1. 1916: First tank used in battle
Tanks were used on the battlefield for the first time in history on this date in 1916 at the Battle of the Somme. The British shipped an estimated 40 Mark I tanks to Somme to face the German soldiers but when it came down to it only nine of them were able to make a difference. The Mark I was rushed into combat before it’s designed could be perfected and at the time they were heavy, slow, and incredibly unreliable. Some of the tanks broke down, some didn’t even move at all, but according to reports some made it through ” no man’s land” to breach the German front lines. Even though it would be a stretch to call the tanks “successul” on their first outing, many saw the potential capabilities of a machine that had been properly tested and engineered from the ground up. The battle of Somme was a complete dissaster that lasted over the course of four months and left more than 600,000 French and British troops killed. According to reports the Allies lost an estimated 1,000 men for every 100 yards gained on the German front. Although the Battle of the Somme ended just short of defeat many people feel as if it played a major part in the collapse of Germany in 1918.
2. 1954: Marilyn Monroe’s famous skirt scene filmed
One of the most iconic photos in American pop culture history is taken on this date in 1954. It happened while shooting for the film Seven Year Itch just after midnight on the corner of Lexington Ave and 52nd Street in New York. The lovely Marilyn Monroe stood there in that iconic white dress atop a subway vent that would occasionally blow a gust of air that would cause her skirt to fly up. The filming was scheduled so late with hopes of avoiding onlookers, but die-hard Marilyn fans weren’t going to let that stop them. It was reported that somewhere between 2,000-5,000 spectators flocked to the shooting and everytime her skirt would fly up the crowd went wild. There were only two people that apparently didn’t enjoy themselves that night, the director of the film Billy Wilder, and Marilyn’s husband, legendary baseball player Joe DiMaggio. The director had to shoot the scene 14 times over the course of about three hours because of the screaming fans messing up his shot. In the end, they decided to shoot the scene back in California at the Century Fox studios for the cut used in the film, however, the photos from New York were used for all the ads and promos. Now the director doesn’t really count because he got his shot back in California, DiMaggio, however, was extremely upset on the night of the shoot in New York. One of the photographers there that night recalled there being a cold, dead silence as the disapproving husband storms off the set and publicly made a scene as he left the area. Dimaggio apparently felt it was too risque and an “exhibitionist” scene and he wanted no part of it. Some feel as if that might’ve been the last straw in his relationship with Marilyn because shortly after returning to California she filed for divorce.
3. 1958: Commuter train slid off Newark Bay Bridge
A horrible string of events leads to a commuter train derailing off Newark Bay Bridge sending its first three cars into the bay on this date in 1958. The bridge was redesigned in 1926 so that it could be raised in order to allow bigger ships to pass underneath it. Since the rail lines also used the bridge there was an automatic warning system installed. If the bridge was raised there was a warning signal located roughly 1,500 yards from the bridge to alert any oncoming trains. As a precautionary measure, there was a second warning installed just 200 yards before the bridge. As a last resort, there was a derailer just before the bridge that was designed to send the train into a concrete wall that would prevent it from going in the water. However, that only worked if the bridge was raised up all the way. Unfortunately as a way to save time it became common practice to only raise the bridge halfway. The crew must not have seen either warning light because they came barreling in at roughly 40 miles per hour, at the same time a massive freighter had radioed in and started to have the bridge raised. The train hit the derailer like it was supposed to do, however since there was a gap, from not raising the bridge all the way, the engine and first two cars plummet into the bay. Luckily the first passenger car was empty, but according to reports, there were 47 on the second, all of which drowned in the accident. People on board the third passenger car managed to escape before it too fell in the Bay. In the end, there was a total of 48 casualties and an estimated 48 serverly injured.