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1950

Truman declares state of emergency

In the wake of the massive Chinese intervention in the Korean War, President Harry S. Truman declares a state of emergency. Proclaiming that “Communist imperialism” threatened the world’s people, Truman called upon the American people to help construct an “arsenal of freedom.”

In November, the stakes in the Korean War dramatically escalated with the intervention of hundreds of thousands of communist Chinese troops. Prior to their arrival on the battlefield, the U.S. forces seemed on the verge of victory in Korea. Just days after General Douglas MacArthur declared an “end the war offensive,” however, massive elements of the Chinese army smashed into the American lines and drove the U.S. forces back. The “limited war” in Korea threatened to turn into a widespread conflict. Against this backdrop, Truman issued his state of emergency and the U.S. military-industrial complex went into full preparations for a possible third world war. The president’s proclamation vastly expanded his executive powers and gave Mobilization Director Charles E. Wilson nearly unlimited authority to coordinate the country’s defense program. Such an increase in government power had not been seen since World War II.

The Soviet Union, which Truman blamed for most of the current world problems in the course of his speech, blasted the United States for “warmongering.” Congress, most of America’s allies, and the American people appeared to be strongly supportive of the President’s tough talk and actions. Truman’s speech, and the events preceding it, indicated that the Cold War-so long a battle of words and threats-had become an actual military reality. The Korean War lasted from 1950 to 1953.

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