Year
1914

British commander Sir John French issues first dispatch

On this day in 1914, Sir John French, commander in chief of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF), begins his first official dispatch from the Western Front during World War I, summarizing the events of the first several weeks of British operations.

“The transport of the troops from England both by sea and by rail was effected in the best order and without a check,” French began. “Each unit arrived at its destination in this country [France] well within the scheduled time.” The decision to send British troops to fight in France had been made on August 5, 1914—the day before Britain’s formal declaration of war on Germany. Initially, the BEF deployed only 100,000 men, the largest number that the small, professionally trained army could put in the field. On August 23, some 35,000 soldiers of the BEF saw action for the first time against the Germans at the Mons Canal, in southwest Belgium near the French border. The Battle of Mons—the fourth of the so-called Battles of the Frontiers—stalled the German advance by one day, ending nonetheless in a British retreat.

French subsequently took his men out of the front line, planning to let them rest behind the Seine River west of Paris. Under pressure from his French counterpart, General Joseph Joffre, as well as his own government, to rejoin the fray and offer support to the beleaguered French forces, he capitulated. As he recounts at the end of his first dispatch: “On Saturday, September 5th, I met the French Commander in Chief at his request, and he informed me of his intention to take the offensive forthwith, as he considered conditions very favorable to success.” The offensive began the following morning, as British and French forces halted the German advance in the decisive Battle of the Marne.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Protests at the Miss America Pageant

On September 7, 1968, 50 women—one representing each state of the United States prepared to be judged on their beauty by millions of eyes across the country, in the 41st annual Miss America pageant. But this year would be different. As the contestants walked across the stage, ...read more

Tutu becomes archbishop

Bishop Desmond Tutu becomes the archbishop of Cape Town, two years after winning the Nobel Peace Prize for his nonviolent opposition to apartheid in South Africa. As archbishop, he was the first black to head South Africa’s Anglican church. In 1948, South Africa’s white minority ...read more

Panama to control canal

In Washington, President Jimmy Carter and Panamanian dictator Omar Torrijos sign a treaty agreeing to transfer control of the Panama Canal from the United States to Panama at the end of the 20th century. The Panama Canal Treaty also authorized the immediate abolishment of the ...read more

United States nicknamed Uncle Sam

On this day in 1813, the United States gets its nickname, Uncle Sam. The name is linked to Samuel Wilson, a meat packer from Troy, New York, who supplied barrels of beef to the United States Army during the War of 1812.Wilson (1766-1854) stamped the barrels with “U.S.” for United ...read more

McNamara Line announced

U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara announces plans to build an electronic anti-infiltration barrier to block communist flow of arms and troops into South Vietnam from the north at the eastern end of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). The “McNamra Line,” as it became known, ...read more

Marines launch Operation Piranha

U.S. Marines and South Vietnamese forces launch Operation Pirahna on the Batangan Peninsula, 23 miles south of the Marine base at Chu Lai. This was a follow-up to Operation Starlight, which had been conducted in August. During the course of the operation, the Allied forces ...read more

Maureen Connolly wins U.S. Open

On this day in 1953, Californian tennis star Maureen Connolly defeats Doris Hart of Florida to win the U.S. Open 6-2, 6-4 and becomes the first woman ever to win the “Grand Slam” of tennis, capturing all four major championships in the same year. The 1953 U.S. Open final was a ...read more

Buddy Holly is born

If you took out a map of the United States and traced a line beginning at New Orleans and running up the Mississippi River to Memphis, the tip of your finger would pass through the very birthplace of rock and roll—a region where nearly every step in its early development took ...read more

Flash flood hits San Antonio

The San Antonio River floods on this day in 1921, killing 51 people and causing millions of dollars in damages. The flood was caused by some of the heaviest rainfall ever recorded in Texas. The San Antonio River winds through southwest Texas, an area that is generally dry. ...read more

Tupac Shakur is shot

Actor and hip-hop recording artist Tupac Shakur is shot several times in Las Vegas, Nevada, after attending a boxing match. Shakur was riding in a black BMW with Death Row Records founder Marion “Suge” Knight when a white Cadillac sedan pulled alongside and fired into Shakur’s ...read more

United Nations defeats Soviet motion

Slightly more than two months after the United Nations approved a U.S. resolution calling for the use of force to repel the communist North Korean invasion of South Korea, the Security Council rejects a Soviet resolution that would condemn the American bombing of North Korea. The ...read more

Atlanta is evacuated

In preparation for his march to the sea, Union General William T. Sherman orders residents of Atlanta, Georgia, to evacuate the city. Even though Sherman had just successfully captured Atlanta with minimal losses, he was worried about his supply lines, which stretched all the ...read more

World’s first submarine attack

On this day in 1776, during the Revolutionary War, the American submersible craft Turtle attempts to attach a time bomb to the hull of British Admiral Richard Howe’s flagship Eagle in New York Harbor. It was the first use of a submarine in warfare. Submarines were first built by ...read more