Teenager Debbie Gibson earns a #1 hit with “Foolish Beat”

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/teenager-debbie-gibson-earns-a-1-hit-with-foolish-beat

Contrary to what some critics of teen pop might imagine, pop sensation Debbie Gibson saw herself not as the next Madonna, but as the next Carole King. And when her single “Foolish Beat” reached the top of the Biilboard Hot 100 on this day in 1988, she achieved something very much in keeping with that goal: She became the youngest person ever to write, produce and perform her own #1 pop single.

Debbie Gibson was the poster-child for everything a talented teenager might achieve if she set her mind to justifying her parents’ investment in music and voice lessons. Raised in suburban Long Island, New York, Gibson began piano lessons at age five with the same teacher who taught Billy Joel. She wrote her first song, “Know Your Classroom,” at age six and her first “hit” at age 12, with a song called “I Come From America,” which won her $1,000 in a songwriting contest and convinced her parents to hire a professional manager. Five years later, with more than 100 original unreleased songs to her credit, she signed a contract with Atlantic Records and recorded her debut album, Out Of The Blue.

During the summer of 1987, Debbie Gibson earned her first Top-10 hit with her debut single, “Only In My Dreams.” After two more hits with “Shake Your Love” and “Out Of The Blue,” she earned her record-setting #1 hit with the self-produced original song, “Foolish Beat.”

Like so many teen stars before and after her, Debbie Gibson did not remain a viable pop star for long, but she made the most of her time in the spotlight, earning another #1 hit in early 1989 with “Lost In Your Eyes,” from her second album, Electric Youth, which reached the top of the Billboard album charts and inspired a pioneering foray into the youth cosmetics market with the creation of Electric Youth by Debbie Gibson perfume and cologne spritz by Revlon.

U.S. World Cup team wins unlikely victory over England

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/u-s-world-cup-team-wins-unlikely-victory-over-england

On this day in 1950, an American team composed largely of amateurs defeated its more polished English opponents at the World Cup, held in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. Dubbed the “Miracle on Green,” the game is considered one of the greatest soccer upsets of all time.

The English team at the time, known as the “Kings of Football,” boasted a record of 23 victories, four losses and three draws in the years since World War II ended. Its members were professional footballers culled from England’s domestic leagues. The Americans, by contrast, had lost their last seven international matches. Hastily assembled just days before the match against England, the U.S. team included a dishwasher, two mailmen, a teacher and a mill worker. The Belfast Telegram described them as “a band of no-hopers drawn from many lands,” ostensibly because some of the men were recent immigrants to the United States.

By the time the two teams squared off at Belo Horizonte, bookies had given the Brits 3-1 odds to take the World Cup, compared to 500-1 for the Americans. The newly appointed American coach, Bill Jeffrey, apparently agreed with them, telling a British reporter, “We have no chance.”

The game began with the Americans on the defense as the English assailed them with one clear shot on goal after another. The goalkeeper, Frank Borghi, a former minor league catcher who now drove a hearse in St. Louis, managed to tip each one. Finally, with less than 10 minutes to go in the first half, U.S. midfielder Walter Bahr centered a ball from 25 yards out, and Haitian-born forward Joe Gaetjens scored with a diving header. England lashed back with a battery of shots throughout the second half, but nothing got past Borghi. The no-hopers had defeated the Kings of Football with a single goal. The 30,000 Brazilians in the stands went wild, knowing that a British loss could help their own team fare better in the tournament. Gaetjens, who would later return to Haiti and disappear during François Duvalier’s repressive regime, was carried off the field in celebration.

Appalled English fans could not fathom that the Americans had beaten them at their own game. In the United States, meanwhile, the improbable win barely made a ripple. Only one American journalist had traveled to Brazil for the World Cup in the first place: Dent McSkimming of the St. Louis Dispatch, who paid his own way when his newspaper would not send him. He later said that the American victory was “as if Oxford University sent a baseball team over here and it beat the Yankees.”

Why didn’t this David-and-Goliath story make American headlines? For one thing, soccer had never captured the same U.S. fan base as football, baseball or basketball. Newspapers also had a more alarming matter to cover: On June 29, four days before the game, North Korea had crossed the 38th parallel into South Korea, and President Truman had already ordered U.S. forces to intervene. Just six years after World War II, the country was once again on the brink of war.

After the upset, both teams were quickly eliminated and returned to their respective sides of the Atlantic–the Brits chastened, the Americans essentially ignored. It would be 16 years before England won its first and only World Cup title. The United States, meanwhile, would not even appear in the tournament again until 1990. On June 12, 2010, the teams met again at the World Cup in Rustenburg, South Africa, and again England was the favorite. That match, which was the fifth most-watched soccer game in U.S. history, ended in a draw.

Union begins tunneling toward Rebels at Petersburg

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/union-begins-tunneling-toward-rebels-at-petersburg

On this day, Pennsylvania troops begin digging a tunnel toward the Rebels at Petersburg, Virginia, in order to blow a hole in the Confederate lines and break the stalemate.

The great campaign between Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia and Ulysses S. Grant’s Army of the Potomac ground to a halt in mid-June. Having battered each other for a month and a half, the armies came to a standstill at Petersburg, just south of Richmond. Here, they settled into trenches for a long siege of the Confederate rail center.

The men of the 48th Pennsylvania sought to break the stalemate with an ambitious project. The brainchild of Lieutenant Colonel Henry Pleasants, the plan called for the men of his regiment–mostly miners from Pennsylvania’s anthracite coal region–to construct a tunnel to the Confederate line, fill it with powder, and blow a gap in the fortifications.

On June 24, the plan received the approval of the regiment’s corps commander, Ambrose Burnside, and the digging commenced the following day. Burnside’s superiors, Generals Grant and George Meade, expressed little enthusiasm for the project but allowed it to proceed. For five weeks the miners dug the 500-foot long shaft, completing about 40 feet per day.

On July 30, a huge cache of gunpowder was ignited. The plan worked, and a huge gap was blown in the Rebel line. But poor planning by Union officers squandered the opportunity, and the Confederates closed the gap before the Federals could exploit the opening. The Battle of the Crater, as it became known, was an unusual event in an otherwise uneventful summer along the Petersburg line.

Jacqueline Bouvier and Senator John F. Kennedy announce engagement

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/jacqueline-bouvier-and-senator-john-f-kennedy-announce-engagement

On this day in 1953, Jacqueline Bouvier and Massachusetts Senator John F. Kennedy publicly announce their engagement. Kennedy went on to become the 35th president and Jackie, as she was known, became one of the most popular first ladies ever to grace the White House.

Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy was born into a prominent New York family in 1929. She grew up an avid horsewoman and reader. In 1951, after graduating from George Washington University, Jackie toured Europe with her sister. That fall, she returned to the U.S. to begin her first job as the Washington Times-Herald‘s “Inquiring Camera Girl.” Her assignment was to roam the streets of Washington, D.C., ask strangers man-on-the-street questions and then snap their picture for publication. Shortly afterward, at a dinner party in Georgetown, she met a young, handsome senator from Massachusetts named John F. Kennedy. The two dated over the next two years, during which time Jackie mused to a friend that she might actually marry a man who was allergic to horses, something she never before would have considered. In May 1953, Kennedy proposed, giving Jackie a 2.88-carat diamond-and-emerald ring from Van Cleef and Arpels.

The couple married on September 12, 1953, at St. Mary’s Church in Newport, Rhode Island. Twelve hundred people attended the wedding reception at Hammersmith Farm. The Kennedys then settled in Washington, D.C., where Kennedy continued to pursue his political career. Seven years later, he beat out Richard M. Nixon for the presidency.

Senate repeals Gulf of Tonkin Resolution

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/senate-repeals-tonkin-gulf-resolution

On an amendment offered by Senator Robert Dole (R-Kansas) to the Foreign Military Sales Act, the Senate votes 81 to 10 to repeal the Tonkin Gulf Resolution. In August 1964, after North Vietnamese torpedo boats attacked U.S. destroyers (in what became known as the Tonkin Gulf incident), President Johnson asked Congress for a resolution authorizing the president “to take all necessary measures” to defend Southeast Asia. Subsequently, Congress passed Public Law 88-408, which became known as the Tonkin Gulf Resolution, giving the president the power to take whatever actions he deemed necessary, including “the use of armed force.” The resolution passed 82 to 2 in the Senate, where Wayne K. Morse (D-Oregon) and Ernest Gruening (D-Alaska) were the only dissenting votes; the bill passed unanimously in the House of Representatives. President Johnson signed it into law on August 10. It became the legal basis for every presidential action taken by the Johnson administration during its conduct of the war.

Despite the initial support for the resolution, it became increasingly controversial as Johnson used it to increase U.S. commitment to the war in Vietnam. Repealing the resolution was meant as an attempt to limit presidential war powers. The Nixon administration took a neutral stance on the vote, denying that it relied on the Tonkin resolution as the basis for its war-making authority in Southeast Asia. The administration asserted that it primarily drew on the constitutional authority of the president as commander-in-chief to protect the lives of U.S. military forces in justifying its actions and policies in prosecuting the war.

U.S. Air Force reports on Roswell

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On this day in 1997, U.S. Air Force officials release a 231-page report dismissing long-standing claims of an alien spacecraft crash in Roswell, New Mexico, almost exactly 50 years earlier.

Public interest in Unidentified Flying Objects, or UFOs, began to flourish in the 1940s, when developments in space travel and the dawn of the atomic age caused many Americans to turn their attention to the skies. The town of Roswell, located near the Pecos River in southeastern New Mexico, became a magnet for UFO believers due to the strange events of early July 1947, when ranch foreman W.W. Brazel found a strange, shiny material scattered over some of his land. He turned the material over to the sheriff, who passed it on to authorities at the nearby Air Force base. On July 8, Air Force officials announced they had recovered the wreckage of a “flying disk.” A local newspaper put the story on its front page, launching Roswell into the spotlight of the public’s UFO fascination. 

The Air Force soon took back their story, however, saying the debris had been merely a downed weather balloon. Aside from die-hard UFO believers, or “ufologists,” public interest in the so-called “Roswell Incident” faded until the late 1970s, when claims surfaced that the military had invented the weather balloon story as a cover-up. Believers in this theory argued that officials had in fact retrieved several alien bodies from the crashed spacecraft, which were now stored in the mysterious Area 51 installation in Nevada. Seeking to dispel these suspicions, the Air Force issued a 1,000-page report in 1994 stating that the crashed object was actually a high-altitude weather balloon launched from a nearby missile test-site as part of a classified experiment aimed at monitoring the atmosphere in order to detect Soviet nuclear tests.

On July 24, 1997, barely a week before the extravagant 50th anniversary celebration of the incident, the Air Force released yet another report on the controversial subject. Titled “The Roswell Report, Case Closed,” the document stated definitively that there was no Pentagon evidence that any kind of life form was found in the Roswell area in connection with the reported UFO sightings, and that the “bodies” recovered were not aliens but dummies used in parachute tests conducted in the region. Any hopes that this would put an end to the cover-up debate were in vain, as furious ufologists rushed to point out the report’s inconsistencies. With conspiracy theories still alive and well on the Internet, Roswell continues to thrive as a tourist destination for UFO enthusiasts far and wide, hosting the annual UFO Encounter Festival each July and welcoming visitors year-round to its International UFO Museum and Research Center.

Napoleon’s Grande Armee invades Russia

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Following the rejection of his Continental System by Czar Alexander I, French Emperor Napoleon orders his Grande Armee, the largest European military force ever assembled to that date, into Russia. The enormous army, featuring some 500,000 soldiers and staff, included troops from all the European countries under the sway of the French Empire.

During the opening months of the invasion, Napoleon was forced to contend with a bitter Russian army in perpetual retreat. Refusing to engage Napoleon’s superior army in a full-scale confrontation, the Russians under General Mikhail Kutuzov burned everything behind them as they retreated deeper and deeper into Russia. On September 7, the indecisive Battle of Borodino was fought, in which both sides suffered terrible losses. On September 14, Napoleon arrived in Moscow intending to find supplies but instead found almost the entire population evacuated, and the Russian army retreated again. Early the next morning, fires broke across the city, set by Russian patriots, and the Grande Armee’s winter quarters were destroyed. After waiting a month for a surrender that never came, Napoleon, faced with the onset of the Russian winter, was forced to order his starving army out of Moscow.

During the disastrous retreat, Napoleon’s army suffered continual harassment from a suddenly aggressive and merciless Russian army. Stalked by hunger and the deadly lances of the Cossacks, the decimated army reached the Berezina River late in November, but found their way blocked by the Russians. On November 27, Napoleon forced a way across at Studenka, and when the bulk of his army passed the river two days later, he was forced to burn his makeshift bridges behind him, stranding some 10,000 stragglers on the other side. From there, the retreat became a rout, and on December 8 Napoleon left what remained of his army to return to Paris. Six days later, the Grande Armee finally escaped Russia, having suffered a loss of more than 400,000 men during the disastrous invasion.

King Philip’s War begins

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/king-philips-war-begins

In colonial New England, King Philip’s War begins when a band of Wampanoag warriors raid the border settlement of Swansee, Massachusetts, and massacre the English colonists there.

In the early 1670s, 50 years of peace between the Plymouth colony and the local Wampanoag Indians began to deteriorate when the rapidly expanding settlement forced land sales on the tribe. Reacting to increasing Native American hostility, the English met with King Philip, chief of the Wampanoag, and demanded that his forces surrender their arms. The Wampanoag did so, but in 1675 a Christian Native American who had been acting as an informer to the English was murdered, and three Wampanoag were tried and executed for the crime.

King Philip responded by ordering the attack on Swansee on June 24, which set off a series of Wampanoag raids in which several settlements were destroyed and scores of colonists massacred. The colonists retaliated by destroying a number of Indian villages. The destruction of a Narragansett village by the English brought the Narragansett into the conflict on the side of King Philip, and within a few months several other tribes and all the New England colonies were involved. In early 1676, the Narragansett were defeated and their chief killed, while the Wampanoag and their other allies were gradually subdued. King Philip’s wife and son were captured, and on August 12, 1676, after his secret headquarters in Mount Hope, Rhode Island, was discovered, Philip was assassinated by a Native American in the service of the English. The English drew and quartered Philip’s body and publicly displayed his head on a stake in Plymouth.

King Philip’s War, which was extremely costly to the colonists of southern New England, ended the Native American presence in the region and inaugurated a period of unimpeded colonial expansion.

Mail bomb injures Yale professor

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On June 24, 1993, Yale University computer science professor David Gelernter is seriously injured while opening his mail when a padded envelope explodes in his hands. The attack just came two days after a University of California geneticist was injured by a similar bomb and was the latest in a string of bombings since 1978 that authorities believed to be related.

In the aftermath of the attack on Gelernter, various federal departments established the UNABOM Task Force, which launched an intensive search for the so-called “Unabomber.” The bombings, along with 14 others since 1978 that killed 3 people and injured 23 others, were eventually linked to Theodore John Kaczynski, a former mathematician from Chicago. Kaczynski won a scholarship to study mathematics at Harvard University at age 16. After receiving his Ph.D. from the University of Michigan, he became a professor at the University of California at Berkeley. Although celebrated as a brilliant mathematician, he suffered from persistent social and emotional problems, and in 1969 abruptly ended his promising career. Disillusioned with the world around him, he tried to buy land in the Canadian wilderness but in 1971 settled for a 1.4-acre plot near his brother’s home in Montana.

For the next 25 years, Kaczynski lived as a hermit, occasionally working odd jobs and traveling but mostly living off his land. He developed a philosophy of radical environmentalism and militant opposition to modern technology, and tried to get academic essays on the subjects published. It was the rejection of one of his papers by two Chicago-area universities in 1978 that may have prompted him to manufacture and deliver his first mail bomb.

The package was addressed to the University of Illinois from Northwestern University, but was returned to Northwestern, where a security guard was seriously wounded while opening the suspicious package. In 1979, Kaczynski struck again at Northwestern, injuring a student at the Technological Institute. Later that year, his third bomb exploded on an American Airlines flight, causing injuries from smoke inhalation. In 1980, a bomb mailed to the home of Percy Wood, the president of United Airlines, injured Wood when he tried to open it. As Kaczynski seemed to be targeting universities and airlines, federal investigators began calling their suspect the Unabomber, an acronym of sorts for university, airline and bomber.

From 1981 to 1985, there were seven more bombs, four at universities, one at a professor’s home, one at the Boeing Company in Auburn, Washington and one at a computer store in Sacramento. Six people were injured, and in 1985 the owner of the computer store was killed–the Unabomber’s first murder. In 1987, a woman saw a man wearing aviator glasses and a hooded sweatshirt placing what turned out to be a bomb outside a computer store in Salt Lake City. The sketch of the suspect that emerged became the first representation of the Unabomber, and Kaczynski, fearing capture, halted his terrorist campaign for six years, until the bombings of June 1993. In 1994, another mail bomb killed an advertising executive at his home in New Jersey. In April 1995, a bomb killed the president of a timber-industry lobbying group.

This was to be the Unabomber’s final attack. With the help of Kaczynski’s older brother David, FBI agents gathered evidence against him and on April 3, 1996, arrested him in a remote Montana cabin. On May 4, 1998, Kaczynski was sentenced to four life terms in prison after pleading guilty in order to escape the death penalty.

Even without the corpse, a murderer is uncovered

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/even-without-the-corpse-a-murderer-is-uncovered

William Bayly is convicted of murder in New Zealand despite the fact that the body of one of his alleged victims was never found. Most of the evidence against Bayly consisted of trace amounts of human hair, bone, and tissue, representing a marked advance in the field of forensics.

Sam and Christobel Lakey disappeared from their farm in Ruawaro, New Zealand, in October 1933, along with their rifles. Christobel’s body soon turned up in a pond on the farm with terrible bruising to her face and head, and investigators then discovered fresh bloodstains in both an old buggy and a barn, leading them to believe that Sam had been shot and transported somewhere else.

One of the first suspects was William Bayly, who owned a farm adjacent to the Lakey’s, and who was known to have argued with his neighbors frequently. Years earlier, he had been suspected of killing his cousin, but was released due to insufficient evidence. Suggesting to police that Sam Lakey had probably fled after killing his wife, Bayly soon dropped out of sight himself.

Meanwhile, detectives found the missing rifles buried in a swamp on Lakey’s property. Following up on a report that there had been thick smoke coming from a shed on Bayly’s property on the day that the Lakeys disappeared, investigators found pieces of hair and bones, ash, and shotgun lead in a large oil drum inside the shed. It appeared that Bayly had cremated Sam Lakey’s body in this drum.

Tests of the hair and bone fragments from the drum in the shed proved that they were human in origin. Baley was convicted and hanged at Mount Eden Jail in July.