1777 – The Battle of Oriskany was one of the bloodiest battles in the North American theater of the American Revolutionary War and a significant engagement of the Saratoga campaign. An American party trying to relieve the siege of Fort Stanwix was ambushed by a party of Loyalists and allies of several Native American tribes. This was one the few battles in the war in which almost all of the participants were North American: Loyalists and allied Indians fought against Patriots and allied Oneida in the absence of British soldiers. Early in the siege of Fort Stanwix, an American relief force from the Mohawk Valley under General Nicholas Herkimer, numbering around 800 men of the Tryon County militia, and a party of Oneida warriors, approached in an attempt to raise the siege. British commander Barry St. Leger authorized an intercept force consisting of a Hanau Jäger (light infantry) detachment, Sir John Johnson’s King’s Royal Regiment of New York, Indian allies from the Six Nations, particularly Mohawk and Seneca; and other tribes to the north and west, and Indian Department Rangers, totaling at least 450 men. The Loyalist and Indian force ambushed Herkimer’s force in a small valley about six miles (10 km) east of Fort Stanwix, near the present-day village of Oriskany, New York. During the battle, Herkimer was mortally wounded. The battle cost the Patriots approximately 450 casualties, while the Loyalists and Indians lost approximately 150 dead and wounded. The result of the battle remains ambiguous because the apparent Loyalist victory was significantly affected by a sortie from Fort Stanwix in which the Loyalist camps were sacked, spoiling morale among the allied Indians. For the Iroquois nations, the battle marked the beginning of a civil war, as Oneida warriors under Colonel Louis and Han Yerry allied with the American cause and fought against members of other Iroquois nations. There were also internal divisions among the Oneida, some of whom went to Canada as allies of the British. The site is known in oral histories of the Iroquois nations as “A Place of Great Sadness.” The site has been designated as a National Historic Landmark and is marked by a battle monument.
1787 – In Philadelphia, delegates to the Constitutional Convention begin debating the first complete draft of the proposed Constitution of the United States. Sixty proof sheets have been delivered to the Constitutional Convention for this purpose. The Articles of Confederation, ratified several months before the British surrender at Yorktown in 1781, provided for a loose confederation of U.S. states, which were sovereign in most of their affairs. On paper, Congress–the central authority–had the power to govern foreign affairs, conduct war, and regulate currency, but in practice these powers were sharply limited because Congress was given no authority to enforce its requests to the states for money or troops. By 1786, it was apparent that the Union would soon break up if the Articles of Confederation were not amended or replaced. Five states met in Annapolis, Maryland, to discuss the issue, and all the states were invited to send delegates to a new constitutional convention to be held in Philadelphia. On May 25, 1787, delegates representing every state except Rhode Island convened at Philadelphia’s Pennsylvania State House for the Constitutional Convention. The building, which is now known as Independence Hall, had earlier seen the drafting of the Declaration of Independence and the signing of the Articles of Confederation. The assembly immediately discarded the idea of amending the Articles of Confederation and set about drawing up a new scheme of government. Revolutionary War hero George Washington, a delegate from Virginia, was elected convention president. During an intensive debate, the delegates devised a brilliant federal system characterized by an intricate system of checks and balances. The convention was divided over the issue of state representation in Congress, as more-populated states sought proportional legislation, and smaller states wanted equal representation. The problem was resolved by the Connecticut Compromise, which proposed a bicameral legislature with proportional representation in the lower house (House of Representatives) and equal representation of the states in the upper house (Senate). On September 17, 1787, the Constitution of the United States of America was signed by 38 of the 41 delegates present at the conclusion of the convention. As dictated by Article VII, the document would not become binding until it was ratified by nine of the 13 states. Beginning on December 7, five states–Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Georgia, and Connecticut–ratified it in quick succession. However, other states, especially Massachusetts, opposed the document, as it failed to reserve undelegated powers to the states and lacked constitutional protection of basic political rights, such as freedom of speech, religion, and the press. In February 1788, a compromise was reached under which Massachusetts and other states would agree to ratify the document with the assurance that amendments would be immediately proposed. The Constitution was thus narrowly ratified in Massachusetts, followed by Maryland and South Carolina. On June 21, 1788, New Hampshire became the ninth state to ratify the document, and it was subsequently agreed that government under the U.S. Constitution would begin on March 4, 1789. In June, Virginia ratified the Constitution, followed by New York in July. On September 25, 1789, the first Congress of the United States adopted 12 amendments to the U.S. Constitution–the Bill of Rights–and sent them to the states for ratification. Ten of these amendments were ratified in 1791. In November 1789, North Carolina became the 12th state to ratify the U.S. Constitution. Rhode Island, which opposed federal control of currency and was critical of compromise on the issue of slavery, resisted ratifying the Constitution until the U.S. government threatened to sever commercial relations with the state. On May 29, 1790, Rhode Island voted by two votes to ratify the document, and the last of the original 13 colonies joined the United States. Today, the U.S. Constitution is the oldest written constitution in operation in the world.
1811 – Judah Philip Benjamin (d.1884), Sec. War and Sec. State for the Confederacy, was born a British subject in the Virgin Islands. He went on to become the first professed Jew elected to U.S. Senate, from the state of Louisiana in 1852. He was brought to South Carolina as a child. After attending Yale (1825–7) he settled in New Orleans. He served Louisiana in the US Senate (Whig, 1853–9; Democrat, 1859–61). He was noted for his pro-slavery speeches in the Senate. Favoring secession, he served the Confederacy as attorney general (1861) and then as secretary of war (1861–2). He was blamed for the Confederate army’s lack of equipment, but Jefferson Davis promoted him to secretary of state (1862–5). Late in the war he urged the recruitment of slaves into the Confederate Army. With the collapse of the Confederacy he fled to the West Indies and then to England (1866), where he made a brilliant new career as a British barrister, especially in appeal cases. He wrote the Treatise on the Law of Sale of Personal Property (1868), which at once became the standard in the field. In 1872, he became a counsel to the queen. Benjamin died in Paris.
1819 – Norwich University, the first private military school in the United States, is founded in Vermont as the American Literary, Scientific and Military Academy. It is the oldest of six senior military colleges, and is recognized by the United States Department of Defense as the “Birthplace of ROTC” (Reserve Officers’ Training Corps).
1847 – LtCol S. E. Watson’s Marines commenced their march on the “Halls of Montezuma” in Mexico.
1862 – C.S.S. Arkansas, Lieutenant Henry Stevens temporarily in command, having become unmanageable due to engine failure while advancing to support a Confederate attack on Baton Rouge, was engaged by U.S.S. Essex, Commander W. D. Porter. Lieutenant Stevens recognized his helpless condition, shot his guns, and ordered Arkansas destroyed to prevent her capture. He reported: “It was beautiful to see her, when abandoned by Commander and crew, and dedicated to sacrifice, fighting the battle on her own hook.” Without naval support and under fire from U.S.S. Sumter, Cayuga, Kineo, and Katahdin, the Confederate thrust was repelled. When the wounded and ill Commander Brown had departed Arkansas on a brief leave, he had realized that critical repairs were necessary and that his ship was not ready for combat. He ordered Stevens not to move her until his return. Nevertheless, General Van Dorn, to ensure the success of his expedition, ordered Arkansas into the fatal Baton Rouge action. Had Arkansas been fit for battle, the Confederates might have taken Baton Rouge and reopened the important Red River supply line then under Union blockade.
1864 – Rebels evacuated Ft. Powell, Mobile Bay.
1878 – The last sailing cutter built for the Revenue Service, USRC Chase, was completed.
1889 – Major General George Kenney, commander of the U.S. Fifth Air Force in New Guinea and the Solomons during World War II, was born.
1901 – Kiowa land in Oklahoma is opened for white settlement, effectively dissolving the contiguous reservation.
1914 – Austria-Hungary declared war against Russia and Serbia declared war against Germany.
1918 – The Second Battle of the Marne ends In disaster for the Germans who sustain losses of 168,000 men and have been pushed back to the line of the Aisne and Vesle Rivers. Following a series of offensives since March, the Germans no longer have the resources to launch attacks. They have suffered huge casualties among their best-trained troops–the storm trooper units– and those who have survived are suffering from increasingly poor morale.
1918 – The first American lightship to be sunk by enemy action, Lightship No. 71, was lost on her Diamond Shoals station. LS 71 had reported by radio the presence of a German submarine which had sunk a passing freighter. That message was intercepted by the submarine U-104, which then located the lightship and, after giving the crew opportunity to abandon ship in the boats, LS 71 was sunk by surface gunfire. The lightship’s crew took to their lifeboats and reached shore without injury.
1940 – Estonia was illegally annexed by the Soviet Union.
1941 – Konoye’s government presents proposals involving some concessions in China and Indochina to the US, asking in return for the end of the freeze on Japanese assets. The proposals are not acceptable to the US and when the rejection is made known to the Japanese they propose that Konoye and Roosevelt meet to the discuss the issues at stake.
1943 – In Vela Gulf there is an encounter engagement between 6 American destroyers and 4 Japanese destoyers carrying troops and supplies to Kolombangara. Three of the Japanese vessels are sunk.
1943 – The US 1st Division takes Troina, Sicily after several days of heavy fighting.
1944 – Elements of US 12th Army Group continue advancing. The US 3rd Army advances in Brittany. The US 4th Armored Division (part of US 8th Corps) approaches Loreint. Forces of US 15th Corps capture Laval and advance toward Le Mans. Elements of US 1st Army capture Vire.
1944 – On Guam, a regiment of US 77th Division suffers heavy casualties during a Japanese counterattack.
1945 – Hiroshima, Japan, was struck with the uranium bomb, Little Boy, from the B-29 airplane, Enola Gay, piloted by Col. Paul Tibbets of the US Air Force along with 11 other men. The atom bomb killed an estimated 140,000 people in the first use of a nuclear weapon in warfare. Major Thomas Wilson Ferebee (d.2000 at 81) was the bombardier. Richard Nelson (d.2003) was the radio operator. Navy weaponeer, Captain W.S. Parsons, USN, armed the atomic bomb. The bomb is a uranium fission weapon and the yield is in the region of 20,000 tons on TNT. Sixty percent of the city is destroyed in the blast and the firestorm that follows. About 80,000 Japanese are killed. Many more are severely burned and others become ill later, from exposure to radiation. It is not the most devastating bombing attack of the war but the economy of the effort involved in sending only one plane on a mission to destroy a city shows only too well the complete change in military and political thinking which has begun. Meanwhile, other American aircraft raid Tarmuizu, Kagoshima and Miyakonoju.
1945 – On Guam, British Admiral Fraser, commanding the British Pacific Fleet, invests American Admiral Nimitz with the Order of Bath.
1945 – The American aircraft carrier Intrepid attacks Japanese positions on Wake Island.
1945 – Major Richard I. Bong, the top-scoring American fighter ace of World War II (with 40 victories), dies while fight testing an experimental jet fighter at age 24.
1950 – Marine Squadron VMF-323 flew its first air mission of the Korean War.
1964 – Defense Secretary Robert S. McNamara and Secretary of State Dean Rusk appear before a joint Congressional committee on foreign affairs to present the Johnson administration’s arguments for a resolution authorizing the president “to take all necessary measures.” The New York Stock Exchange, reacting to the news of the crisis in Vietnam, experienced its sharpest decline since the death of President Kennedy. There were various rallies and peace vigils held across the United States protesting the bombing raids. Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater said he supported President Johnson’s ordering of the retaliatory raids, but that he intended to make the whole question of Vietnam a campaign issue.
1966 – Operation by 5th Marines in Vietnam, “COLORADO.” (Concluded 22 August)
1969 – The U.S. Army announces that Colonel Robert B. Rheault, Commander of the Fifth Special Forces Group in Vietnam, and seven other Green Berets have been charged with premeditated murder and conspiracy to commit murder in the summary execution of a Vietnamese national, Thai Khac Chuyen, who had served as an agent for Detachment B-57. Chuyen was reportedly summarily executed for being a double agent who had compromised a secret mission. The case against the Green Berets was ultimately dismissed for reasons of national security when the Central Intelligence Agency refused to release highly classified information about the operations in which Detachment B-57 had been involved. Colonel Rheault subsequently retired from the Army.
1971 – The last remaining troops of the Fourth Battalion, 503rd Infantry of the 173rd Airborne Brigade, (the first U.S. Army ground combat unit to arrive in Vietnam in May 1965), cease combat operations and begin preparations to leave Vietnam. The first U.S. ground combat unit of any branch to reach Vietnam was the Third Marine Regiment, Third Marine Division, which began arriving on March 8, 1965. The initial U.S. combat forces were followed by a vast array of combat, combat support, and logistics units that together with U.S. Navy and Air Force personnel in-country reached a peak of 543,400 in April 1969. In June 1969, President Richard Nixon gave the order, as part of his “Vietnamization” policy, which began the process of reducing American troop strength; the troop withdrawals began the following fall and continued until the Paris Peace Accords were signed in January 1973.
1984 – CGC Point Divide seized the HMAV Bounty, a replica of the HMS Bounty that was used in the 1984 motion picture “The Bounty,” for customs violations.
1990 – The U.N. Security Council unanimously approves Resolution 661 imposing a mandatory and complete embargo of all investment and trade, including oil, with Iraq and occupied Kuwait. This results in a reduction of over 4 million bbl/d in oil supplies to world markets (over the next several months, Saudi Arabia increases its production to make up the loss). President Bush orders the deployment of U.S. armed forces to defend Saudi Arabia in an operation named “Operation Desert Shield.”
1991 – Tim Berners-Lee releases files describing his idea for the World Wide Web. WWW debuts as a publicly available service on the Internet.
1992 – President Bush granted full diplomatic recognition to the former Yugoslav republics of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Slovenia and Croatia, the same day Britain’s Independent Television News showed videotape of emaciated detainees at a pair of Serb prison camps.
1996 – The US Naval Academy at Annapolis expelled 15 midshipmen, 12 men and 3 women, for drug use that included LSD and marijuana.
1998 – NATO set exercises in Albania for Aug 17-22 to show force against the Serb offensive in Kosovo.
2000 – In San Juan, Puerto Rico, thousands rallied to protest new US military exercises on Vieques.
2001 – US intelligence told Pres. Bush that al Qaeda might try to hijack American planes. The document “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US” was presented to Bush while he was on vacation in Crawford, Texas.
2002 – U.S. diplomats said the United States was considering moving consular offices out of traditionally Arab east Jerusalem due to security concerns.
2002 – Iraq’s foreign minister Naji Sabri says that U.N. arms inspectors would be readmitted only as part of a wider plan involving the end of economic sanctions, and warns that Saddam Hussein’s regime would not be pressurised by ” the agenda of the Pentagon or the CIA”.
2004 – There was intense fighting in Najaf. The U.S. military said 300 militants were killed in the past two days. Assailants in Iraq killed 3 US servicemen, one in the capital and two in the south.
2004 – Computer expert Mohammad Naeem Noor Khan, arrested secretly in July, was working under cover to help the authorities track down al Qaeda militants in Britain and the United States.
2004 – Saudi officials reported the capture of Faris Ahmed Jamaan al-Showeel al Zahrani, No. 12 on their list of 26 most wanted terrorism suspects.
2004 – Yemeni warplanes and artillery pounded mountain hideouts of an anti-U.S. leader and his followers in a major offensive aimed at ending a six-week conflict that has killed at least 500 people.
2011 – A US Chinook was shot down by the Taliban, resulting in 38 deaths (30 Americans and 8 Afghans), no survivors. Among the U.S. deaths were 17 Navy Seals who had been part of the Naval Special Warfare Development Group (DEVGRU). It was the same unit who killed Osama Bin Laden, although none of the deceased partook in the operation.
2012 – NASA’s Curiosity rover lands on the surface of Mars.
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