International Assassinations!

Murder has always been a common method of taking out enemies, whether it be a personal rival or political foe. When the murder is planned out in advance and executed in cold blood, it’s often referred to as an assassination.

Here are some of the most interesting and notorious international murders in history.

Franz Ferdinand-Sarajevo, Bosnia

While all deaths are tragic, the death of Archduke Franz Ferdinand at the hands of a separatist assassin actually led to a world war and the deaths of more than 16 million people.

On June 28, 1914, the Archduke and his wife were traveling in Sarajevo, in the province of Bosnia-Herzegovina when a member of the Black Hand separatist group attempted to murder them with a grenade, which failed. Later in the day, they were riding to visit some victims when their driver got lost and drove into an ambush where the Archduke and his wife were shot and killed by another member of the group. The incident led to a series of treaties being called into force, leading to all the major countries of Europe and eventually the United States in the most destructive war the world had ever seen.

Where WWI started - Franz Ferdinand assassination (Google Maps)
Where WWI started - Franz Ferdinand assassination

Thomas Becket-Canterbury Cathedral, England

Thomas Becket was a British nobleman and eventually Chancellor to King Henry II. He was so trusted by the king that when the Archbishop of Canterbury died, he appointed Becket as the new Archbishop even though Becket wasn’t even a priest! However, Becket took his religious calling seriously and refused to bend the will of the church to that of the king, who eventually allegedly called for him to be assassinated.

On December 29, 1170, four knights of the king’s service approached Becket in Canterbury Cathedral and stabbed him to death. After his murder, religious followers throughout England and Europe began to venerate him and he was canonized a saint in 1173. Pilgrims and well-wishers can visit Canterbury Cathedral, although Becket’s bones were destroyed by King Henry VIII.

Canterbury Cathedral (Bing Maps)
Canterbury Cathedral

Gandhi-New Dehli, India

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was born in 1869 in India, and while living abroad in South Africa, became an activist for civil rights. He led India’s movement for independence from Great Britain using only nonviolent means, and in 1947, the country was granted its independence. However, many people felt his methods were too accommodating to Great Britain and Pakistan during the post-liberation negotiations.

Gandhi was shot three times by Nathuram Godse in New Dehli on January 30, 1948. He died immediately or nearly immediately, and the entire country mourned his death. Over two million attended his funeral procession. The site of his death was turned into a memorial so that the country could continue to pay their respects to their country’s liberator.

The Martyr's Column (assassination of Mahatma Gandhi) (Google Maps)
The Martyr's Column (assassination of Mahatma Gandhi)

Caesar-Rome, Italy

“Beware the Ides of March” is an old saying that warns of bad things happening in the near future. According to legend, Julius Caesar, the first dictator of ancient Rome, was given this warning from a seer, foretelling he would be dead before the day was over. As Caesar made his way toward the Senate, a group of his friends and peers who were upset with his recent power grabs accosted him and stabbed him 23 times.

As Caesar was stabbed, he is said to have remarked to his favorite protege and follower “et tu, Brute?” meaning, “You too, Brutus?”. Once he realized that even his faithful follower had betrayed him, he surrendered to his fate.

Caesar’s murder was one of the most famous, and most impactful in history, as it led to an entire change in the political direction of the Roman Empire.

Julius Caesar's Murder Site (Google Maps)
Julius Caesar's Murder Site

Pope John Paul II-St. Peter’s Square, Vatican

Pope John Paul II was a very popular and well-regarded leader of the Catholic faith from 1978-2005. He was born in Poland in 1920, and grew up under Nazi rule in Warsaw. Through the years, he was elevated in the ranks of the Catholic Church, eventually becoming elected Pope in 1978 after the untimely death of Pope John Paul I.

On May 13, 1981, he was entering St. Peter’s Square in an open vehicle, greeting the crowd when a lone gunman Mehmet Ali Agca shot him three times, severely wounding him. However, apparently the man of God was watched over that day, because he survived the attack and even forgave his shooter. No concrete motive or theory could explain the shooting.

St. Peter's Square (Google Maps)
St. Peter's Square

One significant result of the shooting was that from then on, the Pope nearly always traveled in a specially designed vehicle that allowed the leader to be visible to his followers while protected by bulletproof glass. Because of the unique design, the vehicle was nicknamed the “Popemobile” and it traveled with the leader wherever he went in the world.

Popemobile of 2016 (StreetView)
Popemobile of 2016

If nothing else, these tragic murders (and attempted murder) show that these crimes happen for mundane, random and insane reasons, and can have impacts that literally change the course of the world.

This Month in History: October

There’s a lot going on in the world these days, and sometimes it can seem like things that happen now are more important than anything in the past. It’s nice to look back and see what important things have occurred in the past to make our world better, and what things have happened that we’ve survived.

Let’s look at some of the things that happened in Octobers past.

Panama Canal Returned to Panama

The Panama Canal is an engineering marvel, bridging the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans at the narrow isthmus of Panama in Central America. The United States began the project in order to cut the travel time from the East Coast to the West Coast by 6,000 miles.

The United States constructed the canal and maintained control for more than 60 years. But, after much protest by Panamanians wanting local control over the canal, the two countries agreed to give control of the canal back to Panama, starting October 1, 1979.

Panama Canal (Google Maps)
Panama Canal

Uganda Gains Independence from Great Britain

The people who live in what is now Uganda in Africa were first exposed to European traders and missionaries in the 1860s and 1870s, when they came looking for the source of the Nile river and trade routes. Shortly thereafter, Ugandan people were put under the “Ugandan Protectorate” by Great Britain.

This protectorate status lasted until October 9, 1962, when under Queen Elizabeth II, the country was granted independence and embraced as part of the Commonwealth of Nations. Since that time, the country has been independent, but often experiences political unrest and struggle for power.

Parliament of Uganda (Google Maps)
Parliament of Uganda

Nikita Khrushchev Pounds his Shoe at United Nations

After World War II, a “cold” war broke out between democratic countries led by the United States, and communist countries led by the Soviet Union. At a meeting of the heads of state of the members of the United Nations on October 12, 1960, the delegate from the Philippines was speaking out against communism, which enraged Nikita Khrushchev, the leader of the Soviet Union. According to reports, he was so furious he removed his shoe and banged it on his table. This famous outburst was one of many, including the leader claiming that the Soviets would “bury” the Americans and win the war of global competition.

United Nations Headquarters Building (Google Maps)
United Nations Headquarters Building

Yale University is Founded

Fewer than 100 years after settling the area, colonists in Connecticut founded the first college in their colony, and the fourth in the entire colonies on October 16, 1701. The school formally changed its name to Yale College in 1718 after a benefactor. Since that time, Yale University has become one of the premier educational institutions in the world, and has educated five US presidents, as well as countless political leaders and business icons.

Yale (Google Maps)

Battle of Saratoga

The Battle of Saratoga in 1777 helped to turn the tide of the Revolution. British General John Burgoyne had a strategy to divide and conquer the American army, but he failed in two attempts in September and October, and was forced to surrender to American General Horatio Gates on October 17, 1777.

While this was just one of many battles, it showed French leaders that the American upstarts had a chance against the might of their enemy, the British, and joined the war on the side of the Americans. Their involvement was a critical point in helping America win her freedom from the British.

During the battle, American soldier Benedict Arnold was wounded in the leg. Later, he betrayed the country he fought for, but there’s still a monument to his service, in the shape of a boot no less!

Benedict Arnold's Boot Monument street view (StreetView)
Benedict Arnold's Boot Monument street view

US Invades Grenada

As dawn rose on October 25, 1983, US troops landed at the airport on the Caribbean island of Grenada. Over the previous few weeks, political instability had come to a breaking point, the leader overthrown and killed in riots, and unrest was growing worse. Grenada’s government requested international help, and because there were more than 600 US medical students on the island, President Reagan sent about 7,600 troops to restore peace to the country. The military action was over within a few days and with relatively few casualties.

Democratic elections were held in 1984, and the country has been democratic ever since.

Grenada Island (Google Maps)
Grenada Island

Shootout at the OK Corral

At 3:00 on October 26, 1881, the most famous gunfight in the Wild West took place in Tombstone, Arizona. After an old feud came to head between an outlaw gang and the police authorities in the small territory town, the five members of the Cowboys faced off against town Sheriff Virgil Earp, his brothers Morgan and Wyatt, and friend Doc Holliday. After 30 seconds of shooting, two outlaws were dead, the rest of the gang had scattered.

The feud didn’t end that day, and the two sides continued to settle scores for years.The shootout did not actually take place at the OK Corral, but down the street. Nonetheless, the OK Corral and Tombstone have become famous in American lore.

Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (StreetView)
Gunfight at the O.K. Corral

These are just a few stories from the vault of history showing us that important, interesting, and outlandish things happen all the time.

Beautiful Parks Around the World

There’s nothing more refreshing than spending time outside, among beautiful trees, animals, and fresh air; and this year has taught us to appreciate the outdoors more than ever! Let’s take a look at some of the most beautiful city parks around the world.

Central Park

Central Park in New York City is hands down the most famous urban park in the world, and one of the biggest. It is very diverse, with lakes, ponds, hills, wooded areas, as well as sports complexes, theaters, and places for families and kids to play. More people visit Central Park than any other park in the world, and with all it has to offer, it’s no wonder why.

Everyone coming to New York must take a break in the park, whether it’s to lie on the grass or play in one of the many parks. As you step away from the street, it feels like you’re leaving the city and entering a whole new place where you can relax and take a break from the busiest city in the world.

Central Park (Google Maps)
Central Park

One of the most popular areas of the park is Strawberry Fields, a memorial to John Lennon of the Beatles. He lived at the Dakota building on the border of the park, and was shot and killed outside the building in 1980. The memorial area in the park is adjacent to his apartment building.

Strawberry Fields (John Lennon memorial) (Birds Eye)
Strawberry Fields (John Lennon memorial)

Tuileries Gardens

The Tuileries Gardens in downtown Paris, France, are some of the most beautifully landscaped urban gardens. Originally commissioned in the 1560s, it was the biggest and most elaborate garden in Paris. Over the years, it has been expanded and enhanced, and was opened to the public in 1667.

Since then, it has been a popular gathering place for the city’s residents. They come here to relax, walk, enjoy entertainment, and spend time in nature within the city limits. The Tuileries Gardens fit the Parisian personality perfectly: chic, classy, and understated. They are a great place to visit if you’re lucky enough to spend some time in the City of Lights.

Jardin des Tuileries (Google Maps)
Jardin des Tuileries

Griffith Park

Griffith Park is one of the largest urban parks in North America, even larger than Central Park. Griffith Park has a varied landscape, from remote caves amid rugged hills to the famed Griffith Observatory, from the iconic Hollywood sign to the Los Angeles Zoo.

Griffith Observatory (Google Maps)
Griffith Observatory

Griffith Park is central to the identity of Los Angeles, and is a great place to spend a day, whether you’re hiking in the rough hills, interacting with animals at the zoo, or taking in a performance at the Greek Theater. As far as parks go, this one is extraordinary.

Griffith Park and the L.A. Skyline (StreetView)
Griffith Park and the L.A. Skyline

Lumphini Park

While not as big or diverse as Griffith Park, Lumphini Park in downtown Bangkok, Thailand, is an integral part of city life. There is a beautiful lake, two miles of walking trails, many varieties of birds and wildlife to observe, and more. The park is especially important in the densely urban area because it provides social services including a library, apprentice schools, and education center to help homeless children.

Lumphini Park (Google Maps)
Lumphini Park

El Retiro, Spain

Parque del Buen Retiro, known as El Retiro, in Madrid, is perfectly named because the park is a wonderful retreat from the bustle of Spain’s capital city. The park started out as grounds for a palace in the 1500s, but eventually became public by 1868. The park has a large pond, free weekly outdoor concerts, multiple playgrounds, and many lovely walking paths.

There are several buildings that host exhibitions; the most famous of which is the Crystal Palace. The Palace is constructed of glass and iron, including a curved glass ceiling, which is an architectural marvel.  Being inside the palace, but seeing the sky and trees all around is simply enchanting.

'Palacio de Cristal' by Ricardo Velázquez Bosco (StreetView)
'Palacio de Cristal' by Ricardo Velázquez Bosco

Royal Botanic Garden

The Royal Botanic Garden in Sydney, Australia, was established in 1816, and is both an important scientific institution as well as a beloved cultural and recreational center for the city. It has carefully cultivated gardens and less structured park areas, with both native and exotic wildlife. The Garden extends to the Sydney Harbor, and features a beautiful hand-constructed seawall.

Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney (StreetView)
Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney

Along the harbor edge of the garden is the world-famous Sydney Opera House. It is a wonderful cultural institution, but it’s probably more famous because of it’s breathtaking, unique design. The shell-inspired design is recognized the world over.

Sydney Opera House (Birds Eye)
Sydney Opera House

These are just a few of the beautiful parks around the world. There are parks everywhere, so you don’t have to travel to a big city to enjoy a little respite from the busy world.

This Month in History: August

We’re making progress in the most interesting year in awhile, but 2020 isn’t the only time things have been wild. Let’s take a look back in history and see some important historical events.

Iraq Invades Kuwait

Tensions between Iraq and its neighboring country Kuwait were simmering for awhile over oil production issues when, on August 2, 1990, Iraq invaded Kuwait. Within two days, the small country’s military was completely overrun, and shortly thereafter the country was annexed by Iraq.

Soon, a US-led coalition declared war on Iraq in what became known as the Gulf War. They started bombing Iraq on January 16, 1991, and after a five week ground assault, Kuwait was liberated from the Iraqis.

While the Iraqi military leadership had declared a retreat, a unit stationed at the Kuwait International Airport did not receive the message, and engaged allied forces in a several-hours long standoff before they surrendered.

Kuwait International Airport (Google Maps)
Kuwait International Airport

Lizzie Borden’s Parents are Murdered

On the morning of August 4, 1892, Andrew Borden and his wife Abby were found gruesomely murdered by an axe in their home in Fall River, Massachusetts. Andrew’s 32 year old daughter Lizzie Borden was the prime suspect, and tried for their murders.

While she was acquitted of the crimes, she lived the rest of her life under a haze of suspicion, and the macabre rhyme about the crime has ensured she will be remembered for many years to come. “Lizzie Borden took an axe and gave her mother forty whacks. And when she saw what she had done, she gave her father forty-one.”

Lizzie Borden axe murder home (StreetView)
Lizzie Borden axe murder home

Marilyn Monroe Is Found Dead of a Drug Overdose

Marilyn Monroe was an actress, singer, and sex symbol in the 1950s and 1960s, starring in several popular films and capturing the attention of many American men, including, allegedly, President John F. Kenned. However, she was plagued by depression, drug addiction, and other maladies.

On August 5, her housekeeper found her dead, and it was determined that she passed away on the evening of August 4, 1962, of an intentional drug overdose.

Fans the world over mourned her death, and she is still beloved by many, and considered one of Hollywood’s brightest stars.

Marilyn Monroe's Last Residence (Birds Eye)
Marilyn Monroe's Last Residence

Atomic Bomb Dropped on Hiroshima

By the summer of 1945, the war in Europe had come to an end, but the war between the Allies and Japan continued to rage on. It became clear that to defeat Japan, it would cost many more American, and Japanese lives. The decision was made to use a new, catastrophic, weapon against Japan in an effort to expedite the end of the war.

On the morning of August 6, 1945, an atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, killing up to 166,000 civilians. As a direct result of the bombs on Hiroshima and then Nagasaki, which was dropped three days later, Japan surrendered to the United States on August 15.

Hiroshima was nearly entirely destroyed that day, but the surviving residents rebuilt the city into a thriving, vibrant metropolis. The city has not forgotten its history, and a beautiful memorial park and museum serve to honor the dead and tell the story of that day.

Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park (StreetView)
Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park

Berlin Wall Erected

After the end of World War II, Germany and its capital Berlin were divided among the Allied victors: the US, France, Great Britain, and the Soviet Union. However, after years of deteriorating relations between the former Allies, the Soviets erected a wall to divide their sector from the sectors of Berlin on August 13, 1961. They claimed it would keep westerners out, but it was clearly designed to keep East Germans trapped and unable to escape.

This wall became a symbol of the divide between “east” and “west”, communism and democracy, until it came down on November 9, 1989. While the wall is mostly gone, some pieces have been preserved as living symbols of the division, and unity, of the country.

Remains of Berlin Wall (Mühlenstrasse) (Google Maps)
Remains of Berlin Wall (Mühlenstrasse)

Mount Vesuvius Erupts

Mount Vesuvius in southern Italy near Naples is an active volcano.

Its most famous eruption began early in the morning of August 24, 79 AD. It destroyed several nearby cities, including Pompeii and Herculaneum. The volcano began by spewing ash, giving residents of nearby cities a warning that the volcano was beginning to erupt. By the afternoon, the volcano shifted to violent and deadly eruptions, killing some people in an instant from the heat of the ash and lava.

It is estimated that more than 16,000 people died, some instantly. Many bodies, as well as much of the cities, have been preserved in remarkable condition due to the ash and lava that fell down on the cities. Sites are continually being excavated, and scientists and anthropologists are learning so much from the incredibly well-preserved sites. Tourists can visit the destroyed cities as well.

Pompeii - House Of The Faun (Birds Eye)
Pompeii - House Of The Faun

Princess Diana Dies in Car Crash

Diana Spencer became a princess when she married Prince Charles in 1981, and became a global icon over the next decade, earning the nickname “The People’s Princess”. The couple divorced, but Diana continued to be one of the most famous, and most photographed people in the world. Every aspect of her life was public fodder, and she was hounded by aggressive paparazzi wherever she went.

On August 30, 1997, she and her boyfriend Dodi Fayed, were in a car crash in Paris, France. Early the next morning, she was declared dead at a local hospital, plunging the world into shock and mourning.

Alma tunnel where Lady Diana died (Google Maps)
Alma tunnel where Lady Diana died

Even now, more than 20 years later, she is still known around the world for her popularity, charity work, and kind personality.

This year may feel unique in terms of crazy events, but when we reflect on things from our past, it helps to put our challenges, and successes, in perspective. Here’s hoping that the rest of 2020 will be memorable for the best of reasons!

Beautiful Cathedrals Across Europe

Throughout the world, there are beautiful temples, cathedrals and monuments build to respect and worship God, no matter the religion. Especially in Europe, a tradition of building large, ornate and elaborate assembly halls for the worship of god developed in the Middle Ages and continues today. In addition to holy and breathtaking houses of god, these structures are amazing feats of architecture, craftsmanship and dedication.

If you ever had the chance, you should check out these European cathedrals.

Cologne Cathedral

The Cologne Cathedral is a massive and breathtaking Gothic cathedral built in western Germany, built on the site of earlier, smaller churches. It was started in 1248, and worked on for three hundred years before construction was largely halted until 1823. The structure was completed in 1880. It was extensively damaged in World War II, but has since been repaired and renovated.

The Cathedral is one of the largest and tallest cathedrals, and its unique twin spires give it the largest facade of any church in the world. Visitors are able to tour much of the cathedral, as well as climb the 533 steps to the top of the south tower, and once there, the view of the city can’t be beat.

Cologne Cathedral (Birds Eye)
Cologne Cathedral

Notre-Dame de Paris

One of the world’s most famous cathedrals, Notre-Dame de Paris was the first cathedral to use flying buttresses, arches on the exterior of the cathedral placed to support the tall walls and allow an unobstructed interior room. Construction began on the church in 1163 and completed roughly 200 years later. Stained glass artwork was used to tell the stories of Christ’s life and death, and the rose windows are particularly stunning works of art.

The cathedral was made especially famous because the 1831 novel The Hunchback of Notre-Dame by Victor Hugo, which takes place in and around the cathedral. Much of the structure was damaged by the people of Paris during the French Revolution, but has since been restored and repaired.

Notre Dame de Paris (StreetView)
Notre Dame de Paris

St. Basil’s Cathedral

St. Basil’s Cathedral, as it is known in English, in Moscow Russia, was constructed in the mid-1500s on the orders of Ivan the Terrible. It is a unique structure both in terms of Russian architecture and traditional Russian Orthodox church construction. It’s design exemplifies fire reaching into the sky, and it’s colorful domes and walls are breathtaking against the bright blue sky. Unlike Catholic cathedrals, which are laid out in the form of a cross, St. Basil’s Cathedral is shaped like a diamond, with eight small churches inside.

St Basil's
Photo Credit: By Petar Milošević via Wikipedia

The colorful exterior painting was added in the 1600 and 1700s, and stands in stark contrast to the generally more staid and somber churches of the Catholic and Orthodox faiths. The cathedral was turned into a museum in the 1930s by orders of the atheistic Soviet government. Because it is located right next to the Kremlin, people mistakenly assume it is part of the complex, but it functions independent from the government fortress.

St. Basil's Cathedral (Google Maps)
St. Basil's Cathedral

St. Mark’s Basilica

St. Mark’s Basilica was built in Venice, Italy 1063 on the remains of a smaller church that had burned down. It was built in anticipation of housing the remains of St. Mark, some of which are claimed to remain in the church to this day as part of the cathedral’s treasure. The treasure also includes Islamic art, ancient carvings and sculptures, precious stones and jewels and a gold throne.

St. Mark's
Photo Credit: Wikipedia

The interior and exterior of the cathedral are ornate and demonstrate Venice’s location at the intersection between northern Europe, eastern Europe and the Middle East, with architectural and artistic influences of the various cultures apparent throughout the building.

Basilica San Marco (Google Maps)
Basilica San Marco

Westminster Abby

Westminster Abby is England’s most famous church, and the site of royal weddings including that of Prince William and Catherine Middleton in 2011. The Abby was built on previously sacred ground starting in 1042 so Edward the Confessor would have a holy burial site. It has since been the place for coronations, weddings and burials of many of England’s royalty.

After King Henry VIII separated England from the Catholic Church, the Abby became an important part of the Church of England. It has been enhanced and repaired throughout its history. It was hit by incendiary bombs during Word War II’s Battle of Britain, but dedicated staff and local residents worked to prevent fire from causing significant damage.

Westminster Abbey (Birds Eye)
Westminster Abbey

Religious or not, these houses of worship can inspire awe, respect and admiration both for the people whose faith drove the creation of the stone works of art and the talented and dedicated craftsmen and laborers who constructed these holy places.




This Month in History: July

We’re halfway through an eventful 2020, and looking back it feels like it’s been an eternity. But, there’s much more to remember than just the events of this year.

Let’s look back on some life-changing, breath-taking, and earth-shattering events that have made it into the history books.

Assassination of President Garfield

President James A. Garfield ran for president representing the relatively new Republican party, supporting purging corruption in the civil service and enhancing civil rights. Garfield was assassinated at a railroad station in Washington, D.C. by Charles J. Guiteau on July 2, 1881.

President Garfield Assassination Site (Google Maps)
President Garfield Assassination Site

Guiteau was delusional and vengeful after not receiving a political appointment. He was initially treated by doctors who did not practice hand sanitation. This likely led to the infection that killed him about ten weeks later, on September 19, 1881. Guiteau was convicted of murder and put to death in 1882.

Garfield was buried in Cleveland, Ohio, and there is a substantial monument and tomb marking his grave site.

Tomb of President James A. Garfield (Google Maps)
Tomb of President James A. Garfield

Signing of the Declaration of Independence

America celebrates Independence Day on July 4, because on that date in 1776, a few dozen men gathered in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, declared independence from Great Britain. It was more than a year into the fighting for greater independence for the 13 colonies. It marked a turning point in the war, officially stating that the American colonies were sovereign, independent from, and not part of Great Britain.

The war didn’t end for seven more years, but it has been celebrated as the national holiday for the United States ever since.

Congress Hall (StreetView)
Congress Hall

Fall of the Bastille

The Bastille in Paris, France, was originally built to be a fortress, but turned into a prison by the 1650s. As France descended into civil conflict in the 1780s, the Bastille became a symbol of the unjust power of the monarchy by the revolutionary leaders.

On July 14, 1789, a large crowd stormed the prison, ostensibly to free the prisoners, but leaders were in search of the gunpowder stored there. Since 1790, the day has been celebrated as France’s “national day”, much like Independence Day in the United States.

The prison was torn down during the revolutionary years, but has been replaced with the Place de la Bastille, with a large column in the center to commemorate the events of the July Revolution.

Place de la Bastille (Google Maps)
Place de la Bastille

Murder of Czar Nicholas and Family

Nicholas II was the last Czar of Russia. As World War I raged, domestic political and social upheaval tore the country apart. The country’s political structure collapsed and Czar Nicholas was forced to abdicate his throne. He and his family were forced into exile in Yekaterinburg. However, revolutionary leaders were not content as long as the symbol of the monarchy still lived, and the death of the Czar and his family were ordered.

He, his wife, and five children, along with close servants and friends, were shot to death on the night of July 17, 1918. Their bodies were dismembered and hidden to prevent supporters from finding them and turning them into martyrs and undermining the revolution.

Yekaterinburg (Google Maps)

Apollo 11 Lands on the Moon

For as long as humans could look up, we have dreamed of being among the stars, but on July 16, 1969, three American astronauts left earth’s gravity and prepared to land on the moon.

On July 20, Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Buzz Aldrin orbited the moon. Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong landed on the moon, with the world watching as the two men descended from the Eagle lunar module, and took “one small step for man, one small step for mankind.”

Kennedy Space Center (StreetView)
Kennedy Space Center

John Dillinger is Killed in a Police Chase

John Dillinger was a famous gangster and bank robber in the 1930s. He robbed banks in four states, killed one police office, and evaded police for years. In an effort to catch him, the Department of Justice created what evolved into the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

In July 1934, word got to the federal agents that he was in Chicago, and on July 22, they tracked him to the Biograph Theater. When he exited the theater, he saw the officers, tried to flee, and was shot in the pursuit. As word of his death spread, crowds gathered to see the crime scene and even dip handkerchiefs and newspapers in the blood as souvenirs.

Biograph Theater (StreetView)
Biograph Theater

Korean War Armistice

After World War II, supervision of Korea was divided between the Soviet Union and the United States. War broke out over the division in 1950, and carried on for three difficult years. Both sides eventually began negotiations to end the war, and on July 27, 1953, they declared an armistice, or ceasefire, which had been negotiated at the border between North and South Korea at the 38th Parallel, in Panmunjom.

Technically, the war is still not declared over, and both sides live in a state of constant preparation in case the conflict heats up again, as it has threatened to dozens of times over the seven decades since the fighting stopped.

Truce Village, The (Google Maps)
Truce Village, The

These historical events show that any day can change the world, whether it’s for one person like John Dillinger, or the entire world as when Apollo 11 landed on the moon. Every day holds the potential to change your world–so make the most of it!

This Month in History: June

If there’s one thing we know, it’s that we’re living in unprecedented times. But as big and life changing as things feel these days, we can look back through history and see that a few people can change history, and that living one’s best life is the most important thing they can do to change the world.

Massacre at Tienanmen Square

Months of student-led protests in Beijing resulted in a military crackdown and the deaths of hundreds or thousands of protesters and bystanders. Protesters were demonstrating in favor of increased transparency, democracy, and freedom of speech. After weeks of growing frustration, the government called in more than 300,000 soldiers to counter the protests on June 4, 1989.

Soldiers used force in several instances, including driving a tank into a group of protesters, firing on unarmed students and other acts of violence. The next day, a lone protester stood in Tienanmen Square, blocking a line of tanks,  and becoming the face of the protest.

Tiananmen Square (Google Maps)
Tiananmen Square

Robert F. Kennedy is Assassinated

Just a few years after the assassination of his brother, President John F. Kenned, Robert F. Kennedy was running for the Democratic nomination for president. He held an election night celebration at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, California on June 5, 1968.

After the event, he and his security team were leaving the hotel through the kitchen when he was shot by Sirhan Sirhan. He died the next day. His assassination was one of many in the decade, contributing to the tumultuous and chaotic feeling of the 1960s politically and socially as people fought for change and looked for stability at the same time.

Ambassador Hotel (former) (Google Maps)
Ambassador Hotel (former)

Medgar Evers is Murdered in Mississippi

Medgar Evars was an African American civil rights activist in Mississippi. He worked for integrated education and for the NAACP. He was a target of white supremacists and anti-integration advocates. Threats were so serious that even his children were trained in how to respond to an attack.

On June 12, 1963, he was shot in his driveway. He died later that evening after achieving the dubious groundbreaking distinction of being the first African American admitted to an all-white hospital in Mississippi. He was buried on June 19 in Arlington Cemetery. His assassin was originally acquitted, but convicted in 1994.

Medgar Evers Murder (StreetView)
Medgar Evers Murder

Watergate Hotel Break-in

In the nighttime hours of June 17, 1972, five men were arrested inside the Democratic National Committee headquarters in the Watergate Office Building in Washington, D.C. They were hired by people tied to the Nixon reelection campaign, and as the investigation went on, it was clear that President Nixon himself was deeply involved in illegal activities intended to help him win reelection.

The arrests led to a years-long investigation and the resignation of President Nixon to avoid impeachment and removal by the House of Representatives and Senate.

Watergate Hotel (Birds Eye)
Watergate Hotel

Napoleon is Defeated at Waterloo

Napoleon Bonaparte rose to prominence and eventual power after the mess of the French Revolution. Being Emperor of France wasn’t enough, and Napoleon spent a decade invading other European countries and acquiring more territory. He was pushed from power in 1814, but came back in 1815.

The major powers of Europe formed a coalition to defeat Napoleon, and on June 18, 1815, armies from England, Prussia, and other countries met Napoleon’s army and defeated them just outside the Belgian town of Waterloo. Napoleon abdicated days later, this time for good. Europe formed new alliances that maintained peace for decades and laid the groundwork for the alliances that would lead to World War I.

Lion hill of Waterloo (Google Maps)
Lion hill of Waterloo

Berlin Airlift Begins

After World War II, control over Germany was divided among the victors: United States, Great Britain, France, and the USSR. The capitol Berlin was also divided. Because Berlin was deep inside the Soviet zone, it was difficult to keep the western side supplied.

In 1948, the USSR cut off all roads and train supply routes in an effort to gain total control over the city. Starting on June 26, 1948, the three allied countries airlifted in food and supplies to keep the city supplied. After more than a year, 2.3 million tons of supplies, and airplanes landing nearly every 30 seconds, the Soviets backed down and opened up the traditional supply routes.

The Berlin Airlift was the first of many tense conflicts between the USSR and the west during the Cold War.

Berlin airlift DC-4 at Tempelhof Airport (Google Maps)
Berlin airlift DC-4 at Tempelhof Airport

Assassination of Franz Ferdinand

While all political assassinations are intended to cause chaos, likely no single assassination has had a greater impact on the world than the assassination of Franz Ferdinand, the presumptive heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary. He was killed on June 28, 1914, while traveling in a motorcade in Sarajevo by a young revolutionary. His death, and that of his wife Sophie, had global importance because they set of a chain of events that caused World War I, and the deaths of more than 40 million soldiers and civilians worldwide.

Where WWI started - Franz Ferdinand assassination (Google Maps)
Where WWI started - Franz Ferdinand assassination

These are just a few of so many important events in Junes past, and knowing people have experienced so many crazy, life-changing, and amazing moments, and the world keeps on going can give us confidence that we can survive and thrive during these trying times.

Remembering the D-Day Invasion at Normandy

On June 6, 1944, Allied forces began storming the beaches of Normandy, France, in an effort to liberate that country, and all of Europe, from Nazi control.

On the 76th anniversary of this pivotal operation, let’s take a look back and learn a little more about how this event helped the Allies win World War II.

Portsmouth Harbor, GB

Much of the invasion of northwest France originated in Portsmouth, Great Britain. Thousands of troops boarded boats on June 5, for the overnight ride across the English Channel to the beaches of Normandy, France.

Evidence of the war still remains, including submerged  portions of Mulberry harbors, which were temporary harbors constructed to help bring material into France from Allied ships after they secured the beachhead.

Mulberry Harbor (Google Maps)
Mulberry Harbor

Omaha Beach

British, American, and Canadian troops each attacked different areas of the Normandy coast, and each section was given a code name. American troops landed at Omaha and Utah Beaches. Landing was tough in the cold, choppy water.

Fighting to take over the beach was intense here, as the area was the most heavily defended by German soldiers.

Omaha Beach (Google Maps)
Omaha Beach

Omaha Beach Memorial

On the beach, there is a memorial called “Les Braves” to honor the 2,400 brave soldiers who gave their lives to take Omaha Beach, and the more than 34,000 men who fought so hard to liberate France by coming up the beach on June 6.

Omaha Beach Memorial (StreetView)
Omaha Beach Memorial

Pointe du Hoc

Dividing Omaha and Utah beaches is Pointe du Hoc, which is a tall cliff jutting into the ocean. Because of its height and position, it was an excellent defensive position held by Germans, and had to be taken in order for the D-Day invasion to be a success.

American Army Rangers scaled the hundred foot cliffs under grave danger, and reached their objective of securing the batteries and guns. Over two days, more than 135 men were killed or wounded.

The bunkers have been turned into a museum, where visitors can see what it would have been like as a German soldier, and how terrifying climbing the cliffs would have been for the Rangers.

Pointe du Hoc (Google Maps)
Pointe du Hoc

Utah Beach and Museum

The other American landing site was at Utah Beach, where the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions parachuted in to help the men who came up the beach from the water.

A museum has been built on the beach to commemorate the attack, all that went into it, and the impact it had on helping to end the war.

Utah Beach Landing Museum (StreetView)
Utah Beach Landing Museum

Azeville Battery

Three kilometres. or just under two miles from Utah Beach, was the Azevile Battery, where the German troops blasted away at soldiers attempting to land on the beach.

It took three days to take out the battery, which is now a local museum.

Azeville Battery (StreetView)
Azeville Battery

Battle of Normandy Museum

Just a few miles inland from the coast is Bayeux, France, one of the first towns liberated as the Allies marched towards Berlin and the end of the war. The city has created a museum that displays a comprehensive telling of the invasion, from planning to execution to final outcomes.

It is an amazing place to learn about the battle, the war, who fought it, and who it was for.

Battle of Normandy Museum (StreetView)
Battle of Normandy Museum

Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial

Thousands of allied soldiers died in Normandy, and their bodies could not be returned to their home countries. There is an American Cemetery in France where nearly ten thousand soldiers are buried and another 1,500 unidentified soldiers are honored.

It is an important stop on any visit to Normandy, to get a feel for the human cost of the invasion, and to honor the dead servicemen, and to leave with a complete understanding of the cost of war.

Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial (Google Maps)
Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial

Statue of Major Richard Winters

There are many other memorials throughout Normandy, including a statue of Major Richard Winters, made famous in the HBO series Band of Brothers. He was a paratrooper in the 101st Airborne Division of the American Army.

Major Richard Winters - Easy Company 101st Airborne (StreetView)
Major Richard Winters - Easy Company 101st Airborne

Memorial to John Steele

In Ste. Mere Eglise, there is a unique memorial to Private John Steele. Steele was a paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne who got caught up in a local cathedral, and hung on a pinnacle on the side of the church all night long. Amazingly, he survived the ordeal.

The town used his effigy to remember all those involved in the battle.

Ste Mère Eglise church - John Steele paratrooper (StreetView)
Ste Mère Eglise church - John Steele paratrooper

These are just a few of the many places people can visit, online or in real life, to witness, learn about, and honor the people who fought to liberate Normandy, France and Europe from the grip of the Nazis.

Best Places to Commemorate Memorial Day

Memorial Day in the United States, on the last Monday in May, is a holiday to commemorate those who died protecting the country while serving in the Armed Forces. American soldiers have fought for freedom on American soil and around the world. There are national cemeteries and memorials to honor the dead all across the US and around the world.

Let’s take a look at some of these hallowed places.

Arlington National Cemetery

General Robert E. Lee owned a considerable amount of land in Arlington County, Virginia, just outside Washington, D.C. At the start of the Civil War, the renowned general left his position in the US Army to lead Confederate troops. Towards the end of the Civil War, the Union Army ran out of places to bury fallen soldiers, so, in 1864, the Union government took Lee’s land and turned it into a cemetery.

Over time, the cemetery has become the most prominent national cemetery in the United States. It is the final resting place for more than 400,000 soldiers, their family members and important civilians. More than three million people visit the cemetery each year to pay their respects to the deceased and to learn more about their service.

Entrance to Arlington National Cemetery (Birds Eye)
Entrance to Arlington National Cemetery

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is one of the most sacred places in Arlington Cemetery. Here lie unidentified remains from soldiers from several major wars.

It is guarded by members of the Old Guard of the Army 24 hours a day, every day of the year, rain or shine, heat or cold. It is an honor to “walk the mat” and the guards follow a detailed routine designed to honor the unidentified fallen service members. Due to the solemn nature of the Tomb, observers are expected to maintain silence, and those who violate the order will be reprimanded by the guard.

Tomb of the Unknowns (Google Maps)
Tomb of the Unknowns

Gettysburg National Cemetery

The Battle of Gettysburg witnessed some of the most brutal fighting of the Civil War. It took place from July 1-3, 1863. Both sides suffered massive casualties; about one third of soldiers were killed or wounded in the battle, and General Robert E. Lee suffered a massive defeat both in the field and to his reputation.

After the battle, President Abraham Lincoln and others gathered at the site to dedicate the Soldiers’ National Cemetery. It was here, on November 4, 1863 that Lincoln gave the speech that later became known as the Gettysburg Address.

The battlefield has been turned into a national park, and visitors can drive through and learn about the battle, walking where soldiers walked and learning about those who died, and survived, the battle.

Gettysburg National Cemetery (Birds Eye)
Gettysburg National Cemetery

Pennsylvania State Memorial

Many states have created memorials within the park to honor their soldiers, and commemorate their sacrifice and bravery during the three days in July. Pennsylvania created the largest monument within the park, a large granite domed monument complete with a 7,500 pound statute of Winged Victory.

Pennsylvania State Memorial, Gettysburg (StreetView)
Pennsylvania State Memorial, Gettysburg

Antietam National Battlefield

Antietam National Battlefield is a National Park that commemorates a one-day battle outside Sharpsburg, West Virginia, that resulted in the highest single day of casualties in the Civil War. The battle took place on September 17, 1862, and left nearly 23,000 dead or wounded among the Union and Confederate Armies.

The Park includes a visitor center, a preserved battlefield, a field hospital museum, and a national cemetery.

Antietam National Battlefield (Google Maps)
Antietam National Battlefield

Pearl Harbor

While Europe had been involved in a massive war for two years, the United States managed to stay out of the fray until late 1941. On December 7, Japan attacked the American naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, drawing the country into the war. Almost 2,500 soldiers were killed, and several ships were damaged, three irreversibly. Wreckage from ships still remains in the harbor.

Pearl Harbor (Google Maps)
Pearl Harbor

USS Arizona

The USS Arizona was damaged beyond repair, and sunk with more than a thousand sailors. It still “bleeds” oil to this day, from a leak in the hull. A memorial was created over the wreckage, careful to be respectful of the ship, which is a tomb to the men who died there.

USS Arizona (BB-39) Memorial (Birds Eye)
USS Arizona (BB-39) Memorial

Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial

Starting June 6, 1944, the Allies invaded German-held Normandy to help free France and end World War II. American forces played an integral role in the liberation of France, and about 10,000 American soldiers died or went missing during the action.

After the war, France turned a temporary American cemetery at Colleville-sur-Mer into the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial, where the remains of about 9,500 known soldiers are buried, as well as the names of 1,500 missing. The cemetery is a moving memorial to the fallen and their sacrifices for the freedom of others.

Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial (Google Maps)
Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial

Manila American Cemetery and Memorial

More than 17,000 American soldiers who lost their lives fighting in the Pacific theater of World War II are buried in the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial. These soldiers died fighting to free places like New Guinea and the Philippines from Japanese control.

Like in France, there is a memorial to the missing, which contains more than 36,000 names. The memorial and cemetery are in a beautiful and peaceful setting, with views of the lowlands, Laguna Bay, and mountains in the distance.

Manila American Cemetery and Memorial (Google Maps)
Manila American Cemetery and Memorial

These are some of the places dedicated to remembering and honoring those brave men and women who gave their all for Americans and freedom loving people around the world. It’s the least we can do on this special holiday, to take some time to learn about the wars they fought in and places where they have found their eternal rest.

This Month in History: May

The world is witnessing history unfold as the Corona Virus, or Covid-19, spreads throughout the world. It’s a stark reminder that history happens every day.

And while we cannot stop bad things from occurring on a global scale, we can look to history to see great events, and the individuals who play a role in them.

May 1: Empire State Building Officially Opens

When the Empire State Building opened in New York City on May, 1931, the city was in the midst of a “race into the sky” where multiple buildings were vying to be the tallest building in the city, and the world.

The Art Deco structure was the tallest building in the world until it was passed by the World Trade Center.

Empire State Building (Birds Eye)
Empire State Building

May 4: National Guard Fires on Kent State Protestors

As the Vietnam War dragged on, American sentiment turned strongly against the war. In early May 1970, a series of increasingly violent protests on the campus of Kent State University culminated in a large protest on the Commons on May 4. The National Guard had been called out, and, for unknown reasons, the soldiers fired on the dispersing crowd, wounding nine and killing four students.

A photograph taken as a young woman knelt over a dead student’s body has become a symbol of the day’s events and of the anti-war protest movement overall.

Memorials for the fallen are important parts of the Commons, and of the university’s commemoration of the event.

Kent State (Google Maps)
Kent State

May 12: King George VI is Crowned in Westminster Abbey

King George VI became King of of the United Kingdom on December 11, 1936, but did not hold his coronation until May 12, 1937. He reluctantly stepped into the role of King when his brother, King Edward VIII, chose to abdicate the throne to be with Wallace Simpson.

George brought with him a vital sense of unification and patriotism that was critical as the country prepared to enter what would become World War II.

May 17: Founding of the New York Stock Exchange

On May 17, 1792, 24 men got together on Wall Street in New York City and signed an agreement to organize securities trading among them. The agreement held, and the organization grew into the New York Stock Exchange, the largest trading floor in the world, and has made the term “Wall Street” synonymous with wealth, prestige and power.

New York Stock Exchange (StreetView)
New York Stock Exchange

May 23: Bonnie and Clyde are Gunned Down

During the Depression, the tale of Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow and the Barrow gang captivated the nation; the idea of a gun-wielding criminal couple too much to resist. The gang was famous for robbing banks, gas stations, and country stores. They killed nine police officers and four civilians along the way.

In early 1934, the gang was pursued relentlessly by authorities. The gang was tracked to Gibsland, Louisiana, and in the morning of May 23, a posse ambushed them, shooting Bonnie and Clyde up to 50 times each. There is now a monument marking the place they were killed.

Bonnie & Clyde Ambush/Death site (StreetView)
Bonnie & Clyde Ambush/Death site

There is a museum in Gibsland, run by the son of one of the posse members.

Bonnie and Clyde Ambush Museum (StreetView)
Bonnie and Clyde Ambush Museum

May 29: Constantinople Falls to the Turks

If you know the song, you know the history: “Istanbul was Constantinople”, but you may not know the details. After more than a thousand years as the head of the Roman Empire, the city of Constantinople had been severely weakened, but was still an impenetrable fortress due to the 12-foot thick Theodosian walls built in the 5th Century.

However, by 1453, the advent of weapons technology and gunpowder proved too much, and the walls were breached on May 29 by Mehmet the Conqueror. After three days of brutal looting, Mehmet restored peace to the city. He made Constantinople his capitol and renamed it Istanbul, which is now the capitol of Turkey.

Portions of the walls still stand, reminding residents and visitors of the history and power of the ancient city.

Walls of Constantinople (Google Maps)
Walls of Constantinople

May 31: Johnstown, Pennsylvania Flood

Johnstown, Pennsylvania was an industrial town of more than 30,000 built on the Little Conemaugh River. In May 1889, the area was hit by a series of rain storms, including one 24 hour period that dumped 6-10 inches. The rain caused a dam about 14 miles upriver to break, sending a massive river of debris and rushing water that wiped out three towns and killed more than 2,200 people. 

It caused nearly half a billion dollars in damages (in today’s dollars), and led to legislation improving working and safety standards and requiring organizations to take increased responsibility for accidents. Clara Barton, a famous Civil War nurse who founded the Red Cross, led the volunteer relief effort. A memorial now exists at the site of the dam break, preserving parts of the dam and the river bed.

Johnstown Flood National Memorial (Birds Eye)
Johnstown Flood National Memorial

Everyone has the chance to make history, whether it’s in the newspaper or just changing the life of a friend, neighbor, or stranger for the better. We should all try to make the world around us a better place; we can certainly use it.