|◄ MARCH ►|
|◄ 1950 ►|
|President:||Harry S Truman (D)|
|Vice-President:||Alben W. Barkley (D)|
|House:||262 (D)||169 (R)||2 (Other)||2 (Vacant)|
|Southern states:||102 (D)||2 (R)||1 (Vacant)|
|Senate:||54 (D)||42 (R)|
|Southern states:||22 (D)|
Mar 1: Klaus Fuchs, a German physicist who had fled the Nazis in 1933 to became a British citizen and work on early British atomic bomb projects and the Manhattan Project, is convicted in London on charges that he stole top secret information from Britain and the U.S. and passed it on to the Soviet Union. He is sentenced to fourteen years in prison, the maximum allowed under British law for simple treason. (His crime did not qualify for high treason.) He will serve a little more than nine years. After his release in 1959, he will emigrate to East Germany where he will continue his nuclear research at Rossendorf.
Mar 3: John L. Lewis, president of the United Mine Workers, and representatives of Northern, Western, and “captive” (steel-company owned) coal mines achieve a breakthrough in talks aimed at ending the eight month-long coal strike that has brought massive cutbacks to rail service and steel production across the country. The agreement comes only a few hours after President Truman asks Congress for authority to seize the closed mines. The tentative agreement calls for a 70¢ raise to $14.75 per day (about $160 today).
Mar 3: A group of non-tenured faculty members at the University of California vote 300 to 1 to quit en masse if any member of the group is dismissed for refusing to sign the loyalty oath required by the Board of Regents. The group acknowledges its “extreme vulnerability” because of lack of tenure, but points out “that academic freedom means that a scholar is to be judged solely on his professional competence and performance in the academic field.” The regents’ required loyalty oath is “in direct conflict with the principles of academic freedom and detrimental to the cause of free education everywhere.” The regents have imposed an April 30 deadline for signing the oath.
Mar 6: With the new agreement between the United Mine Workers and coal mine operators signed on Sunday, miners return to work. Crippled industries, schools, hospitals, power companies and railroads begin preparations for returning to full operations as soon as the coal trains resume their deliveries. On Saturday, carnival-like celebrations broke out in several communities in Western Pennsylvania, eastern Ohio, West Virginia and Kentucky as miners, steelworkers and railroad workers looked forward to returning to work and receiving a regular paycheck again. That same day, and in anticipation of the strike’s end, the Interstate Commerce Commission canceled a new order that would have curtailed coal-burning passenger trains by 35 percent and regular freight by 60 percent.
Mar 7: A Northwest Orient airliner crashes in Minneapolis while trying to land during a snowstorm. The pilot of the Martin 2-0-2 airliner loses visual sight of the ground due to the blowing snow and clips a flagpole. The pilot is able to pull the plain up and circle around for another approach when part of the left wing falls off and the plane dives into a house. All ten passengers and three crew members are killed, along with two two children sleeping in their bedrooms inside the home.
Mar 8: Sen. Joseph McCarthy (R-WI) accuses Dorothy Kenyon, a former municipal judge and a recent State Department official at the United Nations, of having been “affiliated with at least twenty-eight Communist-front organizations.” Kenyon calls McCarthy “an unmitigated liar” and says, “Sen. McCarthy is a coward to take shelter in the cloak of Congressional immunity.” McCarthy also accuses Ambassador-at-large Dr. Phillip C. Jessup, “a gentleman now formulating top flight policy in the Far East” of holding “an unusual affinity… for Communist causes.” McCarthy lobs these charges before a special Senate investigations subcommittee chaired by Sen. Millard E. Tydings (D-MD), which is tasked to look into the charges McCarthy made on the Senate Floor on February 20.
Mar 9: Iraq enacts its Law of Denaturalization, giving its Jewish citizens one year to legally emigrate on the condition that they surrender their Iraqi citizenship and never return. Almost 124,000 people, or 90% of the Jewish population, will leave Iraq for Israel.
Mar 11: Deputy Undersecretary of State John Peurifoy challenges Sen. Joseph McCarthy to provide evidence to support McCarthy’s allegations of Communists in the State Department. “I think that Senator McCarthy owes it to the country to make available… any evidence which he has that involves the loyalty of persons in the Department of State, whether it be the 205 that he said were Communists in Wheeling, the 57 that he said were card-carrying Communists in Salt Lake City, the four that he said weren’t Communists at all in Reno, the 81 that he mentioned on the floor of the Senate, or just one.”
Mar 12: Belgians go to the polls, hoping to finally resolve the Royal Question: Should exiled King Leopold III be allowed to return to the throne? When Germany invaded Belgium in 1940, King Leopold surrendered to the Nazis rather than join his government in exile to continue the fight. When the government returned to Brussels in 1945, it declared Leopold “unable to rule” after Leopold refused to declare his support for the Allies. Leopold’s brother, the quiet and well-regarded Prince Charles, has been ruling Belgium as Regent. In 1949, the Social Christian (Catholic) Party, which draws its support mainly from the Dutch-speaking, agricultural Flanders region where Leopold remains popular, won a bare majority in Parliament, displacing the minority government of Socialist Paul-Henri Spaak. The new government, under Prime Minister Gaston Eyskens, called a non-binding referendum to decide whether to invite the King to return. The Socialists, who draw their support mainly from the wealthier industrial belt of Wallonia, staunchly oppose both his return and the referendum itself. Spaak predicted that Leopold would carry Flanders and lose Wallonia, and therefore disrupt the careful political balance that governments have always heeded between the two regions. Predicts Spaalk, “The government would not only have on its hands the King’s abdication or return, it would also have to appease the anger, acerbity and rancor of Flanders or Wallonia.” His prediction was right. Nationwide, 57% vote for the King’s return, with majorities in seven of the nine provinces voting yes. But the vote is split along regional lines: only 42% of Walloons support his return while 72% of Flemish vote yes. Worse, within Wallonia’s northern industrial belt of Hainaut, Liège, and Namur provinces, along with the Walloon portion of Brabant, support for Leopold in some arrondissements is as low as 31%. In Liège’s eponymous arrondissement, only 35% of voters call for Leopold’s return, while just over the Walloon-Flemish line in Limburg’s Tongeren-Maaseik arrondissement, 84% of voters back the King. Over the next four months, the government’s attempt to bring Leopold back to Brussels despite this sharp geographical divide will provoke the country’s worst crisis since World War II and threaten to plunge Belgium into civil war.
Mar 12: Seventy-five passengers and five crew members are killed in the world’s worst air disaster to date when a chartered Avro 688 Tudor V carrying rugby fans on a return trip from Belfast crashes while trying to land at Llandow aerodrome, fifteen miles west of Cardiff in South Wales. The airliner is carrying seventy-eight passengers, six more than its normal maximum load, as it approaches the runway at Llandow at an abnormally low altitude. The pilot pulls the plane up, but the aircraft stalls as the nose rises 35 degrees to vertical. The plane turns clockwise and crashes onto a field within sight of friends and family awaiting the fans’ return. Three passengers survive: two who were sitting in added seats bolted onto the tail section, and a third who was in the lavatory at the time of the crash. The Ministry of Civil Aviation will determine that the probable cause of the accident was the added seats in the aircraft’s rear, which moved the center of gravity further back and reduced the effectiveness of the elevators.
Mar 13: Sen. Joseph McCarthy accuses State Department official Haldore E. Hanson of being on “a mission to communize the world … a burning all-consuming mission (that) has raised him from a penniless operator of a Communist magazine in Peiping in the middle Thirties to one of the architects of our foreign policy in the State Department today.” Hanson, a former war correspondent who covered the Chinese civil war and the invasion of China by Japan, is an assistant director of the Point Four development and recovery program for Asia. McCarthy’s sole evidence against Hanson consists of very brief excerpts from Hanson’s 1939 book Humane Endeavor: The Story of the China War, which McCarthy claims is evidence of Hanson’s “hero worship” of the communists. McCarthy also lobs charges against Owen Lattimore, who is director of the Walter Hines Page School of International Relations at Johns Hopkins University and a frequent consultant to the State Department on Far East policy. McCarthy describes Lattimore as “a policy-making State Department attaché collaborating with those who have sworn to destroy the nation by force of violence.” Lattimore is currently out of the country, heading a U.N mission evaluating technical and economic assistance in remote regions of Afghanistan. Cut off from communications, Lattimore won’t learn of McCarthy’s charges until March 24.
Mar 14: Dorothy Kenyon, a former municipal judge and a recent State Department official at the United Nations, denies under oath before the Tydings Senate Subcommittee that she has ever had “any connection of any kind with communism or its adherents.” She produces documentary evidence to refute charges made by Sen. Joseph McCarthy (R-WI) on March 8, and points to public statements she had made throughout her career that were critical of Soviet policies, especially when the Soviet Union allied with Nazi Germany to divide Poland in 1939. McCarthy decides that he has another important engagement and is not present during Kenyon’s testimony. The only Republican present to hear Kenyon’s testimony, Sen. Bourke Hickenlooper (R-IA), concedes that he is convinced that Kenyon is innocent of McCarthy’s charges. Incredibly, and to the guffaws of Democrats on the panel, Hickenlooper tries to argue that, in his interpretation, McCarthy hadn’t charged her with subversion. Democrats respond that the whole point of the subcommittee’s work is to investigate McCarthy’s charges of Communists in the State Department. If he didn’t mean to accuse Kenyon of being one of them, Democrats argue, he would not have brought her name up.
Mar 15: The deadline for American taxpayers to file their income tax returns is midnight tonight. A typical household’s annual income is about $3,100 (about $32,800 today). The standard deduction is 10% of income, up to $1,000 (about $10,600 today). The personal exemption is $600 per person (about $5,300 today). This means that a typical family of four would pay about $65 (less than $700 today), and a family of five would pay virtually no taxes. The lowest tax rate is 20% for those whose net income after exemptions and deductions is less than $2,000 (about $21,300 today). The top marginal tax rate is 91% for those making more than $200,000 (about $2.1 million today), but the total bill is capped at a maximum of 72% of total income. The same tax brackets apply to single taxpayers, heads of households, and married couples filing separately. Married couples filing jointly get a special break beginning this year. Their marginal tax rates are determined by the bracket corresponding to half of their taxable income.
Mar 17: A quarter of a million Belgian workers go out on general strike in protest against efforts to restore exiled King Leopold III to the throne. The strike, which was called by Socialist trade union leaders, is confined mainly to the industrial French-speaking Wallonia region, which voted 58% against the King’s return last Sunday. In conservative, agricultural Dutch-speaking Flanders, 72% voted for his return. The strikes were originally meant to last twenty-four hours as a warning demonstration, but a Socialist Trade Union Federation official says it will continue “until Wallonia is liberated from the domination of the Flemish clericals who want Leopold back on the throne.” Leopold, who is in exile in Switzerland, urges Parliament to heed the “unquestionable majority” and end the regency of his brother, Prince Charles.
Mar 18: The Belgian government of Gaston Eyskens collapses when the Liberals, who hold the balance of power, hold firm on their pre-referendum promise to oppose King Leopold’s return unless he got more than half of the vote in each of the three regions: Flanders, Wallonia and Brussels. Leopold won 57% nationwide, but he failed to muster a majority in Wallonia and Brussels.
Mar 20: U.S. Ambassador at Large Philip C. Jessup accuses Sen. Joseph McCarthy (R-WI) of making “false and irresponsible” charges that show a “shocking disregard” for the national interest and harms the U.S.’s foreign relations. Jessup makes this statement while testifying before the Tydings Senate subcommittee charged with investigating McCarthy’s claims of Communists in the State Department. McCarthy had told the panel on March 8 that Jessup held “an unusual affinity with Communist causes.” Jessup brought before the panel documentation and past statements showing his clear opposition to Communism. He also has letters of support from Gens. George C. Marshall and Dwight D. Eisenhower.
Mar 21: Columnist George E. Sokolsky says homosexuals are “advantageously stationed” in the State Department. The nationally-syndicated columnist, a supporter and mentor of Sen. McCarthy, writes: “A charge that 91 employees of the State Department were dismissed for being homosexuals passes with little excitement. …Perhaps the reason is that the word, homosexual, is considered bad. It is not the word that is bad; it is the consequences of the deed that lay the individual open to blackmail. He is ashamed; he is frightened; he has become accustomed to secrecy, conspiracy, lying. He is always subject to blackmail. … A liar advantageously stationed; a blackmailed creature in a sensitive spot; a frightened soul, caught in the web of conspiracy, can produce such a result as the conquest of China by Soviet Russia by consent. There is the menace.”
Mar 21: Sen. Joseph McCarthy (R-WI) tells reporters that he will soon name a man “now connected” with the State Department who is “the top Russian espionage agent in this country.” McCarthy says, “This man I’m talking about was (Alger) Hiss’s onetime boss in the espionage ring. He has a desk in the State Department and has access to the files — or at least he had until four or five weeks ago .” McCarthy confidently adds: “1 am willing to stand or fall on this one. If I am shown to be wrong on this, I think the subcommittee would be justified in not taking my other cases too seriously.” McCarthy says this before going into a meeting of a Senate subcommittee tasked with investigating McCarthy’s charges of Communists in the State Department. Subcommittee chairman Sen. Millard Tydings (D-MD) immediately calls the committee into a closed session. Tydings later tells reporters that McCarthy gave the committee the name. Tydings says McCarthy offered no direct evidence, but referred the subcommittee to “certain sources where he said he believed the evidence might be obtained.”
Mar 23: Robert C. Ruark’s column warns of homosexuals “traveling in packs.” The Scripps-Howard columnist writes that the ninety-one homosexuals mentioned by State Department official John Peurofoy all were part of just one such pack: “I know the story of the highly-placed State Department executive who crowded the lists with so many homosexuals that 91 resignations of firings have recently resulted. His appointees surrounded themselves with their appointees, and on down the line. What you have finally is a corroded organization which can be bribed, bulled or blackmailed in the easiest possible fashion. …A great deal of the trouble we are in, internationally, can be laid to the tolerance of that kind of weakness in a service which should be above reproach.”
Mar 23: The film All the Kings Men takes three of the top Oscars at the Academy Awards, held at the RKO Pantages Theatre in Hollywood. The film wins the Best Motion Picture award, Broderick Crawford wins Best Actor, and Mercedes McCambridge wins Best Supporting Actress. Olivia de Havilland adds a second Oscar to her mantle when she wins Best Actress for her role in The Heiress. The Best Supporting Actor goes to Dean Jagger in Twelve O’Clock High. Joseph Mankiewicz wins two Oscars, for Best Director and Best Screenplay, for A Letter to Three Wives.
Mar 24: Robert C. Ruark follows up with “a drunk, a homosexual, and a flagrant fool.” Ruark follows his March 23 article with a tale of a trip to Africa aboard a ship full of State Department employees. “This was our delegation — a drunk, a homosexual, and a flagrant fool. … When a drunk is in charge of one set of papers and a homosexual is in charge of another and the fool has reign over still another, you don’t really need spies. Any half-stupid private detective, for ten bucks a day, can catch any or all in compromise, and shake him for whatever you wish.” Sen. Joseph McCarthy is impressed enough with this column to place it into the Congressional Record. Populist Congressman Clare Hoffman (R-MI), a McCarthy ally in the House, calls for an investigation into Ruark’s charges.
Mar 24: Westbrook Pegler says homosexuals in government weren’t a problem before FDR. Right-wing columnist Westbrook Pegler has long been a nasty critic of FDR and the New Deal. Pegler is so right wing that in the 1960s he will write for the John Birch Society, the White Christian Council and the anti-Semitic Christian Crusade. But in the 1950s his column is distributed by King Features to more than 120 papers across the country. In today’s column, he writes: “In the history of the United States, no situation ever existed before the long Roosevelt regime which was even comparable to that which was revealed recently by John E. Peurifoy … It is common knowledge that such persons have psychic ways of seeking one another. They flock together and are secretive and without honor. …. No reason occurs why the State Department should have been so heavily contaminated and others should not have been equally corrupt. There is no reason to assume, in the absence of proof, that the 91 who were eliminated from the State Department were, in the English phrase, ‘the lot of them.’ Others may be there still.
Mar 24: The Senate subcommittee investigating Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s charges of Communist infiltration in the State Department is given what FBI director J. Edgar Hoover describes as a complete analysis of confidential files about the man who Sen. Joseph McCarthy (R-WI) called “”the top Russian espionage agent.” Hoover tells the closed session that there is nothing in the files to support McCarthy’s charges. Hoover also says that to release the files themselves would result in the “complete collapse” of FBI procedures that require complete confidentiality from informants. He also says that files often included unproven and false rumors.
Mar 24: Up to half a million workers in the Walloon provinces of Belgium go on a twenty-four hour general strike in a demonstration against the return of exiled King Leopold III. In Brussels, work goes on more or less as usual, except for a riot by students that injures about twenty-five. Efforts to form a new government fail. The only way to form a government would be for an alliance of all-Catholic parties, which party leaders fear would cause even more strife between Wallonia’s powerful Socialists and the more conservative and agricultural Flanders.
Mar 26: Columnist Drew Pearson reveals on his radio program that the State Department adviser who McCarthy accused of being “the top Russian espionage agent” in the U.S. is Johns Hopkins University professor Owen Lattimore. Members of the Senate subcommittee confirm the identification.
Mar 27: Owen Lattimore, who Sen. Joseph McCarthy accused of being “the top Russian espionage agent” in the U.S., finally receives word about McCarthy’s charges. He has been spending several weeks heading a U.N. mission to discuss technical and economic assistance in Afghanistan, and has been out of direct communication with the West. Upon receiving word about McCarthy’s accusations, Lattimore cables the Associated Press: “McCarthy’s off record rantings pure moonshine. Delighted his whole case rests on me as this means he will fall flat on face. Exactly what he has said on record unknown here so cannot reply in detail but will be home in a few days and will contact you then.”
Mar 28: State Department foreign aid official Haldore E. Hanson accuses Sen. Joseph McCarthy (R-WI) of “hatemongering” and spreading “base and loose charges” behind the protection of Congressional immunity. Two weeks earlier, McCarthy accused Hanson of having “an all-consuming mission” to “communize the world.” Speaking before a Senate investigations subcommittee chaired by Sen. Millard Tydings (D-MD), Hanson offers a challenge: “If Sen. McCarthy will say directly what he has insinuated, if he will call me a Communist in that kind of direct American English which Midwesterners are accustomed to using, and say it without benefit of immunity, I assure him that he will be called upon to answer to me in a court of justice.” Hanson added, “I wish to state now, under oath, that I am not a Communist. I have never been a Communist. I have never belonged to an organization cited by the Attorney General as being a Communist-front organization.” Hanson discloses that because of McCarthy’s charges against him, his neighbors in Virginia have branded him as “a Russian spy” and are circulating a petition “calling my family undesirable and asking us to get out of the community.”
Mar 31: Rep. Arthur L. Miller gives “the putrid facts” about homosexuality. During a debate to fund the Marshal Plan through 1951, Rep. Miller (R-NE) proposes an amendment prohibiting homosexuals from working in the Economic Cooperation Administration (ECA), the agency tasked with administering the plan. Miller, a physician by training, defends his amendment in a statement stripping “the fetid, stinking flesh off of this skeleton of homosexuality.” He says: “There are places in Washington where they gather for the purpose of sex orgies, where they worship at the cesspool and flesh pots of iniquity. There is a restaurant downtown where you will find male prostitutes. … Those people like to be known to each other. They have signs used on streetcars and in public places to call attention to others of like mind. Their rug and fairy parties are elaborate. … [T]here is some physical danger to anyone exposing all of the details and nastiness of homosexuality, because some of these people are dangerous. They will go to any limit.” His amendment will fail. Four days later, he will grumble to the house that “yesterday a taxicab driver told me that the homosexuals had quite a celebration on Saturday and Sunday nights. They were celebrating the green light they thought they received from this House.”
Mar 31: Gerard Piel, editor of Scientific American, reveals that the Atomic Energy Commission ordered the burning of 3,000 copies of the April issue because of an article about the hydrogen bomb. On March 15, the commission requested that about half of the article be withheld from publication, but the issue was already on the presses. Piel noted that the material had been widely published here and abroad, and had either been declassified or had never been classified. “Strict compliance with the commission’s policies would mean that we could not teach physics,” said Piel. In the end, only a fraction of one column was excised, and the revised issue went to press.
Mar 31: Residents of Hot Springs, New Mexico, vote overwhelmingly, 1,294 to 295, to change the town’s name to Truth or Consequences. The change comes after Ralph Edwards, host of the popular NBC radio program announces that he will host the show’s tenth anniversary program in the first town that renames itself after the show.