1577 – English seaman Francis Drake sets out from Plymouth, England, with five ships and 164 men on a mission to raid Spanish holdings on the Pacific coast of the New World and explore the Pacific Ocean. Three years later, Drake’s return to Plymouth marked the first circumnavigation of the earth by a British explorer. After crossing the Atlantic, Drake abandoned two of his ships in South America and then sailed into the Straits of Magellan with the remaining three. A series of devastating storms besieged his expedition in the treacherous straits, wrecking one ship and forcing another to return to England. Only The Golden Hind reached the Pacific Ocean, but Drake continued undaunted up the western coast of South America, raiding Spanish settlements and capturing a rich Spanish treasure ship. Drake then continued up the western coast of North America, searching for a possible northeast passage back to the Atlantic. Reaching as far north as present-day Washington before turning back, Drake paused near San Francisco Bay in June 1579 to repair his ship and prepare for a journey across the Pacific. Calling the land “Nova Albion,” Drake claimed the territory for Queen Elizabeth I. In July, the expedition set off across the Pacific, visiting several islands before rounding Africa’s Cape of Good Hope and returning to the Atlantic Ocean. On September 26, 1580, The Golden Hind returned to Plymouth, England, bearing treasure, spice, and valuable information about the world’s great oceans. Drake was the first captain to sail his own ship all the way around the world–the Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan had sailed three-fourths of the way around the globe earlier in the century but had been killed in the Philippines, leaving the Basque navigator Juan Sebastiýn de Elcano to complete the journey. In 1581, Queen Elizabeth I knighted Drake, the son of a tenant farmer, during a visit to his ship. The most renowned of the Elizabethan seamen, Sir Francis Drake later played a crucial role in the defeat of the Spanish Armada.
1621 – Under the care of Robert Cushman, the first American furs to be exported from the continent leave for England aboard the Fortune. One month before, Cushman and the Fortune had arrived at Plymouth Colony in present-day Massachusetts with 35 settlers, the first new colonists since the settlement was founded in 1620. During Cushman’s return to England, the Fortune was captured by the French, and its valuable cargo of furs was taken. Cushman was detained on the Ile d’Dieu before being returned to England. Within a few years of their first fur export, the Plymouth colonists, unable to make their living through cod fishing as they had originally planned, begin concentrating almost entirely on the fur trade. The colonists developed an economic system in which their chief crop, Indian corn, was traded with Native Americans to the north for highly valued beaver skins, which were in turn profitably sold in England to pay the Plymouth Colony’s debts and buy necessary supplies.
1636 – The National Guard was officially created in 1916; however, the heritage of the National Guard traces back to English common law and the citizen militias of the British North American colonies. The National Guard is older than the nation itself, with over three and a half centuries of service. The modern-day 101st Field Artillery Regiment, 101st Engineer Battalion and 181st Infantry Regiment of the Massachusetts Army National Guard are directly descended from Massachusetts Bay Colony regiments formed over 370 years ago. In 1636, the General Court of the Massachusetts Bay Colony had ordered that the Colony’s scattered militia companies be organized into North, South and East Regiments–with a goal of increasing the militias’ accountability to the colonial government, efficacy, and responsiveness in conflicts with indigenous Pequot Indians. Under this act, white males between the ages of 16 and 60 were obliged to possess arms and to play a part in the defense of their communities by serving in nightly guard details and participating in weekly drills. After the United States came into existence, state militias would develop out of this tradition.
1774 – Some 400 colonials attacked Ft. William & Mary, NH.
1775 – Continental Congress authorizes the building of 13 frigates, mounting 24 and 36 guns.
1814 – General Andrew Jackson announced martial law in New Orleans, Louisiana, as British troops disembark at Lake Borne, 40 miles east of the city.
1816 – Patent for a dry dock was issued to John Adamson in Boston.
1861 – Battle of Alleghany Summit, WV.
1862 – Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia repulses a series of attacks by General Ambrose Burnside’s Army of the Potomac at Fredericksburg, Virginia. The defeat was one of the most decisive loses for the Union army, and it dealt a serious blow to Northern morale in the winter of 1862-63. Burnside assumed command of the Army of the Potomac in November after George McClellan failed to pursue Lee into Virginia following the Battle of Antietam on September 17. Burnside immediately crafted a plan to move against the Confederate capital at Richmond. This called for a rapid march by the Federals from their positions in northern Virginia to Fredericksburg on the Rappahannock River. Burnside planned to cross the river at that point and then continue south. The campaign began promisingly for the Union. The army moved quickly down the Rappahannock, but then stalled across the river from Fredericksburg. Due to poor execution of orders, a pontoon bridge was not in place for several days. The delay allowed Lee to move his troops into place along Marye’s Heights above Fredericksburg. The Confederates were secure in a sunken road protected by a stone wall, looking down on the open slopes that stretched from the edge of Fredericksburg. So strong was the Confederate position that one Rebel officer claimed that “a chicken could not live on that field when we open on it.” Unfortunately for the Union, Burnside decided to attack anyway. On December 13, Burnside hurled 14 attacks against the Confederate lines. Although the Union artillery was effective against the Rebels, the six-hundred yard field was a killing ground for the attacking Yankees. No Union soldiers reached the wall at the top of Marye’s Heights, and few even came within fifty yards of it. “It is well that war is so horrible, or else we should grow too fond of it,” Lee observed to General James Longstreet as they watched the carnage. A bitterly cold night froze many of the Union dead and wounded. Burnside considered continuing the attack on December 14, but his subordinates urged him to cease the madness. On December 15, a truce was called for the Union to collect their dead and wounded soldiers. Burnside retreated northward under the cover of darkness and rain. The one-sided nature of the battle was reflected in the casualty figures. The Yankees suffered 12,653 killed and wounded while Lee lost only 4,200. General Joseph Hooker replaced Burnside as commander of the Army of the Potomac in January 1863.
1864 – Battle of Ft. McAllister, Ga.
1864 – The Union fleet massed for the bombardment of Fort Fisher departed Hampton Roads for Wilmington. Wooden double-ender U.S.S. Sassacus, Lieutenant Commander John L. Davis, was assigned the duty of towing the powder ship Louisiana to Beaufort, North Carolina, where she was to take on more powder Army transports carrying the invasion force commanded by Major General Butler left Hampton Roads at approximately the same time as the supporting naval group.
1887 – Corporal Alvin C. York of Wolf River Valley, Tennessee, was born. York was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor and the Distinguished Service Cross for heroism during World War I’s Argonne Offensive. York was a reluctant soldier, but his frontier upbringing had made him an outstanding marksman.
1918 – In a landmark event, Woodrow Wilson arrives in France, becoming the first US President to travel outside the United States. He will also visit Britain and Italy, before returning to negotiate on behalf of the US, the peace treaties that end World War I.
1918 – US army of occupation crossed the Rhine and entered Germany.1920 – League of nations established the Int’l. Court of Justice in The Hague.
1942 – Over Tunisia, US air forces stage heavy raids on Bizerta and Tunis.
1941 – The Kingdom of Hungary and Kingdom of Romania declare war on the United States.
1943 – The P-51D Mustang fighter is first used on a bomber escort mission in support of the USAAF 8th Air Force raid on Kiel.
1944 – The US 1st Army achieved minor progress in a new offensive 22 miles south of Duren. US 5th Division captures Fort Jeanne d’Arc — the last German stronghold at Metz. The advance of US 7th Army encounters German armored forces and is engaged around Seltz, in Alsace, near the German border.
1944 – The American heavy cruiser Nashville (flagship of the Mindoro invasion fleet) and a destroyer are heavily damaged in Kamikaze attacks. Both ships are part of the US invasion force heading for Mindoro in the Philippines.
1951 – After meeting with FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, President Harry S. Truman vowed to purge all disloyal government workers.
1951 – Foreign Service Officer John S. Service is dismissed from the Department of State following a determination by the Civil Service Commission’s Loyalty Board that there was “reasonable doubt” concerning his loyalty to the United States. Service was one of a number of so-called “China hands”-State Department officials who were experts on China and the Far East-who saw their careers ruined during the 1950s by Senator Joseph McCarthy and his cohorts. McCarthy targeted Service and several of his coworkers, including John Carter Vincent, O. Edmund Clubb, and John Paton Davies, for criticism and investigation. McCarthy charged that Service and other State Department officials had effectively “lost” China to the communists, either through incompetence or, more ominously, through sympathy with the communist cause. The case against Service centered on the 1945 Amerasia scandal. In that year, FBI agents raided the offices of the magazine Amerasia and found classified government documents concerning America’s policy in China. Service was implicated because he had given de-classified background information to the magazine’s editor. A grand jury, a House subcommittee, and the State Department’s Loyalty Board subsequently cleared him. In 1950, however, McCarthy singled out Service as one of what he called “the 205 known communists” in the Department of State. In short order, Service’s case was reviewed once again, and this time he was dismissed. Service declared that the decision was “a surprise, a shock, and an injustice.” Senator McCarthy exclaimed, “Good, good, good!” Service fought the dismissal, and was eventually reinstated in 1957, but his career never recovered from the damage. Like the other “China hands” who were hounded out of the State Department, Service’s real crime was his unremitting criticism of the Nationalist Chinese government of Chiang Kai-Shek during and after World War II. All believed that Chiang’s government–due to corruption, incompetence, and brutality–was doomed to fall to the communist forces in China. Thus, Service and his colleagues became easy scapegoats for Red Scare promoters such as McCarthy. Their dismissals severely damaged the Far East division of the Department of State, destroyed morale in the Foreign Service, and effectively squashed any dissenting debate concerning America’s China policy. All of these factors assisted in the serious underestimation of communist China’s political investment in Korea and Vietnam and indirectly resulted in the military conflicts in those countries in the years to come.
1951 – U.S. Air Force George A. Davis, flying a F-86 Sabre jet out of the 4th Fighter-Interceptor Wing, was credited with four aerial victories against MiG-15s, the largest number of kills by a single pilot in one day during the war. These victories made Davis the first “double ace” of the Korean War. A double ace has 10 enemy kills.
1952 – Transporting the Declaration of Indpendence and the Constitution, an armored Marine Corps personnel carrier made its way down Constitution Avenue, accompanied by two light tanks, four servicemen carrying submachine guns, and a motorcycle escort. A color guard, ceremonial troops, the Army Band, and the Air Force Drum and Bugle Corps were also part of the procession. Members of all the military branches lined the street. Inside the personnel carrier were six parchment documents. The records were in helium-filled glass cases packed inside wooden crates resting on mattresses. The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were going to the National Archives. In 1926, $1 million was appropriated for a national archives building, and in 1930 President Hoover appointed an Advisory Committee for the National Archives to draw up specifications for the building. John Russell Pope was selected as architect, and a year later, ground was broken. By 1933, the cornerstone of the building had been put in place by President Herbert Hoover. Staff were working in the unfinished building by 1935. But despite this flurry of activity, the vault-like building did not house the founding documents that we call the “Charters of Freedom.” The documents had been shuttled around to various buildings for various reasons. They started out in the Department of State, and as the capital moved from New York to Philadelphia to Washington, DC, these documents moved too. Eventually they were turned over to the Library of Congress. With exception of a short stay at Fort Knox during World War II, the Declaration and the Constitution remained at the Library of Congress from 1921 to 1952. The Bill of Rights had been given into the safekeeping of the National Archives in 1938. In 1952, the Library of Congress agreed to transfer the Declaration and the Constitution to the National Archives. The Bill of Rights would finally be in the company of the two other founding documents. With great pomp and ceremony, the six boxes were carried up the steps. The tall bronze doors—now used only on July 4—were opened, and the six sheets of parchment were carried into the Rotunda, where they remain today.
1962 – NASA launches Relay 1, the first active repeater communications satellite in orbit. Relay 1 was launched atop a Delta B rocket from LC-17A at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Its payload included radiation experiments designed to map the earth’s radiation belts. Shortly after launch, two basic problems evolved. One was the satellite’s response to spurious commands, and the other was the leakage of a high-power regulator. This leakage caused the first two weeks of satellite operation to be useless. After this period, satellite operation returned to normal. Sporadic transmission occurred until February 10, 1965, after which no usable scientific data was obtained. Relay 1 was the first satellite to broadcast television from the United States to Japan. The first broadcast during orbit 2677 (1963-11-22, 2027:42-2048 (GMT), or 1:27 pm Dallas time) was to be a prerecorded address from the president of the United States to the Japanese people, but was instead the announcement of the John F. Kennedy assassination. In August 1964, this satellite was used as the United States-Europe link for the broadcast of the 1964 Summer Olympics from Tokyo, after the signal was relayed to the United States via Syncom 3. This marked the first time that two satellites were used in tandem for a television broadcast.
1966 – The 1st US bombing of Hanoi took place.
1969 – Arlo Guthrie released “Alice’s Restaurant.”
1969 – Raymond A. Spruance (83), US Admiral (Battle of Midway), died.
1972 – Astronaut Gene Cernan climbed into his Lunar Lander on the Moon and prepared to lift-off. He was the last man to set foot on the Moon.
1972 – Peace negotiations are hopelessly deadlocked after a six-hour meeting between North Vietnamese negotiator Le Duc Tho and National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger. After the meeting, Kissinger flew to the United States to confer with President Richard Nixon. The main point of contention was who would have political power in South Vietnam if a cease-fire were announced. The North Vietnamese negotiators demanded the following in the case of a cease-fire: the dissolution of the government of South Vietnamese President Nguyen Van Thieu, the disbanding of the South Vietnamese army, and the installation of a coalition government. The U.S. refused to consider the North Vietnamese demands and steadfastly supported Thieu and his government. At the same time, the South Vietnamese were making their own demands. Over 100,000 North Vietnamese troops had occupied territory in South Vietnam during the 1972 Easter Offensive. Nguyen Van Thieu demanded that the North Vietnamese recognize Saigon’s sovereignty over South Vietnam, which would make the continued presence of the North Vietnamese troops in the south illegal. The North Vietnamese refused Thieu’s demands, saying that they would not recognize Thieu’s government and would not remove their troops. They walked out of the negotiations. Nixon issued an ultimatum to Hanoi to send its representatives back to the conference table within 72 hours “or else.” When the North Vietnamese rejected Nixon’s demand on December 18, the president gave the order to launch Operation Linebacker II, an intensified bombing campaign of North Vietnam that became known as the “Christmas bombing.” Over the next 11 days–with the exception of Christmas Day–the bombing continued unabated, with an estimated 20,000 tons of bombs dropped over North Vietnam. On December 28, North Vietnamese officials agreed to Nixon’s conditions for reopening the negotiations; the next day, the president called an end to Linebacker II.
1972 – Apollo program: Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt begin the third and final extra-vehicular activity (EVA) or “Moonwalk” of Apollo 17. To date they are the last humans to set foot on the Moon.
1974 – North Vietnamese General Tran Van Tra orders 7th Division and the newly formed 3rd Division to attack Phuoc Long Province, north of Saigon. This attack represented an escalation in the “cease-fire war” that started shortly after the Paris Peace Accords were signed in 1973. The North Vietnamese wanted to see how Saigon and Washington reacted to a major attack so close to Saigon. President Richard Nixon and his successor, Gerald Ford, had promised to come to the aid of South Vietnam if the North Vietnamese launched a major attack. With Nixon’s resignation and Ford facing an increasingly hostile Congress, Hanoi was essentially conducting a “test” attack to see if the U.S. would honor its commitment to Saigon. The attack was much more successful than the North Vietnamese anticipated: the South Vietnamese soldiers fought poorly and the U.S. did nothing. The communists overran the last South Vietnamese positions in Phuoc Long on January 6, 1975. Emboldened by their success and by the American passivity, the North Vietnamese leadership decided that it was time to launch a major offensive. The next attack was launched in March, with Ban Me Thuot in the Central Highlands as the initial objective. Once again, the South Vietnamese forces were largely ineffective and the U.S. failed to respond. When the North Vietnamese intensified their efforts, the South Vietnamese, feeling abandoned by the United States, collapsed totally in just 55 days. On April 30, 1975, the North Vietnamese tanks crashed through the gates of the presidential palace and the South Vietnamese surrendered unconditionally.
1987 – Secretary of State George P. Shultz said the Reagan administration would begin making funding requests for the proposed “Star Wars” defense system.
1990 – A final evacuation flight from Iraq arrived in Germany, carrying the US ambassador to Kuwait and his staff, who had endured a 110-day Iraqi siege of their embassy.
1993 – The space shuttle Endeavour returned from its mission to repair the Hubble Space Telescope.
1995 – Four hostages: Donald Hutchings, Keith Mangan, Paul Wells and Dirk Hasert, who were seized in July by Kashmir guerillas, who called themselves Al Faran, were killed. In May ‘96 a Muslim insurgent, who claimed to have been involved, said the men were killed and buried in the mountains in Dec. The captured rebel Nasir Mehmood said in a police report that the hostages were killed Dec 13, 1995 by guerrillas of Harkat-ul-Ansar. The Al Faran name was coined to confuse Indian authorities.
1998 – Puerto Rico voters rejected statehood by a vote of 50.2% to 46.5%. The winning option was none of the above, but interpreted as a decision to remain as commonwealth, a US territory with local autonomy.
2000 – Republican George W. Bush claimed the presidency five weeks after Election Day and a day after the U.S. Supreme Court shut down further recounts of disputed ballots in Florida. Democrat Al Gore conceded, delivering a call for national unity.
2000 – Iraq resumes exports of crude oil after a disruption of nearly two weeks due to a dispute over payments with the United Nations. Iraq had cut off exports when clients had refused to pay a surcharge directly to Iraq, which would violate terms of the “oil for food” program permitting Iraq to export oil while sanctions remain in effect, rather than to the account controlled by the United Nations Sanctions Committee. Earlier, on December 8th, the committee approved Iraq’s revised pricing offer for December 2000, which oil traders said is still below market value relative to comparable grades of crude oil.
2001 – Pres. Bush gave Russia a formal 6-month advance notice of his decision to withdraw from the 1972 ABM treaty in order to advance his missile-shield plans. China and Russia offered muted criticism.
2001 – The US Defense Dept. released a videotape of Osama bin Laden talking about the Sep 11 attacks. The tape clearly indicated his advance knowledge of the suicide attacks. The tape was found weeks ago in Jalalabad.
2001– The US military sent in special operations forces into the Tora Bora area to look for al Qaeda leaders.
2002 – President Bush announced he would take the smallpox vaccine along with U.S. military forces, but was not recommending the potentially risky inoculation for most Americans.
2002 – Henry Kissinger resigned as head of the new commission to investigate the Sep 11 terror attacks.
2002 – The U.N. Security Council condemned “acts of terror” against Israel in Kenya and deplored the claims of responsibility by the al-Qaida terror network.
2003 – In the wave of intelligence information fueling the raids on remaining Baath Party members connected to insurgency, Saddam Hussein himself was captured on a farm near Tikrit in Operation Red Dawn. The operation was conducted by the United States Army’s 4th Infantry Division and members of Task Force 121. Saddam was captured in a hole below a two-room mud shack. When he was captured only a Styrofoam square and a rug were between Saddam and U.S. forces. Major General Raymond Odierno commented, “he was caught like a rat.” Intelligence on Saddam’s whereabouts came from information obtained from his family members and former bodyguards.
2004 – NASA Administrator Sean O’Keefe resigned.
2004 – Afghan intelligence agents arrested two senior Taliban military commanders, including a former security chief of the hardline regime’s leader Mullah Omar.
2004 – In Baghdad a suicide car bomber killed 13 people and injured at least 15 near the Harthiyah entrance on the western edge of the Green zone. Clashes resumed in Fallujah.
2011 – Iran has turned down the United States request to return a RQ-170 that was captured recently by Iranian forces after it crash landed in the country. Iranian officials report that they are extracting data from the aircraft. Iranian officials stated the drone was brought down by a cyber attack.
2013 – Warships of the United States and China confront each other in international waters within the South China Sea. The American warship, guided missile cruiser, USS Cowpens, — which U.S. officials say was in international waters — was approached by a Chinese Navy ship. The smaller vessel peeled off from a group of Chinese Navy ships that included the carrier Liaoning. The Chinese ship failed to stop, despite radio warning from the Cowpens that it was getting too close. The Cowpens commanding officer then issued orders for an “all stop” when the other ship was less than 500 yards off its bow. The Chinese ship proceeded past the Cowpens.
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