declaration of independence - Susan Law Cain - shutterstock

This Day in History – March 16 – Hijinx, Humor, and Insight

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NewsWhistle is pleased to feature Gary Jenneke’s “This Day In History” column.

You can read the original at Gary’s THIS DAY IN HISTORY blog — or scroll down to enjoy Gary’s unique look at life’s comings and goings.

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THIS DAY IN HISTORY… MARCH 16

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1968 – My Lai Massacre.

Despite the absence of any Viet Cong resisters, a platoon from Charlie Company led by Lt. William Calley attacked a small Vietnamese village and killed approximately 500 unarmed men, women and children. The massacre only ended when a heroic American helicopter pilot confronted Calley and then ordered his own gunner to open fire on Charlie Company if they tried to shoot any more villagers.

The pilot, Hugh Thompson, reported the massacre to his commander, and then the cover-up began. Throughout the Army’s chain-of-command little effort was made to investigate. Word leaked out however and eventually journalist Seymour Hersh broke the story. Court Martials were held and only one participant, Lt. Calley, was found guilty. President Nixon allowed him to serve his sentence under house arrest rather than in prison. Calley was freed on parole after three and a half years.

If the standards established at the Nuremberg Trials after WWII were applied regarding My Lai, not only were the men on the ground responsible, the Commander-in-Chief, Secretary of Defense, generals, all the architects of this immoral war were just as guilty.

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1984 – Beirut CIA station chief William Buckley kidnapped.

Buckley was on his way to his Beirut office when grabbed by three Hezbollah gunmen. Held, and tortured, for nineteen months, he ultimately revealed many CIA secrets. Most of his operatives were killed or simply disappeared. In the weeks after his capture, President Reagan had a secret counterterrorist task force formed. A complex scheme was developed involving both Iran and Nicaragua and it resulted in trading missiles for hostages. The plan became known as the Iran-Contra affair. Although some hostages were returned, Buckley died in captivity.

Despite its best, or arguably its worst, efforts, the CIA could not save Buckley.

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2016 – President Obama nominates Merrick Garland for Supreme Court.

The Republican controlled Senate, led by Mitch McConnell, blockaded any hearings on Garland. They reasoned they had that right because it was Obama’s last year in office. This was unprecedented reasoning and whether unconstitutional or not is still being argued. Vikram Amar, constitutional law professor, wrote that “the text of the Constitution certainly does not use any language suggesting the Senate has a legal obligation to do anything,” but that the “absolutist position” taken by Senate Republicans presents “grave risks” of escalating the judicial-appointment process into “extreme moves and countermoves.”

It certainly does open the door to extremism. Why is the cutoff date arbitrarily set as the last year in office? Why not the last two years? And as long as it is two years, why not three? Heck, it could then be argued that even after a president is elected, there’s just going to be another election in four years so… Actually, that might work. Eventually there would be no Supreme Court Justices left with the result being it would no longer be just another political body.

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Birthdays:

1739 – George Clymer.

Signer of the Declaration of Independence. He was one of the first colonists to advocate complete independence from England. Clymer was partially responsible for securing the authority of Gen. Washington and also was instrumental in supplying his army. A delegate of the Continental Congress from Pennsylvania, Clymer was one of only six men who signed both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.

Whether heroic, or flawed as in the case of the slaveholders, I’m still fascinated by the foresight of these founding fathers.

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1822 – General John Pope.

Pope was in command of the Army of Virginia at the 2nd Battle of Bull Run where Stonewall Jackson’s forces routed his Union Army. President Lincoln relieved him of command and banished him to Minnesota to mop up after the Dakota War of 1862. He spent the rest of his career as an Indian fighter. However, in contrast to most, he supported humanitarian measures toward the tribes. None of his recommendations were ever adopted by the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

He was defeated in one arena and ignored in a second. And being the second was political, I bet his defeat in the first was used as an argument against him.

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1920 – Traudl Junge.

Adolph Hitler’s personal secretary. Thirteen years old when Hitler came to power, Junge remembered the excitement at her school at the time. They all believed he would be the one who saved Germany. Despite this, she had no interest in politics and wanted to be a dancer. But to help support her divorced mother, she was forced to give up that dream and learn shorthand and typing. At age twenty-two she moved to Berlin and got a job at the Third Reich Chancellery. Shortly thereafter Hitler needed a new secretary and out of a pool of ten, Junge was chosen. She admitted being fascinated by Hitler and found him an agreeable boss and a father figure in her life. Her own father had abandoned the family while she was still a toddler. 

Junge married a soldier, an aide to Hitler, who at his own request was sent to the front. At Normandy he was killed in action. Junge remembered how kind and caring Hitler was to her at the time. She remained with Hitler in his Berlin bunker as the Third Reich collapsed around them. She heard the shot as Hitler committed suicide and then under the cover of darkness she escaped from the bunker.

Later that summer, the war ended, she was arrested and interrogated for five months but no charges were brought against her. About her time with Hitler, Junge wrote, “I deliberately ignored the warning voice inside me, although I heard it clearly enough.” At first she absolved herself of any blame, saying she was too young at the time, and not aware of the magnitude of his crimes. As she grew older however, she acknowledged her complicity. Being young and naïve was no excuse, she should have done more to find out what was really happening, and Junge stated she must share the guilt.

There is a good documentary “Blind Spot: Hitler’s Secretary” about her.

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ABOUT GARY JENNEKE

At various junctures of his life, Gary has been an indifferent grade school student, poor high school student, good Navy radioman, one-time hippie, passable college student, inveterate traveler, dedicated writer, miscast accountant (except for one interesting stint at a Communist café), part-time screenwriting teacher, semi-proud veteran, unsuccessful retiree and new blogger.

You can reach him at gary@newswhistle.com.

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CREDITS

The above information was sourced from the following sites and newspapers:

Sources:

OnThisDay.com 

Wikipedia.org 

Spartacus-Educational.com 

JaRosebrock.wordpress.com

USHistory.com 

We’d also like to thank the following photographers and videographers for the use of their images:

* Lead-In Image (Declaration of Independence) – Susan Law Cain / Shutterstock.com

declaration of independence - Susan Law Cain - shutterstock - embed

* My Lai (video) – PBS, American Experience & DocumentaryFR3AK / Shutterstock.com

* George Clymer (video) – FreedomProject Media / Shutterstock.com

* Outro (Man-In-Museum Cartoon) – SkyPics Studio / Shutterstock.com

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OTHER DAYS IN HISTORY …

December 2

* December 5

* December 9

December 11

December 12

* December 15

December 16

December 18 

December 22

December 23

December 24

December 28

* December 30

* January 3

January 4

January 6

January 7

January 10

* January 11

* January 14

January 15

January 16

January 19

January 21

January 22

January 24

January 25

January 29

January 30

February 1

February 3 

February 5

February 6

* February 9

* February 10

* February 11

February 14

February 15

February 18

February 20

February 21

February 24

February 25

February 28

March 2

March 3

March 6

March 9

March 10

March 12

* March 14

March 17

March 19

March 21

March 23

March 27

March 29

April 2

April 3

April 6

April 11

* April 13

April 18

April 22

April 23

April 28

April 29

May 2

May 3

May 6

May 9

May 10

May 13

May 17

* May 24

May 26

May 29

June 1

June 3

June 8

June 10

June 13

June 17

June 18

June 21

June 24

June 28

June 29

July 2

July 3

* July 9

July 13

July 15

July 19

July 23

July 25

July 30

July 31

* August 3

August 7

August 10

August 11

August 16

August 17

August 21

August 24

August 25

* August 28

August 31

September 2

September 5

September 6

September 8

September 11

September 12

September 15

September 16 

September 17

September 21

September 23

September 24

September 25

September 28

September 30

October 1

October 3

October 7

October 10

October 12

October 14

* October 16

October 18

October 24

October 25

October 27

October 28

October 30

November 3

* November 4

November 5

November 8

November 9

November 10

November 13

November 14

November 16

* November 17

November 19

November 20

November 23

November 28

November 30

* Stay tuned for more!

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