While India’s 74th Independence Day was a more sombre affair than usual, marked by muted celebrations across the country due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, the significance of August 15th — a historic date for all Indians— was not lost. Despite the circumstances, tricolours were hoisted and speeches were delivered by state leaders, to commemorate another year of Independence from the imperial rule of the British Raj.
But for millions around the world, the date is remembered for other reasons. Apart from India, August 15th denotes liberation for several other countries, who were also freed from the shackles of colonialism on this day. It also happens to be the day that some landmark films, like the ‘Wizard of Oz’ and ‘Sholay’, first premiered. For some, the date marks a groundbreaking day for rock and roll — when the Beatles performed before a record crowd of 55,600 people at Shea stadium in New York City.
Here is a throwback at some major events that took place on August 15 around the world:
Victory over Japan Day, 1945
On 15 August, 1945, the Allies — led by Britain and the United States — declared victory over Japan, which marked the beginning of the end of World War 2. Then US President Harry S Truman was the first person to announce Japan’s surrender, during a historic White House press conference.
“This is the day we have been waiting for since Pearl Harbor,” he famously said, referring to the sudden military strike by the Japanese Navy Air Service at Pearl Harbour in Honolulu, Hawaii in 1941.
Later, at midnight, the then-British Prime Minister Clement Atlee announced Japan’s defeat in a broadcast. “The last of our enemies is laid below,” he said.
The assassination of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman
On August 15, every year, Bangladesh’s national flag is lowered to half-mast as the country mourns the assassination of its first president and founding father Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. Rahman, along with most of his family members, were killed by a group of Army personnel as part of a coup.
Soon after, Khondaker Mostaq Ahmad was named President of the country and those involved in Rahman’s assassination were all assigned prominent roles in the government.
The Wizard of Oz premieres in 1939
One of the most iconic Hollywood films of all time, ‘The Wizard of Oz’, first premiered at the Grauman’s Chinese Theatre on August 15, 1939. With its star-studded cast and memorable soundtrack, the film became a commercial success and a favourite among critics.
Directed by Victor Fleming, the film featured Judy Garland, Ray Bolger, Jack Haley and Bert Lahr in lead roles. It earned six Academy Award nominations, and won the Oscar for Best Original Song and Best Original Score.
The Panama Canal first opened to ships
After around 10 years of work, construction of the Panama Canal was finally completed on August 15, 1914. The strategic waterway connects the Atlantic and Pacific oceans through the narrow isthmus of Panama.
Once the canal was inaugurated, ships sailing between the east and west coasts of the United States no longer had to travel around Cape Horn in South America — shortening their journey by a mammoth 8,000 nautical miles.
The Beatles at Shea Stadium in 1965
The historic performance by the Beatles at New York’s Shea Stadium in 1965 is often considered one of the greatest in rock & roll history. Over 55,000 people came to watch a band perform live at a stadium for the first time in history.
Millions later watched the concert from the comfort of their own homes, after it was released as a documentary, titled ‘The Beatles at Shea Stadium’. In the Beatles Anthalogy, the band’s drummer Ringo Starr recalled, “What I remember most about the concert was that we were so far away from the audience. … And screaming had become the thing to do. … Everybody screamed. If you look at the footage, you can see how we reacted to the place. It was very big and very strange.”
Apple launches iMac in 1998
Technology major Apple launched its first iMac desktop, the iMac G3, exactly 22 years ago in 1998. According to Apple’s founder Steve Jobs, the main use of the computer was to “get on the internet simply and fast”.
The candy-coloured, chunky desktop was a far cry from the sleek machines we associate with Apple today, but its release still marked a significant technological milestone for its time.