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1945

The first casualty of the Cold War

On this day in 1945, John Birch, an American missionary to China before the war and a captain in the Army during the war, is killed by Chinese communists days after the surrender of Japan, for no apparent reason.

After America had entered the war, Birch, a Baptist missionary already in China, was made a liaison between American and Chinese forces fighting the Japanese. But on August 25, Birch, commanding an American Special Services team, was ordered to halt by Chinese communist troops. A scuffle ensued, and Birch was shot dead.

In the 1950s, Robert Welch would create a right-wing, anticommunist organization called the John Birch Society. For Welch, Birch was “the first casualty in the Third World War between Communists and the ever-shrinking Free World.”

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