19 February 1949

Ezra Pound is awarded the first Bollingen Prize in poetry by the Bollingen Foundation and Yale University.

The Bollingen Prize in Poetry is a prestigious literary award in the United States. It was established in 1948 by the Bollingen Foundation, which was founded by Paul Mellon and his sister Ailsa Mellon Bruce. The prize is awarded biennially for the best collection of poetry published during the preceding two years, or for lifetime achievement in poetry.

The Bollingen Prize is unique in that it recognizes both individual works and the overall contribution of a poet to the field. Winners receive a cash award and a medal. The prize is administered by Yale University, and the selection process involves a panel of distinguished poets and scholars. Over the years, the Bollingen Prize has been awarded to many prominent poets, including Wallace Stevens, Marianne Moore, Ezra Pound, and W.H. Auden, among others.

31 January 1949

These Are My Children, the first television daytime soap opera, is broadcast by the NBC station in Chicago.

“These Are My Children” holds a significant place in television history as one of the earliest soap operas. Created by Irna Phillips, the renowned pioneer of the soap opera genre, the show premiered on January 31, 1949, on NBC. It is considered the first network daytime soap opera in the United States.

The series was a 15-minute daily program that aired live and focused on the lives of the residents of a fictional Midwestern town called Hopeville. The characters and storylines revolved around the typical elements of soap operas, including love, family dynamics, and various personal and social issues.

Despite being a groundbreaking show, “These Are My Children” faced challenges and was short-lived. The production quality and technical limitations of live television during that era, along with the pressure of daily broadcasting, contributed to the show’s demise. Additionally, the cast and crew were relatively inexperienced in the new medium of television, which further impacted the production.

“These Are My Children” lasted only a few weeks, with its final episode airing on February 25, 1949. While the show itself did not achieve long-term success, it paved the way for the evolution of soap operas on television. Irna Phillips went on to create and produce other successful soap operas like “Guiding Light” and “As the World Turns,” which became staples of daytime television for many years.

25 October 1949

The Battle of Guningtou in the Taiwan Strait begins.

The Battle of Guningtou, which took place in 1949, was a significant military engagement during the Chinese Civil War. This battle occurred on the island of Kinmen (also known as Quemoy), which is located in the Taiwan Strait. It marked a critical moment in the conflict between the Chinese Nationalist Party (Kuomintang or KMT) led by Chiang Kai-shek and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) led by Mao Zedong.

The Chinese Civil War was a protracted struggle between the Nationalists and Communists for control of China. By 1949, the Communist forces had gained the upper hand and were on the verge of victory. The Nationalists retreated to Taiwan and several offshore islands, including Kinmen.

Strategic Location:
Kinmen was strategically important because of its proximity to the mainland coast of China, specifically the province of Fujian. Both the Nationalists and Communists sought to control the island to gain an advantage in the ongoing conflict.

Communist Offensive:
In October 1949, the Communists launched a massive assault on Kinmen. They aimed to capture the island and eliminate the Nationalist forces there, which would have given them a strong foothold for launching an invasion of Taiwan.

Nationalist Defense:
The Nationalists, aware of the island’s importance, were determined to hold Kinmen. They dug in and fortified their positions, leading to intense fighting and heavy casualties on both sides. The defenders received naval and aerial support from the United States.

International Involvement:
The Battle of Guningtou took place during a period of heightened tension in the early years of the Cold War. The United States provided military and diplomatic support to the Nationalists, as part of its broader strategy to contain the spread of communism in Asia.

Nationalist Victory:
Despite being outnumbered, the Nationalists managed to repel the Communist assault on Kinmen. The Battle of Guningtou is often seen as a symbol of the Nationalists’ determination and resolve to hold on to their offshore islands, as well as a reminder of the challenges they faced in their struggle to maintain their presence in the region.

The battle had several important consequences. It bolstered the morale of the Nationalists and demonstrated the difficulty the Communists faced in trying to take Taiwan. It also solidified the division between the People’s Republic of China (PRC) on the mainland and the Republic of China (ROC) on Taiwan, which still exists today.

8 June 1949

George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four is published.

George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, often referred to as “1984,” is a dystopian novel published in 1949. It depicts a totalitarian society set in the year 1984, where the ruling Party exercises complete control over the lives of its citizens. The story follows the protagonist, Winston Smith, who works for the Party in the Ministry of Truth, where he alters historical records to match the Party’s propaganda.

The world of Nineteen Eighty-Four is characterized by constant surveillance, manipulation of information, and the suppression of individuality and independent thought. The Party, led by the enigmatic Big Brother, employs pervasive surveillance through telescreens, which monitor citizens both in their homes and public spaces. The language used by the Party, called Newspeak, aims to restrict and control thought by reducing the range of expressible ideas.

Winston becomes disillusioned with the Party’s oppressive regime and begins to rebel against its control. He embarks on a forbidden love affair with a fellow Party member named Julia, and together they join a secret resistance movement known as the Brotherhood, led by a figure called Emmanuel Goldstein. However, their rebellion is eventually discovered, leading to their arrest and subsequent torture and reprogramming by the Party.

The novel explores themes of totalitarianism, surveillance, propaganda, thought control, and the power of language. It serves as a cautionary tale, warning against the dangers of unchecked government authority and the erosion of individual freedom. Nineteen Eighty-Four has had a profound impact on literature and popular culture, and its concepts and phrases, such as “Big Brother” and “thoughtcrime,” have become widely recognized symbols of totalitarianism and government overreach.

12 May 1949

The Soviet Union lifts its blockade of Berlin.

On May 12, 1949, an early crisis of the Cold War comes to an end when the Soviet Union lifts its 11-month blockade against West Berlin. The blockade had been broken by a massive U.S.-British airlift of vital supplies to West Berlin’s two million citizens.

At the end of World War II, Germany was divided into four sectors administered by the four major Allied powers: the USSR, the United States, Britain, and France. Berlin, the German capital, was likewise divided into four sectors, even though it was located deep within the Soviet sector of eastern Germany. The future of Germany and Berlin was a major sticking point in postwar treaty talks, especially after the United States, Britain, and France sought to unite their occupation zones into a single economic zone. In March 1948, the Soviet Union quit the Allied Control Council governing occupied Germany over this issue. In May, the three Western powers agreed to the imminent formation of West Germany, a nation that would exist entirely independent of Soviet-occupied eastern Germany. The three western sectors of Berlin were united as West Berlin, which was to be under the administration of West Germany.

On June 20, as a major step toward the establishment of a West German government, the Western powers introduced a new Deutsche mark currency in West Germany and West Berlin. The Soviets condemned this move as an attack on the East German currency and on June 24 began a blockade of all rail, road, and water communications between Berlin and the West. The four-power administration of Berlin had ceased with the unification of West Berlin, the Soviets said, and the Western powers no longer had a right to be there. With West Berlin’s food, fuel, and other necessities cut off, the Soviets reasoned, it would soon have to submit to Communist control.

Britain and the United States responded by initiating the largest airlift in history, flying 278,288 relief missions to the city during the next 14 months, resulting in the delivery of 2,326,406 tons of supplies. As the Soviets had cut off power to West Berlin, coal accounted for over two-thirds of the material delivered. In the opposite direction, return flights transported West Berlin’s industrial exports to the West. Flights were made around the clock, and at the height of the Berlin airlift, in April 1949, planes were landing in the city every minute. Tensions were high during the airlift, and three groups of U.S. strategic bombers were sent as reinforcements to Britain while the Soviet army presence in eastern Germany increased dramatically. The Soviets made no major effort to disrupt the airlift. As a countermeasure against the Soviet blockade, the Western powers also launched a trade embargo against eastern Germany and other Soviet bloc countries.

On May 12, 1949, the Soviets abandoned the blockade, and the first British and American convoys drove though 110 miles of Soviet Germany to reach West Berlin. On May 23, the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) was formally established. On October 7, the German Democratic Republic, a Communist state, was proclaimed in East Germany. The Berlin airlift continued until September 30, in an effort to build up a year’s supply of essential goods for West Berlin in the event of another Soviet blockade. Another blockade did not occur, but Cold War tensions over Berlin remained high, culminating in the construction of the Berlin Wall in 1961.

With the gradual waning of Soviet power in the late 1980s, the Communist Party in East Germany began to lose its grip on power. Tens of thousands of East Germans began to flee the nation, and by late 1989 the Berlin Wall started to come down. Shortly thereafter, talks between East and West German officials, joined by officials from the United States, Great Britain, France, and the USSR, began to explore the possibility of reunification, which was achieved on October 3, 1990. Two months following reunification, all-German elections took place and Helmut Kohl became the first chancellor of the reunified Germany. Although this action came more than a year before the dissolution of the Soviet Union, for many observers the reunification of Germany effectively marked the end of the Cold War.