This Month in History

Momentous or Merely Memorable

20 Years Ago
War And Peace And War

After five months of negotiations, sanctions and a military buildup by mainly U.S. forces in Saudi Arabia fail to dislodge Iraqi troops from Kuwait following a 1990 invasion, an aerial bombardment of Iraq led by the United States signals the start of the Persian Gulf War, January 16, 1991. Iraq mounts little defense against a ground offensive launched February 24; Kuwait is liberated and a cease-fire is declared February 28. Peace terms require Iraq to rid itself of weapons of mass destruction; a failure to do so is cited as the reason for a U.S.-led invasion in March 2003.

25 Years Ago
Ill-Fated Space Pioneers

One minute 13 seconds after liftoff on January 28, 1986, the space shuttle Challenger, engulfed in a fireball of leaked hydrogen fuel, breaks apart and falls to Earth. The crew, including first “teacher in space” Christa McAuliffe, perishes. Investigators blame a failure of the O-ring seal on a solid rocket booster and fault NASA for ignoring engineering concerns. After 30 years and 134 missions—and the loss of a second shuttle and crew in 2003—the shuttle program is scheduled to end after a final flight in February 2011.

75 Years Ago
Favored Few

A January 1936 vote by the Baseball Writers Association of America elects Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner, Christy Mathewson and Walter Johnson to be the first five inductees in the planned Baseball Hall of Fame. Cobb, a 24-year major-league veteran, receives the most votes—222 of a possible 226—and pronounces himself “overwhelmed.” The Hall of Fame, the brainchild of Cooperstown, New York, hotelier Stephen Clark to promote the village and its connection to Abner Doubleday, erroneously believed to be the inventor of baseball, opens in 1939. By 2010, it honors 292 inductees.

100 Years Ago
One For The Road

Twenty drivers start from six European cities beginning January 21, 1911, headed to Monaco in the first Monte Carlo automobile rally. Sponsored by Prince Albert I to boost tourism, the rally awards points to racers for speeds up to 15.5 mph, distance driven and the condition and elegance of the car on arrival. Paris car dealer Henri Rougier, in a Turcat-Méry, is judged the winner. The event, now Europe’s oldest ongoing car rally, becomes known as a tough test for cutting-edge vehicles.

110 Years Ago
Fill ’er Up

Wildcatters drilling in the Spindletop salt dome near Beaumont, Texas, January 10, 1901, hit the state’s first major gusher, which erupts at an initial rate of 100,000 barrels a day—more than the country’s other oil wells combined. Spindletop turns oil from a minor product used for lubrication and light to a cheap source of fuel, propelling another innovation: the automobile.

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