This Day in U.S. Military History…… December 16

16 December
1689 – English Parliament adopted a Bill of Rights after Glorious Revolution. The Bill of Rights included a right to bear arms.
1773 – In Boston Harbor, a group of Massachusetts colonists disguised as Mohawk Indians board three British tea ships and dump 342 chests of tea into the harbor. The midnight raid, popularly known as the “Boston Tea Party,” was in protest of the British Parliament’s Tea Act of 1773, a bill designed to save the faltering East India Company by greatly lowering its tea tax and granting it a virtual monopoly on the American tea trade. The low tax allowed the East India Company to undercut even tea smuggled into America by Dutch traders, and many colonists viewed the act as another example of taxation tyranny. When three tea ships, the Dartmouth, the Eleanor, and the Beaver, arrived in Boston Harbor, the colonists demanded that the tea be returned to England. After Massachusetts Governor Thomas Hutchinson refused, Patriot leader Samuel Adams organized the “tea party” with about 60 members of the Sons of Liberty, his underground resistance group. The British tea dumped in Boston Harbor on the night of December 16 was valued at some 18,000 pounds. Parliament, outraged by the blatant destruction of British property, enacted the Coercive Acts, also known as the Intolerable Acts, in 1774. The Coercive Acts closed Boston to merchant shipping, established formal British military rule in Massachusetts, made British officials immune to criminal prosecution in America, and required colonists to quarter British troops. The colonists subsequently called the first Continental Congress to consider a united American resistance to the British.
1821 – LT Robert F. Stockton and Dr. Eli Ayers, a naval surgeon and member of American Colonizing Society, induce a local African king to sell territory for a colony which became the Republic of Liberia.
1826 – In an act that foreshadowed the American rebellions to come, Benjamin Edwards rides into Mexican-controlled Nacogdoches, Texas, and proclaims himself the ruler of the Republic of Fredonia. The brother of a corrupt backer of an American colony in Texas, Benjamin Edwards made the bold (and perhaps foolish) decision to rebel against the Mexican government while his brother was away in the United States raising money for his colony. Under the empresario system–which was created by the Mexican government in the 1820s to encourage colonization of its northern provinces–men like the Edwards were allowed to settle Anglo families in Texas. However, many of the Anglo settlers retained stronger ties to the United States than to Mexico, and Benjamin Edwards hoped that many former Americans would support his attempt to split from Mexico. Accompanied by a force of about 30 men, Edwards seized a stone fort in Nacogdoches and declared that the new “Republic of Fredonia” was now independent of Mexican control. Edwards claimed his new nation extended from the Sabine River to the Rio Grande River, and would be governed under the principles of “Independence, Liberty, and Justice.” In a bid to build up a defense against the Mexican soldiers who were on their way to quell the rebellion, Edwards quickly negotiated an agreement with the Cherokee Indians offering to share Texas in exchange for military aid. Edwards was less successful in winning the support of the local Anglo and Mexican inhabitants of Nacogdoches, in whose name he was supposedly acting. When the Mexican militia approached Nacogdoches six weeks later, Edwards’ ill-planned revolution quickly disintegrated and he fled to the United States for sanctuary. While short-lived and premature, Edwards’ Fredonian Rebellion nonetheless reflected the growing tensions between the American colonialists in Texas and their Mexican rulers. Less than a decade later, in 1835, other Texans followed in Edwards’ footsteps and staged the far more successful revolution that established the independent Republic of Texas.
1863 – Confederate President Jefferson Davis names General Joseph Johnston commander of the Army of Tennessee. Johnston replaced Braxton Bragg, who managed to lose all of Tennessee to the Union during 1863. A Virginia native, Johnston graduated from West Point in 1829 along with Robert E. Lee. Johnston fought in the Black Hawk, Creek, and Seminole wars of the 1830s before serving with distinction in the Mexican War. When Virginia seceded from the Union after the firing on Fort Sumter, Johnston joined his native state and accepted a commission in the Confederate army. He fought at the First Battle of Bull Run and commanded the Army of Northern Virginia during the early stages of the Peninsular Campaign in 1862. When he was wounded at the Battle of Seven Pines on May 31, Lee replaced Johnston. After recovering from his wounds, Johnston was sent to coordinate the operations of the armies the Tennessee and Mississippi regions. Since he did not have a command of his own, Johnston resented this duty. In 1863, Johnston made a futile attempt to relieve John C. Pemberton’s army at Vicksburg. He wanted Pemberton to fight his way out of Vicksburg, but Union General Ulysses S. Grant had Pemberton trapped. The surrender of Pemberton’s army put additional stress on the already strained relationship between Johnston and President Davis.After the campaigns of 1863, however, Davis felt he had little choice but to name Johnston commander of the Army of Tennessee. The Confederates were losing large sections of territory to the Union. Bragg was literally maneuvered right out of Tennessee during the summer, although he engineered a victory at Chickamauga before laying siege to Union troops at Chattanooga. When Grant broke the Confederate hold on Chattanooga in November, Bragg resigned his command. Davis reluctantly appointed Johnston to save the situation in the West. Johnston took the field with his army in the spring of 1864, when Union General William T. Sherman began his drive toward Atlanta. Johnston employed a defensive strategy that avoided direct battle with Sherman but which also resulted in lost territory as Johnston slowly backed up to Atlanta. Johnston’s command lasted until July 1864, when Davis replaced Johnston after the Army of the Tennessee was backed into Atlanta.
1864 – Union General George Thomas continues his attack on the army of Confederate General John Bell Hood at Nashville. Hood’s drastically outnumbered force retreated, and only some heroic rear-guard action prevented the total destruction of the Confederate army.
1864 – Acting Master Charles A. Pettit, U.S.S. Monticello, performed a dangerous reconnaissance off New Inlet, North Carolina, removing several Confederate torpedoes and their firing apparatus near the base of Fort Caswell. Pettit’s expedition was part of the extensive Union preparations for the bombardment and assault on Fort Fisher and the defenses of Wilmington planned for late December.
1897 – The 1st submarine with an internal combustion engine was demonstrated.
1907 – Great White Fleet departs Hampton Roads, VA to circumnavigate the world. The “Great White Fleet” sent around the world by President Theodore Roosevelt from 16 December 1907 to 22 February 1909 consisted of sixteen new battleships of the Atlantic Fleet. The battleships were painted white except for gilded scrollwork on their bows. The Atlantic Fleet battleships only later came to be known as the “Great White Fleet.” The fourteen-month long voyage was a grand pageant of American sea power. The squadrons were manned by 14,000 sailors. They covered some 43,000 miles and made twenty port calls on six continents. The battleships were accompanied during the first leg of their voyage by a “Torpedo Flotilla” of six early destroyers, as well as by several auxiliary ships. The destroyers and their tender did not actually steam in company with the battleships, but followed their own itinerary from Hampton Roads to San Francisco. Two battleships were detached from the fleet at San Francisco, and two others substituted. ith the USS Connecticut as flagship under the command of Rear Admiral Robley D. Evans, the fleet sailed from Hampton Roads, Virginia, on 16 December 1907 for Trinidad, British West Indies, thence to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Sandy Point, Chile; Callao, Peru; Magdalena Bay, Mexico, and up the west coast, arriving at San Francisco, 6 May 1908. After the arrival of the fleet off the west coast, the USS Glacier was detached and later became the supply ship of the Pacific Fleet. At this time also, the USS Nebraska, Captain Reginald F. Nicholson, and the USS Wisconsin, Captain Frank E. Beatty, were substituted for the USS Maine and USS Alabama. At San Francisco, Rear Admiral Charles S. Sperry assumed command of the Fleet, owing to the poor health of Admiral Evans. Leaving that port on 7 July, 1908, the U.S. Atlantic Fleet visited Honolulu, Hawaii; Auckland, New Zealand; Sydney and Melbourne, Australia; Manilia, Phillipine Islands; Yokohama, Japan; Colombo, Ceylon; arriving at Suez, Egypt, on 3 January 1909. In Egypt, word was received of an earthquake in Sicily, thus affording an opportunity for the United States to show it’s friendship to Italy by offering aid to the sufferers. The Connecticut, Illinois, Culgoa and Yankton were dispatched to Messina at once. The crew of the Illinois recovered the bodies of the American consul and his wife, entombed in the ruins. The Scorpion, the Fleet’s station ship at Constantinople, and the Celtic, a refrigerator ship fitted out in New York, were hurried to Messina, relieving the Connecticut and Illinois, so that they could continue on the cruise. Leaving Messina on 9 January 1909, the Fleet stopped at Naples, Italy, thence to Gibraltar, arriving at Hampton Roads, Virginia, on 22 February 1909. There President Roosevelt reviewed the Fleet as it passed into the roadstead.
1915 – Albert Einstein published his “General Theory of Relativity.” In 2000 David Bodanis authored “E=MC²: A Biography of the World’s Most Famous Equation.”
1941 – USS Swordfish (SS-193) sinks Japanese cargo ship Atsutasan Maru.
1942 – Pharmacist’s Mate First Class Harry B. Roby, USNR, performs an appendectomy on Torpedoman First Class W. R. Jones on board USS Grayback (SS-208). It is the second appendectomy performed on board a submarine.
1942 – Admiral Tanaka’s supply run is attacked again, US dive bombers sink the destroyer Kagero off Guadalcanal. On land, US troops move on Mount Austen.
1944 – With the Anglo-Americans closing in on Germany from the west and the Soviets approaching from the east, Nazi leader Adolf Hitler orders a massive attack against the western Allies by three German armies. The German counterattack out of the densely wooded Ardennes region of Belgium took the Allies entirely by surprise, and the experienced German troops wrought havoc on the American line, creating a triangular “bulge” 60 miles deep and 50 miles wide along the Allied front. Conditions of fog and mist prevented the unleashing of Allied air superiority, and for several days Hitler’s desperate gamble seemed to be paying off. However, unlike the French in 1940, the embattled Americans kept up a fierce resistance even after their lines of communication had been broken, buying time for a three-point counteroffensive led by British General Bernard Montgomery and Americans generals Omar Bradley and George Patton. The Germans threw 250,000 soldiers into the initial assault, 14 German infantry divisions guarded by five panzer divisions-against a mere 80,000 Americans. Their assault came in early morning at the weakest part of the Allied line, an 80-mile poorly protected stretch of hilly, woody forest (the Allies simply believed the Ardennes too difficult to traverse, and therefore an unlikely location for a German offensive). Between the vulnerability of the thin, isolated American units and the thick fog that prevented Allied air cover from discovering German movement, the Germans were able to push the Americans into retreat. One particularly effective German trick was the use of English-speaking German commandos who infiltrated American lines and, using captured U.S. uniforms, trucks, and jeeps, impersonated U.S. military and sabotaged communications. The ploy caused widespread chaos and suspicion among the American troops as to the identity of fellow soldiers–even after the ruse was discovered. Even General Omar Bradley himself had to prove his identity three times–by answering questions about football and Betty Grable–before being allowed to pass a sentry point. The battle raged for three weeks, resulting in a massive loss of American and civilian life. Nazi atrocities abounded, including the murder of 72 American soldiers by SS soldiers in the Ardennes town of Malmedy. Historian Stephen Ambrose estimated that by war’s end, “Of the 600,000 GIs involved, almost 20,000 were killed, another 20,000 were captured, and 40,000 were wounded.” The United States also suffered its second-largest surrender of troops of the war: More than 7,500 members of the 106th Infantry Division capitulated at one time at Schnee Eifel. The devastating ferocity of the conflict also made desertion an issue for the American troops; General Eisenhower was forced to make an example of Private Eddie Slovik, the first American executed for desertion since the Civil War. Fighting was particularly fierce at the town of Bastogne, where the 101st Airborne Division and part of the 10th Armored Division were encircled by German forces within the bulge. On December 22, the German commander besieging the town demanded that the Americans surrender or face annihilation. U.S. Major General Anthony McAuliffe prepared a typed reply that read simply: “To the German Commander: Nuts! From the American Commander.” The Americans who delivered the message explained to the perplexed Germans that the one-word reply was translatable as “Go to hell!” Heavy fighting continued at Bastogne, but the 101st held on. On December 23, the skies finally cleared over the battle areas, and the Allied air forces inflicted heavy damage on German tanks and transport, which were jammed solidly along the main roads. On December 26, Bastogne was relieved by elements of General Patton’s 3rd Army. A major Allied counteroffensive began at the end of December, and by January 21 the Germans had been pushed back to their original line. Germany’s last major offensive of the war had cost them 120,000 men, 1,600 planes, and 700 tanks.
1944 – Japanese planes attack American shipping while US aircraft strike at air bases (in continuing operations by TF38). On Mindoro, the landing forces consolidates the beachhead and begins construction of an landing strip.
1950 – In the wake of the massive Chinese intervention in the Korean War, President Harry S. Truman declares a state of emergency. Proclaiming that “Communist imperialism” threatened the world’s people, Truman called upon the American people to help construct an “arsenal of freedom.” In November, the stakes in the Korean War dramatically escalated with the intervention of hundreds of thousands of communist Chinese troops. Prior to their arrival on the battlefield, the U.S. forces seemed on the verge of victory in Korea. Just days after General Douglas MacArthur declared an “end the war offensive,” however, massive elements of the Chinese army smashed into the American lines and drove the U.S. forces back. The “limited war” in Korea threatened to turn into a widespread conflict. Against this backdrop, Truman issued his state of emergency and the U.S. military-industrial complex went into full preparations for a possible third world war. The president’s proclamation vastly expanded his executive powers and gave Mobilization Director Charles E. Wilson nearly unlimited authority to coordinate the country’s defense program. Such an increase in government power had not been seen since World War II. The Soviet Union, which Truman blamed for most of the current world problems in the course of his speech, blasted the United States for “warmongering.” Congress, most of America’s allies, and the American people appeared to be strongly supportive of the President’s tough talk and actions. Truman’s speech, and the events preceding it, indicated that the Cold War-so long a battle of words and threats-had become an actual military reality. The Korean War lasted from 1950 to 1953.
1950 – The U.S. 24th Infantry Division received the Distinguished Unit Citation (now the Presidential Unit Citation) for “extraordinary heroism in combat against a numerically superior enemy.” The division, commanded by Major General William F. Dean, by then a prisoner of war, was the first U.S. division to enter the Korean War.
1952 – The U.S. Air Force’s 3rd Bomb Wing completed its 25,000th sortie of the Korean War.
1953 – Charles E. Yeager flew 2,575 kph in Bell X-1A.
1960 – A United Airlines DC-8 with 83 passengers on board collided with a TWA Super Constellation carrying 42 in the New York city area. Coast Guard helicopters, working with the aircraft of the Army, Navy and New York Police Department, transported the injured passengers from the Constellation’s wreck on Staten Island to a nearby hospital. Coast Guard vessels also searched the New York harbor area. The debris they picked up was used by the Civil Aeronautics Board in its determination of the cause of the mishap.
1961 – Operation Farm Gate aircraft are authorized to fly combat missions, provided a Vietnamese crew member is aboard. Because the 1954 Geneva Agreements prohibit the introduction of bombers into Indochina, US B-26 and SC-47 bombers are redesignated, ‘reconnaissance bombers.’
1965 – Gen. William Westmoreland, Commander of U.S. Military Assistance Command Vietnam, sends a request for more troops. With nearly 200,000 U.S. military personnel in South Vietnam already, Westmoreland sent Defense Secretary Robert McNamara a message stating that he would need an additional 243,000 men by the end of 1966. Citing a rapidly deteriorating military situation in which the South Vietnamese were losing the equivalent of an infantry battalion (500 soldiers) a week in battle, Westmoreland predicted that he would need a total of 600,000 men by the end of 1967 to defeat the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese. Although the high tide of U.S. troop strength in South Vietnam never reached the 600,000, there were more than 540,000 U.S. troops in South Vietnam by 1969.
1972 – Henry Kissinger announces at a news conference in Washington that the North Vietnamese have walked out of the ongoing private negotiations in Paris. President Richard Nixon turned to private negotiations in August 1969 because of the all but total impasse in the official negotiations that had been in session since May 1968. The fact that these private talks were being conducted was not disclosed until January 25, 1972, when Nixon, in response to criticism that his administration had not made its best efforts to end the war, revealed that Kissinger had been conducting secret negotiations with North Vietnamese representatives in Paris. Although Kissinger had been able to make some progress in the private negotiations, the talks failed to achieve what President Nixon regarded as “just and fair agreement to end the war.” The central disagreement between Kissinger and the North Vietnamese negotiators was over the question of who would rule South Vietnam after any negotiated cease-fire. The North Vietnamese negotiators, headed by Le Duc Tho, demanded that the government of Nguyen Van Thieu be dissolved, that the South Vietnamese army be disbanded, and that a coalition government be installed, which would then negotiate for a truce. 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 walked out of the negotiations. Kissinger charged that Hanoi was to blame for the failure to reach an agreement, and asserted that the U.S. would not be blackmailed or stampeded into an agreement. North Vietnam criticized the U.S. for breaking the agreement to maintain silence on the private negotiations. Nixon issued an ultimatum to Hanoi to send its representatives back to the conference table within 72 hours “or else.” The North Vietnamese rejected Nixon’s demand on December 18, and the president gave the order to launch Operation Linebacker II, an intensified bombing campaign of North Vietnam. Over the next 11 days–with the exception of Christmas Day–the “Christmas bombing” continued unabated. In all, roughly tons of bombs over North Vietnam, and Air Force and Navy fighter-bombers added another 5,000 tons. On December 28, the North Vietnamese agreed to Nixon’s conditions for re-opening the negotiations and the next day, the president called an end to Linebacker II.
1979 – Libya joined four other OPEC nations in raising the price of crude oil. Since the U.S. bought much of its oil from Libya, the price hike had an almost immediate effect on American gas prices. Gas became costly, and the cost of motoring rose. Heating-oil prices also jumped–a tough blow at the beginning of winter.
1989 – Federal Judge Robert Vance is instantly killed by a powerful explosion after opening a package mailed to his house in Birmingham, Alabama. Two days later, a mail bomb killed Robert Robinson, an attorney in Savannah, Georgia, in his office. Two other bomb packages, sent to the federal courthouse in Atlanta and to a NAACP lawyer, were intercepted before their intended victims opened them. The FBI immediately assigned a task force to find the terrorist, naming their operation VANPAC (for Vance package bomb). The investigators used nearly every forensic method available: DNA profiles were made from the saliva on the stamps, and both the paint on the boxes and the nails that acted as the bomb’s shrapnel were traced back to the manufacturer. The first good lead came from an examination of the typewritten letters found in the unexploded packages. The typewriter that had been used was slightly defective, so investigators examined the judicial records of several states to see if any other documents or letters had come from the same defective typewriter. Indeed, at an Atlanta courthouse, the FBI located a letter from Enterprise, Alabama, with the same problem. Although FBI investigators couldn’t find any other clues in Enterprise, an officer remembered that Walter LeRoy Moody had been convicted in 1972 for setting off a pipe bomb with a similar design to that of the 1989 bombs. A search of Moody’s home failed to turn up evidence linking him to the VANPAC bombs, but bomb experts compared his 1972 bomb to the VANPAC explosives and determined that there was little doubt that the same man had made them all. But Moody’s wife provided the key evidence against him: She admitted that her husband had sent her to make copies of the threatening letters. Her story was later verified when a copy store employee’s partial fingerprint was found on one of the letters. Purportedly, Moody was upset by the judicial system. In June 1991, a federal jury convicted Moody on charges related to the bombings and sentenced him to 400 years in prison.
1991 – Russian President Boris Yeltsin met for four hours with visiting U.S. Secretary of State James Baker, after which Yeltsin said the new Commonwealth of Independent States would begin operating by the end of the year.
1991 – Nearly 300 members of the 8th Marines arrived at Guantanamo Bay to participate in Haitian humanitarian efforts for 6,000 refugees.
1992 – US Secretary of State Lawrence S. Eagleburger said Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic and Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic had to answer for atrocities committed in former Yugoslavia. In 2000 a US federal jury ordered Radovan Karadzic to pay $745 million to a group of women, who accused him of atrocities.
1996 – The US, EU and other countries agreed to a package of economic and military assistance to Lebanon worth $2.2 billion. The US said that its aid would increase to more than $20 million next year.
1997 – A Pentagon-appointed panel concluded that the Army, Navy and Air Force should segregate male and female recruits in their earliest phases of basic training.
1997 – The Galileo spacecraft flew to within 124 miles of the surface and recorded images of Europa. Volcanic ice flows implicated a vast ocean below the surface. Giant lightning bolts on Jupiter, a hundred times more powerful that those on Earth, were reported via the spacecraft and it indicated a magnetic field around Ganymede. It also indicated an atmosphere of hydrogen and carbon dioxide around Callisto. Metallic cores inside Io, Ganymede and Europa and the lack of a similar core inside Callisto was also indicated.
1997 – U.N. weapons monitor Richard Butler left Iraq after failing to persuade President Saddam Hussein to open his palaces to inspections.
1998 – In Operation Desert Fox, Navy cruise missiles attack Iraq. Pres. Clinton ordered a sustained series of missile strikes against Iraq forces in response to Saddam Hussein’s continued defiance of UN weapons inspectors. Iraqi envoy Nizar Hamdoon accused UN weapons inspector Richard Butler of producing a biased report on weapons inspections. The strike came one before scheduled vote on Clinton’s impeachment by the House of Representatives and days before the beginning of Ramadan. Some 200 missiles fell on Iraq in the first 24 hours of the attack and initial reports indicated two people killed and 30 injured. The House Republicans postponed impeachment by at least 24 hours.
1998 – Federal prosecutors in NYC charged 5 men in the Aug 7 bombing of the American Embassy in Tanzania. Mustafa Mohamed Fadhil of Egypt, Khalfan Khamis Mohamed and Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani of Tanzania, and Fahid Mohammed Ally Msalam and Sheik Ahmed Salim Swedan of Kenya. A 6th man, “Ahmed the German,” detonated the explosive device and was killed.
2000 – Federal prisoner Theodore Kaczynski (58), aka the Unabomber, donated his writings to a special collection at the Univ. of Michigan, where he received his doctorate in 1977.
2001 – It was reported that all the anthrax spores mailed to Capital Hill were identical to stocks from the US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick, Md. (USAMRIID), maintained since 1980.
2001 – In Afghanistan 25 bin Laden soldiers were captured and 200 were killed in the Tora Bora region. After 9 weeks of fighting, Afghan militia leaders claimed control of the last mountain bastion of Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida fighters.
2001 – The EU held a weekend summit near Brussels and declared their nascent joint military force operational. A constitutional convention was planned as well as the admittance of 10 new members over the next 2 years.
2002 – Pres. Bush named Thomas Kean, former Gov. of New Jersey, to replace Henry Kissinger as head of the Sep. 11 investigation panel.
2003 – U.S. special envoy James A. Baker III said France, Germany and the US agreed to seek reductions in Iraq’s foreign debt within the Paris Club of creditor nations.
2003 – In Afghanistan several dozen delegates broke away from a crucial constitutional assembly to celebrate the inauguration of the Kabul-Kandahar highway, a vital artery linking the capital with the lawless and poverty-stricken south.
2004 – Former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein met with a lawyer for the first time since his capture a year earlier.
2004 – Rebel strikes across Baghdad killed 10 people, including three paramilitary policemen and a government official.
2009 – Coalition troops began Operation Septentrion, a 36-hour operation in the Uzbin Valley (east of Kabul). The force of 1100 troops included 800 members of the French Foreign Legion together with 200 US special forces and Afghan soldiers. The purpose of Operation Septentrion was “reaffirming the sovereignty of Afghan security forces in the north of the Uzbeen Valley,” according to a French military spokesperson, and also to plant an Afghan flag in a key strategic village. While 75% of the Uzbin Valley had been under coalition control, a corner of it had remained in Taliban hands.
2013 – American judge Richard J. Leon of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia rules that the National Security Agency collecting domestic phone records was unconstitutional in Klayman vs Obama. A stay has been placed on the ruling pending an appeal by the US Government.

Leave a Reply

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