Iran Hostage Crisis ends

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/iran-hostage-crisis-ends

Minutes after Ronald Reagan’s inauguration as the 40th president of the United States, the 52 U.S. captives held at the U.S. embassy in Teheran, Iran, are released, ending the 444-day Iran Hostage Crisis.

On November 4, 1979, the crisis began when militant Iranian students, outraged that the U.S. government had allowed the ousted shah of Iran to travel to New York City for medical treatment, seized the U.S. embassy in Teheran. The Ayatollah Khomeini, Iran’s political and religious leader, took over the hostage situation, refusing all appeals to release the hostages, even after the U.N. Security Council demanded an end to the crisis in an unanimous vote. However, two weeks after the storming of the embassy, the Ayatollah began to release all non-U.S. captives, and all female and minority Americans, citing these groups as among the people oppressed by the government of the United States. The remaining 52 captives remained at the mercy of the Ayatollah for the next 14 months.

President Jimmy Carter was unable to diplomatically resolve the crisis, and on April 24, 1980, he ordered a disastrous rescue mission in which eight U.S. military personnel were killed and no hostages rescued. Three months later, the former shah died of cancer in Egypt, but the crisis continued. In November 1980, Carter lost the presidential election to Republican Ronald Reagan. Soon after, with the assistance of Algerian intermediaries, successful negotiations began between the United States and Iran. On the day of Reagan’s inauguration, the United States freed almost $8 billion in frozen Iranian assets, and the hostages were released after 444 days. The next day, Jimmy Carter flew to West Germany to greet the Americans on their way home.

GM takes an interest in Oakland Motor Car Corp.

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/gm-takes-an-interest-in-oakland-motor-car-corp

On January 20, 1909, newly formed automaker General Motors (GM) buys into the Oakland Motor Car Corporation, which later becomes GM’s long-running Pontiac division.

Oakland Motor Car was founded in 1907 in Pontiac, Michigan, by Edward Murphy, a manufacturer of horse-drawn carriages. The following year, another former buggy company executive, William Durant, founded General Motors in Flint, Michigan, as a holding company for the Buick Motor Company. GM soon bought other automakers, including Oldsmobile and Cadillac. In 1909, Oakland became part of GM. The first Pontiac model made its debut as part of the Oakland line in the 1920s. The car, which featured a six-cylinder engine, proved so popular that the Oakland name was eventually dropped and Pontiac became its own GM division by the early 1930s.

Pontiac was initially known for making sedans; however, by the 1960s, it gained acclaim for its fast, sporty muscle cars, including the GTO and the Firebird. The GTO, which was developed by auto industry maverick John DeLorean, was named after a Ferarri coupe–the Gran Turismo Omologato–and is considered the first classic muscle car. According to The New York Times: “More than any other G.M. brand, Pontiac stood for performance, speed and sex appeal.”

Pontiac’s sales reached their peak in 1984, with approximately 850,000 vehicles sold (about four times as many as 2008), according to the Times, which noted that experts believe GM hurt the Pontiac brand in the 1970s and 1980s by opting for a money-saving strategy requiring Pontiacs to share platforms with cars from other divisions.

In 2008, GM, which since the early 1930s had sold more vehicles than any other automaker, lost its sales crown to Toyota. That same year, the American auto giant, hard hit by the global economic crisis and slumping auto sales, was forced to ask the federal government for a multi-billion-dollar loan in order to remain operational. On April 27, 2009, GM announced plans to phase out the Pontiac brand, which had become unprofitable, by 2010. A little over a month later, on June 1, GM filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and promised to emerge as a leaner, more efficient company.

Arafat elected leader of Palestine

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/arafat-elected-leader-of-palestine

Yasser Arafat is elected president of the Palestinian National Council with 88.1 percent of the popular vote, becoming the first democratically elected leader of the Palestinian people in history.

Arafat, the founder of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), originally employed guerilla warfare and terrorism against Israel in his struggle for an independent Palestinian state. However, in the late 1980s, he stunned Israel and the world when he began seeking diplomatic solutions in his quest for a Palestinian homeland. Arafat persuaded the PLO to formally acknowledge the right of Israel to coexist with the independent state of Palestine and in 1993 signed the historic Israel-Palestinian Declaration of Principles with Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. One year later, Arafat and Rabin signed a major peace agreement granting Palestine limited self-government in territories occupied by Israel. In 1995, Arafat shared the Nobel Peace Prize with Rabin and Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres for his peace efforts. In the Palestinian people’s first democratic election, in 1996, he won an overwhelming electoral majority, consolidating his rule over the West Bank and Gaza Strip areas granted autonomy in the 1995 agreement.

In 2000, though, hopes were dashed that the Oslo Accords might finally bring peace to the troubled region when Arafat, dogged by self-doubt and criticism at home that he was compromising too much, and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak were unable to negotiate a final peace.

In the aftermath of the collapse of negotiations, with most Palestinians still living in poverty and growing increasingly desperate, a new wave of violence erupted. Israel continued to blame Arafat for the violence–even that which was perpetrated by Hamas and Islamic Jihad, groups that had probably never been under his control. The collapse of peace talks and the declaration of intifada by the Palestinians led to the election of a hawkish right-wing government in Israel, making peace seem an even more distant prospect.

Though Arafat pledged to join in America’s war on terror after the attacks of September 11, 2001, he was not able to garner favor with U.S. President George W. Bush, who was strongly pro-Israel. In December 2001, after a series of Palestinian suicide attacks on Israel, Bush did nothing to stop Israel as it re-conquered areas of the West Bank and even steamrolled the Palestinian Authority’s headquarters with tanks, effectively imprisoning Arafat within his compound. After Israel dismissed a compromise offer put forth by the Arab League, Palestinian attacks increased, causing Israel to again turn to military intervention in the West Bank. Arafat finally was released from his compound in May 2002, after an agreement was reached which forced him to issue a statement in Arabic instructing his followers to halt attacks on Israel. It was ignored and the violence continued.

In a 2004 interview, George W. Bush rejected Arafat’s status as a legitimate spokesperson for his people, ending hopes for a peace agreement while Arafat was still in power. In late October of that year, reports surfaced that Arafat was seriously ill. He was flown to Paris for treatment, and in early November fell into a coma. He was pronounced dead on November 11. The exact cause of his death is unknown.

Arafat’s funeral was held in Cairo, the city of his birth, and he was buried in his former compound in the West Bank. He left behind a mixed and painful legacy. Mahmoud Abbas became the new chairman of the PLO and was elected president of the Palestinian Authority in January 2005.

Hong Kong ceded to the British

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/hong-kong-ceded-to-the-british

During the First Opium War, China cedes the island of Hong Kong to the British with the signing of the Chuenpi Convention, an agreement seeking an end to the first Anglo-Chinese conflict.

In 1839, Britain invaded China to crush opposition to its interference in the country’s economic and political affairs. One of Britain’s first acts of the war was to occupy Hong Kong, a sparsely inhabited island off the coast of southeast China. In 1841, China ceded the island to the British, and in 1842 the Treaty of Nanking was signed, formally ending the First Opium War.

Britain’s new colony flourished as an East-West trading center and as the commercial gateway and distribution center for southern China. In 1898, Britain was granted an additional 99 years of rule over Hong Kong under the Second Convention of Peking. In September 1984, after years of negotiations, the British and the Chinese signed a formal agreement approving the 1997 turnover of the island in exchange for a Chinese pledge to preserve Hong Kong’s capitalist system. On July 1, 1997, Hong Kong was peaceably handed over to China in a ceremony attended by numerous Chinese and British dignitaries. The chief executive under the new Hong Kong government, Tung Chee Hwa, formulated a policy based upon the concept of “one country, two systems,” thus preserving Hong Kong’s role as a principal capitalist center in Asia.

John F. Kennedy inaugurated

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/john-f-kennedy-inaugurated

On January 20, 1961, on the newly renovated east front of the United States Capitol, John Fitzgerald Kennedy is inaugurated as the 35th president of the United States. It was a cold and clear day, and the nation’s capital was covered with a snowfall from the previous night. The ceremony began with a religious invocation and prayers, and then African-American opera singer Marian Anderson sang “The Star-Spangled Banner,” and Robert Frost recited his poem “The Gift Outright.” Kennedy was administered the oath of office by Chief Justice Earl Warren. During his famous inauguration address, Kennedy, the youngest candidate ever elected to the presidency and the country’s first Catholic president, declared that “the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans” and appealed to Americans to “ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”

Born in Brookline, Massachusetts, in 1917, Kennedy was the son of Joseph Patrick Kennedy, a wealthy businessman. Both of his grandfathers were politicians, and his father served appointed positions in the Roosevelt administration, most prominently as U.S. ambassador to Britain. Kennedy volunteered to fight in World War II and was decorated for an August 1943 action in which he saved several of his men after the PT torpedo boat he was commanding was sunk in the South Pacific. In 1944, Kennedy’s older brother, Joseph, was killed in a bombing mission over Belgium. Joseph had planned to make a career in politics, and Kennedy, discharged and working as a reporter, decided to enter politics in his place.

He won the Democratic nomination for the 11th Congressional District of Massachusetts, defeated his Republican opponent, and became a U.S. congressman at the age of 29. Twice reelected, he was known in Congress for his foreign policy expertise, often taking a bipartisan stance when it came to issues of national security. In the election of 1952, in which the Republicans won the White House and majorities in Congress, Kennedy captured the Senate seat of Republican Henry Cabot Lodge Jr. after an intensive campaign.

In 1956, he nearly became the running mate of Democratic presidential candidate Adlai Stevenson, winning Kennedy wide national exposure and leading him to consider a bid for the 1960 presidential nomination. In 1957, he won the Pulitzer Prize for his book of biographical essays, Profiles in Courage, and in 1958, he was reelected to the Senate by the largest margin in Massachusetts history. By that time, Kennedy’s presidential campaign was in full swing.

The press embraced the young, idealistic senator and his glamorous wife, Jackie, and Kennedy’s father bought a 40-passenger Convair aircraft to transport the candidate and his staff around the country. By the time the 1960 Democratic National Convention convened, Kennedy had won seven primary victories. On July 13, he was nominated on the first ballot, and the next day Senate majority leader Lyndon Johnson was chosen as his running mate. Opposed by Nixon and Henry Cabot Lodge Jr., Kennedy performed well in televised debates with Nixon, a new addition to presidential politics. On November 8, he was elected president.

Kennedy, his wife, and family seemed fitting representatives of the youthful spirit of America during the early 1960s, and the Kennedy White House was idealized by admirers as a modern-day “Camelot.” In foreign policy, Kennedy actively fought communism in the world, ordering the controversial Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba and sending thousands of U.S. military “advisors” to Vietnam. During the Cuban Missile Crisis, he displayed firmness and restraint, exercising an unyielding opposition to the placement of Soviet missiles in Cuba but also demonstrating a level-headedness during negotiations for their removal. On the domestic front, he introduced his “New Frontier” social legislation, calling for a rigorous federal desegregation policy and a sweeping new civil rights bill. On November 22, 1963, after less than three years in office, Kennedy was assassinated while riding in an open-car motorcade with his wife in Dallas, Texas.

Terry Waite disappears

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/terry-waite-disappears

On this day, British negotiator Terry Waite disappears while attempting to win freedom for Western hostages held in Lebanon. Waite, special envoy of the archbishop of Canterbury, secured the release of missionaries detained in Iran after the Islamic revolution. He also extracted British hostages from Libya and even succeeded in releasing American hostages from Lebanon in 1986. A total of 10 captives had been released through Waite’s efforts before Shiite Muslims seized him during a return mission to Beirut on January 20, 1987. He was not released for more than four years.

FDR inaugurated to fourth term

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/fdr-inaugurated-to-fourth-term

On January 20, 1945, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the only president to be elected to three terms in office, is inaugurated to his fourth term.

At the height of the Great Depression, Roosevelt, then governor of New York, was elected the 32nd president of the United States. In his inaugural address in 1933, President Roosevelt promised Americans that “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself” and outlined his “New Deal”–an expansion of the federal government as an instrument of employment opportunity and welfare. Although criticized by the business community, Roosevelt’s progressive legislation improved America’s economic climate, and in 1936 he swept to reelection.

During his second term, he became increasingly concerned with German and Japanese aggression and began a long campaign to awaken America from its isolationist slumber. In 1940, with World War II raging in Europe and the Pacific, Roosevelt agreed to run for an unprecedented third term. Reelected by Americans who valued his strong leadership, he proved a highly effective commander in chief during World War II. Under his guidance, America became, in his own words, the “great arsenal of democracy” and succeeded in shifting the balance of power in World War II firmly in the Allies’ favor. In 1944, with the war not yet won, Roosevelt was reelected to a fourth term. Three months after his inauguration, he died. Roosevelt’s unparalleled 13 years as president led to the 1947 passing of the 22nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, limiting future presidents to a maximum of two elected terms in office, or one elected term if the president already served more than two years of another president’s elected term.

Indira Gandhi becomes Indian prime minister

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/indira-gandhi-becomes-indian-prime-minister

Following the death of Indian Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri, Indira Gandhi becomes head of the Congress Party and thus prime minister of India. She was India’s first female head of government and by the time of her assassination in 1984 was one of its most controversial.

Gandhi was the daughter of Jawaharlal Nehru, the first prime minister of the independent Republic of India. She became a national political figure in 1955, when she was elected to the executive body of the Congress Party. In 1959, she served as president of the party and in 1964 was appointed to an important post in Lal Bahadur Shastri’s ruling government. Soon after becoming prime minister, Gandhi was challenged by the right wing of the Congress Party, and in the 1967 election she won only a narrow victory and thus had to rule with a deputy prime minister.

In 1971, she won a resounding reelection victory over the opposition and became the undisputed leader of India. That year, she ordered India’s invasion of Pakistan in support of the creation of Bangladesh, which won her greater popularity and led her New Congress Party to a landslide victory in national elections in 1972.

During the next few years, she presided over increasing civil unrest brought on by food shortages, inflation, and regional disputes. Her administration was criticized for its strong-arm tactics in dealing with these problems. Meanwhile, charges by the Socialist Party that she had defrauded the 1971 election led to a national scandal. In 1975, the High Court in Allahabad convicted her of a minor election infraction and banned her from politics for six years. In response, she declared a state of emergency throughout India, imprisoned thousands of political opponents, and restricted personal freedoms in the country. Among several unpopular programs during this period was the forced sterilization of men and women as a means of controlling population growth.

In 1977, long-postponed national elections were held, and Gandhi and her party were swept from office. The next year, Gandhi’s supporters broke from the Congress Party and formed the Congress (I) Party, with the “I” standing for “Indira.” Later in 1978, she was briefly imprisoned for official corruption. Soon after the ruling Janata Party fell apart, the Congress (I) Party, with Indira as its head, won a spectacular election victory in 1980, and Gandhi was again prime minister.

In the early 1980s, several regional states intensified their call for greater autonomy from New Delhi, and the Sikh secessionist movement in Punjab resorted to violence and terrorism. In 1984, the Sikh leaders set up base in their sacred Golden Temple in Amritsar. Gandhi responded by sending the Indian army in, and hundreds of Sikhs were killed in the government assault. In retaliation, Sikh members of Gandhi’s own bodyguard gunned her down on the grounds of her home on October 31, 1984. She was succeeded by her son, Rajiv Gandhi.

Wilkes claims portion of Antarctica for U.S.

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/wilkes-claims-portion-of-antarctica-for-u-s

During an exploring expedition, Captain Charles Wilkes sights the coast of eastern Antarctica and claims it for the United States. Wilkes’ group had set out in 1838, sailing around South America to the South Pacific and then to Antarctica, where they explored a 1,500-mile stretch of the eastern Antarctic coast that later became known as Wilkes Land. In 1842, the expedition returned to New York, having circumnavigated the globe.

Antarctica was discovered by European and American explorers in the early part of the 19th century, and in February 1821 the first landing on the Antarctic continent was made by American John Davis at Hughes Bay on the Antarctic Peninsula. During the next century, many nations, including the United States, made territorial claims to portions of the almost-inhabitable continent. However, during the 1930s, conflicting claims led to international rivalry, and the United States, which led the world in the establishment of scientific bases, enacted an official policy of making no territorial claims while recognizing no other nation’s claims. In 1959, the Antarctic Treaty made Antarctica an international zone, set guidelines for scientific cooperation, and prohibited military operations, nuclear explosions, and the disposal of radioactive waste on the continent.

Fleetwood Mac reunite to play “Don’t Stop” at Bill Clinton’s first Inaugural gala

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/fleetwood-mac-reunite-to-play-dont-stop-at-bill-clintons-first-inaugural-gala

On this day in 1993, the band Fleetwood Mac reunites to perform at the recently elected U.S. President Bill Clinton’s first inaugural gala.

Fleetwood Mac had faced much intra-band squabbling since their 1970s heyday, why they released one of the biggest albums of all time—Rumours—and a string of decade-defining hits like “Landslide,” “Rhiannon,” “Say You Love Me” and “Go Your Own Way.” And then, of course, there was “Don’t Stop” (as in “thinking about tomorrow”), which was candidate Bill Clinton’s unofficial theme song during the 1992 presidential campaign.

Along with Truman’s “I’m Just Wild About Harry,” Eisenhower’s “I Like Ike” and Ross Perot’s “Crazy,” Clinton’s “Don’t Stop” can certainly be placed within the catchy-and-memorable subset of Presidential campaign songs—in contrast to, say, “Buckle Down with Nixon,”  “Get on a Raft with Taft” and “Huzzah for Madison.” Clinton’s theme song may have lacked specificity regarding his political agenda, but it had a good beat, a warm vibe and a chorus that audiences could sing along to. Fleetwood Mac’s 1977 recording of “Don’t Stop” played in a seemingly endless loop from the night of Clinton’s nomination at the 1992 Democratic National Convention that previous summer through to election night in November, so that by the time January rolled around, the mere playing of the record would have seemed a disappointing way to end the evening of the Inaugural gala.

And so the Clinton transition team sprang into action and accomplished a political feat that certainly seemed to bode well for the new president’s ambitious plans to bring peace and stability to Haiti and overhaul the nation’s health-care system. It had been more than five years since Lindsay Buckingham, Mick Fleetwood, Christine McVie and Stevie Nicks had shared a stage, but in a true coup of diplomacy, the Clinton team convinced the entire Rumours-era lineup of Fleetwood Mac to reunite for a truly historic live performance of “Don’t Stop” on this day in 1993.