18 May 1965

Israeli spy Eli Cohen is hanged in Damascus, Syria.

Eli Cohen
EliCohen.jpg
Cohen, January 1959
Born
Eliyahu Ben-Shaul Cohen

(1924-12-06)6 December 1924
Alexandria, Egypt
Died18 May 1965(1965-05-18) (aged 40)
Damascus, Syria
CitizenshipIsrael
Criminal charge(s)Espionage
Criminal penaltyExecution
Spouse(s)
Nadia Majald (m. 1959)
Children3
Espionage activity
Allegiance Israel
AgencyMossad
Service years1961–1965
AliasKamel Amin Thaabet

Eliyahu Ben-Shaul Cohen (Hebrew: אֱלִיָּהוּ בֵּן שָׁאוּל כֹּהֵן‎, Arabic: إيلياهو بن شاؤول كوهين‎‎; 6 December 1924 – 18 May 1965), commonly known as Eli Cohen, was an Israeli spy. He is best known for his espionage work in 1961–65 in Syria, where he developed close relationships with the Syrian political and military hierarchy,[1][2] and became the chief adviser to the Minister of Defense.[3]

Syrian counterintelligence eventually uncovered the spy conspiracy and convicted Cohen under pre-war martial law, sentencing him to death and hanging him publicly in 1965.

Early life and career

Cohen was born in 1924 in Alexandria, Egypt to a devout Jewish and Zionist family.[4] His father had moved there from Aleppo in 1914. He studied at Cairo Farouk University.[5]

In January 1947, Eli enlisted in the Egyptian Army as an alternative to paying the prescribed sum that all young Jews were obliged to pay, but he was declared ineligible on grounds of questionable loyalty. Later that year, he left university and began studying at home after facing harassment by the Muslim Brotherhood.[6]

His parents and three brothers left for Israel in 1949, but he remained to finish a degree in electronics and to coordinate Jewish and Zionist activities. The government initiated an anti-Zionist campaign in 1951, after a military coup, and Cohen was arrested and interrogated over his Zionist activities.[7] He took part in various Israeli covert operations in the country during the 1950s, although the Egyptian government could never prove his involvement in Operation Goshen, an Israeli operation to smuggle Egyptian Jews out of the country and resettle them in Israel due to increasing hostility in Egypt.[8]

Israel's secret police recruited a sabotage unit of Jewish Egyptian citizens in 1955 which attempted to undermine Egypt's relationships with western powers in the "Lavon Affair". The unit bombed unoccupied American and British installations, expecting that this would be considered the work of Egyptians. Egyptian authorities uncovered the spy ring and sentenced two of the members to death. Cohen had aided the unit and was implicated, but they found no link between him and the perpetrators.[7]

The Egyptian government increased their persecution of Jews and expelled many of them, and Cohen was forced to leave the country in December 1956. He emigrated to Israel with the assistance of the Jewish Agency.[7][9] The Israel Defense Forces recruited him in 1957 and placed him in military intelligence, where he became a counter-intelligence analyst. His work bored him and he attempted to join the Mossad, but he was offended when the Mossad rejected him, and he resigned from military counter-intelligence. For the next two years, he worked as a filing clerk in a Tel Aviv insurance office.[9]

In 1959, he married Nadia Majald, an Iraqi-Jewish immigrant and the sister of author Sami Michael. They had three children—Sophie, Irit, and Shai—and the family settled in Bat Yam.[10]

Start with Mossad

The Mossad recruited Cohen after Director-General Meir Amit, looking for a special agent to infiltrate the Syrian government, came across his name while looking through the agency's files of rejected candidates, after none of the current candidates seemed suitable for the job. For two weeks Cohen was put under surveillance, and was judged suitable for recruitment and training. Cohen was then informed that the Mossad had decided to recruit him and underwent an intensive six-month course at the Mossad training school. His graduate report stated that he had all the qualities needed to become a katsa, or field agent.[11]

He was then given a false identity as a Syrian businessman who was returning to the country after living in Argentina. To establish his cover, Cohen moved to Buenos Aires in 1961.[12][13] In Buenos Aires he moved among the Arab community, letting it be known he had large amounts of money to put at the disposal of the Syrian Ba'ath Party. At this time the Ba'ath Party was illegal in Syria but the party seized power in 1963.[14]

Syria

Cohen (in the middle) at the Golan Heights

Cohen moved to Damascus in February 1962 under the alias Kamel Amin Thaabet (Arabic: كامل أمين ثابت‎).[15][16] Mossad had carefully planned the tactics that he was to use in building relationships with high-ranking Syrian politicians, military officials, influential public figures and the diplomatic community.[9]

Cohen continued his social life as he had in Argentina, spending time in cafes listening to political gossip. He also held parties at his home which turned into orgies for high-placed Syrian ministers, businessmen, and others.[1] At these parties, highly placed officials would openly discuss their work and army plans. Cohen would pretend to be drunk to encourage such conversations, to which he paid close attention. He would also lend money to government officials, and many came to him for advice.[4]

Intelligence collected

Cohen provided an extensive amount and wide range of intelligence data to the Israeli Army between 1961 and 1965. He sent intelligence to Israel by radio, secret letters, and occasionally in person; he secretly traveled to Israel three times.[8] His most famous achievement was the tour of the Golan Heights in which he collected intelligence on the Syrian fortifications there. He feigned sympathy for the soldiers exposed to the sun and had trees planted at every position, ostensibly placed to provide shade. The Israel Defense Forces used the trees as targeting markers during the Six-Day War, which enabled Israel to capture the Golan Heights in two days.[17]

Cohen made repeated visits to the southern frontier zone, providing photographs and sketches of Syrian positions.[18] He also learned of a secret plan to create three successive lines of bunkers and mortars; the Israel Defense Forces would otherwise have expected to encounter only a single line.[11][19][20] Cohen was able to find out that the Syrians planned to divert the Jordan River headwaters in an attempt to deprive Israel of water resources, providing information to the Israeli military to destroy the equipment prepared for the task.[21]

It is claimed that the intelligence that Cohen gathered before his arrest was an important factor' in Israel's success in the Six-Day War,[22] although some intelligence experts have argued that the information he provided about the Golan Heights fortifications was also readily available from ground and aerial reconnaissance.[2]

Uncovered

Newly appointed Syrian Intelligence Colonel  [he] trusted no one and disliked Cohen. Cohen expressed fear of discovery to the Mossad on his last secret visit to Israel in November 1964, and he stated that he wished to terminate his assignment in Syria. The purposes of that visit were to pass on intelligence and to enable him to witness the birth of his third child. Despite this, however, Israeli intelligence asked him to return to Syria one more time. Before leaving, Cohen assured his wife it would be his last trip before he returned home permanently.[7]

In January 1965, Syrian officials increased their efforts to find a high-level spy using Soviet-made tracking equipment and assisted by Soviet experts. They observed a period of radio silence, in the hope that any illegal transmissions could be identified. They successfully detected radio transmissions and were able to triangulate the transmitter. Syrian security services led by Suidani broke into Cohen's apartment on 24 January and caught him in the middle of a transmission to Israel.[8]

Conviction and death sentence

Eli Cohen, publicly hanged in the Marjeh Square, Damascus on 18 May 1965

Cohen was found guilty of espionage by a military tribunal and sentenced to death under martial law. He had been repeatedly interrogated and tortured.[7][9]

Israel staged an international campaign for clemency, hoping to persuade the Syrians not to execute him. Israeli Foreign Minister Golda Meir led a campaign urging Damascus to consider the consequences of hanging him. Diplomats, prime ministers, and Pope Paul VI tried to intercede. Meir even appealed to the Soviet Union.[9] The governments of Belgium, Canada, and France tried to persuade the Syrian government to commute the death sentence,[23] but the Syrians refused. Cohen wrote in his final letter on 15 May 1965:[7]

I am begging you my dear Nadia not to spend your time in weeping about some thing already passed. Concentrate on yourself, looking forward for a better future!

Cohen was hanged in the Marjeh Square in Damascus on 18 May 1965. On the day of his execution, his last wish to see a rabbi was respected by the prison authorities, and Nissim Indibo, the elderly Chief Rabbi of Syria, accompanied him in the truck.[9]

Burial

Memorial stone reading Eliahu (Eli) Cohen, in the "Garden of the Missing Soldiers" on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem.

Syria refused to return Cohen's body to his family in Israel, and his wife Nadia sent a letter to Amin al-Hafiz in November 1965 asking his forgiveness for Cohen's actions and requesting his remains. In February 2007, the Turkish government offered to act as a mediator for their return.[24]

Monthir Maosily was al-Assad's bureau chief, and he said in August 2008 that the Syrians had buried him three times to stop the remains from being brought back to Israel via a special operation.[25] Syrian authorities have repeatedly denied family requests for the remains. Cohen's brothers Abraham and Maurice led a campaign to return his remains; Maurice died in 2006, and Nadia now leads it.[11][15]

In 2016 a Syrian group calling itself "Syrian art treasures" posted a video on Facebook showing Cohen's body after his execution. No film or video was previously known to exist of the execution.[26] The press announced on 5 July 2018 that Cohen's wristwatch had been retrieved from Syria. His widow mentioned that the watch was up for sale months earlier, and the Mossad managed to capture it.[27] Mossad director Yossi Cohen presented it to Cohen's family in a ceremony, and it is currently on display at Mossad headquarters.[28]

Legacy

Cohen has become a national hero in Israel, and many streets and neighborhoods have been named for him. Prime Minister Menachem Begin, Defense Minister Ezer Weizmann, Chief of Staff Mordechai Gur, and several Mossad operatives all attended his son's Bar Mitzvah in 1977.[29] A memorial stone has been erected to Cohen in the Garden of the Missing Soldiers in Mount Herzl, Jerusalem.[30]

John Shea played Cohen in the television film The Impossible Spy (1987),[31] and Sacha Baron Cohen played him in the Netflix miniseries The Spy (2019).[32]

The Israeli settlement Eliad on the Golan Heights is named for him.[33]

References

  1. ^ a b Bergman, Ronen (5 July 2018). "Israel's Secret Operation to Recover the Watch of a Legendary Spy". New York Times.
  2. ^ a b Ian Black and Benny Morris (1992). Israel's Secret Wars. Futura. p. 228.
  3. ^ Ahronheim, Anna (15 April 2019). "Rumors fly that body of legendary Israeli spy Eli Cohen was found". Jerusalem Post.
  4. ^ a b "Eli Cohen (1924–1965)". Jewish Virtual Library. Retrieved 8 May 2019.
  5. ^ "Mossad's master of deception: the astounding true story of Israeli super-spy Eli Cohen". The Telegraph. 6 September 2019. Retrieved 20 October 2019.
  6. ^ "Eli Cohen". International Fellowship of Christians and Jews. Retrieved 20 October 2019.
  7. ^ a b c d e f "Eli Cohen – Chronology". Archived from the original on 19 July 2011. Retrieved 16 February 2011.
  8. ^ a b c "Online Hadracha Centrum". hadracha.org.
  9. ^ a b c d e f Thomas, Gordon (2014). Gideon's Spies: The Secret History of the Mossad. Aurum Press. ISBN 978-1781312810.
  10. ^ Azoulay, Yuval (14 May 2010). "Unending agony for legendary spy Eli Cohen and his widow". Haaretz. Retrieved 30 August 2011.
  11. ^ a b c Katz, Yossi (2010). A voice called: Stories of Jewish heroism. Jerusalem, [Israel]: Gefen Publishing. pp. 111 ff. ISBN 978-965-229-480-7. eli cohen 1960s.
  12. ^ Kahana, Ephraim (2006). Historical dictionary of Israeli intelligence. Lanham, Md. [u.a.]: Scarecrow Press. ISBN 978-0-8108-5581-6. eli cohen 1961 argentina.
  13. ^ Schmitt, Abram N. & Shulsky, Gary J. (2002). Silent warfare: Understanding the world of intelligence (3rd ed., rev. ed.). Washington, D.C.: Brassey's, Inc. p. 14. ISBN 978-1-57488-345-9.CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  14. ^ Radio Times, Israel's Secret Weapon, 10–16 February 1990, p.16
  15. ^ a b "Eli Cohen article". Israel Magazine. Spotlight Publication Ltd. 5. 1973.
  16. ^ Allon, Daniel (2011). Gabriel Allon Novels 1–4. Penguin Group. ISBN 978-1-101-53885-2.
  17. ^ Dunstan, Simon (2013). The Six Day War 1967: Jordan and Syria. Bloomsbury Publishing. ISBN 1472801970.
  18. ^ Black, Ian; Morris, Benny (2003). Israel's secret wars : a history of Israel's intelligence services ([Updated to include the Persian Gulf War] ed.). New York: Grove Press. p. 227. ISBN 978-0-8021-3286-4.
  19. ^ Youssef, Michael (2009). You want me to do what?: Get off your blessed assurance and do something! (1st ed.). New York: Faith Words. ISBN 978-0-446-57958-2.
  20. ^ Aldouby, Zwy (1971). The shattered silence: the Eli Cohen affair. Coward, McCann & Geoghegan. eli cohen bunkers three lines.
  21. ^ Carmichael, Thomas (2006). The Secret Services handbook. Barnes & Noble. ISBN 9780760784013.
  22. ^ Javits, Jacob (9 July 1971). "Superspy in an unholy war". Life. 71 (2). Retrieved 30 August 2011.
  23. ^ Sanua, V. "The History of Elie Cohen: An Egyptian Jew who became Israel's greatest spy]m". sefarad.org;?. Retrieved 18 May 2017.
  24. ^ Jacobson, Phillip (22 February 2007). "Will Israel's superspy finally rest in peace?". The First Post. Archived from the original on 1 March 2007.
  25. ^ -"Former Assad aide: Eli Cohen's burial site unknown],mm". Ynetnews. 30 August 2008.
  26. ^ Kais, Roi & Zagrizak, Asaf (20 September 2016). "New footage emerges of Eli Cohen on the gallows". YNet News. Retrieved 20 September 2016.CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  27. ^ "Mossad Brings Home Watch of Israeli Spy Executed in Syria; Netanyahu Hails 'Brave' Op". Haaretz. 5 July 2018.
  28. ^ "Watch of famed Israeli spy Eli Cohen recovered by Mossad". The Jerusalem Post. 5 July 2018.
  29. ^ "The saga of Eli Cohen, Israel's greatest spy". Sdjewishworld.com. 15 June 2015. Retrieved 6 July 2018.
  30. ^ "Will Assad's Ouster Free Body of Israel Spy?". Israel National News.
  31. ^ The Impossible Spy. IMDb. Retrieved 18 May 2017.
  32. ^ Andreeva, Nellie; Andreeva, Nellie. "Sacha Baron Cohen To Star As Eli Cohen in Netflix Limited Series 'The Spy'". Deadline Hollywooddate=11 April 2018.
  33. ^ Carta's Official Guide to Israel (Second English ed.). Ministry of Defence Publishing House. 1986. p. 138.

External links

16 July 1965

The Mont Blanc Tunnel linking Italy and France opens.

The Mont Blanc Tunnel is a highway tunnel in Europe, under the Mont Blanc mountain in the Alps. It links Chamonix, Haute-Savoie, France with Courmayeur, Aosta Valley, Italy, via European route E25, in particular the motorway from Geneva A40 of France to Turin A5 of Italy. The passageway is one of the major trans-Alpine transport routes, particularly for Italy, which relies on this tunnel for transporting as much as one-third of its freight to northern Europe. It reduces the route from France to Turin by 50 kilometres 30 miles and to Milan by 100 km 60 mi. Northeast of Mont Blanc’s summit, the tunnel is about 15 km 10 mi southwest of the tripoint with Switzerland, near Mont Dolent.

Begun in 1957 and completed in 1965, the tunnel is 11.611 km 7.215 mi in length, 8.6 m 28 ft in width, and 4.35 m 14.3 ft in height. The passageway is not horizontal, but in a slightly inverted “V”, which assists ventilation. The entrance elevation on the French side 45°54?05?N 006°51?39?E is 1,274 m 4,180 ft and 1,381 m 4,531 ft in Italy 45°49?04?N 006°57?07?E, with a maximum of 1,395 m 4,577 ft near the center, a maximum difference of 121 m 397 ft. The tunnel consists of a single gallery with a two-lane dual direction road. At the time of its construction, it tripled the length of any existing highway tunnel.

The tunnel passes almost exactly under the summit of the Aiguille du Midi. At this spot, it lies 2480m beneath the surface, making it the world’s second deepest operational tunnel after the Gotthard Base Tunnel, which is slightly deeper.

Plans to widen the tunnel were never implemented because of lack of financing and fierce opposition of local residents who objected to the harmful effects of increased heavy traffic.

The Mont Blanc Tunnel was originally managed by two public companies, each managing half of the tunnel.

12 May 1965

The Soviet spacecraft Luna 5 crashes on the Moon.

In May 1965, Luna 5 became the first Soviet probe in two years to head for the Moon. Following a May 10 midcourse correction, a problem developed in a flotation gyroscope in the I-100 guidance control unit. Control was lost so the spacecraft began spinning around its main axis.

Ground controllers regained control of the spacecraft, but at the time of the next maneuver the main retrorocket system failed due to a ground control error in calculating the setpoints. As a result, the spacecraft, though still headed for the Moon, was far off its intended landing site. Problems again cropped up with the I-100 unit so a retrorocket burn could not take place and Luna 5 impacted the lunar surface some 430 miles from the target point at about 19:10 UT on May 12, 1965, becoming the second Soviet probe to hit the Moon.

A Soviet announcement gave the impact point as the Sea of Clouds at roughly 31 degrees S, 8 degrees W. Although a later analysis gave a very different estimate of 8 degrees N, 23 degrees W..

Despite failing at its ultimate objective of a soft landing on the Moon’s surface, the spacecraft was a partial success because, unlike its predecessor Luna 4, it successfully performed a midcourse correction.

25 March 1965

Civil rights activists led by Martin Luther King complete their 4-day 50-mile march from Selma to the capitol in Montgomery, Alabama.

he Selma to Montgomery marches were three protest marches, held in 1965, along the 54-mile highway from Selma, Alabama to the state capital of Montgomery. The marches were organized by nonviolent activists to demonstrate the desire of African-American citizens to exercise their constitutional right to vote, in defiance of segregationist repression, and were part of a broader voting rights movement underway in Selma and throughout the American South. By highlighting racial injustice, they contributed to passage that year of the Voting Rights Act, a landmark federal achievement of the Civil Rights Movement.

Southern state legislatures had passed and maintained a series of discriminatory requirements and practices that had disenfranchised most of the millions of African Americans across the South throughout the 20th century. The African-American group known as the Dallas County Voters League launched a voter registration campaign in Selma in 1963. Joined by organizers from the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, they began working that year in a renewed effort to register black voters.

Finding resistance by white officials to be intractable, even after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ended legal segregation, the DCVL invited Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the activists of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference to join them. SCLC brought many prominent civil rights and civic leaders to Selma in January 1965. Local and regional protests began, with 3,000 people arrested by the end of February. According to Joseph A. Califano Jr., who served as head of domestic affairs for U.S. President Lyndon Johnson between the years 1965 and 1969, the President viewed King as an essential partner in getting the Voting Rights Act enacted. Califano, whom the President also assigned to monitor the final march to Montgomery, said that Johnson and King talked by telephone on January 15 to plan a strategy for drawing attention to the injustice of using literacy tests and other barriers to stop black Southerners from voting, and that King later informed the President on February 9 of his decision to use Selma to achieve this objective.

On February 26, 1965, activist and deacon Jimmie Lee Jackson died after being mortally shot several days earlier by a state trooper, James Bonard Fowler, during a peaceful march in nearby Marion, Alabama. To defuse and refocus the community’s outrage, SCLC Director of Direct Action James Bevel, who was directing SCLC’s Selma voting rights movement, called for a march of dramatic length, from Selma to the state capital of Montgomery. Bevel had been working on his Alabama Project for voting rights since late 1963.

The first march took place on March 7, 1965, organized locally by Bevel, Amelia Boynton, and others. State troopers and county possemen attacked the unarmed marchers with billy clubs and tear gas after they passed over the county line, and the event became known as Bloody Sunday. Law enforcement beat Boynton unconscious, and the media publicized worldwide a picture of her lying wounded on the Edmund Pettus Bridge.

The second march took place March 9. Troopers, police, and marchers confronted each other at the county end of the bridge, but when the troopers stepped aside to let them pass, King led the marchers back to the church. He was obeying a federal injunction while seeking protection from federal court for the march. That night, a white group beat and murdered civil rights activist James Reeb, a Unitarian Universalist minister from Boston, who had come to Selma to march with the second group. Many other clergy and sympathizers from across the country also gathered for the second march.

The violence of “Bloody Sunday” and Reeb’s murder resulted in a national outcry and some acts of civil disobedience, targeting both the Alabama and federal governments. The protesters demanded protection for the Selma marchers and a new federal voting rights law to enable African Americans to register and vote without harassment. President Lyndon Johnson, whose administration had been working on a voting rights law, held a historic, nationally televised joint session of Congress on March 15 to ask for the bill’s introduction and passage.

With Governor Wallace refusing to protect the marchers, President Johnson committed to do so. The third march started March 21. Protected by 1,900 members of the Alabama National Guard under federal command, and many FBI agents and Federal Marshals, the marchers averaged 10 miles a day along U.S. Route 80, known in Alabama as the “Jefferson Davis Highway”. The marchers arrived in Montgomery on March 24 and at the Alabama State Capitol on March 25. With thousands having joined the campaign, 25,000 people entered the capital city that day in support of voting rights.

The route is memorialized as the “Selma To Montgomery Voting Rights Trail,” and is designated as a U.S. National Historic Trail.

7 March 1965

Over 600 civil rights marchers are brutally attacked by state and local police in Selma, Alabama.

On March 7, 1965, state troopers and a sheriff’s posse in Selma, Ala., attacked 600 civil rights demonstrators taking part in a march between Selma and Montgomery, the state capital. The march was organized to promote black voter registration and to protest the killing of a young black man, Jimmie Lee Jackson, by a state trooper during a Feb. 18 voter registration march in a nearby city.

The New York Times on March 8 described the day’s events. As the demonstrators crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, they were ordered by the police to disperse. When they stood in place, the troopers charged at them.

“The first 10 or 20 Negroes were swept to the ground screaming, arms and legs flying and packs and bags went skittering across the grassy divider strip and on to the pavement on both sides,” The Times wrote. “Those still on their feet retreated. The troopers continued pushing, using both the force of their bodies and the prodding of their nightsticks.”

The police also fired tear gas at the crowd and charged on horseback. More than 50 demonstrators were injured. The Times described a makeshift hospital near the local church: “Negroes lay on the floors and chairs, many weeping and moaning. A girl in red slacks was carried from the house screaming.” Amelia Boynton lay semiconscious on a table. “From the hospital came a report that the victims had suffered fractures of ribs, heads, arms and legs, in addition to cuts and bruises.”

The day of violence, which became known as Bloody Sunday, was covered in newspapers across the country and broadcast on national news, outraging many Americans. A photo of Mrs. Boynton lying unconscious on the bridge became the most enduring image of the day.

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. soon arrived in Selma to organize a second march as civil rights lawyers filed for a federal injunction to prevent police interference. Dr. King led a ceremonial march over the Pettus Bridge and back on March 9. While the march itself was peaceful, segregationists attacked three white ministers who supported the march that night, killing one, James J. Reeb.

A district court judge issued the injunction on March 17, clearing the way for a second Selma-to-Montgomery march on Sunday, March 21. Flanked by federal troops, 3,200 marchers left Selma on the first leg of the 54-mile journey.

They reached Montgomery that Thursday, marching to the state capitol with 25,000 people. The leaders unsuccessfully attempted to present a petition to Gov. George Wallace and Dr. King delivered a speech before the capitol steps. “The march was hailed by several speakers as the greatest demonstration in the history of the civil rights movement,” The Times reported.

Bloody Sunday had a considerable effect on the civil rights movement. On March 15, eight days after watching the violence, President Lyndon B. Johnson presented a bill to Congress that would become the Voting Rights Act of 1965. It outlawed discriminatory voting laws that had kept black people off the voting rolls and provided for federal examiners to oversee voter registration in areas where voting rights were endangered.

16 July 1965

The Mont Blanc Tunnel linking France and Italy is opened.

montblanc

After 19 years of planning and construction, the Mont Blanc Tunnel officially opens. The new tunnel stretches 7 miles, linking the French town of Chamonix and the Italian town of Courmayeur. Buried 1.5 miles under the Alps’ highest peak, it becomes the world’s deepest road tunnel beneath rock and gains infamy after a deadly 1999 fire.

Until the opening of the tunnel, road traffic in the Alps between France and Italy wended its way over hairpin turns and sharp grades, with mountain passes closed the majority of the year because of snow. Italian construction teams began drilling a tunnel into Mont Blanc (or Monte Bianco on their side) to build a year-round route in 1946. The next year, France and Italy signed an agreement to build the tunnel together.

Construction, however, did not begin in earnest until May 30, 1959, with the help of an 82-ton tunnel-boring machine. Tunneling began at 4,091 feet on the French side and at 4,530 feet on the Italian side.

It took 783 tons of explosives to complete the drilling. The French and Italian teams met Aug. 4, 1962, with a discrepancy of only 5.12 inches between the two sides.

When it opened in a ceremony featuring Presidents Charles De Gaulle of France and Giuseppe Saragat of Italy, the Mont Blanc Tunnel became the world’s longest highway tunnel, more than three times longer than the previous recordholder, Liverpool’s Mersey Tunnel.

7 March 1965

A group of 600 civil rights marchers are brutally attacked by state and local police in Selma, Alabama.

On March 7, 1965, state troopers and a sheriff’s posse in Selma, Ala., attacked 525 civil rights demonstrators taking part in a march between Selma and Montgomery, the state capital. The march was organized to promote black voter registration and to protest the killing of a young black man, Jimmie Lee Jackson, by a state trooper during a Feb. 18 voter registration march in a nearby city.

The New York Times on March 8 described the day’s events. As the demonstrators crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, they were ordered by the police to disperse. When they stood in place, the troopers charged at them.“The first 10 or 20 Negroes were swept to the ground screaming, arms and legs flying and packs and bags went skittering across the grassy divider strip and on to the pavement on both sides,” The Times wrote. “Those still on their feet retreated. The troopers continued pushing, using both the force of their bodies and the prodding of their nightsticks.”

The police also fired tear gas at the crowd and charged on horseback. More than 50 demonstrators were injured. The Times described a makeshift hospital near the local church: “Negroes lay on the floors and chairs, many weeping and moaning. A girl in red slacks was carried from the house screaming.” Amelia Boynton lay semiconscious on a table. “From the hospital came a report that the victims had suffered fractures of ribs, heads, arms and legs, in addition to cuts and bruises.”The day of violence, which became known as Bloody Sunday, was covered in newspapers across the country and broadcast on national news, outraging many Americans.

8 November 1965

The death penalty is formally abolished in the United Kingdom.

The abolition of capital punishment was a major priority of the incoming Labour government of Harold Wilson when it came to office on the 15th of October 1964 and its first Home Secretary, Sir Frank Soskice. On the 28th of October 1965, a Private Member’s Bill to suspend the death penalty, sponsored by the left wing MP, Mr. Sydney Silverman, received Royal Assent. It was supported by the government and the Home Secretary. Thus on the 9th of November 1965, Abolition of Death Penalty Act suspended the death penalty for murder in the United Kingdom for a period of five years.

The last executions were two carried out simultaneously at 8.00 a.m. on the 13th of August 1964 in Walton and Strangeways prisons when Peter Anthony Allen and Gwynne Owen Evans were hanged for the murder of John West, a laundry man, in the course of robbing him.

On the 16th of December 1969, the House of Commons reaffirmed its decision that capital punishment for murder should be permanently abolished. On a free vote, the House voted by 343 to 185, a majority of 158, that the Murder (Abolition of Death Penalty) Act 1965, should not expire. Thus, the death penalty for murder was formally abolished.