1314: First day of the two-day Battle of Bannockburn, a major victory of Robert the Bruce over England’s Edward II. Bruce distinguished himself at the outset of the battle when he was surveying the potential battleground alone on horseback, un-armoured and armed only with an axe. Paraphrasing from the inestimable Wikipedia: “He was identified by Henry de Bohun, nephew of the Earl of Hereford, who immediately lowered his lance and charged the Scottish king. As the great war-horse thundered toward him, Bruce stood his ground, watched with mounting anxiety by his own army. With the Englishman only feet away, Bruce turned aside, stood in his stirrups and hit the knight so hard with his axe that he split his helmet and head in two. This small incident became in a sense a symbol of the war itself: the one side heavily armed but lacking agility; the other highly mobile and open to opportunity. Rebuked by his commanders for the enormous risk he had taken, the king only expressed regret that he had broken the shaft of his axe.”[
1639: Birth of Massachusetts Puritan minister Increase Mather (d.1723), a key figure in the Salem Witch Trials of 1692, where he preached moderation in the use of “spectral evidence” and other non-standard items in the increasingly frenzied trials.
1812: Having subdued virtually the entire continent of Europe under his rule, Napoleon invades Russia.
1898: Three months into the with Spain, the United States captures the Spanish Pacific island of Guam in a bloodless takeover. The US force, led by Captain Henry Glass, USN, consisted of the cruiser USS Charleston and three auxiliary ships. Stopping in Honolulu enroute between San Francisco and Manila, Captain Glass received the following sealed orders:
Washington, May 10, 1898.
Upon the receipt of this order, which is forwarded by the steamship City of Pekin to you at Honolulu, you will proceed, with the Charleston and the City of Pekin in company, to Manila, Philippine Islands. On your way, you are hereby directed to stop at the Spanish Island of Guam. You will use such force as may be necessary to capture the port of Guam, making prisoners of the governor and other officials and any armed force that may be there. You will also destroy any fortifications on said island and any Spanish naval vessels that may be there, or in the immediate vicinity. These operations at the Island of Guam should be very brief, and should not occupy more than one or two days. Should you find any coal at the Island of Guam, you will make such use of it as you consider desirable. It is left to your discretion whether or not you destroy it. From the Island of Guam, proceed to Manila and report to Rear-Admiral George Dewey, U.S.N., for duty in the squadron under his command.
JOHN D. LONG
[to]Commanding Officer U.S.S. Charleston
Steaming boldly into Apra harbor, Charleston fired 17 rounds at the Spanish fort guarding the entrance, and receiving no return fire, dropped anchor in preparation for a landing party. A boatload of Spanish officials immediately rowed out to cruiser, apologizing for not having any powder with which to return the salutes. They were astonished to learn that the US and Spain were actually at war, their last communication with Spain being early April before hostilities began. The next day the governor and 67 officials surrendered and the US flag was raised over the fort. Captain Glass designated Guamanian native and naturalized American Francisco Portusach as Acting Governor. Portusach supervised the US ships’ complete re-bunkering with coal, and on the 22nd , the squadron steamed away to join Commodore Dewey in Manila.
1848: Beginning of the “June Days Uprising” in Paris, the culminating event in what is more widely recognized as the European Revolutions of 1848. The Paris revolts were characterized by left wing students rioting in the streets, setting up barricades to fight the police and army troops sent in to break up the violence. The proximate trigger for the event was the government shutting down the “National Workshops,” make-work programs* set up earlier in the year in response to radical agitating for a “right to work.” The uprising was eventually suppressed by a re-invigorated conservative government under Louis Napoleon, who deposed the constitutional monarch Louis XVIII and established the Second Empire under himself as Napoleon III. This revolt was the background for Victor Hugo’s novel Les Miserables.
1850: Birth of Herbert Kitchener (d.1916), who rose to prominence in British arms after capturing the Sudan at the Battle of Omdurman, near Khartoum. As second in command during the Boer War he planned and executed a true scorched earth campaign against Boer farmers, which included the round-up and internment of their families in concentration camps, where the death rate approached 35% . At the turn of the century he became Commander-in-Chief, India, after which he became Council-General of Anglo-Egyptian Sudan. At the start of the Great War Kitchener was brought back to England as Secretary of State for War, focusing his attention on recruitment for the titanic struggle that lay ahead.
1898: Continuing to pluck Spanish possessions from its teetering empire, the U.S. Marines land on Cuba to begin our conquest- or liberation– of that island.
1905: Birth of Jean-Paul Sarte (d.1950), one of the key 20th century expositors of the Existentialist philosophy. His 1938 novel, Nausea.
1915: First operational flight of the radical Fokker Eindecker. The German fighter’s single wing, powerful engine, and its highly innovative synchronization cam (that allowed its guns to shoot through the arc of the spinning propeller) gave the Germans a technical step up that proved devastating to the Allied air forces.
1916: The British Expeditionary Forces fires the opening salvo of what will be a continuous, week-long artillery bombardment of German positions along the Somme River.
1919: German Admiral Ludwig von Reuter, after surrendering the German High Seas Fleet to the Royal Navy in Scapa Flow anchorage in the Orkney Islands, scuttles the entire fleet under the noses of the British. 52 of the 74 interned vessels go to the bottom, and 9 German sailors are killed by British fire as they try to halt the sinking.
1941: The German army invades Russia in Operation Barbarossa. Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin is so shocked by Hitler’s betrayal of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, that he retreats to his private dacha, where he paces around muttering incoherently for nearly a week.
1942: A new German Focke-Wulf 190 fighter mistakenly lands at RAF Pembrey, in Wales.
1942: A Japanese submarine surfaces and fires multiple rounds at Fort Stevens, at the mouth of the Columbia River, one of a handful of attacks on the US mainland during WWII.
1945: Final day of the 82 day Battle of Okinawa, one of the most costly of all WWII battles in both theaters. Japanese casualties numbered over 100,000; Japanese civilian casualties numbered 142,000, with a large proportion being suicides induced by Japanese propaganda on the expected results of coming in contact with Americans. US casualties topped 50,000, including over 12,000 KIA. Okinawa also saw the use of large-scale kamikaze attacks: 1465 of them during this battle caused massive damage to the US fleet. The tenaciousness of the Japanese defenses and the scale of the casualties in taking this outlying Japanese home island figured strongly in the planning underway for Operation Olympic later in the year and Operation Coronet in 1946.
1948: As post-war tensions between the victorious Allies continue to mount, the Soviet Union establishes a land blockade of West Berlin in an attempt to force the western Allies to accept Soviet supply of the western zones of the city, thus giving them de facto control of the entire capital. The plan does not work: instead of Western capitulation, the Russians watch as the Berlin Airlift moots their initiative.
1969: The Cuyahoga River in Cleveland, Ohio catches fire and burns. The fire becomes emblematic of the pollution problems rampant during that period, and spurred passage of the Clean Water Act and creation of the Environmental Protection Agency.
1997: On the 40th anniversary of the arrival of the little green men, the United States Air Force releases a 231 page report entitled “The Roswell Report, Case Closed.”
2016: Britons awake to find that they overwhelmingly approve of a motion to invoke Article 50 of the European Union Charter and actually resign their membership in the European Union. The vote is a stunning rebuke to the concept of trans-nationalism, open borders, and most particularly the reality of being subject to the whims and diktat of a supra-national governing body with zero accountability to the populations over which they purport to rule. A vocal portion of the “remain” side of the plebiscite almost immediately blames the result on racism, xenophobia and economic ignorance… pretty much proving the case of the “leave” voters that the condescension of the ruling elites is more a reflection of their insulation from reality than with reality itself.