1631 – Roger Williams, the founder of Rhode Island and an important American religious leader, arrives in Boston in the Massachusetts Bay Colony from England. Williams, a Puritan, worked as a teacher before serving briefly as a colorful pastor at Plymouth and then at Salem. Within a few years of his arrival, he alarmed the Puritan oligarchy of Massachusetts by speaking out against the right of civil authorities to punish religious dissension and to confiscate Indian land. In October 1635, he was banished from the Massachusetts Bay Colony by the General Court. After leaving Massachusetts, Williams, with the assistance of the Narragansett tribe, established a settlement at the junction of two rivers near Narragansett Bay, located in present-day Rhode Island. He declared the settlement open to all those seeking freedom of conscience and the removal of the church from civil matters, and many dissatisfied Puritans came. Taking the success of the venture as a sign from God, Williams named the community “Providence.” Among those who found a haven in the religious and political refuge of the Rhode Island Colony were Anne Hutchinson–like Williams, exiled from Massachusetts for religious reasons–some of the first Jews to settle in North America, and the Quakers. In Providence, Roger Williams also founded the first Baptist church in America and edited the first dictionary of Native American languages.
1778 – South Carolina becomes the second state to ratify the Articles of Confederation.
1723 – John Witherspoon, Declaration of Independence signer, was born.
1783 – Sweden recognized the independence of the United States.
1840 – Hiram Stevens Maxim (d.1916), inventor of the automatic single-barrel rifle, was born in Sangerville, Maine. He invented the hair-curling iron, and patented such items as a mousetrap, a locomotive headlight, a method of manufacturing carbon filaments for lamps, and an automatic sprinkling system.
1847 – General Taylor has growing disagreements with President Polk and believes he must protect himself politically and militarily. He defends his views and actions in a New York newspaper on 22 January and then disobeys orders to communicate with General Scott and moves west.
1864 – Federal forces occupied Jackson, Miss.
1865 – Union and Confederate forces around Petersburg, Virginia, begin a three-day battle that produces 3,000 casualties but ends with no significant advantage for either side. Dabney’s Mill was another attempt by Union General Ulysses S. Grant to break the siege of Petersburg and Richmond, Virginia. In 1864, Grant and Confederate General Robert E. Lee pounded each other as they wheeled south around the cities. After a month of heavy battling that produced the highest casualty rates of the war, Grant and Lee settled into trenches around Petersburg. These lines eventually stretched 25 miles to Richmond, and the stalemate continued for 10 months. Periodically, Grant mounted offensives either to break through Lee’s lines or envelope the ends. In June, August, and October, these moves failed to extricate the Confederates from their trenches. Now, Grant sent cavalry under General David Gregg to capture a road that carried supplies from Hicksford, Virginia, into Petersburg. On February 5, Gregg moved and captured a few wagons along his objective, the Boydton Plank Road. He found little else, so he pulled back toward the rest of the Union army. Yankee infantry under General Gouverneur K. Warren also moved forward and probed the area at the end of the Confederate’s Petersburg line. The Rebels responded by moving troops into the area. Skirmishes erupted that evening and the fighting continued for two more days as each side maneuvered for an advantage. The fighting surged back and forth around Dabney’s Mill, but the Yankees were never able to penetrate the Confederate lines. The Union suffered 2,000 men killed, wounded, or captured, while the Confederates lost about 1,000. The battle did extend the Petersburg line a few miles to further stretch Lee’s thin lines, but the stalemate continued for six more weeks before Grant’s forces finally sent Lee racing west with the remnants of his army. The chase ended in April when Lee surrendered at Appomattox Court House.
1900 – The United States and Great Britain signed the Hay-Pauncefote Treaty, giving the United States the right to build a canal in Nicaragua but not to fortify it.
1904 – The American occupation of Cuba ended.
1917 – With more than a two-thirds majority, Congress overrides President Woodrow Wilson’s veto of the previous week and passes the Immigration Act. The law required a literacy test for immigrants and barred Asiatic laborers, except for those from countries with special treaties or agreements with the United States, such as the Philippines. During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the United States received a majority of the world’s immigrants, with 1.3 million immigrants passing through New York’s Ellis Island in 1907 alone. Various restrictions had been applied against immigrants since the 1890s, but most of those seeking entrance into the United States were accepted. However, in 1894, the Immigration Restriction League was founded in Boston and subsequently petitioned the U.S. government to legislate that immigrants be required to demonstrate literacy in some language before being accepted. The organization hoped to quell the recent surge of lower-class immigrants from Southern and Eastern Europe. Congress passed a literacy bill in 1897, but President Grover Cleveland vetoed it. In early 1917, with America’s entrance into World War I three months away, xenophobia was at a new high, and a bill restricting immigration was passed over President Wilson’s veto. Subsequent immigration to the United States sharply declined, and, in 1924 a law was passed requiring immigrant inspection in countries of origin, leading to the closure of Ellis Island and other major immigrant processing centers. Between 1892 and 1924, some 16 million people successfully immigrated to the United States to seek a better life.
1918 – The 1st Marine Replacement Battalion sailed for France in WW I.
1918 – Stephen W. Thompson shoots down a German airplane. It is the first aerial victory by the U.S. military. His unit, the 1st Aero Squadron had not yet begun combat operations. Thompson visited a French unit with a fellow member of the 1st Aero Squadron and both were invited to fly as gunner-bombardiers with the French on a bombing raid over Saarbrücken, Germany. After they had dropped their bombs, the squadron was attacked by Albatros D.III fighters. Thompson shot down one of them. This was the first aerial victory by any member of the U.S. military. He was awarded the Croix de guerre with Palm for the action.
1918 – SS Tuscania is torpedoed off the coast of Ireland; it is the first ship carrying American troops to Europe to be torpedoed and sunk.
1940 – The US Maritime Commission announces that Britain and France are buying 113,000 tons of old American cargo ships.
1942 – The United States declares war on Thailand.
1942 – The British RAF drops 1.4 million copies of 2 American leaflets, describing scale of the US arms program, over 8 French cities and towns.
1945 – The German pocket near Colmar is cut in two by a link between French units and part of the US 21st Corps. Farther north, US 1st Army extends its attacks, led by US 5th Corps, toward the Roer aiming to take the Schwammenauel Dam.
1945 – The US forces close in tighter around Manila. The US 11th Corps has completed its attack across the Bataan Peninsula.
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).
1947 – The Soviet Union and Great Britain rejected terms for an American trusteeship over Japanese Pacific Isles.
1951 – Operation ROUNDUP, an advance by X Corps, began. This attack in the central front was directed against the enemy’s II and V Corps with friendly forces converging on Hongchon from the east and west.
1953 – The American Iron and Steel Institution announced that U.S. steel concerns had produced 117,500,000 short tons of steel during the past year. The years following World War II were a heady time for the American steel industry. Long suffering from the effects of the Great Depression, the industry was revived by the war, as the nation’s factories were given the responsibility of building the “great arsenal of democracy.” Although the close of the World War II seemingly threatened the industry’s resurgence, the government, motivated by the emergence of the Cold War as well as economic concerns, decided to maintain full-scale military production. The manufacturing sector, including the steel industry, steamed ahead at full-pace, churning out items at a record clip. The steel industry kept rolling through the early 1950s.
1958 – In the Tybee Island B-47 crash the United States Air Force lost a 7,600-pound (3,400 kg) Mark 15 nuclear bomb in the waters off Tybee Island near Savannah, Georgia, United States. During a practice exercise, the B-47 bomber carrying the bomb collided in midair with an F-86 fighter plane. To protect the aircrew from a possible detonation in the event of a crash, the bomb was jettisoned. Following several unsuccessful searches, the bomb was presumed lost somewhere in Wassaw Sound off the shores of Tybee Island.
1960 – The South Vietnamese government requests that Washington double U.S. Military Assistance and Advisory Group (MAAG-Vietnam) strength from 342 to 685. The advisory group was formed on November 1, 1955 to provide military assistance to South Vietnam. It had replaced U.S. Military Assistance Advisory Group Indochina (MAAG-Indochina), which had been providing military assistance to “the forces of France and the Associated States in Indochina” (Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam) in accordance with President Harry S. Truman’s order of June 27, 1950. MAAG-Vietnam had U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps elements that provided advice and assistance to the South Vietnamese Ministry of Defense, Joint General Staff and corps and division commanders, as well as to training centers and province and district headquarters. In May 1964, MAAG-Vietnam was disbanded and its personnel and responsibilities absorbed by the U.S. Military Assistance Command Vietnam (MACV), which had been established in Saigon two years earlier.
1968 – U.S. troops divided Viet Cong at Hue while the Saigon government claimed they would arm loyal citizens.
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 – It was reported that the United States had agreed to sell 42 F-4 Phantom jets to Israel.
1972 – US airlines began mandatory inspection of passengers and baggage.
1973 – Services were held at Arlington National Cemetery for Army Lt. Col. William B. Nolde, the last American soldier killed before the Vietnam cease-fire.
1974 – Patty Hearst was kidnapped at gunpoint by a white woman and two black men.
1975 – North Vietnamese Gen. Van Tien Dung departs for South Vietnam to take command of communist forces in preparation for a new offensive. In December 1974, the North Vietnamese 7th Division and the newly formed 3rd Division attacked Phuoc Long Province, north of Saigon. This attack represented an escalation in the “cease-fire war” that started shortly after the Paris Peace Accords were signed in 1973. The North Vietnamese wanted to see how Saigon and Washington would react to a major attack so close to Saigon. President Richard Nixon and his successor, Gerald Ford, had promised to come to the aid of South Vietnam if the North Vietnamese launched a major new offensive. With Nixon’s Watergate resignation and Ford facing an increasingly hostile Congress, Hanoi was essentially conducting a “test” attack to see if the United States would honor its commitment to Saigon. The attack was much more successful than the North Vietnamese anticipated: the South Vietnamese soldiers fought poorly and the United States did nothing. Emboldened by their success, the North Vietnamese decided to launch a major offensive against the South Vietnamese. “Campaign 275″ began on March 1, 1975. The North Vietnamese forces quickly overran the South Vietnamese and the United States failed to provide the promised support. Saigon fell on April 30 and the South Vietnamese government officially surrendered.
1976 – An outbreak of Swine Flu begins at Ft. Dix, NJ. David Lewis, an Army private said he felt tired and weak, then left his sick bed to go on a forced run, collapsed, was revived by his Sergeant only to die a few days later and four of his fellow soldiers were additionally hospitalized. Two weeks after his death, health officials announced that swine flu was the cause of death and that this strain of flu appeared to be closely related to the strain involved in the 1918 flu pandemic. Alarmed public-health officials decided that action must be taken to head off another major pandemic, and they urged President Gerald Ford that every person in the U.S. be vaccinated for the disease’ despite prior knowledge that one version of the vaccine could cause neurological damage. The vaccination program, enacted at a cost of $135 million, was plagued by delays and public relations problems. However, Centers for Disease Control vaccination efforts achieved unprecedented distribution results, with more than 40 million Americans immunized between October and December that year. The first vaccinations were given on approximately October 1, the government suspended the immunization program on December 16 after reports of at least 54 cases of Guillain-Barré syndrome across ten states. Approximately 24% of the population had been vaccinated by the time the program was canceled.
1981 – A military jury in North Carolina convicted Marine Pvt. 1st Class Robert Garwood of collaborating with the enemy while a prisoner of war in Vietnam.
1983 – Former Nazi Gestapo official Klaus Barbie (d.1991), expelled from Bolivia, was brought to trial in Lyon, France. He was convicted and sentenced to life in prison.
1988 – Two federal grand juries in Florida announce indictments of Panama military strongman General Manuel Antonio Noriega and 16 associates on drug smuggling and money laundering charges. Noriega, the de facto dictator of Panama since 1983, was charged with smuggling marijuana into the United States, laundering millions of U.S. dollars, and assisting Colombia’s Medellin drug cartel in trafficking cocaine to America. The Panamanian leader denied the charges and threatened expulsion of the 10,000 U.S. service personnel and their families stationed around the Panama Canal. In 1968, Noriega, then a first lieutenant in the Panamanian National Guard, played an important part in a coup that ousted President Arnulfo Arias and brought General Omar Torrijos to power. Early the next year, Torrijos rewarded Noriega for his loyalty by promoting him to lieutenant colonel and appointing him chief of military intelligence. In 1970, Noriega, who had first been approached by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) while a promising military student in the early 1960s, went on the payroll of the CIA. The United States used Noriega as a check against the left-leaning Torrijos and as an informer on Central American revolutionaries, the Colombian drug cartels, and communist Cuba, which Torrijos, though not a Marxist himself, admired and visited. Noriega, meanwhile, developed his G-2 intelligence agency into a feared secret police force and became involved in the drug trade. The U.S. government was aware of his drug trafficking, and in 1977 he was removed from the CIA payroll. However, in 1981, the United States organized and financed the anti-Sandinista Contras in Nicaragua, and Noriega was brought back into the CIA fold. For a salary of close to $200,000 a year, Noriega provided intelligence about the Sandinistas and Cubans to the Americans and aided the Contras in their drug-trafficking efforts. In July 1981, Omar Torrijos was killed in a plane crash, and Colonel Noriega became chief of staff to General Rubýn Darýo Paredes, head of the National Guard. For two years, military and civilian leader struggled to gain the upper hand. In 1983, Paredes resigned and control of the military and the country passed to Noriega. Noriega unified the armed forces into the Panamanian Defense Forces (PDF), promoted himself to the rank of general, and consolidated his rule. Under his regime, political repression and corruption became widespread. In 1984, he held a presidential election, but when Arnulfo Arias won another apparent victory, Noriega tampered with the returns and gave the election to Nicolýs Ardito Barletta, who became a puppet president. Still, Noriega enjoyed the continued support of the Reagan administration, which valued his aid in its efforts to overthrow Nicaragua’s Sandinista government. In 1986, just months before the outbreak of the Iran-Contra affair, allegations arose concerning Noriega’s history as a drug trafficker, money launderer, and CIA employee. Most shocking, however, were reports that Noriega had acted as a double agent for Cuba’s intelligence agency and the Sandinistas. The U.S. government disowned Noriega, and his supporters staged protests against the American presence in Panama. Meanwhile, the dictator cracked down on growing political opposition in Panama. In February 1988, Noriega was indicted by federal grand juries in Tampa and Miami, and Panamanian President Eric Arturo Delvalle attempted to dismiss Noriega. Delvalle was himself dismissed by the Noriega-led National Assembly. In March 1988, the United States froze all Panamanian assets in U.S. banks and imposed sanctions, and the same month an attempted coup by a handful of anti-Noriega PDF officers was crushed by loyal PDF soldiers. During the next year, tensions between Americans and Noriega supporters in Panama continued to grow, and the United States increased its economic sanctions. In May 1989, Noriega annulled a presidential election that would have made Guillermo Endara president, and demonstrators protesting the fraud were attacked by the Noriega-subsidized Dignity Battalions. In response, U.S. President George Bush ordered additional U.S. troops to the Panama Canal Zone and urged U.S. civilians to return to the United States. In October, another coup attempt by anti-Noriega PDF soldiers failed, and on December 15 the Noriega-led assembly declared the dictator the official chief executive while recognizing that a state of war existed with the United States. The next day, an off-duty U.S. Marine officer was shot to death at a PDF roadblock. U.S. forces in Panama were put on high alert, and on December 17 President Bush authorized Operation Just Cause–the U.S. invasion of Panama to overthrow Noriega. On December 20, 9,000 U.S. troops joined the 12,000 U.S. military personnel already in Panama and were met with scattered resistance from the PDF. By December 24, the PDF was crushed, the United States held most of the country, and Noriega sought asylum with the Vatican nuncio in Panama City. Meanwhile, Endara had been made president by U.S. forces, and he ordered the PDF dissolved. On January 3, Noriega surrendered and was taken to Howard Air Force Base, where he was arrested by U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency officials for his grand jury indictments. On January 4, he arrived in Florida to await his trial. The U.S. invasion of Panama cost the lives of only 23 U.S. soldiers and three U.S. civilians. Some 150 PDF soldiers were killed along with an estimated 500 Panamanian civilians. The Organization of American States and the European Parliament both formally protested the invasion, which they condemned as a flagrant violation of international law. Noriega’s criminal trial began in 1991, and he pleaded innocent. On April 9, 1992, he was found guilty on eight counts of drug trafficking, racketeering, and money laundering, marking the first time in history that a U.S. jury had convicted a foreign leader of criminal charges. He was sentenced to 40 years in federal prison.
1989 – In an important move signaling the close of the nearly decade-long Soviet military intervention in Afghanistan, the last Russian troops withdraw from the capital city of Kabul. Less than two weeks later, all Soviet troops departed Afghanistan entirely, ending what many observers referred to as Russia’s “Vietnam.” Soviet armed forces entered Afghanistan in December 1979 to support that nation’s pro-Soviet communist government in its battles with Muslim rebels. Almost immediately, the Soviet Union found itself mired in a rapidly escalating conflict. Afghan rebels put up unexpectedly stiff resistance to the Russian intervention. Soon, thousands of Soviet troops were fighting a bloody, costly, and ultimately frustrating battle to end the Afghan resistance. By the time the Soviets started to withdraw in early 1989, over 13,000 Russian soldiers were dead and over 22,000 had been wounded. The Soviet Union also suffered from a very negative diplomatic response from the United States–President Jimmy Carter put a hold on arms negotiations, asked for economic sanctions, and pressed for an American boycott of the 1980 Olympics in Moscow. By 1988, Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev decided that the manpower and financial drains imposed by Afghanistan were unacceptable and indicated that Soviet troops would shortly begin their withdrawal. The Soviet Union was in the midst of tremendous internal political and economic instability at the time, and Gorbachev’s action in regards to Afghanistan was yet another indication that Soviet power was on the wane. In less than three years, Gorbachev had resigned and the Soviet Union had ceased to exist. For Afghanistan, the Soviet withdrawal did not mean an end to the death and destruction. The Afghan rebels, who had been armed to the teeth by U.S. aid, simply turned their attention to political and religious rivals within the country. Civil war continued to wrack the nation
1991 – President Bush announced he was sending Defense Secretary Dick Cheney and General Colin L. Powell, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to the Gulf war zone to assess how the US-led offensive was progressing.
1992 – The House of Representatives authorized an investigation into whether the 1980 Reagan-Bush campaign conspired with Iran to delay release of the American hostages. The task force investigating the “October Surprise” allegations later said it found no credible evidence of such a conspiracy.
1998 – Pres. Clinton ordered 2,000 Marines to the Persian Gulf and met with PM Tony Blair of Britain to discuss the possible use of force against Iraq.
1998 – Democratic fundraiser Yah Lin “Charlie” Trie pleaded innocent in Washington to charges he’d raised illegal donations to buy influence in high places. Trie pleaded guilty in May 1999 to a felony count and a misdemeanor and was sentenced later that year to four months’ home detention and three years’ probation.
2001 – Four disciples of Osama bin Laden went on trial in New York in the 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa. The four were convicted and sentenced to life in prison without parole.
2002 – A federal grand jury in Alexandria, Va., indicted John Walker Lindh on 10 charges, alleging he was trained by Osama bin Laden’s network and then conspired with the Taliban to kill Americans.
2002 – In Pakistan 2 men associated with the kidnapping of journalist Daniel Pearl were arrested in a Karachi suburb. Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh (28), Islamic militant, turned himself in to Ejah Shah, the home secretary in Punjab province.
2002 – US officials announced plans to train and arm Colombian troops to protect the key Cano Limon oil pipeline.
2003 – Secretary of State Colin Powell, made his case that Iraq had defied all demands that it disarm. He presented tape recordings, satellite photos and statements from informants that he said was “irrefutable and undeniable” evidence that Saddam Hussein is concealing weapons of mass destruction.
2003 – North Korea said that it had reactivated its nuclear facilities and is going ahead with their operation “on a normal footing.”
2003 – US military officials say that the USS Abraham Lincoln arrived in the Arabian Sea on the weekend, putting a third US aircraft carrier battle group within striking distance of Iraq.
2004 – CIA Director George Tenet acknowledged that US spy agencies may have over-estimated Iraq’s illicit weapons capabilities.
2004 – NASA restored communications with the Mars Spirit rover.
2004 – U.S. and Iraqi forces captured more than 100 suspected guerrillas in raids across the country, arresting one of Saddam Hussein’s intelligence chiefs and another Iraqi believed involved in a suicide bombing last month, a U.S.
2004 – Pakistan’s Pres. Musharraf pardoned Abdul Qadeer Khan after Kahn absolved Islamabad of selling nuclear secrets to Iran.
2007 – Space Shuttle astronaut and Navy Commander Lisa Nowak is arrested in Florida for attempted kidnappingof U.S. Air Force Captain Colleen Shipman, who was romantically involved with astronaut William Oefelein. Nowak was released on bail, and initially pleaded not guilty to the charges, which included attempted kidnapping, burglary with assault, and battery. Her assignment to the space agency as an astronaut was terminated by NASA effective March 8, 2007. On November 10, 2009, Nowak agreed to a plea deal with prosecutors and pleaded guilty to charges of felony burglary of a car and misdemeanor battery.
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