This Day in History – January 18 – Hijinx, Humor and Insight


NewsWhistle is pleased to present Gary Jenneke’s “This Day In History” column.

You can read the original on Gary’s THIS DAY IN HISTORY blog – or scroll down to enjoy Gary’s unique look at the comings and goings of life.




1535 – Pizarro founds Lima, Peru.

An illiterate conquistador, Franciso Pizarro, and four of his brothers, by audacity, treachery and cruelty had defeated the Incas. Disputes between various rulers of the Inca Empire also helped him. Once in command, Pizarro decided that there should be a Spanish capital in Peru and he established Lima. In 2020, the population of Lima has grown to almost ten million people.

While reading the exploits of Pizarro, I came across a list of conquistadors. Pizarro was with Balboa when Europeans first saw the Pacific Ocean. Pizarro and Cortez were related and DeSoto had joined Pizarro in his conquest of the Incas.


1778 – James Cook “discovers” the Hawaiian Islands.

Hawaiians first attached religious significance to the arrival of Europeans and regarded them as gods. They were also fascinated by their use of iron. Soon sailors were trading iron nails for sex. The Europeans took advantage of the goodwill of the Hawaiians until a sailor died of illness, leading the islanders to wonder if the Europeans were really gods. Relations disintegrated to the point of hostility, and a Hawaiian chief was killed. Cook and a number of his men were killed in retaliation. European ships opened fire with cannons and about 30 Hawaiians were killed.

Simple misunderstanding. The Hawaiians had discovered the islands first and believed they should live there in peace. Europeans saw the islands as an opportunity. It was obvious, otherwise why did God create the islands if they were not meant to be exploited?


1955 – The Battle of the Yijiangshan Islands.

Chinese nationalist forces have occupied these two islands close to the mainland of communist China. They sometimes launched guerrilla raids on the mainland from there. A force of 5,000 Communist troops, backed by naval and air power, invaded on January 18. The US 7th Fleet, cruising nearby, did not intervene. Nationalist Taiwan lacked the military resources and was too far away to send reinforcements. The defenders, numbering around 1,000, fought bravely for two days but were nearly wiped out. Many retreated to caves and were burned to death by Communist flamethrowers.

The importance of the battle is minor, other than what it could have led to. If the United States had intervened to defend Taiwan and President Eisenhower had considered nuclear weapons, the result would have been catastrophic. I was eleven at the time and although still in what was called “the news” at school, I don’t remember this incident. I remember reading about artillery exchanges between China and the nationalist-held islands of Quemoy and Matsu and wondering if this could lead to war.



1842 – Alfred Alonso Ames.

Doctor, politician. Ames grew up near Fort Snelling, her family claiming the seventh farm in the Minnesota Territory. Following in his father’s footsteps, he became a doctor. He was a surgeon in the Union Army, serving in both the Dakota War of 1862 and the Civil War. After the war, he took over his father’s practice and gained a reputation for being kind and generous, often treating the poor for free. He was popular with Civil War veterans and got his start in politics through a successful “soldiers ticket” campaign that got him elected to the Minnesota House of Representatives. Active in the Democratic Party, he was first elected mayor in 1876. Ames then served four nonconsecutive terms as mayor of Minneapolis, 1876, 1882, 1886, and 1900. The first three as a Democrat, the last as a Republican. Although he did good things, that is, he was instrumental in establishing the Minnesota Veterans Home, his administrations were best known for their corruption. During his last term, he fired half of the city’s police officers and replaced them with friends, henchmen, even criminals, anyone willing to pay to buy a badge. During this fourth term, organized crime was rampant in Minneapolis. With opium dens, gambling houses and prostitution, it has become a city open to criminals. A grand jury investigation finally began to break his corrupt grip on the city. He fled the state and was on the run for a time, but was captured in New Hampshire and extradited to stand trial. He was found guilty, but it was appealed and overturned. Two subsequent trials ended in mistrials.

I was unaware of this part of Minneapolis’ sordid past. Weird that he started off as a good guy. As they say, power corrupts.


1858 – Daniel Williams.

Surgeon. Williams performed the first successful open-heart surgery. This operation took place in 1893 and was accomplished without modern equipment or drugs such as x-rays or antibiotics and the patient survived. As an African American, Williams was not allowed to work alongside white doctors, so he opened his own hospital and it was the first to employ interracial staff. The American Medical Association (AMA) allowed only white members, so Williams founded a new organization for black doctors. Throughout her life, Williams fought against disparities, for both black patients and practitioners, in the medical field. Williams died in 1931.

Critical Race Theory (I think they could have come up with a better name) is a controversial subject. In my view, little-known contributions from people like Dr. Williams would be among them. But I guess that somehow violates the purity of white history.


1938 – Curt Flood.

Baseball player. Flood was a three-time All-Star and seven-time Golden Glove center for the St. Louis Cardinals. More importantly, Flood has been known to challenge Major League Baseball and its reserve clause. The reserve clause states that even after a player’s contact expires, the team retains rights to him. In 1969, Flood was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies. As an African-American Flood, he didn’t want to play in Philadelphia, believing the fans to be racist. He declined the trade, declared himself a free agent, and sued MLB. The case, Flood vs. Kuhn, went to the Supreme Court. Flood lost but the case inspired the baseball players’ union and in 1975 baseball owners allowed players to become free agents once their contracts expired. This didn’t do Flood much good, as he was basically blackballed from baseball. He settles on the island of Majorca and opens a bar. Flood suffered from a number of health issues, including throat cancer, and died in 1997 at the age of 59.

Many Major League Baseball players are expected to genuflect at his grave for their multi-million dollar contracts.



At various times in his life, Gary has been an indifferent elementary school student, a poor high school student, a good Navy radioman, a former hippie, a passable student, an inveterate traveler, a devoted writer, an erroneous accountant (at the exception of an interesting stint at a communist cafe), part-time screenwriting teacher, semi-proud veteran, failed retiree, and new blogger.

You can reach him at [email protected]



The above information comes from the following websites:

We would also like to thank the following photographers and videographers for the use of their images:

* Intro Image (Neon Heart) – Photo by Olivier Collet on Unsplash – Flyjin, Montreal, Canada

* Daniel Williams (video) – Decades TV Network /

* Curt Flood (video) – The New York Times /

* Outro (Man-In-Museum cartoon) – SkyPics Studio /