A Blast from the Past

By United Press International  |  March 25, 2003 at 3:15 AM
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Today is March 31.

As the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia continued, three U.S. soldiers -- members of the peacekeeping forces in Macedonia in the process of withdrawing -- were captured by Serb troops near the Yugoslav-Macedonia border on this date in 1999. The next day, Serbian Radio announced a military court would try the three. It didn't -- and the soldiers were released a month later when the Rev. Jesse Jackson intervened.

It was on this date in 1968 that President Lyndon B. Johnson announced that he would not seek re-election. At the same time, he ordered the suspension of American bombing of North Vietnam.

In 1889, the Eiffel Tower, Paris' foremost landmark, was dedicated in Paris in a ceremony presided over by its designer, Gustave Eiffel, during the Universal Exhibition of Arts and Manufacturers.

. In 1948, Congress passed the Foreign Assistance Act, known as the Marshall Plan, an ambitious effort to help rehabilitate war-ravaged Europe. The program channeled more than $13 billion in aid to Europe between 1948 and 1951.

And it was on this date in 1995 that Tejano star Selena Quintanilla was shot to death in a hotel in Corpus Christi, Texas. She was 23 and was just about to release her first English-language album after much success in the Spanish language music business. The former president of her fan club was later convicted of her murder and sentenced to life in prison.

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


Today is April 1.

This is the day in 2001 when a U.S. Navy spy plane collided with a Chinese jetfighter off the coast of China. The Chinese plane crashed into the ocean, its pilot lost and presumed dead; the damaged U.S. plane landed on the Chinese island of Hainan, where its 24 crewmembers were taken into custody.

Beijing and Washington traded accusations as to who was to blame for the accident, and China demanded the United States apologize. Finally, President Bush said he was sorry the Chinese pilot had died, and that apparently satisfied Beijing, who released the Americans after 11 days.

The crippled surveillance plane was later dismantled and shipped back to the United States.

It was on Easter Sunday in 1945 that American forces swarmed ashore on the Japanese island of Okinawa, to begin what would be one of the longest and bloodiest battles of World War II. More than half-a-million U.S. troops were involved in what was called Operation Iceberg -- the biggest amphibious operation of the Pacific war.

More military history: the Royal Air Force was founded on this date in 1918, toward the end of World War I. Two months later, Britain began bombing industrial targets in Germany from bases in France.

Adolph Hitler failed in his first attempt to take over Germany. On this date in 1924, he drew a fiive-year prison sentence for leading the unsuccessful "Beer Hall Putsch" in the German state of Bavaria.

Soul singer Marvin Gaye Jr. was shot to death by his father on this date in 1984 -- one day before his 45th birthday. The two had been arguing. The elder Gaye later pleaded guilty and was placed on probation.

The United States formally transferred control of the Panama Canal Zone to the government of Panama on this date in 1982. We didn't turn over the keys to the actual canal, though, until 1999.

And it was on this date in 1986 that world oil prices dipped below $10 a barrel.

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


Today is April 2.

It was on this date in 1982 that Argentine troops stormed the Falkland Islands in the South Atlantic, overwhelming the small British Royal Marine unit stationed there. Argentina had long claimed the islands, which it called the Malvenas. In response, Prime Minister Thatcher saddled up the troops and sailed south to kick some Argentine butt. The British won what became known as the Falklands War in a matter of weeks. By the way, sheep far outnumber the people on the islands.

Speaking of wars, it was on this date in 1917 that President Woodrow Wilson asked Congress for a declaration of war against Germany. Congress later approved, and the United States was propelled into World War I.

Charles Lindbergh left $50,000 in bills in a New York City cemetery on this date in 1932 in the hope of regaining his kidnapped son. It was not to be -- the boy's body was later found in a shallow grave. Bruno Hauptmann was subsequently arrested, convicted of kidnapping and murderi and was executed in 1936.

Congress passed legislation on this date in 1792, authorizing the U.S. Mint to coin money -- all to be inscribed with the Latin words "E Pluribus Unum," a motto meaning "Out of Many, One."

It was on this date in 1991 that a woman claimed William Kennedy Smith had raped her three days earlier at the Kennedy family estate in Palm Beach, Fla. Smith would be acquitted in a televised trial. The Kennedys later sold the place.

Rob Pilatus -- one-half of the lip-synching duo Milli Vanilli -- was found dead in a hotel room in Frankfort, Germany, on this date in 1998. He was 32. Pilatus's death was blamed on a lethal mix of booze and pills. Milli Vanilli gained notoriety in November 1990 when it was revealed they hadn't sung a note on their Grammy-winning album and lip-synched their live performances.

And Spanish explorer Ponce De Leon landed at what's now St. Augustine, Fla., on this date in 1513 to search for the fabled Fountain of Youth.

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


Today is April 3.

The Pony Express postal service began on this date in 1860 when the first riders left St. Joseph, Mo., heading west, and Sacramento, Calif., heading east. For $5 an ounce, letters were delivered within 10 days. The Pony Express lasted less than two years, becoming obsolete when the overland telegraph was completed in Oct. 1861.

The man suspected of being the Unabomber was nabbed on this date in 1996. FBI agents raided a remote Montana cabin and arrested former college professor Theodore Kaczynski, accusing him of being the person whose mail bombs had killed three people and injured 23 more since the 1970s. It was Kaczynski's brother who had provided the lead that led to his capture.

The longest strike in sports history ended on this date in 1995 when the owners and players of major-league baseball approved an agreement. The walkout had begun the previous August.

Richard M. Daley was elected mayor of Chicago on this date in 1989. It was the office his father, Richard J. Daley, had held for 21 years. The elder Daley was mayor of Chicago for so long that a store in his neighborhood had a sign in the window that read "Re-elect Daley" -- in neon.

It was on this date back in 1882 that Jesse James, one of history's most notorious outlaws, was shot to death at his home where he was known as "Mr. Howard." The shooter was Robert Ford, a former gang member, who hoped to get the reward posted on James' head.

And it was on this date in 1959 that the BBC banned the Coasters' single "Charlie Brown" because of the word "spitball." Times -- and tolerance-- have changed.

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


Today is April 4.

The civil rights leader the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated on this date in 1968 in Memphis. He was 39. Much controversy remains to this day about whether he was killed by a lone gunman -- James Earl Ray confessed to shooting King and then later recanted -- or a conspiracy. At the time of his death in 1998, Ray was serving a 99-year sentence for King's murder, although he'd met in prison with members of the King family, who later said they believed his claims of innocence.

Rioting broke out in cities across America in response to King's assassination. But that night in New York City, Jimi Hendrix, B.B. King and Buddy Guy played an all-night blues show in King's honor.

On this date in 2002, President Bush demanded Israel stop its latest assault on West Bank Palestinians and pull its forces back. A day later, the Red Cross and other agencies warned of a humanitarian crisis in the occupied lands. There were lulls in the attacks from both sides but the bitter conflict continued.

It was on this date in 1841 that President William Henry Harrison died of pneumonia after serving just one month in office. Harrison had caught cold during his long-winded inaugural speech, which was delivered outdoors in nasty weather. He was the ninth U.S. president, and the first to die in office.

The Yukon gold rush began on this date in 1896 with the announcement of a strike in the Northwest Territory of Canada.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization, known as NATO, was established on this date in 1949 by 12 Western nations: the United States, Great Britain, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark, Italy, Luxembourg, Norway, Iceland, Canada, and Portugal. The military alliance, which provided for a collective self-defense against Soviet aggression, greatly increased American influence in Europe.

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


Today is April 5.

It was on this date in 1951 that Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were sentenced to death in New York for stealing atomic secrets for the Soviet Union. The Rosenbergs were the only married couple ever executed together in the United States. Their execution -- on June 19, 1953, at Sing Sing Prison -- has been a source of controversy since.

The British fleet weighed anchor and sailed for the South Atlantic on this date in 1982 to recapture the Falkland Islands from invading Argentine forces. Argentina had overrun the islands -- where the sheep far outnumber the humans -- a few days earlier after years of saber-rattling.

Reclusive billionaire Howard Hughes died of kidney failure during a flight from Acapulco, Mexico, to Houston on this date in 1976.

And it was on this date in 1999 that one of two men charged in the Oct. 1998 beating death of gay University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard pleaded guilty and was sentenced to two life sentences. Shepard's brutal murder -- he had been hung like a scarecrow from a fence and left to die -- sparked outrage around the world.

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


Today is April 6.

It was on this date in 1917 that the United States entered World War I, after Congress approved a declaration of war against Germany. WWI had begun three years earlier.

Federal troops and the National Guard were deployed in Chicago, Washington, D.C., and Detroit on this date in 1968, as rioting continued over the assassination of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. two days earlier.

A plane carrying the presidents of the African nations of Rwanda and Burundi was shot down on this date in 1994, crashing in the capital city of Rwanda. Following the deaths of the two leaders, Rwanda descended into chaos. Bloody fighting between the Hutu and Tutsi ethnic groups spread, ultimately leaving hundreds of thousands of people dead.

And Du Pont researchers Roy Plunkett and Jack Rebok accidentally created the chemical compound polytetraflouroethylene resin, better known as Teflon, on this date in 1938. The substance revolutionized the cookwave industry. Something like three-quarters of the pots and pans in America are coated with Teflon or something similar.

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

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