A Blast from the Past

By United Press International  |  Aug. 13, 2002 at 3:20 AM
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Today is August 19.

One of several incidents that eventually pulled the United States into World War I occurred on this date in 1915. As war was raging in Europe, a German U-boat torpedoed the British liner Lusitania in the Atlantic Ocean, killing hundreds of people, including two Americans.

A coalition of Soviet hardliner communists staged a coup on this date in 1991, detaining Soviet President Gorbachev at his vacation dacha in the Crimea. Gorbachev had been scheduled to return to Moscow the next day to sign a treaty that would've taken much power away from the central Soviet government and given it to the republics. While the coup failed three days later -- and its instigators arrested -- Gorbachev was left in a weakened position. The dissolution of the Soviet Union soon followed.

U-2 spy plane pilot Gary Powers, shot down and captured over Siberia, was convicted in a Moscow court and sentenced to 10 years in prison on this date in 1960. He was released 18 months later in exchange for Soviet spy Rudolf Abel.

Buildings in Perth, Australia, were rattled on this date in 1977 when one of the most powerful earthquakes in recorded history hit the eastern Indian Ocean between Australia and Indonesia -- 1,000 miles to the south.

The Navy frigate Constitution defeated the Britain's Guerriere in a furious battle on this date during the War of 1812 and earned its everlasting nickname of "Old Ironsides" when witnesses said the British shot seemed to bounce off its sides.

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Today is Aug. 20.

The United States struck back on this date in 1998, when American missiles targeted sites in Afghanistan and Sudan said to be linked with terrorists. The attacks came in response to the bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania 13 days earlier.

The term "going postal" may have been born on this date in 1986, when postal worker Patrick Henry Sherrill opened fire at the Edmond, Okla., branch of the U.S. Post Office -- killing 14 fellow workers and wounding six more before turning his gun on himself.

The first U.S. Voyager spacecraft was launched from Cape Canaveral, Fla., on this date in 1977. It passed Jupiter in 1979, Saturn in 1981, Uranus in 1986 and Neptune in 1989 -- sending back pictures and data to scientists on Earth.

On this date In 1996, President Clinton signed into law an increase in the minimum wage in two steps from $4.25 to $5.15 an hour.

And it was on this date in 1741 that Danish navigator Vitus Jonas Bering discovered what is now Alaska. The Bering Straits, which separate Alaska from Siberia, were named after him.

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Today is Aug. 21.

Two exiled political leaders were assassinated on this date over 40 years apart. Exiled Bolshevik leader Leon Trotsky was slain in Mexico City in 1940 on orders from Soviet dictator Josef Stalin.

And in 1983, Philippine opposition leader Benigno Aquino was shot to death as he stepped off a plane at the Manila airport. His slaying fired opposition fires that eventually led to the downfall of longtime dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

More than 1,700 people died and 500 more were injured when toxic gas bubbled from the depths of volcanic Lake Nios in the African nation of Cameroon and crept silently into the nearby villages. Many of those killed died in their sleep; others were felled in their tracks as they tried to flee the gas, which also wiped out animal and insect life.

It was on this date in 1951 that the United States ordered construction of the world's first atomic submarine, the Nautilus.

Back in 1831, slave Nat Turner, claiming to be God's choice to lead his people out of slavery, led a bloody revolt in Virginia, leading to the death of 60 white people. He later was hanged.

And, on this date in 1959, the 50th state -- Hawaii -- joined the union.

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Today is Aug. 22.

Michael Collins, a founder of the Irish Republican Army and a key figure in Ireland's independence movement, was killed by political opponents on this date in 1922.

It was on this date in 1986 that Kerr-McGee Corp. agreed to pay the estate of nuclear industry worker Karen Silkwood more than $1 million, ending a 10-year legal battle over her exposure to radioactive materials at the company's Oklahoma plant.

The U.S.-built schooner America defeated a fleet of Britain's finest ships in a race around England's Isle of Wight on this date in 1851, winning an ornate silver trophy that became known as America's Cup. It later was placed in international competition for future winners of the race.

On this date in 1995, Illinois Congressman Mel Reynolds, a rising star in the Democratic party, was convicted of having sex with an underage girl. He later resigned.

And thieves stole the "Mona Lisa" from the Louvre Museum in Paris on this date in 1911. The famous painting by Da Vinci was recovered four months later.

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Today is Aug. 23.

Berlin once again became the capital of Germany for the first time since World War II on this date in 1999 when Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder moved to the city. Bonn had been serving as the capital.

It was on this date in 1939 that Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union signed a non-aggression pact. Moscow should have known better. Less than two years later, Germany launched an all-out attack on Russia.

Voters in Lebanon elected Beirut Christian leader Beshir Gemayel as their president on this date in 1982. Gemayel would not get the chance to prove himself: he would be assassinated less than one month later (ironically, on the same day that Princess Grace of Monaco would die in a car accident).

Worldwide demonstrations in support of their innocence failed to change the guilty verdict and on this date in 1927, Italian-born anarchists Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti were executed for murder.

And it was on this date in 1926 that silent screen idol Rudolph Valentino died, sending his fans into hysterical mourning. He was only 31.

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Today is Aug. 24.

On this date in 79 A.D., Mount Vesuvius in southern Italy erupted, burying the Roman cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum and killing thousands of people. The ruins were found by farmers centuries later and today Pompeii is a popular tourist attraction.

During the War of 1812, the British fought their way into Washington, D.C., on this date in 1814 and captured the city. They torched most public buildings -- including the Capitol building and the White House. President James Madison grabbed a couple of pistols and tried to fight them off, but fled after he saw he was outnumbered.

Hurricane Andrew smashed into Florida south of Miami on this date in 1992 with sustained winds of up to 145 mph, carving path of destruction. TV viewers were treated to the sight of network anchors getting their hair-sprayed 'dos wind-blown. President Bush would later declare southern Florida a federal disaster area.

It was on this date in 1932 that Amelia Earhart became the first woman to fly non-stop across the United States. The trip from Los Angeles to Newark, N.J., took 19 hours, five minutes.

The Citadel. a state-sponsored military college in South Carolina, fought in court to remain an all-male institution but lost and on this date in 1996, four women enrolled at the school.

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Today is Aug. 25.

On this date in 1985, a 13-year-old American schoolgirl named Samantha Smith, her father and six others died in a Maine plane crash. Two years earlier, Samantha had made headlines when she wrote to Soviet President Yuri Andropov, asking him why he wanted to conquer the world, or at least the United States. The letter was widely published in the Soviet Union and resulted in Andropov's personal invitation to Samantha to visit Moscow.

The 19th Amendment, guaranteeing women the right to vote, was formally adopted into the U.S. Constitution on this date in 1920.

After more than four years of Nazi occupation, Paris was at last liberated by American troops on this date in 1944. Opposition was light and the German commander defied an order by Hitler to blow up Paris' landmarks and burn the city to the ground before its liberation.

The city of New Orleans was founded on this date in 1718 by Jean Baptiste LeMoyne. He named it for the French regent, the Duke of Orleans.

And after previously denying it used any such incendiary devices, the FBI admitted on this date in 1999 that it fired pyrotechnic tear-gas canisters at the Branch Davidian compound near Waco, Texas, on the day in 1993 that the standoff came to a fiery end -- killing the more than 80 people inside. But it said the canisters bounced harmlessly off the compound's outer walls.

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