This Day in History – March 30 – 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 30

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1856 – Treaty of Paris.

This treaty ended the Crimean War. The war pitted Russia against an alliance of the Ottoman Empire, England, France and the Republic of Sardinia. (Republic of Sardinia?) The Ottoman Empire, or Turkey, was weakening and the war, East versus West, was over who would gain control in the region. Russia lost and the treaty forbid it from having warships or fortifications on the Black Sea. The Crimean War is notable for the emergence of Florence Nightingale, a humanitarian nurse on the fields of battle. She in turn inspired Clara Barton, who was a nurse during the U.S.’s Civil War and a founder of the Red Cross. The Crimean War is also known for the Charge of the Light Brigade, an ill-advised charge by British cavalry against a fortified Russian artillery position. Lord Tennyson wrote a famous poem about it.

Ah yes, The Charge of the Light Brigade, a romantic glorification of bravery in battle. Six-hundred horsemen, armed with sabres and spears, charging across an open field into the mouths of cannons. I guess that kind of carnage was looked upon as inspiring.

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1867 – Purchase of Alaska.

Secretary of State William Seward agreed to Russia’s offer of 7.2 million dollars to buy Alaska on this date. Russia, suffering from financial difficulties and reeling from defeat in the Crimean War first offered it for sale in 1859. (History does connect.) The Civil War in the U.S. delayed negotiations until 1867. When first announced the purchase was derided and it became known as Seward’s Folly. That all changed when gold was discovered in the Klondike and Alaska became the gateway for the gold rush. Alaska was admitted into the union as 49th state in 1959. Militarily, it wasn’t until WWII that the strategic importance of the region was realized. Since then it has guarded America’s interests in the northern Pacific.

In fact it was deemed so militarily strategic that yours truly was stationed in Alaska. Based solely on the misery of my thirteen months up there, I still view it as Seward’s Folly.

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1945 – Mahnmal Bittermark.

In the Bittermark city park in the city of Dortmund, Germany, the Gestapo killed 289 supposed “anti-fascists.” The victims were forced laborers from a number of countries as well as some German citizens who had displayed an improper attitude. Their crime? From Wikipedia.org: “The dissemination of the opinion about the futility of the war.” Three weeks later the U.S. Army captured Dortmund and discovered the bodies. A month later Hitler was dead.

The war was obviously lost yet the Gestapo was still carrying out its mindless and evil obedience. Stating the obvious cost some people their lives, guilty of speaking truth to power at the wrong time.

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Birthdays:

1853 – Vincent van Gogh.

Artist. Born in the Netherlands, van Gogh didn’t take up painting until his late twenties. Besides suffering from mental issues, he neglected his physical health and drank heavily. He lived his life in poverty, occasionally supported financially by a brother. His art led him to Paris in 1886 and there he met fellow painter Paul Gauguin. They worked together, and lived together in Aries, and van Gogh had dreams of starting an art collective. However, his mental instability caused Gauguin to want to leave. There was an altercation over this issue in which van Gogh wielded a razor and it was later in the evening,  with Gauguin no longer present, that he severed his ear. Later van Gogh had no memory of committing this act of self-mutilation. Gauguin took leave from van Gogh after this incident, and the two never saw one another again, although they continued to correspond. For the rest of his life van Gogh was in and out of mental hospitals, and at age 37 committed suicide. Considered a madman, he attained no commercial success in his lifetime despite producing about 860 paintings. Only after his death was his art appreciated and did his fame and reputation grow.

Sad, but even if he had been successful while alive I doubt he would have had a peaceful existence.

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1960 – Bill Johnson.

Olympic Gold Medalist. Johnson won the downhill skiing competition at the 1984 Winter Olympics at Sarajevo. He was the first man from a non-alpine country to win the downhill. In doing so Johnson managed to annoy his fellow competitors with his brashness. He boasted beforehand he would win the gold medal and then he went out and did it. Johnson reveled in his bad boy image that earned him the moniker “Billy the Kid.” He was quoted as saying, “I like to drive cars faster than 100. I like to go over bumps in my car and get airborne. I like to drink. I chase girls full time, but I only drink part time.”

His post Olympic career was less successful. Injuries and a loss of form cost him a spot on the 1988 Olympic team. By 1990 he was no longer a competitive athlete. He lost a son to a drowning accident and a marriage failed. At age forty, broke and living in a motorhome, he made an attempt to make the Olympic team again. He fell during a training run and suffered permanent brain damage. He suffered a stroke in 2010 that left him unable to even sit up without help and in 2015, at age 55, Johnson died in an assisted living facility.

I remember him as setting himself apart, brash and bold, a meteor that flashed ever so brightly and briefly across the Olympic sky.

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1970 – Secretariat.

Triple Crown winner in 1973. In any discussion over the greatest race horse of all time, Secretariat has to be included. A large, beautiful chestnut, he won 16 out of 21 races and was retired to stud after his three-year-old season. He set time speed records in the Kentucky Derby and Belmont that still stand and he probably set one in the Preakness also but the official timing device malfunctioned. He won the Belmont by a record 31 lengths, and him thundering down the stretch is one of the grandest spectacles in racing history.

In the Sport of Kings, the king was a horse that day.

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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

History.State.gov

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

* Lead-In Image (Vincent Van Gogh portrait) – Photo by Alina Grubnyak on Unsplash

* Bill Johnson (video clip) – Alexx87 / YouTube.com

* Secretariat (video clip) – ESPN & Horse Racing / YouTube.com

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

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OTHER DAYS IN HISTORY …

December 2

December 3

December 5

December 8

* December 9

December 11

December 12

* December 13

* December 15

December 16

December 18

* December 19

December 22

December 23

December 24

December 25

December 28

January 1

January 3

* January 4

January 5

January 6

January 7

January 8

January 11

January 12

January 13

January 14

January 15

January 19

January 20

January 22

January 24

January 26

January 29

January 31

February 1

February 3

* February 5

February 7

* February 9

February 10

February 13

February 14

February 15

* February 19

February 20

February 21

February 25

February 26

February 28

March 2

March 5

March 6

March 9

March 12

March 13

March 14

* March 15

March 17

March 18

March 19

March 21

March 23

March 24

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 25

September 26

September 27

September 30

October 1

October 3

October 4

October 5

October 7

October 10

October 11

* October 12

October 14

October 15

October 16

October 18

October 20

October 24

October 25

October 26

October 27

October 30

October 31

November 1

November 3

* November 4

November 5

November 6

November 8

November 9

November 10

November 11

November 13

November 14

November 15

November 16

* November 17

November 18

* November 19

November 20

November 23

November 24

November 26

November 27

November 28

November 29

November 30

* Stay tuned for more!

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