This Day in U.S. Military History…… July 31

31 July
1498 – During his third voyage to the Western Hemisphere, Christopher Columbus arrived at the island of Trinidad.
1760 – In 1756 approximately 60 members of the South Carolina militia organized the Charles Town Artillery Company which was chartered on this date by the colonial government. By being chartered the men in the unit, all volunteers, agreed to undergo additional drilling over that normally expected by members of the enrolled militia. The charter also allowed the company to draw guns, powder and other supplies from the colony’s arms stores.
1777 – The Marquis de Lafayette, a 19-year-old French nobleman, was made a major-general in the American Continental Army.
1790 – The U.S. Patent Office granted its first patent to Samuel Hopkins of Vermont, developer of a new method the manufacture of pot and pearl ash, potash.
1813 – Marines landed at York, Lake Ontario, with soldiers to burn stores and barracks of the British.
1815 – Commodore Stephen Decatur concludes agreement with Bey of Tunis to compensate U.S. for seizure of merchant ships during the War of 1812.
1816 – Union General George H. Thomas, who deserves a share of the credit for the Union success in the west, is born in Southhampton County, Virginia. Thomas exemplified the difficulties that individuals who chose to break with their native states over the issue of secession faced. After graduating from West Point, Thomas served in the Seminole and Mexican-American Wars. During the 1850s, he served in Texas with the 2nd Cavalry alongside many prominent future Confederates such as Robert E. Lee, J.E.B. Stuart, Albert S. Johnston, and John Bell Hood. When Virginia seceded from the Union, Thomas chose to remain loyal to his country. For this decision, Thomas paid dearly. His family disowned him, and he found advancement in the Union army difficult. He often served under Northern-born men of lesser ability. Thomas was given command of Union forces in eastern Kentucky, and he distinguished himself with a key victory over the Confederates at Logan’s Cross Roads in January 1862. After the Battle of Shiloh two months later, Thomas was given command of the Army of the Tennessee when Ulysses S. Grant became the second-in-command in the west to Henry Halleck. This command was given back to Grant during reorganization in 1862. Thomas commanded a corps at Stones River and became a Northern hero for his actions at Chickamauga in September 1863. When a gap appeared in the Union line at a crucial moment and Confederate troops began to pour through it, Thomas led a rally that saved the Federals from a serious defeat. He held the Union line together while the rest of the army, commanded by William Rosecrans, slipped back into Chattanooga. In 1864, Thomas commanded the Army of the Cumberland during William T. Sherman’s Atlanta campaign. After the capture of Atlanta, Thomas’s army was sent to pursue the remnants of Confederate General John Bell Hood’s army back into Tennessee while Sherman marched across Georgia. Thomas scored two huge victories at Franklin and Nashville as Hood desperately flung his army at the Yankees, resulting in the near disintegration of the once great Rebel force. After the war, Thomas remained in the army. He was transferred to the Military Division of the Pacific, and he died of a stroke in 1870 at the age of 54.
1837 – William Clarke Quantrill (d.1865), Confederate raider, was born. He was known as one of the most vicious butchers of the American Civil war.
1849 – Benjamin Chambers patented a breech loading cannon.
1864 – Ulysses S. Grant was named General of Volunteers.
1865 – The Navy’s East India Squadron established to operate from Sunda Strait to Japan.
1874 – Commissioning of USS Intrepid, first U.S. warship equipped with torpedoes.
1875 – Andrew Johnson, the 17th president of the United States, died in Carter Station, Tenn., at age 66. He succeeded Abraham Lincoln and was the only president to that time to face impeachment proceedings.
1876 – Congress re-established the Revenue Cutter cadet training program after three years suspension and the institution of promotion by examination.
1912 – First attempt to launch an airplane by catapult made at Annapolis.
1914 – German Kaiser Wilhelm II threatened war and ordered Russia to demobilize.
1918 – The 42nd Division (26 states and DC) is ordered to capture Hill 177 in preparation for the Aisne Offensive to begin on August 1st. Elements of its 84th Infantry Brigade, including Alabama’s the 167th and Iowa’s 168th Infantry regiments supported by the 151st Machine Gun Battalion, seize the hill after being heavily engaged.
1932 – The George Washington quarter went into circulation as a 200 year commemorative of G. Washington’s birth. It has been in use ever since.
1933 – USS Constitution commences tour of principal U.S. seaports.
1941 – Roosevelt establishes the Economic Defense Board under Vice-President Wallace.
1942 – The historical background of the Transportation Corps starts with World War I. Prior to that time, transportation operations were chiefly the responsibility of the Quartermaster General. The Transportation Corps, essentially in its present form, was organized on July 31, 1942.
1942 – American bombers attack targets on Tulagi and bomb the airfield the Japanese are building on Guadalcanal.
1943 – The US 45th Division occupies Santo Stefano. British and Canadian units move toward Regalbuto and Centuripe.
1944 – American 1st Army continues to advance. The US 4th Armored Division captures crossings over the Selune River near Pontaubault. The German counterattack on the left flank continues around Tessy and Percy.
1944 – An American battalion is landed west of Cape Sansapor from the offshore islands. At Aitape, American forces counterattack the Japanese forces along the Driniumor River.
1944 – On Tinian, American forces begin attacks on the last center of organized Japanese resistance, in the south of the island.
1945 – Pierre Laval, the puppet leader of Nazi-occupied Vichy France, surrenders to American authorities in Austria, who extradite him to France to stand trial. Laval, originally a deputy and senator of pacifist tendencies, shifted to the right in the 1930s while serving as minister of foreign affairs and twice as the French premier. A staunch anti-communist, he delayed the Soviet-Franco pact of 1935 and sought to align France with Fascist Italy. Hostile to the declaration of war against Germany in 1939, Laval encouraged the antiwar faction in the French government, and with the German invasion in 1940 he used his political influence to force an armistice with Germany. Henri Pýtain took over the new Vichy state, and Laval served as minister of state. Laval was dismissed by Pýtain in December 1940 for negotiating privately with Germany. By 1942, Laval had won the trust of Nazi leader Adolf Hitler, and the elderly Pýtain became merely a figurehead in the Vichy regime. As the premier of Vichy France, Laval collaborated with the Nazi programs of oppression and genocide and increasingly became a puppet of Hitler. After the Allied liberation of France, he was forced to flee east for German protection. With the defeat of Germany in May 1945, he escaped to Spain but was expelled and went into hiding in Austria, where he finally surrendered to American authorities in late July. Extradited to France, Laval was convicted of treason by the High Court of Justice in a sensational trial. Condemned to death, he attempted suicide by poison but was nursed back to health in time for his execution on October 15, 1945.
1945 – US Secretary of War, Henry Stimson, sends President Truman a memorandum on how to persuade Japan to surrender. As part of a package of measures which also includes conventional bombing, invasion and diplomacy, he takes for granted that America will use the atomic bombs now under production.
1945 – The Japanese are warned by the Americans that eight cities will be leveled if the government refuses to surrender.
1950 – The 5th Regimental Combat Team from Hawaii arrived in Korea.
1961 – General Lansdale submits a report on the ‘First Observation Group,’ the clandestine warfare unit ordered by President Kennedy in May. About to expand from 340 to 805 men, the group’s activities are soon to shift form actions against Vietcong in the South and focus entirely on North Vietnam.
1964 – Ranger 7, an unmanned U.S. lunar probe, takes the first close-up images of the moon–4,308 in total–before it impacts with the lunar surface northwest of the Sea of the Clouds. The images were 1,000 times as clear as anything ever seen through earth-bound telescopes. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) had attempted a similar mission earlier in the year–Ranger 6–but the probe’s cameras had failed as it descended to the lunar surface. Ranger 7, launched from Earth on July 28, successfully activated its cameras 17 minutes, or 1,300 miles, before impact and began beaming the images back to NASA’s receiving station in California. The pictures showed that the lunar surface was not excessively dusty or otherwise treacherous to a potential spacecraft landing, thus lending encouragement to the NASA plan to send astronauts to the moon. In July 1969, two Americans walked on the moon in the first Apollo Program lunar landing mission.
1964 – All-nuclear task force with USS Long Beach, USS Enterprise, and USS Bainbridge leaves Norfolk, VA to begin voyage, Operation Sea Orbit, to circle the globe without refueling. They returned on 3 October.
1969 – The National Guard was mobilized due to racial disturbances in Baton Rouge, La.
1971 – Apollo 15 astronauts (Dave Scott) took a drive on the moon in their land rover.
1972 – Hanoi challenges the Nixon administration on the dike controversy, claiming that since April there had been 173 raids against the dikes in North Vietnam with direct hits in 149 locations. On July 28, in response to claims by the Soviet Union that the United States had conducted an intentional two-month bombing campaign designed to destroy the dikes and dams of the Tonkin Delta in North Vietnam, a CIA report was made public by the Nixon administration. It stated that U.S. bombing at 12 locations had caused accidental minor damage to North Vietnam’s dikes, but the damage was unintentional and the dikes were not the intended targets of the bombings. The nearly 2,000 miles of dikes on the Tonkin plain, and more than 2,000 miles of dikes along the sea, made civilized life possible in the Red River Delta. Had the dikes been intentionally targeted, their destruction would have destroyed centuries of patient work and caused the drowning or starvation of hundreds of thousands of peasants. Bombing the dikes had been advocated by some U.S. strategists since the beginning of U.S. involvement in the war, but had been rejected outright by U.S. presidents sitting during the war as an act of terrorism.
1985 – The Coast Guard conducted a fleet dedication ceremony for the new 110-foot patrol boats in Lockport, Louisiana.
1989 – A pro-Iranian group in Lebanon released a grisly videotape purportedly showing the body of American hostage William R. Higgins dangling from a rope, a day after his kidnappers threatened to kill him.
1990 – Bosnia-Herzegovina declared independence.
1991 – President Bush and Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev signed the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty in Moscow.
1991 – The US Senate voted to allow women to fly combat aircraft.
1992 – The space shuttle Atlantis blasted off from Cape Canaveral, Fla., on a problem-plagued scientific mission.
1994 – The U.N. Security Council voted 12-0 with 2 abstentions to authorize member states to use “all necessary means” to oust the military leadership in Haiti.
1997 – In New York City, police seized five bombs believed bound for terrorist attacks on city subways. 2 potential suicide bombers were shot and wounded in an explosives laden Brooklyn apartment. Gazi Ibrahim Abu Mezer (23) and Lafi Khalil (22) were recovering from wounds. In 1998 Khalil was acquitted and Gazi Ibrahim Aby Mezer was convicted of plotting to bomb a subway station.
1998 – In Japan Asa Takii, the oldest person in the country and a survivor of the Hiroshima blast, died at age 114.
1999 – NASA controllers planned to send the $63 million Lunar Prospector crashing into the Mawson crater located in the south pole. They hoped to churn up some water vapor for possible detection. Evidence of the crash at 2:51 PDT was not detected.
1999 – The Ukraine and the US agreed to extend the nuclear weapon and ballistic missile dismantling program for 6 years.
2000 – US and British diplomats accused the Pres. Charles Taylor of Liberia and Pres. Blaise Compaore of Burkina Faso of trading arms for diamonds 2003 – Two of ousted Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein’s daughters and their nine children were granted refuge in Jordan.
2001 – Richard Butler tells a U.S. Senate Committee that Iraq increased the production of chemical and biological weapons after U.N. inspections ended- and might even be close to developing a nuclear bomb. A former Iraqi nuclear engineer tells the Committee that Saddam Hussein will have enough weapons-grade uranium for three nuclear bombs by 2005.
2003 – Five Taliban fighters, two Afghan soldiers and another person were killed on Thursday in separate incidents as hundreds of Afghan security forces were trying to flush out Taliban fighters in a new operation in southern Afghanistan.
2003 – Affordable Internet access makes its way to Afghanistan. The country, ravaged by 23 years of civil war, received what United Nations information technology workers called the first inexpensive public Internet service there. In August, five more Kabul post offices will be outfitted with Internet connections, where it costs the equivalent of $1 an hour to check e-mail and surf the Web.
2004 – US secretary of state Colin Powell said the United States would speed delivery to Iraq of billions of dollars in reconstruction aid, as Nato countries agreed to send a 40-member team as soon as possible to begin training Iraqi security forces.
2004 – Thirteen fighters died in overnight clashes with U.S.-led forces in Fallujah while Iraq’s interim prime minister, Ayad Allawi, sought additional pledges from neighboring Arab countries for help in stopping violence. The U.S. military battled the insurgents in Fallujah after a joint U.S.-Iraqi patrol was attacked. No U.S. or Iraqi forces were killed.
2004 – About 170 members of an Illinois National Guard unit have been called for duty in Iraq. Members of the 1644th Transportation Company will be mobilized August 9th. The unit includes detachments based in both Springfield and Rock Falls. The company will train at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, before being deployed. Its mission is to transfer troops and cargo. This will be the second mobilization for the 1644th. About the same number of members were called to duty in March 2003 and served about four months.
2004 – Kabul police foiled a sophisticated and potentially deadly bomb plot in the Afghan capital. Police and NDS members arrested a man riding a motorcycle in which was hidden around 6.6 pounds of explosives connected to a timing device of a compact disc player to detonate it remotely. Further along the crowded Jalalabad road in the center of the city police found seven BM-12 rockets and 30 sticks of dynamite covered in gravel and scrap metal and rigged with two electronic detonators. The explosives were concealed in an apple vendor’s cart near a petrol filling station.
2006 – ISAF assumed command of the south of Afghanistan.

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