December 7 in history:
Delaware became the first state to ratify the U.S. Constitution on December 7th, 1787. As a result, it uses “The First State” as a nickname.
The most recent state to join the union, Hawaii, was not a state yet on December 7th, 1941, when it was attacked by Japanese war planes. The surprise attack on the naval base at Pearl Harbor, early on a Sunday morning, claimed nearly 2500 American lives, destroyed dozens of U.S. planes, and sank four battleships. Almost 1200 people died when the U.S.S. Arizona exploded. President Roosevelt declared war on Japan the next day.
Many Americans first heard the news about Pearl Harbor during a break in a CBS radio broadcast of the New York Philharmonic. On December 7th, 1930, an experimental television broadcast of a radio orchestra concert reportedly featured the first TV commercial in U.S. history. The ad, broadcast in Boston, promoted a fur company that sponsored the radio show. The commercial was illegal because the government didn’t allow advertising on television yet.
TV history was made again on December 7th, 1963…with the first instant replay during a live sports broadcast. Director Tony Verna from CBS set up videotape equipment to play back portions of the Army-Navy football game. The CBS announcers had to tell viewers that the replay was a recording of something that had happened earlier in the game.
Happy birthday! Another television first happened on December 7th, in 1969…the first broadcast of the “Frosty the Snowman” cartoon special on CBS. With characters drawn by Mad magazine artist Paul Coker Jr., the show featured the voice of comedian Jackie Vernon as Frosty, with Jimmy Durante as the narrator.
November 14 in history:
Americans met the goal of reaching the moon before the end of the 1960’s when Apollo 11 landed in July of ’69. There would be one more manned trip to the moon before 1969 was over. Apollo 12 continued the moon exploration program when it was launched on November 14th that year.
The next lunar mission, Apollo 13, was scrubbed in mid-flight because of an accident, and made a dramatic return to the earth after orbiting the moon. Astronaut Fred Haise, born on this day in 1933, was the lunar module pilot on Apollo 13. It’s also the birthday of Ed White (1930), the first U.S. astronaut to walk in space. White died in 1967 in the launching pad fire inside the Apollo 1 spacecraft.
An airplane crash in West Virginia on November 14th, 1970, dealt a severe blow to the football program at Marshall University. A chartered plane carrying most of the Marshall team, coaches, and some fans crashed into a hill as the flight returned from a game in North Carolina. All 75 persons aboard the plane were killed. It took more than a decade for the university to rebuild the football program before Marshall had a winning season in 1984. The 2006 movie We Are Marshall tells the story of how the plane crash affected the university and the community.
An artist named Marshall was hired in 2005 to keep an enduring comic strip going. John Marshall is the latest cartoonist to draw the “Blondie” strip. He was born on this date in 1955.
Louis Mountbatten was an air vice-marshal for the British during World War II. On November 14th, 1973, Mountbatten’s grand-niece, Princess Anne, married Mark Phillips at Westminster Abbey. The wedding took place on the 25th birthday of Anne’s older brother, Prince Charles.
November 9 in history:
Germany has had its share of political upheavals on November 9th…
Kaiser Wilhelm II stepped down from his post as German emperor on November 9th of 1918, ending a 30-year reign. The armistice to end the first World War was reached two days later.
The new German government that replaced the monarchy did not please one Adolf Hitler. He and hundreds of Nazi party members attempted an overthrow of the Bavarian government in 1923 with an uprising known as the Beer Hall Putsch. The revolt was put down by police in the streets of Munich on November 9th.
The Communist government of East Germany which came after Hitler’s reign during World War Two was starting to fall apart in 1989 when it bowed to pressure from the public and allowed people to pass freely through the Berlin Wall. After that announcement on the 9th of November, Germans began breaking down the wall which had divided the free and Communist portions of Berlin since the 1960’s.
The 1967 military comedy “How I Won the War” featured John Lennon of the Beatles as an English soldier serving in WWII. A photo of a short-haired Lennon in his soldier costume appeared on the cover of the first Rolling Stone magazine, issued on this date in ’67.
October 24 in history:
Here’s a holiday experiment that didn’t work: moving Veterans’ Day away from the traditional date of November 11th. The holiday, originally called Armistice Day, observed the date on which World War I ended in 1918. But starting in 1971, Veterans’ Day, Memorial Day, Columbus Day, and Presidents’ Day all became Monday holidays for federal government employees. Veterans’ Day was switched to the fourth Monday in October…and was observed that way for the last time on October 24th, 1977, before being returned to November 11th.
October 24th of 1951 was designated the last day of World War II by President Truman. Germany and Japan both surrendered to the Allies in 1945, but the European war never officially ended with a peace treaty. Truman apparently got tired of waiting to reach an agreement with a divided Germany, so he declared the war to be over.
Over the falls in a barrel…that where Annie Edson Taylor went on her 46th birthday, October 24th, 1901. She became famous as the first woman to ride over Niagara Falls inside a barrel.
Paul Newman and Robert Redford went over a cliff in a famous scene from “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” which opened around the U.S. on this date in 1969. Both Redford and Newman won Oscars in the 1980s, as did two actors who were born on October 24th: F. Murray Abraham (1939), who starred in “Amadeus,” and Kevin Kline (1947), a winner for “A Fish Called Wanda.”
September 30 in history:
“The Simpsons” and “Family Guy” might not have existed without Fred Flintstone. On September 30th, 1960, “The Flintstones” debuted on ABC. It was the first long-running animated sitcom in prime time, and it inspired spinoffs, sequels, live-action movies, breakfast cereals, and chewable vitamins.
Lewis Milestone was not a character on “The Flintstones.” He was an Oscar-winning director who had a hit movie in theaters in the fall of 1960, the original “Ocean’s Eleven.” Milestone was born on this date in 1895. He also directed the Best Picture winner for 1930, the World War I drama “All Quiet on the Western Front.”
European leaders hoping to prevent a second World War signed the Munich Pact on September 30th, 1938. The pact would allow Hitler to annex the Sudetenland portion of Czechoslovakia to Germany. The agreement has gone down in history as a monumental blunder, especially for British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, who returned to England that day with a peace treaty signed by Hitler.
The most popular song in much of Europe on this date in 1976 was “Dancing Queen” by ABBA. On September 30th, it was the number-one song in England, Ireland, Holland, Norway, and Sweden.
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.