A Blast from the Past

By United Press International  |  Nov. 5, 2002 at 3:15 AM
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Today is Nov. 11.

Standing in the shadow of the World Trade Center ruins, on this date in 2001, President Bush and leaders of from around the world honored those who died in the terrorist attacks two months earlier. More than 80 nations were represented among the victims.

World War I ended on this day in 1918 with the signing of the Armistice at 5 a.m. in Marshall Foch's railway car in the Forest of Compiegne in France. Hostilities ended at 11 a.m. The event, formerly known as "Armistice Day," is now observed as "Veterans Day." What then was known as the Great War claimed the lives of nine million soldiers with another 21 million injured.

Three years later, on this date on 1921, President Warren G. Harding dedicated the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery. It's now known as the Tomb of the Unknowns.

Kate Smith first performed "God Bless America" on her regular radio broadcast on this date in 1938. The song had been written especially for her by Irving Berlin. With the onset of World War II three years later, it became a great patriotic favorite of the nation and one of Smith's most requested songs.

Two days after the Berlin Wall and the rest of the East German border opened, an estimated 1 million East Germans poured into West Germany on this date in 1989 for a day of celebration, visiting and shopping. Most returned home.

And it was on this date in 1994 that Christie's auction house in New York held the first-ever pop memorabilia and guitar sale. Jimi Hendrix's stage outfit, John Lennon's "army" shirt, and guitars from the Grateful Dead's Jerry Garcia and the Beach Boys were among the items sold.

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Today is Nov. 12.

On this date in 2001, an American Airlines Airbus crashed in Queens, N.Y., shortly after takeoff from JFK Airport, killing more than 260 people. It was not until the next day that airport operations in the area returned to normal.

It was on this date in 1992 when Volker Keith Meinhold became the first openly gay person on active duty in the American military. Armed with a court order, Meinhold reported to work at Moffett Naval Air Station in Mountain View, Calif., for reinstatement as a chief petty officer.

Hounded by allegations that he had molested a teenage boy, Michael Jackson on this date in 1993 canceled the rest of his "Dangerous" world tour. The pop star claimed as a reason his addiction to painkillers.

In April 1981, the shuttle Columbia was launched on its first-ever voyage. On this date seven months later, Columbia blasted off again into orbit to became the first spacecraft ever launched twice from Earth.

A war crimes tribunal in Japan sentenced former premier Hideki Tojo and six other World War II Japanese leaders to die by hanging on this date in 1948.

Gdansk shipyard worker Lech Walesa's attempt to unionize and democratize workers in communist Poland got him thrown in prison in December 1981 as Warsaw declared martial law. However, 11 months later, on this date in 1982, Polish authorities freed the founder of the Solidarity Union. Walesa went on to serve as president of Poland following the fall of communism.

On this date in 1799, the first North American meteor shower on record took place. Andrew Ellicott Douglass, an early American astronomer, watched from a ship off the Florida Keys and said that the "whole heaven appeared as if illuminated with sky rockets, flying in an infinity of directions. They continued until put out by the light of the sun after day break."

And it was on this date in 1892 that the first professional football game was played in Pittsburgh, between the Allegheny Athletic Association and the Pittsburgh Athletic Club.

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Today is Nov. 13.

America got its first black mayor on this date in 1967. Carl Burton Stokes became mayor of Cleveland, Ohio, when he won the mayoral election.

It was on this date in 1956 that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a case out of Montgomery, Ala., that segregation on interstate buses was unconstitutional.

The third-deadliest volcano disaster in recorded history took place on this date in 1985. A volcano erupted in Colombia, triggering mudslides that wiped out entire towns and killed an estimated 25,000 people.

The first recorded "sit-down" strike in the United States was staged on this date in 1933 by workers at the Hormel Packing Co. in Austin, Minn. Sit-down strikes are much easier to carry out in furniture factories than in meat-packing plants.

The Vietnam War Memorial was dedicated on this date in 1982 in Washington, D.C.

And the first underwater tunnel built in the United States opened to traffic on this date in 1927. The Holland Tunnel ran under the Hudson River, linking New York City and Jersey City, N.J. Neither city has forgiven the other since.

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Today is Nov. 14.

The first recorded blood transfusion took place on this date in 1666 in London. Samuel Pepys, diarist and Fellow of the Royal Society, wrote of an experiment conducted by a Dr. Croone in which the blood of one dog was transfused into another dog.

German planes bombed Coventry, England, on this date in 1940 -- destroying or damaging 69,000 buildings, including the 14th-century Coventry Cathedral.

Transportation milestones:

The first horse-drawn streetcar made its appearance in New York City on this date in 1832.

And on this date in 1994, the 31-mile Chunnel Tunnel, which linked southern England with northern France under the English Channel, opened to passenger traffic.

The trial of a $50 million libel suit filed by former Israeli Defense Minister Ariel Sharon against Time (Magazine) Inc. opened in New York on this date in 1984. He lost after a two-month trial.

And it was on this date in 1972 that, for the first time in its 76-year history, the Dow Jones Industrial Stock Average closed above 1,000.

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Today is Nov. 15.

As the war on terrorists continued in Afghanistan, word came on this date in 2001 that U.S. Special Forces were taking part in combat operations against the Taliban and had close scrapes with enemy fire. Dispatches from the front describe scenes of great bravery and danger, and indicate some of the apparently easy battles were more harrowing than they appeared.

It was on this date in 1864 that Union Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman -- having put Atlanta to the torch -- began his Civil War march to the sea. Sherman's march through Georgia was devastating to people and property alike; yet when he reached Savannah, he spared the port city.

The first assembly of the League of Nations was called to order in Geneva, Switzerland, on this date in 1920. The League of Nations, which the United States refused to join, was a predecessor to the United Nations. The idea was to prevent conflicts such as World War I, which had ended just two years earlier.

Senate hearings into charges of influence peddling on behalf of savings and loan kingpin Charles Keating opened on this date in 1990 on Capitol Hill. Testimony began with the "Keating Five" -- Sens. Alan Cranston, D-Calif.; Dennis DeConcini, D-Ariz.; John Glenn, D-Ohio; John McCain, R-Ariz.; and Donald Riegle, D-Mich. -- maintaining their innocence.

And it was on this date in 1984 that five-week-old Baby Fae died after her body rejected the baboon heart she had lived with for 20 days at Loma Linda University Medical Center in California. The infant had been born with a fatal heart defect in which one side of her heart was underdeveloped. While the baboon heart failed in Fae's case, it didn't stop medical researchers from experimenting with other means of cross-species transplantation to address the chronic shortage of donor organs.

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Today is Nov. 16.

This is the anniversary of a massacre that made Americans rethink the U.S. policy of supporting friendly but ill-behaved foreign governments.

On this date in 1989, six Jesuit priests, a housekeeper and her teenage daughter were shot to death at their residence in San Salvador, the capital of El Salvador. It soon became evident that the right-wing Salvadoran government -- a close ally of Washington -- included military officers capable of doing things like this if they suspected missionaries of aiding rebels.

Two years later, on this date in 1991, House Democrats reported that the Salvadoran defense minister, Gen. Rene Ponce, had planned the killings.

The United States established diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union on this date in 1933.

And on this date in 1990, the Soviet Union indicated that it would approve the use of military force to oust Iraq from neighboring Kuwait. There were close diplomatic and economic ties between Moscow and Baghdad, but Saddam Hussein had been a bad boy in invading Kuwait and the U.S.S.R. decided to side with most of the rest of the world in not standing for that.

It was on this date in 1992 that a federal judge in Los Angeles refused to reconsider the Navy's appeal of an injunction that forced the reinstatement of sailor Keith Meinhold, the first openly homosexual person on active duty in the U.S. military.

The shuttle Discovery returned to Earth on this date in 1984 with an historic cargo: the first two satellites ever plucked from orbit.

And it was on this date in 1907 that Oklahoma became the 46th state admitted to the Union. Previously, Oklahoma had been known -- officially and on maps -- simply as "Indian Territory."

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Today is Nov. 17.

On this date in 2001, in the first major test of America's strengthened airport security after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, an Atlanta man forced the closing of one of the world's busiest airports when he violated security rules. Michael Lasseter, who said he rushed back into the airport to retrieve his camera bag and feared he would miss his flight, was arrested and Hartsfield International Airport was shut down for four hours.

Congress convened in Washington for the first time on this date in 1800. Previously, the U.S. capital had briefly been in several other cities -- including New York and Philadelphia.

George Washington -- a surveyor by profession -- had been assigned to find a site for a capital city somewhere along the upper Potomac River, which flows between Maryland and Virginia. He chose the southernmost possible point, which happened to be the closest commute from Mount Vernon -- his estate in Virginia -- despite the fact this placed the city in a swamp called Foggy Bottom.

A little more than a year after he first published the New York Weekly Journal, colonial America's first regularly published newspaper, John Peter Zenger was arrested on this date in 1734 for libeling the colonial governor of New York. His trial, in August 1735, and subsequent acquittal was an important early step toward freedom of the press in America.

President Reagan was sharply criticized by Congress on this date in 1987, when a report from congressional committees investigating the Iran-Contra scandal declared, "If the president did not know what his national security advisers were doing, he should have."

National Security Adviser John Poindexter and his aide, Oliver North, had traded arms for hostages in the Middle East and then diverted the profits to the Contra rebels trying to overthrow the Marxist government of Nicaragua, something Congress had banned.

The United States and the Soviet Union began negotiating their way back from the nuclear precipice on this date in 1969, when the strategic arms limitation talks -- better known by the acronym "SALT" -- opened in Helsinki, Finland.

It was on this date in 1997 that 60 people were killed when six Islamic militants opened fire on a group of tourists at Luxor, Egypt. A three-hour gun-battle claimed 10 more lives, including those of the gunmen.

Samuel Gompers organized the forerunner of the American Federation of Labor on this date in 1881. That union later merged with the Congress of Industrial Organizations to form the AFL-CIO.

And the Suez Canal in Egypt was opened on this date in 1869, linking the Red Sea and the Mediterranean. The 100-mile-long canal had taken 1.5 million men a decade to dig. It shortened the sea route from Europe to India by about 6,000 miles. An Anglo-French commission ran the Suez Canal until 1956, when Egypt seized it.

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