Posts Tagged ‘Cold War

12
Jun
09

On This Day, June 12: Tear Down This Wall

June 12, 1987

Reagan challenges Gorbachev

On this day in 1987, in one of his most famous Cold War speeches, President Ronald Reagan challenges Soviet Leader Mikhail Gorbachev to “tear down” the Berlin Wall, a symbol of the repressive Communist era in a divided Germany.

In 1945, following Germany’s defeat in World War II, the nation’s capital, Berlin, was divided into four sections, with the Americans, British and French controlling the western region and the Soviets gaining power in the eastern region. In May 1949, the three western sections came together as the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany), with the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) being established in October of that same year. In 1952, the border between the two countries was closed and by the following year East Germans were prosecuted if they left their country without permission. In August 1961, the Berlin Wall was erected by the East German government to prevent its citizens from escaping to the West. Between 1949 and the wall’s inception, it’s estimated that over 2.5 million East Germans fled to the West in search of a less repressive life.

With the wall as a backdrop, President Reagan declared to a West Berlin crowd in 1987, “There is one sign the Soviets can make that would be unmistakable, that would advance dramatically the cause of freedom and peace.” He then called upon his Soviet counterpart: “Secretary General Gorbachev, if you seek peace–if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe–if you seek liberalization: come here, to this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.” Reagan then went on to ask Gorbachev to undertake serious arms reduction talks with the United States.

Most listeners at the time viewed Reagan’s speech as a dramatic appeal to Gorbachev to renew negotiations on nuclear arms reductions. It was also a reminder that despite the Soviet leader’s public statements about a new relationship with the West, the U.S. wanted to see action taken to lessen Cold War tensions. Happily for Berliners, though, the speech also foreshadowed events to come: Two years later, on November 9, 1989, joyful East and West Germans did break down the infamous barrier between East and West Berlin. Germany was officially reunited on October 3, 1990.

Gorbachev, who had been in office since 1985, stepped down from his post as Soviet leader in 1991. Reagan, who served two terms as president, from 1981 to 1989, died on June 5, 2004, at age 93.

“Reagan challenges Gorbachev,” The History Channel website, 2009, http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=52611 [accessed Jun 12, 2009]

On This Day

1099 – Crusade leaders visited the Mount of Olives where they met a hermit who urged them to assault Jerusalem.

1812 – Napoleon’s invasion of Russia began.

1838 – The Iowa Territory was organized.

1918 – The first airplane bombing raid by an American unit occurred on World War I’s Western Front in France.

1926 – Brazil quit the League of Nations in protest over plans to admit Germany.

1929 – Anne Frank was born in Germany. She wrote in her diary about growing up in occupied Amsterdam during World War II. She died in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in March 1945.

1937 – The Soviet Union executed eight army leaders under Joseph Stalin.

1963 – Civil rights leader Medgar Evers was fatally shot in front of his home in Jackson, MS.

1967 – State laws which prohibited interracial marriages were ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court.

1979 – Bryan Allen flew the Gossamer Albatross, man powered, across the English Channel.

1985 – The U.S. House of Representatives approved $27 million in aid to the Nicaraguan contras.

1992 – In a letter to the U.S. Senate, Russian Boris Yeltsin stated that in the early 1950’s the Soviet Union had shot down nine U.S. planes and held 12 American survivors.

June 12, 1942

Anne Frank receives a diary

On this day, Anne Frank, a young Jewish girl living in Amsterdam, receives a diary for her 13th birthday. A month later, she and her family went into hiding from the Nazis in rooms behind her father’s office. For two years, the Franks and four other families hid, fed and cared for by Gentile friends. The families were discovered by the Gestapo, which had been tipped off, in 1944. The Franks were taken to Auschwitz, where Anne’s mother died. Friends in Amsterdam searched the rooms and found Anne’s diary hidden away.

Anne and her sister were transferred to another camp, Bergen-Belsen, where Anne died of typhus a month before the war ended.

Anne’s father survived Auschwitz and published Anne’s diary in 1947 as The Diary of a Young Girl. The book has been translated into some 30 languages.

“Anne Frank receives a diary,” The History Channel website, 2009, http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=tdihArticleCategory&id=4000 [accessed Jun 12, 2009]

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21
Mar
09

On This Day, March 21: Sharpeville

March 21, 1960

Massacre in Sharpeville

In the black township of Sharpeville, near Johannesburg, South Africa, Afrikaner police open fire on a group of unarmed black South African demonstrators, killing 69 people and wounding 180 in a hail of submachine-gun fire. The demonstrators were protesting against the South African government’s restriction of nonwhite travel. In the aftermath of the Sharpeville massacre, protests broke out in Cape Town, and more than 10,000 people were arrested before government troops restored order.

The incident convinced anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela to abandon his nonviolent stance and organize paramilitary groups to fight South Africa’s system of institutionalized racial discrimination. In 1964, after some minor military action, Mandela was convicted of treason and sentenced to life in prison. He was released after 27 years and in 1994 was elected the first black president of South Africa.

“Massacre in Sharpeville.” 2009. The History Channel website. 21 Mar 2009, 04:18 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=tdihArticleCategory&id=4853.

 

On This Day

1349 – 3,000 Jews were killed in Black Death riots in Efurt Germany.

1556 – Thomas Cranmer, the Archbishop of Canterbury, was burned at the stake at Oxford after retracting the last of seven recantations that same day.

1804 – The French civil code, the Code Napoleon, was adopted.

1851 – Emperor Tu Duc ordered that Christian priests be put to death.

1871 – Journalist Henry M Stanley began his famous expedition to Africa.

1905 – Sterilization legislation was passed in the State of Pennsylvania. The governor vetoed the measure.

1918 – During World War I, the Germans launched the Somme Offensive.

1945 – During World War II, Allied bombers began four days of raids over Germany.

1963 – Alcatraz Island, the federal penitentiary in San Francisco Bay, CA, closed.

1965 – More than 3,000 civil rights demonstrators led by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. began a march from Selma to Montgomery, AL.

1972 – The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that states could not require one year of residency for voting eligibility.

1984 – A Soviet submarine crashed into the USS Kitty Hawk off the coast of Japan.

1985 – In Langa, South Africa, at least 21 demonstrators were killed at a march to mark the 25th anniversary of the Sharpeville shootings.

1990 – Namibia became independent of South Africa.

 

March 21, 1980

Carter tells U.S. athletes of Olympic boycott

President Jimmy Carter informs a group of U.S. athletes that, in response to the December 1979 Soviet incursion into Afghanistan, the United States will boycott the 1980 Olympics in Moscow. It marked the first and only time that the United States has boycotted the Olympics.

After the Soviet Union intervened in Afghanistan in December 1979 to prop up an unstable pro-Soviet government, the United States reacted quickly and sharply. It suspended arms negotiations with the Soviets, condemned the Russian action in the United Nations, and threatened to boycott the Olympics to be held in Moscow in 1980. When the Soviets refused to withdraw their troops from Afghanistan, President Carter finalized his decision to boycott the games. On March 21, 1980, he met with approximately 150 U.S. athletes and coaches to explain his decision. He told the crowd, “I understand how you feel,” and recognized their intense disappointment. However, Carter defended his action, stating, “What we are doing is preserving the principles and the quality of the Olympics, not destroying it.” Many of the athletes were devastated by the news. As one stated, “As citizens, it is an easy decision to make-support the president. As athletes, it is a difficult decision.” Others declared that the president was politicizing the Olympics. Most of the athletes only reluctantly supported Carter’s decision.

The U.S. decision to boycott the 1980 Olympic games had no impact on Soviet policy in Afghanistan (Russian troops did not withdraw until nearly a decade later), but it did tarnish the prestige of the games in Moscow. It was not the first time that Cold War diplomacy insinuated itself into international sports. The Soviet Union had refused to play Chile in World Cup soccer in 1973 because of the overthrow and death of Chile’s leftist president earlier that year. Even the playing field was not immune from Cold War tensions

“Carter tells U.S. athletes of Olympic boycott.” 2009. The History Channel website. 21 Mar 2009, 04:26 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=2613.

10
Mar
09

On This Day, March 10: The Dalai Lama

March 10, 1959

Rebellion in Tibet

On this day in 1959, Tibetans band together in revolt, surrounding the summer palace of the Dalai Lama in defiance of Chinese occupation forces.

China’s occupation of Tibet began nearly a decade before, in October 1950, when troops from its People’s Liberation Army (PLA) invaded the country, barely one year after the Communists gained full control of mainland China. The Tibetan government gave into Chinese pressure the following year, signing a treaty that ensured the power of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, the country’s spiritual leader, over Tibet’s domestic affairs. Resistance to the Chinese occupation built steadily over the next several years, including a revolt in several areas of eastern Tibet in 1956. By December 1958, rebellion was simmering in Lhasa, the capital, and the PLA command threatened to bomb the city if order was not maintained.

The March 1959 uprising in Lhasa was triggered by fears of a plot to kidnap the Dalai Lama and take him to Beijing. When Chinese military officers invited His Holiness to visit the PLA headquarters for a theatrical performance and official tea, he was told he must come alone, and that no Tibetan military bodyguards or personnel would be allowed past the edges of the military camp. On March 10, 300,000 loyal Tibetans surrounded Norbulinka Palace, preventing the Dalai Lama from accepting the PLA’s invitation. By March 17, Chinese artillery was aimed at the palace, and the Dalai Lama was evacuated to neighboring India. Fighting broke out in Lhasa two days later, with Tibetan rebels hopelessly outnumbered and outgunned. Early on March 21, the Chinese began shelling Norbulinka, slaughtering tens of thousands of men, women and children still camped outside. In the aftermath, the PLA cracked down on Tibetan resistance, executing the Dalai Lama’s guards and destroying Lhasa’s major monasteries along with thousands of their inhabitants.

China’s stranglehold on Tibet and its brutal suppression of separatist activity has continued in the decades following the unsuccessful uprising. Tens of thousands of Tibetans followed their leader to India, where the Dalai Lama has long maintained a government-in-exile in the foothills of the Himalayas. 

“Rebellion in Tibet.” 2009. The History Channel website. 10 Mar 2009, 09:40 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=52437.

On This Day

0515 BC – The building of the great Jewish temple in Jerusalem was completed.

0241 BC – The Roman fleet sank 50 Carthaginian ships in the Battle of Aegusa.

0049 BC – Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon and invaded Italy.

1496 – Christopher Columbus concluded his second visit to the Western Hemisphere when he left Hispaniola for Spain.

1656 – In the American colony of Virginia, suffrage was extended to all free men regardless of their religion.

1776 – “Common Sense” by Thomas Paine was published.

1785 – Thomas Jefferson was appointed minister to France. He succeeded Benjamin Franklin.

1804 – The formal ceremonies transferring the Louisiana Purchase from France to the U.S. took place in St. Louis.

1814 – In France, Napoleon Bonaparte was defeated by a combined Allied Army at the battle of Laon.

1848 – The U.S. Senate ratified the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which ended the war with Mexico.

1864 – Ulysses S. Grant became commander of the Union armies in the U.S. Civil War.

1910 – Slavery was abolished in China.

1912 – China became a republic after the overthrow of the Manchu Ch’ing Dynasty.

1927 – Prussia lifted its Nazi ban allowing Adolf Hitler to speak in public.

1944 – The Irish refused to oust all Axis envoys and denied the accusation of spying on Allied troops.

1945 – American B-29 bombers attacked Tokyo, Japan, 100,000 were killed.

1949 – Nazi wartime broadcaster Mildred E. Gillars, also known as “Axis Sally,” was convicted in Washington, DC. Gillars was convicted of treason and served 12 years in prison.

1953 – North Korean gunners at Wonsan fired upon the USS Missouri. The ship responded by firing 998 rounds at the enemy position.

1966 – The North Vietnamese captured a Green Beret camp at Ashau Valley.

1966 – France withdrew from NATO’s military command to protest U.S. dominance of the alliance and asked NATO to move its headquarters from Paris.

1969 – James Earl Ray plead guilty in Memphis, TN, to the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. Ray later repudiated the guilty plea and maintained his innocence until his death in April of 1998.

1971 – The U.S. Senate approved an amendment to lower the voting age to 18.

March 10, 1948

Strange death of Jan Masaryk

The communist-controlled government of Czechoslovakia reports that Foreign Minister Jan Masaryk has committed suicide. The story of the noncommunist Masaryk’s death was greeted with skepticism in the West.

Masaryk was born in 1886, the son of Czechoslovakia’s first president. After World War I, he served as foreign minister in the new Czech government. Later he served as the Czech ambassador to Great Britain. During World War II, he once again took the position of foreign minister, this time with the Czech government-in-exile in London. After the war, Masaryk returned to Czechoslovakia to serve as foreign minister under President Eduard Benes. It was a tense time in Masaryk’s native country. The Soviet Union had occupied the nation during World War II and there were fears that the Soviets would try to install a communist government in Czechoslovakia, as it had in Poland, East Germany, and elsewhere in Eastern Europe. Masaryk, however, was skillful in dealing with the Soviets, assuring them that a democratic Czechoslovakia posed no security threat to Russia.

In 1947, though, Masaryk made a fatal mistake. When the United States unveiled the Marshall Plan-the multimillion-dollar aid program for postwar Europe-Masaryk indicated Czechoslovakia’s interest in participating. When he informed the Soviets, they absolutely refused to give their approval. This was quickly followed, in February 1948, by a communist coup in Czechoslovakia. President Benes was forced to accept a communist-dominated government. Masaryk was one of the few non-communists left in place. On March 10, 1948, the Czech government reported that Masaryk had committed suicide by jumping out of a third-story window at the Foreign Ministry.

The reaction in the West was characterized by deep suspicion. Secretary of State George Marshall stated that Czechoslovakia was under a “reign of terror,” and that Masaryk’s “suicide” indicated “very plainly what is going on.” Despite suspicions that the communists had murdered Masaryk, nothing has been proven definitively and his death remains one of the great mysteries of the Cold War era.

“Strange death of Jan Masaryk,” The History Channel website, 2009, http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=2602 [accessed Mar 10, 2009]

06
Mar
09

On This Day, March 6: Georgi Malenkov

March 6, 1953

Georgi Malenkov succeeds Stalin

Just one day after the death of long-time Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, Georgi Malenkov is named premier and first secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. Malenkov’s tenure was extremely brief, and within a matter of weeks he was pushed aside by Nikita Khrushchev.

Malenkov was one of the few old-time Bolsheviks who had survived Stalin’s bloody purges of the 1930s. A quiet figure who seemed to prefer working in the background, Malenkov was not taken seriously by many of his peers in the Soviet government, but under Stalin’s watchful eye he proceeded up the Communist Party hierarchy throughout the 1930s and 1940s. By the late-1940s it was widely assumed that he would succeed Stalin. When Stalin died in March 1953, Malenkov took the position of premier and first secretary of the Communist Party. It appeared that he might have a reformist streak, as he called for cuts in military spending and eased up on political repression in the Soviet Union and the eastern bloc nations. These actions might have proved his undoing. In just two weeks, his main political opponent in the Communist Party, Nikita Khrushchev, had organized a coalition of political and military leaders against Malenkov and took over as first secretary.

In February 1955, this same group voted Malenkov out as premier and a Khrushchev puppet, Nikolai Bulganin, took over. Malenkov seethed at this action and in 1957 joined in a plot to overthrow Khrushchev. When the attempt failed, he was dismissed from his government positions and expelled from the Communist Party. Instead of imprisonment, Malenkov faced the disgrace of being sent to Kazakhstan to serve as the manager of a hydroelectric operation. He died in 1988.

Malenkov was a transition figure from the iron-fisted dictatorship of Joseph Stalin to the more moderate regime instituted by Nikita Khrushchev. In an ironic turn of affairs, Khrushchev eventually supported many of the reforms first put forward by Malenkov.

“Georgi Malenkov succeeds Stalin.” 2009. The History Channel website. 6 Mar 2009, 05:15 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=2598.

On This Day

1521 – Ferdinand Magellan discovered Guam.

1820 – The Missouri Compromise was enacted by the U.S. Congress and signed by U.S. President James Monroe. The act admitted Missouri into the Union as a slave state, but prohibited slavery in the rest of the northern Louisiana Purchase territory.

1836 – The thirteen-day siege of the Alamo by Santa Anna and his army ended. The Mexican army of three thousand men defeated the 189 Texas volunteers.

1857 – The U.S. Supreme Court’s Dred Scott decision ruled that blacks could not sue in federal court to be citizens.

1944 – During World War II, U.S. heavy bombers began the first American raid on Berlin. Allied planes dropped 2000 tons of bombs.

1946 – Ho Chi Minh, the President of Vietnam, struck an agreement with France that recognized his country as an autonomous state within the Indochinese Federation and the French Union.

1957 – The British African colonies of the Gold Coast and Togoland became the independent state of Ghana.

1960 – Switzerland granted women the right to vote in municipal elections.

1960 – The United States announced that it would send 3,500 troops to Vietnam.

1967 – U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson announced his plan to establish a draft lottery.

1973 – U.S. President Richard Nixon imposed price controls on oil and gas.

March 6, 1951

The Rosenberg trial begins

The trial of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg begins in New York Southern District federal court. Judge Irving R. Kaufman presides over the espionage prosecution of the couple accused of selling nuclear secrets to the Russians (treason could not be charged because the United States was not at war with the Soviet Union). The Rosenbergs, and co-defendant, Morton Sobell, were defended by the father and son team of Emanuel and Alexander Bloch. The prosecution includes the infamous Roy Cohn, best known for his association with Senator Joseph McCarthy.

David Greenglass was a machinist at Los Alamos, where America developed the atomic bomb. Julius Rosenberg, his brother-in-law, was a member of the American Communist Party and was fired from his government job during the Red Scare. According to Greenglass, Rosenberg asked him to pass highly confidential instructions on making atomic weapons to the Soviet Union. These materials were transferred to the Russians by Harry Gold, an acquaintance of Greenglass. The Soviets exploded their first atomic bomb (and effectively started the Cold War) in September 1949 based on information, including that from Greenglass, they had obtained from spies.

The only direct evidence of the Rosenberg’s involvement was the confession of Greenglass. The left-wing community believed that the Rosenbergs were prosecuted because of their membership in the Communist Party. Their case became the cause celebre of leftists throughout the nation.

The trial lasted nearly a month, finally ending on April 4 with convictions for all the defendants. The Rosenbergs were sentenced to death row on April 6. Sobell received a thirty-year sentence. Greenglass got fifteen years for his cooperation. Reportedly, the Rosenbergs were offered a deal in which their death sentences would be commuted in return for an admission of their guilt. They refused and were executed.

“The Rosenberg trial begins.” 2009. The History Channel website. 6 Mar 2009, 05:18 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=929.

02
Mar
09

On This Day, March 2: Rolling Thunder

March 2, 1965

First Rolling Thunder raid conducted

Operation Rolling Thunder begins with more than 100 United States Air Force jet bombers striking an ammunition depot at Xom Bang, 10 miles inside North Vietnam. Simultaneously, 60 South Vietnamese Air Force propeller planes bombed the Quang Khe naval base, 65 miles north of the 17th parallel.

Six U.S. planes were downed, but only one U.S. pilot was lost. Capt. Hayden J. Lockhart, flying an F-100, was shot down and became the first Air Force pilot to be taken prisoner by the North Vietnamese. Lockhart was released in 1973 when U.S. POWs were returned under provisions of the Paris Peace Accords.

The raid was the result of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s decision in February to undertake the sustained bombing of North Vietnam that he and his advisers had been considering for more than a year. The goal of Rolling Thunder was to interdict North Vietnamese transportation routes in the southern part of North Vietnam and the slow infiltration of personnel and supplies into South Vietnam. In July 1966, Rolling Thunder was expanded to include North Vietnamese ammunition dumps and oil storage facilities as targets and in the spring of 1967 it was further expanded to include power plants, factories, and airfields in the Hanoi-Haiphong area.

The White House closely controlled Operation Rolling Thunder and President Johnson occasionally selected the targets himself. From 1965 to 1968, about 643,000 tons of bombs were dropped on North Vietnam. A total of nearly 900 U.S. aircraft were lost during Operation Rolling Thunder. The operation continued, with occasional suspensions, until President Johnson halted it on October 31, 1968, under increasing domestic political pressure.

“First Rolling Thunder raid conducted.” 2009. The History Channel website. 2 Mar 2009, 11:21 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=1704.

 

On This Day

1807 – The U.S. Congress passed an act to “prohibit the importation of slaves into any port or place within the jurisdiction of the United States… from any foreign kingdom, place, or country.”

1836 – Texas declared its independence from Mexico and an ad interim government was formed.

1877 – In the U.S., Rutherford B. Hayes was declared the winner of the 1876 presidential election by the U.S. Congress. Samuel J. Tilden, however, had won the popular vote on November 7, 1876.

1899 – Mount Rainier National Park in Washington was established by the U.S. Congress.

1901 – The U.S. Congress passed the Platt amendment, which limited Cuban autonomy as a condition for withdrawal of U.S. troops.

1908 – In Paris, Gabriel Lippmann introduced three-dimensional color photography at the Academy of Sciences.

1917 – The Russian Revolution began with Czar Nicholas II abdicating.

1917 – Citizens of Puerto Rico were granted U.S. citizenship with the enactment of the Jones Act.

1946 – Ho Chi Minh was elected President of Vietnam.

1949 – The B-50 Superfortress Lucky Lady II landed in Fort Worth, TX. The American plane had completed the first non-stop around-the-world flight.

1969 – In Toulouse, France, the supersonic transport Concorde made its first test flight.

2004 – NASA announced that the Mars rover Opportunity had discovered evidence that water had existed on Mars in the past.

March 2, 1969

Soviet Union and Chinese armed forces clash

In a dramatic confirmation of the growing rift between the two most powerful communist nations in the world, troops from the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China fire on each other at a border outpost on the Ussuri River in the eastern region of the USSR, north of Vladivostok. In the years following this incident, the United States used the Soviet-Chinese schism to its advantage in its Cold War diplomacy.

The cause of the firefight between Soviet and Chinese troops was a matter of dispute. The Soviets charged that Chinese soldiers crossed the border between the two nations and attacked a Soviet outpost, killing and wounding a number of Russian guards. The intruders were then driven back with heavy casualties. The Chinese report indicated that it was the Soviets who crossed the border and were repulsed. Either way, it was the first time that either side openly admitted to a clash of arms along the border, though it had been rumored for years that similar run-ins were occurring. Ever since the early-1960s, relations between the two communist superpowers had deteriorated. China charged that the Soviet leadership was deviating from the pure path of Marxism, and by the mid-1960s, Chinese leaders were openly declaring that the United States and the Soviet Union were conspiring against the Chinese Revolution.

For the United States, the breakdown of relations between the Soviet Union and China was a diplomatic opportunity. By the early 1970s, the United States began to initiate diplomatic contacts with China. (Relations between the two nations had been severed in 1949 following the successful communist revolution in China.) In 1972, President Richard Nixon surprised the world by announcing that he would visit China. The strongest impetus for this new cordiality toward communist China was the U.S. desire to use the new relationship as leverage in its diplomacy with the Soviet Union, making the Russians more malleable on issues such as arms control and their support of North Vietnam in the on-going Vietnam War. Pitting these two communist giants against one another became a mainstay of U.S. diplomacy in the later Cold War era.

“Soviet Union and Chinese armed forces clash.” 2009. The History Channel website. 2 Mar 2009, 11:22 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=2594.

01
Mar
09

On This Day, March 1: Salem Witch Hunt

March 1, 1692

Salem Witch Hunt begins

In Salem Village in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, Sarah Goode, Sarah Osborne, and Tituba, an Indian slave from Barbados, are charged with the illegal practice of witchcraft. Later that day, Tituba, possibly under coercion, confessed to the crime, encouraging the authorities to seek out more Salem witches.

Trouble in the small Puritan community began the month before, when nine-year-old Elizabeth Parris and 11-year-old Abigail Williams, the daughter and niece, respectively, of the Reverend Samuel Parris, began experiencing fits and other mysterious maladies. A doctor concluded that the children were suffering from the effects of witchcraft, and the young girls corroborated the doctor’s diagnosis. With encouragement from a number of adults in the community, the girls, who were soon joined by other “afflicted” Salem residents, accused a widening circle of local residents of witchcraft, mostly middle-aged women but also several men and even one four-year-old child. During the next few months, the afflicted area residents incriminated more than 150 women and men from Salem Village and the surrounding areas of Satanic practices.

In June 1692, the special Court of Oyer, “to hear,” and Terminer, “to decide,” convened in Salem under Chief Justice William Stoughton to judge the accused. The first to be tried was Bridget Bishop of Salem, who was found guilty and executed by hanging on June 10. Thirteen more women and four men from all stations of life followed her to the gallows, and one man, Giles Corey, was executed by crushing. Most of those tried were condemned on the basis of the witnesses’ behavior during the actual proceedings, characterized by fits and hallucinations that were argued to be caused by the defendants on trial.

In October 1692, Governor William Phipps of Massachusetts ordered the Court of Oyer and Terminer dissolved and replaced with the Superior Court of Judicature, which forbade the type of sensational testimony allowed in the earlier trials. Executions ceased, and the Superior Court eventually released all those awaiting trial and pardoned those sentenced to death. The Salem witch trials, which resulted in the executions of 19 innocent women and men, had effectively ended.

“Salem Witch Hunt begins.” 2009. The History Channel website. 1 Mar 2009, 01:15 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=4801.

On This Day

1562 – In Vassy, France, Catholics massacred over 1,000 Huguenots. The event started the First War of Religion.

1803 – Ohio became the 17th U.S. state.

1845 – U.S. President Tyler signed the congressional resolution to annex the Republic of Texas.

1867 – Nebraska became the 37th U.S. state.

1872 – The U.S. Congress authorized the creation of Yellowstone National Park. It was the world’s first national park.

1912 – Captain Albert Berry made the first parachute jump from a moving airplane.

1932 – The 22-month-old son of Charles and Anne Lindbergh was kidnapped. The child was found dead in May.

1950 – Klaus Fuchs was convicted of giving U.S. atomic secrets to the Soviet Union.

1954 – The United States announced that it had conducted a hydrogen bomb test on the Bikini Atoll in the Pacific Ocean.

1961 – The Peace Corps was established by U.S. President Kennedy.

1971 – A bomb exploded in a restroom in the Senate wing of the U.S. Capitol. There were no injuries. A U.S. group protesting the Vietnam War claimed responsibility.

1974 – Seven people were indicted in connection with the Watergate break-in. The charge was conspiring to obstruct justice.

 

March 1, 1864

Grant nominated for lieutenant general

President Lincoln nominates Ulysses S. Grant for the newly revived rank of lieutenant general. At the time, George Washington was the only other man to have held that rank. Winfield Scott also attained the title but by brevet only; he did not actually command with it.

The promotion carried Grant to the supreme command of Union forces and capped one of the most remarkable success stories of the war. Born in Ohio in 1822, Grant attended West Point and graduated in 1843, 21st in a class of 39. He served in the Mexican War in 1847 to 1848 and on the frontier in the 1850s. During this time, Grant acquired experience in logistics and the supply of troops, developing skills that later made him a success during the Civil War. He also developed a reputation as a heavy drinker, and he denied charges of drunkenness throughout the war.

When the Civil War erupted, Grant was not in the service and was working as a clerk in his father’s store in Galena, Illinois. Grant reenlisted after Fort Sumter fell in April 1861; his first assignment was to raise troops in Illinois. In June, the governor appointed him colonel of the 21st Illinois. After leading his regiment to protect a railroad in Missouri, Grant was promoted to brigadier general on July 31, 1861. In early 1862, Grant won the first major Union victories of the war when he captured Forts Henry and Donelson in Tennessee. For the next two years he was the most successful general in the army. His campaign to capture Vicksburg was one of the most efficient offensives of the war, and the Yankees captured the Mississippi River and most of Tennessee under his leadership.

Lincoln replaced Henry Halleck as the commander of all Union armies when he elevated Grant to the rank of lieutenant general. Unlike Halleck, Grant did not serve from behind a desk; he took the field with the largest Federal force, the Army of the Potomac, as he moved against Confederate General Robert E. Lee in Virginia.

“Grant nominated for lieutenant general.” 2009. The History Channel website. 1 Mar 2009, 01:21 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=2122.

26
Feb
09

On This Day, February 26: Zimmerman Telegram

February 26, 1917

President Wilson learns of Zimmermann Telegram

In a crucial step toward U.S. entry into World War I, President Woodrow Wilson learns of the so-called Zimmermann Telegram, a message from German Foreign Secretary Arthur Zimmermann to the German ambassador to Mexico proposing a Mexican-German alliance in the event of a war between the U.S. and Germany.

On February 24, 1917, British authorities gave Walter Hines Page, the U.S. ambassador to Britain, a copy of the Zimmermann Telegram, a coded message from Zimmermann to Count Johann von Bernstorff, the German ambassador to Mexico. In the telegram, intercepted and deciphered by British intelligence in late January, Zimmermann instructed his ambassador, in the event of a German war with the United States, to offer significant financial aid to Mexico if it agreed to enter the conflict as a German ally. Germany also promised to restore to Mexico the lost territories of Texas, New Mexico and Arizona.

The State Department promptly sent a copy of the Zimmermann Telegram to President Wilson, who was shocked by the note’s content and the next day proposed to Congress that the U.S. should start arming its ships against possible German attacks. Wilson also authorized the State Department to publish the telegram; it appeared on the front pages of American newspapers on March 1. Many Americans were horrified and declared the note a forgery; two days later, however, Zimmermann himself announced that it was genuine.

The Zimmermann Telegram helped turn the U.S. public, already angered by repeated German attacks on U.S. ships, firmly against Germany. On April 2, President Wilson, who had initially sought a peaceful resolution to World War I, urged immediate U.S. entrance into the war. Four days later, Congress formally declared war against Germany.

“President Wilson learns of Zimmermann Telegram.” 2009. The History Channel website. 26 Feb 2009, 08:30 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=230.

 

On This Day

1815 – Napoleon Bonaparte escaped from the Island of Elba. He then began his second conquest of France.

1863 – U.S. President Lincoln signed the National Currency Act.

1919 – In Arizona, the Grand Canyon was established as a National Park with an act of the U.S. Congress.

1929 – U.S. President Coolidge signed a bill creating the Grand Teton National Park.

1952 – British Prime Minister Winston Churchill announced that Britain had developed an atomic bomb.

1986 – Corazon Aquino was inaugurated president of the Phillipines. Long time President Ferdinand Marcos went into exile.

1987 – The Tower Commission rebuked U.S. President Reagan for failing to control his national security staff in the wake of the Iran-Contra affair.

1993 – Six people were killed and more than a thousand injured when a van exploded in the parking garage beneath the World Trade Center in New York City. The bomb had been built by Islamic extremists.

 

February 26, 1990

Sandinistas are defeated in Nicaraguan elections

A year after agreeing to free elections, Nicaragua’s leftist Sandinista government loses at the polls. The elections brought an end to more than a decade of U.S. efforts to unseat the Sandinista government.

The Sandinistas came to power when they overthrew long-time dictator Anastacio Somoza in 1979. From the outset, U.S. officials opposed the new regime, claiming that it was Marxist in its orientation. In the face of this opposition, the Sandinistas turned to the communist bloc for economic and military assistance. In 1981, President Ronald Reagan gave his approval for covert U.S. support of the so-called Contras-anti-Sandinista rebels based mostly in Honduras and Costa Rica. This support continued for most of the Reagan administration, until disapproval from the American public and reports of Contra abuses pushed Congress to cut off funding.

In 1989, Nicaraguan president Daniel Ortega met with the presidents of El Salvador, Costa Rica, Honduras, and Guatemala to hammer out a peace plan for his nation. In exchange for promises from the other nations to close down Contra bases within their borders, Ortega agreed to free elections within a year. These were held on February 26, 1990. Ortega and the Sandinistas suffered a stunning defeat when Violeta Barrios de Chamarro, widow of a newspaper editor assassinated during the Somoza years, polled over 55 percent of the presidential vote. The opposition also captured the National Assembly.

Chamarro’s election was a repudiation of over 10 years of Sandinista rule that had been characterized by a destructive war with the Contras and a failing economic system. The United States saw Chamarro’s victory as validation of its long-time support of the Contras, and many analysts likened the electoral defeat of the Sandinistas to the crumbling of communist regimes in Eastern Europe during the same period. Critics of the U.S. policy toward Nicaragua retorted that negotiations among the Central American presidents had brought free elections to Nicaragua-which nearly 10 years of American support of armed conflict had been unable to accomplish.

In the wake of the election, the administration of President George Bush immediately announced an end to the U.S. embargo against Nicaragua and pledged new economic assistance. Though rumors flew that the Sandinista-controlled army and security forces would not accept Chamarro, she was inaugurated without incident. The Sandinistas, however, continued to play a role in Nicaraguan politics and still actively campaign for, and occasionally win, political office.

“Sandinistas are defeated in Nicaraguan elections.” 2009. The History Channel website. 26 Feb 2009, 08:45 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=2589.




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