1606 – Virginia Company settlers left London to establish Jamestown.
1669 – The 1st American jury trial was held in Delaware. Marcus Jacobson was condemned for insurrection and sentenced to flogging, branding & slavery.
1790 – In Pawtucket, Rhode Island, 23-year-old British subject Samuel Slater began production of the first American spinning mill. The British jealously guarded their technological superiority in the early stages of the Industrial Revolution, making it illegal for machinery, plans and even the men who built and repaired them to leave the country. After serving a 7-year mill apprenticeship in England, Slater recognized the potential offered in America. He memorized the plans for intricate machine specifications, disguised himself as a farm worker and in 1789 sailed to a new life across the Atlantic. Slater entered into a partnership with Rhode Island merchant Moses Brown and built a small spinning mill–the equivalent of 72 spinning wheels. At first, Slater’s Mill employed only a handful of children between the ages of 7 and 12, but by 1800, he had more than 100 employees. By the time of Slater’s death in 1835, he owned or had an interest in 13 textile mills and left an estate of almost $700,000. From this small beginning, America’s own Industrial Revolution grew.
1803 – U.S. and French governments put the finishing touches on a little land transaction known as the Louisiana Purchase. For the relatively paltry price tag of $15 million, the U.S. acquired an area that effectively doubled the size of the nation. The bargain price reflected French fears that their army, already occupied with the Napoleonic Wars, would not be able to stave off revolutionaries in New Orleans. U.S. officials, meanwhile, coveted New Orleans as a duty-free port for American goods that were about to be shipped. Of course, the resulting deal provided the U.S. with much more than a port; indeed, the nation now owned the land that would become Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, the Dakotas, as well as chunks of Minnesota, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, and of course, Louisiana.
1803 – Without a shot fired, the French hand over New Orleans and Lower Louisiana to the United States. In April 1803, the United States purchased from France the 828,000 square miles that had formerly been French Louisiana. The area was divided into two territories: the northern half was Louisiana Territory, the largely unsettled (though home to many Indians) frontier section that was later explored by Lewis and Clark; and the southern Orleans Territory, which was populated by Europeans. Unlike the sprawling and largely unexplored northern territory (which eventually encompassed a dozen large states), Orleans Territory was a small, densely populated region that was like a little slice of France in the New World. With borders that roughly corresponded to the modern state of Louisiana, Orleans Territory was home to about 50,000 people, a primarily French population that had been living under the direction of a Spanish administration. These former citizens of France knew almost nothing about American laws and institutions, and the challenging task of bringing them into the American fold fell to the newly appointed governor of the region, twenty-eight-year-old William Claiborne. Historians have found no real evidence that the French of Orleans Territory resented their transfer to American control, though one witness claimed that when the French tri-color was replaced by the Stars and Stripes in New Orleans, the citizens wept. The French did resent that their new governor was appointed rather than elected, and they bridled when the American government tried to make English the official language and discouraged the use of French. It didn’t help matters that young Claiborne knew neither French nor Spanish. Claiborne soon found himself immersed in a complex sea of ethnic tensions and political unrest that he little understood, and in January he wrote to Thomas Jefferson that the population was “uninformed, indolent, luxurious-in a word, ill-fitted to be useful citizens for a Republic.” To his dismay, Claiborne found that most of his time was spent not governing, but dealing with an unrelenting procession of crises like riots, robberies, and runaway slaves. Despite his concerns, Claiborne knew that somehow these people had to be made into American citizens, and over time he gradually made progress in bringing the citizenry into the Union. In December 1804 he was happy to report to Jefferson that “they begin to view their connexion with the United States as permanent and to experience the benefits thereof.” Proof of this came eight years later, when the people of Orleans Territory drafted a constitution and successfully petitioned to become the eighteenth state in the Union. Despite Claiborne’s doubts about whether the French would ever truly fit into their new nation, the approval of that petition meant that the people of Louisiana were officially Americans.
1812 – Sacagawea, Shoshone interpreter for Lewis & Clark, died.
1822 – Congress authorizes the 14-ship West Indies Squadron to suppress piracy in the Caribbean.
1860 – South Carolina officially leaves the United States when a convention ratifies an article of secession. South Carolina, the first state to secede, was followed within a few weeks by six other states, who collectively formed the Confederate States of America. When hostilities erupted in April 1861, four more states joined the Confederacy.
1861 – Transports were loaded with 8,000 troops in England. They were setting sail for Canada so that troops would be available if the “Trent Affair” was not settled without war.
1862 – Rear Admiral D. D. Porter in his flagship U.S.S. Black Hawk joined General William T. Sherman at Helena, Arkansas, and prepared for the joint assault on Vicksburg. The fleet under Admiral Porter’s command for the Vicksburg campaign was the largest ever placed under one officer up to that time, equal in number to all the vessels composing the U.S. Navy at the outbreak of war.
1862 – Confederate General Earl Van Dorn thwarts Union General Ulysses S. Grant’s first attempt to capture Vicksburg, Mississippi, when Van Dorn attacks Grant’s supplies at Holly Springs, Mississippi. Grant planned a two-pronged attack on the last Confederate stronghold on the Mississippi River. He would take a force from western Tennessee to approach Vicksburg from the interior of Mississippi. Meanwhile, General William T. Sherman would lead an army down the Mississippi River for an attack from the north. Grant said, “We can go as far as supplies can go.” The plan started on a good note–Grant’s army pushed aside Confederates in northern Mississippi. In response, Confederate cavalry colonel John Griffith suggested attacking Grant’s supply line at Holly Springs, and he recommended Van Dorn for the mission. To that point, Van Dorn had done little to build his reputation. He lost the Battle of Pea Ridge and the Battle of Corinth earlier in 1862, and he was known for his drunkenness and tendency to cavort with prostitutes. Van Dorn gathered three cavalry brigades and left Grenada, Mississippi, on December 17. On December 20, Van Dorn fell on the Union supply depot at Holly Springs, driving the Yankee defenders away and capturing materials. What could not be carried was destroyed. Van Dorn remained in the area a few more days, cutting rail and telegraph lines, before fleeing in the face of pursuing Union cavalry. The Confederates rode 500 miles in two weeks, returning on December 28 after successfully disrupting Grant’s campaign. The raid was the highlight of Van Dorn’s military career. He was murdered five months later by the husband of a woman with whom he was having an affair.
1864 – Confederate forces evacuated Savannah, Ga., as Union Gen. William T. Sherman continued his “March to the Sea.”
1864 – Boats from U.S.S. Chicopee, Valley City, and Wyalusing under the command of Commander Macomb on an expedition to engage Confederate troops at Rainbow Bluff, North Carolina, were fired upon while dragging for torpedoes, seven miles below the Bluff. Macomb then put out skirmishers to clear the banks, but made only slow progress against the Southern force along the river. After the destruction of U.S.S. Otsego and Bazely (see 9 December), the Union gunboats moved laboriously up the tortuous river, dragging for torpedoes in small boats and being harassed by Confederate riflemen. As many as 40 torpedoes were found in some bends of the river. Union troops intending to operate with the gunboats were delayed. By the time they were ready to advance on Rainbow Bluff, the Confederate garrison there had been strongly reinforced. Torpedoes in the river, batteries along the banks below that point, and the difficulty of navigating the river forced abandonment of the operation. The wrecks of Otsego and Bazely were destroyed to prevent their falling into Confederate hands on 25 December. The expedition got back to Plymouth three days later.
1879 – Thomas A. Edison privately demonstrated his incandescent light at Menlo Park, N.J. 1880 – NY’s Broadway was lit by electricity. It later became known as “Great White Way.”
1892 – Alexander Brown and George Stillman of Syracuse, New York, patented an inflatable automobile tire. Before the pneumatic tire, wheels were often made of solid rubber. This made travel a bumpy experience. After all, the streets of 1892 were made of dirt or cobblestone. Some horse-drawn carriages had been made with inflatable tires, but Brown and Stillman got the first patent for pneumatic automobile tires.
1924 – Adolf Hitler was released from Landsberg Prison after serving less than one year of a five year sentence for treason.
1939 – The American cruiser USS Tuscalossa arrives in New York with 579 survivors from the scuttled German liner Columbus. They disembark on Ellis Island.
1941 – The Flying Tigers, American pilots in China, entered combat against the Japanese over Kunming. Aircraft of the 1st and 2nd squadrons intercepted 10 unescorted Kawasaki Ki-48 “Lily” bombers of the 21st Hikōtai attacking Kunming. The bombers jettisoned their loads before reaching Kunming. Three of the Japanese bombers were shot down near Kunming and a fourth was damaged so severely that it crashed before returning to its airfield at Hanoi. Furthermore, the Japanese discontinued their raids on Kunming while the AVG was based there.
1941 – Admiral Ernest J. King designated Commander-in-Chief, United States Fleet in charge of all operating naval fleets and coastal frontier forces, reporting directly to the President.
1941 – Japanese troops landed on Mindanao.
1943 – CGC Bodega grounded off the Canal Zone. No lives were lost.
1943 – Allied aircraft drop about 2000 tons of bombs on Frankfurt, Mannheim and other cities in southern Germany. There are also raids on the V-1 ramps in France.
1944 – The Women’s Air Force Service Pilots were deactivated. Before deactivation 1,074 WASPs logged 60 million miles flying for the U.S. Army Air Forces.
1944 – The 5th Panzer Army continues to advance to the south against forces of US 12th Army Group, but American defenders of the road junctions of St. Vith and Bastogne continue to hold their positions. Allied sources allege that in the area of Monschau the Germans have been shooting American prisoners with machineguns. Meanwhile, the US 3rd Army reports attacking from the Saarlautern bridgehead and having cleared 40 pillboxes and fortified houses.
1945 – Tire rationing in the U.S. ended on this day as World War II wound to a close, and widespread shortages in the States began to ease.
1946 – The morning after Viet Minh forces under Ho Chi Minh launched a night revolt in the Vietnamese capital of Hanoi, French colonial troops crack down on the communist rebels. Ho and his soldiers immediately fled the city to regroup in the countryside. That evening, the communist leader issued a proclamation that read: “All the Vietnamese must stand up to fight the French colonials to save the fatherland. Those who have rifles will use their rifles; those who have swords will use their swords; those who have no swords will use spades, hoes, or sticks. Everyone must endeavor to oppose the colonialists and save his country. Even if we have to endure hardship in the resistance war, with the determination to make sacrifices, victory will surely be ours.” The First Indochina War had begun. Born in Hoang Tru, Vietnam, in 1890, Ho Chi Minh left his homeland in 1911 as a cook on a French steamer. After several years as a seaman, he lived in London and then moved to France, where he became a founding member of the French Communist Party in 1920. He later traveled to the Soviet Union, where he studied revolutionary tactics and took an active role in the Communist International. In 1924, he went to China, where he set about organizing exiled Vietnamese communists. Expelled by China in 1927, he traveled extensively before returning to Vietnam in 1941. There, he organized a Vietnamese guerrilla organization–the Viet Minh–to fight for Vietnamese independence. Japan occupied French Indochina in 1940 and collaborated with French officials loyal to France’s Vichy regime. Ho, meanwhile, made contact with the Allies and aided operations against the Japanese in South China. In early 1945, Japan ousted the French administration in Vietnam and executed numerous French officials. When Japan surrendered to the Allies on September 2, 1945, Ho Chi Minh felt emboldened enough to declare the independence of Vietnam from France. French forces seized southern Vietnam and opened talks with the Vietnamese communists in the north. Negotiations collapsed in November 1946, and French warships bombarded the northern Vietnamese city of Haiphong, killing thousands. In response, the Viet Minh launched an attack against the French in Hanoi in December 1946. The French quickly struck back, and Ho and his followers found refuge in a remote area of northern Vietnam. The Viet Minh, undefeated and widely supported by the Vietnamese people, waged an increasingly effective guerrilla war against the French. The conflict stretched on for eight years, with Mao Zedong’s Chinese communists supporting the Viet Minh, and the United States aiding the French and anti-communist Vietnamese forces. In 1954, the French suffered a major defeat at Dien Bien Phu, in northwest Vietnam, prompting peace negotiations and the division of Vietnam along the 17th parallel at a conference in Geneva. Vietnam was divided into northern and southern regions, with Ho in command of North Vietnam and Emperor Bao Dai in control of South Vietnam. In the late 1950s, Ho Chi Minh organized a communist guerrilla movement in the South, called the Viet Cong. North Vietnam and the Viet Cong successfully opposed a series of ineffectual U.S.-backed South Vietnam regimes and beginning in 1964 withstood a decade-long military intervention by the United States, known as the Vietnam War in America but also called the Second Indochina War. Ho Chi Minh died on September 2, 1969, 25 years after declaring Vietnam’s independence from France and nearly six years before his forces succeeded in reuniting North and South Vietnam under communist rule. Saigon, the capital of South Vietnam, was renamed Ho Chi Minh City after it came under the control of the communists in 1975.
1948 – U.S. Supreme Court announced that it had no jurisdiction to hear the appeals of Japanese war criminals sentenced by the International Military Tribunal.
1950 – The 1st Marine Division was active against enemy guerillas in Masan-Pohang-Sondong-Ansong areas. Enemy pressure lessened as Marines forced the 10th North Korean Division to abandon guerilla activity and withdraw northward.
1952 – A United States Air Force C-124 crashes and burns in Moses Lake, Washington killing 87.
1957 – Elvis Presley was given a draft notice to join US Army for National Service.
1960 – North Vietnam announces the formation of the National Front for the Liberation of the South at a conference held “somewhere in the South.” This organization, more commonly known as the National Liberation Front (NLF), was designed to replicate the success of the Viet Minh, the umbrella nationalist organization that successfully liberated Vietnam from French colonial rule. The NLF reached out to those parts of South Vietnamese society who were displeased with the government and policies of President Ngo Dinh Diem. One hundred delegates representing more than a dozen political parties and religious groups–both communists and non-communists–were in attendance at the conference. However, from the beginning, the NLF was dominated by the Lao Dong Party Central Committee (North Vietnamese Communist Party) and served as the North’s shadow government in South Vietnam. The Saigon regime dubbed the NLF the “Viet Cong,” a pejorative contraction of Viet Nam Cong San (Vietnamese Communists). The NLF’s military arm was the People’s Liberation Armed Forces (PLAF). In February 1965, the PLAF attacked U.S. Army installations at Pleiku and Qui Nhon, which convinced President Lyndon B. Johnson to send the first U.S. ground troops to South Vietnam a month later. Ultimately, more than 500,000 U.S. troops were sent to Vietnam to fight the PLAF and the People’s Army of Vietnam (PAVN, or North Vietnamese Army). The NLF reached the height of its power during the 1968 Tet Offensive, when the communists launched a massive coordinated attack against key urban centers throughout South Vietnam. Although the Viet Cong forces were soundly defeated during the course of the offensive, they achieved a great psychological victory because the attack prompted many long time supporters of the war to question the Johnson administration’s optimistic predictions. The Saigon regime dubs the NLF the ‘Vietcong,’ a pejorative contraction of Viet Nam Cong San (Vietnamese Communists). This label, created by Diem’s publicists, is designed to brand the rebels as Communists, and comes to be applied generally to supporters of and participants in the insurgency.
1963 – More than two years after the Berlin Wall was constructed by East Germany to prevent its citizens from fleeing its communist regime, nearly 4,000 West Berliners are allowed to cross into East Berlin to visit relatives. Under an agreement reached between East and West Berlin, over 170,000 passes were eventually issued to West Berlin citizens, each pass allowing a one-day visit to communist East Berlin. The day was marked by moments of poignancy and propaganda. The construction of the Berlin Wall in August 1961 separated families and friends. Tears, laughter, and other outpourings of emotions characterized the reunions that took place as mothers and fathers, sons and daughters met again, if only for a short time. Cold War tensions were never far removed from the scene, however. Loudspeakers in East Berlin greeted visitors with the news that they were now in “the capital of the German Democratic Republic,” a political division that most West Germans refused to accept. Each visitor was also given a brochure that explained that the wall was built to “protect our borders against the hostile attacks of the imperialists.” Decadent western culture, including “Western movies” and “gangster stories,” were flooding into East Germany before the wall sealed off such dangerous trends. On the West Berlin side, many newspapers berated the visitors, charging that they were pawns of East German propaganda. Editorials argued that the communists would use this shameless ploy to gain West German acceptance of a permanent division of Germany. The visits, and the high-powered rhetoric that surrounded them, were stark reminders that the Cold War involved very human, often quite heated, emotions.
1964 – USS Richard E. Kraus (DD-849) completes a successful emergency mission in aiding the disabled American Merchant Ship, SS Oceanic Spray in the Red Sea.
1967 – Some 474,300 US soldiers were stationed in Vietnam.
1967 – President Lyndon B. Johnson attends a memorial service for Australian Prime Minister Harold Holt in Melbourne and then visits Vietnam, Thailand, and the Vatican. Arriving in Thailand on December 23, Johnson visited the U.S. air base at Korat, where he told the U.S. pilots there that the United States and its allies were “defeating this aggression.” The president then visited U.S. combat troops in Cam Ranh, South Vietnam, and told them that the enemy “knows that he has met his master in the field.” Next, Johnson flew to Rome and met with Pope Paul VI for over an hour with only interpreters present. A Vatican statement said the Pope advanced proposals toward attaining peace in Vietnam during the meeting.
1974 – Clearance of Suez Canal for mines and unexploded ordnance completed by Joint Task Force.
1978 – Former White House chief of staff H.R. Haldeman was released from prison after serving 18 months for his role in the Watergate cover-up.
1989 – The United States invades Panama in an attempt to overthrow military dictator Manuel Noriega, who had been indicted in the United States on drug trafficking charges and was accused of suppressing democracy in Panama and endangering U.S. nationals. Noriega’s Panamanian Defense Forces (PDF) were promptly crushed, forcing the dictator to seek asylum with the Vatican anuncio in Panama City, where he surrendered on January 3, 1990. In 1970, Noriega, a rising figure in the Panamanian military, was recruited by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to assist in the U.S. struggle against the spread of communism in Central America. Noriega became involved in drug trafficking and in 1977 was removed from the CIA payroll. After the Marxist Sandinista government came to power in 1979, Noriega was brought back into the CIA fold. In 1983, he become military dictator of Panama. Noriega supported U.S. initiatives in Central America and in turn was praised by the White House, even though a Senate committee concluded in 1983 that Panama was a major center for drug trafficking. In 1984, Noriega committed fraud in Panama’s presidential election in favor of Nicolýs Ardito Barletta, who became a puppet president. Still, Noriega enjoyed the continued support of the Reagan administration, which valued his aid in its efforts to overthrow Nicaragua’s Sandinista government. In 1986, just months before the outbreak of the Iran-Contra affair, allegations arose concerning Noriega’s history as a drug trafficker, money launderer, and CIA employee. Most shocking, however, were reports that Noriega had acted as a double agent for Cuba’s intelligence agency and the Sandinistas. The U.S. government disowned Noriega, and in 1988 he was indicted by federal grand juries in Tampa and Miami on drug-smuggling and money-laundering charges. Tensions between Americans in the Panama Canal Zone and Noriega’s Panamanian Defense Forces grew, and in 1989 the dictator annulled a presidential election that would have made Guillermo Endara president. President George H. Bush ordered additional U.S. troops to the Panama Canal Zone, and on December 16 an off-duty U.S. Marine was shot to death at a PDF roadblock. The next day, President Bush authorized “Operation Just Cause”–the U.S. invasion of Panama to overthrow Noriega. On December 20, 9,000 U.S. troops joined the 12,000 U.S. military personnel already in Panama and were met with scattered resistance from the PDF. By December 24, the PDF was crushed, and the United States held most of the country. Endara was made president by U.S. forces, and he ordered the PDF dissolved. On January 3, Noriega was arrested by U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency agents. The U.S. invasion of Panama cost the lives of only 23 U.S. soldiers and three U.S. civilians. Some 150 PDF soldiers were killed along with an estimated 500 Panamanian civilians. The Organization of American States and the European Parliament both formally protested the invasion, which they condemned as a flagrant violation of international law. In 1992, Noriega was found guilty on eight counts of drug trafficking, racketeering, and money laundering, marking the first time in history that a U.S. jury convicted a foreign leader of criminal charges. He was sentenced to 40 years in federal prison.
1990 – Pentagon warned Saddam that US air power was ready to attack on 1/15.
1992 – U.S. Marines and Belgian paratroopers in Somalia took control of Kismayu’s port and airport; the first truck convoy in more than a month reached the starving inland town of Baidoa. This is the first US combined amphibious assualt since the Vietnam War.
1993 – Alina Fernandez Revuelta, a daughter of Cuban President Fidel Castro, flew to Spain, where she was granted political asylum by the U.S. Embassy.
1994 – Marcelino Corniel, a homeless man, was shot and mortally wounded by White House security officers as he brandished a knife near the executive mansion.
1995 – During a brief military ceremony in Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina, French General Bernard Janvier, head of the United Nations peacekeeping force, formally transfers military authority in Bosnia to U.S. Admiral Leighton Smith, commander of North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) forces in Southern Europe. The solemn ceremony cleared the path for the deployment of 60,000 NATO troops to enforce the Dayton Peace Accords, signed in Paris by the leaders of the former Yugoslavia on December 14. The U.S.-backed peace plan was proposed during talks in Dayton, Ohio, earlier in the year and was reluctantly accepted by the last of the belligerent parties in November, ending four years of bloody conflict in the former Yugoslavia, which cost more than 200,000 lives. The United Nations peacekeeping mission to Bosnia began in early 1992, shortly after the war erupted over efforts by the Bosnian Serbs to achieve independence from Bosnia-Herzegovina and unite with Serbia. Although the U.N. force was crucial in distributing humanitarian aid to the impoverished population of Bosnia, it was unable to stop the fighting. Approximately 25,000 U.N. peacekeepers served in Bosnia over three and a half years, and during that time 110 of those were killed, 831 wounded, and hundreds taken hostage. The NATO force, with its strong U.S. support and focused aim of enforcing the Dayton agreement, was more successful in bringing stability to the war-torn region.
1998 – Germany extradited Mamdouh Mahmud Salim to the US in relation to the bombing of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.
2000 – In Afghanistan the Taliban ordered UN offices closed and pledged to boycott peace talks. New sanctions were imposed in response to the Taliban’s refusal to surrender Osama bin Laden.
2001 – Pres. Bush marked the 100-day anniversary of Sep 11 by freezing the assets of 2 Pakistan-based groups suspected of terrorist support.
2001 – More than two months after the attack began, the UNSC authorized the creation of International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) to assist the Afghan Interim Authority in maintaining security. Command of ISAF passed to NATO on 11 August 2003, following the US invasion of Iraq in March of that year. ISAF was initially established as a stabilization force by the UN Security Council to secure Kabul. Its mandate did not extend beyond this area for the first few years.
2001 – It was reported that Adnan Ihsan Saeed al-Haideri, a defector from Iraq, said he worked on renovations of secret facilities for biological, chemical and nuclear weapons in Iraq before fleeing a year ago.
2002 – U.S. jets fired on two Iraqi air defense sites in the southern no-fly zone after an Iraqi jet entered the restricted air space.
2002 – Grote Reber (90), a pioneer of radio astronomy died in Tasmania. He followed up Karl Jansky’s 1933 announcement of the discovery of radio waves from space and in his spare time in 1937 built a 30-foot antenna dish, the 1st radio telescope, in his back yard in Wheaton, Ill., and managed to pick up signals two years later.
2002 – U.N. weapons inspectors put Iraq on notice that it must provide far more evidence about its weapons of mass destruction. Chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix urged the United States and Britain to hand over any evidence they have about Iraq’s secret weapons programs so U.N. inspectors can check it on the ground. The US began sharing sensitive information with the UN.
2002 – Yemeni security forces battled suspected al-Qaida members holed up in a building in a gunfight that left 2 policemen dead.
2003 – Lt. Gen. David W. Barno, the new U.S. commander in Afghanistan said he will use his forces to open up the lawless south and east to development aid, in a tactical switch to beat a stubborn insurgency threatening next year’s elections.
2003 – Insurgents attacked pipelines and an oil storage depot in three parts of Iraq, setting fires that blazed for hours and lost millions of gallons of oil.
2003 – A Lebanese military court convicted 32 people of bombing American and British businesses, and imposed sentences ranging from three months to life imprisonment.
2004 – In a sobering assessment of the Iraq war, President Bush acknowledged during a news conference that Americans’ resolve had been shaken by grisly scenes of death and destruction, and he pointedly criticized the performance of US-trained Iraqi troops.
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