March 29, 2020
Day 89 of 366
March 29th is the eighty-ninth day of the year. It is National Vietnam War Veterans Day in the United States.
Historical items of note:
- In 1806, construction was authorized of the Great National Pike, better known as the Cumberland Road and the National Road, which became the first United States federal highway. Built between 1811 and 1837, the 620-mile road connected the Potomac and Ohio Rivers – Cumberland, Maryland to Vandalia, Ilinois – and was a main transport path to the West for thousands of settlers.
- In 1871, the Royal Albert Hall was opened by Queen Victoria.
- In 1886, John Pemberton brewed the first batch of Coca-Cola in a backyard in Atlanta.
- In 1943, Greek keyboard player and songwriter Vangelis was born.
- In 1945, Jimmy Stewart was promoted to full colonel, making him one of the few Americans to rise from private to colonel in four years.
- In 1955, actor Brendan Gleeson was born.
- Also in 1955, actress Marina Sirtis was born.
- In 1957, actor Christopher Lambert was born.
- In 1961, the Twenty-Third Amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified, thus allowing residents of Washington, D.C., to vote in presidential elections.
- In 1968, actress Lucy Lawless was born.
- In 1973, the last United States combat soldiers left South Vietnam.
- In 1974, NASA’s Mariner 10 became the first space probe to fly by Mercury.
- Also in 1974, the Terracotta Army was discovered in Shaanxi province, China.
- In 1999, the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed above the 10,000 mark at 10,006.78. This was the first time for the DJIA, happening during the height of the dot-com bubble.
- In 2014, the first same-sex marriages in England and Wales were performed.
In 1951, Ethel and Julius Rosenberg were convicted of conspiracy to commit espionage on behalf of the Soviet Union.
The couple were accused of providing top-secret information about radar and sonar systems, jet propulsion engines, and valuable nuclear weapon designs. At the time, the United States was the only country in the world with nuclear weapons, making the underlying technology a valuable commodity.
Other convicted co-conspirators were sentenced to prison, including Ethel’s brother, David Greenglass (who had made a plea agreement), Harry Gold, and Morton Sobell. Klaus Fuchs, a German scientist working in Los Alamos, was convicted in the United Kingdom.
The Rosenbergs’ sons, Michael and Robert Meeropol and many other defenders maintained that Julius and Ethel were innocent of their crimes, victims of rampant Cold War paranoia. This idea was shattered after the fall of the Soviet Union when information concerning them was declassified. This included a trove of decoded Soviet cables, codenamed VENONA, which detailed Julius’s role as a courier and recruiter for the Soviets and Ethel’s role as an accessory.
In 2008 the National Archives of the United States published most of the grand jury testimony related to the prosecution. It revealed that Ethel had not been directly involved in activities, contrary to the charges levied by the government.
Convicted of espionage in 1951, the couple was executed by the federal government of the United States in 1953 at the Sing Sing correctional facility in Ossining, New York.
The Thing About Today is an effort to look at each day of 2020 with respect to its historical context.
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