Today in History

Today is Thursday, Feb. 28, the 59th day of 2019. There are 306 days left in the year.

Today’s Highlight in History:

On Feb. 28, 1942, the heavy cruiser USS Houston and the Australian light cruiser HMAS Perth were attacked by Japanese forces during the World War II Battle of Sunda Strait; both were sunk shortly after midnight on March 1 with a total loss of more than 1,000 men.

On this date:

In 1844, a 12-inch gun aboard the USS Princeton exploded as the ship was sailing on the Potomac River, killing Secretary of State Abel P. Upshur, Navy Secretary Thomas W. Gilmer and several others.

In 1849, the California gold rush began in earnest as regular steamship service started bringing gold-seekers to San Francisco.

In 1911, President William Howard Taft nominated William H. Lewis to be the first black Assistant Attorney General of the United States.

In 1917, The Associated Press reported that the United States had obtained a diplomatic communication sent by German Foreign Minister Arthur Zimmermann to a German official in Mexico proposing a German alliance with Mexico and Japan should the U.S. enter World War I. (Outrage over the telegram helped propel America into the conflict.)

In 1953, scientists James D. Watson and Francis H.C. Crick announced they had discovered the double-helix structure of DNA.

In 1958, a school bus clipped a truck near Prestonsburg, Kentucky, and plunged down an embankment into the Big Sandy River; 22 children managed to escape, but 26 other children and the bus driver drowned.

In 1975, 42 people were killed in London’s Underground when a train smashed into the end of a tunnel.

In 1988, the 15th Olympic Winter Games held its closing ceremony in Calgary, Canada.

In 1993, a gun battle erupted at a religious compound near Waco, Texas, when Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agents tried to arrest Branch Davidian leader David Koresh on weapons charges; four agents and six Davidians were killed as a 51-day standoff began.

In 1995, Denver International Airport opened after 16 months of delays and $3.2 billion in budget overruns.

In 1996, Britain’s Princess Diana agreed to divorce Prince Charles. (Their 15-year marriage officially ended in August 1996; Diana died in a car crash in Paris a year after that.)

In 2013, Benedict XVI became the first pope in 600 years to resign, ending an eight-year pontificate. (Benedict was succeeded the following month by Pope Francis.) Bradley Manning, the Army private arrested in the biggest leak of classified information in U.S. history, pleaded guilty at Fort Meade, Maryland, to 10 charges involving illegal possession or distribution of classified material. (Manning, who later adopted the female identity Chelsea Manning, was sentenced to up to 35 years in prison after being convicted of additional charges in a court-martial, but had her sentence commuted in 2017 by President Barack Obama.)

Ten years ago: Paul Harvey, the news commentator and talk-radio pioneer whose staccato style made him one of the nation’s most familiar voices, died in Phoenix at age 90. Oakland Raiders linebacker Marquis Cooper, free-agent NFL defensive lineman Corey Smith and former South Florida player William Bleakley died when their boat overturned in rough seas off the coast of Florida.

Five years ago: Delivering a blunt warning to Moscow, President Barack Obama expressed deep concern over reported military activity inside Ukraine by Russia and warned “there will be costs” for any intervention.

One year ago: Walmart announced that it would no longer sell firearms and ammunition to people younger than 21 and would remove items resembling assault-style rifles from its website. Dick’s Sporting Goods said it would stop selling assault-style rifles, and ban the sale of all guns to anyone under 21. Students and teachers returned under police guard to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School as classes resumed for the first time since the shooting that killed 17 people. President Donald Trump called for substantial changes to the nation’s gun laws, criticizing lawmakers for being fearful of the National Rifle Association. Political leaders paid tribute to the Rev. Billy Graham as his casket rested in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda. West Virginia’s House approved a 5 percent pay raise to end a week-long walkout by teachers. White House communications director Hope Hicks, one of President Donald Trump’s most trusted aides, abruptly announced her resignation.

Today’s Birthdays: Architect Frank Gehry is 90. Actor Gavin MacLeod is 88. Singer Sam the Sham is 82. Actor-director-dancer Tommy Tune is 80. Hall of Fame auto racer Mario Andretti is 79. Actor Frank Bonner is 77. Actress Kelly Bishop is 75. Actress Stephanie Beacham is 72. Writer-director Mike Figgis is 71. Actress Mercedes Ruehl is 71. Actress Bernadette Peters is 71. Former Energy Secretary Steven Chu is 71. Actress Ilene Graff is 70. Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman is 66. Comedian Gilbert Gottfried is 64. Basketball Hall of Famer Adrian Dantley is 64. Actor John Turturro is 62. Rock singer Cindy Wilson is 62. Actress Rae Dawn Chong is 58. Actress Maxine Bahns is 50. Actor Robert Sean Leonard is 50. Rock singer Pat Monahan is 50. Author Daniel Handler (aka “Lemony Snicket”) is 49. Actress Tasha Smith is 48. Actor Rory Cochrane is 47. Actress Ali Larter is 43. Country singer Jason Aldean is 42. Actor Geoffrey Arend is 41. Actress Melanie Chandra (TV: “Code Black”) is 35. Actress Michelle Horn is 32. Actress True O’Brien is 25. Actress Madisen Beaty is 24. Actress Quinn Shephard is 24. Actor Bobb’e J. Thompson is 23.

Thought for Today: “Who will give me back those days when life had wings and flew just like a skylark in the sky.” — Marceline Desbordes-Valmore, French actress and poet (1786-1859).