I stopped preparing daily history lessons a few weeks ago but the events of certain dates on the calendar can’t be ignored or forgotten. October 20th is one of those dates.
1803 – The U.S. Senate approved a treaty with France providing for the purchase of the territory of Louisiana, which doubled the existing size of the United States.
Realizing that it was essential that the U.S. at least maintain control of the mouth of the all-important Mississippi River, President Thomas Jefferson sent James Monroe to join the French foreign minister, Robert Livingston, in France to see if Napoleon might be persuaded to sell New Orleans and West Florida to the U.S.
Napoleon, who had previously envisioned creating a mighty new French empire in America, was now facing war with Great Britain. Rather than risk the strong possibility that Great Britain would quickly capture Louisiana and leave France with nothing, Napoleon decided to raise money for his war and simultaneously deny his enemy prime territory by offering to sell the entire territory to the U.S. for a mere $15 million.
Flabbergasted, Monroe and Livingston decided that they couldn’t pass up such a golden opportunity, and they wisely overstepped the powers delegated to them and accepted Napoleon’s offer.
Despite his misgivings about the constitutionality of the purchase (the Constitution made no provision for the addition of territory by treaty), Jefferson finally agreed to send the treaty to the U.S. Senate for ratification, noting privately, “The less we say about constitutional difficulties the better.”
Despite his concerns, the treaty was ratified and the Louisiana Purchase now ranks as the greatest achievement of Jefferson’s presidency.
1944 – After advancing island by island across the Pacific Ocean, U.S. General Douglas MacArthur waded ashore onto the Philippine island of Leyte, fulfilling his promise to return to the area he was forced to flee in 1942.
MacArthur had been forced to abandon the Philippine island fortress of Corregidor under orders from President Franklin Roosevelt in March 1942. Left behind at Corregidor and on the Bataan Peninsula were 90,000 American and Filipino troops, who, lacking food, supplies, and support, would soon succumb to the Japanese offensive.
In his absence, 70,000 American and Filipino soldiers were captured and forced to undertake a death march in which at least 7,000 perished. When Corregidor surrendered, 15,000 more Americans and Filipinos were captured.
Only one-third of the men MacArthur left behind in March 1942 survived to see his return.
1947 – The notorious Red Scare kicked into high gear in Washington, as a Congressional committee began investigating Communist influence in one of the world’s richest and most glamorous communities: Hollywood.
The House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) grilled a number of prominent witnesses, asking bluntly “Are you or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party?”
Whether out of patriotism or fear, some witnesses – including director Elia Kazan, actors Gary Cooper and Robert Taylor and studio honchos Walt Disney and Jack Warner – gave the committee names of colleagues they suspected of being communists.
A small group known as the “Hollywood Ten” resisted, complaining that the hearings were illegal and violated their First Amendment rights. They were all convicted of obstructing the investigation and served jail terms.
Pressured by Congress, the Hollywood establishment started a blacklist policy, banning the work of about 325 screenwriters, actors and directors who had not been cleared by the committee.
Those blacklisted included composer Aaron Copland, writers Dashiell Hammett, Lillian Hellman and Dorothy Parker, playwright Arthur Miller and actor and filmmaker Orson Welles.
1962 – President John F. Kennedy was in Seattle and scheduled to attend the Seattle Century 21 World’s Fair when Pierre Salinger, his press secretary, announced that he had contracted an “upper respiratory infection.” The president then flew back to Washington, where he supposedly went to bed to recover from his cold.
In reality, Kennedy was holding secret meetings with advisors on the eve of ordering a blockade of Cuba. Four days earlier, Kennedy had seen photographic proof that the Soviets were building 40 ballistic missile sites on the island of Cuba – within striking distance of the United States.
Kennedy’s supposed bed rest was actually a marathon secret session with advisors to decide upon a response to the Soviet action. The group believed that Kennedy had three choices: to negotiate with the Russians to remove the missiles; to bomb the missile sites in Cuba; or implement a naval blockade of the island.
Kennedy chose to blockade Cuba – which began on October 21 – deciding to bomb the missile sites only if further action proved necessary.
1965 – The Beatles recorded ‘We Can Work It Out’, mastering the basic track in just two takes, then added vocals and overdubs, including the distinctive harmonium part played by John Lennon (and I’ll bet you always thought that sound was played on an accordion).
1973 – The Saturday Night Massacre
President Richard Nixon ordered Attorney General Elliot Richardson to fire Special Watergate prosecutor Archibald Cox, who had demanded that the president turn over copies of taped conversations recorded in the Oval Office.
Richardson, who had appointed Cox in May of that year, refused Nixon’s order, and resigned in protest. Nixon then ordered Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus to fire Cox. He also refused and resigned.
Nixon then summoned Solicitor General Robert Bork to the White House, had him sworn in as Acting Attorney General, and then told him to fire Cox. Though Bork later claimed he believed Nixon’s order to be valid and appropriate, he considered resigning to avoid being “perceived as a man who did the President’s bidding to save my job.” That may or may not be true, but in any case, Bork wrote the letter firing Cox.
By the way, the White House claimed to have fired Ruckelshaus, but as a Washington Post article written the next day pointed out, “The letter from the President to Bork also said Ruckelshaus resigned.”
The series of resignations and firings outraged the public and infuriated members of Congress, who saw it as a gross abuse of presidential power. Two days later, the House Judiciary Committee began to look into the possible impeachment of Nixon.
1977 – During a flight from Greenville, South Carolina, to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Lynyrd Skynyrd’s tour plane crashed in a heavily wooded area of southeastern Mississippi during a failed emergency landing attempt, killing band-members Ronnie Van Zant, Steve Gaines and Cassie Gaines as well as the band’s assistant road manager and the plane’s pilot and co-pilot. Twenty others survived the crash.
Play button is on the left … Volume slider is on the right
Lynyrd Skynyrd Medley
1994 – Actor Burt Lancaster died of a heart attack at the age of 80.
He rose to fame as a Hollywood leading man with over 70 movies to his credit, including From Here To Eternity, Atlantic City, Birdman Of Alcatraz, Judgment At Nuremberg, The Swimmer, Gunfight At The O.K. Corral, Seven Days In May, Field Of Dreams, and Elmer Gantry (for which he won the Academy Award for Best Actor), in a career that spanned more than four decades.
2004 – The Boston Red Sox defeated the New York Yankees 10-3 in Game 7 of the American League Championship Series.
The Sox came back from a three-game deficit, the first team in Major League history to do so, and went on to win the World Series, their first title since 1918.
2011 – Muammar Muhammad Abu Minyar al-Gaddafi, the longest-serving leader in Africa and the Arab world, was captured and killed by rebel forces near his hometown of Sirte.
The eccentric 69-year-old dictator, who came to power in a 1969 coup, headed a government that was accused of numerous human rights violations against its own people and was linked to terrorist attacks, including the 1988 bombing of a Pan Am jet over Lockerbie, Scotland.
Compiled by Ray Lemire ©2018 RayLemire.com / Streamingoldies.com. All Rights Reserved.