Perón deposed in Argentina

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/peron-deposed-in-argentina

After a decade of rule, Argentine President Juan Domingo Perón is deposed in a military coup. Perón, a demagogue who came to power in 1946 with the backing of the working classes, became increasingly authoritarian as Argentina’s economy declined in the early 1950s. His greatest political resource was his charismatic wife, Eva “Evita” Perón, but she died in 1952, signaling the collapse of the national coalition that had backed him. Having antagonized the church, students, and others, he was forced into exile by the military in September 1955. He settled in Spain, where he served as leader-in-exile to the “Peronists”—a powerful faction of Argentines who remained loyal to him and his system.

Born into a lower middle class family in 1895, Juan Domingo Perón built a career in the army, eventually rising to the rank of colonel. In 1943, he was a leader of a group of military conspirators that overthrew Argentina’s ineffectual civilian government. Requesting for himself the seemingly minor cabinet post of secretary of labor and social welfare, he began building a political empire based in the labor unions. By 1945, he was also vice president and minister of war in the military regime.

In 1945, Perón oversaw the return of political freedoms in the country, but this led to unrest and mass demonstrations by opposition groups. Perón’s enemies in the navy seized the opportunity and had him arrested on October 9. Labor unions organized strikes and rallies in protest of his imprisonment, and Perón’s beautiful paramour, the radio actress Eva Duarte, was highly effective in enlisting the public to the cause. On October 17, Perón was released, and that night he addressed a crowd of some 300,000 people from the balcony of the presidential palace. He vowed to lead the people to victory in the coming presidential election. Four days later, Perón, a widower, married Eva Duarte, or Evita, as she became affectionately known.

In the subsequent presidential campaign, Perón suppressed the liberal opposition, and his Labor Party won a narrow, but complete, election victory. President Perón removed political opponents from their positions in the government, courts, and schools, nationalized public services, and improved wages and working conditions. Although he restricted constitutional liberties, he won overwhelming support from the masses of poor workers, whom Evita Perón called los descamisados, or the “shirtless ones.” Evita served an important role in the government, unofficially leading the Department of Social Welfare and taking over her husband’s role as caretaker of the working classes. She was called the “First Worker of Argentina” and “Lady of Hope,” and was instrumental in securing passage of a woman suffrage law.

In 1950, Argentina’s postwar export boom tapered off, and inflation and corruption grew. After being reelected in 1951, Perón became more conservative and repressive and seized control of the press to control criticism of his regime. In July 1952, Evita died of cancer, and support for President Perón among the working classes became decidedly less pronounced. His attempt to force the separation of church and state was met with considerable controversy. In June 1955, church leaders excommunicated him, encouraging a clique of military officers to plot his overthrow. On September 19, 1955, the army and navy revolted, and Perón was forced to flee to Paraguay. In 1960, he settled in Spain.

Meanwhile, a string of civilian and military governments failed to resolve Argentina’s economic troubles. The memory of Perón’s regime improved with time, and Peronismo became the most powerful political force in the country. In 1971, the military regime of General Alejandro Lanusse announced his intention to restore constitutional democracy in 1973, and Perón was allowed to visit Argentina in 1972. In March 1973, Peronists won control of the government in national elections, and Perón returned in June amid great public excitement and fighting among Peronist factions.

In October 1973, Perón was elected president in a special election. His wife, Isabel Perón, an Argentine dancer he married in 1961, was elected vice president. She was much resented by millions still devoted to the memory of Evita Perón.

Economic troubles continued in Perón’s second presidency and were made worse by the Arab oil embargo of 1973 and an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease that devastated Argentina’s beef industry. When Perón died on July 1, 1974, his wife became president of a nation suffering from inflation, political violence, and labor unrest. In March 1976, she was deposed in an air-force-led coup, and a right-wing military junta took power that brutally ruled Argentina until 1982.

Unabomber manifesto published

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/unabomber-manifesto-published

On September 19, 1995, a manifesto by the Unabomber, an anti-technology terrorist, is published by The New York Times and Washington Post in the hope that someone will recognize the person who, for 17 years, had been sending homemade bombs through the mail that had killed and maimed innocent people around the United States. After reading the manifesto, David Kaczynski linked the writing style to that of his older brother Ted, who was later convicted of the attacks and sentenced to life in prison without parole. All told, the Unabomber was responsible for murdering three people and injuring another 23.

READ MORE: Why the Unabomber Evaded Arrest for 17 Years 

Theodore John Kaczynski was born May 22, 1942, in Evergreen Park, Illinois, a Chicago suburb. As a student, he excelled at math, graduated from Harvard and received a Ph.D. in math from the University of Michigan. In 1967, he got a teaching job at the University of California at Berkeley, but quit two years later. In 1971, Kaczynski purchased some property in Lincoln, Montana, with his brother. There, the future Unabomber built a small, secluded cabin where he lived off the land as a recluse from the late 1970s until his arrest on April 3, 1996.

In May 1978, an un-mailed package was found in a University of Illinois, Chicago, parking lot; a security guard was later injured when he opened the package. The following year, another bomb exploded at Northwestern University, in Evanston, Illinois, injuring one person. In November of that same year, 12 people on an American Airlines flight from Chicago to Washington, D.C., were treated for smoke inhalation when a bomb in a mailbag aboard the plane caught fire. Investigators eventually linked the three incidents, as the bombings continued and spread around the country. In December 1985, the owner of a computer store in Sacramento, California, was killed by a bomb filled with nail fragments. After a similar explosion in Salt Lake City two years later, investigators got their first eyewitness description of the bomber after someone reported seeing a man in aviator sunglasses and a hooded sweatshirt at the scene of the crime. In April 1995, The New York Times received a letter from the Unabomber stating that the killings would stop if the paper printed a 35,000-word manifesto. In September of that year, the Times and the Post complied, and David Kaczynski eventually recognized his brother Ted’s writing as that of the Unabomber and contacted the FBI.

In January 1998, Kaczynski agreed to a plea bargain with the government and was sentenced to life in prison.

Hundreds are accidentally poisoned in Brazil

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/accidental-poisoning-in-brazil

On September 18, 1987, cesium-137 is removed from an abandoned cancer-therapy machine in Brazil. Hundreds of people were eventually poisoned by radiation from the substance, highlighting the danger that even relatively small amounts of radiation can pose.

In 1985, the Goiania Institute of Radiotherapy moved to a new location and left behind an obsolete Cesium-137 teletherapy unit in their abandoned headquarters. The institute failed to inform the authorities of the existence of the outdated device and the machine sat in the building in downtown Goiania, 600 miles from Sao Paulo, for over a year before two criminally enterprising men removed the machine.

The men sold it to a local junkyard on September 13. Five days later, workers at the junkyard dismantled the machine, releasing the Cesium-137 that was still inside. Fascinated by the glowing blue stone and completely unaware of its dangers, they distributed pieces to friends, relatives and neighbors. The cesium was spread around so much that contamination was later found 100 miles away.

Days later, the junkyard owner’s wife began noticing that her friends and relatives were getting sick. When she sought medical assistance, doctors found that they were suffering from acute radiation poisoning. Four people eventually died from exposure, including one child. Scores were hospitalized and more than 100,000 people in the city had to be monitored for contamination.

More than 40 homes in the city were found to have high levels of contamination and had to be demolished. The after-effects were also serious. Many of the citizens suffered psychologically from their fear of contamination. In fact, fear was so widespread that other cities shunned the people and products of Goiania following the incident.

Following this disaster, Brazil completely overhauled their laws regarding the storage of radiation sources.

Doris Day wins lawsuit

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/doris-day-wins-lawsuit

On September 18, 1974, actress Doris Day wins a $22.8 million malpractice suit against her former lawyer.

Day, one of the biggest box office draws of the 1950s and ’60s, had allowed her third husband, Martin Melcher, to handle her finances. After his death in 1968, she discovered that her $20 million in life savings had disappeared, and sued her lawyer for mismanagement. She was not able to recover the full value of the award, however, and settling for $6 million.

Day was born in Cincinnati in 1922. Though she was a promising dancer as a teenager, a car accident ended her dancing days and turned her toward music instead. She sang and recorded with several bands. In 1948, she was pulled in at the last minute to replace singer/actress Betty Hutton in Romance on the High Seas (1948), Day’s first film. Audiences adored her, and she went on to star in dozens of other films, including April in Paris (1952), Calamity Jane (1953), The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956) and The Pajama Game (1957). She made her last film in 1968, With Six, You Get Eggroll. After her husband’s death, she began work on a television series, The Doris Day Show (1968-1973) and also appeared in television specials.

Day was awarded the Cecil B. DeMille Award for her outstanding contribution to entertainment by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association at the Golden Globe Awards in 1989. She died on May 13, 2019. 

Soviet Union invades Poland

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/soviet-union-invades-poland

On September 17, 1939, Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov declares that the Polish government has ceased to exist, as the U.S.S.R. exercises the “fine print” of the Hitler-Stalin Non-aggression pact—the invasion and occupation of eastern Poland.

Hitler’s troops were already wreaking havoc in Poland, having invaded on the first of the month. The Polish army began retreating and regrouping east, near Lvov, in eastern Galicia, attempting to escape relentless German land and air offensives. But Polish troops had jumped from the frying pan into the fire—as Soviet troops began occupying eastern Poland. The Ribbentrop-Molotov Non-aggression Pact, signed in August, had eliminated any hope Poland had of a Russian ally in a war against Germany. Little did Poles know that a secret clause of that pact, the details of which would not become public until 1990, gave the U.S.S.R. the right to mark off for itself a chunk of Poland’s eastern region. The “reason” given was that Russia had to come to the aid of its “blood brothers,” the Ukrainians and Byelorussians, who were trapped in territory that had been illegally annexed by Poland. Now Poland was squeezed from West and East—trapped between two behemoths. Its forces overwhelmed by the mechanized modern German army, Poland had nothing left with which to fight the Soviets.

As Soviet troops broke into Poland, they unexpectedly met up with German troops who had fought their way that far east in a little more than two weeks. The Germans receded when confronted by the Soviets, handing over their Polish prisoners of war. Thousands of Polish troops were taken into captivity; some Poles simply surrendered to the Soviets to avoid being captured by the Germans.

The Soviet Union would wind up with about three-fifths of Poland and 13 million of its people as a result of the invasion.

Vanessa Williams becomes first Black Miss America

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/vanessa-williams-becomes-first-black-miss-america

On September 17, 1983, 20-year-old Vanessa Williams becomes the first African American to win the Miss America crown. Less than a year later, on July 23, 1984, Williams gave up her crown after nude photos of her surfaced. Despite the scandal, Williams later launched a successful singing and acting career, including a featured role on the television sitcom Ugly Betty.

Vanessa Lynn Williams was born on March 18, 1963, and raised by music-teacher parents in suburban New York City. She attended Syracuse University, where she majored in musical theater. After winning the Miss New York title, Williams went to Atlantic City, New Jersey, to participate in the Miss America pageant. On September 17, 1983, Williams made history by becoming the first African-American woman in the pageant’s 63-year history to capture the Miss America title. (For the competition’s first 30 years, Black women weren’t even allowed to become contestants.) Scandal later erupted, however, when nude photos surfaced of Williams that had reportedly been shot when she worked for a photographer before her pageant days. She was forced to resign her Miss America title in July 1984. The photos later appeared (without Williams’ consent) in Penthouse magazine.

After some time away from the public eye, Williams re-emerged and embarked on a successful music career. In 1988, she released her debut album, The Right Stuff,The Comfort Zone, sold over two million copies and contained the chart-topping single “Save the Best for Last.” Williams’ third album, 1994’s The Sweetest Days, also went platinum. In 1995, she recorded “Colors of the Wind,” the theme song on the soundtrack for the animated feature Pocahontas; the song later earned an Academy Award.

As Williams continued to record and perform music into the coming decade, her acting career heated up. She made her big-screen debut with a small role in 1987’s The Pick-Up Artist, featuring Molly Ringwald and Robert Downey Jr., and also appeared in the 1991 Richard Pryor-Gene Wilder vehicle Another You. She then moved on to co-starring roles in 1996’s Eraser, with Arnold Schwarzenegger; 1997’s Soul Food, whose ensemble cast included Nia Long, Vivica A. Fox and Mekhi Pfifer; the 2000 remake of Shaft, directed by John Singleton and featuring Samuel L. Jackson; and 2004’s Johnson Family Vacation, with Cedric the Entertainer. Williams also racked up credits on the small-screen, including roles on the short-lived series Boomtown and South Beach. From 2006-2010, she co-starred on the hit ABC sitcom Ugly Betty. Williams received multiple Emmy Award nominations for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series for her role as the scheming former supermodel Wilhelmina Slater.

Williams has also appeared on Broadway, where she made her debut in 1994 with a starring role in The Kiss of the Spider Woman. She earned a Tony Award nomination for her appearance in the 2002 revival of Into the Woods.

The Who literally spark an explosion on national television

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/the-who-spark-an-explosion-on-national-television

In introducing them at the Monterey Pop Festival three months earlier, Eric Burdon of the Animals had offered high praise for the up-and-coming British rock band the Who, promising the crowd “A group that will destroy you in more ways than one.” A substandard audio setup that day prevented the Who from unleashing the full sonic assault for which they were already becoming famous, but their high-energy, instrument-destroying antics inspired the next act, Jimi Hendrix, to burn his guitar and announced to the tens of thousands of Festival-goers the arrival of a powerful new force in rock and roll. The rest of America would get its introduction on September 17, 1967, when the Who ended an already explosive, nationally televised performance of “My Generation” with a literal bang that singed Pete Townshend’s hair, left shrapnel in Keith Moon’s arm and momentarily knocked The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour off the air.

As buttoned-down as its hosts appeared to be, The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour came as close as any network program could in 1967 to being culturally and politically subversive. Tommy and Dick Smothers fought a running battle with CBS during their show’s three-year run over scripts that subtly tweaked “the Establishment” and guests whose off-air politics were deemed controversial by network censors. Though there was nothing overtly political about the Who, it was more than just lyrics like “Hope I die before I get old” that marked the group as happy warriors in the generational battle being waged in the late 1960s. It was also, among other things, the sheer volume at which they preferred to play and their penchant for leaving every stage they played on looking as if a bomb had just gone off. On this day in 1967, one actually did.

Keith Moon was already in the habit of placing an explosive charge in one his two bass drums to detonate during Pete Townshend’s guitar-smashing at the end of each Who performance. But for their Smothers Brothers appearance, Moon packed several times the normal amount of explosives into his drum kit, and when he set it off, a gigantic explosion rocked the set as a cloud of white smoke engulfed Townshend and singer Roger Daltrey. Though bassist John Entwistle never lost his cool, Daltrey practically flew downstage and when Townshend emerged from the smoke, his hair was almost literally blown to one side of his head. Though the incredible explosion has been rumored to have caused Pete Townshend’s eventual near-deafness, credit for that should probably go instead to the Who’s pioneering use of stacked Marshall amplifiers as a means of achieving maximum volume during their live performances.

George Washington prepares final draft of farewell address

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/washington-prepares-final-draft-of-farewell-address

George Washington prepares a final draft of his presidential farewell address on September 17, 1796. Two days later, the carefully crafted words appeared in Claypoole’s American Daily Advertiser, published in Philadelphia, officially notifying the American public that Washington would voluntarily step down as the nation’s first president. The decision was extraordinary: rarely, if ever, in the history of western civilization had a national leader voluntarily relinquished his title. The action set a model for successive U.S. administrations and future democracies.

READ MORE: How Washington’s Farewell Address Inspired Future Presidents

Historians have since discovered that Washington dated the draft of the address to coincide with the nine-year anniversary of the adoption of the first draft of the U.S. Constitution in 1787. Scholars agree that Alexander Hamilton, former aide to Washington during the Revolutionary War and the first U.S. secretary of the treasury, wrote much of the address. Washington was greatly influenced by his federalist cohort Hamilton throughout their professional relationship, much to the frustration of the Republican members of his government, particularly Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. It was Madison who had helped pen a farewell draft for Washington at the end of his first term, which Hamilton had initially used as a template for the final farewell address. That version was ultimately tossed aside, however, in favor of one drafted from scratch by Hamilton. He and Washington spent the summer of 1796 finalizing the speech, which was delivered for printing in September.

Many Americans had hoped or assumed that Washington would serve another term or even until his death. As Washington’s second term came to a close in early 1797, he was in poor health, exhausted from years of internal squabbling amongst members of his cabinet and ready to retire to his beloved plantation in Virginia. According to biographer Ron Chernow, although Hamilton wrote much of the speech, it was faithful to Washington’s style and tone. In addition to laying out his hopes for America’s future, the address called for an end to partisan politics and maintained that Washington’s decision not to run for a third term was in the best interests of the country. “I have…contributed towards the organization and administration of the government the best exertions of which a very fallible judgment was capable,” he humbly admitted. Desiring the “shade of retirement,” Washington reminded the people that his position as president was designed to be temporary. He believed it was his patriotic duty to uphold the Constitution and pass on his role as the nation’s top public servant to someone else.

READ MORE: George Washington’s Final Years—And Sudden, Agonizing Death