It’s Hump Day Wednesday! Did you know…
* 1945 Atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki.
On this day in 1945, a second atom bomb is dropped on Japan by the United States, at Nagasaki, resulting finally in Japan’s unconditional surrender.
The devastation wrought at Hiroshima was not sufficient to convince the Japanese War Council to accept the Potsdam Conference’s demand for unconditional surrender. The United States had already planned to drop their second atom bomb, nicknamed “Fat Man,” on August 11 in the event of such recalcitrance, but bad weather expected for that day pushed the date up to August 9th. So at 1:56 a.m., a specially adapted B-29 bomber, called “Bock’s Car,” after its usual commander, Frederick Bock, took off from Tinian Island under the command of Maj. Charles W. Sweeney. Nagasaki was a shipbuilding center, the very industry intended for destruction. The bomb was dropped at 11:02 a.m., 1,650 feet above the city. The explosion unleashed the equivalent force of 22,000 tons of TNT. The hills that surrounded the city did a better job of containing the destructive force, but the number killed is estimated at anywhere between 60,000 and 80,000 (exact figures are impossible, the blast having obliterated bodies and disintegrated records).
General Leslie R. Groves, the man responsible for organizing the Manhattan Project, which solved the problem of producing and delivering the nuclear explosion, estimated that another atom bomb would be ready to use against Japan by August 17 or 18—but it was not necessary. Even though the War Council still remained divided (“It is far too early to say that the war is lost,” opined the Minister of War), Emperor Hirohito, by request of two War Council members eager to end the war, met with the Council and declared that “continuing the war can only result in the annihilation of the Japanese people…” The Emperor of Japan gave his permission for unconditional surrender.
* 1974 Unusual succession makes Ford president.
In accordance with his statement of resignation the previous evening, Richard M. Nixon officially ends his term as the 37th president of the United States at noon. Before departing with his family in a helicopter from the White House lawn, he smiled farewell and enigmatically raised his arms in a victory or peace salute. The helicopter door was then closed, and the Nixon family began their journey home to San Clemente, California. Richard Nixon was the first U.S. president to resign from office.
Minutes later, Vice President Gerald R. Ford was sworn in as the 38th president of the United States in the East Room of the White House. After taking the oath of office, President Ford spoke to the nation in a television address, declaring, “My fellow Americans, our long national nightmare is over.”
Ford, the first president who came to the office through appointment rather than election, had replaced Spiro Agnew as vice president only eight months before. In a political scandal independent of the Nixon administration’s wrongdoings in the Watergate affair, Agnew had been forced to resign in disgrace after he was charged with income tax evasion and political corruption. In September 1974, Ford pardoned Nixon for any crimes he may have committed while in office, explaining that he wanted to end the national divisions created by the Watergate scandal.
* 1969 Manson cult kills five people.
On this day in 1969, members of Charles Manson’s cult kill five people in movie director Roman Polanski’s Beverly Hills, California, home, including Polanski’s pregnant wife, actress Sharon Tate. Less than two days later, the group killed again, murdering supermarket executive Leno LaBianca and his wife Rosemary in their home. The savage crimes shocked the nation and, strangely, turned Charles Manson into a criminal icon.
Manson was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1934 to an unwed 16-year-old mother. He spent much of his childhood in juvenile reformatories and his early adulthood in prison. After his release in 1967, Manson moved to California and used his unlikely magnetism to attract a group of hippies and set up a commune, where drugs and orgies were common, on the outskirts of Los Angeles.
Manson preached his own blend of eccentric religious teachings to his acolytes, who called themselves his “Family.” He told them a race war between blacks and whites was imminent and would result in great power for the Family. Manson said they should instigate the war by killing rich white people and trying to make it look like the work of blacks.
Roman Polanski (Rosemary’s Baby, Chinatown, The Pianist), was not the cult leader’s intended target. Manson, an aspiring musician, chose the Polanski house because he had once unsuccessfully tried to get a recording deal from a producer who used to live there. Polanski was out of town at the time of the murders, but his wife and her friends, including coffee heiress Abigail Folger, were shot or stabbed to death. Manson stayed out of the Polanski house on the night of the crime and didn’t take part in the LaBianca killings either. However, he would later be charged with murder on the grounds he had influenced his followers and masterminded the crimes.
After initially eluding police suspicion, Manson was arrested only after one of his followers, already in jail on a different charge, started bragging about what had happened. Manson’s subsequent trial became a national spectacle, in which he exhibited bizarre and violent behavior. In 1971, he was convicted and given the death penalty; however, that sentence became life behind bars when the California Supreme Court overturned the death penalty in 1972.
Manson has been the subject of numerous movies and books, including the best-seller Helter Skelter (the title is a reference to a Beatles’ song of the same name, through which Manson believed the group was sending secret messages to start a race war). Manson remains in a California prison.
* 1936 Owens wins a 4th gold medal.
At the 1936 Berlin Olympics, African American track star Jesse Owens wins his fourth gold medal of the Games in the 4×100-meter relay. His relay team set a new world record of 39.8 seconds, which held for 20 years. In their strong showing in track-and-field events at the XIth Olympiad, Jesse Owens and other African American athletes struck a propaganda blow against Nazi leader Adolf Hitler, who planned to use the Berlin Games as a showcase of supposed Aryan superiority.
Born the son of Alabama sharecroppers in 1913, Owens emerged as a major track talent while attending high school in Cleveland, Ohio. Later, at Ohio State University, he demonstrated himself to be one of the greatest athletes in the world. In a single day of competition–May 25, 1935–Owens broke the world records for the 220-yard dash, the 220-yard low hurdles, and the running broad jump, and equaled the world record for the 100-yard dash. The next summer, Owens and 311 other American athletes, including 17 African Americans, traveled to Nazi Germany to represent the United States at the XIth Olympiad.
In 1931, the International Olympic Committee awarded the 1936 Summer Olympics to Berlin. The choice was meant to signal Germany’s return to the world community after defeat in World War I. Two years later, however, Adolf Hitler came to power. He transformed the democratic German government into a one-party dictatorship, purged political opponents and suspected dissidents, instituted anti-Semitic policies and began the remilitarization of Germany.
Hitler initially held the Olympics in low regard because of their internationalism but became an avid supporter after Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels convinced him of their propaganda value. Seen as an opportunity to advance the Nazi ideology, Hitler provided extensive funding for the Berlin Games, which promised to be the largest modern Olympics to date. The Nazi government used sport as part of its drive to strengthen the “Aryan race,” and “Non-Aryans”–Jewish, part-Jewish, or Gypsy athletes–were systematically excluded from Nazi-sponsored sports facilities and associations.
By 1935, a number of athletic groups in the United States were pushing for a boycott of the Berlin Games, but after a heated debate, U.S. participation was narrowly approved in December 1935. A number of prominent Jewish athletes in the United States and other countries decided to independently boycott the Games in protest of Nazi oppression of Jews. Spain also planned an alternate “People’s Olympics” to be held in Barcelona in July 1936, but the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War forced its cancellation. In the end, 49 nations sent some 4,000 athletes to the Summer Olympics in Berlin.
Under international pressure, the Nazis agreed to allow one part-Jewish athlete on its Olympic team: fencer Helene Mayer. However, Joseph Goebbels forbid the Nazi-controlled German press from discussing the ethnicity of the blond-haired Mayer.
On August 1, 1936, Adolf Hitler opened the XIth Olympiad. The Olympic ritual of a runner arriving bearing a torch carried by relay from Olympia, Greece, occurred for the first time. The Nazis advertised this ceremony as a symbol of the myth that German civilization was the inheritor of the glorified culture of ancient Greece.
Olympic flags and swastika-bearing Nazi banners hung everywhere in Berlin. To prevent controversy, the anti-Jewish signs hung throughout the city were removed during the Games, and Jewish athletes and visitors from other countries were not subjected to anti-Jewish laws. Gypsies were cleared off the streets and interned in a camp at the edge of Berlin. A festive and hospitable atmosphere pervaded the German capital, and most tourists left the city with positive memories of their stay there.
With 348 athletes, Germany had the largest national team and captured the most medals overall, greatly pleasing Hitler. The Americans, however, dominated the popular track-and-field events. On the first day of competition, Hitler, who had been congratulating German and select other winners, left the stadium shortly after three African Americans swept the high-jump event. Whether Hitler left to avoid shaking hands with non-Aryans is unclear. In the aftermath of the incident, Olympic organizers asked Hitler to either receive all the medal winners or none, and he chose the latter. Contrary to the popular myth, Hitler never directly snubbed Jesse Owens, but he did continue to privately receive German winners throughout the Games.
With his four gold medals, Jesse Owens was the star of the Berlin Olympics. He equaled the world record (10.3 seconds) in the 100-meter race and broke the world records in the 200-meter race (20.7 seconds) and in the broad jump (26 feet 5 3/8 inches). He was enthusiastically applauded by the largely German crowd and developed a friendship with German long jumper and silver medalist Luz Long. However, he and other African American Olympians were demeaned by a Nazi newspaper that wrote of them as the “black auxiliaries” of the American team.
On August 9, Owens won his fourth medal as a member of the mixed-race 4×100-meter relay team. The world-record-breaking triumph was tainted by the revelation that U.S. coaches had benched two American Jewish relay runners the day before the event. Marty Glickman and Sam Stoller were replaced with Owens and African American Ralph Metcalfe, the two best U.S. sprinters. However, both Stoller and Glickman had out-run Foy Draper, a white American who remained on the team, in a practice race. The coaches said Draper was more experienced, but Glickman and others thought that anti-Semitism was involved. Stoller, however, thought favoritism was to blame, as Draper and the fourth runner, Frank Wykoff, had trained under one of the Olympic coaches at the University of Southern California.
Despite the embarrassment of seeing his best Aryan runners bested by African Americans, Adolf Hitler hailed the Berlin Olympics as a great success. He commissioned a German architect to design a colossal, 400,000-seat stadium at Nuremberg that would host Olympics for “all time to come.” The outbreak of World War II in 1939 prevented the building of the stadium, and by 1945 Hitler’s plans for Nazi world domination had ended in absolute defeat. In the decades of Cold War that followed, the United States and the Soviet Union exploited the propaganda potential of the Olympic Games as freely as the Nazis did in Berlin in 1936.
Although only 23, Jesse Owens retired from amateur competition shortly after the Berlin Olympics in order to capitalize on his fame. This effectively brought his athletic career to an end. He later engaged in boys’-guidance activities, made goodwill visits to Asia for the U.S. Department of State, and served as secretary of the Illinois State Athletic Commission. He died in 1980.
* 1995 Jerry Garcia dies.
Like his band the Grateful Dead, which was still going strong three decades after its formation, Jerry Garcia defied his life-expectancy not merely by surviving, but by thriving creatively and commercially into the 1990s–far longer than most of his peers. His long, strange trip came to an end, however, on this day in 1995, when he died of a heart attack in a residential drug-treatment facility in Forest Knolls, California. A legendary guitarist and true cultural icon, Jerry Garcia was 53 years old.
Jerome John Garcia was born on August 1, 1942, and raised primarily in San Francisco’s Excelsior District, about five miles south of his and his band’s famous future residence at 710 Ashbury Street. Trained formally on the piano as a child, Garcia picked up the instrument he’d make his living with at the age of 15 when he convinced his mother to replace the accordion she’d bought him as a birthday gift with a Danelectro electric guitar. Five years later, after brief stints in art school and the Army, and after surviving a deadly automobile accident in 1961, Jerry Garcia began to pursue a musical career in earnest, playing with various groups that were part of San Francisco’s bluegrass and folk scene. By 1965, he had joined up with bassist Phil Lesh, rhythm guitarist Bob Weir, organist Ron “Pigpen” McKernan and drummer Bill Kreutzman in a group originally called the Warlocks and later renamed “the Grateful Dead.”
From their early gig as the house band at Ken Kesey’s famous Acid Tests, the Dead was a defining part of San Francisco’s burgeoning hippie counterculture scene. They would go on to play at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967 and at Woodstock in 1969, but as big as they were in the 60s and 70s, the Grateful Dead grew even more popular and successful as the decade they helped to define slipped further into the past. Indeed, during the final decade of Jerry Garcia’s life, following his recovery from a five-day diabetic coma in 1986, the Dead played an average of 100 to 150 live shows per year, frequently to sold-out audiences that included a significant proportion of tie-dye-wearing college students who were not yet alive when the Grateful Dead first made their name.
* This Day In History – What Happened Today http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/