Year
1915

British navy bombards Dardanelles

On this day in 1915, British and French battleships launch a massive attack on Turkish positions at Cape Helles and Kum Kaleh at the entrance to the Dardanelles, the narrow strait separating Europe from Asia in northwestern Turkey and the only waterway linking the Mediterranean Sea to the Black Sea.

With Turkey’s entrance into World War I in November 1914 on the side of the Central Powers, the Dardanelles were controlled by Germany and its allies, thus isolating the Russian navy from the Allied naval forces and preventing cooperation between the two, as well as blocking passage of Russian wheat and British arms back and forth. An attack on the Dardanelles was thus a key objective of the Allies from the beginning of the war.

The British, and especially Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill, became convinced that it was possible to win control of the strait by a purely naval attack, avoiding the diversion of soldiers from the battlegrounds on the Western Front. At the end of January 1915, the British War Office approved a plan to bombard the Turkish positions at the Dardanelles; the initial bombardments would make way, they hoped, for British forces to move on Constantinople, knock Turkey out of the war and open a path to Russia.

Churchill set the date for the attack as February 19; on that day, a combined British and French fleet commanded by Admiral Sackville Carden opened fire with long-range guns on the outer Turkish fortresses, Cape Helles and Kum Kaleh. The bombardments made little initial impact, however, as the Turks were not caught unawares: they had long known an attack on the Dardanelles was a strong possibility and had been well fortified by their German allies.

The largely unsuccessful Allied efforts to force their way into the Dardanelles continued over the next two months, including a disastrous attempt on March 18 in which three ships were sunk and three more badly damaged by Turkish mines before the attack had even begun. Over Churchill’s protests, the naval attack was called off and a larger land invasion involving 120,000 troops was planned.

On April 25, troops from Britain, Australia and New Zealand launched a ground invasion of the Gallipoli Peninsula, which bordered the northern side of the strait. The Turkish defense soon pushed the Allies back to the shore, inflicting heavy casualties. Trenches were dug, and the conflict settled into a bloody stalemate for the next eight months. Some 250,000 Allied soldiers died at Gallipoli; Turkish casualty rates were roughly the same. In December, the exhausted and frustrated Allied forces began their retreat. The last Allied soldiers left Gallipoli on January 8, 1916. As a result of the disastrous campaign, Winston Churchill resigned as first lord of the Admiralty and accepted a commission to command an infantry battalion in France.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Tiger Woods apologizes for extramarital affairs

On this day in 2010, professional golfer Tiger Woods gives a televised news conference in which he apologizes for his marital infidelities and admits to “selfish” and “foolish” behavior. The 34-year-old Woods, one of the greatest players in the history of golf as well as one of ...read more

Solzhenitsyn reunited with family

Alexander Solzhenitsyn awaits reunion with his family after exile from Russia. Publication of The Gulag Archipelago, a detailed history of the Soviet prison system, prompted Russia to exile the 55 year-old author. One of Russia’s most visible and vocal dissidents, Solzhenitsyn ...read more

Roosevelt signs Executive Order 9066

Ten weeks after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs Executive Order 9066, authorizing the removal of any or all people from military areas “as deemed necessary or desirable.” The military in turn defined the entire West Coast, home to the ...read more

Copernicus born

On February 19, 1473, Nicolaus Copernicus is born in Torun, a city in north-central Poland on the Vistula River. The father of modern astronomy, he was the first modern European scientist to propose that Earth and other planets revolve around the sun. Copernicus was born into a ...read more

Aaron Burr arrested for treason

Aaron Burr, a former U.S. vice president, is arrested in Alabama on charges of plotting to annex Spanish territory in Louisiana and Mexico to be used toward the establishment of an independent republic. In November 1800, in an election conducted before presidential and ...read more

Yarborough wins fourth Daytona 500

Driver Cale Yarborough wins his fourth Daytona 500 on this day in 1984. In the history of the 200-lap, 500-mile race, which was first run at Florida’s Daytona International Speedway in 1959 and is considered one of the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR)’s ...read more

Donner Party rescued

On this day in 1847, the first rescuers reach surviving members of the Donner Party, a group of California-bound emigrants stranded by snow in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. In the summer of 1846, in the midst of a Western-bound fever sweeping the United States, 89 people–including ...read more

Marines invade Iwo Jima

On this day, Operation Detachment, the U.S. Marines’ invasion of Iwo Jima, is launched. Iwo Jima was a barren Pacific island guarded by Japanese artillery, but to American military minds, it was prime real estate on which to build airfields to launch bombing raids against Japan, ...read more

South Vietnamese coup unsuccessful

Dissident officers move several battalions of troops into Saigon on this day with the intention of ousting Gen. Nguyen Khanh from leadership. General Khanh escaped to Dalat with the aid of Air Vice Marshal Nguyen Cao Ky, commander of the South Vietnamese Air Force, who then ...read more

Chicago Seven sentenced

The Chicago Seven (formerly the Chicago Eight–one defendant, Bobby Seale, was being tried separately) are acquitted of riot conspiracy charges, but found guilty of inciting riot. The eight antiwar activists were charged with the responsibility for the violent demonstrations at ...read more

Patrick Roy gets 300th win as NHL goalie

On this day in 1996, Colorado Avalanche goaltender Patrick Roy earns his 300th win in the National Hockey League. Roy retired from hockey in 2003 with 551 career wins, a record that still stands. Patrick Roy, a native of Quebec City, Canada, was drafted by the Montreal Canadiens ...read more

FDR signs Executive Order 9066

On this day in 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs Executive Order 9066, initiating a controversial World War II policy with lasting consequences for Japanese Americans. The document ordered the removal of resident enemy aliens from parts of the West vaguely identified as ...read more

Rescuers reach Donner Party

The first rescuers from Sutter’s Fort reach the surviving remnants of the Donner emigrant party at their snowbound camp in the high Sierra Nevada Mountains. The events leading up to the Donner party tragedy began the summer before, when 89 emigrants from Springfield, Illinois, ...read more

Thomas Alva Edison patents the phonograph

The technology that made the modern music business possible came into existence in the New Jersey laboratory where Thomas Alva Edison created the first device to both record sound and play it back. He was awarded U.S. Patent No. 200,521 for his invention–the phonograph–on this ...read more

Amy Tan’s birthday

Novelist Amy Tan is born on this day in 1952 to Chinese immigrants who came to Oakland in 1949. Tan studied English at San Jose State and Berkeley. Although she planned an academic career, she grew bored with university life and turned to technical writing, business writing, and ...read more

Bob Hope marries Dolores Reade

On this day in 1934, the legendary comic actor and entertainer Bob Hope marries Dolores Reade in Erie, Pennsylvania. Their marriage would last until Hope’s death 69 years later, making it by far one of Hollywood’s most enduring unions. Born Leslie Townes Hope in 1903 near London, ...read more

Tornadoes strike the Southeast

On this day in 1884, an astonishing series of 37 tornadoes sweeps across the Southeast United States. The twisters, which came at a time in which there was no warning system in place to alert area residents, killed 167 people and injured another 1,000. The tornadoes began early ...read more