This Day in U.S. Military History…… June 21

21 June
1788 – New Hampshire becomes the ninth and last necessary state to ratify the Constitution of the United States, thereby making the document the law of the land. By 1786, defects in the post-Revolutionary War Articles of Confederation were apparent, such as the lack of central authority over foreign and domestic commerce. Congress endorsed a plan to draft a new constitution, and on May 25, 1787, the Constitutional Convention convened at Independence Hall in Philadelphia. On September 17, 1787, after three months of debate moderated by convention president George Washington, the new U.S. constitution, which created a strong federal government with an intricate system of checks and balances, was signed by 38 of the 41 delegates present at the conclusion of the convention. As dictated by Article VII, the document would not become binding until it was ratified by nine of the 13 states. Beginning on December 7, five states–Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Georgia, and Connecticut–ratified it in quick succession. However, other states, especially Massachusetts, opposed the document, as it failed to reserve undelegated powers to the states and lacked constitutional protection of basic political rights, such as freedom of speech, religion, and the press. In February 1788, a compromise was reached under which Massachusetts and other states would agree to ratify the document with the assurance that amendments would be immediately proposed. The Constitution was thus narrowly ratified in Massachusetts, followed by Maryland and South Carolina. On June 21, 1788, New Hampshire became the ninth state to ratify the document, and it was subsequently agreed that government under the U.S. Constitution would begin on March 4, 1789. In June, Virginia ratified the Constitution, followed by New York in July. On September 25, 1789, the first Congress of the United States adopted 12 amendments to the U.S. Constitution–the Bill of Rights–and sent them to the states for ratification. Ten of these amendments were ratified in 1791. In November 1789, North Carolina became the 12th state to ratify the U.S. Constitution. Rhode Island, which opposed federal control of currency and was critical of compromise on the issue of slavery, resisted ratifying the Constitution until the U.S. government threatened to sever commercial relations with the state. On May 29, 1790, Rhode Island voted by two votes to ratify the document, and the last of the original 13 colonies joined the United States. Today the U.S. Constitution is the oldest written constitution in operation in the world.
1860 – The Signal Corps was authorized as a separate branch of the Army by act of Congress on March 3, 1863. However, the Signal Corps dates its existence from June 21, 1860, when Congress authorized the appointment of one signal officer in the Army, and a War Department order carried the following assignment: “Signal Department–Assistant Surgeon Albert J. Myer to be Signal Officer, with the rank of Major, June 27, 1860, to fill an original vacancy.”
1862 – Union and Confederate forces skirmished at the Chickahominy Creek during the Peninsular Campaign.
1863 – In the second day of fighting, Confederate cavalry failed to dislodge a Union force at the Battle of LaFourche Crossing in Louisiana.
1864 – A joint Confederate Army-Navy long-range bombardment opened on the Union squadron in the James River at Trent’s and Varina Reaches. The Confederate ships, commanded by Flag Officer Mitchell in the ironclad flagship Virginia II, included: ironclad ram C.S.S. Fredericksburg, Com-mander Rootes; 166-ton gunboats Hampton, Lieutenant John S. Maury, Nansemond, Lieutenant Charles W. Hayes, and Drewry, Lieutenant William H. Hall; small steamer Roanoke, Lieutenant Mortimer M. Beton, and 85-ton tug Beaufort, Lieutenant Joseph Gardner. Ironclad ram C.S.S. Richmond, Lieutenant W. H. Parker, initially intended to join in the bombardment, suffered a casualty getting underway and had to be towed upriver to a position near the obstructions below Richmond. An engine failure in Virginia II could not be repaired until afternoon, when it was too late to move farther downstream to engage at more effective range. The Union gunboats and monitors concentrated their fire on the Army shore batteries during the exchange; neither fleet suffered serious damage.
1864 – Union General Ulysses S. Grant stretches his lines further around Petersburg, Virginia, accompanied by his commander-in-chief, Abraham Lincoln. After six weeks of heavy fighting between his Army of the Potomac and Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia in a series of battles around Richmond, Grant chose a different strategy. Now south of Richmond, outside of Petersburg, he was no longer willing to wage the destructive open-field battles that had lost so many lives. Grant was content to starve out Lee and his men. After the disastrous attack at Cold Harbor, he pulled further south in an attempt to sever Confederate supply lines at the rail center at Petersburg. On June 21, Grant moved closer to a siege when he sent his Second and Sixth Corps to extend the left flank of his position. The goal was to take control of the Weldon Railroad, which ran into Petersburg from the south, and run the Union line to the Appomattox River. This would complete a semicircle around the city and effectively bottle Petersburg and Richmond. The Confederates, however, halted this attempt the next day and saved a vital lifeline into Petersburg.
1898 – Guam became a US territory.
1900 – General Arthur MacArthur offered amnesty to Filipinos rebelling against American rule.
1900 – After the Empress declared war on all foreign powers, the Boxers began a two-month assault on the legations in Beijing. An international force of Japanese, Russian, German, American, British, Italian and Austro-Hungarian troops put down the uprising by August 14. The Boxer Rebellion was a violent, anti-foreign uprising that broke out in reaction to years of foreign interference with Chinese affairs. Led by a Chinese secret society called Yi He Tuan–“the Righteous, Harmonious Fists”–the Boxers were aided by the Empress Dowager Ci Xi and pillaged the countryside, murdering foreigners and Chinese Christians.
1916 – The controversial U.S. military expedition against Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa brings the United States and Mexico closer to war when Mexican government troops attack U.S. Brigadier General John J. Pershing’s force at Carrizal, Mexico. The Americans suffered 22 casualties, and more than 30 Mexicans were killed. Against the protests of Venustiano Carranza’s government, Pershing had been penetrating deep into Mexico in pursuit of Pancho Villa. After routing the small Mexican force at Carrizal, the U.S. expedition continued on its southern course. In 1914, following the resignation of Mexican leader Victoriano Huerta, Pancho Villa and his former revolutionary ally Venustiano Carranza battled each other in a struggle for succession. By the end of 1915, Villa had been driven north into the mountains, and the U.S. government recognized General Carranza as the president of Mexico. In January 1916, to protest President Woodrow Wilson’s support for Carranza, Villa executed 16 U.S. citizens at Santa Isabel in northern Mexico. Then, on March 9, he ordered a raid on the border town of Columbus, New Mexico, in which 17 Americans were killed and the center of town was burned. Cavalry from the nearby Camp Furlong U.S. Army outpost pursued the Mexicans, killing several dozen rebels on U.S. soil and in Mexico before turning back. On March 15, under orders from President Wilson, U.S. Brigadier General John J. Pershing launched a punitive expedition into Mexico to capture or kill Villa and disperse his rebels. The expedition eventually involved some 10,000 U.S. troops and personnel. It was the first U.S. military operation to employ mechanized vehicles, including automobiles and airplanes. For 11 months, Pershing failed to capture the elusive revolutionary, who was aided by his intimate knowledge of the terrain of northern Mexico and his popular support from the people there. Meanwhile, resentment over the U.S. intrusion into Mexican territory led to a diplomatic crisis with the government in Mexico City. On June 21, the crisis escalated into violence when Mexican government troops attacked a detachment of the 10th Cavalry at Carrizal. If not for the critical situation in Europe, war might have been declared. In January 1917, having failed in their mission to capture Villa, and under continued pressure from the Mexican government, the Americans were ordered home. Pancho Villa continued his guerrilla activities in northern Mexico until Adolfo de la Huerta took over the government and drafted a reformist constitution. Villa entered into an amicable agreement with Huerta and agreed to retire from politics. In 1920, the government pardoned Villa, but three years later he was assassinated at his ranch in Parral.
1921 – U.S. Army Air Service pilots bombed the captured German battleship Ostfriesland to demonstrate the effectiveness of aerial bombing on warships. At the time, the ship was one of the world’s largest war vessels. Brigadier General William “Billy” Mitchell, assistant chief of the Army Air Service, arranged the demonstration to prove that air power should become the country’s first line of defense. Most military leaders doubted that airplanes could inflict serious damage on warships. Mitchell’s tests proved them wrong.
1925 – In Canton, China, Nguyen Ai Quoc founds the Revolutionary Youth league of Vietnam, the first truly Marxist organization in Indochina. The Vietnam Nationalsit party (VNQDD) is founded at the same time in opposition to the Youth League.
1942 – Churchill receives the news of the fall of Tobruk while meeting with US President Roosevelt. FDR immediately offers aid and 300 Sherman tanks and 100 self-propelled guns are immediately dispatched to North Africa. The better equipment will make a difference in the British performance at El Amien.
1943 – On New Georgia, the 4th Marine Raider Battalion lands at Segi Point in the south. There is no Japanese garrison there.
1943 – Federal troops put down a race riot in Detroit that left 30 dead.
1944 – CGC’s 83415 and 83477 wrecked off coast of Normandy, France during a storm – no lives were lost. This is the storm that wrecked the artificial harbor constructed by the Allies off the coast of Normandy.
1945 – The Battle of Okinawa ended. Japanese forces on Okinawa surrendered to the Americans. The embattled destroyer USS Laffey survived horrific damage from attacks by 22 Japanese aircraft off Okinawa. American soldiers on Okinawa found the body of the Japanese commander, Lt. Gen. Mitsuru Ushijima, who had committed suicide.
1945 – On Luzon, the last Japanese-held port, Aparri, falls to American forces. The American regimental task force make contact with Filipino guerrillas.
1953 – The 187th Airborne Regimental Combat Team arrived in Korea for its third and last tour of duty.
1954 – American observer Walter Bedell Smith issues a unilateral declaration stating that the United States 1) ‘will refrain from the threat or the use of force to disturb’ the Geneva agreements, 2) ‘view[s] any renewal of aggression in violation of the aforesaid agreemetns with grave concern and as seriously threatening international peace and security,’ and 3) supports the concept of unity through free elections supervised by the United nations. Dulles remarks, “The important thing from now on is not to mourn the past but to seize the future opportunity to prevent the loss in northern Vietnam from leading to the extension of Communism through Southeast Asia and the Southwest pacific.’
1963 – The French government shocks its allies by announcing that it is withdrawing its navy from the North Atlantic fleet of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). The French action was viewed in the West as evidence that France would be pursuing an independent policy regarding its nuclear arsenal. In the months prior to the French action, the United States had been pushing its NATO allies to accept a plan whereby the NATO North Atlantic fleet would be armed with Polaris nuclear missiles. The ships would have crews made up of personnel from various NATO nations. This plan, however, conflicted with a French plan to base much of their nation’s nuclear arsenal in their navy. Obviously, France wished to maintain absolute control over its ships to carry out this program. Thus, French President Charles de Gaulle’s government issued a brief statement indicating that the French ships in the NATO North Atlantic fleet were being withdrawn. Many NATO members expressed surprise over the French action. In the United States, surprise was also mixed with dismay and no small degree of anger. The French announcement came just as President John F. Kennedy was preparing to go to Europe for a series of talks with America’s allies. Privately, some Kennedy advisors were quite vocal in condemning de Gaulle’s highly nationalistic independence in moving away from his nation’s NATO commitments, thereby threatening the security of France’s European allies. And, although the French withdrawal from the NATO North Atlantic fleet did not drastically affect the fleet’s military effectiveness, the United States worried that France’s action might set a disturbing precedent. NATO was still considered by U.S. officials as the first line of defense against communist aggression in Europe, and France’s “defection” was distressing. Kennedy, during his European sojourn, attempted to persuade the French to rethink their position, but de Gaulle stood firm in his decision. America’s fears were unrealized, however, as no other nations followed France’s example. French naval forces never rejoined the NATO fleet.
1966 – U.S. planes strike North Vietnamese petroleum-storage facilities in a series of devastating raids. These missions were part of Operation Rolling Thunder, which had been launched in March 1965 after President Lyndon B. Johnson ordered a sustained bombing campaign of North Vietnam. The operation was designed to interdict North Vietnamese transportation routes in the southern part of North Vietnam and to slow infiltration of personnel and supplies into South Vietnam. During the early months of this campaign, there were restrictions against striking targets in or near Hanoi and Haiphong. In 1966, however, Rolling Thunder was expanded to include the bombing of North Vietnamese ammunition dumps and oil storage facilities. In the spring of 1967, it was further expanded to include power plants, factories, and airfields in the Hanoi and Haiphong area. The White House closely controlled operation Rolling Thunder and at times President Johnson personally selected targets. From 1965 to 1968, about 643,000 tons of bombs were dropped on North Vietnam. The operation continued, with occasional suspensions, until President Johnson halted in on October 31, 1968, under increasing domestic political pressure.
1969 – Approximately 600 communist soldiers storm a U.S. base near Tay Ninh, 50 miles northwest of Saigon and 12 miles from the Cambodian border. The North Vietnamese had been shelling the base for two days, followed by six attacks on the city itself and the surrounding villages. About 1,000 civilians fled their homes as Allied and communist troops fought in the city streets. The Americans eventually prevailed and it was reported that 146 communist soldiers were killed in the bitter street fighting. Ten Americans were killed and 32 were wounded. Total communist losses around Tay Ninh during the two-day battle were put at 194 killed.
1979 – On 21 June 1979, SN Ina J. Toavs was awarded the Coast Guard Medal, the first woman to receive the award.
1982 – John W. Hinckley, Jr., who on March 30, 1981, shot President Ronald Reagan and three others outside a Washington, D.C., hotel, was found not guilty of attempted murder by reason of insanity. In the trial, Hinckley’s defense attorneys argued that their client was ill with narcissistic personality disorder, citing medical evidence, and had a pathological obsession with the 1976 film Taxi Driver, in which the main character attempts to assassinate a fictional senator. His lawyers claimed that Hinckley had watched the movie more than a dozen times, was obsessed with the lead actress, Jodie Foster, and had attempted to reenact the events of the film in his own life. The movie, not Hinckley, they successfully argued, was the actual planning force behind the events that occurred on March 30, 1981. On that day, in front of the Washington Hilton, Hinckley had fired six shots at the president, hitting Reagan and three of his attendants, including Press Secretary James Brady, who was shot in the head and suffered permanent brain damage. The president was shot in the left lung and the .22-caliber bullet just missed his heart. In the aftermath, Hinckley was overpowered and pinned against a wall, and President Reagan, apparently unaware that he’d been shot, was shoved into his limousine by a Secret Service agent and rushed to the hospital. The president fared well, and after 12 days in the hospital he returned to the White House. John Hinckley was booked on federal charges of attempting to assassinate the president. He had previously been arrested in Tennessee on weapons charges. The June 1982 verdict of “not guilty by reason of insanity” aroused widespread public criticism, and many were shocked that a would-be presidential assassin could avoid being held accountable for his crime. However, because of his obvious threat to society, he was placed in St. Elizabeth’s Hospital, a mental institution. In the late 1990s, Hinckley’s attorney began arguing that Hinkley’s mental illness was in remission and thus he had a right to return to a normal life. Beginning in August 1999, he was allowed supervised day trips off the hospital grounds and later was allowed to visit his parents once a week unsupervised. The Secret Service voluntarily monitors him during these outings. If his mental illness remains in remission, he may one day be released.
1985 – American, Brazilian and West German scientists announced that skeletal remains exhumed in Brazil were those of Nazi war criminal Josef Mengele. Strong doubts persisted.
1996 – Pentagon officials said American troops destroyed an Iraqi ammunition depot in March 1991 that may have contained chemical weapons.
1997 – The U.N. demands Iraq allow inspection teams access to disputed sites.
1999 – US warplanes bombed Iraqi air defense sites in the northern and southern no-fly zones.
1999 – NATO finalized an agreement with the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) to demilitarize.
2000 – Some 55 years after World War Two ended, 22 Asian-American veterans received the Medal of Honor for bravery on the battlefield during a White House ceremony.
2001 – A federal grand jury in Alexandria, Va., indicted 13 Saudis and a Lebanese in the 1996 bombing of the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia that killed 19 American servicemen.
2002 – Abu Sabaya (Aldam Tilao), one of the Philippines’ most wanted Muslim rebels and the key man in last year’s kidnapping of a U.S. missionary couple, was reportedly shot and likely killed in a clash with government troops.
2003 – Ten weeks after the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime, President Bush offered a broadly positive status report on the U.S. mission in Iraq in his weekly radio address.
2003 – In Afghanistan Abdul Wali, a detainee held at a US base, died following 2 days of interrogation. In 2004 David A. Passaro, former Army Ranger, was charged with assault in connection to Wali’s death.
2004 – SpaceShipOne lifted off from the Mojave Desert in the initial stage of the world’s first attempted commercial space flight. SpaceShipOne reached 62.21 miles. It was designed by legendary aerospace designer Burt Rutan and was built with more than $20 million in funding by billionaire Paul Allen. It was piloted by Michael Melvill.
2007 – Operation Commando Eagle began in the Mahmudiyah region southwest of Baghdad, conducted by Multinational Division Central. This region contains the notorious Triangle of Death and was the location where three US soldiers were kidnapped in mid-May 2007. The operation resulted in 31 detainees and the seizure of multiple large weapons caches. The operation was described as “a mix of helicopter borne air assaults and Humvee-mounted movements.”

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