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

20 May
1497 – John Cabot sets sail for his second voyage from Bristol, England, on his ship Matthew looking for a route to the west (other documents give a May 2 date).
1639 – Dorchester, Mass., formed the 1st school funded by local taxes.
1774 – The British Parliament passed the Coercive Acts to punish the colonists for their increasingly anti-British behavior. The acts closed the port of Boston. [see Mar 28]
1775 – North Carolina became the first colony to declare its independence. Citizens of Mecklenburg County, NC, declared independence from Britain.
1801 – Four warships sent to Mediterranean to protect American commerce form Barbary pirates.
1815 – Commodore Stephen Decatur ( Frigate Guerriere) sails with 10 ships to suppress Mediterranean pirates’ raids on U.S. shipping.
1844 – USS Constitution sails from New York on round the world cruise.
1861 – North Carolina voted to secede from the Union and became the 11th and last state to do so.
1861 – The capital of the Confederacy was moved from Montgomery, Ala., to Richmond, Va.
1861 – US marshals appropriated the previous year’s telegraph dispatches, to reveal pro-secessionist evidence.
1862 – Union gunboats occupied the Stono River above Cole’s Island, South Carolina, and shelled Confederate positions there.
1862 – The Union Congress passes the Homestead Act, allowing an adult over the age of 21, male or female, to claim 160 acres of land from the public domain. Eligible persons had to cultivate the land and improve it by building a barn or house, and live on the claim for five years, at which time the land became theirs with a $10 filing fee. The government of the United States had long wrestled with the problem of how to get land into the hands of productive farmers. Throughout the 19th century, politicians had pursued a variety of schemes to raise revenues from land sales, but the results were always mixed. By the 1830s, Missouri Senator Thomas Hart Benton proposed a program that would allow citizens to claim land from the public domain to develop farmland. By the mid-19th century the issue of land became embroiled in sectional politics. In the 1850s, the fledgling Republican Party endorsed a homestead act as a way to develop an alliance between the Northeast and Midwest. But the South wanted no part of such a scheme. The expansion of slavery had become too important to the South, and they felt expansion to the west was the only way to keep the institution healthy. Filling the West with small individual farmers did not sit well with Southerners. Consequently, it was impossible to agree upon a proposal while the struggle over slavery continued. The Republicans were strong enough by 1859 to push an act through Congress, but Democratic president James Buchanan vetoed the measure. However, the events of the war soon removed all obstacles to the bill. The secession of Southern states opened the way for passage of the Homestead Act of 1862. The Homestead Act was important symbolically if not in practice. By 1890, only about three percent of the lands west of the Mississippi had been given away under the act. This measure was far less effective in making vacant land productive than were liberal mining laws and grants to railroads. Nevertheless, it stands as a shining example of legislation that passed in the North while the South had seceded from the Union.
1864 – Battle at Ware Bottom Church, Virginia, killed or injured 1,400.
1864 – Spotsylvania-campaign ended after 10,920 were killed or injured person.
1873 – Levi Strauss and Jacob Davis receive a U.S. patent for blue jeans with copper rivets.
1902 – The United States ended its three-year military presence in Cuba as the Republic of Cuba was established under its first elected president, Tomas Estrada Palma. Theodore Roosevelt had criticized the government’s sluggish withdrawal of disease-stricken US troops from Cuba.
1918 – The 1st electrically propelled warship (New Mexico).
1927 – At 07:52 Charles Lindbergh takes off from Roosevelt Field in Long Island, New York, on the world’s first solo non-stop flight across the Atlantic Ocean. He touched down at Le Bourget Field in Paris at 22:22 the next day.
1930 – The first airplane, piloted by Charles Nicholson, was catapulted from a dirigible.
1939 – Regular trans-Atlantic air service began as a Pan American Airways plane, the Yankee Clipper, took off from Port Washington, N.Y., bound for Marseilles, France.
1942 – US Navy 1st permitted black recruits to serve.
1943 – Establishment of Tenth Fleet in Washington, DC, under command of ADM King to coordinate U.S. antisubmarine operations in Atlantic.
1943 – On Attu, fighting continues in the Clevesy Pass. Japanese forces hold the high ground and offer determined resistance to the American attacks.
1944 – A V2, on a test flight, lands near the Bug River about 80 miles east of Warsaw. Polish resistance workers hide the rocket before German forces arrive to recover it.
1944 – Forces of the US 5th Army assault the German-held Senger Line. The French Expeditionary Corps attacks Pico; the Canadian 1st Corps attacks Pontecorvo; and the Polish 2nd Corps attacks Piedimonte San Germano.
1944 – American forces have eliminated the Japanese garrison on Wadke. On the mainland, nearby, Japanese forces conduct weak attacks near Arare.
1944 – American aircraft the carriers of Task Group 58.2 (Admiral Montgomery) conduct a raid.
1944 – US Communist Party dissolved.
1945 – On Okinawa, American troops secure Chocolate Drop Hill after fighting in the interconnecting tunnels. Elements of the 1st Marine Division, part of US 3rd Amphibious Corps, capture Wana Ridge. Elements of the US 6th Marine Division, part of the same corps, begin mopping up operations in the Japanese held caves of the Horseshoe and Half Moon positions. They use flame-throwers and hollow-charge weapons and seal off some Japanese troops. Japanese forces counterattack on the Horseshoe position suffering an estimated 200 killed. To the east, the US 7th and 96th Divisions, of US 24th Corps, continue to be engaged in the capture of Yonabaru.
1945 – On Mindanao, the US 31st Division, part of US 10th Corps, advances northward and occupies positions near the town of Malaybalay and encounter Japanese artillery fire. Other units advance north of Davao and resist nighttime counterattacks.
1949 – In the United States, the Armed Forces Security Agency, the predecessor to the National Security Agency, is established.
1951 – Air Force Captain James Jabara, 4th Fighter-Interceptor Wing, became the first Korean War ace and the first jet ace in aviation history after downing his fifth MiG. He accomplished this feat in an F-86 Sabre with one hung drop tank.
1951 – North of Kansong on the east coast, the flagship of the U.S. 7th Fleet, the battleship USS New Jersey, fired for the first time in the Korean War.
1953 – The U.S. National Security Council decided that if “conditions arise,” air and ground operations would be extended to China and ground operations in Korea would be intensified.
1954 – Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek became president of Nationalist China.
1956 – The United States conducts the first airborne test of an improved hydrogen bomb, dropping it from a plane over the tiny island of Namu in the Bikini Atoll in the Pacific Ocean. The successful test indicated that hydrogen bombs were viable airborne weapons and that the arms race had taken another giant leap forward. The United States first detonated a hydrogen bomb in 1952 in the Marshall Islands, also in the Pacific. However, that bomb–and the others used in tests that followed–were large and unwieldy affairs that were exploded from the ground. The practical application of dropping the weapon over an enemy had been a mere theoretical possibility until the successful test in May 1956. The hydrogen bomb dropped over Bikini Atoll was carried by a B-52 bomber and released at an altitude of more than 50,000 feet. The device exploded at about 15,000 feet. This bomb was far more powerful than those previously tested and was estimated to be 15 megatons or larger (one megaton is roughly equivalent to 1 million tons of TNT). Observers said that the fireball caused by the explosion measured at least four miles in diameter and was brighter than the light from 500 suns. The successful U.S. test meant that the ante in the nuclear arms race had been dramatically upped. The Soviets had tested their own hydrogen bomb in 1953, shortly after the first U.S. test in 1952. In November 1955, the Soviets had dropped a hydrogen bomb from an airplane in remote Siberia. Though much smaller and far less powerful (estimated at about 1.6 megatons) than the U.S. bomb dropped over Bikini, the Russian success spurred the Americans to rush ahead with the Bikini test. The massive open-air blast in 1956 caused concerns among scientists and environmentalists about the effects of such testing on human and animal life. During the coming years, a growing movement in the United States and elsewhere began to push for a ban on open-air atomic testing. The Limited Test Ban Treaty, signed in 1963 by the United States, the Soviet Union, and Great Britain, prohibited open-air and underwater nuclear testing.
1959 – Japanese-Americans regained their citizenship.
1964 – France proposes reconvening a 14-nation conference on Laos in Geneva; it is rejected by the United States and Great Britain but accepted by the Soviets, Poland, Cambodia, India, and Communist China.
1969 – After 10 days and 10 bloody assaults, Hill 937 in South Vietnam is finally captured by U.S. and South Vietnamese troops. The Americans who fought there cynically dubbed Hill 937 “Hamburger Hill” because the battle and its high casualty rate reminded them of a meat grinder. Located one mile east of the Laotian border, Hill 937 was ordered taken as part of Operation Apache Snow, a mission intended to limit enemy infiltration from Laos that threatened Hue to the northeast and Danang to the southeast. On May 10, following air and artillery strikes, a U.S.-led infantry force launched its first assault on the North Vietnamese stronghold but suffered a high proportion of casualties and fell back. Ten more infantry assaults came during the next 10 days, but Hill 937’s North Vietnamese defenders did not give up their fortified position until May 20. Almost 100 Americans were killed and more than 400 wounded in taking the hill, amounting to a shocking 70 percent casualty rate. The same day that Hamburger Hill was finally captured, Senator Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts called the operation “senseless and irresponsible” and attacked the military tactics of President Richard Nixon’s administration. His speech before the Senate was seen as part of a growing public outcry over the U.S. military policy in Vietnam. U.S. military command had ordered Hill 937 taken primarily as a diversionary tactic, and on May 28 it was abandoned. This led to further outrage in America over what seemed a senseless loss of American lives. North Vietnamese forces eventually returned and re-fortified their original position.
1970 – More than 100,000 construction workers, dock men, and office workers lead a parade in New York City supporting the policies of President Nixon and attacking Mayor John Lindsay and other opponents of the Vietnam War.
1970 – About 2,500 South Vietnamese soldiers, supported by US airpower and advisors, open up a new front in Cambodia, 125 miles north of Saigon, bringing the number of South Vietnamese troops in Cambodia to 40,000. South Vietnamese troops link up with Cambodian forces 25 miles north of Takeo after a cross country drive.
1972 – President Nixon meets with Leonid Brezhnev for summit talks in Moscow. Although Vietnam is discussed, there is no change in the Soviet Union’s support of North Vietnam, and both parties are apparently unwilling to risk détente over the topic.
1985 – US began broadcasts to Cuba on Radio Marti.
1985 – FBI arrested John A. Walker. US Navy Chief Petty Officer Walker began spying for the Soviet Union in 1968 for $1,000 per week. Walker’s ex-wife turned him into the FBI.
1987 – The commander of the U.S. frigate Stark, who lost 37 of his sailors in an Iraqi missile attack, broke his silence. Captain Glenn Brindel said he was warned only seconds before the missiles struck, and that he’d had no time to activate the ship’s defense system.
1989 – China declared martial law in Beijing. During the pro-democracy protests, Beijing officials ordered CBS and CNN to end their live on-scene reports.
1990 – The Hubble Space Telescope sent back its first photographs.
1996 – The US paid North Korea $2 million to help recover the remains of US soldiers killed during the Korean War.
1996 – In New York, the United Nations and Iraq agree to U.N. Security Council Resolution 986. Iraqi oil exports are expected to begin by the Fall of 1996, after a pumping station on the Iraq-Turkey pipeline is repaired and U.N monitoring and aid distribution facilities are put in place. Shortly after the agreement, the White House announces its decision to allow U.S. oil companies to purchase Iraqi oil exports.
1997 – Marine Corporal Clemente Banuelos shot and killed the goat herder Esequiel Hernandez on the Mexican border at El Paso while on border patrol. The marine claimed self-defense after Hernandez fired 2 shots from a .22-caliber rifle. A grand jury later declined to indict Banuelos.
1999 – The CGC Bear arrived in Rota, Spain. She was deployed to the Adriatic Sea in support of “Operation Allied Force” and “Operation Noble Anvil”, NATO’s military campaign against the forces of the former Republic of Yugoslavia. Bear served in the USS Theodore Roosevelt Battle Group providing surface surveillance and SAR response for the Sea Combat Commander, and force protection for the Amphibious Ready Group operating near Albania. Bear provided combat escort for U.S. Army vessel’s transporting military cargo between Italy and Albania. This escort operation took Bear up to the Albanian coastline, well within enemy surface-to-surface missile range.
2000 – The 5 nuclear powers of the UN Security Council agreed to eliminate their nuclear arsenals over time as part of a new disarmament agenda approved by 187 countries.
2003 – The Bush administration raised the terrorism alert level to orange on and called for increased security nationwide.
2003 – Afghan governors signed an agreement with President Hamid Karzai to pay vital customs revenues to the central government. Karzai had threatened to resign due to lack of revenue payments.
2004 – Iraqi police backed by American soldiers raided the home and offices of Ahmad Chalabi, a prominent Iraqi politician.
2011 – At least one person is killed and ten people injured following an explosion in the Pakistani city of Peshawar, with a United States consular convoy targeted by the Pakistani Taliban.
2014 – The VA’s Office of Inspector General says it is investigating 26 agency facilities for allegations of doctored waiting times.

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