This Day in U.S. Military History…… August 12

12 August
1508 – Ponce de Leon arrived in Puerto Rico. Spain had appointed him to colonize Puerto Rico. He explored Puerto Rico and Spanish ships under his command began to capture Bahamanian Tainos to work as slaves on Hispaniola. His settlement at Caparra, 2 miles south of San Juan Bay, was plagued by Taino Indians and cannibalistic Carib Indians.
1658 – The 1st US police corps formed in New Amsterdam.
1676 – In colonial New England, King Philip’s War effectively comes to an end when Philip, chief of the Wampanoag Indians, is assassinated by a Native American in the service of the English. In the early 1670s, 50 years of peace between the Plymouth colony and the local Wampanoag Indians began to deteriorate when the rapidly expanding settlements forced land sales on the tribe. Reacting to increasing Native American hostility, the English met with King Philip, chief of the Wampanoag, and demanded that his forces surrender their arms. The Wampanoag did so, but in 1675 a Christian Native American who had been acting as an informer to the English was murdered, and three Wampanoag were tried and executed for the crime. On June 24, King Philip responded by ordering a raid on the border settlement of Swansee, Massachusetts. His warriors massacred the English colonists there, and the attack set off a series of Wampanoag raids in which several settlements were destroyed and scores of colonists massacred. The colonists retaliated by destroying a number of Indian villages. The destruction of a Narragansett village by the English brought the Narragansett into the conflict on the side of King Philip, and within a few months several other tribes and all the New England colonies were involved. In early 1676, the Narragansett were defeated and their chief killed, while the Wampanoag and their other allies were gradually subdued. King Philip’s wife and son were captured, and his secret headquarters in Mount Hope, Rhode Island, were discovered. On August 12, 1676, Philip was assassinated at Mount Hope by a Native American in the service of the English. The English drew and quartered Philip’s body and publicly displayed his head on a stake in Plymouth. King Philip’s War, which was extremely costly to the colonists of southern New England, ended the Native American presence in the region and inaugurated a period of unimpeded colonial expansion.
1812 – USS Constitution captures and destroys brig Adeona.
1817 – The Revenue Cutter Active captured the pirate ship Margaret in the Chesapeake Bay.
1862 – Confederate cavalry leader General John Hunt Morgan captures a small Federal garrison in Gallatin, Tennessee, just north of Nashville. The incident was part of a larger operation against the army of Union General Don Carlos Buell, which was threatening Chattanooga by late summer. Morgan sought to cut Buell’s supply lines with his bold strike. Morgan, an Alabama native raised in Kentucky, attended Transylvania University before being expelled for boisterous behavior. He fought in the Mexican War with Zachary Taylor, then became a successful hemp manufacturer before the war. When his state remained with the Union, he moved south and joined the Confederate army. After fighting at Shiloh in April 1862, Morgan commanded a regiment in Joseph Wheeler’s cavalry. Known as the “Thunderbolt of the South,” Morgan’s outfit was famous for stealth attacks. In 1862 and 1863, he led three major raids into Union-held territory. After the first raid, Morgan supported attempts to disrupt Buell’s campaign in Tennessee. Gallatin was a vital supply point for the Union between Louisville and Nashville. Morgan’s men burned the depot, captured the Union force protecting it, and then destroyed an 800-foot railroad tunnel north of town by setting fire to a train loaded with hay and pushing it into the tunnel. The timber supports caught fire and burned until the tunnel collapsed. Afterwards, Morgan moved north to support General Edmund Kirby Smith’s invasion of Kentucky.
1863 – Confederate raider William Quantrill led a massacre of 150 men and boys in Lawrence, Kansas. Quantrill’s last ride.
1867 – President Andrew Johnson sparked a move to impeach him as he defied Congress by suspending Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton.
1898 – Hawaii was formally annexed to the United States.
1898 – The brief and one-sided Spanish-American War comes to an end when Spain formally agrees to a peace protocol on U.S. terms: the cession of Cuba, Puerto Rico, and Manila in the Philippines to the United States pending a final peace treaty. The Spanish-American War had its origins in the rebellion against Spanish rule that began in Cuba in 1895. The repressive measures that Spain took to suppress the guerrilla war, such as herding Cuba’s rural population into disease-ridden garrison towns, were graphically portrayed in U.S. newspapers and enflamed public opinion. In January 1898, violence in Havana led U.S. authorities to order the battleship USS Maine to the city’s port to protect American citizens. On February 15, a massive explosion of unknown origin sank the Maine in the Havana harbor, killing 260 of the 400 American crewmembers aboard. An official U.S. Naval Court of Inquiry ruled in March, without much evidence, that the ship was blown up by a mine but did not directly place the blame on Spain. Much of Congress and a majority of the American public expressed little doubt that Spain was responsible, and called for a declaration of war. In April, the U.S. Congress prepared for war, adopting joint congressional resolutions demanding a Spanish withdrawal from Cuba and authorizing President William McKinley to use force. On April 23, President McKinley asked for 125,000 volunteers to fight against Spain. The next day, Spain issued a declaration of war. The United States declared war on April 25. On May 1, the U.S. Asiatic Squadron under Commodore George Dewey destroyed the Spanish Pacific fleet at Manila Bay in the first battle of the Spanish-American War. Dewey’s decisive victory cleared the way for the U.S. occupation of Manila in August and the eventual transfer of the Philippines from Spanish to American control. On the other side of the world, a Spanish fleet docked in Cuba’s Santiago harbor in May after racing across the Atlantic from Spain. A superior U.S. naval force arrived soon after and blockaded the harbor entrance. In June, the U.S. Army Fifth Corps landed in Cuba with the aim of marching to Santiago and launching a coordinated land and sea assault on the Spanish stronghold. Included among the U.S. ground troops were the Theodore Roosevelt-led “Rough Riders,” a collection of Western cowboys and Eastern blue bloods officially known as the First U.S. Voluntary Cavalry. On July 1, the Americans won the Battle of San Juan Hill, and the next day they began a siege of Santiago. On July 3, the Spanish fleet was destroyed off Santiago by U.S. warships under Admiral William Sampson, and on July 17 the Spanish surrendered the city–and thus Cuba–to the Americans. In Puerto Rico, Spanish forces likewise crumbled in the face of superior U.S. forces, and on August 12 an armistice was signed between Spain and the United States. On December 10, the Treaty of Paris officially ended the Spanish-American War. The once-proud Spanish empire was virtually dissolved, and the United States gained its first overseas empire. Puerto Rico and Guam were ceded to the United States, the Philippines were bought for $20 million, and Cuba became a U.S. protectorate. Philippine insurgents who fought against Spanish rule during the war immediately turned their guns against the new occupiers, and 10 times more U.S. troops died suppressing the Philippines than in defeating Spain.
1914 – Great Britain declared war on Austria-Hungary.
1918 – SECNAV approves acceptance of women as yeoman (F) in U.S. Navy.
1918 – The Secretary of the Navy authorized the enlistment of women into the Marine Corps Reserve.
1941 – The House passes an extension of the draft period from one year to thirty months (and a similar increase for service in the National Guard) after considerable debate. The bill is passed by one vote (203-202) in the House, so it would be incorrect to suggest that American political opinion is strongly in favor of a more aggressive international policy at this point.
1941 – Churchill and Roosevelt conclude their meeting at Placentia Bay. It is agreed to send strong warnings to the Japanese and it is understood the America will almost certainly enter the war if Japan attacks British or Dutch possessions in the East Indies or Malaysia. A message is also sent to Stalin, proposing a meeting in Moscow. The conference is most remembered for the agreement later called the Atlantic Charter. This is a statement of principles governing the policies of Britain and the USA and states that all countries have the right to hold free elections and to be free from foreign pressure. The conference also gives British and American staffs an opportunity to get to know each other and to work together.
1942 – Strong American forces are landed on Espiritu Santu to build a supply base for the Guadalcanal campaign.
1942 – USS Cleveland (CL-55) demonstrates effectiveness of radio-proximity fuze (VT-fuze) against aircraft by successfully destroying 3 drones with proximity bursts fired by her five inch guns.
1944 – The first PLUTO (Pipe Line Under The Ocean) becomes operational carrying fuel from the Isle of Wight to Cherbourg.
1944 – The US 15th Corps (part of US 3rd Army) captures Alencon and advances to the outskirts of Argentan where the German 116th Panzer Division is located.
1944 – Italian based American bombers attack the Bordeaux-Merignac airfield and then fly on to Britain.
1944 – Elements of US 5th Army complete the capture of Florence.
1944 – LT Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr., USNR, the older brother of John F. Kennedy, was killed with his co-pilot in a mid-air explosion after taking off from England in a PB4Y from Special Attack Unit One (SAU-1). Following manual takeoff, they were supposed to parachute out over the English Channel while the radio-controlled explosive filled drone proceeded to attack a German V-2 missile-launching site. Possible causes include faulty wiring or FM signals from a nearby transmitter.
1945 – The Chinese-American headquarters cancels the operations against Fort Bayard, Hong Kong and Canton, in light of the imminent capitulation of Japan.
1945 – Over Japan, B-29 Superfortress bombers continue attacks on targets.
1945 – The battleship USS Pennsylvania is damaged by an attack from a Japanese torpedo bomber off the island of Okinawa. Meanwhile, A Japanese submarine sinks the American destroyer Thomas F. Nickel and the landing craft Oak Hill.
1950 – The U.S. Army’s 5th Regimental Combat Team and the 25th Infantry Division’s 35th Infantry Regiment joined forces east of Chinju to continue the Task Force Kean counteroffensive that pushed the North Koreans back 20 miles.
1951 – Charles E. Brady Jr., USN Commander, astronaut, was born in, Pinehurst, NC.
1952 – For three days a reinforced rifle company of the 1st Marine Division on Hill 122 (Bunker Hill) fought off repeated enemy assaults, up to battalion size in strength.
1953 – The Soviet Union conducted a secret test of its first hydrogen bomb.
1957 – In first test of Automatic Carrier Landing System, LCDR Don Walker is landed on USS Antietam.
1958 – USS Nautilus (SSN-571) arrives Portland, England completing first submerged under ice cruise from Pacific to Atlantic Oceans.
1959 – The 1st ship firing of a Polaris missile was from Observation Island.
1960 – USAF Major Robert M White takes X-15 to 41,600 m.
1960 – The first balloon satellite, the Echo 1, was launched by the US from Cape Canaveral, Fla. It bounced phone calls from JPL in California to the Bell Labs in New Jersey.
1961 – In an effort to stem the tide of refugees attempting to leave East Berlin, the communist government of East Germany begins building the Berlin Wall to divide East and West Berlin. Construction of the wall caused a short-term crisis in U.S.-Soviet bloc relations, and the wall itself came to symbolize the Cold War. Throughout the 1950s and into the early 1960s, thousands of people from East Berlin crossed over into West Berlin to reunite with families and escape communist repression. In an effort to stop that outflow, the government of East Germany, on the night of August 12, 1961, began to seal off all points of entrance into West Berlin from East Berlin by stringing barbed wire and posting sentries. In the days and weeks to come, construction of a concrete block wall began, complete with sentry towers and minefields around it. The Berlin Wall succeeded in completely sealing off the two sections of Berlin. The U.S. government responded angrily. Commanders of U.S. troops in West Berlin even began to make plans to bulldoze the wall, but gave up on the idea when the Soviets moved armored units into position to protect it. The West German government was furious with America’s lack of action, but President John F. Kennedy believed that “A wall is a hell of a lot better than a war.” In an attempt to reassure the West Germans that the United States was not abandoning them, Kennedy traveled to the Berlin Wall in June 1963, and famously declared, “Ich bin ein Berliner!” (“I am a Berliner!”). Since the word “Berliner” was commonly referred to as a jelly doughnut throughout most of Germany, Kennedy’s improper use of German grammar was also translated as “I am a jelly doughnut.” However, due to the context of his speech, Kennedy’s intended meaning that he stood together with West Berlin in its rivalry with communist East Berlin and the German Democratic Republic was understood by the German people. In the years to come, the Berlin Wall became a physical symbol of the Cold War. The stark division between communist East Berlin and democratic West Berlin served as the subject for numerous editorials and speeches in the United States, while the Soviet bloc characterized the wall as a necessary protection against the degrading and immoral influences of decadent Western culture and capitalism. During the lifetime of the wall, nearly 80 people were killed trying to escape from East to West Berlin. In late 1989, with communist governments falling throughout Eastern Europe, the Berlin Wall was finally opened and then demolished. For many observers, this action was the signal that the Cold War was finally coming to an end.
1969 – Viet Cong forces launch a new offensive with attacks on 150 cities, towns, and bases, including Da Nang and Hue. The heaviest attacks were aimed at the area adjacent to the Cambodian border northwest of Saigon; an estimated 2,000 Communists attacked Tay Ninh, Quan Loi, Loc Ninh, and An Loc. Further north, North Vietnamese commandos fought their way into the U.S. First Marine Division headquarters in Da Nang. They were eventually driven out by the Marines, who killed 40 Communist soldiers, sustaining five killed and 23 wounded in the process.
1972 – As the last U.S. ground troops left Vietnam, B-52’s made their largest strike of the war.
1976 – The orbiter Enterprise made its 1st approach and lands test (ALT).
1977 – High Energy Astronomy Observatory 1 was launched into Earth orbit.
1977 – The space shuttle Enterprise passed its first solo flight test by taking off atop a Boeing 747, separating and then touching down in California’s Mojave Desert.
1981 – President Reagan, citing alleged Libyan involvement in terrorism, ordered U.S. jets to attack targets in Libya.
1981 – IBM introduces the PC and PC-DOS version 1.0. The computer had shrunk from being a room-clogging behemoth to a relatively dainty machine that could fit on desks in homes and schools. So, IBM’s introduction of its Personal Computer (PC) on August 12, 1981, didn’t exactly signal a technical revolution. But that didnýt stop Big Blue’s PC from bursting onto the scene. Their new product sold 136,000 units in its first year and a half of release, propelling the company’s stock on an upward climb that peaked later in the decade. IBM had seemingly served notice to the computer industry: the granddaddy of business computing was making a break from the boardroom and looking to conquer America’s homes. Not as widely noticed was the fact that IBM’s new machine was a pastiche of other company’s components, including a processing chip courtesy of Intel and an operating system developed by a thirty-two person concern called Microsoft.
1982 – Coast Guard vessels escorted the nation’s first Trident submarine, the USS Ohio, into its home port at Naval Submarine Base Bangor, providing security for the sub’s transit. Coast Guard units guided the sub past a Soviet spy ship and 400 anti-nuclear protesters.
1987 – President Reagan addressed the nation on the Iran-Contra affair, saying his former national security adviser, John Poindexter, was wrong not to have told him about the diversion of Iran arms-sale money.
1989 – The Pentagon said it was stepping up efforts to find missing Texas Rep. Mickey Leland and 15 companions in Ethiopia. The wreckage of the group’s airplane, with no survivors, was found the next day.
1990 – Air Force Staff Sergeant John Campisi of West Covina, California, died after being hit by a military truck in Saudi Arabia, becoming the first US casualty of the Persian Gulf crisis.
1990 – Iraqi President Saddam Hussein sought to tie any withdrawal of his troops from Kuwait to an Israeli withdrawal from the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.
1993 – The launch of space shuttle Discovery was scrubbed at the last second.
1994 – “Team Coast Guard” was created. Commandant, ADM Robert Kramek, approved recommendations that integrated the reserves into the operation missions and administrative processes of the regular Coast Guard, effectively eliminating the differences between the two service components.
1998 – A Lockheed Martin Titan 4A rocket exploded after takeoff at Cape Canaveral. The $300 million rocket carried a spy satellite for the Air Force valued at $800 to $1 billion. The explosion was blamed on a momentary loss of power.
2000 – British and US bombers struck southern Iraq for a 2nd day.
2002 – Iraq’s information minister, Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf told the Arabic satellite television station Al-Jazeera that there was no need for U.N. weapons inspectors to return to Baghdad. He branded as a “lie” allegations that Saddam Hussein still had weapons of mass destruction.
2003 – The FBI arrested Hemant Lakhani, an Indian-born British arms dealer, in a sting operation in New Jersey and foiled a contrived plot aimed at smuggling a shoulder-fired missile for some $80,000 to US-based terrorists. It involved cooperation between the intelligence services of the US and Russia.
2003 – At least 20 combatants died in a gunbattle between suspected Taliban fighters and Afghan government soldiers.
2003 – El Salvador sent 360 peacekeepers to Iraq.
2003 – Capture in Southeast Asia of top al Qaeda leader and suspected planner of Indonesia bombings, Riduan Isamuddin, aka Hambali.
2004 – In Najaf thousands of U.S. and Iraqi soldiers launched a major assault on militiamen loyal to a radical Shiite cleric al-Sadr.
2004 – The U.N. Security Council unanimously approved a resolution extending the U.N. mission in Iraq for a year.
2004 – Pakistan authorities said they had arrested five more suspected members of Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida network in the past 48 hours.
2014 – The US announced that it would not extend its airstrikes against the Islamic State to areas outside northern Iraq, emphasizing that the objective of the airstrikes was to protect US diplomats in Erbil. The US and the UK airdropped 60,000 litres of water and 75,000 meals for stranded refugees. The Vatican called on religious leaders of all denominations, particularly Muslim leaders, to unite and condemn the IS for what it described as “heinous crimes” and the use of religion to justify them.

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