Today in 1980 the U.S. Olympic Committee voted to ask the International Olympic Committee to cancel or move the upcoming Moscow Olympics, at the request of President Jimmy Carter. The action was in response to the Soviet military invasion of Afghanistan the previous month. President Carter made it clear that if the Soviets did not disengage from Afghanistan by February 20, a cancellation of U.S. participation in the Olympics was all but certain. A number of U.S. Olympic athletes were highly critical of both the vote and President Carter’s ultimatum, feeling that an international sports competition should not be a tool for political statements.
The Soviets ignored the vote and the ultimatum, and the U.S. Olympic Committee decided to boycott the games. It was the first time in the modern history of the Olympics that the United States refused to participate. Almost a decade passed before the Soviets pulled out of Afghanistan.
Today in 1838 the first Prohibition law in the history of the United States was passed in Tennessee, making it a misdemeanor to sell alcoholic beverages in taverns and stores. The bill stated that all persons convicted of retailing “spirituous liquors” would be fined at the “discretion of the court” and that the fines would be used in support of public schools.
The movement for the prohibition of alcohol began in the early 19th century, when Americans concerned about the adverse effects of drinking began forming temperance societies. By the late 19th century, several states and dozens of cities had enacted prohibition laws, and temperance groups had become a powerful political force.
Today in 1934 producer Samuel Goldwyn acquired the film rights to “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” (1900) by L. Frank Baum.
Baum’s widow, Maud, allowed another writer to continue the series after her husband’s death in 1919, including a long-running Broadway musical that debuted in 1903 and several silent films. The most famous adaptation would be Goldwyn’s film version, which was finally released in 1939. Goldwyn had supposedly intended for Shirley Temple to take the part of Dorothy, but the role went to 17-year-old Judy Garland instead.
Production of The Wizard of Oz was plagued with problems, from numerous script rewrites to casting and directorial changes. . Another stumbling block occurred when Buddy Ebsen, the original Tin Man, got sick from a reaction to the aluminum makeup he was forced to wear; he was replaced by Jack Haley. The Kansas scenes were filmed in black and white, but the rest of the movie was made in Technicolor, a relatively new process at the time.
The film had modest success at the box office and earned several Oscar nominations–including a Best Song Oscar for “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and a special award for Garland as Best Juvenile Performer. In 1956, an estimated 45 million people tuned in to watch the movie debut on television as part of the Ford Star Jubilee. Countless TV showings later, The Wizard of Oz is one of the most beloved and best-known films of all time.
In 1998, The Wizard of Oz ranked sixth in the American Film Institute’s poll of America’s 100 Greatest Movies. Wizard of Oz fan clubs still exist today, more than a century after the book’s first publication.
On this day in 1961, President John F. Kennedy appointed Janet Travell, 59, as his personal physician, making her the first woman in history to hold the post. By the time she became the official presidential physician, Dr. Travell, an orthopedist, had worked closely with Kennedy for five years. Kennedy suffered from persistent back pain that he claimed was the cumulative effect of injuries sustained playing football and as a PT boat captain in World War II.
During the 1960 presidential campaign Lyndon B. Johnson leaked to the press that Kennedy had Addison’s disease. Dr. Travell responded to the allegations, saying John F. Kennedy has not, nor has he ever had Addison’s disease. In 2002, an article in Atlantic magazine revealed that Dr. Travell had indeed treated Kennedy for Addison’s, a disease that affects the adrenal glands and can cause weight loss, muscle weakness, fatigue, chronic infections and low blood pressure.
Throughout Kennedy’s presidency, Travell prescribed an astounding number of medications to treat his pain including Phenobarbital, Librium, Meprobomate, Codeine, Demerol and Methadone. Kennedy also took Nembutal as a sleep aid. Travell’s treatment for Kennedy’s back pain involved the use of orthopedic shoes to correct a spinal imbalance, a back brace and a rocking chair. (After photographs of Kennedy in his Oval Office rocking chair appeared in the media, sales of rocking chairs skyrocketed across the country.) Travell also used an innovative treatment for muscle spasms: an injection of low-level procaine, a technique that is still widely used in sports medicine today. The Kennedy family credited Dr. Travell with enabling a determined Kennedy to maintain the punishing schedule that his political career demanded despite chronic pain and illness.
After Kennedy’s assassination, Travell retained her post, becoming President Lyndon B. Johnson’s personal physician.
Today in 2005, President George W. Bush appointed Condoleezza Rice secretary of state, making her the highest ranking black woman ever to serve in a presidential cabinet. She also served as the senior President Bush’s special assistant for national security affairs. President George W. Bush renewed her advisory role in the White House when he appointed her national security advisor in his first term.
Today in 1945 the most decorated man of the war, American Lt. Audie Murphy, was wounded in France. The battle that won Murphy the Medal of Honor, and which ended his active duty, occurred during the last stages of the Allied victory. Murphy acted as cover for infantrymen during a last desperate German tank attack. Climbing atop an abandoned U.S. tank destroyer, he took control of its .50-caliber machine gun and killed 50 Germans, stopping the advance but suffering a leg wound in the process.
Murphy served three years of active duty, beginning as a private, rising to the rank of staff sergeant, and finally winning a battlefield commission to 2nd lieutenant. He was wounded three times, fought in nine major campaigns across Europe, and was credited with killing 241 Germans. He won 37 medals and decorations, including the Distinguished Service Cross, the Silver Star (with oak leaf cluster), the Legion of Merit, and the Croix de Guerre (with palm).
Murphy was invited to Hollywood by Jimmy Cagney, who saw the war hero’s picture on the cover of Life magazine. By 1950, Murphy won an acting contract with Universal Pictures. In his most famous role, he played himself in the monumentally successful To Hell and Back.
Murphy died in a plane crash while on a business trip in 1971. He was 46.
Today in 1998 President Bill Clinton made an emphatic denial of charges that he had a sexual affair with Monica Lewinsky and had advised her to lie about it. “…I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky…”
Happy birthday Douglas MacArthur, five-star general, field marshal of the Philippine Army, and Medal of Honor recipient, born today in 1880 at Arsenal Barracks, Little Rock, Arkansas. He commanded Allied forces during World War II in the Pacific. In 1950, after war broke out in Korea, he became commander of the United Nations forces. Disagreements with President Harry Truman over war policy resulted in his dismissal in April 1951. MacArthur appeared before Congress and announced his retirement, declaring, “Old soldiers never die – they just fade away.”
MacArthur remains a controversial and enigmatic figure. He has been portrayed as a reactionary figure, although he was in many respects ahead of his time. When asked about MacArthur, Australian Field Marshal Sir Thomas Blamey said, “The best and the worst things you hear about him are both true.”
Douglas MacArthur died at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Washington, D.C. on 5 April 1964 at age 84. He lied in state at the Capitol. The body was finally laid to rest in the rotunda of the Douglas MacArthur Memorial at Norfolk, Virginia, which contains nine museum galleries whose contents reflect the general’s 50 years of military service.