This Day in U.S. Military History…… December 8

8 December
1776– George Washington’s retreating army in the American Revolution crossed the Delaware River from New Jersey to Pennsylvania.

1861– The American Bible Society announced that it would distribute 7,000 Bibles a day to Union soldiers.
1861– CSS Sumter captured the whaler Eben Dodge in the Atlantic. The war began affecting the Northern whaling industry.
1863– President Lincoln offers his conciliatory plan for reunification of the nation with his Proclamation of Amnesty and Reconstruction. By this point in the war, it was clear that Lincoln needed to make some preliminary plans for postwar reconstruction. The Union armies had captured large sections of the South, and some states were ready to have their governments rebuilt. The proclamation addressed three main areas of concern. First, it allowed for a full pardon for and restoration of property to all engaged in the rebellion with the exception of the highest Confederate officials and military leaders. Second, it allowed for a new state government to be formed when 10 percent of the eligible voters had taken an oath of allegiance to the United States. Third, the southern states admitted in this fashion were encouraged to enact plans to deal with the freed slaves so long as their freedom was not compromised. In short, the terms of the plan were easy for most southerners to accept. Though the emancipation of slaves was an impossible pill for some Confederates to swallow, Lincoln’s plan was quite charitable, considering the costliness of the war. With the Proclamation of Amnesty and Reconstruction, Lincoln was seizing the initiative for reconstruction from Congress. Some Radical Republicans thought the plan was far too easy on the South, but others accepted it because of Lincoln’s prestige and leadership. Following the assassination of Lincoln in April 1865, the disagreements over the postwar reconstruction policy led to a heated battle between the next president, Andrew Johnson, and Congress.
1863 – The disabled merchant steamer Henry Von Phul was shelled by a Confederate shore battery near Morganza, Louisiana. U.S.S. Neosho, Acting Ensign Edwin P. Brooks, and U.S.S. Signal, Acting Ensign William P. Lee, steamed up to defend the ship and silenced the battery. Union merchantmen were largely free from such attacks when convoyed by a warship.
1863– Averell’s cavalry destroyed railroads in the southwestern part of West Virginia.
1920– President Wilson declined to send a representative to the League of Nations in Geneva.
1931– Coaxial cable was patented.
1932– Japan told the League of Nations that it had no control over her designs in China.
1933 – Secretary of the Navy establishes Fleet Marine Force, integrating a ready-to-deploy Marine force with own aircraft into Fleet organization.
1939 – The American government protests the British blockade of Germany, stating: “Whatever may be said for or against measures directed by one belligerent against another, they many not rightfully be carried to the point of enlarging the rights of a belligerent over neutral vessels and their cargoes, or otherwise penalizing neutral states or their nationals in connection with their legitimate activities.”
1940 – An Executive Order extended the jurisdiction of the Lighthouse Service to the noncontiguous territory of the Midway Islands.
1941– America’s Pacific fleet lay in ruins at Pearl Harbor, President Franklin Roosevelt requests, and receives, a declaration of war against Japan. Leaning heavily on the arm of his son James, a Marine captain, FDR walked haltingly into the House of Representatives at noon to request a declaration of war from the House and address the nation via radio. “Yesterday,” the president proclaimed, “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. No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory.” Roosevelt’s 10-minute speech, ending with an oath-“So help us God”-was greeted in the House by thunderous applause and stamping of feet. Within one hour, the president had his declaration of war, with only one dissenting vote, from a pacifist in the House. FDR signed the declaration at 4:10 p.m., wearing a black armband to symbolize mourning for those lost at Pearl Harbor. On both coasts, civilian defense groups were mobilized. In New York, Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia ordered the rounding up of Japanese nationals, who were transported to Ellis Island and held in custody indefinitely. In California, antiaircraft batteries were set up on Long Beach and the Hollywood Hills. Reports on supposed spy activity on the part of Japanese Americans began pouring into Washington, even as Japanese Americans paid for space in newspapers to declare unreservedly their loyalty to the United States. War is also declared upon Japan by British, Australia, New Zealand, the Netherlands, the Free French, several South American countries. China declares war upon Germany, Italy and Japan. The latter is a formal declaration only as a de facto state of war has existed between China and Japan for 7 years. Montanan Jeanette Rankin, the first woman elected to Congress and a dedicated lifelong pacifist, casts the sole Congressional vote against the U.S. declaration of war on Japan.
1941 – Japanese troops occupy the city of Shanghai and capture a small US garrison in the foreign section.
1941– A US tanker was shelled by a Japanese submarine off Cape Mendocino.
1941 – USS Wake (PR-3), a river gunboat moored at Shanghai, is only U.S. vessel to surrender during World War II.
1941– The Japanese attack begins with the capture of Bataan Island and the creation of an airstrip for plane refueling. Japanese invasion troops leave Paulau for the Philippines. The main attack begins with massive air bombardment which reduces the American defenses to 17 B-17’s and less than 40 fighters. Most of the planes are destroyed on the ground. American General Douglas MacArthur has under his command 130,000 troops (20,000 Americans). His plan to defend the island becomes nonviable after the destruction of the main portion of the his air force and the losses at Pearl Harbor.1941- Fears of offending American public opinion by violating Thailand’s neutrality have prevented the British from preparing defenses in Thailand and difficulties with Thai border guards prevent a quick response to the Japanese landings further north.
1941 – Japanese aircraft attacked Wake Island within hours of the fateful attack on Pearl Harbor. Marines of the 1st Defense Battalion and Marine Fighting Squadron 211 resisted Japanese invasion attempts for over two weeks before finally succumbing to an overwhelming force. A small Japanese landing force leaves Kwajalein escorted by a cruiser and two destroyers.
1941– Japanese General Yamashita began his attack against the British army at Singapore. General Tomoyuki Yamashita earned the name “Tiger of Malaya” for his masterful capture of Singapore and the whole Malay Peninsula from the British, who had a superior number of troops. Yamashita’s forces landed on the northern Malay Peninsula and southern Thailand on December 8, 1941, and moved rapidly southward toward Singapore, which surrendered on February 15, 1942. The peninsula and Singapore remained under Japanese control throughout the war. Later in the war, while defending the Philippines from Gen. MacArthur‘s return, Yamashita’s troops wantonly slaughtered more than 100,000 Filipinos in Manila. He was later tried and executed for war crimes.
1942 – Eight PT boats (PT 36, PT 37, PT 40, PT 43, PT 44, PT 48, PT 59, and PT 109) turn back 8 Japanese destroyers attempting to reinforce Japanese forces on Guadalcanal.
1943– U.S. carriers sank two cruisers and down 72 planes in the Marshall Islands.
1943 – Kwajalein is bombarded by an American force consisting of 5 battleships and 12 destroyers commanded by Admiral Lee. One Japanese destroyer is damaged.
1943 – In Italy, the US 5th Army continues attacking but little progress is achieved. To the east, the British 8th Army operations continue as well. The Canadian 1st Division begins attacking over the Moro River, a few miles from the east coast.
1944 – US 3rd Army reports the establishment of four additional crossing of the Saar river on both sides of Sarreguemines and inside the town. American tanks are reported to be approaching the town of Rohrbach to the southeast.
1944– An American naval force, commanded by Admiral Smith and consisting of 3 heavy cruisers and a destroyer escort, bombard Iwo Jima.
1944 – On Leyte, the US 77th Division advances from its beachhead to within 1 mile of Ormoc. Attacks by the Japanese 26th Division, near Buri, are repulsed by other US forces.
1945 – The Toyota Motor Company received permission from the occupation government to start production of buses and trucks–vehicles necessary to keep Japan running. After World War II ended with Japan’s surrender on September 3, 1945, Japan remained under Allied occupation ruled by an occupation government. Its war industries were shut down completely. This was the first rumble of the postwar auto industry in Japan.
1948– UN approved the recognition of South Korea.
1949– As they steadily lose ground to the communist forces of Mao Zedong, Chinese Nationalist leaders depart for the island of Taiwan, where they establish their new capital. Nationalist leader Chiang Kai-shek left for the island the following day. This action marked the beginning of the “two Chinas” scenario that left mainland China under communist control and vexed U.S. diplomacy for the next 30 years. It also signaled the effective end of the long struggle between Chinese Nationalist forces and those of the communist leader Mao Zedong, though scattered Chinese Nationalists continued sporadic combat with the communist armies. At the time, many observers hoped that the end of the fighting and the Chinese Nationalist decision to establish a separate government on Taiwan might make it easier for foreign governments to recognize the new communist People’s Republic of China. For the United States, however, the action merely posed a troubling diplomatic problem. Many in America, including members of the so-called “China Lobby” (individuals and groups from both public and private life who tenaciously supported the Chinese Nationalist cause), called upon the administration of President Harry S. Truman to continue its support of Chiang’s government by withholding recognition of the communist government on the mainland. In fact, the Truman administration’s recognition of the Nationalist government on Taiwan infuriated Mao, ending any possibility for diplomatic relations between the United States and the People’s Republic of China. In the years after 1949, the United States continued its support of Taiwan, and Mao’s government continued to rail against the Nationalist regime off its coast. By the 1970s, however, U.S. policymakers, desirous of opening economic relations with China and hoping to use China as a balance against Soviet power, moved toward a closer relationship with communist China. In 1979, the United States officially recognized the People’s Republic of China.
1950 – The Greek Expeditionary Force arrived in Korea. The Greek Infantry Battalion, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel D. G. Arbouzis, soon saw action attached to the U.S. 1st Cavalry Division’s 7th Cavalry Regiment.
1953– Pres. Eisenhower delivered his “Atoms for Peace” address to the UN. He called on both the US and Soviet Union to abandon their nuclear arsenals. The “Atoms for Peace” program spread nuclear technology to nations that agreed not to use it for military purposes.
1965 – In some of the heaviest raids of the war, 150 U.S. Air Force and Navy planes launch Operation Tiger Hound to interdict the Ho Chi Minh Trail in the lower portion of the Laotian panhandle, from Route 9 west of the Demilitarized Zone, south to the Cambodian border. The purpose of this operation, which lasted until 1968, was to reduce North Vietnamese infiltration down the trail into South Vietnam. After 1968, the Tiger Hound missions became part of a new operation called Commando Hunt.
1966 – The International Red Cross announces in Geneva that North Vietnam has rejected a proposal by President Johnson for a resolution of the prisoner of war situation. He had proposed a joint discussion of fair treatment and possible exchange of war captives held by both sides. The International Red Cross submitted the proposal to North Vietnamese officials in July after Johnson first broached the plan on July 20 at a news conference. No solution was reached on the issue until the Paris Peace Accords were signed in January 1973. By the terms of the accords, all U.S. prisoners were to be released by the following March.
1967– In the biggest battle yet in the Mekong Delta, 365 Vietcong were killed.
1968– South Vietnam’s vice president Nguyen Cao Ky arrived in Paris for peace talks.
1969– Police made a surprise attack on Black-Panthers in LA.
1969 – At a news conference, President Richard Nixon says that the Vietnam War is coming to a “conclusion as a result of the plan that we have instituted.” Nixon had announced at a conference in Midway in June that the United States would be following a new program he termed “Vietnamization.” Under the provisions of this program, South Vietnamese forces would be built up so they could assume more responsibility for the war. As the South Vietnamese forces became more capable, U.S. forces would be withdrawn from combat and returned to the United States. In his speech, Nixon pointed out that he had already ordered the withdrawal of 60,000 U.S. troops. Concurrently, he had issued orders to provide the South Vietnamese with more modern equipment and weapons and increased the advisory effort, all as part of the “Vietnamization” program. As Nixon was holding his press conference, troops from the U.S. 25th Infantry Division (less the Second Brigade) began departing from Vietnam. Nixon’s pronouncements that the war was ending proved premature. In April 1970, he expanded the war by ordering U.S. and South Vietnamese troops to attack communist sanctuaries in Cambodia. The resulting outcry across the United States led to a number of antiwar demonstrations-it was at one of these demonstrations that the National Guard shot four protesters at Kent State. Although Nixon did continue to decrease American troop strength in South Vietnam, the fighting continued. In 1972, the North Vietnamese launched a massive invasion of South Vietnam. The South Vietnamese forces reeled under the attack, but eventually prevailed with the help of U.S. airpower. After extensive negotiations and the bombing of North Vietnam in December 1972, the Paris Peace Accords were signed in January 1973. Under the provisions of the Accords, U.S. forces were completely withdrawn. Unfortunately, this did not end the war for the Vietnamese and the fighting continued until April 1975 when Saigon fell to the communists.
1982– The Washington, D.C., police shot and killed Norman Mayer 10 hours after he threatened to blow up the Washington Monument and found he had no explosives.
1983 – Four cutters arrived off of the island of Grenada to replace U.S. Navy surface forces conducting surveillance operations after the U.S. invaded the island earlier that year. The cutters involved were the Cape Gull, Cape Fox, Cape Shoalwater, and the Sagebrush.
1987– At a summit meeting in Washington, D.C., President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev sign the first treaty between the two superpowers to reduce their massive nuclear arsenals. Previous agreements had merely been attempts by the two Cold War adversaries to limit the growth of their nuclear arsenals. The historic agreement banned ground-launched short- and medium-range missiles, of which the two nations collectively possessed 2,611, most located in Europe and Southeast Asia. The pact was seen as an important step toward agreement on the reduction of long-range U.S. and Soviet missiles, first achieved in 1991 when President George H. Bush and Gorbachev agreed to destroy more than a quarter of their nuclear warheads. The following year, Bush and Russian President Boris Yeltsin agreed to drastically reduce their number of long-range missiles to around 3,000 launching systems each by the year 2003. In 2001, after a decade of arms control stalemate, President George W. Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin made a preliminary agreement to further reduce their nuclear arsenals to around 2,000 long-range missiles each.
1988 – A United States Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt II crashes into an apartment complex in Remscheid, Germany, killing 5 people and injuring 50 others.
1988– Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev cut short his U.S. visit in order to return home following a killer earthquake in Armenia.
1990– As former American hostages began leaving Iraq and occupied Kuwait, President Bush—wrapping up his South America tour in Caracas, Venezuela—said the evacuation made for “one less worry I’ve got” in deciding whether to go to war against Baghdad.
1991– Russia, Byelorussia and Ukraine declared the Soviet national government dead, forging a new alliance to be known as the Commonwealth of Independent States. Boris Yeltsin, Ukrainian Pres. Leonid Kravchuk, and Belarus Pres. Stanislav Shuskevich met in a hunting lodge to proclaim the Soviet Union null and void and to form a loose Commonwealth of Independent States.
1994– Bosnian Serbs released dozens of hostage peacekeepers, but continued to detain about 300 others.
1998– In Chechnya the severed heads of Darren Hickey, Rudolf Petschi, Stanley Shaw and Peter Kennedy were found lines up along a highway outside of Grozny. The U.S. mobile phone workers had been kidnapped Oct 3.
2000– The Florida Supreme Court ordered, four to three, an immediate hand count of about 45,000 disputed ballots and put Democrat Al Gore within 154 votes of George W. Bush.
2000– The US National Security Council warned that several nations had already created information-warfare units for disrupting computer networks.
2000– In Russia the pardons commission recommended to Pres. Putin that clemency be granted to Edmond Pope.
2001– John Walker Lindh, a Taliban soldier from Marin County, Ca., was held at Camp Rhino near Kandahar as a battlefield detainee. He was captured a week earlier following the prison revolt at Mazar-e-Sharif.
2002– Iraq’s massive dossier detailing its chemical, biological and nuclear programs arrived in New York; the U.N. Security Council agreed to give full copies to the United States and the four other permanent council members — Britain, France, Russia and China.
2003– The US military launched its largest postwar offensive against Taliban and al-Qaida insurgents, sending 2,000 soldiers into a lawless swath of Afghanistan to put down a wave of attacks.
2004 – A disgruntled U.S. soldier, at the prompting of a member of the press, complained to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld during a question-and-answer session in Kuwait about long deployments and a lack of armored vehicles and other equipment.
2004 – Some 18,000 US troops in Afghanistan began Operation Lightning Freedom, a new offensive to hunt Taliban and al-Qaida militants through the country’s harsh winter.
2004 – In Iraq gunmen attacked the police headquarters in Samarra, killing an Iraqi policemen and a child who was caught in the cross fire. Insurgents detonated a car bomb in southern Baghdad, causing an unspecified number of casualties.
2004 – In Iraq 18 young Iraqi Shiites, aged 14-20, were shot and killed while seeking work at a U.S. base near Mosul. Their bodies were discovered Jan 5.
2008 – A United States Marine Corps F/A-18 Hornet crashes into the University City neighborhood of San Diego, California, two miles from Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, killing four people.
2008 – In a Guantanamo Bay Naval Base military commission, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four co-defendants announce their intentions to plead guilty to charges relating to the September 11, 2001, attacks.
2009 – Scaled Composites SpaceShipTwo, the world’s first commercial spacecraft, is officially unveiled in the Mojave Desert, California.
2010 – With the second launch of the SpaceX Falcon 9 and the first launch of the SpaceX Dragon, SpaceX becomes the first private company to successfully launch, orbit and recover a spacecraft. The spacecraft splashed down after two orbits 500 miles (800 km) west of Baja California at 2:03pm EST (19:03 UTC), becoming the first commercially-developed spacecraft to return to Earth after being launched into orbit.

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