1915 – The Battle of Lone Pine begins

The Battle of Lone Pine – or, if you’re Turkish, the Battle of Kanli Sirt – was a five day long engagement betwen the ANZAC forces and the Turkish defenders during the Gallipoli campaign of 1915. Part of a larger Allied Assault called the August Offensive, it was about the only successful one, where Australian forces captured their objectives, reinforced them and held them against the Turkish counter-attack. Unfortunately, after August 10, 1915, conditions returned to the stalemate that had previously obtained on the Dardanelles front, and the assault would be abandoned entirely in December of that year.

But in August, 2200 Australians and 5000-6000 Turks were killed or wounded in action, and all for a few square miles of mud that had little impact on the wider conduct of the war. Seven Australians were awarded the Victoria Cross for their actions in the battle, for what it’s worth. Today, Lone Pine military cemetary is the site of commemorative services every ANZAC Day.

Referenced in:

All the Fine Young Men — Eric Bogle

1945 – The Bomb is dropped on Hiroshima

The Enola Gay left its base on Tinian with two companion aircraft on the morning of AUhust 6, 1945. It flew for the Japanese mainland, aiming for the city of Hiroshima. Its payload was the nuclear bomb codenamed ‘Little Boy’, which was dropped and detonated over the target at approximately 8:15 local time.

Of the 340-350 thousand people who lived in Hiroshima, about 20% were killed in the blast itself. Another 20% died of injuries sustained in the blast or its aftermath, or from radiation sickness. Still more died later of related medical issues such as a cancer. All in all, about 200,000 human lives were ended by the first use of a nuclear bomb as a weapon of war. Hiroshima itself was devastated – the few structures that survived the inital blast were damaged or destroyed in the resulting fires.

Along with the detonation of another nuclear bomb, ‘Fat Man’, over Nagasaki three days later, and similar destruction and death there, the attack on Hiroshima was the proximate cause of Japan’s surrender to the Allies, thus ending World War Two.

Referenced in:

Mrs. O — The Dresden Dolls
Short Memory — Midnight Oil
Enola Gay — Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark

1890 – The Electric Chair is first used to execute a condemned prisoner

The first person to be executed via the electric chair was William Kemmler in New York’s Auburn Prison on August 6, 1890; the ‘state electrician’ was Edwin Davis. The first 17-second passage of current through Kemmler caused unconsciousness, but failed to stop his heart and breathing. The attending physicians, Dr. Edward Charles Spitzka and Dr. Charles F. Macdonald, came forward to examine Kemmler. After confirming Kemmler was still alive, Spitzka reportedly called out, “Have the current turned on again, quick — no delay.”

The generator needed time to re-charge, however. In the second attempt, Kemmler was shocked with 2,000 volts. Blood vessels under the skin ruptured and bled and his body caught fire.

In all, the entire execution took approximately eight minutes. Westinghouse later commented: “They would have done better using an axe.” A reporter who witnessed it also said it was “an awful spectacle, far worse than hanging.”

Referenced in:

Fuel – Ani Di Franco