A Blast From The Past

By PENNY NELSON BARTHOLOMEW, United Press International  |  Jan. 22, 2002 at 6:15 AM
share with facebook
share with twitter

Today is Jan. 28.

It was the U.S. space program's worst disaster -- and indeed, the worst space tragedy ever. On this date in 1986, the space shuttle Challenger exploded 72 seconds after blastoff from Cape Canaveral, killing all seven astronauts, including civilian teacher Christa McAuliffe. Millions of people around the world watched televised replays of the horrifying event, which grounded NASA's manned space program for more than two years.

In 1994, a mistrial was declared in the case of Lyle Menendez, charged with his brother Eric in the murders of their parents. The jury had been unable to reach a verdict in Eric's case two weeks earlier.

Yesterday, we told you about the end of the Vietnam War. Today, on this date in 1995, the United States and Vietnam agreed to exchange low-level diplomats and open liaison offices in each other's capital cities.

Five former police officers in South Africa admitted on this date in 1997 to killing anti-apartheid activist Stephen Biko, who'd died in police custody in 1977 and whose death had been officially listed as an accident.

And in 1878, the first commercial telephone switchboard began operation in New Haven, Conn. It had 12 subscribers.

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

Today is Jan. 29.

It was on this date in 1993 that the military ban on homosexuals was eased. President Clinton directed military officials to stop asking recruits about their sexual orientation. It was a compromise first step in his campaign promise to lift the ban on homosexuals in the armed services. The "don't ask, don't tell, don't pursue" policy allows gays and lesbians to serve in the military as long as they're discreet.

A military parade each year in San Diego, Calif.'s Old Town commemorates this 1847 event: the U.S. Mormon Battalion arrived in San Diego -- having marched 2,000 miles from Council Bluffs, Iowa, to fight in the war against Mexico. It was the longest march in modern military history.

Kansas became the 34th state of the Union as a free, or non-slavery, state on this date in 1861. This was a time when Southern states were seceding from the Union prior to the beginning of the Civil War.

And in 1900, eight baseball teams were organized as the American League. They were Buffalo, N.Y.; Chicago; Cleveland, Ohio; Detroit, Mich.; Indianapolis, Ind.; Kansas City, Mo.; Milwaukee, Wis.; and Minneapolis, Minn.

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

Today is Jan. 30.

The first attempt on the life of a U.S. president took place on this date in 1835. A gunman often described in historical accounts as a disgruntled office-seeker shot twice at President Andrew Jackson -- but missed, and Jackson was not injured.

It was on this date in 1948 that Indian religious and political leader Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated in New Delhi. His killer was a Hindu extremist.

Too bad someone didn't try to take a shot at Adolf Hitler on this date in 1933, when he became chancellor of Germany. Might've saved millions of lives.

What's known as the Tet offensive began on this date in 1968 during the Vietnam War. After calling for a cease-fire during the Tet holiday celebrations, North Vietnam and the Viet Cong attacked the South Vietnamese capital of Saigon -- temporarily occupying the U.S. Embassy.

As revolutionary fever swept Iran, the Iranian government announced on this date in 1979 that it would let exiled Shiite Moslem leader Ayatollah Khomeini return from exile. Khomeini was extremely anti-American. Washington -- which had propped up the regime of the Shah for years -- responded to news of Khomeini's imminent return by ordering the evacuation of all U.S. dependents from Iran.

The heaviest ground fighting of the Gulf War took place on this date in 1991, when Iraqi armored forces charged out of Kuwait and engaged allied forces in Khafji, Saudi Arabia. 12 U.S. Marines were killed.

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

Today is Jan. 31.

The United States entered the space race when Explorer-1, the first successful U.S. satellite, was launched from Cape Canaveral, Fla., on this date in 1958. Although the Soviet Union had launched Sputnik four months earlier, Explorer-1 went higher and also detected a zone of radiation around the Earth that was later named the Van Allen radiation belt.

More science news: on this date in 1999, a team of international researchers reported it had traced the predominant strain of the AIDS virus to a subspecies of chimpanzee that lived in parts of Africa. The scientists theorized the virus spread to humans when bitten by infected chimps or as they prepared the animals' meat for consumption.

U.S. Army Pvt. Eddie Slovik, 24, was executed by firing squad for desertion on this date in 1945. His was the first execution for desertion since the Civil War, and has been a source of controversy. His wife spent the rest of her life trying to clear his name.

The prosecution in the double-murder trial of O.J. Simpson began presenting its case on this date in 1995. You know how it turned out.

It was on this day in 1958 that "Little Richard" Perriman announced he was quitting music to attend evangelism college. Little Richard graduated four years later and -- while he returned to rock 'n' roll -- he's also a minister and has officiated at a number of rock weddings.

And a fellow by the name of Richard Drew, who worked for 3M, developed Scotch tape on this date in 1928. What did they use before the invention of tape? We don't know...

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

Today is Feb. 1.

It was on this date in 1790 that the Supreme Court of the United States convened for its first session. Where? In New York City. Remember, Washington, D.C., hadn't been built yet.

How long has car insurance been around? Since 1898, when, on this date, the Travelers Insurance Co. issued the first car insurance policy. It protected one's motor vehicle against accidents with HORSES.

A red-letter date in the eventual end of apartheid in South Africa: in 1991, South African President F.W. De Klerk announced he would seek repeal of key laws on which the government's system of racial discrimination was based.

One of the principles in the knee-bashing attack on U.S. figure skater Nancy Kerrigan pleaded guilty on this date in 1994. Jeff Gillooly was the former husband of Kerrigan's rival, Tonya Harding. The month before, she'd won the women's crown in the U.S Figure Skating Championships after the injured Kerrigan was unable to perform. However, officials sent both Harding and Kerrigan to the winter Olympics - and Kerrigan won the silver medal. Harding later admitted knowing in advance about the plot against Kerrigan and was banned from competitive skating for life.

And it was on this date in 1964 that the governor of Indiana declared "Louie, Louie" by the Kingsmen to be pornographic -- even though he admitted he couldn't understand the song's lyrics. But he said the song "made his ears tingle."

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

Today is Feb. 2.

This is Ground Hog Day, a widely celebrated tradition involving the old belief that if a groundhog sees his shadow on this day, there'll be six more weeks of winter. In Pennsylvania, Punxsutawney Phil emerges from -- or is dragged out of -- his burrow to see if he's made the morning TV news shows.

It was on this date in 1848 that the war between the United States and Mexico formally ended with the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, named for the village in which the representatives from both sides met. The agreement provided for Mexico's cession to the U.S. of the territory that became the states of New Mexico, Arizona, California, Nevada, Utah, and parts of Colorado and Wyoming, in exchange for $15 million.

On this date in 1933, two days after becoming chancellor of Germany, Adolf Hitler ordered the German parliament dissolved. He certainly didn't wait very long, did he?

Another mini-controversy involving the Clinton administration began on this date in 1995 when President Clinton nominated Dr. Henry Foster as U.S. Surgeon General. Soon, opponents of Foster's nomination would begin to question how many abortions the obstetrician/gynecologist had performed during his medical career -- it was thought he might have under-estimated the number. His nomination would fail in the Senate.

Rocker Sid Vicious, formerly of the Sex Pistols, died of a heroin overdose on this date in 1979. He'd been released on bail just a day earlier while facing murder charges in the death of his girlfriend.

The National Baseball League was formed on this day in 1875 with teams in Boston; Chicago; Cincinnati; New York; Philadelphia; St. Louis; Louisville, Ky.; and Hartford, Conn. Neither Louisville nor Hartford has major league teams today.

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

Today is Feb. 3.

This is "the day the music died." On this date in 1959, singers Buddy Holly, J.P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson and Ritchie Valens were killed in a plane crash in a cornfield near Mason City, Iowa. Only hours earlier, they'd played what turned out to be their final show -- at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake. Singer Don McLean memorialized the death of Holly in his song "American Pie," calling it "the day the music died."

It was on this date in 1992 that pretrial hearings began in Simi Valley, Calif., in the trial of four Los Angeles policemen accused in the videotaped beating of black motorist Rodney King. Their acquittal at the end of April sparked rioting in Los Angeles and other U.S cities.

Exactly one year later, in 1993, the same four officers went on trial in federal court in Los Angeles. They were accused of violating King's civil rights.

Also in 1993, Cincinnati Reds owner Marge Schott was suspended for one year and fined $25,000 by Major League Baseball's Executive Council for using racially and ethnically insensitive language.

Despite pleas from numerous sympathizers, including Pope John Paul II, Texas executed its first female inmate in 135 years on this date in 1998. The execution of Karla Faye Tucker, 38, was controversial because she'd repeatedly expressed remorse for the 1983 murders she was convicted of committing.

And it was on this day in 1913 that the 16th Amendment, allowing establishment of an income tax, became part of the U.S. Constitution after ratification by Wyoming. Insert your own IRS joke here.

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

Related UPI Stories
Trending Stories