8 November 1939

Adolf Hitler escapes the assassination attempt of Georg Elser while celebrating the 16th anniversary of the Beer Hall Putsch.

On this day in 8 November 1939, on the 16th anniversary of Hitler’s Beer Hall Putsch, a bomb explodes just after Hitler has finished giving a speech. He was unharmed.

Hitler had made an annual ritual on the anniversary of his infamous 1923 coup attempt, of regaling his followers with his vision of the Fatherland’s future. On this day, he had been addressing the Old Guard party members, those disciples and soldiers who had been loyal to Hitler and his fascist party since the earliest days of its inception. Just 12 minutes after Hitler had left the hall, along with important Nazi leaders who had accompanied him, a bomb exploded, which had been secreted in a pillar behind the speaker’s platform. Seven people were killed and 63 were wounded.

The next day, the Nazi Party official paper, the Voelkischer Beobachter, squarely placed the blame on British secret agents, even implicating Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain himself. This work of propaganda was an attempt to stir up hatred for the British and whip the German people into a frenzy for war. But the inner-Nazi Party members knew better—they knew the assassination attempt was most probably the work of a German anti-Nazi military conspiracy.

In an ingenious scheme to shift blame, while getting closer to the actual conspirators, Heinrich Himmler, the Gestapo chief, sent a subordinate, Walter Schellenberg, to Holland to make contact with British intelligence agents. The pretext of the meeting was to secure assurances from the British that in the event of an anti-Nazi coup, the British would support the new regime. The British agents were eager to gain whatever inside information they could about the rumored anti-Hitler movement within the German military; Schellenberg, posing as “Major Schaemmel,” was after whatever information British intelligence may have had on such a conspiracy within the German military ranks.

But Himmler wanted more than talk—he wanted the British agents themselves. So on November 9, SS soldiers in Holland kidnapped, with Schellenberg’s help, two British agents, Payne Best and R.H. Stevens, stuffing them into a Buick and driving them across the border into Germany. Himmler now proudly announced to the German public that he had captured the British conspirators. The man who actually planted the bomb at their behest was declared to be Georg Elser, a German communist who made his living as a carpenter.

While it seems certain that Elser did plant the bomb, who the instigators were—German military or British intelligence—remains unclear. All three “official” conspirators spent the war in Sachsenhausen concentration camp. Hitler dared not risk a public trial, as there were just too many holes in the “official” story.

12 June 1939

The Baseball Hall of Fame opens in Cooperstown, New York.

The special two-car excursion train chugged cautiously along rusty tracks into sleepy Cooperstown, N.Y. It had been 18 vexing miles from Colliersville, a dicey journey across a railroad spur virtually unexplored since the turn of the century.

But this was no ordinary passenger train and its riders no ordinary travelers. And after that day, June 12, 1939, Cooperstown would never again be an ordinary upstate New York farm town.

Stepping off the train just inside the village that morning were Babe Ruth, Connie Mack, Walter Johnson, Cy Young, Honus Wagner, Tris Speaker, Eddie Collins, Napoleon Lajoie, George Sisler and Grover Cleveland Alexander. Ty Cobb would arrive later. So would 32 major leaguers to play an exhibition game.

Sixty years ago tomorrow, the National Baseball Hall of Fame staged its first induction ceremony, an event that has become a standby of the American summer.

They came that day in 1939, 11 honorees and nine eventual Hall of Famers still in their primes, to celebrate something unprecedented: a sports Hall of Fame. How they spent that day is a story of a different America and its pastime.

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Ruth, for example, arrived in the village needing a shave. He marched up Main Street in a tan double-breasted suit and buck wing shoes with a retinue of children following at a respectful distance. At the lone Main Street barber shop, the line was long for the three chairs inside. Ruth waited at the back of the line.

Cobb, meanwhile, came into town in a mad dash, like a man trying to steal second base, gate-crashing the ceremony by climbing over a railing and jumping down onto the makeshift dance band stage.

Mack, born during the Civil War, stood throughout the proceedings as resolute as the high, white-starched collar he wore beneath his three-piece blue suit.

The concept of a baseball Hall of Fame had been created three years earlier but the museum was built to open in 1939 so that baseball could mark the 100th anniversary of the game’s founding. A recent special commission verified the allegorical tale that placed Abner Doubleday in a Cooperstown cow pasture laying out the ground rules for the game in 1839. And even if subsequent research has proved those findings specious at best, 60 years ago it went largely unquestioned.

Each of the country’s major league ball parks closed for the day and NBC radio broadcast the festivities nationally. It was 22 days before Lou Gehrig had his famous day at Yankee Stadium, 80 days before Nazi troops would storm Poland, and 186 days before ”Gone With the Wind” had its Atlanta opening.

Fifteen thousand people choked Cooperstown’s Main Street.

”I took a lot of pictures because none of us could believe this was happening in our town,” said Homer Osterhoudt, who as the 21-year-old son of a local farmer worked on the construction of the three-story brick museum mixing mortar for the three-story colonial edifice.

Catherine Walker, a lifelong Cooperstown resident who has worked as an attendant at the Hall of Fame for the last nine years, remembers sitting on her father’s shoulders as an 8-year-old.

”I was watching Babe Ruth walk up Main Street heading for the barber shop,” Walker said at the Hall of Fame this week. ”My eyes were as wide as saucers.”

Howard Talbot would become the Hall of Fame’s director for 25 years, but in 1939 he was a 14-year-old escorted to Cooperstown by his father from his nearby home.

”It was a pretty big day for a little burg like Cooperstown,” Talbot said. ”You have to remember there was no TV. It’s safe to say that at least 90 percent of the people there that day had never seen a major league game played. I know I hadn’t.”

29 December 1939

The Consolidated B-24 Liberator flies for the first time.

The Consolidated B-24 Liberator is an American heavy bomber, designed by Consolidated Aircraft of San Diego, California. It was known within the company as the Model 32, and some initial models were laid down as export models designated as various LB-30s, in the Land Bomber design category.

At its inception, the B-24 was a modern design featuring a highly efficient shoulder-mounted, high aspect ratio Davis wing. The wing gave the Liberator a high cruise speed, long range and the ability to carry a heavy bomb load. Early RAF Liberators were the first aircraft to cross the Atlantic Ocean as a matter of routine. However, the type was difficult to fly and had poor low speed performance. It also had a lower ceiling and was less robust than the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress. While aircrews tended to prefer the B-17, General Staff favored the B-24, and procured it for a wide variety of roles.

2 December 1939

 

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LaGuardia Airport in Queens, New York opens.

The world’s greatest and most costly airport, the $38,000,000 LaGuardia Field at North Beach, Queens, was opened to scheduled airline traffic in history today when a DC-3 Douglas transport plane arrived from Chicago and Pittsburgh.

LaGuardia Airport is an airport in the northern part of the New York City borough of Queens in the United States. It is on the waterfront of Flushing Bay and Bowery Bay in East Elmhurst and borders the neighborhoods of East Elmhurst, Astoria, and Jackson Heights. The airport is the third busiest airport serving New York City, and the twentieth most busy in the United States. LaGuardia Airport covers 680 acres 280 in total. LaGuardia, and Newark Liberty International airports combine to create the largest airport system in the United States, second in the world in terms of passenger traffic, and first in the world in terms of total flight operations.

In 2011, the airport handled 24.1 million passengers. In 2015, LaGuardia Airport had a strong growth in passenger traffic; about 31.4 million passengers used the airport, a 14.2 percent increase from the previous year. LaGuardia is the busiest airport in the United States without any non-stop service to Europe. Most transcontinental flights use JFK or Newark, as do all international flights except those from airports within the perimeter that also have United States border preclearance, there is no border control facility at the airport.

15 August 1939

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The Wizard of Oz is first shown at Grauman’s Chinese Theater in Los Angeles, California.

The Wizard of Oz is the most popular American Comedy-Drama fantasy film. It was based on 1900 novel, the Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum. On August 15, 1939, it was the film’s Hollywood premier which was held at the Grauman’s Chinese Theater. It was followed by New York City premiere, held at Loew’s Capitol Theater on August 17, 1939. A live performance was also performed by Judy Garl and Mickey Rooney. Both stars continued to perform after each screening for a week. The movie has officially opened nationally on August 25, 1939.