1738 – Ethan Allen was born. Allen spent a considerable portion of his life in the effort to achieve independence for what is now Vermont, commanding (1770-1775) an irregular force called the Green Mountain Boys, so named in defiance of the New York threat to drive Vermont settlers off the fields and “into the Green Mountains.” The “Yorkers” at one point put a bounty of £60 on Allen’s head, to which he responded by offering his own of £25 on any of the officials involved. At the outbreak of the Revolutionary War (1775-1783) he led the expedition that captured Fort Ticonderoga in the first colonial victory of the war (notwithstanding the fact that he and the Boys basically knocked on the door, walked in and took over). He would soon thereafter attempt a badly planned, badly executed assault on Montreal which would result in his being imprisoned by the British and thus removed from further participation in the Revolution. After the War, he continued the campaign for Vermont statehood, a goal which was not to be achieved during his lifetime. Allen was no military genius, rather an overbearing, loud-mouthed braggart. He was also a staunch patriot who apparently did not know the meaning of fear. More importantly, he had the loyalty of the Green Mountain Boys, as unruly a bunch of roughnecks as any in history. He could control them better than anyone else, and they would follow him anywhere. George Washington would write of Allen, “There is an original something about him that commands attention.” The Reverend Nathan Perkins, on the other hand, wrote in his diary, “Arrived at Onion River falls (present-day Winooski) and passed by Ethan Allyn’s grave. An awful infidel, one of Ye wickedest Men Yt ever walked this guilty globe. I stopped and looked at his grave with a pious horror.” A grain of salt might be in order: Perkins had quite a bit to say (little of it good) about Vermont and Vermonters during and after brief visits. For all his faults, and despite his having done but one significant thing in the Revolution, Vermonters are proud of him; his very name evokes the essence of independence. History records Ethan Allen as having demanded the surrender of Fort Ticonderoga “in the name of the Great Jehovah and the Continental Congress.” According to historian and folklorist B.A.Botkin, one Israel Harris was present at the time, and later told his grandson (the late Professor James D. Butler of Madison, Wisconsin) that Allen’s actual words were “Come out of there, you goddam old rat!”
1776 – Thomas Paine publishes his pamphlet “Common Sense,” setting forth the arguments for American independence. Although little used today, pamphlets were an important medium for the spread of ideas in the 16th through 19th centuries. Paine was born in England in 1737 and worked as a corsetmaker in his teens. He also worked as a sailor and schoolteacher before becoming a prominent pamphleteer. In 1774, Paine arrived in Philadelphia and came to support American independence. His 47-page pamphlet sold some 500,000 copies and had a powerful influence on American opinion. Paine served in the U.S. Army and worked for the Committee of Foreign Affairs before returning to Europe in 1787. Back in England, he continued writing pamphlets in support of revolution. He released The Rights of Man, supporting the French revolution in 1791-2, in answer to Edmund Burke’s famous Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790). His sentiments were highly unpopular with the British government, so he fled to France but was later arrested for his political opinions. He returned to the United States in 1802 and died in New York in 1809.
1779 – The French present John Paul Jones with a dilapidated vessel, the Duc de Duras. This Jones refits, mounts with 42 guns and renames Bonhomme Richard in honor of Benjamin Franklin. On 19 June 1779 Bonhomme Richard sailed from L’Orient accompanied by Alliance, Pallas, Vengeance, and Cerf with troop transports and merchant vessels under convoy to Bordeaux and to cruise against the British in the Bay of Biscay. Forced to return to port for repair, the squadron sailed again 14 August 1779. Going northwest around the west coast of the British Isles into the North Sea and then down the east coast the squadron took 16 merchant vessels as prizes.On 23 September 1779 they encountered the Baltic Fleet of 41 sail under convoy of HMS Serapis (44) and Countess of Scarborough (22) near Flamborough Head. After 1800 Bonhomme Richard engaged Serapis and a bitter engagement ensued during the next four hours before Serapis struck her colors. Bonhomme Richard, shattered, on fire, and leaking badly defied all efforts to save her and sank at 1100 on 25 September 1779. John Paul Jones sailed the captured Serapis to Holland for repairs. 1800 – Congress ratifies the Treaty of August 28, 1797 with Tunis. This treaty is supposed to ensure that, in return for a higher tribute from the US, the Barbary pirates will leave US shipping in the Mediterranean unmolested.
1791 – The Siege of Dunlap’s Station begins near Cincinnati during the Northwest Indian War. In the winter of 1790-1791 a large confederation of native people surrounded John Dunlap’s small armed and fortified community in what became SW Ohio. A 25 hour long battle ensued. Dunlap’s Station, later referred to as Fort Colerain, was on the east bank of the Great Miami River, and established in early 1790. Convinced that the untrained American militias were vulnerable to forays by united warriors, in November & December 1790 chiefs of the confederated tribes met with British Indian agents to plan simultaneous raids on Baker’s and Dunlap’s Stations. The “white Indian” Simon Girty was honored with the leadership of these attacks. The Natives approached the station, bragging that they were led by the multi-lingual “villain” Simon Girty and demanded surrender using a captive surveyor, Abner Hunt, as an interpreter. This parlay lasted about an hour on the east side of the Fort. Gunfire broke out on the opposite side by the deep portion of the river while the demands were being made. Then the shooting continued for another two hours, but these battle demands were ignored. The attackers then withdrew until the evening, but very likely used the time to butcher their cattle. The captive Hunt was killed under disputed circumstances. John S. Wallace, a civilian, had escaped to summon reinforcements, who rapidly made their way to assist. Fighting resumed at the break of dawn the next day, however, the Natives lacked siege weapons. They withdrew around 8:00 A.M. before a relief force from Fort Washington arrived around 10:00 A.M.
1861 – Forts Jackson and St. Philip on the Mississippi River in Louisiana, were seized by Louisiana State troops.
1861 – Florida secedes from the Union.
1863 – Union gunboats begin a bombardment of Galveston, Texas.
1868 – The Senate Committee on Military Affairs releases its report which exonerates Secretary of War Stanton in his struggle with President Johnson over dismissal from office.
1899 – Filipino leader Emilio Aguinaldo renounces the Treaty of Paris, which annexed the Philippines to the United States.
1901 – In the town of Beaumont, Texas, a 100-foot drilling derrick named Spindletop produced a roaring gusher of black crude oil. The oil strike took place at 10:30 a.m. on this day in 1901, coating the landscape for hundreds of feet around in sticky oil. The first major oil discovery in the United States, the Spindletop gusher marked the beginning of the American oil industry. Soon the prices of petroleum-based fuels fell, and gasoline became an increasingly practical power source. Without Spindletop, internal combustion might never have replaced steam and battery power as the automobile power plant of choice, and the American automobile industry might not have changed the face of America with such staggering speed.
1912 – The World’s first flying-boat airplane, designed by Glenn Curtiss, made its maiden flight at Hammondsport. Curtis was the 1st licensed pilot and Orville Wright was the 2nd. The first airplane purchased by the U.S. Navy was a Curtiss Model E hydroaeroplane and was given the Navy designation A-1 in early 1911. The Navy purchased a second Model E in July 1911, with a more powerful 80-horsepower Curtiss OX engine, and designated it the A-2. It was also known as the OWL, standing for Over Water and Land. Modifications of the A-2 by the Navy led to re-designations of E-1 and later AX-1. These modifications, done at the Curtiss plant at Hammondsport, New York, included moving the seats from the lower wing to the float and enclosing the crew area with a fabric-covered framework, giving the aircraft the appearance of a short-hull flying boat. The OWL, with its modified float, was developed into a true flying boat (the entire fuselage being a hull as opposed to mounting the aircraft on a separate float) by Curtiss in 1912, first with the Model D Flying Boat, and then a refined version, the Model E. The Model E Flying Boat was the first truly practical flying boat. It was powered by either a 60- or a 75-horsepower Curtiss V8 engine. Both the U.S. Army and Navy purchased Curtiss Model E Flying Boats, the Navy designating it the C-1.
1916 – In an attempt to embroil the US in turmoil with Mexico, Francisco “Pancho” Villa and his troupe of bandits stopped a train at Santa Ysabel. The bandits removed a group of 18 Texas business men (mining engineers) invited by the Mexican government to reopen the Cusihuiriachic mines below Chihuahua City and executed them in cold blood. However, one of those shot feined death and rolled down the side of the embankment and, crawling away into a patch of brown mesquite bushes, escaped. The train moved on, leaving the corpses at the mercy of the slayers, who stripped and mutilated them. After the escapee arrived back at Chihuahua City, a special train sped to Santa Ysabel to reclaim the bodies. When the people of El Paso heard of the massacre, they went wild with anger. El Paso was immediately placed under martial law to prevent irate Texans from crossing into Mexico at Juarez to wreak vengeance on innocent Mexicans.Despite outrage in the United States and Washington over the Santa Ysabel massacre, President Wilson refused to intervene and send troops into Mexico. Two months later, Villa would decide to strike again.
1917 – The Navy places its first production order for aerial photographic equipment.
1920 – League of Nations formally comes into being when the Covenant of the League of Nations, ratified by 42 nations in 1919, takes effect. In 1914, a political assassination in Sarajevo set off a chain of events that led to the outbreak of the most costly war ever fought to that date. As more and more young men were sent down into the trenches, influential voices in the United States and Britain began calling for the establishment of a permanent international body to maintain peace in the postwar world. President Woodrow Wilson became a vocal advocate of this concept, and in 1918 he included a sketch of the international body in his 14-point proposal to end the war. In November 1918, the Central Powers agreed to an armistice to halt the killing in World War I. Two months later, the Allies met with conquered Germany and Austria-Hungary at Versailles to hammer out formal peace terms. President Wilson urged a just and lasting peace, but England and France disagreed, forcing harsh war reparations on their former enemies. The League of Nations was approved, however, and in the summer of 1919 Wilson presented the Treaty of Versailles and the Covenant of the League of Nations to the U.S. Senate for ratification. Wilson suffered a severe stroke soon in the fall of that year, which prevented him from reaching a compromise with those in Congress who thought the treaties reduced U.S. authority. In November, the Senate declined to ratify both. The League of Nations proceeded without the United States, holding its first meeting in Geneva on November 15, 1920. During the 1920s, the League, with its headquarters at Geneva, incorporated new members and successfully mediated minor international disputes but was often disregarded by the major powers. The League’s authority, however, was not seriously challenged until the early 1930s, when a series of events exposed it as ineffectual. Japan simply quit the organization after its invasion of China was condemned, and the League was likewise powerless to prevent the rearmament of Germany and the Italian invasion of Ethiopia. The declaration of World War II was not even referred to by the then-virtually defunct League. In 1946, the League of Nations was officially dissolved with the establishment of the United Nations. The United Nations was modeled after the former but with increased international support and extensive machinery to help the new body avoid repeating the League’s failures.
1923 – Four years after the end of World War I, President Warren G. Harding orders U.S. occupation troops stationed in Germany to return home. In 1917, after several years of bloody stalemate along the western front, the entrance of America’s well-supplied forces into World War I was a major turning point in the conflict. When the war ended in November 1918, more than two million American soldiers had served on the battlefields of Western Europe, and more than 50,000 of them had lost their lives. As part of the Treaty of Versailles, signed the next year, U.S. troops, along with other Allied forces, were to occupy the defeated Central Powers nations to enforce the terms of the peace agreement. In Germany, Allied occupation and stiff war reparations levied against the country were regarded with increasing bitterness, and in 1923, after four years of contending with a resentful German populace, the American troops were ordered home.
1927 – 2nd Bn 5th Marines landed in Nicaragua. A civil war had erupted between liberal rebels under General Jose Maria Moncada (1868-1945) and the government under Diaz, who requested and received military assistance from the United States.
1934 – Six Consolidated P2Y-1s of Patrol Squadron 10F, Lieutenant Commander Knefler McGinnis commanding, made a nonstop formation flight from San Francisco, Calif., to Pearl Harbor, T.H. He made the trip in 24 hours 35 minutes, thereby bettering the best previous time for the crossing, exceeding the best distance of previous mass flights, and breaking a nine-day- old world record for distance in a straight line for Class C seaplanes with a new mark of 2,399 miles.
1941 – President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Lend-Lease program is brought before the U.S. Congress for consideration. Roosevelt devised the Lend-Lease program as a means of aiding Great Britain in its war effort against the Germans. The program gave the chief executive the power to “sell, transfer title to, exchange, lease, lend, or otherwise dispose of” any military resources he deemed in the ultimate interest of the defense of the United States. The idea was that if Britain were better able to defend itself, the security of the U.S. would be enhanced. The program also served to bolster British morale, as they would no longer feel alone in their struggle against Hitler. Congress authorized the program on March 11. By November, after much heated debate, Congress extended the terms of Lend-Lease to the Soviet Union, even though Stalin’s USSR had already been the recipient of American military weapons and had been promised $1 billion in financial aid. By the end of the war, more than $50 billion in funds, weapons, aircraft, and ships were distributed to 44 countries through the program. After the war, the Lend-Lease program morphed into the Marshall Plan, which allocated funds for the revitalization of “friendly” democratic nations.
1942 – The Ford Motor Company signed on to make Jeeps, the new general-purpose military vehicles desperately needed by American forces in World War II. The original Jeep design was submitted by the American Bantam Car Company. The Willys-Overland company won the Jeep contract, however, using a design similar to Bantam’s, but with certain improvements. The Jeep was in high demand during wartime, and Ford soon stepped in to lend its huge production capacity to the effort. By the end of the war, the Jeep had won a place in the hearts of Americans, and soon became a popular civilian vehicle. And that catchy name? Some say it comes from the initials G.P., for “General Purpose.” Others say it was named for Jeep the moondog, the spunky and durable creature who accompanied Popeye through the comics pages.
1943 – On Guadalcanal, an new American offensive begins with heavy air and artillery bombardment. The Japanese-held Gifu strongpoint is attacked by the US 35th Infantry Regiment. The Americans have over 50,000 troops on the island; the Japanese have less than 15,000 ill-supplied troops defending. During the night eight Japanese destroyers attempt to deliver supplies. One of the destroyers is damaged by American PT boats.
1944 – The GI Bill of Rights, first proposed by the American Legion, was passed by Congress. The Bill, more formally known as the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944, was intended to smooth demobilization for America’s almost 16 million servicemen and women. Postwar college and vocational school attendance soared as more than 50 percent of honorably discharged veterans took advantage of education benefits of up to $500 a year for tuition, plus a living allowance. When they returned home to marry and start families in record numbers, veterans faced a severe housing shortage. The home loan provisions of the GI Bill provided more than 2 million home loans and created a new American landscape in the suburbs. In 1990, President George Bush summed up the impact of the GI Bill: “The GI Bill changed the lives of millions by replacing old roadblocks with paths of opportunity.”
1944 – On New Britain, Americans send reinforcements to Arawe. There is a small advance by US regimental forces along the Aogiri Ridge, despite Japanese resistance.
1945 – In the Ardennes, American forces are engaged near Laroche. The British 30th Corps is advancing on the town from the west, capturing Bure and Samree. German forces are withdrawing, in good order, from the western tip of the salient. St. Hubert, 15 miles west of Bastogne, has been evacuated by the Germans under pressure from Allied forces.
1945 – The US forces continue to come ashore on Luzon. Their beachhead is now several miles wide and deep.
1946 – Chiang Kai-shek and the Yenan Communist forces halt fighting in China.
1946 – Establishment of first Navy nuclear power school at Submarine Base, New London, CT.
1946 – The first General Assembly of the United Nations, comprising 51 nations, convenes at Westminster Central Hall in London, England. One week later, the U.N. Security Council met for the first time and established its rules of procedure. Then, on January 24, the General Assembly adopted its first resolution, a measure calling for the peaceful uses of atomic energy and the elimination of atomic and other weapons of mass destruction. In 1944, at the Dumbarton Oaks conference in Washington, D.C., the groundwork was laid by Allied delegates for an international postwar organization to maintain peace and security in the postwar world. The organization was to possess considerably more authority over its members than the defunct League of Nations, which had failed in its attempts to prevent the outbreak of World War II. In April 1945, with celebrations of victory in Europe about to commence, delegates from 51 nations convened in San Francisco to draft the United Nations Charter. On June 26, the document was signed by the delegates, and on October 24 it was formally ratified by the five permanent members of the Security Council and a majority of other signatories.
1946 – The United States Army Signal Corps successfully conducts Project Diana, bouncing radio waves off the moon and receiving the reflected signals. This was the first experiment in radar astronomy and the first attempt to actively probe another celestial body. It was the inspiration for later EME (Earth-Moon-Earth) communication techniques. At a laboratory at Camp Evans (part of Fort Monmouth), in Wall Township, New Jersey, a large transmitter, receiver and antenna array were constructed for this purpose. The transmitter, a highly modified SCR-271 radar set from World War II, provided 3,000 watts at 111.5 MHz in 1/4 second pulses, applied to the antenna, a “bedspring” reflective array antenna composed of an 8×8 array of half wave dipoles in front of a reflector which provided 24 dB of gain. Reflected signals were received about 2.5 seconds later, the time required for the radio waves to make the 477,000 mile round-trip journey from the Earth to the Moon and back. The receiver had to compensate for the Doppler shift in frequency of the reflected signal due to the Moon’s orbital motion relative to the Earth’s surface, which was different each day, so this motion had to be carefully calculated for each trial. The antenna could be rotated in azimuth only, so the attempt could be made only as the moon passed through the 15 degree wide beam at moonrise and moonset, as the antenna’s elevation angle was horizontal. About 40 minutes of observation was available on each pass as the Moon transited the various lobes of the antenna pattern. The first successful echo detection came at 11:58am local time by John H. DeWitt and his chief scientist E. King Stodola. Project Diana marked the birth of radar astronomy later used to map Venus and other nearby planets, and was a necessary precursor to the US space program. It was the first demonstration that terrestrial radio signals could penetrate the ionosphere, opening the possibility of radio communications beyond the earth for space probes and human explorers. It also established the practice of naming space projects after Roman gods, e.g., Mercury and Apollo.
1951 – Continued severe winter weather forced Fifth Air Force to cancel close air support missions, and Far East Air Forces flew the lowest daily total of sorties since July 1950. Brig. Gen. James E. Briggs, USAF, replaced General O’Donnell as commander of FEAF Bomber Command. From now on, Strategic Air Command changed commanders of the Bomber Command every four months to provide wartime experience to as many officers as possible.
1951 – Major General John T. Seldon succeeded Major General Gerald C. Thomas as commander of the 1st Marine Division.
1953 – Seventeen B-29s kicked off an air campaign against the Sinanju communications complex by bombing rail bridges at Yongmi-dong, antiaircraft gun positions near Sinanju, and two marshalling yards at Yongmi-dong and Maejung-dong. Fighter-bombers followed up the B-29 night attacks with a daylight 158-aircraft raid against bridges, rail lines, and gun positions.
1962 – NASA announces plans to build the C-5 rocket launch vehicle. It became better known as the Saturn V Moon rocket, which launched every Apollo Moon mission.
1964 – Pres. Johnson held a meeting with Sec. of Defense Robert McNamara after which he approved covert operations against North Vietnam.
1964 – Panama broke ties with the U.S. and demanded a revision of the canal treaty.
1967 – President Johnson, in his annual State of the Union message to Congress, asks for enactment of a 6 percent surcharge on personal and corporate income taxes to help support the Vietnam War for two years, or “for as long as the unusual expenditures associated with our efforts continue.” Congress delayed for almost a year, but eventually passed the surcharge. The U.S. expenditure in Vietnam for fiscal year 1967 would be $21 billion.
1989 – As part of an arrangement to decrease Cold War tensions and end a brutal war in Angola, Cuban troops begin their withdrawal from the African nation. The process was part of a multilateral diplomatic effort to end years of bloodshed in Angola-a conflict that, at one time or another, involved the Soviet Union, the United States, Portugal, and South Africa. Angola officially became an independent nation in 1975, but even before the date of independence, various groups within the former Portuguese colony battled for control. One group, the National Front for the Liberation of Angola (FNLA), received support from the United States; another, the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), got much of its support from the Soviet Union and Cuba; and a third group, National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA), pragmatically took aid from whatever source was available, including South Africa and China. The United States, the Soviet Union, and China each believed Angola was a critical battlefield for political dominance in mineral-rich and strategically important southern Africa. By September 1975, South African troops were assisting UNITA forces in Angola. In November, Cuba – which became involved in Angola as part of Fidel Castro’s aggressive foreign policy to assert Cuba’s role in anticolonial struggles – responded by flying in thousands of troops to aid the MPLA. Their powerful assistance caused South African forces to withdraw. In 1981, the South Africans, who saw an MPLA regime in Angola as threatening to its political control of neighboring Namibia, again invaded Angola and increased their aid to UNITA. UNITA’s leader, Jonas Savimbi courted U.S. assistance and visited with President Ronald Reagan in 1986. The United States responded with military aid for UNITA’s forces and demanded that the Cuban troops depart Angola. As fighting escalated, Castro dispatched 15,000 additional troops to Africa. Throughout 1987 and 1988, UNITA and MPLA forces and their respective allies fought increasingly bloody battles. Sensing that the situation was spiraling out of control, the United States helped broker an agreement in December 1988 between Angola, Cuba, and South Africa, whereby the three nations vowed to remove all foreign forces from Angola. All three nations had expended vast amounts of manpower and money in the seemingly endless conflict and Cuba, in particular, was eager to negotiate a graceful exit. The Cuban troops began their withdrawal a few weeks later, and by 1991 they were gone. The situation in Angola was another indication that, particularly in the 1970s and 1980s, Africa was coming to play a more significant role in the Cold War geopolitics. Additionally, the Cuban intervention in the conflict was yet another event that served to chill relations between the United States and Cuba.
1991 – Five days before a UN deadline for Iraq to withdraw from Kuwait, peace efforts intensified, with UN Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar setting off on a mission aimed at averting war.
1993 – Marines kill 3 Somali gunmen.
1995 – The Pentagon announced that 2,600 U.S. Marines would be deployed to Somalia for Operation United Shield to assist in the final withdrawal of UN peacekeeping troops from Somalia. The decision came in response to a UN request for American protection of its peacekeeping forces serving in the war-torn African nation.
2002 – A CIA report said China, North Korea and Iran will probably have long-range missile capable of reaching the US by 2015.
2002 – An F-16 crashed near the Garden State Parkway in New Jersey. The pilot ejected safely.
2002 – In Afghanistan gunmen attacked the Kandahar airport as a US military transport took off carrying al Qaeda and Taliban prisoners to the US Guantanamo Bay naval base in Cuba.
2003 – North Korea announced that it was pulling out of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty.
2004 – A US anti-terror team arrived in Mauritania. The US had received information of threats against American interests in the West African nations of Mauritania and Senegal.
2005 – CBS issued a damning independent review of mistakes related to a “60 Minutes Wednesday” report, aired by Dan Rather, on President Bush’s National Guard service and fired three news executives and a producer for their “myopic zeal” in rushing it to air.
2007 – In a televised address to the US public, Bush proposed 21,500 more troops for Iraq, a job program for Iraqis, more reconstruction proposals, and $1.2 billion for these programs.
2010 – Ahead of the Iraqi parliamentary election, 2010, the De-Ba’athification Commission recommends banning the leaders of the Iraqi National Dialogue Front, the Coalition for Iraqi National Unity and 13 other parties for links to Saddam Hussein’s banned Ba’ath Party.