Today in 1977, in his second day in office, Jimmy Carter granted unconditional pardon to hundreds of thousands of men who evaded the draft during the Vietnam War. In a televised debate with incumbent President Gerald Ford, Carter proposed to implement a blanket pardon, in contrast to Ford’s more selective clemency plan. Carter interpreted pardon as meaning” that what you did, whether it’s right or wrong, you’re forgiven for it. And I do advocate a pardon for draft evaders, to bring about an end to the divisiveness that has occurred in our country as a result of the Vietnam War.”
In total, some 100,000 young Americans went abroad in the late 1960s and early 70s to avoid serving in the war. Ninety percent went to Canada, where after some initial controversy they were eventually welcomed as immigrants. A relatively small number of about 1,000 deserters from the U.S. armed forces also headed to Canada. While the Canadian government technically reserved the right to prosecute deserters, in practice they left them alone, even instructing border guards not to ask too many questions. An estimated 50,000 settled permanently in Canada.
Heavily criticized by veterans’ groups and others for allowing unpatriotic lawbreakers to get off scot-free, the pardon and companion relief plan came under fire from amnesty groups for not addressing deserters, soldiers who were dishonorably discharged or civilian anti-war demonstrators who had been prosecuted for their resistance.
Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush and Vice-Presidents Dan Quayle and Dick Cheney–none of whom saw combat in Vietnam–have all been accused of being draft dodgers at one time or another.
Today in 2009, General Motors announced worldwide sales of 8.36 million cars and trucks in 2008, compared with Toyota’s 8.97 million vehicle sales that same year and officially lost the title as the world’s largest automaker. The news wasn’t all rosy for the Japanese auto giant, which later in 2009 posted its first-ever loss.
General Motors was founded in 1908 in Flint, Michigan, by horse-drawn carriage mogul William Durant.
In 1937, Toyota Motor Corporation was formed as a spinoff of Toyoda [not a typo] Loom Works. In 1947, Toyota produced its 100,000th domestically made vehicle and in the 1950s began exporting cars to America. During the oil crisis of the 1970s, Toyota’s small, fuel-efficient vehicles experienced a boost in popularity in America and by the end of the 1990s, Toyota had produced over 100 million vehicles in Japan.
Happy birthday Ethan Allen, Revolutionary War hero and a founder of the Republic of Vermont, born today in 1738 at Litchfield, Connecticut.
In 1775, Allen and the Green Mountain Boys captured Fort Ticonderoga from the British in a joint effort with Colonel Benedict Arnold. The same force took control of Crown Point, New York, the following day without facing any opposition. The two easy victories garnered much-needed cannon that were used to drive the British from Boston. Later in the year, the British captured Allen during the botched Patriot attempt to seize Quebec.
In 1777, Vermonters formally declared their independence from both Britain and colonies and created the Republic of Vermont. After the war concluded, Vermont could not join the new republic as a state, because New York, Massachusetts and Connecticut all claimed the territory as their own. In response, frustrated Vermonters, including Allen, went so far as to negotiate with the Canadian governor, Frederick Haldimand, about possibly rejoining the British Empire.
Ethan Allen died on his farm along the Winooski River in the still independent Republic of Vermont on February 12, 1789. Two years later, Vermont finally joined the new republic as its 14th state.
Happy birthday John Moses Browning, sometimes referred to as the “father of modern firearms,” born today in 1855 at Ogden, Utah.
Many of the guns manufactured by companies whose names evoke the history of the American West–Winchester, Colt, Remington, and Savage–were based on John Browning’s designs. By the late 1880s, Browning had perfected the manual repeating weapon. Fundamentally, all of Browning’s manually-operated repeating rifle and shotgun designs were aimed at improving one thing: the speed and reliability with which gun users could fire multiple rounds. When U.S. soldiers went to Europe during WWI, many of them carried Browning Automatic Rifles, as well as Browning’s machine guns.
On November 26, 1926, while working at the bench on a pistol design (which became the 9mm self-loading pistol) for Fabrique Nationale de Herstal (FN) in Liège, Belgium, he died of heart failure, at age 71. (Another source says Browning was having Thanksgiving dinner with his family when he suffered his heart attack.) FN acquired the Browning Arms Company in 1977.
Browning is buried in Ogden, Utah.
Rest in peace Carl Dean Switzer, the actor who as a child played “Alfalfa” in the ”Our Gang” comedy film series, was shot to death at Mission Hills, California, today in 1959. He was age 31.
Switzer was born at Paris, Illinois, August 7, 1927. He played Alfalfa from the mid-1930s to the early 1940s. In 1955, the Our Gang films were turned into a hugely popular TV series called “The Little Rascals.” Switzer and a friend went to the Mission Hills home of Moses “Bud” Stiltz, to collect a debt Switzer believed he was owed. A fight broke out, during which Stiltz shot and killed Switzer. A jury ruled the incident justifiable homicide.
Switzer is buried at Hollywood, California.