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On This Day, 11-8-2008: Operation Torch

November 8, 1942

FDR broadcasts message to Vichy France leader Marshal Petain

On this day in 1942, just as the Allies were preparing an invasion of North Africa during World War II, President Franklin Roosevelt broadcasts a message directed at Vichy France and its leader Marshal Petain. Petain, who chose to collaborate with the Germans in 1940 rather than fight them, was nominally the leader of France but the country was far from free. (Exiled French General Charles De Gaulle was considered the leader of the “Free French.”)

FDR’s radio broadcast was intended to appeal to the patriotism of Petain and the Francophile residents of the French colonies in North Africa and the Nazi-controlled portion of France. American ships had just arrived in North Africa carrying the Allied Expeditionary Force. The consummate orator, Roosevelt warned French listeners that if they did not assist the Allies in throwing off the “Axis yoke” that it would mean the “death knell of the French Empire.” In his message, Roosevelt reminded Petain that the Axis powers had plundered France of its savings, industry and transport, and looted the nation’s farms and factories “all for the benefit of a Nazi Reich and Fascist Italy.” Calling himself an “old friend of France,” Roosevelt promised that America was not looking to take over French territory in North Africa. He hoped Petain might encourage his fellow countrymen to rise up and help boot out the Germans.

Petain, however, was not moved by Roosevelt’s words. In a written reply sent the same day, Petain lamented “It is with stupor and sadness that I learned tonight of the aggression of [American] troops against North Africa.” He denied that Germany’s treatment of France had been as bad as Roosevelt described and, furthermore, promised to defend French territory against any aggressor, America included.

“Operation Torch,” the code name for the Allied invasion of North Africa, commenced that same day, led by General Dwight D. Eisenhower. After a month of fighting against Vichy troops, the Allies, with help from a small number of Free French forces and colonists, were able to gain a foothold in North Africa. Roosevelt’s promise to rout the Germans from North Africa was carried out by May 1943.

“FDR broadcasts message to Vichy France leader Marshal Petain.” 2008. The History Channel website. 8 Nov 2008, 02:34 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=52000.

On This Day

1656 – Edmond Halley was born. Halley, an astronomer-mathmatician, was the first to calculate the orbit that was named after him. The comet makes an appearance every 76 years.

1805 – The “Corps of Discovery” reached the Pacific Ocean. The expedition was lead by William Clark and Meriwether Lewis. The journey had begun on May 14, 1804, with the goal of exploring the Louisiana Purchase territory.

1889 – Montana became the 41st U.S. state.

1895 – Wilhelm Roentgen while experimenting with electricity discovered the scientific principle involved and took the first X-ray pictures.

1923 – Adolf Hitler made his first attempt at seizing power in Germany with a failed coup in Munich that came to be known as the “Beer-Hall Putsch.”

1933 – The Civil Works Administration was created by executive order by U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The organization was designed to create jobs for more than 4 million unemployed people in the U.S.

1942 – During World War II, Operation Torch began as U.S. and British forces landed in French North Africa.

1950 – During the Korean conflict, the first jet-plane battle took place as U.S. Air Force Lt. Russell J. Brown shot down a North Korean MiG-15.

1966 – Edward W. Brooke of Massachusetts became the first African-American elected to the U.S. Senate by popular vote.

1986 – Vyacheslav M. Molotov died at age 96. During World War II, Molotov ordered the mass production of bottles filled with flammable liquid later called the “Molotov cocktail.”

1997 – Chinese engineers diverted the Yangtze River to make way for the Three Gorges Dam.

November 8, 1923

Beer Hall Putsch begins

Adolf Hitler, president of the far-right Nazi Party, launches the Beer Hall Putsch, his first attempt at seizing control of the German government.

After World War I, the victorious allies demanded billions of dollars in war reparations from Germany. Efforts by Germany’s democratic government to comply hurt the country’s economy and led to severe inflation. The German mark, which at the beginning of 1921 was valued at five marks per dollar, fell to a disastrous four billion marks per dollar in 1923. Meanwhile, the ranks of the nationalist Nazi Party swelled with resentful Germans who sympathized with the party’s bitter hatred of the democratic government, leftist politics, and German Jews. In early November 1923, the government resumed war-reparation payments, and the Nazis decided to strike.

Hitler planned a coup against the state government of Bavaria, which he hoped would spread to the dissatisfied German army, which in turn would bring down the central, democratic government in Berlin. On the evening of November 8, Nazi forces under Hermann Goering surrounded the Munich beer hall where Bavarian government officials were meeting with local business leaders. A moment later, Hitler burst in with a group of Nazi storm troopers, discharged his pistol into the air, and declared that “the national revolution has begun.” Threatened at gunpoint, the Bavarian leaders reluctantly agreed to support Hitler’s new regime.

In the early morning of November 9, however, the Bavarian leaders repudiated their coerced support of Hitler and ordered a rapid suppression of the Nazis. At dawn, government troops surrounded the main Nazi force occupying the War Ministry building. A desperate Hitler responded by leading a march toward the center of Munich in a last-ditch effort to rally support. Near the War Ministry building, 3,000 Nazi marchers came face to face with 100 armed policemen. Shots were exchanged, and 16 Nazis and three policemen were killed. Hermann Goering was shot in the groin, and Hitler suffered a dislocated elbow but managed to escape.

Three days later, Hitler was arrested. Convicted of treason, he was given the minimum sentence of five years in prison. He was imprisoned in the Landsberg fortress and spent his time writing his autobiography, Mein Kampf, and working on his oratorical skills. Political pressure from the Nazis forced the Bavarian government to commute Hitler’s sentence, and he was released after serving only nine months. In the late 1920s, Hitler reorganized the Nazi Party as a fanatical mass movement that was able to gain a majority in the Reichstag in 1932. By 1934, Hitler was the sole master of a nation intent on war and genocide.

“Beer Hall Putsch begins.” 2008. The History Channel website. 8 Nov 2008, 02:36 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=5506.

On This Day in Wisconsin

1901 – Charles Heymanns Born
On this date Charles Heymanns was born in Luxembourg. In December 1922, Heymanns and his brother Michael moved to Sheboygan where they found employment with the Kohler Company. In 1933 Heymanns and other Kohler employees formed Federal Labor Union No.18545 in response to cuts in hours, health concerns, and piece rates. In the following year the union initiated a strike for recognition and bargaining rights, which turned violent on July 27, resulting in two deaths and 47 injuries. In 1941 a settlement was finally negotiated between Local 18545 and the Kohler Company. From 1951 to 1956, Heymanns served as director of AFL Region 9. Charles Heymanns died on November 16, 1993. [Source: University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Library Archives]

1910 – First Socialist Mayor Elected in Milwaukee
On this date Emil Seidel was elected Mayor of Milwaukee. He was the first socialist mayor in the City. [Source: Milwaukee County History]

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