January 12, 1951 – The end of the second week of the new year. And judging by the reports, the year is starting out pretty the same as it ended 1950. The Korean War was heading for the long haul. Military censors were busy letting broadcasters know there was difference between “retreat” and “withdrawal”. But the end result was the same. As UN forces were pulling back, so came the flood of refugees pouring out of North Korea and flooding South Korea with orphans, wounded and displaced. On this day in 1951 the count was some 250,000 refugees arriving in Pusan, the southernmost port in South Korea and were continuing to arrive at 50,000 per day. UN rescue teams were stationed all along the roads heading south, handing out bowls of warm rice, sprays of DDT and crutches for those who couldn’t walk. Lines of refugees extended for 10-15 miles on most roads heading south. But with all this, the death toll was continuing to rise among the refugees, with children dying taking the biggest portion. The Korean War went on.
Other stories from this one hour recap of events which took place during the week was the disturbing findings that Americans were woefully ill-informed about the goings on in the world around them. With the best communications, the most radios and some of the finest newspapers in the world, and despite the somewhat posturing attitude that Americans were “the best informed in the world’, the sad reality was; no. During a recent address, Senator Robert Taft recalled some rather startling figures on the subject – regarding a Gallup poll on the approval of Secretary of State Dean Acheson’s policies. 31% did not – 20% – 15% didn’t know and 34% never heard of Secretary Acheson Senator Taft went on to say that a good 50% of the American people had no interest in politics unless it affected them. Sad state of affairs, 68 years ago. Imagine now . . .
And Civility in government was a topic of conversation this week in 1951. In the U.S. Senate it was not permitted to call a colleague a liar. Similarly, in the British House Of Commons there was a guidebook containing a long list of insults which one member could not call another. The latest entry in the guidebook contained the epithet “bastard” as the new prohibited word.
And that’s a small slice of what went on this week, the one which ended on January 12, 1951 as reported by Edward R. Murrow and the weekly program Hear It Now from CBS Radio.