Today in1957 Elvis Presley received his draft notice for the United States Army. Fans sent tens of thousands of letters to the army asking for him to be spared, but Elvis would have none of it. He received one deferment–during which he finished working on his movie King Creole–before being sworn in as an army private in Memphis on March 24, 1958.
After six months of basic training–including an emergency leave to see his beloved mother, Gladys, before she died in August 1958–Presley sailed to Europe. For the next 18 months, he served in a tank battalion, 3rd Armor Corps in Friedberg, Germany, where he attained the rank of sergeant.
An army buddy of Presley’s introduced him to 14-year-old Priscilla Beaulieu, whom Elvis would marry some years later. Meanwhile, Presley’s manager, Colonel Tom Parker, continued to release singles recorded before his departure, keeping the money rolling in.
Widely praised for not seeking to avoid the draft or serve domestically, Presley was seen as a model for all young Americans. After he got his polio shot from an army doctor on national TV, vaccine rates among the American population shot from 2 percent to 85 percent by the time of his discharge on March 2, 1960.
Today in1989 the U.S. invaded Panama attempting to capture Manuel Noriega on charges of narcotics trafficking. Operation Just Cause (authorized by President Bush) occurred seven months after Noriega had declared unfavorable election results in his country to be null and void.
The Organization of American States and the European Parliament both formally protested the invasion, which they condemned as a flagrant violation of international law. Noriega’s Panamanian Defense Forces were promptly crushed, forcing the dictator to seek asylum with the Vatican anuncio in Panama City, where he surrendered on January 3, 1990. He was then tried, convicted, and imprisoned in the U.S.
The invasion toppled the Noriega government and resulted in the installation of Guillermo Endara as president. In 1992, Noriega was found guilty on eight counts of drug trafficking, racketeering, and money laundering, marking the first time in history that a U.S. jury convicted a foreign leader of criminal charges. He was sentenced to 40 years in federal prison.
The U.S. invasion of Panama cost the lives of only 23 U.S. soldiers and three U.S. civilians. Some 150 PDF soldiers were killed along with an estimated 500 Panamanian civilians.
Today in 1803 the French handed over New Orleans and Lower Louisiana to the United States.
In April 1803, the United States purchased from France the 828,000 square miles that had formerly been French Louisiana. The area was divided into two territories: the northern half was Louisiana Territory, the largely unsettled (though home to many Indians) frontier section that was later explored by Lewis and Clark; and the southern Orleans Territory, which was populated by Europeans.
Orleans Territory was a small, densely populated region that was like a slice of France in the New World. With borders that roughly corresponded to the modern state of Louisiana, Orleans Territory was home to about 50,000 people, a primarily French population that had been living under the direction of a Spanish administration.
These former citizens of France knew almost nothing about American laws and institutions, and the challenging task of bringing them into the American fold fell to the newly appointed governor of the region, twenty-eight-year-old William Claiborne. One witness claimed that when the French tri-color was replaced by the Stars and Stripes in New Orleans, the citizens wept. The French did resent that their new governor was appointed rather than elected, and they resented the American government when it tried to make English the official language.
It didn’t help matters that young Claiborne knew neither French nor Spanish and in January he wrote to Thomas Jefferson that the population was “uninformed, indolent, luxurious-in a word, ill-fitted to be useful citizens for a Republic.”
In December 1804 he reported to Jefferson that “they begin to view their connexion with the United States as permanent and to experience the benefits thereof.” Eight years later, the people of Orleans Territory drafted a constitution and successfully petitioned to become the eighteenth state in the Union.
Today in 1836, President Andrew Jackson presented Congress with a treaty he negotiated with the Ioway, Sacs, Sioux, Fox, Otoe and Omaha tribes of the Missouri territory. The agreement was just one of nearly 400 treaties–nearly always unequal–that were concluded between various tribes and the U.S. government between 1788 and 1883. Jackson’s policies toward Indians reflected the general view among whites of the time that Indians were an inferior race who stood in the way of American economic progress.
A few presidents have made small attempts to bridge the gap of mistrust and maltreatment between the U.S. government and Native Americans. In 1886, Grover Cleveland protected Indian land rights when a railroad company petitioned the government to run tracks through a reservation. In 1924, Calvin Coolidge passed the Indian Citizen Act of 1924, which granted automatic U.S. citizenship to all American tribes. The Sioux tribe “adopted” Coolidge as an honorary tribal member in 1927.
Today in 1606 the Virginia Company expedition to America began as three small ships, the Susan Constant, Godspeed and Discovery, departed London under the command of Captain Christopher Newport. In May of 1607, the royally chartered company established the first permanent English settlement in America at Jamestown (Virginia).
Today in 1860 South Carolina became the first state to secede from the Union. Within two months Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana and Texas seceded. In April 1861, Virginia seceded, followed within five weeks by Arkansas, Tennessee, and North Carolina, thus forming an eleven state Confederacy with a population of 9 million, including nearly 4 million slaves. The Union had 21 states and a population of over 20 million.
Today in 1956 the Montgomery bus boycott ended after the U.S. Supreme Court ruling integrating the Montgomery bus system was implemented. The boycott by Black Americans had begun on December 5, 1955, after Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her seat on a Montgomery bus.
Happy birthday Harvey Samuel Firestone, industrialist and founder of Firestone Tire and Rubber Co., born today in 1868 at Columbiana County, Ohio.
He started his company in 1890. He published “Men and Rubber: The Story of Business (1926). Firestone, Ford, and Thomas Edison were considered the three leaders in American industry at the time, and often worked and vacationed together. All three were part of an exclusive group titled “The Millionaires’ Club.”
Firestone died February 7, 1938 at his vacation home in Miami Beach, Florida. He was age 69.