This Day in U.S. Military History…… August 19

19 August
1779 – Americans under Major Henry Lee took the British garrison at Paulus Hook, New Jersey.
1782 – Battle of Blue Licks – the last major engagement of the War of Independence, almost ten months after the surrender of the British commander Charles Cornwallis following the Siege of Yorktown.
1812 – The USS Constitution vs HMS Guerriere, was a single ship action during the War of 1812, approximately 400 miles southeast of Halifax, Nova Scotia. It took place shortly after war had broken out, and would prove to be an important victory for American morale. At 2:00 p.m. the Constitution sighted a large ship to leeward, and bore down to investigate. The weather was cloudy, and the wind was brisk. The strange ship proved to be the Guerriere, whose crew recognized Constitution at about the same moment. Both ships prepared for action, and shortened sail to “fighting sail”, i.e. topsails and jibs only. As the Constitution closed, Dacres first hove to to fire a broadside, which fell short, and then ran before the wind for three quarters of an hour with the Constitution on her quarter. Dacres yawed several times to fire broadsides at the Constitution, but the Guerriere’s broadsides were generally inaccurate, while the few shots fired from Constitution’s foremost guns had little effect. After one cannonball bounced “harmlessly” off the side of the Constitution, a crew member is said to have yelled “Huzzah! Her sides are made of iron!” Once the range had closed to within a few hundred yards, Captain Hull ordered extra sail (the foresail and main topgallant sail) to be set, to close the distance quickly. Dacres did not match this maneuver, and the two ships began exchanging broadsides at “half pistol-shot”, with the Constitution to starboard and Guerriere to port. After fifteen minutes of this exchange, during which Guerriere suffered far more damage than the Constitution due to the latter’s larger guns and thicker hull, Guerriere’s mizzenmast fell overboard to starboard, acting like a rudder and dragging her around. This allowed Constitution to cross ahead of Guerriere, firing a raking broadside which brought down the main yard. Hull then wore ship to cross Guerriere’s bow again, firing another raking broadside, but the maneuver was cut too close and the Guerriere’s bowsprit became entangled in the rigging of the Constitution’s mizzenmast. On both ships, boarding parties were summoned, while musket fire broke out from each ship. Lieutenant William S. Bush was killed, while Lieutenant Charles Morris and Captain Dacres were both wounded by musket shots. Only the narrow bowsprit provided a way between the ships, and in the heavy sea, neither side could venture across it. Some of the gunners aboard Guerriere fired at point-blank range into Hull’s stern cabin, setting the American ship on fire briefly. The two locked ships slowly rotated clockwise until they broke free. The Guerriere’s foremast and mainmast both then fell “by the board” i.e. snapped off at deck level, leaving her helpless and rolling heavily. Dacres attempted to set sail on the bowsprit to bring his ship before the wind, but it too had been damaged and broke. The Constitution meanwhile ran downwind for several minutes, repairing damage to the rigging, before once again wearing and beating upwind to return to battle. As Constitution prepared to renew the action, the Guerriere fired a shot in the opposite direction to the Constitution. Sensing that this was an attempt to signal surrender, Hull ordered a boat to take a Lieutenant over to the British ship. When the Lieutenant boarded the Guerriere and asked if Guerriere was prepared to surrender, Captain Dacres responded “Well, Sir, I don’t know. Our mizzen mast is gone, our fore and main masts are gone – I think on the whole you might say we have struck our flag.”
1818 – CAPT James Biddle takes possession of Oregon Territory for U.S.
1854 – The First Sioux War begins when United States Army soldiers kill Lakota chief Conquering Bear and in return are massacred.
1862 – American Indian Wars: during an uprising in Minnesota, Lakota warriors decide not to attack heavily-defended Fort Ridgely and instead turn to the settlement of New Ulm, killing white settlers along the way.
1863 – Boat expedition from U.S.S. Norwich and Hale, under Acting Master Charles F. Mitchell, destroyed a Confederate signal station near Jacksonville. “The capture of this signal station,” Acting Master Frank B. Meriam, commander of Norwich, reported, “will either break up this end of the line or it will detain here to protect it the troops, five small companies (about 200 men) of infantry, two full companies of cavalry, and one company of artillery, that I learn are about being forwarded to Richmond.” Throughout the war the Navy’s ability to strike repeatedly at a variety of places pinned down Confederate manpower that was vitally needed on the main fronts.
1864 – The 2nd day of battle at Globe Tavern, Virginia.
1905 – Fitzhugh Lee, US pilot, vice-admiral (WW II, Navy Cross), was born.
1905 – Roald Amundsen and his crew of 6 aboard Gjøe, a converted herring boat, made contact with the US Coast Guard cutter Bear which confirmed their crossing the Northwest Passage following a 26-month journey. Amundsen continued by dogsled to the Yukon while his crew completed their journey at Point Bonita, California, just outside the Golden Gate. Gjøe was returned to Norway in 1972. A commemorative sculpture was left next to the Beach Chalet at Ocean Beach.
1919 – “The Marines’ Hymn” was registered with the U.S. Copyright Office.
1940 – First flight of the B-25 Mitchell medium bomber.
1942 – A major raid by mainly Canadian Forces (2nd Canadian Division, under General Roberts), with a British commando component (Nos. 3 & 4 commandos under Lord Lovat) and 50 American Rangers, is staged on the French coast, at Dieppe. Its function is to test German coastal defenses and gather intelligence. The raid goes badly and there is much controversy about it, including the cancellation and remounting of the raid, the inaccurate intelligence concerning German defensive positions and the lack of bomber support for the raid. In all there are 3600 casualties on the Allied side. 106 aircraft, one destroyer, 30 tanks and 33 landing craft are also lost. German casualties are light, 600 men and 50 tanks.
1942 – 19 US Marines died during a commando raid on Makin atoll in the Gilbert Islands. The raid was 2,000 miles behind enemy lines and 9 Marines were left behind. The 1943 movie, “Gung Ho,” was based on the raid and starred Randolph Scott as Lt. Col. Evans Carlson, leader of the raid. In 2001 the bodies of 13 Marines, who died on Makin, were reburied at Arlington National Cemetery.
1943 – Italians have approached the Allies about negotiating a surrender. General Bedell Smith, General Eisenhower’s Chief of Staff, and General Strong, his chief of intelligence areeive to continue talks with approaches to the British ambassador, Sir Samuel Hoare. The leading Italian representative is General Castellano.
1944 – Elements of the US 3rd Army reach the Seine River at Mantes Grassicourt. There is heavy fighting between Falaise and Argentan.
1944 – Liberation of Paris – Paris, France rises against German occupation with the help of Allied troops.
1945 – Japanese representatives of the government arrive in Manila to conclude the surrender of the remaining Japanese troops and receive instructions on the plans for the occupation of Japan and the signing of the surrender documents. Meanwhile, General MacArthur ordered a halt to all amphibious landing operations.
1946 – Bill Clinton, US President from 1992-2000, was born as William J. Blythe III in Hope, Arkansas. He was the son of Virginia Cassidy Blythe and William Jefferson Blythe II. Clinton’s father was killed in a traffic accident prior to his birth. His mother married Roger Clinton when Bill was 4 years old.
1950 – The United Nations accepted offers of troops from Turkey, Australia, New Zealand, Great Britain, Thailand and the Philippines.
1950 – The USS Missouri, the only active battleship in the Navy fleet at that time, departed Norfolk, Va., for Korea, arriving Sept. 15.
1953 – Gen’l. Zahedi ousted Prime Minister Mossadegh and became the Premier of Iran in a bloody coup that left 300 dead. The US CIA under Allen Dulles planned a secret mission to overthrow the government. The US government made a formal apology for the coup in 2000.
1957 – The first balloon flight to exceed 100,000 feet took off from Crosby, Minnesota. US Major David Simons reached 30,933 m. in a balloon.
1960 – A tribunal in Moscow convicted American U2 pilot Francis Gary Powers of espionage. About 18 months later, the Soviets agreed to release him in exchange for Rudolph Abel, a Soviet spy convicted 5 years earlier. The CIA and the Senate cleared Powers of any personal blame for the incident.
1965 – U.S. forces destroyed a Viet Cong stronghold near Van Tuong, in South Vietnam.
1967 – Operation Coronado IV begins in Mekong Delta.
1974 – U.S. Ambassador Rodger P. Davies was fatally wounded by a bullet that penetrated the American embassy in Nicosia, Cyprus, during a protest by Greek Cypriots.
1981 – 2 US Navy F-14 jet fighters shot down 2 Soviet-built Libyan SU-22 over the Gulf of Sidra.
1983 – Four US soldiers are WIA by an explosive under their vehicle.
1987 – A third convoy of U.S. warships and reflagged Kuwaiti tankers slipped into the Persian Gulf before dawn and headed up the waterway behind a screen of mine-seeking helicopters.
1990 – Iraqi President Saddam Hussein offered to free all foreigners detained in Iraq and Kuwait provided the United States promise to withdraw its forces from Saudi Arabia and guarantee that an international economic embargo would be lifted.
1991 – Dissolution of the Soviet Union, August Coup. oviet President Mikhail Gorbachev is placed under house arrest while on holiday in the town of Foros, Ukraine.
1994 – Operation Able Vigil commenced during a massive influx of Cuban migrants fleeing Cuba. It was the “largest joint peace-time operation” in Coast Guard history, according to then-commandant, ADM Robert Kramek.
1995 – Three top US diplomats heading to peace talks in Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina, were killed when their armored vehicle plunged off a muddy road and exploded.
1997 – In North Korea groundbreaking ceremonies were held for 2 nuclear power plants to be built by a US led Int’l. consortium.
1998 – American interests were threatened by the Int’l. Islamic Front for Jihad Against Jews and Crusaders in a statement sent to Cairo, Egypt. The threat was accompanied by others from the Islamic Army for the Liberation of Holy Shrines, which claimed responsibility for the embassy bombings in Africa.
1998 – In Afghanistan Mullah Mohamed Omar, supreme Taliban ruler, said that: “Even if all the countries of the world unite, we would defend Osama with our blood.”
2003 – Afghanistan celebrated its Independence Day. An explosion ripped through the home of the brother of President Hamid Karzai.
2003 – In Baghdad a car bomb exploded in front of the hotel housing the UN headquarters, collapsing the front of the building. UN Special Representative Sergio Vieira de Mello (55) of Brazil and 22 other people were killed. UNICEF said that its program coordinator for Iraq, Canadian Christopher Klein-Beekman, was among the dead.
2003 – Taha Yassin Ramadan, a former Iraqi vice president known as “Saddam’s knuckles” for his ruthlessness and No. 20 on the US list of most-wanted Iraqis, was turned over to US forces in Mosul.
2004 – In Iraq PM Allawi gave what he said was a final warning to cleric Muqtada al-Sadr to disarm and the leave the holy shrine in Najaf.
2010 – The last US combat brigades departed Iraq in the early morning. Convoys of US troops had been moving out of Iraq to Kuwait for several days, and NBC News broadcast live from Iraq as the last convoy crossed the border. While all combat brigades left the country, an additional 50,000 personnel (including Advise and Assist Brigades) remained in the country to provide support for the Iraqi military.
2014 – In what may be considered the first attack of the Islamic State on the United States, IS releases a video that show the apparent beheading of American journalist James Foley, and threatens the life of another American journalist if President Barack Obama doesn’t end military operations in Iraq. Foley had disappeared form northwest Syria on 22 November 2012 while working for the US-based online news outlet GlobalPost. The other journalist, still in captivity, is Steven Sotloff, kidnapped form the Syria-Turkey border region in 2013. Sotloff is a contributor to Time and Foreign Policy magazines.

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