1579 – During his circumnavigation of the world, English seaman Francis Drake anchors in a harbor just north of present-day San Francisco, California, and claims the territory for Queen Elizabeth I. Calling the land “Nova Albion,” Drake remained on the California coast for a month to make repairs to his ship, the Golden Hind, and prepare for his westward crossing of the Pacific Ocean. On December 13, 1577, Drake set out from England with five ships on a mission to raid Spanish holdings on the Pacific coast of the New World. After crossing the Atlantic, Drake abandoned two of his ships in South America and then sailed into the Straits of Magellan with the remaining three. A series of devastating storms besieged his expedition in the treacherous straits, wrecking one ship and forcing another to return to England. Only the Golden Hind reached the Pacific Ocean, but Drake continued undaunted up the western coast of South America, raiding Spanish settlements and capturing a rich Spanish treasure ship. Drake then continued up the western coast of North America, searching for a possible northeast passage back to the Atlantic. Reaching as far north as present-day Washington before turning back, Drake paused near San Francisco Bay in June 1579 to repair his ship and prepare for a journey across the Pacific. In July, the expedition set off across the Pacific, visiting several islands before rounding Africa’s Cape of Good Hope and returning to the Atlantic Ocean. On September 26, 1580, the Golden Hind returned to Plymouth, England, bearing its rich captured treasure and valuable information about the world’s great oceans. In 1581, Queen Elizabeth I knighted Drake during a visit to his ship.
1742 – William Hooper, signer of the Declaration of Independence, was born.
1745 – American New Englanders captured Louisburg, Cape Breton, from the French. The ragtag army captured France’s most imposing North American stronghold on Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia.
1775 – During the American Revolution, British General William Howe lands his troops on the Charlestown peninsula overlooking Boston and leads them against Breed’s Hill, a fortified American position just below Bunker Hill. As the British advanced in columns against the Americans, Patriot General William Prescott reportedly told his men, “Don’t one of you fire until you see the whites of their eyes!” When the Redcoats were within 40 yards, the Americans let loose with a lethal barrage of musket fire, cutting down nearly 100 enemy troops and throwing the British into retreat. After reforming his lines, Howe attacked again, with much the same result. However, Prescott’s men were now low on ammunition, and when Howe led his men up the hill for a third time, they reached the redoubts and engaged the Americans in hand-to-hand combat. The outnumbered Americans were forced to retreat. The British had won the so-called Battle of Bunker Hill, and Breed’s Hill and the Charlestown peninsula fell firmly under British control. Despite losing their strategic positions, the battle was a morale-builder for the Americans, who had suffered far fewer casualties than their enemy while demonstrating that they could conduct war effectively against the British.
1832 – The practice of utilizing “surplus” naval officers as officers of the Revenue Marine was discontinued. Revenue officer vacancies were henceforth filled by promotion from within the service.
1833 – USS Delaware enters drydock at Gosport Navy Yard in Norfolk, VA, the first warship to enter a public drydock in the United States.
1837 – Strong Vincent is born in Waterford, Pennsylvania. After working as a lawyer, he went on to become a hero at the Battle of Gettysburg, where he was mortally wounded defending Little Round Top. When hostilities erupted in April 1861, Vincent left the law to become an officer in the Erie Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteers. By early 1862, he rose to commander of the 83rd Pennsylvania. Vincent served in several campaigns with the Army of the Potomac, fighting at Yorktown, Fredericksburg, and Chancellorsville. He was promoted to colonel after Yorktown, and prior to Gettysburg, Vincent was given command of the Third Brigade, First Division, of the Fifth Corps. On the night of July 1, 1863, Vincent and his men were hurrying toward the battlefield under a bright moon. When the soldiers passed through a small town near Gettysburg, the regiment bands began to play and residents came to their doors to cheer the Yankee troops. Vincent remarked to an aide that there could be a worse fate than to die fighting in his home state with the flag overhead. The next day, as Vincent and his brigade were arriving behind the Union lines, General Gouverneur K. Warren frantically summoned Vincent’s force to the top of Little Round Top, a rocky hill at the end of the Federal line. Warren observed that the Confederates could turn the Union left flank by taking the summit, which was occupied by only a Yankee signal corps at the time. So Vincent and his men hurried up the hill, arriving just ahead of the Rebels. The brigade held the top, but just barely. Vincent was mortally wounded in the engagement and died on July 7. He was promoted posthumously to brigadier general.
1863 – On the way to Gettysburg, Union and Confederate forces skirmished at Point of Rocks, Maryland.
1862 – Joint expedition including U.S.S. Sebago, Lieutenant Murray, and U.S.S. Currituck, Acting Master Shankland, with troops embarked on transport Seth Low, at the request of General McClellan ascended the Pamunkey River to twenty-five miles above White House. Confederates burned seventeen vessels, some loaded with coal and commissary stores. The river was so narrow at this point that the Union gunboats were compelled to return stern foremost for several miles. General McClellan reported that the ”expedition was admirably managed, and all concerned deserve great credit.”
1863 – Battle of Aldie: Confederates failed to drive back Union in Virginia.
1863 – C.S.S. Atlanta, Commander Webb, with wooden steamers Isondiga and Resolute, engaged U.S.S. Weehawken, Captain J. Rodgers, and U.S.S. Nahant, Commander Downes, in Wassaw Sound. A percussion torpedo was fitted to the ram’s bow, “which,” Webb wrote, “I knew would do its work to my entire satisfaction, should I but be able to touch the Weehauken. . . Atlanta grounded coming into the channel, was gotten off, but repeatedly failed to obey her helm. Weehawken poured five shots from her heavy guns into the Confederate ram, and Nahant moved into attacking Position. With two of his gun crews out of action, with two of three Pilots severely injured, and with his ship helpless and hard aground, Webb was compelled to surrender. His two wooden escorts had returned upriver without engaging. Captain Rodgers reported: “The Atlanta was found to have mounted two 6-inch and two 7-inch rifles, the 6-inch broadside, the 7-inch working on a Pivot either as broadside or bow and stern guns. There is a large supply of ammunition for these guns and other stores, said to be of great value by some of the officers of the vessel. There were on board at the time of capture, as per muster roll, 21 officers and 124 men, including 28 marines.”
1864 – A 640 meter long pontoon bridge over the James River in Virginia was finished.
1864 – General John B. Hood replaced General Johnston as head of CSA troops around Atlanta.
1870 – USS Mohican burns Mexican pirate ship Forward.
1876 – Sioux and Cheyenne Indians score a tactical victory over General Crook’s forces at the Battle of the Rosebud, foreshadowing the disaster of the Battle of Little Big Horn eight days later. General George Crook was in command of one of three columns of soldiers converging on the Big Horn country of southern Montana that June. A large band of Sioux and Cheyenne Indians under the direction of Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse, and several other chiefs had congregated in the area in defiance of U.S. demands that the Indians confine themselves to reservations. The army viewed the Indians’ refusal as an opportunity to dispatch a massive three-pronged attack and win a decisive victory over the “hostile” Indians. Crook’s column, marching north from Fort Fetterman in Wyoming Territory, was to join with two others: General Gibbon’s column coming east from Fort Ellis in Montana Territory, and General Terry’s force coming west from Fort Abraham Lincoln in Dakota Territory. Terry’s force included the soon-to-be-famous 7th Cavalry under the command of George Custer. The vast distances and lack of reliable communications made it difficult to coordinate, but the three armies planned to converge on the valley of the Big Horn River and stage an assault on an enemy whose location and size was only vaguely known. The plan quickly ran into trouble. As Crook approached the Big Horn, his Indian scouts informed him they had found signs of a major Sioux force that must still be nearby. Crook was convinced that the Sioux were encamped in a large village somewhere along the Rosebud Creek just east of the Big Horn. Like most of his fellow officers, Crook believed that Indians were more likely to flee than stand and fight, and he was determined to find the village and attack before the Sioux could escape into the wilderness. Crook’s Indian allies–262 Crow and Shoshone warriors–were less certain. They suspected the Sioux force was under the command of Crazy Horse, thee brilliant war chief. Crazy Horse, they warned, was too shrewd to give Crook an opportunity to attack a stationary village. Crook soon learned that his allies were right. Around 8 a.m. on this day in 1876, Crook halted his force of about 1,300 men in the bowl of a small valley along the Rosebud Creek in order to allow the rear of the column to catch up. Crook’s soldiers unsaddled and let their horses graze while they relaxed in the grass and enjoyed the cool morning air. The American soldiers were out in the open, divided, and unprepared. Suddenly, several Indian scouts rode into the camp at a full gallop. “Sioux! Sioux!” they shouted. “Many Sioux!” Within minutes, a mass of Sioux warriors began to converge on the army. A force of at least 1,500 mounted Sioux warriors caught Crook’s soldiers by surprise. Crazy Horse had kept an additional 2,500 warriors in reserve to finish the attack. Fortunately for Crook, one segment of his army was not caught unprepared. His 262 Crow and Shoshone allies had taken up advanced positions about 500 yards from the main body of soldiers. With astonishing courage, the Indian warriors boldly countercharged the much larger invading force. They managed to blunt the initial attack long enough for Crook to regroup his men and send soldiers forward to support his Indian allies. The fighting continued until noon, when the Sioux-perhaps hoping to draw Crook’s army into an ambush-retreated from the field. The combined force of 4,000 Sioux warriors had outnumbered Crook’s divided and unprepared army by more than three to one. Had it not been for the wisdom and courage of Crook’s Indian allies, Americans today might well remember the Battle of the Rosebud as they do the subsequent Battle of the Little Big Horn. As it was, Crook’s team was badly bloodied–28 men were killed and 56 were seriously wounded. Crook had no choice but to withdraw and regroup. Crazy Horse had lost only 13 men and his warriors were emboldened by their successful attack on the American soldiers. Eight days later, they would join with their tribesmen in the Battle of the Little Big Horn, which would wipe out George Custer and his 7th Cavalry.
1898 – Navy Hospital Corps established.
1913 – U.S. Marines set sail from San Diego to protect American interests in Mexico.
1916 – American troops under the command of Gen. Jack Pershing marched into Mexico. US Gen’l. Pershing led an unsuccessful punitive expedition against Francisco “Pancho” Villa.
1926 – Spain threatened to quit the League of Nations if Germany was allowed to join.
1930 – The Smoot-Hawley Tariff Bill became law, placing the highest tariff on imports to the U.S. An international trade war began with the US passage of the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act. By the spring of 1930, it was all too clear that America would not be able to shake off the fiscal impact of the Great Crash of 1929. And so, President Herbert Hoover stepped into the breach and signed the controversial Smoot-Hawley Tariff on this day in 1930. Smoot-Hawley raised duties on imports to astronomical heights in hopes of preserving the domestic market for American-made goods. Along with forwarding the protectionist cause, the legislation also embodied Hoover’s belief that a revived American economy would aid global fiscal health. Needless to say, Smoot-Hawley was a fast hit with protectionist forces, still licking their wounds from the crash. However, economists and international business leaders blasted Smoot-Hawley as an overly aggressive bill that would hurt and perhaps ultimately alienate foreign markets; a month before Hoover signed the bill, over one thousand economists signed a petition that protested the tariff. Fears that foreign governments would view Smoot-Hawley as a bellicose bill proved to be all too well-founded: a raft of foreign nations retaliated by enacting their own hefty tariffs, as well as quotas on imports and other measures that not only made international trade all that more difficult, but that also exacerbated America’s fiscal woes.
1932 – The U.S. Senate defeated the bonus bill as 10,000 veterans massed around the Capitol.
1938 – Japan declared war on China.
1940 – Chief of Naval Operations asks Congress for money to build two-ocean Navy.
1942 – Yank a weekly magazine for the U.S. armed services, began publication. Hartzell Spence (d.2001 at 93), executive editor of Yank, a new US Army publication, soon introduced the term “pinup” for the photo inserts of beautiful women and added the “Sad Sack” cartoon strip.
1942 – Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Fleet directed the organization of coastal pickets to combat submarine menace of Atlantic Coast. This became known as the “Corsair Fleet.”
1943 – Operation Husky. The first units of the naval support for the invasion of Sicily set sail from the British Home Fleet base at Scapa Flow.
1944 – The US 1st Army cuts off the Contentin Peninsula. The US 9th Division (part of US 7th Corps) reaches the west coast to the north and south of Barneville. German divisions isolated to the north are not permitted to attempt to break out. Hitler meets with Rundstedt, Commander in Chief (West), and Rommel, commanding Army Group B. Both Field Marshals seek a withdrawal to more defensible positions inland. Hitler refuses to allow a retreat in Normandy. He suggests that the V1 bombing of Britain will force it out of the war.
1944 – The US 27th Infantry Division lands on Saipan to reinforce the American beachhead.
1944 – The carriers led by Admiral Clark and the rest of the main US carrier forces sail for a rendezvous to the west of the Mariana Islands.
1945 – On Okinawa, reinforced American units advance in the Kuishi Ridge area which has been stubbornly defended by forces of the Japanese 32nd Army. Along the line of the US 24th Corps, the last Japanese defensive line is broken. The US 7th Division completes the capture of Hills 153 and 115. The commander of the Japanese naval base on Okinawa, Admiral Minoru Ota, is found dead, having committed suicide.
1945 – On Luzon, elements of the US 37th Division, US 1st Corps, captures Naguilian after making a forced crossing of the Cagayan river, near the town of Cagayan.
1945 – General Arnold orders General Chennault to be replaced by General Stratemeyer as Commander in Chief of the US air forces operating in China. Japanese troops in southern China begin withdrawing northward in five long columns between the Yellow and Yangtze rivers.
1953 – A revised demarcation line was settled at Panmunjom.
1953 – Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas stayed the executions of spies Julius & Ethel Rosenberg scheduled for next day, their 14th wedding anniversary. They were put to death June 19.
1953 – The Soviet Union orders an entire armored division of its troops into East Berlin to crush a rebellion by East German workers and antigovernment protesters. The Soviet assault set a precedent for later interventions into Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968. The riots in East Berlin began among construction workers, who took to the streets on June 16, 1953, to protest an increase in work schedules by the communist government of East Germany. By the next day, the crowd of disgruntled workers and other antigovernment dissidents had grown to between 30,000 and 50,000. Leaders of the protest issued a call for a general strike, the resignation of the communist East German government, and free elections. Soviet forces struck quickly and without warning. Troops, supported by tanks and other armored vehicles, crashed through the crowd of protesters. Some protesters tried to fight back, but most fled before the onslaught. Red Cross officials in West Berlin (where many of the wounded protesters fled) estimated the death toll at between 15 and 20, and the number of wounded at more than 100. The Soviet military commanders declared martial law, and by the evening of June 17, the protests had been shattered and relative calm was restored. In Washington, President Dwight D. Eisenhower declared that the brutal Soviet action contradicted Russian propaganda that the people of East Germany were happy with their communist government. He noted that the smashing of the protests was “a good lesson on the meaning of communism.” America’s propaganda outlet in Europe, the Voice of America radio station, claimed, “The workers of East Berlin have already written a glorious page in postwar history. They have once and for all times exposed the fraudulent nature of communist regimes.” These criticisms had little effect on the Soviet control of East Germany, which remained a communist stronghold until the government fell in 1989.
1965 – For the first time, 27 B-52s fly from Guam to bomb a Vietcong concentration in a heavily forested area of Binhduong Province. Such flights, under the aegis of the Strategic Air Command, are known as Operation Arc Light.
1967 – China detonated its 1st hydrogen bomb and became the world’s 4th thermonuclear power.
1969 – U.S. intelligence reports that an estimated 1,000 North Vietnamese troops have reoccupied Ap Bia Mountain (Hill 937), one mile east of the Laotian border. U.S. and South Vietnamese forces had fought a fierce battle with North Vietnamese troops there in May. The battle was part of a 2,800-man Allied sweep of the A Shau Valley called Operation Apache Snow. The purpose of the operation was to cut off the North Vietnamese and stop any infiltration from Laos that was menacing Hue to the northeast and Da Nang to the southeast. Paratroopers from the 101st Airborne had engaged a North Vietnamese regiment on the slopes of Hill 937, known to the Vietnamese as Ap Bia Mountain. Entrenched in prepared fighting positions, the North Vietnamese 29th Regiment repulsed the initial American assault and beat back another attempt by the 3rd Battalion, 187th Infantry on May 14. An intense battle raged for 10 days as the mountain came under heavy Allied air strikes, artillery barrages, and 10 infantry assaults. On May 20, Maj. Gen. Melvin Zais, commanding general of the 101st, sent in two additional U.S. airborne battalions and a South Vietnamese battalion as reinforcements. The communist stronghold was finally captured in the 11th attack when the American and South Vietnamese soldiers fought their way to the summit of the mountain. In the face of the four-battalion attack, the North Vietnamese retreated to sanctuary areas in Laos. During the intense fighting, 597 North Vietnamese were reported killed and U.S. casualties were 56 killed and 420 wounded. Due to the bitter fighting and the high loss of life, the battle for Ap Bia Mountain received widespread unfavorable publicity in the United States and was dubbed “Hamburger Hill” in the U.S. media (a name evidently derived from the fact that the battle turned into a “meat grinder”). Since the operation was not intended to hold territory but rather to keep the North Vietnamese Army off balance, the mountain was abandoned soon after the battle. The news of the battle and subsequent U.S. withdrawal from the area resulted in public outrage over what appeared to be a senseless loss of American lives. This furor only increased when it was revealed that the North Vietnamese had reoccupied their original positions after the American soldiers left. Gen. Creighton Abrams, who had succeeded Gen. William Westmoreland as commander of U.S. Military Assistance Command Vietnam, was ordered to avoid such battles in the future.
1970 – North Vietnamese troops cut the last operating rail line in Cambodia.
1971 – After 21 months of hard bargaining, US Secretary of State William P. Rogers and Japanese Foreign minister Kiichi Aichi sign a treaty returning Okinawa, scene of one of the bloodiest World War II Pacific campaigns, to Japanese rule. Located just 400 miles from Communist China, for 25 years it has been the key center through which US supplies flowed in the Korean and Vietnam wars. It is due to remain the most powerful base in the western Pacific, but under terms of the treaty, nuclear weapons are banned from Okinawa and its use as a base for staging to wars in Asia is to be limited.
1972 – Five burglars are arrested in the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate office and apartment complex in Washington, D.C. James McCord, Frank Sturgis, Bernard Barker, Virgilio Gonzales, and Eugenio Martinez were apprehended in the early morning after a security guard at the Watergate noticed that several doors leading from the stairwell to various hallways had been taped to prevent them from locking. The intruders were wearing surgical gloves and carrying walkie-talkies, cameras, and almost $2,300 in sequential $100 bills. A subsequent search of their rooms at the Watergate turned up an additional $4,200, burglary tools, and electronic bugging equipment. Although there was no immediate explanation as to the objective of the break-in, an extensive investigation ensued, eventually unveiling a comprehensive scheme of political sabotage and espionage designed to discredit Democratic candidates. McCord, who was one of the burglars, was also Richard Nixon’s security chief for the Committee to Re-Elect the President (CREEP). Nixon campaign funds were ultimately linked back to the Watergate break-in. In addition, equipment used during the burglary had been borrowed from the CIA. In the fall of 1972, Nixon was re-elected into office, but the probe continued. FBI agents soon established that hundreds of thousands of dollars in Nixon campaign contributions had been set aside to pay for a massive undercover anti-Democratic operation. According to federal investigators, CREEP had forged letters and distributed them under Democratic candidate’s letterhead, leaked false and manufactured information to the press, seized confidential Democratic campaign files, and followed Democratic candidates’ families in order to gather damaging information. During an interview with the Senate select Watergate committee on July 13, 1973, former White House aide Alexander Butterfield revealed that Nixon had been taping all of his conversations and telephone calls in the White House since 1971. After losing a battle in the Supreme Court to keep these tapes private, Nixon was heard approving the cover-up of the Watergate burglary less than a week after it happened. During a June 20, 1972, discussion of the Watergate scandal between the President and former White House chief of staff H.R. Haldeman, an 18 1/4-minute gap had been inexplicably erased, causing frustration and speculation from investigators. On August 9, 1974, President Nixon resigned-the first U.S. president to do so. However, newly elected President Gerald Ford pardoned Nixon a month later, saving him from facing criminal charges. Liddy later asserted that John Dean was really after a brochure of call-girl pictures kept by DNC secretary Ida Wells that included a picture of Dean’s girlfriend, Maureen Biner.
1972 – Chilean president Allende formed a new government and the CIA prepared to oust him.
1979 – Colonel Valeria Hilgart became the first woman Marine to assume duty as chief of staff of a major command (Albany, Georgia).
1983 – National Narcotics Border Interdiction System (NNBIS) began operations under the direction of Vice President George Bush and the executive board consisting of Secretaries of State, Transportation and Defense, the Attorney General, the Counselor to the President, the Director of Central Intelligence, and the Director of the White House Drug Abuse Policy Office. “U.S. Army, Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps airborne and seaborne craft, intelligence, technology, surveillance, and manpower now are used to augment operations by the U.S. Coast Guard, Customs Service, the Drug Enforcement Agency, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Immigration and Naturalization Service, Border Patrol, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office. The system provides a coordinated national and international interagency network for prioritizing interdiction targets, identifying resources, recommending the most effective action, and coordinating joint special actions.”
1991 – The remains of President Zachary Taylor were briefly exhumed in Louisville, Kentucky, to test a theory that Taylor had died of arsenic poisoning. Results showed death was from natural causes.
1991 – The U.N. Special Commission (UNSCOM) is established to monitor Iraqi disarmament.
1992 – President Bush and Russian President Boris Yeltsin signed a breakthrough arms-reduction agreement. Addressing Congress, Yeltsin pledged to find any American prisoners of war still being held in Russia.
1996 – The Middle East Economic Digest reports that Iraq’s State Oil Marketing Organization (SOMO) will soon sign 3-month sales contracts with foreign oil companies. The United Nations selects France-based Banque Nationale de Paris (BNP) to hold the escrow account for Iraqi oil sales, the proceeds of which will be used by the U.N. for humanitarian purposes. Iraq could begin exporting oil under U.N. Security Council Resolution 986as early as late September 1996.
1997 – Mir Aimal Kasi, suspected in the shooting deaths of two CIA employees outside agency headquarters in January 1993, was brought to Fairfax, Va., to face trial after being arrested in Pakistan. He was later convicted and sentenced to death.
2003 – A US federal appeals court ruled the government properly withheld names and other details about hundreds of foreigners who were detained in the months after the Sept. 11 attacks.
2004 – The US bipartisan commission investigating the 2001 Sep 11 attacks released its final report.
2004 – In Afghanistan fighters loyal to several regional warlords stormed Chagcharan, a provincial capital of western Ghor province, and forced the governor to flee. The fledgling Afghan National Army was deployed and soon restored order.
2004 – Algerian troops killed one of North Africa’s most-wanted terrorist leaders, who allied his group with Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida network. Nabil Sahraoui (also known as Abu Ibrahim Mustapha), one of his key right-hand men and a “good number” of other Salafist lieutenants were killed in a military sweep.
2004 – Pakistan’s army killed Nek Mohammed, a renegade tribal leader accused of sheltering al-Qaida fighters, tracing him to a mud-brick compound near Wana via a satellite phone and then leveling the building in a helicopter assault. Army troops killed 30 tribesman suspected of shielding al-Qaida fugitives. As many as 70 “foreign terrorists” were also killed in the operation.
2006 – The Second Battle of Ramadi was fought for control of the capital of the Al Anbar Governorate in western Iraq. A combined force of U.S. Soldiers, U.S. Marines, U.S. Navy SEALs, and Iraqi Security Forces fought insurgents for control of key locations in Ramadi, including the Government Center and the General Hospital. Coalition strategy relied on establishing a number of patrol bases called Combat Operation Posts throughout the city. U.S. military officers believe that insurgent actions during the battle led to the formation of the Anbar Awakening. In August, insurgents executed a tribal sheik who was encouraging his kinsmen to join the Iraqi police and prevented his body from being buried in accordance with Islamic laws. In response, Sunni sheiks banded together to drive insurgents from Ramadi. In September 2006, Sheik Abdul Sattar Abu Risha formed the Anbar Salvation Council, an alliance of approximately 40 Sunni tribes. The battle also marked the first use of chlorine bombs by insurgents during the war. On October 21, 2006, insurgents detonated a car-bomb with two 100-pound chlorine tanks, injuring three Iraqi policemen and a civilian in Ramadi.
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