This Day in History
February 15: Anti-Iraq War protests held all over the world, serum run to Nome, and other events of the date
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February 15: Anti-Iraq War protests held all over the world, serum run to Nome, and other events of the date


A number of important events have taken place on February 15 in U.S. history. Here is our take on the most interesting and valuable of them.

1925 - Serum Run to Nome

Today marks another anniversary of a truly heroic page in the history of Alaska. The 1925 serum run to Nome, also known as the Great Race of Mercy, was a transport of diphtheria antitoxin by dog sled relay across the U.S. territory of Alaska by 20 mushers and about 150 sled dogs 674 miles in five and a half days, saving the small town of Nome and the surrounding communities from an incipient epidemic.

Both the mushers and their dogs were portrayed as heroes in the newly popular medium of radio, and received headline coverage in newspapers across the United States. Balto, the lead sled dog on the final stretch into Nome, became the most famous canine celebrity of the era after Rin Tin Tin, and his statue is a popular tourist attraction in both New York City's Central Park and downtown Anchorage, Alaska. The publicity also helped spur an inoculation campaign in the U.S. that dramatically reduced the threat of the disease.

The sled dog was the primary means of transportation and communication in subarctic communities around the world, and the race became both the last great hurrah and the most famous event in the history of mushing, before the first aircraft in the 1930s and then the snowmobile in the 1960s drove the dog sled almost into extinction. The resurgence of recreational mushing in Alaska since the 1970s is a direct result of the tremendous popularity of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, which honors the history of dog mushing.

1933 - Giuseppe "Joe" Zangara attempts to assassinate FDR

Giuseppe "Joe" Zangara (September 7, 1900 – March 20, 1933) was an Italian immigrant and naturalized citizen of the United States who attempted to assassinate then-President-elect Franklin D. Roosevelt on February 15, 1933. During a night speech by Roosevelt in Miami, Zangara fired five shots with a handgun he had purchased a couple of days before. He missed his target and instead hit five bystanders, mortally wounding Anton Cermak, the Mayor of Chicago.

Zangara’s background is important for understanding his motives. He was a man with little education who became a bricklayer. He suffered severe pain in his abdomen, which doctors told him was chronic and incurable. In 1926 he underwent an appendectomy, but it was no help. If anything, it may have increased his pain. The doctors who performed his autopsy attributed his abdominal pain to adhesions they found on the gall bladder. In his prison memoir, Zangara himself attributed his pain to being forced to do grueling physical labor on his father's farm from an early age. He wrote that his pain began when he was six years old.

2003 - Anti Iraq War protests held all over the world

War is hell, and everybody knows that. On February 15, 2003, there was a coordinated day of protests across the world in which people in more than 600 cities expressed opposition to the imminent Iraq War. It was part of a series of protests and political events that had begun in 2002 and continued as the war took place. Social movement researchers have described the February 15 protest as "the largest protest event in human history."

Protests took place all across the America in 150 cities, according to CBS. According to the World Socialist Web Site, protests took place in 225 different communities. The largest protests were in the nation's largest cities including Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York City, but there were also smaller rallies in towns such as Gainesville, Georgia; Macomb, Illinois; and Juneau, Alaska, among scores of others.

The organizers of the New York City protest had hoped to march past the headquarters of the United Nations. However, a week before the march, police claimed that they would not be able to ensure order and District Court Judge Barbara Jones ruled against allowing the route. Instead, protesters were only permitted to hold a stationary rally. According to Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York City Civil Liberties Union, judicial denial of a permit for a protest march was an unprecedented restriction of civil liberties, as marching and parading through streets to express various points-of-view is "a time-honoured tradition in our country that lies at the core of the First Amendment.” 

On that day, over 300 buses and four special trains brought protesters in from across the country. BBC estimates that 100,000 protesters took part in a rally near the UN headquarters. Among those taking part were the 9/11 Families For Peaceful Tomorrows, a group made up of some relatives of victims of the attacks on the World Trade Center. Speakers included politicians, church leaders and entertainers, such as actress Susan Sarandon and South African Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu. 

Unfortunately, the decision had already been made by that time, so the protests couldn’t prevent the War in Iraq. 

These are the most notable events in U.S. history that occurred on February 15, at least in our view.

Author: USA Really