Posts Tagged ‘Napoleon Bonaparte

18
Jun
09

On This Day, June 18: Waterloo

June 18, 1815

Napoleon defeated at Waterloo

At Waterloo in Belgium, Napoleon Bonaparte suffers defeat at the hands of the Duke of Wellington, bringing an end to the Napoleonic era of European history.

On June 16, 1815, he defeated the Prussians under Gebhard Leberecht von Blucher at Ligny, and sent 33,000 men, or about one-third of his total force, in pursuit of the retreating Prussians. On June 18, Napoleon led his remaining 72,000 troops against the Duke of Wellington’s 68,000-man allied army, which had taken up a strong position 12 miles south of Brussels near the village of Waterloo. In a fatal blunder, Napoleon waited until mid-day to give the command to attack in order to let the ground dry. The delay in fighting gave Blucher’s troops, who had eluded their pursuers, time to march to Waterloo and join the battle by the late afternoon.

In repeated attacks, Napoleon failed to break the center of the allied [line]. Meanwhile, the Prussians gradually arrived and put pressure on Napoleon’s eastern flank. At 6 p.m., the French under Marshal Michel Ney managed to capture a farmhouse in the allied center and began decimating Wellington’s troops with artillery. Napoleon, however, was preoccupied with the 30,000 Prussians attacking his flank and did not release troops to aid Ney’s attack until after 7 p.m. By that time, Wellington had reorganized his defenses, and the French attack was repulsed. Fifteen minutes later, the allied army launched a general advance, and the Prussians attacked in the east, throwing the French troops into panic and then a disorganized retreat. The Prussians pursued the remnants of the French army, and Napoleon left the field. French casualties in the Battle of Waterloo were 25,000 men killed and wounded and 9,000 captured, while the allies lost about 23,000.

Napoleon returned to Paris and on June 22 abdicated in favor of his son. He decided to leave France before counterrevolutionary forces could rally against him, and on July 15 he surrendered to British protection at the port of Rochefort. He hoped to travel to the United States, but the British instead sent him to Saint Helena, a remote island in the Atlantic off the coast of Africa. Napoleon protested but had no choice but to accept the exile. With a group of followers, he lived quietly on St. Helena for six years. In May 1821, he died, most likely of stomach cancer. He was only 51 years old. In 1840, his body was returned to Paris, and a magnificent funeral was held. Napoleon’s body was conveyed through the Arc de Triomphe and entombed under the dome of the Invalides.

“Napoleon defeated at Waterloo,” The History Channel website, http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=tdihArticleCategory&id=6932 (accessed Jun 18, 2009).

 

On This Day

1155 – Frederick I Barbarossa was crowned emperor of Rome.

1778 – Britain evacuated Philadelphia during the U.S. Revolutionary War.

1812 – The War of 1812 began as the U.S. declared war against Great Britain. The conflict began over trade restrictions.

1817 – London’s Waterloo Bridge opened. The bridge, designed by John Rennie, was built over the River Thames.

1873 – Susan B. Anthony was fined $100 for attempting to vote for a U.S. President.

1928 – Amelia Earhart became the first woman to fly across the Atlantic Ocean as she completed a flight from Newfoundland to Wales.

1942 – The U.S. Navy commissioned its first black officer, Harvard University medical student Bernard Whitfield Robinson.

1959 – A Federal Court annulled the Arkansas law allowing school closings to prevent integration.

1979 – In Vienna, U.S. President Jimmy Carter and Leonid Brezhnev signed the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT) 2.

1983 – Dr. Sally Ride became the first American woman in space aboard the space shuttle Challenger.

 

June 18, 1798

Adams passes first of Alien and Sedition Acts

President John Adams passes the Naturalization Act, the first of four pieces of controversial legislation known together as the Alien and Sedition Acts, on this day in 1798. Strong political opposition to these acts succeeded in undermining the Adams administration, helping Thomas Jefferson to win the presidency in 1800.

At the time, America was threatened by war with France, and Congress was attempting to pass laws that would give more authority to the federal government, and the president in particular, to deal with suspicious persons, especially foreign nationals. The Naturalization Act raised the requirements for aliens to apply for U.S. citizenship, requiring that immigrants reside in the U.S. for 14 years before becoming eligible. The earlier law had required only five years of residence before an application could be made.

Adams, in fact, never enforced the Naturalization Act. Nevertheless, he came under heavy fire from the Republicans, led by Vice President Thomas Jefferson, who felt that the Naturalization Act and its companion legislation was unconstitutional and smacked of despotism. So disgusted was Jefferson with Adams’ enthusiastic support of the law that he could no longer support the president and left Washington during the Congressional vote. Former President George Washington, on the other hand, supported the legislation. Adams signed the second piece of the legislation, the Alien Act, on June 25. This act gave the president the authority to deport aliens during peacetime. The Alien Enemies Act, which Adams signed on July 6, gave him the power to deport any alien living in the U.S. with ties to U.S. wartime enemies. Finally, the Sedition Act, passed on July 14, gave Adams tremendous power to define “treasonable activity” including “any false, scandalous and malicious writing.” The intended targets of the Sedition Act were newspaper, pamphlet and broadside publishers who printed what he considered to be libelous articles aimed primarily at his administration. Abigail Adams urged her husband to pass the Sedition Act, calling his opponents “criminal” and “vile.”

Of the four acts, the Sedition Act was the most distressing to staunch First Amendment advocates. They objected to the fact that “treasonable activity” was vaguely defined, was defined at the discretion of the president and would be punished by heavy fines and imprisonment. The arrest and imprisonment of 25 men for supposedly violating the Sedition Act ignited an enormous outcry against the legislation. Among those arrested was Benjamin Franklin’s grandson, Benjamin Franklin Bache, who was the editor of the Republican-leaning Philadelphia Democrat-Republican Aurora. Citing Adams’ abuse of presidential powers and threats to free speech, Jefferson’s party took control of Congress and the presidency in 1800.

“Adams passes first of Alien and Sedition Acts,” The History Channel website, http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=661 (accessed Jun 18, 2009).

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17
Jun
09

On This Day, June 17: Statue of Liberty

June 17, 1885

Statue of Liberty arrives

The Statue of Liberty, a gift of friendship from the people of France to the people of the United States, arrives in New York City’s harbor.

Originally known as “Liberty Enlightening the World,” the statue was proposed by French historian Edouard Laboulaye to commemorate the Franco-American alliance during the American Revolution. Designed by French sculptor Frederic Auguste Bartholdi, the 151-foot statue was the form of a woman with an uplifted arm holding a torch. In February 1877, Congress approved the use of a site on New York Bedloe’s Island, which was suggested by Bartholdi. In May 1884, the statue was completed in France, and three months later the Americans laid the cornerstone for its pedestal in New York. On June 19, 1885, the dismantled Statue of Liberty arrived in the New World, enclosed in more than 200 packing cases. Its copper sheets were reassembled, and the last rivet of the monument was fitted on October 28, 1886, during a dedication presided over by U.S. President Grover Cleveland.

On the pedestal was inscribed “The New Colossus,” a famous sonnet by American poet Emma Lazarus that welcomed immigrants to the United States with the declaration, “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, / The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. / Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me. / I lift my lamp beside the golden door.” Six years later, Ellis Island, adjacent to Bedloe’s Island, opened as the chief entry station for immigrants to the United States, and for the next 32 years more than 12 million immigrants were welcomed into New York harbor by the sight of “Lady Liberty.” In 1924, the Statue of Liberty was made a national monument.

“Statue of Liberty arrives,” The History Channel website, 2009, http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=5107 [accessed Jun 17, 2009]

On This Day

1789 – The Third Estate in France declared itself a national assembly, and began to frame a constitution.

1799 – Napoleon Bonaparte incorporated Italy into his empire.

1848 – Austrian General Alfred Windischgratz crushed a Czech uprising in Prague.

1854 – The Red Turban revolt broke out in Guangdong, China.

1861 – U.S. President Abraham Lincoln witnessed Dr. Thaddeus Lowe demonstrate the use of a hydrogen balloon.

1876 – General George Crook’s command was attacked and bested on the Rosebud River by 1,500 Sioux and Cheyenne under the leadership of Crazy Horse.

1885 – The Statue of Liberty arrived in New York City aboard the French ship Isere.

1924 – The Fascist militia marched into Rome.

1931 – British authorities in China arrested Indochinese Communist leader Ho Chi Minh.

1953 – Soviet tanks fought thousands of Berlin workers that were rioting against the East German government.

June 17, 1972

Watergate burglars arrested

Five men are arrested for breaking into the Democratic National Committee offices at the Watergate Hotel in Washington, D.C. Senate investigations eventually revealed that President Richard Nixon had been personally involved in the subsequent cover-up of the break-in; additional investigation uncovered a related group of illegal activities that included political espionage and falsification of official documents, all sanctioned by the White House. Nixon became increasingly embroiled in the political scandal.

On July 29 and 30, 1974, the House Judiciary Committee approved three articles of impeachment, charging that Nixon had misused his powers to violate the constitutional rights of U.S. citizens, obstructed justice, and defied Judiciary Committee subpoenas. To avoid almost certain impeachment, Nixon resigned from office on August 9.

The Watergate affair had a far-ranging impact, both at home and abroad. In the United States, the scandal shook the faith of the American people in the presidency. In the final analysis though, the nation survived the constitutional crisis, thus reinforcing the system of checks and balances and proving that not even the president is above the law.

Nixon’s resignation had dire consequences for the Vietnam War. Nixon had always promised that he would come to the aid of South Vietnam if North Vietnam violated the terms of the Paris Peace Accords. With Nixon gone, there was no one left to make good on those promises. When the North Vietnamese began their final offensive in 1975, the promised U.S. support was not provided and the South Vietnamese were defeated in less than 55 days.

“Watergate burglars arrested,” The History Channel website, 2009, http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=1914 [accessed Jun 17, 2009]

16
Jun
09

On This Day, June 16: Nureyev Defects

June 16, 1961

Russian ballet star Nureyev defects

Rudolf Nureyev, the young star of the Soviet Union’s Kirov Opera Ballet Company, defects during a stopover in Paris. The high-profile defection was a blow to Soviet prestige and generated international interest.

Nureyev became a star of Russian ballet in 1958 when, at barely 20 years old, he was made one of the Kirov Opera Ballet’s featured soloists. The Kirov and the Bolshoi ballet companies were two of the jewels of Soviet cultural diplomacy, and their performances earned worldwide accolades and respect for the arts in the USSR. In June 1961, the Kirov Company finished a run in Paris. On June 16, just as the company was preparing to board a flight home, Nureyev broke from the group and insisted that he was staying in France. According to eyewitnesses, other members of the troupe pleaded with Nureyev to rejoin them and return to the Soviet Union. The dancer refused and threw himself into the arms of airport security people, screaming, “Protect me!” The security officials took Nureyev into custody, whereupon he asked for political asylum. The Kirov Company fretted over the loss of its star and Soviet security guards fumed over Nureyev’s defection. Eventually, the troupe flew back to Russia without the dancer.

Nureyev’s high-profile defection was a double blow to the Soviet Union. First, it detracted from the quality of the Kirov Company, which had featured the young prodigy prominently in its performances throughout the world. Second, it severely damaged Soviet propaganda that touted the political and artistic freedom in Russia.

Nureyev continued with his career after his defection. During the next 30 years he danced with England’s Royal Ballet and the American Ballet Theatre. He was in great demand as both a dancer and choreographer, and even made a few films (including a disastrous turn as the silent film star Rudolf Valentino). In 1983, he took over as ballet director of the Paris Opera. In 1989, he briefly returned to the Soviet Union to perform. He died in Paris in 1993.

“Russian ballet star Nureyev defects,” The History Channel website, 2009, http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=2700 [accessed Jun 16, 2009]

On This Day

0455 – Rome was sacked by the Vandal army.

1815 – Napoleon defeated the Prussians at the Battle of Ligny, Netherlands.

1858 – In a speech in Springfield, IL, U.S. Senate candidate Abraham Lincoln said the slavery issue had to be resolved. He declared, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”

1897 – The U.S. government signed a treaty of annexation with Hawaii.

1909 – Glenn Hammond Curtiss sold his first airplane, the “Gold Bug” to the New York Aeronautical Society for $5,000.

1922 – Henry Berliner accomplished the first helicopter flight at College Park, MD.

1932 – The ban on Nazi storm troopers was lifted by the von Papen government in Germany.

1952 – “Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl” was published in the United States.

1958 – Hungarian prime minister Imre Nagy was hanged for treason. He had been the prime minister during the 1956 uprising that was crushed by Soviet tanks.

1963 – 26-year-old Valentina Tereshkova went into orbit aboard the Vostok 6 spacecraft for three days. She was the first female space traveler.

1977 – Leonid Brezhnev was named the first Soviet president of the USSR. He was the first person to hold the post of president and Communist Party General Secretary. He replaced Nikolai Podgorny.

1989 – Hungarian prime minister Imre Nagy was reburied. The funeral brought at least a quarter of a million people to the streets of Budapest. Nagy had been prime minister during the 1956 uprising that was crushed by Soviet tanks. He was hanged for treason on June 16, 1958.

June 16, 1999

SLA member captured after more than 20 years

On this day in 1999, Kathleen Ann Soliah, a former member of the Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA), is arrested near her home in St. Paul, Minnesota. Soliah, who now calls herself Sara Jane Olsen, had been evading authorities for more than 20 years.

In the mid-1970s, the SLA, a small, radical American paramilitary group, made a name for itself with a series of murders, robberies and other violent acts. They were most well-known for the 1974 kidnapping of heiress Patty Hearst, who became a member of the group. In April 1975, members of the SLA robbed a bank in Carmichael, California, and, in the process, killed one of the bank’s customers, Myrna Opsahl. According to Patty Hearst, who served as the group’s getaway driver that day, Soliah took part in the robbery.

Four months later, in August 1975, Lost Angeles policemen discovered a bomb where one of their patrol cars had earlier been parked. Though police believe it had been designed to explode when the car moved, it had failed to detonate. Soliah was indicted for the crime in 1976 but by then she had already left town, and did not return, becoming a fugitive for nearly 23 years. Soliah eventually settled with her husband, a doctor, and three children in St. Paul, Minnesota, where she continued to advocate for various causes under the assumed name Sara Jane Olsen.

In the spring of 1999, however, Soliah’s case was featured on an episode of television’s America’s Most Wanted; she was arrested several weeks later. In 2002, as part of a plea bargain, she pled guilty to two counts of planting bombs and was sentenced to five years and four months in jail. The Board of Prison Terms then changed her sentence to 14 years. After pleading guilty to the attempted bombings, she was arraigned for the Opsahl killing and was later convicted and sentenced to another six years.

In 2004, a judge threw out the adjusted 14-year term, saying the board “abused its discretion” in changing the sentence. Olsen remains in prison in California.

“SLA member captured after more than 20 years,” The History Channel website, 2009, http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=1038 [accessed Jun 16, 2009]

11
Jun
09

On This Day, June 11: Allies Consolidate Position

June 11, 1944

D-Day landing forces converge

Five days after the D-Day landing, the five Allied landing groups, made up of some 330,000 troops, link up in Normandy to form a single solid front across northwestern France.

On June 6, 1944, after a year of meticulous planning conducted in secrecy by a joint Anglo-American staff, the largest combined sea, air, and land military operation in history began on the French coast at Normandy. The Allied invasion force included 3 million men, 13,000 aircraft, 1,200 warships, 2,700 merchant ships, and 2,500 landing craft.

Fifteen minutes after midnight on June 6, the first of 23,000 U.S., British, and Canadian paratroopers and glider troops plunged into the darkness over Normandy. Just before dawn, Allied aircraft and ships bombed the French coast along the Baie de la Seine, and at daybreak the bombardment ended as 135,000 Allied troops stormed ashore at five landing sites. Despite the formidable German coastal defenses, beachheads were achieved at all five landing locations. At one site–Omaha Beach–German resistance was especially strong, and the Allied position was only secured after hours of bloody fighting by the Americans assigned to it. By the evening, some 150,000 American, British, and Canadian troops were ashore, and the Allies held about 80 square miles. During the next five days, Allied forces in Normandy moved steadily forward in all sectors against fierce German resistance. On June 11, the five landing groups met up, and Operation Overlord–the code name for the Allied invasion of northwestern Europe–proceeded as planned.

“D-Day landing forces converge,” The History Channel website, 2009, http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=5086 [accessed Jun 11, 2009]

On This Day

1509 – King Henry VIII married his first of six wives, Catherine of Aragon.

1798 – Napoleon Bonaparte took the island of Malta.

1880 – Jeanette Rankin was born. She became the first woman elected to the U.S. Congress.

1910 – Jacques-Yves Cousteau was born. He was the French underwater explorer that invented the Aqua-Lung diving apparatus.

1927 – Charles A. Lindberg was presented the first Distinguished Flying Cross.

1940 – The Italian Air Force bombed the British fortress at Malta in the Mediterranean.

1947 – The U.S. government announced an end to sugar rationing.

1963 – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was arrested in Florida for trying to integrate restaurants.

1963 – Buddhist monk Quang Duc immolated himself on a Saigon street to protest the government of South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem.

1963 – Alabama Gov. George Wallace allowed two black students to enroll at the University of Alabama.

1993 – The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that people who commit “hate crimes” could be sentenced to extra punishment. The court also ruled in favor of religious groups saying that they indeed had a constitutional right to sacrifice animals during worship services.

1998 – Mitsubishi of America agreed to pay $34 million to end the largest sexual harassment case filed by the U.S. government. The federal lawsuit claimed that hundreds of women at a plant in Normal, IL, had endured groping and crude jokes from male workers.

June 11, 1989

China issues warrant for Tiananmen dissident

In the wake of the Tiananmen Square massacre on June 4, China issues a warrant for a leading Chinese dissident who had taken refuge in the U.S. embassy in Beijing. The diplomatic standoff lasted for a year, and the refusal of the United States to hand the dissident over to Chinese officials was further evidence of American disapproval of China’s crackdown on political protesters.

In April and May 1989, hundreds of thousands of protesters gathered in Beijing to call for greater political democracy in communist China. On June 4, Chinese soldiers and police swarmed into the center of protest activity, Tiananmen Square, killing hundreds and arresting thousands. The Chinese government used this brutal crackdown as a pretext for issuing an arrest warrant for Fang Lizhi, an internationally respected astrophysicist and leading Chinese dissident. Although Fang had not participated in the Tiananmen Square protests, he had been a consistent advocate of greater political democracy and a persistent critic of government policies. In February 1989, more than one hundred Chinese security personnel forcibly prevented Fang from meeting with visiting President George Bush.

In the June arrest warrant, Fang and his wife, Li Shuxian, were charged with “committing crimes of counter-revolutionary propaganda and instigation.” Fang and Li immediately took refuge in the U.S. embassy. Chinese officials demanded that the American government hand over the pair, but the U.S. refused. Almost exactly one year later, Fang and Li were given free passage out of the country and they left the U.S. embassy for the first time since June 1989. The action was part of a wider effort by the Chinese government to repair some of the international damage done to its reputation in the wake of the Tiananmen Square incident. In addition to Fang and Li, hundreds of other political prisoners were also released. Fang and Li traveled to the United States and took up residence. Fang continued his dissident activities against the Chinese government and taught in both America and Great Britain.

The incident indicated that feelings about what had occurred in Tiananmen Square ran high, both in the United States and China. For America, the brutal attack on the protesters repulsed most people and led Congress to pass economic sanctions against the Chinese government. In China, the refusal to hand over Fang and the U.S. criticisms of what the Chinese government considered to be a purely internal matter generated a tremendous amount of resentment. The issue of human rights in China continued to be a major issue in relations between the U.S. and China throughout the 1990s and into the 21st century.

“China issues warrant for Tiananmen dissident,” The History Channel website, 2009, http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=2695 [accessed Jun 11, 2009]

26
May
09

On This Day, May 26: Pequot Massacres

May 26, 1637

Pequot massacres begin

During the Pequot War, an allied Puritan and Mohegan force under English Captain John Mason attacks a Pequot village in Connecticut, burning or massacring some 500 Indian women, men, and children.

As the Puritans of Massachusetts Bay spread further into Connecticut, they came into increasing conflict with the Pequots, a war-like tribe centered on the Thames River in southeastern Connecticut. By the spring of 1637, 13 English colonists and traders had been killed by the Pequot, and Massachusetts Bay Governor John Endecott organized a large military force to punish the Indians. On April 23, 200 Pequot warriors responded defiantly to the colonial mobilization by attacking a Connecticut settlement, killing six men and three women and taking two girls away.

On May 26, 1637, two hours before dawn, the Puritans and their Indian allies marched on the Pequot village at Mystic, slaughtering all but a handful of its inhabitants. On June 5, Captain Mason attacked another Pequot village, this one near present-day Stonington, and again the Indian inhabitants were defeated and massacred. On July 28, a third attack and massacre occurred near present-day Fairfield, and the Pequot War came to an end. Most of the surviving Pequot were sold into slavery, though a handful escaped to join other southern New England tribes.

“Pequot massacres begin,” The History Channel website, 2009, http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=5035 [accessed May 26, 2009]

On This Day

0017 – Germanicus of Rome celebrated his victory over the Germans.

1521 – Martin Luther was banned by the Edict of Worms because of his religious beliefs and writings.

1647 – A new law banned Catholic priests from the colony of Massachusetts. The penalty was banishment or death for a second offense.

1736 – The British and Chickasaw Indians defeated the French at the Battle of Ackia.

1805 – Napoleon Bonaparte was crowned King of Italy in Milan Cathedral.

1864 – The Territory of Montana was organized.

1868 – U.S. President Andrew Johnson was acquitted, by one vote, of all charges in his impeachment trial.

1938 – The House Committee on Un-American Activities began its work of searching for subversives in the United States.

1940 – The evacuation of Allied troops from Dunkirk, France, began during World War II.

1946 – A patent was filed in the United States for an H-bomb.

1948 – The U.S. Congress passed Public Law 557 which permanently established the Civil Air Patrol as the Auxiliary of the new U.S. Air Force.

1961 – Civil rights activist group Freedom Ride Coordinating Committee was established in Atlanta, GA.

1969 – The Apollo 10 astronauts returned to Earth after a successful eight-day dress rehearsal for the first manned moon landing.

1972 – The Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT I) was signed by the U.S. and USSR. The short-term agreement put a freeze on the testing and deployment of intercontinental and submarine-launched ballistic missiles for a 5-year period.

1994 – U.S. President Clinton renewed trade privileges for China, and announced that his administration would no longer link China’s trade status with its human rights record.

May 26, 1865

General Edmund Kirby Smith surrenders

Confederate General Edmund Kirby Smith, commander of the Confederate Trans-Mississippi division, surrenders on this day in 1865, one of the last Confederate generals to capitulate. Smith, who had become commander of the area in January 1863, was charged with keeping the Mississippi River open to the Southerners. Yet he was more interested in recapturing Arkansas and Missouri largely because of the influence of Arkansans in the Confederate Congress who helped to secure his appointment.

Drawing sharp criticism for his failure to provide relief for Vicksburg in the summer of 1863, Smith later conducted the resistance to the failed Union Red River campaign of 1864. When the Confederate forces under Robert E. Lee and Joseph Johnston surrendered in the spring of 1865, Smith continued to resist with his small army in Texas. He insisted that Lee and Johnston were prisoners of war and decried Confederate deserters of the cause. On May 26, General Simon Buckner, acting for Smith, met with Union officers in New Orleans to arrange the surrender of Smith’s force under terms similar to Lee’s surrender at Appomattox. Smith reluctantly agreed, and officially laid down his arms at Galveston on June 2. Smith himself fled to Mexico, and then to Cuba, before returning to Virginia in November 1865 to sign an amnesty oath. He was the last surviving full Confederate general until his death in 1893.

Twenty-three days after Smith’s surrender, Brigadier General Stand Watie, a Cherokee, became the last Confederate field general to surrender.

“General Edmund Kirby Smith surrenders,” The History Channel website, 2009, http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=2043 [accessed May 26, 2009]

15
May
09

On This Day, May 15: Airman Levitow Awarded Medal of Honor

May 15, 1970

Air Force sergeant awarded Medal of Honor

At the White House, President Richard Nixon presents Sgt. John L. Levitow with the Medal of Honor for heroic action performed on February 24, 1969, over Long Binh Army Post in South Vietnam. Then an Airman 1st Class, Levitow was the loadmaster on a Douglas AC-47 gunship. His aircraft had been supporting several Army units that were engaged in battle with North Vietnamese troops when an enemy mortar hit the aircraft’s right wing, exploding in the wing frame. Thousands of pieces of shrapnel ripped through the plane’s thin skin, wounding four of the crew. Levitow was struck forty times in his right side; although bleeding heavily from these wounds, he threw himself on an activated, smoking magnesium flare, dragged himself and the flare to the open cargo door, and tossed the flare out of the aircraft just before it ignited. For saving his fellow crewmembers and the gunship, Airman Levitow was nominated for the nation’s highest award for valor in combat. He was one of only two enlisted airmen to win the Medal of Honor for service in Vietnam and was one of only five enlisted airmen ever to win the medal, the first since World War II.

“Air Force sergeant awarded Medal of Honor,” The History Channel website, 2009, http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=tdihArticleCategory&id=1879 [accessed May 15, 2009]

On This Day

1618 – Johannes Kepler discovered his harmonics law.

1768 – Under the Treaty of Versailles, France purchased Corsica from Genoa.

1795 – Napoleon entered the Lombardian capital of Milan.

1856 – Lyman Frank Baum, author of “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” was born.

1862 – The U.S. Congress created the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

1926 – Roald Amundsen and Lincoln Ellsworth were forced down in Alaska after a four-day flight over an icecap. Ice had begun to form on the dirigible Norge.

1942 – Gasoline rationing began in the U.S. The limit was 3 gallons a week for nonessential vehicles.

1948 – Israel was attacked by Transjordan, Egypt, Syria, Iraq and Lebanon only hours after declaring its independence.

1957 – Britain dropped its first hydrogen bomb on Christmas Island in the Pacific Ocean.

1958 – Sputnik III, the first space laboratory, was launched in the Soviet Union.

1963 – The last Project Mercury space flight was launched.

1970 – Phillip Lafayette Gibbs and James Earl Green, two black students at Jackson State University in Mississippi, were killed when police opened fire during student protests.

1972 – Alabama Gov. George C. Wallace was shot by Arthur Bremer in Laurel, MD while campaigning for the U.S. presidency. Wallace was paralyzed by the shot.

1997 – The Space shuttle Atlantis blasted off on a mission to deliver urgently needed repair equipment and a fresh American astronaut to Russia’s orbiting Mir station.

May 15, 1942

Ronald Reagan applies for transfer to Army Air Force

On this day in 1942, Lieutenant Ronald Reagan, a cavalry officer, applies for reassignment to the Army Air Force, where he would eventually put his thespian background to use on World War II propaganda films.

The transfer was approved on June 9, 1942, and Reagan was given a job as a public relations officer for the First Motion Picture Unit. The First Motion Picture Unit (FMPU)–its acronym was pronounced “fum-poo”–produced military training, morale and propaganda films to aid the war effort. FMPU released Frank Capra’s Why We Fight series and a documentary of the bomber Memphis Belle, the crew of which completed a standard-setting 35 bombing missions in Europe. The films were screened on domestic training grounds and in troop camps overseas as well as in movie theaters at home.

Another film, Air Force, which was later renamed Beyond the Line of Duty, conveyed the true story of the heroic feats of aviator “Shorty” Wheliss and his crew, featuring narration by Ronald Reagan. The documentary, originally intended to promote investment in war bonds, won an Academy Award® in 1943 for best short subject. Reagan went on to narrate or star in three more shorts for FMPU including For God and Country, Cadet Classification and the The Rear Gunner. Reagan also appeared as “Johnny Jones” in the 1943 full-length musical film This is the Army.

“Ronald Reagan applies for transfer to Army Air Force,” The History Channel website, 2009, http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=528 [accessed May 15, 2009]

10
May
09

On This Day, May 10: J Edgar Hoover

May 10, 1924

J. Edgar Hoover begins his legacy with the FBI

J. Edgar Hoover is named acting director of the Bureau of Investigation (now the FBI) on this day in 1924. By the end of the year he was officially promoted to director. This began his 48-year tenure in power, during which time he personally shaped American criminal justice in the 20th century.

Hoover first became involved in law enforcement as a special assistant to the attorney general, overseeing the mass roundups and deportations of suspected communists during the Red Scare abuses of the late 1910s. After taking over the FBI in 1924, Hoover began secretly monitoring any activities that did not conform to his American ideal.

Hoover approved of illegally infiltrating and spying on the American Civil Liberties Union. His spies could be found throughout the government, even in the Supreme Court. He also collected damaging information on the personal lives of civil rights activists, including Martin Luther King, Jr.

While Hoover’s success at legitimate crime fighting was modest, his hold over many powerful people and organizations earned him respect and kept him in power. He was extremely successful at attracting attention and favorable press to the FBI. It wasn’t until after his death in 1972, right before the beginning of the Watergate scandal, that Hoover’s corruption became known.

“J. Edgar Hoover begins his legacy with the FBI,” The History Channel website, 2009, http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=998 [accessed May 10, 2009]

On This Day

1676 – Bacon’s Rebellion, which pits frontiersmen against the government, began.

1773 – The English Parliament passed the Tea Act, which taxed all tea in the U.S. colonies.

1774 – Louis XVI ascended the throne of France.

1775 – Ethan Allen and Colonel Benedict Arnold led an attack on the British Fort Ticonderoga and captured it from the British.

1796 – Napoleon Bonaparte won a brilliant victory against the Austrians at Lodi bridge in Italy.

1840 – Mormon leader Joseph Smith moved his band of followers to Illinois to escape the hostilities they had experienced in Missouri.

1865 – Confederate President Jefferson Davis was captured by Union troops near Irvinville, GA.

1869 – Central Pacific and Union Pacific Rail Roads meet in Promontory, UT. A golden spike was driven in at the celebration of the first transcontinental railroad in the U.S.

1908 – The first Mother’s Day observance took place during a church service in Grafton, West Virginia.

1933 – The Nazis staged massive public book burnings in Germany.

1940 – Germany invaded Belgium, France, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg.

1941 – Rudolf Hess, Adolf Hitler’s deputy, parachuted into Scotland on what he claimed was a peace mission.

1960 – The U.S.S. Triton completed the first circumnavigation of the globe under water. The trip started on February 16.

1986 – Navy Lt. Commander Donnie Cochran became the first black pilot to fly with the Blue Angels team.

1994 – Nelson Mandela was sworn in as South Africa’s first black president.

2002 – Robert Hanssen was sentenced to life in prison with no chance for parole. Hanssen, an FBI agent, had sold U.S. secrets to Moscow for $1.4 million in cash and diamonds.

May 10, 1990

China releases Tiananmen Square prisoners

The government of the People’s Republic of China announces that it is releasing 211 people arrested during the massive protests held in Tiananmen Square in Beijing in June 1989. Most observers viewed the prisoner release as an attempt by the communist government of China to dispel much of the terrible publicity it received for its brutal suppression of the 1989 protests.

In early 1989, peaceful protests (largely composed of students) were held in a number of Chinese cities, calling for greater democracy and less governmental control of the economy. In April, thousands of students marched through Beijing. By May, the number of protesters had grown to nearly 1 million. On June 3, the government responded with troops sent in to crush the protests. In the ensuing violence, thousands of protesters were killed and an unknown number were arrested. The brutal Chinese government crackdown shocked the world. In the United States, calls went up for economic sanctions against China to punish the dramatic human rights violations. The U.S. government responded by temporarily suspending arms sales to China.

Nearly one year later, on May 10, 1990, the Chinese government announced that it was releasing 211 people arrested during the Tiananmen Square crackdown. A brief government statement simply indicated, “Lawbreakers involved in the turmoil and counterrevolutionary rebellion last year have been given lenient treatment and released upon completion of investigations.” The statement also declared that over 400 other “law-breakers” were still being investigated while being held in custody. Western observers greeted the news with cautious optimism. In the United States, where the administration of President George Bush was considering the extension of most-favored-nation status to China, the release of the prisoners was hailed as a step in the right direction.

“China releases Tiananmen Square prisoners,” The History Channel website, 2009, http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=2663 [accessed May 10, 2009]




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