12 September 2007

This day in history: 12 Sep

1213: Pedro II of Aragon was killed when his forces were defeated by Simon de Montfort, 5th Earl of Leicester, at the Battle of Muret, near Toulouse, France.

1609: Henry Hudson discovered the Hudson River.

1857: 426 passengers and crew were lost when SS Central America sank about 160 miles east of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. The ship was carrying several tons of gold from the San Francisco Gold Rush.

1874: Sergeant Zachariah Woodall, 6th US Cavalry, was in charge of five other men - Privates John Harrington, Peter Roth (or Rath) and George W Smith, and civilian scouts Amos Chapman and William Dixon - carrying dispatches when they were attacked by a force of 125 hostile Indians near the Wichita River, in Texas. The soldiers took refuge in a buffalo wallow, and the battle continued through the day; Smith was mortally wounded early in the fight and died the next morning, but the others survived. All six men were awarded the Medal of Honor.

1917: Near Broenbeek, Belgium, a small detachment from 2nd Battalion the Irish Guards were finally forced to retreat, having held out for 96 hours without support. Lance-Sergeant John Moyney and Private Thomas Woodcock stayed behind to cover the retreat. Moyney was awarded the Victoria Cross for his leadership during the defence. Woodcock was also awarded the Victoria Cross, for going back to find and rescue a missing man lying wounded in the open.

1918: On the Western Front, Sergeant Harry J Laurent, the New Zealand Rifle Brigade, led twelve men in a successful attack east of Gouzeaucourt Wood, France, killing thirty of the enemy and capturing 112. Laurent was awarded the Victoria Cross.

1938: Adolf Hitler, making a speech at the annual Nuremberg rally, demanded autonomy for Germans living in the Sudetenland region of Czechoslovakia.

1940: Four teenagers exploring the caves near Lascaux, France, discovered the cave paintings there.

1942: RMS Laconia, carrying some 2300 civilians, Allied soldiers and Italian POWs, sank off the coast of West Africa after being torpedoed by the German U 156 (Kapitänleutnant Werner Hartenstein).

1942: The Battle of Edson's Ridge, on Guadalcanal, began, with Japanese forces under Major General Kiyotake Kawaguchi attacking US Marines protecting Henderson Field.

1943: Benito Mussolini was rescued from house arrest in Abruzzi, Italy, by German commandos led by Otto Skorzeny.

1944: US submarines Growler (SS 215), Pampanito (SS 383)* and Sealion (SS 315) encountered a Japanese convoy before dawn, east of Hainan. Growler sank destroyer Shikinami with a single "down-the-throat" shot, and also sank the frigate Hirado. Sealion sank the transport Rakuyo Maru and damaged a tanker. That night, Pampanito sank the transport Kachidoki Maru and another ship, and damaged a third. Unfortunately, Rakuyo Maru and Kachidoki Maru were carrying between them over 2200 Allied prisoners of war. 792, mainly from Kachidoki Maru, were picked up by the Japanese, and 159 from Rakuyo Maru were rescued a few days later by Pampanito, Sealion, Queenfish (SS 393) and Barb (SS 220). (Seven of those rescued by the submarines died on the way back to port.)

1959: Luna 2, the first spacecraft to reach the surface of the Moon, was launched from Baikonur. It impacted in the Palus Putredinis region, west of Mare Serenitatis, on 14 September.
That same day, "A Rose for Lotta," the first episode of Bonanza - the first regularly-scheduled TV programme in colour - was aired on NBC. (Yvonne De Carlo played Lotta.)

1974: Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia was deposed following a military coup by the Derg.

1992: Space shuttle Endeavour was launched from Cape Canaveral as mission STS-47, the 50th shuttle mission. On board were commander Robert L Gibson, pilot Curtis L Brown Jr, payload commander Mark C Lee, mission specialists N Jan Davis, Jay Apt and Mae C Jemison, and payload specialist Mamoru Mohri. Jemison was the first black woman to fly in space, Lee and Davis were the first married couple to fly on the same space mission, and Mohri was the first Japanese astronaut to fly aboard the shuttle. Endeavour landed at Kennedy Space Centre on 20 September.

In addition to Pedro II (1174–1213), Blanche of Lancaster (1345–1369), Gebhard von Blücher, Fürst von Wahlstatt (1742-1819), Peter Mark Roget (1779–1869), Hugo Schmeisser (1884-1953), William Boyd (1895-1972), Raymond Burr (1917–1993) and Johnny Cash (1932-2003) died on this date.

And happy birthday to François I of France (1494–1547), Henry Hudson (1570?–1611), Richard Gatling (1818–1903), Maurice Chevalier (1888–1972), Jesse Owens (1913–1980), Desmond Llewelyn (1913—1999) and George Jones (1931-TBD).

* USS Pampanito is now a museum ship in San Francisco.

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