This Day in U.S. Military History…… June 20

20 June
1675 – Abenaki, Massachusetts, Mohegan & Wampanoag Indians formed an anti English front. Wampanoag warriors attacked livestock and looted farms.
1782 – Congress approved the Great Seal of the United States and the eagle as its symbol.
1813 – Fifteen U.S. gunboats engage 3 British ships in Hampton Roads, VA
1815 – Trials of Fulton I, built by Robert Fulton, are completed in New York. This ship would become the Navy’s first steam-driven warship.
1819 – The paddle-wheel steamship Savannah arrives in Liverpool, England, after a voyage of 27 days and 11 hours–the first steamship to successfully cross the Atlantic.
1820 – The Revenue cutter Diligence captured the Buenos Aires privateer-turned-pirate General Rondeau near Wilmington, North Carolina, after a seven-day chase.
1840 – Samuel F.B. Morse, a popular artist, patented his telegraph.
1862 – Union gunboats occupied the Stono River above Cole’s Island, South Carolina, and shelled Confederate positions there. Flag Officer Du Pont reported to Secretary of the Navy Welles: “The Unadilla, Pembina, and Ottawa, under Commander Marchand . . . succeeded in entering Stono and proceeded up the river above the old Fort opposite Legareville. On their approach the barracks were fired and deserted by the enemy . . . This important base of operations, the Stono, has thus been secured for further operations by the army against Charleston.
1863 – President Lincoln admitted West Virginia as the 35th state.
1863 – A heavy combined Army-Navy bombardment of Vicksburg, lasting 6 hours, hammered Confederate positions. Supporting the Army, Porter pressed mortars, gunboats, and scows into action from 4 a.m. until 10. The naval force met with no opposition, and the Admiral noted: “The only demonstration made by the rebels from the water front was a brisk fire of heavy guns from the upper batteries on two 12-pounder rifled howitzers that were planted n the Louisiana side by General Ellet’s Marine Brigade, which has [sic] much annoyed the enemy for two or three days, and prevented them from getting water.” After this extensive bombardment, reports reached Porter that the Southerners were readying boats with which to make a riverborne evacua-tion of the city. Emphasizing the need for continued vigilance, the Admiral informed his gunboat commanders: “If the rebels start down in their skiffs, the current will drift them to about abreast of the houses where the mortars are laid up, and they will land there. In that case the vessels must push up amidst them, run over them, fire grape and canister and destroy all they can, looking out that they are not boarded.”
1864 – General John Bell Hood’s Confederate force attack William T. Sherman’s troops outside of Atlanta, Georgia, but are repulsed with heavy losses. This was Hood’s first battle as head of the Army of Tennessee. Hood had assumed the command from Joseph Johnston just two days before when Confederate President Jefferson Davis replaced Johnston after Sherman backed Johnston into this key Southern city. For nearly three months, Sherman had pushed Johnston southward from Chattanooga to Atlanta. Johnston had blocked each of Sherman’s flanking maneuvers, but in doing so he lost territory. Davis finally lost patience with Johnston, and selected the more offensive-minded Hood to defeat Sherman.Hood wasted little time. He planned to strike the Army of the Cumberland, commanded by General George Thomas, as it crossed Peachtree Creek. The waterway was deep, and the Confederates destroyed all bridges on their retreat into the outskirts of Atlanta. Hood suspected that the Yankees were most vulnerable when only part of their force was across the creek so he planned a two-pronged assault to hold part of Thomas’ army at bay while the rest could be pinned against Peachtree Creek. It was a sound plan, but poor execution doomed the operation. Scheduled for 1:00 p.m. on July 20, the attack was delayed for three hours while Hood’s troops shifted into position. The overall assault lacked a general coordination, so units charged the Union positions piecemeal. Twenty thousand Rebels assaulted the same number of Yankees, but the delay proved costly. The Confederates achieved some success, but could not drive the Union troops back into Peachtree Creek. After three hours, Hood ordered a halt to the advance. Hood was not deterred. Two days later, he attacked Sherman’s forces again at the Battle of Atlanta.
1864 – Side-wheelers U.S.S. Morse, Lieutenant Commander Babcock, and U.S.S. Cactus, Acting Master Newell Graham, dislodged Confederate batteries which had opened fire on Army supply wagon trains near White House, Virginia. Rear Admiral Lee reported: “Deserters afterwards reported that a force estimated at 10,000 of Wade Hampton’s and Fitzhugh Lee’s cavalry intended at-tacking our trains, but were deterred from the attempt by the fire of the gunboats.” For three weeks Babcock had supported the Army at White Mouse. The Admiral noted: “I should not fail to call attention to the hearty, efficient, and successful service which Lieutenant Commander Babcock has rendered to the Army in opening and protecting its communications and in repelling the assaults of the enemy.” Next day, U.S.S. Shokokon, Acting Master William B. Sheldon, similarly dispersed an attack on Union transport Eliza Hancox at Cumberland Point, Virginia.
1867 – Pres. Andrew Johnson announced the purchase of Alaska.
1881 – Five years after General George A. Custer’s infamous defeat at the Battle of Little Bighorn, Hunkpapa Teton Sioux leader Sitting Bull surrenders to the U.S. Army, which promises amnesty for him and his followers. Sitting Bull had been a major leader in the 1876 Sioux uprising that resulted in the death of Custer and 264 of his men at Little Bighorn. Pursued by the U.S. Army after the Indian victory, he escaped to Canada with his followers. Born in the Grand River Valley in what is now South Dakota, Sitting Bull gained early recognition in his Sioux tribe as a capable warrior and a man of vision. In 1864, he fought against the U.S. Army under General Alfred Sully at Killdeer Mountain and thereafter dedicated himself to leading Sioux resistance against white encroachment. He soon gained a following in not only his own tribe but in the Cheyenne and Arapaho Native American groups as well. In 1867, he was made principal chief of the entire Sioux nation. In 1873, in what would serve as a preview of the Battle of Little Bighorn three years later, an Indian military coalition featuring the leadership of Sitting Bull skirmished briefly with Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer. In 1876, Sitting Bull was not a strategic leader in the U.S. defeat at Little Bighorn, but his spiritual influence inspired Crazy Horse and the other victorious Indian military leaders. He subsequently fled to Canada, but in 1881, with his people starving, he returned to the United States and surrendered. He was held as a prisoner of war at Fort Randall in South Dakota territory for two years and then was permitted to live on Standing Rock Reservation straddling North and South Dakota territory. In 1885, he traveled for a season with Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West show and then returned to Standing Rock. In 1889, the spiritual proclamations of Sitting Bull influenced the rise of the “Ghost Dance,” an Indian religious movement that proclaimed that the whites would disappear and the dead Indians and buffalo would return. His support of the Ghost Dance movement had brought him into disfavor with government officials, and on December 15, 1890, Indian police burst into Sitting Bull’s house in the Grand River area of South Dakota and attempted to arrest him. There is confusion as to what happened next. By some accounts, Sitting Bull’s warriors shot the leader of the police, who immediately turned and gunned down Sitting Bull. In another account, the police were instructed by Major James McLaughlin, director of the Standing Rock Sioux Agency, to kill the chief at any sign of resistance. Whatever the case, Sitting Bull was fatally shot and died within hours. The Indian police hastily buried his body at Fort Yates within the Standing Rock Reservation. In 1953, his remains were moved into Mobridge, South Dakota, where a granite shaft marks his resting place.
1866 – 50 Marines and Sailors landed at new Chwang, China, to assure punishment for those who attacked an American official.
1894 – During the summer of 1894, the Pullman Palace Car Company was embroiled in what proved to be one of the most bitter strikes in American history. The strike was a direct response to company chief George Pullman and his hardball tactics, most notably his decision in the midst of the Depression of 1893 to preserve profits by slashing wages and hiking up workers’ rents. A band of frustrated employees implored Pullman to ease rents and restore wages; Pullman responded by firing three of the workers. In May, the workers fired back at their avaricious boss by calling a strike. Backed by the organizational muscle of Eugene Debs and the mighty American Railway Union (ARU), the workers touched off a round of sympathy strikes and boycotts that effectively crippled the Chicago-based company. However, Pullman had has own network of powerful allies, including other rail honchos and a number government officials. In hopes of enlisting the aid of the federal military, Pullman and his cronies convinced the government that the strikes and boycotts were inhibiting the delivery of America’s mail. Though Pullman’s cars didn’t carry any mail, the scheme proved effective: in early July, the government banned the boycotts and swiftly shipped troops to Chicago. Fighting broke out shortly after the government forces hit the scene; by the time the militia left Chicago on July 20, the “war” between the troops and the strikers had left thirty-four men dead. But, the damage had already been done to the Pullman strikers: their ranks and clout had been depleted, and, when American Federation of Labor chief Samuel Gompers’ refusal to lend them any substantial support, the rail workers were forced to capitulate to management. In the wake of the settlement, many of the strikers were barred from working in the rail industry.
1898 – During the Spanish-American War on the way to the Philippines to fight the Spanish, the U.S. Navy cruiser Charleston seized the island of Guam.
1900 – German minister murdered; Chinese begin siege of foreigners in Beijing. Military delegations in the “Foreign Quarter” including the US Marine delegation band together to defend their charges.
1913 – First fatal accident in Naval Aviation, ENS W. D. Billingsley killed at Annapolis, MD.
1919 – Treaty of Versailles: Germany ended the incorporation of Austria.
1923 – Pres. Harding set out on a 7,500-mile “Voyage of Understanding” through the northwest. The 57-year-old Harding, who suffered from heart disease, was so shaken by breaking reports of corruption in his administration that he went on a cross-country speaking tour to strengthen his position.
1924 – Audie Murphy was born in Kingston, Tx. He became the most decorated American soldier of World War II who went on to make movies and write a book about his war experiences called “To Hell and Back.”
1934 – Commander in Chief, Asiatic Fleet Admiral Frank Upham reports to CNO that based on analyses of Japanese radio traffic, “any attack by (Japan) would be made without previous declaration of war or intentional warning.”
1940 – President Roosevelt strengthens his Cabinet by bringing in two prominent Republicans. Henry Stimson becomes Secretary for War and Frank Knox becomes Secretary for the Navy. Stimson is strongly against America’s isolationist tradition and will be a champion of Lend-Lease.
1941 – A German U-boat sights the American battleship Texas within the area that Germany has declared is the operational area for U-boats. However, after checking with the U-boat command, the Texas is not attacked.
1941 – U.S. Army Air Forces was established, replacing the Army Air Corps.
1943 – US General Krueger establishes 6th Army headquarters at Milne Bay. There is an unsuccessful Japanese attack on the 17th Australian Brigade in the Mubo area.
1943 – Race-related rioting erupted in Detroit; federal troops were sent in two days later to quell the violence that resulted in 34 deaths and 600 wounded.
1944 – Elements of the US 1st Army advance to about 5 miles of Cherbourg and begin to encounter heavier resistance.
1944 – Nazis began mass extermination of Jews at Auschwitz.
1944 – Hitler cheats death as a bomb planted in a briefcase goes off, but fails to kill him. High German officials had made up their minds that Hitler must die. He was leading Germany in a suicidal war on two fronts, and assassination was the only way to stop him. A coup d’etat would follow, and a new government in Berlin would save Germany from complete destruction at the hands of the Allies. That was the plan. This was the reality: Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg, chief of the army reserve, had been given the task of planting a bomb during a conference that was to be held at Berchtesgaden (but was later moved to Hitler’s headquarters at Rastenburg). Stauffenberg planted the explosive in a briefcase, which he placed under a table, then left quickly. Hitler was studying a map of the Eastern front as Colonel Heinz Brandt, trying to get a better look at the map, moved the briefcase out of place, farther away from where the Fuhrer was standing. At 12:42 p.m. the bomb went off. When the smoke cleared, Hitler was wounded, charred, and even suffered the temporary paralysis of one arm-but he was very much alive. (He was even well enough to keep an appointment with Benito Mussolini that very afternoon. He gave Il Duce a tour of the bomb site.) Four others present died from their wounds. As the bomb went off, Stauffenberg was making his way to Berlin to carry out Operation Valkyrie, the overthrow of the central government. In Berlin, he and co-conspirator General Olbricht arrested the commander of the reserve army, General Fromm, and began issuing orders for the commandeering of various government buildings. And then the news came through from Herman Goering-Hitler was alive. Fromm, released from custody under the assumption he would nevertheless join the effort to throw Hitler out of office, turned on the conspirators. Stauffenberg and Olbricht were shot that same day. Once Hitler figured out the extent of the conspiracy (it reached all the way to occupied French), he began the systematic liquidation of his enemies. More than 7,000 Germans would be arrested (including evangelical pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer), and up to 5,000 would wind up dead-either executed or as suicides. Hitler, Himmler, and Goering took an even firmer grip on Germany and its war machine. Hitler became convinced that fate had spared him-“I regard this as a confirmation of the task imposed upon me by Providence”-and that “nothing is going to happen to me…. [T]he great cause which I serve will be brought through its present perils and…everything can be brought to a good end.”
1944 – The Japanese fleet withdraws to refuel, believing that their aircraft have landed safely on Guam. US Task Force 58 (Admiral Mitscher) launches an air strike on the Japanese fleet in the late afternoon. The 216 American aircraft encounter 35 defending fighters and sink the carrier Hiyo. Two other Japanese aircraft carriers are damaged as are a battleship and a cruiser. US loses amount to 20 planes shot down and 72 crashing while attempting to land on their carriers in the dark. During the night, the Japanese fleet withdraws and are not pursued.
1944 – Vice Admiral Marc Mitchner, commander of the U.S. Task Force 58, ordered all lights on his ships turned on to help guide his carrier-based pilots back from the Battle of the Philippine Sea.
1944 – On Biak, there is fighting among the Japanese-held caves in the west of the island. The airfields and villages at Borokoe and Sorido are overrun by American forces.
1944 – The US 5th Amphibious Corps continues operations on Saipan. The US 27th Division clears the south of the island while the US 2nd and 4th Marine Divisions advance northward.
1945 – On Okinawa, Japanese resistance along the center of the line, held by the US 24th Corps, continues to be strong. The US 32nd Infantry Regiment (US 7th Division) reaches Height 89, near Mabuni, where the Japanese headquarters have been identified. On the flanks, the American Marines on the right and the infantry on the left advance virtually unopposed, capturing over 1000 Japanese and reaching the southern coast of the island at several points. The scale of surrenders is unprecedented for the forces of the Imperial Army.
1945 – On Luzon, Filipino guerrillas advance up the Cagayan valley from Aparri and liberate the town of Tuguegarao. The American regimental task force enters Aparri while elements of the US 37th Division advances 2.5 miles north of Ilagan. Meanwhile, the US 8th Army headquarters announces that operations to recapture the islands of Panay, Negros, Cebu, Bohol and Palawan, as well as the western part of Mindanao, are completed.
1945 – US Task Group 12.4 (Admiral Jennings) with the carriers Lexington, Hancock and Cowpens conduct air raids on Japanese positions. The carriers are en route to join US Task Force 38.
1948 – President Harry S. Truman institutes a military draft with a proclamation calling for nearly 10 million men to register for military service within the next two months. Truman’s action came during increasing Cold War tensions with the Soviet Union. Following World War II, the United States moved quickly to demobilize the vast military it had constructed during the conflict. During the war, more than 16 million men and women served in the U.S. military; when the war ended in August 1945, the American people demanded rapid demobilization. By 1948, less than 550,000 men remained in the U.S. Army. This rapid decline in the size of America’s military concerned U.S. government officials, who believed that a confrontation with the Soviet Union was imminent. During the years following World War II, relations between the Russians and Americans deteriorated rapidly. In 1947, the president issued the Truman Doctrine, which provided aid to Greece and Turkey to oppose communist subversion. In that same year, Secretary of State George C. Marshall warned that Western Europe was on the brink of political and economic chaos that would leave it defenseless against communist aggression; the following year, Congress approved billions of dollars in financial assistance to the beleaguered nations. In June 1948, the Soviets cut all land traffic into the U.S.-British-French zones of occupation in West Berlin. The United States responded with the Berlin Airlift, in which tons of food and supplies were flown in to sustain the population of the besieged city. In light of these events, many Americans believed that actual combat with the Soviet Union was not far away. In response to this threat, President Truman announced on July 20, 1948, that the United States was re-instituting the draft and issued a proclamation requiring nearly 10 million men to register for military service in the next two months. Truman’s action in July 1948 marked the first peacetime draft in the history of the United States, thereby underlining the urgency of his administration’s concern about a possible military confrontation with the Soviet Union. It also brought home to the American people in concrete terms the possibility that the Cold War could, at any moment, become an actual war. In 1950, possibility turned to reality when the United States entered the Korean War, and the size of America’s armed forces once again increased dramatically.
1953 – U.S. infantrymen held onto outposts in the central sector despite an artillery and mortar barrage of some 5,000 rounds followed by a battalion-size assault.
1953 – The U.N. forces established a new main line of resistance on the south bank of the Kumsong River.
1954 – A cease-fire ‘Agreement on the Cessation of Hostilities in Viet Nam’ is signed by General Ta Quang Buu for the Vietminh and General Henri Delteil for France. The agreement ceases hostilities in Cambodia and Laos as well. A second document, the ‘Final Declaration of the Geneva Conference,’ receives the general support of Britain, France, Laos, China, the Soviet Union, Cambodia, and the Democratic Republic of Vietnam but is never signed. It states: 1) Vietnam is provisionally partitioned along the 17th parallel into North and South Vietnam, pending reunification or other permanent settlement to be achieved through nationwide elections, 2) for a period of 300 days all persons may pass freely from one zone to the other, 3) limits are imposed on foreign military bases North and South, on personnel movements, and re-armaments, 4) nationwide elections are scheduled for 20 July 1956, 5) an International Control Commission made up of representatives from India, Canada, and Poland is established to supervise the implementation of these agreements. The Vietminh accept elections because their popular support is such that they would win, so South Vietnam pushes the elctions as far into the future as possible, and Molotov pressures the Vietminh to agree. The United States does not agree with the Final Declaration but does support it, and Bao Dai’s government denounces all agreements.
1963 – The United States and Soviet Union signed an agreement to set up a hot line communications link between the two superpowers and a treaty was signed limiting nuclear testing.
1964 – General William Westmoreland succeeded General Paul Harkins as head of the U.S. forces in Vietnam.
1964 – CGC Reliance, the first of the Coast Guard’s 210-foot medium endurance cutter class, was commissioned.
1964 – Viet Cong forces overrun Cai Be, the capital of Dinh Tuong Province, killing 11 South Vietnamese militiamen, 10 women, and 30 children. On July 31, South Vietnam charged that the enemy troops involved in the attack were North Vietnamese Army regulars and that Chinese communist advisors led the attack. This claim was never verified, but it is likely that North Vietnamese regulars participated in the action. This incident and numerous intelligence reports indicated that North Vietnamese regular troops were moving down the Ho Chi Minh Trail in great numbers to join the fighting in South Vietnam. This marked a major change in the tempo and scope of the war in South Vietnam and resulted in President Lyndon B. Johnson committing U.S. combat troops. North Vietnamese forces and U.S. troops clashed for the first time in November 1965, when units from the newly arrived 1st Cavalry Division engaged several North Vietnamese regiments in the Battle of the Ia Drang Valley in the Central Highlands.
1966 – CGC Point League attacked and crippled a North Vietnamese junk attempting to run the Navy’s Market Time blockade. The action continued into the next day as the junk stranded itself on the shore and its crew fired a demolition charge, destroying their ship.
1967 – Boxer Muhammad Ali was convicted in Houston of violating Selective Service laws by refusing to be drafted. Ali’s conviction was ultimately overturned by the Supreme Court.
1967 – The United States apologizes to the Soviet Union for what it calls an inadvertent US air attack on the Soviet ship Turkestan on 2 June.
1969 – A top-secret study, commissioned by presidential assistant Henry Kissinger, is completed by the office of the Chief of Naval Operations. Code-named Duck Hook, the study proposed measures for military escalation against North Vietnam. The military options included a massive bombing of Hanoi, Haiphong, and other key areas of North Vietnam; a ground invasion of North Vietnam; the mining of harbors and rivers; and a bombing campaign designed to sever the main railroad links to China. A total of 29 major targets in North Vietnam were pinpointed for destruction in a series of air attacks planned to last four days and to be renewed until Hanoi capitulated. This plan represented a drastic escalation of the war and was never ordered by President Richard Nixon. However, Nixon did order certain elements of the proposal, such as the intensified bombing of Hanoi and Haiphong and the mining of North Vietnamese harbors, in response to the 1972 North Vietnamese Easter Offensive.
1972 – Pres. Nixon recorded on tape information relating to the Jun 16 Watergate break-in. Sections of the tape were later erased, allegedly accidentally by sec. Rose Mary Woods. A panel of experts examined the tape to see if the 18-minute gap was intentional. Richard H. Bolt (d.2002 at 90), acoustic expert at Bolt, Beranek and Newman, later said that if it was an accident than it was committed at least 5 time in the 18 minutes.
1972 – President Nixon appoints General Crighton W. Abrams, commander of US forces in Vietnam, to be the US Army Chief of Staff.
1972 – US Marine unit HMA-369 begins flying armed helicopter strikes with the new AH-1J Sea Cobra from the decks of USS Constellation, off the coast of South Vietnam, Flying from the USS Coral Sea, A-6 Intruders of Marine unit VMA (AW)-224 make most of their missions into Laos and North Vietnam.
1977 – The 1st oil of the Alaska pipeline began to flow south 799 miles from Prudhoe Bay to the port of Valdez.
1979 – ABC News correspondent Bill Stewart was shot to death in Managua, Nicaragua, by a member of President Anastasio Somoza’s national guard.
1991 – German lawmakers voted to move the seat of the national government from Bonn back to Berlin.
1994 – Former airman Dean Allen Mellberg went on a shooting rampage at Fairchild Air Force Base near Spokane, Wash., killing four people and wounding 22 others before being killed by a military police sharpshooter.
1998 – Iran reversed its opposition to a UN plan, passed the previous day, permitting Iraq to spend $300 million of revenues from the oil-for-food program to buy spare parts to rebuild its oil industry.
1999 – The last Serbian officer left Kosovo. Pres. Milosevic urged the Serbs of Kosovo to stay in Kosovo under NATO protection. As the last of 40-thousand Yugoslav troops rolled out of Kosovo, NATO declared a formal end to its bombing campaign against Yugoslavia.
2002 – Turkey took over control of the 19-nation peacekeeping force in Afghanistan, ISAF.
2003 – A 31-nation conference in Germany agreed to expand efforts to combat terrorist financing and money laundering. The Financial Action Task Force issued a 40-point program to keep international law enforcement abreast of criminals’ increasingly sophisticated efforts to conceal illegal money flows.
2003 – In Iran student protests against Ayatollah Ali Khamenei spread to at least 8 other cities.
2004 – Iraq resumed oil exports of about 1 million barrels a day through its southern Basra terminal after completing repairs to pipelines sabotaged by insurgents.
2004 – The Arab satellite TV network Al-Jazeera aired a videotape purportedly from al-Qaida-linked militants showing Kim Sun Il (33), a South Korean hostage, begging for his life and pleading with his government to withdraw troops from Iraq.
2010 – Iraq’s Central Bank was bombed in an attack that left 15 people dead and brought much of downtown Baghdad to a standstill. The attack was claimed to have been carried out by the Islamic State of Iraq. This attack was followed by another attack on Iraq’s Bank of Trade building that killed 26 and wounded 52 people.

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