Publish date:
Updated on
Year
1948

Truman issues peacetime draft

President Harry S. Truman institutes a military draft with a proclamation calling for nearly 10 million men to register for military service within the next two months. Truman’s action came during increasing Cold War tensions with the Soviet Union.

Following World War II, the United States moved quickly to demobilize the vast military it had constructed during the conflict. During the war, more than 16 million men and women served in the U.S. military; when the war ended in August 1945, the American people demanded rapid demobilization. By 1948, less than 550,000 men remained in the U.S. Army. This rapid decline in the size of America’s military concerned U.S. government officials, who believed that a confrontation with the Soviet Union was imminent. During the years following World War II, relations between the Russians and Americans deteriorated rapidly. In 1947, the president issued the Truman Doctrine, which provided aid to Greece and Turkey to oppose communist subversion. In that same year, Secretary of State George C. Marshall warned that Western Europe was on the brink of political and economic chaos that would leave it defenseless against communist aggression; the following year, Congress approved billions of dollars in financial assistance to the beleaguered nations. In June 1948, the Soviets cut all land traffic into the U.S.-British-French zones of occupation in West Berlin. The United States responded with the Berlin Airlift, in which tons of food and supplies were flown in to sustain the population of the besieged city. In light of these events, many Americans believed that actual combat with the Soviet Union was not far away. In response to this threat, President Truman announced on July 20, 1948, that the United States was re-instituting the draft and issued a proclamation requiring nearly 10 million men to register for military service in the next two months.

Truman’s decision underlined the urgency of his administration’s concern about a possible military confrontation with the Soviet Union. It also brought home to the American people in concrete terms the possibility that the Cold War could, at any moment, become an actual war. In 1950, possibility turned to reality when the United States entered the Korean War, and the size of America’s armed forces once again increased dramatically.

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!

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Aurora shooting leaves 12 dead, 70 wounded

On this day in 2012, gunman James Holmes started a mass shooting at a movie theater in Aurora, a Denver suburb, killing 12 people—the youngest a 6-year-old girl—and injuring at least 70 others. The Aurora shooting took place shortly after the start of a crowded midnight showing ...read more

Sitting Bull surrenders

Five years after General George A. Custer’s infamous defeat at the Battle of Little Bighorn, Hunkpapa Teton Sioux leader Sitting Bull surrenders to the U.S. Army, which promises amnesty for him and his followers. Sitting Bull had been a major leader in the 1876 Sioux uprising ...read more

Viking 1 lands on Mars

On the seventh anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar landing, the Viking 1 lander, an unmanned U.S. planetary probe, becomes the first spacecraft to successfully land on the surface of Mars. Viking 1 was launched on August 20, 1975, and arrived at Mars on June 19, 1976. The first ...read more

Armstrong walks on moon

At 10:56 p.m. EDT, American astronaut Neil Armstrong, 240,000 miles from Earth, speaks these words to more than a billion people listening at home: “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” Stepping off the lunar landing module Eagle, Armstrong became the first ...read more

Nixon watches first lunar landing

On this day in 1969, President Richard Nixon, along with millions of others, watches as two American astronauts walk on the moon. Later that evening, Nixon recorded succinctly in his diary “the President held an interplanetary conversation with Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong ...read more

A serial-killing couple is apprehended

Alton Coleman and Debra Brown are apprehended in Evanston, Illinois, after a particularly vicious two-month crime spree that left eight people dead and many more injured. Coleman had been added to the special eleventh slot on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted List for actively dangerous ...read more

Assassination plot against Hitler fails

On this day in 1944, Hitler cheats death as a bomb planted in a briefcase goes off, but fails to kill him. High German officials had made up their minds that Hitler must die. He was leading Germany in a suicidal war on two fronts, and assassination was the only way to stop him. A ...read more