1881 — President James Garfield dies
On this day in 1881, President James A. Garfield, who had been in office just under four months, succumbs to wounds inflicted by an assassin 80 days earlier, on July 2.
Garfield's assassin was an attorney and political office-seeker named Charles Guiteau. Guiteau was a relative stranger to the president and his administration in an era when federal positions were doled out on a "who you know" basis. When his requests for an appointment were ignored, a furious Guiteau stalked the president, vowing revenge.
On the morning of July 2, 1881, Garfield headed for the Baltimore and Potomac Railroad station on his way to a short vacation. As he walked through the station toward the waiting train, Guiteau stepped behind the president and fired two shots. The first bullet grazed Garfield's arm; the second lodged below his pancreas. Doctors made several unsuccessful attempts to remove the bullet while Garfield lay in his White House bedroom, awake and in pain. Alexander Graham Bell, who was one of Garfield's physicians, tried to use an early version of a metal detector to find the second bullet, but failed.
1957 — Nevada is site of first-ever underground nuclear explosion
On this day in 1957, the United States detonates a 1.7 kiloton nuclear weapon in an underground tunnel at the Nevada Test Site (NTS), a 1,375 square mile research center located 65 miles north of Las Vegas. The test, known as Rainier, was the first fully contained underground detonation and produced no radioactive fallout. A modified W-25 warhead weighing 218 pounds and measuring 25.7 inches in diameter and 17.4 inches in length was used for the test. Rainier was part of a series of 29 nuclear weapons and nuclear weapons safety tests known as Operation Plumbbob that were conducted at the NTS between May 28, 1957, and October 7, 1957.
In December 1941, the U.S. government committed to building the world's first nuclear weapon when President Franklin Roosevelt authorized $2 billion in funding for what came to be known as the Manhattan Project. The first nuclear weapon test took place on July 16, 1945, at the Trinity site near Alamogordo, New Mexico. A few weeks later, on August 6, 1945, with the U.S. at war against Japan, President Harry Truman authorized the dropping of an atomic bomb named Little Boy over Hiroshima, Japan. Three days later, on August 9, a nuclear bomb called Fat Man was dropped over Nagasaki. Two hundred thousand people, according to some estimates, were killed in the attacks on the two cities and on August 15, 1945, Japan surrendered to the Allied Powers.
1957's Operation Plumbbob took place at a time when the U.S. was engaged in a Cold War and nuclear arms race with the Soviet Union. In 1963, the U.S. signed the Limited Test Ban Treaty, which banned nuclear weapons testing in the atmosphere, underwater and outer space. A total of 928 tests took place at the Nevada Test Site between 1951 and 1992, when the U.S. conducted its last underground nuclear test. In 1996, the U.S signed the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which prohibits nuclear detonations in all environments.
1995 — Newspaper publishes Unabomber manifesto
The Washington Post publishes a 35,000-word manifesto written by the Unabomber, who since the late 1970s had eluded authorities while carrying out a series of bombings across the United States that killed 3 people and injured another 23. After reading the manifesto, David Kaczynski realized the writing style was similar to that of his brother, Theodore Kaczynski, and notified the F.B.I. On April 3, 1996, Ted Kaczynski was arrested at his isolated cabin near Lincoln, Montana, where investigators found evidence linking him to the Unabomber crimes.
Theodore John Kaczynski was born May 22, 1942, in Chicago. A talented math student, he entered Harvard University at age 16. In 1967, after receiving a Ph.D. in mathematics from the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, Kaczynski was hired as an assistant professor at University of California, Berkeley. However, he resigned abruptly in 1969 and eventually began living as a hermit in a small Montana cabin that lacked electricity and running water. Kaczynski received occasional financial support from his family.
From 1978 to 1995, the Unabomber carried out 16 bombings and mail bombings across the U.S. and became the subject of a massive F.B.I. manhunt. The F.B.I. code named him UNABOM because his targets included universities and airlines. Over the years, his victims included professors, scientists, corporate executives and a computer store owner, among others.
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