1638 – The first permanent white settlement in Delaware was established. Swedish Lutherans who came to Delaware were the first to build log cabins in America. The first English colonists did not know how to build houses from logs but those who lived in the forests of Scandinavia, Germany and Switzerland did. German pioneers who settled in Pennsylvania built the first log cabins there in the early 1700s. The Scots-Irish immigrants who settled in the Appalachian highlands after 1720 made the widest use of log cabins and by the time of the American Revolution, log cabins were the mainstay among settlers all along the western frontier.
1790 – John Tyler, the 10th president of the United States (1841-1845), was born in Charles City County, Va. He was also the first vice-president to succeed to office on the death of a president.
1806 – The Great National Pike, also known as the Cumberland Road, became the first highway funded by the national treasury. Built between 1806 and 1840, the Great National Pike stretched from Cumberland, Maryland, to Vandalia, Illinois. On this day the first appropriation of $30,000 was made by congressional act. Eventually over $6 million was appropriated for the highway. In 1856, control over the road was turned over to the states through which it ran. Roads would be left to the devices of the states almost exclusively until the dawn of the automobile. Henry Ford and other leaders of the automotive industry were instrumental in encouraging the federal funding of national highways.
1814 – In the Battle at Horseshoe Bend, Alabama, Andrew Jackson beat the Creek Indians.
1847 – Some 12,000 US forces led by General Winfield Scott occupied the city of Vera Cruz after Mexican defenders capitulated. The Battle of Veracruz was a 20-day siege of the key Mexican beachhead seaport of Veracruz, during the Mexican-American War. It began with the first large-scale amphibious assault conducted by United States military forces, and ended with the surrender and occupation of the city. U.S. forces then marched inland to Mexico City.
1864 – Union General Steele’s troops reached Arkadelphia, Arkansas.
1864 – The low level of the Red River continued to hinder Rear Admiral Porter’s efforts to get his gun-boats above the rapids at Alexandria for the assault on Shreveport. He reported: “After a great deal of labor and two and a half days’ hard work, we succeeded in getting the Eastport over the rocks on the falls, hauling her over by main force. . . . ‘ All the Army transports maneuvered safely above the rapids, but hospital ship Woodford was battered against the rocks and sank. Porter added: “I shall only be able to take up I part of the force I brought with me, and leave the river guarded all the way through.”
1865 – Battle of Quaker Road, Va.
1865 – The final campaign of the war begins in Virginia when Union troops of General Ulysses S. Grant move against the Confederate trenches around Petersburg. General Robert E. Lee’s outnumbered Rebels were soon forced to evacuate the city and begin a desperate race west. Eleven months before, Grant moved his army across the Rapidan River in northern Virginia and began the bloodiest campaign of the war. For six weeks, Lee and Grant fought along an arc that swung east of the Confederate capital at Richmond. They fought some of the conflict’s bloodiest battles at Wilderness, Spotsylvania, and Cold Harbor before they settled into trenches for a siege of Petersburg, 25 miles south of Richmond. The trenches eventually stretched all the way back to Richmond, and for ten months the armies glowered at each other across a no man’s land. Periodically, Grant launched attacks against sections of the Rebel defenses, but Lee’s men managed to fend them off. Time was running out for Lee, though. His army was dwindling in size to about 55,000, while Grant’s continued to grow–the Army of the Potomac now had more than 125,000 men ready for service. On March 25, Lee attempted to split the Union lines when he attacked Fort Stedman, a stronghold along the Yankee trenches. His army was beaten back, and he lost nearly 5,000 men. Grant seized the initiative, sending 12,000 men past the Confederates’ left flank and threatening to cut Lee’s escape route from Petersburg. Fighting broke out there, several miles southwest of the city. In a downpour, General Grant launched his wideswinging move to the southwest of Petersburg to roll up Lee’s flank. Ever concerned about his lifeline on the James River, he wrote Rear Admiral Porter: “In view of the possibility of the enemy attempting to come to City Point, or by crossing the Appomattox at Broadway Landing, getting to Bermuda Hundred during the absence of the greater part of the army, I would respectfully request that you direct one or two gunboats to lay in the Appomattox, near the pontoon bridge, and two in the James River, near the mouth of Bailey’s Creek, the first stream below City Point emptying into the James.” Porter complied with double measure, sending not one or two but several ships to Grant’s assistance. Lee’s men could not arrest the Federal advance. Two days later, the Yankees struck at Five Forks, soundly defeating the Rebels and leaving Lee no alternative. He pulled his forces from their trenches and raced west, followed by Grant. It was a race that even the great Lee could not win. He surrendered his army on April 9 at Appomattox Court House.
1867 – The United States purchased Alaska from Russia for $7.2 million dollars.
1867 – Congress approved the Lincoln Memorial.
1893 – US Congressman James Blount arrived in Hawaii to investigate the change in government. He later reported to Congress that annexation to the US was being forced and that the people of Hawaii supported their queen.
1898 – Lieutenants David Jarvis and Ellsworth P. Bertholf and Surgeon Dr. Samuel J. Call of the USRC Bear reached Point Barrow after a 2,000 mile “mush” from Nunivak Island that first started on 17 December 1897, driving reindeer as food for 97 starving whalers caught in the Arctic ice. This “Overland Rescue” was heralded by the press and at the request of President William McKinley, Congress issued special gold medals in their honor.
1903 – A regular news service began between New York and London on Marconi’s wireless.
1912 – Revolutionaries from various areas of Mexico began to challenge the new government, and an offensive was launched in March 1912 by Orozco, who accused Madero of abandoning the principles of the Plan of San Luis Potosí. Orozco was defeated, however, by Victoriano Huerta, the unscrupulous commander of the federal forces. To protect the embassy staff, the U.S. sent rifles to the Mexican ambassador in Mexico City and readied U.S. ships to transport troops to fight the rebels.
1917 – Marines garrisoned St. Croix to deny harbor to German submarines.
1918 – US pilot Edward Rickenbacker scores his first air victory. By the end of the war he will be acknowledged as his country’s top ace with 26 kills.
1941 – The North American Radio Broadcasting Agreement goes into effect at 03:00 local time. Usually referred to as NARBA, the treaty set out an international bandplan and interference rules for mediumwave AM broadcasting in North America. NARBA accommodated much of the U.S. bandplan of 1928, with accommodation to Canada and Mexico.
1943 – World War II meat, butter and cheese rationing began.
1945 – The US 7th Army captures Mannheim and Heidelberg.
1945 – Gen. George S. Patton’s 3rd Army captures Frankfurt, as “Old Blood and Guts” continues his march east. Frankfurt am Main, literally “On the Main” River, in western Germany, was the mid-19th century capital of Germany (it was annexed by Prussia in 1866, ending its status as a free city). Once integrated into a united German nation, it developed into a significant industrial city-and hence a prime target for Allied bombing during the war. That bombing began as early as July 1941, during a series of British air raids against the Nazis. In March 1944, Frankfurt suffered extraordinary damage during a raid that saw 27,000 tons of bombs dropped on Germany in a single month. Consequently, Frankfurt’s medieval Old Town was virtually destroyed (although it would be rebuilt in the postwar period-replete with modern office buildings). In late December 1944, during the Battle of the Bulge, General Patton broke through the German lines of the besieged Belgian city of Bastogne, relieving its valiant defenders. Patton then pushed the Germans east. Patton’s goal was to cross the Rhine, even if not a single bridge was left standing over which to do it. As Patton reached the banks of the river on March 22, 1945, he found that one bridge — the Ludendorff Bridge, located in the little town of Remagen — had not been destroyed. American troops had already made a crossing on March 7 — a signal moment in the war and in history, as an enemy army had not crossed the Rhine since Napoleon accomplished the feat in 1805. Patton grandly made his crossing, and from the bridgehead created there, Old Blood and Guts and his 3rd Army headed east and captured Frankfurt on the 29th. Patton then crossed through southern Germany and into Czechoslovakia, only to encounter an order not to take the capital, Prague, as it had been reserved for the Soviets. Patton was, not unexpectedly, livid.
1945 – There are American landings in the northwest of the island Negros near Bacolod. The landing force, part of the US 185th Infantry Regiment, encounters heavy Japanese resistance on the island.
1945 – US naval forces, including TF58 and TF52, continue air strikes on Okinawa while TF54 continues bombarding the island. Japanese Kamikaze and submarine attacks continue.
1950 – Police frantically search Grand Central Station in New York City for a bomb after receiving a threatening note. The bomb was found and taken care of by the bomb squad. In the next few months, five more bombs were found at landmark sites around New York, including the Public Library and the Grand Hotel. Authorities realized that this new wave of terrorist acts was the work of the Mad Bomber. New York’s first experience with the so-called Mad Bomber was on November 16, 1940, when a pipe bomb was left in the Edison building with a note that read, “Con Edison crooks, this is for you.” More bombs were recovered in 1941, each more powerful than the last, until the Mad Bomber sent a note in December stating, “I will make no more bomb units for the duration of the war.” He went on to say that Con Edison, New York’s electric utility company, would be brought to justice in due time. The patriotic Mad Bomber made good on his promise, although he did periodically send threatening notes to the press. After his flurry of activity in 1950, the Mad Bomber was silent until a bomb injured two people at Radio City Music Hall in 1954. In 1955, the Mad Bomber hit Grand Central Station, Macy’s and the RCA building. A bomb that injured seven on the Staten Island Ferry showed that his bomb making ability was advancing. The police had no luck finding the Mad Bomber, but an investigative team working for Con Ed finally tracked him down. Looking through their employment records, they found that George Peter Metesky had been a disgruntled ex-employee since an accident in 1931. Metesky was enraged that Con Ed refused to pay disability benefits and resorted to terrorism as his revenge. Metesky, a rather mild-mannered man, was found living with his sisters in Connecticut. He was sent to a mental institution in April 1957 where he stayed until his release in 1973. As he left, he was reported to have said, “I don’t look like a Mad Bomber, do I?”
1951 – In one of the most sensational trials in American history, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg are convicted of espionage for their role in passing atomic secrets to the Soviets during and after World War II. The husband and wife were later sentenced to death and were executed in 1953. The conviction of the Rosenbergs was the climax of a fast-paced series of events that were set in motion with the arrest of British physicist Klaus Fuchs in Great Britain in February 1950. British authorities, with assistance from the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, gathered evidence that Fuchs, who worked on developing the atomic bomb both in England and the United States during World War II, had passed top-secret information to the Soviet Union. Fuchs almost immediately confessed his role and began a series of accusations. Fuchs confessed that American Harry Gold had served as a courier for the Soviet agents to whom Fuchs passed along his information. American authorities captured Gold, who thereupon pointed the finger at David Greenglass, a young man who worked at the laboratory where the atomic bomb had been developed. Gold claimed Greenglass was even more heavily involved in spying than Fuchs. Upon his arrest, Greenglass readily confessed and then accused his sister and brother-in-law, Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, of being the spies who controlled the entire operation. Both Ethel and Julius had strong leftist leanings and had been heavily involved in labor and political issues in the United States during the late-1930s and 1940s. Julius was arrested in July and Ethel in August 1950. By present-day standards, the trial was remarkably fast. It began on March 6, and the jury had convicted both of conspiracy to commit espionage by March 29. The Rosenbergs were not helped by a defense that many at the time, and since, have labeled incompetent. More harmful, however, was the testimony of Greenglass and Gold. Greenglass declared that Julius Rosenberg had set up a meeting during which Greenglass passed the plans for the atomic bomb to Gold. Gold supported Greenglass’s accusation and admitted that he then passed the plans along to a Soviet agent. This testimony sealed Julius’s fate, and although there was little evidence directly tying Ethel to the crime, prosecutors claimed that she was the brain behind the whole scheme. The jury found both guilty. A few days later, the Rosenbergs were sentenced to death. They were executed on June 19, 1953 in Sing Sing Prison in New York. Both maintained their innocence to the end. The Rosenberg case garnered worldwide attention. Their supporters claimed they were being made scapegoats to the Cold War hysteria that was sweeping America. The French writer and philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre called their execution a “legal lynching.” Others pointed out that even if the Rosenbergs did pass secrets along to the Soviets during World War II, Russia had been an ally, not an enemy, of the United States at the time. Those who supported the verdict insisted that the couple got what they deserved for endangering national security by giving top-secret information on a devastating weapon to communists.
1951 – The Chinese rejected MacArthur’s offer for a truce in Korea.
1953 – U.S. Air Force Lieutenant Colonel George L. Jones, 4th Fighter-Interceptor Wing, became the 30th ace of the Korean War.
1954 – Carrier aircraft began reconnaissance near Dien Bien Phu, Indochina.
1960 – Launch of first fully integrated Fleet Ballistic Missile from USS Observation Island.
1961 – The 23rd amendment, allowing residents of Washington, D.C. to vote for president, was ratified.
1962 – Cuba opened the trial of the Bay of Pigs invaders.
1964 – The U.S. planned to add $50 million a year for aid to South Vietnam.
1971 – Army Lt. William L. Calley Jr. was convicted of murdering at least 22 Vietnamese civilians in the 1968 My Lai massacre. Calley ended up spending three years under house arrest.
1973 – Two months after the signing of the Vietnam peace agreement, the last U.S. combat troops leave South Vietnam as Hanoi frees the remaining, admitted, American prisoners of war held in North Vietnam. America’s direct eight-year intervention in the Vietnam War was at an end. In Saigon, some 7,000 U.S. Department of Defense civilian employees remained behind to aid South Vietnam in conducting what looked to be a fierce and ongoing war with communist North Vietnam. In 1961, after two decades of indirect military aid, U.S. President John F. Kennedy sent the first large force of U.S. military personnel to Vietnam to bolster the ineffectual autocratic regime of South Vietnam against the communist North. Three years later, with the South Vietnamese government crumbling, President Lyndon B. Johnson ordered limited bombing raids on North Vietnam, and Congress authorized the use of U.S. troops. By 1965, North Vietnamese offensives left President Johnson with two choices: escalate U.S. involvement or withdraw. Johnson ordered the former, and troop levels soon jumped to more than 300,000 as U.S. air forces commenced the largest bombing campaign in history. During the next few years, the extended length of the war, the high number of U.S. casualties, and the exposure of U.S. involvement in war crimes, such as the massacre at My Lai, helped turn many in the United States against the Vietnam War. The communists’ Tet Offensive of 1968 crushed U.S. hopes of an imminent end to the conflict and galvanized U.S. opposition to the war. In response, Johnson announced in March 1968 that he would not seek reelection, citing what he perceived to be his responsibility in creating a perilous national division over Vietnam. He also authorized the beginning of peace talks. In the spring of 1969, as protests against the war escalated in the United States, U.S. troop strength in the war-torn country reached its peak at nearly 550,000 men. Richard Nixon, the new U.S. president, began U.S. troop withdrawal and “Vietnamization” of the war effort that year, but he intensified bombing. Large U.S. troop withdrawals continued in the early 1970s as President Nixon expanded air and ground operations into Cambodia and Laos in attempts to block enemy supply routes along Vietnam’s borders. This expansion of the war, which accomplished few positive results, led to new waves of protests in the United States and elsewhere. Finally, in January 1973, representatives of the United States, North and South Vietnam, and the Vietcong signed a peace agreement in Paris, ending the direct U.S. military involvement in the Vietnam War. Its key provisions included a cease-fire throughout Vietnam, the withdrawal of U.S. forces, the release of prisoners of war, and the reunification of North and South Vietnam through peaceful means. The South Vietnamese government was to remain in place until new elections were held, and North Vietnamese forces in the South were not to advance further nor be reinforced. In reality, however, the agreement was little more than a face-saving gesture by the U.S. government. Even before the last American troops departed on March 29, the communists violated the cease-fire, and by early 1974 full-scale war had resumed. At the end of 1974, South Vietnamese authorities reported that 80,000 of their soldiers and civilians had been killed in fighting during the year, making it the most costly of the Vietnam War. On April 30, 1975, the last few Americans still in South Vietnam were airlifted out of the country as Saigon fell to communist forces. North Vietnamese Colonel Bui Tin, accepting the surrender of South Vietnam later in the day, remarked, “You have nothing to fear; between Vietnamese there are no victors and no vanquished. Only the Americans have been defeated.” The Vietnam War was the longest and most unpopular foreign war in U.S. history and cost 58,000 American lives. As many as two million Vietnamese soldiers and civilians were killed.
1973 – Operation Barrel Roll, a covert US bombing campaign in Laos to stop communist infiltration of South Vietnam, ends.
1973 – As part of the Accords, Hanoi releases the last 67 of its acknowledged American prisoners of war, bringing the total number released to 591.
1974 – The unmanned U.S. space probe Mariner 10, launched by NASA in November 1973, becomes the first spacecraft to visit the planet Mercury, sending back close-up images of a celestial body usually obscured because of its proximity to the sun. Mariner 10 had visited the planet Venus eight weeks before but only for the purpose of using Venus’ gravity to whip it toward the closest planet to the sun. In three flybys of Mercury between 1974 and 1975, the NASA spacecraft took detailed images of the planet and succeeded in mapping about 35 percent of its heavily cratered, moonlike surface. Mercury is the second smallest planet in the solar system and completes its solar orbit in only 88 earth days. Data sent back by Mariner 10 discounted a previously held theory that the planet does not spin on its axis; in fact, the planet has a very slow rotational period that stretches over 58 earth days. Mercury is a waterless, airless world that alternately bakes and freezes as it slowly rotates. Highly inhospitable, Mercury’s surface temperature varies from 800 degrees Fahrenheit when facing the sun to -279 degrees when facing away. The planet has no known satellites. Mariner 10 is the only human-created spacecraft to have visited Mercury to date.
1974 – Eight Ohio National Guardsmen were indicted on charges stemming from the shooting deaths of four students at Kent State University. The guardsmen were later acquitted.
1975 – Evacuation of Danang by sea began.
1985 – The Nantucket I was decommissioned, the last lightship in service with the Coast Guard. This ended 164 years of continuous lightship service by the Government. Nantucket I was the last of the U.S. lightships and the last of the Nantucket Shoals lightships that watched over that specific area since June of 1854. Launched as WLV-612 in 1950 at Baltimore, the ship has stood watch as the light vessel for San Francisco and Blunts Reef in California, at Portland, Oregon, and finally at Nantucket Shoals. The CGC Nantucket I also served as a “less-than-speedy” law enforcement vessel off Florida for a time.
1988 – US Congress discontinued aid to Nicaraguan contras.
1991 – General H. Norman Schwarzkopf publicly apologized to President Bush for questioning his judgment about calling a cease-fire in the Gulf War.
1995 – The House of Representatives rejected, 227-204, a constitutional amendment placing term limits on lawmakers. The rejected proposal would have limited terms to 12 years in the House and Senate.
1999 – It was reported that the US government knowingly risked the lives of thousands of workers over the last 50 years by allowing them to be exposed to dangerous levels of beryllium, a metal critical to the military.
1999 – Albania and Macedonia appealed for help as thousands of refugees fled Kosovo on the 6th day of bombing. NATO said Serbs were targeting ethnic Albanian leadership for executions and the US accused Milosevic of “crimes against humanity.”
1999 – In Montenegro Pres. Milo Djukanovic made a plea for an end to NATO attacks on Yugoslavia. The country reported that over 30,000 refugees had taken asylum there.
2002 – At Fort Irwin, Ca., a mortar round exploded prematurely and 3 soldiers were killed.
2002 – Iraq expressed interest in resuming relations with Kuwait.
2002 – It was reported that Russia had announced plans to build a nuclear plant for North Korea.
2003 – Pres. Bush sought to marshal the nation’s resolve to withstand more casualties, saying further sacrifice must be expected.
2003 – In the 11th day of Operation Iraqi Freedom a suicide bomber driving a taxi killed four American soldiers at a checkpoint near Najaf, Iraq. US jets destroyed a building in Basra where paramilitary fighters were meeting and 200 were reported killed.
2003 – Two US special forces soldiers were killed and another wounded in an ambush in southern Afghanistan. Fighting there killed four Taliban with 6 captured.
2003 – A low-flying Iraqi missile avoided the detection of US defense systems and landed just off the coast of Kuwait City, shattering windows at the seaside Souq Sharq shopping mall.
2004 – Pres. Bush hosted a White House ceremony to welcome Bulgaria, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia into the NATO alliance.
2010 – Nine members of the Hutaree militia, a militia movement group adhering to the ideology of the Christian Patriot movement, based near Adrian, Michigan, are arrested in the United States on allegations of a plot to kill policemen then to attack the funerals, in preparation for a war against all levels of American government. The name “Hutaree” appears to be a neologism; the group’s web site says that it means “Christian warriors”. The prosecution said this was to have involved killing a police officer and attacking the funeral with bombs. The presiding judge dismissed these charges. Three members pled guilty to possessing a machine gun and were sentenced to time served.
2013 – North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un orders preparations for strategic rocket strikes on the US mainland at an overnight meeting with top army commanders, in response to the use of nuclear-capable B-2 Stealth Bombers in joint US-South Korea military drills.
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