On this day in 1778, French Vice-Admiral Count d’Estaing establishes contact with the Continental Army, which is waiting for his help to retake Rhode Island.
On this day in 1864, at the Battle of the Crater, the Union’s ingenious attempt to break the Confederate lines at Petersburg, Virginia, by blowing up a tunnel that had been dug under the Rebel trenches fails. Although the explosion created a gap in the Confederate defenses, a poorly planned Yankee attack wasted the effort and the result was an eight-month continuation of the siege.
On July 31, 1917, the Allies launch a renewed assault on German lines in the Flanders region of Belgium, in the much-contested region near Ypres, during World War I. The attack begins more than three months of brutal fighting, known as the Third Battle of Ypres.
On August 1, 1914, four days after Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia, two more great European powers—Russia and Germany—declare war on each other; the same day, France orders a general mobilization. The so-called “Great War” that ensued would be one of unprecedented destruction and loss of life, resulting in the deaths of some 20 million soldiers and civilians and the physical devastation of much of the European continent.
On this day in 1990, at about 2 a.m. local time, Iraqi forces invade Kuwait, Iraq’s tiny, oil-rich neighbor. Kuwait’s defense forces were rapidly overwhelmed, and those that were not destroyed retreated to Saudi Arabia.
On August 3, 1958, the U.S. nuclear submarine Nautilus accomplishes the first undersea voyage to the geographic North Pole. The world’s first nuclear submarine, the Nautilus dived at Point Barrow, Alaska, and traveled nearly 1,000 miles under the Arctic ice cap to reach the top of the world. It then steamed on to Iceland, pioneering a new and shorter route from the Pacific to the Atlantic and Europe.
On this day in 1964, at 8 p.m., the destroyers USS Maddox and USS C. Turner Joy, operating in the Gulf of Tonkin, intercept radio messages from the North Vietnamese that give Captain John Herrick of the Maddox the “impression” that Communist patrol boats are planning an attack against the American ships, prompting him to call for air support from the carrier USS Ticonderoga.