This Day in U.S. Military History…… May 5

5 May
1494 – During his second voyage to the Western Hemisphere, Christopher Columbus first sighted Jamaica and commented on the daily rains. Columbus landed on the island of Jamaica, which he names Santa Gloria.
1823 – James Allen Hardie (d.1876), Bvt Major General (Union Army), was born.
1861 – CSA troops abandon Alexandria, VA.
1862 – President Lincoln, with Secretaries Stanton and Chase on board, proceeded to Hampton Roads on steamer Miami to personally direct the stalled Peninsular Campaign. The following day, Lincoln informed Flag Officer L. M. Goldsborough: “I shall be found either at General Wool’s [Fort Monroe] or on board the Miami.” The President directed gunboat operations in the James River and the bombardment of Sewell’s Point by the blockading squadron in the five days he acted as Commander-in-Chief in the field.
1862 – Battle of Williamsburg commenced as part of the Peninsular Campaign. Confederate Captain Charles Bruce kept his father apprised of conditions during the crucial Peninsula campaign.
1863 – Hooker begins to retreat from the Battle of Chancellorsville
1864 – Atlanta Campaign: 5 days fighting began at Rocky Face Ridge.
1864 – While Rear Admiral Porter’s fleet awaited the opportunity to pass over the Red River rapids, the ships below Alexandria were incessantly attacked by Confederate forces. This date, wooden steamers U.S.S. Covington, Acting Lieutenant George P. Lord, U.S.S. Signal, Acting Lieutenant Edward Morgan, and transport Warner were lost in a fierce engagement on the Red River near Dunn’s Bayou, Louisiana. On 4 May, Covington and Warner had been briefly attacked by infantry, and the next morning the Confederates reappeared with two pieces of artillery and a large company of riflemen. Warner, in the lead, soon went out of control, blocked the river at a bend near Pierce’s Landing, and despite the efforts of Lord and Morgan was forced to surrender. Signal also became disabled and although Covington attempted to tow her upstream, she went adrift out of control and came to anchor. The gunboats continued the hot engagement, but Lord finally burned and abandoned Covington after his ammunition was exhausted and many of the crew were killed. After continuing to sustain the Confederate cannonade alone, the crippled Signal was finally compelled to strike the colors. The Southerners then sank Signal as a channel obstruction.
1864 – The forces of Union General Ulysses S. Grant and Confederate General Robert E. Lee clash in the Wilderness, beginning an epic campaign. Lee had hoped to meet the Federals, who plunged into the tangled Wilderness west of Chancellorsville, Virginia, the day before, in the dense woods in order to mitigate the nearly two-to-one advantage Grant possessed as the campaign opened. The conflict quickly spread along a two-mile front, as numerous attacks from both sides sent the lines surging back and forth. The fighting was intense and complicated by the fact that the combatants rarely saw each other through the thick undergrowth. Whole brigades were lost in the woods. Muzzle flashes set the forest on fire, and hundreds of wounded men died in the inferno. The battle may have been particularly unsettling for the Union troops, who came across skeletons of Yankee soldiers killed the year before at the Battle of Chancellorsville, their shallow graves opened by spring rains. By nightfall, the Union was still in control of the major crossroads in the Wilderness. The next two days brought more pitched battles without a clear victory for either side. Grant eventually pulled out and moved further south toward Richmond, and for the next six weeks the two great armies maneuvered around the Confederate capital.
1864 – By this point in the US Civil War, the most of the uniformed volunteers (forerunners of today’s National Guard) who had rushed to the colors at the start of the war were either dead, were so badly wounded and/or sick as to be sent home or had deserted. However both sides, especially in the southern armies, did still have many of early war Guard units in their establishment. The Confederates rarely disbanded units; they just plugged in available new replacements into the old units. This helped to maintain a ‘local’ connection (and its esprit) to a city or county carried over from the original members. The Union adopted a different system entirely. When the numbers of a unit fell low enough, its remaining men were transferred to another unit from the same state and the old designation ceased to exist. Few individual replacements were assigned to existing units. Instead new men were placed in newly organized regiments. Several states, such as New York and Pennsylvania, had infantry regimental numbers as high as 194th (NY) and 215th (PA). Both states started the war with a “1st Volunteer Infantry” so it can be seen they suffered horrible losses during the war.
1864 – C.S.S. Albemarle, Commander Cooke, with Bombshell, Lieutenant Albert G. Hudgins, and Cotton Plant in company, steamed into Albemarle Sound and engaged Union naval forces in fierce action off the mouth of the Roanoke River. Bombshell was captured early in the action after coming under severe fire from U.S.S. Sassacus, and Cotton Plant withdrew up the Roanoke. Albemarle resolutely continued the action. Sassacus, Lieutenant Commander Roe, gallantly rammed the heavy ironclad but with little effect. Sassacus received a direct hit in her starboard boiler, killing several sailors and forcing her out of action Side-wheelers U.S.S. Mattabesett, Captain M. Smith, and U.S.S. Wyalusing, Lieutenant Commander Walter W. Queen, continued to engage the Southern ram until darkness halted the action after nearly three hours of intensive fighting. As Assistant Surgeon Samuel P. Boyer, on board Mattabesett, wrote: “Shot and shell came fast like hail.” Albemarle withdrew up the Roanoke River and small side-wheelers U.S.S. Commodore Hull and Ceres steamed to the river’s mouth on picket duty to guard against her reentry into the sound. The ironclad had returned to her river haven, but she had given new evidence that she was a mighty force to be reckoned with. Captain Smith reported: “The ram is certainly very formidable. He is fast for that class of vessel, making from 6 to 7 knots, turns quickly, and is armed with heavy guns. . . .” And Lieutenant Commander Roe noted: “. . . I am forced to think that the Albemarle is more formidable than the Merrimack or Atlanta, for our solid l00– pounder rifle shot flew into splinters upon her iron plates.” Albemarle’s commander was more critical of her performance. Three days later he wrote Secretary Mallory that the ram “draws too much water to navigate the sounds well, and has not sufficient bouyancy. In consequence she is very slow and not easily managed. Her decks are so near the water as to render it an easy task for the enemy’s vessels to run on her, and any great weight soon submerges the deck.” For the next five months Union efforts in the area focused on Albemarle’s destruction.
1865 – The Thirteenth Amendment was ratified, abolishing slavery, except for “duly convicted” prisoners.
1866 – Villagers in Waterloo, NY, held their 1st Memorial Day service. In 1966 Pres. Johnson gave Waterloo, NY, the distinction of holding the 1st Memorial Day. On Apr 13, 1862, volunteers led by Sarah J. Evans had paid homage to the graves of Civil War soldiers in the Washington area.
1877 – Nearly a year after the Battle of the Little Big Horn, Sitting Bull and a band of followers cross into Canada hoping to find safe haven from the U.S. Army. On June 25, 1876, Sitting Bull’s warriors had joined with other Indians in the Battle of the Little Big Horn in Montana, which resulted in the massacre of George Custer and five troops of the 7th Cavalry. Worried that their great victory would provoke a massive retaliation by the U.S. military, the Indians scattered into smaller bands. During the following year, the U.S. Army tracked down and attacked several of these groups, forcing them to surrender and move to reservations. Sitting Bull and his followers, however, managed to avoid a decisive confrontation with the U.S. Army. They spent the summer and winter after Little Big Horn hunting buffalo in Montana and fighting small skirmishes with soldiers. In the fall of 1876, Colonel Nelson A. Miles met with Sitting Bull at a neutral location and tried to talk him into surrendering and relocating to a reservation. Although anxious for peace, Sitting Bull refused. As the victor of the Battle of the Little Big Horn, Sitting Bull felt he should be dictating terms to Miles, not the other way around. Angered by what he saw as Sitting Bull’s foolish obstinacy, Miles stepped up his campaign of harassment against the chief and his people. Sitting Bull’s band continued to roam about Montana in search of increasingly scarce buffalo, but the constant travel, lack of food, and military pressure began to take a toll. On this day in 1877, Sitting Bull abandoned his traditional homeland in Montana and led his people north across the border into Canada. Sitting Bull and his band stayed in the Grandmother’s Country-so called in honor of the British Queen Victoria-for the next four years. The first year was idyllic. The band found plenty of buffalo and Sitting Bull could rest and play with his children in peace. The younger warriors, though, soon tired of the quiet life. The braves made trouble with neighboring tribes, attracting the displeasure of the Canadian Mounties. While the Canadian leaders were more reasonable and sensitive about Indian affairs than their aggressive counterparts to the south, they became increasingly nervous and pressured Sitting Bull to return to the U.S. Ultimately, though, Sitting Bull’s attempt to remain independent was undermined by the disappearance of the buffalo, which were being wiped out by Indians, settlers, and hide hunters. Without meat, Sitting Bull gave up his dream of independence and asked the Canadian government for rations. Meanwhile, emissaries from the U.S. came to his camp and promised Sitting Bull’s followers they would be rich and happy if they joined the American reservations. The temptation was too great, and many stole away at night and headed south. By early 1881, Sitting Bull was the chief of only a small band of mostly older and sick people. Finally, Sitting Bull relented. On July 10, 1881, more than five years after the fateful battle at the Little Big Horn, the great chief led 187 Indians from their Canadian refuge to the United States. After a period of confinement, Sitting Bull was assigned to the Standing Rock reservation in South Dakota in 1883. Seven years later he was dead, killed by Indian police when he resisted their attempt to arrest him for his supposed participation in the Ghost Dance uprising.
1886 – The Bay View Tragedy, militia forces fire into a crowd of protesters in Milwaukee, killing seven. The Bay View Massacre (sometimes also referred to as the Bay View Tragedy) was the culmination of events that began on Saturday May 1 when 7,000 building-trades workers joined with 5,000 Polish laborers who had organized at St. Stanislaus Catholic Church in Milwaukee, Wisconsin to strike against their employers, demanding an eight-hour work day. By Monday, these numbers had increased to over 14,000 workers that gathered at the Milwaukee Iron Company rolling mill in Bay View. They were met by 250 National Guardsmen under order from Republican Governor Jeremiah M. Rusk to “shoot to kill” any strikers who attempted to enter. Workers camped in the nearby fields and the Kosciuszko Militia arrived by May 4. Early the next day the crowd, which by this time contained children, approached the mill and were fired upon. Seven people died as a result, including a thirteen-year-old boy. Several more were injured during the protest.
1908 – Great White Fleet arrived in SF.
1912 – The Soviet Communist Party newspaper Pravda began publishing. Iosif Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili took the name Stalin, meaning “man of steel,” about the time he helped found the Russian Communist newspaper Pravda. Stalin specialized in writing about national minorities in Russia and went on to become editor of Pravda.
1916 – U.S. marines invaded the Dominican Republic. The occupation began gradually. The first landing took place on May 5, 1916 when “two companies of marines landed from the U.S.S. Prairie at Santo Domingo.” Their goal was to offer protection to the U.S. Legation and the U.S. Consulate, and to occupy the Fort San Geronimo. Within hours, these companies were reinforced with “seven additional companies.” On May 6, forces from the U.S.S. Castine landed to offer protection to the Haitian Legation, a country under similar military occupation from the U.S. Two days after the first landing, constitutional President, Juan Isidro Jimenes resigned.
1920 – US Pres. Wilson made the Communist Labor Party illegal. The party moved to the underground in response to mass arrests and deportations conducted by the US Justice Department and its Bureau of Investigation, guided by Special Assistant to the Attorney General J. Edgar Hoover. These raids and the move to the underground virtually destroyed the organization, which only existed in skeletal form in the first half of 1920, although publication of its legal newspaper, The Toiler, was maintained. The CLP also published an “illegal” underground monthly paper called Communist Labor Party News and issued the final issue of Ludwig Lore’s theoretical magazine, The Class Struggle under its auspices.
1920 – Anarchists Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti were arrested for murder.
1942 – Sales of sugar resumed in the United States under a rationing program.
1942 – Japanese forces enter China, via the Burma Road. General Stillwell, in command of the Chinese troops decides after intelligence on the true Japanese positions to withdraw his troops towards India, not China.
1942 – Japanese troops land on Corregidor. Fierce fighting by the remaining American troops under General Wainwright results, but the Japanese maintain a beach head.
1942 – Japanese Admiral Takagi’s carriers enter the Coral Sea. American Admiral Fletcher’s TF17 is there refueling, but the Japanese do not find it.
1942 – Imperial Headquarters orders the Japanese Navy to prepare for the invasion of Midway Island.
1944 – Hospital ship, USS Comfort is commissioned in San Pedro, CA; first ship to be manned jointly by Army and Navy personnel.
1945 – Ezra Pound, poet and author, was arrested by American Army soldiers in Italy for treason. He had served during the war as a profascist and anti-Semitic spokesman for the Mussolini government.
1945 – In Lakeview, Oregon, Mrs. Elsie Mitchell and five neighborhood children are killed while attempting to drag a Japanese balloon out the woods. Unbeknownst to Mitchell and the children, the balloon was armed, and it exploded soon after they began tampering with it. They were the first and only known American civilians to be killed in the continental United States during World War II. The U.S. government eventually gave $5,000 in compensation to Mitchell’s husband, and $3,000 each to the families of Edward Engen, Sherman Shoemaker, Jay Gifford, and Richard and Ethel Patzke, the five slain children. The explosive balloon found at Lakeview was a product of one of only a handful of Japanese attacks against the continental United States, which were conducted early in the war by Japanese submarines and later by high-altitude balloons carrying explosives or incendiaries. In comparison, three years earlier, on April 18, 1942, the first squadron of U.S. bombers dropped bombs on the Japanese cities of Tokyo, Kobe, and Nagoyo, surprising the Japanese military command, who believed their home islands to be out of reach of Allied air attacks. When the war ended on August 14, 1945, some 160,000 tons of conventional explosives and two atomic bombs had been dropped on Japan by the United States. Approximately 500,000 Japanese civilians were killed as a result of these bombing attacks.
1945 – On Okinawa, Japanese counterattacks continue with minor successes.
1945 – The War Department announces that about 400,000 troops will remain in Germany to form the US occupation force and 2,000,000 men will be discharged from the armed services, leaving 6,000,000 soldiers serving in the war against Japan.
1945 – German Army Group G surrenders to US forces after negotiations are concluded at Haar in Bavaria. In Denmark, fighting breaks out in Copenhagen but is brought to an end when British units arrive by air in the evening.
1948 – VF-17A becomes first carrier qualified jet squadron (USS Saipan).
1950 – Congress approved the Uniform Code of Military Justice for the “government of the armed forces of the United States.”
1953 – The battleship USS New Jersey, the cruiser USS Bremerton, and the destroyers USS Twining and Colohan destroyed troop shelters, caves, concrete ammunition bunkers and an observation post.
1955 – The US detonated a 29-kiloton nuclear device in Nevada. “Apple 2” was the 2nd of 40 tests of Operation Cue, meant to study the effects of a nuclear explosion on a typical American community.
1955 – The Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) becomes a sovereign state when the United States, France, and Great Britain end their military occupation, which had begun in 1945. With this action, West Germany was given the right to rearm and become a full-fledged member of the western alliance against the Soviet Union. In 1945, the United States, Great Britain, and France had assumed the occupation of the western portion of Germany (as well as the western half of Berlin, situated in eastern Germany). The Soviet Union occupied eastern Germany, as well as the eastern half of Berlin. As Cold War animosities began to harden between the western powers and Russia, it became increasingly obvious that Germany would not be reunified. By the late-1940s, the United States acted to formalize the split and establish western Germany as an independent republic, and in May 1949, the Federal Republic of Germany was formally announced. In 1954, West Germany joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the mutual defense alliance between the United States and several European nations. All that remained was for the Americans, British, and French to end their nearly 10-year occupation. This was accomplished on May 5, 1955, when those nations issued a proclamation declaring an end to the military occupation of West Germany. Under the terms of an agreement reached earlier, West Germany would now be allowed to establish a military force of up to a half-million men and resume the manufacture of arms, though it was forbidden from producing any chemical or atomic weapons. The end of the Allied occupation of West Germany meant a full recognition of the republic as a member of the western alliance against the Soviet Union. While the Russians were less than thrilled by the prospect of a rearmed West Germany, they were nonetheless pleased that German reunification had officially become a dead issue. Shortly after the May 5 proclamation was issued, the Soviet Union formally recognized the Federal Republic of Germany. The two Germany’s remained separated until 1990, when they were formally reunited and once again became a single democratic country.
1961 – From Cape Canaveral, Florida, Navy Commander Alan Bartlett Shepard Jr. is launched into space aboard the Freedom 7 space capsule, becoming the first American astronaut to travel into space. The suborbital flight, which lasted 15 minutes and reached a height of 116 miles into the atmosphere, was a major triumph for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). NASA was established in 1958 to keep U.S. space efforts abreast of recent Soviet achievements, such as the launching of the world’s first artificial satellite–Sputnik 1–in 1957. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, the two superpowers raced to become the first country to put a man in space and return him to Earth. On April 12, 1961, the Soviet space program won the race when cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin was launched into space, put in orbit around the planet, and safely returned to Earth. One month later, Shepard’s suborbital flight restored faith in the U.S. space program. NASA continued to trail the Soviets closely until the late 1960s and the successes of the Apollo lunar program. In July 1969, the Americans took a giant leap forward with Apollo 11, a three-stage spacecraft that took U.S. astronauts to the surface of the moon and returned them to Earth. On February 5, 1971, Alan Shepard, the first American in space, became the fifth astronaut to walk on the moon as part of the Apollo 14 lunar landing mission.
1964 – The US announces that it is freezing all assets of North Vietnam and baring any further financial and commercial transactions between the two countries.
1964 – A USAF transport plane crashes at Tan Hiep killing 10 servicemen.
1968 – The second large scale Communist offensive of the year begins with the simulteaneous shelling of 119 cities and towns in the South. Heavy action continues for a week and Saigon is the intended target.
1968 – U.S. Air Force planes hit Nhi Ha, South Vietnam in support of attacking infantrymen.
1970 – In Cambodia, a U.S. force captures Snoul, 20 miles from the tip of the “Fishhook” area (across the border from South Vietnam, 70 miles from Saigon). A squadron of nearly 100 tanks from the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment and jet planes virtually leveled the village that had been held by the North Vietnamese. No dead North Vietnamese soldiers were found, only the bodies of four Cambodian civilians. This action was part of the Cambodian “incursion” that had been launched by U.S. and South Vietnamese forces on April 29. In Washington, President Nixon met with congressional committees at the White House and gave the legislators a “firm commitment” that U.S. troops would be withdrawn from Cambodia in three to seven weeks. Nixon also pledged that he would not order U.S. troops to penetrate deeper than 21 miles into Cambodia without first seeking congressional approval. The last U.S. troops left Cambodia on June 30.
1971 – There was a race riot in Brownsville section of Brooklyn, NYC.
1972 – South Vietnamese troops from the 21st Division, trying to reach beleaguered An Loc in Binh Long Province via Highway 13, are again pushed back by the communists, who had overrun a supporting South Vietnamese firebase. The South Vietnamese division had been trying to break through to An Loc since mid-April, when the unit had been moved from its normal area of operations in the Mekong Delta and ordered to attack in order to relieve the surrounded city. The South Vietnamese soldiers fought desperately to reach the city, but suffered so many casualties in the process that another unit had to be sent to actually relieve the besieged city, which was accomplished on June 18. This action was part of the southernmost thrust of the three-pronged Nguyen Hue Offensive (later known as the “Easter Offensive”), a massive invasion launched by North Vietnamese forces on March 30 to strike the blow that would win them the war. The attacking force included 14 infantry divisions and 26 separate regiments, with more than 120,000 troops and approximately 1,200 tanks and other armored vehicles. The main North Vietnamese objectives, in addition to An Loc in the south, were Quang Tri in the north and Kontum in the Central Highlands. Initially, the South Vietnamese defenders in each case were almost overwhelmed, particularly in the northernmost provinces, where government forces abandoned their positions in Quang Tri and fled south in the face of the enemy onslaught. In Binh Long Province, the North Vietnamese forces had crossed into South Vietnam from Cambodia on April 5 to strike first at Loc Ninh. After taking Loc Ninh, the North Vietnamese forces then quickly encircled An Loc, the capital of Binh Long Province, which was only 65 miles from Saigon. The North Vietnamese held An Loc under siege for almost three months while they made repeated attempts to take the city. The defenders suffered heavy casualties, including 2,300 dead or missing, but with the aid of U.S. advisers and American airpower, they managed to hold An Loc against vastly superior odds until the siege was lifted on June 18. Fighting continued all over South Vietnam into the summer months, but eventually the South Vietnamese forces prevailed against the invaders and they retook Quang Tri in September. With the communist invasion blunted, President Nixon declared that the South Vietnamese victory proved the viability of his Vietnamization program, which he had instituted in 1969 to increase the combat capability of the South Vietnamese armed forces.
1979 – Voyager 1 passed Jupiter.
1983 – In Beirut, Lebanon, a UH-1N helicopter carrying the commander of the American peace-keeping force, Colonel James Mead, was hit by machine gun fire. The six Marines aboard escaped injury. Colonel Mead and his crew had taken off in the helicopter to investigate artillery and rocket duels between rival Syrian-backed Druze Moslem militiamen and Christian Phalangists that endangered French members of the multinational force.
1987 – The televised congressional Iran-Contra hearings opened with former Air Force Maj. General Richard V. Secord as the lead-off witness.
1993 – Phase II, dubbed Operation Continue Hope, of the US intervention in Somalia begins, now under UN auspices.
1995 – As rescue workers ended their search for bodies in the Oklahoma City bombing.
1999 – Pres. Clinton visited US troops in Germany and conferred with senior NATO commanders. Clinton’s morale-boosting trip to Europe included a visit to Ramstein Air Base in Germany, where he met the three American soldiers just released by Yugoslavia.
1999 – The first 453 Kosovar refugees from camps in Macedonia arrived at the 31,000-acre Fort Dix, New Jersey. A total of up to 20,000 refugees were expected in operation Task Force Open Arms.
1999 – Two US crew members were killed when an Apache helicopter crashed in Albania during training. Chief Warrant Officer David A. Gibbs (38), of Massillon, Ohio, and Chief Warrant Officer Kevin L. Reichert (28), of Chetek, Wis., crashed in a mountainous region 50 miles from Task Force Hawk base.
1999 – NATO strategists were reported to have a plan to send 60,000 ground troops into Kosovo around July to take the province from retreating Serbs. Their original plan called for 28,000 soldiers to supervise an interim peace settlement.
2004 – Coalition forces raided buildings used by a militia loyal to a radical Shiite cleric in two southern cities and clashed with militiamen elsewhere in fighting that killed 15 Iraqis.
2004 – Nicaragua said its army had destroyed 333 surface-to-air missiles at the urging of the US and that the military planned to destroy another 333 SAM-7s in late July. More than 2,000 Russian-made SAM-7s, shoulder-fired missiles capable of taking down a plane, were left over from the 1980s Contra war.
2004 – The Coast Guard presented the Purple Heart to BM3 Joseph Ruggiero in Miami for injuries sustained in action against the enemy while defending the Khawr Al Amaya Oil Terminal in Iraq on 24 April 2004. Ruggiero’s shipmate, DC3 Nathan Bruckenthal, was killed in this same bombing and was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart. They were the first Coast Guard recipients of the Purple Heart since the Vietnam War.
2005 – An explosion outside the United Kingdom consulate in New York City occurs at 07:35 GMT. There were no injuries.
2006 – Porter Goss resigns as director of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).
2011 – Members of the multi-state coalition conducting the military campaign in Libya hold talks in Rome, Italy, and agree to set up a new fund to aid Libyan rebels, with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton promising to use frozen assets of Muammar Gaddafi’s regime.
2014 – Veterans groups call for Shinseki’s resignation. American Legion National Commander Daniel Dillinger says the deaths reported by CNN appear to be part of a “pattern of scandals that has infected the entire system.”

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