Year
1940

Germans bomb Coventry

On this day in 1940, German bombers devastate the English city of Coventry, demolishing tens of thousands of buildings and killing hundreds of men, women, and children. The verb “Koventrieren” (to Coventrate) passed into the German language, meaning “to annihilate or reduce to rubble.”

On November 8, Adolf Hitler had to move up his scheduled speech in Munich on the anniversary of his 1923 attempted coup in Bavaria because British bombers were on their way to take out a railway yard. Hitler was determined to avenge this audacious offensive. The Fuhrer let his bomber pilots know that he was not “willing to let an attack on the capital of the Nazi movement go unpunished.”

And so, on this day, almost 500 German bombers unleashed some 150,000 incendiary bombs and more than 500 tons of high explosives on the British industrial city, taking out 27 war factories. Of the 568 people killed, more than 400 were burned so badly they could not be identified. Among the more than 60,000 buildings destroyed or severely damaged was St. Michael’s Cathedral.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Walesa released from jail

Lech Walesa, leader of communist Poland’s outlawed Solidarity movement, returns to his apartment in Gdansk after 11 months of internment in a remote hunting lodge near the Soviet border. Two days before, hundreds of supporters had begun a vigil outside his home upon learning that ...read more

Apollo 12 lifts off

Apollo 12, the second manned mission to the surface of the moon, is launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, with astronauts Charles Conrad, Jr.; Richard F. Gordon, Jr.; and Alan L. Bean aboard. President Richard Nixon viewed the liftoff from Pad A at Cape Canaveral. He was the ...read more

Moby-Dick published

On this day in 1851, Moby-DickMoby-Dick is now considered a great classic of American literature and contains one of the most famous opening lines in fiction: “Call me Ishmael.” Initially, though, the book about Captain Ahab and his quest for a giant white whale was a flop.Herman ...read more

Ottoman Empire declares a holy war

On November 14, 1914, in Constantinople, capital of the Ottoman Empire, the religious leader Sheikh-ul-Islam declares an Islamic holy war on behalf of the Ottoman government, urging his Muslim followers to take up arms against Britain, France, Russia, Serbia and Montenegro in ...read more

Major battle erupts in the Ia Drang Valley

In the first major engagement of the war between regular U.S. and North Vietnamese forces, elements of the 3rd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) fight a pitched battle with Communist main-force units in the Ia Drang Valley of the Central Highlands.On this morning, Lt. ...read more

Plane crash devastates Marshall University

On November 14, 1970, a chartered jet carrying most of the Marshall University football team clips a stand of trees and crashes into a hillside just two miles from the Tri-State Airport in Kenova, West Virginia. The team was returning from that day’s game, a 17-14 loss to East ...read more

Moby-Dick is published

Moby-Dick, by Herman Melville. The book flopped, and it was many years before the book was recognized as an American classic.Melville was born in New York City in 1819. A childhood bout of scarlet fever left him with weakened eyes. At age 19, he became a cabin boy on a ship bound ...read more

Cary Grant stars in Hitchcock’s Suspicion

On this day in 1941, Suspicion, a romantic thriller starring Cary Grant and Joan Fontaine and directed by Alfred Hitchcock, makes its debut. The film, which earned a Best Picture Academy Award nomination and a Best Actress Oscar for Fontaine, marked the first time that Grant, one ...read more

Lincoln approves Burnside’s plan

On this day in 1862, President Abraham Lincoln approves of General Ambrose Burnside’s plan to capture the Confederate capital at Richmond, Virginia. This was an ill-fated move, as it led to the disastrous Battle of Fredericksburg in Virginiain December 1862, in which the Army of ...read more