1933 — The USS Akron crashes in the Atlantic

The USS Akron was a helium-filled rigid airship of the U.S. Navy which was the world’s first purpose-built flying aircraft carrier, carrying F9C Sparrowhawk fighter planes which could be launched and recovered while she was in flight. With an overall length of 785 ft (239 m), the Akron and her sister airship the Macon were among the largest flying objects ever built, and the largest ever helium-filled airships.

The USS Akron was destroyed in a thunderstorm off the coast of New Jersey on the morning of 4 April 1933. Strong winds forced the ship down so low that its lower fin contacted the Atlantic, drawing the rest of the ship after it. In rough seas, the ship soon broke up, killing 73 of the 76 crewmen and passengers, the greatest loss of life in any known airship crash.

Referenced in:
The Crash of the Akron — Bob Miller

1933 — Guiseppe Zangara fails to kill Franklin Roosevelt

Guiseppe Zangara was a mentally disturbed former bricklayer who had made it his mission in life to kill Presidents and Kings (followed, he claimed, by ‘all capitalists’). In 1933, while President-Elect Franklin Delano Roosevelt was giving an impromptu speech from the back of a convertable car in Bayfront Park, Miami, Zangara fired five shots at him with a .32 calibre pistol purchased at a nearby pawnshop.

His first shot missed, and bystanders tackled him, making his other four shots go wild. One of them hit Anton Cermak, the Mayor of Chicago who was part of Roosevelt’s party. Cermak died of his wounds 19 days later, and Zangara was executed for the murder a fortnight after that. Roosevelt would go on to become the single longest serving President in United States history. On the day of the shooting, Cermak had told him “I’m glad it was me instead of you” – a sentiment echoed by everyone glad of the Allied victory in World War Two.

Referenced in:
How I Saved Roosevelt — Stephen Sondheim

1933 – Dachau concentration camp opens

Dachau was the first of the Nazi concentration camps. Located near Munich, over the next 12 years, until the camp was liberated by American forces in 1945, thousands of people were interned there. In addition to Communists and Jews, the camp also held ordinary German criminals, Christian clergy and a range of prisoners from various conquered nations. Over 32,000 deaths were documented there – and very likely thousands more were not documented.

After the war, it was used to hold captured SS troops as they awaited trial at Nuremberg, in a small measure of poetic justice. Not nearly enough, though.

Referenced in:
Nazis 1994 — Roger Taylor
Dachau Blues — Captain Beefheart
Ghosts of Dachau — The Style Council

1933 — Samora Machel born

The son of farmers, Samora Machel was born in the village of Madragoa (now Chilembene), in Portuguese East Africa (now Mozambique). Machel’s father was well-to-do (by the standards of indigenous farmers under Portuguese rule), and young Samora would study nursing, eventually becoming a medical aide in a hospital. But like many, he chafed under Portuguese rule, and eventually left the hospital to join the revolutionary movement in Dar Es Salaam.

Through the course of the long guerrilla war that was the Sixties in Mozambique, Samora Machel rose through the ranks of the Marxist-Leninist Mozambique Liberation Front or FRELIMO, also known as the Mozambique Liberation Front. By 1969, he was their leader, and led them to a negotiated independence from Portugal as the new state of Mozambique in 1975. He then served as his country’s first President until his death in 1986.

Referenced in:

Born fe Rebel — Steel Pulse

1933 — Adolf Hitler becomes Chancellor of Germany

It’s often overlooked, what the enormity of his crimes afterwards, but Hitler came to power more or less legally, elected Chancellor of Germany in an election not that much more corrupt than any seen in modern democracies. But his accession to the highest position in Germany was not enough for him.

There were enemies to be purged and pogrommed, lebensraum to be reclaimed, treaties to be ignored or violated, and, of course, the most devastating war in human history to start, and fortunately for us all, to lose. But while his run lasted, he had a better claim to the title of emperor of Europe than any man since the fall of Rome, won in just as bloody a fashion as any Roman Caesar.

Referenced in:
To Be Or Not To Be (The Hitler Rap) — Mel Brooks

1933 – “The Invisible Man” premieres

One of the great classics of Universal studios’ horror output, “The Invisible Man” was based on the H.G. Wells novel of the same name. The first adaptation of Wells’ classic, three screenwriters – R. C. Sherriff, and the uncredited Philip Wylie and Preston Sturges – all worked on it, and it was directed by James Whale.

It made a star of Claude Rains (in what was his first Hollywood film), and spawned an incredible number of sequels, spin-offs and rip-offs (although Universal were prone to make franchises out of their monsters – Frankenstein, Dracula, the Werewolf, even the Mummy, all had many films in the Thirties and Forties.) Even Wells liked it, although he thought that the title character was more of a madman in the film than in his book.

Referenced in:

Science Fiction Double Feature — Rocky Horror Picture Show original cast

1933 – The Nazi Party wins the German Federal Election

Adolf Hitler was already Chancellor of Germany at the time this election was held, and he took full advantage of his powers (and willingness to ignore the legal restrictions on them) in order to ensure that the Nazi Party won. Various Nazi Party organisations “monitored” the election, and it is widely believed that the election was at least partially stolen.

In the event, the Nazi Party did not win an absolute majority, but was forced to maintain its coalition with the German National People’s Party in order to form a government. On March 24th, Hitler would use their numbers to pass the Enabling Act, giving him dictatorial powers in Germany – and in several other nations, after September 1939.

Referenced in:

To Be Or Not To Be (The Hitler Rap) – Mel Brooks

1933 – “King Kong” premieres

One of the most famous films of all time, the original King Kong is famed for its storyline (a sympathetic monster?), Fay Wray’s luminous beauty and Ray Harryhausen’s superb stop-motion special effects. It was not the first giant monster film, nor the first jungle film – there were dinosaur and Tarzan films before it – but it was the first giant ape film.

Kong himself has gone on the be one of the most famous movie monsters of all time, with multiple remakes, sequels and appearances in other films to his credit – his only serious rival for the crown of King of Monsters is Godzilla (who is equally iconic and even more prolific).

The film is one of the most loved films of all time, being a massive commercial success (except in Nazi Germany, where it was banned), a critical favourite (admittedly, of the guilty pleasure variety), and a cult classic. Not bad for an adventure yarn.

Referenced in:

Science Fiction Double Feature — Rocky Horror Picture Show original cast
Fanfare / Don’t Dream It, Be It — Rocky Horror Picture Show original cast