A Brief History
This article presents a timeline of Modern World History for History 11051 at Kent State University at Stark. Please click on any of the dates to learn more about that date’s events and please post a comment using the Disqus commenting system on any article you click on to let us know your thoughts about that historic event.
- On October 12, 1492, Christopher Columbus, the Italian adventurer sailing into the unknown in the name of the Spanish Crown, landed in the Bahamas, the landing that became known as the “discovery” of America (or, “The New World” if you prefer).
- On January 3, 1521, Roman Catholic (Augustinian) priest and reformer Martin Luther was ex-communicated from the church by Pope Leo X.
- Religious reformer Martin Luther refused to recant during his trial for heresy on April 18, 1521, but what might you not know about him?
II. The General Crisis of the Seventeenth Century
- On January 21, 1535, in the aftermath of “The Affair of the Placards,” French Protestants were burned at the stake in front of the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris.
- On July 29, 1565, Mary, Queen of Scots, married her first cousin Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley. In her case, the only thing advantageous about this marriage, was that it ensured that the Scottish throne stay under the control of the House of Stuart by keeping it in the family so to say.
- On October 10, 1580, after a three-day siege, an English army beheaded over 600 Papal soldiers and civilians in Ireland.
- On June 16, 1586, Mary, Queen of Scots, named her heir and successor, Phillip II of Spain.
- On August 18, 1587, Virginia Dare was born in the Roanoke Colony in what is now North Carolina.
- On July 25, 1593, Henry IV, King of France, converted from Calvanist Protestant back to the Catholicism of his birth.
- On July 25, 1609, the excellently named British ship, Sea Venture, encountered serious storms while crossing the Atlantic Ocean en route to Virginia, and was purposely run ashore to prevent loss of the ship and passengers.
- On November 6, 1632 at the Battle of Lützen during the Thirty Years’ War, the Swedes won, but their King, Gustavus Adolphus, died in the battle.
- On September 23, 1641, off the coast of Cornwall, England, a British merchant ship named the Merchant Royal sank with her cargo of Spanish treasure.
- On May 20, 1645, the forces of Prince Dodo (we do not make this stuff up!) of the Qing Dynasty conquered the city of Yangzhou, China, from the forces of the Southern Ming of the Hongguang Emperor.
- On March 2, 1657, the city of Tokyo, Japan, then known as Edo, suffered a catastrophic fire that lasted 3 days and killed 100,000 Japanese people, a death toll greater than either of the atomic bomb attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.
III. Constitutionalism versus Absolutism
- On January 16, 1547, Ivan Vasilyevich IV was crowned Czar of All The Russias.
- On April 5, 1614, a milestone in European and Native American relations was reached when John Rolfe, English colonist, married Pocahontas, Native American princess!
- On December 4, 1619, 38 British settlers landed from the ship, Margaret (out of Bristol, England) along the North shore of the James River in Virginia in order to found a new town in the Virginia Colony called Berkeley Hundred.
- On August 5, 1620, 2 small English sailing ships left Southampton Water in England on a trip to the New World, carrying a group of Puritans seeking a land where they could practice their brand of religion without interference.
- On November 11, 1620, while anchored in Provincetown Harbor (off Cape Cod), the male passengers of the Mayflower wrote and signed a document known as The Mayflower Compact.
- On January 30, 1661, Oliver Cromwell, former Lord Protector of the Commonwealth of England, Scotland and Ireland, was removed from his grave and “executed” 2 years after his death!
- On September 2, 1666, one of history’s most memorable fires occurred in the English capital of London.
- On August 7, 1679, a small ship named Le Griffon (The Griffon) that had been built under the direction of famous explorer of the New World René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, was towed to a point on the Niagara River from which it became the first European sailing vessel worthy of the designation “ship” to ever sail the Great Lakes.
- On January 30, 1703, 47 Japanese samurai avenged the forced suicide of their feudal lord.
- On November 19, 1703, one of History’s most celebrated prisoners died while still in prison, an unidentified man known to us as “The Man in the Iron Mask.”
IV. The Scientific Revolution and the Enlightenment
- St. Albertus Magnus died on November 15, 1280, after having reportedly built an android and discovered the philosopher’s stone, but according to the faithful his body did not deteriorate and according to Mary Shelley, his writings influenced mad scientist Victor Frankenstein!
- On June 17, 1462, Vlad Tepes, also known as Vlad III The Impaler, or simply Dracula, conducted a night raid against his Turkish enemy, Mehmed II who had invaded Vlad’s land of Wallachia (Romania).
- Ok, so we know Abraham Lincoln created the Thanksgiving holiday on this date in 1863, but what do Wallachians have to be thankful for?
- On October 27, 1553, a Spanish scientist versed in many disciplines, Michael Servetus, was burned at the stake for heresy.
- On February 13, 1633, Galileo Galilei arrived in Rome to stand trial before the Catholic Inquisition for heresy.
- On September 17, 1683, Dutch scientist Antonie van Leeuwenhoek presented a paper to the Royal Society (The President, Council and Fellows of the Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge) containing a description of the first scientific recognition of microbes/protozoa, a living thing he referred to as “animalcules” (single celled organisms).
- The 22nd of November is indelibly etched in the public’s mind with the death of a revered hero!
- On January 31, 1747, the London Lock Hospital opened, the first clinic specifically for the treatment of venereal diseases!
- On April 14, 1775, Benjamin Franklin along with Benjamin Rush founded the first abolitionist society in the US, The Society For the Relief of Free Negroes Unlawfully Held in Bondage.
- The Scientific Revolution: The World Will Never Be Seen the Same Again!
V. The Atlantic Revolutions
- On July 7, 1550, chocolate is thought to have been introduced to Europe from the Americas.
- On December 31, 1695, a tax on windows went into effect in England, which resulted in many people boarding up or bricking up their windows so that they would not be subject to the tax.
- On May 29, 1733, the colonial government of New France located in Quebec City reaffirmed the right of Canadians (meaning European Canadians, citizens of New France) to own and keep slaves.
- On October 23, 1739, the War of Jenkins’ Ear began when British Prime Minister Robert Walpole declared war on Spain following the exhibition in Parliament of the severed ear of a British captain allegedly maimed by Spaniards.
- On October 9, 1740, Dutch colonial overlords on the Island of Java (now a main island in Indonesia) in the port city of Batavia (now Jakarta, capital of Indonesia) went on a mad killing spree of ethnic cleansing and murdered about 10,000 ethnic Chinese.
- On May 16, 1770, the 14 year old Maria Antonia Josepha Johanna of the House Habsburg-Lorraine married Louis-Auguste, Dauphin (heir to the throne) of France, House of Bourbon.
- On October 13, 1775, an order of the Continental Congress established the Continental Navy, later better known as the United States Navy, the greatest maritime fighting force the world has ever seen.
- On March 3, 1776, the Continental Navy and Continental Marines, the forces that would become the United States Navy and United States Marine Corps, conducted the first amphibious operation in US military history when a raid on Nassau in the Bahamas was conducted, known as The Raid on Nassau or sometimes called The Battle of Nassau.
- On September 27, 1777, the Continental Congress, precursor to the United States Congress, fled the American capital of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (our first capital city) as British troops closed in.
- On October 11, 1779, Polish cavalry officer and American Brigadier General, Casimir Pulaski, died of wounds incurred during the Battle of Savannah (Georgia) during the American Revolutionary War.
- On August 29, 1786, disgruntled Massachusetts farmers disgusted by high taxes, economic hardships and civil rights violations formed an organized force of protesters and shut down the county court at Northampton, the beginning of an insurrection known as Shays’s Rebellion, 4000 rebels under the leadership of Daniel Shays with the goal of overthrowing the government.
- On October 2, 1789, President George Washington sent to the States for ratification a list of Amendments to the Constitution, a list we now refer to as “The Bill of Rights.”
- On October 5, 1789, the women of Paris marched to Versailles to confront King Louis XVI about his refusal to abolish feudalism, to demand bread, and to force the King and his court to move to Paris.
- On April 25, 1792, a major step in the history of execution devices was made when a “highwayman” (robber) became the first victim of the Guillotine.
- On September 11, 1792, in the midst of the confusion of the French Revolution, the crown jewels, which included the fabulous Hope Diamond (Le Bleu de France), were stolen.
- On October 5, 1793, Christian Europe was rocked by the Revolutionary Government of France declaring the disestablishment (or dechristianization) of France, a move specifically intended to remove the influence of the Catholic Church upon France and the French people.
- On November 10, 1793, the government of revolutionary France celebrated the “Festival of Reason”
as it rejected traditional religion (mostly Catholicism in France) and inserted a philosophy known as the “Cult of Reason” as the national “religion.”
- On June 26, 1794, the army of the First Republic of France (the result of the French Revolution) made the first use of balloons in combat at the Battle of Fleurus against the forces of the First Coalition.
- On January 23, 1795, one of the most unusual battles in history took place when a force of French cavalry galloped across the frozen Zuiderzee to capture 14 Dutch ships and seize 850 guns (cannon).
- On August 30, 1792, Napoleon Bonaparte was appointed a captain in the French Army, a major stepping stone on the path that eventually resulted in his becoming Emperor of the French.
- On October 5, 1795, the man that would be the subject of more books than any other human being in history (except Jesus Christ), Napoleon Bonaparte, made his entrance on the French political stage and into prominence when he put down a rebellion against the National Convention in Paris with what he called “a whiff of grapeshot.”
- On January 7, 1797, the first use of the Red White and Green tricolor Italian flag was seen in use by the Cisalpine Republic (formerly Milan) after Napoleon Bonaparte’s conquering of that region in 1796.
- On December 24, 1800, The “Plot of the rue Saint-Nicaise”, also known as the “Machine Infernale Plot, ” failed to kill Napoleon Bonaparte, then the First Consul of France, the de facto dictator of the French Republic.
- On May 28, 1802, 400 former slaves revolting against the reinstatement of slavery by the French under Napoleon Bonaparte in the Caribbean department of Guadalupe blew themselves up rather than surrender to the French.
- On October 20, 1803, Ludwig van Beethoven, one of history’s greatest composers (and a favorite here at History and Headlines!) was hard at work on his vastly important “Symphony No. 3 in E Flat Major,” better known as “Sinfonia Eroica” (“Heroic Symphony”).
- Contrary to Pat Robertson’s beliefs, on November 18, 1803, Haitians won their independence, not with the Devil’s assistance, but with their victory at The Battle of Vertières, the last major battle of the Haitian Revolution.
- On March 21, 1804, the Code Napoleon became the law of France, and went on to influence legal reforms in many other countries.
- On October 30, 1806, 5300 Prussian soldiers defending the city of Stettin surrendered to only 800 French soldiers commanded by General Lassalle, falling for the ruse that the French force was much larger.
- On July 5, 1809, the forces of the French Empire (and her allies) fought the forces of the Austrian Empire (and her allies) at Wagram, Austria, an enormous battle that cost both sides a combined 80,000 casualties and was fought between over 300,000 soldiers fielding over 1000 pieces of artillery, making it perhaps the largest battle in European history up to its time and also the bloodiest military engagement of the entire Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars thus far.
- On January 10, 1810, Napoleon Bonaparte, Emperor of France, divorced Josephine, Empress of France, the only woman Napoleon ever really loved.
- On November 17, 1810, Sweden declared war on its ally the United Kingdom to begin the Anglo-Swedish War, although no fighting ever took place and there were no casualties!
- On October 23, 1812, the mad General Malet seized control of the police of Paris and attempted a coup d’état against Napoleon‘s Empire.
- From August 29-30, 1813, The Battle of Kulm was fought near the town Kulm (Chlumec) and the village Přestanov in northern Bohemia, during the War of the Sixth Coalition, part of the Napoleonic Wars.
- On December 30, 1813, during the War of 1812, arson-happy British troops set the small city of Buffalo, New York ablaze as a means of punishing the upstart Americans.
- On February 26, 1815, Napoleon Bonaparte, aka Napoleon I, Emperor of the French, escaped from his forced exile on the island of Elba and made his way back to France, seeking to regain his throne.
- On July 15, 1815, Emperor Napoleon I of France surrendered to the British aboard the HMS Bellerophon.
VII. Imperialism versus Nationalism
- On March 14, 1794, American inventor Eli Whitney patented his greatest invention.
- On May 14, 1816, romantically linked English authors Mary Godwin and Percy Shelley arrived at Geneva, Switzerland.
- On June 13, 1817, Karl Drais of Germany invented a contraption he called the “Laufmaschine,” German for “running machine” as the two wheeled single rider vehicle was powered by the rider scooting his feet along the ground.
- On February 6, 1820, The Society for the Colonization of Free People of Color of America (better known as the American Colonization Society) sent the first 86 African Americans back to Africa to form a new country of freed slaves and free born African Americans, Liberia.
- On August 29, 1831, Michael Faraday of England discovered electromagnetic induction, the interaction of electricity and magnetism that allows the creation of the electric induction motor and the generator, among other things.
- On March 6, 1836, the most celebrated defeat in American history ended in a massacre!
- On December 16, 1838, one of the greatest defeats of a large military force by a much smaller force took place with incredibly lopsided results when the Boers (aka Voortrekkers, aka Afrikaners) of South Africa fought the Zulu warriors at ‘Blood River’ (Ncome River) in Kwa-Zulu Natal, South Africa.
- On January 29, 1845, Edgar Allan Poe, the Baltimore writer of such classics as “The Telltale Heart,” “The Pit and the Pendulum,” and “The Goldbug,” published his famous poem, “The Raven,” certainly one of if not the most renowned poem in American literature, and ranks among the most famous of poems.
- On May 19, 1845, Sir John Franklin set off from Greenhithe, England in command of 2 British Royal Navy ships, the HMS Erebus and the fatefully named HMS Terror, on a voyage of discovery searching for the final leg of what he hoped would be a Northwest Passage around Canada to the Pacific.
- On October 25, 1854, the United Kingdom, the Ottoman Empire, and the French Empire fought against Russia in the Battle of Balaclava, which included the famous (and disastrous) “Charge of the Light Brigade”.
- On June 3, 1861, in the first organized land battle (barely a battle in reality) of the American Civil War, the Union Army with 3000 men routed an untrained force of 800 Confederate volunteers in what it now West Virginia at Philippi, a small town that today has only about 3000 residents.
- On July 26, 1861, Major General George McClellan was appointed the commander of the Army of the Potomac, a move President Lincoln hoped would instill professionalism and competence to that Army.
- On October 23, 1861, President Abraham Lincoln, defender of the Union of the United States, illegally suspended the rule of Habeas Corpus, the Constitutional protection of Americans against being held in confinement without charges and due process.
- On November 20, 1861, certain representatives of some Kentucky counties calling themselves the Confederate Government of Kentucky seceded from the Union of the United States of America.
- On March 8, 1862, during the American Civil War, perhaps the most important naval battle of the war began, a battle that would see the first clash of ironclad/armored warships.
- On May 5, 1862, the Mexican Army defeated the French Army at the Battle of the Puebla (Puebla City) during the Second French Intervention in Mexico, a marvelous victory for the Mexicans over a superior French force, a victory celebrated each year on May 5th, or in Español, Cinco de Mayo.
- On October 15, 1863, The H. L. Hunley, a Confederate (the South!) submarine, sank during a test, killing its inventor and namesake, Horace L. Hunley.
- On February 17, 1864, the CSS H.L. Hunley became the first submarine to sink an enemy warship, even though it had itself sunk twice before!
- On October 19, 1864, military forces of the Confederate States of America invaded Vermont from a staging area in Quebec, Canada.
- On November 25, 1864, a group of Confederate special forces operatives attempted to burn down New York City by starting fires in a plot orchestrated by Jacob Thompson, Inspector General of the Confederate States Army.
- On November 10, 1865, the long sad saga of the Camp Sumter prisoner of war camp located in Andersonville, Georgia finally came to a conclusion of sorts when the Camp Commandant, Confederate Major Henry Wirz was hanged for the crimes of conspiracy and murder for his terrible treatment of Union soldiers held captive at the camp popularly known as “Andersonville.”
- On May 31, 1866, Irish nationalists known as Fenian Brotherhood invaded Canada in an attempt to force Britain into granting Ireland independence.
- On July 28, 1866, Vinnie (Lavinia) Ream, an 18 year old girl became the first woman in the United States to win a commission for a statue, that of the recently deceased President Lincoln.
- On December 26, 1871, the famous opera writing duo of Gilbert and Sullivan collaborated on Thespis, the first of many operas the much beloved pair worked together on.
- On January 9, 1873, Napoleon III, Emperor of the French, died after ruling France for a longer reign than any other leader since the French Revolution.
- On January 22, 1879, the British Army got a taste of colonial medicine when it suffered its worst defeat in its history against a native force armed mostly with archaic weapons.
- On January 23, 1879, the British Army in South Africa ended its second major battle in as many days against Zulu warriors known as Impis in the British war to seize Zululand.
- On June 1, 1879, the so-called “Napoleon IV” died in the unlikely service of the British Army fighting Zulu warriors in what is now South Africa.
- On November 26, 1883, at the age of 86 Sojourner Truth, perhaps the greatest African-American woman advocate of Civil Rights died of natural causes, ending one of if not the greatest life of fighting for African-American rights.
- On December 15, 1890, legendary Hunkpapa Lakota (aka, Teton Sioux) leader and holy man, Sitting Bull, was killed by Indian Agency Police at Standing Rock Indian Reservation in the Grand River area of South Dakota.
- On December 29, 1890, the United States Army 7th Cavalry Regiment conducted a massacre of about 200 Native Americans at a place called Wounded Knee in South Dakota, (see our article “Wounded Knee Massacre”).
- On July 11, 1893, after 5 years of work and nearly broke, Mikimoto Kokichi finally produced cultured pearls, starting a new industry and providing high quality pearls to the masses.
- On November 17, 1894, the murderous career of HH Holmes, one of the first modern documented serial killers, came to an end when he was arrested in Boston, Massachusetts.
- On November 5, 1895, an unlikely candidate from Rochester, New York, became the first American to patent an automobile. George Selden was actually an attorney that loved to dabble in his workshop.
- On November 22, 1896, George Washington Gale Ferris, Jr., the inventor of the Ferris Wheel, died in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania of Typhoid Fever. Ferris was only 37 years old.
- On February 15, 1898, at 9:40 p.m., the US Navy had one of its darkest and yet most memorable days when the armored cruiser USS Maine ACR-1 blew up and sank while docked in Havana Harbor, Cuba.
- On June 18, 1900, the Dowager Empress Cixi of China proclaimed war against the colonizing powers in China, including diplomats and their families.
- On February 22, 1909, President Teddy Roosevelt made good on his advice to “carry a big stick.”
- On January 25, 1915, telephone inventor Alexander Graham Bell made the first telephone call spanning the continental United States, placing a call from New York to his assistant, Thomas Watson in San Francisco.
VIII. World War I
- On November 28, 1893, the women of New Zealand became the first women in the world to vote in a national election.
- On February 27, 1902, a British firing squad carried out the execution of convicted war criminal, Australian Lt. Harry “Breaker” Morant.
- On October 23, 1911, during the Italo-Turkish War, history saw the first use of airplanes for warfare purposes when an Italian airplane flew over Turkish positions as the first aerial reconnaissance mission in history.
- On August 25, 1914, during the opening stages of World War I German soldiers burned the Library of the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium, destroying a treasure of ancient, Medieval, and Renaissance works.
- On December 24, 1914, exactly 100 years ago today, British and German soldiers facing each other across No Man’s Land in the trenches of World War I confounded their superiors by leaving their trenches and walking out to meet and greet their enemies in the spirit of Christmas brotherhood.
- On July 25, 1915, the somewhat appropriately named Lanoe Hawker became the first British aviator to shoot down 3 enemy planes in 1 day, earning himself the Victoria Cross.
- On September 30, 1915, the aviation world achieved a milestone of sorts when the first incident of a combat airplane being shot down by ground fire took place over Serbia.
- On July 1, 1916, the five month Battle of the Somme began with horrific results for the British Army, leaving 19,240 men dead on the battlefield and another 36, 230 wounded on lonely the first day!
- On August 2, 1916, Austrian saboteurs managed to sink the Italian battleship, Leonardo da Vinci as the great ship lay in Taranto harbor.
- On August 2, 1916, Austrian saboteurs managed to sink the Italian battleship, Leonardo da Vinci as the great ship lay in Taranto harbor.
- On October 16, 1916, Margaret Sanger (nee Higgins), nurse, writer, and sexual educator opened the first family planning (birth control) clinic in the United States.
- On November 21, 1916, the new and improved version of the Titanic became the largest ship sunk during World War I!
- On September 23, 1917, Imperial Germany lost one of its greatest flying aces when Leutnant Werner Voss was shot down and killed over West Flanders, outnumbered 8 to 1 and refusing to run!
- On October 26, 1917, a force of only 100 German Army soldiers led by Oberleutnant (First Lieutenant in American talk) Erwin Rommel took Mt. Matajur from an Italian defensive force of 7000 men, a key part of the German/Austro-Hungarian victory at the Battle of Caporetto (aka The 12th Battle of the Isonzo).
- On November 20, 1917, a combined Allied offensive (British and French) stepped off against the Germans at Cambrai, France (Nord Department).
- On January 9, 1918, in Southern Arizona near the border with Mexico at a place called Bear Valley, one of the last battles of the American Indian Wars (1540-1924) was fought.
- On April 20, 1918, Baron Manfred von Richtofen shot down the last enemy airplanes of his short but spectacular career.
- On June 1, 1918, the Battle of Belleau Wood began in France near the River Marne.
- On August 13, 1918, Opha Mae Johnson became the first of 305 women to enlist in the United States Marine Corps Women’s Reserve, proving that women can do and be just about anything!
- On October 8, 1918, United States Corporal Alvin C. York killed 28 German soldiers and captured 132 in France’s Argonne Forest during World War I making York one of America’s most decorated soldiers of the war.
- On October 8, 1918, 2nd Lt. Ralph Talbot of Massachusetts earned the coveted Medal of Honor, the highest American military honor.
- On November 11, 1918, Germany signed an armistice agreement with the Allies in a railroad car in the forest of Compiègne, France, officially ending fighting at the eleventh hour on the eleventh day in the eleventh month, but fighting did not actually end at that exact time and nor did the war!
- On October 7, 1925, baseball great and Hall of Fame pitcher Christy Mathewson died of tuberculosis brought on by a weakening of his respiratory system due to accidental exposure to poison gas during World War I.
IX. The Fall of the Russian Empire and the Rise of the Soviet Union
- On May 11, 1891, while paying a State visit to Lake Biwa, Otsu, Japan, heir to the throne of the Russian Empire Tsesarevich Nicholas Alexandrovich (the future Czar Nicholas II, Emperor of Russia) was attacked with a sword by one of the Japanese policemen escorting him, wounding the Tsesarevich.
- On December 29, 1916, possibly the most cracked clergyman of all time finally met his doom, having been poisoned, shot, and drowned, thereby rivaling Blackbeard for the claim of bearded bad-ass who most went out “like a boss”!
- On June 21, 1919, the reactionary establishment of the city of Winnipeg, the province of Manitoba, and the federal government of Canada overreacted to a peaceful labor strike and attacked striking workers (largely war veterans) with the Royal Northwest Mounted Police.
- On July 19, 1919, England celebrated Peace Day in honor of winning World War I.
- “Winter Dreams” is a short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald that first appeared in Metropolitan Magazine in December 1922, and was collected in All the Sad Young Men in 1926.
- On April 19, 1927, vaudevillian and stage actress Mae West was sentenced to 10 days in jail for “corrupting the morals of youth!”
- On August 23, 2007, the bodies of the remaining Romanov family members were found near Yekaterinburg, Russia, the remains being mere skeletons.
X. Fascism and Nazism
- On November 8, 1923, a World War I decorated disaffected and discontent German veteran led his Nazi Party followers in an unsuccessful coup against the German Wiemar government, an event known to history as The Munich Beer Hall Putsch.
- On October 24, 1929, the New York Stock Exchange suffered the catastrophic day of losses known as Black Thursday, the day that for all intents and purposes started the Great Depression.
- On February 25, 1932, Adolf Hitler applied for German citizenship.
- On April 8, 1935, the Emergency Relief Appropriation Act of 1935 went into effect, and as a byproduct created the Works Progress Administration (later renamed the Work Projects Administration).
XI. World War II and the Holocaust
- On August 3, 1936, James Cleveland “Jesse” Owens won the 100-meter dash at the Berlin Olympics and blazed into the record books.
- On May 7, 1937, while Europe watched the prelude to World War II develop during the Spanish Civil War, the German “volunteer” Condor Legion was deployed with the Heinkel He-51 biplane fighter, an anachronism already obsolete when it was built.
- On June 11, 1939, a picnic at which hot dogs were served helped re-establish the political closeness between the United States and Great Britain and introduced the traditionally American food to an international public.
- On August 25, 1939, in a move meant to dissuade Germany from attacking Poland, the United Kingdom (Britain) signed a military alliance treaty with Poland which promised that if either were attacked, the other would come to their assistance.
- On May 10, 1040, the United Kingdom invaded Iceland without the permission of the government of Iceland. With World War II in a dire phase for the British, German occupation of Iceland would have been catastrophic to cross Atlantic shipping, the lifeblood of Britain so despite Iceland’s neutrality, the British occupied the small country as a preventative measure.
- On August 20, 1940, Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of the war-torn United Kingdom, delivered one of his most stirring wartime speeches, one that hailed the efforts of the Royal Air Force (RAF), known from then on and forever after as “The Few.”
- On October 7, 1940, the Director of the Far East Section of the Office of Naval Intelligence, Lt. Cmdr. Arthur McCollum, sent an infamous memo up his chain of command that seems to recommend the United States provoke Japan into attacking US forces, thus allowing the US an excuse to enter World War II (WWII) in spite of President Roosevelt’s promise to stay out of the war.
- On January 17, 1941, French colonial naval forces engaged the naval forces of Siam (Thailand after 1948) during the Franco-Thai War, a smaller war within the larger conflagration that was World War II.
- On September 4, 1941, US Navy destroyer USS Greer was attacked by German submarine (U-boat) U-652, and returned the compliment by depth charging the German sub.
- On November 14, 1941, British Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal sunk after being torpedoed by a German U-boat (submarine) the day before.
- Most Americans know that on December 7, 1941, the Japanese launched a massive aerial surprise attack against U.S. military forces on the Hawaiian island of Oahu, mainly at Pearl Harbor.
- On December 10, 1941, Colin Purdie Kelly, Jr. became the first in a long line of American heroes that flew the great Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress, a pairing of the greatest bomber of World War II and the greatest bomber pilots.
- On February 24, 1942, the government passed a law under the “War Measures Act” allowing the government to relocate and intern citizens of Japanese origin.
- On June 4, 1942, the Battle of Midway began with Admiral Nagumo of the Imperial Japanese Navy ordering an airstrike on the US held island of Midway in the Central Pacific.
- On August 7, 1942, U.S. Marines landed on an island few Americans had ever heard of, Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands.
- On August 16, 1942, while on routine anti-submarine patrol, the 2 man crew of US Navy Blimp L-8 disappeared without a trace.
- On November 27, 1942, the French Navy under the direction of Admiral Auphan scuttled a large part of the French ships and submarines in port at Toulon, France, in order to keep these valuable assets out of the hands of the German Kriegsmarine (navy).
- On January 14, 1943, the Japanese Navy successfully evacuated the remaining Japanese land forces from the Island of Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands of the Pacific Ocean.
- On February 19, 1943, the Battle of Kasserine Pass started, the first major American engagement of ground forces with the Axis forces in the Western Theater of World War II.
- On August 31, 1943, the Buckley Class destroyer, USS Harmon DE-678 was commissioned, the first American Navy ship named after an African-American person.
- On September 3, 1943, the Allies (mainly the United States and the United Kingdom) invaded mainland Europe, thus living up to the promise to Soviet Premier Josef Stalin to invade mainland Europe in 1943.
- On October 22, 1943, 569 bombers of the Royal Air Force dropped firebombs on the German city of Kassel, population around 240,000, killing 10,000 and making another 150,000 homeless.
- On June 16, 1944 (exact date is unknown, said to be sometime in the Spring of 1944, so we chose this date), American Army Air Force pilot William Overstreet, Jr. was flying his North American P-51 Mustang in pursuit of a German Messerschmitt Bf-109 when the 2 fighter planes amazed onlookers on the ground by flying right under the lower arches of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France.
- On October 20, 1944, Army and Naval forces of the United States landed on the Philippine island of Leyte in an amphibious assault to reclaim the islands from the Japanese who had taken the Philippines from the US and Philippine forces led by General Douglas MacArthur in 1942.
- On October 21, 1944, Japan began their notorious kamikaze attacks during the Battle of Leyte Gulf, first striking HMAS Australia.
- On November 1, 1944, the first of what would end up to be thousands of missions by the famous Boeing B-29 Superfortress flew over Tokyo, Japan on a reconnaissance mission, the first allied aircraft over Tokyo since the 1942 Doolittle Raid.
- On January 26, 1945, the heroic tale of America’s bravest soldier (according to me) reached its zenith when Audie Murphy performed the incredible feats of military courage and effectiveness that earned him the Medal of Honor.
- On February 13, 1945, bombers from the Royal Air Force (RAF) and the American Air Force (USAAF)struck the eastern German city of Dresden, a city so beautiful it was once known as the “Florence on the Elbe,” incinerating tens of thousands of people.
- On February 19, 1945, the most cracked battle in history of the United States Marine Corp (USMC) began with 30,000 Marines hitting a beach.
- On February 21, 1945, while supporting the US invasion of Iwo Jima in the Pacific, the US aircraft carrier USS Saratoga CV-3 was struck by 3 Japanese suicide planes known as Kamikaze.
- On July 16, 1945, Manhattan Project scientists held their breath as the clock ticked down to the first man-made nuclear blast in history.
- On August 6, 1945, the American Boeing B-29 Superfortress named Enola Gay dropped an atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima, killing about 70,000 people right away and perhaps a few tens of thousands later from wounds, burns, and radiation.
- On August 9, 1945, a Boeing B-29 bomber named “Bockscar” dropped the second atomic bomb on Japan, incinerating 39,000 people within seconds.
XII. Consequences of World War II
- On December 13, 1937, Japanese blood-lust reached unprecedented proportions when they massacred over 250,000 Chinese in Nanking!
- On March 22, 1943, a battalion of military police fighting for Germany was attacked by Byelorussian partisans near the village of Khatyn.
- On December 28, 1943, the Soviet secret police, NKVD, under the direction of its commander Lavrentiy Beria, began a 3 day operation called Operation Ulusy to forcibly remove 93,139 people of the Kalmyk nationality to forced labor camps in the remote areas of Siberia.
- On August 12, 1944, German Nazi troops finished off a massacre of between 40,000 and 50,000 Poles, many of them Jewish.
- On December 13, 1945, Irma Ida Ilse Grese, age 22, was executed in accordance with her sentence of death for the crime of committing War Crimes (Crimes Against Humanity) for her service as a concentration camp guard at Ravensbruck and Auschwitz Nazi death camps during World War II.
- On August 8, 1946, the Consolidated Vultee B-36 Peacemaker nuclear bomber made its first flight.
- On this date, December 9, 1946, the “Subsequent Nuremberg Trials” began with the “Doctors’ Trial”, prosecuting doctors alleged to be involved in human experimentation.
- On April 3, 1948, President Harry S Truman (there is no period after the “S” because it was just an initial, not standing for a name!) signed legislation authorizing $5 billion for the Marshall Plan, a foreign aid bill championed by former five star general George C. Marshall who was Secretary of State at the time.
- On March 8, 1949, the long and convoluted journey of Mildred Gillars temporarily came to an end.
- On August 29, 1949, nuclear scientists in the Soviet Union (USSR) successfully tested their first atomic bomb, an implosion type device they called “First Lightning.”
- On November 8, 1950, early in the Korean War, a U.S. Lockheed F-80 Shooting Star, America’s first operational jet fighter, flown by U.S. Air Force Lieutenant Russell Brown, shot down a Soviet-built MiG-15 piloted by a North Korean pilot, in the first air-to-air combat between jet planes in aviation history.
- On March 1, 1953, Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin suffered an alleged stroke that led to his death on March 5, 1953 at the age of 74.
- On May 25, 1953, the United States Army conducted a live nuclear artillery test shot, the only time the US ever conducted such a test.
- February 9, 1959 opened a new a scary chapter in the atomic age when the U.S.S.R. fielded the first intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) armed with a nuclear warhead, the R-7 Semyorka.
- On May 1, 1960, CIA employee Gary Powers was flying a reconnaissance mission over the Soviet Union when his high flying top secret U-2 spyplane was shot down by an SA-2 surface to air missile.
- On January 17, 1961, outgoing President Dwight David Eisenhower (better known as “Ike”) made his farewell address to the nation, a tradition of outgoing Presidents since George Washington left office.
- On April 12, 1961, Soviet cosmonaut (their version of astronaut) was sent into orbit around the Earth aboard Vostok 1, becoming the first human being to “slip the surly bonds of Earth” and voyage where no man had gone before, Outer Space.
- On October 30, 1961, the Soviet Union detonated the hydrogen bomb Tsar Bomba over an archipelago in the Arctic Ocean in the North of Russia; at 50 megatons of yield, it is still the largest explosive device ever detonated, nuclear or otherwise by humankind!
- On November 29, 1961, the US space agency, NASA, launched Mercury Atlas 5, the first mission to send an American into orbit around the Earth in space.
- On May 31, 1962, the nation of Israel hanged Nazi Holocaust organizer Adolf Eichmann, one of history’s most evil people, for war crimes.
- On August 22, 1962, the French ultra-nationalist terror group known as the OAS (Organisation armée secrete, which means “Secret Army Organization”) made a famous attempt on the life of Charles de Gaulle, president of France.
- On May 2, 1964, before even the Gulf of Tonkin Incident that heralded major US involvement in the Vietnam War, a Viet Cong or North Vietnamese frogman placed an explosive charge against the hull of the USS Card (USNS Card at the time of sinking), blowing a hole in the ship and sinking 48 feet as she lay berthed at the dock at Saigon.
- On January 26, 1965, the Constitution of India was amended to make Hindi the official language of Government in India, with English relegated to a “subsidiary official language.”
- On October 31, 1968, in a political move intended to help Hubert Humphrey win the Presidential election, President Lyndon Johnson made an announcement that became known as “The October Surprise,” in which he stated that all bombardment of North Viet Nam would be halted.
- On July 3, 1969, the Soviet Union’s dreams of a moon rocket went up on the launch pad as the largest explosion of any rocket in history.
- On March 17, 1970, the US Army charged 14 officers with suppressing information about the My Lai Massacre that took place in South Vietnam in 1968, a horrible atrocity in which between 347 and 504 Vietnamese civilians, including women, children and babies, were slaughtered by C Company, 1st Bn 20th Regt of the 11th Brigade of the 23rd Infantry Division of the US Army.
- On May 18, 1974, India’s Operation Smiling Buddha resulted in the successful detonation of a nuclear weapon, becoming the sixth nation to explode a nuclear device.
- On November 16, 1974, a radio signal was sent from Earth to the star cluster known as M13 in an attempt to communicate with whatever intelligent life forms may exist in that area of the Universe.
XIII. The Culture of Protest
- On December 25, 1951, Civil Rights activists Harry T. Moore and Harriette V. S. Moore were killed by a bomb explosion at their home in Sanford, Florida.
- On March 21, 1952, disc jockey Alan Freed (inventor of the term “rock and roll”) and record store owner Leo Mintz staged the first rock concert in Cleveland, Ohio!
- On March 8, 1957, both houses of Georgia’s state legislature passed and Governor Marvin Griffin approved a shameful resolution known as the Georgia Memorial to Congress.
- On April 4, 1964, the Beatles, also known as “the Fab Four” or “the Mop Tops,” dominated the Billboard Hot 100 chart with songs in each of the top 5 positions!
- On June 30, 1966, the Women’s movement took a giant leap forward when the National Organization for Women (NOW) was founded by 28 women’s rights activists.
- On February 11, 1968, African-American garbage collection and sewer workers in Memphis, Tennessee went on strike, prompted by the horrible death of two garbage men crushed in the back of a garbage truck.
- On April 20, 1968, Conservative Member of Parliament Enoch Powell delivered his famous “Rivers of Blood Speech” against the continued immigration of non-European colonials into Britain.
- On March 25, 1969, John Lennon and Yoko Ono came up with a unique way to celebrate their honeymoon, by inviting friends and reporters to spend the day in their hotel bedroom each day for a week!
- On December 13, 1971, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) heard arguments in a lawsuit by Norma McCorvey (known as “Jane Roe” for the purposes of the lawsuit) against the Dallas County (Texas) Attorney, Henry Wade in the landmark American court case about the subject of a woman’s right to seek an abortion, ending an unwanted pregnancy.
- On March 22, 1972, the US Supreme Court decided that unmarried Americans were allowed to have sex!
- On October 11, 1972, a race riot took place not in a city, but at sea!
- On January 27, 1973, about 11 hours before the cease fire marking the official end of American involvement in the Vietnam War, Colonel William Nolde, US Army, age 43, was killed by artillery fire at An Loc, South Vietnam.
- On March 3, 1991, the combination of George Holliday and his home video camera and selective use of portions of that video by the news media shocked the country and profoundly affected American History!
- On April 29, 1992, the lower income areas of Los Angeles erupted with violence, pent up anger released after the acquittal of 4 white police officers accused of beating Rodney King, one of history’s most evil people, after a high speed pursuit.
- On February 3, 1995, Space Shuttle mission STS-63 lifted off from the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral Florida for space with a woman pilot for the first time.
- On May 22, 2002, Bobby Frank Cherry, former member of the Ku Klux Klan, was convicted of the 1963 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama.
XIV. The End of the Cold War
- On December 15, 1978, US President Jimmy Carter announced that the United States would no longer recognize the government of the Republic of China (based on the island of Taiwan) as the legitimate government of China, and instead would recognize the Red Chinese government, The Peoples Republic of China.
- On February 17, 1979, two Communist nations that had collaborated in the Vietnam War against the United States went to war with each other, as China sought to punish Vietnam for invading Cambodia.
- On September 26, 1983, the Cold War between the Soviet Union and their allies versus the United States and their allies nearly erupted into full blown nuclear Armageddon when the early warning system employed by the Soviet military falsely reported the launch of United States Air Force Minuteman ICBM’s.
- On January 28, 1986, the U.S. space shuttle Challenger took off right on schedule, only to explode 74 seconds later, killing all seven crew members on board in front of a horrified live television audience.
- On November 29, 1987, Korean Air Lines Flight 858 exploded over the Andaman Sea, downing the jet liner and killing all 115 people aboard the plane, mostly people from South Korea.
- On October 27, 1988, President Ronald Reagan made one of his most shocking Cold War related announcements while President when he decided to have the newly completed US Embassy in Moscow mostly destroyed and started over again!
- On December 14, 1992, the War in Abkhazia took a sickening turn when a helicopter carrying refuges was shot down, killing 52 people, about half of which were innocent children.
- On April 4, 1969, Dr. Denton Cooley performed surgery to implant the first artificial (temporary) heart in history!
- On December 22, 1984, the tables got turned on criminals when their victim shot them!
- On June 28, 1987, Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi Air Force became the first military force in history to purposely target civilians with chemical weapons when they attacked the town of Sardasht, Iran with “mustard” gas.
- On February 26, 1993, New Yorkers were shaken during their lunch break by the explosion of a giant bomb!
- On November 18, 1993, the US House of Representatives passes the North American Free Trade Agreement that had been negotiated by President George HW Bush in 1992.
- On July 14, 2004, Robert Novak of the Washington Post exercised irresponsible journalistic ethics by publishing an article outing Valerie Plame as a CIA operative.
- On May 7, 2004, American inventor and businessman Nicholas Berg, only 26 years old, was beheaded by Islamic terrorists in Iraq.
- On January 18, 2005, Airbus, the European maker of jetliners, unveiled its flagship jetliner, the A380, the largest passenger plane ever built.
- On December 25, 2009, one of the most bizarre terrorist plots to destroy an airliner and its passengers failed when Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was unable to get his bomb hidden in his underwear to explode.
- On March 11, 2012, a single US Army sergeant did more to hurt the US war effort in Afghanistan than all the politicians and generals combined! Robert Bales Kills 17 Afghan Civilians in the Kandahar Massacre.
Questions for students: What was the most interesting event in Modern World History and why?
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For more information, please see…
Markham, J. David and Matthew Zarzeczny. Simply Napoleon. Simply Charly, 2017.
Zarzeczny, Matthew D. Meteors That Enlighten the Earth: Napoleon and the Cult of Great Men. Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2013.
The featured image in this article, a detail from the oil painting (1806–7) titled Sacre de l’empereur Napoléon Ier et couronnement de l’impératrice Joséphine dans la cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris, le 2 décembre 1804 (Coronation of Emperor Napoleon I and Coronation of the Empress Josephine in Notre-Dame de Paris, December 2, 1804) by Jacques-Louis David (1748–1825) and Georges Rouget (1783–1869) of Joséphine kneeling before Napoleon during his coronation at Notre Dame, is in the public domain in its country of origin and other countries and areas where the copyright term is the author’s life plus 100 years or less. The work of art depicted in this image and the reproduction thereof are in the public domain worldwide. The reproduction is part of a collection of reproductions compiled by The Yorck Project. The compilation copyright is held by Zenodot Verlagsgesellschaft mbH and licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License.