1726 – Benjamin Franklin returned to Philadelphia from England.
1776 – The first naval battle of Lake Champlain was fought during the American Revolution. American forces led by Gen. Benedict Arnold suffered heavy losses, but managed to stall the British. British forces had successfully resisted the American assault on Quebec in the early months of the war and pursued the retreating invaders back to their bases at Crown Point and Fort Ticonderoga. The approach of winter in late 1775 had forced the British to return to Canada, but a strike against the rebels by way of Lake Champlain was a top priority for the campaign in 1776. Sir Guy Carleton, the British commander in Canada, supplemented his forces with 5,000 German mercenaries and a fleet of ships to be used in the planned assault. Vessels sailed up the St. Lawrence River, were laboriously disassembled and transported around the rapids on the Richelieu River, then reassembled for service on Lake Champlain. Smaller craft were built on site. The showpiece of the British fleet was the HMS Inflexible, an 18-gun man-of-war. The remnants of the American invasion force occupied Fort Ticonderoga in 1776 under increasingly dire circumstances. Food, clothing and ammunition supplies were low and morale was flagging. Brigadier General Benedict Arnold received permission to construct a fleet on Lake Champlain to stop or at least slow the impending British advance. Shipwrights were brought in from New England coastal towns to construct the fleet, including special flat-bottomed craft that were fitted with both sails and oars and carried cannon in the bow. The workers had no alternative to using green lumber, which quickly warped and allowed water into the vessels. In all, three schooners, three galleys, eight gunboats and a sloop were constructed. The British were unaware of the American efforts to build a fleet and allowed their own shipbuilding activities to stretch into the late summer. Arnold realized that he was badly outgunned and would have no chance against a direct confrontation with the enemy. He sought the most favorable position he could find, choosing to array his fleet in an arc from Valcour Island to near the New York shore in an area a few miles south of the village of Plattsburgh. The British fleet finally set sail in early October, the Inflexible in the lead and the troop transports at the rear. The two forces met on the 11th. The American ships were not easily visible in the bay and much of the British flotilla sailed past. When the American presence was made known, the larger British vessels had difficulty reversing direction and were late in joining the fray. In the ensuing seven-hour battle, both sides sustained heavy damage, but the British were unable to bring the full force of their firepower to bear because of the cramped confines forced by the American position; only a few of the British vessels could align themselves between the island and the shore and fire at close range. Soldiers delivered by Carleton’s ships poured withering fire from the shore into the American ships, which inflicted heavy casualties. As night approached, the British attempted to bottle-up the bay and were confident that they could complete their task in the morning. Arnold had lost the Philadelphia and knew he stood little chance when the battle resumed. During the night a heavy fog descended. Arnold capitalized on the reduced visibility by silently sailing his damaged fleet around the British blockade and heading south toward Crown Point. When the fog lifted in the morning, the British beheld an empty bay and immediately began pursuit. A valiant delaying action was fought by the Congress, with Arnold at the helm, and the Washington, which enabled other ships to reach Crown Point. At the last moment, Arnold’s ship managed to sprint to shore, where it was set afire, and the crew escaped on land to Crown Point. Crown Point could not withstand a British assault, and was destroyed as the garrison and Arnold’s surviving men pushed on to Ticonderoga. When the British fleet arrived outside of Ticonderoga, the Americans blasted away with their cannon — despite the fact that they were dangerously low on powder and shot — which gave the British the impression that they were prepared to mount a protracted defense of their position. Carleton was taken in by the ruse. He returned American prisoners in his possession under a flag of truce, then turned his fleet around and sailed back to Canada. Arnold’s small navy was nearly destroyed: 11 of 15 ships were lost and 80 casualties sustained. However, Fort Ticonderoga was held and the British invasion halted. The significance of Arnold’s defense would be noted in the following year’s campaign when the British again mounted an offensive from the north; had Arnold and his men failed, the campaign of 1777 would have begun from Ticonderoga rather than Canada and might have ended differently.
1779 – Polish nobleman General Casimir Pulaski was killed while fighting for American independence during the Revolutionary War Battle of Savannah, Ga. Of all the Polish officers who took part in the American War of Independence, Casimir Pulaski was the most romantic and professionally the most prominent. He was born into the middle gentry at Warka, Poland, March 4, 1747. His family was rich and had enhanced their fortune as clients of the Czartoryski family with whose nationalist policies it was identified. His education was typical of its time, he learned a smattering of languages and manners in the service of the Duke of Courland. It was here that young Pulaski first came into contact with the interference of foreign powers in Polish affairs, that lead to the first great act of his life. Joseph Pulaski, Casimir’s father impatient with the Russian interference precipitated an armed movement called the Confederation of Bar in 1768. Casimir was one of the founding members and on his father’s death in 1769, carried the burden of military command. His greatest success was in the taking and holding of Jasna Gora at Czestochowa, the holist place in Poland. His brilliant defense against the Russians thrilled all of Europe. Unfortunately soon afterward he was implicated in a plot to kill the Polish King and forced into exile. Burdened by debts Pulaski was found in Paris by Benjamin Franklin and enlisted in for American cause. Pulaski joined George Washington’s army just before the battle of Brandywine. Acting under Washington’s orders without commission Pulaski lead the scouting party that discovered the British flanking movement and the American escape route. He then gathered all available cavalry to cover the retreat, leading a dashing charge that surprised the British and allowed the American army to escape. Congress rewarded Pulaski with a commission as brigadier general and command of all American cavalry. He spent the winter of 1777-8 training and outfitting the cavalry units but in March, he gave way before the intrigues of his jealous officers. He requested and Washington approved the formation of an independent corp of cavalry and light infantry of foreign volunteers. Pulaski’s Legion became the training ground for American cavalry officers including “Light Horse” Harry Lee, the father of Robert E. Lee, and the model for Lee’s and Armand’s legions. Thirteen Polish officers served under Pulaski in the legion. The best assessment of Pulaski’s legion came from a British officer who called them simply “the best damned cavalry the rebels ever had”. In 1779 Pulaski and his legion were sent south to the besieged city of Charleston where he immediately raised morale and assisted in breaking the siege. A joint operation with the French was planed to recapture the city of Savannah. Against Pulaski’s advice the French commander ordered an assault against the strongest point of the British defense, Seeing the allied troops falter Pulaski galloped forward to rally the men, when he was mortally wounded by British cannon shot. He died two days later and was buried at sea. Pulaski was the romantic embodiment of the flashing saber and the trumpets calling to the charge, and that is how history has remembered him. The larger-Than-life aspect of his death has often obscured his steadier, quieter, and more lasting services. It was in the drudgery of forging a disciplined American cavalry that could shadow and report on British movements, in the long distance forage raids to feed and clothe the troops at Valley Forge, and the bitter hit and run rearguard actions that covered retreating American armies that slowed British pursuit, that gave Pulaski the title of “Father of the American cavalry”.
1809 – Along the Natchez Trace in Tennessee, explorer Meriwether Lewis dies under mysterious circumstances at an inn called Grinder’s Stand. Meriwether Lewis was born in Albemarle County Virginia on August 18, 1774. He was the second of three children of Lucy and John Lewis. His father died when we he was five. Lewis’s mother, left to raise her children and run a plantation, soon remarried. From age thirteen to eighteen Lewis attended local schools taught by ministers. When he was eighteen, his stepfather died and Lewis returned home to take over the job of running the plantation. Lewis joined the US Army in 1794 and rose to the rank of Captain in 1800. In 1801 Captain Lewis became private secretary to US President Thomas Jefferson. Under Jefferson’s direction, Lewis planned an exploration of a route west to the Pacific coast of North America. Lewis invited William Clark to join the expedition, and the two men privately agreed to lead it jointly. In addition to command, Lewis served as the party’s naturalist. On the expedition he collected plant, animal, and mineral specimens. In May of 1804 the expedition sponsored by the US Government, and lead by Lewis and Clark started up the Missouri River from a camp near St. Louis. By late fall, the explorers reached what is now North Dakota and spent the winter there. The following spring they continued along the Missouri and in late summer crossed the Rocky Mountains. They obtained horses, supplies, and valuable information from the Indians they met on their journey. Following the Clearwater, Snake, and Columbia Rivers they made their way to the Pacific coast, which they reached in November of 1805. The party spent the winter on the coast of what is now Oregon and began the trip home in March of 1806. The explorers returned along nearly the same route by which they had come, reaching St. Louis in September of 1806 after traveling a total of 8,000 miles (12,800 kilometers). As a reward for his service, Jefferson named Lewis governor of the Louisiana Territory in 1807. In 1809 Lewis died under ambiguous circumstances. It is speculated that personal and professional problems may have driven him to suicide, but some people believe he was murdered.
1824 – Marquis de Lafayette visits the Washington Navy Yard during his year long tour of America. He returned to the yard the next day, October 12, to continue his visit.
1862 – The Confederate Congress in Richmond passed a draft law allowing anyone owning 20 or more slaves to be exempt from military service. This law confirmed many southerners opinion that they were in a ‘rich man’s war and a poor man’s fight.’
1862 – American Civil War: In the aftermath of the Battle of Antietam, Confederate General J.E.B. Stuart and his men loot Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, during a raid into the north.
1863 – Skirmish at Rheatown, Henderson’s Mill, Tennessee.
1864 – Slavery was abolished in Maryland.
1865 – President Johnson paroled CSA Vice President Alexander Stephens.
1879 – The first annual conference of the National Guard Association is held. The Association, which continues in operation today, acts as a political interest group representing Guard concerns with members of Congress. Federal law prohibits members of the armed forces on active duty from ‘lobbying’ Congress so the Association, which is composed of active and retired Guard officers, performs this function.
1890 – The Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) was founded in Washington, D.C.
1896 – The crew of the Pea Island (North Carolina) Life-Saving Station, under the command of Keeper Richard Etheridge, performed one of their finest rescues when they saved the passengers and crew of the schooner E.S. Newman, after that ship ran aground during a hurricane. Pushed before the storm, the ship lost all sails and drifted almost 100 miles before it ran aground about two miles south of the Pea Island Lifesaving Station. Etheridge, a veteran of nearly twenty years, readied his crew. They hitched mules to the beach cart and hurried toward the vessel. Arriving on the scene, they found Captain S. A. Gardiner and eight others clinging to the wreckage. Unable to fire a line because the high water prevented the Lyle Gun’s deployment, Etheridge directed two surfmen to bind themselves together with a line. Grasping another line, the pair moved into the breakers while the remaining surfmen secured the shore end. The two surfmen reached the wreck and tied a line around one of the crewmen. All three were then pulled back through the surf by the crew on the beach. The remaining eight persons were carried to shore in this fashion. After each trip two different surfmen replaced those who had just returned. For their efforts the crew of the Pea Island Life-Saving station were awarded the Gold Lifesaving Medal in 1996.
1910 – Former President Theodore Roosevelt becomes the first U.S. president to fly in an airplane. He flew for four minutes with Arch Hoxsey in a plane built by the Wright brothers at Kinloch Field (Lambert–St. Louis International Airport), St. Louis, Missouri.
1939 – Albert Einstein wrote his famous letter to FDR about the potential of the atomic bomb. Einstein, a long time pacifist, was concerned that the Nazis would get the bomb first. In the letter, Einstein argued the scientific feasibility of atomic weapons, and urged the need for development of a US atomic program. The physicists Leo Szilard, Eugene Wigner, and Edward Teller, who were profoundly disturbed by the lack of American atomic action, had enlisted the aid of the Nobel prize-winner Einstein in the summer of 1939, hoping that a letter from such a renowned scientist would persuade Roosevelt into action.
1942 – In the World War II Battle of Cape Esperance in the Solomon Islands, U.S. cruisers and destroyers decisively defeated a Japanese task force in a night surface encounter sinking two Japanese ships while losing only USS Duncan (DD-485).
1945 – Negotiations between Nationalist leader Chiang Kai-shek and Communist leader Mao Tse-tung broke down. Nationalist and Communist troops were soon engaged in a civil war.
1950 – Task Force 77 Aircraft destroy North Korean vessels off Songjin and Wonsan and north of Hungham.
1951 – A Marine battalion was flown by transport helicopters to a frontline combat position for the first time, when HMR-161 lifted the 3d Battalion, 7th Marines, and its equipment, during Operation Bumblebee, northeast of Yanggu, Korea. This is the first battalion sized combat helolift.
1952 – Two USAF 4th Fighter-Interceptor Wing F-86 Sabre jet pilots shot down enemy aircraft. It was future ace Captain Clyde A. Curtin’s first aerial victory of the war. Captain Clifford Jolley chalked up his seventh and final enemy aircraft kill. Four other MiGs were destroyed in a series of battles over northwest Korea.
1954 – The Vietminh formally take control of Hanoi and North Vietnam. Unlike Diem in the South, Ho Chi Minh face no rebellious factions or challenges to their authority. The long war against the French, however, has devastated the North economically.
1958 – The lunar probe Pioneer 1 was launched; it failed to go as far as planned, fell back to Earth, and burned up in the atmosphere.
1961 – At a meeting of the National Security Council, President Kennedy is asked to accept ‘as our real and ultimate objective the defeat of the Vietcong.’ The Joint Chiefs of Staff estimate that 40,000 US troops could clean up ‘the Vietcong threat,’ and another 120,000 could cope with possible North Vietnamese or Communist Chinese intervention. Kennedy decides to send General Maxwell Taylor to Vietnam to study the situation.
1963 – A US National Security Action memorandum that recommended plans to withdraw 1,000 US Military personnel by the end of the year was approved. The memo followed McNamara’s return from a trip to South Vietnam.
1963 – Navy medical team from Norfolk, VA begins massive inoculation program to safeguard against outbreak of typhoid in the wake of Hurricane Flora.
1966 – U.S. Forces launched Operation Robin, in Hoa Province south of Saigon in South Vietnam, to provide road security between villages.
1967 – Operation Coronado VI began in Rung Sat Zone. The Mobile Riverine Force, 9th Inf Div conducted this operation to provide security of the Long Tau Channel.
1968 – Apollo 7, The first manned Apollo mission, was launched from Cape Kennedy with astronauts Wally Schirra, Donn Fulton Eisele and R. Walter Cunningham aboard. It made 163 orbits. The mission lasted 10 days and 20 hours. Recovery was by HS-5 helicopters from USS Essex (CVS-9).
1972 – A French mission in Vietnam was destroyed by a U.S. bombing raid.
1972 – A race riot occurs on the United States Navy aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk off the coast of Vietnam during Operation Linebacker. During the USS Kitty Hawk riot, sometimes called the Kitty Hawk mutiny, many crewmen were injured, but Kitty Hawk participated in Linebacker as assigned. Approximately 100–200 black Kitty Hawk crewmen rioted as a response to perceived grievances against the Navy and the officers of Kitty Hawk, which appeared to represent institutionalized racism on the ship. One such grievance was the belief that black crewmen were routinely assigned to menial or degrading duties. Black crewmen also believed that white crewmen received milder non-judicial punishments than black sailors for the same offenses. In addition, there was lingering resentment from a racially charged brawl involving Kitty Hawk sailors in the Philippines shortly before the ship left port. During the riot, black sailors assaulted and injured a number of white crewmen. Three had to be evacuated to shore hospitals for further treatment. Forty-five to 60 Kitty Hawk crewmen were injured in total. The carrier’s commander—Captain Marland Townsend—and executive officer—Commander Benjamin Cloud (who was black)—dissuaded the rioters from further violence and prevented white sailors from retaliating. This allowed the carrier to launch her Linebacker air missions as scheduled on the morning of 12 October. Nineteen of the rioters were later found guilty by the Navy of at least one charge connected to the riot. The incident was publicized in The New York Times. Subsequent racial unrest on Kitty Hawk′s sister ship Constellation sparked Congressional hearings to examine race relations in the Navy and policies and programs instituted by Navy leaders to deal with racial issues.
1976 – George Washington’s appointment, posthumously, to the grade of General of the Armies by congressional joint resolution Public Law 94-479 is approved by President Gerald R. Ford.
1984 – Space shuttle Challenger astronaut Kathryn D. Sullivan became the first American woman to walk in space.
1985 – Arab-American activist Alex Odeh was killed by a bomb blast in Santa Ana, Calif.
1986 – President Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev opened two days of talks concerning arms control and human rights in Reykjavik, Iceland.
1993 – In Haiti, army-backed toughs prevented American troops from landing as part of a U.N. peace mission and drove away U.S. diplomats waiting to greet the soldiers.
1993 – Yasser Arafat won endorsement for his peace accord with Israel from the Palestine Central Council.
1994 – U.S. troops in Haiti took over the National Palace.
1994 – Iraqi troops began moving north, away from the Kuwaiti border.
1995 – In Bosnia a cease-fire was declared.
1996 – In Operation Global Sea US officials arrested 34 members of a drug trafficking network operated primarily by Nigerian women. Jumoke Kafayat Majekodunmi, aka Kafi, used a women’s clothing store in Chicago as the center of operations.
1996 – US FBI agents arrested 7 in West Virginia for plotting to bomb the national fingerprinting records facility in Charleston.
1996 – In Angola the UN extended the 7,200 peacekeeping mission for 2 months. The Security Council threatened sanctions against UNITA which has delayed integrating 26,000 fighters into the national army and interfered with UN activities.
1998 – Richard Holbrooke met again with Pres. Milosevic in an effort to avoid NATO attacks on Serbia due to the Serb stand on Kosovo.
1998 – In Afghanistan the Taliban battled opposition forces for the 2nd day in the northeast Takhar province.
1998 – In Bosnia forensic experts began exhuming 274 bodies in the village of Donja Glumina. They were believed to be Bosnian Muslims killed in Srebrenica by Serbs in Jul 1995.
1999 – In Chechnya more people fled Russian attacks and Moscow demanded that Islamic militants be handed over before any peace settlement.
2000 – The shuttle Discovery with a crew of 7 lifted off from Cape Canaveral for an 11-day mission to the International Space Station. It marked the shuttle fleet’s 100th mission. STS-92 was a Space Shuttle mission to the International Space Station (ISS) flown by Space Shuttle Discovery. STS-92 marked the 100th mission of the Space Shuttle.
2000 – Palestinians continued to riot in Gaza and the West Bank and the death toll approached 100.
2001 – In his first prime-time news conference since taking office, President George W. Bush offered the Taliban a chance to stop America’s punishing assaults on Afghanistan by turning over suspected terror mastermind Osama bin Laden.
2001 – The FBI warned that new acts of terrorism could target Americans over the next few days.
2001 – The Bush administration asked newspapers not to publish full transcripts of messages from Osama bin Laden due to the possibility of coded messages.
2001 – In NYC Mayor Giuliani rejected a $10 million donation from Saudi Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal due to an attached press release that said the US should re-examine its policies in the Middle East and adopt a more balanced stance toward the Palestinian cause.
2001 – The Pentagon confirmed the 1st US death in Operation Enduring Freedom. Air Force Sgt. Evander Earl Andrews was killed in a fork lift accident in Qatar.
2001 – Abdul Salam Zaeem, Afghan ambassador to Pakistan, said US bombing in Afghanistan killed some 100 noncombatants in the Torghar region near Jalalabad. The total civilian casualties since Oct 7 was estimated at 170.
2001 – In Afghanistan that Northern Alliance claimed to have taken the central province of Ghar and the provincial capital Chaghcharan. American bombing reportedly killed as many as 200 civilians in Karam and Jalalabad.
2001 – In Colombia AUC paramilitary shot and killed 5 men in the town of Samaniego
2001 – In Macedonia police found a cache of arms in an area held by ethnic Albanian rebels.
2001 – A Palestinian militant blew himself up while trying to plant a bomb along a West Bank road used by Israelis.
2002 – The Senate joined the House in approving, 77-23, the use of America’s military might against Iraq
2002 – Kenneth Bridges (53) was shot and killed in Spotsylvania, Va., the 8th victim of the DC area sniper.
2002 – In Vantaa, Finland, a blast in the Myyrmanni shopping mall of suburban Helsinki killed 7 people, including chemistry student Petri Gerdt (19), the suspected bomber. 80 others were injured.
2002 – The Philippine military reported that marines clashed with Abu Sayyaf rebels on Jolo Island and at least 11 soldiers were killed.
2003 – Israeli forces killed a Palestinian and razed dozens of homes in a Gaza Strip refugee camp as Israeli opposition politicians and Palestinian officials sought to revive peace talks.
2003 – In Nepal at least 3 policemen and 35 Maoist rebels were killed in an overnight battle as the rebels resumed attacks on government forces after a 9-day cease-fire.
2004 – The main opposition candidate in Afghanistan’s first-ever presidential election backed off a boycott of the vote, saying he would accept the formation of an independent commission to look into alleged cheating.
2004 – In Iraq followers of radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr trickled in to police stations in Baghdad’s Sadr City district to hand in weapons. Two soldiers from Task Force Baghdad were killed and five wounded in a rocket attack in southern Baghdad.
2004 – An Arabic language television station broadcast video showing three hooded gunmen threatening to behead a Turkish hostage within three days unless the Americans release all Iraqi prisoners and all Turks leave Iraq.
2007 – Turkey recalls its ambassador to the United States due to anger over an upcoming House of Representatives vote on recognizing the Armenian Genocide.
2009 – Luis Armando Pena Soltren, a suspect wanted for the 1968 hijacking of Pan Am Flight 281, is surrendered after more than 40 years. Pan Am Flight 281 was a regularly scheduled Pan American World Airways flight to San Juan, Puerto Rico. It was hijacked on November 24, 1968, by 4 men from JFK International Airport, New York to Havana, Cuba. US Fighter jets followed plane to Cuba. Soltren, lived as a fugitive in Cuba. He pleaded guilty to the hijacking on March 18, 2010. On January 4, 2011 he was sentenced to 15 years in prison, without the possibility of parole.
2012 – A gunman kills Qassem M. Aqlan, the Yemeni chief of security employed at the U.S. embassy in the capital, Sana’a.
2014 – USS America (LHA 6), the Navy’s newest and most technologically advanced amphibious assault ship, was commissioned during a formal ceremony at Pier 30/32 during San Francisco Fleet Week. More than 8,000 friends, family members and invited guests gathered in front of the ship to witness its introduction to the fleet. During the ceremony, Adm. Harry B. Harris, commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet, commended the crew for their performance during acceptance trials and sailing around South America. He said because conflict and crisis can arise at any time, warships like America will be needed as the nation conducts its strategic rebalance to the Pacific.
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