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Today in History: March 11, massive earthquake and tsunami in Japan kill nearly 20,000

Today in History

Today is Monday, March 11, the 71st day of 2024. There are 295 days left in the year.

Today's highlight in history:

On March 11, 2011, a magnitude-9.0 earthquake and resulting tsunami struck Japan's northeastern coast, killing nearly 20,000 people and severely damaging the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power station.

On this date:

In 1862, during the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln removed Gen. George B. McClellan as general-in-chief of the Union armies, leaving him in command of the Army of the Potomac, a post McClellan also ended up losing.

In 1918, what were believed to be the first confirmed U.S. cases of a deadly global flu pandemic were reported among U.S. Army soldiers stationed at Fort Riley, Kansas; 46 soldiers would die. (The worldwide outbreak of influenza claimed an estimated 20 to 40 million lives.)

In 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Lend-Lease Bill, providing war supplies to countries fighting the Axis.

In 1942, as Japanese forces continued to advance in the Pacific during World War II, U.S. Army Gen. Douglas MacArthur left the Philippines for Australia, where he vowed on March 20, "I shall return" — a promise he kept more than 2 1/2 years later.

In 1954, the U.S. Army charged that Sen. Joseph R. McCarthy, R-Wis., and his subcommittee's chief counsel, Roy Cohn, had exerted pressure to obtain favored treatment for Pvt. G. David Schine, a former consultant to the subcommittee. (The confrontation culminated in the famous Senate Army-McCarthy hearings.)

In 1985, Mikhail S. Gorbachev was chosen to succeed the late Konstantin U. Chernenko as general secretary of the Soviet Communist Party.

In 1997, Paul McCartney was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II.

In 2002, two columns of light soared skyward from Ground Zero in New York as a temporary memorial to the victims of the Sept. 11 attacks six months earlier.

In 2004, ten bombs exploded in quick succession across the commuter rail network in Madrid, Spain, killing 191 people in an attack linked to al-Qaida-inspired militants.

In 2006, former Serb leader Slobodan Milosevic (sloh-BOH'-dahn mee-LOH'-shuh-vich) was found dead of a heart attack in his prison cell in the Netherlands, abruptly ending his four-year U.N. war crimes trial; he was 64.

In 2010, a federal appeals court in San Francisco upheld the use of the words "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance and "In God We Trust" on U.S. currency.

In 2012, U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales shot and killed 16 Afghan villagers — mostly women and children — as they slept; Bales later pleaded guilty and was sentenced to life in prison without parole.

In 2013, former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick (D) was convicted of a raft of crimes, including racketeering conspiracy (he was later sentenced to 28 years in prison).

In 2018, lawmakers in China abolished presidential term limits that had been in place for more than 35 years, opening up the possibility of Xi Jinping (shee jihn-peeng) holding power for life.

In 2020, the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic. Former Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein was sentenced in New York to 23 years in prison for rape and sexual abuse.

In 2021, President Joe Biden signed into law a $1.9 trillion COVID relief package that he said would help defeat the virus and nurse the economy back to health; Americans would receive up to $1,400 in direct payments, along with extended unemployment benefits.

In 2022, Russia widened its offensive in Ukraine, striking airfields in the west and a major industrial city in the east, while the huge armored column that had been stalled for over a week outside Kyiv went on the move again.

Today's birthdays: Media mogul Rupert Murdoch is 93. Former ABC News correspondent Sam Donaldson is 90. Musician Flaco Jimenez (FLAH'-koh hee-MEH'-nez) is 85. Actor Tricia O'Neil is 79. Actor Mark Metcalf is 78. Rock singer-musician Mark Stein (Vanilla Fudge) is 77. Singer Bobby McFerrin is 74. Movie director Jerry Zucker is 74. Singer Cheryl Lynn is 73. Actor Susan Richardson is 72. Recording executive Jimmy Iovine (eye-VEEN') is 71. Singer Nina Hagen is 69. Country singer Jimmy Fortune (The Statler Brothers) is 69. Actor Elias Koteas (ee-LY'-uhs koh-TAY'-uhs) is 63. Actor-director Peter Berg is 62. Singer Mary Gauthier (GOH'-shay) is 62. Actor Jeffrey Nordling is 62. Actor Alex Kingston is 61. Actor Wallace Langham is 59. Former U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., D-Ill., is 59. Actor John Barrowman is 57. Singer Lisa Loeb is 56. Neo-soul musician Al Gamble (St. Paul & the Broken Bones) is 55. Singer Pete Droge is 55. Actor Terrence Howard is 55. Rock musician Rami Jaffee is 55. Actor Johnny Knoxville is 53. Rock singer-musicians Benji and Joel Madden (Good Charlotte; The Madden Brothers) are 45. Actor David Anders is 43. Singer LeToya Luckett is 43. Actor Thora Birch is 42. TV personality Melissa Rycroft is 41. Actor Rob Brown is 40. Actor Jodie Comer is 31.