Year
1945

Patton questions necessity of Germany’s “denazification”

On this day in 1945, Gen. George S. Patton tells reporters that he does not see the need for “this denazification thing” and compares the controversy over Nazism to a “Democratic and Republican election fight.” Once again, “Old Blood and Guts” had put his foot in his mouth.

Descended from a long line of military men, Patton graduated from the West Point Military Academy in 1909 and served in the Tank Corps during World War I. As a result of this experience, Patton became a dedicated proponent of tank warfare. During World War II, as commander of the U.S. 7th Army, he captured Palermo, Sicily, in 1943 by just such means. Patton’s audacity made itself evident in 1944, when, as commander of the 3rd Army, he overran much of northern France in an unorthodox–and ruthless–strategy.

Along the way, Patton’s mouth proved as dangerous to his career as the Germans. When he berated and slapped a hospitalized soldier diagnosed with shell shock, but whom Patton accused of “malingering,” the press turned on him, and pressure was applied to cut him down to size. He might have found himself enjoying early retirement had not Generals Dwight Eisenhower and George Marshall intervened on his behalf. After several months of inactivity, he was put back to work.

And work he did–at the Battle of the Bulge, during which Patton once again succeeded in employing a complex and quick-witted strategy, turning the German thrust in Bastogne into an Allied counterthrust, driving the Germans east across the Rhine. In March 1945, Patton’s army swept through southern Germany into Czechoslovakia–which he was stopped by the Allies from capturing, out of respect for the Soviets’ postwar political plans for Eastern Europe.

Patton had many gifts, but diplomacy was not one of them. After the war, while stationed in Germany, he criticized the process of denazification, or the removal of former Nazi party members from positions of political, administrative, and governmental power, probably out of naivete more than anything else. Nevertheless, his impolitic press statements questioning the policy resulted in Eisenhower’s removing him as U.S. commander in Bavaria. He was transferred to the 15th Army Group, but in December 1945 he suffered a broken neck in a car accident and died less than two weeks later at the age of 60.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Dempsey loses on long count

Jack Dempsey, the “Manassa Mauler,” misses an opportunity to regain the heavyweight boxing title when he fails to return to a neutral corner after knocking down champ Gene Tunney in a title match in Chicago. Dempsey waited five precious seconds before heading to the neutral ...read more

Shaka Zulu assassinated

Shaka, founder of the Zulu Kingdom of southern Africa, is murdered by his two half-brothers, Dingane and Mhlangana, after Shaka’s mental illness threatened to destroy the Zulu tribe.When Shaka became chief of the Zulus in 1816, the tribe numbered fewer than 1,500 and was among ...read more

U-boat devastates British squadron

In the North Sea, the German U-9 submarine sinks three British cruisers, the Aboukir, the Hogue, and the Cressy, in just over one hour. The one-sided battle, during which 1,400 British sailors lost their lives, alerted the British to the deadly effectiveness of the submarine, ...read more

Iran-Iraq War

Long-standing border disputes and political turmoil in Iran prompt Iraqi President Saddam Hussein to launch an invasion of Iran’s oil-producing province of Khuzestan. After initial advances, the Iraqi offense was repulsed. In 1982, Iraq voluntarily withdrew and sought a peace ...read more

American Patriot executed for spying

In New York City, Nathan Hale, a Connecticut schoolteacher and captain in the Continental Army, is executed by the British for spying.A graduate of Yale University, Hale joined a Connecticut regiment in 1775 and served in the successful siege of British-occupied Boston. In the ...read more

Lincoln issues Emancipation Proclamation

On this day in 1862, President Abraham Lincoln issues a preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, which sets a date for the freedom of more than 3 million black slaves in the United States and recasts the Civil War as a fight against slavery.When the Civil War broke out in 1861, ...read more

German U-boat devastates British squadron

In the North Sea on September 22, 1914, the German submarine U-9 sinks three British cruisers, the Aboukir, the Hogue and the Cressy, in just over one hour.The aggressive buildup of the German navy in the years before World War I, masterminded by Naval Minister Alfred von ...read more

Medina is acquitted of all charges

Captain Ernest Medina is acquitted of all charges relating to the My Lai massacre of March 1968. His unit, Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 20th Infantry, 11th Infantry Brigade (Light) of the 23rd (Americal) Division, was charged with the murder of over 200 Vietnamese civilians, ...read more

Goldwater attacks Johnson’s Vietnam policy

Presidential candidate Barry Goldwater, Republican senator from Arizona, charges that President Lyndon Johnson lied to the American people and that he is committing the United States to war “recklessly.” Having previously called the war “McNamara’s War,” he now described it as ...read more

Controversial long count mars Tunney-

On September 22, 1927, heavyweight boxing champion Gene Tunney, with help from a controversial long count, defeats former champ Jack Dempsey at Soldier Field in Chicago.A year earlier, on September 23, 1926, Tunney, a 6-foot former Marine with matinee-idol looks, faced Dempsey, ...read more

Friends debuts

On this day in 1994, the television sitcom Friends, about six young adults living in New York City, debuts on NBC. The show, which featured a group of relatively unknown actors, went on to become a huge hit and air for 10 seasons. It also propelled the cast–Jennifer Aniston, ...read more

Train derails in Alabama swamp

An Amtrak train headed to Miami derails near Mobile, Alabama, killing 47 people on this day in 1993. The accident, the deadliest in Amtrak’s history, was caused by a negligent towboat operator and foggy conditions.The Sunset Limited train travels from Los Angeles through Texas to ...read more

So-called Midtown Stabber kills his first victim

Glenn Dunn is shot and killed outside a Buffalo supermarket by a man carrying a gun concealed in a paper bag. His murder was the first in a series of strange attacks in both upstate New York and New York City. Within two days, three other young men were murdered. One was killed ...read more