1945 General Fromm executed for plot against Hitler On this day, the commander of the German Home Army, Gen. Friedrich Fromm, is shot by a firing squad for his part in the July plot to assassinate the Fuhrer. The fact that Fromm’s participation was half-hearted did not save him. By 1944, many high-ranking German officials had made up their minds that Hitler must die. He was leading Germany in a suicidal war on two fronts, and they believed that assassination was the only way to stop him. According to the plan, coup d’etat would follow the assassination, and a new government in Berlin would save Germany from complete destruction at the hands of the Allies. All did not go according to plan, however. Col. Claus von Stauffenberg was given the task of planting a bomb during a conference that was to be held at Hitler’s holiday retreat, Berchtesgaden (but was later moved to Hitler’s headquarters at Rastenburg). Stauffenberg was chief of staff to Gen. Friedrich Fromm. Fromm, chief of the Home Army (composed of reservists who remained behind the front lines to preserve order at home), was inclined to the conspirators’ plot, but agreed to cooperate actively in the coup only if the assassination was successful. On the night of July 20, 1944, Stauffenberg planted an explosive-filled briefcase under a table in the conference room at Rastenburg. Hitler was studying a map of the Eastern Front as Colonel Heinz Brandt, trying to get a better look at the map, moved the briefcase out of place, farther away from where the Fuhrer was standing. At 12:42 p.m. the bomb went off. When the smoke cleared, Hitler was wounded, charred, and even suffered the temporary paralysis of one arm—but was very much alive. Meanwhile, Stauffenberg had made his way to Berlin to meet with his co-conspirators to carry out Operation Valkyrie, the overthrow of the central government. Once in the capital, General Fromm, who had been informed by phone that Hitler was wounded but still alive, ordered Stauffenberg and his men arrested, but Fromm was located and locked in an office by Nazi police. Stauffenberg and Gen. Friedrich Olbricht began issuing orders for the commandeering of various government buildings. Then the news came through from Herman Goering that Hitler was alive. Fromm, released from confinement by officers still loyal to Hitler, and anxious to have his own association with the conspirators covered up quickly, ordered the conspirators, including two Stauffenberg aides, shot for high treason that same day. (Gen. Ludwig Beck, one of the conspiracy leaders and an older man, was allowed the “dignity” of committing suicide.) Fromm’s last-ditch effort to distance himself from the plot failed. Within the next few days, on order of Heinrich Himmler, who was now the new head of the Home Army, Fromm was arrested. In February 1945, he was tried before the People’s Court and denigrated for his cowardice in refusing to stand up to the plotters. But because he went so far as to execute Stauffenberg and his partners on the night of July 20, he was spared the worst punishment afforded convicted conspirators—strangulation on a meat hook. He was shot by a firing squad on March 19. 1864 Artist Charlie Russell born Charles Marion Russell, one of the greatest artists of the American West, is born on this day in St. Louis, Missouri. According to family lore, Charlie Russell displayed an aptitude for art from a young age, reportedly drawing pictures and modeling in wax when he was a small child. At 16 years old, Russell’s parents sent him to Montana under the care of a sheepherder. The independent young man struck out on his own soon after, finding work as a cowboy in the booming Montana ranching industry. During long, often tedious days watching over cattle on the open range, Russell sketched the scenes around him. In the winter, when many cowboys were unemployed, Russell lived in various frontier towns and painted pictures to pay for his food and lodging. Friends said Russell also began carrying modeling clay with him during this time, making small sculptures during his spare moments. Russell likely would have continued as an itinerant cowboy and amateur artist for the rest of his life had he not met a young woman named Mary Cooper. In 1896, the couple married, and Russell’s new wife began to guide him toward a serious career in art. Russell found there was a growing market, especially among wealthy East Coast residents, for images of the disappearing American frontier. By 1920, he was making frequent trips to New York to paint western pictures for an increasing number of supportive patrons. Russell rarely painted or sculpted from models or from life, relying on memory to recreate scenes from the life he had experienced. He had no real art training and little interest in the formal aesthetics of art. Though critics often ignored or derided his work, the public loved it. Initially, Russell’s paintings and sculptures documented his early life as a cowboy, but later in his career, he also began to depict scenes from the lives of American Indians and historical figures. Many of his later paintings express Russell’s melancholy attachment to the unspoiled West and his dislike of the “progress” that had plowed under the Great Plains and fenced in the open range. Russell spent his final years in Great Falls, Montana, where he continued to paint until his death in 1926. 1931 Nevada legalizes gambling In an attempt to lift the state out of the hard times of the Great Depression, the Nevada state legislature votes to legalize gambling. Located in the Great Basin desert, few settlers chose to live in Nevada after the United States acquired the territory at the end of the Mexican War in 1848. In 1859, the discovery of the “Comstock Lode” of gold and silver spurred the first substantial number of settlers into Nevada to exploit the territory’s mining opportunities. Five years later, during the Civil War, Nevada was hastily made the 36th state in order to strengthen the Union. At the beginning of the Depression, Nevada’s mines were in decline, and its economy was in shambles. In March 1931, Nevada’s state legislature responded to population flight by taking the drastic measure of legalizing gambling and, later in the year, divorce. Established in 1905, Las Vegas, Nevada, has since become the gambling and entertainment capital of the world, famous for its casinos, nightclubs, and sporting events. In the first few decades after the legalization of gambling, organized crime flourished in Las Vegas. Today, state gambling taxes account for the lion’s share of Nevada’s overall tax revenues.