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Warsaw falls to German forces

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/poland-surrenders

On September 27, 1939, 140,000 Polish troops are taken prisoner by the German invaders as Warsaw surrenders to Hitler’s army. The Poles fought bravely, but were able to hold on for only 26 days.

On the heels of its victory, the Germans began a systematic program of terror, murder, and cruelty, executing members of Poland’s middle and upper classes: Doctors, teachers, priests, landowners, and businessmen were rounded up and killed. The Nazis had given this operation the benign-sounding name “Extraordinary Pacification Action.” The Roman Catholic Church, too, was targeted, because it was a possible source of dissent and counterinsurgency. In one west Poland church diocese alone, 214 priests were shot. And hundreds of thousands more Poles were driven from their homes and relocated east, as Germans settled in the vacated areas.

This was all part of a Hitler master plan. Back in August, Hitler warned his own officers that he was preparing Poland for that “which would not be to the taste of German generals”–including the rounding up of Polish Jews into ghettos, a prelude to their liquidation. All roads were pointing to Auschwitz.

The Tripartite Pact is signed by Germany, Italy and Japan

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/the-tripartite-pact-is-signed-by-germany-italy-and-japan

On September 27, 1940, the Axis powers are formed as Germany, Italy and Japan become allies with the signing of the Tripartite Pact in Berlin. The Pact provided for mutual assistance should any of the signatories suffer attack by any nation not already involved in the war. This formalizing of the alliance was aimed directly at “neutral” America—designed to force the United States to think twice before venturing in on the side of the Allies.

The Pact also recognized the two spheres of influence. Japan acknowledged “the leadership of Germany and Italy in the establishment of a new order in Europe,” while Japan was granted lordship over “Greater East Asia.”

A footnote: There was a fourth signatory to the Pact—Hungary, which was dragged into the Axis alliance by Germany in November 1940.

READ MORE: How Did World War II End?

Zsa Zsa Gabor storms out of the courtroom

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/zsa-zsa-gabor-storms-out-of-the-courtroom

Hollywood socialite Zsa Zsa Gabor, on trial for slapping a police officer, storms out of the courtroom in the middle of the district attorney’s closing argument. The prosecutor told the jury that Gabor “craves media attention . . . and abused two weeks of this process for her own self-aggrandizement.” Although her attorney objected when the prosecutor said, “the defendant doesn’t know the meaning of truth,” Gabor was already running out in tears.

Gabor, was accused of slapping Officer Paul Kramer during a June 14 traffic stop. She had been pulled over for expired tags on her Rolls Royce. As Kramer checked for other violations, including having an open container of alcohol in the vehicle and an expired license, Gabor drove off. When the officer chased her down and pulled her over again, Gabor slapped him, although she claimed that she had only acted in self-defense because Kramer used excessive force in arresting her. She said that her treatment by the police was “like Nazi Germany.”

During the trial, Gabor violated a court-imposed gag order by calling prosecution witness Amir Eslaminia, “a little punk with a hairdo like a girl.” In a bizarre attempt to make amends with the witness, she told him that she spoke Turkish, to which the young man replied, “So? I’m from Iran.” Gabor replied, “Well, that’s close.”

Later that day, Gabor was convicted and sentenced to 72 hours in jail, 120 hours of community service, and $13,000 in fines and restitution. Gabor died in 2016. 

Ships collide off Newfoundland, killing 322

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/ships-collide-off-newfoundland

Sudden and heavy fog causes two ships to collide, killing 322 people off the coast of Newfoundland on September 27, 1854.

The Arctic was a luxury ship, built in 1850 to carry passengers across the Atlantic Ocean. It had a wooden hull and could reach speeds of up to 13 knots per hour, an impressive clip at that point in history. On September 20, the Arctic left Liverpool, England, for North America. Seven days later, just off of the Newfoundland coast, it came into a heavy fog. Unfortunately, the ship’s captain, James Luce, did not take the usual safety measures for dealing with fog—he did not slow the Arctic, he did not sound the ship’s horn and he did not add extra watchmen.

At 12:15, the Arctic slammed into the steamer Vesta, an iron-hulled ship piloted by Captain Alphonse Puchesne. Since it was the Arctic that hit the Vesta, the crew of the Arctic initially directed their energy at helping the Vesta. They had not realized that the iron hull of the Vesta had actually done much more damage to the Arctic than vice versa.

Soon, the Arctic released lifeboats, but many capsized in the choppy waters. As the crew of the Arctic discovered that their ship was seriously damaged, Captain Luce decided to try to beach the ship. In doing so, he ran over several of the lifeboats, causing even more people to drown. The Arctic was too far from shore for the attempt to be successful and the action only increased the rate of flooding inside the ship.

General panic then ensued. Desperate Arctic crew members took lifeboats from women and children attempting to escape. When one of the ship’s high-ranking officers tried to stop this, the crew killed him. The final 70 people left on board crowded onto a makeshift raft as the Arctic sank. Reportedly only one member of this group survived.

Rachel Carson’s "Silent Spring" is published

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/rachel-carson-silent-spring-published

Rachel Carson’s watershed work Silent Spring is first published on September 27, 1962. Originally serialized in The New Yorker magazine, the book shed light on the damage that man-made pesticides inflict on the environment. Its publication is often viewed as the beginning of the modern environmentalist movement in America.

Carson received a master’s degree in zoology from Johns Hopkins University in 1932 and spent the next several decades researching the ecosystems of the East Coast. She rose through the ranks of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and published many works on the environment, including The Sea Around Us. In the late ’50s, she became concerned by reports of the unintended effects insecticides were having on other wildlife, and the Audubon Society approached her about writing a book on the topic. Silent Spring was the result of this partnership and several years of research, focusing primarily on the effects of DDT and similar pesticides. Carson was diagnosed with breast cancer during this time, causing the book’s publication to be delayed until 1962.

READ MORE: The Early Environmentalists

Silent Spring did not call for an outright ban on DDT, but it did argue that they were dangerous to humans and other animals and that overusing them would dramatically disrupt ecosystems. Carson met with staunch criticism, largely from the chemical industry and associated scientists. She was called “a fanatic defender of the cult of the balance of nature” and “probably a communist,” among other things, but the firestorm around her drew attention to a problem Americans were finally ready to acknowledge. 

Despite her illness, Carson made a slew of media appearances and testified before President John F. Kennedy’s Science Advisory Committee, finding more supporters than detractors. Though she died only two years after the book’s publication, the movement she helped popularize blossomed over the next decade. Her successors fought for the creation Environmental Protection Agency, formed in 1970, and her arguments were instrumental in securing a nationwide phase-out of DDT, which began in 1972. Carson’s work on pesticides not only drew attention to their unintended consequences but also familiarized the public with the extent of the harm mankind could inflict upon nature, one of the most important lessons our species has had to learn.

READ MORE: How Nixon Became the Unlikely Champion of the Endangered Species Act

Mistrial declared in Phil Spector murder case

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/mistrial-declared-in-phil-spector-murder-case

Music producer Phil Spector’s trial for the murder of actress Lana Clarkson ends in a mistrial when the jury cannot come to a unanimous verdict.

On February 3, 2003, police responded to a 911 call and found the 40-year-old Clarkson dead of a gunshot wound to the mouth in the foyer of Spector’s mansion in Alhambra, California. Spector, who pioneered the “Wall of Sound” production technique in the 1960s and worked with numerous top musicians, including the Beatles and Ike and Tina Turner, met Clarkson earlier that night at The House of Blues in West Hollywood, where she was a hostess. Clarkson, who had appeared in various B movies, agreed to go back to his home that night for a drink. The legendary record producer, then 63, had a reputation for carrying guns and being eccentric and domineering.

Spector was arrested and then freed on $1 million bail. In September 2004, he was indicted for second-degree murder. Jury selection began in March 2007, with opening statements the following month. During the trial prosecutors argued that Spector shot Clarkson because she resisted his advances. The prosecution put a series of women on the stand who testified that Spector had threatened them with guns in the past. Spector’s chauffeur, who had driven his boss and Clarkson back to the mansion that night and was waiting in the car when the gun went off in the house, testified that Spector came outside with a gun in his hand and told him, “I think I just killed somebody.”

The defense claimed Clarkson, depressed about her career and struggling with money problems, had shot herself, perhaps accidentally. There was no forensic evidence to prove Spector had held the gun, although there was a spray of blood on his clothing. The defense argued the blood pattern showed Spector was too far away to have shot Clarkson. Throughout the trial, Spector sported a range of dramatic hairstyles and was accompanied to court by bodyguards and his much younger new wife, who he married in September 2006. On September 18, 2007, after deliberating for a week, the jury came back deadlocked, 7-5. However, Judge Larry Paul Fidler refused to grant an immediate mistrial and instead gave the jurors new instructions and ordered them to resume deliberations. The jury returned on September 26 to report they were still deadlocked, 10-2, with the majority voting to convict Spector.

Shortly after Judge Fidler declared a mistrial in the case, the Los Angeles Country Distict Attorney’s Office announced plans to seek a retrial. Spector was convicted of murder in 2009 and sentenced to 19 years to life in prison.

“The Brady Bunch” premieres

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/the-brady-bunch-premieres

On September 26, 1969, American television audiences hear the soon-to-be-famous opening lyrics “Here’s the story of a lovely lady. Who was bringing up three very lovely girls…” as The Brady Bunch, a sitcom that will become an icon of American pop culture, airs for the first time. The show was panned by critics and, according to the Museum of Broadcast Communications, during “its entire network run, the series never reached the top ten ranks of the Nielsen ratings. Yet, the program stands as one of the most important sitcoms of American 1970s television programming, spawning numerous other series on all three major networks, as well as records, lunch boxes, a cookbook, and even a stage show and feature film.”

READ MORE: Why the ‘Radical’ Brady Bunch Almost Never Got Made

Created by Sherwood Schwartz (whose previous hit sitcom was Gilligan’s Island), The Brady Bunch followed the story of Carol (Florence Henderson), a widowed mother of three blonde daughters, who marries architect Mike Brady (Robert Reed), a widower and the father of three brown-haired boys. The blended family lives together in a suburban Los Angeles home with their cheerful housekeeper, Alice (Ann B. Davis). The show focused primarily on issues related to the Brady kids–Greg (Barry Williams), Marcia (Maureen McCormick), Peter (Christopher Knight), Jan (Eve Plumb), Bobby (Mike Lookinland) and Cindy (Susan Olsen)–who ranged from grade-school age to teenage. Although set in the late 1960s and early 1970s, a time of political and social upheaval in the United States, The Brady Bunch generally avoided controversial topics and instead presented a wholesome view of family life, tackled subjects such as sibling rivalry (including Jan’s now-famous complaint about the focus on her sister: “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia”), braces and dating.

After 177 episodes, ABC cancelled The Brady Bunch and the last original episode aired on August 30, 1974. However, the show soon became a massive hit in rerun syndication. The show’s various spin-offs have included a 1977 variety program, The Brady Bunch Hour; a 1988 TV movie A Very Brady Christmas; the 1995 big-screen parody The Brady Bunch Movie (with Shelley Long and Gary Cole as Carol and Mike) and its follow-up A Very Brady Sequel (1996); and the 2002 TV movie The Brady Bunch in the White House. In 1992, Barry Williams published a best-selling memoir titled Growing Up Brady: I Was a Teenage Greg, which provided a behind-the-scenes look at the show and revealed that life behind the Brady Bunch cameras was less wholesome than it seemed on TV. 

READ MORE: The Brady Bunch: 8 Secrets and Scandals About TV’s Squeaky-Clean Family

T.S. Eliot is born

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/t-s-eliot-is-born

Poet T.S. Eliot is born in St. Louis, Missouri, on September 26, 1888. 

Eliot’s distinguished family tree included an ancestor who arrived in Boston in 1670 and another who founded Washington University in St. Louis. Eliot’s father was a businessman, and his mother was involved in local charities.

Eliot took an undergraduate degree at Harvard, studied at the Sorbonne, returned to Harvard to study Sanskrit, and then studied at Oxford. After meeting poet and lifelong friend Ezra Pound, Eliot relocated to England. In 1915, he married Vivian Haigh-Wood, but the marriage was unhappy, partly due to her mental instability. She died in an institution in 1947.

Eliot began working at Lloyd’s Bank in 1917, writing reviews and essays on the side. He founded a critical quarterly, Criterion, and quietly developed a new brand of poetry. His first major work, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, was published in 1917 and hailed as the invention of a new kind of poetry. His long, fragmented images and use of blank verse influenced nearly all future poets, as did his masterpiece The Waste Land, published in Criterion and the American review The Dial in 1922. While Eliot is best known for revolutionizing modern poetry, his literary criticism and plays were also successful. In 1925, he accepted a job as an editor at Faber and Faber, which allowed him to quit his job at the bank. He held the position for the rest of his life.

Eliot lectured in the United States frequently in the 1930s and 1940s, a time when his own worldview was fluctuating: He converted to Christianity. In 1957, he married his assistant, Valerie Fletcher. The couple lived happily until his death in 1965.

The famous frontiersman Daniel Boone dies in Missouri

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/the-famous-frontiersman-daniel-boone-dies-in-missouri

On September 26, 1820 the great pioneering frontiersman Daniel Boone dies quietly in his sleep at his son’s home near present-day Defiance, Missouri. The indefatigable voyager was 86.

Boone was born in 1734 to Quaker parents living in Berks County, Pennsylvania. Following a squabble with the Pennsylvania Quakers, Boone’s family decided to head south and west for less crowded regions, and they eventually settled in the Yadkin Valley of North Carolina. There the young Daniel Boone began his life-long love for wilderness, spending long days exploring the still relatively unspoiled forests and mountains of the region. An indifferent student who never learned to write more than a crude sentence or two, Boone’s passion was for the outdoors, and he quickly became a superb marksman, hunter and woodsman.

Never satisfied to stay put for very long, Boone soon began making ever longer and more ambitious journeys into the relatively unexplored lands to the west. In May of 1769, Boone and five companions crossed over the Cumberland Gap and explored along the south fork of the Kentucky River. Impressed by the fertility and relative emptiness of the land–although the native inhabitants hardly considered it to be empty–Boone returned in 1773 with his family, hoping to establish a permanent settlement. A Native American attack prevented that first attempt from succeeding, but Boone returned two years later to open the route that became known as Boone’s Trace (or the Wilderness Road) between the Cumberland Gap and a new settlement along the Kentucky River called Fortress Boonesboro. After years of struggles against both Native Americans and British soldiers, Boonesboro eventually became one of the most important gateways for the early American settlement of the Trans-Appalachian West.

Made a legend in his own time by John Filson’s “Boone Autobiography” and Lord Byron’s depiction of him as the quintessential frontiersman in the book “Don Juan,” Boone became a symbol of the western pioneering spirit for many Americans. Ironically, though, Boone’s fame and his success in opening the Trans-Appalachian West to large-scale settlement later came to haunt him. Having lost his Kentucky land holdings by failing to properly register them, Boone moved even further west in 1799, trying to escape the regions he had been so instrumental in creating. Finally settling in Missouri—though he never stopped dreaming of continuing westward—he lived out the rest of his life doing what he loved best: hunting and trapping in a fertile wild land still largely untouched by the Anglo pioneers who had followed the path he blazed to the West.

READ MORE: 8 Things You Might Not Know About Daniel Boone