Posts tagged 1967.

October 9, 1967: Che Guevara is killed.

At the time of his capture, he had been attempting to organize a Marxist takeover of Bolivia with his joint Cuban-Bolivian group, the National Liberation Army of Bolivia, but nearby Bolivian special forces were alerted of Guevara’s location, and he was taken prisoner on October 8, 1967. Outnumbered, Guevara was wounded in the gunfight that preceded his capture; he surrendered and told his captors: “I am worth more to you alive than dead”. 

He was taken prisoner and held in a small town called La Higuera until, on October 9, the soldiers received orders from the Bolivian President to carry out Guevara’s execution (a decision American officials later called “stupid”). His last words are disputed - he either declared “I know you’ve come to kill me. Shoot, you are only going to kill a man”, or he said, according to General Ovando of the Bolivian Armed Forces: “I am Che Guevara and I have failed”. Guevara was shot multiple times, and his body was put on display briefly so that soldiers and locals could look upon the remains of the almost mythic revolutionary (some locals reportedly cut off locks of his hair for good luck). His hands were amputated and preserved in formaldehyde, and his hand-less body was moved to a different location. In Cuba, Fidel Castro declared three days of mourning and personally delivered a eulogy in Havana, in which he declared Guevara to be “the model of a man… who does not belong to our times but to the future”. 

Other links: a timeline/compilation of documents on Guevara’s death.

June 12, 1967: The Supreme Court declares anti-miscegenation laws unconstitutional. 

For forty-three years prior to this landmark civil rights case, Virginia’s Racial Integrity Act made marriage between white and non-whites a crime punishable by law. To circumvent this law, Mildred Dolores Jeter (a woman of Native American and African descent) and Richard Loving traveled in 1958 to Washington, D.C., where they were able to marry legally (though technically this was also a violation of the Virginia Code). Upon returning to Virginia, however, the Lovings were arrested and charged with “cohabiting as man and wife, against the peace and dignity of the Commonwealth”, to which they pled guilty. 

Fortunately, with the help of the ACLU, the Loving case made it to the state court and then to the Supreme Court as Loving v. Virginia. By this time, several mainstream American churches had even affirmed their support for interracial marriage. Finally, in, 1967, the Supreme Court unanimously declared that, under the Fourteenth Amendment, the Racial Integrity Act and any other anti-miscegenation laws were unconstitutional:

To deny [marriage] on so unsupportable a basis as the racial classifications embodied in these statutes, classifications so directly subversive of the principle of equality at the heart of the Fourteenth Amendment, is surely to deprive all the State’s citizens of liberty without due process of law.

April 24, 1967: Soyuz 1 crashes as it returns to Earth.

Soyuz 1 (Союз 1) was a Soviet manned spaceflight, launched on April 23 and commanded by Vladimir Komarov, a talented pilot who had also previously commanded the milestone Voshkod 1 spaceflight. With the launch of Soyuz 1, Komarov became the first cosmonaut to venture into outer space more than once - and, when it crashed the next day, he became the first man to die on a spaceflight mission.

Prior to its launch, the spacecraft was reported to be full of engineering flaws; however, for various political reasons (the approach of Lenin’s birthday and mounting pressure to ‘beat’ the Americans to the moon), these flaws were overlooked, and Soyuz was launched as planned. Problems naturally ensued, and Komarov was ordered to abort the mission, but this was not a death sentence - had his parachutes deployed properly, he might have lived to command another spaceflight. Unfortunately, one of the aforementioned flaws in the design of Soyuz 1 was apparently in the parachute itself, and, as a result, the reentry module hurtled to the Earth at 140 km/h, exploding into a fireball upon impact. 

In the above audio clip, you can hear Komarov’s last transmission and his “cries of rage” at the “people who had put him inside a botched spaceship.” It is said that Komarov knew, when he accepted the command, that Soyuz 1 might prove fatal - but that he took it so that his back-up pilot (and national hero) Yuri Gagarin would not have to, saying “we’ve got to take care of him.”

March 6, 1967: Svetlana Alliluyeva defects to the United States.

In the aboveimages, the young Alliluyeva appears to have had an affectionate relationship with her father, Joseph Stalin, who ruled over the USSR for three decades, although it is unclear if this was ever actually the case. Her mother, Stalin’s second wife, apparently committed suicide after suffering years of abuse under Stalin, and her half-brother Yakov also committed suicide. 

On March 6, 1967 (fourteen years after her father’s death), Alliluyeva was offered political asylum in the United States, and she accepted. When she arrived in April of 1967, she spoke at a press conference, denouncing Stalin’s regime and the Soviet government, which, along with her defection, stirred up many Russians back home.

She claimed at this press conference:

"I think that many other people who still are in our Central Committee and Politburo should be responsible for the same things for which he alone was accused. And I feel somebody is responsible for those horrible things - killing people, unjustice [sic], I feel those responsible for this was and is the Party, the regime, and the ideology as a whole."

She returned to the Soviet Union in 1984, where she was granted citizenship, but she died in Wisconsin in 2011 a naturalized U.S. citizen.

The original crew of Apollo 1 (from left to right), Gus Grissom (one of the original Mercury Seven), Roger Chaffee (a Lieutenant Commander in the navy), and Edward White (the first American to perform a spacewalk).

On January 27, 1967 during a launch simulation, a fire in command module killed all three of them. Each of them was posthumously awarded the Congressional Space Medal of Honor in 1978.