This Day in U.S. Military History…… December 26

26 December
1776 – The British suffered a major defeat in the Battle of Trenton during the Revolutionary War. After crossing the Delaware River into New Jersey, George Washington led an attack on Hessian mercenaries and took 900 men prisoner. Two Americans froze to death on the march but none died in battle. There were 30 German casualties, 1,000 prisoners and 6 cannon captured. Four Americans were wounded in the overwhelming American victory, while 22 Hessians were killed and 78 wounded. The surprise attack caught most of the 1,200 Hessian soldiers at Trenton sleeping after a day of Christmas celebration. The Americans captured 918 Hessians, who were taken as prisoners to Philadelphia. The victory was a huge morale booster for the American army and the country. The victory at Trenton was a huge success and morale booster for the American army and people. However, the enlistments of more than 4,500 of Washington’s soldiers were set to end four days later and it was critical that the force remain intact. General George Washington offered a bounty of $10 to any of his soldiers who extended their enlistments six weeks beyond their December 31, 1776, expiration dates. The American Revolution Battle of Trenton saw the routing of 1,400 Hessian mercenaries, with 101 killed or wounded and about 900 taken prisoner, with no Americans killed in the combat. Four Americans were wounded and two had died of exhaustion en route to Trenton.
1786 – Daniel Shay led a rebellion in Massachusetts to protest the seizure of property for the non-payment of debt. Shay was a Revolutionary War veteran who led a short-lived insurrection in western Massachusetts to protest a tax increase that had to be paid in cash, a hardship for veteran farmers who relied on barter and didn‘t own enough land to vote. The taxes were to pay off the debts from the Revolutionary War, and those who couldn‘t pay were evicted or sent to prison.
1799 – The late George Washington was eulogized by Col. Henry Lee as “first in war, first in peace and first in the hearts of his countrymen.”
1820 – Hoping to recover from bankruptcy with a bold scheme of colonization, Moses Austin meets with Spanish authorities in San Antonio to ask permission for 300 Anglo-American families to settle in Texas. A native of Durham, Connecticut, Austin had been a successful merchant in Philadelphia and Virginia. After hearing reports of rich lead mines in the Spanish-controlled regions to the west, Austin obtained permission in 1798 from the Spanish to mine land in an area that lies in what is now the state of Missouri. Austin quickly built a lead mine, smelter, and town on his property, and his mine turned a steady profit for more than a decade. Unfortunately, the economic collapse following the War of 1812 destroyed the lead market and left him bankrupt. Determined to rebuild his fortune, Austin decided to draw on his experience with the Spanish and try to establish an American colony in Texas. In 1820, he traveled to San Antonio to request a land grant from the Spanish governor, who initially turned him down. Austin persisted and was finally granted permission to settle 300 Anglo families on 200,000 acres of Texas land. Overjoyed, Austin immediately set out for the United States to begin recruiting colonists, but he became ill and died on the long journey back. The task of completing the arrangements for Austin’s Texas colony fell to his son, Stephen Fuller Austin. The younger Austin selected the lower reaches of Colorado River and Brazos River as the site for the colony, and the first colonists began arriving in December 1821. Over the next decade, Stephen Austin and other colonizers brought nearly 25,000 people into Texas, most of them Anglo-Americans. Always more loyal to the United States than to Mexico, the settlers eventually broke from Mexico to form the independent Republic of Texas in 1836. Nine years later, they led the successful movement to make Texas an American state.
1837 – George Dewey, Admiral of the Navy, was born: Spanish-American War: hero of Manila: “You may fire when you are ready, Gridley.”
1860 – Following the secession of South Carolina (20 December) Major Robert Anderson, USA, removed his loyal garrison from Fort Moultrie to Fort Sumter, on an island in Charleston Harbor; this created spe¬cial need for sea-borne reinforcements of troops and supplies.
1861 – Confederate diplomatic envoys James Mason and John Slidell are freed by the Lincoln administration, thus heading off a possible war between the United States and Great Britain. The two men were aboard the British mail steamer Trent on November 8 when they were pulled over by the U.S.S. San Jacinto. They were headed to London to lobby for recognition of the Confederacy. The Union ship intercepted the English ship near the Bahamas, arrested the Southerners, and took them back to Boston. The British were outraged when word of the interception reached London in late November, fueling anti-American sentiment among the British. The British had not taken sides in the American Civil War and their policy was to accept any paying customer that wished to travel aboard their ships. The British government dispatched a message to the American government demanding the release of Mason and Slidell and an apology for the transgression of British rights on the high seas. The British cabinet sent a message on December 1 insisting that the U.S. respond within a week. It also began preparing for war, banning exports of war materials to the U.S. and sending 11,000 troops to Canada. Plans were made to attack the American fleet that was blockading the South, and the British planned a blockade of northern ports. Lincoln decided not to push the issue. On December 26, he ordered the envoys released and averted a war with England in the process. The incident gave the Confederates hope that there was support for their cause in Britain, but it also demonstrated how hard the Union would work to avoid conflict with Britain.
1862 – 38 Santee Sioux were hanged in Mankato, Minn., for their part in the Sioux Uprising. 1862 – Four nuns who were volunteer nurses on board Red Rover were the first female nurses on a U.S. Navy hospital ship.
1862 – American Civil War: The Battle of Chickasaw Bayou begins. The Battle of Chickasaw Bayou, also called the Battle of Walnut Hills, begins. It was the opening engagement of the Vicksburg Campaign during the American Civil War. Confederate forces under Lt. Gen. John C. Pemberton repulsed an advance by Union Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman that was intended to lead to the capture of Vicksburg, Mississippi. Three Union divisions under Sherman disembarked at Johnson’s Plantation on the Yazoo River to approach the Vicksburg defenses from the northeast while a fourth landed farther upstream on December 27. On December 27, the Federals pushed their lines forward through the swamps toward the Walnut Hills, which were strongly defended. On December 28, several futile attempts were made to get around these defenses. On December 29, Sherman ordered a frontal assault, which was repulsed with heavy casualties, and then withdrew. This Confederate victory frustrated Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant’s attempts to take Vicksburg by a direct approach.
1865 – James H. Mason of Franklin, Mass., received a patent for a coffee percolator.
1866 – Brig. Gen. Philip St. George Cooke, head of the Department of the Platte received word of the Dec 21 Fetterman Fight in Powder River County in the Dakota territory.
1917 – As a wartime measure, President Wilson placed railroads under government control, with Secretary of War William McAdoo as director general.
1925 – Six U.S. destroyers were ordered from Manila to China to protect interests in the civil war that was being waged there.
1941 – Less than three weeks after the American entrance into World War II, Winston Churchill becomes the first British prime minister to address Congress. Churchill, a gifted orator, urged Congress to back President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s proposal that America become the “great arsenal of democracy” and warned that the Axis powers would “stop at nothing” in pursuit of their war aims. Born at Blenheim Palace in 1874, Churchill joined the British Fourth Hussars upon his father’s death in 1895. During the next five years, he enjoyed an illustrious military career, serving in India, the Sudan, and South Africa, and distinguishing himself several times in battle. In 1899, he resigned his commission to concentrate on his literary and political career and in 1900 was elected to Parliament as a Conservative MP from Oldham. In 1904, he joined the Liberals, serving a number of important posts before being appointed Britain’s First Lord of the Admiralty in 1911, where he worked to bring the British navy to a readiness for the war he foresaw. In 1915, in the second year of World War I, Churchill was held responsible for the disastrous Dardanelles and Gallipoli campaigns and was thus excluded from the war coalition government. However, in 1917 he returned to politics as a cabinet member in the Liberal government of Lloyd George. From 1919 to 1921, he was secretary of state for war and in 1924 returned to the Conservative Party, where two years later he played a leading role in the defeat of the General Strike of 1926. Out of office from 1929 to 1939, Churchill issued unheeded warnings of the threat of Nazi and Japanese aggression. After the outbreak of World War II in Europe, Churchill returned to his post as First Lord of the Admiralty and eight months later replaced Neville Chamberlain as prime minister of a new coalition government. In the first year of his administration, Britain stood alone against Nazi Germany, but Churchill promised his country and the world that Britain would “never surrender.” He rallied the British people to a resolute resistance and expertly orchestrated Franklin D. Roosevelt and Joseph Stalin into an alliance that eventually crushed the Axis. After a postwar Labor Party victory in 1945, he became leader of the opposition and in 1951 was again elected prime minister. In 1953, he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II and awarded the Nobel Prize in literature. After his retirement as prime minister, he remained in Parliament until 1964, the year before his death.
1941 – General Douglas MacArthur declared Manila an open city in the face of the onrushing Japanese Army.
1943-Under command of Seventh Amphibious Force, landings at Cape Gloucester, New Britain was conducted with Coast Guard-manned LST’s 18, 22, 66, 67, 68, 168, 202, 204, and 206. The LST-22 shot down a Japanese “Val” dive bomber while LST-66 was officially credited with downing three enemy aircraft. Two of her crew were killed by near misses. LST-67 brought down one Japanese dive bomber while LST-204 shot down two and the gunners aboard LST-68 claimed another. The LST-202 claimed three enemy planes shot down.
1943 – Count Claus von Stauffenberg tried in vain to plant a bomb in Hitler’s headquarters.
1943 – The US 5th Army clears Monte Sammucro and the surrounding hills of German forces.
1944 – General George S. Patton employs an audacious strategy to relieve the besieged Allied defenders of Bastogne, Belgium, during the brutal Battle of the Bulge. The capture of Bastogne was the immediate goal of the Battle of the Bulge, with eyes on the port city of Antwerp if a campaign could be strung together, the German offensive through the Ardennes forest. Bastogne provided a road junction in rough terrain where few roads existed; it would open up a valuable pathway further north for German expansion. The Belgian town was defended by the U.S. 101st Airborne Division, which had to be reinforced by troops who straggled in from other battlefields. Food, medical supplies, and other resources eroded as bad weather and relentless German assaults threatened the Americans’ ability to hold out. Nevertheless, Brigadier General Anthony C. MacAuliffe met a German surrender demand with a typewritten response of a single word: “Nuts.” Enter “Old Blood and Guts,” General Patton. Employing a complex and quick-witted strategy wherein he literally wheeled his 3rd Army a sharp 90 degrees in a counterthrust movement, Patton broke through the German lines and entered Bastogne, relieving the valiant defenders and ultimately pushing the Germans east across the Rhine. Meanwhile, British Bomber Command makes a daylight raid on the German held transportation hub of St. Vith. The Allies claim to have captured 13,273 German prisoners while the Germans claim over 30,000 Allied POWs and the destruction of 700 American tanks.
1944 – In Italy two platoons of the segregated 92nd Infantry Division fought the German 14th Army at Sommocolonia. Of 70 “Buffalo Soldiers” and 25 Italian Partisans only 18 survived. In 1977 Lt. John Fox and 6 other black Americans were awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. By the end of the war 2,916 Buffalo soldiers fell breaking the Gothic Line.
1944 – Japanese naval force arriving from Indochina bombards the American beachhead on Mindoro. The force consists of 2 cruisers and 6 destroyers. An American PT Boat sinks one of the destroyers. This is the last sortie by a Japanese naval force in the Philippines.
1945 – The Big Three, the US, Soviet Union and Great Britain, ended a 10-day meeting, seeking an atomic rule by the UN Council.
1953 – The U.S. announced the withdrawal of two divisions from Korea.
1957 – Twenty helicopters from Marine Light Helicopter Squadron 162, were rushed to Ceylon onboard the USS PRINCETON where Marines participated in the rescue and evacuation of flood victims.
1967 – Laotian Premier Souvanna Phouma reports that North Vietnamese troops have started a general offensive against government forces in southern Laos. Phouma reported that at least one battle was being waged near Pha Lane, but said Laotian troops appeared to be in control of the situation. On December 29, North Vietnam denied that its forces began a drive in Laos, but it was supporting the communist Pathet Lao in their long-time campaign against the Royal Lao government.
1971 – In the sharpest escalation of the war since Operation Rolling Thunder ended in November 1968, U.S. fighter-bombers begin striking at North Vietnamese airfields, missile sites, antiaircraft emplacements, and supply facilities. These raids continued for five days. They were begun in response to intelligence that predicted a North Vietnamese build up of forces and equipment for a new offensive. At a press conference on December 27, U.S. Defense Secretary Melvin Laird said the increase in bombing was in retaliation for the communist failure to honor agreements made prior to the 1968 bombing halt. As evidence, Laird cited the shelling of Saigon the week before, DMZ violations–including an infiltration route being built through the buffer zone, and attacks on unarmed U.S. reconnaissance planes. Pentagon figures showed that U.S. planes–with as many as 250 aircraft participating in some missions–attacked communist targets over 100 times in 1971, a figure comparable to U.S. air activity in the previous 26 months.
1972 – As part of Operation Linebacker II, 120 American B-52 Stratofortress bombers attacked Hanoi, including 78 launched from Andersen Air Force Base in Guam, the largest single combat launch in Strategic Air Command history. Operation Linebacker II was a US Seventh Air Force and US Navy Task Force 77 aerial bombing campaign, conducted against targets in the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (North Vietnam) during the final period of US involvement in the Vietnam War. The operation was conducted from 18–29 December 1972, leading to several of informal names such as “The December Raids” and “The Christmas Bombings”. Unlike the Operation Rolling Thunder and Operation Linebacker interdiction operations, Linebacker II, would be a “maximum effort” bombing campaign to “destroy major target complexes in the Hanoi and Haiphong areas which could only be accomplished by B-52s.” It saw the largest heavy bomber strikes launched by the US Air Force since the end of World War II. Linebacker II was a modified extension of the Operation Linebacker bombings conducted from May to October, with the emphasis of the new campaign shifted to attacks by B-52 Stratofortress heavy bombers rather than smaller tactical fighter aircraft.
1972 – The 33rd president of the United States, Harry S. Truman, died in Kansas City, Mo. In 1995 Robert H. Ferrell published the biography “Harry S. Truman: A Life.” In 1999 Ferrell published “Truman and Pendergrast.”
1979 – The Soviet Union flew 5,000 troops into the Afghanistan conflict.
1987 – A bomb exploded at a USO bar in Barcelona, Spain, killing one U.S. sailor and injuring nine others; a little-known group called the Red Army of Catalonian Liberation claimed responsibility.
1991 – Jack Ruby’s gun sold for $220,000 in auction.
1991 – The Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union meets and formally dissolves the Soviet Union.
1998 – Iraq fired on Western aircraft patrolling the southern no-fly zone and said it would shoot at all military aircraft patrolling no-fly zones.
1999 – The crew of space shuttle “Discovery” packed up its tools and prepared to return home after an eight-day mission of repairs to the Hubble Space Telescope that NASA declared a success.
1999 – In Iran members of the opposition Mujahedeen Khalq crossed from Iraq and attacked Republican Guard barracks in Khuzestan.
2001 – The Al Jazeera Arab network broadcast a new video-taped statement from Osama bin Laden that appeared to have been made in late Nov or early Dec. “Our terrorism is benign,” he claims. The al-Qaida leader condemned the United States as a nation that committed crimes against millions of Afghans.
2002 – The Int’l. Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said North Korea had moved 1,000 fresh fuel rods to a nuclear reactor that produces plutonium used in nuclear warheads.
2004 – The world’s most powerful earthquake in 40 years triggered massive tidal waves that slammed into villages and seaside resorts across southern and southeast Asia killed. The initial estimated death toll of 9,000 soon rose to more than 225,000 people in 12 countries. The magnitude 9.0 earthquake was the world’s fifth-largest since 1900 and the largest since a 9.2 temblor hit Prince William Sound Alaska in 1964. The epicenter was located 155 miles south-southeast of Banda Aceh, the capital of Aceh province on Sumatra, and six miles under the seabed of the Indian Ocean. In Indonesia at least 166,320 people were killed.
2004 – The Russian unmanned cargo ship, Progress M-51,docked at the international space station, ending a shortage that forced astronauts to ration supplies.
2006 – Gerald Ford, former President of the United States, dies at 93. Gerald Rudolph “Jerry” Ford, Jr. (born Leslie Lynch King, Jr.; July 14, 1913) was the 38th President of the United States, serving from 1974 to 1977, and, prior to this, was the 40th Vice President of the United States serving from 1973 to 1974 under President Richard Nixon. He was the first person appointed to the Vice Presidency under the terms of the 25th Amendment, after Spiro Agnew resigned. When he became president upon Richard Nixon’s resignation on August 9, 1974, he became the first and to date only person to have served as both Vice President and President of the United States without being elected by the Electoral College. Before ascending to the Vice Presidency, Ford served nearly 25 years as the Representative from Michigan’s 5th congressional district, eight of them as the Republican Minority Leader. As President, Ford signed the Helsinki Accords, marking a move toward détente in the Cold War. With the conquest of South Vietnam by North Vietnam nine months into his presidency, U.S. involvement in Vietnam essentially ended. Domestically, Ford presided over the worst economy in the four decades since the Great Depression, with growing inflation and a recession during his tenure. One of his more controversial acts was to grant a presidential pardon to President Richard Nixon for his role in the Watergate scandal. During Ford’s incumbency, foreign policy was characterized in procedural terms by the increased role Congress began to play, and by the corresponding curb on the powers of the President. In 1976, Ford defeated Ronald Reagan for the Republican nomination, but narrowly lost the presidential election to Democrat Jimmy Carter. Following his years as president, Ford remained active in the Republican Party. After experiencing health problems, Ford died in his home on December 26, 2006. Ford lived longer than any other U.S. president, living 93 years and 165 days, while his 895-day presidency remains the shortest of all presidents who did not die in office.

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