“I feel it necessary to show the great nation that we live in that there doesn’t need to be this kind of violence and hatred in our world. And that loving one another doesn’t mean that we have to compromise our beliefs; it simply means that we choose to be compassionate and respectful of others.”
~ Judy Shepard
The Meaning of Matthew: My Son’s Murder in Laramie, and a World Transformed
1777 – At the Battle of Bemis Heights (Battle of Saratoga), British troops led by General John Burgoyne, were overwhelmed by colonial forces.
His defeat at Bemis Heights forced Burgoyne to withdraw north to camps in and around the present Village of Schuylerville. Left with no viable options, Burgoyne surrendered on October 17.
Disgraced, Burgoyne returned to England, and was never given another command. The crucial colonist victory at the Battle of Bemis Heights persuaded the French to support the Americans with military aid, and is considered the major turning point in the American Revolution.
It also played a key role in turning a hero into a traitor.
What You Weren’t Taught In School Factoid: Fighting on horseback, Gen. Benedict Arnold suffered a serious leg wound during the battle. He and his horse were both hit in one of the final volleys, and Arnold’s leg was broken by both the shot and the horse falling on top of him.
He shouldn’t have been on the field. Despite being ordered by Gen. Horatio Gates to stay in camp – the two had a terrible relationship – Arnold impulsively took command of practically the entire battle, leading his troops into a series of exhilarating attacks, at one point maniacally racing between the battle lines of each side through a hail of fire before being sent to the ground, along with his horse.
The seeds of his future treachery were planted during his recuperation from that wound.
Arnold started to become embittered by what he saw as a lack of recognition for his military genius on the part of Congress and the Continental Army.
And he was right.
Just a year and a half after his gallantry at Bemis Heights, Arnold offered his services to the British. Specifically, he planned to hand over the keys to West Point, a crucial American fort on the Hudson which Arnold commanded.
1849 – Edgar Allan Poe died under mysterious circumstances.
Found delirious on the streets of Baltimore, Maryland four days earlier, “in great distress, and in need of immediate assistance,” Poe was never coherent long enough to explain how he came to be in that condition. Theories as to what caused Poe’s death include cholera, rabies, syphilis, and influenza.
1925 – Christy Mathewson, one of the most dominant pitchers in baseball history, died of tuberculosis at the age of 45.
He is the only professional pitcher in history to rank in the top 10 both in career wins (tied for 3rd with 373) and career ERA (8th place at 2.13)
Mathewson served in the United States Army’s Chemical Warfare Service in World War I, and was accidentally exposed to chemical weapons during training. His respiratory system was weakened from the exposure, causing him to contract tuberculosis.
Christy Factoid: Mathewson was highly regarded in the baseball world during his lifetime. As he was a clean-cut, intellectual collegiate, his rise to fame brought a better name to the typical ballplayer, who usually spent his time gambling, boozing, or chasing women.
Mathewson was a devout Christian and never pitched on Sunday, a promise he made to his mother that brought him popularity among the more religious baseball fans.
1916 – Georgia Tech “edged” the Cumberland College Bulldogs, 222-0.
The Bulldogs, playing with just 14 players, completed just two passes for a total of 14 yards and rushed 27 times for a negative 96 yards. Georgia Tech never threw a single pass but ran the ball 40 times and gained an astonishing 978 yards!
1940 – More than a year before the Pearl Harbor attack, a memorandum, sent by Lieutenant Commander Arthur H. McCollum, who “provided the president with intelligence reports on Japan and oversaw every intercepted and decoded Japanese military and diplomatic report destined for the White House,” was sent to Navy Captain Dudley Knox, who agreed with the actions described within the memo.
The memo outlined the general situation of several nations in World War II and recommended an eight-part course of action for the United States to take in regard to the Japanese Empire in the South Pacific, suggesting the United States provoke Japan into committing an “overt act of war.”
The only way in which the United States would take up arms and fight in Europe’s War was an overt action against the United States by a member of the Axis Power (which Japan was).
The McCollum memo contained an eight-part plan to counter rising Japanese power over East Asia:
A. Make an arrangement with Britain for the use of British bases in the Pacific, particularly Singapore.
B. Make an arrangement with Holland for the use of base facilities and acquisition of supplies in the Dutch East Indies.
C. Give all possible aid to the Chinese government of Chiang-Kai-Shek.
D. Send a division of long range heavy cruisers to the Orient, Philippines, or Singapore.
E. Send two divisions of submarines to the Orient.
F. Keep the main strength of the U.S. fleet, now in the Pacific, in the vicinity of the Hawaiian Islands.
G. Insist that the Dutch refuse to grant Japanese demands for undue economic concessions, particularly oil.
H. Completely embargo all U.S. trade with Japan, in collaboration with a similar embargo imposed by the British Empire.
President Roosevelt acted swiftly. The very next day, the Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. Fleet, Admiral James O. Richardson, was summoned to the Oval Office and told of the provocative plan by the President. In a heated argument with FDR, the admiral objected to placing his sailors and ships in harm’s way.
Richardson was promptly fired.
1944 – At Auschwitz-Birkenau, the Sonderkommando – groups of Jewish male prisoners picked for their youth and relative good health whose job was to dispose of corpses from the gas chambers – learned that the Germans intended to gas them.
They decided to take their fate into their own hands, and the group in charge of the third crematorium at the camp, the Birkenau Three Sonderkommando, rebelled.
They attacked the SS with makeshift weapons: stones, axes, hammers, other work tools and homemade grenades.
They caught the SS guards by surprise, overpowered them and blew up a crematorium. At this stage they were joined by the Birkenau One Kommando, which also overpowered their guards and broke out of the compound. The revolt ended in failure.
Ultimately, three SS guards were killed – one of whom was burned alive by the prisoners in the oven of Crematorium II – and 250 Sonderkommando were killed.
Hundreds of prisoners escaped, but were all soon captured and executed, along with an additional group who participated in the revolt.
1960 – The first episode of Route 66 aired on CBS.
The program had a simple premise: It followed two young men, Buz Murdock and Tod Stiles, as they drove across the country in an inherited Corvette (Chevrolet was one of the show’s sponsors), doing odd jobs and looking for adventure.
Route 66 was different from every other show on television. For one thing, it was shot on location all over the United States instead of in a studio.
By the time its run was up in 1964, the show’s cast and crew had traveled from Maine to Florida and from Los Angeles to Toronto. In all, they taped 116 episodes in 25 states.
1966 – Musician Johnny Kidd died after the car in which he was traveling as a passenger had a head-on collision with another vehicle. Kidd was 30.
He is best remembered as the lead vocalist for Johnny Kidd & the Pirates, one of the few pre-Beatles British rockers to achieve worldwide fame, mainly for their 1960 hit, Shakin’ All Over.
Eye Patch Factoid: Kidd wore an eye patch from an early age to hide a bad squint. It showed up when he was tired at night and wearing the patch helped.
Needless to say, the “pirate look” played a key role in the name of the band.
1971 – The French Connection premiered.
Based on Robin Moore’s 1969 non-fiction book, the film starred Gene Hackman, Roy Scheider and and Fernando Rey and included one of the greatest car chase sequences in movie history.
It won five Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Actor (Hackman), and Best Director (William Friedkin).
Popeye Doyle Factoid: Producers wanted Peter Boyle to play the lead character but he declined the role after disapproving of the violent theme of the film.
Odd decision on his part when you consider he was part of Taxi Driver (more violent than French Connection) five years later.
1975 – New York State Supreme Court judge Irving Kaufman reversed a deportation order for John Lennon, allowing the former Beatle to legally remain in the United States.
Judge Kaufman said, “The courts will not condone selective deportation based upon secret political grounds … Lennon’s four-year battle to remain in our country is testimony to his faith in this American dream.”
Judge Factoid: Kaufman is best remembered as the judge who presided over the espionage trial of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg and imposed their controversial death sentences.
1982 – Cats premiered on Broadway at the Winter Garden Theatre.
The show closed on September 10, 2000 after a total of 7,485 performances and remains Broadway’s fourth-longest-running show of all time.
Overall, the original Broadway production grossed approximately $388 million in ticket sales.
1985 – Four Palestinian terrorists boarded the Italian cruise ship Achille Lauro shortly after it left Alexandria, Egypt, in order to hijack the luxury liner.
The well-armed men, who belonged to the Popular Front for the Palestine Liberation Front (PLF), the terrorist wing of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) led by Abu Abbas, easily took control of the vessel since there was no security force on board.
The terrorists demanded that Israel release imprisoned PLF members and sought entry to a Syrian port. But when Syria denied the request, the terrorists lost control of the situation. Gathering the American tourists on board, the terrorists randomly chose to kill 69-year-old Leon Klinghoffer.
The wheelchair-bound American was shot in the head and thrown overboard.
Klinghoffer’s cold-blooded murder backfired on the terrorists. The world’s outrage forced PLO chief Yasser Arafat to cut PLO ties with the terrorists and to demand that Abbas end the situation.
On October 9, Abbas contacted the terrorists, ordered them not to kill any more passengers, and arranged for the ship to land in Egypt.
1995 – A crowd of 125,000 people were sitting or standing in Central Park to see Pope John Paul II.
The pontiff’s message at the outdoor mass was geared to the role of young people in the church and the world. “You young people will live most of your lives in the next century. You must help the holy spirit to shape the social, moral and spiritual character.”
1998 – Aaron Kreifels, a cyclist traveling a back road near Laramie, Wyoming, came across what he thought was a scarecrow by the road.
Kreifels had discovered the battered body of Matthew Shepard, a 21-year old gay student at the University of Wyoming, who was tied to a fence and in a coma.
Shepard had suffered fractures to the back of his head and in front of his right ear. He experienced severe brain stem damage, which affected his body’s ability to regulate his heart rate, body temperature, and other vital functions. There were also about a dozen small lacerations around his head, face, and neck.
Shepard never regained consciousness and died on October 12, 1998. The two assailants who beat a man to death simply because he was gay were captured, convicted, and sentenced to life without parole.
2001 – An American led coalition began attacks on Taliban-controlled Afghanistan with an intense bombing campaign by American and British forces. Logistical support was provided by other nations including France, Germany, Australia and Canada and, later, troops were provided by the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance rebels.
Dubbed Operation Enduring Freedom, it was the opening salvo in the United States “war on terrorism” and a response to the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, D.C.
The invasion of Afghanistan was intended to target terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda organization, which was based in the country, as well as the extreme fundamentalist Taliban government that had ruled most of the country since 1996 and supported and protected al-Qaeda.
2003 – Actor Arnold Schwarzenegger was elected governor of California, the most populous state in the nation.
Despite his inexperience, Schwarzenegger came out on top in the 11-week campaign to replace Gray Davis, who had earlier become the first United States governor to be recalled by the people since 1921.
Schwarzenegger was one of 135 candidates on the ballot, which included career politicians, other actors, and one adult-film star.
2006 – Anna Politkovskaya, a journalist who had chronicled Russian military abuses against civilians in Chechnya, was found shot to death in Moscow.
With her killers at large and no clear evidence of who had ordered her death, speculation swirled that a very high ranking official in Russia had sent hit men to silence her. The fact that she was murdered on Russian president Vladimir Putin’s birthday did not go unnoticed.
When at last he spoke three days after her death, Putin chose to insult her. “The level of her influence on political life in Russia was utterly insignificant.”
In her 2004 book, Putin’s Russia, however, Politkovskaya had written, “Yes, stability has come to Russia. It is a monstrous stability under which nobody seeks justice in law courts which flaunt their subservience and partisanship. Nobody in his or her right mind seeks protection from the institutions entrusted with maintaining law and order, because they are totally corrupt.”
In June 2014, five men were sentenced to prison for the murder, two of them receiving life sentences.
However, the person who ordered the murder of Anna Politkovskaya still remains unknown.
Note: I am going to be missing for a few days while I tend to some health issues, one of which will finally (I hope) be setting a date for the back surgery I have been waiting for since … May! Not the actual surgery but just knowing the date will be wonderful.
The Daily History Lesson will return on October 11.
Compiled by Ray Lemire ©2019 RayLemire.com / Streamingoldies.com. All Rights Reserved.