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Man Faces the Future 1957-1965

space

On October 4, 1957, the Soviet Union announced to an astonished world that its scientists had launched into orbit an artificial satellite of the earth. The Russians called the satellite “Sputnik,” or little moon. With the invention of the air plane, man had broken the bonds that confined him to the earth; now he could go beyond the ocean of air that surrounded the earth and explore the wonders of space. The way was open for discoveries that promised to surpass those of the age of exploration of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. The United States sent up its first satellite, Explorer I, on January 31, 1958. It weighed only three and a half pounds, but three months later the Russians launched a Sputnik that weighed 3,000 pounds. By the end of 1960, the Russians were launching space ships and on April 12, 1961, they sent up the first man in outer space; he landed successfully after making one orbit around the earth. The next year, two more “cosmonauts,” as the Russians called them, made space flights, to be followed by three more in 1964. One of Russia’s most spectacular feats in space came on March 18, 1965, when a cosmonaut left his space ship and floated in space for ten minutes while traveling at a speed of 17,000 miles an hour. Meanwhile, the United States was also making extraordinary progress. The first American “astronaut” went into space on February 20, 1962. Other astronauts soon followed, although they did not remain in orbit as long as the Russian space men. Whilst the United States still lagged behind the Soviet Union in the size of its spaceships and the thrust of its rockets, it was ahead in other forms of space exploration. By 1965, American satellites were transmitting radio and telephone …

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The Great Society 1964 – 1965

civil rights act

In the United States election campaign of 1964, President Johnson was the candidate of the Democratic party. His Republican opponent was Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona, who was known for his controversial stand on many issues. Goldwater called for a radical change in the Policies of the government. He opposed the reforms enacted since the early 1950’s, as well as attempts to match agreement with the Communist nations, arguing that Communists understood nothing but force. He deplored United States recognition of the Soviet Union and on occasion, even advocated that the United States withdraw from the United Nations. In answer to these attacks, Johnson began to speak of creating “the Great Society” in America. He did not give details of his plans, but what he meant, evidently, was a society in which poverty would not exist, the aged and the sick would be cared for and opportunity would be open to people of all races and nationalities. All men would be free to develop their minds and cultivate the arts and beauty would grace the cities and the countryside. The strategy of the Democrats was to show that President Johnson represented the broad centre of American public opinion, while Senator Goldwater represented a smaller group, mostly on the right. Democrats even denied that Goldwater was a genuine conservative, for conservatism, they claimed, meant ”to conserve” and not to retreat into the past. The returns of the election, in which President Johnson received forty one million votes to Goldwater’s twenty six million, gave the Republican party its most serious defeat since the great depression of the 1930’s. President Johnson received close to sixty two percent of the total vote — the highest percentage of any candidate in American history. The Democrats also won control of the House of Representatives and the …

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Death of a Dictator 1946 – 1953

cold war

AS THE SKY darkened over Moscow on the evening of March 5, 1953, thousands of people waited in line before a building called the Hall of Columns. Some of them wept; some carried flowers. Moving slowly and silently toward the entrance, they could see a forty-foot portrait of Premier Josef Stalin, framed in gold, which hung on the side of the building. News of Stalin’s death had been announced late that afternoon and now he lay in state in an immense room whose marble columns were draped in flags of red and black. Four days later, Stalin’s body was carried to the tomb on Red Square where lay the body of Lenin, the founder of the Soviet Union. At twelve noon, when Stalin’s body was placed beside that of Lenin, cannon were fired in every city of Russia. Cars, trucks, busses and trains stopped for five minutes, while people repeated the phrase, “Proshe, oteytz”–“Farewell‚ father” and so the Russians took leave of the man who had ruled them for twenty-nine years. Those twenty-nine years had been among the most eventful and terrible in history, not only for Russia, but for the world. Under Stalin, the Soviet Union had been industrialized. It had fought off an invasion from Nazi Germany and after the war, had established a mighty Communist empire in Eastern Europe and the Balkans. A once backward country had become one of the greatest powers on earth, but the price, in lives and liberty, had been unbelievably high. Millions of people had been killed for resisting Stalin’s program of rapid industrialization, or for disagreeing with him on political issues — or simply because Stalin had suspected them of disloyalty. The older that Stalin grew, the more tyrannical he became. In 1946, when the cold war with the West began, …

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War in Korea 1945-1953

korea

Although the cold war was the most important fact in the politics of the post-war world, few persons could have foreseen that it would lead to fighting in the small, remote country of Korea. Yet, as small and remote as it was, Korea had a strategic location. It was near three large powers — Russia, China and Japan — and the Japanese said it “points like a dagger at the heart of our country.” The Japanese won control of Korea in the Russo-Japanese War and by 1905 they ruled it as part of their empire. During World War II, the Allies promised that “in due course Korea shall become free and independent.” When Japan surrendered, they agreed that Russian troops would occupy Korea north of the thirty-eighth parallel and American troops would occupy Korea south of the thirty-eighth parallel. A provisional government would then be set up and after a period of no longer than five years, Korea would govern itself as an independent nation. The occupation of Korea was carried out as it had been planned, but the United States and the Soviet Union could not agree on a provisional government. Each set up a provisional government friendly to itself and in 1947 the United States brought the dispute before the United Nations General Assembly. The Assembly decided to hold elections in Korea, but the Soviet Union refused to allow United Nations representatives to enter its occupation zone. Elections were held outside the Russian zone and in 1948 the Korean Republic was established in South Korea. The city of Seoul was made the capital and Syngman Rhee was elected president. Thirty-two nations, including the United States, recognized the new government; the Russians and “their supporters did not. Instead, the Soviet Union helped to set up a new and separate …

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The United Nations and the Nations Disunited 1943 -1949

united nations

So at last, in the Pacific as in Europe, the guns were silent; the nations that had brought so much death and destruction to the world had been defeated, but victory alone was not enough. Governments had to be set up for the defeated nations, the destruction of war had to be repaired, hungry people had to be fed, industry and commerce had to be set in motion. Even more important, a way had to be found to keep war out of the world, to settle disputes between nations by peaceful means rather than by violence. The League of Nations, which had been set up for such a purpose after World War I, had failed, but the attempt had to be made again, for a third world war might well destroy all of civilization. Even before World War II ended, President Roosevelt had been looking ahead to the future and the United States proposed the establishment of a new international organization. Her wartime allies were quick to agree. Meeting in Moscow in October of 1943, the foreign ministers of the United States, Britain, the Soviet Union, and China declared: “The four powers recognize the necessity of establishing at the earliest practicable date a general international organization, based on the principle of the sovereign equality of all peace-loving states, large and small, for the maintenance of international peace and security.” Representatives of the same four nations met at Dumbarton Oaks in Washington from August 21 to October 7, 1944, to discuss plans for the new organization. When Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin met at Yalta in February of 1945, they agreed that the United Nations Conference on International Organization be held at San Francisco in April. The conference was held as scheduled and it was attended by representatives of fifty nations at …

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Victory in the Pacific 1941 – 1945

pearl harbour

On June 25, 1940, the Japanese war minister said, “The present international situation is developing in a manner advantageous to Japan’s national policy. We should not miss the present opportunity. . . Japan’s national policy was scarcely a secret. It had already linked itself by treaty to the aggressor nations of Germany and Italy – for several years it had been fighting an undeclared war against China. Although Chinese guerrilla forces were fighting back the Japanese controlled most of the Chinese railroads and held such cities as Peiping, Shanghai and Canton. They planned to establish something they called the “Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere” –actually a vast empire that would take in the South Seas as well as East Asia, an empire ruled by the Japanese. In July of 1941, as another step in carrying out their plan, they occupied Indochina. In trying to build up its new empire, however, Japan ran into certain difficulties. The Chinese, led by Chiang K’ai-shek were getting more and more aid from the United States and Britain. Even more important, Japan depended on trade with the United States and Britain for its war materials, especially scrap metal and oil. It was a serious blow when, in 1941, the United States and Britain “froze” all Japanese assets in the two countries, bringing trade to a stop. The Netherlands East Indies, which had been supplying oil to Japan, soon took the same action. In October, General Hideki Tojo became premier of Japan and the militarists were in full control of the government. Tojo sent a special envoy to Washington to negotiate with the United States. Japan demanded, among other things, that the United States stop all aid to China and again trade freely with Japan. The United States insisted that Japan withdraw its forces from China …

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A World at War 1939 – 1941

world war 2

Now the people of Europe began to hear a new sound, a sound that would haunt them throughout the years of war — the wail and shriek of air-raid sirens. At night, the lights of Europe went out and the “blackout” made familiar streets strange places of darkness. Street lamps were left unlit and windows were covered with heavy draperies. Any stray gleam of light might help guide enemy bombers to their targets. Hurrying about their wartime duties, the people of Britain and France began to wonder. They had not wanted war and yet war had come. Why? What had happened? It seemed mysterious and impossible to understand, but as they thought about it, certain things became clear. Some of the problems that led to World War II were left-overs from World War I. Germany and Italy had remained “have-not” nations. They needed more territory for raw materials and more markets for their goods. The Germans felt that the Versailles Treaty was humiliating, unjust and the Allies had done nothing to change it. The League of Nations, especially without the participation of the United States, had been weak and had not carried out its promise of real disarmament. The United States had not wanted to get involved in Europe’s problems and had followed a policy of “isolation.” These were some of the causes of the war; there were others as well. France had suffered greatly in World War I and was afraid of being drawn into another conflict. Her generals had hesitated to send troops against Hitler at a time when it was still possible to stop him and then there was the distrust of the Soviet Union and Communism. Many French and British statesmen, such as Chamberlain, had believed that Fascism would protect Europe against Communism. Unlike Churchill, they …

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Victory in Europe 1941 – 1945

Even before Pearl Harbour, there had been cooperation between the United States and Britain. In August of 1941, President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Churchill met secretly, on a cruiser at sea off the coast of Newfoundland. There they drew up the Atlantic Charter, a document stating the principles on which they based their hopes for a better future for the world. They pledged that neither country would seek more territory. They hoped that, “after the final destruction of Nazi tyranny,” all men in all lands could “live out their lives in freedom from want and fear,” and they called on all nations to give up the use of force and disarm. With the United States in the war, the cooperation among the nations fighting the Axis powers became still closer. There were meetings between the heads of the nations and their representatives — the first of many that would take place throughout the war. Out of the early meetings came an important decision. All possible strength must be thrown against Germany, for once Germany was defeated, Japan would surely fall. On January 1, 1942, all twenty-six nations fighting the Axis signed a pact. Calling themselves the United Nations, they agreed to abide by the Atlantic Charter and not to make a separate peace with the enemy. As the year began, the Germans started an offensive in Africa. General Rommel and his Afrika Korps won back El Agheila, which the British had taken the previous April. By the end of June, 1942, the British had lost 80,000 men and had been forced to retreat 400 miles to El Alamein, in Egypt. This was only 60 miles from the city of Alexandria and there was danger that Rommel would cut off the Suez Canal. Rommel could not take El Alamein. The British …

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The Election of 1936

townsend

As Roosevelt’s first term in office neared its end, many people in the United States — and in other countries — wondered if the New Deal could really solve America’s problems. More than that, they wondered if Americans would continue to follow the path of democracy. A wave of totalitarianism was sweeping the world; would it reach as far as America? There was no doubt that there were some Americans who supported Hitler and the Nazis. Members of the German-American Bund paraded in brown shirts and held a mass meeting in New York’s Madison Square Garden, but there were comparatively few Bundists. Many people felt that a more serious threat to democracy and to the Roosevelt administration came from three native American political leaders — Huey P. Long, Father Charles E. Coughlin and Dr. Francis Townsend. Most colourful of the three was Huey Long, a senator from Louisiana. Calling himself the Kingfish, he had come to power in his native state and he ran it, his critics said, as a dictatorship. He was a rousing orator and in front of a crowd he would spout folksy humour, crack sharp political jokes and play the simple country boy. His opponents, however, charged that he was a combination of brutal hoodlum and a shrewd political boss who would stop at nothing to get what he wanted. He would promise the people anything — and he did keep some of his promise. He saw that Louisiana got better roads, schools and hospitals. In return, he got power. Huey Long was not satisfied with the power he had won in Louisiana; he had his eye on the White House. At first a supporter of the New Deal, he turned against it and began attacking Roosevelt. He called Roosevelt a “scrootch owl,” explaining that “a …

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The Meaning of Totalitarianism

Totalitarianism

So it happened that in many parts of the world people were living under a system of government that came to be called totalitarianism. There were differences in the governments of the totalitarian countries, but they were alike in certain important ways. In each of them, the government was controlled by one political party, usually under a dictator and no other political parties were allowed. The ruling party was not satisfied to control the government; its aim was total control of the life of its people. It controlled the courts and the armed forces, labour and industry, science and the arts. In some countries, it controlled religion completely; in others, religious groups were allowed to exist so long as they did not challenge the power of the government. To keep their strict control of the people, the totalitarian governments set up a secret police and totalitarian countries were often called “police states.” The people had no civil liberties and no part in the governing of the country. They had to obey and do as they were told. If they did not, they risked prison, concentration camp, torture and death. As totalitarianism spread widely over the world, men began to wonder what had made it possible. The reasons were not too difficult to find . The end of World War I had left many countries, especially those that had been defeated, divided and disorganized. Their weak governments could not solve the problems that faced them. This gave “strong men” the chance to take over the government. Another important reason was the great depression that began around 1929. Business seemed to come to a standstill. Unsold goods piled up in warehouses, while factories shut down and millions of people were thrown out of work. Hungry people were willing to listen to anyone …

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