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Your Week in History: Manson murders and atomic bombs

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This composite image shows the mushroom clouds over Hiroshima, left, and Nagasaki, right, following an atomic bomb blast in August 1945. (Source: U.S. Air Force/Wikimedia Commons) This composite image shows the mushroom clouds over Hiroshima, left, and Nagasaki, right, following an atomic bomb blast in August 1945. (Source: U.S. Air Force/Wikimedia Commons)
This composite image shows before, left, and after, right, images of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. (Source: Wikimedia Commons) This composite image shows before, left, and after, right, images of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)
Col. Paul Tibbets waves from the cockpit of Enola Gay before taking off to drop an atomic bomb on Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945. (Source: U.S. Army/Wikimedia Commons) Col. Paul Tibbets waves from the cockpit of Enola Gay before taking off to drop an atomic bomb on Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945. (Source: U.S. Army/Wikimedia Commons)
Bockscar, the plane used to drop the atomic bomb over Nagasaki, is shown at the National Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton, OH. (Source: U.S. Air Force/Wikimedia Commons) Bockscar, the plane used to drop the atomic bomb over Nagasaki, is shown at the National Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton, OH. (Source: U.S. Air Force/Wikimedia Commons)
The Genbaku Dome near ground zero of the atomic bomb blast over Hiroshima is now part of Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park. (Source: Wikimedia Commons) The Genbaku Dome near ground zero of the atomic bomb blast over Hiroshima is now part of Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

(RNN) – This is a heavy week and there isn't much goofing around.

But before diving into the serious business, which is heavily focused on death and destruction, this week's John Wayne silliness must be explored.

Robert Mitchum has been mentioned before, but he was born Aug. 6, 1917, and shared the screen with Wayne in El Dorado. Lucille Ball was born the same day in 1911 and she got an earlier shoutout as well.

Martha Hyer was born Aug. 10, 1924, and she appeared in The Sons of Katie Elder. Cast a Giant Shadow was written, directed and produced by Melville Shavelson, who died Aug. 8, 2007. For some esoteric connections, I'll explore Hellfighters.

Hellfighters is generally regarded as a bad movie, but it has its moments. It follows an interesting subject, but it gets bogged down in relationship drama. It has explosions, which are cool, but John Wayne gets run over by a bulldozer, which is not cool. Anyway, Wayne's character, Chance Buckman, is based on real life oil well firefighter Red Adair, who died Aug. 7, 2004. Sam Elliott is better known for his roles in The Big Lebowski, We Were Soldiers and Tombstone, but he was born Aug. 9, 1944, and married Katherine Ross, who plays Wayne's daughter in Hellfighters.

Sam Elliott also likes beef.

Here are some of the events of note that happened between Aug. 5 and Aug. 11.

Life and Death

Because of some notable names, I'll take the deaths first this week.

Marilyn Monroe died of a drug overdose Aug. 5, 1962. Her death is believed to be a suicide, but that is highly controversial. What is known is that a quantity of drugs large enough to kill several people found its way into Monroe's blood. How it got there, and whether she was complicit in its administering, is disputed.

Several witnesses changed their stories, evidence was removed or tampered with and a full examination of the body that would have revealed a definitive cause of death was not performed. Monroe was reported to be in good spirits that night, but only about 30 minutes later she was described as drugged or drunk while on a phone call. The call abruptly ended and Monroe was found several hours later. Some reports said she had the phone in her hand, while others describe a different scene that might have been arranged by witnesses in an attempt to cover up a suicide. Other theories describe the death as either accidental or a murder.

The death of another famous actress is not nearly as convoluted. Sharon Tate was murdered Aug. 9, 1969, by members of Charles Manson's "family." Tate wasn't intended as the target, nor were the other victims. A house was chosen because Manson had a prior connection to it and Tate happened to be living in it at the time.

The following night, Manson directed members of his group to a house where he had once attended a party. Fearing the crime would be traced to him for that reason, an adjacent house was chosen and two people – Leno and Rosemary LaBianca – were murdered.

Obi-Wan Kenobi died Aug. 5, 2000. I'm not going to attempt to calculate the date of death of the actual Obi-Wan because I have better things to do and I don't want to deal with the angry nerd responses, but Alec Guinness, who played Obi-Wan in the original Star Wars trilogy, died that day.

Anne Hathaway - Shakespeare's wife, not the actress - died Aug. 6, 1623, and Henry the Lion - not an actual lion - died the same day in 1195.

Herb Brooks, who coached the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team, died Aug. 11, 2003. His birthday - Aug. 5, 1937 - is this week as well. Brooks shares a birthday with astronaut Neil Armstrong (1930) and Maureen McCormick (1956), who played Marcia Brady on The Brady Bunch.

Wrestler Hulk Hogan was born as Terry Bollea on Aug. 11, 1953, and knife aficionado Crocodile Dundee was born as Paul Hogan on Aug. 8, 1939.

Overlooked Anniversaries

Richard Nixon announced his resignation as president Aug. 8, 1974, effective noon the next day.

Harry Houdini escaped a casket placed underwater for an hour and a half Aug. 5, 1926. It was the last major feat performed by Houdini. Houdini claimed that controlled breathing allowed the escape rather than anything magical. He also thought the demonstration could be helpful for trapped miners as proof that staying calm and "believing that you are safe" are as important as rescue.

NASA claimed a meteorite from Mars contained evidence of life Aug. 6, 1996. On the same day last year, the Curiosity rover landed on Mars. I don't really know what it's looking for, but it hasn't produced anything substantial, unless you count its parody Twitter account. ("Is the first anniversary of being abandoned on Mars the paper anniversary or the hopeless despair anniversary?")

The first execution by electric chair was performed Aug. 6, 1890, the first U.S. income tax was levied Aug. 5, 1861, the Voting Rights Act was signed Aug. 6, 1965, Smokey Bear debuted Aug. 9, 1994, the Louvre Museum opened Aug. 10, 1793, the World Wide Web debuted Aug. 6, 1991, the city of Cleveland installed the first electric traffic light Aug. 5, 1914, and Betty Boop made her first appearance in Dizzy Dishes on Aug. 9, 1930.

Serial killer David Berkowitz - aka Son of Sam - was arrested Aug. 10, 1977. Berkowitz committed several murders with a .44-caliber handgun because he said his neighbor's dog was telling him to do it. Police had ticketed Berkowitz's car near the scene of his final murder and initially thought him to be a potential witness. Police found his car outside his apartment building and noticed a rifle.

They waited until he came outside of his apartment and got in the car before confronting him. He was carrying the weapon used in the murders and responded to police by saying, "You got me. What took you so long?"

The Mesoamerican Long Count Calendar began Aug. 21, 3114 BC. It ended Dec. 21, 2012, but the world did not. Missouri became a state Aug. 10, 1821, and I'll let it stay because I don't want to offend people I work with who are from there.

It is an interesting week for the Reagan administration. Ronald Reagan fired more than 11,000 air traffic controllers who were on strike Aug. 5, 1981, after they refused to return to work following his demand that they do so. Reagan also stirred some controversy with an ill-timed joke prior to a radio address. In an instance of something you could never get away with today, Reagan "outlawed Russia" and claimed, "We begin bombing in five minutes." It was just one of many Russian jokes Reagan liked to tell.

Something About Sports

Gertrude Ederle became the first woman to swim the English Channel on Aug. 6, 1926, and the first official long jump record was set by Peter O'Connor on Aug. 5, 1901. O'Connor's jump was 24 feet, 11 inches. The current world record of 29 feet, 4 inches is held by Mike Powell.

The opening ceremony for the 2012 Olympics in Beijing, China, was held Aug. 8, 2008. The ceremony was full of amazing moments, but the drummers have gotten the most attention.

Babe Ruth became the first player to hit 500 career home runs Aug. 11, 1929, and Barry Bonds broke Hank Aaron's career home run record of 755 on Aug. 7, 2007. Bonds' home run came off of the Washington Nationals' Mike Bacsik, whose father had faced Aaron after his 755th homer. As great of an achievement as it was for Bonds, the taped message from Aaron that played immediately following the home run stole the show.

The Week in Warfare

The Badge of Military Merit was created Aug. 7, 1782. It was the first military award created by the United States. It wasn't used very long and was officially replaced in 1932 by the Purple Heart, which is awarded to anyone wounded or killed. One of the most interesting things about the Purple Heart is that more than 500,000 of them were manufactured in advance of a planned invasion of Japan during World War II.

Those Purple Hearts are still being awarded today and no more have been produced because the invasion never materialized following two atomic bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki on Aug. 6 and Aug. 9, 1945, respectively.

A bomb code named "Little Boy" was dropped by a B-29 named Enola Gay over Hiroshima, and a bomb called "Fat Man" was dropped by a B-29 named Bockscar over Nagasaki. Enola Gay is currently on display at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center at Washington Dulles Airport and Bockscar is on display at the National Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton, OH.

Hiroshima was an important military supply center and was the primary target of the first nuclear bomb with Kokura and Nagasaki listed as alternates. The weather was clear and the bomb fell within 1,000 feet of its target, a T-shaped bridge near the middle of the city, and exploded about 2,000 above a nearby hospital. The blast killed more than 70,000 people with an equal number injured. Additionally, most of the doctors in the city were killed as well as 12 American airmen who were being held as POWs.

While the bombing of Hiroshima was an unmitigated success, the bombing of Nagasaki was a near failure. Nagasaki was a port city that had a large military industry, but it was not the initial target. The bombing had been scheduled for Aug. 11 over Kokura, but bad weather moved the mission up. Clouds covered Kokura during the attack and it was abandoned as a target after three attempts. Clouds obscured Nagasaki as well, but a small break allowed the bomb to be sighted and dropped. The bomb was dropped nearly two miles off target, and the blast was contained by mountains surrounding the city. The bomb killed an estimated 50,000 to 60,000 people.

Only one person was confirmed to have survived both bombings. Tsutomu Yamaguchi was on a business trip to Hiroshima when the city was bombed. He was about two miles from where the bomb exploded and suffered burns, ruptured eardrums and temporary blindness.

The next day he returned to his home in Nagasaki. He was reportedly describing the explosion when the second bomb went off two miles from his office, though in this explosion he was unhurt. He died Jan. 4, 2010, from stomach cancer.

Holiday You Should Celebrate

Aug. 10 is Lazy Day. It's also National S'mores Day. Coincidence?

Preview of next week

A win by the slimmest margin possible.

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