Monday September 1, 2014 the 242nd day and 34th week of 2014, there are 124 days and 18 weeks left in the year. Highlights of today in world history…
1836 First Anglo women settle west of the Rockies
On this day in 1836, Narcissa Whitman arrived in Walla Walla, Washington, becoming one of the first Anglo women to settle west of the Rocky Mountains.
Narcissa and Marcus Whitman, along with their close friends Eliza and Henry Spalding, had departed from New York earlier that year on the long overland journey to the far western edge of the continent. The two couples were missionaries, and Narcissa wrote that they were determined to convert the “benighted ones” living in “the thick darkness of heathenism” to Christianity. That summer when they crossed the continental divide at South Pass, Narcissa and Eliza became the first Anglo-American women in history to travel west of the Rocky Mountains. Toward the end of their difficult 1,800-mile overland journey, the two couples split up, with the Spalding’s heading for Idaho while Narcissa and her husband travelled to a settlement near present-day Walla Walla, Washington, where they established a mission for the Cayuse Indians. For 11 years the couples’ missionary work went well, and they succeeded in converting many of the Cayuse to Christianity. But in 1847, a devastating measles epidemic swept through the area, killing many of the Cayuse, who had no immunity to the disease, while leaving most of the white people at the mission suspiciously unharmed. Convinced that the missionaries or their god had cursed them with an evil plague, in November of 1847, a band of Cayuse attacked the mission and killed 14 people, including Narcissa and her husband. Narcissa Whitman thus became not only one of the first white women to live in the Far West, but also one of the first white women to die there.
1864 Atlanta falls to Union forces
On this day in 1864, Union Army General William Tecumseh Sherman laid siege to Atlanta, Georgia, a critical Confederate hub, shelling civilians and cutting off supply lines. The Confederates retreated, destroying the city’s munitions as they went. On November 15 of that year, Sherman’s troops burned much of the city before continuing their march through the South. Sherman’s Atlanta campaign was one of the most decisive victories of the Civil War.
William Sherman, born May 8, 1820, in Lancaster, Ohio, attended West Point and served in the army before becoming a banker and then president of a military school in Louisiana. When the Civil War broke out in 1861 after 11 Southern slave states seceded from the Union, Sherman joined the Union Army and eventually commanded large numbers of troops, under General Ulysses S. Grant, at the battles of Shiloh (1862), Vicksburg (1863) and Chattanooga (1863). In the spring of 1864, Sherman became supreme commander of the armies in the West and was ordered by Grant to take the city of Atlanta, then a key military supply centre and railroad hub for the Confederates.
Sherman’s Atlanta campaign began on May 4, 1864, and in the first few months his troops engaged in several fierce battles with Confederate soldiers on the outskirts of the city, including the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain, which the Union forces lost. However, on September 1, Sherman’s men successfully captured Atlanta and continued to defend it through mid-November against Confederate forces led by John Hood. Before he set off on his famous March to the Sea on November 15, Sherman ordered that Atlanta’s military resources, including munitions factories, clothing mills and railway yards, be burned. The fire got out of control and left Atlanta in ruins.
Sherman and 60,000 of his soldiers then headed toward Savannah, Georgia, destroying everything in their path that could help the Confederates. They captured Savannah and completed their March to the Sea on December 23, 1864. The Civil War ended on April 9, 1865, when the Confederate commander in chief, Robert E. Lee, surrendered to Grant at Appomattox Courthouse, Virginia.
After the war, Sherman succeeded Grant as commander in chief of the U.S. Army, serving from 1869 to 1883. Sherman, who is credited with the phrase “war is hell,” died February 14, 1891, in New York City. The city of Atlanta swiftly recovered from the war and became the capital of Georgia in 1868, first on a temporary basis and then permanently by popular vote in 1877.
1939 Germany invades Poland
On this day in 1939, German forces bombarded Poland on land and from the air, as Adolf Hitler souhgt to regain lost territory and ultimately rule Poland. World War II had begun.
The German invasion of Poland was a primer on how Hitler intended to wage war–what would become the “blitzkrieg” strategy. This was characterized by extensive bombing early on to destroy the enemy’s air capacity, railroads, communication lines, and munitions dumps, followed by a massive land invasion with overwhelming numbers of troops, tanks, and artillery. Once the German forces had ploughed their way through, devastating a swath of territory, infantry moved in, picking off any remaining resistance.
Once Hitler had a base of operations within the target country, he immediately began setting up “security” forces to annihilate all enemies of his Nazi ideology, whether racial, religious, or political. Concentration camps for slave labourers and the extermination of civilians went hand in hand with German rule of a conquered nation. For example, within one day of the German invasion of Poland, Hitler was already setting up SS “Death’s Head” regiments to terrorize the populace.
The Polish army made several severe strategic miscalculations early on. Although 1 million strong, the Polish forces were severely under-equipped and attempted to take the Germans head-on with horsed cavaliers in a forward concentration, rather than falling back to more natural defensive positions. The outmoded thinking of the Polish commanders coupled with the antiquated state of its military was simply no match for the overwhelming and modern mechanized German forces. And, of course, any hope the Poles might have had of a Soviet counter-response was dashed with the signing of the Ribbentrop-Molotov Nonaggression Pact.
Great Britain responded with bombing raids over Germany three days later
1964 First Japanese player makes MLB debut
On September 1, 1964, pitcher Masanori Murakami became the first Japanese man to play in U.S. baseball’s major leagues. Murakami pitched a scoreless eighth inning for the San Francisco Giants in a 4-1 loss to the New York Mets in front of 39,379 fans at Shea Stadium.
Murakami was a teenage baseball prodigy in Japan. In 1962, he signed with Nippon Professional Baseball’s Nankai Hawks while still in high school. After pitching a year in the minors, Murakami made his major league debut with the Hawks at just 19 years old. In 1964, the Hawks sent Murakami to the United States to pitch in the minor leagues for the San Francisco Giants as part of an exchange program. Murakami’s left-handed sidearm delivery proved an asset in the United States, where deceptive pitching still isn’t as common as in Japan. Murakami began his American career with an 11-7 record as a reliever with Fresno in the Class A California League. On September 1, he was ordered to report to the bigs and handed a plane ticket to New York. After arrival, he quickly signed a contract (explained by an interpreter since he spoke no English) and then headed to the bullpen.
Murakami’s arrival came just as the Giants, including star outfielders Willie Mays and Willie McCovey, was chasing the Philadelphia Phillies for the National League pennant. Meanwhile, the Mets, the Giants’ opponent on September 1, were in the midst of the third losing season in their three-year history. Murakami entered the game in relief in the eighth inning, and began with a strikeout of Met leftfielder Charlie Smith, before yielding a single to Chris Cannizaro. He then settled down, and struck out first baseman Ed Kranepool and shortstop Billy McMillan consecutively to complete his first inning in the major leagues. The Mets, however, proved a difficult opponent: Pitcher Al Jackson pitched a complete game, giving up just six hits and one walk to lead the Mets to a 4-1 victory.
In the end, Murakami’s first year in the majors proved a rousing success, with nine appearances and a 1.80 ERA, good for a 1-0 record with one save. After the 1964 season the Nankai Hawks asked Murakami to return to Japan, but the Giants refused on the grounds they had Murakami under contract. The Japanese baseball commissioner intervened, negotiating a compromise. Murakami spent 1965 with the Giants, going 4-1 with a 3.75 ERA and eight saves in 45 relief appearances. In 1966, he returned to Japan, where he went on to pitch for another 18 seasons.
The next Japanese player to join Major League Baseball was pitcher Hideo Nomo, who made his debut in 1995, more than 30 years after the trailblazing Masanori Murakami.
1983 Korean Airlines flight shot down by Soviet Union
Soviet jet fighters intercepted a Korean Airlines passenger flight in Russian airspace and shut the plane down, killing 269 passengers and crewmembers. The incident dramatically increased tensions between the Soviet Union and the United States.
On September 1, 1983, Korean Airlines (KAL) flight 007 was on the last leg of a flight from New York City to Seoul, with a stopover in Anchorage, Alaska. As it approached its final destination, the plane began to veer far off its normal course. In just a short time, the plane flew into Russian airspace and crossed over the Kamchatka Peninsula, where some top-secret Soviet military installations were known to be located. The Soviets sent two fighters to intercept the plane. According to tapes of the conversations between the fighter pilots and Soviet ground control, the fighters quickly located the KAL flight and tried to make contact with the passenger jet. Failing to receive a response, one of the fighters fired a heat-seeking missile. KAL 007 was hit and plummeted into the Sea of Japan. All 269 people on board were killed.
This was not the first time a South Korean flight had run into trouble over Russia. In 1978, the Soviets forced a passenger jet down over Murmansk; two passengers were killed during the emergency landing. In its first public statement concerning the September 1983 incident, the Soviet government merely noted that an unidentified aircraft had been shot down flying over Russian territory. The United States government reacted with horror to the disaster. The Department of State suggested that the Soviets knew the plane was an unarmed civilian passenger aircraft. President Ronald Reagan called the incident a “massacre” and issued a statement in which he declared that the Soviets had turned “against the world and the moral precepts which guide human relations among people everywhere.” Five days after the incident, the Soviets admitted that the plane had indeed been a passenger jet, but that Russian pilots had no way of knowing this. A high ranking Soviet military official stated that the KAL flight had been involved in espionage activities. The Reagan administration responded by suspending all Soviet passenger air service to the United States, and dropped several agreements being negotiated with the Soviets.
Despite the heated public rhetoric, many Soviets and American officials and analysts privately agreed that the incident was simply a tragic misunderstanding. The KAL flight had veered into a course that was close to one being simultaneously flown by a U.S. spy plane; perhaps Soviet radar operators mistook the two. In the Soviet Union, several of the military officials responsible for air defense in the Far East were fired or demoted. It has never been determined how the KAL flight ended up nearly 200 miles off course.
1998 Federal legislation makes airbags mandatory
On September 1, 1998, the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 finally came into effect. The law required that all cars and light trucks sold in the United States have air bags on both sides of the front seat.
Inspired by the inflatable protective covers on Navy torpedoes, an industrial engineering technician from Pennsylvania named John Hetrick patented a design for a “safety cushion assembly for automotive vehicles” in 1953. The next year, Hetrick sent sketches of his device to Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler, but the automakers never responded. Inflatable-safety-cushion technology languished until 1965, when Ralph Nader’s book “Unsafe at Any Speed” speculated that seat belts and air bags together could prevent thousands of deaths in car accidents.
In 1966, Congress passed the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Act, which required automakers to put seat belts, but not air bags, in every car they built. Unfortunately, the law did not require people to use their seat belts, and only about 25 percent did. Air bags seemed like the perfect solution to this problem: They could protect drivers and passengers in car crashes whether they chose to buckle up or not.
While Ford and GM began to install air bags in some vehicles during the 1970s, some experts began to wonder if they caused more problems than they solved. When air bags inflated, they could hit people of smaller stature–and children in particular–so hard that they could be seriously hurt or even killed. A 1973 study suggested that three-point (lap and shoulder) seat belts were more effective and less risky than air bags anyway. But as air-bag technology improved, automakers began to install them in more and more vehicles, and by the time the 1991 law was passed, they were a fairly common feature in many cars. Still, the law gave carmakers time to overhaul their factories if necessary: It did not require passenger cars to have air bags until after September 1, 1997. (Truck manufacturers got an extra year to comply with the law).
Researchers estimate that air bags reduce the risk of dying in a head-on collision by 30 percent, and they agree that the bags have saved more than 10,000 lives since the late 1980s. (Many of those people were not wearing seat belts, which experts believe have saved more than 211,000 lives since 1975.) Today, they are standard equipment in almost 100 million cars and trucks.