Little Bits of History

Marshall Plan

Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 3, 2014
Harry S Truman signing the Marshall Plan

Harry S Truman signing the Marshall Plan

April 3, 1948: President Harry S Truman signs the Marshall Plan. Officially known at the European Recovery Program or ERP, it was a bid to help Europe recover from the devastation caused by World War II. The hope was to help rebuild Europe and stop or hinder the spread of Soviet Communism.  The plan was developed at a meeting of affected European states which took place in June 1947. Aid was also offered to the Soviet Union and her allies, but it would have given control to the US over their economies and so it was declined. The plan was in operation for four years.

Looking at the obstacles encountered as post-war Europe struggled to recover, the ERP focused funding on problematic areas. The US contributed $15 billion (~ $258 billion in today’s money) to help with reconstruction. This was on top of the $15 billion spent between the end of the war and the beginning of the plan’s implementation. The goal was to lead Europe into the future and not just to deal with the destruction caused by the war. Efforts were put into modernizing European business and industrial practices using high-efficiency American models. There was also a removal or reduction of artificial trade barriers and  the hope for instilling a sense of self-reliance.

The myriad bombing runs of World War II had devastated many large cities and their industrial facilities. Trade flow had been severely impacted by both the war effort and the altered political climate of the war years. Food shortages were particularly severe after an extraordinarily harsh winter in 1946-47. The transportation infrastructure was left in a shambles as railways, bridges, and docks had been major air strike targets. Even though many small towns and villages had not been impacted by the fighting itself, they were left isolated by the no longer passable roads. The only nations with very limited infrastructure damage due to the war were Australia, Canada, South Africa, and the US.

Because accepting American aid also meant the US had some control over the monies being spent, the Soviets were not willing to accept the terms. Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov wanted to take a punitive stance against Germany and the US was willing to help rebuild. This ideological difference led to further complications. Stalin was open to the offer and went into talks until he heard the terms included conditions of economic cooperation and would include Germany. At that point he did his best to kill the Plan. His next worry was that it would help solidify a split between East and West Europe and that the Eastern Bloc countries would have to be made to reject the offer of help. He did manage to keep countries under his influence to deny the offer of aid.

The modern system of the division of labor upon which the exchange of products is based is in danger of breaking down. . . .

Aside from the demoralizing effect on the world at large and the possibilities of disturbances arising as a result of the desperation of the people concerned, the consequences to the economy of the United States should be apparent to all.

It is logical that the United States should do whatever it is able to do to assist in the return of normal economic health to the world, without which there can be no political stability and no assured peace. Our policy is not directed against any country, but against hunger, poverty, desperation and chaos.

Any government that is willing to assist in recovery will find full co-operation on the part of the USA. Its purpose should be the revival of a working economy in the world so as to permit the emergence of political and social conditions in which free institutions can exist. – speech from Secretary of State George Marshall

Also on this day: A new boxing record set – In 1936, a new record for shortest fight.
Cunard Line – In 1929, the shipping company announced a new ship to be built.
Speedy Snail Mail – In 1860, The Pony Express began service.
 Old Smokey – In 1936, Bruno Hauptmann was executed.

Majestic 12

Posted in History by patriciahysell on September 24, 2013
Harry S Truman

Harry S Truman

September 24, 1947: Harry S Truman did not form a secret society. On July 7, 1947 something crashed in the desert near Roswell, New Mexico. Personnel from Roswell Army Air Field recovered debris from a top-secret research balloon – or an alien spacecraft with possible crew members alive and well. Unidentified Flying Objects (UFO) have been sighted since mankind first looked up into the sky. Some were comets, meteors, or unknown and rarely visible planets. Others were omens, angels, and various other-worldly phenomenons.

It is alleged that the President formed a secret committee comprised of military leaders, government officials, and of course, scientists. Their mission was to gather information and protect the nation from alien harm. It is suggested that Dr. Vannevar Bush and Secretary of Defense James Forrestal were the driving force behind the group’s origin. The 12 core members were all deceased by the time the Majestic 12 was revealed by astute researchers gaining access to the “Top Secret” papers.

The 12 members were said to be helped by other noted scientist of the time – e.g. Oppenheimer, Einstein, and von Braun. The men listed as members of the group did look into various claims of UFO sightings. Several books were written – giving evidence supporting Earthlings creativity and increasing scientific knowledge, but no known contact with alien life forms. They were men who were responsible for the country’s safety and as the arms and space race blossomed, were keenly aware of the disturbances. It was their job to watch the skies (and other possible routes for invasion).

At the time of the “discovery” there was an outcry from the public of government cover-up. Supporting documentation was produced by Jamie Shandera (a ufologist) and William Moore (Roswell researcher). Further investigation by outsiders revealed Moore’s involvement in trying to procure bogus documentation supporting alien existence from various sources – from nuclear physicist Stanton T. Friedman to National Enquirer reporter Bob Pratt. The FBI has examined all documentation provided and due to formatting inconsistencies and errors with dating, have labeled them fraudulent.

“It’s a very typical UFO sighting. Carter said it changed color and, in the physical report, described it as being about the size of the moon. And he saw it with about twenty-five other people.” – Dwight Schultz

“I don’t mind UFO’s and ghost stories, it’s just that I tend to give value to the storyteller rather than to the story itself.” – Robert Stack

“I’ll tell you, too, that’s starting to depress me about UFO’s, about the fact that they cross galaxies, or wherever they come from to visit us, and always end up in places like Fife, Alabama. Maybe these are not super-intelligent beings, man.” – Bill Hicks

“I don’t believe in the UFO mythology but I find it fascinating. Episodically, I find it fascinating.” – Ken MacLeod

This article first appeared at in 2009. Editor’s update: UFO conspiracy theories argue that evidence of unidentified flying objects as well as extraterrestrial visitors are being suppressed by government entities globally. The “proof” for these accusations is often totally nonexistent or at best very thin. The Committee for Skeptical Inquiry does not subscribe to a cover-up. However, there are some well-credentialed people who do claim there has been a cover-up of intentional dismissal on the subject of UFOs and extraterrestrial visits, at least by the US government. There have been claims that the White House has suppressed, ignored, or marginalized reports from generals, pilots, and other government officials. Some claim this is to facilitate the abduction of humans by the aliens.

Also on this day: Powerful Serve; Best Backhand – In 1938, John Donald Budge became the first tennis player to win the Grand Slam of tennis.
Devil’s Tower – In 1906, this landmark was declared a National Monument.
Byzantine – In 1180, Manuel I Komnenos died.

When Harry Met Oscar (and Griselio)

Posted in History by patriciahysell on November 1, 2011

Griselio Torresola

November 1, 1950: President Harry S Truman survives an assassination attempt. In the 1940s, Puerto Rico was fighting against the US and struggling for independence. Puerto Rican nationalists were appalled by the Ponce Massacre as well as the jailing of Pedro Albizu Campos, a leader who advocated for violent resistance. While the status of the island was to move from non-autonomous territory to partially self-governed commonwealth, nationalists wanted full independence.

Griselio Torresola and Oscar Collazo both believed in the cause with the entire Torresola family involved in the efforts and Collazo participating in freedom efforts all his life. The two men met while they were in New York City and became friends. They learned of the failed Jayuya Uprising on October 28. During this bid for freedom, Torresola’s sister was injured and his brother was arrested. The two men in New York decided to kill President Truman to bring the world’s attention to the plight of Puerto Rico.

At the time, the President was staying at Blair House, an official state guest house used by the President of the United States. Usually occupied by visitors of the President, Truman was staying at the house when the two Puerto Ricans came for him. As they approached from different directions, both men pulled guns and began shooting. Torresola killed Officer Leslie W. Coffett. Collazo was injured but survived, Torresola was killed. Neither man ever gained entrance to Blair House and Truman was not harmed. Collazo was sentenced to death, but the sentence was later commuted to life in prison.

There have been many failed assassination attempts on sitting Presidents of the US. Andrew Jackson survived the first attempt made on a President’s life in 1835. Abraham Lincoln survived the first and second attempts on his life in 1861 and 1864 but eventually was assassinated in 1865. Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt both survived. John Kennedy survived an attempt on his life before actually being inaugurated. Nixon, Ford, Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Clinton, and George W. Bush all managed to elude their assassination attempts.

“A bureaucrat is a Democrat who holds some office that a Republican wants.”

“A politician is a man who understands government. A statesman is a politician who’s been dead for 15 years.”

“A President needs political understanding to run the government, but he may be elected without it.”

“Always be sincere, even if you don’t mean it.” – all from Harry S Truman

Also on this day:
Michigan’s Bridge – In 1957, Mackinac Bridge opened.
Saint Nick – In 1894, Tsar Nicholas II began his reign.