This Day in U.S. Military History…… July 30

30 July
1619 – The first representative assembly in America the House of Burgesses, became the first legislative assembly in America when it convened at Jamestown, Va. Composed of the governor and 21 other members, 17 of whom were elected by the land-owning males, this body enacted laws for the colony. Among these would be rules regulating the militia, from its arming and training to who could serve. For instance slaves and indentured servants were forbidden to bear arms but “free negroes” were expected to serve and, like their white counterparts, even furnish their own weapons. Earlier that year, the London Company, which had established the Jamestown settlement 12 years before, directed Virginia Governor Sir George Yeardley to summon a “General Assembly” elected by the settlers, with every free adult male voting. Twenty-two representatives from the 11 Jamestown boroughs were chosen, and Master John Pory was appointed the assembly’s speaker. On July 30, the House of Burgesses (an English word for “citizens”) convened for the first time. Its first law, which, like all of its laws, would have to be approved by the London Company, required tobacco to be sold for at least three shillings per pound. Other laws passed during its first six-day session included prohibitions against gambling, drunkenness, and idleness, and a measure that made Sabbath observance mandatory. The creation of the House of Burgesses, along with other progressive measures, made Sir George Yeardley exceptionally popular among the colonists, and he served two terms as Virginia governor.
1729 – The city of Baltimore was founded.
1733 – Society of Freemasons opened their 1st American lodge in Boston.
1839 – Slave rebels took over the slave ship Amistad.
1863 – Pres. Lincoln issued his “eye-for-eye” order to shoot a rebel prisoner for every black prisoner shot.
1863 – George Crockett Strong (29), US Union Gen-Maj, died of injuries.
1863 – The Shoshone chief Pocatello signs the Treaty of Box Elder, bringing peace to the emigrant trails of southern Idaho and northern Utah. Pocatello was a Bannock Shoshone, one of the two major Shoshone tribes that dominated modern-day southern Idaho. Once a large and very powerful people, the Shoshone lost thousands to a smallpox epidemic in 1781. The fierce Blackfoot Indians took further advantage of the badly weakened Shoshone to push them off the plains and into the mountains. The first representatives of a people who would soon prove even more dangerous than the Blackfoot arrived in August 1805: The expedition of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark. Anxious to establish good relations with the Americans in hopes of someday obtaining guns to fight the dreaded Blackfoot, the Shoshone welcomed Lewis and Clark and gave them the horses they needed to cross the Rocky Mountains. However, by the time Pocatello had become a chief 50 years later, the Shoshone realized the white people were more of a threat than the Blackfoot. By 1857, Pocatello was a young chief who controlled an extensive territory around present-day Pocatello, Idaho. Pocatello was greatly alarmed by the growing number of Mormons who were traveling north from Salt Lake City and settling in Shoshone territory. The Indians and Mormons increasingly clashed, with both sides committing brutal and unjustified murders. Pocatello was determined to resist the white settlement. He led several attacks on the Mormons, killing or wounding several of them and stealing their horses. In 1863, the U.S. government sent Colonel Patrick Connor and a company of soldiers into the region to protect American telegraph lines and, secondarily, the Mormon settlers. That May, Connor set out to track down Pocatello and his followers, but the Shoshone chief managed to evade the soldiers. On his own initiative, Pocatello then proposed a peace agreement. If the Mormons provided the Shoshone with compensation for lost game and land, Pocatello promised to cease his attacks. The Mormons accepted his terms. On this day in 1863, Pocatello signed his “X” on the Treaty of Box Elder and the overt hostilities ended. As the Anglo settlers in the region grew more numerous and gained the support of the U.S. government, the Shoshone were confined to a reservation within their traditional territory. Pocatello died on the reservation in 1884. The nearby Idaho city of Pocatello was named for him.
1864 – The Union’s ingenious attempt to break the Confederate lines at Petersburg by blowing up a tunnel that had been dug under the Rebel trenches fails. Although the explosion created a gap in the Confederate defenses, a poorly planned Yankee attack wasted the effort and the result was an eight-month continuation of the siege. The bloody campaign between Union General Ulysses S. Grant and Confederate Robert E. Lee ground to a halt in mid-June, when the two armies dug in at Petersburg, south of Richmond. For the previous six weeks, Grant had pounded away at Lee, producing little results other than frightful casualties. A series of battles and flanking maneuvers brought Grant to Petersburg, where he opted for a siege rather than another costly frontal assault. In late June, a Union regiment from the 48th Pennsylvania Infantry began digging a tunnel under the Rebel fortifications. The soldiers, experienced miners from Pennsylvania’s anthracite coal regions, dug for nearly a month to construct a horizontal shaft over 500 feet long. At the end of the tunnel, they ran two drifts, or side tunnels, totaling 75 feet along the Confederate lines to maximize the destruction. Four tons of gunpowder filled the drifts, and the stage was set. Union soldiers lit the fuse before dawn on July 30. The explosion that came just before 5:00 a.m. blew up a Confederate battery and most of one infantry regiment, creating a crater 170 feet long, 60 to 80 feet wide, and 30 feet deep. As one Southern soldier wrote, “Several hundred yards of earth work with men and cannon was literally hurled a hundred feet in the air.” However, the Union was woefully unprepared to exploit the gap. The Yankees were slow to exit the trenches, and when they did the 15,000 attacking troops ran into the crater rather than around it. Part of the Rebel line was captured, but the Confederates that gathered from each side fired down on the Yankees. The Union troops could not maintain the beachhead, and by early afternoon they retreated back to their original trenches. This failure led to finger pointing among the Union command. General Ambrose Burnside, the corps commander of the troops involved, had ordered regiments from the United States Colored Troops to lead the attack, but the commander of the Army of the Potomac, George G. Meade, nixed that plan shortly before the attack was scheduled. Fearing that it may be perceived as a ploy to use African-American soldiers as cannon fodder, Meade ordered that white troops lead the charge. With little time for training, General James H. Ledlie was left to command the attack. The Battle of the Crater essentially marked the end of Burnside’s military career, and on April 15, 1865, he resigned from the army.
1864 – Confederate troops attack Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. The town was burned by Union forces under McCausland.
1864 – Boat crew commanded by Lieutenant J.C. Watson made daylight reconnaissances of the Mobile Bay channel. Watson and his men, towed into the bay by the small tug Cowslip, sounded the outer channel and marked the outside limits of the Confederate torpedo fields with buoys for the coming attack on the defenses of the bay.
1864 – Landing party from U.S.S. Potomska, Acting Lieutenant Robert P. Swann, destroyed two large Confederate salt works near the Back River, Georgia. Returning to Potomska, Swann and his men were taken under fire by Confederates and a sharp battle ensued. ‘Our arms,” Swann re-ported, “the Spencer rifles, saved us all from destruction, as the rapidity with which we fired caused the enemy to lie low, and their firing was after the first volley very wild. . . . We fought them three-quarters of an hour, some of the time up to our knees in mud, trying to land and capture them, and some of the time in the water with the boats for a breastwork.” Finally able to regain the Potomska, Swann’s party received a commendation from Rear Admiral Dahlgren for the bravery and skill they had demonstrated on the expedition.
1916 – German saboteurs blew up a munitions pier on Black Tom Island, Jersey City, NJ. 7 people were killed. Damages totaled about $20-25 million. Now a section of Liberty State Park (along Morris Pesin road including the park office and Flag Plaza), Black Tom was originally a small island in New York Harbor not far from Liberty Island. Between 1860 and 1880, Black Tom was connected to the mainland by a causeway and rail lines terminating at a freight facility with docks. The area between the island and the mainland was filled in sometime between 1905 and 1916 by the Lehigh Valley Railroad as part of its Jersey City facility. By the beginning of the twentieth century, Black Tom was serving as a major munitions depot. Before the United States entered the First World War, American businessmen would sell their supplies to any buyer. However, by 1915, the British Navy had established a blockade effectively keeping the Germans from being able to buy from the American merchants. The German government, on July 30, 1916, orchestrated the sabotage of freight cars at Black Tom, which were loaded with munitions for the Allies in Europe. According to a recent study, the resulting explosion was the equivalent of an earthquake measuring between 5.0 and 5.5 on the Richter Scale. Windows within a 25-mile radius were broken, the outside wall of Jersey City’s City Hall was cracked and pieces of metal damaged the skirt of the Statue of Liberty (it is because of this explosion that the Lady’s torch has been closed off to visitors). Most of the immigrants on Ellis Island were temporarily evacuated. Losses were estimate at $20 million and seven people were killed. After the war, a commission appointed to resolve American claims against Germany was established. It took years before a decision was made, finally in June of 1939, the commission ruled that the German Government had authorized the sabotage. However, World War II interrupted any chances of arranging for restitution. In 1953 the two governments finally settled on terms that the German government would pay a total of $95 million for a number of claims including Black Tom. The final payment was received in 1979.
1918 – Units of First Marine Aviation Force arrive at Brest, France.
1919 – Federal troops were called out to put down Chicago race riots.
1928 – George Eastman showed the 1st color motion pictures in the US.
1941 – Japanese aircraft bomb USS Tutuila (PR-4) at Chungking, China; First Navy ship damaged by Axis during World War II. Japan apologizes for the incident but it does nothing to ease the strained relations between the US and Japan.
1942 – President Roosevelt signed a bill creating a women’s auxiliary agency in the Navy known as “Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service” or WAVES for short.
1942 – The US passenger-freighter Robert E. Lee with 268 passengers was sunk by the German U-166 submarine. 15 crew members and 10 passengers died. In 2001 wreckage of the U-166 was found in the Gulf of Mexico and it appeared that it was sunk by Coast Guard PC-566 right after the attack. U-166 had 52 crew members.
1943 – US forces are engaged on the outskirts of Santo Stefano and Troina.
1944 – The US 6th Division (Sibert) lands unopposed on the islands of Amsterdam and Middleburg, off Cape Sansapor. Task Force 78 (Admiral Berkey) provides naval support.
1944 – Advancing elements of US 1st Army seize Granville and enter Avranches, capturing bridges over the See River. The left flank is counterattacked by German forces of the 2nd Parachute Corps at Percy and Villedieu.
1944 – On Tinian, the main town of Tinian is captured by American forces. The southern half of Guam has been secured by US troops.
1945 – Japanese warships sink the American cruiser Indianapolis, killing 883 seamen in the worst loss in the history of the U.S. navy. As a prelude to a proposed invasion of the Japanese mainland, scheduled for November 1, U.S. forces bombed the Japanese home islands from sea and air, as well as blowing Japanese warships out of the water. The end was near for Imperial Japan, but it was determined to go down fighting. Just before midnight of the 29th, the Indianapolis, an American cruiser that was the flagship of the Fifth Fleet, was on its way, unescorted, to Guam, then Okinawa. It never made it. It was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine. Interestingly, the sub was commanded by a lieutenant who had also participated in the Pearl Harbor invasion. There were 1,196 crewmen onboard the Indianapolis; over 350 died upon impact of the torpedo or went down with the ship. More than 800 fell into the Pacific. Of those, approximately 50 died that first night in the water from injuries suffered in the torpedo explosion; the remaining seamen were left to flounder in the Pacific, fend off sharks, drink sea water (which drove some insane), and wait to be rescued. Because there was no time for a distress signal before the Indianapolis went down, it was 84 hours before help arrived. This was despite the fact that American naval headquarters had intercepted a message on July 30 from the Japanese sub commander responsible for sinking the Indianapolis, describing the type of ship sunk and its location. (The Americans assumed it was an exaggerated boast and didn’t bother to follow up.) Only 318 survived; the rest were eaten by sharks or drowned. The Indianapolis’s commander, Captain Charles McVay, was the only officer ever to be court-martialed for the loss of a ship during wartime in the history of the U.S. Navy. Had the attack happened only three days earlier, the Indianapolis would have been sunk carrying special cargo-the atom bomb, which it delivered to Tinian Island, northeast of Guam, for scientists to assemble.
1945 – British and American carrier aircraft continue attacks. Kobe, Kure and Honshu are bombed. Several of the remaining large ships in the Japanese navy have been hit and badly damaged in the last week, including 3 battleships and 4 aircraft carriers.
1945 – Food shortages lead the government to call on the civilian population of Japan to collect 2.5 million bushels of acorns to be converted into eating material. The average Japanese is presently surviving on a daily intake of about 1680 calories, or 78 percent of what is considered the minimum necessary to survive.
1945 – In spite of the Japanese rejection of the Potsdam ultimatum, General Marshall gives instructions to General MacArthur and Admiral Nimitz to coordinate plans in readiness for an early surrender by the enemy.
1950 – The U.S. 2nd Infantry Division from Fort Lewis, Wash., began debarking at Pusan.
1952 – President Truman promotes the American Legation in Saigon to an embassy. One sovereign country is dealing with another.
1952 – The largest single target bomber strike of the war occurred when 63 B-29s attacked the industrial complex near Sinuiju.
1956 – US motto “In God We Trust” was authorized.
1964 – At about midnight, six “Swifts,” special torpedo boats used by the South Vietnamese for covert raids, attack the islands of Hon Me and Hon Ngu in the Tonkin Gulf. Although unable to land any commandos, the boats fired on island installations. Radar and radio transmissions were monitored by an American destroyer, the USS Maddox, which was stationed about 120 miles away. The South Vietnamese attacks were part of a covert operation called Oplan 34A, which involved raids by South Vietnamese commandos operating under American orders against North Vietnamese coastal and island installations. Although American forces were not directly involved in the actual raids, U.S. Navy ships were on station to conduct electronic surveillance and monitor North Vietnamese defense responses under another program, Operation De Soto. The Oplan 34A attacks played a major role in events that led to what became known as the Gulf of Tonkin Incident. On August 2, North Vietnamese patrol boats attacked the Maddox, which had been conducting a De Soto mission in the area. Two days after the first attack, there was another incident that still remains unclear. The Maddox, joined by destroyer USS C. Turner Joy, engaged what were thought at the time to be more attacking North Vietnamese patrol boats. Although it was questionable whether the second attack actually happened or not, the incident provided the rationale for retaliatory air attacks against the North Vietnamese and the subsequent Tonkin Gulf Resolution. The resolution became the basis for the initial escalation of the war in Vietnam and ultimately the insertion of U.S. combat troops into the area.
1966 – US airplanes bombed the demilitarized zone in Vietnam.
1967 – General William Westmoreland claimed that he was winning the war in Vietnam but needed more men.
1967 – There was a race riot in Milwaukee and 4 people were killed. The disturbance lasted until August 3rd and the National Guard was called in. On July 31, 1967 the 1st Battalion and the 3rd Battalion of the 121st Field Artillery were called to state duty for a Milwaukee riot. The battalions were released on August 2, 1962, then recalled for an additional day on August 7, 1967. Four persons were killed.
1969 – During his first overseas trip as president–which included stops in Guam, the Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, Pakistan, Romania, and Britain–Richard Nixon makes an unscheduled five-and-a-half hour visit to South Vietnam. On the South Vietnam stopover, Nixon met with President Nguyen Van Thieu to discuss U.S. troop withdrawals and later met with senior U.S. military commanders to discuss possible changes in military tactics. Nixon also visited U.S. troops of the U.S. 1st Infantry Division at Di An, 12 miles south of Saigon.
1971 – US Apollo 15 with astronauts Scott and Irwin landed at Mare Imbrium on the Moon.
1974 – Under coercion from the U.S. Supreme Court, President Richard M. Nixon releases subpoenaed White House recordings–suspected to prove his guilt in the Watergate cover-up–to special prosecutor Leon Jaworski. The same day, the House Judiciary Committee voted a third article of impeachment against the president: contempt of Congress in hindering the impeachment process. The previous two impeachment articles voted against Nixon by the committee were obstruction of justice and abuse of presidential powers. On June 17, 1972, five men, including a salaried security coordinator for President Nixon’s reelection committee, were arrested for breaking into and illegally wiretapping the Democratic National Committee headquarters in Washington, D.C.’s Watergate complex. Soon after, two other former White House aides were implicated in the break-in, but the Nixon administration denied any involvement. Later that year, reporters Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward of The Washington Post discovered a higher-echelon conspiracy surrounding the incident, and a political scandal of unprecedented magnitude erupted. On May 17, 1973, the Senate Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities, headed by Senator Sam Ervin of North Carolina, began televised proceedings on the rapidly escalating Watergate affair. One week later, Harvard Law professor Archibald Cox was sworn in as special Watergate prosecutor. During the Senate hearings, former White House legal counsel John Dean testified that the Watergate break-in had been approved by former Attorney General John Mitchell, with the knowledge of White House advisers John Ehrlichman and H.R. Haldeman, and that President Nixon had been aware of the cover-up. Meanwhile, Watergate prosecutor Cox and his staff began to uncover widespread evidence of political espionage by the Nixon re-election committee, illegal wiretapping of thousands of citizens by the administration, and contributions to the Republican Party in return for political favors. In July, the existence of what were to be called the Watergate tapes–official recordings of White House conversations between Nixon and his staff–was revealed during the Senate hearings. Cox subpoenaed these tapes, and after three months of delay President Nixon agreed to send summaries of the recordings. Cox rejected the summaries, and Nixon fired him. His successor as special prosecutor, Leon Jaworski, leveled indictments against several high-ranking administration officials, including Mitchell and Dean, who were duly convicted. Public confidence in the president rapidly waned, and by the end of July 1974 the House Judiciary Committee had adopted three articles of impeachment against President Nixon. On July 30, under coercion from the Supreme Court, Nixon finally released the Watergate tapes. On August 5, transcripts of the recordings were released, including a segment in which the president was heard instructing Haldeman to order the FBI to halt the Watergate investigation. Four days later, Nixon became the first president in U.S. history to resign. On September 8, his successor, President Gerald Ford, pardoned him from any criminal charges.
1989 – In Lebanon, the pro-Iranian group Organization for the Oppressed on Earth threatened to kill an American hostage, Marine Lt. Col. William R. Higgins, unless Israel released Sheik Abdul-Karim Obeid, a cleric seized by Israeli commandos.
1991 – U.N. weapons inspectors report to the United Nation Security Council that Iraq has attempted to conceal aspects of its nuclear weapons program by destroying or burying essential equipment. The inspectors also reported identifying four times as many chemical weapons as Iraq had reported to be in its possession.
1994 – The first U.S. troops landed in the Rwandan capital of Kigali to secure the airport for an expanded international aid effort.
1997 – The US lifted a 12-year ban on US citizens visits to Lebanon.
1998 – The US Post Office began selling a 40-cent breast cancer stamp. Eight cents from every stamp will go to breast cancer research sponsored by the NIH and the Dept. of Defense.
1999 – In Serajevo Pres. Clinton pledged $700 million in aid in addition to $500 million for Kosovo as talks began to rebuild the Balkans.
1999 – The US agreed to pay $4.5 million to the injured and families of the victims of the May 7 bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade.
2001 – Intel rolled out its new Pentium III-M processor based on .13 micron chip technology.
2002 – In the Philippines some 2,000 leftist protestors slammed a U.S.-led anti-terror exercise, ahead of a visit by Secretary of State Colin Powell for talks on combating terrorism.
2003 – President Bush took personal responsibility for the first time for using disputed intelligence in his State of the Union address, but predicted he would be vindicated for going to war against Iraq.
2003 – Iraq’s interim government named its first president: Ibrahim al-Jaafari, a Shiite Muslim from the Daawa party banned by Saddam Hussein.
2004 – Abdurahman Alamoudi pleaded guilty in a Virginia court to moving cash from Libya and involvement in a plot to assassinate Saudi Prince Abdullah.
2004 – In Iraq fierce overnight fighting between U.S. Marines backed by fighter aircraft and insurgents using small arms and mortars killed 13 insurgents in Fallujah overnight.
2004 – In Pakistan an attack on Shaukat Aziz, the prime minister designate, was a response to Pres. Gen. Pervez Musharraf’s transferring wanted militants to U.S. custody. 7 people were killed plus the suicide bomber. In 2005 police arrested 3 brothers for harboring suicide bombers, who made the attack on Aziz that left 9 bystanders dead.
2004 – Turkish authorities seized 200 pounds of plastic explosives hidden in a truck as it crossed into Turkey from Iraq.
2004 – In Uzbekistan suicide bombers hit the U.S. and Israeli embassies, killing at least two Uzbeks.

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