08
Jul
08

On This Day, 7-8-08: PBSUCCESS

Colonel Castillo Armas takes power in Guatemala

Col. Carlos Castillo Armas is elected president of the junta that overthrew the administration of Guatemalan President Jacobo Arbenz Guzman in late June 1954. The election of Castillo Armas was the culmination of U.S. efforts to remove Arbenz and save Guatemala from what American officials believed to be an attempt by international communism to gain a foothold in the Western Hemisphere.

In 1944, Guatemala went through a revolution that saw the removal of a long-time dictator and the establishment of the first democratically elected government in the nation’s history. In 1950, Guatemala witnessed another first with the peaceful transfer of power to the newly elected president, Arbenz. Officials in the United States had watched the developments in Guatemala with growing concern and fear. The Guatemalan government, particularly after Arbenz came to power in 1950, had launched a serious effort at land reform and redistribution to Guatemala’s landless masses. When this effort resulted in the powerful American-owned United Fruit Company losing many acres of land, U.S. officials began to believe that communism was at work in Guatemala.

By 1953 and into 1954, the U.S. government was intent on removing Arbenz from power and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) was given this task by President Dwight D. Eisenhower. The CIA established a multifaceted covert operation (code named PBSUCCESS). Beginning in June 1954, the CIA saturated Guatemala with propaganda over the radio and through leaflets dropped over the country, and also began small bombing raids using unmarked airplanes. It also organized and armed a small force of “freedom fighters”–mostly Guatemalan refugees and mercenaries–headed by Castillo Armas. This force, which never numbered more than a few hundred men, had little impact on subsequent events.

By late June, the Arbenz government, diplomatically and economically isolated by the United States, came to the conclusion that resistance against the “giant of the north” was futile, and Arbenz resigned on June 27. A short time later, Castillo Armas and his “army” marched into Guatemala City and established a ruling junta. On July 8, 1954, Castillo Armas was elected president of the junta.

For the United States, the election of Castillo Armas was the culmination of a successful covert operation against international communism. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles declared that Guatemala had been saved from “communist imperialism.” The overthrow of Arbenz had added “a new and glorious chapter to the already great tradition of the American states.” Many Guatemalans came to have a different perspective. The new regime rounded up thousands of suspected communists, and executed hundreds of prisoners. Labor unions, which had flourished since 1944, were crushed, and United Fruit’s lands were restored. Castillo Armas, however, did not long enjoy his success. He was assassinated in 1957. Guatemalan politics then degenerated into a series of coups and countercoups, coupled with brutal repression of the country’s people.

“Colonel Castillo Armas takes power in Guatemala.” 2008. The History Channel website. 7 Jul 2008, 11:34 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=2722.

1099 – Christian soldiers on the First Crusade march around Jerusalem.

1608 – The first French settlement at Quebec was established by Samuel de Champlain.

1709 – Peter the Great defeated Charles XII at Poltava, in the Ukraine, The Swedish empire was effectively ended.

1776 – Col. John Nixon gave the first public reading of the U.S. Declaration of Independence to a crowd at Independence Square in Philadelphia.

1815 – Louis XVIII returned to Paris after the defeat of Napoleon.

1865 – C.E. Barnes patented the machine gun.

1879 – The first ship to use electric lights departed from San Francisco, CA.

1881 – Edward Berner, druggist in Two Rivers, WI, poured chocolate syrup on ice cream in a dish. To this time chocolate syrup had only been used for making ice-cream sodas.

1919 – U.S. President Wilson returned from the Versailles Peace Conference in France.

1950 – General Douglas MacArthur was named commander-in-chief of United Nations forces in Korea.

1960 – The Soviet Union charged Gary Powers with espionage. He was shot down in a U-2 spy plane.

1986 – Kurt Waldheim was inaugurated as president of Austria despite controversy over his alleged ties to Nazi war crimes.

Commodore Perry sails into Tokyo Bay

Commodore Matthew Calbraith Perry, representing the U.S. government, sails into Tokyo Bay, Japan, with a squadron of four vessels. For a time, Japanese officials refused to speak with Perry, but under threat of attack by the superior American ships they accepted letters from President Millard Fillmore, making the United States the first Western nation to establish relations with Japan since it had been declared closed to foreigners two centuries before. Only the Dutch and the Chinese were allowed to continue trade with Japan after 1639, but this trade was restricted and confined to the island of Dejima at Nagasaki.

After giving Japan time to consider the establishment of external relations, Commodore Perry returned to Tokyo with nine ships in March 1854. On March 31, he signed the Treaty of Kanagawa with the Japanese government, opening the ports of Shimoda and Hakodate to American trade and permitting the establishment of a U.S. consulate in Japan. In April 1860, the first Japanese diplomats to visit a foreign power in over 200 years reached Washington, D.C., and remained in the U.S. capital for several weeks, discussing expansion of trade with the United States. Treaties with other Western powers followed soon after, contributing to the collapse of the shogunate and ultimately the modernization of Japan.

“Commodore Perry sails into Tokyo Bay.” 2008. The History Channel website. 7 Jul 2008, 11:30 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=5161.

First Americans killed in South Vietnam

Maj. Dale R. Ruis and Master Sgt. Chester M. Ovnand become the first Americans killed in the American phase of the Vietnam War when guerrillas strike a Military Assistance Advisory Group (MAAG) compound in Bien Hoa, 20 miles northeast of Saigon. The group had arrived in South Vietnam on November 1, 1955, to provide military assistance. The organization consisted of U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps personnel who provided advice and assistance to the Ministry of Defense, Joint General Staff, corps and division commanders, training centers, and province and district headquarters.

“First Americans killed in South Vietnam.” 2008. The History Channel website. 7 Jul 2008, 11:38 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=1954.

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