Following a revolt by the English nobility against his rule, King John puts his royal seal on the Magna Carta, or "Great Charter." The document, essentially a peace treaty between John and his barons, guaranteed that the king would respect feudal rights and privileges, uphold the freedom of the church, and maintain the nation's laws. Although more a reactionary than a progressive document in its day, the Magna Carta was seen as a cornerstone in the development of democratic England by later generations.
John was enthroned as king of England following the death of his brother, King Richard the Lion-Hearted, in 1199. King John's reign was characterized by failure. He lost the duchy of Normandy to the French king and taxed the English nobility heavily to pay for his foreign misadventures. He quarreled with Pope Innocent III and sold church offices to build up the depleted royal coffers. Following the defeat of a campaign to regain Normandy in 1214, Stephen Langton, the archbishop of Canterbury, called on the disgruntled barons to demand a charter of liberties from the king.
In 1215, the barons rose up in rebellion against the king's abuse of feudal law and custom. John, faced with a superior force, had no choice but to give in to their demands. Earlier kings of England had granted concessions to their feudal barons, but these charters were vaguely worded and issued voluntarily. The document drawn up for John in June 1215, however, forced the king to make specific guarantees of the rights and privileges of his barons and the freedom of the church. On June 15, 1215, John met the barons at Runnymede on the Thames and set his seal to the Articles of the Barons, which after minor revision was formally issued as the Magna Carta.
The charter consisted of a preamble and 63 clauses and dealt mainly with feudal concerns that had little impact outside 13th century England. However, the document was remarkable in that it implied there were laws the king was bound to observe, thus precluding any future claim to absolutism by the English monarch. Of greatest interest to later generations was clause 39, which stated that "no free man shall be arrested or imprisoned or disseised [dispossessed] or outlawed or exiled or in any way victimised...except by the lawful judgment of his peers or by the law of the land." This clause has been celebrated as an early guarantee of trial by jury and of habeas corpus and inspired England's Petition of Right (1628) and the Habeas Corpus Act (1679).
In immediate terms, the Magna Carta was a failure--civil war broke out the same year, and John ignored his obligations under the charter. Upon his death in 1216, however, the Magna Carta was reissued with some changes by his son, King Henry III, and then reissued again in 1217. That year, the rebellious barons were defeated by the king's forces. In 1225, Henry III voluntarily reissued the Magna Carta a third time, and it formally entered English statute law.
The Magna Carta has been subject to a great deal of historical exaggeration; it did not establish Parliament, as some have claimed, nor more than vaguely allude to the liberal democratic ideals of later centuries. However, as a symbol of the sovereignty of the rule of law, it was of fundamental importance to the constitutional development of England. Four original copies of the Magna Carta of 1215 exist today: one in Lincoln Cathedral, one in Salisbury Cathedral, and two in the British Museum.
Jun 15, 1946:
The United States presents the Baruch Plan
The United States presents the Baruch Plan for the international control of atomic weapons to the United Nations. The failure of the plan to gain acceptance resulted in a dangerous nuclear arms race between the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War.
In August 1945, the United States dropped two atomic bombs on Japan, becoming the first and only nation to use nuclear weapons during wartime. The successful use of the bombs not only ended World War II, but also left the United States with a monopoly on the most destructive weapon known to humankind. As Cold War animosities between the United States and the Soviet Union began to develop in the months after the end of the war, a sharp discussion ensued in the administration of President Harry S. Truman. Some officials, including Secretary of War Henry R. Stimson and Secretary of Commerce Henry Wallace, argued that the United States should share its atomic secrets with the Soviets. The continuing U.S. monopoly, they argued, would only result in growing Russian suspicions and an eventual arms race. Others, such as State Department official George F. Kennan, strenuously argued against this position. The Soviets, these people declared, could not be trusted and the United States would be foolish to relinquish its atomic "ace in the hole."
The battle between these two groups was apparent in early 1946, when the United States proposed the formation of the United Nations Atomic Energy Commission (UNAEC) to establish an international control over the spread and development of nuclear weapons and technology. Bernard Baruch, a trusted adviser to U.S. presidents since the early 20th century, was tapped to formulate the American proposal and present it to the United Nations. Baruch sided with those who feared the Soviets, and his proposal reflected this. His proposal did provide for international control and inspection of nuclear production facilities, but clearly announced that the United States would maintain its nuclear weapons monopoly until every aspect of the proposal was in effect and working. The Soviets, not surprisingly, rejected the Baruch Plan. The United States thereupon rejected a Soviet counterproposal for a ban on all nuclear weapons.
By 1949, any discussion of international control of nuclear weapons was a moot point. In September of that year, the Soviets successfully tested a nuclear device. During the next few years the United States and Soviet Union raced to develop an ever-more frightening arsenal of nuclear weapons, including the hydrogen bomb, MIRV missiles (missiles with multiple nuclear warheads), and the neutron bomb (designed to kill people but leave structures standing).
Jun 15, 2005:
Police search Van der Sloot home in Holloway disappearance
On this day in 2005, more than two weeks after American teen Natalee Holloway vanished while on a high school graduation trip to the Caribbean island of Aruba, police there search the home of 17-year-old Joran Van der Sloot, one of the last known people to see the young woman alive. Although Van der Sloot would emerge as a prime suspect in the case, he was never charged. Holloway’s disappearance generated massive media attention in the United States; however, her body never has been found, and in 2012 she was declared legally dead.
Holloway, an 18-year-old from Mountain Brook, Alabama, was last seen leaving an Aruban bar and restaurant with Van der Sloot and two of his friends, Deepak Kalpoe, 21, and Satish Kalpoe, 18, in the early hours of May 30. The young men initially claimed they dropped the blonde teen at her hotel around 2 a.m.; however, the three, who were arrested on June 9, later changed their stories. Van der Sloot reportedly admitted to being alone with Holloway on the beach on May 30, after being dropped there by the Kalpoe brothers, but said he never harmed her. After a judge deemed there was not enough evidence to hold them, the Kalpoes were released from custody in early July. Van der Sloot, who was born in the Netherlands and raised in Dutch-speaking Aruba, was released in September. A string of additional suspects were detained but no charges were filed. Despite extensive searches of the island and surrounding ocean by investigators and volunteers, the case remained unsolved.
In 2007, police re-arrested Van der Sloot and the Kalpoes in connection with Holloway’s disappearance, but once again soon released them due to insufficient evidence. The following year, a Dutch television program aired a secretly made tape in which Van der Sloot alleged Holloway had collapsed on the beach, and that after failing to revive her he had disposed of her body. He later retracted this statement.
On June 3, 2010, Van der Sloot was arrested in South America in connection with the slaying of 21-year-old Stephany Flores, in Lima, Peru. Flores was murdered on May 30, 2010, exactly five years to the day after Holloway went missing. Van der Sloot met the Peruvian college student at a Lima casino while he was there for a poker tournament. After Flores was found dead in a hotel room, beaten and with a broken neck, hotel surveillance video linked the Dutchman to the crime. After his arrest, he admitted to Peruvian authorities he had killed Flores following an argument. However, he later recanted this confession, saying he was frightened and confused when he made it. On the day Van der Sloot was arrested in South America, U.S. authorities issued a warrant for his arrest in connection with a plot to extort $250,000 from Holloway’s family in exchange for revealing the location of her remains.
On January 11, 2012, Van der Sloot, who has been behind bars in Peru since his June 2010 arrest, pleaded guilty in a Lima courtroom to Flores’ murder. His lawyer contended the Dutchman killed Flores due to “extreme psychological trauma” after being accused in Holloway’s disappearance. Van der Sloot was sentenced to 28 years in prison.
One day before the sentencing in Peru, a judge in Birmingham, Alabama, signed an order declaring Natalee Holloway legally dead. The judge made the ruling at the request of Holloway’s father, so that he could settle his daughter’s estate.
Jun 15, 1877:
First African American graduate of West Point
Henry Ossian Flipper, born a slave in Thomasville, Georgia, in 1856, is the first African American cadet to graduate from the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York. Flipper, who was never spoken to by a white cadet during his four years at West Point, was appointed a second lieutenant in the all-African American 10th Cavalry, stationed at Fort Sill in Indian Territory.
The United States Military Academy--the first military school in America--was founded by Congress in 1802 for the purpose of educating and training young men in the theory and practice of military science. Established at West Point, New York, the U.S. Military Academy is often simply known as West Point.
Located on the high west bank of New York's Hudson River, West Point was the site of a Revolutionary-era fort built to protect the Hudson River Valley from British attack. In 1780, Patriot General Benedict Arnold, the commander of the fort, agreed to surrender West Point to the British in exchange for 6,000 pounds. However, the plot was uncovered before it fell into British hands, and Arnold fled to the British for protection.
Ten years after the establishment of the U.S. Military Academy in 1802, the growing threat of another war with Great Britain resulted in congressional action to expand the academy's facilities and increase the West Point corps. Beginning in 1817, the U.S. Military Academy was reorganized by superintendent Sylvanus Thayer--later known as the "father of West Point"--and the school became one of the nation's finest sources of civil engineers. During the Mexican-American War, West Point graduates filled the leading ranks of the victorious U.S. forces, and with the outbreak of the Civil War former West Point classmates regretfully lined up against one another in the defense of their native states.
In 1870, the first African American cadet, James Webster Smith, was admitted into the academy but never reached the graduation ceremonies. It was not until 1877 that Henry Ossian Flipper became the first to graduate, after enduring four years of prejudice and silence. In 1976, the first female cadets were admitted into West Point. The academy is now under the general direction and supervision of the department of the U.S. Army and has an enrollment of more than 4,000 students.
Jun 15, 1863:
Lincoln calls for help
On this day in 1863, President Abraham Lincoln calls for help in protecting Washington, D.C., America’s capital city.
Throughout June, Confederate General Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia was on the move. He had pulled his army from its position along the Rappahannock River around Fredericksburg, Virginia, and set it on the road to Pennsylvania. Lee and the Confederate leadership decided to try a second invasion of the North to take pressure off Virginia and to seize the initiative against the Army of the Potomac. The first invasion, in September 1862, failed when the Federals fought Lee's army to a standstill at the Battle of Antietam in Maryland.
Lee later divided his army and sent the regiments toward the Shenandoah Valley, using the Blue Ridge Mountains as a screen. After the Confederates took Winchester, Virginia, on June 14, they were situated on the Potomac River, seemingly in a position to move on Washington, D.C. Lincoln did not know it, but Lee had no intention of attacking Washington. All Lincoln knew was that the Rebel army was moving en masse and that Union troops could not be certain as to the Confederates' location.
On June 15, Lincoln put out an emergency call for 100,000 troops from the state militias of Pennsylvania, Maryland, Ohio, and West Virginia. Although the troops were not needed, and the call could not be fulfilled in such a short time, it was an indication of how little the Union authorities knew of Lee's movements and how vulnerable they thought the Federal capital was.
Jun 15, 1846:
Francis Parkman arrives at Fort Laramie
Francis Parkman, one of the first serious historians to study the American West, arrives at Fort Laramie and prepares for a summer of research with the Sioux.
Parkman was an unlikely frontiersman. The son of a prominent Boston family, he was an impeccably proper gentleman of independent means who was more at home among the ivory towers of Harvard than the tepees of the Sioux. Yet, after graduating from Harvard in 1846, Parkman set out to write the definitive history of the French and Indian Wars of 1689 to 1763. To set the stage for the wars, he wished to discuss the life of the Northeastern Native Americans before the arrival of Europeans, but could find few useful sources on the subject. Parkman reasoned that the still relatively untouched tribes of the Western plains would provide him with insights into pre-Columbian Indian life. In 1846, he headed west to spend a summer among the Plains Indians.
Traveling with an experienced trapper named Henry Chatillon as a guide, Parkman followed the Oregon Trail west for three months. On this day in 1846, he arrived at Fort Laramie in present-day Wyoming. Parkman was overjoyed to learn that a party of Oglala Sioux was gathering nearby in preparation for a summer war with their enemies, the Snake. Certain that all Indians were bloodthirsty savages eager to fight, Parkman viewed the approaching war as an opportunity to witness the Indian's true nature. Soon after, though, he heard that the Sioux had decided to abandon the warpath for that summer. For the first time, Parkman began to question the accuracy of the stereotypical white view of the Indians.
If he was fully to understand the Sioux, Parkman believed, he would need to "become, as it were, one of them." Luckily, his guide Chatillon was married to a daughter of a Sioux chief, and the trapper managed to persuade the chief to allow Parkman to travel with the Sioux for a summer. A prominent warrior named Big Crow (Kongra-Tonga) agreed to share his tepee with Parkman and watch over the inexperienced Bostonian.
In the months that followed, many of Parkman's preconceived notions about Indians melted away. Though Big Crow and other warriors proudly described their often-brutal fights with enemy tribes, Parkman also discovered the Sioux were a warm and generous people. "Both Kongra-Tonga [Big Crow] and his squaw," he noted, "like most other Indians, were very fond of their children, whom they indulged to excess and never punished except in extreme cases." Observing that they would at times give away all of their possessions, he concluded that the Sioux, "though often rapacious, are devoid of avarice."
After six months in the West, Parkman returned to Boston and wrote a compelling account of his summer with the Sioux. Published in 1849, The Oregon Trail was both a fascinating travel book and an important work of ethnography. Initially, Parkman thought of his first book as little more than a preface to the works of history he subsequently produced. Only later in life did he realize it was an important work, an "image of an irrevocable past." Indeed, Parkman's portrait of the Sioux continues to be a valuable window into Plains Indian life before it was changed by the advancing front of Anglo-American settlement.
Jun 16, 1884:
First roller coaster in America opens
On this day in 1884, the first roller coaster in America opens at Coney Island, in Brooklyn, New York. Known as a switchback railway, it was the brainchild of LaMarcus Thompson, traveled approximately six miles per hour and cost a nickel to ride. The new entertainment was an instant success and by the turn of the century there were hundreds of roller coasters around the country.
Coney Island, a name believed to have come from the Dutch Konijn Eilandt, or Rabbit Island, is a tract of land along the Atlantic Ocean discovered by explorer Henry Hudson in 1609. The first hotel opened at Coney Island in 1829 and by the post-Civil War years, the area was an established resort with theaters, restaurants and a race track. Between 1897 and 1904, three amusement parks sprang up at Coney Island--Dreamland, Luna Park and Steeplechase. By the 1920s, Coney Island was reachable by subway and summer crowds of a million people a day flocked there for rides, games, sideshows, the beach and the two-and-a-half-mile boardwalk, completed in 1923.
The hot dog is said to have been invented at Coney Island in 1867 by Charles Feltman. In 1916, a nickel hot dog stand called Nathan's was opened by a former Feltman employee and went on to become a Coney Island institution and international franchise. Today, Nathan's is famous not only for its hot dogs but its hot dog-eating contest, held each Fourth of July in Coney Island. In 2006, Takeru Kobayashi set a new record when he ate 53.75 hot dogs with buns in 12 minutes.
Roller coasters and amusement parks experienced a decline during the Great Depression and World War II, when Americans had less cash to spend on entertainment. Finally, in 1955, the opening of Disneyland in Anaheim, California, signaled the advent of the modern theme park and a rebirth of the roller coaster. Disneyland's success sparked a wave of new parks and coasters. By the 1970s, parks were competing to create the most thrilling rides. In 2005, Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson, New Jersey, introduced the Kingda Ka roller coaster, the world's tallest (at 456 feet) and fastest (at 128 mph).
By the mid-1960s, the major amusement parks at Coney Island had shut down and the area acquired a seedy image. Nevertheless, Coney Island remains a tourist attraction and home to the Cyclone, a wooden coaster that made its debut there in 1927. Capable of speeds of 60 mph and with an 85-foot drop, the Cyclone is one of the country's oldest coasters in operation today. Though a real-estate developer recently announced the building of a new $1.5 billion year-round resort at Coney Island that will include a 4,000-foot-long roller coaster, an indoor water park and a multi-level carousel, the Cyclone's owners have said they plan to keep the historic coaster open for business.
Jun 16, 1961:
Russian ballet star Nureyev defects
Rudolf Nureyev, the young star of the Soviet Union's Kirov Opera Ballet Company, defects during a stopover in Paris. The high-profile defection was a blow to Soviet prestige and generated international interest.
Nureyev became a star of Russian ballet in 1958 when, at barely 20 years old, he was made one of the Kirov Opera Ballet's featured soloists. The Kirov and the Bolshoi ballet companies were two of the jewels of Soviet cultural diplomacy, and their performances earned worldwide accolades and respect for the arts in the USSR. In June 1961, the Kirov Company finished a run in Paris. On June 16, just as the company was preparing to board a flight home, Nureyev broke from the group and insisted that he was staying in France. According to eyewitnesses, other members of the troupe pleaded with Nureyev to rejoin them and return to the Soviet Union. The dancer refused and threw himself into the arms of airport security people, screaming, "Protect me!" The security officials took Nureyev into custody, whereupon he asked for political asylum. The Kirov Company fretted over the loss of its star and Soviet security guards fumed over Nureyev's defection. Eventually, the troupe flew back to Russia without the dancer.
Nureyev's high-profile defection was a double blow to the Soviet Union. First, it detracted from the quality of the Kirov Company, which had featured the young prodigy prominently in its performances throughout the world. Second, it severely damaged Soviet propaganda that touted the political and artistic freedom in Russia.
Nureyev continued with his career after his defection. During the next 30 years he danced with England's Royal Ballet and the American Ballet Theatre. He was in great demand as both a dancer and choreographer, and even made a few films (including a disastrous turn as the silent film star Rudolf Valentino). In 1983, he took over as ballet director of the Paris Opera. In 1989, he briefly returned to the Soviet Union to perform. He died in Paris in 1993.
Jun 16, 1999:
SLA member captured after more than 20 years
On this day in 1999, Kathleen Ann Soliah, a former member of the Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA), is arrested near her home in St. Paul, Minnesota. Soliah, who now calls herself Sara Jane Olsen, had been evading authorities for more than 20 years.
In the mid-1970s, the SLA, a small, radical American paramilitary group, made a name for itself with a series of murders, robberies and other violent acts. They were most well-known for the 1974 kidnapping of heiress Patty Hearst, who became a member of the group. In April 1975, members of the SLA robbed a bank in Carmichael, California, and, in the process, killed one of the bank's customers, Myrna Opsahl. According to Patty Hearst, who served as the group's getaway driver that day, Soliah took part in the robbery.
Four months later, in August 1975, Lost Angeles policemen discovered a bomb where one of their patrol cars had earlier been parked. Though police believe it had been designed to explode when the car moved, it had failed to detonate. Soliah was indicted for the crime in 1976 but by then she had already left town, and did not return, becoming a fugitive for nearly 23 years. Soliah eventually settled with her husband, a doctor, and three children in St. Paul, Minnesota, where she continued to advocate for various causes under the assumed name Sara Jane Olsen.
In the spring of 1999, however, Soliah's case was featured on an episode of television's America's Most Wanted; she was arrested several weeks later. In 2002, as part of a plea bargain, she pled guilty to two counts of planting bombs and was sentenced to five years and four months in jail. The Board of Prison Terms then changed her sentence to 14 years. After pleading guilty to the attempted bombings, she was arraigned for the Opsahl killing and was later convicted and sentenced to another six years.
In 2004, a judge threw out the adjusted 14-year term, saying the board "abused its discretion" in changing the sentence. She was released from a California prison in March 2009.
Jun 16, 1958:
Leader of Hungarian uprising executed
Imre Nagy, a former Hungarian premier and symbol of the nation's 1956 uprising against Soviet rule, is hanged for treason by his country's communist authorities.
After becoming premier of communist Hungary in 1953, Nagy enacted a series of liberal reforms and opposed Soviet interference in his country's affairs. He was removed from office in 1955 and expelled from the Hungarian Communist Party in 1956. On October 23, 1956, in response to the communist backlash against Nagy and his reforms, Hungarian students and workers took to the streets of Budapest in anti-Soviet demonstrations. Within days, the uprising escalated into a full-scale national revolt, and the Hungarian government fell into chaos. Nagy joined the revolution and was reinstated as Hungarian premier, but his minister Janos Kadar formed a counter-regime and asked the USSR to intervene.
On November 4, a massive Soviet force of 200,000 troops and 2,500 tanks entered Hungary. Nagy took refuge in the Yugoslav embassy but was later arrested by Soviet agents after leaving the embassy under a safe-conduct pledge. Nearly 200,000 Hungarians fled the country, and thousands of people were arrested, killed, or executed before the Hungarian uprising was finally suppressed. Nagy was later handed over to the regime of Janos Kadar, who convicted and executed him for treason. On June 16, 1989, as communism crumbled in Hungary, Nagy's body was officially reburied with full honors. Some 300,000 Hungarians attended the service.
Jun 16, 1963:
First woman in space
On June 16, 1963, aboard Vostok 6, Soviet Cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova becomes the first woman to travel into space. After 48 orbits and 71 hours, she returned to earth, having spent more time in space than all U.S. astronauts combined to that date.
Valentina Vladimirovna Tereshkova was born to a peasant family in Maslennikovo, Russia, in 1937. She began work at a textile factory when she was 18, and at age 22 she made her first parachute jump under the auspices of a local aviation club. Her enthusiasm for skydiving brought her to the attention of the Soviet space program, which sought to put a woman in space in the early 1960s as a means of achieving another "space first" before the United States. As an accomplished parachutist, Tereshkova was well equipped to handle one of the most challenging procedures of a Vostok space flight: the mandatory ejection from the capsule at about 20,000 feet during reentry. In February 1962, she was selected along with three other woman parachutists and a female pilot to begin intensive training to become a cosmonaut.
In 1963, Tereshkova was chosen to take part in the second dual flight in the Vostok program, involving spacecrafts Vostok 5 and Vostok 6. On June 14, 1963, Vostok 5 was launched into space with cosmonaut Valeri Bykovsky aboard. With Bykovsky still orbiting the earth, Tereshkova was launched into space on June 16 aboard Vostok 6. The two spacecrafts had different orbits but at one point came within three miles of each other, allowing the two cosmonauts to exchange brief communications. Tereshkova's spacecraft was guided by an automatic control system, and she never took manual control. On June 19, after just under three days in space, Vostok 6 reentered the atmosphere, and Tereshkova successfully parachuted to earth after ejecting at 20,000 feet. Bykovsky and Vostok 5 landed safely a few hours later.
After her historic space flight, Valentina Tereshkova received the Order of Lenin and Hero of the Soviet Union awards. In November 1963, she married fellow cosmonaut Andrian Nikolayev, reportedly under pressure from Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, who saw a propaganda advantage in the pairing of the two single cosmonauts. The couple made several goodwill trips abroad, had a daughter, and later separated. In 1966, Tereshkova became a member of the Supreme Soviet, the USSR's national parliament, and she served as the Soviet representative to numerous international women's organizations and events. She never entered space again, and hers was the last space flight by a female cosmonaut until the 1980s.
The United States screened a group of female pilots in 1959 and 1960 for possible astronaut training but later decided to restrict astronaut qualification to men. The first American woman in space was astronaut and physicist Sally Ride, who served as mission specialist on a flight of the space shuttle Challenger in 1983.
On this day in 1885, the dismantled State of Liberty, a gift of friendship from the people of France to the people of America, arrives in New York Harbor after being shipped across the Atlantic Ocean in 350 individual pieces packed in more than 200 cases. The copper and iron statue, which was reassembled and dedicated the following year in a ceremony presided over by U.S. President Grover Cleveland, became known around the world as an enduring symbol of freedom and democracy.
Intended to commemorate the American Revolution and a century of friendship between the U.S. and France, the statue was designed by French sculptor Frederic-Auguste Bartholdi (who modeled it after his own mother), with assistance from engineer Gustave Eiffel, who later developed the iconic tower in Paris bearing his name. The statue was initially scheduled to be finished by 1876, the 100th anniversary of America’s Declaration of Independence; however, fundraising efforts, which included auctions, a lottery and boxing matches, took longer than anticipated, both in Europe and the U.S., where the statue’s pedestal was to be financed and constructed. The statue alone cost the French an estimated $250,000 (more than $5.5 million in today’s money).
Finally completed in Paris in the summer of 1884, the statue, a robed female figure with an uplifted arm holding a torch, reached its new home on Bedloe’s Island in New York Harbor (between New York City and Hudson County, New Jersey) on June 17, 1885. After being reassembled, the 450,000-pound statue was officially dedicated on October 28, 1886, by President Cleveland, who said, “We will not forget that Liberty has here made her home; nor shall her chosen altar be neglected.” Standing more than 305 feet from the foundation of its pedestal to the top of its torch, the statue, dubbed “Liberty Enlightening the World” by Bartholdi, was taller than any structure in New York City at the time. The statue was originally copper-colored, but over the years it underwent a natural color-change process called patination that produced its current greenish-blue hue.
In 1892, Ellis Island, located near Bedloe's Island (which in 1956 was renamed Liberty Island), opened as America’s chief immigration station, and for the next 62 years Lady Liberty, as the statue is nicknamed, stood watch over the more than 12 million immigrants who sailed into New York Harbor. In 1903, a plaque inscribed with a sonnet titled “The New Colossus” by American poet Emma Lazarus, written 20 years earlier for a pedestal fundraiser, was placed on an interior wall of the pedestal. Lazarus’ now-famous words, which include “Give me your tired, your poor/Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” became symbolic of America’s vision of itself as a land of opportunity for immigrants.
Some 60 years after President Calvin Coolidge designated the statue a national monument in 1924, it underwent a multi-million-dollar restoration (which included a new torch and gold leaf-covered flame) and was rededicated by President Ronald Reagan on July 4, 1986, in a lavish celebration. Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the statue was closed; its base, pedestal and observation deck re-opened in 2004, while its crown re-opened to the public on July 4, 2009. (For safety reasons, the torch has been closed to visitors since 1916, after an incident called the Black Tom explosions in which munitions-laden barges and railroad cars on the Jersey City, New Jersey, waterfront were blown up by German agents, causing damage to the nearby statue.)
Today, the Statue of Liberty is one of America’s most famous landmarks. Over the years, it has been the site of political rallies and protests (from suffragettes to anti-war activists), has been featured in numerous movies and countless photographs, and has received millions of visitors from around the globe.
Jun 17, 1994:
O.J. Simpson leads L.A. police on a high-speed chase
Viewers across the nation are glued to their television screens on this day in 1994, watching as a fleet of black-and-white police cars pursues a white Ford Bronco along Interstate-405 in Los Angeles, California. Inside the Bronco is Orenthal James "O.J." Simpson, a former professional football player, actor and sports commentator whom police suspected of involvement in the recent murders of his former wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ronald Goldman.
The bodies of Brown Simpson and Goldman were found outside her home in the exclusive Los Angeles neighborhood of Brentwood shortly after midnight on June 13, 1994. Bloodstains matching Simpson's blood type were found at the crime scene, and the star had become the focus of the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) investigation by the morning of June 17. When police arrived to arrest Simpson at the home of his friend and lawyer, Robert Kardashian, they found that Simpson had slipped out the back door with his former college and Buffalo Bills teammate Al Cowlings. The two men had then driven off in Cowlings' white Ford Bronco.
After a news conference--in which his lawyer, Howard Shapiro, announced that Simpson was distraught and might attempt suicide--the LAPD officially declared the former football star a fugitive. Around 7 p.m. PST, police located the white Bronco by tracing calls made from Simpson's cellular phone. Simpson was reported to be in the back seat of the vehicle, holding a gun to his head. With news helicopters following the chase from above and cameras broadcasting the dramatic events live to millions of astonished viewers, vehicles from the LAPD and California Highway Patrol pursued the Bronco for about an hour as it traveled at some 35 miles per hour along I-405. Finally, after about an hour, the Bronco pulled into the driveway of Simpson's Brentwood home. He emerged from the car close to 9 pm and was immediately arrested and booked on double murder charges.
The trial that followed gripped the nation, inspiring unprecedented media scrutiny along with heated debates about racial discrimination on the part of the police. Though a jury acquitted Simpson of the murder charges in October 1995, a separate civil trial in 1997 found him liable for the deaths and ordered him to pay $33.5 million in damages to the Brown and Goldman families
In 2007, Simpson ran into legal problems once again when he was arrested for breaking into a Las Vegas hotel room and taking sports memorabilia, which he claimed had been stolen from him, at gunpoint. On October 3, 2008, he was found guilty of 12 charges related to the incident, including armed robbery and kidnapping, and sentenced to 33 years in prison.
Jun 17, 1953:
Soviets crush antigovernment riots in East Berlin
The Soviet Union orders an entire armored division of its troops into East Berlin to crush a rebellion by East German workers and antigovernment protesters. The Soviet assault set a precedent for later interventions into Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968.
The riots in East Berlin began among construction workers, who took to the streets on June 16, 1953, to protest an increase in work schedules by the communist government of East Germany. By the next day, the crowd of disgruntled workers and other antigovernment dissidents had grown to between 30,000 and 50,000. Leaders of the protest issued a call for a general strike, the resignation of the communist East German government, and free elections. Soviet forces struck quickly and without warning. Troops, supported by tanks and other armored vehicles, crashed through the crowd of protesters. Some protesters tried to fight back, but most fled before the onslaught. Red Cross officials in West Berlin (where many of the wounded protesters fled) estimated the death toll at between 15 and 20, and the number of wounded at more than 100. The Soviet military commanders declared martial law, and by the evening of June 17, the protests had been shattered and relative calm was restored.
In Washington, President Dwight D. Eisenhower declared that the brutal Soviet action contradicted Russian propaganda that the people of East Germany were happy with their communist government. He noted that the smashing of the protests was "a good lesson on the meaning of communism." America's propaganda outlet in Europe, the Voice of America radio station, claimed, "The workers of East Berlin have already written a glorious page in postwar history. They have once and for all times exposed the fraudulent nature of communist regimes." These criticisms had little effect on the Soviet control of East Germany, which remained a communist stronghold until the government fell in 1989.
Jun 17, 1958:
Bridge collapses, killing workers
On this day in 1958, a bridge being built to connect eastern and northern Vancouver in western Canada collapses, killing 59 workers. The bridge, known as the Second Narrows Bridge, was finally completed in 1960 and, in 1996, it was renamed Ironworkers Memorial Bridge to commemorate the people who lost their lives during its construction. The disaster was the worst involving a bridge in Canada's history.
The bridge was being assembled by Dominion Bridge Company over the Burrard Inlet and was 175 feet above the water at its highest point. At 3:40 p.m., one of the structure's steel spans buckled suddenly, causing the entire structure to collapse. There were 79 workers, almost a third of them painters, on the bridge at the time. Most were earning $3.85 an hour, about $25 in today's money.
Twenty people survived the long fall, with fishermen pulling them from the water. Colin Glendinning, a worker who survived the collapse, recalled the fall, You know what I was thinking? 'Oh God, I wish I had a parachute' -- I really did. The fall tore off Glendinning's ear, broke his leg, and permanently damaged his lungs. He later returned to work on the bridge, only to break his other leg a year later.
A subsequent inquiry blamed the tragedy on a calculating error by one of the engineers who lost their lives in the collapse. However, some survivors believed that sub-standard construction materials were to blame.
A vigil honoring the victims is still held at the bridge every June 17.
Jun 17, 1579:
Drake claims California for England
During his circumnavigation of the world, English seaman Francis Drake anchors in a harbor just north of present-day San Francisco, California, and claims the territory for Queen Elizabeth I. Calling the land "Nova Albion," Drake remained on the California coast for a month to make repairs to his ship, the Golden Hind, and prepare for his westward crossing of the Pacific Ocean.
On December 13, 1577, Drake set out from England with five ships on a mission to raid Spanish holdings on the Pacific coast of the New World. After crossing the Atlantic, Drake abandoned two of his ships in South America and then sailed into the Straits of Magellan with the remaining three. A series of devastating storms besieged his expedition in the treacherous straits, wrecking one ship and forcing another to return to England. Only the Golden Hind reached the Pacific Ocean, but Drake continued undaunted up the western coast of South America, raiding Spanish settlements and capturing a rich Spanish treasure ship.
Drake then continued up the western coast of North America, searching for a possible northeast passage back to the Atlantic. Reaching as far north as present-day Washington before turning back, Drake paused near San Francisco Bay in June 1579 to repair his ship and prepare for a journey across the Pacific. In July, the expedition set off across the Pacific, visiting several islands before rounding Africa's Cape of Good Hope and returning to the Atlantic Ocean. On September 26, 1580, the Golden Hind returned to Plymouth, England, bearing its rich captured treasure and valuable information about the world's great oceans. In 1581, Queen Elizabeth I knighted Drake during a visit to his ship.
Jun 17, 1972:
Nixon's re-election employees are arrested for burglary
Five burglars are arrested in the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate office and apartment complex in Washington, D.C. James McCord, Frank Sturgis, Bernard Barker, Virgilio Gonzalez, and Eugenio Martinez were apprehended in the early morning after a security guard at the Watergate noticed that several doors leading from the stairwell to various hallways had been taped to prevent them from locking. The intruders were wearing surgical gloves and carrying walkie-talkies, cameras, and almost $2,300 in sequential $100 bills. A subsequent search of their rooms at the Watergate turned up an additional $4,200, burglary tools, and electronic bugging equipment.
Although there was no immediate explanation as to the objective of the break-in, an extensive investigation ensued, eventually unveiling a comprehensive scheme of political sabotage and espionage designed to discredit Democratic candidates. McCord, who was one of the burglars, was also Richard Nixon's security chief for the Committee to Re-Elect the President (CREEP). Nixon campaign funds were ultimately linked back to the Watergate break-in. In addition, equipment used during the burglary had been borrowed from the CIA. In the fall of 1972, Nixon was re-elected into office, but the probe continued.
FBI agents soon established that hundreds of thousands of dollars in Nixon campaign contributions had been set aside to pay for a massive undercover anti-Democratic operation. According to federal investigators, CREEP had forged letters and distributed them under Democratic candidate's letterhead, leaked false and manufactured information to the press, seized confidential Democratic campaign files, and followed Democratic candidates' families in order to gather damaging information.
During an interview with the Senate select Watergate committee on July 16, 1973, former White House aide Alexander Butterfield revealed that Nixon had been taping all of his conversations and telephone calls in the White House since 1971. After losing a battle in the Supreme Court to keep these tapes private, Nixon was heard approving the cover-up of the Watergate burglary less than a week after it happened. During a June 20, 1972, discussion of the Watergate scandal between the President and former White House chief of staff H.R. Haldeman, an 18 1/4-minute gap had been inexplicably erased, causing frustration and speculation from investigators.
On August 9, 1974, President Nixon resigned-the first U.S. president to do so. However, newly elected President Gerald Ford pardoned Nixon a month later, saving him from facing criminal charges.
The day after the Senate followed the House of Representatives in voting to declare war against Great Britain, President James Madison signs the declaration into law--and the War of 1812 begins. The American war declaration, opposed by a sizable minority in Congress, had been called in response to the British economic blockade of France, the induction of American seaman into the British Royal Navy against their will, and the British support of hostile Indian tribes along the Great Lakes frontier. A faction of Congress known as the "War Hawks" had been advocating war with Britain for several years and had not hidden their hopes that a U.S. invasion of Canada might result in significant territorial land gains for the United States.
In the months after President Madison proclaimed the state of war to be in effect, American forces launched a three-point invasion of Canada, all of which were decisively unsuccessful. In 1814, with Napoleon Bonaparte's French Empire collapsing, the British were able to allocate more military resources to the American war, and Washington, D.C., fell to the British in August. In Washington, British troops burned the White House, the Capitol, and other buildings in retaliation for the earlier burning of government buildings in Canada by U.S. soldiers.
In September, the tide of the war turned when Thomas Macdonough's American naval force won a decisive victory at the Battle of Plattsburg Bay on Lake Champlain. The invading British army was forced to retreat back into Canada. The American victory on Lake Champlain led to the conclusion of U.S.-British peace negotiations in Belgium, and on December 24, 1814, the Treaty of Ghent was signed, formally ending the War of 1812. By the terms of the agreement, all conquered territory was to be returned, and a commission would be established to settle the boundary of the United States and Canada.
British forces assailing the Gulf Coast were not informed of the treaty in time, and on January 8, 1815, the U.S. forces under Andrew Jackson achieved the greatest American victory of the war at the Battle of New Orleans. The American public heard of Jackson's victory and the Treaty of Ghent at approximately the same time, fostering a greater sentiment of self-confidence and shared identity throughout the young republic.
Jun 18, 1923:
Checker Cab produces first taxi at Kalamazoo factory
On June 18, 1923, the first Checker Cab rolls off the line at the Checker Cab Manufacturing Company in Kalamazoo, Michigan.
Morris Markin, founder of Checker Cab, was born in Smolensk, Russia, and began working when he was only 12 years old. At 19, he immigrated to the United States and moved to Chicago, where two uncles lived. After opening his own tailor's shop, Markin also began running a fleet of cabs and an auto body shop, the Markin Auto Body Corporation, in Joliet, Illinois. In 1921, after loaning $15,000 to help a friend's struggling car manufacturing business, the Commonwealth Motor Company, Markin absorbed Commonwealth into his own enterprise and completely halted the production of regular passenger cars in favor of taxis. The result was the Checker Cab Manufacturing Company, which took its name from a Chicago cab company that had hired Commonwealth to produce its vehicles.
By the end of 1922, Checker was producing more than 100 units per month in Joliet, and some 600 of the company's cabs were on the streets of New York City. Markin went looking for a bigger factory and settled on Kalamazoo, where the company took over buildings previously used by the Handley-Knight Company and Dort Body Plant car manufacturers. The first shipment of a Checker from Kalamazoo on June 18, 1923 stood out as a major landmark in the history of the company, which by then employed some 700 people.
During the Great Depression, Markin briefly sold Checker, but he bought it back in 1936 and began diversifying his business by making auto parts for other car companies. After converting its factories to produce war materiel during World War II, Checker entered the passenger car market in the late 1950s, with models dubbed the Superba and the Marathon. In its peak production year of 1962, Checker rolled out some 8,173 cars; the great majority of those were taxis. Over the course of the 1970s, however, as economic conditions led taxi companies to convert smaller, more fuel-efficient standard passenger cars into cabs, the 4,000-pound gas-guzzling Checker came to seem more and more outdated. Markin had died in 1970, and in April 1982 his son David announced that Checker would halt production of its famous cab that summer. Though the company still owns the Yellow and Checker cab fleets in Chicago and continued to make parts for other auto manufacturers, including General Motors, the last Checker Cab rolled off the line in Kalamazoo on July 12, 1982.
Jun 18, 1979:
Carter and Brezhnev sign the SALT-II treaty
During a summit meeting in Vienna, President Jimmy Carter and Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev sign the SALT-II agreement dealing with limitations and guidelines for nuclear weapons. The treaty, which never formally went into effect, proved to be one of the most controversial U.S.-Soviet agreements of the Cold War.
The SALT-II agreement was the result of many nagging issues left over from the successful SALT-I treaty of 1972. Though the 1972 treaty limited a wide variety of nuclear weapons, many issues remained unresolved. Talks between the United States and the Soviet Union began almost immediately after SALT-I was ratified by both nations in 1972. Those talks failed to achieve any new breakthroughs, however. By 1979, both the United States and Soviet Union were eager to revitalize the process. For the United States, fear that the Soviets were leaping ahead in the arms race was the primary motivator. For the Soviet Union, the increasingly close relationship between America and communist China was a cause for growing concern.
In June 1979, Carter and Brezhnev met in Vienna and signed the SALT-II agreement. The treaty basically established numerical equality between the two nations in terms of nuclear weapons delivery systems. It also limited the number of MIRV missiles (missiles with multiple, independent nuclear warheads). In truth, the treaty did little or nothing to stop, or even substantially slow down, the arms race. Nevertheless, it met with unrelenting criticism in the United States. The treaty was denounced as a "sellout" to the Soviets, one that would leave America virtually defenseless against a whole range of new weapons not mentioned in the agreement. Even supporters of arms control were less than enthusiastic about the treaty, since it did little to actually control arms.
Debate over SALT-II in the U.S. Congress continued for months. In December 1979, however, the Soviets launched an invasion of Afghanistan. The Soviet attack effectively killed any chance of SALT-II being passed, and Carter ensured this by withdrawing the treaty from the Senate in January 1980. SALT-II thus remained signed, but unratified. During the 1980s, both nations agreed to respect the agreement until such time as new arms negotiations could take place.
Jun 18, 1972:
Mysterious crash at Heathrow
On this day in 1972, a Trident jetliner crashes after takeoff from Heathrow Airport in London, killing 118 people. The official cause of this accident remains unknown, but it may have happened simply because the plane was carrying too much weight.
As the summer of 1972 approached, there were serious problems facing the air-travel industry. Pilots were threatening to strike any day due to lack of security. Hijackings were becoming more common and pilots were feeling particularly vulnerable since they most often bore the brunt of the violence.
However, on June 18 at Heathrow Airport outside of London, all appeared to be running smoothly. The BEA morning flight to Brussels was full and weather conditions were perfect. The Trident 1 jet took off with no incident but, just after its wheels retracted, it began falling from the sky. The plane split on impact and an intense fireball from the plane's fuel supply erupted, scattering the fuselage and passengers. Only two of the 118 passengers and crew members on board were pulled from the wreckage alive; both died just hours later.
All efforts to explain the crash were fruitless. The investigators' best guess was that the jet simply was carrying too much weight or that the weight was improperly distributed and the plane could not handle the stress.
Jun 18, 1983:
First American woman in space
From Cape Canaveral, Florida, the space shuttle Challenger is launched into space on its second mission. Aboard the shuttle was Dr. Sally Ride, who as a mission specialist became the first American woman to travel into space. During the six-day mission, Ride, an astrophysicist from Stanford University, operated the shuttle's robot arm, which she had helped design.
Her historic journey was preceded almost 20 years to the day by cosmonaut Valentina V. Tereshkova of the Soviet Union, who on June 16, 1963, became the first woman ever to travel into space. The United States had screened a group of female pilots in 1959 and 1960 for possible astronaut training but later decided to restrict astronaut qualification to men. In 1978, NASA changed its policy and announced that it had approved six women to become the first female astronauts in the U.S. space program. The new astronauts were chosen out of some 3,000 original applicants. Among the six were Sally Ride and Shannon Lucid, who in 1996 set a new space endurance record for an American and a world endurance record for a woman during her 188-day sojourn on the Russian space station Mir.
Jun 18, 1815:
Napoleon defeated at Waterloo
At Waterloo in Belgium, Napoleon Bonaparte suffers defeat at the hands of the Duke of Wellington, bringing an end to the Napoleonic era of European history.
The Corsica-born Napoleon, one of the greatest military strategists in history, rapidly rose in the ranks of the French Revolutionary Army during the late 1790s. By 1799, France was at war with most of Europe, and Napoleon returned home from his Egyptian campaign to take over the reigns of the French government and save his nation from collapse. After becoming first consul in February 1800, he reorganized his armies and defeated Austria. In 1802, he established the Napoleonic Code, a new system of French law, and in 1804 was crowned emperor of France in Notre Dame Cathedral. By 1807, Napoleon controlled an empire that stretched from the River Elbe in the north, down through Italy in the south, and from the Pyrenees to the Dalmatian coast.
Beginning in 1812, Napoleon began to encounter the first significant defeats of his military career, suffering through a disastrous invasion of Russia, losing Spain to the Duke of Wellington in the Peninsula War, and enduring total defeat against an allied force by 1814. Exiled to the island of Elba in the Mediterranean, he escaped to France in early 1815 and set up a new regime. As allied troops mustered on the French frontiers, he raised a new Grand Army and marched into Belgium. He intended to defeat the allied armies one by one before they could launch a united attack.
On June 16, 1815, he defeated the Prussians under Gebhard Leberecht von Blucher at Ligny, and sent 33,000 men, or about one-third of his total force, in pursuit of the retreating Prussians. On June 18, Napoleon led his remaining 72,000 troops against the Duke of Wellington's 68,000-man allied army, which had taken up a strong position 12 miles south of Brussels near the village of Waterloo. In a fatal blunder, Napoleon waited until mid-day to give the command to attack in order to let the ground dry. The delay in fighting gave Blucher's troops, who had eluded their pursuers, time to march to Waterloo and join the battle by the late afternoon.
In repeated attacks, Napoleon failed to break the center of the allied center. Meanwhile, the Prussians gradually arrived and put pressure on Napoleon's eastern flank. At 6 p.m., the French under Marshal Michel Ney managed to capture a farmhouse in the allied center and began decimating Wellington's troops with artillery. Napoleon, however, was preoccupied with the 30,000 Prussians attacking his flank and did not release troops to aid Ney's attack until after 7 p.m. By that time, Wellington had reorganized his defenses, and the French attack was repulsed. Fifteen minutes later, the allied army launched a general advance, and the Prussians attacked in the east, throwing the French troops into panic and then a disorganized retreat. The Prussians pursued the remnants of the French army, and Napoleon left the field. French casualties in the Battle of Waterloo were 25,000 men killed and wounded and 9,000 captured, while the allies lost about 23,000.
Napoleon returned to Paris and on June 22 abdicated in favor of his son. He decided to leave France before counterrevolutionary forces could rally against him, and on July 15 he surrendered to British protection at the port of Rochefort. He hoped to travel to the United States, but the British instead sent him to Saint Helena, a remote island in the Atlantic off the coast of Africa. Napoleon protested but had no choice but to accept the exile. With a group of followers, he lived quietly on St. Helena for six years. In May 1821, he died, most likely of stomach cancer. He was only 51 years old. In 1840, his body was returned to Paris, and a magnificent funeral was held. Napoleon's body was conveyed through the Arc de Triomphe and entombed under the dome of the Invalides.
On this day in 1953, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, who were convicted of conspiring to pass U.S. atomic secrets to the Soviets, are executed at Sing Sing Prison in Ossining, New York. Both refused to admit any wrongdoing and proclaimed their innocence right up to the time of their deaths, by the electric chair. The Rosenbergs were the first U.S. citizens to be convicted and executed for espionage during peacetime and their case remains controversial to this day.
Julius Rosenberg was an engineer for the U.S. Army Signal Corps who was born in New York on May 12, 1918. His wife, born Ethel Greenglass, also in New York, on September 28, 1915, worked as a secretary. The couple met as members of the Young Communist League, married in 1939 and had two sons. Julius Rosenberg was arrested on suspicion of espionage on June 17, 1950, and accused of heading a spy ring that passed top-secret information concerning the atomic bomb to the Soviet Union. Ethel was arrested two months later. The Rosenbergs were implicated by David Greenglass, Ethel's younger brother and a former army sergeant and machinist at Los Alamos, the secret atomic bomb lab in New Mexico. Greenglass, who himself had confessed to providing nuclear secrets to the Soviets through an intermediary, testified against his sister and brother-in-law in court. He later served 10 years in prison.
The Rosenbergs vigorously protested their innocence, but after a brief trial that began on March 6, 1951, and attracted much media attention, the couple was convicted. On April 5, 1951, a judge sentenced them to death and the pair was taken to Sing Sing to await execution.
During the next two years, the couple became the subject of both national and international debate. Some people believed that the Rosenbergs were the victims of a surge of hysterical anti-communist feeling in the United States, and protested that the death sentence handed down was cruel and unusual punishment. Many Americans, however, believed that the Rosenbergs had been dealt with justly. They agreed with President Dwight D. Eisenhower when he issued a statement declining to invoke executive clemency for the pair. He stated, "I can only say that, by immeasurably increasing the chances of atomic war, the Rosenbergs may have condemned to death tens of millions of innocent people all over the world. The execution of two human beings is a grave matter. But even graver is the thought of the millions of dead whose deaths may be directly attributable to what these spies have done."
Jun 19, 1864:
USS Kearsarge sinks CSS Alabama
The most successful and feared Confederate commerce raider of the war, the CSS Alabama, sinks after a spectacular battle off the coast of France with the USS Kearsarge.
Built in an English shipyard and sold to the Confederates in 1861, the Alabama was a state-of-the-art ship—220 feet long, with a speed of up to 13 knots. The cruiser was equipped with a machine shop and could carry enough coal to steam for 18 days, but its sails could greatly extend that time. Under its captain, Raphael Semmes, the Alabama prowled the world for three years, capturing U.S. commercial ships. It sailed around the globe, usually working out of the West Indies, but taking prizes and bungling Union shipping in the Caribbean, off Newfoundland, and around the coast of South America. In January 1863, Semmes sunk a Union warship, the Hatteras, after luring it out of Galveston, Texas. The Union navy spent an enormous amount of time and effort trying to track down the Alabama.
The ship sailed around South America, across the Pacific, and docked in India in 1864. By the summer, Semmes realized that after three years and 75,000 miles his vessel needed overhauling in a modern shipyard. He sailed around Africa to France, where the French denied him access to a dry dock. Semmes moved out of Cherbourg Harbor and found the USS Kearsarge waiting. In a spectacular battle, the Kearsarge bested and sank the Alabama. During its career, the Alabama captured 66 ships and was hunted by more than 20 Federal warships.
Jun 19, 1892:
A bloody fingerprint elicits a mother's evil tale in Argentina
Francesca Rojas' two young children are killed in their home in the small town of Necochea, Argentina. According to Rojas, a man named Velasquez had threatened her when she rejected his sexual advances earlier in the day. Upon returning home later, Rojas claimed to have seen Velasquez escaping out her open door. Once inside, she found both her six-year-old boy and four-year-old girl stabbed to death.
Police arrested and questioned Velasquez, but he denied any involvement, even after some rather painful interrogation techniques were used to obtain a confession. Law enforcement officials even tried tying him to the corpses of the children overnight. When that didn't produce any results, Velasquez was tortured for another week. Still, he maintained his innocence throughout the ordeal.
Juan Vucetich, in charge of criminal identification at the regional headquarters, had been intrigued by the new theories of fingerprint identification and sent an investigator to see if the methods could help crack the case. Until then, the only other method of identification was the Bertillonage, named after its inventor, Alphonse Bertillon, who worked for the Paris police. This method involved the recording of body measurements in more than 11 different places. In an age when photography was very expensive, Bertillonage gave police their best chance of definitively identifying a person.
When the investigator examined Rojas's house, he found a bloody thumb print on the bedroom door. Rojas was then asked to provide an ink-print of her thumb at the police station. Even with only a rudimentary understanding of forensic identification, investigators were able to determine that the print on the door belonged to Rojas. Using this new piece of evidence against her, detectives were able to exact her confession.
Apparently, Rojas had killed her own children in an attempt to improve her chance of marrying her boyfriend, who was known to dislike children, and then pegged the crime on Velasquez. She was sentenced to life imprisonment.
Jun 19, 1938:
Montana flood causes train wreck
On this day in 1938, a flood in Montana kills 46 people and seriously injures more than 60 when it washes out train tracks.
Custer Creek is a small winding river that runs through 25 miles of the Great Plains on its way to the Yellowstone River. Minor streams like Custer Creek are prone to flash floods because their small capacity can quickly and easily be exceeded during heavy rains.
On the evening of June 19, a track walker was sent out to check the rail lines near Custer Creek in Terry, Montana. He reported dry conditions and no problems with the tracks. However, within just a few hours, a sudden downpour overwhelmed Custer Creek. A bridge used by trains was washed out, and when the Olympian Special came through, it went crashing into the raging waters with no warning.
Two sleeper cars were buried in the muddy waters. A pitch-black night on the Great Plains made rescue efforts extremely difficult and 46 people lost their lives. The rear cars stayed above the water, but scores of passengers were seriously injured. They could not be evacuated until the following morning.
Jun 19, 1867:
Emperor of Mexico executed
Austrian Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian, installed as emperor of Mexico by French Emperor Napoleon III in 1864, is executed on the orders of Benito Juarez, the president of the Mexican Republic.
In 1861, the liberal Mexican Benito Juarez became president of a country in financial ruin, and he was forced to default on his debts to European governments. In response, France, Britain, and Spain sent naval forces to Veracruz to demand reimbursement. Britain and Spain negotiated with Mexico and withdrew, but France, ruled by Napoleon III, decided to use the opportunity to carve a dependent empire out of Mexican territory. Late in 1861, a well-armed French fleet stormed Veracruz, landing a large French force and driving President Juarez and his government into retreat.
Certain that French victory would come swiftly in Mexico, 6,000 French troops under General Charles Latrille de Lorencez set out to attack Puebla de Los Angeles, a small town in east-central Mexico. From his new headquarters in the north, Juarez rounded up a rag-tag force of loyal men and sent them to Puebla. Led by Texas-born General Ignacio Zaragoza, the 2,000 Mexicans fortified the town and prepared for the French assault. On May 5, 1862, Lorencez drew his army, well-provisioned and supported by heavy artillery, before the city of Puebla and began his assault from the north. The battle lasted from daybreak to early evening, and when the French finally retreated they had lost nearly 500 soldiers to the fewer than 100 Mexicans killed.
Although not a major strategic victory in the overall war against the French, Zaragoza's victory at Puebla represented a great moral victory for the Mexican government and symbolized the country's ability to defend its sovereignty against threat by a powerful foreign nation. Today, Mexicans celebrate the anniversary of the Battle of Puebla as Cinco de Mayo, a national holiday in Mexico. Six years later, under pressure from the newly reunited United States, France withdrew. Abandoned in Mexico, Emperor Maximilian was captured by Juarez' forces and on June 19, 1867, executed.
On this day in 1975, Jaws, a film directed by Steven Spielberg that made countless viewers afraid to go into the water, opens in theaters. The story of a great white shark that terrorizes a New England resort town became an instant blockbuster and the highest-grossing film in movie history until it was bested by 1977's Star Wars. Jaws was nominated for an Academy Award in the Best Picture category and took home three Oscars, for Best Film Editing, Best Original Score and Best Sound. The film, a breakthrough for director Spielberg, then 27 years old, spawned three sequels.
The film starred Roy Scheider as principled police chief Martin Brody, Richard Dreyfuss as a marine biologist named Matt Hooper and Robert Shaw as a grizzled fisherman called Quint. It was set in the fictional beach town of Amity, and based on a best-selling novel, released in 1973, by Peter Benchley. Subsequent water-themed Benchley bestsellers also made it to the big screen, including The Deep (1977).
With a budget of $12 million, Jaws was produced by the team of Richard Zanuck and David Brown, whose later credits include The Verdict (1982), Cocoon (1985) and Driving Miss Daisy (1989). Filming, which took place on Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts, was plagued by delays and technical difficulties, including malfunctioning mechanical sharks.
Jaws put now-famed director Steven Spielberg on the Hollywood map. Spielberg, largely self-taught in filmmaking, made his feature-length directorial debut with The Sugarland Express in 1974. The film was critically well-received but a box-office flop. Following the success of Jaws, Spielberg went on to become one of the most influential, iconic people in the film world, with such epics as Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), ET: the Extra-Terrestrial (1982), Jurassic Park (1993), Schindler's List (1993) and Saving Private Ryan (1998). E.T., Jaws and Jurassic Park rank among the 10 highest-grossing movies of all time. In 1994, Spielberg formed DreamWorks SKG, with Jeffrey Katzenberg and David Geffen. The company has produced such hits as American Beauty (1999), Gladiator (2001) and Shrek (2001).
Jun 20, 1782:
Congress adopts the Great Seal of the United States
On this day in 1782, Congress adopts the Great Seal of the United States after six years of discussion.
The front of the seal depicts a bald eagle clutching an olive branch in its right talon and arrows in its left. On its breast appears a shield marked with 13 vertical red and white stripes topped by a bar of blue. The eagle's beak clutches a banner inscribed, E pluribus unum, a Latin phrase meaning "Out of Many One." Above the eagle's head, golden rays burst forth, encircling 13 stars.
Charles Thomas outlined the symbolic connotations of the seal's elements when he presented his design to Congress. The bottom of the shield (or pale) represents the 13 states united in support of the blue bar at the top of the shield (or chief), "which unites the whole and represents Congress." The motto E Pluribus Unum serves as a textual representation of the same relationship. The colors used in the shield are the same as those in the flag: alternating red and white for the important balance between innocence and valor, topped by the blue of "vigilance, perseverance and justice." The eagle's talons hold symbols of Congress power to make peace (the olive branch) and war (arrows). The constellation of stars indicates that "a new State [is] taking its place and rank among other sovereign powers."
The reverse side of the seal bears the familiar Masonic motif of a pyramid, which Thomas proposed as a symbol of "Strength and Duration." The pyramid, like the new nation, is unfinished and frequently depicted as having 13 steps for the original states. The disembodied eye floating above the structure is that of providence, which Thomas believed had acted "in favour of the American cause." Beneath the pyramid, the number 1776 appears in Roman numerals as a reminder of the year of independence. The phrase Annuit Coeptis or "Providence has Favored Our Undertakings" appears above the providential eye; Novus Ordo Seclorum or "A New Order of the Ages" appears beneath the pyramid.
Jun 20, 1963:
United States and Soviet Union will establish a "hot line"
To lessen the threat of an accidental nuclear war, the United States and the Soviet Union agree to establish a "hot line" communication system between the two nations. The agreement was a small step in reducing tensions between the United States and the USSR following the October 1962 Missile Crisis in Cuba, which had brought the two nations to the brink of nuclear war.
The need for nearly instantaneous and full-time communication between the U.S. and Soviet governments became apparent during the Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962. The United States had discovered that the Soviets were building missile sites in Cuba capable of firing missiles with nuclear warheads. Eventually, the administration of President John F. Kennedy instituted a naval "quarantine" around Cuba to block the delivery of such missiles. Possible nuclear conflict was avoided only when Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev agreed that his country would not install nuclear weapons in Cuba. In exchange, the United States vowed not to threaten the sovereignty of Cuba. Prior to the settlement, the world sat through several very tense days of waiting to see whether World War III would begin. In an attempt to reduce the tensions brought about by the October 1962 crisis, and hopefully avert any future misunderstandings that might trigger a nuclear conflict, the United States and the Soviet Union agreed in June 1963 to establish a "hot line." It would be a 24-hour-a-day communications link between Washington, D.C., and Moscow. President Kennedy declared, "This age of fast-moving events requires quick, dependable communication in time of emergency." The agreement was a "first step to help reduce the risk of war occurring by accident or miscalculation."
The system was put into place a few months after the agreement was signed. Beyond serving as a dramatic prop in movies such as Fail Safe (or a comedic prop in the film Dr. Strangelove), the communication line has--thankfully--never had to be used to avert a nuclear war.
New Hampshire becomes the ninth and last necessary state to ratify the Constitution of the United States, thereby making the document the law of the land.
By 1786, defects in the post-Revolutionary War Articles of Confederation were apparent, such as the lack of central authority over foreign and domestic commerce. Congress endorsed a plan to draft a new constitution, and on May 25, 1787, the Constitutional Convention convened at Independence Hall in Philadelphia. On September 17, 1787, after three months of debate moderated by convention president George Washington, the new U.S. constitution, which created a strong federal government with an intricate system of checks and balances, was signed by 38 of the 41 delegates present at the conclusion of the convention. As dictated by Article VII, the document would not become binding until it was ratified by nine of the 13 states.
Beginning on December 7, five states--Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Georgia, and Connecticut--ratified it in quick succession. However, other states, especially Massachusetts, opposed the document, as it failed to reserve undelegated powers to the states and lacked constitutional protection of basic political rights, such as freedom of speech, religion, and the press. In February 1788, a compromise was reached under which Massachusetts and other states would agree to ratify the document with the assurance that amendments would be immediately proposed. The Constitution was thus narrowly ratified in Massachusetts, followed by Maryland and South Carolina. On June 21, 1788, New Hampshire became the ninth state to ratify the document, and it was subsequently agreed that government under the U.S. Constitution would begin on March 4, 1789. In June, Virginia ratified the Constitution, followed by New York in July.
On September 25, 1789, the first Congress of the United States adopted 12 amendments to the U.S. Constitution--the Bill of Rights--and sent them to the states for ratification. Ten of these amendments were ratified in 1791. In November 1789, North Carolina became the 12th state to ratify the U.S. Constitution. Rhode Island, which opposed federal control of currency and was critical of compromise on the issue of slavery, resisted ratifying the Constitution until the U.S. government threatened to sever commercial relations with the state. On May 29, 1790, Rhode Island voted by two votes to ratify the document, and the last of the original 13 colonies joined the United States. Today the U.S. Constitution is the oldest written constitution in operation in the world
Jun 21, 1779:
Spain declares war against Great Britain
On this day in 1779, Spain declares war on Great Britain, creating a de facto alliance with the Americans.
Spain's King Charles III would not consent to a treaty of alliance with the United States. For one imperial power to encourage another imperial power's colonies in revolt was a treacherous game, and he was unwilling to play. However, French Foreign Minister Charles Gravier, comte de Vergennes, managed to negotiate a treaty with Spain to join their war against the British. As the ally of the United States' ally, Spain managed to endorse the revolt at a critical diplomatic distance.
The American Revolution had already spawned a world war between the two international powers of Britain and France. Spain's entry into the imbroglio ensured that the British would have to spread their resources even thinner. King Charles wanted to reclaim Gibraltar for Spain and secure Spanish borders in North America and the Spanish immediately laid siege to Gibraltar at the mouth of the Mediterranean Sea. The British managed to drive the Spanish from Gibraltar on February 7, 1783, having constructed an 82-foot-long tunnel into the north face of the rock of Gibraltar, known as the "Notch," in order to supply it with cannon. However, King Charles succeeded in his North American goals. The Spanish took West Florida by force and attained East Florida by cession when the War for Independence ended; they were also able to secure the Gulf of Mexico.
Jun 21, 1963:
French withdraw navy from NATO
The French government shocks its allies by announcing that it is withdrawing its navy from the North Atlantic fleet of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). The French action was viewed in the West as evidence that France would be pursuing an independent policy regarding its nuclear arsenal.
In the months prior to the French action, the United States had been pushing its NATO allies to accept a plan whereby the NATO North Atlantic fleet would be armed with Polaris nuclear missiles. The ships would have crews made up of personnel from various NATO nations. This plan, however, conflicted with a French plan to base much of their nation's nuclear arsenal in their navy. Obviously, France wished to maintain absolute control over its ships to carry out this program. Thus, French President Charles de Gaulle's government issued a brief statement indicating that the French ships in the NATO North Atlantic fleet were being withdrawn.
Many NATO members expressed surprise over the French action. In the United States, surprise was also mixed with dismay and no small degree of anger. The French announcement came just as President John F. Kennedy was preparing to go to Europe for a series of talks with America's allies. Privately, some Kennedy advisors were quite vocal in condemning de Gaulle's highly nationalistic independence in moving away from his nation's NATO commitments, thereby threatening the security of France's European allies. And, although the French withdrawal from the NATO North Atlantic fleet did not drastically affect the fleet's military effectiveness, the United States worried that France's action might set a disturbing precedent. NATO was still considered by U.S. officials as the first line of defense against communist aggression in Europe, and France's "defection" was distressing. Kennedy, during his European sojourn, attempted to persuade the French to rethink their position, but de Gaulle stood firm in his decision. America's fears were unrealized, however, as no other nations followed France's example. French naval forces never rejoined the NATO fleet.
Jun 21, 1990:
Earthquake devastates Iran
An earthquake near the Caspian Sea in Iran kills more than 50,000 and injures another 135,000 people on this day in 1990. The 7.7-magnitude tremor wrecked havoc on the simply constructed houses in the area.
Thirty minutes past midnight, with most people sleeping in their homes, a violent quake, centered along the shores of the Caspian Sea in northwestern Iran shattered the nighttime tranquility. A 20,000-square-mile area in the provinces of Zanjan and Gilan was absolutely devastated. This region encompasses both farms and sea resorts--all were demolished. In towns along one 80-mile stretch, every single building was reduced to rubble and every single resident was killed.
Additionally, a burst dam in Rasht, caused by a 6.5-magnitude aftershock the following morning, wiped out a large stretch of farmland. Landslides made many roads impassable and many of the people who initially survived under the rubble could not be rescued before their air supply ran out. An estimated 400,000 people were left homeless by the earthquake.
Worldwide relief efforts were undertaken. The Iranian government grudgingly accepted assistance from the United States, though it refused help from Israel and South Africa. Because of Iran's tenuous relations with their home nations, many relief workers from western nations were sent home after only a brief time and before critical assistance could be provided.
Jun 21, 1964:
The KKK kills three civil rights activists
Michael Schwerner, Andrew Goodman, and James Chaney are killed by a Ku Klux Klan lynch mob near Meridian, Mississippi. The three young civil rights workers were working to register black voters in Mississippi, thus inspiring the ire of the local Klan. The deaths of Schwerner and Goodman, white Northerners and members of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), caused a national outrage.
When the desegregation movement encountered resistance in the early 1960s, CORE set up an interracial team to ride buses into the Deep South to help protest. These so-called Freedom Riders were viciously attacked in May 1961 when the first two buses arrived in Alabama. One bus was firebombed; the other boarded by KKK members who beat the activists inside. The Alabama police provided no protection.
Still, the Freedom Riders were not dissuaded and they continued to come into Alabama and Mississippi. Michael Schwerner was a particularly dedicated activist who lived in Mississippi while he assisted blacks to vote. Sam Bowers, the local Klan's Imperial Wizard, decided that Schwerner was a bad influence, and had to be killed.
When Schwerner, Goodman, and Chaney, a young black man, were coming back from a trip to Philadelphia, Mississippi, deputy sheriff Cecil Price, who was also a Klan member, pulled them over for speeding. He then held them in custody while other KKK members prepared for their murder. Eventually released, the three activists were later chased down in their car and cornered in a secluded spot in the woods where they were shot and then buried in graves that had been prepared in advance.
When news of their disappearance got out, the FBI converged on Mississippi to investigate. With the help of an informant, agents learned about the Klan's involvement and found the bodies. Since Mississippi refused to prosecute the assailants in state court, the federal government charged 18 men with conspiracy to violate the civil rights of Schwerner, Goodman, and Chaney.
Bowers, Price, and five other men were convicted; eight were acquitted; and the all-white jury deadlocked on the other three defendants. On the forty-first anniversary of the three murders, June 21, 2005, Edgar Ray Killen was found guilty of three counts of manslaughter. The 80-year-old Killen, known as an outspoken white supremacist and part-time Baptist minister, was sentenced to 60 years in prison.
Jun 21, 1916:
Pershing attacked by Mexican troops
The controversial U.S. military expedition against Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa brings the United States and Mexico closer to war when Mexican government troops attack U.S. Brigadier General John J. Pershing's force at Carrizal, Mexico. The Americans suffered 22 casualties, and more than 30 Mexicans were killed. Against the protests of Venustiano Carranza's government, Pershing had been penetrating deep into Mexico in pursuit of Pancho Villa. After routing the small Mexican force at Carrizal, the U.S. expedition continued on its southern course.
In 1914, following the resignation of Mexican leader Victoriano Huerta, Pancho Villa and his former revolutionary ally Venustiano Carranza battled each other in a struggle for succession. By the end of 1915, Villa had been driven north into the mountains, and the U.S. government recognized General Carranza as the president of Mexico.
In January 1916, to protest President Woodrow Wilson's support for Carranza, Villa executed 16 U.S. citizens at Santa Isabel in northern Mexico. Then, on March 9, he ordered a raid on the border town of Columbus, New Mexico, in which 17 Americans were killed and the center of town was burned. Cavalry from the nearby Camp Furlong U.S. Army outpost pursued the Mexicans, killing several dozen rebels on U.S. soil and in Mexico before turning back. On March 15, under orders from President Wilson, U.S. Brigadier General John J. Pershing launched a punitive expedition into Mexico to capture or kill Villa and disperse his rebels. The expedition eventually involved some 10,000 U.S. troops and personnel. It was the first U.S. military operation to employ mechanized vehicles, including automobiles and airplanes.
For 11 months, Pershing failed to capture the elusive revolutionary, who was aided by his intimate knowledge of the terrain of northern Mexico and his popular support from the people there. Meanwhile, resentment over the U.S. intrusion into Mexican territory led to a diplomatic crisis with the government in Mexico City. On June 21, the crisis escalated into violence when Mexican government troops attacked a detachment of the 10th Cavalry at Carrizal. If not for the critical situation in Europe, war might have been declared. In January 1917, having failed in their mission to capture Villa, and under continued pressure from the Mexican government, the Americans were ordered home.
Pancho Villa continued his guerrilla activities in northern Mexico until Adolfo de la Huerta took over the government and drafted a reformist constitution. Villa entered into an amicable agreement with Huerta and agreed to retire from politics. In 1920, the government pardoned Villa, but three years later he was assassinated at his ranch in Parral.
I will be out till the end of this month and will be posting again on the first of July. Keep the thread alive.
Jun 22, 1944:
FDR signs G.I. Bill
On this day in 1944, U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs the G.I. Bill, an unprecedented act of legislation designed to compensate returning members of the armed services--known as G.I.s--for their efforts in World War II.
As the last of its sweeping New Deal reforms, Roosevelt's administration created the G.I. Bill--officially the Servicemen's Readjustment Act of 1944--hoping to avoid a relapse into the Great Depression after the war ended. FDR particularly wanted to prevent a repeat of the Bonus March of 1932, when 20,000 unemployed veterans and their families flocked in protest to Washington. The American Legion, a veteran's organization, successfully fought for many of the provisions included in the bill, which gave returning servicemen access to unemployment compensation, low-interest home and business loans, and--most importantly--funding for education.
By giving veterans money for tuition, living expenses, books, supplies and equipment, the G.I. Bill effectively transformed higher education in America. Before the war, college had been an option for only 10-15 percent of young Americans, and university campuses had become known as a haven for the most privileged classes. By 1947, in contrast, vets made up half of the nation's college enrollment; three years later, nearly 500,000 Americans graduated from college, compared with 160,000 in 1939.
As educational institutions opened their doors to this diverse new group of students, overcrowded classrooms and residences prompted widespread improvement and expansion of university facilities and teaching staffs. An array of new vocational courses were developed across the country, including advanced training in education, agriculture, commerce, mining and fishing--skills that had previously been taught only informally.
The G.I. Bill became one of the major forces that drove an economic expansion in America that lasted 30 years after World War II. Only 20 percent of the money set aside for unemployment compensation under the bill was given out, as most veterans found jobs or pursued higher education. Low interest home loans enabled millions of American families to move out of urban centers and buy or build homes outside the city, changing the face of the suburbs. Over 50 years, the impact of the G.I. Bill was enormous, with 20 million veterans and dependents using the education benefits and 14 million home loans guaranteed, for a total federal investment of $67 billion. Among the millions of Americans who have taken advantage of the bill are former Presidents George H.W. Bush and Gerald Ford, former Vice President Al Gore and entertainers Johnny Cash, Ed McMahon, Paul Newman and Clint Eastwood.
Jun 22, 1989:
Cease-fire established in Angolan civil war
After nearly 15 years of civil war, opposing factions in Angola agree to a cease-fire to end a conflict that had claimed hundreds of thousands of lives. The cease-fire also helped to defuse U.S.-Soviet tensions concerning Angola.
Angola was a former Portuguese colony that had attained independence in 1975. Even before that date, however, various factions had been jockeying for power. The two most important were the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA), which was favored by the United States, and the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), which was supported by the Soviets. Once independence became a reality in November 1975, the two groups began a brutal contest for control, with the Soviet-supported MPLA eventually seizing control of the nation's capital. UNITA found support from Zaire and South Africa in the form of funds, weapons, and, in the case of South Africa, troops. The United States provided covert financial and arms support to both Zaire and South Africa to assist those nations' efforts in Angola. The Soviets responded with increasingly heavy support to the MPLA, and Cuba began to airlift troops in to help fight against UNITA. The African nation quickly became a Cold War hotspot. President Ronald Reagan began direct U.S. support of UNITA during his term in office in the 1980s. Angola suffered through a debilitating civil war, with thousands of people killed. Hundreds of thousands more became refugees from the increasingly savage conflict.
In 1988, Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev set into motion a series of events that would lead to a cease-fire the following year. Gorbachev was desperately seeking to better Soviet relations with the United States and he was facing a Soviet economy that could no longer sustain the expenses of supporting far-flung "wars of national liberation" like in Angola. He therefore announced that the Soviet Union was cutting its aid to both the MPLA and Cuba. Cuba, which depended on the Soviet subsidy to maintain its troops in Angola, made the decision to withdraw, and its forces began to depart in early 1989. South Africa thereupon suspended its aid to UNITA. The United States continued its aid to UNITA, but at a much smaller level. UNITA and the MPLA, exhausted from nearly 15 years of conflict, agreed to talks in 1989. These resulted in a cease-fire in June of that year. It was a short-lived respite. In 1992, national elections resulted in an overwhelming victory for the MPLA, and UNITA went back on the warpath.
In 1994, a peace accord was signed between the MPLA government and UNITA and in 1997, a government with representatives from both sides was established. Still, in 1998 fighting again broke out and democracy was suspended. In 2002, the leader of UNITA, Jonas Savimbi, was murdered; afterwards a cease-fire was reached, in which UNITA agreed to give up its arms and participate in the government. Observors are still waiting, however, for democracy to be reinstated.
Jun 22, 1945:
Battle of Okinawa ends
During World War II, the U.S. 10th Army overcomes the last major pockets of Japanese resistance on Okinawa Island, ending one of the bloodiest battles of World War II. The same day, Japanese Lieutenant General Mitsuru Ushijima, the commander of Okinawa's defense, committed suicide with a number of Japanese officers and troops rather than surrender.
On April 1, 1945, the 10th Army, under Lieutenant General Simon Bolivar Buckner, launched the invasion of Okinawa, a strategic Pacific island located midway between Japan and Formosa. Possession of Okinawa would give the United States a base large enough for an invasion of the Japanese home islands. There were more than 100,000 Japanese defenders on the island, but most were deeply entrenched in the island's densely forested interior. By the evening of April 1, 60,000 U.S. troops had come safely ashore. However, on April 4, Japanese land resistance stiffened, and at sea kamikaze pilots escalated their deadly suicide attacks on U.S. vessels.
During the next month, the battle raged on land and sea, with the Japanese troops and fliers making the Americans pay dearly for every strategic area of land and water won. On June 18, with U.S. victory imminent, General Buckner, the hero of Iwo Jima, was killed by Japanese artillery. Three days later, his 10th Army reached the southern coast of the island, and on June 22 Japanese resistance effectively came to an end.
The Japanese lost 120,000 troops in the defense of Okinawa, while the Americans suffered 12,500 dead and 35,000 wounded. Of the 36 Allied ships lost, most were destroyed by the 2,000 or so Japanese pilots who gave up their lives in kamikaze missions. With the capture of Okinawa, the Allies prepared for the invasion of Japan, a military operation predicted to be far bloodier than the 1944 Allied invasion of Western Europe. The plan called for invading the southern island of Kyushu in November 1945, and the main Japanese island of Honshu in March 1946. In July, however, the United States successfully tested an atomic bomb and after dropping two of these devastating weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August, Japan surrendered.
Jun 22, 1972:
New troops sent to An Loc
South Vietnam's 21st Division, decimated by repeated attempts to relieve An Loc, is replaced by the 25th Division. At the same time, U.S. helicopters flew 18th Division troops to positions south of An Loc to replace badly battered 9th Division troops that had also been trying to get to the city.
The 21st Division and attached units had been trying to reach the besieged city since April 9, when the group had been moved from its normal station in the Mekong Delta and ordered to attack up Highway 13 from Lai Khe to open the route to An Loc. The South Vietnamese forces had been locked in a desperate battle with a North Vietnamese division blocking the highway since the very beginning of the siege. As the 21st Division tried to open the road, the defenders inside An Loc fought off repeated attacks by two North Vietnamese divisions that had surrounded the city early in April. This was the southernmost thrust of the North Vietnamese invasion that had begun on March 30; the other main objectives were Quang Tri in the north and Kontum in the Central Highlands.
The arrival of the fresh South Vietnamese soldiers would eventually result in the lifting of the siege at An Loc. The 18th Division troops successfully attacked the North Vietnamese forces surrounding the city and most of the communist troops within An Loc had been eliminated by the end of the month. The 25th Division was less successful and the North Vietnamese forces continued to block Route 13 south of the city.
Jun 22, 1950:
Bernstein, Copland, Seeger and others are named as Communists
The Red Scare of the 1940s and 1950s famously ended the careers of numerous film-industry professionals and forced others to avoid blacklisting by repudiating their political beliefs and "naming names" of suspected Communist sympathizers to the House Committee on Un-Activities (HUAC). But Hollywood actors, directors and screenwriters were not the only victims of the Cold War anti-Communist purges in the entertainment industry. Prominent figures in the music industry were also targeted, including Leonard Bernstein, Aaron Copland, Lena Horne, Pete Seeger and Artie Shaw, all of whom were named publicly as suspected Communist sympathizers on this day in 1950, in the infamous publication Red Channels: The Report of Communist Influence in Radio and Television.
Red Channels was a tract issued by the right-wing journal Counterattack, the self-described "Newsletter of Facts to Combat Communism." By 1950, Joseph McCarthy and the HUAC had already been at work for several years, and figures like singer Paul Robeson and the so-called Hollywood Ten had already been blacklisted, but Red Channels sought to go further, exposing what it called a widespread Communist effort to achieve "domination of American broadcasting and telecasting, preparatory to the day when…[the] Party will assume control of this nation as the result of a final upheaval and civil war." Some even believe that the men responsible for Red Channels—including several former members of the FBI—were given illegal access to the confidential files of HUAC in preparing their report, which exposed 151 names in the entertainment industry to public scrutiny and the threat of blacklisting
Joining famous names like Orson Welles, Lillian Hellman, Arthur Miller and Dorothy Parker on the Red Channels list were the aforementioned Bernstein, Copland, Horne, Seeger and Shaw and numerous other musical figures, including the legendary harmonica player Larry Adler, the folksinger Burl Ives, former Library of Congress folklorist Alan Lomax and The New York Times music critic Olin Downes. The evidence of Communist leanings offered in Red Channels included Lena Horne’s appearance on the letterhead of a South African famine relief program, Aaron Copland’s appearance on a panel at a 1949 Scientific and Cultural Conference for World Peace and Leonard Bernstein’s affiliation with the Committee to Re-Elect Benjamin J. Davis, a black, socialist New York City councilman.
In the end, Red Channels caused some of those named to be blacklisted—Pete Seeger, most famously—to fight publicly to prove their "loyalty" to the United States and still others to repudiate their political pasts and provide the HUAC with names of other suspected prominent leftists.
Last edited by Duke of Buckingham; 06-22-12 at 03:11 AM.