This Day in U.S. Military History…… August 21

21 August
1680 – Pueblo Indians took possession of Santa Fe, N.M., after driving out the Spanish. They destroyed almost all of the Spanish churches in Taos and Santa Fe.
1778 – The Siege of Pondicherry was the first military action on the Indian subcontinent following the declaration of war between Great Britain and France in the American War of Independence. A British force besieged the French-controlled port of Puducherry in August 1778, which capitulated after ten weeks of siege. Following the American victory at Saratoga in October 1777, France decided to enter the American War of Independence as an ally to the United States. Word first reached the French Indian colony of Pondicherry in July 1778 that France and Britain had recalled their ambassadors, a sign that war was imminent. The British colonies had already received orders to seize the French possessions in India and begun military preparations. The siege would last almost 2 months. Between 6 and 13 October the British siege operations continued, but heavy rains hampered them. The British succeeded in draining the northern ditch, which the French unsuccessfully attempted again to flood. On 14 October the walls of the two bastions the British had targeted lay in ruins, and preparations began for an assault. Bellecombe was also running out of ammunition. After holding a war council on 15 October, he sent a truce flag to Munro the next day. He signed the terms of capitulation on 18 October.
1800 – U.S. Marine Corps Band gave its first concert in Washington, D.C.
1814 – Marines defended Washington, DC, at Bladensburg, Maryland, against the British.
1831 – Believing himself chosen by God to lead his people out of slavery, Nat Turner launches a bloody slave insurrection in Southampton County, Virginia. Turner, a slave and educated minister, planned to capture the county armory at Jerusalem, Virginia, and then march 30 miles to Dismal Swamp, where his rebels would be able to elude their pursuers. With seven followers, he slaughtered Joseph Travis, his slave owner, and Travis’ family, and then set off across the countryside, hoping to rally hundreds of slaves to his insurrection en route to Jerusalem. During the next two days and nights, Turner and 75 followers rampaged through Southampton County, killing about 60 whites. Local whites resisted the rebels, and then the state militia–consisting of some 3,000 men–crushed the rebellion. Only a few miles from Jerusalem, Turner and all his followers were dispersed, captured, or killed. In the aftermath of the rebellion, scores of African Americans were lynched, though many of them were non-participants in the revolt. Turner himself was not captured until the end of October, and after confessing without regret to his role in the bloodshed, he was tried, convicted, and sentenced to death. On November 11, he was hanged in Jerusalem. Turner’s rebellion was the largest slave revolt in U.S. history and led to a new wave of oppressive legislation prohibiting the movement, assembly, and education of slaves.
1861 – U.S.S. Albatross, Commander Prentiss, engaged C.S.S. Beaufort, Lieutenant R. C. Duvall, in Oregon Inlet, North Carolina. Albatross, heavier gunned, forced Beau fort to withdraw.
1861 – U.S. Marines commanded by Major Reynolds took part in the First Battle of Bull Run: 9 Marines killed, 19 wounded, 16 missing in action. Commander Dahlgren wrote of the loss of two naval howitzers in the battle. The Confederates also had a naval battery at Manassas.
1862 – As the economy took a beating from the Civil War, the Treasury Department sprung into action by releasing fractional currency, alternately known as postage currency. The new 5, 10, 25, and 50-cent notes hit the streets on this day.
1863 – The vicious guerilla war in Missouri spills over into Kansas and precipitates one of the most appalling acts of violence during the war when 150 men in the abolitionist town of Lawrence are murdered in a raid by Southern partisans. The Civil War took a very different form in Kansas and Missouri than it did throughout the rest of the nation. There were few regular armies operating there; instead, partisan bands attacked civilians and each other. The roots of conflict in the region dated back to 1854, when the Kansas-Missouri border became ground zero for tension over slavery. While residents of Kansas Territory were trying to decide the issue of slavery, bands from Missouri, a slave state, began attacking abolitionist settlements in the territory. Abolitionists reacted with equal vigor. When the war began, the long heritage of hatred between partisans created unparalleled violence in the area. In August 1863, the Union commander along the border, General Thomas Ewing, arrested several wives and sisters of members of a notorious band led by William Quantrill. This gang of outlaws had scorched the region, terrorizing and murdering Union sympathizers. On August 14, the building in Kansas City where the women were being held collapsed, killing five. Quantrill assembled 450 men to exact revenge. The army, which included such future western outlaws as the Younger brothers and Frank and Jesse James, headed for Lawrence, Kansas, long known as the center of abolitionism in Kansas. After kidnapping 10 farmers in order to guide them to Lawrence, the gang murdered each of them. Quantrill’s men rode into Lawrence and dragged 182 men from their homes, many in front of their families, and killed them in cold blood. They burned 185 buildings in Lawrence, then rode back to Missouri with Union cavalry in hot pursuit. This incident incited the North and led to even more killing by both sides along the Kansas-Missouri border.
1863 – Confederate torpedo boat Torch, Pilot James Carlin, formerly a blockade runner, made a gallant night attempt to sink U.S.S. New Ironsides, Captain Stephen C. Rowan, in the channel near Morris Island. The small steamer, which was constructed from the hulk of an unfinished gunboat at Charleston, sailed low in the water, was painted gray and burned anthracite coal to avoid detection. She took on much water and her engines were of dubious quality when she made her run on the heavy Union blockader. When but 40 yards away from New Ironsides, Carlin ordered the engines cut and pointed her at his prey. The boat failed to respond properly to her helm, and as New Ironsides swung about her anchor slowly with the tide, the torpedo failed to make contact with the ship’s hull. While alongside the Union ship, Carlin could not start the engines for some minutes, but the daring Confederate kept up a cool conversation with the officer of the deck on New Ironsides, who finally became alarmed but was unable to depress any of the guns sufficiently to fire into the little craft. At this moment, the torpedo boat’s engines started, and Carlin quickly made his way back to Charleston, two shots from New Ironsides, falling 20 feet to either side of his torpedo boat. General Beauregard, seeking to lift the blockade and the continuing bombardment of his forces at Forts Wagner and Sumter, wrote Carlin: “I feel convinced that another trial under more favorable circumstances will surely meet with success, notwith-standing the known defects of the vessel.”
1864 – Confederate General A.P. Hill attacked Union troops south of Petersburg, Va., at the Weldon railroad. His attack was repulsed, resulting in heavy Confederate casualties.
1883 – The first installation of electric lights in a US Navy warship took place during the summer of 1883. Earlier that spring, seven electric power companies were asked by the Bureau of Navigation to submit bids for installing lights in USS Trenton, then currently berthed at the New York Navy Yard in Brooklyn. Only one, the Edison Company for Isolated Lighting, submitted a bid of $5,500 to install one L dynamo & one Armington-Sims engine complete to supply light via insulated wiring to 104 16-candle power lamps, 130 10-candle power lamps, and 4 32-candle power lamps. The ensuing contract also included 238 key sockets, 6 extra brushes, 1 automatic regulator and 1 dynamo foundation. Lieutenant.Commander. R. B. Bradford, executive officer of the ship, oversaw the installation of this equipment in Trenton between 7 June and 21 August 1883. Owing to the need to maintain the engine and dynamo, the system was only run at night.
1867 – After the Civil War settlers rushed to claim lands in the Great Plains. By the mid-1867 the native peoples in Kansas began resisting by attacking settlements, railroad workers and travelers heading west. To help meet this emergency the War Department authorized placing volunteer units on active duty to patrol and protect the settlements. They were soon joined by elements of the U.S. 10th Cavalry. This unit was one of four Regular Army African American regiments composed of all-black enlisted men but almost entirely commanded by white officers. These men are often referred to as the “Buffalo Soldiers”, a nick name given them by the Native American because their hair resembles that of the buffalo. Combined patrols of cavalry and militia were soon scouting for hostiles. One of these patrols consisted of four companies of the 18th Kansas Volunteer Cavalry along with a small number of men from the 10th. They split their forces along the Saline River. Soon the 10th, numbering some 135 men, was under attack by more then 300 Indians. When Captain Horace Moore commanding 125 Kansans and his men heard the firing, they turned and rode to help the 10th. Soon the two forces were reunited, though pinned down on a hill near Prairie Dog Creek, surrounded by hostiles. To break free the 10th’s commander organized a combined detachment of black troopers and white volunteers. Horse-mounted they broke the Indians encirclement and threw them back in confusion.
1915 – Italy declared war on Turkey.
1920 – Radio station built by U.S. Navy and French Government transmits first wireless message heard around the world. At time it was the most powerful radio station in the world.
1942 – On Guadalcanal, Japanese Colonel Ichiki’s force of 1000 men attack the American positions across the Tenaru River. The American strength and defenses are unexpected and the Japanese force is destroyed. The Marines continue to receive shipments of supplies and some reinforcements.
1944 – Allied armies advance northeast in pursuit of the broken and retreating German forces. The US 3rd Army develops its bridgeheads over the Seine River. The right flank of its advance reaches Sens.
1944 – Representatives from the United States, Great Britain, the Soviet Union, and China meet in the Dumbarton Oaks estate at Georgetown, Washington, D.C., to formulate the formal principles of an organization that will provide collective security on a worldwide basis-an organization that will become the United Nations. Following up on a promise made at the Moscow Conferences of 1943 to create an international organization to succeed the League of Nations, the Dumbarton Oaks Conference began planning its creation. Step one was the outline for a Security Council, which would be composed of the member states (basically, the largest of the Allied nations)–the United States, the USSR, China, France, and Great Britain-with each member having veto power over any proposal brought before the Council. Many political questions would remain to be hammered out, such as a specific voting system and the membership status of republics within the Soviet Union. A more detailed blueprint for the United Nations would be drawn up at both the Yalta Conference in February 1945, and the San Francisco Conference, which would produce the U.N. charter, also in 1945.
1945 – President Harry S. Truman ended the Lend-Lease program that had shipped some $50 billion in aid to America’s Allies during World War II.
1945 – Japan appeals to Kamikaze pilots to cease operations. A joint statement by the Japanese Imperial headquarters and the government instructs the general public in Japan to go about its business calmly and, according to the official news agency, authorities have forbidden fraternization saying “there will be no direct contact between the general public and the Allied landing forces.”
1945 – Haroutune (Harry) Krikor Daghlian, Jr. (May 4, 1921 – September 15, 1945), an Armenian American physicist with the Manhattan Project, accidentally irradiated himself during a critical mass experiment at the remote Omega Site facility at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, resulting in his death 25 days later. Daghlian was irradiated as a result of a criticality accident that occurred when he accidentally dropped a tungsten carbide brick onto a 6.2 kg delta phase plutonium bomb core. This core, available at the close of World War II and later nicknamed the “Demon core”, also resulted in the death of Louis Slotin in a similar accident, and was used in the Able detonation, during the Crossroads series of nuclear weapon testing.
1951 – First contract for nuclear-powered submarine awarded.
1952 – The Commander in Chief, Far East Command, General Mark W. Clark, established the Korean Communications Zone as a major subordinate command of FEC. The Korean COMZ had responsibility for all activities south of a boundary at approximately the 37th parallel.
1959 – The modern United States receives its crowning star when President Dwight D. Eisenhower signs a proclamation admitting Hawaii into the Union as the 50th state. The president also issued an order for an American flag featuring 50 stars arranged in staggered rows: five six-star rows and four five-star rows. The new flag became official July 4, 1960. The first known settlers of the Hawaiian Islands were Polynesian voyagers who arrived sometime in the eighth century. In the early 18th century, American traders came to Hawaii to exploit the islands’ sandalwood, which was much valued in China at the time. In the 1830s, the sugar industry was introduced to Hawaii and by the mid 19th century had become well established. American missionaries and planters brought about great changes in Hawaiian political, cultural, economic, and religious life. In 1840, a constitutional monarchy was established, stripping the Hawaiian monarch of much of his authority. In 1893, a group of American expatriates and sugar planters supported by a division of U.S. Marines deposed Queen Liliuokalani, the last reigning monarch of Hawaii. One year later, the Republic of Hawaii was established as a U.S. protectorate with Hawaiian-born Sanford B. Dole as president. Many in Congress opposed the formal annexation of Hawaii, and it was not until 1898, following the use of the naval base at Pearl Harbor during the Spanish-American War, that Hawaii’s strategic importance became evident and formal annexation was approved. Two years later, Hawaii was organized into a formal U.S. territory. During World War II, Hawaii became firmly ensconced in the American national identity following the surprise Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941. In March 1959, the U.S. government approved statehood for Hawaii, and in June the Hawaiian people voted by a wide majority to accept admittance into the United States. Two months later, Hawaii officially became the 50th state.
1963 – South Vietnamese Special Forces loyal to President Diem’s brother, Ngo Dinh Nhu, attack Buddhists pagodas, damaging many and arresting 1,400 Buddhists. Diem’s government represented a minority of Vietnamese who were mostly businessmen, land owners, and Roman Catholics. A large part of the rest of the South Vietnam’s population, overwhelmingly Buddhist, deeply resented Diem’s rule because of what they perceived as severe discrimination against non-Catholics. In May 1963, the Buddhists began a series of demonstrations against the Diem government, in which seven Buddhist monks set themselves on fire in protest. The U.S. government tried to convince Diem to be more lenient with the Buddhists, but he only became more repressive. This continuing confrontation with the Buddhists and Diem’s failure to press for meaningful reforms led to a withdrawal of U.S. support for the South Vietnamese leader and effectively gave a green light for a coup conducted by opposition generals, who were told that the United States would support whichever government was in power. During the course of the coup, Diem and his brother were assassinated by South Vietnamese officers. The removal of Diem, which U.S. government officials had hoped would stabilize the political situation in South Vietnam, resulted in anything but stability–there would be ten successive governments in Saigon within 18 months.
1965 – Launch of Gemini 5, piloted by LCDR Charles Conrad Jr., USN, who completed 120 orbits in almost 8 days at an altitude of 349.8 km. Recovery was by helicopter from USS Lake Champlain (CVS-39).
1965 – It is revealed by MACV headquarters (Headquarters Military Assistance Command Vietnam) in Saigon that U.S. pilots have received approval to destroy any Soviet-made missiles they see while raiding North Vietnam. This was a major change from previous orders that restricted them to bombing only previously approved targets.
1968 – William Dana reached 80 km. in the last high-altitude X-15 flight.
1968 – After 5 years Russia once again jammed Voice of America radio.
1968 – Soviet forces invaded Czechoslovakia because of the country’s experiments with a more liberal government.
1968 – James Anderson, Jr. posthumously receives the first Medal of Honor to be awarded to an African American U.S. Marine.
1972 – US orbiting astronomy observatory Copernicus was launched.
1972 – Apollo 16 astronauts John Young and Charles Duke explored the surface of the moon with Boeing Lunar Rover #2.
1975 – In Los Angeles Kathleen Ann Soliah (later known as Sarah Jane Olson) and other members of the SLA placed 2 pipe bombs under parked police cars at an Int’l. House of Pancakes on Sunset Blvd. They did not explode. Olson pleaded guilty to 2 felony accounts in 2001. Olson was convicted and sentenced in 2002 to 20 years to life in prison and was then arraigned with 3 others for the Apr 21 murder of Myrna Opsahl.
1976 – Operation Paul Bunyan begins. In response to the “axe murder incident”, the UN Command determined that instead of trimming the branches that obscured visibility, they would cut down the tree with the aid of overwhelming force. The parameters of the operation were decided in the White House, where President Gerald Ford had held crisis talks. Ford and his advisors were concerned about making a show of strength to chasten North Korea, but without causing further escalation. The operation, named after mythical lumberjack Paul Bunyan, was conceived as a US/South Korean show of force, but was also carefully managed to prevent further escalation. It was planned over two days by General Richard G. Stilwell and his staff at the UNC headquarters in Seoul.
1980 – USS Truxtun rescues 42 Vietnamese refugees and USS Merrill rescues 62 Vietnamese refugees, over 200 miles southeast of Saigon.
1982 – The first troops of a multinational force lands in Beirut to oversee the Palestine Liberation Organization’s withdrawal from Lebanon.
1983 – Philippine opposition leader Benigno S. Aquino Jr., ending a self-imposed exile in the United States, was shot dead moments after stepping off a plane at Manila International Airport. Fabian Ver (d.1998 at 78), leader of the Philippine army, was among 20 men later charged in the murder of Aquino. Ver fled to Hawaii in 1986 along with Marcos.
1987 – Sgt. Clayton Lonetree, the first Marine ever court-martialed for spying, was convicted in Quantico, Va., of passing secrets to the KGB after becoming romantically involved with a Soviet woman while serving as a U.S. Embassy guard in Moscow. Lonetree ended up serving eight years in a military prison, and was released in February 1996.
1989 – The U.S. space probe Voyager 2 fired its thrusters to bring it closer to Neptune’s mysterious moon Triton.
1990 – Iraqi President Saddam Hussein delivered a speech in which he defended the detaining of foreigners in his country, and promised “a major catastrophe” should fighting break out in the Persian Gulf.
1991 – Just three days after it began, the coup against Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev collapses. Despite his success in avoiding removal from office, Gorbachev’s days in power were numbered. The Soviet Union would soon cease to exist as a nation and as a Cold War threat to the United States. The coup against Gorbachev began on August 18, led by hard-line communist elements of the Soviet government and military. The attempt was poorly planned and disorganized, however. The leaders of the coup seemed to spend as much time bickering among themselves–and, according to some reports, drinking heavily–as they did on trying to win popular support for their action. Nevertheless, they did manage to put Gorbachev under house arrest and demand that he resign from leadership of the Soviet Union. Many commentators in the West believed that the administration of President George Bush would come to the rescue, but were somewhat surprised at the restrained response of the U.S. government. These commentators did not know that at the time a serious debate was going on among Bush officials as to whether Gorbachev’s days were numbered and whether the United States should shift its support to Russian President Boris Yeltsin. Yeltsin’s stock rose sharply as he publicly denounced the coup and organized strikes and street protests by the Russian people. The leaders of the coup, seeing that most of the Soviet military did not support their action, called off the attempt and it collapsed on August 21. The collapse of the coup brought a temporary reprieve to the Gorbachev regime, but among U.S. officials he was starting to be seen as damaged goods. Once a darling of the U.S. press and public, Gorbachev increasingly was viewed as incompetent and a failure. U.S. officials began to discuss the post-Gorbachev situation in the Soviet Union. Based on what had transpired during the August 1991 coup, they began a slow but steady tilt toward Yeltsin. In retrospect, this policy seemed extremely prudent, given that Gorbachev resigned as leader of the Soviet Union in December 1991. Despite the turmoil around him, Yeltsin continued to serve as president of the largest and most powerful of the former soviet socialist republics, Russia.
1993 – In a serious setback for NASA, engineers lost contact with the Mars Observer spacecraft on a $980 million mission. Its fate remains unknown.
1995 – A Palestinian suicide bomber blew up a bus in Jerusalem and killed 4 Israelis, 1 American, and wounded more than 100 people. Hamas took responsibility.
1998 – Sudanese authorities, angered by the US attack of US cruise missiles, released 2 men suspected in the bombing of 2 US embassies on Aug 7. The men were sent to Pakistan.
2001 – NATO decides to send a peace-keeping force to the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.
2001 – The CIA placed Khalid Al-Midhar and Nawaf Alhazmi under suspicion as part of the investigation in the bombing of the destroyer Cole in Yemen. The 2 were among the hijackers who commandeered the jet that hit the Pentagon on Sep 11.
2002 – President Bush told reporters at his Texas ranch that ousting Iraq’s Saddam Hussein was “in the interests of the world” but indicated the United States was in no hurry.
2002 – A new Lockheed Martin Atlas V rocket launched a 4-ton French communications satellite into orbit.
2003 – The US military reported that Ali Hassan al-Majid (“Chemical Ali”), No. 5 on the list of most-wanted Iraqis, had been captured.
2004 – In Najaf, Iraq, militants loyal to radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr kept their hold on a revered shrine, and clashes flared.
2004 – Pakistani officials said they had arrested at least five al-Qaida-linked terrorists who were plotting suicide attacks on government leaders and the U.S. Embassy.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *