Friday, May 07, 2010

Pop History Moment: Europe Celebrates V-E Day


With Hitler dead and his dream of a Third Reich to last for a thousand years crumbling, on this day in 1945 Germany's Generaloberst Alfred Jodl signed his country's Instrument of Surrender on behalf of German President Karl Dönitz's Flensburg government, effectively ending World War II in Europe; the signing of the document, at Reims in France on the 7th and again in Berlin on the 8th, ushered in a two-day celebration in most of the world, which was (and indeed still is) known as V-E Day.

In October 1946, following his appearance at the Nuremberg Trials, Jodl was executed for conspiracy to commit crimes against peace.
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POPnews - May 7th

[It took just 18 minutes for the RMS Lusitania to sink after being torpedoed by a German U-boat 15 km (8 miles) off Ireland's Old Head of Kinsale. The last living survivor of the wreck, Audrey Lawson-Johnston (née Pearl), was just three months old when she was saved by her governess, Alice Lines. She was one of the lucky ones; only 289 of the dead were ever recovered, 65 of whom were never identified, with 885 victims unaccounted for. To this day, rumours persist that Lusitania was sunk because she was carrying 'contraband of war' and therefore considered a warship by the Imperial German Navy...]

558 CE - The dome of Constantinople's Hagia Sophia collapsed following an earthquake; Emperor Justinian I immediately ordered Isodorus the Younger to rebuild it, which he'd done by 562 CE.

1274 - Having been convoked on the final day of March 1272, the Second Council of Lyons opened (in France, of all places, since that's where Lyons is) to regulate the election of the Pope; as presided over by Gregory X, it was also called to act upon a pledge made by Byzantine Emperor Michael VIII to end the Great Schism by uniting the Eastern and Western churches.

1429 - Joan of Arc ended the Siege of Orléans after pulling an arrow from her own shoulder and returning, wounded, to lead the final charge; the victory marked a turning point in the Hundred Years' War, although it did nothing to stop all that 'weaker sex' crap...

1664 - France's King Louis XIV inaugurated the Palace of Versailles, having officially moved his court there from Paris the previous day.

1697 - Stockholm's royal castle, the Tre Kronor - parts of which dated back to medieval times - was destroyed by fire, only to be replaced early in the next century by the current Royal Palace, built by Nicodemus Tessin the Younger. Today, this remains the official residence of the Swedish Royal Family, while their private residence is at Drottningholm Palace.

1718 - The city of New Orleans was founded by Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville, who'd been born in Ville-Marie (which is better known today as Montreal).

1824 - The world premiere of Ludwig van Beethoven's Ninth Symphony was given at Vienna's Kärntnertortheater. The work was conducted by Michael Umlauf, under the deaf composer's supervision; as it was Beethoven's first public appearance in a dozen years, the theatre was packed, and when the concert was over the crowd gave him five standing ovations.

1832 - The independence of Greece was recognized by the Treaty of London, whereupon Otto of Wittelsbach, Prince of Bavaria was elected King.

1840 - The Great Natchez Tornado struck Natchez, Mississippi, killing 317 people and injuring 109 - making it the second deadliest tornado in US history, after the Tri-State Tornado.

1895 - Russian scientist Alexander Stepanovich Popov demonstrated his invention - the world's first radio receiver - to the Russian Physical and Chemical Society in Saint Petersburg; the Russians still celebrate this day as Radio Day.

1915 - A German U-20 submarine sank the RMS Lusitania, killing 1,198 people (including 128 Americans and more than a hundred children); public reaction to the sinking turned many formerly pro-German Americans against the German Empire, and the event would be instrumental in the US entry into World War I.

1947 - NBC's Kraft Television Theater debuted; the series would run for the next 11 years and launch many future movie stars in their careers, including James Dean and Grace Kelly.

1954 - During the Indochina War the Battle of Dien Bien Phu - which began on March 13th - ended in a French defeat at the hands of the Viet Minh. In all 11,721 prisoners (of whom 4,436 were wounded) were taken by the Vietnamese in that battle alone, of whom only 3,290 were repatriated; the rest died of disease, privation, and abuse at the hands of their captors. The war effectively over, the following day the Geneva Convention convened, with the victorious Ho Chi Minh in attendance.

1960 - At the height of the Cold War - and in the midst of the U-2 Crisis - Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev announced that his nation was holding American pilot Gary Powers, who'd been shot down in his U-2 spy plane over Sverdlovsk six days earlier.

1964 - Pacific Air Lines Flight 773 crashed near San Ramon, California, killing all 44 aboard; the FBI later reported that the cockpit data recorder indicated the pilot and co-pilot had been shot by a suicidal passenger, later identified as Francisco Gonzales.

1974 - West German Chancellor Willy Brandt resigned in scandal over allegations that one of his assistants, Günter Guillaume, was a spy for East Germany's Stasi; the story of the Guillaume Affair was later told in the play Democracy by Michael Frayn.

1992 - Space Shuttle Endeavour was launched on mission STS-49 - its maiden voyage.

1999 - A jury found The Jenny Jones Show and its producer Warner Bros. liable in the shooting death of Scott Amedure, after the show purposely deceived Jonathan Schmitz into appearing on a secret same-sex crush episode. Schmitz later murdered Amedure and a jury awarded Amedure's family US$25 million, an award which was later overturned; Schmitz was also sentenced to serve 25-50 years in prison where hopefully he's been overturned a few times himself.

2007 - The tomb of Herod the Great was discovered by Ehud Netzer, in the exact location at Herodium where historian Flavius Josephus said it was 2000 years ago.
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