This Day in U.S. Military History…… February 23

23 February
1540 – Spanish explorer Francisco Vasquez de Coronado began his unsuccessful search for the fabled Seven Cities of Gold in the American Southwest. Antonio de Mendoza, Viceroy of Mexico, sent Francisco Coronado overland to search for the fabled Seven Cities of Cibola in present day New Mexico.
1665 – While the Second Anglo-Dutch War rages in Europe, the deputy of the Duke of York, Richard Nicolls, orders the annexation of all property belonging to the Dutch West India Company in what was formerly New Netherland.
1778 – Baron von Steuben joins the Continental Army at Valley Forge. Steuben did not speak English, but his French was such that he could communicate with some of the officers. Washington’s aide-de-camp, Alexander Hamilton as well as Nathanael Greene were a great help in this area. The two men assisted Steuben in drafting a training program for the soldiers which found approval with the Commander-in-Chief in March. Steuben began with a “model company,” a group of 100 chosen men and trained them…they in turn successively worked outward into each brigade. Steuben’s eclectic personality greatly enhanced his mystique. He trained the soldiers, who at this point were greatly lacking in proper clothing themselves, in full military dress uniform, swearing and yelling at them up and down in German and French. When that was no longer successful, he recruited Captain Benjamin Walker, his French speaking aid to curse at them FOR HIM in English. His instructions and methods have a familiar ring, nor is this strange when we consider that much of what is done today stems from his teachings. To correct the existing policy of placing recruits in a unit before they had received training, Von Steuben introduced a system of progressive training, beginning with the school of the soldier, with and without arms, and going through the school of the regiment. Each company commander was made responsible for the training of new men, but actually instruction was done by selected sergeants, the best obtainable.
1795 – U.S. Navy Office of Purveyor of Supplies is established. This is the Navy Supply Corps Birthday.
1822 – Boston was granted a charter to incorporate as a city.
1822 – Congress authorized the Revenue Cutter Service to protect the natural environment by preventing “scoundrels” from cutting live oak on Florida public lands.
1824 – Lewis Cass Hunt (d.1886), Brig General (Union volunteers), was born.
1836 – The Alamo is besieged by Santa Anna. Santa Ann has raised a n army of 6000 and leads 3000 in a siege of the Alamo where 187 Texans hold off the assault until 6 March when the Mexicans overwhelm the stronghold, killing all in William Travis’ garrison including Davy Crockett. The defense of the Alamo inspires other North American settlers to Independence for Texas.
1837 – Congress called for an inspection of the coast from Chesapeake Bay to the Sabine River “with regard to the location of additional light-houses, beacons, and buoys.” Captain Napoleon L. Coste, commanding the Revenue cutter Campbell was dispatched. He reported that the first addition to aids to navigation on this entire coast should be at Egmont Key, Tampa Bay. A lighthouse was authorized immediately and built the next year. The station (not the same tower) still exists as one of the three manned lights on the Gulf of Mexico.
1838 – Gilbert Moxley Sorrel (d.1901), Brig General (Confederate Army), was born.
1846 – The Liberty Bell tolled for the last time, to mark George Washington’s birthday. A hairline fracture had developed since 1817 and a failed attempt to repair it resulted in the crack.
1847 – U.S. troops under Gen. Zachary Taylor defeated Mexican Gen. Santa Anna at the Battle of Buena Vista in Mexico. The United States and Mexico had been at war over territorial disputes since May 1846. The Battle of Buena Vista, also known as the Battle of Angostura, saw the United States (U.S.) Army use artillery to repulse the much larger Mexican army in the Mexican–American War. Buena Vista, a village of the state of Coahuila, is seven miles (12 km) south of Saltillo, in northern Mexico.
1848 – John Quincy Adams, the sixth president of the United States (1825-1829), died of a stroke at age 80.
1861 – President-elect Abraham Lincoln arrives in Washington amid secrecy and tight security. With seven states having already seceded from the Union since Lincoln’s election, the threat of civil war hung in the air. Allen Pinkerton, head of a private detective agency, had uncovered a plot to assassinate Lincoln when he passed through Baltimore on his way to the capital. Lincoln and his advisors disagreed about how to respond to the threat. Some, including Pinkerton, wanted Lincoln to slip secretly into Washington, which would mean skipping an address to the Pennsylvania legislature in Harrisburg. Lincoln did not want to appear cowardly, but he felt the threats were serious. Lincoln agreed to the covert arrival. With Pinkerton and Ward Hill Lamon, his former law partner, Lincoln slipped out of the hotel in Harrisburg on the evening of February 22. He wore a soft felt hat instead of his customary stovepipe hat, and he draped an overcoat over his shoulders and hunched slightly to disguise his height. The group boarded a sleeper car and arrived in Baltimore in the middle of the night. The trio slipped undetected from the Calvert Street station to Camden station across town. There, they boarded another train and arrived without incident in Washington at 6:00 a.m. On the platform, the party was surprised when a voice boomed, “Abe, you can’t play that on me.” It was Congressman Elihu B. Washburne, a friend of Lincoln’s from Illinois. Washburne escorted Lincoln to the Willard Hotel. A myth arose that Lincoln had dressed as a woman to avoid detection, but this was not the case. He did draw considerable criticism in the press for his unceremonious arrival. Northern diarist George Templeton Strong commented that if convincing evidence of a plot did not surface, “the surreptitious nocturnal dodging…will be used to damage his moral position and throw ridicule on his Administration.” Lincoln later regretted the caper and commented to a friend “I did not then, nor do I now believe I should have been assassinated had I gone through Baltimore…” Regardless of how he had arrived, Lincoln was safely in Washington, ready to assume the difficult task ahead.
1861 – Texas by popular referendum became the 7th state to secede from the Union.
1865 – Fort White, guarding the entrance to Winyah Bay leading to Georgetown, S.C., was evacuated upon the approach of the naval squadron and was occupied by a detachment of Marines.
1870 – Post-U.S. Civil War military control of Mississippi ends and it is readmitted to the Union.
1886 – Charles Martin Hall produced the first samples of man-made aluminum, after several years of intensive work. He was assisted in this project by his older sister Julia Brainerd Hall.
1893 – Rudolf Diesel received a German patent for the diesel engine on this day. The diesel engine burns fuel oil rather than gasoline and differs from the gasoline engine in that it uses compressed air in the cylinder rather than a spark to ignite the fuel. Diesel engines were used widely in Europe for their efficiency and power, and are still used today in most heavy industrial machinery. In 1977, General Motors (GM) became the first American car company to introduce diesel-powered automobiles. The diesel-powered Olds 88 and 98 models were 40 percent more fuel-efficient than their gas-powered counterparts. The idling and reduced power efficiency of the diesel engine is much greater than that of the spark engine. Diesel cars never caught on in the U.S., partly because the diesel engine’s greater efficiency is counter-balanced by its higher emissions of soot, odor, and air pollutants. Today, the argument over which engine is more environmentally friendly is still alive; some environmentalists argue that in spite of the diesel engine’s exhaust pollution, its fuel efficiency may make it more environmentally sound than the gasoline engine in the long run.
1896 – Tootsie Roll was introduced by Leo Hirschfield. Tootsie rolls are still found in some of today’s MREs.
1900 – In the Philippines, Marine Captain Draper arranged with the gunboat USS Nashville, when it next came by on patrol, to shell the village of Benictican in retaliation for a raid on a marine water party 6 days before that had killed two Marines. After the bombardment, he entered the town with a force of 100 men and, finding it abandoned, destroyed it completely.
1903 – Cuba leases Guantánamo Bay to the United States “in perpetuity”. Guantanamo Bay Naval Base (also called GTMO and pronounced gitmo by the US Military personnel stationed there) is located on 45 square miles (120 km2) of land and water at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, which the United States leased for use as a coaling and naval station in the Cuban–American Treaty of 1903 (for $2,000 until 1934, for $4,085 since 1938 until now). The base is on the shore of Guantánamo Bay at the southeastern end of Cuba. It is the oldest overseas U.S. Naval Base, and the only U.S. military installation in a country with whom the United States has no diplomatic relations. Since 1959 the Cuban government has consistently protested against the US presence on Cuban soil. Since 2002, the naval base has contained a military prison, the Guantanamo Bay detention camp, for alleged unlawful combatants captured in Afghanistan, Iraq, and other places.
1904 – US acquired control of the Panama Canal Zone for $10 million.1915 – Germany sank US ships Carib & Evelyn and torpedoed the Norwegian ship Regin.1916 – Secretary of State Lansing hinted that the U.S. might have to abandon the policy of avoiding “entangling foreign alliances”.
1919 – Fascist Party was formed in Italy by Benito Mussolini.
1919 – Launching of Osmond Ingram (DD-255), first Navy ship named for an enlisted man.
1926 – President Calvin Coolidge opposed a large air force, believing it would be a menace to world peace.
1927 – President Coolidge signed the Radio Act, a bill creating the Federal Radio Commission, forerunner of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Commerce Secretary Herbert Hoover established the Federal Radio Commission to prevent interference among radio signals by allocating broadcast spectrum.
1940 – Woody Guthrie dated his song “this Land Is Your Land” to this day. His original title was “God Bless America.”
1942 – A Japanese submarine shelled an oil refinery at Ellwood, near Santa Barbara, Calif., the first Axis bombs to hit American soil.
1943 – German troops pulled back through the Kasserine Pass in Tunisia.
1944 – American aircraft raid Rota, Tinian and Saipan. The US forces are from Task Group 58.3 (Sherman) and Task Group 58.2 (Montgomery). The attack sinks 20,000 tons of Japanese shipping.
1944 – Japanese resistance on Parry Island ends. American forces complete the occupation of Eniwetok Atoll. US losses are 300 killed and 750 wounded. The Japanese garrison has been wiped out. Out of 3400 troops, there are 66 prisoners.1945 – Eisenhower opened a large offensive in the Rhineland.
1945 – During the bloody Battle for Iwo Jima, U.S. Marines from the 3rd Platoon, E Company, 2nd Battalion, 28th Regiment, 5th Division take the crest of Mount Suribachi, the island’s highest peak and most strategic position, and raise the U.S. flag. Marine photographer Louis Lowery was with them and recorded the event. American soldiers fighting for control of Suribachi’s slopes cheered the raising of the flag, and several hours later more Marines headed up to the crest with a larger flag. Joe Rosenthal, a photographer with the Associated Press, met them along the way and recorded the raising of the second flag along with a motion-picture cameraman. Rosenthal took three photographs atop Suribachi. The first, which showed five Marines and one Navy corpsman struggling to hoist the heavy flag pole, became the most reproduced photograph in history and won for him a Pulitzer Prize. The accompanying motion-picture footage attests to the fact that the picture was not posed. Of the other two photos, the second was similar to the first but less affecting, and the third was a group picture of 18 soldiers smiling and waving for the camera. Many of these men, including three of the six soldiers seen raising the flag in the famous Rosenthal photo, were killed before the conclusion of the Battle for Iwo Jima in late March. In early 1945, U.S. military command sought to gain control of the island of Iwo Jima in advance of the projected aerial campaign against the Japanese home islands. Iwo Jima, a tiny volcanic island located in the Pacific about 700 miles southeast of Japan, was to be a base for fighter aircraft and an emergency-landing site for bombers. On February 19, 1945, after three days of heavy naval and aerial bombardment, the first wave of U.S. Marines stormed onto Iwo Jima’s inhospitable shores. The Japanese garrison on the island numbered 22,000 heavily entrenched men. Their commander, General Tadamichi Kuribayashi, had been expecting an Allied invasion for months and used the time wisely to construct an intricate and deadly system of underground tunnels, fortifications, and artillery that withstood the initial Allied bombardment. By the evening of the first day, despite incessant mortar fire, 30,000 U.S. Marines commanded by General Holland Smith managed to establish a solid beachhead. During the next few days, the Marines advanced inch by inch under heavy fire from Japanese artillery and suffered suicidal charges from the Japanese infantry. Many of the Japanese defenders were never seen and remained underground manning artillery until they were blown apart by a grenade or rocket, or incinerated by a flame thrower. While Japanese kamikaze flyers slammed into the Allied naval fleet around Iwo Jima, the Marines on the island continued their bloody advance across the island, responding to Kuribayashi’s lethal defenses with remarkable endurance. On February 23, the crest of 550-foot Mount Suribachi was taken, and the next day the slopes of the extinct volcano were secured. By March 3, U.S. forces controlled all three airfields on the island, and on March 26 the last Japanese defenders on Iwo Jima were wiped out. Only 200 of the original 22,000 Japanese defenders were captured alive. More than 6,000 Americans died taking Iwo Jima, and some 17,000 were wounded.
1945 – The US forces attacking in Manila resume their offensive after a new bombardment. The Japanese resistance is now largely confined to the old walled section of the town, the Intramuros, but the fighting there is very fierce.
1945 – A major new offensive by US First and Ninth Armies begins with heavy attacks along the Roer, especially in the Julich and Duren areas. The river is crossed in several places. The attacks are opposed by the German 5th Panzer and 15th Armies (both part of German Army Group B). Farther south, there are also attacks by units of US 3rd and 7th Armies.
1946 – Japanese General Tomoyuki Yamashita was hanged in Manila, the Philippines, for war crimes.
1947 – Gen. Eisenhower opened a drive to raise $170M in aid for European Jews.
1947 – Several hundred Nazi organizers were arrested in Frankfurt by U.S. and British forces.
1951 – The first B-29 mission using the more accurate MPQ-2 radar bombed a highway bridge seven miles northeast of Seoul.
1952 – Air Force Major William T. Whisner, 51st Fighter-Interceptor Wing, flying his F-86 Sabre “Elenore E,” destroyed his fifth MiG-15 to become the war’s seventh ace and his wing’s first.
1954 – The first mass inoculation of children against polio with the Salk vaccine began in Pittsburgh. Jonas Salk created the Salk vaccine against polio. It used a killed virus to induce immunization. Poliomyelitis is a viral attack of the central nervous system and can cause paralysis and death by asphyxiation.
1955 – In the first council meeting of the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization, Secretary of State John Foster Dulles declares the United States is committed to defending the region from communist aggression. The meeting, and American participation in SEATO, set the stage for the U.S. to take a more active role in Vietnam. SEATO had been established in Manila in 1954, at a meeting called by Secretary Dulles. The United States, Great Britain, France, Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, Pakistan, and the Philippines became the member states of the regional defense organization. The U.S. established SEATO primarily in response to what it viewed as a deteriorating situation in Southeast Asia. Earlier in 1954, the French, who had been fighting to regain control of their former colony since 1946, agreed to withdraw from Vietnam. The country was divided, and the communist forces of Ho Chi Minh took control in North Vietnam pending nationwide elections for reunification in two years. U.S. policymakers believed that North Vietnam was the first “domino” to fall to communism in Southeast Asia, and that other nations in the region would also soon come under threat of communist control. Dulles pointed to communist China as the main threat to peace and security in the region. Communist China responded by claiming that SEATO was another part of “United States aggression against Asian nations.” SEATO became more important to the United States as the situation in Vietnam eventually resulted in the commitment of U.S. combat troops to South Vietnam in 1965. Unfortunately for U.S. officials, only a few of the SEATO member countries actively supported the U.S. action. Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, and the Philippines sent troops or other assistance, but Great Britain, France, and Pakistan refused to become involved. Eventually, France, Pakistan, and Australia withdrew from the organization. SEATO faded away as a component of U.S. policy in Asia during the 1970s. It formally ceased operations in 1976.
1967 – The 25th amendment, on presidential succession, was declared ratified.
1967 – American troops began the largest offensive of the war, near the Cambodian border. In order to deny the Vietcong cover, and allow men to see through the dense vegetation, herbicides were dumped on the forests near the South Vietnamese borders as well as Cambodia and Laos. 1969 – Pres. Nixon approved the bombing of Cambodia.
1971 – Lt. William Calley confessed and implicated Captain Ernest Medina in My Lai massacre. Lt. Calley was the only one to be court marshaled.
1971 – In Operation Lam Son 719, the South Vietnamese advance into Laos grinds to a halt. The operation began on February 8. It included a limited incursion by South Vietnamese forces into Laos to disrupt the communist supply and infiltration network in Laos along Route 9 adjacent to the two northern provinces of South Vietnam. The operation was supported by U.S. airpower (aviation and airlift) and artillery (firing across the border from firebases inside South Vietnam). Observers described the drive on Hanoi’s supply routes and depots as some of the “bloodiest fighting” of the war. Enemy resistance was initially light as a 12,000-man spearhead of the South Vietnamese army thrust its way across the border into the communists’ deepest jungle stronghold, with the town of Tchepone, a major enemy supply center on Route 9 in Laos, as the major objective. However, resistance stiffened in the second week as the North Vietnamese rushed reinforcements to the area. On this day, the big push bogged down around 16 miles from the border, after bloody fighting in which the communist troops overran two South Vietnamese battalions.
1974 – The Symbionese Liberation Army demands $4 million more to release kidnap victim Patty Hearst.
1980 – Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini states that Iran’s parliament will decide the fate of the American embassy hostages removing responsibility for them from the students that had seized the US embassy the previous November.
1990 – James Gavin (82), commandant US 82nd Airborne Div (Normandy), died.
1991 – President Bush announced that the allied ground offensive against Iraqi forces had begun (because of the time difference, it was already the early morning of February 24th in the Persian Gulf). The war’s ground phase was officially designated Operation Desert Saber. The U.S. VII Corps, in full strength and spearheaded by the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment, launched an armored attack into Iraq just to the west of Kuwait, taking Iraqi forces by surprise. Simultaneously, the U.S. XVIII Airborne Corps launched a sweeping “left-hook” attack across southern Iraq’s largely undefended desert, led by the U.S. 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment and the 24th Infantry Division (Mechanized). This movement’s left flank was protected by France’s 6th Light Armoured Division Daguet. The movement’s right flank was protected by the United Kingdom’s 1st Armoured Division.
1993 – President Clinton won United Nations support for a plan to airdrop relief supplies to starving Bosnians during an Oval Office meeting with Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali.
1996 – Former National Security Agency employee Robert Stephan Lipka was arrested and charged with espionage. This was 30 years after Lipka stopped working for NSA and 22 years after his last contact with the KGB. The arrest was possible because the statute of limitations does not apply to espionage. No matter how long ago an offense occurred, a traitor can still be prosecuted. Lipka was sentenced in 1997 to 18 years in prison. While in the United States Army, Lipka was assigned to the National Security Agency (NSA) at Ft. Meade, Maryland from 1965 to 1967. His principal assignment was to remove classified NSA documents from teleprinters and distribute them to the appropriate departments. He photographed these documents with a camera provided by the Soviets and dropped off the film in a park for payments of up to $1,000 per drop. He allegedly received a total of $27,000 from the KGB. Lipka left the military and moved to Lancaster, Pennsylvania, in August 1967, where he attended college at a local university. The FBI affidavit states that Lipka took NSA documents with him when he left his Army position, and that he met with Soviet representatives as late as 1974. Lipka’s betrayal came to the attention of U.S. investigators in 1993 after Lipka’s ex-wife went to authorities and told them he had sold NSA material to the Soviets.
1996 – Two Iraqi defectors were killed in Baghdad, reportedly by members of their own clan who accused them of betraying Saddam Hussein by fleeing to Jordan. The Iraqi News Agency reported that Lieutenant General Hussein Kamel al-Majid and his brother Saddam Kamel al-Majid, a pair of defectors who were also the sons-in-law of Saddam Hussein, were killed by clan members after returning to their homeland. Their bodies are dragged through the streets of Baghdad as a warning to those who would defy Saddam.
1997 – Ali Hassan Abu Kamal, a Palestinian teacher, opened fire on the 86th-floor observation deck of New York City’s Empire State Building, killing one person and wounding six others before shooting himself to death.
1998 – President Clinton gave cautious approval to a U.N. agreement reached by Secretary-General Kofi Annan with Saddam Hussein for monitoring suspected weapons sites in Iraq.
1998 – Osama bin Laden declared a holy war on the US. The Al Quds Al-Arabi newspaper published a statement that announced an alliance between Dr. Zawahri, head of the Egyptian Jihad, and Osama bin Laden. “We—with God’s help—call on every Muslim…to comply with God’s order to kill Americans.”
1999 – Serbs agreed in principle to give limited self-rule to majority ethnic Albanians in Kosovo, thereby temporarily heading off NATO air strikes, but during their talks in Rambouillet, France, the two sides failed to conclude a deal for ending their yearlong conflict.
2001 – Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld ordered an indefinite moratorium on civilian visitors operating military equipment, a possible factor in the collision of a U.S. submarine collision with a Japanese fishing boat.
2001 – Pres. Bush opened a two-day summit with British Prime Minister Tony Blair at Camp David. They endorsed a European rapid-action force as long as it is secondary to NATO.
2003 – In Iraq Saddam Hussein met separately with Russian Yevgeny Primakov and former US attorney gen’l. Ramsay Clark. Clark said Hussein feared that Pres. Bush had made up his mind to attack and that there was nothing he could do to prevent it.
2003 – The Honolulu-based Coast Guard cutter Walnut was ordered to the Middle East in preparation for a war against Iraq.
2003 – A senior Iraqi officer tells reporters that Iraq is considering the request to destroy its missiles but is worried about leaving itself exposed in the event of a US attack.
2004 – Pentagon officials opened a criminal fraud investigation of Halliburton on fuel overpricing in Iraq.
2004 – The US Army cancelled a $39 billion Comanche helicopter program after spending $6.9 billion. Boeing and Sikorsky were the main contractors.
2004 – Rebels who overran Haiti’s second-largest city began detaining people identified as supporters of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, and said they soon will attack Haiti’s capital. Fifty combat-ready U.S. Marines were on their way to Port-au-Prince to secure the U.S. Embassy and its staff.
2005 – Colombia’s Supreme Court authorized the extradition to the US of Miguel Rodriguez Orejuela, who along with his brother Gilberto helped found the Cali drug cartel.
2007 – The United States and South Korea reach agreement to return control over South Korea’s military to South Korea by 2012.
2008 – A U.S. Air Force B-2 Spirit bomber crashes on Guam. It is the first operational loss of a B-2.
2012 – Wikileaks suspect United States Army Private Bradley Manning is formally charged ahead of a court martial.
2013 – The United States Air Force grounds its entire $400 billion fleet of 51 F-35 jets due to a major engine technical issue. During a routine inspection of the aircraft, maintenance personnel detected a cracked engine blade.

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