Astronaut Shannon Lucid enters Mir space station

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/shannon-lucid-enters-mir

U.S. astronaut Shannon Lucid transfers to the Russian space station Mir from the U.S. space shuttle Atlantis for a planned five-month stay. Lucid was the first female U.S. astronaut to live in a space station.

Lucid, a biochemist, shared Mir with Russian cosmonauts Yuri Onufriyenko and Yuri Usachev, conducting scientific experiments during her stay. Beginning in August, her scheduled return to Earth was delayed more than six weeks because of last-minute repairs to the booster rockets of Atlantis and then by a hurricane. Finally, on September 26, 1996, she returned to Earth aboard Atlantis, touching down at Edwards Air Force Base in California. Her 188-day sojourn aboard Mir set a new space endurance record for an American and a world endurance record for a woman.

NATO bombs Yugoslavia

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/nato-bombs-yugoslavia

On March 24, 1999, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) commences air strikes against Yugoslavia with the bombing of Serbian military positions in the Yugoslav province of Kosovo. The NATO offensive came in response to a new wave of ethnic cleansing launched by Serbian forces against the Kosovar Albanians on March 20.

The Kosovo region lay at the heart of the Serbian empire in the late Middle Ages but was lost to the Ottoman Turks in 1389 following Serbia’s defeat in the Battle of Kosovo. By the time Serbia regained control of Kosovo from Turkey in 1913, there were few Serbs left in a region that had come to be dominated by ethnic Albanians. In 1918, Kosovo formally became a province of Serbia, and it continued as such after communist leader Josip Broz Tito established the Federal People’s Republic of Yugoslavia in 1945, comprising the Balkan states of Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro, Slovenia, and Macedonia. However, Tito eventually gave in to Kosovar demands for greater autonomy, and after 1974 Kosovo existed as independent state in all but name.

Serbs came to resent Kosovo’s autonomy, which allowed it to act against Serbian interests, and in 1987 Slobodan Milosevic was elected leader of Serbia’s Communist Party with a promise of restoring Serbian rule to Kosovo. In 1989, Milosevic became president of Serbia and moved quickly to suppress Kosovo, stripping its autonomy and in 1990 sending troops to disband its government. Meanwhile, Serbian nationalism led to the dissolution of the Yugoslav federation in 1991, and in 1992 the Balkan crisis deteriorated into civil war. A new Yugoslav state, consisting only of Serbia and the small state of Montenegro, was created, and Kosovo began four years of nonviolent resistance to Serbian rule.

The militant Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) emerged in 1996 and began attacking Serbian police in Kosovo. With arms obtained in Albania, the KLA stepped up its attacks in 1997, prompting a major offensive by Serbian troops against the rebel-held Drenica region in February-March 1998. Dozens of civilians were killed, and enlistment in the KLA increased dramatically. In July, the KLA launched an offensive across Kosovo, seizing control of nearly half the province before being routed in a Serbian counteroffensive later that summer. The Serbian troops drove thousands of ethnic Albanians from their homes and were accused of massacring Kosovo civilians.

In October, NATO threatened Serbia with air strikes, and Milosevic agreed to allow the return of tens of thousands of refugees. Fighting soon resumed, however, and talks between Kosovar Albanians and Serbs in Rambouillet, France, in February 1999 ended in failure. On March 18, further peace talks in Paris collapsed after the Serbian delegation refused to sign a deal calling for Kosovo autonomy and the deployment of NATO troops to enforce the agreement. Two days later, the Serbian army launched a new offensive in Kosovo. On March 24, NATO air strikes began.

In addition to Serbian military positions, the NATO air campaign targeted Serbian government buildings and the country’s infrastructure in an effort to destabilize the Milosevic regime. The bombing and continued Serbian offensives drove hundreds of thousands of Kosovar Albanians into neighboring Albania, Macedonia, and Montenegro. Many of these refugees were airlifted to safety in the United States and other NATO nations. On June 10, the NATO bombardment ended when Serbia agreed to a peace agreement calling for the withdrawal of Serb forces from Kosovo and their replacement by NATO peacekeeping troops.

With the exception of two U.S. pilots killed in a training mission in Albania, no NATO personnel lost their lives in the 78-day operation. There were some mishaps, however, such as miscalculated bombings that led to the deaths of Kosovar Albanian refugees, KLA members, and Serbian civilians. The most controversial incident was the May 7 bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade, which killed three Chinese journalists and caused a diplomatic crisis in U.S.-Chinese relations.

On June 12, NATO forces moved into Kosovo from Macedonia. The same day, Russian troops arrived in the Kosovo capital of Pristina and forced NATO into agreeing to a joint occupation. Despite the presence of peacekeeping troops, the returning Kosovar Albanians retaliated against Kosovo’s Serbian minority, forcing them to flee into Serbia. Under the NATO occupation, Kosovar autonomy was restored, but the province remained officially part of Serbia.

Slobodan Milosevic was ousted from power by a popular revolution in Belgrade in October 2000. He was replaced by the popularly elected Vojislav Kostunica, a moderate Serbian nationalist who promised to reintegrate Serbia into Europe and the world after a decade of isolation.

Slobodan Milosevic died in prison in the Netherlands on March 11, 2006, during his trial for crimes against humanity and genocide. Due to his death, the court returned no verdict.

Prince Sihanouk issues a call for arms

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/prince-sihanouk-issues-a-call-for-arms

From Peking, Prince Norodom Sihanouk of Cambodia issues a public call for arms to be used against the Lon Nol government in Phnom Penh and requests the establishment of the National United Front of Kampuchea (FUNK) to unite all opposition factions against Lon Nol. North Vietnam, the National Liberation Front (Viet Cong), and the communist Pathet Lao immediately pledged their support to the new organization.

Earlier in March, Sihanouk had been overthrown in a bloodless coup led by Cambodian Gen. Lon Nol. Between 1970 and 1975, Lon Nol and his army, the Forces Armees Nationale Khmer (FANK), with U.S. support and military aid, fought the Khmer Rouge and Sihanouk’s supporters for control of Cambodia. During the five years of bitter fighting, approximately 10 percent of Cambodia’s 7 million people died. When the U.S. forces departed South Vietnam in 1973, both the Cambodians and South Vietnamese found themselves fighting the communists alone. Without U.S. support, Lon Nol’s forces succumbed to the communists in April 1975. The victorious Khmer Rouge evacuated Phnom Penh and began reordering Cambodian society, which resulted in a killing spree and the notorious “killing fields.” Eventually, hundreds of thousands of Cambodians were murdered or died from exhaustion, hunger, and disease.

U.S. plane shot down over Laos

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/u-s-plane-shot-down-over-laos

One of the first American casualties in Southeast Asia, an intelligence-gathering plane en route from Laos to Saigon is shot down over the Plain of Jars in central Laos. The mission was flown in an attempt to determine the extent of the Soviet support being provided to the communist Pathet Lao guerrillas in Laos. The guerrillas had been waging a war against the Royal Lao government since 1959. In a television news conference, President John F. Kennedy warned of communist expansion in Laos and said that a cease-fire must precede the start of negotiations to establish a neutral and independent nation.

Paris hit by shells from new German gun

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/paris-hit-by-shells-from-new-german-gun

At 7:20 in the morning on March 23, 1918, an explosion in the Place de la Republique in Paris announces the first attack of a new German gun.

The Pariskanone, or Paris gun, as it came to be known, was manufactured by Krupps; it was 210mm, with a 118-foot-long barrel, which could fire a shell the impressive distance of some 130,000 feet, or 25 miles, into the air. Three of them fired on Paris that day from a gun site at Crépy-en-Laonnais, 74 miles away.

The gun sent Paris, a city that had withstood all earlier attempts at its destruction, including scattered bombings, reeling. At first, the Paris Defense Service assumed the city was being bombed, but soon they determined that it was actually being hit by artillery fire, a heretofore unimagined situation. By the end of the day, the shelling had killed 16 people and wounded 29 more. It would continue throughout the German offensive of that year in four separate phases between March 23 and August 9, 1918, inflicting a total of somewhere under 260 Parisian casualties. This low total was due to the fact that the residents of Paris learned to avoid gathering in large groups during shellings, limiting the number of those killed and wounded by the shells and diminishing the initially terrifying impact of the weapon.

Almost all information about the Pariskanone, one of the most sophisticated weapons to emerge out of World War I, disappeared after the war ended. Later, the Nazis tried without success to reproduce the gun from the few pictures and diagrams that remained. Copies were deployed in 1940 against Britain across the English Channel, but failed to cause any significant damage.

"OK" enters national vernacular

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/ok-enters-national-vernacular

On this day in 1839, the initials “O.K.” are first published in The Boston Morning Post. Meant as an abbreviation for “oll korrect,” a popular slang misspelling of “all correct” at the time, OK steadily made its way into the everyday speech of Americans.

During the late 1830s, it was a favorite practice among younger, educated circles to misspell words intentionally, then abbreviate them and use them as slang when talking to one another. Just as teenagers today have their own slang based on distortions of common words, such as “kewl” for “cool” or “DZ” for “these,” the “in crowd” of the 1830s had a whole host of slang terms they abbreviated. Popular abbreviations included “KY” for “No use” (“know yuse”), “KG” for “No go” (“Know go”), and “OW” for all right (“oll wright”).

Of all the abbreviations used during that time, OK was propelled into the limelight when it was printed in the Boston Morning Post as part of a joke. Its popularity exploded when it was picked up by contemporary politicians. When the incumbent president Martin Van Buren was up for reelection, his Democratic supporters organized a band of thugs to influence voters. This group was formally called the “O.K. Club,” which referred both to Van Buren’s nickname “Old Kinderhook” (based on his hometown of Kinderhook, New York), and to the term recently made popular in the papers. At the same time, the opposing Whig Party made use of “OK” to denigrate Van Buren’s political mentor Andrew Jackson. According to the Whigs, Jackson invented the abbreviation “OK” to cover up his own misspelling of “all correct.”

The man responsible for unraveling the mystery behind “OK” was an American linguist named Allen Walker Read. An English professor at Columbia University, Read dispelled a host of erroneous theories on the origins of “OK,” ranging from the name of a popular Army biscuit (Orrin Kendall) to the name of a Haitian port famed for its rum (Aux Cayes) to the signature of a Choctaw chief named Old Keokuk. Whatever its origins, “OK” has become one of the most ubiquitous terms in the world, and certainly one of America’s greatest lingual exports.

Artificial heart patient dies

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/artificial-heart-patient-dies

On March 23, 1983, Barney Clark dies 112 days after becoming the world’s first recipient of a permanent artificial heart. The 61-year-old dentist spent the last four months of his life in a hospital bed at the University of Utah Medical Center in Salt Lake City, attached to a 350-pound console that pumped air in and out of the aluminum-and-plastic implant through a system of hoses.

In the late 19th century, scientists began developing a pump to temporarily supplant heart action. In 1953, an artificial heart-lung machine was employed successfully for the first time during an operation on a human patient. In this procedure, which is still used today, the machine temporarily takes over heart and lung function, allowing doctors to operate extensively on these organs. After a few hours, however, blood becomes damaged by the pumping and oxygenation.

In the late 1960s, hope was given to patients with irreparably damaged hearts when heart-transplant operations began. However, the demand for donor hearts always exceeded availability, and thousands died every year while waiting for healthy hearts to become available.

On April 4, 1969, a historic operation was performed by surgeon Denton Cooley of the Texas Heart Institute on Haskell Karp, a patient whose heart was on the brink of total collapse and to whom no donor heart had become available. Karp was the first person in history to have his diseased heart replaced by an artificial heart. The temporary plastic-and-Dacron heart extended Karp’s life for the three days it took doctors to find him a donor heart. However, soon after the human heart was transplanted into his chest, he died from infection. Seven more failed attempts were made, and many doctors lost faith in the possibility of replacing the human heart with a prosthetic substitute.

In the early 1980s, however, a pioneering new scientist resumed efforts to develop a viable artificial heart. Robert K. Jarvik had decided to study medicine and engineering after his father died of heart disease. By 1982, he was conducting animal trials at the University of Utah with his Jarvik-7 artificial heart.

On December 2, 1982, a team led by Dr. William C. DeVries implanted the Jarvik-7 into Barney Clark. Because Jarvik’s artificial heart was intended to be permanent, the Clark case drew worldwide attention. Clark spent his last 112 days in the hospital and suffered considerably from complications and the discomfort of having compressed air pumped in and out of his body. He died on March 23, 1983, from various complications. Clark’s experience left many feeling that the time of the permanent artificial heart had not yet come.

During the next decade, Jarvik and others concentrated their efforts on developing mechanical pumps to assist a diseased heart rather than replace it. These devices allow many patients to live the months or even years it takes for them to find a donor heart. Battery powered, these implants give heart-disease patients mobility and allow them to live relatively normal lives. Meanwhile, in the 1990s, the Jarvik-7 was used on more than 150 patients whose hearts were too damaged to be aided by the mechanical pump implant. More than half of these patients survived until they got a transplant.

In 2001, a company called Abiomed unveiled the AbioCor, the first completely self-contained replacement heart. Although patients implanted with the AbioCor have still eventually died, Abiomed has shown it is possible to live as long as 500 days with the implant. Scientists continue to look for ways to improve artificial hearts for long-term use.

Mussolini founds the Fascist party

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/mussolini-founds-the-fascist-party

Benito Mussolini, an Italian World War I veteran and publisher of Socialist newspapers, breaks with the Italian Socialists and establishes the nationalist Fasci di Combattimento, named after the Italian peasant revolutionaries, or “Fighting Bands,” from the 19th century. Commonly known as the Fascist Party, Mussolini’s new right-wing organization advocated Italian nationalism, had black shirts for uniforms, and launched a program of terrorism and intimidation against its leftist opponents.

In October 1922, Mussolini led the Fascists on a march on Rome, and King Emmanuel III, who had little faith in Italy’s parliamentary government, asked Mussolini to form a new government. Initially, Mussolini, who was appointed prime minister at the head of a three-member Fascist cabinet, cooperated with the Italian parliament, but aided by his brutal police organization he soon became the effective dictator of Italy. In 1924, a Socialist backlash was suppressed, and in January 1925 a Fascist state was officially proclaimed, with Mussolini as Il Duce, or “The Leader.”

Mussolini appealed to Italy’s former Western allies for new treaties, but his brutal 1935 invasion of Ethiopia ended all hope of alliance with the Western democracies. In 1936, Mussolini joined Nazi leader Adolf Hitler in his support of Francisco Franco’s Nationalist forces in the Spanish Civil War, prompting the signing of a treaty of cooperation in foreign policy between Italy and Nazi Germany in 1937. Although Adolf Hitler’s Nazi revolution was modeled after the rise of Mussolini and the Italian Fascist Party, Fascist Italy and Il Duce proved overwhelmingly the weaker partner in the Berlin-Rome Axis during World War II.

In July 1943, the failure of the Italian war effort and the imminent invasion of the Italian mainland by the Allies led to a rebellion within the Fascist Party. Two days after the fall of Palermo on July 24, the Fascist Grand Council rejected the policy dictated by Hitler through Mussolini, and on July 25 Il Duce was arrested. Fascist Marshal Pietro Badoglio took over the reins of the Italian government, and in September Italy surrendered unconditionally to the Allies. Eight days later, German commandos freed Mussolini from his prison in the Abruzzi Mountains, and he was later made the puppet leader of German-controlled northern Italy. With the collapse of Nazi Germany in April 1945, Mussolini was captured by Italian partisans and on April 29 was executed by firing squad with his mistress, Clara Petacci, after a brief court-martial. Their bodies, brought to Milan, were hanged by the feet in a public square for all the world to see.

Jim Morrison prompts a “Rally for Decency”

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/jim-morrison-prompts-a-rally-for-decency

“Dear Mike,” wrote the recently inaugurated President Nixon to Miami-area teenager Mike Levesque in a letter dated March 26, 1969, “I was extremely interested to learn about the admirable initiative undertaken by you and 30,000 other young people at the Miami Teen-age Rally for Decency held last Sunday.” The event of which Nixon spoke was organized in response to an incident at a Doors concert some three weeks earlier, when a drunk, combative and sometimes barely coherent Jim Morrison allegedly exposed himself to the crowd at Miami’s Dinner Key Auditorium. The alleged exposure, whether it took place or not, created serious legal problems for Morrison. It also created an opportunity for socially conservative Floridians and their celebrity supporters to speak out against the counterculture at the massive “Rally for Decency” held at Miami’s Orange Bowl on March 23, 1969.

The Associated Pressdescribed the event as being part of “a teen-age crusade for decency in entertainment.” On hand to support that crusade was a handful of celebrities not normally associated with the youth market: Kate Smith, Jackie Gleason, The Lettermen and Anita Bryant, spokeswoman for the Florida Citrus Commission. Ms. Bryant, who would later become an outspoken opponent of gay rights, was not the only grownup to make political hay out of what began as a sincere event organized by the teenage members of a Roman Catholic youth group. On March 24, the day after the rally, President Nixon’s daily news summary included a mention of the event along with a handwritten note from a young aide named Pat Buchanan: “The pollution of young minds…an extremely popular issue; one on which we can probably get a tremendous majority of Americans.” Eight months later, Nixon would give his famous “Silent Majority” speech, and 23 years later, Buchanan would make a serious bid for the Republican presidential nomination running as a veteran of the so-called “Culture Wars.”

As for Jim Morrison, the incident that sparked the Rally for Decency led to his conviction seven months later on charges of profanity and indecent exposure. Sentenced to six months’ hard labor in a Florida prison, Morrison left the United States for France while his conviction was under appeal. He died in Paris in July 1971.

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Patrick Henry voices American opposition to British policy

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/patrick-henry-voices-american-opposition-to-british-policy

During a speech before the second Virginia Convention, Patrick Henry responds to the increasingly oppressive British rule over the American colonies by declaring, “I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!” Following the signing of the American Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, Patrick Henry was appointed governor of Virginia by the Continental Congress.

The first major American opposition to British policy came in 1765 after Parliament passed the Stamp Act, a taxation measure to raise revenues for a standing British army in America. Under the banner of “no taxation without representation,” colonists convened the Stamp Act Congress in October 1765 to vocalize their opposition to the tax. With its enactment on November 1, 1765, most colonists called for a boycott of British goods and some organized attacks on the customhouses and homes of tax collectors. After months of protest, Parliament voted to repeal the Stamp Act in March 1765.

Most colonists quietly accepted British rule until Parliament’s enactment of the Tea Act in 1773, which granted the East India Company a monopoly on the American tea trade. Viewed as another example of taxation without representation, militant Patriots in Massachusetts organized the “Boston Tea Party,” which saw British tea valued at some 10,000 pounds dumped into Boston harbor. Parliament, outraged by the Boston Tea Party and other blatant destruction of British property, enacted the Coercive Acts, also known as the Intolerable Acts, in the following year. The Coercive Acts closed Boston to merchant shipping, established formal British military rule in Massachusetts, made British officials immune to criminal prosecution in America, and required colonists to quarter British troops. The colonists subsequently called the first Continental Congress to consider a united American resistance to the British.

With the other colonies watching intently, Massachusetts led the resistance to the British, forming a shadow revolutionary government and establishing militias to resist the increasing British military presence across the colony. In April 1775, Thomas Gage, the British governor of Massachusetts, ordered British troops to march to Concord, Massachusetts, where a Patriot arsenal was known to be located. On April 19, 1775, the British regulars encountered a group of American militiamen at Lexington, and the first volleys of the American Revolutionary War were fired.