This Day in U.S. Military History…… November 20

20 November
1620 – Peregrine White was the first child born to the Pilgrims in the New World. His parents, William and Susanna White, had boarded the Mayflower with their young son Resolved. Susanna gave birth to Peregrine while the Mayflower was anchored in Provincetown Harbor. William White died the first winter, Susanna White married fellow Mayflower passenger Edward Winslow. In 1636, the family, now numbering 6 – Edward and Susanna White Winslow, Resolved and Peregrine White, and the two children born to Edward and Susanna, Josias and Elizabeth Winslow – moved to the new settlement of Marshfield, north of Plymouth. Peregrine had his first military experience at age 16 and continued to serve in the militia, first as a lieutenant and then a captain. Like most of the settlers, Peregrine was a farmer. He also served his community as a representative to the General Court. Peregrine married Sarah Basset about 1648. Sarah’s parents, William and Elizabeth Bassett, had been members of the Leiden Separatist community. They arrived in Plymouth in 1621 in the Fortune. Sarah was born after their arrival in Plymouth, sometime before 1627. The Bassets had considerable land in Marshfield and Peregrine moved onto his in-laws land, buying several adjacent pieces of property as the years progressed. Peregrine and Sarah had 7 children. At age 78, Peregrine officially joined the Marshfield church. He lived until July of 1704, dying at Marshfield.
1776 – British forces land at the Palisades and then attack Fort Lee. The Continental Army starts to retreat across New Jersey.
1780 – Bloody Banastre Tarleton is defeated at the Battle of Blackstock’s in his first defeat at the hands of Americans. The battle followed in the wake of another American victory at Fishdam Ford. British General Charles Cornwallis was frustrated by the outcome at Fishdam Ford. The American victor, Brigadier General Thomas Sumter, was a constant thorn in Cornwallis’s side. He wanted Sumter caught, and he decided to send the much-feared Tarleton to accomplish this task. Fortunately, Sumter received a stroke of good luck: One of the British deserted and told Sumter what he knew about Tarleton’s plans and the size of his force. Sumter and his officers decided not to run. They would make a stand. The decision was not an easy one. Sumter had more men than Tarleton, but the British commander led a force of British regulars with a reputation for cruelty. By contrast, Sumter was leading a motley crew of militia. Nevertheless, Sumter prepared for battle. The spot chosen was a plantation owned by Captain William Blackstock. It was situated on a steep hill, with many sturdy buildings, railed fences, and wooded areas for posting riflemen. The men would be protected by a river at their back, and a ford behind the house was available if the men needed an escape route. Sumter placed his main force on the hill, while riflemen hid in plantation buildings. Militia hid in trees along the road. Tarleton arrived late on November 20. His initial attack went well at first. Americans shot their volleys too soon, and Tarleton’s men pursued the militia with bayonets. But as the Americans retreated, the British made the mistake of following them too far up the hill. They came in sight of the American riflemen, who began shooting at officers. Sumter soon noticed some British dragoons sitting on their horses, watching the fighting. Before they could join the fray, he sent Colonel Edward Lacey through the woods toward them. Lacey and his men were within roughly 50 yards of the dragoons and were able to begin taking shots before they were noticed. In the end, Tarleton was forced into retreat. As the British were leaving, Sumter made a mistake. He and a group of officers came too close and exposed themselves. The British fired, seriously wounding Sumter. Acting unfazed, Sumter rode away, still sitting erect in his saddle. He didn’t want his men to realize that he’d been wounded. He made it back to his command post, despite the fact that he couldn’t move one arm. He was eventually evacuated from the scene, leaving Colonel John Twiggs in charge. Tarleton was determined to return the next day, after his reinforcements arrived. But Twiggs fooled him. Decoy campfires were left behind as the American militia crossed the river and left. Tarleton decided that, since he had the field of battle the next day, he could tell Cornwallis that the British had won. By contrast, Americans knew that they had achieved an important feat: Bloody Tarleton, with his British regulars, had been beaten by a band of American militia.
1789 – New Jersey became the first state to ratify the Bill of Rights.
1817 – 1st Seminole War began in Florida. After the American Revolution (1776-1783), Spain regained control of Florida from Britain as part of the Treaty of Paris. When the British evacuated Florida, Spanish colonists as well as settlers from the newly formed United States came pouring in. Many of these new residents were lured by favorable Spanish terms for acquiring property, called land grants. Even Seminoles were encouraged to set up farms, because they provided a buffer between Spanish Florida and the United States. Escaped slaves also entered Florida, trying to reach a place where their U.S. masters had no authority over them. Instead of becoming more Spanish, Florida increasingly became more “American.” The British often incited Seminoles against American settlers who were migrating south into Seminole territory. These old conflicts, combined with the safe-haven Seminoles provided black slaves, caused the U.S. army to attack the tribe in the First Seminole War (1817-1818), which took place in Florida and southern Georgia. Forces under Gen. Andrew Jackson quickly defeated the Seminoles.
1864 –Nearly a week into the famous March to the Sea, the army of Union General William T. Sherman moves toward central Georgia, destroying property and routing small militia units it its path. Advanced units of the army skirmished with scattered Rebel forces at Clinton, Walnut Creek, East Macon, and Griswoldville, all in the vicinity of Macon. The march began on November 15 and ended on December 21, 1864. Sherman led 62,000 troops for 285 miles across Georgia and cut a path of destruction more than fifty miles wide. He divided his force into two columns and widened the swath of destruction. The Yankees cut away from their supply lines at Atlanta and generally lived off the land. What they did not consume, they destroyed. More than 13,000 cattle fell into Union hands, as well as 90,000 bales of cotton and numerous sawmills, foundries, cotton gins, and warehouses. Sherman’s superiors, President Lincoln and General in Chief Ulysses S. Grant, endorsed his controversial tactic. Sherman planned, in his words, to “make Georgia howl.” Sherman argued that, although it would be brutal, destroying the resources of the South could bring the war to a speedy end. Though, officially, he did not permit violence against civilians or the wanton destruction of property, there seemed to be little enforcement of that policy. The Union troops moved nearly unopposed across the region until they reached Savannah on December 21. The March to the Sea devastated Southern morale and earned Sherman the lasting hatred of many Southerners.
1856 – CDR Andrew H. Foote lands at Canton, China, with 287 Sailors and Marines to stop attacks by Chinese on U.S. military and civilians. A fort at Canton had fired upon Footes ship during the Sino-British war in 1856. He demanded an apology; the incident may have been because the US ship had been taken for a British one. Receiving none, he attacked the four Chinese forts in the region, storming the largest when its walls had been breached and attacking in the face of gunfire across a rice paddy carrying — according to legend — a parasol over his head for protection from the hot Asian sun.
1861 – A secession ordinance is filed by Kentucky’s Confederate government.
1889 – Edwin Hubble (d.1953), American astronomer, was born. He proved that there are other galaxies far from our own.
1917 – USS Kanawha, Noma and Wakiva sink German sub off France.1933 – Navy crew (LCDR Thomas G. W. Settle, USN, and MAJ Chester I. Fordney, USMC) sets a world altitude record in balloon (62,237 ft.) in flight into stratosphere.
1941 – The Japanese government offer proposals for an interim settlement with the United States. American Secretary Hull rejects the proposals, but prepares a reply which will enable negotiations to continue. This response is not sent after Dutch and British authorities express concerns over the concessions offered to the Japanese in China. The British and Dutch are seen to be acting on concerns expressed by Chiang Kai-shek’s government in China.
1943 – Operation Galvanic, under command of Vice Admiral Raymond Spruance, U.S. Army and Marines attacked Makin and Tarawa in the Central Pacific (part of the Gilbert and Ellice Islands). On the Tarawa Atoll, the 2nd Marine Division (General J. C. Smith) lands on Betio Island. Task Force 53 (Admiral Hill) provides naval support with 3 battleships and 4 cruisers and air support from 4 escort carriers. Of the 5000 American troops in the initial landing 1500 become casualties. The Japanese garrison consists of 4800 troops under the command of Admiral Shibasaki, supported by 50 artillery pieces and 7 light tanks. On Makin Atoll, the US 27th Infantry Division (General RC Smith) lands on Butaritari. Task Force 52 (Admiral Turner) provides naval support with 4 battleships and 4 cruisers and air support from 3 escort carriers. Meanwhile, the USS Independence from Task Force 50 is hit by a submarine torpedo. The Coast Guard-manned assault transport USS Leonard Wood, veteran of the landings made in the Mediterranean, participated. She landed 1,788 officers and men of the 165th Combat Team of the U.S. Army’s 27th Division, on Makin Island. Coast Guard-manned LST-20, LST-23, LST-69, LST-169, LST-205, and the USS Arthur Middleton, and the following Navy ships with partial Coast Guard crews: USSs Heywood, Bellatrix, and William P. Biddle, participated in the bloody assault of Tarawa.
1943 – American divisions continue to advance inland along the Numa-Numa trail, parallel to the Piva River.
1944 – The 1st Japanese suicide submarine attack was at Ulithi Atoll, Carolines. A Japanese Kaiten attack sinks the US naval tanker Mississinewa. The kaiten was aptly described by Theodore Cook as “not so much a ship as an insertion of a human being into a very large torpedo.” The guts of the beast was a standard Type-93 24″ torpedo, with the mid-section elongated to create the pilot’s space. He sat in a canvas chair practically on the deck of the kaiten, a crude periscope directly in front of him, and the necessary controls close to hand in the cockpit. Access to the kaiten was through hatches leading up from the sub and into the belly of the weapon. The nose assembly was packed with 3000+ pounds of high explosive; the tail section contained the propulsion unit.
1944 – To the east of Aachen, German forces resist US 19th Corps attacks near Julich. Elements of US 3rd Army continue the siege of Metz as other elements capture Dieuze to the east.
1945 – 24 Nazi leaders went on trial before an international war crimes tribunal in Nuremberg, Germany. The International Military Tribunal begins trying German war criminals at Nuremberg. Following Germany’s defeat in World War II, Winston Churchill planned to shoot top German and Nazi military leaders without a trial, but Henry Stimson, the U.S. Secretary of War, pushed President Roosevelt to consider holding an international court trial. Since the trial did not begin until after the death of President Roosevelt, President Harry S. Truman appointed Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson to head the prosecution team. The four countries pressing charges were Great Britain, the United States, Russia, and France. In his thoughtful opening remarks, Robert Jackson eloquently summarized the significance of the trial. “That four great nations, flushed with victory and stung with injury, stay the hand of vengeance and voluntarily submit their captive enemies to the judgment of law,” said Jackson, “is one of the significant tributes that power has ever paid to reason.” The trial, which lasted 78 days, attempted to hold Nazi and German military officials accountable for atrocities including the massacre of 30,000 Russians during the German invasion and the massacre of at least 50,000 people in the Warsaw Ghetto. Twenty-four defendants were tried, including Hermann Goering, the designated successor to Hitler, and Rudolf Hess, Hitler’s personal secretary. All defendants pleaded not guilty to the charges. When one of the defendants demanded that an anti-Semitic lawyer represent him, an ex-Nazi was assigned to his defense. Because of the mountains of evidence and the many languages spoken by the defendants and prosecutors, the trial was beset with logistical problems. During the proceedings, Rudolf Hess feigned amnesia to escape responsibility. Though many expected the most excitement to arise from the cross-examination of Hermann Goering, his testimony was a letdown: he was even attacked by his fellow defendants for refusing to take responsibility for anything. Twenty-one defendants were convicted: 12 were sentenced to hang, and the rest were sent to prison. One man escaped the hanging by remaining at large while Goering escaped by committing suicide first. On October 16, 1946, 10 Nazi officials were hanged.
1948 – In what begins as a fairly minor incident, the American consul and his staff in Mukden, China, are made virtual hostages by communist forces in China. The crisis did not end until a year later, by which time U.S. relations with the new communist government in China had been seriously damaged. Mukden was one of the first major trade centers in China to be occupied by Mao’s communist forces in October 1948 during the revolution against the Nationalist Chinese government. In November, American Consul Angus Ward refused to surrender the consulate’s radio transmitter to the communists. In response, armed troops surrounded the consulate, trapping Ward and 21 staff members. The Chinese cut off all communication, as well as water and electricity. For months, almost nothing was heard from Ward and the other Americans.The U.S. response to the situation was to first order the consulate closed and call for the withdrawal of Ward and his staff. However, Ward was prevented from doing so after the Chinese communists, in June 1949, charged the consulate with being a headquarters for spies. With the situation worsening, the United States tried to exert diplomatic pressure by calling upon its allies to withhold recognition of the new communist Chinese government. Chinese forces thereupon arrested Ward, charging him and some of his staff with inciting a riot outside the consulate in October 1949. President Harry Truman was incensed at this action and met with his military advisors to discuss the feasibility of military action. Secretary of State Dean Acheson bluntly and angrily informed the new People’s Republic of China that no U.S. recognition would ever be forthcoming until the Americans at Mukden were released. On November 24, 1949, Ward and his staff were allowed to leave the consulate. Ward and four other Americans had actually been found guilty of the inciting-to-riot charge and were ordered deported. Together with the other Americans, they left China in December. The Chinese actions, which are still difficult to explain or understand, no doubt damaged any possibilities that might have existed for U.S. recognition of the People’s Republic of China. Truman, already under heavy attacks at home for not “saving” the Nationalist government of Chiang Kai-shek, could ill-afford to show weakness in dealing with the Chinese communists, particularly after the arrest of Ward and the other Americans so angered the American public.
1950 – U.S. troops pushed to Yalu River within five miles of Manchuria.
1954 – Premier of France Mendes-France visits Washington. On his return to Paris he discloses the results of the Franco-American meetings: the end of French control of the economy, commerce, and finances of Vietnam; transfer of command of the national Army to the Vietnamese government; transfer of responsibility for training the Vietnamese Army to the United States; US aid to go directly to Saigon; and withdrawal of the French Expeditionary Corps.
1955 – The Maryland National Guard was ordered desegregated.
1962 – In response to the Soviet Union agreeing to remove its missiles from Cuba, U.S. President John F. Kennedy ends the quarantine of the Caribbean nation.
1969 – A group of 80 Native Americans, all college students, seized Alcatraz Island in the name of “Indians of All Tribes.” The occupation lasted 19 months. They offered $24 in beads and cloth to buy the island, demanded an American Indian Univ., museum and cultural center, and listed reasons why the island was a suitable Indian reservation.
1970 – UN General Assembly accepted membership of the People’s Republic of China.
1979 – Surprising many who believed fundamentalism was not a strong force in Saudi Arabia, Sunni Islamic dissidents seized control of the Grand Mosque at Mecca, one of the holiest sites in Islam. The (200) armed dissidents charged that the Al Saud regime had lost its legitimacy due to corruption and its closer ties to Western nations. The standoff lasted for several weeks before the Saudi military succeeded in removing the dissidents. More than 200 troops and dissidents were killed at the mosque, and subsequently over 60 dissidents were publicly beheaded.
1985 – Microsoft Windows 1.0 is released.
1990 – The space shuttle “Atlantis” landed at Cape Canaveral, Florida, after completing a secret military mission. November 20, 1990, 4:42:42 p.m. EST, Runway 33, Kennedy Space Center, FL. Rollout distance: 9,032 feet. Rollout time: 57 seconds. Mission extended one day due to unacceptable crosswinds at original planned landing site, Edwards. Continued adverse conditions led to decision to shift landing to KSC. First KSC landing for Atlantis, first end-of-mission landing at KSC since April 1985.
1990 – The Soviet Union again rebuffed President Bush’s efforts to rally support for a UN Security Council resolution authorizing military force against Iraq.
1994 – The most heavily mined country in the world was Afghanistan, with between 10 and 15 million deadly mines. In Angola, one third of the countryside was strewn with mines and the toll of nearly 25 people a day who were injured or killed by land mines has left 20,000 amputees. Cambodia’s 7 million mines amount to two for every single Cambodian child, and between 200 and 250 people became victims every month. In Somalia, the laying of mines rose to new heights of terror as civilian areas were deliberately targeted. Truck loads of mines were scattered in houses, wells, river-crossings, markets, and even cemeteries. Presently, the area being mined most heavily is the war zone of the former Yugoslavia, where 3 million mines have been laid in just a few years. The US State Dept. estimated that 25,000 people are killed or maimed each year by mines. About 1.5 to 2 million new mines go into the ground each year. There is a British Rapid Antipersonnel Minefield Breaching System (RAMBS) manufactured by Pains-Wessex Schermuly that is fired from a rifle and clears a path 60 meters long and one meter wide in less than a minute.
1997 – Iraq agreed to allow US arms inspectors back into the country after Russia agreed to help work to lift UN Security Council sanctions. Prodded by Russia, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein agreed to allow U.S. arms monitors back into his country, ending a three-week crisis that had raised fears of a military confrontation with the United States.
1998 – Iraq balked at handing over documents on chemical and biological weapons and missile systems.
1998 – A court in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan declares accused terrorist Osama bin Laden “a man without a sin” in regard to the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania.
2000 – The EU began to build its own defense force, a 60,000 man, rapid reaction corps. EU defense chiefs pledged 100,000 soldiers, 400 planes and 100 ships for a rapid-reaction force.
2001 – In Afghanistan the Northern Alliance gave the Taliban in Kunduz 3 days to give up.
2001 – The alliance controlling Afghanistan’s capital and much of its countryside agreed to attend power-sharing talks in Germany the following week.
2001 – Abu Qatada (40), a Muslim cleric living in London, was named in a Spanish indictment as a pivotal figure in the al Qaeda network in Europe.
2002 – On the eve of a NATO summit in the Czech Republic, President Bush, recalling Europe’s grim history of “excusing aggression,” challenged skeptical allies to stand firm against Saddam Hussein.
2008– NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter discovers evidence of enormous underground deposits of water ice on Mars; one such deposit, under Hellas Planitia, is estimated to be the size of Los Angeles.
2008 – Five Guantánamo Bay detainees who successfully argued Boumediene v. Bush before the Supreme Court are ordered freed by Judge Richard J. Leon of the District Court for Washington, D.C. Boumediene v. Bush, 553 U.S. 723 (2008), was a writ of habeas corpus submission made in a civilian court of the United States on behalf of Lakhdar Boumediene, a naturalized citizen of Bosnia and Herzegovina, held in military detention by the United States at the Guantanamo Bay detention camps in Cuba. Guantanamo Bay is not formally part of the United States, and under the terms of the 1903 lease between the United States and Cuba, Cuba retained ultimate sovereignty over the territory, while the United States exercises complete jurisdiction and control. The case was consolidated with habeas petition Al Odah v. United States. It challenged the legality of Boumediene’s detention at the United States Naval Station military base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba as well as the constitutionality of the Military Commissions Act of 2006. Oral arguments on the combined cases were heard by the Supreme Court on December 5, 2007. On June 12, 2008, Justice Kennedy delivered the opinion for the 5-4 majority, holding that the prisoners had a right to the habeas corpus under the United States Constitution and that the Military Commissions Act of 2006 was an unconstitutional suspension of that right. The Court applied the Insular Cases, by the fact that the United States, by virtue of its complete jurisdiction and control, maintains “de facto” sovereignty over this territory, while Cuba retained ultimate sovereignty over the territory, to hold that the aliens detained as enemy combatants on that territory were entitled to the writ of habeas corpus protected in Article I, Section 9 of the U.S. Constitution. The lower court had expressly indicated that no constitutional rights (not merely the right to habeas) extend to the Guantanamo detainees, rejecting petitioners’ arguments, but the Supreme Court held that fundamental rights afforded by the Constitution extend to the Guantanamo detainees as well.
2011 – Jose Pimentel, a 27-year-old Dominican-American, is arrested in New York City after planning to detonate pipe bombs, according to New York mayor Michael Bloomberg. The suspect is believed to have Al-Qaeda sympathies, although no wider conspiracy is suspected.
2014 – The President of the United States Barack Obama announces executive orders to defer the deportations of a certain group of illegal immigrants: parents whose children are already U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents who have lived in the United States for five years or more.

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