This Day in U.S. Military History…… January 12

12 January
1777 – American Brigadier General Hugh Mercer died as a result of his wounds received at the Battle of Princeton and became a fallen hero and rallying symbol of the American Revolution. Mercer (January 17, 1726 – January 12, 1777) was a soldier and physician. He initially served with British forces during the Seven Years’ War but later became a brigadier general in the Continental Army and a close friend to George Washington. There are rumors that Mercer exclusively originated Washington’s daring plan to cross the Delaware River and surprise the Hessians at the Battle of Trenton on December 26, 1776, and he was certainly a major contributor to its execution. Because of the win at Trenton (and a small monetary bonus), Washington’s men agreed to a ten-day extension to their enlistment. When Washington decided to face off with Cornwallis during the Second Battle of Trenton on January 2, 1777, Mercer was given a major role in the defense of the city. The next day, January 3, Washington’s army was en route to Princeton, New Jersey. While leading a vanguard of 350 soldiers, Mercer’s brigade encountered two British regiments and a mounted unit. A fight broke out at an orchard grove and Mercer’s horse was shot from under him. Getting to his feet, he was quickly surrounded by British troops who mistook him for George Washington and ordered him to surrender. Outnumbered, he drew his saber and began an unequal contest. He was finally beaten to the ground, then bayoneted repeatedly – seven times – and left for dead. When he learned of the British attack and saw some of Mercer’s men in retreat, Washington himself entered the fray. Washington rallied Mercer’s men and pushed back the British regiments, but Mercer had been left on the field to die with multiple bayonet wounds to his body and blows to his head. (Legend has it that a beaten Mercer, with a bayonet still impaled in him, did not want to leave his men and the battle and was given a place to rest on a white oak tree’s trunk, while those who remained with him stood their ground. The tree became known as “the Mercer Oak” and is the key element of the seal of Mercer County, New Jersey.) When he was discovered, Mercer was carried to the field hospital in the Thomas Clarke House (now a museum) at the eastern end of the battlefield. In spite of medical efforts by Benjamin Rush, Mercer was mortally wounded and died nine agonizing days later.
1813 – US Frigate Chesapeake captures British Volunteer.
1819 – Congress fails to endorse a report sponsored by Senator Henry Clay, condemning Andrew Jackson for his conduct in the First Seminole War in Florida.
1828 – The US and Mexico agree to a common border along the Sabine River.
1846 – John Slidell’s report on his unsuccessful attempt to negotiate with the President of Mexico reaches President Polk. The following day Polk orders General Zachary Taylor to move from the Nueces River to a position on or near the left bank of the Rio Grande. Taylor’s “Army of Observation” now has nearly 3500 troops, about half the US Army.
1861 – Fort Barrancas and the Pensacola Navy Yard, Captain James Armstrong, USN, were seized by Florida and Alabama militia. Union troops escaped across the Bay to Fort Pickens on Santa Rosa Island, a position which remained in Union hands throughout the war.
1865 – General Hugh Judson Kilpatrick is promoted to major general in the Union army. Kilpatrick served in both the eastern and western theaters of war and earned a reputation as a fearless-and, many would say, reckless – leader. Kilpatrick was born in New Jersey in 1836. He attended West Point and graduated in 1861 alongside fellow cavalryman George Custer. He joined the 5th New York Infantry and became one of the first officers wounded in the war when he was shot at the Battle of Big Bethel, Virginia, in June 1861. By 1863, Kilpatrick was a brigadier general in the Army of the Potomac’s cavalry division. His aggressive battlefield tactics were often dangerous for his troops and he earned the nickname “Kill cavalry.” When the Battle of Gettysburg was winding down after Pickett’s Charge on July 3, 1863, Kilpatrick ordered General Elon Farnsworth of his command to charge the Confederate’s right flank. Farnsworth informed Kilpatrick that the position was too strong, but Kilpatrick did not relent. Farnsworth was killed in the failed attack. In early 1864, Kilpatrick led a poorly conceived raid on Richmond that was also repulsed. Despite these blemishes on his record, Kilpatrick was selected by General William T. Sherman to command a cavalry division during the Atlanta campaign in 1864. Sherman wanted an aggressive leader to harass the Confederates. Kilpatrick attacked the Confederate supply line at Lovejoy’s Station, but he did not succeed in cutting the railroad. He was wounded later at Dalton, Georgia, but he returned in time to participate in Sherman’s March to the Sea and the campaign in the Carolinas in the winter and spring of 1864 and 1865. After the war, Kilpatrick was appointed U.S. minister to Chile. He returned to the U.S. in 1868, but he resumed the post in 1880. He died in 1881 and is buried at West Point.
1848 – Attack on Sloop Lexington, San Blas, Mexico. She landed a party at and captured several of the enemy guns.
1864 – Under cover of U.S.S. Yankee, Currituck, Anacostia, Tulip, and Jacob Bell, commanded by Acting Lieutenant Edward Hooker, Union cavalry and infantry under General Gilman Marston landed on the peninsula between the Potomac and Rappahannock Rivers, capturing “a small body of the enemy and a large number of cavalry horses.” The small gunboats supported the Army operations on the 13th and 14th, and covered the reembarkation of the soldiers on the 15th.
1872 – Russian Grand Duke Alexis goes on a gala buffalo hunting expedition with Gen. Phil Sheridan and Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer.
1893 – Hermann Goering, Nazi leader, commander of the Luftwaffe, is born. The son of a judge who had been sent by Bismarck to South-West Africa as the first Resident Minister Plenipotentiary, Goering entered the army in 1914 as an Infantry Lieutenant, before being transferred to the air force as a combat pilot. Goering distinguished himself as an air ace, credited with shooting down twenty-two Allied aircraft. Awarded the Pour le Merite and the Iron Cross (First Class), he ended the war with the romantic aura of a much decorated pilot and war hero. After World War I he was employed as a showflier. Goering’s aristocratic background and his prestige as a war hero made him a prize recruit to the infant Nazi Party and Hitler appointed him to command the SA Brownshirts in December 1922. In 1923 he took part in the Munich Beer-Hall putsch, in which he was seriously wounded and forced to flee from Germany for four years until a general amnesty was declared. Returning to Germany in 1927, he rejoined the NSDAP and was elected as one of its first deputies to the Reichstag a year later. Following Hitler’s appointment as Chancellor on 30 January 1933, Goering was made Prussian Minister of the Interior, Commander-in-Chief of the Prussian Police and Gestapo and Commissioner for Aviation. As the creator of the secret police, Goering, together with Himmler (q.v.) and Heydrich (q.v.), set up the early concentration camps forpolitical opponents, showing formidable energy in terrorizing and crushing all resistance. On 1 March 1935 he was appointed Commander-in-Chief of the Air Force and was responsible for organizing the rapid build-up of the aircraft industry and training of pilots. Goering identified with Hitler’s territorial aspirations, playing a key role in bringing about the Anschluss in 1938 and the bludgeoning of the Czechs into submission. Appointed Reich Council Chairman for National Defence on 30 August 1939 and officially designated as Hitler’s successor on 1 September, Goering directed the Luftwaffe campaigns against Poland and France, and on 19 June 1940 was promoted to Reich Marshal. In August 1940 he confidently threw himself into the great offensive against Great Britain, Operation Eagle, convinced that he would drive the RAF from the skies and secure the surrender of the British by means of the Luftwaffe alone. Goering, however, lost control of the Battle of Britain and made a fatal, tactical error when he switched to massive night bombings of London. This move saved the RAF sector control stations from destruction and gave the British fighter defences precious time to recover. The failure of the Luftwaffe caused the abandonment of Operation Sea Lion, the planned invasion of England, and began the political eclipse of Goering. 9 May 1945, Goering was captured by forces of the American Seventh Army and put on trial at Nuremberg in 1946. Goering was found guilty on all four counts: of conspiracy to wage war, crimes against peace, war crimes and crimes against humanity. No mitigating circumstances were found and Goering was sentenced to death by hanging. On 15 October 1946, two hours before his execution was due to take place, Goering committed suicide in his Nuremberg cell.
1908 – A wireless message is sent long-distance for the first time from the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
1913 – Kiel and Wilhelmshaven become submarine bases in Germany.
1918 – The Distinguished Service Cross was established by President Woodrow Wilson. General Pershing, Commander-in-Chief of the Expeditionary Forces in France, had recommended that recognition other than the Medal of Honor, be authorized for the Armed Forces of the United States for service rendered, in like manner, to that awarded by the European Armies. The request for establishment of the medal was forwarded from the Secretary of War to the President in a letter dated December 28, 1917. The Act of Congress establishing this award (193-65th Congress) dated July 9, 1918 is contained in Title 10 United States Code (USC) 3742. The establishment of the Distinguished Service Cross was promulgated in War Department General Order No. 6, dated January 12, 1918.
1918 – The Distinguished Service Medal, authorized by Presidential Order January 2, 1918, and confirmed by Congress July 9, 1918, was announced by War Department General Order No. 6, January 12, 1918, with the following information concerning the medal: “A bronze medal of appropriate design and a ribbon to be worn in lieu thereof, to be awarded by the President to any person who, while serving in any capacity with the Army shall hereafter distinguish himself or herself, or who, since April 6, 1917, has distinguished himself or herself by exceptionally meritorious service to the Government in a duty of great responsibility in time of war or in connection with military operations against an armed enemy of the United States.” The Act of Congress on July 9, 1918, recognized the need for different types and degrees of heroism and meritorious service and included such provisions for award criteria. The current statutory authorization for the Distinguished Service Medal is Title 10, United States Code, Section 3743. Among the first awards of the Distinguished Service Medal for service in World War I, were those to the Commanding Officers of the Allied Armies: Marshals Foch and Joffre, General Petain of France, Field Marshal Haig of Great Britain, General Diaz of Italy, General Gillain of Belgium, and General Pershing.
1927 – U.S. Secretary of State Frank Kellogg claims that Mexican President, former rebel, Plutarco Calles is aiding a bolshevist plot in Nicaragua.
1942 – President Franklin D. Roosevelt creates the National War Labor Board under the chairmanship of William Hammatt Davis. It became a tripartite body and was charged with acting as an arbitration tribunal in labor-management dispute cases, thereby preventing work stoppages which might hinder the war effort. It administered wage control in national industries such as automobiles, shipping, railways, airlines, telegraph lines, and mining. The Board was originally divided into 12 Regional Administrative Boards which handled both labor dispute settlement and wage stabilization functions for specific geographic regions. The National Board further decentralized in 1943, when it established special tripartite commissions and panels to deal with specific industries on a national base. It ceased operating in 1946, and labor disputes were afterwards handled by the National Labor Relations Board, originally set up in 1935.
1943 – In the Aleutians, Amchitka Island is occupied by a small US force led by General Jones. The destroyer Warden is lost in an accident.
1944 – US 5th Army forces (particularly 34th Division) capture Cervaro and advance toward Cassino.
1945 – There are air attacks from the planes of the carriers of Task Force 38 against Japanese installations at the naval base at Camranh Bay and others areas in Indochina. TG 38.5 continues the attacks from its specially trained carriers. Japanese losses to the attacks amount to 29 ships of 116,000 tons. Eleven small warships are also sunk.
1949 – Under-Secretary of State-designate Dean Acheson reaffirms the United Nations’ responsibility to provide military security to Pacific area nations. He does not consider Korea to be within the US defense perimeter.
1951 – After Wonju fell to communist forces, 98th BG sent ten B-29s to attack the occupied city. For the first time, B-29s dropped 500-pound general purpose bombs fused to burst in the air and shower enemy troops with thousands of steel fragments. The innovation slowed the enemy advance. To improve bombing precision, Far East Air Forces installed shoran (a short-range navigation system) on a B-26 for the first time.
1952 – F-84s caught three supply trains at Sunchon, racing for the shelter of a tunnel. They blasted the tunnel mouth shut, trapping the trains in the open, then destroyed the boxcars and at least two locomotives.
1953 – Landings tested on board USS Antietam, first angled deck carrier USS Antietam, a 27,100 ton Ticonderoga class aircraft carrier built at the Philadelphia Navy Yard, Pennsylvania, was commissioned in January 1945. She transited the Panama Canal to the Pacific in June and was en route to the Western Pacific war zone when Japan capitulated in August 1945. Antietam operated in Far Eastern waters during the first years of the post-war era, returning to the UnitedStates in 1949, when she was decommissioned and placed in the Reserve Fleet. Recommissioned in January 1951, in response to Korean War requirements, the carrier made one combat deployment, between September 1951 and March 1952. In September-December 1952, after joining the Atlantic Fleet, Antietam was modified to receive the U.S. Navy’s first angled flight deck. During the next few years, she served as the test platform for this feature, which was to revolutionize carrier flight operations. After being rated as an attack aircraft carrier (CVA-36) from October 1952 to August 1953, she was thereafter classified as an antisubmarine support aircraft carrier, with the hull number CVS-36. In that role, Antietam made Sixth Fleet cruises in the Mediterranean Sea in 1955 and in 1956-57. She was then assigned to carrier flight training duty, generally operating in waters near Pensacola, Florida. Relieved as training carrier in October 1962, she was decommissioned for the last time in May 1963. Following a decade in the Reserve Fleet, USS Antietam was sold for scrapping in February 1974.
1954 – In a speech at a Council on Foreign Relations dinner in his honor, Secretary of State John Foster Dulles announces that the United States will protect its allies through the “deterrent of massive retaliatory power.” The policy announcement was further evidence of the Eisenhower administration’s decision to rely heavily on the nation’s nuclear arsenal as the primary means of defense against communist aggression. Dulles began his speech by examining communist strategy that, he concluded, had as its goal the “bankruptcy” of the United States through overextension of its military power. Both strategically and economically, the secretary explained, it was unwise to “permanently commit U.S. land forces to Asia,” to “support permanently other countries,” or to “become permanently committed to military expenditures so vast that they lead to ‘practical bankruptcy.’” Instead, he believed a new policy of “getting maximum protection at a bearable cost” should be developed. Although Dulles did not directly refer to nuclear weapons, it was clear that the new policy he was describing would depend upon the “massive retaliatory power” of such weapons to respond to future communist acts of war. The speech was a reflection of two of the main tenets of foreign policy under Eisenhower and Dulles. First was the belief, particularly on the part of Dulles, that America’s foreign policy toward the communist threat had been timidly reactive during the preceding Democratic administration of President Harry S. Truman. Dulles consistently reiterated the need for a more proactive and vigorous approach to rolling back the communist sphere of influence. Second was President Eisenhower’s belief that military and foreign assistance spending had to be controlled. Eisenhower was a fiscal conservative and believed that the U.S. economy and society could not long take the strain of overwhelming defense budgets. A stronger reliance on nuclear weapons as the backbone of America’s defense answered both concerns – atomic weapons were far more effective in terms of threatening potential adversaries, and they were also, in the long run, much less expensive than the costs associated with a large standing army.
1962 – Operation Chopper, the first American combat mission in the Vietnam War, takes place. In December 1961, the USNS Core (T-AKV-41) docked in Saigon with 82 US Army Piasecki H-21 helicopters. A little more than 12 days later, Operation Chopper commenced. The helicopters transported over 1,000 South Vietnamese paratroopers for an assault on a suspected Viet Cong stronghold 10 miles west of Saigon. The Viet Cong were surprised and soundly defeated, but they gained valuable combat experience they would later use with great effect against US troops. The paratroopers also captured a sought-after underground radio transmitter. This operation heralded a new era of air mobility for the U.S. Army, which had been slowly growing as a concept since the Army formed twelve helicopter battalions in 1952 as a result of the Korean War. These new battalions eventually formed a sort of modern day cavalry for the Army.
1962 – The United States Air Force launches Operation Ranch Hand, a “modern technological area-denial technique” designed to expose the roads and trails used by the Viet Cong. Flying C-123 Providers, U.S. personnel dumped an estimated 19 million gallons of defoliating herbicides over 10-20 percent of Vietnam and parts of Laos between 1962-1971. Agent Orange – named for the color of its metal containers – was the most frequently used defoliating herbicide. The operation succeeded in killing vegetation, but not in stopping the Viet Cong. The use of these agents was controversial, both during and after the war, because of the questions about long-term ecological impacts and the effect on humans who either handled or were sprayed by the chemicals. Beginning in the late 1970s, Vietnam veterans began to cite the herbicides, especially Agent Orange, as the cause of health problems ranging from skin rashes to cancer to birth defects in their children. Similar problems, including an abnormally high incidence of miscarriages and congenital malformations, have been reported among the Vietnamese people who lived in the areas where the defoliating agents were used.
1971 – The Harrisburg Seven,a group of religious anti-war activists, led by Philip Berrigan, were charged in a failed conspiracy case in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, located at Harrisburg. The “Seven” were Berrigan, Sister Elizabeth McAlister, Rev. Neil McLaughlin, Rev. Joseph Wenderoth, Eqbal Ahmad, Anthony Scoblick, and Mary Cain Scoblick. The group was unsuccessfully prosecuted for alleged criminal plots during the Vietnam War era. Six of the seven were Roman Catholic nuns or priests. The seventh, Ahmad, was a Pakistani journalist, American-trained political scientist, and self-described “odd man out” of the group. Haverford College physics professor William C. Davidon was named as an unindicted co-conspirator in the case. In 1970, the group attracted government attention when Berrigan, then imprisoned, and McAlister were caught trading letters that alluded to kidnapping National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger and blowing up steam tunnels.
1986 – Congressman Bill Nelson (D-FL) lifts off from Kennedy Space Center aboard Columbia on mission STS-61-C as a Mission Specialist. STS-61-C was the twenty-fourth mission of NASA’s Space Shuttle program, and the seventh mission of Space Shuttle Columbia. It was the first time that Columbia, the first operational orbiter to be constructed, had flown since STS-9. The mission launched from Florida’s Kennedy Space Center on 12 January 1986, and landed six days later on 18 January. STS-61-C’s seven-person crew included the second African-American shuttle pilot, future NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, the first Costa Rican-born astronaut, Franklin Chang-Diaz, as well as the second sitting politician to fly in space. It was the last shuttle mission before the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster, which occurred just ten days after STS-61-C’s landing.
1991 – After a two day debate, a deeply divided Congress gave President Bush the authority to wage war in the Persian Gulf. The Senate voted 52-to-47 to empower Bush to use armed forces to expel Iraq from Kuwait; the House followed suit on a vote of 250-to-183. The 5th MEB embarked and arrived in the North Arabian Sea in support of Desert Shield.
1993 – First US KIA in Somalia. Marine killed while on patrol in Mogadishu.
1995 – In Port-au-Prince, Haiti, an American soldier, Sgt. 1st Class Gregory D. Cardott, assigned to A Company, 3rd Battalion, Third Special Forces Group, was killed and another wounded during a shootout with a former Haitian army officer who also was killed.
1997 – Two recently enrolled female cadets at The Citadel announced they were not returning for the spring semester, citing harassment by male cadets.
1998 – Iraq authorities said they would block a UN inspection team led by former US Marine captain Scott Ritter.
1999 – In Iraq a US F-16 jet encountered an active radar site and fired a HARM anti-radiation missile at it.
2002 – The United States intensified its anti-terror campaign in eastern Afghanistan, dropping bombs on suspected al-Qaida and Taliban hideouts.
2002 – Malaysia announced the arrests of 2 more suspected militants tied to al Qaeda and linked to a cell in Singapore.
2002 – Pakistan’s Pres. Musharraf vowed to crack down on militant Islamists using Pakistan as a base of operations in Kashmir. Musharraf also announced new regulations on education criteria for the estimated 6,000 madrassas, the Islamic schools.
2004 – The US Supreme Court refused to hear on appeal by civil liberties groups seeking access to basic data of individuals detained indefinitely by the government after the Sep. 11, 2001, attacks.
2005 – NASA launched its Deep Impact spacecraft from Cape Canaveral, Fla. It was scheduled to launch an 820-poind impactor vehicle at Comet Tempel-1 on July 4.
2005 – United States intelligence officials confirm that its search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq ended last month. The claim that Iraq had an active WMD program was one of a laundry list of justifications by the White House for the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
2007 – United States armed forces raid the office of the Iranian Consulate General in Arbil, a city in Iraqi Kurdistan.
2007 – Terrorists fire an anti-tank missile at the Embassy of the United States in Athens. No one is injured or killed.
2009 – CGC Boutwell departed Alameda, CA, on an around-the-world cruise as part of the USS Boxer Expeditionary Strike Group.
2010 A devastating earthquake struck Haiti. CGCs Forward, Mohawk and Tahoma were the first U.S. assets to arrive on scene at Port au Prince, with Forward arriving the morning of 13 January 2010 and Mohawk arriving in the afternoon. These units provided air traffic control for military aircraft, conducted damage assessments of the port, and ferried supplies and injured people with embarked boats and helicopters. Other Coast Guard assets began arriving soon thereafter to assist in the recovery efforts, including the CGC Oak and aircraft from AIRSTA Clearwater.
2015 – Apparent Islamic State computer hackers hack the feeds for the United States Central Command for Twitter and Youtube.

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