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December 7, 1941

Just before 8am hundreds of Japanese planes attacked the United States Naval Base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii Territory, killing more than 2,300 Americans and wounding at least 1,000 more. The attack lasted two hours and destroyed eight enormous battleships, nearly a dozen other naval vessels, and almost 200 airplanes. On December 8th President Franklin D. Roosevelt asked Congress to declare war on Japan; Congress approved his declaration with one dissenting vote. Japanese allies Germany and Italy declared war on the United States three days later, Congress reciprocated. America had joined World War II two years after the conflict began.

July 16, 1945

Detonation of "The Gadget" signaled the start of the atomic age. Six years of research culminated in a test that left the creators with mixed feelings. The Atomic bomb was a success, but what did that mean to the world?

August 6 - 9, 1945

It was not long until the power of the destructive force was proven at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Japan offered to surrender on August 10, 1945 bringing World War II in the Pacific to an end.

November 3, 1948

President Harry S. Truman holds up a copy of the Tribune "early edition" after he'd been declared the winner in the presidential election, surely one of the most infamous headline mistakes ever. Harry S. Truman had fought the media, the commentators, and everyone else, and won the election when none of the pundits thought he could. The 1948 Election shows the agenda of the media and how it conflicts with that of the average American. In his final campaign speech, Truman said, “The smart boys say we can’t win. They tried to bluff us with a propaganda blitz, but we called their bluff, we told the people the truth. And the people are with us. The tide is rolling. All over the country. I have seen it in the people’s faces. The people are going to win this election.” Give em hell Harry!



June 25, 1950 - July 27, 1953

With backing from the Soviet Union the Communist forces of North Korea invaded South Korea, on June 25, 1950 war broke out along the 38th parallel. North Korean troops attacked several strategic points along the parallel and advanced toward Seoul, the capital of South Korea. American troops were ordered to the Korean peninsula and were joined by soldiers from 15 other United Nations member countries. During the war casualties were heavy - U.S. losses were over 54,000 dead and 103,000 wounded; both Chinese and Korean casualties were estimated to be at least 10 times as high. In the early month of the war Korean forces on both sides executed many civilian "enemy sympathizers”. After three years the fighting ended with the signing of an armistice. There was no victor. Peace was never declared. The country remained divided. It is often called "The Forgotten War".


May 17, 1954

Chief Justice Earl Warren and other members of the Supreme Court wrote in Brown vs Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas that separate facilities for blacks did not make those facilities equal according to the Constitution. The Supreme Court's Brown v. Board of Education decision did not abolish segregation in restaurants and restrooms, nor did it include a timeline for desegregation of public schools. It did make the laws requiring mandatory segregation of public schools in 17 states plus the District of Columbia, and allowed it in 4 more, unconstitutional! It would take years to fully integrate public schools, by the end of 1957 only nine of the 17 states and the District of Columbia had begun to desegregate.

December 1, 1955

Rosa Parks, a 42-year-old African-American seamstress at Montgomery Fair got on the same bus as she did every night in Montgomery, Alabama. When the bus became full she refused to give up her seat (which was the first considered as the "back of the bus") to a white man. She was arrested and fined for breaking the laws of segregation - sometimes referred to as Jim Crow laws. Rosa Parks' refusal to leave her seat sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott and is considered the beginning of the modern Civil Rights Movement.


On the 26th of July in 1953, Fidel Castro attacked the federal garrison at Moncada with a force of 140 rebels. The greater numbers and weapons of the army soldiers made the assault a near-total failure for "los rebeldes" - Most involved were killed or captured. Fidel and his brother Raúl were captured and given a trial, which he used to make his famous speech, "History will absolve me". Sentenced to 15 years, he was pardoned after two years in prison.
Once released he went into exile in Mexico, where he trained and assembled the "26th of July" Movement. He gained support from Che Guevara and others before leaving aboard the Granma to invade Cuba in 1956. Returning to Cuba, the revolutionaries hid in the Sierra Maestra mountains, gaining support among the peasants. Eventually, Batista was forced to flee in 1959 and Castro took over.


November 22, 1962

Shortly after noon on November 22, 1963, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated as he rode in a motorcade through Dealey Plaza in downtown Dallas, Texas. Kennedy was the youngest man elected President; sadly he was the youngest to die. His untimely, unexpected, violent death was a huge shock to the world, Americans deeply mourned his loss. His assassination has been overshadowed by various conspiracy theories, many questions have been raised. Did Lee Harvey Oswald really assassinate President John Fitzgerald Kennedy, or was Kennedy's death the result of some strange, secret plot?

April 4, 1968

While standing on the balcony of his motel room in Memphis, Tennessee, where he was to lead a protest march for the second time in sympathy with the city's striking garbage workers, Martin Luther King was assassinated. He had been in Memphis on just one week before to march in support of the Memphis Sanitation Workers Union. That event had led to rioting and looting. He returned dedicated to the ideal of peaceful protests, he would not allow violence to disrupt the Civil Rights Movement. The leader who had spent more than thirteen years dedicated to nonviolent protest was killed by a sniper. His murder was followed by riots in dozens of cities, violence and controversy raged even while the world mourned. Many believed the FBI was responsible for the assassination. James Earl Ray was arrested, plead guilty, and was sentenced to 99 years in prison. He later recanted his confession - many believe he was innocent, members of the King family among them.

July 20, 1969

Apollo 11 the first manned mission landed on the moon. Launched from Kennedy Space Center on July 16, 1969, at 08:32 a.m. EST the spaccraft carried a crew of three: Mission Commander Neil Armstrong, Command Module Pilot Michael Collins, and Lunar Module Pilot Edwin E. Aldrin Jr. As he stepped from the lunar module Neil Armstrong's made his famous speech "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind" as the world watched. He had just taken the first steps by a human on another planetary body, followed closely by Buzz Aldrin. The astronauts returned to Earth with"moon rocks" but the first mission plan was simple - perform a manned lunar landing and return the mission safely to Earth. This flight rekindled the excitement felt in the early 1960s during the first Mercury flights, and set the stage for later Apollo landing missions. Five more landing missions followed at approximately six-month intervals through December 1972.


April 22, 1970

The first "Earth Day" was celebrated and an environmental movement was launched that has continued through today. Twenty million demonstrators and the thousands of schools and local communities participated. Founder Gaylord Nelson, then a U.S. Senator from Wisconsin, had realized that if he could bring the energy of the student anti-war movement together with an emerging public consciousness about air and water pollution then environmental protection issues would be advanced on the national political agenda. Senator Nelson announced the idea for a “national teach-in on the environment” to the national media and it took on a life of its own. Earth Day 1970 achieved a rare political alignment, enlisting support from all walks of life - Republicans and Democrats, rich and poor, young and old, urban and rural. The first Earth Day led to the creation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species Acts.

August 8, 1974

In the 1972 election the incumbent Nixon had defeated Democratic candidate George McGovern by one of the widest margins on record, but within a few months his administration was embattled over the so-called "Watergate" scandal. A break-in at the offices of the Democratic National Committee during the 1972 campaign had been traced to officials of the Committee to Re-elect the President. A number of administration officials resigned; some were later convicted of offenses connected with efforts to cover up the affair. Nixon denied any personal involvement but the courts forced him to turn over tape recordings which proved he had tried to divert the investigation. After two years of bitter public debate over the Watergate scandal, the 37th President of the United States Richard M. Nixon bowed to pressures from the public and leaders of his party and became the first President in American history to resign.

October 18, 1979

Mother Teresa of Calcutta, a Roman Catholic nun of Albanian stock who has cared for the poor and sick in India for more than 30 years, was named the winner of the 1979 Nobel Peace Prize. She started the Mission of Charity in 1950 – dedicated to caring for “the hungry, the naked, the homeless, the crippled, the blind, the lepers, all those people who feel unwanted, unloved, uncared for throughout society, people that have become a burden to the society and are shunned by everyone.” She went on to open a hospice for the poor, a home for sufferers of leprosy, and a home for orphans and homeless youths. She refused the traditional Nobel honor banquet, instead requesting that the $192K funds be given to help the poor of India. She continued her work with the poor for the rest of her life, leading the Missionaries of Charity until just months before her death on September 5, 1997. The Catholic Church has begun to move Mother Teresa along the steps toward sainthood, and she was beatified in 2003. Her official title is now Blessed Teresa of Calcutta.


July 7, 1981

President Ronald Reagan appointed Sandra Day O'Connor to be the first female justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. The Arizona Court of Appeals judge was confirmed two months later, becoming the first woman to serve on the nation’s highest court.
In announcing the appointment, President Reagan declared, “I made a commitment that one of my first appointments to the Supreme Court vacancy would be the most qualified woman that I could possibly find. Now, this is not to say that I would appoint a woman merely to do so. That would not be fair to women nor to future generations of all Americans whose lives are so deeply affected by decisions of the court. Rather, I pledged to appoint a woman who meets the very high standards that I demand of all court appointees. I have identified such a person.” Despite initial protests by Republicans that Ms. O’Connor was not conservative enough, on Sept. 21, 1981, the Senate confirmed her appointment by a vote of 99-0.

January 28th, 1986

At 11:39am EDT - The Space Shuttle Challenger explodes on its 10th flight, it had flown nine successful missions before that fateful day. This mission was to be unique, it was the first flight of a new program called TISP, the Teacher In Space Program. Sharon Christa McAuliffe had been elected from more than 11,000 applicants from the education profession to be the first teacher in space. The rest of the Challenger crew consisted of mission commander Francis R. Scobee; pilot Michael J. Smith; mission specialists Ronald E. McNair, Ellison S. Onizuka, and Judith A. Resnik; and payload specialists Gregory B. Jarvis. Christa was also listed as a payload specialist.

From the beginning the Shuttle Mission had problems.

  • Liftoff was originally scheduled for 3:43 p.m. EST on January 22, 1986. It slipped to Jan. 23, then Jan. 24, due to delays in a space shuttle Columbia mission.
  • Bad weather at the transoceanic abort landing site in Dakar, Senegal caused liftoff to be again reset for Jan. 25.
  • The launch was again postponed for one day when launch processing was unable to meet new morning liftoff time.
  • Predicted bad weather at Kennedy Space Center (KSC) caused the launch to be rescheduled for 9:37 a.m. EST, Jan. 27.
  • It was delayed another 24 hours because of difficulties with equipment and orbiter hatches.
  • During this delay, the cross winds exceeded limits at KSC's Shuttle Landing Facility.
  • There as a final delay of two hours because of a failure in the launch processing system.

The Challenger finally lifted off at 11:38:00 a.m. EST. Seventy three seconds into the mission, the Challenger exploded, killing the entire crew.

November 9, 1989

The Fall of the Berlin Wall (1989): In the evening of November 9, 1989, East German government official Günter Schabowski stated during a press conference that travel through the border to West Germany was open. The policy change was an attempt to slow an exodus into West Germany through the "back door" which had begun when Hungary had opened its border in the summer. The week before the announcement the number of migrants increased when Czechoslovakia also granted free access to West Germany through its border. At midnight hundreds of people gathered at the gates of the wall, when the doors were opened they pushed through cheering and shouting were triumphantly greeted by West Berliners on the other side.



June 13, 1991
Boris Yeltsin elected President of the Russian Republic.
August 18, 1991
High-ranking members of the Soviet government aided by military and police forces executed a coup and placed Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev under house arrest. The coup leaders claimed Gobachev was ill, declared a state of emergency, and attempted to take control of the government. Yeltsin and his backers from the Russian parliament called on the Russian people to strike and protest the coup. Some of the soldiers involved even choose to join the resistance. The coup only lasted three days, thousands of citizens took the streets to demonstrate. Gorbachev returned to Moscow, but his regime was crumbling. Over the next few months, he granted independence to the Baltic states, disbanded the Communist Party, and proposed an economics-based federation among the remaining republics.

December 1991
Gorbachev resigned. The Soviet Union is dissolved and becomes the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), a loosely organized federation of 15 independent states. Yeltsin emerges as a powerful leader in Moscow due to his part in defeating the coup.


May 8, 1994
Nelson Mandela is elected president. In the nation's first democratic all race elections Mandela and the African National Congress declared victory with 62% of the national vote. He is the first black South African president in a country that has been enforcing the apartheid system, separate lives for black and white people, since 1948.

Mandela was a co-recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 with National Party President F.W. de Klerk for the struggle to abolish apartheid, establish universal suffrage and hold free democratic elections. The impressiveness of his accomplishments are underscored by the fact that until 1990 Mandela had been in prison serving a life sentence for inciting armed revolution against white dominated rule in 1964.


April 19, 1995
A federal building in Oklahoma City was bombed and 168 people, including 19 children, were killed. Later, two anti-government, American terrorists - Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols - were convicted of the bombing. The bombing was carried out in retaliation for the standoff between the FBI and the Branch Davidian cult (led by David Koresh) at the Davidian compound in Waco, Texas which had ended in a fiery tragedy two years prior. The huge explosion tore through the building at 9:02 a.m. almost the entire north side of the 9-story building was ripped off and blown to bits. The country was stunned by such domestic terrorism and watched horrified as it took weeks to sort through the debris to recover the bodies of victims.


August 31, 1997
Diana, Princess of Wales - "The people's princess" - died in a Paris tunnel car accident. The car carrying Diana, her new love interest, "Dodi" Fayed, her bodyguard and a driver went out of control and crashed. Fayed and the driver were killed instantly; Diana suffered massive injuries and died later in a hospital despite heroic efforts to save her. The bodyguard was critically injured but survived.
The people of the world were stunned. First came horror and shock. Then blame directed at the paparazzi, the driver was apparently trying to escape photographers who were following the princess' car. Later tests showed the driver had been well over the legal alcohol limit, but immediate blame was placed on the photographers and their relentless quest to obtain images of Diana that could be sold. There was an outpouring of sorrow and grief. The entire world mourned the Princess - a champion for worthy causes such as the elimination of AIDS and landmines and a role model for those who suffer from depression or bulimia - taken away in the prime of her life.


September 11, 2001
Islamic fundamentalist terrorists hijack four U.S. airliners. The attack of two planes levels the World Trade Center and the crash of a third plane inflicts serious damage to the Pentagon causing almost 3,000 deaths. The fourth plane is crashed by heroic passengers into a Pennsylvania cornfield preventing preventing the terrorists from hitting a second target in Washington, D.C. The plot is attributed to the Al-Qaeda organization led by Osama Bin Laden.

Feb 1, 2003
On its 113th mission the U.S. space shuttle Columbia broke up 203,000 feet over north central Texas as it descended toward a landing at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Columbia, the oldest space shuttle in the fleet of four, was the first space shuttle to be launched into Earth orbit in 1981. Seven astronauts were lost in this disaster, which was the second of the program.

Aug. 29, 2005
Hurricane Katrina slammed into the U.S. Gulf Coast destroying beachfront towns in Mississippi and Louisiana, displacing a million people, and killing almost 1,800. When levees in New Orleans were breached, 80% of the city was submerged by the flooding. 100,000 people were trapped in the city without power, food, or drinking water. Rescue efforts were so delayed and haphazard that many were stranded for days on rooftops and in attics before help arrived. Relief workers, medical help, security forces, and essential supplies remained profoundly inadequate during the first critical days of the disaster.

November 4, 2008
Barack Obama was elected as the 44th President of the United States. By becoming the first African-American president his election surmounted the last racial barrier in the United States of America. In his victory speech he said “If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible, who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time, who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer.”

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