United States

This Day in History: Offensive Waged in Aleppo; World War 1 Begins; LBJ Increases Troops in Vietnam and more

World War 1 begins (1914)
On July 28, 1914, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia, starting World War 1, one of the deadliest conflicts in human history.

World War 1 was a battled of the Allied Power – mainly composed of Britain, France, Italy, the United States and Russia – and the Central Powers – Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria, and the German and Ottoman empires. This conflict brought end to the Austro-Hungarian, German and Ottoman empires, but also Russia’s.

It is considered the first ‘modern war’, as it was the first time most countries used machine guns, military air-crafts, and tanks. The high casualty rate is typically attributed to military strategy being behind technology.

While the Allies attempted to use their victory to avoid a future, similarly deadly conflict, those attempts failed. World War II began just two decades later. 

'Bonus Army' dispersed from nation's capitol (1932)
On July 28, 1932, President Herbert Hoover and Attorney General William D. Mitchell ordered the ‘Bonus Army’ to be dispersed from the nation’s capital.

The Bonus Army, a group of World War I veterans and their supporters, gathered in D.C. to demand payment from the World War Adjustment Compensation Act of 1924. The issue with the compensation act: veterans could not redeem their rewards until 1945, but the Great Depression was already rattling American households.

In 1936, Congress overrode Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s veto and paid World War I veterans their bonuses nine years early. 

Bomber crashes into Empire State Building (1945)
On July 28, 1945, a B-25 Mitchell bomber crashed into the Empire State Building in New York City due to heavy fog.

The pilot accidently made a wrong turn and crashed into the upper floors of the Empire State Building, the 78th to 80th floors. However, the ensuing fire was brought under control within the hour, a rare success for a fire that high, even today.

Unfortunately, three crew members and eleven people inside the Empire State Building died because of that crash; and the damages totaled an estimated $1 million – over $13 million today.

Hawaii gets ready for statehood (1959)
On July 28, 1859, Hiram Leong Fong, of Hawaii, became the first Asian- and, more specifically, Chinese-American elected to the United State Senate; and Daniel Jen Inouye, also of Hawaii, became the first Japanese-American elected to the United States House of Representatives.

Hawaii officially became a state a month later on August 21, 1959.

Senator Fong, a Republican, is known for fighting for civil rights legislation and supporting the Vietnam War and President Nixon. He served in the Senate until 1977.

Fong died in 2004. He was 97.

Representative Inuoye, a Democrat, became the highest-ranking Asian-American politician in United States history. He served in the House of Representatives of until 1963, he was then elected to the Senate.

Inuoye was awarded a Medal of Honor for his service in the segregated all-Nisei 442nd Regimental Combat Team in World War II. He fought in Italy, where he lost his arm. He also received a Purple Heart and Bronze Star Medal.

Inuoye died in 2012. He was 88.

President Lyndon Johnson sends more troops to Vietnam (1965)
On July 28, 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson announced he was increasing the United States military forces in Vietnam by 50,000 people.

The increase – from 75,000 to 125,000 – also raised the, unpopular, monthly draft calls from 17,000 to 35,000.

Johnson also affirmed the United States was ready negotiate an end to the war, appealing to United Nations requests. Communist leaders around the world viewed this as a hypocritical point. Johnson reportedly received congressional support.

This decision is seen as a turning point that effectively guaranteed U.S. military leaders a blank check to pursue the war, which ultimately became incredibly unpopular.

President Johnson’s handling of the war, despite his contributions to landmark civil rights achievements and ‘war on poverty’, largely contributed to his inability to rally a large coalition to back his 1968 Presidential Campaign.   

Earthquake in China kills thousands (1976)
On July 28, 1976, a 7.5 magnitude earthquake shook the world, killing several hundred thousand Chinese people.

The Tangshan earthquake of 1976, or Great Tangshan Earthquake, ‘officially’ killed 242,000 people; however, some estimates exceed 600,000. There has never been a definite count.

The earthquake started at 3 a.m. in Tangshan, killing many by collapsing poorly reinforced homes.

The quake occurred on a previously unknown fault line. It is considered the second most deadly earthquake in human history.

NAACP changes leadership (1977)
Just a year later, on the other side of the world, Benjamin Hooks succeeded Roy Wilkins as Executive Director of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, one of America’s most famous civil rights advocacy groups.

Hooks was a strong advocate for self-help, while executive director, often urging the more successful of the African-American community to give back.

Executive Director Hooks retired in 1992. He was succeeded by Benjamin Chavis.

Hooks was born in Memphis, he also died there in 2010. He was 85. He was awarded a Presidential Medal of Freedom by President George Bush in 2007.

Syria begins offensive attack in Aleppo (2012)
On July 28, 2012, the Syrian government began an offensive military-effort in Aleppo.

Aleppo, Syria’s largest city, has been mostly destroyed by the battles. Forces reached a stalemate in July of 2016.

Now over 250,000 Syrian’s live without hospital care or basic amenities, according to the New York Times. The city and people suffered intense damage from airstrikes and ground fighting.

Thousands from Aleppo and other war-ravaged areas of Syria now constitute what is considered a refugee crisis and humanitarian efforts remain limited.

The civil war in Syria is still ongoing, but ISIL (commonly referred to as ISIS) has taken significant losses.

 The United States, Russia and Jordan agreed to a ceasefire a few weeks ago, which has held so far. Previous ceasefires have failed, though neither side accepts blame.

Last week, the United States stopped assisting Syrian opposition groups who fought ISIS and Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian President. The ending of CIA-assistance is seen as a significant change for the course of Syria’s future. 

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