This Day in U.S. Military History…… April 1

1 April
All Fool’s Day.
1621 – At the Plymouth settlement in present-day Massachusetts, the leaders of the Plymouth colonists, acting on behalf of King James I, make a defensive alliance with Massasoit, chief of the Wampanoags. The agreement, in which both parties promised to not “doe hurt” to one another, was the first treaty between a Native American tribe and a group of American colonists. According to the treaty, if a Wampanoag broke the peace, he would be sent to Plymouth for punishment; if a colonist broke the law, he would likewise be sent to the Wampanoags. In November 1620, the Mayflower arrived in the New World, carrying 101 English settlers, commonly known as the pilgrims. The majority of the pilgrims were Puritan Separatists, who traveled to America to escape the jurisdiction of the Church of England, which they believed violated the biblical precepts of true Christians. After coming to anchor in what is today Provincetown harbor in the Cape Cod region of Massachusetts, a party of armed men under the command of Captain Myles Standish was sent to explore the immediate area and find a location suitable for settlement. In December, the explorers went ashore in Plymouth, where they found cleared fields and plentiful running water; a few days later the Mayflower came to anchor in Plymouth harbor, and settlement began. The first direct contact with a Native American was made in March 1621, and soon after, Chief Massasoit paid a visit to the settlement. After an exchange of greetings and gifts, the two peoples signed a peace treaty that lasted for more than 50 years.
1778 – Oliver Pollock, a New Orleans businessman, created the “$” symbol.
1789 – The U.S. House of Representatives held its first full meeting, in New York City. Frederick Muhlenberg of Pennsylvania was elected the first House Speaker.
1823 – Simon Bolivar Buckner (d.1914), Lt. Gen. (Confederate Army), was born.
1853 – Cincinnati became the first U.S. city to pay its firefighters a regular salary.
1826 – Samuel Morey patents the internal combustion engine.
1833 – The Convention of 1833, a political gathering of settlers in Mexican Texas to help draft a series of petitions to the Mexican government, begins in San Felipe de Austin
1863 – First wartime conscription law went into effect in the U.S.
1865 – Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s supply line into Petersburg, Virginia, is closed when Union forces under General Ulysses S. Grant collapse the end of Lee’s lines around Petersburg. The Confederates suffer heavy casualties, and the battle triggered Lee’s retreat from Petersburg as the two armies began a race that would end a week later at Appomattox Court House. For nearly a year, Grant had laid siege to Lee’s army in an elaborate network of trenches that ran from Petersburg to the Confederate capital at Richmond, 25 miles north. Lee’s hungry army slowly dwindled through the winter of 1864-65 as Grant’s army swelled with well-fed reinforcements. On March 25, Lee attacked part of the Union trenches at Fort Stedman in a desperate attempt to break the siege and split Grant’s force. When that attack failed, Grant began mobilizing his forces along the entire 40-mile front. Southwest of Petersburg, Grant sent General Philip Sheridan against Lee’s right flank. Sheridan moved forward on March 31, but the tough Confederates halted his advance. Sheridan moved troops to cut the railroad that ran from the southwest into Petersburg, but the focus of the battle became Five Forks, a road intersection that provided the key to Lee’s supply line. Lee instructed his commander there, General George Pickett, to “Hold Five Forks at all hazards.” On April 1, Sheridan’s men slammed into Pickett’s troops. Pickett had his force poorly positioned, and he was taking a long lunch with his staff when the attack occurred. General Gouverneur K. Warren’s V Corps supported Sheridan, and the 27,000 Yankee troops soon crushed Pickett’s command of 10,000. The Union lost 1,000 casualties, but nearly 5,000 of Pickett’s men were killed, wounded, or captured. During the battle, Sheridan, with the approval of Grant, removed Warren from command despite Warren’s effective deployment of his troops. It appears that a long-simmering feud between the two was the cause, but Warren was not officially cleared of any wrongdoing by a court of inquiry until 1882. The vital intersection was in Union hands, and Lee’s supply line was cut. Grant now attacked all along the Petersburg-Richmond front and Lee evacuated the cities. The two armies began a race west, but Lee could not outrun Grant. The Confederate leader surrendered at Appomattox Court House on April 9.
1865 – Worn down by the stresses of his office, Florida Governor John Milton commits suicide at his plantation, Sylvania. Milton was a capable governor who valiantly defended his state and supplied provisions to the Confederacy, but by the end of the war much of Florida was occupied by Union forces and the state’s finances were depleted. Just before his death, Milton addressed the Florida legislature and said that Yankees “have developed a character so odious that death would be preferable to reunion with them.” Milton was 57 when he put a pistol to his head.
1884 – Florence Blanchfield, an American nurse who was the first woman to become a fully ranked officer of the U.S. Army, was born. She was the first woman to receive a commission in the Regular Army. In making the presentation of her commission in a ceremony in 1947, Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower paid tribute to the heroism of the Army nurses. The War Department credited Colonel Blanchfield, who at the time had spent 30 years in the Army Nurse Corps, with being “largely instrumental in securing full military rank for nurses.” She marshaled her arguments for “full” rather than “relative” rank at hearings before a succession of Congressional committees. Full rank was won on a temporary basis in July, 1944, and was made permanent by the Army and Navy Nurse Corps Law of April 16, 1947. Behind all the arguments was a matter of down-to-earth pay–or, in today’s terms, should women earn less than men for the same work? In March, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed Mrs. Julia O. Flikke, Miss Blanchfield’s predecessor as superintendent, as a colonel and Miss Blanchfield as a lieutenant colonel. The Controller General then ruled that there could not legally be a woman colonel in the Army. He issued Colonel Flikke the pay of a major and Lieutenant Colonel Blanchfield the pay of a captain. It took a new law to permit the rate of pay to catch up with the rank. She was born at Sheperdstown, W. Va. She attended the public schools of Walnut Springs, Va., and was graduated from the Granda Institute of Granda, Va. She took a secretarial course at the Martin Business College of Pittsburgh and other courses at the University of California and Columbia University. Her attention then turned to nursing, and she studied at Pittsburgh’s South Side Training School for Nurses, from which she was graduated in 1906. She took a postgraduate course in surgical techniques and operating room supervision at Dr. Howard Kelly’s Sanitarium and at Johns Hopkins Hospital and worked in three Pennsylvania hospitals. A year of work in the Canal Zone followed, with general and anesthetic duties, and she became industrial nurse at the United States Steel Company’s plant at Bessemer, Pa. In 1916 she went to the Suburban General Hospital in Bellevue, Pa. and then, in 1917, took a military leave. She entered the Army Nurse Corps on Aug. 20, 1917. Miss Blanchfield, who never married, concerned herself with the privilege of Army nurses to take a husband. In June, 1944, with the war still on, she reported that over a four-month period an average of 14 nurses each day became wives. At the time the Nurse Corps numbered about 40,000. It was another six months, in January, 1945, that the Navy Nurses Corps permitted nurses in service to marry without resigning. The Navy at the time still barred married nurses. The reason for the reluctant acceptance of the married nurse was the hard fact that nurses who wanted to be married were resigning in large numbers, and the only way to keep them, it seemed, was to permit them to be married. Miss Blanchfield, in service in many countries, China, the Phillipines and Europe in addition to a number of Army installations in the United States, paid tribute to the nurses’ aides, and added: “We have no fears of there being a surplus of nurses after World War II as after World War I.”
1893 – Navy General Order 409 of 25 February 1893 establishes the rank of Chief Petty Officer as of this date.
1917 – In Baltimore some 4,000 pro-war demonstrators stormed a meeting of the American League Against Militarism and threatened to hang the participants that included Stanford Univ. Chancellor David Starr Jordan.
1924 – Adolf Hitler was sentenced to five years in prison for “Beer Hall Putsch.” Gen Ludendorff was acquitted for leading the botched Nazi’s “Beer Hall Putsch” in the German state of Bavaria.
1935 – General Electric Co. announces the first radio tube made of metal. Metal tubes were smaller and lighter than the glass vacuum tubes used in earlier radios and they improved short-wave radio reception. Radio had started to catch on as an entertainment medium in the 1920s, and its popularity grew until the rise of television in the early 1940s.
1941 – US Navy took over Treasure Island in SF Bay.
1942 – First Naval Air Transportation Service (NATS) squadron for Pacific operations commissioned
1942 – The Japanese resume major attack on the Bataan Peninsula. The American and Philippine troops have 24,000 of their men ill due to short rations (1/4 of normal ration size) and tropical diseases.
1943 – The Italian blockade-runner Pietro Orseolo is attacked off the coast of Spain by British Beaufort and Beaufighter torpedo bombers. Escorting German destroyers shoot down 5 of the aircraft. After dark, the US submarine Shad hits the ship with a torpedo, causing substantial damage.
1944 – US aircraft from Task Force 58 (Admiral Spruance) attack Woleai Island. In three days of attacks about 130,000 tons of Japanese shipping has been sunk as well as 7 small warships. American forces have lost 26 planes and claim 150 Japanese airplanes shot down.
1944 – Navigation errors lead to an accidental American bombing of the Swiss city of Schaffhausen.
1944 – US forces occupy Ndrilo and Koniniat in the Admiralties.
1945 – On Okinawa, American forces launch Operation Iceberg, the invasion of Okinawa. Two corps of the US 10th Army (General Buckner) land in the area of Hagushi, in the southwest of the island. US Task Force 51 (Admiral Turner) provides the 1,200 transports and landing ships including seven Coast Guard-manned transports, 29 LSTs, the cutters Bibb and Woodbine, and 12 LCI(L)s, with over 450,000 Army and Marine Corps personnel embarked. The troops landed are from US 3rd Amphibious Corps (Geiger) with US 6th and 1st Marine Divisions, on the left or northern flank, and 24th Corps (Hodge) with US 7th and 96th Infantry Divisions, on the right or southern flank. On land, US forces encounter almost no resistance on the first day and establish a beachhead three miles deep and nine miles wide. (Okinawa is 70 miles long and a maximum of 10 miles wide.) Kadena and Yontan airfields are captured. Japanese forces on the island, consisting of the 130,000 troops of the Japanese 32nd Army (General Ushijima), are entrenched in concealed positions and caves, mostly to the south of the American landing area along the Shuri Line. (There are also 450,000 civilians on the island.) At sea, US TF58 and TF54 as well as the British Pacific Fleet conduct air and naval bombardments. Japanese conventional and Kamikaze air strikes hit the battleship USS West Virginia, and the carrier, HMS Indomitable, along with eight other ships.
1945 – The US 1st and 9th Armies link up at Lippstadt, cutting off the German forces in the Ruhr which consist of 325,000 men mostly from German 15th Army and 5th Panzer Army of German Army Group B (Field Marshal Model). Other elements of US 1st Army capture Paderborn while US 9th Army units take Hamm. To the north, forces of British 2nd Army have crossed the Mitteland Canal near Munster and are advancing to Osnabruck.
1945 – The US 158th Regiment (General MacNider) lands at Legaspi in the southeast of Luzon and takes the town and nearby airfield. Elsewhere on Luzon American forces are beginning to advance toward the southeast of Manila after much hard fighting against the Japanese forces of the Shimbu Group (General Yokoyama). Forces of the Japanese 14th Army (General Yamashita), in the north of the island, have also engaged by American and Filipino forces.
1948 – Soviet troops stop U.S. and British military trains traveling through the Russian zone of occupation in Germany and demand that they be allowed to search the trains. British and U.S. officials refused the Soviet demand, and the problems associated with the Soviet, British, and U.S. occupation of Germany grew steadily more serious in the following months. Soviet and U.S. differences over the post-World War II fate of Germany began even before the war ended in 1945. The Soviets were determined that Germany would never again pose a military threat to Russia and they also demanded huge postwar reparations. The United States shared the Soviet concern about German rearmament, but as the Cold War began to develop, American officials realized that a revitalized Germany might act as a bulwark against possible Soviet expansion into Western Europe. When Germany surrendered in 1945, it was divided into British, American, Russian (and, eventually, French) zones of occupation. Berlin was located within the Russian sector, but the city itself was also divided into occupation zones. As it became clear during 1946 and 1947 that the United States, acting with the British and French, were determined to economically revitalize and militarily rearm Western Germany, tensions with the Soviet Union began to mount. On April 1, 1948, Soviet troops began stopping U.S. and British military trains traveling through the Russian sector to and from Berlin. Both the British and American governments responded with indignant letters of reproach to the Soviet Union. Eventually, the stoppages ceased, but in June 1948 the Soviets began a full-scale blockade of all ground travel to and from the U.S.-British-French sectors of Berlin. Thus began the Berlin Blockade, which was only broken when U.S. aircraft carried out the amazing task of flying and dropping supplies into Berlin. Germany remained a major Cold War battlefield throughout the 1950s and 1960s.
1951 – U.N. forces again crossed the 38th Parallel in Korea.
1952 – Air Force Colonel Francis S. Gabreski, flying his F-86 Sabre “Gabby” out of the 51st Fighter-Interceptor Wing, became the eighth ace of the Korean War and the third ranking U.S. ace of all time. Colonel Gabreski achieved a total of 37.5 aerial victories, including five in Korea. Air Force F-86 Sabres scored their second greatest victory of the war, shooting down 10 MiGs confirmed with two others probable.
1954 – U.S. Air Force Academy was founded in Colorado. President Dwight Eisenhower signed a bill authorizing the establishment of an Air Force Academy, similar to West Point and Annapolis. On July 11, 1955, the first class was sworn in at Lowry Air Force Base. The academy moved to a permanent site near Colorado Springs, Colorado, in 1958.
1960 – The first weather satellite, TIROS 1, was launched from Cape Canaveral, Fla.
1960 – France exploded 2 atom bombs in the Sahara Desert.
1964 – Former Vice-President Richard Nixon begins a three day visit to Vietnam during which he sharply criticizes US policies for “compromises and improvisations,” calling for continued aid and promising to make this an issue in the upcoming US Presidential race.
1965 – 17 non-aligned nations appeal to the UN, the US, Britain, the Soviets, North and South Vietnam and other bodies in a call for a “peaceful solution through negotiations.” President Johnson formally responds on 8 April that the US agrees with the goals, but cannot negotiate until North Vietnam ceases its aggression.
1965 – President Johnson agrees to send more US ground forces to Vietnam and to allow them to take offensive action. Public statements do not mention this change in policy.
1966 – The command, US Naval Forces Vietnam established
1966 – The Vietcong set off a 200 pound bomb at a Saigon hotel housing US troops. The building is heavily damaged. Three US and 4 South Vietnamese troops are killed.
1967 – Helicopter squadron HAL 3 activated at Vung Tau.
1967 – The Coast Guard ended its 177-year association in the Treasury Department to enter the newly-created Department of Transportation when President Lyndon Johnson signed Executive Order 167-81. The Coast Guard was the largest agency in the new department.
1968 – Operation Pegasus/Lam Son 207 begins. A two week joint combined operation between US 1st Air Cavalry, Marines and four ARVN airborne battalions. The goal is to relieve the Marines besieged at Khesan.
1969 – Defense Secretary Melvin Laird announces that B-52 bomber raids in Vietnam will be decreased by 10% as a result in cuts in next year’s defense budget.
1969 – The Vietcong’s Liberation News Agency claims that their offensive has shattered General Creighton Abrams’ strategies following the 1968 Tet Offensive.
1970 – Captain Ernest Medina is formally charged with the murder of Vietnamese civilians by members of his company at Songmy. Medina, speaking to the media reveals that he is accused of the premeditated murder of 175 people and denies participation in any mass killing.
1971 – Vice-President Spiro Agnew refers to war critics as “home-front snipers” accusing anti-war activists of garnering disproportionate coverage, overbalancing, what he sees as the majority view, that US forces in Vietnam have acted patriotically.
1971 – The Poseidon (C-3) missile becomes operational when USS James Madison began her 3rd patrol carrying 16 tactical Poseidon missiles.
1972 – Following three days of the heaviest artillery and rocket bombardment of the war, between 12,000 and 15,000 soldiers of Hanoi’s 304th Division–supported by tanks, artillery, and antiaircraft units equipped with surface-to-air missiles–sweep across the Demilitarized Zone. They routed the South Vietnamese 3rd Division and drove them toward their rear bases. This attack was the opening move of the North Vietnamese Nguyen Hue Offensive (later called the “Easter Offensive”), a massive invasion by North Vietnamese forces designed to strike the blow that would win them the war. The attacking force included 14 infantry divisions and 26 separate regiments, with more than 120,000 troops and approximately 1,200 tanks and other armored vehicles. The main North Vietnamese objectives, in addition to Quang Tri in the north, were Kontum in the Central Highlands, and An Loc farther to the south. North Vietnam had a number of objectives in launching the offensive: impressing the communist world and its own people with its determination; capitalizing on U.S. antiwar sentiment and possibly hurting President Richard Nixon’s chances for re-election; proving that “Vietnamization” was a failure; damaging the South Vietnamese forces and government stability; gaining as much territory as possible before a possible truce; and accelerating negotiations on their own terms. Initially, the South Vietnamese defenders were almost overwhelmed, particularly in the northernmost provinces, where they abandoned their positions in Quang Tri and fled south in the face of the enemy onslaught. At Kontum and An Loc, the South Vietnamese were more successful in defending against the attacks, but only after weeks of bitter fighting. Although the South Vietnamese suffered heavy casualties, they managed to hold their own with the aid of U.S. advisors and American airpower. Fighting continued all over South Vietnam into the summer months, but eventually the South Vietnamese forces prevailed against the invaders and retook Quang Tri in September. With the communist invasion blunted, President Nixon declared that the South Vietnamese victory proved the viability of his Vietnamization program, instituted in 1969 to increase the combat capability of the South Vietnamese armed forces.
1975 – More than half of South Vietnam’s territory is now controlled by the North. Communist forces begin the envelopment of Saigon, comming in from the south, threatening Highway 4, Saigon’s connection ot the Mekong Delta.
1979 – Iran proclaimed to be an Islamic Republic after the fall of the Shah.
1982 – The U.S. transferred the Canal Zone to Panama.
1984 – The CGC Gallatin made the largest maritime cocaine seizure to date when it boarded and seized the 33-foot sailboat Chinook and her crew of two. A boarding team had discovered 1,800 pounds of cocaine stashed aboard the Chinook.
1986 – The U.S. submarine Nathaniel Green ran aground in the Irish Sea.
1992 – Battleship USS Missouri (on which, Japan surrendered) was decommissioned.
1992 – President Bush pledged the United States would help finance a $24 billion international aid fund for the former Soviet Union.
1994 – In Guatemala Judge Gonzalez Dubon was assassinated. He had recently signed an order to extradite to the US former Army Lt. Col. Carlos Ochoa Ruiz on drug trafficking charges.
1995 – U.N. peacekeepers officially took over from the U.S.-led multinational force in Haiti.
1995 – With U.S. Defense Secretary William Perry looking on, Ukraine began the process of dismantling its nuclear missiles.
1996 – In Spokane, Wa., a US Bank branch was robbed and bombed. In 1997 three members of an anti-government militia were convicted for this and another robbery and 3 bombings.
1996 – FBI officials in Jordan, Montana continued to guard a stronghold of Freemen, an anti-government group that does not recognize the legitimacy of US laws.
1999 – The United States branded as an illegal abduction the capture of three U.S. Army soldiers near the Macedonian-Yugoslav border; President Clinton demanded their immediate release.
1999 – Serbia planned to start criminal proceedings against the 3 US soldiers captured on the Macedonian border. Allied planes bombed the Danube bridge at Novi Sad.
2001 – A US Navy EP-3 surveillance plane with 24 aboard collided with a Chinese fighter jet over the South China Sea and was forced to land on China’s Hainan island. The fighter jet crashed. Chinese pilot Wang Wei parachuted out of his F-8 jet but had not been found. Zhao Yu, a 2nd pilot, later blamed the US plane banked and hit Wei’s plane.
2002 – A SF Court of Appeals ordered the US government to pay out millions of dollars in retroactive disability benefits to Vietnam veterans with prostate cancer, who were exposed to Agent Orange.
2002 – Eight Army soldiers and two Air Force pararescuers are killed when an Army MH-47 Special Forces Chinook helicopter crashes in the southern Philippines, in the ocean waters just off the coast of the south-central city of Dumaguete.
2003 – In the 14th day of Operation Iraqi Freedom American soldiers on the road to Baghdad fought bloody street-to-street battles with militants loyal to Saddam Hussein. The US opened the assault on Karbala.
2003 – Pfc. Jessica Lynch (19), part of the 507th Maintenance Company captured on Mar 23, was rescued in a U.S. commando raid on an Iraqi hospital in Nasiriyah. 11 bodies were also recovered and 8 were identified as US personnel. It was later reported that Iraqi troops had already left the hospital. Mohammed Odeh al-Rehaief, a former Iraqi lawyer, disclosed Lynch’s location to US forces and provided detailed information prior to her rescue.
2003 – In Jordan authorities said they had foiled two recent Iraqi terror plots, including one by Iraqi diplomats allegedly planning to contaminate water supplies to Jordanian and US troops on Jordan’s desert border with Iraq.
2004 – Afghanistan and its neighbors agreed to cooperate in stemming the country’s drug exports after donors pledged $8.2 billion in new reconstruction aid.
2009 – Croatia and Albania join NATO.
2009 – A Computer virus called Conficker was spread through millions of computers, getting onto their computers and destroying files, and sharing information. This was supposed to be an April Fools’ Day Joke.
2009 – The United States’ World War II motor ship City of Rayville is located near Australia. The SS City of Rayville was the first American vessel sunk during World War II, and was sunk by a German mine just off Cape Otway, Australia. This field of approximately 100 mines had already claimed the British steamer SS Cambridge, less than 24 hours previously off Wilsons Promontory.
2011 – After protests against the burning of the Quran turn violent, a mob attacks a United Nations compound in Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan, resulting in the deaths of thirteen people, including eight foreign workers.

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