This Month in History: Japanese Surrender, Little Rock Crisis, 9/11, and More

How America’s History With Japan Reflects on Current Events

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American-Japanese Relations
On August 25, 2019, President Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe reached a new agreement. The deal could potentially bring US-Japan relations to new heights. President Trump stated, “We have been working on a deal with Japan for a long time. It involves agriculture. It involves e-commerce. It involves many things. We’ve agreed in principle.” Trump and Abe seem to have a very stable relationship, and the US should look forward to continuing a great relationship with Japan. It almost seems odd to remember that Japan was, at one point in our history, an enemy of America.

Whether good or bad, all of these events hold a place in our nation’s memory.

September marks the month in which the Japanese Empire, headed by Emperor Hirohito, surrendered to Allied forces, effectively ending the largest conflict in history. Nearly four years prior, Hideki Tojo’s Japanese forces had attacked the US naval fleet at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, ushering America into the conflict. Many large battles were fought in the Pacific Theater during the war, including those of Guadalcanal, Midway, the Philippines, and Iwo Jima.

A Stroll Through History

Following President Truman’s grave decision to drop the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Hirohito accepted the Allied terms of surrender. Those guilty of war crimes, including Hideki Tojo, were tried and executed, but Hirohito was spared. The Japanese Empire collapsed and General Douglas MacArthur led the mission to rebuild Japan.

Today, relations between the US and Japan are great, and President Trump will continue to seek a deal that benefits both nations. Though history must be remembered, let us never dwell on the bad parts of our past. If we surrender to that form of thought, we will never see true progress. Nations may fight, but we can always forgive, make amends, and become the greatest of allies.

In this month’s recap, you’ll not only read about the Japanese surrender at the end of World War II. You’ll also read about the German Invasion of Poland that started the conflict. The most interesting part? They occur within just one day of each other. Readers will learn about the Siege of Yorktown, the betrayal of Benedict Arnold, and the Battle of Chickamauga during the Civil War. Let us also never forget the tragedy that occurred on September 11, 2001. I hope you take something from this walk down America’s Memory Lane.

A Trip to the Past

September 1, 1939
Nazi Germany invades Poland, starting World War II. Throughout the 1930s, Nazi Germany aggressively advanced through Europe, while the Japanese Empire pushed through China and the Pacific. For the first two years of the war, the “Axis of Darkness” that consisted of Germany, Italy, and Japan would engulf the Old World. In December 1941, the US entered the war alongside Britain and the USSR, and in 1945, almost six years to the day of its beginning, the conflict saw its end in the Pacific.

September 2, 1945
The Japanese Empire surrenders to Allied forces, ending World War II. Aboard the USS Missouri, General Douglas MacArthur and Mamoru Shigemitsu usher an end to the deadliest conflict in human history. It is said that over 60 million lives were taken during World War II. Following the Japanese surrender, Emperor Hirohito was stripped of his power and Japan’s army was removed. Investigations into war crimes were conducted, though Hirohito himself was never tried. Hideki Tojo, the commander of Japanese military forces, was caught shortly after, convicted, and executed.

Escape to Freedom and Equality

September 3, 1838
Frederick Douglass escapes from slavery. Born in Talbot County, Maryland, Douglass later became one of the most influential orators and activists in American history. A member of the Republican Party, he served as an advisor to several presidents, Ambassador to Haiti, and teacher of the New Testament.

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In 1872, he became the first African-American nominee for vice president under Victoria Woodhull of the Reform Party, who was the first female candidate for the presidency in US history. Douglass was involved with various aspects of reform throughout his life, seeking to uphold constitutional rights for all individuals, regardless of race or gender. From the 1850s onward, he delivered very prominent and inspiring speeches. He passed away on February 20, 1895.

September 4, 1957
The Little Rock Crisis begins. Looking to overturn the unconstitutional policies of the Arkansas school system, a group of African-American students attempted to integrate Little Rock Central High School. Three years earlier, the US Supreme Court ruled that segregation violated the 14th Amendment, and declared that schools across the nation must be integrated. The “Little Rock Nine” were blocked from entering the school by the Arkansas National Guard, who were summoned by Governor Orval Faubus. On September 24, President Eisenhower ordered the 101st Airborne Division to Little Rock Central High.

Speaking of Freedom

September 5, 1774
The First Continental Congress convenes in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Assembling at Carpenters’ Hall, the delegates met to discuss the Intolerable Acts, and drafted a petition for King George to end them. John Adams, John Jay, and Patrick Henry were among the delegates present. A Plan of Union was eventually adopted, which proposed that the colonists seek a new government, separate from that of Britain. Roughly six months later, Patrick Henry delivered his Liberty or Death speech, which is often said to be the spark that ignited the Revolution.

September 8, 1883
Ulysses S. Grant drives the final spike into the Northern Pacific Railway. Construction of this railroad began in 1870. Starting at Lake Superior, the Northern Pacific eventually stretched to Washington and Oregon. The final branch was completed in Montana, which is where former president Ulysses S. Grant drove in the “gold spike” that finished the project. The Northern Pacific was used until 1970, when it merged with other lines to form the Burlington Northern Railroad.

Terror Strikes America

September 11, 2001
Most people remember where they were during the events of that morning. Across the nation, people set out for work and school on a morning that was supposed to be like any other. Al-Qaeda terrorists, under the order of Osama bin Laden, however, were about to change the world forever.

At 8:46 a.m., the first airplane struck the north tower of the World Trade Center in New York City. Nearly 20 minutes later, a second plane was flown into the south tower, and at 9:37 a.m., a third plane struck the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia. A fourth plane crashed into a field in Pennsylvania at 10:03 a.m., with the hijackers having been subdued by the heroic citizens of Flight 93.

President George W. Bush at Ground Zero

Both of the twin towers collapsed a short while later and the Pentagon’s west side was severely damaged. Nearly 3,000 people were killed during the attacks and many died later due to injuries. As a result of the attacks, the Iraq War, War in Afghanistan, and War on Terrorism were launched, with the latter two conflicts still being fought to this day.

Standing at Ground Zero in the remains of the World Trade Center, with one arm wrapped around a firefighter, President George W. Bush addressed the nation’s people, stating, “I can hear you! The rest of the world hears you! And the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon!”

Ten years later, almost to the day, the 9/11 Memorial opened in New York City. Covering the area where the twin towers stood, the memorial contains a waterfall within both of the towers’ respective locations, as well as the names of those were lost. The following year, terror struck again. Islamist terrorists struck a US diplomatic compound in Benghazi, leaving a US ambassador and three others dead, on September 11, 2012.

To Infinity and Beyond!

September 12, 1962
President John F. Kennedy delivers his We Choose to go to the Moon speech. Standing at Rice Stadium in Houston, Texas, Kennedy used this oration to promote the Apollo Program. Four years earlier, President Eisenhower signed NASA into creation, and part of Kennedy’s “New Frontier” platform involved sending Americans into space.

One of the most memorable excerpts of his speech reads, “We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard; because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win, and the others, too.”

September 14, 1984
Joseph Kittinger becomes the first person to fly a gas balloon solo across the Atlantic. Starting in Maine, Kittinger landed in Montenotte, Italy, just 86 hours later. A veteran of the Vietnam War, Kittinger also participated in Project Excelsior in 1960. In this, he set the world record for highest skydive from a height greater than 19 miles. A colonel in the US Air Force, Kittinger won two Purple Hearts, six Distinguished Flying Crosses, and 24 Air Medals, among many others.

A Whole New World, A German Victory, And Washington, DC

September 16, 1620
The Mayflower departs from Plymouth, England. Two months prior, the pilgrims had attempted to set out for the New World, but had to turn back, due to leaks. When the Mayflower left port on September 16, however, it would begin a journey that would end 66 days later, with the pilgrims stepping ashore at Plymouth Rock, Massachusetts.

September 17, 1944
Operation Market Garden begins. This was an Allied mission conducted to liberate the Netherlands from Nazi control. Commanded by British Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery, thousands of Allied paratroopers landed in the Dutch countryside. Their goal was to free the cities of Eindhoven and Nijmegen, as well as to capture a series of bridges along the Rhine River. The city of Arnhem was also a major point of interest for the Allies. Though they managed to secure Eindhoven and Nijmegen, German troops held onto Arnhem. The battle ended on September 26 with a German victory.

September 18, 1793
President George Washington lays the first cornerstone for the US Capitol. Part of a Masonic ritual, a plaque was handed to Washington at the start of the project, which honored his “military valor and prudence.” Centennial and bi-centennial observances were held in 1893 and 1993.

September 19, 1796
President George Washington’s Farewell Address is published. This was written by Washington at his home in Mount Vernon, Virginia, just before his retirement. In the address, he affirms a classic statement of republicanism. He cautions Americans to steer clear of political parties, warning that they would greatly divide the nation. He also advises against governing in foreign affairs. Although neither of Washington’s warnings would stick, the address still holds tremendous worth.

Benedict Arnold, the Siege of Yorktown, Silent Spring, and More

September 20, 1863
The Battle of Chickamauga comes to an end. Fought in northwestern Georgia near the Tennessee border, this was one of the only significant Confederate victories in the Western Theater of the Civil War. Under the command of General Braxton Bragg, the Army of Tennessee managed to capture the area surrounding the town of Chickamauga. In just two months, Union forces commanded by General Grant would capture nearby Lookout Mountain in Chattanooga, Tennessee, breaking the Confederate hold on the region.

September 21, 1780
Benedict Arnold gives British forces the plans for West Point. In exchange for a large sum of money and a command position within the King’s Army, Arnold handed the Continental Army’s West Point plans to Major John Andre. The conspiracy was uncovered when Andre was captured, with papers pertaining to Arnold being found with him. Andre was executed, but Arnold fled to British ranks, and later led British troops in both Virginia and Connecticut. Following the war, he moved to England, never fully receiving what he was promised.

September 22, 1776
Nathan Hale is executed by British troops for espionage. In the fall of 1775, George Washington was desperate to learn the location of the imminent British invasion of Manhattan. He needed a spy, and Nathan Hale volunteered. Hale was sent to New York City to gather intelligence, but was captured by the British and hanged. In 1985, he was designated the state hero of Connecticut, his home state. Just before his execution, he remarked, “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.”

September 23, 1806
The Lewis and Clark Expedition returns to St. Louis, Missouri. Three years earlier, President Jefferson had commissioned the expedition, following the Louisiana Purchase. In May 1804, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark set out for the west, with three primary goals: to find a route to the Pacific, establish trade with Native tribes, and study the region’s geography and biology. They returned in 1806 with journal entries, sketches, and maps.

Fighting Back: Desegregation, The Bill of Rights

September 24, 1957
President Dwight D. Eisenhower orders the 101st Airborne to Little Rock Central High School, Arkansas. After Governor Orval Faubus defied the US Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education, President Eisenhower sent the 101st Airborne to the school. The school board had agreed to comply with the Supreme Court’s ruling, but Fabus did not, prompting Eisenhower’s intervention. On September 29, 1958, the Supreme Court ruled in Aaron v. Cooper that all states must comply with the court’s rulings.

September 25, 1789
Congress proposes the Bill of Rights. Drafted primarily by James Madison, the Bill of Rights were, in large part, created to address objections made by Anti-Federalists. Consisting of the first 10 amendments to the Constitution, they guarantee various rights to the individual, stating that the rights are inalienable, and that the government cannot confiscate them from the people. Along with the Bill of Rights, Congress also passed the 11th and 12th amendments on this same date.

September 27, 1962
Rachel Carson’s book, Silent Spring, is published. This book was written by Carson in response to the nation’s heavy usage of DDT, a pesticide that was banned in the US in 1972. Today, it is banned in most countries. DDT was prone to remaining in the environment for long periods of time, and when contaminated animals were eaten by birds of prey, the birds’ eggshells were softened. This led to a large decrease in the populations of certain birds of prey, including Bald Eagles and Peregrine Falcons. Today, both of these birds have made a major comeback.

Under Siege

September 28, 1781
The Siege of Yorktown begins. This was the final primary battle of the American Revolution in North America. On the coast of Virginia, Washington’s Continental forces managed to besiege British troops, who were commanded by Lord Charles Cornwallis. Coming to the aid of Washington and the Marquis de Lafayette, French forces helped ensure an end to the battle the following month. Cornwallis would send General Charles O’Hara to surrender, with Continental forces on one side and French forces on the other. The victory eventually led to the Treaty of Paris, signed in 1783.

September 29, 1907
The cornerstone for Washington National Cathedral is laid. Standing among a crowd of 20,000 people, President Theodore Roosevelt dedicated the start of the cathedral’s construction. It was not completed until 1990, when President George H. W. Bush dedicated the finial placed atop the building. Several presidential prayer services have been held in the cathedral, and it has been used as a site of many funeral services for Americans with national prominence.

Take Me Out to the Ballgame!

September 30, 1927
Babe Ruth becomes the first baseball player to hit 60 home runs in a season. Ruth’s career began in 1914 and lasted until 1935. He began as a pitcher for the Boston Red Sox, but became famous as an outfielder for the New York Yankees. He held the original record for career home runs, hitting 714, and runs batted in, hitting 2,213. Ruth was also the first member of the 500 Club, becoming the first baseball player to hit 500 home runs.

The month of September holds a very prominent place in America’s past. When it comes to the American Revolution, we are reminded of the bravery demonstrated by Nathan Hale, the Siege of Yorktown, and the betrayal of Benedict Arnold. With World War II, we see the beginning and ending anniversary of humanity’s largest conflict within a day.

We are also reminded of the tragedy of September 11, and how our nation – as well as the world – was shaped by the actions of a horrific evil. Some parts of American history are dark, but all events portray the story of us. Whether good or bad, all of these events hold a place in our nation’s memory, and it is our duty to properly teach them to our future generations.

Garrett Smith
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