On This Day in History

On This Day, June 24, 1948 – Soviets Blockade West Berlin

One of the most dramatic standoffs in the history of the Cold War begins as the Soviet Union blocks all road and rail traffic to and from West Berlin. The blockade turned out to be a terrible diplomatic move by the Soviets, while the United States emerged from the confrontation with renewed purpose and confidence. Following World War II, Germany was divided into occupation zones. The United States, Great Britain, the Soviet Union, and, eventually, France, were given specific zones to occupy in which they were to accept the surrender of Nazi forces and restore order. The Soviet Union occupied most of eastern Germany, while the other Allied nations occupied western Germany. The German capital of Berlin was similarly divided into four zones of occupation. Almost immediately, differences between the United States and the Soviet Union surfaced. The Soviets sought huge reparations from Germany in the form of money,...

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On This Day, June 23, 1940 – Adolph Hitler Tours Paris

1940 –In his first and only visit to Paris, Adolph Hitler made Napoleon’s tomb among the sites to see. “That was the greatest and finest moment of my life,” he said upon leaving. Comparisons between the Fuhrer and Napoleon have been made many times: They were both foreigners to the countries they ruled (Napoleon was Italian, Hitler was Austrian); both planned invasions of Russia while preparing invasions of England; both captured the Russian city of Vilna on June 24; both had photographic memories; both were under 5 feet 9 inches tall, among other coincidences. As a tribute to the French emperor, Hitler ordered that the remains of Napoleon’s son be moved from Vienna to lie beside his father. But Hitler being Hitler, he came to do more than gawk at the tourist attractions. He ordered the destruction of two World War I monuments: one to General Charles Mangin, a...

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On This Day, June 22, 1944 – FDR Signs G.I. Bill into Law

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 (Government Issued) – 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...

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On This Day, June 21, 1788 – US Constitution Becomes Law of the Land

1788 – 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...

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On This Day, June 20, 1979 – Jimmy Carter Brings Solar Energy to White House

1979 – President Jimmy Carter and first lady Rosalynn Carter climb to the White House roof to celebrate the installation of solar-energy panels there on this day in 1979. Carter presided over a nation still suffering from the fallout of the 1973-74 Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) oil embargo. Carter, a proponent of alternative and sustainable energy sources, put into practice what he preached and, in June 1979, had a $28,000 solar-heating system installed on the White House roof. The system consisted of 32 photovoltaic panels that generated enough energy to provide hot water for the entire White House. During his term Carter also had an energy-efficient wood-burning stove installed in the drafty White House residential quarters. In 1986, President Reagan had the solar panels removed and put into a federal storage facility in Virginia, stating that the energy crisis that had affected both foreign and domestic policy during...

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On this Day, June 19, 1942 – Churchill Arrives in DC to Plan Africa Invasion

1942 – British Prime Minister Winston Churchill arrived in Washington, DC, to discuss the invasion of North Africa with U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The British accepted the American view that the main blow would eventually have to be delivered in western Europe, but they hesitated to commit themselves on when and where it should fall. Even at this early stage they showed a preference for peripheral campaigns to be followed by a direct attack on the enemy only after he had been seriously weakened by attrition. Such a “peripheral strategy” came naturally to British leaders. They had followed it so often in earlier wars against continental powers that it had become deeply imbedded in England’s military tradition. Churchill and Field Marshal Sir Alan Brooke, Chief of the Imperial General Staff, from the outset stressed the advantages of a North African operation. They made much of the tonnage that...

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On This Day, June 18, 1812 – The War of 1812 Begins

1812 – 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...

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On This Day, June 17, 1972 – Nixon Allies Break into DCC Watergate HQ

1972 – 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...

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On This Day, June 16, 1858 – Abe Lincoln Warns ‘A House Divided Cannot Stand’

1858 – Newly nominated senatorial candidate Abraham Lincoln addresses the Illinois Republican Convention in Springfield and warns that the nation faces a crisis that could destroy the Union. Speaking to more than 1,000 delegates in an ominous tone, Lincoln paraphrased a passage from the New Testament: “a house divided against itself cannot stand.” The issue dividing the nation was slavery’s place in the growing western territories and the extent of federal power over individual states’ rights. Lincoln declared that only the federal government had the power to end slavery. While the southern states relied on an economy and lifestyle dependent upon the cheap labor provided by African-American slaves, the North opposed slavery on moral grounds. The northern states also considered industrialization and manufacturing the key to America’s economic future, not farming. The entrance of new states into the Union, such as Missouri, Kansas and Nebraska, brought to a head...

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On This Day, June 15, 1846 – U.S.-Canadian border established

Representatives of Great Britain and the United States sign the Oregon Treaty, which settles a long-standing dispute with Britain over who controlled the Oregon territory. The treaty established the 49th parallel from the Rocky Mountains to the Strait of Georgia as the boundary between the United States and British Canada. The United States gained formal control over the future states of Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Montana, and the British retained Vancouver Island and navigation rights to part of the Columbia River. In 1818, a U.S.-British agreement had established the border along the 49th parallel from Lake of the Woods in the east to the Rocky Mountains in the west. The two nations also agreed to a joint occupation of Oregon territory for 10 years, an arrangement that was extended for an additional 10 years in 1827. After 1838, the issue of who possessed Oregon became increasingly controversial, especially when...

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On This Day, June 14, 1985 – TWA Flight 847 is Hijacked by Terrorists

TWA Flight 847 from Athens to Rome is hijacked by Shiite Hezbollah terrorists who immediately demand to know the identity of ”those with Jewish-sounding names.” Two of the Lebanese terrorists, armed with grenades and a 9-mm. pistol, then forced the plane to land in Beirut, Lebanon. Once on the ground, the hijackers called for passengers with Israeli passports, but there were none. Nor were there any diplomats on board. They then focused their attention on the several U.S. Navy construction divers aboard the plane. Soon after landing, the terrorists killed Navy diver Robert Stethem, and dumped his body on the runway. TWA employee Uli Derickson was largely successful in protecting the few Jewish passengers aboard by refusing to identify them. Most of the passengers were released in the early hours of what turned out to be a 17-day ordeal, but five men were singled out and separated from the...

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On This Day, June 13, 1971 – “Pentagon Papers” Damage Credibility of Cold War Policy

The New York Times begins to publish sections of the so-called “Pentagon Papers,” a top-secret Department of Defense study of America’s involvement in the Vietnam War. The papers indicated that the American government had been lying to the people for years about the Vietnam War and the papers seriously damaged the credibility of America’s Cold War foreign policy. In 1967, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara ordered his department to prepare an in-depth history of American involvement in the Vietnam War. McNamara had already begun to harbor serious doubts about U.S. policy in Vietnam, and the study–which came to be known as the “Pentagon Papers”–substantiated his misgivings. Top-secret memorandums, reports, and papers indicated that the U.S. government had systematically lied to the American people, deceiving them about American goals and progress in the war in Vietnam. The devastating multi-volume study remained locked away in a Pentagon safe for years. In...

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On This Day, June 12, 1994 – Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman Murdered

Nicole Brown Simpson, famous football player O.J. Simpson’s ex-wife, and her friend Ron Goldman are brutally stabbed to death outside Nicole’s home in Brentwood, California, in what quickly becomes one of the most highly publicized trials of the century. With overwhelming evidence against him, including a prior record of domestic violence towards Brown, O.J. Simpson became the chief suspect. Although he had agreed to turn himself in, Simpson escaped with friend A.C. Cowlings in his white Ford Bronco on June 17. He was carrying his passport, a disguise, and $8,750 in cash. Simpson’s car was spotted that afternoon, but he refused to surrender immediately. Threatening to kill himself, he led police in a low-speed chase through the freeways of Los Angeles as the entire nation watched on television. Eventually, Simpson gave himself up at his home in Brentwood. The evidence against Simpson was extensive: His blood was found at...

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On This Day, June 11, 1963 – JFK Faces Down Gov. Wallace

On this day in 1963, President John F. Kennedy issues presidential proclamation 3542, forcing Alabama Governor George Wallace to comply with federal court orders allowing two African-American students to register for the summer session at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. The proclamation ordered Wallace and all persons acting in concert with him to cease and desist from obstructing justice. The battle between Kennedy and Wallace brought to a head the long, post-Civil War struggle between the federal government and recalcitrant southern states over the enforcement of federal desegregation laws. Kennedy, a Catholic, considered racial segregation morally wrong. As of 1963, Alabama was the only state that had not integrated its education system. From the time of his gubernatorial campaign in 1962 until this day in 1963, Wallace had boldly proclaimed that he would personally stand in front of the door of any Alabama schoolhouse that was ordered by...

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On This Day, June 10, 1940 – Italy Declares War on France and Great Britain

On this day in 1940, after withholding formal allegiance to either side in the battle between Germany and the Allies, Benito Mussolini, dictator of Italy, declares war on France and Great Britain. What caused Il Duce’s change of heart? Perhaps the German occupation of Paris did it. “First they were too cowardly to take part. Now they are in a hurry so that they can share in the spoils,” reflected Hitler. (However, Mussolini claimed that he wanted in before complete French capitulation only because fascism “did not believe in hitting a man when he is down.”) Italy’s lack of raw materials had made Mussolini wary of waging all-out war previously. Britain and France were also wooing him with promises of territorial concessions in Africa in exchange for neutrality. But the thought of its Axis partner single-handedly conquering the Continent was too much for his ego to bear. While Germany...

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On This Day, June 9,1973 – Secretariat Wins the Triple Crown

With a spectacular victory at the Belmont Stakes, Secretariat becomes the first horse since Citation in 1948 to win America’s coveted Triple Crown–the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness, and the Belmont Stakes. In one of the finest performances in racing history, Secretariat, ridden by Ron Turcotte, completed the 1.5-mile race in 2 minutes and 24 seconds, a dirt-track record for that distance. Secretariat was born at Meadow Stables in Doswell, Virginia, on March 30, 1970. He was sired by Bold Ruler, the 1957 Preakness winner, and foaled by Somethingroyal, which came from a Thoroughbred line known for its stamina. An attractive chestnut colt, he grew to over 16 hands high and was at two years the size of a three-year-old. He ran his first race as a two-year-old on July 4, 1972, a 5 1/2-furlong race at Aqueduct in New York City. He came from behind to finish fourth; it...

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On This Day, June 8, 1969 – Brian Jones Leaves the Stones

Publicly, the move would be cast as an amicable split, with Brian Jones stating of his fellow Rolling Stones, “I no longer see eye-to-eye with the others over the discs we are cutting.” Behind the scenes, however, Jones’ prodigious appetite for drugs and alcohol had long rendered him almost a non-functioning member of the band. A prodigious musical talent who was said to be able to master a new instrument in a single day, Jones had helped pioneer the use of exotic instruments in rock and roll on such classic Stones tracks as “Lady Jane” (featuring Jones on dulcimer), “Under My Thumb” (marimba) and “Paint It Black” (sitar). On this day in 1969, however, Jones’ band mates declared his decadence more than they could bear, firing the once-brilliant instrumentalist who had given so many early Rolling Stones songs their distinctive sound. It was Brian Jones who had brought the...

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On This Day, June 7, 1932 – Veterans March on DC Demanding Bonuses

1932 – Over 7,000 war veterans marched on Washington, DC, demanding their bonuses.  In June 1932 a small band of World War One Veterans calling themselves the Bonus Expeditionary Force or BEF started gathering in Washington to protest Congress’ delay in the payment of the War Bonds they were promised. By mid August their numbers had grown to between 15,000 and 24,00 depending on the source as more and more Veterans and their families gathered in Washington demanding that they be paid. On August 28.1932 President Hoover ordered General Douglas MacArthur to evict the Veterans. MacArthur ordered then Majors George Patton and Dwight Eisenhower to mobilize the Federal troops out of Fort Myers, Virginia. At 4:00 that afternoon Major Patton ordered the Calvary to charge the unarmed veterans and their families. Killing and wounding many of the marchers as well as a few bystanders, one of whom was a United...

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On This D-Day, June 6, 1944 – Allied Forces Invade Europe

1944 – The D-Day invasion of Europe took place on the beaches of Normandy, France. 400,000 Allied American, British and Canadian troops were involved. “Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Force! You are about to embark upon a great crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty loving people everywhere march with you. In company with our brave Allies and brothers in arms on other fronts, you will bring about the destruction of the German war machine, the elimination of Nazi tyranny over the oppressed peoples of Europe, and security for ourselves in a free world. Your task will not be an easy one. Your enemy is well trained, well equipped and battle hardened, he will fight savagely. But this is the year 1944! Much has happened since the Nazi triumphs of...

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On This Day, June 5, 1968 – Robert Kennedy Mortally Wounded in Los Angeles

1968 – Sen. Robert F. Kennedy was shot several times by the 22-year-old Palestinian Sirhan Sirhan at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles after winning the California presidential primary. Kennedy died a day later. The summer of 1968 was a tempestuous time in American history and Kennedy was perceived by many to be the only person in American politics capable of uniting the people, being beloved by the minority community for his integrity and devotion to the civil rights cause. After winning California’s primary, Kennedy was in the position to receive the Democratic nomination and face off against Richard Nixon in the general election. As star athletes Rafer Johnson and Roosevelt Grier accompanied Kennedy out a rear exit of the Ambassador Hotel, Sirhan Sirhan stepped forward with a rolled up campaign poster, hiding his .22 revolver and was only a foot away when he fired. Grier and Johnson wrestled Sirhan to the ground,...

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