World History 1953

About the history of the world in 1953, the Rosenbergs are executed for espionage, an armistice is declared in Korea.

TWO CENTURIES OF WORLD HISTORY: 1778-1978

1953

May 29 New Zealander Edmund Hillary, 34, and Tenzing Norkay of Nepal became the first humans to sit literally on top of the world as they scaled Mt. Everest--at over 29,000 ft. the highest point on earth. Five expeditions from 1922 to 1938, all British and all ending in death for one or more of the climbers, had preceded this one led by John Hunt. Up the Himalayan peak went half a dozen climbers supported by porters, scientists, physicians, and oxygen tank technicians. At 27,350 ft., Hunt dispatched the first two-man crew to the top, but they quickly returned cloaked in ice, unable to continue. As the weather improved, Hunt sent in his second team, Hillary and Tenzing. The pair scratched their way up to 28,000 ft. and camped for the night. The next morning they washed down a breakfast of sardines and biscuits with a little hot lemonade and resumed the climb. The last 300 ft. they conquered only by cutting steps in a wall of sheer ice. Finally, the summit. "My first sensation," Hillary said later, "was one of relief. But mixed with the relief was a vague sensation of astonishment that I should have been the lucky one to attain the ambition of so many brave and determined climbers." After a 15-minute stay on the summit, Hillary and Tenzing began the descent and returned unharmed.

June 19 Julius and Ethel Rosenberg became the only American civilians ever to be executed for espionage. Their appeals exhausted and their plea for executive clemency ignored by President Truman and later refused by President Eisenhower, the couple bid farewell to their two preteen sons and walked the last mile to the electric chair at Sing Sing. They proclaimed their innocence to the end.

July 27 After two years of haggling, the peace talks at Panmunjom, Korea, finally produced an armistice. Under its terms, a general cease-fire was to be accompanied by a mutual two-kilometer withdrawal from the battle line, which ran from the west coast at just below the 38th parallel east-northeast to the Sea of Japan about 30 mi. above the parallel. This left a demilitarized zone between the two sides. Although the agreement also banned any further arms buildup in Korea, neither side has paid much attention to this provision. The war killed or wounded about 3 million humans, destroyed 3/4 of South Korea's mines and textile plants, and cost the U.S. alone $22 billion. With the situation restored substantially to what it was before the war, the significance of the conflict was limited to a few facts: The U.N. had teeth after all; the U.S. was prepared to shed blood to check Communist aggression; a major war could be fought in the nuclear age without total annihilation; and the infant Communist nation of Red China, then generally thought to be in disarray, had fought the world's strongest superpower to a standstill.

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