George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four is published.
The Battle of Guningtou in the Taiwan Strait begins.
The first television western, Hopalong Cassidy, is aired on the NBC.
The Soviet Union lifts its blockade of Berlin.
On May 12, 1949, an early crisis of the Cold War comes to an end when the Soviet Union lifts its 11-month blockade against West Berlin. The blockade had been broken by a massive U.S.-British airlift of vital supplies to West Berlin’s two million citizens.
At the end of World War II, Germany was divided into four sectors administered by the four major Allied powers: the USSR, the United States, Britain, and France. Berlin, the German capital, was likewise divided into four sectors, even though it was located deep within the Soviet sector of eastern Germany. The future of Germany and Berlin was a major sticking point in postwar treaty talks, especially after the United States, Britain, and France sought to unite their occupation zones into a single economic zone. In March 1948, the Soviet Union quit the Allied Control Council governing occupied Germany over this issue. In May, the three Western powers agreed to the imminent formation of West Germany, a nation that would exist entirely independent of Soviet-occupied eastern Germany. The three western sectors of Berlin were united as West Berlin, which was to be under the administration of West Germany.
On June 20, as a major step toward the establishment of a West German government, the Western powers introduced a new Deutsche mark currency in West Germany and West Berlin. The Soviets condemned this move as an attack on the East German currency and on June 24 began a blockade of all rail, road, and water communications between Berlin and the West. The four-power administration of Berlin had ceased with the unification of West Berlin, the Soviets said, and the Western powers no longer had a right to be there. With West Berlin’s food, fuel, and other necessities cut off, the Soviets reasoned, it would soon have to submit to Communist control.
Britain and the United States responded by initiating the largest airlift in history, flying 278,288 relief missions to the city during the next 14 months, resulting in the delivery of 2,326,406 tons of supplies. As the Soviets had cut off power to West Berlin, coal accounted for over two-thirds of the material delivered. In the opposite direction, return flights transported West Berlin’s industrial exports to the West. Flights were made around the clock, and at the height of the Berlin airlift, in April 1949, planes were landing in the city every minute. Tensions were high during the airlift, and three groups of U.S. strategic bombers were sent as reinforcements to Britain while the Soviet army presence in eastern Germany increased dramatically. The Soviets made no major effort to disrupt the airlift. As a countermeasure against the Soviet blockade, the Western powers also launched a trade embargo against eastern Germany and other Soviet bloc countries.
On May 12, 1949, the Soviets abandoned the blockade, and the first British and American convoys drove though 110 miles of Soviet Germany to reach West Berlin. On May 23, the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) was formally established. On October 7, the German Democratic Republic, a Communist state, was proclaimed in East Germany. The Berlin airlift continued until September 30, in an effort to build up a year’s supply of essential goods for West Berlin in the event of another Soviet blockade. Another blockade did not occur, but Cold War tensions over Berlin remained high, culminating in the construction of the Berlin Wall in 1961.
With the gradual waning of Soviet power in the late 1980s, the Communist Party in East Germany began to lose its grip on power. Tens of thousands of East Germans began to flee the nation, and by late 1989 the Berlin Wall started to come down. Shortly thereafter, talks between East and West German officials, joined by officials from the United States, Great Britain, France, and the USSR, began to explore the possibility of reunification, which was achieved on October 3, 1990. Two months following reunification, all-German elections took place and Helmut Kohl became the first chancellor of the reunified Germany. Although this action came more than a year before the dissolution of the Soviet Union, for many observers the reunification of Germany effectively marked the end of the Cold War.
Rainier III becomes Prince of Monaco.
Prince Rainier III ruled the Principality of Monaco for almost 56 years, making him one of the longest ruling monarchs in European history. Though internationally known for his marriage to American actress Grace Kelly, he was also responsible for reforms to Monaco’s constitution and for expanding the principality’s economy from its traditional casino gambling base to its current tax haven role. Gambling accounts for only approximately three percent of the nation’s annual revenue today; when Rainier ascended the throne in 1949, it accounted for more than 95 percent.
Rainier was born at Prince’s Palace in Monaco, the only son of Princess Charlotte, Duchess of Valentinois, and her husband, Prince Pierre, Duke of Valentinois. Rainier was the first native-born prince since Honoré IV in 1758. Rainier’s mother was the only child of Louis II, Prince of Monaco, and Marie Juliette Louvet; she was legitimized through formal adoption and subsequently named heir presumptive to the throne of Monaco. Rainier’s father was a half-French, half-Mexican who adopted his wife’s dynasty, Grimaldi, upon marriage and was made a Prince of Monaco by marriage by Prince Louis, his father-in-law. Rainier had one sibling, Princess Antoinette, Baroness of Massy.
Rainier’s early education was conducted in England, at the prestigious public schools of Summerfields in St Leonards-on-Sea, Sussex, and later at Stowe, in Buckinghamshire. After England, Rainier attended the Institut Le Rosey in Rolle and Gstaad, Switzerland from 1939, before continuing to the University of Montpellier in France, where he obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1943, and finally to the Institut d’études politiques de Paris in Paris.
In 1944, upon his 21st birthday, Rainier’s mother renounced her right to the Monegasque throne and Rainier became Prince Louis’s direct heir. In World War II Rainier joined the Free French Army in September 1944, and serving under General de Monsabert as a second lieutenant, and seeing action during the German counter-offensive in Alsace. He received the French Croix de Guerre with bronze star and was given the rank of Chevalier in the French Legion of Honor in 1947. Following his decommission from the French Army, he was promoted by the French government as a captain in April 1949 and a colonel in December 1954.
In the 1940s and 1950s, Rainier had a ten-year relationship with the French film actress Gisèle Pascal, whom he had met while a student at Montpellier University, and the couple lived at Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat. Rainier’s sister, Princess Antoinette, wishing her own son to ascend the throne, spread rumours that Pascal was infertile. The rumours combined with a snobbery over Pascal’s family origins ultimately ended the relationship.
Rainier became the Sovereign Prince of Monaco on the death of Louis II on 9 May 1949.
George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty Four is published.
George Orwell’s 46th birthday was less than a month off when his last novel was published in London by Secker & Warburg, and five days afterwards by Harcourt Brace in New York. The socialist author of the twentieth century’s most devastating critique of left-wing totalitarianism had less than a year left to live. The idea for the book had come to him in 1943 and themes in an early outline included, ‘The system of organized lying on which society is founded, the ways in which this is done, the nightmare feeling caused by the disappearance of objective truth, leader-worship, etc…’. No one who knew London in the years immediately after 1945 will need to be told where the appalling shabbiness of the book’s setting came from. The shortages, the bombsites, the regular failure of things to work properly, the prevailing dreariness – were drawn from real life.
Orwell eventually wrote the book on the Scottish island of Jura in the Inner Hebrides, to which he retreated from London in 1946, ill with tuberculosis after a severe haemorrhage, and depressed. His wife Eileen had died the year before, during an operation he had expected to be mere routine. Orwell took an abandoned farm called Barnhill close to the sea at the north end of the island, with his sister Avril and his adopted baby son Richard. There was a Robinson Crusoe streak in him and he kept chickens, went fishing and worked at being self-sufficient. The scenery was beautiful, the climate mild, but the house was at the end of a five-mile dirt track, the post appeared only twice a week, there was no telephone and Orwell was twenty-five miles from the nearest doctor. Surprisingly, there were quite a few callers, most of whom seem to have been a trial. There were some violent rows. Orwell tended to retreat behind the typewriter in his room.
Determined to finish the book, he refused to make any concessions to his state of health, which grew worse, and by the end of 1947 he was in the Hairmyres Hospital at East Kilbride, near Glasgow, with his lungs in a bad way. Tragically, he proved to be allergic to the new drug streptomycin, which afflicted him with side effects so severe that the treatment which might otherwise have saved his life had to be stopped. Back in Jura after seven months, he typed the final version of the book while lying in bed, which was awkward to manage, or sitting on a kitchen chair in his room, smoking like a funnel despite the condition of his lungs.
Early in 1949 Orwell had to go into a private sanitorium in the Cotswolds, where streptomycin was tried again and soon abandoned. Nineteen Eighty-Four sold so well that it would have given him a comfortable income for life, but it was too late and in September he was moved to University College Hospital in London. There in October, attired in a smoking jacket in his bed with a bottle of champagne waiting on a hospital trolley, he married Sonia Brownell, his second wife, and there, still hoping for a reprieve, he died on January 21st, 1950.
Orwell’s friend Tosco Fyvel said years afterwards that, more than any book published after 1945, Nineteen Eighty-Four ‘has subtly altered the popular impression of the way history has been proceeding’. It is a tribute to the book that the year 1984 eventually came and went without Orwell’s nightmare vision having fully come about.
The Berlin Airlift come to an end.
After 15 months and more than 250,000 flights, the Berlin Airlift officially comes to an end. The airlift was one of the greatest logistical feats in modern history and was one of the crucial events of the early Cold War.
In June 1948, the Soviet Union suddenly blocked all ground traffic into West Berlin, which was located entirely within the Russian zone of occupation in Germany. It was an obvious effort to force the United States, Great Britain, and France to accept Soviet demands concerning the postwar fate of Germany. As a result of the Soviet blockade, the people of West Berlin were left without food, clothing, or medical supplies. Some U.S. officials pushed for an aggressive response to the Soviet provocation, but cooler heads prevailed and a plan for an airlift of supplies to West Berlin was developed. It was a daunting task: supplying the daily wants and needs of so many civilians would require tons of food and other goods each and every day.
On June 26, 1948, the Berlin Airlift began with U.S. pilots and planes carrying the lion’s share of the burden. During the next 15 months, 277,264 aircraft landed in West Berlin bringing over 2 million tons of supplies. On September 30, 1949, the last plane–an American C-54–landed in Berlin and unloaded over two tons of coal. Even though the Soviet blockade officially ended in May 1949, it took several more months for the West Berlin economy to recover and the necessary stockpiles of food, medicine, and fuel to be replenished.
The Berlin Airlift was a tremendous Cold War victory for the United States. Without firing a shot, the Americans foiled the Soviet plan to hold West Berlin hostage, while simultaneously demonstrating to the world the “Yankee ingenuity” for which their nation was famous. For the Soviets, the Berlin crisis was an unmitigated disaster. The United States, France, and Great Britain merely hardened their resolve on issues related to Germany, and the world came to see the Russians as international bullies, trying to starve innocent citizens.
George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty Four is first published.
George Orwell’s novel of a dystopian future, Nineteen Eighty-four, is published. The novel’s all-seeing leader, known as “Big Brother,” becomes a universal symbol for intrusive government and oppressive bureaucracy.
George Orwell was the nom de plume of Eric Blair, who was born in India. The son of a British civil servant, Orwell attended school in London and won a scholarship to the elite prep school Eton, where most students came from wealthy upper-class backgrounds, unlike Orwell. Rather than going to college like most of his classmates, Orwell joined the Indian Imperial Police and went to work in Burma in 1922. During his five years there, he developed a severe sense of class guilt; finally in 1927, he chose not to return to Burma while on holiday in England.
Orwell, choosing to immerse himself in the experiences of the urban poor, went to Paris, where he worked menial jobs, and later spent time in England as a tramp. He wrote Down and Out in Paris and London in 1933, based on his observation of the poorer classes, and in 1937 his Road to Wigan Pier documented the life of the unemployed in northern England. Meanwhile, he had published his first novel, Burmese Days, in 1934.
Orwell became increasingly left wing in his views, although he never committed himself to any specific political party. He went to Spain during the Spanish Civil War to fight with the Republicans, but later fled as communism gained an upper hand in the struggle on the left. His barnyard fable, Animal Farm (1945), shows how the noble ideals of egalitarian economies can easily be distorted. The book brought him his first taste of critical and financial success. Orwell’s last novel, Nineteen Eighty-four, brought him lasting fame with its grim vision of a future where all citizens are watched constantly and language is twisted to aid in oppression. Orwell died of tuberculosis in 1950.
The first Emmy Awards are presented at the Hollywood Athletic Club.
On this day in 1949, the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences holds its first annual awards ceremony at the Hollywood Athletic Club in Los Angeles.
Hollywood’s first television academy had been founded three years earlier by Sid Cassyd, a former film editor for Frank Capra who later worked as a grip at Paramount Studios and an entertainment journalist. At a time when only about 50,000 American households had TV sets, Cassyd saw the need for an organization that would foster productive discussion of the fledgling entertainment medium. The academy’s membership grew quickly, despite the lack of support from the Hollywood motion-picture establishment, which perhaps understandably felt threatened by TV and its potential to keep audiences entertained at home. The name “Emmy” was a feminized version of “immy,” the shorthand term for the image orthicon tube that was used in TV cameras until the 1960s.
Shirley Dinsdale, a 20-year-old ventriloquist who starred in the children’s show Judy Splinters, was the first of six inaugural Emmy winners that first night at the Hollywood Athletic Club. By 1955, the Emmys had become so successful that Ed Sullivan decided to establish a rival academy of East Coast TV professionals in New York City. Two years later, the Los Angeles and New York branches combined to form the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. To reflect this East Coast-West Coast collaboration, the awards were held alternately in the two cities until 1970s. After that, however, they moved permanently back to Hollywood, reflecting the fact that most television production had moved West.
President Harry S. Truman announces his Fair Deal program.
On January 05, 1949, President Harry S. Truman announces, in his State of the Union address, that every American has a right to expect from our government a fair deal.
In a reference to Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal policies, Truman announced his plans for domestic policy reforms including national health insurance, public housing, civil rights legislation and federal aid to education. He advocated an increase in the minimum wage, federal assistance to farmers and an extension of Social Security, as well as urging the immediate implementation of anti-discrimination policies in employment. Truman argued for an ambitious liberal agenda based on policies first articulated by his predecessor, Franklin D. Roosevelt. However, the nation’s politics had shifted rightward in the years following World War II and inflation, economic conversion from wartime to peacetime industries and growing anti-communist sentiment provided major obstacles to Truman’s plan. To a growing contingency of conservatives and Southern Democrats in Congress, the Fair Deal smacked of socialism.