31 October 2007

This day in history: 31 Oct

1517: Martin Luther posted his 95 theses on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Sachsen-Anhalt.

1864: Nevada became the 36th state admitted to the United States. (With 11 states in rebellion, there were actually only 25 states in the Union at the time.)

1917: The 4th and 12th Light Horse Regiments, 4th Light Horse Brigade, charged the Turkish trenches at Beersheba, Palestine.

1918: Sergeant Thomas Caldwell, 12th Battalion, Royal Scots Fusiliers, was in command of a Lewis gun section engaged in clearing a farm house near Audenarde, Belgium. When his section came under intense fire at close range, Caldwell rushed towards the farm, captured the enemy position single-handed and took 18 prisoners. This removed a serious obstacle from the line of advance, and led to the capture by Caldwell's section of about 70 prisoners, eight machine guns and a trench mortar. Caldwell was awarded the Victoria Cross.

1940: The Battle of Britain ended.

1941: Despite the fact that the United States was officially still neutral, the destroyer USS Reuben James (DD 245) was sunk in the North Atlantic by U 552 (KptLt Erich Topp) whilst escorting convoy HX-156.

That same day, work ended on the statues at Mount Rushmore, South Dakota.

1956: The United Kingdom and France attacked Egypt (Operation Musketeer), supporting the Israeli invasion which had begun on the 29th. RAF bombers from Cyprus and Malta began strikes against Egyptian airfields.

1967: Elements of the 27th Infantry, 25th Infantry Division, made an airmobile assault at Ap Dong, Vietnam. When Viet Cong opened fire with automatic weapons, Capt Riley L Pitts forcefully led his company in an assault which overran the enemy positions. Pitts was then ordered to move his unit to the north to reinforce another company. Incoming fire from four enemy bunkers, two of which were within 15 meters of Pitts' position, prevented him from maneuvering his company. His rifle proving ineffective due to dense jungle foliage, he picked up an M-79 grenade launcher and began shooting at the targets. When he threw a hand grenade at a bunker to his front, it hit the dense jungle foliage and bounced back; Capt Pitts threw himself on top of the grenade, which fortunately failed to explode. Pitts then repositioned his company to permit friendly artillery to be fired, then, upon completion of the fire mission, again led his men toward the enemy positions, maintaining continuous fire and pinpointing the enemy's fortified positions, until he was mortally wounded. Pitts was awarded the Medal of Honor.

1999: 18-year-old Jesse Martin sailed into Melbourne harbour, thus becoming the youngest person to circumnavigate the world solo.

Thomas Cochrane, 10th Earl of Dundonald, GCB (1775–1860), Joseph Hooker (1814–1879), Harry Houdini (1874–1926), John Houseman (1902–1988) and Federico Fellini (1920–1993) died on this date.

And happy birthday to Juliette Gordon Low (1860–1927), Sir Basil Liddell Hart (1895–1970), Dale Evans (1912–2001), Bud Spencer (1929-TBD), Michael Collins (1930-TBD), Michael Landon (1936-1991), Tom Paxton (1937-TBD) and David Ogden Stiers (1942-TBD).

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