Jan-30: Oh Horrible, Horrible Day

This day features the worst maritime disaster ever, the assassination of a Mohandas Gandhi, the Tet Offensive and Bloody Sunday.

1945

The Worst Maritime Disaster In History

The MV Wilhelm Gustloff was a German military transport ship which was sunk on 30 January 1945 by a Soviet submarine S-13 in the Baltic Sea while evacuating German civilians, Nazi officials and military personnel from Gdynia as the Red Army advanced. By one estimate, 9,400 people died, which makes it the largest loss of life in a single ship sinking in history.

1948

Gandhi Assassinated

Indian pacifist and leader Mohandas Gandhi, known for his non-violent freedom struggle, is assassinated by Pandit Nathuram Godse, a Hindu extremist.

1959

Danish Titanic Disaster

MS Hans Hedtoft, said to be the safest ship afloat and “unsinkable” like the RMS Titanic, strikes an iceberg on her maiden voyage and sinks, killing all 95 aboard. The only piece of wreckage ever found was a lifebelt. As of 2016, she remains the last ship sunk by an iceberg with casualties.

1968

US Stunned By Tet Offensive

Viet Cong launches Tet Offensive which was one of the largest military campaigns of the Vietnam War.  It was a campaign of surprise attacks against military and civilian commands and control centers throughout South Vietnam. The name of the offensive comes from the Tết holiday, the Vietnamese New Year, when the first major attacks took place.  The initial attacks stunned the US and South Vietnamese armies and caused them to temporarily lose control of several cities, but they quickly regrouped to beat back the attacks, inflicting massive casualties on communist forces.

Although the offensive was a military defeat for the communists, it had a profound effect on the US government and shocked the US public, which had been led to believe by its political and military leaders that the communists were being defeated and incapable of launching such a massive effort.

 

1972

Bloody Sunday

British Paratroopers kill fourteen unarmed civil rights/anti internment marchers in Northern Ireland. The official army position, backed by the British Home Secretary the next day in the House of Commons, was that the paratroopers had reacted to gun and nail bomb attacks from suspected IRA members – a position rejected by all eyewitnesses (apart from the soldiers), including marchers, local residents, and British and Irish journalists present. No British soldier was wounded by gunfire or reported any injuries, nor were any bullets or nail bombs recovered to back up their claims.

Successive commissions appointed by London whitewashed any British wrongdoing.  Queen Elizabeth II decorated the British soldiers involved.  Finally, in 2010 the Saville inquiry found the British soldiers at fault, leading Prime Minister Cameron to state

[T]he conclusions of this report are absolutely clear. There is no doubt, there is nothing equivocal, there are no ambiguities. What happened on Bloody Sunday was both unjustified and unjustifiable. It was wrong.

 

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