On This Day, February 13th
1. 1965: President Lyndon B. Johnson approves Operation Rolling Thunder
It was on this date in 1965 that President Lyndon B. Johnson approved a massive bombing campaign in North Vietnam that would span over three years. He called it Operation Rolling Thunder and from the time of the first bombing on March 2, 1965, until it ended on October 31st, 1968 there were more that 643,000 tons of bombs were used. The campaign was designed to slow the infiltration and personal supplies into South Vietnam. President Johnson and his advisers had been discussing the campaign for roughly a year before making the decision to move forward with it. The President was heavily involved with the Operation Rolling Thunder and at times he would personally hand pick the targets. Sadly, there were as many as 900 American aircraft lost due to Operation Rolling Thunder before it was eventually halted in 1968.
2. 1945: Firebombing of Dresden, Germany
Arguably one of the most devastating and destructive bombing campaigns in world history happened on this date in 1945. The overall death toll for the firebombing of Dresden, Germany was originally listed at 25,000. However, there were massive variations released throughout the years that was the cause of major controversy. Some reports indicate that the German government falsified the data and that it was actually more than 200,000. If this is true, that would make it more devastating than the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Even though the war was coming to an end, Allied forces felt that if they bombed all cities known for war-production and manufacturing that the German war machine would be brought to a halt. However, it was later reported that the city of Dresden had never been used for war production. Instead, it was known for its architectural treasures and rich artistic culture.
3. 1998: Austrian ski racer Hermann Maier crashes at the Olympics
One of the most horrific, yet spectacular crashes in downhill skiing history happened on this date in 1998 when Hermann Maier went down at the Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan. Born in Austria, Maier was no stranger to snow and skiing. But his skills were pushed to the limits when he started his run in the men’s downhill competition, which he was heavily favored to win. While trying to navigate the seventh and eighth turn he lost control and went flying into the air, some say upwards of 30 feet high, and came crashing down on his helmet and then proceeded to smash through two safety fences. At the time of the crash, he was estimated to be traveling at over 80mph and when you put that into consideration it’s nothing short of a miracle that he walked away with only minor bumps and bruises. Even more impressive, he came back just a few days later and won gold medals in both the Super-G and Giant Slalom events. Just three years later he was involved in a life-threatening motorcycle accident and came very close to having his leg amputated. However, after intense physical therapy, he managed to recover in time for the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah.