Dan Quayle - Lloyd Bentsen Debate, October 1988.
Posts tagged october.
October 23, 1942: The Second Battle of El Alamein begins.
Seventy years ago, the North African campaign reached its climax when Allied forces decisively defeated German-Italian forces at the coastal Egyptian town of El Alamein. At the First Battle of El Alamein, which took place in July of 1942, the Allied and Axis armies fought to a stalemate, although the Axis advance into Egypt (and toward the Suez Canal) was halted temporarily. The twelve-day second clash pit forces commanded by Erwin Rommel against those under the newly-appointed commander of the Eighth Army, Bernard Montgomery. Rommel was outnumbered in nearly every way possible. The Allied force had more men (British, Australian, South African, Greek, French, even Indian), more tanks, more cars, more artillery, and more aircraft; granted, the Allies had also outnumbered their foes at their first engagement at El Alamein, but now their advantage was almost overwhelming, particularly the air support provided by the RAF versus that provided by its German and Italian counterparts. In the end, the British took some 30,000 prisoners of war.
In his “The End of the Beginning” speech, delivered in November, Winston Churchill said of the Allied victories: “Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.” True enough, the defeat at El Alamein did not completely stamp out the Axis in Africa, but it was the turning point of the North African Campaign. The battle was also a huge morale booster. After the war, Churchill wrote: “It may almost be said, ‘Before Alamein we never had a victory. After Alamein we never had a defeat.’” The Axis’ forces were driven all the way to Tunisia, and in May 1943, Erwin Rommel’s Afrika Korps surrendered to the Allies. In 1946 Bernard Montgomery was granted the title Viscount Montgomery of Alamein, commemorating his crucial victory there.
October 21, 1805: The Battle of Trafalgar is fought.
At the Battle of Trafalgar, fought off Cape Trafalgar (south of Spain), the British Royal Navy engaged and decisively defeated a larger Spanish-French force in one of the most significant engagements of the War of the Third Coalition. Before the 1800s, the British Royal Navy (while large) was consistently matched or outmatched by enemy forces, but its victory at Trafalgar cemented Great Britain’s status as the greatest naval power in the world.
The main commanders at Trafalgar were Pierre-Charles Villeneuve, Federico Gravina, and one-armed national hero Horatio Nelson; the latter two died from injuries sustained during battle. As the battle commenced, Nelson famously signaled “England expects that every man will do his duty”. He was shot and killed on the deck of the HMS Victory during the battle, but managed to defeat the larger force through superior tactics, and in the end the British took twenty-one enemy ships and 8,000 men prisoner. The real victory, however, was that the British were now ensured safety against French invasion. Trafalgar probably had little effect (compared to its long-term significance) on the war itself, as Napoleon’s victory at Austerlitz just months later crushed the Third Coalition, but Britain’s dominance at sea lasted until long after the Emperor’s death.
October 20, 1944: The Battle of Leyte begins.
In March 1942, after Japanese forces successfully invaded and occupied the Philippines, General Douglas MacArthur delivered a speech in which he promised to return to the Philippines and free it from Japanese occupation, declaring “I shall return”. He began his fulfillment of that promise in October of 1944, when he waded ashore on the island of Leyte and announced “People of the Philippines: I have returned.”
The Leyte campaign marked the beginning of the combined American-Filipino effort to expel Japanese forces from the Philippines. The American landing on Leyte was followed soon after by the Battle of Leyte Gulf, which, measured by the tonnage of ships in the combined orders of battle, was the largest naval battle in history. At this point in the Pacific War, the Japanese Empire was outmatched in terms of troops and vessels by the Allied forces; the Battle of Leyte also saw the Japanese air force carry out its first ever kamikaze attacks. By the end of the battle in December, the Japanese side suffered over three times as many casualties as the Allied.
The last of the major Philippine Islands were successfully recaptured in August of 1945, and General Tomoyuki Yamashida, who commanded the Japanese defensive force during the 1944-45 campaign, was executed in 1946 for atrocities committed against civilians and prisoners of war.
(pictured above) an amusing Japanese pamphlet made to discourage American troops landing on Leyte.
October 19, 1781: The British surrender at Yorktown.
The Siege of Yorktown, which began on September 28, 1781, was one of the last major battles of the American War of Independence and a decisive victory for the American side. Several weeks earlier, French admiral François-Joseph Paul, comte de Grasse, defeated a British fleet at the Battle of the Chesapeake, cutting off supplies or relief to a now-trapped Lord Charles Cornwallis. Cornwallis, shortly after the battle, sent a message to his superiors: “If you cannot relieve me very soon, you must be prepared to hear the worst”.
The worst did come, when a combined force of French and American soldiers, totalling at around 21,000, marched from Williamsburg to Yorktown, Virginia and began shelling British lines. After over a week of heavy fire and the successful capture of two British fortifications, Redoubts #9 and 10, by Alexander Hamilton, Lord Cornwallis surrendered. On October 19, the articles of capitulation were signed by Cornwallis, Washington, Jean-Baptiste Donatien de Vimeur (Comte de Rochambeau), and the Comte de Barras in place of Admiral de Grasse; they declared the entirety of the British forces (over 7,000 troops) prisoners of war. Cornwallis declined to meet Washington on the day of surrender, claiming to be ill, and sent another officer to present his sword to the victorious commanders. Washington, in turn, refused the sword and had his second-in-command accept it in his stead.
Although the war did not formally end until 1783, the British Prime Minister, Lord North, is said to have exclaimed “Oh God, it’s all over!” upon hearing of the defeat at Yorktown.