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History's Happenings for June 18

Congress Declares War on Britain
1812

President James Madison campaigned on a promise to declare war

(Stay tuned for a write-up on this event.
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Continentals Push British From Philadelphia
1778

(Stay tuned for a write-up on this event.
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Napoleon Meets His Waterloo
1815

Napoleon Bonaparte

(Stay tuned for a write-up on this event.
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Alone, Britain Braces for Invasion
1940

Prime Minister Winston Churchill

Summer, 1940.

There may have been no time in the glittering history of England or her Empire when Britain's future seemed more bleak.

She had managed to pull her bedraggled troops off the beach at Dunkirk, thoroughly defeated though miraculously saved. But she had left most of her war materiel behind, and budget cuts by a post-World War I government convinced that it had been the "war to end all wars" had left her without much behind it, nor reserves to face the threat from the east. She had been defeated off Norway and no longer commanded the North Sea.

Germany would soon sign an armistice with crushed France, and own the European continent from the Carpathians to the Channel coast, unopposed. Her next stop: Britain. The ancient isles braced for the invasion that was sure to come. It already had a German code name ... Operation Sea Lion.

America was still staunchly opposed to entering what we viewed as a European war. Lend-Lease, which would shore up Britain's sagging materiel support, was still almost a year away.

This truly seemed her darkest hour.

Fortunately, it is often at those times that the greatest leaders appear, challenged by the moment. Such was Winston Churchill, who succeeded the unfortunate and mistaken Neville Chamberlain as British Prime Minister just as the Nazis charged into France that spring. It was on this day in 1940, when Britons everywhere needed to know there was some hope, that Churchill delivered one of his best known oratories, in part:

"... the Battle of France is over. The Battle of Britain is about to begin. On this battle depends the survival of Christian civilization ...

"If we can stand up to [Hitler] all Europe may be freed and the life of the world may move forward into broad sunlit uplands; but if we fail, the whole world, including the United States and all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new dark age made more sinister and perhaps more prolonged by the lights of a perverted science.

"Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say: 'This was their finest hour'."

We're sure it didn't seem like any fine hour. But the Brits stiffened that upper lip and hung on.

Worse came. The Battle of Britain ... Germany's attempt to reduce the Royal Air Force (RAF) preparatory to an invasion, was just beginning and continued unabated for over three months. When it ended, the Blitz ... the continuous bombing of British cities ... raged on.

But the steadily dwindling number of RAF pilots whittled so effectively at the Luftwaffe that Hitler was forced to call off Sea Lion that fall. Britons had taken the first step toward the distant light.

U.N. Adopts Human Rights Declaration
1948

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