622 A.D.: Traditional date of Mohammad’s first arrival in Medina, after being driven out of his hometown in Mecca.
1529: The army of the Ottoman Turks, led by Sultan Suleman the Magnificent, opens the Siege of Vienna with the objective of pulling that capital city and its vassal states into the Ottoman empire. Although the siege itself failed during this campaign, the Ottomans remained a significant threat to Hapsburg Germany’s continued rule over the eastern approaches of the Holy Roman Empire. The Turks were finally and conclusively thrown back into the southern Balkans and Anatolia at the Battle of Vienna in 1683; you can can correctly deduce that this was a long and bitter struggle. When you hear people talking about the rising Muslim tide reaching to the Gates of Vienna, this is what they’re talking about. It was literal, and the fate of Western Europe hung in the balance.
1555: Emperor Charles V ratifies the Peace of Augsburg, which formalizes for the first time the principle of CUIUS REGIO, EIUS RELIGIO (lit: “Whose realm, his religion”). Before you ask, “so what,” this principle, and the treaty in which it was expressed, provided the intellectual underpinnings for what will eventually become freedom of religious conscience in Western thought. It recognized, at least within the Holy Roman Empire, that many of the princes of the realm legitimately believed the new Lutheran theology, and that while their political differences with the Empire would remain, the spiritual reality that launched the Protestant Reformation demanded some kind of accommodation for the sake of peace. The Peace of Augsburg thus allowed for two different Christian denominations (Lutheran and Roman Catholic) to function within the Empire, based on the chosen religion of the Prince. For the Subjects themselves, it also permitted migration to a principality that suited their own religious beliefs. Of note, none of the other Reformed religions of the day (Calvinists and Anabaptists, among others) were included in this treaty.
1664: As part of the run up to the Second Anglo-Dutch War, four British frigates array themselves off the shoreline of Nieu Amsterdam and demand the surrender of the city. Governor Peter Stuyvesant agrees, and the British take control of the strategic seaport for the first time.
1774: Birth of John Chapman, more popularly known as Johnny Appleseed (d.1845), American missionary and nurseryman who spread the Gospel and apple trees throughout the Old Northwest during the early years of the United States.
1789: Samuel Osgood is appointed the first United States Postmaster General. This day also sees the confirmation of the first Secretary of State, Chief Justice of the United States, and United States Attorney. How’d all that happen at the same time? Simple: he and all the other confirmations were a direct result of the recently concluded ratification of the U.S. Constitution in March of 1789. Osgood’s confirmation, and the confirmation of many others of George Washington’s cabinet took this long to get through the quite literally unprecedented first actions of the new Congress.
1846: Under the leadership of General Zachary “Old Rough and Ready” Taylor, the U.S. Army captures Monterrey, Mexico in the first large-scale urban battle of the Mexican War.
1890: Congress authorizes the establishment of Sequoia National Park in California.
1894: Birth of Lothar von Richthofen (d.1922), Manfred’s little brother, and a fighter ace in his own right with 40 confirmed kills.
1897: Birth of Nobel Laureate and Pulitzer Prize winner William Faulkner.
1898: Birth of American composer, George Gershwin (d.1937).
1900: Birth of Ruhullah Khomeini (d.1989). He remains dead.
1903: Derailment of the Southern Railway’s “Old 97” at the Stillhouse trestle near Danville, Virginia. If you know the folk song, you’ll know that the engineer was trying to make up an hour and a quarter delay to get the mail in on time down in Spencer, North Carolina. They didn’t make it; the speeding train jumped the track a the turn leading to the trestle and plunged into the canyon below, killing 9 of the 18 men on board. The locomotive was re-built after the wreck and served until 1932.
1904: Death of Chief Joseph, last leader of the Nez Perce tribe of the Pacific Northwest.1929: Air racer Jimmy Doolittle becomes the first pilot to takeoff, navigate and land an aircraft without reference outside the cockpit, using artificial horizon and navigation instruments he helped develop. Not to put too fine a point on it, but the development of dependable instrument flying capabilities and procedures- pioneered by Doolittle– remains the single most important development in aviation since 1903.
1918: Opening guns of the Muse-Argonne Campaign, the final Allied push against the Hindenburg Line, and the largest American battle in the Great War. Between this day and the armistice on November 11th, this continuous eight-week battle created 117,000 American casualties, the highest butcher’s bill of any battle in American history.
1937: Publication of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit. It has never been out of print.
1941: Launch of the SS Patrick Henry, the first of 2,751 Liberty Ships built between 1941 and 1945.
1942: First flight of the Boeing B-29 Superfortress, a pressurized, high altitude bomber which provided the Army Air Corps with a dramatic increase in range and payload over their B-17s and B-24s. Of the 3,970 built (1943-46) there is only one still in flying condition. I had the privilege of seeing it in action in 1976 at the then-named Confederate Air Force (CAF) air show in Harlingen, Texas. Now that I’m thinking about it, that show caused a bit of a burp in relations between us and Japan. Here’s the story- The show’s organizers figured the Bicentennial would be a great time to get as many warbirds into the local airspace as possible. For the “European Theater” display they had dozens of P-40s, P-51s, Hurricanes, Spitfires, B-25s and a couple B-17s roaring around the field with a JU-88 and a couple ME-109s thrown into the mix (one of the 109s skidded into the infield pretty dramatically). For the “Pacific Theater” they swarmed a bunch of Corsairs, Hellcats, Wildcats, SBDs, and Zeros.
1944: The final day of Operation Market Garden, a massive and bold Allied attempt to capture the Dutch bridges crossing the Meuse, Waal and Lower Rhine Rivers, particularly the bridges at Arnhem. Between the complexity of the multi-pronged assault, the unavailability of supporting fires, and the tenacious German defenses, the operation collapsed with the Allies failing to secure the primary road bridge at Arnhem. The battle became remembered by the wider public when Cornelius Ryan published his book “A Bridge Too Far” in 1974, followed by the film of the same name in 1977.
1945: Death of German physicist Hans Geiger, for whom the counter is named.
1957: 1,200 U.S. Army troops of the 101st Airborne Division forcibly integrate 9 black students into Little Rock’s Central High School. 10,000 federalized* National Guard troops area also mobilized to provide a security perimeter around the school and in surrounding sections of the city.
1960: Launch of the United States’ first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, USS Enterprise (CVAN-65), just up the river a couple miles from here at Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company. The complexity of this vessel cannot be overstated, beginning with its EIGHT nuclear reactors that produce the steam to both drive the ship and launch the airplanes, in addition to all the other stuff steam does on these ships. [Nice early shot of the ship performing a simultaneous launch of an A-5A off of cat 1, and an F-8 off of one of the waist cats. Note the original configuration of the island, with its phased-array radar panels below the bridge and the “beehive” communications array. (I could talk about some other interesting parts, but I won’t (not now, anyway))] NOTE: Current carriers only have two reactors- an improvement in itself- in addition to removal of the bridle arrester horns at the ends of the cats. ANOTHER* NOTE: although today (2016) the ship technically remains “in commission,” she was functionally deactivated in 2012, and is currently undergoing a systematic dismantling up at the Newport News Shipyard. Once everything is off that can come off, the ship will be buttoned up for an open-ocean tow all the way around the Americas for her final reactor dismantling (hot parts going into storage at Hanford, WA) and scrapping at the naval shipyard in Bremerton.
1964: the first flight of the Mach 3 North American XB-70 Valkyrie supersonic bomber. One of the two prototypes was destroyed in a mid-air collision.
1968: The Columbia Broadcast System begins broadcast of 60 Minutes.
1968: The “rock opera” Hair opens in London, and runs for 1,998 performances, until it was shut down by the collapse of the theater.
1970: Death of German author Erich Maria Remarque (b.1898), best known the novel All Quiet on the Western Front.
1973: The Mach 2 airliner Concorde makes its first, record-breaking run across the Atlantic.
1981: The Senate unanimously confirms Sandra Day O’Connor as the first female Justice of the Supreme Court.