This Day in History

  • February 24, 1836: Alamo defenders call for help
    on February 24, 2018 at 5:00 am

    On this day in 1836, in San Antonio, Texas, Colonel William Travis issues a call for help on behalf of the Texan troops defending the Alamo, an old Spanish mission and fortress under attack by the Mexican army. A native of Alabama, Travis moved to the Mexican state of Texas in 1831. He soon became a leader of the growing movement to overthrow the Mexican government and establish an independent Texan republic. When the Texas revolution began in 1835, Travis became a lieutenant-colonel in the revolutionary army and was given command of troops in the recently captured city of San Antonio de Bexar (now San Antonio). On February 23, 1836, a large Mexican force commanded by General Antonio Lopez de Santa Ana arrived suddenly in San Antonio. Travis and his troops took shelter in the Alamo, where they were soon joined by a volunteer force led by Colonel James Bowie. Though Santa Ana’s 5,000 troops heavily outnumbered the several hundred Texans, Travis and his men determined not to give up. On February 24, they answered Santa Ana’s call for surrender with a bold shot from the Alamo’s cannon. Furious, the Mexican general ordered his forces to launch a siege. Travis immediately recognized his disadvantage and sent out several messages via couriers asking for reinforcements. Addressing one of the pleas to “The People of Texas and All Americans in the World,” Travis signed off with the now-famous phrase “Victory or Death.” Only 32 men from the nearby town of Gonzales responded to Travis’ call for help, and beginning at 5:30 a.m. on March 6, Mexican forces stormed the Alamo through a gap in the fort’s outer wall, killing Travis, Bowie and 190 of their men. Despite the loss of the fort, the Texan troops managed to inflict huge losses on their enemy, killing at least 600 of Santa Ana’s men. The brave defense of the Alamo became a powerful symbol for the Texas revolution, helping the rebels turn the tide in their favor. At the crucial Battle of San Jacinto on April 21, 910 Texan soldiers commanded by Sam Houston defeated Santa Ana’s army of 1,250 men, spurred on by cries of “Remember the Alamo!” The next day, after Texan forces captured Santa Ana himself, the general issued orders for all Mexican troops to pull back behind the Rio Grande River. On May 14, 1836, Texas officially became an independent republic. […]

  • Diocletian Publishes Edict Calling for Persecution of Christians (303 CE)
    on February 24, 2018 at 5:00 am

    Though the Roman Emperor Diocletian ordered the persecution of Christians several times, his so-called Great Persecution began with an official edict. Churches were razed, scriptures burned, and practitioners executed. A few years later, he became the first Roman emperor to voluntarily abdicate, after which he retired to Croatia to grow cabbages in peace. The reign of Constantine soon made Christianity the empire's preferred religion. When asked to return to the throne, how did Diocletian reply? Discuss […]

  • Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima (1945)
    on February 23, 2018 at 5:00 am

    The first American attack on Japanese soil during WWII, the Battle of Iwo Jima lasted more than a month and claimed tens of thousands of Japanese and American lives. Just days into the campaign, photographer Joe Rosenthal witnessed a group of American soldiers struggling to raise their flag on Iwo Jima's highest point and took what would become the most reproduced photograph in history. It was the second flag-raising that day. How many of the six men shown in the photograph survived the battle? […]

  • The Securitas Depot Robbery (2006)
    on February 22, 2018 at 5:00 am

    In an elaborate heist that took place over the course of several hours, the manager of the Securitas bank depot in Kent, England, was abducted along with his family and forced by a gang of masked, armed men to help steal approximately £53 million. In the process, 14 other staff members at the depot were held captive. It was the largest robbery in British history, and dozens of people would eventually be arrested in connection with it. What had previously been the UK's largest cash robbery? […]