1780 – A powerful storm slammed the islands of the West Indies, killing more than 20,000 people. Known as the Great Hurricane of 1780, it was the deadliest storm ever recorded. Martinique and Barbados had the highest casualty rates. Upwards of 9,000 people perished in Martinique from a huge storm surge. In Barbados, 4,000 people were killed. More than 1,000 people also died in Jamaica.
1845 – The United States Naval Academy opened in Annapolis, Maryland, with 50 midshipmen students and seven professors. Known as the Naval School until 1850, the curriculum included mathematics, navigation, gunnery and steam, chemistry, English, natural philosophy, and French.
The Naval School officially became the U.S. Naval Academy in 1850, and a new curriculum went into effect, requiring midshipmen to study at the academy for four years and to train aboard ships each summer – the basic format that remains at the academy to this day.
1877 – The U.S. Army held a West Point funeral with full military honors for Lieutenant-Colonel George Armstrong Custer. Killed the previous year in Montana by Sioux and Cheyenne Indians at the Battle of the Little Big Horn, Custer’s body had been returned to the East for burial on the grounds of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, NY, where Custer had graduated in 1861.
1935 – George Gershwin’s opera Porgy and Bess premiered on Broadway. Many of the songs had been cut from show between its trial run in Boston and its Broadway debut – a fact that may well have hurt Porgy and Bess with critics.
The full score of Porgy and Bess would not be performed again until a triumphant 1976 revival by the Houston Grand Opera helped establish its current place in the standard operatic repertoire.
1933 – A Boeing 247 propliner operated by United Air Lines, crashed near Chesterton, Indiana in what is believed to be the first proven act of air sabotage in the history of commercial aviation. All seven onboard died in the crash, which was deliberately caused by an on-board explosive device. No suspect was ever identified or charged in the incident, and it remains unsolved.
1951 – President Harry S. Truman signed the Mutual Security Act, announcing to the world, and its communist powers in particular, that the U.S. was prepared to provide military aid to “free peoples.” The signing of the act came after the Soviet Union exploded their second nuclear weapon in a test on October 3.
1951 – Hank Bauer’s bases-loaded triple in Game 6 propelled the New York Yankees to a 4-3 win and their third straight world championship, 4 games to 2. It was Joe DiMaggio’s final game.
1957 – The Milwaukee Braves defeat the New York Yankees to win their first World Series since 1914. (They played in Boston then. The team moved to Wisconsin in 1953.) Lew Burdette, the series MVP, pitched the seventh and deciding game on just two days rest, and tossed a shutout.
1957 – In the conclusion to an extremely embarrassing situation, President Dwight D. Eisenhower offered his apologies to Ghanian Finance Minister, Komla Agbeli Gbdemah, who had been refused service at a restaurant in Dover, Delaware. It was one of the first of many such incidents in which African diplomats were confronted with racial segregation in the United States.
1973 – Less than a year before Richard M. Nixon’s resignation as president of the United States, Spiro Agnew became the first U.S. vice president to resign in disgrace.
The same day, he pleaded no contest to a charge of federal income tax evasion in exchange for the dropping of charges of political corruption. He was subsequently fined $10,000, sentenced to three years probation, and disbarred by the Maryland court of appeals.
1974 – General George Brown, Chairman of The Joint Chiefs Of Staff, replying to questions after addressing a group at Duke University Law School in Durham, N.C. on the possibility of American military intervention in the event of a second Arab oil embargo, said that Jews exerted too much influence in Congress.
The Jewish influence, he said, was, “so strong you wouldn’t believe now. We have the Israelis coming to us for equipment. We say we can’t possibly get the Congress to support that. They say, ‘Don’t worry about the Congress. We will take care of the Congress.’ Now this is somebody from another country, but they can do it. They own, you know, the banks in this country, the newspapers. Just look at where the Jewish money is. If there is another oil embargo and people in this country are not only inconvenienced and uncomfortable but suffer, they will get tough minded enough to set down the Jewish influence in this country and break the lobby.”
Incredibly, Brown was not fired by President Gerald Ford, nor was he asked to resign. In fact, he went on to serve under the new president, Jimmy Carter.
1975 – Sixteen months after divorcing Richard Burton (her husband of ten years), Elizabeth Taylor married him again. Eleven months later, they divorced again.
1985 – The hijacking of the Italian cruise ship Achille Lauro reached a dramatic climax. On October 9, the hijackers had surrendered to Egyptian authorities and freed the hostages in exchange for a pledge of safe passage to an undisclosed destination.
The next day – October 10 – the four hijackers boarded an EgyptAir Boeing 737 airliner, along with Mohammed Abbas, a member of the Palestine Liberation Front who had participated in the negotiations; a PLO official; and several Egyptians. The 737 took off from Cairo and headed for Tunisia. President Ronald Reagan gave the order approving the plan to intercept the aircraft, and F-14 Tomcat fighters located the airliner 80 miles south of Crete.
Without announcing themselves, the F-14s trailed the airliner as it sought and was denied permission to land at Tunis. After a request to land at the Athens airport was likewise refused, the F-14s turned on their lights and flew wing-to-wing with the airliner. The aircraft was ordered to land at a NATO air base in Sicily, and the pilot complied, touching down at 6:45 p.m.
The hijackers were arrested soon after. Abbas and the other Palestinian were released, prompting criticism from the United States, which wanted to investigate their possible involvement in the hijacking. On July 10, 1986, an Italian court later convicted three of the terrorists and sentenced them to prison terms ranging from 15 to 30 years. Three others, including Mohammed Abbas, were convicted in absentia for masterminding the hijacking and sentenced to life in prison.
1991 – Former U.S. postal worker Joseph Harris shot two former co-workers to death at the post office in Ridgewood, NJ. The night before, Harris had killed his former supervisor, Carol Ott, with a three-foot samurai sword, and shot her fiance, Cornelius Kasten, in their Wayne, NJ home. After a four-hour standoff with police at the post office, Harris was arrested. His violent outburst was one of several high-profile attacks by postal workers that resulted in the addition of the phrase “going postal” to the American lexicon.
But what the police didn’t know at the time was that Harris had committed another murder in 1988. After learning he had lost $10,000 by investing it with broker Roy Edwards, he killed Edwards in his Montville, NJ home after sexually assaulting Edwards’ wife and two daughters. Since hundreds of investors had lost money while dealing with Edwards, police never even considered Harris a suspect in his death until after the mass slaying on October 10.
Arguing that he was insane, Harris’ lawyers said he had told psychiatrists that he was driven by the “ninja spirit” to commit the crimes. In 1992, Harris was convicted of the Montville, Wayne and Ridgewood attacks and was sent to death row. But in September 1996, two days before a New Jersey State Supreme Court battle to overturn its death-penalty law was to start, he died of natural causes.
1997 – Jody Williams, key organizer of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, won the Nobel Peace Prize. And what did she say was her secret weapon for organizing 1,000 different human rights and arms control groups on six continents? “E-mail.”
2004 – Actor Christopher Reeve, who became famous for his starring role in four Superman films, died from heart failure at the age of 52 at a hospital near his home in Westchester County, New York. Reeve, who was paralyzed in a 1995 horse-riding accident, was a leading advocate for spinal cord research.
Compiled by Ray Lemire ©2014 RayLemire.com. All Rights Reserved.
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