Mar 12 2011

On This Day in History March 12

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

March 12 is the 71st day of the year (72nd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 294 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1947, in a dramatic speech to a joint session of Congress, President Harry S. Truman asks for U.S. assistance for Greece and Turkey to forestall communist domination of the two nations. Historians have often cited Truman’s address, which came to be known as the Truman Doctrine, as the official declaration of the Cold War.

In February 1947, the British government informed the United States that it could no longer furnish the economic and military assistance it had been providing to Greece and Turkey since the end of World War II. The Truman administration believed that both nations were threatened by communism and it jumped at the chance to take a tough stance against the Soviet Union. In Greece, leftist forces had been battling the Greek royal government since the end of World War II. In Turkey, the Soviets were demanding some manner of control over the Dardanelles, territory from which Turkey was able to dominate the strategic waterway from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean.

Truman stated the Doctrine would be “the policy of the United States to support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures.” Truman reasoned, because these “totalitarian regimes” coerced “free peoples,” they represented a threat to international peace and the national security of the United States. Truman made the plea amid the crisis of the Greek Civil War (1946-1949). He argued that if Greece and Turkey did not receive the aid that they urgently needed, they would inevitably fall to communism with grave consequences throughout the region.

The policy won the support of Republicans who controlled Congress and involved sending $400 million in American money, but no military forces, to the region. The effect was to end the Communist threat, and in 1952 both countries joined NATO, a military alliance that guaranteed their protection.

The Doctrine was informally extended to become the basis of American Cold War policy throughout Europe and around the world. It shifted American foreign policy toward the Soviet Union from d├ętente (friendship) to, as George F. Kennan phrased it, a policy of containment of Soviet expansion. Historians often use its announcement to mark the starting date of the Cold War.

Long-term policy and metaphor

The Truman Doctrine underpinned American Cold War policy in Europe and around the world. The doctrine endured because it addressed a broader cultural insecurity regarding modern life in a globalized world. It dealt with Washington’s concern over communism’s domino effect, it enabled a media-sensitive presentation of the doctrine that won bipartisan support, and it mobilized American economic power to modernize and stabilize unstable regions without direct military intervention. It brought nation-building activities and modernization programs to the forefront of foreign policy.

The Truman Doctrine became a metaphor for emergency aid to keep a nation from communist influence. Truman used disease imagery not only to communicate a sense of impending disaster in the spread of communism but also to create a “rhetorical vision” of containing it by extending a protective shield around non-communist countries throughout the world. It echoed the “http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quarantine_Speech quarantine the aggressor]” policy Franklin Delano Roosevelt sought to impose to contain German and Japanese expansion in 1937. The medical metaphor extended beyond the immediate aims of the Truman Doctrine in that the imagery combined with fire and flood imagery evocative of disaster provided the United States with an easy transition to direct military confrontation in later years with communist forces in Korea and Vietnam. By presenting ideological differences in life or death terms, Truman was able to garner support for this communism-containing policy.

 538 – Vitiges, king of the Ostrogoths ends his siege of Rome and retreats to Ravenna, leaving the city in the hands of the victorious Roman general, Belisarius.

1622 – Ignatius of Loyola and Francis Xavier, founders of the Jesuits, are canonized as saints by the Catholic Church.

1664 – New Jersey becomes a colony of England.

1689 – The Williamite War in Ireland begins.

1811 – Peninsular War: A day after a successful rear guard action, French Marshal Michel Ney once again successfully delayed the pursuing Anglo-Portuguese force at the Battle of Redinha.

1868 – Henry O’Farrell attempts to assassinate Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh.

1881 – Andrew Watson makes his Scotland debut as the world’s first black international football player and captain.

1912 – The Girl Guides (later renamed the Girl Scouts of the USA) are founded in the United States.

1913 – Canberra Day: The future capital of Australia is officially named Canberra.

(Melbourne remained temporary capital until 1927 while the new capital was still under construction.)

1918 – Moscow becomes the capital of Russia again after Saint Petersburg held this status for 215 years.

1928 – In California, the St. Francis Dam fails; the resulting floods kill over 600 people.

1930 – Mahatma Gandhi leads a 200-mile march, known as the Salt March, to the sea in defiance of British opposition, to protest the British monopoly on salt.

1933 – Great Depression: Franklin D. Roosevelt addresses the nation for the first time as President of the United States. This was also the first of his “fireside chats”.

1934 – Konstantin Pats and General Johan Laidoner stage a coup in Estonia, and ban all political parties.

1938 – Anschluss: German troops occupy Austria.

1940 – Winter War: Finland signs the Moscow Peace Treaty with the Soviet Union, ceding almost all of Finnish Karelia. Finnish troops and the remaining population are immediately evacuated.

1947 – The Truman Doctrine is proclaimed to help stem the spread of Communism.

1950 – The Llandow air disaster occurs near Sigingstone, Wales, in which 80 people die when their aircraft crashed, making it the world’s deadliest air disaster at the time.

1964 – New Hampshire Lottery: New Hampshire becomes the first U.S. state to legally sell lottery tickets in the 20th century.

1966 – Suharto takes over from Sukarno to become President of Indonesia.

1968 – Mauritius achieves independence.

1971 – The March 12 Memorandum is sent to the Demirel government of Turkey and the government resigns.

1992 – Mauritius becomes a republic while remaining a member of the Commonwealth of Nations.

1993 – Several bombs explode in Bombay (Mumbai), India, killing about 300 and injuring hundreds more.

1993 – North Korea nuclear weapons program: North Korea says that it plans to withdraw from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and refuses to allow inspectors access to its nuclear sites.

1993 – The Blizzard of 1993 – Snow begins to fall across the eastern portion of the US with tornadoes, thunder snow storms, high winds and record low temperatures. The storm lasts for 30 hours.

1994 – The Church of England ordains its first female priests.

1999 – Former Warsaw Pact members the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland join NATO.

2003 – Zoran Dindic, Prime Minister of Serbia, is assassinated in Belgrade.

2004 – The President of South Korea, Roh Moo-hyun, is impeached by its national assembly: the first such impeachment in the nation’s history.

Holidays and observances

   *Arbor Day (China and Taiwan)

   * Christian Feast Day:

         o Fina

         o Maximilian the martyr

         o Pope Gregory I (Eastern Orthodox Church, Eastern Catholic Church, and Episcopal Church in the United States)

         o Theophanes the Confessor

         o March 12 (Eastern Orthodox liturgics)

   * Girl Scout Birthday (United States)

   * Graerismessa (Mass of St. Gregory). According to tradition, the oystercatcher, the Faroes’ national bird returns this day. This event is celebrated in the capital, Torshavn (Faroe Islands)

   * National Day (Mauritius)

   * World Day Against Cyber Censorship (requested by Reporters Without Borders and Amnesty International in 2009)

1 comment

  1. TMC

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