On this day in history:
1263 – – – Two-year-old prince Danila is designated to be the ruler of the Moscow Principality which was established for him by his father Aleksandr, Prince of Kyiv and Vladimir. Fourteen years later, Danila was officially chartered as the first Prince of Moscow by Khan Berke, the ruler of the Golden Horde. This chain of command remained in place for two more centuries.
1770 – – – James Bruce discovers what he believes to be the source of the Nile. Bruce was a Scottish traveler and travel writer who spent more than a dozen years in North Africa and Ethiopia, where he traced the origins of the Nile.
1812 – – – Napoleonic Wars – Battle of Smoliani – French Marshals Victor & Oudinot defeated by Wittgenstein.
1851 – – – Moby Dick, by Herman Melville is published in the U.S.
1860 – – – Second Opium War was concluded with the Convention of Peking as British and French troops occupied the Chinese capital. Russia became a signatory to the treaty and obtained big territories north of the Amur River — the Outer Manchuria and the Ussuri Krai. While UK and France have already returned all their acquisitions from that treaty to China, Russia continues to hold hers, and China continues to remind that the 1860 Convention was an “unequal treaty.“
1862 – – – American Civil War – President Lincoln approves General Ambrose Burnside’s plan to capture the Confederate capital at Richmond, Virginia, leading to the Battle of Fredericksburg.
1896 – – – The United Kingdom raised the speed limit for cars from 4 mph to 14 mph
1910 – – – Aviator Eugene Burton Ely performs the first takeoff from a ship in Hampton Roads, Virginia. He took off from a makeshift deck on the USS Birmingham in a Curtiss pusher.
1912 – – – Robert A. McConnell was born to homesteaders Clarence and Althea McConnell, Torrington, Wyoming. My grandparents and dad moved to Gilbert, Arizona, I believe in 1914.
1918 – – – The legislative assembly of the newly established Czechoslovak Republic elected Tomas Masaryk as the country’s president.
1940 – – – World War II – In England, Coventry is heavily bombed by the German Luftwaffe. Coventry Cathedral is almost completely destroyed.
1941 – – – (a) WWII – The aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal sinks due to torpedo damage from German submarine U-81 sustained on November 13. (b) In Slonim, German forces engaged in Operation Barbarossa murder 9,000 Jews in a single day. Operation Barbarossa was the code name for the Axis invasion of the Soviet Union, which started on Sunday, 22 June 1941, after Hitler and Stalin had started the war. The operation stemmed from the Nazi’s ideological aims to conquer the western Soviet Union so that it could be repopulated by Germans, to use Slavs, especially Poles, as a slave-labor force for the Axis war effort, and to seize the oil reserves of the Caucasus and the agricultural resources of Soviet territories, especially Ukraine where, among other things, the Nazi began 24/7 railroad operation bringing train loads of Ukraine’s rich black soil back to Germany. In the two years leading up to the invasion, Germany and the Soviet Union signed political and economic pacts for strategic purposes. But, the German High Command began planning an invasion of the Soviet Union in July 1940, which Hitler authorized on 18 December 1940. (One has to appreciate that the Kremlin – which never keeps any commitments – got taken in by the Nazi’s overtures.) Over the course of the operation, about four million Axis powers personnel, the largest invasion force in the history of warfare, invaded the western Soviet Union along a 2,900-kilometer (1,800 mi) front. In addition to troops, the Wehrmacht employed some 600,000 motor vehicles, and between 600,000 and 700,000 horses for non-combat operations. The offensive marked an escalation of the war. Operationally, German forces achieved major victories and occupied some of the most important economic areas of the Soviet Union, mainly in Ukraine, and inflicted, as well as sustained, heavy casualties. Despite these Axis successes, the German offensive stalled in the Battle of Moscow and the subsequent Soviet counteroffensive pushed German troops back. The Red Army absorbed the Wehrmacht’s strongest blows and forced the unprepared Germans into a war of attrition. The Wehrmacht never again mounted a simultaneous offensive along the entire Eastern front. The failure of Operation Barbarossa proved a turning point in the fortunes of the Third Reich. Most importantly, the operation opened up the Eastern Front, in which more forces were committed than in any other theater of war in world history. The Eastern Front became the site of some of the largest battles, most horrific atrocities, and highest casualties for Soviet and Axis units alike, all of which influenced the course of both World War II and the subsequent history of the 20th century. The German armies captured 5,000,000 Red Army troops, who were denied the protection guaranteed by the Hague Conventions and the 1929 Geneva Convention. A majority of Red Army POWS never returned alive. The Nazis deliberately starved to death or otherwise killed, 3.3 million prisoners, as well as a huge number of civilians through the “Hunger Plan” that aimed at largely replacing the Slavic population with German settlers. Einsatzgruppen death squads and gassing operations murdered over a million Soviet Jews as part of the Holocaust. (I do note that it is common for the Kremlin to claim all of the Soviet dead as Russian. Of course that is far from the truth. Both the Soviet Army and the territories ravaged by the war were made up of Ukrainians, Byelorussians, and many other nationalities.)
1944 – – – Russian General Andrei Vlasov – a German POW – published a manifesto of the Committee for Liberation of Russia. Its declared goal was to fight Stalin’s communist regime in the USSR.
1957 – – – The “Appalachian Meeting” in rural Tioga County in upstate New York is raided by law enforcement – many high level Mafia figures are arrested while trying to flee.
1965 – – – Vietnam War – The Battle of la Drang begins – the first major engagement between regular American and North Vietnamese forces.
1969 Apollo Program – NASA launches Apollo 12, the second crewed mission to the surface of the moon.
1971 – – – Mariner 9 enters orbit around Mars.
1973 – – – The Athens Polytechnic uprising, a massive demonstration of popular rejection of the Greek Military junta of 1967-74, begins.
1982 – – – Lech Walesa, the leader of Poland’s outlawed Solidarity movement, is released after 11 months of internment near the Soviet border.
1990 – – – After German reunification, the Federal Republic of Germany and Poland sign a treaty confirming the Oder-Neisse line as the border between Germany and Poland.
1999 – – – Leonid Kuchma won presidential election in Ukraine for a second term. Accusations of his team’s election fraud were largely disregarded by the Clinton administration and other international observers.
2001 – – – War in Afghanistan – Afghan Northern Alliance fighters take over the capital of Kabul.
2008 – – – The first G-20 economic summit opens in Washington.
2017 – – – A gunman kills four people and injures twelve others during a shooting spree across Rancho Tehama Reserve, California. He had earlier murdered his wife in their home.
Composed by Robert A. McConnell
Any opinions expressed herein are solely those of the writer and not necessarily those of the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation.