Mt. Everest sees its single deadliest day

Year
2014
Month Day
April 18

On April 18, 2014, 16 Nepali mountaineering guides, most of them ethnic Sherpas, are killed by an avalanche on Mt. Everest, the Earth’s highest mountain. It was the single deadliest accident in the history of the Himalayan peak, which rises more than 29,000 feet above sea level and lies across the border between Nepal and China.

The avalanche, which occurred around 6:30 a.m., swept over the Sherpas in a notoriously treacherous area of Everest known as the Khumbu Icefall, at approximately 19,000 feet. At the time, the Sherpas had been hauling loads of gear for commercial expedition groups. The disaster, in which no foreigners were killed, reopened debates about the dangerous risks undertaken by Sherpas for their typically affluent clients (in addition to lugging most of the supplies for an expedition, Sherpas are responsible for such tasks as setting lines of fixed ropes and ladders for climbers), as well as the over-commercialization of Everest, where human traffic jams during the spring mountaineering season and massive amounts of litter have become common.

In 1953, New Zealander Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay became the first people to officially reach the summit of Everest, which the British named in 1865 for George Everest, a Welsh-born surveyor general of India. Andrew Waugh, his successor as surveyor general, chose the mountain’s moniker; it’s unlikely George Everest ever saw the peak named in his honor. (Meanwhile, the Nepalese refer to the mountain as Sagarmatha, while Tibetans call it Chomolungma and the Chinese know it as Zhumulangma Feng.) Since Hillary and Norgay’s historic achievement, more than 4,000 people have scaled Everest, while at least several hundred others have perished in the process. In 1996, eight climbers were caught in a storm on the mountain and died, as chronicled in the best-selling book “Into Thin Air” by Jon Krakauer. That season, a total of 15 people lost their lives on Everest, making it the deadliest season until 2014.

In the aftermath of the April 18th tragedy, a number of Sherpas boycotted the remainder of the climbing season, out of respect for the 16 guides who were killed and also to protest such issues as the pay and treatment of Sherpas. As a result, many commercial expedition companies opted to cancel their planned ascents.

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Dick Clark, host of “American Bandstand” and “New Year’s Rockin’ Eve,” dies

Year
2012
Month Day
April 18

On April 12 2012, Dick Clark, the TV personality and producer best known for hosting “American Bandstand,” an influential music-and-dance show that aired nationally from 1957 to 1989 and helped bring rock `n’ roll into the mainstream in the late 1950s, dies of a heart attack at age 82 in Santa Monica, California. The clean-cut, youthful-looking Clark, dubbed “America’s Oldest Teenager,” also was the longtime host of the annual telecast “New Year’s Rockin’ Eve” and headed an entertainment empire that developed game shows, awards shows, talk shows, made-for-TV movies and other programs.

Richard Wagstaff Clark was born on November 30, 1929, and raised in Mount Vernon, New York. His father was a salesman who later managed a radio station. Clark graduated from Syracuse University in 1951 and moved to Philadelphia the following year to work as a radio disc jockey. In 1956, he became the host of a local, teen-oriented TV show called “Bandstand” (launched in 1952) after the original host was fired.

In 1957, “American Bandstand,” as it was renamed, began airing nationwide. The program, which showcased ordinary teenagers dancing to records and musical acts introduced by Clark, quickly became a hit with millions of young viewers, who tuned in for the latest music, fashions and dance crazes. Clark helped end the then-standard practice of having white singers cover the songs of black artists on TV, and a number of African-American performers, including Chuck Berry and Chubby Checker, made their national TV debut on “American Bandstand.”

In 1960, amidst the show’s success, Clark was called to testify before a congressional subcommittee investigating the practice of payola, in which record companies bribed disc jockeys in order to get airplay for records. At the hearings, Clark testified to holding an ownership stake in more than 30 different record labels, distributors and manufacturers, and featuring the acts from those labels on “American Bandstand.” He denied doing anything illegal and was never charged with a crime. However, prior to the hearings, ABC, which broadcast “American Bandstand,” directed Clark to divest himself of all his music-related businesses, a move said to cost him millions of dollars.

The music impresario furthered his place in pop culture as the host and producer of “Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve,” a TV special that debuted in 1974 and included musical performances and live coverage of the ball drop from New York City’s Times Square. Clark helmed the telecast every year until December 31, 2004, having suffered a stroke earlier that month. Though the stroke left him speech-impaired, he returned to the countdown special the following year, with Ryan Seacrest as co-host, and continued to make annual appearances through 2011.

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Suicide bomber destroys U.S. embassy in Beirut

Year
1983
Month Day
April 18

The U.S. embassy in Beirut, Lebanon, is almost completely destroyed by a car-bomb explosion that kills 63 people, including the suicide bomber and 17 Americans. The terrorist attack was carried out in protest of the U.S. military presence in Lebanon.

In 1975, a bloody civil war erupted in Lebanon, with Palestinian and leftist Muslim guerrillas battling militias of the Christian Phalange Party, the Maronite Christian community, and other groups. During the next few years, Syrian, Israeli, and United Nations interventions failed to resolve the factional fighting, and on August 20, 1982, a multinational force featuring U.S. Marines landed in Beirut to oversee the Palestinian withdrawal from Lebanon.

The Marines left Lebanese territory on September 10 but returned on September 29, following the massacre of Palestinian refugees by a Christian militia. The next day, the first U.S. Marine to die during the mission was killed while defusing a bomb, and on April 18, 1983, the U.S. embassy in Beirut was bombed. On October 23, Lebanese terrorists evaded security measures and drove a truck packed with explosives into the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut, killing 241 U.S. military personnel. Fifty-eight French soldiers were killed almost simultaneously in a separate suicide terrorist attack. On February 7, 1984, U.S. President Ronald Reagan announced the end of U.S. participation in the peacekeeping force, and on February 26 the last U.S. Marines left Beirut.

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Martin Luther defiant at Diet of Worms

Year
1521
Month Day
April 18

Martin Luther, the chief catalyst of Protestantism, defies the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V by refusing to recant his writings. He had been called to Worms, Germany, to appear before the Diet (assembly) of the Holy Roman Empire and answer charges of heresy.

Martin Luther was a professor of biblical interpretation at the University of Wittenberg in Germany. In 1517, he drew up his 95 theses condemning the Catholic Church for its corrupt practice of selling “indulgences,” or forgiveness of sins. Luther followed up the revolutionary work with equally controversial and groundbreaking theological works, and his fiery words set off religious reformers across Europe. In 1521, the pope excommunicated him, and he was called to appear before the emperor at the Diet of Worms to defend his beliefs. Refusing to recant or rescind his positions, Luther was declared an outlaw and a heretic. Powerful German princes protected him, however, and by his death in 1546 his ideas had significantly altered the course of Western thought.

READ MORE: Reformation: Definition and History

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War correspondent Ernie Pyle killed

Year
1945
Month Day
April 18

During World War II, journalist Ernie Pyle, America’s most popular war correspondent, is killed by Japanese machine-gun fire on the island of Ie Shima in the Pacific.

Pyle, born in Dana, Indiana, first began writing a column for the Scripps-Howard newspaper chain in 1935. Eventually syndicated to some 200 U.S. newspapers, Pyle’s column, which related the lives and hopes of typical citizens, captured America’s affection. In 1942, after the United States entered World War II, Pyle went overseas as a war correspondent. He covered the North Africa campaign, the invasions of Sicily and Italy, and on June 7, 1944, went ashore at Normandy the day after Allied forces landed. Pyle, who always wrote about the experiences of enlisted men rather than the battles they participated in, described the D-Day scene: “It was a lovely day for strolling along the seashore. Men were sleeping on the sand, some of them sleeping forever. Men were floating in the water, but they didn’t know they were in the water, for they were dead.” The same year, he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for distinguished correspondence and in 1945 traveled to the Pacific to cover the war against Japan.

On April 18, 1945, Ernie Pyle was killed by enemy fire on the island of Ie Shima. After his death, President Harry S. Truman spoke of how Pyle “told the story of the American fighting man as the American fighting men wanted it told.”

Pyle is buried at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific on the Hawaiian island of Oahu.

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Doolittle leads air raid on Tokyo

Year
1942
Month Day
April 18

On April 18, 1942, 16 American B-25 bombers, launched from the aircraft carrier USS Hornet 650 miles east of Japan and commanded by Lieutenant Colonel James H. Doolittle, attack the Japanese mainland.

The now-famous Tokyo Raid did little real damage to Japan (wartime Premier Hideki Tojo was inspecting military bases during the raid; one B-25 came so close, Tojo could see the pilot, though the American bomber never fired a shot)–but it did hurt the Japanese government’s prestige. Believing the air raid had been launched from Midway Island, approval was given to Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto’s plans for an attack on Midway–which would also damage Japanese “prestige.” Doolittle was eventually awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.

A book describing the raid, 30 Seconds Over Tokyo by Ted Lawson, was adapted into a film starring Spencer Tracy in 1944.

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The Great San Francisco Earthquake topples buildings, killing thousands

Year
1906
Month Day
April 18

On April 18, 1906, at 5:13 a.m., an earthquake estimated at close to 8.0 on the Richter scale strikes San Francisco, California, killing an estimated 3,000 people as it topples numerous buildings. The quake was caused by a slip of the San Andreas Fault over a segment about 275 miles long, and shock waves could be felt from southern Oregon down to Los Angeles.

READ MORE: Why It Took Two Earthquakes for San Francisco to Finally Build Smarter

San Francisco’s brick buildings and wooden Victorian structures were especially devastated. Fires immediately broke out and–because broken water mains prevented firefighters from stopping them–firestorms soon developed citywide. At 7 a.m., U.S. Army troops from Fort Mason reported to the Hall of Justice, and San Francisco Mayor E.E. Schmitz called for the enforcement of a dusk-to-dawn curfew and authorized soldiers to shoot-to-kill anyone found looting. Meanwhile, in the face of significant aftershocks, firefighters and U.S. troops fought desperately to control the ongoing fire, often dynamiting whole city blocks to create firewalls. On April 20, 20,000 refugees trapped by the massive fire were evacuated from the foot of Van Ness Avenue onto the USS Chicago.

By April 23, most fires were extinguished, and authorities commenced the task of rebuilding the devastated metropolis. It was estimated that some 3,000 people died as a result of the Great San Francisco Earthquake and the devastating fires it inflicted upon the city. Almost 30,000 buildings were destroyed, including most of the city’s homes and nearly all the central business district.

HISTORY Vault

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Joan Benoit wins Boston Marathon

Year
1983
Month Day
April 18

Joan Benoit wins her second Boston Marathon in the women’s division with a time of 2:22:43 on April 18, 1983. The following year, she went on to win the first-ever women’s marathon at the Summer Olympic Games in Los Angeles and became the first person to win Boston as well as Olympic gold.

A native of Maine, Benoit turned to long-distance running in high school after a ski injury. In 1979, as a senior at Bowdoin College, Benoit won her first Boston Marathon with a time of 2:35:15. Four years later, on April 18, 1983, Benoit won her second Boston Marathon, with a record time of 2:22:43. Greg Meyer of Massachusetts was the men’s winner that year, with a time of 2:09:00. As of 2007, Meyer was the last American man to win the Boston Marathon, which has been dominated by Kenyans in recent decades.

The inaugural Boston Marathon was run on April 19, 1897, and was a men-only event until 1972, when women were officially allowed to compete. The first female winner, Nina Kuscsik, finished with a time of 3:10:26 and was one of eight women who ran the race that year.

The first modern Olympic marathon was run at the 1896 Games in Athens. Eighty-eight years later, the first-ever women’s Olympic Marathon was run at the 1984 Summer Games in Los Angeles. Less than three weeks after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery, Benoit won her Olympic trials. On August 5, 1984, she took home the gold medal with a time of 2:24:52, defeating Grete Waitz of Norway and Rosa Mota of Portugal.

Following the Olympics, Benoit returned to Maine, got married (and changed her name to Joan Benoit Samuelson) and had a family. In October 1985, she won the Chicago Marathon with a time of 2:21:21, setting a record that held for 21 years for the fastest U.S. female marathon time. After retiring from professional racing, she became a motivational speaker, author and commentator. In 2006, Benoit Samuelson helped pace champion cyclist Lance Armstrong in his first New York City Marathon. 

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Federal court decides to release poet Ezra Pound from hospital for criminally insane

Year
1958
Month Day
April 18

A federal court rules that Ezra Pound should no longer be held at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital for the criminally insane in Washington, D.C. Pound has been held for 13 years, following his arrest in Italy during World War II on charges of treason.

Pound was born in Hailey, Idaho, and grew up in a suburb near Philadelphia, where his father worked at the U.S. Mint. He attended the University of Pennsylvania, where he met William Carlos Williams and had a romance with Hilda Doolittle, later known as the poet H.D. He earned a master’s degree in languages from the University of Pennsylvania in 1906.

He took a job teaching at Wabash College in Indiana but lost it after six months, having been accused of hosting a woman in his room overnight. In 1908, Pound moved to London, where he taught and published reviews. While working as secretary to William Butler Yeats, he met the daughter of one of Yeats’ friends, Dorothy Shakespear, who he married in 1914. The couple later had a child.

During this time, he wrote important works of literary criticism, spelling out the rules for new forms of poetry. He championed young writers such as William Carlos Williams, H.D., T.S. Eliot, James Joyce, Robert Frost, Ernest Hemingway, and Marianne Moore. He also began writing his own poems, including his 116 Cantos, which combined his memories, feelings, impressions, and fragments of literature.

In 1920, Pound and his family moved to Paris, where he fell in love with violinist Olga Rudge, with whom he also had child. In 1925, he and his wife moved to Rapallo, Italy. Pound spent the summers with Rudge in Venice until World War II broke out; Rudge then joined Pound and his wife in Rapallo.

Pound strongly supported Benito Mussolini, believing that art flourishes under strong leaders. He worked actively against the Allies until the end of the war, when he was arrested by U.S. forces and held for weeks in an open cage in a prison camp near Pisa. The experience broke his mental health, although he produced one of his most beautiful works, the Pisan Cantos, there. When he was returned to the U.S., he was ruled unfit to stand trial and held at St. Elizabeth’s for 13 years. While in prison, his Pisan Cantos (1948) won an award from the Library of Congress. Poets and authors rallied around him and finally gained his release in 1958. He returned to Italy, where he lived until his death in 1972.

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Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier of Monaco marry

Year
1956
Month Day
April 18

American actress Grace Kelly marries Prince Rainier of Monaco in a spectacular ceremony on April 18, 1956.

Kelly, the daughter of a former model and a wealthy industrialist, began acting as a child. After high school, she attended the American Academy for Dramatic Arts in New York. While she auditioned for Broadway plays, she supported herself by modeling and appearing in TV commercials. In 1949, Kelly debuted on Broadway in The Father by August Strindberg. Two years later, she landed her first Hollywood bit part, in Fourteen Hours. Her big break came in 1952, when she starred as Gary Cooper’s wife in High Noon. Her performance in The Country Girl, as the long-suffering wife of an alcoholic songwriter played by Bing Crosby, won her an Oscar in 1954. The same year, she played opposite Jimmy Stewart in Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window.

While filming another Hitchcock movie, To Catch a Thief (1955), in the French Riviera, Kelly met Prince Rainier of Monaco. It wasn’t love at first sight for Kelly, but the prince initiated a long correspondence, which led to their marriage in 1956. Afterward, she became Princess Grace of Monaco and retired from acting. She had three children and occasionally narrated documentaries. Kelly died tragically at the age of 52 when her car plunged off a mountain road by the Cote D’Azur in September 1982.

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