Little Bits of History

July 29

Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 29, 2017

1976: Donna Lauria, 18, is killed. She and her friend Jody Valenti, 19, were in the Pelham Bay area of the Bronx discussing their evening at a local discotheque. At around 1.10 AM, Lauria got out of the car and a man suddenly appeared. She was startled and angered by the man who drew a gun from a brown paper bag and while crouching, shot her once, killing her instantly. He fired another shot which hit Valenti and a third shot that missed both women. He then fled. Valenti survived and was able to give an adequate description of the assailant to police. A second similar shooting took place on October 23, another shooting incident took place on January 30, 1977, and again on March 8, April 17, and June 26.

During this time, police were investigating the series of shooting which left six dead and eight wounded. The shooter moved around New York City as police attempted to bring in the man responsible who used a.44 caliber Bulldog revolver. On March 10, 1977, New York City Mayor Abraham Beame held a press conference linking several of the city’s unsolved murders to the same assailant. When the killer struck again in April, he left a handwritten letter near the bodies of his two latest victims. He called himself “Son of Sam” and the name quickly replaced the press’s moniker of “the .44 Caliber Killer”. The killer promised to continue his spree and taunted police and their inability to catch him.

On May 30, Jimmy Breslin of the Daily News, received a handwritten letter from someone claiming to be the .44 caliber shooter. The letter contained more taunts to the police as well as symbols. It also mentioned the upcoming one year anniversary of the first killing. Even as the police were on the alert, on July 31, Son of Sam struck again. Witnesses at the scene were able to describe the getaway car and finally on August 9, NYPD detective James Justice called Yonkers police to schedule an interview with David Berkowitz. He was arrested on August 10.

The next day, he was questioned for about thirty minutes and quickly confessed to the shootings and inquired how to plead guilty. He claimed he was told to kill people by the neighbor’s dog. After three separate mental health examinations, it was determined Berkowitz was competent to stand trial. He appeared in court on May 8, 1978 and pled guilty to all the shootings. He was sentenced to 25 yars in prison for each killings, served consecutively. Because he pled guilty, he was eligible for parole in 25 years. His first parole hearing was scheduled in 2002 but he informed the current governor he should remain in prison. He is to have a hearing every two years and has consistently refused to ask for release. He remains in Shawangunk Correctional Facility in the state of New York.

I am deeply hurt by your calling me a women hater. I am not. But I am a monster. I am the “Son of Sam.” I am a little “brat”. – David Berkowitz, first letter

Hello from the gutters of N.Y.C. which are filled with dog manure, vomit, stale wine, urine and blood. Hello from the sewers of N.Y.C. which swallow up these delicacies when they are washed away by the sweeper trucks. Hello from the cracks in the sidewalks of N.Y.C. and from the ants that dwell in these cracks and feed in the dried blood of the dead that has settled into the cracks. – David Berkowitz, second letter

Well, you got me. How come it took you such a long time? – David Berkowitz, at arrest

I’d kill her again. I’d kill them all again. – David Berkowitz, at his sentencing


Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 29, 2015
International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna

International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna

July 29, 1957: The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is established. In 1953 US President Dwight D. Eisenhower proposed an international body to regulate and promote peaceful use of atomic power during his Atoms for Peace address to the UN General Assembly. In September 1954 the US again submitted a proposition to the UN General Assembly, this time for an agency to control fissile material which could be used both for nuclear power and for nuclear missiles. Also called for was an international conference to study all peaceful aspects of nuclear power. By November 1954, it was obvious the USSR was not amenable to international custody of fissile material, but they might acquiesce to a clearing house for nuclear transactions.

In August 1955, the UN held an International Conference in Geneva, Switzerland to discuss peaceful uses for nuclear power and to discuss the founding of the IAEA. A group of twelve countries negotiated on the prospect and the IAEA was approved on October 23, 1956 and came into being on this day. The first Director General of the group was former US Congressman W. Sterling Cole. He served for one term, from 1957 to 1961, after which the agency was headed by two Swedes for nearly forty years. First, scientist Sigvard Eklund held the job from 1961 to 1981 and then Swedish Foreign Minister Hans Blix held the job from 1981 to 1997. Mohamed ElBaradei of Egypt headed the agency until 2009 and the job then went to Yukiya Amano of Japan who remains Director today.

The three main goals of IAEA are safety and security, science and technology, and safeguards and verification. It is an autonomous group but does report to both the UN General Assembly and the Security Council. The IAEA has three main bodies – the Board of Governors, the General Conference, and the Secretariat. They are responsible for inspecting existing nuclear facilities for safety and to ensure they are functioning for peaceful purposes. They also provide information and develop standards for nuclear facilities, and they serve as a hub for scientific endeavors to expand peaceful uses for nuclear power.

The Chernobyl disaster of 1986 should have helped the IAEA better prepare the world for safety considerations. However, their response to the Fukushima disaster proved to not be up to standards held by Russian nuclear accident specialist Iouli Andreev. He accused the agency of not using information gained from the 25 years prior to Japan’s crisis and that their response was sluggish and confusing. It helped to detract from the possibilities of expanding nuclear energy progress. This is in part due to the 164 member states each having a private agenda and making consensus and implementation difficult. The IAEA is headquartered in Vienna, Austria and has two regional safeguards offices. One is located in Toronto, Canada and the other is in Tokyo, Japan. There are two liaison offices with one in New York City and the other in Geneva.

Peaceful uses: Promoting the peaceful uses of nuclear energy by its member states. – IAEA main mission

Safeguards: Implementing safeguards to verify that nuclear energy is not used for military purposes – IAEA main mission

Nuclear safety: Promoting high standards for nuclear safety. – IAEA main mission

It recommends safety standards, but member states are not required to comply; it promotes nuclear energy, but it also monitors nuclear use; it is the sole global organization overseeing the nuclear energy industry, yet it is also weighed down by checking compliance with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. – criticism from Najmedin Meshkati

Also on this day: Arc de Triomphe – In 1836, the Arc de Triomphe was inaugurated.
Irish Unrest – In 1848, the English put down a revolt by the Irish at Tipperary.
I Spy – In 1864, Isabella Boyd was captured.
USS Forrestal – In 1967, a fire broke out on the aircraft carrier.
First Hague Convention – In 1899, the first convention was signed.

First Hague Convention

Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 29, 2014
First Hague Convention

First Hague Convention

July 29, 1899: The First Hague Convention is signed. The Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907 were the first multilateral treaties put in place to address conduct during warfare and both were based on the Lieber Code – a set of instructions for the Armies of the United States put in place by President Lincoln on April 24, 1863. This early law was the first to set out in codified form, regulations for behavior during times of martial law. It protected civilians and their property and listed punishments for transgressions. Also protected were prisoners of war, hostages, and spies and regulations were set down in regard to pillaging, truces, and prisoner exchanges. The 1874 Brussels Declaration listed 56 articles based on the Lieber Code, but it was never adopted.

The peace conference was proposed on August 24, 1898 by Russian Tsar Nicholas II. He and his foreign minister, Muravyov, were instrumental in bringing the conference to fruition. It opened on May 18, 1899, the Tsar’s birthday. Borrowing heavily from the Lieber Code, regulations about disarmament, the laws of war, and war crimes were addressed. The need for a binding international court for compulsory arbitration to settle international disputes was primary. It was an unachieved goal for both Hague Conferences. What was accomplished was the creation of a voluntary form for arbitration – the Permanent Court of Arbitration. The US, Britain, Russia, France, China, and Persia all favored a binding international court, but Germany led a small group of countries which vetoed this.

The Permanent Court of Arbitration still exists and has 115 state parties involved. The international organization is based in The Hague in the Netherlands. Many nations joined at the first convention with many more participating or reiterating their participation in the second. It is not a court in the conventional understanding of the term. It is, rather, an administrative organization which provides permanent and readily available means to serve as the registry for international arbitration and other related procedures, including enquiry and conciliation. They can assist with temporary arbitral tribunals or commissions. They are housed in the Peace Palace which was built specifically for the Court in 1913 with an endowment provided by Andrew Carnegie.

Also addressed at the 1899 conference was the laws and customs of war on land, adaptations to maritime warfare from the Geneva Convention of 1864, prohibition of discharging projectiles or explosives from balloons or other new analogous methods (Britain and the US did not sign this measure), prohibition against poisonous gases (the US did not sign), and prohibition against bullets which expand inside the human body (the US did not sign). The second council held in 1907 did little to advance peace. In the second conference called by President Theodore Roosevelt (but postponed until the war between Russia and Japan ended), thirteen more treaties were signed. Many of the rules laid down by the conventions were violated in World War I. By the end of World War II, at the Nuremberg Trials, most of the civilized world had recognized the laws and customs of war.

Peace is a journey of a thousand miles and it must be taken one step at a time. – Lyndon B. Johnson

If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner. – Nelson Mandela

The most valuable possession you can own is an open heart. The most powerful weapon you can be is an instrument of peace. – Carlos Santana

If you want peace, you don’t talk to your friends. You talk to your enemies. – Desmond Tutu

Also on this day: Arc de Triomphe – In 1836, the Arc de Triomphe is inaugurated.
Irish Unrest – In 1848, the English put down a revolt by the Irish at Tipperary.
I Spy – In 1864, Isabella Boyd was captured.
USS Forrestal – In 1967, a fire broke out on the aircraft carrier.

Irish Unrest

Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 29, 2013
The Rising of 1848 in Tipparary, Ireland

The Rising of 1848 in Tipperary, Ireland

July 29, 1848: The police quash a revolt in Tipperary, Ireland. Ireland is an island immediately to the west of England first settled ≈ 8000 BC. The Normans invaded both islands, beginning with England in 1066. By 1536 Henry VIII decided to bring the Emerald Isle under British control. The British crown sponsored colonization and the establishment of Plantations. Religious persecution followed with Anglicans the favored religion. Catholics were the major victims of the newly established Penal Laws.

There were rebellions led by Irish Patriots hoping to return to home rule and religious freedom. The success or failure of the revolts were tied to the poor Catholic farmers. The “Great Famine” between 1845-1849 was caused by a potato blight. A water mold called phytophthora infestans spread throughout Ireland destroying the potato crop. The population of the island was decimated. About 1,000,000 died of starvation and another 1,000,000 emigrated. Potato crops failed across Europe but in Ireland, nearly one-third of the population depended entirely on the crop for their sustenance.

The Young Ireland political movement began influencing all aspects of Irish society in the late 1830s. The leading men of the Irish home rule contingency formed a group to unify their cause. They solidified their goals and objectives and began to publish The Nation, a newspaper advocating for a free Ireland. The paper lasted six months before government suppression closed the venture in 1843.

As Ireland continued to suffer devastation from the potato blight, and the government did nothing to alleviate the suffering, a group of patriot/rebels led by William Smith O’Brien began to agitate for physical action. The men led a revolt across several counties. In Tipperary, they erected a barricade to prevent the arrest of O’Brien and other leaders. The police were ensconced inside Mrs. McCormack’s house with her children held as hostage. O’Brien came to a window to negotiate with police. A gunfight broke out with several men killed. In the aftermath it became clear the British were sending in reinforcements. The rebel-patriots dispersed and faded away, ending the Rebellion. For a time.

“Irishness is not primarily a question of birth or blood or language; it is the condition of being involved in the Irish situation, and usually of being mauled by it.” – Conor Cruise O’Brien

“I showed my appreciation of my native land in the usual Irish way by getting out of it as soon as I possibly could.” – George Bernard Shaw

“The Irish do not want anyone to wish them well; they want everyone to wish their enemies ill.” – Harold Nicolson

“The problem with Ireland is that it’s a country full of genius, but with absolutely no talent.” – Hugh Leonard

This article first appeared at in 2009. Editor’s update: Ireland is the third largest island in Europe and twentieth in size throughout the world. The island is divided with the Republic of Ireland, about 5/6 of the land mass, a sovereign state in Europe. The capital is Dublin. The other 1/6 of the island located in the northeast corner is Northern Ireland, which remains a part of Great Britain. There are about 6.4 million people living on the island with about 4.6 million of them in the Republic of Ireland and the other 1.8 million living in Northern Ireland. The Republic of Ireland declared independence from Great Britain on April 24, 1916 and it was ratified on January 21, 1919. She was recognized on December 6, 1922 and left the Commonwealth on April 18, 1949. There was unrest in Northern Ireland which escalated from the 1960s to the 1990s. Since an agreement signed in 1998, this unrest has substantially subsided.

Also on this day: Arc de Triomphe – In 1836, the Arc de Triomphe is inaugurated.
I Spy – In 1864, Isabella Boyd was captured.
USS Forrestal – In 1967, a fire broke out on the aircraft carrier.

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USS Forrestal

Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 29, 2012

USS Forrestal on fire

July 29, 1967: The USS Forrestal catches fire. The ship was named for James Forrestal, the first US Secretary of Defense. USS Forrestal is an aircraft carrier and was launched on December 11, 1954. The new class of aircraft carrier, also called Forrestal, replaced the Shinaro (a Japanese carrier during World War II) as the largest aircraft carrier built to date. She was the first to support jet aircraft. Her nickname was The FID, for First in Defense, referring to her namesake. She was also the landing site for a C-130 in 1963 making her the largest ship having the largest plane with a full stop landing.

The ship had sailed from Norfolk, Virginia in early June. She first stopped near Brazil and then sailed around the horn of Africa. Forrestal stopped in the Philippines before sailing to “Yankee Station” in the Gulf of Tonkin, along the coast of Vietnam. For four days, Air Wing 17 carried out about 150 missions from the Gulf to targets in North Vietnam. There was a shortage of 1,000 pound bombs and so Composition B bombs (an older type of bomb) were used. Rather than using the Composition H6 bombs which could stand higher heats, the older ammo was being onloaded from the USS Diamond Head.

Preparations for the second strike of the day were underway at 10:50 local time. There was an electrical power surge as power was switched from external to internal on an F-4 Phantom II. That surge caused an unguided 5-inch Mk-32 “Zuni” rocket to fire. The rocket flew across the flight deck and struck an external fuel tank on an A-4 Skyhawk waiting to launch. The tank did not explode but tore the wing off the plane. Sparks caused an immediate flash fire to start due to escaping jet fuel igniting. Nearby external fuel tanks overheated and ruptured. Two 1,000 pound bombs were dislodged and sat amidst the flames.

Nine bomb explosions occurred on the flight deck, eight of them by Composition B type bombs. Large holes were torn in the flight deck. Not only was the ship damaged, but planes and armament were jettisoned to halt more explosions. Twenty-one aircraft sustained enough damage to be stricken from the naval inventory. They lost seven F-4 Phantom IIs and eleven A-4E Skyhawks as well as three RA-5 Vigilantes. The ship was repaired at the cost of $72 million (not including the cost of the aircraft) which is about $467 million today. The even greater cost was to the personnel. There were 134 sailors killed along with another 161 injured.

In principal, having carrier capability is desirable and ditto for nuclear propulsion. An aircraft carrier is all about presence and adds to the navy’s capability. – Uday Bhaskar

Maverick: [to Cougar and Merlin while up in the air] Any of you boys seen an aircraft-carrier around here? – from the movie, Top Gun

It was the Law of the Sea, they said. Civilization ends at the waterline. Beyond that, we all enter the food chain, and not always right at the top. – Hunter S. Thompson

There is nothing quite so good as burial at sea. It is simple, tidy, and not very incriminating. – Alfred Hitchcock

Also on this day:

Arc de Triomphe – In 1836, the Arc de Triomphe is inaugurated.
Irish Unrest – In 1848, the English put down a revolt by the Irish at Tipperary.
I Spy – In 1864, Isabella Boyd was captured.

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I Spy

Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 29, 2011

Belle Boyd

July 29, 1864: During the US Civil War, a spy was captured in Washington, D.C. Isabella Marie Boyd was born in 1844 in western Virginia. She was the eldest child in her family and called her early life idyllic. Although not rich, her family provided her with a good education. She attended Mount Washington Female College in Baltimore at age 12 and completed her training by age 16. At that time, her family arranged a debut in Washington where she lived the carefree life of a debutante.

Belle came to spying by accident. On July 4, 1861, Union soldiers removed a Confederate flag from outside her home and replaced it with a Union one. Next, one of the Union soldiers cursed at her mother and this enraged the teen. She pulled a pistol and shot the guy. She was exonerated, but her house was placed under guard. She charmed the men guarding her and learned military secrets. Belle sent those secrets on to Confederate officers via her slave. This plan unraveled when Eliza Hopewell, the slave was caught. The women were threatened with death if they tried this stunt again.

In May of 1862, Union officers met at the local hotel to discuss strategy. Belle hid in a closet to eavesdrop. Belle learned some state secrets and took off into the night, riding herself through Union lines. She used fake papers and lots of bravado to bluff her way through. She got to speak with an aide to General Stonewall Jackson and gave him information. She was given the Southern Cross of Honor. However, Belle’s lover turned her into the Union officials who arrested her on this day.

After her arrest, she was taken to the Old Capitol Prison. An inquiry was held on August 7 mostly concerning violations of orders that Boyd be kept in close custody. She was held for a month before her release was affected on August 29 during an exchange of prisoners at Fort Monroe. Later, she was arrested again for spying and once again was set free. In 1864 she went to England and there she met and married a Union naval officer.

After the war, Belle stayed on in England where she became an actress. Her husband died in 1866 and she returned to the US in 1869. Once there, she married again, this time a Southerner. She divorced him in 1884 and a year later married yet again. In 1886 she began to tour the country and gave dramatic lectures about her days as a Confederate spy. She died of heart attack in 1900 in Wisconsin and was buried there with GAR (Grand Army of the Republic, an organization composed of Union Army veterans) members acting as pallbearers.

ERECTED BY A COMRADE” – Bell Boyd’s tombstone

“To him, I am indebted for some very remarkable effusions, some withered flowers, and a great deal of important information.” – Belle’s diary concerning Captain Daniel Keily (first attempt at spying)

“The Yankee force is very small. Tell him to charge right down and he will catch them all.” – Belle’s message for Stonewall Jackson

“I thank you, for myself and for the army, for the immense service that you have rendered your country today.” – Stonewall Jackson’s note to Belle

“Since knowledge is but sorrow’s spy, It is not safe to know.” – William Davenant

Also on this day:
Arc de Triomphe – In 1836 the Arc de Triomphe is inaugurated.
Irish Unrest – In 1848, the English put down a revolt by the Irish at Tipperary.

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Arc de Triomphe

Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 29, 2010

Arc de Triomphe

July 29, 1836: The Arc de Triomphe is inaugurated in Paris, France. Parisians refer to the arch as L’Etoile. It is located in the center of the world’s largest roundabout. The arch rises 164 ft above the ground and nearly as wide. The exterior was intricately carved. There are 284 steps to the top where a breathtaking view of Paris awaits. There is a museum inside that gives the history of the arch and the twelve streets that radiate from it.

In 1806, Napoleon I patterned his triumphal arch after the ancient Roman arches dedicated to the glorious armies. Napoleon’s arch was designed by Jean François Thérèse Chalgrin and was completed during the reign of Louis Philippe.

The Arc’s pillars are four relief sculptures 1) The Triumph of 1810, carved by Cortot; 2) Resistance; 3) Peace, both carved by Etex; and The Departure of the Volunteers, commonly called La Marseillaise carved by François Rude. Engraved around the top of the arch are the victories of the Revolutionary and Napoleonic periods and 558 generals names are carved on the inside walls.

In 1920, the French Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was placed beneath the Arc de Triomphe with the first eternal flame in Western Europe since the Vestal Virgins’ flame was extinguished in 391. The Tour de France bicycling event rides up the cobbled Champs-Élysées and ends at the Arc de Triomphe. Because of the twelve streets converging on the roundabout, the safest way to get here is via the underground passage.

“Patriotism … applies to true love of one’s country and a code of conduct that echoes such love.” – Howard Fast

“The noble kind of patriotism … aims at ends that are worthy of the whole of mankind.” – Albert Schweitzer

“France cannot be France without greatness.” – Charles de Gaulle

“The French people can be killed but [not] intimidated!” – Napoleon

Also on this day, in 1848 the Irish rebelled against British rule.

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