What Happened on March 5?

  • Winston Churchill delivered his "Iron Curtain" speech. (1946) In the speech, Churchill roundly denounced the USSR's political policies, and said, "an iron curtain has descended across the continent." Is is considered to be one of the beginning incidents of the Cold War.

  • The Boston Massacre occurred. (1770) Several American colonists were taunting British soldiers with snowballs; one hit, causing the soldier to discharge his weapon into the crowd. Five colonists died, and the event continued to be a sore spot between the two nations in the build up to the Revolutionary War.

  • The Dial a President radio program took place. (1977) Walter Cronkite and Jimmy Carter went on the air for a call-in program where ordinary citizens could call and ask the president anything they liked. Over 9 million callers tried to get through, and the questions ranged from Carter's pardoning the draft dodgers to why he sent his daughter to public school.

  • The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) was signed. (1970) The NPT was signed as a deterrent to the development and possible misuse of nuclear weapons, and had over 40 signatories. Since that time, more than 180 countries have signed it, though some, like North Korea, signed and then withdrew from the treaty.

  • The Hula Hoop® was patented. (1963) The Hula Hoop® was an immediate hit, and sold more than 25 million models in the first four months of production alone. It was patented by the same company that invented the Frisbee®, Wham-O.

  • George Westinghouse patented the air brake. (1872) This type of safety brake is found on most modern trains. Westinghouse's design made train travel much safer by providing a reliable braking service, and the number of accidents and fatalities dropped dramatically.

  • Nikolai Tesla described the formation of ball lightning. (1904) Though there is no scientifically accepted understanding of ball lightning, Tesla made an attempt to describe its formation in a scientific journal on this day. Tesla himself was actually able to replicate ball lightning, but only as a side effect of other experiments.

  • Joseph Stalin died. (1953) Stalin had led the country for almost 30 years in a rule known for ethnic and political purges and a booming exile system. He died of a massive heart attack on this day, and is considered by many the mass murderer of the 20th century, since he oversaw the death of around 10 million of his own citizens.

  • President Franklin Roosevelt declared a bank holiday. (1933) The act to temporarily close all US banks and freeze transactions passed Congress a few days later. The move was popular, and many Americans flocked back to banks after they reopened to redeposit their money.

  • Italy became the first country to use airships in war. (1912) Though airships, also known as zeppelins, had been around for decades, Italy became the first to use them for military purposes when they sent dirigibles for reconnaissance behind Turkish lines in the Italo-Turkish War.

Discussion Comments


In 1861-1863 hydrogen balloons were used for reconnaissance by the Union Army during the Civil War, and were inflated via mobile hydrogen generating wagons pulled by a team of horses, using iron filings and sulfuric acid to generate the hydrogen.

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