This Week in History

PHOTO: walt disney, disney castle, disneyland
Gene Lester/Getty Images

From Mickey Mouse to the moon, a wide variety of historical events occurred this week. Check out what happened this week in history:

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July 15

1971: Nixon Declares Visit to China

Marking a dramatic shift in diplomatic relations between the United States and China, President Richard Nixon announced that he would pay a visit to the communist country the following year.

Check out Nixon's historic arrival in China

The surprise decision by Nixon, who had built his foreign policy around the notion of being anti-communist, stemmed from several strategic and political factors that had changed the dynamic.

Nixon's national security advisor, Henry Kissinger, urged the president to go for several reasons. China had broken with the Soviet Union and was looking for allies, and Nixon was looking for every way he could to gain an advantage in the drawn-out Vietnam War.

Creating strategic partnerships and increased trade with China -- which was already allied with North Vietnam -- would be a way of pressuring the north into an acceptable peace agreement.

Kissinger also believed that creating a strategic partnership with China would be a powerful asset in the Cold War against the Soviet Union. In spite of political doctrine or ethical considerations, Nixon and Kissinger decided to ally the U.S. with China for practical reasons -- a doctrine known as realpolitik.

The next year, Nixon's trip began the process of normalizing relations between the U.S. and China. Dubbed the "journey for peace," the trip helped Nixon politically but didn't do much for the Vietnam War or Cold War.

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July 16

1945: Detonation of the First Atomic Bomb

In the arid and isolated deserts of New Mexico, the first detonated atom bomb incinerated everything in sight.

The test was the culmination of what became known as the Manhattan Project, the secretive team of scientists and engineers who were tasked with creating an atom bomb during World War II.

As early as 1939, research was being done into the potentially devastating effects of a uranium nuclear reaction. A letter drafted by Albert Einstein was sent to President Franklin Roosevelt confirming the potential for a massively destructive weapon.

Starting with a budget of merely $6,000, the Manhattan Project ballooned to a cost of $2 billion and was under the supervision of the Army Corps of Engineers.

Five years after commissioning the project, the bomb was detonated 120 miles south of Santa Fe, N.M. The successful explosion was watched by the scientists and invited dignitaries.

PHOTO: walt disney, disney castle, disneyland
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July 17

1955: Disneyland Opens

Now an iconic American destination, Disneyland, Walt Disney's first theme park, opened its doors in Anaheim, Calif., in 1955.

The $17 million park was a culminating event in the Disney brand, which started with the Disney's "Steamboat Willy," the first animated feature with sound that brought Mickey Mouse to fame.

On opening day at the 160-acre park, the passes that had been given to exclusive guests were counterfeited and hundreds of uninvited guests were let in, causing all sorts of problems. Rides were overloaded, food and drink ran out and wet asphalt caused mayhem with guests' shoes.

Soon after, though, the California park began to bring in more than 14 million guests a year and $3 billion in revenue.

The park was such a success that a larger one was built in Orlando, Fla., called Disney World.

There are now Disney parks in Hong Kong, Paris and Tokyo.

Disney is the parent company of ABC News.

PHOTO: Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1882 - 1945) at an election rally, May 22, 1940.
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July 18

1940: Franklin Roosevelt Secures 3rd Term Nomination

On July 18, 1940, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt set a political first by securing the Democratic nomination for president in the hopes of serving a third term.

Roosevelt broke the American tradition of serving just two terms that George Washington set in 1796, when he declined t run for a third time.

President Roosevelt felt a duty to see America through the next four years because of the growing conflict in Europe dominated by Hitler's expansion of totalitarian power.

The country elected Roosevelt to a third term on Nov. 7, 1940. Over the next four years, the president witnessed the attack on Pearl Harbor, America's entry into World War II and the D-Day invasion.

The third term would also be the last term that Roosevelt served fully. He died just three months into his fourth term, on April 12, 1945 -- leaving his successor, Harry Truman, to see out the end of the war.

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July 19

1848: Seneca Falls Convention Begins

On July 19, 1848, 200 women met in Seneca Falls, N.Y., to "discuss the social, civil, and religious condition and rights of women" at the first women's rights convention held in the United States.

Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, two female abolitionists, organized the convention after realizing their shared indignation that women were not allowed to speak on the floor of the 1840 World Anti-Slavery Convention in London.

The first day of the conference, only women were invited to gather at Wesleyan Chapel, where 200 women came together to adopt the "Declaration of Sentiments and Grievances," a manifesto written by Stanton structured like the Declaration of Independence.

The declaration's preamble included the sentence, "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men and women are created equal."

On the second day of the convention, men were invited to join, and those gathered (including the abolitionist Frederick Douglass) became the first body to officially approve support of a women's right to vote.

PHOTO: buzz aldrin, edwin aldrin, moon walk, lunar mission, apollo 11
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July 20

1969: Man Walks on the Moon

Forty-four years ago Friday, Neil Armstrong took his first steps -- the first steps -- on the Moon.

"That is one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind," Armstrong said at 10:56 p.m. ET on July 20, 1969.

Watch a video of Neil Armstrong Walking on the Moon HERE.

Armstrong and his fellow astronauts, Edwin Aldrin, Jr., touched done on the moon's surface four and a half days after launching from the Kennedy Space Center on July 16 at 9:32 a.m.

Aldrin took his own first steps across the moon's surface at 11:11 p.m., while the third crew member, Michael Collins, remained in the command module.

Armstrong and Aldrin spent approximately two hours traversing the lunar landscape -- taking photographs, planting an American flag and speaking with President Nixon.

Before leaving the moon to return safely home four days later, Armstrong and Aldrin left behind a plaque reading, "Here men from the planet Earth first set foot on the moon -- July 1969 A.D -- We came in peace for all mankind."

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