John’s Believe It Or Not… May 10th

John Fioravanti Stands at the front of his classroom in 2006

It’s Another Hump Day Wednesday! Did you know…

* 1990 – Parliament passes an act creating the Canadian Space Agency. (The Canadian Space Agency, is responsible for coordinating all government-funded space activities in Canada. Some of the CSA’s more high-profile projects include its robotics, most famously the Canadarm and Canadarm2 that were used during shuttle and space station missions. Additionally, several Canadian astronauts have flown in space. The most recent was Chris Hadfield, who commanded the International Space Station in 2013. He garnered international attention from his social media campaign on the station, marking a high point in CSA awareness. He retired later that year. As is true of many government-funded space agencies, the CSA has faced numerous financial cutbacks in recent years. A few years ago, the agency received a boost of stimulus funding to fund rovers and robotics projects. A 2012 report, however, said the agency lacked long-term funding stability and urged the government to provide more money for the CSA’s activities. Since then, Canada has committed to funding its share of the ISS through 2024, matching the aims of NASA and several other space agencies.)

The Canadian Space Agency
Courtesy of Agence Spatiale Canadienne

* 1960 US atomic sub USS Triton completes 1st submerged circumnavigation of the globe   (A United States Navy radar picket nuclear submarine, was the first vessel to execute a submerged circumnavigation of the Earth (Operation Sandblast), doing so in early 1960. Triton accomplished this objective during her shakedown cruise while under the command of Captain Edward L. “Ned” Beach, Jr. The only member of her class, she also had the distinction of being the only Western submarine powered by two nuclear reactors. Triton was the second submarine and the fifth ship of the United States Navy to be named for the Greek god Triton. At the time of her commissioning in 1959, Triton was the largest, most powerful, and most expensive submarine ever built, at $109 million excluding the cost of nuclear fuel and reactors ($896 million in present-day terms). After operating for only two years in her designed role, Triton’s mission as a radar picket submarine was made obsolete by the introduction of the carrier-based Grumman WF-2 Tracer airborne early warning aircraft. Converted to an attack submarine in 1962, she became the flagship for the Commander, Submarine Forces, U.S. Atlantic Fleet (COMSUBLANT) in 1964. She was decommissioned in 1969, the first U.S. nuclear submarine to be taken out of service.)

May 10, 1960: USS Triton Completes First Submerged Circumnavigation
May 10, 1960: USS Triton Completes First Submerged Circumnavigation (Courtesy of Wired)

* 1869 Transcontinental railroad completed. (On this day in 1869, the presidents of the Union Pacific and Central Pacific railroads meet in Promontory, Utah, and drive a ceremonial last spike into a rail line that connects their railroads. This made transcontinental railroad travel possible for the first time in U.S. history. No longer would western-bound travelers need to take the long and dangerous journey by wagon train, and the West would surely lose some of its wild charm with the new connection to the civilized East. One year into the Civil War, a Republican-controlled Congress passed the Pacific Railroad Act (1862), guaranteeing public land grants and loans to the two railroads it chose to build the transcontinental line, the Union Pacific, and the Central Pacific. With these in hand, the railroads began work in 1866 from Omaha and Sacramento, forging a northern route across the country. In their eagerness for land, the two lines built right past each other, and the final meeting place had to be renegotiated. Harsh winters, staggering summer heat, Indian raids and the lawless, rough-and-tumble conditions of newly settled western towns made conditions for the Union Pacific laborers–mainly Civil War veterans of Irish descent–miserable. The overwhelmingly immigrant Chinese work force of the Central Pacific also had its fair share of problems, including brutal 12-hour work days laying tracks over the Sierra Nevada Mountains. On more than one occasion, whole crews would be lost to avalanches, or mishaps with explosives would leave several dead. For all the adversity they suffered, the Union Pacific and Central Pacific workers were able to finish the railroad–laying nearly 2,000 miles of track–by 1869, ahead of schedule and under budget. Journeys that had taken months by wagon train or weeks by boat now took only days. Their work had an immediate impact: The years following the construction of the railway were years of rapid growth and expansion for the United States, due in large part to the speed and ease of travel that the railroad provided.)

Map of the Railway route
Courtesy of Kids Britannica

* 1990 China releases Tiananmen Square prisoners. (The government of the People’s Republic of China announces that it is releasing 211 people arrested during the massive protests held in Tiananmen Square in Beijing in June 1989. Most observers viewed the prisoner release as an attempt by the communist government of China to dispel much of the terrible publicity it received for its brutal suppression of the 1989 protests. In early 1989, peaceful protests (largely composed of students) were held in a number of Chinese cities, calling for greater democracy and less governmental control of the economy. In April, thousands of students marched through Beijing. By May, the number of protesters had grown to nearly 1 million. On June 3, the government responded with troops sent in to crush the protests. In the ensuing violence, thousands of protesters were killed and an unknown number were arrested. The brutal Chinese government crackdown shocked the world. In the United States, calls went up for economic sanctions against China to punish the dramatic human rights violations. The U.S. government responded by temporarily suspending arms sales to China. Nearly one year later, on May 10, 1990, the Chinese government announced that it was releasing 211 people arrested during the Tiananmen Square crackdown. A brief government statement simply indicated, “Lawbreakers involved in the turmoil and counterrevolutionary rebellion last year have been given lenient treatment and released upon completion of investigations.” The statement also declared that over 400 other “law-breakers” were still being investigated while being held in custody. Western observers greeted the news with cautious optimism. In the United States, where the administration of President George Bush was considering the extension of most-favored-nation status to China, the release of the prisoners was hailed as a step in the right direction.)

Protesters hold up signs during a demonstration calling for the release of Chinese journalist Gao Yu
Protesters hold up signs during a demonstration calling for the release of Chinese journalist Gao Yu (Courtesy of Human Rights Watch)

* 1940 Churchill becomes prime minister. (Winston Churchill, First Lord of the Admiralty, is called to replace Neville Chamberlain as British prime minister following the latter’s resignation after losing a confidence vote in the House of Commons. In 1938, Prime Minister Chamberlain signed the Munich Pact with Nazi leader Adolf Hitler, giving Czechoslovakia over to German conquest but bringing, as Chamberlain promised, “peace in our time.” In September 1939, that peace was shattered by Hitler’s invasion of Poland. Chamberlain declared war against Germany but during the next eight months showed himself to be ill-equipped for the daunting task of saving Europe from Nazi conquest. After British forces failed to prevent the German occupation of Norway in April 1940, Chamberlain lost the support of many members of his Conservative Party. On May 10, Hitler invaded Holland, Belgium, and the Netherlands. The same day, Chamberlain formally lost the confidence of the House of Commons. Churchill, who was known for his military leadership ability, was appointed British prime minister in his place. He formed an all-party coalition and quickly won the popular support of Britons. On May 13, in his first speech before the House of Commons, Prime Minister Churchill declared that “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears, and sweat” and offered an outline of his bold plans for British resistance. In the first year of his administration, Britain stood alone against Nazi Germany, but Churchill promised his country and the world that the British people would “never surrender.” They never did.)

Portrait of Churchill with in front of the Union Jack
Courtesy of voiceseducation.org

Acknowledged Sources:

* Canadian History Timeline – Canada’s Historical Chronology http://canadachannel.ca/todayincanadianhistory/index.php

* On This Day – History, Film, Music and Sport        http://www.onthisday.com/

* This Day In History – What Happened Today    http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/

* Wikipedia                        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_Triton_(SSRN-586)

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Author: John Fioravanti

I'm a retired History teacher (35 years), husband, father of three, grandfather of three. My wife, Anne, and I became business partners in December, 2013, and launched our own publishing company, Fiora Books (http://fiorabooks.com), to publish my books. We have been married since 1973 and hope our joint business venture will be as successful as our marriage.

8 thoughts on “John’s Believe It Or Not… May 10th”

    1. Thanks, Paul. The Yanks thought it was hilarious that Canada was building the transcontinental Canadian Pacific Railway in the 1870s – finished in 1885. They found it tough to build theirs and they had ten times the population. Railways certainly changed many things in North America back then. Thanks for your kind words and for sharing your thoughts, Paul.

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    1. Indeed, Robbie, a Canadian company designed and built the Canadarm that was used on the space shuttles to launch satellites from the cargo hold and to capture satellites that had to be repaired. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

      Liked by 1 person

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