Posts Tagged ‘John Wilkes Booth

26
Apr
09

On This Day, April 26: Chernobyl

April 26, 1986

Nuclear explosion at Chernobyl

On this day in 1986, the world’s worst nuclear accident to date occurs at the Chernobyl nuclear plant near Kiev in Ukraine. The full toll from this disaster is still being tallied, but experts believe that thousands of people died and as many as 70,000 suffered severe poisoning. In addition, a large area of land may not be livable for as much as 150 years. The 18-mile radius around Chernobyl was home to almost 150,000 people who had to be permanently relocated.

The Soviet Union built the Chernobyl plant, which had four 1,000-megawatt reactors, in the town of Pripyat. At the time of the explosion, it was one of the largest and oldest nuclear power plants in the world. The explosion and subsequent meltdown of one reactor was a catastrophic event that directly affected hundreds of thousands of people. Still, the Soviet government kept its own people and the rest of the world in the dark about the accident until days later.

At first, the Soviet government only asked for advice on how to fight graphite fires and acknowledged the death of two people. It soon became apparent, however, that the Soviets were covering up a major accident and had ignored their responsibility to warn both their own people and surrounding nations. Two days after the explosion, Swedish authorities began measuring dangerously high levels of radioactivity in their atmosphere.

Years later, the full story was finally released. Workers at the plant were performing tests on the system. They shut off the emergency safety systems and the cooling system, against established regulations, in preparation for the tests. Even when warning signs of dangerous overheating began to appear, the workers failed to stop the test. Xenon gases built up and at 1:23 a.m. the first explosion rocked the reactor. A total of three explosions eventually blew the 1,000-ton steel top right off of the reactor.

A huge fireball erupted into the sky. Flames shot 1,000 feet into the air for two days, as the entire reactor began to melt down. Radioactive material was thrown into the air like fireworks. Although firefighting was futile, Pripyat’s 40,000 people were not evacuated until 36 hours after the explosion. Potentially lethal rain fell as the fires continued for eight days. Dikes were built at the Pripyat River to contain damage from contaminated water run-off and the people of Kiev were warned to stay indoors as a radioactive cloud headed their way.

On May 9, workers began encasing the reactor in concrete. Later, Hans Blix of the International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed that approximately 200 people were directly exposed and that 31 had died immediately at Chernobyl. The clean-up effort and the general radioactive exposure in the region, however, would prove to be even more deadly. Some reports estimate that as many as 4,000 clean-up workers died from radiation poisoning. Birth defects among people living in the area have increased dramatically. Thyroid cancer has increased tenfold in Ukraine since the accident.

“Nuclear explosion at Chernobyl,” The History Channel website, 2009, http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=415 [accessed Apr 26, 2009]

 

On This Day

1514 – Copernicus made his first observations of Saturn.

1607 – The British established an American colony at Cape Henry, Virginia. It was the first permanent English establishment in the Western Hemisphere.

1819 – The first Odd Fellows lodge in the U.S. was established in Baltimore, MD.

1865 – Joseph E. Johnston surrendered the Army of Tennessee to Sherman during the American Civil War.

1865 – John Wilkes Booth was killed by the U.S. Federal Cavalry.

1921 – Weather broadcasts were heard for the first time on radio in St. Louis, MO.

1937 – German planes attacked Guernica, Spain, during the Spanish Civil War.

1964 – The African nations of Tanganyika and Zanzibar merged to form Tanzania.

1968 – Students seized the administration building at Ohio State University.

1982 – Argentina surrendered to Britain over Falkland Island crisis.

 

April 26, 1954

Geneva Conference begins

In an effort to resolve several problems in Asia, including the war between the French and Vietnamese nationalists in Indochina, representatives from the world’s powers meet in Geneva. The conference marked a turning point in the United States’ involvement in Vietnam.

Representatives from the United States, the Soviet Union, the People’s Republic of China, France, and Great Britain came together in April 1954 to try to resolve several problems related to Asia. One of the most troubling concerns was the long and bloody battle between Vietnamese nationalist forces, under the leadership of the communist Ho Chi Minh, and the French, who were intent on continuing colonial control over Vietnam. Since 1946 the two sides had been hammering away at each other. By 1954, however, the French were tiring of the long and inconclusive war that was draining both the national treasury and public patience. The United States had been supporting the French out of concern that a victory for Ho’s forces would be the first step in communist expansion throughout Southeast Asia. When America refused France’s requests for more direct intervention in the war, the French announced that they were including the Vietnam question in the agenda for the Geneva Conference.

Discussions on the Vietnam issue started at the conference just as France suffered its worst military defeat of the war, when Vietnamese forces captured the French base at Dien Bien Phu. In July 1954, the Geneva Agreements were signed. As part of the agreement, the French agreed to withdraw their troops from northern Vietnam. Vietnam would be temporarily divided at the 17th parallel, pending elections within two years to choose a president and reunite the country. During that two-year period, no foreign troops could enter Vietnam. Ho reluctantly signed off on the agreement though he believed that it cheated him out of the spoils of his victory. The non-communist puppet government set up by the French in southern Vietnam refused to sign, but without French support this was of little concern at the time. The United States also refused to sign, but did commit itself to abide by the agreement. Privately, U.S. officials felt that the Geneva Agreements, if allowed to be put into action, were a disaster. They were convinced that national elections in Vietnam would result in an overwhelming victory for Ho, the man who had defeated the French colonialists. The U.S. government scrambled to develop a policy that would, at the least, save southern Vietnam from the communists. Within a year, the United States had helped establish a new anti-communist government in South Vietnam and began giving it financial and military assistance, the first fateful steps toward even greater U.S. involvement in Vietnam.

“Geneva Conference begins,” The History Channel website, 2009, http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=2649 [accessed Apr 26, 2009]

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14
Apr
09

On This Day, April 14: Lincoln Shot

April 14, 1865

President Lincoln is shot

At Ford’s Theater in Washington, D.C., John Wilkes Booth, an actor and Confederate sympathizer, fatally wounds President Abraham Lincoln. The attack came only five days after Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered his massive army at Appomattox, effectively ending the American Civil War.

Booth, who remained in the North during the war despite his Confederate sympathies, initially plotted to capture President Lincoln and take him to Richmond, the Confederate capital. However, on March 20, 1865, the day of the planned kidnapping, the president failed to appear at the spot where Booth and his six fellow conspirators lay in wait. Two weeks later, Richmond fell to Union forces. In April, with Confederate armies near collapse across the South, Booth hatched a desperate plan to save the Confederacy.

Learning that Lincoln was to attend Laura Keene’s acclaimed performance in Our American Cousin at Ford’s Theater on April 14, Booth plotted the simultaneous assassination of Lincoln, Vice President Andrew Johnson, and Secretary of State William H. Seward. By murdering the president and two of his possible successors, Booth and his conspirators hoped to throw the U.S. government into a paralyzing disarray.

On the evening of April 14, conspirator Lewis T. Powell burst into Secretary of State Seward’s home, seriously wounding him and three others, while George A. Atzerodt, assigned to Vice President Johnson, lost his nerve and fled. Meanwhile, just after 10 p.m., Booth entered Lincoln’s private theater box unnoticed, and shot the president with a single bullet in the back of his head. Slashing an army officer who rushed at him, Booth jumped to the stage and shouted “Sic semper tyrannis! [Thus always to tyrants]–the South is avenged!” Although Booth had broken his left leg jumping from Lincoln’s box, he succeeded in escaping Washington.

The president, mortally wounded, was carried to a cheap lodging house opposite Ford’s Theater. About 7:22 a.m. the next morning, he died–the first U.S. president to be assassinated. Booth, pursued by the army and secret service forces, was finally cornered in a barn near Bowling Green, Virginia, and died from a possibly self-inflicted bullet wound as the barn was burned to the ground. Of the eight other persons eventually charged with the conspiracy, four were hanged and four were jailed.

“President Lincoln is shot,” The History Channel website, 2009, http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=6867 [accessed Apr 14, 2009]

On This Day

1543 – Bartoleme Ferrelo returned to Spain after discovering San Francisco Bay in the New World.

1860 – The first Pony Express rider arrived in San Francisco with mail originating in St. Joseph, MO.

1902 – James Cash (J.C.) Penney opened his first retail store in Kemmerer, WY. It was called the Golden Rule Store.

1912 – The Atlantic passenger liner Titanic, on its maiden voyage hit an iceberg and began to sink. 1,517 people lost their lives and more than 700 survived.

1918 – The U.S. First Aero Squadron engaged in America’s first aerial dogfight with enemy aircraft over Toul, France.

1946 – The civil war between Communists and nationalist resumed in China.

1953 – Viet Minh invaded Laos with 40,00 troops.

1969 – For the first time, a major league baseball game was played in Montreal, Canada.

1981 – America’s first space shuttle, Columbia, returned to Earth after a three-day test flight. The shuttle orbited the Earth 36 times during the mission.

1985 – The Russian paper “Pravda” called U.S. President Reagan’s planned visit to Bitburg to visit the Nazi cemetery an “act of blasphemy”.

1999 – Pakistan test-fired a ballistic missile that was capable of carrying a nuclear warhead and reaching its rival neighbor India.

April 14, 1775

First American abolition society founded in Philadelphia

The Society for the Relief of Free Negroes Unlawfully Held in Bondage, the first American society dedicated to the cause of abolition, is founded in Philadelphia on this day in 1775. The society changes its name to the Pennsylvania Society for Promoting the Abolition of Slavery and the Relief of Free Negroes Unlawfully Held in Bondage in 1784.

Leading Quaker educator and abolitionist Anthony Benezet called the society together two years after he persuaded the Quakers to create the Negro School at Philadelphia. Benezet was born in France to a Huguenot (French Protestant) family that had fled to London in order to avoid persecution at the hands of French Catholics. The family eventually migrated to Philadelphia when Benezet was 17. There, he joined the Society of Friends (Quakers) and began a career as an educator. In 1750, Benezet began teaching slave children in his home after regular school hours, and in 1754, established the first girls’ school in America. With the help of fellow Quaker John Woolman, Benezet persuaded the Philadelphia Quaker Yearly Meeting to take an official stance against slavery in 1758.

Benezet’s argument for abolition found a trans-Atlantic audience with the publication of his tract Some Historical Account of Guinea, written in 1772. Benezet counted Benjamin Franklin and John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, among his sympathetic correspondents. He died in 1784; his funeral was attended by 400 black Philadelphians. His society was renamed in that year, and in 1787, Benjamin Franklin lent his prestige to the organization, serving as its president.

“First American abolition society founded in Philadelphia,” The History Channel website, 2009, http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=462 [accessed Apr 14, 2009]

20
Mar
08

On This Day, 3-20-08: Selma

Retired Marine Commandant comments on conduct of war

Retired U.S. Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David Shoup estimates that up to 800,000 men would be required just to defend South Vietnamese population centers. He further stated that the United States could only achieve military victory by invading the North, but argued that such an operation would not be worth the cost.

Also on this day: The New York Times publishes excerpts from General Westmoreland’s classified end-of-year report, which indicated that the U.S. command did not believe the enemy capable of any action even approximating the Tet Offensive. This report, Shoup’s comments, and other conflicting assessments of the situation in Vietnam contributed to the growing dissatisfaction among a large segment of American society with the Vietnam War. At the end of the previous year, Johnson administration officials had insisted that the United States had turned a corner in the war. The strength and scope of the Tet Offensive flew in the face of these claims, feeding a widening credibility gap. Despite administration assurances that the situation was getting better in Vietnam, the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong had launched a massive attack at 3:00 A.M. on January 31, 1968, simultaneously hitting Saigon, Da Nang, Hue, and other major cities, towns, and military bases throughout South Vietnam. One assault team got within the walls of the U.S. Embassy in Saigon before they were destroyed. In the end, the communist forces were resoundingly defeated, but the United States suffered a fatal strategic blow. The Tet Offensive cost the government the confidence of the American people and public opinion turned against the war.

“Retired Marine Commandant comments on conduct of war.” 2008. The History Channel website. 20 Mar 2008, 03:54 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=1740.

1525 – Paris’ parliament began its pursuit of Protestants.

1616 – Walter Raleigh was released from Tower of London to seek gold in Guyana.

1627 – France & Spain signed an accord for fighting Protestantism.

1792 – In Paris, the Legislative Assembly approved the use of the guillotine.

1815 – Napoleon Bonaparte entered Paris after his escape from Elba and began his “Hundred Days” rule.

1852 – Harriet Beecher Stowe’s book “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” subtitled “Life Among the Lowly,” was first published.

1865 – A plan by John Wilkes Booth to abduct U.S. President Abraham Lincoln was ruined when Lincoln changed his plans and did not appear at the Soldier’s Home near Washington, DC.

1868 – Jesse James Gang robbed a bank in Russelville, KY, of $14,000.

1890 – The General Federation of Womans’ Clubs was founded.

1897 – The first U.S. orthodox Jewish Rabbinical seminary was incorporated in New York.

1900 – It was announced that European powers had agreed to keep China’s doors open to trade.

1902 – France and Russia acknowledged the Anglo-Japanese alliance. They also asserted their right to protect their interests in China and Korea.

1906 – In Russia, army officers mutiny at Sevastopol.

1918 – The Bolsheviks of the Soviet Union asked for American aid to rebuild their army.

1922 – U.S. President Warren G. Harding ordered U.S. troops back from the Rhineland.

1922 – The USS Langley was commissioned. It was the first aircraft carrier for the U.S. Navy.

1933 – The first German concentration camp was completed at Dachau.

1976 – Patricia Hearst was convicted of armed robbery for her role in the hold up of a San Francisco Bank.

1985 – Libby Riddles won the 1,135-mile Anchorage-to-Nome dog race becoming the first woman to win the Iditarod.

LBJ pledges federal troops to Alabama civil-rights march

On this day in 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson sends a telegram to Governor George Wallace of Alabama in which he agrees to send federal troops to supervise a planned African-American civil-rights march in Wallace’s home state.  “LBJ pledges federal troops to Alabama civil-rights march.” 2008. The History Channel website. 20 Mar 2008, 03:52 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=284.




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