1947: A Year in Review

Looking back, 1947 was a year marked by fresh starts and tidying up loose ends from World War II.

India received its independence from Britain after almost two hundred years of imperial domination–the beginning of the end of European imperialism. Unfortunately, Partition, the division of British India into the two sovereign states of India and Pakistan was badly planned. No one anticipated the massive and disorderly movements of refugees driven by fear across the new borders or the violence that followed them: estimates run as high as fifteen million. The transfer was marked by sectarian murders, opportunistic murders, rape, and death from disease in makeshift refugee camps across the subcontinent. A long way from the tactic of non-violent, non-cooperation that shaped India’s independence movement

Harry S. Truman gave a speech to Congress that is often considered the official start of the Cold War. The heart of the speech, later known as the “Truman Doctrine,” committed the United States to support free peoples in the struggle against communist totalitarianism, thereby putting us on the road to the Korea and Vietnam Wars.

Fearful that communists would infiltrate American trade unions,Congress passed the Taft-Hartley Act, formally the Labor-Management Relations Act, over President Truman’s veto. Taft-Hartley unwound labor rights established in earlier bills.

George C. Marshall unveiled the basic framework of the Marshall Plan, which would dedicate billions of dollars into rebuilding Western Europe. Congress would pass the plan in 1948, in part because of the fear of–you guessed it–communist expansion into Europe.

Not everything that happened in 1947 related to the decline of empire and the rise of the Cold War. On a smaller scale:

Airman Chuck Yeager made the first supersonic flight.

Both Tennessee Williams’s A Streetcar Named Desire and The Diary of Anne Frank made Americans cry and reminded us about the importance of relying on the kindness of strangers now and then.

Bell Lab scientists invented the transistor and Edwin Land pioneered the Polaroid camera–two inventions that would shape the lives of the Baby-Boomers.

Teen-aged shepherds discovered the Dead Sea Scrolls, the oldest extant Hebrew documents, in the Qumran Caves on the northwest shore of, well, the Dead Sea (duh), transforming our understanding of history and religion in the region.

Thor Heyerdahl sailed across the Pacific from Peru to Polynesia on a balsa wood raft, the Kon-Tiki, which proved it was possible for ancient people to have made the voyage. Which is not the same as proving they did.


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