This Day in U.S. Military History…… July 18

18 July
1775 – Continental Congress resolves that each colony provide armed vessels.
1779 – Commodore Abraham Whipple’s squadron captures 11 prizes in largest prize value of Revolutionary War.
1779 – Continental Marines attacked British forces in Maine.
1792 – American naval hero John Paul Jones died in Paris at age 45. His body was preserved in rum in case the American government wished him back. In 1905 his body was transported to the US and placed in a crypt in Annapolis.
1813 – U.S. Frigate President captures British Daphne, Eliza Swan, Alert and Lion.
1818 – The Revenue Cutter Active captured the pirate vessel India Libre in the Chesapeake Bay.
1861 – Union and Confederate troops skirmished at Blackburn’s Ford, Virginia, in a prelude to the Battle of Bull Run.
1863 – Colonel Robert Gould Shaw and 272 of his troops are killed in an assault on Fort Wagner, near Charleston, South Carolina. Shaw was commander of the 54th Massachusetts Infantry, perhaps the most famous regiment of African-American troops during the war. Fort Wagner stood on Morris Island, guarding the approach to Charleston harbor. It was a massive earthwork, 600 feet wide and made from sand piled 30 feet high. The only approach to the fort was across a narrow stretch of beach bounded by the Atlantic on one side and a swampy marshland on the other. Union General Quincy Gillmore headed an operation in July 1863 to take the island and seal the approach to Charleston. Shaw and his 54th Massachusetts were chosen to lead the attack of July 18. Shaw was the scion of an abolitionist family and a veteran of the 1862 Shenandoah Valley and Antietam campaigns. The regiment included two sons of abolitionist Frederick Douglass and the grandson of author and poet Sojourner Truth. Union artillery battered Fort Wagner all day on July 18, but the barrage did little damage to the fort and its garrison. At 7:45 p.m., the attack commenced. Yankee troops had to march 1,200 yards down the beach to the stronghold, facing a hail of bullets from the Confederates. Shaw’s troops and other Union regiments penetrated the walls at two points but did not have sufficient numbers to take the fort. Over 1,500 Union troops fell or were captured to the Confederates’ 222. Despite the failure, the battle proved that African-American forces could not only hold their own but also excel in battle.
1863 – William Dorsey Pender (29), US Confederate Major General, died of injuries.
1864 – President Lincoln asked for 500,000 volunteers for military service.
1866 – Congress authorized Coast Guard officers to search vehicles and persons suspected of concealing contraband.
1877 – Inventor Thomas Edison recorded the human voice for the first time.
1914 – The U.S. Congress forms the Aviation Section, U.S. Signal Corps, giving official status to aircraft within the U.S. Army for the first time.
1918 – Various French British and US forces launch a counterattack against the German forces in the salient they hold between Soissons and Reims in Champagne. The fighting becomes known as the Second Battle of the Marne. The attack id led by three French armies, the Tenth under General Charles Mangin, the Sixth under General Jean Degoutte, and General Henri Berthelot’s Fifth. Support is offered by the French Ninth Army under General M.A.H. de Mitry. The main attack involves the French Tenth Army and its spearheaded by the US 1st and 2nd Divisions, which take 8,000 prisoners and 145 artillery pieces for the loss of 5,000 casualties. Elsewhere, General Hunter Liggett’s US I Corps fights alongside the French Sixth Army, which advances into the salient from the west along the Ourcq River. Three further US divisions for General Bullard’s III Corps are attached to the French Ninth Army which is driving into the salient from the south close to Chateau-Thierry. the German defenders begin to collapse under these converging attacks and Ludendorff has to contemplate an urgent withdrawal.
1920 – Naval aircraft sink ex-German cruiser Frankfurt in target practice.
1921 – John Glenn, Jr., first man to orbit the Earth, was born in Cambridge, OH.
1928 – Clarence Samuels assumed command of Coast Guard Patrol Boat AB-15 on 18 July 1928, thereby becoming the second African-American to command a Coast Guard vessel, the first being Michael Healy.
1936 – The Spanish Civil War begins as a revolt by right-wing Spanish military officers in Spanish Morocco and spreads to mainland Spain. From the Canary Islands, General Francisco Franco broadcasts a message calling for all army officers to join the uprising and overthrow Spain’s leftist Republican government. Within three days, the rebels captured Morocco, much of northern Spain, and several key cities in the south. The Republicans succeeded in putting down the uprising in other areas, including Madrid, Spain’s capital. The Republicans and the Nationalists, as the rebels were called, then proceeded to secure their respective territories by executing thousands of suspected political opponents. Meanwhile, Franco flew to Morocco and prepared to bring the Army of Africa over to the mainland. In 1931, Spanish King Alfonso XIII authorized elections to decide the government of Spain, and voters overwhelmingly chose to abolish the monarchy in favor of a liberal republic. Alfonso went into exile, and the Second Republic, initially dominated by middle-class liberals and moderate socialists, was proclaimed. During the first two years of the Republic, organized labor and leftist radicals forced widespread liberal reforms, and the independence-minded region of Catalonia and the Basque provinces achieved virtual autonomy. The landed aristocracy, the church, and a large military clique opposed the Republic, and in November 1933 conservative forces regained control of the government in elections. In response, socialists launched a revolution in the mining districts of Asturias, and Catalan nationalists rebelled in Barcelona. General Franco crushed the so-called October Revolution on behalf of the conservative government, and in 1935 he was appointed army chief of staff. In February 1936, new elections brought the Popular Front, a leftist coalition, to power, and Franco, a strict monarchist, was sent to an obscure command in the Canary Islands off Africa. Fearing that the liberal government would give way to Marxist revolution, army officers conspired to seize power. After a period of hesitation, Franco agreed to join the military conspiracy, which was scheduled to begin in Morocco at 5 a.m. on July 18 and then in Spain 24 hours later. The difference in time was to allow the Army of Africa time to secure Morocco before being transported to Spain’s Andalusian coast by the navy. On the afternoon of July 17, the plan for the next morning was discovered in the Moroccan town of Melilla, and the rebels were forced into premature action. Melilla, Ceuta, and Tetuýn were soon in the hands of the Nationalists, who were aided by conservative Moroccan troops that also opposed the leftist government in Madrid. The Republican government learned of the revolt soon after it broke out but took few actions to prevent its spread to the mainland. On July 18, Spanish garrisons rose up in revolt all across Spain. Workers and peasants fought the uprising, but in many cities the Republican government denied them weapons, and the Nationalists soon gained control. In conservative regions, such as Old Castile and Navarre, the Nationalists seized control with little bloodshed, but in other regions, such as the fiercely independent city of Bilbao, they didn’t dare leave their garrisons. The Nationalist revolt in the Spanish navy largely failed, and warships run by committees of sailors were instrumental in securing a number of coastal cities for the Republic. Nevertheless, Franco managed to ferry his Army of Africa over from Morocco, and during the next few months Nationalist forces rapidly overran much of the Republican-controlled areas in central and northern Spain. Madrid was put under siege in November. During 1937, Franco unified the Nationalist forces under the command of the Falange, Spain’s fascist party, while the Republicans fell under the sway of the communists. Germany and Italy aided Franco with an abundance of planes, tanks, and arms, while the Soviet Union aided the Republican side. In addition, thousands of communists and other radicals from France, the USSR, America, and elsewhere formed the International Brigades to aid the Republican cause. The most significant contribution of these foreign units was the successful defense of Madrid until the end of the war. In June 1938, the Nationalists drove to the Mediterranean Sea and cut Republican territory in two. Later in the year, Franco mounted a major offensive against Catalonia. In January 1939, its capital, Barcelona, was captured, and soon after, the rest of Catalonia fell. With the Republican cause all but lost, its leaders attempted to negotiate a peace, but Franco refused. On March 28, 1939, the Republicans finally surrendered Madrid, bringing the Spanish Civil War to an end. Up to a million lives were lost in the conflict, the most devastating in Spanish history. Franco subsequently served as dictator of Spain until his death in 1975.
1939 – Edwin H. Armstrong (1890-1954), US radio engineer and US Army MAJ, started the 1st FM (frequency modulation) radio station in Alpine, NJ.
1941 – Prince Konoye reforms his Cabinet with Baron Hiranuma as deputy prime minister and Admiral Toyoda as foreign minister. Already personally unpopular, Matsuoka is removed because he has been urging that the Neutrality Agreement with the Soviets should be abandoned and that Japan should join with Germany in the attack on the USSR. The other Japanese leaders do not wish to take such a decisive step, and have decided that without Matsuoka and his known liking for Hitler they have a better chance of reaching an agreement with the US over the pressing problem of oil resources.
1942 – The German Messerschmitt Me 262 Schwalbe, the first jet-propelled aircraft to fly in combat, made its first flight. Walter Nowotny was a rising your star in the Luftwaffe, chosen by Hitler to be the point man to lead the new jet fighter under the tutelage of General of Fighters Adolf Galland who was assigned to prove the airplane in battle. The Axis hopes were dashed when Nowotny was attacked by American pilots during landing and crashed. Col. Edward R. “Buddy” Haydon was one of those American pilots.
1943 – An aircraft carrying the Commander of the Japanese Combined Fleet, Admiral Yamamoto, is shot down by P-38 Lighting fighters over Bougainville. Yamamoto is killed. This action is the result the interception of a coded Japanese message announcing a visit by Yamamoto. The Japanese fail to deduce that their codes are insecure.
1943 – German submarine shoots down K-47, the first and only U.S. airship lost during WW II.
1944 – Two Guard divisions, the 29th (DC, MD, VA) and the 35th (KS, MO, NE) both claim credit for the final capture of the vital crossroads city of St. Lo from the Nazis. According to the D-Day plan, St. Lo was supposed to be secured ten days after D-Day. But due to stubborn German resistance using each Norman hedgerow as a defensive fighting position, it took 42 days to take the city. During the 35th Division’s approach, Nebraska Guardsman First Lieutenant Francis Greenlief, of Company L, 134th Infantry (NE), was awarded the Silver Star for capturing an enemy machine gun nest single-handedly. In 1971 Major General Greenlief was appointed by President Richard Nixon as the Chief, National Guard Bureau. Another Guard soldier was to gain fame on the approach to St. Lo, but in a different way. Virginian Major Thomas Howie, the popular commander of the 2nd Battalion, 116th Infantry (VA), told his officers in a meeting on the edge of the city “I’ll see you in St. Lo!” and then was killed by a mortar fragment. When the division commander heard the story he instructed that Howie’s body be transported with the lead elements when they moved into the city. His body was placed on a stretcher and draped with an American flag and placed on the ruins of the Ste. Croix Church in the center of the city. A passing New York Times reporter heard the story and wrote a moving tribute entitled “The Major of St. Lo” but could not identify Howie by name due to security. The story was picked up by newspapers across the nation and the “Major” came to represent all the men killed in the Normandy campaign to liberate France. To honor these men today, Nebraska has the “Major General Francis Greenlief Training Site” in Hastings and the “Major Thomas Howie Memorial Armory” is in his hometown of Staunton, VA.
1944 – Tojo resigns his posts as prime minister and Chief of Staff of the Army. General Kuniaki Koiso and Admiral Yonai are chosen to form a new cabinet. General Umezu becomes the new Chief of Staff of the Army. These changes reflect the growing strength of Japanese statesmen seeking an end to the war.
1944 – The US 4th Corps attacks Leghorn on the west coast while other elements of US 5th Army reach the Arno River at Pontedera.
1945 – The Potsdam Conference continues. Churchill, Truman and Stalin confer on politics and strategy, in a town near Berlin. The leaders met for their second plenary session in the Cecilienhof, an 18th century palace. President Truman informed Prime Minister Churchill that the atomic bomb test had been successful in a cryptic note, “Babies satisfactorily born.” American interest in Soviet participation in the war against Japan has been noticeably lessened.
1945 – Captured German mines explode accidentally, destroying an American Red Cross club in Italy and killing 36 people.
1945 – Aircraft from the American carrier Wasp attack Japanese positions on Wake Island.
1945 – The battleship Nagato, which has been reduced to service as a floating antiaircraft battery, is damaged by American planes at Yokosuka. Allied air and naval forces strike numerous other targets in the Tokyo area and encounter almost no opposition.
1945 – Some 200 B-24 and B-25 bombers of the US Far East Air Force, based in Okinawa, bomb Kiangwan airfield near Shanghai.
1945 – In testimony before the House Military Affairs subcommittee, the subcommittee’s chief counsel, H. Ralph Burton, charges that 16 officers and non-commissioned officers in the U.S. Army have pasts that “reflect communism.” The charges, issued nearly 10 years before Senator Joseph McCarthy would make similar accusations, were hotly denied by the U.S. Army and government. By July 1945, with the war in Europe having ended just two months before, Cold War animosities between the United States and the Soviet Union were already beginning to arise. The two nations, allies against Hitler during World War II, were dividing over issues such as the postwar fate of Germany and the Soviet occupation of Eastern Europe. One aspect of the growing tensions between the Soviet Union and the United States involved charges that communist agents were at work in various sectors of American society, such as Hollywood and the federal government. In July 1945, House Military Affairs subcommittee chief counsel H. Ralph Burton testified that his investigations revealed at least 16 officers and non-commissioned officers in the U.S. Army had communist backgrounds. As evidence, Burton cited the fact that some of the men had contributed writings to radical journals such as New Masses. In addition, some of the men had served in the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, a volunteer fighting force that battled against the fascist forces of Franco in Spain during that nation’s civil war in the 1930s. The U.S. Army quickly fired back, declaring that its own investigation revealed that none of the men named by Burton “was disaffected or disloyal.” Whatever activities prior to their military service the men might have engaged in, “the real criterion always remains: Is the individual at the present time whole-heartedly loyal to the United States?” In the celebration that accompanied the U.S. victory over Japan less than three weeks after Burton’s testimony, the charges against the U.S. Army were forgotten. Burton’s charges are of interest, however, coming nearly 10 years prior to Senator Joseph McCarthy’s similar accusations against the U.S. Army in 1954. In the latter case, McCarthy was completely disgraced during his hearings into communism in the Army. The 1945 accusations indicate that McCarthy was not the creator of the so-called Red Scare that swept the nation after World War II. Indeed, even before World War II came to an end, charges of communist infiltration of the U.S. government and military were being issued.
1947 – President Truman signed the Presidential Succession Act, which placed the Speaker of the House and the Senate President Pro Tempore next in the line of succession after the vice president.
1947 – President Harry S. Truman delegates responsibility for the civil administration of former Japanese mandated islands to the Secretary of the Navy.
1950 – The U.S. 1st Cavalry and 25th Infantry Divisions reached Korea from Japan. The British Royal Air Force 88 Flying Boat Squadron joined the U.N. forces on the peninsula. The 1st Cavalry Division’s unopposed landing at Pohang was the first planned amphibious operation of the war.
1950 – In the third such move in as many weeks, the Joint Chiefs of Staff recommended the Army authorized strength to be increased to 834,000. President Truman approved this request the following day.
1955 – 1st electric power generated from atomic energy was sold commercially.
1966 – Launch of Gemini 10 with LCDR John W. Young, USN as Command Pilot. Mission involved 43 orbits at an altitude of 412.2 nautical miles and lasted 2 days, 22 hours, and 46 minutes. Recovery was by HS-3 helicopter from USS Guadalcanal (LPH-7).
1968 – Intel is founded in Mountain View, California.
1971 – New Zealand and Australia announced they would pull their troops out of Vietnam.
1973 – Task Force 78, Mine Countermeasures Force, departs waters of North Vietnam after completing their minesweeping operations of 1,992 tow hours for the cost of $20,394,000.
1977 – Vietnam became a member of UN.
1980 – A US Federal court voided the Selective Service Act as it didn’t include women.
1987 – President Reagan used his weekly radio address to call on Congress to give more aid to the Nicaraguan Contras.
1990 – In a memorandum to the Arab League, Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz accuses Kuwait of “attempting to weaken Iraq,” encroaching on Iraqi territory, draining oil from the Rumaila field which straddles the two countries’ border, and – along with the UAE – colluding to “flood the oil market” leading to the collapse of oil prices. The memorandum calls Kuwait’s actions “tantamount to military aggression.” Kuwait denies the charges.
1991 – An Iraqi ballistic missile concealment is revealed. UNSCOM discovers and destroys undeclared decoy missiles and launch support equipment.
1998 – The United Nations formally approves an Iraqi aid distribution plan, a major step forward in the direction of allowing Iraq to sell oil under Security Council Resolution 986.
2000 – Chinese Pres. Jiang Zemin and Russia’s Pres. Putin denounced the US proposed missile defense program as a violation of the 1972 ABM treaty. They also vowed to strengthen a strategic partnership between their countries.
2002 – Accused Sept. 11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui tried to plead guilty to charges that could have brought the death penalty, but a federal judge in Alexandria, Va., insisted he take time to think about it.
2002 – US Army Sec. Thomas White defended his sale of $12 million in Enron stock before the company went bust. Records showed that he had made 77 phone calls to Enron in the 10 months ending Feb 2002.
2003 – Eight Afghan soldiers were killed when their vehicle was blown apart by a remote controlled mine.
2004 – Militants killed Essam al-Dijaili, the head of Iraq’s military’s supply department, in a drive-by shooting as he walked into his house in Baghdad.
2004 – American jets hit a position in Fallujah used by foreign militants, demolishing a house and killing 14 insurgents.

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