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September 15, 1944: The Battle of Peleliu began as the United States Marine Corps' 1st Marine Division and the United States Army's 81st Infantry Division hit White and Orange beaches under heavy fire from Japanese infantry and artillery. Major General William Rupertus, USMC—commander of 1st Marine Division—predicted the island would be secured within four days. However, due to Japan's well-crafted fortifications and stiff resistance, the battle lasted over two months. In the United States, it was a controversial battle because of the island's questionable strategic value and the high casualty rate, which was the highest for U.S. military personnel of any battle in the Pacific War.
September 16, 1920: A bomb in a horse wagon exploded in front of the J. P. Morgan building on Wall Street in New York City – 38 are killed and 400 injured. The bombing was never solved, although investigators and historians believe the Wall Street bombing was carried out by Galleanists (Italian anarchists), a group responsible for a series of bombings the previous year. The attack was related to postwar social unrest, labor struggles and anti-capitalist agitation in the United States.
September 17, 1916: Manfred von Richthofen, better known as "The Red Baron," a flying ace of the German Luftstreitkräfte credited with 80 air combat victories, won his first aerial combat near Cambrai, France. Originally a cavalryman, Richthofen transferred to the Air Service in 1915, becoming one of the first members of Jasta 2 in 1916. He quickly distinguished himself as a fighter pilot, and during 1917 became leader of Jasta 11 and then the larger unit Jagdgeschwader 1 (better known as the "Flying Circus"). By 1918, he was regarded as a national hero in Germany, and was very well known by the other side. Richthofen was shot down and killed near Amiens on 21 April 1918.
September 18, 2007: Buddhist monks joined anti-government protesters in Myanmar, starting what some called the Saffron Revolution. A series of anti-government protests originally started on 15 August 2007. The immediate cause of the protests was mainly the unannounced decision of the ruling junta to remove fuel subsidies, which caused the price of diesel and petrol to suddenly rise as much as 66%, and the price of compressed natural gas for buses to increase fivefold in less than a week. Led by students and opposition political activists, including women, the protest demonstrations took the form of a campaign of nonviolent resistance, sometimes also called civil resistance. They were at first dealt with quickly and harshly by the junta, with dozens of protesters arrested and detained. When thousands of Buddhist monks joined the protests, they were allowed to proceed until a renewed government crackdown on 26 September. During the crackdown, there were rumors of disagreement within the Burmese military, but none were confirmed.
September 19, 1692: Giles Corey was pressed to death after refusing to plead in the Salem witch trials. According to the law at the time, a person who refused to plead could not be tried. To avoid persons cheating justice, the legal remedy for refusing to plead was "peine forte et dure". In this process the prisoner is stripped naked, with a heavy board laid on his body. Then rocks or boulders are laid on the plank of wood. Samuel Sewall's diary states, under date of Monday, September 19, 1692: "About noon at Salem, Giles Cory [sic] was pressed to death for standing mute; much pains was used with him two days, one after another, by the court and Captain Gardner of Nantucket who had been of his acquaintance, but all in vain."
September 20, 1498: The 1498 Meiō Nankaidō earthquake generated a tsunami that washed away the building housing the statue of the Great Buddha at Kōtoku-in in Kamakura, Kanagawa, Japan; since then the Buddha has sat in the open air.
September 21, 1937: J. R. R. Tolkien's The Hobbit, or There and Back Again was published. Receiving wide critical acclaim, the book was being nominated for the Carnegie Medal and awarded a prize from the New York Herald Tribune for best juvenile fiction. The book remains popular and is recognized as a classic in children's literature. Encouraged by the book's critical and financial success, the publisher requested a sequel. As Tolkien's work on the successor The Lord of the Rings progressed, he made retrospective accommodations for it in The Hobbit. These few but significant changes were integrated into the second edition. Further editions followed with minor emendations, including those reflecting Tolkien's changing concept of the world into which Bilbo stumbled. The work has never been out of print.
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May 12, 1926: The Italian-built airship Norge became the first vessel to fly over the North Pole. The expedition was the brainchild of polar explorer and expedition leader Roald Amundsen, the airship's designer and pilot Umberto Nobile and American explorer Lincoln Ellsworth, who along with the Aero Club of Norway financed the trip.
May 13, 1846: The United States declared war on Mexico, following the April 25th, Thornton Affair in which a 2,000-strong Mexican cavalry detachment attacked a U.S. patrol in the contested territory north of the Rio Grande and south of the Nueces River. The attack resulted in the death of 16 American soldiers
May 14, 1607: Jamestown became the first permanent English settlement in the Americas. Established by the Virginia Company of London as “James Fort,” it followed several earlier failed attempts, including the Lost Colony of Roanoke. Jamestown served as the capital of the Colony of Virginia for 83 years, from 1616 until 1699.
May 15, 1886: The American poet, Emily Dickinson, died at the age of 55. Her first collection of poetry was published in 1890, but was heavily edited. A complete and mostly unaltered collection of her poetry became available for the first time in 1955. She is considered to be one of the most important American poets.
May 16, 1770: 14-year old Marie Antoinette married 15-year-old Louis-Auguste, who later became the king of France. The ceremonial wedding of the Dauphin and Dauphine took place in the Palace of Versailles.
May 17, 1939: The Columbia Lions and the Princeton Tigers played in the United States' first televised sporting event, a collegiate baseball game in New York City.
May 18, 1953: Jackie Cochran became the first woman to break the sound barrier at Rogers Dry Lake, California. Encouraged by her lifelong friend Chuck Yeager, Cochran flew a Canadair F-86 Sabre jet borrowed from the Royal Canadian Air Force at an average speed of 652.337 mph.