March 16 – March 22 2020 /Week in History/

March 16 – March 22 2020 /Week in History/

Boycott of the Olympics by countries, the advancing of Hungarian army, the Munich Treaty and the atrocities of Americans in Vietnam. This and much more in the new Week in History

A new article, “A Week in History,” is published every Sunday at exactly 19:00 London time

16 March

1968 – During the Vietnam War, American troops destroyed the South Vietnamese village of My Lai (Songmy)

Songmi massacre. Atrocities of American soldiers in Vietnam

My Lai  massacre. Atrocities of American soldiers in Vietnam

Half a century ago, soldiers of the Charlie company of the 1st battalion of the 20th infantry regiment of the US Army entered the Vietnamese village of My Lai  and completely destroyed it. Killed 504 civilians. Many of them were brutally tortured, women were raped. There were no weapons in the village. The My Lai (Songmy) massacre has become one of the symbols of the Vietnam War. In the USA, the crime was not recognized at first, today they also try not to remember it.

The punitive operation began at about 5:30 in the morning. After the shelling, soldiers of the Charlie company landed on landing helicopters on the western outskirts of the village and immediately opened fire on the peasants working in the rice fields. Moving along the street, they threw grenades at the windows and doors of houses. Some residents were killed on the spot, others were driven into premises or wastelands. And shot there.

17 March

1980 – The English parliament voted to boycott the Moscow Olympics

boycott of the 1980 Moscow Olympics

The 1980 Moscow Olympics is a repetition of the 1936 Berlin Olympics (Federation of Anarchists – Paris)

The date, it must be said, is symbolic, because exactly 38 years ago, on March 17, 1980, the British Parliament voted in favor of a boycott of the summer Olympic Games in Moscow. This decision was made as a result of the intensified political confrontation between the Warsaw Pact countries and NATO, caused by the invasion of Soviet troops on the territory of Afghanistan.

In total, athletes from 65 countries refused to participate in the Moscow Olympics, including the USA, Canada, Turkey, Korea, Japan, Malaysia, and the Federal Republic of Germany. Even representatives of “friendly” communist China did not come to Russia. Though for the first time in several decades they performed at the 1980 Winter Games in the American Lake Placid. 

Some athletes from Great Britain, France and Greece came to the Games individually with the permission of their Olympic committees, but the teams from Great Britain and France were much smaller than usual. For this reason, the largest team in Western Europe was Italian, although military athletes did not come from there either.

18 March

1939 – As a result of the Munich Agreement, Hungary conquers Southern Slovakia and Transcarpathian Ukraine

A Hungarian soldier is greeted by ethnic minority Hungarians, waving Hungarian flags, of a Slovak border village in 1939.

A Hungarian soldier is greeted by ethnic minority Hungarians, waving Hungarian flags, of a Slovak border village in 1939.

The Munich Agreement of 1938 (in Soviet historiography it is usually a Munich Betrayal) is an agreement between Germany, Great Britain, France and Italy, drawn up in Munich on September 29, 1938 and signed on the night of September 29-30 of the same year by the German Chancellor Adolf Hitler, Prime Minister of Great Britain Neville Chamberlain, French Prime Minister Eduard Daladier and Italian Prime Minister Benito Mussolini. Czechoslovakia and the Soviet Union were not invited to the conference. The agreement provided that Czechoslovakia would liberate and cede the Sudetenland to Germany within 10 days. On October 1, 1938, without waiting for the expiration of the period stipulated by the agreement, the German Wehrmacht invaded Czechoslovakia and occupied the Sudetenland. On the same day, Czechoslovakia was forced to withdraw its troops from the Cieszyn region, which was occupied by Poland on October 2.

19 March

1953 –  For the first time the Oscars awards ceremony was shown on television 

1953 - for the first time on television the Oscars ceremony was shown

The 25th Oscar awards ceremony was held on March 19, 1953. For the first time, the action was broadcast on the national television channel NBC, and the ceremony itself took place in two places at once – Los Angeles and New York.

The film of the year was the melodrama “The Greatest Show on Earth” – according to critics, the worst of the films that has ever won the main Oscar. The movie, dedicated to the inner life of the big circus, received another Oscar for the Best Story.

Gary Cooper was awarded in the nomination “Best Actor” for his lead role in the classic western “High Noon”. The actress of the year was the elderly Shirley Booth, who played in the drama “Come Back, Little Sheba”.

Anthony Quinn won the award for Best Supporting Actor, playing with Marlon Brando in the film about the leader of the Mexican peasant revolt “Viva, Zapata!” The Best Actress in a Supporting Role, according to film academics, was Gloria Graham in a cruel film about the mores of Hollywood, “The Bad and the Beautiful”. The picture won four more awards: for the Best Original Screenplay, the Best Production Design, Best Costume Design and Best Cinematography.

The director of the year was John Ford (The Quiet Man tragicomedy).

20 March

1915 – The first use of airships to bombard Paris

The first use of airships to bombard Paris. Airship Z10

The first use of airships to bombard Paris. Airship Z10

On March 20, 1915, three German airships Z-10 (Zeppelin), LZ-35 (Land-Zeppelin) and LZ-11 (Schütte-Lanz) set off for a night raid. Having flown to Paris, they began to bombard. In Paris, a possible arrival of German zeppelins was expected, but the dimming regime was not respected – the whole city was flooded with electric lights. This made it easier for German pilots to carry out a combat mission. Rays of searchlights darted through the sky and tried to snatch out the ominous silhouettes of zeppelins from the darkness, and anti-aircraft guns opened fire on them.

However, the work of the searchlights and anti-aircraft guns was poorly coordinated: often the searchlights were hit in one direction, and anti-aircraft batteries in the other. However, the latter soon managed to damage the LZ-11 airship with their fire. The huge car was forced to drop its bomb supply on the outskirts of Paris Compiegne (where the headquarters of one of the armies was located) and head towards the German positions. The airship safely reached the site, but due to the received damage  it was soon decommissioned and dismantled. Two other German zeppelins, dropping an hour and a half tons of bombs, also headed back towards Germany. Only the LZ-35 returned home, the Z-10 was shot down along the way.

The bulk of the German bomb supply fell on the outskirts of Paris, only six incendiary bombs were dropped on the capital itself. A number of buildings were destroyed, 17 people were injured. The psychological demoralizing effect was overwhelming. Panic was noted in the French capital, heated debate unfolded in parliament. The press also actively discussed the tragic night incident.

21 March

1984 – In the Sea of ​​Japan, the K-314 submarine collided with the aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk

in the Sea of ​​Japan, the K-314 submarine collided with the aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk

March 21, 1984, in the Sea of ​​Japan, the Soviet nuclear-powered K-314 and the American aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk collided. One of the most high-profile maritime incidents between the superpowers, by a lucky coincidence, occured without human casualties and serious consequences.

In March 1984, events developed rapidly. A powerful squadron led by the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk enters the Sea of ​​Japan. On board – about a hundred aircraft of various types. The flagship is guarded by several cruisers, frigates, guided missile destroyers, and support vessels. The strike group is heading to the shores of South Korea to participate in Team Spirit ’84 joint exercises.

The activity of potential enemy ships near the borders of the USSR does not go unnoticed by the Pacific Fleet. The crew of the nuclear submarine K-314 of project 671 Ruff is entrusted with monitoring the actions and movements of the carrier group. The submarine is armed with torpedoes of a caliber of 533 mm, mines and an anti-submarine complex “Blizzard”, the missile torpedoes of which were equipped with nuclear warheads and could sink an enemy ship at a distance of more than forty kilometers.

After several days of autonomous navigation, on March 21, the crew of a Soviet submarine visually discovered a grouping of ships 150 miles from the coast of South Korea. Tracking was carried out from underwater. After some time, the commander decided to clarify the situation and surfaced under the periscope. Having risen to a depth of ten meters, Evseenko saw the side lights of American ships at a distance of only 20-30 cable (four to five kilometers). But suddenly the submarine was shaken by a powerful blow, after a few seconds – another one. It turned out that the aircraft carrier was much closer and both ships were on the opposite course. K-314 landed in the very center of the aircraft carrier group, Kitty Hawk crashed into the submarine at full speed. A second collision damaged the propeller shaft, the Ruff quickly lost track.

There is no time for surveillance. The submarine urgently surfaced. American aircraft flew in instantly – one should not miss the rare opportunity to photograph and study the latest Soviet nuclear-powered ship with impunity. Hurried to the aid of the tug, he dragged the damaged ship to the base point, accompanied by aircraft and frigates of the potential enemy.

Team Spirit trainings had been turned off. Kitty Hawk went to Yokosuka’s Japanese naval base for repairs: there was a hole four by six meters in the bottom of the aircraft carrier – from a Soviet propeller. And in a dangerous place – not far from tanks with aviation fuel, because of which several thousand tons of kerosene leaked into the sea. Only by a miracle there was no fire on the ship. 

22 March

1945 – Anglo-American strategic aviation raids on the German city of Hildesheim

Anglo-American strategic aviation raids on the German city of Hildesheim

On March 22, 1945, Hildesheim was the key target of the Allied Bomber Command. British and Canadian bomber aircrafts were ordered ‘to destroy a built up area with associated industries and railway facilities. At 2 a.m. about 250 bomber aircrafts started the attack. In the following 15 minutes, they dropped a total of 438.8 tons of high explosive and 624 tons of incendiary bombs.

Almost 74% of the buildings in Hildesheim were destroyed or damaged during the attack, including nearly the entire historical city centre. 26.8% of the houses remained undamaged. The Cathedral, Saint Michael’s Church and St. Lamberti were completely destroyed, among others. The centre, which had retained its medieval character until then, was almost levelled. Although the famous historic center had little military significance, two months before the end of the war in Europe it was chosen to be destroyed in order to shatter the will to defend as part of the area bombing directive.

Around 1,500 civilians were killed in the March attacks. About 500 of them could not be identified.

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