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The Enola Gay

Major historical anniversaries in August

Image: Pilot Paul Tibbets (centre) stands in front of the Enola Gay with members of the ground crew | Public Domain

From the Great Train Robbery to the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, discover what major historical events have taken place in the month of August.

2 August

Iraq invades Kuwait (1990)

On the orders of dictator Saddam Hussein, Iraq invaded the neighbouring Kuwait to expand Iraqi power in the region and acquire the nation's vast oil reserves. This led to a massive offensive by the U.S. against Iraq called Operation Desert Storm. By February 1991, Kuwait had been liberated.

3 August

Columbus sets sail across the Atlantic (1492)

Italian explorer Christopher Columbus famously set sail from Palos in Spain on the first of his voyages to the Americas in 1492. He took with him a fleet of three ships – the Niña, the Pinta and the Santa Maria.

4 August

Anne Frank is captured (1944)

Whether by betrayal or bad luck, the Nazis discovered the hideout of 15-year-old Jewish diarist Anne Frank and her family. Tragically, the Franks were placed on the very last convoy of Jews out of Amsterdam before the city was liberated by the Allies.

5 August

Marilyn Monroe is found dead (1962)

The Hollywood icon, born Norma Jeane, was found lying on her bed, face down and naked. The police concluded it was likely a suicide after an overdose of sleeping pills.

6 August

The U.S. drops the atomic bomb on Hiroshima (1945)

At approximately 8:15am, a US B-29 bomber called the Enola Gay dropped an atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima during WWII, instantly killing around 80,000 people. Three days later, a second bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, causing the deaths of 40,000 more. Japan surrendered a few days later.

8 August

The Great Train Robbery

A 15-member gang led by Bruce Reynolds stopped The Royal Mail's Glasgow to London train by tampering with the signals. The men stole £2.6 million in what is one of the most audacious crimes in British history.

12 August

Cleopatra dies (30 B.C.)

The famous Egyptian Queen was known for her beauty, as well as being the lover of both Julius Caesar and Mark Antony. After her forces were defeated by Octavian, the future first emperor of Rome, she took her own life. Legend has it she died from a venomous snake bite, most likely from an asp.

The Kursk sinks (2000)

After a faulty torpedo exploded, the Russian nuclear-powered submarine sank in the Barents Sea whilst taking part in a training exercise. All 118 crew members were killed.

13 August

The Berlin Wall is built (1961)

After Allied and Soviet forces captured Berlin at the end of WWII, the city was split into different zones of occupation. The Soviets had the eastern part of the city whilst the Allies had the western part. By 1961, thousands were emigrating to the West every day. To prevent this, the Soviets began laying barbed wire down along the border. Eventually, this turned into a brick wall that divided the city until 1989.

15 August

India and Pakistan gain independence (1947)

On this day in 1947, the Indian Independence Act came into effect, liberating both India and Pakistan from British imperialist rule and establishing them as independent countries.

Napoleon is born (1769)

Known as 'Le Petit Caporal' (The Little Corporal), the French military commander and first Emperor of France, Napoleon Bonaparte was born on this day.

16 August

Usain Bolt sets new 100m record (2009)

During the 100m sprint final at the 2009 World Athletics Championships in Berlin, Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt set a new world record time of 9.58 seconds. In doing so, the 22-year-old became the first person in history to run the distance in sub-9.6 seconds.

22 August

Battle of Bosworth Field (1485)

In one of the most important battles in English history, the Battle of Bosworth Field saw King Richard III become the last English king to die in battle. The battle was the last major fight during the Wars of the Roses – the civil war between the houses of Lancaster and York. The battle marked the end of the Plantagenet dynasty and the beginning of the Tudor one.

24 August

Mount Vesuvius erupts (79)

It’s one of the most famous and destructive volcanic eruptions in history. At 1pm on 24 August 79, Mount Vesuvius erupted and destroyed the nearby Roman city of Pompeii, as well as the seaside town of Herculaneum.

27 August

Lord Mountbatten is killed by an IRA bomb (1979)

Lord Mountbatten, King Charles III’s great uncle, was killed whilst lobster fishing. A 50-pound bomb had been placed on the boat the night before by members of the IRA and the resulting explosion killed Mountbatten and three members of his holiday party.

29 August

Hurricane Katrina destroys New Orleans (2005)

The Category 5 hurricane slammed into the U.S. near New Orleans, Louisiana and inflicted widespread devastation. The hurricane caused over 1,400 deaths and damages of around $145 billion. It is one of the worst natural disasters in the history of the United States.

31 August

Jack the Ripper strikes for the first time (1888)

In the early hours of Friday, 31 August 1888, the first victim of the now infamous serial killer Jack the Ripper was found. The body of Mary Ann Nichols was discovered in Buck's Row, Whitechapel, having suffered multiple stab wounds. To this day, the identity of Jack the Ripper remains a mystery.

Princess Diana dies (1997)

On the night of 31st August 1997, a speeding Mercedes, chased by the paparazzi and driven by a man over the drink-driving limit, lost control and crashed in a tunnel in Paris. Within the car sat 36-year-old Princess Diana, her boyfriend of a few months Dodi al-Fayed, and his bodyguard. The bodyguard was the only one to survive.