What Happened on March 19?

  • Operation Iraqi Freedom began. (2003) US President Bush announced the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom, a military mission to rid Iraq of Saddam Hussein. The war was internationally unpopular from the start, and lost a lot of popularity in America after Bush's claims that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction were found to be unsubstantiated.

  • Nevada legalized gambling. (1931) Though unregulated gambling had taken place in mining towns all over Nevada, gambling was outlawed in the early 20th century as part of a nationwide campaign against corruption. The state re-legalized it on this day in 1931, and became the state's primary source of revenue.

  • The Academy Awards were first broadcast on NBC. (1953) Though the winners had been announced several months earlier, the program still garnered a lot of attention. The show was hosted by Bob Hope and Conrad Nagel, and Cecil DeMille's The Greatest Show on Earth won Best Picture.

  • The first air-combat mission in US history took place. (1916) Eight planes took off to support the 7,000 US troops searching for the Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa. Despite help from the aircraft, Villa was never found by US forces, who were eventually forced to leave Mexico in 1917.

  • The US Congress established time zones and daylight saving time. (1918) Though the idea had been floating around since Benjamin Franklin's time, the US did not participate in daylight saving time or have time zones until the 20th century. The country actually came late to the game — Germany, Russia, Britain, and several other European countries had begun using it several years earlier.

  • East Germany established a new constitution. (1949) This was considered to be the first step towards a divided Germany, as the new constitution was made largely in response to American support of West Germany. The country officially split later that year, and remained two separate countries until 1990.

  • Pluto was first photographed. (1915) Amateur astronomer Percival Lowell captured the first images of Pluto on this day, but they were so faint that he mistook the dwarf planet for a star. The planet was officially "discovered" in 1930.

  • The Tuskegee Airmen began operating. (1941) The Tuskegee Airmen were an elite, all African-American unit who fought in numerous battles in World War II. Before the Airmen, there had never been an African-American military pilot in the US.

  • The US rejected the Treaty of Versailles for the second time. (1920) The US Senate, heavily influenced by Henry Cabot Lodge, rejected the treaty for a second time, since many felt it was too lenient to Germany. The US created a second treaty to end hostilities between itself and the Central Powers, which went into effect in 1921.

  • C-SPAN began broadcasting. (1979) Known for its rather dry but unbiased coverage, C-SPAN got its start by broadcasting a speech by then-Senator Al Gore. Since then, the company has created three spin-off channels, a radio station, and a considerable archive of political material.

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