A Blast From The Past

By PENNY NELSON BARTHOLOMEW, United Press International  |  Jan. 2, 2002 at 4:45 AM
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Today is Jan. 2.

It was on this date in 1974 that President Nixon signed a bill requiring all 50 U.S. states to limit highway speeds to 55 miles per hour or lose their federal highway funds. Officially the reason for slowing down was to reduce traffic fatalities. But energy conservation was a BIG factor. The early 1970s saw an Arab oil embargo that created long lines at gas stations across America.

The United States suffered one of its most bitter defeats of World War II on this date in 1942. Japanese forces occupied Manila -- forcing American and Philippine forces under U.S. Gen. Douglas MacArthur to withdraw to the Bataan peninsula. This was when MacArthur made his famous quote: "We shall return." We did.

Elite Soviet interior ministry troops seized buildings in the Baltic republics of Latvia and Lithuania on this date in 1991. The action may have been ordered by Kremlin hardliners without bothering to clear it with reform-minded Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. Latvia, Lithuania and the third Baltic republic of Estonia wound up getting their freedom anyway.

Today is the anniversary of a space milestone. It was on this date in 1959 that the Soviet Union launched Lunik-1, the first unmanned spacecraft to travel to the moon. In those days, the Soviet space program was way ahead of America's.

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

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