Thursday, April 23, 2020

We Didn't Start the Fire, continued: 1951


Rosenbergs, H-bomb, Sugar Ray, Panmunjom 

Brando, "The King and I" and "The Catcher in the Rye" 





Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were American communists arrested in 1950 and executed in 1953 for passing top-secret information about radar, sonar, jet propulsion engines, and valuable nuclear weapon designs; at that time the United States was the only country in the world with nuclear weapons. 

Criticism and controversy remain over their guilt, trial and sentence, their sons being strong advocates of the view that their parents were the victims of Col War paranoia. After the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, much information concerning them was declassified, including a trove of decoded Soviet cables, which detailed Julius's role as a courier and recruiter for the Soviets and Ethel's role as an accessory. 

Relevance to 1951: 

The Rosenbergs were convicted of espionage on March 29, 1951 and sentenced to death on April 5. Judge Kaufman, who presided over the trial, in imposing the death penalty stated: 

"I consider your crime worse than murder ... I believe your conduct in putting into the hands of the Russians the A-bomb years before our best scientists predicted Russia would perfect the bomb has already caused, in my opinion, the Communist aggression in Korea, with the resultant casualties exceeding 50,000 and who knows but that millions more of innocent people may pay the price of your treason. Indeed, by your betrayal, you undoubtedly have altered the course of history to the disadvantage of our country. No one can say that we do not live in a constant state of tension. We have evidence of your treachery all around us every day for the civilian defense activities throughout the nation are aimed at preparing us for an atom bomb attack." 



An H-Bomb is a nuclear fusion weapon, unlike A bombs, which are nuclear fission weapons. I don’t know what that means either except that the hydrogen bomb is a shitload more powerful than the atomic bomb. The bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki exploded with the yield of 15 kilotons and 20 kilotons of TNT, respectively. The first test of a thermonuclear weapon, or hydrogen bomb, in the United States in November 1952 yielded an explosion on the order of 10,000 kilotons of TNT. 

Relevance to 1951: 

The basic concept was first tested on a smaller scale in 1951 and full scale in 1952 on Enewetak Atoll in the Pacific. 

Testing continued there through the Cold War. On the downside, it caused considerable contamination. On the plus side, in 1977–1980 the US constructed a concrete dome (the Runit Dome) to cover radioactive soil and debris. On the downside, the dome is deteriorating and could be breached by a typhoon, though the sediments in the lagoon are even more radioactive than those which are contained. 

The Runit Dome, Marshall Islands 


Sugar Ray: 

Sugar Ray Robinson (1921-1989) has been called the greatest fighter of all time. World welterweight champ 1946-1951, world middleweight champ 1951, retired 1952, came back and won middleweight title in 1955. 

Relevance to 1951: 

Robinson, 31, lost the world middleweight title to British boxer Randolph Turpin, 23, in 1951. a sensational bout. Three months later in a rematch he knocked Turpin out in ten rounds to recover the title. In that bout Robinson was leading on the cards but was cut by Turpin. With the fight in jeopardy, Robinson let loose on Turpin, knocking him down, then getting him to the ropes and unleashing a series of punches that caused the referee to stop the bout. Following Robinson's victory, residents of Harlem danced in the streets. In 1951, Robinson was named Ring Magazine's "Fighter of the Year" for the second time. 

By the way: 

In June 1947, during his welterweight period, after four non-title bouts, Robinson was scheduled to defend his title for the first time in a bout against Jimmy Doyle. Robinson initially backed out of the fight because he had a dream that he was going to kill Doyle. A priest and a minister convinced him to fight. His dream was proven to be true. On June 25, 1947 Robinson dominated Doyle and scored a decisive knockout in the eighth round that knocked Doyle unconscious and resulted in Doyle's death later that night. Robinson said that the impact of Doyle's death was "very trying".[A] 

After learning of Doyle's intentions of using the bout's money to buy his mother a house, Robinson gave Doyle's mother the money from his next four bouts so she could purchase herself a home, fulfilling her son's intention. 



Panmunjon is a village in Korea on the de facto border between North and South Korea. Peace talks in respect of the Korean War were carried out at Panmunjom, with the armistice finally being signed there in 1953. 

Relevance to 1951: 

United Nations forces met with North Korean and Chinese officials at Panmunjom from 1951 to 1953 for truce talks. The talks dragged on as the parties argued over the return or otherwise of prisoners of war who did not want to return to North Korea. 

Peace talks, Panmunjon, 1951 

By the way:

The building in which those peace talks took place is today known as the Peace Museum and is the only place where North and South Koreans work together. Inside that building is a room that is half in North Korea and half in South. Two soldiers from each country stand guard there. 

Peace Museum 



Marlon Brando (1924 – 2004) was an American actor and film director with a career spanning 60 years, during which he won the Oscar for Best Actor twice, 1955 for On the Waterfront and in 1973 for The Godfather. 

Relevance to 1951: 

In 1951 in his first major screen role as Stanley Kowalski in A Streetcar Named Desire, Brando received an Oscar nomination for Best Actor but lost to Humphrey Bogart in The African Queen


The King and I: 

The King and I is a musical by composer Richard Rodgers and dramatist Oscar Hammerstein II. It is based on Margaret Landon's novel, Anna and the King of Siam (1944), which is in turn derived from the memoirs of Anna Leonowens, governess to the children of King Mongkut of Siam in the early 1860s. The musical's plot relates the experiences of Anna, a British schoolteacher hired as part of the King's drive to modernize his country. The relationship between the King and Anna is marked by conflict through much of the piece, as well as by a love to which neither can admit. 

Relevance to 1951: 

The Rodgers and Hammerstein musical The King and I commenced on Broadway in 1951 with Yul Brynner as the King of Siam, a role he repeated in the movie version in 1956. 


Catcher in the Rye: 

The Catcher in the Rye is a story by J. D. Salinger originally intended for adults, but often read by adolescents for its themes of angst and alienation, and as a critique on superficiality in society. Around one million copies are sold each year, with total sales of more than 65 million books. The novel's protagonist Holden Caulfield has become an icon for teenage rebellion and the novel also deals with complex issues of innocence, identity, belonging, loss, connection, sex, and depression. Mel Gibson has numerous copies in Conspiracy Theory

Relevance to 1951: 

The novel was published in 1951. 

By the Way: 

From ThoughtCo at 

The title of The Catcher in the Rye is a reference to "Comin' Thro the Rye," a Robert Burns poem and a symbol for the main character's longing to preserve the innocence of childhood.  
The first reference in the text to a "catcher in the rye" is in Chapter 16. Holden overhears:

"If a body catch a body coming through the rye."

Holden describes the scene (and the singer):

"The kid was swell. He was walking in the street, instead of on the sidewalk, but right next to the curb. He was making out like he was walking a very straight line, the way kids do, and the whole time he kept singing and humming."

The episode makes Holden feel less depressed. But why? Is it his realization that the child is innocent—somehow pure, not "phony" like his parents and other adults?

Then, in Chapter 22, Holden tells Phoebe:

"Anyway, I keep picturing all these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye and all. Thousands of little kids, and nobody's around—nobody big, I mean—except me. And I'm standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff—I mean if they're running and they don't look where they're going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. That's all I do all day. I'd just be the catcher in the rye and all. I know it's crazy, but that's the only thing I'd really like to be. I know it's crazy."

Holden's interpretation of the poem centers around the loss of innocence (adults and society corrupt and ruin children) and his instinctual desire to protect children (his sister in particular). Holden sees himself as "the catcher in the rye." Throughout the novel, he's confronted with the realities of growing up—of violence, sexuality, and corruption (or "phoniness"), and he doesn't want any part of it.

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