Today in 1945 during the battle for Iwo Jima, U.S. Marines raised the American flag atop Mt. Suribachi, the highest point on the island and a key strategic point. Later, Marine commanders decide to raise a second, larger flag, an event which an Associated Press photographer captured on film. The resulting photograph became a defining image of the war.
This first flag-raising was photographed by Marine photographer Sgt. Louis R. Lowery. On Lowery’s way down Mt. Suribachi, he ran into AP photographer Joe Rosenthal and two other Marine photographers, informing them that the flag-raising they were looking for had already occurred, but encouraging them to check out the view from the top of the hill. The three men continued up the volcano. Rosenthal recorded the raising of the second flag along with a Marine still photographer and a motion-picture cameraman. Rosenthal took three photographs atop Suribachi. The first, which showed five Marines and one Navy corpsman struggling to hoist the heavy flag pole, became the most reproduced photograph in history and won him a Pulitzer Prize. The accompanying motion-picture footage attests to the fact that the picture was not posed. Although the famous photograph has long led people to believe that the flag-raising was a turning point in the fight for Iwo Jima, vicious fighting to control the island actually continued for 31 more days.
The photograph so impressed President Roosevelt that he ordered the men pictured in it to return home for a publicity tour. Three of the six soldiers seen raising the flag in the famous Rosenthal photo, were killed before the conclusion of the Battle for Iwo Jima in late March.
Today in 1778 Friedrich Wilhelm Rudolf Gerhard August, better known as Baron von Steuben, arrived at General George Washington’s encampment at Valley Forge and commenced training soldiers in close-order drill, instilling new confidence and discipline in the demoralized Continental Army.
Employed by an indebted prince, von Steuben searched for more lucrative employment in foreign armies. The French minister of war recommended von Steuben to Benjamin Franklin as a resource to the Continental Army in 1777. Franklin in turn passed on word of Steuben’s availability to George Washington.
Von Steuben, who did not speak English, drafted a drill manual in French, which Alexander Hamilton and Nathanael Greene then translated into English. The Prussian drill techniques he shared were far more advanced than those of other European armies, let alone those of the ragtag Patriots. Most important for 18th-century battle was an efficient method of firing and reloading weapons, which von Steuben forced the Patriots to practice until it became second nature.
Von Steuben insisted on reorganization to establish basic hygiene. He demanded that kitchens and latrines be put on opposite sides of the camp, with latrines facing a downhill slope. (Just having latrines was novelty to the Continental troops who were accustomed to living among their own filth.)
On the merit of his efforts at Valley Forge, Washington recommended that von Steuben be named inspector general of the Continental Army. Von Steuben propagated his methods throughout the Patriot forces by circulating his Blue Book, entitled Regulations for the Order and Discipline of the Troops of the United States.
Today in 1954 a group of children from Arsenal Elementary School in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, received the first injections of the new polio vaccine developed by Dr. Jonas Salk.
Though not as devastating as the plague or influenza, poliomyelitis is a highly contagious disease that emerged in terrifying outbreaks and seemed impossible to stop. Attacking the nerve cells and sometimes the central nervous system, polio caused muscle deterioration, paralysis and even death. Even as medicine vastly improved in the first half of the 20th century in the Western world, polio still struck, affecting mostly children but sometimes adults as well.
In the late 1940s, the March of Dimes, a grassroots organization founded with President Roosevelt’s help, enlisted Dr. Jonas Salk, head of the Virus Research Lab at the University of Pittsburgh. Salk found that polio had as many as 125 strains of three basic types, and that an effective vaccine needed to combat all three. By growing samples of the polio virus and then deactivating, or “killing” them by adding a chemical called formalin, Salk developed his vaccine, which was able to immunize without infecting the patient.
After mass inoculations began in 1954, everyone marveled at the high success rate–some 60-70 percent. By August 1955 some 4 million shots had been given. Cases of polio in the U.S. dropped from 14,647 in 1955 to 5,894 in 1956, and by 1959 some 90 other countries were using Salk’s vaccine.
A later version of the polio vaccine, developed by Albert Sabin, used a weakened form of the live virus and was swallowed instead of injected. It was licensed in 1962 and soon became more popular than Salk’s vaccine, as it was cheaper to make and easier for people to take. There is still no cure for polio once it has been contracted, but the use of vaccines has virtually eliminated polio in the United States. Globally, there are now around 250,000 cases each year, mostly in developing countries. The World Health Organization has set a goal of eradicating polio from the entire world by 2010.
Today in1978, both Barbra Streisand’s “Love Theme from A Star Is Born (Evergreen)” and Debby Boone’s “You Light Up My Life” were awarded the Best Song Grammy—the first and only tie in that category in Grammy history.
The award for “You Light Up My Life” was not actually an award for Debby Boone. The Best Song category is an award for songwriters, and though “You Light Up My Life” propelled Boone to the Best New Artist award that year, she did not write the song herself. A songwriter named Joe Brooks got the Best Song Grammy. “You Light Up My Life” was Debby Boone’s only pop hit and led to her only Grammy nomination.
“Love Theme from A Star Is Born (Evergreen)” was co-written by Streisand and Paul Williams, both multiple Grammy winners—Streisand has won 13 Grammys while Paul Williams has won two. “Evergreen” was also from a movie.
For Barbra Streisand, the tie made her the answer to an excellent trivia question: Who is the only person to tie for both a Grammy Award and an Oscar? In 1968, she was the co-winner in the Best Actress category for her performance in Funny Girl. (Katherine Hepburn was the co-winner for her role in The Lion in Winter.)
Today 1942 the first attack on the U.S. mainland occurred as a Japanese submarine shelled an oil refinery near Santa Barbara, California, causing minor damage.
Today in 1991 in Desert Storm, the Allied ground offensive began after a devastating month-long air campaign targeting Iraqi troops in both Iraq and Kuwait.
Happy birthday William Edward Burghardt “W. E. B.” Du Bois, sociologist, historian, civil rights activist, author and editor, born today in 1868 at Great Barrington, Massachusetts.
A brilliant scholar, DuBois was an influential proponent of civil rights. His first major book, The Philadelphia Negro: A Social Study (1899) was the first sociological case study of a black community. DuBois came to national attention with the publication of The Souls of Black Folks (1903). One controversial essay attacked the widely respected Booker T. Washington, founder of Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. DuBois accused Washington of selling out blacks by advocating silence in civil rights issues in return for vocational training opportunities for blacks. In 1909 DuBois helped found the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. He edited the association’s journal, The Crisis, from 1910 to 1934, reaching an audience of more than 100,000 readers
W. E. B. DuBois died on August 27, 1963, at Accra, Ghana. He was age 95. He is buried at Accra. The Civil Rights Act of 1964, embodying many of the reforms Du Bois had campaigned for his entire life, was enacted a year after his death.
Happy birthday William Lawrence Shirer, journalist, war correspondent, and historian, born today in 1904 at Chicago, Illinois.
As a news reporter stationed in Europe, he witnessed the rise of Adolf Hitler and reported on the surrender of France. He also reported the Nuremberg trials in 1945.
Shirer wrote the first major history of Nazi Germany, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich (1960). The hardback was reprinted twenty times in the first year and sold more than 600,000 through Book of the Month Club alone and a million overall. Serialization of a condensed version in Readers Digest and critical acclaim ensured its success in the USA. A further million copies were sold in paperback. It won the 1961 National Book Award for Nonfiction and Carey-Thomas Award for non-fiction.
Shirer wrote more than a dozen other books including Berlin Diary (1941); The Collapse of the Third Republic (1969), and a three-volume autobiography, Twentieth Century Journey (1976 to 1990).
Shirer died December 28, 1993, at Boston, Massachusetts. He was age 89. He is buried at Lenox, Massachusetts.