Year
1944

Civil war breaks out in Athens

On this day, a civil war breaks out in Athens as communist guerillas battle democratic forces for control of a liberated Greece. Germany had occupied Greece to bail out Italy after Italy’s failed invasion threatened to leave Greece open to Allied occupation. When Germany arrived, various Greek resistance forces gave battle, but two stood out as particularly important: a communist-backed resistance movement called the National Liberation Front, and a liberal, democratic movement called the Greek Democratic National Army. While both of these factions operated from different ideological frameworks, they nevertheless occasionally cooperated in fighting the common German enemy. By early 1944 though, the communist-backed National Liberation Front had taken to the hills to create a provisional government, rejecting the legitimacy of both the Greek king and his government-in-exile. It also disregarded the one remaining rival for ultimate political supremacy in Greece—the Democratic National Army.

When Germany was forced to withdraw from Greece in October 1944, victorious British forces brought together the communist and democratic factions in order to establish a coalition government. But this government collapsed after the communist Liberation Front refused to disband its guerrilla forces. So, on December 3 war broke out between the communists and the democrats—with the National Liberation Front taking control of most of Greece, with the exception of the capital and Salonika.

The British fought against the communists with the Democratic National Army, which began to move more and more to the right politically as it struggled for survival and support. By February 1945, the National Liberation Front was forced to surrender and disband its guerilla army. One month later, a general election was held, and the democrats, now also royalists, won control of the government. The communists refrained from voting altogether, preferring to bide their time. When a plebiscite elected the Greek king back to his throne in September of the same year, the communists emerged from underground-and civil war broke out again. By this time, Britain, fed up and exhausted, left the negotiation for peace to the United States, which employed the Truman Doctrine of giving massive amounts of foreign aid to governments pledged to democracy in order to keep them out of the communist/Soviet orbit. It took time, but eventually the rejuvenated—and well-funded—Greek democrats were victorious.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

First human heart transplant

On December 3, 1967, 53-year-old Louis Washkansky receives the first human heart transplant at Groote Schuur Hospital in Cape Town, South Africa. Washkansky, a South African grocer dying from chronic heart disease, received the transplant from Denise Darvall, a 25-year-old woman ...read more

The Bhopal-Union Carbide disaster

In the early morning hours, one of the worst industrial disasters in history begins when a pesticide plant located in the densely populated region of Bhopal in central India leaks a highly toxic cloud of methyl isocyanate into the air. Of the estimated one million people living ...read more

First Balkan War ends

Bulgaria, Serbia, Greece, and Montenegro sign an armistice with Turkey, ending the first Balkan War. During the two-month conflict, a military coalition between Greece, Serbia, Bulgaria, and Montenegro–known as the Balkan League–expelled Turkey from all the Ottoman Empire’s ...read more

A Streetcar Named Desire opens on Broadway

On this day in 1947, Marlon Brando’s famous cry of “STELLA!” first booms across a Broadway stage, electrifying the audience at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre during the first-ever performance of Tennessee Williams’ play A Streetcar Named Desire. The 23-year-old Brando played the ...read more

Lincoln reaches legal milestone

On this day in 1839, future President Abraham Lincoln advances to another stage in his legal career when he is admitted to practice law in the U.S. Circuit Court. It was during his years practicing law that Lincoln honed his now famous oratorical skills. Lincoln made the first ...read more

Illinois becomes the 21st state

Illinois achieves full statehood on this day. Though Illinois presented unique challenges to immigrants unaccustomed to the soil and vegetation of the area, it grew to become a bustling and densely populated state. The strange but beautiful prairie lands east of the Mississippi ...read more

Joseph Conrad’s birthday

On this day in 1857, Jozef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski–later known as Joseph Conrad–is born in Poland. Conrad spent his early childhood in northern Russia, where his father, a Polish poet and patriot, had been exiled. His parents both died of tuberculosis when he was 12. An uncle ...read more

Heavy-metal legend Ozzy Osbourne born

On this day in 1948, John Michael “Ozzy” Osbourne, the heavy-metal musician and star of the pioneering reality TV program The Osbournes, which originally aired from 2002 to 2005, is born in Birmingham, England. Osbourne first gained fame in the 1970s as a founding member and the ...read more

Explosion kills 2,000 at pesticide plant

An explosion at a Union Carbide pesticide plant in Bhopal, India, on this day in 1984, leads to the worst industrial accident in history. At least 2,000 people died and another 200,000 were injured when toxic gas enveloped the city. Bhopal was a city of nearly a million people in ...read more

The clothes make the man . . . guilty

Five-year-old Melissa Brannen disappears without a trace from a Christmas party in Fairfax, Virginia. The intensive forensic investigation that followed led to the arrest of party guest Caleb Hughes and, in the process, demonstrated how technically advanced crime solving had ...read more

George McClellan born

On this day in 1826, Union General George McClellan is born in Philadelphia. Although McClellan emerged early in the war as a Union hero, he failed to effectively prosecute the war in the East. McClellan graduated from West Point in 1846, second in his class. He served with ...read more

Last AMC Pacer rolls off assembly line

On December 3, 1979, the last Pacer rolls off the assembly line at the American Motors Corporation (AMC) factory in Kenosha, Wisconsin. When the car first came on the market in 1975, it was a sensation, hailed as the car of the future. “When you buy any other car,” ads said, “all ...read more