This Week in History: July 21-27

Featured Article, History, This Week in History, Traditions
on July 21, 2013
Potsdam Conference
Winston Churchill and Harry Truman attended the Potsdam Conference.

This week in history, the Allies asked for an unconditional surrender, the FBI killed their “Public Enemy No. 1” and Confederate forces won the first major engagement of the Civil War. Read below to see how all this and more happened.

July 21:
Battle of Bull Run

The War Between the States had its first major battle on this day in 1861. Confederate Gen. Joseph E. Johnston defeated Union Brig. Gen. Irvin McDowell a day after McDowell attacked the Confederate flank and routed them back toward Henry House Hill. Southern reinforcements arrived, and in a daring move, the confederates attacked the Northern line, yelling as they went. The “Rebel Yell” coupled with superior maneuvering led to the Confederate victory at this first battle of Bull Run. Also of note: It was this battle that earned Thomas J. Jackson his nickname, “Stonewall.” Jackson had brought his Virginia brigade up to the line at a crucial time and stood his ground against the North.

July 22:
John Dillinger Killed

The FBI finally caught the first “Public Enemy No. 1” on this day in July 22. John Dillinger was a notorious murderer, bank robber, and prison-escapee. He escaped from prison in 1933; Dillinger and his gang robbed banks around Chicago, causing the Chicago police department to form a special group of officers known as the “Dillinger Squad.” After evading authorities and robbing banks for a year, Dillinger was killed walking out of the Autograph Theater in Chicago. His life has inspired many film adaptations, including 2009’s “Public Enemies” starring Johnny Depp as Dillinger.

July 23:
First U.S. Swimming School Opens

The U.S. learned how to beat the heat with its first swimming school, which opened today in 1827. The brainchild of German-American teachers Francis Lieber and Charles Follen, the school was created to help foster greater connection between body and mind. Patrons included President John Quincy Adams and naturalist James Audubon.

July 24:
Detroit Founded

“Motor City” was founded today in 1701 by the French explorer Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac. The site had been a fur-trading station in the area known as New France; in 1701, Cadillac built the Fort Pontchartrain du Detroit on the Detroit River. The city is now the biggest in Michigan and one of the largest in the U.S. It reached its peak population in 1950, with around 1.8 million people. It has since declined to just more than 700,000 citizens.

July 25:
First Crossing of the English Channel by Airplane

In 1909, the “Daily Mail” offered a £1000 prize to whoever would be able to cross the English Channel by plane by the end of the year. On this day in 1909, French aviator Louis Bleriot was the first person to fly across the channel, piloting a 28-horsepower monoplane with a 23-foot wingspan. He left from Les Baraques, France, with the words “Where is England?” He landed near Dover shortly after. Bleriot completed the first international overseas flight.

First Test-Tube Baby Born

On this day in 1978, science was able to create human life outside of a human body. Louise Brown, the first “test-tube baby” conceived by in vitro fertilization was born to parents Lesley and John. The Browns had tried to conceive for years with no success. The process was groundbreaking and ethically challenging for the day, and continues to raise delicate questions about the value of life and when human life begins. Louise Brown is still alive and lives in the United Kingdom.

July 26:
Potsdam Declaration

In a last burst of diplomacy with Japan, the Allies offered the Potsdam Declaration on this day in 1945. This document called for “unconditional surrender of all Japanese armed forces.” Signed by the U.S., Britain and China, the Potsdam Declaration assured Japan of “utter destruction” if they did not comply. The document does not mention atomic bombs. It also called for Western-style freedoms of speech, religion and thought. Japanese Prime Minister Kantaro Suzuki rejected the declaration.

July 27:
Korean War Armistice

After three years of fighting between the North and South, an armistice was called in the Korean War. On this day in 1953 in the city of Panmunjom, Korea, negotiators representing the United Nations Command (for South Korea) and the North Korean People’s Army and Chinese People’s Volunteer Army signed the document which set up the Demilitarized Zone along the 38th parallel and brought current fighting to an end. No final settlement of aggression has been reached. North Korea has said multiple times that it no longer felt bound to uphold the armistice, most recently in early 2013.