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Community History Archives: This Week in History- June 3rd – June 9th

The past is constantly changing the tides of the future, especially for the events that happened this week in history. The death of a species and the death of a presidential candidate, a push towards victory, and the push for change are all a part of what happened on these days many years ago. Some events you may be familiar with, and some you may have never heard of before, but all of them had a part in shaping our world as we know it. As always, I will be sharing real-time stories, and search tips so you can find more information yourself! 

(2000s – Present) “Our Oceans, Our Responsibility”: The First World Oceans Day, 2009

World Oceans Day is celebrated every year on June 8th since it became officially recognized by the United Nations (UN) over 20 years ago. In December of 2008, the UN officially marked June 8th as World Oceans Day, and it was celebrated for the first time the following June of 2009. 

The mission statement of World Oceans Day is to serve as a day for collective action for a healthy climate and ocean, and to collaborate with leaders globally (including youth) to create a better world. Each celebration features different aspects of activism, including education, clean-up initiatives, and community-led acts. 

Each year, the day has a special theme that they focus on. The very first World Oceans Day in 2009 was themed “Our Oceans, Our Responsibility”. In 2024, the UN will be celebrating World Oceans Day on June 7th, because June 8th falls on a weekend. The theme for this year is “Awaken New Depths”, and the celebration focuses on going beyond our surface-level understanding of the climate problem, and the role our oceans play in it. 

It was difficult to find mentions of this because it is not as widely celebrated as other environment-focused days, such as Earth Day. However, I did find a mention of it in the Atlantic News Telegraph published in Atlantic, Iowa on June 4th, 2014. They shared a lineup of events happening at Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and included was a World Oceans Day Celebration on June 8th. The aquarium section of the zoo planned to have educational activities for visitors that day.

(1980s – 2000s)Stopping a Rebellion: Tiananmen Square Protests, 1989

In 1989, citizens of China began to get restless, and many protests followed suit for political and economic reform. The most notable perhaps, though, was that of Tiananmen Square, also referred to as the June Fourth Incident. 

Protests had been going on for weeks following the death of Chinese pro-reform leader Hu Yaobang. Martial Law had been enacted in Beijing during the last 2 weeks of May. In the Robinson Daily News on May 20th, 1989 they reported that the Chinese Government had placed the capital under military control to try to control the protests. 

Eventually, they decided they needed to take it even further. On the night of June 3rd, and into June 4th, armed military troops and tanks approached the square where protesters were located. The military openly fired on the protesters, and tanks crushed anyone who was in their way. The area was cleared of protesters by the morning of June 4th. 

There is some disagreement on just how many people were killed or injured that night. The official report released by the Chinese government claimed there were 241 deaths and 7,000 others were wounded. However, outside sources have estimated the number of deaths and casualties to be much higher. 

Reactions to the news of the massacre were mainly those of anger and sadness. The Robinson Daily News in Robinson, Illinois published on June 12th, 1989, that a lot of Americans were angry not just with the Chinese Government but also the United States Government. They believed that the US should have taken action against China sooner and that in doing so the massacre may have been prevented. 

(1945 – 1980s) The Kennedy Curse: Robert F. Kennedy Assassinated, 1968

The Kennedy family is notorious for the endless disasters that have happened to members of their family, including Robert F. Kennedy. Robert was the brother of former US President John F. Kennedy, who was assassinated while in office.

Robert Kennedy went down a similar path to his brother, having had a career of his own as a politician. He served as the 64th attorney general, as well as a senator for New York. In 1968, he was running for President of the United States.

On the day of June 5th, 1989, Kennedy was visiting the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, California. He was celebrating his victory in the California and South Dakota Primaries and gave a speech to his supporters in the ballroom of the hotel. Following his speech, he was told there was a shortcut through the kitchen after exiting the ballroom. In the kitchen hallway, he was shot by Sirhan Sirhan, a palestinian immigrant who was a known anti-zionist. Kennedy was shot on June 5th, and later pronounced dead on June 6th. 

Even though he wasn’t a president, his death still made the front pages of the news. I found one example of this in the Idaho State Journal published in Pocatello, Idaho on June 6th, 1968. The first page featured two words in huge lettering: Kennedy Dies. It’s hard to know how the political landscape in the United States may have been different if Robert F. Kennedy was not assassinated.

My search tip of the week is something I had to think about when looking for information on Robert F. Kennedy. When searching for people, make sure you include words in your search that will help you find the right person. For example, Robert F. Kennedy’s son, RFK Jr., is running for president in 2024. Because of this, results for Robert Kennedy pulled up both father and son. Instead, I included his middle initial in some searches, and in others included things like “attorney general”, to help distinguish him from his son.

(1914 – 1945) The Push Towards Victory: D-Day, 1944

D-Day goes down in history as one of the biggest military operations ever. The 1944 attack caught the German forces off guard, and allowed Allied forces to push into France. While this day didn’t bring the end of the war, it created the path towards victory for the Allies. 

Many reports from the day talk about how the operation was supposed to happen a day prior, on June 5th. However, due to weather conditions, they pushed back the day of the operation so the storm could pass. 

More than 150,000 troops from the Allied powers were involved in storming the beaches of Normandy. In the early hours of June 6th, they dropped across a 50-mile stretch along the coast, focusing on 5 specific beaches. These beaches were code-named Utah, Omaha, Sword, Juno, and Gold. There were 6,000 ships, 50,000 vehicles, and 11,000 planes involved in the effort. The Allied forces pushed back against the German lines. They began to move inland and break enemy lines. Over time, they were able to move further and further into France and were able to liberate the country that August. 

I found a lot of interesting pieces from D-Day. The most fascinating to me was published in the Southwest American on July 8th, 1944, where they shared a letter recounting the events of Bill Osborn, a citizen of Fort Smith, Arkansas who was a part of the operation. He shared that they were “all praying when they hit the beach” of Normandy. Osborn was one of the first to hit the beaches that day, and gives detailed descriptions of everything he experienced on that day. 

My favorite part of looking through the archives for pieces on this was getting to read all of the different headlines across the country. Everyone was talking about this, and each paper had its own unique headline. For example, on June 6th, the Daily Republican Times in Ottawa, Illinois published “ALLIES INVADE CONTINENT; GERMAN OPPOSITION SLIGHT”. On that same day, The Pocatello Tribune in Pocatello, Idaho published “INVASION MOVING ON FRENCH COAST”. While every paper was reporting on the same thing, they all had their unique focus and way of writing about it. I love that anyone has the ability to compare these and see history from new perspectives. 

(1824 – 1914) The Last of Its Kind: Great Auks Become Extinct, 1844

Most people today have never heard of the Great Auk, and that is likely because they have been extinct since 1844. The Great Auk’s were a species of flightless birds who inhabited rocky, remote islands. They were similar in appearance to penguins, sporting black and white coats, though not closely related to them. In early history, they served as an important food source for Neanderthals. 

Later in human history, the birds became used for more purposes than just food. Their feathers were used in a lot of bedding and pillows, as well as to make clothing. Other parts of the bird were also traded, including their beaks and feathers. The more popular they became, and as human society expanded along coastlines, more and more Great Auk habitats were destroyed. 

As the birds became more rare, they began to be hunted as a prize. Those with money wanted to get their hands on what was a rare species to keep as a trophy of sorts. The last colony of Great Auks was located on Geirfuglasker (Great Auk Rock) off the coast of Iceland but moved to the nearby island of Eldey after the rock was submerged by underground volcanic activity. Great Auk populations continued to dwindle rapidly. What started as a colony of fifty birds soon was down to two. The last pair of Great Auks were killed on June 3rd, 1844 while trying to incubate an egg. Discovered by two men who had been sent to collect them for a merchant, the birds were strangled and the egg was crushed. They are believed to have been the last of their kind, and the Great Auk is now classified as an extinct species. 

On October 9th, 1887, the Vincennes Daily Commercial published a piece that explained the birds and how they became extinct. This was inspired by reports that the Smithsonian Museum had received a box of Great Auk bones to display. The piece was titled “Something About a Remarkable Bird That is Now Utterly Extinct”. 

I also found a really interesting comic posted in the Vincennes Sun Commercial on May 17th, 1936. It features an Auk and a penguin and explains that the two birds who live on opposite ends of the earth may look similar, but are not in fact related. At the bottom, they note that some species of the auk are extinct, likely referring to that of the Great Auk. I was surprised to see the bird mentioned almost 100 years after its extinction in a comic strip. 

The choices we make as a society change the future. Imagine how different life would be if Robert F. Kennedy lived, or if the Great Auk still roamed the planet? While the past cannot be changed, it is forever preserved in the pages of history, and will never be forgotten. Join me again next week to discover more of history’s hidden gems and timeless tales!

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