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This Month in History


February 1, 2003 - Sixteen minutes before it was scheduled to land, the Space Shuttle Columbia broke apart in over west Texas, killing all seven crew members. The accident resulted from damage caused during liftoff when a piece of insulating foam from the external fuel tank broke off, piercing a hole in the shuttle's left wing. This allowed hot gases to penetrate the wing upon re-entry into the Earth's atmosphere.

February 2, 1848 - The war between the U.S. and Mexico ended with the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hildalgo. In exchange for $15 million, the U.S. acquired the areas of present day California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, and Texas. The treaty was ratified on March 10, 1848.

February 3, 1865 - A four hour peace conference occurred between President Abraham Lincoln and Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens at Hampton Roads, Virginia. The meeting was unsuccessful because President Lincoln insisted that there could be no armistice until the Confederates acknowledged Federal authority. The Confederates wanted an armistice first. The Civil War continued.

February 3, 1870 - The 15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified, securing the right of citizens to vote, regardless of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.

February 3, 1913 - The 16th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified, giving Congress the authority to collect income taxes.

February 3, 1943 - An extraordinary act of heroism occurred in the icy waters off Greenland after the U.S. Army transport ship Dorchester was hit by a German torpedo and began to sink. There were not enough life jackets, so four U.S. Army chaplains on board removed theirs, handed them to frightened young soldiers, and chose to go down with the ship while praying.

February 4, 1861 - Apache Chief Cochise was arrested in Arizona by the U.S. Army for raiding a ranch. After escaping, the Chief declared war, beginning the period known as the Apache Wars, which lasted 25 years.

February 6, 1788 - By a vote of 187 to 168, Massachusetts became the sixth state to ratify the new U.S. Constitution.

February 6, 1933 - The 20th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was adopted. It stated the date for the Presidential Inauguration as January 20th, instead of the old date of March 4th, and it also set January 3rd as the official opening date of Congress.

February 7, 1795 - The 11th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified. This amendment limited the powers of the Federal Judiciary over the states by prohibiting Federal lawsuits against individual states.

February 9, 1943 - During World War II in the Pacific, U.S. troops captured Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands after six months of battle. Over 9,000 Japanese and 2,000 Americans were killed.

February 10, 1942 - The first Medal of Honor during World War II was awarded to 2nd Lt. Alexander Nininger for heroism during the Battle of Bataan.

February 10, 1967 - The 25th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified, solidifying the procedures for presidential succession in the event of the disability of a sitting president.

February 12, 1999 - The impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton in the U.S. Senate ended. With the whole world watching via television, Senators stood up one by one to vote "guilty" or "not guilty." On Article 1 (charging Clinton with perjury) 55 senators, including 10 Republicans and all 45 Democrats voted not guilty. On Article 2 (charging Clinton with obstruction of justice) the Senate split evenly, 50 for and 50 against the President. With the necessary two-thirds majority not having been achieved, President Clinton was acquitted on both charges and served out the remainder of his term of office lasting through January 20, 2001.

February 13, 1635 - Boston Latin School, the first tax-payer supported (public) school in America was established in Boston, Massachusetts.

February 13, 1945 - During World War II in Europe, British and American planes carried out massive bombing raids on Dresden, Germany. A four-day firestorm erupted that could be seen for 200 miles. The fire engulfed the historic old city, killing an estimated 135,000 German civilians.

February 14, 1849 - Photographer Matthew Brady took the first photograph of a U.S. President in office, James Polk.

February 15, 1898 - In Havana, the U.S. Battleship Maine was blown up while anchored and quickly sank with 260 crew members lost. The bombing inflamed public opinion in the U.S., resulting in a declaration of war against Spain on April 25, 1898.

February 15, 1933 - An assassination attempt on newly elected U.S. President Franklin D Roosevelt occurred in Miami, Florida. A civilian deflected the gunman's aim, and as a result, Chicago Mayor Anton Cermak was shot and killed instead. The gunman was an Italian immigrant and was later captured and sentenced to death.

February 17, 1865 - During the American Civil War, Fort Sumter in South Carolina, was returned to the Union after nearly a year and a half under Confederate control. It had been the scene of the first shots of the war.

February 17, 1909 - Apache Chief Geronimo, died while in captivity at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. The Chief had led a small group of warriors on raids throughout Arizona and New Mexico. He had been caught once and escaped, causing the U.S. Army to send 5,000 men to recapture him.

February 19, 1942 - President Franklin Roosevelt issued an Executive Order requiring Japanese Americans living on the Pacific coast to report for relocation. Over 110,000 individuals shut down their businesses, sold off their property, quit school and moved inland to the relocation centers.

February 20, 1943 - German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel broke through American lines at Kasserine Pass in North Africa and U.S. Troops lost their first major battle of World War II in Europe, with 1,000 Americans killed.

February 20, 1962 - Astronaut John Glenn became the first American launched into orbit. Traveling aboard the "Friendship 7" spacecraft, He reached an altitude of 162 miles and completed three orbits in a flight lasting just under five hours. Glenn was the third American in space, preceded by Alan Shepard and Virgil “Gus” Grissom who had each completed short flights. All of them had been preceded by Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin who was the first human in space, completing one orbit on April 12, 1961. This feat intensified the already ongoing Space Race between the Russians and Americans. Glenn’s successful flight showed the Americans had caught up. In September 1962, President John F. Kennedy gave an “open call” to land an American on the moon before the decade’s end.

February 21, 1972 - President Richard Nixon visits China for historic meetings with Chairman Mao Tse-tung and Premier Chou En-lai.

February 21, 1994 - CIA agent Aldrich Ames was arrested on charges that he spied for the Soviet Union from 1985 to 1991.

February 22, 1956 - In Montgomery, Alabama, 80 participants in the city bus boycott voluntarily gave themselves up for arrest after an ultimatum from white city leaders. Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks were among those arrested. In 1956, the U.S. Supreme Court mandated desegregation of the buses.

February 23, 1942 - During World War II, the first attack on the U.S. mainland occurred as a Japanese submarine torpedoed an oil refinery near Santa Barbara, California, causing minor damage.

February 23, 1991 - In Desert Storm, the Allied ground offensive started after a devastating month-long air campaign that targeted Iraqi troops in both Iraq and Kuwait.

February 24, 1867 - The House of Representatives voted to impeach President Andrew Johnson. The vote followed opposition by Radical Republicans in Congress toward Johnson's reconstruction policies in the South. The effort to remove him failed in the Senate by just one vote.

February 27, 1950 - The 22nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified, limiting the president to two terms or a maximum of ten years in office.

February 27, 1991 - In Desert Storm, the 100-hour ground war ended as Allied troops entered Kuwait after launching their offensive against Saddam Hussein's Iraqi forces.

February 28, 1844 - During a demonstration of naval fire power, one of the guns aboard the USS Princeton exploded, killing several top U.S. government officials on the ship, and narrowly missing President John Tyler.

February 28, 1994 - NATO conducted its first combat mission in its 45 year history as four Bosnian Serb jets were shot down by American fighters in a no-fly zone.


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