Year
1933

Massive dust storm sweeps South Dakota

A powerful wind strips the topsoil from desiccated farmlands in South Dakota, one of a series of disastrous windstorms that year. The drought-ridden land of the Southern Plains became known as the Dust Bowl; it was useless to farmers, and only exacerbated the economic problems of the Great Depression. Within two days, dust from the South Dakota storm had reached all the way to Albany, New York.

Dust storms plagued the West throughout the 1930s and eventually the devastated area covered nearly 100 million acres. Rising like ominous black clouds on the horizon, the dust storms destroyed crops, choked livestock to death, and damaged human health. During 1938, the worst year of the dust storms, it is estimated that 850 million tons of topsoil disappeared with the winds. The size and scope of the problem have led some historians to call the Dust Bowl the worst environmental disaster in American history.

The cause of the Dust Bowl is still unclear. Widespread drought-which killed crops and turned the topsoil into a light powder-was undoubtedly a factor. However, some have argued that the farmers played their part by replacing native grasses with wheat and less hardy crops.

Whatever the causes, the Roosevelt administration responded to the Dust Bowl with a billion- dollar program to aid and educate farmers in soil conservation techniques that have become standard practice. After the rains returned in 1941, the region bloomed once again. Severe droughts have occurred since, but none have been as devastating as the Dust Bowl days of the 1930s.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

World War I ends

At the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, the Great War ends. At 5 a.m. that morning, Germany, bereft of manpower and supplies and faced with imminent invasion, signed an armistice agreement with the Allies in a railroad car outside Compiégne, France. The First ...read more

Nat Turner executed in Virginia

Nat Turner, the leader of a bloody slave revolt in Southampton County, Virginia, is hanged in Jerusalem, the county seat.Turner, a slave and educated minister, believed that he was chosen by God to lead his people out of slavery. On August 21, 1831, he initiated his slave ...read more

George Patton born

George Smith Patton, one of the great American generals of World War II, is born in San Gabriel, California.Patton came from a family with a long history of military service. After studying at West Point, he served as a tank officer in World War I, and his experience in that ...read more

Viet Cong release U.S. prisoners of war

Three U.S. prisoners of war, two of them African American, are released by the Viet Cong in a ceremony in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The three men were turned over to Tom Hayden, a “new left” antiwar activist. U.S. officials in Saigon said that the released prisoners had been ...read more

Operation Commando Hunt commences

U.S. joint-service Operation Commando Hunt is launched. This operation was designed to interdict Communist routes of infiltration along the Ho Chi Minh Trail, through Laos into South Vietnam. The aerial campaign involved a series of intensive air operations by U.S. Air Force, ...read more

Long Binh base turned over to South Vietnam

The massive Long Binh military base, once the largest U.S. installation outside the continental United States, is handed over to the South Vietnamese. This logistical complex, which had been constructed on the outskirts of Bien Hoa near the outskirts of Saigon, included numerous ...read more

Fernando Valenzuela wins Cy Young Award

On November 11, 1981, Rookie of the Year Fernando Valenzuela wins the National League’s Cy Young Award, becoming the first player in baseball history to win both prizes in the same season.In the spring of 1981, at the beginning of his first full season with the Los Angeles ...read more

James Garfield marries Lucretia Rudolph

On this day in 1858, future President James Garfield marries fellow Disciple of Christ Church member Lucretia Rudolph. The couple met while Lucretia was a student at Hiram Eclectic Institute in Ohio, where Garfield was teaching classics and where she started a literary society ...read more

Franklin Pierce marries Jane Appleton

On this day in 1834, future President Franklin Pierce marries a petite and devout Calvinist named Jane Appleton. Her brother-in-law officiated at the wedding.Jane and Franklin had three sons, all of whom died before adulthood. These tragedies haunted the couple and contributed to ...read more

Louisa May Alcott publishes her first story

On this day, the Saturday Evening Gazette publishes “The Rival Painters: A Story of Rome,” by Louisa May Alcott, who will later write the beloved children’s book Little Women (1868).Alcott, the second of four daughters, was born in Pennsylvania but spent most of her life in ...read more

Interview with the Vampire debuts

On this day in 1994, Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles, the big-screen adaptation of Anne Rice’s best-selling 1976 novel, opens in theaters around the United States.Directed by Neil Jordan (The Crying Game, The End of the Affair) from a screenplay written by ...read more

Skiers die in cable-car fire

A cable car taking skiers to a glacier in Austria catches fire on this day in 2000 as it passes through a mountain tunnel; 156 people die. Only 11 people managed to survive the fire, which was caused by an illegal space heater.Kitzsteinhorn Mountain in the Austrian Alps is a ...read more

The General Lee jumps into history

On this day in 1978, a stuntman on the Georgia set of “The Dukes of Hazzard”launches the show’s iconic automobile, a 1969 Dodge Charger named the General Lee, off a makeshift dirt ramp and over a police car. That jump, 16 feet high and 82 feet long (its landing totaled the car), ...read more

Ben McCulloch born

On this day in 1811, Confederate General Benjamin McCulloch is born near Rutherford City, Tennessee. Raised in Tennessee, McCulloch followed his friends Davy Crockett and Sam Houston to Texas in 1835.An illnesskeptMcCulloch from joining Crockett at the Alamo, where its defenders, ...read more