Milestones: Friday, September 29, 2023
THE HINDENBURG LINE — ALLIED FORCES DURING THE FIRST WORLD WAR BREACHED THE SO-CALLED HINDENBURG LINE, ON Sept. 29, 1918, after a 56-hour-long bombardment. The Hindenburg Line, which the British named for the German commander in chief, Paul von Hindenburg; and built in 1916, was the last line of German defenses on the Western Front during World War I. The Germans knew this as the Siegfried Line — a heavily fortified zone that spanned several miles behind the active front between the north coast of France near Belgium. Even with the heavy fortification, its southern section was most vulnerable to attack, and the Allies exploited this, particularly during the “Hundred Days Offensive.”
Participating in the Hindenburg line attack were Australian, British, French and American forces.
POISONOUS PAINKILLER — A MYSTERIOUS SERIES OF DEATHS WITH CYANIDE-LACED TYLENOL TOOK PLACE OVER THE COURSE OF THREE DAYS, starting on Sept. 29, 1982. Several people, all in the Chicago area, were poisoned when they took the well-known over-the-counter painkiller for headaches, including 12-year-old Mary Ann Kellerman, a seventh grader. The last fatal victim was flight attendant Paula Prince, who purchased one of the bottles with the cyanide. Two Chicago firefighters, Richard Keyworth and Philip Cappitelli, City observed that all seven victims had ingested Extra-Strength Tylenol prior to becoming ill. An investigation found that several bottles of the Tylenol capsules had been poisoned with cyanide, and a national recall took effect. All the contaminated capsules were in bottles sold in the Chicago area. One good outcome was that drug companies began using new tamper-proof medicine containers.
Although no culprit was ever charged, a prime suspect did emerge: James W. Lewis, who in October 1982 penned a letter to Johnson & Johnson, the parent company of MacNeil Consumer Products that manufactured Tylenol, claiming he he “stop the killing” if he were paid $1 million. Lewis was convicted and imprisoned — but for extortion, not the murders themselves. Lewis’ obituary was published in the New York Times in July 2023.
‘SYNONOMOUS WITH DEMOCRACY IN AMERICA’ — VOTING RIGHTS ADVOCATE WILLIE VELASQUEZ was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom on Sept. 29, 1995, for his work in dramatically increasing political and civic awareness within the Hispanic communities in southwestern states. The son of a union organizer, Velasquez co-founded the Mexican-American Youth Organization, or MAYO, which conducted voter registration drives and walkouts on college campuses around San Antonio. MAYO later expanded to organizing high school students and met success in getting several candidates elected to local school boards. Velasquez believed that the Hispanic community could learn from the civil rights movement, as they had in common several justice issues.
Then-President Bill Clinton, in his White House speech, honored Velasquez, who had died of cancer at age 44, calling him “a name synonymous with democracy in America.”
PIONEERING OREGON WOMAN — STACY ALLISON OF PORTLAND, OREGON, ON SEPT. 29, 1988 became the first American woman to reach the summit of Mount Everest, the highest point on earth, which hovered at 29,035 feet above sea level. Allison, a member of the Northwest American Everest Expedition, climbed the Himalayan peak using the southeast ridge route. Mount Everest is on the crest of the Great Himalayas in Asia and is on the border between Nepal and Tibet. Tibetans call the mountain Chomo-Lungma, or “Mother Goddess of the Land.” The English named the mountain after Sir George Everest, a 19th-century British surveyor of South Asia.
In May 1953, climber and explorer Edmund Hillary of New Zealand and Tenzing Norgay of Nepal made the first successful climb of the peak.
VFW WORKS FOR VETERANS’ NEEDS — VETERANS OF FOREIGN WARS ESTABLISHED ON Sept. 29, 1899. The organization focuses on helping American heroes with issues and actions stemming from combat, supports veterans in Congress and provides them with assistance. According to the VFW’s website, “Our voice was instrumental in establishing the Veterans Administration, development of the national cemetery system, in the fight for compensation for Vietnam vets exposed to Agent Orange and for veterans diagnosed with Gulf War Syndrome.”
The VFW has also underwritten or otherwise contributed to the Vietnam, Korean War, World War II and Women in Military Service memorials; and, in 2005, the VFW became the first veterans’ organization to commit to the building of the new Disabled Veterans for Life Memorial.
See previous milestones, here.
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