1565: Founding of Rio de Janeiro (‘River of January’). Founded by the Portuguese, the city was initially the seat of the Captaincy of Rio de Janeiro, a domain of the Portuguese Empire. In 1763, it became the capital of the State of Brazil, a state of the Portuguese Empire. In 1808, when the Portuguese Royal Court moved to Brazil, Rio de Janeiro became the seat of the court of Queen Maria I of Portugal.
1570: Pope Pius V excommunicates Elizabeth I, Queen of England. Although one could speculate on the actual spiritual result of this action, the political end ably served to consolidate her position on the then-still-tenuous Protestant hold on the English crown.
1712: In Stockholm (and elsewhere in the realm), the subjects of the kingdom of Sweden celebrate February 30th, bringing the country’s calendar back in line with the rest of Europe, who were still using the Julian dating system. The Swedish Calendar was planned as a way to slowly- over 40 years- to move international dating over to the better-derived and nominally more accurate Gregorian Calendar. But after 12 years of no one else following their lead, it just got too hard. At this stage, Sweden was a day off from everyone else, and it would only get worse over time. The backwards leap this day brought her back into the mainstream, although when the rest of the world made the sudden 11-day leap in 1753, Sweden waited a year.
1732: Birth of South Carolina militia commander and progenitor of the modern concept of irregular warfare, Francis Marion (d.1795). Marion’s nickname, “Swamp Fox,” gives a hint of the persistent threat he created for the British forces who had earlier routed the Continental Army at the Battle of Camden.
1779: Birth of American polymath Joel Roberts Poinsett (d.1851), a congressman, physician, botanist, statesman, and the first U.S. Minister to Mexico (prior to our sending an ambassador), where he spent a significant amount of time cataloging the varieties of flora in the southern part of the country. He is best known today for bringing to the United States the red-leafed “Christmas-Eve flower” that now bears his name.
1781: The Continental Congress adopts the Articles of Confederation.Its fundamental weakness led to our current Constitution. This document served as the United States’ first constitution. It was in force from March 1, 1781, until 1789 when the present-day Constitution went into effect.
1791: The French Republic, in response to an urgent need to deal with persistent English threats along the coast, builds the first of a tightly interlaced series of semaphore towers, or “optical telegraphs,” to rapidly communicate between the frontiers and the capital in Paris. The towers in France used a series of rotating and articulated arms to create coded characters. Other countries used different types of open and closed panels or different types of arms, but the principle remained the same: the most distant lookout would spot some kind of listed activity offshore and immediately report it to the next tower along the line. Not surprisingly, the towers themselves made excellent targets for military and naval raids.
1807: Birth of American man of letters, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (d.1882). His original works include “Paul Revere’s Ride”, The Song of Hiawatha, and Evangeline. He was the first American to completely translate Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy and was one of the fireside poets from New England.
1815: Napoleon Bonaparte effects an escape from his island exile on Elba, not far from the coast of southern France. What occurs over the next three weeks is documented along La Route Napoleon.
1836: Samuel Colt is granted a US patent for the Colt revolver.
1836: The Alamo, still under siege, the Texas Convention of 1836 declared the independence of the Texas Republic from Mexico.
1844: An experimental gun aboard USS Princeton explodes, killing seven and injuring 20. Among the dead are Secretary of State Abel Upshur and Secretary of the Navy Thomas Gilmer. The tragedy was the result of a product demonstration “field trip” that had all of official Washington abuzz. The new USS Princeton was the most technologically advanced and fastest ship in the Navy, carrying the first screw propeller and the latest in gunnery design. The Navy- even back then- was keen on promoting its innovative thinking, and proposed a series of Potomac River guest cruises to demonstrate its new technology to the nation’s leadership. On this day the guest list numbered 400, including President John Tyler, his entire cabinet and their wives, and the former First Lady, Dolley Madison. After leaving the Alexandria docks, the ship performed a gunfire demonstration, after which the guests retired below decks for refreshments. They were soon invited back up to observe a second firing of the cannon (named “Peacemaker” (the other new gun was named “Oregon”)). At the firing, the muzzle-loader’s breach exploded, sending shrapnel and molten metal into the crowd. President Tyler was still below decks when the gun exploded and was un-injured.
1845: President John Tyler signs a bill authorizing the annexation of the Republic of Texas into the United States. This act was not as simple as it sounds. You may also hear from time to time that Texas is the only one of the Several States to have a legitimate secession clause in its annexation. This is also not as simple as it sounds. Texas is, in fact, the only State that was annexed as a formerly sovereign state, not as a federal territory from which a State would be organized. The decade of high political drama that surrounded Texas’s eventual integration into the United States remains a potent force in the identity of Texans nationwide.
1854: The Republican Party of the United States is organized in Ripon, Wisconsin. The party coalesced around anti-slavery activism, and held as its motto: “Free labor, free land, and free men,” all of which was oriented on encouraging the growth of small business, including giving away government land, in order to overwhelm slavery with the reality of entrepreneurial success throughout the expanding nation. In 1856, John C. Fremont was its first Presidential nominee. In 1860 it was Abraham Lincoln.
1860: Abraham Lincoln gives a speech at the Cooper Union in New York City that is largely credited with ensuring his Republican Party nomination to the presidency.
1861: Tsar Alexander I abolishes serfdom in Russia.
1872: Yellowstone National Park is established.
1882: Birth of Husband E. Kimmel (d.1968). Admiral Kimmel was in command of the Pacific Fleet on December 7th, 1941. From his headquarters he watched as Japanese carrier aircraft systematically destroy the Navy’s complete line of battle. He and Army Lieutenant General Walter Short were both court-martialed for their roles in the disaster. Kimmel went into forced retirement as a two-star (his temporary 4-star rank stripped after the trial), and spent his remaining years in an ultimately fruitless attempt to rehabilitate his legacy.
1898: Birth of Monsignor Hugh O’Flaherty (d.1963), Irish priest from Killarney in County Cork, best known as “The Scarlet Pimpernel of the Vatican,” whose work in the diplomatic corps of the papal nuncio during the 1920s and 1930s climaxed in 1943-45 when he spearheaded Vatican resistance to the Nazi occupation of Rome. O’Flaherty sheltered and transferred to safety over 6,500 Allied POWs who escaped from their camps when the Italian government capitulated in September, 1943. His work was explicitly targeted by the head of Rome’s Gestapo, who failed to make a dent in the flow of prisoners sheltered by O’Flaherty’s organization. After the war, O’Flaherty was honored by Great Britain with the Order of British Empire (OBE) and in the United States by the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
1914: Launch of HMHS Britannic, sister ship to RMS Titanic. Although she was fitted with improvements designed to mitigate the issues that doomed her elder sibling (double-hull sheathing around the engine rooms, water-tight bulkheads raised to the B-deck, extensive lifeboat capability), she nonetheless met a violent end in her role as a hospital ship, hitting a German mine near the Greek island of Kea just south of Athens in November of 1916. The mine ripped a massive hole in her bow, and she plunged to the bottom in less than an hour. Thankfully, of the thousand people aboard, only 30 people lost their lives.
1919: The State of Oregon puts a 1-cent per gallon tax on gasoline, becoming the first state in the Union to levy a gas tax.
1922: Birth of Clarence “Kelly” Johnson (d.1990). The legendary Lockheed aircraft designer is responsible for some of the most dramatic and effective airplanes ever built, including the P-38 Lightning, F-80 Shooting Star, U-2, SR-71 Blackbird, F-104 Starfighter, and the beautiful Lockheed Constellation.
1924: Birth of Deke Slayton (d.1993), one of the original 7 Mercury Astronauts, who had the distinction of being grounded from the flight program for reasons of a suspected heart murmur. He remained in NASA, however, becoming head of the Astronaut Office, which controlled astronaut selection and flight assignments. After completion of the dangerous and dramatic Mercury, Gemini and Apollo missions, Slayton was finally released for flight as Docking Module Pilot of the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project, a 1975 earth orbital mission that set the conditions for continued U.S.- Russian cooperation in space.
1932: Birth of country music star, Johnny Cash (d.2003).
1932: Charles Augustus Lindbergh III, infant son of Lucky Lindy and his wife Anne Morrow Lindbergh, is kidnapped from their home in East Amwell, NJ. In mid-May, the boy’s body was discovered not far from the Lindbergh’s home, with death indicated from a massive blow to the head.
1932: In England, birth of Elizabeth Taylor (d.2011). She began her career as a child actress in the early 1940s and was one of the most popular stars of classical Hollywood cinema in the 1950s.
1933: USS Ranger (CV-4) is launched up the James River in Newport News, Virginia. Although it is the fourth US Navy ship to carry a full flight deck, it is the first one designed from the keel up as a dedicated aircraft carrier. Ironically, despite its large number of innovative features, it was far less successful operationally than the two earlier cruiser conversions, USS Lexington (CV-2) and USS Saratoga (CV-3). Among other things, Ranger featured folding smokestacks to pull boiler gasses and smoke away from the flight deck, and thin parking outriggers to help move parked airplanes off of the deck’s operational area. Pilots’ “ready rooms” were nothing more than wide spots in the passageways. Because of the large number of its un-tried innovations, the whole system failed to live up to its warfighting promise. But its design errors were well noted and rectified by the follow-on designs of the Yorktown and Essex class carriers that went on to glory in the Pacific war. Ranger spent most of WWII on anti-submarine patrol in the Atlantic, in addition to ferrying USAAF aircraft to the ETO. (Our Navy’s latest carrier is USS Gerald Ford (CVN-78) with John F. Kennedy (CVN-79) under construction. Long-lead funding is also in place for the next USS Enterprise (CVN-80) and the recently named USS Doris Miller (CVN-81).
1935: After 12 years of running a “civilian” flight training service, and two years operating the German Aviation Sport Unit (DLV), German Chancellor Adolf Hitler orders Hermann Goering to form a formal air force in direct violation of the Treaty of Versailles. The Luftwaffe’s rapid growth and fitting out with the most modern combat aircraft in Europe was met with shock, but no sanctions, by the League of Nations.
1942: The good citizens of Los Angeles, already hyped up the Japanese submarine attack on the oil refinery up the coast, woke up asking themselves what the heck was going on last night, when between 7:30 PM and 4:00 AM the coastal anti-aircraft batteries started a massive fusillade of AA fire at an unidentified object flying over the coastline. As the firing progressed, more objects were spotted which triggered more firing from more batteries. The bulk of the shooting occurred around 3:30 AM when over 1,400 shells were discharged at something(?). Secretary of War Stimson released a statement saying it was nothing, but the local gunners swore they saw something. The local weatherman admitted to releasing a weather balloon at 1:30, but no one believed the Army was trigger-happy enough to shoot at a weather balloon. In the end, the locals chalked it up to nerves. Stimson’s statement became immediate fodder for conspiracy theories, including trying to cover up the presence of UFOs along with a nefarious scheme to force LA’s burgeoning defense industries away from the coast.
1945: Turkey, recognizing the inevitable, declares war on Germany.
1949: A USAF B-50 Superfortress, under the command of Captain James Gallagher, arrives at Carswell AFB in Fort Worth after completing a 94-hour, non-stop circumnavigation of the globe. The crew performed four aerial refuelings, meeting Air Force tankers over Lajes airfield in the Azores, Dahran Airfield in Saudi Arabia, Clark AFB in the Philippines, and Hickam AFB in Hawaii. Importantly, the B-50 was a modified B-29, using more powerful and reliable Wright Cyclone engines, and along with other upgrades allowed it to carry nuclear bombs (8-10,000 pounds each).
1953: Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin collapses from a stroke.
1954: The United States detonates its first deliverable hydrogen bomb, code-named “Shrimp,” as part of the CASTLE BRAVO series of nuclear tests at the Bikini atoll. The bomb yielded 15 megatons of energy, over twice what was predicted. This was both the most powerful explosion in U.S. nuclear testing and also the worst radiological disaster, as a snow-like fallout mist irradiated an area of over 7000 square miles downwind of the blast. The Marshall Islands were evacuated (too late) and the crew of a Japanese fishing vessel suffered severe radiation burns, to say nothing of offloading their cargo of radioactive fish into the local market. The fishing vessel was named Daigo Fukuryū Maru (“Lucky Dragon No. 5”). After initially tying up at its usual berth, Japanese authorities could detect radiation of 120 milliroentgens from 100 feet. They immediately moved the ship to an isolated berth at the end of another pier, after which its contamination was studied in depth. The ship eventually became the centerpiece of a burgeoning Japanese anti-nuclear movement in the late 1950s- 60s. The U.S. government wanted to scuttle it. The Japanese government wanted to dismantle it and keep studying its parts. By 1970 it had finally decayed enough that it was no longer usable, so it was pulled out of the water and put on permanent display in an anti-nuclear park in Tokyo
1984: President Ronald Reagan orders U.S. forces to withdraw from their tenuous toe-hold at the Beirut airport, where they had been under essentially constant attack for the last two years.
1991: President George H. W. Bush announces on national television: “Kuwait is Liberated!” The Hundred Hour (ground) War is over.
1993: Inspired by the “blind sheikh” Omar Abdul Raman, Islamic terrorists detonate a massive truck bomb in the parking garage of the World Trade Center’s north tower. Seven people are killed and over a thousand are injured by the attack. After his trial and conviction, his co-conspirators went on to finish the job eight years later. Raman passed in 2017 after two decades in a U.S. prison where he continued to issue fatwas against the infidel West.
2008: Death of William F. Buckley, Jr. (b.1925). The founder of National Review and the godfather of the conservative intellectual movement, he made a stunning impact on the Ivy League status quo with the publication of his first book, God and Man at Yale in 1951, the same year the young Yale graduate was recruited to the CIA. He worked two years for that organization and only knew the name of one supervisor, E. Howard Hunt. In 1955 Buckley published the first edition of National Review, noting that its mission was to “…stand athwart History, shouting stop!” In addition to his print* journalism, Buckley hosted the nation’s longest-running television program, PBS’ Firing Line. He was an avid sailor (making two crossings of the Atlantic, and one of the Pacific) and genial bon vivant.