Austria-Hungary declares war on Serbia
On July 28, 1914, one month to the day after Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his wife were killed by a Serbian nationalist in Sarajevo, Austria-Hungary declares war on Serbia, effectively beginning the First World War.
Threatened by Serbian ambition in the tumultuous Balkans region of Europe, Austria-Hungary determined that the proper response to the assassinations was to prepare for a possible military invasion of Serbia. After securing the unconditional support of its powerful ally, Germany, Austria-Hungary presented Serbia with a rigid ultimatum on July 23, 1914, demanding, among other things, that all anti-Austrian propaganda within Serbia be suppressed, and that Austria-Hungary be allowed to conduct its own investigation into the archduke’s killing. Though Serbia effectively accepted all of Austria’s demands except for one, the Austrian government broke diplomatic relations with the other country on July 25 and went ahead with military preparedness measures. Meanwhile, alerted to the impending crisis, Russia—Serbia’s own mighty supporter in the Balkans—began its own initial steps towards military mobilization against Austria.
In the days following the Austrian break in relations with Serbia, the rest of Europe, including Russia’s allies, Britain and France, looked on with trepidation, fearing the imminent outbreak of a Balkans conflict that, if entered into by Russia, threatened to explode into a general European war. The British Foreign Office lobbied its counterparts in Berlin, Paris and Rome with the idea of an international convention aimed at moderating the conflict; the German government, however, was set against this notion, and advised Vienna to go ahead with its plans.
On July 28, 1914, after a decision reached conclusively the day before in response to pressure from Germany for quick action—apart from Kaiser Wilhelm II, who by some accounts still saw the possibility of a peaceful diplomatic resolution to the conflict, but was outmaneuvered by the more hawkish military and governmental leadership of Germany—Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia. In response, Russia formally ordered mobilization in the four military districts facing Galicia, its common front with the Austro-Hungarian Empire. That night, Austrian artillery divisions initiated a brief, ineffectual bombardment of Belgrade across the Danube River.
“My darling one and beautiful, everything tends towards catastrophe and collapse,” British naval official Winston Churchill wrote to his wife at midnight on July 29. He was proven right over the next several days. On August 1, after its demands for Russia to halt mobilization met with defiance, Germany declared war on Russia. Russia’s ally, France, ordered its own general mobilization that same day, and on August 3, France and Germany declared war on each other. The German army’s planned invasion of neutral Belgium, announced on August 4, prompted Britain to declare war on Germany. Thus, in the summer of 1914, the major powers in the Western world—with the exception of the United States and Italy, both of which declared their neutrality, at least for the time being—flung themselves headlong into the First World War.
“Austria-Hungary declares war on Serbia.” 2008. The History Channel website. 27 Jul 2008, 02:09 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=828.
The Russians mobilized faster than the Germans had counted on, causing Germany to withdraw important elements of its army from attacking France thus dooming the attack on France to failure and forced the Germans into a two-front war. World War I as it is now known destroyed the great monarchies of Europe, cost millions of lives, bankrupted empires and elevated Serbia to an almost mythical status of being the little nation that will eventually bring about Armageddon.
1540 – King Henry VIII’s chief minister, Thomas Cromwell, was executed. The same day, Henry married his fifth wife, Catherine Howard.
1794 – Maximilien Robespierre was sent to the guillotine. He was a leading figure in the French Revolution.
1821 – Peru declared its independence from Spain.
1866 – The metric system was legalized by the U.S. Congress for the standardization of weights and measures throughout the United States.
1868 – The Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was declared in effect. The amendment guaranteed due process of law.
1945 – A U.S. Army bomber crashed into the 79th floor of New York City’s Empire State Building. 14 people were killed and 26 were injured.
1965 – U.S. President Johnson announced he was increasing the number of American troops in South Vietnam from 75,000 to 125,000.
1998 – Serbian military forces seized the Kosovo town of Malisevo.
1998 – Monica Lewinsky received blanket immunity from prosecution to testify before a grand jury about her relationship with U.S. President Clinton.
Bonus Marchers evicted by U.S. Army
During the Great Depression, President Herbert Hoover orders the U.S. Army under General Douglas MacArthur to evict by force the Bonus Marchers from the nation’s capital.
Two months before, the so-called “Bonus Expeditionary Force,” a group of some 1,000 World War I veterans seeking cash payments for their veterans’ bonus certificates, had arrived in Washington, D.C. Most of the marchers were unemployed veterans in desperate financial straits. In June, other veteran groups spontaneously made their way to the nation’s capital, swelling the Bonus Marchers to nearly 20,000 strong. Camping in vacant government buildings and in open fields made available by District of Columbia Police Chief Pelham D. Glassford, they demanded passage of the veterans’ payment bill introduced by Representative Wright Patman.
While awaiting a vote on the issue, the veterans conducted themselves in an orderly and peaceful fashion, and on June 15 the Patman bill passed in the House of Representatives. However, two days later, its defeat in the Senate infuriated the marchers, who refused to return home. In an increasingly tense situation, the federal government provided money for the protesters’ trip home, but 2,000 refused the offer and continued to protest. On July 28, President Herbert Hoover ordered the army to evict them forcibly. General MacArthur’s men set their camps on fire, and the veterans were driven from the city. Hoover, increasingly regarded as insensitive to the needs of the nation’s many poor, was much criticized by the public and press for the severity of his response.
“Bonus Marchers evicted by U.S. Army.” 2008. The History Channel website. 27 Jul 2008, 02:25 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=5215.
Worst modern earthquake
At 3:42 a.m., an earthquake measuring between 7.8 and 8.2 magnitude on the Richter scale flattens Tangshan, a Chinese industrial city with a population of about one million people. As almost everyone was asleep in their beds, instead of outside in the relative safety of the streets, the quake was especially costly in terms of human life. An estimated 242,000 people in Tangshan and surrounding areas were killed, making the earthquake one of the deadliest in recorded history, surpassed only by the 300,000 who died in the Calcutta earthquake in 1737, and the 830,000 thought to have perished in China’s Shaanxi province in 1556.
The Chinese government was ill-prepared for a disaster of this scale. The day following the quake, helicopters and planes began dropping food and medicine into the city. Some 100,000 soldiers of the People’s Liberation Army were ordered to Tangshan, and many had to march on foot from Jinzhou, a distance of more than 180 miles. About 30,000 medical personnel were called in, along with 30,000 construction workers. The Chinese government, boasting self-sufficiency, refused all offers of foreign relief aid. In the crucial first week after the crisis, many died from lack of medical care. Troops and relief workers lacked the kind of heavy rescue training necessary to efficiently pull survivors from the rubble. Looting was also epidemic. More than 160,000 families were left homeless, and more than 4,000 children were orphaned.
Tangshan was eventually rebuilt with adequate earthquake precautions. Today, nearly two million people live there. There is speculation that the death toll from the 1976 quake was much higher than the official Chinese government figure of 242,000. Some Chinese sources have spoken privately of more than 500,000 deaths.
“Worst modern earthquake.” 2008. The History Channel website. 27 Jul 2008, 02:43 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=6972.