This Day in History

Posted: Wednesday, March 12, 2008

In Alaska, in the Nation and the World

In Alaska

• In 1914, construction of a government railroad in Alaska was approved by President Woodrow Wilson.

• In 1959, Congress voted Hawaii in as the 50th state in the Union.

• In 1969, an atomic scientist suggested that the government explore the idea of using nuclear blasts to create an artificial island in the Arctic Ocean as an aid to tap vast oil deposits east of Point Barrow.

• In 1979, Rick Swenson won the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race to become the first two-time winner.

In the nation

• In 1864, Ulysses S. Grant became general-in-chief of the Union armies in the Civil War.

• In 1912, Juliette Gordon Low founded the Girl Guides, which later became the Girl Scouts of America.

• In 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt delivered the first of his radio "fireside chats," telling Americans what was being done to deal with the nation's economic crisis.

• In 1947, President Truman established what became known as the Truman Doctrine to help Greece and Turkey resist Communism.

• In 1968, President Lyndon Johnson won the New Hampshire Democratic primary, but a strong second-place showing by anti-war Sen. Eugene McCarthy of Minnesota played a role in Johnson's decision not to seek re-election.

• In 1980, a Chicago jury found John Wayne Gacy Jr. guilty of the murders of 33 men and boys. (The next day, Gacy was sentenced to death; he was executed in May 1994.)

• In 1998, the government reported the rate of new cancer cases among Americans had inched down for the first time, meaning about 70,000 fewer people than expected were diagnosed between 1992 and 1995.

• In 2003, Elizabeth Smart, the 15-year-old girl who'd vanished from her bedroom nine months earlier, was found alive in a Salt Lake City suburb with two drifters.

• In 2007, President Bush promoted free trade as a salve to Latin America's woes as he spoke out against poverty during a visit to Guatemala; the president then traveled to Mexico. R.E.M. and Van Halen were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

In the world

• In 1664, England's King Charles II granted an area of land in present-day North America known as New Netherland to his brother James, the Duke of York.

• In 1857, the opera "Simon Boccanegra," by Giuseppe Verdi, premiered in Venice, Italy.

• In 1930, Indian political and spiritual leader Mohandas K. Gandhi began a 200-mile march to protest a British tax on salt.

• In 1938, German troops entered Austria in what came to be known as the Anschluss.

• In 1968, the British-ruled African island of Mauritius became an independent country within the Commonwealth of Nations.

• In 2003, Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic was assassinated.

• In 2007, masked Palestinians kidnapped BBC reporter Alan Johnston at gunpoint in Gaza City. (He was released several months later.)

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