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This Day In History

Mr. Scruffy

Moderator Emeritus
November 3

644 - Umar ibn al-Khattab succumbs to wounds suffered in an attack three days earlier. He was one of the most powerful and influential Muslim caliphs in history. He was a senior companion of the Islamic prophet Muhammad.

1534 - English parliament passes the Act of Supremacy making Henry VIII and all subsequent monarchs the Head of the Church of England.

1979 - Five members of the Communist Workers Party, participating in a “Death to the Klan” rally in Greensboro, North Carolina, are shot to death by a group of Klansmen and neo-Nazis. Several others were wounded in what became known as the Greensboro massacre.

Mr. Scruffy

Moderator Emeritus
November 4

1956 - A spontaneous national uprising that began 12 days before in Hungary is viciously crushed by Soviet tanks and troops. Thousands were killed and wounded and nearly a quarter-million Hungarians fled the country.

1979 - Student followers of the Ayatollah Khomeini send shock waves across America when they storm the U.S. embassy in Tehran. The radical Islamic fundamentalists took 90 hostages. The students were enraged that the deposed Shah had been allowed to enter the United States for medical treatment and they threatened to murder hostages if any rescue was attempted. Days later, Iran’s provincial leader resigned, and the Ayatollah Khomeini, the leader of Iran’s fundamentalist revolutionaries, took full control of the country—and the fate of the hostages.

Mr. Scruffy

Moderator Emeritus
November 6

1528 - Shipwrecked Spanish conquistador Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca becomes first known European to set foot in Texas.

1813 - The Congress of Chilpancingo was the first, independent congress that replaced the Assembly of Zitácuaro, formally declaring Mexico independent from the Spanish crown. It was here where the first national constitution was ratified.

1917 - Led by Bolshevik Party leader Vladimir Lenin, leftist revolutionaries launch a nearly bloodless coup d’État against Russia’s ineffectual Provisional Government. The Bolsheviks and their allies occupied government buildings and other strategic locations in the Russian capital of Petrograd (now St. Petersburg) and within two days had formed a new government with Lenin as its head. Bolshevik Russia, later renamed the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), was the world’s first Marxist state.

Mr. Scruffy

Moderator Emeritus
November 9

1938 - In an event that would foreshadow the Holocaust, German Nazis launch a campaign of terror against Jewish people and their homes and businesses in Germany and Austria. The violence, which continued through November 10 and was later dubbed “Kristallnacht,” or “Night of Broken Glass,” after the countless smashed windows of Jewish-owned establishments, left approximately 100 Jews dead, 7,500 Jewish businesses damaged and hundreds of synagogues, homes, schools and graveyards vandalized.

Mr. Scruffy

Moderator Emeritus
November 10

1444 - The Ottoman Army under Sultan Murad II defeated the Hungarian–Polish and Wallachian armies commanded by Władysław III of Poland (also King of Hungary), John Hunyadi (acting as commander of the combined Christian forces) and Mircea II of Wallachia. It was the final battle of the Crusade of Varna. In the aftermath, the Ottomans had removed a significant opposition to their expansion into central and eastern Europe; subsequent battles forced a large number of Europeans to become Ottoman subjects.

1775 - During the American Revolution, the Continental Congress passes a resolution stating that “two Battalions of Marines be raised” for service as landing forces for the recently formed Continental Navy. The resolution, drafted by future U.S. president John Adams and adopted in Philadelphia, created the Continental Marines and is now observed as the birth date of the United States Marine Corps.

1975 - The SS Edmund Fitzgerald sinks in Lake Superior, killing all 29 crew members on board. It was the worst single accident in Lake Superior’s history. A subsequent investigation showed that the sinking of the Fitzgerald occurred very suddenly; no distress signal was sent and the condition of the lifeboats suggested that little or no attempt was made to abandon the ship.

Mr. Scruffy

Moderator Emeritus
November 13

1553 - Lady Jane Grey and her husband Lord Guildford Dudley are tried for charges of high treason at Guildhall in the City of London. All defendants were found guilty and sentenced to death. Jane's guilt, of having treacherously assumed the title and the power of the monarch, was evidenced by a number of documents she had signed as "Jane the Quene". Her sentence was to "be burned alive on Tower Hill or beheaded as the Queen pleases".

1775 - Continental Army Brigadier General Richard Montgomery takes Montreal, Canada, without opposition. Montgomery’s victory owed its success in part to Ethan Allen’s disorganized defeat at the hand of British General and Canadian Royal Governor Guy Carleton at Montreal on September 24, 1775.

2015 - A cell of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant commits a string of terrorist attacks across Paris, killing 131 and injuring over 400. It was the deadliest day in France since World War II, as well as the deadliest operation ISIL has carried out in Europe to date.

Mr. Scruffy

Moderator Emeritus
November 17

1777 - Congress submits the Articles of Confederation to the states for ratification. The Articles had been signed by Congress two days earlier, after 16 months of debate. Bickering over land claims between Virginia and Maryland delayed final ratification for almost four more years. Maryland became the last state to approve the Articles on March 1, 1781, affirming them as the outline of the official government of the United States. The nation was guided by the document until the implementation of the current U.S. Constitution in 1789.

1869 - The Suez Canal, connecting the Mediterranean and the Red seas, is inaugurated in an elaborate ceremony attended by French Empress Eugénie, wife of Napoleon III. When it opened, the Suez Canal was only 25 feet deep, 72 feet wide at the bottom, and 200 to 300 feet wide at the surface. Consequently, fewer than 500 ships navigated it in its first full year of operation. Major improvements began in 1876, however, and the canal soon grew into the one of the world’s most heavily traveled shipping lanes.

2003 - The actor and former bodybuilder Arnold Schwarzenegger is sworn in as the 38th governor of California at the State Capitol in Sacramento. Schwarzenegger, who became a major Hollywood star in the 1980s with such action movies as Conan the Barbarian and The Terminator, defeated Governor Gray Davis in a special recall election on October 7, 2003.

Mr. Scruffy

Moderator Emeritus
November 18

1916 - British Commander in Chief Sir Douglas Haig calls a halt to his army’s offensive near the Somme River in northwestern France, ending the epic Battle of the Somme after more than four months of bloody conflict. The Battle of the Somme would remain one of the most controversial operations of World War I. In the war’s aftermath, British Prime Minister David Lloyd George, a nemesis of Haig’s, roundly condemned Haig’s offensive: “Over 400,000 of our men fell in this bullheaded fight and the slaughter amongst our young officers was appalling…Had it not been for the inexplicable stupidity of the Germans in provoking a quarrel with America and bringing that mighty people into the war against them just as they had succeeded in eliminating another powerful foe—Russia–the Somme would not have saved us from the inextricable stalemate.”

1928 - The first Mickey Mouse sound cartoon, Walt Disney's "Steamboat Willie", premiered at Universal's Colony Theater in New York City. "Steamboat Willie" is especially notable for being the first Disney cartoon with synchronized sound, as well as the first cartoon to feature a fully post-produced soundtrack which distinguished it from earlier sound cartoons such as Inkwell Studios' "Song Car-Tunes" (1924–1927) and Van Beuren Studios' "Dinner Time" (1928). Disney understood from early on that synchronized sound was the future of film. "Steamboat Willie" became the most popular cartoon of its day.

1978 - Peoples Temple founder Jim Jones leads hundreds of his followers in a mass murder-suicide at their agricultural commune in a remote part of the South American nation of Guyana. Many of Jones’ followers willingly ingested a poison-laced punch while others were forced to do so at gunpoint. The final death toll at Jonestown that day was 909; a third of those who perished were children.

Mr. Scruffy

Moderator Emeritus
November 19

1302 - Pope Boniface VIII issues the papal bull Unam sanctam. It laid down dogmatic propositions on the unity of the Catholic Church, the necessity of belonging to it for eternal salvation, the position of the Pope as supreme head of the Church and the duty thence arising of submission to the Pope to belong to the Church and thus to attain salvation.

1493 - On his second voyage to the New World, Cristopher Columbus lands on the island of Puerto Rico, naming it San Juan Bautista in honor of Saint John the Baptist. At the time of Columbus' arrival, an estimated 30 to 60 thousand Taíno Amerindians, led by the cacique, 'chief' Agüeybaná, inhabited the island. They called it Borikén, "the great land of the valiant and noble Lord".

1863 - At the dedication of a military cemetery at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, during the American Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln delivers one of the most memorable speeches in American history. In fewer than 275 words, Lincoln brilliantly and movingly reminded a war-weary public why the Union had to fight, and win, the Civil War.

Mr. Scruffy

Moderator Emeritus
November 24

1624 - Abel Janszoon Tasman becomes the first known European explorer to reach the islands of Van Diemen's Land (now Tasmania).

1859 - English naturalist Charles Darwin publishes "On the Origin of Species" radically changing the view of evolution and laying the foundation for evolutionary biology

1963 - At 12:20 p.m., in the basement of the Dallas police station, Lee Harvey Oswald, the alleged assassin of President John F. Kennedy, is shot to death by Jack Ruby, a Dallas nightclub owner.

1971 - A hijacker calling himself D.B. Cooper parachutes from a Northwest Orient Airlines 727 into a raging thunderstorm over Washington State. He had $200,000 in ransom money in his possession. The storm prevented an immediate capture, and most authorities assumed he was killed during his apparently suicidal jump. No trace of Cooper was found during a massive search.

Mr. Scruffy

Moderator Emeritus
December 7

43 BC - Marcus Tullius Cicero, Roman orator and politician is assassinated in Formiae

1941 - At 7:55 a.m. Hawaii time, a Japanese dive bomber bearing the red symbol of the Rising Sun of Japan on its wings appears out of the clouds above the island of Oahu. A swarm of 360 Japanese warplanes followed, descending on the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor in a ferocious assault. The surprise attack struck a critical blow against the U.S. Pacific fleet and drew the United States irrevocably into World War II.

Mr. Scruffy

Moderator Emeritus
December 15

533 - The armies of the Byzantine Empire, under Belisarius defeat the army of the Vandal Kingdom, commanded by King Gelimer, and his brother Tzazon. It followed the Byzantine victory at the Battle of Ad Decimum and with this victory, the Byzantines regained control of North Africa for the Eastern Roman Empire.

1791 - Following ratification by the state of Virginia, the first 10 amendments to the U.S. Constitution, known collectively as the Bill of Rights, become the law of the land.

1961 - Adolf Eichmann, the Nazi SS officer who organized Adolf Hitler’s “final solution of the Jewish question,” is condemned to death by an Israeli war crimes tribunal. On May 31, 1962, he was hanged near Tel Aviv. His body was cremated and his ashes thrown into the sea.
December 17

1903. The Wright brothers make their first successful flight.

2011. Kim Jong Il dies in North Korea.

1992. The NAFTA accords are signed between Canada, the USA, and Mexico.

1989. The Simpson's debut as a standalone, 30 minute TV show.

Mr. Scruffy

Moderator Emeritus
December 29

1170 - English Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Becket is assassinated before the high altar of Canterbury Cathedral by four knights; Reginald FitzUrse, Hugh de Morville, William de Tracy and Richard le Breton.

1845 - Six months after the congress of the Republic of Texas accepts U.S. annexation of the territory, Texas is admitted into the United States as the 28th state.

1890 - The U.S. Army’s 7th cavalry surrounded a band of Ghost Dancers under the Sioux Chief Big Foot near Wounded Knee Creek and demanded they surrender their weapons. As that was happening, a fight broke out between an Indian and a U.S. soldier and a shot was fired, although it’s unclear from which side. A brutal massacre followed, in which it’s estimated almost 150 Native Americans were killed (some historians put this number at twice as high), nearly half of them women and children. The cavalry lost 25 men.

1940 - London suffers its most devastating air raid when Germans firebomb the city. Hundreds of fires caused by the exploding bombs engulfed areas of London, but firefighters showed a valiant indifference to the bombs falling around them and saved much of the city from destruction. The next day, a newspaper photo of St. Paul’s Cathedral standing undamaged amid the smoke and flames seemed to symbolize the capital’s unconquerable spirit during the Battle of Britain.

Mr. Scruffy

Moderator Emeritus
December 30

1460 - In Sandal Magna near Wakefield in northern England a major battle of the Wars of the Roses leaves Richard, Duke of York dead and his armies routed by nobles loyal to the captive King Henry VI of the House of Lancaster and his Queen Margaret of Anjou. Many prominent Yorkist leaders and their family members died in the battle or were captured and executed.

1853 - James Gadsden, the U.S. minister to Mexico, and General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, the president of Mexico, sign the Gadsden Purchase in Mexico City. The treaty settled the dispute over the location of the Mexican border west of El Paso, Texas, and established the final boundaries of the southern United States. For the price of $15 million, later reduced to $10 million, the United States acquired approximately 30,000 square miles of land in what is now southern New Mexico and Arizona.

1922 - The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) is established, comprising a confederation of Russia, Belorussia, Ukraine, and the Transcaucasian Federation (divided in 1936 into the Georgian, Azerbaijan, and Armenian republics). Also known as the Soviet Union, the new communist state was the successor to the Russian Empire and the first country in the world to be based on Marxist socialism.

Mr. Scruffy

Moderator Emeritus
January 6

1066 - Harold Godwineson, head of the most powerful noble family in England, is crowned King Harold II. On October 14, 1066, Harold met William duke of Normandy at the Battle of Hastings, and the king was killed and his forces defeated. According to legend, he was shot through the eye with an arrow. On Christmas Day, William the Conqueror was crowned the first Norman king of England.

1622 - With the bull Inscrutabili Divinae, Pope Gregory XV establishes the Sacred Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith (Propaganda Fide). The body was charged with fostering the spread of Catholicism and with the regulation of Catholic ecclesiastical affairs in non-Catholic countries.

1919 - Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th president of the United States, dies at the age of 60 at Sagamore Hill, his estate overlooking New York’s Long Island Sound.

Mr. Scruffy

Moderator Emeritus
January 8

1297 - Monaco gains its independence from the Republic of Genoa. Francesco Grimaldi of the House of Grimaldi and his men captured the fortress protecting the Rock of Monaco while dressed as Franciscan monks – a monaco in Italian – although this is a coincidence as the area was already known by this name.

1815 - Two weeks after the War of 1812 officially ended, British forces marched against New Orleans, hoping that by capturing the city they could separate Louisiana from the rest of the United States. Pirate Jean Lafitte, however, had warned the Americans of the attack, and the arriving British found militiamen under General Andrew Jackson strongly entrenched at the Rodriquez Canal. In two separate assaults, the 7,500 British soldiers under Sir Edward Pakenham were unable to penetrate the U.S. defenses, and Jackson’s 4,500 troops, many of them expert marksmen from Kentucky and Tennessee, decimated the British lines. In half an hour, the British had retreated, General Pakenham was dead, and nearly 2,000 of his men were killed, wounded, or missing. U.S. forces suffered only eight killed and 13 wounded.

1877 - Oglala Lakota warrior Crazy Horse and his men—outnumbered, low on ammunition and forced to use outdated weapons to defend themselves—fight their final losing battle against the U.S. Cavalry at Wolf Mountain in Montana. Six months earlier, in the Battle of the Little Bighorn, Crazy Horse and his ally, Sitting Bull, led their combined forces of Sioux and Cheyenne to a stunning victory over Lieutenant Colonel George Custer and his men.

1926 - Abdulaziz Ibn Saud becomes King of Nejd and Hejaz; forerunner of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
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