This Day in U.S. Military History…… May 31

31 May
1634 – Massachusetts Bay colony annexed the Maine colony.
1775 – The Mecklenburg Resolves are allegedly adopted in the Province of North Carolina. The Mecklenburg Resolves, or Charlotte Town Resolves, was a list of statements drafted in the month following the fighting at Lexington and Concord. Similar lists of resolves were issued by other local colonial governments at that time, none of which called for independence from Great Britain.
1854 – Kansas-Nebraska Act was passed by U.S. Congress.
1861 – Gen. PGT Beauregard was given command of Confederate Alexandria Line.
1862 – Confederate forces strike Union troops in the Peninsular campaign. During May 1862, the Army of the Potomac, under the command of George B. McClellan, slowly advanced up the James Peninsula after sailing down the Chesapeake Bay by boat. Confederate commander Joseph Johnston had been cautiously backing his troops up the peninsula in the face of the larger Union force, giving ground until he was in the Richmond perimeter. When the Rebels had backed up to the capital, Johnston sought an opportunity to attack McClellan and halt his advance. That chance came when McClellan’s forces were straddling the Chickahominy River. The swampy ground around the river was difficult to maneuver, and the river was now a raging torrent from the spring rains. A major storm on May 31 threatened to cut the only bridge links between the two wings of the Union army. Johnston attacked one of McClellan’s corps south of the river on May 31 in a promising assault. The plan called for three divisions to hammer the Federal corps from three sides, but the inexperienced Confederates were delayed and confused. By the time the attack came, McClellan had time to muster reinforcements and drive the Rebels back. A Confederate attack the next day also produced no tangible results. The Yankees lost 5,000 casualties to the Rebels’ 6,000. But the battle had two important consequences. McClellan was horrified by the sight of his dead and wounded soldiers, and became much more cautious and timid in battle—actions that would eventually doom the campaign. And since Johnston was wounded during the battle’s first day, Robert E. Lee replaced him. Lee had been serving as Confederate President Jefferson Davis’ military advisor since his undistinguished service in western Virginia during the war’s first year. The history of the war in the eastern theater drastically changed as Lee ascended the ranks. His leadership and exploits soon became legend.
1863 – U.S.S. Carondelet, Lieutenant Murphy, patrolling the Mississippi River below Vicksburg, proceeded to Perkins Landing, Louisiana, where Army troops were found cut off from the Union headquarters. Murphy “shelled the woods and thus prevented the enemy from advancing and throwing an enfilading fire on the troops ashore,” while awaiting the arrival of a transport which could rescue the soldiers. As Forest Queen arrived and the Union troops began to board her, a large force of Confederates pressed an attack. Carondelet’s guns laid down a heavy fire, saving the troops and forcing the Southerners eventually to break off the assault. Carondelet remained at Perkins’ Landing after Forest Queen departed, saved those stores and material which it was possible to take on board, and destroyed the rest to prevent its capture by Confederates.
1863 – Rear Admiral Porter, accompanied by some of the fleet officers, went ashore, mounted horses and rude to Major General ‘V. T. Sherman’s headquarters before Vicksburg. Sherman reported that the Admiral, referring to the loss of U.S.S. Cincinnati on 27 May, was “willing to lose all the boats if he could do any good.” Porter also volunteered to place a battery ashore. To that end, Lieutenant Commander Selfridge visited Sherman on the first of June and reported that he was prepared to land two 8-inch howitzers and to man and work them if the Army would haul the guns in to position and build a parapet for them. On 5 June Selfridge told Porter that one gun was in position and “I shall have the other gun mounted tonight. . . Frequent joint efforts of this nature hastened the end of Vicksburg.
1863 – U.S.S. Pawnee, Commander Balch, and U.S.S. E.B. Hale, Acting Lieutenant Edgar Brodhead, supported an Army reconnaissance to James Island, South Carolina, and covered the troop landing. Balch reported: ”The landing was successfully accomplished and the reconnaissance made, or forces meeting with no opposition, and they were embarked at 9 a.m. and returned to their camps without a casualty of any kind.” Colonel Charles H. Simonton, CSA, commanding at James Island, warned: ”This expedition of the enemy removes all [their] fear of our supposed batteries on the Stono, and no doubt we will have visits from them often.”
1864 – The Army of Northern Virginia under Robert E. Lee engages the Army of the Potomac under Ulysses S. Grant and George Meade.
1866 – In the Fenian Invasion of Canada, John O’Neill leads 850 Fenian raiders across the Niagara River at Buffalo, New York/Fort Erie, Ontario, as part of an effort to free Ireland from the United Kingdom. Canadian militia and British regulars repulse the invaders in over the next three days, at a cost of 9 dead and 38 wounded to the Fenian’s 19 dead and about 17 wounded.
1868 – The 1st Memorial Day parade was held in Ironton, Ohio.
1894 – The US Senate passed a resolution encouraging Hawaii to establish its own form of government without interference from the US.
1900 – Sailors and Marines from USS Newark and USS Oregon arrive at Peking, China with other Sailors and Marines from Britain, France, Russia, Italy and Japan to protect U.S. and foreign diplomatic legations from the Boxers.
1913 – The 17th Amendment to the Constitution, providing for the popular election of U.S. senators, was declared in effect.
1921 – A major race riot broke out in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Greenwood, the black section of town, was burned. As many as 10,000 white men and boys attacked the black community and 35 blocks of the black business district were burned with participation by police officers. The National Guard was clled out and martial law enforced but not until the day after the violence when most of the conflict had already ended. Some 200-300 people were believed to have been killed.
1940 – President Roosevelt introduces a “billion-dollar defense program” which is designed to boost the United States military strength significantly.
1942 – In an attempt to reinforce the Pacific Fleet, battleships Colorado and Maryland sail from San Francisco.
1944 – USS England sank a record 6th Japanese submarine in 13 days.
1944 – The Canadian 1st Corps captures Frosinone; the British 10th Corps takes Sora. Around Anzio, forces of the US 6th Corps capture Velletri and Monte Artemiso while other elements attack Albano. The German loss of Velletri unhinges their defenses of the Caesar Line.
1944 – US forces reduce their perimeter near Arare. All the American beachheads on the north coast experience significant Japanese attacks. Meanwhile, to the east, Australian forces capture Bunabum.
1945 – On Okinawa, the US 6th Marine Division (part of US 3rd Amphibious Corps) encounters Japanese rearguards near Hill 46. Japanese forces pull out of Shuri.
1945 – On Negros, organized Japanese resistance ends. On Luzon, a regiment of the US 37th Division begins moving northward from Santa Fe through the Cagayan valley.
1947 – Authority of the U.S. Coast Guard for the establishment and disestablishment of prohibited, restricted, and anchorage areas, conferred by the Espionage Act (50 U.S.C. 191) and Proclamation No. 2412 of 27 June 1940 was terminated by Proclamation No. 2732, signed by the President on this date.
1948 – The Coast Guard assumed command of the former Navy base at Cape May, New Jersey, and formally established its east coast recruit training center there the next day.
1956 – In violation of the Geneva Agreements, the United States sends 350 additional military men designated Temporary Equipment Recovery Team (TERM) to Saigon under the pretext of helping to recover and redistribute equipment abandoned by the French. They will stay on as a permanent part of MAAG.
1959 – US Advisors are assigned to the regimental level of the South Vietnamese armed forces.
1959 – At the 15th plenum of the Central Committee, North Vietnam’s leaders decide to formally take control of the growing insurgency in the South. The tempo of war speeds up as more southern cadre members infiltrate back to the South along an improved Ho Chi Minh Trail. Although infiltration from the North began in 1955, not until 1959 does the CIA pick up evidence of large-scale infiltration. Hanoi’s decisions of this month along with the troop movements in preparation for an October offensive are viewed by intelligence in Washington as the beginnings of the North Vietnamese intervention.
1962 – Around 5,000 troops (including US Special Forces, or Green Berets) are serving in South Vietnam,and there are a total of 124 US aircraft including two USAF C-123 squadrons and four helicopter companies. The Communists are forming battalion-sized units in several parts of central Vietnam.
1965 – U.S. planes bomb an ammunition depot at Hoi Jan, west of Hanoi, and try again to drop the Than Hoa highway bridge. These raids were part of Operation Rolling Thunder, which had begun in March 1965. President Lyndon B. Johnson had ordered the sustained bombing of North Vietnam to interdict North Vietnamese transportation routes in the southern part of North Vietnam and slow infiltration of personnel and supplies into South Vietnam. In July 1966, Rolling Thunder was expanded to include North Vietnamese ammunition dumps and oil storage facilities as targets. In the spring of 1967, it was further expanded to include power plants, factories, and airfields in the Hanoi-Haiphong area. The White House closely controlled operation Rolling Thunder and President Johnson occasionally selected the targets himself. From 1965 to 1968, about 643,000 tons of bombs were dropped on North Vietnam. A total of nearly 900 U.S. aircraft were lost during Operation Rolling Thunder. The operation continued, with occasional suspensions, until President Johnson halted it on October 31, 1968, under increasing domestic political pressure.
1971 – In accordance with the Uniform Monday Holiday Act passed by the U.S. Congress in 1968, observation of Memorial Day occurs on the last Monday in May for the first time, rather than on the traditional Memorial Day of May 30.
1973 – The United States Senate votes to cut off funding for the bombing of Khmer Rouge targets within Cambodia, hastening the end of the Cambodian Civil War.
1988 – President Ronald Reagan ends his first trip to Moscow, and his fourth summit meeting with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, on notes of both frustration and triumph. Although there were no breakthroughs or agreements on substantive issues, the “Great Communicator,” as Reagan was known in the United States, was a hit with Soviet audiences. The May 1988 summit between Gorbachev and Reagan was billed as a celebratory follow-up to their breakthrough summit of October 1987. At that meeting in Washington, D.C., the two leaders had signed the groundbreaking Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, which eliminated an entire class of nuclear missiles from Europe. The May meeting, however, got off to a rocky start as Reagan lectured Gorbachev about the need to improve the Soviet Union’s human rights record. From that inauspicious start, the summit went downhill and ended with no further progress on arms control. Gorbachev’s frustration boiled over as he declared to Reagan, “Maybe now is again a time to bang our fists on the table” in order to hammer out an arms agreement. During his final day in Moscow, Reagan turned away from strictly political issues and spoke before a group of students and Russian intellectuals and then took a walking tour of some old churches. He praised Russian cultural achievements, particularly the nation’s great literary tradition and disarmed his audiences with his usual self-effacing humor. The May 1988 summit meeting was a victory of style over substance. Both Reagan and Gorbachev kept up positive fronts in their public statements, but in fact, the meeting had been a great disappointment for both sides. No further progress on arms limitation was made, and Reagan’s efforts to push the human rights issue met a frosty response from Gorbachev. The summit indicated that despite the progress made in improving U.S.-Soviet relations in the past years, serious differences still existed.
1988 – The first search and rescue agreement with the Soviet Union was signed at a summit in Moscow. The agreement set a general line, or boundary, separating SAR regions and provided for exchange visits to SAR coordination centers in both countries, joint SAR exercises, and regular communication checks.
1988 – The CGC Fir became the oldest cutter in commission after the CGC Ingham was decommissioned this day.
1990 – President Bush and his wife, Barbara, welcomed Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev in a ceremony on South Lawn of the White House. The two leaders and their aides then held talks on German reunification.
1994 – The United States announced it was no longer aiming long-range nuclear missiles at targets in the former Soviet Union.
1995 – President Clinton declared he was ready to permit the temporary use of American ground forces in Bosnia to help UN peacekeepers move to safer positions if necessary.
1997 – Rosie Will Monroe (76), WW II icon (Rosie the riveter), died.
1999 – During a Memorial Day visit to Arlington National Cemetery, President Clinton asked Americans to reconsider their ambivalence about Kosovo, calling it “a very small province in a small country. But it is a big test of what we believe in.”
2000 – Iraqi Oil Minister Amir Muhammad Rashid states that Iraq does not intend to sign more contracts with foreign oil companies to develop its oilfields until contracts previously awarded are implemented.
2001 – Veteran FBI agent Robert Hanssen pleaded innocent to charges of spying for Moscow. He later changed his plea to guilty and was sentenced to life in prison.
2001 – The United States and Britain win Security Council approval of a one-month extension of the United Nations oil-for-food program. A vote on the new “smart sanctions” on Iraq proposed by the United States and Britain is delayed at least one month.
2002 – The US State Dept. urged some 60,000 Americans in India to leave over concerns of war between India and Pakistan.
2002 – Bulgaria signed an agreement with the US to destroy its Cold War-era missiles. The US planned to pay the costs of destruction.
2003 – Eric Rudolph, the longtime fugitive charged in the 1996 Olympic Park bombing and in attacks at an abortion clinic and a gay nightclub, was arrested in the mountains of North Carolina.
2003 – American forces arrested 15 members of Saddam Hussein’s banned Baath Party as they met at a police college in Baghdad.
2004 – U.S. troops clashed with Shiite militiamen in the holy city of Kufa for a second day in fighting that killed two Americans. In Baghdad, a car bomb exploded near the headquarters of the U.S. coalition, killing at least two people and injuring more than 20.
2005 – Vanity Fair reveals that former Federal Bureau of Investigation Associate Director Mark Felt was Deep Throat. Deep Throat is the pseudonym given to the secret informant who provided information to Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein of The Washington Post in 1972 about the involvement of United States President Richard Nixon’s administration in what came to be known as the Watergate scandal.
2008 – STS-124, a Space Shuttle mission, flown by Space Shuttle Discovery to the International Space Station, is launched with a crew of seven and the main module of the Japanese laboratory Kibō.
2009 – CGC Boutwell arrived in the port of Tubruq, Libya, during her around-the-world cruise, becoming the first U.S. military ship to visit Libya in more than 40 years.
2012 – SpaceX’s unmanned Dragon capsule successfully returns to Earth following its demo mission to the International Space Station, landing intact in the Pacific Ocean. It is later recovered and shipped back to the United States.
2014 – Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, previously the only United States military prisoner held captive in Afghanistan, is released in exchange for five Taliban prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay.

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