Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Apollo 16 successfully launched from Cape Canaveral


From Cape Canaveral, Florida, Apollo 16, the fifth of six U.S. lunar landing missions, is successfully launched on its 238,000-mile journey to the moon on April 16, 1972.

On April 20, astronauts John W. Young and Charles M. Duke descended to the lunar surface from Apollo 16, which remained in orbit around the moon with a third astronaut, Thomas K. Mattingly, in command. Young and Duke remained on the moon for nearly three days, and spent more than 20 hours exploring the surface of Earth's only satellite. The two astronauts used the Lunar Rover vehicle to collect more than 200 pounds of rock before returning to Apollo 16 on April 23. Four days later, the three astronauts returned to Earth, safely splashing down in the Pacific Ocean.

John Young
Young enjoyed the longest career of any astronaut, becoming the first person to make six space flights over the course of 42 years of active NASA service, and is the only person to have piloted four different classes of spacecraft: Gemini, the Apollo Command/Service Module, the Apollo Lunar Module, and the Space Shuttle Columbia.

Mattingly flew on the Apollo 16, STS-4 and STS-51-C missions. He had been scheduled to fly on Apollo 13, but was held back due to concerns about a potential illness (which he did not contract). He later flew as Command Module Pilot for Apollo 16, making him one of only 24 people to have flown to the Moon.






As lunar module pilot for Apollo 16 in 1972, Duke became the tenth and youngest person to walk on the Moon. A former test pilot, he has logged 4,147 hours flying time, which includes 3,632 hours in jet aircraft; and 265 hours in space, plus 21 hours and 28 minutes of extra-vehicular activity.

Texas History: Texas City fertilizer freighter explodes

The Grandcamp the day before the explosion
A giant explosion occurs during the loading of fertilizer onto the freighter Grandcamp at a pier in Texas City, Texas, on April 16, 1947. Nearly 600 people lost their lives and thousands were injured when the ship was literally blown to bits.

Ammonium nitrate was used as an explosive by the U.S. Army in World War II and, after the war ended, production of the chemical continued as its use as a fertilizer became accepted. However, the precautions used in its transport became far more lax in the post-war years.

On April 16, the Grandcamp was being loaded with ammonium nitrate as well as tobacco and government-owned ammunition. Cigarette smoking, although officially banned, was a common practice by longshoremen on the docks. Just two days prior to the explosion, a cigarette had caused a fire on the docks. On the morning of April 16, smoke was spotted deep within one of the Grandcamp's holds.

Some water and an extinguisher were used to fight the fire, but hoses were not employed for fear of ruining the cargo; there were already 2,300 tons loaded on the ship. While the ammunition was removed from the ship, the crew attempted to restrict oxygen to the hold in hopes of putting out the fire. Apparently they did not realize that because of ammonium nitrate's chemical composition, it does not require oxygen in order to burn.

By 9 a.m., flames had erupted from the hold and within minutes it exploded. The blast was heard 150 miles away and was so powerful that the ship's 1.5- ton anchor was found two miles away. The force of the explosion lifted another ship right out of the water. People working at the docks were killed instantly.

Pieces of flaming debris damaged the oil refineries in the area. A nearby Monsanto chemical storage facility also exploded, killing 234 of the 574 workers there. Nearly all of the survivors were seriously injured. A residential area of 500 homes was also leveled by the blast. Another ship, the High Flyer, which was carrying similar cargo, was pushed completely across the harbor. The crew fled when it came to rest, failing to notice that a fire had started and the next day their ship also exploded. Two people died.

In all, 581 people died and 3,500 were injured. The explosion caused $100 million in damages. A long-disputed court case over the cause of the blast was resolved when Congress granted compensation to 1,394 victims. They received a total of $17 million in 1955. The port was rebuilt to handle oil products only.

Bat Masterson has his final shoot out


On the streets of Dodge City, famous western lawman and gunfighter Bat Masterson fights the last gun battle of his life April 16, 1881.

Bartholomew "Bat" Masterson had made a living with his gun from a young age. In his early 20s, Masterson worked as a buffalo hunter, operating out of the wild Kansas cattle town of Dodge City. For several years, he also found employment as an army scout in the Plains Indian Wars. Masterson had his first shootout in 1876 in the town of Sweetwater (later Mobeetie), Texas. When an argument with a soldier over the affections of a dance hall girl named Molly Brennan heated up, Masterson and his opponent resorted to their pistols. When the shooting stopped, both Brennan and the soldier were dead, and Masterson was badly wounded.

Found to have been acting in self-defense, Masterson avoided prison. Once he had recovered from his wounds, he apparently decided to abandon his rough ways and become an officer of the law. For the next five years, Masterson alternated between work as Dodge City sheriff and running saloons and gambling houses, gaining a reputation as a tough and reliable lawman. However, Masterson's critics claimed that he spent too much as sheriff, and he lost a bid for reelection in 1879.

For several years, Masterson drifted around the West. Early in 1881, news that his younger brother, Jim, was in trouble back in Dodge City reached Masterson in Tombstone, Arizona. Jim's dispute with a business partner and an employee, A.J. Peacock and Al Updegraff respectively, had led to an exchange of gunfire. Though no one had yet been hurt, Jim feared for his life. Masterson immediately took a train to Dodge City.

When his train pulled into Dodge City on this morning in 1881, Masterson wasted no time. He quickly spotted Peacock and Updegraff and aggressively shouldered his way through the crowded street to confront them. "I have come over a thousand miles to settle this," Masterson reportedly shouted. "I know you are heeled [armed]-now fight!" All three men immediately drew their guns. Masterson took cover behind the railway bed, while Peacock and Updegraff darted around the corner of the city jail. Several other men joined in the gunplay. One bullet meant for Masterson ricocheted and wounded a bystander. Updegraff took a bullet in his right lung.

The mayor and sheriff arrived with shotguns to stop the battle when a brief lull settled over the scene. Updegraff and the wounded bystander were taken to the doctor and both eventually recovered. In fact, no one was mortally injured in the melee, and since the shootout had been fought fairly by the Dodge City standards of the day, no serious charges were imposed against Masterson. He paid an $8 fine and took the train out of Dodge City that evening.

Masterson never again fought a gun battle in his life, but the story of the Dodge City shootout and his other exploits ensured Masterson's lasting fame as an icon of the Old West. He spent the next four decades of his life working as sheriff, operating saloons, and eventually trying his hand as a newspaperman in New York City. The old gunfighter finally died of a heart attack in October 1921 at his desk in New York City.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Jackie Robinson breaks the color barrier in baseball


On April 15, 1947, Jackie Robinson becomes the first African-American in the major leagues when he plays his first game with the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Jack Roosevelt Robinson was born into a family of sharecroppers on January 31, 1919, in Cairo, Georgia. He attended UCLA, where he became the first athlete to letter in four varsity sports: baseball, basketball, football and track. He served in the U.S. Army from 1942 to 1944 and was honorably discharged after facing insubordination charges for refusing to move to the back of a segregated bus.

After leaving the military, Robinson played shortstop for the Kansas City Monarchs in the Negro League. In 1945, he was recruited by Dodgers president and general manager Branch Rickey, who was determined to end the unwritten segregation rule in the majors. In 1946, Robinson joined the Dodgers’ farm team, the Montreal Royals, and went on to lead the league in batting. On April 15, 1947, 28-year-old Jackie Robinson made his Major League Baseball debut with the Dodgers, against the Boston Braves, in front of more than 25,000 spectators at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn, New York. Robinson played first base and went zero for three at the plate.

During his first season in the majors, Robinson encountered racism from opposing teams and fans, as well as some of his own teammates. However, the abuse didn’t affect his performance on the baseball field. Robinson played in 151 games, hit .297, stole more bases than anyone else in the National League and was awarded the first-ever Rookie of the Year title. In 1949, Robinson, who had switched to playing second base, was named the National League’s Most Valuable Player. The next year he became the Dodgers’ highest paid player, earning a salary of $35,000. In 1955, Robinson helped the Dodgers defeat the New York Yankees to win the World Series. He retired from baseball after playing his last game on October 10, 1956, with a career batting average of .311, 1,518 hits and 137 home runs.

After leaving baseball, Robinson worked as a business executive and continued his involvement in civil rights causes. On October 24, 1972, he died at age 53 from heart problems and complications related to diabetes. Robinson became the first African-American inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962, his first year of eligibility. In 1997, on the 50th anniversary of his historic first game in the majors, Robinson’s uniform number--42--was retired by Major League Baseball.

Texas History: Empresarios gain contracts for land grants


On April 15, 1825, Haden Edwards, Green DeWitt, and Robert Leftwich received empresario contracts.

The government of Mexico, which had gained independence from Spain in 1821, issued the contracts to encourage the settlement of Coahuila and Texas. The hopes of all three empresarios were frustrated.

The Edwards Colony, near Nacogdoches, was plagued by conflicting land claims and other controversies which eventually caused Edwards to depart and resulted in the Fredonian Rebellion.

The DeWitt Colony, on the Guadalupe River adjoining that of Stephen F. Austin, enjoyed some initial success, though DeWitt was unable to fulfill the terms of his contract by the time it expired in 1831.

Leftwich's Grant, along the Navasota River, later became known as Robertson's colony, and was the subject of much legal disputation between Austin and Sterling C. Robertson.

Remember the 96 lost in the Hillsborough Disaster YNWA


On April 15, 1989, in Sheffield, England at Hillsborough Stadium 96 supporters of Liverpool Football Club died when they were crushed against iron fence along the standing room only area. In addition to those killed 766 more were injured in the crush. The incident has since been blamed primarily on the police for letting too many people enter the stadium, and remains the worst stadium-related disaster in British history, and one of the world's worst football disasters.

The crowd was there to attend the FA Cup semi-final match between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest football clubs. At the time, semi-finals of the FA Cup were contested at a neutral venue. For the 1989 tournament, the Football Association (FA) selected Hillsborough (home ground of Sheffield Wednesday football club) for the contest between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest. Supporters of each side were segregated in the stands.

Liverpool fans were allocated the Leppings Lane stand. Entry to the Leppings Lane stand was possible only via one of a small number of decrepit turnstiles, a restriction that led to dangerous overcrowding outside the ground before kick-off. In an attempt to ease pressure outside the ground, Chief Superintendent David Duckenfield, the senior police officer responsible for the match, ordered an exit gate to be opened. The opened exit gate led to a tunnel marked "Standing", which led directly to the two already overcrowded enclosures. In previous years, the tunnel had been closed off by police when the two central pens were full; however, on this occasion the tunnel was unmanned.

The ensuing influx of supporters caused crushing, and some fans climbed over side fences or were lifted by fellow supporters onto the stand above to escape the crush. Moments after kick-off, a crush barrier broke, and fans began to fall on top of each other. The game was stopped after six minutes. To carry away the injured, supporters tore down advertising boardings to use as stretchers, and emergency services were called to provide assistance. Of the 96 people who died, 14 were admitted to the hospital. When the FA Chairman visited the Control Box to find out what had happened, Duckenfield falsely claimed that the supporters had "rushed" the gate.

On the day, 94 people, aged from 10 to 67 years old, died as a result of their injuries, either at the stadium, in the ambulances, or shortly after arrival at hospital, with 766 fans sustaining injuries—around 300 of whom required hospital treatment. On April 19, the death toll reached 95 when 14-year-old Lee Nicol—attached to a life support machine—succumbed to his injuries. The death toll reached 96 in March 1993, when artificial feeding and hydration was withdrawn from 22-year-old Tony Bland after nearly four years, during which time he had remained in a persistent vegetative state and shown no sign of improvement.

Of those who died, 79 were aged 30 or younger. Two sisters, three pairs of brothers, and a father and son were among those who died, as were two men about to become fathers for the first time; 25-year-old Steven Brown of Wrexham and 30-year-old Peter Thompson of Widnes. Jon-Paul Gilhooley, aged ten, cousin of future Liverpool F.C. captain Steven Gerrard, was the youngest person to die. Gerrard has said the disaster inspired him to lead the team he supported as a boy and become a top professional football player. The oldest person to die at Hillsborough was 67-year-old Gerard Baron, brother of the late Liverpool player Kevin Baron.

In a response to the tragedy all stadiums in England, Wales and Scotland were required to be all seated attendance. Liverpool added flames to each side of their crest in memory of the 96 souls that were lost. There is a memorial for the Hillsborough disaster at Anfield, the home stadium of Liverpool.

Watch the video on the link below to listen to the fans sing the song "You'll  Never Walk Alone" which was followed by a moment of silence for the 96.
 http://prosoccertalk.nbcsports.com/2014/04/13/watch-anfield-crowds-incredibly-stirring-youll-never-walk-alone/?guid=PWUH0ZKwDs_sPSxua2UJU2dtvBvPFgUz

Sunday, April 13, 2014


President Abraham Lincoln is shot in the head at Ford's Theatre in Washington, D.C. on April 14, 1865. The assassin, actor John Wilkes Booth, shouted, "Sic semper tyrannis! (Ever thus to tyrants!) The South is avenged," as he jumped onto the stage and fled on horseback. Lincoln died the next morning.

Booth was a well-regarded actor who was particularly loved in the South before the Civil War. During the war, he stayed in the North and became increasingly bitter when audiences weren't as enamored of him as they were in Dixie. Along with friends Samuel Arnold, Michael O'Laughlin, and John Surratt, Booth conspired to kidnap Lincoln and deliver him to the South.

On March 17, along with George Atzerodt, David Herold, and Lewis Paine, the group met in a Washington bar to plot the abduction of the president three days later. However, when the president changed his plans, the scheme was scuttled. Shortly afterward, the South surrendered to the Union and the conspirators altered their plan. They decided to kill Lincoln, Vice President Andrew Johnson, and Secretary of State William Seward on the same evening.

When April 14 came around, Atzerodt backed out of his part to kill Johnson. Upset, Booth went to drink at a saloon near Ford's Theatre. At about 10 p.m. he walked into the theater and up to the president's box. Lincoln's guard, John Parker, was not there because he had gotten bored with the play, Our American Cousin, and left his post to get a beer. Booth easily slipped in and shot the president in the back of the head. The president's friend, Major Rathbone, attempted to grab Booth but was slashed by Booth's knife. Booth injured his leg badly when he jumped to the stage to escape, but he managed to hobble outside to his horse.

Meanwhile, Lewis Paine forced his way into William Seward's house and stabbed the secretary of state several times before fleeing. Booth rode to Virginia with David Herold and stopped at the home of Dr. Samuel Mudd, who placed splints on Booth's legs. They hid in a barn on Richard Garrett's farm as thousands of Union troops combed the area looking for them. The other conspirators were captured, except for John Surratt, who fled to Canada.


When the troops finally caught up with Booth and Herold on April 26, they gave them the option of surrendering before the barn was burned down. Herold decided to surrender, but Booth remained in the barn as it went up in flames. Booth was then shot and killed in the burning barn by Corporal Boston Corbett. On July 7, George Atzerodt, Lewis Paine, David Herold, and John Surratt's mother, Mary, were hanged in Washington. The execution of Mary Surratt is believed by some to have been a miscarriage of justice. Although there was proof of Surratt’s involvement in the original abduction conspiracy,it is clear that her deeds were minor compared to those of the others who were executed.

Her son John was eventually tracked down in Egypt and brought back to trial, but he managed, with the help of clever lawyers, to win an acquittal.