786 – Harun al-Rashid succeeded his older brother the Abbasid Caliph al-Hadi as Caliph of Baghdad.
1747 – Tadeusz Kosciusko, patriot, American Revolution hero (built West Point), was born in Poland.
1777 – George Washington appoints Nathaniel Sackett as spymaster over what will become the Culper Ring of spies. During the American War of Independence the Culper ring was assigned to obtain intelligence on the plans of the British enemy forces in New York. His work involved the recruitment of agents and informers, behind the enemy lines, if necessary paid from a purse of $500 sanctioned by Washington. Nathaniel was recommended to General Washington by William Duer, a Continental Congressman, with whom Nathaniel served on the New York committee for detecting and defeating conspiracies. Taking his instructions personally from Washington, Nathaniel set up an intelligence-gathering network in the New York area. He was soon reporting information gathered in the field to Duer and through him to Washington. The Culpers were extremely successful, the more so for having to develop tradecraft as they went, with an intricate arrangement of dead drops and codes.
1779 – John Paul Jones takes command of Bonhomme Richard. Bonhomme Richard, formerly Duc de Duras, was a warship in the Continental Navy. She was originally an East Indiaman, a merchant ship built in France for the French East India Company in 1765, for service between France and the Orient. She was placed at the disposal of John Paul Jones, who renamed the vessel in honor of Benjamin Franklin, by King Louis XVI of France as a result of a loan to the United States by French shipping magnate, Jacques-Donatien Le Ray.
1783 – Britain declared a formal cessation of hostilities with its former colonies, the United States of America.
1787 – In an attack on Shays’ insurgents at Petersham, Massachusetts, General Benjamin Lincoln captures 150 rebels and forces Shays to flee for Vermont. By the end of the month, the uprising has been completely suppressed. In March the Massachusetts legislature offers a pardon to all except Shays, Luke Day and two other leaders. Shays will be pardoned on 13 June, 1788. This rebellion has the effect of causing the state legislature to avoid direct taxation, to lower court costs, and to exempt household necessities and workmen’s tools from the debt process. Shays’ Rebellion is also an important factor in influencing the creation of a new federal constitution, since the states have seen how essentially powerless they are to prevent such incidents of violence.
1789 – George Washington, the commander of the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War, is unanimously elected the first president of the United States by all 69 presidential electors. John Adams of Massachusetts, who received 34 votes, was elected vice president. The electors, who represented 10 of the 11 states that had ratified the U.S. Constitution, were chosen by popular vote, legislative appointment, or a combination of both four weeks before the election. According to Article Two of the U.S. Constitution, the states appointed a number of presidential electors equal to the “number of Senators and Representatives to which the state may be entitled in Congress.” Each elector voted for two people, at least one of whom did not live in their state. The individual receiving the greatest number of votes was elected president, and the next-in-line, vice president. (In 1804, this practice was changed by the 12th Amendment to the Constitution, which ordered separate ballots for the office of president and vice president.) New York–though it was to be the seat of the new United States government–failed to choose its eight presidential electors in time for the vote on February 4, 1789. Two electors each from Virginia and Maryland were delayed by weather and did not vote. In addition, North Carolina and Rhode Island, which would have had seven and three electors respectively, had not ratified the Constitution and so could not vote. That the remaining 69 unanimously chose Washington to lead the new U.S. government was a surprise to no one. As commander-in-chief during the Revolutionary War, he had led his inexperienced and poorly equipped army of civilian soldiers to victory over one of the world’s great powers. After the British surrender at Yorktown in 1781, Washington rejected with abhorrence a suggestion by one of his officers that he use his preeminence to assume a military dictatorship. He would not subvert the very principles for which so many Americans had fought and died, he replied, and soon after, he surrendered his military commission to the Continental Congress and retired to his Mount Vernon estate in Virginia. When the Articles of Convention proved ineffectual, and the fledging republic teetered on the verge of collapse, Washington again answered his country’s call and traveled to Philadelphia in 1787 to preside over the Constitutional Convention. Although he favored the creation of a strong central government, as president of the convention he maintained impartiality in the public debates. Outside the convention hall, however, he made his views known, and his weight of character did much to bring the proceedings to a close. The drafters created the office of president with him in mind, and on September 17, 1787, the document was signed. The next day, Washington started for home, hoping that, his duty to his country again served, he could live out the rest of his days in privacy. However, a crisis soon arose when the Constitution fell short of its necessary ratification by nine states. Washington threw himself into the ratification debate, and a compromise agreement was made in which the remaining states would ratify the document in exchange for passage of the constitutional amendments that would become the Bill of Rights. Government by the United States began on March 4, 1789. In April, Congress sent word to George Washington that he had unanimously won the presidency. He borrowed money to pay off his debts in Virginia and traveled to New York. On April 30, he came across the Hudson River in a specially built and decorated barge. The inaugural ceremony was performed on the balcony of Federal Hall on Wall Street, and a large crowed cheered after he took the oath of office. The president then retired indoors to read Congress his inaugural address, a quiet speech in which he spoke of “the experiment entrusted to the hands of the American people.” The evening celebration was opened and closed by 13 skyrockets and 13 cannons. As president, Washington sought to unite the nation and protect the interests of the new republic at home and abroad. Of his presidency, he said, “I walk on untrodden ground. There is scarcely any part of my conduct which may not hereafter be drawn in precedent.” He successfully implemented executive authority, making good use of brilliant politicians such as Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson in his Cabinet, and quieted fears of presidential tyranny. In 1792, he was unanimously reelected but four years later refused a third term. In 1797, he finally began his long-awaited retirement at Mount Vernon. He died on December 14, 1799. His friend Henry Lee provided a famous eulogy for the father of the United States: “First in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen.”
1822 – Free American Blacks settled Liberia, West Africa. The first group of colonists landed in Liberia and founded Monrovia, the colony’s capital city, named in honor of President James Monroe.
1859 – U.S. signs “Treaty of Friendship, Commerce and Navigation” with Paraguay at Asuncion after the revenue cutter Harriet Lane, as part of a US Navy expedition, forces the opening of the Paraguay and Parana Rivers. During the 1850s, Carlos Antonio Lopez, dictator of the small, landlocked, South American country of Paraguay, was a thorn in the side of the United States government. In 1853, Lopez refused to ratify a commercial and navigational treaty with the United States, and began confiscating the property of American citizens resident in Paraguay. Because of a dispute with Britain, Lopez closed Paraguayan waters to foreign warships. In February 1855, Paraguayan soldiers fired upon an American ship engaged in a scientific survey of the Parana River, killing one American crew member. Nearly three years after the incident, and with a second scientific expedition in preparation, President James Buchanan decided that a show of force was necessary to bring about a redress of the situation. In his first annual message to Congress of December 1857, Buchanan requested funding for a military expedition to Paraguay. With a Congressional allocation of $10,000, a naval squadron of 19 vessels, 200 guns, and 2500 sailors and marines under the command of Commodore William B. Shubrick embarked for Paraguay in the early winter of 1858. It was the largest military expedition in the peacetime history of the United States to that date. Harper’s Weekly emphasized the importance of the mission’s demand that American citizens in Paraguay be granted the same rights and protections that Paraguayan citizens in the United States were accorded. After landing at Montevideo, Uruguay, the American force began the 1000-mile journey up the Parana River to the Paraguayan capital of Asuncion. This was one of the major news stories in Harper’s Weekly during the spring of 1859. The newspaper provided illustrations, portraits, maps, letters from participants, and reports from a special correspondent. The situation was dramatized by the news that the 2500 Americans were preparing to face 15,000 of the best troops in South America. Lopez, the Paraguayan dictator, formally apologized for the shooting incident of 1855, compensated the family and employer of the slain sailor, and signed a treaty of commerce and navigation with the United States.
1861 – The Confederate State of America is open for business when the Provisional Congress convenes in Montgomery, Alabama. The official record read: “Be it remembered that on the fourth day of February, in the year of our Lord, one thousand eight hundred and sixty-one, and in the Capitol of the State of Alabama, in the city of Montgomery, at the hour of noon, there assembled certain deputies and delegates from the several independent South State of North America…” The first order of business was drafting a constitution. They used the U.S. Constitution as a model, and most of it was taken verbatim. It took just four days to hammer out a tentative document to govern the new nation. The president was limited to one six-year term. Unlike the U.S. Constitution, the word “slave” was used and the institution protected in all states and any territories to be added later. Importation of slaves was prohibited, as this would alienate European nations and would detract from the profitable “internal slave trade” in the South. Other components of the constitution were designed to enhance the power of the states–governmental money for internal improvements was banned and the president was given a line-item veto on appropriations bills. The Congress then turned its attention to selecting a president. The delegates settled on Jefferson Davis, a West Point graduate who was the U.S. Secretary of War in the 1850s and a senator from Mississippi.
1861 – The Apache Wars begin. A group of unidentified Indians stole cattle and kidnapped the stepson of the rancher John Ward near Sonoita, Arizona, Arizona. Ward sought redress from the nearby American army. Lieutenant George N. Bascom was dispatched and Ward accompanied the detail. Bascom set out to meet with Cochise near Apache Pass and the Butterfield Overland Stagecoach station to secure the cattle and Ward’s son. Cochise was unaware of the incident, but he offered to seek those responsible. Dissatisfied, Bascom accused Cochise of having been involved. He took Cochise and his group of family members under arrest in the negotiating tent. Angered, Cochise slashed his way from the tent and escaped. After further failed negotiations, Cochise took a member of the stage coach station hostage after an exchange of gunfire. With Bascom unwilling to exchange prisoners, Cochise and his party killed the members of a passing Mexican wagon train. The Apache killed and ritually mutilated nine Mexicans, and took three whites captive, but killed them later. They were unsuccessful in attempting an ambush of a Butterfield Overland stagecoach. With negotiations between Cochise and Bascom at an impasse, Bascom sent for reinforcements. Cochise killed the remaining four captives from the Butterfield Station and abandoned negotiations. Upon the advice of military surgeon, Dr. Bernard Irwin, Bascom hanged the Apache hostages in his custody. The retaliatory executions became known as the Bascom Affair; they initiated another eleven years of open warfare between the varying groups of Apache and the United States settlers, the U.S. Army and the Confederate Army.
1862 – Brigadier General Lloyd Tilghman, gallant defender of Fort Henry, informed General John B. Floyd: “Gunboats and transports in Tennessee River. Enemy landing in force 5 miles below Fort Henry.” After initiating the debarkation of troops below Fort Henry, Flag Officer Foote, in U.S.S. Cincinnati with General Grant on board, took the four ironclad gunboats that he had been able to man up the Tennessee for reconnoitering, and exchanged shots with the Confederate gunners. Torpedoes, planted in the river but torn loose by the flooding waters, floated by. Foote had some fished out for inspection. He and Grant went aft to watch the disassembling of one. According to a reminiscence, suddenly there was a strange hiss. The deck was rapidly cleared. Grant beat Foote to the top of the ladder. When Foote asked the General about his hurry, Grant replied that ”the Army did not believe in letting the Navy get ahead of it.”
1865 – Belatedly, Robert E. Lee is named Commander in Chief of the Confederate Army. Lee knows as well as anyone that the cause is now hopeless.
1865 – A boat expedition under Lieutenant Commander Cushing, U.S.S. Monticello, proceeded up Little River, South Carolina, placing the small town of All Saints Parish under guard and capturing a number of Confederate soldiers. On the 5th Cushing destroyed some $15,000 worth of cotton.
1868 – Marines landed at Osaka, Japan, to protect foreign nationals.
1899 – After an exchange of gunfire, fighting broke out between American troops and Filipinos near Manila, sparking the Philippine-American War (also referred to as the Philippine Insurrection of 1899). American soldiers patrolling in Santa Mesa opened fire on Filipino soldiers near a bridge over the San Juan River.
1915 – Germans decreed British waters part of war zone; all ships were to be sunk without warning.
1938 – Hitler seized control of German army and put Nazis in key posts.
1941 – The United Service Organization, a civilian agency, is founded. The organization was formed to offer support for U.S. service members and their families, and sent many actors, musicians, and other performers to entertain the troops. In 1948, the original USO was disbanded, but formed again the following year, and still exists today, providing recreation, entertainment, children’s programs and other services to U.S. military families. Bob Hope made annual trips to entertain overseas troops from World War II through Desert Storm in 1991.
1942 – Dutch and American ships attacking in the Makassar Straits are repelled by Japanese aircraft. Two American cruisers are damaged in the fighting.
1943 – On Guadalcanal, about 5000 more Japanese troops are evacuated by a squadron (led by Admiral Koyanagi) consisting of one cruiser and 22 destroyers. Four of the ships are damaged. Meanwhile, the US 147th Regiment advances west of Tassafaronga.
1944 – Organized Japanese resistance in the Kwajalein Atoll ends. Most of the 8700 Japanese garrison commanded by Admiral Akiyama have been killed. Only 265 are captured, many are Korean laborers or wounded. The Americans have deployed 41,000 troops of whom 370 have been killed in action and 1500 wounded.
1944 – At the Anzio beachhead, German attacks force the British 1st Division to fall back. Meanwhile, to the south, the forces of US 5th Army continue offensive operations. The US 34th Division gains ground near Point 593 and Point 445 as well as attacking Colle Sant’Angelo.
1944 – President Roosevelt authorized the Bronze Star Medal by Executive Order 9419 dated 4 February 1944, retroactive to 7 December 1941. This authorization was announced in War Department Bulletin No. 3, dated 10 February 1944. The Executive Order was amended by President Kennedy, per Executive Order 11046 dated 24 August 1962, to expand the authorization to include those serving with friendly forces.
1945 – The Yalta Conference begins. Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin and their senior military and political advisors meet to discuss the postwar order and the war with Japan. Yalta is a recently liberated Crimean resort. While a number of important agreements were reached at the conference, tensions over European issues-particularly the fate of Poland-foreshadowed the crumbling of the Grand Alliance that had developed between the United States, Great Britain, and the Soviet Union during World War II and hinted at the Cold War to come. Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin each arrived with their own agendas for the conference. For Stalin, postwar economic assistance for Russia, and U.S. and British recognition of a Soviet sphere of influence in eastern Europe were the main objectives. Churchill had the protection of the British Empire foremost in his mind, but also wanted to clarify the postwar status of Germany. Roosevelt’s goals included consensus on establishment of the United Nations and gaining Soviet agreement to enter the war against Japan once Hitler had been defeated. None of them left Yalta completely satisfied. There was no definite determination of financial aid for Russia. Many issues pertaining to Germany were deferred for further discussion. As for the United Nations, Stalin wanted all 16 Soviet republics represented in the General Assembly, but settled for three (the Soviet Union as a whole, Belorussia, and the Ukraine). However, the Soviets did agree to join in the war against Japan 90 days after Hitler’s Germany was defeated. It was over the issue of the postwar status of Poland, however, that the animosity and mistrust between the United States and the Soviet Union that would characterize the Cold War were most readily apparent. Soviet troops were already in control of Poland, a procommunist provisional government had already been established, and Stalin was adamant that Russia’s interests in that nation be recognized. The United States and Great Britain believed that the London-based noncommunist Polish government-in-exile was most representative of the Polish people. The final agreement merely declared that a “more broadly based” government should be established in Poland. Free elections to determine Poland’s future were called for sometime in the future. Many U.S. officials were disgusted with the agreement, which they believed condemned Poland to a communist future. Roosevelt, however, felt that he could do no more at the moment, since the Soviet army was occupying Poland. As the Cold War became a reality in the years that followed the Yalta Conference, many critics of Roosevelt’s foreign policy accused him of “selling out” at the meeting and naively letting Stalin have his way. It seems doubtful, however, that Roosevelt had much choice. He was able to secure Russian participation in the war against Japan (Russia declared war on Japan on August 8, 1945), established the basic principles of the United Nations, and did as much as possible to settle the Poland issue. With World War II still raging, his primary interest was in maintaining the Grand Alliance. He believed that troublesome political issues could be postponed and solved after the war. Unfortunately, Roosevelt never got that chance–almost exactly two months after the end of the conference, Roosevelt suffered a stroke and died.
1945 – The Allies announce that all German forces have been expelled from Belgium. US 1st and 3rd Army units are attacking toward the Roer River around Duren.
1945 – On Luzon, advance units of the US 1st Cavalry Division reach the outskirts of Manila from the north while units of 11th Airborne Division approach from the south. Yamashita has not ordered his forces to defend the city but the 20,000 Japanese troops under the local naval commander in the city are prepared to fight to the end.
1945 – American USAAF B-24 and B-29 bombers raid Iwo Jima in preparation for the landings later in the month. They drop a daily average of 450 tons of bombs over the course of 15 days (6800 tons).
1959 – Keel laying of USS Enterprise, first nuclear powered aircraft carrier, Newport News, VA.
1962 – The first U.S. helicopter is shot down in Vietnam. It was one of 15 helicopters ferrying South Vietnamese Army troops into battle near the village of Hong My in the Mekong Delta. The first U.S. helicopter unit had arrived in South Vietnam aboard the ferry carrier USNS Core on December 11, 1961. This contingent included 33 Vertol H-21C Shawnee helicopters and 400 air and ground crewmen to operate and maintain them. Their assignment was to airlift South Vietnamese Army troops into combat.
1964 – The federal government put an end to one of the nation’s more shameful bits of legislation by authorizing the Twenty-fourth Amendment, which effectively outlawed the poll tax. The tax stemmed back to the 1880s, when members of the burgeoning Populist party began to build a potentially potent coalition of African American and lower class white voters in the South. Across the region, planters, merchants, and industrialists moved to preserve their power and pushed for the passage of a deliberately prohibitive poll tax. The legislation, adopted by a host of Southern states, proved all too effective, as scores of African-Americans, as well as the “poorer sort” of whites, simply could not afford to pay the tax and thus lost the right to vote. However, thanks in large part to the efforts of Senator Spessard L. Holland of Florida, the once recalcitrant Congress slowly came around to the cause of outlawing the tax and passed the Twenty-fourth Amendment. On January 23, 1964, the amended was ratified by the South Dakota legislature, giving it the three-fourth majority necessary to make it the law of the land.
1965 – McGeorge Bundy, American Special Assistant for National Security, arrives in Saigon for talks with U.S. Ambassador General Maxwell Taylor. Two days later Soviet Premier Aleksei Kosygin arrived in Hanoi. There was worldwide speculation that their visits were linked–that the United States and the Soviet Union had agreed to pressure their “clients” into negotiations–but this was denied by all the principals. Bundy, in fact, was there to confer with Ambassador Taylor on the best way to deal with the political situation. And although Kosygin publicly proclaimed continued Soviet support for North Vietnam and the communist war, a Soviet participant in the talks later described the North Vietnamese as “a bunch of stubborn bastards.”
1966 – Senate Foreign Relations Committee began televised hearings on the Vietnam War.
1967 – Lunar Orbiter 3 lifts off from Cape Canaveral’s Launch Complex 13 on its mission to identify possible landing sites for the Surveyor and Apollo spacecraft.
1969 – Al-Fatah-leader Yasser Arafat officially took over as chairman of PLO.
1971 – National Guard was mobilized to quell rioting in Wilmington, NC.
1971 – Moonwalk by CAPT Alan B. Shepherd, Jr. USN, Commander of Apollo 14 and CDR Edgar D. Mitchell, USN Lunar Module Pilot. During the 9 day mission, 94 lbs of lunar material was collected and Shepard became the first person to hit a golf ball on the moon.
1972 – A force of 824 soldiers, the last of Thailand’s 12,000 troops serving in South Vietnam, departs. The Thai contingent, which had first arrived in country in the fall of 1967, had been part of the Free World Military Forces, an effort by President Lyndon B. Johnson to enlist allies for the United States and South Vietnam. By securing support from other nations, Johnson hoped to build an international consensus behind his policies in Vietnam. The effort was also known as the “many flags” program. In all, 44 countries responded to Johnson plea for military aid to South Vietnam, but only Australia, New Zealand, Korea, and Thailand provided combat troops. In the end, the program never achieved the widespread international support that Johnson sought.
1974 – Patricia Hearst, the 19-year-old daughter of publishing billionaire William Randolph Hearst, is kidnapped from her Berkeley, California, apartment. Stephen Weed, Hearst’s fiancý, was beaten unconscious by the two abductors. Soon, a ransom demand came from the Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA), a radical activist group led by Donald DeFreeze. DeFreeze had formed the SLA in 1973 after he escaped from prison. On November 6, 1973, the SLA shot and killed Marcus Foster, Oakland’s superintendent of schools, with bullets laced with cyanide. Less than a month before Hearst’s kidnapping, an SLA bomb-making factory was discovered by the police. The SLA instructed William Hearst to distribute $70 million in food to the poor in Oakland to have Patty released. The Black Muslims, Malcolm X’s former organization, were chosen to manage the food distribution, which turned into a riot when more than 10,000 people showed up and fought for the food. However, DeFreeze and the SLA did not release Patty. The Hearst story took a strange and unexpected turn two months after the abduction, when the SLA robbed the Hibernia Bank in San Francisco. The surveillance cameras clearly showed that Patty Hearst was one of the machine gun-toting robbers. Soon after followed a taped message from the SLA in which Hearst claimed that she had voluntarily joined the SLA and was now to be known as “Tania.” On May 17, 1974, police were tipped that the SLA leaders were at a Los Angeles home. With 400 police and FBI agents outside the house, a tremendous gun battle broke out. The overwhelming firepower of the police eventually caused a fire to break out. DeFreeze and five other SLA members died in the fire. However, Hearst was not inside the house. She was not found until September 1975. Patty Hearst was put on trial for armed robbery and convicted, despite her claim that she had been coerced, through repeated rape, isolation, and brainwashing, into joining the SLA. Prosecutors believed that she actually orchestrated her own kidnapping because of her prior involvement with one of the SLA members. Despite any real proof of this theory, she was convicted and sent to prison. President Carter commuted Hearst’s sentence after she had served two years. Hearst is currently seeking a pardon.
1982 – President Reagan announced a plan to eliminate all medium-range nuclear missiles in Europe.
1982 – The Attorney General, William Smith, declared at a press conference that Operation Tiburon was “the most successful international marijuana interdiction effort to date.” The operation began in November, 1980, and accounted for the seizure of 95 vessels. It was a combined operation that included elements of the Coast Guard, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Customs Service and various state and local law enforcement agencies.
1991 – Iranian President Hashemi Rafsanjani offered to hold talks with Iraq and the United States in an attempt to mediate an end to the Gulf War.
2002 – The CIA believed that it killed a top al Qaeda official with a Hellfire missile, Predator aerial drone, near Zawar Kili, Afghanistan. 7 al Qaeda members were killed.
2002 – In Afghanistan northern militia factions agreed to withdraw from Mazar-e-Sharif and create a new joint security force.
2003 – Pres. Bush visited the Johnson Space Center in Houston, where he led a tribute to the lost crew of the shuttle Columbia and rededicated the nation to space travel.
2003 – A rare television interview with Saddam Hussein aired in which the Iraqi leader charged that US claims of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons in his country were a pretext to seize Iraq’s oil fields.
2003 – The North Atlantic Council decided to extend Operation Active Endeavour to include escorting non-military ships traveling through the Strait of Gibraltar to maintain security in the area and to secure the safe transit of designated Allied ships.
2005 – The UN vowed to discipline two officials implicated in a report that detailed conflicts of interest and flawed management in the U.N. oil-for-food program. Secretary-General Kofi Annan will discipline Benon Sevan and another UN official, Joseph Stephanides, who may have “tainted” bidding for an oil-for-food contract.
2005 – Assistant Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz announced that 15,000 U.S. troops whose tours of duty had been extended in order to provide election security would be pulled out of Iraq by the next month.
2008 – United States district court judge Florence-Marie Cooper rules that President George W. Bush cannot exempt the United States Navy from complying with environmental laws banning sonar training. Later in the year, the US Supreme Court overturns this ruling.
2012 – The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan estimates that civilian deaths in the war in Afghanistan rose to a record level in 2011 of 3021 with insurgents responsible for most of the deaths.
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