This Day in U.S. Military History…… December 29

29 December
1778 – 3,000 British soldiers under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Archibald Campbell capture Savannah, Georgia. The Capture of Savannah, or sometimes the First Battle of Savannah (because of a siege in 1779), was an American Revolutionary War battle between local American Patriot militia and Continental Army units holding the city and a British invasion force. It was the opening move in the British southern strategy to regain control of the rebellious southern provinces by appealing to the strong Loyalist sentiment believed to be there. General Sir Henry Clinton, the commander-in-chief of the British forces based in New York City, dispatched Campbell and a 3,100 man force from New York to capture Savannah, and begin the process of returning Georgia to British control. He was to be assisted by troops under the command of Brigadier General Augustine Prevost that were marching up from Saint Augustine in East Florida. After landing near Savannah on December 23, Campbell assessed the American defenses, which were comparatively weak, and decided to attack without waiting for Prevost. Taking advantage of local assistance he successfully flanked the American position outside the town, captured a large portion of Major General Robert Howe’s army, and drove the remnants to retreat into South Carolina. Campbell and Prevost followed up the victory with the capture of Sunbury and an expedition to Augusta. The latter was only occupied by Campbell for a few weeks before he retreated back to Savannah, citing insufficient Loyalist and Indian support and the threat of Patriot forces across the Savannah River in South Carolina. The British held off a Franco-American siege in 1779, and held the city until late in the war.
1808 – Andrew Johnson, the 17th president of the United States who succeeded Lincoln (1865-1869), was born in a 2-room shack in Raleigh, N.C. [Waxhaw, South Carolina]
1812 – USS Constitution (Captain William Bainbridge) captures HMS Java off Brazil after a three hour battle. Shortly, after Christmas, 1812, Constitution was sailing in the Atlantic just off the coast of Brazil. In the morning sails were sighted on the horizon, and Constitution’s new captain, William Bainbridge, altered course to investigate. The ship proved to be HMS Java, a frigate similar to Guerriere. Both frigates stood for each other and cleared their decks for action. The defeat of Java, the second frigate lost to Constitution in six months, motivated a change in the tactics of the Royal Navy. No longer would their frigates be allowed to engage American frigates like Constitution alone. Only British ships-of-the-line or squadrons were permitted to come close enough to these ships to attack.
1813 – The British burned Buffalo, N.Y., during the War of 1812.
1831 – Adam Badeau (d.1895), Bvt Brig General (Union volunteers), was born.
1835 – The Treaty of New Echota was signed in New Echota, Georgia by officials of the United States government and representatives of a minority Cherokee political faction, the Treaty Party. The treaty established terms under which the entire Cherokee Nation ceded its territory in the southeast and agreed to move west to the Indian Territory. Although the treaty was not approved by the Cherokee National Council nor signed by Principal Chief John Ross, it was amended and ratified by the U.S. Senate in March 1836, and became the legal basis for the forcible removal known as the Trail of Tears.
1837 – Canadian militiamen, claiming self-defense, destroyed the Caroline, a US steamboat docked at Buffalo, N.Y. It was being used to ferry supplies to anti-British rebels in Canada.
1845 – Six months after the congress of the Republic of Texas accepts U.S. annexation of the territory, Texas is admitted into the United States as the 28th state. After gaining independence from Spain in the 1820s, Mexico welcomed foreign settlers to sparsely populated Texas, and a large group of Americans led by Stephen F. Austin settled along the Brazos River. The Americans soon outnumbered the resident Mexicans, and by the 1830s attempts by the Mexican government to regulate these semi-autonomous American communities led to rebellion. In March 1836, in the midst of armed conflict with the Mexican government, Texas declared its independence from Mexico. The Texas volunteers initially suffered defeat against the forces of Mexican General Santa Anna–the Alamo fell and Sam Houston’s troops were forced into an eastward retreat. However, in late April, Houston’s troops surprised a Mexican force at San Jacinto, and Santa Anna was captured, bringing an end to Mexico’s efforts to subdue Texas. The citizens of the independent Republic of Texas elected Sam Houston president but also endorsed the entrance of Texas into the Union. The likelihood of Texas joining the Union as a slave state delayed any formal action by the U.S. Congress for more than a decade. In 1844, Congress finally agreed to annex the territory of Texas. On December 29, 1845, Texas entered the United States as a slave state, broadening the irrepressible differences in the United States over the issue of slavery and setting off the Mexican-American War.
1849 – Gas light was installed in the White House.
1862 – Union General William T. Sherman is thwarted in his attempt to capture Vicksburg, Mississippi, when he orders a frontal assault on entrenched Rebels. Chickasaw Bluffs was part of Union General Ulysses S. Grant’s attempt to capture Vicksburg, the last Confederate stronghold on the Mississippi River. Grant planned a two-pronged assault. He planned to take a force from northern Mississippi while Sherman moved down the west side of the great river. In December, things began to go awry for the Yankees. Devastating Confederate cavalry raids by Nathan Bedford Forrest and Earl Van Dorn on Union supply lines in western Tennessee forced Grant to cancel his part of the campaign, but he was not able to get word to Sherman.Sherman moved into position just a few miles north of Vicksburg by December 27. He had 37,000 men and only 6,000 Confederates defending Vicksburg. While Sherman moved into position, another 6,000 troops arrived to reinforce the Confederates. The Rebels occupied strong positions on top of a river bluff with open ground in front of them. After two days of skirmishing, Sherman ordered a major attack on December 29. The attack never had a chance of success. When one Union brigade captured Confederate rifle pits at the foot of the bluff, they came under fire from above. No other Federal force got close to the bluff. Union loses totaled 1,776 men while the Confederates lost just 207. The attack was a mistake by Sherman, who should have never tried to attack fortified Rebels across open ground. Two years later, Sherman demonstrated that he had learned his lesson at Chickasaw Bluffs. During his campaign for Atlanta, Sherman made few frontal assaults and inflicted more casualties than he sustained, which was rare for an offensive campaign.
1863 – U.S.S. Reindeer, Acting Lieutenant Henry A. Glassford, with Army steamer Silver Lake No. 2 in company, beginning on the 26th, reconnoitered the Cumberland River at the request of General Grant. The force moved from Nashville to Carthage without incident but was taken under fire five times on the 29th. The Confederates’ positions, Glassford reported, “availed them nothing, however, against the guns of this vessel and those of the Silver Lake No. 2; they were completely shelled out of them. The gunboats continued as far as Creelsboro, Kentucky, before “the river gave unmistakable signs of a fall.” The ships subsequently returned to Nashville.
1879 – Billy Mitchell, aviation hero Gen (WW I), was born.
1890 – In the tragic final chapter of America’s long war against the Plains Indians, the U.S. Cavalry kills 146 Sioux Indians at Wounded Knee, South Dakota. Tensions had been running high on Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota for months because of the growing popularity of a new Indian spiritual movement known as the Ghost Dance. Many of the Sioux at Pine Ridge had only recently been confined to reservations after long years of resistance, and they were deeply disheartened by the poor living conditions and deadening tedium of reservation life. The Ghost Dance movement taught that the Indians were defeated and confined to reservations because they had angered the gods by abandoning their traditional ways. If they practiced the Ghost Dance ritual and rejected white ways, many Sioux believed the gods would create the world anew, destroy the unbelievers, and bring back murdered Indians and the giant herds of bison. By late 1890, Pine Ridge Indian agent James McLaughlin was alarmed by the movement’s increasing influence and its prediction that all non-believers–presumably including whites–would be wiped out. McLaughlin telegraphed a warning to Washington, D.C. that: “Indians are dancing in the snow and are wild and crazy. We need protection now.” While waiting for the cavalry to arrive, McLaughlin attempted to arrest Sitting Bull, the famous Sioux chief, who he mistakenly believed was a Ghost Dance supporter. U.S. authorities killed Sitting Bull during the arrest, increasing the tensions at Pine Ridge rather than defusing them. On December 29, the 7th Cavalry under Colonel James Forsyth surrounded a band of Ghost Dancers under the Sioux Chief Big Foot near Wounded Knee Creek and demanded they surrender their weapons. Big Foot and his followers had no intentions of attacking anyone, but they were distrustful of the army and feared they would be attacked if they relinquished their guns. Nonetheless, the Sioux agreed to surrender and began turning over their guns. As that was happening, a scuffle broke out between an Indian and a soldier, and a shot was fired. Though no one is certain which side fired it, the ensuing melee was quick and brutal. Without arms and outnumbered, the Sioux were reduced to hand-to-hand fighting with knives, and they were cut down in a withering rain of bullets, many coming from the army’s rapid-fire repeating Hotchkiss guns. By the time the soldiers withdrew, 146 Indians were dead (including 44 women and 18 children) and 51 wounded. The 7th Cavalry had 25 dead and 39 wounded. Although sometimes referred to as a battle, the conflict at Wounded Knee is best seen as a tragic and avoidable massacre. Surrounded by heavily armed troops, it is highly unlikely that Big Foot’s band would have deliberately sought a confrontation. Some historians speculate that the soldiers of Custer’s old 7th Cavalry were deliberately taking revenge for the regiment’s defeat at Little Bighorn in 1876. Whatever the motives, the army’s massacre ended the Ghost Dance movement and was the final major confrontation in America’s deadly war against the Plains Indians.
1891 – Edison patented the “transmission of signals electrically” (radio).
1931 – The identification of heavy water was publicly announced by H.C. Urey.
1934 – Japan renounced the Washington Naval Treaty of 1922 and the London Naval Treaty of 1930.
1939 – First flight of the Consolidated B-24 Liberator. The Consolidated B-24 Liberator was an American heavy bomber, designed by Consolidated Aircraft of San Diego, California. It was known within the company as the Model 32, and a small number of early models were sold under the name LB-30, for Land Bomber. The B-24 was used in World War II by several Allied air forces and navies, and by every branch of the American armed forces during the war, attaining a distinguished war record with its operations in the Western European, Pacific, Mediterranean, and China-Burma-India Theaters. Often compared with the better-known Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress, the B-24 was a more modern design with a higher top speed, greater range, and a heavier bomb load; it was also more difficult to fly, with heavy control forces and poor formation-flying characteristics. Popular opinion among aircrews and general staffs tended to favor the B-17’s rugged qualities above all other considerations in the European Theater. The placement of the B-24’s fuel tanks throughout the upper fuselage and its lightweight construction, designed to increase range and optimize assembly line production, made the aircraft vulnerable to battle damage. The B-24 was notorious among American aircrews for its tendency to catch fire. Its high fuselage-mounted “Davis wing” also meant it was dangerous to ditch or belly land, since the fuselage tended to break apart. Nevertheless, the B-24 provided excellent service in a variety of roles thanks to its large payload and long range and was the only bomber to operationally deploy the United States’ first forerunner to precision-guided munitions during the war, the 1,000 lb. Azon guided bomb. The B-24’s most costly mission was the low-level strike against the Ploești oil fields, in Romania on 1 August 1943, which turned into a disaster because the defense was underestimated and fully alerted while the attackers were disorganized. The B-24 ended World War II as the most produced heavy bomber in history. At over 18,400 units, half by Ford Motor Company, it still holds the distinction as the most-produced American military aircraft, with one B-24A and one B-24J restored to airworthiness as of 2014.
1940 – In one of his famous “fireside chat” broadcasts President Roosevelt describes how he wishes the United States to become the “arsenal of democracy” and to give full aid to Britain regardless of threats from other countries.’
1943 – USS Silversides (SS-236) sinks three Japanese ships and damages a fourth off Palau.
1944 – There is a lull in the fighting in the Ardennes as Allied forces buildup their forces for further counterattacks.
1948 – Tito declared Yugoslavia would follow its own Communist line.
1949 – KC2XAK of Bridgeport, Connecticut becomes the first Ultra high frequency (UHF) television station to operate a daily schedule.
1950 – The Associated Press named General of the Army Douglas MacArthur the outstanding newsmaker of 1950.
1950- Time magazine selected “GI Joe” as the Man of the Year.
1956 – Just days before an official announcement is to be issued by the Eisenhower administration, the New York Times leaks the news that the United States is preparing a major policy statement on the Middle East. In the wake of heightened tensions in the area caused by the French-British-Israeli invasion of Egypt in November, the announcement was greeted with caution both at home and abroad. According to the newspaper, Secretary of State John Foster Dulles was set to appear before Congress and ask for two things. First, Congressional support of a declaration by the Eisenhower administration that the United States would oppose any Soviet military intervention in the Middle East. Since the outbreak of hostilities between Egypt and the alliance of France, Britain, and Israel in November, the Soviets had been threatening the use of military force in support of Egypt. Second, Dulles would ask Congress to establish a major economic assistance plan for the Middle East. This was largely in response to reports that the Soviets were making tremendous economic inroads into the area. The newspaper editorialized that the United States wanted “the Middle Eastern powers to know that they have not been abandoned by the West and that they can count on economic help and, if they want it, military help in opposing any Soviet aggression.” Congressional reaction to the story was somewhat cool. Some congressmen feared that the United States was heading toward armed confrontation with the Soviets in the Middle East. The British and French were glad to hear that the United States would oppose communist expansion in the region, but were also wary of expanding problems in the Middle East into an arena for a military East-West collision. The response from Egypt was decidedly negative, with the Egyptian government declaring that it wanted no outside interference in the region’s problems. Despite these less than enthusiastic responses to the proposed policy, it was evident that the United States was determined to take a much expanded and more active role in the Middle East. The NYT story was validated when the actual policy statement came in January 1957-it was almost exactly as the story predicted, though President Eisenhower, rather than Dulles, asked Congress for the resolutions supporting a greater U.S. economic and military presence in the Middle East.
1962 – Saigon announces that 4,077 strategic hamlets have been completed out of a projected total of 11,182. The figures also stated that 39 percent of the South Vietnamese population was housed in the hamlets. U.S. officials considered these figures questionable. The strategic hamlet program was started in 1962 and was modeled on a successful British counterinsurgency program used in Malaya from 1948 to 1960. The program aimed to bring the South Vietnamese peasants together in fortified strategic hamlets to provide security from Viet Cong attacks. Although much time and money was put into the program, it had several basic weaknesses. There was much animosity toward the program on the part of the South Vietnamese peasants, who were forcibly displaced from their ancestral lands. Also, the security afforded by the hamlets was inadequate and actually provided lucrative targets for the Viet Cong. Finally, the entire project was poorly managed. After the assassination of the program’s sponsor, President Ngo Dinh Diem, in November 1963, the program fell into disfavor and was abandoned.
1962 – Approximately 11,000 US advisory and support personnel are now in Vietnam, including 29 Special Forces detachments. One hundred and nine Americans have been killed or wounded this year, almost eight times as many as 1961. US Army aviation units have flown over 50,000 sorties, about one-half of which are combat support missions. China claims to have armed the Vietcong with more than 90,000 rifles and machine guns this year, and trained guerrilla forces in South Vietnam are estimated at 25,000, with active Vietcong sympathizers numbered at 150,000. The Vietcong are now killing or kidnapping 1,000 local officials per month. South Vietnamese government regular troops number 200,000 and 65,000 Self Defense Corps members have been trained to defend their villages.
1965 – A Christmas truce was observed in Vietnam, while President Johnson tried to get the North Vietnamese to the bargaining table.
1966 – Assistant Secretary of Defense Arthur Sylvester admits that the North Vietnamese city of Nam Dinh has been hit by U.S. planes 64 times since mid-1965, and that the air strikes were directed only against military targets: railroad yards, a warehouse, petroleum storage depots, and a thermal power plant. He denounced New York Times correspondent Harrison Salisbury’s reports on the results of the air raids in North Vietnam as “misstatements of fact.” Salisbury, an assistant managing editor of the Times, filed a report on December 25 from Hanoi describing U.S. bombing destruction in several North Vietnamese cities. Salisbury stated that Nam Dinh, about 50 miles southeast of Hanoi, had been bombed repeatedly by U.S. planes since June 28, 1965. Salisbury’s report caused a stir in Washington where, it was reported, Pentagon officials expressed irritation and contended that he was exaggerating the damage to civilian areas.
1975 – At 6:33 p.m. EST, a bomb with the equivalent force of 25 sticks of dynamite exploded in the main terminal of LaGuardia Airport in New York City, killing 11 and injuring 75. The victims included travelers, limousine drivers, and airline employees. It was the deadliest bombing in New York City since the Wall Street bombing of 1920. The bomb had been placed in a Trans World Airlines locker adjacent to a luggage carousel. The force of the explosion wrecked luggage carousels and destroyed the terminal’s large metal doors and showered the area with shards of metal and broken glass. At the time, suspects included the FALN, the Jewish Defense League, the Palestinian Liberation Organization, and the Croatian nationalist Zvonko Busic; two similar bombings at New York ’s Grand Central Terminal previously had been attributed to Croatians. No one ever claimed credit for the bombing or was arrested for it, and it remains unsolved.
1981 – President Reagan curtailed Soviet trade in reprisal for its harsh policy in Poland.
1987 – NASA delayed the planned June launch of the space shuttle — the first since the Challenger disaster — because a motor component failed during a test-firing of the shuttle’s redesigned booster rocket.
1988 – The Federal Aviation Administration, responding to the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, announced tightened security measures for U.S. air carriers at 103 airports in the Middle East and Western Europe.
1990 – Iraq denied a report that it was engaged in secret contacts with the US to avert war, and might withdraw from Kuwait before the January 15th United Nations deadline.
1992 – The United States and Russia announced agreement on a nuclear arms reduction treaty.
1993 – Nearly three weeks after the orbiting Hubble Space Telescope was repaired by the crew of the space shuttle Endeavour, scientists reported “absolutely no sign of problems.”
1994 – U.S. officials confirmed the release in North Korea of Army helicopter pilot Bobby Hall, 12 days after he was captured in a shootdown in which co-pilot David Hilemon was killed.
1998 – In Kosovo 5 Albanians died in fighting with Serb police as NATO repeated threats of airstrikes. A group of US senators proposed to offer Milosevic sanctuary in a 3rd nation if he would step down.
2001 – Philippine troops raided a camp of Muslim rebels linked to Osama bin Laden and killed 13.
2002 – Secretary of State Colin Powell, making the rounds of the Sunday television talk shows, said there was still time to find a diplomatic resolution to North Korea’s development of nuclear weapons, and that the situation hadn’t yet reached the crisis stage.
2002 – Acting Kuwaiti Oil Minister Sheikh Ahmed Al-Fahad Al Sabah says that Kuwait can keep producing and exporting oil in the event of a military conflict in Iraq. States Al Sabah: “I can’t go into details of this plan, but I can guarantee that production will continue, exports will continue…and I believe we can also meet the commitments we have made to our clients abroad.”
2003 – The Bush administration said it will require international air carriers in certain cases to place armed law enforcement officers on cargo and passenger flights to, from and over the United States.
2003 – Japan pledged to forgive “the vast majority” of its Iraqi debt if other Paris Club nations do the same. China later said it would consider the idea.
2004 – In Afghanistan masked gunmen killed Pashtun politician Shah Alam Khan, a close ally of Pres. Karzai.
2004 – Insurgents tried to ram a truck with half a ton of explosives into a U.S. military post in the northern city of Mosul then ambushed reinforcements in a huge gunbattle in which 25 rebels and one American soldier were killed.
2006 – The United Kingdom pays off the last of its debts from World War II by paying the last $100 million to the United States and Canada. The country still has debts outstanding from the Napoleonic Wars, which are cheaper to pay interest on than to redeem.
2012 – US Senate passes H.R. 5949, FISA Amendments Act Reauthorization Act, which extends the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 Amendments Act of 2008 five more years until December 31, 2017. The US House of Representatives also voted for the extension earlier this month.

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