Looking Back - March 22, 2013

History column

Each week Albany Herald researcher Mary Braswell looks for interesting events, places and people from the past. You can contact her at (229) 888-9371 or mary.braswell@albanyherald.com.

The events of this week's column are some of those that touched many lives, in one way or another.

March 24

A live broadcast from the Ranger 9 Moon Lander is shown on television as it hurtled to destruction on the moon's surface. Ranger 9 was the last of the moon probes sent in which they were deliberately aimed at the surface of the moon to take as many images as possible before being destroyed on impact and the first fitted with a camera that could create film suitable for use on domestic TVs. The year was 1965.

In 1989, the oil tanker Exxon Valdez ran aground on Bligh Reef in Prince William Sound, Alaska, spilling an estimated 11 million gallons of crude oil across 1,300 miles of coastline. As many as 2,800 sea otters, 300 harbor seals, 900 bald eagles and 250,000 seabirds died in the days following the disaster.

March 25

Aretha Louise Franklin was born in 1942 in Memphis, Tenn. A gifted songwriter and pianist, "The Queen of Soul" is also adept at jazz, rock, blues, pop, R&B and gospel music. In 2008, the music magazine Rolling Stone ranked Franklin No. 1 on its list of The Greatest Singers of All Time.

The moonwalk is a dance technique that presents the illusion that the dancer is stepping forward while actually moving backward, giving the appearance of a person moving along a conveyor belt. The dance gained worldwide popularity after Michael Jackson executed it during his performance of his song "Billie Jean" on the 1983 television special "Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever."

March 26

In 1830, the first copies of the Book of Mormon were published, and the first official missionary work began as Joseph Smith instructed his brother, Samuel Harrison Smith, to take several copies of the book and begin to share the message. With the Book of Mormon published and the priesthood authority restored, the time had come to organize the church officially.

In 1945, U.S. Marines secured Iwo Jima. Of the 22,786 Japanese soldiers entrenched on the island, 21,570 died either from fighting or by ritual suicide. Only 216 were captured during the battle. Those survivors who did not commit suicide hid in the caves during the day and came out at night to prowl for provisions. Some did eventually surrender and were surprised that the Americans often received them with compassion, offering water, cigarettes, or coffee.

Reader poll

On March 31, 2003, Geraldo Rivera was ordered by the Pentagon to leave Iraq. Why?

  • a) Rivera’s cameramen attempted to interview locals. 0%
  • b) Rivera gave details of the position and plans of United States troops 75%
  • c) Rivera was deemed bad for troop morale. 0%
  • d) Rivera disobeyed military orders as to what equipment could be photographed. 25%

4 total votes.

March 27

The 1939 NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Tournament involved eight schools playing in single-elimination play for the first time. Oregon won the national championship title with a 46-33 victory in the final game over Ohio State.

It was 1998 when the Federal Drug Administration approved Viagra. News of the approval of the impotency drug immediately went up on the FDA website, the first time the agency notified the public of its decision in real time.

March 28

Brewing magnate August Anheuser Busch Jr. was born on this day in 1899. A descendent of the famous brewing family, Busch served as chairman of the Anheuser-Busch Companies Inc. from 1946-1975. During his tenure, the company that his grandfather Adolphus Busch established, emerged as the largest brewery in the world.

It was 1963 when "The Birds," a suspense film directed by Alfred Hitchcock, was released. It depicted a small town in the San Francisco Bay area which was, suddenly and for unexplained reasons, the subject of a series of massive bird attacks. The screenplay was written by Evan Hunter, who also wrote novels under that name and penned the 87th Precinct novels using the pseudonym Ed McBain.

March 29

The Ringlings purchased the Barnum & Bailey Circus in 1907 and ran the circuses separately until 1919. By that time, Charles Edward Ringling and John Nicholas Ringling were the only remaining Ringling brothers of the five who founded the circus. They decided to merge the two and on March 29, 1919, "Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Combined Shows" debuted at Madison Square Garden in New York City.

A company of American soldiers massacred most of the residents of the South Vietnamese hamlet of My Lai in March 1968, including women, children and the elderly. The only American convicted of a crime was 2nd Lt. William Calley on this day in 1971. He was initially sentenced to life in prison. Two days later, President Richard Nixon made the decision to have Calley released from prison, pending appeal of his sentence. In the end, he served four and one-half months in a military prison at Fort Benning.

March 30

Secretary of State William H. Seward agreed to purchase Alaska from Russia for $7.2 million in 1867. Critics attacked Seward for the secrecy surrounding the deal, which came to be known as "Seward's folly." The press mocked his willingness to spend so much on "Seward's icebox" and Andrew Johnson's "polar bear garden."

An assassination attempt occurred on this day in 1981, just 69 days into the presidency of Ronald Reagan. Reagan and three others were wounded by John Hinckley Jr. Reagan was the first serving United States president to survive being shot in an assassination attempt. Hinckley was found not guilty by reason of insanity and has remained confined to a psychiatric facility.