7 June 1981

The Israeli Air Force destroys Iraq’s Osiraq nuclear reactor during Operation Opera.

Operation Opera, also known as Operation Babylon, was a surprise Israeli air strike carried out on 7 June 1981, which destroyed an Iraqi nuclear reactor under construction 17 kilometers southeast of Baghdad. The operation came after Iran’s unsuccessful Operation Scorch Sword operation had caused minor damage to the same nuclear facility the previous year, the damage having been subsequently repaired by French technicians. Operation Opera, and related Israeli government statements following it, established the Begin Doctrine, which explicitly stated the strike was not an anomaly, but instead “a precedent for every future government in Israel.” Israel’s counter-proliferation preventive strike added another dimension to their existing policy of deliberate ambiguity, as it related to the nuclear capability of other states in the region.

In 1976, Iraq purchased an “Osiris”-class nuclear reactor from France. While Iraq and France maintained that the reactor, named Osirak by the French, was intended for peaceful scientific research, the Israelis viewed the reactor with suspicion, believing it was designed to make nuclear weapons. On 7 June 1981, a flight of Israeli Air Force F-16A fighter aircraft, with an escort of F-15As, bombed and heavily damaged the Osirak reactor. Israel called the operation an act of self-defense said that the reactor had “less than a month to go” before “it might have become critical.” Ten Iraqi soldiers and one French civilian were killed. The attack took place about three weeks before the elections for the Knesset.

At the time, the attack was met with sharp international criticism, including in the United States, and Israel was rebuked by the United Nations Security Council and General Assembly in two separate resolutions. Media reactions were also negative: “Israel’s sneak attack … was an act of inexcusable and short-sighted aggression”, wrote the New York Times, while the Los Angeles Times called it “state-sponsored terrorism”. The destruction of Osirak has been cited as an example of a preventive strike in contemporary scholarship on international law. The efficacy of the attack is debated by historians, who acknowledge that it brought back Iraq from the brink of nuclear capability but drove its weapons program underground and cemented Saddam Hussein’s future ambitions for acquiring nuclear weapons.

7 June 1942

The Battle of Midway comes to an end in American victory.

On June 7, 1942, the Battle of Midway–one of the most decisive U.S. victories in its war against Japan–comes to an end. In the four-day sea and air battle, the outnumbered U.S. Pacific Fleet succeeded in destroying four Japanese aircraft carriers with the loss of only one of its own, the Yorktown, thus reversing the tide against the previously invincible Japanese navy.

In six months of offensives, the Japanese had triumphed in lands throughout the Pacific, including Malaysia, Singapore, the Dutch East Indies, the Philippines, and numerous island groups. The United States, however, was a growing threat, and Japanese Admiral Isoruku Yamamoto sought to destroy the U.S. Pacific Fleet before it was large enough to outmatch his own. A thousand miles northwest of Honolulu, the strategic island of Midway became the focus of his scheme to smash U.S. resistance to Japan’s imperial designs. Yamamoto’s plan consisted of a feint toward Alaska followed by an invasion of Midway by a Japanese strike force. When the U.S. Pacific Fleet arrived at Midway to respond to the invasion, it would be destroyed by the superior Japanese fleet waiting unseen to the west. If successful, the plan would eliminate the U.S. Pacific Fleet and provide a forward outpost from which the Japanese could eliminate any future American threat in the Central Pacific.

Unfortunately for the Japanese, U.S. intelligence broke the Japanese naval code, and the Americans anticipated the surprise attack. Three heavy aircraft carriers of the U.S. Pacific Fleet were mustered to challenge the four heavy Japanese carriers steaming toward Midway. In early June, U.S. command correctly recognized a Japanese movement against Alaska’s Aleutian Islands as a diversionary tactic and kept its forces massed around Midway. On June 3, the Japanese occupation force was spotted steaming toward the island, and B-17 Flying Fortresses were sent out from Midway to bomb the strike force but failed to inflict damage. Early in the morning on June 4, a PBY Catalina flying boat torpedoed a Japanese tanker transport, striking the first blow of the Battle of Midway.

Later that morning, an advance Japanese squadron numbering more than 100 bombers and Zero fighters took off from the Japanese carriers to bomb Midway. Twenty-six Wildcat fighters were sent up to intercept the Japanese force and suffered heavy losses in their heroic defense of Midway’s air base. Soon after, bombers and torpedo planes based on Midway took off to attack the Japanese carriers but failed to inflict serious damage. The first phase of the battle was over by 7:00 a.m.

In the meantime, 200 miles to the northeast, two U.S. attack fleets caught the Japanese force entirely by surprise. Beginning around 9:30 a.m., torpedo bombers from the three U.S. carriers descended on the Japanese carriers. Although nearly wiped out, they drew off enemy fighters, and U.S. dive bombers penetrated, catching the Japanese carriers while their decks were cluttered with aircraft and fuel. The dive-bombers quickly destroyed three of the heavy Japanese carriers and one heavy cruiser. The only Japanese carrier that initially escaped destruction, the Hiryu, loosed all its aircraft against the American task force and managed to seriously damage the U.S. carrier Yorktown, forcing its abandonment. At about 5:00 p.m., dive-bombers from the U.S. carrier Enterprise returned the favor, mortally damaging the Hiryu. It was scuttled the next morning.

Admiral Isoruku Yamamoto still had numerous warships at his command, but without his carriers and aircraft he was forced to abandon his Midway invasion plans and begin a westward retreat. On June 5, a U.S. task force pursued his fleet, but bad weather saved it from further destruction. On June 6, the skies cleared, and U.S. aircraft resumed their assault, sinking a cruiser and damaging several other warships. After the planes returned to their carriers, the Americans broke off from the pursuit. Meanwhile, a Japanese submarine torpedoed and fatally wounded the Yorktown, which was in the process of being salvaged. It finally rolled over and sank at dawn on June 7, bringing an end to the battle.

At the Battle of Midway, Japan lost four carriers, a cruiser, and 292 aircraft, and suffered 2,500 casualties. The U.S. lost the Yorktown, the destroyer USS Hammann, 145 aircraft, and suffered 307 casualties. Japan’s losses hobbled its naval might–bringing Japanese and American sea power to approximate parity–and marked the turning point in the Pacific theater of World War II. In August 1942, the great U.S. counteroffensive began at Guadalcanal and did not cease until Japan’s surrender three years later.

7 June 1929

The Lateran Treaty is ratified, establishing the Vatican City.

Lateran Treaty, also called Lateran Pact of 1929, treaty between Italy and the Vatican. It was signed by Benito Mussolini for the Italian government and by cardinal secretary of state Pietro Gasparri for the papacy and confirmed by the Italian constitution of 1948.

Upon ratification of the Lateran Treaty, the papacy recognized the state of Italy, with Rome as its capital. Italy in return recognized papal sovereignty over the Vatican City, a minute territory of 44 hectares (109 acres), and secured full independence for the pope. A number of additional measures were agreed upon. Article 1, for example, gave the city of Rome a special character as the “centre of the Catholic world and place of pilgrimage.” Article 20 stated that all bishops were to take an oath of loyalty to the state and had to be Italian subjects speaking the Italian language.

By article 34 the state recognized the validity of Catholic marriage and its subjection to the provisions of canon law; nullity cases were therefore reserved to the ecclesiastical courts, and there could be no divorce.The state agreed by article 36 of the concordat to permit religious instruction in the public primary and secondary schools and conceded to the bishops the right to appoint or dismiss those who imparted such instruction and to approve the textbooks that they used.

With the signing of the concordat of 1985, Roman Catholicism was no longer the state religion of Italy. This change in status brought about a number of alterations in Italian society. Perhaps the most significant of these was the end to compulsory religious education in public schools. The new concordat also affected such diverse areas as tax exemptions for religious institutions and ownership of the Jewish catacombs.