Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Historical Nore

On this day in 1917, at 8:35 p.m., President Woodrow Wilson called Congress into special session and asked them to declare war on Germany. Appearing before a joint session of the Senate and House, he said, "The world must be made safe for democracy."

America had been able to maintain an uneasy neutrality for about three years while the war raged on in Europe. But the "Zimmermann Note" was made public in March. This message from German foreign secretary Arthur Zimmermann proposed that the Mexican government ally itself with Germany, in exchange for Germany's help in regaining Mexico's "lost territory in New Mexico, Texas, and Arizona." The message also suggested that Mexico press Japan to ally itself with Germany. That note — and Germany's sinking of five American ships — changed public opinion about intervention in the war. When the war ended, a year and a half later (November 11, 1918), 9 1/2 million soldiers had died, in addition to 13 million civilians, who perished from massacres, starvation, and disease.


winnie3ave MSN said...

Bill. Good one. Hardly knew any of that info. Very interesting. Thanks.   Winston

biking2006 MSN said...

On this day in 1906, an earthquake struck San Francisco. It was one of the worst natural disasters in American history. At the time, San Francisco had a population of about 450,000 people and was the busiest port on the Pacific coast of the United States. Business had been booming, and new office buildings, factories, mansions, and hotels had been constructed all over the city.

The earthquake began near dawn, at 5:12 a.m. on a Wednesday morning, and lasted for a little over a minute. Scientists later determined that the San Andreas Fault had moved about 23 feet. The quake measured 8.3 on the Richter scale, and it was felt from southern Oregon to south of Los Angeles and as far east as central Nevada. The epicenter was near San Francisco.

A San Francisco journalist named James Hopper said, "The earthquake started … with a direct violence that left one breathless. … There was something personal about the attack; it seemed to have a certain vicious intent. My building quivered with a vertical and rotary motion and there was a sound as of a snarl.… My head on the pillow, I watched my stretched and stiffened body … springing up and down and from side to side like a pancake in the tossing griddle of an experienced French chef."

A policeman said, "[The streets] began to dance and rear and roll in waves like a rough sea in a squall, [then] sank in places and vomited up car tracks and the tunnels that carried the cable. These lifted themselves out of the pavement, and bent and snapped."

The world-famous tenor Enrico Caruso had performed at San Francisco's Grand Opera House the night before, and he woke up in his bed as the Palace Hotel was falling down around him. He stumbled out into the street, and because he was terrified that that shock might have ruined his voice, he began singing.

There was a loud sound of an explosion as the city gas plant blew up. Wooden structures caught fire from overturned stoves and immediately began to burn. The fire department went out to fight the fires, only to find that the city had lost all of its running water. Firemen attempted to stop the spread of fire by dynamiting whole city blocks, but despite their efforts the fire raged for three days and most of the city burned to the ground.

More than 500 city blocks and more than 28,000 buildings were in ruins. Some 250,000 people were left homeless. Nearly 3,000 people died. Americans mourned the loss of San Francisco, one of the country's greatest cities. The journalist Will Irwin wrote in The New York Sun, "The old San Francisco is dead. The gayest, lightest-hearted, most pleasure-loving city of this continent, and in many ways the most interesting and romantic, is a horde of huddled refugees living among ruins. … San Francisco is the city that was."

But people immediately began rebuilding the city. In three years, about 20,000 new buildings went up.