27 November 1940
War at Sea
Royal Navy and the Italian Navy clash off Sardinia
November 27, 1942: Whose Side Were the French on During World War II?
On November 27, 1942, the French Navy under the direction of Admiral Auphan scuttled a large part of the French ships and submarines in port at Toulon, France, in order to keep these valuable assets out of the hands of the German navy, known as the Kriegsmarine. After Germany had rolled over France in 1940 and the British Expeditionary Force was evacuated to Britain, the defeated French sued for peace and found their country divided between Occupied France and nominally “independent” Vichy France in the South of the country. The Vichy French, so named for the de facto capital city, Vichy, were largely seen by patriotic French and outside countries as collaborators and patsies of the Germans. In fact, Vichy France was in a way now enemies of the Allied nations and had in fact at first resisted by force the Allied invasion of North Africa (Operation Torch) only weeks before the scuttling.
While Hollywood and Western writers have frequently made the heroic French out to be a fiercely independent people that resisted the Germans bitterly throughout the occupation, the fact is that some other occupied countries had much higher levels of resistance than did the French, even though “French Resistance” has become synonymous with “Resistance.” While the French Resistance was certainly heroic and, in many cases, highly effective, the resistance in Slavic countries occupied by the Germans was generally much fiercer and more widespread, with less collaboration. An exception was the Ukraine, where the Ukrainian people saw Germany as a means to get rid of the hated Russians that had intentionally starved as many as 11 million Ukrainians during the 1930’s (a catastrophe known as “Holodomor” in Ukrainian). Many Ukrainians ended up fighting for Germany, even in the hated SS! (The author personally knew a Marine Corps officer whose Ukrainian father had served in the SS.) Ukrainians, notoriously anti-Semitic, also often gladly helped the Germans round up Jews.
A French Resistance fighter during street fighting in 1944
Other European nations occupied by Germany also had active “undergrounds,” and many citizens resisted on their own by hiding Jewish neighbors from Germans sent to gather Jews to be shipped off to concentration camps. Even in Italy, a nation allied with Germany, many Italians, including government officials, balked at turning over their Jewish population to the Germans. While of course, many French people also protected French Jews at the risk of their own lives, many French people were a bit too enthusiastic about doing their part to cater to German demands and helped process the evacuation of Jews from France to concentration camps.
Many French government officials and military senior officers had been presented with a dilemma, that of following the official government policy of an orderly surrender and living up to treaty obligations or breaking “French” law by resisting the German occupation. Additionally, many must have feared violent repercussions against themselves and their families if they did not cooperate with their oppressors. Prior to the D-Day invasion of France in 1944 the future must have looked pretty bleak to many in France, and certainly many French people thought they were merely dealing with the political reality of the present when they collaborated. Or was that just an excuse to personally profit from the circumstances? Each individual case must be looked at, and even then finding the real truth behind individual actions would be incredibly difficult.
Resistant prisoners in France, 1940
When the French surrendered to the Germans in 1940, the French Navy was the 4 th largest in the world, a considerable maritime force to be reckoned with. The British, who were fighting on against Germany virtually alone lusted after adding those ships to their own fleet if only the French Navy would declare itself “Free French” and continue to fight. Obviously, the Germans also wanted the French ships at their disposal, or at a minimum to remain out of British hands. Likewise, the British greatly feared the French fighting alongside the German Navy or Germans seizing the French ships. Admiral Jean Darlan, head of the Vichy French Navy and seen by the British as anti-British, had secretly instructed his crews to never allow their ships to fall into German hands, nor fight against the British. Unfortunately, British military intelligence did not know of this order and British fears of French ships in the hands of Germans remained allayed. Meanwhile, Germany had disavowed any intention of using French ships against the remaining allies.
The British entreated the French to sail their fleet into British waters and join the British in resisting the Germans. The French refused. The French fleet was dispersed in several Mediterranean ports, some in British hands, some in overseas ports safely away from Germans, while many were located at the Mers-el-Kebir base in Algeria, including 4 battleships (2 old and 2 new), a seaplane aircraft carrier, and 6 destroyers. The British mounted an attack on those French ships and a plan to impound those French vessels as could be seized, called Operation Catapult which commenced July 3, 1940. The British task force sent to Algeria issued an ultimatum to the French fleet moored there, and when no suitable answer was received, the British opened fire on their former ally’s ships, forever damaging British-French relations between their navies. Meanwhile, British forces attacked other French ships at various ports, eliminating most of the French Navy as a potential threat. Only the sizable fleet at Toulon remained in French hands.
French Battleship Strasbourg under fire.
Though staying out of hostilities for the next 2 years, the French fleet at Toulon remained a tempting prize for both the Germans and the Allies. When the Germans finally realized the fortunes of war had turned against them and that the French fleet at Toulon could not be considered safely neutralized, and in fact was needed desperately by a Germany unable to match Allied naval construction, German forces were sent into Vichy France to occupy the rest of the country and eliminate the farce of an “independent” Vichy France. Admiral Darlan had meanwhile defected to the Free French under the leadership of Charles de Gaulle, and his replacement, Admiral Auphan, ordered the scuttling of the French ships at Toulon before the Germans could seize the vessels. French delaying tactics kept the ships out of German hands long enough for the scuttling operations to progress, and the ships were scuttled, the largest scuttling of a fleet in history, reminiscent of the German scuttling of their own fleet at Scapa Flow after World War I. Successfully scuttled were 3 battleships, 7 cruisers, 15 destroyers and 12 submarines, along with dozens of other types of vessels. The Germans were only able to seize 3 destroyers, 4 submarines and some auxiliary vessels. French patriotism and defiance had denied the Germans a valuable prize. Altogether, the French had destroyed 77 of their own ships. The German effort to seize the ships, Operation Lila, was a failure.
Contrary to the impression some may have because of the rapid conquest of France by Germany in 1940, French forces had actually mostly fought valiantly against the German invasion, and French heroics in keeping the German advance away from the British evacuation at Dunkirk in 1940 is what made the evacuation possible. Many French soldiers, sailors and airmen fought the Germans until the war was won as Free French forces or assimilated into other Allied military forces (mostly British). As stated earlier, many French citizens heroically resisted the Germans through underground tactics of sabotage and spying, as well as evacuating downed Allied airmen.
A wounded French soldier being taken ashore on a stretcher at Dover after evacuation from Dunkirk
Despite the shameful example of some of the collaborators among their numbers, the French were definitely on the side of the Allies from the start of World War II and through the course of the war. After the war, the French became part of the new Western alliance known as NATO (though not without some friction with their allies). During the Cold War and during the War on Terror, France has remained a valued ally of the United States, make no mistake.
(Author’s note: The author has been to France, including Toulon, and other family members have also visited France. Each of us found the place and the people to be wonderful. See out previous articles, “10 Best Things That Come From France” and “A Timeline of France and the Francophone World”)
Top left: Toulon Opera House, Top right: Mayol Stadium (Le Stade du Mayol), 2nd: Panoramic view of downtown Toulon and its port, 3rd left: Place de la Liberté, 3rd right: The beaches of Mourillon, Bottom left: The cable car to Mount Faron, Bottom right: Fort Saint-Louis
Question for students (and subscribers): Should the French Navy have tried to honor the peace treaty with Germany or should they have sailed for Britain to continue the fight? Was Admiral Auphan right to sink his own ships? Were you aware of the British attacks on French ships and the scuttling of the fleet at Toulon? Have you ever been to France? Please let us know in the comments section below this article.
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For more information, please see…
Auphan, Paul, and Jacques Mardal. The French Navy in World War II. Naval Institute Press, 2016.
The featured image in this article, aerial pictures by the Royal Air Force of the scuttled French fleet at Toulon, originally from de.wikipedia (description page is/was here), is available from the United States Library of Congress‘s Prints and Photographs division under the digital ID LC-USW33-026496-D. On 28 November 1942, the day after the scuttling and firing of the ships of the French fleet in Toulon harbour, photographs were taken by the Royal Air Force. Many of the vessels were still burning so that smoke and shadows obscure part of the scene. But the photographs show, besides the burning cruisers, ship after ship of the contre-torpilleurs and destroyer classes lying capsized or sunk, testifying to the thoroughness with which the French seamen carried out their bitter task. While the vast damage done is shown in these photographs, no exact list of the state of the ships can be drawn up, since the ships themselves cannot be seen in an aerial photograph. Thus the upper deck of the battle cruiser Strasbourg is not submerged, but here are signs that the vessel has settled and is grounded. The key plan C.3296 shows the whereabouts of the majority of the ships and their condition as far as it can be seen from the photographs. Picture shows: damaged and sunk light cruisers and destroyers visible through the shadow and the smoke caused by the burning cruisers. left is the Strasbourg (bridge above the water but clearly sunk) next to her, burning, is the Colbert under the smoke, the Algérie to the right, the Marseillaise. This work created by the United Kingdom Government is in the public domain, because it is one of the following:
- It is a photograph taken prior to 1 June 1957 or
- It was published prior to 1968 or
- It is an artistic work other than a photograph or engraving (e.g. a painting) which was created prior to 1968.
HMSO has declared that the expiry of Crown Copyrights applies worldwide (ref: HMSO Email Reply)
More information. See also Copyright and Crown copyright artistic works. This work is also in the public domain in the United States because it is a work prepared by an officer or employee of the United States Government as part of that person’s official duties under the terms of Title 17, Chapter 1, Section 105 of the US Code.
Major Dan is a retired veteran of the United States Marine Corps. He served during the Cold War and has traveled to many countries around the world. Prior to his military service, he graduated from Cleveland State University, having majored in sociology. Following his military service, he worked as a police officer eventually earning the rank of captain prior to his retirement.
On This Day in History, 27 ноябрь
Drs Bernard Devauchelle, Benoit Lengelé, and Jean-Michel Dubernard used donor tissue to reconstruct the face of Isabelle Dinoire in Amiens, France. Isabelle Dinoire’s face had been mauled by a dog.
2001 Hubble detects the first planetary atmosphere outside the Solar System
The space telescope detected sodium on HD 209458 b, an exoplanet also known as Osiris. Belonging to a class of planets called hot Jupiter, because they are similar in size to Jupiter. Unlike Jupiter, however, these planets orbit very close to their stars and consequently have very high temperatures on their surfaces.
1989 World’s first living liver transplant
21-month old Alyssa Smith became the first person to receive a liver transplant from a living donor, her mother Teresa Smith at the University of Chicago Medical Center. The transplant occurred under the supervision of surgeons Christoph Broelsch, Richard Thistlethwaite, Thomas Heffron, and Jean Emond.
1978 Harvey Milk and George Moscone are assassinated
Milk was the first openly-gay person to be elected in local government in California. He and George Moscone, San Francisco's mayor at the time, were killed by a former member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.
1895 Alfred Nobel signs his last will
Alfred Nobel signed his last will which called for his estate and fortune that he made as the inventor of dynamite to be used for creating awards for those who contributed to the benefit of mankind. The will created 5 awards - in physics, chemistry, medicine, literature and peace, and was signed in the Swedish–Norwegian Club in Paris.
- Work : Gain social status 2 August 1964 in Long Beach (Spotted by Jay Sebring, leads to big break)
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- Relationship : Marriage 17 August 1964 in Seattle (Linda Emery)
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- Death of Father 8 February 1965 in Hong Kong (Lee Hoi Chuen)
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- Work : Published/ Exhibited/ Released 9 September 1966 (Debut broadcast of "The Green Hornet")
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- Work : Begin Major Project 5 February 1967 in Los Angeles (Opens Los Angeles chapter of the Jun Fan Gung Fu Institute)
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- Family : Change in family responsibilities 19 April 1969 in Santa Monica (Daughter born, Shannen Lee)
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- Work : Lose social status 7 December 1971 (Loses "Kung Fu" TV series role to David Carradine)
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- Death by Disease 20 July 1973 at 7:30 PM in Hong Kong (Brain hemmorhage, age 32)
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- Death of Child 31 March 1992 (Son killed at early age)
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H. Leroy Vail (1940-99)
Leroy Vail died quietly at home in Concord, Massachusetts, on the morning of March 27, 1999, in the loving company of his wife of 31 years, Patricia, and their daughter, Sharon Mulenga. He had fought lymphoma for several months, but even this large, vigorous, determined, youthful 58-year-old man could not resist a cancer so aggressive. His many students and colleagues around the world will join Patricia and Sharon in the deep personal loss of his passing, for he was also a friend and mentor to those with whom he worked, for those he taught, and of those in Africa, whom he sought to understand, revealing the humanity to an all-too ignorant world through his own rich humanness.
A native of the Boston area, Leroy was educated there through his BA (Boston College, 1962) before starting his explorations of Africa in Madison, Wisconsin, where he took his MA in the then-fledgling comparative tropical history program at the University of Wisconsin under Philip Curtin and Jan Vansina. As African Studies at Wisconsin developed to add a department of African languages and literatures, Leroy moved into Bantu linguistics, took up research on the Tumbuka language in northern Malawi from a post as lecturer in history at the University of Malawi (1967&ndash71), and wrote his dissertation, "Aspects of the Tumbuka Verb" (1972). With this linguistic base, Leroy realized the high yield of profound knowledge of African languages for all Africanist fields. His ability to combine literary grace and sensitivity, linguistic skills, and historical insight made him the rigorous and judicious embodiment of interdisciplinary African studies throughout his career.
But linguistics and other academic disciplines were only the technique through which Leroy achieved the understanding that comes to those who listen for the meanings intended by those who utter the words, and are thereby able to convey their experiences. For those so attuned, grasping one element in the web of human existence leads irresistibly to examining others. And so Leroy's research on Tumbuka verbs produced early articles on the noun classes of Tumbuka and Ndall and "suggestions toward a reinterpreted Tumbuka history," firmly set in a biting critique of imperial business in central Africa, which he soon extended into the lower Zambezi Valley in Mozambique. Leroy lived in central Africa until the end of 1978 (at the University of Zambia from 1973), where he established loyal, mutually productive, lifelong relationships with colleagues and friends, and became an unrelenting critic of the Banda regime he had lived under in Malawi. Sympathetic discernment drove his well-known series of chapters and articles on colonial processes in Africa, dissected as "the making of an imperial slum" in the case of Nyasaland and its railways, as ecological degradation in eastern Zambia, and especially as the pervasive inhumanity of the chartered "prazo" companies in Portuguese Mozambique. With Landeg White, he evoked Capitalism and Colonialism in Mozambique as Africans experienced them in their jointly authorized monograph, published in 1981. This study, subsequently praised as the "outstanding book on the country's history" by another contributor to it, culminated this phase of his engagement with Africa and Africans by presenting the voices of peasant women who sang their laments at being forced to grow cotton to the detriment of their ability to feed their families. Beyond the ongoing theoretical currency that underlay this work was Leroy's characteristic ability to write rigorously empirical history, always with a heart. As a student remembered, Leroy wrote responsible history with poetic license.
Leroy returned to the United States to take a visiting appointment at the University of Virginia in 1978 and then stayed to settle&mdashmore or less&mdashinto Charlottesville until 1983, with succeeding appointments through the Carter G. Woodson Institute for Afro-American and African Studies, interspersed with peripatetic teaching at UCLA and Ohio University and a fellowship at Yale's Southern African Research Program (1981&ndash82). While enriching the African studies centers of North America, he pursued&mdashin continuing collaboration with Lan White&mdashthe potential of fusing social science analysis with humanistic sensibility, the distinctive style in which these two so productively complemented one another. Before leaving Charlottesville in 1983, almost in passing, Leroy convened the leading historians and anthropologists of southern Africa to launch the project that became The Creation of Tribalism in Southern Africa (1988). Returning to the Boston area as a visitor at Harvard in 1984, he remained to complete his major works as professor of African history from 1990. At Harvard, he was known for his dedication to students in all fields, convened two major international conferences, and chaired the Harvard Committee on African Studies (1990&ndash95).
With Lan, Leroy provocatively evoked the continuities, as well as the wrenching changes, in modern central and southern Africa, as Africans had revealed them through the political thrust of their oral arts in Power and the Praise Poem: Southern African Voices in History, which appeared in 1991. This deep intellectual collaboration between partners worthily matched in interdisciplinarity thrived on Leroy's ability to draw as fruitfully on close relationships with others as his own independence of spirit stimulated those around him to thrive as well. Working with Leroy, colleagues and students remember well, was not always so comfortable but, with his direct challenges consistently softened by wry wit and a twinkle in the eye, always worth the acknowledgment that, listening to you, he had thought of things you hadn't.
Nearing what turned out to be the end of his career, Leroy followed his love of Africa and language back to Bantu linguistics. At his death, he had all but completed his edition of an English&ndashLakeside Tonga dictionary, a historically erudite compilation of some 15,000 words recorded more than a century ago. And&mdashstill growing in multitalented, multifaceted character&mdashhe was in Togo, laying the groundwork for future research on ethnogenesis in a region of the continent entirely new to him, when his lymphoma abruptly took him out of Africa, if only bodily, for the last time. We will not now have the full development of his thinking on spirit possession in Malawi and Zambia, in a planned work on "Spirits, Women, and Deprivation," or appreciate his awareness of style and expression in language, as well as history, in "Ideophones as Stylistic Devices in Tumbuka."
Leroy's students will remember him, beyond his wise intellectual guidance through fields ranging far beyond those in which he published, for the personal devotion he brought to each of them. In Malawi, Zambia, and South Africa, as well as in Virginia, California, Ohio, and especially Massachusetts, his engaging wit initiated believers and doubters alike into multiple aspects of African history, in all its interdisciplinary wholeness. As he revealed the human costs of colonial "development" in Africa, he supported the intellectual development of his students with no-nonsense commitment to their personal growth and welfare. A generous, wise, very private person infused accomplished public professionalism in paradoxically open ways.
Those who knew Leroy's ability to nourish luxuriant violets and orchids&mdashand gardens in challenging climates tropical as well as temperate&mdashunderstood the integrity of character that made everyone, and everything, around him grow. Physically removed from us now, he leaves large personal and professional legacies for us to cherish. Thorough research and rigorous method imbued his work with the power of sheer substantiality, and he wielded theory with authority but not pretension. Even in a career cut tragically short, he had repeatedly honed the cutting edges of subsequently major subfields of African studies: beyond linguistics, in corporate colonialism, environmental history, hunger and poverty, women's voices, literary and political analysis of oral performance, subjugated knowledge, and the historicity of ethnic community.
Just as Leroy kept on moving on to open fresh fields of inquiry, leaving others inspired to develop the several he was among the first to plough, so he has now left us all empowered to carry on again.
Today in World War II History—November 27, 1940 & 1945
Bombs falling astern of HMS Ark Royal during attack by Italian aircraft during the Battle of Cape Spartivento, 27 Nov 1940 photograph taken from cruiser HMS Sheffield (Imperial War Museum: 4700-01 A 2298)
80 Years Ago—Nov. 27, 1940: Battle of Cape Spartivento: Italian navy engages a British convoy bound for Malta, inflicting minor damage.
In Romania, Fascist Iron Guard executes 64 former officials, including former prime ministers Nicolae Iorga and Gheorghe Argeșanu riots break out.
75 Years Ago—Nov. 27, 1945: British begin Operation Deadlight, the sinking of 116 captured German U-boats off the Hebrides, continuing through 7 Jan 1946.
27 November 1940 - History
On this day in 1940, the actor and martial-arts expert Bruce Lee is born in San Francisco, California. In his all-too-brief career, Lee became a film star in Asia, and a pop-culture icon, posthumously, in America.
Lee was born while his father, a Chinese opera star, was on tour in America. The Lee family moved back to Hong Kong in 1941. Growing up, Lee was a child actor who appeared in some 20 Chinese films he also studied dancing and trained in the Wing Chun style of gung fu (also known as kung fu). In 1959, Lee returned to America, where he eventually attended the University of Washington and opened a martial-arts school in Seattle. In 1964, he married Linda Emery, who in 1965 gave birth to Brandon Lee, the first of the couple’s two children. In 1966, the Lees relocated to Los Angeles and Bruce appeared on the television program The Green Hornet (1966-1967), playing the Hornet’s acrobatic sidekick, Kato. Lee also appeared in karate tournaments around the United States and continued to teach martial arts to private clients, including the actor Steve McQueen.
In search of better acting roles than Hollywood was offering, Lee returned to Hong Kong in the early 1970s. He successfully established himself as a star in Asia with the action movies The Big Boss (1971) and The Way of the Dragon (1972), which he wrote, directed and starred in. Lee’s next film, Enter the Dragon, was released in the United States by Hollywood studio Warner Brothers in August 1973. Tragically, Lee had died one month earlier, on July 20, in Hong Kong, after suffering a brain edema believed to be caused by an adverse reaction to a pain medication. Enter the Dragon was a box-office hit, eventually grossing more than $200 million, and Lee posthumously became a movie icon in America.
Lee’s body was returned to Seattle, where he was buried. His sudden death at the young age of 32 led to rumors and speculation about the cause of his demise. One theory held that Lee had been murdered by Chinese gangsters, while another rumor circulated that the actor had been the victim of a curse. The family-curse theory resurfaced when Lee’s 28-year-old son Brandon, who had followed in his father’s footsteps to become an actor, died in an accidental shooting on the set of the movie The Crow on March 31, 1993. The younger Lee was buried next to his father at Seattle’s Lake View Cemetery.
On November 27, 1724, Wilhelm Mons, who served as gentleman-in-waiting for Catherine, the wife of Emperor Peter the Great, was executed on bribery charges -- in reality for being Empress Catherine’s minion. Ironically, the unfortunate lover happened to be the brother of Anna Mons, Peter the Great’s mistress, rumored to have been his only true love.
Peter the Great, a very controversial person, was said to have fathered over 100 illegitimate children, at the same time having truly cherished relationships.
At the age of 17 Peter, yielding to his mother’s will, married Evdokia, a beautiful but narrow-minded girl who was unable to fulfill Peter’s need for spiritual connection, which made him look for it elsewhere. After three years Evdokia found out about another woman, Anna Mons, a simple girl. Peter fell truly in love with her and practically moved in with her to the German community, later moving Evdokia out of the way by sending her to a convent.
Anna, though very flattered by Peter’s feelings – he actually wanted to make her his wife – did not reciprocate, happy to just live a quiet life growing exotic vegetables. Peter’s heart was broken when she found herself a German lover while the Emperor was away on his European tour. Devastated and hurt, Peter, still so much in love with her, limited his punishment to locking his shrewd love up in her house.
To relieve Peter's pain, Aleksandr Menshikov, his closest associate, found him a captive girl from Lithuania, baptized as Catherine, who had immediately charmed Peter with her outgoing and cheerful nature. The Emperor fell in love with her practically at first sight she was the only one to fully understand him and knew ways to put out his hysteric fits. Their correspondence revealed how dearly Peter loved her: he sent her dried flowers and peppermint leaves she loved and reproached her for not writing him back.
Peter’s romantic experience with foreign women of low class instigated him to issue a series of decrees allowing marriages between members of social groups, as well as international marriages on the condition of preserving the Orthodox faith. Per Peter’s decree, defrocked monks and divorcees also had a chance to build a family. It was because of Catherine, who he intended to make Empress, that he ruled that a successor to the Emperor was to be appointed by the Emperor currently in power. Shortly after Peter named Catherine the first Russian Empress, he learned what had already been known throughout all of St. Petersburg, let alone his circle – that his wife cheated on him with the brother of his beloved Anna Mons, Wilhelm.
The trial lasted several days, as Wilhelm was charged with bribery and other minor crimes however, the real reason of the Emperor’s rage was never voiced. During questioning Wilhelm was discreet about his affair with the Empress, which earned Peter’s gratitude. In a few days Wilhelm Mons was beheaded. To fully punish his wife, Peter brought her to the execution dock to witness the entire process, but she managed to handle the tragedy with dignity. On that day she attended her daughter’s engagement ceremony, and when she came back to her chambers, elated and happy, she found a bowl filled with alcohol on her table, with the head of Wilhelm Mons floating in it. Peter eventually forgave his wife, as he still loved her.
After Peter’s death, Catherine conducted mourning services twice a day, always crying and making the court circle wonder how many tears she had in store. She eventually became Empress with the support from Peter’s associates, but only enjoyed her sovereignty for two years.
You were born on a Friday
November 27, 1970 was the 48th Friday of that year. It was also the 331st day and 11th month of 1970 in the Georgian calendar. The next time you can reuse 1970 calendar will be in 2026. Both calendars will be exactly the same.
There are left before your next birthday. Your 51st birthday will be on a Saturday and a birthday after that will be on a Sunday. The timer below is a countdown clock to your next birthday. It’s always accurate and is automatically updated.
Your next birthday is on a Saturday
This day in history, November 27: Harvey Milk and San Francisco Mayor George Moscone shot and killed by Dan White
Today is Friday, Nov. 27, the 332nd day of 2020. There are 34 days left in the year.
Today’s Highlight in History:
On Nov. 27, 1978, San Francisco Mayor George Moscone (mah-SKOH’-nee) and City Supervisor Harvey Milk, a gay-rights activist, were shot to death inside City Hall by former supervisor Dan White. (White served five years for manslaughter he committed suicide in Oct. 1985.)
In 1701, astronomer Anders Celsius, inventor of the Celsius temperature scale, was born in Uppsala, Sweden.
In 1910, New York’s Pennsylvania Station officially opened.
In 1924, Macy’s first Thanksgiving Day parade — billed as a “Christmas Parade” — took place in New York.
In 1942, during World War II, the Vichy French navy scuttled its ships and submarines in Toulon (too-LOHN’) to keep them out of the hands of German troops.
In 1953, playwright Eugene O’Neill died in Boston at age 65.
In 1962, the first Boeing 727 was rolled out at the company’s Renton Plant.
In 1970, Pope Paul VI, visiting the Philippines, was slightly wounded at the Manila airport by a dagger-wielding Bolivian painter disguised as a priest.
In 1973, the Senate voted 92-3 to confirm Gerald R. Ford as vice president, succeeding Spiro T. Agnew, who’d resigned.
In 1998, answering 81 questions put to him three weeks earlier President Clinton wrote the House Judiciary Committee that his testimony in the Monica Lewinsky affair was “not false and misleading.”
In 1989, a bomb blamed on drug traffickers destroyed a Colombian Avianca Boeing 727, killing all 107 people on board and three people on the ground.
In 1999, Northern Ireland’s biggest party, the Ulster Unionists, cleared the way for the speedy formation of an unprecedented Protestant-Catholic administration.
In 2000, a day after George W. Bush was certified the winner of Florida’s presidential vote, Al Gore laid out his case for letting the courts settle the nation’s long-count election.
Ten years ago: The State Department released a letter from its top lawyer to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, warning that an expected imminent release of classified cables would put “countless” lives at risk, threaten global counterterrorism operations and jeopardize U.S. relations with its allies.
Five years ago: A gunman attacked a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, Colorado, killing three people and injuring nine. (Suspect Robert Dear was sent to a psychiatric hospital after being deemed incompetent for trial.) A subdued France paid homage to those killed in the Paris attacks two weeks earlier, honoring each of the 130 victims by name as President Francois Hollande pledged to “destroy the army of fanatics” who had claimed so many young lives.
One year ago: Two explosions, 13 hours apart, at a chemical plant in East Texas blew out windows and doors of nearby homes and prompted an evacuation order for more than 50,000 people three plant workers sustained minor injuries.
Today’s birthdays: Footwear designer Manolo Blahnik is 78. Academy Award-winning director Kathryn Bigelow is 69. TV host Bill Nye (“Bill Nye, the Science Guy”) is 65. Actor William Fichtner (FIHK’-nuhr) is 64. Caroline Kennedy is 63. Academy Award-winning screenwriter Callie Khouri is 63. Rock musician Charlie Burchill (Simple Minds) is 61. Actor Michael Rispoli is 60. Jazz composer/big band leader Maria Schneider is 60. Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty is 60. Rock musician Charlie Benante (Anthrax) is 58. Rock musician Mike Bordin (Faith No More) is 58. Actor Fisher Stevens is 57. Actor Robin Givens is 56. Actor Michael Vartan is 52. Actor Elizabeth Marvel is 51. Rapper Skoob (DAS EFX) is 50. Actor Kirk Acevedo is 49. Rapper Twista is 48. Actor Jaleel White is 44. Actor Arjay Smith is 37. Actor Alison Pill is 35. Actor Lashana Lynch (TV: “Still Star-Crossed”) is 33.