On this day in 1942 – (74 years ago) – the Bulgarian poet Nikola Vaptsarov, who wrote in his spare time while working as an industrial and railroad mechanic, was executed by firing squad for his role in organizing supplies of weapons and documents for the underground communist resistance against the rule of the Bulgarian Tsar Boris III, who allowed Nazi forces to pass through Bulgaria on their way to invading the Soviet Union. Aside from publishing his work in newspapers and writing several plays, Vaptsaraov only produced one actual book of poetry, entitled Motoring Songs, published in 1940. In spite of his small output, he’s remembered today in Bulgaria and Macedonia as an important revolutionary voice, and as a peer and counterpart to Bertolt Brecht and Federico García Lorca. His poetry draws on Bulgarian folk traditions to critique dominant versions of history and emphasize the unsung labors of common people in shaping the achievements of society. He was 34 years old when he was arrested by the fascists and shot.
On this day in 1967 – (49 years ago) – in Detroit, citizens’ spontaneous resistance to a police raid of an unlicensed after-hours bar quickly escalated into one of the deadliest and most destructive urban riots in US history. Though Detroit had been cited positively for a degree of progress in education and employment for African Americans that looked better than the situation in some other American cities, its population still harbored resentment over poverty, housing discrimination, poor policing, and other large-scale manifestations of racism. These long-simmering grievances erupted in a wave of violence, arson, and looting that spread across the city’s West Side and continued for almost a week. Not only did Michigan Governor George Romney (father of Mitt) call in the National Guard, but President Lyndon Johnson decided to mobilize the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions into the inner city to restore order. By the time the rioting died down, 43 people were dead, almost 350 were seriously injured, and some 1,400 buildings had gone up in flames. Coleman Young, who was elected Detroit’s mayor in 1974, would later write of the ’67 riots that they “put Detroit on the fast track to economic desolation.”
On this day in 1983 – (33 years ago) – Air Canada Flight 143, a Boeing 767 jetliner cruising at 41,000 feet en route from Montreal to Edmonton with 61 passengers aboard, suddenly and without warning ran out of fuel. The mishap was later attributed to a chain of miscalculations and misunderstandings by Montreal ground personnel and the airplane’s crew as a result of Air Canada’s transition from the imperial system of weights and measures to the metric system. When the engines went out in midflight, the airplane also lost hydraulic power for its control surfaces and landing gear. With no official training for such a mishap, the captain was forced to draw on his experience as a recreational glider pilot, letting gravity drop the wheels, and guiding the airliner to a dead-stick landing at the only available site: a racetrack and drag strip near Gimli, Manitoba, where an auto rally was in progress. As the unpowered airliner approached silently, the spectators noticed it only at the last moment and ran terrified in all directions asit came in for a very rough landing. Incredibly, there were no major injuries. Later, the crew had the odd distinction of being both awarded for landing the plane safely and punished for allowing the snafu to happen in the first place.
Rotten History is written by Renaldo Migaldi