On this day in history, November 24

The remarkable story of South Africa’s unassuming one-legged fighter pilot.

The remarkable story of South Africa’s unassuming one-legged fighter pilot.

Published Nov 24, 2023


What happened today, back in the day

1858 The Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek and the Republic of Lydenburg unite.

1859 English naturalist Charles Darwin’s ground-breaking book, On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, is published.

1874 Joseph Glidden patents barbed wire.

1887 German Field Marshal Erich von Manstein is born in Berlin. His plan for the German invasion of France in 1940 involved a surprise attack through the Ardennes Forest. It was a stunning success. He went on to achieve important victories over the Russians on the Eastern Front, but was dismissed by Hitler in 1944 for arguing.

1888 Motivational lecturer Dale Carnegie is born in Missouri, and is best known for his 1936 book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, which sold millions of copies and has been translated into 29 languages.

1941 Luck runs out for little-known South African pilot Doug “Shorty” Rogan over north Africa. Flying with the “Flying Cheetahs”, No 2 SAAF squadron, when his Tomahawk ground attack/fighter is hit by anti-aircraft fire, he has to have a leg amputated, but takes inspiration from famed Battle of Britain pilot Douglas Bader – a double leg amputee. Fitted with an artificial leg and passed fit for flying, he is sent back “up North”, where he is posted to SAAF 1 Squadron. His return to operations is marred by a couple of errors; on one occasion he took off with a mechanic still hanging on to his tailplane, but managed to land without harm to the mechanic or damage to his Spitfire, in which he records 3 kills, 2 probables, 3 damaged and earns a Distinguished Flying Cross. After the war, he became an Air Fighting Instructor and after retiring from the air force, he retired to Knysna.

1963 Lee Harvey Oswald, US President John F Kennedy’s assassin, is killed by Jack Ruby.

1966 In the smoggiest day in New York city’s history, 400 die of health complications.

1971 A hijacker calling himself DB Cooper parachutes from a Northwest Orient Airlines plane with $200 000 in ransom money over Washington state. He has never been found.

2012 Gangnam Style becomes the most viewed Youtube video with 808 million views, that is until Pinkfong’s Baby Shark notches up 10 billion views in 2022.

2015 A Russian Su-24 is shot down over the Syria/Turkey border, killing one of the pilots.

2016 The government of Colombia and the rebel FARC movement end their more than 50-year-long hostilities.

2019 Royal, 18th-century jewellery is stolen from the Dresden Green Vault, in Germany, from one of Europe’s greatest treasure collections. Months later, six men, in their 20s and from the same family, are charged with the E113 million heist. A plea bargain sees most of the jewels recovered and five of the men jailed for 4 to 6 years. One was acquitted.

2020 Dead and buried mink reported rising from the ground due to bloating, after a hurried cull of millions of Covid-19 infected animals in Denmark.

2021 India has more girls than boys for the first time in its history and its population boom is ending, according to government data.