Posts Tagged ‘Fidel Castro

15
Apr
09

On This Day, April 15: Sacco and Vanzetti

April 15, 1920

The Sacco-Vanzetti case draws national attention

A paymaster and a security guard are killed during a mid-afternoon armed robbery of a shoe company in South Braintree, Massachusetts. Out of this rather unremarkable crime grew one of the most famous trials in American history and a landmark case in forensic crime detection.

Both Fred Parmenter and Alessandro Berardelli were shot several times as they attempted to move the payroll boxes of their New England shoe company. The two armed thieves, identified by witnesses as “Italian-looking,” fled in a Buick. The car was found abandoned in the woods several days later. Through evidence found in the car, police suspected that a man named Mike Boda was involved. However, Boda was one step ahead of the authorities, and he fled to Italy.

Police did manage to catch Boda’s colleagues, Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, who were each carrying loaded weapons at the time of their arrest. Sacco had a .32 caliber handgun–the same type as was used to kill the security guards–and bullets from the same manufacturer as those recovered from the shooting. Vanzetti was identified as a participant in a previous robbery attempt of a different shoe company.

Sacco and Vanzetti were anarchists, believing that social justice would come only through the destruction of governments. In the early 1920s, mainstream America developed a fear of communism and radical politics that resulted in a anti-communist, anti-immigrant hysteria. Sacco and Vanzetti, recognizing the uphill battle ahead, tried to put this fear to their advantage by drumming up support from the left wing with claims that the prosecution was politically motivated. Millions of dollars were raised for their defense by the radical left around the world. The American embassy in Paris was even bombed in response to the Sacco-Vanzetti case; a second bomb intended for the embassy in Lisbon was intercepted.

The well-funded defense put up a good fight, bringing forth nearly 100 witnesses to testify on the defendants’ behalf. Ultimately, eyewitness identification wasn’t the crucial issue; rather, it was the ballistics tests on the murder weapon. Prosecution experts, with rather primitive instruments, testified that Sacco’s gun was the murder weapon. Defense experts claimed just the opposite. In the end, on July 14, 1921, Sacco and Vanzetti were found guilty; they were sentenced to death.

However, the ballistics issue refused to go away as Sacco and Vanzetti waited on death row. In addition, a jailhouse confession by another criminal fueled the controversy. In 1927, Massachusetts Governor A. T. Fuller ordered another inquiry to advise him on the clemency request of the two anarchists. In the meantime, there had been many scientific advances in the field of forensics. The comparison microscope was now available for new ballistics tests and proved beyond a doubt that Sacco’s gun was indeed the murder weapon.

Sacco and Vanzetti were executed in August 1927, but even the new evidence didn’t completely quell the controversy. In October 1961, and again in March 1983, new investigations were conducted into the matter, but both revealed that Sacco’s revolver was indeed the one that fired the bullet and killed the security guards. On August 23, 1977, Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis issued a proclamation that Sacco and Vanzetti had not received a fair trial.

“The Sacco-Vanzetti case draws national attention,” The History Channel website, 2009, http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=973 [accessed Apr 15, 2009]

On This Day

1784 – The first balloon was flown in Ireland.

1817 – The first American school for the deaf was opened in Hartford, CT.

1861 – U.S. President Lincoln mobilized the Federal army.

1865 – U.S. President Abraham Lincoln died from injuries inflicted by John Wilkes Booth.

1912 – The ocean liner Titanic sank at 2:27 a.m. in the North Atlantic after hitting an iceberg the evening before. 1,517 people died and more than 700 people survived.

1945 – During World War II, British and Canadian troops liberated the Nazi concentration camp Bergen-Belsen.

1947 – Jackie Robinson played his first major league baseball game for the Brooklyn Dodgers. Previously he had only appeared in exhibition games.

1952 – U.S. President Harry Truman signed the official Japanese peace treaty.

1952 – The first B-52 prototype was tested in the air.

1953 – Charlie Chaplin surrendered his U.S. re-entry permit rather than face proceedings by the U.S. Justice Department. Chaplin was accused of sympathizing with Communist groups.

1960 – The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) was organized at Shaw University.

1987 – In Northhampton, MA, Amy Carter, Abbie Hoffman and 13 others were acquitted on civil disobedience charges related with a CIA protest.

1989 – Students in Beijing launched a series of pro democracy protests upon the death of former Communist Party leader Hu Yaobang. The protests led to the Tienanmen Square massacre.

1998 – Pol Pot died at the age of 73. The leader of the Khmer Rouge regime thereby evaded prosecution for the deaths of 2 million Cambodians.

April 15, 1959

Castro visits the United States

Four months after leading a successful revolution in Cuba, Fidel Castro visits the United States. The visit was marked by tensions between Castro and the American government.

On January 1, 1959, Castro’s revolutionary forces overthrew the Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista. From the beginning of the new regime in Cuba, U.S. officials worried about the bearded revolutionary. Castro’s anti-American rhetoric, his stated plans to nationalize foreign properties in Cuba, and his association with a number of suspected leftists (including his second-in-command, Che Guevara) prompted American diplomats to keep a wary eye on him. Though he worried politicians, American reporters adored him–his tales of the days spent fighting a guerrilla war in Cuba, the fatigues and combat boots he favored, and his bushy beard cut a striking figure. In April 1959, Castro accepted an invitation from the American Society of Newspaper Editors to visit the U.S.

The trip got off to an inauspicious start when it became clear that President Dwight D. Eisenhower had no intention of meeting with Castro. Instead, Eisenhower went to the golf course to avoid any chance meeting with Castro. Castro gave a talk to the Council on Foreign Affairs, a New York-based group of private citizens and former government officials interested in U.S. international relations. Castro was confrontational during the session, indicating that Cuba would not beg the United States for economic assistance. Angered by some of the questions from the audience, Castro abruptly left the meeting. Finally, before departing for Cuba, Castro met with Vice President Richard Nixon. Privately, Nixon hoped that his talk would push Castro “in the right direction,” and away from any radical policies, but he came away from his discussion full of doubt about the possibility of reorienting Castro’s thinking. Nixon concluded that Castro was “either incredibly naive about communism or under communist discipline-my guess is the former.”

Relations between the United States and Castro deteriorated rapidly following the April visit. In less than a year, President Eisenhower ordered the CIA to begin arming and training a group of Cuban exiles to attack Cuba (the disastrous attack, known as the Bay of Pigs invasion, was eventually carried out during the Kennedy administration). The heated Cold War animosity between America and Cuba would last for over 40 years.

“Castro visits the United States,” The History Channel website, 2009, http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=2638 [accessed Apr 15, 2009]

16
Feb
09

On This Day, February 16: Lt Stephen Decatur

February 16, 1804

The most daring act of the age

During the First Barbary War, U.S. Lieutenant Stephen Decatur leads a military mission that famed British Admiral Horatio Nelson calls the “most daring act of the age.”

In June 1801, President Thomas Jefferson ordered U.S. Navy vessels to the Mediterranean Sea in protest of continuing raids against U.S. ships by pirates from the Barbary states–Morocco, Algeria, Tunis, and Tripolitania. American sailors were often abducted along with the captured booty and ransomed back to the United States at an exorbitant price. After two years of minor confrontations, sustained action began in June 1803 when a small U.S. expeditionary force attacked Tripoli harbor in present-day Libya.

In October 1803, the U.S. frigate Philadelphia ran aground near Tripoli and was captured by Tripolitan gunboats. The Americans feared that the well-constructed warship would be both a formidable addition to the Tripolitan navy and an innovative model for building future Tripolitan frigates. Hoping to prevent the Barbary pirates from gaining this military advantage, Lieutenant Stephen Decatur led a daring expedition into Tripoli harbor to destroy the captured American vessel on February 16, 1804.

After disguising himself and his men as Maltese sailors, Decatur’s force of 74 men, which included nine U.S. Marines, sailed into Tripoli harbor on a small two-mast ship. The Americans approached the USS Philadelphia without drawing fire from the Tripoli shore guns, boarded the ship, and attacked its Tripolitan crew, capturing or killing all but two. After setting fire to the frigate, Decatur and his men escaped without the loss of a single American. The Philadelphia subsequently exploded when its gunpowder reserve was lit by the spreading fire.

Six months later, Decatur returned to Tripoli Harbor as part of a larger American offensive and emerged as a hero again during the so-called “Battle of the Gunboats,” a naval battle that saw hand-to-hand combat between the Americans and the Tripolitans.

“The most daring act of the age.” 2009. The History Channel website. 16 Feb 2009, 10:33 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=tdihArticleCategory&id=4768.

 

On This Day

1741 – Benjamin Franklin published America’s second magazine, “The General Magazine and Historical Chronicle”.

1857 – The National Deaf Mute College was incorporated in Washington, DC. It was the first school in the world for advanced education of the deaf. The school was later renamed Gallaudet College.

1862 – During the U.S. Civil War, about 14,000 Confederate soldiers surrendered to Gen. Ulysses S. Grant at Fort Donelson, TN.

1914 – The first airplane flight between Los Angeles and San Francisco took place.

1945 – During World War II, U.S. troops landed on the island of Corregidor in the Philippines.

1959 – Fidel Castro seized power in Cuba after the overthrow of President Fulgencio Batista.

1960 – The U.S.S. Triton began the first circumnavigation of the globe under water. The trip ended on May 10.

1970 – Joe Frazier began his reign as the undefeated heavyweight world champion when he knocked out Jimmy Ellis in five rounds. He lost the title on January 22, 1973, when he lost for the first time in his professional career to George Foreman.

1987 – John Demjanjuk went on trial in Jerusalem. He was accused of being “Ivan the Terrible”, a guard at the Treblinka concentration camp. He was convicted, but the Israeli Supreme Court overturned the ruling.

1999 – Testimony began in the Jasper, TX, trial of John William King. He was charged with murder in the gruesome dragging death of James Byrd Jr. King was later convicted and sentenced to death.

February 16, 1878

Silver dollars made legal

Strongly supported by western mining interests and farmers, the Bland-Allison Act-which provided for a return to the minting of silver coins–becomes the law of the land.

The strife and controversy surrounding the coinage of silver is difficult for most modern Americans to understand, but in the late 19th century it was a topic of keen political and economic interest. Today, the value of American money is essentially secured by faith in the stability of the government, but during the 19th century, money was generally backed by actual deposits of silver and gold, the so-called “bimetallic standard.” The U.S. also minted both gold and silver coins.

In 1873, Congress decided to follow the lead of many European nations and cease buying silver and minting silver coins, because silver was relatively scarce and to simplify the monetary system. Exacerbated by a variety of other factors, this led to a financial panic. When the government stopped buying silver, prices naturally dropped, and many owners of primarily western silver mines were hurt. Likewise, farmers and others who carried substantial debt loads attacked the so-called “Crime of ’73.” They believed, somewhat simplistically, that it caused a tighter supply of money, which in turn made it more difficult for them to pay off their debts.

A nationwide drive to return to the bimetallic standard gripped the nation, and many Americans came to place a near mystical faith in the ability of silver to solve their economic difficulties. The leader of the fight to remonetize silver was the Missouri Congressman Richard Bland. Having worked in mining and having witnessed the struggles of small farmers, Bland became a fervent believer in the silver cause, earning him the nickname “Silver Dick.”

With the backing of powerful western mining interests, Bland secured passage of the Bland-Allison Act, which became law on this day in 1878. Although the act did not provide for a return to the old policy of unlimited silver coinage, it did require the U.S. Treasury to resume purchasing silver and minting silver dollars as legal tender. Americans could once again use silver coins as legal tender, and this helped some struggling western mining operations. However, the act had little economic impact, and it failed to satisfy the more radical desires and dreams of the silver backers. The battle over the use of silver and gold continued to occupy Americans well into the 20th century.

“Silver dollars made legal.” 2009. The History Channel website. 16 Feb 2009, 10:26 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=4431.

02
Dec
08

On This Day, 12-2-2008: Chain Reaction

December 2, 1942

Fermi produces the first nuclear chain reaction

On this day, Enrico Fermi, the Italian-born Nobel Prize-winning physicist, directs and controls the first nuclear chain reaction in his laboratory beneath the bleachers of Stagg Field at the University of Chicago, ushering in the nuclear age. Upon successful completion of the experiment, a coded message was transmitted to President Roosevelt: “The Italian navigator has landed in the new world.”

Following on England’s Sir James Chadwick’s discovery of the neutron and the Curies’ production of artificial radioactivity, Fermi, a full-time professor of physics at the University of Florence, focused his work on producing radioactivity by manipulating the speed of neutrons derived from radioactive beryllium. Further similar experimentation with other elements, including uranium 92, produced new radioactive substances; Fermi’s colleagues believed he had created a new “transuranic” element with an atomic number of 93, the result of uranium 92 capturing a neuron while under bombardment, thus increasing its atomic weight. Fermi remained skeptical about his discovery, despite the enthusiasm of his fellow physicists. He became a believer in 1938, when he was awarded the Nobel Prize in physics for “his identification of new radioactive elements.” Although travel was restricted for men whose work was deemed vital to national security, Fermi was given permission to leave Italy and go to Sweden to receive his prize. He and his wife, Laura, who was Jewish, never returned; both feared and despised Mussolini’s fascist regime.

Fermi immigrated to New York City–Columbia University, specifically, where he recreated many of his experiments with Niels Bohr, the Danish-born physicist, who suggested the possibility of a nuclear chain reaction. Fermi and others saw the possible military applications of such an explosive power, and quickly composed a letter warning President Roosevelt of the perils of a German atomic bomb. The letter was signed and delivered to the president by Albert Einstein on October 11, 1939. The Manhattan Project, the American program to create its own atomic bomb, was the result.

It fell to Fermi to produce the first nuclear chain reaction, without which such a bomb was impossible. He created a jury-rigged laboratory with the necessary equipment, which he called an “atomic pile,” in a squash court in the basement of Stagg Field at the University of Chicago. With colleagues and other physicists looking on, Fermi produced the first self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction and the “new world” of nuclear power was born.

“Fermi produces the first nuclear chain reaction.” 2008. The History Channel website. 2 Dec 2008, 11:25 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=tdihArticleCategory&id=6398.

On This Day

1804 – Napoleon was crowned emperor of France at the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris.

1823 – U.S. President James Monroe outlined his doctrine opposing European expansion in the Western Hemisphere.

1859 – John Brown, a militant abolitionist, was hanged for his raid on Harper’s Ferry the previous October.

1901 – Gillette patented the first disposable razor.

1917 – During World War I, hostilities were suspended on the eastern front.

1927 – The Ford Motor Company unveiled the Model A automobile. It was the successor to the Model T.

1954 – The U.S. Senate voted to condemn Sen. Joseph R. McCarthy for what it called “conduct that tends to bring the Senate into dishonor and disrepute.” The censure was related to McCarthy’s controversial investigation of suspected communists in the U.S. government, military and civilian society.

1961 – Cuban leader Fidel Castro declared in a nationally broadcast speech that he was a Marxist-Leninist and that he was going to lead Cuba to communism.

1982 – Doctors at the University of Utah implanted a permanent artificial heart in the chest of retired dentist Barney Clark. He lived 112 days with the device. The operation was the first of its kind.

1995 – NASA launched a U.S.-European observatory on a $1 billion dollar mission intended to study the sun.

2001 – Enron Corp. filed for Chapter 11 reorganization. The filing came five days after Dynegy walked away from a $8.4 billion buyout. It was the largest bankruptcy in U.S. history.

December 2, 1962

Senator Mansfield pronounces American aid to South Vietnam wasted

Following a trip to Vietnam at President John F. Kennedy’s request, Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield (D-Montana) becomes the first U.S. official to refuse to make an optimistic public comment on the progress of the war. Originally a supporter of South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem, Mansfield changed his opinion of the situation after his visit. He claimed that the $2 billion the United States had poured into Vietnam during the previous seven years had accomplished nothing. He placed blame squarely on the Diem regime for its failure to share power and win support from the South Vietnamese people. He suggested that Americans, despite being motivated by a sincere desire to stop the spread of communism, had simply taken the place formerly occupied by the French colonial power in the minds of many Vietnamese. Mansfield’s change of opinion surprised and irritated President Kennedy.

“Senator Mansfield pronounces American aid to South Vietnam wasted.” 2008. The History Channel website. 2 Dec 2008, 11:24 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=tdihArticleCategory&id=1527.

01
Aug
08

On This Day, 8-1-08: Germany Declares War on Russia

First World War erupts

Four days after Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia, Germany and Russia declare war against each other, France orders a general mobilization, and the first German army units cross into Luxembourg in preparation for the German invasion of France. During the next three days, Russia, France, Belgium, and Great Britain all lined up against Austria-Hungary and Germany, and the German army invaded Belgium. The “Great War” that ensued was one of unprecedented destruction and loss of life, resulting in the deaths of some 20 million soldiers and civilians.

For the most part, the people of Europe greeted the outbreak of war with jubilation. Most patriotically assumed that their country would be victorious within months. Of the initial belligerents, Germany was most prepared for the outbreak of hostilities, and its military leaders had formatted a sophisticated military strategy known as the “Schlieffen Plan,” which envisioned the conquest of France through a great arcing offensive through Belgium and into northern France. Russia, slow to mobilize, was to be kept occupied by Austro-Hungarian forces while Germany attacked France.

The Schlieffen Plan was nearly successful, but in early September the French rallied and halted the German advance at the bloody Battle of the Marne near Paris. By the end of 1914, well over a million soldiers of various nationalities had been killed on the battlefields of Europe, and neither for the Allies nor the Central Powers was a final victory in sight. On the western front–the battle line that stretched across northern France and Belgium–the combatants settled down in the trenches for a terrible war of attrition.

World War I was known as the “war to end all wars” because of the great slaughter and destruction it caused. Unfortunately, the peace treaty that officially ended the conflict–the Treaty of Versailles of 1919–forced punitive terms on Germany that destabilized Europe and laid the groundwork for World War II.

“First World War erupts.” 2008. The History Channel website. 1 Aug 2008, 02:43 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=6976.

 

On This Day

1498 – Christopher Columbus landed on “Isla Santa” (Venezuela).

1619 – The first black Americans (20) land at Jamestown, VA.

1774 – Oxygen was isolated from air successfully by chemist Carl Wilhelm and scientist Joseph Priestly.

1790 – The first U.S. census was completed. The population of the 17 states was 3,929,214.

1834 – Slavery was outlawed in the British empire with an emancipation bill.

1873 – Andrew S. Hallidie successfully tested a cable car. The design was done for San Francisco, CA.

1876 – Colorado became the 38th state to join the United States.

1894 – The first Sino-Japanese War erupted. The dispute was over control of Korea.

1907 – The U.S. Army established an aeronautical division that later became the U.S. Air Force.

1914 – Germany declared war on Russia at the beginning of World War I.

1936 – Adolf Hitler presided over the Olympic games as they opened in Berlin.

1943 – Several deaths occurred in a race-related riot in Harlem, New York City.

1946 – In the U.S., the Atomic Energy Commission was established.

1957 – The North American Air Defense Command (NORAD) was created by the United States and Canada.

1966 – Fifteen people were shot and killed and 31 others were injured by Charles Joseph Whitman from a tower at the University of Texas at Austin. Whitman was killed in the tower.

1973 – The movie “American Graffiti” opened.

1975 – The Helsinki accords pledged the signatory nations to respect human rights.

1988 – Martin Scorsese’s “The Last Temptation of Christ” opened.

2006 – Cuban leader Fidel Castro turned over absolute power when he gave his brother Raul authority while he underwent an intestinal surgery.

 

 

PT-109 sinks; Lieutenant Kennedy is instrumental in saving crew

On this day in 1943, a Japanese destroyer rams an American PT (patrol torpedo) boat, No. 109, slicing it in two. The destruction is so massive other American PT boats in the area assume the crew is dead. Two crewmen were, in fact, killed, but 11 survived, including Lt. John F. Kennedy.

Warsaw Revolt begins

During World War II, an advance Soviet armored column under General Konstantin Rokossovski reaches the Vistula River along the eastern suburb of Warsaw, prompting Poles in the city to launch a major uprising against the Nazi occupation. The revolt was spearheaded by Polish General Tadeusz Bor-Komorowski, who was the commander of the Home Army, an underground resistance group made up of some 40,000 poorly supplied soldiers. In addition to accelerating the liberation of Warsaw, the Home Army, which had ties with the Polish government-in-exile in London and was anti-communist in its ideology, hoped to gain at least partial control of Warsaw before the Soviets arrived.

Although the Poles in Warsaw won early gains–and Soviet liberation of the city was inevitable–Nazi leader Adolf Hitler ordered his authorities to crush the uprising at all costs. The elite Nazi SS directed the German defense force, which included the Kaminiski Brigade of Russian prisoners and the Dirlewanger Brigade of German convicts. In brutal street fighting, the Poles were gradually overcome by the superior German weaponry. As the rebels were suppressed, the Nazis deliberately razed large portions of the city and massacred many civilians.

Meanwhile, the Red Army gained several bridgeheads across the Vistula River but made no efforts to aid the rebels in Warsaw. The Soviets also rejected a request by the British to use Soviet air bases to airlift supplies to the beleaguered Poles. The rebels and the city’s citizens ran out of medical supplies, food, and eventually water. Finally, on October 2, the surviving rebels, including Bor-Komorowski, surrendered.

During the 63-day ordeal, three-fourths of the Home Army perished along with 200,000 civilians. As a testament to the ferocity of the fighting, the Germans also suffered high casualties: 10,000 killed, 9,000 wounded, and 7,000 missing. During the next few months, German troops deported the surviving population, and demolition squads destroyed what buildings remained intact in Warsaw. All of its great treasures were looted or burned. The Red Army remained dormant outside Warsaw until January 1945, when the final Soviet offensive against Germany commenced. Warsaw, a city in ruins, was liberated on January 17. With Warsaw out of the way, the Soviets faced little organized opposition in establishing a communist government in Poland.

“Warsaw Revolt begins.” 2008. The History Channel website. 1 Aug 2008, 02:50 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=5225.

26
Jul
08

On This Day, 7-26-08: The National Security Act

Truman signs the National Security Act

President Harry S. Truman signs the National Security Act, which becomes one of the most important pieces of Cold War legislation. The act established much of the bureaucratic framework for foreign policymaking for the next 40-plus years of the Cold War.

By July 1947, the Cold War was in full swing. The United States and the Soviet Union, once allies during World War II, now faced off as ideological enemies. In the preceding months, the administration of President Truman had argued for, and secured, military and economic aid to Greece and Turkey to assist in their struggles against communist insurgents. In addition, the Marshall Plan, which called for billions of dollars in U.S. aid to help rebuild war-torn Western Europe and strengthen it against possible communist aggression, had also taken shape. As the magnitude of the Cold War increased, however, so too did the need for a more efficient and manageable foreign policymaking bureaucracy in the United States. The National Security Act was the solution.

The National Security Act had three main parts. First, it streamlined and unified the nation’s military establishment by bringing together the Navy Department and War Department under a new Department of Defense. This department would facilitate control and utilization of the nation’s growing military. Second, the act established the National Security Council (NSC). Based in the White House, the NSC was supposed to serve as a coordinating agency, sifting through the increasing flow of diplomatic and intelligence information in order to provide the president with brief but detailed reports. Finally, the act set up the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The CIA replaced the Central Intelligence Group, which had been established in 1946 to coordinate the intelligence-gathering activities of the various military branches and the Department of State. The CIA, however, was to be much more–it was a separate agency, designed not only to gather intelligence but also to carry out covert operations in foreign nations.

The National Security Act formally took effect in September 1947. Since that time, the Department of Defense, NSC, and CIA have grown steadily in terms of size, budgets, and power. The Department of Defense, housed in the Pentagon, controls a budget that many Third World nations would envy. The NSC rapidly became not simply an information organizing agency, but one that was active in the formation of foreign policy. The CIA also grew in power over the course of the Cold War, becoming involved in numerous covert operations. Most notable of these was the failed Bay of Pigs operation of 1961, in which Cuban refugees, trained and armed by the CIA, were unleashed against the communist regime of Fidel Castro. The mission was a disaster, with most of the attackers either killed or captured in a short time. Though it had both successes and failures, the National Security Act indicated just how seriously the U.S. government took the Cold War threat.

“Truman signs the National Security Act.” 2008. The History Channel website. 26 Jul 2008, 12:42 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=2740.

 

On This Day

1775 – A postal system was established by the 2nd Continental Congress of the United States. The first Postmaster General was Benjamin Franklin.

1788 – New York became the 11th state to ratify the U.S. Constitution.

1881 – Thomas Edison and Patrick Kenny execute a patent application for a facsimile telegraph (U.S. Pat. 479,184).

1945 – Winston Churchill resigned as Britain’s prime minister.

1948 – U.S. President Truman signed executive orders that prohibited discrimination in the U.S. armed forces and federal employment.

1953 – Fidel Castro began his revolt against Fulgencio Batista with an unsuccessful attack on an army barracks in eastern Cuba. Castro eventually ousted Batista six years later.

1956 – Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser nationalized the Suez Canal.

1971 – Apollo 15 was launched from Cape Kennedy, FL.

1999 – 1,500 pieces of Marilyn Monroe’s personal items went on display at Christie’s in New York, NY. The items went on sale later in 1999.

 

Liberian independence proclaimed

The Republic of Liberia, formerly a colony of the American Colonization Society, declares its independence. Under pressure from Britain, the United States hesitantly accepted Liberian sovereignty, making the West African nation the first democratic republic in African history. A constitution modeled after the U.S. Constitution was approved, and in 1848 Joseph Jenkins Roberts was elected Liberia’s first president.

“Liberian independence proclaimed.” 2008. The History Channel website. 26 Jul 2008, 12:43 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=5208.

FBI founded

On July 26, 1908, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is born when U.S. Attorney General Charles Bonaparte orders a group of newly hired federal investigators to report to Chief Examiner Stanley W. Finch of the Department of Justice. One year later, the Office of the Chief Examiner was renamed the Bureau of Investigation, and in 1935 it became the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

“FBI founded.” 2008. The History Channel website. 26 Jul 2008, 12:44 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=6970.

Real-life Psycho Ed Gein dies

On July 26, 1984, Ed Gein, a serial killer infamous for skinning human corpses, dies of complications from cancer in a Wisconsin prison at age 77. Gein served as the inspiration for writer Robert Bloch’s character Norman Bates in the 1959 novel Psycho, which in 1960 was turned into a film starring Anthony Hopkins and directed by Alfred Hitchcock.

Edward Theodore Gein was born in LaCrosse, Wisconsin, on July 27, 1906, to an alcoholic father and domineering mother, who taught her son that women and sex were evil. Gein was raised, along with an older brother, on an isolated farm in Plainfield, Wisconsin. After Gein’s father died in 1940, the future killer’s brother died under mysterious circumstances during a fire in 1944 and his beloved mother passed away from health problems in 1945. Gein remained on the farm by himself.

In November 1957, police found the headless, gutted body of a missing store clerk, Bernice Worden, at Gein’s farmhouse. Upon further investigation, authorities discovered a collection of human skulls along with furniture and clothing, including a suit, made from human body parts and skin. Gein told police he had dug up the graves of recently buried women who reminded him of his mother. Investigators found the remains of 10 women in Gein’s home, but he was ultimately linked to just two murders: Bernice Worden and another local woman, Mary Hogan.

Gein was declared mentally unfit to stand trial and was sent to a state hospital in Wisconsin. His farm attracted crowds of curiosity seekers before it burned down in 1958, most likely in a blaze set by an arsonist. In 1968, Gein was deemed sane enough to stand trial, but a judge ultimately found him guilty by reason of insanity and he spent the rest of his days in a state facility.

In addition to Psycho, films including Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Silence of the Lambs were said to be loosely based on Gein’s crimes.

“Real-life Psycho Ed Gein dies.” 2008. The History Channel website. 26 Jul 2008, 12:47 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=57191.

 

The very concept of history implies the scholar and the reader. Without a generation of civilized people to study history, to preserve its records, to absorb its lessons and relate them to its own problems, history, too, would lose its meaning.
George F. Kennan

Capitalism is the astounding belief that the most wickedest of men will do the most wickedest of things for the greatest good of everyone.
John Maynard Keynes

13
Mar
08

On This Day, 3-13-08: Alliance for Progress

Kennedy proposes Alliance for Progress

President John F. Kennedy proposes a 10-year, multibillion-dollar aid program for Latin America. The program came to be known as the Alliance for Progress and was designed to improve U.S. relations with Latin America, which had been severely damaged in recent years.

When Kennedy became president in 1961, U.S. relations with Latin America were at an all-time low. The Latin American republics were disappointed with U.S. economic assistance after World War II. They argued that they had supported America during the war by increasing their production of vital raw materials and keeping their prices low–when the United States began massive aid programs to Europe and Japan after the war, Latin American nations protested that they also deserved economic assistance. Their anger was apparent during Vice President Richard Nixon’s trip through the region in 1958, when a mob attacked his car at a stop in Caracas.

More troubling to American officials was the threat of communism in Latin America. In 1954, the Central Intelligence Agency had funded and supplied a revolution that overthrew the leftist government of Guatemala. In 1959, Fidel Castro came to power in Cuba and by 1961, the United States had severed relations with his government. In response to these developments, Kennedy made his plea for the Alliance for Progress. In requesting funds from Congress, the president stressed the need for improved literacy, land use, industrial productivity, health, and education in Latin America. The United States needed to help Latin America, where “millions of men and women suffer the daily degradations of hunger and poverty” and “discontent is growing.” The United States would provide money, expertise, and technology to raise the standard of living for the people of Latin America, which would hopefully make the countries stronger and better able to resist communist influences.

In response to Kennedy’s plea, Congress voted for an initial grant of $500 million in May 1961. During the next 10 years, billions were spent on the Alliance, but its success was marginal and there were many reasons that the program was ultimately a failure. American congressmen were reluctant to provide funds for land redistribution programs in Latin America because they felt it smacked of socialism. Latin American elites directed most of the funds into pet projects that enriched themselves but did little to help the vast majority of their people. The Alliance certainly failed in its effort to bring democracy to Latin America: by the time the program faded away in the early-1970s, 13 governments in Latin America had been replaced by military rule.

“Kennedy proposes Alliance for Progress.” 2008. The History Channel website. 13 Mar 2008, 04:58 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=2605.

1519 – Cortez landed in Mexico.

1639 – Harvard University was named for clergyman John Harvard.

1660 – A statute was passed limiting the sale of slaves in the colony of Virginia.

1777 – The U.S. Congress ordered its European envoys to appeal to high-ranking foreign officers to send troops to reinforce the American army.

1868 – The U.S. Senate began the impeachment trial of President Andrew Johnson.

1881 – Tsar Alexander II was assassinated when a bomb was thrown at him near his palace.

1900 – In South Africa, British Gen. Roberts took Bloemfontein.

1901 – Andrew Carnegie announced that he was retiring from business and that he would spend the rest of his days giving away his fortune. His net worth was estimated at $300 million.

1902 – Andrew Carnegie approved 40 applications from libraries for donations.

1918 – Women were scheduled to march in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in New York due to a shortage of men due to wartime.

1925 – A law in Tennessee prohibited the teaching of evolution.

1928 – The St. Francis Dam in California burst and killing 400 people.

1935 – Three-thousand-year-old archives were found in Jerusalem confirming some biblical history.

1941 – Adolf Hitler issued an edict calling for an invasion of the U.S.S.R.

1946 – Premier Tito seized wartime collaborator General Draja Mikhailovich in a cave in Yugoslavia.

1963 – China invited Soviet President Khrushchev to visit Peking.

1964 – 38 residents of a New York City neighborhood failed to respond to the screams of Kitty Genovese, 28 years old, as she was stabbed to death.

1974 – An embargo imposed by Arab oil-producing countries was lifted. (ahem)

Viet Minh attack French garrison

A force of 40,000 Viet Minh with heavy artillery surround 15,000 French troops at Dien Bien Phu. French General Henri Navarre had positioned these forces 200 miles behind enemy lines in a remote area adjacent to the Laotian border. He hoped to draw the communists into a set-piece battle in which he hoped superior French firepower would destroy the enemy. He underestimated the enemy.

Viet Minh General Vo Nguyen Giap entrenched artillery in the surrounding mountains and massed five divisions around the French positions. The battle began with a massive Viet Minh artillery barrage, followed by an infantry assault. Fierce fighting continued to rage until May 7, 1954, when the Viet Minh overran the last French positions. The shock of the fall of Dien Bien Phu led France, already plagued by public opposition to the war, to agree to the independence of Vietnam at the Geneva Conference in 1954.

“Viet Minh attack French garrison.” 2008. The History Channel website. 13 Mar 2008, 05:00 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=1726.

16
Feb
08

On This Day 2-16-08: Stephen Decatur

1959: Castro sworn in

On 16th February 1959, six years after he launched his guerrilla war against dictator Fulgencio Batista, Fidel Castro is sworn in as premier of Cuba.

Despite early denials of communist leanings, Castro launched a program of agrarian reform, nationalized American assets on the island, and proclaimed a Marxist government. After repelling the U.S.-backed Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961, he strengthened ties with the Soviet Union and in 1962 authorised the installation of Soviet missile bases on the island.

The discovery of the missile sites by U.S. spy planes set off the Cuban Missile Crisis, which ended after the Soviets agreed to remove the offensive weapons in exchange for a US pledge not to invade Cuba.

http://www.thehistorychannel.co.uk/site/this_day_in_history/

1804 – A raid was led by Lt. Stephen Decatur to burn the U.S. Navy frigate Philadelphia. The ship had been taken by pirates.

1857 – The National Deaf Mute College was incorporated in Washington, DC. It was the first school in the world for advanced education of the deaf. The school was later renamed Gallaudet College.

1862 – During the U.S. Civil War, about 14,000 Confederate soldiers surrendered to Gen. Ulysses S. Grant at Fort Donelson, TN.

1918 – Lithuania proclaimed its independence.

1945 – During World War II, U.S. troops landed on the island of Corregidor in the Philippines.

1946 – The first commercially designed helicopter was tested in Connecticut.

1960 – The U.S.S. Triton began the first circumnavigation of the globe under water. The trip ended on May 10.

1999 – Kurds seized embassies and held hostages across Europe following Turkey’s arrest of Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan.

1999 – Testimony began in the Jasper, TX, trial of John William King. He was charged with murder in the gruesome dragging death of James Byrd Jr. King was later convicted and sentenced to death.

2002 – The operator of a crematory in Noble, GA, was arrested after dozens of corpses were found stacked in storage sheds and scattered around in the surrounding woods.

“Our country! In her intercourse with foreign nations may she always be right; but our country right or wrong.”

Stephen Decatur

Captain Stephen Decatur
5 January 1779 – 22 March 1820

Portrait of Stephen Decatur

Portrait of Stephen Decatur

“The Death of Commodore Decatur” adapted from Lauren Pitre’s article in, SWONET

Stephen Decatur was a renowned naval officer who showed signs of heroism early in life. Born in Sinepuxent, Md., on January 5, 1779, Decatur as a youth was known to dive from the tips of jib booms and, at the age of 14, defended his mother against a drunken rogue. He was commissioned as a midshipman in 1798 and a year later was promoted to acting lieutenant of the frigate United States.

At the age of 25, Decatur became the most striking figure of the Tripolitan Wars. On February 16, 1804, Decatur led 74 volunteers into Tripoli harbor to burn the captured American frigate Philadelphia. British Admiral Lord Nelson is said to have called the raid “the most bold and daring act of the age.” Raised to the rank of captain, Decatur was the youngest captain in the American navy.

At the outbreak of the War of 1812, Decatur was the commanding officer of the frigate United States, which he had served aboard as a midshipman. As commander of the ship, he defeated and captured the British frigate Macedonian in October 1812. He brought the vessel safely back to the United States. It was the only British ship to be refitted and commissioned in the American navy during the war. Early in 1815 he was commodore of a three-ship squadron, when his flagship, the President, while running the British blockade, struck bottom. The damaged ship was unable to escape the blockading squadron and was captured.

In 1815, Decatur commanded a nine-ship squadron headed for Mediterranean to end the cruising of Algerian corsairs against American shipping. Decatur’s abilities as a negotiator were recognized after he secured a treaty with the Algerians. During celebration of the peace with the North African state, Decatur declared his famous line: “Our country! In her intercourse with foreign nations may she always be right; but our country right or wrong.”

Decatur was noted not only for his brilliant Navy career, but also for his involvement in duels, which was how men of honor settled disputes in his day. On March 22, 1820, he was killed in a duel with Commodore James Barron. Barron was court-martialed for surrendering his ship to a British man-of-war in 1807. This surrender was one of the major events leading to the War of 1812. When Barron returned to the United States after the war, he had intentions of resuming his naval service but met much criticism, especially from Commodore Decatur. Barron was severely wounded in his leg but fired the shot that ended Decatur’s life.

http://www.history.navy.mil/faqs/faq110-1.htm

[Extract from the journal kept on board the U.S. Frigate Constitution, by Captain Edward Preble, U.S. Navy, Friday, 3 August 1804.]

Wind E S E to E b N. Exercised the Bomb Vessels & threw some
shells, fresh Breezes & pleasant, during the night we had fresh Gales
lay to with the ships head to the N E. in the morning wore & stood
for the Land, Tripoly about 4 Leagues dist[ance] Bearing S S W. at 8 A M
wind E b N at noon we were within two miles of the City of Tripoly
which is defended by Batteries mounted with 67 Heavy cannon point-
ing sea ward and 22 Gun Boats each carrying a piece of heavy Brass
Ordnance [*], besides small cannon, muskets Pistols Pikes &c — and
man’d with 30 to 50 Men each they have als[o] an Armed Brig two
armed schooners in the Port full of men. I made the signal to wear
and haul off and immediately after the signal to come within hale,
clear’d ship for Action & beat to quarters. — made signal to prepare
for Battle intending to attack their Gun Boats & the City as I observed
their Boats without the Rocks,

[*Commodore Preble’s Diary indicates “Batteries mounted with 115 heavy
Cannon pointed sea ward, and Nineteen Gun Boats each carrying a piece of
heavy Brass Ordinance”.]

[3 August 1804]


[Extract form journal kept on board the U.S. Frigate Constitution, by Captain Edward Preble, U.S. Navy, Saturday, 4 August 1804.]Wind E b S. Standing off shore on the Starbord Tack the signal
out to come within hail spoke the different Vessels and acquainted
their Commanders that it was my Intention to attack the shipping
& Batteries, — directed the Gun Boats & Bombs to be prepared for
immediate service. –At 12 1/2 pm Tack’d & stood for the Batteries. Back’d the Main
Topsail, at 1/2 1 pm made the general signal to follow the motions of
the Commodore. filled the the Maintopsail & stood in towards the Bat-
teries, at 1/4 past 2 made the signal for the Bombs & Gun Boats to
advance & attack the ships & Batteries. 1/2 past 2 general signal for
Battle. the whole squadron advanc’d within point Blank shot of
the Enemies Batteries & shipping, our Gun Boats in two divisions
the 1st consisting of 3 Boats Commanded by Capt. Somers the 2d of
three Boats by Capt. Decatur, at 3/4 past 2 the Action commenced on
out side by throwing a shell into the Town, and in an Instant the
whole Squadron were engaged. — the Enemies Gun Boats were
Anchored with springs on, in three divisions the Eastern or van division
consisted of 9 Boats the center of 7 Boats , and the Western or Rear
of 5 Boats. As the wind was from the Eastward our Boats were
ordered to lead in to Windward and attack the Enemy. the Rear &
center division of the Enemies Boats are close under their Batteries,
& the Van division consisting of their largest Boats are within Grape
distance of the Bashaws Castle & fort English at 3 observed our
Gun Boats engaged in close action with the Enemies Boats, while a
tremendous fire was kept up by this ship and the rest of the Squadron.
Capt. Decatur with No. 4 Lt. Trippe of No. 6 & Lt. Bainbridge of No. 5
& Lt. James Decatur of No. 2 attacked the enemys Boats within Pistol
shot. No. 1 Capt. Somers fell to Leward but fetched up with the
Enemys Rear of 5 Boats which he gallantly attacked disabled & drove
in altho within pistol shot of the Batteries. No. 3 Lt. Blake did not
go into close Action, had he gone down to assistance of Capt.
Somers it is probable they would have captured the Rear Boats.
Capt. Decatur Boarded and after a stout and obstinate resistance took
possession of two of the Enemies Gun Boats, Lt. Trip Boarded and
carried a third. Lt. James Decatur in the Act of Boarding to take
possession of a fourth Boat was shot through the Head & Mortally
wounded the officer next in command (Mn. Brown) hauld off. Lt.
Bainbridge had his Latten Yard shot away early in the Action which
prevented him from taking a Boat but he Galled the Enemy by a
steady fire within Musket shot, indeed he pursued the Enemy until
his Boat touch’d the ground under the Batteries. The Bombs kept
their stations which were well chosen, by Lt. Dent & Lt. Robinson, who
commanded them, and threw a number of shells into the town altho
the spray of the sea occasioned by the enemies shot almost covered
them, three different times the Enemies Gun Boats rallied and
attempted to surround ours. I as often made the signal to cover them,
which was properly attended to by the Brigs & Schooners, and the
fire from this ship not only had the desired effect on the enemies
flotilla by keeping them in check and disabling them, but silenced
one of their principle Batteries for some time, at 1/2 past 4 pm made
the signal for the Bombs to retire from action out of Gun shot, and a
few minutes after the general signal to Cease fireing and Tow out the
Prizes & disabled Boats. sent our Barge and Jolly Boat to assist in
that duty. Tack’d ship & fired two Broadsides in stays which drove
the Tripolines out of the Castle & brought down the Steeple of a
Mosque, by this time the wind began to freshen from N E at 4 3/4
PM hauld off to take the Bombs in tow, at 5 pm Brought to, two miles
from their Batteries, Rec’d Lt. James Decatur on board from Gun
Boat No. 2, he was shot thorugh the Head (in Boarding a Tripoline Boat
which had struck to him) he expired in a few moments after he was
brought into the ship. — We lay to until 10 P M to receive the
Prisoners on board captured in the Prizes, then made sail & stood off
to the N E the wind Veering to the E S E. — we have all the surgeons
of the squadron on board dressing the wounded. —

During the Action we fired 262 Rounds shot besides Grape double
head & Canister from this ship and were several times within 3 cables
length of the Rocks & Batteries where our sounding were from 10
to 16 fath[om]s the Officers Seamen & Marines of the Squadron behaved
Gallantly throughout the Action. Capt. Decatur in Gun Boat No.4
particularly distinguished himself as did Lt. Trip of No. 6. Our loss
in Killed & Wounded has been considerable the damage we rec’d in this
ship is a 24 pound shot nearly through the center of the Mainmast
20 feet from the Deck, Main Top Gallant R Yard & sail shot away,
one of the Fore shrouds and the sails & running rigging considerably
cut one of the 24 pounders on the Quarter deck was struck by a 24
pound shot which damaged the Gun and carriage and shattered the
Arm of a Marine to pieces, Gun Boat No. 2 had her latteen yard shot
away, & the Rigging & sails of the Brigs & Schooners were considerably
cut. We captured 3 Gun Boats two of which carried each a long
Brass 24 pounder & two Brass Howitzers and 36 men with a plenty of
muskets pistols pikes sabres &c, the other mounted a long Brass 18
pounded & two Howitzers & 24 men   44 Tripolines were killed on board
of the 3 Boats and 52 made prisoners, 26 of which were wounded, 17 of
them very badly 3 of which died soon after they were brought on board,
the Enemy must have suffered very much in Killed & wounded among
their Shipping and on shore, one of their Boats was sunk in the
Harbour several of them had their decks nearly cleared of men by our
shot, and several shells burst in the Town, which must have done great
execution. —

We have lost in Killed & Wounded

Total
1 Officer Killed

2 Officers Wounded

10 Seamen & Marines Wounded

13

Source: Naval Documents Related to the United Stated Wars with the Barbary Powers. vol. 4. (Washington: U.S. Goverment Printing Office, 1942): 336-338. http://www.history.navy.mil/cannons/cannons32.html




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