April 28, 1789: Three weeks into a journey from Tahiti to the West Indies, the HMS Bounty was seized in a mutiny led by Fletcher Christian, the master’s mate, along with 25 petty officers and seamen. Captain William Bligh and 18 of his loyal supporters were set adrift in a small, open boat, and the Bounty set course for Tubuai south of Tahiti.
Bligh, who eventually would fall prey to a total of three mutinies in his career, was an oppressive commander and insulted those under him. By setting him adrift in an overcrowded 23-foot-long boat in the middle of the Pacific, Christian and his conspirators had apparently handed him a death sentence. By remarkable seamanship, however, Bligh and his men reached Timor in the East Indies on June 14, 1789, after a voyage of about 3,600 miles.
Following the mutiny, Christian and his men attempted to establish themselves on the island of Tubuai. Unsuccessful in their colonizing effort, the Bounty sailed north to Tahiti, and 16 crewmen decided to stay there, despite the risk of capture by British authorities. The mutineers who remained on Tahiti were later captured and taken back to England where three were hanged.
Meanwhile, Christian and eight others, together with six Tahitian men, a dozen Tahitian women, and a child, decided to search the South Pacific for a safe haven. In January 1790, the Bounty settled on Pitcairn Island, an isolated and uninhabited volcanic island more than 1,000 miles east of Tahiti.
In 1808, an American whaling vessel was drawn to Pitcairn by smoke from a cooking fire. The Americans discovered a community of children and women led by John Adams, the sole survivor of the original mutineers. According to Adams, after settling on Pitcairn the colonists had stripped and burned the Bounty, and internal strife and sickness had led to the death of Fletcher and all the men but him. In 1825, a British ship arrived and formally granted Adams amnesty, and he served as patriarch of the Pitcairn community until his death in 1829.
April 28, 1945: Benito Mussolini, and his mistress, Clara Petacci, were shot by Italian partisans who had captured the couple as they attempted to flee to Switzerland.
The 61-year-old deposed former dictator of Italy was established by his German allies as the figurehead of a puppet government in northern Italy during the German occupation toward the close of the war. As the Allies fought their way up the Italian peninsula, defeat of the Axis powers all but certain, Mussolini considered his options. Not wanting to fall into the hands of either the British or the Americans, and knowing that the communist partisans, who had been fighting the remnants of roving Italian fascist soldiers and thugs in the north, would try him as a war criminal, he settled on escape to a neutral country.
He and Pettaci made it to the Swiss border, only to discover that the guards had crossed over to the partisan side. Knowing they would not let him pass, he disguised himself in a Luftwaffe coat and helmet, hoping to slip into Austria with some German soldiers. They were were discovered by partisans and shot, their bodies then transported by truck to Milan, where they were hung upside down. Their bodies were savagely beaten by the angry mob.
April 28, 1965: In an effort to forestall what he claimed would be a “communist dictatorship” in the Dominican Republic, President Lyndon B. Johnson sent more than 22,000 U.S. troops to restore order on the island nation. Johnson’s action provoked loud protests in Latin America and skepticism among many in the United States.
As evidence of the “communist infiltration,“ Johnson provided American reporters with lists of suspected communists in that nation. Even cursory reviews of the list revealed that the evidence was extremely flimsy – some of the people on the list were dead and others could not be considered communists by any stretch of the imagination.
Many Latin American governments and private individuals and organizations condemned the U.S. invasion of the Dominican Republic as a return to the “gunboat diplomacy” of the early-20th century, when U.S. Marines invaded and occupied a number of Latin American nations on the slightest pretexts.
April 28, 1967: Boxing champion Muhammad Ali, saying “I ain’t got no quarrel with those Vietcong,” refused to be inducted into the U.S. Army and was immediately stripped of his heavyweight title. Ali, a Muslim, cited religious reasons for his decision to forgo military service.
Two months later, Ali was convicted of draft evasion, sentenced to five years in prison, fined $10,000 and banned from boxing for three years. He stayed out of prison as his case was appealed and returned to the ring on October 26, 1970, knocking out Jerry Quarry in Atlanta in the third round. On March 8, 1971, Ali fought Joe Frazier in the “Fight of the Century” and lost after 15 rounds, the first loss of his professional boxing career. On June 28 of that same year, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned his conviction for evading the draft.
April 28, 1970: President Richard Nixon gave his formal authorization to commit U.S. combat troops, in cooperation with South Vietnamese units, against communist troop sanctuaries in Cambodia.
Secretary of State William Rogers and Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird, who had continually argued for a downsizing of the U.S. effort in Vietnam, were excluded from the decision to use U.S. troops in Cambodia. Gen. Earle Wheeler, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, cabled Gen. Creighton Abrams, senior U.S. commander in Saigon, informing him of the decision that a “higher authority has authorized certain military actions to protect U.S. forces operating in South Vietnam.”
Nixon believed that the operation was necessary as a pre-emptive strike to forestall North Vietnamese attacks from Cambodia into South Vietnam as the U.S. forces withdrew and the South Vietnamese assumed more responsibility for the fighting. Nevertheless, three National Security Council staff members and key aides to presidential assistant Henry Kissinger resigned in protest over what amounted to an invasion of Cambodia.
April 28, 1994: Former CIA official Aldrich Ames, who had betrayed U.S. secrets to the Soviet Union and then Russia, pleaded guilty to espionage and tax evasion and was sentenced to life in prison without parole.