ON THIS DATE in 1906, eighteen-year-old Tim Ford became the youngest-ever winner of the Boston Marathon. He won the race by just six seconds over Dave Kneeland in what was the closest finish, at the time, in Boston Marathon history.
Above: A plane takes off during the U.S. raid on Japan in 1942.
ON THIS DATE in 1942, eighteen-year-old Zhao Xiaobao, her fisherman husband, and countless other Chinese citizens risked everything to feed and shelter 62 members of a U.S. bombing force that landed in China following a raid on Japan during World War II. “I think it’s fair to say we owe our lives to them,” former Lieutenant Griffith Williams, who was aided by Zhao and her husband, told Knight Ridder/Tribune in 1992.
Just four months after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Lieutenant Colonel Jimmy Doolittle led 16 U.S. planes on a 1942 raid that struck five targets in Japan, including one in Tokyo. A lack of fuel forced most of the flyers (one plane flew to Russia) to bail out or crash land in China after the raid, with Williams’ plane splashing into the sea near Zhejiang Province. After reaching shore, four of the plane’s crewmembers received food and shelter from Zhao, who dried their clothes and fed them eggs and dried shrimp, and her husband, Ma Liangshui.
The next day the Chinese disguised the flyers as fishermen and snuck them through a Japanese blockade. Sixty-two of the 75 Doolittle Raiders who landed in China would make it out safely, but many who helped them would die. The Japanese, who controlled Mainland China, slaughtered an estimated 20,000 Chinese for aiding U.S. flyers.
Zhao told Knight-Ridder/Tribune that she was aware of possible retaliation from the Japanese for helping the Americans but “all that was on my mind is we wanted to save them.”
ON THIS DATE in 2006, eighteen-year-old Sidney Crosby became the youngest player to score 100 points in an NHL season. “One hundred points?” teammate Colby Armstrong said. “At eighteen? This kid’s doing something most people can’t imagine or dream of.”
Crosby’s three assists in a 6-1 win over the New York Islanders made him the NHL’s second eighteen-year-old to reach the 100-point mark — Hall of Fame forward Dale Hawerchuk of the Winnipeg Jets scored 103 points during the 1981-82 season. At eighteen years and eight months, Sidney was three months younger than Hawerchuk.
The next year, the nineteen-year-old Crosby became the second teenager to win the NHL Hart Memorial Trophy, given to the league’s most valuable player. Wayne Gretzky was nineteen when he won the first of his record nine Hart trophies in 1979-80.
ON THIS DATE in 1907, Joseph Bombardier was born. At fifteen in 1922, the young Canadian slapped a Ford Model-T engine on a sleigh with a giant propeller to create what may be the oddest-looking snow machine ever. Wikipedia describes it as a “small surface-skimming contraption with a propeller.”
Bombardier’s (pronounced “bom-bar-dee-ay”) father thought the invention looked deadly and ordered the boy to dismantle it. But that failed to discourage the young inventor. Bombardier opened a garage in 1926 and tinkered with snow machines when he wasn’t repairing cars. In 1942, he incorporated a company that made snow machines that could carry 12 people at a time, and in 1958 he made a prototype of the first modern snowmobile, which went on sale a year later.
ON THIS DATE in 1848, MARY EDMONSON, sixteen (left), and EMILY EDMONSON, thirteen (right), joined 75 others in a daring attempt to escape from slavery. The 77 slaves had gathered aboard a schooner that sailed from Washington, D.C., to New Jersey, but an armed posse commissioned by slaveholders thwarted the escape. Members of a Brooklyn church would raise money to purchase and free the Edmonson sisters.
Above: Kunsang Dekyi holds her four-month-old nephew, one of nine family members she rescued from earthquake rubble.
ON THIS DATE in 2010, sixteen-year-old Kunsang Dekyi rescued nine members of her family after a 7.1 magnitude earthquake shook their home in Northwest China’s Qinghai province. She told People’s Daily Online that she was on her way to school when she “felt the ground shaking” and saw several houses collapse. She raced back home to find her family’s house on a hill buried under rocks. “I wept as I dug away the rubble with all my might,” she said. “ I dug out my mom. Then she helped me dig out my brother and together we found my sister and her son.” It took Kunsang most of the day to retrieve all nine of her family members from the ruins.