This Day in U.S. Military History…… October 12

12 October
1492 – Christopher Columbus sited land, an island of the Bahamas which he named San Salvador, but which was called Guanahani by the local Taino people. [HFA gives the date as Oct. 11] Pinta’s lookout, Rodrigo de Triana, saw a white cliff in the moonlight on the morning of Oct 12. Italian explorer Christopher Columbus, or Cristobal Colon to his Spanish patrons, led a group of exhilarated sailors ashore on a sunny Caribbean island they christened San Salvador. Seeking to establish profitable Asian trade routes by sailing west, Columbus seriously underestimated the size of the Earth–never dreaming that two great continents blocked his path to the east. Columbus, returning to Spain after his first expedition, submitted a report of the wonders he had seen to Ferdinand and Isabella. The original report was not illustrated, but later editions, were imaginatively illustrated with woodcuts showing cowering Indians and an ocean-going ship with oars. Even after four voyages to America, Columbus believed until the end of his life in 1506 that he had discovered an isolated corner of Asia.
1748 – British and Spanish naval forces engage at the Battle of Havana during the War of Jenkins’ Ear.
1776 – British Brigade began guarding Throgs Necks Road in Bronx.
1792 – First celebration of Columbus Day in the USA held in New York City.
1861 – The Confederate ironclad Manassas attacked the northern ship Richmond on the Mississippi River. The Manassas was the Confederacy‘s first operational ironclad. Originally a New England tugboat called the Enoch Train, the ship was refit with iron sheathing and an iron prow for ramming. The underpowered ship was used in defense of New Orleans, finally being dispatched by the Union warship Mississippi.
1862 – J.E.B. Stuart completed his “2nd ride around McClellan.” Following the September 17, 1862, Battle of Sharpsburg in Maryland, Gen. Robert E. Lee’s battered Confederate Army of Northern Virginia slipped back across the Potomac River and set up camp in the valleys of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains while it tried to reorganize and revitalize. Gen. George B. McClellan’s much larger Union Army of the Potomac had not been so badly hurt in the recent battle and probably could have destroyed Lee’s ragged army with a vigorous pursuit. Instead, McClellan kept his men in camps on the north side of the Potomac, citing the need to reorganize and recondition the force before following Lee into Virginia. Wanting to buy his army as much time to recuperate as possible, Lee summoned cavalry chief Gen. Jeb Stuart to headquarters on October 6 and proposed a cavalry raid into Pennsylvania. Lee needed information on enemy dispositions and intentions and wanted Stuart to destroy a vital Union railroad bridge at Chambersburg, PA, and then return with horses and supplies confiscated from the Pennsylvania countryside. This was just the type of daring, independent mission that Stuart loved to undertake. On the afternoon of October 9, three 600-man Confederate cavalry brigades gathered at Darkesville, VA, and rode northward, arriving at McCoy’s Ford on the Potomac River after dark. At dawn the next morning the raiders easily pushed back the Union pickets at the ford and continued northward through the rolling hills of Maryland’s panhandle, reaching Pennsylvania by 10:00am. Stuart had given strict orders that the property of Marylanders was to be protected, but upon entering Pennsylvania, Rebel troopers spread out over the countryside and began seizing horses. The “Dutch” German immigrant farmers were flabbergasted to find Confederate troopers rounding up their horses and stealing their newly harvested fodder. Stuart ordered his men not to seize the horses of female travelers they came across.
1862 – There was a skirmish at Monocacy, Maryland.
1870 – Gen. Robert E. Lee died in Lexington, Va., at 63. General Robert Edward Lee, the commander of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia, dies peacefully at his home in Lexington, Virginia. He was 63 years old. Lee was born to Henry “Light Horse Harry” Lee and Ann Carter Lee at Stratford Hall, Virginia, in 1807. His father served in the American Revolution under George Washington. Lee attended West Point and graduated second in his class in 1829. He did not earn a single demerit during his four years at the academy. Lee sided with the Confederacy and spent the first year of the war as an advisor to Confederate President Jefferson Davis. He assumed command of the Army of Northern Virginia when Joseph Johnston was wounded in battle in May 1862. Over the next three years, Lee earned a reputation as one of the greatest military leaders in history for his use of brilliant tactics and battlefield leadership. His invasions of the north, at Antietam and Gettysburg, however, ended in defeat. After Lee surrendered his army at Appomattox in 1865, he returned to Richmond and an uncertain future. With his military career over, he accepted the presidency of Washington College in Lexington, Virginia. Under his leadership, the struggling institution’s enrollment increased from a few dozen to more than 300 students. He contributed to faculty stability, revamped the curriculum, and improved the physical condition of the campus. He also became a symbol of the defeated South, a dignified and stoic figure who was lionized by North and South alike. He suffered a stroke on September 28, 1870, and lingered for two weeks before passing. The school changed its name to Washington and Lee College soon after he died.
1871 – President Grant condemned the Ku Klux Klan.
1872 – Apache (Chiricahua) leader Cochise signed a peace treaty with General O.O. Howard in Arizona Territory.
1892 – The American Pledge of Allegiance was 1st recited in public schools to commemorate Columbus Day. Francis Bellamy, a Socialist and magazine editor of Rome, NY, wrote the “Pledge of Allegiance.”
1901 – President Theodore Roosevelt officially renames the “Executive Mansion” to the White House.
1914 – USS Jupiter (AC-3) is first Navy ship to complete transit of Panama Canal.
1917 – The 1st Marine Aviation Squadron and 1st Marine Aeronautic Company formed at Philadelphia.
1933 – The United States Army Disciplinary Barracks on Alcatraz Island, is acquired by the United States Department of Justice.
1942 – During World War II, President Roosevelt delivered one of his so-called “fireside chats” in which he recommended drafting 18- and 19-year-old men. 1942 – Japanese ships retreat after their defeat in the Battle of Cape Esperance with the Japanese commander, Aritomo Gotō dying from wounds suffered in the battle and two Japanese destroyers sunk by Allied air attack.
1942 – During World War II, Attorney General Francis Biddle announced that Italian nationals in the United States would no longer be considered enemy aliens.
1943 – The U.S. Fifth Army began preparation for an assault crossing of the Volturno River in Italy. The enemy had no reason to suspect that a major battle was impending. Our customary night patrols worked their way down to the river, drawing an occasional burst of machinegun fire from the enemy bank or causing a nervous German outpost to shoot off a colored signal flare. This had been going on for days and signified nothing out of the ordinary to the enemy troops in their fox holes and gun emplacements. Back in our rear bivouac areas, it was a different story. Here was all the bustle and ordered confusion which accompany the movement of troops. Tank drivers warmed up their motors, engineers loaded rubber pontons onto trucks, artillerymen studied their fire plans, and long lines of infantrymen marched out to their forward assembly areas. The preparatory phase of the Volturno crossing was over; Fifth Army was ready to strike.
1944 – Aircraft from Carrier Task Force 38 attack Formosa.
1946 – Joseph W. Stilwell, US general in China, died. Gen. Joseph W. Stilwell, the man who commanded the U.S. and Chinese Nationalist resistance to Japanese incursions into China and Burma, dies today at age 63. Born March 19, 1883, in Palatka, Florida, and a graduate of the West Point Military Academy, Stilwell began distinguishing himself early in his career. In World War I, he served with the American Expeditionary Force in Europe, as well as in the Philippines. He was also a student of the Chinese language, which garnered him a position as military attache in Peking from 1935 to 1939. It was during the 1930s that Stilwell began to bond with the Chinese peasantry-and developed an infamous distrust, if not contempt, for Chinese political leadership. Known for his straight-talking manner and as a man who did not suffer fools gladly, he made no qualms about his dislike for Chinese Nationalist leader Chiang Kai-shek, who Stilwell considered corrupt and greedy (and whom he nicknamed “the Peanut”). Nevertheless, when World War II broke out, Stilwell reluctantly accepted Chiang’s offer to become commander of U.S. Army forces in China and Burma-as well as to become Chiang’s chief of staff. Stilwell also supervised the dispersion of American Land-Lease shipments to China, much-needed supplies for the war effort that Chiang wanted funneled through his office. Stilwell’s initial military operation, to keep open the Burma Road between India and China and to repel Japanese incursions into Burma, failed. The operation in Burma was so disastrous that Chinese forces under his command stopped taking orders. And as Allied supplies to China were being strangled (the Burma Road was the necessary shipping route), Stilwell and his forces were forced to retreat into India. “We got run out of Burma, and it is humiliating as hell,” the general later admitted. Further attempts by Stilwell to rally Chinese forces against the Japanese in both Burma and China were often thwarted by both Chiang, who was more concerned about the communist threat of Mao Tse-tung, and not allowing his ultimate authority to be usurped by the Americans, and the American Air Force, which, naturally, wanted to divert the war effort from the ground to the air. Stilwell did manage to lead Chinese divisions to retake Myitakyina, and its airfield, from Japanese control, rebuilding the Ledo Road, a military highway in India that led into Burma (the road was later renamed Stilwell Road). But conflicts with Chiang resulted in Stilwell’s removal in 1944. He then served as commander of the 10th Army on Okinawa, ultimately receiving the surrender of 100,000 Japanese troops in the Ryukyu Islands, in southern Japan. Stilwell finished off his career as commander of the 6th Army. The man who Gen. George C. Marshall declared “far-sighted” and “one of the exceptionally brilliant and cultured men in the Army…qualified for any command in peace or war,” died in San Francisco-with his nation at peace.
1950 – The battleship USS Missouri bombarded Chongjin.
1950 – The USS Pirate and USS Pledge were both destroyed by mines. The Pirate sank in four minutes with six killed and 43 wounded. The Pledge suffered seven killed in action and 36 wounded.
1950 – FEAF Combat Cargo Command began an airlift of ROK military supplies to Wonsan, which ROK forces had captured two days earlier. It also began transporting 600 tons of bridge sections to Kimpo airfield.
1953 – US and Greece signed a peace treaty that included US bases.
1957 – RADM Dufek arrives at McMurdo Sound, Antarctica to command Operation Deep Freeze III during the International Geophysical Year of 1957-58.
1960 – Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev disrupted a U.N. General Assembly session by pounding his desk with a shoe during a dispute.
1964 – The Soviet Union launched a Voskhod space capsule with a three-man crew on the first manned mission involving more than one crew member.
1965 – End of Project Sealab II where teams of naval divers and scientists spent 15 days in Sealab moored 205 feet below surface near La Jolla, California.
1965 – First group of men commissioned into Navy Nurse Corps report for one month indoctrination to Naval Service; LTJG Jerry McClelland, ENS Charles Franklin, ENS Israel Miller, ENS Richard Gierman and ENS George Silver.
1966 – Operation “Teton,” RVN.
1967 – At a news conference, Secretary of State Dean Rusk makes controversial comments in which he says that congressional proposals for peace initiatives–a bombing halt or limitation, United Nations action, or a new Geneva conference–were futile because of Hanoi’s opposition. Without the pressure of the bombing, he asked, “Where would be the incentive for peace?” He added that the Vietnam War was a test of Asia’s ability to withstand the threat of “a billion Chinese…armed with nuclear weapons.” Critics claimed that he had invoked the familiar “yellow peril” of Chinese power.
1970 – President Richard Nixon announced the pullout of 40,000 more American troops in Vietnam by Christmas.
1972 – Forty six sailors are injured in a race riot involving more than 100 sailors on the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk enroute to her station in the Gulf of Tonkin off Vietnam. The incident broke out when a black sailor was summoned for questioning regarding an altercation that took place during the crew’s liberty in Subic Bay (in the Philippines). The sailor refused to make a statement and he and his friends started a brawl that resulted in sixty sailors being injured during the fighting. Eventually 26 men, all black, were charged with assault and rioting and were ordered to appear before a court-martial in San Diego. Four days later, a group of about 12 black sailors aboard the USS Hassayampa, a fleet oiler docked at Subic Bay, told ship’s officers that they would not sail with the ship when the ship put to sea. The group demanded the return of money that allegedly had been stolen from the wallet of one of the group. The ship’s leadership failed to act quickly enough to defuse the situation and later that day, a group of seven white sailors were set upon by the group and beaten. It took the arrival of a Marine detachment to restore order. Six black sailors were charged with assault and rioting. These incidents indicated the depth of the racial problems in the Navy. All of the services had experienced similar problems earlier, but the Navy had lagged behind the others in addressing the issues that contributed to the racial tensions that erupted on the Kitty Hawk and the Hassayampa. Admiral Elmo R. Zumwalt, Jr., Chief of Naval Operations, instituted new race relations programs and made significant changes to Naval Regulations to address many of the very real issues raised by the black sailors regarding racial injustice in the Navy.
1976 – Gerald Ford makes Washington “general with rank and precedence over all other generals.” Image: President Ford and Mrs. Thomas Turner Cooke, Regent of the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association.

1983 – Granada’s Deputy Prime Minister Bernard Coard, a hardline Marxist, leads a coup that ousts Prime Minister Maurice Bishop. Bishop and most of his cabinet will be executed a week later. The U.S. is concerned by increasingly close ties between Granada and Cuba as well as the construction of a 10,000-foot runway that could be used by Soviet and Cuban military and cargo aircraft.
1984 – IRA bombed the hotel where Margaret Thatcher was staying in Brighton. Thatcher escaped but five people were killed. Patrick McGee was sentenced to 8 life sentences for his role in the bombing. McGee was freed in 1999 as part of the Northern Ireland peace accord.
1986 – The superpower meeting in Reykjavik, Iceland, ended in stalemate, with President Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev unable to agree on arms control or a date for a full-fledged summit in the United States.
1993 – Hundreds of militant right-wingers in Haiti cheered as an American warship retreated in a major setback for a U.N. mission to restore democracy.
1993 – US soldiers wound two Somalis near K-4 traffic circle. GIs are fired on by small arms and RPG’s.
1994 – Panama granted political asylum to ousted Haitian military leader Raoul Cedras.
1994 – NASA loses radio contact with the Magellan spacecraft as the probe descends into the thick atmosphere of Venus (the spacecraft presumably burned up in the atmosphere).
1995 – After a 2-day delay, the US-brokered cease-fire in Bosnia-Herzegovina went into effect a minute after midnight. Fighting continued over contested towns in northwest Bosnia.
1997 – In the Republic of Congo Angolan troops backed the rebels in an offensive around southern cities. Rebels surrounded Brazzaville and Gen’l. Jean-Marie Tiaffou urged government troops to surrender. There were reports that Angola’s UNITA rebels were backing Pres. Lissouba.
1998 – Yugoslav Pres. Milosevic agreed to withdraw troops from Kosovo and allow international verification as NATO prepared to authorize air strikes if he does not comply.
2000 – Pres. Clinton lifted key economic sanctions against Serbia.
2000 – A US Navy destroyer, the USS Cole, refueling in Yemen suffered an enormous explosion in a terrorist attack. Initial reports had at least 6 sailors killed with 11 missing. The death toll was revised to 17. The 8,600-ton Cole was returned to the US aboard the Norwegian ship Blue Marlin. In 2001 a video tape by “Al-Sahab Productions” circulated among Muslim militants with footage of the bombed vessel. The Cole returned to active duty in 2003 following $250 million in repairs. Those killed: Hull Maintenance Technician 2nd Class Kenneth Clodfelter, Electronics Technician Chief Petty Officer Richard Costelow, Mess Management Specialist Seaman Lakeina Francis, Information Systems Technician Seaman
Timothy Lee Gauna, Signalman Seaman Cherone Louis Gunn, Seaman James Rodrick McDaniels, Engineman 2nd Class Marc Ian Nieto, Electronics Warfare Technician 2nd Class Ronald Owens, Seaman Lakiba Nicole Palmer, Engineman Fireman Joshua Langdon Parlett, Fireman Patrick Howard Roy, Electronics Warfare Technician 1st Class Kevin Shawn Rux, Mess
Management Specialist 3rd Class Ronchester Santiago, Operations Specialist 2nd Class Timothy Lamont Saunders, Fireman Gary Graham Swenchonis Jr., Ensign Andrew Triplett, Seaman Craig Bryan Wibberley.
2000 – In Chechnya a car bomb exploded outside a Grozny police stations and at least 10 people were killed.
2000 – In Ecuador suspected Columbian FARC guerrillas kidnapped 5 Americans and 5 other foreign oil workers, hijacked a helicopter, and crossed back to Columbia. It was later suspected that the kidnappers were Ecuadoran criminals rather than Colombian guerrillas. One American was later killed and 2 Frenchmen escaped.
2000 – The Palestinian Authority released hundreds of prisoners including senior Islamic militants.
2001 – Taliban leaders withdrew over $6 million from the Kabul Da Afghanistan Bank.
2001 – In Colombia AUC paramilitary shot and killed 5 men and 2 women in the town of Piamonte. The army reported that it had discovered14 bodies in a single grave in the town of Albania.
2001 – In Spain a bombing caused wide damage in Madrid. Basque separatists were suspected.
2001 – The US indicated it would aid Uzbekistan if it were attacked. Uzbekistan was the first among Central Asian nations to allow the US to use its airspace and deploy troops on its territory for the anti-terrorism war in Afghanistan after the Sept. 11 attacks. The United States set up a military base in southern Uzbekistan, deploying hundreds of troops there.
2002 – In Indonesia a car bomb ripped through the Sari Club at the Kuta Beach resort packed with foreign tourists on the island of Bali, sparking a blaze that killed 202 people and injured 300 others. It was the worst terrorist act in Indonesia’s history. Authorities said a second bomb exploded near the island’s U.S. consular office. An estimated 100 victims were from Australia.
2002 – Kuwait’s interior minister said that 15 Kuwaitis in police custody had confessed to a deadly attack on U.S. Marines, but that no firm link has been established between them and al-Qaida.
2002 – Seven Filipino soldiers died and 25 others were wounded in a fierce clash with Muslim rebels deep in the jungle of southern Sulu island.
2003 – In Colombia government forces battled rebels and right-wing paramilitaries in several locations in heavy fighting that killed 27 gunmen and two soldiers.
2003 – In Baghdad a suicide attacker, stopped from reaching a hotel full of Americans, detonated his car bomb on a commercial avenue, killing six bystanders and wounding dozens.
2003 – In the Philippines Fathur Rohman Al-Ghozi, terrorist bombmaker for Jemaah Islamiyah, was killed in a shootout with police in Pigcauayan.
2003 – In northern Spain 2 bombs exploded in a parking lot, destroying 11 freight trucks. No one was injured in the blast blamed on the armed Basque separatist group ETA.
2004 – A videotape surfaced on the Internet showing what was said to be the confession and beheading of an Arab Shiite Muslim, presumably Iraqi, who was accused of serving the U.S. Army by “assassinating Sunni leaders.”
2010 – The trial of Ahmed Ghailani, the first Guantanamo Bay prisoner to face a criminal trial in the United States, begins in New York City. He was indicted in the United States as a participant in the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings. He was on the FBI Most Wanted Terrorists list from its inception in October 2001. In 2004, he was captured and detained by Pakistani forces in a joint operation with the United States, and was held until June 9, 2009, in the Guantanamo Bay detention camp; one of 14 Guantanamo detainees who had previously been held at secret locations abroad. Ghailani was transported from Guantanamo Bay to New York City to await trial in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York in June 2009. On November 17, 2010, a jury found him guilty of one count of conspiracy, but acquitted him of 284 other charges including all murder counts. On Tuesday, January 25, 2011, U.S. District Judge Lewis A. Kaplan, the presiding judge in the case, sentenced Ahmed Ghailani, 36, to life in prison for the bombing, stating that any sufferings Ghailani experienced at the hands of the CIA or other agencies while in custody at Guantanamo Bay pales in comparison to the monumental tragedy of the bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, which killed 224 people, including 12 Americans, and left thousands injured or otherwise impacted by the crimes. The attacks were one of the deadliest non-wartime incidents of international terrorism to affect the United States; they were on a scale not surpassed until the September 11 attacks three years later.
2011 – Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a Nigerian man also known as the “underwear bomber”, pleads guilty to attempting to blow up an airliner on Christmas Day 2009 in a trial in the U.S. city of Detroit, Michigan. Abdulmutallab was convicted in a US federal court of eight criminal counts, including attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction and attempted murder of 289 people. On 16 February 2012 he was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
2014 – A Texas health care worker contracts Ebola. The health care worker is the first person to contract the disease in the United States of America, the first infection in the US to occur by secondary contact, and the second in the world sickened from exposure outside of the African continent. The health care worker, who was in full protective gear while providing hospital care for an Ebola patient who later died, tested positive for the virus and is in stable condition, health officials said Sunday. Meanwhile, a top federal health official said the health care worker’s Ebola diagnosis shows there was a clear breach of safety protocol and all those who treated Thomas Eric Duncan must considered to be potentially exposed.

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