Today in 1919 the Grand Canyon, located in northwestern Arizona, was designated a national park by congress under President Woodrow Wilson on February 26, 1919.
Geologist John Wesley Powell popularized the term “Grand Canyon” in the 1870s. He was the first person to journey the entire length of the gorge in 1869. In January 1908, Theodore Roosevelt designated more than 800,000 acres of the Grand Canyon a national monument.
Today in 1929 President Calvin Coolidge signed into law a bill passed by Congress establishing the Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming.
French-Canadian trappers gave the mountain range the bawdy name of “Grand Tetons,” meaning “big breasts” in French. The first Anglo-American to see the saw-edged Teton peaks is believed to be John Colter. After traveling with Lewis and Clark to the Pacific, Colter left the expedition during its return trip down the Missouri in 1807 to join two fur trappers headed back into the wilderness. He spent the next three years wandering through the northern Rocky Mountains, eventually finding his way into the valley at the base of the Tetons, which would later be called Jackson Hole.
In 1916, Horace M. Albright, the director of the National Park Service, was the first to seriously suggest that the region be incorporated into Yellowstone National Park. Albright persuaded the wealthy John D. Rockefeller to begin buying up land in the Jackson Hole area for possible future incorporation into the park. Total acreage of the park increased under Franklin Roosevelt in 1943. In 1949, Rockefeller donated his land holdings in Jackson Hole to the federal government that then incorporated them into the national park.
Today, Grand Teton National Park encompasses 309,993 acres. Working ranches still exist in Jackson Hole, but the local economy is increasingly dependent on services provided to tourists and the wealthy owners of vacation homes.
Today in 1993 a terrorist bomb exploded in a parking garage of the World Trade Center in New York City, leaving a crater 60 feet wide and causing the collapse of several steel-reinforced concrete floors in the vicinity of the blast. Although the terrorist bomb failed to critically damage the main structure of the skyscrapers, six people were killed and more than 1,000 were injured. The World Trade Center itself suffered more than $500 million in damage.
Investigators found a section of a van frame that had been at the center of the blast. The van’s vehicle identification number was still visible, leading detectives to the Ryder Rental Agency in Jersey City, New Jersey. Their records indicated that Mohammed Salameh had rented the van and reported it stolen on February 25.
Salameh was already in the FBI’s database as a potential terrorist, so agents knew that they had probably found their man. Salameh compounded his mistake by insisting that Ryder return his $400 deposit. When he returned to collect it, the FBI arrested him. A search of his home and records led to two other suspects.
Meanwhile, the owner of a storage facility in Jersey City came forward to say that he had seen four men loading a Ryder van on February 25. When this storage space was checked, they found enough chemicals, including very unstable nitroglycerin, to make another massive bomb. Investigators also found videotapes with instructions on bomb making that led to the arrest of a fourth suspect.
Other evidence showed that one of the terrorists had bought hydrogen tanks from AGL Welding Supply in New Jersey. In the wreckage under the World Trade Center, three tanks marked “AGL Welding” were found. In addition, the terrorists had sent a letter to the New York Times claiming responsibility for the blast. Portions of this letter were found on a computer desk taken from a suspect’s office. Finally, DNA analysis of saliva on the envelope matched that of the suspect.
The wealth of evidence resulted in easy convictions, and each of the men was sentenced to 240 years in prison.
The mastermind of the attack–Ramzi Ahmed Yousef–remained at large until February 1995, when he was arrested in Pakistan. He had previously been in the Philippines, and in a computer he left there were found terrorist plans that included a plot to kill Pope John Paul II and a plan to bomb 15 American airliners in 48 hours. On the flight back to the United States, Yousef admitted to a Secret Service agent that he had directed the Trade Center attack from the beginning and even claimed to have set the fuse that exploded the 1,200-pound bomb. His only regret, the agent quoted Yousef saying, was that the 110-story tower did not collapse into its twin as planned.
Eyad Ismoil, who drove the Ryder van into the parking garage below the World Trade Center, was captured in Jordan in 1995 and taken back to New York.
All the men implicated had ties to Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman, a radical Egyptian religious leader who operated out of Jersey City. In 1995, Rahman and 10 followers were convicted of conspiring to blow up the United Nations headquarters and other New York landmarks. Prosecutors argued that the World Trade Center attack was part of that conspiracy.
Only one other man believed to be directly involved in the attack, Iraqi Abdul Rahman Yasin, remains at large. U.S. investigators suspect Yousef had ties to Osama bin Laden. Whether bin Laden was in fact involved in the 1993 twin tower attacks has not been determined.
Today in 1949 the Lucky Lady II, a B-50 Superfortress, took off from Carswell Air Force Base in Fort Worth, Texas, on the first nonstop round-the-world flight. Under the command of Captain James Gallagher, and a crew of 14 men, the aircraft averaged 249 miles per hour on its 23,452-mile trek. The Lucky Lady II was refueled four times in the air by B-29 tanker planes and on March 2 returned to the United States after 94 hours in the air.
In December 1986, Voyager, a lightweight propeller plane constructed mainly of plastic, landed at Edwards Air Force Base having completed the first global flight without refueling.
Today in 1945 an ammunition dump on the Philippine island of Corregidor was blown up by a remnant of the Japanese garrison, causing more American casualties on the eve of U.S. victory there.
Following the American victory of Leyte was the return of Gen. Douglas MacArthur and the struggle for Luzon and the race for Manila, the Philippine capital. One week into the Allied battle for Luzon, U.S. airborne troops parachuted onto Corregidor to take out the Japanese garrison there, which was believed to be 1,000 strong, but was actually closer to 5,000. Fierce fighting resulted in the deaths of most of the Japanese soldiers, with the survivors left huddling in the Malinta Tunnel for safety. Ironically, the tunnel, 1,400 feet long and dug deep in the heart of Corregidor, had served as MacArthur’s headquarters and a U.S. supply depot before the American defeat there.
The Japanese garrison ignited a nearby ammunition dump—an act of defiance, and possibly of mass suicide. Most of the Japanese were killed in the explosion, along with 52 Americans. Those Japanese who survived the blast were forced out into the open and decimated by the Americans. Corregidor was officially in American hands by early March.
Today in 1972 a dam collapsed in West Virginia flooding a valley and killing 118 people. Another 4,000 people were left homeless.
In West Virginia’s Buffalo Creek Valley, tailings from area coal mines were used to dam Buffalo Creek. Tailings can however be unstable, especially in heavy rain. Three days of rain exacerbated two small dam breaks that had occurred several years earlier; the dam burst, unleashing a 20-foot wall of water that roared into the valley.
About 4,000 people were living in 17 towns and villages in Buffalo Creek Valley at the time. Hundreds of homes and buildings were swept away by the powerful flood. The Buffalo Mining Company, which was responsible for the tailings, was forced to pay $30 million in damages.
Happy birthday Antoine Dominique “Fats” Domino Jr., R&B and rock and roll pianist and singer-songwriter, born today in 1928 at New Orleans, Louisiana.
. By age 10, Antoine was playing professionally in New Orleans honky-tonks, where he earned the nickname “Fats” from bandleader Bill Diamond. In 1949, he caught the eye and ears of trumpeter, band leader and Imperial Records talent scout Dave Bartholomew, and a legendary partnership was born.
The first record Fats Domino put out with Bartholomew was 1949′s “The Fat Man.” Over the next half-decade, Domino’s backbeat-heavy, rolling piano played a vital role in defining the shape of rock and roll. “Ain’t That A Shame” needed a boost from Pat Boone’s white-bread cover version before finding its way to the pop charts in 1955, but that breakthrough paved the way for two more top-five pop hits in “Blueberry Hill” and “I’m Walkin’” in 1956 and 1957, respectively.
After three decades as a major international star who sold an estimated 65 million records worldwide, Domino went into semi-retirement in the 1980s, announcing that he would no longer travel outside his native New Orleans. Domino was not enticed to travel even to be honored with a Lifetime Achievement Grammy, a National Medal of the Arts from President Bill Clinton or induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Domino remained a neighborhood fixture in the Ninth Ward, making occasional forays to local clubs.
In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Domino was reported missing and feared dead. He had in fact been rescued from the rising waters around his home in Lower Ninth Ward the night after the levees broke. Not surprisingly, Fats Domino returned to New Orleans as soon as he could following Hurricane Katrina.
“Every Indian outbreak that I have ever known has resulted from broken promises and broken treaties by the government.”
“What we want to do is give women even more liberty than they have. Let them do any kind of work they see fit, and if they do it as well as men, give them the same pay.”
Happy birthday William Frederick “Buffalo Bill” Cody, soldier, bison hunter and showman born today in 1846 at Le Claire, Iowa Territory.
One of the most colorful figures of the American Old West, Buffalo Bill became famous for the shows he organized with cowboy themes, which he toured in Great Britain and Europe as well as the United States. Buffalo Bill received the Medal of Honor in 1872 for service to the US Army as a scout.
Cody died January 10, 1917, at his sister’s house, Denver, Colorado. He was age 70. Cody’s grave is at the top of Lookout Mountain at Golden, Colorado.