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

20 March
1760 – The great fire of Boston destroyed 349 buildings.
1782 – English Prime Minister, Lord North, resigns under pressure from the peace faction in Parliament. He is succeeded by Lord Rockingham on 22 March who will seek immediate and direct negotiation with American representatives.
1807 – President Jefferson sends new instructions to US special envoy William Pinkney and US minister to Great Britain James Monroe, advising them to use the 1806 Monroe-Pinkney Treaty as a basis for reopening negotiations on British interference with US commercial shipping.
1833 – CDR Geisinger of Peacock negotiates first commercial treaty with King of Siam.
1863 – Battle of Pensacola, Florida- evacuated by Federals.
1865 – A plan by John Wilkes Booth to abduct U.S. President Abraham Lincoln was ruined when Lincoln changed his plans and did not appear at the Soldier’s Home near Washington, DC.
1896 – U.S. Marines landed in Corinto, Nicaragua to protect U.S. citizens in the wake of a revolt. José Santos Zelaya, became president of Nicaragua in 1894. He instituted a vigorous dictatorship, extended Nicaraguan authority over the Mosquito Coast, promoted economic development, and interfered in the affairs of neighboring countries. His financial dealings with Britain aroused the apprehension of the United States and helped bring about his downfall in 1909. The 1869 revolt was the result of Zelaya’s decision to succeed himself as President.
1916 – Albert Einstein publishes his general theory of relativity.
1917 – Gideon Sundback, Swedish-born engineer, patented an all-purpose zipper while working for the Automatic Hook and Eye Co. of Hoboken, New Jersey. The zipper name was coined by B.F. Goodrich in 1923, who used it to fasten rubber galoshes.
1918 – The Bolsheviks asked for American aid to rebuild their army.
1922 – President Harding ordered U.S. troops back from the Rhineland.
1922 – The 11,500-ton Langley was commissioned into the U.S. Navy as America’s first aircraft carrier. Langley was not regarded as a beautiful ship. Her flight deck was 533 feet long and 64 feet wide with an open-sided hanger deck, inspiring the nickname “the Old Covered Wagon.” Under the leadership of Commander Kenneth Whiting, Langley served as a base for reconnaissance aircraft and a laboratory to develop new procedures for launching and recovering planes, such as the use of cross-deck arresting wires to brake incoming aircraft.
1929 – The Canadian schooner I’m Alone was taken under fire and captured by CGC Wolcott for violating the Volstead Act. This precipitated an international incident with Canada that was adjudicated by an international tribunal in the Coast Guard’s favor.
1933 – Giuseppe [Joe] Zangara was electrocuted for an assassination attempt on FDR.
1933 – Roosevelt continued his aggressive first month in office, signing the Economy Act into law. Another strike against the Depression, the Economy Act slashed the salaries of federal employees in the name of preserving the nation’s fiscal resources. It also forced veterans to forgo part of their war benefits in the name of the economy. Along with these austerity measures, the Economy Act also forced the federal government to shuffle various agencies in hopes of maximizing their cost efficiency.
1939 – Naval Research Lab recommends financing research program to obtain power from uranium.
1941 – Sabotage was discovered on an Italian vessel at Wilmington, North Carolina. The Coast Guard investigated all Italian and German vessels in American ports and took into “protective custody” 28 Italian vessels, two German and 35 Danish vessels. Coast Guard boarding teams discovered that their crews had damaged 27 of the Italian ships and one of the German ships. The Coast Guard also took into custody a total of 850 Italian and 63 German officers and crew. Two months later these vessels were requisitioned for service with the United States by order of Congress for the Latin American trade.
1942 – General Douglas MacArthur, at Terowie, South Australia, makes his famous speech regarding the fall of the Philippines, in which he says: “I came out of Bataan and I shall return”.
1943 – The Allies attacked Rommel’s forces on the Mareth Line in North Africa.
1943 – Marine “Avengers” conducted the first aerial mine-laying mission.
1944 – British General Alexander, Supreme Allied Command in the Mediterranean, agrees to the request of New Zealand Corps commander General Freyberg to halt attacks on Cassino because of heavy losses, unless substantial progress is achieved within the next two days.
1944 – The US 4th Marine Division (General Noble) lands on Emirau Island, in the Matthias group. There is no Japanese resistance. Naval support includes 4 carriers and 7 cruisers. Admiral Griffin commands 4 battleships and 2 carriers in attacks on Kavieng as cover for the landings.
1945 – US Task Force 58 (Admiral Mitscher) is replenishing in preparation for operations around Okinawa. There are Japanese Kamikaze attacks that fail to achieve significant success. Admiral Spruance, command the US 5th Fleet, is present for the operations.
1945 – Troops of US 7th Army capture Saarbrucken as well as Zweibrucken a little to the east. Forces of US 3rd Army capture Ludwigshafen and Kaiserslautern. Farther north, the US 1st Army continues fighting to expand the Remagen bridgehead which is now almost 30 miles wide and 19 miles deep.
1951 – The battleship USS Missouri fired 246 tons of 16-inch shells and 2,000 rounds of 5-inch ammunition on Wonsan in the heaviest such attack of the war.
1952 – The United States Senate ratifies a peace treaty with Japan.
1953 – The Joint Chiefs of Staff approved Operation MOOLAH. This was an effort to entice MiG pilots to defect with their aircraft and in return receive political asylum and a monetary reward.
1954 – After a force of 60,000 Viet Minh with heavy artillery had surrounded 16,000 French troops, news of Dien Bien Phu’s impending fall reaches Washington. French General Henri Navarre had positioned his forces 200 miles behind enemy lines in a remote area adjacent to the Laotian border. He hoped to draw the communists into a set-piece battle in which he supposed superior French firepower would prevail. He underestimated the enemy. Viet Minh General Vo Nguyen Giap entrenched artillery in the surrounding mountains and massed five divisions around the French positions. The battle, which far exceeded the size and scope of anything to date in the war between the French and the Viet Minh, began with a massive Viet Minh artillery barrage and was followed by an infantry assault. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles and other members of the Eisenhower administration were stunned at the turn of events and discussions were held to decide on a course of action. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Arthur Radford proposed the use of nuclear strikes against the Viet Minh. Other options included massive conventional air strikes, paratrooper drops, and the mining of Haiphong Harbor. In the end, President Eisenhower decided that the situation was too far gone and ordered no action to be taken to aid the French. Fierce fighting continued at Dien Bien Phu until May 7, 1954, when the Viet Minh overran the last French positions. The shock at the fall of Dien Bien Phu led France, already plagued by public opposition to the war, to agree to grant independence to Vietnam at the Geneva Conference in 1954.
1957 – Britain accepted a NATO offer to mediate in Cyprus, but Greece rejected it.
1965 – President Lyndon B. Johnson orders 4,000 troops to protect the Selma-Montgomery civil rights marchers.
1968 – Retired U.S. Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David Shoup estimates that up to 800,000 men would be required just to defend South Vietnamese population centers. He further stated that the United States could only achieve military victory by invading the North, but argued that such an operation would not be worth the cost. Also on this day: The New York Times publishes excerpts from General Westmoreland’s classified end-of-year report, which indicated that the U.S. command did not believe the enemy capable of any action even approximating the Tet Offensive. This report, Shoup’s comments, and other conflicting assessments of the situation in Vietnam contributed to the growing dissatisfaction among a large segment of American society with the Vietnam War. At the end of the previous year, Johnson administration officials had insisted that the United States had turned a corner in the war. The strength and scope of the Tet Offensive flew in the face of these claims, feeding a widening credibility gap. Despite administration assurances that the situation was getting better in Vietnam, the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong had launched a massive attack at 3:00 A.M. on January 31, 1968, simultaneously hitting Saigon, Da Nang, Hue, and other major cities, towns, and military bases throughout South Vietnam. One assault team got within the walls of the U.S. Embassy in Saigon before they were destroyed. In the end, the communist forces were resoundingly defeated, but the United States suffered a fatal strategic blow. The Tet Offensive cost the government the confidence of the American people and public opinion turned against the war.
1969 – US president Nixon proclaimed he would end Vietnam war in 1970.
1980 – The U.S. made an appeal to the International Court concerning the American Hostages in Iran. UN Secretary General Kurt Waldheim warns U.S. not to use force in attempt to free American hostages in Iran.
1991 – A US jet fighter shot down an Iraqi warplane in the first air attack since the Gulf War cease-fire.
1991 – April Glaspie, the US ambassador to Iraq, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Saddam Hussein had lied to her by denying he would invade Kuwait.
1997 – Bill Clinton and Boris Yeltsin met in Helsinki for talks on arms control and NATO expansion. They agreed to negotiate a new arms accord to reduce strategic warheads, and to give Russia a more formal role in the Group of Seven leading industrialized nations.
1998 – In Mexico a new law, the Nationality Act, went into effect that allowed Mexican-born Americans and their children to hold Mexican nationality and US citizenship. The law permitted dual nationality but not dual citizenship.
2001 – The skipper of the USS Greeneville took the stand in a Navy court and accepted sole responsibility for the Feb. 9 collision of his submarine with a Japanese trawler off Hawaii that killed nine Japanese.
2002 – US began war games with South Korea, the biggest ever.
2002 – At Fort Drum, NY, a soldier was killed and 14 were injured when 2 artillery shells fell far short of their target.
2002 – In Bosnia the US Embassy was shut down to the public due to a possible terrorist threat.
2002 – In Lima, Peru, a car bomb explosion outside the US Embassy killed 9 people. Pres. Bush was scheduled to arrive 3 days later.
2003 – (9:34 p.m., 19 March EST) the military invasion of Iraq began. The invasion of Iraq, led by U.S. army General Tommy Franks, began under the codename “Operation Iraqi Liberation”, later renamed “Operation Iraqi Freedom”, the UK codename Operation Telic, and the Australian codename Operation Falconer. Coalition forces also cooperated with Kurdish Peshmerga forces in the north. Approximately forty other governments, the “U.S.-led coalition against Iraq,” participated by providing troops, equipment, services, security, and special forces, with 248,000 soldiers from the United States, 45,000 British soldiers, 2,000 Australian soldiers and 194 Polish soldiers from Special Forces unit GROM sent to Kuwait for the invasion. The invasion force was also supported by Iraqi Kurdish militia troops, estimated to number upwards of 70,000. According to General Tommy Franks, the objectives of the invasion were, “First, end the regime of Saddam Hussein. Second, to identify, isolate and eliminate Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. Third, to search for, to capture and to drive out terrorists from that country. Fourth, to collect such intelligence as we can related to terrorist networks. Fifth, to collect such intelligence as we can related to the global network of illicit weapons of mass destruction. Sixth, to end sanctions and to immediately deliver humanitarian support to the displaced and to many needy Iraqi citizens. Seventh, to secure Iraq’s oil fields and resources, which belong to the Iraqi people. And last, to help the Iraqi people create conditions for a transition to a representative self-government.”
2003 – Some 600 US and Romanian ground troops in Afghanistan began Operation Valiant Strike, an intensified search for Taliban, al Qaeda and loyalists to Gulbuddin Hekmatyar.
2003 – Norwegian police arrested Mullah Krekar, the leader of a Kurdish guerrilla group suspected of links to al-Qaida, on kidnapping charges.
2003 – Turkey’s parliament approved a motion allowing over-flights for US warplanes. Turkey announced plans to send thousands of troops into Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq.
2004 – NATO-led forces surrounded Kosovska Mitrovica in efforts to separate ethnic Albanians and Serbs and prevent a resurgence of attacks that killed 28 people and wounded 600. Ethnic Albanians looted villages and apartments abandoned by Serb civilians. Some 110 homes and at least 16 Serb Orthodox churches were destroyed by arson.
2004 – The Pakistani military commander leading a five-day assault on armed militants holed up in mud fortresses said a “high-value” terror suspect remained inside, possibly wounded, but there was no way to know whether it was al-Qaida No. 2 Ayman al-Zawahri.
2004 – The hunt for terrorists on Pakistan’s frontier appears to be narrowing on an Uzbek terror group that once trained in Afghanistan.
2005 – In Jordan an appeals court has overturned the conviction of a Jordanian found guilty of financing Abu-Musab al-Zarqawi’s insurgent group in Iraq. The Court of Cassation said the Oct. 31 conviction of Bilal Mansur al-Hiyari by the military State Security Court “fell short of adequate justifications and causes.”
2007 – Commercial spaceflight venture SpaceX launches the second Falcon 1 rocket into space, though failing to reach orbit.
2009 – The United States Navy’s USS Hartford and USS New Orleans collide in the Strait of Hormuz.
2014 – United States Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid orders an investigation into the breach by the CIA into the United States Senate Select Committee on Intelligence’s computer systems.

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