When allied forces defeated Hitler and Nazi Germany in World War II, the victorious nations decided to divide control of Germany between the United States, the United Kingdom, and Russia. That division was the most pronounced in Berlin, where the communist Russian forces occupied the East, while the American forces occupied the West. The Russian Soviets cracked down hard on the East Berliners, and erected the now-infamous Berlin wall, in 1961.
Flash-forward to 1989, and the Berlin wall was finally taken down, removing the long-time symbol of communist oppression. Many people who were alive at the time remember watching the wall come down on TV, and can probably remember where they were when they heard the news. This article offers a snapshot of what the world looked like the year the Berlin Wall fell.
Living costs in the United States
According to the website ThePeopleHistory.com, in 1989 the US inflation rate was hovering just below five percent. The average American family was bringing in about $27,450 a year and probably lived in a home that costs around $120K. Another report from Farmers Almanac states that a loaf of bread in the US would run about 60 cents, and gasoline was selling for around $1 per gallon.
In 1989, the US Senate was controlled by Democrats, who had a 55% majority. They also controlled the House of Representatives with a 160-175 majority. George H. W. Bush was the President, and Dan Quayle was the Vice President. Several historic pieces of legislation were introduced, including a ban on semi-automatic rifles, increased anti-drug laws, and an increase in the US minimum wage.
Besides the dismantling of the Berlin Wall, several other important events happened around the world in 1989. In March of 1989, the oil tanker Exxon Valdez hit an underwater reef off the coast of Alaska, causing several million gallons of crude oil to spill into the water. The spill affected more than a thousand miles of coastline and resulted in severe damage to the environment.
Later in the year, a pro-democracy demonstration in Tiananmen Square, China, was put down by government forces. Almost 1000 protesters were killed during the melee. As a result, the White House slapped harsh penalties on Beijing, including halting American military equipment sales to the Chinese.
Five days before Christmas, President Bush dispatched the US military to Panama in an effort to capture and overthrow then-dictator Manuel Noriega. 23 American service members lost their lives there in Operation Just Cause.