A Blast from the Past

By United Press International  |  Dec. 17, 2002 at 3:15 AM
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Today is Dec. 23.

The second defendant in the Oklahoma City bombing trial was convicted of conspiracy and involuntary manslaughter -- but not first-degree murder -- by a federal court jury in Denver on this date in 1997. Terry Nichols was later sentenced to life in prison. He still faces state criminal charges in connection with the April 19, 1995, blast that killed 168 people.


It was on this date in 1948 that former Premier Hideki Tojo of Japan and six other Japanese war leaders were hanged at Sugamo Prison in Tokyo under sentence of the Allied War Crimes Commission. Tojo had served as Japan's prime minister from Oct. 1941 until his resignation in July 1944. After Japan's surrender in August 1945, Tojo was arrested as a war criminal, tried by a military tribunal and sentenced to death.

The first American casualties of the U.S.-led relief operation in the African nation of Somalia occurred on this date in 1992. A vehicle hit a landmine near the city of Badera, killing one civilian and injuring three others.

Entire families were among the more than 500 people who were killed on this date in 1995 in Mandi Dabwali, India, when fire engulfed a tent set up for a school ceremony.

This is the anniversary of the establishment, in 1913, of the Federal Reserve System. The system serves as the nation's central bank and has responsibility for the execution of monetary policies.

The transistor was invented on this date in 1947 by John Bardeen, Walter Brattain and William Shockley of Bell Laboratories. The transistor led to a revolution in communications and electronics -- being smaller, lighter, more reliable and generating less heat than the vacuum tubes that'd been used up until this time. For their work, Bardeen, Brattain and Shockley were awarded the Nobel Prize.

And it was on this date in 1987 that Dick Rutan and Jeana Yaeger landed the experimental aircraft Voyager at Edwards Air Force Base in California. Voyager had taken off on Dec. 14 and spent the next nine days in the air, covering a record 25,012 miles without refueling.

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Today is Dec. 24.

German rocket scientist Wernher von Braun launched the first surface-to-surface guided missile on this date in 1942. Von Braun later came to work for the United States after World War II, and in Feb. 1949, headed the team of scientists at the White Sands Proving Grounds in New Mexico that fired the first rocket to reach outer space. The two-stage rocket was set in the nose of a German V2 missile.

It was on this date in 1990 that Iraq's Saddam Hussein reportedly threatened to attack Tel Aviv, Israel, if the U.S.-led Allies tried to retake Iraqi-occupied Kuwait. During "Operation Desert Storm," Hussein did in fact fire a few Scud missiles at Israel.

In 1865, on Christmas eve in Pulaski, Tenn., a group of Confederate veterans convened to form a secret society that they chose to call the "Ku Klux Klan." The KKK rapidly grew from a secret social fraternity to a paramilitary force bent on reversing the federal government's progressive Reconstruction Era-activities in the South, especially policies that elevated the rights of the local African American population.

The War of 1812 officially ended on this date in 1814 when representatives of the United States and Britain signed the Treaty of Ghent.

Having been defeated for re-election the previous month, President Bush issued some very controversial Christmas Eve pardons on this date in 1992. He pardoned former Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger and five others snared in the Reagan administration's Iran-Contra scandal of the late 1980s.

It was on this date in 1997 that a French court convicted the international terrorist known as Carlos the Jackal of the 1975 murders of three men in Paris. Carlos was sentenced to life in prison.

And the bells of St. Basil's Cathedral, on Red Square in Moscow, rang to celebrate Christmas on this date in 1990. It marked the first time the bells had rung since the death of Lenin.

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Today is Dec. 25.

The Christian festival commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ is celebrated today. Actually, Jesus' exact birth date isn't known -- although it's been estimated he was born in about 3 B.C. in the town of Bethlehem.

Christmas as a Feast of the Nativity dates from the 4th century, when the Western church set Dec. 25 for the feast -- possibly as a substitute for the various pagan celebrations of the time, including the Roman Saturnalia and Druidic winter solstice rites.

Speaking of Christmas, it was on this date in 1818 that the first known Christmas carol was sung at Oberndorf, Austria. It was "Silent Night, Holy Night," and it was written by organist Franz Gruber and Father Joseph Mohr, to be accompanied by guitar, because the church's pipe organ was broken.

In 2000, President Clinton offered a Middle East peace plan that, among other things, included proposals for Israel to give up sovereignty over the Temple Mount and for Palestinians to surrender right of refugees to return to Israel. Though containing a number of concessions for the Palestinians, Yasser Arafat rejected it.

William the Conqueror was crowned King William I of England on this date in 1066. William was the last person to invade the British Isles. He made French the language of the court and of the educated class, forever changing the way English is spoken.

On Christmas night 1989, a broadcast of a Christmas symphony on Romania's state-run television was interrupted by the news that toppled dictator Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife and second-in-command, Elena, had been executed. Ceausescu had been ousted in a brutally fast uprising. Their deaths brought an end to the last hard-line regime in the Soviet bloc. The United States, meanwhile, moved quickly to officially recognize the new Romanian government.

It was on this date in 1990 that Mikhail Gorbachev was given direct control of the Soviet Cabinet and all government ministries in a major widening of his power. Exactly one year later, in 1991, Gorbachev resigned as the Soviet president. The next day, the Supreme Soviet voted to end the Soviet Union.

Actor-singer Dean Martin died on this date in 1995 at the age of 78. He first earned fame as the sane half of the Martin and Lewis comedy team, in partnership with Jerry Lewis, before launching another very successful career on his own.

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Today is Dec. 26.

In 2001, authorities identified the man who tired to ignite explosives hidden in his sneakers aboard a Paris to Miami jetliner as Richard Reid, a 28-year-old unemployed British citizen. He was overcome by fellow passengers and crew members before he could strike his match. Officials said he had attended the same London mosque as Zacarias Moussaoui, a defendant charged with conspiracy in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on America.

On Christmas night 1776, American forces under Gen. George Washington crossed the Delaware River under cover of darkness, and the next day, they attacked and defeated Hessian mercenary troops fighting for the British in Trenton, N.J. More than 1,000 Hessians were taken prisoner. The Battle of Trenton marked a turning point in the Revolutionary War.

The famous painting, "George Washington Crossing the Delaware," was inspired by the battle.

It was on this date in 1972 that Harry Truman, 33rd president of the United States, died at age 88. Truman had become president in April 1945 upon the death of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. He was elected to a full term in 1948 but declined to seek re-election in 1952 and retired to his home in Independence, Mo.

In 1974, Jack Benny, one of America's foremost comedians, died of cancer. A veteran of every aspect of show business from vaudeville to the movies, he was best known for his radio and TV shows in which he portrayed himself as a mildly neurotic, self-important tightwad and though born in 1894, never got any older than 39. In real life, he was said to be generous, modest and considerate.

A young woman who had been the focus of a right-to-die case that went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court died on this date in 1990 in a Missouri hospital. Nancy Cruzan had suffered irreversible brain damage, and her family fought to have her removed from life-support systems and let her die in peace.

It was on this date in 1996 that child beauty queen JonBenet Ramsey, age 6, was found slain in a basement room of her family's posh Boulder, Colo., home. Her parents had awoken that morning to find the child missing and a ransom note on the stairs. JonBenet's killing remains unsolved.

And in 1908, Jack Johnson became the first African American to win the world heavyweight title when he knocked out Canadian Tommy Burns in the 14th round in a championship bout near Sydney, Australia. Johnson held the heavyweight title until 1915.

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Today is Dec. 27.

In 2001, Arab TV played a tape of fugitive terrorist leader Osama bin Laden in which he said he wanted to destroy the U.S. economy. Bin Laden looked gaunt and never used his left hand though he is left-handed.

Coordinated terrorist attacks took place on this date in 1985 at the airports in Rome and in Vienna, Austria. Gunmen opened fire on passengers waiting for flights at the Israeli airline El Al terminal, killing 20 people and wounding 110 more. President Reagan blamed the attacks on Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.

It was on this date in 1941 that Japanese warplanes bombed Manila in the Philippines -- even though it had been declared an "open city."

The Apollo VIII astronauts splashed down in the Pacific on this date in 1968 after orbiting the moon 10 times on Christmas Eve and Day. The first manned lunar mission paved the way for later moon LANDINGS.

The smallest of the Chukwu octuplets -- born earlier in the month in Houston, Texas -- died on this date in 1998. The babies were the first set of octuplets to be born alive in the United States.

On this date in 1932, at the height of the Great Depression, Radio City Music Hall opened in New York City. Thousands turned out for the opening of the magnificent Art Deco theater.

And it was on this date in 1947 that the first "Howdy Doody" show, under the title "Puppet Playhouse," was telecast on NBC. It was one of the first TV shows for children, and the first NBC series to be shown in color. The show was set in the circus town of Doodyville, which was populated by people and puppets. Children sat in the "Peanut Gallery" and took part in activities on the show, such as songs and stories. The host was "Buffalo" Bob Smith.

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


Today is Dec. 28.

On this date in 2001, President George W. Bush granted permanent normal trade status to China, reversing a 20-year policy of using access to U.S. markets as an annual enticement to China to expand freedoms. Congress previously approved the move over the objections of human rights activists. China in return promised to open markets more fully to u.s. goods.

The first U.S. vice president to resign did so on this date in 1832. John Calhoun had served as vice president to two American presidents, John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson. However, he found himself increasingly in disagreement with Jackson and decided to step down instead. Calhoun would spend much of the rest of his political life as a U.S. senator for South Carolina.


It was on this date in 1950 that advancing Chinese troops crossed the 38th Parallel -- dividing line between North and South Korea -- to help the communist North Koreans fight American-led United Nations forces.

The ancient town of Messina, Sicily, was partially destroyed on this date in 1908 by an earthquake. Nearly 80,000 people were killed in the disaster.

On this date in 1895, French film pioneers Auguste and Louis Lumière showed the first commercial motion pictures, unveiling their Cinématographe at a Paris café. About 30 people paid to see short films showing scenes from ordinary French life, including the feeding of a baby, a game of cards, street activity, a working blacksmith and soldiers marching. One of the films, which showed the head-on arrival of a train, caused many patrons to flee in terror.

This was a bad time to be a chicken in Hong Kong. It was on this date in 1997 that officials in Hong Kong announced that all chickens in the territory would be killed in an attempt to eradicate carriers of the avian flu, which had killed several people.

And it was on this date in 1732 that the Pennsylvania Gazette carried the first known advertisement for the first issue of "Poor Richard's Almanack," by Richard Saunders (Benjamin Franklin). America's most famous almanac was published through the year 1758 and has been imitated many times since.

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Today is Dec. 29.

London scientists reported on this date in 2001 that they concluded from studying seized documents that accused terrorist leader Osama bin Laden's al Qaida organization had tried to develop a range of weapons that included a ''dirty'' nuclear bomb.

Texas became a state on this date in 1845. Six months after the Republic of Texas congress accepted United States annexation of the territory it was admitted into the U.S. as the 28th state.

The Wounded Knee Massacre took place on this date in 1890. More than 200 Indian men, women and children were massacred by the U.S. 7th Cavalry at Wounded Knee Creek, S.D. Government efforts to suppress a religious practice known as the Ghost Dance (which would make white men disappear and bring back the Indian way of life) had led to the death of Chief Sitting Bull two weeks earlier, further inflaming disgruntled Indians and resulting in the slaughter at Wounded Knee.

It was on this date in 1916, that Russian monk and mystic Rasputin -- an influential favorite of the Romanov court -- was shot to death and his body thrown into the ice-covered Neva River after an attempt to poison him failed. Rasputin, born Grigori Effimovich Novjkh in Siberia about 1870, was notoriously corrupt. In fact, "Rasputin" is a nickname from the Russian word "rasputny," meaning debauched, profligate, licentious.

Thomas a' Becket, the Archbishop of Canterbury, was murdered at Canterbury Cathedral in England on this date in 1170.

The first U.S. chapter of the Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA) opened in Boston on this date in 1851. It was modeled after an organization begun in London in 1844.

A mass defection from Cuba took place on this date in 1992. A Cuban airliner was hijacked to Miami, and 48 of the 53 people aboard asked for and were granted political asylum.

The "home alone" case out of suburban Chicago first made headlines on this date, also in 1992. A couple returning from a nine-day Mexican vacation was arrested as they got off the plane at Chicago O'Hare International Airport for leaving their young daughters at home alone. The kids were placed in a foster home, and the couple later gave them up for adoption.

And gaslights were installed at the White House for the first time on this date in 1848.

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