From the Cold War to the raid on Osama bin Laden, this week in history has seen some of the most highly publicized examples of espionage. This week also hosted the first presidential inauguration, two notable hearings, and the death of a rabblerousing senator.
1974: Nixon Releases Watergate Tapes In response to the tumultuous Watergate scandal, on this day in 1974 President Richard Nixon announced that he would be releasing transcripts of taped White House conversations. The tapes were released due to a trial subpoena that was issued in July 1973. The transcripts included 46 conversations and were 1,200 pages long, but the House Judiciary committee insisted that the tapes were handed over as well. Previously, Nixon went to great lengths to avoid compliance with the subpoena, and even cited his right to executive privilege to keep the transcripts out of the public eye.
2004: World War II Monument Opens More than five decades after the end of World War II, the National World War II Monument opened in Washington, D.C., on April 29, 2004. The monument sought to recognize the services and sacrifices of 16 million American men and women who served in the war, and is one of the attractions located on the National Mall.
The monument's fountains depict war hostilities between the Far East and Europe, while the arches around the fountain feature pillars representing each of the United States' territories and states. The monument also includes a wall with 4,000 gold stars, in which one star represents every 100 Americans that were killed in the war.
The monument site is located between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial. At this location, visitors can also see Arlington Cemetery across the river to the west, and see the Capitol dome on the west.
1794: The First Presidential Inauguration George Washington was inaugurated as the first president of the United States in New York City on April 30, 1794. Washington was unanimously chosen by 69 electors earlier in February of that year, but was sworn in after the Constitution went into effect in March.
Washington was inaugurated on Wall Street in front of a large, cheering crowd. The president then addressed Congress inside New York City's Federal Hall, in which he admitted that he could not foresee what the extent of power or true duties of the presidency would include, but reiterated the importance of serving for the public good. The inaugural celebration ended with the firing of 13 cannons to represent each of the 13 states.
1803: Louisiana Purchase Concluded The terms for the sale of the Louisiana Purchase were decided upon on April 20, 1803 between representatives from the U.S. and Napoleonic France. The purchase doubled the size of the United States, and extended from modern day Mississippi to the Rocky Mountains. The 828,000 square mile land mass cost the U.S. $11,250,000. This price translated into less than three cents per acre, and was one of Thomas Jefferson's outstanding presidential achievements. Congress ratified the purchase later that year in October, and France formally transferred control to the United States in December. In 1812, Louisiana, the first state created in the newly acquired territory was the 18th state admitted to the Union.
1960: American Spy Plane Shot Down in Cold War At the height of the Cold War, an American U-2 spy plane was shot down while flying over the Soviet Union during an espionage operation. The plane was implemented by the CIA as a method of spying on Soviets, and boasted the ability to take high-resolution photos of detailed images like newspaper headlines from altitudes of up to 70,000 feet.
Francis Gary Powers was the pilot of the aircraft. Powers was instructed by the CIA to send the plane into self-destruct mode and commit suicide in this type of scenario. With this intelligence in mind, the U.S. initially issued a public statement saying that the plane went off course due to bad weather. This statement was proven false when Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev showed that both the pilot and the intact remains of the plane were in Soviet possession. The incident forced President Eisenhower to admit that the plane was being used for espionage, and derailed any talks of peace between the U.S. and the Soviets. Pilot Powers was released two years later in exchange for a U.S. captured Soviet spy.
2011: U.S. Forces Kill Osama Bin Laden A decade after the September 11 tragedy, U.S. forces captured and killed Osama bin Laden at a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. The raid was conducted by 23 U.S. Navy SEALs and lasted nearly 40 minutes. During this time, five people, including one of bin Laden's adult sons, were killed. No Americans were injured or killed in the raid. Bin Laden's body was soon identified by an intelligence official and buried at an undisclosed location in the Arabian Sea within 24 hours of his death, as required by Islamic law.
President Obama watched the raid in real time via drone footage. He made an address to the United States from the White House at around 11:30 PM EST to announce the bin Laden's death.
1957: Joseph McCarthy Dies Sen. Joseph McCarthy, R-Wis., died on this day at age 48 due to illness associated with alcoholism. McCarthy played a major role in the U.S. "Red Scare" anti communist movement that followed World War II. He died in Bethesda, Md., and was buried in his home state of Wisconsin.
McCarthy was also known for possessing an aggressive political style which he utilized to target communists in the United States. His focus on combating communism from within the United States landed him the unofficial title, "Red-Hunter." Despite the hysteria propagated by McCarthy, the U.S. government never uncovered any communists at any level of the government or the public.
McCarthy's credibility waned in 1954 when he charged the U.S. Army as being "soft on communists" in the televised Army-McCarthy hearings. Once the public saw the extent of McCarthy's uninhibited approach to politics, he began losing credibility and his power in the Senate.
1951: Congressional Hearings of General MacArthur Following a serious strategic error in the Korean War, Gen. Douglas MacArthur faced the Senate Armed Services and Foreign Relations Committees on May 3, 1951 in a hearing that would ultimately result in his dismissal.
In 1950, MacArthur ignored warnings that Chinese forces would side with their communist ally, North Korea, in the war. This decision resulted in overwhelming U.S. losses, and drove a wedge between MacArthur and President Truman. Having been denied permission to carry out bomb attacks on Chinese combatants, MacArthur criticized Truman for being too timid in a time of war. He continued to propel his stance throughout the hearing, suggesting that complete destruction of communism would only be possible through more destructive strategies.
The hearing went on for seven weeks, and no conclusions were reached regarding MacArthur's dismissal. MacArthur went on to compete for a Republican presidential nomination, but lost to Dwight Eisenhower, another military leader.