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§Of World Interest

June 8 The first total solar eclipse to exceed 7 minutes of totality in over 800 years, is visible in the Pacific and Peru.



February 19 - During a public ceremony at the Viceregal Palace (the former Imperial residence) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, two Eritrean nationalists attempt to kill viceroy Rodolfo Graziani with a number of grenades. The Italian security guard fire into the crowd of Ethiopian onlookers, and over the passing weeks indiscriminately slaughter native Ethiopians in reprisal.



The first German serviceman killed in the war was killed by the Japanese in China

July 7 - Sino-Japanese War - Battle of Lugou Bridge (aka Marco Polo Bridge Incident): Japanese forces invade China (often seen as the beginning of World War II in Asia).

August 26 - Sino-Japanese War: Japanese aircraft attack the car carrying the ambassador of Great Britain during a raid on Shanghai.

September 2 - The Great Hong Kong Typhoon of 1937 kills an estimated 11,000 persons.

September 25 - Sino-Japanese War - Battle of Pingxingguan: The Communist Chinese National Revolutionary Army defeats the Japanese.

October 3 - Japanese troops advance toward Nanking.

November 9 - Japanese troops take Shanghai.

December 12 - The Panay incident was a Japanese attack on the United States Navy gunboat Panay while she was anchored in the Yangtze River outside of Nanjing on December 12, 1937.

Japan and the United States were not at war at the time. The Japanese claimed that they did not see the United States flags painted on the deck of the gunboat, apologized, and paid an indemnity. Nevertheless, the attack and the subsequent Allison incident in Nanjing caused U.S. opinion to turn against the Japanese.

December 13 - The Battle of Nanjing ends and the Nanjing Massacre begins. Japanese troops slaughter over 300,000 civilians and prisoners over 3 months according to Chinese records which are disputed by the Japanese.

Some foreign academics put the death count lower, including the China historian and former Yale professor Jonathan Spence, who estimates that 42,000 soldiers and citizens were killed and that 20,000 women were raped, many of whom later died.

An International Safety Zone (refugee camp) was set up by foreign residents to shelter 250,000 people.

John Rabe, a German national who had worked for Siemens in the city since 1931 and who later became the chairman of the safety zone's committee sheltered about 600 people in his courtyard, around which he hung Nazi flags to warn Japanese troops not to trespass on his property.

§Central America


January 1 - Anastasio Somoza García becomes President of Nicaragua.



May 1 - A general strike occurs in Paris, France.

June 21 - The coalition government of Léon Blum resigns in France.


March 10 - The Encyclical Mit brennender Sorge of Pope Pius XI is published in Nazi Germany.

June 8 - Carl Orff's Carmina Burana premieres in Frankfurt, Germany.

July 1 - The Gestapo arrests priest Martin Niemöller. Although he was a national conservative and initially a supporter of Adolf Hitler, he became one of the founders of the Confessing Church, which opposed the nazification of German Protestant churches. He vehemently opposed the Nazis' Aryan Paragraph, but made remarks about Jews that have been called antisemitic by some scholars. For his opposition to the Nazis' state control of the churches, Niemöller was imprisoned in Sachsenhausen and Dachau concentration camps from 1937 to 1945 CE. He narrowly escaped execution and survived imprisonment. After his imprisonment, he expressed his deep regret about not having done enough to help the victims of the Nazis. He turned away from his earlier nationalistic beliefs and was one of the initiators of the Stuttgart Declaration of Guilt.

October 13 - Germany, in a note to Brussels, guarantees the inviolability and integrity of Belgium so long as the latter abstains from military action against Germany.

November 5 - In the Reich Chancellery, Adolf Hitler holds a secret meeting and states his plans for acquiring "living space" for the German people.

§Great Britain

April 9 - The Kamikaze arrives at Croydon Airport in London; it is the first Japanese-built aircraft to fly to Europe.

May 12 - The coronation of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth takes place at Westminster Abbey, London.

May 28 - Neville Chamberlain becomes Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.

June 3 - Wallis Simpson marries the former Edward VIII of the United Kingdom.


May - The Dáil Éireann passes the Executive Authority (Consequential Provisions) Act, 1937, which retrospectively abolishes the office of Governor-General of the Irish Free State; the abolition is retrospectively dated to December 1936.

June/July - The Dáil Éireann debates and passes the draft new constitution of Éire, to be called Bunreacht na hÉireann. The new constitution is then submitted for public approval by plebiscite.

July 21 - Eamon de Valera is elected president of Éire (Ireland).

July 1 - In a referendum the people of the Irish Free State accept the new Constitution by 685,105 votes to 527,945.

July 28 - The IRA attempts a bombing assassination against King George VI in Belfast.

December 29 - The new Irish constitution, Bunreacht na hÉireann, comes into force. The Irish Free State becomes Éire. Eamon de Valera becomes the first Taoiseach (prime minister) of the new state. A Presidential Commission (made up the Irish Chief Justice, the Speaker of Dáil Éireann and the President of the High Court) assumes the powers of the new presidency of Ireland pending the election of the first president in June 1938.

The new constitution bans divorce.


May 21 - As one of the reprisals for the attempted assassination of Italian viceroy Rodolfo Graziani, a detachment of Italian troops massacres the entire community of Debre Libanos, killing 297 monks and 23 laymen.

November 6 - Italy joins the Comintern Pact between Nazi Germany and the Empire of Japan (later to be joined by other countries) on November 25, 1936 and was directed against the Communist International (Comintern) in general, and the Soviet Union in particular.

December 11 - Italy withdraws from the League of Nations.


February 8 - Spanish Civil War: Falangist troops take Málaga.

February 8-February 27 - Spanish Civil War - Battle of Jarama: Nationalist and government troops fight to a stalemate.

The League of Nations Non-Intervention Committee bans foreign nationals from fighting in the Spanish Civil War.

April 26 - Spanish Civil War: Guernica, Spain is bombed. In his report of the Falangist attack on Guernica, British journalist George Steer reports finding German bomb casings, connecting Luftwaffe planes with the attack.

May 7 - Spanish Civil War: The German Condor Legion Fighter Group, equipped with Heinkel He 51 biplanes, arrives in Spain to assist Francisco Franco's forces.

August 6 - Spanish Civil War: Falangist artillery bombards Madrid.

September 5 - Spanish Civil War: The city of Llanes falls to the Falangists.

October 21 - The whole Spanish northern seaboard falls into the Falangists' hands.

October 27 - Spanish Civil War: Republican forces in Gijon, Spain, set fire to petrol reserves before they retreat before the advancing Falangists.

November 5 - Spanish Civil War - 35,000 Republican supporters are massacred in Piedrafita de Babia, near León.

§Middle East


April 1 - Aden becomes a British crown colony.

§North America

§United States

The Great Depression, started in 1929 continues in the United States.

In January, Admiral Leahy became the U.S. Chief of Naval Operations.

January 19 - Howard Hughes sets a new air record by flying from Los Angeles to New York City in 7 hours, 28 minutes and 25 seconds.

March 6 - The Frank H. Buck, an American steam tanker, collided near the Golden Gate Bridge in fog and was beached on the coast near Pt. Reyes.

March 18

  • In the worst school disaster in American history in terms of lives lost, the New London School in New London, Texas suffers a catastrophic natural gas explosion, killing in excess of 300 hundred students and teachers.
  • Mother Frances Hospital opens 1 day early in Tyler, Texas in response to the New London School explosion.

March 26 - William Henry Hastie becomes the first African-American appointed to a federal judgeship.

May 6 - In the United States, the German airship Hindenburg bursts into flame when mooring to a mast in Lakehurst, New Jersey.

May 27 - In California, the Golden Gate Bridge opens to pedestrian traffic, creating a vital link between San Francisco and Marin County. The next day, President Franklin D. Roosevelt pushes a button in Washington, D.C., signaling the start of vehicle traffic over the Golden Gate Bridge.

July 24 - Alabama drops rape charges against the so-called Scottsboro Boys.

§U.S. Industry

February 11 - A sit-down strike ends when General Motors recognizes the United Automobile Workers Union.

February 16 - Wallace H. Carothers receives a patent for nylon.

March - The first issue of the comic book Detective Comics is published in the United States. Twenty-seven issues later, Detective Comics introduces Batman. The comic goes on to become the longest continually-published comic magazine in American history; it is still published as of 2008.

April 17 - The animated short Porky's Duck Hunt, directed by Tex Avery for the Looney Tunes series, featuring the debut of Daffy Duck, is released.

July 5 - The name "Spam" was chosen when the product, whose original name was far less memorable (Hormel Spiced Ham), began to lose market share.

December 21 - Walt Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the first feature-length animated cartoon with sound, opens and becomes a smash hit.

§U.S. Law

April 12 - NLRB v. Jones & Laughlin Steel: The Supreme Court of the United States rules that the National Labor Relations Act is constitutional.

October 1

  • The Marijuana Tax Act becomes law in the United States.
  • U.S. Supreme Court associate justice Hugo Black, in a nationwide radio broadcast, refutes allegations of past involvement in the Ku Klux Klan.

§U.S. Politics

January 20 - Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes swears in Franklin D. Roosevelt for a second term. This is the first time Inauguration Day in the United States occurs on that date, and ever since.

February 5 - President Franklin D. Roosevelt proposes a plan to enlarge the Supreme Court of the United States.

July 22 - New Deal: The United States Senate votes down President Franklin D. Roosevelt's proposal to add more justices to the Supreme Court of the United States.

October 5 - Roosevelt gives his famous Quarantine Speech in Chicago calling for an international "quarantine of the aggressor nations" as an alternative to the political climate of American neutrality and isolationism that was prevalent at the time. The speech intensified America's isolationist mood, causing protest by isolationists and foes to intervention. The speech was a response to aggressive actions by Italy and Japan, and suggested the use of economic pressure, a forceful response, but less direct than outright aggression.


§Soviet Union

January 23 - In Moscow, 17 leading Communists go on trial, accused of participating in a plot led by Leon Trotsky to overthrow Joseph Stalin's regime and assassinate its leaders.

January 31 - The Soviet Union executes 31 people for alleged Trotskyism.

August 5 - The Soviet Union commences one of the largest campaigns of the Great Purge, to "eliminate anti-Soviet elements". Within the following year, at least 724,000 people are killed on order of the troikas, many of them chosen for shooting by their ethnicity.

§South America


October 21 - Roberto Ortiz is elected president of Argentina.


November 10 - Brazilian president Getúlio Vargas announces the Estado Novo (New State), thence becoming dictator of Brazil until 1945.

§South Pacific

§Nukumanu Islands

July 2 - Amelia Earhart disappeared over the central Pacific Ocean during an attempt to make a circumnavigational flight.


Earhart joined the faculty of Purdue University in 1935 as a counselor on careers for women. In July 1936, she took delivery of a Lockheed 10E Electra financed by Purdue and started planning a round-the-world flight. Not the first to circle the globe, it would be the longest at 29,000 miles (47,000 km), following a grueling equatorial route. Although the Electra was publicized as a "flying laboratory," little useful science was planned and the flight seems to have been arranged around Earhart's intention to circumnavigate the earth along with gathering raw material and public attention for her next book. Her first choice of crew was Captain Harry Manning, who had been the captain of the President Roosevelt, the ship that had brought Amelia back from Europe in 1928.

Through contacts in the Los Angeles aviation community, Fred Noonan was subsequently chosen as a navigator. He had vast experience in both marine (he was a licensed ship's captain) and flight navigation. Noonan had recently left Pan Am, where he established most of the company's seaplane routes across the Pacific. He hoped the resulting publicity would help him establish his own navigation school in Florida. The original plans were for Noonan to navigate from Hawaii to Howland Island, a particularly difficult portion of the flight, then Manning would continue with Earhart to Australia and she would proceed on her own for the remainder of the project.

Amelia Earhart

On St Patrick's Day, March 17, 1937, they flew the first leg from Oakland, California to Honolulu, Hawaii. In addition to Earhart and Noonan, Harry Manning and Hollywood stunt pilot Paul Mantz (who was acting as Earhart's technical adviser) were on board. Due to lubrication and galling problems with the propeller hubs' variable pitch mechanisms, the plane needed servicing in Hawaii. Ultimately, the plane ended up at the U.S. Navy's Luke Field on Ford Island in Pearl Harbor. The flight resumed three days later from Luke Field with Earhart, Noonan and Manning on-board, but a tire apparently blew on takeoff and Earhart ground-looped the plane. The circumstances of the ground loop remain controversial. Some witnesses at Luke Field said they saw a tire blow. Earhart thought either the Electra's right tire had blown and/or the right landing gear had collapsed. Some sources cite pilot error.

With the plane severely damaged, the flight was called off and the aircraft was shipped by sea to the Lockheed facility in Burbank, California for repairs.

Second attempt

While the Electra was being repaired Earhart and Putnam secured additional funds and prepared for a second attempt. This time flying west to east, the second attempt began with an unpublicized flight from Oakland to Miami, Florida and after arriving there Earhart publicly announced her plans to circumnavigate the globe. The flight's opposite direction was the result of changes in global wind and weather patterns along the planned route since the earlier attempt. Fred Noonan was Earhart's only crew member for the second flight. Earhart and Noonan departed Miami on 1 June and after numerous stops in South America, Africa, the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia they arrived at Lae, New Guinea on June 29. At this stage about 22,000 miles (35,000 km) of the journey had been completed. The remaining 7,000 miles (11,000 km) would all be over the Pacific.

Departure from Lae

On July 2nd, (midnight GMT) Earhart and Noonan took off from Lae in the heavily loaded Electra. Their intended destination was Howland Island, a flat sliver of land 6500 ft (2000 metres) long and 1600 ft (500 metres) wide, 10 feet (3 m) high and 2556 miles (4113 km) away. Their last known position report was near the Nukumanu Islands, about 800 miles (1,300 km) into the flight. The United States Coast Guard cutter Itasca was on station at Howland, assigned to communicate with Earhart's Lockheed Electra 10E and guide them to the island once they arrived in the vicinity.

Final approach to Howland Island

Through a series of misunderstandings or errors (the details of which are still controversial), the final approach to Howland using radio navigation was never accomplished. Some sources have noted Earhart's apparent lack of understanding of her Bendix direction finding loop antenna, which at the time was very new technology. Another cited cause of possible confusion was that the USCG cutter Itasca and Earhart planned their communication schedule using time systems set a half hour apart (with Earhart using Greenwich Civil Time (GCT) and the Itasca under a Naval time zone designation system).[citation needed] Motion picture evidence from Lae suggests that an antenna mounted underneath the fuselage may have torn off from the fuel-heavy Electra during taxi or takeoff from Lae's turf runway. The many scattered clouds in the area around Howland Island have also been cited: Their dark shadows on the ocean surface may have been almost indistinguishable from the island's subdued and very flat profile.

During Earhart and Noonan's approach to Howland island the Itasca received strong, relatively clear voice transmissions from Earhart but she apparently was unable to hear transmissions from the ship. Earhart's transmissions seemed to indicate she and Noonan believed they had reached Howland's charted position, which was incorrect by about five nautical miles (10 km). The Itasca used her oil-fired boilers to generate smoke for a period of time but the fliers apparently did not see it.

Radio signals

After several hours of frustrating attempts at two-way communications contact was lost. Her last voice transmission received on Howland indicated Earhart and Noonan were flying along a line of position (157 - 337 degrees, presumably through Howland Island). Subsequent attempts were made to contact the flyers by radio using both voice and Morse code transmissions. Apparent signals from the downed Electra, although usually unintelligibly garbled and/or weak, were received by operators across the Pacific. Some of these transmissions were later shown to be hoaxes but others were deemed authentic. Bearings taken by Pan American Airways stations suggested the distress calls were originating in the vicinity of Gardner Island. These signals would indicate Earhart and Noonan were on land (or at least partially so) because the Electra's right engine had to be running in order to charge the power-hungry radio's battery. Signals from the plane were heard intermittently for four or five days following the disappearance, however none of these transmissions yielded any understandable position for the downed Electra. Incredibly, a couple of short wave radio listeners on the US mainland may have heard distress calls on upper harmonic frequencies.

July 5 - The U.S. Navy Radio at Wailupe, Honolulu heard a garbled Moorse code: “281 north Howland - call KHAQQ - beyond north -- won’t hold with us much longer -- above water -- shut off.”

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Search efforts

The Itasca made an ultimately unsuccessful search north and west of Howland island based on initial assumptions about transmissions from the plane. The U.S. Navy soon took over the search and over a period of about three days sent available resources to the search area in the vicinity of Howland Island. Based on bearings of several supposed Earhart radio transmissions (along with her last known transmission giving a line of position), some of the search efforts were eventually directed to the Phoenix Islands south of Howland Island. Naval aircraft flew over remote Gardner Island and reported "signs of recent habitation" but the pilots were not aware the island had been uninhabited since 1892. Other Navy search efforts were again directed north, west and southwest of Howland, based on a belief the plane had ditched in the ocean.

The official search efforts lasted about two weeks but Earhart, Noonan and the Electra 10E were never found. At $4 million, the air and sea search by the Navy and Coast Guard was the most costly and intensive in history up to that time but search and rescue techniques during the era were rudimentary. Some of the search was based on erroneous assumptions and flawed information. Official reporting of the search efforts was influenced by individuals wary about how their roles in looking for an American hero might be reported by the press.


Two theories concerning Earhart and Noonan's fate have prevailed among researchers and historians. As with many aviation mishaps, poor planning is often cited as a contributing cause.

Crashed and sunk theory

Many researchers believe the plane ran out of fuel and Earhart and Noonan ditched at sea. This "crashed and sunk" theory, researched for 35 years mainly by Elgen Long, is the most widely accepted explanation for the disappearance.

Gardner Island theory

The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) has suggested Earhart and Noonan may have flown for two-and-a-half hours along the standard line of position Earhart noted in her last transmission received at Howland, arrived at then-uninhabited Gardner Island (now Nikumaroro, Kiribati) in the Phoenix Islands group, landed on the extensive reef-flat there near the wreck of a large freighter and ultimately perished. TIGHAR's research has produced a range of documented, archaeological and anecdotal evidence (but no proof) supporting this theory. For example, in 1940, Gerald Gallagher, a British colonial officer (also a licensed pilot) radioed his superiors to inform them that he believed he had found Earhart's skeleton, along with a sextant box, under a tree on the island's southeast corner. He was ordered to send the remains to Fiji where in 1941 British colonial authorities took detailed measurements of the bones. In 1998 an analysis of this data by forensic anthropologists indicated the skeleton had belonged to a "tall white female of northern European ancestry." TIGHAR's executive director Ric Gillespie authored the book Finding Amelia (2006) which describes almost two decades of research regarding Earhart's world flight attempts.


September 27 - The last Bali tiger dies.


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