What was happening in January in years past?
January is the birth month for a number of memorable people, among them Paul Revere, Betsy Ross, Joan of Arc, Elvis Presley, Richard Nixon, Alexander Hamilton, John Hancock, Martin Luther King, Benjamin Franklin, Muhammad Ali, Robert E. Lee, Edgar Allen Poe, Douglas MacArthur, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Thomas Paine, Franklin Roosevelt, Anton Chekhov and Jackie Robinson.
The following were born in January as well. While they might not be household names, their last names and works might be familiar. Louis Braille (Jan. 4), who became blind as a child, developed the reading method that bears his name. Andre Michelin (Jan. 16) started the Michelin Tire Company in 1888. Thomas Paine (Jan. 29) wrote "Common Sense," arguably the most significant writing in support of American Independence. "Alice in Wonderland" was written by Lewis Carroll (Jan. 27). Check out these copies at your library.
Many obscure historical events occurred in January. George Washington delivered the first State of the Union address on Jan. 4, 1790. On Jan. 10, 1863, the London Underground, or Tube, the world's first subway, opened. Prohibition, the 18th Amendment to the Constitution, was ratified on Jan. 29, 1919 and lasted until 1933. Read more about it in "Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition," by Daniel Okrent.
In Vietnam, the Tet Offensive began on Jan. 30, 1968. But did you know that a week earlier, on Jan. 23, 1968, the ship USS Pueblo was seized by North Korea in the Sea of Japan? The sailors were held captive for almost a year. The ship has never been returned and resides in a river near Pyongyang. Learn more about this incident in "A Matter of Accountability: The True Story of the Pueblo Affair," by Trevor Armbrister and "The Pueblo Incident: A Spy Ship and the Failure of American Foreign Policy," by Mitchell Lerner.
Some of the most significant events of World War II occurred in January. On Jan. 6, 1941, in his State of the Union, which came to be known as the "Four Freedoms Speech," President Roosevelt outlined a plan for protection of four freedoms: freedom of speech; freedom of religion; freedom from want; and freedom from fear. Four days later, the Lend-Lease bill was brought before Congress. It proposed to give financial and material assistance to America's allies, primarily Britain.
In Jan. 1942, the Japanese captured Manila, an act which presaged the Americans' retreat down the Bataan peninsula. See Hugh Ambrose's "The Pacific" and Michael Norman's "Tears in the Darkness: The Story of the Bataan Death March and Its Aftermath."
On Jan. 31, 1943, the German 6th Army surrendered to the Russians at Stalingrad. Read more about its significance in "Enemy at the Gates: The Battle for Stalingrad" by William Craig or "Stalingrad" by Antony Beevor.
In January 1944, the Allies landed at Anzio, and the German blockade of Leningrad ended. Excellent books on the subjects include "Leningrad: The Epic Siege of World War II, 1941-1944," by Anna Reid, "The 900 Days: The Siege of Leningrad," by Harrison Salisbury and "Fatal Decision: Anzio and the Battle for Rome," by Carlo D'Este.
In January 1945, Auschwitz was liberated by the Russian army. For further reading, consider "Auschwitz: A New History," by Laurence Rees, "Survival in Auschwitz," by Primo Levi and "The Boy in the Striped Pajamas," by John Boyne.
The books listed are just a fraction of the resources available. If you wish to learn more about the above people and events, visit the library, where you can choose from a variety of educational formats: biographies, histories, audiobooks, ebooks, DVD documentaries and movies, music CDs, and Biography in Context, a database. A couple of good websites are www.onwar.com and www.historyplace.com.