This Day in Failure: September 25

2008: Seattle-based Washington Mutual Inc. (WaMu, established 1889), collapses under the weight of its enormous bad bets on the mortgage market, becoming the largest bank failure in U.S. history. On this day, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC) seizes WaMu, then sells the thrift’s banking assets to JPMorgan Chase & Co. for $1.9 billion.

1992: The Mars Observer spacecraft is launched on a mission to study Mars for one continuous Martian year (687 days), with a focus on recording the planet’s topography, surface mineralogy and atmospheric circulation. NASA permanently loses communication with the Observer just three days before it enters into orbit, and to this day has no conclusive evidence as to why the craft fell silent.

1982: Northwestern University’s football team ends its 34-game losing streak with a 31-6 victory over Northern Illinois.

1978: A Pacific Southwest Airlines Boeing 727-214 collides in mid-air with a single-engine Cessna over San Diego, California. All 144 people on the 727 are killed, as well as two aboard the Cessna, and seven people on the ground. The accident is attributed to the failure of the flight crew to maintain visual separation between the two planes.

1944: Adolf Hitler orders all able-bodied German men between 16 and 60 to take up arms and defend the fatherland, an unpopular and militarily pointless directive that fails to stave off Germany’s defeat in World War II. The men of the Volkssturm, or people’s militia, are asked to provide their own clothing and equipment, and their weaponry is wholly inadequate, as munitions are in short supply at this point in the war. Ultimately, 175,000 citizens who are largely too young, too old, or too weak to fight are killed in a futile attempt to repel invading armies.