August 1966 – 50 years ago

1 August 1966 – Charles Whitman campus mass murderer

August 1966 - 50 years ago
1963 Cactus, the student yearbook of the University of Texas.

Charles Whitman was himself a student at the university where he gunned down and killed 14 people and wounded a further 31.

Whitman was an excellent student and was said to have a good nature, rarely losing his temper. He and his brothers were taught to use firearms at a young age by his father who was a gun enthusiast.

At the age of 18, after falling out with his father, Charles Whitman joined the American Marine Corp where he again excelled, earning himself the Marine Corps Expeditionary Medal, a Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal and a Sharpshooter’s Badge. He also earned himself a college scholarship and eventually ended up as an engineering student at the University of Texas. While here the first signs of Whitman being a disturbed individual began appearing.

In 1962 Charles Whitman met and married Kathleen Leissner, and by early 1963 he was called back to active service because the Marine Corp considered his academic grades were not sufficient enough for continued support. He was eventually honourably discharged in December 1964.

August 1966 - 50 years ago
Main building of the University of Texas at Austin from where Whitman fired upon those below from the observation deck. Photo credit: Larry D. Moore (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Charles Whitman’s life was gradually spiralling downwards. His parents separated because of his father’s continued abuse; Charles himself began abusing Kathleen. In his journal, Whitman wrote he regretted the way he treated his wife and promised to be a good husband and not abusive as his father had been. Whitman was by now also abusing amphetamines.

On 31 July, Charles and Kathleen spent the afternoon with his mother, then later with close friends, John and Fran Morgan. Later that evening, while his wife was doing a shift as a telephone operator he typed what turned out to be a suicide note:

I do not quite understand what it is that compels me to type this letter. Perhaps it is to leave some vague reason for the actions I have recently performed. I do not really understand myself these days. I am supposed to be an average reasonable and intelligent young man. However, lately (I cannot recall when it started) I have been a victim of many unusual and irrational thoughts.

In the note he also requested an autopsy on his body to determine a biological cause for his actions and for his continuing and increasingly intense headaches. He also wrote that he had decided to kill both his mother and wife though he was uncertain why.

Just after midnight on 1 August 1966, Charles Whitman went to his mother’s home and murdered her, stabbing her in the heart. Part of a note he left behind read:

To Whom It May Concern: I have just taken my mother’s life. I am very upset over having done it. However, I feel that if there is a heaven she is definitely there now […] I am truly sorry […] Let there be no doubt in your mind that I loved this woman with all my heart.

He then returned home and repeated the act, killing his wife, Kathleen. He continued on the note he began the evening before:

Friends interrupted. 8-1-66 Mon. 3:00 A.M. BOTH DEAD.

I imagine it appears that I brutally killed both of my loved ones. I was only trying to do a quick thorough job […] If my life insurance policy is valid please pay off my debts […] donate the rest anonymously to a mental health foundation. Maybe research can prevent further tragedies of this type […] Give our dog to my in-laws. Tell them Kathy loved “Schocie” very much […] If you can find in yourselves to grant my last wish, cremate me after the autopsy.

August 1966 - 50 years agoHe also penned personal notes to his brothers.

Later that morning Charles Whitman purchased more guns and ammunition. Packing these in a footlocker along with his existing collection of firearms and other weapons, Whitman headed to the University tower, carting his cache with a rented trolley.

On the way up to the observation deck, Whitman killed three people who interrupted his preparations and wounded two others.

August 1966 - 50 years agoThe first person Whitman shot at from the tower was an 18-year-old student. She was eight months pregnant, and the shot to the abdomen killed her unborn child.

He shot and killed nine more people and wounded a further 31, two of which would later die of their injuries.

By now police and civilians were firing up the tower at Whitman. The massacre would end when two policemen and a civilian managed to get to the observation deck. The two officers opened fire killing the gunman.

At the time of the shootings, the Austin Police Department did not have a specialized tactical unit. Officers were equipped with revolvers and shotguns, which were ineffective against a sniper. The events of 1 August 1966 led to the creation of S.W.A.T. teams in police forces all over the U.S.

During the “requested” autopsy on Charles Whitman, a neuropathologist discovered a small brain tumour. Though inconclusive, a commission found the tumour may have been the cause of Whitman’s actions.



6 August 1966 – Kenneth McDuff Murders

August 1966 - 50 years agoAugust 1966 was not a good month for Texas. Just five days after the university shootings, serial killer Kenneth McDuff claimed his first victims.

Prior to the murders, McDuff was already well known to the authorities. By the time he was 18 he was convicted of 12 counts of burglary and attempted burglary over a two year period. He was sentence to four years in prison but was out on parole by December 1965.

On 6 August 1966 while driving around in his Dodge, twenty-year-old McDuff and his 18-year-old friend Roy Green spotted Edna Sullivan, her boyfriend Robert Brand and Brand’s cousin Mark Dunman. They were 16, 17 and 15 respectively.

Threatening them with a gun, McDuff ordered the kids into the trunk of their own car which he then drove to a field with Green following in the Dodge. At the field, Edna Sullivan was transferred to the trunk of the Dodge and McDuff fired six shots into the trunk of the other car killing Brand and Dunman.

They drove to another location where Sullivan was repeatedly raped by the two men before being choked to death by McDuff with a broomstick handle, and dumped in the bushes.

Green admitted what happened to a friend’s parents who in turn related the incident to his mother. Green’s mother convinced him to turn himself in which he did.

Roy Green was the “star witness” against McDuff. For his part in the murders, Green was sentenced to 25 years. He was released after 11.

August 1966 - 50 years ago
Edna Sullivan

Kenneth McDuff was sentenced to death which was later commuted to life. He was released in 1989 apparently due to prison over-crowding. Many believe his next murder was just three days after his release, but instead he was returned to prison for breaking parole for death threats against a youth. The murdered victim was 31-year-old prostitute Sarafia Parker whose body was discovered in October 1989.

By December 1990 McDuff was once again out on parole.

In September 1991 the murdered body of 23-year-old Cynthia Gonzalez was discovered in a creek bed. Many believe McDuff was responsible.

In October 1991 he abducted a prostitute Brenda Thompson. With him driving and Thompson tied up in the vehicle, McDuff stop short of a police checkpoint. When seeing the police, Thompson kicked at the windshield. McDuff accelerated at the police and managed to lose them in the subsequent chase. Brenda Thompson’s tortured body was not discovered until 1998.

Five days after the checkpoint incident witnesses noticed McDuff arguing with a 17-year-old prostitute named Regina DeAnne. They drove off shortly after. At a remote area near Waco, Texas, McDuff murdered DeAnne. Her body too was not discovered until 1998.

Kenneth McDuff and a man named Alva Worley then abducted Colleen Reed in Austin in December 1991. She too was raped and murdered. Worley later admitted to raping Reed, but not her murder.

The killings continued with Valencia Joshua on 24 February 1992 and pregnant 22-year-old Melissa Northrup six days later.

It was through the police questioning of Alva Worley and the TV programme “America’s Most Wanted” that Kenneth McDuff was finally captured and arrested.

He was indicted for only one count of murder, that of Melissa Northrup whose body was found on 26 April 1992. He was found guilty and sentenced to death. He was executed on 17 November 1998. Just before his execution, McDuff told authorities where to find Colleen Reed’s body.



9 August 1966 – Singapore’s First National Day Parade

August 1966 - 50 years ago
A scene from the National Day Parade, 1968, with a contingent from the People’s Association in front. Photo by: Lama Jey Tsong Kapa (CC BY-SA 2.0)

According to the Malay Annals, the Kingdom of Singapura was established in 1299. It was destroyed by the Majapahit Empire in 1398, recovered only to have Portuguese raiders destroy the settlement again in 1613.

Two hundred years later in 1819 Sir Stanford Raffles founded the trading post of Singapore; the island ceded to the British in 1826 as part of the Straits Settlements; occupied by Japan during the Second World War; fell back under the British with the surrender of the Japanese; gained it’s independence from the British in 1963 in the formation of Malaysia; and finally had their independence from Malaysia on 9 August 1965.

Then on 9 August 1966, on their first anniversary of independence, Singapore celebrated with its first National Day Parade.

Singapore’s National Day festivities now include the National Day Parade, the National Day Rally and the Singapore Fireworks Celebrations.

The Rally, like the Parade first occurred in August 1966. It is an annual address by the Prime Minister usually on the second or third Sunday after National Day. In this address, the Prime Minister speaks of the challenges and directions of the country.

The fireworks celebration was first held at the Marina Bay in 2004 and has grown in dimension since.

Mentos, the “mint people”, got in on the act in 2012 encouraging Singaporeans to procreate on National Day with the warning:

Only financially secure adults in stable, committed, long-term relationships should participate.



18 August 1966 – The Battle of Long Tan

August 1966 - 50 years ago
Long Tan action, Vietnam, 18 August 1966 by Bruce Fletcher (1970, oil on canvas, 152 x 175 cm). A reconstruction of the Battle of Long Tan, Vietnam, 18 August 1966, between ‘D’ Company and Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army forces; several events that happened at intervals during the battle are shown here happening simultaneously.

In March 1966 Australia decided to increase its commitment to the war in Vietnam. The 1st Australian Task Force (1ATF) was part of this commitment. 1ATF was responsible for the Phuoc Tuy Province, an area with significant Viet Cong activity.

1ATF began arriving at Phuoc Tuy between April and June 1966. They constructed their base at Nui Dat (now part of Ba Ria city). In June New Zealand’s 161st Battery was also integrated into the 1ATF.

The Viet Cong moved against Nui Dat to remove the Australian threat. The Australians had been tracking their radio communications as they moved towards Long Tan but could not locate the unit.

By 16 August 1966, the Viet Cong were at the Long Tan rubber plantation about 2 kilometres from the Australian base. In the early hours of the 17th, the enemy began bombarding Nui Dat from distance.

On 18 August 1966 heavy fighting ensued with Australia’s D Company of 108 facing a much larger force but supported with heavy artillery fire, held them until ammunition and reinforcements arrived. The Viet Cong began to withdraw.

Initially the Australians believed they had suffered a major defeat with 18 dead and 24 wounded but a sweep of the area the next day revealed otherwise. The Viet Cong had lost at least 245 men. The Battle at Long Tan proved to be a major local setback for the Viet Cong.

There were other large-scale encounters since that battle, but 1ATF had established its dominance over Phuoc Tuy and allowed it to attempt to restore government authority.



August 1966 – Other Events

August 1966 - 50 years ago
Lenny Bruce

3 August 1966 – Legendary stand-up comedian Lenny Bruce was found dead in his Hollywood Hills home. Officially he died of an accidental overdose of morphine. Bruce was known for his critical form of comedy which integrated satire, politics, religion, sex, and vulgarity. In 1964 he was convicted for obscenity. In 2003, 37 years after his death, New York Governor George Pataki granted Lenny Bruce a posthumous pardon for the conviction.

4 August 1966 – The British Empire and the Commonwealth Games opened in Kingston, Jamaica – the first time the Games had been held outside “White Dominions”. Jamaica remains the only host nation of a Commonwealth Games that did not win at least one gold medal as host. Australia won 23  gold, 28 silver and 22 bronze in Jamaica finishing second to England’s 33-24-23.

August 1966 - 50 years ago
Arial view of WTC in March of 2001

5 August 1966 – Groundbreaking for the World Trade Center took place on 5 August 1966. The iconic twin towers were the tallest buildings in the world at their completion. Prior to its final destruction on 11 September 2001, a fire broke out in the North Tower engulfing the 9th to 14th floors in February 1975; a terrorist bombing killed six and injured more than a thousand in February 1993; and a $2 million dollar Mafia heist was carried out in January 1998.

6 August 1966 – Braniff Flight 250 flying between Omaha and Kansas City encountered extreme turbulence which caused structural damage. The aircraft crashed in a field near Falls City, Nebraska killing all 42 onboard.

August 1966 - 50 years ago
The aftermath of Australia’s deadliest building fire in 1966 at the William Booth Memorial Home, Melbourne (CC BY-SA 4.0).

13 August 1966 – A fire that broke out at a Salvation Army home in Melbourne for destitute and alcoholic men killed 30 elderly men. Reportedly the Salvation Army staff at the William Booth Memorial Home delayed calling the fire brigade believing they could control the fire. The fire was due to an illegal heater on the premises being accidentally knocked over. A plaque is scheduled to be laid on 13 August this year to mark the 50th anniversary of the tragedy. It was Australia’s deadliest building fire.

19 August 1966 – Following an earthquake which killed 14 people in March, Varto, a town in eastern Turkey, was devastated by another on 19 August 1966. This one took the life of 2,394 people and injured a further 1,489.

August 1966 - 50 years ago
Sepp Maier

20 August 1966 – The 1966–67 Bundesliga season began in Germany on 20 August 1966 and 22-year-old goalkeeper Sepp Maier played his first senior match for Bayern Munich. It would be the first of 442 consecutive games for the club. His final game on 9 June 1979 was last of that season. He was to play again the following campaign but was badly injured in a car accident a month before the 1979-80 season began.

29 August 1966 – Apart from the unscheduled “rooftop” concert in January 1969, the Beatles played their final live show on 29 August 1966 at Candlestick Park in San Francisco.

31 August 1966 – As part of the Cultural Revolution, three days of murder in the Daxing District of Beijing, peaked with the deaths of several hundred people in a single day, including 110 in the Daxinzhuang Commune, and another 56 people from various families. With the sanction of the government, the Red Guards killed 324 people from 171 families, before a garrison of Beijing police finally intervened to halt the killings. At the same time, killing of families was in its fifth day in the Changping District, where 327 people would be slaughtered over ten days.


August 1966 – Music, books and movies

August 1966 - 50 years agoThe big news in the music world in August 1966 was the Beatles’ Revolver album. It was their seventh studio album. The track listing included Taxman, Eleanor Rigby, Love You To, Here There and Everywhere, Yellow Submarine, Good Day Sunshine and Got To Get You Into My Life.

Meanwhile on the singles charts The Troggs’ Wild Thing, BJ Thomas’s Mama and Lovin’ Spoonful’s Summer in the City were the ones people wanted to hear.

August 1966 - 50 years agoThere was not much change for months on the Bestsellers lists with Valley of the Dolls (Jacqueline Suzanne) still dominating. Harold Robbins’s Adventurers was still there and so was James Clavell’s Tai-pan.

At the movies Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf was still a favourite with movie goers but making a bit of an impression was Fantastic Voyage. The sci-fi film was about a submarine crew that shrunk to microscopic size in order to enter a scientist’s body so they could repair his damaged brain. The big names for the movie were Raquel Welch and Donald Pleasence. The movie actually won two Academy Awards and was nominated three others.



I asked my North Korean friend how it was there, he said he couldn't complain.”