600AD: Pope Gregory the Great issues a decree that confirms, “God bless you” is the correct response to a sneeze.
1431: After finally defeating the French forces of Charles VII, the English army, now occupying north-central France, begins a heresy trial of 19 year old Joan of Arc, the young peasant girl whose visions from God induced her to lead the armies of France into several notable victories over the English. Convicted, she is burned at the stake on 30th May.
1473: Birth of Nicolas Copernicus (d.1543) in Torun, Poland.
1732: Birth of Virginia planter, militia colonel, delegate to the Continental Congress, General in Chief of the Continental Army, and first President of the United States of America, George Washington (d.1799). His direct military successes during the Revolutionary War were mostly in the breach, but his widely spaced victories were all crucial to the strategic victory of American arms against the British. He was the unquestioned leader of the astonishingly talented group of American intellectuals who laid the foundations of our country. After independence, Washington could have easily assumed the title of King and no-one would have objected, but his true humility set a distinctly American tone to the office which endures to this day. At his death, his Revolutionary colleague and fellow Virginian “Light-Horse Harry” Lee spoke his eulogy: “First in war, First in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen…
1804: American naval captain Stephen Decatur leads a daring nighttime raid in Tripoli harbor. He and a hand-picked cadre of men re-board and set fire to the American frigate USS Philadelphia, which grounded last October and was subsequently captured by the Pasha of Tripoli. The raid climaxes by burning the ship to the waterline to prevent its use by the Barbary pirates. None other than Horatio Lord Nelson called Decatur’s work “the most bold and daring act of the Age.” Decatur himself returned to the United States a national hero.
1846: The United States Navy issues a General Order replacing the term “larboard”with “port.”
1848: German economist and historian Karl Marx publishes The Communist Manifesto. “A specter is haunting Europe- the specter of communism.” “The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a whole world to win. Workers of the world, unite!”
1898: Birth of il
1916: The Battle of Verdun begins with a German artillery barrage on the French fortress city. The battle ends 10 months later with the lines of contact essentially unmoved from their opening positions. What did change is the shattered and cratered landscape, littered with the corpses of 143,000 Germans and 162,440 French soldiers, many of whom remain in situ to this day in the tortured French soil. Total casualties are over 750,000 with some reasonable estimates approaching a million.
1930: Clyde W. Tombaugh an astronomer working at the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona, discovers Pluto. The formerly 9th planet’s average distance from the sun is 4 billion miles, and it takes 248 earth years to complete one orbit. Without getting into too much detail, the search for “Planet X” had been ongoing since 1906 under the guidance of the great mathematician and astronomer Percival Lowell. The search was a result of observed differences between the actual and predicted positions of the recently discovered planet Neptune, which itself was discovered by similar mathematical calculation (vice direct observation and discovery) in 1846. Tombaugh targeted the predicted position of Planet X with systematic exposures of discrete sky sections taken roughly two weeks apart. The images were then studied through a blink comparator, a device that flashed from one image to another to show motion, similar to the little cartoons you make when you flip the edges of a stack paper. Through this process, the fixed stars will- of course- stay fixed, but planetary motion will be exposed. The images below are the ones from which Tombaugh made his discovery. The International Astronomical Union in 2006 reclassified Pluto as a “dwarf planet” residing within the Kuiper Belt, which is similar to the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, except it is ‘way,‘way out there.
1819: Spain cedes to the United States its last territorial claim (Oregon County) on remaining Florida territory.
1847: The first rescuers reach the remnants of the Donner Party, a group of pioneers who left the Midwest the previous July for the promise of California. In late October, they became stranded in the Sierra Nevada mountains by an early snow, and the ensuing four months saw them reduced to cannibalism as all of their supplies and oxen were consumed during the brutal winter. Of the original 89 who set out, only 45 made it to the Golden State. Donner Pass and Donner Lake are named for the tragedy.
1854: First meeting of the newly formed Republican Party takes place in Michigan.
1857: Birth in England of Robert Baden-Powell (d.1941), founder of the Boy Scout movement.
1902: Birth of photographer Ansel Adams (d.1984). His work was the result of exceptional patience and a deep understanding of the interplay of light within both the scenes themselves and on the emulsion of his film. His camera of choice was almost always large format (70mm) because of the negatives’ sharpness when enlarged.
1915: Gallipoli Campaign: Opening guns of what will become a futile
1922: The Italian airship Roma explodes over Hampton Roads, killing 34.
1936: Death of Army Air Service Brigadier General Billy Mitchell (b.1879), an advocate over the nascent capabilities of air power as an arm of combat. He pretty much set the tone for future Air Force-Navy relationships throughout 1921, when both the Army and Navy were conducting tests on the vulnerability of battleships to aerial bombardment. By
1942: President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs Executive Order 9066, ordering the forcible relocation of citizens of Japanese descent into remote internment camps. Nearly 120,000 were arrested in the ensuing dragnet. Great Britain issued a similar order for Canada on the 24th of the month.
1942: Lieutenant Commander Edward “Butch” O’Hare, flying on defensive Combat Air Patrol (CAP) from USS Lexington (CV-2), personally shoots down five Japanese “Betty” bombers in four minutes. His action earns him a Medal of Honor in addition to becoming the first U.S. fighter ace of WWII. He was lost at sea on a night combat mission in November of 1943. You may recognize a major airport named in his honor.
1942: President Roosevelt orders General Douglas MacArthur to evacuate himself from the collapsing defense of the Philippines. MacArthur defies the President’s order for two weeks before turning over his Corregidor command to LTG Jonathan Wainwright.
1943: First day of the Battle of Kasserine Pass in Tunisia, the first major engagement of American units against German forces. The battle ended in a rout, with the combined Anglo-American force pushed back nearly fifty miles from their starting positions. The German commander, Field Marshall Erwin Rommel, was contemptuous of the Americans but wary of their potential. In the aftermath of the defeat, General Eisenhower relieved the Corps commander and replaced him with Lieutenant General George S. Patton, who in short order proved Rommel right to be wary of American potential.
1945: Three years after its loss to the Japanese, American forces re-take the island fortress of Corregidor in Manila Bay.
1946: American Charge d’Affairs in Moscow George Kennan sends his famous Long Telegram to the State Department. The 800 word paper outlines the intellectual rationale for the policy of containment against an expansionist Soviet Union, and was the basis of our national security policy until the collapse of the soviet state in 1991. Ambassador Kennan died in 2005 at the age of 101.
1959: Fidel Castro is sworn in as Prime Minister of Cuba after forcing former dictator Fulgencio Batista into exile in the Dominican Republic. The event is the culmination of the
1959: Lee Petty wins the first Daytona 500.
1962: In the United States’ first orbital mission and Project Mercury’s third manned space flight, Marine LtCol John Glenn makes three orbits of the earth in his capsule “Friendship-7.”
1963: The San Francisco Giants sign Willy Mays for a record $100,000 per year contract.
1967: Death of American physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer (b.1904), who served as head of the Manhattan Project in WWII. Following the war he served as chief advisor to the Atomic Energy Commission. He lost his security clearance in 1954, in part for opposing continuing development of the hydrogen bomb. The other part was his outspoken political opinion-making during the Red Scare, a position deemed inappropriate for someone in the AEC. After the 1945 Trinity detonation, Oppenheimer stated that one of the first things he thought of was a quote from the Hindu Bhagavad Gita: “I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.”
1972: President Richard Nixon departs on his historic trip to Communist China.
1972: Wilt Chamberlain scores his 30,000th point in a game against the Phoenix Suns.
1972: President Richard Nixon arrives in China.
1976: President Gerald Ford rescinds Executive Order 9066 with Presidential Proclamation 4417, which opens the door for reparations to surviving Japanese internees.
1980: The Miracle on Ice. The US Olympic hockey team, made up of mostly college players with an average age of 22, defeats the Soviet Union team 4-3 in the silver medal round at the Lake Placid Olympics, and then went on to beat Finland for the gold medal. The team was earlier routed by the Soviets 10-2 at an exhibition game in Madison Square Garden.
1997: 25 year old Jeff Gordon becomes the youngest winner of the Daytona 500, a record that held until 2012 when Trevor Baine took the title the day after his 20th birthday.
1997: The San Francisco Giants sign Willy Mays’ godson Barry Bonds for a record $22,900,000 per year contract.
1997: Birth of Dolly the sheep, the world’s first cloned mammal.