“The past is a source of knowledge, and the future is a source of hope. Love of the past implies faith in the future.” – Stephen E. Ambrose
It is in this spirit that director and historian Mark Bielski shares some of the interesting historical events that occurred during WWII and the Civil War during the month of June.
WORLD WAR II
15 June – The opportunistic Soviet Union took advantage of a helpless Lithuania and sent the Red Army across the border to annex the small country. In the vanguard was a squadron of 200 tanks to ensure that apparatchiks could commandeer government offices and departments without opposition. The NKVD followed, arresting officials who were deemed “enemies of the people.” The only certainty was that there would be no “fair trials.”
Earlier in the year – The Mediterranean island of Malta was to be the most bombed location in the European theatre. Hitler wanted the ausgleichung (neutralizing) of the strategic island and sent 80 waves of Stuka bombers to strike Valetta harbor as well as other installations. The British aircraft carrier, HMS Illustrious, had taken shelter there and was a principal target.
11 June – The United States and the USSR agreed to a Lend-Lease deal. Soviet Foreign Minister, Vyacheslav Molotov, negotiated the terms and Ambassador Litvinov signed the documents in Washington. The Soviet Union would now receive massive armaments, raw materials and supplies to support their war effort against Nazi Germany.
30 June – The Great Comet, Hyakutake, brilliantly streaked across the night skies. All citizens, north and south, were on edge with the start of the new war and many took it as an omen of things to come. Would it be a short war? Would the Union prevail and uphold President Lincoln’s wishes for one United States, or the South succeed in forming their new nation?
9 June – Thomas Jonathan “Stonewall” Jackson was in the process of completing his brilliant Shenandoah Valley Campaign. From the end of March to late June he had marched his men nearly 700 miles, completely confusing the Union generals and armies allayed against him. In that time, he fought five battles against superior numbers. Cross Keys and Port Republic were the final battles of the campaign. By then Jackson had more than earned his famous reputation.
June – The siege of Vicksburg, the Confederate bastion perched on the bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River, was in full swing. General U.S. Grant had been victorious in a series of battles and his army had settled in to take the city. On 18 June he found sufficient reason to dismiss his lieutenant and Lincoln appointee, General John A. McClernand. The Illinois politician had been a constant irritation to Grant. Finally, when McClernand issued a self-aggrandizing appraisal of his accomplishments in the press that criticized the rest of the army, Grant had had enough.
11-12 June – Battle of Trevilian Station, Louisa County, Virginia. Union General Phil Sheridan ran into Confederate cavalry under Fitzhugh Lee (Robert E. Lee’s nephew and future Virginia governor) and Wade Hampton. Sheridan was attempting destroy the Virginia Central railroad and unite with General David Hunter at Charlottesville. After early Union gains, the Southerners won the field and and pushed Sheridan back. General George Custer captured a Confederate supply train in the rear, but then, completely surrounded, almost had his entire brigade destroyed by a counter-attack.