Today in History, August 18, 1931:
The Yangtze River in China floods. Either directly or indirectly through starvation, 3.2 MILLION people die as a result.
That is more than every man, woman and child in the state of Oklahoma due to one natural disaster.
And the flood was only the beginning of China’s troubles in the 30’s. The war with Japan would take millions more lives.
Today in History, August 14, 1784:
Russian Grigory Shelikhov founds Three Saints Bay on Kodiak Island, establishing Alaska for Russia. Over the next several decades Russian fur trappers moved into the interior, and down into California, where they were turned back by American frontiersmen.
By the 1850’s Russia was ready to sell Alaska and offered it to the United States. The negotiations were delayed during the American Civil War, but in 1867 Secretary of State William H. Seward negotiated it’s purchase for .02 cents per acre.
He was excoriated for the purchase; it was called “Seward’s Folly” or “Seward’s Icebox”. The treaty passed the Senate by just one vote. Since then Seward has been vindicated, with gold and oil and nature.
Today in History, August 9, 1942:
Two days after the US Marines had made an amphibious landing on Guadalcanal seized what would become Henderson Field, the transports that brought them still stood off the coast, protected by 8 American and Australian Cruisers and 14 destroyers.
In the early morning hours a force of Japanese Heavy and Light Cruisers moved silently into the waters between Guadalcanal and Savo Island and opened fire on the American and Australian warships, which they caught, quite literally, napping. The British commander of the Allied force, Admiral Crutchley had taken his flagship to a conference with the amphibious force commander, Admiral Richmond Kelly Turner and Marine Gen. Alexander Vandergrift, leaving a subordinate in command.
The Japanese Navy had been practicing and perfecting night time combat tactics for years, a fact the USN was not aware of, so they weren’t really expecting an assault. The Japanese also had very effective torpedoes. Several of the Allied ships managed to get off some shots that caused minor damage to the IJN cruisers, but the experienced, practiced Japanese crews poured withering torpedo and gunfire into the American and Australian ships, whose crews were exhausted from 2 days of shelling the enemy ashore in humid high temperatures.
Within an hour the USS Astoria, USS Quincy and USS Vincennes were on their way to the sea floor, making the first of many deposits that would give this passage the name “Iron Bottom Sound” because of all of the Allied and Japanese ships that now rest there with their crews. The next day, Admiral Turner would order the HMAS Canberra scuttled due to her damage.
The US aircraft carriers that had been providing air cover for the landings had been ordered out of the area by their commander, Adm. Frank “Black Jack” Fletcher. The transports and their covering surface ships could not remain with range of Japanese aircraft without air cover of their own, so they too left the area, leaving the Marines to their own devices for quite some time. Numerous battles would be fought in the waters of Guadalcanal, Savo and Tulagi Islands, and in “The Slot” leading from Guadalcanal to the enemy bases in the Solomons.
Today in History, August 5, 1864:
“Damn the Torpedoes, Full Speed Ahead!!”
The Battle of Mobile Bay. During the Civil War, Confederate “blockade runners” (Rhett Butler types) kept the South in vital supplies by running past the Union Navy blockade from Cuba to ports like Mobile Bay, Alabama.
US Navy Admiral David Glasgow Farragut was tasked with closing this last Confederate source of supplies. His fleet had to fight past the Confederate fleet of ironclads and two forts that guarded the bay. As the battle progressed, the Union fleet began to fragment, until Farragut rallied his sailors with famous admonition, winning the battle.
Mobile would remain in Confederate hands, but access to it was cut off for the duration. Farragut was the adopted son of US Naval Officer David Porter, who also raised his biological sons, famous Naval officers David Dixon Porter, and William Porter. One family played such a vital role in the glory of the US Navy. Can you imagine being a part of it?
Today in History, August 3, 1852:
In the very first inter-collegiate sports competition in America, Harvard University wins the Harvard-Yale Regatta, a row boat race held on Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire. Except during war, the race has continued since, albeit in difference locations.
Today in History, July 31, 1976:
The Big Thompson Canyon Flood.
While Colorado was celebrating its Centennial, a highly unusual thunderstorm broke out high in the mountains, near the source of the Big
Thompson Canyon in northern Colorado.
The storm deluged the canyon with the equivalent of 3/4’s of the area’s annual rainfall in a matter of hours. It sent a wall of water 20 feet high racing down the canyon; residents and tourists miles away from the storm near the mouth of the canyon had no idea there was a storm higher up, much less a torrent of flood water headed their way.
Colorado State Trooper Sgt. W. Hugh Purdy and Estes Park Officer Michel O. Conley were advised of the approaching flood. Remember that this was before cell phones and other mass media, most of which would not have worked in the canyon anyway.
These men drove their patrol cars up the canyon, telling people to flee using their public address systems, with full knowledge of what they were doing….until they met the water and were killed.
I saw this memorial while visiting relatives in Greeley, CO as a teen. These men are part of the reason I’m a cop. God bless them and their families.
Today in History, July 30, 1866:
The New Orleans Riot. NOLA had been under Union control for most of the Civil War, although deep South in geography and sentiments. In 1864, a state convention of mostly Confederate sympathies had tried to enforce “Black Codes” to limit the rights of Freedmen.
Now that the war was over, “Radical” Republicans were holding a state convention in The Mechanic’s Institute in New Orleans in hopes of gaining control of the legislature.
A group of black Union veterans formed and marched to the Institute in support of the Republicans, where they were attacked by an armed group of former Confederates, including some authorities (the Mayor and others were Democrat former Confederates). 34-35 black and 3 white Republicans were killed.
Other similar riots in the South occurred, convincing enough voters that more stringent Reconstruction policies were needed.
In November Republicans would sweep into both houses of Congress by 77%. The next year they would force through the Fourteenth Amendment protecting citizenship rights and equal protections over the protests of Democrats in Congress. Before it could be ratified, the Reconstruction Acts were passed…requiring former states to ratify if before they could be represented in Congress.