1741 – The Augusta County Regiment was organized on this date. Men from this regiment would fight under Lieutenant Colonel George Washington during the French and Indian War (1755-1763); again under Washington during the Revolutionary War (1775-1783); and under General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson during the Civil War, where the regiment earned the nickname “Stonewall Brigade” it still carries today. Its descendant unit, the 116th Infantry, became part of the 29th Infantry Division in 1917 and saw heavy fighting with it in both world wars, including leading the assault wave on Omaha Beach on D-Day. In the War on Terror different battalions of the 116th Infantry, still part of the 29th Division, have served on missions ranging from guarding the perimeter (but not the prisoners) of Guantanamo Bay in Cuba to teaching soldier skills and combat tactics to the members of the newly organized Afghan army.
1783 – Washington ordered the Continental Army disbanded from its cantonment at New Windsor, NY, where it had remained since defeating Cornwallis in 1781. In a farewell message printed in the Philadelphia papers he thanked the officers and men for their assistance and reminded them that “the singular interpositions of Providence in our feeble condition were such, as could scarcely escape the attention of the most unobserving; while the unparalleled perseverance of the Armies of the United States, through almost every possible suffering and discouragement for the space of eight long years, was little short of a standing miracle.” A small residual force remained at West Point and some frontier outposts until Congress created the United States Army by their resolution of June 3, 1784.
1793 – Stephen Fuller Austin was born. Often referred to as the Father of Texas, for the hundreds of families he brought into this state due to the relatively poor economic conditions in the United States at the time, Stephen F. Austin was very successful in recruiting families to move to Texas. On the death (1821) of his father, Moses Austin, he took over a grant to bring U.S. settlers into Spanish Texas. Under the terms of a special act in 1824 and additional contracts in 1825, 1827, and 1828–all granted by the newly independent Mexican government–the colonizer was responsible for the settlement of more than 1,200 American families in Mexican Texas. In 1835, following a period of imprisonment in Mexico City, Austin urged Texans to join federalists in Mexico in revolt against the centralist dictatorship of Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna. During the Texas Revolution (1835-36), Austin briefly commanded Texas volunteers and then went to the United States to gain support for the Texan cause. He served as secretary of state of the republic.
1794 – Thomas Paine was released from a Parisian jail with help from American ambassador James Monroe. He was arrested for having offended the Robespierre faction.
1796 – John Adams was elected president. Adams’s ascension to the presidency was neither automatic nor unanimous. Before achieving that high office, had to emerge victorious from America’s first contested presidential election. Eight years earlier, in September 1787, the delegates to the Constitutional Convention had considered numerous plans for choosing a president. They had rejected direct election by qualified voters because, as Roger Sherman of Connecticut remarked, a scattered population could never “be informed of the characters of the leading candidates.” The delegates also ruled out election by Congress. Such a procedure, Gouverneur Morris stated, would inevitably be “the work of intrigue, cabal and of faction.” Finally, the convention agreed to an electoral college scheme, whereby “Each state shall appoint in such manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress.” Presidential selection, therefore, would be decided through a state-by-state, rather than a national, referendum. Each elector chosen by the voters or the legislature of his state would cast votes for two candidates, one of whom had to come from outside his state. The electors’ ballots would be opened in the presence of both houses of Congress. If no one received a majority of the votes, or if two or more individuals tied with a majority of the electoral college votes, the members of the House of Representatives would cast ballots to elect the president.* Once the president had been decided upon, the candidate from among those remaining who had received the second largest number of electoral votes became the vice president. The framers of the Constitution believed that most electors would judiciously cast their two ballots for persons of “real merit,” as Morris put it. Alexander Hamilton argued in Federalist 68–one of a series of essays penned by Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay to encourage ratification of the Constitution in New York State–that it was a “moral certainty” that the electoral college scheme would result in the election of the most qualified man. Someone skilled in the art of intrigue might win a high state office, he wrote, but only a man nationally known for his “ability and virtue” could gain the support of electors from throughout the United States. Indeed, the “electoral college” plan worked well during the first two presidential elections in 1788 and 1792, when every elector had cast one of his ballots for Washington. But by 1796, something unforeseen by the delegates to the Constitutional Convention had occurred; men of different points of view had begun to form themselves into political parties.
1813 – American troops destroy the Indian village of Tallushatchee in the Mississippi Valley. US troops under Gen Coffee destroyed an Indian village at Talladega, Ala. The Creeks having assembled at the town of Tallasehatche, thirteen miles from the camp, the commander-in-chief despatched Coffee, now promoted to the rank of brigadier-general, with one thousand men, with one-half of whom he was directed to attack the enemy, and with the other half to scour the country near the Ten Islands, for the purpose of covering his operations. Richard Brown, with a company of Creeks and Cherokees, wearing on their heads distinguishing badges of white feathers and deer’s tails, accompanied the expedition. Fording the Coosa at the Fish Dam, four miles above the islands, Coffee advanced to Tallasehatche, surrounded it at the rising of the sun, and was fiercely met by the savages with whoops and the sounding of drums–the prophets being in advance. Attacking the decoy companies they were soon surrounded by the troops, who charged them with great slaughter. After a short but terrible action, eighty-four women and children were made prisoners, while the bodies of one hundred and eighty-six warriors were counted upon the field, where some women also perished.
1816 – Jubal Anderson Early (d.1891), Lt. General (Confederate Army), was born. Confederate General Jubal Early is born in Franklin City, Virginia. Early had a distinguished career in the Confederate army, and in 1864 he waged a campaign in the Shenandoah Valley that kept Confederate hopes alive by relieving the pressure on General Robert E. Lee’s army around Richmond. Early graduated from West Point in 1837, eleventh in his class of 50. He fought in Florida’s Seminole War in 1838 and was promoted to first lieutenant but resigned later that year. He studied in Virginia and was elected to the State House of Delegates in 1841. When war with Mexico broke out in 1846, Early rejoined the military as a colonel in the Virginia volunteers. He served in General Zachary Taylor’s army but saw no combat. Early left the service in 1848 to resume his political career. In 1861, he was elected to the commonwealth’s secession convention as a pro-Union delegate, and he strongly opposed secession. Despite his opposition, Early offered his service to the Confederacy when Virginia left the Union on April 17. Commissioned as a colonel in the 24th Virginia Infantry, Early played a key role at the First Battle of Bull Run in July 1861, when he led a crucial counterattack against the Union’s right flank. He was promoted to brigadier general and he soon earned a reputation as a highly effective commander. In 1863, his force played important roles in the Battles of Chancellorsville and Gettysburg. By 1864, he was considered one of the best division commanders in the Army of Northern Virginia. In the spring campaigns of 1864, Early took over command of a corps when Richard Ewell was wounded, and he earned high marks from his commander, General Robert E. Lee. When that campaign turned into a siege at Petersburg, Lee tapped Early to lead a force of 14,000 to the Shenandoah Valley. Early’s campaign that summer was initially successful. He drove a Union force from the valley, then turned down the Potomac River to Washington. In early July, he reached the outskirts of the capital, and the Union commander, General Ulysses S. Grant, had to divert two corps from his army at Petersburg to defend Washington. Early did not intend to attack the formidable defenses there, so he withdrew back to the Shenandoah by the end of July. Early’s activities boosted Southern morale and showed Northerners how difficult it would be to defeat the Confederacy. Grant dispatched General Philip Sheridan and 40,000 troops to neutralize Early’s army. Sheridan dealt two serious defeats to Early in September at Winchester and Fischer’s Hill, but Early struck back at Cedar Creek in October. Early’s men drove the surprised Federals back several miles before Sheridan personally rallied them and routed the Confederates. Early waged a fine campaign, but by the end of October his force was defeated and badly outnumbered. When Sheridan took control of the Shenandoah Valley, an important Confederate resource was lost. Early was relieved of command just before the Confederate surrender, an unfortunate blemish on an otherwise fine career. He fled to Mexico after the war. After a stint in Canada, he returned to the United States in 1867 under a general amnesty granted to former Confederates. After the war he practiced law, ran the Louisiana state lottery, and founded the Southern Historical Society. Early was a major architect of the myth of the “Lost Cause,” and much of his work aimed to protect the reputation of Robert E. Lee. Jubal Early died in 1894, and his death silenced one of the most important voices of Southern history.
1853 – USS Constitution seizes suspected slaver H. N. Gambrill.
1862 – There was a battle between gunboats at Bayou Teche, Louisiana.
1868 – Republican Ulysses S. Grant was elected 18th president. He won the election over Democrat Horatio Seymour. He used the 1867 typewriter phrase “Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of the party” for his campaign. In 1868 the Republican nomination of General Ulysses S. Grant was a foregone conclusion. Stung by a string of defeats in northern state elections in 1867, amid charges of Republicans’ corruption and too cozy regard for black rights, the Republicans turned to the hero of Appomattox and ran on his record of Union victory and personal honesty and modesty. Republicans largely conducted a campaign of image over ideas. They appealed to voters tired of posturing politicians and eager to bring order to the South and good government to the nation by trading on Grant’s war record, Lincoln’s memory, and the promise of efficient and responsible government. Republican platform calls for equal suffrage, justice to blacks, and support for immigration got short shrift as Republicans discovered they could get more votes tarring Democrats as disloyal and despicable and echoing Grant’s plea, “Let us have peace.” Grant won the electoral vote handily, but did less well in the popular vote. Indeed, without black votes in key states, the Republicans would have lost. That fact moved Republicans heretofore reluctant to enfranchise blacks nationally to endorse a 15th Amendment to do just that.
1883 – U.S. Supreme Court declared American Indians to be “dependent aliens.”
1896 – Republican William McKinley was elected 25th president. He defeated Democrat William Jennings Bryan for the presidency. McKinley and Garret Hobart supported the gold standard while The Democrats supported the free coinage of silver. Marcus Hanna, an Ohio industrialist, led the fund-raising for McKinley and personally underwrote the cost of winning this 1st modern presidential campaign. In 1929 Thomas Beer authored a biography of Hanna.
1903 – With the support of the U.S. government, Panama issues a declaration of independence from Colombia. The revolution was engineered by a Panamanian faction backed by the Panama Canal Company, a French-U.S. corporation that hoped to connect the Atlantic and Pacific oceans with a waterway across the Isthmus of Panama. In 1903, the Hay-Herrýn Treaty was signed with Colombia, granting the United States use of the Isthmus of Panama in exchange for financial compensation. The U.S. Senate ratified the treaty, but the Colombian Senate, fearing a loss of sovereignty, refused. In response, President Theodore Roosevelt gave tacit approval to a rebellion by Panamanian nationalists, which began on November 3, 1903. To aid the rebels, the U.S.-administered railroad in Panama removed its trains from the northern terminus of Colon, thus stranding Colombian troops sent to crush the insurrection. Other Colombian forces were discouraged from marching on Panama by the arrival of the U.S. warship Nashville. On November 6, the United States recognized the Republic of Panama, and on November 18 the Hay-Bunau-Varilla Treaty was signed with Panama, granting the United States exclusive and permanent possession of the Panama Canal Zone. In exchange, Panama received $10 million and an annuity of $250,000 beginning nine years later. The treaty was negotiated by U.S. Secretary of State John Hay and the owner of the Panama Canal Company. Almost immediately, the treaty was condemned by many Panamanians as an infringement on their country’s new national sovereignty. On August 15, 1914, the Panama Canal was inaugurated with the passage of the U.S. vessel Ancon, a cargo and passenger ship. After decades of protest and negotiations, the Panama Canal passed to Panamanian control in December 1999.
1908 – Republican William Howard Taft was elected the 27th president, outpolling William Jennings Bryan. Long before the Republican convention met, Theodore Roosevelt had announced his intention to not seek a third term. He preferred to be succeeded by his secretary of war, William Howard Taft. TR perceived a certain docility in Taft that might induce him to pursue the former’s progressive reforms. Taft easily won his party’s nomination, but felt slighted when a convention demonstration for Roosevelt was much longer and louder than a later one for himself. The Democrats in 1908 had not forgotten the thumping they received four years previously when they ran a conservative candidate. They resorted to an earlier recipe for failure and nominated William Jennings Bryan for the third time. The campaign revolved around Roosevelt’s record. The reform Republicans boasted of TR’s reform achievements, while the more conservative party members simply kept quiet; for them, anyone was better than Bryan. The Democrats had a hard time portraying themselves as the progressive party. Bryan did the best he could and argued that he was a more logical successor to Roosevelt than Taft. Bryan committed a major blunder during the campaign by calling for government ownership of the railroads. Such a move was regarded as socialism even by those with strong progressive leanings and made Bryan look like a wild-eyed radical. Taft won a convincing victory. Bryan’s support was confined to the Solid South, plus Nebraska, Colorado and Nevada. The Socialists improved their popular vote tally slightly over 1904, while the Prohibition Party remained at almost the same level. The Populists, in their final appearance on the national stage, polled fewer than 30,000 votes; most of their supporters had deserted the cause in favor of Bryan.
1917 – Germans drew first blood from the American Expeditionary Force in the French sector on a Saturday morning. The 1st Division had nearly completed its training with the French, and final training exercises were to take place as one infantry and one artillery battalion from each American regiment went into line with a French regiment for a ten-day period. A raid by a German patrol hit the American sector at Artois on the first morning of their tour and killed three Americans and captured sixteen. After daylight, Capt. George Marshall visited the unit and determined that it had shown a good account of itself. On Monday General Pershing ordered an inspection team to visit the unit and make a report. The team included the chief of the Army schools, a lieutenant colonel from the Operations Section, and Colonel Fiske, then deputy training officer of the AEF.
1918 – There was a mutiny of the German fleet at Kiel. This was the first act leading to German’s capitulation in World War I.
1918 – III Corps on the right forces a crossing of the Meuse south of Dun-sur-Meuse with the 5th Division forcing the bridgehead.
1931 – Dirigible USS Los Angeles makes 10 hour flight out of NAS Lakehurst, NJ, carrying 207 persons, establishing a new record for the number of passengers carried into the air by a single craft.
1936 – President Roosevelt, the 32nd president, was re-elected for second term in a landslide over Republican challenger Alfred M. “Alf” Landon. Landon ran on a “wrong-headed” economic program. Roosevelt received 60.8% of the popular vote and an astounding 98.5% of the Electoral College defeating Republican Alfred Landon, the governor of Kansas. In terms of winning the largest percentage of electoral votes, the presidential election of 1936 was the biggest landslide of the 20th century.
1939 – The US Senate votes to lift the embargo on the export of arms to belligerents.
1941 – The Combined Japanese Fleet receive Top-Secret Order No. 1: In 34 days time, Pearl Harbor is to be bombed, along with Mayala, the Dutch East Indies, and the Philippines. Relations between the United States and Japan had been deteriorating quickly since Japan’s occupation of Indochina in 1940 and the implicit menacing of the Philippines (an American protectorate), with the occupation of the Cam Ranh naval base only eight miles from Manila. American retaliation included the seizing of all Japanese assets in the States and the closing of the Panama Canal to Japanese shipping. In September 1941, Roosevelt issued a statement, drafted by British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, that threatened war between the United States and Japan should the Japanese encroach any further on territory in Southeast Asia or the South Pacific. The Japanese military had long dominated Japanese foreign affairs; although official negotiations between the U.S. secretary of state and his Japanese counterpart to ease tensions were ongoing, Hideki Tojo, the minister of war who would soon be prime minister, had no intention of withdrawing from captured territories. He also construed the American “threat” of war as an ultimatum and prepared to deliver the first blow in a Japanese-American confrontation: the bombing of Pearl Harbor. And so Tokyo delivered the order to all pertinent Fleet commanders, that not only the United States-and its protectorate the Philippines–but British and Dutch colonies in the Pacific were to be attacked. War was going to be declared on the West.
1942 – On Guadalcanal, the expected Japanese landing at Koli Point occurs with a force of 1500 landing to the east of the point. The American forces engage, but soon must pull back. The Americans then halt their advances to the west, to supply reinforcements against the landings.
1943 – Battleship Oklahoma, sunk at Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941, is refloated.
1943 – Elements of US 5th Army capture Sessa Aurunca, Italy.
1943 – The US 2nd Marine Parachute Battalion withdraws from Choiseul.
1943 – 500 aircraft of the U.S. 8th Air Force devastate Wilhelmshaven harbor in Germany.
1944 – The US 1st Army captures Schmidt, near Aachen.
1950 – The 25th Infantry Division was driven back from the Yalu area. Eighth Army fell back to defend the vital Chongchon Bridgehead.
1954 – On the basis of Diem’s agreement to begin US required reforms, President Eisenhower announces he is sending General J. Lawton Collins, then US representative on the military committee to NATO, to Vietnam to ‘coordinate the operation of all US agencies in that country.’
1956 – USS Chilton (APA-38), USS Thuban (AKA-19), and USS Fort Snelling (LSD-30) evacuate more than 1,500 U.S. and foreign nationals from Egypt and Israel because of the fighting.
1957 – The Soviet Union launches the first animal into space–a dog name Laika–aboard the Sputnik 2 spacecraft. Laika, part Siberian husky, lived as a stray on the Moscow streets before being enlisted into the Soviet space program. Laika survived for several days as a passenger in the USSR’s second artificial Earth satellite, kept alive by a sophisticated life-support system. Electrodes attached to her body provided scientists on the ground with important information about the biological effects of space travel. She died after the batteries of her life-support system ran down. At least a dozen more Russian dogs were launched into space in preparation for the first manned Soviet space mission, and at least five of these dogs died in flight. On April 12, 1961, Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human to travel into space, aboard the spacecraft Vostok 1. He orbited Earth once before landing safely in the USSR.
1959 – Pres. Eisenhower laid the cornerstone for the CIA headquarters building in Langley, Va.
1961 – After Hurricane Hattie, helicopters from USS Antietam begin relief operations at British Honduras providing medical personnel, medical supplies, general supplies, and water.
1961 – General Taylor’s final report proposes a hard commitment of US ground forces and introduces the concept of US ‘limited partnership’ in Vietnam, suggesting that the US military mission in Saigon become something nearer to an operational headquarters in a theater of war. The report assumes that the Americans can supply the South Vietnamese with the fervor needed to win, and asserts that if all else fails, the United States can count on the bombing of North Vietnam or even the threat of bombing to hold Hanoi and other Communist nations at bay, avoiding the risk of a major land war. Kennedy eventually rejects this approach, but soon after Taylor’s visit USAF Globemasters begin shuttling US instructors and advisors, and Kennedy authorizes sending SC-47s, B-26s, and T-28 fighter-bomber trainers to Bien Hoa Air Base, just north of Saigon.
1964 – President Johnson soundly defeated Republican challenger Barry Goldwater to win a White House term as the 36th president. Johnson won over 61% of the vote with 486 electoral votes to Goldwater’s 52. In one of the most crushing victories in the history of U.S. presidential elections, incumbent Lyndon Baines Johnson defeats Republican challenger Barry Goldwater, Sr. With over 60 percent of the popular vote, Johnson turned back the conservative senator from Arizona to secure his first full term in office after succeeding to the presidency after the assassination of John F. Kennedy in November 1963. During the 1964 campaign, Goldwater was decidedly critical of Johnson’s liberal domestic agenda, railing against welfare programs and defending his own decision to vote against the Civil Rights Act passed by Congress earlier that year. However, some of the most dramatic differences between the two candidates appeared over the issue of Cold War foreign policy. The Republican angrily charged Johnson and the Democratic Party with having given in to communist aggression, pointedly referring to the existence of Castro’s communist Cuba 90 miles off America’s shore. On more than one occasion, Goldwater seemed to suggest that he would not be above using nuclear weapons on both Cuba and North Vietnam to achieve U.S. objectives. Johnson’s advisers, of course, did all they could to portray Goldwater as a saber-rattling warmonger, who would bring the world to nuclear annihilation if elected. The President countered his opponent’s challenges by portraying himself as a model of statesman-like restraint. Concerning Vietnam, he mollified domestic concerns about a possible war by claiming that he would not send “American boys nine or ten thousand miles from home to do what Asian boys ought to be doing for themselves.” Johnson’s statement satisfied many Americans, but any commitment he may have had about avoiding direct U.S. involvement in the Vietnam conflict was already eroding by the time of the 1964 election. Four months after his victory, Johnson committed U.S. combat troops to Vietnam.
1967 – In some of the heaviest fighting seen in the Central Highlands area, heavy casualties are sustained by both sides in bloody battles around Dak To, about 280 miles north of Saigon near the Cambodian border. The 1,000 U.S. troops there were reinforced with 3,500 additional troops from the U.S. 4th Division and the 173rd Airborne Brigade. They faced four communist regiments of about 6,000 troops. The climax of the operation came in a savage battle from November 19-22 for Hill 875, 12 miles southwest of Dak To. The 173rd was victorious, forcing the North Vietnamese to abandon their last defensive line on the ridge of Hill 875, but the victory was a costly one because the paratroopers suffered the loss of 135 men, 30 of whom died as a result of an accidental U.S. air strike on U.S. positions. In the 19 days of action, North Vietnam fatalities were estimated at 1,455. Total U.S. casualties included 285 killed, 985 wounded, and 18 missing. During this battle, the North Vietnamese failed to achieve one of their main objectives, which was the destruction of an American unit. They came close, but the Americans, despite heavy losses, had achieved the true victory: they mauled three enemy regiments so badly that they were unavailable for the Tet Offensive that the Communists launched in late January 1968.
1969 – Pres. Nixon elaborated his Nixon Doctrine in a televised speech. He stated that the US henceforth expected its Asian allies to take care of their own military defense. This was the start of the “Vietnamization” of the Vietnam War. The Doctrine argued for the pursuit of peace through a partnership with American allies.
1973 – NASA launches the Mariner 10 toward Mercury. On March 29, 1974, it becomes the first space probe to reach that planet.
1979 – 63 Americans were taken hostage at the US Embassy in Teheran, Iran. The overthrow of Muhammad Reza Shah Pahlevi of Iran by an Islamic revolutionary government earlier in the year had led to a steady deterioration in Iran-U.S. relations. In response to the exiled shah’s admission (Sept., 1979) to the United States for medical treatment, a crowd of about 500 seized the embassy. Of the approximately 90 people inside the embassy, 52 remained in captivity until the end of the crisis. President Carter applied economic pressure by halting oil imports from Iran and freezing Iranian assets in the United States. At the same time, he began several diplomatic initiatives to free the hostages, all of which proved fruitless. On Apr. 24, 1980, the United States attempted a rescue mission that failed. After three of eight helicopters were damaged in a sandstorm, the operation was aborted; eight persons were killed during the evacuation. Secretary of State Cyrus Vance, who had opposed the action, resigned after the mission’s failure. In 1980, the death of the shah in Egypt and the invasion of Iran by Iraq made the Iranians more receptive to resolving the hostage crisis. In the United States, failure to resolve the crisis contributed to Ronald Reagan’s defeat of Carter in the presidential election. After the election, with the assistance of Algerian intermediaries, successful negotiations began. On Jan. 20, 1981, the day of President Reagan’s inauguration, the United States released almost $8 billion in Iranian assets and the hostages were freed after 444 days in Iranian detention; the agreement gave Iran immunity from lawsuits arising from the incident. In 2000 former hostages and their survivors sued Iran under the 1996 Antiterrorism Act, which permits U.S. citizens to sue foreign governments in cases of state-sponsored terrorism. The following year they won the lawsuit by default when Iran did not offer a defense. The U.S. State Dept. sought dismissal of the suit, arguing it would hinder its ability to negotiate international agreements, and a federal judge dismissed the plaintiffs’ suit for damages in 2002, ruling that the agreement that resulted in their release barred awarding any damages.
1986 – The Lebanese magazine Ash Shiraa reports that the United States has been secretly selling arms to Iran in an effort to secure the release of seven American hostages held by pro-Iranian groups in Lebanon. The revelation, confirmed by U.S. intelligence sources on November 6, came as a shock to officials outside President Ronald Reagan’s inner circle and went against the stated policy of the administration. In addition to violating the U.S. arms embargo against Iran, the arms sales contradicted President Reagan’s vow never to negotiate with terrorists. On November 25, controversy over the administration’s secret dealings with Iran deepened dramatically when Attorney General Edwin Meese revealed that proceeds from the arms sales were diverted to fund Nicaraguan rebels–the Contras–who were fighting a guerrilla war against the elected leftist government of Nicaragua. The Contra connection caused outrage in Congress, which in 1982 had passed the Boland Amendment prohibiting the use of federal money “for the purpose of overthrowing the government of Nicaragua.” The same day that the Iran-Contra connection was disclosed, President Reagan accepted the resignation of his national security adviser, Vice Admiral John Poindexter, and fired Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North, a Poindexter aide. Both men had played key roles in the Iran-Contra operation. Reagan accepted responsibility for the arms-for-hostages deal but denied any knowledge of the diversion of funds to the Contras. In December 1986, Lawrence Walsh was named special prosecutor to investigate the matter, and in the summer of 1987 Congress held televised hearings on the Iran-Contra scandal. Both investigations revealed that North and other administration officials had attempted to illegally cover up their illicit dealings with the Contras and Iran. In the course of Walsh’s investigation, eleven White House, State Department, and intelligence officials were found guilty on charges ranging from perjury to withholding information from Congress to conspiracy to defraud the United States. In his final report, Walsh concluded that neither Reagan nor Vice President George Bush violated any laws in connection with the affair, but that Reagan had set the stage for the illegal activities of others by ordering continued support of the Contras after Congress prohibited it. The report also found that Reagan and Bush engaged in conduct that contributed to a “concerted effort to deceive Congress and the public” about the Iran-Contra affair. On Christmas Eve, 1992, shortly after being defeated in his reelection bid by Bill Clinton, President George Bush pardoned six major figures in the Iran-Contra affair. Two of the men, former defense secretary Caspar Weinberger and former chief of CIA operations Duane Clarridge, had trials for perjury pending.
1990 – Secretary of State James A. Baker the Third embarked on a fast-paced tour of seven countries to “lay the foundation” for possible military action against Iraq.
1992 – (William Jefferson) Bill Clinton, governor of Arkansas, was elected as the 42nd president of the United States, defeating President Bush who won 38% of the popular vote. As the 1992 presidential election approached, Americans found themselves in a world transformed in ways almost unimaginable four years earlier. The familiar landmarks of the Cold War — from the Berlin Wall to intercontinental ballistic missiles and bombers on constant high alert — were gone. Eastern Europe was independent, the Soviet Union had dissolved, Germany was united, Arabs and Israelis were engaged in direct negotiations, and the threat of nuclear war was greatly diminished. It was as though one great history volume had closed and another had opened. Yet at home, Americans were less sanguine — and faced some deep and familiar problems. Once the celebrations and parades following the Gulf War ended, the United States found itself in its deepest recession since the early 1980s. Many of the job losses were occurring among white-collar workers in middle management positions, not solely among blue-collar workers in the manufacturing sector who had been hit hardest in earlier years. Even when the economy began recovering in 1992, its growth was virtually imperceptible until late in the year, and many regions of the country remained mired in recession. Moreover, the federal deficit continued to mount, propelled most strikingly by rising expenditures for health care. Many Americans exhibited profound pessimism about their future, believing that their country was headed in the wrong direction.
1994 – The space shuttle Atlantis blasted into orbit on a mission to survey Earth’s ozone layer.
1995 – President Clinton dedicated a memorial at Arlington National Cemetery to the 270 victims of the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103.
1996 – Paul Tatum, US businessman, was assassinated on the steps of a Moscow subway station in what his relatives suspect was a contract slaying by the Russian Mafia. He was in a long-running fight to regain control of the Radisson-Slavyanskaya hotel, a joint venture between Tatum and the City of Moscow.
1997 – Chinese President Jiang Zemin left the United States after an eight-day visit.2000 – UN officials brokered a deal between the rebels of Afghanistan and the Taliban to begin talks to end the civil war.
2001 – U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld met with his Russian counterpart in Moscow to discuss nuclear arsenal cuts, American plans for a missile defense system, and U.S.-Russian cooperation in the campaign against terror. The visit was part of a 4-day tour with stops in Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Pakistan and India.
2001 – US planes staged continuous bombing against Taliban positions in Samangan province and the Northern Alliance pressed toward Mazar-e-Sharif.
2001 – The Al-Jazeera TV network broadcast a videotape from Osama bin Laden. He portrayed that attacks against Afghanistan as a war against Islam and denounced Arab leaders who cooperate with the UN for peace negotiations saying that amounted to a renunciation of Islam.
2002 – In Afghanistan Pres. Karzai fired over 15 provincial officials for abuse of authority, corruption and narcotics trafficking.
2002 – Saudi Arabia said it would not permit bases on its soil in an attack against Iraq and would not grant flyover rights to US military planes even if the UN sanctions an invasion. Prince Saud later said a final decision had not been made.
2002 – In northwest Yemen 6 al-Qaida suspects were killed when the car they were travelling in was struck by a missile from a US Predator drone. Qaed Salim Sinan al-Harethi, a suspected al-Qaida leader, was among the dead along with Kamal Derwish, a member of the Lackawanna, NY, sleeper cell.
2003 – Afghanistan unveiled a post-Taliban draft constitution. The Constitutional Loya Jirga was called to draft and approve a new constitution for Afghanistan. The Loya Jirga was composed of 502 delegates, 452 elected into the post and 50 appointed by President Karzai. The Loya Jirga began on December 14th, 2003 on the grounds of the Kabul Polytechinic School. Local Security and NATO forces became involved in the assurance of the safety of the assembly throughout the 22 days of the Loya Jirga. The 502 members were split into 10 working groups of approximately 50 people, and each group prepared different articles of the drafted constitution to be presented to the large assembly. Sibghatuallah Mujaddadi, a moderate supporter of President Karzai, was elected the chairperson for the Loya Jirga, and four deputy chairpersons, including one female, Safiq Saddiqi, were selected. Members of the Loya Jirga deliberated at length regarding the content of the constitution, and on January 4th, 2004, the new Constitution was ratified by the Constitutional Loyal Jirga, Grand Assembly, and signed into law by His Excellency President Hamid Karzai.
2004 – President Bush’s campaign declared victory over Democratic Sen. John Kerry and claimed a second term in the White House, but Kerry refused to concede until all ballots were counted in the undecided state of Ohio.
2004 – Former U.S. Army Sgt. Charles Jenkins (64) pleaded guilty to abandoning his unit in 1965 and aiding the enemy by teaching English to North Korean military officer cadets. Jenkins was convicted and sentenced to 30 days in jail for desertion.
2004 – A National Guard F-16 fighter plane mistakenly fired off 25 rounds of ammunition at the Little Egg Harbor Intermediate School in South New Jersey on this night.
2004 – Gunmen abducted a Lebanese-American contractor who worked with the U.S. Army from his Baghdad home. 4 Jordanian truck drivers were seized by assailants in a separate kidnapping. Gunmen also killed an Oil Ministry official, Hussein Ali al-Fattal, in a driveby shooting.
2010 – The United States Border Patrol finds a sophisticated tunnel between Tijuana in Mexico and Otay Mesa, California, used by drug smugglers.
2014 – Islamic State militants have captured the Jahar gas fields in the Syrian province of Homs, the second gas field they have captured in a week.
2014 – One World Trade Center officially opens, replacing its predecessor 13 years after the September 11 attacks.
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