This Day in U.S. Military History…… May 26

26 May
Feast day of Saint Philip Neri, Patron Saint of the Special Forces: Although he refrained from becoming involved in political matters, St. Philip broke this rule in 1593 when he persuaded Pope Clement VIII to withdraw the excommunication and anathema laid on Henry IV of France, and the refusal to receive his ambassador, even though the king had formally renounced Calvinism. Neri saw that the pope’s attitude was more than likely to drive Henry to a relapse, and probably to rekindle the civil war in France, and directed Cardinal Caesar Baronius, then the pope’s confessor, to refuse the Pope absolution, and to resign his office of confessor, unless the Pope would withdraw the anathema. Clement yielded at once, though the whole college of cardinals had supported his policy; and Henry, who did not learn the facts until several years afterwards, testified lively gratitude for the timely and politic intervention. Neri continued in the government of the Oratory until his death.
1637 – During the Pequot War, an allied Puritan and Mohegan force under English Captain John Mason attacks a Pequot village in Connecticut, burning or massacring some 500 Indian women, men, and children. As the Puritans of Massachusetts Bay spread further into Connecticut, they came into increasing conflict with the Pequots, a war-like tribe centered on the Thames River in southeastern Connecticut. By the spring of 1637, 13 English colonists and traders had been killed by the Pequot, and Massachusetts Bay Governor John Endecott organized a large military force to punish the Indians. On April 23, 200 Pequot warriors responded defiantly to the colonial mobilization by attacking a Connecticut settlement, killing six men and three women and taking two girls away. On May 26, 1637, two hours before dawn, the Puritans and their Indian allies marched on the Pequot village at Mystic, slaughtering all but a handful of its inhabitants. On June 5, Captain Mason attacked another Pequot village, this one near present-day Stonington, and again the Indian inhabitants were defeated and massacred. On July 28, a third attack and massacre occurred near present-day Fairfield, and the Pequot War came to an end. Most of the surviving Pequot were sold into slavery, though a handful escaped to join other southern New England tribes.
1736 – In northwestern Mississippi, British and Chickasaw Indians defeated a combined force of French soldiers and Chocktaw Indians at the Battle of Ackia, thus opening the region to English settlement.
1783 – A Great Jubilee Day held at North Stratford, Connecticut, celebrated end of fighting in American Revolution.
1790 – Territory South of River Ohio was created by Congress.
1805 – Lewis and Clark first saw the Rocky Mountains.
1819 – The first steam-propelled vessel to attempt a trans-Atlantic crossing, the 350-ton Savannah, departed from Savannah, Ga., May 26 and arrived in Liverpool, England, Jun 20.
1830 – The Indian Removal Act is passed by the U.S. Congress; it is signed into law by President Andrew Jackson two days later. The law authorized the president to negotiate with Indian tribes in the Southern United States for their removal to federal territory west of the Mississippi River in exchange for their ancestral homelands. The act enjoyed strong support from the non-native peoples of the South, who were eager to gain access to lands inhabited by the Five Civilized Tribes. Christian missionaries, such as Jeremiah Evarts, protested against the law’s passage.
1853 – Major Jacob Zeilin (in charge of Marines) arrived with Commodore Matthew C. Perry’s squadron at Okinawa.
1859 – Captain James Simpson and his party, looking for the shortest route across Nevada, crossed the Hickison Summit into Big Smoky Valley. Their path was later followed by the Pony Express (1860) and the Overland Mail and Stage (1861).
1861 – Union blockaded New Orleans, LA., and Mobile, AL.
1864 – Anxious to create new free territories during the Civil War, U.S. President Abraham Lincoln signs an act establishing the Montana Territory. However, as Montana was on the unstable frontier, it did little to add to the integrity of the Union, and Sidney Edgerton, the territory’s first governor, fled after suffering through several months of Indian raids. Among those Indians known to have inhabited Montana in the 19th century were the Sioux, the Blackfoot, the Shoshone, the Arapaho, the Cheyenne, the Kutenai, and the Flathead. The vast area of what we now call Montana became a U.S. possession in 1803 under the terms of the Louisiana Purchase. Two years later, explorers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark became the first known explorers of European origin to explore the region on their journey to the Pacific Ocean. Significant U.S. settlement did not begin in Montana until the 1850s, when the discovery of gold brought people to mining camps such as those at Bannack and Virginia City. In 1864, Montana was deemed worthy of territorial status and 25 years later entered the Union as the 41st state.
1864 – There was a skirmish along the Totopotomoy Creek, Virginia.
1864 – A joint Army-Navy expedition advanced up the Ashepoo and South Edisto Rivers, South Carolina, with the object of cutting the Charleston and Savannah Railroad. Union naval forces, under Lieutenant Commander Edward F. Stone, included converted ferryboat U.S.S. Commodore McDonough, and wooden steamers E.B. Hale, Dai Ching, and Vixen and a detachment of Marines. The Navy pushed up the South Edisto, while Army transports moved up the Ashepoo convoyed by Dai Ching. Stone landed the Marines and howitzers and on the morning of the 26th opened fire on Willstown, South Carolina. The naval commander, unable to make contact with General Birney to coordinate a further assault, withdrew next morning. Transport Boston ran aground in the Ashepoo and was destroyed to prevent her capture.
1864 – The unsuccessful Red River campaign having drawn to a close, General Banks’ army on 20 May crossed the Atchafalaya River near Simmesport, Louisiana, protected by Rear Admiral Porter’s fleet. Porter, whose health was beginning to fail after many months of arduous duty on the western waters, arrived at his headquarters at Cairo, Illinois.
1865 – Confederate General Edmund Kirby Smith, commander of the Confederate Trans-Mississippi division, is the last general of the Confederate Army to surrender. Smith, who had become commander of the area in January 1863, was charged with keeping the Mississippi River open to the Southerners. Yet he was more interested in recapturing Arkansas and Missouri largely because of the influence of Arkansans in the Confederate Congress who helped to secure his appointment. Drawing sharp criticism for his failure to provide relief for Vicksburg in the summer of 1863, Smith later conducted the resistance to the failed Union Red River campaign of 1864. When the Confederate forces under Robert E. Lee and Joseph Johnston surrendered in the spring of 1865, Smith continued to resist with his small army in Texas. He insisted that Lee and Johnston were prisoners of war and decried Confederate deserters of the cause. On May 26, General Simon Buckner, acting for Smith, met with Union officers in New Orleans to arrange the surrender of Smith’s force under terms similar to Lee’s surrender at Appomattox. Smith reluctantly agreed, and officially laid down his arms at Galveston on June 2. Smith himself fled to Mexico, and then to Cuba, before returning to Virginia in November 1865 to sign an amnesty oath. He was the last surviving full Confederate general until his death in 1893.
1868 – At the end of a historic two-month trial, the U.S. Senate narrowly fails to convict President Andrew Johnson of the impeachment charges levied against him by the House of Representatives three months earlier. The senators voted 35 guilty and 19 not guilty on the second article of impeachment, a charge related to his violation of the Tenure of Office Act in the previous year. Ten days earlier, the Senate had likewise failed to convict Johnson on another article of impeachment, the 11th, voting an identical 35 for conviction and 19 for acquittal. Because both votes fell short–by one vote–of the two-thirds majority needed to convict Johnson, he was judged not guilty and remained in office. At the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861, Johnson, a U.S. senator from Tennessee, was the only senator from a seceding state who remained loyal to the Union. Johnson’s political career was built on his defense of the interests of poor white Southerners against the landed classes; of his decision to oppose secession, he said, “Damn the negroes; I am fighting those traitorous aristocrats, their masters.” For his loyalty, President Abraham Lincoln appointed him military governor of Tennessee in 1862, and in 1864 Johnson was elected vice president of the United States. Sworn in as president after Lincoln’s assassination in April 1865, President Johnson enacted a lenient Reconstruction policy for the defeated South, including almost total amnesty to ex-Confederates, a program of rapid restoration of U.S.-state status for the seceded states, and the approval of new, local Southern governments, which were able to legislate “black codes” that preserved the system of slavery in all but name. The Republican-dominated Congress greatly opposed Johnson’s Reconstruction program and passed the “Radical Reconstruction” by repeatedly overriding the president’s vetoes. Under the Radical Reconstruction, local Southern governments gave way to federal military rule, and African American men in the South were granted the constitutional right to vote. In March 1867, in order to weaken further Johnson’s authority, Congress passed the Tenure of Office Act over his veto. The act prohibited the president from removing federal office holders, including cabinet members, who had been confirmed by the Senate, without the consent of the Senate. It was designed to shield members of Johnson’s cabinet, like Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton, who was appointed during the Lincoln administration and was a leading ally of the so-called Radical Republicans in Congress. In the fall of 1867, Johnson attempted to test the constitutionality of the act by replacing Stanton with General Ulysses S. Grant. However, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to rule on the case, and Grant turned the office back to Stanton after the Senate passed a measure in protest of the dismissal. On February 21, 1868, Johnson decided to rid himself of Stanton once and for all and appointed General Lorenzo Thomas, an individual far less favorable to the Congress than Grant, as secretary of war. Stanton refused to yield, barricading himself in his office, and the House of Representatives, which had already discussed impeachment after Johnson’s first dismissal of Stanton, initiated formal impeachment proceedings against the president. On February 24, the House voted 11 impeachment articles against President Johnson. Nine of the articles cited his violations of the Tenure of Office Act; one cited his opposition to the Army Appropriations Act of 1867 (designed to deprive the president of his constitutional position as commander in chief of the U.S. Army); and one accused Johnson of bringing “into disgrace, ridicule, hatred, contempt, and reproach the Congress of the United States” through certain controversial speeches. On March 13, according to the rules set out in Section 3 of Article I of the U.S. Constitution, the impeachment trial of President Johnson began in the Senate. U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Salmon P. Chase presided over the proceedings, which were described as theatrical. On May 16 and again on May 26, the Senate voted on the charges brought against President Johnson. Both times the vote was 35 for conviction and 19 for acquittal, with seven moderate Republicans joining 12 Democrats in voting against what was a weak case for impeachment. The vote fell just short of a two-thirds majority, and Johnson remained in office. Nevertheless, he chose not to seek reelection on the Democratic ticket. In November, Ulysses S. Grant, who supported the Republicans’ Radical Reconstruction policies, was elected president of the United States. In 1875, after two failed bids, Johnson won reelection to Congress as a U.S. senator from Tennessee. He died less than four months after taking office, at the age of 66. Fifty-one years later, the U.S. Supreme Court declared the Tenure of Office Act unconstitutional in its ruling in Myers v. United States.
1908 – At Masjed Soleyman in southwest Persia, the first major commercial oil strike in the Middle East is made. The rights to the resource are quickly acquired by the Anglo-Persian Oil Company.
1938 – House Committee on Un-American Activities began its work of searching for subversives in the United States.
1940 – President Franklin D. Roosevelt makes known the dire straits of Belgian and French civilians suffering the fallout of the British-German battle to reach the northern coast of France, and appeals for support for the Red Cross. “Tonight, over the once peaceful roads of Belgium and France, millions are now moving, running from their homes to escape bombs and shells and machine gunning, without shelter, and almost wholly without food,” broadcast FDR. On May 26, the British Expeditionary Force was evacuated from Dunkirk in France. Ships arrived at Calais to remove the Force before German troops occupied the area, and it was hoped that 45,000 British soldiers could be shipped back to Britain within two days. The German air force, though, had other plans. Determined to prevent the evacuation, the Luftwaffe initiated a bombing campaign in Dunkirk and the surrounding area. British, Polish, and Canadian fighter pilots succeeded in fending off the German attack in the air, allowing finally for a delayed, but successful, evacuation nine days later. But the cost to civilians was great, as thousands of refugees fled for their lives to evade the fallout of the battle.
1941 – A British Catalina aircraft, piloted by a US Navy officer, finds Bismark only 700 miles from Brest and it is clear that the aircraft of the Ark Royal (of Force H) offer the best chance of slowing the German ship so that she can be caught. The first strike launched by the Ark Royal finds and attacks the British cruiser Sheffield by mistake owing to bad weather. The attack fails because of defects in the magnetic exploders of the torpedoes, so simple contact types are substituted for a second strike. The 15 Swordfish find the correct target and score two hits. One hit wrecks the German battleship’s steering and practically brings her to a halt. During the night Bismark is further harried by torpedo and gunfire attacks by five British destroyers. It is unclear whether they score any torpedo hits.
1942 – Japanese Admiral Nagumo’s 1st Carrier Fleet sails for Midway. His task force contains the carriers Akagi, Kaga, Soryu and Hiryu with two battleships, cruisers and destroyers as escort.
1942 – US Task Force 16, with the aircraft carriers Enterprise and Hornet, returns to Pearl Harbor. The Japanese believe that these ships are still active in the South Pacific.
1944 – USS England sinks fifth Japanese submarine in one week.
1944 – Allied advances continue despite German resistance. The British 10th Corps (McCreery) captures Roccasecca; the Canadian 1st Corps takes San Giovanni and reaches the Liri River; the US 2nd Corps reaches Priverno. The US 6th Corps, at Anzio, progresses toward Lanuvio; US 3rd Division takes Artena, but German defenses prevent it from advancing to Valmontone. The US 1st Armored Division proves too weak to mount a rapid drive towards Velletri.
1944 – German submarine U-541 stops the Portuguese liner Serpa Pinto, carrying Jewish refugees to Canada. Two American citizens are removed and 385 others are ordered into the lifeboats. Nine hours later, after the submarine has contacted its base, the passengers are allowed back on board the ship. Three die in the evacuation process, including a 16 month old baby.
1944 – An American destroyer force bombards Mili Island.
1945 – On Okinawa, American bombers and artillery attack Japanese troops withdrawing from the Shuri Line. Soldiers of California’s 184th Infantry, assigned to the Regular Army’s 7th Infantry Division, succeed in reducing several Japanese strong points as American forces drive deeper into the island’s defenses. The 184th was one of 18 Guard infantry regiments separated from it peacetime parent division, in this case the 40th Infantry Division, by the restructuring of all infantry divisions into smaller organizations in 1942.
1945 – Some 464 American B-29 Superfortress bombers fire-bombed Tokyo with about 4000 tons of incendiares. Parts of the imperial palace were damaged as was the nearby business district of Marunouchi, which was the targeted area. A total of 26 of the Marianas-based bombers were lost.
1945 – The Supreme Headquarters, Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF) is transferred from Rheims to Frankfurt-am-Main.
1946 – A patent was filed in U.S. for H-bomb.
1948 – The U.S. Congress passes Public Law 80-557, which permanently establishes the Civil Air Patrol as an auxiliary of the United States Air Force. The Civil Air Patrol (CAP) is a congressionally chartered, federally supported non-profit corporation that serves as the official civilian auxiliary of the United States Air Force (USAF). CAP is a volunteer organization with an aviation-minded membership that includes people from all backgrounds, lifestyles, and occupations. It performs three congressionally assigned key missions: emergency services, which includes search and rescue (by air and ground) and disaster relief operations; aerospace education for youth and the general public; and cadet programs for teenage youth. In addition, CAP has recently been tasked with homeland security and courier service missions. CAP also performs non-auxiliary missions for various governmental and private agencies, such as local law enforcement and the American Red Cross. The program is established as an organization by Title 10 of the United States Code and its purposes defined by Title 36. Membership in the organization consists of cadets ranging from 12 to just under 21 years of age, and senior members 18 years of age and up. These two groups each have the opportunity to participate in a wide variety of pursuits; the cadet program contributes to the development of the former group with a structured syllabus and an organization based upon United States Air Force ranks and pay grades, while the older members serve as instructors, supervisors, and operators. All members wear uniforms while performing their duties. Nationwide, CAP is a major operator of single-engine general aviation aircraft, used in the execution of its various missions, including orientation flights for cadets and the provision of significant emergency services capabilities. Because of these extensive flying opportunities, many CAP members become licensed pilots. The hierarchical and military auxiliary organization is headed by the National Headquarters (with authority over the national organization) followed by eight regional commands and 52 wings (each of the 50 states plus Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico). Each wing supervises the individual groups and squadrons that comprise the basic operational unit of the organization.
1951 – U.N. Forces drove the communists’ back across the 38th parallel on most of the Korean battlefields.
1952 – Tests from 26-29 May demonstrate feasibility of the angled-deck concept conducted on simulated angled deck on USS Midway.
1956 – Aircraft carrier “Bennington” burned off RI, killing 103.
1960 – During a meeting of the United Nations Security Council, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Henry Cabot Lodge charges that the Soviet Union has engaged in espionage activities at the U.S. embassy in Moscow for years. The charges were obviously an attempt by the United States to deflect Soviet criticisms following the downing of an American U-2 spy plane over Russia earlier in the month. On May 1, 1960, a highly sophisticated (and supposedly invulnerable) U.S. spy plane, the U-2, was shot down over the Soviet Union. Although U.S. officials at first denied the existence of any such spy planes, the Soviets gleefully produced both the wreckage of the plane and its pilot, Francis Gary Powers. Embarrassed U.S. officials, including President Dwight D. Eisenhower, were forced to publicly admit that the United States was indeed spying on the Soviet Union with the high altitude planes. However, the U.S. government consistently declared that it was doing nothing that the Soviets themselves were not doing. As evidence of that charge, Henry Cabot Lodge brought the issue before the U.N. Security Council. There, he produced a wooden reproduction of the Great Seal of the United States. Nestled inside was a small listening and transmitting device. Lodge claimed that the seal had been presented to the U.S. embassy in Moscow in 1945 by a group of Russian citizens. In 1952, a security sweep of the embassy discovered the listening device. Lodge went on to note that more than 100 other such devices had been found in the U.S. embassies in Russia and other communist-bloc countries during the last few years. The Soviet representative on the Security Council chuckled often during Lodge’s presentation and then asked, “From what plays were these props taken and when will it open?” Despite the U.S. charges of Soviet espionage, nothing could undo the damage of the downed U-2 spy plane, the subsequent denials, and the public embarrassment suffered by Eisenhower and other U.S. officials when they were caught in a lie. Just 10 days before Lodge’s presentation in the Security Council, a summit meeting between Eisenhower and Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev ended with each side exchanging angry accusations about spying and bad faith.
1961 – A USAF bomber flew the Atlantic in a record of just over three hours.
1964 – Sihanouk says he welcomes UN inquiry teams or UN troops to police the disputed border with South Vietnam.
1969 – The Apollo 10 astronauts returned to Earth after a successful eight-day dress rehearsal for the first manned moon landing.
1969 – Operation Pipestone Canyon began when the 1st Battalion, 26th Marines and 3d Battalion, 5th Marines began sweeps in the Dodge City/Go Noi areas southwest of Da Nang. It terminated at the end of June with 610 enemy killed in action at a cost of 34 Marines killed.
1971 – In Cambodia, an estimated 1,000 North Vietnamese capture the strategic rubber plantation town of Snoul, driving out 2,000 South Vietnamese as U.S. air strikes support the Allied forces. Snoul gave the communists control of sections of Routes 7 and 13 that led into South Vietnam and access to large amounts of abandoned military equipment and supplies. On May 31, the Cambodian government called for peace talks if all North Vietnamese and Viet Cong forces agreed to withdraw. The communists rejected the bid. Cambodia ultimately fell to the communist Khmer Rouge and their North Vietnamese allies in April 1975.
1972 – President Richard M. Nixon and Soviet Communist Party chief Leonid Brezhnev signed in Moscow an arms reduction agreement that became known as SALT (Strategic Arms Limitation Talks).
1981 – An EA-6B Prowler crashes on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN-68), killing 14 crewmen and injuring 45 others.
1992 – The White House announced that the Coast Guard was returning a group of Haitian refugees picked up at sea to their homeland under a new executive order signed by Bush.
1995 – Serbs bombarded Serajevo. On Jun 6 NATO launched 2 air raids against an ammunition dump in Serb-held central Bosnia.
1999 – NATO military commanders won political approval to strike at the civilian telephone and computer networks of Yugoslavia. Warplanes carried out a record 650 sorties with 284 bombing attacks.
1999 – Serbian military fired over 30 missiles at NATO warplanes which had begun flying at lower altitudes to strike tanks, artillery and ground troops.
2004 – A District court jury in McAlester, Oklahoma, convicted Terry Nichols of 161 counts of 1st degree murder in the 1995 Oklahoma City federal building bombing.
2004 – U.S. troops captured a key lieutenant of radical Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr during overnight clashes in Najaf that killed 24 people and wounded nearly 50.
2006 – The United States Capitol building complex in Washington, D.C. is locked down after reports of what sounded like gunfire reached US Capitol police. The United States Senate was in session as a report of at least one person seeing a gunman in the Rayburn House Office Building gym was issued. Police say that the sound was likely that of a pneumatic hammer and that the ‘gunman’ may have been a plainclothes police officer.
2010 – Space Shuttle Atlantis completes what is beleived to be its final scheduled mission after landing at Kennedy Space Center, Florida. 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. STS-132 was launched from the Kennedy Space Center on 14 May 2010. The primary payload was the Russian Rassvet Mini-Research Module, along with an Integrated Cargo Carrier-Vertical Light Deployable (ICC-VLD). 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.
2011 – The United States House of Representatives votes overwhelmingly against funding the involvement of ground troops in Libya.
2011 – The United States Congress votes to approve a four year extension of powers in the USA PATRIOT Act and President of the United States Barack Obama signs it into law.

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