1726 – Abraham Clark, Declaration of Independence signer, was born.
1762 – The British capture Fort Martiniqe, the main French port in the West Indies, and then St. Lucia and Grenada. Later in the year, Britain will also overrun the Spanish colonial outposts of Cuba and of Manila in the Philippines.
1764 – The city of St. Louis was established as a French trading post. Pierre Laclede Ligue and stepson Auguste Chouteau notched a couple of trees that marked the site for Laclede’s Landing that became St. Louis.
1798 – The first serious fist fight occurred in Congress.
1799 – The 1st US printed ballots were authorized in Pennsylvania.1804 – New Jersey became the last northern state to abolish slavery.
1834 – In Madrid, the Van Ness Convention settles disputes between the US and Spain.
1835 – Union General Alexander Stewart Webb is born in New York City. Webb’s grandfather had fought at Bunker Hill during the American Revolution, and his father, James Watson Webb, was a prominent newspaper editor and diplomat who served as minister to Brazil during the Civil War. The younger Webb, known as Andy to his family, attended West Point and graduated in 1855, 13th in a class of 34. He taught mathematics at West Point and in Florida before the Civil War. When the war broke out, Webb was assigned to defend Ft. Pickens, Florida, but was soon called to Washington and placed in the artillery in the army guarding the capital. He fought at the First Battle of Bull Run in July 1861 as assistant to the chief of artillery, Major William Barry. A year later, Webb was in charge of the artillery at the Battle of Malvern Hill at the end of the Seven Days battles. In that engagement, Union cannon devastated attacking Confederate infantry, and Webb was commended for leading the artillery line. General Daniel Butterfield later said that Webb’s leadership saved the Union army from destruction. Despite his numerous achievements, Webb was constantly passed over for promotion due to politics within the Army of the Potomac. He was closely associated with General George McClellan, and McClellan’s removal in late 1862 left Webb stalled at colonel. Even some of his West Point students became generals before Webb, but the promotion finally came in June 1863. The new brigadier general played a key role at the Battle of Gettysburg just a few weeks later. On July 3, Webb commanded troops defending the center of the Union line on Cemetery Ridge. He rallied his troops as they received the brunt of Pickett’s Charge, and his actions earned him the Congressional Medal of Honor. Webb fought with the Army of the Potomac during the great campaign in the spring of 1864, and he was wounded in the head at the Bloody Angle, the most vicious fighting in the Battle of Spotsylvania. He was out of action for nearly eight months. When he returned, he became chief of staff for army commander General George Meade. After the war, Webb taught at West Point, served as president of the College of the City of New York, and wrote extensively about the war. He died in Riverdale, New York, in 1911. A statue of Webb adorns the Gettysburg battlefield near the spot where he earned the Medal of Honor.
1838 – In defiance of the new “gag rule” adopted 19 December 1837, Representative John Quincy Adams introduces 350 petitions against slavery into the House. The petitions are tabled.
1847 – The House of Representatives approves a bill for negotiations to purchase occupied territory from Mexico. The bill includes the Wilmot Proviso. David Wilmot introduced an amendment to the bill stipulating that none of the territory acquired in the Mexican War should be open to slavery. The amended bill was passed in the House, but the Senate adjourned without voting on it. In the next session of Congress (1847), a new bill providing for a $3-million appropriation was introduced, and Wilmot again proposed an antislavery amendment to it. The amended bill passed the House, but the Senate drew up its own bill, which excluded the proviso.
1856 – USS Supply, commanded by LT David Dixon Porter, sails from Smyrna, Syria, bound for Indianola, Texas, with a load of 21 camels intended for experimental use in the American desert west of the Rockies.
1861 – Ft. Point was completed & garrisoned. It never fired cannon in anger.
1862 – Grant [on his 3rd day there] launched a major assault on Fort Donelson, Tenn. With the fort surrounded, the Confederates, commanded by Brig. Gen. John B. Floyd, launched a surprise attack against Grant’s army in an attempt to open an escape route to Nashville, Tennessee. Grant, who was away from the battlefield at the start of the attack, arrived to rally his men and counterattack. Despite achieving partial success and opening the way for a retreat, Floyd lost his nerve and ordered his men back to the fort. The following morning, Floyd and his second-in-command, Brig. Gen. Gideon J. Pillow, relinquished command to Brig. Gen. Simon Bolivar Buckner (later Governor of the Commonwealth of Kentucky), who agreed to accept Grant’s terms of unconditional surrender.
1862 – Four Confederate gunboats under Commodore Tattnall attacked Union batteries at Venus Point, on Savannah River, Georgia, but were forced back to Savannah. Tattnall was attempting to effect the passage of steamer Ida from Fort Pulaski to Savannah.
1864 – U.S.S. Forest Rose, Acting Lieutenant John V. Johnson, came to the relief of Union soldiers who were hard pressed by attacking Confederate troops at Waterproof, Louisiana. The 260- ton gunboat compelled the Southerners to retire under a heavy bombardment. The commander of the Northerners ashore wrote Johnston: “I hope you will not consider it [mere] flattering when I say I never before saw more accurate artillery firing than you did in these engagements, invariably putting your shells in the right place ordered. My officers and men now feel perfectly secure against a large force, so long as we have the assistance of Captain Johnston and his most excellent drilled crew. . . . ”
1869 – Charges of treason against Jefferson Davis were dropped.
1888 – A fishing dispute between the US and Canada comes to an end with the Bayard-Chamberlain Treaty signed in Washington. The Senate refuses to ratify the treaty, partly because it provides for reciprocal tariffs, which are anathema to high-tariff industrialists, but the two countries proceed on an amicable basis, generally following the provisions of the treaty anyway.
1892 – First head of the Defense Department, James V. Forrestal born in Matteawan (now Beacon), New York. His father, who emigrated from Ireland to the United States in 1857, headed a construction company. After graduation from high school in 1908, Forrestal worked for three years on local newspapers in New York State and then entered Dartmouth College as a freshman in 1911. The following year he transferred to Princeton University, which he left in 1915 a few credits short of his degree, apparently because of academic and financial difficulties. In 1916 Forrestal joined an investment banking house, William A. Read and Company of New York (later Dillon, Read and Company), as a bond salesman. Except for a period in the Navy during World War I, during which he took flight training, Forrestal remained with Dillon, Read until 1940. He rose rapidly in the company, becoming a partner in 1923, vice president in 1926, and president in 1938. His government service began in June 1940 as a special assistant to President Roosevelt. In August 1940 the president nominated Forrestal to fill the new position of under secretary of the Navy. Assigned by Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox to handle contracts, tax and legal affairs, and liaison with several other government agencies, Forrestal built his office into an efficient organization. Most importantly, he ran very effectively the Navy’s machinery for industrial mobilization and procurement. By 19 May 1944 when he became secretary of the Navy, succeeding Knox who had died of a heart attack, he had become well-known in Washington as a highly capable administrator and manager. He guided the Navy through the last year of the war and the two difficult years of demobilization after the Japanese surrender. Forrestal participated prominently in development of the National Security Act of 1947, even though he had opposed unification of the Navy and War Departments. Forrestal brought to his new office a deep distrust of the Soviet Union and a determination to make the new national security structure workable. He recognized the magnitude of the job; he wrote to a friend shortly after announcement of his appointment confiding his serious apprehensions about the future of the new organization; the inherent weakness in the secretary of defense’s powers as defined in the National Security Act, and existence of virtually autonomous heads for the military departments. These organizational difficulties, combined with a steady escalation of Cold War tensions, ensured 18 months of frustration for Forrestal. In February 1948 the Soviet Union completed its network of satellite nations in Eastern Europe, as Communists supported by Moscow seized control in Czechoslovakia. In June 1948 the Soviets blockaded land routes from the western zones of Germany to Berlin, forcing the United States and its allies to initiate an airlift which supplied Berlin until Moscow relaxed the blockade more than 10 months later. In the meantime, war broke out in Palestine between Arab and Israeli armies immediately after the proclamation of the state of Israel on 14 May 1948. As these events occurred, Congress approved the Marshall Plan, providing economic aid for 16 European nations, and in June 1948 the Senate adopted the Vandenberg Resolution, encouraging the administration to enter into collective defense arrangements. The United States and the United Kingdom led in developing the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), formally established when 12 nations signed the constituting treaty in April 1949. On the other side of the world in China, the Communists made significant headway against the Nationalists, leading in 1949 to final victory and the establishment of the People’s Republic of China. Forrestal believed strongly in the need for close coordination of defense and foreign policy and saw the National Security Council (NSC) as a major instrument for accomplishing this coordination. Although President Truman deemed the NSC a subordinate advisory body he met infrequently with it before the Korean conflict began in June 1950Forrestal thought it should originate policy proposals and provide firm guidance for strategic planning. He labored hard, for the most part unsuccessfully, to increase its influence. Hoping to facilitate agreement among the services over the budget and other matters, Forrestal met with the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) at Key West, Florida, 11-14 March 1948. Out of this meeting and subsequent discussions came a paper entitled “Functions of the Armed Forces and the Joint Chiefs of Staff” that Forrestal issued on 21 April 1948. Among JCS duties, the paper delineated preparation of strategic plans and provision for strategic direction of the armed forces, establishment of unified commands, and designation of executive agents for certain activities. The Navy received authorization “to conduct air operations as necessary for the accomplishment of objectives in a naval campaign,” and the Air Force retained responsibility for strategic air warfare. The Key West document remained in force until the Eisenhower administration issued a revised version in 1954 but nevertheless provided the basic framework for the US military until the 1989 Nichols-Goldwater Defense Reorganization. Other Forrestal reforms included major strengthening of the secretary of defense’s authority by giving him specific rather than “general” responsibility for exercising “direction, authority, and control” over the services; removal of the chief of staff to the commander in chief as a member of the JCS; designation of a JCS chairman; increasing the size of the JCS Joint Staff; clarification of the secretary’s role in personnel matters; and dropping the service secretaries from NSC membership, leaving the secretary of defense as the only military establishment member. He left office on 28 March 1949 and died tragically less than two months later. Not only the first but one of the most notable secretaries of defense, his contributions have been commemorated by a bronze bust at the Pentagon’s Mall Entrance and by the designation of a major federal office building in downtown Washington as the Forrestal Building. Some months after he left office, the House Armed Services Committee, with which he had worked closely over the years, described his administration as secretary of defense as “able, sensitive, restrained, and far-sighted.”
1898 – A massive explosion of unknown origin sinks the battleship USS Maine in Cuba’s Havana harbor, killing 260 of the fewer than 400 American crew members aboard. One of the first American battleships, the Maine weighed more than 6,000 tons and was built at a cost of more than $2 million. Ostensibly on a friendly visit, the Maine had been sent to Cuba to protect the interests of Americans there after a rebellion against Spanish rule broke out in Havana in January. An official U.S. Naval Court of Inquiry ruled in March that the ship was blown up by a mine, without directly placing the blame on Spain. Much of Congress and a majority of the American public expressed little doubt that Spain was responsible and called for a declaration of war. Subsequent diplomatic failures to resolve the Maine matter, coupled with United States indignation over Spain’s brutal suppression of the Cuban rebellion and continued losses to American investment, led to the outbreak of the Spanish-American War in April 1898. Within three months, the United States had decisively defeated Spanish forces on land and sea, and in August an armistice halted the fighting. On December 12, 1898, the Treaty of Paris was signed between the United States and Spain, officially ending the Spanish-American War and granting the United States its first overseas empire with the ceding of such former Spanish possessions as Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines. In 1976, a team of American naval investigators concluded that the Maine explosion was likely caused by a fire that ignited its ammunition stocks, not by a Spanish mine or act of sabotage.
1905 – Lewis Wallace (77), US politician, general, writer (Ben Hur), artist and inventor, died. His paintings included “The Conspirators,” a depiction of those accused in the assassination of Pres. Lincoln. He had 8 registered US patents and was accomplished at playing and making violins. His home in Crawfordsville, Indiana, is now a museum.
1911 – Congress transferred Fort Trumbull, New London, CT from War Department to Treasury Department for the use of the USRCS.
1918 – The 1st WW I US army troopship was torpedoed & sunk off Ireland by Germany.
1919 – The American Legion was organized in Paris.
1933 – President-elect Roosevelt escaped an assassination attempt in Miami. Giuseppa Zangara, an unemployed New Jersey bricklayer from Italy, fired five pistol shots at the back of President-elect Franklin Roosevelt’s head from only twenty-five feet away. While all five rounds missed their target, each bullet found a separate victim. One of these was Mayor Anton Cermak of Chicago.
1934 – In 1932, America was plagued by poverty and unemployment, prompting President Franklin Roosevelt to call on Congress to establish a Federal institution for doling out funds to the nation’s needy. The result was the Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA), which funneled money to states and oversaw the subsequent distribution and relief efforts. FERA was a massive and costly project: the administration spent somewhere in the neighborhood of $2 billion a year, or nearly 2 percent of America’s income. FERA needed a steady supply of capital and Congress was willing to oblige; on this day in 1934 legislators passed the Civil Works Emergency Relief Act, which provided an infusion of funds for the administration.
1940 – In reply to the British governments announcement that British merchant ships in the North Sea will be armed, the German government announces that all such ships will be treated as warships. U-boat commanders are ordered attack without warning any ship which is likely to come under British control. This directive means that any neutral ship sailing towards a British-controlled war zone — such as the English Channel, can be attacked without warning. Any ship following a zig-zag course is also liable to be sunk without warning.
1941 – President Roosevelt sends James B. Conant, President of Harvard University, to Britain to discuss military technology.
1943 – The Germans broke the U.S. lines at the Fanid-Sened Sector in Tunisia. Troops under the command of Rommel, now commanding the Italian 1st Army, join the Axis offensive. A detachment of the 15th Panzer Division, along with Italian armor, strikes Gafsa and captures the town. Most of Rommel’s forces are defending the Mareth Line where the last of the rearguard is now arriving from Libya.
1944 – Allied aircraft bomb the historic monastery on the crest of Monte Cassino. German forces, which have not occupied the position previously, move into the ruins of the monestary. The New Zealand Corps (part of US 5th Army) follows-up the bombing with an assault which fails.
1944 – The 3rd Amphibious Force (Admiral Wilkinson) lands elements of the New Zealand 3rd Division (General Barrowclough) on the Green Islands, north of Bougainville. US Task Force 39 (Admiral Merrill) provides escort.
1945 – During the day, the US 8th Air Force raids Dresden where the fire storm continues.
1945 – A regiment from US 11th Corps is landed at the southern tip of Bataan on Luzon to help in the operations of the remainder of the corps. The fighting in Manila continues.
1945 – American USAAF B-24 and B-29 bombers raid Iwo Jima in preparation for the landings later in the month. They drop a daily average of 450 tons of bombs over the course of 15 days (6800 tons).
1946 – ENIAC, the first electronic general-purpose computer, is formally dedicated at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator And Computer) was the first electronic general-purpose computer. It was Turing-complete, digital, and capable of being reprogrammed to solve “a large class of numerical problems”. ENIAC was initially designed to calculate artillery firing tables for the United States Army’s Ballistic Research Laboratory. When ENIAC was announced in 1946 it was heralded in the press as a “Giant Brain”. It had a speed of one thousand times that of electro-mechanical machines. This computational power, coupled with general-purpose programmability, excited scientists and industrialists. ENIAC’s design and construction was financed by the United States Army, Ordnance Corps, Research and Development Command which was led by Major General Gladeon Marcus Barnes. He was Chief of Research and Engineering, the Chief of the Research and Development Service, Office of the Chief of Ordnance during World War II. The construction contract was signed on June 5, 1943, and work on the computer began in secret by the University of Pennsylvania’s Moore School of Electrical Engineering starting the following month under the code name “Project PX”. The completed machine was announced to the public the evening of February 14, 1946 and formally dedicated the next day at the University of Pennsylvania, having cost almost $500,000 (approximately $6,000,000 today). It was formally accepted by the U.S. Army Ordnance Corps in July 1946. ENIAC was shut down on November 9, 1946 for a refurbishment and a memory upgrade, and was transferred to Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland in 1947. There, on July 29, 1947, it was turned on and was in continuous operation until 11:45 p.m. on October 2, 1955. Finished shortly after the end of World War II, one of its first programs was a study of the feasibility of the hydrogen bomb. A few months after its unveiling, in the summer of 1946, as part of “an extraordinary effort to jump-start research in the field” the Pentagon invited “the top people in electronics and mathematics from the United States and Great Britain” to a series of forty-eight lectures altogether called The Theory and Techniques for Design of Digital Computers more often named the Moore School Lectures. Half of these lectures were given by the inventors of ENIAC.
1950 – The Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China, the two largest communist nations in the world, announce the signing of a mutual defense and assistance treaty. The negotiations for the treaty were conducted in Moscow between PRC leaders Mao Zedong and Zhou En-lai, and Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin and Foreign Minister Andrei Vishinsky. The treaty’s terms called for the Soviets to provide a $300 million credit to the PRC. It also mandated that the Soviet Union return to the Chinese the control of a major railroad and the cities of Port Arthur and Dairen in Manchuria, all of which had been seized by Russian forces near the end of World War II. The mutual defense section of the agreement primarily concerned any future aggression by Japan and “any other state directly or indirectly associated” with Japan. Zhou En-lai proudly declared that the linking of the two communist nations created a force that was “impossible to defeat.” U.S. commentators viewed the treaty as proof positive that communism was a monolithic movement, being directed primarily from the Kremlin in Moscow. An article in the New York Times referred to the PRC as a Soviet “satellite.” As events made clear, however, the treaty was not exactly a concrete bond between communist countries. By the late-1950s, fissures were already beginning to appear in the Soviet-PRC alliance. Publicly, the Chinese charged that the Soviets were compromising the principles of Marxism-Leninism by adopting an attitude of “peaceful coexistence” with the capitalist nations of the West. By the early-1960s, Mao Zedong was openly declaring that the Soviet Union was actually allying itself with the United States against the Chinese revolution.
1951 – The communists were defeated at Chipyong-ni by the U.S. 2nd Infantry Division’s 23rd Infantry Regimental Combat Team (RCT) and the French Battalion. At the climax of the battle, the 1st Cavalry Division’s Task Force Crombez broke through to support the encircled 23rd RCT. After three days of intense combat and having suffered perhaps 8,000 casualties, the Chinese forces withdrew. The 23rd RCT suffered 52 killed, 42 missing and 259 wounded in action. This was the first major battlefield defeat of the Chinese communist forces in the war.
1951 – President Truman stated that the United Nations had authorized General MacArthur to recross the 38th parallel.
1953 – Radio Pyongyang went off the air when B-29s attacked the nearby Pingjang-ni communications center, damaging power lines and Twenty-two F-84s from the 474th Fighter-Bomber Wing bombed the generators at the Sui-ho hydroelectric plant. The fighter-bombers suffered no damage and the attack halted power production at Sui-ho for several months.
1954 – Canada and the United States agree to construct the Distant Early Warning Line, a system of radar stations in the far northern Arctic regions of Canada and Alaska. The DEW Line was operational from 1957 to the late 1980s and it was the northernmost and most capable of three radar lines in Canada and Alaska; the joint Canadian-US Pinetree Line ran from Newfoundland to Vancouver Island, and the Mid-Canada Line ran somewhat north of this.
1966 – In response to a letter from Ho Chi Minh asking that French President Charles De Gaulle use his influence to “prevent perfidious new maneuvers” by the United States in Southeast Asia, De Gaulle states that France is willing to do all that it could to end the war. As outlined by De Gaulle, the French believed that the Geneva agreements should be enforced, that Vietnam’s independence should be “guaranteed by the nonintervention of any outside powers,” and that the Vietnamese government should pursue a “policy of strict neutrality.” President Lyndon Johnson saw De Gaulle’s proposal as part of a continuing effort by the French leader to challenge U.S. leadership in Southeast Asia as well as in Europe. Seeing the American commitment in Vietnam as part of a larger global issue of American credibility, Johnson believed that the United States could not afford to abandon its South Vietnamese ally and rejected De Gaulle’s proposal without consideration.
1967 – Thirteen U.S. helicopters were shot down in one day in Vietnam.
1985 – The STS 51-E vehicle was moved to the launch pad.
1989 – The Soviet Union announced that the last of its troops had left Afghanistan, after more than nine years of military intervention.
1991 – Iraq proposed a conditional withdrawal from Kuwait, an offer dismissed by President Bush as a “cruel hoax.”
1994 – US asked Aristide to adopt a peace plan for Haiti.
1994 – Navy chief Adm. Frank Kelso II agreed to early retirement because of criticism over the Tailhook sex abuse scandal.
1999 – Coast Guard recruiting ads began appearing on World Wrestling Federation cable television programs. The sponsorship package, which maintained the Coast Guard’s status as a PSA advertiser, included an in-program media feature called “The Coast Guard Rescue of the Week,” which aired during the show while a wrestler saved a teammate. WWF superstars also appeared at recruiting centers and Coast Guard units. The controversial recruiting program was approved of by the Commandant.
2000 – In Iraq a 2nd UN official quit in protest that sanctions were undermining humanitarian efforts.
2001 – President Bush said the Pentagon should review its policy on civilian participation in military exercises like the emergency ascent drill a Navy submarine was performing when it sank a Japanese fishing vessel off Hawaii.
2002 – American and Belgian officials said Sanjivan Ruprah, a Kenyan diamond mine owner, offered details between al Qaeda and the arms-trading operations of Victor Bout, a Russian broker described as the head of the world’s largest arms-trafficking organization.
2003 – American warplanes bombed two anti-aircraft missile sites in southern Iraq.2004 – Iraqi police arrested No. 41 on the American military’s most-wanted list, Baath Party official Mohammed Zimam Abdul-Razaq.
2005 – The United States recalls its ambassador to Syria, Margaret Scobey, in protest of alleged Syrian involvement in the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.
2005 – United States, India and European Union countries recall their ambassadors from Nepal in protest of the takeover by King Gyanendra.
2007 – Operation Shurta Nasir or Operation Police Victory or the Battle of Hit was an operation led by U.S. troops and Iraqi SWAT teams trying to capture the town of Hit from Al-Qaeda forces. The goal of the mission was to eject the Al-Qaeda from the city and establish three Police Stations there to cement authority to the town. The Al-Qaeda retreating would be caught in the net of encircling U.S. troops which numbered 1,000 men. The operation was a success, and Hit was captured and freed from the terrorists.
2007 – U.S. and Iraqi forces pushed deeper into Sunni militant strongholds in Baghdad, mainly the Doura district in the south, where car-bombs were set off in their advance. In two incidents, car-bombs blew up as U.S. and Iraqi patrols passed and there were at least four civilian casualties. The operation began with very little resistance, and was hailed by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki as a “brilliant success.” There was a steep decline in violence during the first few days, but American Generals were more cautious about making judgments on its success early on.
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