1539 – Hernando de Soto sailed from Cuba to Florida with 13 pigs to help sustain his 700 men on his gold-hunting expedition.
1754 – In the first engagement of the French and Indian War, a Virginia militia under 22-year-old Lieutenant Colonel George Washington defeats a French reconnaissance party in southwestern Pennsylvania. In a surprise attack, the Virginians killed 10 French soldiers from Fort Duquesne, including the French commander, Coulon de Jumonville, and took 21 prisoners. Only one of Washington’s men was killed. The French and Indian War was the last and most important of a series of colonial conflicts between the British and the American colonists on one side, and the French and their broad network of Native American allies on the other. Fighting began in the spring of 1754, but Britain and France did not officially declare war against each other until May 1756 and the outbreak of the Seven Years War in Europe. In November 1752, at the age of 20, George Washington was appointed adjutant in the Virginia colonial militia, which involved the inspection, mustering, and regulation of various militia companies. In November 1753, he first gained public notice when he volunteered to carry a message from Virginia Governor Robert Dinwiddie to the French moving into the Ohio Valley, warning them to leave the territory, which was claimed by the British crown. Washington succeeded in the perilous wilderness journey and brought back an alarming message: The French intended to stay. In 1754, Dinwiddie appointed Washington a lieutenant colonel and sent him out with 160 men to reinforce a colonial post at what is now Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Before Washington could reach it, however, it was given up without bloodshed to the French, who renamed it Fort Duquesne. Washington moved within about 40 miles of the French position and set about building a new post at Great Meadows, which he named Fort Necessity. From this base, he ambushed an advance detachment of about 30 French, striking the first blow of the French and Indian War. For the victory, Washington was appointed a full colonel and reinforced with several hundred Virginia and North Carolina troops. On July 3, the French descended on Fort Necessity with their full force, and after an all-day fight Washington surrendered to their superior numbers. The disarmed colonials were allowed to march back to Virginia, and Washington was hailed as a hero despite his surrender of the fort. The story of the campaign was written up in a London gazette, and Washington was quoted as saying, “I have heard the bullets whistle; and believe me, there is something charming in the sound.” Reading this, King George II remarked, “He would not say so if he had been used to hear many.” In October 1754, Washington resigned his commission in protest of the British underpayment of colonial offices and policy of making them subordinate to all British officers, regardless of rank. In early 1755, however, British General Edward Braddock and his army arrived to Virginia, and Washington agreed to serve as Braddock’s personal aide-de-camp, with the courtesy title of colonel. The subsequent expedition against Fort Duquesne was a disaster, but Washington fought bravely and succeeded in bringing the survivors back after Braddock and 1,000 others were killed. With the western frontier of Virginia now dangerously exposed, Governor Dinwiddie appointed Washington commander in chief of all Virginia forces in August 1755. During the next three years, Washington struggled with the problems of frontier defense but participated in no major engagements until he was put in command of a Virginia regiment participating in a large British campaign against Fort Duquesne in 1758. The French burned and abandoned the fort before the British and Americans arrived, and Fort Pitt was raised on its site. With Virginia’s strategic objective attained, Washington resigned his commission with the honorary rank of brigadier general. He returned to a planter’s life and took a seat in Virginia’s House of Burgesses. The French and Indian War raged on elsewhere in North America for several years. With the signing of the Treaty of Paris in February 1763, France lost all claims to the mainland of North America east of the Mississippi and gave up Louisiana, including New Orleans, to Spain. Fifteen years later, French bitterness over the loss of their North American empire contributed to their intervention in the American Revolution on the side of the Patriots, despite the fact that the Patriots were led by one of France’s old enemies, George Washington.
1813 – Frigate Essex and prize capture five British whalers.
1818 – P.G.T. Beauregard, Confederate general, was born. He first fired on Fort Sumpter and fought at First Manassas, and Shiloh.
1830 – U.S. President Andrew Jackson signs the Indian Removal Act which relocates Native Americans.
1863 – The 54th Massachusetts Infantry, the most famous African-American regiment of the war, leaves Boston for combat in the South. For the first two years of the war, President Abraham Lincoln resisted the use of black troops despite the pleas of men such as Frederick Douglass, who argued that no one had more to fight for than African Americans. Lincoln finally endorsed, albeit timidly, the introduction of blacks for service in the military in the Emancipation Proclamation. On May 22, 1863, the War Department established the Bureau of Colored Troops to recruit and assemble black regiments. Many blacks, often freed or escaped slaves, joined the military and found themselves usually under white leadership. Ninety percent of all officers in the United States Colored Troops (USCT) were white. Colonel Robert Gould Shaw, the idealistic scion of an abolitionist family, headed the 54th. Shaw was a veteran of the 2nd Massachusetts infantry and saw action in the 1862 Shenandoah Valley and Antietam campaigns. After being selected by Massachusetts Governor John Andrew to organize and lead the 54th, Shaw carefully selected the most physically fit soldiers and white officers with established antislavery views. The regiment included two of Frederick Douglass’s sons and the grandson of Sojourner Truth. On May 28, 1863, the new regiment marched onto a steamer and set sail for Port Royal, South Carolina. The unit saw action right away, taking part in a raid into Georgia and withstanding a Confederate attack near Charleston. On July 16, 1863, Shaw led a bold but doomed attack against Fort Wagner in which he and 20 of his men were killed.
1917 – First underway fueling in U.S. Navy, USS Maumee fuels 6 destroyers in North Atlantic. LCDR Chester W. Nimitz served as Maumee’s executive officer and chief engineer.
1918 – US forces undertake their first attack of World War I on the second day of the German offensive along the River Aisne. The fighting centers on the village of Cantigny to the east of Montdidier on the Somme River sector t the north. Elements of the US 1st Division under General Robert Lee Bullard are pitched against the German Eighteenth Army lead by General Oskar von Hutier. Bullard’s troops capture Cantigny, taking 200 prisoners and block a series of German counterattacks over the following days.
1942 – The rest of the Japanese forces directed at Midway set out. Admiral Yamamato, commanding the operation overall, believes that, if the plan to invade the island succeeds, the American fleet can be forced into a decisive engagement and that their defeat will force a truce before American production can swamp the Japanese war effort.
1942 – Task Force 16 sails from Oahu for Midway with the carriers Enterprise and Hornet and escorts. Admiral Fletcher’s Task Force 17 follows after miraculously quick repairs to the Yorktown.
1943 – A reported 100 B-17 Flying Fortress bombers attack the oil refinery and shipping at Livorno (Leghorn).
1943 – American P-40 and Marauder aircraft strike four airfields and encounter heavy anti-aircraft (flak) defenses.
1943 – The Office of War Mobilization is established to coordinated production.
1944 – Allied forces continue the Italian offensive. The Canadian 1st Corps captures Ceprano. There is heavy fighting all along the front. However, other than rearguards from the German 14th Panzer Corps and the 51st Mountain Corps, German forces are retiring to the Caesar Line because of the threat to their rear posed by the US 6th Corps at Anzio.
1944 – Bombers of the US 8th Air Force attack Leuna and Magdeburg.
1944 – On Biak Island, the US 41st Infantry Division begins to expand its beachhead. There is heavy fighting near the village of Mokmer, where an airfield is located, and the American battalion pulls back.
1944 – General MacArthur announces that, strategically, the campaign for New Guinea has been won although there is still some hard fighting to be done.
1945 – William Joyce (“Lord Haw Haw”) is captured in Flensburg. He is a British fascist who became a radio propagandist for the Nazis during the war.
1945 – Admiral Halsey, commanding US 3rd Fleet, takes command of American naval forces operating against targets in Japan; US Task Force 58 is assigned to US 3rd Fleet, becoming TF38.
1945 – More than 100 Japanese planes are shot down near Okinawa. This is the last major effort against the Allied naval forces surrounding the island. One American destroyer is sunk in the otherwise unsuccessful air strikes.
1947 – The Coast Guard announced the disestablishment of all U.S. Coast Guard Merchant Marine Details in foreign ports. During World War II, a total of 36 foreign Merchant Marine Details had been activated for the purpose of performing “on-the-spot” services in connection with the preventive aspects of safety of life and property of the US Merchant Marine. These functions reverted to the continental U.S. ports in which there were located U.S. Marine Inspection Offices. The Merchant Marine Details disestablished were located in the following ports: Antwerp, Belgium; Bremerhaven, Germany; London, England; Cardiff, Wales; Le Havre, France; Marseille, France; Naples, Italy; Piraeus, Greece; Shanghai, China; Manila, Philippine Islands; and Trieste, Venezia Giulia.
1951 – U.N. Forces drove the communists’ back across the 38th parallel on most of the Korean battlefields.
1951 – Eighth Army took Hwachon and Inje.
1953 – The U.N. negotiating team presented its final terms and threatened to break off the talks if they were rejected.
1953 – The Chinese attack outposts of the 25th Infantry Division. OP Carson was overrun and OPs Elko and Vegas were abandoned on order. Friendly casualties were heavy, but enemy losses were far greater.
1957 – 1st of 24 detonations, Operation Plumbbob nuclear test.
1965 – A five day running battle begins in Quangngai Province. Vietcong forces ambush a battalion of ARVN troops near Bagia and reinforcements are called for. The US Marine battalion fails to arrive in time and other ARVN reinforcements are also ambushed. Only 3 US advisors and about 60 ARVN troops manage to get away. The battle instills a sense of urgency in US military leaders, as it reveals how vulnerable the South Vietnamese military remains facing a sizable and flexible Communist force.
1969 – U.S. troops abandon Ap Bia Mountain. A spokesman for the 101st Airborne Division said that the U.S. troops “have completed their search of the mountain and are now continuing their reconnaissance-in-force mission throughout the A Shau Valley.” This announcement came amid the public outcry about what had become known as the “Battle of Hamburger Hill.” The battle was part of Operation Apache Snow in the A Shau Valley. The operation began on May 10 when paratroopers from the 101st Airborne engaged a North Vietnamese regiment on the slopes of Hill 937, known to the Vietnamese as Ap Bia Mountain. Entrenched in prepared fighting positions, the North Vietnamese 29th Regiment repulsed the initial American assault and beat back another attempt by the 3rd Battalion, 187th Infantry on May 14. An intense battle raged for the next 10 days as the mountain came under heavy Allied air strikes, artillery barrages, and 10 infantry assaults. On May 20, Maj. Gen. Melvin Zais, commanding general of the 101st, sent in two additional U.S. airborne battalions and a South Vietnamese battalion as reinforcements. The communist stronghold was finally captured in the 11th attack, when the American and South Vietnamese soldiers fought their way to the summit of the mountain. In the face of the four-battalion attack, the North Vietnamese retreated to sanctuary areas in Laos. 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 received widespread unfavorable publicity in the United States and was dubbed “Hamburger Hill” in the U.S. media, a name evidently derived from the fact that the battle turned into a “meat grinder.” The purpose of the operation was not to hold territory but rather to keep the North Vietnamese off balance so the decision was made to abandon the mountain shortly after it was captured. The North Vietnamese occupied it a month after it was abandoned. Outrage over what appeared to be a senseless loss of American lives was exacerbated by pictures published in Life magazine of 241 U.S. soldiers killed during the week of the battle. Gen. Creighton Abrams, commander of U.S. Military Assistance Command Vietnam, was ordered to avoid such battles. Because of Hamburger Hill, and other battles like it, U.S. emphasis was placed on “Vietnamization”–turning the war over to the South Vietnamese forces rather than engage in direct combat operations.
1971 – Pres. Nixon ordered John Haldeman to do more wiretapping and political espionage against the Democrats. The orders were recorded on tape.
1971 – Audie Murphy (46), WW II hero, actor (Whispering Smiths), was killed in plane crash near Roanoke, Va.
1972 – Operatives working for the Committee to Re-elect the President (CRP) burglarize the Democratic National Committee headquarters in the Washington, DC, Watergate office complex.
1980 – 55 women become first women graduates from the U.S. Naval Academy.
1984 – On Memorial Day the only American Unknown Soldier from the Vietnam War is laid to rest at ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, DC, attended by 250,000, including members of Congress and the international diplomatic community, and Vietnam veterans in fatigues. President Reagan, named honorary next-of-kin, delivers the eulogy at the hero’s funeral, and urges greater efforts to locate the more than 2,400 service members still missing. The remains were unearthed in 1998 for DNA testing and possible identification. They were later identified as those of Air Force First Lieutenant Michael J. Blassie, and were sent to St. Louis for hometown burial.
1985 – David Jacobsen, director of the American University Hospital in Beirut, Lebanon, was abducted by pro-Iranian kidnappers. He was freed 17 months later.
1987 – Matthias Rust, a 19-year-old amateur pilot from West Germany, takes off from Helsinki, Finland, travels through more than 400 miles of Soviet airspace, and lands his small Cessna aircraft in Red Square by the Kremlin. The event proved to be an immense embarrassment to the Soviet government and military. Rust, described by his mother as a “quiet young man…with a passion for flying,” apparently had no political or social agenda when he took off from the international airport in Helsinki and headed for Moscow. He entered Soviet airspace, but was either undetected or ignored as he pushed farther and farther into the Soviet Union. Early on the morning of May 28, 1987, he arrived over Moscow, circled Red Square a few times, and then landed just a few hundred yards from the Kremlin. Curious onlookers and tourists, many believing that Rust was part of an air show, immediately surrounded him. Very quickly, however, Rust was arrested and whisked away. He was tried for violating Soviet airspace and sentenced to prison. He served 18 months before being released. The repercussions in the Soviet Union were immediate. Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev sacked his minister of defense, and the entire Russian military was humiliated by Rust’s flight into Moscow. U.S. officials had a field day with the event–one American diplomat in the Soviet Union joked, “Maybe we should build a bunch of Cessnas.” Soviet officials were less amused. Four years earlier, the Soviets had been harshly criticized for shooting down a Korean Airlines passenger jet that veered into Russian airspace. Now, the Soviets were laughingstocks for not being able to stop one teenager’s “invasion” of the country. One Russian spokesperson bluntly declared, “You criticize us for shooting down a plane, and now you criticize us for not shooting down a plane.”
1990 – Iraqi President Saddam Hussein opened a two-day Arab League summit in Baghdad with a keynote address in which he said if Israel were to deploy nuclear or chemical weapons against Arabs, Iraq would respond with “weapons of mass destruction.”
1991 – US Defense Secretary Dick Cheney and other NATO defense chiefs agreed to create a rapid reaction corps as part of a broad plan to reshape the Western alliance in the post-Cold War era.
1996 – A US jury convicted the former business partners of Pres. Clinton in the Whitewater Case. James and Susan McDougal, and Jim Guy Tucker, governor of Arkansas. Tucker was charged with creating a sham bankruptcy to avoid paying taxes on profits from a sold cable TV company in which he was a partner. Tucker resigned after the verdict. He briefly reversed his decision, but finally stepped down in July. In 1998 Tucker pleaded guilty to a felony charge of fraud and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors of independent council Kenneth Starr.
1998 – In Ecuador Simon Bolivar Chanalata, a hotel clerk, engaged in a fight with 2 US sailors who were visiting while on a naval exercise. Chanalata died 6 days later and his family filed a $1.5 million suit against the US Navy. The 2 Navy men faced charges of involuntary manslaughter.
1998 – NATO Ministers agreed to help Albania and Macedonia strengthen their border patrols.
2000 – In Russia Pres. Putin signed the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. It would not be effective until the US and other nations also approve.
2001 – President Bush honored America’s veterans with the Memorial Day signing of legislation to construct a World War II monument on the National Mall.
2001 – The US and China tentatively agreed that the US spy plane on Hainan Island would be dismantled and possibly flown home aboard a giant Antonov-124 transport.
2002 – The last steel girder is removed from the original World Trade Center site. Cleanup duties officially end with closing ceremonies at Ground Zero in Manhattan, New York City.
2002 – Libya offered $10 million in compensation for each victim in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 in exchange for removal from the US list of states that sponsor terrorism.
2002 – Russia signed an agreement with NATO leaders in Rome for participation in NATO discussions on a fixed variety of subjects, bit no veto power.
2002 – The Mars Odyssey finds signs of large ice deposits on the planet Mars.
2003 – Russia’s upper house of parliament ratified a landmark nuclear deal with the United States that slashes both nation’s nuclear arsenals by two-thirds.
2004 – US officials and 5 Central American countries (Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua) signed a free trade pact (CAFTA), to be later approved by Congress. The Dominican Republic would be included later.
2004 – The Iraqi Governing Council nominated one of its own members, Iyad Allawi, a Shiite Muslim physician who spent years in exile, to become prime minister of the new government to take power June 30.
2004 – In Saudi Arabia suspected Islamic militants sprayed gunfire inside two oil industry compounds on the Persian Gulf, killing at least 10 people including one American.
2014 – A preliminary report from the VA inspector general’s office finds systemic problems at health facilities nationwide, and serious management and scheduling issues in Phoenix.
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