Posts Tagged ‘Ronald Reagan

12
Jun
09

On This Day, June 12: Tear Down This Wall

June 12, 1987

Reagan challenges Gorbachev

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

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

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

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

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

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

On This Day

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

1812 – Napoleon’s invasion of Russia began.

1838 – The Iowa Territory was organized.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

June 12, 1942

Anne Frank receives a diary

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

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

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

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

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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]

16
Mar
09

On This Day, March 16: US Troops into Honduras

March 16, 1988

Reagan orders troops into Honduras

As part of his continuing effort to put pressure on the leftist Sandinista government in Nicaragua, President Ronald Reagan orders over 3,000 U.S. troops to Honduras, claiming that Nicaraguan soldiers had crossed its borders. As with so many of the other actions taken against Nicaragua during the Reagan years, the result was only more confusion and criticism.

Since taking office in 1981, the Reagan administration had used an assortment of means to try to remove the leftist Sandinista government of Nicaragua. President Reagan charged that the Sandinistas were pawns of the Soviet Union and were establishing a communist beachhead in the Western Hemisphere, though there was little evidence to support such an accusation. Nonetheless, Reagan’s administration used economic and diplomatic pressure attempting to destabilize the Sandinista regime. Reagan poured millions of dollars of U.S. military and economic aid into the so-called “Contras,” anti-Sandinista rebels operating out of Honduras and Costa Rica. By 1988, however, the Contra program was coming under severe criticism from both the American people and Congress. Many Americans came to see the Contras as nothing more than terrorist mercenaries, and Congress had acted several times to limit the amount of U.S. aid to the Contras.

In an effort to circumvent Congressional control, the Reagan administration engaged in what came to be known as the Iran-Contra Affair, in which arms were illegally and covertly sold to Iran in order to fund the Contras. This scheme had come to light in late 1987. Indeed, on the very day that Reagan sent U.S. troops to Honduras, his former national security advisor John Poindexter and former National Security staffer Lt. Col. Oliver North were indicted by the U.S. government for fraud and theft related to Iran-Contra.

The New York Times reported that Washington, not Honduras, had initiated the call for the U.S. troops. In fact, the Honduran government could not even confirm whether Sandinista troops had actually crossed its borders, and Nicaragua steadfastly denied that it had entered Honduran territory. Whatever the truth of the matter, the troops stayed for a brief time and were withdrawn. The Sandinista government remained unfazed.

“Reagan orders troops into Honduras.” 2009. The History Channel website. 16 Mar 2009, 10:14 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=2608.

On This Day

1190 – The Crusaders began the massacre of Jews in York, England.

1521 – Portuguese navigator Ferdinand Magellan reached the Philippines. He was killed the next month by natives.

1802 – The U.S. Congress established the West Point Military Academy in New York.

1836 – The Republic of Texas approved a constitution.

1882 – The U.S. Senate approved a treaty allowing the United States to join the Red Cross.

1926 – Physicist Robert H. Goddard launched the first liquid-fuel rocket.

1935 – Adolf Hitler ordered a German rearmament and violated the Versailles Treaty.

1939 – Germany occupied the rest of Czechoslovakia.

1945 – Iwo Jima was declared secure by the Allies. However, small pockets of Japanese resistance still existed.

1968 – U.S. troops in Vietnam destroyed a village consisting mostly of women and children. The event is known as the My-Lai massacre.

1998 – Rwanda began mass trials for 1994 genocide with 125,000 suspects for 500,000 murders.

March 16, 1865

Battle of Averasboro, North Carolina

The mighty army of Union General William T. Sherman encounters its most significant resistance as it tears through the Carolinas on its way to join General Ulysses Grant’s army at Petersburg, Virginia. Confederate General William Hardee tried to block one wing of Sherman’s force, commanded by Henry Slocum, but the motley Rebel force was swept aside at Averasboro, North Carolina.

Sherman’s army left Savannah, Georgia, in late January and began to drive through the Carolinas with the intention of inflicting the same damage on those states as it famously had on Georgia two months prior. The Confederates could offer little opposition, and Sherman rolled northward while engaging in only a few small skirmishes. Now, however, the Rebels had gathered more troops and dug in their heels as the Confederacy entered its final days.

Hardee placed his troops across the main roads leading away from Fayetteville in an effort to determine Sherman’s objective. Union cavalry under General Hugh Judson Kilpatrick contacted some of Hardee’s men along the old Plank Road northeast of Fayetteville on March 15. Kilpatrick could not punch through, so he regrouped and waited until March 16 to renew the attack. When they tried again, the Yankees still could not break the Confederate lines until two divisions of Slocum’s infantry arrived. In danger of being outflanked and possibly surrounded, Hardee withdrew his troops and headed toward a rendezvous with Joseph Johnston’s gathering army at Bentonville, North Carolina.

The Yankees lost 95 men killed, 533 wounded, and 54 missing, while Hardee lost about 865 total. The battle did little to slow the march of Sherman’s army.

“Battle of Averasboro, North Carolina.” 2009. The History Channel website. 16 Mar 2009, 10:28 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=2137.

08
Mar
09

On This Day, March 8: The Evil Empire

March 8, 1983

Reagan refers to U.S.S.R. as “evil empire”…again

Speaking to a convention of the National Association of Evangelicals in Florida on this day in 1983, President Ronald Reagan publicly refers to the Soviet Union as an “evil empire” for the second time in his career. He had first used the phrase in a 1982 speech at the British House of Commons. Some considered Reagan’s use of the Star Wars film-inspired terminology to be brilliant democratic rhetoric. Others, including many within the international diplomatic community, denounced it as irresponsible bombast.

Reagan’s aggressive stance toward the Soviet Union became known as the Reagan Doctrine. He warned against what he and his supporters saw as the dangerous trend of tolerating the Soviets’ build-up of nuclear weapons and attempts to infiltrate Third World countries in order to spread communism. Advocating a “peace through strength” policy, Reagan declared that the Soviets “must be made to understand we will never compromise our principles and standards [nor] ignore the facts of history and the aggressive impulses of an evil empire.” To do so would mean abandoning “the struggle between right and wrong and good and evil.”

Reagan proposed a policy that went beyond the Truman Doctrine of containment, urging active intervention. He vowed to increase U.S. military spending and to use force if necessary to roll back communist expansion in Third World nations. His administration provided military aid to Nicaraguan groups fighting the leftist Sandinista government and gave material support to the Afghan mujahedeen in their ongoing war against Soviets. At the same time, he reassured Americans that he would pursue an “understanding” with totalitarian powers and cited the United States’ effort to limit missile development as a step toward peace.

Reagan’s doctrine came at the same time as a surge in international and domestic protests against the U.S.-Soviet arms race. His opponents blamed the administration for causing the largest increase in American military spending since the beginning of the Cold War, a policy that swelled the nation’s budget deficit.

The Soviet economy ultimately collapsed in the late 1980s, ending decades of communist rule in Russia and Eastern Europe. Americans disagreed as to the cause: while economists and Reagan’s critics claimed the Soviet empire had buckled under the weight of its own bloated defense spending and a protracted war in Afghanistan, Reagan and his supporters credited his hard-line anti-communist policies for defeating Soviet communism.

“Reagan refers to U.S.S.R. as ?evil empire??again.” 2009. The History Channel website. 8 Mar 2009, 01:19 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=272.

 

On This Day

1618 – Johann Kepler discovered the third Law of Planetary Motion.

1853 – The first bronze statue of Andrew Jackson is unveiled in Washington, DC.

1855 – A train passed over the first railway suspension bridge at Niagara Falls, NY.

1862 – The Confederate ironclad “Merrimack” was launched.

1907 – The British House of Commons turned down a women’s suffrage bill.

1910 – The King of Spain authorized women to attend universities.

1911 – In Europe, International Women’s Day was celebrated for the first time.

1917 – Russia’s “February Revolution” began with rioting and strikes in St. Petersburg. The revolution was called the “February Revolution” due to Russia’s use of the Old Style calendar.

1917 – The U.S. Senate voted to limit filibusters by adopting the cloture rule.

1921 – French troops occupied Dusseldorf.

1945 – Phyllis Mae Daley received a commission in the U.S. Navy Nurse Corps. She later became the first African-American nurse to serve duty in World War II.

1946 – The French naval fleet arrived at Haiphong, Vietnam.

1954 – France and Vietnam opened talks in Paris on a treaty to form the state of Indochina.

1965 – The U.S. landed about 3,500 Marines in South Vietnam. They were the first U.S. combat troops to land in Vietnam.

1966 – Australia announced that it would triple the number of troops in Vietnam.

 

March 8, 1782

Pennsylvania militiamen senselessly murder Patriot allies

On this day in 1782, 160 Pennsylvania militiamen murder 96 Christian Indians–39 children, 29 women and 28 men–by hammering their skulls with mallets from behind as they kneel unarmed, praying and singing, in their Moravian Mission at Gnadenhuetten in the Ohio Country. The Patriots then piled their victims’ bodies in mission buildings before burning the entire community to the ground. Two boys managed to survive, although one had lost his scalp to his attackers. Although the militiamen claimed they were seeking revenge for Indian raids on their frontier settlements, the Indians they murdered had played no role in any attack.

This infamous attack on non-combatants led to a loss of faith in the Patriots by their Indian allies and reprisals upon Patriot captives in Indian custody. The Indians resurrected the practice of ritualized torture, discontinued during the Seven Years’ War, on the men they were able to apprehend who had participated in the Gnadenhuetten atrocity.

Although the Moravians and their Indian converts were pacifists who refused to kill under any circumstances, they found other ways to assist the Patriot cause. Like other Indian allies who refused to kill fellow Indians, they aided the Patriots by working as guides and spies. The German Moravian missionaries were also supplying the Americans with critical information, for which they were later arrested and tried by the British.

None of this protected the Indians when 160 members of the Pennsylvania militia decided to act as judge, jury and executioner. The Delaware Indians they murdered were neutral pacifists. Their Christian missionaries were aiding the Patriot cause. Furthermore, they did not live in the manner described as “savage” by European settlers–they were instead engaged in European-style settled agriculture in their mission village. There was no political, religious or cultural justification for the militiamen’s indiscriminate brutality during the Gnadenhuetten massacre; the incident is sadly illustrative of the anti-Indian racism that sometimes trumped even political allegiances during the American Revolution.

“Pennsylvania militiamen senselessly murder Patriot allies.” 2009. The History Channel website. 8 Mar 2009, 01:27 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=304.

22
Jul
08

On This Day, 7-22-08: INF Treaty

Gorbachev accepts ban on intermediate-range nuclear missiles

In a dramatic turnaround, Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev indicates that he is willing to negotiate a ban on intermediate-range nuclear missiles without conditions. Gorbachev’s decision paved the way for the groundbreaking Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty with the United States.

Gorbachev’s change of mind was the result of a number of factors. His own nation was suffering from serious economic problems and Gorbachev desperately wanted to cut Russia’s military spending. In addition, the growing “no-nukes” movement in Europe was interfering with his ability to conduct diplomatic relations with France, Great Britain, and other western European nations. Finally, Gorbachev seemed to have a sincere personal trust in and friendship with Ronald Reagan, and this feeling was apparently reciprocal. In December 1987, during a summit in Washington, the two men signed off on the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, which eliminated an entire class of nuclear weapons.

“Gorbachev accepts ban on intermediate-range nuclear missiles.” 2008. The History Channel website. 20 Jul 2008, 05:22 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=2736.

 

On This Day

1376 – The legend of the Pied Piper of Hamelin leading rats out of town is said to have occurred on this date.

1587 – A second English colony was established on Roanoke Island off North Carolina. The colony vanished under mysterious circumstances.

1796 – Cleveland was founded by Gen. Moses Cleaveland.

1798 – The USS Constitution was underway and out to sea for the firs time since being launched on October 21, 1797.

1812 – English troops under the Duke of Wellington defeated the French at the Battle of Salamanca in Spain.

1933 – Wiley Post ended his around-the-world flight. He had traveled 15,596 miles in 7 days, 18 hours and 45 minutes.

1937 – The U.S. Senate rejected President Roosevelt’s proposal to add more justices to the Supreme Court.

1943 – American forces led by Gen. George S. Patton captured Palermo, Sicily.

1946 – 90 people were killed when Jewish extremists blew up a wing of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem.

1955 – U.S. Vice-President Richard M. Nixon chaired a cabinet meeting in Washington, DC. It was the first time that a Vice-President had carried out the task.

1991 – Police arrested Jeffrey Dahmer after finding the remains of 11 victims in his apartment in Milwaukee. Dahmer confessed to 17 murders and was sentenced to life in prison.

1998 – Iran tested medium-range missile, capable of reaching Israel or Saudi Arabia.

2003 – In northern Iraq, Saddam Hussein’s sons Odai and Qusai died after a gunfight with U.S. forces.

 

Battle of Atlanta continues

Confederate General John Bell Hood continues to try to drive General William T. Sherman from the outskirts of Atlanta when he attacks the Yankees on Bald Hill. The attack failed, and Sherman tightened his hold on Atlanta.

“Battle of Atlanta continues.” 2008. The History Channel website. 20 Jul 2008, 05:21 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=2255.

The Preparedness Day bombing

In San Francisco, a bomb at a Preparedness Day parade on Market Street kills 10 people and wounds 40. The bomb was hidden in a suitcase. The parade was organized by the city’s Chamber of Commerce in support of America’s possible entrance into World War I. San Francisco was suffering through severe labor strife at the time, and many suspected that anti-war labor radicals were responsible for the terrorist attack.

Labor leader Tom Mooney, his wife Rena, his assistant Warren K. Billings, and two others were soon charged by District Attorney Charles Fickert with the bombing. The case attracted international interest because all evidence, with the exception of a handful of questionable witness accounts, seemed to point unquestionably to their innocence. Even after confessions of perjured testimony were made in the courtroom, the trial continued, and in 1917 Mooney and Billings were convicted of first-degree murder, with Billings sentenced to life imprisonment and Mooney sentenced to hang. The other three defendants were acquitted. Responding to international outrage at the conviction, President Woodrow Wilson set up a “mediation commission” to investigate the case, and no clear evidence of their guilt was found. In 1918, Mooney’s sentence was commuted to life imprisonment.

During the next two decades, many groups and individuals petitioned California to grant the two men a new trial. By 1939, when evidence of perjury and false testimony at the trial had become overwhelming, newly elected Governor Culbert Olson pardoned Mooney and commuted Billing’s sentence to time served. Billings was not officially pardoned until 1961.

“The Preparedness Day bombing.” 2008. The History Channel website. 20 Jul 2008, 05:18 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=5198.

Dillinger gunned down

Outside Chicago’s Biograph Theatre, notorious criminal John Dillinger–America’s “Public Enemy No. 1”–is killed in a hail of bullets fired by federal agents. In a fiery bank-robbing career that lasted just over a year, Dillinger and his associates robbed 11 banks for more than $300,000, broke jail and narrowly escaped capture multiple times, and killed seven police officers and three federal agents.

“Dillinger gunned down.” 2008. The History Channel website. 20 Jul 2008, 05:19 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=5200.

Deportations from Warsaw ghetto to Treblinka begin

On this day in 1942, the systematic deportation of Jews from the Warsaw ghetto begins, as thousands are rounded up daily and transported to a newly constructed concentration/extermination camp at Treblinka, in Poland.

“Deportations from Warsaw ghetto to Treblinka begin.” 2008. The History Channel website. 20 Jul 2008, 05:25 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=6527.

25
Apr
08

On This Day, 4-25-08: Samantha Smith

Americans and Russians link up, cut Germany in two

On this day in 1945, eight Russian armies completely encircle Berlin, linking up with the U.S. First Army patrol, first on the western bank of the Elbe, then later at Torgau. Germany is, for all intents and purposes, Allied territory.

The Allies sounded the death knell of their common enemy by celebrating. In Moscow, news of the link-up between the two armies resulted in a 324-gun salute; in New York, crowds burst into song and dance in the middle of Times Square. Among the Soviet commanders who participated in this historic meeting of the two armies was the renowned Russian Marshal Georgi K. Zhukov, who warned a skeptical Stalin as early as June 1941 that Germany posed a serious threat to the Soviet Union. Zhukov would become invaluable in battling German forces within Russia (Stalingrad and Moscow) and without. It was also Zhukov who would demand and receive unconditional surrender of Berlin from German General Krebs less than a week after encircling the German capital. At the end of the war, Zhukov was awarded a military medal of honor from Great Britain.

“Americans and Russians link up, cut Germany in two.” 2008. The History Channel website. 25 Apr 2008, 01:54 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=6433.

1684 – A patent was granted for the thimble.

1792 – The guillotine was first used to execute highwayman Nicolas J. Pelletier.

1846 – The Mexican-American War ignited as a result of disputes over claims to Texas boundaries. The outcome of the war fixed Texas‘ southern boundary at the Rio Grande River.

1859 – Work began on the Suez Canal in Egypt.

1860 – The first Japanese diplomats to visit a foreign power reached Washington, DC. They remained in the U.S. capital for several weeks while discussing expansion of trade with the United States.

1862 – Union Admiral Farragut occupied New Orleans, LA.

1864 – After facing defeat in the Red River Campaign, Union General Nathaniel Bank returned to Alexandria, LA.

1867 – Tokyo was opened for foreign trade.

1882 – French commander Henri Riviere seized the citadel of Hanoi in Indochina.

1898 – The U.S. declared war on Spain. Spain had declared war on the U.S. the day before.

1915 – During World War I, Australian and New Zealand troops landed at Gallipoli in Turkey in hopes of attacking the Central Powers from below. The attack was unsuccessful.

1928 – A seeing eye dog was used for the first time.

1945 – Delegates from about 50 countries met in San Francisco to organize the United Nations.

1952 – After a three-day fight against Chinese Communist Forces, the Gloucestershire Regiment was annihilated on “Gloucester Hill,” in Korea.

1954 – The prototype manufacture of the first solar battery was announced by the Bell Laboratories in New York City.

1959 – St. Lawrence Seaway opened to shipping. The water way connects the Great Lakes and the Atlantic Ocean.

1967 – Colorado Governor John Love signed the first law legalizing abortion in the U.S. The law was limited to therapeutic abortions when agreed to, unanimously, by a panel of three physicians.

1984 – David Anthony Kennedy, the son of Robert F. Kennedy, was found dead of a drug overdose in a hotel room.

1992 – Islamic forces in Afghanistan took control of most of the capital of Kabul following the collapse of the Communist government.

1996 – The main assembly of the Palestine Liberation Organization voted to revoke clauses in its charter that called for an armed struggle to destroy Israel.

 

Andropov writes to an American fifth-grader

The Soviet Union releases a letter that Russian leader Yuri Andropov wrote to Samantha Smith, an American fifth-grader. This rather unusual piece of Soviet propaganda was in direct response to President Ronald Reagan’s vigorous attacks on what he called “the evil empire” of the Soviet Union.

In 1983, President Reagan was in the midst of a harsh rhetorical campaign against the Soviet Union. A passionate anticommunist, President Reagan called for massive increases in U.S. defense spending to meet the perceived Soviet threat. In Russia, however, events were leading to a different Soviet approach to the West. In 1982, long-time leader Leonid Brezhnev died; Yuri Andropov was his successor. While Andropov was not radical in his approach to politics and economics, he did seem to sincerely desire a better relationship with the United States. In an attempt to blunt the Reagan attacks, the Soviet government released a letter that Andropov had written in response to one sent by Samantha Smith, a fifth-grade student from Manchester, Maine.

Smith had written the Soviet leader as part of a class assignment, one that was common enough for students in the Cold War years. Most of these missives received a form letter response, if any at all, but Andropov answered Smith’s letter personally. He explained that the Soviet Union had suffered horrible losses in World War II, an experience that convinced the Russian people that they wanted to “live in peace, to trade and cooperate with all our neighbors on the globe, no matter how close or far away they are, and, certainly, with such a great country as the United States of America.” In response to Smith’s question about whether the Soviet Union wished to prevent nuclear war, Andropov declared, “Yes, Samantha, we in the Soviet Union are endeavoring and doing everything so that there will be no war between our two countries, so that there will be no war at all on earth. This is the wish of everyone in the Soviet Union. That’s what we were taught to do by Vladimir Lenin, the great founder of our state.” He vowed that Russia would “never, but never, be the first to use nuclear weapons against any country.” Andropov complimented Smith, comparing her to the spunky character of Becky from the Mark Twain novel, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. “All kids in our country, boys and girls alike, know and love this book,” he added. Andropov ended by inviting Samantha and her parents to visit the Soviet Union. In July 1983, Samantha accepted the invitation and flew to Russia for a three-week tour.

Soviet propaganda had never been known for its human qualities. Generally speaking, it was given to heavy-handed diatribes and communist cliches. In his public relations duel with Reagan-the American president known as the “Great Communicator”-Andropov tried something different by assuming a folksy, almost grandfatherly approach. Whether this would have borne fruit is unknown; just a year later, Andropov died. Tragically, Samantha Smith, aged 13, died just one year after Andropov’s passing, in August 1985 in a plane crash.

“Andropov writes to an American fifth-grader.” 2008. The History Channel website. 25 Apr 2008, 01:57 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=2648.

11
Apr
08

On This Day, 4-11-08: Apollo 13

Apollo 13 launched to moon

On April 11, 1970, Apollo 13, the third lunar landing mission, is successfully launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, carrying astronauts James A. Lovell, John L. Swigert, and Fred W. Haise. The spacecraft’s destination was the Fra Mauro highlands of the moon, where the astronauts were to explore the Imbrium Basin and conduct geological experiments. After an oxygen tank exploded on the evening of April 13, however, the new mission objective became to get the Apollo 13 crew home alive.

“Apollo 13 launched to moon.” 2008. The History Channel website. 11 Apr 2008, 01:58 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=6864.

1512 – The forces of the Holy League were heavily defeated by the French at the Battle of Ravenna.

1783 – After receiving a copy of the provisional treaty on March 13, the U.S. Congress proclaimed a formal end to hostilities with Great Britain.

1803 – A twin-screw propeller steamboat was patented by John Stevens.

1895 – Anaheim, CA, completed its new electric light system.

1898 – U.S. President William McKinley asked Congress for a declaration of war with Spain.

1899 – The treaty ending the Spanish-American War was declared in effect.

1940 – Andrew Ponzi set a world’s record in a New York pocket billiards tournament when he ran 127 balls straight.

1941 – Germany bombers blitzed Conventry, England.

1945 – U.S. troops reached the Elbe River in Germany.

1945 – During World War II, American soldiers liberated the Nazi concentration camp of Buchenwald in Germany.

1947 – Jackie Robinson became the first black player in major-league history. He played in an exhibition game for the Brooklyn Dodgers.

1968 – U.S. President Johnson signed the 1968 Civil Rights Act.

1974 – The Judiciary committee subpoenas U.S. President Richard Nixon to produce tapes for impeachment inquiry.

1981 – U.S. President Ronald Reagan returned to the White House from the hospital after recovering from an assassination attempt.

1985 – The White House announced that President Reagan would visit the Nazi cemetery at Bitburg.

1986 – In Groton, CT, the submarine Nautilus exhibit opened to the public.

2001 – China agreed to release 24 crewmembers of a U.S. surveillance plane. The EP-3E Navy crew had been held since April 1 on Hainon, where the plane had made an emergency landing after an in-flight collision with a Chinese fighter jet. The Chinese pilot was missing and presumed dead.

 

Truman relieves MacArthur of duties in Korea

In perhaps the most famous civilian-military confrontation in the history of the United States, President Harry S. Truman relieves General Douglas MacArthur of command of the U.S. forces in Korea. The firing of MacArthur set off a brief uproar among the American public, but Truman remained committed to keeping the conflict in Korea a “limited war.”

Problems with the flamboyant and egotistical General MacArthur had been brewing for months. In the early days of the war in Korea (which began in June 1950), the general had devised some brilliant strategies and military maneuvers that helped save South Korea from falling to the invading forces of communist North Korea. As U.S. and United Nations forces turned the tide of battle in Korea, MacArthur argued for a policy of pushing into North Korea to completely defeat the communist forces. Truman went along with this plan, but worried that the communist government of the People’s Republic of China might take the invasion as a hostile act and intervene in the conflict. In October 1950, MacArthur met with Truman and assured him that the chances of a Chinese intervention were slim. Then, in November and December 1950, hundreds of thousands of Chinese troops crossed into North Korea and flung themselves against the American lines, driving the U.S. troops back into South Korea. MacArthur then asked for permission to bomb communist China and use Nationalist Chinese forces from Taiwan against the People’s Republic of China. Truman flatly refused these requests and a very public argument began to develop between the two men.

“Truman relieves MacArthur of duties in Korea.” 2008. The History Channel website. 11 Apr 2008, 02:01 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=2634.

Old soldiers never die; they just fade away.
Douglas MacArthur

Swigert: “Okay, Houston, we’ve had a problem here.” http://history.nasa.gov/Timeline/apollo13chron.html




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