February 16

1620 Birth: Frederick-William (The Great Elector): Great-grandfather of Frederick the Great:

Frederick-William was born at Berlin on 16th February 1620. He was worthy of the name "Great," which his people and his neighbors unanimously gave him. Heaven had specially formed him to re-establish order by his activity in a country where the poor administration of the preceding government had caused total confusion; and to be the defender and the restorer of his land, and the honor and glory of his house. The merit of a great king was united in him with the mediocre fortune of an Elector; above the rank that he occupied, he displayed in his government the virtues of a strong soul and a superior spirit, sometimes tempering his heroism with his prudence, and sometimes abandoning himself to that fine enthusiasm which seizes our admiration. He re-established his old dominions by his wisdom, and acquired new ones by his statesmanship. He formed his projects and executed them himself. The effect of his good faith was that he assisted his allies; and the effect of his eminence, that he defended his people. In unforeseen danger, he found unexpected resources; and in small matters, as in important ones, he always appeared equally great . . . . 

Frederick-William was twenty years of age when he succeeded to the Electorate; but his territories were partly in the hands of the Swedes, who had made of the Electorate [Brandenburg‑‑Ed.] an awful desert, where one recognized villages only by mounds of ashes that prevented the grass from growing there; and towns, only by rubble and ruins. The duchies of the House of Cleves were prey to the Spanish and the Dutch, who demanded exorbitant contributions and who pillaged them on the pretext of defending them. Prussia, which Gustavus-Adolphus had invaded a short time previously, bled still from the wounds received during that war.

In circumstances so desperate, where his inheritance had been invaded by so many sovereigns, a prince, without possession of his territories, an elector without power, an ally without friends, Frederick-William began his reign. And in such early youth that, being the age of distractions, scarcely renders people capable of obedience, he showed signs of consummate wisdom and all the virtues that rendered him worthy of a commander of men . . . . 

In that century, three men drew upon them the attention of all Europe: Cromwell, who usurped England, and covered the regicide of his king with apparent moderation and steady policies; Louis 14th, who made Europe tremble before his power, protected all talents, and rendered his nation respected throughout the universe; Frederick-William, who, with fewer means did great things, served in place of minister and general, and caused a state to flourish that he had found buried under its ruins. The name "Great" is due only to heroic and virtuous characters; Cromwell, with his profound policies, was soiled with the crimes of his ambition; this would degrade the memory of Louis 14th and of Frederick-William, who put their lives in opposition to that of a fortunate tyrant. (Frederick the Great—Memoirs of the House of Brandenburg)

1804 First Barbary War: US Navy Lieutenant Stephen Decatur Jr. becomes the first American military hero since the Revolutionary War when he leads a force of US Marines in the capture of Tripoli and the destruction of a portion of the Tripolitan fleet. Note: This action will be memorialized in the Marines' Hymn: "On the shores of Tripoli." (Lambert) [See: Countdown to Infamy: Timeline to Pearl Harbor.]

1822 Birth: Francis Galton‑‑English scientist‑‑founder of Eugenics:

I have no patience with the hypothesis occasionally expressed, and often implied, especially in tales written to teach children to be good, that babies are born pretty much alike, and that the sole agencies in creating differences between boy and boy, and man and man, are steady application and moral effort. It is in the most unqualified manner that I object to pretensions of natural equality. The experiences of the nursery, the school, the University, and of professional careers, are a chain of proofs to the contrary.

1891 Birth: Hans F.K. Guenther: Social anthropologist and leading ideologist of Nazi racialism:

His many books sold hundreds of thousands of copies in Germany and continued the work of earlier racial theorists such as Arthur de Gobineau and Houston Stewart Chamberlain. His Short Ethnology of the German People will sell more than 270,000 copies between 1929 and 1943 and establish new criteria for defining the racial Rassengemisch (racial mixture) in which the "physical and spiritual hereditary endowments of non-European peoples are predominant." Guenther will depict the 'Nordic race' as the great creative force in history whose threatened mongrelization will endanger the future civilization unless its ranks are eugenically purged of all disintegrating influences. Foremost of these are supposed to be the "non-European Jews, a mixture of Asiatic and Oriental stock, responsible for such decomposing ideas as liberalism, democracy and socialism." These pseudoscientific race theories will be used by the Nazis to justify the Nuremberg Laws and other legislation aimed at "strengthening" the German race. (THP)

1916 World War I: Russians capture Erzerum: After five days of intense fighting, the Russian army defeats the Third Turkish Army to capture Erzerum, a largely Armenian city in the Ottoman province of Anatolia.

The Central Powers considered Turkey, which entered World War I in November 1914, a valuable ally for two reasons: first, it could threaten British interests in the Middle East, and second, it could divert Russian troops from the front in Europe to the Caucasus. Unfortunately for the Turks, the success of this second objective resulted in the loss of the Turkish province of eastern Anatolia to the Russians in 1916.

The brilliant Russian campaign of February 1916 was commanded by General Nikolai Yudenich, one of the most successful and distinguished Russian commanders of the war. On February 11, the Russian troops began their attack on Erzerum from the south, over Kop Mountain. Once the Russian forces broke through the Turkish lines to the south and began to attack other Turkish positions, the fall of Erzerum seemed inevitable. The Third Turkish Army began abandoning their equipment and retreating from their positions as the Russians entered the city. In total, the Russians captured more than 1,000 guns and artillery and took some 10,000 Turkish prisoners. With the capture of Erzerum, arguably the strongest and most important fortress in the Turkish Empire, the Russians had gained the upper hand in the battle for control on the Caucasus front. With this one victory, the Russians captured or controlled all the roads leading to Mesopotamia and Tabriz and, in essence, controlled western Armenia.

In the wake of the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia in 1917 and the subsequent armistice between Russia and the Central Powers, Erzerum was returned to Turkish control. The transfer of power was made official under the terms of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk in March 1918.

1918 Lithuania: The Council of Lithuania signsthe Act of Independence of Lithuania, proclaiming the restoration of an independent Lithuania governed by democratic principles, despite the presence of German troops in the country during World War I. [For further information, click here.]

1933 Various:

New York Times: "Opening the election campaign in South Germany tonight, Chancellor Hitler stated unequivocally that the forthcoming election would be the last one in Germany for four years." Compiler's Note: Hitler will keep this promise times three. [See: Did the Germans Really Support Adolf Hitler?]

Little Entente reorganized by Czechoslovakia, Romania and Yugoslavia:

Its specific purposes were the containment of Hungarian revisionism (of the terms of the World War I peace treaty) and the prevention of a restoration of the Hapsburgs. The three nations were drawn together by three bilateral treaties of defensive and economic alliance. This combination eventually became closely bound to France by financial and treaty obligations, and Poland sometimes cooperated with it but did not enter the alliance.

1934 Various:

British-Soviet trade agreement is signed. (THP)

New York: Thousands of Socialists battle Communists at a rally in New York's Madison Square Garden. (THP)

1936 Spanish Civil War: The 'Popular Front' of moderate Republicans and leftists in Spain drives the conservatives out of office in national elections.

1937 From remarks made by Hermann Goering during a visit (Feb 16-22) to Warsaw:

On the German side, there is no desire whatever to deprive Poland of any part of her territory. Germany is completely reconciled to her present territorial status. Germany would not attack Poland and has no intention of seizing the Polish Corridor. We do not want the Corridor. I say sincerely and categorically that we do not need the Corridor. Just as Germany trusts and believes that Poland has no intention of seizing Eastern Prussia and the remaining part of Silesia, so can Poland believe that Germany has no intention of depriving her of any rights and possessions.

1938 Various:

Austria: Chancellor Schuschnigg names Arthur Seyss-Inquart—a virulent Austrian Nazi—Minister of the Interior. [See: Austria: The Other Germany.]

Lithuania adopts a new constitution guaranteeing equal rights to all citizens regardless of race or creed. (THP)

1940 World War II: The Altmark: The captain of the British destroyer HMS Cossack under the direct orders of Churchill violates Norwegian neutrality and boards the German supply ship Altmark. After a short fight in which several German sailors are killed, Captain Philip Vian finds 299 British sailors and merchant seaman in the ship's hold. They are prisoners of war being transported from the South Atlantic to Germany. Note: Norway will protest the British attack, but their complaints will be rebuffed. This incident along with reports of troop movements indicating a planned British invasion, seal Norway's fate, as well as that of Denmark. (THP)

1942 World War II: Japan's war aims are outlined by Tojo to the Diet, referring to the 'New Order of Coexistence' in East Asia.

1943 World War II: Various:

From a meeting of the Central Planning Board in Berlin:

My collaborators and I having succeeded, after difficult discussions, in persuading Laval to enforce the law of compulsory labor in France, this law has now been so successfully extended, thanks to our pressure, that by yesterday three French age-groups had already been called up. So we are now legally qualified to recruit in France, with the assistance of the French Government, workers of three age groups whom we shall be able to employ henceforth in French factories, but among whom we shall also be able to choose some for our own needs in the Reich and send them to Germany.

Norway: Norwegian commandos destroy a factory to prevent the German nuclear weapon project from acquiring heavy water.

World War II: Stalin to FDR:

It appears that the date‑‑February‑‑fixed earlier for completing operations in Tunisia is now set back to April. There is no need to demonstrate at length the undesirability of this delay in operations against the Germans and Italians. It is now, when the Soviet troops are still keeping up their broad offensive, that action by the Anglo-American troops in North Africa is imperative. Simultaneous pressure on Hitler from our front and from yours in Tunisia would be a great positive significance for our common cause and would create most serious difficulties for Hitler and Mussolini. It would also expedite the operations you are planning in Sicily and the Eastern Mediterranean.

As to the opening of a second front in Europe, in particular in France, it is planned, judging by your communication, for August or September. As I see it, however, the situation calls for shortening these time limits to the utmost and for the opening of a second front in the West at a date much earlier than the one mentioned. So that the enemy should not be given a chance to recover, it is very important, to my mind, that the blow from the West, instead of being put off till the second half of the year, be delivered in spring or early summer. According to reliable information at our disposal, since the end of December, when for some reason the Anglo-American operations in Tunisia were suspended, the Germans moved 27 divisions, including five armored divisions, to the Soviet-German front from France, the Low Countries, and Germany. In other words, instead of the Soviet Union being aided by diverting forces from the Soviet-German front, what we get is relief for Hitler, who, because of the let-up in Anglo-American operations in Tunisia, was able to move additional troops against the Russians.

The forgoing indicates that the sooner we make joint use of the Hitler camp's difficulties at the front, the more grounds we shall have for anticipating early defeat for Hitler. Unless we take account of this and profit by the present moment to further our common interests, it may well be that, having gained a respite and rallied their forces, the Germans might recover. It is clear to you and us that such an undesirable miscalculation should not be made.

Holocaust: Reichsfuehrer SS Field Command:

Higher SS and Police Leader (Hoeher SS und Polizeifuehrer), East SS Obergruppenfuehrer Krueger, Cracow. For reasons of security I herewith order that the Warsaw ghetto be pulled down after the concentration camp has been moved: all parts of houses that can be used, and other materials of all kinds, are first to be made use of. The razing of the ghetto and the relocation of the concentration camp are necessary, as otherwise we would probably never establish quiet in Warsaw, and the prevalence of crime cannot be stamped out as long as the ghetto remains. An overall plan for the razing of the ghetto is to be submitted to me. In any case we must achieve the disappearance from sight of the living-space for 500,000 sub-humans (Untermenschen) that has existed up to now, but could never be suitable for Germans, and reduce the size of this city of millions‑‑Warsaw‑‑which has always been a center of corruption and revolt. Signed H. Himmler.

1944 World War II: Stalin to FDR:

Your message on the Polish question to hand. It goes without saying that a correct solution of this problem is of great importance both to the USSR and to our common cause. There are two major points to be considers: first, the Soviet-Polish frontier and, second, the composition of the Polish Government . . . the Soviet Government has officially declared that it does not consider the 1939 boundary final, and has agreed to the Curzon Line as the new frontier line between the USSR and Poland. We had grounds for anticipating an appropriate declaration on recognition on the part of the Polish Government . . . . But the Polish Government in London refused to budge, and continued to insist in official statements that the frontier imposed upon us under the Riga Treaty at a difficult moment should be left unchanged. Hence, there is no basis for agreement . . . . It is clear that the Polish Government, in which the main role is played by pro-fascist, imperialist elements hostile to the Soviet Union, such as Sosnkowski, and in which there are hardly any democratic elements, can have no basis in Poland . . . such a Polish Government is incapable of establishing friendly relations with the Soviet Union and it cannot be anticipated that it will not sow discord among the democratic countries which, on the contrary, would like to strengthen their unity. It follows that a radical improvement in the composition of the Polish Government is an urgent matter.

1945 World War II: Philippines:

American paratroopers land on Corregidor, in a campaign to liberate the Philippines:

Some paratroopers were blown back into Japanese held territory. Despite rumors to the contrary, no troopers drowned, though some who were unable to climb the cliffs through hostile territory, or had fallen close to the rocks were rescued near Wheeler Point. Despite the grueling air and naval bombardment that left the defending troops dazed and scattered, they vigorously rallied, and fierce fighting erupted almost immediately. At one point that same morning, they threatened to drive a salient into the paratroopers' tenuous foothold on Topside. Paratroopers and infantrymen waged a tenacious battle with the well dug-in determined enemy.

The Bataan Peninsula is recaptured by American troops, almost three years after the Bataan Death March:

America avenged its defeat in the Philippines generally, and Bataan specifically, with the invasion of Leyte Island in October 1944. General MacArthur, who in 1942 had famously promised to return to the Philippines, made good on his word. With the help of the U.S. Navy, which succeeded in destroying the Japanese fleet and left Japanese garrisons on the Philippine Islands without reinforcements, the Army defeated adamantine Japanese resistance. In January 1945, MacArthur was given control of all American land forces in the Pacific. On January 9, 1945, U.S. forces sealed off the Bataan Peninsula in the north; on February 16, the 8th Army occupied the southern tip of Bataan, as MacArthur drew closer to Manila and the complete recapture of the Philippines.

1946 Various:

Nuremberg Tribunal: Colonel Andrus tightens the rules for the defendants by imposing strict solitary confinement. This is part of a strategy designed to minimize Hermann Goering's influence among the [other] defendants. [See: Are There Any Lasting Effects From the Nuremberg Trials?]

Aviation: The Sikorsky S-51, the first helicopter to be built for civilian instead of military use, makes its first flight. [For further information, click here.]

1947 Spandau Prison: From Spandau: The Secret Diaries, by Albert Speer:

We do not know what [Rudolf] Hess is up to. Every chance he gets he asks us about things that need doing; he recently questioned Walter Funk about the strengths and weaknesses of each one of us. "All his remarks suggest that he is putting together a new government," Funk commented. "What craziness! Just imagine a list of cabinet members being found under the mattress!" (Speer II) [See: Was Rudolf Hess 'Crazy'?]

1951 Cold War: Joseph Stalin verbally attacks the United Nations:

In a statement focusing on the situation in Korea, Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin charges that the United Nations has become "a weapon of aggressive war." He also suggested that although a world war was not inevitable "at the present time," "warmongers" in the West might trigger such a conflict.

Stalin's comments in response to queries from the Soviet newspaper Pravda were his first public statements about the nearly year-old conflict in Korea, in which the United States, South Korea, and other member nations of the United Nations were arrayed against forces of North Korea and communist China. Coming just over two weeks after the U.N. General Assembly's resolution condemning China as an aggressor, Stalin's statement turned the tables by declaring that the United Nations was "burying its moral prestige and dooming itself to disintegration." He warned that Western "warmongers," through their aggressive posture in Korea, would "manage to entangle the popular masses in lies, deceive them, and drag them into a new world war." In any event, he confidently predicted that Chinese forces in Korea would be victorious because the armies opposing them lacked morale and dedication to the war.

Despite the rather blistering tone of Stalin's words, Western observers were not unduly alarmed. Stalin's attacks on Western "aggression" were familiar, and some officials in Washington took comfort in the premier's assertion that a world war was not inevitable "at the present time." Indeed, there was some feeling that Stalin's denouncement of the United Nations' actions was actually a veiled call for negotiations through the auspices of that body. Stalin's comments, and the intense scrutiny they were subjected to in the West, were more evidence that in the Cold War, the "war of words" was almost as significant as any actual fighting. [See: Did Adolf Hitler Cause the Cold War?]

1952 The FBI arrests 10 members of the Ku Klux Klan in North Carolina:

At the peak of the Klan's political power, a number of highly notable political figures in the US and Canada joined the Klan or flirted with membership. The list includes two Supreme Court justices and, according to evidence which is in some cases contested, possibly two presidents.

Edited by Levi Bookin (Copy editor)

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