323BC: Death of Alexander the Great (b.356BC). The young King of Macedon initiated a series of conquests that spread Hellenic civilization essentially throughout the known world of his day. He was never defeated in battle, but died at age 32 in Babylon, in the palace of Nebuchadnezzar II, just prior to beginning a planned campaign against Arabia.
1184 BC: The Hellenic city of Troy, located on the Anatolian coastal plain, is sacked and destroyed by the Greek coalition led by King Agamemnon.
1190: Enroute to the Third Crusade, the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, Fredrick Barbarossa (name means “red beard”) (b.1122), drowns in the Saleph River. His loss causes his Germanic army to nearly collapse, but the remnants eventually join the armies of France’s Philip II and England’sRichard Coeur de Lion in Acre.
1509: Henry VIII marries his brother’s widow, Catherine of Aragon.
1525: Four years after his excommunication at the Diet of Worms, and in defiance of the Vatican’s rules on priestly celibacy, Martin Luther marries the former nun Katharina von Bora. They raise six children in addition to adopting four orphans.
1775: Eight weeks after the failed raids on Lexington and Concord, British General Thomas Gage declares martial law in Massachusetts. He offers amnesty to any of the American rebels who will lay down their arms, except for Samuel Adams and John Hancock, whom he promises to hang on the spot.
1776: The Continental Congress appoints a “Committee of Five” led by Virginian Thomas Jefferson to draft a declaration of independence from Great Britain.
1793: The Jacobin faction of the French revolutionary leadership takes over control of the ill-named Committee of Public Safety and converts it into the Revolutionary Dictatorship. You will not be surprised to know that Madame Guillotine begins to increase the pace of her work.
1837: In Boston, a race riot break out between “native” Yankee firefighters and immigrant Irish. The commotion began in the afternoon as a group of Yankee firemen left a pub together and forced themselves through a line of mourners in an Irish funeral procession. The whole interaction went peacefully, until, well, it didn’t. Estimates suggest there were about 800 principal pugilists, and another 10,000 or so cheering and egging them on. I have NO IDEA whether alcohol was a factor, but it may have been. The Broad Street Riot lasted around three hours, was finally broken up by the mayor calling up several national guard (-type) units, both cavalry with lances and infantry with fixed bayonets. As the dust settled, the city decided it was time to professionalize and to a certain extent integrate the fire and police departments in the city.
1854: First graduation of midshipmen from the new US Naval Academy. Too bad for them, the Blue Angels did not perform a flyover.
1903: Death of Serbian King Alexander Obrenovic (b.1876) and his wife, Queen Draga Masin. The murders were part of a general restlessness within the officer corps of the Serbian army over Serbia’s status vis-à-vis the decaying Ottoman Empire, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Balkan League, the Russian Pan-Slavic movement, and their own irredentist goals regarding Bosnia & Herzegovina. As a group, the officer corps strongly objected to the marriage of their young king (an only child) to a foreign widow 12 years his senior, who was therefore unlikely to produce a legitimate heir. One of her brothers was rumored to be named as heir apparent at some point, which finally triggered the conspiracy between the officers and members of the Black Hand: the anarchists that planned the 1914 assassination of Archduke Ferdinand. Although the formal Balkan wars didn’t start for another 8 years, this event can be seen as one of the myriad facets of the buildup to the eventual Great War.
1920: At the Republican National Convention in Chicago, party leaders gather in a small meeting room in the Blackstone Hotel to privately come to consensus on the eventual Republican nominee, Warren G. Harding. Reporters from the Associated Press, not content to wait and see how things shake out, decide that there is perfidy afoot in the smoke filled room, thus creating an undying metaphor for the idea of responsible party leaders acting the part of leaders and making a decision.
1929: Birth of Dutch diarist Anne Frank
1939: Birth of Formula One champion Jackie Stewart.
1940(a): Smelling blood up north and using as cover the Pact of Steel with Germany, Italy declares war on France and Great Britain.
1940(b): Under the command of Field Marshall Erwin Rommel, the German Wermacht reaches the English Channel.
1940(c): Canada declares war on Italy.
1940(d): Norway surrenders to Germany.
1940(e): Only days after the British evacuation from Dunkirk, the roughly 50,000 remaining Allied troops on the continent surrender to the overwhelming juggernaut of Field Marshal Erwin Rommel. French General Maxime Weygrand orders Paris to be an open city- “A cessation of hostilities is compulsory-” to save it from certain destruction. Weygrand bitterly blames the British for France’s defeat. France formally capitulates to German arms on the 25th
1962: Three men escape from Alcatraz prison using sharpened spoons and an improvised raft. They are never found and are assumed dead from drowning in the frigid waters of San Francisco Bay.
1955: Two hours into the 24 hour race at Le Mans, a Mercedes-Benz doing 150 mph on the front straightaway clipped an Austin Healey, launched into the air and careened into the grandstand, exploding into a fireball of burning magnesium and debris that killed 77 spectators and injured scores of others. Mercedes withdrew entirely from racing at the close of the season and did not return until 1987. The crash spurred a huge review and overhaul of auto racing safety procedures, including the creation of catch fences and restrictions on crowd placement, among others. Because of this crash, Switzerland immediately banned auto racing on its territory; a ban still in effect to this day.
1964: Nelson Mandella and others from the African National Congress are sentenced to life in prison for treason and sabotage. Mandella never denies the charge and in fact proudly asserted that the violence planned by the ANC was a legitimate reflection of South African blacks’ grievances. After 27 years of hard labor he is released in 1990 and four years later is elected President of the now-desegregated country.
1967: With the complete collapse of Syrian defenses in Golan, and the frontiers with Jordan and Egypt stabilized, Israel signs a ceasefire with Syria, thus ending the Six Day War.
1971: The New York Times begins publication of a set of classified documents that came to be known as The Pentagon Papers. They were a 1968 top secret report ordered by Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, originally titled: United States–Vietnam Relations, 1945–1967: A Study Prepared by the Department of Defense. The report outlined in close detail the thinking and decision-making behind the United States’ buildup and early execution of the Vietnam War, and bolstered the cause of the anti-war protesters nationwide. The legal wrangling that followed led to an extensive review and affirmation of First Amendment rights. The person who gave the classified report to the Times was one of the contributors to the report, Daniel Ellsberg. He justified releasing the documents on in a statement: “I felt that as an American citizen, as a responsible citizen, I could no longer cooperate in concealing this information from the American public. I did this clearly at my own jeopardy and I am prepared to answer to all the consequences of this decision” The NYT rationale centered on publisher Arthur Sulzberger’s judgment that: “Newspapers, as our editorial said this morning, were really a part of history that should have been made available, considerably longer ago. I just didn’t feel there was any breach of national security, in the sense that we were giving secrets to the enemy.”
1987: In what may be the defining speech of his presidency, Ronald Reagan stands in the shadow of Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate and issues his stirring call to Soviet premier Mikhail Gorbachev: “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”
2018: U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean dictator Kim Jon Un meet face to face in Singapore.