Year
1948

Henry Wallace criticizes Truman’s Cold War policies

Henry Wallace, former vice-president and current Progressive Party presidential candidate, lashes out at the Cold War policies of President Harry S. Truman. Wallace and his supporters were among the few Americans who actively voiced criticisms of America’s Cold War mindset during the late-1940s and 1950s.

Widely admired for his intelligence and integrity, Henry Wallace had served as vice president to Franklin D. Roosevelt from 1941 to 1945. After Harry S. Truman succeeded to the presidency upon Roosevelt’s death in April 1945, Wallace was named secretary of commerce, but Wallace did not get along with Truman. A true liberal, Wallace was harshly critical of what he perceived as Truman’s backtracking from the social welfare legislation of the New Deal era. Wallace was also disturbed about U.S. policy toward the Soviet Union. During World War II, he came to admire the Soviet people for their tenacity and sacrifice. Like Roosevelt, he believed that the United States could work with Soviet leader Joseph Stalin in the postwar world.

After Roosevelt’s death, the new Truman administration adopted a much tougher stance toward the Russians. In March 1948, Wallace appeared as a witness before the Senate Armed Services Committee to criticize Truman’s call for universal military training, a program designed to provide military training for all American males of draft age. Dismissing Truman’s alarming statements about meeting the communist threat as part of a “deliberately created crisis,” Wallace denounced the universal military training program as one that would lead to “death and taxes for the many and very handsome profits for the few.” He implored the Senate and U.S. government to strive for a “peaceful foreign policy.” “If we are to compete with communism,” he declared, “we had better get on the side of the people.”

Wallace’s arguments found only a limited audience in the Cold War America of the late-1940s. In the 1948 presidential election, running as the Progressive Party candidate, he garnered less than 3 percent of the vote. Two years later, Wallace left the Progressive Party after it condemned his statement in support of the United States and United Nations intervention in Korea. In 1952, he wrote an article, “Why I Was Wrong,” in which he declared that his earlier stance in defense of Soviet policies had been mistaken. Nevertheless, his criticism of American Cold War policies kept the spirit of debate and dissent alive in the oppressive atmosphere of Red Scare America. In fact, many of his arguments—particularly the point that America’s massive military spending was crippling its social welfare programs—were raised with renewed vigor during the Vietnam War in the 1960s.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Seward’s Folly

U.S. Secretary of State William H. Seward signs a treaty with Russia for the purchase of Alaska for $7 million. Despite the bargain price of roughly two cents an acre, the Alaskan purchase was ridiculed in Congress and in the press as “Seward’s folly,” “Seward’s icebox,” and ...read more

Violence disrupts first Kansas election

In territorial Kansas’ first election, some 5,000 so-called “Border Ruffians” invade the territory from western Missouri and force the election of a pro-slavery legislature. Although the number of votes cast exceeded the number of eligible voters in the territory, Kansas Governor ...read more

Allies capture Paris

European forces allied against Napoleonic France march triumphantly into Paris, formally ending a decade of French domination on the Continent. Napoleon, one of the greatest military strategists in history, seized control of the French state in 1800, and in 1804 was crowned ...read more

15th Amendment adopted

Following its ratification by the requisite three-fourths of the states, the 15th Amendment, granting African-American men the right to vote, is formally adopted into the U.S. Constitution. Passed by Congress the year before, the amendment reads, “the right of citizens of the ...read more

President Reagan shot

On March 30, 1981, President Ronald Reagan is shot in the chest outside a Washington, D.C., hotel by a deranged drifter named John Hinckley Jr. The president had just finished addressing a labor meeting at the Washington Hilton Hotel and was walking with his entourage to his ...read more

Bill Bradley scores 58 points for Princeton

On this day in 1965, Princeton forward Bill Bradley sets an NCAA men’s basketball record with 58 points in a game against Wichita State. Bradley was the dominant player in college basketball that year and won the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player award. William Warren Bradley ...read more

Reagan is shot

On this day in1981, President Ronald Reagan is shot while leaving the Washington Union Hotel in Washington, D.C. Reagan’s assailant, later identified as 25-year-old John Hinckley Jr., approached the president as he left the hotel after speaking to a union convention, and fired ...read more

Oil workers drown in North Sea

A floating apartment for oil workers in the North Sea collapses, killing 123 people, on this day in 1980. The Alexander Kielland platform housed 208 men who worked on the nearby Edda oil rig in the Ekofisk field, 235 miles east of Dundee, Scotland. Most of the Phillips Petroleum ...read more

Ronald Reagan is shot by John Hinckley, Jr.

John Hinckley, Jr.shoots President Ronald Reagan outside the Hilton Hotel in Washington D.C. just after the president had addressed the Building and Construction Workers Union of the AFL-CIO. Hinckley was armed with a .22 revolver with exploding bullets and was only ten feet away ...read more

Samuel Bell Maxey born

On this day in 1825, Confederate General Samuel Maxey is born in Tompkinsville, Kentucky. During the Civil War, Maxey served in the West and led Native Americans troops in Indian Territory. Maxey attended the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and graduated in 1846, second to ...read more