On the 9th August 1974, Richard Nixon resigned as President of the United States of America while facing impeachment and the almost certain removal from office due to the Watergate Scandal. Although Nixon’s impeachment trial was not completed due to his resignation, it is the only time in American history that impeachment has resulted in the departure from office of its target.
The Watergate Scandal began when five men were arrested inside the Democratic National Committee headquarters in Washington D.C.’s Watergate building on June 17, 1972. It was soon discovered, thanks primarily to two journalists and an anonymous informant nicknamed Deep Throat, that the men were connected to the Committee for the Re-Election of the President that was in charge of Nixon’s campaign.
Although Nixon probably didn’t personally know about the break-in in advance, he did later attempt to cover up the details by getting the CIA to force the FBI to abandon its investigation. Despite this attempt, details later emerged of the Republican Party connection to the break-in and of other “dirty tricks” carried out against the Democrats in the run-up to the Presidential election.
The release of taped conversations held in the Oval Office between Nixon and his aides provided more evidence of wrong-doing. When the so-called “Smoking Gun Tape” was released on the 5th August, in which Nixon personally agreed that the CIA should ask the FBI to stop the investigation, any remaining support for the President disappeared. He announced his resignation in a televised speech on the 8th August and it took effect from noon the next day.
On the 7th August 1964, the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution was passed by the United States Congress. The joint resolution granted powers to President Lyndon B. Johnson to use military force to assist countries in Southeast Asia facing so-called “communist aggression”. Many critics of the war condemned Congress for granting Johnson a “blank cheque” to escalate American military involvement in the Vietnamese conflict. At the time, however, it passed unanimously through the House of Representatives and only two Senators opposed the resolution.
The Resolution was a response to the Gulf of Tonkin Incident that had taken place just a few days earlier, in which the North Vietnamese Navy was blamed for attacking US ships on two separate occasions. While it is accepted that the USS Maddox did exchange fire with three enemy torpedo boats on the 2nd August, the claim that it was attacked again on the 4th August is now known to be false.
Even at the time it was acknowledged that the second attack may not have actually happened. Captain John J. Herrick, the commander of the Maddox, had spent four hours firing at enemy ships picked up on radar. However, he sent a message just a few hours later saying that no enemy boats had actually been sighted and so the radar may have malfunctioned. However, the President was not informed of this before going on television to announce that US ships had been attacked. Johnson’s desire to retaliate led to the Resolution, and this in turn led to the USA escalating its involvement in the Vietnam War.
At 8am on the 3rd August 1492, Christopher Columbus set sail from the Spanish port of Palos de la Frontera on the voyage that would take him to the Americas. While Columbus captained the Santa María, Palos natives commonly referred to as the Pinzón brothers captained the Pinta and the Santa Clara which is better known by its nickname the Niña. A third Pinzón brother, was the master of the Pinta.
None of the ships belonged to Columbus himself and, despite the voyage officially being supported by the Catholic Monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella, they forced the inhabitants of the port to contribute towards the costs associated with supplying and equipping them. In the case of the Pinta, its owners had even been forced to send the ship on the voyage against their wishes, leading to suspicions of sabotage when the rudder broke after just three days at sea.
The ships sailed first to the Canary Islands, which they reached after six days. Here they repaired the rudder of the Pinta and restocked with provisions for the Atlantic crossing, which they began on the 6th September from the port of San Sebastián de la Gomera.
However, it is Palos de la Frontera that holds the real title as the starting point of Columbus’ transatlantic voyage. The town also played a significant role in the later Christianisation of the New World since it continued to be a departure point for later westward voyages and was the location of the Franciscan Rábida Monastery that sent some of the first missionaries to the Americas.
Bugs Bunny made his first appearance in the Merrie Melodies cartoon A Wild Hare.
A wisecracking rabbit voiced by Mel Blanc had first appeared in 1938’s Porky’s Hare Hunt. However, it wasn’t until two years later that director Tex Avery asked the animator Bob Givens to redesign the character as the bold tormentor of the hunter, Elmer Fudd.
In the cartoon A Wild Hare Fudd tries numerous times to shoot Bugs Bunny with his double-barrelled shotgun. In one sequence where Elmer tries to dig out the rabbit from his hole, Bugs emerges from another exit to deliver his catchphrase for the first time. Tex Avery later explained that the phrase ‘What’s up, Doc?’ was a common expression where he grew up in Texas, but audiences around the country found the rabbit’s delivery of it hilarious and this guaranteed its inclusion in all subsequent Bugs Bunny cartoons.
A Wild Hare was an immediate hit with the public when it was released in cinemas on 27 July 1940, and later received an Academy Award nomination for Best Cartoon Short Subject. Within two years Bugs Bunny had become the biggest star of the Merrie Melodies series of cartoons, and was used during the Second World War in propaganda against the Axis as a well as to advertise War Bonds.
His regular appearances during the war saw Bugs Bunny become a military mascot. He was even made an honorary master sergeant in the United States Marine Corps after appearing in the dress blue uniform of the Marines in 1943’s Super-Rabbit.
By the time Bugs Bunny was retired from regular releases in 1964 he had appeared in more than 160 short films and won an Academy Award for Knighty Knight Bugs in 1958. He only began to appear again in animated specials and films from the late 1970s.
John Thomas Scopes, a substitute science teacher in Tennessee, was found guilty of teaching evolution in school.
In March 1925 Tennessee governor Austin Peay signed into law the Butler Act, which prohibited teachers in state-funded schools from teaching human evolution as it went against the Biblical account of mankind’s origins. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) soon announced that it was keen to finance a legal test case to challenge the constitutionality of the Butler Act if a teacher was willing to act as the defendant.
George Rappleyea, the manager of the Cumberland Coal and Iron Company in the small Tennessee town of Dayton, believed that a trial of this type could bring valuable publicity to the town. With the support of other local community leaders he approached 24-year-old John T. Scopes. Although Scopes couldn’t recall specifically teaching evolution he did accept that he may have gone through the state-endorsed textbook chapter and chart relating to it. His students were consequently encouraged to testify against him, which led to his indictment on 25 May and the subsequent trial that began on 10 July.
The ‘Monkey Trial’ brought enormous crowds to Dayton where their attention was split between carnival entertainments such as performing chimpanzees on the courthouse lawn, and the numerous preachers who converged on the town to address the crowds.
The trial’s bitter exchanges between the prosecution and defence generated extensive media coverage on both sides of the Atlantic for almost two weeks before Scopes was found guilty and ordered to pay a fine of $100, the minimum amount possible. The Tennessee Supreme Court later overruled the verdict on a technicality, but the Butler Act stayed in place until its repeal in 1967.
The 16th July 1945 marked the start of the atomic age when the USA detonated the first nuclear bomb under the codename ‘Trinity’. Nicknamed ‘the gadget’ by the people working on it, the plutonium-based weapon was detonated at the Alamogordo Test Range in New Mexico. The explosion was equivalent to about 20 kilotons of TNT, and the blast-wave was felt by civilians up to 160 miles away. To maintain secrecy, a press release was issued shortly after the successful detonation that claimed a large ammunition storage magazine had exploded.
The development of nuclear weapons by the US Army in the Manhattan Project that began in 1942 at Los Alamos Laboratory in New Mexico started due to concerns that Nazi Germany would develop an atomic bomb. By 1944 scientists had designed an implosion-type device and proposed that a test take place. The location was chosen in September, and an on-site laboratory was set up.
President Truman was keen to test the bomb before the Potsdam Conference began on the 18th July, so the 16th was chosen to give time to try again in case it failed. However when the appointed hour came rain was falling, which would have increased radioactive fallout, and so the detonation time was pushed back from 4am to 5.30am. At 5:29am the “the gadget” was exploded on top of a 100-foot steel tower, known as Point Zero. J. Robert Oppenheimer, the director of the Los Alamos Laboratory, later said that after the explosion he recalled a verse from Hindu scripture: ‘Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.’
The Hollywood Bowl opened in Bolton Canyon near Los Angeles.
The natural amphitheatre that later became home to the Hollywood Bowl was originally a Cahuenga Indian ceremonial ground. Nestled in the Hollywood Hills, by 1919 it had become known as Daisy Dell and was a popular picnic spot with Los Angeles families. That year it was bought as part of a 59 acre purchase of land by the newly-formed Theatre Arts Alliance, who were keen to find a location to stage outdoor productions.
Alliance members William and H. Ellis Reed identified the natural amphitheatre and, on their advice, the Alliance purchased the site for $47,000. A female pianist, believed to be local woman Carrie Jacobs Bond, subsequently tested the acoustics by playing a piano placed on a barn door in approximately the same location as the venue’s iconic band shell.
Although the Alliance was restructured the following year, the site itself quickly became a popular venue for productions ranging from choral concerts to Shakespeare plays. The first Easter Sunrise Service was performed by the Los Angeles Philharmonic in March 1921 without any formal structure in place, and even when the venue formally opened as the Hollywood Bowl on 11 July 1922 the stage was a simple wooden platform covered with a canvas awning while the audience sat on moveable wooden benches.
Within just four years, however, the Bowl had become so popular that permanent seating was installed along with a band shell that further helped to reflect sound towards the audience. It has since become one of the most iconic live music venues in the world, and continues to be the summer home of the Los Angeles Philharmonic.
On the 8th July 1932, the Dow Jones Industrial Average – a key indicator of the value of America’s biggest companies – fell to its lowest point during the Great Depression that began with the Wall Street Crash. From its high of 381.17 on September 3rd 1929, the Dow plummeted by almost 90 per cent to 41.22. The last time it had closed that low was in June 1897.
The spectacular collapse of the Dow reflected the issue at the heart of the Great Depression – the panic selling of US stocks that wiped out private investors and many of the companies they had invested in. This had a knock-on effect outside the stock market, where those very companies were forced to lay off workers. In Cleveland, 50 per cent of the city’s workers were unemployed by the end of 1932. The downward economic spiral was eventually reversed, but the Dow itself didn’t return to its 1929 high point until 1954.
The response of American President Herbert Hoover to the economic crisis was not viewed favourably by ordinary American people. He gave numerous radio speeches in which he attempted to reassure them that things would improve. Although he never actually said, “prosperity is just around the corner” his speeches suggested it. But things continued to decline and shanty towns, known as Hoovervilles, appeared around the country as people moved from place to place in search of work. Protesting war veterans were attacked by the army. And, with promises of a ‘New Deal’ Franklin D Roosevelt went on to defeat Hoover in the 1932 presidential election.
On the 4th July 1950, Radio Free Europe – founded the previous year to transmit uncensored information to audiences behind the Iron Curtain – completed its first broadcast. Although the station was uncensored in the sense that it shared information that was suppressed within the Communist Bloc, it’s important to remember that it was still a propaganda tool founded and principally funded by the United States government.
The task facing the journalists who worked for RFE was daunting. Since they broadcast to states that suppressed a range of information and news, the gathering of intelligence to provide broadcast material was an enormous challenge. They often relied on risky contact with émigrés and people who had traveled behind the Iron Curtain for eye-witness accounts, and closely monitored print and electronic media from the communist governments. It’s even been suggested that the quality and quantity of information was so comprehensive that the communist governments themselves used Radio Free Europe to gain information about what was happening within their own countries.
However, RFE was still fundamentally a broadcaster that promoted anti-communist ideas and was therefore a significant threat in the countries it targeted. The USSR tasked the KGB with establishing expensive radio jamming facilities to try to block broadcasts, while in 1981 a terrorist group funded by the Romanian regime of Nicolae Ceaușescu detonated a bomb at RFE’s Munich headquarters.
Despite these challenges Radio Free Europe and its partner station Radio Liberty continued broadcasting, and even after the end of the Cold War has continued to broadcast to countries where a free press is not established.
On the 2nd July 1964, American President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act into law at the White House. The Act outlawed discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin and is consequently viewed as a landmark piece of civil rights legislation.
The 1964 Civil Rights Act originated in the Presidency of John F. Kennedy, who had shared the statistics of racial inequality with the American people, such as the fact that life expectancy for an African-American was seven years less than that of a white American. It was also a time when Civil Rights protests were growing in size and number. In a televised speech on the 11th June 1963, Kennedy made clear his intention to introduce a law that would end segregation and increase equality for all Americans.
Kennedy’s assassination on the 22nd November 1963 led to Lyndon B. Johnson being sworn in as President, and he immediately took up the cause with a speech saying that the passage of the Civil Rights Act would serve as a lasting memorial to Kennedy. However opposition to the bill remained high, especially in southern and border states, whose representatives in both the Congress and the Senate did what they could to sabotage the bill. Despite such attempts to disrupt it, various behind-the-scenes deals eventually helped the bill to pass through each house with the required two-thirds majority.
The Act was referred to by Martin Luther King as a “second emancipation” and laid the foundations for later laws that expanded the legal right for all Americans to be treated equally.