A Blast from the Past

By United Press International  |  March 18, 2003 at 3:15 AM
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Today is March 24.

It was on this date in 1999 that NATO began bombing targets in Yugoslavia after many weeks of unsuccessful negotiations with leader Slobodan Milosevic over the treatment of ethnic Albanians in the rebellious province of Kosovo. In response, Serbian troops forced hundreds of thousands of ethnic Albanians to flee Kosovo for neighboring Albania -- causing a refugee nightmare. The air war lasted almost three months until Serb forces withdrew from Kosovo.

Horror at an Arkansas school on this date in 1998 -- as students and teachers poured out of the Westside Middle School in Jonesboro after someone pulled the fire alarm, bullets were fired from the nearby woods. Four girls and a teacher were killed. The culprits -- two boys, ages 11 and 13.

The largest oil tanker spill in U.S. history took place on this date in 1989 when the Exxon Valdez hit a reef in the Gulf of Alaska, spilling 11 million gallons into one of nature's richest habitats - Prince William Sound, Alaska. Its captain, Joseph Hazelwood, was charged with piloting under the influence or something like that. These days, the Valdez has been renamed and is working the Mediterranean.

President Franklin Roosevelt signed a bill on this date in 1934 that granted independence to the Philippines. The measure -- which took effect on July 4, 1946 -- ended almost half-a-century of U.S. control of the island nation.

It was on this date in 1958 that a 23-year-old Elvis Presley was sworn into the U.S. Army as Pvt. Presley, serial number US-53310761.

In 2002, history was made at the Academy Awards as African-Americans took top acting awards for the first time. Halle Berry became the first black woman to win the best actress Oscar for her performance in "Monster's Ball." Hattie McDaniel and Whoopi Goldberg had earned supporting actress honors earlier. Denzel Washington won the best actor accolade for his role in "Training Day." It was his second Oscar, having previously won a best supporting honor for "Glory." Sidney Poitier was the only other African-American actor to win the top award (in1963). "A Beautiful Mind" was the best picture winner.

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


Today is March 25.

It was on this date in 1911 that a fire broke out at the Triangle Shirt Waist factory in New York City, just minutes before the seamstresses were to go home for the day. Some of the workers burned to death while other leaped to their deaths from the windows of the 10-story building. A total of 147 people died. The tragedy was a turning point in labor history, bringing about reforms in health and safety laws, after it was determined that some of the victims had been trapped by a locked door.

Exactly 79 years later, in 1990, an arson fire swept an overcrowded, illegal Bronx, N.Y., social club -- killing 87 people in the worst mass slaying in U.S. history to that point and the deadliest New York blaze since the Triangle Shirt Waist factory disaster. Julio Gonzalez, 36, was charged with arson and murder.

Another tragedy on this date in 1947 -- a mine explosion in Centralia, Ill., killed 111 men, most of them asphyxiated by gas.

It was a sign of the capitalist revolution. On this date in 1992, veterans of the former Soviet KGB announced plans to sell cloak-and-dagger tales to Hollywood for movies and TV.

And, RCA began producing color television sets on this date in 1954.

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


Today is March 26.

On this date in 1953, news of a major medical breakthrough. American medical researcher Dr. Jonas Salk announced on a national radio show that he had successfully tested a vaccine against poliomyelitis, the virus that causes the crippling disease of polio. In 1952--an epidemic year for polio--there were 58,000 new cases reported in the United States and more than 3,000 died from the disease.

30 years of hostilities between Israel and Egypt ended on this date in 1979 when the two countries signed a peace treaty at the White House. Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat gave President Carter credit for the so-called Camp David agreement reached the previous fall.

A grisly find on this date in 1997. 39 members of the Heaven's Gate religious cult were found dead in a large house in Rancho Mirage, Calif., in an apparent mass suicide. It seemed the cultists had "shed" their corporeal forms to board the space ship they believed was trailing the Comet Hale-Bopp.

In 1859, astronomers reported sighting a new planet in an orbit near that of Mercury. They named it Vulcan. It's now believed to have been a "rogue asteroid" making a one-time pass close to the sun.

Former heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson was sentenced to six years in prison on this date in 1992 for raping a teenage beauty pageant contestant. He'd spend about three years behind bars.

And on this date in 1999, "Dr. Death" Jack Kevorkian was convicted of second-degree murder in an Oakland Co., Mich., courtroom for the videotaped "assisted suicide" of a man suffering from Lou Gehrig's disease. Four previous trials of Kevorkian on charges stemming from helping other people end their lives had ended with acquittals. This time, however, the charges stuck. The retired pathologist would be sentenced to 10 to 25 years in prison.

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


Today is March 27.

It was the worst aviation disaster in history. On this date in 1977, two Boeing 747s collided and exploded in flames on a foggy runway on Tenerife in the Canary Islands. A total of 577 people were killed -- including everyone aboard the KLM jumbo jet. Amazing, some people on the Pan Am airliner survived and were able to climb out of the wreckage to safety.

117 people died on this date in 1964 when the strongest earthquake in North American history -- 8.4 on the Richter scale - struck Alaska, east of Anchorage.

Nikita Khrushchev replaced Nikolai Bulganin as premier of the Soviet Union on this date in 1958. Yep, that was Khrushchev who'd later pound his shoe on the desk at the United Nations.

Life is like a box of chocolates, or an armful of Oscars. On this date in 1995, "Forrest Gump" won six Academy Awards, including best picture and best actor for Tom Hanks.

And on this date in 1972, Elvis Presley recorded what turned out to be his last major hit -- a powerful, driving cover of bluesman Arthur Alexander's "Burning Love."

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


Today is March 28.

Mention the phrase "Three Mile Island" and nearly everyone knows what you're talking about. It was early in the morning on this date in 1979 that a series of failures in the cooling system at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant south of Harrisburg, Penn., caused a near-meltdown. It was the worst accident ever at an American civilian nuclear facility, and led to the extensive re-evaluation of the safety of existing nuclear power generating operations.

Madrid surrendered to the nationalist forces of Generalissimo Francisco Franco in the Spanish Civil War on this date in 1939. By the way, Franco is still dead.

It was on this date in 1797 that Nathaniel Briggs was awarded a patent for the first washing machine.

And it was on this date in 1982 that rocker David Crosby was arrested in Texas on various drug and weapons possession charges. When asked why he was carrying a concealed .45, Crosby replied: "John Lennon." 'Nuff said.

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


Today is March 29.

In 1979, the House Select Committee on Assassinations released its final report on the assassinations of President Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy. The panel concluded JFK had been assassinated as a result of a conspiracy, although no trail of conspiracy could be found. It also concluded that the possibility of conspiracy existed in the cases of Dr. King and Sen. Kennedy, although no specific individuals organizations could be pinpointed as being involved.

Lt. William Calley was convicted on this date in 1971 for his part in the murders of 22 Vietnamese civilians in what became known as the "My Lai" massacre, the killings of unarmed villagers by U.S soldiers in Vietnam. It was the most publicized atrocity of the Vietnam War. Calley was sentenced to life in prison, although he has since been released.

Also on this day in 1971, cult leader Charles Manson and three followers were sentenced to death in the August 1969 Tate-Labianca slayings in Los Angeles. The death sentences were later overturned and Manson and company re-sentenced to life behind bars. Every couple of years, they make headlines when their bids for parole are denied.

The last U.S. troops left South Vietnam and the last American prisoners of war acknowledged by the North Vietnamese government were freed on this date in 1973. It would be two more years before Saigon would fall and Vietnam would be united under one Communist government.

The first wedding was performed in the White House on this date in 1812. Mrs. Lucy Payne Washington -- sister-in-law of President James Madison -- married U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thomas Dodd.

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


Today is March 30.

An attempt on the life of President Reagan took place on this date in 1981. The president was shot and seriously wounded by John Hinckley Jr. outside a Washington hotel. White House news secretary James Brady, a Secret Service agent and a Washington policeman also were wounded - Brady was left paralyzed and in a wheelchair by the incident. Hinckley, who was arrested at the scene, was later found NOT guilty by reason of insanity and remains institutionalized in a Washington, D.C., hospital.

The United States grew a whole lot bigger on this date in 1867 when Secretary of State William Seward reached an agreement with Russia for the purchase of Alaska for $7,200,000 in gold. The treaty was ratified by the U.S. Senate in May, and the territory formally transferred to U.S. control that October. Despite the bargain price of roughly two cents an acre, the Alaskan purchase was ridiculed in Congress and in the press as "Seward's folly," "Seward's icebox," and President Andrew Johnson's "polar bear garden."

On this date in 1923, the Cunard liner "Laconia" arrived in New York City, becoming the first passenger ship to circumnavigate the world. It took 130 days.

And in 1993, after 43 years, the unthinkable happened on the comic pages -- Charlie Brown was a hero when he hit a home run and his "Peanuts" baseball team won for the first time.

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

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