Dec 6, 1917: The Great Halifax Explosion
At 9:05 a.m., in the harbor of Halifax in the Canadian province of Nova Scotia, the most devastating manmade explosion in the pre-atomic age occurs when the Mont Blanc, a French munitions ship, explodes 20 minutes after colliding with another vessel.
As World War I raged in Europe, the port city of Halifax bustled with ships carrying troops, relief supplies, and munitions across the Atlantic Ocean. On the morning of December 6, the Norwegian vessel Imo left its mooring in Halifax harbor for New York City. At the same time, the French freighter Mont Blanc, its cargo hold packed with highly explosive munitions--2,300 tons of picric acid, 200 tons of TNT, 35 tons of high-octane gasoline, and 10 tons of gun cotton--was forging through the harbor's narrows to join a military convoy that would escort it across the Atlantic.
At approximately 8:45 a.m., the two ships collided, setting the picric acid ablaze. The Mont Blanc was propelled toward the shore by its collision with the Imo, and the crew rapidly abandoned the ship, attempting without success to alert the harbor of the peril of the burning ship. Spectators gathered along the waterfront to witness the spectacle of the blazing ship, and minutes later it brushed by a harbor pier, setting it ablaze. The Halifax Fire Department responded quickly and was positioning its engine next to the nearest hydrant when the Mont Blanc exploded at 9:05 a.m. in a blinding white flash. The massive explosion killed more than 1,800 people, injured another 9,000--including blinding 200--and destroyed almost the entire north end of the city of Halifax, including more than 1,600 homes. The resulting shock wave shattered windows 50 miles away, and the sound of the explosion could be heard hundreds of miles away.
Dec 6, 1941: Roosevelt to Japanese emperor: "Prevent further death and destruction"
On this day, President Roosevelt—convinced on the basis of intelligence reports that the Japanese fleet is headed for Thailand, not the United States—telegrams Emperor Hirohito with the request that "for the sake of humanity," the emperor intervene "to prevent further death and destruction in the world."
The Royal Australian Air Force had sighted Japanese escorts, cruisers, and destroyers on patrol near the Malayan coast, south of Cape Cambodia. An Aussie pilot managed to radio that it looked as if the Japanese warships were headed for Thailand—just before he was shot down by the Japanese. Back in England, Prime Minister Churchill called a meeting of his chiefs of staff to discuss the crisis. While reports were coming in describing Thailand as the Japanese destination, they began to question whether it could have been a diversion. British intelligence had intercepted the Japanese code "Raffles," a warning to the Japanese fleet to be on alert—but for what?
Britain was already preparing Operation Matador, the launching of their 11th Indian Division into Thailand to meet the presumed Japanese invasion force. But at the last minute, Air Marshall Brooke-Popham received word not to cross the Thai border for fear that it would provoke a Japanese attack if, in fact, the warship movement was merely a bluff.
Meanwhile, 600 miles northwest of Hawaii, Admiral Yamamoto, commander of the Japanese fleet, announced to his men: "The rise or fall of the empire depends upon this battle. Everyone will do his duty with utmost efforts." Thailand was, in fact, a bluff. Pearl Harbor in Oahu, Hawaii was confirmed for Yamamoto as the Japanese target, after the Japanese consul in Hawaii had reported to Tokyo that a significant portion of the U.S. Pacific fleet would be anchored in the harbor—sitting ducks. The following morning, Sunday, December 7, was a good day to begin a raid.
"The son of man has just sent his final message to the son of God," FDR joked to Eleanor after sending off his telegram to Hirohito, who in the Shinto tradition of Japan was deemed a god. As he enjoyed his stamp collection and chatted with Harry Hopkins, his personal adviser, news reached him of Japan's formal rejection of America's 10-point proposals for peace and an end to economic sanctions and the oil embargo placed on the Axis power. "This means war," the president declared. Hopkins recommended an American first strike. "No, we can't do that," Roosevelt countered. "We are a democracy and a peaceful people."
Dec 6, 1987: Protests against Soviet treatment of Jews take place in Washington and Moscow
On the eve of Russian leader Mikhail Gorbachev's arrival in the United States for a summit meeting with President Ronald Reagan, more than 200,000 protesters in Washington, and a much smaller number in Moscow, protest Soviet policies concerning Russian Jews. The protests succeeded in focusing public attention on human rights abuses in Russia but had little impact on the summit.
The agenda for the Gorbachev-Reagan summit largely focused on weapons control issues, particularly the elimination of intermediate-range nuclear missiles from Europe. The Soviet presence in Afghanistan and support of the Sandinista regime in Nicaragua were also topics for discussion. Over 200,000 protesters in Washington attempted to shift the focus to another issue-the Soviet government's treatment of Russian Jews. In particular, they called on the Soviets to allow Jewish emigration from Russia and for an end to Soviet oppression of Jewish dissidents and critics of the Soviet government. In a letter that was read to appease the protesters, President Reagan stated that he would "not be satisfied with less" than the "release of all refuseniks [jailed dissidents] and for complete freedom of religious and cultural expression." A demonstration set to coincide with the protests in Washington was roughly disrupted by Soviet plainclothes police in Moscow. The few dozen protesters had their signs and banners seized and destroyed and some were physically assaulted.
Despite the protests and Reagan's rhetoric, the issue of Soviet human rights abuses played almost no role at the summit. The Soviets insisted that the protesters be ignored and U.S. officials, anxious to get an arms control agreement out of the summit, essentially complied with the Russian requests. A major arms agreement was, in fact, signed during the meeting.
Dec 6, 1884: Washington Monument completed
On this day in 1884, in Washington, D.C., workers place a nine-inch aluminum pyramid atop a tower of white marble, completing the construction of an impressive monument to the city's namesake and the nation's first president, George Washington. As early as 1783, the infant U.S. Congress decided that a statue of George Washington, the great Revolutionary War general, should be placed near the site of the new Congressional building, wherever it might be. After then-President Washington asked him to lay out a new federal capital on the Potomac River in 1791, architect Pierre L'Enfant left a place for the statue at the western end of the sweeping National Mall (near the monument's present location).
It wasn't until 1832, however--33 years after Washington's death--that anyone really did anything about the monument. That year, a private Washington National Monument Society was formed. After holding a design competition and choosing an elaborate Greek temple-like design by architect Robert Mills, the society began a fundraising drive to raise money for the statue's construction. These efforts--including appeals to the nation's schoolchildren--raised some $230,000, far short of the $1 million needed. Construction began anyway, on July 4, 1848, as representatives of the society laid the cornerstone of the monument: a 24,500-pound block of pure white marble.
Six years later, with funds running low, construction was halted. Around the time the Civil War began in 1861, author Mark Twain described the unfinished monument as looking like a "hollow, oversized chimney." No further progress was made until 1876--the centennial of American independence--when President Ulysses S. Grant authorized construction to be completed.
Made of some 36,000 blocks of marble and granite stacked 555 feet in the air, the monument was the tallest structure in the world at the time of its completion in December 1884. In the six months following the dedication ceremony, over 10,000 people climbed the nearly 900 steps to the top of the Washington Monument. Today, an elevator makes the trip far easier, and more than 800,000 people visit the monument each year. A city law passed in 1910 restricted the height of new buildings to ensure that the monument will remain the tallest structure in Washington, D.C.--a fitting tribute to the man known as the "Father of His Country."
Here's a more detailed look at events that transpired on this date throughout history:
963 - Leo VIII elected Pope
1060 - Béla I of Hungary is crowned king of Hungary
1160 - Jean Bodels "Jeu de St Nicholas" premieres in Arras
1196 - Northern Dutch coast flooded, "Saint-Nicolas Flood"
1240 - Mongols under Batu Khan occupy & destroy Kiev
1424 - Don Alfonso V of Aragon grants Barcelona the right to exclude Jews
1527 - Pope Clemens VII fleas to Orvieto
1534 - Quito, Ecuador, founded by Spanish
1631 - 1st predicted transit of Venus (Kepler) is observed
1641 - Don Francisco de Mello appointed land guardian of South Netherlands
1648 - Pride's Purge: Thomas Pride prevents 96 presbyterians from sitting in English parliament
1723 - Emperor Karel VI's Pragmatic Sanctie declares Constitution
1732 - 1st play in American colonies acted by professional players, NYC
1745 - Bonnie Prince Charlies army retreats to Scotland
1756 - British troops under Robert Clive occupy Fulta India
1768 - 1st edition of "Encyclopedia Brittanica" published (Scotland)
1787 - Laurens Pieter van de Speigel appointed Dutch pension advisor
1790 - The U.S. Congress moves from New York City to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
1820 - US president James Monroe re-elected
1822 - Veterinary school in Utrecht opens
1825 - Pres John Adams suggests establishment of a US observatory
Naturalist Charles DarwinNaturalist Charles Darwin 1833 - HMS Beagle/Charles Darwin departs Rio de la Plata
1841 - Robert Schumann's 4th Symphony in D premieres
1843 - Amsterdam-Utrecht railway opens
1845 - Alpha Sigma Phi Fraternity is founded at Yale College.
1846 - Opera "La Damnation de Faust" is produced (Paris)
1849 - Harriet Tubman escapes from slavery in Maryland for the 2nd and final time
1862 - Pres Lincoln orders hanging of 39 Santee Sioux indians
1864 - Battle of Deveaux's Neck, SC
1865 - 13th Amendment of the United States Constitution is ratified, abolishing slavery
1866 - Chicago water supply tunnel 3,227 m into Lake Michigan completed
1870 - Joseph H Rainey, 1st black in House of Reps (SC)
1873 - 1st international football game in US: Yale 2, Eton (England) 1
1875 - 44th Congress (1875-77) convenes
1876 - 1st crematorium in US begins operation, Washington, Penn
1876 - City of Anaheim incorporated for 2nd time
Abolitionist Harriet TubmanAbolitionist Harriet Tubman 1876 - US Electorial College picks Rep Hayes as pres (although Tilden won)
1877 - 1st sound recording made (Thomas Edison)
1877 - Washington Post publishes 1st edition
1882 - Atmosphere of Venus detected during transit
1884 - Aluminum capstone set atop Washington Monument, Wash, DC
1896 - D T Suzuki found the awakening at Engakuji temple, in Kamakura
1897 - London becomes the world's first city to host licenced taxicabs.
1903 - Sumatra Atjehs guerilla leader Panglima Polim surrenders
1904 - Theodore Roosevelt confirms Monroe-doctrine (Roosevelt Corollary)
1907 - Coal mine explosions in Monongah, WV, kills 361
1912 - China votes for universal human rights
1913 - White Sox beat Giants 9-4 in exhibition game in Tokyo
1914 - German troops over run Lodz
1916 - German army under Gen Mackensen occupies Bucharest
1916 - World War I: The Central Powers capture Bucharest.
26th US President Theodore Roosevelt26th US President Theodore Roosevelt 1917 - Finland declares independence from Russia (National Day)
1917 - French munition ship "Mont Blanc" explodes in Halifax, kills 1,700
1921 - Anglo-Irish Treaty signed; Ireland receives dominion status; partition creates Northern Ireland
1922 - 1st constitution of Irish Free State comes into operation
1922 - 1st electric power line commercial carrier in US, Utica, NY
1923 - 1st US Presidential address broadcast on radio by President Calvin Coolidge
1925 - Italy, Britain & Egypt sign Jaghbub accord (Italy)
1925 - Record 73,000 pay to watch Chic Bears beat NY Giants 19-7
1929 - Turkey introduces female suffrage
1930 - 18th CFL Grey Cup: Toronto Balmy Beach defeat Regina Roughriders, 11-6
1933 - Ban on James Joyce' "Ulysses" in US lifted
1938 - 117 Spanish knights under capt Piet Laros return to Netherlands
1938 - French/German non-attack treaty drawn (Ribbentrop-Bonnet Pact)
1939 - 5th Heisman Trophy Award: Nile Kinnick, Iowa (HB)
1939 - Cole Porter's musical "Du Barry was a Lady" premieres in NYC
Novelist & Poet James JoyceNovelist & Poet James Joyce 1940 - Gestapo arrest German resistance fighter/poster artist Helen Ernst
1940 - Pietro Badoglio resigns as viceroy of Ethiopia
1941 - Dutch & British pilots see Japanese invasion fleet at Singapore
1941 - NYC Council agrees to build Idlewild (Kennedy) Airport in Queens
1942 - Queen Wilhelmina announces Dutch Commonwealth
1942 - RAF bombs Philips factory (150 die)
1944 - US 95th Infantry division reaches Westwall
1947 - The Everglades National Park in Florida is dedicated.
1950 - Pope Pius XII publishes encyclical Mirabile illud
1952 - Czech government tells Israeli ambassador, he's persona non grata
1953 - Brown's Lou "Toe" Groza kicks 8 PATs, beating Giants 62-14
1954 - Simone de Beauvoir receives Prix Goncourt
1955 - NY psychologist Joyce Brothers won "$64,000 Question" on boxing
1956 - "Happy Hunting" opens at Majestic Theater NYC for 413 performances
1956 - Nelson Mandela & 156 others arrested for political activities in S Africa
Anti-apartheid activist and South African President Nelson MandelaAnti-apartheid activist and South African President Nelson Mandela 1957 - 1st US attempt to launch a satellite fails-Vanguard rocket blows up
1957 - AFL-CIO votes to expel Teamsters (readmitted in October 1987)
1957 - Indonesia begins nationalizing Dutch possessions
1958 - US lunar probe Pioneer 3 reaches 107,269 km, falls back
1960 - AL grants Gene Autry a franchise, LA Angels
1961 - 27th Heisman Trophy Award: Ernie Davis, Syracuse (HB)
1962 - US abandons Skybolt balistic missile program
1963 - Beatles begin a tradition of releasing a Christmas record for fans
1963 - Test Cricket debut of Graeme Pollock at the Gabba
1964 - "Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer" 1st airs on TV
1964 - KTVR TV channel 13 in La Grande, OR (PBS) begins broadcasting
1964 - President Segni of Italy resigns
1965 - 2 trucks crashed into a crowd of dancers (Sotouboua Togo) kills 125
1965 - Pakistan's Islamic Ideology Advisory Committee recommends that Islamic Studies be made a compulsory subject for Muslim students from primary to graduate level.
1966 - Polio vaccination becomes obligatory in Belgium
1967 - USSR performs nuclear test at Sary Shagan USSR
1968 - Baseball dismisses Commissioner William Eckert after 3 years
1968 - PBA National Championship won by Wayne Zahn
1968 - WKID (WSCV) TV channel 51 in Fort Lauderdale, FL (IND) 1st broadcast
1969 - "Buck White" closes at George Abbott Theater NYC after 7 performances
1969 - 300,000 attend Altamont California, rock concert feature Rolling Stones
1969 - USSR performs nuclear test
1970 - Cleveland Cavaliers 1st NBA home victory, beating Buffalo Braves 108-106
1971 - Lewis Franklin Powell confirmed as Supreme Court justice
1973 - Bahrain's constitution goes into effect
38th US President Gerald Ford38th US President Gerald Ford 1973 - Gerald Ford sworn-in as 1st unelected VP, succeeds Spiro T Agnew
1973 - NL votes to move San Diego Padres to Washington DC (doesn't happen)
1974 - George Harrison releases "Ding Dong, Ding Dong"
1975 - 41st Heisman Trophy Award: Archie Griffin, Ohio State (RB)
1975 - Balcombe Street Siege: An IRA Active Service Unit takes a couple hostage in Balcombe Street, London.
1976 - War criminal Pieter Menten arrested in Zurich
1977 - South Africa grants Bophuthatswana independence
1978 - Spain adopts constitution
1980 - Jim Bakker rapes Jessica Hahn
1980 - NASA launches Intelsat V satellite, no. 502
1981 - Rob de Castella of Australia sets Marathon record at 2:08:18
1982 - Sen Ted & Joan Kennedy divorce
1982 - 11 soldiers & 6 civilians die by bomb planted by Irish National Liberation Army exploded in a pub in Ballykelly, Northern Ireland
1983 - A bomb planted on a bus in Jerusalem explodes, kills 6 Israelis
1984 - France performs nuclear test
1984 - Hijackers aboard Kuwaiti jetliner kill 2nd hostage
1986 - 52nd Heisman Trophy Award: Vinny Testaverde, Miami Fla (QB)
1986 - France performs nuclear test at Muruora Island
1987 - 3 satanist Missouri teenagers bludgeon comrade to death for "fun"
1987 - Christa Rothenburger skates female world record 500m (39.39 sec)
1987 - Jane Crafter/Steve Jones wins LPGA J C Penney Golf Classic
1988 - Arafat meets prominent American Jews in Stockholm, Sweden
1988 - Carlos Andres Perez re-elected president of Venezuela
1988 - Merv Hughes takes 13 wickets v WI at the WACA but Australia lose
1988 - Milwaukee Bucks win their 1,000th NBA game (2nd fastest)
1988 - Nelson Mandela is transferred to Victor Vester Prison, Capetown
1988 - STS-27 Atlantis lands in California after secret mission
1988 - Agnes Neil Williams purchases Baltimore Orioles for $70 million Eli Jacobs becomes CEO of Balt Orioles
1989 - Mafia drug kingpin bombs security force at Bogota, kills 52
1989 - Worst Canadian mass murder: Marc Lepine kills 14 women at U Montreal
1990 - NHL grants conditional membership to Tampa Bay Lightning
1990 - Saddam anounces release of all foriegn hostages
1990 - Shoeless Joe Jackson's signature is sold for $23,100
1991 - "Les Miserables" opens at Circustheater, Scheveningen
1991 - "Star Trek VI-Undiscovered Country" premieres
1992 - 300,000 hindus destroy mosque of Babri India, 4 die
1992 - 81st Davis Cup: USA beats Switzerland in Fort Worth (3-1)
1992 - Dottie Mochrie/Dan Forsmann wins LPGA J C Penney Golf Classic
1992 - SF 49er Jerry Rice catches NFL record 101st touchdown
1992 - SF Giants renig on $43 million pact with Barry Bonds
1993 - Gunda Niemann skates ladies world record 5 km 7:13.29
1994 - Maltese Falcon auctioned for $398,590
1994 - Orange County California files for bankruptcy
1994 - Warner Brothers announces a 5th TV network to begin on Jan 11, 1995
1995 - 6th Billboard Music Awards
King of Pop Michael JacksonKing of Pop Michael Jackson 1995 - Michael Jackson collapses while rehearsing for an HBO special
1996 - Mashonaland defeat England in first-class tour match
1998 - JC Penney Golf Classic
1998 - Hugo Chávez Frías, Venezuelan military and politician, is elected President of Venezuela.
2001 - The Canadian province of Newfoundland is renamed Newfoundland and Labrador.
2005 - Several villagers are shot dead during protests in Dongzhou, China.
2006 - NASA reveals photographs taken by Mars Global Surveyor suggesting the presence of liquid water on Mars.
2012 - 7 people are killed and 770 injured during Egyptian protests
2012 - Typhoon Bopha’s death toll rise to 418 with 318 missing and 179,000 displaced
2012 - A 243 million year old Nyasasaurus fossil is discovered in Tanzania
1884 Construction of the Washington Monument was completed. 1889 Jefferson Davis, the first and only president of the Confederate States of America, died in New Orleans. 1923 A presidential address was broadcast on the radio for the first time when Calvin Coolidge spoke before Congress. 1926 French impressionist painter Claude Monet died at age 86. 1973 Gerald Ford was sworn in as vice president, replacing Spiro T. Agnew. 1992 The destruction of a mosque in India by Hindu extremists set off two months of Muslim-Hindu fighting that claimed at least 2,000 lives. 1998 Hugo Chavez elected president of Venezuela.
The following links are to web sites that were used to complete this blog entry: