Monthly Archives: November 2018

Custer massacres Cheyenne on Washita River

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/custer-massacres-cheyenne-on-washita-river

Without bothering to identify the village or do any reconnaissance, Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer leads an early morning attack on a band of peaceful Cheyenne living with Chief Black Kettle.

Convicted of desertion and mistreatment of soldiers earlier that year in a military court, the government had suspended Custer from rank and command for one year. Ten months into his punishment, in September 1868, General Philip Sheridan reinstated Custer to lead a campaign against Cheyenne Indians who had been making raids in Kansas and Oklahoma that summer. Sheridan was frustrated by the inability of his other officers to find and engage the enemy, and despite his poor record and unpopularity with the men of the 7th Cavalry, Custer was a good fighter.

Sheridan determined that a campaign in winter might prove more effective, since the Indians could be caught off guard while in their permanent camps. On November 26, Custer located a large village of Cheyenne encamped near the Washita River, just outside of present-day Cheyenne, Oklahoma. Custer did not attempt to identify which group of Cheyenne was in the village, or to make even a cursory reconnaissance of the situation. Had he done so, Custer would have discovered that they were peaceful people and the village was on reservation soil, where the commander of Fort Cobb had guaranteed them safety. There was even a white flag flying from one of the main dwellings, indicating that the tribe was actively avoiding conflict.

Having surrounded the village the night before, at dawn Custer called for the regimental band to play “Garry Owen,” which signaled for four columns of soldiers to charge into the sleeping village. Outnumbered and caught unaware, scores of Cheyenne were killed in the first 15 minutes of the “battle,” though a small number of the warriors managed to escape to the trees and return fire. Within a few hours, the village was destroyed–the soldiers had killed 103 Cheyenne, including the peaceful Black Kettle and many women and children.

Hailed as the first substantial American victory in the Indian wars, the Battle of the Washita helped to restore Custer’s reputation and succeeded in persuading many Cheyenne to move to the reservation. However, Custer’s habit of boldly charging Indian encampments of unknown strength would eventually lead him to his death at the Battle of the Little Bighorn.

White House housekeeper frets over presidential waistline

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/white-house-housekeeper-frets-over-presidential-waistline

On this day in 1911, Elizabeth Jaffray, a White House housekeeper, writes in her diary about a conversation she’d had with President William Howard Taft and his wife about the commander in chief’s ever-expanding waistline.

According to the White House Historical Association, Jaffray was also quoted regarding Taft’s growing girth in a 1926 book called Secrets of the White House. In it, she detailed a typical breakfast consumed by the 332-pound president: “two oranges, a twelve-ounce beefsteak, several pieces of toast and butter and a vast quantity of coffee with cream and sugar.” When she and Taft’s wife, Nellie, commented on his eating habits, he jovially responded that he was planning to go on a diet, but lamented the fact that “things are in a sad state of affairs when a man can’t even call his gizzard his own.”

Taft’s 5′ 11″ frame carried anywhere between 270 pounds and 340 pounds over the course of his adult life. According to his biographers, he had to have his shoes tied by his valet and often got stuck in the White House bathtub and had to be lifted out by two or more men. Once, while visiting the czar of Russia, Taft split his pants seam while descending from a carriage.

Taft’s weight did not stop him from serving a full term as president, nor did it prevent him from accepting a subsequent appointment as chief justice of the Supreme Court in 1921—he was the first and only president to hold both offices. In fact, he successfully dropped down to 270 pounds after leaving the White House. Still, by today’s body-mass indices, Taft remained clinically obese. Although he rarely drank more than the occasional beer and did not smoke, his obesity and a lifelong struggle with severe sleep apnea eventually took its toll. In March 1930, he retired as chief justice citing poor health. He died the following month from heart failure.

Gordie Howe scores his 600th goal

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/gordie-howe-scores-his-600th-goal

On November 27, 1965, Detroit Red Wing Gordie Howe scores his 600th goal in a game against the Montreal Canadiens. He was the first (and the last, until Wayne Gretzky) NHL player to score 600 times in his career. He’d broken the previous record–544 goals, set by the legendary Canadien Maurice “Rocket” Richard–in November 1963. That game’s referee told reporters that “Gordie Howe can do more things better than anyone else. That’s just all there is to it.”

November 27 was a lucky day for Howe: On that day in 1960, in a game against the Toronto Maple Leafs, he’d become the first NHL player to earn 1,000 points. (He’d broken Richard’s 946-point record earlier that year.) Exactly five years later, he scored his 600th goal: a gentle flip shot past Canadiens keeper Gump Worsley at the Montreal Forum. Even with Howe’s goal, the home team had the game well in hand–they eventually won 3-2–so the fans could afford to be generous about Howe’s accomplishment. They cheered politely and sent newspapers, programs and other scraps of paper fluttering into the air and onto the ice.

In Howe’s 32-year career, he played 2,421 games, scored 1,071 goals (including goals he scored in the post-season and with teams that belonged to the World Hockey Association instead of the NHL) and racked up 2,589 points. (He also earned 2,418 penalty minutes in his career, a tribute to his legendary aggression. His teammates called him “Mr. Elbows”; Sports Illustrated said he was “calculatingly and primitively savage…a punishing artist with a hockey stick, slashing, spearing, tripping and high-sticking his way to a comparative degree of solitude on the ice.”) Until Gretzky came along, Howe held the NHL records for goals–810 in the regular season–and points–1,850. He was the league MVP six times.

Gordie Howe retired in 1971, after his 25th season with the Red Wings, but he couldn’t stay off the ice for long: He soon joined the WHA team in Houston, where he played alongside his sons Mark and Marty. In 1977 all three Howes moved to Hartford to play for the Whalers. That team joined the NHL two years later, so Howe was able to add a few goals, points and penalty minutes to his official records before he retired for good at age 52.

Pentagon calls for troop increase

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/pentagon-calls-for-troop-increase

The Pentagon informs President Johnson that if General Westmoreland is to conduct the major sweep operations necessary to destroy enemy forces during the coming year, U.S. troop strength should be increased from 120,000 to 400,000 men.

Also on this day: The Viet Cong release two U.S. special forces soldiers captured two years earlier during a battle of Hiep Hoa, 40 miles southwest of Saigon. At a news conference in Phnom Penh three days later, the two Americans, Sgt. George Smith and Specialist 5th Class Claude McClure, declared that they opposed U.S. actions in Vietnam and would campaign for the withdrawal of American troops. Although Smith later denied making the statement, U.S. authorities announced that the two men would face trial for cooperating with the enemy.

Also on this day: In Washington, nearly 35,000 war protestors circle the White House for two hours before moving on to the Washington Monument. Dr. Benjamin Spock, Coretta Scott King, and activist Norman Thomas were among those who gave speeches.

South Vietnamese forces attacked near Cambodian border

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/south-vietnamese-forces-attacked-near-cambodian-border

A South Vietnamese task force, operating in southeastern Cambodia, comes under North Vietnamese attack near the town of Krek. The South Vietnamese command reported repelling the assault and killing enemy soldiers. The South Vietnamese command also reported killing 33 Viet Cong in the Rung Sat special zone, 23 miles southeast of Saigon.

Pope Urban II orders first Crusade

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/pope-urban-ii-orders-first-crusade

On November 27, 1095, Pope Urban II makes perhaps the most influential speech of the Middle Ages, giving rise to the Crusades by calling all Christians in Europe to war against Muslims in order to reclaim the Holy Land, with a cry of “Deus vult!” or “God wills it!”

Born Odo of Lagery in 1042, Urban was a protege of the great reformer Pope Gregory VII. Like Gregory, he made internal reform his main focus, railing against simony (the selling of church offices) and other clerical abuses prevalent during the Middle Ages. Urban showed himself to be an adept and powerful cleric, and when he was elected pope in 1088, he applied his statecraft to weakening support for his rivals, notably Clement III.

By the end of the 11th century, the Holy Land—the area now commonly referred to as the Middle East—had become a point of conflict for European Christians. Since the 6th century, Christians frequently made pilgrimages to the birthplace of their religion, but when the Seljuk Turks took control of Jerusalem, Christians were barred from the Holy City. When the Turks then threatened to invade the Byzantine Empire and take Constantinople, Byzantine Emperor Alexius I made a special appeal to Urban for help. This was not the first appeal of its kind, but it came at an important time for Urban. Wanting to reinforce the power of the papacy, Urban seized the opportunity to unite Christian Europe under him as he fought to take back the Holy Land from the Turks.

At the Council of Clermont, in France, at which several hundred clerics and noblemen gathered, Urban delivered a rousing speech summoning rich and poor alike to stop their in-fighting and embark on a righteous war to help their fellow Christians in the East and take back Jerusalem. Urban denigrated the Muslims, exaggerating stories of their anti-Christian acts, and promised absolution and remission of sins for all who died in the service of Christ.

Urban’s war cry caught fire, mobilizing clerics to drum up support throughout Europe for the crusade against the Muslims. All told, between 60,000 and 100,000 people responded to Urban’s call to march on Jerusalem. Not all who responded did so out of piety: European nobles were tempted by the prospect of increased land holdings and riches to be gained from the conquest. These nobles were responsible for the death of a great many innocents both on the way to and in the Holy Land, absorbing the riches and estates of those they conveniently deemed opponents to their cause. Adding to the death toll was the inexperience and lack of discipline of the Christian peasants against the trained, professional armies of the Muslims. As a result, the Christians were initially beaten back, and only through sheer force of numbers were they eventually able to triumph.

Urban died in 1099, two weeks after the fall of Jerusalem but before news of the Christian victory made it back to Europe. His was the first of seven major military campaigns fought over the next two centuries known as the Crusades, the bloody repercussions of which are still felt today. Urban was beatified by the Roman Catholic Church in 1881.

Jimi Hendrix born

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/jimi-hendrix-born

Guitar legend Jimi Hendrix is born in Seattle. Hendrix grew up playing guitar, imitating blues greats like Muddy Waters as well as early rockers. He joined the army in 1959 and became a paratrooper but was honorably discharged in 1961 after an injury that exempted him from duty in Vietnam. In the early 1960s, Hendrix worked as a pickup guitarist, backing musicians including Little Richard, B.B. King, Ike and Tina Turner, and Sam Cooke. In 1964, he moved to New York and played in coffeehouses, where bassist Bryan Chandler of the British group the Animals heard him. Chandler arranged to manage Hendrix and brought him to London in 1966, where they created the Jimi Hendrix Experience with bassist Noel Redding and drummer Mitch Mitchell. The band’s first single, “Hey Joe,” hit No. 6 on the British pop charts, and the band became an instant sensation.

In 1967, the Jimi Hendrix Experience made its first U.S. appearance, at the Monterey Pop Festival. Hendrix made a splash by burning his guitar and was quickly established as a rock superstar. In the next two years, before the band broke up in 1969, it had released such classic songs as “Purple Haze,” “Foxy Lady,” and “The Wind Cries Mary.” The band’s albums included Are You Experienced? (1967), Bold as Love (1969), and Electric Ladyland (1969).

After the band dissolved because of creative tensions, Hendrix made his famous appearance at Woodstock, playing a masterful, intricate version of “The Star Spangled Banner.” Later that year, he put together a new group called the Band of Gypsies, which debuted on New Year’s Eve in 1969. The band put out only one album, Band of Gypsies (1969). (A second album, Band of Gypsies II, was released in 1986.) Hendrix then recorded another album, without the band, called The Cry of Love, which was released in 1971.

Hendrix, one of the most innovative guitar players of the rock era, established an advanced recording studio in New York called the Electric Lady, boasting 46-track recording technology. The studio opened in August 1970, shortly before Hendrix died in London in September 1970, following a drug overdose. He was 27.

Iron Guard massacres former Romanian government

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/iron-guard-massacres-former-romanian-government

Two months after General Ion Antonescu seized power in Romania and forced King Carol II to abdicate, Antonescu’s Iron Guard arrests and executes more than 60 aides of the exiled king, including Nicolae Iorga, a former minister and acclaimed historian.

The extreme right-wing movement known as the Iron Guard was founded by Corneliu Codreanu in the 1920s, imitating Germany’s Nazi Party in both ideology and methods. In 1938, King Carol II managed to establish a stronger dictatorship in Romania and took steps to suppress the activities of the Iron Guard as well as its left-wing antithesis, the Romanian Communist Party. However, the control fell into violent turmoil after the Munich Pact of 1939 was signed, seen as an abandonment of Romania by its Western allies from World War I, followed by a Nazi-Soviet nonaggression pact in 1939, which ceded portions of Romania to the USSR.

General Ion Antonescu emerged from the chaos victorious and established a dictatorship with Nazi leader Adolf Hitler’s approval, killing, exiling, or imprisoning most of his former political opposition. Nevertheless, Romanian resistance to the Iron Guard and Nazi occupation persisted during the war, and in August 1944 a massive revolt toppled Antonescu’s government in the Romanian capital of Bucharest, allowing the Soviet liberators to capture the city without firing a shot. In 1945, Romanian communists came to power with the backing of the Soviet Union.

Nehru appeals for disarmament

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/nehru-appeals-for-disarmament

Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru makes an impassioned speech for nuclear disarmament in New Delhi.

Jawaharlal Nehru, independent India’s first prime minister, was born in Allahabad, India, in 1889. He was educated in England and in 1912 returned to India to become a lawyer. After the 1919 massacre at Amritsar, in which 379 unarmed protesters were gunned down by British troops, he decided to devote himself to the struggle for Indian independence. He became closely associated with the Indian National Congress Party and developed a friendship with independence movement leader Mohandas Gandhi, who was 20 years his senior. In 1921, British authorities imprisoned Nehru for his political activities for the first time. During the next 24 years, he was to serve another eight prison terms for his civil disobedience, which added up to a total of more than nine years behind bars.

In 1929, Gandhi helped Nehru become leader of the Indian National Congress, and Nehru soon emerged as Gandhi’s political heir. In 1942, Gandhi and Nehru launched the Quit India campaign, declaring that India would offer no war-time aid to Britain unless Indian independence was immediately granted. Britain responded by jailing them and other Indian leaders from 1942 until after Germany’s defeat in 1945. After the war, Nehru participated in the talks that led to the division of the Indian subcontinent into the independent states of India and Pakistan.

In 1947, Nehru became independent India’s first prime minister. Subsequently reelected three times, he was an enormously popular leader. He skillfully led India through the difficult early years of independence, which saw bloody fighting between Hindus and Muslims. In foreign affairs, he advocated nonalignment for India in the divided Cold War world and sought diplomatic and nonviolent solutions in his conflicts with other nations. On November 27, 1957, he appealed to the United States and the USSR to end nuclear tests and begin disarmament, which, he said, would “save humanity from the ultimate disaster.” Nehru’s 17 years in office ended with his death in 1964.

Aerosmith and 50 Cent headline a $10 million bar mitzvah

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/aerosmith-and-50-cent-headline-a-10-million-bar-mitzvah

For seasoned showbiz veterans Steven Tyler and Joe Perry of Aerosmith—middle-aged men long past worrying over their perceived “legitimacy”— the offer of a $2 million appearance fee for a 45-minute performance at a private event in New York City must have been a true no-brainer. For Curtis James Jackson III, on the other hand, there were likelycompeting impulses. Jackson—better known as the rapper 50 Cent—had built his professional persona on the image of a street-hardened former criminal who was tough enough to survive being shot nine times at point-blank range in 2001. So there were legitimate concerns that his image might take a hit if word leaked out about the event in question. Ultimately, however, Mr. Jackson made the decision that the title of his multi-platinum 2003 album Get Rich or Die Tryin’ suggested he might: In exchange for a multimillion-dollar fee, 50 Cent took to the stage at New York City’s famous Rainbow Room in the early morning hours of this day in 2005, joining Tyler and Perry as headline performers at the $10 million bat mitzvah of Long Island 13-year-old, Elizabeth Brooks

According to the ensuing coverage of the event in the New York Daily News, guests at the Brooks bat mitzvah began their celebration unaware of what lay ahead. When a soprano-sax player who looked suspiciously like Kenny G turned out, in fact, to be Kenny G, the bizarrely star-studded event was only getting started. In the hours preceding the appearances of Aerosmith and 50 Cent, former A-list stars Don Henley, Stevie Nicks and Tom Petty all graced the stage at the Rainbow Room, entertaining guests who had been given gift bags containing upwards of $1,000 in personal electronics, including digital cameras that 50 Cent’s bodyguard reportedly tried and failed to stop guests from using to snap keepsake photos of the event. Within days, however, those photos had appeared on numerous Internet blogs, along with thousands of snarky comments about 50 Cent’s questionable “gangsta” credibility. 

The father who spent $10 million celebrating his daughter’s coming-of-age was defense contractor David H. Brooks, CEO of DHB Industries, a Long Island company that manufactured body armor for the United States military. Two years after the lavish event, Brooks was served with a 71-page federal indictment featuring charges of insider trading, tax evasion and raiding his company’s coffers for personal gain—including for the $10 million he used to pay for his daughter’s lavish bat mitzvah