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What Else Happened on Sept. 1? We Look Beyond the Start of WWII.



The date of Sept. 1 belongs almost exclusively to the memory of the start of the Second World War in Europe. Images of blitzkrieg, panzers, the desperate plight and subsequent fall of Poland consume the historical memory. 

While its exact origins are murkier in the historiography, other moments in time belonging to this date have been, understandably, eclipsed.  

Yet we here at HistoryNet want to take another look at those underrepresented moments that have been dwarfed by that day in the historical ledger. (That being said, if you simply do not care and are here for the start of World War II, we get that.) 

Ten dates in history that warrant a further look: 

Sept. 1, 1532: Anne Boleyn becomes marquess 

Love is in the air as Lady Anne Boleyn is made marquess of Pembroke by her fiancé, King Henry VIII. What’s a little nepotism among lovers? 

Sept. 1,1862: The Battle of Chantilly 

During the American Civil War, Confederate troops defeat a group of retreating Union Army troops during the Battle of Chantilly. It is also where Phil Kearny, a major general in the Union Army, was out conducting his own reconnaissance. In a driving thunderstorm on the evening of Sept. 1, 1862, he and his escort rode into a Rebel ambush during the Battle of Ox Hill (Chantilly), an abrupt encounter following the Confederate victory at the Second Battle of Bull Run. When Kearny cavalierly ignored an order to surrender and tried to ride away, a single bullet to the spine ended the life of a true fighting general, according to historian Gordon Berg.  

Sept. 1, 1864: Evacuation of Atlanta 

Once again during the American Civil War, but this time in 1864: Confederate Gen. John Bell Hood orders the evacuation of Atlanta, ending a four-month siege by Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman, who begins his infamous March to the Sea.  

Sept. 1, 1878: First Woman Telephone Operator 

Emma Nutt becomes the world’s first female telephone operator after being recruited by Alexander Graham Bell. 

Sept. 1, 1897: America’s First Subway 

The Tremont Street subway opens in Boston, making it the first underground transit system in North America. Take that, London Tube. 

Sept. 1, 1939: George Marshall Becomes Chief of Staff 

In perhaps one of the best decisions of the war, President Franklin D. Roosevelt appoints Gen. George C. Marshall chief of staff of the United States Army. Marshall: 1, Nazis: 0. 

Sept. 1, 1952: ‘The Old Man and the Sea’ Is Published 

Ernest Hemingway’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel “The Old Man and the Sea” is published. But man is not made for defeat. A man can be destroyed but not defeated.”  

Sept. 1, 1961: TWA Flight 529 Crashes in Chicago 

Shortly after takeoff from Midway Airport in Chicago, TWA Flight 529 crashes, killing all 78 people on board. At the time, it was the deadliest commercial plane disaster in U.S. history. 

Sept. 1, 1985: The Titanic Is Found 

A joint American-French expedition locates the wreckage of the RMS Titanic. The shipwreck was henceforth preserved by UNESCO regulations, although now it is protected through a bilateral agreement between the U.S. and the U.K., which was signed in November 2019. The treaty, first presented in 2003 among the U.K., the U.S., Canada and France, languished for nearly two decades because at least two signatories were required. The U.K. signed quickly, but it was not until 2019 that the U.S. State Department announced that it had also entered into the agreement, making the agreement official. Our hearts can officially go on.  

Sept. 1, 2004: Beslan School Siege Begins 

In one of the worst terrorist attacks in Russian history, the Beslan school siege begins in the small North Ossetian town. According to Radio Free Europe, “Dozens of armed assailants stormed the school and captured more than 1,100 people — including more than 700 schoolchildren and relatives and friends who had come for a ceremony marking the first day of the new school year.” The standoff lasts for nearly three days with more than 385 people killed, including hostages, security personnel and terrorists.  

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