Year
1943

Japanese execute nearly 100 American prisoners on Wake Island

On this day in 1943, Rear Adm. Shigematsu Sakaibara, commander of the Japanese garrison on the island, orders the execution of 96 Americans POWs, claiming they were trying to make radio contact with U.S. forces.

In late December 1941, the Japanese reinforced existing forces on Wake Island, part of a coral atoll west of Hawaii, in massive numbers after being unable to wrest the island from a small number of Americans troops earlier in the month. The Japanese strength was now overwhelming, and most of those Americans left alive after the battle were taken by the Japanese off the island to POW camps elsewhere. Ninety-six remained behind to be used as forced labor. The Allied response was periodic bombing of the island–but no more land invasions, as part of a larger Allied strategy to leave certain Japanese-occupied islands in the South Pacific to basically starve in isolation.

The execution of those remaining American POWs, who were blindfolded and shot in cold blood, remains one of the more brutal episodes of the war in the Pacific.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Battle of Darbytown Road (Johnson’s Farm)

A Confederate attempt to regain ground that had been lost around Richmond, Virginia,is thwarted when Union troops turn back General Robert E. Lee’s assault at the Battle ofDarbytown. In the summer of 1864, the campaign between Lee and Union General Ulysses S. Grant ground to a ...read more

U.S.-led attack on Afghanistan begins

On this day in 2001, a U.S.-led coalition begins attacks on Taliban-controlled Afghanistan with an intense bombing campaign by American and British forces. Logistical support was provided by other nations including France, Germany, Australia and Canada and, later, troops were ...read more

Moving Assembly Line at Ford

For the first time, Henry Ford’s entire Highland Park, Michigan automobile factory is run on a continuously moving assembly line when the chassis–the automobile’s frame–is assembled using the revolutionary industrial technique. A motor and rope pulled the chassis past workers and ...read more

East Germany created

Less than five months after Great Britain, the United States, and France established the Federal Republic of Germany in West Germany, the Democratic Republic of Germany is proclaimed within the Soviet occupation zone. Criticized by the West as an un-autonomous Soviet creation, ...read more

Battle of King’s Mountain

During the American Revolution, Patriot irregulars under Colonel William Campbell defeat Tories under Major Patrick Ferguson at the Battle of King’s Mountain in South Carolina. Major Ferguson’s Tory force, made up mostly of American Loyalists from South Carolina and elsewhere, ...read more

German troops enter Romania

On this day in 1940, Hitler occupies Romania as part of his strategy of creating an unbroken Eastern front to menace the Soviet Union. As early as 1937, Romania had come under the control of a fascist government that bore great resemblance to that of Germany’s, including similar ...read more

Nixon announces a new peace proposal

In a televised speech, President Richard Nixon announces a five-point proposal to end the war, based on a “standstill” cease-fire in place in South Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. He proposed eventual withdrawal of U.S. forces, unconditional release of prisoners of war, and ...read more

Walter Payton sets a record

On October 7, 1984, Chicago Bears running back Walter Payton becomes the NFL’s all-time rushing leader, breaking the record Cleveland’s Jim Brown set in 1965. In front of 53,752 people at Soldier Field, Payton carried the ball 154 yards and finished the game with a new career ...read more

Massive fire burns in Wisconsin

The most devastating fire in United States history is ignited in Wisconsin on this day in 1871. Over the course of the next day, 1,200 people lost their lives and 2 billion trees were consumed by flames. Despite the massive scale of the blaze, it was overshadowed by the Great ...read more