1776 – The first Columbus, a 24-gun armed ship, was built at Philadelphia in 1774 as Sally; purchased for the Continental Navy in November 1775, Captain Abraham Whipple in command. Between 17 February and 8 April 1776, in company with the other ships of Commodore Esek Hopkins’ squadron, Columbus took part in the expedition to New Providence, Bahamas, where the first Navy-Marine amphibious operation seized essential military supplies. On the return passage, the squadron captured the British schooner, Hawk.
1788 – Last of the Federalist essays was published. The series of 85 letters were written by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay urging ratification of the US Constitution. Defects in the Articles of Confederation became apparent, such as the lack of central authority over foreign and domestic commerce and the inability of Congress to levy taxes, leading Congress to endorse a plan to draft a new constitution.
1790 – Congress establishes the Revenue Marine Service, a forerunner of the Coast guard.
1812 – The territory of Orleans became the 18th state and later became known as Louisiana.
1812 – President James Madison fired an economic salvo at the British government and enacted a ninety-day embargo on trade with England. Madison’s embargo was the last in a steady succession of putatively peaceful trade measures; like its predecessors, the embargo was designed to protect America’s embattled merchant ships from continued attacks by the British and French (American ships had been under siege since 1807). But, the non-violent nature of Madison’s response barely masked his readiness to lead America into battle, especially against the British. Indeed, in November of 1811, the President had urged Congress to cloak the country in “an armor and an attitude demanded by the crisis.” Madison’s rhetoric was perhaps a bit disingenuous: his willingness to do battle stemmed as much from his desire to usurp British territory in Canada, Spanish Florida and what would become the American West. While expansionists, including Henry Clay and John C. Calhoun, licked their chops in anticipation of war, moderate legislators still hoped to forge a more peaceful solution. Though the embargo may have temporarily appeased the moderates, it did little to forestall war: the British refused to cease harassing American ships, prompting Madison to lead America into the War of 1812.
1818 – Congress decided the flag of the United States would consist of 13 red and white stripes and 20 stars, with a new star to be added for every new state of the Union.
1841 – Only 31 days after assuming office, William Henry Harrison, the ninth president of the United States, dies of pneumonia at the White House. Born in Charles County, Virginia, in 1773, Harrison served in the U.S. Army in the old Northwest Territory and in 1800 was made governor of the Indian Territory, where he proved an able administrator. In 1811, he led U.S. forces against an Indian confederation organized by Shawnee Chief Tecumseh, and victory at the Battle of Tippecanoe brought an end to Tecumseh’s hopes for a united Indian front against U.S. expansion. In the War of 1812, Harrison gained his greatest fame as a military commander, recapturing Detroit from the British and defeating a combined force of British and Native Americans at the Battle of the Thames. In 1816, he was elected to the House of Representatives and in 1825 to the Senate. Gaining the Whig presidential nomination in 1840, he and his running mate, John Tyler, ran a successful campaign under the slogan “Tippecanoe and Tyler, too.” At the inauguration of America’s first Whig president, on March 4, 1841, a bitterly cold day, Harrison declined to wear a jacket or hat, made a two-hour speech, and attended three inauguration balls. Soon afterward, he developed pneumonia. On April 4, President Harrison died in Washington, and Vice President John Tyler ascended to the presidency, becoming the first individual in U.S. history to reach the office through the death of a president.
1850 – The city of Los Angeles was incorporated.
1854 – Chinese Imperial Troops under the command of General Keih were stationed near the western edge of the International Settlement of Shanghai. On the 3rd April 1854 a Western couple were assaulted by some of the Imperial troops whilst the couple were walking in a park, and as a result a message was sent to General Kieh ordering him to move his troops by 4 p.m on 4th April. This message was ignored by General Kieh. At 16.00 hours a force led by Captain O’Callahan of HMS Encounter, and Lieutenant Roderick Dew, and consisting of 200 men from HMS Encounter, 75 men from USS Plymouth, 30 men from US merchant ships, and 75 Shanghai Volunteers, marched to the Chinese camp near an area known as Defence Creek. The area was marshy and deep in water and mud. A short battle ensued in which the Chinese Imperial Troops were routed. The Imperial Troops lost about 50 men, whilst the Allied Force lost just four men.
1859 – At Mechanics Hall in New York, Daniel Emmett introduced “I Wish I was in Dixie’s Land.” About two years later the song became the Civil War song of the Confederacy. [From the Richmond Dispatch, March 19, 1893.] It was Saturday night in 1859, when Dan Emmett was a member of Bryant’s Minstrels in New York. Bryant came to Emmett and said: “Dan, can’t you get us up a walk-around? I want something new and lively for Monday night.” At that date all minstrel shows used to wind up with a “walk-around.” The demand for them was constant, and Emmett was the composer of all the “walk-arounds” of Bryant’s band. Emmett of course went to work, but he had done so much in that line that nothing at first satisfactory to him presented itself. At last he hit upon the first two bars, and any composer can tell how good a start that is in the manufacture of a tune. By Sunday afternoon he had the words, commencing: “I wish I was in Dixie.” This colloquial expression was not, as most people suppose, a Southern phrase, but first appeared among the circus people of the North. In early fall, when nipping frosts would overtake the tented wanderers, the boys would think of the genial warmth of that section for which they were heading, and the common expression would be, “Well, I wish I was down in Dixie.”
1862 – U.S.S. Carondelet,. Commander Walke, shrouded by a heavy storm at night, successfully ran past Island No. 10, Mississippi River, and reached Major General John Pope’s army at New Madrid. For his heroic dash through flaming Confederate batteries, Walke strengthened Carondelet with cord-wood piled around the boilers, extra deck planking, and anchor chain for added armor protection. “The passage of the Carondelet,” wrote A. T. Mahan, “was not only one of the most daring and dramatic events of the war; it was also the death blow to the Confederate defense of this position.” With the support of the gunboats, the Union troops could now safely plan to cross the river and take the Confederate defenses from the rear.
1865 – President Abraham Lincoln visits the Confederate capital a day after Union forces capture it. Lincoln had been in the area for nearly two weeks. He left Washington at the invitation of general-in-chief Ulysses S. Grant to visit Grant’s headquarters at City Point, near the lines at Petersburg south of Richmond. The trip was exhilarating for the exhausted president. Worn out by four years of war and stifled by the pressures of Washington, Lincoln enjoyed himself immensely. He conferred with Grant and General William T. Sherman, who took a break from his campaign in North Carolina. He visited soldiers, and even picked up an axe to chop logs in front of the troops. He stayed at City Point, sensing that the final push was near. Grant’s forces overran the Petersburg line on April 2, and the Confederate government fled the capital later that day. Union forces occupied Richmond on April 3, and Lincoln sailed up the James River to see the spoils of war. His ship could not pass some obstructions that had been placed in the river by the Confederates so 12 soldiers rowed him to shore. He landed without fanfare but was soon recognized by some black workmen who ran to him and bowed. The modest Lincoln told them to “…kneel to God only, and thank him for the liberty you will hereafter enjoy.” Lincoln, accompanied by a small group of soldiers and a growing entourage of freed slaves, walked to the Confederate White House and sat in President Jefferson Davis’s chair. He walked to the Virginia statehouse and saw the chambers of the Confederate Congress. Lincoln even visited Libby Prison, where thousands of Union officers were held during the war. Lincoln remained a few more days in hopes that Robert E. Lee’s army would surrender, but on April 8 he headed back to Washington. Six days later, Lincoln was shot as he watched a play at Ford’s Theater.
1912 – President Taft recommended abolishing Revenue Cutter Service. His actions led to the creation of the Coast Guard by merging the Revenue Cutter Service and the Life-Saving Service on 28 January 1915.
1917 – U.S. Senate voted 90-6 to enter World War I on Allied side.
1918 – During World War I, the Second Battle of the Somme, the first major German offensive in more than a year, ends on the western front. On March 21, 1918, a major offensive against Allied positions in the Somme River region of France began with five hours of bombardment from more than 9,000 pieces of German artillery. The poorly prepared British Fifth Army was rapidly overwhelmed and forced into retreat. For a week, the Germans pushed toward Paris, shelling the city from a distance of 80 miles with their “Big Bertha” cannons. However, the poorly supplied German troops soon became exhausted, and the Allies halted the German advance as French artillery knocked out the German guns besieging Paris. On April 2, U.S. General John J. Pershing sent American troops down into the trenches to help defend Paris and repulse the German offensive. It was the first major deployment of U.S. troops in World War I. Several thousand American troops fought alongside the British and French in the Second Battle of Somme. By the time the Somme offensive ended on April 4, the Germans had advanced almost 40 miles, inflicted some 200,000 casualties, and captured 70,000 prisoners and more than 1,000 Allied guns. However, the Germans suffered nearly as many casualties as their enemies and lacked the fresh reserves and supply boost the Allies enjoyed following the American entrance into the fighting.
1921 – The US Navy Department completes the first helium production plant in Fort Worth, Texas.
1933 – Navy airship USS Akron crashed off the Barnegat Lightship, off the New Jersey coast. The search employed over 20 Coast Guard vessels under Navy supervision. USS Akron (ZRS-4) was a helium-filled rigid airship of the U.S. Navy that was destroyed in a thunderstorm killing 73 of the 76 crewmen and passengers. This accident was the greatest loss of life in any known airship crash. During its accident-prone 18-month term of service, the Akron also served as a flying aircraft carrier for launching and recovering F9C Sparrowhawk fighter planes. With lengths of 785 ft (239 m), 20 ft (6.1 m) shorter than the German commercial airship Hindenburg, which was destroyed in 1937, the Akron and its sister airship the Macon were among the largest flying objects in the world. Although the Hindenburg was longer, it was filled with hydrogen, so the two U.S. airships still hold the world record for helium-filled airships.
1941 – Roosevelt agrees to allow Royal Navy warships to be repaired in the US. Among the first ships to benefit from this order are the battleships Malaya and Resolution. RN warships are also to be allowed to refuel in the US when on combat missions.
1944 – The Bucharest marshaling yards are bombed by heavily escorted bombers of the US 15th Air Force. A total of 20 aircraft are lost. Civilian casualties are reported to amount to 2942 killed and 2126 injured.
1945 – US 9th Army units have reached the river Weser opposite Hameln. Troops from US 3rd Army capture Kassel while other units take Gotha and advance near Erfurt. French units take Karlsruhe. The Nazi gold reserves are captured in the salt mine at Merkers.
1945 – American troops liberate Ohrdruf forced labor camp in Germany. It was part of the Buchenwald concentration camp network and the first Nazi concentration camp liberated by U.S. troops.
1945 – On Okinawa, the forces of US 10th Army begin to meet the first real Japanese resistance on the ground. Troops of US 24th Corps are brought to a halt on a line just south of Kuba while the forces of 3rd Amphibious Corps have reached the Ishikawa Isthmus. A storm damages many landing craft and hampers further reinforcement.
1949 – The United States and 11 other nations establish the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), a mutual defense pact aimed at containing possible Soviet aggression against Western Europe. NATO stood as the main U.S.-led military alliance against the Soviet Union throughout the duration of the Cold War. Relations between the United States and the Soviet Union began to deteriorate rapidly in 1948. There were heated disagreements over the postwar status of Germany, with the Americans insisting on German recovery and eventual rearmament and the Soviets steadfastly opposing such actions. In June 1948, the Soviets blocked all ground travel to the American occupation zone in West Berlin, and only a massive U.S. airlift of food and other necessities sustained the population of the zone until the Soviets relented and lifted the blockade in May 1949. In January 1949, President Harry S. Truman warned in his State of the Union Address that the forces of democracy and communism were locked in a dangerous struggle, and he called for a defensive alliance of nations in the North Atlantic–NATO was the result. In April 1949, representatives from Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Great Britain, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, and Portugal joined the United States in signing the NATO agreement. The signatories agreed, “An armed attack against one or more of them … shall be considered an attack against them all.” President Truman welcomed the organization as “a shield against aggression.” Not all Americans embraced NATO. Isolationists such as Senator Robert A. Taft declared that NATO was “not a peace program; it is a war program.” Most, however, saw the organization as a necessary response to the communist threat. The U. S. Senate ratified the treaty by a wide margin in June 1949. During the next few years, Greece, Turkey, and West Germany also joined. The Soviet Union condemned NATO as a warmongering alliance and responded by setting up the Warsaw Pact (a military alliance between the Soviet Union and its Eastern Europe satellites) in 1955. NATO lasted throughout the course of the Cold War, and continues to play an important role in post-Cold War Europe. In recent years, for example, NATO forces were active in trying to bring an end to the civil war in Bosnia.
1951 – Far East Air Forces aircraft racked up 1,000 sorties hitting enemy frontline positions and supply areas.
1951 – Supreme Headquarters of the Allied Powers in Europe (SHAPE) is established with General Dwight D. Eisenhower in command.
1966 – US F-4C Phantom bombers hit the main supply route between North Vietnam and Naning, China, striking the Phulangthong bridge, among others.
1967 – “CHINOOK II” ended in Vietnam (17 Feb – 4 Apr).
1967 – The U.S. lost its 500th plane over Vietnam.
1967 – Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. indicates that a link is forming between the civil rights movement and the peace movement. King proposes that the US stop all bombing in Vietnam, declare a unilateral truce in hopes of fostering peace talks, setting a date for the withdrawal of all troops from Vietnam, and include the National Liberation Front in any resulting negotiations.
1968 – Apollo program: NASA launches Apollo 6. Apollo 6 was the second A type mission of the United States Apollo program, an unmanned test of the Saturn V launch vehicle. It was also the final unmanned Apollo test mission. Objectives were to demonstrate trans-lunar injection capability of the Saturn V with a simulated payload equal to about 80% of a full Apollo spacecraft, and to repeat demonstration of the Command Module’s (CM) heat shield capability to withstand a lunar re-entry. The flight plan called for following trans-lunar injection with a direct return abort using the Command/Service Module’s (CSM) main engine, with a total flight time of about 10 hours. A phenomenon known as pogo oscillation damaged some of the Rocketdyne J-2 engines in the second and third stages by rupturing internal fuel lines, causing two second-stage engines to shut down early. The vehicle’s onboard guidance system was able to compensate by burning the second and third stages longer, though the resulting parking orbit was more elliptical than planned. The damaged third stage engine also failed to restart for trans-lunar injection. Flight controllers elected to repeat the flight profile of the previous Apollo 4 test, achieving a high orbit and high-speed return using the Service Module (SM) engine. Despite the engine failures, the flight provided NASA with enough confidence to use the Saturn V for manned launches. Since Apollo 4 had already demonstrated S-IVB restart and tested the heat shield at full lunar re-entry velocity, a potential third unmanned flight was cancelled.
1970 – About 15,000 people stage a rally at the Washington monument to support “victory over the Communists in Vietnam.”
1970 – The heaviest fighting in five months involving US troops occurs along the DMZ and new clashes in Cambodia where South Vietnamese battalions move 10 miles into Cambodia.
1971 – Veterans stadium in Philadelphia, PA, was dedicated.
1973 – A Lockheed C-141 Starlifter, dubbed the Hanoi Taxi, makes the last flight of Operation Homecoming. Operation Homecoming was a series of diplomatic negotiations that in January 1973 made possible the return of 591 American prisoners of war held by North Vietnam. On Feb. 12, 1973, three C-141 transports flew to Hanoi, North Vietnam, and one C-9A aircraft was sent to Saigon, South Vietnam to pick up released prisoners of war. The first flight of 40 U.S. prisoners of war left Hanoi in a C-141A, later known as the “Hanoi Taxi” and now in a museum. From February 12 to April 4, there were 54 C-141 missions flying out of Hanoi, bringing the former POWs home. Each plane brought back 40 POWs. During the early part of Operation Homecoming, groups of POWs released were selected on the basis of longest length of time in prison. The first group had spent 6-8 years as prisoners of war. After Operation Homecoming, the U.S. still listed about 1,350 Americans as prisoners of war or missing in action and sought the return of roughly 1,200 Americans reported killed in action and body not recovered. These missing personnel would become the subject of the Vietnam War POW/MIA issue. The Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines each had liaison officers dedicated to prepare for the return of American POWs well in advance of their actual return. These liaison officers worked behind the scenes traveling around the United States assuring the returnees well being. They also were responsible for debriefing POWs to discern relevant intelligence about MIAs and to discern the existence of war crimes committed against them.
1975 – The first group of boat people from Vietnam began arriving in Malaysia. More than 1 million people fled from the close of the war to the early 1980s.
1975 – A major U.S. airlift of South Vietnamese orphans begins with disaster when an Air Force cargo jet crashes shortly after departing from Tan Son Nhut airbase in Saigon. More than 138 passengers, mostly children, were killed. Operation Baby Lift was designed to bring 2,000 South Vietnamese orphans to the United States for adoption by American parents. Baby Lift lasted for 10 days and was carried out during the final, desperate phase of the war, as North Vietnamese forces closed in on Saigon. Although this first flight ended in tragedy, all subsequent flights were completed safely, and Baby Lift aircraft brought orphans across the Pacific until the mission’s conclusion on April 14, only 16 days before the fall of Saigon and the end of the war.
1977 – The Coast Guard designated its first female Coast Guard aviator, Janna Lambine. She was Coast Guard Aviator #1812.
1983 – The space shuttle Challenger roared into orbit on its maiden voyage and the first US female into space was Sally Ride. Space Shuttle Challenger (NASA Orbiter Vehicle Designation: OV-099) was the second orbiter of NASA’s space shuttle program to be put into service following Columbia. The shuttle was built by Rockwell International’s Space Transportation Systems Division in Downey, California. It launched and landed nine times before breaking apart 73 seconds into its tenth mission, STS-51-L, on January 28, 1986, resulting in the death of all seven crew members. It was the first of two shuttles to be destroyed. The accident led to a two-and-a-half year grounding of the shuttle fleet; flights resumed in 1988 with STS-26 flown by Discovery. Challenger itself was replaced by Endeavour which was built using structural spares ordered by NASA as part of the construction contracts for Discovery and Atlantis. Endeavour launched for the first time in May 1992.
1984 – President Ronald Reagan calls for an international ban on chemical weapons.
1992 – His campaign acknowledged that Bill Clinton had received an induction notice in April 1969 while attending college in Oxford, England; Clinton said the notice arrived after he was due to report, and that his local draft board had told him he could complete the school term.
1992 – Jury deliberations began in the Noriega case in Florida.
1993 – President Clinton and Russian President Boris Yeltsin wrapped up their two-day summit in Vancouver, B.C. Clinton extended $1.6 billion in aid; Yeltsin proclaimed the two countries “partners and future allies.”
1995 – Francisco Martin Duran, who had raked the White House with semiautomatic rifle fire in October 1994, was convicted in Washington of trying to assassinate President Clinton. Duran was later sentenced to 40 years in prison.
1996 – US intelligence indicated the Libya was building a chemical weapons plant at Tarhunah, 40 miles southeast of Tripoli. The plant was reportedly designed to replace a plant a Rabta, 55 miles SW of Tripoli, where Libya insists that only pharmaceuticals are produced.
1996 – In Afghanistan Mohammed Omar unsealed a shrine in Kandahar that held a cloak believed to have belonged to the prophet Mohammed. He placed the cloak over his shoulders and declared himself Caliph, the commander of the faithful and leader of all Islam.
1996 – Comet Hyakutake is imaged by the USA Asteroid Orbiter Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous.
1997 – Space shuttle Columbia blasted off from Cape Canaveral, Fla., on what was supposed to have been a 16-day mission. However, a defective power generator forced the shuttle’s return four days later.
1998 – Richard Butler, chief arms inspector in Iraq, refused to certify the Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction have been destroyed.
1999 – NATO dropped more bombs on downtown Belgrade and said that it would send some 8,000 troops into Albania to help Kosovo refugees. The Freedom Bridge over the Danube at Novi Sad was destroyed. The US announced that it would send 24 Apache helicopter gunships to attack Serbian troops and tanks in Kosovo. Some 30,000 refugees crossed into Albania in the last 24-hour period. Shipping on the Danube was not fully restored until 2002.1999 – Several NATO countries announced they would take in refugees being forced out of Kosovo by Serbian forces.
2000 – In Iraq US and British warplanes bombed military sites in the south.
2001 – US diplomats met with 24 US crew members held by the Chinese military on Hainan island. Colin Powell issued a statement of regret over the loss of the Chinese pilot involved in the incident. Powell also sent a letter to China’s chief foreign policy official outlining ways of settlement.
2001 – The US Pentagon reportedly destroyed its last canister of napalm, a jellied gasoline used extensively during the Vietnam war. It was developed in 1942 by Harvard and Army chemists who combined naphthene and palmitate. It was made by Dow Chemical from 1965-1969.
2001 – Chinese President Jiang Zemin demanded the United States apologize for the collision between a U.S. Navy spy plane and a Chinese fighter jet; the Bush administration offered a chorus of regrets, but no apology.
2002 – Pres. Bush responded to British TV journalist Trevor McDonald’s question “Have you made up your mind that Iraq must be attacked?” by saying: “I made up my mind that Hussein needs to go.”
2002 – An Iraqi defector tells Vanity Fair that Iraq is developing a long-range ballistic missile system that could carry weapons of mass destruction up to 700 miles.
2002 – Yasser Esam Hamdi (22), a prisoner in Cuba, was reported to be a US citizen born in Louisiana. Hamdi was transferred to a jail in Virginia Apr 5. In 2004 Hamdi, held without charge since his 2001 capture, gave up his US citizenship and was released to Saudi Arabia.
2002 – Afghan officials reported that poppy farmers would be offered $500 per acre to destroy their crops. Refusal would still result in crop destruction.
2002 – It was reported that Saddam Hussein of Iraq had raised financial payments to the relatives of suicide bombers from $10k to $25k.
2003 – In the 17th day of Operation Iraqi Freedom thousands of Iraqis fled Baghdad as US forces seized the international airport to the west and armored convoys pressed in from the south.
2003 – A Marine unit found concentrations of cyanide and mustard-gas agents in the Euphrates River near Nasiriyah.
2004 – Muqtada al-Sadr issued a call to his followers to “terrorize your enemy.” Gunmen opened fire on the Spanish garrison in the holy city of Najaf during a huge demonstration by followers of al-Sadr, an anti-American Shiite Muslim cleric.
2008 – The United States Department of State renews the contract of Blackwater Worldwide to provide security in Iraq despite a number of ongoing investigations.
2012 – As part of the Obama Administration’s new Pivot to Asia, the first deployment of US Marines arrives in the Australian city of Darwin, Northern Territory.
2013 – Uganda’s military orders army units hunting for Joseph Kony, the leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army in the Central African Republic to return to their bases, following political instability in the CAR. Meanwhile the United States has offered a $5 million bounty for information leading to his capture.
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