Category Archives: International

The Race to the Moon

May 25, 1961 in a speach to joint Houses of Congress, JFK proposes sending a man to the moon:  “I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out,
of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth. No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish… ..This decision demands a major national commitment of scientific and technical manpower, materiel and facilities, and the possibility of their diversion from other important activities where they are already thinly spread. It means a degree of dedication, organization and discipline which have not always  characterized our research and development efforts.”


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Filed under 1960s, International, Space Race, USSR

The Cultural Revolution When China Went Insane

May 16, 1966 – Chairman Mao and the Communist Party of China issue the May 16th Notice signally the beginning of the The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution.  “Those representatives of the bourgeoisie who have snuck into the Party, the government, the army, and various spheres of culture are a bunch of counter-revolutionary revisionists. Once conditions are ripe, they will seize political power and turn the dictatorship of the proletariat into a dictatorship of the bourgeoisie. Some of them we have already seen through; others we have not.”  Commonly refered to as the Cultural Revolution, millions of people were persecuted in the violent factional struggles that ensued across the country, and suffered a wide range of abuses including torture, rape, imprisonment, sustained harassment, and seizure of property. A large segment of the population was forcibly displaced and historical, cultural and religious sites were ransacked.  China became isolated from the world and images that escaped instilled fear and bewilderment in the west.

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Filed under 1960s, International, Politics

Bobby Sands – The Courage to Stay the Course

May 5, 1981 – Bobby Sands died.  He was born  March 9, 1954 and was a member of the Provisional Irish Republican Army (Provos) fighting for the unification of British Northern Ireland with the Republic of Ireland.  For hundreds of years the British had controlled Ireland and used it as the laboratory to develop what would eventually be called British Imperialist Colonialism taking control of other  nations and dispersing its resources to the British.  For generation they had advocated the Plantation of Ulster where Protestant Scottish settlers were given land that had belonged to the indigenous Irish Catholics. After hundreds of years of bitter struggle, the island was partitioned with the South, largely Catholic, independent, while the North (70% Protestant and 30% Catholic) remaining part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain.  In 1968 the Catholic minority began to demonstrate for civil rights and the IRA was reborn.  In 1972, 18-year-old Sands joined the IRA.  In 1977 he was sentenced to 14 years for possession of firearms.  While in prison, he began writing nonfiction and poetry and was involved in several protests when the British government began treating IRA prisoners are common criminals — while they considered themselves political prisoners of an occupying army.  These protests would eventually lead to hunger strikes, the last starting on March 1, 1981.  Bobby Sands was the first of ten men who literally starved themselves to death because of a deep conviction in a free and united Ireland. While on hunger strike, Sands was elected to the British Parliament by his supporters.  He died after 66 days, and his death attracted worldwide attention. Sadly, The Troubles in Northern Ireland continue, although today the violence and extremism has been tempered.

“I am standing on the threshold of another trembling world.

May God have mercy on my soul.”

~ Bobby Sands, April 1, 1981

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Filed under Civil Rights, International, Irish Nationalsim

Our Day Will Come

Tiocfaidh Ar La (pronounced Chucky Are La) is Gaelic for Our Day Will Come and has been used as the slogan for the Irish Republican movement that seeks to unite Northern Ireland with the Republic of Ireland in the south.

One Island, One People, One Nation.

Tis all we ask.

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Filed under 1960s, 1970s, Civil Rights, International, Irish Nationalsim, Politics

The Shanghai Communique

February 27, 1972 – The Shanghai Communique (formally The Joint Communiqué of the United States of America and the People’s Republic of China) is signed at the Jinjiang Hotel during President Nixon’s ground-breaking tour of China.

Nixon, despite his domestic challenges at home, was a champion on the international stage, in a large part due to his creative and complex Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger.  The document states that no nation (including the Soviet Union) should attempt to dominate Asia, that it was in the best interest of all nations for China and the United State to ‘normalize’ relations, and that there was only one state known as China (the One China Policy) though that was never clearly defined.  By signifying that the U.S. and China should have diplomatic relations, the document unbalanced the Soviet Union who now had to contend with a whole new dynamic and destabilized North Vietnam which was receiving much of its aid from the People’s Republic.

The Joint Communiqué on the Establishment of Diplomatic Relations, was still 7 years away, when the Carter administration would withdraw support for the Republic of China (Taiwan) and formalize relations with the People Republic of China.  Forty years later, the Taiwan Issue is still unresolved, the Soviet Union is dissolved, and rarely a player in Asia, and China and the United States have a very complex relationship.  But the Shanghai Communique was a giant step forward for relations between the U.S. and China after more than 20 years of separation and opened doors that just a few years earlier seemed closed forever.

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Filed under 1970s, International, Nixon, Politics

Gary Powers released from Soviet prision

February 10, 1962 – Pilot and CIA Operative Gary Powers is returned to the United States in a prisoner exchange with the Soviet Union.

Powers, piloting the secretive U2 spy plane, was shot down by Soviet missiles on May 1, 1960.  The US first reports a “weather plane” had been reported missing only to be embarrassed when they learn that not only had the pilot survived and was captured, but the aircraft had been recovered largely intact.  It is learned that the US had been conducting spying missions since 1956 and the Soviets knew about them but lacked the technology to stop them.

Furthermore, Powers had in his procession not only a survival kit, but also 7500 Soviet rubbles and “jewelry for women.”  The Cold War escalated when it was proven that the US had been spying on the Soviet Union.  Tried and convicted as a spy, Powers was sentenced to 10 years in prison.  Later Powers, along with an American student Fredric Pryor, is swapped for Soviet Spy KGB Colonel Vilyan Fisher.  He worked for Lockheed, manufacturer of the U2, as a test pilot from 1963 until 1970.  In 1970, he co-wrote a book called Operation Overflight: A Memoir of the U-2 Incident. It is rumored that this led to his termination from Lockheed due to negative publicity for the CIA from the book.  He became a helicopter pilot for Los Angeles TV stations and died in 1977 at age 47 covering fires in Santa Barbara when his helicopter ran out of fuel.  Parts of the US Spy Plane remain on display at a Moscow museum.  Throughout the 60s and 70s, the name Gary Powers was well-recognized.  His capture by the Soviets was a major embarrassment to the US as undisputable proof that we too were spying.  Eventually other battles in the Cold War overshadowed his name and today is rarely mentioned outside history class.

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Filed under 1960s, International, Politics, USSR

Welocme Back to Freedom!

January 20, 1981 – After 444 excruciatingly painful days, 52 American hostages were released from Iran within minutes of President Ronald Reagan taking office.  The hostages were seized, in part, in retaliation of the deposed Shah entering the Unites States for medical treatment.  After leaving Iran on January 16, 1979, the Shah first went to Egypt and then to Morocco, Bahamas, Mexico, and was later reluctantly admitted to the United States for treatment of gallstones by President Carter.  The Shah then went to Panama where the new Iranian government formally requested he be extradited back to the Iran to stand trial and possible execution.  Concerned, the Shah returned to Egypt where he died on July 27, 1980.

Back in Iran, the new Islamic Republic and the people of Iran were outraged that the Shah was able to avoid prosecution and particularly blamed the United States.  On November 4, 1979 a group of students stormed the American Embassy and seized the staff there.   No one expected that they would be held very long but across America outrage grew and people began to tie yellow ribbons around their trees.  The Carter administration was exceedingly frustrated and ultimately humiliated when an attempt by U.S. military to free the hostages ended in disaster.  Diplomatic negotiations drug on for more than a year and it became apparent that they would never be released as long as Carter was President.  Finally the nightmare was over.  Carter left office and as soon as Reagan took the oath of office our hostages were released.

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Filed under 1970s, Carter, International, Politics