February 15, 1898
USS MAINE EXPLODES IN CUBA
260 American sailors were killed today when their battleship, the USS Maine, in dock at Havana harbor, exploded.
The Maine had been sent to Cuba by President McKinley at the request of the US ambassador to protect American citizens during a time of increasing tensions between Cubans & the Spanish government.*
*A US Navy court of inquiry will say in March 1898 that the explosion was caused by a mine. This was interpreted to mean the Spanish were guilty & US newspapers fanned the flames for a war with Spain. The Spanish-American War would begin in April.
A 1976 investigation concluded the explosion was caused by a fire in the ammunition storeroom.
February 15, 1933
ASSASSINATION ATTEMPT ON FDR FAILS
Having just completed a speech at Miami’s Bayfront Park, President-elect Franklin D. Roosevelt was shot at today by a would-be assassin.
Six shots were fired but none hit FDR. One, unfortunately, seriously wounded Chicago mayor, Anton Cermak. Four others were also hit.
The suspect is identified as Giuseppe Zangara, a 32 year old man who said to police: “I hate all officials & anyone who is rich.”
Sheriff Dan Hardie with Zangara
Zangara was firing a pistol while standing on an unsteady bench which possibly caused him to miss FDR.*
*Mayor Cermak died 19 days later & Zangara was tried & sentenced to death. He was electrocuted on March 5, 1933.
February 15, 1942
The British garrison at Singapore has surrendered to the Japanese.
More than 60,000 Australian, British & Indian soldiers have been taken captive.
Their fortress was thought to have been “impregnable”. British General A.E. Percival agreed to surrender only after his troops were almost completely without food & water.
*Winston Churchill will call it the “worst disaster…in British history”.
February 15, 1903
“TEDDY” BEARS FOR SALE
The 1st “Teddy” bears were put up for sale today in the window of Morris Michton’s toy store.
President Theodore Roosevelt has given Mr. Michton his permission to use his nickname for the toys.
February 15, 1965
CANADA FLIES THE MAPLE LEAF FLAG
Our neighbors to the north are displaying a new national flag today. The Maple Leaf flag, adopted this past December, was raised on Parliament Hill in Canada’s capital city, Ottawa.
The flag is red & white, the official colors decreed originally by King George V in 1921, with an 11 point maple leaf in the center.
February 15, 1984
BROADWAY LEGEND ETHEL MERMAN DIES
Ethel Merman, who has performed on Broadway for 50 years, died today of natural causes.
Miss Merman was born in Queens, New York.
Her signature song, “There’s no business like show business” is from the musical “Annie Get Your Gun”.
She once said:
“You may have done all right elsewhere, but you haven’t really done it until you face a New York first night crowd.”
Irving Berlin said of Ethel Merman:
“You give her a bad song & she’ll make it sound good. Give her a good song & she’ll make it sound great.”