Year
1945

Patton takes Frankfurt

On this day, Gen. George S. Patton’s 3rd Army captures Frankfurt, as “Old Blood and Guts” continues his march east.

Frankfurt am Main, literally “On the Main” River, in western Germany, was the mid-19th century capital of Germany (it was annexed by Prussia in 1866, ending its status as a free city). Once integrated into a united German nation, it developed into a significant industrial city—and hence a prime target for Allied bombing during the war. That bombing began as early as July 1941, during a series of British air raids against the Nazis. In March 1944, Frankfurt suffered extraordinary damage during a raid that saw 27,000 tons of bombs dropped on Germany in a single month. Consequently, Frankfurt’s medieval Old Town was virtually destroyed (although it would be rebuilt in the postwar period—replete with modern office buildings).

In late December 1944, during the Battle of the Bulge, General Patton broke through the German lines of the besieged Belgian city of Bastogne, relieving its valiant defenders. Patton then pushed the Germans east. Patton’s goal was to cross the Rhine, even if not a single bridge was left standing over which to do it. As Patton reached the banks of the river on March 22, 1945, he found that one bridge—the Ludendorff Bridge, located in the little town of Remagen—had not been destroyed. American troops had already made a crossing on March 7—a signal moment in the war and in history, as an enemy army had not crossed the Rhine since Napoleon accomplished the feat in 1805. Patton grandly made his crossing, and from the bridgehead created there, Old Blood and Guts and his 3rd Army headed east and captured Frankfurt on the 29th.

Patton then crossed through southern Germany and into Czechoslovakia, only to encounter an order not to take the capital, Prague, as it had been reserved for the Soviets. Patton was, not unexpectedly, livid.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Mariner 10 visits Mercury

The unmanned U.S. space probe Mariner 10, launched by NASA in November 1973, becomes the first spacecraft to visit the planet Mercury, sending back close-up images of a celestial body usually obscured because of its proximity to the sun. Mariner 10 had visited the planet Venus ...read more

British victory at Kambula

At Kambula, in northwest Zululand, a force of 2,000 British and Colonial troops under the command of British Colonel Henry Evelyn Wood defeats 20,000 Zulus under King Cetshwayo, turning the tide in the favor of the British in the Zulu War. In 1843, Britain succeeded the Boers as ...read more

U.S. withdraws from Vietnam

Two months after the signing of the Vietnam peace agreement, the last U.S. combat troops leave South Vietnam as Hanoi frees the remaining American prisoners of war held in North Vietnam. America’s direct eight-year intervention in the Vietnam War was at an end. In Saigon, some ...read more

Last U.S. troops depart South Vietnam

Under the provisions of the Paris Peace Accords signed on January 27, 1973, the last U.S. troops depart South Vietnam, ending nearly 10 years of U.S. military presence in that country. The U.S. Military Assistance Command Vietnam headquarters was disestablished. Only a Defense ...read more

Calley found guilty of My Lai murders

Lt. William L. Calley is found guilty of premeditated murder at My Lai by a U.S. Army court-martial at Fort Benning, Georgia. Calley, a platoon leader, had led his men in a massacre of Vietnamese civilians, including women and children, at My Lai 4, a cluster of hamlets in Quang ...read more

Tar Heels win NCAA basketball championship

On March 29, 1982, the University of North Carolina (UNC) Tar Heels win the NCAA men’s basketball championship with a 63-62 defeat of the Georgetown University Hoyas. It was the first title for Carolina coach Dean Smith, who would retire in 1997 as the most successful coach in ...read more

John Tyler is born

On this day in 1790, future President John Tyler is born in Charles City County, Virginia. Tyler was the last president to hail from the colonial Virginia planter class that also produced George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and James Monroe. Through influential ...read more

Congress authorizes survey of Cumberland Road

Congress authorizes surveying to begin for the construction of the Cumberland Road, which sped the way for thousands of Americans heading west. Four years earlier, Congress had recognized the importance of building a network of national roads to facilitate western immigration. ...read more

Tom Jones is knighted by Queen Elizabeth II

Tom Jones can apparently count among his many fans one Elizabeth Windsor of London, England—known professionally as Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of Her other Realms and Territories Queen. A 38-year-old ...read more

Miramax chiefs part ways with Disney

On this day in 2005, after a yearlong negotiation process, the Walt Disney Company ends its productive but sometimes contentious relationship with Harvey and Bob Weinstein, the founders of Miramax Films. Sons of a New York City diamond cutter, Harvey and Bob Weinstein founded ...read more

The Mad Bomber strikes in New York

On this day in 1951, a homemade device explodes at Grand Central Station in New York City, startling commuters but injuring no one. In the next few months, five more bombs were found at landmark sites around New York, including the public library. Authorities realized that this ...read more

Rosenbergs convicted of espionage

In one of the most sensational trials in American history, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg are convicted of espionage for their role in passing atomic secrets to the Soviets during and after World War II. The husband and wife were later sentenced to death and were executed in 1953. ...read more

White House ousts GM chief

On March 29, 2009, Rick Wagoner, the chairman and chief executive of troubled auto giant General Motors (GM), resigns at the request of the Obama administration. During Wagoner’s more than 8 years in the top job at GM, the company lost billions of dollars and in 2008 was ...read more

Appomattox campaign begins

On this day in 1865, the final campaign of the Civil War begins in Virginia when Union troops under General Ulysses S. Grant move against the Confederate trenches around Petersburg. General Robert E. Lee’s outnumbered Rebels were soon forced to evacuate the city and begin a ...read more