Ten Anniversaries to Note in 2023
Anniversaries mark the passage of time, recall our triumphs, and honor our losses. Two thousand twenty-two witnessed many significant anniversaries: the centennial of the establishment of the Soviet Union, the fiftieth anniversary of Nixon’s trip to China, and the twenty-fifth anniversary of the handover of Hong Kong, to name a few. Two thousand twenty-three will also see anniversaries of many significant events in world history. Here are ten to note:
Seventy-fifth Anniversary of the Implementation of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), January 1, 1948. Ask economists to explain the great boom in global prosperity over the past seventy-five years and trade will figure prominently in their answer. Since the end of World War II, global trade has grown far faster than overall global economic growth. That is not an accident. It is instead the result of determined U.S. policy that was shaped by the perceived lessons of World War II. Officials in the Roosevelt and Truman administrations believed that the war was in part the consequence of the beggar-thy-neighbor trade policies that countries pursued in the 1930s. They argued that promoting peace and prosperity required creating a multinational arrangement that curtailed protectionism by embracing the most favored nation (MFN) principle, the idea that a trade break given to any member of the agreement would be given to all members. Getting other countries to accept the MFN principle wasn’t easy. Great Britain, the world’s dominant trading power before the war, was reluctant to give up its system of imperial preferences, which discriminated against countries like the United States that were outside of the Commonwealth trade orbit. The differences between the two Allied powers were resolved only after protracted negotiations. When GATT went into effect in 1948, it had just twenty-three signatories. That number swelled over time as countries realized that GATT provided the best forum to cut tariffs and discuss major trade issues. In 1995, GATT gave way to the World Trade Organization.
Fiftieth Anniversary of the Signing of the Paris Peace Accords, January 27, 1973. Great powers sometimes negotiate their exit from wars they come to regret fighting. The Paris Peace Accords are a case in point. Negotiations began in 1968 in the wake of the Tet Offensive, which persuaded both North Vietnam and the United States that a battlefield victory was not imminent. The talks stumbled initially over where they would be held—Paris became the choice—and whether South Vietnam and the National Liberation Front (better known as the Viet Cong) would participate—they eventually did. Even with these issues settled, the negotiations dragged. In 1969, President Richard Nixon began withdrawing U.S. troops from South Vietnam as part of his Vietnamization policy. He also escalated U.S. bombing of North Vietnam to compel Hanoi to concede at the negotiating table. In May 1970, he ordered the invasion of Cambodia. The move generated few military benefits but sapped public support for the war and intensified pressure to negotiate its end. In the run-up to the 1972 elections, Nixon came close to getting a peace deal. However, South Vietnam rejected the terms. Saigon finally gave in to U.S. arm-twisting in January 1973. The Paris Peace Accords ended direct U.S. military involvement in Vietnam and required North Vietnam to release all American prisoners of war. However, the accords didn’t guarantee the political integrity of South Vietnam, even though this was why the United States had fought, and North Vietnamese troops remained in the country. That proved pivotal. In April 1975, the North Vietnamese army overran South Vietnam, ending the second Indochina War.
Seventy-fifth Anniversary of the Assassination of Mahatma Gandhi, January 30, 1948. Mohandas Gandhi—“Mahatma” is an honorific that means “great-soul”—belongs on any list of the most consequential figures of the twentieth century. He pioneered the practice of “satyagraha,” or nonviolent resistance. He used it to achieve something many people had thought impossible—India’s independence in 1947 from Great Britain. But Gandhi’s victory came at a price: Britain chose, over Gandhi’s objections, to partition its colony into two sovereign countries, a Hindu-majority India and a Muslim-majority Pakistan. The result was massive internal migration and the outbreak of horrific sectarian violence. In January 1948, Gandhi began a fast that he hoped would dramatize his call for Hindus and Muslims to live together peacefully in a new and secular India. To extreme Hindu nationalists that vision was treason. On January 30, 1948, one of those extremists, Nathuram Godse, shot the seventy-eight-year-old Gandhi as he walked to an evening prayer meeting. An estimated one million people accompanied Gandhi’s body the next day as it was carried to the Jumna River and cremated. Although Gandhi’s practice of nonviolent resistance inspired civil disobedience movements around the world, he was never awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. The Nobel Committee chose not to award him the peace prize posthumously in 1948. It instead decided to make no award at all on the grounds that there was no “suitable living candidate.” Both Martin Luther King, Jr. and the 14th Dalai Lama credited Gandhi’s influence on their work in their Nobel Prize acceptance speeches.
Twenty-fifth Anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, April 10, 1998. Determined diplomacy can make a difference. Take the case of the Troubles, the conflict that tore apart Northern Ireland for thirty years. It had its roots in the legacy of England’s conquest of Ireland, the Irish struggle for independence that ended with all but the six counties in Ireland’s north a sovereign country, and the struggle for power between the majority Protestants and minority Catholics in Northern Ireland, which remained part of the United Kingdom. The Troubles date from October 5, 1968, when Protestant policemen attacked mostly Catholic protestors marching against discriminatory housing policies. The British government responded to the growing unrest by sending military forces to Northern Ireland to quell the violence and to capture members of the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA), which had begun a terrorism campaign to reunify all of Ireland. The move backfired, most notably on January 30, 1972, when British paratroopers killed thirteen protestors on a day known as Bloody Sunday. The attacks and counterattacks, which included a 1984 IRA bombing that nearly killed British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, escalated. Nearly 4,000 people were killed. The carnage eventually sent all sides searching for a negotiated solution. In 1994, the IRA declared a ceasefire and Protestant paramilitary groups soon followed suit. Peace talks began, and former U.S. Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell was invited to chair peace talks. Those discussions eventually yielded the Good Friday Agreement, which ended the Troubles, even if it didn’t resolve all the sectarian bitterness.
Seventy-fifth Anniversary of the Start of the Berlin Airlift, June 26, 1948. The greatest test any leader can face is escaping an impossible situation. President Harry Truman faced such a test in June 1948. Three years earlier, he had agreed that the United States, Britain, France, and the Soviet Union should divide both Germany and its capital city of Berlin among themselves. The challenge was that Berlin was located deep inside the Soviet zone, and U.S. relations with the Soviet Union had gone from friendly to tense. On June 24, Josef Stalin reacted to Western efforts to create a West German state by blocking all rail, road, and water access to Allied-controlled parts of Berlin. That move cut off 2.5 million Germans from the West. Allied leaders discovered that the agreements covering the division of Berlin did not guarantee them access to the city by land or water. The choice seemed stark: either abandon the city to Soviet domination or break the blockade and risk World War III. But U.S. officials discovered an out. The four powers had agreed to establish air corridors to Berlin. On June 26, the Berlin Airlift began. Over the next eleven months, more than 270,000 Allied flights brought some 2.3 million tons of supplies to the city. At the height of the airlift, one plane landed at Berlin’s Tempelhof Airport every forty-five seconds. The airlift’s success turned the blockade into an embarrassment for the Kremlin. On May 12, 1949, the Soviet Union cut its losses and ended the blockade.
Seventy-fifth Anniversary of the Executive Order Desegregating the U.S. Military, July 26, 1948. Presidential Executive Order 9981, which mandated the desegregation of the U.S. armed forces, stands as one of the most significant civil rights advances in U.S. history. Although African Americans fought with distinction in all of America’s wars dating back to the War for Independence—the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment, the Buffalo Soldiers, and the Tuskegee Airmen provide a few well-known examples—segregation was official U.S. policy for more than 170 years. Some three million African Americans served in World War II. After returning home, Black veterans began lobbying for equal treatment under the law generally and in the military specifically. Their efforts, coupled with instances in which Black veterans were beaten or lynched and a desire to win African American votes, persuaded President Harry Truman—who had expressed racist views for much of his life—to create a President’s Committee on Civil Rights. Ten months later, it called for, among other things, the desegregation of the military. Congress did not move on these recommendations, so Truman acted on his own. Citing his role as commander in chief, he ordered that “there shall be equality of treatment and opportunity for all persons in the armed services without regard to race, color, religion or national origin.” The newly founded Air Force was the quickest of the services to embrace integration. The Army was the slowest. Truman forced the secretary of the Army to resign for refusing to comply with his executive order, and it took another six years before the Army was fully desegregated.
Fiftieth Anniversary of the Yom Kippur, Ramadan, or October War, October 6, 1973. Countries sometimes start wars they know they might lose. An example is the October War. In the 1967 Six Day War, Israel defeated the combined forces of Egypt, Jordan, and Syria, gaining control of the Sinai Peninsula, the Gaza Strip, East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and the Golan Heights. Six years later, Anwar Sadat, who became president of Egypt in 1970, concluded that he could reverse his country’s economic decline, avenge its national honor, and pressure Israel to negotiate a favorable peace only by starting a war he knew might end disastrously. On October 6, as Israel observed Yom Kippur, Egyptian and Syrian forces struck on two fronts. The initial attacks succeeded; in particular, Egyptian forces crossed the Suez Canal and inflicted heavy losses on the Israeli army in the Sinai. By October 9, however, Israeli forces stabilized their lines, and then, aided by a massive influx of U.S. weaponry, regained the initiative, crossed the Suez Canal, and surrounded the Egyptian Third Army. To deter the Soviet Union from aiding Egypt, President Richard Nixon on October 24 put U.S. military forces worldwide on Defcon III. The next day a ceasefire went into effect. The reverberations of the October War were deep and lasting. The embargo that Arab oil producers placed on the United States and partner countries remade global energy markets and shook the world economy. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger’s grueling shuttle diplomacy helped lower tensions in the region. And in November 1977, Sadat addressed the Israel Knesset in Jerusalem, asking “to establish peace.”
Centennial of Adolph Hitler’s Failed Beer Hall Putsch, November 8, 1923. Adolph Hitler’s first bid for political power ended in an ignominious failure that oddly enough helped fuel his rise. By 1923, the high school dropout and World War I veteran had established himself as the leader of the Munich-based Nazi Party. A powerful speaker, he exploited Germany’s post-economic turmoil, as well as the national humiliation caused by the Belgian and French occupation of the Ruhr in January 1923, to advance his nationalist, anti-Semitic agenda. Emboldened by the large crowds that gathered to hear him speak and inspired by Benito Mussolini’s march on Rome a year earlier, Hitler decided to seize Bavaria’s state government and then march on Berlin to overthrow the Weimar Republic. On the night of November 8, Hitler and his followers stormed a public meeting at beer hall where Bavaria’s leader was speaking. At first it looked as if Hitler’s plan had worked. But by morning, the putsch had collapsed, and Hitler fled for his life after German police fired on the Nazis. He was captured two days later, tried for high treason, and sentenced to five years in prison. But Hitler’s courtroom speeches won him new admirers, and he was pardoned ten months later. He used his time in prison to write Mein Kampf, which argued for using the political system rather than revolution to gain power. Just over eight years later, Hitler was named chancellor of Germany. He would bring catastrophe to all of Europe.
Bicentennial of the Monroe Doctrine, December 2, 1823. The most famous U.S. foreign policy was a bluff based on shrewd diplomatic analysis. After the Napoleonic wars ended, Britain feared that Spain might reclaim its colonies in Latin America, cutting off lucrative British trade routes. So in early 1823, Britain proposed that the United States join it in warning European powers against meddling in Latin America. President James Monroe leaned toward agreeing. However, Secretary of State John Quincy Adams objected. He calculated that no European country could reestablish colonial rule and that Britain would stop them if they tried. It would be wiser, then, for the United States to act unilaterally rather “than come in as a cockboat in the wake of the British man-of-war.” Adams prevailed. Monroe wrote in his Seventh Annual Message to Congress, the predecessor to today’s State of the Union speech, that the United States considered the Western Hemisphere closed to further colonization and regarded any effort to reestablish colonial rule as a hostile act. European leaders denounced the declaration as impertinent given Washington’s clear inability to back up its threat. But Adams was right. No European power intervened in Latin America. Few people at the time saw Monroe as establishing a cardinal principle of U.S. foreign policy. His announcement didn’t earn the label “doctrine” until 1852, and no president invoked it again for nearly seventy-five years. In 1904, President Theodore Roosevelt turned the Monroe Doctrine on its head when he declared in the Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine that the United States had the right to intervene in Latin America.
The Two Hundred Fiftieth Anniversary of the Boston Tea Party. December 16, 1773. The site today is an unremarkable street corner in downtown Boston. In December 1773, however, long before landfill projects changed the city’s contours, it was Griffin’s Wharf. Three English ships were tied to it while waiting to unload their unremarkable cargo—tea. However, eight months earlier the British Parliament had passed the Tea Act, which allowed the East India Company to sell tea directly to the colonies. Many Bostonians rankled at the law, which came on the heels of the hated, but recently repealed, Stamp Act that had placed a tax on all paper documents. Some Bostonians opposed the Tea Act because it hurt their commercial interests, others because it suggested that Parliament could impose laws on them without their consent. As the ships waited for permission to unload their cargo, tempers in Boston grew. On the night of December 16, a group of men dressed as Native Americans ran to the wharf. Bystanders quickly joined the “Mohawks” as they forced their way onto the three ships, smashing the chests of tea and dumping their contests into the harbor. The Boston Tea Party ended without the bloodshed that had marked the Boston Massacre three years earlier. But it infuriated the British Parliament, which quickly passed the Intolerable (or Coercive) Acts, which, among other things, closed Boston’s harbor, abolished the local elective council, and forced colonists to quarter British troops. In doing so, London made the American Revolution inevitable.
Other anniversaries in 2023. January 11 marks the centennial of the French and Belgian troops occupying the Ruhr to demand German payments of reparations for World War I. February 12 is the fiftieth anniversary of the start of Operation Homecoming, which brought U.S. prisoners of war back from North Vietnam. March 16 marks the twenty-five anniversary of Pope John Paul II formally apologizing for the failure of the Roman Catholic Church to act decisively to challenge Nazi Germany and save Jews who died in the Holocaust. April 7 marks seventy-five years since the founding of the World Health Organization. May 15 is the seventy-fifth anniversary of the start of the First Arab-Israeli War. June 6 marks ten years since the Guardian published its first story based on top secret NSA documents leaked by Edward Snowden. July 24 is the centennial of the signing of the Treaty of Lausanne, which ended fighting over the remnants of the Ottoman Empire and established the borders of modern-day Turkey. August 7 marks twenty-five years since Al Qaeda bombed the U.S. embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, killing 224 people. September 11 is the fiftieth anniversary of the coup that ousted Chilean President Salvador Allende and brought General Augusto Pinochet to power. October 10 marks fifty years since Spiro Agnew pleaded no contest to a charge of federal income tax evasions and resigned as vice president of the United States. November 12 marks the seventy-fifth anniversary of decision by the International Military Tribunal for the Far East to convict and sentence to death Japan’s wartime leader Hideki Tojo and six other high-ranking Japanese officials for war crimes. December 10 is the seventy-fifth anniversary of the UN General Assembly’s adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
On the lighter side. January 14 is the fiftieth anniversary of the Miami Dolphins’ victory in Super Bowl VII, which made it the only NFL team (so far) to end the season undefeated. February 16 is the centennial of the opening of the inner chamber of the Tomb of Tutankhamun, which had been undisturbed for more than three thousand years. March 1 marks fifty years since Pink Floyd released its breakthrough album, The Dark Side of the Moon, which spent 591 months, or more than 49 years, on Billboard’s Top 200 chart. April 3 is the fiftieth anniversary of the first handheld mobile phone call. May 14 is the twenty-fifth anniversary of the airing of the final episode of Seinfeld. June 9 marks fifty years since Secretariat won the Belmont and became the first Triple Crown winner in twenty-five years. July 13 is the centennial of the dedication of the world-famous Hollywood sign in the hills of Los Angeles. August 25 is the twenty-fifth anniversary of the release of Lauryn Hill’s debut album, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, which sold more than eight million copies and was named Album of the Year. September 4 marks twenty-five years since the founding of Google. October 11 is the seventy-fifth anniversary of the last time the baseball team now known as the Cleveland Guardians won the World Series. November 19 is the tenth anniversary of the premiere of Frozen, the highest-grossing animated film of all time. December 26 is the fiftieth anniversary of the release of the horror film, The Exorcist.
Sinet Adous, Elia Ching, John David Cobb, and Margaret Gach assisted in the preparation of this post.
Other posts in this series:
Ten Historical Anniversaries to Note in 2022
Ten Historical Anniversaries to Note in 2021
Ten Historical Anniversaries to Note in 2020
Ten Historical Anniversaries to Note in 2019
Ten Historical Anniversaries of Note in 2018
Ten Historical Anniversaries of Note in 2017
Ten Historical Anniversaries of Note in 2016
Ten Historical Anniversaries of Note in 2015