1948 is not one of those years with a big anniversary that’s celebrated throughout Historyland.* That doesn’t mean there aren’t a few events worth some attention from the assembled Marginalia. More than I expected in fact.
The big stuff:
Under the leadership of Secretary of State George C. Marshall, the European Recovery Program, commonly known as the Marshall Plan, went into effect in April, 1948. Marshall, who received a Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts, described the goals of the plan in high-minded terms: “Our policy is directed not against any country or doctrine but against hunger, poverty, desperation and chaos.” Over the course of three years, the United States poured $12 billion into rebuilding Western Europe. The Marshall Plan is lauded as a great humanitarian effort, but not everyone who backed it brought the same altruism to the project as Marshall. Congress approved the plan in part because members feared that the rapid deterioration of European economies in the winter of 1946-1947 left European countries open to the lure of communism. Can you say Cold War? (Make sure you read the comments: reader and friend Iris Seefeldt has some personal reflections on the Marshall Plan that you don’t want to miss.)
It was a year of nation building—with complex, often violent, results. Israel declared itself an independent nation. Ceylon ( now Sri Lanka), Burma (now Myanmar) and South Africa all gained their independence from the British Empire. South and North Korea proclaimed themselves to be independent republics
And speaking of the Cold War:
- On June 24, the Soviets attempted to force the Western allies to abandon Berlin by blockading the city. For eleven months the Western powers airlifted supplies into the city: 277,000 flights carried 2.3 million tons of goods into the city.
- The House Un-American Activities Committee accused Alger Hiss of spying for the Soviet Union
- Communists seized power in Czechoslovakia
President Harry S Truman ended racial segregation in the U.S. Military.
He also signed the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act into law on June 12, 1948. Intended to allow women to serve as permanent members of the armed services after the war, the bill met with serious opposition despite the support of General Dwight D. Eisenhower and Admiral Chester W. Nimitz. The bill’s opponents were not able to stop its passage, but they were able to impose serious restrictions on women’s ability to serve. The final bill capped female enlistment at 2 percent of the total armed force of the United States and banned women having command authority over men.
Geologists working for Standard Oil discovered Al-Ghawar oil-field, the world’s largest conventional oilfield, in Saudi Arabia.
The United Nations created the World Health Organization and adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
The small stuff:
Peter Goldmark invented the long-playing phonograph album. His timing was good. That same year Leo Fender marketed the first solid-body electric guitar.
Bread rationing ended in Great Britain—three years after the end of WWII. (See Marshall Plan above)
Two steps forward: George de Mestral invented Velcro.
Two steps back: Food critic Duncan Hines founded a company to make cake mixes. (I didn’t even know he was a person.)
Anything you’d like to add? Tell us in the comments.
* Let’s face it, the 70th anniversary of anything other than a happy marriage doesn’t have the emotional oomph of the 50th or the 75th.