Year
1941
Month Day
September 19

Germans bombard Leningrad

On September 19, 1941, as part of their offensive campaign in the Soviet Union, German bombers blast through Leningrad’s antiaircraft defenses, and kill more than 1,000 Russians.

Hitler’s armies had been in Soviet territory since June. An attempt by the Germans to take Leningrad (formerly St. Petersburg) in August by a massive panzer invasion had failed. Hitler had wanted to decimate the city and hand it over to an ally, Finland, who was attacking Russia from the north. But Leningrad had created an antitank defense sufficient to keep the Germans at bay—and so a siege was mounted. German forces surrounded the city in an attempt to cut it off from the rest of Russia. (Finland eventually stopped short of an invasion of Leningrad, happy just to recapture territory it had lost to the Soviet invasion in 1939.)

The halt of the German land attack and the withdrawal of the panzer divisions to be used elsewhere did not stop the Luftwaffe from continuing to raid the city. (“The Fuhrer has decided to have St. Petersburg wiped off the face of the Earth,” declared Hitler to his generals.) The air attack of the 19th was particularly brutal; many of those killed were already recuperating from battle wounds in hospitals, which were hit by German bombs.

The siege of Leningrad would last a total of 872 days and would prove devastating to the population. More than 650,000 Leningrad citizens died in 1942 alone, from starvation, exposure, diseases, and artillery shelling from German positions outside the city. The only route by which supplies could enter the city was via Lake Ladoga, which entailed sleds negotiating ice during the winter. But the resources that got through were only enough to prolong the suffering of the Leningraders. Even tales of cannibalism began leaking out of the city. Soviet forces were finally successful in breaking the siege in January 1944, pushing the Germans 50 miles from the city.

Among those trapped in the city was an air-raid warden born in St. Petersburg named Dimitri Shostakovich, who wrote his Seventh Symphony during the siege. He was eventually evacuated and able to perform his masterwork in Moscow. The U.S. premiere of the piece raised relief funds for the desperate Russians.

FACT CHECK: We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us! HISTORY reviews and updates its content regularly to ensure it is complete and accurate.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Michael Chabon’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel debuts

Michael Chabon's third novel The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay is published on September 19, 2000. It went on to win the Pulitzer Prize for fiction the following year.  Chabon, who was born in Washington, D.C., in 1963, graduated from the University of Pittsburgh and ...read more

Unabomber manifesto published

On September 19, 1995, a manifesto by the Unabomber, an anti-technology terrorist, is published by The New York Times and Washington Post in the hope that someone will recognize the person who, for 17 years, had been sending homemade bombs through the mail that had killed and ...read more

Perón deposed in Argentina

After a decade of rule, Argentine President Juan Domingo Perón is deposed in a military coup. Perón, a demagogue who came to power in 1946 with the backing of the working classes, became increasingly authoritarian as Argentina’s economy declined in the early 1950s. His greatest ...read more

GettyImages-182243111

New Zealand first in women’s vote

With the signing of the Electoral Bill by Governor Lord Glasgow, New Zealand becomes the first country in the world to grant national voting rights to women. The bill was the outcome of years of suffragette meetings in towns and cities across the country, with women often ...read more

Nevada is site of first-ever underground nuclear explosion

On September 19, 1957, the United States detonates a 1.7-kiloton nuclear weapon in an underground tunnel at the Nevada Test Site (NTS), a 1,375-square-mile research center located 65 miles north of Las Vegas. The test, known as Rainier, was the first fully contained underground ...read more

Nixon cancels draft calls for November and December

President Nixon announces the cancellation of the draft calls for November and December. He reduced the draft call by 50,000 (32,000 in November and 18,000 in December). This move accompanied his twin program of turning the war over to the South Vietnamese concurrent with U.S. ...read more

President James Garfield dies

On September 19, 1881, President James A. Garfield, who had been in office just under four months, succumbs to wounds inflicted by an assassin 80 days earlier, on July 2. Garfield’s assassin was an attorney and political office-seeker named Charles Guiteau. Guiteau was a relative ...read more

Jim Bowie stabs a Louisiana banker with his famous knife

After a duel turns into an all-out brawl on September 19, 1827, Jim Bowie disembowels a banker in Alexandria, Louisiana, with an early version of his famous Bowie knife. The actual inventor of the Bowie knife, however, was probably not Jim Bowie, but rather his equally ...read more

Earthquake shakes Mexico City

On September 19, 1985, a powerful earthquake strikes Mexico City and leaves 10,000 people dead, 30,000 injured and thousands more homeless. At 7:18 in the morning, the residents of Mexico City were jolted awake by an 8.1-magnitude earthquake, one of the strongest to ever hit the ...read more

Khrushchev barred from visiting Disneyland

In one of the more surreal moments in the history of the Cold War, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev explodes with anger when he learns that he cannot visit Disneyland. The incident marked the climax of Khrushchev’s day in Los Angeles, one that was marked by both frivolity and ...read more

Country-rock pioneer Gram Parsons dies

On September 19, 1973, 26-year-old musician Gram Parsons dies of “multiple drug use” (morphine and tequila) in a California motel room. His death inspired one of the more bizarre automobile-related crimes on record: Two of his friends stashed his body in a borrowed hearse and ...read more

Arnold and Gates argue at First Battle of Saratoga

In the early morning hours of September 19, 1777, British General John Burgoyne launches a three-column attack against General Horatio Gates and his American forces in the First Battle of Saratoga, also known as the Battle of Freeman’s Farm. Coming under heavy cannon fire from ...read more