This Day in U.S. Military History…… May 11

11 May
1502 – Columbus embarked on his 4th voyage with 150 men in 4 caravels. He reached the coast of Honduras after 8 months and passed south to Panama (1503). He returned to Spain Nov 7, 1504, after suffering a shipwreck at Jamaica.
1647 – Peter Stuyvesant (37) arrived in New Amsterdam to become governor. The one-legged professional soldier was sent from the Netherlands to head the Dutch trading colony at the southern end of Manhattan Island. Stuyvesant lost a leg in a minor skirmish in the Caribbean in 1644.
1690 – In the first major engagement of King William’s War, British troops from Massachusetts seized Port Royal in Acadia (Nova Scotia and New Brunswick) from the French, their objective was to take Quebec. William Phipps of Massachusetts directed a force of eight ships and more than 700 men against a much smaller French contingent at Port Royal. The fort fell to the English, who contented themselves with administering a loyalty oath to the area’s inhabitants before returning home. Port Royal changed hands a total of five times in the years before 1710, at which time the British took final control. Port Royal was renamed Annapolis Royal in honor of Queen Anne. It served as the capital of Nova Scotia until the development of Halifax more than 30 years later. Port Royal (later Annapolis Royal) is located in western Nova Scotia and is the oldest permanent European settlement in Canada. It was founded in 1605 by the sieur de Monts and Samuel de Champlain.
1792 – Captain Robert Gray becomes the first documented white person to sail into the Columbia River.
1846 – Congress declares war against Mexico at request of the President James Polk. At the time the entire United States Army numbers only about 6,000 officers and men, eventually expanded to nearly 10,000 by war’s end. The bulk of the force needed to prosecute the war will come from the uniformed volunteer militia (forerunners of today’s National Guard) of the various states. Under the 1792 Militia Act, the militia could not be mobilized for a foreign war. So the president called for regiments of volunteers to serve in Mexico. Nearly 78,000 men served in volunteer units drawn from 24 states and District of Columbia. The war was unpopular in New England and only Massachusetts furnished any troops from that region. Of the approximately 13,000 men who died during the war, only about 2,000 were killed in combat. Almost all others died of diseases such as yellow fever, malaria, and dysentery. Several famous men who had Guard backgrounds served in this war; from Major General Winfield Scott, the overall American military commander, who started his career as a junior officer in the Virginia cavalry; to Colonel Jefferson Davis, commanding the Mississippi Rifles, who later served as Secretary of War and in 1861 became the President of the Confederate States. Other men who served as officers in this conflict enter Guard service after the war and become famous in the Civil War including Ulysses S. Grant and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson. In fact, many of the early Civil War generals and colonels had Mexican War experience in various Guard units.
1858 – Minnesota enters the Union as the 32nd state. Known as the “Land of 10,000 Lakes,” Minnesota is the northern terminus of the Mississippi River’s traffic and the westernmost point of the inland waterway that extends through the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence Seaway to the Atlantic Ocean. The Ojibwe and the Dakota were among the Native people who first made this land their home, and white settlement of the area began in 1820 with the establishment of Fort Snelling. In 1849, Minnesota became a U.S. territory. The building of railroads and canals brought a land boom during the 1850s, and Minnesota’s population swelled from only 6,000 in 1850 to more than 150,000 by 1857. Chiefly a land of small farmers, Minnesota supported the Union in the Civil War and supplied large quantities of wheat to the Northern armies. Originally settled by migrants of British, German, and Irish extraction, Minnesota saw a major influx of Scandinavian immigrants during the 19th century. Minnesota’s “Twin Cities”–Minneapolis and St. Paul–grew out of Fort Snelling, the center of early U.S. settlement.
1862 – C.S.S. Virginia blown up by her crew off Craney Island to avoid capture. The fall of Norfolk to Union forces denied Virginia her base, and when it was discovered that she drew too much water to be brought up the James River, Flag Officer Tattnall ordered the celebrated ironclad’s destruction. “Thus perished the Virginia,” Tattnall wrote, “and with her many highflown hopes of naval supremacy and success.” For the Union, the end of Virginia not only removed the formidable threat to the large base at Fort Monroe, but gave Flag Officer Goldsborough’s fleet free passage up the James River as far as Drewry’s Bluff, a factor which was to save the Peninsular Campaign from probable disaster.
1864 – A dismounted Union trooper fatally wounds J.E.B. Stuart, one of the most colorful generals of the South, at the Battle of Yellow Tavern, just six miles north of Richmond. Stuart died the next day. During the 1864 spring campaign in Virginia, General Ulysses S. Grant applied constant pressure on Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. In early May, the two armies clashed in the Wilderness and again at Spotsylvania Court House as they lurched southward toward Richmond. Meanwhile, Grant sent General Phil Sheridan and his cavalry on a raid deep behind Confederate lines. The plan was to cut Lee’s supply line and force him out of the trenches in retreat. Sheridan’s troops wreaked havoc on the Rebel rear as they tore up railroad tracks, destroyed supply depots, and held off the Confederate cavalry in several engagements, including the Battle of Yellow Tavern. Although Sheridan’s Federal troops held the field at the end of the day, his forces were stretched thin. Richmond could be taken, Sheridan wrote later, but it could not be held. He began to withdraw back to the north. The death of Stuart was a serious blow to Lee. He was a great cavalry leader, and his leadership was part of the reason the Confederates had a superior cavalry force in Virginia during most of the war. Yet Stuart was not without his faults: He had been surprised by a Union attack at the Battle of Brandy Station in 1863, and failed to provide Lee with crucial information at Gettysburg. Stuart’s death, like Stonewall Jackson’s the year before, seriously affected Lee’s operations.
1866 – Confederate President Jefferson Davis became a free man after spending two years in prison for his role in the American Civil War.
1889 – Major Joseph Wham and group of soldiers, carrying a military payroll of $29,000, were attacked by a dozen outlaws near Fort Thomas, Arizona Territory. After wounding more then half the soldiers and driving off the rest, the outlaws simply walked away with the entire payroll. A posse of lawmen rounded up various suspects who were later charged with the sensational robbery. Most of these suspects were Mormons with political connections and the accused men were defended by the famed lawyer Marcus Aurelius Smith. Major Wham and his men were unable to identify any of the dozen defendants in court and they were all acquitted. It was widely claimed that political pressure from the acting governor allowed the thieves to go free. In 1889, black infantrymen of the 24th and cavalrymen of the 10th serving with a detachment escorting Major Joseph W. Wham, paymaster, U.S. Army, in an encounter with a band of robbers, by whom the party was attacked between Forts Grant and Thomas, Arizona. In reporting the robbery to the Secretary of War, Major Wham described how his “party was ambushed and fired into by a number of armed brigands, since estimated by U.S. Marshal [W.K.] Meade at from twelve to fifteen, but to myself and entire escort, two non-commissioned officers and nine privates, at fifteen to twenty.” The major stated that a large boulder weighing several tons had been rolled onto the road by the robbers to block the progress of his small convoy and that as his escort was making ready to remove it “a signal shot was fired from the ledge of rocks about fifty feet above to the right, which was instantly followed by a volley, believed by myself and the entire party to be fifteen or twenty shots.” The officer reported that a sharp, short fight of more than 30 minutes followed, during which time 10 members of his escort, “eight of whom were wounded, two being shot twice, behaved in the most courageous and heroic manner.” Although Wham, his clerk, and the soldiers were ultimately forced to withdraw and the robbers succeeded in obtaining the payroll amounting to $28,345.10 Marshal Meade swore, after conducting an extensive investigation, that “I am satisfied a braver or better defense could not have been made under like circumstances, and to remained longer would have proven a useless sacrifice of life without a vestige of hope to succeed.” The Committee on Military Affairs of the U.S. House of Representatives, after examining the evidence, stated that “the fact that the President … has seen fit to award certificates of merit and medals of honor to the members of Major Wham’s escort . . . is the highest evidence of the fact that they displayed unusual courage and skill in defense of the Government’s property.” Moreover, the committee concluded, “all the evidence . . . shows conclusively that all was done by Major Wham and his brave little escort that men could do to project the Government’s property, and continued to fight until the heaviest casualty list ever here fore authentically reported sustained.” Two soldiers of the 10th Cavalry and five soldiers of the 24th Infantry were awarded with the Certificates of Merit
1894 – During the Depression of 1893, the company handed out a hefty round of wage cuts; though the cuts ate up 25 percent to 40 percent of workers’ take-home pay, the company refused to lower its rents. In May of 1894, a group of workers implored company chief George Pullman to redress the situation. Pullman promptly fired three of the workers. Looking to strike back at the man they viewed as an “ulcer on the body politic,” the rail workers enlisted the aid of labor leader Eugene Debs and his then-mighty American Railway Union (ARU). With considerable organizational support from the ARU, the Pullman workers called a nationwide strike that began on this day in 1894. Though Debs was a fierce and well-organized leader–he successfully marshaled a parallel boycott of Pullman’s rail cars–Pullman, with considerable aid from his fellow rail managers, proved to be a formidable foe. The rail managers won the support of Federal and state troops, which led to a long and violent skirmish in early July. The “war” between the strikers and troops left thirty-four men dead. Desperately seeking reinforcements, Debs turned to the American Federation of Labor (AFL). But, Samuel Gompers and the other AFL leaders offered scant support, which ultimately spelled doom for the strikers. Pullman and the rail managers soon prevailed over the strikers, many of whom were subsequently barred from working in the rail industry.
1898 – Revenue Cutter Hudson towed the crippled USS Winslow from certain destruction under the Spanish forts at Cardenas, Cuba during the Spanish-American War. Congress later conferred a Gold Medal of Honor on her commanding officer, Revenue First Lieutenant F. H. Newcomb. His officers and crew were awarded Silver and Bronze Medals.
1898 – Sailors and Marines from USS Marblehead and USS Nashville cut trans-oceanic cable near Cienfuegos, Cuba, isolating Cuba from Spain. The operation was performed close to shore, directly under the guns of the enemy soldiers garrisoned at Cienfuegos. At 5:00 A.M. the parties launched from both warships. Ensign Magruder of the Nashville commanded a steam launch to drop the smaller sailing boats inside the harbor, then pulled his launch back to a position 150-200 yards off shore to give covering fire if needed. Overall command of the operation was under the leadership of Lieutenant Camberon Winslow and his second in command, Lieutenant Anderson. The Marine sharpshooters and guards were under the leadership of Sergeant Philip Gaughan of the Nashville, and each of the cable cutting boats carried a blacksmith, Durney from the Nashville and Joseph Carter from the Marblehead. It was these two men who would carry primary responsibility for finding a way to hack or cut through the communications cables. The waters of the harbor were rough as the small boats began moving towards the shoreline. Near the lighthouse, large rocks could be seen protruding dangerously close to the area where the boats would have to work. To add to the dangerous task, the men could see mines floating in the water beneath them, mines that could be detonated by the enemy on shore from a small switch house. As the cable cutting crews moved closer to the shoreline, the big guns of the Marblehead and Nashville began pounding the enemy positions. At first the Spanish soldiers held their fire, assuming according to Austin Durney’s later reports, that the Americans were bent on landing on the beach. Then the men of the Spanish garrison noticed the sailors in the cable cutting boats dropping grappling hooks to dredge up the cables, and realized what was happening. From the heights of the cliffs overlooking the harbor, the enemy began to fire with great ferocity. For more than an hour the small boats with their crews of brave young sailors and Marines endured the dangerous waters, the ever present mines, the crash of large rounds, and small arms fire, to continue their task. On the U.S.S. Nashville, sailors who had not been selected for the mission continued to man the ship’s big guns to cover their comrades. Finally, one of the cables was cut through. The shore end was dropped in place and one of the boats from the Marblehead towed the other end out to sea where it was dropped after another large section of cable was removed to make it harder to repair. Finally, the second cable was cut. A remaining smaller cable on the shore would have to be ignored. The badly battered sailors and Marines, in small boats barely able to remain afloat, turned to return to their warships. As they fought the seas, the enemy began finding their range. Large shells dropped closer and closer to the small sailing ships. For a few minutes, it looked as if all of the volunteers would be lost. In the distance Lieutenant Dillingham turned the Nashville towards the shore, steaming ahead and then turning again to place his warship between the enemy on the shore and the retreating smaller boats of the cable cutting crews and their Marine guards. It was a bold act, exposing his ship to intense enemy fire, but for the badly battered volunteers, it meant the difference between life and death. The wounded were quickly taken aboard the warships for medical care. Many of the men had suffered wounds, several of them repeated wounds, and at least three were critical or fatal. All 52 men, 26 from each of the Marblehead and the Nashville, were subseuently awarded Medals of Honor.
1916 – Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity was presented.
1920 – The 16th Marine Regiment organized at Philadelphia for duty in Cuba, Haiti and the Dominican Republic.
1942 – The Air Medal was authorized by President Roosevelt by Executive Order 9158 and established the award for “any person who, while serving in any capacity in the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, or Coast Guard of the United States subsequent to September 8, 1939, distinguishes, or has distinguished, himself by meritorious achievement while participating in an aerial flight.” Executive Order 9242-A, dated 11 September 1942 amended the previous Executive Order to read “in any capacity in or with the Army”. The Air Medal is awarded to any person who, while serving in any capacity in or with the Armed Forces of the United States, shall have distinguished himself/herself by meritorious achievement while participating in aerial flight. Awards may be made to recognize single acts of merit or heroism, or for meritorious service. Award of the Air Medal is primarily intended to recognize those personnel who are on current crew member or non-crew member flying status which requires them to participate in aerial flight on a regular and frequent basis in the performance of their primary duties. However, it may also be awarded to certain other individuals whose combat duties require regular and frequent flying in other than a passenger status, or individuals who perform a particularly noteworthy act while performing the function of a crew member but who are not on flying status. These individuals must make a discernible contribution to the operational land combat mission or to the mission of the aircraft in flight. Examples of personnel whose combat duties require them to fly include those in the attack elements of units involved in air-land assaults against an armed enemy and those directly involved in airborne command and control of combat operations. Involvement in such activities, normally at the brigade/group level and below, serves only to establish eligibility for award of the Air Medal; the degree of heroism, meritorious achievement or exemplary service determines who should receive the award. Awards will not be made to individuals who use air transportation solely for the purpose of moving from point to point in a combat zone.
1943 – The US 7th Division (commanded by General Brown) lands on Japanese occupied Attu Island. Admiral Kinkaid’s Task Force 16 supports the operation. The supporting naval forces include 3 battleships, 1 escort carrier and numerous cruisers and destroyers. Once ashore, the American troops encounter difficulties advancing inland due to Japanese resistance and difficult terrain.
1943 – Hermann Goering division in Tunisia surrendered.
1944 – The US 5th Army launches new attacks against the German-held Gustav Line. The preparatory bombardment begins just before midnight. It is followed up by infantry advances. The US 2nd Corps, the Polish 2nd Corps, the British 13th Corps and the French Expeditionary Corps are engaged. Attacking Allied forces amount to 12 divisions plus reserves. The German defenders have 6 divisions, including reserves. The commanders of the German 10th Army (Vietinghoff) and the 76th Panzer Corps (Senger) are both absent from their headquarters at the start of the offensive. Meanwhile, Allied warships bombard German heavy artillery batteries around Gaeta. The Gustav Line represented a stubborn German defense, built by Field Marshal Albert Kesselring, that had to be broken before the Italian capital could be taken; the attack on the line was also part of a larger plan to force the Germans to commit as many troops to Italy as possible in order to make way for an Allied cross-Channel assault-what would become D-Day. With the Eighth Army’s 1,000 guns, the Fifth Army’s 600, and more than 3,000 aircraft, the Allied forces opened fire in a barrage of artillery from Cassino to the Mediterranean Sea. It took seven days before the Gustav Line could be broken, with the Polish Corps occupying the famed Benedictine abbey of Monte Cassino. The Germans withdrew, to the Hitler Line, but that too was penetrated. The Allies would be in Rome by June 4.
1944 – The US 9th Air Force begins a series of raids on airfields around Caen.
1944 – The Japanese begin to assemble most of their remaining heavy warships at Tawitawi. Admiral Ozawa commands the forces. The build up is in anticipation of the American offensive against the Mariana Islands to the northeast.
1945 – On Okinawa, American forces conduct a coordinated attack on the Japanese held Shuri Line. The forces deployed include the US 3rd Amphibious Corps on the right of the line and the US 24th Corps on the left. Only minor gains are achieved. At sea, Kiyoshi Ogawa, Japanese pilot, crashed his plane into the US carrier Bunker Hill near Okinawa. 496 Americans died with him and the ship was knocked out of the war. Two destroyers are also damaged by kamikaze attacks.
1945 – Four days after Nazi Germany surrendered unconditionally to the Allies, the Coast Guard-manned destroyer escorts USS Vance and USS Durant, underway off the Azores escorting their last convoy to the Mediterranean, sighted a light ahead of the convoy. They closed to investigate. The Durant illuminated the target, which was the surfaced German submarine U-873, which had been at sea for 50 days. Vance, while screened by Durant, hailed the “erstwhile enemy” over her public address system, established her identity, and then ordered her to heave to. On board were seven officers and 52 enlisted men. Vance placed a 21-man prize crew on board the captured U-boat and delivered their prize at Portsmouth, New Hampshire, on 16 May 1945.
1945 – On Luzon, elements of US 1st Corps make contact on Kapintalan Ridge. The US 25th Division advances on Santa Fe. On Mindanao, elements of US 40th Division advance to hills overlooking Del Monte airfield. Units of Filipino guerrillas liberate Cagayan. The US 24th Division mops up the area northeast of the Talomo river, near Mintal. On Samar, a small American contingent is landed to spot Japanese artillery sites firing on Davao on Mindanao. Fighting continues in the western mountains on Negros.
1945 – Units of the Soviet 1st and 2nd Ukrainian Fronts eliminate most of the German resistance in Czechoslovakia and make contact with American forces at Pilsen.
1947 – The B.F. Goodrich Company of Akron, Ohio, announced the development of a tubeless tire.
1951 – Communist forces conducted a massive shift eastward, completing the move and commencing a new attack on May 16.
1957 – President Diem and President Eisenhower issue a joint communique which declares that both countries will work toward a ‘peaceful unification’ of Vietnam and reaffirms the United States’ continuing assistance to South Vietnam in its stand against Communism.
1961 – President Kennedy approves sending 400 Special Forces troops and 100 other U.S. military advisers to South Vietnam. On the same day, he orders the start of clandestine warfare against North Vietnam to be conducted by South Vietnamese agents under the direction and training of the CIA and U.S. Special Forces troops. Kennedy’s orders also called for South Vietnamese forces to infiltrate Laos to locate and disrupt communist bases and supply lines there.
1962 – US sent troops to Thailand.]
1962 – Secretary of Defense McNamara makes the first of many trips to Vietnam and meets with Diem. After 48 hours in the country he concludes, ‘every quantitative measurement…shows that we are winning the war.’
1963 – Racists detonate bombs in Birmingham, Alabama to disrupt nonviolent protests in the Birmingham civil rights campaign and precipitate a crisis involving federal troops.
1965 – U.S. destroyers deliver first shore bombardment of Vietnam War.
1965 – General Westmoreland and Deputy Premier Nguyen Van Thieu make a parachute jump together.
1965 – The 1st marine Aircraft Wing flies in to establish its advance headquarters at Danang.
1967 – In Vietnam the siege of Khe Sanh ended, with the base still in American hands.
1967 – Civilian-operated pacification programs in South Vietnam are handed over to the US military command. The projects are aimed at re-establishing South Vietnamese government control over rural villages and hamlets.
1968 – US and North Vietnamese negotiators complete procedural arrangements for the formal talks. They agree that, for the time being, participation will be limited to representatives of the United States and North Vietnam.
1969 – U.S. and South Vietnamese forces battle North Vietnamese troops for Ap Bia Mountain (Hill 937), one mile east of the Laotian border. The battle was part of Operation Apache Snow, a 2,800-man Allied sweep of the A Shau Valley. The purpose of the operation was to cut off North Vietnamese infiltration from Laos and enemy threats to Hue and Da Nang. U.S. paratroopers pushing northeast found the communist forces entrenched on Ap Bia Mountain. In fierce fighting directed by Maj. Gen. Melvin Zais, the mountain came under heavy Allied air strikes, artillery barrages, and 10 infantry assaults. The communist stronghold was captured on May 20 in the 11th attack, when 1,000 troops of the 101st Airborne Division and 400 South Vietnamese soldiers fought their way to the summit of the mountain. 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 was dubbed “Hamburger Hill” by the U.S. media.
1973 – Charges against Daniel Ellsberg for his role in the Pentagon Papers case were dismissed by Judge William M. Byrne, who cited government misconduct.
1975 – The Cambodian government seized an American merchant ship, the Mayaguez.
1987 – Former National Security Adviser Robert C. McFarlane began testifying at the Iran-Contra hearings.
1989 – President Bush ordered nearly 2,000 troops to invade Panama.
1991 – President Bush dispatched an amphibious task force with thousands of Marines and dozens of helicopters to help cyclone-ravaged Bangladesh with disaster relief efforts.
1995 – A United Nations conference indefinitely extended the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which was originally set to expire after 25 years.
1996 – A ValuJet DC-9 with 109 [110] passengers caught fire shortly after takeoff 1999 – In Beijing, protests outside the US Embassy over NATO’s bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade eased after state-run television aired US and NATO apologies for the attack.
1999 – NATO bombings continued in Serbia with strikes against radio and TV towers, oil storage tanks, bridges and army barracks.
1999 – US and British warplanes bombed air defense targets in northern and southern Iraq after they were targeted by radar.
2004 – The Bush administration ordered economic sanctions against Syria for supporting terrorism. Food and medicine were excepted.
2004 – A video, posted on an al-Qaida-linked Web site, showed the beheading of Nick Berg, an American civilian in Iraq. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, aka Ahmad Fadhil al Khalayeh, was later identified as the beheader. Nick Berg (26) was from West Chester, Pa.
2005 – Riots over a Newsweek story (later retracted) lead to dozens of injuries and at least three deaths in Jalalabad, Eastern Afghanistan. Afghan police use live ammunition to stop the Anti-American rioting organized in protest of the alleged desecration of a copy of the Qur’an.
2006 – The United States National Security Agency is reported to operate “the largest database ever assembled in the world”, containing a record of all calls (domestic and international) placed through AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth. Qwest Communications refused to provide customer records, citing the need for a warrant.
2010 – United States Coast Guard commander, Admiral Thad Allen, is appointed by President Obama to lead the federal response to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
2011– The trial of United States citizens Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer in Tehran, Iran, on espionage charges is again delayed.
2011– A judge grants John Hinckley, Jr., the man who tried to assassinate then-President of the United States Ronald Reagan in 1981, additional visits to his family from the Washington, DC psychiatric hospital where he is confined.
2012 – The United States Armed Forces are embroiled in controversy over a defunct officer training course called Perspectives on Islam and Islamic Radicalism, which allegedly taught that Islam is America’s irreconcilable enemy.

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