This Week In American History: June 19th - June 25th

June 19

1934

President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Communications Act of 1934 and founded the Federal Communication Commission, an independent agency of the United States federal government that regulates communications by radio, television, wire, satellite, and cable across the United States. The Communications Act of 1934 brought together telecommunications and content media for the first time. The FCC's mission is to "make available so far as possible, to all the people of the United States, without discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, or sex, rapid, efficient, nationwide, and world-wide wire and radio communication services with adequate facilities at reasonable charges."

1944

In what would become know as the "Marianas Turkey Shoot," U.S. Naval carrier-based fighters decimate the Japanese Fleet with only a minimum of losses in the Battle of the Philippine Sea.he security of the Marianas Islands, in the western Pacific, were vital to Japan, which had air bases on Saipan, Tinian, and Guam. U.S. troops were already battling the Japanese on Saipan, having landed there on the 15th. In total, the Japanese lost 480 aircraft, three-quarters of its total, and 26,000 men. The Japanese government of Premier Hideki Tojo resigned in disgrace at this stunning defeat, in what many have described as the turning point of the war in the Pacific.

1968

A long-term anti-poverty demonstration known as Resurrection City reached its high eater mark. On "Solidarity Day," over 50,000 people flocked to the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. to protest, sing, hear speeches and demonstrate on behalf of national legislation to address the plight of the American poor. The protest began less than two months after the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and grew out of the Poor People’s Campaign and the campaign for an Economic Bill of Rights, both of which had been major focuses of King’s at the time of his death. Starting with inspiration, the event ended with police firing tear gas into Resurrection City and rounding up its occupants for arrest.

June 20

1863

During the Civil War, West Virginia was admitted into the Union as the 35th U.S. state, or the 24th state if the secession of the 11 Southern states were taken into account. Settlement of the western lands of Virginia came gradually in the 18th century, but the prevalence of small farms and absence of slavery began to estrange it from the east. When Virginia voted to secede after the outbreak of the Civil War, the majority of West Virginians opposed the secession. Delegates met in 1861 to nullify the Virginian ordinance of secession. Confederate forces occupied a portion of West Virginia during the war, but West Virginian statehood was nonetheless approved in a referendum and a state constitution drawn up.

1947

Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel, the man who brought organized crime to the West Coast, was shot and killed at his mistress Virginia Hill's home in Beverly Hills, California. By the late 1930's, Siegel had become one of the major players of a highly powerful crime syndicate, which gave him $500,000 to set up a Los Angeles franchise. In 1945, Siegel had a brilliant idea to open The Flamingo in the sleepy desert town of Las Vegas with funds from Lucky Luciano. The Flamingo wasn’t immediately profitable and Siegel ended up in an argument with Luciano over paying back the money used to build it. At the time of Siegel's death, Luciano’s men walked into the Flamingo and announced that they were now in charge.

1975

Jaws, directed by Steven Spielberg, opened in theaters and made countless viewers afraid to go into the water. The store of a great white shark that terrorizes a New England resort town became an instant blockbuster and the highest grossing film in movie history until it was bested by 1977's Star Wars. Jaws was nominated for an Academy Award in the Best Picture category and took home three Oscars for Best Film Editing, Best Original Score and Best Sound. The film was a breakthrough for director Spielberg, then 27 years old. The film starred Roy Scheider as principled police chief Martin Brody, Richard Dreyfuss as a marine biologist named Matt Hooper and Robert Shaw as a grizzled fisherman called Quint.

June 21

1788

New Hampshire became the ninth and last necessary state to ratify the Constitution of the United States, thereby making the document the law of the land. Beginning on December 7, five states—Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Georgia, and Connecticut—ratified it in quick succession. However, other states, especially Massachusetts opposed the document, as it failed to reserve undelegated powers to the states and lacked constitutional protection of basic political rights, such as freedom of speech, religion, and the press. A compromise was reached under which Massachusetts and other states would agree to ratify the document with the assurance that amendments would be immediately proposed.

1893

The first Ferris wheel came to Chicago during the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893. Named after designed George Washington Gale Ferris Jr., an engineer from Pittsburgh, Ferris brought the idea of the wheel to Daniel Burnham. The wheel was 264 feet tall and illuminated by 2.500 Edison incandescent lights. The wheel was meant to rival the newly completed Eiffel Tower in Paris. The Ferris Wheel was dismantled then rebuilt in Lincoln Park, Chicago in 1895, and dismantled and rebuilt a third and final time for the 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis, Missouri, where it was ultimately demolished in 1906.

1981

John W. Hinckley, Jr., who shot President Ronald Reagan and three others outside a Washington D.C., hotel, was found not guilty of attempted murder by reason of insanity. The verdict of aroused widespread public criticism, and many were shocked that a would-be presidential assassin could avoid being held accountable for his crime. However, because of his obvious threat to society, he was placed in St. Elizabeth’s Hospital, a mental institution. Beginning in August 1999, he was allowed supervised day trips off of the hospital grounds and later was allowed to visit his parents once a week unsupervised. In 2018, he was fully released.

June 22

1940

The first Dairy Queen store opens along historic Route 66 in Joliet, Illinois. The soft-serve formula was first developed in 1938 by John Fremont "J.F." "Grandpa" McCullough and his son Alex. They convinced friend and loyal customer Sherb Noble to offer the product in his ice cream store in Kankakee, Illinois. On the first day of sales, Noble sold more than 1,600 servings of the new dessert within two hours. The same year the team opened the first Dairy queen, the chain has used a franchise system to expand its operations globally. The first ten stores in 1941 grew to 100 by 1947, 1,446 in 1950, and 2,600 in 1955. The original closed in the 1950s, but the building at 501 N Chicago Street is a city-designated landmark.

1944

U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the G.I. Bill, officially the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944, an unprecedented act of legislation designed to compensate returning members of the armed services–known as G.I.s–for their efforts in WWII. FDR particularly wanted to prevent a repeat of the Bonus March of 1932, when 20,000 unemployed veterans and their families flocked in protest to Washington. The American Legion, a veteran’s organization, successfully fought for many of the provisions included in the bill, which gave returning servicemen access to unemployment compensation, low-interest home and business loans, and—most importantly—funding for education.

1945

The Battle of Okinawa, codenamed Operation Iceburg and one of the bloodiest battles of WWII, ended when the U.S. 10th Army overcame the last major pockets of Japanese resistance on Okinawa Island and, on the same day, Japanese Lieutenant General Mitsuru Ushijima, the commander of Okinawa’s defense, commits suicide with a number of Japanese officers and troops rather than surrender. With the capture of Okinawa, the Allies prepared for the invasion of Japan, a military operation predicted to be far bloodier than the 1944 Allied invasion of Western Europe. The plan called for invading the southern island of Kyushu in November 1945, and the main Japanese island of Honshu in March 1946. In July, however, the United States successfully tested an atomic bomb and after dropping two of these devastating weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August, Japan surrendered. 

June 23

1972

Title IX of the education amendments of 1972 is enacted into law. Title IX prohibits federally funded educational institutions from discriminating against students or employees based on sex. As a result of Title IX, any school that receives any federal money from the elementary to university level—in short, nearly all schools—must provide fair and equal treatment of the sexes in all areas, including athletics. Before Title IX, few opportunities existed for female athletes. The NCAA offered no athletic scholarships for women and held no championships for women’s teams. Title IX has enabled women’s participation in sports to grow exponentially. It is also credited with decreasing the dropout rate of girls from high school and increasing the number of women who pursue higher education.

1991

John Gotti, nicknamed the “Teflon Don” after escaping unscathed from several trials during the 1980s, was sentenced to life in prison after being found guilty on 14 accounts of conspiracy to commit murder and racketeering. Gotti became head of the powerful Gambino family after boss Paul Castellano was murdered outside a steakhouse in Manhattan in December 1985. The gang assassination was organized by Gotti and his colleague Sammy “the Bull” Gravano. Despite wide publicity of his criminal activities, Gotti avoided conviction through witness intimidation. In 1990, however, he was indicted for the murder of Paul Castellano, and Gravano agreed to testify against him in a federal district court in exchange for a reduced prison sentence.

2013

34-year-old aerialist Nik Wallenda became the first person to walk a high wire across the LittleColorado River Gorge near Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona. Wearing jeans and a T-shirt and holding a 43-pound balancing pole, he prayed out loud as he walked untethered across a 1,400-foot-long, 8.5-ton cable suspended 1,500 feet above the Little Colorado River. It was the highest walk of his career up to that point, and he completed it in just less than 23 minutes. In June of the previous year, Wallenda, a member of the famous Flying Wallendas family of circus performers, became the first person to walk a tightrope over Niagara Walls. In his lifetime, he has set a number of Guinness World Records, including the longest tightrope crossing on a bicycle and the highest eight-person tightrope pyramid.

June 24

1971

In an attempt to curtail President Nixon's power to continue the Vietnam War, the Senate voted 81 to 10 to repeal the Tonkin Gulf Resolution. After North Vietnamese torpedo boats attacked U.S. destroyers (in what became known as the Tonkin Gulf incident) in 1964, the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution was passed and gave President Johnson the power to take whatever actions he deemed necessary, including “the use of armed force." The Nixon administration asserted that it primarily drew on the constitutional authority of the president as commander-in-chief to protect the lives of U.S. military forces in justifying its actions and policies in prosecuting the war.

1992

LSU center Shaquille "Shaq" O'Neal was drafted the first overall pick by Orlando Magic. He quickly became one of the best centers in the league, winning Rookie of the Year in 1992-93 and leading his team to the 1995 NBA Finals. He would go onto win three NBA Championships with the Los Angeles Lakers (2000, 2001, 2002) and one with the Miami Heat (2006). O'Neal's individual accolades also include the 1999–2000 Most Valuable Player (MVP) Award, 15 All-Star Game selections, three All-Star Game MVP awards, three Finals MVP awards; two scoring titles, 14 All-NBA team selections, and three NBA All-Defensive Team selections.

1997

U.S. Air Force officials released a 231-page report dismissing long-standing claims of an alien spacecraft crash in Roswell, New Mexico, almost exactly 50 years earlier. The document stated definitively that there was no Pentagon evidence that any kind of life form was found in the Roswell area in connection with the reported UFO sightings. However, furious ufologists rushed to point out the report’s inconsistencies. With conspiracy theories still alive and well on the Internet, Roswell continues to thrive as a tourist destination for UFO enthusiasts far and wide, hosting the annual UFO Encounter Festival each July and welcoming visitors year-round to its International UFO Museum and Research Center.

June 25

1876

Native American forces led by Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull defeated the U.S. Army troops of General George Armstrong Custer in the Battle of the Little Bighorn near southern Montana’s Little Bighorn River. Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull, Lakota Sioux leaders, strongly resisted the mid-19th-century efforts of the U.S. government to confine their people to reservations. In 1875, after gold was discovered in South Dakota’s Black Hills, the U.S. Army ignored previous treaty agreements and invaded the region. The battle marked the most decisive Native American victory and the worst U.S. Army defeat in the long Plains Indian War. However, almost all of the Lakota Sioux and Cheyenne would be confined to reservations within five years.

1950

An American team composed largely of amateurs defeated its more polished English opponents at the World Cup, held in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. Dubbed the "Miracle on Green," the game is considered one of the greatest soccer upsets of all time. The English team was known as the “Kings of Football" and boasted a record of 23 victories, four losses and three draws in the years since WWII ended. The American team, by contrast, had lost their last seven international matches and was assembled just days before the match. After the upset, both teams were quickly eliminated. It would be 16 years before England won its first and only World Cup title. The United States, meanwhile, would not even appear in the tournament again until 1990.

1950

The Korean began when armed forces from communist North Korea smash into South Korea, setting off the Korean War. The United States, acting under the auspices of the United Nations, quickly sprang to the defense of South Korea and fought a bloody and frustrating war for the next three years. Over 55,000 American troops were killed in the conflict. Korea was the first “limited war,” one in which the U.S. aim was not the complete and total defeat of the enemy, but rather the “limited” goal of protecting South Korea. It proved to be a frustrating experience for the American people, who found the concept of limited war difficult to understand and the Korean War never really gained popular support.