1948?” It will inform the reader of important events that occurred in the world in 1948. For America and the world, 1948 was a year in transition. World War II had ended, but there was still war in the world. America was entering into an era of prosperity, and families were engaging in the “baby boom.” 1948 was a banner year for many improvements and innovations that would prove to be important in the years ahead.
War and Peace
It would seem that 1948 would be a year of peace, and that the world would be at peace after the horrors of World War II, but that is not the case. The State of Israel became reality in May 1948, and the day after it was created, the neighboring Arab nations of Egypt, Transjordan, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia declared war on the fledgling nation. First created as Palestine by a British Mandate, Israel declared her independence from Britain on May 15, 1948. Fighting was already routine in the area, and Israel’s announcement just prompted more fighting. The outcome of this first Arab-Israeli War was a disaster for the Arabs, who lost even more territory to Israel, who drew their own boundaries at the end of the war, and gained 50% more area than the United Nations treaty had allowed them (when the country was initially created). Tensions in the area have never let up, and there is still fighting and animosity between the Arab nations in the area and Israel. Territories are still disputed, and terrorism continues almost daily in both Israel, Palestine, and beyond (Wikipedia, 2004).
There were many other skirmishes and battles across the globe, and the Soviet Union was beginning its’ advance on Europe by taking over Czechoslovakia, and blockading West Berlin. The world was still in turmoil, even though World War II had come to an end in 1945.
Probably the most enduring and shocking happening in religion in decades happened in 1948. In March, the United States Supreme Court ruled religious instruction in public schools violated the Constitution, and the fight for religious teaching in school took a severe blow. In December of the same year, the UN General Assembly adopted the “Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” which, among many other things, guaranteed freedom of religion to member nations throughout the world. Probably the most important religious happening in 1948 was the creation of Israel, which immediately led to fighting with neighboring Arab nations.
Religion continued to play an important part in many American’s lives, but young people were just beginning to expand their horizons and look for other avenues for their spirituality. In a 1948 survey, however, 85% of those polled answered “yes” to the question: “Do you feet that you require some form of religious orientation or belief in order to achieve a fully nature philosophy of life?” (Hastings and Hoge, 1981, p. 524).
Politics were quite volatile at home and abroad, as the Arab-Israeli War shows. At home, Americans faced a Presidential Election, and re-elected President Truman over challenger Thomas E. Dewey. In a famed moment in time, the Chicago Tribune called Dewey the winner prematurely, and a now-famous photo shows President-elect Truman holding the banner headline over his head and grinning ear to ear. Truman signed the Marshall Plan into effect in 1948, which, among other things, began the Berlin Airlift. The Berlin Airlift supplied vital provisions to West Berlin for over a year, after the city was effectively blockaded by the Soviet Union in hopes the Allied forces would abandon the city. The airlift supplied vital food and fuel to city residents, and by the time it ended in the fall of 1949, nearly 277,000 flights had been made to drop supplies over the besieged city (Editors, 2003).
In other political headlines, India’s spiritual leader Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated on January 30, 1948, and Russian Communists seized power in Czechoslovakia in February. The Nation of Israel was created in May, and the next day, war broke out between neighboring Arab nations Egypt, Transjordan, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Saudi Arabia and the new nation state (Wikipedia, 2004). The United Nations created the World Health Organization (WHO) in 1948, and in December, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the “Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” due largely in part to the tireless efforts of ex-first-lady Eleanor Roosevelt.
Health at home and around the world was obviously a concern, as the UN’s creation of WHO during this year clearly shows. Some of the most important health issues facing the world were tuberculosis and other communicable diseases. In addition, during this year, cortisone was first introduced as a treatment for arthritis (“Highlights,” 2004).
Television was at the forefront of technological advances in 1948. Numerous television stations began broadcasting across the country, and the ABC television network was created. For the first time, Americans could be entertained in the comfort of their living rooms, and it changed the way we look at entertainment. However, 1948 also brought many other technological advances that might not have seemed quite so legendary at the time, but would turn out to be some of the major technological advances in the future. One important advance was the origins of space travel. In 1948, the United States first began thinking about manned and unmanned space flight, and the State Department announced they were working on placing objects into Earth orbit. Idlewild (now JFK) Airport opened in New York’s City, and a Swiss outdoorsman named George de Mestral invented Velcro (“Highlights,” 2004). Some innovations for 1948 were far ahead of their time, like the Tucker automobile. Preston Thomas Tucker, the inventor of the automobile, created a unique car that had numerous innovations Detroit had never attempted. However, he could not compete with the big automakers, and his car ended in failure. In addition, during the year, the massive 200-inch telescope at Mount Palomar in California began operation (“Highlights,” 2004).
However, probably the most significant and long-lasting advance came from IBM, who created their first “large scale digital calculating machine” (“Archives,” 2004) in 1948. Eventually this huge contraption with “12,000 vacuum tubes and 21,000 electromechanical relays” (“Archives,” 2004) would evolve into the personal computers we know and love today. IBM’s continued study and advancement in computing led to a revolution in how we work, think, and research, and it all had its origins in 1948 in a calculating machine.
The Clean Water Act took affect in 1948, and 1948 has the dubious honor of seeing the world’s largest landfill (at the time) open in New York. Fresh Kills, located in Staten Island, was the largest landfill in decades, and the largest manmade hill on the East Coast. Today it is closed, and the site is being turned back into a natural estuary, as it was before the landfill. Fresh Kills reopened briefly to process much of the debris from the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks (Wikipedia, 2004). The environment was not nearly as important to Americans in 1948 as it is now, and the effects we were having on the environment were not understood as completely as they are now. However, the Clean Water Act shows Americans were becoming more concerned about their interaction with the environment, and the effect adverse environmental conditions could have on health, longevity, and general well being. 1948 was year of change and growth, and the start of a new outlook by many Americans on a variety of issues, from the environment to health and religion.
Labor and the Economy
While the United States seemed to be still in the throes of an economic boom after the war years, by 1948, it was clear there was trouble in paradise. Unemployment was at a low rate of 3.9%, and Federal spending reached 29.76 billion dollars, with a deficit of $252.0 billion (Editors), but there were economic and labor troubles brewing. Severe inflation was rearing its ugly head after the war years, and the people were beginning to show their unhappiness with inflation and labor practices in America. There was labor unrest across the nation, and in a first, the United Auto Workers Union (UAW) managed to link their wage increases to the Federal Government’s cost-of-living index in their newest contract with General Motors (“Highlights,” 2004). In hopes of helping the nation’s poor, Congress enacted federal rent controls. Prices were rising, and the Consumer Price Index stood at 24.1, while first-class postage stamps cost three cents, and The Arts and Entertainment
In the arts and entertainment, 1948 was a banner year, for it was in 1948 that television really began to show up in American homes. Over 20 stations in 20 cities began broadcasting during the year, and the ABC television network debuted, too. Columbia Records introduced the first 33 1/3-inch record, and the first color newsreel appeared in 1948, along with the first reel-to-reel tape recorder sold to the public (“History,” 2004). The popular board game “Scrabble” first appeared this year,…