1961 JFK asks Congress to support the space program On this day in 1961, President John F. Kennedy announces to Congress his goal of sending an American to the moon by the end of the decade and asks for financial support of an accelerated space program. He made the task a national priority and a mission in which all Americans would share, stating that it will not be one man going to the moon it will be an entire nation. On April 12, 1961, the Soviet Union had become the first country to send a man into space with the successful mission of Yuri Gagarin in the spacecraft Vostok 1. On May 5, American Alan Shepard flew into space, but did not orbit the earth as the Russian cosmonaut had. At that time, the U.S. and the Soviet Union were already locked in an arms race. Not to be outdone by America’s Cold War rivals, President Kennedy pledged in 1961 to support an American space program that would eventually dwarf the Soviet program in technological achievements and investment. In a speech before Congress on May 25, JFK linked the need for a space program with the political and economic battle between democracy and communism. He urged Congress to mobilize financial resources to speed up the pace of the space program’s progress, insisting that America should go into space because whatever mankind must undertake, free men must fully share. Kennedy’s vision did not become a reality until six years after his assassination. On July 20, 1969, then-President Richard Nixon watched with the world while Apollo 11 commander Neil Armstrong became the first human to walk on the moon. Just after Armstrong planted the American flag on the moon, President Nixon contacted Armstrong via phone to congratulate him on behalf of all Americans saying I just can’t tell you how proud we are. 1935 Babe Ruth hits last home run On May 25, 1935, at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Babe Ruth hits his 714th home run, a record for career home runs that would stand for almost 40 years. This was one of Ruth’s last games, and the last home run of his career. Ruth went four for four on the day, hitting three home runs and driving in six runs. George Herman Ruth was born February 6, 1895, in Baltimore, Maryland. He was the first of eight children, but only he and a sister survived infancy. Ruth’s father was a saloon keeper on Baltimore’s waterfront, and the young George, known as “Gig” (pronounced with soft g’s) to his family, caused trouble from an early age. At seven, his truancy from school led his parents to declare him incorrigible, and he was sent to an orphanage, St. Mary’s Industrial School for Boys. Ruth lived there until he was 19 in 1914, when he was signed as a pitcher by the Baltimore Orioles. That same summer, Ruth was sold to the Boston Red Sox. His teammates called him “Babe,” short for baby, for his naiveté, but his talent was already mature, and he was almost immediately recognized as the best pitcher on one of the great teams of the 1910s. He set a record between 1916 and 1918 with 29 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings in World Series play, including a 14-inning game in 1916 in which he pitched every inning, giving up only a run in the first. To the great dismay of Boston fans, Ruth was sold by the Red Sox to the New York Yankees before the 1920 season by Red Sox owner Harry Frazee, so that Frazee could finance the musical No, No, Nanette. Ruth switched to the outfield with the Yankees, and hit more home runs than the entire Red Sox team in 10 of the next 12 seasons. “The Sultan of Swat” or “The Bambino,” as he was alternately known, was the greatest gate attraction in baseball through the 1920s until his retirement as a player in 1935. During his career with the New York Yankees, the team won four World Series and seven American League pennants. After getting rid of Ruth, the Red Sox did not win a World Series until 2004, an 85-year drought known to Red Sox fans as “the Curse of the Bambino.” Ruth died of throat cancer on August 16, 1948. His record for career home runs was not broken until Hank Aaron hit his 715th home run on April 8, 1974, 39 years later. 1861 President Lincoln suspends the writ of habeas corpus during the Civil War John Merryman, a state legislator from Maryland, is arrested for attempting to hinder Union troops from moving from Baltimore to Washington during the Civil War and is held at Fort McHenry by Union military officials. His attorney immediately sought a writ of habeas corpus so that a federal court could examine the charges. However, President Abraham Lincoln decided to suspend the right of habeas corpus, and the general in command of Fort McHenry refused to turn Merryman over to the authorities. Federal judge Roger Taney, the chief justice of the Supreme Court (and also the author of the infamous Dred Scott decision), issued a ruling that President Lincoln did not have the authority to suspend habeas corpus. Lincoln didn’t respond, appeal, or order the release of Merryman. But during a July 4 speech, Lincoln was defiant, insisting that he needed to suspend the rules in order to put down the rebellion in the South. Five years later, a new Supreme Court essentially backed Justice Taney’s ruling: In an unrelated case, the court held that only Congress could suspend habeas corpus and that civilians were not subject to military courts, even in times of war. This was not the first or last time that the U.S. federal government willfully ignored its own laws during times of strife. Hundreds of thousands of Japanese Americans were sent to internment camps following the attack on Pearl Harbor and America’s entry into World War II. Some forty years later, a U.S. congressional commission determined that those held in the camps had been victims of discrimination. Each camp survivor was awarded $20,000 in compensation from the U.S. government.