Feast Day of St. Nicholas, Patron Saint of Military Intelligence: Bishop of Myra in Lycia; died 6 December, 345 or 352. Though he is one of the most popular saints in the Greek as well as the Latin Church, there is scarcely anything historically certain about him except that he was Bishop of Myra in the fourth century. Some of the main points in his legend are as follows: He was born at Parara, a city of Lycia in Asia Minor ; in his youth he made a pilgrimage to Egypt and Palestine; shortly after his return he became Bishop of Myra ; cast into prison during the persecution of Diocletian, he was released after the accession of Constantine, and was present at the Council of Nicaea. In 1087 Italian merchants stole his body at Myra, bringing it to Bari in Italy. The numerous miracles St. Nicholas is said to have wrought, both before and after his death, are outgrowths of a long tradition. There is reason to doubt his presence at Nicaea, since his name is not mentioned in any of the old lists of bishops that attended this council. His cult in the Greek Church is old and especially popular in Russia. As early as the sixth century Emperor Justinian I built a church in his honor at Constantinople, and his name occurs in the liturgy ascribed to St. Chrysostom. In Italy his cult seems to have begun with the translation of his relics to Bari, but in Germany it began already under Otto II, probably because his wife Theophano was a Grecian. Bishop Reginald of Eichstaedt (d. 991) is known to have written a metric, “Vita S. Nicholai.” The course of centuries has not lessened his popularity. The following places honor him as patron : Greece, Russia, the Kingdom of Naples, Sicily, Lorraine, the Diocese of Liège ; many cities in Italy, Germany, Austria, and Belgium ; Campen in the Netherlands ; Corfu in Greece ; Freiburg in Switzerland ; and Moscow in Russia. He is patron of mariners, merchants, bakers, travellers, children, etc. His representations in art are as various as his alleged miracles. In Germany, Switzerland, and the Netherlands, they have the custom of making him the secret purveyor of gifts to children on 6 December, the day on which the Church celebrates his feast ; in the United States and some other countries St. Nicholas has become identified with Santa Claus who distributes gifts to children on Christmas eve. His relics are still preserved in the church of San Nicola in Bari ; up to the present day an oily substance , known as Manna di S. Nicola , which is highly valued for its medicinal powers, is said to flow from them.
1790 – Congress moved from New York City to Philadelphia.
1820 – James Monroe, the 5th US president, was elected for a 2nd term.
1830 – Naval Observatory, the first U.S. national observatory, established at Washington, DC, under commander of Lieutenant Louis Malesherbes.
1833 – John Singleton Mosby (d.1916), lawyer and Col. (“Grey Ghost” of Confederate Army), was born. He later gave riding lessons to young George Patton.
1846 – Battle of San Pasqual.
1861 – Union General George G. Meade led a foraging expedition to Gunnell’s farm near Dranesville, Va.
1862 – President Lincoln ordered the hanging of 39 of the 303 convicted Indians who participated in the Sioux Uprising in Minnesota. They were to be hanged on Dec. 26. The Dakota Indians were going hungry when food and money from the federal government was not distributed as promised. They led a massacre that left over 400 white people dead. The uprising was put down and 300 Indians were sentenced to death. Pres. Lincoln reduced the number to 39, who were hanged. The government then nullified the 1851 treaty.1863 – U.S.S. Weehawken, Commander Duncan, sank while tied up to a buoy inside the bar at Charleston harbor. Weehawken had recently taken on an extra load of heavy ammunition which reduced the freeboard forward considerably. In the strong ebb tide, water washed down on an open hawse pipe and a hatch. The pumps were unable to handle the rush of water and Weehawken quickly foundered, drowning some two dozen officers and men.
1864 – Monitors U.S.S. Saugus, Onondaga, Mahopac, and Canonicus participated in a lively engagement with strong shore batteries at Howlett’s, James River, Virginia. Saugus received a solid 7-inch shot which disabled her turret.
1864 – U.S.S. Neosho, Acting Lieutenant Howard, with Lieutenant Commander Fitch embarked, with the three small steamers U.S.S. Fairplay, Silver Lake, and Moose and several army transports in company, moved down the Cumberland River from Nashville and engaged Confederate batteries near Bell’s Mills, Tennessee. With ironclad Neosho in the lead and lightly protected ships to the rear, Fitch steamed slowly up and single-handedly engaged the Southern artillery. As the gallant officer reported later: ”I had also great faith in the endurance of the Neosho, and therefore chose this position [directly in front of the main Confederate battery] as the most favorable one to test her strength and at the same time use canister and grape at 20 to 30 yards range. Our fire was slow and deliberate, but soon had the effect to scatter the enemy’s sharpshooters and infantry, but owing to the elevated position of the batteries directly over us we could do but little injury. The enemy’s fire was terrific, and in a very few minutes everything perishable on our decks was completely demolished.” After holding his position for about two and a half hours, Fitch withdrew upstream, and aware that his lighter-armed vessels would not survive a passage of the batteries, returned with them to Nashville. During this fierce action, Quartermaster John Ditzen-back, seeing Neosho’s ensign shot away by the concentrated Southern fire, coolly left the pilot house, and, despite the deadly shot raking Neosho’s decks, took the flag which was drooping over the wheelhouse and made it fast to the stump of the highest mast remaining. For this courageous act Ditzenback was awarded the Medal of Honor. Later in the day, Fitch in the Neosho joined by Carondelet again engaged the batteries, and, choosing a different firing position disabled some of the Confederate guns. Attesting to the endurance of Neosho under fire, Fitch was able to report to Rear Admiral Lee: “During the day the Neosho was struck over a hundred times, but received no injury whatever.”
1865 – The 13th Amendment to the Constitution, officially ending the institution of slavery, is ratified. “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” With these words, the single greatest change wrought by the Civil War was officially noted in the U.S. Constitution. The ratification came eight months after the end of the war, but it represented the culmination of the struggle against slavery. When the war began, many in the North were against fighting what they saw as a crusade to end slavery. Although many northern Democrats and conservative Republicans were opposed to slavery’s expansion, they were ambivalent about outlawing the institution entirely. The war’s escalation after the First Battle of Bull Run in July 1861 caused many to rethink the role that slavery played in creating the conflict. By 1862, Lincoln realized that it was folly to wage such a bloody war without plans to eliminate slavery. In September 1862, following the Union victory at Antietam, Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, declaring that all slaves in territory still in rebellion on January 1, 1863, would be declared forever free. The move was largely symbolic, as it only freed slaves in areas outside of Union control, but it changed the conlfict from a war for the reunification of the states to a war for the destruction of slavery. Lincoln believed that a constitutional amendment was necessary to ensure the end of slavery. In 1864, Congress debated several proposals. Some insisted on including provisions to prevent discrimination against blacks, but the Senate Judiciary Committee provided the eventual language. It borrowed from the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, when slavery was banned from the area north of the Ohio River. The Senate passed the amendment in April 1864.Republican victory in the 1864 election would guarantee the success of the amendment. The Republican platform called for the “utter and complete destruction” of slavery, while the Democrats favored restoration of states’ rights, which would include at least the possibility for the states to maintain slavery. Lincoln’s overwhelming victory set in motion the events leading to ratification of the amendment. The House passed the measure in January 1865 and it was sent to the states for ratification. When Georgia ratified it on December 6, 1865, the institution of slavery ceased to exist in the United States.
1876 – US Electoral College picked Republican Hayes as president, although Tilden won the popular election. A questionable vote count in Florida ended and Hayes was ahead by 924 votes. The Democratic attorney general validated the Tilden electors.
1884 – The Washington Monument was completed by Army engineers 101 years after George Washington himself approved the location halfway between the proposed sites of the Capitol and the White House. Construction did not begin on the 555-foot Egyptian obelisk until July 4, 1848, when a private citizens’ group, the Washington National Monument Society, raised enough money to begin the project. The original design called for the familiar obelisk surrounded by a large building with a statue of Washington driving a Roman chariot on top. Construction was halted in 1854 when the money ran out and for 22 years the monument stood embarrassingly unfinished, looking, as Mark Twain put it, like “a factory chimney with the top broken off.” In 1876, President Ulysses S. Grant authorized the funds to complete the construction–but without the ornate building and classical statue. When the final capstone and 9-inch aluminum pyramid were set in place in 1884, the Washington Monument was the tallest structure in the world.
1889 – Jefferson Davis (81), the first and only president of the Confederate States of America (1861-1865), died in New Orleans.
1904 – Theodore Roosevelt articulated his “Corollary” to the Monroe Doctrine, stating that the U.S. would intervene in the Western Hemisphere should Latin American governments prove incapable or unstable.
1906 – Lt. Thomas E. Selfridge flew a powered, man-carrying kite that carried him 168 feet in the air for seven minutes at Baddeck, Nova Scotia.
1917 – USS Jacob Jones is the first American destroyer to be sunk by enemy action when it is torpedoed, off the coast of England, by German submarine SM U-53.
1917 – Former Czar Nicholas II and family were made prisoners by the Bolsheviks in Tobolsk.
1917 – At 9:05 a.m., in the harbor of Halifax in the Canadian province of Nova Scotia, the most devastating manmade explosion in the pre-atomic age occurs when the Mont Blanc, a French munitions ship, explodes 20 minutes after colliding with another vessel. As World War I raged in Europe, the port city of Halifax bustled with ships carrying troops, relief supplies, and munitions across the Atlantic Ocean. On the morning of December 6, the Norwegian vessel Imo left its mooring in Halifax harbor for New York City. At the same time, the French freighter Mont Blanc, its cargo hold packed with highly explosive munitions–2,300 tons of picric acid, 200 tons of TNT, 35 tons of high-octane gasoline, and 10 tons of gun cotton–was forging through the harbor’s narrows to join a military convoy that would escort it across the Atlantic. At approximately 8:45 a.m., the two ships collided, setting the picric acid ablaze. The Mont Blanc was propelled toward the shore by its collision with the Imo, and the crew rapidly abandoned the ship, attempting without success to alert the harbor of the peril of the burning ship. Spectators gathered along the waterfront to witness the spectacle of the blazing ship, and minutes later it brushed by a harbor pier, setting it ablaze. The Halifax Fire Department responded quickly and was positioning its engine next to the nearest hydrant when the Mont Blanc exploded at 9:05 a.m. in a blinding white flash. The massive explosion killed more than 1,800 people, injured another 9,000–including blinding 200–and destroyed almost the entire north end of the city of Halifax, including more than 1,600 homes. The resulting shock wave shattered windows 50 miles away, and the sound of the explosion could be heard hundreds of miles away. Coast Guardsmen from the CGC Morrill were landed to provide assistance. This disaster led to the creation of captains of the ports for the major U.S. ports. The Coast Guard was tasked with the new duty.
1923 – A presidential address was broadcast on radio for the first time as President Coolidge spoke to a joint session of Congress.
1928 – A small detail of Marines under Captain Maurice G. Holmes defeated Nicaraguan bandits near Chuyelite. GySgt Charles Williams was mortally wounded during the fighting. Capt Holmes was later awarded the Navy Cross for gallantry, and a posthumous award was given to GySgt Williams.
1928 – The government of Colombia sends military forces to suppress a month-long strike by United Fruit Company workers, resulting in an unknown number of deaths. The government of the United States of America had threatened to invade with the U.S. Marine Corps if the Colombian government did not act to protect United Fruit’s interests.
1941 – President Roosevelt-convinced on the basis of intelligence reports that the Japanese fleet is headed for Thailand, not the United States-telegrams Emperor Hirohito with the request that “for the sake of humanity,” the emperor intervene “to prevent further death and destruction in the world.” The Royal Australian Air Force had sighted Japanese escorts, cruisers, and destroyers on patrol near the Malayan coast, south of Cape Cambodia. An Aussie pilot managed to radio that it looked as if the Japanese warships were headed for Thailand-just before he was shot down by the Japanese. Back in England, Prime Minister Churchill called a meeting of his chiefs of staff to discuss the crisis. While reports were coming in describing Thailand as the Japanese destination, they began to question whether it could have been a diversion. British intelligence had intercepted the Japanese code “Raffles,” a warning to the Japanese fleet to be on alert-but for what? Britain was already preparing Operation Matador, the launching of their 11th Indian Division into Thailand to meet the presumed Japanese invasion force. But at the last minute, Air Marshall Brooke-Popham received word not to cross the Thai border for fear that it would provoke a Japanese attack if, in fact, the warship movement was merely a bluff. Meanwhile, 600 miles northwest of Hawaii, Admiral Yamamoto, commander of the Japanese fleet, announced to his men: “The rise or fall of the empire depends upon this battle. Everyone will do his duty with utmost efforts.” Thailand was, in fact, a bluff. Pearl Harbor in Oahu, Hawaii was confirmed for Yamamoto as the Japanese target, after the Japanese consul in Hawaii had reported to Tokyo that a significant portion of the U.S. Pacific fleet would be anchored in the harbor-sitting ducks. The following morning, Sunday, December 7, was a good day to begin a raid. “The son of man has just sent his final message to the son of God,” FDR joked to Eleanor after sending off his telegram to Hirohito, who in the Shinto tradition of Japan was deemed a god. As he enjoyed his stamp collection and chatted with Harry Hopkins, his personal adviser, news reached him of Japan’s formal rejection of America’s 10-point proposals for peace and an end to economic sanctions and the oil embargo placed on the Axis power. “This means war,” the president declared. Hopkins recommended an American first strike. “No, we can’t do that,” Roosevelt countered. “We are a democracy and a peaceful people.”
1941 – Dutch and British pilots saw Japanese invasion fleet at Singapore.
1941 – Japanese forces leave Palau bound for the attack on the Philippines.
1942 – Allied forces near Medjez el Bab, Tunisia are pushed back by renewed German attacks.
1942 – In New Guinea, US forces managed to reach the beach on the east side of Buna after heavy fighting. The Australian attack at Gona has little success. Japanese reinforcement fighting along the coast from the west make some headway.
1943 – The US 5th Army offensive continues. The British 10th Corps captures Monte Camino while the US 2nd Corps attacks Monte la Difensa. To the east, the British 8th Army approaches the Moro River.
1944 – Elements of the US 3rd Army enter Saareguemines which is defended by German forces. In Holland, the British 2nd Army is held up southwest of Arnhem by the German demolition of dikes and the consequent flooding.
1944 – Lieutenant General Lucian Truscott is appointed commander of the US 5th Army fighting in Italy. He replaces Lt. Gen. Mark Clark.
1944 – Coast Guardsmen participated in the landings at Ormoc, Philippine Islands.
1945 – U.S. extended a $3 billion loan to Britain to help compensate for the termination of Lend-Lease.
1948 – The “Pumpkin spy papers” were found on the Maryland farm of Whittaker Chambers. They became evidence that State Department employee Alger Hiss was spying for the Soviet Union.
1950 – Fifth Air Force jets and Australian F-51 Mustangs were credited with killing 2,500 enemy troops in an attack near Pyongyang. This did not, however, prevent the Chinese communists for occupying the North Korean capitol.
1950 – The United Nations issued a call for the communist forces to halt at the 38th parallel.
1950 – Far East Air Forces’ 27th Fighter-Escort Wing F-84 Thunderjets flew their first combat mission of the Korean War.1957 – America’s first attempt at putting a satellite into orbit blew up on the launch pad at Cape Canaveral, Fla.
1957 – A launchpad explosion of Vanguard TV3 thwarts the first United States attempt to launch a satellite into Earth orbit.
1961 – U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff authorize combat missions by Operation Farm Gate pilots. With this order, U.S. Air Force pilots were given the go-ahead to undertake combat missions against the Viet Cong as long as at least one Vietnamese national was carried on board the strike aircraft for training purposes. The program had initially been designed to provide advisory support to assist the South Vietnamese Air Force in increasing its capability. The gradual but dramatic expansion of Operation Farm Gate reflected the increasing involvement of the United States in Vietnam. President John F. Kennedy originally ordered the Air Force to send a combat detachment to South Vietnam to assist the Saigon government in developing its own counterinsurgency capability. The Air Force formed the 4400th Combat Crew Training Squadron, which arrived at Bien Hoa Airfield in November 1961. Under Operation Farm Gate, the 4400th used older, propeller-driven aircraft to train South Vietnamese Air Force personnel. With the new order from the Joint Chiefs, the 4400th mission was expanded to include limited combat missions in support of South Vietnamese ground forces. Farm Gate pilots began flying reconnaissance missions and providing logistical support to U.S. Army Special Forces units. The rules of engagement for combat missions dictated that American pilots only fly missions that the South Vietnamese were unable to undertake. The first Operation Farm Gate mission was flown on December 16, 1961. However, by late 1962, the communist activity and combat intensity had increased so much that President John F. Kennedy ordered a further expansion of Farm Gate. In early 1963, additional aircraft arrived and new detachments were established at Pleiku and Soc Trang. In early 1964, Farm Gate was upgraded again with the arrival of more modern aircraft. By March 1965, Washington had altogether dropped the requirement that a South Vietnamese national be carried on combat missions. In October 1965, another squadron of A-1E aircraft was established at Bien Hoa. Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara approved the replacement of South Vietnamese markings on Farm Gate aircraft with regular U.S. Air Force markings. By this point in the war, the Farm Gate squadrons were flying 80 percent of all missions in support of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN). With the buildup of U.S. combat forces in South Vietnam and the increase in U.S. Air Force presence there, the role of the Farm Gate program gradually decreased in significance. The Farm Gate squadrons were moved to Thailand in 1967, where they launched missions against the North Vietnamese forces in Laos.
1968 – Operation Giant Slingshot began in Mekong Delta
1972 – Fighting in South Vietnam intensifies as the secret Paris peace talks resume after a 24-hour break. The renewed combat was a result of both sides trying to achieve a positional advantage in the countryside in preparation for the possibility that a cease-fire might be worked out in Paris. Tan Son Nhut, one of two major airports near Saigon, is hit by the heaviest communist rocket attack in four years. One U.S. rescue helicopter was destroyed and a fuel dump was set ablaze. In response, U.S. planes bombed suspected Viet Cong positions within 10 miles of the airport. These strikes were followed by South Vietnamese troop attacks against the area from which the rockets were fired. Elsewhere in South Vietnam, fighting continued around Quang Tri, south of the Demilitarized Zone. Quang Tri fell to the North Vietnamese during their spring offensive earlier in the year. South Vietnamese forces reclaimed the city from the communists in September, but fighting continued in the areas around the city.
1973 – House minority leader Gerald R. Ford was sworn in as vice president, succeeding Spiro T. Agnew. Agnew, vice president to President Richard M. Nixon, resigned from his office and pleaded no contest to one charge of income tax evasion in return for the dropping of all other charges. Agnew, the only US Vice President to resign in disgrace, was fined $10,000 and given three year’s probation.
1983 – USS America battle group with 5,500 sailors, departs coast of Somalia, reducing offshore strength from 9,195 to 3,833. USS Independence takes up station.1988 – The space shuttle Atlantis landed in California.
1990 – Iraq announced that it would release all its hostages, saying foreigners could begin leaving in two days.
1998 – The astronauts of the Endeavour space shuttle attached Node 1 of the new space station to the cargo block Zarya.
2000 – A Pentagon investigation concluded in a 168-page report that 3 top Army Corps of Engineers officials manipulated a study to justify a construction binge on the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers.
2000 – Iridium Satellite won a 1-year, $36 million Pentagon contract for unlimited use.
2000 – A Russian court found US Citizen, Edmond Pope (54), guilty of espionage. Pope was sentenced to 20 years’ imprisonment by a Moscow court for espionage; however, he was pardoned by Russian President Vladimir Putin and released eight days after his sentencing.
2001 – President George W. Bush dedicated the national Christmas tree to those who died on Sept. 11 and to GIs who died in the line of duty.
2001 – Anthrax tainted mail turned up at a sorting site outside the Federal building in Washington DC. It had been received Dec 5.
2001 – In Afghanistan Mullah Mohammed Omar, the Taliban leader, decided to surrender Kandahar.
2001 – The U.S. government rejected amnesty for Mullah Omar or any Taliban leaders.
2004 – In Haiti gunfire erupted in a stronghold of ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide overnight, leaving at least three dead.
2004 – In Iraq 5 U.S. troops were reported killed in separate clashes in a volatile western province. Insurgents blew up part of a domestic oil pipeline in northern Iraq.
2004 – In Saudi Arabia Islamic militants threw explosives at the gate of the heavily guarded US consulate in Jiddah in a bold assault, then forced their way into the building, prompting a gunbattle that left 9 people dead and several injured. In 2005 two AK-47 assault rifles used in the attack were later traced to Yemen’s Ministry of Defense.
2005 – In Iraq, assailants kidnapped an American security consultant. On 8 December 2005, the assailants killed their victim. The Islamic Army in Iraq (IAI) claimed responsibility.
2006 – The Iraq Study Group Report was released. Iraq Study Group, made up of people from both of the major U.S. parties, was led by co-chairs James Baker, a former Secretary of State (Republican), and Lee H. Hamilton, a former U.S. Representative (Democrat). It concluded that “the situation in Iraq is grave and deteriorating” and “U.S. forces seem to be caught in a mission that has no foreseeable end.” The report’s 79 recommendations include increasing diplomatic measures with Iran and Syria and intensifying efforts to train Iraqi troops.
2006 – NASA reveals photographs taken by Mars Global Surveyor suggesting the presence of liquid water on Mars.
2014 – An American civilian, journalist Luke Sommers, and a South African civilian, teacher Pierre Korkie, are killed during an attempt to rescue them by U.S. Navy SEALs in Yemen. Eight others were successfully recovered. They were being held hostage by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
2014 – NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft reawakened at 8:00 PM UTC in preparation for observing the dwarf planet Pluto and its satellites. New Horizons, launched on January 19, 2006, will begin distant observations on January 15, 2015.
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