In 1932 – (85 years ago) – Japanese aircraft began an unprovoked bombing of the Chinese city of Shanghai. Japan had invaded northern China a year earlier and established a puppet state there called Manchukuo, as a base from which it could attack the rest of China. Now it followed up its bombing of Shanghai with an attack on targets around the city by thousands of ground-based troops. The bombardments and fighting between Japanese and Chinese forces continued for several weeks until the League of Nations helped negotiate a cease-fire. Some thirteen thousand Chinese were killed, and about five thousand Japanese. Along with being one of the important precursors to World War II, the battle marked Japan’s establishment of the so-called “comfort women” system, which forced local women into sexual slavery to keep Japanese troops less inclined to revolt against their superiors.
In 1964 – (53 years ago) – an unarmed US Air Force T-39 carrying a flight instructor and two pilots took off from the US air base in Wiesbaden, West Germany, on what was called a routine training flight. Within an hour the airplane flew off course, over the so-called “Iron Curtain” into East German airspace, and the crew did not respond to the air controllers’ frantic calls. The plane was shot down by a Soviet jet fighter and all three crewmembers were killed. The incident sparked an ugly Cold War dispute. Soviet diplomat Giorgi Kornienko called the flight “a clear intrusion” and a “case of gross provocation.” Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Dean Rusk called the downing of the plane “a shocking and senseless act,” and Senator Hubert Humphrey called it “an act of brutality, force, and premeditated slaughter.” But US Senator Barry Goldwater, a former Air Force pilot and a Republican candidate for president, expressed skepticism. He told reporters: “It’s kind of hard to believe that all your navigational equipment would go out at once on that plane.”
In 1986 – (31 years ago) – at Cape Canaveral, Florida, engineers from aerospace contractor Morton Thiokol urged managers at NASA not to launch the space shuttle Challenger, warning that cold weather and ice conditions at the Cape would prevent key components of the launch vehicle from working safely. But the NASA people were impatient; they argued with the engineers, resisted their warnings, and finally ignored them. The launch went ahead, and the space shuttle rose majestically from the pad. Seventy-three seconds later it exploded, killing all seven members of the crew.
Rotten History is written by Renaldo Migaldi