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A Blast from the Past

By United Press International   |   April 29, 2003 at 3:15 AM   |   Comments

Today is May 5.


Napoleon Bonaparte died in exile on the tiny South Atlantic island of St. Helena on this date in 1821. The British had sent him there in 1815 -- they apparently wanted to make sure he didn't escape like he did from Elba, his first place of exile. It was a quiet ending for the world famous military strategist, statesman and visionary.

Napoleon was believed to have died of stomach cancer but some theorists insisted he was poisoned. By the way, there are more books written about Napoleon than any other historical figure.


Events leading to the Scopes "Monkey Trial" began on this date in 1925 when 24-year-old biology teacher John Scopes was arrested for teaching Darwin's theory of evolution in violation of Tennessee state laws. The trial pitted two of America's best lawyers -- Clarence Darrow and William Jennings Bryan -- against one another. Scopes was convicted and fined $100. The statute he was accused of violated was repealed in 1967.


Alan Shepard became America's first astronaut in space -- and the second man in space -- on this date in 1961 in a brief, sub-orbital flight from Cape Canaveral, Fla. His space capsule was the Freedom 7.


Congress began hearings into the Iran-Contra affair on this date in 1987. The hearings, broadcast nationwide, captivated Americans almost as much as the Watergate hearings of 14 years earlier had -- and made a star out of White House aide Oliver North.


On this date in 1945, in Lakeview, Ore., Mrs. Elsie Mitchell and five neighborhood children were killed in the explosion of a Japanese balloon they had dragged out the woods. They were the first and only known American civilians to be killed in the continental United States during World War II.


War Admiral won the Kentucky Derby on this date in 2002 and later won again at the Preakness. But, two out of three was the best the colt could do, stumbling out of the gate and losing the Belmont and the third leg of the Triple Crown.


We now return you to the present, already in progress.

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Today is May 6.


The dream of mass transportation via dirigible ended on this date in 1937 when Germany's Hindenburg burst into flames while docking in Lakehurst, N.J. Thirty-six of the 97 passengers and crew died in the accident.


Confederate forces commanded by Gen. Robert E. Lee routed Union troops under Gen. Joseph Hooker at the Battle of Chancellorsville in Virginia on this date in 1863.


On this date in 1994, Paula Jones filed a lawsuit against President Clinton -- accusing him of making an unwanted sexual advance during a meeting in a hotel room in 1991, when he was governor of Arkansas and she a state employee. It was believed to be the first suit of its kind against a sitting president.


Crosby Stills and Nash, the Jackson Five, the BeeGees, Buffalo Springfield, Joni Mitchell, the Young Rascals and Parliament-Funkadelic were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on this date in 1997. It was the first time the ceremony was held at the newly opened museum in Cleveland. It was also the last -- in 1998, the induction ceremonies returned to New York City.


It was considered one of sport's most unreachable records until 1954 when, on this date, 25-year-old British medical student Roger Bannister bettered the four-minute mile. His time: three minutes, 59.4 seconds.


We now return you to the present, already in progress.

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Today is May 7.


It was on this date in 1915 -- as World War 1 raged on in Europe -- that the British passenger liner Lusitania, en route from New York to Liverpool, was torpedoed by a German U-boat off the coast of Ireland. It sank within minutes. Nearly 1,200 people, including 124 Americans, were killed. Washington protested, but Germany -- which had issued warnings in advance -- pointed to Lusitania's cargo, which included ammunition for Britain. The United States decided against declaring war for the time being.


On this date in 1945 -- 30 years and another war later -- U.S. Gen. Dwight Eisenhower accepted the unconditional surrender of Nazi Germany from German Gen. Alfred Jodl. The documents making it all official were signed the next day at Eisenhower's headquarters in Reims, which is one reason why May 8 is known as V-E or "Victory in Europe" Day.


10 years after the Vietnam War ended, New York City honored Vietnam veterans with a huge ticker tape parade on this date in 1985.


A 21-year-old Wisconsin college student, Luke John Heider, was arrested on this date in 2002 for planting pipebombs in or near rural mailboxes. Bombs were found at nearly two dozen locations in five states; six people were hurt when six of the bombs exploded.


Rep. Stewart McKinney, R-Conn., died on this date in 1987 at age 56. He was the first known congressional member to have AIDS.


On this date in 1993, a Florida teenager was identified as the sixth patient to be infected with the AIDS virus by dentist Dr. David Acer. Previously, it hadn't been thought that a health professional could transmit the virus to a patient via medical or dental treatments.


And an Ottawa Indian chief named Pontiac led a major uprising against the British at Detroit on this date in 1763. Many, many years later, they named a car after him.


We now return you to the present, already in progress.

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Today is May 8.


Revelations surfaced in May of 2002 suggesting that the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks possibly could have been anticipated if officials had collated and analyzed reports of suspicious activity. On this date in 2002, FBI Director Robert Mueller told a Senate committee that the FBI had paid insufficient heed to a July memo from an agent in Phoenix who warned about Arab men with possible terrorist ties taking flying lessons.


As the sexual abuse scandal continued to rock the Roman Catholic clergy, Cardinal Bernard Law of the Boston Roman Catholic archdiocese said on this date in 2002 that he had known in 1984 about charges against a former priest but had turned the matter over to aides and never followed up. The former priest, John Geoghan, was accused in 86 sexual abuse cases.


This is V-E Day, Victory in Europe Day, commemorating the unconditional surrender of Germany to the Allies on this date in 1945, ending the war in Europe. Actually, President Harry S Truman declared May 9 to be "V-E Day," but it later came to be observed on May 8.


On this date in 1972, President Nixon ordered the mining of North Vietnam ports in an effort to force the communists to end the Vietnam War. It didn't work.

Something that eventually DID work: in hopes of pressuring the government of El Salvador into agreeing to a cease-fire, Salvadoran leftist guerillas on this date in 1991 sabotaged a critical power system, leaving the Central American country with half its normal electrical supply.


Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto discovered the Mississippi River on this date in 1541. It probably wasn't very hard to miss. De Soto's discovery made possible Mark Twain, countless songs and houseboats.


Where would we be if George Selden of Rochester, N.Y., hadn't filed for the first patent for an automobile on this date in 1879? It was finally granted in 1895.


And on this date in 1965, nine of the top-10 U.S. singles on the Billboard pop singles charts were by British artists -- led by "Mrs. Brown, You've Got a Lovely Daughter" by Herman's Hermits. The so-called "British invasion" was in full swing.


We now return you to the present, already in progress.

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Today is May 9.


The House Judiciary Committee opened hearings on the possible impeachment of President Nixon on this date in 1974. The Watergate saga -- which had begun with a break-in at the Democratic Party offices at the Watergate Hotel in Washington, D.C, in June 1972 -- culminated with Nixon's resignation later that year, on Aug. 9.


Explorers in history: on this date in 1502, Christopher Columbus set sail from Spain on his fourth and final voyage to the New World.

And, on this date in 1926, Cmdr. Richard Byrd and Floyd Bennett flew an airplane over the North Pole, becoming the first to do so. Later, though, there was some doubt they had actually reached the pole.


The Kennedy family was in the news on this date in 1991, when medical student William Kennedy Smith -- one of the nephews of Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass. -- was charged with the March 30 rape and assault of a woman at the Kennedy estate in West Palm Beach, Fla. He would be acquitted. The Kennedys later sold the beachfront mansion.


And it was on this date in 1962 that George Martin signed the Beatles to the band's first recording contract -- with EMI.


We now return you to the present, already in progress.

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Today is May 10.


It was back on this date in 1940 that Nazi Germany invaded Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands -- swinging 89 army divisions around France's so-called "impregnable" Maginot Line. Scarcely one month later, German forces entered Paris. A photographer captured the image of Nazi leader Adolf Hitler dancing at the news.


Confederate President Jefferson Davis was captured by Union troops on this date in 1865, about a month after the end of the Civil War, He would spend the next two years in prison.


Former FBI agent Robert Hanssen, who had spied for the Soviet Union and Russia over a period of more than 20 years, was sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole on this date in 2002.


This is the anniversary of the meeting of the Union Pacific and Central Pacific railways, at Promontory Point, Utah. On this date in 1869, a "golden spike" was driven by Central Pacific President Leland Stanford to form what was called America's first transcontinental railway. Actually, at that time, the tracks were continuous only between Omaha, Neb., and Sacramento, Calif. It'd be a while longer before the rails stretched from ocean to ocean across the United States.


It was on this date in 1973 that a federal grand jury investigating the Watergate scandal indicted former Attorney General John Mitchell and former Commerce Secretary Maurice Stans on perjury charges. Does anyone remember Mitchell's wife, Martha? She used to phone UPI's Helen Thomas with information related to Watergate.


Former political prisoner Nelson Mandela -- long the focus of apartheid foes' efforts to end South Africa's enforced policy of discrimination -- was inaugurated as the country's first black president on this date in 1994.


Also on this date in 1994, John Wayne Gacy, the convicted killer of 33 young men and boys, was executed in Illinois. When Gacy was arrested in 1978, many people could hardly believe the suburban Chicago businessman they knew was the same person being accused of these crimes. Besides dabbling in politics, Gacy also used to entertain at children's parties as a clown.


We now return you to the present, already in progress.

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Today is May 11.


It was on this date in 1995 that a federal grand jury in Detroit indicted James Nichols with conspiracy in connection with the bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City the previous month. Nichols was accused of conspiring with bombing suspects Terry Nichols, his brother, and Timothy McVeigh to make and set off bombs at James's farm in Decker, Mich.


A ValuJet airliner crashed in the Florida Everglades on this date in 1996, killing 110 people. An investigation later revealed that oxygen canisters had been improperly loaded into the jet's cargo hold, causing a fire that brought down the plane and killed everyone aboard.


In 1858, Minnesota, the "Land of 10,000 Lakes," joined the United States as the 32nd state.


It was on this date in 1910 that Glacier National Park in Montana was created by an act of Congress.


The first regularly scheduled television programs were begun by station WGY in Schenectady, N.Y., on this date in 1928. What kind of shows do you think they aired?


And Emmanuel Vitria died in Marseilles, France, at age 67 on this date in 1987 -- 18 years after receiving a transplanted human heart. He was the longest-surviving heart transplant patient.


We now return you to the present, already in progress.

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Today is May 12.


The "Mayaguez incident" began on this date in 1975 when a Cambodian gunboat fired on the American cargo ship Mayaguez, forcing it into a Cambodian port. During a U.S military rescue two days later, all 39 crewmen aboard were freed but a number of American servicemen died during the mission.


George VI was crowned king of England at London's Westminster Abby on this date in 1937 -- succeeding his brother Edward VIII, who had abdicated to marry "the woman he loved," American divorcee Wallis Simpson. King George died in 1952 and was succeeded by his daughter, Elizabeth II, Britain's current reigning monarch.


It was on this date in 1949 that Soviet authorities announced the end of a land blockade of Berlin. The blockade had lasted 328 days but was neutralized by the Allies' Berlin airlift of food and other supplies to the divided city in East Germany.


CIA Director Robert Gates said on this date in 1992 that he had begun declassifying all relevant information on the President Kennedy assassination to end the "insidious, perverse notion" that the CIA was involved.


And it was on this date in 1965 that the Rolling Stones laid down the basic tracks for what would become perhaps the band's most famous song -- "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" -- at Chicago's Chess Studios. The song would be finished in Los Angeles.


We now return you to the present, already in progress.

© 2003 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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