Foreign Affairs: Northern Ireland/Russia

Published: 1969
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RECON RIDERS: The Recon riders are off the main road into the primitive brush hunting Viet Cong, 5/3/1969. (UPI Photo)

In January 1968, Dr. Philip Blaiberg became the world’s second heart-transplant patient. For 19 months and 15 days, he lived with the heart of another man; but that heart, too, quit. Dr. Christiaan Barnard, Blaiberg’s doctor, tells why he died.

Dr. Christiaan Barnard: "Unfortunately today, it’s not possible yet to completely prevent rejection; it’s only possible to slow it down. The case of Dr. Blaiberg, we have slowed it down for about 563 days; but eventually the chronic rejection had damaged the heart to such an extent that it failed, and although we don’t have the complete results to the postmortem yet, I think this will be the eventual finding, that the heart has been severely damaged by the rejection.

"I'd would like to point you that I don’t think we should be discouraged and throw up our arms and say that this is now the end, because we have now operated on five patients. And the total days of survival so far of these five -- five patients has been 1,001 days. I think that gives you a -- an average survival of 200 days."

Announcer: A man lives for 563 days with the heart of another human; but to live with a heart made of plastic, few would believe it. In 1969, it was so. Dr. Denton Cooley of Houston, Texas transplanted an artificial, an unreal heart, and the patient, Haskell Karp, lived for 65 hours.

Two hundred Saints of the Roman Catholic Church were chopped off the Liturgical Calendar. The Vatican said in some cases there were doubts of the existence of many of those removed and others had major flaws in the authenticity of their saintly endeavors. Included in the list: St. Valentine; St. Christopher; and, yes, Virginia, St. Nicholas.

It was Christmas Eve 1968 when the 82 surviving crew members of the U.S. spy ship Pueblo were reunited with their families almost a year as prisoners of the North Korean Government. Five months later, a Navy Court of Inquiry recommended that Commander Lloyd Bucher and Intelligence Officer Lieutenant Steven Harris be court-martialed; but Secretary of the Navy John Chaffee went against the recommendation.

Secretary John Chaffee: "My review was, of course, limited to the evidence and to the findings, opinions and recommendations of this Court of Inquiry and the recommendations of the subsequent reviewing authorities. As a result of my review, I have decided that no disciplinary action will be taken against any of the personnel involved in the Pueblo incident."

Announcer: Troubles continued in Korea for the United States in 1969 when North Korea shot down a U.S. electronic scout plane in April, killing 31 crewmen.

And in August, three men aboard a U.S. Army helicopter were captured after their craft was shot down by the North Koreans. The men were released in December.

In the Middle East, Arab-Israeli battling continued. Pressures from other nations to limit the conflict were somewhat successful, but the effort for lasting peace was a failure.

In Northern Ireland, Protestants and Roman Catholics clashed throughout the year. The minority Catholics say they've been denied civil rights by the ruling Protestants. In April and in August, the fighting came close to civil-war proportions. It got so bad that the British flew in troops to quell the fighting. In one place, barbed-wire barricades were used to separate the two groups.

UPI reporter Edwin Smith was in Belfast, Northern Ireland during some of the most fierce exchanges.

Edwin Smith: "Up a side street, kind of like a street running off Falls Road, there's been some sniping here. Just before I arrived, the people tell me that two, possibly four, men have been shot down in the street by snipers. They insisted it's something heavier than a .22 rifle, something about the size of what they say would be a police rifle. The men insist they saw spotted somebody over the other side of the wall of the Monastery with a gun.

"The man here has a shotgun and six rounds of ammunition, working their way forward trying to spot the supposed sniper.

"Another shot behind us, and here’s a man with a .22 rifle, obviously a few rounds of ammunition. He’s heading back towards the street from which that shot came."

"Now, we're getting shooting, rapid, semi-automatic fire by the sound of it; fairly light, might be a very fast-action .22 rifle; no indication of what he’s shooting at or indeed where he is Over behind the wall, in a screen of trees behind the monastery, and behind that is the burning chemical works which have just been flaming for two or three hours now."

Announcer: Russia and China pressed down with their ten-year-old border disputes. They fought each other to a point just short of war.

Unknown Speaker: "The Chinese and Russians fought a pitched battle on the ice of the Ussuri River. Thousands of men were involved, and it lasted for seven hours. Now, through a tape recorded by Soviet Radio, we can hear Colonel Alexander Konstantinov on the Soviet bank of the river with his officers, planning the counterattack which finally drove the Chinese off Damansky Island."

Unknown Speaker: "(Russian.)"

Unknown Speaker: "According to our information there’s a regiment over there, mortar fire there. Let's hear it. The total is .108. The battle goes on, machineguns and rifles can be heard, the explosions of mines and shelves in the ice, just as has happened before in our lives."

Announcer: During the confrontations, there were causalities on both sides. A meeting of leaders from both the Soviet Union and China was held, during which time a ceasefire was agreed to. At year's end, the talks were on the verge of collapsing.

For the Russians, the year wasn’t one of their best. Besides the border clashes with the Chinese, the Americans winning the race to the moon, there were the Czechs, the Czechs who observed the first anniversary of the Russian Occupation of their country in an extraordinary way. That story coming up on UPI’s 1969 in Review.