Posts Tagged ‘South Vietnam

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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30
Nov
08

On This Day, 11-30-2008: Communists Winning

November 30, 1965

McNamara warns Johnson that communists are gaining strength in South Vietnam

Following a visit to South Vietnam, Defense Secretary McNamara reports in a memorandum to President Lyndon B. Johnson that the South Vietnamese government of Nguyen Cao Ky “is surviving, but not acquiring wide support or generating actions.”

He said that Viet Cong recruiting successes coupled with a continuing heavy infiltration of North Vietnamese forces indicated that “the enemy can be expected to enlarge his present strength of 110 battalion equivalents to more than 150 battalion equivalents by the end of 1966.” McNamara said that U.S. policymakers faced two options: to seek a compromise settlement and keep further military commitments to a minimum, or to continue to press for a military solution, which would require substantial bombing of North Vietnam.

In conclusion, McNamara warned that there was no guarantee of U.S. military success and that there was a real possibility of a strategic stalemate, saying that “U.S. killed in action can be expected to reach 1,000 a month.” In essence, McNamara cautioned Johnson that sending additional troops was not likely to prevent the stalemate. In the end, however, Johnson chose to seek a military solution. By 1969, there were more than 500,000 U.S. troops in Vietnam.

“McNamara warns Johnson that communists are gaining strength in South Vietnam.” 2008. The History Channel website. 30 Nov 2008, 10:38 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=1520.

On This Day

1700 – 8,000 Swedish troops under King Charles XII defeated an army of at least 50,000 Russians at the Battle of Narva. King Charles XII died on this day.

1782 – The United States and Britain signed preliminary peace articles in Paris, ending the Revolutionary War.

1803 – Spain completed the process of ceding Louisiana to France.

1838 – Three days after the French occupation of Vera Cruz Mexico declared war on France.

1954 – In Sylacauga, AL, Elizabeth Hodges was injured when a meteorite crashed through the roof of her house. The rock weighed 8½-pounds.

1981 – The U.S. and the Soviet Union opened negotiations in Geneva that were aimed at reducing nuclear weapons in Europe.

1993 – U.S. President Clinton signed into law the Brady Bill. The bill required a five-day waiting period for handgun purchases and background checks of prospective buyers.

November 30, 1939

USSR attacks Finland

On this day in 1939, the Red Army crosses the Soviet-Finnish border with 465,000 men and 1,000 aircraft. Helsinki was bombed, and 61 Finns were killed in an air raid that steeled the Finns for resistance, not capitulation.

The overwhelming forces arrayed against Finland convinced most Western nations, as well as the Soviets themselves, that the invasion of Finland would be a cakewalk. The Soviet soldiers even wore summer uniforms, despite the onset of the Scandinavian winter; it was simply assumed that no outdoor activity, such as fighting, would be taking place. But the Helsinki raid had produced many casualties-and many photographs, including those of mothers holding dead babies, and preteen girls crippled by the bombing. Those photos were hung up everywhere to spur on Finn resistance. Although that resistance consisted of only small numbers of trained soldiers-on skis and bicycles!–fighting it out in the forests, and partisans throwing Molotov cocktails into the turrets of Soviet tanks, the refusal to submit made headlines around the world.

President Roosevelt quickly extended $10 million in credit to Finland, while also noting that the Finns were the only people to pay back their World War I war debt to the United States in full. But by the time the Soviets had a chance to regroup, and send in massive reinforcements, the Finnish resistance was spent. By March 1940, negotiations with the Soviets began, and Finland soon lost the Karelian Isthmus, the land bridge that gave access to Leningrad, which the Soviets wanted to control.

“USSR attacks Finland.” 2008. The History Channel website. 30 Nov 2008, 10:39 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=6396.

02
Nov
08

On This Day, 11-2-2008: Coup in South Vietnam

November 2, 1963

Ngo Dinh Diem assassinated in South Vietnam

Following the overthrow of his government by South Vietnamese military forces the day before, President Ngo Dinh Diem and his brother are captured and killed by a group of soldiers. The death of Diem caused celebration among many people in South Vietnam, but also lead to political chaos in the nation. The United States subsequently became more heavily involved in Vietnam as it tried to stabilize the South Vietnamese government and beat back the communist rebels that were becoming an increasingly powerful threat.

While the United States publicly disclaimed any knowledge of or participation in the planning of the coup that overthrew Diem, it was later revealed that American officials met with the generals who organized the plot and gave them encouragement to go through with their plans. Quite simply, Diem was perceived as an impediment to the accomplishment of U.S. goals in Southeast Asia. His increasingly dictatorial rule only succeeded in alienating most of the South Vietnamese people, and his brutal repression of protests led by Buddhist monks during the summer of 1963 convinced many American officials that the time had come for Diem to go.

Three weeks later, an assassin shot President Kennedy. By then, the United States was more heavily involved in the South Vietnamese quagmire than ever. Its participation in the overthrow of the Diem regime signaled a growing impatience with South Vietnamese management of the war. From this point on, the United States moved step by step to become more directly and heavily involved in the fight against the communist rebels.

“Ngo Dinh Diem assassinated in South Vietnam.” 2008. The History Channel website. 2 Nov 2008, 01:42 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=2472.

On This Day

1721 – Peter the Great (Peter I), ruler of Russia, changed his title to emperor.

1776 – During the American Revolutionary War, William Demont, became the first traitor of the American Revolution when he deserted.

1783 – U.S. Gen. George Washington gave his “Farewell Address to the Army” near Princeton, NJ. http://gwpapers.virginia.edu/documents/revolution/farewell/index.html

1889 – North Dakota and South Dakota were admitted into the union as the 39th and 40th states.

1947 – Howard Hughes flew his “Spruce Goose,” a huge wooden airplane, for eight minutes in California. It was the plane’s first and only flight. The “Spruce Goose,” nicknamed because of the white-gray color of the spruce used to build it, never went into production.

1948 – Harry S. Truman defeated Thomas E. Dewey for the U.S. presidency. The Chicago Tribune published an early edition that had the headline “DEWEY DEFEATS TRUMAN.” The Truman victory surprised many polls and newspapers.

1962 – U.S. President Kennedy announced that the U.S.S.R. was dismantling the missile sites in Cuba.

1989 – Carmen Fasanella retired after 68 years and 243 days of taxicab service in Princeton, NJ.

November 2, 1917

Britain supports creation of Jewish homeland

British Foreign Secretary Arthur James Balfour submits a declaration of intent to establish a Jewish homeland in Palestine. The British government hoped that the formal declaration would help garner Jewish support for the Allied effort in World War I. The Balfour Declaration was included in the British mandate over Palestine, which was approved by the League of Nations in 1922. Arabs opposed the Balfour Declaration, fearing that the creation of a Jewish homeland would mean the subjugation of Arab Palestinians.

After World War I, the Jewish population in Palestine increased dramatically, as did Jewish-Arab violence. Arab resistance and failures to reach a compromise led Britain to delay deciding on the future of Palestine. In the aftermath of World War II and the Holocaust, much of the international community took up the Zionist cause, and in 1948 the State of Israel was declared.

“Britain supports creation of Jewish homeland.” 2008. The History Channel website. 2 Nov 2008, 01:28 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=tdihArticleCategory&id=5487.

In Wisconsin

1954 – Wisconsin Voters Oppose Public Television
On this date Wisconsin voters overwhelmingly opposed the idea of a state-supported public educational TV station. The final vote was 662,044 to 295,329. [Source: Janesville Gazette 11/3/1954, p. 1]

21
Aug
08

On This Day, 8-21-2008: Frank James

Trial of Frank James begins in Missouri

The trial of Frank James begins in Gallatin, Missouri. It was held in the city opera house in order to accommodate the crowds of spectators.

After having robbed dozens of banks and trains over nearly two decades, Frank James finally turned himself in October 1882. Discouraged by the murder of his brother Jesse the previous spring, Frank feared it was only a matter of time before someone also shot him in the back for reward money. He decided to try his chances with the courts, hoping that his considerably public popularity would win him a short sentence.

Frank’s trial went even better than he had hoped. Although Frank and Jesse James and their gang of desperados had killed many people, the majority of Missourians saw them as heroes who took money from ruthless bank and railroad companies and redistributed it to the poor. The state prosecutor had a difficult time finding jurors who were not prejudiced in Frank’s favor. Looking at the panel of potential jurors, he concluded, “The verdict of the jury that is being selected is already written.”

After the trial began, several prominent witnesses testified to Frank’s character. General Joseph O. Shelby, who had known him during his days as a Civil War guerilla, encouraged the jurors to see Frank James as a defender of the South against corrupt big businesses from the North. When asked to identify Frank in the courtroom, the distinguished general exclaimed: “Where is my old friend and comrade in arms? Ah, there I see him! Allow me, I wish to shake hands with my fellow soldier who fought by my side for Southern rights!”

Rural Missourians were unwilling to convict the legendary Frank James. The jury found him not guilty. The states of Alabama and Missouri tried to convict him twice more, on charges of armed robbery, with no success. In late 1883, Frank James became a free man. He lived quietly for 32 more years. The only shots he ever fired again were from starter pistols at county racetracks, one of the handful of odd jobs he took to earn a living. He died at his family home in Missouri in 1915 at the age of 72.

“Trial of Frank James begins in Missouri.” 2008. The History Channel website. 21 Aug 2008, 10:28 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=4619.

 

On This Day

1680 – The Pueblo Indians drove the Spanish out and took possession of Santa Fe, NM.

1878 – The American Bar Association was formed by a group of lawyers, judges and law professors in Saratoga, NY.

1923 – In Kalamazoo, Michigan, an ordinance was passed forbidding dancers from gazing into the eyes of their partner.

1940 – Exiled Communist revolutionary Leon Trotsky died in Mexico City from wounds that had inflicted by an assassin.

1943 – Japan evacuated the Aleutian island of Kiaska. Kiaska had been the last North American foothold held by the Japanese.

1945 – U.S. President Truman ended the Lend-Lease program that had shipped about $50 billion in aid to America’s Allies during World War II.

1959 – Hawaii became the 50th state. U.S. President Eisenhower also issued the order for the 50 star flag.

1963 – In South Vietnam, martial law was declared. Army troops and police began to crackdown on the Buddhist anti-government protesters.

1971 – Laura Baugh, at the age of 16, won the United States Women’s Amateur Golf tournament. She was the youngest winner in the history of the tournament.

1984 – Victoria Roche, a reserve outfielder, became the first girl to ever compete in a Little League World Series game.

1989 – Voyager 2, a U.S. space probe, got close to the Neptune moon called Tritan.

1992 – Randall Weaver, a neo-Nazi leader, opened fire on U.S. marshals from his home in Idaho. Weaver surrendered 11 days later ending the standoff. During the standoff a deputy marshal, Weaver’s wife and his son were killed.

1996 – The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 was signed by U.S. President Clinton. The act made it easier to obtain and keep health insurance.

1997 – Afghanistan suspended its embassy operations in the United States.

1998 – Samuel Bowers, a 73-year-old former Ku Klux Klan leader, was convicted in Hattiesburg, MS, of ordering a firebombing that killed civil rights activist Vernon Dahmer in 1966.

 

 

Slave revolt erupts in Virginia

Believing himself chosen by God to lead his people out of slavery, Nat Turner launches a bloody slave insurrection in Southampton County, Virginia. Turner, a slave and educated minister, planned to capture the county armory at Jerusalem, Virginia, and then march 30 miles to Dismal Swamp, where his rebels would be able to elude their pursuers. With seven followers, he slaughtered Joseph Travis, his slave owner, and Travis’ family, and then set off across the countryside, hoping to rally hundreds of slaves to his insurrection en route to Jerusalem.

During the next two days and nights, Turner and 75 followers rampaged through Southampton County, killing about 60 whites. Local whites resisted the rebels, and then the state militia–consisting of some 3,000 men–crushed the rebellion. Only a few miles from Jerusalem, Turner and all his followers were dispersed, captured, or killed. In the aftermath of the rebellion, scores of African Americans were lynched, though many of them were non-participants in the revolt. Turner himself was not captured until the end of October, and after confessing without regret to his role in the bloodshed, he was tried, convicted, and sentenced to death. On November 11, he was hanged in Jerusalem.

Turner’s rebellion was the largest slave revolt in U.S. history and led to a new wave of oppressive legislation prohibiting the movement, assembly, and education of slaves.

“Slave revolt erupts in Virginia.” 2008. The History Channel website. 21 Aug 2008, 10:29 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=5278.

Sack of Lawrence, Kansas

The vicious guerilla war in Missouri spills over into Kansas and precipitates one of the most appalling acts of violence during the war when 150 men in the abolitionist town of Lawrence are murdered in a raid by Southern partisans.

The Civil War took a very different form in Kansas and Missouri than it did throughout the rest of the nation. There were few regular armies operating there; instead, partisan bands attacked civilians and each other. The roots of conflict in the region dated back to 1854, when the Kansas-Missouri border became ground zero for tension over slavery. While residents of Kansas Territory were trying to decide the issue of slavery, bands from Missouri, a slave state, began attacking abolitionist settlements in the territory. Abolitionists reacted with equal vigor.

“Sack of Lawrence, Kansas.” 2008. The History Channel website. 21 Aug 2008, 10:31 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=2290.

11
Aug
08

On This Day, 8-11-2008: The Evil Empire

Reagan jokes about bombing Russia

On this day in 1984, President Ronald Reagan makes a joking but controversial off-the-cuff remark about bombing Russia while testing a microphone before a scheduled radio address. While warming up for the speech, Reagan said “My fellow Americans, I am pleased to tell you today that I’ve signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes.”

Although the press throng and his aides in attendance laughed at the obvious joke, the comment unnerved Democratic opposition leaders and those already fearful of the hard-line posturing Reagan had displayed toward the USSR since assuming office in 1981. Others simply dismissed his remark, which came at a time of heightened tensions between the U.S. and Russia, as a moment of poor taste.

Although it is not known what Soviet leaders thought of Reagan’s joke, the comment did color some Americans’ opinion of Reagan, whose approval rating dropped in the aftermath of the incident, temporarily boosting the electoral hopes of Democratic presidential hopeful Walter Mondale. Reagan recovered and beat Mondale; he began his second term in 1984.

“Reagan jokes about bombing Russia.” 2008. The History Channel website. 10 Aug 2008, 03:43 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=50722.

 

On This Day

1860 – The first silver mill in America to be successful began. The mill was in Virginia City, NV.

1877 – The two moons of Mars were discovered by Asaph Hall, an American astronomer. He named them Phobos and Deimos.

1896 – Harvey Hubbell received a patent for the electric light bulb socket with a pull-chain.

1909 – The American ship Arapahoe became the first to ever use the SOS distress signal off the coast of Cape Hatteras, NC.

1924 – Newsreel pictures were taken of U.S. presidential candidates for the first time.

1934 – Alcatraz, in San Francisco Bay, received federal prisoners for the first time.

1945 – The Allies informed Japan that they would determine Emperor Hirohito’s future status after Japan’s surrender.

1954 – Seven years of fighting came to an end in Indochina. A formal peace was in place for the French and the Communist Vietminh.

1965 – Riots and looting took place in the Watts section of Los Angeles, CA. During the week that followed 34 people were killed. In addition, over 1,000 were injured, 3,000 were arrested and over $40 million in damage was done.

1990 – Egyptian and Moroccan troops joined U.S. forces in Saudia Arabia to help protect from a possible Iraqi attack.

1992 – In Bloomington, MN, the Mall of America opened. It was the largest shopping mall in the United States.

1995 – All U.S. nuclear tests were banned by President Clinton.

 

 

Weimar Constitution adopted in Germany

On August 11, 1919, Friedrich Ebert, a member of the Social Democratic Party and the provisional president of the German Reichstag (government), signs a new constitution, known as the Weimar Constitution, into law, officially creating the first parliamentary democracy in Germany.

Under vicious attack from both the militarist right and the radical socialist left and identified by both sides with the shame of Versailles, the Weimar government and its constitution—signed into law on August 11, 1919—seemed to have a dim chance of survival. In this atmosphere of confrontation and frustration, exacerbated by poor economic conditions, right wing elements began to take an ever more pervasive hold over the Reichstag. This process, intensified by the worldwide depression that began in 1929, would culminate in the rise to power of Adolf Hitler, who exploited the weakness of the Weimar system to lay the foundations for himself and his National Socialist German Workers’ (or Nazi) Party to dissolve the parliamentary government and take absolute control over Germany.

“Weimar Constitution adopted in Germany .” 2008. The History Channel website. 10 Aug 2008, 03:44 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=50625.

Last U.S. ground combat unit departs South Vietnam

The last U.S. ground combat unit in South Vietnam, the Third Battalion, Twenty-First Infantry, departs for the United States. The unit had been guarding the U.S. air base at Da Nang. This left only 43,500 advisors, airmen, and support troops left in-country. This number did not include the sailors of the Seventh Fleet on station in the South China Sea or the air force personnel in Thailand and Guam.

“Last U.S. ground combat unit departs South Vietnam.” 2008. The History Channel website. 10 Aug 2008, 03:45 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=tdihArticleCategory&id=1262.

28
Jul
08

On This Day, 7-28-08: World War I

Austria-Hungary declares war on Serbia

On July 28, 1914, one month to the day after Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his wife were killed by a Serbian nationalist in Sarajevo, Austria-Hungary declares war on Serbia, effectively beginning the First World War.

Threatened by Serbian ambition in the tumultuous Balkans region of Europe, Austria-Hungary determined that the proper response to the assassinations was to prepare for a possible military invasion of Serbia. After securing the unconditional support of its powerful ally, Germany, Austria-Hungary presented Serbia with a rigid ultimatum on July 23, 1914, demanding, among other things, that all anti-Austrian propaganda within Serbia be suppressed, and that Austria-Hungary be allowed to conduct its own investigation into the archduke’s killing. Though Serbia effectively accepted all of Austria’s demands except for one, the Austrian government broke diplomatic relations with the other country on July 25 and went ahead with military preparedness measures. Meanwhile, alerted to the impending crisis, Russia—Serbia’s own mighty supporter in the Balkans—began its own initial steps towards military mobilization against Austria.

In the days following the Austrian break in relations with Serbia, the rest of Europe, including Russia’s allies, Britain and France, looked on with trepidation, fearing the imminent outbreak of a Balkans conflict that, if entered into by Russia, threatened to explode into a general European war. The British Foreign Office lobbied its counterparts in Berlin, Paris and Rome with the idea of an international convention aimed at moderating the conflict; the German government, however, was set against this notion, and advised Vienna to go ahead with its plans.

On July 28, 1914, after a decision reached conclusively the day before in response to pressure from Germany for quick action—apart from Kaiser Wilhelm II, who by some accounts still saw the possibility of a peaceful diplomatic resolution to the conflict, but was outmaneuvered by the more hawkish military and governmental leadership of Germany—Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia. In response, Russia formally ordered mobilization in the four military districts facing Galicia, its common front with the Austro-Hungarian Empire. That night, Austrian artillery divisions initiated a brief, ineffectual bombardment of Belgrade across the Danube River.

“My darling one and beautiful, everything tends towards catastrophe and collapse,” British naval official Winston Churchill wrote to his wife at midnight on July 29. He was proven right over the next several days. On August 1, after its demands for Russia to halt mobilization met with defiance, Germany declared war on Russia. Russia’s ally, France, ordered its own general mobilization that same day, and on August 3, France and Germany declared war on each other. The German army’s planned invasion of neutral Belgium, announced on August 4, prompted Britain to declare war on Germany. Thus, in the summer of 1914, the major powers in the Western world—with the exception of the United States and Italy, both of which declared their neutrality, at least for the time being—flung themselves headlong into the First World War.

“Austria-Hungary declares war on Serbia.” 2008. The History Channel website. 27 Jul 2008, 02:09 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=828.

The Russians mobilized faster than the Germans had counted on, causing Germany to withdraw important elements of its army from attacking France thus dooming the attack on France to failure and forced the Germans into a two-front war.  World War I as it is now known destroyed the great monarchies of Europe, cost millions of lives, bankrupted empires and elevated Serbia to an almost mythical status of being the little nation that will eventually bring about Armageddon.

 

On This Day

1540 – King Henry VIII’s chief minister, Thomas Cromwell, was executed. The same day, Henry married his fifth wife, Catherine Howard.

1794 – Maximilien Robespierre was sent to the guillotine. He was a leading figure in the French Revolution.

1821 – Peru declared its independence from Spain.

1866 – The metric system was legalized by the U.S. Congress for the standardization of weights and measures throughout the United States.

1868 – The Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was declared in effect. The amendment guaranteed due process of law.

1945 – A U.S. Army bomber crashed into the 79th floor of New York City’s Empire State Building. 14 people were killed and 26 were injured.

1965 – U.S. President Johnson announced he was increasing the number of American troops in South Vietnam from 75,000 to 125,000.

1998 – Serbian military forces seized the Kosovo town of Malisevo.

1998 – Monica Lewinsky received blanket immunity from prosecution to testify before a grand jury about her relationship with U.S. President Clinton.

 

 

Bonus Marchers evicted by U.S. Army

During the Great Depression, President Herbert Hoover orders the U.S. Army under General Douglas MacArthur to evict by force the Bonus Marchers from the nation’s capital.

Two months before, the so-called “Bonus Expeditionary Force,” a group of some 1,000 World War I veterans seeking cash payments for their veterans’ bonus certificates, had arrived in Washington, D.C. Most of the marchers were unemployed veterans in desperate financial straits. In June, other veteran groups spontaneously made their way to the nation’s capital, swelling the Bonus Marchers to nearly 20,000 strong. Camping in vacant government buildings and in open fields made available by District of Columbia Police Chief Pelham D. Glassford, they demanded passage of the veterans’ payment bill introduced by Representative Wright Patman.

While awaiting a vote on the issue, the veterans conducted themselves in an orderly and peaceful fashion, and on June 15 the Patman bill passed in the House of Representatives. However, two days later, its defeat in the Senate infuriated the marchers, who refused to return home. In an increasingly tense situation, the federal government provided money for the protesters’ trip home, but 2,000 refused the offer and continued to protest. On July 28, President Herbert Hoover ordered the army to evict them forcibly. General MacArthur’s men set their camps on fire, and the veterans were driven from the city. Hoover, increasingly regarded as insensitive to the needs of the nation’s many poor, was much criticized by the public and press for the severity of his response.

“Bonus Marchers evicted by U.S. Army.” 2008. The History Channel website. 27 Jul 2008, 02:25 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=5215.

Worst modern earthquake

At 3:42 a.m., an earthquake measuring between 7.8 and 8.2 magnitude on the Richter scale flattens Tangshan, a Chinese industrial city with a population of about one million people. As almost everyone was asleep in their beds, instead of outside in the relative safety of the streets, the quake was especially costly in terms of human life. An estimated 242,000 people in Tangshan and surrounding areas were killed, making the earthquake one of the deadliest in recorded history, surpassed only by the 300,000 who died in the Calcutta earthquake in 1737, and the 830,000 thought to have perished in China’s Shaanxi province in 1556.

The Chinese government was ill-prepared for a disaster of this scale. The day following the quake, helicopters and planes began dropping food and medicine into the city. Some 100,000 soldiers of the People’s Liberation Army were ordered to Tangshan, and many had to march on foot from Jinzhou, a distance of more than 180 miles. About 30,000 medical personnel were called in, along with 30,000 construction workers. The Chinese government, boasting self-sufficiency, refused all offers of foreign relief aid. In the crucial first week after the crisis, many died from lack of medical care. Troops and relief workers lacked the kind of heavy rescue training necessary to efficiently pull survivors from the rubble. Looting was also epidemic. More than 160,000 families were left homeless, and more than 4,000 children were orphaned.

Tangshan was eventually rebuilt with adequate earthquake precautions. Today, nearly two million people live there. There is speculation that the death toll from the 1976 quake was much higher than the official Chinese government figure of 242,000. Some Chinese sources have spoken privately of more than 500,000 deaths.

“Worst modern earthquake.” 2008. The History Channel website. 27 Jul 2008, 02:43 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=6972.

30
Apr
08

On This Day, 4-30-08: Louisiana Purchase

Louisiana Purchase concluded

On April 30, 1803, representatives of the United States and Napoleonic France conclude negotiations for the Louisiana Purchase, a massive land sale that doubles the size of the young American republic. What was known as Louisiana Territory comprised most of modern-day United States between the Mississippi and the Rocky Mountains, with the exceptions of Texas, parts of New Mexico, and other pockets of land already controlled by the United States. A formal treaty for the Louisiana Purchase, antedated to April 30, was signed two days later.

Beginning in the 17th century, France explored the Mississippi River valley and established scattered settlements in the region. By the middle of the 18th century, France controlled more of the modern United States than any other European power: from New Orleans northeast to the Great Lakes and northwest to modern-day Montana. In 1762, during the French and Indian War, France ceded its America territory west of the Mississippi River to Spain and in 1763 transferred nearly all of its remaining North American holdings to Great Britain. Spain, no longer a dominant European power, did little to develop Louisiana Territory during the next three decades. In 1796, Spain allied itself with France, leading Britain to use its powerful navy to cut off Spain from America.

“Louisiana Purchase concluded.” 2008. The History Channel website. 29 Apr 2008, 12:39 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=6883.

 

0030 – Jesus of Nazareth was crucified.

 

Samuel Adams writes of hope for more battles

In a letter to Reverend Samuel Cooper dated April 30, 1776, Samuel Adams writes of his hopes for another battle between British and American troops, stating his belief that, ” One battle would do more towards a Declaration of Independence than a long chain of conclusive arguments in a provincial convention or the Continental Congress.” At the time of the letter’s composition, General George Washington had successfully driven the British from Boston with his victory at Dorchester Heights on March 17. The British were left with very meager footholds in North America: Quebec, the Floridas and Nova Scotia, Canada.

“Samuel Adams writes of hope for more battles.” 2008. The History Channel website. 29 Apr 2008, 12:42 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=479.

Adolf Hitler commits suicide

On this day in 1945, holed up in a bunker under his headquarters in Berlin, Adolf Hitler commits suicide by swallowing a cyanide capsule and shooting himself in the head. Soon after, Germany unconditionally surrendered to the Allied forces, ending Hitler’s dreams of a “1,000-year” Reich.

“Adolf Hitler commits suicide.” 2008. The History Channel website. 29 Apr 2008, 12:35 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=52566.

South Vietnam surrenders

By dawn, communist forces move into Saigon, where they meet only sporadic resistance. The South Vietnamese forces had collapsed under the rapid advancement of the North Vietnamese. The most recent fighting had begun in December 1974, when the North Vietnamese had launched a major attack against the lightly defended province of Phuoc Long, located due north of Saigon along the Cambodian border, overrunning the provincial capital at Phuoc Binh on January 6, 1975. Despite previous presidential promises to provide aid in such a scenario, the United States did nothing. By this time, Nixon had resigned from office and his successor, Gerald Ford, was unable to convince a hostile Congress to make good on Nixon’s earlier promises to rescue Saigon from communist takeover.

“South Vietnam surrenders.” 2008. The History Channel website. 29 Apr 2008, 12:44 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=1816.

I only follow one party: the Vietnamese party.
Ho Chi Minh

It was patriotism, not communism, that inspired me.
Ho Chi Minh

Nothing is more precious than independence and liberty.
Ho Chi Minh

The great victory of April 30 represents the triumph of the entire nation, of justice over brutality and of humanity over tyranny.
Ho Chi Minh




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