Milestones: Thursday, September 21, 2023
HERO BECAME A TRAITOR — FORMER AMERICAN GENERAL BENEDICT ARNOLD ON SEPT. 21, 1780 COMMITTED TREASON AGAINST THE COLONIAL ARMY by offering to hand over West Point to the British in exchange for financial profit. Arnold, who up to this time had been considered a hero on the patriots’ side, met with British Major John Andre to discuss the handover, in return for the promise of a large sum of money and a high position in the British army. That same year, Benedict Arnold, who had already established himself as a brave soldier, had been placed in charge of West Point which, at the time was a fort and would later become a military academy, in 1802. The plot was discovered and John Andre was executed.
Benedict Arnold, whose name would become a metaphor for “traitor” moved to England, but never received everything he had been promised.
FRENCH MONARCHY ABOLISHED — ANOTHER TRAITOR, THIS ONE IN FRANCE, WAS KING LOUIS XVI, but he lost his throne and power when the French Legislative Assembly voted on Sept. 21, 1792 to abolish the monarchy. King Louis XVI, the one who was married to the infamous Marie Antoinette, had ascended the throne in 1774 but did not know how to deal effectively with the financial crises he had inherited from previous monarchs, and the crises, food shortages and outrage of his subjects led to the French Revolution. The year before the monarchy was abolished, King Louis had reluctantly approved a new constitution that confiscated much of his power.
King Louis was eventually found to have collaborated with foreign nations on counterrevolutionary schemes, was convicted of treason and sentenced to death. He was guillotined in January 1793, as was Marie Antoinette nine months later.
PROTECTING DEMOCRACY — PRESIDENT FRANKLIN DELANO ROOSEVELT ON SEPT. 21, 1939, ASKED CONGRESS TO AMEND THE NEUTRALITY ACTS that banned sending military aid to European nations. Just 20 days earlier, on Sept. 1, Germany had invaded Poland, provoking World War II, and Roosevelt believed it urgent to lift the embargo to stem the onslaught of Nazi aggression. The Neutrality Acts had been expanded in 1936-37 to restrict sales of arms and other war supplies during a period of isolationism. However, Roosevelt saw the Nazis’ rising threat to democracy and pro-democratic developments in China.
Roosevelt argued before Congress (which finally gave the approval on Nov. 4, 1939) that the neutrality laws in place at the time may actually give passive “aid to an aggressor” while denying help to victimized nations.
THE GREAT NORTHEAST HURRICANE — PARTS OF MARITIME NEW ENGLAND AND CANADA that Hurricane Lee hit earlier this month may have memories of an unnamed hurricane that hit Long Island and Southern New England on Sept. 21, 1938, dubbed the Long Island Express, and the most destructive storm of the 20th century. Originally forecasted to make landfall in Florida, the storm instead took a northward turn. One alert junior forecaster named Charles Pearce, who predicted the storm would crash-land in the Northeast and who could have helped avert widespread destruction was overruled by his superiors, most of whom believed a hurricane would be unlikely to strike the region, given colder conditions. The hurricane slammed into Long Island and wreaked havoc over Connecticut, Rhode Island and parts of Massachusetts, killing 700 (600 of them on Long Island, destroying almost 9,000 homes and causing $306 million in damages).
The practice of naming hurricanes did not begin until 1950, and so this monstrous storm became known as The Great New England Hurricane of 1938.
‘THE HOUSE THAT BABE RUTH BUILT’ CLOSES — THE LAST GAME AT HISTORIC YANKEE STADIUM was played on Sept. 21, 2008, just 15 years ago. This Yankees Stadium had opened a century ago, in 1923, and was the team’s home for 85 years. Legendary player Babe Ruth’s first Yankee Stadium home run was hit in that stadium that April. Other historic moments at the stadium were Reggie Jackson’s three home-run game to clinch the 1977 World Series and Aaron Boone’s Game 7 walk-off home run in the 2003 American League Championship Series against the Boston Red Sox. The closing ceremonies on Sunday, Sept. 21, 2008, included a final walk for players and fans. Julia Ruth Stevens, Ruth’s daughter, threw out the ceremonial first pitch Yankees won that day against the Baltimore Orioles with future Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera closing the game — and the era — with a perfect ninth inning.
The new Yankee stadium, about a block north of the original site, was ready for the next season’s Opening Day, April 16, 2009, and was inaugurated two weeks earlier, on April 2.
See previous milestones, here.
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