Military History Anniversaries 16 thru 31 August

Events in History over the next 15 day period that had U.S. military involvement or impacted in

some way on U.S military operations or American interests

  • Aug 16 1777 – American Revolution: Battle of Bennington » A rebel force of 2,000 men, primarily New Hampshire and Massachusetts militiamen, led by General John Stark, and reinforced by Vermont militiamen led by Colonel Seth Warner and members of the Green Mountain Boys, decisively defeated a detachment of General John Burgoyne’s army led by Lieutenant Colonel Friedrich Baum, and supported by additional men under Lieutenant Colonel Heinrich von Breymann at Walloomsac, New York. Casualties and losses: US 70 – GB 907.

  • Aug 16 1780 – American Revolution: Continentals routed at Battle of Camden SC » American General Horatio Gates suffers a humiliating defeat. Despite the fact that his men suffered from diarrhea on the night of 15 AUG, caused by their consumption of under-baked bread, Gates chose to engage the British on the morning of the 15th. Although the Continentals outnumbered the British two to one, the encounter was a disaster.

Gates seriously overestimated the number of soldiers he had available for combat; when he finally realized his mistake, it was too late to withdraw. In theory, the Continental forces numbered 4,000 to General Charles Cornwallis’ 2,239 Redcoats. In practice, however, only 3,052 Patriots were well enough to take the field. When the British charged with their bayonets, the militia that made up the Patriot front line, who did not have bayonets, ran. The remaining Continental soldiers fought bravely, but utterly failed to make any headway in the face of the British assault.

Continental Army Major General Baron Johann DeKalb, a German volunteer, received numerous wounds in the battle and succumbed to death a few days later. All told, over 900 Americans died and another 1,000 were captured. Additionally, 22 wagonloads of equipment, along with 2,000 muskets and a large amount of ammunition, fell into British hands. The British lost only 68 killed and another 245 wounded in the lopsided victory.

After the loss, General Gates covered 240 miles in three days in order to notify Congress from Hillsborough, North Carolina, of what he described as “total Defeat.” When British Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton successfully ambushed the acclaimed Brigadier General Thomas Sumter two days later, it appeared that control of Georgia and the Carolinas might be lost to the British crown.

  • Aug 16 1812 – War of 1812: Fort Detroit surrenders without a fight » American General William Hull surrenders Fort Detroit and his army to the British without a fight. Hull, a 59-year-old veteran of the American Revolution, had lost hope of defending the settlement after seeing the large English and Indian force gathering outside Detroit’s walls. The general was also preoccupied with the presence of his daughter and grandchildren inside the fort.

Of Hull’s 2,000-man army, most were militiamen, and British General Isaac Brock allowed them to return to their homes on the frontier. The regular U.S. Army troops were taken as prisoners to Canada. With the capture of Fort Detroit, Michigan Territory was declared a part of Great Britain and Shawnee chief Tecumseh was able to increase his raids against American positions in the frontier area. Hull’s surrender was a severe blow to American morale. In September 1813, U.S. General William Henry Harrison, the future president, recaptured Detroit.

In 1814, William Hull was court-martialed for cowardice and neglect of duty in surrendering the fort, and sentenced to die. Because of his service in the revolution, however, President James Madison remitted the sentence.

  • Aug 16 1861 – Civil War: President Lincoln prohibited the states of the Union from trading with the seceding states of the Confederacy.
  • Aug 16 1861 – Civil War: Union and Confederate forces clash near Fredericktown and Kirkville, Missouri.
  • Aug 16 1862 – Civil War: Naval forces and Union army troops in a joint expedition up the Mississippi land forces at various points en route, capture steamer Fairplay above Vicksburg with large cargo of arms, disperse Confederate troop encampments, and destroy a newly erected Confederate battery about 20 miles up the Yazoo River.
  • Aug 16 1863 – Civil War: Union General William S. Rosecrans moves his army south from Tullahoma, Tennessee to attack Confederate forces in Chattanooga.
  • Aug 16 1864 – Civil War: U.S.S. Pawneen escapes undamaged when a floating Confederate torpedo exploded under her stern, destroying a launch, shortly after midnight at Stono Inlet, South Carolina.
  • Aug 16 1864 – Civil War: Confederate General John Chambliss is killed during a cavalry charge at Deep Bottom, Virginia, one of the sieges of Petersburg. On his body, recovered by Union forces, was found a detailed map of the Confederate capital’s defenses at Richmond, Virginia, 20 miles north of Petersburg.
  • Aug 16 1864 – Civil War: USS Saratoga boat expedition led by Commander Colvocoresses captures some 100 prisoners and a quantity of arms on a daring raid into Mcintosh County, Georgia. Commander Colvocoresses also destroyed a salt works and a strategic bridge across the South Newport River on the main road to Savannah.
  • Aug 16 1914 – WWI: Liege, Belgium, falls to the German army » The Battle of Liège ends. It has been the opening engagement of the German invasion of Belgium and the first battle of the First World War. The attack on Liège, a town protected by the Fortified position of Liège, a ring fortress built from the late 1880s to the early 1890s, began on 5 August 1914 and lasted until 16 AUG when the last fort surrendered. The siege of Liège may have delayed the German invasion of France by 4–5 days. Railways in the Meuse river valley needed by the German armies in eastern Belgium were closed for the duration of the siege and German troops did not appear in strength before the Fortified Position of Namur at the confluence of the Sambre and Meuse rivers until 20 AUG.
  • Aug 16 1914 – WWI: Austrian-born Adolf Hitler volunteers to fight with the German Army. He will serve throughout the conflict on the Western Front as a messenger, suffer wounds, and receive various medals for valor.
  • Aug 16 1917 – WWI: Battle of Langemack » In a renewed thrust of the Allied offensive launched at the end of July in the Flanders region of Belgium—known as the Third Battle of Ypres, or simply as Passchendaele, for the village that saw the heaviest fighting—British troops capture the village of Langemarck from the Germans. Though a German counterattack recovered much of the ground gained, British forces retained the initiative in the region, aided by the use of tanks and by a diversionary attack by the French at Verdun, where more than 5,000 German soldiers were taken prisoner.
  • Aug 16 1924 – Post WWI: Conference regarding German recovery payments opened in London.
  • Aug 16 1934 – U.S.*Haiti: U.S. occupation of Haiti, which began in 1915, ends.
  • Aug 16 1937 – U.S.*China: The American adviser on Political Relations asked the Secretary of State for reinforcements for the 4th Marine Regiment in Shanghai, China. In response, two officers and 102 enlisted from Cavite, Philippines were sent.
  • Aug 16 1940 – U.S. Army: National Airborne Day » Commemorates the first official U.S. Army parachute jump, which took place on this date at Fort Benning, Georgia.
  • Aug 16 1940 – Pre WW2: President Roosevelt announces that there have been conversations with the UK on the acquisition of bases for western hemisphere defense. He does not disclose as yet that Britain wants some old US destroyers in return.
  • Aug 16 1942 – WW2: The two–person crew of the U.S. naval blimp L–8 disappears without a trace on a routine anti–submarine patrol over the Pacific Ocean. The blimp drifts without her crew and crash–lands in Daly City, California.

  • Aug 16 1943 – WW2: In Sicily on the night of August 15-16 British General Sir Bernard Montgomery in his race with General Patton to capture Messina, tried an amphibious landing putting elements of his commando and armored units ashore at Scaletta, just eight miles east of Messina. However, he failed to cut off any of the retreating Axis forces and lost the race when that evening U.S. patrols reached the city.
  • Aug 16 1944 – WW2: Elements of U.S. 20th Corps (part of General Patton’s 3rd Army) capture Chartres, France.
  • Aug 16 1944 – WW2: The French 2nd Corps (de Lattre), part of US 7th Army, comes ashore and moves forward.
  • Aug 16 1945 – WW2: The Emperor of Japan issues an Imperial Rescript (decree) at 1600 hours (local time) ordering all Japanese forces to cease fire. The Cabinet resigns. General Prince Higashikumi becomes the prime minister of Japan and forms a new government. He orders the Imperial Army to obey the Emperor’s call and lay down their arms.
  • Aug 16 1945 – WW2: Senior U.S. POW is released » Lt. Gen. Jonathan Wainwright, (captured by the Japanese on the island of Corregidor, in the Philippines), is freed by Russian forces from a POW camp in Manchuria, China.

Wainwright ordering the surrender of the Philippines while being watched by a Japanese censor &

Wainwright and MacArthur greet, August 1945 (right)

When President Franklin Roosevelt transferred Gen. Douglas MacArthur from his command in the Philippines to Australia in March 1942, Maj. Gen. Wainwright, until then under MacArthur’s command, was promoted to temporary lieutenant general and given command of all Philippine forces. His first major strategic decision was to move his troops to the fortified garrison at Corregidor. When Bataan was taken by the Japanese, and the infamous Bataan “Death March” of captured Allies was underway, Corregidor became the next battle ground. Wainwright and his 13,000 troops held out for a month despite heavy artillery fire. Finally, Wainwright and his troops, already exhausted, surrendered on 6 MAY.

The irony of Wainwright’s promotion was that as commander of all Allied forces in the Philippines, his surrender meant the surrender of troops still holding out against the Japanese in other parts of the Philippines. Wainwright was taken prisoner, spending the next three and a half years as a POW in Luzon, Philippines, Formosa (now Taiwan), and Manchuria, China. Upon Japan’s surrender, Russian forces in Manchuria liberated the POW camp in which Wainwright was being held.

The years of captivity took its toll on the general. The man who had been nicknamed “Skinny” was now emaciated. His hair had turned white, and his skin was cracked and fragile. He was also depressed, believing he would be blamed for the loss of the Philippines to the Japanese. When Wainwright arrived in Yokohama, Japan, to attend the formal surrender ceremony, Gen. MacArthur, his former commander, was stunned at his appearance-literally unable to eat and sleep for a day. Wainwright was given a hero’s welcome upon returning to America, promoted to full general, and awarded the Medal of Honor.

  • Aug 16 1950 – Korean War: The first 313 KATUSA (Korean Augmentation to the U.S. Army) recruits left Pusan by ship to join the badly under strength U.S. 7th Infantry Division in Japan. Once started, the flow of Koreans reached nearly 2,000 per day until a total of 8,625 Korean officers and men joined the division.
  • Aug 16 1954 – Vietnam: Operation Passage to Freedom begins » The operation transports refugees from Haiphong to Saigon, Vietnam. To carry out the operation, the Pacific Fleet concentrates 74 tank landing ships (LST), transports, attack cargo ships, dock landing ships (LSD), and other vessels in the South China Sea under Rear Adm. Lorenzo S. Sabin, Commander Amphibious Force, Western Pacific and Commander Amphibious Group 1. The operation lasted until May 1955.
  • Aug 16 1955 – Cold War: Famous entertainer and civil rights activist Paul Robeson loses his court appeal to try to force the Department of State to grant him a passport. Robeson was seen as a danger because he often interspersed his performances with comments about race relations in the United States. Before and after his performances, he gave numerous interviews condemning segregation and discrimination in America. For some U.S. policymakers, who viewed America’s poor record of race relations as the nation’s “Achilles’ heel” in terms of the propaganda war with the Soviet Union, having a well-known African-American denounce segregation and praise the Russians was unacceptable.

  • Aug 16 1964 – Vietnam War : General Khanh ousts General Minh as chief of state » General Nguyen Khanh, elected president by the Military Council, ousts Duong Van Minh as South Vietnamese chief of state and installs a new constitution, which the U.S. Embassy had helped to draft.

Khanh said that he was not becoming a military dictator, but it was clear that he was now the chief power in the Saigon government. Within the week, student demonstrations against Khanh and the military government quickly turned into riots. Meanwhile, Henry Cabot Lodge, former ambassador to South Vietnam, went to Western Europe as a personal emissary of President Johnson to explain U.S. policy in Vietnam and to obtain more support from allies. Lodge returned with pledges from West Germany, Holland, Belgium, Great Britain, and Spain to provide nonmilitary technical aid to South Vietnam, but none agreed to provide military support.

  • Aug 16 1964 – Vietnam War: Henry Cabot Lodge, former ambassador to South Vietnam, went to Western Europe as a personal emissary of President Johnson to explain U.S. policy in Vietnam and to obtain more support from allies. Lodge returned with pledges from West Germany, Holland, Belgium, Great Britain, and Spain to provide nonmilitary technical aid to South Vietnam, but none agreed to provide military support.
  • Aug 16 1966 – Vietnam War: Congress investigates antiwar demonstrators » The House Un-American Activities Committee begins investigations of Americans who have aided the Viet Cong. The committee intends to introduce legislation making these activities illegal. Anti–war demonstrators disrupt the meeting and 50 people are arrested for disorderly conduct. The Chairman of the subcommittee, Representative J.R. Pool (D-TX) announced that the hearings had revealed that key leadership of groups supporting the Viet Cong were comprised of revolutionary, hard-core Communists.
  • Aug 16 1967 – Vietnam War: Tonkin Gulf Resolution challenged » President Johnson’s broad interpretation of the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution is attacked in the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee by the Chairman, Senator William Fulbright of Arkansas, who feels that Johnson has no mandate to conduct the war on the present scale.
  • Aug 16 1972 – Vietnam War: Heavy air attacks on North Vietnam » U.S. fighter-bombers fly 370 air strikes against North Vietnam, the highest daily total of the year; additionally, there are eight B-52 strikes in the North. Meanwhile, U.S. warplanes flew 321 missions (including 27 B-52 strikes) in South Vietnam, mostly in Quang Tri province. Despite this heavy air activity, hopes for an agreement to end the war rise as Henry Kissinger leaves Paris to confer with President Thieu and his advisers.
  • Aug 16 1990 – Iraq: President Bush met with Jordan’s King Hussein in Kennebunkport, Maine, where he urged the monarch to close Iraq’s access to the sea through the port of Aqaba. In Iraq, President Saddam Hussein issued a statement in which he repeatedly called Bush a “liar” and said the outbreak of war could result in “thousands of Americans wrapped in sad coffins.”
  • Aug 16 2004 – GWOT: U.S. President Bush announced plans to pull 70-100 thousand US troops from Europe and Asia and redeploy them to meet the demands of the global war on terrorism.


  • Aug 17 1812 – War of 1812: Frigate President captures British schooner L’Adeline in North Atlantic.
  • Aug 17 1862 – Indian Wars: Dakota uprising begins in Minnesota » Minnesota erupts in violence as desperate Dakota Indians attack white settlements along the Minnesota River. The Dakota were eventually overwhelmed by the U.S. military six weeks later.

The Dakota Indians were more commonly referred to as the Sioux, a derogatory name derived from part of a French word meaning “little snake.” They were composed of four bands, and lived on temporary reservations in southwestern Minnesota. For two decades, the Dakota were poorly treated by the Federal government, local traders, and settlers. They saw their hunting lands whittled down, and provisions promised by the government rarely arrived. Worse yet, a wave of white settlers surrounded them.

The summer of 1862 was particularly hard on the Dakota. Cutworms destroyed much of their corn crops, and many families faced starvation. Dakota leaders were frustrated by attempts to convince traders to extend credit to tribal members and alleviate the suffering. On 17 AUG, four young Dakota warriors were returning from an unsuccessful hunt when they stopped to steal some eggs from a white settlement. The youths soon picked a quarrel with the hen’s owner, and the encounter turned tragic when the Dakotas killed five members of the family. Sensing that they would be attacked, Dakota leaders determined that war was at hand and seized the initiative. Led by Taoyateduta (also known as Little Crow), the Dakota attacked local agencies and the settlement of New Ulm. Over 500 white settlers lost their lives along with about 150 Dakota warriors.

President Abraham Lincoln dispatched General John Pope, fresh from his defeat at the Second Battle of Bull Run, Virginia, to organize the Military Department of the Northwest. Some Dakota fled to North Dakota, but more than 2,000 were rounded up and over 300 warriors were sentenced to death. President Lincoln commuted most of their sentences, but on December 26, 1862, 38 Dakota men were executed at Mankato, Minnesota. It was the largest mass execution in American history.

  • Aug 17 1862 – Civil War: Major General J.E.B. Stuart is assigned command of all the cavalry of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia. He established a reputation as an audacious cavalry commander and on two occasions (during the Peninsula Campaign and the Maryland Campaign) circumnavigated the Union Army of the Potomac.
  • Aug 17 1862 – Civil War: Joint landing party from U.S.S. Ellis and Army boats destroyed Confederate salt works, battery, and barracks near Swansboro, North Carolina. This constant attack from the sea destroyed the South’s resources and drained her strength.
  • Aug 17 1863 – Civil War: In Charleston, South Carolina, Union batteries and ships bombard Confederate held Fort Sumter for the first time.
  • Aug 17 1864 – Civil War: Battle of Gainesville » Confederate forces defeat Union troops near Gainesville, Florida. The result of the battle was the Confederate occupation of Gainesville Florida for the remainder of the war. Casualties and losses: Union 28 dead, 5 wounded, and 188 captured – CSA 3 dead and 3 wounded.
  • Aug 17 1914 – WWI: The Russian 1st and 2nd Armies begin their advance into East Prussia, fulfilling Russia’s promise to its ally, France, to attack Germany from the east as soon as possible so as to divert German resources and relieve pressure on France during the opening weeks of the war.
  • Aug 17 1941 – WW2: The United States government presents a formal warning to the Japanese along the lines agreed at Placentia Bay. The text of the note had been toned down somewhat from the draft originally agreed with the British and Dutch, so they do not present their notes in order to avoid appearing to disagree with the American position. No decision on the Japanese proposal of a meeting between Roosevelt and Konoye is offered at this time.
  • Aug 17 1942 – WW2: Offensive operations against Nazi-occupied territory start » Regular combat operations by the VIII Bomber Command began when the 97th Bombardment Group flew 12 B-17Es on the first VIII Bomber Command heavy bomber mission of the war from RAF Polebrook, attacking the Rouen-Sotteville marshalling yards in France.
  • Aug 17 1942 – WW2: Lt. Col. Evans F. Carlson and a force of 122 Marine raiders come ashore Makin Island, in the west Pacific Ocean, occupied by the Japanese. What began as a diversionary tactic almost ended in disaster for the Americans. An accidental gun discharge upon landing alerted the defenders. Fourteen Marines were killed by Japanese gunfire, seven drowned and nine were captured and beheaded.
  • Aug 17 1943 – WW2: Japanese airfields around Wewak in New Guina are attacked by planes of the U.S. 5th Air Force, based in Australia. The four raids, over a five-day period ending on 21 AUG represented a decisive victory for the Allies: the Japanese Fourth Air Army lost about 100 planes on the ground and in the air, reducing its operational strength to about 30 planes. Ten aircraft from the U.S. Fifth Air Force were lost.
  • Aug 17 1943 – WW2: Patton wins race to Messina » U.S. General George S. Patton and his 7th Army arrive in Messina several hours before British Field Marshal Bernard L. Montgomery and his 8th Army, winning the unofficial “Race to Messina” and completing the Allied conquest of Sicily.

Born in San Gabriel, California, in 1885, Patton’s family had a long history of military service. After studying at West Point, he served as a tank officer in World War I, and these experiences, along with his extensive military study, led him to become an advocate of the crucial importance of the tank in future warfare. After the American entrance into World War II, Patton was placed in command of an important U.S. tank division and played a key role in the Allied invasion of French North Africa in 1942. In 1943, Patton led the U.S. 7th Army in its assault on Sicily and won fame for out-commanding Montgomery during their pincer movement against Messina.

Although Patton was one of the ablest American commanders in World War II, he was also one of the most controversial. He presented himself as a modern-day cavalryman, designed his own uniform, and was known to make eccentric claims of his direct descent from great military leaders of the past through reincarnation. During the Sicilian campaign, Patton generated considerable controversy when he accused a hospitalized U.S. soldier suffering from battle fatigue of cowardice and then personally struck him across the face. The famously profane general was forced to issue a public apology and was reprimanded by General Dwight Eisenhower.

However, when it was time for the invasion of Western Europe, Eisenhower could find no general as formidable as Patton, and the general was again granted an important military post. In 1944, Patton commanded the U.S. 3rd Army in the invasion of France, and in December of that year his expertise in military movement and tank warfare helped crush the German counteroffensive in the Ardennes.

During one of his many successful campaigns, General Patton was said to have declared, “Compared to war, all other forms of human endeavor shrink to insignificance.” On December 21, 1945, he died in a hospital in Germany from injuries sustained in an automobile accident near Mannheim.

  • Aug 17 1943 – WW2: Schweinfurt*Regensburg Mission » An air combat battle flown by B-17 Flying Fortresses of the U.S. Army Air Forces. It was conceived as an ambitious plan to cripple the German aircraft industry. The strike by 376 bombers of sixteen bomb groups resulted in the loss of 60 bombers plus many more damaged beyond economical repair. As a result, the Eighth Air Force was unable to follow up immediately with a second attack that might have seriously crippled German industry.

The following is a list of targets attacked by 8th Air Force bomber ...

  • Aug 17 1943 – WW2: The Allies agreed to begin discussions for the planning of the invasion of France, codenamed Overlord in a secret report by the Combined Chiefs of Staff. There were also discussions to increase the bombing offensive against Germany and continue the buildup of American forces in Britain prior to an invasion of France.
  • Aug 17 1943 – WW2: Operation Hydea » As part of Operation Crossbow to disrupt German secret weapon development, the Royal Air Force began a strategic bombing campaign against Nazi Germany’s V-weapon program by attacking the Peenemünde Army Research Center. Of the 596 heavy bombers sent on the raid on the night of 17/18 AUG, 215 British aircrew members and 40 bombers were lost, and hundreds of civilians were killed in a nearby concentration camp. The air raid killed two V-2 rocket scientists and delayed V-2 rocket test launches for seven weeks. Subsequent attacks were carried out in daylight raids by the US Army Air Force’s Eighth Air Force.
  • Aug 17 1944 – WW2: There is little German resistance to the Allied advance of US 7th Army. St. Raphael, St. Tropez, Frejus, Le Luq and St. Maxime are captured during the day.
  • Aug 17 1950 – Korea: Battle of Obong-Ni ridge » The North Korean People’s Army (NKPA) had almost everything going its way during the earliest Korean War battles. The opposing South Korean and American forces, weak and unprepared, were pushed into a shrinking perimeter around the small port city of Pusan. That perimeter was steadily being reinforced, with an eye toward an eventual breakout and counteroffensive. One of the units sent into the Pusan perimeter was the 1st Marine Provisional Brigade, an ad hoc unit formed to get a force into the fight quickly while the 1st Marine Division properly formed up. The brigade included a small force of M-26 Pershing tanks for support.

These tanks were hurriedly readied for service to provide a counter to the NKPA’s Soviet-Supplied T-34 tanks, which had so far ranged almost unopposed against the light tanks and anti-tank weapons available to their opponents. The two tanks had never met in combat before, but it was hoped the M-26’s 90mm gun and thick armor would prove a match for the Soviet vehicle. The 5th Marines were assigned to take Obong-Ni ridge, known to the Marines as “No-Name Ridge.” Supporting them were four M-26s of the 1st Platoon, Company A of the 1st Marine Tank Battalion. The platoon was led by Lieutenant Granville Sweet. The NKPA 4th Infantry Division opposed the Marines with a battalion of the 109th Tank Regiment assisting them in turn.

The day’s fighting ended, and the Americans set up defenses for the night. The tanks pulled back to refuel, but at 8 PM, they received the message code “Flash Purple,” indicating an impending tank attack. Lt. Sweet ordered his tanks forward as each finished topping off. He selected a narrow spot in the road and placed three of his tanks side by side, so if the enemy destroyed his vehicles, their wrecks would block the defile and stop the enemy advance. His tank had a problem with its elevation mechanism, so it stayed back. The defile was near a curve in the road, and the advancing enemy armor would be well within range before they spotted the Pershings.

The NKPA T-34-85s advanced, going past American infantry, threatening to cut the lines between two different units. American troops fired at the tanks with recoilless rifles and bazookas. The tank’s external fuel tanks were set ablaze, but none were knocked out. They kept ahead, up to and around a curve in the road. As the four scorched tanks turned the corner they came in sight of the American M-26s.

The first T-34 was hit by three M-26 rounds which went completely through its armor putting it out of action. The second moved around the first and was immediately hit by several rounds, including one in the turret, causing it to slew around, firing its cannon uselessly into the side of the hill. The third began firing back at the Pershings from behind the wrecks of its two brothers. The Marines returned fire, hitting it seven times. Three of the crew jumped out and ran off into the growing darkness, but small arms fire from nearby did them in. The last T-34, commanded by the NKPA battalion commander, retreated back down the road but was soon knocked out by a US Army bazooka team.

The tank battle was over and any doubt of the Pershing’s effectiveness was dispelled. The T-34s armor had proved no match for the American 90mm cannon. The M-26s and their crews were up to the challenge and the T-34’s aura of invincibility was forever broken. Future engagements only showed the American tank, properly handled, was superior.

  • Aug 17 1950 – Korea: Hill 303 Massacre » This was a war crime that took place during the opening days of the Korean War on a hill above Waegwan, South Korea during one of the numerous smaller engagements of the Battle of Pusan Perimeter. Forty-one United States Army (US) prisoners of war were shot and killed by troops of the North Korean Korean People’s Army (KPA) during one of the numerous smaller engagements of the Battle of Pusan Perimeter.

Operating near Taegu during the Battle of Taegu, elements of the US 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division were surrounded by KPA troops crossing the Naktong River at Hill 303. Most of the US troops were able to escape but one platoon of mortar operators misidentified KPA troops as Republic of Korea Army (ROK) reinforcements and was captured. KPA troops held the Americans on the hill and initially tried to move them across the river and out of the battle, but they were unable to do so because of a heavy counterattack. US forces eventually broke the KPA advance, routing the force. As the KPA began to retreat one of their officers ordered the prisoners to be shot so they would not slow them down.

Several rows of dead bodies lie side by side with bullet wounds to the back

Several rows of dead bodies lie side by side with bullet wounds to the back

The massacre provoked a response from both sides in the conflict. US commanders broadcast radio messages and dropped leaflets demanding the senior North Korean commanders be held responsible for the atrocity. The KPA commanders, concerned about the way their soldiers were treating prisoners of war, laid out stricter guidelines for handling enemy captives. Memorials were later constructed on Hill 303 by troops at nearby Camp Carroll, to honor the victims of the massacre. On a hill above Waegwan, South Korea forty-one United States Army prisoners of war were shot and killed by troops of the North Korean army during one of the numerous smaller engagements of the Battle of Pusan Perimeter.

  • Aug 17 1960 – Cold War: American Francis Gary Powers pleads guilty at his Moscow trial for spying over the Soviet Union in a U-2 plane.
  • Aug 17 1962 – Cold War: East Germans kill man trying to cross Berlin Wall » East German guards gun down a young man trying to escape across the Berlin Wall into West Berlin and leave him to bleed to death. It was one of the ugliest incidents to take place at one of the ugliest symbols of the Cold War.

The 1962 incident occurred almost a year to the day that construction began on the Berlin Wall. In August 1961, East Berlin authorities began stringing barbed wire across the boundary between East and West Berlin. In just a matter of days, a concrete block wall was under construction, complete with guard towers. In the months that followed, more barbed wire, machine guns, searchlights, guard posts, dogs, mines, and concrete barriers were set up, completely separating the two halves of the city. American officials condemned the communist action, but did nothing to halt construction of the wall.

On August 17, 1962, two young men from East Berlin attempted to scramble to freedom across the wall. One was successful in climbing the last barbed wire fence and, though suffering numerous cuts, made it safely to West Berlin. While horrified West German guards watched, the second young man was shot by machine guns on the East Berlin side. He fell but managed to stand up again, reach the wall, and begin to climb over. More shots rang out. The young man was hit in the back, screamed, and fell backwards off of the wall. For nearly an hour, he lay bleeding to death and crying for help. West German guards threw bandages to the man, and an angry crowd of West Berlin citizens screamed at the East German security men who seemed content to let the young man die. He finally did die, and East German guards scurried to where he lay and removed his body.

During the history of the Berlin Wall (1961 to 1989), nearly 80 people were killed trying to cross from East to West Berlin. East German officials always claimed that the wall was erected to protect the communist regime from the pernicious influences of Western capitalism and culture. In the nearly 30 years that the wall existed, however, no one was ever shot trying to enter East Berlin.

  • Aug 17 1968 – Vietnam: Defense Department figures put the number of combat missions flown over North Vietnam since February 1965 to 117,000, dropping over 2.5 million tons of bombs and rockets.
  • Aug 17 1973 – Vietnam: The United States and Thailand agree to begin negotiations on the reduction of the 49,000-man American presence in Thailand. With the signing of the Paris Peace Accords and the Congressional restrictions against further bombing, U.S. bases were no longer needed. Thailand had provided bases for the U.S. Air Force, which included four tactical fighter wings from which strategic bombing missions by B-52s over both North and South Vietnam were flown from. Responding to President Lyndon Johnson’s call for “Free World Military Forces” to come to the aid of South Vietnam, Thailand had also sent combat troops, which by 1969 totaled nearly 12,000. The last Thai troops were withdrawn from Vietnam in April 1972.
  • Aug 17 1987 – Post WWII: Hitler’s last living henchman dies » Rudolf Hess, Nazi leader Adolf Hitler’s former deputy, is found strangled to death in Spandau Prison in Berlin at the age of 93, apparently the victim of suicide. Hess was the last surviving member of Hitler’s inner circle and the sole prisoner at Spandau since 1966.

Hess, an early and devoted follower of Nazism, participated in Hitler’s failed “Beer Hall Putsch” in 1923. He escaped to Austria but voluntarily returned to Germany to join Hitler in Landsberg jail. During his eight months in prison, Hitler dictated his life story–Mein Kampf–to Hess. In 1933, Hess became deputy Nazi party leader, but Hitler later lost faith in his leadership ability and made him second in the line of succession after Hermann Goering.

In May 1941, Hess stole an airplane and landed it in Scotland on a self-styled mission to negotiate a peace between Britain and Germany. He was immediately arrested by British authorities. His peace proposal–met with no response from the British–was essentially the same as the peace offer made by Hitler in July 1940: an end to hostilities with Britain and its empire in exchange for a free German hand on the European continent. However, by May 1941 the Battle of Britain had been lost by Germany, and Hitler rightly condemned Hess of suffering from “pacifist delusions” in thinking that a resurgent Britain would make peace.

Held in Britain until the end of the war, Hess was tried at Nuremberg after the war with other top Nazis. On October 1, 1946, Hess was sentenced to life in prison. Twelve of the other Nazis on trial with him were sentenced to be hanged, and others received sentences of 10 to 20 years. Hess was the only Nazi leader to be sentenced to a life term. He escaped the death penalty mainly because his mental state was questionable and he had spent the bloodiest years of the Nazi terror locked up in England. He was held in Spandau Prison in Berlin, and the USSR, the United States, Britain, and France shared responsibility in guarding him.

Hess died in prison on August 17, 1987, at the age of 93. It was revealed that he had strangled himself with an electrical cord. His jailers said he had left a note indicating a desire to kill himself. Rumors circulated that Hess had been murdered, supposedly because he had become a figure of fascination for neo-Nazis in Europe. The Allied powers released his body to his family, despite fears that his grave would become a shrine for Nazi sympathizers. At his funeral in a Bavarian graveyard in late August 1987 scuffles broke out. The New York Times reported that about 200 Nazi sympathizers, some dressed in “Third Reich uniforms,” scuffled with police. Hess was buried in a family plot and the site did become a gathering place for Nazis. In the summer of 2011, fed up with visits by Nazis, the cemetery administration exhumed Hess’s remains. His body was then cremated and his ashes scattered at sea in an unknown location.

  • Aug 17 1998 – Korea: It was reported that spy satellites had detected a secret underground complex in North Korea that was suspected of being involved in a nuclear weapons program.
  • Aug 17 1999 – Iraq: In Iraq US and British warplanes bombed missile sites in the north and south.


  • Aug 18 1780 – American Revolution: British win at Fishing Creek, lose at Musgrove’s Mill » Following the Continental Army’s disastrous loss two days earlier at the Battle of Camden, two bloody engagements leave the Loyalist and Patriot forces each with one more victory in South Carolina’s brutal civil war.

Led by the fearsome horseman Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton, 350 Loyalists located a Patriot force commanded by Brigadier General Thomas Sumter, known as “The Gamecock” for his fearless aggression, about 40 miles from Camden. Tarleton caught the Americans totally unprepared, killing 150, wounding and capturing 300 and freeing 100 British prisoners at Fishing Creek, South Carolina. Loyalist losses were just 16 killed. This battle made Tarleton, in eyes of the British, a national hero. Coming just after the Patriot loss at Camden, it appeared that the British would soon add the Carolinas to Georgia and possess what British General Henry Clinton called “three stripes… of the detestable thirteen.”

However, that same day, a second battle gave the Patriots a spark of hope. At Musgrove’s Mill on the Enoree River, Patriot Colonels Elijah Clarke and Isaac Shelby commanded a militia force that repelled an attack by Loyalists, killing 63, wounding 90 and capturing another 70. Patriot losses were only four killed and eight wounded and a day that could have cemented Patriot disaster ended instead in a draw. The site of the Patriots’ desperately needed victory is now a South Carolina state park.

Shelby would go on to guide the Patriots to a brutal victory at Kings Mountain, near the border of the Carolinas, on 7 OCT, after which his men would proceed to shoot and hang many of their Loyalist, and fellow Carolinian, prisoners. Casualties and losses: Fishing Creek US 450 – Brit 16 & Musgrove’s Mill US 16 – Brit 223.

  • Aug 18 1795 – Post American Revolution: George Washington signs Jay Treaty with Britain » This treaty, known officially as the “Treaty of Amity Commerce and Navigation, between His Britannic Majesty; and The United States of America” attempted to diffuse the tensions between England and the United States that had risen to renewed heights since the end of the Revolutionary War. The U.S. government objected to English military posts along America’s northern and western borders and Britain’s violation of American neutrality in 1794 when the Royal Navy seized American ships in the West Indies during England’s war with France. The treaty, written and negotiated by Supreme Court Chief Justice (and Washington appointee) John Jay, was signed by Britain’s King George III on November 19, 1794 in London. However, after Jay returned home with news of the treaty’s signing, Washington, now in his second term, encountered fierce Congressional opposition to the treaty; by 1795, its ratification was uncertain.

John Jay

Leading the opposition to the treaty were two future presidents: Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. At the time, Jefferson was in between political positions: he had just completed a term as Washington’s secretary of state from 1789 to 1793 and had not yet become John Adams’ vice president. Fellow Virginian James Madison was a member of the House of Representatives. Jefferson, Madison and other opponents feared the treaty gave too many concessions to the British. They argued that Jay’s negotiations actually weakened American trade rights and complained that it committed the U.S. to paying pre-revolutionary debts to English merchants. Washington himself was not completely satisfied with the treaty, but considered preventing another war with America’s former colonial master a priority.

Ultimately, the treaty was approved by Congress on August 14, 1795, with exactly the two-thirds majority it needed to pass; Washington signed the treaty four days later. Washington and Jay may have won the legislative battle and averted war temporarily, but the conflict at home highlighted a deepening division between those of different political ideologies in Washington, D.C. Jefferson and Madison mistrusted Washington’s attachment to maintaining friendly relations with England over revolutionary France, who would have welcomed the U.S. as a partner in an expanded war against England.

  • Aug 18 1814 – War of 1812: British burn White House and the Capital — A large force of British soldier under the command of Major General Robert Ross landed at the mouth of Pawtuxet River. The British were in a position to move on Washington. Americans had very few troops available to oppose the oncoming threat. There were only 250 regulars available in the newly formed military district. The British marched north without any serious harassment from the Americas.

On 24 AUG, at the town of Blandsberg the Americans made a stand. The British were able to overwhelm the first line of defense at the bridge. In short order the British overwhelmed the second line of defense, and finally the order was given to retreat from the third line. The British lost at least 64 soldiers and the Americans lost 24 soldiers. There was now nothing standing between the British and Washington. Back in Washington, Dolly Madison secured her place in history by removing key documents from the White House as well as the famous painting of George Washington thus ensuring their safety. The British arrived in Washington and burned the major government buildings including the President’s House (now known as the White House), the Capital Building, the Treasury, the State Department, and the War Department. The British stayed in Washington for only one night, their goal had never been to occupy the city, merely to raid it.

  • Aug 18 1864 – Civil War: Battle of Globe Tavern (i.e. Second Battle of Weldon Railroad) – Union forces partially cut a vital Confederate supply line into Petersburg, Virginia, by attacking the Wilmington and Weldon Railroad. Although the Yankees succeeded in capturing a section of the line, the Confederates simply used wagons to bring supplies from the railhead into the city. Casualties and losses: US 4,296 – CSA 1,620.
  • Aug 18 1914 – WWI: Germany declares war on Russia while President Woodrow Wilson issues his Proclamation of Neutrality.
  • Aug 18 1917 – WWI: Italians launch the 11th Battle of the Isonzo » The Italian army launches their 11th battle against Austro-Hungarian troops on the Isonzo River, near Italy’s border with Austria-Hungary.

Kämpfe auf dem Doberdo.JPG

With its mountainous terrain, the Italian front was the least well-suited of all the fronts of World War I for offensive warfare. Nonetheless, since 1915 the Italian army had launched no fewer than 10 attempts to overwhelm Austro-Hungarian forces, often with superior numbers, along the Isonzo, located in the eastern sector of the front in present-day Slovenia. After several quick initial successes by both sides, battle had settled into a stalemate, as it had on other fronts of the war. Desperate to make headway and please his more powerful allies, Italian Chief of Staff Luigi Cadorna continued to throw his men against the enemy at the Isonzo, where it was deemed essential to stop the Austrian advance over the mountains into Italy.

For this 11th attempt, Cadorna sent 51 divisions of men and 5,200 guns against the Austrian enemy. The Italian advance was impressive, pushing back the Austro-Hungarian line all along the front, with particular gains in the north by the Italian 2nd Army, led by Luigi Capello. In total, the Italians captured five mountain peaks and took over 20,000 Austrian (and some German) prisoners before the offensive ran out of steam and the Austro-Hungarian line eventually held their positions. The Italian attack was halted on 12 SEP; they would make no further attempts on the Isonzo. The Twelfth Battle of the Isonzo—also known as the Battle of Caporetto—in late October 1917 marked a spectacular success for the Central Powers, and almost succeeded in forcing Italy out of the war altogether. With substantial Allied aid, and a new commander in chief, Armando Diaz, replacing Cadorna, Italy continued the fight. By the time World War I ended, in November 1918, half of the entire number of Italian casualties—300,000 out of 600,000—had been incurred along the Isonzo.

  • Aug 18 1941 – WWII: Hitler suspends euthanasia program » Adolf Hitler orders that the systematic murder of the mentally ill and handicapped be brought to an end because of protests within Germany.

In 1939, Dr. Viktor Brack, head of Hitler’s Euthanasia Department, oversaw the creation of the T.4 program, which began as the systematic killing of children deemed “mentally defective.” Children were transported from all over Germany to a Special Psychiatric Youth Department and killed. Later, certain criteria were established for non-Jewish children. They had to be “certified” mentally ill, schizophrenic, or incapable of working for one reason or another. Jewish children already in mental hospitals, whatever the reason or whatever the prognosis, were automatically to be subject to the program. The victims were either injected with lethal substances or were led to “showers” where the children sat as gas flooded the room through water pipes. The program was then expanded to adults.

Bishop Count Clemens von Galen

It wasn’t long before protests began mounting within Germany, especially by doctors and clergy. Some had the courage to write Hitler directly and describe the T.4 program as “barbaric”; others circulated their opinions more discreetly. Heinrich Himmler, head of the SS and the man who would direct the systematic extermination of European Jewry, had only one regret: that the SS had not been put in charge of the whole affair. “We know how to deal with it correctly, without causing useless uproar among the people.”

Finally, in 1941, Bishop Count Clemens von Galen denounced the euthanasia program from his pulpit. Hitler did not need such publicity. He ordered the program suspended, at least in Germany. But 50,000 people had already fallen victim to it. It would be revived in occupied Poland.

  • Aug 18 1951 – Korea: Battle of Bloody Ridge begins which continued until 5 SEP
  • Aug 18 1965 – Vietnam: Marines launch Operation Starlite » After a deserter from the First Vietcong Regiment had revealed that an attack was imminent against the U.S. base at Chu Lai, the Marines launch Operation Starlite in the Van Tuong peninsula in Quang Ngai Province. In this, the first major U.S. ground battle of the Vietnam War, 5,500 Marines destroyed a Viet Cong stronghold, scoring a resounding victory. During the operation, which lasted six days, ground forces, artillery from Chu Lai, close air support, and naval gunfire combined to kill nearly 700 Vietcong soldiers. U.S. losses included 45 Marines dead and more than 200 wounded.
  • Aug 18 1966 – Vietnam: Australians defeat VC at Long Tan » The First Australian Task Force (ATF) inflicts a major defeat on Viet Cong forces in Phuoc Tuy Province. Australia had first sent troops to Vietnam in 1962 and eventually expanded its commitment in response to President Lyndon Johnson’s call for “Free World Military Forces” to form an alliance of “Many Flags” in South Vietnam. By 1966, the First Australian Task Force included two infantry battalions and associated logistical support elements; it had also been joined by a New Zealand unit made up of two infantry companies and a Special Air Service troops. In the Battle of Long Tan, the ATF acquitted itself very well, inflicting a major defeat on the communist forces, killing 245 while sustaining 17 dead.
  • Aug 18 1968 – Vietnam: Communists launch new offensive in Saigon » The North Vietnamese and Viet Cong launch a limited offensive in the south with 19 separate attacks throughout South Vietnam. In the heaviest fighting in three months, Communist troops attacked key positions along the Cambodian border in Tay Ninh and Binh Long provinces, northwest of Saigon. In Tay Ninh, 600 Viet Cong, supported by elements of two North Vietnamese divisions, attacked the provincial capital, capturing several government installations. U.S. reinforcements from the Twenty-fifth Infantry Division were rushed to the scene and after a day of house-to-house fighting expelled the communists from the city.
  • Aug 18 1971 – Vietnam: Australia and New Zealand decide to withdraw troops from Vietnam » Australia and New Zealand announce the end of the year as the deadline for withdrawal of their respective contingents from Vietnam. The Australians had 6,000 men in South Vietnam and the New Zealanders numbered 264. Both nations agreed to leave behind small training contingents. Australian Prime Minister William McMahon proclaimed that the South Vietnamese forces were now able to assume Australia’s role in Phuoc Tuy province, southeast of Saigon and that Australia would give South Vietnam $28 million over the next three years for civilian projects. Total Australian losses for the period of their commitment in Vietnam were 473 dead and 2,202 wounded; the monetary cost of the war was $182 million for military expenses and $16 million in civilian assistance to South Vietnam.
  • Aug 18 1976 – Korea: North Korean soldiers killed two American soldiers in the Joint Security Area of the Korean Demilitarized Zone, heightening tensions over a 100-foot (30 m) poplar tree that blocked the line of sight between a United Nations Command checkpoint and an observation post. Led to Operation Paul Bunyan, an operation that cut down the tree with a show of force to intimidate North Korea into backing down, which it did.

Remains of the tree that was the object of the 1976 axe murder incident Deliberately left standing after ‘

Operation Paul Bunyan’, the stump was replaced by a monument in 1987

  • Aug 18 1991 – Cold War: Soviet hard-liners launch coup against Gorbachev » Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev is placed under house arrest during a coup by high-ranking members of his own government, military and police forces.

Since becoming secretary of the Communist Party in 1985 and president of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) in 1988, Gorbachev had pursued comprehensive reforms of the Soviet system. Combining perestroika (“restructuring”) of the economy–including a greater emphasis on free-market policies–and glasnost (“openness”) in diplomacy, he greatly improved Soviet relations with Western democracies, particularly the United States. Meanwhile, though, within the USSR, Gorbachev faced powerful critics, including conservative, hard-line politicians and military officials who thought he was driving the Soviet Union toward its downfall and making it a second-rate power. On the other side were even more radical reformers–particularly Boris Yeltsin, president of the most powerful socialist republic, Russia–who complained that Gorbachev was just not working fast enough.

Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev is placed under house arrest

The August 1991 coup was carried out by the hard-line elements within Gorbachev’s own administration, as well as the heads of the Soviet army and the KGB, or secret police. Detained at his vacation villa in the Crimea, he was placed under house arrest and pressured to give his resignation, which he refused to do. Claiming Gorbachev was ill, the coup leaders, headed by former vice president Gennady Yanayev, declared a state of emergency and attempted to take control of the government.

Yeltsin and his backers from the Russian parliament then stepped in, calling on the Russian people to strike and protest the coup. When soldiers tried to arrest Yeltsin, they found the way to the parliamentary building blocked by armed and unarmed civilians. Yeltsin himself climbed aboard a tank and spoke through a megaphone, urging the troops not to turn against the people and condemning the coup as a “new reign of terror.” The soldiers backed off, some of them choosing to join the resistance. After thousands took the streets to demonstrate, the coup collapsed after only three days.

Gorbachev was released and flown to Moscow, but his regime had been dealt a deadly blow. Over the next few months, he dissolved the Communist Party, granted independence to the Baltic states, and proposed a looser, more economics-based federation among the remaining republics. In December 1991, Gorbachev resigned. Yeltsin capitalized on his defeat of the coup, emerging from the rubble of the former Soviet Union as the most powerful figure in Moscow and the leader of the newly formed Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).


  • Aug 19 1779 – American Revolution: Americans raid Paulus Hook, New Jersey » A Patriot force consisting of 300 men led by Major Henry “Light Horse Harry” Lee assaults the defensive positions of the British at Paulus Hook, New Jersey, now known as Jersey City. Lee wins one of only eight medals awarded by Congress during the war–and the only one awarded to a soldier beneath the rank of general–for his role in this action.

Although Lee planned to attack immediately after midnight, his forces set off later than expected and lost some of their number in their march through the surrounding marshland. Still, the 23-year-old College of New Jersey (now Princeton University) graduate was able to capture the position, possibly because the British mistook the Patriots for Hessian mercenaries until they reached the fort’s gate.

Although the Patriots damaged the fort, took 50 lives and 158 prisoners, they failed to destroy the structure or spike its cannon. With daybreak approaching, Lee decided to withdraw, concerned that the British would send reinforcements from New York City across the Hudson River. Thus the fort remained in British control until the war ended and the British evacuated and sailed for home on November 22, 1783. The neighborhood erected a monument in memory of the battle in 1903.

Despite the limited success of the action, it gave Patriot morale a major boost. Following the assault, several officers jealous of the flamboyant Lee’s success drafted a substantial set of charges, including reckless endangerment of his men, against him, leading to his court martial. Lee offered his own persuasive defense and was not only vindicated but praised for his actions by the court; he was then awarded the Congressional medal.

  • Aug 19 1782 – American Revolution: Battle of Blue Licks » The last major engagement of the war, almost ten months after the surrender of the British commander Charles Cornwallis following the Siege of Yorktown. Casualties and losses: US 83 – GB/Indians 8.
  • Aug 19 1812 – War of 1812: Old Ironsides earns its name » The U.S. Navy frigate Constitution defeats the British frigate Guerrière in a furious engagement off the coast of Nova Scotia. Witnesses claimed that the British shot merely bounced off the Constitution‘s sides, as if the ship were made of iron rather than wood. By the war’s end, “Old Ironsides” destroyed or captured seven more British ships. The success of the USS Constitution against the supposedly invincible Royal Navy provided a tremendous boost in morale for the young American republic.

The Constitution was one of six frigates that Congress requested be built in 1794 to help protect American merchant fleets from attacks by Barbary pirates and harassment by British and French forces. It was constructed in Boston, and the bolts fastening its timbers and copper sheathing were provided by the industrialist and patriot Paul Revere. Launched on October 21, 1797, the Constitution was 204 feet long, displaced 2,200 tons, and was rated as a 44-gun frigate (although it often carried as many as 50 guns).

In July 1798 it was put to sea with a crew of 450 and cruised the West Indies, protecting U.S. shipping from French privateers. In 1803, President Thomas Jefferson ordered the American warship to the Mediterranean to fight Barbary pirates off the coast of Tripoli. The vessel performed commendably during the conflict, and in 1805 a peace treaty with Tripoli was signed on the Constitution‘s deck.

When war broke out with Britain in June 1812, the Constitution was commanded by Isaac Hull, who served as lieutenant on the ship during the Tripolitan War. Scarcely a month later, on 16 JUL, the Constitution encountered a squadron of five British ships off Egg Harbor, New Jersey. Finding itself surrounded, the Constitution was preparing to escape when suddenly the wind died. With both sides dead in the water and just out of gunnery range, a legendary slow-speed chase ensued. For 36 hours, the Constitution‘s crew kept their ship just ahead of the British by towing the frigate with rowboats and by tossing the ship’s anchor ahead of the ship and then reeling it in. At dawn on 18 JUL, a breeze sprang, and the Constitution was far enough ahead of its pursuers to escape by sail.

One month later, on 19 AUG, the Constitution caught the British warship Guerrière alone about 600 miles east of Boston. After considerable maneuvering, the Constitution delivered its first broadside, and for 20 minutes the American and British vessels bombarded each other in close and violent action. The British man-of-war was de-masted and rendered a wreck while the Constitution escaped with only minimal damage. The unexpected victory of Old Ironsides against a British frigate helped unite America behind the war effort and made Commander Hull a national hero. The Constitution went on to defeat or capture seven more British ships in the War of 1812 and ran the British blockade of Boston twice.

After the war, Old Ironsides served as the flagship of the navy’s Mediterranean squadron and in 1828 was laid up in Boston. Two years later, the navy considered scrapping the Constitution, which had become unseaworthy, leading to an outcry of public support for preserving the famous warship. The navy refurbished the Constitution, and it went on to serve as the flagship of the Mediterranean, Pacific, and Home squadrons. In 1844, the frigate left New York City on a global journey that included visits to numerous international ports as a goodwill agent of the United States. In the early 1850s, it served as flagship of the African Squadron and patrolled the West African coast looking for slave traders.

In 1855, the Constitution retired from active military service, but the famous vessel continued to serve the United States, first as a training ship and later as a touring national landmark. Since 1934, it has been based at the Charlestown Navy Yard in Boston. Over the years, Old Ironsides has enjoyed a number of restorations, the most recent of which was completed in 1997, allowing it to sail for the first time in 116 years. Today, the Constitution is the world’s oldest commissioned warship afloat.

  • Aug 19 1862 – Indian Wars: During an uprising in Minnesota, Lakota warriors decide not to attack heavily-defended Fort Ridgely and instead turn to the settlement of New Ulm, killing white settlers along the way.
  • Aug 19 1919 – WWI: President Wilson appears before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee » In a break with conventional practice, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson appears personally before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to argue in favor of its ratification of the Versailles Treaty, the peace settlement that ended the First World War.

The previous 8 JUL, Wilson had returned from Paris, France, where the treaty’s terms had been worked out over a contentious six months. Two days later, he went before the U.S. Senate to present the Treaty of Versailles, including the covenant of the League of Nations, the international peace-keeping organization that Wilson had envisioned in his famous “Fourteen Points” speech of 1918 and had worked for so adamantly in Paris. “Dare we reject it?” he asked the senators, “and break the heart of the world?”

The 96 members of the Senate, for their part, were divided. The central concern with the treaty involved the League of Nations. A crucial article of the league covenant, around which much debate would center in the weeks to come, required all member states “to respect and preserve as against external aggression the territorial integrity and existing political independence of all Members of the League.” This principle of collective security was thought by many to be an obstruction to America’s much vaunted independence. At least six Republican senators, dubbed the “Irreconcilables,” were irrevocably opposed to the treaty, while nine more were “Mild Reservationists” whose most important concern about the treaty, and specifically the League of Nations, was that American sovereignty be protected. Some three dozen Republicans were uncommitted as of yet. While most Democrats publicly went along with Wilson, many privately thought more along the lines of the Mild Reservationists.

So things stood on 31 JUL, when the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, headed by the Republican Senator (and Wilson’s nemesis) Henry Cabot Lodge, began six weeks of hearings on the Versailles Treaty. Lodge’s Republicans had a majority of only two in the Senate, and Wilson could conceivably have won over the moderates among them—the Mild Reservationists and those undecided—to his side, thus building a coalition in favor of ratification, by accepting some reservations. Wilson was absolutely unwilling, however, to accept any degree of change or compromise to the treaty or to his precious League of Nations. His mental and physical health already deteriorating over that summer, Wilson broke tradition to make a personal appearance before the committee on 19 AUG, making it clear that he continued to stand firm on all points.

Four days later, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted on the first of many amendments to the treaty—the reversal of the award to Japan of the Shantung Peninsula, and its return to Chinese control. Furious, Wilson decided to take his case directly to the American people. On September 2, 1919, he began a whistle-stop tour across the country, sometimes making as many as three speeches in one day. The strain of the trip destroyed his health; suffering from exhaustion, he returned to Washington in late September, and the rest of the tour was canceled. On 2 OCT, back at the White House, Wilson suffered a massive stroke that left him partially paralyzed; he would never effectively function as president again.

He continued to influence the proceedings on the treaty, however, all the way from his sickbed. The treaty made its way through the Senate all through October and part of November, as a total of 12 amendments were defeated by Democrats and moderate Republicans. Lodge marshaled most of the Republicans together, and their votes were enough to attach a number of reservations before assembling a vote on ratification—the most crucial was attached to Article X, saying the U.S. would not act to protect the territorial integrity of any League member unless Congress gave its approval. Wilson, on his sickbed, remained determined; when told of the reservation, he said “That cuts the very heart out of the treaty.” After Wilson expressed his vehement opposition to ratification on these terms, the Senate took a vote on Lodge’s motion. It was defeated by a combination of the majority of the Democrats, loyal to Wilson, and the Republican Irreconcilables, who opposed ratification in any form. A last-ditch effort by moderates to find a compromise came close to succeeding—against Wilson’s best efforts to block it—and when the Senate voted on March 19, 1920, on a new ratification resolution, 23 Democrats voted in favor, and the resolution passed. It failed to win the necessary two-thirds majority, however, and the Senate consequently refused to ratify the Treaty of Versailles.

Though Wilson, the newly anointed winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, bemoaned the rejection of the treaty, he never admitted any doubts about his resolute unwillingness to compromise. Though the United States later signed separate treaties with Germany, Austria and Hungary, it never joined the League of Nations, a circumstance that almost certainly contributed to that organization’s inefficacy in the decades to follow, up until the outbreak of the Second World War.

  • Aug 19 1934 – Pre WWII: Adolf Hitler becomes president of Germany » Adolf Hitler, already chancellor, is also elected president of Germany in an unprecedented consolidation of power in the short history of the republic.

In 1932, German President Paul von Hindenburg, old, tired, and a bit senile, had won re-election as president, but had lost a considerable portion of his right/conservative support to the Nazi Party. Those close to the president wanted a cozier relationship to Hitler and the Nazis. Hindenburg had contempt for the Nazis’ lawlessness, but ultimately agreed to oust his chancellor, Heinrich Bruning, for Franz von Papen, who was willing to appease the Nazis by lifting the ban on Hitler’s Brown Shirts and unilaterally canceling Germany’s reparation payments, imposed by the Treaty of Versailles at the close of World War I.

But Hitler was not appeased. He wanted the chancellorship for himself. Papen’s policies failed on another front: His authoritarian rule alienated his supporters, and he too was forced to resign. He then made common cause with Hitler, persuading President Hindenburg to appoint Hitler chancellor and himself vice-chancellor. He promised the president that he would restrain Hitler’s worst tendencies and that a majority of the Cabinet would go to non-Nazis. As Hindenburg’s current chancellor could no longer gain a majority in the Reichstag, and Hitler could bring together a larger swath of the masses and a unified right/conservative/nationalist coalition, the president gave in. In January 1933, Hitler was named chancellor of Germany.

But that was not enough for Hitler either. In February 1933, Hitler blamed a devastating Reichstag fire on the communists (its true cause remains a mystery) and convinced President Hindenburg to sign a decree suspending individual and civil liberties, a decree Hitler used to silence his political enemies with false arrests. Upon the death of Hindenburg in 1934, Hitler proceeded to purge the Brown Shirts (his storm troopers), the head of which, Ernst Roem, had began voicing opposition to the Nazi Party’s terror tactics. Hitler had Roem executed without trial, which encouraged the army and other reactionary forces within the country to urge Hitler to further consolidate his power by merging the presidency and the chancellorship. This would make Hitler commander of the army as well. A plebiscite vote was held on 19 AUG. Intimidation, and fear of the communists, brought Hitler a 90 percent majority. He was now, for all intents and purposes, dictator.

  • Aug 19 1940 – U.S. Air Force: First flight of the B-25 Mitchell medium bomber » It was named in honor of military aviation pioneer General Billy Mitchell. For instructions on how to fly one go to

Early production model of the B-25 Mitchell

  • Aug 19 1942 – WWII: Allies raid Dieppe » An Allied force of 7,000 men carry out a large daytime raid against German positions at the French seaport of Dieppe. Aided by tanks and aircraft, the commando force–made up of approximately 5,000 Canadians, 2,000 British soldiers, and a handful of American and Free French troops–gained a foothold on the beach in the face of a furious German defense. During nine hours of fighting, the Allies failed to destroy more than a handful of their targets and suffered the death of 3,600 men. More than 100 aircraft, a destroyer, 33 landing craft, and 30 tanks were also lost. Despite its high costs, the Dieppe raid provided valuable logistical information later used in planning the successful 1944 allied landing at Normandy.
  • Aug 19 1944 – WW2: Liberation of Paris » Paris rises against German occupation with the help of Allied troops.
  • Aug 19 1953 – Cold War: CIA-assisted coup overthrows government of Iran » The Iranian military, with the support and financial assistance of the United States government, overthrows the government of Premier Mohammed Mosaddeq and reinstates the Shah of Iran. Iran remained a solid Cold War ally of the United States until a revolution ended the Shah’s rule in 1979.

Mosaddeq came to prominence in Iran in 1951 when he was appointed premier. A fierce nationalist, Mosaddeq immediately began attacks on British oil companies operating in his country, calling for expropriation and nationalization of the oil fields. His actions brought him into conflict with the pro-Western elites of Iran and the Shah, Mohammed Reza Pahlevi. Indeed, the Shah dismissed Mossadeq in mid-1952, but massive public riots condemning the action forced the Shah to reinstate Mossadeq a short time later. U.S. officials watched events in Iran with growing suspicion.

Premier Mohammed Mosaddeq and Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi

British intelligence sources, working with the American Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), came to the conclusion that Mossadeq had communist leanings and would move Iran into the Soviet orbit if allowed to stay in power. Working with Shah, the CIA and British intelligence began to engineer a plot to overthrow Mossadeq. The Iranian premier, however, got wind of the plan and called his supporters to take to the streets in protest. At this point, the Shah left the country for “medical reasons.” While British intelligence backed away from the debacle, the CIA continued its covert operations in Iran. Working with pro-Shah forces and, most importantly, the Iranian military, the CIA cajoled, threatened, and bribed its way into influence and helped to organize another coup attempt against Mossadeq. On August 19, 1953, the military, backed by street protests organized and financed by the CIA, overthrew Mossadeq. The Shah quickly returned to take power and, as thanks for the American help, signed over 40 percent of Iran’s oil fields to U.S. companies.

Mossadeq was arrested, served three years in prison, and died under house arrest in 1967. The Shah became one of America’s most trusted Cold War allies, and U.S. economic and military aid poured into Iran during the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s. In 1978, however, anti-Shah and anti-American protests broke out in Iran and the Shah was toppled from power in 1979. Angry militants seized the U.S. embassy and held the American staff hostage until January 1981. Nationalism, not communism, proved to be the most serious threat to U.S. power in Iran.

  • Aug 19 1960 – Cold War: Captured U.S. spy pilot sentenced in Russia » In the USSR, captured American U-2 pilot Francis Gary Powers is sentenced to 10 years imprisonment for his confessed espionage.

A photograph of Powers while he was in Soviet custody, after being captured.

On May 1, 1960, Powers took off from Pakistan at the controls of an ultra-sophisticated Lockheed U-2 high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft. A CIA-employed pilot, he was to fly over some 2,000 miles of Soviet territory to BodØ military airfield in Norway, collecting intelligence information en route. Roughly halfway through his journey, he was shot down by the Soviets over Sverdlovsk in the Ural Mountains. Forced to bail out at 15,000 feet, he survived the parachute jump but was promptly arrested by Soviet authorities.

On 5 MAY, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev announced that the American spy aircraft had been shot down and two days later revealed that Powers was alive and well and had confessed to being on an intelligence mission for the CIA. On 7 MAY, the United States acknowledged that the U-2 had probably flown over Soviet territory but denied that it had authorized the mission. On 16 MAY, leaders of the United States, the USSR, Britain, and France met in Paris for a long-awaited summit meeting. The four powers were to discuss tensions in the two Germanys and negotiate new disarmament treaties. However, at the first session, the summit collapsed after President Dwight D. Eisenhower refused to apologize to Khrushchev for the U-2 incident. Khrushchev also canceled an invitation for Eisenhower to visit the USSR.

In August, Powers pleaded guilty to espionage charges in Moscow and was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment–three in prison and seven in a prison colony. However, only 18 months later, the Soviets agreed to release him in exchange for Rudolf Abel, a senior KGB spy who was caught and convicted in the United States five years earlier. On February 10, 1962, Powers and Abel were brought to separate sides of the Glienicker Bridge, which connected East and West Berlin across Lake Wannsee. As the spies waited, negotiators talked in the center of the bridge where a white line divided East from West. Finally, Powers and Abel were waved forward and walked past each other to freedom.

Upon returning to the United States, Powers was cleared by the CIA and the Senate of any personal blame for the U-2 incident. In 1970, he published a book, Operation Overflight, about the incident and in 1977 was killed in the crash of a helicopter he flew as a reporter for a Los Angeles television station.

  • Aug 19 1968 – Vietnam: Many Americans against a bombing halt » A Harris survey indicates that 61 percent of those polled are against calling a halt to the bombing in Vietnam. President Johnson, in a major speech at the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention in Detroit, challenged Hanoi to respond to the limitations of the bombing campaign that he had announced in March. But he refused to curtail other military activities in Southeast Asia, saying that, “there are some among us who appear to be searching for a formula which would get us out of Vietnam and Asia on any terms, leaving the people of South Vietnam and Laos and Thailand… to an uncertain fate.”
  • Aug 19 1970 – Vietnam: Cambodia and U.S. sign military aid pact » Cambodia and the U.S. sign a military aid agreement worth $40 million for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1971. The equipment included small arms, ammunition, communications equipment, spare parts and training funds.
  • Aug 19 1972 – Vietnam: Democratic candidate McGovern attacks Nixon policy in Vietnam » George McGovern attacks U.S. pacification techniques of applying “massive firepower and free-fire zones and [clearing] 6 million people out of their homes.” McGovern, a senator from South Dakota, had long been an outspoken opponent of the war in Southeast Asia and had begun calling for withdrawal of U.S. troops in early 1965. In 1972, he campaigned on a liberal reform platform, calling for an immediate end to U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. He also advocated making the Democratic party more responsive to youth, women, and minorities.

Despite McGovern’s attempt to appear more “mainstream,” his opponent, incumbent President Richard Nixon, effectively portrayed McGovern as a radical and was able to draw moderate Democrats to the Republican camp. In addition, many of McGovern’s domestic reform ideas alienated many old-line Democrats who also switched their support to Nixon. McGovern’s campaign was further damaged when his first choice for running mate, Thomas Eagleton, admitted that he had been treated for mental illness. His second choice, Sargent Shriver, added very little to the ticket. Badly split, the Democrats suffered one of the worst defeats in U.S. political history when Nixon and Spiro T. Agnew won in a landslide.

  • Aug 19 1972 – Vietnam: In South Vietnam, the Nguyen Hue Offensive continues with major fighting near the northern district capital Que Son and neighboring Fire Base Ross. After a heavy bombardment, the North Vietnamese captured both the town and the base, giving the Communist control of most of Quang Nam province.


  • Aug 20 1794 – American Revolution: Battle of Fallen Timbers » When President George Washington confronted a frontier Indian crisis in 1794, he called upon Gen. Anthony Wayne to bring the ongoing violence to a close. In the final battle of the Northwest Indian War Wayne was victorious and gained much of what would become Ohio and Indiana for the U.S. in the Treaty of Greenville signed a year later . General “Mad Anthony” Wayne proved that the fragile young republic can counter a military threat when he puts down Shawnee Chief Blue Jacket’s confederacy near present-day Toledo, Ohio, with the newly created 3,000-man strong Legion of the United State.

An 1896 depiction of the battle from Harper’s Magazine (left) and commemorative issue 1929 stamp (right)

  • Aug 19 2010 – OIF: Operation Iraqi Freedom ends, with the last of the United States brigade combat teams crossing the border to Kuwait.
  • Aug 19 1862 – Civil War: “The Prayer of Twenty Millions” » New York Tribune editor Horace Greeley publishes a passionate editorial calling on President Abraham Lincoln to declare emancipation for all slaves in Union-held territory. Greeley’s blistering words voiced the impatience of many Northern abolitionists; but unbeknownst to Greeley and the public, Lincoln was already moving in the direction of emancipation.
  • Aug 20 1794 – NW Indian War: Battle of Fallen Timbers » General “Mad Anthony” Wayne proves that the fragile young republic can counter a military threat when he puts down Shawnee Chief Blue Jacket’s confederacy near present-day Toledo, Ohio, with the newly created 3,000-man strong Legion of the United States at the Battle of Fallen Timbers.

Although the Treaty of Paris ceded the so-called Northwest Territory, stretching west to the Mississippi River and south to Spanish Florida to the United States, the British failed to abandon their forts in the region and continued to support their Indian allies in skirmishes with American settlers. Two earlier Army expeditions into the Ohio territory by Generals Josiah Harmar and Arthur St. Clair in 1790 and 1791, respectively, failed to end the unrest. In fact, St. Clair’s effort concluded with an Indian victory and 630 dead American soldiers.

Wayne had earned the moniker “mad” for his enthusiastic and successful undertaking of a seemingly impossible mission in 1779 at Stony Point, New York; much of Wayne’s subsequent career involved divesting Native Americans of their land. Following the victory at Yorktown, Wayne traveled to Georgia, where he negotiated treaties with the Creeks and Cherokees. They paid dearly in land for their decision to side with the British, and Georgia paid Wayne in land—giving him a large plantation–for his efforts on their behalf.

When President George Washington confronted the frontier Indian crisis in 1794, he called upon Wayne to bring the ongoing violence to a close. Wayne commanded about 2,000 men, with Joseph Bartholomew, Choctaw and Chickasaw men serving as his scouts. Wayne’s army was buttressed by about 1000 mounted Kentucky militiamen under Gen Charles Scott. Wayne’s Legion arrived in the Maumee River Valley in Aug. 1794, where he constructed Fort Defiance and Fort Deposit in preparation for the battle.

For the battle Chief Blue Jacket took a defensive position along the Maumee River, not far from present-day Toledo, Ohio, where a stand of trees (the “fallen timbers”) had been blown down by a recent storm. The Native American forces, numbering about 1,500, were composed of Blue Jacket’s Shawnees, Buckongahelas’s Delawares, Miamis led by Little Turtle, Wyandots led by Roundhead (Wyandot), Ojibwas, Ottawas led by Turkey Foot, Potawatomis, Mingos, and a British company of Canadian militiamen under Captain Alexander McKillop. The battle lasted less than an hour. Wayne’s soldiers closed and pressed the attack with a bayonet charge. His cavalry outflanked Blue Jacket’s warriors, who were easily routed. The Indian warriors fled towards Fort Miami but were surprised to find the gates closed against them. Major William Campbell, the British commander of the fort, refused to assist them, unwilling to start a war with the United States. Wayne’s army had won a decisive victory.

Wayne’s army had lost 33 men and had about 100 wounded. They reported that they had found 30-40 dead warriors. Alexander McKee of the British Indian Department reported that the Indian confederacy lost 19 warriors killed, including Chief Turkey Foot of the Ottawa. Six white men fighting on the Native American side were also killed, and Chiefs Egushaway and Little Otter of the Ottawa were wounded. The soldiers spent several days destroying the nearby Native American villages and crops, then decamped.

Wayne was victorious and gained much of what would become Ohio and Indiana for the U.S. in the Treaty of Greenville signed a year later. After withdrawing from the area, Wayne marched his army unopposed to the Miami capital of Kekionga in what is today northeastern Indiana and constructed Fort Wayne, a defiant symbol of U.S. sovereignty in the heart of Indian Country.

  • Aug 20 1847 – Mexico: Battle of Churubusco » Part of a larger operation by U.S. forces under General Winfield Scott against Mexican General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna’s defense of Mexico City. After routing the Mexicans in this battle, Scott’s army was only five miles away from its objective of Mexico City.
  • Aug 20 1908 – U.S. Navy: The American Great White Fleet arrives in Sydney, Australia, to a warm welcome. Well over half a million Sydneysiders turned out to watch the arrival. For a city population of around 600,000 this was no mean achievement. The largest gathering yet seen in Australia. Great White Fleet was the popular nickname for the powerful United States Navy battle fleet that completed a journey around the globe from 16 December 1907, to 22 February 1909, by order of United States President Theodore Roosevelt. Its mission was to make friendly courtesy visits to numerous countries, while displaying new U.S. naval power to the world.
  • Aug 20 1932 – Post WW1: A Mother’s Grief » In Flanders, Belgium, the German artist Kathe Kollwitz unveils the monument she created to memorialize her son, Peter, along with the hundreds of thousands of other soldiers killed on the battlefields of the Western Front during World War I.

Born in 1867 in Koningsberg, East Prussia, Kollwitz was schooled privately and sent to study art in Berlin, an unusually progressive education for a woman in the 1880s. Influenced by Realist artists and writers including Max Klinger and Emile Zola, as well as the works of Edvard Munch, Kollwitz became known for her drafting and printmaking skills, as well as for the dark subject matter of her work, which chronicled scenes from the poverty-ridden lives of working-class people in Germany in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Her work before the beginning of World War I included drawings with such titles as Homeless, Waiting for the Drunkard and Unemployment.

Peter Kollwitz The Grieving Parents Monument Katheryn Kollwitz

Soon after the Great War began in the summer of 1914, Kollwitz’s 19-year-old son Peter enlisted voluntarily as a soldier in the German army. He was killed in battle on October 22, 1914, on the Western Front, at Diksmuide, Belgium. This personal tragedy in Kollwitz’s life was reflected in her art, along with her political ideology and strong social conscience—by 1910 she had become a committed socialist. Over the war years, Kollwitz produced a series of drawings exploring the war’s impact, with titles like Widows and Orphans, Killed in Action and The Survivors. In 1917, with World War I in full swing, Kollwitz celebrated her 50th birthday with an exhibition at the Berlin gallery owned by the internationally known art dealer Paul Cassirer.

Kollwitz’s memorial to her son Peter was dedicated on August 20, 1932, at the German military cemetery near Vladslo in Flanders, Belgium. The grieving Kollwitz had worked for years to create the monument, struggling to reconcile her hatred for the war and mistrust of its leadership with the desire to honor her son’s sacrifice for the cause. Entitled The Parents, the statue depicts an elderly couple kneeling before the grave of their son. It bears no date or signature.

Kollwitz continued her support of German and international socialism in the post-war years, and was eventually punished for her outspoken political beliefs. She became the first woman elected to the Prussian Academy of Arts but was forced to resign after Adolf Hitler and his National Socialist (Nazi) Party rose to power in 1933. Three years later the Nazis classified Kollwitz’s art—like that of so many others during that period—as “degenerate,” and barred her from exhibiting her work. Kollwitz’s husband Karl died in 1940; in 1942, her grandson, also named Peter, was killed at the Russian front during World War II. Her own home, and much of her work, was destroyed by Allied bombs the following year, and Kollwitz was evacuated from Berlin to Moritzburg, near Dresden.

“In days to come people will hardly understand this age,” Kollwitz wrote during her time in Moritzburg. “What a difference between now and 1914…People have been transformed so that they have this capacity for endurance….Worst of all is that every war already carries within the war which will answer it. Every war is answered by a new war, until everything, everything is smashed.” She died on April 22, 1945, just two weeks before World War II ended. As she wrote in her final letter: “War accompanies me to the end.”

  • Aug 20 1940 – Post Russian Revolution: Leon Trotsky assassinated » Exiled Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky is fatally wounded by an ice-ax-wielding assassin at his compound outside Mexico City. The killer–Ramón Mercader–was a Spanish communist and probable agent of Soviet leader Joseph Stalin. Trotsky died from his wounds the next day.

Born in the Ukraine of Russian-Jewish parents in 1879, Trotsky embraced Marxism as a teenager and later dropped out of the University of Odessa to help organize the underground South Russian Workers’ Union. In 1898, he was arrested for his revolutionary activities and sent to prison. In 1900, he was exiled to Siberia. In 1902, he escaped to England using a forged passport under the name of Leon Trotsky (his original name was Lev Davidovich Bronshtein). In London, he collaborated with Bolshevik revolutionary Vladimir Ilyich Lenin but later sided with the Menshevik factions that advocated a democratic approach to socialism. With the outbreak of the Russian Revolution of 1905, Trotsky returned to Russia and was again exiled to Siberia when the revolution collapsed. In 1907, he again escaped.

During the next decade, he was expelled from a series of countries because of his radicalism, living in Switzerland, Paris, Spain, and New York City before returning to Russia at the outbreak of the revolution in 1917. Trotsky played a leading role in the Bolsheviks’ seizure of power, conquering most of Petrograd before Lenin’s triumphant return in November. Appointed Lenin’s secretary of foreign affairs, he negotiated with the Germans for an end to Russian involvement in World War I. In 1918, he became war commissioner and set about building up the Red Army, which succeeded in defeating anti-communist opposition in the Russian Civil War. In the early 1920s, Trotsky seemed the heir apparent of Lenin, but he lost out in the struggle of succession after Lenin fell ill in 1922.

In 1924, Lenin died, and Joseph Stalin emerged as leader of the USSR. Against Stalin’s stated policies, Trotsky called for a continuing world revolution that would inevitably result in the dismantling of the increasingly bureaucratic Soviet state. He also criticized the new regime for suppressing democracy in the Communist Party and for failing to develop adequate economic planning. In response, Stalin and his supporters launched a propaganda counterattack against Trotsky. In 1925, he was removed from his post in the war commissariat. One year later, he was expelled from the Politburo and in 1927 from the Communist Party. In January 1928, Trotsky was deported by Soviet leader Joseph Stalin to Alma-Ata in remote Soviet Central Asia. He lived there in internal exile for a year before being banished from the USSR forever by Stalin.

He was received by the government of Turkey and settled on the island of Prinkipo, where he worked on finishing his autobiography and history of the Russian Revolution. After four years in Turkey, Trotsky lived in France and then Norway and in 1936 was granted asylum in Mexico. Settling with his family in a suburb of Mexico City, he was found guilty of treason in absentia during Stalin’s purges of his political foes. He survived a machine gun attack carried out by Stalinist agents, but on August 20, 1940, fell prey to Ramón Mercader, a Spanish communist who had won the confidence of the Trotsky household. The Soviet government denied responsibility, and Mercader was sentenced to 20 years in prison by Mexican authorities.

  • Aug 20 1940 – WW2: Radar is used for the first time, by the British during the Battle of Britain. Also on this day, in a radio broadcast, Winston Churchill makes his famous homage to the Royal Air Force: “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.”
  • Aug 20 1941 – WW2: Adolf Hitler authorizes the development of the V-2 missile » Launched from mobile units, each V2 rocket was 46ft high and carried a ton of explosives. Unlike aircraft or its predecessor the V1 flying bomb, this was a new type of weapon, crashing and exploding without warning in target cities. It took just five minutes from launch to landing.

(SPL) (Credit: SPL)

  • Aug 20 1944 – WW2: Battle of the Falaise Pocket » Part of Operation Overlord. United States and British forces close the pincers on German units in the Falaise-Argentan pocket in France. This was the decisive engagement of the Battle of Normandy. A pocket was formed around Falaise, Calvados, in which the German Army Group B, with the 7th Army and the Fifth Panzer Army (formerly Panzergruppe West) were encircled by the Western Allies. The battle resulted in the destruction of most of Army Group B west of the Seine, which opened the way to Paris and the Franco-German border for the Allied armies on the Western Front. Casualties and losses: Allies 10,829 – Germany 10,000 killed, 50,000 captured plus 500 tanks/assault guns.
  • Aug 20 1950 – Korea: United Nations repel an offensive by North Korean divisions attempting to cross the Naktong River and assault the city of Taegu.
  • Aug 20 1954 – Vietnam: United States decides to support Diem » President Eisenhower approves a National Security Council paper titled “Review of U.S. Policy in the Far East.” This paper supported Secretary of State Dulles’ view that the United States should support Diem, while encouraging him to broaden his government and establish more democratic institutions. Ultimately, however, Diem would refuse to make any meaningful concessions or institute any significant new reforms and U.S. support was withdrawn. Diem was subsequently assassinated during a coup by opposition generals on November 2, 1963.
  • Aug 20 1968 – Cold War: Soviets Invade Czechoslovakia » Approximately 200,000 Warsaw Pact troops and 5,000 tanks invade Czechoslovakia to crush the “Prague Spring”–a brief period of liberalization in the communist country. Czechoslovakians protested the invasion with public demonstrations and other non-violent tactics, but they were no match for the Soviet tanks. The liberal reforms of First Secretary Alexander Dubcek were repealed and “normalization” began under his successor Gustav Husak.

Pro-Soviet communists seized control of Czechoslovakia’s democratic government in 1948. Soviet leader Joseph Stalin imposed his will on Czechoslovakia’s communist leaders, and the country was run as a Stalinist state until 1964, when a gradual trend toward liberalization began. However, modest economic reform was not enough for many Czechoslovakians, and beginning in 1966 students and intellectuals began to agitate for changes to education and an end to censorship. First Secretary Antonin Novotny’s problems were made worse by opposition from Slovakian leaders, among them Alexander Dubcek and Gustav Husak, who accused the central government of being dominated by Czechs.

In January 1968, Novotny was replaced as first secretary by Alexander Dubcek, who was unanimously elected by the Czechoslovakian Central Committee. To secure his power base, Dubcek appealed to the public to voice support for his proposed reforms. The response was overwhelming, and Czech and Slovak reformers took over the communist leadership.

In April, the new leadership unveiled its “Action Program,” promising democratic elections, greater autonomy for Slovakia, freedom of speech and religion, the abolition of censorship, an end to restrictions on travel, and major industrial and agricultural reforms. Dubcek declared that he was offering “socialism with a human face.” The Czechoslovakian public greeted the reforms joyously, and Czechoslovakia’s long stagnant national culture began to bloom during what became known as the Prague Spring. In late June, a popular petition called the “Two Thousand Words” was published calling for even more rapid progress to full democracy. The Soviet Union and its satellites Poland and East Germany were alarmed by what appeared to be the imminent collapse of communism in Czechoslovakia.

Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev warned Dubcek to halt his reforms, but the Czechoslovakian leader was buoyed by his popularity and dismissed the veiled threats. Dubcek declined to attend a special meeting of the Warsaw Pact powers in July, but on 2 AUG he agreed to meet with Brezhnev in the Slovakian town of Cierny. The next day, representatives of European Europe’s communist parties met in the Slovakian capital of Bratislava, and a communiqué was issued suggesting that pressure would be eased on Czechoslovakia in exchange for tighter control over the press.

However, on the night of 20 AUG, nearly 200,000 Soviet, East German, Polish, Hungarian, and Bulgarian troops invaded Czechoslovakia in the largest deployment of military force in Europe since the end of World War II. Armed resistance to the invasion was negligible, but protesters immediately took to the streets, tearing down streets signs in an effort to confuse the invaders. In Prague, Warsaw Pact troops moved to seize control of television and radio stations. At Radio Prague, journalists refused to give up the station and some 20 people were killed before it was captured. Other stations went underground and succeeded in broadcasting for several days before their locations were discovered.

Dubcek and other government leaders were detained and taken to Moscow. Meanwhile, widespread demonstrations continued on the street, and more than 100 protesters were shot to death by Warsaw Pact troops. Many foreign nations, including China, Yugoslavia, and Romania, condemned the invasion, but no major international action was taken. Much of Czechoslovakia’s intellectual and business elite fled en masse to the West.

On 27 AUG, Dubcek returned to Prague and announced in an emotional address that he had agreed to curtail his reforms. Hard-line communists assumed positions in his government, and Dubcek was forced gradually to dismiss his progressive aides. He became increasingly isolated from both the public and his government. After anti-Soviet rioting broke out in April 1969, he was removed as first secretary and replaced by Gustav Husak, a “realist” who was willing to work with the Soviets. Dubcek was later expelled from the Communist Party and made a forest inspector based in Bratislava.

In 1989, as communist governments collapsed across Eastern Europe, Prague again became the scene of demonstrations for democratic reform. In December 1989, Gustav Husak’s government conceded to demands for a multiparty parliament. Husak resigned, and for the first time in nearly two decades Dubcek returned to politics as chairman of the new parliament, which subsequently elected playwright and former dissident Vaclav Havel as president of Czechoslovakia. Havel had come to fame during the Prague Spring, and after the Soviet crackdown his plays were banned and his passport confiscated.

  • Aug 20 1971 – Vietnam: Minh and Ky withdraw from presidential race » Peace candidate General Duong Van Minh and Vice President Nguyen Cao Ky, fellow candidates for the October Vietnam presidential election, accuse incumbent President Nguyen Van Thieu of rigging the election and withdraw from the race.
  • Aug 20 1971 – Vietnam: In the United States, the FBI began investigating journalist Daniel Schorr, who was targeted by the Nixon administration because of his critical reporting of the president’s handling of the situation in Vietnam.

  • Aug 20 1974 – Vietnam: Military aid to Saigon slashed » In the wake of Nixon’s resignation, Congress reduces military aid to South Vietnam from $1 billion to $700 million. This was one of several actions that signaled the North Vietnamese that the United States was backing away from its commitment to South Vietnam.
  • Aug 20 1982 – U.S.*Lebanon: U.S. Marines deployed to Lebanon » During the Lebanese Civil War, a multinational force including 800 U.S. Marines lands in Beirut to oversee the Palestinian withdrawal from Lebanon. It was the beginning of a problem-plagued mission that would stretch into 17 months and leave 262 U.S. servicemen dead.

In 1975, a bloody civil war erupted in Lebanon, with Palestinian and leftist Muslim guerrillas battling militias of the Christian Phalange Party, the Maronite Christian community, and other groups. During the next few years, Syrian, Israeli, and United Nations interventions failed to resolve the factional fighting, and in August 1982 a multinational force arrived to oversee the Palestinian withdrawal from Lebanon.

The Marines left Lebanese territory on 10 SEP but returned on 29 SEP following the massacre of Palestinian refugees by a Christian militia. The next day, the first U.S. Marine to die during the mission was killed while defusing a bomb. On April 18, 1983, the U.S. embassy in Beirut was devastated by a car bomb, killing 63 people, including 17 Americans. Then, on 23 OCT, Lebanese terrorists evaded security measures and drove a truck packed with explosives into the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut, killing 241 U.S. military personnel. Fifty-eight French soldiers were killed almost simultaneously in a separate suicide terrorist attack. On February 7, 1984, President Ronald Reagan announced the end of U.S. participation in the peacekeeping force.

  • Aug 20 1998 – Afghanistan: President Bill Clinton ordered cruise missiles launched against Osama bin Laden’s terrorist training camps in Afghanistan and against a pharmaceutical plant in Sudan, where bin Laden allegedly made or distributed chemical weapons.


  • Aug 21 1778 – American Revolution: Siege of Pondicherry, India » In the first military action on the Indian subcontinent following the declaration of war between Great Britain and France in the American War of Independence, British forces begin besieging the French outpost at Pondicherry which capitulated after ten weeks of siege.
  • Aug 21 1863 – Civil War: Guerillas massacre residents of Lawrence, Kansas » The vicious guerilla war in Missouri spills over into Kansas and precipitates one of the most appalling acts of violence during the war when 150 men in the abolitionist town of Lawrence are murdered in a raid by Southern partisans.

The Civil War took a very different form in Kansas and Missouri than it did throughout the rest of the nation. There were few regular armies operating there; instead, partisan bands attacked civilians and each other. The roots of conflict in the region dated back to 1854, when the Kansas-Missouri border became ground zero for tension over slavery. While residents of Kansas Territory were trying to decide the issue of slavery, bands from Missouri, a slave state, began attacking abolitionist settlements in the territory. Abolitionists reacted with equal vigor.

When the war began, the long heritage of hatred between partisans created unparalleled violence in the area. In August 1863, the Union commander along the border, General Thomas Ewing, arrested several wives and sisters of members of a notorious band led by William Quantrill. This gang of outlaws had scorched the region, terrorizing and murdering Union sympathizers. On August 14, the building in Kansas City, Missouri, where the women were being held collapsed, killing five.

Quantrill assembled 450 men to exact revenge. The army, which included such future western outlaws as the Younger brothers and Frank and Jesse James, headed for Lawrence, Kansas, long known as the center of abolitionism in Kansas. After kidnapping 10 farmers in order to guide them to Lawrence, the gang murdered each of them. Quantrill’s men rode into Lawrence and dragged 182 men from their homes, many in front of their families, and killed them in cold blood. They burned 185 buildings in Lawrence, then rode back to Missouri with Union cavalry in hot pursuit.

  • Aug 21 1864 – Civil War: Siege of Petersburg » Confederate General A.P. Hill attacks Union troops south of Petersburg, Va., at the Weldon railroad. His attack is repulsed, resulting in heavy Confederate casualties. The Siege of Petersburg foreshadowed the trench warfare that was common in World War I, earning it a prominent position in military history. It also featured the war’s largest concentration of African American troops, who suffered heavy casualties at such engagements as the Battle of the Crater and Chaffin’s Farm.


The “Dictator” siege mortar at Petersburg.

  • Aug 21 1914 – WWI: The second and third of what will be four “Battles of the Frontiers” fought between German and Allied forces on the Western Front during a four-day period in August 1914 begin near Ardennes and Charleroi in northern France.
  • Aug 21 1918 – WWI: The Second Battle of the Somme begins.
  • Aug 21 1942 – WW2: Guadalcanal campaign » U.S. Marines turn back the first major Japanese ground attack on Guadalcanal in the Battle of Tenaru.
  • Aug 21 1944 – WW2: The seeds of the United Nations are planted » Representatives from the United States, Great Britain, the Soviet Union, and China meet in the Dumbarton Oaks estate at Georgetown, Washington, D.C., to formulate the formal principles of an organization that will provide collective security on a worldwide basis—an organization that will become the United Nations.

Following up on a promise made at the Moscow Conferences of 1943 to create an international organization to succeed the League of Nations, the Dumbarton Oaks Conference began planning its creation. Step one was the outline for a Security Council, which would be composed of the member states (basically, the largest of the Allied nations)—the United States, the USSR, China, France, and Great Britain—with each member having veto power over any proposal brought before the Council.

Many political questions would remain to be hammered out, such as a specific voting system and the membership status of republics within the Soviet Union. A more detailed blueprint for the United Nations would be drawn up at both the Yalta Conference in February 1945, and the San Francisco Conference, which would produce the U.N. charter, also in 1945.

  • Aug 21 1963 – Vietnam: Nhu’s Special Forces attack the Buddhists » South Vietnamese Special Forces loyal to President Diem’s brother, Ngo Dinh Nhu, attack Buddhists pagodas, damaging many and arresting 1,400 Buddhists. Diem’s government represented a minority of Vietnamese who were mostly businessmen, land owners, and Roman Catholics. A large part of the rest of the South Vietnam’s population, overwhelmingly Buddhist, deeply resented Diem’s rule because of what they perceived as severe discrimination against non-Catholics. In May 1963, the Buddhists began a series of demonstrations against the Diem government, in which seven Buddhist monks set themselves on fire in protest. The U.S. government tried to convince Diem to be more lenient with the Buddhists, but he only became more repressive.

This continuing confrontation with the Buddhists and Diem’s failure to press for meaningful reforms led to a withdrawal of U.S. support for the South Vietnamese leader and effectively gave a green light for a coup conducted by opposition generals, who were told that the United States would support whichever government was in power. During the course of the coup, Diem and his brother were assassinated by South Vietnamese officers. The removal of Diem, which U.S. government officials had hoped would stabilize the political situation in South Vietnam, resulted in anything but stability–there would be ten successive governments in Saigon within 18 months.

  • Aug 21 1965 – Vietnam: U.S. pilots given green light to go after anti-aircraft missiles in the North » It is revealed by MACV headquarters (Headquarters Military Assistance Command Vietnam) in Saigon that U.S. pilots have received approval to destroy any Soviet-made missiles they see while raiding North Vietnam. This was a major change from previous orders that restricted them to bombing only previously approved targets.
  • Aug 21 1969 – Vietnam War: Nixon meets with South Korean President » President Nixon and South Korean President Park Chung Hee meet in San Francisco. In his welcoming address, Nixon notes that South Korea had “more fighting men in South Vietnam than any other nation” except the United States and South Vietnam. The United States would spend $250 million in 1969 to maintain South Korea’s 50,000-man Tiger Division in South Vietnam, which they had previously agreed to outfit.
  • Aug 21 1971 – Vietnam War: Antiwar protestors raid draft offices » The Federal Bureau of Investigation foiled antiwar raids on Federal offices in Camden, N. J., and Buffalo arresting 25 people, including two Roman Catholic priests and a Lutheran minister. In the Camden case, 40 F.B.I. men lay in wait for the raiding party until 4 A.M. and then made 20 arrests in and around the building housing offices of the Selective Service Board, Army Intelligence and the F.B.I. itself. The bureau, according to the Federal complaint, had been kept abreast of the group’s elaborate raiding plans by an informer. In Buffalo, F.B.I. men and city policemen arrested three young men and two young women at 10 P.M. Saturday in a Federal building housing Selective Service boards and the office of United States Army Intelligence. The F.B.I. said the youths had been ransacking files in the two offices.
  • Aug 21 1976 – Korea: Operation Paul Bunyan commences after North Korean guards killed two American officers sent to trim a poplar tree along the DMZ on 18 AUG, US and ROK soldiers with heavy support chopped down the tree.

  • Aug 21 1991 – Cold War: Coup attempt against Gorbachev collapses » Just three days after it began, the coup against Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev collapses. Despite his success in avoiding removal from office, Gorbachev’s days in power were numbered. The Soviet Union would soon cease to exist as a nation and as a Cold War threat to the United States.

The coup against Gorbachev began on 18 AUG, led by hard-line communist elements of the Soviet government and military. The attempt was poorly planned and disorganized, however. The leaders of the coup seemed to spend as much time bickering among themselves–and, according to some reports, drinking heavily–as they did on trying to win popular support for their action. Nevertheless, they did manage to put Gorbachev under house arrest and demand that he resign from leadership of the Soviet Union. Many commentators in the West believed that the administration of President George Bush would come to the rescue, but were somewhat surprised at the restrained response of the U.S. government. These commentators did not know that at the time a serious debate was going on among Bush officials as to whether Gorbachev’s days were numbered and whether the United States should shift its support to Russian President Boris Yeltsin. Yeltsin’s stock rose sharply as he publicly denounced the coup and organized strikes and street protests by the Russian people. The leaders of the coup, seeing that most of the Soviet military did not support their action, called off the attempt and it collapsed on 21 AUG.

The collapse of the coup brought a temporary reprieve to the Gorbachev regime, but among U.S. officials he was starting to be seen as damaged goods. Once a darling of the U.S. press and public, Gorbachev increasingly was viewed as incompetent and a failure. U.S. officials began to discuss the post-Gorbachev situation in the Soviet Union. Based on what had transpired during the August 1991 coup, they began a slow but steady tilt toward Yeltsin. In retrospect, this policy seemed extremely prudent, given that Gorbachev resigned as leader of the Soviet Union in December 1991. Despite the turmoil around him, Yeltsin continued to serve as president of the largest and most powerful of the former soviet socialist republics, Russia.


  • Aug 22 1776 – American Revolution: Redcoats land at Long Island » The British arrive between Gravesend and New Utrecht, with “near twenty four thousand men ready to land in a moment,” according to one observer.

General William Howe’s large army came to Long Island hoping to capture New York City and gain control of the Hudson River, a victory that would divide the rebellious colonies in half. Five days later, on 27 AUG, the Redcoats marched against the Patriot position at Brooklyn Heights, overcoming the Americans at Gowanus Pass and then outflanking the entire Continental Army. The Americans suffered 1,000 casualties to the British loss of only 400 men during the fighting. Howe chose not to follow the advice of his subordinates, however, and did not storm the Patriot redoubts at Brooklyn Heights, where he could have taken the Patriots’ military leadership prisoner and ended the rebellion.

General Washington ordered a retreat to Manhattan by boat. The British could easily have prevented this retreat and captured most of the Patriot officer corps, including Washington. However, General William and Admiral Richard Howe still hoped to convince the Americans to rejoin the British empire in the wake of the humiliating defeat, instead of forcing the former colonies into submission after executing Washington and his officers as traitors. On September 11, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams and other congressional representatives reopened negotiations with the Howe brothers on Staten Island. The negotiations fell through when the British refused to accept American independence.

The British captured New York City on 15 SEP; it would remain in British hands until the end of the war.

  • Aug 22 1777 – American Revolution: Siege of Fort Stanwix » With the approach of General Benedict Arnold‘s army, British Colonel Barry St. Ledger abandons the siege and returns to Canada. The fort was occupied by Continental Army forces from New York and Massachusetts under the command of Colonel Peter Gansevoort. The besieging force was composed of British regulars, American Loyalists, Hessian soldiers from Hesse-Hanau, and Indians

Ft. Stanwix (left) and Battle of Oriskany (right)

  • Aug 22 1862 – Civil War: Lincoln replies to Horace Greeley » President Abraham Lincoln writes a carefully worded letter in response to an abolitionist editorial by Horace Greeley, the editor of the influential New York Tribune, and hints at a change in his policy concerning slavery.

From the outset of the Civil War, Lincoln proclaimed the war’s goal to be the reunion of the nation. He said little about slavery for fear of alienating key constituencies such as the border states of Missouri, Kentucky, Maryland, and, to a lesser extent, Delaware. Each of these states allowed slavery but had not seceded from the Union. Lincoln was also concerned about Northern Democrats, who generally opposed fighting the war to free the slaves but whose support Lincoln needed.

Tugging him in the other direction were abolitionists such as Frederick Douglass and Horace Greeley. In his editorial, “The Prayer of Twenty Millions,” Greeley assailed Lincoln for his soft treatment of slaveholders and for his unwillingness to enforce the Confiscation Acts, which called for the property, including slaves, of Confederates to be taken when their homes were captured by Union forces. Abolitionists saw the acts as a wedge to drive into the institution of slavery.

Lincoln had been toying with the idea of emancipation for some time. He discussed it with his cabinet but decided that some military success was needed to give the measure credibility. In his response to Greeley’s editorial, Lincoln hinted at a change. In a rare public response to criticism, he articulated his policy by stating, “If I could save the Union without freeing any slave, I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves, I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone, I would also do that.” Although this sounded noncommittal, Lincoln closed by stating, “I intend no modification of my oft-expressed personal wish that all men everywhere could be free.” By hinting that ending slavery might become a goal of the war, Lincoln was preparing the public for the change in policy that would come one month later with the Emancipation Proclamation.

  • Aug 22 1914 – WWI: Heavy casualties suffered in the Battles of the Frontiers » As French and German forces face off on the Western Front during the opening month of the First World War, the isolated encounters of the previous day move into full-scale battle in the forests of the Ardennes and at Charleroi, near the junction of the Sambre and Meuse Rivers. Over the course of the day some 27,000 French soldiers died at Ardennes and Charleroi.
  • Aug 22 1942 – WW2: Brazil declares war on the Axis powers. She is the only South American country to send combat troops into Europe.
  • Aug 22 1944 – WW2: Holocaust of Kedros » Wehrmacht infantry carried out an assault operation against the civilian residents of nine villages located in the Amari Valley on the Greek island of Crete. Casualties and losses: 164 Civilians.
  • Aug 22 1944 – WW2: Romania captured by the Soviet Union » Soviet forces break through to Jassy, in northeastern Romania, convincing Romania’s king to sign an armistice with the Allies and concede control of his country to the USSR.

King Carol II, Prime Minister Ion Antonescu, and King Michael

As early as 1937, Romania had come under control of a fascist government that bore great resemblance to that of Germany’s, including similar anti-Jewish laws. Romania’s king, Carol II, dissolved the government a year later, but was unable to suppress the fascist Iron Guard paramilitary organization. In June 1940, the Soviet Union co-opted two Romanian provinces, and the king searched for an ally to help protect it and appease the far right within its own borders. So on July 5, 1940, Romania allied itself with Nazi Germany. Later that year, it would be invaded by its “ally” as part of Hitler’s strategy to create one huge eastern front against the Soviet Union.

King Carol would abdicate in September 1940, leaving the country in the control of fascist Prime Minister Ion Antonescu and the Iron Guard. While Romania would recapture the territory lost to the Soviet Union when the Germans invaded Russia, it would also have to endure the Germans’ raping of its resources as part of the Nazi war effort.

As the war turned against Germany, and the Soviet Union began to run roughshod over Eastern Europe, Antonescu started looking west for allies to save it from Soviet occupation. At this stage, King Michael, son of the late King Carol, emerged from the shadows and had the pro-German Antonescu arrested, imploring Romanians, and loyal military men, to fight with, not against, the invading Soviets. The king would finally sign an armistice with the Allies and declare war against an already-dying Germany in 1944. King Michael would, ironically, be forced to abdicate by the Soviets, who would maintain a puppet communist government in Romania until the end of the Cold War. The king had virtually destroyed his nation in order to save it.

  • Aug 22 1945 – Vietnam: Conflict in Vietnam begins when a group of Free French parachute into southern Indochina, in response to a successful coup by communist guerilla Ho Chi Minh.
  • Aug 22 1962 – Vietnam War: Kennedy reports stalemate in Vietnam » Kennedy administration officials quoted in The New York Times estimate that there are 20,000 guerrilla troops in South Vietnam. Despite hundreds of engagements during the preceding two months and encouraging victories for South Vietnamese forces, the Viet Cong had grown in numbers, and U.S. officials felt that the war had reached a point of stalemate.
  • Aug 22 1963 – Vietnam: Chief of Staff of the Air Force, General John P. McConnell, states before a Senate Subcommittee that adopting a graduated bombing policy in North Vietnam was a mistake. Three days later, Secretary of Defense McNamara admitted that the bombing of North Vietnam had not materially affected Hanoi’s “war making capability.”
  • Aug 22 1967 – Vietnam: Graduated bombing policy condemned » Chief of Staff of the Air Force, General John P. McConnell, states before a Senate Subcommittee that adopting a graduated bombing policy in North Vietnam was a mistake. Three days later, Secretary of Defense McNamara admitted that the bombing of North Vietnam had not materially affected Hanoi’s “warmaking capability.”
  • Aug 22 1968 – Vietnam: VC repudiates Johnson’s peace overture » For the first time in two months, Viet Cong forces launch a rocket attack on Saigon, killing 18 and wounding 59. Administration officials denounced the attack as a direct repudiation of President Johnson’s speech of August 19, in which he appealed to the North Vietnamese to respond favorably to his limitation of the air campaign north of the DMZ.
  • Aug 22 1968 – Cold War: Czechs protest against Soviet invasion » In the streets of Prague and in the United Nations headquarters in New York City, Czechs protest against the Soviet invasion of their nation. The protests served to highlight the brutality of the Soviet action and to rally worldwide condemnation of the Soviet Union.

Czechs protest against Soviet invasion

On August 21, 1968, more than 200,000 troops of the Warsaw Pact crossed into Czechoslovakia in response to democratic and free market reforms being instituted by Czech Communist Party General Secretary Alexander Dubcek. Negotiations between Dubcek and Soviet bloc leaders failed to convince the Czech leader to back away from his reformist platform. The military intervention on 21 AUG indicated that the Soviets believed that Dubcek was going too far and needed to be restrained. On 22 AUG, thousands of Czechs gathered in central Prague to protest the Soviet action and demand the withdrawal of foreign troops. Although it was designed to be a peaceful protest, violence often flared and several protesters were killed on 22 AUG and in the days to come. At the United Nations, the Czech delegation passionately declared that the Soviet invasion was illegal and threatened the sovereignty of their nation. They called on the U.N.’s Security Council to take action. The Council voted 10 to 2 to condemn Russia’s invasion; predictably, the Soviet Union vetoed the resolution.

The 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia severely damaged the Soviet government’s reputation around the world, and even brought forth condemnation from communist parties in nations such as China and France. Nonetheless, Dubcek was pushed from power in April 1969 and the Czech Communist Party adopted a tough line toward any dissent. The “Prague Spring” of 1968, when hopes for reform bloomed, would serve as a symbol for the so-called “Velvet Revolution” of 1989. In that year, Czech dissidents were able to break the Communist Party’s stranglehold on their nation’s politics by electing Vaclav Havel, the first noncommunist president in 40 years.

  • Aug 22 1972 – Vietnam War: Demonstrators disrupt Republican National Convention » Delegates entering the Republican National Convention in Miami Beach are harassed by 3,000 antiwar demonstrators, many painted with death masks. The rest of the convention is marked by demonstrations outside the meeting hall; hundreds of protestors are arrested and many are injured when police use riot-control agents.


  • Aug 23 1775 – American Revolution: King George III of England refuses the American colonies’ offer of peace » The King his Proclamation of Rebellion to the Court of St. James’s stating that the American colonies have proceeded to a state of open and avowed rebellion.
  • Aug 23 1784 – American Revolution: State of Franklin declares independence » Four counties in western North Carolina declare their independence as the state of Franklin. The counties lay in what would eventually become Tennessee.

The previous April, the state of North Carolina had ceded its western land claims between the Allegheny Mountains and the Mississippi River to the United States Congress. The settlers in this area, known as the Cumberland River Valley, had formed their own independent government from 1772 to 1777 and were concerned that Congress would sell the territory to Spain or France as a means of paying off some of the government’s war debt. As a result, North Carolina retracted its cession and began to organize an administration for the territory.

Simultaneously, representatives from Washington, Sullivan, Spencer (modern-day Hawkins) and Greene counties declared their independence from North Carolina. The following May, the counties petitioned for statehood as “Frankland” to the United States Congress. A simple majority of states favored acceptance of the petition, but it fell short of the two-thirds majority needed to pass, even after the counties’ changed their proposed name to “Franklin” in an attempt to curry Benjamin Franklin’s and others’ favor.

In defiance of Congress, Franklin survived as an independent nation for four years with its own constitution, Indian treaties and legislated system of barter in lieu of currency, though after only two years, North Carolina set up its own parallel government in the region. Finally, Franklin’s weak economy forced its governor, John Sevier, to approach the Spanish for aid. North Carolina, terrified of having a Spanish client state on its border, arrested Sevier. When Cherokee, Chickamauga and Chickasaw began to attack settlements within Franklin’s borders in 1788, it quickly rejoined North Carolina to gain its militia’s protection from attack.

  • Aug 23 1814 – War of 1812: Dolley Madison saves portrait from British » First lady Dolley Madison saves a portrait of George Washington from being looted by British troops during the war of 1812.

According to the White House Historical Society and Dolley’s personal letters, President James Madison left the White House on August 22 to meet with his generals on the battlefield, as British troops threatened to enter the capitol. Before leaving, he asked his wife Dolley if she had the “courage or firmness” to wait for his intended return the next day. He asked her to gather important state papers and be prepared to abandon the White House at any moment. The next day, Dolley and a few servants scanned the horizon with spyglasses waiting for either Madison or the British army to show up. As British troops gathered in the distance, Dolley decided to abandon the couple’s personal belongings and save the full-length portrait of former president and national icon George Washington from desecration by vengeful British soldiers, many of whom would have rejoiced in humiliating England’s former colonists.

Dolly and James Madison

Dolley wrote to her sister on the night of 23 AUG that a friend who came to help her escape was exasperated at her insistence on saving the portrait. Since the painting was screwed to the wall she ordered the frame to be broken and the canvas pulled out and rolled up. Two unidentified “gentlemen from New York” hustled it away for safe-keeping. (Unbeknownst to Dolley, the portrait was actually a copy of Gilbert Stuart’s original). The task complete, Dolley wrote “and now, dear sister, I must leave this house, or the retreating army will make me a prisoner in it by filling up the road I am directed to take.” Dolley left the White House and found her husband at their predetermined meeting place in the middle of a thunderstorm.

The next night, 24 AUG, British troops enjoyed feasting on White House food using the president’s silverware and china before burning the building. Although they were able to return to Washington only three days later when British troops moved on, the Madisons were not again able to take up residence in the White House and lived out the rest of his term in the city’s Octagon House. It was not until 1817 that newly elected President James Monroe moved back into the reconstructed building.

  • Aug 23 1861 – Civil War: Rose Greenhow is arrested » Allan Pinkerton, head of the new secret service agency of the Federal government, places Confederate spy Rose O’Neal Greenhow under house arrest in Washington, D.C.

Rose O’Neal Greenhow and Allan Pinkerton

Greenhow was a wealthy widow living in Washington at the outbreak of the war. She was well connected in the capital and was especially close with Massachusetts Senator Henry Wilson. The Maryland native was openly committed to the Southern cause, and she soon formed a substantial spy network.

Greenhow’s operation quickly paid dividends for the Confederacy. One of her operatives provided key information to Confederate General Pierre G. T. Beauregard concerning the deployment of Union General Irwin McDowell’s troops before the First Battle of Bull Run, Virginia, in July 1861. Beauregard later testified that this dispatch, along with further information provided by Greenhow herself, was instrumental in Beauregard’s decision to request additional troops. The move led to a decisive victory by the Rebels.

It did not take the Federals long to track down the leaks in Washington. Pinkerton placed Greenhow under house arrest, and he soon confined other suspected women in her home. However, Greenhow was undeterred. She was allowed visitors, including Senator Wilson, and was able to continue funneling information to the Confederates. Frustrated, Pinkerton finally confined Greenhow and her daughter to the Old Capitol Prison for five months in early 1862. In June 1862, she and her daughter, “Little Rose,” were released and exiled to the South.

Greenhow traveled to England and France to drum up support for the Southern cause, and she penned her memoirs while abroad. She was on her way back to America in September 1864 when a Yankee war vessel ran her ship aground in North Carolina. Weighted down by a substantial amount of gold, Greenhow’s lifeboat overturned and she drowned.

  • Aug 23 1863 – Civil War: Union batteries cease their first bombardment of Fort Sumter, leaving it a mass of rubble but still unconquered by the Northern besiegers.
  • Aug 23 1864 – Civil War: The Union Navy captures Fort Morgan, Alabama, thus breaking Confederate dominance of all ports on the Gulf of Mexico.
  • Aug 23 1914 – WW1: The Emperor of Japan declares war on Germany.
  • Aug 23 1914 – WW1: Battle of Mons » In their first confrontation on European soil since the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, four divisions of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF), commanded by Sir John French, struggle with the German 1st Army over the 60-foot-wide Mons Canal in Belgium, near the French frontier.

The Battle of Mons was the last of four “Battles of the Frontiers” that took place over as many days on the Western Front between Allied and German forces in the opening month of World War I. The first three—at Lorraine, Ardennes and Charleroi—involved French forces under the central command of General Joseph Joffre. French’s BEF had been originally slated to assist the French 5th Army, commanded by General Charles Lanrezac, in their attempt to break through the center of the advancing German lines. A delayed start and poor relations between French and Lanrezac, however, meant that the 5th Army and the BEF would fight separate battles against the advancing Germans, at Charleroi and Mons.

At nine o’clock on the morning of 23 AUG, German guns opened fire on the British positions at Mons, focusing on the northernmost point of a salient formed by a loop in the canal. Though Von Kluck and the 1st Army enjoyed two-to-one numerical superiority, they did not make effective use of it, and the British regiments at the salient admirably withstood six hours of shelling and infantry assault. Lanrezac’s decision, late in the day, to order a general retreat of the French 5th Army at Charleroi left the BEF in danger of envelopment by the Germans, and a decision was made to withdraw the troops as soon as possible. By the time the battle ended after nine hours, some 35,000 British soldiers had been involved, with a total of 1,600 casualties.

Angels of Mons

Thus the first day of British combat in World War I ended in retreat and bitter disappointment, although the steadfastness of the BEF had delayed Von Kluck’s advance by one day. Within weeks of the battle, however, British public imagination elevated Mons to mythic status and those who had died to heroes, until the British defeat came to seem more like a victory in retrospect. The most prevalent legend was that of the “Angel of Mons,” who had appeared on the battlefield carrying a flaming sword and faced the advancing Germans, impeding their progress. In reality, victory in the four Battles of the Frontiers imbued the Germans with a tremendous sense of confidence, as they continued their relentless advance through Belgium into northern France—eventually controlling the industrial power of both nations, including coal, iron ore, factories, railroads and rivers—and the Allies scrambled to ready their defenses. Casualties and losses: UK 1638 – GE 5,000+.

  • Aug 23 1939 – WW2: The Hitler-Stalin Pact » Germany and the Soviet Union sign a non-aggression pact, stunning the world, given their diametrically opposed ideologies. But the dictators were, despite appearances, both playing to their own political needs.

After Nazi Germany’s invasion of Czechoslovakia, Britain had to decide to what extent it would intervene should Hitler continue German expansion. Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, at first indifferent to Hitler’s capture of the Sudetenland, the German-speaking area of Czechoslovakia, suddenly snapped to life when Poland became threatened. He made it plain that Britain would be obliged to come to the aid of Poland in the event of German invasion. But he wanted, and needed, an ally. The only power large enough to stop Hitler, and with a vested interest in doing so, was the Soviet Union. But Stalin was cool to Britain after its effort to create a political alliance with Britain and France against Germany had been rebuffed a year earlier. Plus, Poland’s leaders were less than thrilled with the prospect of Russia becoming its guardian; to them, it was simply occupation by another monstrous regime.

Hitler believed that Britain would never take him on alone, so he decided to swallow his fear and loathing of communism and cozy up to the Soviet dictator, thereby pulling the rug out from the British initiative. Both sides were extremely suspicious of the other, trying to discern ulterior motives. But Hitler was in a hurry; he knew if he was to invade Poland it had to be done quickly, before the West could create a unified front. Agreeing basically to carve up parts of Eastern Europe—and leave each other alone in the process—Hitler’s foreign minister, Joachim von Ribbentrop, flew to Moscow and signed the non-aggression pact with his Soviet counterpart, V.M. Molotov (which is why the pact is often referred to as the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact). Supporters of bolshevism around the world had their heretofore romantic view of “international socialism” ruined; they were outraged that Stalin would enter into any kind of league with the fascist dictator.

But once Poland was German-occupied territory, the alliance would not last for long.

  • Aug 23 1942 – WW2: German forces begin an assault on the major Soviet industrial city of Stalingrad.
  • Aug 23 1944 – WW2: German SS engineers begin placing explosive charges around the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
  • Aug 23 1950 – Korea: Up to 77,000 members of the U.S. Army Organized Reserve Corps are called involuntarily to active duty to fight the Korean War.
  • Aug 23 1961 – Vietnam: The American cargo ship Baton Rouge Victory strikes a mine laid by the Viet Cong in the Long Tao River, 22 miles south of Saigon. The half-submerged ship blocked the route from the South Vietnamese capital to the sea. Seven crewmen were killed.

SS Baton Rouge Victory under tow

Damaged SS Baton Rouge Victory under tow

  • Aug 23 1961 – Vietnam: Communist forces launch rocket and mortar attacks on numerous cities, provincial capitals, and military installations. The heaviest shelling was on the U.S. airfield at Da Nang, the cities of Hue and Quang Tri. North Vietnamese forces numbering between 1200 and 1500 troops attacked the U.S. Special Forces camp at Duc Lap, 130 miles northeast of Saigon near the Cambodian border. The camp fell but was retaken by an allied relief column led by U.S. Special Forces on August 25. A reported 643 North Vietnamese troops were killed in the battle.
  • Aug 23 1966 – Vietnam: U.S. cargo ship strikes a mine near Saigon » The American cargo ship Baton Rouge Victory struck a mine laid by the Viet Cong in the Long Tao River, 22 miles south of Saigon. The half-submerged ship blocked the route from the South Vietnamese capital to the sea. Seven crewmen were killed.
  • Aug 23 1968 – Vietnam: Communist forces renew offensive » Communist forces launch rocket and mortar attacks on numerous cities, provincial capitals, and military installations. The heaviest shelling was on the U.S. airfield at Da Nang, the cities of Hue and Quang Tri. North Vietnamese forces numbering between 1200 and 1500 troops attacked the U.S. Special Forces camp at Duc Lap, 130 miles northeast of Saigon near the Cambodian border. The camp fell but was retaken by an allied relief column led by U.S. Special Forces on August 25. A reported 643 North Vietnamese troops were killed in the battle.
  • Aug 23 1979 – Cold War: Aleksandr Godunov defects to United States » Russian ballet star defected after a performance in New York City. He became the first dancer to defect from the prestigious Bolshoi Ballet.
  • Aug 23 1990 – Gulf War: Saddam Hussein appears on Iraqi state television with a number of Western “guests” (actually hostages) to try to prevent the Gulf War.
  • Aug 23 1994 – WWI: Eugene Bullard, the only black pilot in World War I, is posthumously commissioned as Second Lieutenant in the United States Air Force.

Bullard, as a French army corporal, His awards, and next to his aircraft

  • Aug 23 1996 – OEF/OIF: Osama bin Laden issues message entitled ‘A declaration of war against the Americans occupying the land of the two holy places.’


  • Aug 24 1814 – War of 1812: Battle of Bladensburg » President Madison, who had been present at the battle, at one point actually took command of one of the few remaining American batteries, thus becoming the first and only president to exercise in actual battle his authority as commander in chief. Casualties and losses: US 150 to 197 – UK 249.
  • Aug 24 1776 – American Revolution: General Lee recognizes Georgia’s value » American General Charles Lee informs Congress that Georgia was more valuable than he had originally suspected. Lee argued that the state’s salubrious climate, crops of rice, numerous harbors and rivers, livestock and proximity to the West Indies made it mandatory to keep out of enemy hands. To safeguard Georgia, Lee recommended that the Continental Army assign to it additional reinforcements.
  • Aug 24 1814 – War of 1812: British troops set fire to the White House » British troops enter Washington, D.C. and burn the White House in retaliation for the American attack on the city of York in Ontario, Canada, in June 1812. When the British arrived at the White House, they found that President James Madison and his first lady Dolley had already fled to safety in Maryland. Soldiers reportedly sat down to eat a meal made of leftover food from the White House scullery using White House dishes and silver before ransacking the presidential mansion and setting it ablaze though not burned to the ground; as well as several other buildings. Although President Madison and his wife were able to return to Washington only three days later when British troops had moved on, they never again lived in the White House. Madison served the rest of his term residing at the city’s Octagon House. It was not until 1817 that newly elected president James Monroe moved back into the reconstructed building.
  • Aug 24 1816 – Indian Wars: The Treaty of St. Louis, composite name for a series of treaties (14) signed between the U.S. and various Native American tribes from 1804 through 1824, is signed in St. Louis, Missouri.
  • Aug 24 1914 – WWI: Poet Alan Seeger volunteers in French Foreign Legion » Born in New York City in 1888, Seeger attended Harvard University, where his illustrious classmates in the Class of 1910 included the poet John Reed and the journalist Walter Lippmann. After living in New York writing poetry and working on the staff of the magazine American, edited by Reed, Seeger moved to Paris in 1912, where he lived on the Left Bank among a set of American expatriates until the outbreak of the First World War in the summer of 1914.

On 24 AUG of that year, Seeger volunteered to serve as a private in the Foreign Legion of the French army. After training at Toulouse, his regiment was sent to the trenches of northern France, where to Seeger’s dismay they saw little actual combat. In a letter to the New York Sunwritten in December 1914, Seeger voices his frustration with life in the trenches: “This style of warfare is extremely modern and for the artillerymen is doubtless very interesting, but for the poor common soldier it is anything but romantic. His role is simply to dig himself a hole in the ground and to keep hidden in it as tightly as possible. Continually under the fire of the opposing batteries, he is yet never allowed to get a glimpse of the enemy. Exposed to all the dangers of war, but with none of its enthusiasms or splendid élan [spirit], he is condemned to sit like an animal in its burrow and hear the shells whistle over his head and take their little daily toll from his comrades.”

Seeger finally got his chance in September 1915, with the launch of a major new Allied offensive in Champagne, France. While awaiting orders to go forward, Seeger wrote home of his uncontainable excitement: “I expect to march right up the Aisne borne on an irresistible élan. It will be the greatest moment of my life.” Although the offensive ultimately failed, Seeger’s dedication to the French army continued. His unit spent much of the rest of 1915 and early 1916 on reserve, and bronchitis kept him out of service for several months. During that period he wrote what would become his most famous poem, “Rendezvous with Death,” with its oft-quoted lines: I have a rendezvous with death/On some scarred slope or battered hill/When Spring comes round again this year/And the first meadow-flowers appear.

On July 5, 1916, Alan Seeger died during the massive Allied attack at the Somme River, after being mortally wounded by a barrage of six German machine guns during his unit’s costly but successful assault on the heavily fortified village of Belloy-en-Santerre, France.

  • Aug 24 1942 – WW2: Brave volunteers save the day in the Battle of the East Solomon Islands » Key to the Americans’ success in this battle was the work of coastwatchers, a group of volunteers whose job it is to report on Japanese ship and aircraft movement. On August 23, coastwatchers, comprised mostly of Australian and New Zealander volunteers, hidden throughout the Solomon and Bismarck islands and protected by anti-Japanese natives, spotted heavy Japanese reinforcements headed for Guadalcanal. The coastwatchers alerted three U.S. carriers that were within 100 miles of Guadalcanal, which then raced to the scene to intercept the Japanese. Vice Adm. William F. Halsey said, “The coastwatchers saved Guadalcanal, and Guadalcanal saved the Pacific.”
  • Aug 24 1942 – WW2: Battle of the Eastern Solomons » In the third carrier-versus-carrier battle of the war U.S. forces continue to deliver crushing blows to the Japanese. Islands. Japanese aircraft carrier Ryujo is sunk and US carrier USS Enterprise heavily damaged.

  • Aug 24 1943 – WW2: The sinking of U-185 » Between 7 December 1942 and 6 August 1943 U-185 was responsible for the sinking or damage of 10 Allied ships with a total tonnage of 69,501. On the morning of 11 August 1943 she rendezvoused with the stricken U-604, which had been badly damaged after two attacks by US aircraft and the destroyer USS Moffett. U-604 began to transfer provisions, fuel oil and spare parts to U-185. Subsequently, U-172 arrived to assist, but the concentration of U-boats was detected by HF/DF. As a result, the surfaced boats were attacked by a United States Navy PBY-4 Liberator, of Squadron VB-107. U-172 escaped while the crew of U-185 opened fire with AA guns, shooting down the aircraft, killing its crew of three.

After U-604 was scuttled, U-185 headed for home, with 100 men crammed aboard a U-boat designed for 54. On 16 AUG she transferred 23 men to U-172. Short of fuel, U-185 was heading for a rendezvous with U-847 south-west of the Azores. On the morning of 24 AUG she was spotted by a U.S. Grumman TBF-1 Avenger and Grumman F4F Wildcat attack team of Squadron VC-13, flying from the escort carrier USS Core. The aircraft attacked with machine guns and depth charges, killing the U-boat’s lookouts and AA crew and rupturing the pressure hull, allowing seawater to reach the battery cells and produce toxic chlorine gas. One diesel engine caught fire, producing more fumes, and all electrical systems were knocked out, plunging the vessel into darkness.

Realizing that the situation was hopeless, Kapitänleutnant August Maus ordered all hands to abandon ship. More than 40 men managed to reach the deck and jump into the sea as U-185 sank. Only 36 men were later rescued by the destroyer USS Barker, the rest succumbing to wounds or chlorine poisoning. The 25 men from U-185 and the nine survivors from U-604 spent the following three years as POWs before returning to Germany. On 21 September 1943 Kapitänleutnant Maus was awarded the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross.

  • Aug 24 1944 – WW2: Allied troops begin the attack on Paris.
  • Aug 24 1944 – WW2: USS Harder (SS–257) sunk by Japanese Coast Defense Vessel No. 22 off west coast of Luzon, Philippines. 79 killed.
  • Aug 24 1954 – Cold War: Congress passes Communist Control Act » Though full of ominous language, many found the purpose of the act unclear. In 1954, the Red Scare still raged in the United States. Although Senator Joseph McCarthy, the most famous of the “red hunters” in America, had been disgraced earlier in the summer of 1954 when he tried to prove that communists were in the U.S. Army, most Americans still believed that communists were at work in their country. Responding to this fear, Congress passed the Communist Control Act in August 1954.

Humbert Humphrey with members of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union. Humphrey as a

U.S. senator from Minnesota sponsored the Communist Control Act of 1954

The act declared that, “The Communist Party of the United States, though purportedly a political party, is in fact an instrumentality of a conspiracy to overthrow the Government of the United States.” The act went on to charge that the party’s “role as the agency of a hostile foreign power renders its existence a clear and continuing danger to the security of the United States.” The conclusion seemed inescapable: “The Communist Party should be outlawed.” Indeed, that is what many people at the time believed the Communist Control Act accomplished.

A careful reading of the act, however, indicates that the reality was a bit fuzzier. In 1950, Congress passed the Internal Security Act. In many respects, it was merely a version of the Communist Control Act passed four years later. It used the same language to condemn communism and the Communist Party of the United States, and established penalties for anyone belonging to a group calling for the violent overthrow of the American government. However, it very specifically noted that mere membership in the Communist Party, or affiliated organizations, was not in and of itself sufficient cause for arrest or penalty. The 1954 act went one step further by removing the “rights, privileges, and immunities attendant upon legal bodies created under the jurisdiction of the laws of the United States” from the Communist Party. The Communist Control Act made it clear that “nothing in this section shall be construed as amending the Internal Security Act of 1950.” Thus, while the Communist Control Act may have declared that the Communist Party should be outlawed, the act itself did not take this decisive step.

In the years to come, the Communist Party of the United States continued to exist, although the U.S. government used legislation such as the Communist Control Act to harass Communist Party members. More ominously, the government also used such acts to investigate and harass numerous other organizations that were deemed to have communist “leanings.” These included the American Civil Liberties Union, labor unions, and the NAACP. By the mid-to-late 1960s, however, the Red Scare had run its course and a more liberal Supreme Court began to chip away at the immense tangle of anticommunist legislation that had been passed during the 1940s and 1950s. Today, the Communist Party of the United States continues to exist and regularly runs candidates for local, state, and national elections.

  • Aug 24 1963 – Vietnam: Washington changes policy on support for President Diem » Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge receives a State Department cable stating that the United States can no longer tolerate Ngo Dinh Nhu’s influence in President Ngo Dinh Diem’s regime. This message was in response to the raids on the Buddhist pagodas; it also directed Lodge to tell the South Vietnamese generals that Washington was prepared to discontinue economic and military aid to Diem.
  • Aug 24 1964 – Vietnam: Company A of the Third Battalion, 196th Light Infantry Brigade refuses the order of its commander, Lieutenant Eugene Schurtz, Jr., to continue an attack that had been launched to reach a downed helicopter shot down in the Que Son valley, 30 miles south of Da Nang. The unit had been in fierce combat for five days against entrenched North Vietnamese forces and had taken heavy casualties
  • Aug 24 1969 – Vietnam: U.S. unit refuses commander’s order » Company A of the Third Battalion, 196th Light Infantry Brigade refuses the order of its commander, Lieutenant Eugene Schurtz, Jr., to continue an attack that had been launched to reach a downed helicopter shot down in the Que Son valley, 30 miles south of Da Nang. Schurtz called his battalion commander, Lieutenant Colonel Robert C. Bacon, and informed him that his men had refused to follow his order to move out because they had “simply had enough” and that they were “broken.” The unit eventually moved out when Bacon sent his executive officer and a sergeant to give Schurtz’s troops “a pep talk,” but when they reached the downed helicopter on 25 AUG, they found all eight men aboard dead. Schurtz was relieved of his command and transferred to another assignment in the division. Neither he nor his men were disciplined. This case of “combat refusal,” as the Army described it, was reported widely in U.S. newspapers.
  • Aug 24 1970 – Vietnam: B-52s conduct heavy raids along the DMZ.
  • Aug 24 1970: Vietnam War protest » In the United States, a radical protest group calling themselves the New Year’s Gang blew up in the Army Mathematics Research Center at the University of Wisconsin Army Mathematics Research Center in Madison. A graduate student who was working late was killed in the blast. The center, which reportedly was involved in war research, had been a focus for protest in the past, but previously protests had all been nonviolent.


  • Aug 25 1776 – American Revolution: David Hume dies » Although Hume died when the American Revolution was barely underway, his essay “Idea of a Perfect Commonwealth” greatly affected the ideas of the drafters of the federal Constitution in 1787. Most famously, James Madison contemplated Hume’s proposals for an ideal government and, more precisely, Hume’s thoughts regarding the prevention of faction as he constructed his argument in favor of the Constitution in “Federalist X.”

  • Aug 25 1864 – Civil War: Rebels attack a the Second Battle of Ream’s Station » Union forces finish cutting a vital Confederate supply line into Petersburg, Virginia by attacking the Wilmington and Weldon Railroad at Reams Station. Casualties and losses: US 2,747 – CSA 814
  • Aug 25 1914 – WWI: Germans burn Belgian town of Louvain » Over the course of five days, beginning August 25, 1914, German troops stationed in the Belgian village of Louvain during the opening month of World War I burn and loot much of the town, executing hundreds of civilians.

Located between Liege, the fortress town that saw heavy fighting during the first weeks of the German invasion, and the Belgian capital of Brussels, Louvain became the symbol, in the eyes of international public opinion, of the shockingly brutal nature of the German war machine. From the first days they crossed into Belgium, violating that small country’s neutrality on the way to invade France, German forces looted and destroyed much of the countryside and villages in their path, killing significant numbers of civilians, including women and children. These brutal actions, the Germans claimed, were in response to what they saw as an illegal civilian resistance to the German occupation, organized and promoted by the Belgian government and other community leaders—especially the Catholic Church—and carried out by irregular combatants or franc-tireurs (snipers, or free shooters) of the type that had participated in the Franco-Prussian War in 1870-71.

A postcard entitled 'Le sac de Louvain' ('The Sacking of Louvain)

A postcard entitled ‘Le sac de Louvain’ (‘The Sacking of Louvain)

In reality this type of civilian resistance—despite being sanctioned by the Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907, which the Germans objected to—did not exist to any significant degree in Belgium during the German invasion, but was used as an excuse to justify the German pursuit of a theory of terror previously articulated by the enormously influential 19th-century Prussian military philosopher Karl von Clausewitz. According to Clausewitz, the civilian population of an enemy country should not be exempted from war, but in fact should be made to feel its effects, and be forced to put pressure on their government to surrender.

The burning of Louvain came on the heels of a massacre in the village of Dinant, near Liege, on 23 AUG, in which the German soldiers had killed some 674 civilians on the orders of their corps commander. Two days later, the small but hardy Belgian army made a sudden sharp attack on the rear lines of the German 1st Army, commanded by General Alexander von Kluck, forcing the Germans to retreat in disorder to Louvain. In the confusion that followed, they would later claim, civilians had fired on the German soldiers or had fired from the village’s rooftops to send a signal to the Belgian army, or even to approaching French or British troops. The Belgians, by contrast, would claim the Germans had mistakenly fired on each other in the dark. Whatever happened did not matter: the Germans burned Louvain not to punish specific Belgian acts but to provide an example, before the world, of what happened to those who resisted mighty Germany.

Over the next five days, as Louvain and its buildings—including its renowned university and library, founded in 1426—burned, a great outcry grew in the international community, with refugees pouring out of the village and eyewitness accounts filling the foreign press. Richard Harding Davis, an American correspondent in Belgium, arrived at Louvain by troop train on August 27; his report later appeared in the New York Tribune under the headline GERMANS SACK LOUVAIN; WOMEN AND CLERGY SHOT. A wireless statement from Berlin issued by the German Embassy in Washington, D.C., confirmed the incidents, stating that “Louvain was punished by the destruction of the city.” The Allied press went crazy, with British editorials proclaiming “Treason to Civilization” and insisting the Germans had proved themselves descendants not of the great author Goethe but of the bloodthirsty Attila the Hun.

By war’s end, the Germans would kill some 5,521 civilians in Belgium (and 896 in France). Above all, German actions in Belgium were intended to demonstrate to the Allies that the German empire was a formidable power that should be submitted to, and that those resisting that power—whether soldier or civilian, belligerent or neutral—would be met with a force of total destruction. Ironically, for many in the Allied countries, and in the rest of the world as well, a different conclusion emerged from the flames of Louvain: Germany must be defeated at all costs, without compromise or settlement, because a German victory would mean the defeat of civilization.

  • Aug 25 1921 – WWI: The U.S., which never ratified the Versailles Treaty ending World War I, finally signs a peace treaty with Germany.
  • Aug 25 1942 – WW2: Battle of Milne Bay » Japanese forces for 13 days unsuccessfully attacked the Australian base at Milne Bay on the eastern tip of New Guinea. Papua New Guinea. Casualties and losses: US 13 – AS 373 – JP 936.
  • Aug 25 1942 – WW2: Battle of the Eastern Solomons » On the second day of the battle a Japanese naval transport convoy headed towards Guadalcanal is turned back by an Allied air attack. Japanese losses were one destroyer and one transport sunk, and one light cruiser heavily damaged.
  • Aug 25 1944 – WW2: Paris Liberated » After more than four years of Nazi occupation, Paris is liberated by the French 2nd Armored Division and the U.S. 4th Infantry Division. German resistance was light, and General Dietrich von Choltitz, commander of the German garrison, defied an order by Adolf Hitler to blow up Paris’ landmarks and burn the city to the ground before its liberation. Choltitz signed a formal surrender that afternoon, and on 26 AUG, Free French General Charles de Gaulle led a joyous liberation march down the Champs d’Elysees.

Paris fell to Nazi Germany on June 14, 1940, one month after the German Wehrmacht stormed into France. Eight days later, France signed an armistice with the Germans, and a puppet French state was set up with its capital at Vichy. Elsewhere, however, General Charles de Gaulle and the Free French kept fighting, and the Resistance sprang up in occupied France to resist Nazi and Vichy rule.

The French 2nd Armored Division was formed in London in late 1943 with the express purpose of leading the liberation of Paris during the Allied invasion of France. In August 1944, the division arrived at Normandy under the command of General Jacques-Philippe Leclerc and was attached to General George S. Patton’s 3rd U.S. Army. By 18 AUG, Allied forces were near Paris, and workers in the city went on strike as Resistance fighters emerged from hiding and began attacking German forces and fortifications. At his headquarters two miles inland from the Normandy coast, Supreme Allied Commander Dwight D. Eisenhower had a dilemma. Allied planners had concluded that the liberation of Paris should be delayed so as to not divert valuable resources away from important operations elsewhere. The city could be encircled and then liberated at a later date.

On 21 AUG, Eisenhower met with de Gaulle and told him of his plans to bypass Paris. De Gaulle urged him to reconsider, assuring him that Paris could be reclaimed without difficulty. The French general also warned that the powerful communist faction of the Resistance might succeed in liberating Paris, thereby threatening the re-establishment of a democratic government. De Gaulle politely told Eisenhower that if his advance against Paris was not ordered, he would send Leclerc’s 2nd Armored Division into the city himself.

On 22 AUG, Eisenhower agreed to proceed with the liberation of Paris. The next day, the 2nd Armored Division advanced on the city from the north and the 4th Infantry Division from the south. Meanwhile, in Paris, the forces of German General Dietrich von Choltitz were fighting the Resistance and completing their defenses around the city. Hitler had ordered Paris defended to the last man, and demanded that the city not fall into Allied hands except as “a field of ruins.” Choltitz dutifully began laying explosives under Paris’ bridges and many of its landmarks, but disobeyed an order to commence the destruction. He did not want to go down in history as the man who had destroyed the “City of Light”–Europe’s most celebrated city.

The 2nd Armored Division ran into heavy German artillery, taking heavy casualties, but on 24 AUG managed to cross the Seine and reach the Paris suburbs. There, they were greeted by enthusiastic civilians who besieged them with flowers, kisses, and wine. Later that day, Leclerc learned that the 4th Infantry Division was poised to beat him into Paris proper, and he ordered his exhausted men forward in a final burst of energy. Just before midnight on 24 AUG, the 2nd Armored Division reached the Hótel de Ville in the heart of Paris.

German resistance melted away during the night. Most of the 20,000 troops surrendered or fled, and those that fought were quickly overcome. On the morning of 25 AUG, the 2nd Armored Division swept clear the western half of Paris while the 4th Infantry Division cleared the eastern part. Paris was liberated. In the early afternoon, Choltitz was arrested in his headquarters by French troops. Shortly after, he signed a document formally surrendering Paris to de Gaulle’s provincial government. De Gaulle himself arrived in the city later that afternoon. On 25 AUG, de Gaulle and Leclerc led a triumphant liberation march down the Champs d’Elysees. Scattered gunfire from a rooftop disrupted the parade, but the identity of the snipers was not determined.

De Gaulle headed two successive French provisional governments until 1946, when he resigned over constitutional disagreements. From 1958 to 1969, he served as French president under the Fifth Republic.

  • Aug 25 1945 – Cold War: The first casualty of the Cold War » John Birch, an American missionary to China before the war and a captain in the Army during the war, is killed by Chinese communists days after the surrender of Japan, for no apparent reason.

John Birch.jpg

After America had entered the war, Birch, a Baptist missionary already in China, was made a liaison between American and Chinese forces fighting the Japanese. But on August 25, Birch, commanding an American Special Services team, was ordered to halt by Chinese communist troops. A scuffle ensued, and Birch was shot dead. In the 1950s, Robert Welch would create a right-wing, anticommunist organization called the John Birch Society. For Welch, Birch was “the first casualty in the Third World War between Communists and the ever-shrinking Free World.”

  • Aug 25 1967 – Vietnam: Defense Secretary McNamara concedes that the U.S. bombing campaign has had little effect on the North’s “war-making capability.” At the same time, he refused a request from military commanders to bomb all MIG bases in North Vietnam. In Hanoi, North Vietnam’s Administrative Committee orders all workers in light industry and all craftsmen and their families to leave the city; only persons vital to the city’s defense and production were to remain.
  • Aug 25 1971 – Vietnam: U.S. 173rd Airborne Brigade, among the first U.S. ground units sent to Vietnam, ceases combat operations and prepares to redeploy to the United States as part of Nixon’s troop withdrawal plan.
  • Aug 25 1985 – Cold War: Samantha Smith dies in plane crash » The 13-year-old “ambassador” to the Soviet Union, dies in a plane crash. She was best known for writing to Soviet leader Yuri Andropov in 1982 and visiting the Soviet Union as Andropov’s guest in 1983.

In late 1982, Smith, a fifth-grader at Manchester Elementary School in Manchester, Maine, wrote a plaintive letter to Soviet leader Andropov. She said that she was “worrying about Russia and the United States getting into a nuclear war. Are you going to have a war or not?” A few months later, Smith’s letter was reprinted in Russia and it was announced that Andropov was writing a response. Smith received his letter in April 1983. Andropov assured Smith that he did not want a nuclear war with the United States or any other country. Calling Smith a “courageous and honest” little girl, Andropov closed the letter with an invitation for her to visit the Soviet Union. In July, accompanied by her parents, Smith embarked on a two-week trip.

She was a hit in the Soviet Union, and although she did not get to meet with Andropov, she traveled widely and spoke to numerous groups and people. In the United States, some people branded her as a patsy for the communists and claimed that Soviet propagandists were merely using her for their own purposes, but Samantha’s enthusiasm and contagious optimism charmed most Americans and millions of other people around the world. During the next two years, Smith became an unofficial U.S. goodwill ambassador, speaking to groups throughout the United States and in foreign nations such as Japan. On August 25, 1985, while traveling with her father, their small plane crashed and both were killed.

1985 USSR Stamp

Smith’s legacy lived on, however. Her mother began the Samantha Smith Foundation, which has as its goal bringing people from different nations and cultures together to share their experiences. In particular, the foundation established a student exchange program with the Soviet Union. In the Soviet Union, news of Smith’s death was met with great sadness. The Russian government responded by issuing a stamp in her honor and naming a mountain after the young girl.

  • Aug 25 1991 – Cold War: Mikhail Gorbachev resigns as head of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union; Ukraine declares its independence from USSR.


  • Aug 26 1776 – American Revolution: Washington urges Hessians to desert » Falsely confident that the British would not attack New York’s Manhattan Island, General George Washington pours additional reinforcements into the lines around Brooklyn Heights. He also ordered the dispersal of certain documents among the Hessian soldiers fighting for the British inducing them to desert the British army.
  • Aug 26 1862 – Civil War: Second Bull Run campaign begins » Confederate cavalry under General Fitzhugh Lee enter Manassas Junction, capture the rail center, and began looting and destroying Union General Pope’s huge supply depot located there. Pope was surprised by the large Rebel force operating in his rear, but he also realized that Jackson was detached from the rest of Lee’s army and so he began gathering his forces around Manassas. But Pope soon had a new problem: He could not find Jackson. From 26 AUG until the beginning of Second Bull Run on 29 AUG, Pope’s men searched for Jackson, who had hidden his army in the trees along Bull Run.
  • Aug 26 1914 – WW1: Battle of Tannenberg begins » The German 8th Army, under the leadership of Paul von Hindenburg and Erich Ludendorff, strikes with lethal force against the advancing Russian 2nd Army, led by General Aleksandr Samsonov, in East Prussia during the opening weeks of the First World War.

Generals Paul von Hindenburg, Erich Ludendorff, and Aleksandr Samsonov

In the middle of August 1914, much sooner than had been anticipated, Russia sent two armies into East Prussia, while Germany, according to its war strategy, had the bulk of its forces concentrated to the west, against France. The Russian 1st Army, under General Pavel Rennenkampf, advanced to the northeastern corner of East Prussia, while Samsonov’s 2nd Army made headway into the southwest, planning to join with Rennenkampf’s men and pin the outnumbered German 8th Army between them. After a Russian victory in the Battle of Gumbinnen on 20 AUG, however, Rennenkampf paused to regroup his forces.

Meanwhile, change was afoot behind the German lines: Helmuth von Moltke, chief of the German general staff, chose to replace the previous leader, Maximilian von Prittwitz, after the latter issued a misguided order for a German retreat to the River Vistula, against the advice of his corps commanders. Hindenburg, a retired general of great stature, and Ludendorff, who had just led the German capture of the Belgian fortress of Liege, arrived in East Prussia and immediately authorized an aggressive counter-action against the Russians, previously planned by a senior staff officer in the region, Colonel Max Hoffmann.

Separated by the great Masurian Lakes, the two Russian armies were unable to effectively communicate with each other as to their movements, a circumstance that would prove deadly. Though Ludendorff succumbed to nerves initially, delaying the start of the German attack by one day, Hindenburg was able to calm his subordinate—not for the last time in what would become a fabled partnership. On 26 AUG, after intercepting uuencoded wireless messages from both Samsonov and Rennenkampf, the Germans were able to take Samsonov’s army by surprise with the force of their attack near the village of Tannenberg, to the southwest of the Masurian Lakes. The delay in starting the attack had given Samsonov’s forces more time to advance deeper into the sack formed by the German divisions enveloping them from both sides, the strength of which Samsonov consistently underestimated. After three days of battering by German artillery, Samsonov’s troops began their retreat; more German forces cut off their path and a massive slaughter ensued. In the first hours of August 30, confronting the reality of his army’s collapse, Samsonov went into the forest, away from his staff, and shot himself.

In total, over 50,000 Russian soldiers were killed and some 92,000 taken as prisoners in the Battle of Tannenberg—named thus by the Germans in vengeful remembrance of the village, where in 1410 the Poles had defeated the Teutonic Knights. By the end of August, Russia’s ambitious advance in East Prussia in August 1914 had achieved at least one of its goals, albeit at a tremendous cost: two German corps had been removed from the Western to the Eastern Front in order to confront the Russian menace. Though the two corps had not arrived in time to play a role in the Battle of Tannenberg—which would remain the greatest German triumph of the war against Russia on the Eastern Front— they would also be unable to aid their comrades at the Battle of the Marne in early September, when German forces advancing towards Paris were decisively defeated by British and French troops in a crucial victory for the Allies.

  • Aug 26 1914 – WW1: Paris on the Front Lines » The outbreak of the First World War in August 1914 saw patriotic demonstrations on the Place de la Concorde and at the Gare de l’Est and Gare du Nord as the mobilized soldiers departed for the front. But while the Paris newspapers were confident of a quick victory, the German army swept through Belgium and marched rapidly toward Paris.

On 26 AUG, trainloads of refugees from Belgium arrived at the Gare du Nord and were given shelter at the Cirque de Paris. On 30 AUG, a German plane appeared over Paris and dropped three bombs, one on the Rue des Récollets, one on the Quai de Valmy and the third on the Rue des Vinaigriers; the last bomb killed an elderly woman and wounded three persons. City authorities did not allow the casualties to be mentioned in the press. Another plane appeared on 31 AUG to drop a message with the claim that the Germans had defeated the French army at Saint-Quentin, and a third plane appeared on 1 SEP, this time to drop more bombs that killed one person and injured sixteen. These casualties were also concealed from the public.

Also on 26 AUG General Joseph Gallieni was called from retirement and appointed military governor of Paris, a title that dated back to the fourteenth century. He quickly began organizing the defenses of the city; the forts around the city were prepared for action, 376 cannons and batteries of new 75-millimeter guns were placed around the city to defend it against aerial attack, and machine guns and a cannon were placed on the Eiffel Tower. Herds of cattle were brought into the city to provide meat in the event of a long siege. The important masterpieces of the Louvre were transported to Toulouse for safekeeping. As the German army drew closer, French President Raymond Poincaré decided to move the French government and the National Assembly to safety in Bordeaux, as had been done in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71. On 2 SEP, posters appeared around the city announcing that “The members of the government of the Republic have left Paris to give a new impulse to the national defense.

By the first week of September, the Germans had come within thirty kilometers of the Cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris. The French and British armies were engaged in fierce fighting with the Germans in the First Battle of the Marne. When one of the German armies turned southeast to attack the French army on the flank, it opened a gap between the German armies, and the French forces, led by Marechal Joffre, saw an opportunity to attack them on their own flank. General Gallieni decided to send all of his reserves from Paris to the front to aid the attack, but lacked enough trains and omnibuses to move the soldiers.

On 5 SEP, Gallieni requisitioned a thousand private vehicles, including about six hundred Paris taxicabs and their drivers to carry soldiers to the front at Nanteuil-le-Haudouin, fifty kilometers away. The drivers were assembled on the evening of September 6 on the esplanade of Les Invalides. They were mostly the Renault AG1 Landaulet model, with an average speed of 16 mph. Within twenty-four hours, the Villemomble and Gagny battalions, about six thousand soldiers and officers, were moved to the front at Nanteuil-le-Haudouin. Each taxi carried five soldiers, four in the back and one next to the driver. Only the back lights of the taxis were lit; the drivers were instructed to follow the lights of the taxi ahead. Most of the taxis were demobilized on September 8, but some remained longer to carry the wounded and refugees. The taxis, following city regulations, dutifully ran their meters. The French treasury reimbursed the total fare of 70,012 francs. The Germans were surprised and pushed back by the French and British armies. The number of soldiers transported by taxi was small compared to the huge armies engaged in the battle, and the military impact was minor, but the effect on French morale was enormous; it demonstrated the solidarity between the people and the army.

Fearing a long siege, General Gallieni did what he could to reduce the number of Parisians who needed to be fed; a dozen free trains were organized on 5 SEP to take Parisians to the French provinces. An emergency census ordered by Gallieni on 8 SEP showed that the population of Paris had dropped to 1,800,000, or only 63 percent of the population counted in 1911. By October, public transportation was again running in the city. The military government declared a moratorium on rents for those Parisians who had been summoned into the army and protected them from legal action until the end of the war.

As of 20 DEC, pedestrians could walk freely in Paris once again, but vehicles were only allowed to enter and leave Paris by fourteen of the fifty-five city gates that were open from five in the morning until ten at night. The government returned to Paris on 11 DEC, and President Poincaré was again able to meet with his Council of Ministers in the Élysée Palace. The front lines moved further north, and by 4 January 1915, Paris was no longer considered to be threatened. Nonetheless, the city was bombed by a German Zeppelin airship on March 21, 1915, and by German planes on May 11 and May 22.

  • Aug 26 1942 – WW2: First black Marine (Howard Perry) entered first recruit training camp (Montford Point, NC) for black Marines

"Breaking a tradition of 167 years, the U.S. Marine Corps started enlisting Negroes on June 1, 1942. The first class of 1,200 Negro volunteers began their training 3 months later as members of the 51st Composite Defense Battalion at Montford Point, a section of the 200-square-mile Marine Base, Camp Lejeune, at New River, NC. The first Negro to enlist was Howard P. Perry shown here." Credit: National Archives.

  • Aug 26 1944 – WW2: DeGaulle enters a free Paris » French General Charles de Gaulle enters Paris, which had formally been liberated the day before. As he entered the Place de l’Hotel, French collaborationists took a few sniper shots at him. For de Gaulle, the liberation of Paris was the end of a long history of fighting Germans. He had sustained multiple injuries fighting at Verdun in World War I. and had escaped German POW camps five times, only to be recaptured each time. At 6 feet, 4 inches tall, it was hard for de Gaulle to be inconspicuous.
  • Aug 26 1949 – U.S. Navy: USS Cochino (SS–345) foundered after a battery explosion during a severe storm off northern Norway killing one sailor.
  • Aug 26 1957 – Cold War: Russia tests an intercontinental ballistic missile » The Soviet Union announces that it has successfully tested an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capable of being fired “into any part of the world.” The announcement caused great concern in the United States, and started a national debate over the “missile gap” between America and Russia.

R-7 Semyorka, the world’s first ICBM and satellite launch vehicle

For years after World War II, both the United States and the Soviet Union had been trying to perfect a long-range missile capable of carrying nuclear warheads. Building on the successes of Nazi Germany in developing the V-1 and V-2 rockets that pummeled Great Britain during the last months of World War II, both American and Russian scientists raced to improve the range and accuracy of such missiles. (Both nations relied heavily on captured German scientists in their efforts.) In July 1957, the United States seemed to win the race when the Atlas, an ICBM with a speed of up to 20,000 miles an hour and an effective range of 5,000 miles, was ready for testing. The test, however, was a disaster. The missile rose only about 5,000 feet into the air, tumbled, and plunged to earth.

Just a month later, the Soviets claimed success by announcing that their own ICBM had been tested, had “covered a huge distance in a brief time,” and “landed in the target area.” No details were given in the Russian announcement and some commentators in the United States doubted that the ICBM test had been as successful as claimed. Nevertheless, the Soviet possession of this “ultimate weapon,” coupled with recent successful test by the Russians of atomic and hydrogen bombs, raised concerns in America. If the Soviets did indeed perfect their ICBM, no part of the United States would be completely safe from possible atomic attack.

Less than two months later, the Soviets sent the satellite Sputnik into space. Concern quickly turned to fear in the United States, as it appeared that the Russians were gaining the upper hand in the arms and space races. The American government accelerated its own missile and space programs. The Soviet successes–and American failures–became an issue in the 1960 presidential campaign. Democratic challenger John F. Kennedy charged that the outgoing Eisenhower administration had allowed a dangerous “missile gap” to develop between the United States and the Soviet Union. Following his victory in 1960, Kennedy made missile development and the space program priorities for his presidency.

  • Aug 26 1964 – Vietnam: Johnson receives Democratic nomination for president » Lyndon B. Johnson is nominated to run for the presidency at the Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City, New Jersey. His running mate would be Hubert H. Humphrey. Former Vice President Johnson had assumed the reigns of government in November 1963 when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Upon assuming office, he inherited a commitment to Vietnam where Kennedy had sent military advisors to support the South Vietnamese government in Saigon. Following the Tonkin Gulf incident earlier in August when North Vietnamese torpedo boats reportedly attacked U.S. destroyers, Congress passed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution empowering Johnson to “take all necessary measures to repel an armed attack against the forces of the United States and to prevent further aggression.” With the support of Congress in hand and having been nominated for the presidency in his own right, Johnson said he would stop the spread of communism in Southeast Asia, but that American “boys” should not be sent to do the fighting that Asian “boys” with U.S. help could do themselves. Receiving opposing views from various experts inside and outside the government, Johnson chose to listen to those he wanted to hear, discounting those who suggested that the U.S. should not become deeply involved in the war. Trying to protect his domestic agenda at home, he nevertheless gradually escalated the U.S. commitment in South Vietnam, eventually sending U.S. combat units that resulted in more than 500,000 American troops in-country by early 1968.
  • Aug 26 1964 – Vietnam: The Joint Chiefs of Staff send a memorandum to the Secretary of Defense, Robert McNamara, concurring with an 19 AUG cable from Ambassador Maxwell Taylor in Saigon who called for “a carefully orchestrated bombing attack on North Vietnam” to prevent “a complete collapse of the U.S. position in Southeast Asia.”
  • Aug 26 1967 – Vietnam: Major George E. Day shot down over North Vietnam » Badly injured after ejecting when his North American F-100F is shot down over North Vietnam, Major George E. Day is captured and severely tortured. He later managed to escape and eventually made it to the DMZ. After several attempts to signal U.S. aircraft, he was ambushed and recaptured, and was later moved to prison in Hanoi, where he continued to strongly resist to his captors. Finally released in 1973, Major Day was awarded the Medal of Honor for his conspicuous gallantry while a POW.
  • Aug 26 1968 – Vietnam: Democratic convention besieged by protesters » As the Democratic National Convention gets underway in Chicago, thousands of antiwar demonstrators take to Chicago’s streets to protest the Vietnam War and its support by the top Democratic presidential candidate, Vice President Hubert Humphrey. During the four-day convention, the most violent in U.S. history, police and National Guardsmen clashed with protesters outside the International Amphitheater, and hundreds of people, including innocent bystanders, were beaten by the Chicago police. The violence even spilled into the convention hall, as guards roughed up delegates and members of the press, including CBS News correspondent Mike Wallace, who was punched in the face. On 29 AUG, Humphrey secured the nomination and the convention ended.

In the convention’s aftermath, a federal commission investigating the convention described one of the confrontations as a “police riot” and blamed Chicago Mayor Richard Daley for inciting his police to violence. Nevertheless, eight political radicals–the so-called “Chicago Eight”–were arrested on charges of conspiring to incite the violence, and in 1969 their trial began in Chicago, sparking new waves of protests in the city.


  • Aug 27 1776 – American Revolution: The Battle of Brooklyn » British forces under General William Howe defeat Patriot forces under General George Washington in New York. On 22 AUG, Howe’s large army landed on Long Island, hoping to capture New York City and gain control of the Hudson River, a victory that would divide the rebellious colonies in half. On 27 AUG, the Red Coats marched against the Patriot position at Brooklyn Heights, overcoming the Americans at Gowanus Pass and then outflanking the entire Continental Army. Howe failed to follow the advice of his subordinates and storm the redoubts at Brooklyn Heights, and on 29 AUG General Washington ordered a brilliant retreat to Manhattan by boat, thus saving the Continental Army from capture. At the Battle of Brooklyn, the Americans suffered 1,000 casualties to the British loss of only 400 men. On 15 SEP, the British captured New York City.
  • Aug 27 1861 – Civil War: The attack on Cape Hatteras begins » Union ships sail into North Carolina’s Hatteras Inlet, beginning a two-day operation that secures the area for the Federals and denies the Confederates an important outlet to the Atlantic.
  • Aug 27 1916 – WWI: Romania formally enters World War I » After Romania declares war on Austria-Hungary Romanian troops cross the border of the Austro-Hungarian Empire into the much-contested province of Transylvania.

By the outbreak of war in Europe in 1914, Romania had long been at odds with Austria-Hungary over the issue of territory—specifically Transylvania, which was ethnically Romanian but then part of Hungary. Seeing Russia’s success against Austria on the battlefields of the Eastern Front during the summer of 1916, Romania hoped to make an advantageous entry into the war in order to realize long-held dreams of territorial expansion and national unity. On August 18, 1916, the Romanian government signed a secret treaty with the Allies; by its terms, in the event of an Allied victory Romania would acquire Transylvania, up to the River Theiss, the province of Bukovina to the River Pruth, and the entire Banat region, all territory under Austro-Hungarian control. On 27 AUG, Romania fulfilled its treaty obligation by declaring war against Austria-Hungary.

As Romanian troops opened a new front of the war in Transylvania, British forces pressured Germany on the Somme River, and Austria faltered against Russia in the east, Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany briefly panicked, telling close confidantes that “The war is lost.” He regained perspective quickly, however, and moved to strengthen Germany’s defensive position, replacing Erich von Falkenhayn with Paul von Hindenburg as chief of the German General Staff on 28 AUG. Within two weeks, at a conference that included Turkish and Bulgarian leaders, Wilhelm sanctioned the creation of a Supreme War Command, effectively giving Hindenburg command of all the armies of the Central Powers in World War I.

The demoted Falkenhayn, meanwhile, took control of Germany’s operations against Romania; in this he was joined by another prominent German general, August von Mackensen. By December 1916, Falkenhayn and Mackensen had led their troops to a decisive victory against Romania, overrunning much of the country and occupying the capital city, Bucharest, on December 9, 1916. Though Russian troops entered Romania early the following year, the Russian army was on the verge of collapse; with the Russian Revolution that year, the rise to power of the Bolsheviks, and Russia’s subsequent exit from the war in early 1918, Romania was forced to surrender to the Central Powers at Bucharest that May, having suffered some 335,000 casualties during the course of the war, not including civilian deaths.

According to the Peace of Bucharest, Romania lost land along its coast to Bulgaria, as well as control of the mouth of the Danube River, which the Central Powers commandeered. The Treaty of Versailles in 1919 reversed these losses, however; it also gave Romania control of the long-desired province of Transylvania.

  • Aug 27 1916 – WWI: Italy declares war on Germany » Italy hoped that by joining the countries of the Triple Entente against the Central Powers it would gain Cisalpine Tyrol (todays provinces of Trento and Bolzano-Bozen), Istria, Dalmatia and the port of Trieste. Although Italy had hoped to begin the war with a surprise offensive intended to move quickly and capture several Austrian cities, the war soon bogged down into trench warfare similar to the Western Front fought in France.

Although a member of the Triple Alliance with Austria-Hungary and Germany, Italy did not declare war in August 1914, arguing that the Alliance was defensive in nature and therefore that Austria-Hungary’s aggression did not obligate Italy to take part. Italy had a long standing rivalry with Austria-Hungary, dating back to the Congress of Vienna in 1815 after the Napoleonic Wars, which granted several regions on the Italian peninsula to the Austrian Empire. In the early stages of the war, Allied diplomats courted Italy, attempting to secure Italian participation on the Allied side, culminating in the Treaty of London of April 26, 1915 in which Italy renounced her obligations to the Triple Alliance. On May 23, Italy declared war on Austria-Hungary.

  • Aug 27 1918 – WWI: Battle of Ambos Nogales » The 35th Infantry Regiment, reinforced by Buffalo Soldiers from the 10th Cavalry Regiment, engaged in a border skirmish in Nogales, Ariz., with Mexican Carrancistas who are being advised by German military officers. Three U.S. soldiers were killed and 29 wounded. German involvement makes some consider this the first World War I battle on U.S. soil although the shooting started after a dispute over a customs inspection. U.S. Army forces skirmish against Mexican Carrancistas and their German advisors in the only battle of World War I fought on American soil. Casualties and losses: US 32 – MEX ~430.
  • Aug 27 1928 – Pre United Nations: The Kellogg-Briand Pact » In the wake of World War I, U.S. officials and private citizens made significant efforts to guarantee that the nation would not be drawn into another war. Some focused on disarmament, such as the series of naval conferences that began in Washington in 1921, and some focused on cooperation with the League of Nations and the newly formed World Court. Others initiated a movement to try to outlaw war outright. Peace advocates Nicholas Murray Butler and James T. Shotwell were part of this movement. Both men were affiliated with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, an organization dedicated to promoting internationalism that was established in 1910 by leading American industrialist Andrew Carnegie.

With the influence and assistance of Shotwell and Butler, French Minister of Foreign Affairs Aristide Briand proposed a peace pact as a bilateral agreement between the United States and France to outlaw war between them. Particularly hard hit by World War I, France faced continuing insecurity from its German neighbor and sought alliances to shore up its defenses. Briand published an open letter in April of 1927 containing the proposal. Though the suggestion had the enthusiastic support of some members of the American peace movement, U.S. President Calvin Coolidge and Secretary of State Frank B. Kellogg were less eager than Briand to enter into a bilateral arrangement. They worried that the agreement against war could be interpreted as a bilateral alliance and require the United States to intervene if France was ever threatened. To avoid this, they suggested that the two nations take the lead in inviting all nations to join them in outlawing war.

The extension of the pact to include other nations was well-received internationally. After the severe losses of the First World War, the idea of declaring war to be illegal was immensely popular in international public opinion. Because the language of the pact established the important point that only wars of aggression – not military acts of self-defense – would be covered under the pact, many nations had no objections to signing it. If the pact served to limit conflicts, then everyone would benefit; if it did not, there were no legal consequences. In early 1928, negotiations over the agreement expanded to include all of the initial signatories. In the final version of the pact, they agreed upon two clauses: the first outlawed war as an instrument of national policy and the second called upon signatories to settle their disputes by peaceful means.

On August 27, 1928, fifteen nations signed the pact at Paris. Signatories included France, the United States, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, India, Belgium, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Germany, Italy and Japan. Later, an additional forty-seven nations followed suit, so the pact was eventually signed by most of the established nations in the world. The U.S. Senate ratified the agreement by a vote of 85–1, though it did so only after making reservations to note that U.S. participation did not limit its right to self-defense or require it to act against signatories breaking the agreement.

  • Aug 27 1941 – WWII: The German U-boat U-570 is captured by the British and renamed the HMS Graph and put into service against the Germans. Enough clues exist to indicate the British captured a second Enigma cipher machine and its codes. Equally important, that they had captured the box designed to contain the new four-rotor version soon to become operational.
  • Aug 27 1941 – WWII: Prince Fumimaro Konoye, prime minister of Japan, announces that he would like to enter into direct negotiations with President Roosevelt in order to prevent the Japanese conflict with China from expanding into world war.

  • Aug 27 1943 – WW2: Japanese forces evacuate New Georgia Island in the Pacific Theater of Operations.
  • Aug 27 1945 – WW2: B–29 Superfortress bombers begin to drop supplies into Allied POW camps in China.
  • Aug 27 1945 – WW2: Occupation of Japan » US troops land in Japan after Japanese surrender. Theoretically an international occupation, in fact it was carried out almost entirely by U.S. forces under Gen. Douglas MacArthur. During the occupation period, Japanese soldiers and civilians from abroad were repatriated to Japan, arms industries were dismantled, and political prisoners were released. Wartime leaders stood trial for war crimes, and seven were executed. A new constitution (promulgated 1947), vesting power in a democratic government, replaced the Meiji Constitution; in it Japan renounced its right to wage war, the emperor was reduced to ceremonial status, and women were given the right to vote. The occupation administration also carried out land reform, reducing the number of farmers who were tenants from 46 percent to 10 percent, and began the breakup of the zaibatsu (business conglomerates). Labor unions were initially encouraged, but as fears of leftist organizations grew with the advent of the Cold War, stronger governmental control of labor was supported. The education system, seen as elitist, was revised to resemble the U.S. system. Though the United States wanted to end the occupation in 1947, the Soviet Union vetoed a peace treaty with Japan; a treaty was signed in 1951, and the occupation ended the following year.
  • Aug 27 1952 – Cold War: Red Scare dominates American politics » As the presidential election of 1952 begins to heat up, so do accusations and counteraccusations concerning communism in America. The “Red Scare”—the widespread belief that international communism was operating in the United States—came to dominate much of the debate between Democrats and Republicans in 1952.

On August 27, 1952, the New York Times front page contained three stories suggesting the impact of the Red Scare on the upcoming election.

  • In the first story, the Republican-dominated Senate Internal Security Subcommittee released a report charging that the Radio Writers Guild was dominated by a small number of communists. The Guild, whose members were responsible for producing more than 90 percent of the programs on radio, had purportedly been run by a small clique of communists for at least the last nine years. According to the subcommittee report, communist subversion of the Guild was merely one step in a larger effort to control the media of the United States—including radio, television, movies, and book publishing.
  • The second front-page story was a report that the American Legion was demanding, for the third year in a row, that President Harry S. Truman dismiss Secretary of State Dean Acheson for his lack of vigor in dealing with the communist threat. The Legion report declared that the Department of State was in desperate need of “God-fearing Americans” who had the “intestinal fortitude not to be political puppets.” The organization demanded a quick and victorious settlement of the Korean War, even if this meant expanding the war into China.
  • The third story provided a counter of sorts to the previous two stories. It reported a speech by Democratic nominee for President Governor Adlai E. Stevenson, in which he strongly criticized those who used “patriotism” as a weapon against their political opponents. In an obvious slap at the Senate Subcommittee and others, such as Senator Joseph McCarthy, Stevenson repeated the words of the writer Dr. Samuel Johnson: “Patriotism is the last refuge of scoundrels.” The governor claimed that it was “shocking” that good Americans, such as Acheson and former secretary of state General George C. Marshall, could be attacked on the grounds that they were unpatriotic.

The three related stories from the front page of the Times indicated just how deeply the Red Scare had penetrated American society. Accusations about communists in the film, radio, and television industries, in the Department of State and the U.S. Army, in all walks of American life, had filled the newspapers and airwaves for years. By 1952, many Americans were convinced that communists were at work in the United States and must be rooted out and hunted down. Republicans and their allies were obviously planning to use the Red Scare to their advantage in the presidential election of that year, while the Democrats were going to have to battle the perception that they had been “soft” on communism during the administration of President Truman (who came to office in 1945 following the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt). The Republicans were eventually victorious, with Dwight D. Eisenhower scoring a victory over Stevenson.

  • Aug 27 1970 – Vietnam: Vice President Spiro Agnew meets with South Vietnamese president Nguyen Van Thieu in Saigon. In a speech at Ton Son Nhut air base, Agnew praised the South Vietnamese people for suffering “so much in freedom’s cause” and promised that “there will no lessening of U.S. support.” Meanwhile, MACV (Military Assistance Command Vietnam) reported that 52 Americans died and 358 were wounded during the week August 16-22, the lowest casualty toll since the week of December 3, 1966.
  • Aug 27 1972 – Vietnam: In the heaviest bombing in four years, U.S. aircraft flatten North Vietnamese barracks near Hanoi and Haiphong as part of ongoing Operation Linebacker I, part of President Nixon’s response to the NVA Easter Offensive. Planes also hit bridges on the northeast railroad line to China.


  • Aug 28 1861 – Civil War: Battle of Hatteras Inlet Batteries » The Union Army successfully extended its blockage strategy by capturing two Confederate forts on North Carolina’s Outer Banks. Casualties and losses: US 3 – CSA 715.
  • Aug 28 1862 – Civil War: Battle of Groveton » Mistakenly believing the Confederate Army to be in retreat, Union General John Pope attacks. More than 6,000 Rebels, six brigades from Gens. Richard S. Ewell’s and William B. Taliaferro’s divisions, launched a surprise attack against Union Gen. John Gibbon’s 2,100 man Black Hat Brigade. Casualties and losses: US ~900 – CSA ~400.
  • Aug 28 1862 – Civil War: Second Battle of Bull Run » Fought between August 28 and 30 it was the second time Union and Confederate forces had met at Bull Run, near Manassas in Prince William County, Virginia. The first battle had taken place in July of the previous year and resulted in a defeat for the Federal army. The second battle pitted the Federal troops in the Army of Virginia, commanded by Major General John Pope, against the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia, led by General Robert E. Lee.

The Confederates had set up positions to prevent the Union army from moving along the Warrenton Turnpike. Units of the Union army moved to the turnpike in an attempt to consolidate forces with Pope, whose main force was now located at Centerville, and these were attacked by Jackson’s units. Meanwhile, Confederate forces under the command of Major General James Longstreet defeated the Federal forces at the Battle of Thoroughfare Gap. This victory enabled Longstreet’s men to move to join up with Jackson’s. On 29 AUG, Pope launched an offensive against Jackson’s troops, who were now in defensive positions along an incomplete railway grade. Pope believed that some of his forces were in a position to prevent Jackson from retreating to the Bull Run Mountains. Jackson was confident that his defensive position was solid and he could hold out until Longstreet’s troops arrived. The Confederates successfully held off the Federal offensive, and later in the day, Longstreet’s men arrived from Thoroughfare Gap.

In the early morning of 20 AUG, the final section of Longstreet’s units arrived and took up position in darkness at Groveton. As the sun rose, these units realized they were completely isolated and were far too close to the Union forces. Their commander, Richard H. Anderson immediately ordered a retreat. Pope was convinced that the entire Confederate army was now in retreat, and planned to pursue them. Despite intelligence that the Confederates were still in position, Pope sent his soldiers forward to renew attacks on the Confederates. He ignored the advice of several of his staff to proceed with care. Pope ordered Major General Fitz John Porter’s to attack along the turnpike. At the same time, other units were to move forward along the Union right flank. Pope ordered these troop movements constantly, believing he would be pursuing retreating Confederate forces.

The Confederates, rather than retreating, had moved heavy artillery to high ground overlooking Brawner Farm in anticipation of a Union attack. Secondly, Porter’s men were not in the best position to follow Pope’s orders, and there was a significant delay before they were ready to carry out the instruction. The Federal troops were repelled by a heavy Confederate artillery bombardment and the attack failed. Longstreet then launched a counter attack, using 25,000 men in the assault. The objective was to take Henry House Hill, as this location had proved decisive in the First Battle of Bull Run. Throughout the day, fierce fighting took place as ground was won and lost. Pope also recognized the strategic importance of Henry House Hill and initiated a withdrawal to reinforce his defenders there. These troops came under intense pressure from Confederate troops, who succeeded in defeating several units of artillery and infantry.

As darkness fell, Pope had managed to withdraw to Henry House Hill and establish a solid defensive line. So intense had the action been that the Confederate forces were short on ammunition and exhausted from the action. This gave Pope the opportunity to begin an orderly withdrawal to Centerville under cover of darkness. Just as in the First Battle of Bull Run, the Union army had been forced into retreat. However, this time the retreat was orderly and disciplined, and the army did not suffer the devastating humiliation and losses it had sustained in the retreat in July of the previous year.

The Second Battle of Bull Run led to heavy casualties on both sides. The Union army lost around 10,000 men in total, while the Confederates lost about 8,300. On 12 SEP, Pope was relieved of his command.

  • Aug 28 1914 – WWI: Battle of Heligoland Bight » War spreads from land to sea when the first major naval battle of the conflict breaks out between British and German ships in the North Sea, near the northern coast of Germany. Casualties and losses: GB 35 – Ger 1,200 + 3 Cruisers Sunk + 3 damaged.
  • Aug 28 1940 – WWII: Liverpool Blitz » Liverpool was the most heavily bombed area of the country, outside London, due to the city having, along with Birkenhead, the largest port on the west coast and being of significant importance to the British war effort. The government hoped to hide from the Germans just how much damage had been inflicted upon the docks, so reports on the bombing were kept low-key. Around 4,000 people were killed in the Merseyside area during the Blitz. This death toll was second only to London, which suffered 30,000 deaths by the end of the war.

Liverpool, Bootle and the Wallasey Pool complex were strategically very important locations during the Second World War. The Port of Liverpool had for many years been the United Kingdom’s main link with North America, and would prove to be a key part in the British participation in the Battle of the Atlantic. As well as providing anchorage for naval ships from many nations, the port’s quays and dockers would handle over 90 per cent of all the war material brought into Britain from abroad with some 75 million tons passing through its 11 miles of quays. Liverpool was the eastern end of a transatlantic chain of supplies from North America, without which Britain could not have pursued the war.

The first major air raid on Liverpool took place in August 1940, when 160 bombers attacked the city on the night of 28 AUG. This assault continued over the next three nights, then regularly for the rest of the year. There were 50 raids on the city during this three-month period. Some of these were minor, comprising a few aircraft, and lasting a few minutes, with others comprising up to 300 aircraft and lasting over ten hours. On 18 SEP, 22 inmates at Walton Gaol were killed when high-explosive bombs demolished a wing of the prison. 28 NOV saw a heavy raid on the city, and the most serious single incident, when a hit on an air-raid shelter in Durning Road caused 166 fatalities. Winston Churchill described it as the “single worst incident of the war”.

A series of heavy raids took place in December 1940, referred to as the Christmas blitz, when 365 people were killed between 20 – 22 DEC. The raids saw several instances of direct hits on air raid shelters; on 20 DEC 42 people died when a shelter was hit, while another 40 died when a bomb struck railway arches on Bentinck Street, where local people were sheltering. On 21 DEC another hit on a shelter killed 74 people. The bombing decreased in severity after the new year.

May 1941 saw a renewal of the air assault on the region; a seven-night bombardment that devastated the city. The first bomb landed upon Seacombe, Wallasey, Wirral, at 22:15 on 1 May. The peak of the bombing occurred from 1 – 7 May 1941. It involved 681 Luftwaffe bombers; 2,315 high explosive bombs and 119 other explosives such as incendiaries were dropped. The raids put 69 out of 144 cargo berths out of action and inflicted 2,895 casualties. The seven night bombardment resulted in Over 6,500 homes being completely demolished by aerial bombing and a further 190,000 damaged leaving 70,000 people homeless. 500 roads were closed to traffic as well as railways and tram lines being destroyed. 700 water mains and 80 sewers were damaged alongside gas, electricity and telephone services. 9,000 workers from outside the city and 2,700 troops helped to remove debris from streets. On the night of the 3rd and 4th of MAY alone, 400 fires were attended to by the fire brigade

After the raids in May 1941, the German air assault diminished, as Hitler’s attention turned towards attacking the Soviet Union. The last German air raid on Liverpool took place on 10 January 1942, destroying several houses on Upper Stanhope Street. By a quirk of fate one of the houses destroyed was number 102, which had been the home of Alois Hitler, Jr, half-brother of Adolf Hitler and the birthplace of Hitler’s nephew, William Patrick Hitler. The house was never rebuilt and the whole site was eventually cleared of housing and grassed over. By the end German bombs had killed 2,716 people in Liverpool, 442 people in Birkenhead, 409 people in Bootle and 332 people in Wallasey.

  • Aug 28 1941 – WWII: Mass slaughter in Ukraine » More than 23,000 Hungarian Jews are murdered by the Gestapo in occupied Ukraine. The German invasion of the Soviet Union had advanced to the point of mass air raids on Moscow and the occupation of parts of Ukraine. On 26 AUG, Hitler displayed the joys of conquest by inviting Benito Mussolini to Brest-Litovsk, where the Germans had destroyed the city’s citadel. The grand irony is that Ukrainians had originally viewed the Germans as liberators from their Soviet oppressors and an ally in the struggle for independence. But as early as July, the Germans were arresting Ukrainians agitating and organizing for a provisional state government with an eye toward autonomy and throwing them into concentration camps. The Germans also began carving the nation up, dispensing parts to Poland (already occupied by Germany) and Romania.

But true horrors were reserved for Jews in the territory. Tens of thousands of Hungarian Jews had been expelled from that country and migrated to Ukraine. The German authorities tried sending them back, but Hungary would not take them. SS General Franz Jaeckeln vowed to deal with the influx of refugees by the “complete liquidation of those Jews by 1 SEP.” He worked even faster than promised. On 28 AUG, he marched more than 23,000 Hungarian Jews to bomb craters at Kamenets Podolsk, ordered them to undress, and riddled them with machine-gun fire. Those who didn’t die from the spray of bullets were buried alive under the weight of corpses that piled atop them. All told, more than 600,000 Jews had been murdered in Ukraine by war’s end.

  • Aug 28 1944 – WWII: German forces in Toulon and Marseilles, France, surrender to the Allies.
  • Aug 28 1965 – Vietnam: The Viet Cong are routed in the Mekong Delta by U.S. forces, with more than 50 killed.
  • Aug 28 1966 – Vietnam: North Vietnamese pilots being trained in Soviet Union » It is reported in three Soviet newspapers that North Vietnamese pilots are undergoing training in a secret Soviet air base to fly supersonic interceptors against U.S. aircraft. The Soviets agreed to supply the necessary war materials, to include air defense weapons for the North and offensive weapons to be employed in the South. At one point in the war, the Soviets would supply 80 percent of all supplies reaching North Vietnam.
  • Aug 28 1967 – Vietnam: More voices raised against the war » Reverend Thomas Lee Hayes, speaking for the National Mobilization Committee, announces that there will be a massive protest march on 21 OCT in Washington. In the Senate, Mike Mansfield (D-MT) made a proposal endorsed by 10 other senators to bring a peace plan before the United Nations.
  • Aug 28 1968 – Cold War: Riots in Chicago fracture the Cold War consensus » At the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, tens of thousands of protesters against the Vietnam War battle police in the streets while the Democratic Party tears itself to shreds concerning a platform statement on Vietnam. In one day and night, the Cold War consensus that had dominated American thinking since the late 1940s was shattered.
  • Aug 28 1972 – Vietnam: U.S. Air Force gets its first ace since Korean War » Captain Richard S. Ritchie, flying with his “backseater” (radar intercept officer), Captain Charles B. DeBellevue, in an F-4 out of Udorn Air Base in Thailand, shoots down his fifth MIG near Hanoi.
  • Aug 28 1986 – Cold War: US Navy officer Jerry A. Whitworth is given a 365-year prison term for spying for the USSR s for his part in the Walker family spy ring. At the time of Whitworth’s arrest, U.S. authorities described them as “the most damaging espionage ring uncovered in the United States in three decades”.

  • Aug 28 1990 – Gulf War: Iraq declares Kuwait to be its newest province.


  • Aug 29 1776 – American Revolution: General George Washington retreats during the night from Long Island to New York City.
  • Aug 29 1778 – American Revolution: British and American forces battle indecisively at the Battle of Rhode Island. Casualties and losses: US 201 – GB 280.
  • Aug 29 1779 – American Revolution: Battle of Chemung » Near New York’s southwestern border with Pennsylvania, Continental forces led by Major General John Sullivan and Brigadier General James Clinton defeat a combined force of Loyalists and Indians commanded by Captain Walter Butler and Chief Joseph Brant.
  • Aug 29 1786 – American Revolution: Shay’s Rebellion » Daniel Shay led a rebellion in Massachusetts to protest the seizure of property for the non-payment of debt. Shay was a Revolutionary War veteran who led a short-lived insurrection in western Massachusetts to protest a tax increase that had to be paid in cash, a hardship for veteran farmers who relied on barter and didn‘t own enough land to vote. The taxes were to pay off the debts from the Revolutionary War, and those who couldn‘t pay were evicted or sent to prison.

  • Aug 29 1861 – Civil War: USS Yankee, Commander T. T. Craven, and USS. Reliance, Lieutenant Mygatt, engaged Confederate battery at Marlborough Point, Virginia.
  • Aug 29 1861 – Civil War: Four U.S. steamers engaged Confederate battery at Aquia Creek, Virginia, for three hours.
  • Aug 29 1861 – Civil War: U.S. Navy squadron captures forts at Hatteras Inlet, North Carolina. Casualties and losses: US 3 – CSA 715.

  • Aug 29 1862 – Civil War: Second Battle of Bull Run » Confederate General Robert E. Lee deals a stinging defeat to Union General John Pope at Bull Run, Virginia—a battle that arose out of the failure of Union General George McClellan’s Peninsular campaign earlier in the summer. The Confederates mauled the Union troops, and by August 30 Pope had to retreat. His army lost over 16,000 men to the Confederates’ 9,000.
  • Aug 29 1862 – Civil War: H.L. Hunley » Confederate submarine sank in Charleston harbor for the first time. After making several practice dives in the harbor, the submarine was moored by lines fastened to steamer Etiwan at the dock at Fort Johnson. When the steamer moved away from the dock unexpectedly, H. L. Hunley was drawn onto her side. She filled with water and rapidly sank, carrying with her five gallant seamen. Lieutenant Payne and two others escaped. She was subsequently raised and refitted, as, undaunted by the “unfortunate accident,” another crew volunteered to man her.
  • Aug 29 1914 – WWI: Women join British war effort » With World War I approaching the end of its first month, the Women’s Defense Relief Corps is formed in Britain. Though women’s rights organizations in Britain had initially opposed the country’s entrance into the First World War, they reversed their position soon enough, recognizing the potential of the war effort to gain advancement for British women on the home front. As early as August 6, 1914, just one day after Britain declared war on Germany, an article published in the women’s suffrage newspaper Common Cause stated that: “In the midst of this time of terrible anxiety and grief, it is some little comfort to think that our large organization, which has been completely built up during past years to promote women’s suffrage, can be used to help our country through the period of strain and sorrow.”

In addition to the two nursing organizations that existed in 1914—the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry (FANY) and the Voluntary Aid Detachments (VADs)—several new women’s organizations sprung into being over the course of the war. Created with the support of the British secretary of state for war, Lord Horatio Herbert Kitchener, the Women’s Defense Relief Corps came into being in late August 1914. The corps was made up of two divisions: a civil section, the goal of which was to substitute women for men in factories and other places of employment in order to free those men for military service; and a “semi-military” or “good citizen” section, where women were actively recruited for the armed forces. This latter group was trained in drilling, marching and the use of arms; its members were exhorted to protect not only themselves but their loved ones on the home front in case of possible invasion by the enemy.

Another organization founded during World War I was the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC), created in July 1917. Members of the WAAC supported the war effort more directly, enlisting in the army to perform labors such as cookery, mechanical and clerical work and other miscellaneous tasks. For the first time, British women were sent to the battlefields of the Western Front to serve their country, thus freeing more male soldiers to do battle in the trenches against the German enemy. By the end of the war, some 80,000 women had served Britain as non-combatants, both on the home front and on the front lines in France and Belgium.

  • Aug 29 1915 – U.S. Navy: Salvage divers raise F-4 (SS-23), the first U.S. submarine sunk in an accident.

Photographed in 1913-15, in Honolulu drydock after salvage, and implosion hole inspection

  • Aug 29 1916 – U.S. Navy: Congress creates US Naval Reserve.
  • Aug 29 1942 – WW2: The American Red Cross announces that Japan has refused to allow safe conduct for the passage of ships with supplies for American POWs. As the war came to a close, the Red Cross followed on the heels of liberating military forces to supply relief and aid to those suffering from the ravages of battle. Approximately 20,000 professional Red Cross workers served during the war, along with countless other volunteers.
  • Aug 29 1944 – WW2: 15,000 American troops liberating Paris march down Avenue des Champs Elysees.
  • Aug 29 1945 – WW2: President Harry Truman issues Executive Order No. 9639, giving the Secretary of the Navy the power to seize control of and operate a list of petroleum refineries and transportation companies in order to counteract strikes by oil workers. The list of plants seized by the Navy included those owned by industry giants: the Gulf, Shell, Standard and Union oil companies.
  • Aug 29 1945 – WW2: U.S. airborne troops are landed in transport planes at Atsugi airfield, southwest of Tokyo, beginning the occupation of Japan.
  • Aug 29 1949 – Cold War: Soviets explode atomic bomb » At a remote test site at Semipalatinsk in Kazakhstan, the USSR successfully detonates its first atomic bomb, code name “First Lightning.” In order to measure the effects of the blast, the Soviet scientists constructed buildings, bridges, and other civilian structures in the vicinity of the bomb. They also placed animals in cages nearby so that they could test the effects of nuclear radiation on human-like mammals. The atomic explosion, which at 20 kilotons was roughly equal to “Trinity,” the first U.S. atomic explosion, destroyed those structures and incinerated the animals.

Casing for the first Soviet atomic bomb, RDS-1.jpg

The first Soviet atomic bomb, “RDS-1”, was an implosion type like the U.S. “Fat Man” bomb,

even in appearance; the front “eyes” are radar fuses.

According to legend, the Soviet physicists who worked on the bomb were honored for the achievement based on the penalties they would have suffered had the test failed. Those who would have been executed by the Soviet government if the bomb had failed to detonate were honored as “Heroes of Socialist Labor,” and those who would have been merely imprisoned were given “The Order of Lenin,” a slightly less prestigious award.

The test surprised the Western powers. American intelligence had estimated that the Soviets would not produce an atomic weapon until 1953, while the British did not expect it until 1954. On 3 SEP, a U.S. spy plane flying off the coast of Siberia picked up the first evidence of radioactivity from the explosion. Later that month, President Harry S. Truman announced to the American people that the Soviets too had the bomb. Three months later, Klaus Fuchs, a German-born physicist who had helped the United States build its first atomic bombs, was arrested for passing nuclear secrets to the Soviets. While stationed at U.S. atomic development headquarters during World War II, Fuchs had given the Soviets precise information about the U.S. atomic program, including a blueprint of the “Fat Man” atomic bomb later dropped on Nagasaki, Japan, and everything the Los Alamos scientists knew about the hypothesized hydrogen bomb.

The revelations of Fuchs’ espionage, coupled with the loss of U.S. atomic supremacy, led President Truman to order development of the hydrogen bomb, a weapon theorized to be hundreds of times more powerful than the atomic bombs dropped on Japan. On November 1, 1952, the United States successfully detonated “Mike,” the world’s first hydrogen bomb, on the Elugelab Atoll in the Pacific Marshall Islands. The 10.4-megaton thermonuclear device instantly vaporized an entire island and left behind a crater more than a mile wide. Three years later, on November 22, 1955, the Soviet Union detonated its first hydrogen bomb on the same principle of radiation implosion. Both superpowers were now in possession of the so-called “superbomb,” and the world lived under the threat of thermonuclear war for the first time in history.

  • Aug 29 1950 – Cold War: Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs Edward W. Barrett declares that most of the “captive populations” in Soviet satellite nations oppose the Russians. Barrett called for an accelerated program of U.S. propaganda designed to capitalize on this weakness in the communist bloc.
  • Aug 29 1952 – Korea: In the largest bombing raid of the Korean War, 1,403 planes of the Far East Air Force bomb Pyongyang, North Korea.
  • Aug 29 1960 – Cuba: A US U-2 spy plane spots SAM (surface-to-air) missile launch pads in Cuba.
  • Aug 29 1964 – Vietnam: Nguyen Khanh steps down as president of South Vietnam and Xuan Oanh, former professor at Trinity College in Connecticut, is named prime minister. Khanh had been a major player in the instability that followed the assassination of Ngo Dinh Diem in November 1963. This period was marked by ten successive governments in Saigon within 18 months.
  • Aug 29 1972 – Vietnam: Nixon announces another troop reduction » President Nixon sets December 1 as the target date for reducing U.S. troops strength in Vietnam by 12,000, to 27,000, an all-time low since the American troop buildup began in 1965.
  • Aug 29 1990 – Iraq: Saddam Hussein declares America can’t beat Iraq.
  • Aug 29 1995 – Bosnia: NATO launches Operation Deliberate Force against Bosnian Serb forces.
  • Aug 29 2003 – Iraq: A terrorist bomb kills Ayatollah Sayed Mohammed Baqir al-Hakim, the Shia Muslim leader in Iraq, and nearly 100 worshipers as they leave a mosque in Najaf where the ayatollah had called for Iraqi unity.
  • Aug 29 2007 – U.S. Air Force: USAF nuclear weapons incident: Six cruise missiles armed with nuclear warheads are flown without proper authorization from Minot Air Force Base to Barksdale Air Force Base.
  • Aug 29 2012 – Egypt: The Egyptian Army’s Operation Eagle results in the deaths of 11 suspected terrorists and the arrest of another 23.


  • Aug 30 1776 – American Revolution: Washington refuses Howe’s letter » General George Washington gives the New York Convention three reasons for the American retreat from Long Island. That same day, he rejects British General William Howe’s second letter of reconciliation. With Howe and a superior British force having recently landed at Long Island–they handed the Continentals a humiliating defeat at the Battle of Brooklyn Heights on 27 AUG. Washington gave these reasons for his decision to retreat: the need to reunite his forces, the extreme fatigue of his soldiers and the lack of proper shelter from the weather.

For his part, Howe had attempted to reconcile with the Patriots before blood was spilled, but had been rejected by Washington because he had failed to use Washington’s title of “general” when addressing the letter. Even after beating the Continentals at Brooklyn Heights, Howe looked for a peaceful resolution, allowing Washington and his army to escape by boat to Manhattan and sending yet another letter to Washington through American General John Sullivan. Washington refused to accept the missive, but gave Sullivan permission to deliver it to Congress in Philadelphia.

On 11 SEP, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams and other congressional representatives accepted Howe’s offer and reopened talks on Staten Island. The negotiations fell through when the British refused to accept American independence as a condition for peace. The British captured New York City on 15 SEP; it would remain in British hands until the end of the war.

  • Aug 30 1781 – American Revolution: The French fleet arrives in the Chesapeake Bay to aid the American Revolution.
  • Aug 30 1813 – Old West: Fort Mims Massacre » Tecumseh, the leader of the Shawnee tribe, had traveled across the country trying to stir up an Indian uprising against the Americans. Additionally, the Spanish in Florida offered the Red Sticks, a militant group of the Creeks, arms and ammunition with which to fight against the Americans. When American settlers learned of this union they organized a militia to intercept the leader of the Red Sticks. The attacks started on July 27, 1813. This battle set the frontier afire and exposed settlers gathered together in makeshift stockades. One of those stockades was Ft Mims about 60 miles north of Mobile, Texas.

By late August the stockade had 17 buildings surrounded by a wooden wall. There were between 300 and 550 people in the fort including a militia under the command of Major Beasley. Beasley did not take the threat of a Creek attack seriously, and did not spend enough time preparing and training the defense. On 29 AUG, Red Stick warriors led by Chief Red Eagle attacked the fort. The attack continued for four hour and hundreds of Creeks were killed. However, when the battle ended nearly all of the Americans had been massacred. The massacre sealed the fate of the Red Sticks; the US had no choice but to respond with overwhelming force.

  • Aug 30 1861 – Civil War: Union General John Fremont declares martial law throughout Missouri and makes his own emancipation proclamation to free slaves in the state. President Lincoln overrules the general.
  • Aug 30 1862 – Civil War: Battle of Richmond » Confederates under Edmund Kirby Smith rout Union forces under General Horatio Wright in one of the most lopsided engagements of the Civil War. Casualties and losses: US 5343 – CSA 451.
  • Aug 30 1918 – WWI: Vladimir Lenin shot » After speaking at a factory in Moscow, Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin is shot twice by Fanya Kaplan, a 28-year-old Jewish member of the Social Revolutionary party. Lenin was seriously wounded but survived the attack. The assassination attempt set off a wave of reprisals by the Bolsheviks against the Social Revolutionaries and other political opponents. Thousands were executed as Russia fell deeper into civil war.

Vladimir Lenin Fanya Kaplan

Born Vladimir Ilich Ulyanov in 1870, Lenin was drawn to the revolutionary cause after his brother was executed in 1887 for plotting to assassinate Czar Alexander III. He studied law and took up practice in Petrograd (now St. Petersburg), where he associated with revolutionary Marxist circles. In 1895, he helped organize Marxist groups in the capital into the “Union for the Struggle for the Liberation of the Working Class,” which attempted to enlist workers to the Marxist cause. In December 1895, Lenin and the other leaders of the Union were arrested. Lenin was jailed for a year and then exiled to Siberia for a term of three years.

After the end of his exile, in 1900, Lenin went to Western Europe, where he continued his revolutionary activity. It was during this time that he adopted the pseudonym Lenin. In 1902, he published a pamphlet titled What Is to Be Done? which argued that only a disciplined party of professional revolutionaries could bring socialism to Russia. In 1903, he met with other Russian Marxists in London and established the Russian Social-Democratic Workers’ Party (RSDWP). However, from the start there was a split between Lenin’s Bolsheviks (Majoritarians), who advocated militarism, and the Mensheviks (Minoritarians), who advocated a democratic movement toward socialism. These two groups increasingly opposed each other within the framework of the RSDWP, and Lenin made the split official at a 1912 conference of the Bolshevik Party.

After the outbreak of the Russian Revolution of 1905, Lenin returned to Russia. The revolution, which consisted mainly of strikes throughout the Russian empire, came to an end when Nicholas II promised reforms, including the adoption of a Russian constitution and the establishment of an elected legislature. However, once order was restored, the czar nullified most of these reforms, and in 1907 Lenin was again forced into exile.

Lenin opposed World War I, which began in 1914, as an imperialistic conflict and called on proletariatsoldiers to turn their guns on the capitalist leaders who sent them down into the murderous trenches. For Russia, World War I was an unprecedented disaster: Russian casualties were greater than those sustained by any nation in any previous war. Meanwhile, the economy was hopelessly disrupted by the costly war effort, and in March 1917 riots and strikes broke out in Petrograd over the scarcity of food. Demoralized army troops joined the strikers, and on March 15 Nicholas II was forced to abdicate, ending centuries of czarist rule. In the aftermath of the February Revolution (known as such because of Russia’s use of the Julian calendar), power was shared between the ineffectual Provincial Government and the soviets, or “councils,” of soldiers’ and workers’ committees.

After the outbreak of the February Revolution, German authorities allowed Lenin and his lieutenants to cross Germany en route from Switzerland to Sweden in a sealed railway car. Berlin hoped (correctly) that the return of the anti-war Socialists to Russia would undermine the Russian war effort, which was continuing under the Provincial Government. Lenin called for the overthrow of the Provincial Government by the soviets, and he was condemned as a “German agent” by the government’s leaders. In July, he was forced to flee to Finland, but his call for “peace, land, and bread” met with increasing popular support, and the Bolsheviks won a majority in the Petrograd soviet. In October, Lenin secretly returned to Petrograd, and on November 7 the Bolshevik-led Red Guards deposed the Provisional Government and proclaimed soviet rule.

Lenin became the virtual dictator of the world’s first Marxist state. His government made peace with Germany, nationalized industry, and distributed land but beginning in 1918, had to fight a devastating civil war against czarist forces. In 1920, the czarists were defeated, and in 1922 the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) was established. Upon Lenin’s death in early 1924, his body was embalmed and placed in a mausoleum near the Moscow Kremlin. Petrograd was renamed Leningrad in his honor. After a struggle of succession, fellow revolutionary Joseph Stalin succeeded Lenin as leader of the Soviet Union.

  • Aug 30 1918 – WWI: The Belfort Ruse » In Belfort, France, a small town near the German border, Colonel Arthur L. Conger of the American Expeditionary Force (AEF) plants a copy of a false operational order in a wastebasket; as intended, it is later found and removed by a German agent. It was designed to trick the German High Command into believing that the thrust of the Allied offensive, which would begin less than two weeks later would instead be launched near Belfort. The extent to which the ruse proved successful is debatable.
  • Aug 30 1932 – Pre-WWII: Nazi leader Hermann Goering is elected president of the Reichstag.
  • Aug 30 1940 – WWII: Second Vienna Award » Germany and Italy arbitrate a decision on the division of the disputed province of Transylvania between Romania and Hungary. The loss of northern Transylvania forces Romanian King Carol to abdicate in favor of his son, Michael, and brings to power a dictatorship under General Ion Antonescu.
  • Aug 30 1944 – WWII: Ploesti falls to Soviet troops » Although badly damaged after the November 1940 earthquake, this city which was the center of the Rumanian oil industry was a significant source of oil for Nazi Germany. The Allies made it a target of the Oil campaign of World War II and attacked it repeatedly, such as during the HALPRO and Operation Tidal Wave at a great loss, without producing any significant delay in operation or production.

Operation Tidal Wave in 1943.jpg

In June 1942, 13 B-24 Liberators of the “Halverson project” (HALPRO) attacked Ploiesti. Though damage was small, Germany and Romania responded by putting strong anti-aircraft defenses around Ploiești. Luftwaffe General Alfred Gerstenberg built one of the heaviest and best-integrated air defense networks in Europe. The defenses included several hundred large-caliber 88mm guns and 10.5 cm FlaK 38 anti-aircraft guns, and many more small-caliber guns. The latter were concealed in haystacks, railroad cars, and mock buildings. German and Romanian AA artillery at Ploiesti consisted in 52 heavy (88 mm) 9 medium (37 mm) and 17 light (20 mm) anti-aircraft batteries. These were divided between the German 5th Flak Division (30 heavy, 5 medium and 7 light) and the Romanian 4th AA Brigade (22 heavy, 2 medium and 10 light). Half of the manpower of the German 5th Flak Division was Romanian.

The Axis had 52 fighters within flight range of Ploiesti (Bf 109 fighters and Bf 110 night fighters, plus assorted types of Romanian IAR 80 fighters). For the defense of Ploiesti, the Royal Romanian Air Force had aircraft from 5 Escadrile (Squadrons): 61 (IAR 80B), 62 (IAR 80B), 45 (IAR 80C), 53 (Bf 109G) and 68 (Bf 110).[15] These defenses made Ploiesti the 3rd or 4th most heavily defended target in Axis Europe, after Berlin and Vienna or the Ruhr, and thus the most heavily defended Axis target outside the Third Reich.

Operation Tidal Wave was the first air attack of the Western Allies on Romanian territory. Until August 1944, the Royal Romanian Air Force and Romanian flak shot down 223 American and British bombers as well as 36 fighters. Romanian losses amounted to 80 aircraft. Luftwaffe pilots shot down 66 more Western Allied aircraft. Total Western Allied casualties amounted to 1,706 killed and 1,123 captured.

  • Aug 30 1945 – WWII: MacArthur arrives in Japan » Gen. Douglas MacArthur lands at Atsugi Airport in Japan and proceeded to drive himself to Yokohama to oversee the formal surrender ceremony and to organize the postwar Japanese government. Along the way tens of thousands of Japanese soldiers lined the roads, their bayonets fixed on him. One last act of defiance—but all for naught. MacArthur would be the man who would reform Japanese society, putting it on the road to economic success.
  • Aug 30 1963 – Cold War: Hotline established between Washington and Moscow » Two months after signing an agreement to establish a 24-hour-a-day “hot line” between Moscow and Washington, the system goes into effect. John F. Kennedy becomes the first U.S. president to have a direct phone line to the Kremlin in Moscow. The “hotline” was designed to facilitate communication between the president and Soviet premier.

The Hotline terminal room in the NMCC at the Pentagon, 1985 with the new teletype and

encryption equipment, installed in 1980.

The establishment of the hotline to the Kremlin came in the wake of the October 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, in which the U.S. and U.S.S.R had come dangerously close to all-out nuclear war. Kennedy’s administration had discovered that the Soviets had planted missiles capable of launching nuclear warheads into the U.S. on the island of Cuba. The highly tense diplomatic exchange that followed was plagued by delays caused by slow and tedious communication systems. Encrypted messages had to be relayed by telegraph or radioed between the Kremlin and the Pentagon. Although Kennedy and Khrushchev were able to resolve the crisis peacefully and had both signed a nuclear test-ban treaty on August 5, 1963, fears of future “misunderstandings” led to the installation of an improved communications system.

On 30 AUG, the White House issued a statement that the new hotline would “help reduce the risk of war occurring by accident or miscalculation.” Instead of relying on telegrammed letters that had to travel overseas, the new technology was a momentous step toward the very near future when American and Soviet leaders could simply pick up the phone and be instantly connected 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It was agreed that the line would be used only in emergencies, not for more routine governmental exchanges.

An article in The New York Times described how the new system would work: Kennedy would relay a message to the Pentagon via phone, which would be immediately typed into a teletype machine by operators at the Pentagon, encrypted and fed into a transmitter. The message could reach the Kremlin within minutes, as opposed to hours. Although a far cry from the instantaneous communication made possible by today’s cell phones and email, the technology implemented in 1963 was considered revolutionary and much more reliable and less prone to interception than a regular trans-Atlantic phone call, which had to be bounced between several countries before it reached the Kremlin.

In 1967, President Lyndon B. Johnson became the first U.S. president to use the new system during the Six Day War in the Middle East when he notified then-Soviet Premier Alexei Kosygin that he was considering sending Air Force planes into the Mediterranean.

  • Aug 30 1966 – Vietnam: China agrees to provide aid to North Vietnam » Hanoi Radio announces that Deputy Premier Le Thanh Nghi has signed an agreement with Peking whereby the People’s Republic of China will provide additional economic and technical aid to North Vietnam. China had already been providing support to the Communists in Vietnam since the war against the French. When the U.S. became decisively involved after the Gulf of Tonkin incident, China increased the support to both North Vietnam and the insurgents in South Vietnam.
  • Aug 30 1969 – Vietnam: Ho Chi Minh responds to Nixon letter » Ho Chi Minh’s reply to President Nixon’s letter of 15 JUL is received in Paris. Ho accused the United States of a “war of aggression” against the Vietnamese people, “violating our fundamental national rights” and warned that “the longer the war goes on, the more it accumulates the mourning and burdens of the American people.” Ho said he favored the National Liberation Front’s 10-point plan as “a logical and reasonable basis for the settlement of the Vietnamese problem.” Ho demanded that the United States “cease the war of aggression,” withdraw its troops from Vietnam and allow self-determination for the Vietnamese people. President Nixon would not reveal that he had received this communication until his speech to the nation on 3 NOV.
  • Aug 30 1970 – Vietnam: Elections held in South Vietnam » An estimated 6 million South Vietnamese cast ballots for 30 seats at stake in the Senate elections. While the voting was going on, Communist forces attacked at least 14 district towns, a provincial capital, and several polling places. Fifty-five civilians were reported killed and 140 wounded.


  • Aug 31 1864 – Civil War: Battle of Jonesboro » General William T. Sherman launches the attack that finally secures Atlanta, Georgia, for the Union, and seals the fate of Confederate General John Bell Hood’s army, which is forced to evacuate the area. The Battle was the culmination of a four-month campaign by Sherman to capture Atlanta. The fall of Atlanta was instrumental in securing the reelection of Abraham Lincoln in the fall.
  • Aug 31 1916 – Pre WW2: American soldier Harry Butters killed in the Battle of the Somme » Harry Butters, an American soldier serving in the British army during World War I, is killed by a German shell during the Battle of the Somme, while fighting to secure the town of Guillemont, France.

The son of a prominent San Francisco industrialist, Butters was raised partially in England and schooled there at Beaumont College, a Jesuit academy in Old Windsor. He later attended Phillips Exeter Academy in Exeter, New Hampshire, before inheriting his father’s fortune upon the latter’s death in 1906 and moving back to California, where he worked briefly for Standard Oil and purchased his own ranch. When World War I broke out in the summer of 1914, Butters rallied to the Allied cause and decided to join the British army. Through his old school connections in England, he received a commission in the Royal Artillery, 24th Division, 107th Brigade in April 1915. In September, Butters traveled to France with his comrades, where he took part in the ill-executed British attack during the Battle of Loos later that month.

“I find myself a soldier among millions of others in the great allied armies fighting for all I believe right and civilized and humane against a power which is evil and threatens the existence of all the rights we prize and the freedom we enjoy,” Butters wrote home on October 5, 1915, describing his experiences on the battlefield at Loos. “It may seem to you that for me this is all quite uncalled for, that it can only mean either the supreme sacrifice for nothing or at best some of the best years of my life wasted; but I tell you that I am not only willing to give my life to this enterprise (for that is comparatively easy except when I think of you), but that I firmly believe—if I live through it to spend a useful lifetime with you—that never will I have the opportunity to gain so much honorable advancement for my own soul, or to do so much for the cause of the world’s progress, as I am here daily…I think less of myself than I did, less of the heights of personal success I aspired to climb, and more of the service that each of us must render in payment for the right to live and by virtue of which only we can progress.”

Butters was on the front lines near the Belgian village of Ploegsteert in April 1916 when he met Winston Churchill; Churchill was serving as a battalion commander on the Western Front after leaving the British Admiralty in the wake of the disastrous Allied operations on the Gallipoli Peninsula the previous year. Impressed by the young American volunteering in service to England—”I just lied to ‘em and said I was British born,” Butters told Churchill, explaining his commission in the Royal Artillery—Churchill invited Butters to dine with him in his bunker, where the two men ate and drank champagne on the evening of 11 APR. After suffering from shell shock—the newly diagnosed psychological trauma of battle—Butters was sent on leave in June. Although Churchill, then back in London, urged Butters to take his time before returning to service, he went back to the Western Front on 2 JUL, one day after the Allies launched the epic Battle of the Somme.

On August 31, 1916, Butters and his unit were at the Somme, firing on Trones Woods, outside Guillemont, when his gun received a direct German hit during a massive barrage; he and all the members of his battery were killed. “I don’t exaggerate when I say nearly 100,000 shells dropped that day in an area of about 800 square yards,” wrote Reverend A. Caseby in his diary entry recounting Butters’ death. Butters was buried in the Commonwealth Graves Commission Cemetery at Meulte, a little village south of Albert, France. In accordance with a request he made in late August to a British chaplain, his gravestone reads simply “An American Citizen.”

Churchill himself wrote a memorial to Butters in the London Observer: “He had seen much service on the front line, including the battle of Loos, and came through unscathed until in June last a bouquet of shells destroyed his observation post and stunned him. He could be induced to take only a week’s rest before he was back at the front, disdainful as ever of the continual threats of death. And thus, quite simply, he met his fate. He was one of the brightest, cheeriest boys I have ever known, and always the life and soul of the mess. We realize his nobility in coming to the help of another country entirely of his own free will, and understand what a big heart he had.”

  • Aug 31 1935 – Pre WW2: FDR signs Neutrality Act » President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs the Neutrality Act, or Senate Joint Resolution No. 173, which he calls an “expression of the desire…to avoid any action which might involve [the U.S.] in war.” The signing came at a time when newly installed fascist governments in Europe were beginning to beat the drums of war.

In a public statement that day, Roosevelt said that the new law would require American vessels to obtain a license to carry arms, would restrict Americans from sailing on ships from hostile nations and would impose an embargo on the sale of arms to “belligerent” nations. Most observers understood “belligerent” to imply Germany under its new leader, Adolf Hitler, and Italy under Benito Mussolini. It also provided the strongest language yet warning other countries that the U.S. would increase its patrol of foreign submarines lurking in American waters. This was seen as a response to Hitler’s March 1935 announcement that Germany would no longer honor the terms of the Treaty of Versailles, which prohibited Germany from rebuilding her military; he had then immediately stepped up the country’s submarine production.

Although the legislation stated that the U.S. intended to stay out of foreign wars, Roosevelt insisted that the country could not foresee future situations in which the U.S. might have to amend its neutral stance. Noting that “history is filled with unforeseeable situations that call for some flexibility of action,” Roosevelt contended that the law would not prevent the U.S. from cooperating with other “similarly minded Governments to promote peace.” In other words, he left plenty of room for America to change its mind regarding the sale of arms to friendly countries and gave it the right to exercise options to protect her own safety. This came to pass in March 1941, when the passing of the Lend-Lease Act increased America’s military exports to the British in order to help them fight off Hitler’s advance toward England.

  • Aug 31 1939 – WWII: Germany Prepares for Invasion » At noon, despite threats of British and French intervention, Nazi leader Adolf Hitler signs an order to attack Poland, and German forces move to the frontier. That evening, Nazi S.S. troops wearing Polish uniforms staged a phony invasion of Germany, damaging several minor installations on the German side of the border. They also left behind a handful of dead German prisoners in Polish uniforms to serve as further evidence of the alleged Polish attack, which Nazi propagandists publicized as an unforgivable act of aggression.
  • Aug 31 1941 – WW2: 23 U–boats sunk (80,000 ton) this month
  • Aug 31 1942 – WW2: U–boats sunk 108 ships (544,000 ton) this month.
  • Aug 31 1942 – WW2: The British army under General Bernard Law Montgomery defeats Field Marshal Erwin Rommel’s Afrika Korps in the Battle of Alam el Halfa in Egypt.
  • Aug 31 1944 – WW2: The British 8th Army breaks through the Germans’ “Gothic Line” » Built earlier in the year this was a defensive line drawn across northern Italy consisting of fortified towns, stretching from Pisa in the west to Pesaro in the east.

  • Aug 31 1944 – WW2: Numfor Island » In Papua province, Western New Guinea, northeastern Indonesia, on Numfor Island the last significant Japanese force is brought to battle by American forces and destroyed. The Japanese had occupied the island in December 1943 and built three airfields on the island, turning it into a significant air base. Bombing of the island by United States and Australian aircraft began as early as April 1944 and Allied units landed on the island July 2, 1944.

The island was officially declared secure on 7 JUL. However, individual Japanese soldiers continued guerrilla activities, and it was 31 AUG before all fighting had ceased. The Allies had lost 66 killed or missing and 343 wounded. It had killed approximately 1,714 Japanese and taken 186 prisoners. According to the US Army official history, only 403 of the original 3,000 Javanese civilian laborers were alive by then. About 10-15 were reported to have been killed accidentally by Allied forces. The rest had died from maltreatment before the invasion.

About 300 Formosan labor troops had died before the invasion. Others fought the Allies, allegedly as a result of Japanese coercion. Over 550 surrendered; more than half of these were suffering from starvation and tropical diseases. Less than 20 were reported killed by Allied action. According to the US Army historian, Allied personnel found evidence that human bodies, of Japanese, Formosan and Allied personnel, had been partly eaten by starving Japanese and Formosans.

  • Aug 31 1951 – Cold War: William O. Douglas calls for recognition of PRC » Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas issues a statement calling for the recognition of the communist People’s Republic of China. His comments touched off an angry partisan debate in the U.S. Senate. Recognition by America, he reasoned, would help split China from its dependence on the Soviet Union and perhaps stem the tide of communist expansion in the Far East.
  • Aug 31 1951 – Korea: The 1st Marine Division begins its attack on Bloody Ridge. The 4 day battle results in 2,700 Marine casualties.
  • Aug 31 1955 – Vietnam: Secretary of State John Foster Dulles supports South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem’s position regarding his refusal to hold “national and general elections” to reunify the two Vietnam states. Although these elections were called for by the Geneva Accords of July 1954, Diem and his supporters in the United States realized that if the elections were held, Ho Chi Minh and the more populous north would probably win, thereby reuniting Vietnam under the Communist banner. Accordingly, he refused to hold the elections and the separation of North and South soon became permanent.
  • Aug 31 1965 – Cold War: A concrete wall replaced the barbed wire fence that separates East and West Germany. It was named the Berlin Wall.
  • Aug 31 1965 – Vietnam: Premier Nguyen Cao Ky announces that South Vietnam would not negotiate with the Communists without guarantees that North Vietnamese troops would be withdrawn from the South. He also said that his government would institute major reforms to correct economic and social injustices.
  • Aug 31 1965 – Vietnam: President Johnson signs into law a bill making it illegal to destroy or mutilate a U.S. draft card, with penalties of up to five years and a $10,000 fine.
  • Aug 31 1967 – Vietnam: Senate Committee calls for stepped-up bombing » Senate Preparedness Investigating Committee issues a call for action against the North, declaring that McNamara had “shackled” the air war against Hanoi, and calling for “closure, neutralization, or isolation of Haiphong.” President Johnson, attempting to placate Congressional “hawks” and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, expanded the approved list of targets in the north.
  • Aug 31 1972 – Vietnam: U.S. weekly casualty figures hit new low » U.S. weekly casualty figures of five dead and three wounded are the lowest recorded since record keeping began in January 1965. These numbers reflected the fact that there were less than 40,000 American troops left in South Vietnam by this time and very few of these were involved in actual combat. U.S. troop withdrawals had begun in the fall of 1969 following President Richard Nixon’s announcement at the Midway conference on June 8, 1972, that he would begin reducing the number of American troops in Vietnam as the war was turned over to the South Vietnamese as part of his “Vietnamization” policy. Once the troop withdrawals began, they continued on a fairly regular basis, steadily reducing the troop level from the 1969 high of 543,400.

[Source: & | June 2019 ++]