1721 – Roger Sherman, signer of the Declaration of Independence, was born.
1764 – The English Parliament banned the American colonies from printing paper money.
1775 – At about 5 a.m., 700 British troops, on a mission to capture Patriot leaders and seize a Patriot arsenal, march into Lexington to find 77 armed minutemen under Captain John Parker waiting for them on the town’s common green. British Major John Pitcairn ordered the outnumbered Patriots to disperse, and after a moment’s hesitation the Americans began to drift off the green. Suddenly, the “shot heard around the world” was fired from an undetermined gun, and a cloud of musket smoke soon covered the green. When the brief Battle of Lexington ended, eight Americans lay dead or dying and 10 others were wounded. Only one British soldier was injured, but the American Revolution had begun. By 1775, tensions between the American colonies and the British government approached the breaking point, especially in Massachusetts, where Patriot leaders formed a shadow revolutionary government and trained militias to prepare for armed conflict with the British troops occupying Boston. In the spring of 1775, General Thomas Gage, the British governor of Massachusetts, received instructions from England to seize all stores of weapons and gunpowder accessible to the American insurgents. On April 18, he ordered British troops to march against the Patriot arsenal at Concord and capture Patriot leaders Samuel Adams and John Hancock, known to be hiding at Lexington. The Boston Patriots had been preparing for such a military action by the British for some time, and upon learning of the British plan, Patriots Paul Revere and William Dawes were ordered to set out to rouse the militiamen and warn Adams and Hancock. When the British troops arrived at Lexington, Adams, Hancock, and Revere had already fled to Philadelphia, and a group of militiamen were waiting. The Patriots were routed within minutes, but warfare had begun, leading to calls to arms across the Massachusetts countryside. When the British troops reached Concord at about 7 a.m., they found themselves encircled by hundreds of armed Patriots. They managed to destroy the military supplies the Americans had collected but were soon advanced against by a gang of minutemen, who inflicted numerous casualties. Lieutenant Colonel Frances Smith, the overall commander of the British force, ordered his men to return to Boston without directly engaging the Americans. As the British retraced their 16-mile journey, their lines were constantly beset by Patriot marksmen firing at them Indian-style from behind trees, rocks, and stone walls. At Lexington, Captain Parker’s militia had its revenge, killing several British soldiers as the Red Coats hastily marched through his town. By the time the British finally reached the safety of Boston, nearly 300 British soldiers had been killed, wounded, or were missing in action. The Patriots suffered fewer than 100 casualties. The battles of Lexington and Concord were the first battles of the American Revolution, a conflict that would escalate from a colonial uprising into a world war that, seven years later, would give birth to the independent United States of America.
1778 – Marines participated in the USS Ranger’s capturing and sinking of a British schooner off the coast of Ireland.
1782 – Netherlands recognized the United States. John Adams secures the Dutch Republic’s recognition of the United States as an independent government. The house which he had purchased in The Hague, Netherlands becomes the first American embassy.
1783 – George Washington proclaims end of hostilities.1802 – Spain reopened the New Orleans port to American merchants.
1861 – President Lincoln issued proclamation declaring blockade of Southern ports from South Carolina to Texas Of the blockade Admiral David Dixon Potter was to later write: “So efficiently was the block¬ade maintained and so greatly was it strengthened from time to time, that foreign statesmen, who at the beginning of the war, did not hesitate to pronounce the blockade of nearly three thousand miles of coast a moral impossibility, twelve months after its establishment were forced to admit that the proofs of its efficiency were so comprehensive and conclusive that no objections to it could be made.”
1861 – Captain David Glasgow Farragut, though born in the South and with a southern wife, chose to remain loyal to the Union and left his home in Norfolk, Virginia, to take up residence in New York City.
1861 – Residents of Baltimore, Maryland, attack a Union regiment while the group makes its way to Washington, D.C. Baltimore’s hostilities to the North were already well known, as just two percent of the city’s voters cast their ballots for Abraham Lincoln while nearly half supported John Breckinridge, the Southern Democratic Party candidate. Lincoln was to pass through Baltimore on his way to Washington for his inauguration, but death threats forced the president-elect to slip through the city in the middle of the night in disguise. Baltimore was a cauldron of secessionist feeling, and these tensions boiled over on April 18. Pro-Confederate volunteers gathered at Bolton Station to hurl insults and rocks at Pennsylvania troops as they changed trains en route to Washington. Now, on April 19, the 6th Massachusetts regiment disembarked from a train and was met with an even more hostile crowd. Tensions rose as the 11 companies of the 6th arrived. Cobblestones rained down on the soldiers as they prepared to transfer from the President Street Station to Camden Station. Shots were fired, and when the smoke cleared four Massachusetts soldiers lay dead along with 12 Baltimoreans, while 36 troops and an undetermined number of civilians were wounded. Washington was effectively cut off from the North. In the following months, Lincoln suspended the writ of habeas corpus and hundreds of secessionist leaders were rounded up. Within six months, the Union was again in control of Baltimore.
1864 – C.S.S. Albemarle, Commander Cooke, attacked Union warships off Plymouth, North Carolina, at 3:30 in the morning. The heralded and long awaited ram had departed Hamilton on the evening of the 17th. While en route, a portion of the machinery broke down” and “the rudderhead broke off,” but repairs were promptly made; and, despite the navigational hazards of the crooked Roanoke River, Cooke anchored above Plymouth at 10 p.m. on the 18th. Failing to rendezvous with Confederate troops as planned, Cooke dispatched a boat to determine the position of the Union gunboats and shore batteries. Shortly after midnight, 19 April, the party returned and reported that Albemarle could pass over the Union obstructions because of the high stage of the water. Cooke weighed anchor and stood down to engage. Meanwhile, anticipating an attack by the ram, Lieutenant Commander Flusser lashed wooden double-enders U.S.S. Miami and Southfield together for mutual protection and concentration of firepower. As Albemarle appeared, he gallantly headed the two light wooden ships directly at the Southern ram, firing as they approached. Albemarle struck Southfield, Acting Lieutenant Charles A. French, a devastating blow with her ram. It was reported that she “tore a hole clear through to the boiler” and Cooke stated that his ship plunged ten feet into the side of the wooden gunboat. Though backing immediately after the impact, Albemarle could not at once wrench herself free from the sinking Southfield and thus could not reply effectively to the fire poured into her by Miami. At last her prow was freed as Southfield sank, and Cooke forced Flusser’s ship to withdraw under a heavy cannonade. Small steamer U.S.S. Ceres and 105-ton tinclad Whitehead moved downriver also. The shot of the Union ships had been ineffective against the heavily plated, sloping sides of the ram. Early in the engagement, Lieutenant Commander Flusser had been killed. Albemarle now controlled the water approaches to Plymouth and rendered invaluable support to Confederate army moves ashore giving the South a taste of the priceless advantage Union armies enjoyed in all theaters throughout the war.
1865 – Lieutenant W. H. Parker, commanding naval escort entrusted with the Confederate archives, treasury, and President Davis’ wife, successfully evaded Federal patrols en route southward from Charlotte and arrived at Washington, Georgia, on the 17th. Parker, still without orders as to the disposition of his precious trust and unable to learn of the whereabouts of President Davis and his party (including Secretary Mallory), decided to push on through to Augusta, Georgia, where he hoped to find ranking civilian and military officials. The escort commander recorded: “We left the ladies behind at the tavern in Washington for we expected now a fight at any time.” The escort again, however, managed to elude Federal patrols and arrived without incident at Augusta where Parker placed his entrusted cargo in bank vaults and posted a guard around the building. Having learned upon arrival that armistice negotiations between Generals Sherman and Johnston were in progress, the escort commander decided to remain in the city and await the outcome of the conference.
1865 – U.S.S. Lexington, Acting Lieutenant William Flye, conveyed Colonel John T. Sprague, Chief of Staff to General John Pope, from Cairo and up the Red River to meet Confederate General Kirby Smith. At the ensuing conference, Smith was given the terms under which the surrender of his forces would be accepted.
1892 – Charles Duryea drives the first automobile in the United States, in Springfield, Massachusetts. Charles engineered the car and his brother Frank built it. The Duryea’s “motor wagon” was a used horse drawn buggy that the brothers had purchased for $70 and into which they had installed a 4 HP, single cylinder gasoline engine. The car (buggy) had a friction transmission, spray carburetor and low tension ignition.
1898 – Congress passed a resolution recognizing Cuban independence and demanding that Spain relinquish authority over Cuba. President McKinley was also authorized to use military force to put the resolution into effect.
1915 – Aviation engineers working for Dutch-born Anthony Fokker develop the mechanical interrupter gear, which allows machine gun bullets to be fired through rotating aircraft propeller blades.
1919 – Leslie Irvin of the United States makes the first successful voluntary free-fall parachute jump using a new kind of self-contained parachute. Irvin was born in Los Angeles. He became a stunt-man for the fledgling Californian film industry, for which he had to perform acrobatics on trapezes from balloons and then make descents using a parachute, the Type-A. Irvin made his first jump when aged fourteen. For a film called Sky High, he first jumped from an aircraft from 1,000 feet in 1914. He developed his own static line parachute as a life-saving device in 1918 and jumped with it several times. He joined the Army Air Service’s parachute research team, and at McCook Field near Dayton, Ohio. After World War I, Major E. L. Hoffman of the Army Air Service led an effort to develop an improved parachute for exiting airplanes by bringing together the best elements of multiple parachute designs. Participants included Irvin and James Floyd Smith. The team eventually created the Airplane Parachute Type-A.
1933 – The United States went off the gold standard by presidential proclamation. FDR tied this with orders that 445,000 newly minted gold $20 “Double Eagle” coins be destroyed. Ten coins escaped and one was scheduled for auction in 2002. The coin fetched $7.59 million.
1938 – General Francisco Franco declared victory in the Spanish Civil War.
1938 – RCA-NBC launches its first regular TV broadcasts. The programs, broadcast from the Empire State Building, were an experiment and aired only five hours a week. Very few TV sets existed at the time to receive the programs.
1939 – Connecticut finally approved Bill of Rights.
1942 – In Burma, General Alexander confers with his field commanders (British Brigadier General Slim and American Lieutenant General Stilwell). Meanwhile, the Japanese strike at the weak and poorly led Chinese 55th Division, which the Japanese find idly sitting in its bivouacs. The Chinese are attacked from three directions at once and the division disintegrates. Soldiers flee into the hills. The 93rd Chinese Division moves in to help, sees the chaos, and retreats without fighting.
1942 – On Bataan, Japanese resources are overwhelmed by thousands of American and Filipino prisoners who assemble in the town of Balanga.
1944 – The British Eastern Fleet in the Indian Ocean (Admiral Somerville) is reinforced with the USS Saratoga. The carrier aircraft attack Japanese positions at Sabang and nearby airfields. One plane is lost and 27 Japanese planes are claimed to have been shot down.
1944 – The House of Representatives approves an extension of Lend-Lease legislation.
1945 – US aircraft carrier Franklin was heavily damaged in Japanese air raid.
1945 – In the advance by US 1st Corps units, on the northwest coast of Luzon, Vigan is taken.
1945 – On Okinawa, the US 24th Corps now has three divisions in the line and all three begin attacks after a heavy ground and air bombardment. The heaviest efforts are on coastal flanks.
1945 – The US 1st Army captures Leipzig. The British 2nd Army reaches the Elbe south of Namburg.
1951 – Gen. Douglas MacArthur, relieved of his command by President Truman, bid farewell to Congress.
“I am closing my 52 years of military service. When I joined the Army, even before the turn of the century, it was the fulfillment of all of my boyish hopes and dreams. The world has turned over many times since I took the oath on the plain at West Point, and the hopes and dreams have long since vanished, but I still remember the refrain of one of the most popular barrack ballads of that day which proclaimed most proudly that ‘old soldiers never die; they just fade away.’
“And like the old soldier of that ballad, I now close my military career and just fade away, an old soldier who tried to do his duty as God gave him the light to see that duty.
1951 – I and IX Corps reached the Utah Line, south of the Iron Triangle.
1952 – The U.N. delegation informed the communists that only 70,000 of 132,000 of the prisoners of war held by the United Nations Command were willing to return home.
1964 – Several Laotian generals attempt a coup, but with the support of the US Ambassador, Souvanna Phouma regains control of the coalition government. The Pathet Lao reject the coalition and go on the offensive.
1965 – US military and civilian leaders, including Secretary of Defense McNamara, and JCS Chairman Earle Wheeler, meet at Honolulu with General Westmoreland and Ambassador Taylor. They agree to more than double the US military force (from 40,200 to 82,000) and to bring the forces of Australia and South Korea up to 7250 men. Taylor initially opposes the increase, but he is outvoted and apparently won over.
1965 – An article in Electronics magazine by Gordon Moore, later Intel Chairman, noted that chips seem to double in power every 18 months. Thus was born Moore’s Law. Moore later asserted that his claim was that the number of components that can be packed on a computer chip doubles every 2 years. Articles often misquote Moore and claim an annual doubling. In 2005 Intel offered $10,000 for a pristine copy of the magazine.
1967 – The US proposes widening the currently 6-mile wide DMZ by an additional 10 miles on each side with troops on both sides withdrawn behind the wider buffer. North Vietnam rejects the proposal as it does not include their primary condition for peace talks–an end to air attacks on North Vietnam.
1968 – Operation Delaware/Lam Son 216 through the Ashau Valley begins and will run for nearly a month. The 1st Cavalry Division commander describes the Valley as a ‘top logistical support base” for the NVA, ‘as important to him as Camranh bay is to us.’ The intent is to prevent a new attack on Hue.
1969 – The US turns over the first 20 of 60 jet fighter-bombers to the South Vietnamese Air Force.
1972 – US 7th Fleet warships, while bombarding the North Vietnamese coast, are attacked by MiGs and patrol boats as Hanoi begins to challenge US naval presence in The Tonkin Gulf for the first time since 1964. The destroyer USS Higbee is badly damaged.
1973 – Representative Elizabeth Holtzman (D-NY) and four Air Force officers file suit in Federal Distric Court to halt the ‘secret American bombing of Cambodia.’
1977 – Alex Haley, former historian of the US Coast Guard, received a special Pulitzer Prize for his book “Roots.”
1982 – Astronauts Sally K. Ride and Guion S. Bluford Jr. became the first woman and first African-American to be tapped by NASA for U.S. space missions.
1987 – Maxwell D. Taylor (85), US commander 101st airborne (WW II), died.
1989 – The battleship USS Iowa’s number 2 turret exploded while on maneuvers northeast of Puerto Rico. 47 sailors were killed and a $4 million investigation was launched .The Navy attempted to lay the blame on Clayton Hartwig, a seaman described disappointed in a gay affair.
1990 – Nicaragua’s nine-year-old civil war appeared near an end as Contra guerrillas, leftist Sandinistas and the incoming government agreed to a truce and a deadline for the rebels to disarm.
1993 – At Mount Carmel in Waco, Texas, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) launches a tear-gas assault on the Branch Davidian compound, ending a tense 51-day standoff between the federal government and an armed religious cult. By the end of the day, the compound was burned to the ground, and some 80 Branch Davidians, including 22 children, had perished in the inferno. On February 28, 1993, agents of the U.S. Treasury Department’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) launched a raid against the Branch Davidian compound as part of an investigation into illegal possession of firearms and explosives by the Christian cult. As the agents attempted to penetrate the complex, gunfire erupted, beginning an extended gun battle that left four ATF agents dead and 15 wounded. Six Branch Davidians were fatally wounded, and several more were injured, including David Koresh, the cult’s founder and leader. After 45 minutes of shooting, the ATF agents withdrew, and a cease-fire was negotiated over the telephone. The operation, which involved more than 100 ATF agents, was one of the largest ever mounted by the bureau and resulted in the highest casualties of any ATF operation. David Koresh was born Vernon Wayne Howell in Houston, Texas, in 1959. In 1981, he joined the Branch Davidians, a sect of the Seventh Day Adventist Church founded in 1934 by a Bulgarian immigrant named Victor Houteff. Koresh, who possessed an exhaustive knowledge of the Bible, rapidly rose in the hierarchy of the small religious community, eventually entering into a power struggle with the Davidians’ leader, George Roden. For a short time, Koresh retreated with his followers to eastern Texas, but in late 1987 he returned to Mount Carmel with seven armed followers and raided the compound, severely wounding Roden. Koresh went on trial for attempted murder, but the charge was dropped after his case was declared a mistrial. By 1990, he was the leader of the Branch Davidians and legally changed his name to David Koresh, with David representing his status as head of the biblical House of David, and Koresh a transliteration of the Hebrew name for Cyrus, the Persian king who allowed the Jews held captive in Babylon to return to Israel. Koresh took several wives at Mount Carmel and fathered at least 12 children from these women.. There is also evidence that Koresh may have harshly disciplined some of the 100 or so Branch Davidians living inside the compound, particularly his children. A central aspect of Koresh’s religious teachings was his assertion that the apocalyptic events predicted in the Bible’s book of Revelation were imminent, making it necessary, he asserted, for the Davidians to stockpile weapons and explosives in preparation. Following the unsuccessful ATF raid, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) took over the situation. A standoff with the Branch Davidians stretched into seven weeks, and little progress was made in the telephone negotiations, as the Davidians had stockpiled years of food and other necessities before the raid. On April 18, U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno approved a tear-gas assault on the compound, and at approximately 6:00 a.m. on April 19 the Branch Davidians were informed of the imminent attack and asked to surrender, which they refused to do. A few minutes later, two armored engineering vehicles began inserting gas into the building and were joined by Bradleys, which fired tear-gas canisters through the compound’s windows. The Branch Davidians, many with gas masks on, refused to evacuate, and by 11:40 a.m. the last of some 100 tear-gas canisters was fired into the compound. Just after noon, a fire erupted at one or more locations on the compound, and minutes later nine Davidians fled the rapidly spreading blaze. Gunfire was reported but ceased as the compound was completely engulfed by the flames. Koresh and at least 80 of his followers, including 22 children, died during the federal government’s second disastrous assault on Mount Carmel. The FBI and the Justice Department maintained there was conclusive evidence that the Branch Davidian members ignited the fire, citing an eyewitness account and various forensic data. Of the gunfire reported during the fire, the government argued that the Davidians were either killing each other as part of a suicide pact or were killing dissenters who attempted to escape the Koresh-ordered suicide by fire. Most of the surviving Branch Davidians contested this official position, as do some critics in the press and elsewhere, whose charges against the ATF and FBI’s handling of the Waco standoff ranged from incompetence to premeditated murder. In 1999, the FBI admitted they used tear-gas grenades in the assault, which have been known to cause fires because of their incendiary properties.
1995 – A massive explosion at the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, kills 168 people and injures hundreds more. The bomb, contained in a Ryder truck parked outside the front of the building, went off at 9:02 a.m. as people were preparing for the workday. Among the victims of America’s worst incident of domestic terrorism were 19 children who were in the daycare center on the first floor of the building. A little over an hour after the explosion, Oklahoma state trooper Charles Hangar pulled over a car without license plates in the town of Perry. Noticing a bulge in the driver’s jacket, Hangar arrested the driver, Timothy McVeigh, and confiscated his concealed gun. McVeigh was held in jail for gun and traffic violations. Meanwhile, a sketch of the man who was seen driving the Ryder truck in Oklahoma City was distributed across the country. On April 21, Hangar saw the sketch and managed to stop McVeigh’s impending release. When investigators looked into McVeigh’s background, they quickly learned that he had ties to militant right-wing groups and was particularly incensed by the Branch Davidian incident in Waco, Texas. The Oklahoma City bomb exploded exactly two years after David Koresh and his followers were killed in the federal government’s raid of the cult compound. Soon, three friends of McVeigh-Terry and James Nichols, and Michael Fortier-were also arrested for their involvement in the bombing. McVeigh and Terry Nichols had gone through basic training together after joining the Army on the same day in 1988. Although Nichols was discharged in 1989, McVeigh had served in Operation Desert Storm before quitting the Army when he was rejected for the Special Forces course. Acquaintances of McVeigh knew that he was obsessed with a book called The Turner Diaries, a fictional account of a race war caused by right-wing extremists in the United States. The book begins with the bombing of the FBI headquarters. McVeigh also told his sister Jennifer that he planned on doing “something big” in April 1995. With Nichols and Fortier’s assistance, McVeigh assembled a bomb that contained nearly 5,000 pounds of ammonium nitrate and racing fuel. After Fortier testified against his former friend, McVeigh was convicted in June 1997. The jury imposed a death sentence. Terry Nichols was convicted of being an accessory to the mass murder, and he received a life sentence. On June 11, 2001, McVeigh was put to death by lethal injection at the federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana, the first federal death penalty to be carried out since 1963.
1995 – Coast Guardsmen from the Coast Guard Institute and a Coast Guard reservist respond to the Alfred P. Murrah bomb scene soon after the explosion and helped set up security zones, directed traffic, searched for survivors, and whatever else was needed. They also took over a church kitchen and opened what later became nicknamed “Cafe Coast Guard.” A rotating 9-person team worked around the clock to provide meals to the volunteer workers.
1999 – In Hallac, Kosovo, 20 Albanian men were killed by Serb paramilitaries. 11 were shot in a vacant lot and 9 were killed in their homes. They were buried in a mass grave and later reburied individually just before NATO forces moved into Kosovo.
1999 – In Puerto Rico two US Marine jets in training dropped bombs over the island of Vieques and missed their targets. One civilian, David Sanes Rodriguez, was killed and 4 people were injured.
1999 – Yugoslav authorities shut down the Morini border crossing to Albania. NATO bombing continued and a Serb government headquarters building in Novi Sad was badly damaged. An estimated 500,000 to 850,000 ethnic Albanians remained were still inside Kosovo.
2001 – US and Chinese negotiators failed to reach any agreement over the US spy plane. The Chinese showed video images from flights last year and the US presented a written proposal for the return of the plane.
2001 – The space shuttle Endeavour went into orbit with 7 astronauts on an 11-day mission to install a billion-dollar robot arm on the Int’l. Space Station.
2001 – A US cargo ship departed from Jacksonville, Fla., for Cuba, the 1st scheduled ship in 40 years. 2 days later the ship failed to dock in Cuba.
2002 – US and British planes bombed Iraqi air defense systems in response to anti-aircraft fire.
2002 – The space shuttle Atlantis returned to Earth after installing the first girder in what eventually will be a giant framework at the international space station.2003 – US forces captured Abd al-Khaliq Abd al-Ghafar (4 of hearts), Saddam’s scientific research minister.
2003 – A Pakistani helicopter flying over tribal areas in southern Pakistan came under fire from the ground, injuring three US officials and four Pakistani army personnel.
2004 – In Iraq US officials and local leaders in Fallujah agreed to a number of measures to reduce tensions.
2008 – Muqtada al-Sadr threatens a new rebellion if a United States-Iraqi crackdown against his followers continues.
2009 – United States President Barack Obama announces that Central Intelligence Agency personnel who employed enhanced interrogation techniques on terrorism suspects will not be prosecuted.
2011 – U.S. serviceman PFC Bradley Manning, pending cort martial for the release of reams of classified documents to the Wikileaks website, is moved by officials from the Marine stockade at Quanitco to a military prison in Kansas.
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