A Blast from the Past

By United Press International  |  May 6, 2003 at 3:15 AM
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Today is May 12.

Former President Jimmy Carter began an historic trip to Cuba on this date in 2002. He was the first U.S. president, in or out of office, to visit the island since communists seized control in 1959. While there, Carter criticized Fidel Castro's one-party rule, urged more political freedom and called on the U.S. to lift its embargo against Cuba.

The "Mayaguez incident" began on this date in 1975 when a Cambodian gunboat fired on the American cargo ship Mayaguez, forcing it into a Cambodian port. During a U.S military rescue two days later, all 39 crewmen aboard were freed but a number of American servicemen died during the mission.

George VI was crowned king of England at London's Westminster Abby on this date in 1937 -- succeeding his brother Edward VIII, who had abdicated to marry "the woman he loved," American divorcee Wallis Simpson. King George died in 1952 and was succeeded by his daughter, Elizabeth II, Britain's current reigning monarch.

It was on this date in 1949 that Soviet authorities announced the end of a land blockade of Berlin. The blockade had lasted 328 days but was neutralized by the Allies' Berlin airlift of food and other supplies to the divided city in East Germany.

CIA Director Robert Gates said on this date in 1992 that he had begun declassifying all relevant information on the President Kennedy assassination to end the "insidious, perverse notion" that the CIA was involved.

And it was on this date in 1965 that the Rolling Stones laid down the basic tracks for what would become perhaps the band's most famous song -- "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" -- at Chicago's Chess Studios. The song would be finished in Los Angeles.

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


Today is May 13

It was on this date in 1981 that Pope John Paul II was shot twice at close range while riding in an open automobile through St. Peter's Square in Rome. An escaped Turkish terrorist, Mehmet Ali Agca, was arrested immediately following the shooting and later convicted of attempted murder. The pope, who forgave his assailant, was pronounced recovered by his doctors in mid-August.

The sex abuse scandal involving Roman Catholic clergy grew violent on this date in 2002 when a Baltimore priest accused of molesting a youth years earlier was shot and wounded by the alleged victim. One day later, a Connecticut priest hanged himself at a Maryland treatment center for priests accused of molestation.

Although the fighting had begun days earlier, it was on this date in 1846 that the United States declared war on Mexico. The struggle resulted in the U.S. annexation of land that would become parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Nevada, California, Utah and Colorado. The war ended in 1848.

Eleven people, including four children, were killed on this date in 1985 in the fire that erupted after a Philadelphia police helicopter bombed the fortified house of a radical organization, MOVE, to end a 24-hour siege. The blaze also destroyed 53 homes.

It was on this date in 1991 that Winnie Mandela, the wife of South African anti-apartheid activist Nelson Mandela, was convicted of being an accessory in the assault of four youths who had been kidnapped and taken to her Soweto home in 1988. The Mandelas would later divorce.

And Jamestown -- the first permanent English colony in North America -- was founded near the James River in Virginia on this date in 1607. Captains John Smith and Christopher Newport were among the leaders of the group, which had traveled from Plymouth, England, aboard three ships.

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


Today is May 14

The first Jewish state in 2,000 years became a reality on this date in 1948. Jewish Agency Chairman David Ben-Gurion, who issued the proclamation officially creating Israel in an afternoon ceremony at the Tel Aviv Art Museum, became the new state's first premier. Meanwhile, in the distance, the rumble of guns could be heard from fighting that broke out between Jews and Arabs immediately following the British army withdrawal earlier that day. Egypt launched an air assault against Israel that evening.

Frank Sinatra, one of the most influential entertainers of his generation, died of a heart attack on this date in 1998. "Ol' Blue Eyes" was 82 and had been in poor health for a number of years.

The Olympic Games were held in the United States for the first time in 1904 at St. Louis. The Games initially were awarded to Chicago but were later moved to be staged in connection with the St. Louis World Exposition. Like the Second Olympiad, held in Paris in 1900, the St. Louis Games were poorly organized and overshadowed by the world's fair.

He'd later become known as "The Sun King" for, among other things, his flashy way of dressing. It was on this date in 1643 that Louis XIV became king of France.

During World War II, women became eligible to enlist in the military for non-combat duties by an act of Congress on this date in 1942, which established the WAACs, or Women's Auxiliary Army Corps. Women also served in the WAVES (Women Appointed for Voluntary Emergency Service), WAFS (Women's Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron), and SPARS (Semper Paratus Always Ready Service), the Women's Reserve of the Marine Corps.

The top-rated NBC sitcom "Seinfeld" aired its final episode after nine seasons -- but still the "master of its own domain" -- on this date in 1998.

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


Today is May 15

In 2002, eight months after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, the White House said that President Bush had received a CIA briefing in August, 2001, warning that Osama bin Laden planned to hijack airplanes. But, there was no mention of possibly crashing planes into buildings. Officials said they had received many threats that summer but the information was not specific.

It was on this date in 1972 that former Alabama Gov. George Wallace, a symbol of segregation, was shot and wounded at he campaigned for the U.S presidency in Laurel, Md. Wallace, who died in 1998, was left paralyzed from the waist down. His assailant, Arthur Bremer, was sentenced to 67 years in prison for the shooting.

Maj. Gordon Cooper -- one of the original 7 Mercury astronauts -- was launched into space atop an Atlas rocket on this date in 1962. Cooper, inside his Faith 7 capsule, orbited the Earth 22 times before splashing down. In the movie "The Right Stuff," Cooper (portrayed by actor Dennis Quaid) was shown as being so cool that he fell asleep during the launch countdown.

A U.S Supreme Court justice resigned on this date in 1969. Justice Abe Fortas had been under fire for a money deal with jailed financier Louis Wolfson.

France got its first woman prime minister with the election, on this date in 1991, of Socialist and former trade minister Edith Cresson.

And the first regular Air Mail service was established between Washington, D.C., and New York City on this date in 1918. We don't know how much an air-mail stamp cost then.

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Today is May 16

The first Academy Awards were presented on this date in 1929, during a dinner held at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel and attended by about 270 people. Awards were given in 12 categories. The silent film "Wings" was named best picture and acting awards went to Janet Gaynor and Emil Jannings. A committee of only 20 members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences selected the winners that year. By the third year, the entire membership of the academy voted.

It was on this date in 1995 that the leader of a Japanese religious cult was arrested and charged with murder and attempted murder in the March nerve-gas attacks in a Tokyo subway that killed 12 people and injured more than 5,000.

The French Senate declared Napoleon Bonaparte emperor of France on this date in 1804. His actual coronation was held Dec. 2, 1804, during which Napoleon took the crown out of the hands of the pope and placed it on his own head.

And it was on this date in 1988 that Surgeon General C. Everett Koop labeled nicotine as addictive as heroin or cocaine and called for the licensing of tobacco product vendors.

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


Today is May 17

This is the anniversary of the historic Brown vs. Board of Education case and a major victory for civil rights. On this date in 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously that racial segregation in public schools was unconstitutional. The case had been argued before the court by Thurgood Marshall, who would go on to become the first African-American Supreme Court justice.

"What did the president know, and when did he know it?" It was on this date in 1973 that the Senate Watergate Committee opened hearings into the break-in at the Democratic National headquarters in Washington, D.C. "Watergate," as the scandal was known, ultimately led to the downfall of President Nixon.

In another Capitol Hill scandal, it was on this date in 1995 that a preliminary report by the Senate Select Committee on Ethics found "substantial credible evidence" that Sen. Bob Packwood, R-Oregon, made unwanted sexual advances toward a number of women. Packwood would later resign.

Thirty-seven American sailors were killed on this date in 1987 when two Exocet missiles fired by an Iraqi jetfighter hit the frigate USS Stark as it patrolled the Persian Gulf. At the time, Iraq was at war with Iran and was friends with the United States. Baghdad apologized for mistaking the ship's identity and the Stark's top officers were reprimanded and retired.

In 1970, Norwegian ethnologist Thor Heyerdahl and a multinational crew set out from Morocco across the Atlantic Ocean in Ra II, a papyrus sailing craft modeled after ancient Egyptian sailing vessels. Heyerdahl was attempting to prove his theory that Mediterranean civilizations sailed to America in ancient times and exchanged cultures with the people of Central and South America. The Ra II crossed the 4,000 miles of ocean to Barbados in 57 days.

And some two-dozen merchants and brokers met on this date in 1792 in New York City and agreed to form what's now known as the New York Stock Exchange. In nice weather, they operated under a tree on Wall Street; in bad weather, they moved their operations to a nearby coffeehouse.

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


Today is May 18.

During the fall of 1943 and the winter of 1944, the Allies tried five times to take the German position at the Benedictine abbey at Monte Cassino in Italy. Finally on this date in 1944, Polish troops attached to the French Expeditionary Force captured Monte Cassino. It was one of the longest and bloodiest battles of World War II.

Mount St. Helens blew its top on this date in 1980, sending a plume of ash and steam more than 11 miles into the skies over southwestern Washington state. The eruption -- the volcano's first major one since 1857 -- killed at least 55 people. They included a crusty innkeeper named Harry S Truman who had a lodge on Spirit Lake on the mountain.

Remember the Meryl Streep movie "Silkwood"? It was based on a true story, and on this date in 1979, a federal jury in Oklahoma City awarded $10.5 million to the estate of Karen Silkwood, a laboratory technician who had been contaminated by radiation at a Kerr-McGee plutonium plant in 1974.

The Republican Party nominated Abraham Lincoln as its presidential candidate at its convention in Chicago on this date in 1860.

And it could've been called haircut-gate. It was on this date in 1993 that President Clinton received a haircut, which reportedly cost $200, while Air Force One sat on a runway at Los Angeles International Airport for an hour, delaying other flights in and out of LAX.

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

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