This is the second installment of America’s worst moments. The first portion covered events ranging from the burning of Washington D.C. to Custer’s Last Stand to the Galveston Hurricane of 1900. The second part examines equally dark times. The stock market crash of 1929 led to the Great Depression, which devastated the country for over a decade. Pearl Harbor launched America’s entry into World War II. The Kennedy Assassination echoed Lincoln’s death a century before. Nixon’s resignation marked the midway mark of a dark two decade stretch. The terror attacks on 911 brought America back to reality after a decade long “vacation from history.” The following are listed in chronological order.
Stock Market Crash (October 29, 1929): The American economy boomed during the twenties, but the party ended in October 1929. The stock market rose from 63.9 in 1921 to 381 in 1929, but signs of a collapse abounded. The market experienced a roller coaster through 1929, the London Stock Exchange collapsed in September 1929, and investors worried about the president’s embrace of protectionist policies. On top of this, the Germans had been borrowing from Peter to pay Paul. They took American loans to pay Britain and France their war indemnity. Britain and France returned the money to the U.S. to pay back war loans. Once the depression broke the cycle, the world collapsed. The American stock market crashed in the last week of October 1929. The decline did not stop until summer of 1932. The crash essentially marked the beginning of the Great Depression.
Pearl Harbor (December 7, 1941): Japan launched a surprise attack on the United States in an effort to cripple the American Pacific fleet. The two nations clashed diplomatically over Japan’s militarism. As a result, the Japanese felt war inevitable. They hoped to knock America out of the war before the U.S. could bring its power online. Japan sunk four battleships and damaged four others. They destroyed or damaged 11 other ships and over 300 aircraft. Over 2,400 Americans died and over 1200 wounded. The U.S. declared war on Japan and after six months began rolling back the Japanese Empire.
The Kennedy Assassination (November 22, 1963): Lee Harvey Oswald shot and killed President John F. Kennedy at Dealey Plaza in Dallas, Texas. The nation went into mourning while the government struggled to make sense of the attack. The Warren Commission eventually concluded Oswald acted alone, but his murder led to a multitude of conspiracy theories. The assassination and response harkened back to the night Lincoln died. It was the first successful presidential assassination since 1901, and third since Lincoln. There have been attempts on Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush, but all have failed. Kennedy is the last president to die in office and the last victim of a presidential assassin.
Nixon resigns (August 9, 1974): The Kennedy Assassination initiated a twenty year cycle of national trauma. The country suffered through race riots, the Vietnam War, Watergate, economic dislocation, the Iran Hostage Crisis, and other lesser crises before Ronald Reagan survived an assassination attempt and things began to change. Nixon’s resignation marked the midway point of this cycle. His aides decided to bug Democratic Headquarters during the 1972 campaign. The president decided to cover-up the incident. This cover-up blew up in his face and made things look significantly worse. In the end, he was forced out of office. Interestingly, President Obama’s actions with the NSA wiretaps and IRS targeted of opponents dwarf anything in the Nixon Administration.
911 (9/11/01): The United States won the Cold War and watched in amazement as the U.S.S.R. collapsed. At the same time, the economy boomed for almost 20 years. The nation essentially took a holiday from history while enjoying the prosperity. Meanwhile, Islamic terrorists launched several attacks on America from 1993-2000. President Clinton treated the attacks as law enforcement matters. President George W. Bush hoped to “stop swatting at flies” and do something to stop the Muslim terrorists. However, he barely stepped into office when Osama bin Laden and El Qaeda attacked New York City and Washington D.C. Terrorists hijacked four airliners, flew two into the World Trade Center, one into the Pentagon, and killed 3,000. Passengers took down the other plane before it could hit the White House or capitol building. The country has not fully recovered from the attacks.