Monthly Archives: June 2019

Pele leads Brazil to first World Cup title

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/pele-helps-brazil-to-world-cup-title

On June 29, 1958, Brazil defeats host nation Sweden 5-2 to win its first World Cup. Brazil came into the tournament as a favorite, and did not disappoint, thrilling the world with their spectacular play, which was often referred to as the “beautiful game.”

The star of the tournament was an undersized midfielder named Edson Arondes do Nascimento, known the world over as Pele. Edson, the son of a professional footballer called Dodhino, was named for the American inventor, Thomas Edison. His mother, having watched her husband struggle to earn money in the game, discouraged Pele from playing football. Pele’s will won out, and at 14 he was discovered by de Brito, a former Brazilian team member, who took the young scorer under his wing. Pele earned his first cap with the national team at 16, and made his debut on the international stage at the 1958 World Cup in Sweden at 17 years old.

In that year’s Cup, Pele did not make an appearance until Brazil’s third group play match against the Soviet Union, in which he set up a goal for Vava. His first goal came in the quarterfinal against Wales; it was the only goal Brazil scored in a 1-0 win. It was in the semifinal against France, though, that Pele truly came into his own. As the crowd at Rasunda Stadium listened to the Sweden-West Germany game on their radios, Pele put on a show of offensive brilliance against the second best team in the tournament. He scored three goals from his left side, and left the French team dumbfounded at their inability to contain a 17 year old. Pele and Vava scored two goals each in the final. Upon receiving the Jules Rimet Cup as the best team in the world, the entire team wept.

Brazil went on to win the World Cup again in 1966 and 1970, which gave them the right to retain the Jules Rimet Cup permanently as the first country to win three World Cups. In 1999, the International Olympic Committee honored Pele along with 10 others as one of the best athletes of the century.

U.S. space shuttle docks with Russian space station

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/u-s-space-shuttle-docks-with-russian-space-station

On this day in 1995, the American space shuttle Atlantis docks with the Russian space station Mir to form the largest man-made satellite ever to orbit the Earth.

This historic moment of cooperation between former rival space programs was also the 100th human space mission in American history. At the time, Daniel Goldin, chief of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), called it the beginning of “a new era of friendship and cooperation” between the U.S. and Russia. With millions of viewers watching on television, Atlantis blasted off from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in eastern Florida on June 27, 1995.

Just after 6 a.m. on June 29, Atlantis and its seven crew members approached Mir as both crafts orbited the Earth some 245 miles above Central Asia, near the Russian-Mongolian border. When they spotted the shuttle, the three cosmonauts on Mir broadcast Russian folk songs to Atlantis to welcome them. Over the next two hours, the shuttle’s commander, Robert “Hoot” Gibson expertly maneuvered his craft towards the space station. To make the docking, Gibson had to steer the 100-ton shuttle to within three inches of Mir at a closing rate of no more than one foot every 10 seconds.

The docking went perfectly and was completed at 8 a.m., just two seconds off the targeted arrival time and using 200 pounds less fuel than had been anticipated. Combined, Atlantis and the 123-ton Mir formed the largest spacecraft ever in orbit. It was only the second time ships from two countries had linked up in space; the first was in June 1975, when an American Apollo capsule and a Soviet Soyuz spacecraft briefly joined in orbit.

Once the docking was completed, Gibson and Mir’s commander, Vladimir Dezhurov, greeted each other by clasping hands in a victorious celebration of the historic moment. A formal exchange of gifts followed, with the Atlantis crew bringing chocolate, fruit and flowers and the Mir cosmonauts offering traditional Russian welcoming gifts of bread and salt. Atlantis remained docked with Mir for five days before returning to Earth, leaving two fresh Russian cosmonauts on the space station. The three veteran Mir crew members returned with the shuttle, including two Russians and Norman Thagard, a U.S. astronaut who rode a Russian rocket to the space station in mid-March 1995 and spent over 100 days in space, a U.S. endurance record. NASA’s Shuttle-Mir program continued for 11 missions and was a crucial step towards the construction of the International Space Station now in orbit.

Isabel Peron takes office as Argentine president

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/isabela-peron-takes-office-as-argentine-president

With Argentine President Juan Peron on his deathbed, Isabel Martinez de Peron, his wife and vice president, is sworn in as the leader of the South American country. President Isabel Peron, a former dancer and Peron’s third wife, was the Western Hemisphere’s first female head of government. Two days later, Juan died from heart disease, and Isabel was left alone as leader of a nation suffering from serious economic and political strife.

In 1943, as an army officer, Juan Domingo Peron joined a military coup against Argentina’s ineffectual civilian government. Appointed secretary of labor, his influence grew, and in 1944 he also became vice president and minister of war. In October 1945, Peron was ousted from his positions by a coup of constitutionally minded civilians and officers, and he was imprisoned, but appeals from workers and his charismatic mistress, Eva Duarte, soon forced his release. The night of his release, October 17, he addressed a crowd of some 300,000 people from the balcony of the presidential palace and promised to lead the people to victory in the coming presidential election. Four days later, Peron, a widower, married Eva Duarte, or “Evita,” as she became affectionately known.

As president, Peron constructed an impressive populist alliance, and his vision of self-sufficiency for Argentina won him wide support. However, he also became increasingly authoritarian, jailing political opponents and restricting freedom of the press. In 1952, his greatest political resource, Evita, died, and support for him dissolved. Three years later, he was ousted in a military coup. In 1973, after 18 years of exile, he returned to Argentina and won the presidency again. His third wife, Isabel Martinez de Peron, was elected as vice president and in 1974 succeeded him upon his death.

President Isabel Peron was unable to command the support of any powerful group, let alone construct a necessary coalition, and the political and economic situation in Argentina worsened. On March 24, 1976, following a sharp rise in political terrorism and guerrilla activity, the military deposed Isabel Peron and instituted one of the bloodiest regimes in South American history. Isabel Peron was imprisoned for five years on a charge of abuse of property and upon her release in 1981 settled in Madrid.

Supreme Court strikes down death penalty

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/supreme-court-strikes-down-death-penalty

In Furman v. Georgia, the U.S. Supreme Court rules by a vote of 5-4 that capital punishment, as it is currently employed on the state and federal level, is unconstitutional. The majority held that, in violation of the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution, the death penalty qualified as “cruel and unusual punishment,” primarily because states employed execution in “arbitrary and capricious ways,” especially in regard to race. It was the first time that the nation’s highest court had ruled against capital punishment. However, because the Supreme Court suggested new legislation that could make death sentences constitutional again, such as the development of standardized guidelines for juries that decide sentences, it was not an outright victory for opponents of the death penalty.

In 1976, with 66 percent of Americans still supporting capital punishment, the Supreme Court acknowledged progress made in jury guidelines and reinstated the death penalty under a “model of guided discretion.” In 1977, Gary Gilmore, a career criminal who had murdered an elderly couple because they would not lend him their car, was the first person to be executed since the end of the ban. Defiantly facing a firing squad in Utah, Gilmore’s last words to his executioners before they shot him through the heart were, “Let’s do it.”

Germans advance in USSR

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/germans-advance-in-ussr

One week after launching a massive invasion of the USSR, German divisions make staggering advances on Leningrad, Moscow, and Kiev.

Despite his signing of the Nazi-Soviet Pact of 1939, Soviet leader Joseph Stalin knew that war with Nazi Germany–the USSR’s natural ideological enemy–was inevitable. In 1941, he received reports that German forces were massing along the USSR’s eastern border. He ordered a partial mobilization, unwisely believing that Nazi leader Adolf Hitler would never open another front until Britain was subdued. Stalin was thus surprised by the invasion that came on June 22, 1941. On that day, 150 German divisions poured across the Soviet Union’s 1,800-mile-long eastern frontier in one of the largest and most powerful military operations in history.

Aided by its far superior air force, the Luftwaffe, the Germans raced across the USSR in three great army groups, inflicting terrible casualties on the Red Army and Soviet civilians. On June 29, the cities of Riga and Ventspils in Latvia fell, 200 Soviet aircraft were shot down, and the encirclement of three Russian armies was nearly complete at Minsk in Belarus. Assisted by their Romanian and Finnish allies, the Germans conquered vast territory in the opening months of the invasion, and by mid-October the great Russian cities of Leningrad and Moscow were under siege.

However, like Napoleon Bonaparte in 1812, Hitler failed to take into account the Russian people’s historic determination in resisting invaders. Although millions of Soviet soldiers and citizens perished in 1941, and to the rest of the world it seemed certain that the USSR would fall, the defiant Red Army and bitter Russian populace were steadily crushing Hitler’s hopes for a quick victory. Stalin had far greater reserves of Red Army divisions than German intelligence had anticipated, and the Soviet government did not collapse from lack of popular support as expected. Confronted with the harsh reality of Nazi occupation, Soviets chose Stalin’s regime as the lesser of two evils and willingly sacrificed themselves in what became known as the “Great Patriotic War.”

The German offensive against Moscow stalled only 20 miles from the Kremlin, Leningrad’s spirit of resistance remained strong, and the Soviet armament industry–transported by train to the safety of the east–carried on, safe from the fighting. Finally, what the Russians call “General Winter” rallied again to their cause, crippling the Germans’ ability to maneuver and thinning the ranks of the divisions ordered to hold their positions until the next summer offensive. The winter of 1941 came early and was the worst in decades, and German troops without winter coats were decimated by the major Soviet counteroffensives that began in December.

In May 1942, the Germans, who had held their line at great cost, launched their summer offensive. They captured the Caucasus and pushed to the city of Stalingrad, where one of the greatest battles of World War II began. In November 1942, a massive Soviet counteroffensive was launched out of the rubble of Stalingrad, and at the end of January 1943 German Field Marshal Friedrich Paulus surrendered his encircled army. It was the turning point in the war, and the Soviets subsequently recaptured all the territory taken by the Germans in their 1942 offensive.

In July 1943, the Germans launched their last major attack, at Kursk; after two months of fierce battle involving thousands of tanks it ended in failure. From thereon, the Red Army steadily pushed the Germans back in a series of Soviet offensives. In January 1944, Leningrad was relieved, and a giant offensive to sweep the USSR clean of its invaders began in May. In January 1945, the Red Army launched its final offensive, driving into Czechoslovakia and Austria and, in late April, Berlin. The German capital was captured on May 2, and five days later Germany surrendered in World War II.

More than 18 million Soviet soldiers and civilians lost their lives in the Great Patriotic War. Germany lost more than three million men as a result of its disastrous invasion of the USSR.

Two big quakes rock California

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/two-big-quakes-rock-california

Two of the strongest earthquakes ever to hit California strike the desert area east of Los Angeles on this day in 1992. Although the state sits upon the immense San Andreas fault line, relatively few major earthquakes have hit California in modern times. Two of the strongest, but not the deadliest, hit southern California on a single morning in the summer of 1992.

Just before 5 a.m. on a Sunday morning, a 7.3-magnitude quake struck in Landers, 100 miles east of Los Angeles. Because the Landers area is sparsely populated, damage was relatively minor given the intensity of the jolt. In Los Angeles, residents experienced rolling and shaking for nearly a minute. The tremors were also felt in Arizona, Las Vegas and as far away as Boise, Idaho.

Just over three hours later, a second 6.3-magnitude tremor hit in Big Bear, not too far from the original epicenter. This quake caused fires to break out and cost three people their lives. A chimney fell on a 3-year-old child and two people suffered fatal heart attacks. Between the two quakes, 400 people were injured and $92 million in damages were suffered. The physical damage was also significant. The quakes triggered landslides that wiped out roads and opened a 44-mile-long rupture in the earth, the biggest in California since the 1906 San Francisco quake.

Mike Tyson bites ear

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/mike-tyson-bites-ear

On June 28, 1997, Mike Tyson bites Evander Holyfield’s ear in the third round of their heavyweight rematch. The attack led to his disqualification from the match and suspension from boxing, and was the strangest chapter yet in the champion’s roller-coaster career.

Mike Tyson enjoyed a rapid rise to stardom. In 1986 he became the youngest heavyweight champion in history by beating Trevor Berbick at just 19 years old. By 1989, however, Tyson had begun a long downward spiral into sports infamy. His erratic behavior included marrying and divorcing actress Robin Givens (after being accused by her of domestic violence), firing and suing his manager, breaking his hand in an early morning street brawl and two car accidents, one of which was reportedly a suicide attempt. Tyson also fired trainer Kevin Rooney and replaced him with notorious promoter Don King.

Unable to keep his focus on boxing, Tyson, once thought unbeatable, lost the heavyweight title after being knocked out by 42-to-1 underdog James “Buster” Douglas in a stunning upset on February 11, 1990. In 1991, Tyson was accused of rape by Desiree Washington, a contestant in a beauty pageant he was judging in Indianapolis, Indiana. He was convicted on February 10, 1992, and served three years and one month in a federal penitentiary.

Once released, Tyson regained his heavyweight belts and then planned a bout with Evander Holyfield, a clean-living, religious former heavyweight champion from Georgia who was considered the best heavyweight challenger for Tyson after number-one contender Lennox Lewis, who Tyson refused to schedule. Holyfield had retired in 1994, but the prospect of a huge payday proved tempting, and on November 9, 1996, the underdog Holyfield shocked the boxing world by beating Tyson in an 11th round TKO to win Tyson’s WBA title.

Holyfield came into the widely anticipated rematch on this day in 1997 even stronger than he had been for the first fight. In the first round, he hit Tyson hard with body shots while Tyson flailed away, ignoring the science of boxing his trainer had promised he would employ. By the end of the round, the crowd chanted Holyfield’s name, turning on the usual fan favorite Tyson. In the second round, Holyfield head-butted Tyson, opening a cut over Tyson’s right eye.

In the third round, Tyson lost what composure he had left. He spit out his mouthpiece, bit off a chunk out of Holyfield’s right ear and then spit it onto the canvas. Though Holyfield was in obvious pain the fight resumed after a brief stoppage, and then Tyson bit Holyfield’s other ear. With 10 seconds left in the third round, he was disqualified. His $30 million purse was withheld while Nevada boxing officials reviewed the fight.

Events in Tyson’s life took repeated turns for the worse in the aftermath of the fight, and culminated in his declaring bankruptcy–in part due to $400,000 a year spent on maintaining a flock of pet pigeons–and an arrest for cocaine possession. In 2006, Tyson agreed to join Heidi Fleiss’ legal brothel in Nevada as a prostitute.

U.S. forces launch first offensive

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/u-s-forces-launch-first-offensive

In the first major offensive ordered for U.S. forces, 3,000 troops of the 173rd Airborne Brigade–in conjunction with 800 Australian soldiers and a Vietnamese airborne unit–assault a jungle area known as Viet Cong Zone D, 20 miles northeast of Saigon. The operation was called off after three days when it failed to make any major contract with the enemy. One American was killed and nine Americans and four Australians were wounded. The State Department assured the American public that the operation was in accord with Johnson administration policy on the role of U.S. troops.