1949 – a year in the dim-distant past for most of us, but a year that, not unlike the annual Christmas Fruitcake, was the gift that kept on giving for years and decades after.
1949 seemed reasonably uneventful by many accounts, but the bigger picture, what was going on in the world, was eventually bound to bite us and would be the thing we thought most about for years to come.
And for the most part, the year passed by with its usual ups and downs and drama and Cold War tensions played out at the United Nations. But in September of 1949, the calm relative complacency of our Post-War world was shattered when it was announced that The Soviet Union had detonated its first Atomic Bomb. How the Russians were able to do that was a mystery; one which had many pointing fingers and hurling accusations. But the deed had been done, and now the Soviet Union had become only the second member of that exclusive and dangerous club, stoking fears that a nuclear war between Russia and the U.S. was now very possible if things got out of hand. The Cold War got very much colder and the comparative safety in knowing that peace through a nuclear deterrent was now very much in jeopardy. And now Britain was asking for more access to nuclear secrets with the possibility of creating their own Atomic Bomb.
The repercussions and reactions were swift. Atomic Energy Commission head David Lilienthal was brought under scrutiny over the swift turnover of employees at the Commission. Lilienthal was called on to answer charges of mismanagement. He defended his position with the Agency and was cleared of any charges, but resigned anyway by the end of the year.
The year did bring a glimmer of hope in the area of the Middle East and the issue of Palestine. Negotiations were proceeding in a positive manner – so positive, that Israel asked for a seat at the U.N. – the request was taken up for a vote and a resolution was passed by a wide margin to allow Israel join.
The year also brought groundbreaking and construction of the UN’s permanent headquarters in Manhattan.
China was looming large in the picture. The takeover of the nation by Communist rebels led by Mao Tse-Tung was complete and the last vestige of Nationalist China resided on the now island-nation of Formosa. The Soviet Union brought up a measure to expel Nationalist China from the UN and allow Communist China a seat at the world governing body.
But that’s just a small sample of what made 1949 an interesting and prophetic year, the last one of the decade. A whole hour was devoted to significant news stories, assembled by that new technological advance; Tape, and that new ability to capture on-the-spot recordings. All broadcast by NBC Radio on December 31, 1949 as part of the Voices And Events weekly news series.