This Week In History, April 1-5

PHOTO: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968.
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From historic appointments and declarations to a tragic assassination, the first week of April has seen some of history's big political happenings. Take a look at what has happened in decades and centuries past for the week of April 1 to 5.

PHOTO: Frederick Augustus Conrad Muhlenberg served as the First Speaker of The House of Representatives.
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April 1

1789 -- First U.S. House of Representatives Elected: The U.S. House of Representatives elected Rep. Fredrick Augustus Conrad Muhlenberg of Pennsylvania as the first speaker of the House.

Muhlenberg was a Lutheran minister and former president of the Pennsylvania convention, where he oversaw the ratification of the U.S. Constitution. He studied theology at Germany's University of Halle and preached all over Pennsylvania and New York before entering politics.

1945 -- U.S. Troops Land in Okinawa, Japan: U.S. troops landed in Okinawa, Japan, with the mission to seize the island as a base for ground and air forces. On this day, more than 1,300 ships docked at the island and more than 50,000 ground troops attacked on land.

Once on land, the Americans fought against 120,000 Japanese troops. Although U.S. forces would suffer 50,000 dead or wounded in the face of Japanese kamikaze air attacks, they eventually won. At the end of this battle, Japanese dead and wounded were estimated to be around 117,000.

PHOTO: President Woodrow Wilson addresses a message of war against Germany to the representatives and senators in the House of Representatives, on April 2, 1917.
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April 2

1863 -- Confederate Women Riot in Richmond, Va.: In response to adverse effects of the Civil War, hundreds of women rioted in the streets of Richmond, Va. The women demanded the confederate government release emergency food supplies. The women looted stores and damaged store property as they made their way down the city streets.

Confederate President Jefferson Davis ordered the mob to disperse and said that if they did not, he would order local militia to fire upon them. When the riot ended, 44 women were arrested, but no shots were fired.

1917 - President Wilson Asks Congress for Declaration of War: On this day, President Woodrow Wilson asked Congress for a declaration of war against Germany. Three years before, the U.S. had proclaimed neutrality at the beginning of World War I, but tensions increased after the Germans attacked the British ship, Lusitania, killing both British and American passengers.

In 1917, Wilson broke off diplomatic ties with Germany after its navy began a policy of unrestricted submarine warfare. The policy resulted in the sinking of the American ship, Housatonic. But the final straw occurred on April 1 when the U.S. steamer Aztec was torpedoed by German forces.

The following day, President Wilson spoke about the importance of "making the world safe for democracy" while making the case for fighting against Germany.

PHOTO: Harry S. Truman signed the Marshall Plan on April 3, 1948.
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April 3

1945 -- President Truman Signs Marshall Plan: President Harry Truman authorized a program to help European nations recover from devastation caused by World War II. The plan became known as the Marshall Plan, named after then-U.S. Secretary of State George C. Marshall, who famously advocated for U.S. assistance to Europe.

As a part of the Marshall Plan, the Economic Cooperation Administration distributed $13 billion in aid over the course of four years, beginning in 1948.

Most European nations received assistance, including the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Norway, Luxembourg, Austria, Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark, Iceland, France, Sweden, Ireland, Greece, Turkey, Italy and West Germany. The Marshall Plan helped the countries revive their agricultural and industrial opportunities.

1969 -- Nixon Administration 'Vietnamizes' the Vietnam War: U.S. Secretary of State Melvin Laird announced plans to "Vietnamize" the Vietnam war, which would call for the South Vietnamese to gradually bear the responsibility of combat.

In the same announcement, Laird made sure to mention that the policy would not include U.S. troop withdrawals. However, U.S. troop withdrawals occurred later that June.

PHOTO: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968.
RDA/Getty Images
April 4

1949 -- NATO Pact Signed: On this day at the beginning of the Cold War, the United States and 11 other countries signed the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). This treaty established a mutual defense agreement that aimed to curb Soviet influence.

In the following years, Turkey, Greece and West Germany joined the pact, while the Soviet Union labeled NATO as a war-oriented alliance. NATO lasted through the Cold War and continues to influence diplomatic strategy in modern-day Europe.

1969 -- Martin Luther King Jr. Assassinated: Legendary civil rights activist, Martin Luther King Jr. was fatally shot while standing on the balcony of his hotel room in Memphis, Tenn. He was 39 years old.

King was in Memphis to support a sanitation workers' strike and was preparing to leave for dinner when he was shot in the jaw. The bullet severed his spinal cord and he was pronounced dead at the hospital. In response to the assassination, cities across the country broke out in riots.

Almost a week later, King was buried in his hometown of Atlanta on April 9. Thousands of people came to pay tribute during the ceremony.

PHOTO: Julius and Ethel Rosenberg are seated in a police van in 1953 in New York shortly before their execution for espionage.
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April 5

1951 -- Rosenbergs Sentenced to Death for Spying: The most sensational spy trial of the 20th century came to a close when Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were sentenced to death for passing atomic secrets to Soviets.

Ethel Rosenberg's brother, who allegedly served as a courier for Soviet agents, revealed the Rosenbergs' involvement in passing documents that discussed atomic bomb secrets. The couple was found guilty of conspiracy to commit espionage.

The Rosenbergs maintained their innocence until their deaths, and claimed they were victims of political paranoia. They were executed in the electric chair in June 1953.

1992 -- Abortion Rights Activists March on Washington, D.C.: One of the largest protest marches in the history of the nation's capital happened on this day in March 1992.

The pro-choice rally came in light of the Supreme Court considering the constitutionality of a Pennsylvania state law that limited women's access to abortions. Many protesters worried that the court would overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that made abortion legal.

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