This Day in U.S. Military History…… May 18

18 May
1631 – English colony of Massachusetts Bay granted Puritans voting rights and John Winthrop was elected 1st governor of Massachusetts.
1652 – Rhode Island passes the first law in English-speaking North America making slavery illegal.
1775 – Benedict Arnold captures British sloop and renames her Enterprise, first of many famous ships with that name.
1846 – US troops attacked at the Rio Grande and occupied Matamoros.
1861 – Battle of Sewell’s Point VA was the 1st Federal offense against South.
1861 – Arkansas admitted to the Confederate States of America
1862 – William High Keim (b.1813), US Union Brigadier-General, died in camp of fever in Harrisburg, Pa.
1863 – Union General Ulysses S. Grant surrounds Vicksburg, the last Confederate stronghold on the Mississippi River, in one of the most brilliant campaigns of the war. Beginning in the winter of 1862-63, Grant made several attempts to capture Vicksburg. In March, he marched his army down the west bank of the Mississippi, while union Admiral David Porter’s flotilla ran past the substantial batteries that protected the city. They met south of the city, and Grant crossed the river and entered Mississippi. He then moved north to approach Vicksburg from its more lightly defended eastern side. In May, he had to split his army to deal with a threat from Joseph Johnston’s Rebels in Jackson, the state capital that lay 40 miles east of Vicksburg. After defeating Johnston’s forces, Grant moved toward Vicksburg. On May 16, Grant fought the Confederates under John C. Pemberton at Champion’s Hill and defeated them decisively. He then attacked again at the Big Black River the next day, and Pemberton fled into Vicksburg with Grant following close behind. The trap was now complete and Pemberton was stuck in Vicksburg, although his forces would hold out until July 4. In the three weeks since Grant crossed the Mississippi in the campaign to capture Vicksburg, Grant’s men marched 180 miles and won five battles. They took nearly 100 Confederate artillery pieces and nearly 6,000 prisoners, all with relatively light losses.
1864 – The fighting at Spotsylvania in Virginia, reached its peak at the Bloody Angle.
1864 – Battle of Yellow Bayou, LA (Bayou de Glaize, Old Oaks).
1864 – James Byron Gordon (41) Confederate Brigadier-General, died.
1871 – The Kiowa Chief Satanta joins with other Indians to massacre a wagon train near the Red River in northeastern Texas. One of the leading chiefs of the Kiowa in the 1860s and 1870s, Satanta was a fearsome warrior but also a skilled orator and diplomat. He helped negotiate and signed treaties with the U.S. establishing a Kiowa reservation in Indian Territory (modern-day Oklahoma), but Satanta remained resistant to government efforts to force the Kiowa to abandon their nomadic ways. The 1867 treaty allowed the Kiowa periodically to leave the reservation to hunt buffalo, but for more than a year, Satanta and other Kiowa continued to hunt and never even set foot on reservation lands. Fearing the Kiowa hunters would never come to the reservation, in late 1868 General Philip Sheridan had them arrested and brought in by force. From the start, Satanta detested reservation life. He did not intend to become a farmer, a chore he considered to be women’s work. The beef provided by the Indian agents was stringy and vastly inferior to fresh buffalo, and he hated the tasteless corn they received. In 1870, when the Indian agent finally agreed that they could leave on another of the hunts provided for by the treaty, Satanta and several Kiowa happily rode off to Texas in search of buffalo. Along the way, they raided several white settlers, but the Kiowa were not identified and later returned to the reservation. The following spring, Satanta grew more aggressive. He joined a large party of other Kiowa and Commanche who bridled under the restrictions of the reservation and determined to leave. Heading south to Texas, the Indians eluded army patrols along the Red River and crossed into Texas. On this day in 1871, they spotted a wagon train traveling along the Butterfield Trail. Hoping to steal guns and ammunition, the warriors attacked the 10 freight trains, killing seven teamsters. They let the remaining drivers escape while they looted the wagons. Again, Satanta and the other warriors returned to the reservation. Informed of the Texas raid, the Indian agent asked if any of his charges had participated. Amazingly, Satanta announced that he had led the raid, and that their poor treatment on the reservation justified it. “I have repeatedly asked for arms and ammunition,” he explained, “which you have not furnished, and made many other requests, which have not been granted.” Taken to Texas for trial, Satanta was sentenced to hang, but the penalty was later commuted to life in prison. Besieged with humanitarian requests, the Texas governor paroled Satanta back to the reservation in 1873. The following summer, Satanta again led war parties off the reservations, this time to participate in the Red River War from 1874 to 1875. By October 1875, Satanta and his allies were again forced to surrender. Despite his vocal protests that he preferred execution to imprisonment, Satanta was returned to the Texas State Penitentiary in Huntsville. He fell into a deep depression, refused to eat, and slowly began to starve to death. Transferred to the prison hospital in 1878, he committed suicide by leaping headfirst from a second-story window.
1899 – The First Hague Peace Conference opened in the Netherlands as 26 nations met on World Goodwill Day. The destruction or seizure of enemy property with no military value was banned at the convention.
1902 – Marines from the USS Ranger landed in Panama City to protect Americans.
1904 – Brigand Raizuli kidnapped American Ion H. Perdicaris in Morocco.
1916 – US pilot Kiffin Rockwell shot down German aircraft.
1917 – The U.S. Congress passed the Selective Service act, which allows for the registration and selective draft of men aged between 21 and 30, calling up soldiers to fight World War I.
1933 – The Tennessee Valley Authority Act was signed by President Roosevelt. The TVA proceeded to build dams in the Tennessee Valley, directly competing with private industry.
1940 – Tyler Kent, a clerk at the US Embassy in London, and Anna Wolkoff, a Russian emigree, are arrested on spying charges. Kent has had access to the correspondence between Churchill and Roosevelt, and Wolkoff has helped pass it to Germany via Italian diplomats. Kent’s diplomatic immunity is waived by the United States ambassador. Wolkoff has had connections with a pro-Fascist organization, the Right Club.
1942 – New York ended night baseball games for the rest of World War II.
1943 – On Attu, American forces advancing from the north and south link up. They reorganize for the drive on what is believe to be the final Japanese positions on the approach to Chicagof Harbor.
1943 – Adolf Hitler launches Operation Alaric, the German occupation of Italy in the event its Axis partner either surrendered or switched its allegiance. This operation was considered so top secret that Hitler refused to issue a written order. Instead, he communicated verbally his desire that Field Marshal Erwin Rommel should assemble and ultimately command 11 divisions for the occupation of Italy to prevent an Allied foothold in the peninsula.
1944 – The Polish Corps, part of a multinational Allied Eighth Army offensive in southern Italy, finally pushes into Monte Cassino as the battle to break German Field Marshal Albert Kesselring’s defensive Gustav Line nears its end. The Allied push northward to Rome began in January with the landing of 50,000 seaborne troops at Anzio, 33 miles south of the Italian capital. Despite having met very little resistance, the Allies chose to consolidate their position rather than immediately battle north to Rome. Consequently, German forces under the command of Field Marshal Kesselring were able to create a defensive line that cut across the center of the peninsula. General Wladyslaw Anders, leader of the Polish troops who would raise their flag over the ruins of the famous Benedictine monastery at Monte Cassino, commenting on the cost of the battle, said, “Corpses of German and Polish soldiers, sometimes entangled in a deathly embrace, lay everywhere, and the air was full of the stench of rotting bodies.”
1944 – The US 163rd Infantry Regiment (General Doe) lands on Insoemar Island and advance to capture Wadke airfield.
1944 – The US 6th Army announces that the campaign in the Admiralty Islands has been completed. The Americans have suffered 1400 dead and wounded; the Japanese have suffered 3820 dead and 75 prisoners.
1945 – On Okinawa, the US 6th Marine Division, part of US 3rd Amphibious Corps, captures most of the Sugar Loaf Hill, as well as parts of the Half Moon and the Horseshoe positions that overlook it, after several days of bitter fighting. The US 1st Marine Division continues to battle for the Wana river valley and Wana Ridge but fails to eliminate Japanese resistance, even with flame-throwers and tanks in support. Meanwhile, the US 77th and 96th Divisions, parts of US 24th Corps, attack Japanese positions on Flat Peak without success.
1945 – On Luzon, American units make some progress toward Woodpecker Ridge.
1951 – The United Nations moved out of its temporary headquarters in Lake Success, N.Y., for its permanent home in Manhattan.
1951 – The U.N. General Assembly passed a resolution calling for an embargo on the provision of strategic goods to China and North Korea by a vote of 47-0 with eight abstentions.
1951 – Naval Task Force 77 suffered its worst single day of the war when six planes failed to return to their carriers.
1953 – Air Force Captain Joseph C. McConnell, 51st Fighter-Interceptor Wing, qualified as the top ace of the war and the first of only two triple jet aces (15 kills) after shooting down another three MiGs. Captain McConnell completed his combat tour on 19 May with a total of 106 missions and 16 MiG kills.
1953 – Air Force Lieutenant Colonel George I. Ruddell, 51st Fighter-Interceptor Wing, became the 31st ace of the war after making his fifth MiG kill in an F-86 Sabre called “MiG Mad Mavis.”
1953 – USAF Reserve Lt Col Jackie Cochran becomes the first woman to break the sound barrier.
1958 – An F-104 Starfighter sets a world speed record of 1,404.19 mph (2,259.82 km/h).
1964 – President Johnson, in a special message to Congress, asks for $125,000,000 more for economic and military aid to Vietnam.
1965 – Following a 5 day suspension of aerial bombing by the US, North Vietnam charges that the halt was only ‘an effort to camouflage American intensification of the war and deceive world opinion.’
1965 – President Johnson releases a memo from Secretary of Defense McNamara showing how the recently appropriated $700 million will be spent on the military. he promises US servicemen a ‘blank check’ for their needs.
1966 – U.S. Representative Melvin Laird (R-Wisconsin) states that because the Johnson administration is not providing the American public with precise information on planned troop deployments to Vietnam, a “credibility gap” is developing. Informed sources reported that 254,000 U.S. troops were serving in Vietnam, and that another 90,000 were performing tasks directly concerned with the war. These numbers were higher than those provided by the government. This was emblematic of the gap between what the administration said and what it did, leading to a growing distrust of the government among a large part of American society. This mistrust also plagued Johnson’s successor, Richard Nixon, who made Laird his secretary of defense. Like the Johnson administration, Nixon’s administration was marked by attempts to manage the information released about the war. Under Nixon, this included the secret bombing campaign of Cambodia, which was kept from the American public until it was exposed by William Beecher, a military correspondent for the New York Times, in May 1969.
1967 – Following three days of bombardment form the North, a force of 5,500 US and South Vietnamese troops invade the southeastern section of the DMZ to smash a Communist buildup in the area and to prevent infiltration into South Vietnam. This operation will continue for the next 4 days.
1967 – The 26th marines begin Operation Prairie IV east of Khesanh to clear the DMZ south of the Ben Hai River. This will last to the end of may.
1968 – 1st Marine Division begins Operation Mameluke Thrust in central Quang Nam province. Operations will continue until late October.
1969 – More than 1,500 communist troops attack U.S. and South Vietnamese camps near Xuan Loc, located 38 miles east of Saigon. After five hours of intense fighting, the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese forces were driven off. At the U.S. camp, 14 Americans were killed and 39 wounded; 24 enemy soldiers were killed in the action. At the South Vietnamese camp, 4 South Vietnamese were killed and 14 wounded, with 54 communist soldiers reported killed and 9 captured.
1969 – Launch of Apollo 10, dress rehearsal for first lunar landing mission. CDR John W. Young, USN, was the Command Module Pilot and CDR Eugene A. Cernan, USN, was the Lunar Module Pilot. During the 8 Day mission, the craft made 31 lunar orbits in 61.6 hours. Recovery was by HS-4 helicopters from USS Princeton (LPH-5).
1974 – In the Rajasthan Desert in the state of Pokhran, India successfully detonates its first nuclear weapon, a fission bomb similar in explosive power to the U.S. atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan. The test fell on the traditional anniversary of the Buddha’s enlightenment, and Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi received the message “Buddha has smiled” from the exuberant test-site scientists after the detonation. The test, which made India the world’s sixth nuclear power, broke the nuclear monopoly of the five members of the U.N. Security Council–the United States, the Soviet Union, Great Britain, China, and France. India, which suffered continuing border disputes with China, refused to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in 1968. Fearing a second war with China and a fourth war with Pakistan, India actively sought the development of a nuclear deterrent in the early 1970s. The successful detonation of its first bomb on May 18, 1974, set off an expanded arms race with Pakistan that saw no further nuclear tests but the development of lethal intermediate and long-range ballistic missiles by both countries. On May 11, 1998, India resumed nuclear testing, leading to international outrage and Pakistan’s detonation of its first nuclear bomb later in the month.
1989 – A crowd of protesters, estimated to number more than one million, marches through the streets of Beijing calling for a more democratic political system. Just a few weeks later, the Chinese government moved to crush the protests. Protests in China had been brewing since the mid-1980s when the communist government announced that it was loosening some of the restrictions on the economy, allowing for a freer market to develop. Encouraged by this action, a number of Chinese (particularly students) began to call for similar action on the political front. By early 1989, peaceful protests began to take place in some of China’s largest urban areas. The largest of these protests took place around Tiananmen Square in the center of Beijing. By the middle of May 1989, enormous crowds took to the streets with songs, slogans, and banners calling for greater democracy and the ouster of some hard-line Chinese officials. The Chinese government responded with increasingly harsh measures, including arrests and beatings of some protesters. On June 3, 1989, Chinese armed forces stormed into Tiananmen Square and swept the protesters away. Thousands were killed and over 10,000 were arrested in what came to be known as the Tiananmen Square Massacre. The protests attracted worldwide attention. Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev applauded the protesters and publicly declared that reform was necessary in communist China. In the United States, the Chinese students were treated like heroes by the American press. Following the Tiananmen Square Massacre, a shocked U.S. government suspended arms sales to China and imposed economic sanctions. The Chinese government, however, refused to bend, referring to the protesters as “lawless elements” of Chinese society.
1999 – Pres. Clinton declared for the first time that he would consider ground troops in Kosovo if he becomes convinced that the NATO bombing strategy would not bring victory.
1999 – Two Serb soldiers held as prisoners of war by the U.S. military in Germany were turned over to Yugoslav authorities.
1999 – NATO missiles hit at least 4 cities in Yugoslavia and one woman was reported killed and 12 injured. Some 1000 ethnic Albanians crossed into Macedonia.
2002 – The pan-Arab newspaper Al-Sharq al-Awsat quoted Abdel Azeem al-Muhajir, a senior al Qaeda leader, that a strike against the US was imminent and that the recent attack in Tunisia was its work.
2004 – In Afghanistan U.S. forces killed 3 Taliban commanders and arrested five more members of the hardline militia.
2004 – Before dawn U.S. troops killed nine fighters loyal to al-Sadr in Karbala. Ten Iraqi fighters were wounded in the clashes near the city’s Imam Hussein and Imam Abbas shrines. At least five Iraqi insurgents were killed during clashes in Karbala later in the day.
2011 – The United States Coast Guard reopens a section of the Mississippi River to shipping that was closed on on the 17th as a result of the 2011 Mississippi River floods.
2011 – The Space Shuttle Endeavour docks at the International Space Station for the final time.

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