May 29th in history:
A National World War II Memorial was dedicated in Washington, D.C. on May 29th, 2004, nearly 60 years after the end of the war. The monument was built on the National Mall, between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial.
Two famous Americans who have had U.S. Navy ships named after them were born on May 29th: President John F. Kennedy (1917), and comedian Bob Hope (1903). It was during World War II when Kennedy commanded the boat PT-109 in the Pacific, and Hope began a long tradition of taking USO shows to American troops overseas.
Shortly after JFK’s assassination, his widow Jacqueline compared the Kennedy White House to King Arthur’s Camelot. The musical “Camelot” was based on the “Once and Future King” series of books about Arthur by English author T.H. White, born on May 29th, 1906.
Bob Hope’s partner in the popular “Road” pictures, Bing Crosby, starred in a movie version of “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court.” On this day in 1942, Crosby recorded his biggest hit, introduced in the movie “Holiday Inn.” His version of Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas” was recorded in just 18 minutes.
Edmund Hillary and his guide Tenzing Norgay reached the white, snow-covered summit of Mount Everest on May 29th, 1953. While there is speculation that other climbers reached the summit years before, Hillary claimed credit as the first one to come back from the summit alive.
March 31st in history:
The battleship Missouri, where the Japanese surrendered to the U.S. to end World War II, was decommissioned on March 31st, 1992.
President Lyndon Johnson called for peace talks with North Vietnam in a live TV address on this date in 1968. Johnson surprised the nation when he ended his speech that night by declaring he would not seek another term as president.
Johnson’s withdrawal from the ’68 race may have helped Richard Nixon win the election that fall. Nixon’s future son-in-law, David Eisenhower (Ike’s grandson), turned 20 the day of LBJ’s speech. So did future Vice President Al Gore.
Many famous movies about the Vietnam War were not made until years after LBJ and Nixon left office. The Deer Hunter (1978) was the first Vietnam movie to win an Oscar for Best Picture. Christopher Walken, born March 31st, 1943, won the supporting actor Oscar for his role in Deer Hunter. Walken also has appeared in the movie musicals Pennies from Heaven and Hairspray, and as a frequent host of “Saturday Night Live.” He shares a birthday with fellow Oscar winner Shirley Jones (born 1934), best known for musical roles in Oklahoma! and The Music Man, and as singing mom Shirley Partridge on “The Partridge Family.”
Walken’s Deer Hunter co-star Robert De Niro won the Best Actor award for Raging Bull at the Oscars on March 31st, 1981. The ceremony had been delayed by one day because of the assassination attempt against President Reagan.
The Persian Gulf War ended on February 28th, 1991 – less than two months after U.S. troops began the invasion to liberate Kuwait from Iraqi control.
The Navy ship USS Princeton was the site of a deadly explosion on this date in 1844. President John Tyler and members of his cabinet were aboard the Princeton on the Potomac River when a cannon exploded during a demonstration. Tyler was not hurt, but the blast killed Secretary of State Abel Upshur and the Secretary of the Navy, among others.
Charles Durning, born February 28th, 1923, played a president, a U.S. Senator, a governor, and many other authority figures, as well as Santa Claus, during a long acting career. He may be best known for roles in The Sting, Dog Day Afternoon, and Tootsie. Durning also fought in World War II, and took part in the D-Day invasion at Normandy.
It’s also the birthday of Gavin MacLeod (1931), who has played several military roles on-screen, in Operation Petticoat, Pork Chop Hill, and the TV series “McHale’s Navy.” MacLeod’s most famous TV characters are Murray Slaughter on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and Capt. Merrill Stubing on “The Love Boat.”
Pork Chop Hill was a Korean War drama. The TV series “M*A*S*H” was a Korean War comedy which became more serious during its 11-year run on CBS. On February 28th, 1983, over 100 million people watched the movie-length finale of “M*A*S*H,” in which the war ended. “M*A*S*H” lasted longer than the combined total of the Korean War, the Gulf War, and the Tyler Administration.
February 20th in history:
Congress was ready to end Prohibition in 1933. On February 20th of that year, members of Congress proposed the 21st Amendment, to repeal the 18th Amendment that banned liquor in the U.S. and led to the rise of gangsters such as Al Capone.
Chicago lawyer Edward Joseph O’Hare helped send Capone to prison. O’Hare’s son, Edward “Butch” O’Hare, became the first American flying ace of World War II on February 20th, 1942, by shooting down Japanese bombers over the Pacific. Chicago’s O’Hare Airport is named after Butch.
Twenty years later, on February 20th, 1962, John Glenn became a different type of flying ace. That was the day Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth in the Mercury capsule Friendship 7.
February 20th is also the birthday of some performers who have played high-flying characters:
Actress Sandy Duncan (born 1946) has played Peter Pan frequently on stage;
Comedian Joel Hodgson (1960) was stuck on a spaceship, watching bad movies with two wise-cracking robots, on the TV series “Mystery Science Theater 3000”;
And French Stewart (1964) was part of a “family” of space aliens posing as humans on the sitcom “3rd Rock from the Sun.”
February 9th in history:
It took 100 years after the adoption of the U.S. Constitution for the agriculture secretary to become a member of the president’s cabinet. On February 9th, 1889, President Cleveland signed a bill to make the USDA an official Cabinet department.
By the time the Ag Department joined the Cabinet, Hawaii was already importing migrant workers from Japan to work on sugar plantations. The first legal Japanese immigrants arrived in Hawaii for the first time on this date in 1885. Illegal immigrants had traveled to the islands for about 20 years before that, but the government of Japan did not approve of their immigration until the 1880s.
In 1942, America was at war with the Land of the Rising Sun because of the invasion of Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. To help industry meet supply demands for wartime, the U.S. began year-round daylight saving time on February 9th, 1942, and kept it in effect until the end of the war.
If you don’t set your clock for the start of Daylight Saving Time, you may be too late for things. Singer and songwriter Carole King won a Record of the Year Grammy in 1972 for her hit song “It’s Too Late” from the album “Tapestry.” King was born in 1942 on the same day that DST started year-round, and she shares a birthday with fellow Brill Building songwriter Barry Mann (born 1939).
And February 9th is a “Day/Light” birthday for two TV stars…Charlie Day (born 1976), from “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” and Judith Light (1949), from “Who’s the Boss?” and “Ugly Betty.”
January 19th in history:
On this date in 1953, Lucille Ball had two babies — one in real life, and one on TV. Desi Arnaz, Jr. was born on the same day that Lucy Ricardo gave birth to “Little Ricky” on “I Love Lucy.” Two-thirds of the households in America watched “Lucy” that night.
In the 1960s, Indira Gandhi made history by becoming the first female prime minister of India. The daughter of former Prime Minister Nehru was elected to the job on January 19, 1966.
Mrs. Gandhi was still prime minister when U.S. President Gerald Ford was leaving office in 1977. One of Ford’s last official acts as president was to pardon Iva Toguri d’Aquino, who broadcast Japanese propaganda to American troops during World War II. She was the woman most identified with the nickname “Tokyo Rose.”
January 12th in history:
Just a month after Pearl Harbor, President Franklin Roosevelt took action on January 12th of 1942 to prevent major industries from shutting down. Roosevelt created the National War Labor Board, to stop strikes by workers at businesses supplying vital materials for the war.
It wasn’t Roosevelt that Archie and Edith Bunker wanted to see again, but Herbert Hoover. Carroll O’Connor and Jean Stapleton, as the Bunkers, praised Hoover in the song “Those Were the Days” to open the first episode of “All in the Family” on CBS, January 12th, 1971.
January 12th was the premiere date for “Batman” on ABC in 1966. For most of its three years on the air, “Batman” was seen twice a week, with a story beginning on the Wednesday episode and building to a cliff-hanger ending to be resolved on Thursday, “same Bat-time, same Bat-channel.” Many stories began with Bruce Wayne/Batman (Adam West) receiving his assignment over the “Batphone” from Police Commissioner Gordon of Gotham City.
For 23 years, Kenesaw Mountain Landis was the commissioner of bats, balls, diamonds, and all things related to baseball in the US. Landis, a federal judge, was elected the first commissioner of baseball on January 12th, 1921.
And happy birthday to Mr. Freese…not a “Batman” villain, but saxophone player Jason Freese, born on this date in 1975. Freese has performed with Green Day and other popular rock bands..