This Day in U.S. Military History…… April 2

2 April
1513 – Near present-day St. Augustine, Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon comes ashore on the Florida coast, and claims the territory for the Spanish crown. Although other European navigators may have sighted the Florida peninsula before, Ponce de Leon is credited with the first recorded landing and the first detailed exploration of the Florida coast. The Spanish explorer was searching for the “Fountain of Youth,” a fabled water source that was said to bring eternal youth. Ponce de Leon named the peninsula he believed to be an island “La Florida” because his discovery came during the time of the Easter feast, or Pascua Florida. In 1521, he returned to Florida in an effort to establish a Spanish colony on the island. However, hostile Native Americans attacked his expedition soon after landing, and the party retreated to Cuba, where Ponce de Leon died from a mortal wound suffered during the battle. Successful Spanish colonization of the peninsula finally began at St. Augustine in 1565, and in 1819 the territory passed into U.S. control under the terms of the Florida Purchase Treaty between Spain and the United States.
1781 – Frigate Alliance captures 2 British privateers, Mars and Minerva.
1792 – Congress passed the Coinage Act, which authorized establishment of the U.S. Mint. It established the US dollar defined in fixed weights of gold and silver. State chartered banks issued paper money convertible to gold or silver coins to ease business transactions. U.S. authorized $10 Eagle, $5 half-Eagle & 2.50 quarter-Eagle gold coins & silver dollar, dollar, quarter, dime & half-dime. A dollar was defined as 371 4/16 grain (24.1 g) pure or 416 grain (27.0 g) standard silver. That quantity of silver at the end of 2014 was valued at about $16.
1814 – Henry Lewis “Old Rock” Benning, Brig General in Confederate Army, was born.
1827 – First Naval Hospital construction begun at Portsmouth, VA.
1863 – In Richmond, Va., a large crowd of hungry women from one of Richmond’s working-class neighborhoods demanded bread from Governor John Letcher. When the governor did not respond favorably to the rioters’ demands, the women marched down Main Street, shouting “Bread” as they made their way to the commissary, where they smashed store windows and grabbed food and anything else they could get their hands on. Not until the mob faced President Davis and his troops did the rampage end. Varina Howell Davis wrote an account of the riots after her husbands death in 1889.
1865 – Confederate President Davis and most of his Cabinet fled the Confederate capital of Richmond, Va. Grant broke Lee’s line at Petersburg. President Jefferson Davis moved his government headquarters to Danville, Va., when its previous capital, Richmond, became engulfed in flames. Though it would have been safer to secure a location further south, Danville was naturally protected by the Dan and Staunton rivers, and it was in close proximity to Gen. Robert E. Lee’s army to the north and Gen. Joseph E. Johnston’s army to the south. The Piedmont Railroad connected Danville and Greensboro, N.C. and offered easy access to supplies.
1865 – Confederate Secretary of the Navy Mallory ordered the destruction of the James River Squadron and directed its officers and men to join General Lee’s troops then in the process of evacuating Richmond and retreating westward toward Danville.
1865 – US Maj Gen James H Wilson’s cavalry captures Selma, AL.
1865 – After a ten-month siege, Union forces under Ulysses S. Grant capture the trenches around Petersburg, Virginia, and Confederate General Robert E. Lee leads his troops on a desperate retreat westward. The ragged Confederate troops could no longer maintain the 40-mile network of defenses that ran from southwest of Petersburg to north of Richmond, the Rebel capital 25 miles north of Petersburg. Through the winter, desertion and attrition melted Lee’s army down to less than 60,000, while Grant’s army swelled to over 120,000. Grant attacked Five Forks southwest of Petersburg on April 1, scoring a huge victory that cut Lee’s supply line and inflicted 5,000 casualties. The next day, Lee wrote to Confederate President Jefferson Davis, “I think it absolutely necessary that we should abandon our position tonight…” Grant’s men attacked all along the Petersburg front. In the predawn hours, hundreds of Federal cannon roared to life as the Yankees bombarded the Rebel fortifications. Said one soldier, “the shells screamed through the air in a semi-circle of flame.” At 5:00 in the morning, Union troops silently crawled toward the Confederates, shrouded in darkness. Confederate pickets alerted the troops, and the Yankees were raked by heavy fire, but the determined troops poured forth and began overrunning the trenches. Four thousand Union troops were killed or wounded, but a northern officer wrote, “It was a great relief, a positive lifting of a load of misery to be at last let at them.” Confederate General Ambrose Powell Hill, a corps commander in the Army of Northern Virginia and one of Lee’s most trusted lieutenants, rode to the front to rally his men. As he approached some trees with his aide, two Union soldiers emerged and fired, killing Hill instantly. Hill had survived four years of war and dozens of battles only to die during the final days of the Confederacy. When Lee received the news, he quietly said “He is at rest now, and we who are left are the ones to suffer.” By nightfall, President Davis and the Confederate government were in flight and Richmond was on fire. Retreating Rebel troops set ablaze several huge warehouses to prevent them from being captured by the Federals and the fires soon spread. With the army and government officials gone, bands of thugs roamed the streets looting what was left.
1866 – U.S. President Andrew Johnson declares war to be over.
1877 – The 1st Easter egg roll was held on White House lawn. President Rutherford B. Hayes and his wife Lucy made it an official event the following year. The egg roll has been held every year since except during the war years of WWI and WWII until 1953 when Ike made the egg roll tradition again.
1898 – Adoption of U.S. Naval Academy coat of arms.
1900 – The United States Congress passes the Foraker Act, giving Puerto Rico limited self-rule.
1917 – President Woodrow Wilson addresses Congress concerning the country’s deteriorating relationship with Germany. Wilson states, “I advise that the Congress declares the recent course of the Imperial German government to be in fact nothing less than war against the government and people of the United States…[and] to exert all its power and employ all its resources to bring the government of the German Empire to terms and to end the war.”
1924 – Congress appropriated ($13,000,000) to the Cutter Revenue Service for ten air stations and equipment. Congress first authorized the stations on 29 August 1916 but did not provide for sufficient funding until this date.
1935 – Sir Watson-Watt patented RADAR.
1941 – USS Hornet with Jimmy Doolittle’s B-25s departed from San Francisco.
1941 – Roosevelt orders the transfer of 10 coastguard cutters to the Royal Navy. These are very useful vessels for escort work, having a long range and good sea keeping qualities. They will be in Royal Navy service by June.
1942 – Glenn Miller and his orchestra recorded “American Patrol” at the RCA Victor studios in Hollywood.
1942 – US bombers from India attack Japanese shipping in the Andaman Islands.
1943 – American aircraft conduct 8 raids on Kiska and one on Attut in the Aleutians.
1944 – The 22nd Marine Regiment secured Majit Island in the Marshall Islands.
1944 – Merrill’s Marauders heavily engaged at Nhpum Ga, Burma.
1945 – On Okinawa, forces of the US 10th Army easily advance across the island to the east coast and make some progress to the north and south. At sea, in addition to the bombardment and air support missions performed by the US naval forces, there are attacks by the British carriers on Skashima Gunto Island. In Japanese Kamikaze attacks four US transports are badly damaged with many casualties among the troops aboard.
1945 – Part of the US 163rd Regiment is landed on Tawitawi, in the Philippines Sulu Archipelago.
1947 – UN places former Japanese mandated islands under U.S. trusteeship
1951 – First Navy use of jet aircraft as a bomber, launched from a carrier, USS Princeton.
1951 – Far East Air Force flew 1,245 sorties in the third highest daily total in the war.
1958 – National Advisory Council on Aeronautics was renamed NASA.
1967 – Per a new South Veitnamese conswtitution elections are held in 948 villages, som 5 million people, for local People’s Councils.
1976 – US officials express concerns that the North Vietmese may be brainwashing US prisoners of war in order to elicit propaganda statements from them.
1968 – Public criticism of continuing heavy air strikes in North Vietnam prompts the administration to explain that such attacks are limited north of the 20th parallel. This area contians 90 percent of the population and 75% of it’s territory.
1969 – A SOuth Vietnamese spokesperson announes that the Vetcong have assassinated 201 civilins in teh last week of March, bringing the total for the quarter of 1969 to 1,955.
1972 – Soldiers of Hanoi’s 304th Division, supported by Soviet-made tanks and heavy artillery, take the northern half of the Quang Tri province. This left only Quang Tri City (the combat base on the outskirts of the city) and Dong Ha in South Vietnamese hands. South Vietnam’s 3rd Division commander Brig. Gen. Vu Van Giai moved his staff out of the Quang Tri combat base to the citadel at Quang Tri City, the apparent North Vietnamese objective. 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. 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.
1973 – ITT pleaded guilty to asking CIA to “influence” Chilean presidential elections.
1973 – Presidents Nixon and Thieu end a two day visti with a an expression of “full consensus” and a US promise of continuing economic aid. Thieu says he wil never ask ht e US to send troops back to Vetnam.
1975 – As North Vietnamese tanks and infantry continue to push the remnants of South Vietnam’s 22nd Division and waves of civilian refugees from the Quang Ngai Province, the South Vietnamese Navy begins to evacuate soldiers and civilians by sea from Qui Nhon. Shortly thereafter, the South Vietnamese abandoned Tuy Hoa and Nha Trang, leaving the North Vietnamese in control of more than half of South Vietnam’s territory. During the first week in April, communist forces attacking from the south pushed into Long An Province, just south of Saigon, threatening to cut Highway 4, Saigon’s main link with the Mekong Delta, which would have precluded reinforcements from being moved north to assist in the coming battle for Saigon. This action was part of the North Vietnamese general offensive launched in late January 1975, just two years after the cease-fire had been established by the Paris Peace Accords. The initial objective of this campaign was the capture of Ban Me Thuot in the Central Highlands. The battle began on March 4 with the North Vietnamese quickly encircling the city. As it became clear that the communists would take the city and probably the entire Darlac province, South Vietnamese president Thieu decided to protect the more critical populous areas. He ordered his forces in the Central Highlands to pull back from their positions. Abandoning Pleiku and Kontum, the South Vietnamese forces began to move toward the sea, but what started out as an orderly withdrawal soon turned into panic. The South Vietnamese forces rapidly fell apart. The North Vietnamese pressed the attack and were quickly successful in both the Central Highlands and farther north at Quang Tri, Hue and Da Nang. The South Vietnamese soon collapsed as a cogent fighting force and the North Vietnamese continued the attack all the way to Saigon. The South Vietnamese surrendered unconditionally on April 30.
1978 – Velcro was 1st put on the market.
1980 – Terrorists holding Dominican embassy in Bogota release five hostages, four waiters and a doctor; U.S. ambassador and other diplomats still held captive.
1982 – The newest addition to the Coast Guard’s air fleet, the HU-25A Guardian, was dedicated and christened at Aviation Training Center Mobile.
1983 – The State Department forwards a request for assistance from the United Arab Emirates to help prepare for an oil spill cleanup in the Persian Gulf. The spill occurred after combat operations during the Iran/Iraq war left many oil wells burning and leaking oil. Four Coast Guard pollution experts respond to the request.
1986 – Four American passengers were killed when a bomb exploded aboard a TWA jetliner en route from Rome to Athens, Greece.
1989 – General Prosper Avril, Haiti’s military leader, survived a coup attempt. The attempt was apparently provoked by Avril’s U.S.-backed efforts to fight drug trafficking.
1991 – Iraqi state media reported that only a few more days were needed to stamp out fighting with Kurdish rebels, who reported renewed skirmishes around the strategic oil center of Kirkuk.
1992 – The space shuttle Atlantis returned from a nine-day mission.
1997 – An Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt jet with four 500- pound bombs was lost over the Colorado Rockies. It was piloted by Capt. Craig Button (32). Wreckage of the plane was found Apr 20 on the sheer face of New York Mountain [Gold Dust Peak], 15 miles from Vail. It was later suspected that he committed suicide due to a possible revelation of homosexuality. A 1998 official report cited unrequited love for a former girlfriend and his mother’s Christian pacifist faith.
1998 – In Columbia Thomas Fiore (43), one of the hostages captured Mar 27, escaped captivity by the FARC rebel group.
1999 – Allied forces conduct air strikes on Basra, in southern Iraq. The attacks strike a communications facility and a radio relay station, which is used, in part, as one of three relay stations controlling the flow of crude oil from Iraq’s southern oil fields to the port of Mina al-Bakr.
1999 – Sec. of Energy Bill Richardson ordered the computer systems at Los Alamos laboratory to be shut down due to security leaks.
2001 – Pres. Bush demanded that the Chinese release the US Navy crew and spy plane that had made an emergency landing on China’s Hainan Island after colliding with a Chinese fighter.
2003 – In the 15th day of Operation Iraqi Freedom American forces crossed the Tigris River in the drive toward the Iraqi capital and destroyed the Baghdad Division of Iraq’s Republican Guard. Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, supported the war plan along with Defense Sec. Donald Rumsfeld against criticism. US Marines took Numaniya, a city of 80,000.
2003 – A Navy F/A-18C Hornet after his fighter jet went down during a bombing run over Karbala. 7 US Army soldiers were killed when their Black Hawk helicopter was shot down.
2003 – Polish troops fighting with the US-led coalition in Iraq reported encountering many Iraqi combatants in civilian clothes.
2003 – PFC Jessica Lynch is rescued from the Hussein Hospital in Nasiryah where she has been held since 23 March. This is the first POW rescue by the US military since WWII.
2004 – Washington announced plans to fingerprint and photograph millions of travelers to the United States. The measure, which will take effect by Sept. 30, affected citizens in 27 countries who had been allowed to travel within the US without a visa for up to 90 days.
2004 – The Pentagon said it released 15 people held as terrorism suspects at a U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, reducing the number confined there to 595.
2004 – In Brussels an official ceremony welcomed Bulgaria, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia into the NATO alliance.
2005 – The Battle of Abu Ghraib was an attack on United States forces at Abu Ghraib prison, which consisted of heavy mortar and rocket fire, under which armed insurgents attacked with grenades, small arms, and two vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (VBIED). The U.S. Military’s munitions ran so low that orders to fix bayonets were given in preparation for hand-to-hand fighting. An estimated 80–120 armed insurgents launched a massive coordinated assault on the U.S. military facility and internment camp at Abu Ghraib, Iraq. It was considered to be the largest coordinated assault on a US base since the Vietnam War.
2006 – After about three months captivity as a hostage in Iraq, Jill Carroll, an American former journalist (now working as a firefighter), returns to American soil in Boston, Massachusetts. Carroll was a reporter for the Christian Science Monitor at the time of her kidnapping. After finishing a fellowship at Harvard University’s Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy she returned to work for the Monitor. After her release, Carroll wrote a series of articles on her recollection of her experiences in Iraq.
2009 – United States Federal Judge John D. Bates rules that enemy combatants incarcerated at the U.S. Air Base in Bagram, Afghanistan, have rights to legal trials.
2014 – A spree shooting occurs at the Fort Hood Army Base near the town of Killeen, Texas, with four people dead, including the gunman, and 16 others sustaining injuries. The shooter, 34-year-old, Army Specialist Ivan Lopez, died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

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