1626 – Dutch explorer Peter Minuit landed on what is now Manhattan Island. Peter Minuit became director-general of New Netherlands. Indians sold Manhattan Island for $24 (1839 dollars) in cloth and buttons. The 1999 value would be $345. The site of the deal was later marked by Peter Minuit Plaza at South Street and Whitehall Street.
1776 – Rhode Island declared its freedom from England, two months before the Declaration of Independence was adopted.
1862 – Battle at Williamsburg, Virginia.
1862 – Boat crew from U.S.S. Wachusett, Commander W. Smith, raised United States flag at Gloucester Point, Virginia, after General McClellan’s troops occupied Yorktown; two Confederate schooners were captured.
1863 – Battle of Chancellorsville ended when the Union Army retreated.
1863 – War correspondents Richard T. Colburn, Junius H. Brown and Albert Dean Richardson were captured enroute to Grant’s headquarters by a Confederate patrol near Vicksburg, Miss. Colburn was soon released but Brown and Richardson were sent to Libby Prison in Richmond, Va., and later to Salisbury Prison in North Carolina. They managed to escape in Dec 1864 and arrived in Knoxville, Tenn., on Jan 13, 1865.
1863 – Porter departed Grand Gulf with his gunboat squadron and rendezvoused that evening with the Farragut fleet at the mouth of the Red River. After obtaining supplies, he proceeded up the River the next day with U.S.S. Benton, Lafayette, Pittsburg, Sterling Price, ram Switzerland, and tug Ivy. U.S.S. Estrella and Arina joined en route. The evening of 5 May, the ships arrived at Fort De Russy, Louisiana, ”a powerful casemated work” which the Confederates had recently evacuated in the face of the naval threat. Porter pushed past a heavy obstruction in the river and proceeded to Alexandria, Louisiana, which he took possession of formally on the morning of the 7th, ”without encountering any resistance.” Subsequently turning the town over to Army troops, and unable to continue upriver because of the low water, Porter’s force returned to Fort De Russy and partially destroyed it. Porter also sent U.S.S. Sterling Price, Pittsburg, Arina, and ram Switzerland up the Black River on a reconnaissance. At Harrisonburg these ships encountered heavy batteries, which they engaged with little effect because of the position of the guns ”on high hills.” Leaving the larger portion of his force at the Red River, Porter returned to Grand Gulf on the 13th.
1864 – The Army of the Potomac embarks on the biggest campaign of the Civil War and crosses the Rapidan River, precipitating an epic showdown that eventually decides the war. In March 1864, Ulysses S. Grant became commander of all the Union forces and devised a plan to destroy the two major remaining Confederate armies: Joseph Johnston’s Army of the Tennessee, which was guarding the approaches to Atlanta, and Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. Grant sent William T. Sherman to take on Johnston, and then rode along with the Army of the Potomac, which was still under the command of George Meade, to confront Lee. On May 4, the Army of the Potomac moved out of its winter encampments and crossed the Rapidan River to the tangled woods of the Wilderness. Grant had with him four corps and over 100,000 men. The plan was to move the Federal troops quickly around Lee’s left flank and advance beyond the Wilderness before engaging the Confederates. But logistics slowed the move, and the long wagon train supplying the Union troops had to stop in the Wilderness. Although there was no combat on this day, the stage was set for the epic duel between Grant and Lee. In the dense environs of the Wilderness, the superior numbers of the Union army was minimized. Lee attacked the following day—the first salvo in the biggest campaign of the war. The fighting lasted into June as the two armies waltzed to the east of Richmond, ending in Petersburg, where they settled into trenches and faced off for nearly nine months.
1886 – A bomb is thrown at policemen trying to break up a labor rally in Chicago, Illinois, United States, killing eight and wounding 60. The police fire into the crowd. The Haymarket affair (also known as the Haymarket massacre or Haymarket riot) was the aftermath of a bombing that took place at a labor demonstration at Haymarket Square in Chicago. It began as a peaceful rally in support of workers striking for an eight-hour day and in reaction to the killing of several workers the previous day by the police. An unknown person threw a dynamite bomb at police as they acted to disperse the public meeting. The bomb blast and ensuing gunfire resulted in the deaths of seven police officers and at least four civilians; scores of others were wounded. In the internationally publicized legal proceedings that followed, eight anarchists were convicted of conspiracy. The evidence was that one of the defendants may have built the bomb, but none of those on trial had thrown it. Seven were sentenced to death and one to a term of 15 years in prison. The death sentences of two of the defendants were commuted by Illinois governor Richard J. Oglesby to terms of life in prison, and another committed suicide in jail rather than face the gallows. The other four were hanged on November 11, 1887. In 1893, Illinois’ new governor John Peter Altgeld pardoned the remaining defendants and criticized the trial. The Haymarket affair is generally considered significant as the origin of international May Day observances for workers. The site of the incident was designated a Chicago Landmark in 1992, and a public sculpture was dedicated there in 2004. In addition, the Haymarket Martyrs’ Monument at the defendants’ burial site in nearby Forest Park was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1997.
1904 – The United States begins construction of the Panama Canal. The U.S. formally took control of the canal property inheriting from the French a depleted workforce and a vast jumble of buildings, infrastructure and equipment, much of it in poor condition. A U.S. government commission, the Isthmian Canal Commission (ICC), was established to oversee construction and was given control of the Panama Canal Zone, over which the United States exercised sovereignty. The commission reported directly to Secretary of War William Howard Taft and was directed to avoid the inefficiency and corruption that had plagued the French 15 years earlier.
1910 – Congress required every passenger ship or other ship carrying 50 persons or more, leaving any port of United States, to be equipped with a radio (powerful enough to transmit to a 100-mile radius) and a qualified operator.
1916 – Responding to a demand from Pres. Wilson, Germany agreed to limit its submarine warfare, averting a diplomatic break with Washington.
1917 – First Navy ships, Destroyer Division 8, arrive at Queenstown, Ireland, to provide convoy escorts against German U-boats.
1942 – The U.S. began food rationing.
1942 – The Chief of Naval Operations, ADM Ernest J. King, ordered the Coast Guard Auxiliary to organize into a anti-submarine patrol force, which becomes known as the “Corsair Fleet” for service along the east coast.
1942 – Fighting lessens on Mindanao. Japanese bombardment of the American forces on Corregidor is very intense.
1942 – Aircraft from the USS Yorktown positioned 100 miles south of Guadalcanal, attack Japanese forces off Tulagi. The Yorktown then returns south to join the American Task Force 17 which is assembling to engage the Japanese. American actions are dictated by their code breaking which has revealed many of the Japanese plans to them.
1944 – The Coast Guard-manned destroyer escort USS Pride (DE-323), with three other escorts, sank U-371 in the Mediterranean.
1944 – Most meat products are removed from the ration list. Steaks and choice cuts for roasting remain rationed.
1945 – On Okinawa, the Japanese 32nd Army counterattacks. Artillery that was formerly concealed is used to support infantry charges. The US 7th and 77th Divisions hold the assaults. Meanwhile, the US 1st Marine Division attacks Machinato airfield and suffers heavy losses. At sea, Kamikaze attacks sink 14 small ships and damage the escort carrier Sangamon, 1 destroyer, and other ships. Some 131 Japanese planes are claimed to be shot down. The British carrier Formidable is damaged by a Kamikaze attack off the Sakishima Islands.
1945 – Donitz sends envoys to the headquarters of Field Marshal Montgomery, at Luneburg Heath, and they sign an agreement, at 1820 hrs, for the surrender of German forces in Holland, Denmark and northern Germany. The Germans also agree to the Allied demand that German submarines should be surrendered rather than scuttled — in the German naval tradition. The surrender becomes effective on May 5th. Meanwhile, in continuing fighting to the south, Salzburg is captured by American forces. Other units push into Czechoslovakia toward Pilsen. German forces conduct rearguard actions, in northern Germany, in Czechoslovakia and Austria, as the bulk of the German forces attempt to disengage and reach the Anglo-American lines.
1945 – On Luzon, the US 25th Division, part of US 1st Corps, capture Mount Haruna, west of the Balete Pass. Northwest of Manila, elements of the US 11th Corps attack toward Guagua but are forced back by Japanese defenses. On Mindanao, the US 24th Division mops up in around Davao while elements of the US 31st Division patrol north of Zibawe. Elements of the US 41st Division reach Parang, north of Cotabato while other forces land north of Digos, near Santa Cruz. On Negros, the Americal Division attempts to reopen its supply lines, which have been cut by the Japanese forces, in the eastern part of the island.
1945 – Soviet Foreign Minister Molotov informs U.S. Secretary of State Stettinius that the Red Army has arrested 16 Polish peace negotiators who had met with a Soviet army colonel near Warsaw back in March. When British Prime Minister Winston Churchill learns of the Soviet double-cross, he reacts in alarm, stating, “There is no doubt that the publication in detail of this event…would produce a primary change in the entire structure of world forces.” Churchill, fearing that the Russian forces were already beginning to exact retribution for losses suffered during the war (the Polish negotiators had been charged with “causing the death of 200 Red Army officers”), sent a telegram to President Harry Truman to express his concern that Russian demands of reparations from Germany, and the possibility of ongoing Russian occupation of Central and Eastern Europe, “constitutes an event in the history of Europe to which there has been no parallel.” Churchill clearly foresaw the “Iron Curtain” beginning to drop. Consequently, he sent a “holding force” to Denmark to cut off any farther westward advance by Soviet troops.
1948 – Twenty-five-year-old Norman Mailer’s first novel, The Naked and the Dead, is published on this day in 1948. The book is critically acclaimed and widely considered one of the best novels to come out of World War II. Mailer was born in New Jersey in 1923 and raised in Brooklyn. He attended Harvard and joined the Army during World War II. After leaving the Army in 1946, he studied at the Sorbonne, where he wrote the Naked and The Dead, based on his own military experiences. The book, which closely chronicles the lives of 13 soldiers stationed in the Pacific, presents a fictional story with precise, journalistic detail. Mailer’s next two books, Barbaray Shore (1951) and The Deer Park (1955), were savaged by critics, but his subsequent journalistic chronicles fared better. The Armies of the Night (1968), an account of his participation in the Washington peace march of 1967, won a Pulitzer Prize for nonfiction and the National Book Award in 1969. His novel The Executioner’s Song, a fictionalized account of the life of convicted murderer Gary Gilmore, won the Pulitzer for fiction in 1980. In 1991, his four-pound novel Harlot’s Ghost explored the CIA from 1948 through the Kennedy administration. Mailer’s reputation as a hard-drinking, tough-talking anti-feminist made him a controversial literary figure in the 1970s and 1980s. His high-profile exploits included drinking binges, the alleged stabbing of his wife at a party, and a run for the mayoralty of New York.
1951 – The U.S. Senate unanimously passed a bill to raise the maximum strength of the Marine Corps to 400,000 — double its strength at the time. The bill also made the Commandant of the Marine Corps a consultant to the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
1961 – Pilot CDR Malcolm D. Ross, USNR, and medical observer LCDR Victor A. Prather, Jr., ascended in two hours to over 110,00 feet in Strato-Lab 5, a 411-foot hydrogen filled balloon launched from from the deck of USS Antietam. This was the highest altitude attained by man in an open gondola. Tragically, Prather drowned during the recovery.
1961 – At a press conference, Secretary of State Dean Rusk reports that Viet Cong forces have grown to 12,000 men and that they had killed or kidnapped more than 3,000 persons in 1960. While declaring that the United States would supply South Vietnam with any possible help, he refused to say whether the United States would intervene militarily. At a press conference the next day, President John F. Kennedy said that consideration was being given to the use of United States forces. Kennedy’s successor, Lyndon B. Johnson, did eventually commit more than 500,000 American troops to the war.
1964 – Attempting to elicit what he thinks is waning support from the US, General Khanh tells Ambassador Lodge that he feels it is necessary to declare full-scale war on the North. He proposed that the US begin bombing campaigns and send 10,000 Special Forces troops to cover the entire Cambodian-Laotian border. Lodge declines to inform the General that the US is developing plans to bomb the North.
1964 – In secret testimony before the House Armed Services Committee, William Bundy, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and pacific Affairs, says that the US must drive the Communists out of South Vietnam even if it means, ‘attacking countries to the north.’
1965 – President Johnson asks Congress to appropriate an additional $700 million ‘to meet mounting military requirements in Vietnam.’ Johnson will sign the approved bill on 7 May.
1968 – West of Hoi An City, the Marines begin Operation Allen Brook. The op will as through late August.
1970 – About 20 miles north of the “Fishhook area” inside Cambodia, US troops reach the site of what is believed to be the largest Vietnamese base in the area, known as The City. Communist forces launch heavy attacks in the area around Phnompenh as NVA and Vietcong units cut the Phnompenh-Saigon highway at a point 29 miles from the Cambodian capitol.
1970 – President Richard Nixon’s May 1st announcement of the American incursion into Cambodia leads to massive anti-Vietnam war protests on college campuses nationwide. At Kent State University students burned the ROTC building and rioted in downtown Kent. The governor of Ohio dispatched Guardsmen from the 1st Battalion, 145th Infantry and several Troops of the 107th Armored Cavalry (at peak strength a total of 1,395 men) to restore order in Kent. These men were already on state active duty in response to a wildcat truckers strike when moved to the campus. Except for some trouble in the town of Kent on Saturday night, in which ten Guardsmen were injured by thrown bottles and rocks, overall for two days the situation remained calm. But on Monday the 4th a planned anti-war rally was scheduled, drawing both students and non-students. The campus authorities tried to stop the rally but the crowd on the Commons kept growing larger, more vocal and belligerent. The sheriff, riding a Guard jeep and with a Guard driver, approached the crowd to tell them to disperse when the jeep was pelted with stones, bottles and other missiles. The Guard driver was hit in the eye from broken windshield glass. It was then decided to have the Guardsmen clear the crowd. At this time the Guard had no crowd control equipment other than CS (tear) gas fired from grenade launchers. They had no batons, face or body shields, no body armor and no non-lethal projectiles. What they did have were steel helmets, gas masks (which greatly restrict vision) and M-1 rifles with fixed bayonets. Since ten Guardsmen had been injured two days earlier the men were now issued live ammunition. After firing a volley of tear gas the troops, totaling 125 men, moved out to push the crowd over “Blanket Hill” surmounted by the Student Center in hopes they would disperse in the parking lot on the other side. As the men moved forward, they came under a barrage of projectiles including chunks of concrete with steel rebar rods which had been stockpiled by protestors. Fifty Guardsmen were hit, some multiple times, as they continued to advance. The line of troops split to move on each side of the Center as the crowd fell back over the hill. Once the men on the right side of the advance crested the hill they found themselves cut off from further advance by a steel fence. As they turned to return the way they came, their tear gas ran out and some in the crowd started to approach them shouting and throwing objects. For reasons no one can fully explain someone fired a shot. Some say it came from a dorm room overlooking the crowd while others say only the Guard fired. Whichever version is right, the Guardsmen fired a ragged volley of 34 shots, hitting 13 people, four of whom were killed. In the aftermath the campus was immediately closed until the next school year. Years of court action resulted in no Guardsmen ever being convicted of a crime in the shooting. While Kent State will remain a dark day in Guard history some good did come from it. As a result of studies made after the event, Guardsmen today have the proper crowd control equipment and non-lethal devices are available. And all Army Guard personnel receive extensive training in crowd control techniques. Perhaps the best evidence of change is that in the more than 35 years since that day, despite numerous calls upon the Guard in many states to control riotous behavior, there has been no repeat of the tragedy.
1972 – The Vietcong formed revolutionary government in Quang Tri South Vietnam.
1972 – Official peace talks are suspended indefinitely citing a complete lack of progress.
1972 – USS Saratoga is ordered to Vietnam, bringing the number of carriers off that coast to six.
1977 – The US and Vietnam open the first round of negotiations in Paris on normalizing relations. The US pledges not to veto Vietnam’s entrance to the UN and to lift its trade embargo once diplomatic relations are established.
1989 – Fired White House aide Oliver North was convicted of shredding documents and two other crimes and acquitted of nine other charges stemming from the Iran-Contra affair. The 3 convictions were later overturned on appeal.
1989 – US launched Magellan to Venus.
1993 – The United States handed over control of the relief effort in Somalia to the United Nations.
1995 – An Iranian nuclear official said spent fuel from Iran’s Russian-made reactors, potential raw material for nuclear bombs, would be returned to Russia for safeguarding.
1998 – Unabomber Theodore Kaczynski was given four life sentences plus 30 years by a federal judge in Sacramento, Calif., under a plea agreement that spared him the death penalty.
1998 – The Clinton administration invoked sanctions against North Korea and Pakistan for a secret 1997 missile deal. Pakistan’s military named the acquired missile, Ghauri, after a famous Muslim warrior who slew a Hindu emperor named Prithvi, the name of a Russian made Indian missile.
1999 – Work crews struggled to restore electricity across Serbia after NATO strikes on major power grids left Belgrade and other cities in the dark.
2000 – In Puerto Rico US federal agents moved and arrested 216 protestors from the bombing range on Vieques Island.
2001 – US experts, following 3 days of inspections, said the US spy plane on China’s Hainan Island could be repaired and flown home.
2002 – Five pipe bombs were found in rural Nebraska mailboxes.
2003 – A Soyuz spacecraft safely delivered a three-man, US-Russian crew to Earth in the first landing since the Columbia space shuttle disaster.
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