February 15

1258 Rocketry: Mongol invaders use rockets to capture Baghdad. (Crosby, Chase) [See: Wunderwaffen: Hitler's Deception and the History of Rocketry.]

1861 Birth: Halford John Mackinder, in Gainsborough (Lincolnshire):

English geographer and geopolitician . . . Mackinder's Heartland Theory was enthusiastically taken up by the German Nazi regime in the 1930's, in particular by Karl Haushofer. Although there is no evidence that Mackinder had any Nazi sympathy, when the German exploitation of his ideas became known on the United Kingdom, he became very unpopular. That he was a fluent German speaker, with many intellectual friends in Germany did not help his image and he died, still somewhat under a cloud. The Heartland Theory is mentioned explicitly in The Nazis Strike, the second of Frank Capra's Why We Fight series of American World War II propaganda films, though Mackinder is not named. This is almost certainly unfair. Although Mackinder was anti-Bolshevik (as British High Commissioner he tried to unite the White Russian forces), the principal concern of his work was to warn of the possibility of another major war.

1890 Birth: Robert Ley:

Robert Ley, the son of poor peasants, was born in Niederbreidenbach, on 15th February, 1890. He was a military aviator during the First World War but was shot down over France in 1917 and spent over two years as a prisoner of war.

After the war Ley worked as a chemist but was sacked because of his serious drink problem. He joined the National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP) in 1925 and later that year became Gauleiter for Rhineland South.

In 1932 Ley replaced the murdered Gregor Strasser as leader of the Reich Organization. He also began publishing the Nazi journal Westdeutscher Beobachter.

On 2nd May, 1933, Adolf Hitler ordered the arrest of Germany's trade union leaders. He then gave Ley the task of forming the German Labour Front (DAF) to replace the now outlawed trade unions. Ley confiscated union funds and used the money to fund the Strength through Joy programme.

After the war Ley was charged with war crimes. While awaiting trial in Nuremberg Ley wrote a statement denouncing Anti-Semitism and then hanged himself in his cell on 25th October, 1945. (Spartacus)

1898 Countdown to Infamy: In Havana Harbor, five tons of powder charges aboard the USS Maine suddenly explode (Note: There is still much contention over the exact cause of the explosion.), obliterating the forward third of the ship. The remaining wreckage rapidly settles to the bottom of the harbor, resulting in the deaths of 266 men, with only 89 survivors. The sinking becomes a precipitating cause of the Spanish-American War as American newspaper's are quick to blame Spain for the tragedy (See: April 1898). The slogan "Remember the Maine, to Hell with Spain!" will soon be heard across the land. (Trask) [See: Countdown to Infamy: Timeline to Pearl Harbor.]

1901 Winston Churchill: New member for Oldham (See February 18):

The polling of 1900 has become known as the Khaki Election because it was conducted against the backdrop of apparent British success in the Boer War. This put the Conservative Government in a strong position and allowed Churchill to exploit his South African experiences to the full. In his printed address to the electors of the Borough, Churchill appealed to the growing mood of patriotism, asking the voters to set their seal "to the work which has been nobly done by the soldiers in South Africa, by proclaiming to the jealous nations of Europe that England believes in the justice of her cause and is determined to persevere. [For further details, Click here.]

1902 The U-Bahn: Berlin's underground railway, carries its first passengers. The system was designed to alleviate traffic to and from central Berlin. It rapidly expanded until the end of World War II, when the capital city was divided into East and West Berlin. The system remained open to residents of both sides until the construction of the Berlin Wall and the subsequent travel restrictions imposed by the East German government. East Germans were prevented from riding on the U-Bahn into West Berlin, and West Germans could take certain lines that ran through East German territory, but were not allowed to disembark. The system was reopened completely with the fall of the Berlin Wall.

1903 First Teddy bear goes on sale:

On this day in 1903, toy store owner and inventor Morris Michtom places two stuffed bears in his shop window, advertising them as Teddy bears. Michtom had earlier petitioned President Theodore Roosevelt for permission to use his nickname, Teddy. The president agreed and, before long, other toy manufacturers began turning out copies of Michtom's stuffed bears, which soon became a national childhood institution. [For further information, click here]

1915 World War I: Mutiny breaks out among Indian soldiers in Singapore: the first large-scale mutiny of World War I:

Some 800 soldiers in the Indian army's 5th Light Infantry Brigade broke out of their barracks on the afternoon of February 15 and killed several British officers before moving on to other areas of the city. By the time the revolt was quashed, several days later, by British, French and Russian troops, the mutineers had killed 39 Europeans—both soldiers and civilians. British soldiers executed 37 of the mutiny's ringleaders by gunfire.

The Singapore Mutiny was intended by its organizers to be part of a general uprising being engineered by Sikh militants in neighboring India against British colonial rule. The Sikhs‑‑whose religion combined elements of Hinduism and Islam‑‑had earned favorable treatment from the British after their refusal to take part in an earlier mutiny in India in 1857, but some still chafed against the constraints of the Empire. The Indian rebellion in 1915 enjoyed encouragement from the Germans, whose ship, the Bayern, had recently been intercepted by the Italians with a cargo of 500,000 revolvers, 100,000 rifles and 200,000 cases of ammunition intended to aid the militants. The rebels in India were betrayed in March 1915 by a police spy, and the leaders were arrested before they could signal the start of the revolt. Eighteen were hanged.

[Note: It is ironic that, on the anniversary of the Mutiny in 1942, Singapore fell to the Japanese. (See below) ]

1918 World War I: War at Sea: A US army troop ship is torpedoed and sunk by Germany, off Ireland.

1922 The Permanent Court of International Justice—sitting at The Hague;in the Netherlands—holds its first session.

1924 Church and Party: Cardinal Michael von Faulhaber tells a meeting of students and academicians at the Loewenbrau Beer Cellar, in Munich, that Adolf Hitler knows better than his underlings that the resurrection of the German nation requires the support of Christianity. This theme of the good and well-intentioned Fuehrer and his evil advisors continues periodically throughout Hitler's career. (THP) [See: Was Adolf Hitler a Christian?]

1933 Various:

Church and Reich: Hitler delivers a speech in Stuttgart:

And now Staatspraesident Bolz says that Christianity and the Catholic faith are threatened by us. And to that charge I can answer: In the first place it is Christians and not international atheists who now stand at the head of Germany. I do not merely talk of Christianity, no, I also profess that I will never ally myself with the parties which destroy Christianity. If many wish today to take threatened Christianity under their protection, where, I would ask, was Christianity for them in these fourteen years when they went arm in arm with atheism? No, never and at no time was greater internal damage done to Christianity than in these fourteen years when a party, theoretically Christian, sat with those who denied God.

FDR escapes assassination in Miami:

On this day in 1933, a deranged, unemployed brick layer named Giuseppe Zangara shouts Too many people are starving! and fires a gun at America's president-elect, Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Roosevelt had just delivered a speech in Miami's Bayfront Park from the back seat of his open touring car when Zangara opened fire with six rounds. Five people were hit. The president escaped injury but the mayor of Chicago, Anton Cermak, who was also in attendance, received a mortal stomach wound in the attack.[For further information, click here]

Karl Radek praises the invincible force of the German communist party:

Karl Radek, the son of Jewish parents, was born in Lvov, Galicia, in 1885. He joined the Social Democratic Party of Poland in 1902 and worked closely with Rosa Luxemburg and Leo Jogiches . The authorities soon became aware of his political activities and he was forced into exile.

Radek lived in Germany (1908-13) before working with Vladimir Lenin in Switzerland. When Nicholas II abdicated and a new Provisional Government was established in March, 1917, Radek joined Lenin and 26 other Bolsheviks in the sealed German train which took them to Russia. After the October Revolution, Radek became a member of the Bolshevik Central Committee. He was initially a supporter of Leon Trotsky and argued that the Soviet government should help the spread of world revolution.

Under pressure from Vladimir Lenin, Radek ceased to advocate world revolution but after the death of his leader, he supported Leon Trotsky against Joseph Stalin. In 1927 he was expelled from the party but after making public statements admitting to his "political errors" he was readmitted in 1929. Radek now became a loyal supporter of Joseph Stalin but in 1937 he was arrested and put on trial for treason. Sentenced to ten years imprisonment he was executed in 1939.

Reich and Press: Vorwaerts (the Social-Democratic newspaper) is banned again in Berlin. (THP)

1935 Germany publishes a decree creating the Reichsstelle fuer Raumordnung (Agency for Space Arrangement). (THP)

1936 Volkswagen: Hitler speaks in Berlin:

Either the automobile is an expensive luxury item for a few people, and hence in the long run not very important for the economy as a whole, or it is destined to have the enormous impact on the economy which by its very nature it can have. Then, however, it must be transformed from a luxury item for the few to something that everyone uses. And I fear that even today the German automobile industry has not realized that the overall development of German automobile production cannot really succeed, unless prices match the income level of the purchasers it targets. [For the full text, Click here.]

[Also See: The Fuehrer's Mercedes.]

1939 World War II: Various:

Hungary: Count Pal Teleki takes office as prime minister:

He is a controversial figure in Hungarian history because while he was Prime Minister a number of anti-Jewish laws were enacted while he also walked a very difficult political tightrope, striving to preserve Hungarian autonomy up to the last moment of his life.

Holocaust: Aryanization of Jewish Property: Report of the Public Prosecutor: (THP)

[The] Aryanization in Fuerth was handled in the following way: SA men would pick up Jews, town councilor party-comrade Sandreuther and [others] would negotiate with them in the town hall, while the notaries public Keim and Maier were busy in another room of the town hall where the Jews were soon brought before them. Sales were effected by entering 10% of the legal assessed value as the purchasing price while mortgages were redeemed and the costs had to be paid by the Jews themselves. Later they proceeded also to Aryanize mortgages, i.e. the Jews received 10% of the mortgage value as a compensation.

1940 World War II: Various:

War at Sea: Germany announces that all armed British merchant ships will be treated as warships:

This directive means that any neutral ship sailing towards a British-controlled war zone‑‑such as the English Channel‑‑can be attacked without warning. Any ship following a zig-zag course is also liable to be sunk without warning.

First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt: From this day's My Day column:

[From] February 18th to 25th, which is the week during which Washington's Birthday occurs, there will be the seventh annual observance of Brotherhood Week. This celebration will be participated in by Protestants, Catholics and Jews in over a thousand communities throughout the Nation. It is so easy for hatreds and intolerances to arise when the world is in a turmoil as it is today. Those of us who are fortunate enough to be at peace, should make every effort to keep constantly before us principles which will help us to be of service when peace comes again to the whole world.

1941 Holocaust: Austria: More than 5,000 Jews are deported from Vienna to forced labor camps on the Bug River, and ghettos in eastern Poland. [See: Austria: The Other Germany.]

1942 World War II: Various:

Fall of Singapore to Japan:

In one of the greatest defeats in British military history, Britain's supposedly impregnable Singapore fortress surrenders to Japanese forces after a weeklong siege. More than 60,000 British, Australian, and Indian soldiers were taken prisoner, joining 70,000 other Allied soldiers captured during Britain's disastrous defense of the Malay Peninsula . . . . 

Singapore, with its big defensive guns, was considered invulnerable to attack. However, the guns, which used armor-piercing shells and the flat trajectories necessary to decimate an enemy fleet, were not designed to defend against a land attack on the unfortified northern end of the island.

On February 5, Yamashita brought up heavy siege guns to the tip of the peninsula and began bombarding Singapore. On February 8, thousands of Japanese troops began streaming across the narrow waterway and established several bridgeheads. Japanese engineers quickly repaired the causeway, and troops, tanks, and artillery began pouring on to Singapore. The Japanese pushed forward to Singapore City, capturing key British positions and splitting the Allied defenders into isolated groups.

On February 15, Percival—lacking a water supply and nearly out of food and ammunition‑‑agreed to surrender. With the loss of Singapore, the British lost control of a highly strategic waterway, and opened the Indian Ocean to Japanese invasion. British Prime Minister Winston Churchill called it the "worst disaster and largest capitulation in British history." Many thousands of the 130,000 Allied troops captured died in Japanese captivity. (History.com)

War at Sea: German U-boat fires shells at the Antillian oil refinery:

[The] island [of] Aruba took the first attack from a German U-boat in the western hemisphere. It was aimed at the oiltransport betweeen Venezuala and the Antilles. The first hit was on the tanker Pedernales in the Sint Nicolaas harbour. It completely burnt down. This way the 'Paukenschlag' campaign started. During the attack of the German U-156 also four other tankers near Sint Nicolaas were hit. Also, the smallest, the Oranjestad, sank. Almost everyone drowned. Most of the stokers on the oil tankers were ethnic Chinese. After this the submarine surfaced, and fired some grenades.

War with Japan: Japanese troops march into Palembang, South Sumatra: "With its Royal Dutch Shell oil refineries at nearby Pladju, the city of Palembang in southern Sumatra was a major objective early in the Japanese campaign southwards. The Allied defenses there consisted of two air groups"

1943 World War II: North Africa: The German Afrika Corps breaks the American Army's lines at the Fanid-Sened Sector in Tunisia. [See: Rommel, The Desert Fox.]

1944 World War II: Various:

War in the Air: Berlin is attacked by 891 British bombers.

Italy: Monte Cassino: The abbey is attacked by American bombers in an effort to neutralize it as a German observation post in central Italy.

The strategic position of Monte Cassino has made it the repeated scene of battles and sieges from antiquity. In World War II, the Battle of Monte Cassino (also known as the Battle for Rome) was a costly series of battles fought by the Allies with the intention of breaking through the Gustav Line, seizing Rome and linking up with Allied forces contained within the Anzio pocket. The first battle started on January 4, 1944 and the monastery atop the hill was destroyed by Allied bombing on February 15. Allied aircraft heavily bombed the ruins of the monastery.

1946 Nuremberg Tribunal: Continuation of Councellor Smirnov's Presentation:

I am quoting now from Frank's diary . . . 'I did not hesitate to say that for every German killed, up to a hundred Poles would be shot.' In these dark days the Polish people regarded the victims of [Hans] Frank and of his henchmen as martyrs. That is the reason it seems to me that, on 16 December 1942, at a government meeting in Krakow, Frank stated . . . 'We must consider whether, for practical reasons, executions should be carried out as far as possible on the spot where the murder of a German was attempted. It might also be as well to consider whether special places for execution should be set up, as it has been established that the Polish population streams to the places of execution, which are accessible to everyone, for the purpose of filling vessels with the bloodstained earth, and taking them to church.' I brought Frank's diary to your attention, Your Honors, because he was one of Hitler's closest associates and because this very well known 'learned' jurist of fascism was actually a positive alter ego of those who cut in two the bodies of children.

1947 Atlanta Putsch: Homer L. Loomis is sentenced to serve one year in public works camp for incitement to riot. The revolt which the Columbians had attempted to organize was crushed and the so-called Atlanta Putsch comes to an end. (Bradley)

1949 Israel: The Knesset: the legislature of Israel, convenes for the first time. [It succeedes] the Assembly of Representatives that had functioned as the Jewish community's parliament during the British Mandate Era.

1950 Cold War: USSR and the PRC‑‑the two largest communist nations‑‑sign mutual defense treaty:

The negotiations for the treaty were conducted in Moscow between PRC leaders Mao Zedong and Zhou En-lai, and Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin and Foreign Minister Andrei Vishinsky. The treaty's terms called for the Soviets to provide a $300 million credit to the PRC. It also mandated that the Soviet Union return to the Chinese the control of a major railroad and the cities of Port Arthur and Dairen in Manchuria, all of which had been seized by Russian forces near the end of World War II. The mutual defense section of the agreement primarily concerned any future aggression by Japan and "any other state directly or indirectly associated" with Japan. Zhou En-lai proudly declared that the linking of the two communist nations created a force that was "impossible to defeat."

U.S. commentators viewed the treaty as proof positive that communism was a monolithic movement, being directed primarily from the Kremlin in Moscow. An article in The New York Times referred to the PRC as a Soviet "satellite." As events made clear, however, the treaty was not exactly a concrete bond between communist countries. By the late-1950s, fissures were already beginning to appear in the Soviet-PRC alliance. (History.com)

1966 DeGaulle offers to help end Vietnam War:

In response to a letter from Ho Chi Minh asking that French President Charles De Gaulle use his influence to "prevent perfidious new maneuvers" by the United States in Southeast Asia, De Gaulle states that France is willing to do all that it could to end the war. As outlined by De Gaulle, the French believed that the Geneva agreements should be enforced, that Vietnam's independence should be "guaranteed by the nonintervention of any outside powers," and that the Vietnamese government should pursue a "policy of strict neutrality." President Lyndon Johnson saw De Gaulle's proposal as part of a continuing effort by the French leader to challenge U.S. leadership in Southeast Asia as well as in Europe. Seeing the American commitment in Vietnam as part of a larger global issue of American credibility, Johnson believed that the United States could not afford to abandon its South Vietnamese ally and rejected De Gaulle's proposal without consideration. (History.com)

1988 Austria: President Kurt Waldheim vows in a televised address to his nation not to 'retreat in the face of slanders' concerning his service for the German Army during World War II.

Edited by Levi Bookin (Copy editor)

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