John’s Believe It Or Not… June 18th

* 1812 – US President Madison signs Bill to declare war on Great Britain. * 1972 Mysterious crash at Heathrow. * 1983 First American woman in space. * 1967 The Monterey Pop Festival reaches its climax. * 1984 A radio host is gunned down for his controversial views

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Sally Ride

It’s Monday! Did You Know…

* 1812 – US President Madison signs Bill to declare war on Great Britain.

The day after the Senate followed the House of Representatives in voting to declare war against Great Britain, President James Madison signs the declaration into law–and the War of 1812 begins. The American war declaration, opposed by a sizable minority in Congress, had been called in response to the British economic blockade of France, the induction of American seaman into the British Royal Navy against their will, and the British support of hostile Indian tribes along the Great Lakes frontier. A faction of Congress known as the “War Hawks” had been advocating war with Britain for several years and had not hidden their hopes that a U.S. invasion of Canada might result in significant territorial land gains for the United States.

In the months after President Madison proclaimed the state of war to be in effect, American forces launched a three-point invasion of Canada, all of which were decisively unsuccessful. In 1814, with Napoleon Bonaparte’s French Empire collapsing, the British were able to allocate more military resources to the American war, and Washington, D.C., fell to the British in August. In Washington, British troops burned the White House, the Capitol, and other buildings in retaliation for the earlier burning of government buildings in Canada by U.S. soldiers.

In September, the tide of the war turned when Thomas Macdonough’s American naval force won a decisive victory at the Battle of Plattsburg Bay on Lake Champlain. The invading British army was forced to retreat back into Canada. The American victory on Lake Champlain led to the conclusion of U.S.-British peace negotiations in Belgium, and on December 24, 1814, the Treaty of Ghent was signed, formally ending the War of 1812. By the terms of the agreement, all conquered territory was to be returned, and a commission would be established to settle the boundary of the United States and Canada.

British forces assailing the Gulf Coast were not informed of the treaty in time, and on January 8, 1815, the U.S. forces under Andrew Jackson achieved the greatest American victory of the war at the Battle of New Orleans. The American public heard of Jackson’s victory and the Treaty of Ghent at approximately the same time, fostering a greater sentiment of self-confidence and shared identity throughout the young republic.

On June 18, 1812 President James Madison signed the declaration of war on Great Britain
On June 18, 1812, President James Madison signed the declaration of war on Great Britain (State of the Union History)

* 1984 A radio host is gunned down for his controversial views.

Talk radio icon Alan Berg, the self-described “man you love to hate,” is gunned down and killed instantly in the driveway of his home in Denver, Colorado, on this day in 1984. The 50-year-old host, whose show on the station KOA gained a strong following in the early 1980s, stirred up controversy with his outspoken personality, abrasive approach, and liberal views. He had already been the target of a steady stream of death threats.

One of the suspects in Berg’s murder, Bruce Pierce—leader of a neo-Nazi organization called the Order—was arrested nearly a year later in Georgia, driving a van that contained machine guns, grenades, dynamite, and a crossbow. His right-wing extremist group had been linked to many armored-car robberies in the West.

David Lane and Richard Scutari, Pierce’s alleged accomplices, were caught a short time later. Authorities believed that Robert Matthews, the founder of the Order, was also involved, but he had died in a fire caused by a shootout with FBI agents near Seattle, Washington, in December 1984.

After Pierce, Lane, and Scutari were charged with violating Berg’s civil rights, a jury concluded that Pierce had been responsible for shooting Berg, while Lane had driven the getaway car. Scutari was acquitted.

Alan Berg’s story provided the loose inspiration for Oliver Stone and Eric Bogosian’s 1988 film “Talk Radio.” In the years since his murder, radio talk hosts have been known to be even more abrasive and controversial than Berg.

Alan Berg behind the microphone in his radio studio.
Alan Berg (The Denver Post)

* 1972 Mysterious crash at Heathrow.

On this day in 1972, a Trident jetliner crashes after takeoff from Heathrow Airport in London, killing 118 people. The official cause of this accident remains unknown, but it may have happened simply because the plane was carrying too much weight.

As the summer of 1972 approached, there were serious problems facing the air-travel industry. Pilots were threatening to strike any day due to lack of security. Hijackings were becoming more common and pilots were feeling particularly vulnerable since they most often bore the brunt of the violence.

However, on June 18 at Heathrow Airport outside of London, all appeared to be running smoothly. The BEA morning flight to Brussels was full and weather conditions were perfect. The Trident 1 jet took off with no incident but, just after its wheels retracted, it began falling from the sky. The plane split on impact and an intense fireball from the plane’s fuel supply erupted, scattering the fuselage and passengers. Only two of the 118 passengers and crew members on board were pulled from the wreckage alive; both died just hours later.

All efforts to explain the crash were fruitless. The investigators’ best guess was that the jet simply was carrying too much weight or that the weight was improperly distributed and the plane could not handle the stress.

A mass of tangled metal in the torn-off tail section of the Brussels-bound BEA Trident, which crashed killing 118 people on board.
A mass of tangled metal in the torn-off tail section of the Brussels-bound BEA Trident, which crashed killing 118 people on board. (gettyimages.com)

* 1983 First American woman in space.

From Cape Canaveral, Florida, the space shuttle Challenger is launched into space on its second mission. Aboard the shuttle was Dr. Sally Ride, who as a mission specialist became the first American woman to travel into space. During the six-day mission, Ride, an astrophysicist from Stanford University, operated the shuttle’s robot arm, which she had helped design.

Her historic journey was preceded almost 20 years to the day by cosmonaut Valentina V. Tereshkova of the Soviet Union, who on June 16, 1963, became the first woman ever to travel into space. The United States had screened a group of female pilots in 1959 and 1960 for possible astronaut training but later decided to restrict astronaut qualification to men. In 1978, NASA changed its policy and announced that it had approved six women to become the first female astronauts in the U.S. space program. The new astronauts were chosen out of some 3,000 original applicants. Among the six were Sally Ride and Shannon Lucid, who in 1996 set a new space endurance record for an American and a world endurance record for a woman during her 188-day sojourn on the Russian space station Mir.

Sally Ride, the first American woman in space, was born on May 26, 1951.
Sally Ride, the first American woman in space, was born on May 26, 1951. (biography.com)

* 1967 The Monterey Pop Festival reaches its climax.

By the time they got to Woodstock, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, the Who and the Grateful Dead were established superstars—heroes to the roughly half a million worshipful fans who trekked up to Max Yasgur’s farm to see them in the summer of 1969. Yet just two years earlier, they were entirely unknown to most of those worshipers. All four iconic figures on the 1960s music scene entered the American popular consciousness at an event that preceded and provided the inspiration for Woodstock itself: the Monterey Pop Festival. Held over three days during the height of the Summer of Love, the Monterey Pop Festival came to a close on this day in 1967, with a lineup of performers that included all of the aforementioned acts as well as Ravi Shankar, Buffalo Springfield and the Mamas and the Papas.

From a purely musical perspective, the Monterey Pop Festival was a groundbreaking event, bringing together nearly three dozen well-known and unknown acts representing an eclectic mix of styles and sounds. The great soul singer Otis Redding, the Indian sitar master Ravi Shankar and South African singer/trumpeter Hugh Masekela, for instance, all had their first significant exposure to a primarily white American audience at the Monterey Pop Festival, which also featured such well-known acts as the Animals, the Association, the Byrds, Jefferson Airplane and the Mamas and the Papas. In this sense, the festival not only pioneered the basic idea of a large-scale, multi-day rock festival, but it also provided the creative template that such festivals still follow to this day.

The organizers of the charitable Monterey Pop Festival also set a standard for logistical organization that the organizers of the for-profit Woodstock festival would attempt to follow, only to fall short under the immense pressure of overflow crowds and bad weather. In addition to arranging for private security and medical staff, the organizers of Monterey also deployed a staff of trained volunteers, for instance, whose sole task was to manage episodes among audience members partaking in the nearly ubiquitous psychedelic drugs.

Some 200,000 people attended the Monterey Pop Festival over its three-day schedule, many of whom had descended upon the west coast inspired by the same spirit expressed in the Scott McKenzie song “San Francisco (Be Sure To Wear Flowers In Your Hair),” written by festival organizer John Phillips of the Mamas and the Papas expressly as a promotional tune for the festival. The Summer of Love that followed Monterey may have failed to usher in a lasting era of peace and love, but the festival introduced much of the music that has come to define that particular place and time.

Two years before Woodstock, over 200,000 hipsters gathered in Monterey, California for a three day celebration of music
Two years before Woodstock, over 200,000 hipsters gathered in Monterey, California for a three-day celebration of music (Fidel Benitez Blog)

Today’s Sources: 

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

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

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.

14 thoughts on “John’s Believe It Or Not… June 18th”

  1. Thank you, John, for this impressive list of events. How soon we forget pivotal moments! As I read, I couldn’t help but note the frailty and yet magnificent potential of life. Dr. Sally Ride was an example of potential stretched to its fullest. What an inspirational woman! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

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