Friday the 13th is considered one of the unluckiest days of the year. While many feel it’s just people being overly superstitious, others believe there’s something to it. If the following military events are anything to go by, there’s definitely something undeniably different about this date.
Civil War mistake
Before the Battle of Antietam, Confederate general Robert E. Lee issued Special Order 191, outlining the instructions for the invasion of Maryland. Paper containing the plan was somehow left behind at the Confederates’ camp, leading to some dire consequences for the force.
On September 13, 1862, a Union scout with the 27th Indiana Infantry Regiment found the instructions while walking through the camp. This provided Union forces with the information needed to defeat Lee’s men.
Knowing what the Confederates had planned allowed for the Union to defeat them at the Battle of Antietam, the bloodiest battle of the Civil War. The victory not only stopped Lee’s first invasion of Union territory but also allowed President Abraham Lincoln to issue the Emancipation Proclamation just a few days later.
Buckingham Palace is bombed
The Blitz was the German bombings of the United Kingdom from 1940 to 1941. The primary targets for the Luftwaffe were London and port cities, but that didn’t stop their bombs from landing on civilian residences – including Buckingham Palace, the residence of King George VI and his wife, Elizabeth the Queen Mother.
On Friday, September 13, 1940, just a week after the Blitz began, the King and Queen were sitting down for tea when they heard the sound of German aircraft flying overhead. According to Elizabeth, they hardly had time to react before the bomb made an impact: “It all happened so quickly, that we only had time to look foolishly at each other, when the scream [of the bomb] hurtled past us and exploded with a tremendous crash in the quadrangle.”
The Palace was hit with five bombs that day, destroying the Royal Chapel and rupturing a water main. Three people were also injured, one fatally. Despite the bombings, the Royals stayed in London, earning them the respect of citizens around the country.
Battle of Friday the 13th
It might seem risky to stage a battle of Friday the 13th, but that’s exactly what the Imperial Japanese Navy decided to do during WWII. While it only lasted approximately 25 minutes, it was one of the most brutal naval battles in history.
The Japanese were interested in reclaiming the island of Guadalcanal in the southwestern Pacific from the Americans, given its strategic location. The plan was to break through the American fleet, land some 7,000 troops on the island, and target Henderson Field. It would commence on November 13, 1942.
The Japanese forces were led by Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, and the assault resulted in the loss of numerous ships. Along with losing nearly 2,000 naval personnel, the IJN suffered the loss of three destroyers, 11 troop transports (seven at sea and four on the beach), two battleships, and a heavy cruiser.
The Americans faired slightly better, only losing seven destroyers, 36 aircraft, and two light cruisers. They also suffered 1,700 casualties, including the deaths of Admirals Daniel Callaghan and Norman Scott. The pair would become the highest-ranking officers to die in combat during the Second World War.
Black Friday for the Black Watch
“Black Friday” is the nickname given to October 13, 1944, by The Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment) of Canada. It occurred during the Battle of the Scheldt in the Netherlands when the regiment launched an attack on German troops near Hoogerheide.
The mission was codenamed Operation Angus and was part of the larger Allied drive into Antwerp. The location would later be dubbed “the Coffin” by the Canadian regiment because of its difficult terrain of railways, marshes, and canals.
The 30-minute assault saw the regiment’s 1st Battalion run headlong into enemy machine guns and rifle fire. By the end, only 1,200 yards were crossed at a cost of 145 Canadian infantrymen, who lay wounded or deceased.
On Friday, June 13, 1952, Soviet fighter jets shot down a Swedish military Tp 79 Hugin over the Baltic Sea, killing its eight crewmen. It became known as the “Catalina Affair” and turned into a Cold War diplomatic crisis.
The Swedish Air Force had sent two planes to conduct radio and radar signals intelligence gathering for the National Defence Radio Establishment. After the one went down, it sent two PBY Catalina aircraft to search for it, only for one of those to also be shot down. Luckily, everyone aboard that flight survived.
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The situation was elevated over the USSR’s refusal to admit the incident had occurred until it was dissolved in 1991. In 2003, both downed aircraft were located in the Baltic Sea. The Tp 79 showed evidence of having been shot with a MiG15, and its cockpit clock showed the exact time it went down. All eight crew members’ bodies were also located within the aircraft.