Archive for May 11th, 2009

11
May
09

Baltimore Oriole

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They like grape jelly.

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11
May
09

On This Day, May 11: Kim Philby Died

May 11, 1988

Kim Philby dies

Kim Philby, a former British Secret Intelligence Service officer and double agent for the Soviet Union, dies in Moscow at the age of 76. Philby was perhaps the most famous of a group of British government officials who served as Russian spies from the 1930s to the 1950s.

Philby came from a privileged and respected background in British society. He attended Trinity College at Cambridge University in the early 1930s, and became progressively more attracted to radical politics. In 1934, he traveled to Vienna where he met, married, and soon divorced a young woman who was a member of the Austrian Communist Party. Philby later claimed that this was when the Soviet government recruited him to do espionage work in Great Britain.

In 1941, Philby successfully entered the ranks of the British Secret Intelligence Service–the famed M.I.6. He quickly rose through the ranks and, in an ironic turn of events, was charged with handling the Service’s double agents. During the war, he worked closely with both American and Soviet espionage agencies to coordinate activities against Hitler’s Germany. After the war, he continued his ascension in the Service’s bureaucracy; many believed that he was slated to become its next director. While stationed in Washington in 1951, however, he risked exposure. He learned that Donald Maclean, a colleague who was also working for the Soviets and had been stationed in Washington, was under investigation by the FBI. Philby arranged for Guy Burgess, yet another colleague who was a double agent for the Soviets, to be sent back to England from his station in Washington to warn Maclean. Burgess and Maclean eventually fled England and later surfaced in the Soviet Union. Philby came under heavy suspicion and, although cleared of charges, he was dismissed in 1955. In 1963, new charges arose concerning Philby and his connections with Soviet espionage. This time, Philby fled and joined Burgess and Maclean in Russia.

Philby, in interviews given in Russia and his 1968 memoir, My Silent War: The Soviet Master Spy’s Own Story, claimed that he turned to spying for the Soviet Union during the 1930s because he did not believe the western democracies were doing enough to stop Hitler. His loyalties to Russia and the ideals of communism did not diminish with the onset of the Cold War, however. In 1988, he died in Moscow, apparently from a heart attack. The defections of Burgess, Maclean, and Philby were immense blows to British diplomacy, intelligence, and the general public morale. The fact that these three men, products of the best and brightest of British society, could turn against their country shocked the country. The Philby defection, in particular, was one of the most scandalous events of the Cold War.

“Kim Philby dies,” The History Channel website, 2009, http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=2664 [accessed May 11, 2009]

 

On This Day

0330 – Constantinople, previously the town of Byzantium, was founded.

1812 – British prime Minster Spencer Perceval was shot by a bankrupt banker in the lobby of the House of Commons.

1858 – Minnesota was admitted as the 32nd U.S. state.

1910 – Glacier National Park in Montana was established.

1944 – A major offensive was launched by the allied forces in central Italy.

1960 – Israeli soldiers captured Adolf Eichmann in Buenos Aires.

1967 – The siege of Khe Sanh ended.

1995 – The Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty was extended indefinitely. The treaty limited the spread of nuclear material for military purposes.

1997 – Garry Kasparov, world chess champion, lost his first ever multi-game match. He lost to IBM’s chess computer Deep Blue. It was the first time a computer had beat a world-champion player.

1998 – India conducted its first underground nuclear tests, three of them, in 24 years. The tests were in violation of a global ban on nuclear testing.

May 11, 1934

Dust storm sweeps from Great Plains across Eastern states

On this day in 1934, a massive storm sends millions of tons of topsoil flying from across the parched Great Plains region of the United States as far east as New York, Boston and Atlanta.

At the time the Great Plains were settled in the mid-1800s, the land was covered by prairie grass, which held moisture in the earth and kept most of the soil from blowing away even during dry spells. By the early 20th century, however, farmers had plowed under much of the grass to create fields. The U.S. entry into World War I in 1917 caused a great need for wheat, and farms began to push their fields to the limit, plowing under more and more grassland with the newly invented tractor. The plowing continued after the war, when the introduction of even more powerful gasoline tractors sped up the process. During the 1920s, wheat production increased by 300 percent, causing a glut in the market by 1931.

That year, a severe drought spread across the region. As crops died, wind began to carry dust from the over-plowed and over-grazed lands. The number of dust storms reported jumped from 14 in 1932 to 28 in 1933. The following year, the storms decreased in frequency but increased in intensity, culminating in the most severe storm yet in May 1934. Over a period of two days, high-level winds caught and carried some 350 million tons of silt all the way from the northern Great Plains to the eastern seaboard. According to The New York Times, dust “lodged itself in the eyes and throats of weeping and coughing New Yorkers,” and even ships some 300 miles offshore saw dust collect on their decks.

The dust storms forced thousands of families from Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Colorado, Kansas and New Mexico to uproot and migrate to California, where they were derisively known as “Okies”–no matter which state they were from. These transplants found life out West not much easier than what they had left, as work was scarce and pay meager during the worst years of the Great Depression.

Another massive storm on April 15, 1935–known as “Black Sunday”–brought even more attention to the desperate situation in the Great Plains region, which reporter Robert Geiger called the “Dust Bowl.” That year, as part of its New Deal program, President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s administration began to enforce federal regulation of farming methods, including crop rotation, grass-seeding and new plowing methods. This worked to a point, reducing dust storms by up to 65 percent, but only the end of the drought in the fall of 1939 would truly bring relief.

“Dust storm sweeps from Great Plains across Eastern states,” The History Channel website, 2009, http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=52688 [accessed May 11, 2009]




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