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T.E. Lawrence, known to the world as Lawrence of Arabia, dies as a retired Royal Air Force mechanic living under an assumed name on this day in 1935. The legendary war hero, author, and archaeological scholar succumbed to injuries suffered in a motorcycle accident six days before.
Thomas Edward Lawrence was born in Tremadoc, Wales, in 1888. In 1896, his family moved to Oxford. Lawrence studied architecture and archaeology, for which he made a trip to Ottoman (Turkish)-controlled Syria and Palestine in 1909. In 1911, he won a fellowship to join an expedition excavating an ancient Hittite settlement on the Euphrates River. He worked there for three years and in his free time travelled and learned Arabic. In 1914, he explored the Sinai, near the frontier of Ottoman-controlled Arabia and British-controlled Egypt. The maps Lawrence and his associates made had immediate strategic value upon the outbreak of war between Britain and the Ottoman Empire in October 1914.
Lawrence enlisted in the war and because of his expertise in Arab affairs was assigned to Cairo as an intelligence officer. He spent more than a year in Egypt, processing intelligence information and in 1916 accompanied a British diplomat to Arabia, where Hussein ibn Ali, the emir of Mecca, had proclaimed a revolt against Turkish rule. Lawrence convinced his superiors to aid Hussein's rebellion, and he was sent to join the Arabian army of Hussein's son Faisal as a liaison officer.
Under Lawrence's guidance, the Arabians launched an effective guerrilla war against the Turkish lines. He proved a gifted military strategist and was greatly admired by the Bedouin people of Arabia. In July 1917, Arabian forces captured Aqaba near the Sinai and joined the British march on Jerusalem. Lawrence was promoted to the rank of lieutenant colonel. In November, he was captured by the Turks while reconnoitring behind enemy lines in Arab dress and was tortured and sexually abused before escaping. He rejoined his army, which slowly worked its way north to Damascus, which fell in October 1918.
Arabia was liberated, but Lawrence's hope that the peninsula would be united as a single nation was dashed when Arabian factionalism came to the fore after Damascus. Lawrence, exhausted and disillusioned, left for England. Feeling that Britain had exacerbated the rivalries between the Arabian groups, he appeared before King George V and politely refused the medals offered to him.
After the war, he lobbied hard for independence for Arab countries and appeared at the Paris peace conference in Arab robes. He became something of a legendary figure in his own lifetime, and in 1922 he gave up higher-paying appointments to enlist in the Royal Air Force (RAF) under an assumed name, John Hume Ross. He had just completed writing his monumental war memoir, The Seven Pillars of Wisdom, and he hoped to escape his fame and acquire material for a new book. Found out by the press, he was discharged, but in 1923 he managed to enlist as a private in the Royal Tanks Corps under another assumed name, T.E. Shaw, a reference to his friend, Irish writer George Bernard Shaw. In 1925, Lawrence rejoined the RAF and two years later legally changed his last name to Shaw.
In 1927, an abridged version of his memoir was published and generated tremendous publicity, but the press was unable to locate Lawrence (he was posted to a base in India). In 1929, he returned to England and spent the next six years writing and working as an RAF mechanic. In 1932, his English translation of Homer's Odyssey was published under the name of T.E. Shaw. The Mint, a fictionalised account of Royal Air Force recruit training, was not published until 1955 because of its explicitness.
In February 1935, Lawrence was discharged from the RAF and returned to his simple cottage at Clouds Hill, Dorset. On May 13, he was critically injured while driving his motorcycle through the Dorset countryside. He had swerved to avoid two boys on bicycles. On May 19, he died at the hospital of his former RAF camp. All of Britain mourned his passing.
At 8:32 a.m. PDT, Mount St. Helens, a volcanic peak in south-western Washington, U.S.A., suffers a massive eruption, killing 57 people and devastating some 210 square miles of wilderness.
Called Louwala-Clough, or "the Smoking Mountain," by Native Americans, Mount St. Helens is located in the Cascade Range and stood 9,680 feet before its eruption. The volcano has erupted periodically during the last 4,500 years, and the last active period was between 1831 and 1857. On March 20, 1980, noticeable volcanic activity began again with a series of earth tremors centred on the ground just beneath the north flank of the mountain. These earthquakes escalated, and on March 27 a minor eruption occurred, and Mount St. Helens began emitting steam and ash through its crater and vents.
Small eruptions continued daily, and in April people familiar with the mountain noticed changes to the structure of its north face. A scientific study confirmed that a bulge more than a mile in diameter was moving upward and outward over the high north slope by as much as six feet per day. The bulge was caused by an intrusion of magma below the surface, and authorities began evacuating hundreds of people from the sparsely settled area near the mountain. A few people refused to leave.
On the morning of May 18, Mount St. Helens was shaken by an earthquake of about 5.0 magnitude, and the entire north side of the summit began to slide down the mountain. The giant landslide of rock and ice, one of the largest recorded in history, was followed and overtaken by an enormous explosion of steam and volcanic gases, which surged northward along the ground at high speed. The lateral blast stripped trees from most hill slopes within six miles of the volcano and levelled nearly all vegetation for as far as 12 miles away. Approximately 10 million trees were felled by the blast.
The landslide debris, liquefied by the violent explosion, surged down the mountain at speeds in excess of 100 miles per hour. The avalanche flooded Spirit Lake and roared down the valley of the Toutle River for a distance of 13 miles, burying the river to an average depth of 150 feet. Mud-flows, pyroclastic flows, and floods added to the destruction, destroying roads, bridges, parks, and thousands more acres of forest. Simultaneous with the avalanche, a vertical eruption of gas and ash formed a mushrooming column over the volcano more than 12 miles high. Ash from the eruption fell on Northwest cities and towns like snow and drifted around the globe within two weeks. Fifty-seven people, thousands of animals, and millions of fish were killed by the eruption of Mount St. Helens.
By late in the afternoon of May 18, the eruption subsided, and by early the next day it had essentially ceased. Mount St. Helens' volcanic cone was completely blasted away and replaced by a horseshoe-shaped crater--the mountain lost 1,700 feet from the eruption. The volcano produced five smaller explosive eruptions during the summer and fall of 1980 and remains active today. In 1982, Congress made Mount St. Helens a protected research area.
Mount St. Helens became active again in 2004. On March 8, 2005, a 36,000-foot plume of steam and ash was expelled from the mountain, accompanied by a minor earthquake. Though a new dome has been growing steadily near the top of the peak and small earthquakes are frequent, scientists do not expect a repeat of the 1980 catastrophe anytime soon.
In Washington, D.C. (Good 'Ole U.S.A.), the Senate Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities, headed by Senator Sam Ervin of North Carolina, begins televised hearings on the escalating Watergate affair. One week later, Harvard law professor Archibald Cox was sworn in as special Watergate prosecutor.
On June 17, 1972, five men were arrested for breaking into and illegally wiretapping the Democratic National Committee headquarters in the Watergate complex in Washington, D.C. One of the suspects, James W. McCord Jr., was revealed to be the salaried security coordinator for President Richard Nixon's reelection committee. Two other men with White House ties were later implicated in the break-in: E. Howard Hunt, Jr., a former White House aide, and G. Gordon Liddy, finance counsel for the Committee for the Re-election of the President. Journalists and the Select Committee discovered a higher-echelon conspiracy surrounding the incident, and a political scandal of unprecedented magnitude erupted.
In May 1973, the special Senate committee began televised proceedings on the Watergate affair. During the Senate hearings, former White House legal counsel John Dean testified that the Watergate break-in had been approved by former Attorney General John Mitchell with the knowledge of chief White House advisers John Ehrlichman and H.R. Haldeman, and that President Nixon had been aware of the cover-up. Meanwhile, Watergate prosecutor Cox and his staff began to uncover widespread evidence of political espionage by the Nixon reelection committee, illegal wiretapping of thousands of citizens by the administration, and contributions to the Republican Party in return for political favours.
In July, the existence of what were to be called the Watergate tapes--official recordings of White House conversations between Nixon and his staff--was revealed during the Senate hearings. Cox subpoenaed these tapes, and after three months of delay President Nixon agreed to send summaries of the recordings. Cox rejected the summaries, and Nixon fired him. His successor as special prosecutor, Leon Jaworski, levelled indictments against several high-ranking administration officials, including Mitchell and Dean, who were duly convicted.
Public confidence in the president rapidly waned, and by the end of July 1974 the House Judiciary Committee had adopted three articles of impeachment against President Nixon: obstruction of justice, abuse of presidential powers, and hindrance of the impeachment process. On July 30, under coercion from the Supreme Court, Nixon finally released the Watergate tapes. On August 5, transcripts of the recordings were released, including a segment in which the president was heard instructing Haldeman to order the FBI to halt the Watergate investigation. Four days later, Nixon became the first president in U.S. history to resign. On September 8, his successor, President Gerald Ford, pardoned him from any criminal charges.
The Seven Years War, a global conflict known in America as the French and Indian War, officially begins when England declares war on France. However, fighting and skirmishes between England and France had been going on in North America for years.
In the early 1750s, French expansion into the Ohio River valley repeatedly brought France into armed conflict with the British colonies. In 1756--the first official year of fighting in the Seven Years War--the British suffered a series of defeats against the French and their broad network of Native American alliances. However, in 1757, British Prime Minister William Pitt (the older) recognised the potential of imperial expansion that would come out of victory against the French and borrowed heavily to fund an expanded war effort. Pitt financed Prussia's struggle against France and her allies in Europe and reimbursed the colonies for the raising of armies in North America.
By 1760, the French had been expelled from Canada, and by 1763 all of France's allies in Europe had either made a separate peace with Prussia or had been defeated. In addition, Spanish attempts to aid France in the Americas had failed, and France also suffered defeats against British forces in India.
The Seven Years War ended with the signing of the treaties of Hubertusburg and Paris in February 1763. In the Treaty of Paris, France lost all claims to Canada and gave Louisiana to Spain, while Britain received Spanish Florida, Upper Canada, and various French holdings overseas. The treaty ensured the colonial and maritime supremacy of Britain and strengthened the 13 American colonies by removing their European rivals to the north and the south. Fifteen years later, French bitterness over the loss of most of their colonial empire contributed to their intervention in the American Revolution on the side of the Patriots.
At London's Westminster Abbey, George VI and his consort, Lady Elizabeth, are crowned king and queen of the United Kingdom as part of a coronation ceremony that dates back more than a millennium.
George, who studied at Dartmouth Naval College and served in World War I, ascended to the throne after his elder brother, King Edward VIII, abdicated on December 11, 1936. Edward, who was the first English monarch to voluntarily relinquish the English throne, agreed to give up his title in the face of widespread criticism of his desire to marry Wallis Warfield Simpson, an American divorcee.
In 1939, King George became the first British monarch to visit America and Canada. During World War II, he worked to keep up British morale by visiting bombed areas and touring war zones. George and Elizabeth also remained in bomb-damaged Buckingham Palace during the war, shunning the relative safety of the countryside, and George made a series of important morale-boosting radio broadcasts, for which he overcame a speech impediment.
After the war, the royal family visited South Africa, but a planned tour of Australia and New Zealand had to be postponed indefinitely when the king fell ill in 1949. Despite his illness, he continued to perform state duties until his death in 1952. He was succeeded by his first-born daughter, who was crowned Queen Elizabeth II in June 1953.
In London, Spencer Perceval, prime minister of Britain since 1809, is shot to death by demented businessman John Bellingham in the lobby of the House of Commons. Bellingham, who was inflamed by his failure to obtain government compensation for war debts incurred in Russia, gave himself up immediately.
Spencer Perceval had a profitable law practice before entering the House of Commons as a Tory in 1796. Industrious and organised, he successively held the senior cabinet posts of solicitor general and attorney general beginning in 1801. In 1807, he became chancellor of the exchequer, a post he continued to hold after becoming prime minister in 1809. As prime minister, Perceval faced a financial crisis in Britain brought on by the country's extended involvement in the costly Napoleonic Wars. He also made political enemies through his opposition to the regency of the Prince of Wales, who later became King George IV. Nevertheless, the general situation was improving when he was assassinated on May 11, 1812. His assassin, though deemed insane, was executed one week later.
Winston Churchill, First Lord of the Admiralty, is called to replace Neville Chamberlain as British prime minister on this day in 1940, following the latter's resignation after losing a confidence vote in the House of Commons.
In 1938, Prime Minister Chamberlain signed the Munich Pact with Nazi leader Adolf Hitler, giving Czechoslovakia over to German conquest but bringing, as Chamberlain promised, "peace in our time." In September 1939, that peace was shattered by Hitler's invasion of Poland. Chamberlain declared war against Germany but during the next eight months showed himself to be ill-equipped for the daunting task of saving Europe from Nazi conquest. After British forces failed to prevent the German occupation of Norway in April 1940, Chamberlain lost the support of many members of his Conservative Party. On May 10, Hitler invaded Holland, Belgium, and the Netherlands. The same day, Chamberlain formally lost the confidence of the House of Commons.
Churchill, who was known for his military leadership ability, was appointed British prime minister in his place. He formed an all-party coalition and quickly won the popular support of Britons. On May 13, in his first speech before the House of Commons, Prime Minister Churchill declared that "I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears, and sweat" and offered an outline of his bold plans for British resistance. In the first year of his administration, Britain stood alone against Nazi Germany, but Churchill promised his country and the world that the British people would "never surrender." They never did.
On this day in 1950, Lafayette Ronald Hubbard (1911-1986) publishes Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health. With this book, Hubbard introduced a branch of self-help psychology called Dianetics, which quickly caught fire and, over time, morphed into a belief system boasting millions of subscribers: Scientology.
Hubbard was already a prolific and frequently published writer by the time he penned the book that would change his life. Under several pseudonyms in the 1930s, he published a great amount of pulp fiction, particularly in the science fiction and fantasy genres. In late 1949, having returned from serving in the Navy in World War II, Hubbard began publishing articles in the pages of Astounding Science Fiction, a magazine that published works by the likes of Isaac Asimov and Jack Williamson. Out of these grew the elephantine text known as Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health.
In Dianetics, Hubbard explained that phenomena known as "engrams" (i.e. memories) were the cause of all psychological pain, which in turn harmed mental and physical health. He went on to claim that people could become "clear," achieving an exquisite state of clarity and mental liberation, by exorcising their engrams to an "auditor," or a listener acting as therapist.
Though discredited by the medical and scientific establishment, over 100,000 copies of Dianetics were sold in the first two years of publication, and Hubbard soon found himself lecturing across the country. He went on to write six more books in 1951, developing a significant fan base, and establishing the Hubbard Dianetics Research Foundation in Elizabeth, New Jersey.
Despite his fast-growing popularity from books and touring, strife within his organisation and Hubbard's own personal troubles nearly crippled his success. Several of his research foundations had to be abandoned due to financial troubles and he went through a divorce from his second wife.
By 1953, however, Hubbard was able to rebound from the widespread condemnation beginning to be heaped upon him, and introduced Scientology. Scientology expanded on Dianetics by bringing Hubbard's popular version of psychotherapy into the realm of philosophy, and ultimately, religion. In only a few years, Hubbard found himself at the helm of a movement that captured the popular imagination. As Scientology grew in the 1960s, several national governments became suspicious of Hubbard, accusing him of quackery and brainwashing his followers. Nonetheless, Hubbard built his religion into a multi-million dollar movement that continues to have a considerable presence in the public eye, due in part to its high profile in Hollywood.
On this day in 1945, both Great Britain and the United States celebrate Victory in Europe Day. Cities in both nations, as well as formerly occupied cities in Western Europe, put out flags and banners, rejoicing in the defeat of the Nazi war machine.
The eighth of May spelled the day when German troops throughout Europe finally laid down their arms: In Prague, Germans surrendered to their Soviet antagonists, after the latter had lost more than 8,000 soldiers, and the Germans considerably more; in Copenhagen and Oslo; at Karlshorst, near Berlin; in northern Latvia; on the Channel Island of Sark--the German surrender was realised in a final cease-fire. More surrender documents were signed in Berlin and in eastern Germany.
The main concern of many German soldiers was to elude the grasp of Soviet forces, to keep from being taken prisoner. About 1 million Germans attempted a mass exodus to the West when the fighting in Czechoslovakia ended, but were stopped by the Russians and taken captive. The Russians took approximately 2 million prisoners in the period just before and after the German surrender.
Meanwhile, more than 13,000 British POWs were released and sent back to Great Britain.
Pockets of German-Soviet confrontation would continue into the next day. On May 9, the Soviets would lose 600 more soldiers in Silesia before the Germans finally surrendered. Consequently, V-E Day was not celebrated until the ninth in Moscow, with a radio broadcast salute from Stalin himself: "The age-long struggle of the Slav nations...has ended in victory. Your courage has defeated the Nazis. The war is over."
On the afternoon of May 7, 1915, the British ocean liner Lusitania is torpedoed without warning by a German submarine off the south coast of Ireland. Within 20 minutes, the vessel sank into the Celtic Sea. Of 1,959 passengers and crew, 1,198 people were drowned, including 128 Americans. The attack aroused considerable indignation in the United States, but Germany defended the action, noting that it had issued warnings of its intent to attack all ships, neutral or otherwise, that entered the war zone around Britain.
When World War I erupted in 1914, President Woodrow Wilson pledged neutrality for the United States, a position that the vast majority of Americans favoured. Britain, however, was one of America's closest trading partners, and tension soon arose between the United States and Germany over the latter's attempted quarantine of the British isles. Several U.S. ships travelling to Britain were damaged or sunk by German mines, and in February 1915 Germany announced unrestricted submarine warfare in the waters around Britain.
In early May 1915, several New York newspapers published a warning by the German embassy in Washington that Americans travelling on British or Allied ships in war zones did so at their own risk. The announcement was placed on the same page as an advertisement of the imminent sailing of the Lusitania liner from New York back to Liverpool. The sinking of merchant ships off the south coast of Ireland prompted the British Admiralty to warn the Lusitania to avoid the area or take simple evasive action, such as zigzagging to confuse U-boats plotting the vessel's course. The captain of the Lusitania ignored these recommendations, and at 2:12 p.m. on May 7 the 32,000-ton ship was hit by an exploding torpedo on its starboard side. The torpedo blast was followed by a larger explosion, probably of the ship's boilers, and the ship sunk in 20 minutes.
It was revealed that the Lusitania was carrying about 173 tons of war munitions for Britain, which the Germans cited as further justification for the attack. The United States eventually sent three notes to Berlin protesting the action, and Germany apologised and pledged to end unrestricted submarine warfare. In November, however, a U-boat sunk an Italian liner without warning, killing 272 people, including 27 Americans. Public opinion in the United States began to turn irrevocably against Germany.
On January 31, 1917, Germany, determined to win its war of attrition against the Allies, announced that it would resume unrestricted warfare in war-zone waters. Three days later, the United States broke diplomatic relations with Germany, and just hours after that the American liner Housatonic was sunk by a German U-boat. On February 22, Congress passed a $250 million arms appropriations bill intended to make the United States ready for war. In late March, Germany sunk four more U.S. merchant ships, and on April 2 President Wilson appeared before Congress and called for a declaration of war against Germany. On April 4, the Senate voted to declare war against Germany, and two days later the House of Representatives endorsed the declaration. With that, America entered World War I.