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  • From Minnesota to Seoul? The DeWall Helix Bubble Oxygenator and Technology Transfer in Open-Heart Surgery, 1955–1965
  • John P. DiMoia (bio)

In his inaugural speech of January 20, 1949, an address that has since been recognized as the origin of the Point Four program, U.S. president Harry Truman mobilized the material wealth of the American nation as part of an ambitious platform designed to share this bounty with the developing world. Specifically, he outlined his ideological differences with respect to communism, before mobilizing the historical circumstances as representing a unique opportunity to combat the opposition not with arms, but instead through trade and technical exchange. In Truman’s vocabulary, the “imponderable resources of technical knowledge” that had become the legacy of the United States during the postwar period constituted the basis for a new form of diplomacy, one which would allow the nation to use its new status to secure its relationships by sending technicians, engineers, and material goods abroad, trusting that these would in turn be received with eagerness by partner nations, who could then develop their own resource bases (Truman, 1949).

Even as Truman’s remarks placed the ideological grounds for Point Four in the context of the U.S.–Soviet conflict, the language of the address remains curiously abstract, preferring to sketch its concerns with broad strokes rather than citing specific cases or concrete examples. Indeed, this rhetorical approach allowed Truman to portray the situation in terms of an emerging crisis, one that would mobilize the nation through the contribution of the individual citizen. At the same time though, a context for this type of assistance already existed in Europe, one traced by the broad contours of the Marshall Plan, and East Asia would soon become a focal point of American aid with the outbreak of the Korean War in June 1950. Even prior to this, in fact, aid to South Korea through the ECA (Economic Cooperation Administration) underscored U.S. interests in the region, a thematic highlighted by the circumstances of the civil war taking place in neighboring China and the U.S. occupation of Japan (1945–52) (ECA, 1948–49). [End Page 201]

This essay seeks to relocate the history of technology to East Asia during the early decades of the cold war (1945–65), looking specifically at the function played by objects as a means of communicating both a material and an ideological function. In particular, the Korean War (1950–53) brought an enormous weight to bear on the exchange of objects, both during and after the conflict. In a famous image produced by the United Nations (see Figure 1), a hairy hand (“communism”) reaches from the north to deprive people of their possessions, while in contrast an open hand (“United Nations”) offers the benefits of a partnership with an international consortium of actors to those residing south of the 38th parallel. The objects offered in the second case include a diverse array of construction equipment, and even food supplies provided for sustenance. This image, designed to promote the interests of the UN in its activities on behalf of South Korea, would consciously label the Korean conflict as “international,” with the United States eager to solicit contributions from as many actors as possible (S. Lee, 2002). Moreover, this image would anticipate the ceasefire of 1953, after which each of the two Koreas would come to serve as a representative model or showcase for the ideals and values of its respective allies (Frank, 1996).

As recent literature in U.S. foreign relations reminds us—in particular the work of historians Gregg Brazinsky and David Ekbladh—South Korea (1953– 60) would rapidly become one of the largest multilateral aid projects in the world, receiving generous aid packages from the United States, among others (Brazinsky, 2007; Ekbladh, 2009). Japan was already on the path to economic recovery, having received the benefits of a significant rise in its manufacturing production, originating in part from U.S. military procurements (Deming, 1952). South Korea, on the other hand, had lost a large portion of its electricity-generating capacity even before the war, with the majority of the peninsula’s industrial infrastructure situated north of the 38th parallel (Molony...


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pp. 201-225
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