fireworks Aleksei Verhovski shutterstock

This Day in History – October 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.




1922 – Mussolini seizes power in Italy.

As creator and leader of Italy’s Fascist Party, Mussolini led a mass march on Rome on October 27th and 28th. They demanded the resignation of the current prime minister and formation of a new government. King Emmanuel, who held ultimate military authority, refused to engage them with force and acquiesced to their demands, appointing Mussolini prime minister.

Earlier in his career, Mussolini was a socialist and went to Austria-Hungary in the role of a journalist. He was deported for violating press freedom laws. Mussolini wrote his memoirs in his twenties and in it he bragged of his sexual prowess. He served in the Italian army in the First World War and was wounded. After the war, he abandoned socialism and adopted a more militant approach to seize power. He organized the fascist movement in 1919 and was in control just three short years later. Once in power he took a strong nationalistic stance and railed against non-whites. Citing back to the Roman Empire, he believed Italy had colonial rights in Africa. A skilled, defiant orator, the masses adored him and his political rise was swift.

Anti-press, nationalistic, sexual braggart, racist, wounded war hero, and swift political rise. Well, scratch one of those and is the story familiar?


1938 – International Brigade’s farewell parade.

1988 – Reunion of the International Brigade.

The Spanish Civil War was nearing its end. Aided by the war machines of Hitler and Mussolini, Franco’s fascist forces were sweeping toward victory. The democratically elected Loyalist government, shunned by the democracies of France, England and the United States, was no match militarily. This despite the fact that between 40,000 to 50,000 foreign volunteers had from 54 countries around the world had come to Spain to fight for the cause. The Last Great Lost Cause, as it is sometimes called. Approximately 20,000 Internationals died in the fight. The Loyalist government decided to pull the Internationals from the field of battle in the desperate gambit that Germany and Italy would reciprocate and stop aiding the Fascists. Franco’s allies had no such intention, and the end of the war was only six months away.

A parade was held in Barcelona to thank and bid the International Brigade farewell. Dolores Ibarrui, also known as La Pasionaria, was Spain’s spokeswoman for democracy. At the battle of Madrid she coined the phrase “No Pasaran!” which became the Loyalist’s battle cry during the war. La Pasionaria gave the farewell speech on that sad and stirring day.

“Comrades of the International Brigades. Political reasons, reasons of state, the welfare of that same cause for which you offered your blood with boundless generosity, are sending you back, some of you to your own countries and others to forced exile. You can go proudly. You are history. You are legend. You are the heroic example of democracy’s solidarity and universality… We shall not forget you, and when the olive tree of peace puts forth its leaves again, entwined with the laurels of the Spanish Republic’s victory – come back!”

Some of them did come back. In 1988 Barcelona welcomed back 400 surviving, elderly members of the International Brigade. Just as in 1938, they were gratefully embraced for what they did for the cause of freedom.

Fascism won that fight and then was defeated during the Second World War. Now it is raising its ugly head again. Racism, homophobia, misogamy, exclusion, in the form of insults, ridicule, bullying are no longer corralled by that ultimate evil, according to some, political correctness. Right wing fanaticism is on the rise just about everywhere. Soon it will not just be words but laws will be dedicated to restrict the freedom of those who are not stamped in the proper mold. Power is being seized, and it will be used. The spirit of the International Brigade has to arise again. A worldwide resistance is needed. The initial battles are already taking place on the Internet. It is an uphill struggle because of money and propaganda machines disguised as news sources. Just as in the Spanish Civil War the moneyed interests are on the side of suppression. Religion usually follows that line also. As will milltaries. But even though initially defeated, the spirit of the International Brigade survived, and even prevailed because some did come back, and were welcomed warmly by a non-fascist Spain. Now as much as then we should heed La Pasionaria’s words and set “examples of democracy’s solidarity and universality.”



1754 – John Laurens.

American soldier. Laurens served as an aide-de-camp to George Washington for much of the Revolutionary War. He was present at all the major battles and his courage, even recklessness, left many wondering how he survived being killed or wounded. Despite being from South Carolina, Laurens was also a strong abolitionist. Openly critical of slavery, he sold the Continental Congress on a plan to raise a brigade of slaves to fight on the American’s side. In return they would receive their freedom. Political powers in South Carolina vetoed the plan.

Laurens, alongside Alexander Hamilton, stormed a redoubt at Yorktown that helped the American gain their war-ending victory there. Although the British had surrendered, the peace treaty hadn’t been signed yet when Laurens was killed in a British ambush in South Carolina.

A South Carolinian abolitionist killed after victory had been secured, hmm, how convenient. Yeah, yeah, I’m one of those crazies who buy into conspiracy theories.


1897 – Hans Speidel.

German soldier. Speidel served with the German Army in the Great War and was a high ranking general during WWII. He was a nationalist who supported the Nazi invasions of neighboring countries. He helped Rommel build the invasion defenses in France and was also at the Eastern Front against Russia. Despite this, after the war he became supreme commander of the NATO forces. On the positive side of his ledger, he purposely neglected to pass on orders to destroy Paris and thereby helped to preserve the City of Lights, and he was also part of the July 20th assassination plot against Hitler. Because of powerful friends in the German military, he escaped execution. He spent seven months in jail before escaping and surrendering to the Allies at the end of the war.

Supreme commander of the NATO forces? Okay, so he wasn’t all bad but I’m amazed how some people can emerge from the poop pile relatively unsoiled.


1939 – Curtis Lee.

American singer. Owner of one of those one-hit wonders with “Pretty Little Angel Eyes” in 1961. His career was short-lived and he ended up in the construction business with his father.

I remember that song as being indicative of the music of that era.



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 (Fireworks) – Aleksei Verhovski /

* Angel Eyes (video) – ericcantona99 /

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



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