Year
1950
Month Day
April 14

President Truman receives NSC-68 report, calling for “containing” Soviet expansion

President Harry S. Truman receives National Security Council Paper Number 68 (NSC-68). The report was a group effort, created with input from the Defense Department, the State Department, the CIA, and other interested agencies; NSC-68 formed the basis for America’s Cold War policy for the next two decades.

In the face of U.S. foreign policy concerns, most notably the Soviet explosion of an atomic device in September 1949 and China’s fall to communism the following October, President Truman requested a complete review and re-evaluation of America’s Cold War diplomacy strategy. The result was NSC-68, a report that took four months to compile and was completed in April 1950.

The report began by noting that the United States was facing a completely changed world. World War II had devastated Germany and Japan, and France and Great Britain had suffered terrific losses. This situation left the United States and the Soviet Union as the only two great world powers. The Soviet Union posed a new and frightening threat to U.S. power. Animated by “a new fanatic faith” in communism, the Soviet Union sought nothing less than the imposition of “its absolute authority over the rest of the world.” Clashes with the United States were, therefore, inevitable. According to the report, the development of nuclear weapons meant, “Every individual faces the ever-present possibility of annihilation,” and, as a result, “the integrity and vitality of our system is in greater jeopardy than ever before in our history.”

According to the report, the United States should vigorously pursue a policy of “containing” Soviet expansion. NSC-68 recommended that the United States embark on rapid military expansion of conventional forces and the nuclear arsenal, including the development of the new hydrogen bomb. In addition, massive increases in military aid to U.S. allies were necessary as well as more effective use of “covert” means to achieve U.S. goals. The price of these measures was estimated to be about $50 billion; at the time the report was issued, America was spending just $13 billion on defense.

Truman was somewhat taken aback at the costs associated with the report’s recommendations. As a politician, he hesitated to publicly support a program that would result in heavy tax increases for the American public, particularly since the increase would be spent on defending the United States during a time of peace. The outbreak of the Korean War in June 1950, however, prompted action. Truman signed NSC-68 into policy in September 1950. As one State Department official noted, “Thank God Korea came along,” since this act of communist aggression was believed to be crucial in convincing the public to support increased military spending. NSC-68 remained the foundation of U.S. Cold War policy until at least the 1970s. The document itself remained top secret until historians successfully lobbied for its declassification in 1975.

Tags
terms:
Cold War

FACT CHECK: We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us! HISTORY reviews and updates its content regularly to ensure it is complete and accurate.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

American pilots engage in first dogfight over the western front

Six days after being assigned for the first time to the western front, two American pilots from the U.S. First Aero Squadron engage in America’s first aerial dogfight with enemy aircraft. In a battle fought almost directly over the Allied Squadron Aerodome at Toul, France, U.S. ...read more

U.S. bombs terrorist and military targets in Libya

On April 14, 1986, the United States launches air strikes against Libya in retaliation for the Libyan sponsorship of terrorism against American troops and citizens. The raid, which began shortly before 7 p.m. EST (2 a.m., April 15 in Libya), involved more than 100 U.S. Air Force ...read more

Soviets agree to withdraw from Afghanistan

Representatives of the USSR, Afghanistan, the United States and Pakistan sign an agreement calling for the withdrawal of Soviet forces from Afghanistan. In exchange for an end to the disputed Soviet occupation, the United States agreed to end its arms support for the Afghan ...read more

Operation "Baby Lift” concludes after flying 2,600 South Vietnamese orphans to the U.S.

The American airlift of Vietnamese orphans to the United States ends after 2,600 children are transported to America. The operation began disastrously on April 4 when an Air Force cargo jet crashed shortly after take-off from Tan Son Nhut airbase in Saigon. More than 138 of the ...read more

Montreal Canadiens win fifth consecutive Stanley Cup

On April 14, 1960, the Montreal Canadiens defeat the Toronto Maple Leafs to win the Stanley Cup for a record fifth year in a row. The Canadiens reached the Stanley Cup Finals after sweeping the Chicago Blackhawks in four games, while the Maple Leafs defeated the Detroit Red ...read more

Loretta Lynn is born

Loretta Lynn, a singer who greatly expanded the opportunities for women in the male-dominated world of country-western music, is born in Butcher Hollow, Kentucky on April 14, 1932. Unlike some country-western stars that sang about a rural working class life but lived an urban ...read more

“Black Sunday" Dust Bowl storm strikes

In what came to be known as “Black Sunday,” one of the most devastating storms of the 1930s Dust Bowl era sweeps across the region on April 14, 1935. High winds kicked up clouds of millions of tons of dirt and dust so dense and dark that some eyewitnesses believed the world was ...read more

Webster’s American Dictionary of the English Language is printed

Noah Webster, a Yale-educated lawyer with an avid interest in language and education, publishes his American Dictionary of the English Language. Webster’s dictionary was one of the first lexicons to include distinctly American words. The dictionary, which took him more than two ...read more

Katharine Hepburn and Barbra Streisand tie for Best Actress Oscar

On April 14, 1969, the 41st annual Academy Awards are broadcast live to a television audience in 37 nations. It was the first time the awards had been televised worldwide, as well as the first Oscar ceremony to be held in the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion of the Los Angeles Music ...read more

Explosion on cargo ship rocks Bombay, India

The cargo ship Fort Stikine explodes in a berth in the docks of Bombay, India (now known as Mumbai), killing 1,300 people and injuring another 3,000 on April 14, 1944. As it occurred during World War II, some initially claimed that the massive explosion was caused by Japanese ...read more

John Wilkes Booth shoots Abraham Lincoln

President Abraham Lincoln is shot in the head at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C. on April 14, 1865. The assassin, actor John Wilkes Booth, shouted, “Sic semper tyrannis! (Ever thus to tyrants!) The South is avenged,” as he jumped onto the stage and fled on horseback. Lincoln ...read more

First American abolition society founded in Philadelphia

The Society for the Relief of Free Negroes Unlawfully Held in Bondage, the first American society dedicated to the cause of abolition, is founded in Philadelphia on April 14, 1775. The society changes its name to the Pennsylvania Society for Promoting the Abolition of Slavery ...read more