1506: The first contingent of Swiss Guards arrives in Vatican City to provide security for the Pope. Swiss mercenaries were legendary for their loyalty to their leadership and ferocious effectiveness in battle. Their appearance at the Holy See during the early rumblings of the Reformation was a perfectly logical extension of their long running mercenary role on the European military scene. They remain the core of the Vatican’s security forces to this day.
1564: Pope Pius IV issues the decree Benedictus Deus, ratifying the findings of the long-running Council of Trent. The Council was first seated in 1545 to begin a process of answering the practical and theological issues raised by the burgeoning Protestant movement, in particular the aggressive growth of Lutheranism in Germany, much of which was co-opted and exacerbated by the political struggles between Rome and the Empire. Over the course of its eighteen years, the Council of Trent conducted three major sessions and issued numerous canons and decrees, the vast majority of which remain in force to this day. While confirming some level of reform from the more egregious practices of the Church (i.e. indulgences), its primary products clarified and confirmed the beliefs and historical practices of Roman Catholicism, providing a stable catechism of faith for over three hundred years. The next ecumenical council after Trent took place in June 1868 at the First Vatican Council. The Second Vatican Council of 1962-65 is the most recent convocation of this stature.
1579: Three northern provinces of the Spanish Netherlands sign the Union of Utrecht, pledging to help defend each other from Spanish suppression of Reformation elements in the Low Countries. By early summer, 8 more provinces and city-states attached themselves to the Utrecht group, forming the nucleus of an independent and Protestant Netherlands that would in 1581 declare themselves free from Spanish rule under the Act of Abjuration. The Union signed today put Great Britain into play as the guarantor of the Netherlands’ independence from Spain.
1787: In the final battle of what today is an obscure incident, an unauthorized militia aligned with Massachusetts farmer Daniel Shays conduct a short, sharp battle with the legitimate Massachusetts Militia at the Springfield Armory. Four of Shays’ men are killed, twenty are wounded, and the rebels flee north, totally disbanded. Shays’ Rebellion grew out of attempts to collect debts left over from the Revolution. European investors were putting the squeeze on Boston business owners, demanding payment in specie. The businessmen, in turn made the same demands on their debtors, mostly small freehold farmers in the central part of the state. The collections quickly descended into complete seizures of properties, including houses of the farmers, who felt helpless to resist. Finally, in August of 1786, Bunker Hill veteran Daniel Shays had had enough, and under the rubric of revolution, organized his first band of militia to force the issue at the Springfield courthouse. The situation festered through the Fall and Winter, leading to the climactic battle this day, where the Massachusetts militia, without authorization, drew weapons and ammunition from the Federal Arsenal to prevent Shays’ group from expropriating it first. The threat of further actions of this nature underscored the fundamental weakness of the Articles of Confederation, and spurred calls for a constitutional convention to draft a more effective form of national government, which we now know as the Constitution.
1879: Final day of the two-day Battle of Rorke’s Drift in the Anglo-Zulu war. In this battle, 150 British soldiers ostensibly performing civil engineering functions (kind of a 19th Century “nation-building” exercise) held off multiple waves of over 4,000 Zulu warriors, with only a brief respite from the fighting during the darkness of night. The Zulu leaders halted their attacks after a brief feint just after dawn, leaving behind them nearly a thousand dead and wounded warriors. When the battle ended, the defenders had only 900 rounds of ammunition remaining from the 20,000 rounds stockpiled beforehand. Eleven Victoria Crosses were awarded to the British defenders, the highest-ever number for a single battle.
1880: Birth of Douglas MacArthur (d.1964), American General, Medal of Honor recipient, Army Chief of Staff, Governor of the Philippines, chief executive of occupied Japan.
1887: Birth of Marc Mitscher (d.1947), American Admiral who led his carrier strike groups through wide-ranging and brutally effective campaigns against Japan’s South Pacific empire. He earned particular distinction when, after ordering a follow-on strike late in the day after the Marianas Turkey Shoot, he subsequently ordered his carriers to brightly illuminate their ships and the skies around them in order that his returning fighters could find and land aboard their carriers in the dark. Early in his aviation career, Mitscher piloted the NC-1 flying boat in the Navy’s first attempt to cross the Atlantic by air. He and the NC-1 made it as far as the Azores, while NC-4 continued on to Portugal to complete the mission. The hazards of the mission cannot be overstated, and for his role in it, Mitscher was awarded the Navy Cross.
1901: Death of Alexandrina Victoria of the House of Hanover, better remembered* for nearly 64 years as Her Majesty Victoria, by the Grace of God, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland Queen, Defender of the Faith, and after 1876, Empress of India. (b.1819).
1911: Aviation pioneer Glen Curtiss makes the first American float-plane flight in San Diego harbor.
1917: Recently re-elected President Woodrow (“He kept us out of war!”) Wilson delivers a speech before the U.S. Senate in which, despite growing clamor for American entry into the Great War, he outlines his vision for a post-war world order: a governing order that, in hindsight, could only come from academia’s halls of high-minded ethereal-ness. The address is remembered as the “Peace without Victory” speech. The first two paragraphs below are excerpts that lay out the rationale for what, at the peace conference at Versailles, would eventually become the League of Nations:
“I only take it for granted that mere terms of peace between the belligerents will not satisfy even the belligerents themselves. Mere agreements may not make peace secure. It will be absolutely necessary that a force be created as a guarantor of the permanency of the settlement so much greater than the force of any nation now engaged or any alliance hitherto formed or projected that no nation, no probable combination of nations could face or withstand it. If the peace presently to be made is to endure, it must be a peace made secure by the organized major force of mankind…“…The question upon which the whole future peace and policy of the world depends is this: Is the present war a struggle for a just and secure peace, or only for a new balance of power? If it be only a struggle for a new balance of power, who will guarantee, who can guarantee the stable equilibrium of the new arrangement? Only a tranquil Europe can be a stable Europe. There must be, not a balance of power, but a community of power; not organized rivalries, but an organized common peace.” “They [that is, the belligerents] imply, first of all, that it must be a peace without victory. It is not pleasant to say this. I beg that I may be permitted to put my own interpretation upon it and that it may be understood that no other interpretation was in my thought. I am seeking only to face realities and to face them without soft concealments. Victory would mean peace forced upon the loser, a victor’s terms imposed upon the vanquished. It would be accepted in humiliation, under duress, at an intolerable sacrifice, and would leave a sting, a resentment, a bitter memory upon which terms of peace would rest, not permanently, but only as upon quicksand. Only a peace between equals can last. Only a peace the very principle of which is equality and a common participation in a common benefit. The right state of mind, the right feeling between nations, is as necessary for a lasting peace as is the just settlement of vexed questions of territory or of racial and national allegiance.” Germany was treated in fact as a vanquished nation by the Versailles Treaty, despite the fact that she never really surrendered. The armistice terms from November: everything just stopped where it was, based on Wilson’s proposition of peace without victory. Most U.S. war strategies have been designed around the peace-without-victory and peace-between-equals concept, and a derivative of it was in play in Afghanistan until just a few months ago.
1919: The delegates meeting at the Paris Peace Conference in Versailles approve a motion to develop a League of Nations, based on President Wilson’s 14 Points.
1941: Aviation hero Charles Lindbergh, having recently visited Germany to inspect its aviation industry and capabilities, testifies before Congress in favor of a neutrality treaty with the Nazi government. As with the former Edward VIII of England, Lindbergh believed the Nazi’s program of centralized economics and strident nationalism was a healthy and correct answer to the problems of society.
1947: Death of Chicago mobster / businessman / politician / Ward Chairman.
1960 – The Bathyscaph Trieste descends to the deepest part of the ocean — the Marianas Trench, 36,000 feet down.
1968 – While operating in international waters in the Sea of Japan near the Korean coast, USS Pueblo (AGER 2) is seized by North Korean naval vessels. This is the first U.S. warship captured by an enemy since we were fighting the British. Commander Lloyd Bucher and his crew are imprisoned by the NORKs for nearly a year.
1971: In Uganda, Colonel Idi Amin (1925-2003) leads a coup d’état against Milton Obote, becoming president of that benighted land.
1989: Death of Spanish surrealist painter Salvador Domingo Felipe Jacinto Dalí i Domènech, Marquis of Dalí de Púbol, better known to the rest of us as Salvador Dali (b.1904).
2005: Death of President Nixon’s long-serving secretary, Rose Mary Woods (b.1917). During the Watergate hearings, she achieved notoriety, if not fame, for her tortured depiction of how a crucial section of the secretly recorded Oval Office tapes was “inadvertently” erased. By all accounts she was effective, efficient and loyal in her work.