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Transcript of The 1950s
At the end of WWII, the previously Japanese territory of Korea was divided between communist north and capitalist sOuth.
On June 25, 1950, North Korea invaded the South. They quickly took Seoul and beat back the weak Southern army.
We have a problem.
Fearing the North was supported by the Soviets, Harry Truman ordered a limited use of American forces to defend the south- he also did not ask Congress before giving the order, setting a president precedent.
Truman also persuaded the UN to send troops. Most UN troops were American and led by Douglas MacArthur, a hero of the Pacific Theater.
North Korea was pushed back to the 38th Parallel.
Encouraged, Truman allowed MacArthur to push forward. If we took the North, we could unify a democratic capitalist Korea.
China freaks out, not wanting to lose their communist neighbor. They send hundreds of thousands of troops to push the UN forces back. Within weeks, the communists took Seoul back.
The UN launches a counterattack to get back to the 38th Parallel, but now it's a stalemate. This lasts for two years.
MacArthur argues for total war- he thinks its ridiculous that a great power like the US is getting challenged by Korea and China. He wants to use nukes.
Truman disagreed- he wants a limited war, not a total war.
MacArthur begins publicly slamming Truman in the news. He writes to congress saying he's "not being allowed to win."
Worse, he was conspiring with Japan and Portugal, saying he wanted to invade China which was not Truman's policy.
In 1951 Truman fires MacArthur. He got too big for his britches.
Ending the Conflict
In 1953, after years of stalemate, an armistice was finally signed.
The 38th Parallel would serve as a "De-Militarized Zone" with no military.
36,000 Americans died as well as two million Koreans and Chinese.
The war showed that America was willing to fight communism, but it was unclear just how far the nation was willing to go.
I Like Ike
In 1952 Truman's done with his two terms and we have an election.
For the first time since Herbert Hoover in 1928, a republican wins. He was Dwight D Eisenhower, our main general in WWII in Europe.
He won support by promising to end the Korean war and just generally be a reasonable person.
Eisenhower was a moderate- he mostly focused on downsizing the federal government, saving money, and encouraging business.
We even had a budget surplus (taxdollars left over) at the end of the year.
His biggest accomplishment was probably the Federal Highway System, which built our highways. It was originally for military purposes but also helped the economy.
By 1949, the Soviets have figured out the whole nuke thing.
They start making lots of them. We make more lots.
It's clear that if there's ever a war everyone's going to die.
"The nuclear arms race is like two enemies standing waist-deep in gasoline, one with three matches, the other with five"
In the 1950s, the American economy exploded.
We were the only great power not to have been ravaged by WWII, and our industrial might went into consumer goods.
Woman went back home and had babies. Lots of them. The "baby boomers", those born during this time, were the biggest generation in US history.
Just For Fun
This affluence allowed a typical American family to do something crazy- shop for things they didn't need.
Dishwashers, Washing machines, TVs, synthetic clothes, flashier cars- there was lots to buy and lots of money to buy it with.
Advertising on TV and radio led to the first fads- in the late 1950s, American girls bought millions of Hula Hoops.