A Blast from the Past

By United Press International  |  April 22, 2003 at 2:41 PM
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Today is April 21.

With "Remember the Alamo!" as their stirring battle cry, Texas forces under Sam Houston defeated the army of Mexican General Santa Anna at San Jacinto on this date in 1836, setting the stage for the birth of the Republic of Texas. Santa Anna's army had overrun the band of Texas defenders at the Alamo mission in San Antonio on March 6 after a 13-day siege, killing the entire garrison in one of history's most famous battles.

A couple of milestones in the war in Indochina, later known as the Vietnam War. On this date in 1954, U.S. Air Force planes began flying French troops to Indochina to reinforce Dien Bien Phu. At that time, the country was a French colony. The city later fell to communist Viet Minh forces.

And on this date in 1975, Nguyen Van Thieu resigned as president of South Vietnam after denouncing the United States as untrustworthy. His replacement, Tran Van Huong, prepared for peace talks with North Vietnam as communist forces advanced on Saigon.

Timothy McVeigh, 27, arrested 90 minutes after the Oklahoma City explosion because he'd been driving without license plates, was formally charged in the bombing on this date in 1995. He'd later be convicted and sentenced to death. Two brothers -- Terry and James Nichols -- also were taken into federal custody in connection with the bombing. Terry Nichols eventually was charged and convicted of lesser charges.

The man known as "The Red Baron" was killed on this date in 1918. The notorious World War I German flying ace, whose real name was Manfred von Richthofen , was shot down over Vauz sur Somme, France.

And on this date in 1963, the Beatles and the Rolling Stones met for the first time at the Crawdaddy Club in Richmond, West London, England -- where the Stones were playing.

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


Today is April 22.

A 126-day standoff at the Japanese embassy in Lima ended on this date in 1997 when Peruvian commandos stormed the building and freed 72 hostages, including several high-ranking members of Peru's government. All 14 rebels were killed. The Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement had attacked the embassy during the ambassador's holiday party the previous December.

Henry VIII became king of England on this date in 1509.

It was on this date in 1915 that chemical weapons became a factor in warfare. German forces, in a World War I attack, shocked Allied soldiers along the western front by firing more than 150 tons of lethal chlorine gas against two French colonial divisions at Ypres, Belgium. This was the first major gas attack by the Germans and it devastated the Allied line.


Richard Nixon, the 37th U.S. president and the only U.S. president to resign his office, died on this date in 1994, four days after suffering a stroke. He was 81. Nixon had left the White House in disgrace in August 1974 -- only to rehabilitate his image and become somewhat of an elder statesman in his final years. His funeral was televised nationwide.

A gunshot at noon on this date in 1889 signaled the start of the Oklahoma land rush. Thousands of homesteaders rushed into the Oklahoma Territory to claim themselves a piece of what had once been owned by the Creek and Seminole tribes.

And it was on this date in 1969 that The Who performed the complete "Tommy" for the first time in public in Dolton, England -- two weeks before the rock opera's official premiere in London.

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


Today is April 23.

On this date in 2002, Pope John Paul II apologized to victims of the sexual abuse scandal that had rocked the Roman Catholic church and said what had happened to them was a crime and "an appalling act in the eyes of God." The pope met with U.S. cardinals to determine how to handle the situation.

It was on this date in 1992 that jurors in the Rodney King beating trial in Simi Valley, Calif., began deliberating the fate of four Los Angeles police officers accused of brutality. King had been savagely beaten during a traffic stop in March 1991. A man trying out a new camcorder captured the incident on tape. When the jury acquitted the four officers, rioting erupted in Los Angeles and spread to other cities. The federal government later would charge the cops with violating King's civil rights.

Asking people to "Remember the Maine," the U.S. government on this date in 1898 asked for 125,000 volunteers to fight against Spain in Cuba. The Maine, you might recall, was an American naval ship that had blown up while anchored in Havana Bay. The United States blamed Spain and used that as an excuse to declare war.

At an "America First" rally in New York City on this date in 1941, aviator Charles Lindbergh said, "It is obvious that England is losing the war." Lindbergh opposed U.S. entry into World War II -- a position that cost him many fans.

Elvis Presley made his Las Vegas debut on this date in 1956, opening for the Freddie Martin Orchestra and comic Shecky Greene at the New Frontier Hotel. He was dropped from the bill after only a week due to poor audience response.

And in 1992, McDonald's opened its first restaurant in Beijing, China.

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


Today is April 24.

Opening arguments began on this date in 1997 in the federal court trial of suspected Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh. The proceedings had been moved to Denver in the hopes of seating an impartial jury to hear the case against the decorated Gulf War veteran, who was accused of carrying out the April 19, 1995, truck bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City that killed 168 people. McVeigh would be convicted and sentenced to death.

An ill-fated military operation to rescue the 52 American hostages held in Tehran ended on this date in 1980 with eight U.S. servicemen dead and no hostages rescued. With the Iran hostage crisis stretching into its sixth month and all diplomatic appeals to the Iranian government ending in failure, President Jimmy Carter ordered the military mission as a last ditch attempt to save the hostages.

It's a brave new world. On this date in 1987, genetically altered bacteria -- designed to prevent frost damage -- was sprayed on a California strawberry field. It was the first test of such biotechnology in nature.

The first American newspaper to be published on a regular basis was the Boston News Letter. It was first published on this date in 1704.

The North's military occupation of the South following the Civil War ended on this date in 1877 -- a full 12 years after the fighting ended -- when federal troops moved out of New Orleans.

And comic couple Roseanne and Tom Arnold again proved how musical they were NOT when they performed at Farm Aid VI in Ames, Iowa. The Arnolds closed their musical segment with a rendition of the theme from the TV series "Green Acres."

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


Today is April 25.

Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia visited President George W. Bush on this date in 2002 and presented him with an Israeli-Palestinian peace proposal. The prince reportedly warned Bush that the U.S. must do more to stop Israeli incursions in Palestinian territory or lose credibility in the Middle East.

The $1.5 billion Hubble Space Telescope was deployed into orbit by the shuttle Discovery on this date in 1990. It was the largest in-orbit observatory to date and was supposed to revolutionize our understanding of the universe. Unfortunately, the telescope's lenses turned out to be defective and so the anticipated high quality of images wasn't possible. Three years later, a shuttle crew retrieved the Hubble from orbit, repaired it, and returned it to space once more.

This is Sinai Day in Egypt. On this date in 1982, Israel turned over the final third of the occupied Sinai Peninsula to Egypt under the Camp David peace agreement, signed three years earlier. That treaty had ended 30 years of hostilities between Egypt and Israel, which had captured the Sinai during the 1967 war.

At Port Said, Egypt, on this date in 1859, ground was broken for the Suez Canal, an artificial waterway intended to stretch 101 miles across the isthmus of Suez and connect the Mediterranean and the Red seas. Ferdinand de Lesseps, the French diplomat who organized the colossal undertaking, delivered the pickax blow that inaugurated construction.

It was on this date in 1898 that the U.S. Congress formally declared war on Spain.

Regular season play by major-league baseball teams got under way on this date in 1995. It was the first official action since the longest strike in sports history began in August 1994.

And on this date in 1977, Elvis Presley's concert in Saginaw, Mich., was taped. The recording turned out to be Presley's last. Three of the songs later appeared on the posthumous Presley album "Moody Blue."

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


Today is April 26.

Early in the morning on this date in 1986, an explosion occurred at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant north of Kiev in the Soviet republic of Ukraine. The resulting fire burned for days, sending radioactive material into the atmosphere. In fact, that's how the world got its first hint of what turned out to be the worst-ever nuclear disaster -- when other countries detected the radioactivity. More than 100,000 people were evacuated from the 300-square-mile area around the plant. Initially, Moscow reported the deaths of two people. Months later, it said 31 people had died and thousands more exposed to dangerous levels of radiation.

It was the definitive end to apartheid. On this date in 1994, South Africans began going to the polls in the country's first election that was open to all. For the first time in its history, the nation's 18 million blacks were able to cast ballots. Four days of voting would elect African National Congress leader Nelson Mandela president and incumbent President F.W. de Klerk vice president.

In 2002, shortly after he had been expelled, a youth shot 16 people to death at the Gutenberg school in Erfurt, Germany,

The first British colonists to establish a permanent settlement in America landed at Cape Henry, Va., on this date in 1607.

And in 1984, Liverpool's Cavern Club -- where the Beatles got their start -- reopened. Actually, the original Cavern Club had been torn down. This one was a rebuilt version.

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


Today is April 27.

In the worst maritime disaster in American history, the steamship Sultana, heavily overloaded with an estimated 2,300 passengers -- most of them Union soldiers en route home -- exploded on the Mississippi River just north of Memphis on this date in 1865. The death toll was set at 1,450.

It was on this date in 1997 that authorities surrounded the "embassy" of a separatist group calling itself the Republic of Texas after its armed members took two people hostage near Fort Davis, Texas. The hostages were released the next day, but the standoff did not end until May 3 with the arrests or surrender of a total of 13 people, including leader Richard McLaren.

13 years earlier, on this date in 1984, an 11-day siege of Libya's London embassy that began with the fatal shooting of a policewoman ended. As a result of the incident, Britain severed its diplomatic ties with the Tripoli government.

The American-owned steamship "The Atlantic" began regular trans-Atlantic passenger service on this date in 1850. It was the first U.S. vessel to challenge what had previously been a British monopoly.

And it was on this date in 1937 that the first Social Security payment was made in the United States.

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

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