Hurricane Katrina slams into Gulf Coast
Hurricane Katrina makes landfall near New Orleans, Louisiana, as a Category 4 hurricane on this day in 2005. Despite being only the third most powerful storm of the 2005 hurricane season, Katrina was the worst natural disaster in the history of the United States. After briefly coming ashore in southern Florida on August 25 as a Category 1 hurricane, Katrina gained strength before slamming into the Gulf Coast on August 29. In addition to bringing devastation to the New Orleans area, the hurricane caused damage along the coasts of Mississippi and Alabama, as well as other parts of Louisiana.
“Hurricane Katrina slams into Gulf Coast.” 2008. The History Channel website. 29 Aug 2008, 03:29 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=tdihArticleCategory&id=5302.
1533 – Atahualpa, the last Incan King of Peru, was murdered on orders from Spanish conqueror Francisco Pizarro. The Inca Empire died with him.
1842 – The Treaty of Nanking was signed by the British and the Chinese. The treaty ended the first Opium War and gave the island of Honk Kong to Britain.
1907 – The Quebec Bridge collapsed killing 75 workers. The bridge was being built across the St. Lawrence River above Quebec City.
1944 – During the continuing celebration of the liberation of France from the Nazis, 15,000 American troops marched down the Champs Elysees in Paris.
1949 – At the University of Illinois, a nuclear device was used for the first time to treat cancer patients.
1965 – Gemini 5, carrying astronauts Gordon Cooper and Charles (“Pete”) Conrad, splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean after eight days in space.
1973 – U.S. President Nixon was ordered by Judge John Sirica to turn over the Watergate tapes. Nixon refused and appealed the order.
2004 – India test-launched a nuclear-capable missle able to carry a one-ton warhead. The weapon had a range of 1,560 miles.
State Department official discusses “captive populations”
Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs Edward W. Barrett declares that most of the “captive populations” in Soviet satellite nations oppose the Russians. Barrett called for an accelerated program of U.S. propaganda designed to capitalize on this weakness in the communist bloc.
Speaking before a luncheon for the Overseas Writers Organization, Barrett said, “Stalin has completely failed to win over the satellite populations even though he has them under his complete control.” The citizens of these “satellites”–the nations of Eastern Europe occupied by Soviet forces after World War II–hated their Russian masters. “Despite four years of intensive Soviet propaganda, any informed visitor will tell you that between 60 and 90 percent of the captive populations are today anti-Soviet.” Barrett reassured his audience that despite the recent massive Soviet propaganda efforts around the world, the United States was winning the war of words. It was “high time for Americans to stop being defeatist about the so-called propaganda war. We have not lost it; we are not losing it. We can win it.” Despite the fact that the Soviets seemed to be scoring some propaganda successes (such as attacks against America’s racism and treatment of its African-American population), Barrett believed that the Russians “have increasingly proved that they are blunderers in this field.” Most notably, the Soviets had wasted “hundreds of millions of dollars” trying to unsuccessfully portray the United States as the aggressor in the Korean War.
Barrett’s comments indicated that the United States was prepared to engage more actively and aggressively in the propaganda war with Russia. In the years that followed Barrett’s speech, the Department of State committed more and more resources to the “war of words” with the Soviet Union. Accordingly, the United States Information Agency was established in 1953 to serve as America’s worldwide publicist. In the Cold War, the battle for the “hearts and minds” of people was often as important as the military confrontations.
“State Department official discusses “captive populations”.” 2008. The History Channel website. 29 Aug 2008, 03:25 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=2774.
Soviets explode atomic bomb
At a remote test site at Semipalatinsk in Kazakhstan, the USSR successfully detonates its first atomic bomb, code name “First Lightning.” In order to measure the effects of the blast, the Soviet scientists constructed buildings, bridges, and other civilian structures in the vicinity of the bomb. They also placed animals in cages nearby so that they could test the effects of nuclear radiation on human-like mammals. The atomic explosion, which at 20 kilotons was roughly equal to “Trinity,” the first U.S. atomic explosion, destroyed those structures and incinerated the animals.
According to legend, the Soviet physicists who worked on the bomb were honored for the achievement based on the penalties they would have suffered had the test failed. Those who would have been executed by the Soviet government if the bomb had failed to detonate were honored as “Heroes of Socialist Labor,” and those who would have been merely imprisoned were given “The Order of Lenin,” a slightly less prestigious award.
On September 3, a U.S. spy plane flying off the coast of Siberia picked up the first evidence of radioactivity from the explosion. Later that month, President Harry S. Truman announced to the American people that the Soviets too had the bomb. Three months later, Klaus Fuchs, a German-born physicist who had helped the United States build its first atomic bombs, was arrested for passing nuclear secrets to the Soviets. While stationed at U.S. atomic development headquarters during World War II, Fuchs had given the Soviets precise information about the U.S. atomic program, including a blueprint of the “Fat Man” atomic bomb later dropped on Nagasaki, Japan, and everything the Los Alamos scientists knew about the hypothesized hydrogen bomb. The revelations of Fuchs’ espionage, coupled with the loss of U.S. atomic supremacy, led President Truman to order development of the hydrogen bomb, a weapon theorized to be hundreds of times more powerful than the atomic bombs dropped on Japan.
On November 1, 1952, the United States successfully detonated “Mike,” the world’s first hydrogen bomb, on the Elugelab Atoll in the Pacific Marshall Islands. The 10.4-megaton thermonuclear device instantly vaporized an entire island and left behind a crater more than a mile wide. Three years later, on November 22, 1955, the Soviet Union detonated its first hydrogen bomb on the same principle of radiation implosion. Both superpowers were now in possession of the so-called “superbomb,” and the world lived under the threat of thermonuclear war for the first time in history.
“Soviets explode atomic bomb.” 2008. The History Channel website. 29 Aug 2008, 03:21 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=5299.
Developed in 1949, the Mark VI Aerial Bomb was basically an improved version of the “Fat Man” bomb that was dropped on Nagasaki, Japan, in 1945. An implosion bomb (involving implosion-triggered plutonium fission), it had a higher yield, was lighter and had improved ballistic (flying) characteristics. It could be carried internally on B-29, B-36, B-47, B-50 and B-52 aircraft, and the bombardier could set the height above ground of the explosion while the aircraft was in flight. The Mark VI underwent seven modifications — Mod 0 to Mod 6 — between 1951 and 1955. It was the first mass produced nuclear weapon. The last Mark VI was retired in 1962.