Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Learn Our History Today: January 31

On today’s date in 1950, President Harry S. (with a period) Truman announced his support to develop the hydrogen bomb.  In contrast to the atomic bombs dropped on Japan during the second World War, the hydrogen bomb was  believed to be hundreds of times more powerful.  Truman approved the massive funding for the development of what he called a “superbomb” for two reasons.  First, five months before Truman’s announcement, the Soviet Union was successful in detonating an atomic bomb at their test site in Kazakhstan.  And second, around the same time, British and U.S. intelligence concluded that a top scientist for the U.S. nuclear program was actually spying for the Soviet Union.   In November, 1952, nearly three years after Truman’s announcement, the U.S. successfully detonated the world’s first hydrogen bomb in the Pacific Martial Islands.  The explosion from  “Mike”, the 10.4 megaton bomb, vaporized an entire island and produced a mushroom cloud that reached 57,000 feet in 90 seconds!  The cloud kept growing, and capped out at 120,000 feet high, stretching 60 miles across.  It took the Soviet Union three years to create and detonate their own Hydrogen bomb, which they exploded in November, 1955.

Also on this day in 1971, Apollo 14 launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida on a manned mission to the moon.   The third lunar landing occurred five days later on February 5, and on February 9, Apollo 14 and crew safely returned to the Earth, along with 96 pounds of lunar samples.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Learn Our History Today: January 30

Here’s something you probably didn’t learn in history class...On January 30, 1835, Andrew Jackson was almost assassinated.  As the president was leaving a congressional funeral at the Capitol building, an unemployed house painter named Richard Lawrence attempted to shoot Jackson, but his gun misfired.  Infuriated by the attempt, the president approached Lawrence and beat him several times with his walking cane!  During the brawl, Lawrence pulled out a second pistol and attempted to shoot the president, but the second gun also misfired - clearly, the assassination wasn’t meant to be and historians believe the double misfire was due to humid weather. The attempt on Jackson’s life was the first attempt to ever assassinate a president of the United States.  Lawrence’s reason for the attempt on Jackson’s life was simply that he blamed the president for the loss of his job.

In other presidential news, Franklin Delano Roosevelt was born on this day in 1882.  If you recall from a recent post, “FDR” was the only president to serve four terms.  FDR died in office on April 12, 1945, leaving his vice president, Harry S. Truman, to succeed him as president.

Without peaking, who can tell us what the “S” in Truman’s name stands for?

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Learn Our History Today: January 29

January 29, 1777...After beginning an assault on Fort Independence on January, 18, 1777, under orders from General George Washington, Major General William Heath and an army of 6,000 abandoned their siege. 

Washington had believed that an attack on Fort Independence would force the British to move troops from New Jersey (where Washington was under attack) to Fort Independence, which was located in Bronx County, New York.

But on January 25, the Bronx River flooded as a result of a rainstorm, which made the battlefield nearly impossible for the Patriots to navigate.  What’s more, the British staged a counterassault, forcing General Health to admit defeat and abandon the battlefield on January 29.

The Patriots, who built the Fort in 1776, burned it as they retreated from New York City.  But the British partially rebuilt it after taking control of the city.  While the Fort withstood the Patriots’ attacks in 1777, it was destroyed when the British evacuated in 1779.

Also on this day in 1843, William McKinley—the 25th U.S. president—was born in Niles, Ohio.  William McKinley served in the white house from 1897 to 1901, when the American automotive industry was just getting started.  Consequently, President McKinley became the very first president to ride in an automobile!  The automobile was a steam-powered Stanley Steamer, built by the Stanley Motor Carriage Company.  When McKinley was assassinated in 1901, his successor’s administration, President Theodor Roosevelt, had a Stanley Steamer.  However, it’s believed that President Roosevelt preferred horses to the Steamer.

And here’s one for baseball fans...On this day in 1936, the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, inducted its first members, Christy Mathewson, Honus Wagner, Walter Johnson, Ty Cobb and, of course, Babe Ruth.  The charter members were elected by members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.

And on January 29, 2002, President George W. Bush gave his first State of the Union Address following the attacks of 9/11.  In the address, the president denounced countries suspected of harboring terrorists and developing weapons of mass destruction.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Learn Our History Today: January 28th

January 28th, 1986 was a tragic day in our nation’s history.  Many of us were watching live TV to see the launch of the space shuttle Challenger.  The Challenger was carrying Christa McAuliffe, a 37-year old social studies teacher who won a competition that let her join in the seven-member crew.  After six days of scrubbed launches due to weather and technical problems, the Challenger finally launched at 11:38a.m. at Cape Canaveral.  Just seventy-three seconds after liftoff, the shuttle exploded, killing all on board while hundreds of families and friends on the ground—and millions watching on TV—witnessed the tragedy unfold before their eyes.

President Reagan responded by assembling an all-star commission to determine what went wrong and to avert future disasters.  Headed by former secretary of state, William Rogers, and served by astronaut Neil Armstrong and test pilot Chuck Yeager, the team determined that the explosion was caused by a failed O-ring seal.  For two years, the shuttle program was halted.  And, in February, 2003, disaster struck again when the space shuttle Columbia disintegrated upon reentry into the atmosphere, killing all aboard.

Do  you remember where you were when the Challenger exploded?  Were you watching it on TV?  Were you at Cape Canaveral?  Share your stories with us.  We read them.  And, please talk to your kids and grandkids about this sad day in our nation’s history.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Learn Our History Today: January 26

On January 26, 1838, Tennessee became the first state to pass a Prohibition law, making it illegal to sell alcoholic beverages in taverns and stores.  The law stated that any person convicted of selling alcohol would be fined at the court’s discretion and any such funds earned from the fines would be used to support public schools.

The prohibition movement was born in the early 19th century out of concerns about the adverse effects of drinking. By the end of the century, several states and individual cities had put prohibition laws in place, and supporters of prohibition were calling for total national abstinence.  This movement led to the 18th Amendment, or “Prohibition Amendment”, which was passed in 1917 and took effect in 1919.  Despite the Amendment, the government could not prevent the distribution of alcohol—organized crime flourished during the 20s.  And in 1933, the 21st Amendment was passed, reversing the 18th Amendment and repealing Prohibition.

And in 1961, after holding office for just one week, President JFK appointed Janet Travell, as his personal physician, making Travell the first woman in history to ever hold the post of physician to the president.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Learn Our History Today: January 25

On January 25, 1942, Thailand declared war on the United States and England.

When war broke out in September 1939, both France and England had hoped Thailand would support the Allied effort.  The reason for this is that both countries had territories that surrounded Thailand, and Thailand’s support would mitigate the Japanese from encroaching on their territories.  However, Thailand swayed in the opposite direction, building strong relations with Japan.

On December 8, 1941, after the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor, Thailand’s prime minister, Lang Pipul collaborated with the Japanese in what was a comprehensive sweep of the South Pacific islands.  By doing this, he embraced the Axis power’s mission to take Chinese territory by force and have a stronghold in the South Pacific.  As Pipul wanted to partake, he declared war against the United States and England.

And on this day in 1971, Charles Manson and three rebellious female followers were convicted of the brutal murder of Sharon Tate and six others in 1969.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Learn Our History Today: January 24

On January 24, 1980, reacting to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan during 1979, the Carter administration announced that it would sell military equipment, excluding weapons, to communist China.  The decision was part of the U.S. effort to secure a stronger relationship with China, which could be used as leverage to thwart possible Soviet aggression.  On the same day, Congress approved most-favored-nation trading status for China, and an agreement was signed for the construction of a Chinese station that would receive American satellite transmissions.
These decisions were all indicative of how seriously the United States perceived the Soviet attack on Afghanistan.  In addition to the above, and in response to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the U.S. and a number of other countries boycotted the 1980 Summer Olympic games in Moscow.

And on this day in 1965, Sir Winston Churchill died in London at the age of 90.  Churchill led Great Britain through World War II and was an important ally to the United States.  He is widely regarded as one of the greatest wartime leaders of the 20th century and served as Britain’s prime minister twice (in 1940-1945 and again in 1951-1955).  Churchill received the Nobel Prize in Literature for his six-volume historical study of World War II and for his political speeches, and he was the first person ever to be made an Honorary Citizen of the United States.  Sir Jacob Epstein crafted a bronze bust of Churchill, which was loaned to George W. Bush after the September 11 attacks and put on display in the White House.  The bust has since been removed.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Learn Our History Today: January 23

On January 23, 1968, the U.S. ship Pueblo was seized by the North Korean navy.  North Korea charged the 83-man crew of the U.S. ship with spying and violating North Korean territorial waters, a charge which the U.S. government vehemently denied.  Negotiations to free the men lasted nearly a year, damaging U.S. public confidence in President Lyndon B. Johnson’s administration.  It wasn’t until December that North Korea freed all the crew and captain, following a grudgingly signed confession from the Pueblo’s captain, Lloyd Bucher, that stated the ship was spying on North Korea.

Other Vietnam War history was made today in 1973, when President Nixon announced that Henry Kissinger and the chief North Vietnamese negotiator, Lo Duc Tho, initialed a peace agreement in Paris “to end the war and bring peace with honor in Vietnam and Southeast Asia.”  The agreement became known as the Paris Peace Accords (although the actual document was titled “An Agreement Ending the War and Restoring Peace in Vietnam”).  It outlined a cease-fire beginning at 8:00a.m., January 28, 1973 (Saigon time).  It also called for the release of all prisoners of war along with the withdrawal of all foreign troops from Vietnam within 60 days.  The document was formally signed on January 27th.

Looking back to World War II, aviator hero Charles Lindbergh suggested to the House Foreign Affairs Committee that the United States should negotiate a neutrality pact with Hitler. 

Lindbergh is known for making the first solo flight from New York to Paris in his plane, the Spirit of St. Louis.  You may also recall that Lindbergh’s two-year-old son was kidnapped and murdered.  Following the crime, Lindbergh and his wife fled the United States to avoid publicity, settling in Europe. 

While there, Lindbergh learned of German advances in aviation, and warned the U.S. of Germany’s growing threat in air superiority.  He also became fascinated with Germany’s national “revitalization” in the mid 1930s and he allowed himself to be decorated by Hitler’s government. 

This move drew staunch criticism back in the States.  When he returned to the states, he testified before Congress on January 23, 1941, opposing the Lend-Lease policy (which offered aid to countries who assisted the U.S. in their war efforts against Axis powers).  He denounced the British, the Jewish and the Roosevelt Administration, calling them instigators of American intervention.  In turn, President Roosevelt publicly denounced Lindbergh, prompting Lindbergh to resign from the Air Corps Reserve.  With all of that said, Lindbergh did eventually contribute to the U.S. war effort by flying dozens of combat missions over the Pacific.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Learn Our History Today: January 21

On January 21, 1738, Revolutionary Patriot and hero Ethan Allen was born in northwestern Connecticut.  As a young man, Allen acquired land north of Connecticut and in 1770, he became the colonel-commandant of the Green Mountain Boys, a militia that defended the New Hampshire Grants.  And in 1777, when colonists in the area formally declared their independence from Britain, Allen played a key role in the creation of the public of Vermont.  But due to differences between Connecticut, Massachusetts and New York who all claimed the territory as their own, Vermont was unable to join the new republic as a state.  It wasn’t until two years after Allen’s death in 1789 that Vermont was made a state, the 14th in America.

Also on this day in 1977, President Jimmy Carter pardoned all who dodged the draft in the Vietnam War, whether the draft dodgers failed to register or simply left the country to avoid service.  Carter issued his pardon on his second day in office to any civilian who was convicted of violating the Military Selective Service Act between August 4, 1964 and March 28, 1973.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Learn Our History Today: January 20

On this day in history, January 20, several US Presidents were inaugurated into office, beginning with President Franklin D. Roosevelt and his second term in 1937.  Prior to this, most presidents were inaugurated on  March 4 (with exception to the presidents who took office following the death of their predecessors), but the 20th Amendment which was passed in 1933 made January 20th the official inauguration date for all future presidents.

It’s common knowledge that our president can serve up to two terms in office, meaning up to two inaugurations, but did you know that President Franklin D. Roosevelt was inaugurated four times?  The two term tradition was an unwritten rule dating back to George Washington’s decision to decline a third-term run in 1796. In 1940, Roosevelt had said he would not run unless he was drafted; well, the delegates ended up nominating him by 946 to 147 on the first ballot, and he went on to win the presidency.  He ran again in 1944, carrying 36 states.  The 22nd Amendment, which was ratified in February 1951, officially set the limit to two terms in office.  In addition, it also limits a president to serving 10 years, in the event one succeeds to the office.

Also on this day in history, the Iran Hostage Crisis ended, just minutes after Ronald Reagan’s inauguration as the 40th president of the United States. Reagan’s first course of business upon entering office was to free the nearly $8 billion in frozen Iranian assets, promoting Iran to release the hostages.

You can teach your children about the Iranian Hostage Crisis and Ronald Reagan’s achievements in Learn Our History’s video, “The Reagan Revolution”, available at http://learnourhistory.com.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Learn Our History Today: January 19

On this day in 1807, Confederate General Robert E. Lee was born in Virginia.  Lee was admired for his brilliant leadership on the battlefield during the Civil War.  He holds a place in history as one of the greatest military leaders for consistently defeating larger Union armies.

Sharing a birthday with General Lee is one of America’s most legendary poets and authors, Edgar Allen Poe, who was born in Boston, Massachusetts two years after Lee, in 1809.  Poe is best known for his dark works such as “The Fall of the House of Usher”, “The Tell-Tale Heart” and his poem, “The Raven.”

And in 1977, President Gerald Ford pardoned Iva Toguri, a Japanese-American woman and American citizen also known as Tokyo Rose.  In July, 1941, Toguri left her hometown of Los Angeles to visit Japan to care for a sick aunt.  She was in Japan during the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and she decided to stay for the duration of the war. 

In August 1943, she got a job working for Radio Tokyo and in November, she began broadcasting as “Orphan Ann” on a radio program referred to as “Zero Hour” .  Under pressure from the Japanese government, Toguri was forced to participate in propaganda broadcast transmissions of psychological warfare against U.S. troops in Japan intended to lower their morale.  While the term Tokyo Rose applied to about 12 English-speaking women who participated in the taunting broadcasts, Toguri became the most famous after the war ended, as the FBI and Army Counterintelligence Corps began extensive reviews of her broadcasts.

Following much accusation and false testimony against Toguri,  she was indicted in September of 1948 and escorted back to the U.S. for trial.  She was found guilty of treason and sentenced to 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.  In 1976, after a journalist named Ron Yates discovered that her accusers had committed perjury, her name was cleared, prompting President Ford to pardon her.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Learn Our History Today: January 18

On January 18, 1778, an English explorer named James Cook discovered the Hawaiian Islands.  The first European to discover the islands, Cook first sailed past Oahu and landed on Kauai two days later.  He named the islands the Sandwich Islands after the earl of Sandwich, John Montague, who was also one of his patrons.

Hawaiian natives welcomed Cook and his crew with open arms.  they were fascinated by Cook’s ships and their use of iron.  It’s believed that the Hawaiians saw Cooks’ visit as a religious phenomenon, and Cook and his crew were welcomed as gods.  The Europeans took advantage of their warm welcome as long as they could, but when one of Cook’s crewmembers died, it was clear they were just mortals and their jig was up!

Also on this day in 1919, the world leaders met in Paris, France, to begin negotiations that marked the end of World War I.  The six month-long conference culminated with the Treaty of Versailles on June 28, 1919, exactly 5 years to the day of the event that led to the beginning of the first world war.  That event, of course, was the shooting death of Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand.

Throughout the Post-World War I conference, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson struggled with his concept of ‘peace without victory’ and strove to make sure that the major losers of the war—the Central Powers—were not treated poorly.  Wilson was met with resistance from the prime ministers of France and Britain who attested that Germany should be punished to ensure its weakness, thereby justifying the cost of the war. 

In the end, Wilson compromised on the treatment of Germany so that he could get his pet project started, which was the international peacekeeping organization called the League of Nations.  Germany wasn’t invited to the conference until May, and they were deeply disturbed by the Treaty, which forced them to forfeit territory, pay substantial repatriations and—under Article 231—accept sole blame for the war. 

As anger and resentment festered in Germany, extremist Adolf Hitler and his National Socialist Party (Nazi) took advantage of the country’s bitter emotions to gain power, which, for the most part, led to the very thing the organizers of the peace conference in Paris wanted to avoid...World War II.

One of the very first Learn Our History episodes is called Origins of World War II.  Why not give your kids the facts and make it fun for them to learn US History.  Visit learnourhistory.com today to take advantage of a special buy one, get one free offer and get your kids started on a lifetime appreciation of history!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Learn Our History Today: January 17

On January 17, 1781, the Battle of Cowpens took place in South Carolina .  An army of Redcoats and British loyalists faced off against Brigadier General Daniel Morgan and his Patriot forces.  In a matchup of roughly 1,100 troops per side, the Patriots scored a huge victory, killing 110 men, wounding 200 and capturing another 500 British troops and loyalists.  In contrast, the Americans lost only 12 men, with another 60 wounded.

And on this day in 1972, President Nixon warned South Vietnamese President Nguyen Van Thieu that it would be impossible for the United States to continue assisting South Vietnam if Thieu refused to sign any negotiated peace agreement.  This came about after Nixon’s National Security Advisor, Henry Kissinger, had been secretly negotiating with North Vietnamese representatives to reach a settlement that would end the war.  Initial negotiations were futile, and by March of 1972, the North Vietnamese launched a massive invasion of South Vietnam.  By December, Kissinger and the North Vietnamese were negotiating again and closer to an agreement.  In early January of the following year, Kissinger and the North Vietnamese negotiator, Le Duc Tho, worked out a settlement and on January 23rd, the Paris Peace Accords were signed and a cease-fire went into effect on January 28th.  Remaining stubborn, Thieu refused to sign the Accords, but finally acquiesced when Nixon promised to aid South Vietnam if the communists violated the peace treaty.

And on January 17, 1994, Paula Jones accused President Bill Clinton of sexual harassment, suing him for $700,000 in damages.