World Events

July 12, 1957 – Castro Releases the Sierra Maestra Manifesto

Comandancia_de_la_Plata_Sierra_Maestra_Cuba_03_anagoria

Comandancia de la Plata Sierra Maestra – Castro’s rebel hideout in the Sierra Maestra mountains near Santo Domingo

On July 12, 1957, Castro issued the Sierra Maestra Manifesto, named for the mountain refuge of his M-26-7 front.  Countering the recommendations of The Manifesto of the Five created by a coalition of five other opposition groups hostile to Batista, Castro argued against negotiation or political compromise with the current regime.  He agreed that it was time for all opposition to Batista to unite; their disunity had been fostered and exploited by the regime’s tyranny and deceptions.  He stated clearly that, contrary to the assertions of the Manifesto of the Five, revolutionary violence would not lead to totalitarianism or revenge.  In fact, he asserted, there was no hope for honest elections if the rebels forces were taken out of the picture.

Castro maintained that the Sierra Maestra rebels wanted “free elections, a democratic regime, a constitutional government.  It is because they deprived us of those rights that we have fought since March 10.  We are here because we want them more than anyone else. . . .  We are fighting for the beautiful ideal of a free, democratic, and just Cuba.”  The manifesto spelled out eight points which included calls for: free elections; an impartial provisional government; Batista’s resignation; a unified civic-revolutionary front (all opposition parties working together); no international mediation in Cuba’s affairs; no military junta to rule Cuba; an apolitical military establishment; immediate freedom for political, civil, and military prisoners; freedom of information, the press, and guarantees of individual rights; suppression of embezzlement; creation of career civil service; free elections within labor unions; campaigns against illiteracy and civic rights education for all; agrarian reform; stabilization of the currency; and job creation.

Two points needed emphasis, Castro declared.  First, a provisional leader must be named who was capable of uniting Cuba behind the “ideal of freedom”, who would meet the conditions of “impartiality, integrity, capability, and decency” and, second, all civic organizations must back this leader to avoid partisan compromise and ensure “absolutely clean and impartial elections.”

Castro also maintained that revolution was not inevitable; the crisis in Cuba could be averted by following his manifesto’s agenda.  “We hope,” he concluded, “that our appeal will be heard and that a real solution will halt the spilling of Cuban blood and will bring an era of peace and freedom.”

Image Credit: Anagoria/Wikimedia Creative Commons

July 8, 1957 – Plan for New, Revolutionary Cuban Government Reported by New York Times

Eduardo Chibas

1948 Presidential election poster for candidate Eduardo Chibas

On July 8, 1957, an article by New York Times reporter R. Hart Phillips disclosed plans by Fidel Castro and other leaders opposed to President Fulgencio Batista to form a revolutionary Cuban regime.  The “Cuban Government Under Arms”, a name recalling Carlos Manuel de Cepedes’s 1868 struggle against Spanish rule, would be a coalition headed by Raul Chibas, brother of the late Eduardo Chibas, founder of the Partido Ortodoxo, of which Castro had been an early member.  The party had hoped to take control of Cuba’s corrupt government in 1952 elections, but Batista’s coup usurped power before the elections could be held.  At that time, the opposition splintered into various groups.  Announcement of the formation of a coalition government was welcome news to citizens hopeful for an end to Batista’s unpopular reign.

Emblema_del_Partido_Ortodoxo

Emblem of the Partido Ortodoxos

At this time, Castro and his forces were still in the mountains of Oriente, Cuba’s easternmost province, near Santiago de Cuba, which was a center of support for Castro’s M-26-7 .  Several opposition leaders, sons of earlier figures in Cuba’s resistance to Batista, were reported to have joined him there.  Formation of the new government was said to be dependent on an insurgent attack to secure Santiago.  Batista had been pouring troops into Santiago de Cuba for weeks.  The New York Times reporter believed “it is apparent that some dramatic move is in the works”.

Images Credit: ecured.cu

July 5, 1957 – Largest US Continental Atmospheric Nuclear Test Over Yucca Flat

Operation Plumbbob DOE

Operation Plumbbob

On July 5, 1957, the “Hood” test of Operation Plumbbob took place over Area 9 of Yucca Flat, a closed desert drainage basin within the Nevada Test Site (NTS) sixty-five miles northwest of Las Vegas.  Referred to as “the most irradiated, nuclear-blasted spot on the face of the earth”, Yucca Flat was the testing ground – both in the air and under the surface of the flat, sandy soil – for 739 nuclear tests from October of 1951 to September of 1992, when a moratorium temporarily halted all nuclear testing.

The Hood test involved the atmospheric detonation of a 74-kiloton bomb which had been carried by balloon to an elevation of 460 meters.  Two thousand American troops were on hand for training in nuclear battlefield operations.  Eleven million Curies of radioactive Iodine-131 were released by the bomb as a determinant used to track specific nuclear contamination events.  The bomb detonated in the Hood test was nearly five times larger than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima.

NTS has been studied extensively to evaluate the nuclear contamination of its soil and groundwater.  In his book, Aftermath: The Remnants of War, author Webster Donovan states that NTS has been characterized as a “national sacrifice zone”, due to the great expense and virtual impossibility of cleaning up the site.

Image Credit: US Department of Energy/flickr

July 1, 1957 – The International Geophysical Year Begins

On July 1, 1957, the International Geophysical Year (IGY) began its eighteen-month run.  First proposed by the International Council of Scientific Unions in 1952, the IGY was an ambitious program of coordinated research by the world’s scientists into the mysteries of geophysical phenomenon such as aurora and airglow, cosmic rays, geomagnetism, glaciology, gravity, ionospheric physics, longitude and latitude determination, meteorology, oceanography, rocketry, seismology, and solar activity.  Research into Antarctic ice depths yielded a new estimate of the earth’s total ice content.

But the most attention-grabbing goal of the program was the endeavor to launch an artificial satellite into orbit around the earth.  Recent breakthroughs in technology included cosmic ray recorders, spectroscopes, radiosonde balloons, electronic computers – and the rocket.  Exploration of space to pursue scientific knowledge of our solar system was now a real possibility.  By the end of the IGY the world’s superpowers had successfully launched seven satellites, after previous years of setbacks and failures.  The IGY fully achieved its goal to “observe physical phenomena and to secure data from all parts of the world; to conduct this work on a coordinated basis by fields, and in space and time, so that results could be collated in a meaningful manner”.

An uneasy relationship existed between the scientific community and the military establishment at this time.  IGY scientists feared that military preoccupation with launching satellites would detract from other goals.  Scientists also resented that the military held its rocket technology information close to the vest.

National Science Foundation posters, new television programs, and filmstrips for high schools were created by the program to translate the IGY findings for the common man.  Reaction to the first satellite launch took on a good news-bad news aspect.  On the one hand, we could now explore the infinity of space and learn more about our own planet.  On the other, those superpowers who now had satellite capability also had the ability to place nuclear bombs in orbit, threatening mass destruction.

Image Credit: National Academy of Sciences

June 23, 1957 – Mike Wallace Interviews Defector David Hawkins

David HawkinsOn June 23, 1957, 23-year-old Korean War defector David Hawkins appeared on the Mike Wallace Interview television show.  Born in Oklahoma City to a overly controlling mother and a father who spent six years in Europe during World War II starting from the time he was age six, David enlisted in the Army when he was 16 years old.  He was captured by the North Koreans at age 17, served as a prisoner of war for three years, and chose when the armistice was signed in 1953 to remain in Communist China.  Hawkins changed his mind and returned to the United States after he learned of the brutal repression and coverup of the Hungarian Revolution by the communist Soviet Union.  During the interview, Wallace forcefully confronted Hawkins with his actions, repeatedly calling him a “turncoat.”  Hawkins, for his part, was ready to admit his defection was a mistake and expressed feelings of guilt and shame.

Hawkins disagreed with Wallace that he had come from a good home, that in fact it had felt like a broken home; he had missed his father and his mother had been very rigid and restrictive (which she admitted on his return).  Hawkins felt he hadn’t sufficiently understood or appreciated the freedoms available in America and the sacrifices made to preserve them.  He had been easily convinced by expert Chinese indoctrinators that Socialism was the best system to improve the lives of the imperially-oppressed Chinese.  When Wallace accused him of being an informant against his fellow soldiers, or committing crimes in Korea that prevented him from wanting to return, Hawkins firmly denied both.  He had been labeled by his peers as “progressive” for his curiosity about socialism and was an easy target for such allegations.  “At the time,” he stressed, he felt that going so far away from home to fight on a “barren rock,” getting involved in another country’s civil war while  not knowing what he was fighting for, believing the United States had made a “big mistake,” was a “raw deal”. The military had not prepared him, Hawkins explained, to face interrogation by the Chinese, whom he was told instead were our friends.  His three years in China were somewhat sheltered ones, but he liked the Chinese people and felt no reason to doubt that Socialism could work.  He was regularly the subject of brainwashing in what the Chinese called “criticism meetings.”

Then the Soviets crushed the Hungarian people as they fought for freedom.  Hawkins saw that he had been wrong.  He wanted to come home.  He arranged without trouble for he and his wife to leave through Hong Kong.  He believed now that Communism was truly a threat to world freedom and needed to be stopped.  He had two warnings for the viewing audience. He, and his fellow defectors, some of whom still remained in China, had been trained to return to the United States to help in an eventual people’s revolution against the “war-mongering” government. And – ignoring mainland China, a “formidable power” which had made “great strides” to improve the lives of ordinary Chinese, was a mistake on the order of refusing to see the “elephant in the room.”

Wallace summed up the interview thus: David Hawkins was an illustration of the need for “faith and courage” as the ultimate weapons against communism.  Because faith and courage “couldn’t be issued by the army,” it was up to homes, schools and churches to instill them.  “In that sense,” Wallace said, “David Hawkins’ problem has certainly become our own.”

Image Credit: Harry Ransom Center/The University of Texas at Austin

June 10, 1957 – The New York Times Reports Santiago de Cuba in Open Revolt

On June 10, 1957, New York Times special correspondent Herbert L Mathews reported that “virtually every man, woman, and child in Santiago de Cuba, except police and army authorities, are struggling at all costs to themselves to overthrow the military dictatorship in Havana.”  “If Havana had anything like the civic resistance movement of Santiago de Cuba, ” Mathews stated, “the Batista regime might have ended a long time ago.”  Mathews went on to describe a reign of terror by recently arrived Lieut. Col. Jose Maria Salas Canizares, selected by Batista to serve as chief of police.  Beatings, torture, stabbings, shootings, murder – intimidation and repression, reprisals for talking to outside reporters – Mathews heard accounts of violence and counter-terrorism from all fronts.  Those coming forward to talk with him at great personal risk  included business and professional groups, workers, union leaders, clergy, peasants, students, Rotarians, mothers, and people on the street.  Many Santiagueros were grateful to the Times for reporting the plight of the citizens of Cuba and their determination to resist the Batista regime.

November 11, 1957 – Eero Saarinen-Designed War Memorial Center Dedicated

War Memorial Center, Milwaukie, Wisconsin

War Memorial Center, Milwaukie, Wisconsin. Photo: Milwaukee War Memorial Center website

On November 11, 1957 – Veterans Day – the Milwaukee County War Memorial Center opened and was dedicated to the men and women who had served in the United States Armed Forces.  Designed as a floating cruciform structure by Finnish-American architect Eero Saarinen, the magnificent building features cantilevered portions and has since been named a Milwaukee Landmark.  On the west-facing facade, a 1,440,000-piece mosaic mural by Air Force veteran and Milwaukee resident Edmund Lewandowski displays Roman numerals honoring those who gave their lives in World War II, the War on Japan, and the Korean conflict (1941-1945, 1950-1953).

On this Veterans Day, on behalf of grateful Americans everywhere, 1957 Time Capsule wants to express a most heart-felt thank you to all veterans and service members of United States Military forces past and present, at home and around the world.  I am grateful for your service and your sacrifice for us and for your country.

May we never forget.

Memorial Mosaic by Edmund Lewandowski

Memorial Mosaic by Edmund Lewandowski. Photo: Milwaukee War Memorial Center website