This Day in U.S. Military History……August 5

5 August
1664 – After days of negotiation, the Dutch settlement of New Amsterdam surrendered to the British, who would rename it New York. The citizens of New Amsterdam petitioned Peter Stuyvesant to surrender to the English. The “Articles of Capitulation” guaranteed free trade, religious liberty and a form of local representation.
1815 – A peace treaty with Tripoli–which followed treaties with Algeria and Tunis–brought an end to the Barbary Wars.
1832 – Frigate Potomac is first U.S. Navy ship to entertain royalty, King and Queen of Sandwich Islands, Honolulu.
1861 – The government handed down the first Income Tax as part of the Revenue Act of 1861. The tax, 3% which was levied on incomes over $800, was designed to help fund the Civil War. However, the measure was short-lived, as the government rescinded it in 1872.
1861 – US Army abolished flogging.
1862 – In an indecisive battle on the Mississippi River, the Confederates gain some breathing room after driving a Union force back into Baton Rouge from the north.
1863 – U.S.S. Commodore Barney, Acting Lieutenant Samuel Hose, was severely damaged when a 1,000-pound electric torpedo was exploded near her above Dutch Gap, Virginia. The explosion, reported Captain Guert Gansevoort, senior officer present, produced “a lively concussion” and washed the decks ‘with the agitated water.” “Some 20 men,” he added, “Were either swept or jumped overboard, two of whom are missing and may have been drowned.” Had the anxious Confederate torpedoman waited another moment to close the electrical circuit, Commodore Barney surely would have been destroyed. The incident took place during a joint Army-Navy reconnaissance of the James River which had begun the previous day. “This explosion…,” wrote Lieutenant Hunter Davidson, CSN, in charge of the Submarine Battery Service, “effectively arrested their progress up the river. . . ” On 6 August U.S.S. Sangamon, Cohasset, and Com-modore Barney were taken under fire by Confederate shore artillery’ and Commodore Barney was again disabled, this time by a shot through the boilers. Returning downstream, the expedition was subjected to a heavy shorefire, Commodore Barney receiving more than 30 hits.
1863 – A detachment of Marines arrived at Charleston harbor to augment Union forces. Rear Admiral Dahlgren quickly cut the number of Marines on board the ships of his squadron to a minimum and sent the resulting total of some 500 Marines, under Major Jacob Zeilin, ashore on Morris Island. Dahlgren ordered that the Marines be ready “to move on instant notice; rapidity of movement is one of the greatest elements of military power.
1864 – Rear Admiral Farragut took his squadron of 18 ships, including four monitors, against the heavy Confederate defenses of Mobile Bay. Soon after 6 a.m., the Union ships crossed the bar and moved into the bay. The monitors Tecumseh, Manhattan, Winnebago, and Chickasaw formed a column to starboard of the wooden ships in order to take most of the fire from Fort Morgan, which they had to pass at close range. The seven smaller wooden ships were lashed to tile port side of the larger wooden screw steamers, as in the passage of Port Hudson, Mississippi River. Shortly before 7 o’clock, Tecumseh, Commander T.A.M. Craven, opened fire on Fort Morgan. The action quickly became general. The Confederate squadron under Admiral Buchanan, including the heavy ram Tennessee (6 guns) and the smaller ships Gaines (6 guns), Selma (4 guns), and Morgan (6 guns), moved out to engage the attackers. Craven headed Tecumseh straight at Tennessee, bent on engaging her at once. Suddenly, a terrific explosion rocked the Union monitor. She careened violently and went down in seconds, the victim of one of the much-feared torpedoes laid by the Confederates for harbor defense. Amidst the confusion below decks as men struggled to escape the sinking ship, Craven and the pilot, John Collins, arrived at the foot of the ladder leading to the main deck. The captain stepped back. “After you, pilot,” he said. Collins was saved, but there was no afterwards for the heroic Craven. He and some 90 officers and men of Tecumseh’s crew of 114 went down with the ship. Captain Alden called them “intrepid pioneers of that death-strewed path.” Alden, in Brooklyn, was to Tecumseh’s port when the disaster occurred; the heavy steamer stopped and began backing to clear “a row of suspecious-looking buoys” directly under Brooklyn’s bow. The entire line of wooden vessels was drifting into confusion immediately under the guns of Fort Morgan. Farragut, lashed in the rigging to observe the action over the smoke billowing from the guns, acted promptly and resolutely, characteristic of a great leader who in war must constantly meet emergencies fraught with danger. The only course was the boldest through the torpedo field. “Damn the torpedoes,” he ordered; “full speed ahead ” (Flag Lieutenant John C. Watson later recalled that Farragut’s exact words were: “Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead, Drayton! Hard astarboard; ring four bells! Eight bells! Sixteen bells!”) His flagship Hartford s wept past Brooklyn into the rows of torpedoes; the fleet followed. The torpedoes were heard bumping against the hulls but none exploded. The Union force steamed into the bay. Hardly past one hazard, Farragut was immediately faced with another: Buchanan attempted to ram Hartford with Tennessee. The Union ship slipped by her slower, clumsier antagonist, returning her fire but also being raked by the fire of gunboat C.S.S. Selma, Lieutenant Peter U. Murphey. Wooden double-ender U.S.S. Metacomet, Lieutenant Commander Jouett, engaged Selma and, though sustaining considerable damage, compelled her to strike her colors shortly after 9 a.m. Meanwhile, Tennessee also attempted in vain to ram Brooklyn. C.S.S. Gaines, Lieu-tenant John W. Bennett, advanced to engage the Union ships as they entered the bay, but she suffered a steering casualty early in the action. “. . . subjected to a very heavy concentrated fire from the Hartford, Richmond, and others at short range . . . , Bennett soon found his command in a sinking condition. He ran her aground near Fort Morgan and salvaged most of the ammuni-tion and small arms before she settled in two fathoms. C.S.S. Morgan, Commander George W. Harrison, briefly engaged Metacomet to assist Selma prior to her surrender, but as the action took place at high speed, Morgan could not maintain her position and faced the possibility of being cut off and captured by two Union ships. Harrison determined to take her under Fort Morgan’s guns and later he saved her by boldly running the gauntlet of Federal ships to Mobile. Meanwhile, 300-ton side-wheeler U.S.S. Philippi, Acting Master James T. Seaver, “wishing to be of assistance to the fleet in case any vessels were disabled,” grounded near Fort Morgan attempting to get into the bay. The fort’s heavy guns quickly found the range and riddled Philippi with shot and shell, forcing Seaver and his crew to abandon ship. A boat crew from C.S.S. Morgan completed her destruction by setting her afire. The Union fleet, having steamed up into the bay, anchored briefly. Buchanan heroically carried the fight to his powerful opponents alone. Farragut reported: “I was not long in comprehending his intention to be the destruction of the flagship. The monitors and such of the wooden vessels as I thought best adapted for the purpose were immediately ordered to attack the ram, not only with their guns, but bows on at full speed, and then began one of the fiercest naval combats on record.” For more than an hour the titanic battle raged. Steam sloop of war Monongahela struck Tennessee a heavy blow but succeeded only in damaging herself. Lackawanna rammed into the Confederate ship at full speed but, said Farragut, “the only perceptible effect on the ram was to give her a heavy list.” A shot from Manhattan’s 15-inch gun, however, made a greater impression on those on board Tennessee. Lieutenant Wharton, CSN, reported: “The Monongahela was hardly clear of us when a hideous-looking monster came creeping up on our Port side, whose slowly revolving turret revealed the cavernous depths of a mammoth gun. ‘Stand clear of the Port side!’ I shouted. A moment after a thundrous report shook us all, while a blast of dense, sulpherous smoke covered our port-holes, and 440 pounds of iron, impelled by sixty pounds of powder, admitted daylight through our side, where, before it struck us, there had been over two feet of solid wood, covered with five inches of solid iron. This was the only 15-inch shot that hit us fair. It did not come through; the inside netting caught the splinters, and there were no casualties from it. I was glad to find myself alive after that shot.” Hartford struck a glancing blow and poured a broadside into Tennessee from a distance of ten feet Chickasaw pounded the ram with heavy shot; steam sloops Lackawanna and Hartford had collided, but had regained position and, with Ossipee and Monongahela, were preparing to run down Buchanan’s ship. The intrepid Confederate Admiral had been seriously wounded and relinquished command to Commander James D. Johnston. The rain of shells knocked out the ironclad’s steering. Unable to maneuver and taking on water, Tennessee struggled on against her overwhelmingly superior foes despite the terrible cannonade that pounded her mercilessly. Ultimately, Buchannan and Johnston concurred that Tennessee must surrender to prevent loss of life to no fruitful end. At 10 o’clock a white flag was hoisted. Farragut acknowledged the tenacity and ability with which the Confederate seamen had fought: “During this contest with the rebel gunboats and Tennessee . . . we lost many more men than from the fire of the batteries of Fort Morgan.”
1858 – After several unsuccessful attempts, the first telegraph line across the Atlantic Ocean is completed, a feat accomplished largely through the efforts of American merchant Cyrus West Field. The telegraph was first developed by Samuel F. B. Morse, an artist-turned-inventor who conceived of the idea of the electric telegraph in 1832. Several European inventors had proposed such a device, but Morse worked independently and by the mid 1830s had built a working telegraph instrument. In the late 1830s, he perfected Morse Code, a set of signals that could represent language in telegraph messages. In May 1844, Morse inaugurated the world’s first commercial telegraph line with the message “What hath God wrought,” sent from the U.S. Capitol to a railroad station in Baltimore. Within a decade, more than 20,000 miles of telegraph cable crisscrossed the country. The rapid communication it made possible greatly aided American expansion, making railroad travel safer as it provided a boost to business conducted across the great distances of a growing United States. In 1854, Cyrus West Field conceived the idea of the telegraph cable and secured a charter to lay a well-insulated line across the floor of the Atlantic Ocean. Obtaining the aid of British and American naval ships, he made four unsuccessful attempts, beginning in 1857. In July 1858, four British and American vessels–the Agamemnon, the Valorous, the Niagara, and the Gorgon–met in mid-ocean for the fifth attempt. On July 29, the Niagara and the Gorgon, with their load of cable, departed for Trinity Bay, Newfoundland, while the Agamemnon and the Valorous embarked for Valentia, Ireland. By August 5, the cable had been successfully laid, stretching nearly 2,000 miles across the Atlantic at a depth often of more than two miles. On August 16, President James Buchanan and Queen Victoria exchanged formal introductory and complimentary messages. Unfortunately, the cable proved weak and the current insufficient and by the beginning of September had ceased functioning. Field later raised new funds and made new arrangements. In 1866, the British ship Great Eastern succeeded in laying the first permanent telegraph line across the Atlantic Ocean. Cyrus West Field was the object of much praise on both sides of the Atlantic for his persistence in accomplishing what many thought to be an impossible undertaking. He later promoted other oceanic cables, including telegraph lines that stretched from Hawaii to Asia and Australia.
1882 – The first US Navy steel warships (Atlanta, Boston, Chicago and Dolphin), were authorized by Congress, beginning the “New Navy.” Subsequently known as the A, B, C, D ships, they were built at Chester, Pennsylvania. Dolphin was commissioned first in 1885, followed by Atlanta (1886), Boston (1887), and Chicago (1889). Note: all four ships were designed with the ability to rig sails on the mast as a backup propulsion system. Along with the additional steel warship USS Yorktown, the ships were established as the “Squadron of Evolution,” operating in the Atlantic and Mediterranean through the early 1890s.
1884 – The cornerstone for the Statue of Liberty was laid on Bedloe’s Island in New York Harbor.
1889 – The U.S. Life-Saving Service issued a circular prescribing an appropriate outfit for the keepers and surfmen. This was the first time that uniforms were required in the Service.
1892 – Harriet Tubman received a pension from Congress for her work as a nurse, spy and scout during the Civil War.
1914 – Austria-Hungary declares war on Russia at 1200 hours.
1917 – The entire membership of the National Guard was drafted into federal service for World War I. After war was declared in April, 1917, National Guard units were first called into federal service by President Wilson under the militia clause of the Constitution. Most of these units mobilized at their local armories or in state military camps, and they began actively recruiting up to full wartime strength while conducting local patrols to defend against suspected German saboteurs. Guardsmen could not be deployed overseas as militia, however, since the Constitution stipulated that the militia could only be used to “execute the laws of the Union, suppress insurrection, and repel invasions.” To circumvent this restriction, the Army’s Judge Advocate General determined that it would be necessary to draft each Guardsman into federal service, thus severing his ties to the state militia and freeing him for service overseas. Just over 379,000 Guardsmen were drafted on August 5, 1917, more then doubling the size of the U.S. Army with the stroke of a pen. Despite the fact that the military would swell to over 4 million men during the war, the brunt of the fighting in the trenches in France would be borne by the Guard. All 18 Guard divisions served overseas as part of the 43 division American Expeditionary Forces; 12 of the 29 divisions that saw combat were from the Guard (the rest of the divisions were broken up and the men used as replacements).
1918 – U.S.A. Man-power Bill introduced into Congress; military age from 18 to 45.
1921 – Yangtze River Patrol Force established as command under Asiatic Fleet.
1930 – Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon, was born in Ohio.
1935 – Congress passed the Anti-Smuggling Act, which broadened the jurisdiction of Coast Guard.
1944 – Elements of US 8th Corps (part of US 3rd Army) take Vannes. Other elements attack toward St. Malo and Brest. The US 15th Corps (also part of US 3rd Army) is advancing southeast from the Selune River, reaching Mayenne and Laval. To the left, US 7th Corps (part of US 1st Army) is advancing beyond Mortain.
1945 – On Tinian, at about 0210 hours, seven American aircraft take off for Japan. One of the aircraft is the specially modified B-29 Superfortress — the Enola Gay — carrying the “Little Boy” atomic bomb and heading for Hiroshima.
1945 – Aircraft from the US 5th and 7th Air Forces, based in Okinawa, raid Tarumizu in the south. About 325 planes take part in the attack. Another 12 Japanese cities have leaflets dropped on them by B-29 bombers, warning of coming raids. During the night, American bombers strike Imabari, Ube, Mayobashi, Saga, Nishinomiya and Mikage, fulfulling the threat made by leaflet drops.
1950 – The USS Philippine Sea arrived in Korean waters – the second carrier to enter the war.
1950 – Major Kenneth L. Reusser was awarded a gold star in lieu of a second Navy Cross and became the first Marine to be decorated for valor during the Korean War.
1951 – The United Nations Command suspended armistice talks with the North Koreans when armed troops are spotted in neutral areas.
1952 – In LA, Ca., 14 Communist leaders were convicted of conspiring to overthrow the US government. 6 of the defendants were from SF, one was from Oakland.
1952 – USAF Major Robinson Risner scored his first aerial victory of the Korean War. He later became a POW during the Vietnam War and retired as a brigadier general.
1953 – Exchange of prisoners of war of Korean Conflict (Operation Big Switch) begins.
1963 – Representatives of the United States, the Soviet Union, and Great Britain sign the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, which prohibited the testing of nuclear weapons in outer space, underwater, or in the atmosphere. The treaty was hailed as an important first step toward the control of nuclear weapons. Discussions between the United States and the Soviet Union concerning a ban on nuclear testing began in the mid-1950s. Officials from both nations came to believe that the nuclear arms race was reaching a dangerous level. In addition, public protest against the atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons was gaining strength. Nevertheless, talks between the two nations (later joined by Great Britain) dragged on for years, usually collapsing when the issue of verification was raised. The Americans and British wanted on-site inspections, something the Soviets vehemently opposed. In 1960, the three sides seemed close to an agreement, but the downing of an American spy plan over the Soviet Union in May brought negotiations to an end. The Cuban Missile Crisis provided a major impetus for reinvigorating the talks in October 1962. The Soviets attempted to install nuclear-capable missiles in Cuba, bringing the Soviet Union and the United States to the brink of a nuclear war. Cooler heads prevailed and the crisis passed, but the other possible scenarios were not lost on U.S. and Russian officials. In June 1963, the test ban negotiations resumed, with compromises from all sides. On August 5, British, American, and Russian representatives signed the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. France and China were asked to join the agreement but refused. The Nuclear Test Ban Treaty was a small but significant step toward the control of nuclear weapons. In the years to come, discussions between the United States and the Soviet Union grew to include limits on many nuclear weapons and the elimination of others.
1964 – F-8 Crusaders, A-1 Skyraiders, and A-4 Skyhawks, from the carriers USS Ticonderoga and USS Constellation stationed in the South China Sea, fly 64 sorties against North Vietnamese coastal targets as part of Operation Pierce Arrow in retaliation for the Tonkin Gulf incidents of August 2 and 4. The U.S. warplanes destroyed or damaged 25 North Vietnamese PT boats (claimed by U.S. officials to be about one-half of the North Vietnamese Navy) at bases at Hon Gai, Loc Ghao, Phuc Loi, and Quang Khe; destroyed seven anti-aircraft installations at Vinh; and severely damaged an oil storage depot at Phuc Loi. Two U.S. planes were shot down. One pilot, Lieutenant j.g. (or “junior grade”) Everett Alvarez, parachuted to safety, but broke his back in the process and was taken prisoner by the North Vietnamese. He was the first of some 600 U.S. airmen who would be captured during the war and not released until the cease-fire agreement was signed in 1973.
1967 – Operation Coronado III begins in Rung Sat Zone, Vietnam.
1969 – The U.S. space probe Mariner 7 flew by Mars, sending back photographs and scientific data. It returned 127 images of the South Polar icecap and southern hemisphere. Mariner 6 also flew past Mars this year and returned 75 images of the Martian equator along with the surface temperature, atmospheric pressure and composition.
1974 – President Richard Nixon admitted that he ordered a cover-up of the Watergate break-in for political as well as national security reasons. He was forced to release tapes that proved he had ordered a cover-up, which became know as the “smoking gun.”
1974 – Congress places a $1 billion ceiling on military aid to South Vietnam for fiscal year 1974. This figure was trimmed further to $700 million by August 11. Military aid to South Vietnam in fiscal year 1973 was $2.8 billion; in 1975 it would be cut to $300 million. Once aid was cut, it took the North Vietnamese only 55 days to defeat the South Vietnamese forces when they launched their final offensive in 1975.
1986 – US Senate voted for the SDI-project, better known as Star Wars.
1987 – President Reagan announced his administration had reached a “general agreement” with leaders of Congress on a new Central America peace plan. Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega offered to discuss the U.S. proposal.
1990 – An angry President Bush again denounced the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, telling reporters, “This will not stand. This will not stand, this aggression against Kuwait.”
1990 – Navy and Marine Task Force (USS Saipan, USS Ponce, and USS Sumter) begin evacuation of U.S. citizens and foreign nationals from Liberia during civil war.
1991 – Democratic congressional leaders formally launched an investigation into whether the 1980 Reagan-Bush campaign had secretly conspired with Iran to delay release of American hostages until after the presidential election. A task force later concluded there was “no credible evidence” of such a deal.
1993 – Three GIs are WIA in mortar/RPG attacks in Mogadishu.
1995 – Secretary of State Warren Christopher arrived in Hanoi, Vietnam, to “build a bridge of cooperation.” Christopher was the first US secretary of state to visit Vietnam since the war and the first ever to go to Hanoi.
1996 – US Pres. Clinton signed the Iran and Libya Sanctions Act. It held that foreign companies with investments of more than $40 million in the oil and gas sectors of these nations to be subject to US imposed sanctions.
1997 – Ramzi Yousef, mastermind of world trade center bombing, went on trial.
1998 – In protest against economic sanctions imposed on Iraq, President Saddam Hussein freezes cooperation with UN weapons inspectors. U.N. weapons inspectors have been searching suspected weapons sites in Iraq since 1991 in an attempt to eliminate Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction.
2001 – The spacecraft Galileo flew as close as 120 miles above Io’s north pole and captured wisps of volcanic gas largely composed of sulfur dioxide.
2002 – The coral-encrusted gun turret of the Civil War ironclad USS Monitor was raised from the floor of the Atlantic, nearly 140 years after the historic warship sank during a storm.
2002 – The U.S. energy secretary, Spencer Abraham, urges Britain and other allies to emulate the Americans in building up oil reserves to help prevent global economic disruption in the event of war in the Middle East.
2003 – A powerful car bomb exploded in an apparent suicide attack outside the Marriott hotel in downtown Jakarta, killing 10 people and wounding 149, including two Americans. The head of Asmar Latin Sani (28), the suicide bomber, landed on the 5th floor of the hotel.
2004 – Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr called on his supporters to rise against US-led security forces. Fighting quickly spread to other Shiite areas, threatening a shaky two-month-old truce. Insurgents blew up a bomb in a minibus and opened fire on a crowd outside a police station south of Baghdad, killing at least five people and wounding 21.
2005 – The US military begins a major offensive in Anbar Province in Western Iraq.
2013 – In the culmination of a seige on a Syrian Air base that had lasted just over a year, a final rebel assault, led by the jihadist Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) group, was launched. By this point, 70 government soldiers had remained, holding out in a small section of the complex. The attack started when two foreign suicide bombers, one of them a Saudi, drove an armored personnel carrier right up to the airport’s command center and blew themselves up, destroying the building and killing or scattering the defenders. Scattered fighting continued, however, by the morning of the next day, rebel forces had full control of the airport. During the final battle, 32 government soldiers and at least 19 rebels were killed. According to the insurgents on the morning of the final attack, 10 soldiers defected to the rebels and claimed to had attempted but failed to kill the base commander, who was later captured as he attempted to retreat with his men.
2014 – An IS offensive in the Sinjar area of northern Iraq had forced 30,000–50,000 Yazidis to flee into the mountains fearing they would be killed by the IS. They had been threatened with death if they refused conversion to Islam. A UN representative said that “a humanitarian tragedy is unfolding in Sinjar”.

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