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March 19, 2013

Today in History for Tuesday, March 19, 2013

-- — Highlight in History

On March 19, 2003, President George W. Bush ordered the start of war against Iraq. (Because of the time difference, it was early March 20 in Iraq.)

On this date

In 1863, the Confederate cruiser Georgianna, on its maiden voyage, was scuttled off Charleston, S.C., to prevent it from falling into Union hands.

In 1943, gangster Frank Nitti, leader of Al Capone’s Chicago Outfit, shot himself to death in a railroad yard.

In 1945, 724 people were killed when a Japanese dive bomber attacked the carrier USS Franklin off Japan; the ship, however, was saved. Adolf Hitler issued his so-called “Nero Decree,” ordering the destruction of German facilities that could fall into Allied hands.

In 1953, the Academy Awards ceremony was televised for the first time; “The Greatest Show on Earth” was named best picture of 1952.

In 1965, the wreck of the Confederate cruiser Georgianna was discovered by E. Lee Spence, 102 years to the day after it had been scuttled.

Ten years ago

Tobacco farmer Dwight Ware Watson, who claimed to be carrying bombs in a tractor and trailer that he’d driven into a pond on Washington’s National Mall, surrendered after disrupting traffic for two days; there were no explosives. Six men hijacked a Cuban airliner to the Florida Keys to seek asylum in the United States. (The six were later convicted of federal hijacking charges.) Mahmoud Abbas accepted the position of Palestinian prime minister.

Five years ago

Five years after launching the invasion of Iraq, President George W. Bush strongly signaled he wouldn’t order troop withdrawals beyond those already planned because he refused to “jeopardize the hard-fought gains” of the past year. In a new audio message, Osama bin Laden criticized the publication of drawings insulting to the Prophet Muhammad and warned Europeans of a strong reaction to come. Death claimed science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke at age 90 and actor Paul Scofield at age 86.

One year ago

A motorbike assailant opened fire with two handguns in front of a Jewish school in the southern French city of Toulouse, killing a rabbi, his two young sons and a girl. (The gunman, French-born Mohammed Merah, was killed in a gunfight with police after a 32-hour standoff at his apartment.

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