Carl Spaatz dies - HISTORY
Year
1974

Carl Spaatz dies

On this day in 1974, U.S. Army General Carl Spaatz, fighter pilot and the first chief of staff of an independent U.S. Air Force, dies in Washington, D.C., at age 83.

Spaatz was born in 1891 in Boyertown, Pennsylvania, and graduated from the Military Academy at West Point in 1914. He was a combat pilot during World War I, and at the outbreak of World War II went to England to help evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the German military. (During the Blitz, the air raids on England by the German Luftwaffe, Spaatz would sit on rooftops to better observe German air tactics.) In July 1942, he became commander of the U.S. Eighth Air Force and inaugurated daylight bombing runs against German-occupied territory in Europe. Two years later, Spaatz was made commander of U.S. Strategic Air Forces in Europe and continued the practice of daylight bombing, the target now being Germany itself, especially its fuel-oil plants. Since Germany had already lost access to oil in Romania after that country’s occupation by the Soviet Union, the destruction of its native oil production proved particularly devastating to Germany’s ability to keep up aircraft production.

In 1945, with the war in the West over (Spaatz was present at the formal German surrender at Reims on May 8), his focus shifted to the Pacific and the Japanese. Although he initially opposed the use of atomic weapons against Japan, he eventually acquiesced and directed the bomb drops on order from President Truman. In fact, his telegraph to Washington stating that there were no Allied prisoner of war camps in Hiroshima resulted in that city becoming the first target of the atom bomb.

In September 1947, General Spaatz, an illustrious combat career behind him, was named the first chief of staff of the now independent U.S. Air Force, which previously had been a unit of the Army. But a desk job was not for him. He retired in 1948.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Jerusalem captured in First Crusade

During the First Crusade, Christian knights from Europe capture Jerusalem after seven weeks of siege and begin massacring the city’s Muslim and Jewish population.Beginning in the 11th century, Christians in Jerusalem were increasingly persecuted by the city’s Islamic rulers, ...read more

French revolutionaries storm Bastille

Parisian revolutionaries and mutinous troops storm and dismantle the Bastille, a royal fortress and prison that had come to symbolize the tyranny of the Bourbon monarchs. This dramatic action signaled the beginning of the French Revolution, a decade of political turmoil and ...read more

Clifford visits South Vietnam

Defense Secretary Clark Clifford visits South Vietnam to confer with U.S. and South Vietnamese leaders. Upon his arrival in Saigon, Clifford stated that the United States was doing all that it could to improve the fighting capacity of the South Vietnamese armed forces and ...read more

Hank Aaron hits 500th homer

On July 14, 1968, Atlanta Braves slugger Henry “Hank” Aaron hits the 500th home run of his career in a 4-2 win over the San Francisco Giants.Henry Aaron was born February 5, 1934, in Mobile, Alabama. The third of eight children, Aaron was a star football player, third baseman and ...read more

Future President Gerald R. Ford is born

On this day in 1913, Gerald R. Ford is born Leslie Lynch King, Jr. in Omaha, Nebraska. His biological father left the family when Ford was three years old. His mother’s second husband, Gerald Ford, adopted the young boy and gave him his name. The young Ford went on to become the ...read more

Gunfighter John Ringo found dead

John Ringo, the famous gun-fighting gentleman, is found dead in Turkey Creek Canyon, Arizona.Romanticized in both life and death, John Ringo was supposedly a Shakespeare-quoting gentleman whose wit was as quick as his gun. Some believed he was college educated, and his sense of ...read more

Byron returns to England after a two-year trip

Byron returns to England on this day in 1811, after touring Europe and the Near East for two years. His travels inspire his first highly successful work, Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage (1812). The poem brings him almost instant acclaim in England, and Byron’s taste, manners, and ...read more

Claudette crashes into Texas coast

Hurricane Claudette gathers strength over the Gulf of Mexico and heads for the Texas coast on this day in 2003. By the time it passes through Texas, it causes major damage, especially in Galveston, where it kills two people. Claudette began to form over St. Lucia in the ...read more

Billy the Kid is shot to death

Sheriff Pat Garrett shoots Henry McCarty, popularly known as Billy the Kid, to death at the Maxwell Ranch in New Mexico. Garrett, who had been tracking the Kid for three months after the gunslinger had escaped from prison only days before his scheduled execution, got a tip that ...read more

A mass murderer leaves eight women dead

On the night of July 14, 1966, eight student nurses are brutally murdered by Richard Speck at their group residence in Chicago, Illinois. Speck threatened the womenwith both a gun and a knife, tying each of them up while robbing their townhouse. Over the next several hours, Speck ...read more

Rupture between USSR and China grows worse

Relations between the Soviet Union and China reach the breaking point as the two governments engage in an angry ideological debate about the future of communism. The United States, for its part, was delighted to see a wedge being driven between the two communist superpowers. In ...read more

Confederates defeated at the Battle of Tupelo

On this day, Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest suffers his biggest defeat when Union General Andrew J. Smith routs his force in Tupelo, Mississippi. The battle came just a month after the Battle of Brice’s Crossroads, Mississippi, in which Forrest engineered a brilliant ...read more

Sedition Act becomes federal law

On this day in 1798, one of the most egregious breaches of the U.S. Constitution in history becomes federal law when Congress passes the Sedition Act, endangering liberty in the fragile new nation. While the United States engaged in naval hostilities with Revolutionary France, ...read more