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What Happened Today
12 minutes | Mar 12, 2018
March 12 - 1947 - The Truman Doctrine is Announced
When President of the United States of America Harry S. Truman addresses Congress in March of 1947, he focused on the need to protect Greece and Turkey from Communist influence. Greece was facing an internal insurrection from a Communist Party, while Turkey was facing more obvious threats from the Soviet Union over access to the Bosphorous and the Dardanelles. What Truman really wanted was to avoid having the spreading Soviet sphere of influence include Greece and Turkey. In asking Congress to provide financial aid in this approach, Truman laid out what would be known as the "Truman Doctrine." The Truman Doctrine said that America would seek to help any nation from becoming a Communist-ruled country. This would then influence American foreign policy for the rest of the Cold War.
13 minutes | Mar 11, 2018
March 11 - 1946 - The Arrest of Rudolf Höss
Rudolf Höss became notorious during World War II as the Commandant of the concentration and death camps at Auschwitz in Poland. After the war ended, this made him one of the key leaders among the Third Reich that was wanted by Allied leaders. While he managed to blend into the civilian population initially, Rudolf Höss was given up by his family less than a year after the fall of the Third Reich. What made Höss' capture so notable was that he seemed to have no issue with fully describing his actions during the War, including his system of extermination at the Auschwitz camps. Rudolf Höss was the most efficient leader of any Nazi concentration camp, and he personally oversaw the deaths of millions of people, mostly Polish Jews, but also gypsies and political prisoners. Under arrest, Rudolf Höss was able to give evidence against some of his fellow Nazis, but it did nothing to stop his own execution. In April 1947, Rudolf Höss was hanged at a specially constructed gallows at the former site of the Auschwitz gas chamber.
16 minutes | Mar 3, 2018
March 3 - 1918 - The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk
The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, signed by representatives of Soviet Russia and representatives from the Central Powers, effectively ended World War I on the Eastern Front. In order to do this, Russia had to accept extremely harsh terms regarding territorial claims and concessions. Yet the government of Russia was not the one that had been prosecuting the war, because Russia had undergone two revolutions in 1917, the February Revolution that overthrew the Tsar and the October Revolution that replaced the Provisional Government with a Communist one. The Bolsheviks now in charge of Russia, especially Vladimir Lenin and Leon Trotsky wanted most of all to end the war. More radical Bolsheviks thought eventually revolution would overthrow the governments of the Central Powers. Instead, Soviet Russia agreed to a harsh peace, to focus on a still raging Civil War. Remarkably, the German Empire would quickly cease to exist, which made the historical legacy of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk much less impactful than it seemed at the time.
8 minutes | Mar 2, 2018
March 2 - 1882 - Roderick Maclean Attempts to Assassinate Queen Victoria
Roderick McLean approached Queen Victoria's carriage as it left Windsor Castle with a pistol, because she had given a curt reply to some poetry he had sent her. It turned out McLean was more unimpressive as an assassin than a poet. His shot missed the Queen's carriage completely, and he was brought to the ground by boys wielding umbrellas. McLean was the eight man in forty years to try to assassinate Queen Victoria, and met the fate many of his forebears experienced when he was adjudged "Not Guilty, but Insane." This was a massive issue for Queen Victoria, who wished for a different outcome for her would be killer, and pressured her government to do something about it. Therefore, the most inept and hapless of all of her possible assassin's had the largest effect on Victoria's reign and the British criminal justice system.
15 minutes | Mar 1, 2018
March 1 - 1932 - The Kidnapping of Charles Lindbergh, Jr.
When the 20 month old Charles Lindbergh, Jr. was taken from the crib in his upstairs bedroom, the crime was destined to become the "Crime of the Century."His father was perhaps the most famous man in America, the aviator Charles Lindbergh. Initially, the clues led to a variety of possibilities, but then a kidnapper was revealed to be seeking the ransom through a random intermediary. Once a man known only as "Cemetery John" received $50,000 in ransom money, the case went cold. Over two years later, a gold certificate that was part of the ransom money was traced to a German immigrant named Bruno Richard Hauptmann. Hauptmann was found to have a large chunk of the ransom money in his possession, as well as many things that pointed to him being Cemetery John. After being handed to New Jersey authorities, Hauptmann was tried in what become known as the "Trial of the Century," after which he would be sentenced to death and executed. The kidnapping of the Lindbergh baby would remain the most significant criminal case in America for decades.
13 minutes | Feb 5, 2018
February 5 - 1994 - Byron De La Beckwith is Convicted of Medgar Evers' Murder
Byron De La Beckwith was found guilty of the murder of civil rights leader Medgar Evers in 1994, 31 years after the crime was actually committed. De La Beckwith was arrested and brought to trial twice in the 1960s, but both times all-white juries deadlocked on a verdict. The evidence in the case was actually quite good, as De La Beckwith's gun was found near the crime scene with his fingerprint on it. De La Beckwith was also a prominent White Citizens' Council member, who was annoyed at the lack of direct action taken by the group in their efforts to preserve segregation. Yet De La Beckwith would not be convicted of Evers' murder in the 1960s. He would brag at Klan rallies and Christian Identity meetings that he killed Medgar Evers. After the Jackson Clarion-Ledger reported on state sponsored activities to protect in the late 1980s and 1990s, authorities bring De La Beckwith to trial for a third time. Finally, a jury of eight African-Americans and four whites find him guilty.
11 minutes | Feb 4, 2018
February 4 - 1861 - The Government of the Confederate States of America is Formed
When a large number of states had seceded from the Union after the election of Abraham Lincoln, they quickly realized they needed to band together in a larger government. So delegates from South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas met in Montgomery, Alabama, they knew they had to work fast. Although they were working a month before Lincoln's inauguration, they wanted to make sure they were ready to go. They had two advantages in working quickly, namely that they knew the United States Constitution well and that they were united on the issue of protecting slavery. Therefore, the provisional government could be formed almost immediately, with Jefferson Davis as President and Alexander Stephens as Vice President. It would be Stephens, in a speech one month later, who would clearly elucidate the reason for forming a government, that they were built on the "cornerstone" of white supremacy and the defense of slavery.
11 minutes | Feb 3, 2018
February 3 - 1959 - Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, and the Big Bopper Die in a Plane Crash
In 1959, Buddy Holly was one of the biggest Rock 'n' Roll stars, the Big Bopper was a chart topper, and Richie Valens was a 17 year old sensation. They all were on a Midwest tour, playing small venues throughout the early part of 1959. The winter tour was poorly planned and saw a series of bus problems and health issues from the cold among the musicians. Therefore, after a show in Clear Lake, Iowa, Holly arranged for a plane to take him and his band to their next stop. Shortly after takeoff, however, the young pilot lost control of the plane, and all four people onboard died instantly. This would seem to be a groundbreaking moment in Rock 'n' Roll's arc, with the musicians involved seeming to have been snuffed out with so much work ahead of them. It also came at a time when much of the rock world was suffering from other losses. The event would later be christened as "The Day the Music Died," but actually it was a setback and Rock 'n' Roll would pick right back up with groups influenced by Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, and the Big Bopper.
13 minutes | Feb 2, 2018
February 2 - 1848 - The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo
The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo officially ended hostilities in the Mexican-American War, although the United States of America had effectively ended the war by taking over much of Mexico. This meant that the terms of the Treaty were largely America's and had to be accepted by Mexico. The war began in 1846 as a border dispute around the newly annexed Republic of Texas, but after America sent troops to the disputed area, they invaded Mexico. With astonishing speed, the northern areas of Mexico were taken over by America, with California seeing a revolt by American settlers. Eventually, an Army under General Winfield Scott would march from Veracruz on the coast to Mexico City, easily taking over the capital. As a result, Mexico lost most of its northern territory to the United States, and faced many more political issues at home. America was further placed on the path towards Civil War and disunion.
11 minutes | Feb 1, 2018
February 1 - 1968 - The Execution of Nguyễn Văn Lém
Nguyễn Văn Lém was a Viet Cong captain who was arrested by the South Vietnamese Army after leading a raid on a camp and killing a large number of civilians. Upon being taken in front of Brigadier General Nguyễn Ngọc Loan, Lém was summarily executed by Loan with a revolver. By all rights, this would have been one of many such incidents in the complicated conflict that was the Vietnam War. Yet the execution of Nguyễn Văn Lém became something the world knew about because the Associated Press photographer Eddie Adams managed to snap a picture at the moment the gun was fired. Nguyễn Văn Lém's face as he was dying was seen by millions, and the photograph became an iconic image of the Vietnam War. The photo would win Adams a Pulitzer and help galvanize the anti-Vietnam War movement in America. Adams would feel sorry for what became of Loan, while also regretting he was most well known for the image of the execution of Nguyễn Văn Lém.
11 minutes | Jan 31, 2018
January 31 - 1918 - The Battle of May Island
"The Battle of May Island" was not actually a battle at all, but the macabre name given by sailors to a catastrophic accident involving a number of K-class submarines. On that night, two submarines were lost, while five others were significantly damaged, and 104 sailors lost their lives. The K-class submarine was a steam powered submarine which invited so much disaster it was said the K stood for "Kalamity." Yet the Battle of May Island was the worst incident in the history of the Royal Navy's submarine program. It was supposed to be a fleet exercise, but the heavy and difficult to manage submarines ended up running into each other as they were leaving the Firth of Forth for the North Sea. Once the first ships ran into each other, then other ships couldn't get out of the way, and the cruisers accompanying the submarines turned back to help, but only created more issues. Within less than two hours, two submarines were at the bottom of the seabed, with much of their crew lost.
13 minutes | Jan 30, 2018
January 30 - 1948 - The Assassination of Mahatma Gandhi
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was such an influential figure as a leader of the Indian independence movement that as India gained independence from Great Britain in 1947, he was universally known as "Mahatma," the great soul, and widely called "Bapu," an endearing term for father. Yet the independence of India had seen what was British India split into two, with Muslim majority areas in the East and West becoming Pakistan. This then led to mass migration, violence, and intense conflicts. Gandhi tried to ease the suffering of all people and resolve the disputes. For that, he raised the ire of many right-wing Hindu nationalists, such as Nathuram Godse. Godse followed Gandhi for weeks, seeking to assassinate him because of what Godse saw as a betrayal of Hindus. Finally, on the next to last day of January 1948, Godse was able to approach Gandhi as he walked to prayers and fired three shots at point blank range. Gandhi would die that evening, and Godse would be executed for the assassination.
10 minutes | Jan 29, 2018
January 29 - 2002 - President George W. Bush Coins the Phrase "Axis of Evil"
During his first State of the Union Address after the September 11th terrorist attacks, President George W. Bush specifically cited the threat of an "Axis of Evil," which consisted of Iraq, Iran, and North Korea. Other than all seeking chemical or nuclear weapons, these states had very little in common. More strikingly, none of them had anything to do with the September 11th attacks. Instead, speechwriter David Frum was given the brief of detailing an argument for going to war against Saddam Hussein's government in Iraq. He made a larger point, making an ominous warning about possible future, unknown attacks from state actors. Just a little over a year later, fueled by the emotions generated by the September 11th attacks, the Bush administration led the country into a war with Iraq. Osama bin Laden, the actual mastermind of the terror attacks, would not be killed until 2011.
9 minutes | Jan 28, 2018
January 28 - 1871 - The Siege of Paris Ends
The Franco-Prussian War was not a large scale war in terms of its casualties, engagements, or scale. It was massive in the geopolitical results in the aftermath of the war, however, and a large reason was that it ended with a months long siege of Paris. Before that siege had even begun, the Empire of France had lost its Emperor, Napoleon III, after he lost the Battle of Sedan. Now France was facing a large Prussian Army staring down its capital, while its government was a provisional one known as the Government of National Defense. This government tried its best to hold on, but also was trying to argue for peace. Eventually, after a few small skirmishes on the outskirts of Paris, the leaders of the French government agree to Armistice terms with Otto von Bismarck, newly christened Chancellor of Germany. The former King of Prussia had also been turned into the German Kaiser, gaining acclaim and territory as the French have to rebuild a Republican government.
14 minutes | Jan 27, 2018
January 27 - 1973 - The Paris Peace Accords
The Agreement on Ending the War and Restoring Peace in Vietnam, better known as the Paris Peace Accords, were what officially ended the involvement of the United States in the Vietnam War. The Paris Peace Accords only came together after a long, drawn out negotiation process. Although the Vietnam War had seemed problematic and unwinnable since 1968 and the Lyndon Johnson administration, the task of working out the Paris Peace Accords fell to President Richard Nixon and his National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger. In fact, domestic American politics seemed to drive the American willingness to move talks forward. For the Vietnamese, the issue was including the revolutionary National Liberation Front, better known as the Viet Cong, as well as the official governments of South Vietnam and North Vietnam in talks. Eventually,, a willingness to simply end the conflict meant America was willing to pull out if the North Vietnamese simply kept their lines where they were. Just two years later, they would conquer South Vietnam and take Saigon.
14 minutes | Jan 26, 2018
January 26 - 1939 - The Fall of Barcelona
The Spanish Civil War was a complex conflict, featuring the right-wing Nationalists fighting against the left-wing Republicans. The conservatives were the rebels, the socialists were fighting for the legitimate government, and both sides were hodge-podge groups of various loyalties. Yet the war was also one featuring back and forth fighting in its early years. In 1938, everything changed. Under Francisco Franco and the backing of Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany, the Nationalists won the Battle of the Ebro and cut the Republican territory in two. At that point, Franco targeted Catalonia, the autonomous, distinct region around Barcelona, which was a Republican stronghold. From Christmas 1938 to late January 1939, the Nationalist forces pushed back Republicans in Catalonia, collapsing the Republican government. After the city was abandoned, Nationalists rolled into the city, effectively ending serious opposition by Republican forces and allowing Francisco Franco to take control of the entire nation.
13 minutes | Jan 25, 2018
January 25 - 1890 - Nellie Bly Completes Her Circumnavigation
Nellie Bly was just 25 years old in 1890, but she had already written a well regarded travel book called Six Months in Mexico that revealed the problems with Porfirio Diaz's government and a series of articles in the New York World that exposed the Blackwell's Island Women's Asylum as an undercover reporter. So when she suggested she beat Jules Verne's fictional record of traveling Around the World in 80 Days, her editor let her go ahead with just two days' notice. She traveled with just one dress and one satchel. She mostly completed the voyage on a combination of trains and steamships. Throughout her trip, Nellie Bly could send back telegraphs to the New York World, updating readers of her trip's progress. It looked like she would not make it when she arrived two days late to San Francisco after a rough trip on the Pacific Ocean. At that point, Joseph Pulitzer, publisher of the New York World, chartered a record-breaking train just so Nellie Bly could make it back to New York in time. In the end, she had eight days to spare, making the trip in 72 days.
14 minutes | Jan 18, 2018
January 18 - 1990 - Marion Barry is Arrested for Possession of Crack Cocaine
When Marion Barry was arrested after being caught on videotape smoking crack in an undercover sting operation, he was also in his third term as the Mayor of Washington, D.C. He was arrested with a girlfriend who had asked him to come and persuaded him to smoke the crack she had brought. Still, Barry had been dogged by rumors of drug use and sexual scandals since he took office in 1979. As Mayor, Barry was more of a character than an effective reformer. A former civil rights advocate and City Council member, Barry's best attribute was simple politicking. After being reelected twice, the effects of his serious drug and alcohol addictions began to show, but Marion Barry managed to survive. In fact, his arrest didn't even end his career. The obvious entrapment meant Barry was only convicted on one earlier possession charge, which led to a 6 month sentence in Federal Prison. He would be out of jail in 1992, returning almost instantly to his position on the City Council. In 1994, he was elected to an unprecedented fourth term as Mayor. When that term was over, he would remain on the City Council until his death in 2014, but he would always be most famous as the Mayor caught smoking crack on videotape.
14 minutes | Jan 17, 2018
January 17 - 1945 - Raoul Wallenberg is Disappeared by the Soviet Union
Raoul Wallenberg was a Swedish special envoy to Hungary who devoted himself in the last few months of 1944 to save many Jews from being deported to concentration camps. Wallenberg was a businessman who could come and go between Sweden and Hungary, as Sweden was neutral in World War II. Hungary was technically an ally of Nazi Germany under the rule of Miklos Horthy, then became an uneasy ally, then became a puppet state of the Nazis in 1944, after Horthy sought peace terms with the Allies. In the summer of 1944, under the leadership of Adolf Eichmann, Nazis in Hungary deported over 400,00 Jews in just a few months. Raoul Wallenberg came in July of that year specifically to help Jews, which he did by giving them special passports in the name of Sweden. He was remarkably successful, helping thousands, Yet, for reasons that might forever remain unknown, once the Soviets took over Budapest in December 1944, he was seen as a problem and Wallenberg was never seen after visting Soviet Authorities.
11 minutes | Jan 16, 2018
January 16 - 1883 - The Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act is Signed Into Law
The Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act was a direct reaction to the assassination of President James Garfield, who was killed by Charles Guiteau because Guiteau believed he deserved a government appointment. The issue of civil service reform was a long simmering political issue, with the main ire being directed at the spoils system, which gave jobs to political donors. Despite the assassination of Garfield, a bill for civil service reform seemed unlikely to be signed by the new President, Chester A. Arthur. Arthur was a "Stalwart," one of the chief opponents in the Republican Party to reform, and a former Collector of the Port of New York, a job he got through the spoils system. Yet Arthur seemed to see the need for change, and passed the law initiated by Ohio Senator George Pendleton. After that, the Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act would drastically change the way the American government worked.
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