Truman signs National Security Bill - HISTORY
Year
1949

Truman signs National Security Bill

President Harry S. Truman signs the National Security Bill, which establishes the Department of Defense. As the Cold War heated up, the Department of Defense became the cornerstone of America’s military effort to contain the expansion of communism.

In 1947, the National Security Act established the Cabinet-level position of secretary of defense, which oversaw a rather unwieldy umbrella military-defense agency known as the National Military Establishment. The secretary of defense, however, was just one of a number of military-related cabinet positions, including the pre-existing secretaries for the Army, Navy, and Air Force. The growing complexity of the Cold War, a war in which the mishandled application of military force could lead to a world war of cataclysmic proportions, convinced U.S. officials that the 1947 act needed to be revised.

In 1949, the National Security Bill streamlined the defense agencies of the U.S. government. The 1949 bill replaced the National Military Establishment with the Department of Defense. The bill also removed the cabinet-level status of the secretaries of the Army, Navy, and Air Force, who would henceforth be subordinate to the Secretary of Defense. The first person to hold this position was Louis Johnson. Finally, the bill provided for the office of chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in an effort to bring to end to the inter-service bickering that had characterized the Joint Chiefs in recent years. World War II hero General Omar Bradley was appointed the first Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The National Security Bill of 1949 was the result of the realization that more coordination and efficiency were needed for America’s military-defense bureaucracy, which had experienced tremendous growth during and after World War II. The Cold War was a new and dangerous kind of war for America, and the 1949 reorganization was recognition of the need for a different approach to U.S. defense.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Son of Sam arrested

On August 10, 1977, 24-year-old postal employee David Berkowitz is arrested and charged with being the “Son of Sam,” the serial killer who terrorized New York City for more than a year, killing six young people and wounding seven others with a .44-caliber revolver. Because ...read more

New state west of the Mississippi

Missouri enters the Union as the 24th state–and the first located entirely west of the Mississippi River.Named for one of the Native American groups that once lived in the territory, Missouri became a U.S. possession as part of the Louisiana Purchase of 1803. In 1817, Missouri ...read more

Louvre Museum opens

After more than two centuries as a royal palace, the Louvre is opened as a public museum in Paris by the French revolutionary government. Today, the Louvre’s collection is one of the richest in the world, with artwork and artifacts representative of 11,000 years of human ...read more

Smithsonian Institution created

After a decade of debate about how best to spend a bequest left to America from an obscure English scientist, President James K. Polk signs the Smithsonian Institution Act into law.In 1829, James Smithson died in Italy, leaving behind a will with a peculiar footnote. In the event ...read more

Diem refuses to negotiate with Communists

Declaring that South Vietnam is “the only legal state,” Ngo Dinh Diem, Premier of the State of Vietnam, announces that he will not enter into negotiations with the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (North Vietnam) on elections as long as the Communist government remains in power in ...read more

Pete Rose sets National League hits record

On this day in 1981, Pete Rose of the Philadelphia Phillies gets the 3,631st hit of his baseball career, breaking Stan Musial’s record for most hits by a National Leaguer. The record-breaking hit came in a game against the St. Louis Cardinals, the team with whom Musial had spent ...read more

Herbert Hoover is born

Future President Herbert Hoover is born on this day in 1874 in West Branch, Iowa. After being tragically orphaned at the age of nine, Hoover lived with his uncle, attended Quaker schools and then graduated from Stanford University with a degree in engineering.Hoover and his wife ...read more

Amanda McFarland begins Alaskan mission

Amanda McFarland, a dedicated Presbyterian missionary, becomes the first white woman to settle at Fort Wrangell, Alaska.The wife of a Presbyterian minister from Illinois, McFarland joined her husband in opening a mission to the Indians of New Mexico in 1867. Despite suffering ...read more

Virginia and Leonard Woolf marry

On this day, Virginia Stephen, 30, marries Leonard Woolf, 31, at a registry office in London.Virginia Woolf, born in 1882, grew up surrounded by intellectuals. Her father was a writer and philosopher, and her mother was a British aristocrat. In 1902, Virginia’s father died, and ...read more

Red Dawn, first PG-13 movie, is released

On this day in 1984, the action thriller Red Dawn, starring Patrick Swayze, opens in theaters as the first movie to be released with a PG-13 rating. The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), which oversees the movie rating system, had announced the new PG-13 category in ...read more

Three-ship collision causes oil spill

A rare collision of three ships in Tampa Bay, Florida, results in a spill of 336,000 gallons of fuel oil on this day in 1993. Fortunately, a combination of favorable weather conditions and preparedness kept the damage to a minimum.It was about 6 a.m. when two fuel barges heading ...read more

Child found decapitated

The severed head of six-year-old Adam Walsh, who disappeared from a shopping mall two weeks earlier, is found in a canal in Vera Beach, Florida. Two years later, career criminal Ottis Ellwood Toole, then an inmate at a Raiford, Florida, prison, confessed to Adam’s abduction and ...read more

Fatal Ford Pinto crash in Indiana

On this day in 1978, three teenage girls die after their 1973 Ford Pinto is rammed from behind by a van and bursts into flames on an Indiana highway. The fatal crash was one of a series of Pinto accidents that caused a national scandal during the 1970s. The small and economical ...read more