First McDonald’s opens in Soviet Union

The Soviet Union’s first McDonald’s fast food restaurant opens in Moscow. Throngs of people line up to pay the equivalent of several days’ wages for Big Macs, shakes and french fries.

The appearance of this notorious symbol of capitalism and the enthusiastic reception it received from the Russian people were signs that times were changing in the Soviet Union. An American journalist on the scene reported the customers seemed most amazed at the “simple sight of polite shop workers…in this nation of commercial boorishness.” A Soviet journalist had a more practical opinion, stating that the restaurant was “the expression of America’s rationalism and pragmatism toward food.” He also noted that the “contrast with our own unrealized pretensions is both sad and challenging.”

WATCH: The new season of The Food That Built America premieres Sunday, February 14 at 9/8c.

For the average Russian customer, however, visiting the restaurant was less a political statement than an opportunity to enjoy a small pleasure in a country still reeling from disastrous economic problems and internal political turmoil.

The arrival of McDonald’s in Moscow was a small but certain sign that change was on the horizon. In fact, less than two years later, the Soviet Union ceased to exist as a nation, Mikhail Gorbachev resigned as leader of the country, and various Soviet republics proclaimed their independence. As the American newsman reported, the first Russian McDonald’s customers “had seen the future, and it works, at least as far as their digestive tract.”

READ MORE: How McDonald’s Beat Its Early Competition and Became an Icon of Fast Food

The McMartin Preschool trials

Los Angeles prosecutors announce that they will retry teacher Raymond Buckey, who was accused of molesting children at the McMartin Preschool in Manhattan Beach, California. The McMartin trials had already taken over six years and cost more than $13.5 million without a single guilty verdict resulting from 208 charges. However, a jury had deadlocked on 13 charges (voting 11-2 for acquittal) against Buckey, and prosecutors, not willing to let the matter drop, decided to retry him on eight of these counts.

The McMartin prosecutions represented the height of the hysteria over sexual abuse of children in America. Despite a complete lack of reputable evidence against the teachers and workers at McMartin Preschool, and with every indication that the children had been coerced and manipulated into their testimony, the prosecutors nonetheless proceeded against Ray Buckey for more than six years.

“Believe the children” became the mantra of advocates who insisted that children never lied or were mistaken about abuse. The courts made unprecedented changes to criminal procedure to accommodate this mistaken notion. The California Supreme Court ruled that child witnesses were not required to provide details about the time and place of the alleged molestation to support a conviction. The U.S. Supreme Court held that child witnesses could testify outside the courtroom despite the Sixth Amendment’s clear command that a defendant had the right to confront his or her accusers.

Throughout the nation, parents and day-care workers were jailed after false, and often absurd, allegations about child sexual abuse. As this hysteria swept the country, abuse counseling quickly became a cottage industry, attracting often-unqualified people who seemed to find sexual abuse everywhere.

This was abundantly clear in Ray Buckey’s case. In one instance, a girl initially failed to identify Buckey as someone who had harmed her. After an interview with Children’s Institute International, the counseling agency that worked with every child in the case, the girl did pick Buckey as her attacker. It later turned out that Buckey wasn’t even at the school during the time period that the child attended McMartin.

Buckey’s retrial went much faster. By July, the jury had acquitted on seven charges and were deadlocked (once again, the majority voting for acquittal) on the other six accusations. The district attorney then finally decided to drop the case. The Buckeys successfully sued the parents of one child for slander in 1991, but they were awarded only $1 in damages.

READ MORE: Babysitters Accused of Satanic Crimes Exonerated After 25 Years

Doug Williams leads Redskins to Super Bowl victory

On January 31, 1988, in San Diego, California, Doug Williams of the Washington Redskins—now known as the Washington Football Team—becomes the first African American quarterback to play in a Super Bowl, scoring four of Washington’s five touchdowns in an upset 42-10 victory over the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XXII.

Denver was favored to win the game, and they started strong, as star quarterback John Elway threw a 56-yard touchdown pass to Ricky Nattiel on the team’s first play from scrimmage. Williams injured his knee shortly thereafter and was replaced for two plays by Jay Schroeder. By the beginning of the second quarter, the Broncos were ahead 10-0. All that changed, however, when Williams and the Washington Football Team began to obliterate the Denver defense, scoring 35 points in the quarter.

The scoring onslaught began with Williams’ 80-yard touchdown pass to Ricky Sanders, which tied a record for longest pass in a Super Bowl game. Williams scored three more touchdowns in the quarter, finding Gary Clark with a 27-yard pass, hitting Sanders again for 50 yards and finishing with an eight-yard toss to Clint Didier. For the fifth score of the quarter, Williams handed off to the rookie running back Timmy Smith and Smith headed along the right sideline for 58 yards into the end zone. Sanders and Smith set their own Super Bowl records that day: Sanders for receiving (193 yards) and Smith for rushing (204 yards).

Denver never recovered, as the Washington Football Team scored once more in the second half to put the final score at 42-10. Though he downplayed the race issue of his legacy, Williams made history in more ways than one in Super Bowl XXII. His four touchdowns in the first half tied the Super Bowl then-record for most touchdowns thrown in an entire game. Also in the first half, he passed for 306 yards, just 25 short of the Super Bowl record for an entire game. Williams broke the record—set by Joe Montana in Super Bowl XIX—in the third quarter.

Germans unleash U-boats

On January 31, 1917, Germany announces the renewal of unrestricted submarine warfare in the Atlantic as German torpedo-armed submarines prepare to attack any and all ships, including civilian passenger carriers, said to be sighted in war-zone waters.

When World War I erupted in 1914, President Woodrow Wilson pledged neutrality for the United States, a position that the vast majority of Americans favored. Britain, however, was one of America’s closest trading partners and tension soon arose between the United States and Germany over the latter’s attempted blockade of the British isles. Several U.S. ships traveling to Britain were damaged or sunk by German mines and, in February 1915, Germany announced unrestricted warfare against all ships, neutral or otherwise, that entered the war zone around Britain. One month later, Germany announced that a German cruiser had sunk the William P. Frye, a private American merchant vessel that was transporting grain to England when it disappeared. President Wilson was outraged, but the German government apologized, calling the attack an unfortunate mistake.

READ MORE: History Faceoff: Should the U.S. Have Entered World War I?

The Germans’ most formidable naval weapon was the U-boat, a submarine far more sophisticated than those built by other nations at the time. The typical U-boat was 214 feet long, carried 35 men and 12 torpedoes, and could travel underwater for two hours at a time. In the first few years of World War I, the U-boats took a terrible toll on Allied shipping.

In early May 1915, several New York newspapers published a warning by the German embassy in Washington that Americans traveling on British or Allied ships in war zones did so at their own risk. The announcement was placed on the same page as an advertisement for the imminent sailing of the British-owned Lusitania ocean liner from New York to Liverpool. On May 7, the Lusitania was torpedoed without warning just off the coast of Ireland. Of the 1,959 passengers, 1,198 were killed, including 128 Americans.

The German government maintained that the Lusitania was carrying munitions, but the U.S. demanded reparations and an end to German attacks on unarmed passenger and merchant ships. In August 1915, Germany pledged to see to the safety of passengers before sinking unarmed vessels, but in November sank an Italian liner without warning, killing 272 people, including 27 Americans. Public opinion in the United States began to turn irrevocably against Germany.

At the end of January 1917, Germany, determined to win its war of attrition against the Allies, announced the resumption of unrestricted warfare. Three days later, the United States broke off diplomatic relations with Germany; just hours after that, the American liner Housatonic was sunk by a German U-boat. None of the 25 Americans on board were killed and they were picked up later by a British steamer.

On February 22, Congress passed a $250 million arms-appropriations bill intended to ready the United States for war. Two days later, British authorities gave the U.S. ambassador to Britain a copy of what has become known as the “Zimmermann Note,” a coded message from German Foreign Secretary Arthur Zimmermann to Count Johann von Bernstorff, the German ambassador to Mexico. In the telegram, intercepted and deciphered by British intelligence, Zimmermann stated that, in the event of war with the United States, Mexico should be asked to enter the conflict as a German ally. In return, Germany would promise to restore to Mexico the lost territories of Texas, New Mexico and Arizona. On March 1, the U.S. State Department published the note and America was galvanized against Germany once and for all.

In late March, Germany sank four more U.S. merchant ships and, on April 2, President Wilson appeared before Congress and called for a declaration of war against Germany. On April 4, the Senate voted 82 to six to declare war against Germany. Two days later, the House of Representatives endorsed the declaration by a vote of 373 to 50 and America formally entered World War I.

The execution of Pvt. Slovik

On this day, Pvt. Eddie Slovik becomes the first American soldier since the Civil War to be executed for desertion-and the only one who suffered such a fate during World War II.

Pvt. Eddie Slovik was a draftee. Originally classified 4-F because of a prison record (grand theft auto), he was reclassified 1-A when draft standards were lowered to meet growing personnel needs. In January 1944, he was trained to be a rifleman, which was not to his liking, as he hated guns.

In August of the same year, Slovik was shipped to France to fight with the 28th Infantry Division, which had already suffered massive casualties in France and Germany. Slovik was a replacement, a class of soldier not particular respected by officers. As he and a companion were on the way to the front lines, they became lost in the chaos of battle and stumbled upon a Canadian unit that took them in.

Slovik stayed on with the Canadians until October 5, when they turned him and his buddy over to the American military police. They were reunited with the 28th Division, which had been moved to Elsenborn, Belgium. No charges were brought, as replacements getting lost early on in their tours of duty were not unusual. But exactly one day after Slovik returned to his unit, he claimed he was “too scared and too nervous” to be a rifleman, and threatened to run away if forced into combat. His confession was ignored-and Slovik took off. One day later he returned and signed a confession of desertion, claiming he would run away again if forced to fight, and submitted it to an officer of the 28th. The officer advised Slovik to take the confession back, as the consequences were serious. Slovik refused and was confined to the stockade.

The 28th Division had many cases of soldiers wounding themselves or deserting in the hopes of a prison sentence that might protect them from the perils of combat. A legal officer of the 28th offered Slovik a deal: dive into combat immediately and avoid the court-martial. Slovik refused. He was tried on November 11 for desertion and was convicted in less than two hours. The nine-officer court-martial panel passed a unanimous sentence of execution, “to be shot to death with musketry.”

Slovik’s appeal failed. It was held that he “directly challenged the authority” of the United States and that “future discipline depends upon a resolute reply to this challenge.” Slovik had to pay for his recalcitrant attitude, and the military made an example of him. One last appeal was made-to Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Supreme Allied Commander-but the timing was bad for mercy. The Battle of the Bulge in the Ardennes forest was resulting in literally thousands of American casualties, not to mention the second largest surrender of an U.S. Army unit during the war. Eisenhower upheld the death sentence.

Slovik was shot and killed by a 12-man firing squad in eastern France.