480 B.C. At the Battle of Salamis, a fleet of about 360 Greek triremes destroys the hitherto unstoppable Xerxes and his invading Persian fleet of 1,207 triremes in the waters just south of Athens. Despite Persia’s earlier successes against the Greeks, including their nominal victory at the Battle of Thermopylae a short month earlier, the force was stretched to its limit, and needed to consolidate its land and sea forces before the oncoming winter ended the campaigning season. The Greek states, under the leadership of Themistocles, saw an opportunity for their heavily outnumbered fleet to limit the Persians’ maneuverability in the tight reaches near Salamis Island, and thence to individually destroy them on nearly equal terms. The lopsided victory completely un-did Persia’s earlier victories ashore, and sent the Xerxes and his forces back into Anatolia for a generation. Of note, the Persian general staff, confident in their overwhelming numbers, convinced Xerxes to set up a throne on a prominent hill near the expected battle, where he could personally watch the victory.
551 B.C: Birth of Chinese philosopher Confucius (d.479 B.C.).
420 A.D: Death of Saint Jerome (b.347 A.D.), an early Christian scholar and one of the Doctors of the Church, who is best known for his seminal work of translating Hebrew and Greek biblical texts into a standardized Latin version, known as the Vulgate, in addition to a huge number of incisive commentaries on various books and letters contained in therein. He is recognized as a Saint by all the major High Church denominations. You’ll recognize his iconography as the wizened man pulling a thorn from the lion’s paw, or struggling with temptation in the desert, or most likely, writing in the midst of a pile of books while being attended by angels.
622 A.D.: Traditional date of Mohammad’s first arrival in Medina, after being driven out of his hometown in Mecca.
935 A.D: Death of Prince Wenceslaus I (b. circa 907 A.D.), at the hand of his brother. Wenceslaus was the first Christian king of the Czechs, resisting multiple attempts to re-convert him to the local Bohemian paganism. He was the founder of the rotunda at Prague Castle, now consecrated as St. Vitus Cathedral. At his death his remains were interred in the rotunda, and after his elevation to sainthood, they became holy relics on display.
1529: The army of the Ottoman Turks, led by Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent, opens the Siege of Vienna with the objective of pulling that capital city and its vassal states into the Ottoman empire. Although the siege itself failed during this campaign, the Ottomans remained a significant threat to Hapsburg Germany’s continued rule over the eastern approaches of the Holy Roman Empire. The Turks were finally and conclusively thrown back into the southern Balkans and Anatolia at the Battle of Vienna in 1683.
1555: Emperor Charles V ratifies the Peace of Augsburg, which formalizes for the first time the principle of CUIUS REGIO, EIUS RELIGIO (lit: “Whose realm, his religion”). Before you ask “so what?” you should know that this principle, and the treaty in which it was expressed, provided the intellectual underpinnings for what will eventually become freedom of religious conscience in Western thought. It recognized, at least within the Holy Roman Empire, that many of the princes of the realm legitimately believed the new Lutheran theology, and that while their political differences with the Empire would remain, the spiritual reality that launched the Protestant Reformation demanded some kind of accommodation for the sake of peace.The Peace of Augsburg thus allowed for two different Christian denominations (Lutheran and Roman Catholic) to function within the Empire, based on the chosen religion of the Prince. For the Subjects themselves, it also permitted migration to a principality that suited their own religious beliefs. Of note, none of the other Reformed religions of the day (Calvinists and Anabaptists, among others) were included in this treaty.
1664: As part of the run up to the Second Anglo-Dutch War, four British frigates array themselves off the shoreline of Nieu Amsterdam and demand the surrender of the city. Governor Peter Stuyvesant agrees, and the British take control of the strategic seaport for the first time.
1770: Death of Christian evangelist and founder of Methodism, George Whitfield (b.1714), whose open-air sermons in the fields of England sparked a significant spiritual revival in that country. He first came over to the New World in 1738 and continued his custom of preaching the Gospel to huge crowds in outdoor venues. In 1740 he began a preaching a series of revivals that lasted continuously for several months, beginning in New England and ending in Charleston, South Carolina. His work during this period, and the explosive growth of churches throughout the colonies are now known as The Great Awakening. Whitfield’s voice, his crossed eyes, his charisma and his message made him one of the most recognized and celebrated men in the English colonies, widely admired by even the worldly Benjamin Franklin, who considered him a lifelong friend. He is buried in the Old South Church in Newburyport, Massachusetts.
1774: Birth of John Chapman, more popularly known as Johnny Appleseed (d.1845), American missionary and nurseryman who spread the Gospel and apple trees throughout the Old Northwest during the early years of the United States.
1789: Samuel Osgood is appointed the first United States Postmaster General. This day also sees the confirmation of the first Secretary of State, Chief Justice of the United States, and United States Attorney.
1846: Under the leadership of General Zachary “Old Rough and Ready” Taylor, the U.S. Army captures Monterrey, Mexico in the first large-scale urban battle of the Mexican War.
1881: Birth of Ludwig von Mises (d.1973), the Austrian economist who was particularly outspoken about the deadly effects of socialist economic models on both the economies and political lives of nations. His work and legacy became known as the Austrian School of economics, characterized by a deep understanding and broad-based endorsement of the efficacy of capitalism and free markets in the affairs of men and nations.
1882: American inventor Thomas Edison, creating the market infrastructure for his electrical inventions, opens his first commercial hydroelectric power station on the Fox River near Appleton, Wisconsin.
1890: Congress authorizes the establishment of Sequoia National Park in California.
1894: Birth of Lothar von Richthofen (d.1922), Manfred’s little brother, and a fighter ace in his own right with 40 confirmed kills.
1895: Death of Louis Pasteur (b.1822), one of the great minds of micro-biology, who helped develop and later proved the germ theory of disease, and whose name is forever attached to the process of ensuring milk and wine do not carry their traditional threat of illness. He also created the first vaccines for rabies and anthrax.
1897: Birth of Nobel Laureate and Pulitzer Prize winner William Faulkner (d.1962).
1898: Birth of Jacob Gershowitz, better known as American Composer (Rhapsody in Blue) George Gershwin (d.1937).
1900: Birth of Ruhullah Khomeini (d.1989).
1901: Birth of the brilliant Italian physicist Enrico Fermi (d.1954), widely regarded as one of the greatest scientific minds of the 20thCentury. In 1942 his most notable blend of theoretical physics with practical applications resulted in the world’s first controlled nuclear chain reaction, the Chicago Pile-1, an early proof-of-concept for the Manhattan Project. He also published incisive papers on quantum theory, particle physics and statistical mechanics. I can’t begin to explain them, but they are real, and Fermi’s was the mind that made the concepts accessible to the wider scientific community.
1903: Derailment of the Southern Railway’s “Old 97” at the Stillhouse trestle near Danville, Virginia. If you know the folk song, you’ll know that the engineer was trying to make up an hour and a quarter delay to get the mail in on time down in Spencer, North Carolina. They didn’t make it. The speeding train jumped the track on the turn leading to the trestle and plunged into the canyon below, killing 9 of the 18 men on board. The locomotive was re-built after the wreck and served until 1932.
1918: Opening guns of the Muse-Argonne Campaign, the final Allied push against the Hindenburg Line, and the largest American battle in the Great War. Between this day and the armistice on November 11th, this continuous eight-week battle created 117,000 American casualties, the highest butcher’s bill of any battle in American history.
1927: Outfielder Babe Ruth of the New York Yankees smacks his 60th home run of the season, a record that will stand until 1961, and again just days ago by yet another Yankee.
1929: Air racer Jimmy Doolittle becomes the first pilot to takeoff, navigate and land an aircraft without reference outside the cockpit, using artificial horizon and navigation instruments he helped develop. Not to put too fine a point on it, but the development of dependable instrument flying capabilities and procedures- pioneered by Doolittle– remains the single most important development in aviation since 1903.
1934: Birth of French actress and model Brigitte Bardot. Brigitte’s explosive sexuality took the United States by storm, and her effect was electric. She is responsible for the rise of the phrase “sex kitten” and fascination of her in the United States consisted of magazines photographs and dubbed over French films.
1938: Three short weeks after Adolf Hitler’s incendiary speech (DLH 9/12) demanding “self-determination” for the German population living in Czechoslovakia’s Sudetenland region, the leaders of France, Italy and Great Britain agree to permit Germany to annex the region into the Third Reich. The Munich Agreement, as the diplomatic initiative was known, exemplified the principle of appeasement as a means to prevent war. British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain was its most vocal advocate, pointedly refuting opposition leader Winston Churchill’s increasingly strident identification of the latent threat of continued German aggression and Britain’s woeful inability to militarily resist it. You’ll note that the principals at the conference did not include any Czech representation, nor anyone from the Soviet Union. Given Great Britain’s defense pact with Czechoslovakia, the Czechs refer to this settlement as the Munich Diktat.
Chamberlain, on his arrival back in England, held his precious umbrella in one hand and waved a piece of paper in the other, uttering a phrase that has become an iconic illustration of the dangers of an over-intellectualized bad idea put into practice: “…the settlement of the Czechoslovakian problem, which has now been achieved is, in my view, only the prelude to a larger settlement in which all Europe may find peace. This morning I had another talk with the German Chancellor, Herr Hitler, and here is the paper which bears his name upon it as well as mine [waves paper to the crowd – receiving loud cheers and “Hear Hears”]. Some of you, perhaps, have already heard what it contains but I would just like to read it to you …
“My good friends, for the second time in our history a British Prime Minister has returned from Germany bringing peace with honour. I believe it is peace for our time.” [Chamberlain’s reference is to Beaconsfield’s return from the Congress of Berlin in 1878]
Churchill was not impressed. He railed in Parliament: “We have suffered a total and unmitigated defeat…you will find that in a period of time which may be measured by years, but may be measured by months, Czechoslovakia will be engulfed in the Nazi régime. We are in the presence of a disaster of the first magnitude…we have sustained a defeat without a war, the consequences of which will travel far with us along our road…We have passed an awful milestone in our history, when the whole equilibrium of Europe has been deranged, and that the terrible words have for the time being been pronounced against the Western democracies: “Thou art weighed in the balance and found wanting.” And do not suppose that this is the end. This is only the beginning of the reckoning. This is only the first sip, the first foretaste of a bitter cup which will be proffered to us year by year unless by a supreme recovery of moral health and martial vigour, we arise again and take our stand for freedom as in the olden time.”
Neither was Hitler… (from a speech to his generals in August, 1939): “The enemy did not expect my great determination. Our enemies are little worms, I saw them at Munich. […] Now Poland is in the position I wanted. […] I am only afraid that some bastard will present me with a mediation plan at the last moment.”
1938: The League of Nations, perhaps sensing the true import of sthe Munich Pact, unanimously passes a resolution that outlaws “intentional bombing of civilian populations.”
1939: A month into Germany’s invasion of Poland, the Nazi and Soviet governments publicly agree to divide the country between themselves
1941: Birth of Linda Eastman (d.1998), whose cancer-foreshortened life ended as the much-loved Mrs. Paul McCartney.
1941: In German-occupied Kiev, Ukraine, the SS commander orders the massacre of the city’s Jewish population, and over the course of two days, kills 33,771 civilians in a ravine named Babi Yar, just outside the city.
1941: Launch of the SS Patrick Henry, the first of 2,751 Liberty Ships built between 1941 and 1945. For authenticity, her engine room was used as part of the set for the movie Titanic.
1944: The final day of Operation Market Garden, a massive and bold Allied attempt to capture the Dutch bridges crossing the Meuse, Waal and Lower Rhine Rivers, particularly the bridges at Arnhem. The battle became remembered by the wider public when Cornelius Ryan published his book “A Bridge Too Far” in 1974, followed by the epic movie of the same name in 1977.
1945: Death of German physicist Hans Geiger, for whom the counter is named.
1947: First television broadcast of the World Series, the contest that year being between the New York Yankees and the Brooklyn Dodgers.
1957: 1,200 U.S. Army troops of the 101st Airborne Division forcibly integrate 9 black students into Little Rock’s Central High School. 10,000 federalized* National Guard troops area also mobilized to provide a security perimeter around the school and in surrounding sections of the city.
1960: Launch of the United States’ first nuclear powered aircraft carrier, USS Enterprise (CVAN-65), just up the river a couple miles from here at Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company.
EIGHT nuclear reactors that produce the steam to both drive the ship and launch the airplanes, in addition to all the other stuff steam does on these ships.
1960: First broadcast of The Flintstones, the first animated series to hold a prime-time slot on television. ABC ran the show for 166 episodes over six seasons.
1966: The former British Protectorate of Bechuanaland declares its independence and changes its name to Botswana.
1968: At their plant in Everett, Washington, the Boeing Company rolls out the 747 airliner. 1,572 of them have been built to date, in no fewer than nine variants. The machine’s wingspan (211 feet) is longer than the Wright Brothers first flight in (120 feet) in 1903.
1968: The “rock opera” Hair opens in London, and runs for 1,998 performances.
1973: The Mach 2 airliner Concorde makes its first, record-breaking run across the Atlantic.
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