26 June 2007

This day in history: 26 Jun

1409: Peter Philargei was crowned Pope as Alexander V, despite the fact that Gregory XII (Rome) and Benedict XIII (Avignon) both already claimed the title.

1541: Francisco Pizarro is assassinated in Lima, Peru.

1857: 62 veterans of the Crimean War (12 Royal Navy, 2 Royal Marine and 48 Army) queued up in Hyde Park, London, for the first investiture of the Victoria Cross. The queue was arranged in order of service and regimental precedence, by rank, so Lieutenant Commander Henry J Raby was the first to receive his medal from the Queen. The picture seems to show Captain of the Mast George Ingouville RN receiving his medal from the Queen; following him is Lieutenant George Dare Dowell, RM Artillery.

1876: The day after George Armstrong Custer and a battalion of the 7th US Cavalry had been wiped out at the Battle of the Little Bighorn, Major Marcus Reno took command of the remaining portion of the regiment and successfully held off attacking Indians until they decided to withdraw. Sgt C H Welch, D Troop; Pvt T J Callen, B Troop; Pvt T W Goldin, G Troop; and Privates G D Scott and T W Stivers, D Troop, were all awarded the Medal of Honor.

1918: The Battle of Belleau Wood ended.

1936: The Focke-Achgelis Fa 61 (or Focke-Wulf Fw 61), the first practical helicopter, made its first flight, piloted by Ewald Rohlfs.

1944: Naik (Corporal) Agan Singh Rai, 5th Royal Gurkha Rifles, led a section of Gurkhas in an attack on a Japanese position in Burma. They took the machine gun, charging through heavy fire, but a second machine gun then opened up on them. Another successful attack eliminated this threat, after which Agan Singh Rai went on alone to attack a third position. He killed the four defenders, after which the remaining Japanese troops in the vicinity withdrew. Agan Singh Rai was awarded the Victoria Cross.

1945: The United Nations Charter was signed in San Francisco by representatives of 50 of the original 51 members.

1948: Thirty-two Douglas C-47 cargo planes, hauling 80 tons of cargo including milk, flour and medicine, made the initial flight of the Berlin Airlift.

1959: The Saint Lawrence Seaway was officially opened, with President Eisenhower and Queen Elizabeth II officiating.

1963: President John F Kennedy announced to the world that he was a Berliner.

1973: Nine people were killed by an explosion of a Cosmos 3-M rocket at Plesetsk Cosmodrome.

1976: The 1815-foot CN Tower (Toronto, Ontario), the world's tallest freestanding structure on land, was opened to the public.

In addition to Pizarro (c. 1475–1541), Caesar Rodney (1728–1784), Joseph Michel Montgolfier (1740–1810) and Strom Thurmond (1902–2003) died on this date.

And happy birthday to Abner Doubleday (1819–1893), William Thomson, 1st Baron Kelvin, OM GCVO (1824–1907), George Herbert, 5th Earl of Carnarvon (1866–1923), Willy Messerschmitt (1898–1978), Peter Lorre (1904–1964), Violette Szabo GC (1921-1945), Claudio Abbado (1933-TBD) and Princess Alexia of the Netherlands (2005-TBD).

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