John’s Believe It Or Not… October 12th

1957 – Lester Pearson awarded 1957 Nobel Peace Prize for setting up United Nations Emergency Force. 1492 Columbus reaches the New World. 1972 Racial violence breaks out aboard U.S. Navy ships. 1810 The origin of Oktoberfest. 2007 Al Gore wins Nobel Prize in the wake of An Inconvenient Truth.


It’s Therapeutic Thursday! Did you know…

* 1957 – Lester Pearson awarded 1957 Nobel Peace Prize for setting up United Nations Emergency Force.

On this day in 1957, Canadian diplomat Lester B. Pearson won the Nobel Peace Prize for “saving the world” with a UN peacekeeping force, during the Suez Crisis in the Middle East.

Before he became Canada’s prime minister, Pearson founded the United Nations Emergency Force in 1956, to force Britain, France, and Israel to withdraw from a military operation in Egypt. The UN peacekeepers went to Egypt as a neutral party in the conflict, while the UN, the U.S., and the Soviet Union sided with Egypt, and pressured the aggressors to withdraw. They eventually did so, ending a push to unseat Egypt’s president at the time.

“Never, since the end of the last war has the world situation been darker than during the Suez crisis, and never has the United Nations had a more difficult case to deal with,” Nobel Committee Chairman Gunnar Jahn said at Pearson’s award ceremony. “However, what actually happened has shown that moral force can be a bulwark against aggression and that it is possible to make aggressive forces yield without resorting to power.”

“Therefore, it may well be said that the Suez crisis was a victory for the United Nations and for the man who contributed more than anyone else to save the world at that time. That man was Lester Pearson.”

At the time, Pearson was Canada’s foreign minister and representative with the UN, and it was he who proposed the idea of setting up a peacekeeping force. That peacekeeping force is still around today, due in part to the success it achieved in its first mission, on Pearson’s recommendation.

Following Jahn’s introduction at the award ceremony, Pearson began his acceptance speech with one of the most Canadian things he could possibly have said: he said he was sorry for not being able to understand Jahn’s Norwegian. He then spoke at length about Alfred Nobel’s desire to foster peace in the world, and of the need to put aside weapons to make that happen.

“Of all our dreams today there is none more important – or so hard to realize – than that of peace in the world,” Pearson said. “May we never lose our faith in it or our resolve to do everything that can be done to convert it one day into reality.”

Lester Pearson speaking at the UN: Canada's then Secretary of State for External Affairs was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1957
Canada’s then Secretary of State for External Affairs was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1957 (Radio Canada International)

* 1492 Columbus reaches the New World.

After sailing across the Atlantic Ocean, Italian explorer Christopher Columbus sights a Bahamian island, believing he has reached East Asia. His expedition went ashore the same day and claimed the land for Isabella and Ferdinand of Spain, who sponsored his attempt to find a western ocean route to China, India, and the fabled gold and spice islands of Asia.

Columbus was born in Genoa, Italy, in 1451. Little is known of his early life, but he worked as a seaman and then a maritime entrepreneur. He became obsessed with the possibility of pioneering a western sea route to Cathay (China), India, and the gold and spice islands of Asia. At the time, Europeans knew no direct sea route to southern Asia, and the route via Egypt and the Red Sea was closed to Europeans by the Ottoman Empire, as were many land routes. Contrary to popular legend, educated Europeans of Columbus’ day did believe that the world was round, as argued by St. Isidore in the seventh century. However, Columbus and most others underestimated the world’s size, calculating that East Asia must lie approximately where North America sits on the globe (they did not yet know that the Pacific Ocean existed).

With only the Atlantic Ocean, he thought, lying between Europe and the riches of the East Indies, Columbus met with King John II of Portugal and tried to persuade him to back his “Enterprise of the Indies,” as he called his plan. He was rebuffed and went to Spain, where he was also rejected at least twice by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella. However, after the Spanish conquest of the Moorish kingdom of Granada in January 1492, the Spanish monarchs, flush with victory, agreed to support his voyage.

On August 3, 1492, Columbus set sail from Palos, Spain, with three small ships, the Santa Maria, the Pinta, and the Nina. On October 12, the expedition reached land, probably Watling Island in the Bahamas. Later that month, Columbus sighted Cuba, which he thought was mainland China, and in December the expedition landed on Hispaniola, which Columbus thought might be Japan. He established a small colony there with 39 of his men. The explorer returned to Spain with gold, spices, and “Indian” captives in March 1493 and was received with the highest honors by the Spanish court. He was the first European to explore the Americas since the Vikings set up colonies in Greenland and Newfoundland in the 10th century.

During his lifetime, Columbus led a total of four expeditions to the New World, discovering various Caribbean islands, the Gulf of Mexico, and the South and Central American mainlands, but he never accomplished his original goal—a western ocean route to the great cities of Asia. Columbus died in Spain in 1506 without realizing the great scope of what he did achieve: He had discovered for Europe the New World, whose riches over the next century would help make Spain the wealthiest and most powerful nation on earth.

Map of Columbus' Voyages
On August 3,1492, the ships set sail. On October 12, Columbus reached the Bahamas, an island group east of Florida. (Pinterest)

* 1972 Racial violence breaks out aboard U.S. Navy ships.

On this day, racial violence flares aboard U.S. Navy ships. Forty-six sailors are injured in a race riot involving more than 100 sailors on the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk en route to her station in the Gulf of Tonkin off Vietnam. The incident broke out when a black sailor was summoned for questioning regarding an altercation that took place during the crew’s liberty in Subic Bay (in the Philippines). The sailor refused to make a statement and he and his friends started a brawl that resulted in sixty sailors being injured during the fighting. Eventually, 26 men, all black, were charged with assault and rioting and were ordered to appear before a court-martial in San Diego.

Four days later, a group of about 12 black sailors aboard the USS Hassayampa, a fleet oiler docked at Subic Bay, told ship’s officers that they would not sail with the ship when the ship put to sea. The group demanded the return of money that allegedly had been stolen from the wallet of one of the group. The ship’s leadership failed to act quickly enough to defuse the situation and later that day, a group of seven white sailors was set upon by the group and beaten. It took the arrival of a Marine detachment to restore order. Six black sailors were charged with assault and rioting.

These incidents indicated the depth of the racial problems in the Navy. All of the services had experienced similar problems earlier, but the Navy had lagged behind the others in addressing the issues that contributed to the racial tensions that erupted on the Kitty Hawk and the Hassayampa. Admiral Elmo R. Zumwalt, Jr., Chief of Naval Operations, instituted new race relations programs and made significant changes to Naval Regulations to address many of the very real issues raised by the black sailors regarding racial injustice in the Navy.

A Race Riot at Sea on the Navy Aircraft Carrier Kitty Hawk!
A Race Riot at Sea on the Navy Aircraft Carrier Kitty Hawk! (History and Headlines)

* 1810 The origin of Oktoberfest.

Bavarian Crown Prince Louis, later King Louis I of Bavaria, marries Princess Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen. The Bavarian royalty invited the citizens of Munich to attend the festivities, held on the fields in front of the city gates. These famous public fields were named Theresienwiese—”Therese’s fields”—in honor of the crown princess; although locals have since abbreviated the name simply to the “Wies’n.” Horse races in the presence of the royal family concluded the popular event, celebrated in varying forms all across Bavaria.

The decision to repeat the festivities and the horse races in the subsequent year gave rise to the tradition of the annual Oktoberfest, which now begins in late September and lasts until the first Sunday in October. Alcohol consumption is an important part of the modern festival, and more than 1 million gallons of beer are consumed annually at Oktoberfest.

Kitchener-Waterloo Oktoberfest is an annual nine-day festival in the twin cities of Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. Based on the original German Oktoberfest, it is billed as Canada’s Greatest Bavarian Festival and is the second-largest Oktoberfest in the world.

Since 1969, Kitchener-Waterloo Oktoberfest has developed its own traditions, becoming the largest Bavarian festival in North America with the greatest Thanksgiving Day Parade in Canada. Thousands of visitors celebrate annually in our Festhallen, and by attending one or more of our 40 family and cultural events. Through the celebration of this Spirit of Gemuetlichkeit, the local economy is stimulated and over 70 charities and not-for-profit organizations raise funds to support the high quality of life enjoyed in Kitchener-Waterloo. Willkommen to you, your family and friends.

Oktoberfest began all the way in Germany over 200 years ago on October 12 in 1810.
Oktoberfest began all the way in Germany over 200 years ago on October 12 in 1810. (
Kitchener-Waterloo Thanksgiving Day Oktoberfest Parade
Kitchener-Waterloo Thanksgiving Day Oktoberfest Parade (Kitchener-Waterloo Oktoberfest)

* 2007 Al Gore wins Nobel Prize in the wake of An Inconvenient Truth.

On this day in 2007, former U.S. Vice President Al Gore and the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change are awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts to increase public knowledge about man-made climate change. In 2006, Gore had starred in the Academy Award-winning documentary An Inconvenient Truth, which was credited with raising international awareness about the global warming crisis.

Gore, a former senator from Tennessee who served as President Bill Clinton’s vice president from 1993 to 2001, is considered one of the first politicians to recognize the dangers of carbon dioxide emissions, a cause of human-induced global warming. Gore became interested in the topic of global warming during a college course he took at Harvard University. As a congressman, he held hearings on climate change in the late 1970s, a time when most Americans had little or no knowledge of the issue. After losing the 2000 presidential election to George W. Bush, Gore embarked on a new campaign—the fight against man-made climate change—and gave slide-show presentations around the world in an effort to educate the public. An Inconvenient Truth chronicled Gore’s efforts to educate audiences with his “traveling global warming road show.” In the film, he details the facts and falsehoods surrounding this “planetary emergency” and describes the events in his own life that led him to become an environmental crusader.

An Inconvenient Truth debuted at the Sundance Film Festival on January 24, 2006, and opened in limited release across the United States in May of that same year. Directed by Davis Guggenheim, the film went on to win numerous awards, including an Oscar for Best Documentary at the Academy Awards on February 25, 2007. Melissa Etheridge also received an Oscar for Best Original Song, for “I Need to Wake Up.”

One of the highest-grossing documentaries in U.S. history, An Inconvenient Truth played in theaters around the planet. It was credited with helping to spur the “green movement” that spread across the United States in 2007, as the media focused more attention on the problems associated with climate change. In Hollywood, actors such as Leonardo DiCaprio began driving hybrid cars like the Toyota Prius and generally promoting a more eco-friendly lifestyle, while various film companies pledged to become “carbon-neutral.”

Al Gore is back with An Inconvenient Sequel, a follow-up to his Oscar- winning 2006 doc An Inconvenient Truth. (Bret Hartman/TED)
Al Gore is back with An Inconvenient Sequel, a follow-up to his Oscar-winning 2006 doc An Inconvenient Truth. (Bret Hartman/TED)

Today’s Sources: 

* Canadian History Timeline – Canada’s Historical Chronology

* CTV News                              

* This Day In History – What Happened Today                                       

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 (, to publish my books. We have been married since 1973 and hope our joint business venture will be as successful as our marriage.

16 thoughts on “John’s Believe It Or Not… October 12th”

  1. Your feature points out the frequency of “crisis’ after crisis’.” Makes you want to scream. Oktoberfest is a reasonable way to defuse any crisis. I thought Gore won the Nobel Prize for inventing the internet. Good old Columbus. Gotta love the guy.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I put my faith in the United Nations and it’s charter of Human Rights. It is a beacon to humanity.
    I looked back through this post John and it fills me with sadness. The world has changed enormous these last 500 years and not always for the better. Since Columbus ‘discovered’ the Americas and put into motion the events that led to the genocide of the Incas and North American Native Indians, the setting up of the United States, Canada and South America, slavery and the rape of the land and destruction of wildlife, the human population has gone berserk. All over the planet we teem in great numbers, chopping down forests, hunting and building. There is racism, war and huge climate change. We are now in the Anthropocene – a time when humans are impacting on the climate of the planet. The future has never looked as uncertain. Will we pull back from the brink?
    I believe that only through a global body to regulate our pollution, climate effects and population, wars, poverty and environmental destruction, can we hope to have a future. Already for many species it is too late. Our wildlife has been devastated.
    It feels to me that we are careering towards that edge with people fighting for control of the wheel and nobody reaching for the brake.
    Will the United Nations finally come into its own?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree Opher that the UN or a global governing body is the only answer. The most powerful nation on earth is not leading in the right direction, so it is worrisome. However, there are many good people who will rise to the occasion – that is my belief. Foolhardy perhaps, but I have faith in the good side of humanity.


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