This Day in History – March 28 – Hijinx, Humor, and Insight


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.




1799 – New York State ends slavery. Sort of.

A Gradual Emancipation act was passed declaring children born to slave mothers after July 4th, 1799, would be free. It also indentured them until they were young adults. Huh? The age definition for young adult was 25 for women and 28 for men. This compromise was a conciliatory gesture to slaveholders for their loss of property. In 1817, another law was passed granting emancipation to slaves born before July 4th, 1799, but delaying their freedom for ten years. So on July 4th, 1827, complete abolition of slavery in New York State finally took place. The slave trade had begun in America in New York when eleven slaves were imported in 1626.

My first editorial inclination was to focus on the cruel irony of having a baby on July 3rd, 1799. However, the drawn out time period and details of the act dulled that irony. This muddled approach to abolition mostly illustrates the power of the pro-slavery forces in the North. Compromise was the best those opposing this evil servitude could do at the time. It also stoked the fires of the fervent abolitionists like John Brown.


1935 – “Triumph of the Will” released.

This Nazi propaganda movie, directed by Leni Riefenstahl, and listing Adolph Hitler as executive producer, was filmed at a 1934 Nuremberg rally. Some 700,000 Nazi supporters attended this event. The film promoted Hitler as the great leader who would restore Germany to its former, and deserved, glory. It captured the enthusiasm of the masses who idolized him. The imagery, use of camera, and music, all combined to create what many still consider one of the greatest propaganda films of all time. To her death Riefenstahl insisted she was just an artist and not a propagandist.

When America entered the war there was concern over American soldiers’ will to fight. Hollywood directors were enlisted to address this issue. Frank Capra led this effort with his “Why We Fight” series. Capra studied, even admired “Triumph of the Will,” and incorporated clips from it to illustrate to American soldiers the fanaticism they would be facing. An old film axiom, showing rather than telling.

There is an excellent three part series, “Five Came Back,” about the five Hollywood directors who put their careers on hold and volunteered as documentarians for the war effort. The five were Frank Capra, John Ford, John Huston, William Wyler, and George Stevens.


1945 – Last V-1 attack on London.

Developed by German scientists, including future American hero Wernher von Braun, the V-1’s were jet-powered guided rockets carrying an explosive warhead. Over 29,000 of these were produced by slave labor in Germany. They were difficult to intercept and indiscriminate in their targets. The first attacks were on June 13th, 1944 and ended when advancing Allied armies overran the launch sites and pushed back future sites out of range. An estimated 9,000 people in England were killed by these rockets.

The Allies were lucky the war ended when it did, as Germany was ahead of them in developing advanced weaponry. The V-1 and V-2 rockets and jet-powered fighter planes are illustrations of that. German scientists were also working on an atomic bomb. If not for Hitler’s meddling in military decisions such as refusing to let his armies in Russia retreat, or delaying rushing powerful panzer divisions to Normandy and possibly repulsing the invasion, the war could have gone on another year or two and these weapons might have had a devastating effect. As weird as it sounds, Hitler was one of the Allies biggest assets.



1921 – Dirk Bogarde.

Actor. Bogarde had a long and successful career in Britain. He was also a best-selling author. He shied away from Hollywood because he refused to engage in a “marriage of convenience” to mask his sexual preference. Bogarde was an officer in the British Army during WWII and was with the unit that liberated Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. What he saw there impacted him the rest of his life. His words about that experience: “After the war I always knew that nothing, nothing, could ever be as bad … but nothing could frighten me any more, I mean, no man could frighten me any more, no Director… nothing could be as bad as the war, or the things I saw in the war.”

Dirk Bogarde. What a great name. It’s a perfect fit for so many professions. 


1944 – Ken Howard.

Actor. Howard played the coach in the TV series, “The White Shadow.” The show was about a high school basketball team made up of mixed races but predominately black. In high school Howard was the only white starter on a mostly black basketball team and in the press he was called the White Shadow. The show ran from 1978-1981. Besides television, he also appeared on stage and film. In 2011 Howard was elected as president of the Screen Actors Guild and served in that position until his death in 2016.

I don’t know if it would hold up if I watched it again but at the time I really liked “The White Shadow.”


1961 – Iris Chang.

Writer. Chang wrote “The Rape of Nanking.” The book details the Japanese atrocities during their occupation of that Chinese city at the beginning of the Second World War. Born in New Jersey to immigrants from Taiwan, Chang went to Nanking in 1995 to research her book. By the time she left the survivors there felt their story was finally going to be told. They were right. The book was published in 1997 and became a bestseller. It also took a toll on Chang. Suffering from depression, she took her life in 2004, leaving behind her husband and two-year-old son. Some call her the last victim of the Rape of Nanking.

Japan has never fully acknowledged or apologized for what it did there. Chang had become a spokesperson in challenging them to do so. Here are some of her statements on the subject. “If the Japanese government doesn’t reckon with the crimes of its wartime leaders, history is going to leave them as tainted as their ancestors. You can’t blame this generation for what happened years ago, but you can blame them for not acknowledging these crimes.”

“Denial is an integral part of atrocity, and it’s a natural part after a society has committed genocide. First you kill, and then the memory of killing is killed.”

A powerful, powerful book, and not an easy one to read. Or write either, unfortunately.



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



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


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

* Lead-In Image (“Broken Shackles”) – creatifolio /

* Ken Howard (video) – SAG-AFTRA /

* Iris Chang (video) – University of California Television (UCTV) /

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