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Today's quotation...
"I would rather live my life as if there is a God and die to find out there isn't, than live my life as if there isn't and die to find out there is."
--Albert Camus [1913-1960] French author and philosopher


On February 21, 1804, in Mid-Glamorgan, Wales, the first self-propelled steam railway locomotive was demonstrated. It was built by Richard Trevithick and it successfully puffed along a 10-mile track carrying 70 passengers and sufficient freight to make up a total 10-ton load.

 Happy Birthday ......
    In 1927, Erma Bombeck, humorist and author whose satirical articles on the suburban lifestyle became an American favorite. Bombeck began writing in junior high school and she landed her first job at the Dayton Journal Herald while attending college. She left her career in journalism to raise a family, only to return after her three children started school. Convincing the editor of a local paper to let her have a column, she began writing her weekly humor article "At Wit’s End" which was syndicated within a year, and eventually published by 900 newspapers nationally. As her reputation as "America’s Funniest Mother" grew, she contributed to numerous magazines, including Redbook and Good Housekeeping, before branching into television with the series, "Maggie". She has written numerous books, including I Lost Everything in the Post-Natal Depression and The Grass Is Always Greener over the Septic Tank. Bombeck died in 1996 of complications after a kidney transplant.
    In 1933, Nina Simone. "The High Priestess of Soul" who is famed for her original fusion of pop, jazz, soul and gospel. Born Eunice Kathleen Waymon in North Carolina, her first public performance was at the local library, where her parents were asked to give up their front row seats due to their race. Moving to New York, she attended Julliard. Later, in 1954, she took a job as a singer-pianist adopting the stage name of Nina Simone. Her highly successful first album, "Jazz as Played in an Exclusive Side Street Club" was released 4 years later. The single "I Loves You Porgy" became a national hit, selling over 1 million copies. This was followed by many commercial successes including "The House of the Rising Sun" and "I Put a Spell on You". As the turmoil of the 60s escalated, Simone used her voice as an instrument of protest, with songs including "Mississippi Goddamn!" written after the murders of Medgar Evers in Mississippi and four black schoolchildren in Alabama. Nina Simone died in 2003 after 50 years of making music.
    In 1934, Rue McClanahan, Actress, "Golden Girls."
    In 1935, Jim Walker, husband of Wendy, both of whom are email friends of the Ol'Kunnel. The Walkers reside on the North Island of New Zealand where it is considerably warmer than on the South Island. (grin)
    In 1937, Gary Lockwood, Actor, "Lost In Space."
    In 1946, Tricia Nixon Cox, former President's daughter.
    In 1955, Kelsey Grammar, Julliard-educated actor, producer and director whose comedic wit has sustained his award winning career in television and film. The success in Grammer’s life has been tainted by tragedy, at age 12 his father was shot and killed, at 20 his sister murdered, at 25 two half brothers died in a scuba accident. Grammer’s rise to fame was launched with his role of Dr. Canard in daytime soap “Another World” which he played in 1984. At the same time he began playing his renowned role of Dr. Frasier Crane on the long-running comedy "Cheers". His character spawned the successful spin-off, "Frasier". Kelsey’s acting ability as the formal, erudite psychologist has won him three Emmys for Outstanding Lead Actor, two American Comedy Awards, two Golden Globes and a Golden Satellite Award. Grammer’s distinctive diction has landed him many voice-over roles including the role of Stinky Pete the Prospector in Toy Story 2, Vladimir in Anastasia and Sideshow Bob on "The Simpsons."
    In 1979, Jennifer Love Hewitt, teen queen who parlayed her love of singing and acting into a successful television and film career. Born in Waco, Texas to working-class parents, Hewitt’s love of the spotlight surfaced early, when her mother lost sight of three-year-old Jennifer in a supper club, only to find her in another room crooning "Baby Love" from atop a grand piano. By age 10 she had toured internationally with the Texas Show Team, singing and dancing at livestock shows, when she was spotted by a talent scout who referred her to an Los Angeles agent. Soon after, Jennifer landed her first paying gig on the TV show "Kids Incorporated." She debuted on the silver screen in a supporting role in Whoopi Goldberg’s Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit in 1993. This early success was followed by a brief series of television flops until grabbing the role of Sarah Reeves on "Party of Five". Hewitt soon went on to a starring role in the splatter-fests I Know What You Did Last Summer and its sequel I Still Know What You Did Last Summer.

 On this day...
    In 1613, Mikhail Romanov, 16, was unanimously chosen by Russia's national assembly to be czar, beginning a dynasty that would last three centuries.
    In 1741, Jethro Tull, English agriculturalist, died. He invented the seed drill and pioneered the planting of seeds in rows.
    In 1804, first self-propelled locomotive on rails demonstrated, in Wales.
    In 1828, Cherokee Elias Boudinot publishes first Indian newspaper in America - The Cherokee Phoenix.
    In 1842, John James Greenough of Washington D.C. patents his version of the sewing machine.
    In 1849, Battle of Gujrat, decisive last battle in 2nd Sikh War leads to British annex of Punjab.
    In 1855, the Washington Monument was officially dedicated in Washington, D.C. The monument, however, was not completed for another 33 years.
    In 1858, First burglar alarm installed in Boston, Massachusetts.
    In 1862, [Civil War] Battle of Val Verde
    At the Battle of Valverde, Confederate troops under General Henry Hopkins Sibley attack Union troops commanded by Colonel Edward R. S. Canby near Fort Craig in New Mexico Territory. The first major engagement of the Civil War in the far West, the battle produced heavy casualties but no decisive result.
    This actionwas part of the broader movement by the Confederates to capture New Mexico and other parts of the West,and thereby secure territory that the Rebels thought was rightfully theirs but had been denied them by political compromises made before the Civil War. Furthermore, the cash-strapped Confederacy could use Western mines to fillits treasury. From San Antonio, the Rebels moved into southern New Mexico (which included Arizona) and captured the towns of Mesilla and Tucson. Sibley, with 3,000 troops, now moved north against the Federal stronghold at Fort Craig on the Rio Grande.
    At Fort Craig, Canby was determined to make the Confederates lay siege to the post. The Rebels, Canby reasoned, could not wait long before running low on supplies.He knew that Sibley did not possess sufficiently heavy artillery to attack the fort. When Sibley arrived near Fort Craig on February 15, he ordered his men to swing east of the fort, cross the Rio Grande, and capture the Valverde fords of the Rio Grande. He hoped to cut off Canby’s communication and force the Yankees out into the open.
    At the fords, five miles north of Fort Craig, a Union detachment attacked part of the Confederate force. They pinned the Texans in a ravine and were on the verge of routing the Rebels when more of Sibley’s men arrived and turned the tide. Sibley’s second in command, Colonel Tom Green, filling in for an ill Sibley, made a bold counterattack against the Union left flank. The Yankees fell back in retreat, and headed back to Fort Craig.
    The Union suffered 68 killed, 160 wounded, and 35 missing out of 3,100 engaged. The Confederates suffered 31 killed, 154 wounded, and 1 missing out of 2,600 troops. It was a bloody but indecisive battle. Sibley’s men continued up the Rio Grande. Within a few weeks, they captured Albuquerque and Santa Fe before they were stopped at the Battle of Glorieta Pass on March 28.
    Nathaniel Gordon became the first and only American slave-trader to be executed under the U.S. Piracy Law of 1820 as he was hanged in New York.

    In 1866, Lucy B. Hobbs became the first woman to graduate from a dental school, the Ohio College of Dental Surgery in Cincinnati.
    In 1878, the first telephone directory was issued, by the District Telephone Company of New Haven, Conn.
    In 1885, the Washington Monument was dedicated.
    In 1911, Japan and the United States signed a commercial treaty limiting the flow of Japanese workers to the U.S.
    In 1916, the World War I Battle of Verdun began in France.
    In 1918, extinction of Carolina parakeet; last green and yellow bird named Incas dies at Cincinatti Zoo.
    In 1925, The New Yorker magazine made its debut.
    In 1932, William Goodwin of Weston Electrical in Newark gets patent for camera exposure meter.
    In 1934, Nicaraguan guerrilla leader Cesar Augusto Sandino was killed by members of the Nicaraguan national guard and became a martyr.
World At War
    World War II, which had begun in Europe on September 1, 1939, with the invasion of Poland by Nazi Germany, ended six years later to the day, September 1, 1945. The final concluding ceremony came the following day, September 2, 1945, with the signing of surrender papers by representatives of Japan, Nazi Germany's Axis partner in the Far East.

Nine Notable Veterans of World War II

* * * * * * * * * * * * * IWO JIMA: U.S. ATTACKS JAPANESE HOMELAND * * * * * * * * * * * * * IWO JIMA: U.S. ATTACKS JAPANESE HOMELAND * * * * * * * * * * * * * IWO JIMA: U.S. ATTACKS JAPANESE HOMELAND
    In 1940, Henry A.H. Boot and John T. Randall, working at the University of Birmingham, England, create the first practical magnetron, vital in the development of airborne radar.
    In 1943, North Africa: German tanks and two infantry battalions crack Allied line and occupy Kasserine Pass.
    In 1944, Headline: Tojo makes himself “military czar”
    Hideki Tojo, prime minister of Japan, grabs even more power as he takes over as army chief of staff, a position that gives him direct control of the Japanese military.
    After graduating from the Imperial Military Academy and the Military Staff College, Tojo was sent to Berlin as Japan’s military attache after World War I. Having earned a reputation for sternness and discipline, Tojo was given command of the 1st Infantry Regiment upon returning to Japan. In 1937, he was made chief of staff of the Kwantung Army in Manchuria, China. When he returned again to his homeland, Tojo assumed the office of vice-minister of war and quickly took the lead in the military’s increasing control of Japanese foreign policy, advocating the signing of the 1940 Tripartite Pact with Germany and Italy that made Japan an “Axis” power.
    In July 1940, he was made minister of war and soon clashed with the prime minister, Prince Fumimaro Konoye, who had been fighting for reform of his government, namely, demilitarization of its politics. In October, Konoye resigned because of increasing tension with Tojo, who succeeded him as prime minister. Not only did Tojo keep his offices of army minister and war minister when he became prime minister, he also assumed the offices of minister of commerce and industry.
    Tojo, now a virtual dictator, quickly promised a “New Order in Asia,” and toward this end supported the bombing of Pearl Harbor despite the misgivings of several of his generals. Tojo’s aggressive policies paid big dividends early on, with major territorial gains in Indochina and the South Pacific. But despite Tojo’s increasing control over his own country–tightening wartime industrial production and assuming yet another title, chief of staff of the army, on February 21, 1944–he could not control the determination of the United States, which began beating back the Japanese in the South Pacific. When Saipan fell to the U.S. Marines and Army on June 22, 1944, Tojo’s government collapsed. Upon Japan’s surrender, Tojo tried to commit suicide by shooting himself with an American .38 pistol but he was saved by an American physician who gave him a blood transfusion. He was convicted of war crimes by an international tribunal and was hanged on December 22, 1948.
    In 1945, during the Battle of Iwo Jima, the escort carrier USS Bismarck Sea was sunk by kamikazes with the loss of 318 men.
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    In 1946, Indian naval mutiny at Bombay.
    In 1947, Edwin H. Land publicly demonstrated his Polaroid Land camera, which could produce a black-and-white photograph in 60 seconds.
    In 1954, No. 1 Billboard Pop Hit: "Secret Love," Doris Day.
Secret Love
    In 1965, black nationalist leader Malcolm X (Malcolm Little) was murdered in New York as he was about to address a meeting of his Afro-American Unity Organisation. He was 39.
    In 1972, President Nixon began his historic visit to China.
    In 1973, Israeli fighter planes shot down a Libyan Airlines jet over the Sinai Desert, killing more than 100 people.
    In 1975, three aides of U.S. ex-president Richard Nixon - former attorney general John Mitchell, former chief of staff H.R. Haldeman and domestic adviser John Ehrlichman - were jailed for obstructing the course of justice in the Watergate affair.
    In 1986, Larry Wu-lai Chin, the first American found guilty of spying for China, killed himself in his Virginia jail cell.
    In 1988, television evangelist Jimmy Swaggart tearfully confessed to his congregation in Baton Rouge, La., that he was guilty of an unspecified sin, and said he was leaving the pulpit temporarily. (Reports linked Swaggart to an admitted prostitute, Debra Murphree.)
    In 1989, President Bush called Ayatollah Khomeini's death warrant against "Satanic Verses" author Salman Rushdie "deeply offensive to the norms of civilized behavior."
     Czech dissident playwright Vaclav Havel was jailed by Prague's communist authorities for incitement and obstruction.
     Opening arguments began in the Iran-Contra criminal trial of former national security aide Oliver North.
    In 1990, addressing the U.S. Congress, Czechoslovak President Vaclav Havel said his nation welcomed U.S. help after decades of Soviet domination, but also said Europe should eventually "decide for itself" how long American and Soviet troops should remain.
    In 1992, Kristi Yamaguchi won the gold medal in ladies' figure skating at the Albertville Olympics; Midori Ito of Japan won the silver, Nancy Kerrigan, the bronze.
     CIA Director Gates said his agency would cooperate fully and willingly with any government effort to declassify documents relating to the Kennedy assassination.
     Actor Paul Reubens, a.k.a. Pee-wee Herman, produced an anti-drug video, fulfilling his sentence on a 1991 indecent exposure charge.
    In 1993, two 10-year-old boys were charged with abducting and killing a 2-year-old boy in a crime that shocked Britain. [Hell, it shocked me, too. -- The OK]
    In 1994, with Bosnian Serbs complying with a NATO ultimatum to remove heavy guns near Sarajevo, President Clinton promised renewed efforts to help "reinvigorate the peace process."
     Longtime CIA counterintelligence officer Aldrich Ames and his wife were arrested and charged with selling information to the Soviet Union and Russia.
    In 1995, the United States and Mexico signed an agreement to unlock $20 billion in U.S. support to stabilize the peso, but under tough conditions.
     Chicago stockbroker Steve Fossett became the first person to fly solo across the Pacific Ocean in a balloon, landing in Leader, Saskatchewan, Canada.
     A Russian commission estimated as many as 24,400 civilians had died in the two-month uprising in the separatist republic of Chechnya.
    In 1997, Whitewater prosecutor Kenneth Starr reversed his decision to resign.
     The space shuttle Discovery returned to earth after a mission to upgrade the Hubble Space Telescope.
     A bomb exploded at a gay and lesbian nightclub in Atlanta, injuring five people. [Eric Rudolph later admitted targeting the club.]
    In 1998, Secretary General Kofi Annan began formal talks with Iraqi officials in the standoff over weapons inspections.
    In 1999, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright reported little progress toward a Kosovo peace settlement during talks in Rambouillet, France.
    In 2000, South Africa expelled Sierra Leone's Vice President and former rebel leader Foday Sankoh, after complaints that he violated a United Nations travel ban.
     David Letterman returned to his Late Night show about five weeks after having an emergency quintuple heart bypass operation.
    In 2001, a Predator UAV--up to then strictly a surveillance platform--hits a stationary Army tank with a live Hellfire-C missile.
    In 2002, Daniel Pearl's brutal murder is another act of Muslim extremists that will be avenged in the war on terror. Pakistani and U.S. officials said they were able to confirm the death of the Wall Street Journal reporter after watching a gruesome videotape that showed his murder in graphic detail.
     A former Roman Catholic priest was sentenced to prison for child molestation as a widening scandal involving alleged sexual abuse of children by priests brought anguish to the church worldwide.
    In 2003, David Hasselhoff and his wife Pamela were injured in a motorcycle accident. The accident was caused by a strong gust of wind. Hasselhoff fractured his lower back and broke several ribs. His wife fractured her left ankle and right wrist.
     Israel sent troops supported by tanks, armored personnel carriers, jeeps and bulldozers into the Gaza Strip, setting up security checks and closing off roads to Palestinians.
    In 2004, the International Committee of the Red Cross visited former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein for the first time since his December capture.
    In 2005, heavy snowfall in Indian-controlled Kashmir claimed more than 100 lives with dozens missing.
    In 2006, brushing aside objections from Republicans and Democrats alike, President Bush endorsed the takeover of shipping operations at six major U.S. seaports by a state-owned business in the United Arab Emirates. He pledged to veto any bill Congress might approve to block the agreement.

 Thought for the day...

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