|◄ MARCH ►|
|◄ 1953 ►|
|President:||Dwight D. Eisenhower (R)|
|Vice-President:||Richard M. Nixon (R)|
|House:||211 (D)||221 (R)||1 (Other)||2 (Vacant)|
|Southern states:||99 (D)||6 (R)||1 (Vacant)|
|Senate:||47 (D)||48 (R)||1 (Other)|
|Southern states:||22 (D)|
|US killed in action,||645||(This month)|
|Korean conflict:||33,188||(Since Jun 28, 1950)|
Mar 4: The Soviet government announces that Premier Joseph Stalin had suffered a stroke on on Sunday night, resulting in paralysis of the right hand and leg, loss of speech and loss of consciousness. The government announcement says that because of the gravity of Stalin’s condition, it will issue daily bulletins on his health. The first indication for Muscovites that something is amiss is when the day’s issues of Pravda and Izvestia fail to appear at kiosks and bulletin boards until about 9 a.m.
Mar 5: Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin dies at 9:50 p.m. at the age of 73. His death won’t be announced until the following morning. Pravda appears the next morning with black borders around its front page, which is devoted entirely to Stalin. An editorial calls for “monolithic unity” and “vigilance,” which Western observers interpret as an indication that Soviet leaders fear that Stalin’s death may lead to higher domestic tensions. No successor is named, but Kremlinologists believe that Georgi Malenkov, chief of the MGB (the forerunner of the KGB), appears to be Stalin’s most likely successor. Moscow has also announced that Nikita S. Khrushchev, Communist party leader for the city and province of Moscow, will head the committee preparing Stalin’s funeral.
Mar 5: The great Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev dies in Moscow at the age of 61. He is regarded as one of the greatest composers of the twentieth century. But because of the official outpouring of grief over Stalin’s death, it’ll be another three days before Pravda gets around to reporting Prokofiev’s death.
Mar 5: Second Lieutenant Franciszek Jarecki, a Polish Air Force pilot, takes advantage of distractions surrounding Stalin’s death and flies his MiG-15 across the Polish border into Denmark and lands at a civilian airfield. He had been flying in maneuvers with another MiG-15 over the Baltic Sea north of Poland when he decided to make a break for it. He lands on a dangerously short grass strip on the island of Bornholm. Poland demands the plane’s immediate release. The Danes point out that the runway is much too short for the plane to safely take off. Meanwhile, Danish and British air force officials immediately began examining the plane to learn some of its closely guarded secrets. This is the first undamaged, armed, and fully operational MiG-15 to fall intact into western hands. More importantly, it is a MiG-15bis, the latest variant of the storied aircraft.
Mar 6: Georgy Malenkov, the former head of the Soviet secret police and a Stalin protégé, is named to succeed Stalin as Premier of the Soviet Union. Four deputy premiers are named: Lavrenti Beria, Vyacheslav Molotov, Jikolai Bulganin, and Lazar Kaganovich. Meanwhile, Stalin’s body lies in state at the Hall of Columns as Muscovites line up to pay their respects.
Mar 9: Stalin is entombed in a mausoleum in the Kremlin walls following a state funeral. Premier Georgy Malenkov gives the eulogy, in which he asserts that while the Soviet Union will continue to pursue a policy of peaceful coexistence. He says that it is a “sacred duty” to strengthen the armed forces and “maintain their readiness against enemy attacks.” He urges Soviets toward an “uncompromising struggle against external and internal enemies. … if anyone attempts to hinder our work, he will be destroyed by the people.”
Mar 9: Rep. Harold Velde (R-IL), the new chairman of the House Un-American Activities Committee, says in a radio interview over the Mutual network that it is “entirely possible” that his committee may investigate alleged Communist infiltration of churches next year. He takes aim at “individual members of the cloth, including some who seem to have devoted more time to politics than they have to the ministry.” Responding to recent criticisms from church leaders over his committee’s tactics, Veld says his investigations would actually be doing churches a favor. “We would not be investigating the churches any more than we are now engaged in investigating the colleges and universities,” he explains. “We are engaged at present in investigating the extent of Communists in the colleges — for the benefit of the colleges themselves and the people — and we would be doing the same, in relation to churches.”
Mar 10: Rep. Harold Velde’s (R-IL) suggestion that his House Un-American Activities Committee may investigate alleged Communist infiltration of churches catches his fellow committee members off guard. Members from both parties denounce the the chairman’s comments made the day before over the Mutual radio network’s Reporters’ Roundup program. Rep. Bernard Kearney (R-NY), the second ranking-Republican says he is “absolutely opposed” to the investigation. Rep. Francis E. Walter (D-PA) says he will demand a resolution barring the chairman from announcing any investigations that had not been approved by a vote of the full committee. Rev. Donald Harrington of the Community Church of New York calls Velde’s comments “an immediate threat to American religious freedom.” Methodist Bishop G. Bromley Oxnam demands to know whether Velde’s comments were aimed at criticisms “recently made by the clergy of methods used in investigations.” But Rev. Dr. W.H. Bordeaux of the American Council of Christian Churches welcomes Velde’s remarks and pledges the full support of the group’s evangelical members. “The searchlight on religious leaders has long been urgently needed,” he says.
Mar 11: The University of Colorado says that they have ousted eight professors due to alleged Communist connections. The University has also revoked the charters of two student organizations. State Sen. Morton G. Wyatt, Jr., (R-Lamar) calls on the University to release the dismissed professors’ names “to clear the names” of others who have voluntarily left the University in the last two years “for reasons which had no connection with un-American activity.”
Mar 17: Millions of Americans tune in early in the morning to see a 16-kiloton nuclear artillery device being detonated at the Nevada Test Site. About 800 representatives from press, radio, television, and Civil Defense watch the test in person, and 1,500 troops from all four branches of the military take part in atomic warfare exercises. A test house, designed to resemble a typical American home, built 3,500 feet from ground zero, collapses. Another one, about 7,500 feet away, remains standing although it is extensively damaged; The dummies inside are crushed under furniture. Plans to take reporters on a tour of both houses are cancelled due to dangerously high radiation levels.
Mar 18: Associate professor Abraham Glasser of Rutgers School of Law tells the House Un-American Activities Committee that he is not now “an actual card-carrying, official member of the Communist party.” He then invokes the Fifth Amendment when he refuses to answer any other questions, but he’s not very quiet about doing so. He scolds and lectures members of the panel, and he demands that two of them be put under oath on the grounds that their questions constitute formal accusations. The New York Times says, “Professor Glasser puffed his pipe and seemed to enjoy the situation.” Rutgers will suspend him the next day. Rutgers has already suspended two other professors for refusing to cooperate with the Senate Internal Security subcommittee.
Mar 19: President Dwight D. Eisenhower strongly rejects Rep. Harold Velde’s (R-IL) suggestion that the House Un-American Activities Committee look into alleged Communist infiltration of American churches. But Velde, who had been trying to walk back his comments of March 9, re-stokes the controversy when he says that his mail is running 25-to-1 in favor of such an investigation. “People all over the nation have voiced an overwhelming interest in favor of such an investigation and demand the committee’s immediate attention to this particular problem.”
Mar 19: Richard E. Combs, chief counsel of the California Senate Committee on Un-American Activities, says that one hundred faculty members of California schools and colleges have been removed since last June for alleged Communist activities or affiliations. A similar number have been blocked from being hired as teachers. Combs makes these revelations while testifying before the U.S. Senate Internal Security subcommittee.
Mar 20: A Transocean Airlines DC-4 crashes into a muddy field in Alvarado, California, about 12 miles south of Oakland Airport. Thirty Air Force members and the five-person crew are killed. The flight is arriving from Roswell, New Mexico, for a refueling stop and crew change before continuing on to Hawaii and Guam. As the plane begins its approach to Oakland Airport, it suddenly rolls to the right and strikes the ground with its right wingtip, cartwheels and explodes. One witness says, “I saw men with their clothes on fire — some on the ground — some trying to get up, staggering, falling back into the flames.” No official cause is determined, but it is believed that ice may have accumulated on the plane’s control surfaces, which may have become immobilized. Transocean is the world’s largest nonscheduled airline, with extensive contracts with the U.S. military.
Mar 21: The Soviet Union announces that Premier Georgy Malenkov has relinquished his post as secretary of the Communist Party. The action allegedly occurs at Malenkov’s request. A new five-member Secretariat of the Communist party is named to take Malenkov’s place in the party. Kremlinologists notice that Nikita Khrushchev’s name appears first, out of alphabetical order, in the new Party Secretariat list, which seems to indicate that he is the party boss. Malenkov retains his position as Premier, making him the formal head of government. But because Stalin had held both positions of Premier and Party Secretary, it now appears that Malenkov has not consolidated his power and that the Soviet Union will be ruled by some sort of a collective leadership arrangement.
Mar 23: The House Un-American Activities Committee, armed with eighty subpoenas, brings its hearings to Los Angeles over the next four weeks. The Committee’s anticipated focus on radio and television has already prompted the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists to say they will blacklist any member who refuses to disclose past or present Communist connections. Local teachers and professors will also be held under the magnifying glass. This is HUAC’s second trip to Southern California. They were last here in September and October. The hearings beginning this week will be broadcast by local television stations.
Mar 24: Queen Mary, grandmother of Queen Elizabeth II and widow of King George V, dies in her sleep at 10:20 in the evening, just a few weeks shy of her eighty-sixth birthday. Parliament adjourns in official mourning. The BBC broadcasts a special bulletin at 11:25, and closes down shortly after. The BBC breaks its radio silence in fifteen-minute intervals with a repeat of the announcement and a tolling of bells. London night clubs and theaters close early.
Mar 26: What good is a Hollywood blacklist if some of the people on the list can still find work? That’s the question before the House Un-American Activities Committee as they grill Simon Lazarus during their fourth day of televised hearings in Los Angeles. Lazarus, a suburban cinema owner, is the principal backer of the controversial left-wing labor film Salt of the Earth. Blacklisted Hollywood studio workers, in collaboration with the International Union of Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers, have been filming the independent production near Silver City, New Mexico. HUAC wants to know where all of that money is coming from. Lazarus takes the Fifth, and refuses to answer questions about finances or whether he had ever been a member of the Communist Party. Rep. Donald Jackson (R-CA) calls Lazarus’s refusal to answer an “obvious abuse” of the constitutional protection against self-incrimination. Salt of the Earth will be released in 1954, to positive reviews from the New York Times. But only twelve theaters in the U.S. will exhibit the film.
Mar 26: Dr. Jonas E. Salk of the University of Pittsburgh announces before a meeting of the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis, in a statement carried live by CBS radio, that his polio vaccine has been found to provide protection against the three main polio viruses. “Although the results obtained in these studies is encouraging,” says Dr. Salk, “they should not be interpreted to indicate that a practical vaccine is now at hand. However it does appear that at least one course of further investigation is clear. It will now be necessary to establish precisely the limits within which the effects here described can be reproduced with certainty.” He estimates that it may take another one to three years before the vaccine can be made available for general use. The vaccine will become available in 1955.
Mar 27: Mau Mau insurgents kill about 150 Kikuyu tribe members in Lari, near Nairobi, Kenya. The massacre is directed against all Kikuyu members who are loyal to the British colonial government, either as government employees or as members of the Home Guard. The Mau Mau also attack and overwhelm a police station in Naivasha, and seize a large quantity of arms and ammunition.
Mar 27: Political opponents of Iranian Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh are lining up behind retired Gen. Fazollah Zahedi, who had been the Interior Minister in Mossadegh’s first cabinet. Mossadegh’s popularity has declined with the nation’s economy, and his exercise of dictatorial powers has alienated many of his former supporters. In addition, his abortive confrontation with the Shah in February has earned the enmity of royalists, while his willingness to allow the outlawed Tudeh (Communist) party to hold demonstrations is alarms many Islamists. His opponents sense weakness, and are now openly discussing likely successors.
Mar 28: The Chinese and North Koreans finally accept a longstanding U.N. proposal for an immediate exchange of sick and wounded prisoners of war. The Communists also suggest that this should lead to the resumption of truce talks, which have been suspended since July. The talks were suspended due to a deadlock over prisoner exchanges. The North Koreans and Chinese had insisted on the forced repatriation of all North Korean and Chinese prisoners of war regardless of whether the POWs want to return to Communist territory. The U.N. has repeatedly said that it will never agree to forced repatriations, and broke off talks when it became clear that the Communist negotiators wouldn’t budge.
Mar 28: No one, not matter how great or how small, is immune from being called before the House Un-American Activities Committee. The HUAC is holding televised hearings in Los Angeles to look into alleged Communism in the movie industry. But they also find time to question six area teachers. Abraham Minkus, a sixth-grade Los Angeles school teacher, is one of three who agrees to testify before the television cameras. (The others will testify in closed-door hearings later.) Through several hours, Minkus refuses to answer yes or no to any of the committee’s questions. He cites the First, Fifth, Ninth and Tenth Amendments to the Constitution in refusing to answer affirmatively or negatively. As a school teacher and state employee, he says he has already taken all of the loyalty oaths needed for employment, and the committee has no constitutional right to go beyond state requirements. Finally, a frustrated Rep. Kit Clardy (R-MI) says Minkus is “in contempt of Congress and I expect to take appropriate action.” The L.A. school board takes immediate steps to fire Minkus. Glendale teacher Leroy T. Herndon, Jr., testifies and names several other teachers as alleged Communists. Many of those teachers will lose their jobs over the next few weeks.
Mar 31: The Atomic Energy Commission announces that the main portion of the “atomic engine” to be installed in the USS Nautilus has become operational at a test laboratory in Idaho. The Nautilus is under construction at Groton, Connecticut and will be launched in 1954.