Postwar Europe and Japan: October 1945-September 1951

The end of World War II opened the way for the building of a new world order. It was a very different order from the one Nazi Germany, Italy, and Japan had envisioned when they divided the world into spheres of influence in the Tripartite Pact of September 1940.

In the first place, the war proved to be a victory for European communism, which only a few years before -- as Nazi German forces bore down on Moscow -- had seemed close to defeat. Yet it was also a victory for Western liberal capitalism, as the Western Allies set out to secure free economies and parliamentary politics in Western Europe after years of economic crisis and political authoritarianism.

One of the few issues on which the wartime Allies could agree was the International Tribunal, which put Nazi German leaders on trial at Nuremberg for crimes against peace and for crimes against humanity. The trial opened in November 1945. In October 1946, all but three of the 22 defendants were found guilty.

The attempt to create a new framework of international law was compromised throughout by the knowledge that Stalin's Soviet Union was just as guilty of aggressive war and systematic violation of human rights. Nevertheless, the trials did promote a desire for a new international morality.

In 1948 the United Nations agreed on a convention outlawing genocide. A year later, a new Geneva Convention established clear rules for the conduct of war. And in 1950, the European Convention on Human Rights was established to protect human rights and fundamental freedoms.

On almost every other issue, the Soviet Union and the Western powers strongly disagreed. The future of Germany could not be settled, since neither side was prepared to see a reunited German state dominated by one of the two ideologies. In January 1947, the American and British zones of occupation were merged into Bizonia. Two years later, with the addition of the southern French zone, a separate West German state was created based on a democratic, federal constitution.

Stalin blockaded Berlin in 1948, which was situated in the Soviet zone but was jointly administered by the four occupying powers. Then, when the blockade proved ineffective (due to the Western Allies' airlift of supplies into the city), Stalin created a rival German Democratic Republic in the Soviet zone, run by a Communist-dominated regime. No formal treaty ending the war could be signed under these circumstances, and Germany remained partitioned.

The rest of the European continent was split between a capitalist west and a Communist east, divided by what Winston Churchill famously called an "iron curtain." When President Harry Truman announced in 1947 that the Western world would defend the right of free peoples everywhere who were "resisting subjugation," Stalin reluctantly accepted the division of the world into "two camps."

In 1947, U.S. secretary of state George Marshall convened a conference in Paris to draw up plans for financial aid to the struggling economies of Europe. The Soviet delegation responded by walking out when it became clear that aid would be forthcoming only if the Soviet Union agreed to international scrutiny of its economic policy.

Over the next two years, Communist regimes were confirmed in all the states of Eastern Europe occupied by the Red Army. Political pluralism was ended in those states, and Stalinist economies and police systems were imposed. In Yugoslavia, Josip Broz Tito succeeded in establishing the only Communist state independent of Moscow.

A savage civil war in Greece ended in 1949 with the defeat of the Communist insurgents. In Austria, a treaty allowed the creation of a nonaligned parliamentary state after 10 years of division into occupation zones.

In eastern Asia, the end of the war brought a long period of turmoil. In the European colonies occupied by Japan, liberation movements were established--some strongly Communist in outlook. In Indochina, Indonesia, and Malaya, wars were fought against the colonial powers as well as between rival factions.

The messy aftermath of war precipitated the final crisis of the old European imperialism; by the early 1950s, most of Southeast Asia was independent. In Burma and India, Britain could not maintain its presence. India was divided into two states in 1947, India (Hindu) and Pakistan (Muslim), and Burma was granted independence a year later.

Japan was not restored to full sovereignty until after the San Francisco Treaty was signed on September 8, 1951. The emperor was retained, but the military was emasculated and a parliamentary regime had been installed. Japanese prewar possessions were divided up. Manchuria was restored to China in 1946 (though only after the Soviet Union had removed more than half the industrial equipment left behind by the Japanese). Taiwan was returned to Chinese control. Korea was occupied jointly by the Soviet Union and the United States, and two independent states -- one Communist, one democratic -- were established there in 1948.

The most unstable area remained China, where the prewar conflict between Chiang Kai-shek's Nationalists and the Chinese Communists led by Mao Zedong was resumed on a large scale in 1945.

After four years of warfare, the Nationalist forces were defeated and Chiang withdrew to the island of Taiwan. The People's Republic of China was declared in 1949, and a long program of rural reform and industrialization was set in motion. The victory of Chinese communism encouraged Stalin to allow the Communist regime in North Korea to embark on war against the South in the belief that America lacked the commitment for another military conflict.

The Korean War began on June 25, 1950, when the troops of Kim Il Sung crossed the 38th parallel, the agreed-upon border between the two states. By this stage, the international order had begun to solidify into two heavily armed camps.

In 1949 the Soviet Union tested its first atomic bomb. That same year, the U.S. helped organize a defensive pact, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), to link the major Western states together for possible armed action against the Communist threat.

By 1951 Chinese forces were engaged in the Korean conflict, exacerbating concerns that another world war -- this time with nuclear weapons -- might become a reality. The optimism of 1945 had, in only half a decade, given way to renewed fears that international anarchy and violence might be the normal condition of the modern world.

In the next section, see a timeline that details key post-World War II events that occurred in late 1945 and early 1946.

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World War II Timeline: October 9, 1945-March 5, 1946

Shortly after the end of World War II, the United Nations charter was ratified and the Nuremberg trials opened. The World War II timeline below details these and other events from late 1945 and early 1946.

World War II Timeline: October 1945-March 1946

October 9, 1945: French collaborator Pierre Laval is sentenced to death in a French court.

October 24, 1945: The United Nations Charter is ratified by its five permanent members: the United States, Britain, France, China, and the Soviet Union.

November 13, 1945: Free French leader General Charles de Gaulle is named president of France's provisional government.

November 20, 1945: The Nuremberg Trials open. For the next 10 months, a tribunal comprised of Allied jurists will pass judgment on scores of Nazi war criminals.

December 6, 1945: The U.S. government commits to a multibillion-dollar loan to prop up the British economy.

1946: The U.S. government closes the camps in which some 120,000 ethnic Japanese in the American West had been incarcerated since 1942.

January 1, 1946: Emperor Hirohito addresses his subjects and tells them that he is not, contrary to popular belief, a divine being.

January 17, 1946: The United Nations Security Council convenes in London to agree on procedural rules for the international body.

January 24, 1946: The International Atomic Energy Commission is established to help regulate emerging nuclear weapons technology.

March 2, 1946: Nationalist leader Ho Chi Minh is elected president of Vietnam.

March 5, 1946: Winston Churchill delivers his seminal "iron curtain" speech at Missouri's Westminster College.

World War II Headlines

In World War II's wake, millions in Europe were left homeless, and former American GIs struggled to adjust to civilian life. The headlines below highlight these and other postwar issues.

Soldier's postwar adjustment reflected in the movies: The 1946 Academy Award for best picture went to The Best Years of Our Lives, which chronicled the return home of an Army Air Force officer, an infantry sergeant, and a sailor after the war. The film depicted the difficulties they and their families experienced during the readjustment. It was an accurate portrayal of what husbands and wives faced after years of separation. Not only had the GIs changed after two or more years overseas, but the experience had changed many wives and older children, who had taken on greater responsibilities in the absence of husbands and fathers. Also, many young children met their fathers for the first time.

Unease in Korea continues: The mutual mistrust between Americans and Russians that would lead to the Cold War had already begun. Soviet Union troops poured into Japanese-occupied Korea well before U.S. forces were prepared to establish a presence there. U.S. leaders feared that the Russians would seize the entire peninsula and possibly move into Japan as well. An agreement was hastily reached that the Russians would stop at the 38th parallel, which roughly divided Korea in half. Much to Americans' relief, the Russians abided by the pact.

Millions displaced by World War II: During the winter of 1945-46, upwards of 20 million displaced persons either lived in camps or struggled to survive in all major cities of Europe. Reported Life magazine in its January 7, 1946, issue: "In Warsaw nearly 1 million live in holes in the ground." Vital resources were lacking in those countries most affected by the war. Stated Life: "[I]n Greece fuel supplies are terribly low because the Nazis, during their occupation, decimated the forests. In Italy the wheat harvest, which was a meager 3,450,000 million tons in 1944, fell to an unendurable 1,304,000 million tons in 1945."

Continue to the next section for more postwar headlines and a timeline of events from April 1946 to February 1947.

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World War II Timeline: April 28, 1946-February 17, 1947

In the aftermath of World War II, Europe's boundaries were redrawn, the Japanese proclaimed a new constitution, and rebuilding continued. The following timeline includes important postwar event from 1946 and 1947.

World War II Timeline: April 1946-February 1947

April 28, 1946: The International Military Tribunal for the Far East indicts Japanese war minister Tojo Hideki as a war criminal, charging him with 55 counts. He will be sentenced to death in November 1948.

July 1, 1946: The United States detonates a plutonium bomb, "Able," off Bikini Atoll, as part of Operation Crossroads, an effort to learn more about the power of the atomic bomb. A second detonation, code-named "Baker," will follow on the 25th.

July 4, 1946: Fueled by a false kidnapping allegation, a pogrom in Kielce, Poland, claims the lives of some 40 Jews.

July 16, 1946: Forty-three members of the Waffen-SS are sentenced to death for the December 1944 Malmedy massacre of American POWs during the Battle of the Bulge. They eventually will be released.

October 1, 1946: High-ranking Nazi officials, including Hermann Göring, Hans Frank, Joachim von Ribbentrop, and Arthur Seyss-Inquart, are sentenced to hang by the Allied court at Nuremberg. Göring will escape this fate by taking his own life shortly before his scheduled execution.

November 3, 1946: A new Japanese constitution, one that resolves that the nation will never again "be visited with the horrors of war through the action of government," is proclaimed by Emperor Hirohito.

December 31, 1946: Harry Truman issues a presidential proclamation declaring an official end to World War II.

February 17, 1947: The United States launches The Voice of America, a pro-West radio station, to broadcast to the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe.

World War II Headlines

The news stories and images below reflect how World War II affected worldwide politics and culture in 1946 and 1947.

Postwar Europe's new boundaries are drawn: Nazi Germany's collapse in 1945 transformed the face of Europe. Millions became refugees as national boundaries were redrawn. Germany was partitioned into four zones of occupation. The Allied Zones merged into the Federal Republic of Germany in 1949, while the Soviet occupied zone became the German Democratic Republic. In the east, the Soviets expanded their borders at the expense of Germany, Finland, and Poland, and annexed the Baltic countries of Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania. Communist states in the east soon arose to confront the western democracies.

 

German cities clean up, rebuild: During the war, approximately 50 percent of Nazi Germany's infrastructure was destroyed. Dresden was one of the hardest hit cities. Eight square miles of Dresden, which had boasted some of the most beautiful baroque architecture in Europe, were destroyed when Allied bombers dropped more than 5,000 tons of high explosives and incendiary bombs on the city in February 1945. Following the war, the ruins were cleared and replaced by modern structures. The Dresden Frauenkirche, a Lutheran church, was an exception, as its decaying ruins were left untouched. After the reunification of Germany, the church was restored for $175 million.

Homeless German children barter and beg: Young children sold or bartered whatever they could to survive on the streets of Berlin. A black market developed in Berlin, with cigarettes, liquor, and chocolate as three of the commodities most sought by Berliners from occupation troops. For many months after the war, German children roamed the streets scavenging or begging for food.

Atomic bomb tests are conducted at Bikini Atoll: The U.S. postwar nuclear tests at Bikini Atoll were designed to examine the effects of atomic bombs on naval vessels. Bikini's 167 inhabitants were forcibly relocated in early 1946, and 71 surplus and captured ships were anchored in the lagoon to serve as targets. Other targets included planes and 5,400 rats, goats, and pigs. Two separate atomic blasts in July 1946 sank some ships and left others heavily contaminated with radiation. Whatever the scientific gain, the highly public tests only exacerbated deteriorating relations between the U.S. and the Soviet Union.

Indians fight for independence from Britain: Indian statesmen and National Congress Party leaders Jawaharlal Nehru and Mohandas Gandhi viewed World War II as an opportunity to shed the yoke of British colonialism and establish an independent India. Though the British governor-general used his own authority to bring India into the war in 1939, Indian leaders pushed for self-government in exchange for cooperation. In 1942 the British Cripps Mission instituted an interim government and promised full independence after the war. More than two million Indians eventually served on the Allied side during the war, and 24,000 were killed. When the war ended in 1945, Indians pressed for the independence that was promised. On August 15, 1947, power was finally transferred and India was declared a free nation.

Women vote in Japanese election for the first time: Japanese women cast votes for the first time in their nation's history in what was perhaps the most visible sign of Japan's postwar political transformation. Frustrated by Japan's lack of progress with creating a new constitution, General Douglas MacArthur assigned the role to members of his own staff. The result was a constitution based more on British parliamentary rule than on the U.S. model. The document limited the emperor to a symbolic role and gave women the right to vote. Women reacted enthusiastically. In April 1946, millions of women voted in the election that gave Japan its first modern prime minister, Yoshida Shigeru.

In the next section, learn about the war crimes trials of former Japanese military and political figures, and see a timeline of post-World War II events for June 1947 to June 1948.

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World War II Timeline: June 14, 1947-June 25, 1948

The rebuilding of Europe after World War II was the focus of the Marshall plan, signed into law by U.S. President Truman in 1948. Here is a timeline detailing postwar efforts in 1947 and 1948.

World War II Timeline: June 1947-June 1948

June 14, 1947: The Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum opens its first permanent exhibition on the seventh anniversary of the arrival of the Nazi camp's first prisoners.

July 1947: In an article printed in the journal Foreign Affairs, senior U.S. State Department official George Kennan (under the alias "X") expresses his theory about containing Soviet Union expansion. This policy of containment will become the basis of the Truman Administration's foreign policy.

July 18, 1947: In an effort to stem the tide of Jewish nationalism in Britain's Palestinian mandate, the British navy sends the ship President Warfield and its 4,500 Jewish refugee passengers back to Germany.

November 29, 1947: UN Resolution 181, the partition plan for Palestine, is approved by the General Assembly. The Arab states thereupon invade the new Jewish state.

April 3, 1948: The Marshall Plan, which ultimately will provide more than $13 billion (U.S.) for the reconstruction of war-torn Europe, is signed into law by President Truman.

May 14, 1948: Britain's mandate to govern Palestine expires. Palestine is divided into the State of Israel and an Arab state. The Jewish National Council proclaims the independent State of Israel.

May 15, 1948: Egyptian, Syrian, and Jordanian forces invade the one-day-old State of Israel. Israel resists, and will soon go on the offensive.

June 25, 1948: President Truman signs the Displaced Persons Act, which will allow more than 200,000 European refugees to settle in the United States.

World War II Headlines

The following headlines summarize additional major events in World War II's aftermath.

British issue White Paper in response to Palestine uprising: Jewish relations with Britain remained strong prior to the start of World War II, when the Jewish population in Palestine approached 400,000. The Arabs resented this immigration, and an uprising broke out throughout Palestine. To ensure that the Arabs did not side with the Axis nations, the British issued the White Paper of 1939, which limited the number of Jews who could immigrate to Palestine to 15,000 per year. This marked a death sentence for many European Jews attempting to escape the Holocaust. The White Paper was rescinded when the State of Israel was established in May 1948.

Jewish nationalist group bombs King David Hotel in Jerusalem: Driven to desperation by British stonewalling on the issue of a Jewish state, Jewish nationalist groups in Palestine campaigned to evict the British and establish the nation of Israel. On July 22, 1946, the Irgun Tseva'i Le'ummi (National Military Organization), founded by dissident Hagana members, blew up Jerusalem's King David Hotel, the headquarters of the British government and military in Palestine. Seventy-six Jews, Arabs, and British were killed, and dozens of people were injured. The Irgun subsequently claimed that sufficient warning to evacuate had been given; the British denied this. Regardless, the bombing hardened British resolve to block a Jewish state.

Life returns in Hiroshima after the atomic bomb: In 1946, Hiroshima takes the first struggling steps toward rebirth. Bomb survivors first built huts from scavenged materials. Three months later, with aid from the occupation government, construction began on wooden barracks to house the thousands of people returning to the city. Electricity, transportation, and other functions were gradually restored. Despite rumors that nothing would grow in Hiroshima for 75 years, gardens provided food with no immediate ill effects. Moreover, the health impact of lingering radiation proved less severe than many had feared.

A timeline of post-World War II events for 1948-1950 includes the establishment of NATO and the end of the Nuremberg trials. See the next section for details on these and other events.

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World War II Timeline: June 27, 1948-January 10, 1950

With events like the establishment of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), World War II continued to have a global effect in the late 1940s and early 1950s. The timeline and headlines below describe the war's aftermath in 1948-1950.

World War II Timeline: June 1948-January 1950

June 27, 1948: The United States, Britain, and France respond to the Soviet blockade of Berlin by effecting an airlift of supplies to the two million people in the city's western sector.

December 9, 1948: The United Nations General Assembly enacts the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.

January 25, 1949: The trial of Axis Sally, who was a Nazi propagandist to American troops in Europe, begins in Washington, D.C.

April 4, 1949: The United States, Canada, and several Western European nations sign the North Atlantic Treaty, establishing the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

May 1949: Realizing that their blockade of western Berlin has strengthened the resolve of the other Allies and led directly to the formation of NATO, the Soviets decide to lift it.

July 20, 1949: Israel signs the third of three armistice agreements, with Syria, to end the 1948 war. Agreements with Egypt, Lebanon, and Transjordan were signed earlier in the year.

August 29, 1949: The Soviet Union detonates an atomic bomb at its Kazakhstan test site.

October 1, 1949: In a resounding victory for China's Communist Party, Mao Zedong proclaims the People's Republic of China.

January 1950: The USSR and China recognize the Democratic Republic of Vietnam.

January 10, 1950: The Soviet delegate walks off the Security Council in disgust after the UN retains Nationalist China as the holder of China's Council seat.

World War II Headlines

Postwar news in 1948-1950 included the trials of prominent Nazi leaders for war crimes. The headlines below summarize these events.

22 Nazi leaders tried for war crimes in Nuremberg: A total of 13 war crime trials against more than 200 persons were held in Nuremberg, Germany, from 1945 to 1949. The trial that received the most attention was the first, which involved 22 prominent Nazi leaders -- all of whom were tried on one or more of four war-crime counts. Throughout the trial, Hermann Göring was a leader of the defendants, often dictating their responses to prosecution witnesses. Göring used his skills in manipulation to try to outwit the American prosecutor.

Julius Streicher, editor of Der Stürmer, among those hanged: Julius Streicher was the editor of Der Stürmer, the most popular anti-Semitic publication in Germany before and during the war. The June 1939 edition was a typical issue, depicting on the front page a "Jewish devil-snake" attacking a topless Aryan maiden. Streicher was one of the 22 defendants in the first Nuremberg trial -- and among the 12 sentenced to death. He was the most defiant of those hanged, exclaiming "Heil Hitler" moments before his death on October 16, 1946.

Next, read about more post-World War II happenings, from the start of another war -- this time in Korea -- to the division of postwar Germany.

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World War II Timeline: January 12, 1950-July 5, 1950

The threat of Communism was just one issue facing the post-World War II world in 1950. The following timeline details more event from the first half of 1950.

World War II Timeline: January 12-July 5

January 12: A speech by Dean Acheson, U.S. secretary of state, is interpreted as implying that South Korea is not under the protection of the United States.

January 23: Israel's Knesset proclaims Jerusalem the capital of Israel.

January 25: U.S. government official Alger Hiss, an alleged Soviet Union spy who escaped a treason trial due to the expiration of the statute of limitations, is sentenced to five years for perjuring himself while under investigation.

January 27: Klaus Fuchs, a German who had helped the U.S. and Great Britain build atomic bombs, confesses to passing nuclear secrets to the Soviets.

February 9: In a speech in Wheeling, West Virginia, U.S. senator Joseph McCarthy (R-WI) asserts that Communists have infiltrated the State Department.

April: Former Nazi scientist Wernher von Braun is appointed director of development operations of Redstone Arsenal's Army Ballistic Missile Agency in Huntsville, Alabama.

June 6: Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers Douglas MacArthur bans Communists from public service positions in Japanese government.

June 25: The Korean War begins as the army of Communist North Korea crosses the 38th parallel and storms toward Seoul, South Korea.

June 30: President Truman orders U.S. troops into Korea.

July 5: The Law of Return, which opens Israel to worldwide Jewish immigration, is passed by the Israeli Knesset.

World War II Headlines

The headlines below summarize more post-war happenings that helped shape modern history.

Britain's builds postwar housing for the homeless: One major issue confronting the British Parliament was adequate shelter for those displaced by the war. Millions of housing units, including apartments and single homes, had been destroyed by German bombs, leaving large numbers of British citizens homeless. Many non-British victims of the war were also seeking shelter in Britain. Parliament passed the New Towns Act of 1946 and the Town and Country Planning Act in 1947. Single-family units were constructed and many aluminum, prefabricated houses were built in Cheltenham, outside of London, in 1946.

Allies' division of Germany and resulting blockade by the Soviet Union: Before the war ended, the Big Three Allied leaders signed an agreement to divide postwar Germany into four zones and Berlin into four sectors, each administered by an Allied nation, until Germany was eventually reunified. Berlin sat well within the Soviet Union's zone. Stalin did not agree with the other Allies' plan to rebuild Germany's economy. He therefore blocked access to the western sectors of Berlin on June 24, 1948. Truman rejected a plan to send trucks across the Soviet border because of the threat of war. Instead, the Allies airlifted supplies to West Berlin until well after the blockade was revoked by Stalin in May 1949.

Although the fighting had ended years before, World War II was formally ended in 1951. The next section has a timeline of more postwar events for 1950-1951.

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World War II Timeline: August 1950-October 19, 1951

Efforts to rebuild Japan after the devastation of World War II continued in the early 1950s. See the timeline below for details on postwar headlines in 1950 and 1951.

World War II Timeline: August 1950-October 1951

August 1950: Operation Magic Carpet ends. It succeeds in airlifting 45,000 of the 46,000 Jews in Yemen to Israel, to escape religious persecution.

September 1950: The McCarran Internal Security Act, which calls for the registration of all Communist organizations, is passed by Congress over Truman's veto.

September 15, 1950: General MacArthur's X Corps lands on the Korean coast at Inchon and charges inland.

September 19, 1950: Communist Party members employed by the West German government are fired from their jobs.

December 1, 1950: President Truman creates the Federal Civil Defense Administration under the Office of Emergency Management.

March 13, 1951: Israel demands $1.5 billion in German war reparations to help pay for the post-Holocaust refugee crisis.

April 11, 1951: General Douglas MacArthur is relieved of his Korean command by President Truman. MacArthur's unauthorized threat to bring the war to China was in direct opposition to Truman's wishes.

May 1, 1951: The U.S. government-sponsored Radio Free Europe broadcasts for the first time, from Munich to Eastern Europe.

May 18, 1951: The United Nations moves to its new headquarters in New York City, on Manhattan's East Side.

September 8, 1951: Forty-nine nations sign the Japanese Peace Treaty in San Francisco, officially ending World War II and reestablishing Japanese sovereignty.

October 19, 1951: President Truman signs an act formally ending World War II.

World War II Headlines

Postwar news for the 1950 and 1951 included the Communist takeover of China, the publication of acclaimed war novels, and the execution of two Americans for espionage. Read these headlines for more details.

Notable WWII novelists include James Jones and Norman Mailer: Two of the greatest American novelists of World War II are James Jones and Norman Mailer, both of whom loosely based their stories on their own experiences. Jones completed a trilogy of highly acclaimed war novels: From Here to Eternity, The Thin Red Line, and Whistle. Mailer's first novel, The Naked and the Dead (1948), brought him international fame. It describes the tensions within an American infantry platoon as the soldiers face the terrors of battle on a South Pacific island.

Chairman Mao Zedong, Communists take control in China: Chairman Mao Zedong proclaims the founding of the People's Republic of China in Beijing on October 1, 1949. Support from the West was not enough to prop up Chiang Kai-shek's Kuomintang regime in the face of eight years of Japanese aggression, an economy ravaged by inflation, a devastated infrastructure, and a Communist movement that had gained new strength during the war. Two generations of civil war ended with a Kuomintang withdrawal to Taiwan, leaving the Communists in control of the mainland.

Julius and Ethel Rosenberg executed for espionage: The Jewish parents of two young boys were executed in New York City's Sing Sing Prison on June 19, 1953. They were Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, and their crime was conspiracy to commit espionage. Julius, a leader in the Young Communist League in the 1930s, was first recruited by Russian agents in 1943. He recruited a number of other Americans, including Ethel's brother, David Greenglass. Julius and Greenglass provided the Russians with top-secret information, including details about the Manhattan Project. Greenglass, who was arrested in 1950, implicated Julius and Ethel, and the couple's conviction was based largely on his testimony. Years later, Greenglass confessed that he had lied about his sister's involvement to save the lives of his wife and himself.

The Korean War begins: Exhausted U.S. Marines retreated after a surprise attack by Red Chinese hordes on the Korean Peninsula in December 1950. Separation of the peninsula into Allied and Soviet zones in 1945 -- a division opposed by Korean leaders -- resulted in the creation of a Communist North and a nominally democratic South, each of which claimed national sovereignty. On June 25, 1950, thousands of North Korean troops poured across the 38th parallel intent on reuniting Korea by force. United Nations forces came to South Korea's defense, but the fighting dragged on into 1953 after Communist China entered on the North's side. An armistice finally reestablished the status quo, leaving the two hostile states still divided along the 38th parallel.

Even after World War II had ended, significant changes continued in its aftermath. These timelines and headlines from the era describe crucial postwar events from late 1945 through late 1951 that shaped history .

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CONTRIBUTING WRITERS:

John S. D. Eisenhower, Senator Daniel K. Inouye, Rochard Overy Ph.D., David J. A. Stone, Wim Coleman, Martin F. Graham, James H. Hallas, Mark Johnston Ph.D., Christy Nadalin M.A., Pat Perrin, Peter Stanley Ph.D.