This Day in U.S. Military History…… May 14

14 May
1607 – Just over 100 men and boys filed ashore from the small sailing ships Susan Constant, Godspeed, and Discovery, onto what English adventurers came to call Jamestown Island in Virginia. 104 Englishmen arrived. The Jamestown settlement in the Colony of Virginia was the first permanent English settlement in the Americas. Established by the Virginia Company of London as “James Fort” on May 4, 1607 (O.S., May 14, 1607 N.S.), and considered permanent after brief abandonment in 1610, it followed several earlier failed attempts, including the Lost Colony of Roanoke. Jamestown served as the capital of the colony for 83 years, from 1616 until 1699. The settlement was located within the country of Tsenacommacah, which was administered by the Powhatan Confederacy, and specifically in that of the Paspahegh tribe. The natives initially welcomed and provided crucial provisions and support for the colonists, who were not agriculturally inclined. Relations with the newcomers soured fairly early on, leading to the total annihilation of the Paspahegh in warfare within 3 years.
1767 – British government disbanded the import duty on tea in America.
1787 – Delegates began gathering in Philadelphia for a convention to draw up the U.S. Constitution. The Constitutional Convention (also known as the Philadelphia Convention, the Federal Convention, or the Grand Convention at Philadelphia) took place from May 25 to September 17, 1787, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to address problems in governing the United States of America, which had been operating under the Articles of Confederation following independence from Great Britain. The delegates elected George Washington to preside over the Convention. The result of the Convention was the creation of the United States Constitution, placing the Convention among the most significant events in the history of the United States.
1801 – Tripoli declares war against the United States
1804 – One year after the United States doubled its territory with the Louisiana Purchase, the Lewis and Clark expedition leaves St. Louis, Missouri, on a mission to explore the Northwest from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean. Even before the U.S. government concluded purchase negotiations with France, President Thomas Jefferson commissioned his private secretary Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, an army captain, to lead an expedition into what is now the U.S. Northwest. On May 14, the “Corps of Discovery”—featuring approximately 45 men (although only an approximate 33 men would make the full journey)—left St. Louis for the American interior. The expedition traveled up the Missouri River in a 55-foot long keelboat and two smaller boats. In November, Toussaint Charbonneau, a French-Canadian fur trader accompanied by his young Native American wife Sacagawea, joined the expedition as an interpreter. The group wintered in present-day North Dakota before crossing into present-day Montana, where they first saw the Rocky Mountains. On the other side of the Continental Divide, they were met by Sacagawea’s tribe, the Shoshone Indians, who sold them horses for their journey down through the Bitterroot Mountains. After passing through the dangerous rapids of the Clearwater and Snake rivers in canoes, the explorers reached the calm of the Columbia River, which led them to the sea. On November 8, 1805, the expedition arrived at the Pacific Ocean, the first European explorers to do so by an overland route from the east. After pausing there for the winter, the explorers began their long journey back to St. Louis. On September 23, 1806, after almost two and a half years, the expedition returned to the city, bringing back a wealth of information about the largely unexplored region, as well as valuable U.S. claims to Oregon Territory.
1812 – The Ordnance Department was established by act of Congress. During the Revolutionary War, ordnance material was under supervision of the Board of War and Ordnance. Numerous shifts in duties and responsibilities have occurred in the Ordnance Corps since colonial times. It acquired its present designation in 1950.
1836 – The Treaties of Velasco were two documents signed at Velasco, Texas (now Surfside Beach, Texas) between Antonio López de Santa Anna of Mexico and the Republic of Texas, in the aftermath of the Battle of San Jacinto (April 21, 1836). The signatories were Interim President David G. Burnet for Texas and General Santa Anna for Mexico. The treaties were intended, on the part of the Texans, to provide a conclusion of hostilities between the two belligerents and offer the first steps toward the official recognition of the breakaway Republic’s independence. It set the southern boundary of Texas at the Rio Grande, including the Nueces Strip. Santa Anna signed both a public treaty and a secret treaty, but neither treaty was ratified by the Mexican government because he had signed the documents under coercion as a prisoner. Mexico claimed Texas was a breakaway province, but was too weak to attempt another invasion.
1836 – U.S. Exploring Expedition authorized to conduct exploration of Pacific Ocean and South Seas, first major scientific expedition overseas. LT Charles Wilkes USN, would lead the expedition in surveying South America, Antarctica, Far East, and North Pacific.
1845 – First U.S. warship visits Vietnam. While anchored in Danang for reprovisioning, CAPT John Percival commanding USS Constitution, conducts a show of force against Vietnamese authorities in an effort to obtain the release of a French priest held prisoner by Emperor of Annam at Hue.
1863 – Union General Nathanial Banks took his army out of Alexandria, Louisiana, and headed towards Port Hudson along the Mississippi River. The fort was considered the second most important strategic location on the river, after Vicksburg.
1863 – The Battle of Jackson, in Jackson, Mississippi, was part of the Vicksburg Campaign in the American Civil War. Union commander Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant and the Army of the Tennessee defeated Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston, seizing the city, cutting supply lines, and opening the path to the west and the Siege of Vicksburg.
1864 – Union and Confederate troops clash at Resaca, Georgia. This was one of the first engagements in a summer-long campaign by Union General William T. Sherman to capture the Confederate city of Atlanta. The spring of 1864 saw a determined effort by the Union to win the war through major offensives in both the eastern and western theaters. In the east, Union General Ulysses S. Grant took on Confederate General Robert E. Lee, while Sherman applied pressure on the Army of the Tennessee, under General Joseph Johnston, in the west. The Atlanta campaign was dictated by the hilly terrain of northern Georgia. Sherman would try to outflank Johnston on one side, but Johnston would move to block him. Sherman tried the other side, and Johnston blocked again. Johnston was losing ground, but he was stalling Sherman’s advance, and fanning the discontent in the North as the election of 1864 loomed. On May 9, part of Sherman’s army under James McPherson captured Snake Creek Gap. McPherson did not push further, however, because he ran into Confederates fortified at nearby Resaca. The Union army would not assault Resaca until May 14, triggering two days of combat. On the first day, the Federal troops gained important ground but failed to break the Confederate lines. The second day also saw no result. But because the Confederates maintained their position and thwarted the Union offense, the Battle of Resaca was considered a tactical victory for the South. In the days after the battle, Sherman sent McPherson’s men on another swing around Johnston’s left flank. When these troops crossed the Oostanaula River south of Johnston’s army, he had to withdraw further south. The armies inched closer to Atlanta.
1897 – “Stars and Stripes Forever” by John Phillip Sousa was performed for the first time in Philadelphia.
1897 – Guglielmo Marconi made the first communication by wireless telegraph.
1908 – 1st passenger flight in an airplane.
1942 – The Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps (WAAC) was established.
1942 – The first indications of Japanese planning for an attack on Midway Island, in the Central Pacific, reach the code breakers.
1943 – U.S. and Great Britain chiefs of staff, meeting in Washington, D.C., approve and plot out Operation Pointblank, a joint bombing offensive to be mounted from British airbases. Operation Pointblank’s aim was grandiose and comprehensive: “The progressive destruction and dislocation of the German military and economic system, and the undermining of the morale of the German people.” It was also intended to set up “final combined operations on the continent.” In other words, it was intended to set the stage for one fatal blow that would bring Germany to its knees. The immediate targets of Operation Pointblank were to be submarine construction yards and bases, aircraft factories, ball bearing factories, rubber and tire factories, oil production and storage plants, and military transport-vehicle factories and stores. Ironically, the very day planning for Pointblank began in Washington, the Germans shot down 74 British four-engine bombers as the Brits struck a munitions factory near Pilsen. Joseph Goebbels, writing in his diary, recorded that the biggest setback about the British raid on the factory was that the drafting room was destroyed.
1944 – The attacks by forces of the US 5th Army continue. The French Expeditionary Corps advances into the Ausente Valley, capturing Ausonia, and continue to advance over the Aurunci Mountains toward the next German defensive line, which is not occupied in strength at this time. The US 2nd Corps makes progress against the defending German 94th Division.
1945 – US Army announced the discovery of millions of dollars worth of art looted by the Nazis from all over Europe well as 100 tons of gold bars and currency hidden in a salt mine located on the Losa Plateau in Austria. Meanwhile, the concentration camp at Ebensee is liberated and described as “more horrible than Buchenwald.”
1945 – On Luzon, units of the US 25th Division, part of US 1st Corps, advance north of the Balete Pass. Elements of the the US 43rd Division, part of US 11th Corps, reach the Ipoh dam, which has been fortified by the Japanese.
1945 – Elements of Florida’s 124th Infantry, 31st Infantry Division (AL, FL, LA, MS) repel several Japanese “banzi” suicidal attacks. The 31st Division, nicknamed “Dixie” first entered combat in World War II when, in March 1944, it took part in the fighting in New Guinea. Elements of it made an assault landing on near Aitape causing a diversion of Japanese defenders while the main portion of the division landed at Maffin Bay almost unopposed. The 31st then moved to secure Morotai Island, cutting off 40,000 enemy soldiers based on Halmahera Island from reinforcements and supply from the Philippines. By the time the 31st landed on Mindanao it was a veteran division and proved its metal when it captured a Japanese airfield at Valencia, which led to the banzi attacks as fanatical Japanese soldiers tried in vain to recapture it. The men of the ‘Dixie Division’ were still fighting in the mountains of the island when the war ended in August 1945. During the course of the war the division suffered 414 men killed in action with another 1,400 wounded and it had one member awarded the Medal of Honor.
1945 – The US 20th Air Force conducts a fire bombing raid Nagoya. About 2500 tons of incendiary bombs are dropped by 472 B-29 Superfortress bombers. Some 20 Japanese fighters are shot down.
1945 – On Okinawa, 20 American Marines reach the summit of Sugar Loaf Hill. The airfield at Yonabaru is captured.
1949 – Pres. Truman signed a bill establishing a rocket test range at Cape Canaveral.
1951 – USS Valcour was rammed by the collier Thomas Tracy. CGC Cherokee responded and assisted in extinguishing the resulting fires and towed the Valcour to Norfolk. Thirty-seven Navy sailors perished.
1951 – The U.S. National Security Council submitted to President Truman a statement of policy that the council believed the United States should follow in facing the communists in Korea and throughout Asia. Truman approved the statement on May 17.
1955 – The Soviet Union and seven of its European satellites sign a treaty establishing the Warsaw Pact, a mutual defense organization that put the Soviets in command of the armed forces of the member states. The Warsaw Pact, so named because the treaty was signed in Warsaw, included the Soviet Union, Albania, Poland, Romania, Hungary, East Germany, Czechoslovakia, and Bulgaria as members. The treaty called on the member states to come to the defense of any member attacked by an outside force and it set up a unified military command under Marshal Ivan S. Konev of the Soviet Union. The introduction to the treaty establishing the Warsaw Pact indicated the reason for its existence. This revolved around “Western Germany, which is being remilitarized, and her inclusion in the North Atlantic bloc, which increases the danger of a new war and creates a threat to the national security of peace-loving states.” This passage referred to the decision by the United States and the other members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) on May 9, 1955 to make West Germany a member of NATO and allow that nation to remilitarize. The Soviets obviously saw this as a direct threat and responded with the Warsaw Pact. The Warsaw Pact remained intact until 1991. Albania was expelled in 1962 because, believing that Russian leader Nikita Khrushchev was deviating too much from strict Marxist orthodoxy, the country turned to communist China for aid and trade. In 1990, East Germany left the Pact and reunited with West Germany; the reunified Germany then became a member of NATO. The rise of non-communist governments in other eastern bloc nations, such as Poland and Czechoslovakia, throughout 1990 and 1991 marked an effective end of the power of the Warsaw Pact. In March 1991, the military alliance component of the pact was dissolved and in July 1991, the last meeting of the political consultative body took place.
1964 – Amid charges that US pilots in Vietnam are endangered and losing their lives due to obsolescent planes, it is announced that 60 USN dive bombers are being sent to Vietnam and that 40 revamped B-26s are being ready for Vietnam.
1964 – Defense Secretary McNamara resents a plan to President Johnson calling for increased aid to South Vietnam.
1969 – In his first full-length report to the American people concerning the Vietnam War, President Nixon responds to the 10-point plan offered by the National Liberation Front at the 16th plenary session of the Paris talks on May 8. The NLF’s 10-point program for an “overall solution” to the war included an unconditional withdrawal of United States and Allied troops from Vietnam; the establishment of a coalition government and the holding of free elections; the demand that the South Vietnamese settle their own affairs “without foreign interference”; and the eventual reunification of North and South Vietnam. In his speech, Nixon responded to the communist plan by proposing a phased, mutual withdrawal of major portions of U.S. Allied and North Vietnamese forces from South Vietnam over a 12-month period. The remaining non-South Vietnamese forces would withdraw to enclaves and abide by a cease-fire until withdrawals were completed. Nixon also insisted that North Vietnamese forces withdraw from Cambodia and Laos at the same time and offered internationally supervised elections for South Vietnam. Nixon’s offer of a “simultaneous start on withdrawal” represented a revision of the last formal proposal offered by the Johnson administration in October 1966–known as the “Manila formula”–in which the United States stated that the withdrawal of U.S. forces would be completed withiin six months after the North Vietnamese left South Vietnam. The communists’ proposal and Nixon’s counteroffer were diametrically in opposition to each other and neither side gave in, so nothing meaningful came from this particular round of diplomatic exchanges.
1972 – A force of 4,000 soldiers of South Vietnam’s 1st Division move to within a half mile of Fire Base Bastogne.
1972 – For the first time in the war, US Marines make use of Bienhoa field. MAG-12 moves in with two A-4 Skyhawk squadrons. The Marine planes offer support to Military Regions I and IV and make some sorties into Cambodia.
1973 – US Supreme court approved equal rights to females in military.
1973 – Skylab, America’s first space station, is successfully launched into an orbit around the earth. Eleven days later, U.S. astronauts Charles Conrad, Joseph Kerwin, and Paul Weitz made a rendezvous with Skylab, repairing a jammed solar panel and conducting scientific experiments during their 28-day stay aboard the space station. The first manned Skylab mission came two years after the Soviet Union launched Salynut, the world’s first space station, into orbit around the earth. However, unlike the ill-fated Salynut, which was plagued with problems, the American space station was a great success, safely housing three separate three-man crews for extended periods of time and exceeding pre-mission plans for scientific study. Originally the spent third stage of a Saturn 5 moon rocket, the cylinder space station was 118 feet tall, weighed 77 tons, and carried the most varied assortment of experimental equipment ever assembled in a single spacecraft to that date. The crews of Skylab spent more than 700 hours observing the sun and brought home more than 175,000 solar pictures. They also provided important information about the biological effects of living in space for prolonged periods of time. Five years after the last Skylab mission, the space station’s orbit began to deteriorate faster than expected, owing to unexpectedly high sunspot activity. On July 11, 1979, the parts of the space station that did not burn up in the atmosphere came crashing down on Australia and into the Indian Ocean. No one was injured.
1975 – Rescue operations begin as US Marines attack Tang Island and bomb Ream Air Base in the first use of US troops on foreign soil under the War Powers Act. Thirty-eight Marines are killed in the operation, with 50 wounded and three missing. All 40 members of the crew of the Mayaguez are released unharmed the same day.
1992 – Former Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev addressed members of the U.S. Congress, appealing to them to pass a bill aiding the people of the former Soviet Union.
1993 – President Clinton told a news conference his threat of military force to halt the war in the former Yugoslavia was “still on the table” despite opposition from European allies.
1996 – The US Energy Dept. announced that it would import 20 tons of nuclear waste from research reactors in 41 nations to prevent the weapons grade material from being used for bombs.
1996 – The Voice of America turned on its newest radio transmitter in Kuwait. It was 12 times more powerful than any broadcast station in the US and was directed at Iraq and Iran.
1997 – Negotiators agreed on a pact to create a Russia-NATO advisory council. NATO agreed not to base nuclear weapons or substantial combat forces in countries that were recently under Moscow’s control.
1999 – His previous calls rebuffed, President Clinton finally got through to Chinese President Jiang Zemin; Clinton expressed hope the two countries could repair the damage to their relations since the U.S. bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade.
2002 – Nato agreed with Russia on an new framework that would include Russia on a handful of agreed-on issues.
2002 – In The United Nations security council agrees to an overhaul of sanctions that were imposed against Iraq 11 years ago at the end of the Gulf War. The 15-member council vote unanimously to replace a blanket ban on a whole range of goods with “smart” sanctions, which are specifically targeted at military and dual-use equipment.
2002 – The UN Security Council revamped its sanctions against Iraq in order to ease the delivery of civilian goods and tighten controls on military items.
2003 – In Iraq villagers pulled body after body from a mass grave in Mahaweel, exhuming the remains of up to 3,000 people they suspect were killed during the 1991 Shiite revolt against Saddam Hussein’s regime.
2004 – The Pentagon announced that Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the top US commander in Iraq, had banned virtually all coercive interrogation practices on Iraqi prisoners.
2004 – In Iraq 4 people were detained in Salaheddin province for the killing of American Nicholas Berg, whose decapitation was captured on videotape. The informant who tipped off authorities was killed by unidentified gunmen the day after the arrests.
2009 – The South Korean Navy destroyer Mummu the Great and the U.S. Navy cruiser Gettysburg capture 17 suspected Somali pirates in the Gulf of Aden.
2010 – Space Shuttle Atlantis lifts off for its final planned flight in the space shuttle program after a quarter century of service. STS-132 (ISS assembly flight ULF4) was a NASA Space Shuttle mission, during which Space Shuttle Atlantis docked with the International Space Station on 16 May 2010. The primary payload was the Russian Rassvet Mini-Research Module, along with an Integrated Cargo Carrier-Vertical Light Deployable (ICC-VLD). Atlantis landed at the Kennedy Space Center on 26 May 2010. STS-132 was initially scheduled to be the final flight of Atlantis, provided that the STS-335/STS-135 Launch On Need rescue mission would not be needed. However, in February 2011, NASA declared that the final mission of Atlantis and of the Space Shuttle program, STS-135, would be flown regardless of the funding situation.

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