The Great San Francisco Earthquake topples buildings, killing thousands At 5:13 a.m., an earthquake estimated at close to 8.0 on the Richter scale strikes San Francisco, California, killing an estimated 3,000 people as it topples numerous buildings. The quake was caused by a slip of the San Andreas Fault over a segment about 275 miles long, and shock waves could be felt from southern Oregon down to Los Angeles. San Francisco’s brick buildings and wooden Victorian structures were especially devastated. Fires immediately broke out and–because broken water mains prevented firefighters from stopping them–firestorms soon developed citywide. At 7 a.m., U.S. Army troops from Fort Mason reported to the Hall of Justice, and San Francisco Mayor E.E. Schmitz called for the enforcement of a dusk-to-dawn curfew and authorized soldiers to shoot-to-kill anyone found looting. Meanwhile, in the face of significant aftershocks, firefighters and U.S. troops fought desperately to control the ongoing fire, often dynamiting whole city blocks to create firewalls. On April 20, 20,000 refugees trapped by the massive fire were evacuated from the foot of Van Ness Avenue onto the USS Chicago. By April 23, most fires were extinguished, and authorities commenced the task of rebuilding the devastated metropolis. It was estimated that some 3,000 people died as a result of the Great San Francisco Earthquake and the devastating fires it inflicted upon the city. Almost 30,000 buildings were destroyed, including most of the city’s homes and nearly all the central business district. 1775 Paul Revere and William Dawes set out on horseback to warn of British attack In Massachusetts, British troops march out of Boston on a mission to confiscate the Patriot arsenal at Concord and to capture Patriot leaders Samuel Adams and John Hancock, known to be hiding at Lexington. As the British departed, Boston Patriots Paul Revere and William Dawes set out on horseback from the city to warn Adams and Hancock and rouse the Patriot minutemen. By 1775, tensions between the American colonies and the British government approached the breaking point, especially in Massachusetts, where Patriot leaders formed a shadow revolutionary government and trained militias to prepare for armed conflict with the British troops occupying Boston. In the spring of 1775, General Thomas Gage, the British governor of Massachusetts, received instructions from England to seize all stores of weapons and gunpowder accessible to the American insurgents. On April 18, he ordered British troops to march against Concord and Lexington. The Boston Patriots had been preparing for such a British military action for some time, and upon learning of the British plan Revere and Dawes set off across the Massachusetts countryside. Taking separate routes in case one of them were captured, Dawes left Boston by the Boston Neck peninsula, and Revere crossed the Charles River to Charlestown by boat. As the two couriers made their way, Patriots in Charlestown waited for a signal from Boston informing them of the British troop movement. As previously agreed, one lantern would be hung in the steeple of Boston’s Old North Church, the highest point in the city, if the British were marching out of the city by Boston Neck, and two if they were crossing the Charles River to Cambridge. Two lanterns were hung, and the armed Patriots set out for Lexington and Concord accordingly. Along the way, Revere and Dawes roused hundreds of minutemen, who armed themselves and set out to oppose the British. Revere arrived in Lexington shortly before Dawes, but together they warned Adams and Hancock and then set out for Concord. Along the way, they were joined by Samuel Prescott, a young Patriot who had been riding home after visiting a friend. Early in the morning of April 19, a British patrol captured Revere, and Dawes lost his horse, forcing him to walk back to Lexington on foot. However, Prescott escaped and rode on to Concord to warn the Patriots there. After being roughly questioned for an hour or two, Revere was released when the patrol heard minutemen alarm guns being fired on their approach to Lexington. Around 5 a.m., 700 British troops under Major John Pitcairn arrived at the town to find a 77-man-strong colonial militia under Captain John Parker waiting for them on Lexington’s common green. Pitcairn ordered the outnumbered Patriots to disperse, and after a moment’s hesitation the Americans began to drift off the green. Suddenly, the “shot heard around the world” was fired from an undetermined gun, and a cloud of musket smoke soon covered the green. When the brief Battle of Lexington ended, eight Americans lay dead and 10 others were wounded. Only one British soldier was injured, but the American Revolution had begun. 1915 Germans shoot down French pilot Roland Garros On this day in 1915, a member of the German Bahnschutzwache, or Railway Protection Guard, shoots down the well-known French airman Roland Garros in his flight over German positions in Flanders, France, on a bombing raid. Garros, born in 1882, gained renown early in his career as an experienced practitioner of aerial acrobatics, the first French pilot to fly across the Mediterranean Sea and a two-time winner of both the Paris-Madrid and Paris-Rome flying races. In 1914, while working as a test pilot for Morane-Saulnier, an aircraft manufacturer, Garros set the then-world record for the highest flight: 4,250 meters. When war broke out in Europe that same year, he was sent to serve with the French air service, L’Aviation Militaire, on the Western Front. At the end of 1914, Garros took leave from his regiment and returned to the Morane-Saulnier factory to work with Raymond Saulnier to test a recently developed device that enabled a pilot to fire bullets from a machine-gun through the blades of the propeller of his plane. The device, employed successfully by Garros in the early spring of 1915, allowed him to approach his enemies head-on in the air, giving him a vast advantage. Garros shot down his first German victim, an Albatross reconnaissance aircraft, on April 1, 1915; in the next two weeks, he downed four more. Garros’ run ended on April 18, however, when he was flying his single-seater plane, a Morane-Saulnier Type L, low in the skies above the German positions in Flanders. A member of the German Bahnschutzwache described the events of that day: At that moment we saw a southbound train approaching on the railway line Ingelmunster-Kortrijk. Suddenly the plane went into a steep diveHe flew over the train in a loop and as he rose up into the sky again with his wings almost vertical, he threw a bomb at the train. Fortunately it missed the target and there was no damage.As the plane had swooped down over the train the Bahnschutzwache troops had fired on it following my order to open fire. We shot at him from a distance of only 100 metres as he flew past. After he had thrown his bomb at the train he tried to escape, switching his engine on again and climbing to about 700 metres through the shots fired by our troops. But suddenly the plane began to sway about in the sky, the engine fell silent, and the pilot began to glide the plane down in the direction of Hulste. A German bullet had apparently hit the gas pipe on Garros’ plane, forcing him to land. Although the daring airman attempted to set the plane on fire and escape on foot once he hit the ground, both he and the plane were captured by the Germans. Garros later managed to escape from captivity and rejoin L’Aviation Militaire. Killed in battle at Vouziers on October 5, 1918, he is remembered as one of France’s most celebrated war heroes; the famous tennis stadium in Paris bears his name. The propeller of Garros’ Morane-Saulnier plane and its innovative machine-gun firing device were sent immediately after his capture in April 1915 to the Fokker aircraft factory in Germany. A few weeks later, the first Fokker EI—a single-seater airplane fitted with machine guns, deflectors and interrupter gear that could synchronize the rate of fire of the gun with the speed of the propeller—was sent to German forces on the Western Front. From mid-1915 until mid-1916, the Fokker E-types of the German Air Force were the menace of the skies, shooting down a total of over 1,000 Allied aircraft.