On This Day in History

On This Day, Apr 28, 1967 – Muhammad Ali Refuses Army Induction

On April 28, 1967, boxing champion Muhammad Ali refuses to be inducted into the U.S. Army and is immediately stripped of his heavyweight title. Ali, a Muslim, cited religious reasons for his decision to forgo military service. Born Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr., in Louisville, Kentucky, on January 14, 1942, the future three-time world champ changed his name to Muhammad Ali in 1964 after converting to Islam. He scored a gold medal at the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome and made his professional boxing debut against Tunney Husaker on October 29, 1960, winning the bout in six rounds. On February 25, 1964, he defeated the heavily favored bruiser Sonny Liston in six rounds to become heavyweight champ. On April 28, 1967, with the United States at war in Vietnam, Ali refused to be inducted into the armed forces, saying “I ain’t got no quarrel with those Viet Cong.” On June...

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On This Day, April 27, 1989 – Student protesters take over Tiananmen Square

  1989 – Student protestors took over Tiananmen Square in Beijing. April 27, 1989 is arguably the most glorious day of the 1989 student movement. On this day, hundreds of thousands of college students in Beijing walked out of their campuses, despite that the demonstration was canceled at the last minute under the pressure and in the face of the new People’s Daily editorial which accused their movement as a deadly turmoil. The Chinese government condemned the protests as a “counter-revolutionary riot”, and has prohibited all forms of discussion or remembrance of the events since. Due to the lack of information from China, many aspects of the events remain unknown or unconfirmed. Estimates of the death toll range from a few hundred to the thousands. 1509 – Pope Julius II excommunicated the Italian state of Venice. Venice had taken control of the cities of Faenza, Rimini and Ravenna to extend...

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On This Day, April 26, 1865 – Union Troops Track Down and Kill John Wilkes Booth

1865 – John Wilkes Booth is killed when Union soldiers track him down to a Virginia farm, 12 days after he assassinated President Abraham Lincoln. Twenty-six-year-old Booth was one of the most famous actors in the country when he shot Lincoln during a performance at Ford’s Theater in Washington, D.C., on the night of April 14. Booth was a Maryland native and a strong supporter of the Confederacy. As the war entered its final stages, Booth hatched a conspiracy to kidnap the president. He enlisted the aid of several associates, but the opportunity never presented itself. After the surrender of Robert E. Lee’s Confederate army at Appomattox Court House, Virginia, on April 9, Booth changed the plan to a simultaneous assassination of Lincoln, Vice President Andrew Johnson, and Secretary of State William Seward. Only Lincoln was actually killed, however. Seward was stabbed by Lewis Paine but survived, while the...

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On This Day, April 25, 1953 – Watson and Crick Propose Double Helix DNA Structure

1953 – Dr. James D. Watson and Dr. Francis H.C. Crick suggested the double helix structure of DNA. In the early 1950s, the race to discover DNA was on. At Cambridge University, graduate student Francis Crick and research fellow James Watson (b. 1928) had become interested, impressed especially by Pauling’s work. Meanwhile at King’s College in London, Maurice Wilkins (b. 1916) and Rosalind Franklin were also studying DNA. The Cambridge team’s approach was to make physical models to narrow down the possibilities and eventually create an accurate picture of the molecule. The King’s team took an experimental approach, looking particularly at x-ray diffraction images of DNA. In 1951, Watson attended a lecture by Franklin on her work to date. She had found that DNA can exist in two forms, depending on the relative humidity in the surrounding air. This had helped her deduce that the phosphate part of the molecule was on the...

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On This Day, April 24, 1948 – The Berlin Airlift Starts

  1948 – The Berlin airlift began to relieve the surrounded city. When the blockade by the USSR began, the Soviets rejoiced, because they believed the Western powers had only one option, to leave Berlin.  But they underestimated the West airlift supplies.  Gen. Clay called upon General Curtis E. LeMay, commander of USAFE and asked him if he could haul supplies to Berlin.  LeMay responded, “We can haul anything”.  Two days later Gen. LeMay called upon Brig. Gen. Joseph Smith, Commander of the Wiesbaden Military Post, and appointed him Task Force Commander of an airlift operation estimated to last a few weeks.  The only US aircraft initially available were 102 C-47’s and 2 C-54 Skymasters.  On June 26, the first C-47’s landed at Tempelhof Airfield, foreshadowing the great operation that was to come.  Smith dubbed the mission “Operation Vittles”, because he said “We’re haulin‘ grub.”  The British called their...

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On This Day, April 23, 1778 – Harry Truman Gives Hell to the Soviet Union

1945 – Less than two weeks after taking over as president after the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman gives a tongue-lashing to Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov. The incident indicated that Truman was determined to take a “tougher” stance with the Soviets than his predecessor had. When Roosevelt died of a massive stroke on April 12, 1945, Harry S. Truman took over as president. Truman was overwhelmed by the responsibilities so suddenly thrust upon him and, particularly in terms of foreign policy, the new president was uncertain about his approach. Roosevelt had kept his vice-president in the dark about most diplomatic decisions, not even informing Truman about the secret program to develop an atomic bomb. Truman had to learn quickly, however. The approaching end of World War II meant that momentous decisions about the postwar world needed to be made quickly. The primary issue Truman faced...

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On This Day, April 22, 1970 – US Comes Together to Celebrate First Earth Day

1970 – Earth Day, an event to increase public awareness of the world’s environmental problems, is celebrated in the United States for the first time. Millions of Americans, including students from thousands of colleges and universities, participated in rallies, marches, and educational programs. Earth Day was the brainchild of Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin, a staunch environmentalist who hoped to provide unity to the grassroots environmental movement and increase ecological awareness. “The objective was to get a nationwide demonstration of concern for the environment so large that it would shake the political establishment out of its lethargy,” Senator Nelson said, “and, finally, force this issue permanently onto the national political agenda.” Earth Day indeed increased environmental awareness in America, and in July of that year the Environmental Protection Agency was established by special executive order to regulate and enforce national pollution legislation. Loads of chemicals and hazardous wastes have...

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On This Day, April 21, 1918 –German Ace Red Baron Brought Down by Allied Fire

1918 – In the skies over Vauz sur Somme, France, Manfred von Richthofen, the notorious German flying ace known as “The Red Baron,” is killed by Allied fire. Richthofen, the son of a Prussian nobleman, switched from the German army to the Imperial Air Service in 1915. By 1916, he was terrorizing the skies over the western front in an Albatross biplane, downing 15 enemy planes by the end of the year, including one piloted by British flying ace Major Lanoe Hawker. In 1917, Richthofen surpassed all flying ace records on both sides of the western front and began using a Fokker triplane, painted entirely red in tribute to his old cavalry regiment. Although only used during the last eight months of his career, it is this aircraft that Richthofen was most commonly associated with and it led to an enduring English nickname for the German pilot – the...

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On This Day, April 20, 1980 – Mass Exodus of Cubans Flee to US as Mariel Boatlift Begins

1980 – The Castro regime announces that all Cubans wishing to emigrate to the U.S. are free to board boats at the port of Mariel west of Havana, launching the Mariel Boatlift. The first of 125,000 Cuban refugees from Mariel reached Florida the next day. The boatlift was precipitated by housing and job shortages caused by the ailing Cuban economy, leading to simmering internal tensions on the island. On April 1, Hector Sanyustiz and four others drove a bus through a fence at the Peruvian embassy and were granted political asylum. Cuban guards on the street opened fire. One guard was killed in the crossfire. The Cuban government demanded the five be returned for trial in the dead guard’s death. But when the Peruvian government refused, Castro withdrew his guards from the embassy on Good Friday, April 4. By Easter Sunday, April 6, some 10,000 Cubans crowded into the...

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On This Day, Apr 19, 1989 – Central Park Jogger Attack Shocks New York City

On this day in 1989, a 28-year-old female investment banker is severely beaten and sexually assaulted while jogging in New York City’s Central Park. Five teenagers from Harlem were convicted of the crime, which shocked New Yorkers for its randomness and viciousness and became emblematic of the perceived lawlessness of the city at the time. The case was also racially divisive, as the teens were black and Hispanic and the victim was white. The “Central Park jogger,” as she became known in the media, was discovered by passerby in a muddy ravine, her skull smashed and near death, hours after she went for a jog in the park around 9 p.m. After being rescued, she spent nearly two weeks in a coma, but surprised doctors by eventually recovering from most of her injuries. However, she remembered nothing about the near-fatal attack or the events leading up to it. Police...

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On This Day, Apr, 18, 1983 – Suicide Bomber Destroys U.S. Embassy in Beirut

The U.S. embassy in Beirut, Lebanon, is almost completely destroyed by a car-bomb explosion that kills 63 people, including the suicide bomber and 17 Americans. The terrorist attack was carried out in protest of the U.S. military presence in Lebanon. In 1975, a bloody civil war erupted in Lebanon, with Palestinian and leftist Muslim guerrillas battling militias of the Christian Phalange Party, the Maronite Christian community, and other groups. During the next few years, Syrian, Israeli, and United Nations interventions failed to resolve the factional fighting, and on August 20, 1982, a multinational force featuring U.S. Marines landed in Beirut to oversee the Palestinian withdrawal from Lebanon. The Marines left Lebanese territory on September 10 but returned on September 29, following the massacre of Palestinian refugees by a Christian militia. The next day, the first U.S. Marine to die during the mission was killed while defusing a bomb, and...

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On This Day, Apr. 17, 1960 – Eddie Cochran Dies, and Gene Vincent is Injured, in a UK Car Accident

Eddie Cochran, the man behind “Summertime Blues” and “C’mon Everybody,” was killed on this day in 1960 when the taxi carrying him from a show in Bristol, England, crashed en route to the airport in London, where he was to catch a flight back home to the United States. A raw and exciting rocker with a cocky, rebellious image, Eddie Cochran was very different from the polished and packaged idols being heavily marketed to American teenagers in the years between the rise of Elvis Presley and the arrival of the Beatles. And while he may have faded from popular memory in the years since his tragic and early death, his biggest hits have not. Cochran was on a triumphant concert tour of Britain in the spring of 1960—a tour that had been extended 10 weeks beyond its scheduled run due to intense demand for tickets. In America, a tamer...

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On This Day, Apr. 16, 2007 – Massacre at Virginia Tech leaves 32 dead

On this day in 2007, in one of the deadliest shootings in U.S. history, 32 students and teachers die after being gunned down on the campus of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University by Seung Hui Cho, a student at the school who later dies from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. The violence began around 7:15 a.m., when Cho, a 23-year-old senior and English major at Blacksburg-based Virginia Tech, shot a female freshman and a male resident assistant in a campus dormitory before fleeing the building. Police were soon on the scene; unaware of the gunman’s identity, they initially pursued the female victim’s boyfriend as a suspect in what they believed to be an isolated domestic-violence incident. However, at around 9:40 a.m., Cho, armed with a 9-millimeter handgun, a 22-caliber handgun and hundreds of rounds of ammunition, entered a classroom building, chained and locked several main doors and went from...

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On This Day, Apr 15, 1920 – The Sacco-Vanzetti Case Draws National Attention

A paymaster and a security guard are killed during a mid-afternoon armed robbery of a shoe company in South Braintree, Massachusetts. Out of this rather unremarkable crime grew one of the most famous trials in American history and a landmark case in forensic crime detection. Both Fred Parmenter and Alessandro Berardelli were shot several times as they attempted to move the payroll boxes of their New England shoe company. The two armed thieves, identified by witnesses as “Italian-looking,” fled in a Buick. The car was found abandoned in the woods several days later. Through evidence found in the car, police suspected that a man named Mike Boda was involved. However, Boda was one step ahead of the authorities, and he fled to Italy. Police did manage to catch Boda’s colleagues, Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, who were each carrying loaded weapons at the time of their arrest. Sacco had a...

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On This Day, Apr 14, 1912 – RMS Titanic Hits Iceberg

Just before midnight in the North Atlantic, the RMS Titanic fails to divert its course from an iceberg, ruptures its hull, and begins to sink. Four days earlier, the Titanic, one of the largest and most luxurious ocean liners ever built, departed Southampton, England, on its maiden voyage across the Atlantic Ocean. While leaving port, the massive ship came within a couple of feet of the steamer New York but passed safely by, causing a general sigh of relief from the passengers massed on the ship’s decks. The Titanic was designed by the Irish shipbuilder William Pirrie and spanned 883 feet from stern to bow. Its hull was divided into 16 compartments that were presumed to be watertight. Because four of these compartments could be flooded without causing a critical loss of buoyancy, the Titanic was considered unsinkable. On its first journey across the highly competitive Atlantic ferry route,...

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On This Day, April 13, 1964 – Sidney Poitier Breaks Oscar Color Barrier

1964 – Sidney Poitier became the first black to win an Oscar for best actor. It was for his role in the movie Lilies of the Field. He won for his role in Lilies of the Field (he had also been nominated for best actor for The Defiant Ones five years earlier), and though it was a tremendous breakthrough in terms of diversity, it’s also worth noting that when Ann Bancroft gave him a kiss on the cheek when presenting him with the Oscar, some people were offended. That was the world in 1964, the world in which Poitier and everyone else of color lived. Whatever accomplishments they enjoyed did not erase the reality of racism that surrounded them. And though it would be nice to say that Poitier’s win brought down the barriers, at least to some extent, it would be 38 years before another African-American actor won...

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On This Day, April 12, 1861 – The Civil War Begins

1861 – Fort Sumter was shelled by Confederacy, starting America’s Civil War. The Civil War might as easily have erupted at Fort Pickens, outside Pensacola, Florida, as at Fort Sumter but Fort Sumter was positioned in the middle of Charleston Harbor, surrounded by hostile batteries. Sumter, therefore, became a symbol of contested sovereignty. Neither the new President nor the new Confederacy could afford to lose face by surrendering the Charleston fort. The only question was, who would shoot first? In early January the South Carolinians had actually done so, turning away the Star of the West, a federal supply ship, with gunfire. But those were more or less warning shots that kicked up plumes of spray but caused no damage. The Confederate government, knowing that its claims to sovereignty depended on no “foreign” power occupying any of its coastal forts, decided to act before the relief expedition arrived. Confederate...

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On This Day, April 11, 1947 – Jackie Robinson Plays in First Game

1947 – Jackie Robinson became the first black player in major-league history. He played in an exhibition game for the Brooklyn Dodgers. At UCLA, Jackie became the first athlete to win varsity letters in four sports: baseball, basketball, football and track. In 1941, he was named to the All-American football team. Due to financial difficulties, he was forced to leave college, and eventually decided to enlist in the U.S. Army. After two years in the army, he had progressed to second lieutenant. Jackie’s army career was cut short when he was court-martialed in relation to his objections with incidents of racial discrimination. In the end, Jackie left the Army with an honorable discharge. In 1945, Jackie played one season in the Negro Baseball League, traveling all over the Midwest with the Kansas City Monarchs. But greater challenges and achievements were in store for him. In 1947, Brooklyn Dodgers president...

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On This Day, April 10, 1778 – John Paul Jones Truly Does Start to Fight

1778 – Commander John Paul Jones and his crew of 140 men aboard the USS Ranger set sail from the naval port at Brest, France, and head toward the Irish Sea to begin raids on British warships. This was the first mission of its kind during the Revolutionary War. After departing from Brest, Jones successfully executed raids on two forts in England’s Whitehaven Harbor, despite a disgruntled crew more interested in “gain than honor.” Jones then continued to his home territory of Kirkcudbright Bay, Scotland, where he intended to abduct the Earl of Selkirk and then exchange him for American sailors held captive by Britain. Although he did not find the earl at home, Jones crew was able to steal all his silver, including his wife s teapot, still containing her breakfast tea. From Scotland, Jones sailed across the Irish Sea to Carrickfergus, where the Ranger captured the HMS Drake...

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On This Day, April 9, 1965 – Lee Surrenders the Army of the Confederacy

1865 – At Appomattox, Virginia, Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrenders his 28,000 troops to Union General Ulysses S. Grant, effectively ending the American Civil War. Forced to abandon the Confederate capital of Richmond, blocked from joining the surviving Confederate force in North Carolina, and harassed constantly by Union cavalry, Lee had no other option. In retreating from the Union army’s Appomattox Campaign, the Army of Northern Virginia had stumbled through the Virginia countryside stripped of food and supplies. At one point, Union cavalry forces under General Philip Sheridan had actually outrun Lee’s army, blocking their retreat and taking 6,000 prisoners at Sayler’s Creek. Desertions were mounting daily, and by April 8 the Confederates were surrounded with no possibility of escape. On April 9, Lee sent a message to Grant announcing his willingness to surrender. The two generals met in the parlor of the Wilmer McLean home at one...

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On This Day, April 8, 1513 – Ponce de León Claims Florida for Spain

1513 – Explorer Juan Ponce de Leon claimed Florida for Spain. In 1493, Ponce de León sailed with Christopher Columbus on Columbus’ second voyage to the Americas. He and his family settled on an island in the Caribbean named Hispaniola (Dominican Republic). He became a military commander at this post and was appointed deputy governor. In 1506, Ponce de León discovered a nearby island named Borinquen. While there, he found large deposits of gold. Soon after his discovery, he left the island. He returned in 1508 on orders from the king of Spain to explore and colonize the island. He renamed the island Puerto Rico. He was the island’s governor for two years until the king replaced him with Columbus’ son. Hurt by the King’s action, Ponce de León sailed again, this time north through the Bahamas heading towards Florida. He was in search of new lands and treasures....

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On This Day, April 7, 1953 – IBM Releases First Scientific Computer

1953 – IBM unveiled the IBM 701 Electronic Data Processing Machine. It was IBM’s first commercially available scientific computer. Designed to shatter the time barrier confronting technicians working on vital defense projects, the 701 is being manufactured in IBM’s Poughkeepsie, N.Y., plant where production-line techniques of assembly and standardization are used. Composed of eleven compact and connected units known as IBM Electronic Data Processing Machines, the 701 is the first calculator of comparable capacity to be produced in quantity. A total of eighteen will be built within a year, all consigned to government agencies or defense industries. Using three of the more advanced electronic storage or memory devices — cathode ray tubes, magnetic drums and magnetic tapes — the calculator can multiply and divide more than 2,000 times a second and can add and subtract more than 16,000 times a second. The calculators, which will rent for $11,900 monthly...

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On This Day, Apr. 6, 1970 – Sam Sheppard Dies

On this day in 1970, Sam Sheppard, a doctor convicted of murdering his pregnant wife in a trial that caused a media frenzy in the 1950s, dies of liver failure. After a decade in prison, Sheppard was released following a re-trial. His story is rumored to have loosely inspired the television series and movie “The Fugitive.” On July 4, 1954, Sheppard’s wife Marilyn was beaten to death in the couple’s Bay Village, Ohio, home. Sheppard, an osteopathic doctor, contended the “bushy-haired” attacker had beaten him as well. The Sheppards’ son slept through the murder in a bedroom down the hall. Sam Sheppard was arrested for murder and stood trial in the fall of 1954. The case generated massive media attention, and some members of the press were accused of supporting the perception that Sheppard was guilty. Prosecutors argued that Sheppard was motivated to kill his wife because he was...

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On This Day Apr. 5, 1994 – Kurt Cobain Commits Suicide

Modern rock icon Kurt Cobain commits suicide on this day in 1994. His body was discovered inside his home in Seattle, Washington, three days later by Gary Smith, an electrician, who was installing a security system in the suburban house. Despite indications that Cobain, the lead singer of Nirvana, killed himself, several skeptics questioned the circumstances of his death and pinned responsibility on his wife, Courtney Love. At least two books, including one penned by Love’s estranged father, and a nationally released documentary, Kurt & Courtney, openly expressed doubt that Cobain killed himself and all but accused Love of having her husband killed. Her volatile reputation and healthy list of enemies helped to circulate the rumors. However, police have concluded that Cobain’s death was the result of suicide. Cobain’s downward spiral began taking shape in Italy the previous month. He went into a coma and nearly died after mixing...

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On this Day, Apr. 4, 1968 – Martin Luther King Jr. is Assassinated

Martin Luther King Jr. is shot to death at a hotel in Memphis, Tennessee. A single shot fired by James Earl Ray from over 200 feet away at a nearby motel struck King in the neck. He died an hour later at St. Joseph’s Hospital. The death of America’s leading civil rights advocate sparked a wave of rioting in the black communities of several cities around the country. Ray, who had escaped from a Missouri prison almost a year earlier, had used the aliases Eric Galt and John Willard to register in several motels in the Memphis area. He fired a Remington rifle from a bathroom window that looked out onto the hotel balcony where King was standing. Ray fled to Canada, where he stayed for a month. Meanwhile, the FBI placed him on the Ten Most Wanted Fugitives List. After buying a passport under the name Sneyd, Ray...

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On This Day, Apr 3, 1882 – Jesse James Murdered

One of America’s most famous criminals, Jesse James, is shot to death by fellow gang member Bob Ford, who betrayed James for reward money. For 16 years, Jesse and his brother, Frank, committed robberies and murders throughout the Midwest. Detective magazines and pulp novels glamorized the James gang, turning them into mythical Robin Hoods who were driven to crime by unethical landowners and bankers. In reality, Jesse James was a ruthless killer who stole only for himself. The teenage James brothers joined up with southern guerrilla leaders when the Civil War broke out. Both participated in massacres of settlers and troops affiliated with the North. After the war was over, the quiet farming life of the James brothers’ youth no longer seemed enticing, and the two turned to crime. Jesse’s first bank robbery occurred on February 13, 1866, in Liberty, Missouri. Over the next couple of years, the James...

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On This Day, Apr. 2, 1992 – Mob Boss John Gotti Convicted of Murder

A jury in New York finds mobster John Gotti, nicknamed the Teflon Don for his ability to elude conviction, guilty on 13 counts, including murder and racketeering. In the wake of the conviction, the assistant director of the FBI’s New York office, James Fox, was quoted as saying, “The don is covered in Velcro, and every charge stuck.” On June 23 of that year, Gotti was sentenced to life in prison, dealing a significant blow to organized crime. John Joseph Gotti, Jr., was born in the Bronx, New York, on October 27, 1940. He rose through the ranks of the Gambino crime family and seized power after ordering the December 1985 murder of then-boss Paul Castellano outside a Manhattan steakhouse. Behind closed doors, Gotti was a ruthless, controlling figure. Publicly, he became a tabloid celebrity, famous for his swagger and expensive suits, which earned him another nickname, the Dapper...

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On This Day, Apr 1, 1700 – April Fools Tradition Popularized

On this day in 1700, English pranksters begin popularizing the annual tradition of April Fools’ Day by playing practical jokes on each other. Although the day, also called All Fools’ Day, has been celebrated for several centuries by different cultures, its exact origins remain a mystery. Some historians speculate that April Fools’ Day dates back to 1582, when France switched from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar, as called for by the Council of Trent in 1563. People who were slow to get the news or failed to recognize that the start of the new year had moved to January 1 and continued to celebrate it during the last week of March through April 1 became the butt of jokes and hoaxes. These included having paper fish placed on their backs and being referred to as “poisson d’avril” (April fish), said to symbolize a young, easily caught fish...

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On This Day, Mar 31, 1889 – The Eiffel Tower Opens

On March 31, 1889, the Eiffel Tower is dedicated in Paris in a ceremony presided over by Gustave Eiffel, the tower’s designer, and attended by French Prime Minister Pierre Tirard, a handful of other dignitaries, and 200 construction workers. In 1889, to honor of the centenary of the French Revolution, the French government planned an international exposition and announced a design competition for a monument to be built on the Champ-de-Mars in central Paris. Out of more than 100 designs submitted, the Centennial Committee chose Eiffel’s plan of an open-lattice wrought-iron tower that would reach almost 1,000 feet above Paris and be the world’s tallest man-made structure. Eiffel, a noted bridge builder, was a master of metal construction and designed the framework of the Statue of Liberty that had recently been erected in New York Harbor. Eiffel’s tower was greeted with skepticism from critics who argued that it would...

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On This Day, March 30, 1950 – Harry Truman Denounces Joe McCarthy

1950 –President Harry Truman denounces Senator Joe McCarthy as a saboteur of U.S. foreign policy.  This was the reaction of President Harry Truman to Loyalty Investigation, “News Conference at Key West,” March 30, 1950 Q. Do you think that Senator McCarthy can show any disloyalty exists in the State Department? The President. I think the greatest asset that the Kremlin has is Senator McCarthy. Q. Would you care to elaborate on that? The President. I don’t think it needs any elaboration—I don’t think it needs any elaboration. Q. Brother, will that hit page one tomorrow! Q. If you think we are going to bust down the fence on what you have got later, that’s a pretty good starter. Q. Mr. President, could we quote that one phrase, “I think the greatest asset the Kremlin has is Senator McCarthy”? The President. Now let me give you a little preliminary, and...

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On This Day, March 29, 1979 – JFK Assassination Ruled a Conspiracy

1979 – The Committee on Assassinations Report issued by U.S. House of Representatives stated the assassination of President John F. Kennedy was the result of a conspiracy. I. Findings of the Select Committee on Assassination in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy Lee Harvey Oswald fired three shots at President John F. Kennedy. The second and third shots he fired struck the President. The third shot he fired killed the President  Scientific acoustical evidence establishes a high probability that two gunmen fired at President John F. Kennedy. Other scientific evidence does not preclude the possibility of two gunmen firing at the President. Scientific evidence negates some specific conspiracy allegations The committee believes, on the basis of the evidence available to it, that President John F. Kennedy was probably assassinated as a result of a conspiracy. The committee was unable to identify the other gunmen or the extent of...

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On This Day, March 28, 1979 – Three Mile Island Reactor Nears Meltdown

1979 – At 4 a.m. on March 28, 1979, the worst accident in the history of the U.S. nuclear power industry begins when a pressure valve in the Unit-2 reactor at Three Mile Island fails to close. Cooling water, contaminated with radiation, drained from the open valve into adjoining buildings, and the core began to dangerously overheat. After the cooling water began to drain, emergency cooling pumps automatically went into operation. Left alone, these safety devices would have prevented the development of a larger crisis. However, human operators in the control room misread confusing and contradictory readings and shut off the emergency water system. The reactor was also shut down, but residual heat from the fission process was still being released. By early morning, the core had heated to over 4,000 degrees, just 1,000 degrees short of meltdown. As the plant operators struggled to understand what had happened, the...

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On This Day, March 27, 1866 – Andrew Johnson Vetoes Civil Rights for Blacks

1866 – U.S. President Andrew Johnson vetoed the civil rights bill, which later became the 14th amendment. A little over a month after becoming president, Johnson began executing his plan for reconstructing the South. Johnson pardoned all rebels except Confederate leaders. He also restored all rebel property except for slaves. Finally, he authorized each rebel state to call a convention of white delegates to draw up a new constitution. Once completed, a new state government could then be formed, and the state could apply for readmission to the Union. During the summer of 1865, the rebel states held their constitutional conventions, followed by elections to choose state and federal government representatives. None of the new state constitutions allowed the black freedmen to vote. President Johnson himself opposed the idea of ex-slaves voting. “It would breed a war of races,” Johnson said. When Congress finally met in early December, the...

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On This Day, March 26, 1943 – Nazis Begin Mass Transportation of Jews to Auschwitz

1942 – The Nazis began mass transportation of Jews to Auschwitz in Poland. People were transported to Auschwitz-Birkenau by trains, from all over Nazi-occupied Europe. They were generally sent in freight cars or cattle trucks. Often they travelled for days without toilet facilities and with nothing to eat or drink. Originally, the railway cars arrived at the old ramp of Birkenau, 1 km southeast of the entrance gate. From May 1944 they continued into Auschwitz II (Birkenau / Brzezinka) itself, along a specially constructed spur. The majority of the people, sent in these transports, were murdered in gas chambers directly on arrival. Their names never appeared in the camp records, so that it is very difficult to determine precisely how many perished from these transports. Those the SS deemed fit for work were not murdered immediately but were used as slave labourers. They were given striped prison clothing and a prisoner...

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On This Day, March 25, 1911 – Fire Breaks Out at the Triangle Shirtwaist Company 

1911 – In New York City, 146 women were killed in fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist Company in New York City. On Saturday, March 25, 1911, a fire broke out on the top floors of the Triangle Shirtwaist factory. Firefighters arrived at the scene, but their ladders weren’t tall enough to reach the upper floors of the 10-story building. Trapped inside because the owners had locked the fire escape exit doors, workers jumped to their deaths. In a half an hour, the fire was over, and 146 of the 500 workers—mostly young women — were dead. The shirtwaist makers, as young as age 15, worked seven days a week, from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. with a half-hour lunch break. During the busy season, the work was nearly non-stop. They were paid about $6 per week. In some cases, they were required to use their own needles, thread, irons...

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On This Day, March 24, 1989 – The Exxon Valdez Runs Aground

1989 – The Exxon Valdez spilled 240,000 barrels (11 million gallons) of oil in Alaska’s Prince William Sound after it ran aground. On March 24, 1989, the tanker Exxon Valdez, en route from Valdez, Alaska to Los Angeles, California, ran aground on Bligh Reef in Prince William Sound, Alaska. The vessel was traveling outside normal shipping lanes in an attempt to avoid ice. Within six hours of the grounding, the Exxon Valdez spilled approximately 10.9 million gallons of its 53 million gallon cargo of Prudhoe Bay crude oil. Eight of the eleven tanks on board were damaged. The oil would eventually impact over 1,100 miles of non-continuous coastline in Alaska, making the Exxon Valdez the largest oil spill to date in U.S. waters. The response to the Exxon Valdez involved more personnel and equipment over a longer period of time than did any other spill in U.S. history. Logistical...

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On This Day, Mar. 23, 1919, Mussolini Founds the Fascist party

Benito Mussolini, an Italian World War I veteran and publisher of Socialist newspapers, breaks with the Italian Socialists and establishes the nationalist Fasci di Combattimento, named after the Italian peasant revolutionaries, or “Fighting Bands,” from the 19th century. Commonly known as the Fascist Party, Mussolini’s new right-wing organization advocated Italian nationalism, had black shirts for uniforms, and launched a program of terrorism and intimidation against its leftist opponents. In October 1922, Mussolini led the Fascists on a march on Rome, and King Emmanuel III, who had little faith in Italy’s parliamentary government, asked Mussolini to form a new government. Initially, Mussolini, who was appointed prime minister at the head of a three-member Fascist cabinet, cooperated with the Italian parliament, but aided by his brutal police organization he soon became the effective dictator of Italy. In 1924, a Socialist backlash was suppressed, and in January 1925 a Fascist state was...

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On This Day, Mar 22, 1947 -Truman Orders Loyalty Checks of Federal Employees

In response to public fears and Congressional investigations into communism in the United States, President Harry S. Truman issues an executive decree establishing a sweeping loyalty investigation of federal employees. As the Cold War began to develop after World War II, fears concerning communist activity in the United States, particularly in the federal government, increased. Congress had already launched investigations of communist influence in Hollywood, and laws banning communists from teaching positions were being instituted in several states. Of most concern to the Truman administration, however, were persistent charges that communists were operating in federal offices. In response to these fears and concerns, Truman issued an executive order on March 21, 1947, which set up a program to check the loyalty of federal employees. In announcing his order, Truman indicated that he expected all federal workers to demonstrate “complete and unswerving loyalty” the United States. Anything less, he declared,...

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On This Day, Mar. 21, 1980, Carter Announces Olympic Boycott

On this day in 1980, President Jimmy Carter announces that the U.S. will boycott the Olympic Games scheduled to take place in Moscow that summer. The announcement came after the Soviet Union failed to comply with Carter’s February 20, 1980, deadline to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan. The Soviet military invaded Afghanistan in 1979 to reinforce the country’s communist regime against Islamic rebel forces. In a statement made after the invasion, Carter rebuked the Soviet Union, specifically Premier Leonid Brezhnev, and decried the invasion as a deliberate effort by a powerful atheistic government to subjugate an independent Islamic people that he called a stepping stone to control over oil supplies.” Brezhnev dismissed Carter’s statements as bellicose and wicked. The invasion threatened to revive the Cold War, which, during the late 1970s, had appeared to undergo a temporary thaw.  Carter said his opinion of the Russians has changed...

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On This Day, Mar. 20, 1965, LBJ Sends Federal Troops to Alabama

On this day in 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson notifies Alabama‘s Governor George Wallace that he will use federal authority to call up the Alabama National Guard in order to supervise a planned civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery. Intimidation and discrimination had earlier prevented Selma’s black population–over half the city–from registering and voting. On Sunday, March 7, 1965, a group of 600 demonstrators marched on the capital city of Montgomery to protest this disenfranchisement and the earlier killing of a black man, Jimmie Lee Jackson, by a state trooper. In brutal scenes that were later broadcast on television, state and local police attacked the marchers with billy clubs and tear gas. TV viewers far and wide were outraged by the images, and a protest march was organized just two days after “Bloody Sunday” by Martin Luther King, Jr., head of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). King...

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On This Day, Mar 19, 2003 – War in Iraq Begins

On this day in 2003, the United States, along with coalition forces primarily from the United Kingdom, initiates war on Iraq. Just after explosions began to rock Baghdad, Iraq’s capital, U.S. President George W. Bush announced in a televised address, “At this hour, American and coalition forces are in the early stages of military operations to disarm Iraq, to free its people and to defend the world from grave danger.” President Bush and his advisors built much of their case for war on the idea that Iraq, under dictator Saddam Hussein, possessed or was in the process of building weapons of mass destruction. Hostilities began about 90 minutes after the U.S.-imposed deadline for Saddam Hussein to leave Iraq or face war passed. The first targets, which Bush said were “of military importance,” were hit with Tomahawk cruise missiles from U.S. fighter-bombers and warships stationed in the Persian Gulf. In...

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On This Day, Mar 18, 1999 – Three Women are Murdered at Yosemite

On this day in 1999, the bodies of Carole Sund and Silvina Pelosso are found in a charred rental car in a remote wooded area of Long Barn, Califonia. The women, along with Sund’s daughter Juli, had been missing since February when they were last seen alive at the Cedar Lodge near Yosemite National Park. Juli Sund’s body was found thirty miles away a week after the car was found. The mysterious disappearance of the three women had drawn national attention and landed them on the cover of People magazine. Compounding the mystery, Carole Sund’s wallet had been found on a street in downtown Modesto, California, three days after they had disappeared. Police and the FBI initially focused their investigation on Eugene Dykes, Michael Larwick, and a group of methamphetamine users in Northern California. However, all these leads went up in smoke in July when Joie Ruth Armstrong, a...

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On This Day, Mar 17, 1776 – British Evacuate Boston

On this day in 1776, British forces are forced to evacuate Boston following General George Washington’s successful placement of fortifications and cannons on Dorchester Heights, which overlooks the city from the south. During the evening of March 4, American Brigadier General John Thomas, under orders from Washington, secretly led a force of 800 soldiers and 1,200 workers to Dorchester Heights and began fortifying the area. To cover the sound of the construction, American cannons, besieging Boston from another location, began a noisy bombardment of the outskirts of the city. By the morning, more than a dozen cannons from Fort Ticonderoga had been brought within the Dorchester Heights fortifications. British General Sir William Howe hoped to use the British ships in Boston Harbor to destroy the American position, but a storm set in, giving the Americans ample time to complete the fortifications and set up their artillery. Realizing their position...

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On This Day, Mar 16,1988 – Reagan Orders Troops into Honduras

As part of his continuing effort to put pressure on the leftist Sandinista government in Nicaragua, President Ronald Reagan orders over 3,000 U.S. troops to Honduras, claiming that Nicaraguan soldiers had crossed its borders. As with so many of the other actions taken against Nicaragua during the Reagan years, the result was only more confusion and criticism. Since taking office in 1981, the Reagan administration had used an assortment of means to try to remove the leftist Sandinista government of Nicaragua. President Reagan charged that the Sandinistas were pawns of the Soviet Union and were establishing a communist beachhead in the Western Hemisphere, though there was little evidence to support such an accusation. Nonetheless, Reagan’s administration used economic and diplomatic pressure attempting to destabilize the Sandinista regime. Reagan poured millions of dollars of U.S. military and economic aid into the so-called “Contras,” anti-Sandinista rebels operating out of Honduras and...

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This Day in History, March 15, 44 BC – Julius Caesar is Assassinated

44 BC – Roman Emperor Julius Caesar was assassinated by high-ranking Roman Senators. The day is known as the “Ides of March.” Caesar was scheduled to leave Rome to fight in a war on March 18 and had appointed loyal members of his army to rule the Empire in his absence. The Republican senators, already chafing at having to abide by Caesar’s decrees, were particularly angry about the prospect of taking orders from Caesar’s underlings. Cassius Longinus started the plot against the dictator, quickly getting his brother-in-law Marcus Brutus to join. Caesar should have been well aware that many of the senators hated him, but he dismissed his security force not long before his assassination. Reportedly, Caesar was handed a warning note as he entered the senate meeting that day but did not read it. After he entered the hall, Caesar was surrounded by senators holding daggers. Servilius Casca...

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On This Day, March 14, 1914 – Henry Ford Announces the Assembly Line

1914 – Henry Ford announced the new continuous motion method to assemble cars. The moving assembly line appeared to the onlooker to be an endless contraption of chains and links that allowed Model T parts to swim through the sea of the assembly process. In total, the manufacturing of the car could be broken down into 84 steps. The key to the process, however, was having interchangeable parts. Unlike other cars of the time, the Model T featured interchangeable parts, which meant that every Model T produced on that line used the exact same valves, gas tanks, tires, etc. so that they could be assembled in a speedy and organized fashion. Parts were created in mass quantities and then brought directly to the workers who were trained to work at that specific assembly station. The chassis of the car was pulled down the 150-foot line by a chain conveyor...

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On This Day, March 13, 1519 – Cortez Arrives in Mexico

1519 – Hernando Cortez landed in Mexico. When the Spanish arrived, normally they would have been captured and sacrificed immediately. That’s how the Aztecs did things. But, in the 1500s, when the Spanish conquistador, Hernan Cortes, entered Aztec territory with a small band of his men, the Aztec misunderstood why they were there. The Aztecs through they were sent by their god, Quetzalcoatl. Quetzalcoatl, a very important god to the Aztecs, had vowed he would appear when the end of the world was near, to save the Aztec people. The Aztecs always believed the end of the world was near. That’s why they sacrificed so many people. They were trying to keep their gods happy so the god would postpone the end of the world. The longer the Spanish stayed in the capital city, the more suspicious the Aztec leaders became. The Spanish did not act like gods. They did...

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On this Day, March 12, 1912 – The Girl Guides of America were Established

1912 – The Girl Scout organization was founded. The original name was Girl Guides. Even before the foundation of an Association, groups of Guides existed in Australia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, New Zealand and South Africa. By 1912 there were also groups in Ireland, Portugal, Norway and the USA. Juliette (Daisy) Gordon Low founded Girl Scouting in the USA in 1912 and her vision of worldwide Girl Guiding/Girl Scouting made a powerful contribution to its development. She assembled 18 girls from Savannah, Georgia, on 12 March 1912, for a local Girl Scout meeting. She believed that all girls should be given the opportunity to develop physically, mentally, and spiritually. 1496 – Jews were expelled from Syria.  1609 – The Bermuda Islands became an English colony.  1664 – New Jersey became a British colony. King Charles II granted land in the New World to his brother James (The Duke of York). ...

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On This Day in History, March 11, 1901– The Launch of US Steel

1901 – U.S. Steel was formed when industrialist J.P. Morgan purchased Carnegie Steep Corp. The event made Andrew Carnegie the world’s richest man.  When founded in 1901, United States Steel Corporation was the largest business enterprise ever launched, with an authorized capitalization of $1.4 billion. Today, over a century after its founding, U. S. Steel remains the largest integrated steel producer headquartered in the United States.

U. S. Steel had its origins in the dealings of some of America’s most legendary businessmen, including Andrew Carnegie, J.P. Morgan, and Charles Schwab. However, its principal architect was Elbert H. Gary, who also became U. S. Steel’s first chairman. At the turn of the century, a group headed by Gary and Morgan bought Carnegie’s steel company and combined it with their holdings in the Federal Steel Company. These two companies became the nucleus of U. S. Steel, which also included American Steel & Wire Co., National Tube Company, American Tin Plate...

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On This Day, March 10, 1776 – Thomas Paine Offers the Colonies a Bit of ‘Common Sense’

1776 – “Common Sense” by Thomas Paine was published. Common Sense was a pamphlet written by Thomas Paine in 1775–76 that inspired people in the Thirteen Colonies to declare and fight for independence from Great Britain in the summer of 1776. The pamphlet explained the advantages of and the need for immediate independence in clear, simple language. It was published anonymously on January 10, 1776, at the beginning of the American Revolution and became an immediate sensation. It was sold and distributed widely and read aloud at taverns and meeting places. Washington had it read to all his troops, which at the time had surrounded the British army in Boston. In proportion to the population of the colonies at that time (2.5 million), it had the largest sale and circulation of any book published in American history. As of 2006, it remains the all-time best selling American title. Common Sense...

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On This Day, March 9, 1933 – Congress Begins Work on The New Deal

1933 – The U.S. Congress began its 100 days of enacting New Deal legislation. The New Deal was orchestrated by a core group of FDR advisors brought in from academia and industry known as the “Brains Trust” who, in their first “hundred days” in office, helped FDR enact fifteen major laws. One of the most significant of these was the Banking Act of 1933, which finally brought an end to the panic that gripped the nation’s banking system. The success of the Banking Act, depended in large measure on the willingness of the American people to once again place their faith—and money—in their local banks. To ensure this, FDR turned to the radio, and in the first of his many “fireside chats,” convinced the American people the crisis was over and that their deposits—backed by the newly established the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) — were safe. Other significant...

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On This Day, Mar 8, 1951 – The Lonely Hearts Killers are Executed

The Lonely Hearts Killers, Martha Beck and Raymond Martinez Fernandez, are executed in the electric chair at Sing Sing Prison in New York. The strange couple had schemed to seduce, rob and murder women who placed personal ads in newspapers. Beck and Fernandez boasted to killing as many as seventeen women in this manner, but evidence suggests that there may have been only four victims. Martha Beck was an extremely overweight, and by all reports, unattractive woman when she joined a lonely hearts club advertised in a romance magazine. Her first letter came from Ray Fernandez in Brooklyn. After World War II, he suffered a serious head injury in an accident that left him bald and with serious headaches. He became a petty criminal and wore a cheap black toupee to cover up his baldness. He convinced himself that he had a power over women that could turn them into...

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On This Day, Mar. 7, 1999, Stanley Kubrick Dies

On March 7, 1999, American filmmaker Stanley Kubrick dies in Hertfordshire, England, at the age of 70. One of the most acclaimed film directors of the 20th century, Kubrick’s 13 feature films explored the dark side of human nature. Born in New York City in 1928, Kubrick took up photography in high school and became a staff photographer for Look magazine at age 17. A photo assignment on boxing inspired him to make The Day of the Fight, a short documentary film about boxing, in 1951. The short was bought by a news service, and he made two more documentaries before making a short feature-length film, Fear and Desire (1953), which dealt with war. The movie, produced independently, received little attention outside New York, where critics praised Kubrick’s directorial talents. Kubrick’s next two feature films, Killer’s Kiss (1955) and The Killing (1956), brought him to the attention of Hollywood,...

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On This Day, Mar. 6, 1951, The Rosenberg Trial Begins

The trial of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg begins in New York Southern District federal court. Judge Irving R. Kaufman presides over the espionage prosecution of the couple accused of selling nuclear secrets to the Russians (treason could not be charged because the United States was not at war with the Soviet Union). The Rosenbergs, and co-defendant, Morton Sobell, were defended by the father and son team of Emanuel and Alexander Bloch. The prosecution includes the infamous Roy Cohn, best known for his association with Senator Joseph McCarthy. David Greenglass was a machinist at Los Alamos, where America developed the atomic bomb. Julius Rosenberg, his brother-in-law, was a member of the American Communist Party and was fired from his government job during the Red Scare. According to Greenglass, Rosenberg asked him to pass highly confidential instructions on making atomic weapons to the Soviet Union. These materials were transferred to the...

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On This Day, Mar. 5, 1946, Churchill Delivers Iron Curtain Speech

In one of the most famous orations of the Cold War period, former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill condemns the Soviet Union’s policies in Europe and declares, “From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the continent.” Churchill’s speech is considered one of the opening volleys announcing the beginning of the Cold War. Churchill, who had been defeated for re-election as prime minister in 1945, was invited to Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri where he gave this speech. President Harry S. Truman joined Churchill on the platform and listened intently to his speech. Churchill began by praising the United States, which he declared stood “at the pinnacle of world power.” It soon became clear that a primary purpose of his talk was to argue for an even closer “special relationship” between the United States and Great Britain—the great powers of the...

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On This Day, Mar. 4, 1944, The Head of Murder, Inc. is Executed

Louis “Lepke” Buchalter, the head of Murder, Inc., is executed at Sing Sing Prison in New York. Lepke was the leader of the country’s largest crime syndicate throughout the 1930s and was making nearly $50 million a year from his various enterprises. His downfall came when several members of his notorious killing squad turned into witnesses for the government. Lepke began his criminal career robbing pushcarts as a teenager. When he met Jacob “Gurrah” Shapiro while trying to rob the same pushcart, the two quickly became a formidable team. With Shapiro’s brute strength, the two established an extortion business, forcing pushcart owners to pay for protection. Lepke and Shapiro then joined Jacob “Little Augie” Orgen’s Lower East Side gang and turned their attention to bigger game. One by one, Lepke and the gang terrorized the local garment workers unions. They took over control of the unions and forced kickback payments...

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On This Day, Mar. 3, 1991, Police Brutality Caught on Video

At 12:45 a.m. on March 3, 1991, robbery parolee Rodney G. King stops his car after leading police on a nearly 8-mile pursuit through the streets of Los Angeles, California. The chase began after King, who was intoxicated, was caught speeding on a freeway by a California Highway Patrol cruiser but refused to pull over. Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) cruisers and a police helicopter joined the pursuit, and when King was finally stopped by Hansen Dam Park, several police cars descended on his white Hyundai. A group of LAPD officers led by Sergeant Stacey Koon ordered King and the other two occupants of the car to exit the vehicle and lie flat on the ground. King’s two friends complied, but King himself was slower to respond, getting on his hands and knees rather than lying flat. Officers Laurence Powell, Timothy Wind, Ted Briseno, and Roland Solano tried to...

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On This Day, Mar 2, 1807 – Congress Abolishes the African Slave Trade

The U.S. Congress passes an act to “prohibit the importation of slaves into any port or place within the jurisdiction of the United States…from any foreign kingdom, place, or country.” The first shipload of African captives to North America arrived at Jamestown, Virginia, in August 1619, but for most of the 17th century, European indentured servants were far more numerous in the North American British colonies than were African slaves. However, after 1680, the flow of indentured servants sharply declined, leading to an explosion in the African slave trade. By the middle of the 18th century, slavery could be found in all 13 colonies and was at the core of the Southern colonies’ agricultural economy. By the time of the American Revolution, the English importers alone had brought some three million captive Africans to the Americas. After the war, as slave labor was not a crucial element of the...

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On This Day, March 1, 1692 – Trials for Witches in Salem Begins

1562 – In Vassy, France, Catholics massacred over 1,000 Huguenots. The event started the First War of Religion.  1692 – In Salem Village, in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, the Salem witch trials began. Four women were the first to be charged. More than 200 people were accused of practicing witchcraft — the Devil’s magic — and 20 were executed. Eventually, the colony admitted the trials were a mistake and compensated the families of those convicted. Since then, the story of the trials has become synonymous with paranoia and injustice, and it continues to beguile the popular imagination more than 300 years later.ß 1781 – In America, the Continental Congress adopted the Articles of Confederation.  1790 – The U.S. Congress authorized the first U.S. census.  1845 – U.S. President Tyler signed the congressional resolution to annex the Republic of Texas.  1864 – Louis Ducos de Hauron patented a machine for taking and projecting motion pictures. du Hauron was...

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On This Day, Feb. 28, 1993 – The Waco, Texas Siege Begins

1993 – U.S. Federal agents raided the compound of an armed religious cult in Waco, TX. David Koresh, the leader of the Branch Davidians in Waco, Texas, thought he was an angel and an agent of God. The government thought he was in possession of illegal firearms and explosives, as well as a criminal who physically and sexually abused several children he fathered with his followers. On February 28th, 1993, about 70 highly militarized agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) approached Mount Carmel, the compound of a controversial Branch Davidian religious group near Waco. When cult leader David Koresh came to the front door on the 28th of February, shots were fired — to this day, no one is sure who fired first. Koresh was hit in his side, and his father-in-law was mortally wounded. Overhead, helicopters began to spray the compound with return fire...

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On This Day, Feb. 27, 1973 – American Indian Movement Occupies Wounded Knee

1973 – The American Indian Movement occupied Wouned Knee in South Dakota. On that winter day in 1973, a large group of armed American Indians reclaimed Wounded Knee in the name of the Lakota Nation. During the preceding months of the Wounded Knee occupation, civil war brewed among the Oglala people. There became a clear-cut between the traditional Lakota people and the more progressive minded government supporters. The traditional people wanted more independence from the Federal Government, as well as honoring of the 1868 Sioux treaty. According to the 1868 treaty, the Black Hills of South Dakota still belonged to the Sioux people, and the traditional people wanted the Federal Government to honor their treaty by returning the sacred Black Hills to the Sioux people. Another severe problem on the Pine Ridge reservation was the strip mining of the land. The chemicals used by the mining operations were poisoning...

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On This Day, Feb. 26, 1993 – 1,000 Injured as Bomb Rocks World Trade Center

1993 – Six people were killed and more than a thousand injured when a van exploded in the parking garage beneath the World Trade Center in New York City. The World Trade Center bombing plot began in the months before September 1, 1992, when two of the main conspirators, Ahmad Ajaj and Ramzi Yousef, arrived in the United States from Pakistan. Upon detecting his poorly falsified Swedish passport, customs agents detained Ajaj and confiscated his suitcase, which contained bombing manuals and anti-American propaganda. Yousef, traveling on an Iraqi passport bearing the name Abdel Basit Mahmoud, requested political asylum. He was arrested for entering the United States without a visa but was released on his own recognizance and allowed into the country. While Ajaj waited in jail, Yousef allegedly began to implement a plan that aimed at toppling the twin towers of the World Trade Center. On October 1 he...

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On This Day, Feb. 25, 1836 – Samuel Colt Patents the Revolver

1836 – Connecticut-born gun manufacturer Samuel Colt (1814-62) received a U.S. patent for a revolver mechanism that enabled a gun to be fired multiple times without reloading. Colt’s revolver mechanism is considered by some to be more innovation than invention because it improved upon a revolving flintlock (a firing mechanism used in muskets and rifles) already patented by Boston inventor Elisha Collier (1788-1856). The British patent for Colt’s mechanism was acquired in October 1835, and on February 25, 1836, the American inventor received U.S. Patent No. 138 (later 9430X) for his revolving-cylinder pistol. The enhancements listed in this patent include greater “facility in loading,” changes in “the weight and location of the cylinder, which give steadiness to the hand,” and “the great rapidity in the succession of discharges.” Colt’s Patent Arms Manufacturing Company began making the Paterson pistol in 1836 at its Paterson, New Jersey, factory using funds advanced...

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On This Day, Feb. 24, 1868 – House Impeaches President Andrew Johnson

1868 – The U.S. House of Representatives impeached President Andrew Johnson due to his attempt to dismiss Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton. The final blow came after the passage of the Tenure of Office Act in 1867. This law made it impossible for the president to dismiss important government officials without the permission of the Senate. In a move than infuriated Congressmen, Johnson defied the act. The president had long wanted to dismiss the Secretary of War, Edwin M. Stanton. Stanton was the only member of Johnson’s cabinet who supported the Radical Republicans’ program for reconstruction. On August 12, Johnson suspended Stanton. In his place, Johnson appointed the popular General Ulysses S. Grant Secretary of War. By doing so, Johnson hoped to challenge the constitutionality of the Tenure of Office Act. When Congress reconvened, they overruled Stanton’s suspension, and Grant resigned his position. The event heightened Grant’s popularity and depressed...

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On This Day, Feb. 23, 1836 – The Battle for the Alamo Begins

1836 – In San Antonio, TX, the siege of the Alamo began. On February 23, 1836, the arrival of General Antonio López de Santa Anna’s army outside San Antonio nearly caught them by surprise. Undaunted, the Texans and Tejanos prepared to defend the Alamo together. The defenders held out for 13 days against Santa Anna’s army. William B. Travis, the commander of the Alamo sent forth couriers carrying pleas for help to communities in Texas. On the eighth day of the siege, a band of 32 volunteers from Gonzales arrived, bringing the number of defenders to nearly two hundred. Legend holds that with the possibility of additional help fading, Colonel Travis drew a line on the ground and asked any man willing to stay and fight to step over — all except one did. As the defenders saw it, the Alamo was the key to the defense of Texas,...

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On This Day, Feb 22, 2006 – Gang Commits Largest Robbery in British History

In the early morning hours of February 22, 2006, a gang of at least six men, some of them armed, steal £53 million from the Securitas bank depot in Kent, Great Britain. It was the largest such theft in British history. The plot was well planned. On the evening before, two men, dressed as police officers, pulled the depot manager, Colin Dixon, over as he was driving in nearby Stockbury. They convinced him to get out of his car, and forced him into their vehicle. At about the same time, two more men visited Dixon’s home and picked up Dixon’s wife and eight-year-old son; eventually all three Dixons were taken to a farm in West Kent, where the gang threatened their lives if Colin refused to cooperate with the robbery. The Dixons were then forced to go with the gang to the Securitas depot, where Colin helped them evade...

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On This Day, Feb 21, 1965 – Malcolm X Assassinated

In New York City, Malcolm X, an African American nationalist and religious leader, is assassinated by rival Black Muslims while addressing his Organization of Afro-American Unity at the Audubon Ballroom in Washington Heights. Born Malcolm Little in Omaha, Nebraska, in 1925, Malcolm was the son of James Earl Little, a Baptist preacher who advocated the black nationalist ideals of Marcus Garvey. Threats from the Ku Klux Klan forced the family to move to Lansing, Michigan, where his father continued to preach his controversial sermons despite continuing threats. In 1931, Malcolm’s father was brutally murdered by the white supremacist Black Legion, and Michigan authorities refused to prosecute those responsible. In 1937, Malcolm was taken from his family by welfare caseworkers. By the time he reached high school age, he had dropped out of school and moved to Boston, where he became increasingly involved in criminal activities. In 1946, at the...

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On This Day, Feb. 20, 1993, Fire Engulfs Nightclub During Great White Show

The most famous contract rider in rock-and-roll history may be the one Van Halen used that stipulated that “There will be no brown M&M’s in the backstage area, upon pain of forfeiture of the show, with full compensation.” The most tragic contract rider in history, on the other hand, was the one sent ahead to the small bars and nightclubs on the 2003 tour of  “Jack Russell’s Great White,” the touring remnant of the group behind late-80s hits like “Once Bitten, Twice Shy.” That rider led, in a very direct way, to the deaths of 100 concert-goers in The Station nightclub fire in West Warwick, Rhode Island, on this day in 2003. Even in its heyday, Great White was no Van Halen. Yet one can be sure that the contract rider enumerating their onstage and backstage needs circa 1988 must have looked rather different from the one they were...

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On This Day, Feb 19, 1970, The Chicago Seven Sentenced

The Chicago Seven (formerly the Chicago Eight–one defendant, Bobby Seale, was being tried separately) are acquitted of riot conspiracy charges, but found guilty of inciting riot. The eight antiwar activists were charged with the responsibility for the violent demonstrations at the August 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. The defendants included David Dellinger of the National Mobilization Committee (NMC); Rennie Davis and Thomas Hayden of the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS); Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin, founders of the Youth International Party (“Yippies”); Bobby Seale of the Black Panthers; and two lesser known activists, Lee Weiner and John Froines. The defendants were charged with conspiracy to cross state lines with intent to incite a riot.  Attorneys William Kunstler and Leonard Weinglass represented all but Seale.  The trial, presided over by Judge Julius Hoffman, turned into a circus as the defendants and their attorneys used the court as a...

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On This Day, Feb. 18, 1967, J. Robert Oppenheimer Dies

On February 18, 1967, J. Robert Oppenheimer, the “father of the atomic bomb,” dies in Princeton, New Jersey, at the age of 62. An expert in quantum theory and nuclear physics, he was enlisted into the fledgling U.S. atomic weapons program in 1941. In 1942, the “Manhattan Project,” as the program became known, was greatly expanded, and Oppenheimer was asked to establish and direct a secret laboratory to carry out the assignment. He chose Los Alamos, a site in the New Mexico desert that he had visited earlier in life, and together with some of the world’s top physicists began work on the bomb. On July 16, 1945, the world’s first atomic bomb was exploded at the “Trinity” test site in Alamogordo, New Mexico, and only three weeks later the United States dropped the first of two bombs on Japan. Over 200,000 Japanese eventually perished as a result of...

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On This Day, Feb. 17, 1966, Brian Wilson’s Masterpiece Takes Root

From the very beginning, the Beach Boys had a sound that was unmistakably their own, but without resident genius Brian Wilson pushing them into deeper waters with his songwriting and production talents, songs like “Surfin’ Safari” and “Surfin’ U.S.A.” might have been their greatest legacy. While the rest of the band toured during their mid-60s heyday, Wilson lost himself in the recording studio, creating the music for an album—Pet Sounds—that is widely regarded as one of the all-time best, and a single—”Good Vibrations”—on which he lavished more time, attention and money than had ever been spent previously on a single recording. Brian Wilson rolled tape on take one of “Good Vibrations” on February 17, 1966. Six months, four studios and $50,000 later, he finally completed his three-minute-and-thirty-nine-second symphony, pieced together from more than 90 hours of tape recorded during literally hundreds of sessions. Brian Wilson began “Good Vibrations” that...

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On This Day, Feb 16, 1959 – Castro Sworn In

On February 16, 1959, Fidel Castro is sworn in as prime minister of Cuba after leading a guerrilla campaign that forced right-wing dictator Fulgencio Batista into exile. Castro, who became commander in chief of Cuba’s armed forces after Batista was ousted on January 1, replaced the more moderate Miro Cardona as head of the country’s new provisional government. Castro was born in the Oriente province in eastern Cuba, the son of a Spanish immigrant who had made a fortune building rail systems to transport sugar cane. He became involved in revolutionary politics while a student and in 1947 took part in an abortive attempt by Dominican exiles and Cubans to overthrow Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo. In the next year, he took part in urban riots in Bogota, Colombia. The most outstanding feature of his politics during the period was his anti-American beliefs; he was not yet an overt Marxist....

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On This Day, Feb. 15, 1946 – Major League Baseball Gets First Female Scout

1946 – Edith Houghton, at age 33, was signed as a baseball scout by the Philadelphia Phillies becoming the first female scout in the major leagues. There are different accounts about why Houghton got the job. Some say she bowled over the Phillies’ president, Robert Carpenter, with an uncanny grasp of the game. Others mention the scrapbook she brought along, bulging with newspaper clippings documenting her impressive career as a player in the 1920s and ’30s on the women’s national baseball circuit known as the Bloomer Girls league. Philadelphia sportswriters, bitter at the team’s decade-long swoon at or near the bottom of the standings, said the Phillies had hired her simply because they had nothing to lose. Named to the Phillies’ scouting corps by owner R. R. M. Carpenter, Jr., after the Second World War, when the Phillies transformed themselves from habitual last-place finishers to 1950 National League champions...

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On This Day, Feb. 14, 1946 – ENIAC, The First Electronic Computer, is Unveiled

1946 – ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer) was unveiled. The device, built at the University of Pennsylvania, was the world’s first general purpose electronic computer. Hailed by The New York Times as “an amazing machine which applies electronic speeds for the first time to mathematical tasks hitherto too difficult and cumbersome for solution,” the ENIAC was a revolutionary piece of machinery in its day. In 1942, physicist John Mauchly proposed an all-electronic calculating machine. The U.S. Army, meanwhile, needed to calculate complex wartime ballistics tables. Proposal met patron. The result was ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator And Computer), built between 1943 and 1945—the first large-scale computer to run at electronic speed without being slowed by any mechanical parts. ENIAC glowed with an unprecedented 18,000 vacuum tubes. To keep so many working simultaneously, Engineers created strict circuit design guidelines to maximize reliability. They ran extensive tests on components and avoided pushing them...

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On This Day, Feb. 13, 1633 – Galileo Galilei Arrives in Rome to Face the Inquisition

1633 – Galileo Galilei arrived in Rome for trial before the Inquisition. Galileo’s belief in the Copernican System eventually got him into trouble with the Catholic Church. A committee of consultants declared to the Inquisition, a permanent institution in the Catholic Church charged with the eradication of heresies, that the Copernican proposition that the Sun is the center of the universe was a heresy. Because Galileo supported the Copernican system, he was warned by Cardinal Bellarmine, under order of Pope Paul V, that he should not discuss or defend Copernican theories. In 1624, Galileo was assured by Pope Urban VIII that he could write about Copernican theory as long as he treated it as a mathematical proposition. However, with the printing of Galileo’s book, Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems, Galileo was called to Rome in 1633 to face the Inquisition again. Galileo was found guilty of heresy...

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