26 October 2007

This day in history: 26 Oct

1774: The First Continental Congress, which had met in Philadelphia on 5 September 1774, adjourned.

1859: 459 passengers and crew died when the steam clipper Royal Charter was wrecked in a gale on the coast of Anglesey, Wales.

1861: After 18 months of service, the Central Overland California & Pike's Peak Express Company - the Pony Express - ceased operations.

1881: Wyatt, Morgan and Virgil Earp, with Dr John Holliday, met Ike and Billy Clanton, Frank and Tom McLaury and Billy Claiborne in an alley near the OK Corral, in Tombstone, Arizona. Billy Clanton and the McLaury brothers were killed, Morgan and Virgil Earp were wounded by Billy Clanton, and Doc Holliday was wounded by Frank McLaury.

1905: Norway became independent from Sweden.

1940: The NA-73X, prototype for the North American P-51 Mustang, made its maiden flight.

1942: Japanese and American carrier forces met in the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands, northeast of the Solomons. USS Hornet (CV 8) was severely damaged, and was sunk the next day; USS Porter (DD 356) also had to be scuttled after being hit by a single torpedo, and USS Enterprise (CV 6) and two destroyers were damaged. Japanese carriers Shokaku and Zuiho, and heavy cruiser Chikuma, were also damaged, but the major loss to the Japanese was irreplaceable aircrew.

That same day, in the Western Desert, Private Percival E Gratwick, 2nd/4th Battalion (South Australia), Australian Military Forces, single-handedly destroyed a machine-gun post and a mortar position at El Alamein. He was killed whilst charging a second machine gun. Gratwick was awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross.

1943: The Dornier Do 335 Pfeil made its maiden flight, from Mengen, Württemberg.

1944: A B-24 Liberator from 308th Bombardment Group, US Army Air Corps, piloted by Major Horace S Carswell Jr, made a strike against a Japanese convoy in the South China Sea. Carswell made his first bombing run at 600 feet, scoring a near miss on a warship and escaping without drawing fire. He then circled and began a low-level run, scoring two hits on a large tanker. Japanese fire knocked out two engines and wounded the copilot, but Carswell controlled the plane's dive and flew toward the Chinese coast. On reaching land, one of the crew discovered that his parachute had been rendered useless by flak. Hoping to cross mountainous terrain and reach a base, Carswell continued onward until the third engine failed. He then ordered the rest of the crew to bail out, choosing to remain on board with his comrade and attempt a crash landing. He died when the airplane struck a mountainside and burned. Carswell was awarded a posthumous Medal of Honor.

1958: Pan American Airways made the first commercial flight of the Boeing 707, from New York to Paris.

1970: "Doonesbury" made its first appearance as a syndicated daily strip, in about two dozen newspapers.

William Hogarth (1697–1764), John Graves Simcoe (1752–1806), Igor Ivanovich Sikorsky (1889–1972) and Hoyt Axton (1938–1999) died on this date.

And happy birthday to Domenico Scarlatti (1685–1757), Helmuth Graf von Moltke (1800–1891), C W Post (1854-1914), Jackie Coogan (1914-1984), Jaclyn Smith (1947-TBD) and Sasha Cohen (1984-TBD).

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