Excerpts from "the first rough draft of history" as reported in The Washington Post on this date in the 20th century.

On the same day that Americans were celebrating their independence, Israelis celebrated freedom of a different kind. In a raid that was stunning in its boldness, swiftness and precision, Israeli commandos rescued 104 hostages from an airliner hijacked by pro-Palestinian terrorists in Entebbe, Uganda. The rescue story shared the page with the main story of the Bicentennial. An excerpt from The Post of July 5, 1976:

By Lawrence Meyer

Washington Post Staff Writer

The United States of America marked its 200th birthday yesterday with countless relaxed, friendly celebrations and events both spectacular and homey that reflected the kaleidoscope of the country's history and national character.

The celebrations took on the flavor of their locale -- from Philadelphia, where President Ford delivered his formal Bicentennial address, and New York, where the largest fleet of square-rigged sailing ships ever seen in the western world sailed gracefully under the Verrazano Narrows Bridge, to Seward. Neb., where traditional events included a parade, a barbecue, a beauty contest and a dance, and San Francisco, whose small sailboats filled the bay.

In Washington, after a day of picnics, continuous activity on the Mall and entertainment and speeches at the Monument grounds, an immense crowd of more than 1 million persons -- the largest ever here -- gathered downtown and on the shores of the Potomac, and more than 1,000 boats of all types anchored in the river to watch a gigantic fireworks display depicting America from its earliest settlements to the space age.

Early today, more than three hours after the 10:30 p.m. end of the fireworks, a massive traffic jam and delays in bus service kept thousands of people from reaching homes throughout the metropolitan area.

Despite predictions of scattered demonstrations and possible violence, the Bicentennial observance of the country's armed rebellion against English rule was remarkably free of strife and contention.

This series is available at www.washingtonpost.com