The Berlin Airlift Ends
The Berlin Airlift was one of the most important events of the Cold War. On September 30, 1949 the last plane of the Berlin Airlift unloaded supplies in the city. Over the 15 months of the Airlift, 278,228 relief flights were made. 2,326,404 tons of cargo were delivered.
In 1948, Berlin was the divided capital of a divided country. That June, the Soviet Union established a blockade around Berlin. By sealing off the roads linking Berlin to western Germany, the Soviets hoped they could force the Americans, British, and French to leave their sectors of the city.
Berlin’s two and a half million inhabitants faced the prospect of privation and even starvation as their food and other supplies ran out. President Truman’s choice was a stark one: either abandon the city to the Soviets or risk a military confrontation that could lead to World War III.
It seemed like an impossible task to keep the entire city functioning but the United States, Britain, and France worked together to airlift all necessary supplies into the city. Food, coal, and industrial supplies were flown into the city on a round-the-clock basis. Soldiers even parachuted chocolate bars into the city for Berlin children.
The 1st Televised Kennedy-Nixon Debate
On September 26, 1960 Democratic candidate Senator John F. Kennedy and Republican candidate Vice President Richard Nixon participated in the first of four televised debates. Americans for the first time could tune in and watch presidential debates on television, or listen on the radio.
About 70 million people tuned in for the Kennedy/Nixon debates. When they turned on their television sets, they were actually able to see Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy. Nixon had refused makeup for the cameras, and hadn’t gained back his natural weight after a serious knee injury and two weeks in the hospital. Kennedy, on the other hand, had been campaigning in southern California and appeared on camera with a healthy tan.
The story has it that those Americans who tuned in over the radio believed the two candidates were evenly matched, but tended to think Nixon had won the debates. But those 70 million who watched the candidates on the television believed Kennedy was the clear victor.
While there aren’t any qualified statistics to back up this claim, what is certain is that Kennedy took a leap in the polls after the debate. Appearances, it seemed, suddenly mattered in Presidential races, far more than they ever had before. Kennedy himself said after the election that “it was TV more than anything else that turned the tide” toward his victory.
It’s curious to think who might have been elected if modern technology had been around throughout U.S. history. Washington wore dentures. Lincoln had a high-pitched voice. William Howard Taft weighed over 300 pounds. James Madison was 5′ 4″.
What pre-television President would you most like to see speak?
Banned Books Week
Fahrenheit 451 author Ray Bradbury penned this telegram to President Kennedy urging him to take the Soviet Union’s actions related to nuclear weapons and Berlin before the UN. Since its publication, Fahrenheit 451 has been censored or banned by hundreds of school districts and parents nationwide.
-from the JFK Library
Born on this Day — Barbara Walters
Barbara Walters sat down with President and Mrs. Ford in the White House residence for a retrospective interview on December 4, 1976. It would make up half of an hour-long special that aired on January 2, 1977.
Since the Ford administration was drawing to a close this farewell interview featured the Fords’ reflections on their White House years. Walters prompted President Ford to discuss what he considered to be his greatest achievement, improving the general atmosphere of the nation, and his greatest disappointment, not making enough progress towards economic recovery.
The interview also covered topics such as his reaction to losing the 1976 election, his meeting with President-elect Carter, and whether he planned to run for office again. Both President and Mrs. Ford answered questions about their post-Presidential plans and their upcoming move away from Washington, DC.
Earlier in the day the crew had filmed Mrs. Ford giving Walters a tour of the White House that made up the other half of the program. It provided a look into some of the rooms on the third floor, such as the President’s private office, for the first time on television.
Walters was pleased with final product, writing to President Ford shortly after taping, “As a matter of fact, after reading the transcript, I feel it is a definitive interview.”
-from the Ford Library
2,000 Pages of Love Letters
We’re pleased to announce that the Truman Library has finished scanning and describing all the letters that they have that Harry wrote to Bess before they were married. That’s 386 letters, over 2,000 pages!
Here’s page one of a letter from September 30, 1917, shortly after Truman arrived in Oklahoma to begin his training for World War I. You can see the rest of the letter, and find more at the Truman Presidential Library.
"On September 4, 1957, Elizabeth Eckford walked to this door for her first day of school, utterly alone. She was turned away by people who were afraid of change, instructed by ignorance, hating what they simply could not understand. And America saw her, haunted and taunted for the simple color of skin, and in the image caught a very disturbing glimpse of ourselves."
-President William J. Clinton in his remarks at the 40th anniversary of the desegregation of Central High School. September 25, 1997.
In these photos, President Clinton holds open the doors of Little Rock Central High School for Elizabeth Eckford, one of the Little Rock Nine. The picture below shows 15-year-old Elizabeth Eckford on the first day that she tried to attend Central High School.
On November 9, 1999, at the White House, President Clinton awarded the Little Rock Nine the Congressional Gold Medal.
Integration Crisis at Little Rock Central High School
During the 1957 integration crisis at Little Rock’s Central High School, emotions were strong across the country. Some people were opposed to President Eisenhower sending Federal troops to make sure that the black students could attend class. Others, like Helen Armstrong of Lincoln Park, Michigan, wrote to say they supported his actions.
-from the Eisenhower Library
President Dwight D. Eisenhower Orders Federal Troops into Little Rock to Insure the Safety of Nine African American Students
Today in history, after state and local authorities failed to uphold the Federal Court orders for integration at Central High School, President Eisenhower sent the 101st Airborne Division to enforce those orders.
The conflict dated back to the May 17, 1954, U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Brown vs. Topeka Board of Education, which stated segregated schools are “inherently unequal.” In September 1957, as a result of that ruling, nine African American students enrolled at Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas.
Before the school year started, Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus ordered the state’s National Guard to surround Central High School to prevent entry of the African American students. The crisis escalated into mob riots, prompting a plea from the Mayor of Little Rock, Woodrow Wilson Mann, for federal assistance in the confrontation.
Eisenhower wrote in his notes from the day: “Troops - not to enforce integration but to prevent opposition by violence” to the Supreme Court’s ruling.
Students, soldiers, and newsmen in front of Central High School. Circa September, 1957. Courtesy of the Central High Museum Historical Collections.
President Eisenhower’s special broadcast on the Little Rock situation. September 24, 1957.
Telegram, Woodrow Wilson Mann to President Eisenhower, September 24, 1957.
Handwritten notes by President Eisenhower on decision to send troops to Little Rock, September 1957.
A photo of General Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Commander Allied Forces, speaking to his second cousin, Sgt. George C. Etherington of Abilene, Kansas. Etherington served with the Chemical Warfare Section of the 2nd Infantry Division in France. July, 1944.
-from the Eisenhower Library