1866 The Reno brothers carry out the first train robbery in U.S. history On this day in 1866, the brothers John and Simeon Reno stage the first train robbery in American history, making off with $13,000 from an Ohio and Mississippi railroad train in Jackson County, Indiana. Of course, trains had been robbed before the Reno brothers’ holdup. But these previous crimes had all been burglaries of stationary trains sitting in depots or freight yards. The Reno brothers’ contribution to criminal history was to stop a moving train in a sparsely populated region where they could carry out their crime without risking interference from the law or curious bystanders. Though created in Indiana, the Reno brother’s new method of robbing trains quickly became very popular in the West. Many bandits, who might otherwise have been robbing banks or stagecoaches, discovered that the newly constructed transcontinental and regional railroads in the West made attractive targets. With the western economy booming, trains often carried large amounts of cash and precious minerals. The wide-open spaces of the West also provided train robbers with plenty of isolated areas ideal for stopping trains, as well as plenty of wild spaces where they could hide from the law. Some criminal gangs, like Butch Cassidy’s Wild Bunch, found that robbing trains was so easy and lucrative that for a time they made it their criminal specialty. The railroad owners, however, were not about to sit back and let Cassidy or any other bandit freely pillage their trains. To their dismay, would-be train robbers increasingly found that the cash and precious metals on trains were well protected in massive safes watched over by heavily armed guards. Some railroads, such as the Union Pacific, even began adding special boxcars designed to carry guards and their horses. In the event of an attempted robbery, these men could not only protect the train’s valuables, but could also quickly mount their horses and chase down the fleeing bandits–hopefully putting a permanent end to their criminal careers. As a result, by the late 19th century, train robbery was becoming an increasingly difficult–and dangerous–profession. 1973 The Yom Kippur War brings United States and USSR to brink of conflict The surprise attack by Egyptian and Syrian forces on Israel in October 1973 throws the Middle East into turmoil and threatens to bring the United States and the Soviet Union into direct conflict for the first time since the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. Though actual combat did not break out between the two nations, the events surrounding the Yom Kippur War seriously damaged U.S.-Soviet relations and all but destroyed President Richard Nixon’s much publicized policy of detente. Initially, it appeared that Egypt and Syria would emerge victorious from the conflict. Armed with up-to-date Soviet weaponry, the two nations hoped to avenge their humiliating defeat in the Six-Day War of 1967. Israel, caught off guard, initially reeled under the two-front attack, but Israeli counterattacks turned the tide, aided by massive amounts of U.S. military assistance, as well as disorganization among the Syrian and Egyptian forces. The Syrians were driven back, with Israeli troops seizing the strategically important Golan Heights. Egyptian forces fared even worse: retreating back through the Sinai Desert, thousands of their troops were surrounded and cut off by the Israeli army. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, together with his Soviet counterparts, eventually arranged a shaky cease-fire. When it became clear that Israel would not give up its siege of the Egyptian troops (low on food and medicine by this time), the Soviets threatened to take unilateral action to rescue them. Tempers flared both in Washington and Moscow; U.S. military forces went to a Stage 3 alert (Stage 5 is the launch of nuclear attacks). The Soviets backed down on their threat but the damage to relations between the two nations was serious and long lasting. Kissinger worked furiously to bring about a peace settlement between Israel and Syria and Egypt. In what came to be known as “shuttle diplomacy,” the secretary of state flew from nation to nation hammering out the details of the peace accord. Eventually, Israeli troops withdrew from some of their positions in both the Sinai and Syrian territory, while Egypt promised to forego the use of force in its dealings with Israel. Syria grudgingly accepted the peace plan, but remained adamantly opposed to the existence of the Israeli state.