1769 – Father Juñpero Serra, a Spanish Franciscan missionary, founds the first Catholic mission in California on the site of present-day San Diego. After Serra blessed his new outpost of Christianity in a high mass, the royal standard of Spain was unfurled over the mission, which he named San Diego de Alcala. Serra came to Spanish America in 1750 and served in the Sierra Gorda missions and then in south-central Mexico. A successful missionary, he was appointed a member of the second Spanish land expedition to Alta California in 1769. When the party reached San Diego, Serra remained with a few followers to found California’s first mission. The rest of the expedition continued on in search of Monterrey harbor, which had been previously used by Spanish sailors. Although the explorers failed in their aim, Serra succeeded in finding Monterrey in 1770, and there he founded his second mission–San Carlos Barromeo. Appointed president of the Alta California presidios, Serra eventually founded a total of nine missions, stretching from San Diego to present-day San Francisco. The Franciscan fathers built large communities around their missions, teaching Christianized Native Americans to farm and tend cattle, and directing their work. These agricultural communities enjoyed a considerable autonomy from first the Spanish colonial authorities and then the Mexican government, but with the coming of the Americans in the mid-19th century most were abandoned.
1779 – American troops under General Anthony Wayne captured Stony Point, N.Y., with a loss to the British of more than 600 killed or captured. [see Jun 15]
1790 – The District of Columbia was established as the seat of the United States government.
1798 – US Public Health Service formed and a US Marine Hospital was authorized.
1808 – Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, two of the few white men who had actually seen the mysterious territory of the Far West, help form a new company to exploit the region’s abundant fur-bearing animals. In September 1806, William Clark and Meriwether Lewis completed their epic journey to the Pacific Ocean, arriving back in St. Louis after more than two years in the western wilderness. Except for the difficult crossing of the Rocky Mountains, the expedition team had traveled by river. On the journey, they were overwhelmed by the abundance for beaver, otter, and other fur-bearing creatures they saw. The territory was ripe for fur trapping, they reported to President Thomas Jefferson. Both Lewis and Clark recognized that sizeable fortunes could be made in fur trapping, and they were not averse to using their exclusive knowledge to gain a share of the profits. Two years after their return, Lewis and Clark helped organize the St. Louis Missouri River Fur Company. Among their partners were the experienced fur traders and businessmen Manuel Lisa, Pierre Choteau, and Auguste Choteau. Lewis, whom Jefferson had already appointed to the governorship of Louisiana Territory, was presumably a silent partner, and for good reason. The new company planned to mix public and private interests in potentially unethical ways. During their earlier voyage west, Lewis and Clark had convinced an Upper-Missouri River Mandan Indian named Big White to go east and meet President Jefferson. Lewis had promised Big White that the American government would later return him to his people. Now the St. Louis Missouri River Fur Company proposed to use public money to mount a private expedition to take Big White home in the spring of 1809. Once Big White was home safely, however, the expedition would continue on to begin fur trading on the Yellowstone River, where it would enjoy a monopoly guaranteed by Governor Lewis. In May 1809, the hybrid public-private expedition headed up the Missouri River. The men safely returned Big White to his home and inaugurated a fairly successful fur trading operation. Whatever questions there might have been about Governor Lewis’ conflicting interests in the company soon became moot: He either killed himself or was murdered on October 11, 1809, while traveling on the Natchez Trace in Tennessee. Clark continued to be involved with the company for several years, and no one ever raised questions about the ethics of his participation. Standards of behavior were often lax on the frontier, and it was not unusual for private and governmental interests to become confused. For all but the most critical observer, Clark’s actions would have been acceptable. The St. Louis Missouri River Fur Company the two men helped create endured until 1825 and was instrumental in furthering the exploration and settlement of the Far West.
1862 – David Glasgow Farragut, in recognition of his victory at New Orleans, promoted to Rear Admiral, the first officer to hold that rank in the history of the U.S. Navy. The measure passed by Congress which created the rank of Rear Admiral also revamped the existing rank structure to include Commodore and Lieutenant Commander and established the number of Rear Admirals at 9; Commodores, 18; Captains, 36; Commanders, 72; and the remainder through Ensign at 144 each. The act provided that ”The three senior rear admirals [Farragut, L. M. Goldsborough, and Du Pont] shall wear a square blue flag at the mainmast head; the next three at the foremast head, and all others at the mizzen.” Rear Admirals were to rank with Major Generals in the Army.
1863 – The draft riot enters its fourth day in New York City in response to the Enrollment Act, which was enacted on March 3, 1863. Although avoiding military service became much more difficult, wealthier citizens could still pay a commutation fee of $300 to stay at home. Irritation with the draft dovetailed with opposition to the Emancipation Proclamation of September 1862, which made abolition of slavery the central goal of the war for the Union. Particularly vocal in their opposition were the Democratic Irish, who felt the war was being forced upon them by Protestant Republicans and feared that emancipation of slaves would jeopardize their jobs. Their fears were confirmed when black laborers replaced striking Irish dock workers the month before the riots. Discontent simmered until the draft began among the Irish New Yorkers on July 11. Two days later, a mob burned the draft office, triggering nearly five days of violence. At first, the targets included local newspapers, wealthy homes, well-dressed men, and police officers, but the crowd’s attention soon turned to African Americans. Several blacks were lynched, and businesses employing blacks were burned. A black orphanage was also burned, but the children escaped. Not until July 17 was the violence contained by the arrival of Union troops, some fresh from the battlefield at Gettysburg. More than 1,000 died and property damage topped $2 million. The draft was temporarily suspended, and a revised conscription began in August. As a result of the riots and the delicate political balance in the city, relatively few New Yorkers were forced to serve in the Union army.
1912 – A Naval torpedo, launched from an airplane, was patented by Rear Admiral Bradley A. Fiske.
1915 – First Navy ships, battleships Ohio, Missouri, and Wisconsin transit Panama Canal.
1916 – Captain Raynal Bolling commanded the 1st Aero Squadron, New York National Guard, when it was mobilized during the Mexican Border Crisis. Using a variety of privately owned aircraft the 1st was the first flying unit organized in the Guard. Though the unit was not deployed to the border before being released from active duty in November 1916, a large number of its members, including Bolling, joined the Signal Corps Reserve (then controlling all Army aviation) prior to the U.S. entry into World War I. During the war Bolling, now a colonel, was a leading planner of American air strategy. For instance, he determined and got approved the use of British DeHaviland’s for observation and daylight bombing missions and British Bristol’s and French Spads as America’s lead fighters. While riding in a staff car near the front at Amiens, France on March 26, 1918, he was surprised by advancing German troops. Bolling and his driver, coming under enemy fire, jumped into a ditch, where Bolling returned fire with his pistol (the only weapon either man had). He killed a German officer and almost immediately was killed himself by another officer. His had to be one of the few pistol fights to have occurred in World War I! Bolling was posthumously awarded the French Legion of Honor and the American Distinguished Service Medal for his bold leadership and far-reaching vision of the role air power would come to play on the battlefield.
1920 – Gen. Amos Fries was appointed 1st US army chemical warfare chief.
1927 – Augusto Sandino began a 5-year war against the US occupation of Nicaragua.
1940 – Hitler issues his Directive 16. It begins, “I have decided to begin to prepare for, and if necessary to carry out, an invasion of England.” It goes on to explain the importance of the air battles for the achievement of this aim. At this stage in the planning the German army’s views are dominant. They wish the Channel crossing to take place on a wide front with landings all along the south coast of Britain. They envisage that the force to be employed will be at least 25 and perhaps 40 divisions. They hope that the crossing can be protected by the Luftwaffe and mines on its flanks. This is not a very realistic plan.
1943 – The US 3rd Division attacks Agrigento and Porto Empedocle.
1943 – Roosevelt and Churchill issue a joint statement calling for an Italian surrender and the overthrow of Mussolini.
1944 – Forces of US 1st Army continue attacking near St. Lo.
1945 – The United States conducts the first test of the atomic bomb at its research facility in Los Alamos, New Mexico. The terrifying new weapon would quickly become a focal point in the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union. The official U.S. development of the atomic bomb began with the establishment of the Manhattan Project in August 1942. The project brought together scientists from the United States, Great Britain, and Canada to study the feasibility of building an atomic bomb capable of unimaginable destructive power. The project proceeded with no small degree of urgency, since the American government had been warned that Nazi Germany had also embarked on a program to develop an atomic weapon. By July 1945, a prototype weapon was ready for testing. Although Germany had surrendered months earlier, the war against Japan was still raging. On July 16, the first atomic bomb was detonated in the desert near the Los Alamos research facility. Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer, director of the project, watched the mushroom cloud rise into the Nevada sky. “Now I am become death, destroyer of worlds,” he uttered, reciting a passage from an ancient Hindu text. News of the successful test was relayed to President Harry S. Truman, who was meeting with Soviet leader Joseph Stalin in Potsdam to discuss the postwar world. Observers at the meeting noted that the news “tremendously pepped up” the president, and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill believed that Truman almost immediately adopted a more aggressive tone in dealing with Stalin. Truman and many other U.S. officials hoped that possession of the atomic bomb would be America’s trump card in dealing with the Soviets after the war. Use of the weapon against the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945 demonstrated the destructive force of the atomic bomb. The American atomic monopoly did not last long, though. By 1949, the Soviets had developed their own atomic bomb, marking the beginning of the nuclear arms race.
1945 – Cruiser Indianapolis left SF with an atom bomb.
1945 – The American and British delegations to the Potsdam Conference arrive in Berlin, led by President Truman and Prime Minister Churchill, respectively.
1945 – A force of 500 B-29 Superfortress bombers strike targets on Honshu and Kyushu. In total, over 1500 American planes attack raid various objectives on the Japanese home islands during the day.
1946 – US court martial in Dachau condemned 46 SS to hang for the Malmedy massacre of disarmed GIs.
1946 – Pursuant to Executive Order 9083 and Reorganization Plan No. 3 the Bureau of Marine Inspection was abolished and became a permanent part of the Coast Guard.
1950 – U.S. Army Chaplain Herman G. Felhoelter became the first chaplain to earn an award for heroism and the first to lose his life in the Korean War. Voluntarily remaining behind with several critically wounded soldiers, he and his group was overwhelmed and killed by the communists. Chaplain Felhoelter was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.
1953 – The last U.N. counteroffensive of the war began.
1957 – Marine Maj. John Glenn set a transcontinental speed record when he flew a jet from California to New York in 3 hours, 23 minutes and 8 seconds.
1965 – Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara conducts a fact-finding mission in South Vietnam, and Henry Cabot Lodge arrives in Saigon to resume his post as ambassador. Lodge had previously held the ambassadorship, but resigned in 1964 to seek the Republican presidential nomination, which was eventually won by Barry Goldwater of Arizona. Lodge returned to Saigon again as ambassador from 1965 to 1967. While visiting Saigon, McNamara was informed by secret cable that President Lyndon B. Johnson had decided to give Gen. William Westmoreland the troops he had requested. The American commander had been asking for additional U.S. troops so that he could stabilize the military situation and “carry the war to the communists.” McNamara, believing that the United States should commit itself to preventing the fall of South Vietnam to communism, supported Westmoreland’s request. McNamara said at a press conference upon leaving Saigon: “There has been deterioration since I was last here, 15 months ago.”
1969 – At 9:32 a.m. EDT, Apollo 11, the first U.S. lunar landing mission, is launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on a historic journey to the surface of the moon. After traveling 240,000 miles in 76 hours, Apollo 11 entered into a lunar orbit on July 19. The next day, at 1:46 p.m., the lunar module Eagle, manned by astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, separated from the command module, where a third astronaut, Michael Collins, remained. Two hours later, the Eagle began its descent to the lunar surface, and at 4:18 p.m. the craft touched down on the southwestern edge of the Sea of Tranquility. Armstrong immediately radioed to Mission Control in Houston a famous message, “The Eagle has landed.” At 10:39 p.m., five hours ahead of the original schedule, Armstrong opened the hatch of the lunar module. Seventeen minutes later, at 10:56 p.m., Armstrong spoke the following words to millions listening at home: “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” A moment later, he stepped off the lunar module’s ladder, becoming the first human to walk on the surface of the moon. Aldrin joined him on the moon’s surface at 11:11 p.m., and together they took photographs of the terrain, planted a U.S. flag, ran a few simple scientific tests, and spoke with President Richard M. Nixon via Houston. By 1:11 a.m. on July 21, both astronauts were back in the lunar module, and the hatch was closed. The two men slept that night on the surface of the moon, and at 1:54 p.m. the Eagle began its ascent back to the command module. Among the items left on the surface of the moon was a plaque that read: “Here men from the planet Earth first set foot on the moon–July 1969 A.D.–We came in peace for all mankind.” At 5:35 p.m., Armstrong and Aldrin successfully docked and rejoined Collins, and at 12:56 a.m. on July 22 Apollo 11 began its journey home, safely splashing down in the Pacific Ocean at 12:51 p.m. on July 24. There would be five more successful lunar landing missions, and one unplanned lunar swing-by, Apollo 13. The last men to walk on the moon, astronauts Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt of the Apollo 17 mission, left the lunar surface on December 14, 1972. The Apollo program was a costly and labor intensive endeavor, involving an estimated 400,000 engineers, technicians, and scientists, and costing $24 billion (close to $100 billion in today’s dollars). The expense was justified by President John F. Kennedy’s 1961 mandate to beat the Soviets to the moon, and after the feat was accomplished, ongoing missions lost their viability.
1969 – Vu Ngoc Nha (d.2002), top aide to presidents Ngo Dinh Diem and Nguyen Van Thieu, was arrested in Saigon. The CIA uncovered him as the head of a Communist espionage ring. He and 2 others were convicted of treason and sentenced to life in prison.
1973 – In testimony before the Senate Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities (the Ervin Committee), former presidential assistant Alexander Butterfield disclosed to lawyer Donald Sanders (d.1999 at 69) that President Richard Nixon had tape recorded all of his conversations in the White House and Executive Office Building. Butterfield’s revelations led to Nixon’s assertion of executive privilege and his refusal to release the tapes to the Ervin Committee on July 17 or to special prosecutor Archibald Cox on July 23. Judge John Sirica ordered Nixon to turn over the tapes on August 29, an order subsequently upheld by U.S. Court of Appeals on October 12. When a Nixon “compromise” of release of written summaries of the tapes was turned down by Cox, Nixon ordered Attorney General Elliot L. Richardson and deputy attorney general William Ruckelshaus to fire Cox. Both refused and resigned. Solicitor General Robert Bork complied with Nixon’s order on Saturday, October 20, resulting in the so-called “Saturday Night Massacre.”
1973 – The Senate Armed Services Committee begins a probe into allegations that the U.S. Air Force made thousands of secret B-52 raids into Cambodia in 1969 and 1970 at a time when the United States recognized the neutrality of the Prince Norodom Sihanouk regime in Cambodia. The Pentagon acknowledged that President Richard Nixon and Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird had authorized the raids against Cambodia, but Sihanouk denied the State Department claim that he had requested or authorized the bombing. Though it was established that the bombing records had been falsified, Laird and Henry Kissinger, Nixon’s National Security Advisor, denied any knowledge of the falsification. The Senate hearings eventually exposed the extent of the secrecy involved in the bombing campaign and seriously damaged the credibility of the Nixon administration.
1979 – Saddam Hussein succeeded Premier al-Bakr and became president of Iraq and chairman of the Revolutionary Command Council (RCC). He established a multilayered security system with 3-5 secret police units. He later put his son Qusai in charge of his 10,000 member Special Guards.
1979 – Jeffrey MacDonald stands trial in North Carolina for the murder of his wife and children nearly 10 years before. Captain MacDonald, an army doctor stationed at Fort Bragg, made an emergency call to military police in the early morning hours of February 17, 1970. Responding officers found Colette MacDonald and her two children, five-year-old Kimberly and two-year-old Kristen, dead from multiple stab wounds. The word “pig” had been written in blood on the wall. Jeffrey, who had a few stab wounds himself, told the officers that four hippies had attacked the family. With little evidence of disruption to the home, investigators doubted MacDonald’s story of struggling with the killers. An Esquire magazine containing an article about the notorious Manson murders was on the floor in the living room where MacDonald claimed to have been attacked. Investigators theorized that the hippie story and writing on the wall were attempts to mimic that crime and diffuse suspicion. More important, the blood and fiber evidence did not seem to support MacDonald’s account of events. In a stroke of luck for detectives, each member of the MacDonald family had different and distinguishable blood types. Little of Jeffrey’s blood was found anywhere in the home except in the bathroom. In addition, his wounds were much less severe than those of his family; his wife and children had been stabbed at least 20 times each. Still, the initial forensic investigation was so bungled that the charges were eventually dropped later in 1970. Although MacDonald appeared on television complaining about his treatment, investigators stayed on the case. In 1974, a grand jury indicted him for murder, but due to various delays, the trial did not begin for another five years. In 1979, MacDonald was convicted and given three life sentences. MacDonald, still vigorously insisting on his innocence, enlisted author Joe McGinnis to help exonerate him. McGinnis interviewed MacDonald and investigated the case on his own, but decided early on in the project that MacDonald was indeed guilty. The subsequent book, Fatal Vision, was a bestseller and it enraged MacDonald, who sued McGinnis for fraud. Refusing to give up, MacDonald got famed attorney Alan Dershowitz to seek a new trial based on claims that the prosecution had hidden exculpatory evidence. At the close of the 20th century, MacDonald was still in prison for the crimes.
1990 – Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev and West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl announced that Moscow had agreed to drop its objection to a united Germany’s membership in NATO.
1995 – William Barloon and David Daliberti, the two Americans who were imprisoned in Iraq for crossing the border from Kuwait four months earlier, were released.
1998 – The U.S. blocks the proposed August price formula for Iraqi crude oil over concerns that the Kirkuk grade is priced too low for the European market. It is the first time Iraq’s crude oil price formula has been questioned since the United Nations’ oil-for-food program began in 1996.
2002 – Greek police reported the capture of Alexandros Giotopoulos (58), the alleged head of the November 17 terror group. Police also reported confessions from other members to bombings and assassinations.
2003 – A 32-year-old Army sergeant accused of killing two officers in a grenade attack on fellow American troops in Kuwait in March will face a court-martial trial on murder charges that could bring the death penalty. Maj. Gen. David Petraeus, commander of the Army’s 101st Airborne Division, accepted a recommendation made by the investigating officer that Sgt. Hasan Akbar face a court-martial. Akbar was charged with two counts of premeditated murder and three counts of attempted murder stemming from the March 22 incident at Camp Pennsylvania in Kuwait in which he allegedly attacked fellow troops stationed there in the early days of the Iraq war.
2003 – Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld appointed a seven-member, independent panel of civilians to review allegations of sexual assault at the Air Force Academy. Tillie Fowler, a partner of the law firm Holland and Knight and a former Florida congresswoman, will chair the panel. Allegations of sexual assault at the Air Force Academy began to emerge publicly in March.
2003 – House passage of Project Bioshield to help prevent and inoculate for bio-terror attack.
2004 – Taliban attacked a convoy of U.S. and Afghan soldiers on patrol along a highway in southern Afghanistan on Friday, triggering a shootout that killed an Afghan and an insurgent, police said. No U.S. soldiers were hurt, said Ghulam Jilani, a deputy police chief. The Taliban fled the scene. The attack occurred on the Kandahar-Kabul highway near the Spin Aghbarqa area in Zabul province, 70 miles northeast of Kandahar.
2004 – About 2,100 Fort Campbell soldiers received orders to return to Iraq for another year of duty. Deployments to begin in the fall and continue through early spring. All the units involved — which include aviation and support elements of the 101st, along with a military police unit — spent time in Iraq during the division’s deployment as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
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