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1951

President Truman makes first transcontinental television broadcast

On this day in 1951, President Harry S. Truman’s opening speech before a conference in San Francisco is broadcast across the nation, marking the first time a television program was broadcast from coast to coast. The speech focused on Truman’s acceptance of a treaty that officially ended America’s post-World War II occupation of Japan.

The broadcast, via then-state-of-the-art microwave technology, was picked up by 87 stations in 47 cities, according to CBS. In his remarks, Truman lauded the treaty as one that would help “build a world in which the children of all nations can live together in peace.” As communism was threatening to spread throughout Pacific Rim nations such as Korea and Vietnam, the U.S. recognized the need to create an ally in a strong, democratic Japan.

Since the end of World War II in 1945, Japan had been occupied and closely monitored by the American military under the leadership of General Douglas MacArthur. By 1951, six years later, Truman considered the task of rebuilding Japan complete. Truman praised the Japanese people’s willingness to go along with the plan and expressed his pride in having helped to rebuild Japan as a democracy. Gone was the old militaristic police state; in its place was a country with a new constitution, unions for protecting the rights of laborers and voting rights for women, among many other positive changes.

The Multilateral Treaty of Peace with Japan, as it was ultimately called, was ratified by the U.S. Congress on March 20, 1952.

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