“The Spy Who Loved Me” released in theaters

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/the-spy-who-loved-me-released-features-lotus-esprit

On August 3, 1977, “The Spy Who Loved Me,” starring Roger Moore as the suave superspy James Bond, known for his love of fast cars and dangerous women, is released in theaters across America. The film features one of the most memorable Bond cars of all time–a sleek, powerful Lotus Esprit sports car that does double duty as a submarine. 

As “The Spy Who Loved Me”begins, Bond is sent to investigate the hijacking of British and Soviet submarines loaded with nuclear warheads. To defeat his adversary, shipping tycoon Karl Stromberg (Curt Jurgens), and avert global nuclear war, Bond must free the captured submarines. In one of the film’s key sequences, Bond skillfully maneuvers his Lotus Esprit in order to save himself and his Soviet counterpart, the beautiful KGB agent Anya Amasova (Barbara Bach), from the attacks of Stromberg’s henchmen. With the sultry helicopter pilot Naomi (Caroline Munro) in pursuit along the coastal roads of Sardinia, Bond drives the Lotus off a pier into the ocean. The car transforms into a submarine, complete with tail fins and a periscope, and Bond is able to blast Naomi’s helicopter out of the sky with a sea-to-air missile. 

Two different Lotus Esprits were used in the production of “The Spy Who Loved Me,” including a specially modified model, dubbed “Wet Nellie,” for the filming of the underwater scenes, in Nassau, Bahamas. At the time of filming, the Lotus Esprit was the latest innovation by the Lotus Engineering Company, founded in 1952 by the British engineer and race car driver Anthony Colin Bruce Chapman. After debuting the original styling concept at the Turin Motorshow in 1972, Lotus unveiled the Esprit at the Paris Motor Show in October 1975 and launched its production the following year. Renowned designer Giorgetto Giugiaro (chosen by more than 100 automotive journalists around the world as the winner of the Car Designer of the Century award in 1999) provided the Esprit’s sleek styling. While critics praised the car’s lightweight frame and superior steering and handling, they gave it lesser marks for power, noise and other more minor points.

Chambers accuses Hiss of being a communist spy

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/chambers-accuses-hiss-of-being-a-communist-spy

In hearings before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), Whittaker Chambers accuses former State Department official Alger Hiss of being a communist and a spy for the Soviet Union. The accusation set into motion a series of events that eventually resulted in the trial and conviction of Hiss for perjury.

READ MORE: Red Scare: Cold War, McCarthyism & Facts

Chambers was a little known figure prior to his 1948 appearance before HUAC. He was a self-professed former member of the Communist Party. Chambers also admitted to having served as a spy for the Soviet Union. He left the Communist Party in 1938 and offered his services to the FBI as an informant on communist activities in the United States. By 1948, he was serving as an editor for Time magazine. At that time, HUAC was involved in a series of hearings investigating communist machinations in the United States. Chambers was called as a witness, and he appeared before the committee on August 3, 1948. He dropped a bombshell during his testimony. Chambers accused former State Department official Alger Hiss of having been a communist and a spy during the 1930s. Hiss was one of the most respected men in Washington. He had been heavily involved in America’s wartime diplomacy and attended the Yalta and Potsdam conferences as an American representative. In 1948, he was serving as president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Hiss angrily denied the charges and declared that he did not even know Whittaker Chambers. He later admitted that he knew Chambers, but at the time he had been using a different name–George Crosley. In the weeks that followed Chambers’ appearance before HUAC, the two men exchanged charges and countercharges and their respective stories became more and more muddled. Finally, after Chambers publicly declared that Hiss had been a communist “and may be one now,” Hiss filed a slander suit. During the course of that trial, Chambers produced microfilmed copies of classified State Department documents from the 1930s, which he had hidden in hollowed-out pumpkins on his farm. The “Pumpkin Papers” were used as evidence to support his claim that Hiss had passed the papers to him for delivery to the Soviets. 

Based on this evidence, Hiss was indicted for perjury for lying to HUAC and a federal grand jury about his membership in the Communist Party. The statute of limitations had run out for other charges related to his supposed activities in the 1930s. After the first trial ended with a hung jury, Hiss was convicted in January 1950 and served 44 months in jail. Hiss always maintained his complete innocence. For his part, Chambers remained equally adamant in his accusations about Hiss.

Mutiny breaks out on German battleship

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On August 2, 1917, with British forces settling into new positions captured from the Germans in the much-contested Ypres Salient on the Western Front of World War I, Germany faces more trouble closer to home, as a mutiny breaks out aboard the German battleship Prinzregent Luitpold, anchored at the North Sea port of Wilhelmshaven.

During the August 2 mutiny, some 400 sailors marched into town calling for an end to the war and proclaiming their unwillingness to continue fighting. Although the demonstration was quickly brought under control by army officials and the sailors were persuaded to return to their ships without real violence that day, some 75 of them were arrested and imprisoned and the ringleaders of the mutiny were subsequently tried, convicted and executed. “I die with a curse on the German-militarist state,” one of them, Albin Kobis, wrote his parents before he was shot by an army firing squad at Cologne. As Willy Weber, another convicted sailor, whose death sentence was later commuted to 15 years in prison, put it: “Nobody wanted a revolution, we just wanted to be treated more like human beings.”

Discontent and rebellion within the German Imperial High Seas Fleet continued throughout the following year, as things went abysmally for Germany on the battlefields of the Western Front after the initial success of their spring offensive in 1918. It was rumored that naval commanders were plotting a last-ditch attempt, against the orders of Kaiser Wilhelm II and the Reichstag government, to confront the mighty British navy and break the Allied blockade in the North Sea. The force of this rumor, combined with sinking morale, led to an even more significant mutiny at Wilhelmshaven on October 29, 1918, sparked by the arrest of some 300 sailors who had refused to obey orders.

The unrest soon spread to another German port city, Kiel, where on November 3 some 3,000 German sailors and workers rose in revolt, taking over ships and buildings and brandishing the red flag of communism. The following day, November 4, the rebels at Kiel formed the first Workers’ and Soldiers’ Council in Germany, defying the national government and seeking to act in the spirit of the Russian soviets. On the same day, the government of the Austro-Hungarian Empire asked the Allies for an armistice, which they were granted. An isolated and internally divided Germany was forced to sue for its own armistice barely a week later, and the First World War came to an end.

READ MORE: Why Kaiser Wilhelm Was Never Tried for Starting World War I

Delegates sign Declaration of Independence

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On August 2, 1776, members of Congress affix their signatures to an enlarged copy of the Declaration of Independence.

Fifty-six congressional delegates in total signed the document, including some who were not present at the vote approving the declaration. The delegates signed by state from North to South, beginning with Josiah Bartlett of New Hampshire and ending with George Walton of Georgia. John Dickinson of Pennsylvania and James Duane, Robert Livingston and John Jay of New York refused to sign. Carter Braxton of Virginia; Robert Morris of Pennsylvania; George Reed of Delaware; and Edward Rutledge of South Carolina opposed the document but signed in order to give the impression of a unanimous Congress. Five delegates were absent: Generals George Washington, John Sullivan, James Clinton and Christopher Gadsden and Virginia Governor Patrick Henry.

Exactly one month before the signing of the document, Congress had accepted a resolution put forward by Richard Henry Lee that stated “Resolved: That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved.”

Congress adopted the more poetic Declaration of Independence, drafted by Thomas Jefferson, two days later, on July 4. The president of Congress, John Hancock, and its secretary, Charles Thompson, immediately signed the handwritten draft, which was dispatched to nearby printers. On July 19, Congress decided to produce a handwritten copy to bear all the delegates’ signatures. Secretary Thompson’s assistant, Philadelphia Quaker and merchant Timothy Matlack, penned the draft.

News of the Declaration of Independence arrived in London eight days later, on August 10. The draft bearing the delegates’ signatures was first printed on January 18 of the following year by Baltimore printer Mary Katharine Goddard.

READ MORE: Writing of the Declaration of Independence 

Potsdam Conference concludes

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/potsdam-conference-concludes

The last wartime conference of the “Big Three”—the Soviet Union, the United States and Great Britain—concludes after two weeks of intense and sometimes acrimonious debate. The conference failed to settle most of the important issues at hand and thus helped set the stage for the Cold War that would begin shortly after World War II came to an end.

READ MORE: FDR, Churchill and Stalin: Inside Their Uneasy WWII Alliance

The meeting at Potsdam was the third conference between the leaders of the Big Three nations. The Soviet Union was represented by Joseph Stalin, Britain by Winston Churchill, and the United States by President Harry S. Truman. This was Truman’s first Big Three meeting. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who died in April 1945, attended the first two conferences—in Tehran in 1943 and Yalta in February 1945.

At the Potsdam meeting, the most pressing issue was the postwar fate of Germany. The Soviets wanted a unified Germany, but they also insisted that Germany be completely disarmed. Truman, along with a growing number of U.S. officials, had deep suspicions about Soviet intentions in Europe. The massive Soviet army already occupied much of Eastern Europe. A strong Germany might be the only obstacle in the way of Soviet domination of all of Europe. In the end, the Big Three agreed to divide Germany into three zones of occupation (one for each nation), and to defer discussions of German reunification until a later date. The other notable issue at Potsdam was one that was virtually unspoken. Just as he arrived for the conference, Truman was informed that the United States had successfully tested the first atomic bomb. Hoping to use the weapon as leverage with the Soviets in the postwar world, Truman casually mentioned to Stalin that America was now in possession of a weapon of monstrously destructive force. The president was disappointed when the Soviet leader merely responded that he hoped the United States would use it to bring the war with Japan to a speedy end.

The Potsdam Conference ended on a somber note. By the time it was over, Truman had become even more convinced that he had to adopt a tough policy toward the Soviets. Stalin had come to believe more strongly that the United States and Great Britain were conspiring against the Soviet Union. As for Churchill, he was not present for the closing ceremonies. His party lost in the elections in England, and he was replaced midway through the conference by the new prime minister, Clement Attlee. Potsdam was the last postwar conference of the Big Three.

READ MORE: How the ‘Big Three’ Teed Up the Cold War at the 1945 Yalta Conference

CSS Shenandoah learns the war is over

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The captain and crew of the C.S.S. Shenandoah, still prowling the waters of the Pacific in search of Yankee whaling ships, is finally informed by a British vessel that the South has lost the war.

The Shenandoah was the last major Confederate cruiser to set sail. Launched as a British vessel in September 1863, it was purchased by the Confederates and commissioned in October 1864. The 230-foot-long craft was armed with eight large guns and a crew of 73 sailors. Commanded by Captain James I. Waddell, the Shenandoah steered toward the Pacific and targeted Yankee whaling ships. Waddell enjoyed great success, taking six ships in the South Pacific before slipping into Melbourne, Australia, for repairs in January 1865.

Within a month, the Shenandoah was back on the loose, wreaking havoc in the waters around Alaska. The Rebel ship captured 32 additional Union vessels, most of which were burned. The damage was estimated at $1.6 million, a staggering figure in such a short period of time. Although the crew heard rumors that the Confederate armies had surrendered, Waddell continued to fight. He finally accepted an English captain’s report on August 2, 1865. The Shenandoah pulled off another remarkable feat by sailing from the northern Pacific all the way to Liverpool, England, without stopping at any ports. Arriving on November 6, Waddell surrendered his ship to British officials.

Man murdered near L.A. reservoir

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/man-murdered-near-l-a-reservoir

On August 2, 1942, Jose Diaz is murdered, and his body is found at the Sleepy Lagoon reservoir, near Los Angeles, California. Two days later, police began to round up and arrest 22 men of Mexican descent in the Los Angeles area for conspiring to kill Diaz. Despite a lack of evidence, the 22 men were eventually prosecuted for beating Diaz to death. The trial and subsequent convictions characterized a period of racial prejudice and injustice in Los Angeles during World War II.

Media coverage surrounding the trial was particularly troubling. The Los Angeles Examiner referred to young Mexican Americans as “hoodlums.” A captain from the Los Angeles Sheriff’s office told a grand jury that Mexicans had a “biological tendency” to be violent since they were descendants of Indian tribes who practiced human sacrifice. He went on to say that they had a “total disregard for human life” and an inbred “desire to use a knife or some lethal weapon. In other words, [a Mexican’s] desire is to kill, or at least, let blood.”

Despite the concerted efforts of a defense committee that had been put together by liberal activists and Hollywood actors, 17 of the accused were convicted and 12 were sent to San Quentin prison.

Over the course of the following year, hostility between white people and Hispanics became so inflamed by the press, police, and city officials that the so-called “Zoot Suit Riots” broke out the next summer. Allegedly, about a dozen sailors had been attacked by a group of Mexicans wearing zoot suits-long coats with exaggerated shoulder pads and loose pleated pants. On June 3, 1943, 50 Navy sailors responded to the assault by combing the streets in cabs, stopping to beat anyone wearing the popular Hispanic outfit. By the next day, hundreds more sailors had joined in the hunt. These unprovoked attacks continued for several days. On June 7, The Los Angeles Examiner reported that Mexicans would be out to retaliate, causing a civilian panic. The following day, the Los Angeles City Council passed an ordinance that made wearing a zoot suit a misdemeanor.

Finally, on June 8, U.S. military commanders restricted military personnel to their bases in Los Angeles, and the turmoil ended. A court of appeals eventually overturned the convictions of all 12 of the defendants in the Sleepy Lagoon case, and they were released after two years in prison.

READ MORE: What Were the Zoot Suit Riots?

Sudden thunderstorm causes plane crash

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/sudden-thunderstorm-causes-plane-crash

On August 2, 1985, strong and sudden wind gusts cause a plane crash at the Dallas/Fort Worth Airport in Texas that kills 135 people. The rapid and unexpected formation of a supercell, an extremely violent form of thunderstorm, led to the tragedy.

Delta Flight 191 left Fort Lauderdale, Florida, in the afternoon, headed for Dallas, Texas. The passengers aboard the Lockheed L-1011 enjoyed a completely normal flight until they approached the Dallas area. Summer afternoons in central Texas often include thunderstorms and August 2 proved to be a typical day in this respect. Flight 191 moved around a large storm on its original flight path and ended up coming in due south toward runway 17.

The crew of 191 saw lightning north of the airport, but did not abort the landing. As the plane flew into strong headwinds, the pilot slowed the thrust, expecting an updraft to hold the plane’s altitude. Instead, there was a sudden downward wind shear, with a blast of wind from the tail. The Lockheed plane is relatively heavy and was not able to thrust quickly in response. The pilot lost control of the plane and it hit the ground 6,000 feet short of the runway.

The plane hit a car, killing the driver, and then skidded into two water tanks. One hundred thirty-five people lost their lives and another 15 suffered serious injury in the crash. The subsequent investigation revealed that the weather had changed drastically in the eight minutes prior to the crash. A fast-growing supercell formation had caused unpredictable winds. The pilots also should have been more prudent, given what they could see of the developing storm as they approached the airport.

Today, improvements in technology help to monitor the progression and location of storms like the one that downed Flight 191.

Wild Bill Hickok is murdered

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/wild-bill-hickok-is-murdered

“Wild Bill” Hickok, one of the greatest gunfighters of the American West, is murdered in Deadwood, South Dakota.

Born in Illinois in 1837, James Butler “Wild Bill” Hickok first gained notoriety as a gunfighter in 1861 when he coolly shot three men who were trying to kill him. A highly sensationalized account of the gunfight appeared six years later in the popular periodical Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, sparking Hickok’s rise to national fame. Other articles and books followed, and though his prowess was often exaggerated, Hickok did earn his reputation with a string of impressive gunfights.

After accidentally killing his deputy during an 1871 shootout in Abilene, Kansas, Hickok never fought another gun battle. For the next several years he lived off his famous reputation. Occasionally, he worked as guide for wealthy hunters. His renowned eyesight began to fail, and for a time he was reduced to wandering the West trying to make a living as a gambler. Several times he was arrested for vagrancy.

In the spring of 1876, Hickok arrived in the Black Hills mining town of Deadwood, South Dakota. There he became a regular at the poker tables of the No. 10 Saloon, eking out a meager existence as a card player. On this day in 1876, Hickok was playing cards with his back to the saloon door. At 4:15 in the afternoon, a young gunslinger named Jack McCall walked into the saloon, approached Hickok from behind, and shot him in the back of the head. Hickok died immediately. McCall tried to shoot others in the crowd, but amazingly, all of the remaining cartridges in his pistol were duds. McCall was later tried, convicted, and hanged.

READ MORE: The Original Wild West Showdown

An ex-Marine goes on a killing spree at the University of Texas

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/an-ex-marine-goes-on-a-killing-spree-at-the-university-of-texas

Charles Whitman takes a stockpile of guns and ammunition to the observatory platform atop a 300-foot tower at the University of Texas and proceeds to shoot 46 people, killing 14 people and wounding 31. A fifteenth died years later because of his injuries. Whitman, who had killed both his wife and mother the night before, was eventually shot to death after courageous Austin police officers, including Ramiro Martinez, charged up the stairs of the tower to subdue the attacker.

Whitman, a former Eagle Scout and Marine, began to suffer serious mental problems after his mother left his father in March 1966. On March 29, he told a psychiatrist that he was having uncontrollable fits of anger. He purportedly even told this doctor that he was thinking about going up to the tower with a rifle and shooting people. Unfortunately the doctor didn’t follow up on this red flag.

On July 31, Whitman wrote a note about his violent impulses, saying, “After my death, I wish an autopsy on me be performed to see if there’s any mental disorders.” The note then described his hatred for his family and his intent to kill them. That night, Whitman went to his mother’s home, where he stabbed and shot her. Upon returning to his own home, he then stabbed his wife to death.

The following morning, Whitman headed for the tower with several pistols and a rifle after stopping off at a gun store to buy boxes of ammunition and a carbine. Packing food and other supplies, he proceeded to the observation platform, killing the receptionist and two tourists before unpacking his rifle and telescope and hunting the people below.

An expert marksman, Whitman was able to hit people as far away as 500 yards. For 90 minutes, he continued firing while officers searched for a chance to get a shot at him. By the end of his rampage, 16 people were dead and another 30 were injured.

The University of Texas tower remained closed for 25 years before reopening in 1999.