A Blast from the Past

By United Press International  |  July 9, 2002 at 3:22 AM
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Today is July 15.

Led by the awesome talent of Jim Thorpe, the United States team took more medals than any other nation at the Olympic Games in Stockholm in 1912. Thorpe, who excelled in football (two-time college all-America running back) and baseball as well as track and field and often had been hailed as the best all-around athlete in American history. Swedish King Gustav went one step further when he labeled him "the greatest athlete in the world" after his impressive gold medal-winning efforts in the pentathlon and decathlon, setting a record in the latter that stood for two decades. But, Thorpe later admitted he had played semi-pro baseball two years earlier and since it would be many years before professionals could compete alongside amateurs, he was forced to return his medals and his achievements were erased from Olympic records. After a long battle his medals were restored in 1982 -- 29 years after his death.


It was on this date in 1971 that President Nixon announced plans to make an unprecedented visit to China. He made the historic trip in February 1972. Composer John Adams later immortalized the journey in the opera "Nixon in China."

The search for multiple murder suspect Andrew Cunanan focused on Miami on this date in 1997 when Italian fashion designer Gianni Versace was shot to death on the steps of his beachfront mansion. Cunanan was already wanted in four other killings committed in the Midwest and East since April. A week later, Cunanan was found dead on a houseboat -- apparently dying by his own hand.

And in 1991, a former POW of the North Vietnamese during the Vietnam War released a photograph showing three U.S. servicemen, missing in Southeast Asia, holding a sign dated May 25, 1990. The veracity of the photo has never been proven, although many considered it further evidence that Hanoi continues to hold Americans from the Vietnam War.

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Today is July 16.

The nuclear age was ushered in on a lonely New Mexico desert on this date in 1945 with the first test explosion of an atomic bomb. The resulting fireball rose 8,000 feet in a fraction of a second and created a mushroom cloud to a height of 41,000 feet. Sand near the blast was turned to glass and all plant and animal life within a mile simply ceased to exist. The awesome weapon was deemed a huge success by officials working closely with the project and three weeks later an A-bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, hastening the end of World War II.

Apollo 11, the first moon-landing mission, blasted off from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on this date in 1969. It carried astronauts Neil Armstrong, Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin and Michael Collins into space. Four days later, Armstrong and Aldrin became the first humans to walk on another planet.

John F. Kennedy, Jr., the son of the former president, was killed -- along with his wife and her sister -- when their single-engine plane crashed into the Atlantic Ocean off Martha's Vineyard on this date in 1999. The trio had been en route to the Massachusetts island to drop off the sister and then bound for Hyannisport, Mass., to attend a cousin's wedding. A massive search located the plane's wreckage on the ocean floor four days later. All three had died instantly. In a private ceremony, their ashes were buried at sea July 22.

On this date in 1980, Republicans unanimously nominated Ronald Reagan for president. He chose George Bush as his running mate after former President Gerald Ford declined to join the ticket.

And it was on this date in 1790 that Congress designated the District of Columbia as the permanent seat of the United States government. Of course, they had to build it first. The federal government moved to Washington, D.C. in 1800.

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Today is July 17.

The 300-year-old Romanov dynasty ended on this date in 1918 with the murders of Russian Czar Nicholas II and his family. Nicholas had abdicated in 1917 at the beginning of the Russian Revolution; and he, his wife and their five children were imprisoned in the Ural Mountains of Siberia. But local Soviet officials, worried about advancing pro-monarchy forces, ordered the family executed by firing squad. Did Alexis, the heir to the throne, and Anastasia, one of his sisters, survive? To this day, that answer remains inconclusive...

President Clinton was slapped with a subpoena on this date in 1998 as independent counsel Kenneth Starr continued his investigation into allegations of presidential philandering with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. Clinton thus became the first sitting U.S. president to be subpoenaed to appear before a grand jury.

TWA Flight 800, just minutes out of New York's JFK Airport and bound for Paris, exploded and crashed off the Long Island coast on this date in 1996. All 230 people aboard were killed. Despite claims by some witnesses that they saw a streak of light just before the explosion -- suggesting the jetliner was taken out by a surface-to-air missile -- an investigation pointed to an electrical malfunction in a fuel tank as the cause of the blast.

After three years of planning, the first U.S.-USSR joint space mission took place on this date in 1975. Three American and two Soviet spacemen linked their Apollo 18 and Soyuz 19 spacecraft for historic handshakes 140 miles above the Earth. The capsules remained linked in orbit for 47 hours while the two crews conducted experiments and visited with each other.

Pilot Douglas Corrigan, who had worked as a mechanic 11 years earlier on Charles Lindbergh's "Spirit of St. Louis," wanted his place in the sun before it set on his career, He had flown in his rebuilt plane from California to New York to attempt a trans-Atlantic flight but aviation officials nixed that, saying his plane was too rickety. So, on this date in 1938, he took off to return to the West Coast only to get caught up in a cloud bank with a faulty compass and apparently lost his bearings, he said, and 28 hours later landed in Dublin, Ireland. Forever after, he was known as "Wrong Way" Corrigan and relished the celebrity status he had sought so vigorously .

And, the "Happiest Place on Earth," Disneyland -- the first U.S. theme park -- opened in Anaheim, Calif., on this date in 1955.

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Today is July 18.

In a grim prelude of things to come, on this date in 1925, Adolph Hitler published the first volume of his personal manifesto, Mein Kampf. Dictated by Hitler during his nine-month stay in prison, Mein Kampf, or "My Struggle," was a bitter and turgid narrative filled with anti-Semitic outpourings, disdain for morality, worship of power and the blueprints for his plan of Nazi world domination. The autobiographical work became the bible of Germany's Nazi Party.

It was on the night of July 18, 1969, that a car driven by Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., plunged into a pond on Chappaquiddick Island, Mass. Kennedy escaped the sinking vehicle but his passenger, Mary Jo Kopechne, drowned. Although criticized for failing to report the accident for 10 hours, Kennedy's political career survived the incident.

On July 18, 1936, the Spanish Civil War began as a revolt by right-wing Spanish military officers in Spanish Morocco and spread to mainland Spain. From the Canary Islands, Gen. Francisco Franco called for all army officers to join the uprising and overthrow Spain's leftist Republican government.

The Justice Department announced on this date in 1974 that it had ordered ex-Beatle John Lennon to leave the United States by Sept. 10. Earlier, immigration officials had denied the renewal of Lennon's non-immigrant visa because of a 1968 marijuana possession conviction in Britain. Lennon fought the deportation order and eventually won.

And it was on this date in 1936 that Carl Mayer, a nephew of hot dog mogul Oscar Mayer, invented the "Weinermobile."

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Today is July 19.

Rep. Geraldine Ferraro, a New York Democrat, became the first woman vice presidential candidate of a major political party on this date in 1984. She was chosen as Walter Mondale's running mate at the Democratic National Convention. However, that November, the Mondale-Ferraro ticket was defeated by the Republican one headed by incumbent President Reagan.

In another feminist milestone: on this date in 1848, "bloomers" -- a radical departure in women's clothing -- were introduced to the first women's rights convention in Seneca Falls, N.Y. They were named after Amelia Jenks Bloomer.

As World War I drew to a close, the German Army began retreating across the Marne River in France on this date in 1918.

It was on this date in 1989 that a crippled DC-10 jetliner crash-landed in a cornfield in Sioux City, Iowa. The jet had lost its tail engine in mid-flight between Chicago and Denver -- damaging the plane's hydraulic systems, which controlled the steering. Yet, the pilot did an amazing job of keeping the jet level. Only at the end, as the jet landed, did a wing clip the ground and cause the plane to flip over and break up. Amazingly, 181 of the 293 people aboard survived -- including the pilot.

John Fairfax of Britain arrived at Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on this date in 1969 to become the first person to row across the Atlantic Ocean all alone.

And, Marilyn Monroe had her first screen test at Twentieth Century Fox on this date in 1946. There was no sound. None was needed.

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Today is July 20.

On this date in 1969, Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin landed their lunar module on the moon's surface and, hours later, Armstrong climbed out to become the first man to set foot on the moon. Armstrong's memorable comment: "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,"

Twenty years later, on this date in 1989, President George Bush called for the United States to organize a long-range space program to support an orbiting space station, a Moon base and a manned mission to Mars.

Treasure hunter Mel Fisher hit pay dirt on this date in 1985 when he located a Spanish galleon sunk by a 1622 hurricane in the waters off Key West, Fla. It contained $400 million worth of treasure.

The U.S. flag was raised over Berlin on this date in 1945 as the first American troops moved in to take part in the post-World War II occupation of Germany. Eventually, Berlin would be divided into several sections depending on the occupying troops there.

The California Board of Regents voted 14-10 on this date in 1995 to end consideration of race, sex, religion, color or national origin for admission of students to state colleges and universities.

And it was on this date in 1859 that American baseball fans were charged an admission fee for the first time. 1,500 spectators each paid 50 cents to see Brooklyn play New York.

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


Today is July 21.

On this date in 2000, a report from special counsel John Danforth cleared Attorney General Janet Reno and the federal government of wrongdoing in the April 19, 1993 fire that ended the Branch Davidian siege near Waco, Texas. The FBI had launched a tear-gas assault on the compound of the armed religious cult to end a tense 51-day standoff. Fire broke out in the compound, ultimately claiming the lives of some 80 Brancxh Davidians, including 22 children.

Although the civil War had been "on" for about three months, it wasn't until this date in 1861 that the first major military engagement took place. Union troops, led by Gen. McDowell, and Confederate forces, led by Gen, Beauregard, met at Bull Run Creek, Va., about 35 miles southwest of Washington, D.C. The Battle of Bull Run Creek lasted about 10 hours, during which socialites -- dressed in their finest -- came to picnic and watch the fighting. The Confederates won.

Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin climbed back into their lunar module and lifted off from the surface of the moon on this date in 1969, after spending about 21 1/2 hours on the lunar surface.


Jesse James pulled off his first train robbery on this date in 1873. The soon-to-be-infamous outlaw held up the Rock Island Express near Adair, Iowa, and escaped with $3,000 -- although gang insiders said it was more like $65,000. The train company didn't want people to know they carried that much money.

And it was on this date in 1992 that a judge in Pontiac, Mich., dismissed murder charges against euthanasia advocate Jack "Dr. Death" Kevorkian, who'd been accused of helping four chronically ill women end their lives. The retired pathologist began his quest to legalize what he called "medicide" in 1990 when he helped an Oregon woman with Lou Gehrig's disease kill herself. It took a videotape of Kevorkian presiding over the death of a Michigan man to land him in prison. The tape had aired on CBS's "60 Minutes."

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