At 11 p.m. on this day in 1778, Commander John Paul Jones leads a small detachment of two boats from his ship, the USS Ranger, to raid the shallow port at Whitehaven, England, where, by his own account, 400 British merchant ships are anchored. Jones was hoping to reach the port at midnight, when ebb tide would leave the shops at their most vulnerable.
On this day in 1942, in retaliation for the British raid on Lubeck, German bombers strike Exeter and later Bath, Norwick, York, and other “medieval-city centres.” Almost 1,000 English civilians are killed in the bombing attacks nicknamed “Baedeker Raids.”
On April 24, 1980, an ill-fated military operation to rescue the 52 American hostages held in Tehran ends with eight U.S. servicemen dead and no hostages rescued.
On this day in 1945, eight Russian armies completely encircle Berlin, linking up with the U.S. First Army patrol, first on the western bank of the Elbe, then later at Torgau. Germany is, for all intents and purposes, Allied territory.
On this day in 1865, John Wilkes Booth is killed when Union soldiers track him down to a Virginia farm 12 days after he assassinated President Abraham Lincoln.
On this day in 1865, Days after the end of the Civil War, the worst maritime disaster in American history occurs when the steamboat Sultana, carrying 2,100 passengers, explodes and sinks in the Mississippi River, killing all but 400 of those aboard. The Mississippi, with its dikes and levees damaged by four years of war, stood at flood stage, and most of those who died were drowned in the surging river. All but 100 of those killed were Union veterans, and most were Yankee survivors of Andersonville and other brutal Confederate prisoner of war camps.
On this day in 1945, “Il Duce,” Benito Mussolini, and his mistress, Clara Petacci, are shot by Italian partisans who had captured the couple as they attempted to flee to Switzerland.