1817 – Mississippi was admitted as the 20th state of the Union. The name of the state derives from the Mississippi River, which flows along its western boundary and comes from the Ojibwe word misi-ziibi (“Great River”). Jackson is the state capital.
1845 – President James Polk make a bold move to radically expand the burgeoning United States. Polk gave Congressman John Slidell the go-ahead to settle a border dispute concerning Texas, as well as to purchase New Mexico and California, from Mexico. As per Polk’s demand, Slidell anted up $5 million for New Mexico and $25 million for California; however, Mexico refused the offer, emboldening the president to marshal a war effort in the name of “reannexing” the territory.
1861 – The Confederate States of America accept a rival state government’s pronouncement that declares Kentucky to be the 13th state of the Confederacy.
1862 – U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill creating the state of West Virginia.
1864 – Union General William T. Sherman completes his “March to the Sea” when he arrives in front of Savannah, Georgia. Since mid-November, Sherman’s army had been sweeping from Atlanta across the state to the south and east towards Savannah, one of the last Confederate seaports still unoccupied by Union forces. Along the way, Sherman destroyed farms and railroads, burned storehouses, and fed his army off the land. In his own words, Sherman intended to “make Georgia howl,” a plan that was approved by President Lincoln and Ulysses S. Grant, general-in-chief of the Union armies. The city of Savannah was fortified and defended by 10,000 Confederates under the command of General William Hardee. The Rebels flooded the rice fields around Savannah, so only a few narrow causeways provided access to the city. Sherman’s army was running low on supplies and he had not made contact with supply ships off the coast. Sherman’s army had been completely cut off from the North, and only the reports of destruction provided any evidence of its whereabouts. Sherman directed General Oliver O. Howard to the coast to locate friendly ships. Howard dispatched Captain William Duncan and two comrades to contact the Union fleet, but nothing was heard of the trio for several days. Duncan located a Union gunboat that carried him to Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. Supply ships were sent to Savannah, and Duncan continued on to Washington to deliver news of the successful “March to the Sea” to Secretary of War Edwin Stanton. For ten day, Hardee held out as Sherman prepared for an attack. Realizing the futility of losing in force entirely, Hardee fled the city on December 20 and slipped northward to fight another day.
1864 – C.S.S. Macon, Lieutenant Kennard, C.S.S. Sampson, Lieutenant William W. Carnes, and C.S.S. Resolute, Acting Master’s Mate William D. Oliveira, under Flag Officer Hunter, took Union shore batteries under fire at Tweedside on the Savannah River. Hunter attempted to run his gunboats downriver to join in the defense of Savannah, but was unable to pass the strong Federal batteries. Resolute was disabled in this exchange of fire, 12 December, and was abandoned and captured. Recognizing that he could not get his remaining two vessels to Savannah, and having destroyed the railroad bridge over the Savannah River which he had been defending, Hunter took advantage of unusually high water to move upstream to Augusta.
1898 – In France, the Treaty of Paris is signed, formally ending the Spanish-American War and granting the United States its first overseas empire. 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 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 it 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, however, 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, ending the brief and one-sided conflict. On December 10, the Treaty of Paris officially ended the Spanish-American War. The once-proud Spanish empire was virtually dissolved as the United States took over much of Spain’s overseas holdings. 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.
1905 – To evaluate its use in lighthouse work, radio equipment was installed experimentally on Nantucket Lightship in August of 1901. On December 10, 1905, while riding out a severe gale, Lightship No. 58 on the Nantucket Shoals Station sprang a serious leak. There being no recognized radio distress signal at that time, the operator could only repeatedly spell out the word “help”. Although no reply was received Newport Navy station (radio) intercepted the call and passed it on to the proper authorities. The lightship tender Azalea was dispatched to the assistance of Lightship No. 58, and upon arrival at the scene passed a towline. The long tow to a safe harbor began, but after a few hours it was quite evident that Lightship No. 58 was sinking. Azalea took off her crew of thirteen men only minutes before she sank. This pioneer use of radio had indeed proved Its worth in rescue operations.
1906 – President Theodore Roosevelt became the first American to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, for helping mediate an end to the Russo-Japanese War.
1918 – U.S. troops were called to guard Berlin as a coup was feared.
1926 – Part 2 of Hitler’s Mein Kampf was published.
1939 – The American government grants Finland, at war with the USSR, a $10 million credit for agricultural supplies, a gesture largely due to Finland being the only country to have paid war debts from the World War I to the United States.
1940 – Roosevelt announces an extension of the export-license system. Iron ore, pig iron and many important iron and steel manufactures are brought within the system. Like previous measures this is aimed at Japan. The changes come into effect at the end of the year.
1941 – Japanese air attacks and troop landings on Luzon. Attack on the naval base at Caite destroys weapons stocks. At Aparri, on the north coast, 2000 troops of the Tanaka Detachment land, while troops of the Kanno Detachment land at Vigan in the northeast. Both landings are well supported by naval forces.
1941 – Admiral Goto commands a Japanese force which captures the 300 man US garrison on Guam.
1941 – Aircraft from USS Enterprise attack and sink Japanese Submarine I-70 north of Hawaiian Islands. A participant in the Pearl Harbor Attack. At the time, I-70 is thought to be the first Japanese combatant ship sunk during World War II.
1941 – PBY piloted by LT Utter of VP-101 shoots down Japanese ZERO in first Navy air-to-air kill during World War II.
1941 – The US submarine Sealion was sunk in an air attack at Manila Bay. 10 crewman were captured by the Japanese and shipped to work in a Mitsubishi copper mine in northern Japan.
1941 – With no weapon larger than the .30 caliber MG, 153 Marines defended Guam until overwhelmed.
1941 – The long-running debate on draft regulations ends with Roosevelt signing into law a revised bill which puts those who have been fathers since before Pearl Harbor at the bottom of the list.
1943 – On Bougainville, the first American aircraft arrive at the Cape Torokina airfield. American divisions are gradually extending their perimeter.
1944 – On Leyte, the US 77th Division captures Ormoc, the main Japanese base on the island. Japanese forces are now mostly concentrated around Palompon.
1944 – The US 7th Corps (part of US 1st Army) launches an attack west of Aachen directed at Duren. To the south, US 3rd Army continues to defend its bridgeheads on the Saar River.
1950 – Evacuation operations at Wonson, North Korea, completed.
1950 – The U.S. Air Force Combat Cargo Command completed a four-day emergency mission in which it airdropped 1,580 tons of supplies and equipment and evacuated 4,687 casualties from the Hagaru-ri and Koto-ri areas near the Chosin/Changjin Reservoir.
1951 – The 45th Infantry Division of the Oklahoma Army National Guard arrived in Korea to replace the 1st Cavalry Division.
1958 – The first domestic passenger jet flight took place in the United States as a National Airlines Boeing 707 flew 111 passengers from New York City to Miami.
1970 – The defense opens its case in the murder trial of Lt. William Calley. Charged with six specifications of premeditated murder, Calley was a platoon leader in Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 20th Infantry, 11th Infantry Brigade (Light) of the 23rd (Americal) Division. He was tried because of his leadership role in the My Lai massacres. On March 16, 1968, Calley led his troops to murder innocent Vietnamese civilians living in a cluster of hamlets located in Son Tinh District in Quang Ngai Province in the northern coastal lowlands. Citing “superior’s orders,” Defense Attorney George Lattimer contended that Capt. Ernest Medina, Calley’s company commander, told his men that they were finally going to fight the enemy. He reportedly ordered “every living thing” killed. Lattimer also cited poor training of the platoon, the rage of the men who had seen their buddies killed, and the expectation of fierce resistance as additional factors contributing to the incident. The lawyer also charged that higher commanders on the ground and in the air observed the episode but did nothing. Despite Lattimer’s argument, Calley was found guilty of murdering 22 civilians and sentenced to life imprisonment. His sentence was reduced to 20 years by the Court of Military Appeals and further reduced to 10 years by the Secretary of the Army. Proclaimed a “scapegoat” by much of the public, Calley was paroled by President Richard Nixon in 1974, after serving about a third of his 10-year sentence.
1972 – Technical experts on both sides begin work on the language of a proposed peace accord, giving rise to hope that a final agreement is near. A peace agreement was signed on January 23, 1973. The peace agreement came out of secret negotiations National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger was conducting with North Vietnamese representatives at a villa outside Paris. Gen. Alexander Haig, who had been briefing President Richard Nixon on the Paris talks, was alerted to fly to Saigon with the document when it was completed, so that Saigon could sign while the United States and Hanoi signed in Paris. Unfortunately, the talks broke down two days later when South Vietnamese President Nguyen Van Thieu balked at the proposed agreement because it did not require North Vietnamese troops to leave the south. The North Vietnamese negotiators refused to discuss the withdrawal of their troops and walked out. They returned only after Nixon ordered the bombing of North Vietnam. After 11 days of bombing, Hanoi agreed to send negotiators back to Paris. When the talks resumed in January 1973, the negotiations moved ahead quickly. On January 23, the United States, North Vietnam, the Republic of Vietnam, and the Viet Cong signed a cease-fire agreement that took effect five days later.
1979 – First Poseidon submarine configured with Trident missiles, USS Francis Scott Key (SSBN-657) completes initial deterrent patrol.
1980 – US Representative John W. Jenrette (Democrat, South Carolina) resigned to avoid being expelled from the House following his conviction on charges relating to the FBI’s ABSCAM investigation.
1981 – A Coast Guard HH-52A landed on CGC Dependable’s flight deck, marking the 5,000th helicopter landing on board the ship. According to AVTRACEN records, this was the most helicopter landings ever recorded aboard a cutter. The landing occurred off Dauphin Island in the Gulf of Mexico.
1982 – USS Ohio (SSBN-726), first Trident-Class submarine, returns from first deterrent patrol.
1987 – President Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev concluded three days of summit talks in Washington.
1990 – The space shuttle “Columbia” returned from its tenth mission.1993 – The crew of the space shuttle Endeavour deployed the repaired Hubble Space Telescope into Earth orbit.
1993 – Secretary of Transportation Andrew H. Card, Jr., awarded the military members of the Coast Guard the Humanitarian Service Medal and the civilian employees the Coast Guard Public Service Commendation for their services for the period from October 1991 through November 1992.
1994 – Advertising executive Thomas Mosser was killed by a mail bomb attributed to the Unabomber at his home in North Caldwell N.J.
1995 – In Bosnia, 22 Marines from Marine Corps Security Force Company, Naples, Italy were among the first American troops to arrive. They provided the security for Allied Forces Southern Europe headquartered at Sarajevo. About 2,500 NATO troops would be in place by 19 December taking on the task of peace enforcement in former Yugoslavia from the U.N.
1996 – NATO took formal steps to expand and reassured Russia that it had no plans to move nuclear weapons into the territory of new members.
1998 – Six astronauts jubilantly swung open the doors to the new international space station, becoming the first guests aboard the 250-mile-high outpost.
1999 – Wen Ho Lee, nuclear physicist, was charged with 59 counts of mishandling classified information at Los Alamos National Laboratory. After three years under suspicion as a spy for China, computer scientist Wen Ho Lee was arrested and charged with removing secrets from secure computers at the Los Alamos weapons lab. Lee was later freed after pleading guilty to one count of downloading restricted data to tape; 58 other counts were dropped.
1999 – In Kuwait 3 US airmen were killed when an Air Force C-130 transport made a belly landing and ignited a fire.
1999 – The UN extended Iraq’s “oil-for-food” program for 6 months and set the stage for the suspension of sanctions if UN weapon’s inspectors are not allowed back into the country.
2001 – US air strikes continued at Tora Bora and Afghan fighters moved in on al Qaeda defenders in fortified caves.
2001 – In Kenya Sheikh Ahmed Salim Swedan, an al Qaeda operative, was arrested in Mandera near the Somalia border for involvement in the Aug 7, 1998 US Embassy bombing.
2002 – A U.S. F-16 fighter bombed an Iraqi surface-to-air missile system after Iraq moved it deep into the southern no-fly zone.
2003 – A U.S. Department of Defense document limits contracts for 26 Iraqi reconstruction projects to companies from countries that supported the war. Companies from France, Russia, and Germany will still be able to compete for sub-contractor roles.
2004 – Bernard Kerik withdrew his name from consideration to be Pres. Bush’s homeland security secretary.
2004 – Staff Sgt. Johnny M. Horne Jr. (30) of Wilson, N.C., was sentenced to three years in prison for killing severely wounded Qasim Hassan (16) in Sadr City on Aug 18.
2004 – A US passenger jet, United Flight 869, landed in Vietnam, the first since the Vietnam War ended nearly 30 years ago.
2009 – U.S. President Barack Obama accepts the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, Norway.
2012 – Syrian rebel group Jabhat al-Nusra is declared a terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department.
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