April 29, 2020
Day 120 of 366
April 29th is the 120th day of the year. It is International Dance Day, which is a global celebration of dance, created by the Dance Committee of the International Theatre Institute (ITI), the main partner for the performing arts of UNESCO. The event commemorates the birth of Jean-Georges Noverre, the creator of modern ballet, and strives to encourage participation and education in dance through events and festivals held on the date all over the world.
In the United States, today is “celebrated” as National Peace Rose Day, National Shrimp Scampi Day, National Zipper Day, and Denim Day. The last one changes annually.
Historical items of note:
- In 1429, Joan of Arc arrived to relieve the Siege of Orléans during the Hundred Years’ War.
- In 1770, James Cook arrived in Australia. He named his landing site Botany Bay.
- In 1899, pianist, composer, and bandleader Duke Ellington was born.
- In 1916, The Easter Rising came to an end after six days of fighting when Irish rebel leaders surrender to British forces in Dublin.
- In 1923, actor, director, and producer Irvin Kershner was born.
- In 1933, singer-songwriter, guitarist, producer, and actor Willie Nelson was born.
- In 1936, actor Lane Smith was born.
- In 1953, the first experimental 3D television broadcast in the United States showed an episode of Space Patrol on Los Angeles ABC affiliate KECA-TV.
- In 1955, actress Kate Mulgrew was born.
- In 1957, actor Daniel Day-Lewis was born.
- In 1958, actress Michelle Pfeiffer was born.
- In 1960, author and academic Robert J. Sawyer was born.
- In 1968, the controversial musical Hair opened at the Biltmore Theatre on Broadway. The musical was a product of the hippie counter-culture and sexual revolution of the 1960s, with some of its songs becoming anthems of the anti-Vietnam War movement.
- In 1992, the Los Angeles Riots began following the acquittal of police officers charged with excessive force in the beating of Rodney King. Over the next three days, 63 people were killed and hundreds of buildings were destroyed.
- In 2019, Sports Illustrated featured Halima Aden, a Muslim model Halima Aden in a burkini, for the first time in their swimsuit edition. I can only ask, “what took you so long?”
In 1944, British agent Nancy Wake parachuted back into France to be a liaison between London and the local Maquis group. She was a leading figure in the French Resistance and the Gestapo’s most wanted person during World War II.
Nancy Wake, AC, GM was a New Zealand-born nurse and journalist who joined the French Resistance and later the Special Operations Executive (SOE) during World War II. She also briefly pursued a post-war career as an intelligence officer in the Air Ministry.
She was living in Marseille with her French industrialist husband, Henri Fiocca, when the war began. After France fell to the Nazis in 1940, she became a courier for the Pat O’Leary escape network under Ian Garrow and Albert Guérisse. She helped Allied airmen evade capture by the Germans and escape to sanctuary in Spain. In 1943, when the Germans became aware of her, she escaped to Spain and continued on to the United Kingdom. Unfortunately, her husband was captured and executed. She was unaware of her husband’s death until the war was over, and she subsequently blamed herself for the tragedy.
In Britain, she joined the SOE under the code name “Hélène”. As part of the three-person SOE team code-named “Freelance”, she parachuted into the Allier department of occupied France to liaise between the SOE and several Maquis groups in the Auvergne region. She was in a battle between the Maquis and a large German force in June 1944, after which she claimed to have bicycled 500 kilometers to send a situation report to SOE in London.
For her bravery and valor, she received the George Medal from the United Kingdom, the Medal of Freedom from the United States, the Legion of Honor from France, and medals from Australia and New Zealand. She published her autobiography in 1985, which was titled The White Mouse after the nickname the Germans gave her during the war.
Nancy Wake died at the age of 98 on August 7, 2011.
The Thing About Today is an effort to look at each day of 2020 with respect to its historical context.
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