Europe erupted into the worst war it had yet seen, a mobster disappeared, and the U.S. launched its space program during this week in history. Read below to find out more about these and other fascinating events.
World War I Begins
On this day in 1914, the powder keg of political unrest in Europe blew. The assassination of Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife, Sophia, in Sarajevo, Bosnia, by the Serbian terrorist Gavrilo Princip, triggered the tumultuous system of alliances within Europe. Germany allied with Austria-Hungary against Britain, France and Russia. The U.S. entered the war in 1917. “The Great War” would last four years and claim more than 8 million lives. World War I is significant for its use of chemical weaponry and trench warfare, which caused long-lasting, stagnant battles. The war was ended on Nov. 11, 1918.
World War I veterans were promised bonuses for their service to the United States, to be paid in 1945. In 1932, as America suffered through the Great Depression, these veterans demanded their bonuses; the bonuses could have a stimulative effect on the overall economy, as an influx of spending could potentially spur recovery. President Herbert Hoover refused. 15,000 veterans of the “Great War” marched on Washington and camped out on the Anacostia Flats for two months. Hoover ordered for their eviction, and, going beyond his orders, Gen. Douglas MacArthur moved against the veterans with cavalry, infantry and tanks. In the scuffle, shots were fired and one death was reported. The army also burned down the veterans’ tents. The Bonus Army was evicted, but this event further marred Hoover’s public image. The bonuses were paid out in 1936, and the increased funds did have a stimulative effect—for a time. When the funds ran out, however, this only amplified the effects of the “Roosevelt Recession” of 1937.
During World War II, Allied bombing runs became increasingly deadly with the introduction of more sophisticated bombs and more widespread attacks. The 1943 bombing of Hamburg, Germany, caused a massive firestorm—when a fire depletes an environment of oxygen to the point that it begins drawing air from the surroundings and thus creates its own wind structure—that killed 42,000 citizens and injured 37,000 more. The city was all but destroyed. Similar events took place in Dresden in February 1945.
The U.S. found a new frontier on this day in 1958. Locked in a heated “space race” with the U.S.S.R., President Eisenhower signed the National Aeronautics and Space Act, establishing NASA by subsuming the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics’ employees, facilities and $100 million budget. The organization was to be a civilian operation focused on research, exploration and discovery of space. NASA has sent research probes to all regions of the solar system, put men on the moon, and helped develop modern technologies. The agency continues to do research and find practical applications of information learned from the heavens.
Jimmy Hoffa Disappearance
Former Teamsters Union leader James Hoffa had his fraud and bribery charges commuted by President Nixon in 1971, with the condition that he stay out of union activity until 1980. Hoffa tried to regain power within unions, but faced resistance on both personal and legal grounds. He never had a chance to participate again, as on this day in 1975, Hoffa disappeared. He was last seen outside of a restaurant near Detroit. He is presumed to have been murdered. Hoffa was declared officially dead as of July 30, 1982. Urban legend holds that Hoffa rests under an end zone of Giants Stadium in New York, which was being built around the time of his disappearance.
“The Shadow” Radio Premiere
Originally the curator and narrator of radio stories of mystery and intrigue, “The Shadow,” which premiered today in 1930, grew into his own mysterious character. Orson Welles most famously voiced the Shadow, a crime fighter with the alter ego of Lamont Cranston. The radio inspired many adaptations and expansions of the stories in comic book, graphic novel and film form. The Shadow’s most famous line is “Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows!”
Video really did kill the radio star on this day in 1981 with the launch of Music Television, MTV. The channel aired music videos all day, helping artists who were not getting play on radio gain an audience. The channel created the Video Music Awards in 1984 to celebrate the best videos of the year. MTV’s ‘Total Request Live,’ a top ten countdown of videos, premiered in 1998 and became the channel’s flagship show. MTV has decreased its proportion of music videos and now features more original shows and reality programs. The network’s ethics have been criticized since its inception, with claims that it promotes sex and drugs; controversy arose more recently with the show ‘Jersey Shore,” for the use of ethnic slurs and objectionable activities of the cast members.
“The Rush Limbaugh Show”
Talk radio was languishing in the mid-1980s. On this day in 1988, Conservative political commentator and radio personality Rush Limbaugh began his nationally syndicated radio show, “The Rush Limbaugh Show,” on 56 stations. The program drew 5 million listeners during its first 2 years. It is now syndicated on 645 stations to an estimated audience of 20 million.
Declaration of Independence Signed
Contrary to popular belief, the actual Declaration of Independence was not signed on July 4, but actually on this day in 1776. Congress adopted the Declaration on July 4, and the Founders signed a draft copy. On August 2, all states had gotten official assent from state governance and around 50 men signed the actual parchment copy. Five signed at a later date. John Dickinson and Robert R. Livingston never actually signed.
Columbus Sets Sail
On this day in 1492 Christopher Columbus did indeed sail the ocean blue, leaving in his ships the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria for the New World. Columbus reached the Americas on October 12, landing in an island of what is now known as the Bahamas. An Italian by birth, Columbus was sailing under a Spanish flag at the behest of Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand II.