March 14, 2020
Day 74 of 366
March 14th is the seventy-fourth day of the year. It is White Day in Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia, and China. It occurs one month after Valentine’s Day, which (in these countries) typically entails women presenting gifts to men, and flips the script by expecting men to give gifts to women.
Historical items of note:
- In 1879, German-American physicist, engineer, and academic Albert Einstein was born.
- In 1885, The Mikado received its first public performance in London. It was a light opera by famous duo W. S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan.
- In 1900, the Gold Standard Act was ratified, placing United States currency on the gold standard.
- In 1920, Hank Ketcham was born. He was the author and cartoonist who created Dennis the Menace.
- In 1903, Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge was established by United States President Theodore Roosevelt.
- In 1933, actor Michael Caine was born.
- In 1948, actor and comedian Billy Crystal was born.
- In 1951, Jerry Greenfield was born. He is half of the world-famous Ben & Jerry’s ice cream duo.
- In 1956, Alexey Pajitnov was born. A Russian video game designer and computer engineer, he created Tetris.
- In 1961, actress Penny Johnson Jerald was born.
- In 1968, actor James Frain was born.
- In 1995, astronaut Norman Thagard became the first American astronaut to ride to space onboard a Russian launch vehicle.
In 1961, a United States Air Force B-52 Stratofortress bomber crashed near Yuda City, California.
What makes this unique is that it was a Broken Arrow event, meaning that the accident involved nuclear weapons, warheads, or components but did not create a risk of nuclear war. Those criteria include events like accidental or unexplained nuclear detonation, non-nuclear detonation or burning of a nuclear weapon, radioactive contamination, loss in transit of nuclear asset with or without its carrying vehicle, jettisoning of a nuclear weapon or nuclear component, and public hazards (actual or implied).
The 1961 incident involved a B-52F that was carrying two nuclear weapons from Mather Air Force Base near Sacramento. The aircraft experienced an uncontrolled decompression that required it to descend 10,000 feet. That decrease in altitude increased the aircraft’s fuel consumption and, reportedly, mid-air refueling could not be accomplished in time.
The crew ejected safely and the aircraft crashed fifteen miles west of Yuba City. The nuclear weapons were released but did not detonate due to their safety interlocks.
Lieutenant Colonel Earl McGill, a Strategic Air Command veteran and B-52 pilot, suggests that the aircrew may have been using dexedrine to overcome fatigue due to a 24-hour flight preceding the accident.
The United States Department of Defense has officially recognized at least 32 Broken Arrow events, the first of which was a Convair B-36 that crashed in British Columbia after jettisoning its nuclear payload.
The term inspired Broken Arrow, a 1996 action thriller directed by John Woo and starring John Travolta and Christian Slater. It is a peak ’90s action film involving the theft of nuclear weapons and the military response to recover them.
The Thing About Today is an effort to look at each day of 2020 with respect to its historical context.
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