04 September 2007

This day in history: 4 Sep

476: Romulus Augustus, last emperor of the Western Roman Empire, was deposed by the Scirian chieftain Odoacer, who proclaimed himself King of Italy.

1781: El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora La Reina de los Ángeles de Porciúncula, in southern California, was founded by a group of 44 Spanish settlers.

1862: A railroad train guarded by about sixty Union soldiers on flatcars was sidetracked by a misplaced switch into a guerilla ambush at Boutte Station, Louisiana. Private Lewis K Ingalls, Company K, 8th Vermont Infantry, ran under heavy fire to another switch and, despite being wounded, opened it, enabling the train and the surviving guards to escape. Union losses were fifteen killed, twenty wounded. Ingalls was awarded the Medal of Honor.

1864: Confederate cavalry leader Brigadier General John Hunt Morgan was killed during a Union cavalry raid on the town of Greenville, Tennessee.

1886: Apache leader Geronimo and his remaining warriors surrendered to General Nelson Miles in Arizona.

1923: USS Shenandoah (ZR 1), the US Navy's first airship, made its maiden flight.

1940 - Despite US neutrality, German submarine U 652 (Oblt Georg-Werner Fraatz) attacked USS Greer (DD 145). Greer responded with depth charges. Neither ship was damaged in this incident, the first German attack on US armed forces of World War II.

1942: At Milne Bay, in New Guinea, Australian forces attacking the Japanese east of Buna Mission were held up by three machine-gun posts. Corporal John A French, 2/9th Battalion (Queensland), Australian Military Forces, destroyed the first two with grenades and the third with a Thompson submachine gun. After firing ceased, French's section advanced, to find that all the Japanese had been killed and that French had been killed in front of the third enemy position. French was awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross.

1944: The British 11th Armoured Division liberated the city of Antwerp, Belgium.

1948: Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands abdicated for health reasons. She was succeeded by her daughter, Juliana.

1950: A comic strip by Mort Walker, about a college boy named Beetle Bailey, made its first appearance, in 12 newspapers. The following year, during the Korean War, Beetle dropped out of college and joined the Army, where he has been serving ever since. (In 1954, Beetle and his friends visited Beetle's sister, Lois, leading to a spin-off strip written by Walker and drawn by Dik Browne.)

1957: Orval Faubus, governor of Arkansas, called out the National Guard to prevent black students from enrolling in Central High School, Little Rock.

That same day, the Ford Motor Company introduced the Edsel, which came in four models: the Mercury-based Citation and Corsair, and the more affordable Ford-based Pacer and Ranger.*

1967: The US 1st Marine Division engaged North Vietnamese troops in the Que Son Valley (Operation SWIFT). Hearing that Marines from M Company, 3d Battalion, 5th Marines, were in danger of being overrun by an enemy assaulting force, Lieutenant Vincent R Capodanno, US Navy Chaplain Corps, left the relative safety of the company command post and ran through an open area raked with fire, directly to the beleaguered platoon. Disregarding intense enemy fire, he moved about the battlefield, administering last rites to the dying and giving medical aid to the wounded. When an exploding mortar round inflicted multiple wounds to his arms and legs, and severed a portion of his right hand, he refused all medical aid, continuing to direct the corpsmen and to move about the battlefield, providing encouragement by voice and example. Seeing a wounded corpsman lying in the direct line of fire of a nearby enemy machine gunner, Capodanno made a daring attempt to assist him, but was killed by a burst of machine gun fire. Capodanno was awarded a posthumous Medal of Honor, as was Sergeant Lawrence D Peters, an M Company squad leader. A total of 114 Americans and 376 North Vietnamese died in the ensuing four-day battle.

1972: Swimming in the 400-metre medley relay, Mark Spitz won his seventh swimming gold medal at the 1972 Summer Olympics, in Munich, Germany. The first Olympic athlete to win seven medals in one games, Spitz swam in only seven events, setting a world record in each one.

In addition to General Morgan (1825-1864), Edvard Grieg (1843–1907), Albert Schweitzer OM (1875–1965), Creighton Abrams (1914–1974), Dottie West (1932–1991) and Steve Irwin (1962–2006) died on this date.

And happy birthday to Mary Renault (1905–1983), Paul Harvey (1918-TBD) and Dick York (1928–1992).

* Photo shows a 1958 Citation convertible.

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