1945 – The Trinity nuclear test is carried out

The world entered a new age – the nuclear age – when the scientists and soldiers of the Manhattan Project test detonated the first ever atomic bomb at White Sands in Nevada. Less than a month later, two more bombs just like it would destroy Hiroshima and Nagasaki, bringing World War Two to an abrupt end.

On the day, however, no one knew quite how destructive the bomb would be (some worried that it would ignite the entire atmosphere of the planet, for example), or how long its effects would last. But after the explosion, Robert Oppenheimer’s apropos quote from the Bhavagad Gita was generally agreed to be the most apt: “Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.”

Referenced in:
Russians — Sting

1212 — The Children’s Crusade sets out for the Holy Land

The Children’s Crusade is the name given to a variety of fictional and factual events which happened in 1212 that combine some or all of these elements: visions by a French or German boy; an intention to peacefully convert Muslims in the Holy Land to Christianity; bands of children marching from various other European nations to Italy; and finally, the children being sold into slavery and failing entirely in their admittedly unlikely and quixotic mission.

It has become a byword for tragedy, waste, naivete and religious stupidity, although of course, since it was never officially sanctioned by Rome, the Catholic Church denies all responsibility for it.

Referenced in:

Children’s Crusade — Sting

1914 — World War One begins

World War One was, according to the commonly held wisdom, unavoidable. The complex web of alliance and counter-alliance that bound the European powers to each other did make declarations of war on the part of each nation more or less inevitable once an inciting incident occurred.

That incident turned out to be the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand on June 28, 1914. Over the next thirty days, declarations of war started one after another, in two opposed chains of political allies. On one side: Austria-Hungary, Germany and the Ottoman Empire. On the other side, the United Kingdom and its Commonwealth, France, Russia, Italy, Japan, and eventually, the USA as well.

It was the first truly worldwide war, fought in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Asia and the Atlantic Ocean. World War One lasted for four years and a little under four months. It killed 16.5 million people, the greatest single toll of any conflict to that date, and despite the propaganda of the following years, it did not end wars.

Referenced in:

Children’s Crusade — Sting
No Man’s Land – Eric Bogle

1977 — Spree killer Gary Gilmore is executed by firing squad

Gary Mark Gilmore was the first person to be executed after the Supreme Court decision of Gregg vs Georgia in 1976. He was convicted of two murders in the state of Utah, and acheived notoriety for insisting on being sentenced to death. At that time, the state of Utah had two different methods of execution, and Judge Bullock (who heard the case) permitted Gilmore to choose between the noose and the firing squad. Gilmore chose the latter, forbade his attorneys to appeal his sentence, and insisted on donating his eyes for use in transplants.

Although Utah traditionally used a five man firing squad, four of whom would be given live rounds and one a blank, Gilmore’s brother Mikal claimed to have found five bullet holes in Gary’s chest after his death. Per his request, Gilmore’s eyes were removed, and used in transplant operations later that same day.

Referenced in:
Bring On The Night — The Police
Gary Gilmore’s Eyes — The Adverts