Year
1987

Mikhail Gorbachev arrives in United States for summit with Ronald Reagan

Despite protests in Washington concerning Soviet human rights abuses, most Americans get swept up in “Gorbymania” as Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev arrives for his summit with President Ronald Reagan. Gorbachev and his wife, Raisa, charmed the American public and media by praising the United States and calling for closer relations between the Soviet Union and America.

Aside from the excitement surrounding Gorbachev (whose face was soon plastered on T-shirts, cups, and posters), the summit with Reagan resulted in one of the most significant arms control agreements of the Cold War. Reagan and Gorbachev signed off on the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Force (INF) Treaty, which called for the elimination of all ground cruise and ballistic missiles and launchers in Europe with ranges of 320 to 3,400 miles. By June 1991, the United States had eliminated over 800 missiles and the Soviets had eliminated 1,800 such weapons.

The INF Treaty was the first arms control agreement that eliminated, rather than simply limited, nuclear weapons. The treaty also required on-site inspections to ensure compliance, part of Reagan’s famous “trust but verify” credo. Some critics in the United States denounced the treaty, claiming that it would “de-nuke” Europe and leave America’s allies at the mercy of the Soviets’ massive conventional forces. Most Americans, however, considered it a monumental step toward the reduction of the risk of nuclear war. The treaty was ratified by the Senate and went into effect in June 1988.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Pearl Harbor bombed

At 7:55 a.m. Hawaii time, a Japanese dive bomber bearing the red symbol of the Rising Sun of Japan on its wings appears out of the clouds above the island of Oahu. A swarm of 360 Japanese warplanes followed, descending on the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor in a ferocious ...read more

The First State

In Dover, Delaware, the U.S. Constitution is unanimously ratified by all 30 delegates to the Delaware Constitutional Convention, making Delaware the first state of the modern United States. Less than four months before, the Constitution was signed by 37 of the original 55 ...read more

Indonesia invades East Timor

Early in the morning, Indonesian forces launch a massive invasion of the former Portuguese half of the island of Timor, which lies near Australia in the Timor Sea. The Portuguese departed East Timor in August 1975, and Indonesian troops soon began infiltrating the border from ...read more

First execution by lethal injection

The first execution by lethal injection takes place at the state penitentiary in Huntsville, Texas. Charles Brooks, Jr., convicted of murdering an auto mechanic, received an intravenous injection of sodium pentathol, the barbiturate that is known as a “truth serum” when ...read more

Earthquake devastates Armenia

In the Soviet Union, an earthquake of a 6.9 magnitude on the Richter scale hits northwestern Armenia, affecting an area 50 miles in diameter. The initial earthquake was followed four minutes later by a powerful 5.8 magnitude aftershock. More than 20 towns and 342 villages were ...read more

Situation deteriorates in South Vietnam

The situation worsens in South Vietnam, as the Viet Cong attack and capture the district headquarters at An Lao and much of the surrounding valley 300 miles northeast of Saigon. South Vietnamese troops regained control only after reinforcements were airlifted into the area by ...read more

Willa Cather is born

On this day in 1873, Willa Cather is born in Winchester, Virginia. Cather was the first of seven children born to an old Virginia family dating back to colonial times. Her maternal grandfather served several terms in the Virginia House of Delegates. Her grandmother was a strong, ...read more

Earthquakes wreak havoc in Armenia

Two earthquakes hit Armenia on this day in 1988, killing 60,000 people and destroying nearly half a million buildings. The two tremors, only minutes apart, were measured at 6.9 and 5.8 in magnitude and were felt as far away as Georgia, Turkey and Iran. It was 11:41 a.m. when the ...read more

Commute of terror

Colin Ferguson opens fire on a Long Island Rail Road commuter train from New York City, killing 6 and injuring 19. Other train passengers stopped the perpetrator by tackling and holding him down. Ferguson later attributed the shooting spree to his deep-seated hatred of white ...read more

Battle of Prairie Grove, Arkansas

On this day in 1862, northwestern Arkansas and southwestern Missouriare secured for the Union when a force commanded by General James G. Blunt holds off a force of Confederates under General Thomas Hindman at the Battle of Prairie Grove, Arkansas. Hindman assembled a force at ...read more