Skip to main content
Year
1947
Month Day
August 15

India and Pakistan win independence

The Indian Independence Bill, which carves the independent nations of India and Pakistan out of the former Mogul Empire, comes into force at the stroke of midnight on August 15, 1947. The long-awaited agreement ended 200 years of British rule and was hailed by Indian independence leader Mohandas Gandhi as the “noblest act of the British nation.” However, religious strife between Hindus and Muslims, which had delayed Britain’s granting of Indian independence after World War II, soon marred Gandhi’s exhilaration. In the northern province of Punjab, which was sharply divided between Hindu-dominated India and Muslim-dominated Pakistan, hundreds of people were killed in the first few days after independence.

The Indian independence movement first gained momentum at the beginning of the 20th century, and after World War I Gandhi organized the first of his many effective passive-resistance campaigns in protest of Britain’s oppressive rule in India. In the 1930s, the British government made some concessions to the Indian nationalists, but during World War II discontent with British rule had grown to such a degree that Britain feared losing India to the Axis.

Gandhi and other nationalist leaders rejected as empty the British promises of Indian self-government after the war and organized the nonviolent “Quit India” campaign to hasten the British departure. British colonial authorities responded by jailing Gandhi and hundreds of others. Anti-British demonstrations accelerated after the war, and in 1947 the Indian National Congress reluctantly accepted the creation of Pakistan to appease the Muslim League and conclude the independence negotiations. On August 15, 1947, the Indian Independence Bill took effect, inaugurating a period of religious turmoil in India and Pakistan that would result in the deaths of hundreds of thousands, including Gandhi, who was assassinated by a Hindu fanatic in January 1948 during a prayer meeting to end Muslim-Hindu violence.

FACT CHECK: We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us! HISTORY reviews and updates its content regularly to ensure it is complete and accurate.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

“Swamp Fox” routs loyalists while Gates’ men fall ill

On August 15, 1780, American Lieutenant Colonel Francis Marion, the “Swamp Fox,” and his irregular cavalry force of 250 rout a party of Loyalists commanded by Major Micajah Gainey at Port’s Ferry, South Carolina. Meanwhile, General Horatio Gates’ men consumed half-baked bread, ...read more

King Macbeth is killed by Malcolm Canmore

At the Battle of Lumphanan, King Macbeth of Scotland is slain by Malcolm Canmore, whose father, King Duncan I, was murdered by Macbeth 17 years earlier. Macbeth was a grandson of King Kenneth II and also had a claim to the throne through his wife, Gruoch, who was the ...read more

Berlin Wall built

Two days after sealing off free passage between East and West Berlin with barbed wire, East German authorities begin building a wall—the Berlin Wall—to permanently close off access to the West. For the next 28 years, the heavily fortified Berlin Wall stood as the most tangible ...read more

Panama Canal open to traffic

The American-built waterway across the Isthmus of Panama, connecting the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, is inaugurated with the passage of the U.S. vessel Ancon, a cargo and passenger ship. The rush of settlers to California and Oregon in the mid 19th century was the initial ...read more

Emperor Hirohito announces Japan’s surrender

Emperor Hirohito broadcasts the news of Japan’s surrender to the Japanese people on August 15, 1945 (August 14 in the West because of time-zone differences).  Although Tokyo had already communicated to the Allies its acceptance of the surrender terms of the Potsdam Conference ...read more

Japan gives ultimatum to Germany

On August 15, 1914, the government of Japan sends an ultimatum to Germany, demanding the removal of all German ships from Japanese and Chinese waters and the surrender of control of Tsingtao—the location of Germany’s largest overseas naval bases, located on China’s Shantung ...read more

Heavy fighting erupts in and around the DMZ

Heavy fighting intensifies in and around the DMZ, as South Vietnamese and U.S. troops engage a North Vietnamese battalion. In a seven and a half hour battle, 165 enemy troops were killed. At the same time, U.S. Marines attacked three strategic positions just south of the DMZ, ...read more

Woodstock festival opens in Bethel, New York

On August 15, 1969, the Woodstock music festival opens on a patch of farmland in White Lake, a hamlet in the upstate New York town of Bethel. Promoters John Roberts, Joel Rosenman, Artie Kornfield and Michael Lang originally envisioned the festival as a way to raise funds to ...read more

"Apocalypse Now" released in theaters

Apocalypse Now, the acclaimed Vietnam War film directed by Francis Ford Coppola, opens in theaters around the United States on August 15, 1979. The film, inspired in part by Joseph Conrad’s 1899 novella Heart of Darkness, among other sources, told the story of an Army captain ...read more

Wife of slain minister released from jail

Mary Winkler, who confessed to fatally shooting her pastor husband Matthew Winkler in his sleep at their church parsonage in Selmer, Tennessee, is released from jail on $750,000 bail. Winkler was later convicted in his killing, but served only a short time in prison. On March 22, ...read more

Henry Ford leaves Edison to start automobile company

On August 15, 1899, in Detroit, Michigan, Henry Ford resigns his position as chief engineer at the Edison Illuminating Company’s main plant in order to concentrate on automobile production. Henry Ford left his family’s farm in Dearborn, Michigan, at age 16 to work in the machine ...read more