Month: October 2020

Matt Hefler Presents: On This Day October 20, 1803

On this day (October 20th) in 1803: The Senate of the United States ratifies the Louisiana Purchase. The historic purchase saw the U.S. purchase 828,000 square miles of North America from France. For the cost of fifteen million dollars, the United States nearly doubled the size of the United States and provided with the country with immense new material resources and a strengthened strategic position. The purchase was made by Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte to US President Thomas Jefferson. Napoleon had had ambitions to develop the territory as a North American empire. However French failures to crush rebellion in Saint Domingue, combined with renewed threat with England led Napoleon to abandon the venture.

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Matt Hefler Presents: On This Day October 19, 1914

On this day (October 19th) in 1914: The First Battle of Ypres begins. The battle ends the Race to the Sea and the forces of Imperial Germany are kept from Calais and Dunkirk by Anglo-French forces. Attempts by both Allies and Germans to flank their opponents failed, and all sides settled into the trench warfare that would define the rest of the Western Front in the First World War.

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Matt Hefler Presents: On This Day October 18, 1967

On this day (October 18th) in 1967: The Soviet Union is successful in sending a probe beyond the clouds of Venus, getting the first glimpse into the atmosphere of the planet. The probe, named Venera 4, took four-months to reach Venus. Vanera 4 assessed an atmospheric composition of 95% carbon dioxide. The signals transmitted from the probe were picked up by a radio telescope in North West England.

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Matt Hefler Presents: On This Day October 17, 1968

On this day (October 17th) in 1968: Tommie Smith and John Carlos hold a silent protest when receiving their gold and bronze medals in the 200m, respectively, at the Olympics in Mexico. The two men were demonstrating against racial discrimination of black people in the US. The pair received boos from many in the crown upon leaving. Two days later the pair were suspended from the National Olympic teams. They received a warm welcome from the African-American community but both also received death threats.

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Matt Hefler Presents: On This Day October 16, 1978

On this day (October 16th) in 1978: Cardinals at the Vatican chose the first non-Italian Pope for more than 400 years. Pope John Paul II became one of the longest-serving in the history of the Roman Catholic Church. The significance of selecting an Archbishop from strongly-Catholic Poland was lost on few observers of the Cold War and the Iron Curtain, behind which his native country was situation. The well-known Pope made a positive impact on many around the world while also being known for maintaining the Church’s more conservative positions relating to reproduction and contraception.

Matt Hefler Presents: On This Day October 15, 1964

On this day (October 15th) in 1964, Nikita Khrushchev “resigns” as the Premier of the Soviet Union. His old on power weakened over the last several years, driven in part but the dispute with China and the “humiliating resolution of the Cuban missile crisis”. The official news agency, Tass, announced that the Central Committee had accepted Khrushchev’s request to retire the previous day. The decision came as a surprise to Western observers, but it later was understood that the retirement was the result of a coup orchestrated by Khrushchev’s deputy, Leonid Brezhnev. The former Premier lived largely in obscurity but did publish his memoirs in 1970 in the United States and Western Europe, though not in the Soviet Union.

Matt Hefler Presents: On This Day October 14, 1994

On this day (October 14th) in 1994, the annual Nobel peace prize is announced to be shared between Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and two leading Israelis, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Foreign Minister Shimon Peres. The aware was given out “for their efforts to create peace in the Middle East.” ( The award was considered somewhat tainted by the resignation of a member of the Nobel peace prize committee members. The BBC reported that Kare Kristiansen resigned in objection to Arafat’s inclusion with prize, as he considered the Palestine leader “too tainted by violence, terror and torture”.

Matt Hefler Presents: On This Day October 13, 1976

On this day (October 13th) in 1976: 100 people die in the crash of a Bolivian plane in Santa Cruz. The Boeing 707 drove into buildings along the main street in the Bolivian city and the accident killed eventually another 91 people. Later investigations suggested the accident was probably the result of human error.

Matt Hefler Presents: On This Day October 12, 1986

On this day (October 12th) in 1986: A disarmament summit meeting between Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and US President Ronald Reagan ends in failure. The Reykjavik summit came near to signing a deal for drastic arms reduction yet the talks stalled over Reagan’s refusal to forego the Strategic Defence Initiative (SDI). In December 1987, however, the pair would sign the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty – the first ever treaty to reverse the Cold War arms race.

Matt Hefler Presents: On This Day October 11, 1976

On this day (October 11h) in 1976: Recently ascended chairman of the Communist Party of China (CPC), Hua Guofeng, ordered the arrest of China’s ‘Gang of Four’. The arrests were taken in some quarters as a clear sign of a change of direction in China’s national political policy following the death, a month before, of former Chairman and founder of Communist China, Mao Zedong. The Gang of Four was led by Mao’s widow, Jian Qing, who, along with n Zhang Chunqiao, Wang Hongwen, and Yao Wenyuan, were strong proponents of the Cultural Revolution instigated by Mao ten years before. The Cultural Revolution was a tumultuous sociopolitical effort with huge consequences for China’s economic and cultural development and for the Chinese people themselves. It was instigated following a period a less-extreme leadership that came after the shortfalls of the Great Leap Forward, which itself had contributed to the Great Chinese Famine around 1959-1961 that cost around 30 million lives. By the end of 1978, Deng Xiaping, a reformer, had largely seized power from Huo Guofeng, though he did not become Premier and take the chair of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) – as the CPC is commonly known – until 1982. The Gang of Four received death sentences which were reduced to long imprisonments. Jian Qing was released in 1991 and died shortly thereafter.