This Day in U.S. Military History…… February 16

16 February
1724 – Christopher Gadsden, the “Sam Adams of the South,” is born in Charleston, South Carolina. Gadsden (died August 28, 1805), a soldier and statesman, was the principal leader of the South Carolina Patriot movement in the American Revolution. He was a delegate to the Continental Congress and a brigadier general in the Continental Army during the War of Independence. He was also the designer of the famous Gadsden flag. He was the son of Thomas Gadsden, who had served in the Royal Navy before becoming customs collector for the port of Charleston. Christopher was sent to school near Bristol, England. He returned to America in 1740, and served as an apprentice in a counting house in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He inherited a large fortune from his parents, who died in 1741. From 1745 to 1746 he served during King George’s War as a purser on a British warship. He entered into mercantile ventures, and by 1747 he had earned enough to return to South Carolina and buy back the land his father had sold because he needed the money to pay off debts. He built Beneventum Plantation House about 1750. Gadsden began his rise to prominence as a merchant and patriot in Charleston. He prospered as a merchant, and built the wharf in Charleston that still bears his name. He served as captain of a militia company during a 1759 expedition against the Cherokees. He was first elected to the Commons House of Assembly in 1757, and began a long friction with autocratic royal governors. In 1765 the assembly made him one of their delegates to the Stamp Act Congress in New York City, which was called to protest the Stamp Act. While his fellow delegates Thomas Lynch and John Rutledge served on committees to draft appeals to the House of Lords and Commons respectively, Gadsden refused any such assignment, since in his view Parliament had no rights in the matter. He addressed himself with outspoken support for the Declaration of Rights produced by the Congress. His addresses brought him to the attention of Samuel Adams of Massachusetts, and the two began a long correspondence and friendship. Gadsden was eventually known as “the Sam Adams of the South”. On his return from New York, Gadsden became one of the founders and leaders of the Charleston Sons of Liberty. He had risen to the rank of lieutenant colonel in the militia. He was elected as a delegate to the First Continental Congress in 1774 and the Second Continental Congress the following year. He left Congress early in 1776 to assume command of the 1st South Carolina Regiment of the Continental Army and to serve in the Provincial Congress of South Carolina. In February 1776, South Carolina President John Rutledge named him a brigadier general in charge of the state’s military forces. As the British prepared to attack Charleston, Major General Charles Lee ordered outlying positions abandoned. Rutledge and the local officers disagreed. A compromise was reached and as William Moultrie prepared the defenses on Sullivan’s Island, Gadsden paid for, and his regiment built, a bridge that would allow their escape if the position were threatened. The British attack was repulsed. In 1778, Gadsden was a member of the South Carolina convention that drafted a new state constitution. That same year he was named the Lieutenant Governor, to replace Henry Laurens who was away at the Continental Congress. He would serve in that office until 1780. Actually, for the first year and a half his office was called “Vice President of South Carolina,” but when the new constitution was adopted, the title was changed to the modern usage. When the British laid siege to Charleston in 1780, John Rutledge, as president of the council fled to North Carolina to ensure a “government in exile” should the city fall. Gadsden remained, along with Governor Rawlins Lowndes. General Benjamin Lincoln surrendered the Continental Army garrison on May 12 to General Sir Henry Clinton. At the same time, Gadsden represented the civil government and surrendered the city. He was sent on parole to his Charleston house. After General Sir Henry Clinton returned to New York, the new British commander in the South, General Cornwallis changed the rules. On the morning of August 27, he arrested about 20 of the civil officers then on parole. They were marched as prisoners to a ship and taken to St. Augustine, Florida. When they arrived, Governor Tonyn offered the freedom of the town if they would give their parole. Most accepted, but Gadsden refused claiming that the British had already violated one parole, and he could not give his word to a false system. As a result, he spent the next 42 weeks in solitary confinement in a prison room at the old Spanish fortress of Castillo de San Marcos. When they were finally released in 1781, they were sent by merchant ship to Philadelphia. Once there, Gadsden learned of the defeat of Cornwallis’ subordinate Banastre Tarleton at Cowpens and Cornwallis’ subsequent movement to Yorktown. Gadsden hurried home to help the restoration of South Carolina’s civil government. Gadsden was returned to the state’s House of Representatives, then meeting at Jacksonboro. At this session, Governor Randolph and de facto President Rutledge both surrendered their offices. Gadsden was elected as the governor, but felt he had to decline. His health was still impaired from his imprisonment, and an active governor was needed since the British had not yet given up Charleston. Gadsden was also a member of the state convention in 1788 and voted for ratification of the United States Constitution. He died from an accidental fall on August 28, 1805, in Charleston, and is buried there in St. Phillip’s Churchyard.
1741 – Benjamin Franklin’s General Magazine (2nd US Mag) began publishing.
1760 – Cherokee Indians held hostage at Fort St. George by South Carolina Governor Lyttleton are killed in revenge for Indian attacks on frontier settlements that broke a peace treaty of December 1759. This leads to a renewal of Cherokee attacks.
1804 – During the First Barbary War, U.S. Lieutenant Stephen Decatur leads a military mission that famed British Admiral Horatio Nelson calls the “most daring act of the age.” In June 1801, President Thomas Jefferson ordered U.S. Navy vessels to the Mediterranean Sea in protest of continuing raids against U.S. ships by pirates from the Barbary states–Morocco, Algeria, Tunis, and Tripolitania. American sailors were often abducted along with the captured booty and ransomed back to the United States at an exorbitant price. After two years of minor confrontations, sustained action began in June 1803 when a small U.S. expeditionary force attacked Tripoli harbor in present-day Libya. In October 1803, the U.S. frigate Philadelphia ran aground near Tripoli and was captured by Tripolitan gunboats. The Americans feared that the well-constructed warship would be both a formidable addition to the Tripolitan navy and an innovative model for building future Tripolitan frigates. Hoping to prevent the Barbary pirates from gaining this military advantage, Lieutenant Stephen Decatur led a daring expedition into Tripoli harbor to destroy the captured American vessel on February 16, 1804. After disguising himself and his men as Maltese sailors, Decatur’s force of 74 men, which included nine U.S. Marines, sailed into Tripoli harbor on a small two-mast ship. The Americans approached the USS Philadelphia without drawing fire from the Tripoli shore guns, boarded the ship, and attacked its Tripolitan crew, capturing or killing all but two. After setting fire to the frigate, Decatur and his men escaped without the loss of a single American. The Philadelphia subsequently exploded when its gunpowder reserve was lit by the spreading fire. Six months later, Decatur returned to Tripoli Harbor as part of a larger American offensive and emerged as a hero again during the so-called “Battle of the Gunboats,” a naval battle that saw hand-to-hand combat between the Americans and the Tripolitans.
1815 – USS Constitution captures British Susannah.
1823 – John Daniel Imboden (d.1895), Brig General (Confederate Army), was born.
1852 – Henry and Clement Studebaker founded H & C Studebaker, a blacksmith and wagon building business, in South Bend, Indiana. The brothers made their fortune manufacturing during the Civil War, as The Studebaker Brothers Manufacturing Company became the world’s largest manufacturer of horse-drawn carriages. With the advent of the automobile, Studebaker converted its business to car manufacturing, becoming one of the larger independent automobile manufacturers. During World War II, Studebaker manufactured airplanes for the war effort and emphasized its patriotic role by releasing cars called “The President,” “The Champion,” and “The Commander.” Like many of the independents, Studebaker fared well during the war by producing affordable family cars. After the war, the Big Three, bolstered by their new government-subsidized production facilities, were too much for many of the independents. Studebaker was no exception. Post World War II competition drove Studebaker to its limits, and the company merged with the Packard Corporation in 1954. Financial hardship continued however as they continued to lose money over the next several years. Studebaker rebounded in 1959 with the introduction of the compact Lark but it was shortlived. The 1956 Cruiser marked the end of the Studebaker after 114 years.
1862 – General Ulysses S. Grant finishes a spectacular campaign by capturing Fort Donelson on the Cumberland River in Tennessee. This battle came ten days after Grant’s capture of Fort Henry, just ten miles to the west on the Tennessee River, and opened the way for Union occupation of central Tennessee. After Grant surround Fort Henry and forced the surrender of 100 men, he moved east to the much more formidable Fort Donelson. The fort sat on a high bluff and had a garrison of 6,000. After the fall of Fort Henry, an additional 15,000 reinforcements were sent to aid Fort Donelson. Grant crossed the narrow strip of land between the two rivers with only about 15,000 troops. One of Grant’s officers, Brigadier General John McClernand, initiated the battle on February 13 when he tried to capture a Rebel Battery along Fort Donelson’s outer works. Although unsuccessful, this action probably convinced the Confederates that they faced a superior force, even though they actually outnumbered Grant. Over the next three days, Grant tightened the noose around Fort Donelson by moving a flotilla up the Cumberland River to shell the fort from the east. On February 15, the Confederates tried to break out of the Yankee perimeter. An attack on the Union right flank and center sent the Federals back in retreat, but then Confederate General Gideon Pillow made a fatal miscalculation. Thinking he could win the battle, Pillow threw away the chance to retreat from Fort Donelson. Instead, he pressed the attack but the Union retreat halted. Now, Grant assaulted the Confederate right wing, which he correctly suspected had been weakened to mount the attack on the other end of the line. The Confederates were surrounded, with their backs to the Cumberland River. They made an attempt to escape, but only about 5,000 troops got away. These included Colonel Nathan Bedford Forrest and 500 cavalrymen. Forrest later became a legendary leader in the west and his exploits over the next three years caused much aggravation to the Union army. When the Rebels asked for terms of surrender, Grant replied that no terms “except unconditional and immediate surrender” would be acceptable. This earned Ulysses S. Grant the nickname “Unconditional Surrender” Grant. The loss of Fort Henry and Fort Donelson were unmitigated disasters for the Confederates. Kentucky was lost and Tennessee lay wide open to the Yankees.
1862 – Gunboats of Flag Officer Foote’s force destroyed the “Tennessee Iron Works” above Dover on the Cumberland River. General McClellan wired Flag Officer Foote from Washington.’ “Sorry you are wounded. How seriously? Your conduct magnificent. With what force do you return? I send nearly 600 sailors for you tomorrow.
1864 – Battle of Mobile, Al., operations by Union Army.
1864 – Union naval forces, composed of double-ender U.S.S. Octorara, Lieutenant Commander William W. Low, converted ferryboat U.S.S. J. P. Jackson, Acting Lieutenant Miner B. Crowell, and six mortar schooners, began bombarding Confederate works at Fort Powell as Rear Admiral Farragut commenced the long, arduous campaign that six months later would result in the closing of Mobile Bay. The bombardment of Fort Powell by gunboats was a continuing operation, though the mortar boats were eventually withdrawn.
1865 – Columbia, S.C., surrendered to Federal troops.
1904 – George Kennan, is born. Political analyst, advisor and diplomat, he was in charge of long-range planning for the State Department following World War II. He developed the concept of “containment” as a strategy to keep Soviet influence from expanding and maintain the status quo. Kennan believed that the Soviet Union would eventually have to relinquish its harsh grip on its citizenry and would change its foreign policies if the West could maintain a firm and consistent posture of opposition. He also served as Ambassador to the USSR and to Yugoslavia. At age 85, he received the Medal of Freedom.
1920 – The Allies accepted Berlin’s offer to try World War I war criminals in Leipzig’s Supreme Court.
1926 – Congress authorized Secretary of Treasury to acquire a site at New London, CT, without cost to United States, and construct thereon buildings for the United States Coast Guard Academy at a total cost not to exceed $1,750,000.
1934 – Thousands of Socialists of the Socialist Party held a huge meeting in Madison Square Garden in New York to demonstrate solidarity with the Austrian Socialists (who had risen in armed conflict against the Heimwehr of Dollfus). The meeting was violently disrupted by the Communists.
1942 – Tojo outlined Japan’s war aims to the Diet, referring to “new order of coexistence” in East Asia. During the Japanese war crimes trials, Tojo himself took responsibility, as premier, for anything either he or his country had done. He asserted, however, with the other defendants, that they–and Japan–had made war only in “self-defense.”
1944 – Justo Gonzalez became the first Hispanic-American to make the rank of chief petty officer when the Coast Guard promoted him to Chief Machinist’s Mate (acting) on 16 February 1944. The promotion was made permanent on 16 October 1948.
1944 – German forces begin a new attack on the Allied forces on the Anzio beachhead. The US 45th Division and the British 56th Division are engaged by elements of 5 German divisions. There is no decisive breakthrough. The Luftwaffe provides close air support for the offensive as well as attacking shipping off shore. The ammunition ship Elihu Yale blows up after a German air strike. To the south, around Cassino, forces of New Zealand Corps (part of US 5th Army) continue attacking.
1944 – Carrier aircraft from US Task Group 58.4 (Admiral Ginder) raid Eniwetok. The Japanese airfield on Engebi is no longer operational.
1945 – Two American battalions, one sea borne and one dropped by parachute, land on Corregidor Island in Manila Bay. The attacking troops land successfully but encounter heavy Japanese resistance among the tunnels and gun emplacements of the island. The US troops are quickly reinforced. Since the battle for Luzon began, about 3200 tons of bombs have been dropped on Corregidor.
1945 – Bataan Peninsula in the Philippines is occupied by American troops, almost three years after the devastating and infamous Bataan Death March. On April 3, 1942, the Japanese infantry staged a major offensive against Allied troops in Bataan, the peninsula guarding Manila Bay of the Philippine Islands. The invasion of the Japanese 14th Army, led by Gen. Masaharu Homma, had already forced Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s troops from Manila, the Philippine capital, into Bataan. By March, after MacArthur had left for Australia on President Roosevelt’s orders and was replaced by Maj. Gen. Edward P. King Jr., the American Luzon Force and its Filipino allies were half-starved and suffering from malnutrition, malaria, beriberi, dysentery, and hookworm. Homma, helped by reinforcements and an increase in artillery and aircraft activity, took advantage of the U.S. and Filipinos’ weakened condition to launch another major offensive, which resulted in Admiral King’s surrender on April 9. The largest contingent of U.S. soldiers ever to surrender was taken captive by the Japanese. The prisoners, both Filipino and American, were at once led 55 miles from Mariveles, on the southern end of the Bataan Peninsula, to San Fernando. The torturous journey became known as the “Bataan Death March.” At least 600 Americans and 5,000 Filipinos died because of the extreme brutality of their captors, who starved, beat, kicked, and bayoneted those too weak to walk. Survivors were taken by rail from San Fernando to prisoner of war camps, where another 16,000 Filipinos and at least 1,000 Americans died from disease, mistreatment, and starvation. America avenged its defeat in the Philippines generally, and Bataan specifically, with the invasion of Leyte Island in October 1944. General MacArthur, who in 1942 had famously promised to return to the Philippines, made good on his word. With the help of the U.S. Navy, which succeeded in destroying the Japanese fleet and left Japanese garrisons on the Philippine Islands without reinforcements, the Army defeated adamantine Japanese resistance. In January 1945, MacArthur was given control of all American land forces in the Pacific. On January 9, 1945, U.S. forces sealed off the Bataan Peninsula in the north; on February 16, the 8th Army occupied the southern tip of Bataan, as MacArthur drew closer to Manila and the complete recapture of the Philippines.
1945 – US Task Force 58, part of US 5th Fleet (Spruance), with 12 fleet carriers and 4 light carriers, conducts air raids on Tokyo. The aircraft carriers are escorted by 8 battleships, 15 cruisers and 83 destroyers as well as numerous support ships.
1945 – US Task Force 54 (Admiral Rodgers), with 5 cruisers and 16 destroyers, as well as the 10 escort carriers of TF52 begin the preliminary bombardment of Iwo Jima. Poor weather limits the effectiveness of the activity.
1951 – In a statement focusing on the situation in Korea, Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin charges that the United Nations has become “a weapon of aggressive war.” He also suggested that although a world war was not inevitable “at the present time,” “warmongers” in the West might trigger such a conflict. Stalin’s comments in response to queries from the Soviet newspaper Pravda were his first public statements about the nearly year-old conflict in Korea, in which the United States, South Korea, and other member nations of the United Nations were arrayed against forces of North Korea and communist China. Coming just over two weeks after the U.N. General Assembly’s resolution condemning China as an aggressor, Stalin’s statement turned the tables by declaring that the United Nations was “burying its moral prestige and dooming itself to disintegration.” He warned that Western “warmongers,” through their aggressive posture in Korea, would “manage to entangle the popular masses in lies, deceive them, and drag them into a new world war.” In any event, he confidently predicted that Chinese forces in Korea would be victorious because the armies opposing them lacked morale and dedication to the war. Despite the rather blistering tone of Stalin’s words, Western observers were not unduly alarmed. Stalin’s attacks on Western “aggression” were familiar, and some officials in Washington took comfort in the premier’s assertion that a world war was not inevitable “at the present time.” Indeed, there was some feeling that Stalin’s denouncement of the United Nations’ actions was actually a veiled call for negotiations through the auspices of that body. Stalin’s comments, and the intense scrutiny they were subjected to in the West, were more evidence that in the Cold War, the “war of words” was almost as significant as any actual fighting.
1951 – The 861-day naval siege of Wonsan began. This was one of the largest blockade and bombardment efforts ever initiated by the U.S. Navy.
1951 – The U.S. Army began using the L-19 Bird Dog for forward air control, artillery spotting and other front-line duties.
1952 – The FBI arrested 10 members of the Ku Klux Klan in North Carolina.
1953 – Marine Corps Captain Ted Williams, future baseball hall of famer, had his F9F Panther jet fighter badly crippled by anti-aircraft fire. Rather than ditch the aircraft, Captain Williams opted to return to base, an action that required exceptional skill and daring. He received the Air Medal for his actions. Williams walked away from the wheels-up landing.
1953 – Air Force Captain Joseph C. McConnell, Jr., 51st Fighter-Interceptor Wing, flying his F-86 “Beauteous Butch” shot down his fifth MiG. The delayed confirmation of the kill resulted in him being recognized as the 27th ace of the war rather than the 26th.
1957 – A U.S. flag flew over an outpost in Wilkes Land, Antarctica.
1960 – The U.S. Navy submarine USS Triton begins Operation Sandblast, setting sail from New London, Connecticut, to begin the first submerged circumnavigation of the globe.
1961 – The United States launched the “Explorer Nine” satellite.1965 – Four persons were held in a plot to blow up the Statue of Liberty, Liberty Bell and the Washington Monument.
1967 – Operation River Raider begins in Mekong Delta.
1968 – U.S. officials report that, in addition to the 800,000 people listed as refugees prior to January 30, the fighting during the Tet Offensive has created 350,000 new refugees. The communist attack known as the Tet Offensive had begun at dawn on January 31, the first day of the Tet holiday truce. Viet Cong forces, supported by large numbers of North Vietnamese troops, launched the largest and best-coordinated offensive of the war, driving into the centers of South Vietnam’s seven largest cities and attacking 30 provincial capitals ranging from the Delta to the DMZ. Among the cities taken during the first four days of the offensive were Hue, Dalat, Kontum, and Quang Tri; in the north, all five provincial capitals were overrun. At the same time, enemy forces shelled numerous Allied airfields and bases. In Saigon, a 19-man Viet Cong suicide squad seized the U.S. Embassy and held it for six hours until an assault force of U.S. paratroopers landed by helicopter on the building’s roof and routed them. Nearly 1,000 Viet Cong were believed to have infiltrated Saigon and it required a week of intense fighting by an estimated 11,000 U.S. and South Vietnamese troops to dislodge them. By February 10, the offensive was largely crushed, but with a cost of heavy casualties on both sides. Militarily, Tet was decidedly an Allied victory, but psychologically and politically, it was a disaster. The offensive was a crushing military defeat for the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese, but the size and scope of the communist attacks had caught the American and South Vietnamese allies completely by surprise. The early reporting of a smashing communist victory went largely uncorrected in the media and led to a psychological victory for the communists. The heavy U.S. and South Vietnamese casualties incurred during the offensive–and the disillusionment over the early, overly optimistic reports of progress in the war–accelerated the growing disenchantment with President Lyndon B. Johnson’s conduct of the war.
1978 – The first computer bulletin board system is created.
1988 – 1st documented combat action by US military “advisers” in El Salvador.
1989 – Investigators in Lockerbie, Scotland, said a bomb hidden inside a radio-cassette player was what brought down Pan Am Flight 103 the previous December, killing all 259 people aboard and 11 on the ground.
1990 – Former President Reagan began two days of giving a videotaped deposition in Los Angeles for the Iran-Contra trial of former national security adviser John Poindexter.
1999 – Turkish commandos captured Abdullah Ocalan in Kenya. Enraged Kurds seized Greek missions around Europe and took hostages. It was later reported that US data helped the Turks capture Ocalan.
2001 – Two dozen US and British aircraft bombed 5 radar and other anti-aircraft sites around Baghdad with guided missiles. A number of new guided bombs, AGM-154A priced from $250-700k, missed their targets.
2002 – In Afghanistan US forces made bombing raids aimed at controlling clashes among militia forces. Pentagon officials later said the attacks were against suspected al Qaeda fighters.
2003 – French President Jacques Chirac said in a published interview that the massive US military deployment in the Persian Gulf has made it possible to peacefully disarm Iraq.
2003 – NATO officials say a deal has been struck on the plans for Turkey’s defense in case of a war with Iraq. Germany and Belgium drop their objections in return for guarantees that sending surveillance planes and missile batteries to Turkey did not mean war.
2006 – The last Mobile Army Surgical Hospital (MASH) is decommissioned by the United States Army. The Mobile Army Surgical Hospital (MASH) refers to a United States Army medical unit serving as a fully functional hospital in a combat area of operations. The units were first established in August 1945, and were deployed during the Korean War and later conflicts. The successor to the Mobile Army Surgical Hospital is the Combat Support Hospital.
2007 – Abdul Tawala Ibn Ali Alishtari is charged in New York, New York with financing terrorism and material support of terrorism for allegedly passing on money for a training camp in Afghanistan. Alishtari, also known as Michael Mixon, is a former bank underwriter and resident of Ardsley, New York, convicted, April 10, 2010, in Manhattan federal court. Alishtari was sentenced to 121 months in prison.
2011 – Abduwali Muse, a Somali pirate, is sentenced to almost 34 years in prison in the United States for his role in attempting to hijack the MV Maersk Alabama.
2012 – Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the so-called “underwear bomber”, is sentenced to life imprisonment for attempting to detonate a bomb on Northwest Airlines Flight 253 in the US city of Detroit, Michigan.

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