This Day in U.S. Military History…… April 8

8 April
1789 – The U.S. House of Representatives held its first meeting.
1812 – Marines participated in the sea battle between the USS Hyder Ally and HMS General Monk.
1823 – Marines chased pirates east of Havana, Cuba.
1832 – Some 300 American troops of the 6th Infantry left Jefferson Barracks, St. Louis, to confront the Sauk Indians in what would become known as the Black Hawk War.
1864 – The Red River campaign of Union General Nathaniel Banks grinds to a halt when Confederate General Richard Taylor routs Banks’ army at Mansfield, Louisiana. The Red River campaign, which had begun a month earlier, was an attempt by the Union to invade Confederate Texas from Shreveport, Louisiana. Banks, accompanied by a flotilla on the Red River, would move northwest across the state and rendezvous at Shreveport with a force under General Frederick Steele moving from Little Rock, Arkansas. The slow-moving Banks approached Mansfield and opted to take a shorter road to Shreveport than one that ran along the Red River. Not only was the road narrow, it was far away from the gun support offered by the Union flotilla on the river. Banks’ troops ran into Taylor’s force and a skirmish erupted. At 4:00 p.m., Taylor ordered an all-out assault on the Yankees. The Rebels withered a heavy fire before breaking the Union lines and sending the Federals in a disorganized retreat. The Yankees fell back three miles before reinforcements stopped the Confederate advance. Banks suffered 113 men killed, 581 wounded, and 1,541 missing, while Taylor had about 1,500 total casualties. But Banks was now in retreat, and the Red River campaign was failing. Taylor attacked again the next day, but this time Banks’ men held the Confederates at bay. Banks was unnerved, though, and he began to retreat back down the Red River without penetrating into Texas.
1865 – General Robert E. Lee’s retreat was cut off near Appomattox Court House. Lee requested to meet with Gen Ulysses Grant to discuss possible surrender.
1913 – The US Seventeenth Amendment was ratified, requiring direct election of senators.
1914 – U.S. and Colombia signed a treaty concerning Panama Canal Zone.
1918 – The US First Aero Squadron was assigned to the Western Front for the first time on observation duty.
1918 – Actors Douglas Fairbanks and Charlie Chaplin sell war bonds on the streets of New York City’s financial district.
1925 – First planned night landings on a carrier, USS Langley, by VF-1.
1935 – The Works Progress Administration (WPA) was approved by Congress. President Franklin Roosevelt proposed the Works Progress Administration (WPA) during the Great Depression of the 1930s when almost 25 percent of Americans were unemployed. The WPA created low-paying federal jobs intended to provide immediate relief. The WPA put 8.5 million jobless to work on make-work projects as diverse as constructing highways, bridges and public buildings to arts programs like the Federal Writers’ Project.
1942 – Overwhelmed by numbers and short of food and equipment, the American and Filipino forces remaining on the Bataan peninsula are ordered to destroy their equipment prior to a surrender.
1943 – U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, in an attempt to check inflation, freezes wages and prices, prohibits workers from changing jobs unless the war effort would be aided thereby, and bars rate increases by common carriers and public utilities.
1945 – On Okinawa, the forces of US 3rd Amphibious Corps, attacking northward on the island, have cut the neck of the Motobu Peninsula and US 6th Marine Division begins operations to clear it of Japanese forces. At sea, there are less intense Kamikaze attacks.
1945 – The US forces on Negros are reinforced by the landing of a second regiment, in the northwest of the island, near Bacolod.
1945 – US 7th Army units capture Schweinfurt. Other Allied armies farther north also advance.
1946 – The League of Nations assembled in Geneva for the last time.
1950 – A US Navy privateer airplane flew from Wiesbaden, West Germany, to spy over the Soviet Union with 10 people on board. Soviet reconnaissance spotted the plane over Latvia and shot it down.
1951 – 1st of 4 detonations, Operation Greenhouse nuclear test.
1952 – President Truman, to avert a strike, ordered the Army to seize the nation’s steel mills after companies rejected Wage Stabilization Board recommendations. Truman’s attempt to take over the US steel industry was later denied by the Supreme Court and the mills were shut down by strikers for 8 weeks.
1959 – A team of computer manufacturers, users, and university people led by Navy LTCDR Grace Hopper meets to discuss the creation of a new programming language that would be called COBOL (an acronym for COmmon Business-Oriented Language).
1962 – Bay of Pigs invaders got thirty years imprisonment in Cuba.
1964 – Gemini 1 launched. Gemini 1 was the first unmanned test flight of the Gemini spacecraft in NASA’s Gemini program. Its main objectives were to test the structural integrity of the new spacecraft and modified Titan II ICBM. It was also the first test of the new tracking and communication systems for the Gemini program and provided training for the ground support crews for the first manned missions. The spacecraft stayed attached to the second stage of the rocket. The mission lasted for three orbits while test data were taken, but the spacecraft stayed in orbit for almost 64 orbits until the orbit decayed due to atmospheric drag. The spacecraft was not intended to be recovered; in fact, holes were drilled through its heat shield to ensure it would not survive re-entry.
1965 – The US flies 63 sorties against Vietcong concentrations in Kontum Province.
1968 – 42 US and 37 ARVN battalions begin the largest offensive to date in Vietnam in an operation that will last nearly two months. Operation Toan Thang (Complete Victory) is designed to destroy the Vietcong and NVA forces operating in the Capital Military District.
1968 – Operation Burlington Trail begins, by the 198th Infantry Brigade in Quang Tri Province. By 11 November this operation will claim 1931 enemy casualties.
1969 – Five waves of US B-52s raid suspected enemy camps near the Cambodian border.
1972 – North Vietnamese 2nd Division troops drive out of Laos and Cambodia to open a third front of their offensive in the Central Highlands, attacking at Kontum and Pleiku in attempt to cut South Vietnam in two. If successful, this would give North Vietnam control of the northern half of South Vietnam. The three-front attack was part of the North Vietnamese Nguyen Hue Offensive (later known as the “Easter Offensive”), which had been launched on March 30. The offensive was a massive invasion by North Vietnamese forces designed to strike the knockout blow that would win the war for the communists. 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. North Vietnam had a number of objectives in launching the offensive: impressing the communist world and its own people with its determination; capitalizing on U.S. antiwar sentiment and possibly hurting President Richard Nixon’s chances for re-election; proving that “Vietnamization” was a failure; damaging the South Vietnamese forces and government stability; gaining as much territory as possible before a possible truce; and accelerating negotiations on their own terms. Initially, the South Vietnamese defenders in each case 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 North Vietnamese attacks. Although the defenders suffered heavy casualties, they managed to hold out 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, even retaking 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.
1975 – After a weeklong mission to South Vietnam, Gen. Frederick Weyand, U.S. Army Chief of Staff and former Vietnam commander, reports to Congress that South Vietnam cannot survive without additional military aid. Questioned again later by reporters who asked if South Vietnam could survive with additional aid, Weyand replied there was “a chance.” Weyand had been sent to Saigon by President Gerald Ford to assess the South Vietnamese forces and their chances for survival against the attacking North Vietnamese. The South Vietnamese were on the verge of collapse. The most recent assaults had begun in December 1974 when the North Vietnamese launched a major attack against the lightly defended province of Phuoc Long–located north of Saigon along the Cambodian border–and overran the provincial capital at Phuoc Binh on January 6, 1975. Despite previous presidential promises to aid South Vietnam in such a situation, the United States did nothing. By this time, Nixon had resigned from office and his successor, Gerald Ford, was unable to convince a hostile Congress to make good on Nixon’s earlier promises to Saigon. The situation emboldened the North Vietnamese, who launched a new campaign in March 1975, in which the South Vietnamese forces fell back in total disarray. Once again, the United States did nothing. The South Vietnamese abandoned Pleiku and Kontum in the Highlands with very little fighting. Then Quang Tri, Hue, and Da Nang fell to the communist onslaught. The North Vietnamese continued to attack south along the coast toward Saigon, defeating the South Vietnamese forces at each encounter. As Weyand reported to Congress, the South Vietnamese were battling three North Vietnamese divisions at Xuan Loc, the last defense line before Saigon. Indeed, it became the last battle in the defense of the Republic of South Vietnam. The South Vietnamese forces managed to hold out against the attackers until they ran out of tactical air support and weapons, finally abandoning Xuan Loc to the communists on April 21. Saigon fell to the communists on April 30.
1981 – General of the Army Omar Bradley, commander of the 12th Army Group who ensured Allied victory over Germany, dies. Born on February 12, 1893, Bradley was a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point (Dwight Eisenhower was a classmate). During the opening days of World War II, he commanded the Infantry School at Fort Benning, Georgia, and was later placed at the head of the II Corps for the North African campaign, proving instrumental in the fall of Tunisia and the surrender of over 250,000 Axis soldiers. He led forces in the invasion and capture of Sicily and joined his troops in the Normandy invasion, which culminated in the symbolic liberation of Paris by Bradley’s troops. He was promoted to commander of the U.S. 12th Army Group, the largest force ever placed under an American group commander, and led successful operations in France, Luxembourg, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, and Czechoslovakia. After the war, Bradley was chosen as the first chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and ultimately promoted to the position of General of the Army in 1950. In 1951, he published his reminiscences of the war in A Soldier’s Story. He retired in 1953.
1994 – Smoking was banned in Pentagon and all US military bases.
1994 – Kofi Annan was the head of UN Peacekeeping operations when the commander of UN forces in Rwanda warned that the Kigali government was planning to slaughter Tutsis. Annan’s office ordered Gen’l. Romeo Dallaire of Canada not to protect the informant or to confiscate arms stockpiles. Annan later claimed that he lacked the military might and political backing to stop the slaughter of more than 500,000 people.
1995 – Former Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara, in an interview with AP Network News and “Newsweek” magazine to promote his memoirs, called America’s Vietnam War policy “terribly wrong.”
1997 – The Columbia space shuttle landed with its mission shortened by 12 days due to a faulty fuel cell [a defective generator].
1998 – In Bosnia NATO forces arrested Miroslav Kvocka and Mladen Radic, both whom were charged for war crimes at the Omarska camp near Prijedor where scores of Muslim and Croat prisoners were killed in 1992.
1999 – At a White House news conference, President Clinton said NATO could still win in Kosovo by air power alone, and he expressed hope for an early release of three American POW’s.
1999 – NATO bombing in Yugoslavia blocked freighter and barge traffic on the Danube.
2000 – The Central Intelligence Agency confirmed that personnel action had been taken following the mistaken bombing of the Chinese embassy during the NATO war against Yugoslavia; one employee was reportedly fired.
2000 – A Marine Corps aircraft, MV-22 tilt-rotor Osprey, with at least 18 people aboard crashed at the Avra Valley Airport near Tucson. All 19 Marines onboard were killed in the crash.
2001 – Sec. of State Colin Powell expressed sorrow for the Chinese pilot lost on Apr 1, but the Chinese continued to demand that the US apologize reiterated a demand that the US stop all military surveillance off the Chinese coast. U.S. officials said President Bush was sending a letter to the wife of a missing Chinese fighter pilot as a humanitarian gesture.
2002 – The space shuttle Atlantis took off for an 11-day mission to the ISS carrying latticework and a rail car.
2002 – Saddam Hussein cuts off Iraqi oil exports to the west in a bid to force Israel to abandon its West Bank offensive. Iraq says the oil supplies will be cut off for 30 days unless Israel pulls out before then.
2003 – In the 21st day of Operation Iraqi Freedom George W. Bush and Tony Blair met in Northern Ireland and endorsed a “vital role” for the United Nations when fighting ends in Iraq.
2003 – In Iraq British forces began establishing the first post-war administration, putting a local sheik into power in the southern city of Basra. Looting erupted shortly after their troops took control of the city. A US warplane was shot down near Baghdad. US forces seized Rasheed military airport.
2004 – Condoleeza Rice, US national security advisor, testified before the National Commission on Terrorism Attacks and contended that that Pres. Bush did not ignore threats of terrorism in the months before Sep 11, 2001.
2004 – In Afghanistan troops loyal to ethnic Uzbek warlord Abdul Rashid Dostum overran Maymana, the center of Faryab province. In the south, clashes left at least 7 people dead, including two Afghan soldiers, and two police officers killed in an attack by suspected Taliban.
2004 – Shiite Muslim militias held partial control over three southern Iraqi cities, Kufa, Kut and Najaf. In escalating violence, gunmen kidnapped eight South Korean civilians. The US military announced 5 deaths. The estimated Iraqi toll was 460.
2004 – In a dramatic video, Iraqi insurgents revealed they had kidnapped 3 Japanese and threatened to burn them alive in 3 days unless Japan agrees to withdraw its troops.
2004 – In the Philippines 6 members of the Muslim extremist Abu Sayyaf group including Hamsiraji Sali, a senior leader wanted by the US, were killed in a clash with government troops on southern Basilan island. In Oct three informants received $1 million for their help.
2005 – In Washington DC Humayun A. Khan (47) of Islamabad, Pakistan, was indicted for supplying India and Pakistan with outlawed components for nuclear weapons and ballistic missile systems.
2005 – Eric Rudolph agrees to plead guilty to four bombings including the 1996 Centennial Olympic Park bombing in exchange for four life sentences.
2007 – US forces captured a leading al-Qaeda militant on Sunday, responsible for a wave of deadly car bombings in the capital and a close aide of al-Qaeda’s Baghdad commander. The captured militant acted as a point man for the al-Qaeda commander. He was detained along with two other known al-Qaeda militants.
2008 – Speaking before the Congress, General David Petraeus urged delaying troop withdrawals, saying, “I’ve repeatedly noted that we haven’t turned any corners, we haven’t seen any lights at the end of the tunnel,” referencing the comments of then President Bush and former Vietnam-era General William Westmoreland. When asked by the Senate if reasonable people could disagree on the way forward, Petraeus said, “We fight for the right of people to have other opinions.”
2009 – Chinese and Russian cyber-spies allegedly infiltrate the United States’ electrical grid.
2009 – Somali pirates hijack the Danish container ship MV Maersk Alabama in the Indian Ocean.
2010 – United States President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev sign a new arms reduction treaty that will cut both countries’ arsenals by a third.
2012 – Afghanistan and the United States reach an agreement giving the Government of Afghanistan more control over night raids.
2013 – Wikileaks announces the release of 1.7 million United States diplomatic and intelligence documents from 1973–1976 when Henry Kissinger was United States Secretary of State.
2013 – The Islamic State of Iraq enters the Syrian Civil War and begins by declaring a merger with the Al-Nusra Front under the name Islamic State of Iraq and ash-Sham.

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