Harriet Tubman becomes the first African American woman to appear on a U.S. postage stamp


Year
1978
Month Day
February 01

Antislavery crusader and Civil War veteran Harriet Tubman becomes the first African American woman to appear on a U.S. postage stamp, the first in the Post Office’s Black Heritage Series. Tubman’s appearance on stamps was emblematic both of the progress made in recognizing African Americans’ contributions to American history and of the ongoing effort to put abolitionists on equal footing with slaveowners in the nation’s historical canon.

Tubman was a singular figure of the abolition movement, a slave who escaped captivity in Maryland and made at least 19 trips back to free more slaves. Tubman is estimated to have helped several hundred slaves find freedom in Canada via the Underground Railroad and is said to have “never lost a passenger.” During the Civil War, she freed 700 more when she led Union forces on a raid on Combahee Ferry in South Carolina. In her later life, though she had little money of her own, Tubman worked to house and feed the poor and became an important figure in the fight for women’s suffrage. Despite these extraordinary efforts, which earned her the epithet “the Moses of her people,” Tubman did not receive a pension for her services in the war until 1889 and died with little to her name.

READ MORE: 6 Strategies Harriet Tubman and Others Used to Escape Along the Underground Railroad

Her deeds were not forgotten, however, and in the wake of the Civil Rights and Black Power movements there was a push to recognize overlooked figures like Tubman. Her inclusion in the Black Heritage Series put her alongside figures like Martin Luther King, Jr., Booker T. Washington and Jackie Robinson and spread her image around the country. In 2016, following years of calls from activists, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew announced that Tubman’s face would replace that of President Andrew Jackson, a slaveowner and avowed white supremacist, on the twenty-dollar bill. The following year, however, Donald Trump’s Treasury Secretary, Steve Mnuchin, cancelled the switch, saying, “We’ve got a lot more important issues to focus on.” In response, a grassroots movement began to stamp Tubman’s image over that of Jackson.

READ MORE: Harriet Tubman: 8 Facts About the Daring Abolitionist

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Harvey Milk becomes the first openly gay person elected to public office in California


Publish date:
Year
1978
Month Day
January 08

Harvey Milk, the first openly gay elected official in the history of California, takes his place on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors on January 8, 1978. The first and, for years, most visible openly gay politician in America, Milk was a longtime activist and pioneering leader of San Francisco’s LGBT community.

After serving in the Navy during the Korean War, Milk held several white-collar jobs in New York City. Initially conservative and reluctant to advocate for gay rights, Milk’s views changed around the time he and his then-partner opened a camera shop on Castro Street, the heart of the San Francisco’s LGBT community, in 1973.

Like many business owners and citizens of the largely-gay Castro District, Milk was harassed by police and local officials. Realizing the community’s burning desire to challenge the status quo, he decided to run for the city’s Board of Supervisors shortly after opening his store. Despite alienating many Democrats, including other gay activists, with his bombastic language and flower-child persona, he won the Castro district handily and came in 10 out of 32 candidates. Though he did not win his race, Milk established himself as a highly effective speaker and organizer. Over the next several years, he partnered with unions and other marginalized groups, creating coalitions that fought for everyday San Franciscans and educating the public about the plight of the LGBT community. Due to these efforts, as well as his own talent for self-promotion, Milk became known as the Mayor of Castro Street.

Milk cleaned up his image, started wearing suits, and swore off marijuana as his political ambitions grew. He argued in favor of free public transportation, public oversight of the police, and other street-level political causes. Still, Milk and the Castro’s rise to power coincided with the rise of anti-gay reactionaries like Anita Bryant, and Milk understood both the power and the danger of his position as de facto leader of the largest gay community in America. Fearing assassination, he took to recording his thoughts, including a sadly prescient one: “If a bullet should enter my brain, let that bullet destroy every closet door.”

Finally, in 1977, Milk was elected to the Board of Supervisors to represent his beloved Castro. His first act was to introduce a bill outlawing discrimination based on sexual orientation, which Mayor George Moscone signed into law with a pen Milk had given him. On the ninth anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, shortly after his partner committed suicide and in the face of conservative backlash across the country, Milk addressed San Francisco’s gay pride parade, beginning with his catchphrase “My name is Harvey Milk and I’m here to recruit you” and ending with a message of “Hope for a better world, hope for a better tomorrow, hope for a better place to come to if the pressures at home are too great.”

The following November, 75 percent of California voters rejected a referendum that would have allowed schools to fire teachers for being homosexual. The vote represented California’s rejection of Bryant’s “family values” campaign, but the victory for the LGBT community was short-lived. On November 27, Milk and Moscone were assassinated in City Hall by Dan White, a disgruntled former supervisor who had been the only one to vote against Milk’s civil rights bill. Mourning and riots throughout San Francisco followed news of the assassinations and White’s subsequent conviction for manslaughter rather than murder.

A plaza in the Castro and Terminal One of San Francisco International Airport were both renamed in Milk’s honor. In 2009, President Barack Obama posthumously awarded Milk the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and California declared his birthday, May 22, Harvey Milk Day. On the 50th anniversary of Stonewall in 2019, Milk was an inaugural inductee onto the National LGBTQ Wall of Honor.

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Millions stolen from JFK Airport in infamous ‘Lufthansa heist’


Updated:
Original:
Year
1978
Month Day
December 11

On December 11, 1978 half a dozen masked robbers raided the Lufthansa Airlines cargo building at JFK Airport in New York, making off with more than $5 million in cash ($21 million in today’s dollars) and almost $1 million in jewelry. To this day, the Lufthansa heist, as it is known, is considered one of the greatest in U.S. history.

The plan was dreamed up by Peter Gruenewald, a Lufthansa cargo worker at JFK Airport. Gruenewald knew that Lufthansa regularly flew large amounts of unmarked cash from Europe—the U.S. currency exchanged overseas by American tourists and servicemen—to JFK. Typically, this money would immediately be transferred to American banks via Brink’s trucks. However, delays sometimes caused the cash delivery to arrive after the last of the trucks had left for the day, which meant it was stored at the airport until the next business day—and vulnerable to theft.

Gruenewald took his plan to fellow cargo worker and friend Louis Werner, in the hopes of putting it in motion. Unfortunately for Gruenewald, Werner saw the robbery as an opportunity to get out from under a mountain of personal gambling debt and double-crossed his friend. He took Gruenewald’s plan to a big-time bookmaker in the area, Martin Krugman, who took the idea to his buddy, infamous mobster-turned-movie-consultant Henry Hill.

As depicted in the famous movie Goodfellas, Hill was part of a crew of gangsters run by James “Jimmy the Gent” Burke. After years of earning money through nefarious deeds, Jimmy’s crew had become closely associated with the Lucchese crime family, and had amassed a solid reputation in the seedy world of organized crime. Burke and Hill took over the planning for the robbery. Jimmy’s crew was very familiar with JFK. Whenever they needed easy cash, the airport was an easy mark. The crew regularly hijacked trucks from JFK, often taking two or three trucks per week from there for quick money. Whether they were filled with televisions, clothes or food, they knew how to move merchandise to make extra cash.

Burke and Hill assembled a team for the robbery and waited for the word from his inside man, Werner. At about 3:00 A.M. on December 11, a black van loaded with the masked men pulled up to Lufthansa’s storage area. The men entered the building while the getaway van was brought to the back. They burst in, wielding guns, rounding up the night-shift employees and handcuffing them in the break room. The gunmen forced a supervisor to open the 10-by-20 foot vault to avoid setting off alarms. The cash and jewels were loaded into the van, and the crew inconspicuously drove away.

The entire heist took little more than an hour.

Unfortunately, they didn’t exactly get away free and clear. Rather than take the van to get crushed in a mob-controlled junk yard the night of the robbery, getaway driver Parnell Steven “Stacks” Edwards got drunk and left it parked illegally on the street in Brooklyn, where it was found with his fingerprints and footprint in the interior. Burke decided to cut the ties between Edwards and his crew, and the driver became the first suspect in the crime to be murdered. As Burke got more and more paranoid—and greedy for a larger share of the copious amounts of cash taken in the heist—the dominos began to fall fairly quickly. Krugman was the next to go, disappearing on January 6, 1979. By the summer of that year, eight men associated with the robbery were dead or missing.

Unable to connect anything to Jimmy and Henry’s crew, and with mobster bodies piling up, the FBI turned its attention to the inside man—Louis Werner. With help from testimony from Gruenewald, Werner was convicted for his role in the heist, but refused to cooperate or give up his co-conspirators. It seemed the Bureau would never solve the case, or bring to justice those involved.

“These ‘goodfellas’ thought they had a license to steal, a license to kill and a license to do whatever they wanted,” said George Venizelos, FBI assistant director-in-charge, in the New York field office in a comment to Reuters.

The biggest break in the investigation finally came in the spring of 1980, when Hill was arrested on six drug-related counts. It wasn’t long before he had “flipped,” convinced by the FBI to testify against not only Burke, but Lucchese family underboss Paul Vario as well. Hill’s testimony led to Burke’s conviction on two separate counts—a basketball points-shaving scheme and an unrelated murder—and “Jimmy the Gent” died in prison in 1996. Vario was convicted of racketeering and died in prison in 1988.

Only a portion of the stolen money was ever recovered.

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Balloon crosses the Atlantic

Year
1978
Month Day
August 17

The Double Eagle II completes the first transatlantic balloon flight when it lands in a barley field near Paris, 137 hours after lifting off from Presque Isle, Maine. The helium-filled balloon was piloted by Ben Abruzzo, Maxie Anderson, and Larry Newman and flew 3,233 miles in the six-day odyssey.

Human flight first became a reality in the early 1780s with the successful development of the hot-air balloon by French papermaking brothers Joseph and Etienne Montgolfier. Soon balloons were being filled with lighter-than-air gas, such as helium or hydrogen, to provide buoyancy. An early achievement of ballooning came in 1785 when Frenchman Jean-Pierre Blanchard and American John Jeffries became the first to cross the English Channel by air. In the 18th and 19th centuries, balloons were used more for military surveillance and scientific study than for transport or sport. As a mode of air travel, the balloon was supplanted by the self-propelled dirigible–a motorized balloon–in the late 19th century.

In the early 20th century, however, interest in sport ballooning began to grow, and an international trophy was offered annually for long-distance flights. Belgian balloonists dominated these early competitions. After World War II, new technology made ballooning safer and more affordable, and by the 1960s the sport enjoyed widespread popularity. The transatlantic flight, first accomplished by aircraft and dirigible in 1919, remained an elusive goal of elite balloonists.

From 1859 until the flight of the Double Eagle II in 1978, there were 17 unsuccessful transatlantic balloon flights, resulting in the deaths of at least seven balloonists. In September 1977, Ben Abruzzo and Maxie Anderson made their first attempt in the Double Eagle I but were blown off course and forced to ditch off Iceland after traveling 2,950 miles in 66 hours. Abruzzo took several months to recover from frostbite suffered during the ordeal, but by 1978 he and Anderson were ready to make the attempt again. They added Larry Newman as a third pilot, and on September 11, 1978, the Double Eagle II lifted off from Presque Isle, Maine.

The 11-story, helium-filled balloon made good progress during the first four days, and the three pilots survived on hot dogs and canned sardines. The only real trouble of the trip occurred on August 16, when atmospheric conditions forced the Double Eagle II to drop from 20,000 feet to a dangerous 4,000 feet. They jettisoned ballast material and soon rose to a safe height again. That night, they reached the coast of Ireland and on August 17 flew across England en route to their destination of Le Bourget field in Paris, site of Charles Lindbergh’s landing after flying solo in a plane across the Atlantic in 1927. Over southern England, their wives flew close enough to the balloon in a private plane to blow kisses at their husbands.

Blown slightly off course toward the end of the journey, they touched down just before dusk on August 17 near the hamlet of Miserey, about 50 miles west of Paris. Their 137-hour flight set new endurance and distance records. The Americans were greeted by family members and jubilant French spectators who followed their balloon by car. That night, Larry Newman, who at 31 was the youngest of the three pilots, was allowed to sleep with his wife in the same bed where Charles Lindbergh slept after his historic transatlantic flight five decades before.

In 1981, Ben Abruzzo, Larry Newman, Ron Clark, and Rocky Aoki of Japan flew from Nagashimi, Japan, to Mendocino National Forest in California in the first transpacific flight. American Joe Kittinger made a solo transatlantic balloon flight in 1984. In 1995, American Steve Fosset accomplished a solo transpacific flight. One of the last frontiers of ballooning was conquered in 1999, when Bertrand Piccard of Switzerland and Englishman Brian Jones completed the first nonstop trip around the world in a hybrid helium and hot-air balloon. They flew from the Swiss Alps, circumnavigated the globe, and landed in Egypt, having traveled more than 29,000 miles in 20 days.

Then, in 2002, American adventurer Steve Fossett became the first man in history to fly around the world solo in a hot-air balloon.

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It’s a tie for Song of the Year at the 20th annual Grammy Awards


Year
1978
Month Day
February 23

Music fans might expect that the songs up for Best Song consideration at the 1977 Grammy Awards included songs that have stood the test of time, like Stevie Wonder’s “I Wish,” Elvis Costello’s “Allison,” Tom Petty’s “American Girl” or Bob Marley’s “Jammin’”. In actuality, the Academy of 1978 considered a slate of songs from 1977 that included only one timeless classic (“Hotel California”). And, in the end, Grammy voters that year made history by failing even to settle on a winner. On February 23, 1978, both Barbra Streisand’s “Love Theme from A Star Is Born (Evergreen)” and Debby Boone’s “You Light Up My Life” were awarded the Best Song Grammy—the first tie in that category in Grammy history.

The award for “You Light Up My Life” was not actually an award for Debby Boone. The Best Song category is an award for songwriters, and though “You Light Up My Life” propelled Boone to the Best New Artist award that year, she did not write the song herself. A songwriter named Joe Brooks picked up his Best Song Grammy for a song originally recorded by an obscure session singer for use in the soundtrack of a movie he also directed, also called You Light Up My Life. Debby Boone’s record label found the song and had her record it after the movie had already been made. It went on to spend an astonishing 10 weeks at the top of the pop charts in the autumn of 1977. “You Light Up My Life” was Debby Boone’s only pop hit and led to her only Grammy nomination

“Love Theme from A Star Is Born (Evergreen)” was co-written by Streisand and Paul Williams, both multiple Grammy winners—Streisand has won 13 Grammys while Paul Williams has won two. Like “You Light Up My Life,” “Evergreen” was also from a movie that failed to have anywhere near the impact its theme song did. For Barbra Streisand, the tie that night made her the answer to an excellent trivia question: Who is the only person to tie for both a Grammy Award and an Oscar? In 1968, she was the co-winner in the Best Actress category for her performance in Funny Girl. (Katherine Hepburn was the co-winner for her role in The Lion in Winter.)

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World’s first “test tube” baby born

Year
1978
Month Day
July 25

On July 25, 1978, Louise Joy Brown, the world’s first baby to be conceived via in vitro fertilization (IVF) is born at Oldham and District General Hospital in Manchester, England, to parents Lesley and Peter Brown. The healthy baby was delivered shortly before midnight by caesarean section and weighed in at five pounds, 12 ounces.

Before giving birth to Louise, Lesley Brown had suffered years of infertility due to blocked fallopian tubes. In November 1977, she underwent the then-experimental IVF procedure. A mature egg was removed from one of her ovaries and combined in a laboratory dish with her husband’s sperm to form an embryo. The embryo then was implanted into her uterus a few days later. Her IVF doctors, British gynecologist Patrick Steptoe and scientist Robert Edwards, had begun their pioneering collaboration a decade earlier. Once the media learned of the pregnancy, the Browns faced intense public scrutiny. Louise’s birth made headlines around the world and raised various legal and ethical questions.

The Browns had a second daughter, Natalie, several years later, also through IVF. In May 1999, Natalie became the first IVF baby to give birth to a child of her own. The child’s conception was natural, easing some concerns that female IVF babies would be unable to get pregnant naturally. In December 2006, Louise Brown, the original “test tube baby,” gave birth to a boy, Cameron John Mullinder, who also was conceived naturally.

Today, IVF is considered a mainstream medical treatment for infertility. Hundreds of thousands of children around the world have been conceived through the procedure, in some cases with donor eggs and sperm. 

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Mass suicide at Jonestown

On November 18, 1978, Peoples Temple founder Jim Jones leads hundreds of his followers in a mass murder-suicide at their agricultural commune in a remote part of the South American nation of Guyana. Many of Jones’ followers willingly ingested a poison-laced punch while others were forced to do so at gunpoint. The final death toll at Jonestown that day was 909; a third of those who perished were children.

Jim Jones was a charismatic churchman who established the Peoples Temple, a Christian sect, in Indianapolis in the 1950s. He preached against racism, and his integrated congregation attracted many African Americans. In 1965, he moved the group to Northern California, settling in Ukiah and after 1971 in San Francisco. In the 1970s, his church was accused by the media of financial fraud, physical abuse of its members and mistreatment of children. In response to the mounting criticism, the increasingly paranoid Jones invited his congregation to move with him to Guyana, where he promised they would build a socialist utopia. Three years earlier, a small group of his followers had traveled to the tiny nation to set up what would become Jonestown on a tract of jungle.

READ MORE: What Really Happened at Jonestown?

Jonestown did not turn out to be the paradise their leader had promised. Temple members worked long days in the fields and were subjected to harsh punishments if they questioned Jones’ authority. Their passports were confiscated, their letters home censored and members were encouraged to inform on one another and forced to attend lengthy, late-night meetings. Jones, by then in declining mental health and addicted to drugs, was convinced the U.S. government and others were out to destroy him. He required Temple members to participate in mock suicide drills in the middle of the night.

In 1978, a group of former Temple members and concerned relatives of current members convinced U.S. Congressman Leo Ryan, a Democrat of California, to travel to Jonestown and investigate the settlement. On November 17, 1978, Ryan arrived in Jonestown with a group of journalists and other observers. At first the visit went well, but the next day, as Ryan’s delegation was about to leave, several Jonestown residents approached the group and asked them for passage out of Guyana. Jones became distressed at the defection of his followers, and one of Jones’ lieutenants attacked Ryan with a knife. The congressman escaped from the incident unharmed, but Jones then ordered Ryan and his companions ambushed and killed at the airstrip as they attempted to leave. The congressman and four others were murdered as they boarded their charter planes.

READ MORE: Timeline of the Jonestown Massacre

Back in Jonestown, Jones commanded everyone to gather in the main pavilion and commit what he termed a “revolutionary act.” The youngest members of the Peoples Temple were the first to die, as parents and nurses used syringes to drop a potent mix of cyanide, sedatives and powdered fruit juice into children’s throats. Adults then lined up to drink the poison-laced concoction while armed guards surrounded the pavilion.

When Guyanese officials arrived at the Jonestown compound the next day, they found it carpeted with hundreds of bodies. Many people had perished with their arms around each other. A few residents managed to escape into the jungle as the suicides took place, while at least several dozen more Peoples Temple members, including several of Jones’ sons, survived because they were in another part of Guyana at the time.

READ MORE: How Jim Jones Spread His Message Of Death

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Camp David Accords signed

Year
1978
Month Day
September 17

At the White House in Washington, D.C., Egyptian President Anwar el-Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin sign the Camp David Accords, laying the groundwork for a permanent peace agreement between Egypt and Israel after three decades of hostilities. The accords were negotiated during 12 days of intensive talks at President Jimmy Carter’s Camp David retreat in the Catoctin Mountains of Maryland. The final peace agreement—the first between Israel and one of its Arab neighbors—was signed in March 1979. Sadat and Begin were jointly awarded the 1978 Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts.

READ MORE: How Jimmy Carter Brokered a Hard-Won Peace Deal Between Israel and Egypt

A state of war had existed between Egypt and the State of Israel since the establishment of Israel in 1948. In the first three Arab-Israeli wars, Israel decisively defeated Egypt. As a result of the 1967 war, Israel occupied Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, the 23,500-square-mile peninsula that links Africa with Asia. When Anwar el-Sadat became Egyptian president in 1970, he found himself leader of an economically troubled nation that could ill afford to continue its endless crusade against Israel. He wanted to make peace and thereby achieve stability and recovery of the Sinai, but after Israel’s stunning victory in the 1967 war it was unlikely that Israel’s peace terms would be favorable to Egypt. So Sadat conceived of a daring plan to attack Israel again, which, even if unsuccessful, might convince the Israelis that peace with Egypt was necessary.

In 1972, Sadat expelled 20,000 Soviet advisers from Egypt and opened new diplomatic channels with Washington, which, as Israel’s key ally, would be an essential mediator in any future peace talks. Then, on October 6, 1973, Egyptian and Syrian forces launched a joint attack against Israel. It was Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year for Jews, and Israeli forces were taken entirely by surprise. It took more than a week for Israel to beat back the impressive Arab advances. A U.S. airlift of arms aided Israel’s cause, but President Richard Nixon delayed the emergency military aid for seven days as a tacit signal of U.S. sympathy for Egypt. In November, an Egyptian-Israeli cease-fire was secured by the United States.

Although Egypt had again suffered military defeat against its Jewish neighbor, the initial Egyptian successes greatly enhanced Sadat’s prestige in the Middle East and provided him with an opportunity to seek peace. In 1974, the first of two Egyptian-Israeli disengagement agreements providing for the return of portions of the Sinai to Egypt were signed, and in 1975 Sadat traveled to the United States to discuss his peace efforts and seek American aid and investment.

When talks with Israel stalled, Sadat made a dramatic journey to Jerusalem in November 1977 and spoke before the Israeli Knesset (Parliament). In September 1978, President Jimmy Carter invited Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Begin to the presidential retreat at Camp David, Maryland, where dual peace accords were hammered out under the direction of Carter. Signed on September 17, the historic agreements provided for complete Israeli evacuation from the Sinai, laid the groundwork for the signing of a final peace agreement, and outlined a broader framework for achieving peace in the Middle East.

Sadat and Begin received the Nobel Peace Prize, and on March 29, 1979, a permanent peace agreement was signed that closely resembled the Camp David Accords. The treaty ended the state of war between the two countries and provided for the establishment of full diplomatic and commercial relations.

Although Sadat was greatly praised in the West, he was widely condemned in the Arab world. In 1979, Egypt was expelled from the Arab League, and internal opposition to his policies led to domestic crises. On October 6, 1981, Sadat was assassinated by Muslim extremists in Cairo while viewing a military parade commemorating the Yom Kippur War. Despite Sadat’s death, the peace process continued under Egypt’s new president, Hosni Mubarak. In 1982, Israel fulfilled the 1979 peace treaty by returning the last segment of the Sinai Peninsula to Egypt. 

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Former Italian Prime Minister Aldo Moro is found dead

Year
1978
Month Day
May 09

On May 9, 1978, the body of former Italian prime minister Aldo Moro is found, riddled by bullets, in the back of a car in the center of historic Rome. He was kidnapped by Red Brigade terrorists on March 16 after a bloody shoot-out near his suburban home. The Italian government refused to negotiate with the extreme left-wing group, which, after numerous threats, executed Moro on May 9. He was a five-time prime minister of Italy and considered a front-runner for the presidency of Italy in elections due in December.

Aldo Moro was regarded by many as Italy’s most capable post-World War II politician. A centrist leader of the Christian Democratic Party, he served five times as prime minister in the 1960s and 1970s and promoted cooperation between Italy’s disparate political parties. When he formed his first cabinet in 1963, he included some Socialists, who were thus participating in the Italian government for the first time in 16 years. Moro last served as prime minister in 1976, and in October 1976 became president of the Christian Democrats.

On March 11, 1978, he helped end a government crisis when he worked out a parliamentary coalition between the Communist Party and the dominant Christian Democrats. Just five days later, Mr. Moro’s car was attacked by a dozen armed Red Brigade terrorists. His five guards were killed, and Moro was abducted and taken to a secret location. On March 18, the Red Brigade issued a communique claiming responsibility for the kidnapping and stating that Moro would undergo a “people’s trial.”

The Red Brigade, established in 1970 by Italian Renato Curcio, employed bombings, assassinations, kidnappings, and bank robberies as a means of promoting communist revolution in Italy. The Italian Communist Party, which supported democracy and participated in Parliament, condemned the terrorist Red Brigade, and the Red Brigade accused the Communist Party of being a pawn of the bourgeoisie. Renato Curcio and 12 other Red Brigade members were on trial in Turin when Moro was kidnapped, and legal proceedings were only briefly halted after his abduction.

The Italian government declined to negotiate with the kidnappers, claiming that such an action would undermine the state and throw Italy into chaos. Some critics accused the Christian Democrats of yielding to pressure from the Communist Party, whose leaders were even more strongly opposed to a dialogue with the Red Brigade. Police and the army arrested hundreds of suspected terrorists and scoured the country looking for the “people’s prison” where Moro was being held but failed to find any solid clues.

On March 19 and April 4, letters apparently freely written by Moro were delivered pleading with the government to negotiate. The government attempted secret talks, but on April 15 the Red Brigade rejected these negotiations and announced that Moro had been found guilty in the people’s trial and sentenced to death. Threats to execute him led nowhere, and on April 24 the terrorists demanded the release of 13 Red Brigade members held in Turin in exchange for Moro’s life. On May 7, Moro sent a farewell letter to his wife, saying, “They have told me that they are going to kill me in a little while, I kiss you for the last time.” Two days later, his body was found on Via Caetani, within 300 yards of the headquarters of the Christian Democrats and 200 yards from the Communist Party headquarters.

According to a wish expressed by Moro during his abduction, no Italian politicians were invited to his funeral. During the next decade, many Red Brigade leaders and members were arrested, and the organization was greatly weakened.

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Henry Ford II fires Lee Iacocca

Year
1978
Month Day
July 13

On July 13, 1978, Ford Motor Company chairman Henry Ford II fires Lee Iacocca as Ford’s president, ending years of tension between the two men.

Born to an immigrant family in Pennsylvania in 1924, Iacocca was hired by Ford as an engineer in 1946 but soon switched to sales, at which he clearly excelled. By 1960, Iaccoca had become a vice president and general manager of the Ford division, the company’s largest marketing arm. He successfully championed the design and development of the sporty, affordable Ford Mustang, an achievement that landed him on the covers of Time and Newsweek magazines in the same week in 1964.

In December 1970, Henry Ford II named Iacocca president of Ford, but his brash, unorthodox style soon brought him into conflict with his boss. According to Douglas Brinkley’s history of Ford “Wheels for the World,” Henry authorized $1.5 million in company funds for an investigation of Iacocca’s business and private life in 1975. Suffering from a heart condition and aware that the time for his retirement was approaching, Ford made it clear that he eventually wanted to turn the company over to his son Edsel, then just 28. In early 1978, Iacocca was told he would report to another Ford executive, Philip Caldwell, who was named deputy chief executive officer. In his increasingly public struggle with Ford, Iacocca made an attempt to find support among the company’s board of directors, giving Ford the excuse he needed to fire him. As Iacocca later wrote in his bestselling autobiography, Ford called Iacocca into his office shortly before 3 pm on July 13, 1978 and let him go, telling him “Sometimes you just don’t like somebody.”

News of the firing shocked the industry, but it turned into a boon for Iacocca. The following year, he was hired as president of the Chrysler Corporation, which at the time was facing bankruptcy. Iacocca went to the federal government for aid, banking on his belief that the government would not let Chrysler fail for fear of weakening an already slumping economy. The gamble paid off, with Congress agreeing to bail out Chrysler to the tune of $1.5 billion. Iacocca streamlined the company’s operations, focused on producing more fuel-efficient cars and pursued an aggressive marketing strategy based on his own powerful personality. After showing a small profit in 1981, Chrysler posted record profits of more than $2.4 billion in 1984. By then a national celebrity, Iacocca retired as chief executive of Chrysler in 1992. He died on July 2, 2019. 

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