70AD: Culminating their Siege of Jerusalem, the Roman army under the command of Titus (later to be Titus Ceasar) loots, burns, and completely demolishes the Temple that had been the center of Jewish worship for a thousand years. The destruction is mourned annually as the fast of Tisha B’Av.Note: in the name of accuracy, the actual structure that fell this day was the Second Temple (also known as Herod’s Temple), which was a complete on-site rebuilding of 10th c. BC Solomon’s Temple eighty years prior to the Roman siege. The famous Western Wall which remains today is part of the foundation of Solomon’s Temple.
1305: Scottish patriot and nationalist William Wallace is captured near Glasgow and hauled off to London, where he is accused, tried, convicted and executed for treason against Edward I. As he faced his accusers, Wallace declared: “I could not be a traitor to Edward, for I was never his subject.”
1483: Consecration Mass held in the newly completed Sistine Chapel in the Vatican.
1519: Five ships under the command of Ferdinand Magellan set sail from Seville on what will become a three-year voyage and the first circumnavigation of the globe.
1576: The cornerstone is laid for an observatory designed by the great Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe, whose observations of the motions of the heavenly bodies- comets and planets in particular- laid the foundation for the explosion of astronomical theory and science for the next three hundred years. His assistant, the equally brilliant Johannes Kepler, carried on his work after his death in 1601.
1620: The chartered merchant ship Mayflower, in company with the Speedwell, departs Southampton, England on its first attempt to reach North America with its Puritan passengers, who plan on colonizing “North Virginia” near the mouth of the Hudson River. After a very short day at sea, Speedwell develops severe leaks and the two ships return to port for repairs.
1704: As part of the War of Spanish Succession, the Spanish peninsula of Gibraltar is captured by an Anglo-Dutch fleet commanded by Sir George Rooke. Eventually annexed into the British Empire, it remains a thorn in the side of Anglo-Spanish relations.
1754: Birth of French architect Pierre Charles L’Enfant (d.1825), best known for creating the broad streetscapes and architectural standards for the new capital city of the United States.
1768: Completion of the first ascent of Mont Blanc, the tallest mountain in Europe, by Frenchmen Jacques Balmat and Michel-Gabriel Paccard.
1776: Six weeks after it left the printer, news of our Declaration of Independence makes it to London.
1789: As the reform movement continues to gather momentum, the French National Assembly takes an oath to “end feudalism” and “abandon [their own] privileges,” to rationalize the cascading excesses of France’s accelerating descent into revolution.
1792: Birth of Percy Bysshe Shelley (d.1822), the English poet widely regarded as the greatest lyricist in English history. His most famous poem, Ozymandias, posits the inevitable decline of even the most powerful institutions of men. Shelley lived an “unconventional life” with and around fellow Romanticists Byron and Keates. His uncompromising idealism helped fuel the intellectual “-ism” movements of the mid-19th century, including Thoreau’s Transcendentalism and Marx’s Communism, among others. He drowned under mysterious circumstances while sailing his schooner between Leghorn (Livorno) and Lerici in northern Italy. His second wife, Mary Shelley (1797-1851) was a noted author in her own right, best remembered for her Gothic novel, Frankenstein: or, The Modern Prometheus.
1792: Three years into the increasing chaos of the French Revolution, a mob finally storms the Tuileries Palace and arrests King Louis XVI.
1864: Rear Admiral David Farragut leads a US Navy flotilla into the fortified confines of Mobile Bay, with the mission of permanently closing the port to further trade and blockade running. During the previous year, while Farragut’s attentions were earlier turned to return the Mississippi River to Union control, the Confederates fortified Mobile with three forts ashore and a minefield guarding the main channel into the bay. Farragut’s flotilla entered the bay at dawn, guns blazing, and overwhelmed the shoreward defenses. When one of his captains slowed his ship due to the threat of the mines (“torpedoes”), Farragut responded with “Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead!” Of note from the Confederate perspective was the single-handed fight of the ironclad ram CSS Tennessee against the entire Union fleet, which took three hours to finally force its surrender.
1889: At Auburn Prison in New York, the first execution by electrocution is conducted on convicted murderer William Kemmler. It took two jolts to do the job; the first 17 seconds of 770 volts blew a fuse before killing him. On the second attempt, 1,030 volts were applied for two minutes. Power was shut off when smoke started emanating from his head. Dr. Albert Southwick, a dentist who was a strong advocate of electrocution as a more humane death declared, “We live in a higher civilization from this day on.” George Westinghouse, who actually put electrical power to practical application elsewhere, stated, “They would have done better with an axe.”
1892: The parents of Lizzie Borden are found murdered in their Fall River, Massachusetts home. Lizzie is acquitted of the murders in the sensational trial that follows, but her notoriety remains to this day in the words of the famous jump-rope song: “Lizzie Borden took an axe…”
1892: Death of German aviation pioneer Otto Lilienthal (b.1848), whose nominal successes with gliders was a major inspiration to the Wright Brothers’ development of systematic and incremental advances in their flying machine project. He died when one of his gliders stalled and he fell from about 60 feet, breaking his back. Wilbur Wright visited his widow during his 1909 aviation tour de force in Europe.
1914: After receiving a negative Belgian response to their request to cross their territory to attack France, the Imperial German army crosses the border anyway, meeting stiff resistance from the Belgian army. With their guarantee of Belgian neutrality at stake, not to mention their alliance with France in the Entente Cordiale, Great Britain declares war on Germany. The Wilson administration in United States declares an official policy of neutrality.
1914: Serbia declares war on Germany. Austria declares war on Russia. Germany sorties 10 Unterseeboten from their base in Helgoland on their first wartime patrols against the Royal Navy.
1926: Harry Houdini performs his most difficult escape, spending 91 minutes in a sealed tank before emerging unscathed.
1928: Birth of 1960’s pop artist Andy Warhol.
1930: Birth of Neil Armstrong, X-15 pilot; Gemini-8 Commander; Apollo-11 Commander.
1932: Death of the original Rin Tin Tin.
1942: Six would-be German saboteurs are executed in Washington, DC, a mere 8 weeks after their arrests in Long Island, New York and Ponte Vedra, Florida. Hmm: enemy combatants, time of war, military tribunals… plus ca change, as they say, with a bit of a difference.
1942: At the Battle of Savo Island, a combined Anglo-American force of cruisers and destroyers under the command of Rear Admiral Richmond K. Turner is all that stands between a powerful Japanese cruiser fleet and the otherwise undefended transport ships offloading food and supplies to the Marines who stormed the island of Guadalcanal two days prior. In a desperate night action, Turner’s fleet suffers 4 heavy cruisers sunk, an additional cruiser and two destroyers heavily damaged. 3 Japanese cruisers are moderately damaged. The Japanese were well-practiced at nighttime gunnery, which came as an unwelcome surprise to the Americans, who withdrew what remained of the fighting fleet from the waters around the Solomon Island chain. Even more unwelcome to commander of the 1st Marine Division ashore, Brigadier General Alexander Vandegrift*, was the withdrawal the day earlier of Vice Admiral Frank Jack Fletcher’s carrier task force, which on the 8th suffered from the loss of two squadrons’ worth of fighter aircraft to land-based Japanese planes launched from nearby Rabaul. The one bright spot during these initial three days of what would become a bitter six month battle to control the island, was the victorious Japanese task force commander’s decision to not press his advantage to destroy the transport ships offloading their critical cargo. But from this day on, the Marines considered themselves alone and unsupported against a tenacious foe who was re-supplied nightly from the island garrison on Rabaul. The ocean channel leading to the northern reaches of Guadalcanal became known as The Slot, and later Iron Bottom Sound as American counter attacks began to take their own toll on the Japanese forces.
1945: A single American B-29 bomber, nicknamed Enola Gay, drops the world’s first operational atomic bomb over the Japanese industrial center of Hiroshima. The 1200 foot above-ground-level burst flattens all but the most robust masonry buildings and the thermal pulse ignites and burns to ash the 90 percent of the city that is build of wood. 70,000 Japanese are killed immediately, with tens of thousands later dying of the direct effects of radiation and burns.
1945: A lone B-29 Superfortress nicknamed “Bockscar” delivers a second atomic strike on the Japanese mainland, on the backup target of Nagasaki. The device, nicknamed “Fat Man” (Hiroshima’s was “Little Boy”) was identical to the one detonated at White Sands during the Yalta conference earlier in the year.
1946: First flight of the Convair B-36 “Peacemaker” strategic nuclear bomber, a hybrid behemoth that the soon-to-be independent USAF pitched to Congress as the sole answer to the problem of atomic weapons delivery. Politically, it was more to the point as the answer to the question, “Do we still need all those expensive aircraft carriers?” Answering in the negative, Secretary of Defense Louis Johnson eventually cancelled Navy’s construction of the USSUnited States (CVB-58) in favor of more B-36s, which triggered the famous Revolt of the Admirals. The B-36 was a technological tour de force, with huge sections of the fuselage fabricated from titanium, six rearward facing “pusher” engines for cruise, and eventually, four jet engines added at the wingtips for extra takeoff thrust and dash capability.
1961: Birth of Barack Hussein Obama, 44th President of the United States from January 20, 2009, to January 20, 2017. A member of the Democratic Party, he was the first African American to serve as president. He was previously the United States Senator from Illinois and a member of the Illinois State Senate. During his first two years in office, Obama signed many landmark bills into law. The main reforms were the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (often referred to as “Obamacare”, shortened as the “Affordable Care Act”), the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, and the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal Act of 2010. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 and Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010 served as economic stimulus amidst the Great Recession. After a lengthy debate over the national debt limit, he signed the Budget Control and the American Taxpayer Relief Acts. In foreign policy, he increased U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan, reduced nuclear weapons with the United States–Russia New START treaty, and ended military involvement in the Iraq War. After winning re-election by defeating Republican opponent Mitt Romney, Obama was sworn in for a second term in 2013. During this term, he promoted inclusiveness for LGBT Americans. His administration filed briefs that urged the Supreme Court to strike down same-sex marriage bans as unconstitutional (United States v. Windsor and Obergefell v. Hodges); same-sex marriage was fully legalized in 2015 after the Court ruled that a same-sex marriage ban was unconstitutional in Obergefell. He advocated for gun control in response to the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, indicating support for a ban on assault weapons, and issued wide-ranging executive actions concerning climate change and immigration. In foreign policy, he ordered military intervention in Iraq in response to gains made by ISIL after the 2011 withdrawal from Iraq, continued the process of ending U.S. combat operations in Afghanistan, promoted discussions that led to the 2015 Paris Agreement on global climate change, initiated sanctions against Russia following the invasion in Ukraine and again after Russian interference in the 2016 United States elections, brokered a nuclear deal with Iran, and normalized U.S. relations with Cuba.
1962: Death of Marilyn Monroe. Born and raised in Los Angeles, Monroe spent most of her childhood in foster homes and an orphanage and married at the age of sixteen. While working in a radioplane factory in 1944 as part of the war effort, she was introduced to a photographer from the First Motion Picture Unit and began a successful pin-up modeling career. The work led to short-lived film contracts with Twentieth Century-Fox (1946–1947) and Columbia Pictures (1948). After a series of minor film roles, she signed a new contract with Fox in 1951. Over the next two years, she became a popular actress and had roles in several comedies, including As Young as You Feel and Monkey Business, and in the dramas Clash by Night and Don’t Bother to Knock. During the final months of her life, Monroe lived at 12305 Fifth Helena Drive in the Brentwood neighborhood of Los Angeles. Her housekeeper Eunice Murray was staying overnight at the home on the evening of August 5, 1962. Murray awoke at 3:00 a.m. on August 6 and sensed that something was wrong. Although she saw light from under Monroe’s bedroom door, she was unable to get a response and found the door locked. Murray then called Monroe’s psychiatrist, Dr. Ralph Greenson, who arrived at the house shortly after and broke into the bedroom through a window, finding Monroe dead in her bed.She was pronounced dead by her physician, Dr. Hyman Engelberg, who arrived at the house at around 3:50 a.m. At 4:25 a.m., they notified the Los Angeles Police Department.
Monroe had died between 8:30 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. on August 5, and the toxicology report revealed that the cause of death was acute barbiturate poisoning. She had 8 mg% (milligrams per 100 milliliters of solution) chloral hydrate and 4.5 mg% of pentobarbital (Nembutal) in her blood, and 13 mg% of pentobarbital in her liver. Empty medicine bottles were found next to her bed. The possibility that Monroe had accidentally overdosed was ruled out because the dosages found in her body were several times over the lethal limit.
1962: Birth of right-handed pitcher Roger “Rocket” Clemens, winner of seven Cy Young awards and one of only four pitchers to achieve more than 4,000 strikeouts in their careers.
1964: In the first response to the now-notorious Gulf of Tonkin Incident, aircraft from the carriers USS Ticonderoga (CVA-14) and USS Constellation (CVA-64) launch 60 sorties against the North Vietnamese patrol boat base and oil storage facility, destroying 25 boats and eliminating their entire stock of fuel.
1969: Death of actress Sharon Tate (b.1943), pregnant with husband Roman Polanski’s son; brutally murdered along with four house guests by Charles Manson and his “family” of fellow psychopaths. Manson convinced his cult that it would be “cool” to start a race war under his loosely described “philosophy” of Helter-Skelter. All of the perpetrators have died or will die in prison, a result of their death sentences being overturned by the brief judicial hiatus in capital punishment during the mid-70s.
1974: Under the cloud of an impending impeachment trial, President Richard M. Nixon resigns from the presidency, sending a short resignation note to Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. Vice President Gerald Ford, himself appointed to the position from the House of Representatives after the earlier resignation of Vice President Spiro Agnew, becomes the first U.S. President not directly elected to the executive office.
1988: For the first time in its history, lights are turned on for a night game at Wrigley Field in Chicago, the last field in the major leagues to do so.
1990: Four days after Iraq invades and occupies Kuwait, the United Nations Security Council orders a global trade embargo against Iraq.
1990: The Magellan space probe reaches the planet Venus.
1995: Death of guitarist Jerry Garcia