This Day In History – August 31st
HENRY V OF ENGLAND DIES AT 35 – AUGUST 31, 1422
Henry V (16 September 1386 – 31 August 1422) was King of England from 1413 until his death at the age of 35. He was the second monarch belonging to the House of Lancaster.
After military experience fighting various lords who rebelled against his father, Henry IV, Henry came into political conflict with the increasingly ill king. After his father’s death, Henry rapidly assumed control of the country and embarked on war with France. From an unassuming start, his military successes in the Hundred Years’ War, culminating with his famous victory at the Battle of Agincourt, saw him come close to conquering France. After months of negotiation with Charles VI of France, the Treaty of Troyes recognised him as regent and heir to the French throne, and he was subsequently married to Charles’ daughter, Catherine of Valois.
Henry V died suddenly on 31 August 1422 at the Château de Vincennes near Paris, apparently from dysentery which he had contracted during the siege of Meaux. He was almost 36 years old.
Before his death, Henry V named his brother John, Duke of Bedford regent of France in the name of his son Henry VI, then only a few months old. Henry V did not live to be crowned King of France himself, as he might confidently have expected after the Treaty of Troyes, because ironically the sickly Charles VI, to whom he had been named heir, survived him by two months. Catherine took Henry’s body to London and he was buried in Westminster Abbey on 7 November 1422.
Henry features in three plays by William Shakespeare. He is shown as a young scapegrace who redeems himself in battle in the two Henry IV plays and as a decisive leader in Henry V. [Source: Wikipedia]
THE GLEIWITZ INCIDENT ON THE EVE OF WWII – AUGUST 31, 1939
Photograph by Gliwi
The Gleiwitz Incident was a staged attack by Nazi forces posing as Poles on 31 August 1939, against the German radio station Sender Gleiwitz in Gleiwitz, Upper Silesia, Germany (since 1945: Gliwice, Poland) on the eve of World War II in Europe.
This provocation was the best-known of several actions in Operation Himmler, a series of unconventional operations undertaken by the SS in order to serve specific propaganda goals of Nazi Germany at the outbreak of the war. It was intended to create the appearance of Polish aggression against Germany in order to justify the subsequent invasion of Poland, and the beginning of World War II.
On the night of 31 August 1939, a small group of German operatives, dressed in Polish uniforms seized the Gleiwitz station and broadcast a short anti-German message in Polish (sources vary on the content of the message). The Germans’ goal was to make the attack and the broadcast look like the work of anti-German Polish saboteurs.
To make the attack seem more convincing, the Germans brought in Franciszek Honiok, a German Silesian known for sympathizing with the Poles, who had been arrested the previous day by the Gestapo. Honiok was dressed to look like a saboteur; then killed by lethal injection, given gunshot wounds, and left dead at the scene, so that he appeared to have been killed while attacking the station. His corpse was subsequently presented as proof of the attack to the police and press. [Source: Wikipedia]
HARMON 1ST WARSHIP NAMED AFTER AFRICAN-AMERICAN | AUG. 31, 1943
The USS Harmon (DE-678) was a Buckley-class destroyer escort of the United States Navy. USS Harmon was named after Mess Attendant Leonard Roy Harmon, who was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross for his actions on the USS San Francisco during the battle of Guadalcanal. USS Harmon was the first warship to be named after an African-American.
Harmon was launched 25 July 1943 by Bethlehem Steel Co., Quincy, Massachusetts; sponsored by Mrs. Nau-nita Harmon Carroll, mother of Mess Attendant Harmon; and commissioned 31 August 1943. Harmon was struck from the Navy List on 1 August 1965, and sold to North American Smelting Co., Wilmington, Delaware on 30 January 1967 to be scrapped.
Harmon received three battle stars for World War II service. [Source: Wikipedia]
THE ‘SUPER GUPPY’ TAKES FIRST FLIGHT EVER – AUGUST 31, 1965
Photograph by NASA
The Aero Spacelines Super Guppy is a large, wide-bodied cargo aircraft used for ferrying outsized cargo components. It was the successor to the Pregnant Guppy, the first of the Guppy aircraft produced by Aero Spacelines. Five were built in two variants, both of which were colloquially referred to as the “Super Guppy.”
The first, the Super Guppy, or “SG”, was built directly from the fuselage of a C-97J Turbo Stratocruiser, the military version of the Boeing 377. The fuselage was lengthened to 141 feet (43 m), and ballooned out to a maximum inside diameter of 25 ft (7.6 m), the length of the cargo compartment being 94 ft 6 in (28.8 m). The floor of the cargo compartment was still only 8 ft 9 in (2.7 m) wide, as necessitated by the use of the Stratocruiser fuselage. It could carry a load of 54,000 pounds (24,545kg) and cruise at 300 mph (480 km/h).
In the early 1970s, the two Super Guppies were used by Airbus Industrie to transport aeroplane parts from decentralised production facilities to the final assembly plant in Toulouse. The running joke was “Every Airbus is delivered on the wings of a Boeing”. In 1982 and 1983 two additional Super Guppies were built by UTA Industries in France after Airbus bought the right to produce the aircraft. The four Super Guppies have since been replaced by the Airbus Beluga, capable of carrying twice as much cargo.
The last produced Super Guppy remains in service: an SGT flown by NASA (currently used to ferry components for the International Space Station and Project Orion). The other four are mothballed. [Source: Wikipedia]
Photograph by NASA
Photograph by NASA
KRGYZSTAN DECLARES INDEPENDENCE – AUGUST 31, 1991
Photograph by VYACHESLAV OSELEDKO/AFP/Getty Images
Kyrgyzstan, officially the Kyrgyz Republic is one of the world’s six independent Turkic states (along with Turkey, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan). Located in Central Asia, landlocked and mountainous, Kyrgyzstan is bordered by Kazakhstan to the north, Uzbekistan to the west, Tajikistan to the southwest and People’s Republic of China to the east. Its capital and largest city is Bishkek.
“Kyrgyz”, is believed to have been derived from the Turkic word for “forty”, in reference to the forty clans of Manas, a legendary hero who united forty regional clans against the Uyghers. Literally it means We are forty. At the time, in the early 9th century AD, the Uyghers dominated much of Central Asia (including Kyrgyzstan), Mongolia, and parts of Russia and China.
On 19 August 1991, when the State Emergency Committee assumed power in Moscow, there was an attempt to depose Akayev in Kyrgyzstan. After the coup collapsed the following week, Akayev and Vice President German Kuznetsov announced their resignations from the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU), and the entire bureau and secretariat resigned. This was followed by the Supreme Soviet vote declaring independence from the Soviet Union on 31 August 1991 as the Republic of Kyrgyzstan.
In October 1991, Akayev ran unopposed and was elected president of the new independent Republic by direct ballot, receiving 95% of the votes cast. Together with the representatives of seven other Republics that same month, he signed the Treaty of the New Economic Community. Finally, on 21 December 1991, Kyrgyzstan joined with the other four Central Asian Republics to formally enter the new Commonwealth of Independent States. Kyrgyzstan gained full independence a few days later on 25 December 1991. The following day, 26 December 1991, the Soviet Union ceased to exist. In 1992, Kyrgyzstan joined the UN and the OSCE. [Source: Wikipedia]
DEATH OF DIANA, PRINCESS OF WALES – AUG 31, 1997
Photograph by MAXWELL HAMILTON
On 31 August 1997, Diana, Princess of Wales, died as a result of injuries sustained in a car accident in the Pont de l’Alma road tunnel in Paris, France. Her companion, Dodi Fayed, and the driver of the Mercedes-Benz W140, Henri Paul, were pronounced dead at the scene of the accident. Fayed’s bodyguard, Trevor Rees-Jones, was the only survivor. Although at first the media pinned the blame on the paparazzi, the crash was ultimately found to be caused by the reckless actions of the chauffeur, who was the head of security at the Ritz and had earlier goaded the paparazzi waiting outside the hotel.
An 18-month French judicial investigation concluded in 1999 that the crash was caused by Henri Paul, who lost control of the car at high speed while drunk. His inebriation may have been made worse by the simultaneous presence of an anti-depressant and traces of a tranqulizing anti-psychotic in his body.
Diana’s death was met with extraordinary public expressions of grief, and her public funeral at Westminster Abbey on 6 September drew an estimated 3 million mourners and onlookers in London, as well as worldwide television coverage, which overshadowed the news of the death the previous day of Mother Teresa. More than one million bouquets were left at her London home, Kensington Palace. [Source: Wikipedia]
The Alma tunnel in Paris, where Princess Diana died | Photograph by ERIK1980
2005 BAGHDAD BRIDGE STAMPEDE – AUGUST 31, 2005
The 2005 Baghdad bridge stampede occurred on August 31, 2005 when 953 people died following a stampede on Al-Aaimmah bridge, which crosses the Tigris river in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad. At the time of the stampede, around one million pilgrims had gathered around or were marching toward the Al Kadhimiya Mosque, which is the shrine of the Imam Musa al-Kazim, one of the twelve Shi’a Imams.
Tensions had been high within the crowd. Earlier in the day, seven people were killed and dozens more were wounded in a mortar attack upon the assembled crowd for which an Al-Qaeda linked insurgent group claimed responsibility. Near the shrine, rumors of an imminent suicide bomb attack broke out, panicking many pilgrims. Interior Minister Bayan Baqir Solagh said that one person “pointed a finger at another person saying that he was carrying explosives…and that led to the panic”.
The panicked crowd flocked to the bridge, which had been closed. Somehow, the gate at their end of the bridge opened, and the pilgrims rushed through. Some people fell onto the concrete base and died instantly. The ensuing crush of people caused many to suffocate. The pressure of the crowd caused the bridge’s iron railings to give way, dropping hundreds of people 9 meters (about 30 feet) into the Tigris river. There was nowhere on the bridge for the people to go, as the other end of the bridge remained closed, and was impossible to open anyway, as it opened inward.
A three-day mourning period was announced by Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari. Iraqi President Jalal Talabani said the catastrophe “will leave a scar in our souls and will be remembered with those who died in the result of terror acts.” Many of the dead were buried in the holy Shia Islamic town of Najaf. [Source: Wikipedia]