This Weekend in History: The “Hollywood Blacklist” Is Formed, the Lynyrd Skynyrd Plane Crash, and Other Events of the Dates
A number of interesting events took place on October 20 and 21 in U.S. history. Here is our take on the most interesting and valuable of them.
October 20, 1947 – “Hollywood Blacklist” is formed
One of the darkest pages both in the history of American internal politics and the world of cinema production was turned on this date 71 years ago, as The House Un-American Activities Committee launched the investigation of the so-called “Communist infiltration” of the film industry, which later resulted in the formation of the “Hollywood Blacklist.” Thus, the Era of McCarthyism began (yet, at that time the senator had nothing to do with the investigation directly: Everything was conducted by Democratic Representative Edward J. Hart of New Jersey).
The creation of a “blacklist” ruined the careers of several hundred innocent and talented people. Eventually, more than 300 artists, among whom were directors, radio commentators, screenwriters, and actors, suffered from the Committee’s activities and were boycotted by the studios just because they didn’t want to answer “a few questions” on their political views. Some notable artists, like Charlie Chaplin, Alan Lomax, Paul Robeson and Orson Wells managed to restart their careers after being attacked during this campaign, however, they had to leave the U.S. and were forced to live abroad.
Unfortunately, even in our enlightened years, the echoes of McCarthyism are heard at times. Many media outlets are blocked for the “wrong” points of view in the U.S., including the one you’re reading this article at now. That’s why it’s crucially important to remember those who suffered due to the efforts of some politicians building their careers on loud statements during the “witch hunt” back in the 1940’s and 1950’s.
October 20, 1977 - the Lynyrd Skynyrd plane crash
October 20 marks one of the darkest days in the history of American music, as three members of the extremely popular band, “the image and the voice of the American South,” Lynyrd Skynyrd, were killed in an air crash: lead vocalist and founding member Ronnie Van Zant, guitarist and vocalist Steve Gaines, and his older sister, backing vocalist Cassie Gaines.
The Convair CV-240 passenger aircraft, drafted by the band on their way to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where they were to present their new album, “Street Survivors,” ran out of fuel and crashed in a wooded area near Gillsburg, Mississippi. After it became clear the airplane had insufficient fuel, the pilots of Convair CV-240 decided to attempt an emergency landing on a small rural airstrip, but unfortunately their efforts were not enough to prevent the catastrophe (the plane crashed 250 meters far from the strip).
The remaining Lynyrd Skynyrd members decided to disband the ensemble after the tragedy and only returned to the scene eight years later, in 1987. Since that time, the group has produced nine albums and managed to get back to the summit of the southern rock genre.
October 21, 1861 – American Civil War: the Battle of Ball’s Bluff
This battle was one of the earliest of the Civil War and ended with Union forces under the command of General McClellan suffering a humiliating loss.
The operation itself was planned as a minor reconnaissance across the Potomac to find out whether the Dixies were occupying strategically important positions near the town of Leesburg, Virginia, or not, so that the Union forces might advance. A crucial mistake led the Union forces to tragedy, as they saw an unguarded Confederate camp and decided to attack the enemy. After deceiving the Northern reconnaissance, the Confederates, for their turn, were all ready to fight, and they did. Although they had about equal forces (approximately 1,700 soldiers on each side), Union forces were helpless, their morale was subdued, and they were forced to retreat.
As a result of the battle, the Union lost no less than 920 soldiers killed, wounded and missing in action, whereas the Confederates only had 155 warriors killed, wounded, or gone missing.
October 21, 1944 – Second World War: Western Front: the end of the Battle of Aachen
This battle was an important combat action on the Western Front of the Second World War. It was fought between American (and Allied) troops and German forces in and around the city of Aachen, Germany. Starting in the beginning of the month, it ended only on October 21, 1944.
The Allies had a hard time assaulting Aachen, since the city had been incorporated into the Siegfried Line, which, in its turn, was the main defensive network on the western border of Nazi Germany. Yet, to take the strategically important and industrialized region of Ruhr, the Allies had to capture this city.
The Battle of Aachen was bloody and fierce, with both sides suffering heavy losses in terms of the Western Front (for the Eastern Front, where the Soviet Union solely fought against Nazi Germany and the other Axis powers, the number of soldiers and officers killed in action during this battle couldn’t even make an article in any encyclopedia, characterizable as just a “minor clash”) with Americans and Germans losing about 5,000 soldiers respectively. As a result of the battle, Aachen became the first German city captured by the Allies, and victory became closer.
These are the most notable events in U.S. history that occurred on this weekend, at least in our view.