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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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August 4, 1964: U.S.Naval destroyers USS Maddox and USS Turner Joy reported coming under attack in the Gulf of Tonkin. This came on the heels of an August 2nd attack by three North Vietnamese Navy P-4 torpedo boats. This second attack has come to be questioned as probably involving false radar images and not actual NVN vessels. Nevertheless, the two incidents would precipitate the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution authorizing, without a formal declaration of war by Congress, the use of "conventional'' military force in Southeast Asia.
August 5, 1305: William Wallace, who led the Scottish resistance against England, was captured by the English near Glasgow and transported to London where he would be placed on trial and ultimately executed. Along with Andrew Moray, Wallace defeated an English army at the Battle of Stirling Bridge in 1297, and was Guardian of Scotland, serving until his defeat at the Battle of Falkirk in July 1298.
August 6, 1945: Hiroshima, Japan was devastated when the atomic bomb "Little Boy" was dropped by the United States B-29 Enola Gay. Around 70,000 people were killed instantly, and some tens of thousands died in subsequent years from burns and radiation poisoning.
August 7, 1819: Simón Bolívar triumphed over Spain in the Battle of Boyacá. The battle was fought in Colombia, then known as New Granada, and is credited as the battle in which Colombia acquired its definitive independence from Spanish Monarchy, although fighting with royalist forces would continue for years.
Brigadier Generals Francisco de Paula Santander and José Antonio Anzoátegui led a combined republican army of Colombians and Venezuelans, complemented by the British Legion, to defeat in two hours a Royalist Colombian-Venezuelan force. Simón Bolívar credited the victory to the British Legion declaring that "those soldier liberators are the men who deserve these laurels" when offered laurels after the victory.
August 8, 1942: the Quit India Movement was launched in India against the British rule in response to Mohandas Gandhi's call for swaraj or complete independence. The British refused to grant immediate independence, saying it could happen only after the war ended. Sporadic small-scale violence took place around the country but the British arrested tens of thousands of leaders, keeping them imprisoned until 1945, and suppressed civil rights, freedom of speech and freedom of the press. In terms of immediate objectives Quit India failed because of heavy-handed suppression, weak coordination and the lack of a clear-cut program of action. However, the British government did come to the realization that India was ungovernable in the long run and actively began to seek an exit strategy.
August 9, 1854: Henry David Thoreau published Walden. The book details Thoreau's experiences over the course of two years, two months, and two days in a cabin he built near Walden Pond, amidst woodland owned by his friend and mentor Ralph Waldo Emerson, near Concord, Massachusetts. The book compresses the time into a single calendar year and uses passages of four seasons to symbolize human development. By immersing himself in nature, Thoreau hoped to gain a more objective understanding of society through personal introspection. Simple living and self-sufficiency were Thoreau's other goals, and the whole project was inspired by transcendentalist philosophy, a central theme of the American Romantic Period.
August 10, 1519: Ferdinand Magellan's five ships set sail from Seville to circumnavigate the globe. The Basque second in command Juan Sebastián Elcano would complete the expedition after Magellan's death in the Philippines.
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July 28, 1932: President Herbert Hoover orders the United States Army to forcibly evict the "Bonus Army" of World War I veterans gathered in Washington, D.C. The veterans had assembled to demand cash-payment redemption of their service certificates promised with the passage of the World War Adjusted Compensation Act of 1924. Although not redeemable until 1945, each service certificate issued to a qualified veteran soldier, bore a face value equal to the soldier's promised payment plus compound interest. The principal demand of the Bonus Army was the immediate cash payment of their certificates.
July 29, 1907: Sir Robert Baden-Powell set up the Brownsea Island Scout camp in Poole Harbour on the south coast of England. The camp ran from August 1 to August 9, 1907, and is regarded as the foundation of the Scouting movement.
July 30, 1619: In Jamestown, Virginia, the first representative assembly in the Americas, the House of Burgesses, convened for the first time. The House was established by the Virginia Company, who created the body as part of an effort to encourage English craftsmen to settle in North America and to make conditions in the colony more agreeable for its current inhabitants. The House's first session accomplished little, as it was cut short by an outbreak of malaria.
July 31, 1703: Daniel Defoe is placed in a pillory for the crime of seditious libel after publishing a politically satirical pamphlet entitled The Shortest-Way with the Dissenters; Or, Proposals for the Establishment of the Church. In it he ruthlessly satirized both the High church Tories and those Dissenters who hypocritically practiced so-called "occasional conformity." Though it was published anonymously, the true authorship was quickly discovered and Defoe was arrested and charged with seditious libel. Defoe was found guilty. He was fined, sentenced to public humiliation in a pillory, and to an indeterminate length of imprisonment which would only end upon the discharge of the punitive fine. According to legend, the publication of his poem Hymn to the Pillory caused his audience at the pillory to throw flowers instead of the customary harmful and noxious objects and to drink to his health.
August 1, 1960: Dahomey declared independence from France under the presidency of Hubert Maga. For the next twelve years, ethnic strife contributed to a period of turbulence, as there were several coups and regime changes. On October 26, 1972, Lt. Col. Mathieu Kérékou overthrew the ruling triumvirate to become president and stated that the country would not "burden itself by copying foreign ideology, and wants neither Capitalism, Communism, nor Socialism". Later he announced that the country was officially Marxist, nationalized the petroleum industry and banks, and renamed the country to the People's Republic of Benin.
August 2, 1923: Warren G, Harding died unexpectedly in San Francisco, California, and Vice President, Calvin Coolidge was sworn in as the 30th President of the United States. Doctors issued a release stating that the cause of Harding’s death was "some brain evolvement, probably an apoplexy." Mrs. Harding refused to allow an autopsy. In retrospect, scholars speculate that Harding had shown physical signs of cardiac insufficiency with congestive heart failure in the preceding weeks. Naval medical consultants who examined the president in San Francisco concluded he had suffered a heart attack. Dr. Wilbur included in his memoirs a letter from Dr. Charles Miner Cooper in support of their cerebral apoplexy diagnosis, based on Harding's last observed condition, while acknowledging that no final determination could be made.
August 3, 1678: Robert LaSalle completed construction of the Le Griffon, the first known ship built on the Great Lakes. The explorer sought a Northwest Passage to China and Japan in order to extend France's trade. Creating a fur trade monopoly with the Native Americans would finance his quest and building Le Griffon was an "essential link in the scheme."