This Day in U.S. Military History…… January 21

21 January
1642 – Director of the New Netherlands colony, Willem Kieft, calls for a meeting of the Twelve (family representatives) to organize a military response to the increasing raids of the Hudson River Valley Tribe. This tribe is reacting to pressure from the growing Iroqois to the north and increasing European settlement in the south.
1785 – Chippewa, Delaware, Ottawa and Wyandot tribes signed a treaty of Fort McIntosh, ceding present-day Ohio to the United States.
1824 – Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, Confederate General, is born. Next to Robert E. Lee himself, Thomas J. Jackson is the most revered of all Confederate commanders. A graduate of West Point (1846), he had served in the artillery in the Mexican War, earning two brevets, before resigning to accept a professorship at the Virginia Military Institute. Thought strange by the cadets, he earned “Tom Fool Jackson” and “Old Blue Light” as nicknames. Upon the outbreak of the Civil War he was commissioned a colonel in the Virginia forces and dispatched to Harpers Ferry where he was active in organizing the raw recruits until relieved by Joe Johnston. Leaving Harpers Ferry, his brigade moved with Johnston to join Beauregard at Manassas. In the fight at 1st Bull Run they were so distinguished that both the brigade and its commander were dubbed “Stonewall” by General Barnard Bee. (However, Bee may have been complaining that Jackson was not coming to his support). The 1st Brigade was the only Confederate brigade to have its nickname become its official designation. That fall Jackson was given command of the Valley with a promotion to major general. That winter he launched a dismal campaign into the western part of the state that resulted in a long feud with General William Loring and caused Jackson to submit his resignation, which he was talked out of. In March he launched an attack on what he thought was a Union rear guard at Kernstown. Faulty intelligence from his cavalry chief, Turner Ashby, led to a defeat. A religious man, Jackson always regretted having fought on a Sunday. But the defeat had the desired result, halting reinforcements being sent to McClellan’s army from the Valley. In May Jackson defeated Fremont’s advance at McDowell and later that month launched a brilliant campaign that kept several Union commanders in the area off balance. He won victories at Front Royal, 1st Winchester, Cross Keys, and Port Republic. He then joined Lee in the defense of Richmond but displayed a lack of vigor during the Seven Days. Detached from Lee, he swung off to the north to face John Pope’s army and after a slipshod battle at Cedar Mountain, slipped behind Pope and captured his Manassas junction supply base. He then hid along an incomplete branch railroad and awaited Lee and Longstreet. Attacked before they arrived, he held on until Longstreet could launch a devastating attack which brought a second Bull Run victory. In the invasion of Maryland, Jackson was detached to capture Harpers Ferry and was afterwards distinguished at Antietam with Lee. He was promoted after this and given command of the now-official 2nd Corps. It had been known as a wing or command before this. He was disappointed with the victory at Fredericksburg because it could not be followed up. In his greatest day he led his corps around the Union right flank at Chancellorsville and routed the 11th Corps. Reconnoitering that night, he was returning to his own lines when he was mortally wounded by some of his own men. Following the amputation of his arm, he died eight days later on May 10, 1863, from pneumonia. Lee wrote of him with deep feeling: ” He has lost his left arm; but I have lost my right arm.” A superb commander, he had several faults. Personnel problems haunted him, as in the feuds with Loring and with Garnett after Kernstown. His choices for promotion were often not first rate. He did not give his subordinates enough latitude, which denied them the training for higher positions under Lee’s loose command style. This was especially devastating in the case of his immediate successor, Richard Ewell. Although he was sometimes balky when in a subordinate position, Jackson was supreme on his own hook. Stonewall Jackson is buried in Lexington, Virginia.
1855 -John Moses Browning, sometimes referred to as the “father of modern firearms,” is born in Ogden, Utah. Many of the guns manufactured by companies whose names evoke the history of the American West-Winchester, Colt, Remington, and Savage-were actually based on John Browning’s designs. The son of a talented gunsmith, John Browning began experimenting with his own gun designs as a young man. When he was 24 years old, he received his first patent, for a rifle that Winchester manufactured as its Single Shot Model 1885. Impressed by the young man’s inventiveness, Winchester asked Browning if he could design a lever-action-repeating shotgun. Browning could and did, but his efforts convinced him that a pump-action mechanism would work better, and he patented his first pump model shotgun in 1888. Fundamentally, all of Browning’s manually-operated repeating rifle and shotgun designs were aimed at improving one thing: the speed and reliability with which gun users could fire multiple rounds-whether shooting at game birds or other people. Lever and pump actions allowed the operator to fire a round, operate the lever or pump to quickly eject the spent shell, insert a new cartridge, and then fire again in seconds. By the late 1880s, Browning had perfected the manual repeating weapon; to make guns that fired any faster, he would somehow have to eliminate the need for slow human beings to actually work the mechanisms. But what force could replace that of the operator moving a lever or pump? Browning discovered the answer during a local shooting competition when he noticed that reeds between a man firing and his target were violently blown aside by gases escaping from the gun muzzle. He decided to try using the force of that escaping gas to automatically work the repeating mechanism. Browning began experimenting with his idea in 1889. Three years later, he received a patent for the first crude fully automatic weapon that captured the gases at the muzzle and used them to power a mechanism that automatically reloaded the next bullet. In subsequent years, Browning refined his automatic weapon design. When U.S. soldiers went to Europe during WWI, many of them carried Browning Automatic Rifles, as well as Browning’s deadly machine guns. During a career spanning more than five decades, Browning’s guns went from being the classic weapons of the American West to deadly tools of world war carnage. Amazingly, since Browning’s death in 1926, there have been no further fundamental changes in the modern firearm industry.
1861 – U.S. Senator Jefferson Davis of Mississippi and four (five) other Southern senators made emotional farewell speeches. Just weeks after his home state of Mississippi seceded from the Union, Davis prepared to leave Washington, D.C., and the country he had served as a soldier, cabinet member and member of Congress. One more time, Davis enumerated the reasons why the South felt secession was its only recourse: “…when you deny to us the right to withdraw from a Government which…threatens to be destructive to our rights, we but tread in the path of our fathers when we proclaim our independence….” Davis then apologized to any senators he may have offended, and finished his address by saying, “…it only remains for me to bid you a final adieu.”
1863 – Two Confederate ships drive away two Union ships as the Rebels recapture Sabine Pass, Texas, and open an important port for the Confederacy. Sabine Pass lay at the mouth of the Sabine River along the gulf coast of Texas. The Confederates constructed a major fort there in 1861. In September 1862, a Union force captured the fort and, shortly after, the port of Galveston to the southwest. The Yankees now controlled much of the Texas coast. In November, General John Bankhead Magruder arrived to change Southern fortunes in the area. Magruder was an early Confederate hero in Virginia, and now he was assigned the difficult task of expelling the Federals from Sabine Pass and Galveston. Magruder’s efforts paid quick dividends. He recaptured Galveston and then turned his attention to Sabine Pass. The decks of two ships, the Bell and the Uncle Ben, were stacked with cotton bales. Sharpshooters were placed behind the bales and the ships steamed towards two Union ships, the Morning Light and the Velocity. Some of the sharpshooters became seasick and had to be removed, but the expedition continued. The Confederates chased the Yankee ships into open water, and the sharpshooters injured many Union gunners. After a one-hour battle, both Union ships surrendered. Magruder’s victory reopened the Texas coast for Confederate shipping. The Union tried to recapture Sabine Pass later in the year, but the effort was thwarted when less than 50 Confederates inside the fort at Sabine Pass held off a much larger Union force.
1864 – U.S.S. Sciota, Lieutenant Commander George H. Perkins, in company with U.S.S. Granite City, Acting Master Charles W. Lamson, joined several hundred troops in a reconnaisance of the Texas coast. Sciota and Granite City covered the troops at Smith’s Landing, Texas, and the subsequent foray down the Matagorda Peninsula. From the war’s outset this type of close naval support and cooperation with the army had been a potent factor in Union success in all theaters of the conflict.
1903 – The US and Columbia sign the Hay-Herran Treaty, giving the US a 99 year lease and sovereignty over the Panama Canal Zone.
1912 – US troops begin the occupation of Tiensin, China to protect US interests and the US diplomatic legation. They will cooperate with troops from Japan, Germany, England, Russia and others to protect the International Quarter.
1919 – The German Krupp plant began producing guns under the U.S. armistice terms.
1930 – An international arms meeting opened in London. The London Naval Conference, hosted by Britain, sought to establish naval disarmament and review the Washington Treaty of 1922, which limited tonnage of new battleships. After three months of meetings, representatives from Britain, the United States and Japan signed a treaty limiting battleship tonnage based on ratios between the nations. Italy and France declined to sign. A second naval conference in December 1935 did little to promote further disarmament and, by the beginning of World War II, Germany, Japan and the United States had all begun building battleships well over the limit of 35,000 tons stipulated by the original Washington Treaty.
1940 – Britain rejects American protests concerning the examination of mail carried aboard US merchant ships.
1941 – The United States lifted the ban on arms to the Soviet Union.
1942 – In North Africa, German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel launches a drive to push the British eastward. While the British benefited from radio-intercept-derived Ultra information, the Germans enjoyed an even speedier intelligence source.
1942 – General Stilwell is nominated as Chief of Staff to Chaing Kai-shek.
1943 – A Nazi daylight air raid kills 34 in a London school. When the anticipated invasion of Britain failed to materialize in 1940, Londoners relaxed, but soon they faced a frightening new threat.
1943 – The Casablanca Directive is issued to the US and British strategic bombing forces in Europe by the Combined Chiefs of Staff. It sets out priorities for the continuing Allied attacks. Most of the reasoning is in line with the precision bombing ideas of the US leadership. As yet the US air forces have too few resources to carry out the full scheme and RAF Bomber Command will continue its area of bombing policy, in line with the vies of its Commander in Chief Sir Arthur Harris.
1943 – The Japanese resistance at Snananada and Giruwa on New Guinea is now almost completely overcome. The US troops and Australians begin mopping up.
1944 – Forces chosen for the Anzio landing set sail from Naples.
1950 – In the conclusion to one of the most spectacular trials in U.S. history, former State Department official Alger Hiss is convicted of perjury. He was convicted of having perjured himself in regards to testimony about his alleged involvement in a Soviet spy ring before and during World War II. Hiss served nearly four years in jail, but steadfastly protested his innocence during and after his incarceration. The case against Hiss began in 1948, when Whittaker Chambers, an admitted ex-communist and an editor with Time magazine, testified before the House Un-American Activities Committee and charged that Hiss was a communist in the 1930s and 1940s. Chambers also declared that Hiss, during his work in the Department of State during the 1930s, had passed him top secret reports. Hiss appeared before HUAC and vehemently denied the charges, stating that he did not even know Chambers. Later, after confronting Chambers face to face, Hiss admitted that he knew him, but that Chambers had been using another name at the time. In short order, Chambers produced the famous “Pumpkin Papers”-copies of the documents he said Hiss passed him during the 1930s. They were dubbed the “Pumpkin Papers” because Chambers kept them hidden in a pumpkin in his pumpkin patch. Charges and countercharges about the spy accusations soon filled the air. Defenders of Hiss, such as Secretary of State Dean Acheson, declared that President Truman’s opponents were making a sacrificial lamb out of Hiss. Truman himself declared that HUAC was using “red herrings” to defame Hiss. Critics fired back that Truman and Acheson were “coddling” communists, and that Hiss was only the tip of the iceberg-they claimed that communists had penetrated the highest levels of the American government. Eventually, Hiss was brought to trial. Because the statute of limitations had run out, he was not tried for treason. Instead, he was charged with two counts of perjury–for lying about passing government documents to Chambers and for denying that he had seen Chambers since 1937. In 1949, the first trial for perjury ended in a deadlocked jury. The second trial ended in January 1950 with a guilty verdict on both counts. The battle over the Hiss case continued long after the guilty verdict was handed down. Though many believed that Hiss was a much-maligned official who became a victim of the anticommunist hysteria of the late-1940s, others felt strongly that he was a lying communist agent. Hiss himself never deviated from his claim of innocence.
1951 – Communist troops force the UN army out of Inchon, Korea after a 12-hour attack.
1951 – Large numbers of MiG-15s attacked USAF jets, shooting down one F-80 and one F-84. Lt. Col. William E. Bertram of the 27th FEG shot down a MiG-15 to score the first USAF aerial victory by an F-84 ThunderJet.
1953 – Aircraft from three carriers continue relentless assaults against communist supply buildups near Hungnam and Wonsan. Meanwhile, Air Force F-86 Sabre jets downed seven MiGs and damaged three others in a trio of engagements.
1954 – Launching of Nautilus, first nuclear submarine, at Groton, CT. Construction of NAUTILUS was made possible by the successful development of a nuclear propulsion plant by a group of scientists and engineers at the Naval Reactors Branch of the Atomic Energy Commission, under the leadership of Captain Hyman G. Rickover, USN. In July of 1951 Congress authorized construction of the world’s first nuclear powered submarine. On December 12th of that year, the Navy Department announced that she would be the sixth ship of the fleet to bear the name NAUTILUS. Her keel was laid by President Harry S. Truman at the Electric Boat Shipyard in Groton, Connecticut on June 14, 1952. After nearly 18 months of construction, NAUTILUS was launched with First Lady Mamie Eisenhower breaking the traditional bottle of champagne across NAUTILUS’ bow as she slid down the ways into the Thames River. Eight months later, on September 30, 1954, NAUTILUS became the first commissioned nuclear powered ship in the United States Navy. On the morning of January 17, 1955, at 11 am EST, NAUTILUS’ first Commanding Officer, Commander Eugene P. Wilkinson, USN, ordered all lines cast off and signaled the memorable and historic message, “Underway On Nuclear Power.” Over the next several years, NAUTILUS shattered all submerged speed and distance records. On July 23, 1958, NAUTILUS departed Pearl Harbor, Hawaii under top secret orders to conduct “Operation Sunshine,” the first crossing of the north pole by a ship. At 11:15 pm on August 3, 1958, NAUTILUS’ second Commanding Officer, Commander William R. Anderson, USN, announced to his crew “For the world, Our Country, and the Navy – the North Pole.” With 116 men aboard, NAUTILUS had accomplished the “impossible,” reaching the geographic North Pole–90 degrees north. In May 1959, NAUTILUS entered Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, Kittery, Maine for her first complete overhaul–the first of any nuclear powered ship–and the replacement of her second fuel core. Upon completion of her overhaul in August 1960, NAUTILUS departed for a period of refresher training, then deployed to the Mediterranean Sea to become the first nuclear powered submarine assigned to the U.S. Sixth Fleet. Over the next six years, NAUTILUS participated in several fleet exercises while steaming over 200,000 miles. In the spring of 1966, she again entered the record books when she logged her 300,000th mile underway. During the following 12 years, NAUTILUS was involved in a variety of developmental testing programs while continuing to serve alongside many of the more modern nuclear powered submarines she had preceded. In the spring of 1979, NAUTILUS set out from Groton, Connecticut on her final voyage. She reached Mare Island Naval Shipyard, Vallejo, California on May 26, 1979–her last day underway. She was decommissioned on March 3, 1980 after a career spanning 25 years and almost half a million miles steamed. In recognition of her pioneering role in the practical use of nuclear power, NAUTILUS was designated a National Historic Landmark by the Secretary of the Interior on May 20, 1982. Following an extensive historic ship conversion at Mare Island Naval Shipyard, NAUTILUS was towed to Groton, Connecticut arriving on July 6, 1985. On April 11, 1986, eighty-six years to the day after the birth of the Submarine Force, Historic Ship NAUTILUS, joined by the Submarine Force Museum, opened to the public as the first and finest exhibit of it’s kind in the world, providing an exciting, visible link between yesterday’s Submarine Force and the Submarine Force of tomorrow.
1960 – Little Joe 1B, a Mercury spacecraft, lifts off from Wallops Island, Virginia with Miss Sam, a female rhesus monkey on board. The Little Joe 1B was a Launch Escape System test of the Mercury spacecraft, conducted as part of the U.S. Mercury program. The spacecraft was recovered by a Marine helicopter and returned to Wallops Island within about 45 minutes. Miss Sam was one of many monkeys used in space travel research.
1961 – USS George Washington completes first operational voyage of fleet ballistic missile submarine staying submerged 66 days
1968 – One of the most publicized and controversial battles of the war begins at Khe Sanh, 14 miles below the DMZ and six miles from the Laotian border. Seized and activated by the U.S. Marines a year earlier, the base, which had been an old French outpost, was used as a staging area for forward patrols and was a potential launch point for contemplated future operations to cut the Ho Chi Minh Trail in Laos. The battle began on this date with a brisk firefight involving the 3rd Battalion, 26th Marines and a North Vietnamese battalion entrenched between two hills northwest of the base. The next day North Vietnamese forces overran the village of Khe Sanh and North Vietnamese long-range artillery opened fire on the base itself, hitting its main ammunition dump and detonating 1,500 tons of explosives. An incessant barrage kept Khe Sanh’s Marine defenders, which included three battalions from the 26th Marines, elements of the 9th Marine Regiment, and the South Vietnamese 37th Ranger Battalion, pinned down in their trenches and bunkers. Because the base had to be resupplied by air, the American high command was reluctant to put in any more troops and drafted a battle plan calling for massive artillery and air strikes. During the 66-day siege, U.S. planes, dropping 5,000 bombs daily, exploded the equivalent of five Hiroshima-sized atomic bombs in the area. The relief of Khe Sanh, called Operation Pegasus, began in early April as the 1st Cavalry (Airmobile) and a South Vietnamese battalion approached the base from the east and south, while the Marines pushed westward to re-open Route 9. The siege was finally lifted on April 6 when the cavalrymen linked up with the 9th Marines south of the Khe Sanh airstrip. In a final clash a week later, the 3rd Battalion, 26th Marines drove enemy forces from Hill 881 North. Gen. William Westmoreland, commander of U.S. Military Assistance Command Vietnam, contended that Khe Sanh played a vital blocking role at the western end of the DMZ, and asserted that if the base had fallen, North Vietnamese forces could have outflanked Marine defenses along the buffer zone. Various statements in the North Vietnamese Communist Party newspaper suggested that Hanoi saw the battle as an opportunity to re-enact its famous victory at Dien Bien Phu, when the communists had defeated the French in a climactic decisive battle that effectively ended the war between France and the Viet Minh. There has been much controversy over the battle at Khe Sanh, as both sides claimed victory. The North Vietnamese, although they failed to take the base, claimed that they had tied down a lot of U.S. combat assets that could have been used elsewhere in South Vietnam. This is true, but the North Vietnamese failed to achieve the decisive victory at Khe Sanh that they had won against the French. For their part, the Americans claimed victory because they had held the base against the North Vietnamese onslaught. It was a costly battle for both sides. The official casualty count for the Battle of Khe Sanh was 205 Marines killed in action and over 1,600 wounded (this figure did not include the American and South Vietnamese soldiers killed in other battles in the region). The U.S. military headquarters in Saigon estimated that the North Vietnamese lost between 10,000 and 15,000 men in the fighting at Khe Sanh.
1968 – B-52 airplane loaded with hydrogen bombs crashed at North Star Bay, Greenland near Thule Air Base, contaminating the area after its nuclear payload ruptures. One of the four bombs remains unaccounted for after the cleanup operation is complete.
1969 – USCGC Point Banks while on patrol south of Cam Rahn Bay received a call for help from a 9-man ARVN detachment trapped by two Vietcong platoons. Petty Officers Willis Goff and Larry Villareal took a 14-foot Boston whaler ashore to rescue the ARVN troops. In the face of heavy automatic weapons fire, all 9 men were evacuated in two trips. For their actions Goff and Villareal were each awarded the Silver Star for their actions. The citation stated, “The nine men would have met almost certain death or capture without the assistance of the two Coast Guardsmen.”
1970 – U.S. planes conduct widespread bombing raids in North Vietnam.
1977 – President Carter pardoned almost all Vietnam War draft evaders as long as they had not been involved in violent acts.
1991 – Iraq announced it had scattered prisoners of war at targeted areas; President Bush denounced Iraq’s treatment of POW’s, and said Iraqi President Saddam Hussein would be held responsible. CBS News correspondent Bob Simon, CBS News London bureau chief Peter Bluff, a cameraman and soundman were captured by Iraqi forces; they were released almost six weeks later.
1993 – Two U.S. warplanes bombed a defense site in northern Iraq after radar was turned on them.
1999 – In one of the largest drug busts in American history, the United States Coast Guard intercepts a ship with over 4,300 kilograms (9,500 lb) of cocaine on board.
2000 – IAEA inspectors conduct inspections in Iraq which verified presence of nuclear material.
2002 – Sec. of State Colin Powell said the US would contribute $297 million for Afghan reconstruction over the coming year during a conference on Afghan reconstruction in Tokyo. Int’l. donors pledged over $4.5 billion over 5 years.
2003 – Colombian rebels in Arauca state kidnapped an American photographer and a British reporter, the first time foreign journalists were abducted in Colombia’s four-decade-long civil war. Scott Dalton and Ruth Morris were freed Feb 1.
2003 – In Kuwait American contract worker Michael Rene Pouliat (46) was killed by gunman in an ambush near Camp Doha. Another worker was wounded. Saudi border guards arrested a Kuwaiti suspect the next day.
2003 – NATO blocked a US request to begin preparations for a military backup in the event of war with Iraq.
2003 – The United States issues a detailed report, Apparatus of Lies which seeks to expose what it calls Iraq’s “brutal record of deceit” from 1990 until the present.
2004 – NASA’s MER-A (the Mars Rover Spirit) ceases communication with mission control. The problem lies in the management of its flash memory and is fixed remotely from Earth on 6 February.
2006 – The USS Winston S. Churchill, an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, captured a vessel operating off the Somali coast whose crew were suspected of piracy.
2007 – In Iraq, Muqtada al-Sadr’s bloc lifts its boycott of the Iraqi political process and rejoins the government.
2009 – United States President Barack Obama halts the trials of detainees at Guantánamo Bay Naval Base’s detention camp.
2010 – The United States sends an additional 2,000 troops to Haiti to help with earthquake relief efforts.
2013 – The public portion of Barack Obama’s second inauguration takes place at nation’s capital in Washington, D.C., a day after he was officially sworn into office in the White House for his second term as President of the United States.
2013 – NASA’s Kepler space telescope is placed in a precautionary 10-day safe mode after engineers noticed a problem with the instrument’s orientation mechanism.

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