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On This Day In History - April 18

By CM Chaney · April 18, 2024

On This Day In History - April 18

"On This Day in History" is a captivating journey through time, revisiting the most significant events that have occurred on this very date throughout the years.

From monumental political decisions and groundbreaking scientific discoveries to unforgettable moments in sports and cultural milestones, each article in this series will transport you back to a specific day, offering a glimpse into the past and revealing how these events have shaped our world.

Join us as we uncover the fascinating stories that have left an indelible mark on history.  Wikimedia

1506: Construction Begins on New St. Peter's Basilica

On April 18, 1506, Pope Julius II ceremoniously laid the foundation stone for the new St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City.

This event marked the beginning of the construction of one of the most iconic and significant churches in the world, which would take more than a century to complete.  Wikimedia/Alvesgaspar

1775: Paul Revere's Midnight Ride Warns of British Attack

On the night of April 18, 1775, Paul Revere, a skilled silversmith and American patriot, embarked on his famous midnight ride to alert the people of Boston and the surrounding areas about the impending attack by British forces.

Revere's daring journey played a crucial role in the early stages of the American Revolution.  Wikimedia/Edward Mason Eggleston

1857: Clarence Darrow, Legendary Defense Attorney, Born

Clarence Darrow, the renowned American defense lawyer, was born on April 18, 1857.

He would later gain fame for his powerful oratory skills and involvement in high-profile cases, most notably the Scopes Trial, where he defended a teacher's right to teach the theory of evolution in Tennessee schools, challenging the state's anti-evolution law.  Wikimedia/Herzog

1906: San Francisco Shaken by San Andreas Fault Earthquake

On April 18, 1906, a powerful earthquake, caused by movement along the San Andreas Fault, struck San Francisco.

The quake and subsequent fires devastated the city, leaving thousands dead and hundreds of thousands homeless, forever changing the landscape and history of the iconic California city.  Wikimedia/John Wiley

1942: Doolittle Raid Boosts Allied Morale with Daring Attack on Japan

On April 18, 1942, U.S. Lt. Col. James H. Doolittle led a daring aerial attack on Tokyo and other Japanese cities using 16 B-25 bombers.

While the Doolittle Raid inflicted minimal damage, it provided a significant morale boost for the Allies and demonstrated Japan's vulnerability to air attacks.  Wikimedia/U.S. Navy

1945: Ernie Pyle, Beloved War Correspondent, Killed in Okinawa

On April 18, 1945, during the U.S. invasion of Okinawa in World War II, renowned American war correspondent Ernie Pyle was killed by Japanese gunfire on the nearby Ie Island.

Pyle's intimate and compassionate reporting had made him a beloved figure among American troops and readers back home.  Wikimedia/Time Inc

1956: Grace Kelly Marries Prince Rainier III, Bids Farewell to Hollywood

On April 18, 1956, American actress Grace Kelly married Prince Rainier III of Monaco in a civil ceremony, effectively ending her Hollywood career.

The following day, an extravagant religious ceremony took place, marking the beginning of her new life as Princess Grace of Monaco.  Wikimedia/Robert LeRoy Knudsen

1980: Zimbabwe Gains Independence from the United Kingdom

On April 18, 1980, after nearly a century of British colonial rule, Zimbabwe officially gained its independence.

The former British colony, previously known as Southern Rhodesia, became a sovereign nation following a protracted struggle for self-determination and majority rule.  Wikimedia/U.S. Embassy Harare, Zimbabwe

1999: Wayne Gretzky, Hockey Legend, Plays Final NHL Game

On April 18, 1999, Wayne Gretzky, widely regarded as one of the greatest ice hockey players of all time, laced up his skates for his final NHL game.

The Canadian superstar, known as "The Great One," concluded his illustrious career, leaving behind an unparalleled legacy in the sport.  Wikimedia/Hakandahlstrom

2012: Dick Clark, Iconic TV Host and "America's Oldest Teenager," Dies

Dick Clark, the beloved American television personality and businessman best known for hosting "American Bandstand" from 1957 to 1987, passed away on April 18, 2012, in California.

Dubbed "America's Oldest Teenager" for his youthful appearance and enthusiasm, Clark left an indelible mark on American pop culture.  Wikimedia/ABCTelevision.