Posts etiquetados ‘December’

Panama Canal turned over to Panama

On this day in 1999, the United States, in accordance with the Torrijos-Carter Treaties, officially hands over control of the Panama Canal, putting the strategic waterway into Panamanian hands for the first time. Crowds of Panamanians celebrated the transfer of the 50-mile canal, which links the Atlantic and Pacific oceans and officially opened when the SS Arcon sailed through on August 15, 1914. Since then, over 922,000 ships have used the canal.

Interest in finding a shortcut from the Atlantic to the Pacific originated with explorers in Central America in the early 1500s. In 1523, Holy Roman Emperor Charles V commissioned a survey of the Isthmus of Panama and several plans for a canal were produced, but none ever implemented. U.S. interest in building a canal was sparked with the expansion of the American West and the California gold rush in 1848. (Today, a ship heading from New York to San Francisco can save about 7,800 miles by taking the Panama Canal rather than sailing around South America.)

In 1880 a French company run by the builder of the Suez Canal started digging a canal across the Isthmus of Panama (then a part of Colombia). More than 22,000 workers died from tropical diseases such as yellow fever during this early phase of construction and the company eventually went bankrupt, selling its project rights to the United States in 1902 for $40 million. President Theodore Roosevelt championed the canal, viewing it as important to America’s economic and military interests. In 1903, Panama declared its independence from Colombia in a U.S.-backed revolution and the U.S. and Panama signed the Hay-Bunau-Varilla Treaty, in which the U.S. agreed to pay Panama $10 million for a perpetual lease on land for the canal, plus $250,000 annually in rent.

Over 56,000 people worked on the canal between 1904 and 1913 and over 5,600 lost their lives. When finished, the canal, which cost the U.S. $375 million to build, was considered a great engineering marvel and represented America’s emergence as a world power.

In 1977, responding to nearly 20 years of Panamanian protest, U.S. President Jimmy Carter and Panama’s General Omar Torrijos signed two new treaties that replaced the original 1903 agreement and called for a transfer of canal control in 1999. The treaty, narrowly ratified by the U.S. Senate, gave America the ongoing right to defend the canal against any threats to its neutrality. In October 2006, Panamanian voters approved a $5.25 billion plan to double the canal’s size by 2015 to better accommodate modern ships.

Ships pay tolls to use the canal, based on each vessel’s size and cargo volume. In May 2006, the Maersk Dellys paid a record toll of $249,165. The smallest-ever toll–36 cents–was paid by Richard Halliburton, who swam the canal in 1928.

From: http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/panama-canal-turned-over-to-panama

If you wish to know more: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/556959.stm

Anuncios

KKK founded

In Pulaski, Tenesse, a group of Confederate veterans convenes to form a secret society that they christen the “Ku Klux Klan”.” The KKK rapidly grew from a secret social fraternity to a paramilitary force bent on reversing the federal government’s progressive Reconstruction Era-activities in the South, especially policies that elevated the rights of the local African American population.

The name of the Ku Klux Klan was derived from the Greek word kyklos, meaning “circle,” and the Scottish-Gaelic word “clan,” which was probably chosen for the sake of alliteration. Under a platform of philosophized white racial superiority, the group employed violence as a means of pushing back Reconstruction and its enfranchisement of African Americans. Former Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest, was the KKK’s first grand wizard; in 1869, he unsuccessfully tried to disband it after he grew critical of the Klan’s excessive violence.

Most prominent in counties where the races were relatively balanced, the KKK engaged in terrorist raids against African Americans and white Republicans at night, employing intimidation, destruction of property, assault, and murder to achieve its aims and influence upcoming elections. In a few Southern states, Republicans organized militia units to break up the Klan. In 1871, the Ku Klux Act passed Congress, authorizing President Ulysses S. Grantto use military force to suppress the KKK. The Ku Klux Act resulted in nine South Carolinacounties being placed under martial law and thousands of arrests. In 1882, the U.S. Supreme Court declared the Ku Klux Act unconstitutional, but by that time Reconstruction had ended and the KKK had faded away.

The 20th century witnessed two revivals of the KKK: one in response to immigration in the 1910s and ’20s, and another in response to the African American civil rightsmovement of the 1950sand ’60s.

USSR established

In post-revolutionary Russia, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) is established, comprising a confederation of Russia, Belorussia, Ukraine, and the Transcaucasian Federation (divided in 1936 into the Georgian, Azerbaijan, and Armenian republics). Also known as the Soviet Union, the new communist state was the successor to the Russian Empire and the first country in the world to be based on Marxist socialism.

During the Russian Revolution of 1917 and subsequent three-year Russian Civil War, the Bolshevik Party under Vladimir Lenin dominated the soviet forces, a coalition of workers’ and soldiers’ committees that called for the establishment of a socialist state in the former Russian Empire. In the USSR, all levels of government were controlled by the Communist Party, and the party’s politburo, with its increasingly powerful general secretary, effectively ruled the country. Soviet industry was owned and managed by the state, and agricultural land was divided into state-run collective farms.

In the decades after it was established, the Russian-dominated Soviet Union grew into one of the world’s most powerful and influential states and eventually encompassed 15 republics–Russia, Ukraine, Georgia, Belorussia, Uzbekistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia. In 1991, the Soviet Union was dissolved following the collapse of its communist government.

From: http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/ussr-established

Worst air raid on London

On the evening of December 29, 1940, London suffers its most devastating air raid when Germans firebomb the city. Hundreds of fires caused by the exploding bombs engulfed areas of London, but firefighters showed a valiant indifference to the bombs falling around them and saved much of the city from destruction. The next day, a newspaper photo of St. Paul’s Cathedral standing undamaged amid the smoke and flames seemed to symbolize the capital’s unconquerable spirit during the Battle of Britain.

In May and June 1940, Holland, Belgium, Norway, and France fell one by one to the German Wehrmacht, leaving Great Britain alone in its resistance against Nazi leader Adolf Hitler’s plans for world domination. The British Expeditionary Force escaped the continent with an impromptu evacuation from Dunkirk, but they left behind the tanks and artillery needed to defend their homeland against invasion. With British air and land forces outnumbered by their German counterparts, and U.S. aid not yet begun, it seemed certain that Britain would soon follow the fate of France. However, Winston Churchill, the new British prime minister, promised his nation and the world that Britain would “never surrender,” and the British people mobilized behind their defiant leader.

On June 5, the Luftwaffe began attacks on English Channel ports and convoys, and on June 30 Germany seized control of the undefended Channel Islands. On July 10–the first day of the Battle of Britain according to the RAF–the Luftwaffe intensified its bombing of British ports. Six days later, Hitler ordered the German army and navy to prepare for Operation Sea Lion. On July 19, the German leader made a speech in Berlin in which he offered a conditional peace to the British government: Britain would keep its empire and be spared from invasion if its leaders accepted the German domination of the European continent. A simple radio message from Lord Halifax swept the proposal away.

Germany needed to master the skies over Britain if it was to transport safely its superior land forces across the 21-mile English Channel. On August 8, the Luftwaffe intensified its raids against the ports in an attempt to draw the British air fleet out into the open. Simultaneously, the Germans began bombing Britain’s sophisticated radar defense system and RAF-fighter airfields. During August, as many as 1,500 German aircraft crossed the Channel daily, often blotting out the sun as they flew against their British targets. Despite the odds against them, the outnumbered RAF fliers successfully resisted the massive German air invasion, relying on radar technology, more maneuverable aircraft, and exceptional bravery. For every British plane shot down, two Luftwaffe warplanes were destroyed.

At the end of August, the RAF launched a retaliatory air raid against Berlin. Hitler was enraged and ordered the Luftwaffe to shift its attacks from RAF installations to London and other British cities. On September 7, the Blitz against London began, and after a week of almost ceaseless attacks several areas of London were in flames and the royal palace, churches, and hospitals had all been hit. However, the concentration on London allowed the RAF to recuperate elsewhere, and on September 15 the RAF launched a vigorous counterattack, downing 56 German aircraft in two dogfights that lasted less than an hour.

The costly raid convinced the German high command that the Luftwaffe could not achieve air supremacy over Britain, and the next day daylight attacks were replaced with nighttime sorties as a concession of defeat. On September 19, Nazi leader Adolf Hitler postponed indefinitely “Operation Sea Lion”–the amphibious invasion of Britain. The Battle of Britain, however, continued.

In October, Hitler ordered a massive bombing campaign against London and other cities to crush British morale and force an armistice. Despite significant loss of life and tremendous material damage to Britain’s cities, the country’s resolve remained unbroken. The ability of Londoners to maintain their composure had much to do with Britain’s survival during this trying period. As American journalist Edward R. Murrow reported, “Not once have I heard a man, woman, or child suggest that Britain should throw her hand.” In May 1941, the air raids essentially ceased as German forces massed near the border of the USSR.

By denying the Germans a quick victory, depriving them of forces to be used in their invasion of the USSR, and proving to America that increased arms support for Britain was not in vain, the outcome of the Battle of Britain greatly changed the course of  World War II. As Churchill said of the RAF fliers during the Battle of Britain, “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.”

From: http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/worst-air-raid-on-london

 

Woodrow Wilson is born

Thomas Woodrow Wilson, who will become the 28th president of the United States, is born on this day in Staunton, Virginia.

A former president of Princeton University and governor of New Jersey, Wilson won election to his first term in the White House as a Democrat in 1912 on a campaign program called The New Freedom, which stressed individualism and states’ rights. From the day he took office in March 1913—when a parade organized by the Congressional Union, later to become known as the National Organization for Women, drew crowds away from the inauguration ceremonies—Wilson had to contend with the growing controversy over women’s suffrage on the home front. His administration saw the passage of several major acts of legislation, including the Federal Reserve Act and the creation of the Federal Trade Commission, designed to regulate business practices.

As war broke out in Europe in the summer of 1914, Wilson lost his wife of thirty years, Ellen, to liver cancer. Unable to abandon himself to his grief, he instead dedicated himself to his work, winning re-election in 1916 on a strict neutrality platform and the slogan He kept us out of the war. But Wilson soon decided that the U.S. could not remain neutral in the face of German aggression on the high seas and in April 1917 he asked Congress for a Declaration of War.

American participation in World War Ihelped turn the tide towards the Allies, and Wilson played a crucial role in determining the terms of the resulting peace. His famous Fourteen Points, presented to Congress in January 1918, introduced the idea of an international covenant aimed at resolving conflict, an idea that would come to fruition with the formation of the League of Nations. At Versailles in the month’s following Germany’s surrender, Wilson struggled to convince his counterparts in Britain and France, David Lloyd George and Georges Clemenceau, that in order for peace to endure, Germany must not be punished too harshly.

Wilson faced even tougher resistance at home. In late 1919, the Versailles Treaty was defeated in Congress by steadfast opposition from Henry Cabot Lodge and other Republican legislators. (Because it was not ratified, the U.S. negotiated a separate Treaty of Berlin with Germany that was signed on August 25, 1921.) Despite this failure, Wilson was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. His idea of his country as the world’s leader in shaping international relations is a vision that, to a certain extent, has continued to inspire U.S. foreign policy to the present day.

Wilson left the White House in 1921 after suffering a physical breakdown and a stroke that left him paralyzed. Nursed by his second wife, Edith, he died on February 3, 1924.

From: http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/woodrow-wilson-is-born

Spanish king ratifies democratic constitution

Following its approval in a national referendum, King Juan Carlos ratifies Spain’s first democratic constitution in nearly five decades.

Juan Carlos’ grandfather was Alfonso XIII, the last ruling monarch of Spain, who was forced into exile in 1931 after Spain was declared a republic. Born in Italy in 1938, Juan Carlos returned to Spain in 1955 under the invitation of General Francisco Franco, dictator of Spain since 1936. In 1969, Franco designated Juan Carlos his successor. In 1975, Juan Carlos became Spain’s acting head of state after Franco conceded that he was too ill too govern. The 83-year-old dictator had been suffering serious health problems for nearly a year. Three weeks after Juan Carlos assumed power, Franco died of a heart attack. Two days later, on November 22, Juan Carlos was crowned king.

Despite having pledged loyalty to Franco’s authoritarian regime, King Juan Carlos immediately began a transition to democracy in Spain. During the next decade, he presided over a period of extensive democratization in Spain.

From: http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/spanish-king-ratifies-democratic-constitution

Tsunami devastates Indian Ocean coast

A powerful earthquakeoff the coast of Sumatra, Indonesia, on this day in 2004 sets off a tsunami that wreaks death and devastation across the Indian Ocean coastline. The quake was the second strongest ever recorded and the estimated 230,000 dead made this disaster one of the 10 worst of all time.

It was 7:58 a.m. when the tremendous quake struck beneath the Indian Ocean 160 miles west of Sumatra. Not only did it register at approximately a 9.3 magnitude (only the 1960 Chile earthquake measured higher at 9.5, though there may have been stronger tremors prior to the invention of seismographic equipment) and last nearly 10 minutes, the quake moved a full 750 miles of underwater fault line earth up to 40 feet. The movement of the earth–there is evidence that huge boulders weighing thousands of tons were pushed several miles along the ocean floor–caused a massive displacement of water. It is estimated that the resulting tsunami had two times the energy of all the bombs used during World War II.

Within 15 minutes, tsunami waves were crashing the coast of Sumatra. At the north end of the island was a heavily populated region known as Aceh. There, waves reached 80 feet high over large stretches of the coast and up to 100 feet in some places. Entire communities were simply swept away by the water in a matter of minutes. The death toll in Indonesia is estimated at between 130,000 and 160,000 people, with an additional 500,000 people left homeless. About a third of the victims were children.

The huge waves missed the coast of Indonesia on the north side and went on to Thailand, where between 5,000 and 8,000 people died. The tsunami also moved east across the Indian Ocean. In Sri Lanka, the tsunami came ashore about 90 minutes after the earthquake. Although the waves were not as high as in Aceh, they still brought disaster. Approximately 35,000 people lost their lives and half a million others lost their homes. In addition, about 15,000 people died in India. The killer waves even reached 5,000 miles away in South Africa, where two people perished.

In total, about 190,000 people are confirmed dead with another 40,000 to 45,000 missing and presumed dead. Although billions of dollars of humanitarian aid poured in to the affected region in the aftermath of the disaster–an estimated $7 billion within the first 18 months—some areas are still suffering from the massive devastation.

One year prior to this earthquake and tsunami, almost to the hour, a 6.6-magnitude quake rocked Bam, Iran, killing 30,000 people.

From: http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/tsunami-devastates-indian-ocean-coast