United States

This Day in History: In London, Fierce Five Win Gold; Phelps Breaks Medal Record

Marquis de Lafayette named a General in the Revolutionary War (1777)
On July 31, 1777, Marquis de Lafayette was commissioned a Major General by Congress, in the American Revolutionary War.

Major General Lafayette, a Frenchmen, was 19 years old at the time of his appointment.

Lafayette led troops at the Battle of Brandywine and Rhode Island. He later returned to France to lobby for support for American forces. He also commanded forces at the ‘Siege of Yorktown’, often considered a turning point in the war.

Lafayette, supported by Benjamin Franklin, was also a key figure in the French revolutions of 1789 and 1830. Historians sometimes refer to him as “the hero of two worlds.” He died in 1834 at the age of 76.

President Andrew Johnson dies (1875)
Almost a century later, Andrew Johnson, 17th President of the United States and Vice President under Abraham Lincoln, died of a stroke.

Johnson, a Democrat, was the first American president to be impeached; he was acquitted by a single Senate vote. He did not receive the Democratic presidential nomination in 1968, however, leading to him leaving office after only one term.

He is seen by historians as a president who impeded Reconstruction, failing to end the disenfranchisement of African-Americans.

Ranger 7 transmits pictures (1964)
On July 28, 1964, Ranger 7 became the first American space probe to successfully transmit close images of the moon’s surface; also the first successful Ranger program flight.

The space probe carried six television cameras that transmitted over 4000 pictures during its final 17 minutes of flight.

It was followed by Ranger 8 and 9, part of America’s space exploration ventures in the 1960s and 1970s.

Army censures retired General Kensinger for Pat Tillman case (2007)
On July 31, 2007, Lt. General Philip Kensinger Jr. was censured by the United States Army for his involvement in the mishandling of information surrounding Cpl. Pat Tillman’s friendly-fire death in Afghanistan.

Pat Tillman, who played in the National Football League before enlisting in 2002, served several tours as an Army Ranger.

Tillman was accidentally killed by a fellow Ranger, but initial reports had announced he was killed by enemy fire. The confusion over his cause of death led people to accuse the military covering up a possible murder.

An independent investigation deemed it was a battlefield accident, but the proper protocols were not followed and there was “a failure of leadership.”

The Pat Tillman foundation, which invests in military veterans and their spouses through academic scholarships, was founded in the Corporal’s honor.

Fierce Five take gold in London and Phelps wins 19th medal (2012)
The Fierce Five – Aly Raisman, Gabby Douglas, Jordyn Wieber, Kyla Ross and McKayla Maroney – won the United States second team gold medal in artistic gymnastics, ending a 16-year drought, on July 31, 2012.

Douglas later won the gold medal in the individual all-around event, becoming the first African-American ever to do so; Maroney won silver in vault; and team captain Aly Raisman won bronze in balance beam and gold on her floor exercise.

Douglas and Raisman also competed in the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janerio; winning gold again as the ‘Final Five’ with Laurie Hernandez, Madison Kocian and Simone Biles.

Michael Phelps also broke the individual Olympic medal record, winning his 19th in the 200-meter butterfly and 4-by-200 freestyle relay.

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