16 September 2007

This day in history: 16 Sep

1400: Owain Glyndwr was declared Prince of Wales by his followers.

1701: James Edward Stuart, the "Old Pretender", became the Jacobite claimant to the thrones of England and Scotland on the death of his father.

1893: The Cherokee Strip, in Oklahoma, was opened for settlement by whites, who raced to be the first to reach good land to claim.

1916: At Courcelette, on the Somme, Private John C Kerr, 49th (Edmonton) Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force, refused medical treatment after losing the fingers of one hand in a shell explosion, and instead went forward to support a grenade attack on the German positions. While the bombing party exhausted its supply of grenades, Kerr ran along the top of the trench under heavy fire to get into a flanking position. Ignoring his injuries, he opened fire with such effect that the Germans believed they were surrounded and 62 men surrendered. Kerr was awarded the Victoria Cross.

1919: The American Legion was granted a charter by the US Congress.

1920: Over 30 people were killed and hundreds injured when a bomb in a horse wagon exploded in front of the J P Morgan building in Wall Street - the deadliest bomb attack on American soil for seven years, until the Bath School bombing on 18 May 1927.

1942: German submarines U 156, U 506 and U 507, and Italian submarine Cappellini, carrying survivors from RMS Laconia (which had been sunk by U 156 on 12 September), were attacked by an American B-24 Liberator. The four submarines were on the surface, displaying Red Cross flags, with loaded lifeboats in tow; additional survivors were carried on board the submarines themselves (U 156 pictured). The B-24 pilot reported the presence of the survivors, but was ordered to attack anyway. He did so, and the submarines cut their tows and submerged. All four submarines escaped, but at least one lifeboat was destroyed by American bombs.

1944: A US Navy FM-2 Wildcat from VF-26, flying from USS Santee (CVE 29) was shot down by antiaircraft fire over Halmahera Island, northwest of New Guinea. The pilot, Ensign H A Thompson USNR, parachuted to safety, landing several hundred yards from shore in Wasile Bay. A PBY Catalina tried to land to rescue him, but was driven off by heavy antiaircraft fire. Lieutenant A Murray Preston USNR, commanding Torpedo Boat Squadron 33, got under way in PT 489, accompanied by PT 363. With Navy fighters strafing the Japanese shore batteries, which continued shooting nonetheless, the two PT boats entered the bay after being turned back twice. By this time Thompson's life raft had drifted up against an unmanned cargo ship anchored in the bay. A fighter laid a smoke screen, PT 489 manoeuvred alongside the cargo ship, and two men dove overboard and towed the life raft to the boat. The aircraft departed because they were running low on fuel, and Japanese fire intensified as the two PT boats departed. By the time they were out of range, they had been under almost constant shellfire in broad daylight for two and a half hours. Preston was awarded the Medal of Honor.

1963: Malaya, Singapore, British North Borneo (Sabah) and Sarawak united to form the Federation of Malaysia. (Singapore dropped out of the federation two years later, becoming an independent nation.)

1975: The Ye-155MP, first prototype of the Mikoyan MiG-31 (Foxhound) fighter, made its maiden flight.

2004: Hurricane Ivan made landfall near Gulf Shores, Alabama, becoming the third- (now fourth-) costliest hurricane to strike the United States.

Charles V of France (1338–1380), James II and VII of Great Britain (1633-1701), Gabriel Fahrenheit (1686–1736), John Hanning Speke (1827–1864), Edward Whymper (1840–1911), Samuel Z Arkoff (1918–2001), James Gregory (1911–2002) and Sheb Wooley (1921–2003) died on this date.

And happy birthday to James C Penney (1875-1971), Karl Dönitz (1891–1980), "Mad Jack" Churchill DSO and Bar, MC and Bar (1906-1996), Allen Funt (1914–1999), Lauren Bacall (1924-TBD), Peter Falk (1927-TBD), Jack Kelly (1927—1992) and David Copperfield (1956-TBD).

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