This Day in U.S. Military History…… April 24

24 April
1704 – The first regular newspaper in British Colonial America, the News-Letter, is published in Boston, Massachusetts.
1778 – US Ranger Captain John Paul Jones captured the British ship Drake.
1862 – Flag Officer Farragut’s fleet ran past Forts Jackson and St. Philip and engaged the defending Confederate flotilla. At 2:00 a.m., U.S.S. Hartford had shown Farragut’s signal for the fleet to get underway in three divisions to steam through the breach in the obstructions which had been opened by U.S.S. Pinola and Itasca. A withering fire from the forts was answered by roaring broadsides from the ships. Hartford, grounded in the swift current near Fort St. Philip, was set afire by a Confederate fireraft. Farragut’s leadership and the disciplined training of the crew saved the flagship. U.S.S. Varuna was rammed by two Confederate ships and sunk In the ensuing melee, C.S.S. Warrior, Stonewall Jackson, General Lovell, and Breckinridge, tender Phoenix, steamers Star and Belle Algerine, and Louisiana gunboat General Quitman were destroyed. The armored ram C.S.S. Manassas was driven ashore by U.S.S. Mississippi and sunk. Steam tenders C.S.S. Landis and W. Burton surrendered; Resolute and Governor Moore were destroyed to prevent capture. ”The destruction of the Navy at New Orleans,” wrote Confederate Secretary of the Navy Mallory, “was a sad, sad blow . . . When the Union Navy passed the forts and disposed of the Confederate forces afloat, the fate of New Orleans was decided. Farragut had achieved a brilliant victory, one which gave true meaning to the Flag Officer’s own words: “The great man in our country must not only plan but execute.
1863 – The Union army issues General Orders No. 100, which provided a code of conduct for Federal soldiers and officers when dealing with Confederate prisoners and civilians. The code was borrowed by many European nations, and its influence can be seen on the Geneva Convention. The orders were the brainchild of Francis Lieber, a Prussian immigrant whose three sons had served during the Civil War. One son was mortally wounded while fighting for the Confederacy at the Battle of Williamsburg, Virginia, in 1862. Lieber’s other two sons fought for the Union. Lieber was a scholar of international law who took a keen interest in the treatment of combatants and civilians. He wrote many essays and newspaper articles on the subject early in the war, and he advised General Henry Halleck, general-in-chief of the Union armies, on how to treat guerilla fighters captured by Federal forces. Halleck appointed a committee of four generals and Lieber to draft rules of combat for the Civil War. The final document consisted of 157 articles written almost entirely by Lieber. The orders established policies for, among other things, the treatment of prisoners, exchanges, and flags of truce. There was no document like it in the world at the time, and other countries soon adopted the code. It became the standard for international military law, and the Germans adopted it by 1870. Lieber’s concepts are still very influential today.
1865 – C.S.S. Webb, Lieutenant Read, dashed from the Red River under forced draft and entered the Mississippi at 8:30 at night in a heroic last-ditch effort to escape to sea. Before departing Alexandria, Louisiana, for his bold attempt, Read wrote Secretary Mallory: “I will have to stake everything upon speed and time.” The sudden appearance of the white-painted Webb in the Mississippi caught the Union blockaders (a monitor and two ironclads) at the mouth of the Red River by surprise. She was initially identified as a Federal ship; this mistake in identification gave Read a lead in the dash downstream. A running battle ensued in which Webb shook off the three Union pursuers. As Read proceeded down the Mississippi, other blockading ships took up the chase but were outdistanced by the fast moving Webb, which some observers claimed was making 25 knots. While churning with the current toward New Orleans, Read paused at one point to cut the telegraph wires along the bank. This proved futile as word of his escape and approach passed southward where it generated considerable excitement and a flurry of messages between the Army and Navy commanders who alerted shore batteries and ships to intercept him. About 10 miles above New Orleans Read hoisted the United States flag at half mast in mourning for Lincoln’s death and brought Webb’s steam pressure up to maximum. He passed the city at about midnight, 24 April, going full speed. Federal gunboats opened on him, whereupon Read broke the Confederate flag. Three hits were scored, the spar torpedo rigged at the steamer’s bow was damaged and had to be jettisoned, but the Webb continued on course toward the sea. Twenty-five miles below New Orleans Read’s luck ran out, for here Webb encountered U.S.S. Richmond. Thus trapped between Richmond and pursuing gunboats, Read’s audacious and well-executed plan came to an end. Webb was run aground and set on fire before her officers and men took to the swamps in an effort to escape. Read and his crew were apprehended within a few hours and taken under guard to New Orleans. They there suffered the indignity of being placed on public display but were subsequently paroled and ordered to their respective homes. Following the restoration of peace, Read became a pilot of the Southwest Pass, one of the mouths of the Mississippi River, and pursued that occupation until his death.
1877 – Federal troops were ordered out of New Orleans, ending the North’s post-Civil War rule in the South.
1884 – USS Thetis, Bear, and Alert sailed from New York to search for Greeley expedition lost in Arctic.
1898 – Spain declared war on the United States after rejecting America’s ultimatum to withdraw from Cuba.
1898 – US fleet under commodore Dewey steamed from Hong Kong to Philippines.
1917 – Destroyer squadron departs Boston for European service
1923 – Colonel Jacob Schick patented Schick razors.
1941 – Roosevelt formally orders US warships to report the movements of German warships west of Iceland. This is happening unofficially already. The information is usually passed one way or another to the British.
1944 – The first B-29 arrived in China, over the Hump of the Himalayas.
1944 – The US 8th Air Force raids factories and airfields in Friedrichshafen, near Munich. A total of 55 planes are lost, including 14 which land or crash in Switzerland. During the night, 250 RAF Lancaster bombers scatter “Flying Meteor” methane-petrol incendiary bombs over Munich causing devastation in the area between Central Station and the Isar River.
1944 – American forces reach Lake Sentani near Hollandia, New Guinea. To the east, Australian forces advancing from the Huon Peninsula capture Madang.
1945 – Dessau on the Elbe River is taken by US 1st Army.
1945 – Units of both US 5th Army and British 8th Army begin to cross the Po River at several points near Ferrara and to the west. Ferrara is captured. On the west coast, La Spezia falls to the US 92nd Division. German forces are incapable of stopping the Allied advance.
1945 – On Okinawa, Japanese forces defending the Shuri Line, in the south, begin tactical withdrawals.
1948 – The Berlin airlift began to relieve the surrounded city.
1950 – Pres Truman denied there were communists in US govt.
1951 – U.S. Air Force Captain Joseph C. McConnell, 51st Fighter-Interceptor Wing, qualified as the sixth “double ace” (10 kills) of the war.
1957 – The Suez Canal is reopened following the introduction of UNEF peacekeepers to the region.
1959 – Organization of American States asks U.S. to establish naval patrols off east coast of Panama to prevent invasion of Cuban forces
1962 – The Massachusetts Institute of Technology achieved the first satellite relay of a television signal, between Camp Parks, Ca., and Westford, Mass.
1962 – Marine helicopters (Shufly) supported the 21st Army of the Republic of Vietnam Division during Operation Nightingale near Can Tho.
1965 – President Johnson issues an executive order designating Viertnam a ‘comabt area’ for income tax purposes, retroactive to 1 January 1964.
1969 – US B-52’s dropped 3,000 ton bombs at Cambodian boundary.
1967 – General Westmoreland sparks controversy by saying that the enemy had ‘gained support in the United States that gives him hope that he can win politically that which he cannot win militarily.’
1967 – US Marines, of the 3rd Marine Regiment, defeat North Vietnamese troops on thiree hills near the airstrip at Khesan in Quangtin Province. The battle will rage for 12 days.
1970 – China sponsors a conference near Canton attended by Norodom Sihanouk; Prince Souphonouvong, leader of the Pathet Lao; Nguyen Huu Tho, President of the Provisional Revolutionary Governemtn of South Vietnam; and North Vietnamese Prime minister Pham Van Dong. They pledge joint action to expel US and otehr forces that oppose them in Indochina. Chinese Premier Chou En-lai attends the final session and gives his endorsement.
1971 – North Vietnamese troops hit Allied installations throughout South Vietnam. In the most devastating attack, the ammunition depot at Qui Nhon was blown up. On April 27, the aviation fuel tanks at Da Nang air base were attacked by communist gunners, resulting in explosions and a fire that destroyed a large proportion of the fuel stored there. In the following three days, 54 South Vietnamese soldiers and civilians were reported killed, and 185 wounded. The United States reported seven dead and 60 wounded.
1974 – Naval forces begin minesweeping operations in the Suez Canal Zone.
1980 – An ill-fated military operation to rescue the 52 American hostages held in Tehran ends with eight U.S. servicemen dead and no hostages rescued. With the Iran Hostage Crisis stretching into its sixth month and all diplomatic appeals to the Iranian government ending in failure, President Jimmy Carter ordered the military mission as a last ditch attempt to save the hostages. During the operation, three of eight helicopters failed, crippling the crucial airborne plans. The mission was then canceled at the staging area in Iran, but during the withdrawal one of the retreating helicopters collided with one of six C-130 transport planes, killing eight soldiers and injuring five. The next day, a somber Jimmy Carter gave a press conference in which he took full responsibility for the tragedy. The hostages were not released for another 270 days. On November 4, 1979, the crisis began when militant Iranian students, outraged that the U.S. government had allowed the ousted shah of Iran to travel to the U.S. for medical treatment, seized the U.S. embassy in Tehran. The Ayatollah Khomeini, Iran’s political and religious leader, took over the hostage situation and agreed to release non-U.S. captives and female and minority Americans, citing these groups as among the people oppressed by the U.S. government. The remaining 52 captives remained at the mercy of the Ayatollah for the next 14 months. President Carter was unable to diplomatically resolve the crisis, and the April 1980 hostage attempt ended in disaster. Three months later, the former shah died of cancer in Egypt, but the crisis continued. In November, Carter lost the presidential election to Republican Ronald Reagan, and soon after, with the assistance of Algerian intermediaries, successful negotiations began between the United States and Iran. On the day of Reagan’s inauguration, January 20, 1981, the United States freed almost $8 billion in frozen Iranian assets, and the 52 hostages were released after 444 days. The next day, Jimmy Carter flew to West Germany to greet the Americans on their way home.
1981 – The IBM Personal Computer was introduced. It used software from a corporation called Microsoft.
1987 – Eighteen people, including 12 U.S. military personnel, were injured when a roadside bomb exploded in the Greek port of Piraeus; the guerrilla group November 17 claimed responsibility.
1988 – Three sailors were killed and 22 injured when fire broke out aboard the submarine USS Bonefish off the Florida coast.
1990 – The space shuttle Discovery blasted off from Cape Canaveral, Fla., carrying the $1.5 billion Hubble Space Telescope. It cost $2 billion. The orbital period of the telescope was 97 Minutes.
1990 – West and East Germany agreed to merge currency and economies on July 1.
1994 – Bosnian Serbs, threatened with NATO air strikes, grudgingly gave up their three-week assault on Gorazde, burning houses and blowing up a water treatment plant as they withdrew.
1994 – Iraq announces completion of a 65-mile canal through southern Iraq that would divert river waters away from marshlands inhabited primarily by Shiite Iraqis to desert lands. The project has long been the object of concern to human rights groups who charge that the primary reason for the project is to punish the Shiite population in this region for their support of anti-government rebels and to make rebel bases more accessible to government attack.
1995 – California Forestry Assoc. Pres. Gilbert P. Murray, 47, was killed by a mail bomb at his headquarters in Sacramento. The bomb was attributed to the Unabomber. Gilbert B. Murray, chief lobbyist for the wood products industry, was killed by a package bomb linked to the Unabomber.
1996 – In New York, the United Nations and Iraq end a third round of negotiations over Iraq’s possible sale of $1 billion of oil. While both sides have reached agreement on most of the key issues, chief Iraqi negotiator Abdul Amir al-Anbari says that the United States and the United Kingdom have fundamentally altered the text of a proposed agreement which he had received from the United Nations early in the third round. Al-Anbari states that the changes have postponed any possible deal. The U.N.-Iraq talks are scheduled to restart on May 10.
1996 – In the United States, the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 is passed into law.
1997 – The US ratified the chemical weapons ban. The Senate voted 74-26 to approve the chemical weapons treaty, five days before the pact was to take effect. It was the 75th country to ratify the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention ban signed by 164 states. The signing obliges members to destroy all chemical weapons and production facilities by 2007.
1998 – In Columbia the FARC released kidnapped American Louise Augustine. Two other bird-watchers were released soon after.
1999 – It was reported that the details of US sorties flown in Yugoslavia were not being shared with NATO allies in order to prevent leaks from compromising the missions.
1999 – On the second day of a NATO summit, the alliance ran into objections from Russia and questions among its own members about enforcing an oil embargo against Yugoslavia by searching ships at sea. President Clinton urged Americans to be patient with the bombing strategy.
1999 – NATO approved a new strategic concept in Washington that allowed the use of military force to prevent the abuse of human rights anywhere in Europe. NATO also announced plans for an around-the-clock war along with Yugoslavia and an effort to choke off oil supplies from the Adriatic. Damage to Yugoslavia was estimated to have reached $100 billion.
2003 – Tariq Aziz (8 of spades), Iraqi deputy prime minister, surrendered to US forces.
2004 – Three small dhows, a boat often used in the Gulf, exploded in the Gulf waters off Iraq’s port of Umm Qasr when approached by teams sent to intercept them. Oil terminals at al-Basra and Khawr al-Amaya were targeted. The dhow near Khawr al-Amaya flipped over a U.S. Navy interception craft, killing 2 US sailors and wounding five others. Al Qaeda later claimed responsibility.
2004 – The United States lifts economic sanctions imposed on Libya 18 years previously, as a reward for its cooperation in eliminating weapons of mass destruction.
2007 – The United States Department of Veterans Affairs allows the Wiccan pentagram to be used on the tombstones of deceased soldiers.
2012 – The Pentagon establishes the Defense Clandestine Service to focus on the challenges posed to U.S. interests by countries such as Iran, North Korea and China.
2013 – The FBI and the CIA admit that Russian intelligence had warned the U.S. intelligence agencies several times regarding the extremist connections of Tamerlan Tsarnaev prior to the Boston marathon bombings.

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