The USS Indianapolis was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine and sunk within minutes in shark infested waters. Only 316 of the 1,196 men on board survived. However, the Indianapolis had already completed its major mission: the delivery of key components of the atomic bomb that would be dropped a week later at Hiroshima to Tinian Island in the South Pacific. In the aftermath of the events, the ship’s commander, Captain Charles McVay, was court-martialed in November 1945 for failing to sail a zigzag course that would have helped the ship to evade enemy submarines in the area. McVay, the only Navy captain court-martialed for losing a ship during the war, died by suicide in 1968. Many of his surviving crewmen believed the military had made him a scapegoat. In 2000, 55 years after the Indianapolis went down, Congress cleared McVay’s name.
President Lyndon B. Johnson signed Medicare, a health insurance program for elderly Americans, into law. At the bill-signing ceremony, which took place at the Truman Library in Independence, Missouri, former President Harry Truman was enrolled as Medicare’s first beneficiary and received the first Medicare card. Johnson wanted to recognize Truman, who, in 1945, had become the first president to propose national health insurance, an initiative that was opposed at the time by Congress. The Medicare program, providing hospital and medical insurance for Americans age 65 or older, was signed into law as an amendment to the Social Security Act of 1935. Some 19 million people enrolled in Medicare when it went into effect in 1966.
American Caitlyn Jenner—who was competing as Bruce Jenner—won gold in the men's decathlon at the Montreal Olympics. Jenner's 8,617 points set a world record in the event. The secret to Jenner’s success was preparation. In the 1970s, most decathletes trained with other decathletes. Jenner, however, trained with some of the world’s best athletes in each of the 10 decathlon events. Jenner’s intense training paid off, finishing nearly 300 points ahead or defending champion and world-record holder Nikolai Avilov. After the win, Jenner enjoyed the unofficial title of “world’s greatest athlete” and appeared in movies, on television and, of course, adorned a Wheaties® box. Assigned male at birth, Jenner publicly came out as a trans woman in 2015.
The first Coast Guard Academy, then called the Revenue Cutter School of Instruction, was established and held aboard the two-masted topsail schooner Dobbin. The first class of nine cadets boarded in New Bedford, Massachusetts for a two-year training mission. The roots of today's Coast Guard were established in 1790 by Alexander Hamilton, one of America’s founding fathers and the first U.S. Secretary of the Treasury. Hamilton proposed the formation of the Revenue Marine, a seagoing military service that would enforce customs and navigation laws, collect tariffs, hail in-bound ships, make inspections and certify manifests. The modern U.S. Coast Guard was created by Congress in 1915 when a number of maritime agencies were consolidated.
Ranger 7, an unmanned U.S. lunar probe, took the first close-up images of the moon—4,308 in total—before it impacted with the lunar surface northwest of the Sea of Clouds. The images were 1,000 times as clear as anything ever seen through earth-bound telescopes. Ranger 7, launched from Earth on July 28, successfully activated its cameras 17 minutes, or 1,300 miles, before impact and began beaming the images back to NASA’s receiving station in California. The pictures showed that the lunar surface was not excessively dusty or otherwise treacherous to a potential spacecraft landing, thus lending encouragement to the NASA plan to send astronauts to the moon.
James Riddle Hoffa, one of the most influential American labor leaders of the 20th century, was officially reported missing after he failed to return home the previous night. Though he is believed to have been the victim of a Mafia hit, conclusive evidence was never found and his fate remains a mystery. Hoffa’s dedication to the worker and his powerful speeches made him wildly popular, both among his fellow workers and the politicians and businessmen with whom he negotiated. Yet, for all the battles he fought and won on behalf of American drivers, he also had a dark side. In Hoffa’s time, many Teamster leaders partnered with the Mafia in racketeering, extortion and embezzlement. Hoffa himself had relationships with high-ranking mobsters, and was the target of several government investigations throughout the 1960s.
177 B-24 bombers took off from an Allied base in Libya in a risky air raid known as Operation Tidal Wave. Bound for the oil-producing city Ploiești, Romania, the raid reduced Ploiești’s capacity by 40 percent. However, the damage was quickly repaired and within months the refineries had outstripped their previous capacity. The region continued to serve as “Hitler’s gas station” until the Soviet Union captured it in August of 1944. 88 of the original 177 B-24s returned, most of them seriously damaged. Despite setting the record for most Medals of Honor awarded to airmen in a single mission, Operation Tidal wave was never repeated—the Allies never again attempted a low-altitude assault against German air defenses.
MTV: Music Television goes on the air for the first time ever, with the words (spoken by one of MTV’s creators, John Lack): “Ladies and gentlemen, rock and roll.” The Buggles’ “Video Killed the Radio Star” was the first music video to air on the new cable television channel, which initially was available only to households in parts of New Jersey. MTV went on to revolutionize the music industry and become an influential source of pop culture and entertainment in the United States and other parts of the world, including Europe, Asia and Latin America. In the 1980s, MTV was instrumental in promoting the careers of performers such as Madonna, Michael Jackson, Prince and Duran Duran, whose videos played in heavy rotation.
Wearing his famous gold track shoes, sprinter Michael Johnson broke the world record in the 200 meters to win gold at the Summer Olympics in Atlanta. Three days earlier, Johnson had also won the 400 meters, making him the first man in history to win both events at the Olympics. After seeing his time, Johnson dropped to his hands and knees in disbelief, while Ato Boldon, who came in third, walked over to Johnson and bowed in awe. His official time of 19.32 seconds shaved three tenths of a second off his own world record of 19.66–set six weeks prior at the Olympic trials–which had broken a 17-year-old mark.
In a hotel in San Francisco, President Warren G. Harding died of a stroke at the age of 58. Harding was returning from a presidential tour of Alaska and the West Coast, a journey some believed he had embarked on to escape the rumors circulating in Washington of corruption in his administration. Early the next morning, Vice President Calvin Coolidge was sworn in as president. For the rest of his first term, one of President Coolidge’s principal duties was responding to public outrage over the Teapot Dome oil-leasing scandals, the revelations of fraudulent transactions in the Veterans Bureau and Justice Department, and the reports of his predecessor’s multiple extramarital affairs.
The last wartime conference of the “Big Three”—the Soviet Union, the United States and Great Britain—concluded after two weeks of intense and sometimes acrimonious debate. The conference failed to settle most of the important issues at hand and thus helped set the stage for the Cold War that would begin shortly after World War II came to an end. The Soviets wanted a unified Germany, but they also insisted that Germany be completely disarmed. Truman, along with a growing number of U.S. officials, had deep suspicions about Soviet intentions in Europe. In the end, Germany was divided into three zones of occupation (one for each nation), and to defer discussions of German reunification until a later date.
Jackie Joyner-Kersee became the first woman ever to win two consecutive Olympic gold medals in the heptathlon. Born and raised in East St. Louis, Jackie Joyner overcame poverty and chronic asthma to win a scholarship to UCLA, where she starred on the basketball and track teams. At the Barcelona Olympics, she finished with a total of 7,044 points and the gold medal. It was only the seventh time that a woman had scored 7,000 points in the heptathlon, and the sixth time Joyner-Kersee had broken the barrier. At the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, a hamstring injury forced her to withdraw from the heptathlon. She was able to struggle through the long jump, however, and won the bronze. She announced her retirement in 1998.
After a damaging three-year battle to win both players and fans, the rival Basketball Association of America (BAA) and National Basketball League (NBL) merge to form the National Basketball Association (NBA). The new NBA was made up of 17 teams that represented both small towns and large cities across the country. Through the 1950s, though, the number of teams dwindled, along with fan support, and by the 1954-55 season, only eight teams remained. That year, the league transformed the game with the creation of the 24-second clock, making play faster-paced and more fun to watch. Fans returned, and the league, now financially solvent, expanded throughout the 1960s and '70s. Today, the NBA attracts players—and millions of fans—from countries around the world.
The U.S. nuclear submarine Nautilus accomplished the first undersea voyage to the geographic North Pole. The world's first nuclear submarine, the Nautilus dived at Point Barrow, Alaska, and traveled nearly 1,000 miles under the Arctic ice cap to reach the top of the world. It then steamed on to Iceland, pioneering a new and shorter route from the Pacific to the Atlantic and Europe. After a career spanning 25 years and almost 500,000 miles steamed, the Nautilus was decommissioned on March 3, 1980. Designated a National Historic Landmark in 1982, the world’s first nuclear submarine went on exhibit in 1986 as the Historic Ship Nautilus at the Submarine Force Museum in Groton, Connecticut.
“The Macarena” bean its reign atop the U.S. pop charts. It first made landfall in Florida as a seemingly harmless Spanish-language rumba, but in the hands of a pair of Miami record producers, it soon morphed and strengthened into something called “Macarena (Bayside Boys Mix),” a song that laid waste to all competition during a record-setting run. The song would go on to spend more time on the Billboard Hot 100 (60 weeks) than any other in history.
George Washington, a young Virginia planter, became a Master Mason, the highest basic rank in the secret fraternity of Freemasonry. The ceremony was held at the Masonic Lodge No. 4 in Fredericksburg, Virginia. Washington was 21 years old and would soon command his first military operation as a major in the Virginia colonial militia. Presidents known to be Masons include Washington, James Monroe, Andrew Jackson, James Polk, James Buchanan, Andrew Johnson, James Garfield, William McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, Warren Harding, Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Lyndon Johnson, and Gerald Ford. Today there are an estimated two million Masons in the United States.
Andrew and Abby Borden are found hacked to death in the Fall River, MA, home. Their daughter, Lizzie Borden was arrested and charged with the double homicide. As a result of the crime’s sensational nature, her trial attracted national attention. The evidence that the prosecution presented against Borden was circumstantial. The fact that no blood was found on Lizzie coupled with her well-bred Christian persona convinced the all-male jury that she was incapable of the gruesome crime and they quickly acquitted her. Today, the house where the Borden murders occurred is a bed and breakfast. Despite Lizzie Borden’s acquittal, the cloud of suspicion that hung over her never disappeared.
"Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby," an irreverent comedy based in the outlandish (fictionalized) world of American stock car racing, premiered in move theaters around the US. It starred Will Ferrell, John C. Reilly, and Sacha Baron Cohen and offered an unapologetically exaggerated version of the NASCAR world, repeatedly poking fun at the stereotypical image of car-loving “good old boys” from the American South, in the style of shows like “The Dukes of Hazzard.” It also satirized NASCAR’s affection for product placement: The cars in the movie are covered with advertisements for brands such as Wonder Bread and Old Spice and the characters are constantly singing the praises of Domino’s Pizza, PowerAde and other products.
Amusement park lovers “head for the thrills” as Six Flags Over Texas, the first park in the Six Flags chain, had its grand opening. Located on 212 acres in Arlington, Texas, the park was the first to feature log flume and mine train rides and later, the first 360-degree looping roller coaster, modern parachute drop and man-made river rapids ride. The park also pioneered the concept of all-inclusive admission price; until then, separate entrance fees and individual ride tickets were the standard. During its opening year, a day at Six Flags cost $2.75 for an adult and $2.25 for a child. A hamburger sold for 50 cents and a soda set the buyer back a dime.
Movie actress Marilyn Monroe was found deceased in her home in Los Angeles. After a brief investigation, Los Angeles police concluded that her death was “caused by a self-administered overdose of sedative drugs and that the mode of death is probable suicide.” In recent decades, there have been a number of conspiracy theories about her death, most of which contend that she was murdered by John and/or Robert Kennedy, with whom she allegedly had love affairs and was gathering government secrets. Monroe's housekeeper even claimed Robert was there that night and quarreled, but the reliability of these and other statements made by Murray are questionable.
President Ronald Reagan began firing 11,359 air-traffic controllers striking in violation of his order for them to return to work. The executive action, regarded as extreme by many, significantly slowed air travel for two months. Two days earlier, on August 3, almost 13,000 air-traffic controllers who were members of the Professional Air-Traffic Controllers Association (PATCO) went on strike after negotiations with the federal government to raise their pay and shorten their workweek proved fruitless. President Reagan called the strike illegal and threatened to fire any controller who had not returned to work within 48 hours. In addition, he declared a lifetime ban on the rehiring of the strikers by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).