Year
1944

Navy aviator George H.W. Bush and his squadron attacked

On this day in 1944, future President George Herbert Walker Bush is serving as a torpedo bomber pilot in the Pacific theater of World War II when his squadron is attacked by Japanese anti-aircraft guns. Bush was forced to bail out of the plane over the ocean. According to the Navy’s records, Bush’s squadron was conducting a bombing mission on a Japanese installation on the island of Chi Chi Jima in the Pacific when they encountered heavy anti-aircraft fire. The engine on Bush’s plane was set ablaze, yet Bush managed to release his bombs and head back toward the aircraft carrier San Jacinto before bailing out over the water. Three other crew members perished in the attack. After floating on a raft for four hours, a submarine crew fished a safe but exhausted Bush out of the water.  His bravery in action earned him a Distinguished Flying Cross. The previous June, Bush had experienced a similar close call with death when he was forced to make a crash landing on water after a bombing run; a U.S. destroyer crew rescued him from the sea. After his harrowing experience near Chi Chi Jima, Bush returned to the San Jacinto and continued to pilot torpedo bombers in several successful missions. Over the course of 1944, while his squadron suffered a 300 percent casualty rate among its pilots, an undaunted Bush won three Air Medals as well as a Presidential Unit Citation. In total, Bush flew 58 combat missions during the war. In December 1944, Bush was reassigned to Norfolk Naval Base in Norfolk, Virginia, where he was tasked with training new pilots. He received an honorable discharge from the Navy in September 1945 after the Japanese surrender.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Vietnam independence proclaimed

Hours after Japan’s surrender in World War II, Vietnamese communist Ho Chi Minh declares the independence of Vietnam from France. The proclamation paraphrased the U.S. Declaration of Independence in declaring, “All men are born equal: the Creator has given us inviolable rights, ...read more

The Battle of Actium

At the Battle of Actium, off the western coast of Greece, Roman leader Octavian wins a decisive victory against the forces of Roman Mark Antony and Cleopatra, queen of Egypt. Before their forces suffered final defeat, Antony and Cleopatra broke though the enemy lines and fled to ...read more

Japan surrenders

Aboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay, Japan formally surrenders to the Allies, bringing an end to World War II. By the summer of 1945, the defeat of Japan was a foregone conclusion. The Japanese navy and air force were destroyed. The Allied naval blockade of Japan and intensive ...read more

Great Fire of London begins

In the early morning hours, the Great Fire of London breaks out in the house of King Charles II’s baker on Pudding Lane near London Bridge. It soon spread to Thames Street, where warehouses filled with combustibles and a strong easterly wind transformed the blaze into an inferno. ...read more

First ATM opens for business

On this day in 1969, America’s first automatic teller machine (ATM) makes its public debut, dispensing cash to customers at Chemical Bank in Rockville Center, New York. ATMs went on to revolutionize the banking industry, eliminating the need to visit a bank to conduct basic ...read more

Allies celebrate V-J Day

On this day in 1945, the USS Missouri hosts the formal surrender of the Japanese government to the Allies. Victory over Japan was celebrated back in the States.As Japanese troops finally surrendered to Americans on the Caroline, Mariana, and Palau islands, representatives of ...read more

Ho Chi Minh dies

President Ho Chi Minh of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam dies of a heart attack in Hanoi. North Vietnamese officials announced his death the next day.Ho Chi Minh had been the heart and soul of Vietnamese communism since the earliest days of the movement. Born in 1890, he was ...read more

47th North Vietnamese MiG shot down

Phuc Yen, 10 miles north of Hanoi, and one of the largest air bases in North Vietnam, is smashed by U.S. fighter-bombers. During the attack, a MiG was shot down, bringing the total to 47 enemy aircraft shot down since the beginning of the North Vietnamese offensive. At this ...read more

Whites massacre Chinese in Wyoming Territory

On this day in 1885, 150 white miners in Rock Springs, Wyoming, brutally attack their Chinese coworkers, killing 28, wounding 15 others, and driving several hundred more out of town.The miners working in the Union Pacific coal mine had been struggling to unionize and strike for ...read more

Lord of the Rings creator Tolkien dies

On this day in 1973, J.R.R. Tolkien, the author of the best-selling fantasy novels The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings–the source of the award-winning blockbuster movie trilogy directed, co-produced and co-written by Peter Jackson–dies at the age of 81 in Bournemouth, England. ...read more

Great Tokyo Fire continues to blaze

On this day in 1923, aftershocks and out-of-control fires continue to rock Tokyo, Japan, and the surrounding area following a massive earthquake. In total, 143,000 people died in the disaster, which is known both as the Great Kwanto Earthquake and the Great Tokyo Fire, as the ...read more

Trial of Mathias Rust begins

The trial of Mathias Rust, the 19-year-old pilot who flew his Cessna plane into Red Square in May 1987, begins in Moscow. Rust had become an international celebrity following his daring intrusion into Soviet airspace and landing in the center of Moscow, but the Soviet government ...read more

McClellan is restored to full command

President Abraham Lincoln reluctantly restores Union General George B. McClellan to full command after General John Pope’s disaster at the Second Battle of Bull Run, Virginia, on August 29 and 30. McClellan, commander of the Army of the Potomac, saw much of his army transferred ...read more