On This Day in Rotten History...
On this day in 1607 – (409 years ago) – the Bristol Channel, between England and Wales on the British west coast, was hit by an enormous flood that swept across two hundred square miles of coastal land and killed an estimated two thousand people. Contemporary accounts describe how the sea first mysteriously receded from the beach, then rose in waves that shot bright sparks, which were quickly followed by “huge and mighty hills of water” moving “faster than a greyhound could run.” Though the exact cause of the disaster remains unknown, many experts studying the written accounts, as well as physical evidence in the area’s soil, contend today that the flood was probably caused by a tsunami. They also warn that the area around the Bristol Channel is vulnerable to being similarly flooded again.
On this day in 1956 – (60 years ago) – the home of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King in Montgomery, Alabama, was bombed while he was away at a meeting with organizers of the Montgomery bus boycott. The bomb destroyed the front porch and blew out the facade and front windows. Dr. King’s wife, Coretta, and his first child, Yolanda, both of whom were inside the house when the bomb went off, were uninjured. Three days earlier, an anonymous telephone caller had threatened to kill King and destroy his home if he did not call off the boycott. After the bombing, Dr. King urged his supporters not to respond with violence. Montgomery city officials, meanwhile, expressed outrage and vowed to catch the perpetrators — but no arrests were ever made.
On this day in 1968 – (48 years ago) – the North Vietnamese army and the Vietcong launched the Tet Offensive, a campaign of coordinated attacks that caught by surprise the forces of South Vietnam and the United States, who had expected a lull in hostilities during the traditional holiday of Tet, or lunar New Year. Within days, the surprise offensive swept more than a hundred South Vietnamese towns and cities, including Saigon, the southern capital — and it continued for months, with massive casualties on both sides. The Tet Offensive was a shock to the US government, which had previously believed Vietnamese nationalist forces incapable of such strong resistance. Public sentiment in the United States soon turned strongly against the war in Vietnam, and against US president Lyndon Johnson, who then chose not to run for a second full term in the 1968 election. But that didn’t prevent Johnson’s successor, Richard Nixon, and his secretary of state, Hammerin’ Hank Kissinger, from dragging out the carnage for another seven years — or from spreading it into the neighboring countries of Cambodia and Laos.
Rotten History is written by Renaldo Migaldi.