1521 – Ponce de Leon set sail form Puerto Rico with 200 men to colonize Florida. Landing, probably at Charlotte Harbor, de Leon was wounded in an attack by the natives and the group returned to Cub where de Leon died.
1725 – In the American colonies, a posse of New Hampshire volunteers comes across a band of encamped Native Americans and takes 10 “scalps” in the first significant appropriation of this Native American practice by European colonists. The posse received a bounty of 100 pounds per scalp from the colonial authorities in Boston. Although the custom of “scalping” was once practiced in Europe and Asia, it is generally associated with North American native groups. In scalping, the skin around the crown of the head was cut and removed from the enemy’s skull, usually causing death. In addition to its value as a war trophy, a scalp was often believed to bestow the possessor with the powers of the scalped enemy. In their early wars with Native Americans, European colonists of North America retaliated against hostile native groups by adopting their practice of scalp taking. Bounties were offered for them by colonial authorities, which in turn led to an escalation of intertribal warfare and scalping in North America.
1726 – William Prescott, U.S. Revolutionary War hero at the Battle of Bunker Hill, is born. Prescott inherited a large estate and resided in Pepperell, Massachusetts. In 1755, he served as a lieutenant and captain in the provincial army under General John Winslow in an expedition against Nova Scotia. His success in that campaign attracted Winslow’s attention, and he offered Prescott a commission in the regular army. Prescott declined and retired to his estate after the war. In 1774, he was appointed to command a regiment of minutemen, with which he marched to Lexington to oppose British General Gage’s forces. Before Prescott arrived at Lexington, however, the British had retreated, so he joined the provincial army in Cambridge. In 1775, he was sent to Charlestown with 1,000 men, and saw action at the Battle of Bunker Hill, actually fought on Breed’s Hill. An advisor of General Gates said of him, “that is Col. Prescott – he is an old soldier, and will fight as long as a drop of blood remains in his veins.” During the course of the battle, Prescott reportedly shouted to the Continental troops, “don’t fire until you see the whites of their eyes.” After the battle, which ended with a British victory with heavy casualties, Prescott returned to his estate. He became a representative in the Massachusetts legislature and served for several years. A statue of Prescott was erected on Bunker Hill in 1881.
1755 – English General Edward Braddock, accompanied by two regiments of English troops, arrived in Virginia to assume the post of commander-in-chief of all the English forces in the American colonies. He arranges a conference of the royal governors of Maryland, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, New York, and Virginia in Alexandria, Virginia. The agenda is to develop a strategy for attacks on French positions at Crown Point, Dusquene, Niagra and Nova Scotia.
1792 – The Postal Service Act, establishing the United States Post Office Department, is signed by President George Washington.
1809 – The Supreme Court ruled the power of the federal government is greater than that of any individual state.
1815 – USS Constitution, under Captain Charles Stewart, captures HMS Cyane and sloop-of-war Levant.
1839 – Congress prohibited dueling in the District of Columbia.
1861 – The Confederacy Dept. of Navy formed.
1864 – In the largest battle fought in Florida during the Civil War, a Confederate force under General Joseph Finegan decisively defeats an army commanded by General Truman Seymour. The victory kept the Confederates in control of Florida’s interior for the rest of the war. Olustee was the climax to a Union invasion of Florida a few weeks before. General Quincy Gilmore, commander of the Union’s Department of the South, dispatched Seymour to Jacksonville on February 7. Seymour’s troops secured the town and began to send cavalry raiders inland to Lake City and Gainesville. Just behind the troops came John Hay, private secretary to President Lincoln. Hay began issuing loyalty oaths to residents in an effort to form a new, Republican state government in time to send delegates to the 1864 party convention. Under the president’s plan of reconstruction, a new state government could be formed when 10 percent of the state’s prewar voting population had taken a loyalty oath. Seymour began moving towards Lake City, west of Jacksonville, to destroy a railroad bridge and secure northern Florida. Finegan possessed only 500 men at Lake City, but reinforcements were arriving. By the time the two sides began to skirmish near the railroad station of Olustee, each side had about 5,000 troops. Throughout the day on February 20, a pitched battle raged. The Confederates were close to breaking the Yankee lines when they ran low on ammunition. When more cartridges arrived, the attack continued. By late afternoon, Seymour realized the fight was lost and he began to retreat. The Yankees suffered 1,800 killed, wounded, or captured, while the Confederates lost about 900 men. It was one of the highest casualty rates of the war for the Union. The battle did disrupt the flow of supplies from Florida to other Confederate armies, but it failed to bring about a new state government. Most of Florida remained in Confederate hands until the end of the war.
1865 – Following the evacuation of Fort Anderson, Rear Admiral Porter’s gunboats steamed seven miles up the Cape Fear River to the Big Island shallows and the piling obstructions and engaged Fort Strong’s five guns. Ship’s boats swept the river for mines ahead of the fleet’s advance. On the night of the 20th, the Confederates released 200 floating torpedoes, which were -avoided with great difficulty and kept the boat crews engaged in sweeping throughout the hours of darkness. Although many of the gunboats safely swept up torpedoes with their nets, U.S.S. Osceola, Commander]. M. B. Clita, received hull damage and lost a paddle wheel box by an explosion. Another torpedo destroyed a boat from U.S.S. Shawmut, inflicting four casualties.
1869 – Tenn. Gov. W.C. Brownlow declared martial law in Ku Klux Klan crisis.
1889 – The Maritime Canal Company of Nicaragua is incorporated by Congress to build and operate a canal across that country. Work is set to begin 22 October, 1889.
1901 – The legislature of Hawaii Territory convenes for the first time. The Territory of Hawaii or Hawaii Territory was an organized incorporated territory of the United States that existed from July 7, 1898, until August 21, 1959, when its territory was admitted to the Union as the fiftieth U.S. state, the State of Hawaii.
1915 – President Wilson opened the Panama -Pacific Expo in San Francisco to celebrate the opening of the Panama Canal. The Panama -Pacific Int’l. Exhibition was held on what became the Marina and 300,000 people attended opening day. 60,000 pavilions with exhibits from 41 nations, 43 states and 3 US territories were featured. Herb Caen claimed to have been conceived in this year during the expo. A 40 -ton organ with 7,000 pipes played the “Hallelujah Chorus.” It was made by the Austin Organs Co. of Hartford, Conn. After the fair it was moved to the Civic Auditorium and used for 7 decades until the 1989 earthquake damaged it.
1933 – The Congress of the United States proposes the Twenty-first Amendment to the United States Constitution that will end Prohibition in the United States.
1941 – The U.S. sent war planes to the Pacific. General George C. Kenney pioneered aerial warfare strategy and tactics in the Pacific theater.
1942 – Franklin D. Roosevelt authorized the internment of Japanese Americans on the West Coast.
1942 – Japanese drive off a carrier based task force led by the American aircraft carrier Lexington which attempts to attack Rabaul.
1942 – Lt. Edward O’Hare takes off from the aircraft carrier Lexington in a raid against the Japanese position at Rabaul-and minutes later becomes America’s first flying ace. In mid-February 1942, the Lexington sailed into the Coral Sea. Rabaul, a town at the very tip of New Britain, one of the islands that comprised the Bismarck Archipelago, had been invaded in January by the Japanese and transformed into a stronghold–in fact, one huge airbase. The Japanese were now in prime striking position for the Solomon Islands, next on the agenda for expanding their ever-growing Pacific empire. The Lexington’s mission was to destabilize the Japanese position on Rabaul with a bombing raid. Aboard the Lexington was U.S. Navy fighter pilot Lt. Edward O’Hare, attached to Fighting Squadron 3 when the United States entered the war. As the Lexington left Bougainville, the largest of the Solomon Islands in the South Pacific (and still free from Japanese control), for Rabaul, ship radar picked up Japanese bombers headed straight for the carrier. O’Hare and his team went into action, piloting F4F Wildcats. In a mere four minutes, O’Hare shot down five Japanese G4M1 Betty bombers–bringing a swift end to the Japanese attack and earning O’Hare the designation “ace” (given to any pilot who had five or more downed enemy planes to his credit). Although the Lexington blew back the Japanese bombers, the element of surprise was gone, and the attempt to raid Rabaul was aborted for the time being. O’Hare was awarded the Medal of Honor for his bravery–and excellent aim.
1943 – British and American units hold the German attack on Sbiba. Among the defending units is the British Guards Brigade. The attack through the Kasserine Pass, is initially held as well. However, the elements of the German 15th Panzer Division attacking here are reinforced with elements of the 10th Panzer Division and break through the Allied defenses. The British 26th Armored Brigade is moved up to resist the German breakthrough; nonetheless, the German forces advance to within 10 miles of Thala.
1943 – American movie studio executives agree to allow the Office of War Information to censor movies.
1944 – American carrier aircraft from Task Group 58.1 (Admiral Reeves) attack Japanese targets in Jaluit Atoll. The fighting on Eniwetok continues. The nearby island of Parry is shelled by US naval forces.
1944 – A ferry carrying a stock of heavy water on the first stage of a journey from the Ryukan hydroelectric plant to laboratories in Germany is sunk and her cargo lost in attack by Norwegian resistance fighters. Heavy water (or deuterium) is used in atomic research, and is the catalyzing agent in making a Hydrogen bomb.
1944 – During World War II, U.S. bombers began raiding German aircraft manufacturing centers in a series of attacks that became known as “Big Week.”
1945 – Nuremberg is attacked by 900 American B-17 bombers with 700 escort fighters. The nominal target is the passenger station and marshalling yards; the escorts conduct strafing runs on locomotives, rolling stock and parked planes. A total of 23 of the American aircraft are lost.
1945 – The US 20th Corps (part of US 3rd Army) continues its attacks.
1945 – There are American landings on the island of Biri where Japanese resistance is encountered.
1945 – The naval bombardment groups (US TF54 and TF52), now joined by US Task Force 58, continue to provide support to the US 5th Amphibious Corps fighting on shore. American troops make slow progress toward Mount Suribachi in the south and the first airfield to the north of the beachhead. There are Japanese counterattacks and infiltration attempts during the night.
1951 – General MacArthur announced that he had accepted the Air Force’s position on interdiction. “Our field strategy, initiated upon Communist China’s entry into the war, involving a rapid withdrawal to lengthen the enemy’s supply lines with resultant pyramiding of his logistical difficulties and an almost astronomical increase in destructiveness of our airpower, has worked well.”
1956 – The United States Merchant Marine Academy becomes a permanent Service Academy. The United States Merchant Marine Academy (also known as USMMA or Kings Point) is one of the five United States service academies. It is charged with training officers for the United States Merchant Marine, branches of the military, or the transportation industry.
1962 – From Cape Canaveral, Florida, John Hershel Glenn Jr. is successfully launched into space aboard the Friendship 7 spacecraft on the first orbital flight by an American astronaut. Glenn, a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps, was among the seven men chosen by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in 1959 to become America’s first astronauts. A decorated pilot, he flew nearly 150 combat missions during World War II and the Korean War. In 1957, he made the first nonstop supersonic flight across the United States, flying from Los Angeles to New York in three hours and 23 minutes. Glenn was preceded in space by two Americans, Alan B. Shepard Jr. and Virgil I. “Gus” Grissom, and two Soviets, Yuri A. Gagarin and Gherman S. Titov. In April 1961, Gagarin was the first man in space, and his spacecraft Vostok 1 made a full orbit before returning to Earth. Less than one month later, Shepard was launched into space aboard Freedom 7 on a suborbital flight. In July, Grissom made another brief suborbital flight aboard Liberty Bell 7. In August, with the Americans still having failed to make an orbital flight, the Russians sprinted further ahead in the space race when Titov spent more than 25 hours in space aboard Vostok 2, making 17 orbits. As a technological power, the United States was looking very much second-rate compared with its Cold War adversary. If the Americans wanted to dispel this notion, they needed a multi-orbital flight before another Soviet space advance arrived. It was with this responsibility in mind that John Glenn lifted off from the launch pad at Cape Canaveral at 9:47 a.m. on February 20, 1962. Some 100,000 spectators watched on the ground nearby and millions more saw it on television. After separating from its launching rocket, the bell-shaped Friendship 7 capsule entered into an orbit around Earth at a speed of about 17,500 miles per hour. Smoothing into orbit, Glenn radioed back, “Capsule is turning around. Oh, that view is tremendous.”During Friendship 7’s first orbit, Glenn noticed what he described as small, glowing fireflies drifting by the capsule’s tiny window. It was some time later that NASA mission control determined that the sparks were crystallized water vapor released by the capsule’s air-conditioning system. Before the end of the first orbit, a more serious problem occurred when Friendship 7’s automatic control system began to malfunction, sending the capsule into erratic movements. At the end of the orbit, Glenn switched to manual control and regained command of the craft. Toward the end of Glenn’s third and last orbit, mission control received a mechanical signal from the spacecraft indicating that the heat shield on the base of the capsule was possibly loose. Traveling at its immense speed, the capsule would be incinerated if the shield failed to absorb and dissipate the extremely high reentry temperatures. It was decided that the craft’s retrorockets, usually jettisoned before reentry, would be left on in order to better secure the heat shield. Less than a minute later, Friendship 7 slammed into Earth’s atmosphere. During Glenn’s fiery descent back to Earth, the straps holding the retrorockets gave way and flapped violently by his window as a shroud of ions caused by excessive friction enveloped the spacecraft, causing Glenn to lose radio contact with mission control. As mission control anxiously waited for the resumption of radio transmissions that would indicate Glenn’s survival, he watched flaming chunks of retrorocket fly by his window. After four minutes of radio silence, Glenn’s voice crackled through loudspeakers at mission control, and Friendship 7 splashed down safely in the Atlantic Ocean. He was picked up by the USS destroyer Noa, and his first words upon stepping out of the capsule and onto the deck of the Noa were, “It was hot in there.” He had spent nearly five hours in space. Glenn was hailed as a national hero, and on February 23 President John F. Kennedy visited him at Cape Canaveral. He later addressed Congress and was given a ticker-tape parade in New York City. Out of a reluctance to risk the life of an astronaut as popular as Glenn, NASA essentially grounded the “Clean Marine” in the years after his historic flight. Frustrated with this uncharacteristic lack of activity, Glenn turned to politics and in 1964 announced his candidacy for the U.S. Senate from his home state of Ohio and formally left NASA. Later that year, however, he withdrew his Senate bid after seriously injuring his inner ear in fall. In 1970, following a stint as a Royal Crown Cola executive, he ran for the Senate again but lost the Democratic nomination to Howard Metzenbaum. Four years later, he defeated Metzenbaum, won the general election, and went on to win reelection three times. In 1984, he unsuccessfully sought the Democratic nomination for president. In early 1998, NASA announced it had approved Glenn to serve as a payload specialist on the space shuttle Discovery. On October 29, 1998, nearly four decades after his famous orbital flight, the 77-year-old Glenn became the oldest human ever to travel in space. During the nine-day mission, he served as part of a NASA study on health problems associated with aging. In 1999, he retired from his U.S. Senate seat after four consecutive terms in office, a record for the state of Ohio.
1963 – Moscow offered to allow on -site inspection of nuclear testing.
1965 – The Ranger 8 spacecraft crashed on the moon after sending back 7,000 photos of the lunar surface.
1966 – Chester W. Nimitz (80), US admiral (WW II), died at home on Yerba Buena Island (Treasure Island) in SF Bay.
1967 – The 378-foot high endurance cutter Hamilton, first in her class, was commissioned. This was the first class of major vessels in the U.S. government’s inventory that were powered by jet turbines.
1968 – The U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee begins hearings to investigate American policy in Vietnam. This was a direct result of the Tet Offensive, in which Viet Cong forces, supported by large numbers of North Vietnamese troops, launched the largest and best-coordinated offensive of the war. During the attack, the Viet Cong drove into the center of South Vietnam’s seven largest cities and attacked 30 provincial capitals ranging from the Delta to the DMZ. Efforts to assess the offensive’s impact began well before the fighting officially ended. Militarily, Tet was decidedly an Allied victory, but psychologically and politically, it was a disaster. The offensive had indeed been 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, coupled with the disillusionment over the earlier overly optimistic reports of progress in the war, accelerated the growing disenchantment with President Johnson’s conduct of the war. This disenchantment caused congressional opponents to call for hearings. Early sessions in the congressional hearings focused on the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin incident, which had led to the passage of the Tonkin Gulf Resolution, the legal basis for Johnson’s escalation of the war. Senators William Fulbright (D-Arkansas) and Wayne Morse (D-Oregon) charged that the Defense Department had withheld information on U.S. naval activities in the Gulf that provoked North Vietnam, leading to the charge of a “credibility gap.” At issue was whether the administration had provided Congress with truthful data at the time it was seeking passage of the Tonkin Gulf Resolution in August 1964, which had considerably broadened the president’s war-making authority in Southeast Asia. There was no firm resolution of the charges, but the debate reached a new intensity when the New York Times reported that General William Westmoreland, U.S. commander in Saigon, had requested another 206,000 troops. The possibility of another major troop increase provoked a stormy reaction in Congress–both Democrats and Republicans demanded an explanation and insisted that Congress share in any decision to expand the war. In March, 139 members of the House of Representatives sponsored a resolution calling for a full review of American policy in Vietnam. Eventually the Tet Offensive and the subsequent congressional reaction helped convince Johnson, who was frustrated with his inability to reach a solution in Vietnam, to announce that he would neither seek nor accept the nomination of his party for president.
1971 – The National Emergency Warning Center in Colorado erroneously ordered radio and TV stations across the US to go off the air; some stations heeded the alert, which was not lifted for about 40 minutes.
1974 – S-3A Viking ASW aircraft (carrier jet) introduced officially, given to VS-41.
1976 – After operating for 22 years, the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization concludes its final military exercise and quietly shuts down. SEATO had been one of the bulwarks of America’s Cold War policies in Asia, but the Vietnam War did much to destroy its cohesiveness and question its effectiveness. SEATO was formed in 1954 during a meeting in Manila called by U.S. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles. Eight nations-the United States, France, Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Thailand, and Pakistan-joined together in the regional defense organization to “stem the tide of communism in Asia.” At the time, that “tide” was most threatening in Southeast Asia, particularly in the former-French colony of Vietnam. There, a revolution led by the communist Ho Chi Minh resulted, in 1954, in an agreement for the withdrawal of French forces, the temporary division of Vietnam (with Ho’s forces in control in the north), and nationwide elections two years hence to reunify the nation and select a president. The United States, believing that Ho was merely a pawn for international communism, reacted by establishing SEATO and including “South Vietnam” (which was not technically an independent nation) under its umbrella of protection. When the United States became fully committed to the Vietnam War in 1965, it called upon its SEATO allies for assistance. Only Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines, and Thailand responded with a few thousand troops and other aid. This made clear that the driving force behind SEATO was the United States. Despite their anticommunist rhetoric, Great Britain and France wanted no part of another Asian war and Pakistan simply wanted the military assistance that membership in SEATO granted. As the war in Vietnam became increasingly frustrating and unpopular, SEATO began to crack. By the time the conflict in Vietnam ended in 1975–with South Vietnam’s fall to the communist North Vietnamese–only five nations were left to carry out the final SEATO military exercise in February 1976. A mere 188 troops from the United States, Great Britain, the Philippines, Thailand, and New Zealand showed up in the Philippines to conduct what was basically a civic action operation. Roads, schools, and a dam were built by the troops in the Philippine countryside. Afterwards, while “Auld Lang Syne” was played, closing ceremonies marked the end of SEATO.
1981 – Space shuttle Columbia cleared the final major hurdle to its maiden launch by firing fired its three engines in a 20 -second test.
1987 – The Unabomber placed a bomb in a parking lot behind CAAMS computer store in Salt Lake City. CAAMS vice president, Gary Wright was seriously injured.
1994 – Bosnian Serbs, faced with the threat of air strikes, pulled back most of their heavy guns from around Sarajevo as a NATO deadline approached.
1995 – An American Marine, Sgt. Justin A. Harris, died in a helicopter crash during the evacuation of United Nations forces from Somalia.
1996 – Hussein and Saddam Kamel, Saddam’s two sons-in-law who requested asylum in Jordan in August 1995, return to Baghdad after receiving Iraqi government “pardons.”
1998 – The UN Security Council voted to more than double the amount of oil Iraq may sell to buy food and medicine. The increase was from $2 bil to $5.256 bil, although Iraq has said it was only capable of producing $4 billion worth of oil over six months.
1999 – The United States and five other nations agreed to extend by three days the deadline for a Kosovo peace agreement. NATO had threatened airstrikes against the Serbs if they did not reach an agreement with Albanian insurgents.
2000 – In Mitrovica, Kosovo, angry Serbs pelted US troops in the northern district during a citywide search for weapons.
2001 – The government announced the arrest two days earlier of veteran FBI agent Robert Philip Hanssen, accused of spying for Russia for more than 15 years.
2001 – Space Shuttle Atlantis landed at Edwards air Force Base following a 13 -day mission to the Int’l. Space Station. Three straight days of bad weather prevented the ship from returning to its Florida home port.
2002 – The Pentagon said its new Office of Strategic Influence would not spread falsehoods in the media to advance US war goals. The office was closed down Feb 26.
2002 – In Sudan a government helicopter gunship attacked civilians waiting for food at a UN site and at least 17 people were killed. The US suspended peace efforts following the attack.
2003 – Pentagon officials said they will send over 1,700 US troops to the Philippines over the next few weeks to fight Muslim extremists.
2003 – Former Air Force Master Sgt. Brian Patrick Regan was convicted in Alexandria, Va., of offering to sell U.S. intelligence to Iraq and China but acquitted of attempted spying for Libya. Regan was later sentenced to life without parole.
2004 – The US and a host of other countries urged Haitian President Jean -Bertrand Aristide and opposition leaders to form a broad -based government as a move toward ending weeks of bloody conflict. Haiti’s poorly trained and equipped police put up little resistance as rebels moved against the government.
2005 – Iraqi and US security forces surrounded the city of Ramadi in an effort to confront a simmering insurgency there.
2005 – Iraqi forces captured Talib Mikhlif Arsan Walman al-Dulaymi (aka Abu Qutaybah), a key aide to Jordanian-born terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who leads an insurgency affiliated with Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida network.
2007 – The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit rules 2-1 to uphold an act of the 109th Congress removing the right of Guantánamo Bay detainees to challenge their detention in lower federal courts. The Military Commissions Act suspends the right to habeas corpus and bars anyone deemed an “enemy combatant” access to the federal courts.
2008 – Two United States Air Force F-15 Eagle fighter planes crash in mid-air over the Gulf of Mexico near Florida.
2008 – The Space Shuttle Atlantis lands at Kennedy Space Center following the conclusion of the STS-122 assembly mission to the International Space Station. STS-122 marked the 24th shuttle mission to the ISS, and the 121st space shuttle flight since STS-1. The mission was also referred to as ISS-1E by the ISS program. The primary objective of STS-122 was to deliver the European Columbus science laboratory, built by the European Space Agency (ESA), to the station. It also returned Expedition 16 Flight Engineer Daniel M. Tani to Earth. Tani was replaced on Expedition 16 by Léopold Eyharts, a French Flight Engineer representing ESA. After Atlantis’ landing, the orbiter was prepared for STS-125, the final servicing mission for the Hubble Space Telescope.
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