Year
1942

Ronald Reagan applies for transfer to Army Air Force

On this day in 1942, Lieutenant Ronald Reagan, a cavalry officer, applies for reassignment to the Army Air Force, where he would eventually put his thespian background to use on World War II propaganda films.

The transfer was approved on June 9, 1942, and Reagan was given a job as a public relations officer for the First Motion Picture Unit. The First Motion Picture Unit (FMPU)–its acronym was pronounced fum-poo–produced military training, morale and propaganda films to aid the war effort. FMPU released Frank Capra’s Why We Fight series and a documentary of the bomber Memphis Belle, the crew of which completed a standard-setting 35 bombing missions in Europe. The films were screened on domestic training grounds and in troop camps overseas as well as in movie theaters at home.

Another film, Air Force, which was later renamed Beyond the Line of Duty, conveyed the true story of the heroic feats of aviator Shorty Wheliss and his crew, featuring narration by Ronald Reagan. The documentary, originally intended to promote investment in war bonds, won an Academy Award in 1943 for best short subject. Reagan went on to narrate or star in three more shorts for FMPU including For God and Country, Cadet Classification and the The Rear Gunner. Reagan also appeared as Johnny Jones in the 1943 full-length musical film This is the Army.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

First Allied jet flies

On May 15, 1941, the jet-propelled Gloster-Whittle E 28/39 aircraft flies successfully over Cranwell, England, in the first test of an Allied aircraft using jet propulsion. The aircraft’s turbojet engine, which produced a powerful thrust of hot air, was devised by Frank Whittle, ...read more

The Seven Years War begins

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The flight of Faith 7

On May 15, 1963, Gordon Cooper is launched into space aboard Faith 7 on the longest American space mission to that date. Faith 7 was the capstone of Project Mercury, the NASA program that put the first American into space in 1961 and the first astronaut into orbit in 1962. Cooper ...read more

Governor George Wallace shot

During an outdoor rally in Laurel, Maryland, George Wallace, the governor of Alabama and a presidential candidate, is shot by 21-year-old Arthur Bremer. Three others were wounded, and Wallace was permanently paralyzed from the waist down. The next day, while fighting for his life ...read more

Madeleine Albright is born

On this day in 1937, Madeleine Albright, America’s first female secretary of state, is born Maria Jana Korbelova in Prague, Czechoslovakia (now the Czech Republic).The daughter of Czech diplomat Josef Korbel, Albright fled to England with her family after the Nazis occupied ...read more

Air Force sergeant awarded Medal of Honor

At the White House, President Richard Nixon presents Sgt. John L. Levitow with the Medal of Honor for heroic action performed on February 24, 1969, over Long Binh Army Post in South Vietnam. Then an Airman 1st Class, Levitow was the loadmaster on a Douglas AC-47 gunship. His ...read more

Nolan Ryan pitches first no-hitter

On May 15, 1973, California Angel Nolan Ryan strikes out 12 Kansas City Royals and walks three to pitch the first no-hitter of his career. The game was played under protest, as Royals Manager Jack McKeon complained that Ryan wasn’t maintaining contact with the pitching rubber ...read more

Katherine Anne Porter is born

Callie Porter, later known as Katherine Anne Porter, is born in Indian Creek, Texas, on this day in 1890.Porter grew up in poverty. Before she turned two, her mother died and her father moved in with his mother. Porter’s grandmother, Catherine Anne Porter, provided love and ...read more

Tornado decimates Texas town

A particularly intense tornado hits Sherman, Texas, on this day in 1896, and kills 73 people. It is estimated that the tornado was a rare F5 tornado, in which winds exceeded 260 miles per hour. Storms of that strength happen, on average, less than once a year. The strength of ...read more

Soviets begin withdrawal from Afghanistan

More than eight years after they intervened in Afghanistan to support the procommunist government, Soviet troops begin their withdrawal. The event marked the beginning of the end to a long, bloody, and fruitless Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.In December 1979, Soviet troops ...read more