Today in History 4/26


Today is Thursday, April 26, the 117th day of 2012. There are 249 days left in the year.

Today’s Highlight in History:

On April 26, 1937, German and Italian warplanes raided the Basque town of Guernica during the Spanish Civil War, resulting in widespread destruction; estimates of the number of people killed vary greatly, from the hundreds to the thousands. (The raid inspired Pablo Picasso’s famous antiwar painting, “Guernica.”)

On this date:

• In 1607, English colonists went ashore at present-day Cape Henry, Va., on an expedition to establish the first permanent English settlement in the Western Hemisphere.

• In 1785, American naturalist, hunter and artist John James Audubon was born in present-day Haiti.

• In 1865, John Wilkes Booth, the assassin of President Abraham Lincoln, was surrounded by federal troops near Port Royal, Va., and killed. (As he lay dying, Booth looked at his hands and gasped, “Useless, useless.”)

• In 1909, Abdul Hamid II was deposed as sultan of the Ottoman Empire.

• In 1945, Marshal Henri Philippe Petain, the head of France’s Vichy government during World War II, was arrested.

• In 1952, the destroyer-minesweeper USS Hobson sank in the central Atlantic after colliding with the aircraft carrier USS Wasp with the loss of 176 crew members.

• In 1962, the NASA spacecraft Ranger 4 crashed into the moon as planned after failing to transmit images and data.

• In 1968, the United States exploded beneath the Nevada desert a 1.3 megaton nuclear device called “Boxcar.”

• In 1972, the first Lockheed L-1011 TriStar went into commercial service with Eastern Airlines.

• In 1986, a major nuclear accident occurred at the Chernobyl plant in Ukraine (then part of the Soviet Union).

• In 1992, Moscow saw its first publicly observed Russian Orthodox Easter in 74 years.

• In 2000, Vermont Gov. Howard Dean signed the nation’s first bill allowing same-sex couples to form civil unions.

Ten years ago:

• Robert Steinhaeuser, an expelled student, went on a shooting rampage at a school in Erfurt, Germany, killing 16 people, plus himself.

• David Gunn, who had run transit systems in New York City and Washington, was named president of Amtrak, the troubled national rail passenger service.

Five years ago:

• The Senate joined the House, 51-46, in clearing legislation calling for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq to begin by Oct. 1, 2007, with a goal of a complete pullout six months later (President George W. Bush later vetoed the measure).

• Former White House aide and movie industry lobbyist Jack Valenti died in Washington, D.C., at age 85.

One year ago:

• An 84-year-old naturalized American from Burundi accused of participating in the 1994 Rwandan genocide went on trial in Wichita, Kan. (While Lazare Kobagaya was convicted of making false statements on immigration forms, the jury deadlocked on whether he’d played a role in the genocide. Federal prosecutors later moved to dismiss all the charges because they’d failed to disclose information about a witness who could have benefited the defense.)

Today’s Birthdays:

Actress-comedian Carol Burnett is 79. Rhythm-and-blues singer Maurice Williams is 74. Songwriter-musician Duane Eddy is 74. Singer Bobby Rydell is 70. Rock musician Gary Wright is 69. Actress Nancy Lenehan is 59. Actor Giancarlo Esposito is 54. Actress Joan Chen is 51. Rock musician Chris Mars is 51. Actor-singer Michael Damian is 50. Actor Jet Li is 49. Rock musician Jimmy Stafford (Train) is 48. Actor-comedian Kevin James is 47. Actress Marianne Jean-Baptiste is 45. Country musician Jay DeMarcus (Rascal Flatts) is 41. Country musician Michael Jeffers (Pinmonkey) is 40. Rock musician Jose Pasillas (Incubus) is 36. Actor Jason Earles is 35. Actor Leonard Earl Howze is 35. Actor Tom Welling is 35. Actor Nyambi Nyambi is 33. Actress Jordana Brewster is 32. Actress Stana Katic (TV: “Castle”) is 32. Actress Marnette Patterson is 32. Actor Channing Tatum is 32.