On this day in rancid, ugly, horrible, putrid, rotten history . . .
On this day in 1935 – [80 years ago today] Ethiopia was invaded by the armed forces of Benito Mussolini’s Italian Fascist regime, which numbered more than a million and included fighters from Libya, Eritrea, and other client states. The invaders were equipped with the latest in modern aircraft, tanks, artillery, and poison gas. Ethiopia’s Emperor Haile Selassie, meanwhile, having foreseen the approach of war, had only managed to raise a defense force of some half-million soldiers, most of whom received little or no training. Some of the Ethiopians had vehicles and weapons that, though outmoded, were still functional -- but others had only bows, spears, and swords. They were quickly overrun, and within a few months Mussolini was acclaimed by enthusiastic crowds in Rome, having declared a new Italian empire in East Africa. The occupation lasted several years, but began losing its grip in the late 1930s as Mussolini joined forces with Nazi Germany and diverted his attention and esources toward wider wars elsewhere. Later, after regaining its independence in 1947, Ethiopia would cite a death toll of more than seven hundred thousand people.
On this day in 1963 – [52 years ago today] Military forces in Honduras staged a violent coup d’etat just ten days before scheduled national elections. The ousted president, Ramon Villeda Morales, had pushed for democratic reforms, new labor laws, and improvements in public health, education, and infrastructure. But his agrarian measures, which included expropriation of foreign-owned agricultural land, had been criticized by business interests in the United States. Powerful right-wing elements in Honduras had not only accused him of communist sympathies, but also opposed the like-minded candidate who was widely expected to be elected to succeed him. After Villeda Morales was overthrown and exiled to Costa Rica, US president John Kennedy condemned the coup and recalled the US ambassador. But fourteen months later, Kennedy’s successor, Lyndon Johnson, established new ties with the Honduran military government, which would remain in power until 1982.