This Day in U.S. Military History…… February 19

19 February
1674 – Netherlands and England signed the Peace of Westminster. NYC became English.
1688 – Governor Edmund Andros suggests to the English crown that New York annex the territory of New Jersey.
1803 – Congress voted to accept Ohio’s borders and constitution. However, Congress did not get around to formally ratifying Ohio statehood until 1953.
1807 – Aaron Burr, a former U.S. vice president, is arrested in Alabama on charges of plotting to annex Spanish territory in Louisiana and Mexico to be used toward the establishment of an independent republic. In November 1800, in an election conducted before presidential and vice-presidential candidates shared a single ticket, Thomas Jefferson and his running mate, Aaron Burr, defeated Federalist incumbent John Adams with 73 electoral votes each. The tie vote then went to the House to be decided, and Federalist Alexander Hamilton was instrumental in breaking the deadlock in Jefferson’s favor. Burr, because he finished second, became vice president. During the next few years, President Jefferson grew apart from his vice president and did not support Burr’s renomination to a second term in 1804. A faction of the Federalists, who had found their fortunes drastically diminished after the ascendance of Jefferson, sought to enlist the disgruntled Burr into their party. However, Alexander Hamilton opposed such a move and was quoted by a New York newspaper saying that he “looked upon Mr. Burr to be a dangerous man, and one who ought not to be trusted with the reins of government.” The article also referred to occasions when Hamilton had expressed an even “more despicable opinion of Burr.” Burr demanded an apology, Hamilton refused, so Burr challenged his old political antagonist to a duel. On July 11, 1804, the pair met at a remote spot in Weehawken, New Jersey. Hamilton, whose son was killed in a duel three years earlier, deliberately fired into the air, but Burr fired with intent to kill. Hamilton, fatally wounded, died in New York City the next day. The questionable circumstances of Hamilton’s death effectively brought Burr’s political career to an end. Fleeing to Virginia, he traveled to New Orleans after finishing his term as vice president and met with U.S. General James Wilkinson, who was an agent for the Spanish. The exact nature of what the two plotted is unknown, but speculation ranges from the establishment of an independent republic in the American Southwest to the seizure of territory in Spanish America for the same purpose. In the fall of 1806, Burr led a group of well-armed colonists toward New Orleans, prompting an immediate investigation by U.S. authorities. General Wilkinson, in an effort to save himself, turned against Burr and sent dispatches to Washington accusing Burr of treason. On February 19, 1807, Burr was arrested in Alabama for treason and sent to Richmond, Virginia, to be tried in a U.S. circuit court. On September 1, 1807, he was acquitted on the grounds that, although he had conspired against the United States, he was not guilty of treason because he had not engaged in an “overt act,” a requirement of treason as specified by the U.S. Constitution. Nevertheless, public opinion condemned him as a traitor, and he spent several years in Europe before returning to New York and resuming his law practice.
1814 – USS Constitution captures British brig Catherine
1821 – Union General Francis Preston Blair, Jr., is born in Lexington, Kentucky. The colorful Blair was instrumental in keeping Missouri part of the Union during the early stages of the Civil War. Blair’s father had served as an advisor to several presidents. His namesake and youngest son was privileged and rebellious as a youth. As a college student, the younger Blair was expelled from the University of North Carolina and Yale for misconduct. He finally finished his degree at Princeton, but he was denied graduation for participating in a wild party in his final week. The degree was bestowed a year later after an influential friend intervened on his behalf. Blair studied law in Kentucky and began to practice in Missouri with his brother, Montgomery, who would later serve as Postmaster General under Abraham Lincoln. During the 1850s, Francis ran an anti-slave newspaper in St. Louis and served in the Missouri legislature. He was elected to Congress in 1856. Blair was deeply opposed to the extension of slavery, even though he owned a few slaves himself. His stance led to his defeat for reelection in 1858. In 1860, Blair campaigned for Abraham Lincoln and regained his Congressional seat. When the war erupted, he organized Missouri’s Unionist forces and helped save the Federal arsenal in St. Louis from the Confederates. Blair personally organized seven regiments from Missouri. He became a brigadier general, winning the respect of his superiors, Generals Ulysses S. Grant and William T. Sherman. Blair commanded a corps during Sherman’s March to the Sea in 1864. After the war, Blair served in the U.S. Senate, but a stroke ended his political career. He died in 1875.
1831 – The 1st practical US coal-burning locomotive made its 1st trial run in Penn.
1845 – Lighthouse establishment transferred to Revenue Marine Bureau. Metal buoys were first put into service. They were riveted iron barrels that replaced the older wooden stave construction.
1846 – In Austin, Texas the newly formed Texas state government is officially installed. The Republic of Texas government officially transfers power to the State of Texas government following the annexation of Texas by the United States.
1847 – The first group of rescuers, troops from Fort Suttler commanded by Col John C. Fremont, reaches the Donner Party.
1859 – Daniel E. Sickles, NY congressman, was acquitted of murder on grounds of temporary insanity. This was the 1st time this defense was successfully used. Sickles had shot and killed Philip Barton Key, son of Francis Scott Key, author of “Star Spangled Banner.” He shot Key, the DC district attorney, in Lafayette Square for having an affair with his wife. Sickles pleaded temporary insanity and the sanctity of a man’s home and beat the murder rap.
1862 – Confederates evacuated Clarksville, Tennessee. Colonel W. H. Allen, CSA, reported to General Floyd: ”Gunboats are coming; they are just below point; can see steamer here. Will try and see how many troops they have before I leave. Lieutenant Brady set bridge on fire, but it is burning very slowly and will probably go out before it falls.” Asking in a postscript that any orders for him be sent “promptly,” Allen noted that “I will have to go in a hurry when I go.” Union forces under Flag Officer Foote occupied Fort Defiance and took possession of the town. Foote urged an immediate move on Nashville and notified Army headquarters in Cairo: “The Cumberland is in a good stage of water and General Grant and I believe we can take Nashville.”
1862 – Trial run of two-gun ironclad U.S.S. Monitor in New York harbor. Chief Engineer Alban C. Stimers, USN, reported on the various difficulties that were presented during the trial run of Monitor and concluded that her speed would be approximately 6 knots, “though Captain Ericsson feels confident of 8.”
1862 – Congress authorized cutters to enforce law forbidding importation of Chinese “coolie” labor.
1865 – The Confederate steamer A. H. Schultz, used as a flag-of-truce vessel to carry exchange prisoners between Richmond and the Varina vicinity on the James River and as a transport by the Southern forces below the Confederate capital, was destroyed by a torpedo near Chaffin’s Bluff on the James River. Ironically, she met the fate intended for a Union ship. The torpedo was one laid by Lieutenant Beverly Kennon of the Torpedo Service that had drifted from its original position. When torpedoed, Schultz was returning to Richmond after delivering more than 400 Federal prisoners; because of an administrative error, there were no Confederate prisoners ready to be taken on board at Varina. Thus, the loss of life was considerably minimized. Had the steamer struck the torpedo going downriver or picked up the Southern soldiers to be exchanged as expected, the casualties might well have been frightful.
1866 – Congress passes the New Freedman’s Bureau bill, providing for military trials for people accused of depriving African-American’s of their civil rights. It extended the existence of the Bureau to July, 1868; it authorized additional assistant commissioners, the retention of army officers mustered out of regular service, the sale of certain forfeited lands to freedmen on nominal terms, the sale of Confederate public property for Negro schools, and a wider field of judicial interpretation and cognizance. The government of the unreconstructed South was thus put very largely in the hands of the Freedmen’s Bureau, especially as in many cases the departmental military commander was now made also assistant commissioner.
1917 – American troops are recalled from the Mexican border to prepare for possible deployment to Europe. General Pershing has already been ordered off the hunt for Panco Villa.
1934 – President Franklin D. Roosevelt issues an Executive Order canceling existing air-mail contracts because of fraud and collusion. The Army Air Corps is designated to take over airmail operations.
1941 – Coast Guard Reserve established. Auxiliary created from former Reserve.
1942 – Ten weeks after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs Executive Order 9066, authorizing the removal of any or all people from military areas “as deemed necessary or desirable.” The military in turn defined the entire West Coast, home to the majority of Americans of Japanese ancestry or citizenship, as a military area. By June, more than 110,000 Japanese Americans were relocated to remote internment camps built by the U.S. military in scattered locations around the country. For the next two and a half years, many of these Japanese Americans endured extremely difficult living conditions and poor treatment by their military guards. On December 17, 1944, U.S. Major General Henry C. Pratt issued Public Proclamation No. 21, declaring that, effective January 2, 1945, Japanese-American “evacuees” from the West Coast could return to their homes. During the course of World War II, 10 Americans were convicted of spying for Japan, but not one of them was of Japanese ancestry. In 1988, President Ronald Reagan signed a bill to recompense each surviving internee with a tax-free check for $20,000 and an apology from the U.S. government.
1942 – General Dwight D. Eisenhower, is appointed chief of the War Plans Division of the US Army General Staff.
1942 – Port Darwin, on the northern coast of Australia, was bombed by about 150 Japanese warplanes. General George C. Kenney, who pioneered aerial warfare strategy and tactics in the Pacific theater, ordered 3,000 parafrag bombs to be sent to Australia, where he thought they might come in handy against the Japanese. Darwin was virtually leveled by 64 bombing raids over 21 months.
1943 – The Axis offensive is renewed with the objective of Le Kef. There are two wings to the assault. The German 15th Panzer Division attacks from Kasserine toward Thala. The 21st Panzer Division, having already advanced beyond Sbeitla, strikes toward Sbiba. The Allied command has anticipated such moves and both mountain passes are well defended. Among the Axis leadership, Rommel has proposed aiming for Tebessa instead of Le Kef and he has had elements of 10th Panzer Division placed under his command.
1943 – On Guadalcanal American reinforcements arrive as part of the buildup for the next offensive move to the Russell Islands. These islands are now reported abandoned by the Japanese.
1944 – The U.S. Eighth Air Force and Royal Air Force began “Big Week,” a series of heavy bomber attacks against German aircraft production facilities.
1944 – The Anzio beachhead becomes stabilized. Neither sides plans significant attacks at this time. To the south, there is a lull in the fighting along the Gustav Line.
1944 – Fighting continues on Engebi in the Eniwetok Atoll. Americans land on Eniwetok in regimental strength. There is heavy Japanese resistance, in spite of massive preparatory bombardments.
1945 – On Iwo Jima, 2 divisions of the US 5th Amphibious Corps are landed in Operation Detachment. Before the landing the bombardment groups already deployed are joined by 2 battleships, several cruisers and destroyers from US Task Force 58. The initial assault forces are from US 4th and 5th Marine Divisions with 3rd Marines in reserve. They are carried transported by TF53 (Admiral Hill) and land on the southeast of the island. About 30,000 men go ashore on the first day. The Japanese garrison of about 21,000 troops, commanded by General Kuribayashi, have prepared exceptionally elaborate and tough defenses so that the eight square miles of the island is completely fortified. The Americans realize that the island is well defended since it is part of metropolitan Japan. However, the island is strategically important because it is within fighter range of Tokyo. By controlling the airfields here, American B-29 bombers flying from the Mariana Islands can be escorted. Coast Guard units that participated in this bloody campaign included the Coast Guard-manned USS Bayfield, Callaway, 14 LSTs and the PC-469. Three of the LSTs were struck by enemy shore fire: LST-792, LST-758, and LST-760.
1945 – There are American landings on the northwest islands of Samar and Capul. No Japanese resistance is encountered.
1952 – In the Korean War, both sides agreed to recommend that a political conference to settle the Korean War should be held within three months of an armistice.
1959 – A USAF rocket-powered rail sled attained Mach 4.1 (4970 kph) in NM.
1963 – The Soviet Union informed President Kennedy it would withdraw “several thousand” of an estimated 17,000 Soviet troops in Cuba.
1965 – Dissident officers move several battalions of troops into Saigon on this day with the intention of ousting Gen. Nguyen Khanh from leadership. General Khanh escaped to Dalat with the aid of Air Vice Marshal Nguyen Cao Ky, commander of the South Vietnamese Air Force, who then threatened to bomb Saigon and the Tan Son Nhut Airport unless the rebel troops were withdrawn. Ky was dissuaded from this by Gen. William Westmoreland, Commander of U.S. Military Assistance Command Vietnam, who told Ky that more political instability might have a negative impact on continued U.S. aid. Khanh was able to get troops to take over from the insurgents without any resistance on February 20. Meanwhile, Ky met with the dissident officers and agreed to their demand for the dismissal of Khanh. On February 21, the Armed Forces Council dismissed Khanh as chairman and as commander of the armed forces. General Lam Van Phat replaced him. The next day, Khanh announced that he had accepted the council’s decision, after which he was appointed a “roving ambassador,” assigned first to go to the United Nations and present evidence that the war in South Vietnam was being directed from Hanoi by the North Vietnamese.
1966 – Robert F. Kennedy suggested the U.S. offer the Vietcong a role in governing South Vietnam.
1976 – Executive Order 9066, which led to the relocation of Japanese Americans to internment camps, is rescinded by President Gerald R. Ford’s Proclamation 4417.
1981 – The U.S. government releases a report detailing how the “insurgency in El Salvador has been progressively transformed into a textbook case of indirect armed aggression by communist powers.” The report was another step indicating that the new administration of Ronald Reagan was prepared to take strong measures against what it perceived to be the communist threat to Central America. When the Reagan administration took office in 1981, it faced two particularly serious problems in Central America. In Nicaragua, the Reagan administration was worried about the Sandinista regime, a leftist government that took power in 1979 after the fall of long-time dictator Anastacio Somoza. In El Salvador, the administration was concerned about a growing civil war between government forces and leftist rebels. Brutal violence on the part of the Salvadoran military–offenses that included the 1980 rape and murder of four U.S. missionaries–had caused the Jimmy Carter administration to cut off aid to the country. In both nations, Reagan officials were convinced that the Soviet Union was the catalyst for the troubles. To address the situation in Nicaragua, the Reagan administration began to covertly assist the so-called Contras-rebel forces that opposed the Sandinista regime and were based primarily in Honduras and Costa Rica. For El Salvador, the February 19 report was the first volley. The State Department memorandum indicated that the “political direction, organization and arming of the Salvadoran insurgency is coordinated and heavily influenced by Cuba with the active support of the Soviet Union, East Germany, Vietnam and other communist states.” It thereupon provided a “chronology” of the communist involvement in El Salvador. In response to this perceived threat, the United States dramatically increased its military assistance to the government of El Salvador, provided U.S. advisors to the Salvadoran armed forces, and began a series of National Guard “training exercises” in and around El Salvador. To no one’s surprise, the conflict in El Salvador escalated quickly and charges of torture, kidnapping, and assassination flew from both sides of the civil war. During the 1980s, U.S. military assistance to El Salvador topped nearly $5 billion, but the violence and instability continued unabated. In 1992, the United Nations and President Oscar Arias of Costa Rica arbitrated an agreement between the warring factions in El Salvador. A U.N. commission also condemned U.S. complicity in atrocities committed by the Salvadoran military. President George Bush (who served as Reagan’s vice-president in the previous administration) discounted the U.N. accusations, but claimed that peace in El Salvador was the product of a vigorous U.S. response to communist subversion in the western hemisphere.
1986 – The U.S. Senate approved a treaty outlawing genocide, 37 years after the pact had first been submitted for ratification.
1987 – President Ronald Reagan lifts trade sanctions against Poland when the Communist government releases political prisoners.
1988 – A group calling itself the “Organization of the Oppressed on Earth” claimed responsibility for the kidnapping in Lebanon of U.S. Marine Lt. Col. William R. Higgins. This group is a pseudonym for or a splinter of Hizbollah, a radical Shia group formed in Lebanon; dedicated to creation of Iranian-style Islamic republic in Lebanon and removal of all non-Islamic influences from area. Strongly anti-Western and anti-Israeli. Closely allied with, and often directed by Iran.
1988 – The CGC Mallow made the largest drug bust in Hawaiian waters to date. The Mallow, the Navy fast frigate USS Ouellet with a Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachment from the USCGC Jarvis, and an AIRSTA Barbers Point HC-130 tracked the 160-foot Panamanian-flagged freighter Christina M 800 miles southeast of Hawaii. A boarding team from Mallow discovered 454 55-pound bales of marijuana aboard. The freighter was seized and her crew of eight arrested.
1990 – Defense Secretary Dick Cheney, snubbed by Philippine President Corazon Aquino, met in Manila with Defense Minister Fidel Ramos to discuss the future of U.S. bases in the country.
1992 – Former Irish Republican Army member Joseph Doherty was deported from the United States to Northern Ireland following a 10-year battle for political asylum.
1994 – With Bosnian Serbs facing a NATO deadline to withdraw heavy weapons encircling Sarajevo or face air strikes, President Clinton delivered an address from the Oval Office reaffirming the ultimatum.
1996 – In New York, the United Nations and Iraq end almost two weeks of negotiations over Iraq’s possible sale of $1 billion of oil. Concurrent with the talks, Iraqi and Turkish officials meet to determine the status of the 1.6-million b/d Iraq-Turkey pipeline, through which a majority of the oil exports would flow. The UN-Iraq talks, which end without a decision, are scheduled to restart in March 1996.
1998 – U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan set out for Iraq on a last-chance peace mission, saying he was “reasonably optimistic” about ending the standoff over weapons inspections without the use of force.
1999 – President Clinton posthumously pardoned Henry O. Flipper, the first black graduate of West Point, whose military career was tarnished by a racially motivated discharge. At West Point, he was ostracized by white cadets. After graduation, he commanded black frontier troops, known as Buffalo Soldiers, with distinction. White officers who wanted to punish him for his friendship with a white woman, framed him and he was charged with embezzling several thousand dollars while serving as quartermaster at Fort Davis, Texas. Flipper was cleared of theft but found guilty of conduct unbecoming an officer for lying to his commanding officer and trying to cover up the missing money. His military career ended in disgrace with a dishonorable discharge. As a civilian, Flipper prospered. He was a mining engineer and an accomplished linguist who translated documents relating to Spanish land grants. He became a newspaper editor, an assistant to the Secretary of the Interior and an essayist with surprisingly conservative views. But his lifelong efforts to remove the stain on his record were unavailing and he was buried in an unmarked grave in Atlanta. The army did not yield until 1976, when his discharge was upgraded to honorable, but his conviction was not overturned. His body was exhumed and moved to his home town of Thomasville in Georgia, where he was buried with military honors.
2002 – A suit was filed on behalf of 3 detainees, one Australian and 2 British citizens, held at Guantanamo, Cuba.
2002 – Italian authorities arrested 4 Moroccans in Rome, members of the Salafist Group for Call and Combat. Maps were found of the US Embassy, small quantities of cyanide, and a map of the city’s water system.
2002 – NASA’s Mars Odyssey space probe begins to map the surface of Mars using its thermal emission imaging system.
2002 – It was reported that Pakistan had begun disbanding the Afghan and Kashmir units of its Inter-Services Intelligence agency.
2003 – In Germany Mounir el Motassadeq (28) was sentenced to the maximum 15 years in prison for helping the Hamburg-based al-Qaida terror cell in the 9/11 attacks on the US.
2003 – NATO approved the deployment of defense equipment to Turkey in the event of a war in Iraq. Turkey and the US failed again to agree on the size of an economic aid package.
2004 – A Japanese consortium announced it will develop an Iranian oil field with reserves of up to 26 billion barrels. The deal was opposed by the United States because of fears the money could go to nuclear proliferation.
2005 – The $3.2 billion USS Jimmy Carter entered the Navy’s fleet as the most heavily armed submarine ever built, and as the last of the Seawolf class of attack subs that the Pentagon ordered during the Cold War’s final years.
2007 – The U.S. moves forward with plans to base a missile shield for National Missile Defense in the Czech Republic and Poland. In response, Russian officials have claimed they may target the two Eastern European countries. The Russians also claimed they could pull out of the 1987 Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. The plan will eventually be abandoned by the Obama administration.
2011 – The SY Quest, a luxury yacht, was captured by nineteen pirates in a mothership, 190 to 240 miles off the coast of Oman at approximately 18°00′N 61°02′E in the Indian Ocean. Pirates then tried sailing the SY Quest towards Puntland. Sometime thereafter the aircraft carrier Enterprise, the guided missile cruiser USS Leyte Gulf and the guided missile destroyers USS Sterett and USS Bulkeley were sent to the area and arrived several days later on or about 21 February. Captain Dee Mewbourne, of the Enterprise, then proceeded with opening negotiations with the pirates, at which time two Somalis went aboard the Sterett. On the following morning, 22 February, while negotiations were still taking place, a pirate aboard the SY Quest fired a rocket propelled grenade at the Sterett from 600 yards away but it missed. Almost immediately afterward gunfire was heard aboard the yacht so a boarding party was sent in on a raft and they boarded the SY Quest. A brief skirmish occurred resulting in the deaths of two pirates, one by rifle fire and the other by a combat knife. Thirteen pirates surrendered in the process and were taken into custody. After boarding, the American navy personnel discovered Phyllis Macay and Robert Riggle, of Seattle, Washington and the SY Quest’s owners, Jean and Scott Adam of Marina del Rey, California. All four of the captives had been wounded by gunfire so navy corpsmen attempted to provide medical assistance but were unsuccessful. On 8 July 2013 Ahmed Muse Salad, a/k/a “Afmagalo,” 27, Abukar Osman Beyle, 33, and Shani Nurani Shiekh Abrar, 31; those who actually killed the 4 hostages; were found guilty of piracy, murder within the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States, violence against maritime navigation, conspiracy to commit violence against maritime navigation resulting in death, kidnapping resulting in death, conspiracy to commit kidnapping, hostage taking resulting in death, conspiracy to commit hostage taking resulting in death and multiple firearms offenses. All three were sentenced in November 2013 and all received 21 life sentences, 19 consecutive life sentences and 2 concurrent life sentences, and 30 years consecutive confinement.
2013 – NASA loses direct contact with the International Space Station due to an equipment failure. Communications are restored three hours later.

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