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  • U.S. warship downs Iranian passenger jet
  • In the Persian Gulf, the U.S. Navy cruiser Vincennes shoots down an Iranian passenger jet that it mistakes for a hostile Iranian fighter aircraft. Two missiles were fired from the American warship—the aircraft was hit, and all 290 people aboard were killed. The attack came near the end of the Iran-Iraq War, when U.S. vessels were in the gulf defending Kuwaiti oil tankers. Minutes before Iran Air Flight 655 was shot down, the Vincennes had engaged Iranian gunboats that shot at its helicopter.

    Iran called the downing of the aircraft a “barbaric massacre,” but U.S. officials defended the action, claiming that the aircraft was outside the commercial jet flight corridor, flying at only 7,800 feet, and was on a descent toward the Vincennes. However, one month later, U.S. authorities acknowledged that the airbus was in the commercial flight corridor, flying at 12,000 feet, and not descending. The U.S. Navy report blamed crew error caused by psychological stress on men who were in combat for the first time. In 1996, the U.S. agreed to pay $62 million in damages to the families of the Iranians killed in the attack.


    Tuesday, February 09, 2010

  • Battle of Gettysburg ends
  • On the third day of the Battle of Gettysburg, Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s last attempt at breaking the Union line ends in disastrous failure, bringing the most decisive battle of the American Civil War to an end.

    In June 1863, following his masterful victory at the Battle of Chancellorsville, General Lee launched his second invasion of the Union in less than a year. He led his 75,000-man Army of Northern Virginia across the Potomac River, through Maryland, and into Pennsylvania, seeking to win a major battle on Northern soil that would further dispirit the Union war effort and induce Britain or France to intervene on the Confederacy’s behalf. The 90,000-strong Army of the Potomac pursued the Confederates into Maryland, but its commander, General Joseph Hooker, was still stinging from his defeat at Chancellorsville and seemed reluctant to chase Lee further. Meanwhile, the Confederates divided their forces and investigated various targets, such as Harrisburg, the Pennsylvania capital.

    On June 28, President Abraham Lincoln replaced Hooker with General George Meade, and Lee learned of the presence of the Army of the Potomac in Maryland. Lee ordered his army to concentrate in the vicinity of the crossroads town of Gettysburg and prepare to meet the Federal army. At the same time, Meade sent ahead part of his force into Pennsylvania but intended to make a stand at Pipe Creek in Maryland.

    READ MORE: How the Battle of Gettysburg Turned the Tide of the Civil War

    On July 1, a Confederate division under General Henry Heth marched into Gettysburg hoping to seize supplies but finding instead three brigades of Union cavalry. Thus began the Battle of Gettysburg, and Lee and Meade ordered their massive armies to converge on the impromptu battle site. The Union cavalrymen defiantly held the field against overwhelming numbers until the arrival of Federal reinforcements. Later, the Confederates were reinforced, and by mid-afternoon some 19,000 Federals faced 24,000 Confederates. Lee arrived to the battlefield soon afterward and ordered a general advance that forced the Union line back to Cemetery Hill, just south of the town.

    During the night, the rest of Meade’s force arrived, and by the morning Union General Winfield Hancock had formed a strong Union line. On July 2, against the Union left, General James Longstreet led the main Confederate attack, but it was not carried out until about 4 p.m., and the Federals had time to consolidate their positions. Thus began some of the heaviest fighting of the battle, and Union forces retained control of their strategic positions at heavy cost. After three hours, the battle ended, and the total number of dead at Gettysburg stood in the thousands.

    On July 3, Lee, having failed on the right and the left, planned an assault on Meade’s center. A 15,000-man strong column under General George Pickett was organized, and Lee ordered a massive bombardment of the Union positions. The 10,000 Federals answered the Confederate artillery onslaught, and for more than an hour the guns raged in the heaviest cannonade of the Civil War. At 3 p.m., Pickett led his force into no-man’s-land and found that Lee’s bombardment had failed. As Pickett’s force attempted to cross the mile distance to Cemetery Ridge, Union artillery blew great holes in their lines. Meanwhile, Yankee infantry flanked the main body of “Pickett’s charge” and began cutting down the Confederates. Only a few hundred Virginians reached the Union line, and within minutes they all were dead, dying, or captured. In less than an hour, more than 7,000 Confederate troops had been killed or wounded.

    Both armies, exhausted, held their positions until the night of July 4, when Lee withdrew. The Army of the Potomac was too weak to pursue the Confederates, and Lee led his army out of the North, never to invade it again. The Battle of Gettysburg was the turning point in the Civil War, costing the Union 23,000 killed, wounded, or missing in action. The Confederates suffered some 25,000 casualties. On November 19, 1863, President Lincoln delivered his famous Gettysburg Address during the dedication of a new national cemetery at the site of the Battle of Gettysburg. The Civil War effectively ended with the surrender of General Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia in April 1865.


    Tuesday, November 24, 2009

  • President Eisenhower initiates federal flood-control program
  • On July 3, 1958, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signs the Rivers and Harbors Flood Control Bill, which allocates funds to improve flood-control and water-storage systems across the country. Eisenhower had sent back two earlier bills to Congress, but was pleased with the revisions included in Senate Bill 3910.

    The bill was introduced in the wake of disastrous and deadly floods caused by Hurricanes Connie and Diane, which hit the northeastern United States in August 1955. Torrential rains caused further damage in October of that year. According to the Connecticut State Library, Connecticut alone lost 91 people, while thousands more were left homeless and unemployed in the wake of the hurricanes described by newspaper reports at the time as the biggest disaster to hit the East Coast in the history of the United States. Eisenhower declared Connecticut a disaster area twice in 1955.

    READ MORE: The Deadliest Natural Disasters in US History

    As part of a larger plan to construct, repair and preserve public works on rivers and harbors for navigation, flood control and a water supply, the bill contained specific provisions for hurricane flood protection. Although projects such as beach erosion, flood control and improving river navigation were promised over $870 million in federal funding, not nearly as much was allocated for future flood protection in hurricane-prone regions due to what Eisenhower called “the local nature” of hurricane effects and high risk of repeat occurrences. States and municipalities that could be directly affected by hurricanes were required to front 30 percent of any preventative projects. Eisenhower left it open for Congress to consider future “general legislation” on the subject of hurricane flood protection.


    Monday, November 16, 2009

  • Idaho becomes 43rd state
  • Idaho is admitted to the union on July 3, 1890. 

    Exploration of the North American continent mostly proceeded inward from the Atlantic and Pacific coasts and northward from Spanish Mexico. Therefore, the rugged territory that would become Idaho long remained untouched by Spanish, French, British and American trappers and explorers. Even as late as 1805, Idaho Native Americans like the Shoshone had never encountered a white man.

    That changed with the arrival of the American explorers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark in the summer of 1805. Searching for a route over the Rocky Mountains to the Columbia River, Lewis and Clark traveled through Idaho with the aid of the Shoshone Indians and their horses. British fur traders and trappers followed a few years later, as did missionaries and a few hardy settlers. As with many remote western states, large-scale settlement began only after gold was discovered. Thousands of miners rushed into Idaho when word of a major gold strike came in September 1860. Merchants and farmers followed, eager to make their fortunes “mining the miners.”

    By 1880, Idaho boasted a population of 32,610. In the southern section of the territory, many settlers were followers of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who had been dispatched from Salt Lake City to found new colonies. Increasingly, Idaho territory became divided between an LDS-dominated south and an anti-LDS north. In the mid-1880s, anti-LDS Republicans used widespread public antipathy toward the practice of polygamy to pass legislation denying the predominantly Democratic Latter-Day Saints the vote.

    With the Democratic vote disarmed, Idaho became a Republican-dominated territory. National Republicans eager to increase their influence in the U.S. Congress began to push for Idaho statehood in 1888. The following year, the Idaho territorial legislature approved a strongly anti-LDS constitution. The U.S. Congress approved the document on this day in 1890, and Idaho became the 43rd state in the Union.


    Monday, November 16, 2009

  • Gunfighter Clay Allison killed
  • Clay Allison, eccentric gunfighter and rancher, is believed to have died on July 3, 1887, in a freak wagon accident in Texas.

    Born around 1840 in Waynesboro, Tennessee, Allison seemed to display odd tendencies from a young age. When the Civil War broke out, he joined the Confederate Army but received a rare medical discharge for a condition that doctors called “partly epileptic and partly maniacal,” resulting perhaps from an early childhood head injury.

    After spending some time as a cowhand for the famous Texas ranchers Oliver Loving and Charles Goodnight, Allison started his own ranch near Cimarron, New Mexico. For a time, he got along well with the local residents, but his tendencies toward violent rages soon became apparent. In October 1870, Allison led an angry mob that seized an accused murderer named Charles Kennedy from the local jail and hanged him. Such vigilante justice was not unusual, but many townspeople were shocked when a wild-eyed Allison decapitated Kennedy and displayed his head on a pole in a local saloon.

    In 1874, Allison’s dangerous reputation grew when he beat a famed gunfighter to the draw, coolly shooting his opponent squarely above the right eye. A year later, Allison joined another lynch mob and helped hang suspected murderer Cruz Vega from a telegraph pole. Again, merely killing the man did not satisfy Allison’s blood lust. He shot Vega’s corpse in the back and then dragged it over rocks and bushes until it was a mangled pulp.

    In 1881, Allison married and moved his ranch to the Texas Panhandle. His wife eventually bore him two daughters, and perhaps family life mellowed him. His behavior, however, remained extremely eccentric, and he occasionally lapsed into violent rages. Once he rode nude through the streets of Mobeetie, Texas. On another occasion, he visited a dentist in Cheyenne, Wyoming, who began drilling on the wrong tooth. After having his bad tooth repaired by a different doctor, Allison returned to the offending dentist, pinned him down, and extracted a tooth with a pair of pliers.

    On this day in 1887, Allison died while driving a freight wagon to his ranch north of Pecos, Texas. A sudden jolt threw Allison from the wagon and a wheel rolled over his head, crushing his skull and neck. In 1975, Allison’s remains were moved to a grave in downtown Pecos where a granite headstone made the questionable assertion that he was a “Gentleman and Gunfighter” who “never killed a man that did not need killing.”


    Monday, November 16, 2009

  • Brian Jones and Jim Morrison die, two years apart to the day
  • Rolling Stones guitarist Brian Jones is found dead of an apparent accidental drowning on July 3, 1969. Two years later to the day, in 1971, Jim Morrison dies of heart failure in a Paris bathtub.

    For all the highly publicized brushes with the law that Mick Jagger and Keith Richards would have in the late 1960s, it was the original leader of the Rolling Stones, Brian Jones, who was the group’s original bad boy—who lived, in the words of Pete Townshend, “on a higher planet of decadence than anyone I would ever meet.” A gifted musician, Jones helped create the sound of countless classic Stones tracks with his work on guitar, sitar, marimba and other instruments that were then considered exotic for rock and roll. But he also helped create the stereotype of the wasted rock star with his prodigious drug habit and his declining ability to contribute to the Stones’ recordings. “At first Brian was the most interesting Stone,” John Lennon recalled in a 1970 interview, “[but] he was one of them guys that disintegrated in front of you.”

    Unable to show up for recording sessions due to his drug habit, and unable to play properly on the occasions that he did, Brian Jones was also refused an entry visa to the United States in the spring of 1969 due to his recent drug conviction, upsetting plans for a fall tour of the States. Mick Jagger and Keith Richards fired him on June 8, and a little more than three weeks later, the 27-year-old Jones was found dead at the bottom of the swimming pool at his home in Sussex. Rumors of foul play would persist for years among fans and conspiracy buffs, but the coroner’s official ruling was “Death by misadventure,” on July 3, 1969.

    Two years later to the day, another 27-year-old rock star would die under uncertain circumstances: Jim Morrison. As the charismatic frontman of the iconic 1960s group The Doors, Jim Morrison created a template that charismatic frontmen are still emulating nearly half a century later. Young, good-looking and clad in skintight black leather pants, the Lizard King mesmerized a generation with his stage presence and his lyrics about funeral pyres and mystic heated wine. But the trippy mix of Nietzsche, Blake and Huxley that the young Dionysius peddled was usually filtered through heavy doses of bourbon and mescaline, or some other combination of alcohol and drugs.

    While the precise circumstances of Morrison’s death on July 3, 1971, are fuzzy enough to have fueled persistent rumors that he is still alive, what is known for certain is that he was found dead in the bathtub of the Paris apartment he was sharing with longtime girlfriend Pamela Courson. Because no evidence of foul play was found at the scene, and because Courson told French authorities that Morrison had not been using drugs, no autopsy was conducted, and “heart failure” was cited as the cause of death. In the years since his untimely death, Morrison’s most prominent biographers, Jerry Hopkins and Danny Sugerman, have asserted that Morrison suffered an accidental heroin overdose that night, basing their claim on Courson’s allegation that he was in fact using drugs sometime before her own death by overdose in 1974 .

    Read more: Music Legends Who Lived Fast and Died at 27

    A founding member of the Rolling Stones, Jones developed a severe substance abuse problem and was forced out of the band in June 1969. The following month, Jones was found dead at the bottom of his swimming pool. 

    View the 8 images of this gallery on the original article

    Monday, November 16, 2009

  • Pilgrim stampede kills 1,400
  • A stampede of religious pilgrims in a pedestrian tunnel in Mecca leaves more than 1,400 people dead on July 3, 1990. This was at the time the most deadly of a series of incidents over 20 years affecting Muslims making the trip to Mecca.

    To the followers of Islam, traveling to Mecca in Saudi Arabia is known as performing the Hajj. The pilgrimage is one of the five pillars of the religion and must be done at least once in a follower’s lifetime, if personal circumstances permit. More than 2 million people make the journey every year. Typically, pilgrims celebrate the feast of Al-Adha and visit the area’s many holy sites during their stay.

    The large number of people involved in the hajj has often led to tragedy. In 1987, a confrontation between Iranians and Saudis during an anti-American demonstration resulted in 400 deaths. In addition, a ritual in Mina has been the scene of several tragic incidents. There, in a valley near the birthplace of Mohammed, there is a giant pillar representing the devil. The pilgrims throw stones at the pillar over a three-day period. In 1994, 270 people died when too many rushed forward for the stoning. In 1998, at least 110 people were killed in a similar situation and another 180 were seriously injured. In both 2001 and 2002, more than 30 people died at Mina and, in 2003, another 244 pilgrims were killed in a stampede there. In 2006, 363 were killed.

    Stampedes have not been the only source of tragedy—a fire in a tent in Mina killed 340 people and injured more than 1,400 more in 1997. Two separate plane crashes carrying pilgrims back home from Saudi Arabia in 1991 killed 261 and 91 people respectively.

    In the 1990 tragedy, organizational failures by law enforcement officials combined with the enormous size of the crowd resulted in 1,426 people being crushed or suffocated to death in a long tunnel. Safety measures were taken in the aftermath, but with only limited success. In 2015, upwards of over 2,000 people died in a stampede in Mina.


    Friday, November 13, 2009

  • A mother is arrested and accused of killing her four children
  • Martha Ann Johnson is arrested in Georgia for the 1982 murder of her oldest child, Jennyann Wright, after an Atlanta newspaper initiated a new investigation into her suspicious death. Johnson’s three other children had also mysteriously died between 1977 and 1982.

    Back in September 1977, Johnson (who was only 21 at the time) and her third husband, Earl Bowen, lived with Johnson’s kids, Jennyann Wright and James Taylor, from her previous marriages. Shortly after a dispute in which Bowen walked out on Johnson, two-year-old James was brought to the hospital and pronounced dead. The doctors ruled the cause of death to be sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

    In the wake of the tragedy, Bowen returned home and the couple reconciled, having two additional children, Earl Jr. and Tibitha. But in 1980, after Bowen took off again, three-month-old Tibitha was found dead–reportedly the result of SIDS once again. Although Bowen was suspicious, he returned home, where he remained until another fight separated the couple. This time, little Earl was stricken with an unknown seizure disorder and died. Jennyann told social workers that she was afraid of her mother, but the authorities sent her home anyway. A year later, she was dead too–asphyxiated from an undetermined cause.

    In 1989, after she split from Bowen for good and married her fourth husband, Johnson was arrested. She quickly confessed that she had smothered Jennyann and James as they slept by sitting on them (she weighed more than 250 pounds), but denied responsibility for the other two deaths. She admitted that her motive was to reunite with Bowen. At her trial, which began in 1990, she recanted her confession, but the jury was able to watch it on videotape nevertheless. They convicted Johnson of first-degree murder.

    Johnson’s case initiated a trend in the 1990s in which authorities looked more closely into the sudden deaths of young children. Many doctors have insisted that SIDS has been misdiagnosed in a multitude of cases.


    Friday, November 13, 2009

  • George Washington takes command of Continental Army
  • On July 3, 1775, George Washington rides out in front of the American troops gathered at Cambridge common in Massachusetts and draws his sword, formally taking command of the Continental Army. Washington, a prominent Virginia planter and veteran of the French and Indian War, had been appointed commander in chief by the Continental Congress two weeks before. In agreeing to serve the American colonies in their war for independence, he declined to accept payment for his services beyond reimbursement of future expenses.

    CHECK OUT: George Washington: A Timeline of his Life

    George Washington was born in 1732 to a farm family in Westmoreland County, Virginia. His first direct military experience came as a lieutenant colonel in the Virginia colonial militia in 1754, when he led a small expedition against the French in the Ohio River Valley on behalf of the governor of Virginia, beginning a fight that resulted in disastrous defeat for first Washington and then British General Edward Braddock. This launched the Seven Years War, but Washington resigned from his military post and returned to a planter’s life in Virginia, later taking a seat in Virginia’s House of Burgesses. During the next two decades, Washington openly opposed escalating British taxation and repression of the American colonies. In 1774, he represented Virginia at the Continental Congress.

    After the American Revolution erupted in 1775, Washington was nominated to be commander in chief of the newly established Continental Army. Some in the Continental Congress opposed his appointment, thinking other candidates were better equipped for the post, but he was ultimately chosen because, as a Virginian, his leadership helped bind the southern colonies more closely to the rebellion in New England. Despite his inexperienced and poorly equipped army of civilian soldiers, General Washington led an effective war of harassment against British forces in America, while encouraging the intervention of the French into the conflict on behalf of the colonists. On October 19, 1781, with the surrender of British General Charles Lord Cornwallis at Yorktown, Virginia, General Washington defeated one of the most powerful nations on earth.

    READ MORE: How 22-Year-Old George Washington Inadvertently Sparked a World War

    After the war, the victorious general retired to his estate at Mount Vernon, but, in 1787, he heeded his nation’s call and agreed to preside over the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The drafters created the office of president with him in mind, and, in February 1789, Washington was unanimously elected the first president of the United States. As president, Washington sought to unite the nation and protect the interests of the new republic at home and abroad. Of his presidency, he said, “I walk on untrodden ground. There is scarcely any part of my conduct which may not hereafter be drawn in precedent.” He successfully implemented executive authority, making good use of brilliant politicians such as Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson in his cabinet, and quieted fears of presidential tyranny. In 1792, he was unanimously reelected but, four years later, refused a third term. He died in 1799.

    READ MORE: George Washington's Final Years—And Sudden, Agonizing Death


    Friday, November 13, 2009

  • Mohammed V, sultan of Turkey, dies
  • On July 3, 1918, with Turkish forces in the final months of fighting against the Allied powers during World War I, Mohammed V, sultan of the Ottoman Empire, dies at the age of 73.

    Born in 1844 in Constantinople, Mohammed ascended to the throne in 1909 after the forced abdication of his elder brother, Abdul Hamid, under pressure from the Committee of Union and Progress (CUP), a rising political party known as the Young Turkey Party, or the Young Turks. Bent on modernizing the fading Ottoman Empire and stopping European powers from taking Ottoman territory, the Young Turks fomented a rebellion within the Ottoman Third Army in 1908 and forced the sultan to meet their demands and restore the Turkish constitution. The army, under the leadership of Mustafa Kemal (later known as Ataturk, he became the first president of Turkey) consolidated power for the CUP the following year, forcing the sultan to abdicate in favor of his brother Mohammed.

    The leaders of the CUP, particularly Enver Pasha, effectively dictated the course of events over the next decade, as the new sultan, a gentle man, was little able to exert much of his own will on the throne. The results were not good for the empire: over the course of 1912-13, it lost virtually all of its remaining European territory during the two Balkan Wars and an unsuccessful war with Italy over Tripoli. In November 1914, Turkey entered the First World War on the side of the Central Powers, Germany and Austria-Hungary, against Britain, France and Russia. Though he had initially opposed his country’s participation in the war, Sultan Mohammed now exhorted his army–as well as all Muslims, including those living in Allied countries—to fight exhaustively against the empire’s enemies, proclaiming that: “Right and loyalty are on our side, and hatred and tyranny on the side of our enemies, and therefore there is no doubt that the Divine help and assistance of the just God and the moral support of our glorious Prophet will be on our side to encourage us. I feel convinced that from this struggle we shall emerge as an empire that has made good the losses of the past and is once more glorious and powerful.”

    By the time Mohammed V died, on July 3, 1918, Turkish forces had endured nearly four exhausting years of war, including a full-scale Allied land invasion of the Gallipoli Peninsula and aggressive Allied incursions into Mesopotamia, and were teetering on the brink of defeat. Within six months of the sultan’s death (he was succeeded by his brother, Mohammed VI), Constantinople itself was occupied by the Allies, and the once-great Ottoman Empire was in shambles.


    Thursday, November 05, 2009

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