Today in History, July 1:
A day for important battles.
1863 – The Union and the Confederates first clash at The Battle of Gettysburg, and both send reinforcements. The first day went badly for the Union, but the largest battle in North America had three more days to go, and would become a major turning point in the Civil War.
1898 – The Battle of San Juan Hill becomes a major victory for the US in the Spanish-American War as the US Army’s Fifth Corps takes the heights over Santiago de Cuba. It also set the stage for Colonel Theodore Roosevelt to become President as he became famous for leading his Rough Riders up Kettle Hill (not San Juan).
1916 – The Battle of the Somme in France; after a week’s bombardment with over 250,000 shells, the British launch an attack into no-man’s land. The Germans had retained many machine guns despite the bombardment, and the British soldiers were slaughtered. With 20,000 dead and 40,000 wounded in one day, it was one of the worst defeats for the British military’s history.
1942 – The Battle of El Alamein; In North Africa Erwin Rommel’s army had routed the British and their allies, driving them back so quickly that they had to leave much of their equipment behind. But on today’s date the British Army, resupplied by Americans and reorganized, turned the tide back on Rommel at El Alamein.
Today in History, June 22, 1941:
The largest invasion in history, ordered by Adolph Hitler, kicks off as 3 million German soldiers, supported by 19 Panzer (tank) divisions, 2,500 aircraft and 7,000 artillery pieces use their now standard Blitzkrieg tactics against Russia.
Initially the offensive was incredibly successful, pushing 300 miles into enormous Russia within weeks.
Hitler’s fellow meglomaniac Stalin had signed a non-aggression pact with Hitler, and had recently asked to join Hitler in his designs on world domination, so he thought his country was safe; and Russia’s air forces were obsolete.
However, Hitler was ignoring history (never, ever, EVER, do that!!). Napoleon (almost 129 years to the day) had invaded Russia and been turned back by the Russian winter, in WWI Hitler’s predecessors had been ruined by opening a second front against Russia. Hitler’s fate would be the same.
Russia benefited from an almost limitless source of manpower, and the industrial might of America, which sent arms and modern aircraft. Added to the Russian winter which Hitler did not prepare for, and defeat was unavoidable for Germany.
Being sent to the “Eastern Front” was the kiss of death for German troops who had gained disfavor with their superiors.
Today in History, March 7, 1945:
The Bridge at Remagen, or the Ludendorff Bridge Battle.
The American 1st Army arrived in Remagen to a surprise…that the last remaining bridge leading into Germany stood undamaged.
They quickly took the railroad bridge, which was strong enough for American tanks, trucks and artillery to move quickly into the German heartland. Once the bridge was taken, as always, it had to be kept.
And this bridgehead was important…and that is an understatement. The American forces had to fight against air attack, artillery, and sabotage. They moved quickly to take enough territory so that German artillery was out of range, set up sentries with powerful searchlights to catch enemy commandos, set up anti-aircraft batteries, and the bridge had it’s own Combat Air Patrol from the Army Air Corps. Engineers worked around the clock to repair any damage done to the bridge.
Today in History, February 28, 1933:
The Reichstag Fire Decree. On the night of February 27, 1933, the German Parliament, or Reichstag, was burned by arsonists.
The very next day (strike while the iron is hot) German President Paul Von Hindenburg, on the “advice” of Chancellor Adolph Hitler, issues the Reichstag Fire Decree “for the protection of the people and the state.”
The order suspended basic civil liberties guaranteed by the German Constitution.
The fire was blamed on the Nazi’s enemies, Communists. However it is likely the fire was contrived to justify the order, which began Hitler’s dictatorship.
The same type of maneuver would be used by the Nazis in September, 1939, to justify the invasion of Poland.
“Those who would give up essential liberty, to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.” – Benjamin Franklin
Today in History, February 26, 1917:
President Woodrow Wilson is informed of the “Zimmermann Telegram”.
German Foreign Secretary Arthur Zimmermann had sent the telegram to the German Ambassador to Mexico, Count Johann von Bernstorff, authorizing him to offer Mexico a great deal of money if they would become allies with Germany should America enter the war.
To top it off, Germany offered to give Mexico Texas, New Mexico and Arizona should they agree.
Wilson ordered American shipping to be armed and authorized the release of the telegram to the media. News of the treachery enraged the American public, who were already angry over German submarine attacks on American ships. By April 6th Wilson had asked for and received a declaration of war.
Today in History, December 22, 1944:
The 101st Airborne Division was surrounded by the Nazis at Bastogne, Belgium, after the Germans had broken through Allied lines in their last major assault of WWII. The “Battle of the Bulge” had caught the Allied command (well..not all, but thats another story) by surprise. The weather had Allied air support grounded and the German mechanized units (tanks) helped them quickly overrun the Americans. Freezing temperatures contributed to their woes.
Low on supplies and ammo, no air support due to the weather, three days before Christmas, their commander, Brigadier General Anthony McAuliffe received a demand from the German commander to surrender.
It took the Germans a bit to comprehend the one word, typically American vernacular,
The 101st would not surrender and fought on in desperate conditions until finally relieved by General Patton’s Army Corps and Allied Air Support when the weather broke.
Today in History, November 9: 1938 – Kristallnacht. In order to direct Germany in the direction they wanted, the Nazis believed that they had to give the people someone to blame, someone to hate, for their misfortunes. The Jewish people of Germany and Austria were the perfect targets.
The Nazis used the murder of a low level diplomat in Paris as an excuse. Hitler ordered storm troopers to act as if they were citizens angered by the murder and to vandalize and destroy Jewish businesses, thus “The Night of Broken Glass” from the broken windows. Many Jews were killed and 30,000 men were arrested and sent to concentration camps. They were released if they promised to leave Germany….100,000+ did so. Kristallnacht would eventually lead to the Holocaust, during which 6,000,000+ Jews were killed in the Nazis attempt at genocide.