supreme Court in 1969; the FCC will call the doctrine "the single most important requirement of operation in the public interest -- the sine qua non for grant of a renewal of license." The doctrine will be used by politicians of both parties to intimidate opposing broadcasters, and many broadcasters feel the doctrine impedes their efforts to bring strong editorial comment to their audiences.
Freedom of the pressfounds Pacifica Radio, a media news outlet not owned by the same corporations that profited from the war. The first Pacifica station, KPFA-FM, is the first listener-sponsored radio station in the country, creating a model later followed by National Public Radio and public television. Pacifica eventually grows to five independent, non-corporate-owned FM radio stations, including KPFK in Los Angeles, WBAI in New York City, WPFW in Washington, and KPFT in Houston. It is one of the only independently owned media outlets in the United States, and is proudly described by journalist Amy Goodman as "a sanctuary of dissent." The network will feature, among other groundbreaking coverage, blacklisted actor Paul Robeson discussing the McCarthy witch hunts, debates between James Baldwin and Malcolm X about the effectiveness of nonviolent sit-ins during the civil rights protests, and presentations about African liberation movements by Kwame Nkrumah, Sekou Toure, and Julius Nyerere. Goodman writes, "On any given day you can listen to the news on CNN or National Public Radio, then tune in to a Pacifica station. You would think you were hearing reports from different planets." (Amy and David Goodman)
IsraelEzer Weizmann becomes President, a largely ceremonial position. The opposition is led by, among others, former Irgun terrorist Menachem Begin. Ben-Gurion's government launches a program of economic austerity and military development that helps Israel survive the Arab embargo of Israel (along with heavy contributions from the US and various Western European countries). (Dan Cohn-Sherbok)
Middle East unrestArmistices with Lebanon, Jordan, and Syria soon follow. The armistices inflame Arab sentiment throughout the Middle East, and lead to a wave of assassinations and government upheavals. Egypt's President Nokrashy is assassinated in December; King Farouk, who replaces Nokrashy, is never on firm ground, and is removed in a coup by Gamal Abdul Nasser four years later; Syria suffers a series of coups; Jordan's King Abdullah is assassinated. (Dan Cohn-Sherbok)
Cold WarKim is bemused by the massive infusion of military equipment that follows his meeting with Stalin. While most historians believe that the wily North Koreans maneuvered a reluctant Soviet Union into backing the North's invasion of South Korea in 1950, historian Derek Leebaert believes that the idea of an invasion originated with Stalin, who gave Kim the "overwhelming military superiority" necessary to a quick conquest. Soviet officers thereafter help Pyongyang in creating "wish lists" of military equipment, everything from armored divisions to medicines and lubricants, that will flood the North with, among other items, eight full divisions led by Red Army officers, 258 tanks, 178 planes, and over 1600 artillery pieces. In addition, 70,000 soldiers of Korean extraction have been sent from the Chinese Army. South Korea, on the other hand, has eight divisions so poorly trained and equipped that the US refuses to call it an army, but instead terms it a "constabulary." The South Koreans have no tanks nor antitank guns. The State Department's John Foster Dulles assures South Korea a week before the 1950 invasion that the US would help it create a solid, self-sustaining economy that would dissolve Soviet communism in the North and eventually see the North begging for unification. On June 25, 1950, Stalin answers Dulles's reassurances by sending 150 tanks and 90,000 men pouring over the border into South Korea. (Derek Leebaert)
Vietnam Warover two years of warfare in Vietnam, France installs former puppet emperor Bao Dai as head of state in South Vietnam. Bao and the French move to establish the (South) Vietnamese National Army. (Vietnam War Timeline)
NATOThe founding members of NATO include the US, Canada, Great Britain, France, Portugal, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Iceland, Belguim, Luxembourg, and Denmark. (CBS News, NATO and UN History)
Soviet nuclear programAt Lavrenti Beria's insistence, the design is identical to the US's "Fat Man" design of the Nagasaki bomb, largely obtained through the efforts of such spies as Klaus Fuchs, though Soviet weapons designers have by now made a number of improvements and advances. The first test is the result of a crash program to get a bomb test done as quickly as possible in order to intimidate the West; the Soviet nuclear program will not be ready to test another bomb until two years later. Quite predictably, the Soviet test explosion sends America and Britain into a collective tizzy, with dire predictions of Soviet-led annihilation of the West coming from one government agency after another. (Nuclear Weapons Archives)
Cold WarThe question is whether London's latest financial crisis would "mean a new Greece somewhere in the world where vital US interests have heretofore been protected by the UK." Instead, the US decides to prop up Britain's slumping economy. "If Britain goes bankrupt," warns American journalist Charles Collingwood, the whole military position of the Western powers would change. "[T]otalitarianism will have won an important victory" if Britain goes bust, echoes Democratic senator Hubert Humphrey. Such a stance is opposed by, among others, conservative Democratic senator Pat McCarran, who has no qualms about airing his "anti-British, anti-socialist, anti-Russian, anti-Communist, [and] anti-Jewish" opinions. McCarran is so far to the right as to be an embarrassment to most of his Democratic colleagues, but that didn't stop him wielding undue influence as chairman of the Joint Committee on Economic Cooperation. The State Department's George Kennan does his bit to confuse the issue, assuring British officials that he is pressing for some sort of Anglo-American union, denying any such efforts to his Foreign Service friend Chip Bohlen, then telling the British that they could discount State Department and White House insistence that Britain needs to integrate itself with other Western European nations becoming more unified at the behest of the US. US nudges towards more devaluation of the British pound and more economic credits would begin to patch together a postwar order, but would soon be shaken by the USSR's test of an atomic weapon in Kazakhstan. Kennan would then declare America's nuclear arsenal "superfluous," and serious discussion about unilateral nuclear disarmament would leave American military advisors at sea as to what exactly would constitute America's deterrent force against the USSR. (Derek Leebaert)
China under Communist ruleigniting American anti-Communist sentiment regarding Southeast Asia and resulting in a White House foreign policy goal of "containment" of Communist expansion in the region. Months later, both Communist China and the Soviet Union will recognize Ho Chi Minh's Democratic Republic of Vietnam. (Vietnam War Timeline)
China under Communist ruleand that MacArthur is urging Truman to send US troops to occupy the island of Formosa (Taiwan). The reporters argue that MacArthur is "trying to dictate US foreign policy in the Far East."
Cold Warin saying that "Essentially nothing 'that emerged by 1950 had been planned, desired, or foreseen in 1945' -- contrary to today's common belief that so much of what followed after V-E Day had already been set in place by the grasping proponents of the American Century. Absolutely no one was thinking of forty more years of struggle in every corner of the globe and through so many facets of human behavior. Each side believed that the other would fall by its own hand: Moscow saw the inevitability of a capitalist crash; the West, less certain that inexorable social forces guaranteed victory, nonetheless hoped that the Soviet system was too irrational to endure, although the isolation and ruthlessness of its leaders might make this end violent." Many Western leaders draw little distinction between Nazi fascism and Communism. "In fighting the Axis, Americans -- perhaps more so than others -- had believed that the predators in Nazi Germany and Dai Nippon could be 'taught a lesson' and that, once defeated, they could quickly be separated from their peoples. The taxing frustration of the Cold War was slowly becoming apparent; recent allies-turned-enemies in the Soviet Union and China could not be taught any final lesson without a terminally disastrous war. ...The Cold War's first four years were filled with starts and stops rather than any considered policy or long-range goals (other than not having the world fall apart again). But trends and patterns were emerging and would be reflected in the sacrifices ahead. Crises real and imagined intruded. Big government of the emergency years of the Depression and World War II was getting bigger. The secrecy that accompanied it grew darker. Unaccountability followed, and moral compromises became even easier. America appeared a veritable aircraft carrier against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past, as its officials preoccupied themselves with Europe and as the nation dropped what had so recently been its fervent anticolonialism. It also found itself upholding more than a few brutal regimes, though none as bad as the Soviet one that it had sustained during the war." (Derek Leebaert)
Cold Warparticularly regarding nuclear strikes via bombers: "The problem of defense of the United States against air attack is characterized above all by lack of knowledge of what we have to defend against. The enemy has the initiative. Our intelligence tells us essentially nothing about his plans, informs us only partially about his present capabilities, and, as to his future capabilities, leaves us essentially dependent on assumptions that he can, if he chooses, do about as well in any aspect as we expect to do for ourselves."
Cold War"certain bacterial strains" are released over San Francisco. A number of people complain of flu-like symptoms; years later, several people die, apparently as a result of the bacteria. A lawsuit filed on behalf of the dead is dismissed, because of lack of evidence that they died as a result of the biological saturation. (Gentlemen's Quarterly/Frank Olson Project)
US actions in Latin Americamilitary forces crush a rebellion in Puerto Rico. (ZMag)
Kikuyu, or Mau Mau, uprisingThough the colonial officials see Mau Mau as a unified force threatening their authority, in reality Mau Mau is a disparate, barely cohesive number of different, loosely organized coalitions and groups, some of which are far more radical than others. Some Mau Mau groups begin violent resistance to British colonials, ignoring the advice of leaders such as the KAU's Jomo Kenyatta, who advocate legalistic, constitutionally based forms of resistance. (Caroline Elkins)
George H.W. Bushwith the assistance of his uncle Herbert Walker's Wall Street connections. Along with associate John Overbey, Bush starts the company in Midland, Texas. The company receives $350,000 in startup money from Walker's connections, including $50,000 from Prescott Bush. Eugene Meyer, the publisher of the Washington Post, contributes over $50,000, some of which he puts up in the name of his son-in-law, Phil Graham, who had married his daughter Katherine Graham, who served for years as the chairman of the executive board at the Washington Post Co. The younger Bush is building his own network of influential connections. Bush-Overbey is a modestly successful company, through both the hard work of Bush and his associates and plenty of infusions of cash from Walker's Wall Street friends. (Consortium News)
Vietnam Warit begins sending military advisors and modern weapons to the Viet Minh, including automatic weapons, mortars, howitzers, and trucks. Much of the equipment is American-made and had belonged to the Chinese Nationalists before their defeat by Mao. With the influx of new equipment and Chinese advisors, General Giap transforms his guerrilla fighters into conventional army units. (Vietnam War Timeline)
Cold WarFuchs, known as the "Atom Spy," delivered most of the secret material he collected, including highly classified material on the US's early research on the hydrogen bomb, to the USSR through fellow agents Harry Gold and Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. As a result of Fuchs's information, the USSR knew that the US was unready to wage a full-scale nuclear war through the 1940s and even into the 1950s. The Soviet Union knew the United States did not have enough nuclear weapons to deal with both the Berlin blockade and the fall of the Kuomintang to the Communist Party of China at the same time. After the war Fuchs enjoyed a prominent role in Britain's nuclear weapons development project, until in late 1949 the FBI learned of his connection to the Soviet Union through the decoded wartime Soviet transmissions known as the Venona Project. After Fuchs's arrest and confession, Truman accelerates the US hydrogen bomb program, announced only days before. Fuchs will serve nine years in a British prison before being released to East Germany, where he becomes a lecturer in nuclear physics until his death in 1988. His testimony is key in the convictions of Gold and the Rosenbergs. Some of his work is still used in nuclear physics today. (Nuclear Weapons Archive, Wikipedia)
Vietnam Warthe United States and Britain recognize Bao Dai's French-controlled South Vietnam government. (The British also recognize the Chinese regime of Mao Zedong with virtually no comment from the Americans.) The Viet Minh begin an offensive against French outposts in North Vietnam near the Chinese border. As war flares between North and South Vietnam, American policymakers, unwilling to appear "soft" on communism, call for more intervention against the Communist North. (Vietnam War Timeline, Derek Leebaert)
Attack on civil libertiesMcCarthy has no such list. He also says he has a list of 57 State Department employees who are Communists, and calls their boss, Secretary of State Dean Acheson, "a pompous diplomat in striped pants." McCarthy accuses some of those on the State Department list of passing secrets to the USSR, saying: "The reason why we find ourselves in a position of impotency is not because the enemy has sent men to invade our shores, but rather because of the traitorous actions of those who have had all the benefits that the wealthiest nation on earth has had to offer -- the finest homes, the finest college educations, and the finest jobs in government we can give." Interestingly enough, this list is real, but not what McCarthy purports it to be: it is a list of people with various "problems," including affiliations with Communist or Fascist organizations, alcoholism, and sexual deviance. Had McCarthy been screened, his own drinking problems and sexual preferences would have gotten him on the list as well. Investigative reporter Drew Pearson attacks McCarthy, noting that only 3 people on the list were actual State Department employees, and of those three, two resigned in 1946 and the third, John Service, had been cleared of any wrongdoing or "suspicious" affiliations. He also notes that no one on the list is a member of the American Communist Party. Pearson is asked by his associate Jack Anderson to lay off McCarthy, saying that the senator is a prime source of Capital Hill information; Pearson replies famously, "He may be a good source, Jack, but he's a bad man."
"Liberals were so busy proving they were not communists that they became totally ineffective." -- comedian Mort Sahl
Cold WarThe USSR loans China $300 million, promises the new Maoist regime tens of thousands of Soviet technical advisors, as well as promises the transfer of entire industries to China as well as its recognition of Ho Chi Minh's regime in North Vietnam. While some American foreign analysts understand that the hatreds and tensions between the two countries will make any Sino-Soviet alliance a short-lived one, most Americans as well as their British counterparts see such an alliance as the prelude to a third world war that will result in the potential destruction of Western democracy. Policy specialist Paul Nitze tells Secretary of State Dean Acheson that the US needs a quick and dramatic victory over Communism somewhere, preferably somewhere in Southeast Asia, and urges a massive increase in US foreign aid and defense spending. (Derek Leebaert)
Cold WarHistorian Derek Leebaert calls his arguments for an immediate and massive defense buildup "a polemic, even a fantasy since there was no chance that Congress would adopt them." Still, Truman is amenable to a more cautious increase. More to the point, Nitze asserts that the US must help Britain, and by extension France, retain its colonial sway over key areas of Southeast Asia, and the US must find "additional proxies of some sort" to aid in its foreign policy goals. Actual allies might be too constraining, particularly as the US military presence in the Far East is less than impressive. However, as many point out, the US arsenal includes 298 atomic bombs. (Derek Leebaert)
"It was the Korean War and not World War II that made us a world political-military power." -- Foreign Service officer Charles Bohlen
Korean Warthe US embarks on a three-year military intervention popularly known as the Korean War; though war was never officially declared by the US, the two Koreas did declare war on one another. The war officially starts with 150 Soviet-provided tanks and 90,000 troops cascading over the border into South Korea, following battle plans drawn up by the Soviet General Staff. Historian Derek Leebaert writes, "The Korean War was the detonator that blew US power around the world. ...The Cold War as a planetary struggle began taking shape." In his message to the American people, Truman, who privately fears that the war is the precursor to World War III, describes the invasion as a Moscow-backed attack by "monolithic world Communism." When Congress learns that Truman has sent troops into Korea, nearly every member leaps to his or her feet and cheers. The UN authorizes military opposition to the North Korean incursion, and Truman sends air, naval, and ground troops. He also sends 35 U.S. troops to Vietnam as "military advisors." A month later, Truman will authorize $15 million in military aid to the French in Vietnam. Communist China aids North Korea; this is the only time in history where Chinese and American troops will fight one another in battle. Almost 30,000 US troops die in the war, which will be concluded in July 1953 but does not permanently settle the dispute between the two countries. Large contingents of US forces remain in South Korea to this day.
Korean WarTurkey, an ancient enemy of Russia, is first to answer the call, as is Brazil, Colombia, Ethiopia, and 11 other countries. The UN forces are critical in bolstering the outmanned and poorly performing South Korean troops. The North Korean troops, highly trained by their Soviet officers and armed with sophisticated weaponry, annihilate the first waves of US troops sealifted in from Japan. Inexperienced National Guardsmen suffer the same fate. A panic-stricken group of GIs massacres hundreds of innocent Koreans near the village of No Gun Ri. As for the US's closest ally Great Britain, this would not be the first or last time London had urged the US to action, then hung back in providing tangible assistance. Yet Britain was deemed critical to any American resistance to the Soviet Union; since the Americans thought mistakenly that the USSR had a viable nuclear arsenal, the only airbases that could deliver a Western nuclear assault on Soviet territory are located in Britain. (Derek Leebaert)
"Air America"Air America takes up where CAT left off in helping the CIA supply covert military and economic aid to Laos and imperialist, pro-French forces in Vietnam. The air carrier will play a key role in supporting US and South Vietnamese forces as well as pro-US forces in Laos, and will run opium and heroin all over Southeast Asia, with the profits plowed into the war effort. Air America will be disbanded after the Vietnam War, though other CIA aircraft running drugs in and out of Latin America for the Nicaraguan Contras in the 1980s will sometimes be given the same moniker. (The CIA's Airlines, The Real Drug Lords, Larry Kolb)
Kikuyu, or Mau Mau, rebellionThe ban has virtually no effect, and violent, sometimes bloody resistance is continually mounted against British authority. Britain is on the verge of one of the bloodiest and most repressive wars of decolonization in its long history of imperialism and empire. Kenya's colonial governor, Sir Philip Mitchell, and the colonial secretary in London, Oliver Lyttelton, begin by downplaying the scope of the Mau Mau resistance to the Home Office, though the Mau Mau resistance continues to stiffen. (Caroline Elkins)
Attack on civil libertiesThe act authorizes the government to set up concentration camps "for emergency situations," and provides for the fingerprinting and registration of all "subversives." The act was named for Senator Pat McCarran, but commandeered from earlier legislation written by congressmen Karl Mundt and Richard Nixon. Truman vetoed the act, saying it "would make a mockery of our Bill of Rights [and] would actually weaken our internal security measures," but the Senate overrides his veto by a vote of 89-11. The act sets up the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee, which will work closely with Hoover's FBI and conduct hearings and investigations for the next 27 years. (McCarran Act, HUAC Timeline)
Korean WarThe strategy works, and Seoul is liberated, reversing an initially calamitous pattern of North Korean invasion and South Korean-UN retreat. Unfortunately, MacArthur continues to operate within North Korea, and in November, China responds by sending more than 260,000 troops to aid its North Korean allies. US ground forces, augmented by reluctantly deployed British and French forces, retreat behind the 38th parallel, the prewar division between the two countries, and a stalemate ensues. Though Stalin has encouraged China to send its troops into combat, he refuses to send Soviet troops into battle. The single French battalion sent to Korea battles bravely against overwhelming Chinese forces until withdrawn to Indochina. (Philip Taubman, Derek Leebaert)
Vietnam WarThe US establishes a Military Assistance Advisory Group (MAAG) in Saigon to aid the French Army. The Military Assistance Advisory Group/Indochina is formed. (Vietnam War Timeline)
Richard Nixonand announces a showdown "between the American people and the administration Commiecrat party of betrayal." Nixon earns the nickname of "Tricky Dick" for his successful sliming of his Democratic opponent and anti-Communist Helen Gahagan Douglas as a "fellow traveler" whom he nicknames "the Pink Lady." Nixon rides his slanderous campaign strategy to success, and will represent California in the US Senate. (Joe Conason)
Korean WarWhen the North Koreans refuse, he rams US forces closer to the Chinese-Korean border (the Yalu River) than the Chinese were willing to tolerate; defying MacArthur's predictions that the Chinese would stay on their side of the border, in late November thousands of Chinese troops slam into North Korea. US and South Korean troops retreat in disorder back beyond the 38th Parallel in the longest retreat in American military history. Talk of "nuking" North Korea, and perhaps even China, runs rampant through Washington, horrifying US allies. (Derek Leebaert)
US military interventions in Southeast AsiaChinese troops invade its mountainous neighbor Tibet, prompting Harry Truman and Dean Acheson to approve sending small amounts of military aid funds to the beleagured Tibetans. (Derek Leebaert)
Cold WarTruman declares a state of emergency. His declaration gives him extraordinary powers over industry, the economy, and the US media. He will call for the doubling of the size of the Air Force, and the Defense Production Act will, after its passage, ensure the rapid buildup of America's military. (Derek Leebaert)
Vietnam Warthe flow of US tanks, planes, artillery and other supplies to Vietnam. Over these four years, the US will spend $3 billion on the French war and by 1954 will provide 80 percent of all war supplies used by the French. (Vietnam War Timeline)
Attack on civil libertiesthe North Korean mind-control experiments performed on 900 American POWs during the Korean War (the prisoners are executed after the experiments are concluded; rumors of these experiments inspire author Richard Condon to write The Manchurian Candidate). In response, the CIA conducts its own mind-control and brainwashing experiments, at least 149 of them, according to documents declassified in 1996. Drugs such as marijuana, morphine, Benzedrine and mescaline are used, along with hypnosis and electroshock treatments. Test subjects were often, but not always, those whose objections would not be heard -- prisoners, mental patients, and members of minority groups. (Gentlemen's Quarterly/Frank Olson Project)