This Day in History
October 10th: The End of Panama Canal Construction, the First Terrorist Act in the History of Aviation and Other Events of the Day
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October 10th: The End of Panama Canal Construction, the First Terrorist Act in the History of Aviation and Other Events of the Day


A number of interesting events took place on October 10th in U.S. history. Here is our take on the most interesting and valuable of them.

1913 – The end of Panama Canal Construction

On this day in 1913, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson sent a telegraph signal from the White House, which triggered the explosion of Gamboa Dike – the last “element” in the construction of the Panama canal, connecting the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. The dike was destroyed, which marked the end of almost 10 years of American involvement in this work and more than 400 years after the day Panama’s territory was first crossed by a European explorer (Vasco Nunez De Balboa). 

It is important to mention that we take the formal appointment of John Findley Wallace as chief engineer of the project as the starting date here (May 6, 1904), yet, the French put much effort into building the Panama Canal at the end of the 19th century, though being unsuccessful in it.

Today the Panama Canal is a 82 kilometers system of waterways that cuts through the Isthmus of Panama and serves as one of the most important maritime trade routes, greatly reducing the time needed for vessels to get from the Atlantic to the Pacific oceans, instead of going around the whole South America continent and the hazardous Cape Horn route, that was used before the Canal was built and cost lives to many sailors.

As of the end of 2012 (the most recent data provided) more than 815 thousand vessels had crossed the Panama Canal during the history of its existence.

1933 – United Airlines Boeing-247 explodes in the air

The first terrorist act in the history of aviation (to this day nobody knows the motivation of the felon) happened in the skies above the town of Chesterton, Indiana.

"Our investigation convinced me that the tragedy resulted from an explosion somewhere in the region of the baggage compartment in the rear of the aircraft. Everything in front of the compartment was blown forward, everything behind blown backward, and things at the side outward…" – said Melvin Purvis, Head of the Chicago office of the United States Bureau of Investigation at that time, also noting that instead of being blown out (as could happen in the case of a non-terrorist “nature” of the explosion), the gasoline tanks were crushed in, showing that  no explosion had come from them.

The explosion resulted in the death of 7 people: 4 passengers and 3 crew members. Despite all the effort put into the investigation, no suspect was ever identified, so the case remains to be solved.

1957 – U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower officially apologizes to a Ghanaian politician Komla Agbeli Gbedemah because he wasn’t served in a Dover restaurant due to the color of his skin

The last years of segregation were pretty much the worst ones, and another proof of it – the situation which happened to the Ghanaian politician and Minister of Finance (in office from 1954 to 1961) Komla Agbeli Gbedemah in Dover, Delaware. The restaurant which refused to serve him because he was black, was Howard Johnson.

As is known, Gbedemah told the staff of the restaurant that even the people there who were of a lower social status than he was were served, but they (Blacks) weren’t allowed to eat. The incident immediately caused international scandal.

The scandal went so far that even the President of the U.S. had to apologize for the behavior of restaurant’s staff. Despite all the actions of segregationists, the times were dramatically changing, and this symbolic apology did much to speed the changes up. 

1963 - Partial Nuclear Test Ban Treaty is put into effect

It happened in Moscow, as the representatives of the U.S., USSR and the U.K. met in the beginning of August and decided to put an end to all nuclear tests conducted underground. The treaty also hinted at the prohibition of such tests in the atmosphere.

The treaty formally went into effect this day, 55 years ago. Since that time 123 countries have become the part of this treaty and pledged to control the underground tests that might have been conducted in their territories by foreign super-powers.  Yet, such nuclear powers as China and France never signed and ratified it.

Despite being generally effective, sometimes this treaty was (presumably) violated. For example, back in 1979 the Vela Incident took place in the southern part of the Atlantic, involving the explosion of an unidentified bomb. As was believed, either Israel or South Africa (both having signed and ratified the agreement) could have been the violators of the international treaty of 1963.   

These are the most notable events in U.S. history that occurred on October 10th, at least in our view.

Author: USA Really