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This Week in History: Missing nukes and a murder-solving ghost

Pres. John F. Kennedy gives the first live televised presidential news conference Jan. 25, 1961. (Source: Wikipedia) Pres. John F. Kennedy gives the first live televised presidential news conference Jan. 25, 1961. (Source: Wikipedia)
A nuclear bomb is extracted following a crash of a B-52 near Goldsboro, NC. Another bomb carried by the plane was never found. (Source: USAF/Wikipedia) A nuclear bomb is extracted following a crash of a B-52 near Goldsboro, NC. Another bomb carried by the plane was never found. (Source: USAF/Wikipedia)

(RNN) – Friday marks the 31st anniversary of the greatest moment in American history: My birth.

If you think that is overstated a bit, you have obviously never had the pleasure of getting to know me. I could go into detail about why it is important, but the Internet is much too small to attempt to fit it all in.

Now that the self-serving blather is out of the way, here is an ode to Jan. 25, which always seems to be the coldest day of the year. (As a child, I always wanted by birthday party to be held at a putt-putt golf course, but since no one besides me wants to play golf in the dead of winter, it never happened.)

Henry VIII married Anne Boleyn in 1533. He later had her head chopped off. That's true love.

The League of Nations was formed in 1919 after World War I with the mission to maintain worldwide peace. It did a fantastic job.

The first Emmy awards were presented in 1949. The award for Most Popular Television Program went to Pantomime Quiz (that's not a joke, by the way).

President John F. Kennedy held the first live televised presidential news conference in 1961 where he discussed famine in the Congo, voting rights, negotiations for a ban on atomic testing and tips on how to make your hair look luscious.

Additionally, Charles Manson was found guilty of murder in 1971 and Delaware performed the last execution by hanging in American history on Billy Bailey in 1996.

My birthday is shared by Confederate general George Pickett (1825), Virginia Woolf (1882), disgraced sprinter Tim Montgomery (1975) and, most importantly, The Honky Tonk Man (1953). Ava Gardner died on Jan. 25 in 1990, and Al Capone died in 1947.

A couple of other notable events from this day are discussed below.

Here are some of the events of note that have happened between Jan. 21-27.

Life and Death

Anyone who has ever owned a cell phone owes a debt of gratitude to composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, who was born Jan. 27, 1756. Without Mozart, the programmers of new cell phones would have had to search for another ringtone to replace his Symphony No. 40. Not all cell phones have this as a default ringtone any more, but a few years ago, it was a universal inclusion and could be heard in offices and grocery store checkout lines everywhere.

Another musical icon, Eddie Van Halen, was born this week – Jan. 26, 1955, to be specific – whose composition Hot For Teacher is a decidedly less popular ringtone, for reasons I'll let you decipher for yourself.

Mac Davis, whose song Hard To Be Humble describes the opening to this article, was born Jan. 21, 1942, a date shared with Confederate general Stonewall Jackson (1824). John Hancock was born Jan. 23, 1737, a day he shares with my high school crush Kelly Kapowski – or at least Tiffani Thiessen (1974), who played her on Saved by the Bell.

In a rare twist of fate, Telly Savales, TV's Kojak, qualifies for both ends of this category. He was born Jan. 21, 1922, and died Jan. 22, 1994. Howard McNear was born Jan. 27, 1905. McNear was on The Andy Griffith Show, where he played Floyd Lawson, the greatest barber in American history, despite never getting Barney Fife's sideburns even.

Another great actor, Jerry Maren, was born in 1920. Maren is one of only three confirmed surviving munchkins from The Wizard of Oz, and the only male (he handed Dorothy a lollipop). He also appeared in an episode of Seinfeld as the father of a woman Kramer is trying to date, proving that "Mother Nature's a maaaaaaad scientist."

Johnny Carson, Carnac the Magnificent and Art Fern all died Jan. 23, 2005. Heath Ledger was found dead – and naked – Jan. 22, 2008, and Joe Paterno died that same day last year. L. Ron Hubbard died Jan. 24, 1986, but scientology lives on, and Winston Churchill died Jan 24, 1965. Legendary football coach Paul "Bear" Bryant died Jan. 26, 1983, but in Tuscaloosa, AL, that is yet to be confirmed.

Elva Zona Heaster was found dead in 1897, leading to perhaps the oddest court case of all time. Heaster's ghost was reported to have appeared to her mother and told her the circumstances surrounding the death. Her mother then relayed those details in court, leading to the conviction of her husband, who would have otherwise gotten away with it. If you don't believe me (and why would you?) click here. I swear I didn't make it up.

Overlooked Anniversaries

This Week In History presents Great Moments in Lying: Jan. 26, 1998, Bill Clinton says, "I did not have sexual relations with that woman," referring to Monica Lewisnky, who he, in fact, had a sexual relationship with. Clinton later admitted to a relationship that was "not appropriate."

If that was an act of lust – or perhaps pride – another deadly sin, greed, was acted upon Jan. 24, 1848, when the California Gold Rush started after gold was discovered at Sutter's Mill in Coloma, CA. And Jan. 27, 1606, marked the beginning of the punishment of wrath with the start of the trial of Guy Fawkes after the failed Gunpowder Plot.

It might not have been the result of greed, but Apple certainly made a lot of money after introducing the Macintosh on Jan. 22, 1984, during the Super Bowl. The computer went on sale two days later, and today Apple is on the verge of taking over the world. Only Google and Disney stand in its way.

The longest reign in the history of the British monarchy – and the longest reign of a female anywhere – came to an end when Queen Victoria died in 1901. That reign is facing a threat by reigning British monarch Elizabeth II, who is only a few years away from eclipsing the mark, though today it's her status as a great-grandmother-to-be that is getting all the attention.

Elsewhere, Sydney Australia was founded Jan. 26, 1788, and 20 years to the day Australians got upset over liquor (of course they did) and staged the Rum Rebellion. Louisiana seceded from the union Jan. 26, 1861, and since I went to college there, we'll let it stick around. On the same day in 1870, Virginia rejoined the Union. That's where my boss is from, so it can stay, too.

Also, in 2004, a whale exploded in Taiwan (warning: the link contains photographic proof and an oddly hilarious description of people gawking at its, shall we say, reproductive system).

Something About Sports

The Winter Olympics were held for the first time, starting Jan. 25, 1924, giving me a reason to care about curling for a few days every four years. Gillis Grafstrom became the first person to successfully defend a Summer Olympics gold medal at the Winter Olympics. Only one other person – Eddie Eagan – has won a medal at both, but he won in different events.

The United States finished tied for third with Great Britain in the medal count, with four total medals. Norway and Finland tied for the most gold medals with four, but Norway had the most silver and bronze medals, and placed first overall with 17 total. Finland had 11 total, and France – the host country – had three total, all bronze.

The Week in Warfare

In what can only be described as the greatest battle in the history of mankind, an army of war elephants from Southern Han was defeated by crossbow-wielding soldiers of the Song Dynasty on Jan. 23, 971. I'm no expert in 10th Century warfare, but I know a legendary fight when I see it. I don't take joy in the death of Chinese elephants, but I would have loved to have been there.

My guess is the elephants walked up slowly and methodically toward the crossbow archers until someone gave an order – the exact wording of which I really want to know – to aim for the elephants and show no mercy. If I had been there, I would have run away in terror regardless of which side I was on. On the one hand, ELEPHANTS!! But on the other, CROSSBOWS!!

Can someone please make a movie about this? The only thing that could have made this battle better was if the elephants could've used their trunks as cannons (are you listening, MythBusters?).

World War II seems tame by comparison, but the Battle of the Bulge ended Jan. 25, 1945, four years and two days after Charles Lindbergh urged the U.S. to negotiate a neutrality pact with Adolf Hitler, which I'm guessing would not have worked. The day after the battle ended, the Russian Red Army surrounded the German Fourth Army, leading to its annihilation two months later.

On Jan. 26, 1992, Boris Yeltsin announced Russia would stop targeting U.S. cities with its nuclear missiles, and Jan. 27, 1967, a treaty was signed to ban deploying nuclear weapons in outer space and limiting the use of the moon and other celestial bodies for peaceful purposes only. This means if we are ever visited by aliens, we don't have to worry about them attacking us, right?

It was also a great week in military blunders, specifically nuclear blunders. The good ol' USA had an incident Jan. 24, 1961, in Goldsboro, NC, where a B-52 carrying two nuclear bombs broke apart in midair and crashed. One of those bombs has never been found.

Then on Jan. 21, 1968, another B-52 crashed, only this time it carried four nuclear bombs. It happened at Thule Air Base, which is in Greenland, and is the worst possible place I can imagine being deployed. Not only because it's north of the Arctic Circle and therefore cold (not just cold, COLD!!), but one of those bombs has – you guessed it – still never been found.

Holiday You Should Celebrate

National Hug Day is being celebrated today. Take a moment and hug someone you love. If they don't love you, but you wish they did, it's still OK to hug them. In fact, take a moment to hug the person closest to you right now, no matter who it is. If you're in the room by yourself, take a tip from Manti Te'o and fake it.

If you can't find somebody who needs a hug, just go to Facebook or Twitter. Given that today is Barack Obama's second inauguration, they'll probably make themselves known.

Preview of next week

John Wayne dies … symbolically.

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