This Day in U.S. Military History…… April 23

23 April
Feast Day of St. George, Patron Saint of Armor and Cavalry: The story and history of Saint George. Saint George was born in Cappadocia, at the close of the third century, of Christian parents. In early youth he chose a soldier’s life, and soon obtained the favor of Diocletian, who advanced him to the grade of tribune. When, however, the emperor began to persecute the Christians, George rebuked him at once sternly and openly for his cruelty, and threw up his commission. He was in consequence subjected to a lengthened series of torments, and finally beheaded. There was something so inspiriting in the defiant cheerfulness of the young soldier, that every Christian felt a personal share in this triumph of Christian fortitude; and as years rolled on St. George became a type of successful combat against evil, the slayer of the dragon, the darling theme of camp song and story, until “so thick a shade his very glory round him made” that his real lineaments became hard to trace. Even beyond the circle of Christendom he was held in honor, and invading Saracens taught themselves to except from desecration the image of him they hailed as the “White-horsed Knight.” The devotion to St. George is one of the most ancient and widely spread in the Church. In the East, a church of St. George is ascribed to Constantine, and his name is invoked in the most ancient liturgies; whilst in the West, Malta, Barcelona, Valencia, Arragon, Genoa, and England have chosen him as their patron.
1662 – Connecticut was chartered as an English colony.
1778 – US Captain John Paul Jones attempted to kidnap the Earl of Selkirk, but he only got Lady Selkirk’s silverware.
1789 – President-elect Washington and his wife moved into the first executive mansion, the Franklin House, in New York. George Washington was inaugurated at Federal Hall and lived at 3 Cherry Street in New York City. In 1790, with construction on the new federal capital underway, the government was moved temporarily to Philadelphia, where Washington served out his two terms. He is the only president who never resided in the White House.
1790 – Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton asked Congress for authorization to build a “system of [10] cutters” for “securing the collection of the revenue.” Congress approved his request on 4 August 1790. The President was authorized to appoint collectors of customs and establish ports of entry.
1791 – James Buchanan, was born in Franklin County, Pa. He was the fifteenth U.S. president (1857-1861) and the only president not to marry.
1860 – The Pony Express rider missed the boat at Benicia, Ca. Thomas Bedford, a 34-year-old stable keeper, was hired on the spot and boarded the ferry Carquinez with his horse. His discovered that his horse had lost a shoe and borrowed a horse from Martinez blacksmith Casemoro Briones and delivered the mail to the ferry at Oakland. The mail reached SF 9 hours and 15 minutes from the time it left Sacramento.
1861 – Arkansas troops seized Fort Smith.
1861 – Battle of San Antonio, TX.
1864 – Battle of Cane River, LA (Red River Expedition, Monett’s Ferry).
1865 – Union cavalry units continued to skirmish with Confederate forces in Henderson, North Carolina and Munsford Station, Alabama.
1865 – Confederate President Jefferson Davis writes to his wife, Varina, of the desperate situating facing the Confederates. “Panic has seized the country,” he wrote to his wife in Georgia. Davis was in Charlotte, North Carolina, on his flight away from Yankee troops. It was three weeks since Davis had fled the Confederate capital of Richmond, Virginia, as Union troops were overrunning the trenches nearby. Davis and his government headed west to Danville, Virginia, in hopes of reestablishing offices there. When General Robert E. Lee was forced to surrender his army at Appomattox Court House on April 9, Davis and his officials traveled south in hopes of connecting with the last major Confederate army, the force of General Joseph Johnston. Johnston, then in North Carolina, was himself in dire straits, as General William T. Sherman’s massive force was bearing down. Davis continued to his wife, “The issue is one which it is very painful for me to meet. On one hand is the long night of oppression which will follow the return of our people to the ‘Union’; on the other, the suffering of the women and children, and carnage among the few brave patriots who would still oppose the invader.” The Davis’ were reunited a few days later as the president continued to flee and continue the fight. Two weeks later, Union troops finally captured the Confederate president in northern Georgia.
1908 – Congress passed legislation that created the Medical Reserve Corps, the Army’s first federal reserve force. From this pool of trained medical professionals, the secretary of War was able to order Reserve officers to active duty during time of emergency. In June 1908, the first 160 Reserve medical officers received their commissions. This number grew to about 360 by 1909, to 1,900 by 1916, and to 9,223 by 1917. The concept of bringing civilian professionals into the Army in a disciplined and quickly-accessible manner soon expanded beyond the medical profession and beyond officers, becoming the modern US Army Reserve.
1914 – The 3rd Marine Regiment joined in a show of force at Vera Cruz, Mexico, after an insult to the American flag.
1915 – ACA becomes National Advisory Council on Aeronautics (NACA), the forerunner of NASA.
1918 – USS Stewart destroys German submarine off France.
1924 – The U.S. Senate passes Soldiers Bonus Bill.
1926 – Virgil I (Gus) Grissom, was born. He was the Mercury and Gemini astronaut who was killed in a fire while preparing for the first Apollo flight.
1934 – In first Navy movement through Panama Canal over 100 ships transited.
1944 – Advancing US forces capture Hollandia, New Guinea, without a fight; Tadji airfield is also taken. The advance inland encounters resistance near the village of Sabron. There is congestion on the beachheads.
1945 – Advance units of both US 5th and British 8th Armies reach the Po River. US 5th Army units manage to cross the river south of Mantua.
1945 – Adolf Hitler’s designated successor Hermann Göring sends him a telegram asking permission to take leadership of the Third Reich, which causes Hitler to replace him with Joseph Goebbels and Karl Dönitz. Hitler is infuriated and orders Goring arrested.
1945 – On Okinawa, the attacks of US 24th Corps begin to achieve some gains, notably by US 96th Division.
1945 – Units of US 37th Division reach the outskirts of Baguio.
1945 – In only U.S. use of guided missiles in WW II, 2 BAT missiles release at Balikiapan, Borneo.
1945 – Less than two weeks after taking over as president after the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman gives a tongue-lashing to Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov. The incident indicated that Truman was determined to take a “tougher” stance with the Soviets than his predecessor had. When Roosevelt died of a massive stroke on April 12, 1945, Harry S. Truman took over as president. Truman was overwhelmed by the responsibilities so suddenly thrust upon him and, particularly in terms of foreign policy, the new president was uncertain about his approach. Roosevelt had kept his vice-president in the dark about most diplomatic decisions, not even informing Truman about the secret program to develop an atomic bomb. Truman had to learn quickly, however. The approaching end of World War II meant that momentous decisions about the postwar world needed to be made quickly. The primary issue Truman faced was how to deal with the Soviet Union. Just weeks before his death, Roosevelt met with Russian leader Joseph Stalin and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill at Yalta to discuss the postwar situation. Agreements made during the meeting left the Soviets in de facto control of Eastern Europe in exchange for Soviet promises to hold “democratic” elections in Poland. Some officials in the U.S. government were appalled at these decisions, believing that Roosevelt was too “soft” on the Soviets and naive in his belief that Stalin would cooperate with the West after the war. Truman gravitated to this same point of view, partially because of his desire to appear decisive, but also because of his long-standing animosity toward the Soviets. On April 23, 1945, Soviet Foreign Minister Molotov arrived at the White House for a meeting with the new president. Truman immediately lashed out at Molotov, “in words of one syllable,” as the president later recalled. As Molotov listened incredulously, Truman charged that the Soviets were breaking their agreements and that Stalin needed to keep his word. At the end of Truman’s tirade, Molotov indignantly declared that he had never been talked to in such a manner. Truman, not to be outdone, replied that if Molotov had kept his promises, he would not need to be talked to like that. Molotov stormed out of the meeting. Truman was delighted with his own performance, telling one friend that he gave the Soviet official “the straight one-two to the jaw.” The president was convinced that a tough stance was the only way to deal with the communists, a policy that came to dominate America’s early Cold War policies toward the Soviets.
1950 – Chaing Kai-shek evacuates Hainan, leaving mainland China to Mao Zedong and the communists.
1951 – The Battle of Kapyong took place with the 27th British Commonwealth Infantry Brigade holding out against the brunt of the communist spring offensive. The 3rd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment; 2nd Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry; and A Company, 72nd U.S. Tank Battalion all received the U.S. Distinguished Unit Citation (today known as the Presidential Unit Citation) for Kapyong. North of Uijongbu, the 1st Battalion of the Gloucester Regiment and the 170th Heavy Mortar Battery, both of the British 29th Independent Brigade Group, earned the U.S. Distinguished Unit Citation for the action at “Gloucester Hill” were the battalion was virtually annihilated standing against the assault of 80,000 Chinese. A tank-infantry force including the Philippine Battalion suffered heavy casualties attempting to relieve the Gloucesters.
1951 – American journalist William N. Oatis is arrested for espionage by the Communist government of Czechoslovakia. Oatis was working as the AP bureau chief in Prague, Czechoslovakia when he was arrested. Deprived of sleep and subjected to continuous interrogation for 42 hours, Oatis signed a statement confessing to the charge of espionage. The case made international headlines, as well as leading to trade and travel embargos against Czechoslovakia. On July 4, 1951, a Czechoslovak court sentenced Oatis to ten years in prison. He was released May 16, 1953, shortly after the death of Joseph Stalin and after an angry letter from President Dwight D. Eisenhower to the Czechoslovak government. The Czechoslovak government said it had been moved to pardon Oatis by a poignant plea from Oatis’ wife, Laurabelle. A Czechoslovak court cleared him of all charges in 1959, but the decision was reversed in 1968 after the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia. In 1990, after Czechoslovakia’s “Velvet Revolution” the previous year, he was cleared again. The Voice of America called Oatis “the first American martyr to press freedom behind the Iron Curtain.” The United States Department of State denounced the Czechoslovak verdict as a ludicrous travesty and the U.S. press said Oatis was condemned for no more than doing his job as a reporter. The case’s Orwellian overtones were highlighted by the prosecution’s assertion at the show trial that Oatis, a careful reporter, was “particularly dangerous because of his discretion and insistence on obtaining only accurate, correct, verified information.” Oatis contracted tuberculosis during his imprisonment and sought treatment shortly after his release.
1956 – Project Vanguard, earth satellite launching program, assigned to DCNO (Air).
1966 – In an air battle over North Vietnam, USAF F-4C Phantom jets shoot down two MiG-17s.
1975 – At a speech at Tulane University, President Gerald Ford says the Vietnam War is finished as far as America is concerned. “Today, Americans can regain the sense of pride that existed before Vietnam. But it cannot be achieved by re-fighting a war.” This was devastating news to the South Vietnamese, who were desperately pleading for U.S. support as the North Vietnamese surrounded Saigon for the final assault on the capital city. The North Vietnamese had launched a major offensive in March to capture the provincial capital of Ban Me Thuot (Darlac province) in the Central Highlands. The South Vietnamese defenders there fought very poorly and were quickly overwhelmed by the North Vietnamese attackers. Despite previous promises by both Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford to provide support, the United States did nothing. In an attempt to reposition his forces for a better defense, South Vietnamese President Nguyen Van Thieu ordered his forces in the Highlands to withdraw to more defensible positions to the south. What started out as a reasonably orderly withdrawal soon degenerated into a panic that spread throughout the South Vietnamese armed forces. The South Vietnamese abandoned Pleiku and Kontum in the Highlands with very little fighting and the North Vietnamese pressed the attack from the west and north. In quick succession, Quang Tri, Hue, and Da Nang in the north fell to the communist onslaught. The North Vietnamese continued to attack south along the coast, defeating the South Vietnamese forces at each encounter. As the North Vietnamese forces closed on the approaches to Saigon, the politburo in Hanoi issued an order to Gen. Van Tien Dung to launch the “Ho Chi Minh Campaign,” the final assault on Saigon itself. Dung ordered his forces into position for the final battle. The South Vietnamese 18th Division made a valiant final stand at Xuan Loc, 40 miles northeast of Saigon, in which the South Vietnamese soldiers destroyed three of Dung’s divisions. However, the South Vietnamese finally succumbed to the superior North Vietnamese numbers. With the fall of Xuan Loc on April 21 and Ford’s statement at Tulane, it was apparent that the North Vietnamese would be victorious. President Thieu resigned and transferred authority to Vice President Tran Van Huong before fleeing Saigon on April 25. By April 27, the North Vietnamese had completely encircled Saigon and began to maneuver for their final assault. By the morning of April 30, it was all over. When the North Vietnamese tanks crashed through the gates of the Presidential Palace in Saigon, the South Vietnamese surrendered and the Vietnam War was officially over.
1982 – The Unabomber mailed a pipe bomb from Provo, Utah, to Penn state Univ. It was forwarded to Vanderbilt Univ. scientist Patrick C. Fisher. It was later attributed to the Unabomber Theodore Kaczynski.
1982 – Key West, Fla., under Mayor Dennis Wardlow declared that it was seceding from the US and would rename itself the Conch Republic. The move was in response to a state roadblock and inspection on all cars heading out of the Florida Keys.
1990 – Freed American hostage Robert Polhill, released in Lebanon the day before, enjoyed his first full day of freedom in nearly 39 months at the U.S. Air Force hospital in Wiesbaden, West Germany.
1991 – President Bush welcomed General H. Norman Schwarzkopf, the just-returned Gulf War commander, at the White House.
1991 – NASA scrubbed the launch of the space shuttle “Discovery” after a sensor on one of the main engines failed during fueling.
1991 – USSR granted republics the right to secede under certain conditions.
1993 – President Clinton said he was giving “serious consideration” to limited U.S. air strikes against Bosnian Serb positions.
1997 – The military confirmed that two pieces of wreckage found on a snowy Rocky Mountain peak were from the Air Force warplane that vanished on a training mission over Arizona.
1997 – N. Korean defector, Hwang Jang Yop, claimed that North Korea has nuclear weapons and that the 1.2 million man army was prepared for war.
1999 – On the first day of a 50th anniversary NATO summit in Washington, Western leaders pledged to intensify military strikes against Yugoslavia and vowed “no compromise” on demands that Slobodan Milosevic withdraw his troops from Kosovo.
1999 – NATO forces bombed Nis and a broad swath of Yugoslavia on the 31st day of attacks.
1999 – The United Nations temporarily waives the requirement under the Iraq oil-for-food program that more than half of Iraqi oil exports must go through the pipeline to Turkey. As Iraq’s oil production has increased, capacity through the Iraq/Turkey pipeline has not kept pace. So far, only about 45% of Iraqi oil exports are going through the pipeline into Turkey.
2001 – Pres. Bush decided to sell Taiwan older ships and planes, but not the advanced Aegis radar system.
2001 – USS Greeneville Cmdr. Scott Waddle was given a letter of reprimand as punishment for the submarine collision that killed nine people aboard a Japanese fishing vessel off Hawaii.
2001 – A US robot spy plane completed the 1st unmanned trans-Pacific flight from California to Australia.
2003 – US forces captured 4 more former Iraqi government officials, including 3 on the top wanted list: Muzahim Sa’b Hassan al-Tikriti (queen of diamonds), Gen. Zuhayr Talib Abd al-Sattar al-Naqib (7 of hearts), and Muhammad Mahdi al-Salih (6 of hearts).
2004 – Paul Bremmer, the top U.S. administrator in Iraq, announced an easing of the ban on members of Saddam Hussein’s disbanded party, a move that will allow thousands of former Baathists to return to their positions in the military and government bureaucracy.
2007 – The Intelligence Specialist (IS) rating was launched with a special ceremony at Coast Guard Headquarters. ADM Thad Allen, USCG Commandant, and Mr. James Sloan, Assistant Commandant for Intelligence and Criminal Investigations, presided over the ceremony.
2007 – VA allows Wiccan symbols on headstones.
2007 – The United States’ 391st National Park Unit, Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site, is formally established.
2007 – NASA releases the first 3D images of the Sun acquired by the STEREO spacecraft.
2014 – By this date, at least 40 veterans died while waiting for appointments to see a doctor at the Phoenix Veterans Affairs Health Care system. The patients were on a secret list designed to hide lengthy delays from VA officials in Washington, according to a recently retired VA doctor and several high-level sources.

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