1419: The First Defenestration of Prague, involved the killing of seven members of the city council by a crowd of Czech Hussites on 30 July 1419.Jan Želivský, a Hussite priest at the church of the Virgin Mary of the Snows, led his congregation on a procession through the streets of Prague to the New Town Hall (Novoměstská radnice) on Charles Square. The town council members had refused to exchange their Hussite prisoners. While they were marching, a stone was thrown at Želivský from the window of the town hall and allegedly hit him. This enraged the mob and they stormed the town hall. Once inside the hall, the group defenestrated the judge, the burgomaster, and several members of the town council. They were all killed by the fall. King Wenceslaus IV of Bohemia, upon hearing this news, was stunned and died shortly after, supposedly due to the shock.
1492: Genovese mariner Christopher Columbus departs westward from Palos del la Frontera, Spain to prove a new ocean route to the Spice Islands of the Indies. His crew and his three ships- Nina, Pinta and the flagship Santa Maria- are financed by Queen Isabella I of Spain, who believed Columbus’ sales pitch that the earth was round and small enough that Spain would profit mightily from a new route to the riches of the east. He was partly right, but the riches and power would come from the west.
1619: In Jamestown, Virginia, the House of Burgess meets for the first time. It is the first representative assembly in the English colonies.
1655: Death of Cyrano de Bergerac (b.1619), French dramatist, poet and duelist whose actual life was the basis for the 1897 play bearing his name by Edmund Rostand.
1750: Death of Johann Sebastian Bach (b.1685). The great composer was the patriarch of 20 children between his two marriages, a clan of whom 10 survived to adulthood, four of whom became great composers in their own right.
1864: Battle of the Crater. In an innovative effort to break the ever-hardening siege of Petersburg, Lt Col Henry Pleasants, a mining engineer in his civilian life, and Commanding Officer of the Pennsylvania 48th Infantry, proposed a scheme to dig a long tunnel to a point under a Confederate hard point, where they could detonate a huge underground mine to create a breach in the defenses. The plan was approved by his Corps commander, General Ambrose Burnside, and eventually by Grant himself, who figured if nothing else, the digging would keep the men occupied for a time, even if it came to naught. The Pennsylvanians completed the tunnel and packed the gallery under the Confederate Elliot’s Salient with 8000lb of gunpowder in 320 kegs, set the arming fuses and back-filled the tunnel to prevent blow-back. At 4:44 in the morning, the charge was detonated, creating a massive plume of men, debris, weapons and dirt; at the time it was billed as the largest man-made explosion in history, immediately killing over 300 Confederate defenders and turning the defensive works into a massive crater 170 feet long, 80 feet wide, and 30 feet deep. Burnside had two divisions designated to make the assault through the breach, the primary being a division of well-trained US Colored Troops (USCT) under BG Edward Ferraro, who planned to go around both sides of the crater’s rim to the Confederate rear before they could mount a defense. The reserves were an un-trained division “led” by a drunken commander who gave them no briefing at all on what to expect. General Meade, lacking confidence in the plan from the start, ordered Burnside not to send the USCT in the first wave, since the expected failure would look like they were sacrificing the black troops to no good end. This command-level dithering allowed the coming of daylight to expose the Union force and also gave the Confederates time to get their collective act together and put together the beginnings of an organized defense. Burnside then sent forward the un-trained division, who promptly walked into the crater itself, thinking it would be a good rifle pit, but the walls were too soft to climb back out. The Confederates quickly brought artillery pieces and hundreds of muskets to the rim and began to systematically slaughter the Union soldiers. Burnside, watching the debacle from a mile away, then ordered the USCT division into the fight, and they too went into the hole, never to come out. Union losses were 3798, including 504 killed, 1881 wounded, and 1413 captured or missing. Confederate losses were 1491, most of whom were from the initial blast. Grant finally cashiered Burnside from command after this debacle.
1866: Birth of Beatrix Potter, who later gave birth to Peter Rabbit and friends.
1900: Birth of war correspondent Ernie Pyle (d.1945), whose personalized reporting from the European Theater of Operations and later the Pacific Theater made him the most well-known name in journalism. He was killed by a burst of Japanese machine gun fire on Ie Shima, near Okinawa.
1914: Austria-Hungary declares war on Serbia.
1914: Germany declares war on France.
1932: President Hoover orders the US Army to remove by force the Bonus Army which has been encamped in the flats of Anacostia since late May, and campaigning and protesting in the Capitol district almost every day since mid-June. Army Chief of Staff General Douglas McArthur took personal command of the 12th Infantry Regiment from Fort Howard, Maryland, supported by 3rd Cavalry Regiment with six tanks commanded by Major George Patton. The Army formed up on Pennsylvania Avenue at 4:45 in the afternoon, while thousands of civil service personnel were streaming out of their offices at the end of the work day. Tradition says that the Bonus Marchers thought the Army was being formed in their honor, but what actually happened was a cavalry sweep directly into the protesters. Following close on their heels were the infantry marching with fixed bayonets, clearing out all the shanties littering the route. The veterans fled back across the Anacostia River to their largest “Hoovertown” settlement. Hoover then ordered the assault stopped, but General McArthur, believing the Bonus Marchers were part of a larger Communist plot to overthrow the government, ignored the President and ordered another assault across the river to clear the marchers out for good. Hundreds of vets were injured and several killed. The Bonus movement lingered through 1933, when newly-elected President Roosevelt dragooned thousands of them into the Civilian Conservation Corps during the early stages of the New Deal. Note: Posse Comitatus From Wikipedia: “The Posse Comitatus Act- forbidding civilian police work by the U.S. military—did not apply to Washington, D.C., because it is the federal district directly governed by the U.S. Congress (U.S. Constitution, Article 1, Section 8. Clause 17). The exemption was created because of an earlier “Bonus March.” In 1781, most of the Continental Army was demobilized without pay. Two years later hundreds of Pennsylvania war veterans marched on Philadelphia, surrounding the State House where Congress was in session, and demanded their pay. The U.S. Congress fled to Princeton, New Jersey, and several weeks later, the U.S. Army expelled the war veterans from the national capital.”
1936: American Jesse Owens wins the 100 meter dash at the 1936 Berlin Olympics.
1945: The Imperial Japanese Navy submarine I-58 torpedoes and sinks USS Indianapolis (CA-35), which took only 12 minutes to go down. Of her crew of 1,196, only 317 survived the attack. Approximately 300 sailors went down with the ship, while the other 880 endured an ordeal of exposure, dehydration and near-continuous shark attacks* for four and a half days before a patrol plane inadvertently spotted the wreckage and began a frantic rescue attempt. Although the ship sent out a distress signal, it was never received by the Navy command, and the fact that it overdue from her scheduled arrival in Leyte passed unremarked. The CO, Captain Charles McVay, survived the sinking and was court-martialed for “hazarding his ship by failing to zig-zag” his course after leaving Tinian** a few days earlier. Several attempts were made to rehabilitate his reputation, beginning with Fleet Admiral Nimitz remitting the sentence of the Court-Martial and restoring him to active duty, from which he retired in 1949. However, the personal guilt he carried with him after surviving the ordeal eventually drove him to suicide in 1968, using his Navy-issued revolver. In October, 2000, Congress passed and President Clinton signed a resolution stating that his record should confirm “[Captain McVay] is exonerated for the loss of the Indianapolis.”
1958: USS Nautilus (SSN-571), the world’s first nuclear-powered vessel, crosses the North Pole during its historic under-ice transit of the Arctic Ocean. The ship is now on permanent display in Groton, Connecticut. I had the pleasure of visiting the ship a couple years back. You climb down through the forward torpedo loading hatch (just behind the hull-painted 571 in the picture, and take a self-guided tour back to about the conning tower; upper level back to the control room, then returning lower level to the torpedo room. The reactors remain intact and serviceable after all these years.
1965: President Lyndon Johnson steps up U.S. combat engagement in Vietnam, boosting our troop commitment from 75,000 to 125,000.
1965: Just days after doubling down on the US military commitment to South Vietnam, President Lyndon Johnson demonstrates to the country that we can have both guns AND butter by signing the Social Security Act of 1965, which, among other things, institutes COLA provisions to SS payments and establishes Medicare and Medicaid programs.
1971: Apollo 15 lands on the Moon near the famous Hadley Rille, a prominent valley in the lunar landscape. The flight is the first to use the Lunar Rover vehicle to expand the astronauts’ radius of exploration from the Lunar Excursion Module. The landing site was chosen not only for its scientific potential (which was very high, given the geography of the Hadley highlands) but also because it was likely to be the most beautiful region to be visited by the Apollo program. The all USAF crew was particularly well-trained in geology, with Dave Scott and Jim Irwin undergoing months in the deserts of New Mexico and Arizona, learning not only how to identify key geologic indicators, but also how to communicate their findings verbally through their interaction with fellow astronaut Capsule Communicators. The Command Module Pilot, Al Worden, also received geology recognition instruction, not from the surface, but in an airplane flying at an altitude that replicated the track crossing angular rates of the LM orbit around the moon. Worden operated a highly complex remote sensing package that made detailed surveys of the lunar surface using a panoramic camera, gamma ray spectrometer, mapping camera, laser altimeter and mass spectrometer. Scott and Irwin spent three days on the surface of the moon, logging over 18 hours of extravehicular activity in three separate excursions. Before climbing back into the LEM for their ascent, Scott proved Galileo’s theory that a feather and a hammer will drop at the same rate in a vacuum, which indeed, they did. Worden performed a deep-space EVA to retrieve the camera packs from his science package during the transit back to Earth.
1975: Teamsters Union boss Jimmy Hoffa disappears from a parking lot in suburban Detroit and is never heard from again.