Posts Tagged ‘Vietnam

07
May
09

On This Day, May 7: German Unconditional Surrender

May 7, 1945

Germany surrenders unconditionally to the Allies at Reims

On this day in 1945, the German High Command, in the person of General Alfred Jodl, signs the unconditional surrender of all German forces, East and West, at Reims, in northwestern France.

At first, General Jodl hoped to limit the terms of German surrender to only those forces still fighting the Western Allies. But General Dwight Eisenhower demanded complete surrender of all German forces, those fighting in the East as well as in the West. If this demand was not met, Eisenhower was prepared to seal off the Western front, preventing Germans from fleeing to the West in order to surrender, thereby leaving them in the hands of the enveloping Soviet forces. Jodl radioed Grand Admiral Karl Donitz, Hitler’s successor, with the terms. Donitz ordered him to sign. So with Russian General Ivan Susloparov and French General Francois Sevez signing as witnesses, and General Walter Bedell Smith, Ike’s chief of staff, signing for the Allied Expeditionary Force, Germany was-at least on paper-defeated. Fighting would still go on in the East for almost another day. But the war in the West was over.

Since General Susloparov did not have explicit permission from Soviet Premier Stalin to sign the surrender papers, even as a witness, he was quickly hustled back East-into the hands of the Soviet secret police, never to be heard from again. Alfred Jodl, who was wounded in the assassination attempt on Hitler on July 20, 1944, would be found guilty of war crimes (which included the shooting of hostages) at Nuremberg and hanged on October 16, 1946-then granted a pardon, posthumously, in 1953, after a German appeals court found Jodl not guilty of breaking international law.

“Germany surrenders unconditionally to the Allies at Reims,” The History Channel website, 2009, http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=6446 [accessed May 7, 2009]

On This Day

0558 – The dome of the church of St. Sophia in Constantinople collapsed. It was immediately rebuilt as ordered by Justinian.

1429 – The English siege of Orleans was broken by Joan of Arc.

1525 – The German peasants’ revolt was crushed by the ruling class and church.

1763 – Indian chief Pontiac began all out war on the British in New York.

1800 – The U.S. Congress divided the Northwest Territory into two parts. The western part became the Indiana Territory and the eastern section remained the Northwest Territory.

1912 – The first airplane equipped with a machine gun flew over College Park, MD.

1915 – The Lusitania, a civilian ship, was sunk by a German submarine. 1,198 people were killed.

1937 – The German Condor Legion arrived in Spain to assist Franco’s forces.

1939 – Germany and Italy announced a military and political alliance known as the Rome-Berlin Axis.

1942 – In the Battle of the Coral Sea, Japanese and American navies attacked each other with carrier planes. It was the first time in the history of naval warfare where two enemy fleets fought without seeing each other.

1958 – Howard Johnson set an aircraft altitude record in F-104.

1960 – Leonid Brezhnev became president of the Soviet Union.

1975 – U.S. President Ford declared an end to the Vietnam War.

1997 – A report released by the U.S. government said that Switzerland provided Nazi Germany with equipment and credit during World War II. Germany exchanged for gold what had been plundered or stolen. Switzerland did not comply with postwar agreements to return the gold.

May 7, 1954

French defeated at Dien Bien Phu

In northwest Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh’s Viet Minh forces decisively defeat the French at Dien Bien Phu, a French stronghold besieged by the Vietnamese communists for 57 days. The Viet Minh victory at Dien Bien Phu signaled the end of French colonial influence in Indochina and cleared the way for the division of Vietnam along the 17th parallel at the conference of Geneva.

On September 2, 1945, hours after the Japanese signed their unconditional surrender in World War II, communist leader Ho Chi Minh proclaimed the independent Democratic Republic of Vietnam, hoping to prevent the French from reclaiming their former colonial possession. In 1946, he hesitantly accepted a French proposal that allowed Vietnam to exist as an autonomous state within the French Union, but fighting broke out when the French tried to reestablish colonial rule. Beginning in 1949, the Viet Minh fought an increasingly effective guerrilla war against France with military and economic assistance from newly Communist China. France received military aid from the United States.

In November 1953, the French, weary of jungle warfare, occupied Dien Bien Phu, a small mountain outpost on the Vietnamese border near Laos. Although the Vietnamese rapidly cut off all roads to the fort, the French were confident that they could be supplied by air. The fort was also out in the open, and the French believed that their superior artillery would keep the position safe. In 1954, the Viet Minh army, under General Vo Nguyen Giap, moved against Dien Bien Phu and in March encircled it with 40,000 Communist troops and heavy artillery.

The first Viet Minh assault against the 13,000 entrenched French troops came on March 12, and despite massive air support, the French held only two square miles by late April. On May 7, after 57 days of siege, the French positions collapsed. Although the defeat brought an end to French colonial efforts in Indochina, the United States soon stepped up to fill the vacuum, increasing military aid to South Vietnam and sending the first U.S. military advisers to the country in 1959.

“French defeated at Dien Bien Phu,” The History Channel website, 2009, http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=4981 [accessed May 7, 2009]

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]

29
Mar
09

On This Day, March 29: US Troops Leave Vietnam

March 29, 1973

Last U.S. troops depart South Vietnam

Under the provisions of the Paris Peace Accords signed on January 27, 1973, the last U.S. troops depart South Vietnam, ending nearly 10 years of U.S. military presence in that country. The U.S. Military Assistance Command Vietnam headquarters was disestablished. Only a Defense Attache Office and a few Marine guards at the Saigon American Embassy remained, although roughly 8,500 U.S. civilians stayed on as technical advisers to the South Vietnamese.

Also on this day: As part of the Accords, Hanoi releases the last 67 of its acknowledged American prisoners of war, bringing the total number released to 591.

“Last U.S. troops depart South Vietnam.” 2009. The History Channel website. 29 Mar 2009, 01:33 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=tdihArticleCategory&id=1758.

On This Day

1461 – Edward IV secured his claim to the English thrown by defeating Henry VI’s Lancastrians at the battle of Towdon.

1638 – First permanent European settlement in Delaware was established.

1847 – U.S. troops under General Winfield Scott took possession of the Mexican stronghold at Vera Cruz.

1848 – Niagara Falls stopped flowing for one day due to an ice jam.

1867 – The British Parliament passed the North America Act to create the Dominion of Canada.

1941 – The British sank five Italian warships off the Peloponnesus coast in the Mediterranean.

1943 – In the U.S. rationing of meat, butter and cheese began during World War II.

1951 – In the United States, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were convicted of conspiracy to commit espionage. They were executed in June 19, 1953.

1961 – The 23rd amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified. The amendment allowed residents of Washington, DC, to vote for president.

1966 – Leonid Brezhnev became the First Secretary of the Soviet Communist Party. He denounced the American policy in Vietnam and called it one of aggression.

1967 – France launched its first nuclear submarine.

1971 – A jury in Los Angeles recommended the death penalty for Charles Manson and three female followers for the 1969 Tate-La Bianca murders. The death sentences were later commuted to live in prison.

1974 – Mariner 10, the U.S. space probe became the first spacecraft to reach the planet Mercury. It had been launched on November 3, 1973.

1974 – Eight Ohio National Guardsmen were indicted on charges stemming from the shooting deaths of four students at Kent State University on May 4, 1970. All the guardsmen were later acquitted.

1979 – The Committee on Assassinations Report issued by U.S. House of Representatives stated the assassination of President John F. Kennedy was the result of a conspiracy.

1993 – The South Korean government agreed to pay financial support to women who had been forced to have sex with Japanese troops during World War II.

March 29, 1971

Calley found guilty of My Lai murders

Lt. William L. Calley is found guilty of premeditated murder at My Lai by a U.S. Army court-martial at Fort Benning, Georgia. Calley, a platoon leader, had led his men in a massacre of Vietnamese civilians, including women and children, at My Lai 4, a cluster of hamlets in Quang Ngai Province on March 16, 1968.

The unit had been conducting a search-and-destroy mission to locate the 48th Viet Cong (VC) Local Force Battalion. The unit entered Son My village but found only women, children, and old men. Frustrated by unanswered losses due to snipers and mines, the soldiers took out their anger on the villagers, indiscriminately shooting people as they ran from their huts. The soldiers rounded up the survivors and led them to a nearby ditch where they were shot.

Calley was charged with six specifications of premeditated murder. During the trial, Chief Army prosecutor Capt. Aubrey Daniel charged that Calley ordered Sgt. Daniel Mitchell to “finish off the rest” of the villagers. The prosecution stressed that all the killings were committed despite the fact that Calley’s platoon had met no resistance and that he and his men had not been fired on.

The My Lai massacre had initially been covered up but came to light one year later. An Army board of inquiry, headed by Lt. Gen. William Peers, investigated the massacre and produced a list of 30 people who knew of the atrocity, but only 14 were charged with crimes. All eventually had their charges dismissed or were acquitted by courts-martial except Calley, whose platoon allegedly killed 200 innocents.

Calley was found guilty of personally murdering 22 civilians and sentenced to life imprisonment, but his sentence was reduced to 20 years by the Court of Military Appeals and further reduced later to 10 years by the Secretary of the Army. Proclaimed by much of the public as a “scapegoat,” Calley was paroled in 1974 after having served about a third of his 10-year sentence.

“Calley found guilty of My Lai murders.” 2009. The History Channel website. 29 Mar 2009, 01:39 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=tdihArticleCategory&id=1757.

06
Mar
09

On This Day, March 6: Georgi Malenkov

March 6, 1953

Georgi Malenkov succeeds Stalin

Just one day after the death of long-time Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, Georgi Malenkov is named premier and first secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. Malenkov’s tenure was extremely brief, and within a matter of weeks he was pushed aside by Nikita Khrushchev.

Malenkov was one of the few old-time Bolsheviks who had survived Stalin’s bloody purges of the 1930s. A quiet figure who seemed to prefer working in the background, Malenkov was not taken seriously by many of his peers in the Soviet government, but under Stalin’s watchful eye he proceeded up the Communist Party hierarchy throughout the 1930s and 1940s. By the late-1940s it was widely assumed that he would succeed Stalin. When Stalin died in March 1953, Malenkov took the position of premier and first secretary of the Communist Party. It appeared that he might have a reformist streak, as he called for cuts in military spending and eased up on political repression in the Soviet Union and the eastern bloc nations. These actions might have proved his undoing. In just two weeks, his main political opponent in the Communist Party, Nikita Khrushchev, had organized a coalition of political and military leaders against Malenkov and took over as first secretary.

In February 1955, this same group voted Malenkov out as premier and a Khrushchev puppet, Nikolai Bulganin, took over. Malenkov seethed at this action and in 1957 joined in a plot to overthrow Khrushchev. When the attempt failed, he was dismissed from his government positions and expelled from the Communist Party. Instead of imprisonment, Malenkov faced the disgrace of being sent to Kazakhstan to serve as the manager of a hydroelectric operation. He died in 1988.

Malenkov was a transition figure from the iron-fisted dictatorship of Joseph Stalin to the more moderate regime instituted by Nikita Khrushchev. In an ironic turn of affairs, Khrushchev eventually supported many of the reforms first put forward by Malenkov.

“Georgi Malenkov succeeds Stalin.” 2009. The History Channel website. 6 Mar 2009, 05:15 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=2598.

On This Day

1521 – Ferdinand Magellan discovered Guam.

1820 – The Missouri Compromise was enacted by the U.S. Congress and signed by U.S. President James Monroe. The act admitted Missouri into the Union as a slave state, but prohibited slavery in the rest of the northern Louisiana Purchase territory.

1836 – The thirteen-day siege of the Alamo by Santa Anna and his army ended. The Mexican army of three thousand men defeated the 189 Texas volunteers.

1857 – The U.S. Supreme Court’s Dred Scott decision ruled that blacks could not sue in federal court to be citizens.

1944 – During World War II, U.S. heavy bombers began the first American raid on Berlin. Allied planes dropped 2000 tons of bombs.

1946 – Ho Chi Minh, the President of Vietnam, struck an agreement with France that recognized his country as an autonomous state within the Indochinese Federation and the French Union.

1957 – The British African colonies of the Gold Coast and Togoland became the independent state of Ghana.

1960 – Switzerland granted women the right to vote in municipal elections.

1960 – The United States announced that it would send 3,500 troops to Vietnam.

1967 – U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson announced his plan to establish a draft lottery.

1973 – U.S. President Richard Nixon imposed price controls on oil and gas.

March 6, 1951

The Rosenberg trial begins

The trial of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg begins in New York Southern District federal court. Judge Irving R. Kaufman presides over the espionage prosecution of the couple accused of selling nuclear secrets to the Russians (treason could not be charged because the United States was not at war with the Soviet Union). The Rosenbergs, and co-defendant, Morton Sobell, were defended by the father and son team of Emanuel and Alexander Bloch. The prosecution includes the infamous Roy Cohn, best known for his association with Senator Joseph McCarthy.

David Greenglass was a machinist at Los Alamos, where America developed the atomic bomb. Julius Rosenberg, his brother-in-law, was a member of the American Communist Party and was fired from his government job during the Red Scare. According to Greenglass, Rosenberg asked him to pass highly confidential instructions on making atomic weapons to the Soviet Union. These materials were transferred to the Russians by Harry Gold, an acquaintance of Greenglass. The Soviets exploded their first atomic bomb (and effectively started the Cold War) in September 1949 based on information, including that from Greenglass, they had obtained from spies.

The only direct evidence of the Rosenberg’s involvement was the confession of Greenglass. The left-wing community believed that the Rosenbergs were prosecuted because of their membership in the Communist Party. Their case became the cause celebre of leftists throughout the nation.

The trial lasted nearly a month, finally ending on April 4 with convictions for all the defendants. The Rosenbergs were sentenced to death row on April 6. Sobell received a thirty-year sentence. Greenglass got fifteen years for his cooperation. Reportedly, the Rosenbergs were offered a deal in which their death sentences would be commuted in return for an admission of their guilt. They refused and were executed.

“The Rosenberg trial begins.” 2009. The History Channel website. 6 Mar 2009, 05:18 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=929.

26
Sep
08

On This Day, 9-26-2008: Peter Dewey

September 26, 1945

First American soldier killed in Vietnam

Lt. Col. Peter Dewey, a U.S. Army officer with the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) in Vietnam, is shot and killed in Saigon. Dewey was the head of a seven-man team sent to Vietnam to search for missing American pilots and to gather information on the situation in the country after the surrender of the Japanese.

According to the provisions of the Potsdam Conference, the British were assigned the responsibility of disarming Japanese soldiers south of the 16th parallel. However, with the surrender of the Japanese, Ho Chi Minh and the Viet Minh declared themselves the rightful government of Vietnam. This angered the French colonial officials and the remaining French soldiers who had been disarmed and imprisoned by the Japanese. They urged British Maj. Gen. Douglas D. Gracey to help them regain control. Gracey, not fond of the Viet Minh or their cause, rearmed 1,400 French soldiers to help his troops maintain order. The next day these forces ousted the Viet Minh from the offices that they had only recently occupied. Dewey’s sympathies lay with the Viet Minh, many of whom were nationalists who did not want a return to French colonial rule. The American officer was an outspoken man who soon angered Gracey, eventually resulting in the British general ordering him to leave Indochina. On the way to the airport, accompanied by another OSS officer, Capt. Henry Bluechel, Dewey refused to stop at a roadblock manned by three Viet Minh soldiers. He yelled back at them in French and they opened fire, killing Dewey instantly. Bluechel was unhurt and escaped on foot. It was later determined that the Viet Minh had fired on Dewey thinking he was French. He would prove to be the first of nearly 59,000 Americans killed in Vietnam.

“First American soldier killed in Vietnam.” 2008. The History Channel website. 26 Sep 2008, 04:53 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=1381.

 

On This Day

1774 – John Chapman was born. He was better known as Johnny Appleseed. He planted orchards, befriended wild animals, and was considered at great medicine man by Native Americans.

1789 – Thomas Jefferson was appointed America’s first Secretary of State. John Jay was appointed the first chief justice of the U.S. Samuel Osgood was appointed the first Postmaster-General. Edmund Jennings Randolph was appointed the first Attorney General.

1918 – During World War I, the Meuse-Argonne offensive against the Germans began. It was the final Allied offensive on the western front.

1955 – The New York Stock Exchange suffered its worst decline since 1929 when the word was released concerning U.S. President Eisenhower’s heart attack.

1960 – The first televised debate between presidential candidates Richard M. Nixon and John F. Kennedy took place in Chicago, IL.

1986 – William H. Rehnquist became chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court following the retirement of Warren Burger.

1996 – Shannon Lucid returned to Earth after being in space for 188 days. The time set a record for a U.S. astronaut and a woman.

 

September 26, 1888

T.S. Eliot is born

On this day, poet T.S. Eliot is born in St. Louis, Missouri.

Eliot’s distinguished family tree included an ancestor who arrived in Boston in 1670 and another who founded Washington University in St. Louis. Eliot’s father was a businessman, and his mother was involved in local charities.

Eliot took an undergraduate degree at Harvard, studied at the Sorbonne, returned to Harvard to study Sanskrit, and then studied at Oxford. After meeting poet and lifelong friend Ezra Pound, Eliot relocated to England. In 1915, he married Vivian Haigh-Wood, but the marriage was unhappy, partly due to her mental instability. She died in an institution in 1947.

Eliot began working at Lloyd’s Bank in 1917, writing reviews and essays on the side. He founded a critical quarterly, Criterion, and quietly developed a new brand of poetry. His first major work, The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock, was published in 1917 and hailed as the invention of a new kind of poetry. His long, fragmented images and use of blank verse influenced nearly all future poets, as did his masterpiece The Waste Land, published in Criterion and the American review The Dial in 1922. While Eliot is best known for revolutionizing modern poetry, his literary criticism and plays were also successful. In 1925, he accepted a job as an editor at Faber and Faber, which allowed him to quit his job at the bank. He held the position for the rest of his life.

Eliot lectured in the United States frequently in the 1930s and 1940s, a time when his own worldview was fluctuating: He converted to Christianity. In 1957, he married his assistant, Valerie Fletcher. The couple lived happily until his death in 1965.

“T.S. Eliot is born.” 2008. The History Channel website. 26 Sep 2008, 04:50 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=4103.

02
Sep
08

On This Day, 9-2-2008: Japan Surrenders

Japan surrenders

Aboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay, Japan formally surrenders to the Allies, bringing an end to World War II.

By the summer of 1945, the defeat of Japan was a foregone conclusion. The Japanese navy and air force were destroyed. The Allied naval blockade of Japan and intensive bombing of Japanese cities had left the country and its economy devastated. At the end of June, the Americans captured Okinawa, a Japanese island from which the Allies could launch an invasion of the main Japanese home islands. U.S. General Douglas MacArthur was put in charge of the invasion, which was code-named “Operation Olympic” and set for November 1945.

“Japan surrenders.” 2008. The History Channel website. 1 Sep 2008, 02:03 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=tdihArticleCategory&id=7008.

http://www.on-this-day.com/onthisday/thedays/alldays/sep02.htm

0490 BC – Phidippides of Athens was sent to seek help against the invading Persian Army. The runner was the inspiration for the 26-mile marathon of the Olympic Games in Athens in 1896.

1666 – The Great Fire of London broke out. The fire burned for three days destroying 10,000 buildings including St. Paul’s Cathedral. Only 6 people were killed.

1775 – Hannah, the first American war vessel was commissioned by General George Washington.

1901 – Theodore Roosevelt, then Vice President, said “Speak softly and carry a big stick” in a speech at the Minnesota State Fair.

1992 – The U.S. and Russia agreed to a joint venture to build a space station.

The Battle of Actium

At the Battle of Actium, off the western coast of Greece, Roman leader Octavian wins a decisive victory against the forces of Roman Mark Antony and Cleopatra, queen of Egypt. Before their forces suffered final defeat, Antony and Cleopatra broke though the enemy lines and fled to Egypt, where they would commit suicide the following year.

“The Battle of Actium.” 2008. The History Channel website. 1 Sep 2008, 02:04 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=tdihArticleCategory&id=5311.

Vietnam independence proclaimed

Hours after Japan’s surrender in World War II, Vietnamese communist Ho Chi Minh declares the independence of Vietnam from France. The proclamation paraphrased the U.S. Declaration of Independence in declaring, “All men are born equal: the Creator has given us inviolable rights, life, liberty, and happiness!” and was cheered by an enormous crowd gathered in Hanoi’s Ba Dinh Square. It would be 30 years, however, before Ho’s dream of a united, communist Vietnam became reality.

“Vietnam independence proclaimed.” 2008. The History Channel website. 1 Sep 2008, 02:04 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=tdihArticleCategory&id=5313.

Ho Chi Minh dies

President Ho Chi Minh of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam dies of a heart attack in Hanoi. North Vietnamese officials announced his death the next day.

“Ho Chi Minh dies.” 2008. The History Channel website. 1 Sep 2008, 02:07 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=1331.

28
Aug
08

On This Day, 8-28-2008: Emmet Till

The death of Emmett Till

While visiting family in Money, Mississippi, 14-year-old Emmett Till, an African American from Chicago, is brutally murdered for flirting with a white woman four days earlier. His assailants–the white woman’s husband and her brother–made Emmett carry a 75-pound cotton-gin fan to the bank of the Tallahatchie River and ordered him to take off his clothes. The two men then beat him nearly to death, gouged out his eye, shot him in the head, and then threw his body, tied to the cotton-gin fan with barbed wire, into the river.

Till grew up in a working-class neighborhood on the south side of Chicago, and though he had attended a segregated elementary school, he was not prepared for the level of segregation he encountered in Mississippi. His mother warned him to take care because of his race, but Emmett enjoyed pulling pranks. On August 24, while standing with his cousins and some friends outside a country store in Money, Emmett bragged that his girlfriend back home was white. Emmett’s African American companions, disbelieving him, dared Emmett to ask the white woman sitting behind the store counter for a date. He went in, bought some candy, and on the way out was heard saying, “Bye, baby” to the woman. There were no witnesses in the store, but Carolyn Bryant–the woman behind the counter–claimed that he grabbed her, made lewd advances, and then wolf-whistled at her as he sauntered out.

Roy Bryant, the proprietor of the store and the woman’s husband, returned from a business trip a few days later and found out how Emmett had spoken to his wife. Enraged, he went to the home of Till’s great uncle, Mose Wright, with his brother-in-law J.W. Milam in the early morning hours of August 28. The pair demanded to see the boy. Despite pleas from Wright, they forced Emmett into their car. After driving around in the Memphis night, and perhaps beating Till in a toolhouse behind Milam’s residence, they drove him down to the Tallahatchie River.

Three days later, his corpse was recovered but was so disfigured that Mose Wright could only identify it by an initialed ring. Authorities wanted to bury the body quickly, but Till’s mother, Mamie Bradley, requested it be sent back to Chicago. After seeing the mutilated remains, she decided to have an open-casket funeral so that all the world could see what racist murderers had done to her only son. Jet, an African American weekly magazine, published a photo of Emmett’s corpse, and soon the mainstream media picked up on the story.

Less than two weeks after Emmett’s body was buried, Milam and Bryant went on trial in a segregated courthouse in Sumner, Mississippi. There were few witnesses besides Mose Wright, who positively identified the defendants as Emmett’s killers. On September 23, the all-white jury deliberated for less than an hour before issuing a verdict of “not guilty,” explaining that they believed the state had failed to prove the identity of the body. Many people around the country were outraged by the decision and also by the state’s decision not to indict Milam and Bryant on the separate charge of kidnapping.

The Emmett Till murder trial brought to light the brutality of Jim Crow segregation in the South and was an early impetus of the African American civil rights movement.

“The death of Emmett Till.” 2008. The History Channel website. 28 Aug 2008, 05:02 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=5297.

On This Day

1619 – Ferdinand II was elected Holy Roman Emperor. His policy of “One church, one king” was his way of trying to outlaw Protestantism.

1833 – Slavery was banned by the British Parliament throughout the British Empire.

1907 – “American Messenger Company” was started by two teenagers, Jim Casey and Claude Ryan. The companies name was later changed to “United Parcel Service.”

1916 – Italy’s declaration of war against Germany took effect during World War I.

1917 – Ten suffragists were arrested as they picketed the White House.

1939 – The first successful flight of a jet-propelled airplane took place. The plane was a German Heinkel He 178.

1963 – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., gave his “I Have a Dream” speech at a civil rights rally in Washington, DC. More than 200,000 people attended.

1988 – At an air show in Ramstein, West Germany, an Italian Air Force jet collided with 2 other jets and then plunged into a crowd. 70 people were killed.

1990 – Iraq declared Kuwait to be its 19th province and renamed Kuwait City al-Kadhima.

1995 – A mortar shell killed 38 people in Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina. The act triggered NATO airstrikes against the Bosnian Serbs.

1996 – A divorce decree was issued for Britain’s Charles and Princess Diana. This was the official end to the 15-year marriage.

Mass slaughter in Ukraine

On this day in 1941, more than 23,000 Hungarian Jews are murdered by the Gestapo in occupied Ukraine.

The German invasion of the Soviet Union had advanced to the point of mass air raids on Moscow and the occupation of parts of Ukraine. On August 26, Hitler displayed the joys of conquest by inviting Benito Mussolini to Brest-Litovsk, where the Germans had destroyed the city’s citadel. The grand irony is that Ukrainians had originally viewed the Germans as liberators from their Soviet oppressors and an ally in the struggle for independence. But as early as July, the Germans were arresting Ukrainians agitating and organizing for a provisional state government with an eye toward autonomy and throwing them into concentration camps. The Germans also began carving the nation up, dispensing parts to Poland (already occupied by Germany) and Romania.

But true horrors were reserved for Jews in the territory. Tens of thousands of Hungarian Jews had been expelled from that country and migrated to Ukraine. The German authorities tried sending them back, but Hungary would not take them. SS General Franz Jaeckeln vowed to deal with the influx of refugees by the “complete liquidation of those Jews by September 1.” He worked even faster than promised. On August 28, he marched more than 23,000 Hungarian Jews to bomb craters at Kamenets Podolsk, ordered them to undress, and riddled them with machine-gun fire. Those who didn’t die from the spray of bullets were buried alive under the weight of corpses that piled atop them.

All told, more than 600,000 Jews had been murdered in Ukraine by war’s end.

“Mass slaughter in Ukraine.” 2008. The History Channel website. 28 Aug 2008, 04:59 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=6566.

Riots in Chicago fracture the Cold War consensus

At the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, tens of thousands of protesters against the Vietnam War battle police in the streets while the Democratic Party tears itself to shreds concerning a platform statement on Vietnam. In one day and night, the Cold War consensus that had dominated American thinking since the late 1940s was shattered.

Since World War II ended and tensions with the Soviet Union began to intensify, a Cold War consensus about foreign policy had grown to dominate American thinking. In this mindset, communism was the ultimate enemy that had to be fought everywhere in the world. Uprisings in any nation, particularly in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, or Latin America, were perceived through a Cold War lens and were usually deemed to be communist-inspired. In Chicago in August 1968, that Cold War consensus began to crack and crumble. The Democratic Party held its national convention in Chicago that year. Problems immediately arose both inside and outside the convention. Inside, the delegates were split on the party’s stance concerning the ongoing Vietnam War. Many wanted a plank in the party’s platform demanding a U.S. withdrawal from the bloody and frustrating conflict. Most of these delegates supported Eugene McCarthy, a committed antiwar candidate, for president. A majority, however, believed that America must not give up the fight against communism. They largely supported Vice President Hubert Humphrey. As the debate intensified, fights broke out on the convention floor, and delegates and reporters were kicked, punched, and knocked to the ground. Eventually, the Humphrey forces were victorious, but the events of the convention left the Democratic Party demoralized and drained.

On the streets of Chicago, antiwar protesters massed in the downtown area, determined to force the Democrats to nominate McCarthy. Mayor Richard Daley responded by unleashing the Chicago police force. Thousands of policemen stormed into the crowd, swinging their clubs and firing tear gas. Stunned Americans watched on TV as the police battered and beat protesters, reporters, and anyone else in the way. The protesters began to chant, “The whole world is watching. The whole world is watching.”

The world–and the American nation–was indeed watching that night. What they were witnessing was a serious fracture beginning to develop in America’s previously solid Cold War consensus. For the first time, many Americans were demanding that their nation withdraw from part of its war against communism. North Vietnam, instead of being portrayed as the villain and pawn of its Soviet masters, was seen by some as a beleaguered nation fighting for independence and freedom against the vast war machine of the United States. The convention events marked an important turning point: no longer would the government have unrestrained power to pursue its Cold War policies. When future international crises arose–in Central America, the Middle East, or Africa–the cry of “No more Vietnams” was a reminder that the government’s Cold War rhetoric would be closely scrutinized and often criticized.

“Riots in Chicago fracture the Cold War consensus.” 2008. The History Channel website. 28 Aug 2008, 05:14 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=2773.




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