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Milestones: February 22, 2024

February 22, 2024 Brooklyn Eagle Staff
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FOUNDING FATHER BORN — FOUNDING FATHER GEORGE WASHINGTON WAS BORN IN WESTMORELAND COUNTY, VIRGINIA, ON FEB. 22, 1732. He started his work life at age 17 as a land surveyor. He fought on the British side in the French and Indian War, rising to the rank of colonel. After that war, he retired from the army and returned to Virginia to manage an estate that he had inherited from his older brother, and married a wealthy widow named Martha Custis. However, during his time serving in the Virginia House of Burgesses, he grew disenchanted and frustrated with the British government and its treatment of the colonists. He joined the Continental Congress and the Patriots; Congress established the Continental Army and placed Washington in charge. Having already gained a reputation for shrewdness, his cool head, his stealth tactics during the French and Indian War, and his military strategy, especially during seeming defeat.

Brooklyn Heights played a major role in the Revolutionary War, especially during the Battle of Brooklyn. General George Washington’s hunch that the British would try to capture New York proved correct. Although his defense deployment failed, the nocturnal retreat he ordered helped save the Continental Army from annihilation.


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VOLLEYING FLORIDA —  SECRETARY OF STATE (AND FUTURE PRESIDENT) JOHN QUINCY ADAMS  BROKERED THE UNITED STATES’ ACQUISITION OF FLORIDA on Feb. 22, 1819. Adams and Spanish minister Do Luis de Onis on that date signed the Florida Purchase Treaty, in which Spain ceded the remainder of its province of Florida to the United States. Spain had begun colonizing the Florida peninsula in the mid-16th century, and St. Augustine, named for a 4th-century doctor of the Catholic Church, was the first permanent European settlement in the New World. However, Spain grew overwhelmed with defending the territory from Native Americans who fought for their ancestral homelands, as well as English colonists expanding south. Worse, by the mid-18th century, Spain had made the mistake of siding with the French during its war against the Native Americans; and the British picked up Florida during the first Treaty of Paris in 1763. The second Treaty of Paris, in 1783, returned Florida to Spain.

After Adams’ diplomatic victory, Florida was admitted as a territory and War of 1812 hero, General Andrew Jackson became its military governor. Florida was later admitted as a slave state in 1845.


8,000-WORD TELEGRAM — A TELEGRAM ALMOST TWICE THE LENGTH OF THE U.S. CONSTITUTION made its way to the U.S. State Department on Feb. 21, 1946. Its sender, George Kennan, was at the time the American charge d’affaires in Moscow and he provided a detailed appraisal on the Soviet Union, as well as American policy toward the communist power, providing a significant foundation for the U.S. Cold War policy of containment. Kennan was part of the group of U.S. diplomats who had established the first American embassy in the Soviet Union, some eight years before entering World War II. While Kennan liked and even respected the Russian people, he made it clear that he distrusted the Soviet government. He warned in particular his observation, gleaned during World War II, that Soviet premier Joseph Stalin’s outward friendliness masked his motives, and that the friendliness between him and President Franklin D. Roosevelt was misplaced. He wrote, in what became known as “the Long Telegram,” the Soviet Union could not foresee “permanent peaceful coexistence” with the West,” and feared that nation would try to expand its sphere of influence; and he urged the West to resist.

Stalin’s increased aggression toward Iran and Turkey underscored Kennan’s appraisal, leading the Truman administration to get  tough on the Soviet Union.


NEW MEANING TO ‘COLD’ WAR — THE UNITED STATES AND SOVIET UNION DUKED IT OUT ON ICE, WITH THEIR HOCKEY TEAMS COMPETING IN THE 1980 OLYMPICS. The U.S. hockey team, considered the underdog of the XIII Olympic Winter Games, did however defeat the four-time gold medal Soviet team on American home turf, in Lake Placid, New York, on Feb. 22, 1980. The Soviet team lost its standing, held since 1968 as the best in the world, when the U.S. team beat them 4-3, with ten thousand spectators witnessing the coup.

The Americans captured the gold medal in hockey two days later upon defeating Finland 4-2.


GPS LAUNCH — THE WORLD’S FIRST GPS SATELLITE, FROM VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE IN CALIFORNIA, BEGAN OPERATIONS ON FEB. 22, 1978. NAMED NAVSTAR, this Global Positioning System originated as military technology during the Cold War era, but soon expanded from aviation to telecommunications. American scientists observed the Doppler effect during the USSR’s launch of Sputnik: the radio signal frequency increased as it moved closer, and decreased as it moved into the distance. The frequency changes helped scientists to track Sputnik’s movement across the sky and led to the transit program, which provided navigation largely to military vessels upon entering orbit in 1960.

Global Positioning System (GPS) technology has since become an indispensable part of 21st-century life, powering commercial aviation, vehicle navigation and fitness trackers.

See previous milestones, here.

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