Day By Day

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

This Day In History

Today is "Navy Day" so find yourself a swabbie and demonstrate for him or her your heartfelt appreciation [in an entirely appropriate way, of course].

And on this day in 1492 Christopher Columbus tooling around the Caribbean trying to figure out just where he was, discovered Cuba and claimed it for Spain.

The area along the Gulf coast between the Mississippi and the Chattahoochee rivers was long in dispute, claimed at different times by France, England, Spain, and the newly-formed United States. In 1810 American settlers in the region, under the leadership of the felicitously named Fulwar Skipwith, staged a revolt and proclaimed themselves to be the independent "Republic of West Florida". They even organized a military expedition to capture Mobile, but it failed. Then on this day of that year President James Madison announced the annexation of West Florida over the objections of the residents and sent in federal troops to occupy the region. The West Floridians eventually acquiesced to the land grab, but Spain continued to claim West Florida until 1819 when the Adams-Onis treaty transferred ownership to the United States. This is only one of many times when the American government acted aggressively, unilaterally, and possibly in defiance of international law when vital interests were considered to be at stake. Such is the way of the world.

And on this day in 1920 Westinghouse Radio, KDKA, America's first commercial radio station, begins broadcasting in Pittsburgh.

On this day in 1941, in a national broadcast commemorating Navy Day, President Franklin D. Roosevelt announced that "America has been attacked, the shooting has started". He was referring to a German attack on the destroyer Kearney but the remark seemed prescient when Pearl Harbor was attacked less than two months later. Read the speech here and note just how strongly, one might say hysterically, Roosevelt was building the case for war. The American people were just not ready to believe the hype yet. Pearl Harbor changed that.

And on this day in 1962 Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev accepted JFK's capitulation in the Cuban Missile Crisis, bringing it to an end.

Happy Birthday to Isaac Singer, whose sewing machine made the lives of millions of women easier; to Theodore Roosevelt, America's most bizarre president; Sylvia Plath, crazy lady who really, really hated her father and wrote poems about it; and John Cleese, the guy who walks funny and, for that matter, does just about everything funny. And a very special "Happy Birthday" to Ralph Kiner [1922], who was the heart and soul of the Pittsburgh Pirates when I was a boy and to Astronaut Terry N. Hart [1946], Pittsburgh's contribution to the Space Program.