Originally created 06/27/99

A look at the 20th Century: 1949



The North Atlantic alliance was created to counter Soviet dictator Josef Stalin, the growth of communism and Westerners' fear of nuclear war.

The year was 1949.

Months after the Soviet Union tested its first nuclear bomb, creation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization began a chain of events that fueled the Cold War for years.

NATO originally consisted of 12 nations -- Great Britain, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark, Portugal, Italy, Luxembourg, Norway, Iceland, Canada and the United States. Member nations pledged to consider an attack on one alliance member as an attack on all of them.

NATO also began maintaining a force to defend Western nations against possible Soviet invasion.

NATO commanders over the years included Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, who later became president, and Gen. Alexander Haig, who became White House chief of staff in the 1970s. The United States provided most of the organization's money and troops.

The organization, which launched its first official military strike in 1999 against Serbian forces in Yugoslavia, prompted Stalin's government to set up the Warsaw Pact of Eastern European nations. The result: increased Cold War tensions.

The Soviets, later in 1949, lifted their blockade of West Berlin. By fall, both the German Democratic Republic in the east and the Federal Republic of Germany in the west had been created, dividing Germany into two nations for the duration of the Cold War.

Also that year, communist revolutionary Mao Tse-Tung established the People's Republic of China, prompting Nationalist Chinese to flee the country's mainland and set up a rival government on the island of Taiwan. This split -- which continues today -- created further tensions in East Asia.

Fighting in the Middle East between Arabs and Israelis escalated in 1949, and United Nations official Ralph Bunche garnered the Nobel Peace Prize in 1950 for arranging quick armistice agreements.

In his inaugural address at the beginning of his second term, President Harry S. Truman referred to communism as a "false philosophy" and outlined his program for the nation's world leadership.

In his State of the Union address, Mr. Truman called his administration the "Fair Deal," building on reforms of the late President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal.

After his surprise defeat of Republican presidential nominee Thomas E. Dewey in 1948 elections, Mr. Truman persuaded Congress to extend Social Security benefits to 10 million more Americans, increase the minimum wage and pass the Housing Act of 1949, which provided for slum clearance and construction of more housing for the poor.

While the world saw communism grow, the Augusta area saw more welcome changes.

New construction increased dramatically in Augusta and new businesses began on Broad Street, including Woolworth's and Davison's stores and the Italian eatery Luigi's, which is still in business today.

New housing projects were planned in 1949 for the Daniel Field Airport and Damascus Road areas. Soldiers who returned home from foreign service swamped the city housing bureau with appeals for apartments for their families.

In February, the Georgia House of Representatives called for construction of a new hospital in Augusta to provide expanded facilities for Medical College of Georgia and to care for indigent patients throughout the state. MCG's first teaching hospital, Eugene Talmadge Memorial Hospital, opened in 1956.

Sister Mary Louise Herman was named in June 1949 as the first director of the new St. Joseph Hospital on Wrightsboro Road.

Bribery and blackmail charges against county government officials and Augusta police shook the community.

Former Richmond County Commissioner Carl T. Sanders was among the many indicted, though he was cleared in December after those who accused him refused to testify.

Augustans were entertained by productions of the Augusta Players and films showing at the Miller, Modjeska and Imperial theaters. The Augusta Chronicle began publishing novels -- one chapter at a time. Local interest grew in soap box derbies.

The film Hamlet, actor Laurence Olivier, actress Jane Wyman, and The Treasure of Sierra Madre director John Huston won the top Oscars in 1949. Huston's father, Walter Huston, also won the best supporting actor award that year for his performance in The Treasure of Sierra Madre.

Later in the year, films such as The Third Man, All the King's Men, The Heiress and The Sands of Iwo Jima entertained movie audiences.

On stage, the Rodgers and Hammerstein production of South Pacific debuted.

In national sports, Brooklyn Dodgers baseball player Jackie Robinson spoke out against the racism he had faced in his two years with the team and criticized the major leagues' slow movement toward racial integration.

Golfer Sam Snead won the 1949 Masters Tournament, his first of three Masters victories. Boxer Joe Louis ended his reign as the world's heavyweight champion in 1949, and the National Football League absorbed its rival All-America Football Conference.

Gone With the Wind author Margaret Mitchell died that August when she was struck by a taxi in Atlanta. Film actor Wallace Beery and composer Richard Strauss also died in 1949.

Time line

Jan. 9: Retail liquor dealers in the Augusta area demand that police enforce all blue laws, closing stores on Sundays.

Feb. 1: Georgia House of Representatives passes resolution to build Eugene Talmadge Memorial Hospital to provide expanded facilities for Medical College of Georgia.

March 24: Hamlet wins Best Picture at the Academy Awards.

April 4: Twelve nations sign the North Atlantic Treaty in Washington, establishing the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

April 19: Former Augusta City Councilman Lawrence Cashin dies.

May 7: Major crackdown on gambling is conducted after evidence of bribery in Augusta's police department and civil service commission is uncovered.

May 20: Augusta Police Chief Romie Wilson, liquor dealer J.L. Sheehan, police Capt. George Folds, Sgt. Irvin Richardson, Commissioner H.E. Kernaghan and Homer Baston are indicted in the city's gambling crackdown.

June 1: Former Richmond County Commissioner Carl T. Sanders is indicted in a blackmail scheme.

June 5: Sister Mary Louise Herman is named the first director of the new St. Joseph Hospital.

July 14: Georgia Gov. Herman Talmadge's re-registration law, intended to block voter registration of blacks, runs into trouble in Augusta when Chairman David Franklin of the Richmond County Board of Roads and Revenues declined to pay registrars for implementing the act.

August: The Soviet Union develops and tests its first atomic bomb, heating up the Cold War arms race.

October: Mao Tse-Tung and his followers take over mainland China, vowing to build communism.

Dec. 2: The Pentagon announces that the Military Police and Signal Corps Training School will remain at Fort Gordon instead of being moved, which had been announced previously.

Benjamin Carr can be reached at (706) 868-1222, Ext. 109, or at benjamin.carr@groupz.Net.