1776 – Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette, arranges to enter the American military as a major general.
1787– In Dover, Delaware, the U.S. Constitution is unanimously ratified by all 30 delegates to the Delaware Constitutional Convention, making Delaware the first state of the modern United States. Less than four months before, the Constitution was signed by 37 of the original 55 delegates to the Constitutional Convention meeting in Philadelphia. The Constitution was sent to the states for ratification, and, by the terms of the document, the Constitution would become binding once nine of the former 13 colonies had ratified the document. Delaware led the process, and on June 21, 1788, New Hampshire became the ninth state to ratify the Constitution, making federal democracy the law of the land. Government under the U.S. Constitution took effect on March 4, 1789.
1796– Electors chose John Adams to be the second president of the United States.
1805 – Having spied the Pacific Ocean for the first time a few weeks earlier, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark cross to the south shore of the Columbia River (near modern-day Portland) and begin building the small fort that would be their winter home. Lewis, Clark, and their men deserved a rest. During the past year, they had made the difficult trip from the upper Missouri River across the rugged Rockies, and down the Columbia River to the ocean. Though they planned to return home by retracing their steps in the spring, the Corps of Discovery settled in the relatively mild climate of the Pacific Coast while winter raged in the mountain highlands. For their fort, Lewis and Clark picked a site three miles up Netul Creek (now Lewis and Clark River), because it had a ready supply of elk and deer and convenient access to the ocean, which the men used to make salt. The men finished building a small log fortress by Christmas Eve; they named their new home Fort Clatsop, in honor of the local Indian tribe. During the three months they spent at Fort Clatsop, Lewis and Clark reworked their journals and began preparing the scientific information they had gathered. Clark labored long hours drawing meticulous maps that proved to be among the most valuable fruits of the expedition. After talking with local Indians, the two men determined that they had taken an unnecessarily difficult path through the Rockies, and planned alternate routes for the return journey. Meanwhile, the enlisted men and fellow travelers hunted and trapped-they killed and ate more than 100 elk and 20 deer during their stay. While the stay at Fort Clatsop was peaceful, it was not entirely pleasant. The Clatsop Indian tribe was friendly, but Clark noted that the Indians were hard bargainers, which caused the expedition party to rapidly deplete its supply of gifts and trading goods, and eventually caused some resentment on both sides. Most vexing, though, was the damp coastal weather–rain fell all but twelve days of the expedition’s three-month stay. The men found it impossible to keep dry, and their damp furs and hides rotted and became infested with vermin. Nearly everyone suffered from persistent colds and rheumatism. The expedition departed for home from soggy Fort Clatsop on March 23, 1806. The region they explored later became the state of Oregon–Lewis and Clark’s journey strengthened the American claim to the northwest and blazed a trail that was followed by thousands of trappers and settlers.
1808– James Madison was elected president in succession to Thomas Jefferson.
1836– Martin Van Buren was elected the eighth president of the United States.
1861– USS Santiago de Cuba, under Commander Daniel B. Ridgely, halted the British schooner Eugenia Smith and captured J.W. Zacharie, a New Orleans merchant and Confederate purchasing agent.
1862– Northwestern Arkansas and Southwestern Missouri is secured for the Union when a force commanded by General James G. Blunt holds off a force of Confederates under General Thomas Hindman. Hindman assembled a force at Fort Smith, Arkansas, to make an attempt to recapture territory lost during the Pea Ridge campaign of early 1862. Hindman planned to cross the Boston Mountains into northwestern Arkansas and then Missouri, but the Union Army of the Frontier, commanded by John Schofield, made a preemptive move to Maysville, Arkansas. Schofield had to leave the army due to illness, and Blunt assumed command. When Hindman sent an advance detachment of cavalry under John Marmaduke through the mountains in late November, Blunt moved south and defeated Marmaduke in a minor engagement at Cane Hill. After Cane Hill, Hindman moved his 11,000-man army across the Boston Mountains and approached Blunt’s 5,000 troops. Hindman prepared to attack, but was surprised by the approach of Union reinforcements from Missouri. In one of the most dramatic marches of the entire war, Union General Francis Herron had moved 7,000 reinforcements more than 110 miles in three and a half days. Hindman turned to face Herron, but then took up defensive positions in Prairie Grove. Herron arrived and attacked Hindman on December 7. Herron sent only half of his force to the assault, believing that this was only part of Hindman’s force. Outnumbered nearly three to one, Herron’s attack failed. Hindman ordered a counterattack, but it was repulsed with heavy loses. Hearing noise from the battle, Blunt moved toward Prairie Grove and attacked Hindman later that day. This, too, failed, as did another Confederate counterattack. Darkness ended the engagement with the Confederates still holding the high ground at Prairie Grove. The battle was a tactical draw but Hindman’s army was running low on ammunition. Confederate losses amounted to more than 1,400 killed and wounded, while the Yankees lost more than 1,200. Hindman retreated back to Fort Smith, and the region was secured for the Union.
1917– U.S. declared war on Austria-Hungary with only one dissenting vote in Congress and became the 13th country to do so.
1917 – Four U.S. battleships arrive at Scapa Flow taking on the role of the British Grand Fleet’s Sixth Battle Squadron. Include USS Delaware (BB-28), USS Florida (BB-30), New York (BB-34), and USS Wyoming (BB-32).
1930 – W1XAV in Boston, Massachusetts telecasts video from the CBS radio orchestra program, The Fox Trappers. The telecast also includes the first television commercial in the United States, an advertisement for I.J. Fox Furriers, who sponsored the radio show.
1941– At 7:55 a.m. Hawaii time, a Japanese dive bomber bearing the red symbol of the Rising Sun of Japan on its wings appears out of the clouds above the island of Oahu. A swarm of 360 Japanese warplanes followed, descending on the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor in a ferocious assault. The surprise attack struck a critical blow against the U.S. Pacific fleet and drew the United States irrevocably into World War II. With diplomatic negotiations with Japan breaking down, President Franklin D. Roosevelt and his advisers knew that an imminent Japanese attack was probable, but nothing had been done to increase security at the important naval base at Pearl Harbor. It was Sunday morning, and many military personnel had been given passes to attend religious services off base. At 7:02 a.m., two radio operators spotted large groups of aircraft in flight toward the island from the north, but, with a flight of B-17s expected from the United States at the time, they were told to sound no alarm. Thus, the Japanese air assault came as a devastating surprise to the naval base.Much of the Pacific fleet was rendered useless: Five of eight battleships, three destroyers, and seven other ships were sunk or severely damaged, and more than 200 aircraft were destroyed. A total of 2,400 Americans were killed and 1,200 were wounded, many while valiantly attempting to repulse the attack. Japan’s losses were some 30 planes, five midget submarines, and fewer than 100 men. Fortunately for the United States, all three Pacific fleet carriers were out at sea on training maneuvers. These giant aircraft carriers would have their revenge against Japan six months later at the Battle of Midway, reversing the tide against the previously invincible Japanese navy in a spectacular victory. US Coast Guard patrol boat Tiger conducted anti-submarine sweeps outside of Pearl Harbor and another patrol boat Taney opened fire on Japanese aircraft that appeared over Honolulu Harbor during the attack. The Americans lose 188 aircraft; the Japanese 29. Admiral Nagumo, despite the task forces’s capacity and against advice, does not send a third wave against the base. The three American aircraft carriers serving in the Pacific are not in port and escape unharmed as does much of the infrastructure of the port, including the oil storage tanks. However, the attack leaves the Allies with only the three US carriers and two British battleships as active capital ships in the theater. The cruisers destroyers and submarines available from the Dutch and Free French reduce the numerical inferiority against the Japanese navy, however, the Allied craft are widely dispersed and under multiple commands. The day after Pearl Harbor was bombed, President Roosevelt appeared before a joint session of Congress and declared, “Yesterday, December 7, 1941–a date which will live in infamy–the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.” After a brief and forceful speech, he asked Congress to approve a resolution recognizing the state of war between the United States and Japan. The Senate voted for war against Japan by 82 to 0, and the House of Representatives approved the resolution by a vote of 388 to 1. The sole dissenter was Representative Jeannette Rankin of Montana, a devout pacifist who had also cast a dissenting vote against the U.S. entrance into World War I. Three days later, Germany and Italy declared war against the United States, and the U.S. government responded in kind. The American contribution to the successful Allied war effort spanned four long years and cost more than 400,000 American lives.
1941– Evidence arose in 1999 that one of five Japanese mini submarines penetrated Pearl Harbor and hit at least one ship with torpedoes. 1941- The 1st Japanese submarine was sunk by a US ship, the USS Ward.
1941 – The last part of the Japanese signal, stating specifically that relations are being broken is intercepted and decoded by the Americans. Delays in decoding of the message and difficulty in securing an appointment with Secretary Hull ensure that the Japanese delegation do not meet their country’s deadline for presentation of official note breaking of diplomatic ties until after the attack upon Pearl Harbor is launched.
1941 – Japanese forces bomb Guam and Wake and Midway is bombarded by Japanese destroyers.
1941 – The Canadian government declares war on Japan.
1941 – Movie attendance dropped dramatically, with revenues dipping 50 percent at some theaters that day.
1941 – Wall Street ran for cover, as panicked traders looked to dump their holdings. After a day of frantic action, the Dow Jones Industrial Average had dropped 4.08 points to close at 112.52.
1942 – The Japanese counterattacks threaten the American positions. The Americans ultimately hold.
1942 – American PT Boats force a Japanese supply convoy to turn back before landing their supplies on Guadalcanal. The convoy is escorted by 7 destroyers led by Captain Sato.
1942– The U.S. Navy launched the USS New Jersey, the largest battleship ever built.
1943 – The US 5th Army secures the Mignano gap and expands its offensive. The US 2nd and 6th Corps attack Monte Sammucro and San Pietro. There is determined German resistance.
1944 – On Leyte, the US 77th Division lands about one mile south of Ormoc. There is some Japanese resistance. One of the 12 escorting destroyers is sunk by a Kamikaze attack. Meanwhile, the US 7th Division continues attacking northward toward Ormoc.
1944 – The US 3rd Army penetrates the Siegfried Line northwest of Saarlautern.
1945– The microwave oven was patented. Percy Spencer accidentally discovered that microwaves would also heat food. Spencer, an eighth-grade dropout and electronic wizard, worked for the Raytheon Manufacturing Corporation of Massachusetts developing a radar machine using microwave radiation.
1950 – Eight U.S. Air Force C-119 transports drop four spans of M-2 treadway bridge in the vicinity of Funchilin Pass. This operation allowed the 1st Marine Division to breach the most difficult natural obstacle of the entire breakout from the Chosin/Changjin Reservoir.
1952 – In the largest single-day tally of the Korean War, U.S. Air Force F-86 Sabre jet pilots report seven of 32 enemy fighters destroyed, one damaged and one probably destroyed.
1962– Great Britain performed a nuclear test at the Nevada Test Site.
1963– During the Army-Navy game, videotaped instant replay was used for the first time in a live sports telecast as CBS re-showed a one-yard touchdown run by Army quarterback Rollie Stichweh. Navy beat Army, 21-15.
1964 – The situation worsens in South Vietnam, as the Viet Cong attack and capture the district headquarters at An Lao and much of the surrounding valley 300 miles northeast of Saigon. South Vietnamese troops regained control only after reinforcements were airlifted into the area by U.S. helicopters. During the course of the action, two U.S. advisors were killed. There were over 300 South Vietnamese casualties and as many as 7,000 villagers were temporarily forced to abandon their homes. In response, Ambassador Maxwell Taylor, who had just returned from Washington, held a series of conferences with Premier Tran Van Huong, General Nguyen Khanh, and other South Vietnamese leaders. Taylor told them that the United States would provide additional financial aid to help stabilize the worsening situation in the countryside. It was agreed that the funds would be used to strengthen South Vietnam’s military forces (which South Vietnam agreed to increase by 100,000 men) and to “further economic assistance for a variety of reforms of industrial, urban, and rural development.” Nothing was said during these discussions about President Lyndon B. Johnson’s plans to commence the bombing of North Vietnam, which had been decided during Taylor’s meeting with the president and his advisers when Taylor was in Washington earlier in December.
1965 – In a memorandum to President Lyndon B. Johnson, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara states that U.S. troop strength must be substantially augmented “if we are to avoid being defeated there.” Cautioning that such deployments would not ensure military success, McNamara said the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong “continue to believe that the war will be a long one, that time is their ally and their own staying power is superior to ours.”
1972– America’s last moon mission to date was launched as Apollo 17 blasted off from Cape Canaveral at 12:33 a.m., and landed on the moon December 11 at 3:15 p.m.. A historic photo was taken of the Earth that showed our “isolated blue planet.”
1981– Spain became a member of NATO.
1987– Despite protests in Washington concerning Soviet human rights abuses, most Americans get swept up in “Gorbymania” as Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev arrives for his summit with President Ronald Reagan. Gorbachev and his wife, Raisa, charmed the American public and media by praising the United States and calling for closer relations between the Soviet Union and America. Aside from the excitement surrounding Gorbachev (whose face was soon plastered on T-shirts, cups, and posters), the summit with Reagan resulted in one of the most significant arms control agreements of the Cold War. Reagan and Gorbachev signed off on the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Force (INF) Treaty, which called for the elimination of all ground cruise and ballistic missiles and launchers in Europe with ranges of 320 to 3,400 miles. By June 1991, the United States had eliminated over 800 missiles and the Soviets had eliminated 1,800 such weapons. The INF Treaty was the first arms control agreement that eliminated, rather than simply limited, nuclear weapons. The treaty also required on-site inspections to ensure compliance, part of Reagan’s famous “trust but verify” credo. Some critics in the United States denounced the treaty, claiming that it would “de-nuke” Europe and leave America’s allies at the mercy of the Soviets’ massive conventional forces. Most Americans, however, considered it a monumental step toward the reduction of the risk of nuclear war. The treaty was ratified by the Senate and went into effect in June 1988.
1988 – The Coast Guard hosted an international summit between Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, President Ronald Reagan, and President-elect and then-Vice President George H. W. Bush on Governors Island on 7 December 1988 after Gorbachev had addressed the United Nations. In planning his trip to the UN, Gorbachev requested a meeting with Reagan. Reagan was in final weeks of his presidential term and his advisors felt it important that the visit remain low profile, so a large-scale summit or state visit to the White House was not in the cards. Yet, a short and informal meeting between the heads of state and newly elected President George Bush was possible. The White House selected the Coast Guard base at Governors Island as a meeting site since it was a secure military installation in the middle of New York harbor and just minutes away from the United Nations. The leaders met for lunch at the LANTAREA commander’s [VADM James Irwin] home. The summit was characterized as “just a luncheon” and the meeting was the last time President Reagan and Gorbachev would meet during Reagan’s remaining term.
1995– A 746-pound probe from the Galileo spacecraft hurtled into Jupiter’s atmosphere, sending back data to the mothership before it was presumably destroyed.
1995– US paratrooper James N. Burmeister (21) shot and killed Jackie Burden and Michael James. He was convicted on Feb 27, 1997 of 1st degree murder and conspiracy in the hate crime and faced the death penalty. The jury deadlocked 11 to 1 in favor of death so the judge sentenced him to 2 consecutive life terms in prison. He will have to serve at least 50 years before becoming eligible for parole. Malcolm Wright, a fellow soldier, was also charged in the murders and convicted on May 2, 1997.
1996– The space shuttle Columbia landed at the Kennedy Space Center, ending a nearly 18-day mission marred by a jammed hatch that prevented two planned spacewalks.
1997– A new Presidential Decision Directive was reported to replace one put into place by Pres. Reagan in 1981. It reset the guidelines for the use of nuclear weapons. Nuclear weapons would still be maintained as a deterrent.
1998– Pres. Clinton announced the removal of Iran from the list of drug problem countries due to an energetic campaign to eliminate opium poppies.
1999– Daniel S. Goldin, NASA administrator, acknowledged the failure of the Mars Polar Lander and planned to appoint an independent committee of experts to examine the Mars program. In 2000 it was determined that a computer signal was misread and caused breaking to stop at 130 feet above the surface.
2001– The US called to cut off discussions about enforcing a 1972 Biological Weapons Convention on the final day of a 3-week conference in Geneva. The conference sought binding measures and disbanded in chaos.
2001– The space shuttle Endeavour docked with the international space station, delivering a new three-member crew to relieve a crew in place since August.
2001 – Mullah Omar slipped out of Kandahar with a group of loyalists and moved northwest into the mountains of Uruzgan Province, thus reneging on the Taliban’s promise to surrender their fighters and their weapons. He was last reported seen leaving in a convoy of motorcycles. Other Taliban leaders fled to Pakistan through the remote passes of Paktia and Paktika Provinces. The border town of Spin Boldak surrendered on the same day, marking the end of Taliban control in Afghanistan. Afghan forces under Gul Agha seized Kandahar, while the U.S. Marines took control of the airport and established a U.S. base.
2002– Space shuttle Endeavour returned to Earth along with space station voyagers Peggy Whitsun, Valery Korzun and Sergei Treschev.
2002– The Iraqi government presented to the rest of the world a 12,000 page declaration detailing its nuclear, chemical and biological activities and formally declaring to the UN that it has no weapons of mass destruction. Saddam Hussein grudgingly apologized to Kuwaitis for invading their country in 1990.
2003– Saudi security forces stormed a gas station and killed one of the country’s most wanted terrorist suspects and a second militant.
2004 – Hamid Karzai was sworn in as Afghanistan’s first popularly elected president.
2004 – A roadside bomb exploded near an Iraqi National Guard patrol south of Baghdad, killing three guardsmen and wounding 11.
2007 – The Battle of Musa Qala was a military action in Helmand Province, southern Afghanistan, launched by the Afghan National Army and the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) against the Taliban. After three days of intense fighting, the Taliban retreated into the mountains on 10 December. Musa Qala was officially reported captured on 12 December, with Afghan Army troops pushing into the town centre. The operation was codenamed Snakepit (Pashto: Mar Kardad). It followed more than nine months of Taliban occupation of the town, the largest the insurgents controlled at the time of the battle. ISAF forces had previously occupied the town, until a controversial withdrawal in late 2006. It was the first battle in the War in Afghanistan in which Afghan army units were the principal fighting force. Statements from the British Ministry of Defence (MOD) emphasised that the operation was Afghan-led, although the ability of Afghan units to function without NATO control was questioned during the battle. Military engagement over Musa Qala is part of a wider conflict between coalition forces and the Taliban in Helmand. Both before and after the battle, related fighting was reported across a larger area, particularly in Sangin district to the south of Musa Qala.
2009 – Afghan President Karzai said it may be five years before his army is ready to take on the insurgents. Karzai also said that Afghanistan’s security forces will need U.S. support for another 15 to 20 years.
2014 – The Obama administration orders the transfer of six prisoners from Guantanamo Bay detention camp to Uruguay, the largest single group of detainees to be released in five years and the first to be resettled in South America.
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