Could Pearl Harbor happen again?

December 7, 1941 — Today marks the anniversary of the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor — a surprise military strike by the Imperial Japanese Navy against the United States naval base in what was then the Territory of Hawaii that led to the United States’ entry into World War II.

Here’s what happened:

  • The attack commenced at 7:48 a.m. Hawaiian Time.
  • The base was attacked by 353 Imperial Japanese fighter planes, bombers, and torpedo planes in two waves, launched from six aircraft carriers.
  • All eight US Navy battleships were damaged, with four sunk. All but the USS Arizona (BB-39) were later raised, and six were returned to service and went on to fight in the war.
  • The Japanese also sank or damaged three cruisers, three destroyers, an anti-aircraft training ship, and one mine-layer: 188 US aircraft were destroyed, 2,403 Americans were killed, and 1,178 others were wounded.
  • Important base installations such as the power station, shipyard, maintenance, and fuel and torpedo storage facilities, as well as the submarine piers and headquarters building (also home of the intelligence section), were not attacked. Japanese losses were light: 29 aircraft and five midget submarines lost, and 64 servicemen killed. One Japanese sailor, Kazuo Sakamaki, was captured.

The following day, Dec. 8, the United States declared war on Japan. Domestic support for non-interventionism, which had been fading since the fall of France in 1940, disappeared. Clandestine support of the United Kingdom (e.g., the Neutrality Patrol) was replaced by active alliance. Subsequent operations by the United States prompted Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy to declare war on the United States on Dec. 11; the United States reciprocated the same day.

There were numerous historical precedents for unannounced military action by Japan. However, the lack of any formal warning, particularly while negotiations were still apparently ongoing, led President Franklin D. Roosevelt to proclaim Dec. 7, 1941, “a date which will live in infamy.” Because the attack happened without a declaration of war and without explicit warning, the attack on Pearl Harbor was judged by the Tokyo Trials to be a war crime.

Pearl Harbor Day: On Aug. 23, 1994, the US Congress, by Pub.L. 103–308, designated Dec. 7 of each year as National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day. Today it is observed annually to remember and honor the 2,403 Americans who were killed in the surprise attack.

Could Pearl Harbor happen again? Check out this article by writer Annie Holmqvist for her perspective. 

What sparked the Great New Orleans Fire?

660px-New_Orleans_fire_of_1788_mapMarch 21, 1788 — The Great New Orleans Fire today blew through 856 of the 1,100 structures in New Orleans, Louisiana (aka: New Spain). The blaze spanned the south central Vieux Carré from Burgundy to Chartres Street, and nearly touched the Mississippi River front buildings.

The Good Friday blaze began about 1:30 p.m. at the home of Army Treasurer Don Vincente Jose Nuñez, at 619 Chartres Street, corner of Toulouse — less than a block from Jackson Square. But because the fire started on a holy day, priests refused to allow church bells to be rung as a fire alarm. Within five hours, it had consumed almost the entire city as it was fed by a strong wind from the southeast.

The fire destroyed virtually all major buildings in the then-city (which is now known as the French Quarter), including the church, municipal building, army barracks, armory, and jail. Colonial Governor Esteban Rodríguez Miró set up tents for the homeless.

Within six years, Colonial officials had replaced the wooden buildings with masonry structures that had courtyards, thick brick walls, arcades, and wrought iron balconies.

However, on December 8, 1794, another 212 buildings were destroyed in the “Great New Orleans Fire of 1794.” Rebuilding continued in Spanish style, and much of the French-style architecture that once was prominent disappeared from the city.

Who founded a settlement today that will become Chicago?

440px-Jean_Baptiste_Point_du_Sable_Andreas_1884March 12, 1773 — Jean Baptiste Point du Sable is considered the first man to make his home in a US settlement, which today is Chicago. As a free black man born in Haiti before 1750, he was also the city’s first black resident.

Starting in 1768, he operated as a fur trader with an official license from the British government and managed a trading post in Indiana. The area was Indian-owned (he was a tenant) and as a result Point du Sable was harassed by both British and American troops who passed through the Midwest.

Today, though, he left that behind and moved onto a piece of land where he established a farm with his wife, Catherine, and their two children. The family provided stability to an area that was frequented by peripatetic traders.

By the end of the Revolutionary War, Point du Sable’s farm prospered; people as far away as Philadelphia knew his to be the only farmed produce in the area.

Point du Sable left Chicago in 1800, selling his property to a neighbor. His wife did not sign the bill of sale, and is believed to have been deceased at the time.

He moved to St. Charles in Spanish Louisiana, but business deals did not go well, and was declared insolvent in the territory in 1813.By 1818, the once prosperous farmer was destitute and depended on the goodwill of a neighbor, possibly a lover, for his housekeeping. He died on August 28.

What is the history of the leap year?

Inter-gravFebruary 29, 1800 — Known as the leap day of the Gregorian calendar, February 29 is a date that occurs in most years that are divisible by 4 — such as 2008, 2012, 2016, 2020 and 2024. Introduced as part of the Julian reform, leap years began occurring on the 60th day of the Gregorian calendar; it repeats itself every 400 years, totaling exactly 20,871 weeks with 97 leap days.

Over this period, February 29 falls on Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday 13 times each; 14 times each on Friday and Saturday; and 15 times each on Monday and Wednesday. The order of the leap days is: Thursday, Tuesday, Sunday, Friday, Wednesday, Monday and Saturday.

Did you know: Adding a leap day (after 23 February) shifts the commemorations in the 1962 Roman Missal.  The day following the Terminalia (February 23) was doubled, forming the “bis sextum”—literally ‘double sixth’, since February 24 was ‘the sixth day before the Kalends of March’ using Roman inclusive counting (March 1 was the ‘first day’).

Exceptions exist. The first day of the bis sextum (February 24) was usually regarded as the intercalated or “bissextile” day since the third century.[2] February 29 came to be regarded as the leap day when the Roman system of numbering days was replaced by sequential numbering in the late Middle Ages.

What is the theory behind the “Communist Manifesto,” which was published today in 1848?

communist_manifesto_-_cover_pictureFebruary 26, 1848 — Today, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels published their “Communist Manifesto” — a political pamphlet recognised as one of the world’s most influential political manuscripts.

The German philosophers took an analytical approach to the class struggle (historical and then-present) by summarizing the problems of capitalism and the capitalist mode of production. Their theories about the nature of society and politics also features their ideas for how the capitalist society of the time would eventually be replaced by socialism, and then communism.

At first, it had little or no impact on the widespread and varied revolutionary movements of the mid-19th century Europe, or the US. But in time, their Communist Manifesto became one of the most widely read and discussed documents of the 20th century.

Following are the 10 planks of the theory:

1. Abolition of private property and the application of all rent to public purpose.

2. A heavy progressive or graduated income tax.

3. Abolition of all rights of inheritance.

4. Confiscation of the property of all emigrants and rebels.

5. Centralization of credit in the hands of the State, by means of a national bank with state capital and an exclusive monopoly.

6. Centralization of the means of communication and transportation in the hands of the State.

7. Extention of factories and instruments of production owned by the State, the bringing into cultivation of waste lands, and the improvement of the soil generally in accordance with a common plan.

8. Equal liablity of all to labor. Establishment of Industrial armies, especially for agriculture.

9. Combination of agriculture with manufacturing industries; gradual abolition of the distinction between town and country by a more equable distribution of the population over the country.

10. Free education for all children in government schools. Abolition of children’s factory labor in its present form. Combination of education with industrial production.

Which was the first American ship to sail from the US to China in 1784?

Empress_of_China_1891February 22, 1784 — The first US ship to conduct trade with China, “Empress of China,” sailed from New York today.

Also known as Chinese Queen, this three-masted, square-rigged sailing ship of 360 tons was initially built in 1783 for service as a privateer.

After the Treaty of Paris brought a formal end to the American Revolutionary War, the vessel was refitted for commercial purposes. She became the first American ship to sail from the newly independent United States to China, opening what is known today as the Old China Trade and transporting the first official representative of the American government to Canton.

The first American merchant vessel to enter Chinese waters left New York harbor on Washington’s birthday, February 22, 1784. The Empress returned to New York on May 11, 1785 after a round voyage of 14 months and 24 days. The success of the voyage encouraged others to invest in further trading with China.

The ship’s captain John Green (1736–1796) was a former U.S. naval officer, its two business agents (supercargos), Samuel Shaw (1754–1794) and Thomas Randall (1723–1797), were former officers in the U.S. Continental Army, and its syndicate of owners, including Robert Morris (1734–1806) were some of the richest men in the new nation.

Who was the first female telegraph operator?

Woman_operator_Harpers_1870sFebruary 21, 1846 — Sarah Bagley (April 19, 1805 – June 23, 1883) today became America’s first woman telegraph operator.

An advocate for women’s rights, and one of the most important labor leaders in New England during the 1840s, she campaigned to make 10 hours of labor per day the maximum in Massachusetts.

Her activities in support of the mill workers in Lowell, Massachusetts put her in contact with a broader network of reformers in areas of women’s rights, communitarianism, abolition, peace, prison reform, and health reform.

Bagley and her coworkers became familiar with middle-class reform activities, demonstrating the ways in which working people embraced this reform impulse as they transformed and critiqued some of its key elements.

Sarah’s activities within the labor movement reveal many of the tensions that underlay relations between male and female working people as well as the constraints of gender that female activists had to overcome.

Who was Jonathan Cilley?

cilley-johnathan-displayFebruary 24, 1838 — Today, Jonathan Cilley of Maine (pictured right) was killed by Representative William Graves of Kentucky in a duel on the outskirts of D.C., in Prince George’s County, Maryland.

Here’s the back story: Graves approached Cilley with a letter at the behest of a newspaper editor, James Webb, who was incensed about a bribery accusation Cilley had made on the House Floor. Cilley refused to accept the letter; which Graves interpreted the refusal as a direct insult to his character. So he challenged Cilley to a duel.

Of course, neither man had any known grievance with the other prior to the incident. With two other Members of the House present, Henry Wise of Virginia and Delegate George Jones of Wisconsin (the dueling seconds for both men), the duel went beyond the customary two rounds, resulting in Cilley’s death in the third round.

After the ensuing House investigation, Graves, along with Wise and Jones, were recommended for censure after Cilley’s death. Although the House refused to impose the censure recommendation it offered a bill to “prohibit the giving or accepting within the District of Columbia, of a challenge to fight a duel, and for the punishment thereof.”

On February 27, 1838 — The House Chamber hosted a funeral, attended by the President Martin Van Buren and other statesmen, to honor Cilley.

Celebrate President’s Day with a history lesson: What is the story behind dueling in America?

pistols_1428753cFebruary 20, 1839 — Today, Congress passed legislation barring the practice of dueling in the District of Columbia.

Passage of the law was inspired by a 1838 duel in which Kentucky Rep. William Graves killed Maine Rep. Jonathan Cilley at the Bladensburg Duelling Grounds near the DC-Maryland border. The House, choosing not to censure Graves or the two other congressman present at the duel, instead presented a bill to “prohibit the giving or accepting within the District of Columbia, of a challenge to fight a duel, and for the punishment thereof.”

The law did little to deter dueling, which was an ancient practice that was originally a legal means to settle disputes in barbarian Germanic tribes. Duels of honor, fought primarily between noblemen, were an extralegal means to defend one’s honor against personal insults. These duels were governed by codes, the most famous of which is the Code Duello, a list of 26 rules drafted in 1777 by Irish duelers.

An American version of the code was drafted in 1838 by South Carolina Gov. John Lyde Wilson. A duel was negotiated through companions of the two duelers, known as “seconds.” The offended party would issue a challenge; the challenger could either apologize or accept a duel using the weapon of his choice (usually pistols, but swords were also allowed).

In America, duels were most prevalent in the South, particularly among upper-class gentlemen. Men who were challenged to a duel were expected to accept; those who refused faced public embarrassment. One South Carolina general, recalling a duel in his youth, remarked, “Well I never did clearly understand what it was about, but you know it was a time when all gentlemen fought.”

What were the Apache Wars, and how long did they last?

Geronimo_camp_March_27,_1886February 4, 1861 — Apache Chief Cochise was arrested in Arizona today by the U.S. Army for raiding a ranch. He then escaped and declared war, beginning the period known as the Apache Wars, which lasted 25 years.

Its origins started a year before the first conflict when a fraction of Mexico became part of the United States in the aftermath of the Mexican-American War. Native Mexicans became Native Americans for the series of conflicts where a significant part of the Westward Expansion Trails in the American frontier.

The first conflicts between the Apache date to the earliest Spanish settlements, but the specific set of conflicts now known as the Apache Wars began during the Mexican-American War. The first United States Army campaigns specifically against the Apache began in 1849, and the last major battle ended with the surrender of Geronimo in 1886.

Geronimo is probably the most notable Apache warrior of that time period, but he was not alone. He belonged to a Chiricahua Apache band. After two decades of guerrilla warfare, Cochise, one of the leaders of the Chiricahua band, chose to make peace with the US. He agreed to relocate his people to a reservation in the Chiricahua Mountains. Soon afterward in 1874, Cochise died. In a change of policy, the U.S. government decided to move the Chiricahua to the San Carlos reservation in 1876.[citation needed] Half complied and the other half, led by Geronimo, escaped to Mexico.

In the spring of 1877, the U.S. captured Geronimo and brought him to the San Carlos reservation. He stayed there until September 1881. As soldiers gathered near the reservation, he feared being imprisoned for previous activities. He fled the reservation with 700 Apache and went to Mexico again.