September 1st is marked by the last mile of Canadian hero Terry Fox’s Marathon of Hope and by days of carnage from the 1923 Kantō earthquake, the invasion of Poland and start of World War II and the Soviet Union’s shooting down of Korean Airlines Flight 007. In addition, the oldest subway tunnel in North America opened on this day in Boston in 1897.
Great Kantō earthquake
In the greatest disaster in pre-war Japan, a 7.9 earthquake devastated Tokyo, the port city of Yokohama, and the surrounding prefectures of Chiba, Kanagawa, and Shizuoka, and caused widespread damage throughout the Kantō region. The earthquake combined with high winds from a typhoon triggered firestorms that swept through the city. A tsunami also struck followed by a tsunami in Sagami Bay. The disaster caused over 100,000 deaths and $14.65 billion in damage (2018 dollars) and was followed by ethnic violence in which as many as 10,000 ethnic Koreans and Chinese were killed.
September 1st is now Disaster Prevention Day in Japan.
World War II Begins With Invasion of Poland
Germany invaded Poland from the north, south and west, while the Soviet Union would invade from the east on September 17. The campaign ended on October 6th with Germany and the Soviet Union dividing and annexing the whole of Poland under the terms of the German–Soviet Frontier Treaty. Within days, Great Britain and France declared war on Germany.
Hitler Launches Euthanasia Program
In October 1939, Hitler signed a note backdated to September 1 authorizing the German SS to implement a program of “mercy death” for those deemed “incurably sick.” The program targeted those who had been committed as “criminally insane”, who were of “non-Aryan race” or who had been diagnosed with any on a list of conditions including schizophrenia, epilepsy, Huntington’s chorea, advanced syphilis, senile dementia, paralysis, encephalitis and “terminal neurological conditions. As many as 300,000 were killed under the program.
Terry Fox’s Marathon of Hope Ends at Mile 3,339
On April 12, 1980, Canadian Terry Fox, who had lost a leg to osteosarcoma began the “Marathon of Hope,” a cross-country run to raise money for cancer research from St. John, Newfoundland. Fox ran the equivalent of a marathon a day. By the time he arrived in Ontario in June, he was a national hero and was given a heroes welcome by Prime Minister Trudeau and hockey legends such as Bobby Orr stepped forward to donate to the campaign.
On September 1st, Fox was forced to suspend his campaign outside Thunder Bay due to shortness of breath and chest pains. He was hospitalized where it was discovered that his cancer had spread to his lungs. He died on June 28, 1981 but not before raising $23.4 million. Today, the Terry Fox Foundation holds an annual charity on September 19 and has raised over $750 million.
Soviet Union Shoots Down KAL Flight 007
Korean Air Lines Flight 007 from New York to Seoul via Anchorage was shot down by Soviet interceptor aircraft after flying into Soviet airspace about the time of a U.S. aerial reconnaissance mission. All 269 passengers and crew were killed including Congressman Larry McDonald.
Also on this day . . .
Boston Opens First Subway Tunnel in North America
Boston’s Tremont Street Subway opened. It is the oldest subway tunnel in North America and the third oldest worldwide to exclusively use electric traction (after the City and South London Railway in 1890, and the Budapest Metro’s Line 1 in 1896).