Today in History
History's Happenings for October 1
In an event that held small global significance at the time, but has since slowly grown to one of ominous concern, the People's Republic of China was born on this day in 1949.
When the ancient Chinese imperial structure came tumbling down under the onslaught of republican forces in 1912, the conversion, as is so often the case, was not an easy one. A nasty power struggle between republican factions left the door open to Japanese attempts to establish complete hegemony over China during the First World War.
Even though China belatedly entered the War on the Allied side, American President Woodrow Wilson traded away support for her grievances against the Japanese in the delicate political balance at Versailles. The Chinese intelligentsia, which had been looking westward for political guidance over the past decade drew back into nationalism in disgust. They were attracted instead to the revolutionary changes occurring within Russia.
In 1921, drawing from the ranks of the disappointed, the Chinese Communist Party was formed in Shanghai. During the ensuing fifteen years, as they attempted to strengthen their following both in the cities and the countryside, the Communists were continually at war with the shaky nationalist government of Chiang Kai-shek's Kuomintang. After the Japanese invasion of Manchuria in 1934, the people began demanding an end to internal struggle and a united front against the aggressors. Kicking and screaming, Chiang was finally brought around and a tenuous alliance was formed in 1937, just in time for full-scale hostilities against the Japanese.
During the War, China's effort to defend herself was substandard, despite Allied aid. The Kuomintang was continually without sufficient supplies and training, and rent with divided leadership, while the Communists focused their effectiveness more on growing their party, even behind enemy lines. The result, enhanced by large stocks of captured Japanese weapons, was the emergence of a balance of power heavily weighted to the Communists at war's end.
After the Japanese surrender, the internal situation in China immediately reverted, with both sides fighting for control first of recovered Manchuria, and then in full-scale civil war for China itself. Depleted by the war with the Japanese, the Kuomintang forces gradually ran out of steam, their leadership again splintered, and retired to the island of Taiwan in the summer of 1949.
On October 1, 1949, the newly founded Central People's Government Council, whose chairman was long-time rural Communist leader Mao Tse-tung, declared the existence of the People's Republic of China. Mao became de facto supreme ruler of the new nation.
The Communist government has never since considered the refuge of Taiwan to be anything other than a renegade part of their country, and have managed to convince a host of democratic nations, including the United States, to abide this unfortunate view.
(Stay tuned for a write-up on this event.
(Stay tuned for a write-up on this event.
In what has to be the most successful run of a single automobile model in history, the Ford Model-T was introduced on this date in 1908. It continued to be produced until 1927 … some 15 million copies. Every one of them black.
Henry Ford, a Michigan farm boy, machinist's apprentice and mechanical engineer, built his first automobile -- the Quadricycle -- in his spare time in 1896. Enthused by his invention, he founded the Ford Motor Company in 1903.
Ford was not the first to introduce methods of assembly line production and interchangeable parts, but is noted for the scale on which he did so in 1913, a change which eventually had a huge impact on the average American's ability to own an automobile, and on the future path of American industry in general.
In a way, the Model-T was also an albatross for Ford. By the late 1920's, the standard of the American automotive industry was the introduction of a new model every year. Ford was late in jumping on the bandwagon and was never able to recover his dominant market position.
The thirty-ninth president of the United States was born on October 1, 1924 in Plains, Georgia. James Earl Carter became the first southerner elected to the presidency in 128 years.
Realizing a dream to join the Navy, Carter graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1946, joined the submarine service, and studied nuclear physics. In 1953, he left the Navy to run the family peanut business back in Plains.
Elected to the Georgia Senate in 1962, Carter failed in his bid for the governorship in 1966. He tried again in 1970 and succeeded on the back of his hard campaigning. His term was marked with a campaign against the prevailing racial discrimination in state government.
Carter was the first Democrat to announce for the presidency in 1976, and his home-spun honesty struck at the hearts of voters tired of the muck of Watergate. He edged out incumbent Gerald Ford by 2% of the vote.
As an out-of-towner, Carter suffered the usual fate of a president without Washington connections, getting little through Congress. He did manage to create the new departments of Energy and Education, but failed to get the long-range reforms and policy in these areas that he wanted. High spending (part of which was a legacy from LBJ), spiking oil prices and high inflation left Carter with history's lowest approval rating -- just 20% in 1979.
Yet his administration did have its victories, including the historic Camp David Accords between Israel and Egypt. The Panama Canal Treaty was also noteworthy, though it's decision to return the Canal to Panama rankles many who believe it too important to America's vital interests. The Carter Doctrine announced America's intention to defend the Persian Gulf area against outside aggression, and his administration cancelled U.S. participation in the Moscow Olympic Games of 1980 in protest over the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, two strong stances that belie the too-easy nature of Carter's foreign policy.
The Iran hostage crisis, unfortunately, played to Carter's weak side. A very caring and devout Christian, President Carter lacked the dynamism and decisiveness that would have dealt early and effectively with the issue. Instead, after much prodding and bad press, Carter did approve a military rescue mission which, because of poor support and hasty planning, failed miserably.
It's a paradox that Carter's clean living and Christian nature would have discredited him by the end of his presidency. While it's certainly true that the nation needs a tough and dynamic leader in a complex and often angry world, we could at the same time use a healthy measure of Jimmy Carter's plain old fashioned morality.
Following up immediately on the agreement made in Munich yesterday, troops of the German Reich crossed the Czech frontier today in 1938 to occupy the Czech Sudetenland with its heavily German population.
The agreement, considered by most today to be an embarrassing and fateful act of appeasement by the western Allies, brought Germany all of Czechoslovakia's formidable western defenses and about 70% of her heavy industry.
When Czechoslovakia's ally, France, failed to intervene, her military credibility was all but destroyed, eliminating a considerable threat to Hitler's ambitions.
The following spring, despite earlier guarantees of Czech security, Germany invaded and occupied Czechoslovakia proper, remaining until the end of World War II six years later.
Built on top of a never-completed nineteenth century railroad bed, the Pennsylvania Turnpike opened today, October 1, 1940 … the first superhighway in America. It's original length -- connecting Harrisburg with Pittsburgh -- was 160 miles.
Like the recently completed German Autobahn, from which it borrowed many ideas, it was designed for 100 MPH travel on the straight-aways, and 70 MPH on its banked curves. It was financed by $41 million in New Deal Reconstruction Finance bonds, as well as a WPA grant, and employed over 15,000 workers once construction began in 1938.
Today the Pennsy Pike stretches 506 miles -- clear across the state, connecting with subsequent superhighways on either end -- and carries over 114 million vehicles per year.
(Stay tuned for a write-up on this event.
Exactly thirty-four years and one day after Babe Ruth set the all-time season record for home runs at 60, fellow New York Yankee Roger Maris hit his 61st homer for the 1961 season.
Maris' record stood for another thirty-seven years until 1998, when it was smashed by competing sluggers Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa.