WASHINGTON -- We're now into the 10th month of an election year, and the so-called mainstream media are on the lookout for an "October surprise." For those too young to remember, the term was coined by the potentates of the press to describe a nonevent: the belief of conspiracy theorists that Ronald Reagan somehow thwarted President Jimmy Carter from achieving the release of 52 American hostages being held in Tehran, Iran, before the 1980 election. It didn't happen; but that hasn't slaked the thirst of print and broadcast "journalists" and "commentators" for a sensational event that will sway voters in the month before an election. What many in the media either don't know or choose not to remember is that October has produced a lot of surprises for Americans.
It was on Oct. 19, 1781, that the success of the American Revolution was assured. That was the day British Gen. Charles Cornwallis surrendered his army to George Washington at Yorktown, Va. Had this "October surprise" not occurred, it's unlikely that we would be holding presidential and congressional elections next month.
John Brown, an abolitionist, raided the U.S. Armory at Harpers Ferry, Va., Oct. 16, 1859, killing and wounding more than a dozen people in an effort to start an insurrection. Three days later, Brown was captured by U.S. Marines led by Robert E. Lee. Though he eventually was hanged for treason, John Brown's "October surprise" led to the election of Abraham Lincoln, secession, the Civil War and the Emancipation Proclamation.
On Oct. 8, 1871, a cow in the barn of Patrick and Catherine O'Leary started what came to be known as the "Great Chicago Fire." In three days, the fire burned nearly four square miles of the largest city west of Manhattan and left tens of thousands homeless. There was no federal aid offered to survivors for rebuilding.
World War I already was four months on when the Ottoman Empire allied with the Central Powers -- Germany and Austria-Hungary -- in October 1914. But Turkey's decision to enter the war -- and the October Revolution in Russia in 1917 -- forever changed the world in which we live.
On Oct. 15, 1938, Adolf Hitler surprised the world by ordering German troops to occupy the Sudetenland. Two weeks earlier, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain had returned from the infamous Munich Conference and assured "peace for our time." It was anything but. In October 1939, the Nazis and the Soviets halved and occupied Poland, and by October 1940, Hitler's Luftwaffe was making daylight bombing raids on British cities.
Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist, the host of War Stories on the Fox News Channel, the author of the new novel Heroes Proved and the co-founder of Freedom Alliance, an organization that provides college scholarships to the children of U.S. military personnel killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty. Join Oliver North in Israel by going to www.olivernorthisrael.com.