18
Mar
09

On This Day, March 18: Fighting the Red Menace

March 18, 1950

Nationalist Chinese forces invade mainland China

In a surprise raid on the communist People’s Republic of China (PRC), military forces of the Nationalist Chinese government on Taiwan invade the mainland and capture the town of Sungmen. Because the United States supported the attack, it resulted in even deeper tensions and animosities between the U.S. and the PRC.

In October 1949, the leader of the communist revolution in China, Mao Zedong, declared victory against the Nationalist government of China and formally established the People’s Republic of China. Nationalist troops, politicians, and supporters fled the country and many ended up on Taiwan, an island off the Chinese coast. Once there, they declared themselves the real Chinese government and were immediately recognized as such by the United States. Officials from the United States refused to have anything to do with the PRC government and adamantly refused to grant it diplomatic recognition.

Nationalist Chinese leader Chiang Kai-Shek bombarded the mainland with propaganda broadcasts and pamphlets dropped from aircraft signaling his intention of invading the PRC and removing what he referred to as the “Soviet aggressors.” In the weeks preceding the March 18, 1950 raid, Chiang had been particularly vocal, charging that the Soviets were supplying the PRC with military advisors and an imposing arsenal of weapons. On March 18, thousands of Nationalist troops, supported by air and sea units, attacked the coast of the PRC, capturing the town of Sungmen that lay about 200 miles south of Shanghai. The Nationalists reported that they killed over 2,500 communist troops. Battles between the raiding group and communist forces continued for weeks, but eventually the Nationalist forces were defeated and driven back to Taiwan.

Perhaps more important than the military encounter was the war of words between the United States and the PRC. Communist officials immediately charged that the United States was behind the raid, and even suggested that American pilots and advisors accompanied the attackers. (No evidence has surfaced to support those charges.) American officials were cautiously supportive of the Nationalist attack, though what they hoped it would accomplish beyond minor irritation to the PRC remains unknown. Just eight months later, military forces from the PRC and the United States met on the battlefield in Korea. Despite suggestions from some officials, including the commander of U.S. troops Gen. Douglas MacArthur, that the United States “unleash” the Nationalist armies against mainland China, President Harry S. Truman refrained from this action, fearing that it would escalate into World War III.

“Nationalist Chinese forces invade mainland China.” 2009. The History Channel website. 18 Mar 2009, 11:08 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=2610.

On This Day

0037 – The Roman Senate annuls Tiberius’ will and proclaims Caligula emperor.

1532 – The English parliament banned payments by English church to Rome.

1541 – Hernando de Soto observed the first recorded flood of the Mississippi River.

1766 – Britain repealed the Stamp Act.

1865 – The Congress of the Confederate States of America adjourned for the last time.

1917 – The Germans sank the U.S. ships, City of Memphis, Vigilante and the Illinois, without any warning.

1937 – More than 400 people, mostly children, were killed in a gas explosion at a school in New London, TX.

1938 – Mexico took control of all foreign-owned oil properties on its soil.

1943 – American forces took Gafsa in Tunisia.

1945 – 1,250 U.S. bombers attacked Berlin.

1949 – The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was ratified.

1965 – Cosmonaut Alexei Leonov became the first man to spacewalk when he left the Voskhod II space capsule while in orbit around the Earth. He was outside the spacecraft for about 20 minutes.

1969 – U.S. President Nixon authorizes Operation Breakfast. It was the ‘secret’ bombing of Cambodia.

1974 – Most of the Arab oil-producing nations ended their five-month embargo against the United States, Europe and Japan.

1981 – The U.S. disclosed that there were biological weapons tested in Texas in 1966.

March 18, 1970

Lon Nol ousts Prince Sihanouk

Returning to Cambodia after visits to Moscow and Peking, Prince Norodom Sihanouk is ousted as Cambodian chief of state in a bloodless coup by pro-western Lt. Gen. Lon Nol, premier and defense minister, and First Deputy Premier Prince Sisowath Sirik Matak, who proclaim the establishment of the Khmer Republic. Sihanouk had tried to maintain Cambodian neutrality, but the communist Khmer Rouge, supported by their North Vietnamese allies, had waged a very effective war against Cambodian government forces. After ousting Sihanouk and taking control of the government, Lon Nol immediately set about to defeat the communists. Between 1970 and 1975, he and his army, the Forces Armees Nationale Khmer (FANK), with U.S. support and military aid, would battle the Khmer Rouge communists for control of Cambodia.

When the U.S. forces departed South Vietnam in 1973, both the Cambodians and South Vietnamese found themselves suddenly fighting the communists alone. Without U.S. support, Lon Nol’s forces succumbed to the Khmer Rouge in April 1975. The victorious Khmer Rouge evacuated Phnom Penh and began reordering Cambodian society, which resulted in a killing spree and the notorious “killing fields.” Eventually, hundreds of thousands of Cambodians were murdered or died from exhaustion, hunger, and disease. During the five years of bitter fighting for control of the country, approximately 10 percent of Cambodia’s 7 million people died.

“Lon Nol ousts Prince Sihanouk.” 2009. The History Channel website. 18 Mar 2009, 11:14 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=1735.

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