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

20 October
1786 – Harvard University organized the 1st astronomical expedition in US.
1803 – The US Senate voted to ratify Jefferson’s Louisiana Purchase.
1818 – The Convention of 1818 signed between the United States and the United Kingdom which, among other things, settles the Canada–United States border on the 49th parallel for most of its length.
1819 – Daniel Edgar Sickles, Major General (Union volunteers), was born. Always a controversial figure, after attending New York University and studying law, he appraised his chances for advancement in various fields and quickly chose politics. As a Tammany Hall stalwart he became the Corporate Consul of the City at the age of 28 but resigned the same year to be Secretary of the U.S. Legation in London. He then served as a New York State Senator and Representative in Congress from 1857 to 1861. He had first gained national attention when in 1859 he shot and killed, in the very shadow of the White House (on Lafayette Square), his young wife’s lover, Francis Barton Key, the son of Francis Scott Key, the author of the Star Spangled Banner. During the ensuing trial, in which he was represented by Edwin M. Stanton (who would become Lincoln’s Secretary of War), he for the first time in U.S. jurisprudence pleaded the “unwritten law” (self defense of one’s wife as his own property) and was acquitted. He subsequently enraged both critics and fans by publicly forgiving his unfaithful spouse. As a War Democrat in 1861, his offer of services was quickly accepted by the President and he was soon appointed Brigadier General of Volunteers, ranking from September 1, 1861. He was assigned command of New York’s Excelsior Brigade, which he had been instrumental in recruiting. His later career as a Division and Corps Commander, with his promotion to Major General to rank from November 29, 1862, found him often at odds with his superiors. However, he demonstrated many soldierly qualities and he was utterly fearless in combat. He fought on the Peninsula and at Sharpsburg in Joseph Hooker’s Division of III Corps; commanded a Division at Fredericksburg; and in the campaign of Chancellorsville commanded III Corps. In the latter battle, elements of his command reported that General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson’s celebrated flanking march, while it was still in progress, as a retreat. The subsequent advance of 2/3 of the Corps to pursue the “retreating” Rebels left Oliver O. Howard’s XI Corps on its right completely isolated and contributed largely to the ensuing debacle. At Gettysburg, his men were supposed to cover the Federal left in the vicinity of the Round Tops. Not liking the position and in defiance of direct orders to the contrary, he advanced the Corps into the famous Peach Orchard, creating a salient which was subsequently overrun by General James Longstreet’s assault. The end results were the virtual destruction and disappearance if III Corps, termination of his command in the field by virtue of a serious wound which cost him his right leg, and controversy with his superior, General George Gordon Meade. However, he was subsequently awarded the Medal of Honor for his services at Gettysburg. After his recovery, during which he donated his amputated right leg to the Army Medical Museum in Washington – where it continues on display at that facility located at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, President Lincoln dispatched him on a tour of Union-held Southern territory for an appraisal of the effect of amnesty, Negro progress, and Reconstruction. He next performed a diplomatic mission to Colombia; served as Military Governor of South Carolina; and in 1869 retired from the Army with the rank of Major General in the Regular Army. At that time, President Grant appointed him Minister to Spain, where he was chiefly distinguished diplomatically by becoming the intimate friend of Isabella, the former Queen of Spain. He served again in Congress from New York, 1893-95; and for many years was the Chairman of the New York State Monuments Commission, a position from which he was removed in 1912 by reason of alleged misuse of funds. However, while in that position, he did much to bring about the National Battlefield Park at Gettysburg, a site he often visited during his life. An octogenarian relic of a bygone age, he became separated not only from family but from reality and died irresponsible on May 3, 1914 at his home in New York City. He is now buried in Section 2 of Arlington National Cemetery.
1820 – Spain sold a part of Florida to US for $5 million.
1824 – U.S. Schooner Porpoise captures four pirate ships off Cuba.
1903 – The Joint Commission, set up on January 24 by Great Britain and the United States to arbitrate the disputed Alaskan boundary, ruled in favor of the United States. The deciding vote was Britain’s, which embittered Canada. The United States gained ports on the panhandle coast of Alaska.
1926 – President Calvin Coolidge ordered Marines to guard the U. S. Mail. In Elizabeth, New Jersey, on 14 October 1926, the brutal robbery and killing of a U. S. Mail truck driver forced President Calvin Coolidge to turn to the Marine Corps for assistance in the civil community. By Presidential Order, 2,500 Marines proceeded on duty to guard the mail. The Commandant, anticipating the Presidential Order, on 18 October had directed the Commanding General, Headquarters, Department of the Pacific, located in San Francisco, …You will organize a force from the 4th Regiment, to be known as the Western Mail Guards, under the command of Brigadier-General Smedley D. Butler…. Brigadier-General Smedley D. Butler, known as “Ol’ Gimlet Eye” to fellow Marines, brought a long record of combat leadership and two Congressional Medals of Honor to the Mail Guards. Veteran of both World War I and the guerilla wars of Central America, Butler’s easy-going manner hid his cold, methodical approach to the task given to the Marines. As the primary source of personnel for the Western Mail Guard, the 4th Marines initially would be spread throughout eleven states(7). Part of a twelfth state, Texas would be added on 22 October 1926. General Butler’s fully armed Marines soon became sobering influences throughout Post Offices, mail trains, and mail trucks in those areas. While Marines carried out their mail guard assignment, only one attempted robbery was recorded. That particular robbery involved an unguarded mail train carrying no mail at the time. Meanwhile, in San Diego, the base stood relatively empty with a reduced level of caretaker personnel awaiting the retum of the 4th Regiment. When normal operations returned to the U. S. Mail system as a result of the Marine guards, the need for continued assignment of such forces became less and less justified. The return of the 4th Marines to San Diego began on 10 January 1927 and by 18 February all personnel had been returned to their home bases as the Mail Guard Force disbanded.
1927 – Henry Ford hand stamped the very first Model A engine number. Even though the Model A was in production for only four years, it sold nearly five million units worldwide. The Model A was also one of the first affordable cars to take safety into consideration, with shatterproof glass, four wheel brakes and bumpers as standard equipment.
1939 – The German government warns that neutral merchant ships joining Allied convoys will be sunk without warning. It is also announced that Hitler has signed a decree by which 3,000,000 Jews now living in Poland will get their own territory in eastern Poland, with a Jewish capital at Lublin.
1942 – The United States Congress passes the largest tax bill in the country’s history. It will raise $6,881,000,000 in tax revenue.
1943 – Elements of US 5th Army take Piedimonte d’Alife while other elements are advancing along the Volturno River.
1944 – Seventh Fleet lands over 60,000 Army troops on Leyte, Philippines while Japanese aircraft attack. Elements of the US 6th Army (Krueger) land on the east coast of Leyte. The 1st Cavalry and 24th Infantry Divisions of the US 10th Corps (Sibert) come ashore to the south of Tacloban; the 96th and 7th Infantry Divisions of US 24th Corps (Hodge) land around Dulag. A total of 132,000 troops are landed during the day. Naval support is provided by the US 7th Fleet (Admiral Kinkaid). Additional naval support is provided the elements of the US 3rd Fleet (Admiral Halsey). Additional air support is provided by the US 5th Air Force. The defending Japanese 16th Division conducts a fighting withdrawal from the beachheads to prepared positions inland to await reinforcements. American forces capture Tacloban Airfield during the day but are unable to link the two beachheads. A few hours after the initial assault troops land, General MacArthur, the Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in the Southwest Pacifc, comes ashore and makes a radio broadcast to the people of the Philippines, recalling his promise to return. During World War II, Gen. Douglas MacArthur and the US 6th army stepped ashore at Leyte in the Philippines. It was 2 1/2 years after he’d said, “I shall return.” He stepped ashore with Sergio Osmena, the president-in-exile, and Gen’l. Carlos Romulo, who later served as foreign minister. Many Coast Guard units participated in the landings. During the night, Japanese forces launch unsuccessful counterattacks against the beachheads.
1944 – A carrier fleet, including 1 large carrier, 1 small carrier, 2 seaplane carriers, and 2 hybrid carrier-battleships as well as small ships, sails for the Philippines as part of Operation Sho-go. This force, the Northern Force (Admiral Ozawa) is intended to draw off the main American naval forces operating around the Philippines, to the northeast. Meanwhile, the 2nd Striking Force (Admiral Shima) sets sail with 3 cruisers and 7 destroyers.
1944 – The US 19th Tactical Air Force breaches the dam at Dieuze, France, causing extensive flooding to the rear of German 1st Army, opposite US 3rd Army.
1945 – Egypt, Syria, Iraq and Lebanon formed the Arab League to present a unified front against the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine. A representative of Palestinian Arabs, although he did not sign the charter because he represented no recognized government, was given full status and a vote in the Arab League. The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) was granted full membership in 1976. Other current members include Algeria, Bahrain, Comoros, Djibouti, Eritrea (pending in 1999), Kuwait, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Somalia, Sudan, Tunisia, and the United Arab Emirates.
1947 – The House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) of the U.S. Congress opens its investigation into communist infiltration of the American movie industry on October 20, 1947. Chaired by Congressman Parnell Thomas, the subsequent hearings focused on identifying political subversives among Hollywood actors and actresses, writers, and directors. A number of witnesses, including studio owners Walt Disney and Jack Warner, and movie stars Robert Taylor and Gary Cooper, gave statements decrying the communist influence in the film industry; some specifically named colleagues whom they suspected of communist affiliations or sympathies. Another group of witnesses, including writers Dalton Trumbo and Ring Lardner Jr., were less forthcoming, and loudly complained that the hearings were illegal, and that questions about their political loyalties were inappropriate. Eventually, the “Hollywood Ten,” as these protesting witnesses came to be known, were found in contempt of Congress and went on to serve jail terms.
1950 – President Harry S. Truman issued an executive order “activating” the Magnuson Act, which had been passed by Congress earlier that month. This act, authorizing the president to invoke the Espionage Act of 1917, tasked the Coast Guard with the port security mission.
1950 – In the first airborne operation of the Korean War, 2,860 paratroopers of the 187th Airborne Regimental Combat Team jumped between Sukchon and Sunchon, 25 miles north of Pyongyang. Far East Air Force C-119s and C-47s transported the assault force and F-80 and F-51 fighters provided air cover.
1952 – Task Force 77 establishes ECM Hunter/Killer Teams of 2 ECM equipped aircraft and an armed escort of 4 Skyraiders and 4 Corsairs.
1952 – The destroyer escort Lewis was hit by shore fire off the West Coast of Korea. Seven sailors were killed and one wounded.
1955 – On the orders of the governor, Maryland Adjutant General, MG Milton A. Reckord issued the command to desegregate the Maryland National Guard. A headline in next day’s Baltimore Morning Sun heralded that Maryland would be the first southern state to desegregate its Guard. Reckord issued General Order No. 49, effective Dec. 1, opening the force to anyone “regardless of race, creed, or color.” It was not an overnight success. White units were assigned as wholes with the battalion, still separate but technically meeting the integration requirement, still separate units attached to the 29th Division. True integration woudl take more time, but the process had begun.
1955 – “No Time for Sergeants,” starring Andy Griffith, opened on Broadway.
1962 – Major General Donald McGowan, the Chief of the National Guard Bureau and the other Reserve Component directors are given a Top Secret briefing in the Pentagon on the impending crisis following the discovery on October 18th of Soviet nuclear missile sites being constructed in Cuba. President John Kennedy would announce this intelligence to the world in a televised speech on October 22nd, causing worldwide concern of a nuclear war. After the President’s speech a number of Guard units, primarily Air Guard fighter groups, were given alert notifications that they might be called up if the crisis deepened. All of these units began operating at an increased tempo (though officially in a training status), flying along American coastal areas keeping watch for anything suspicious. However, with the Soviet agreement to withdraw the missiles tensions began to subside and no Guard units were actually mobilized during the crisis.
1964 – Herbert Hoover, the 31st president of the United States (1929-1933), died in New York at age 90. Herbert Clark Hoover was born at West Branch, Iowa, on Aug. 10, 1874, the first president to be born west of the Mississippi. A Stanford graduate, he worked from 1895 to 1913 as a mining engineer and consultant throughout the world. In 1899, he married Lou Henry. During World War I, he served with distinction as chairman of the American Relief Committee in London, as chairman of the Commission for Relief in Belgium, and as U.S. Food Administrator. His political affiliations were still too indeterminate for him to be mentioned as a possibility for either the Republican or Democratic nomination in 1920, but after the election he served Harding and Coolidge as secretary of commerce. In the election of 1928, Hoover overwhelmed Gov. Alfred E. Smith of New York, the Democratic candidate and the first Roman Catholic to run for the presidency. He soon faced the worst depression in the nation’s history, but his attacks upon it were hampered by his devotion to the theory that the forces that brought the crisis would soon bring the revival and then by his belief that there were too many areas in which the federal government had no power to act. In a succession of vetoes, he struck down measures proposing a national employment system or national relief, he reduced income tax rates, and only at the end of his term did he yield to popular pressure and set up agencies such as the Reconstruction Finance Corporation to make emergency loans to assist business. After his 1932 defeat, Hoover returned to private business. In 1946, President Truman charged him with various world food missions; and from 1947 to 1949 and 1953 to 1955, he was head of the Commission on Organization of the Executive Branch of the Government.
1967 – Operation Coronado VII began in Mekong Delta, Vietnam. A M-132-Al flame configured armored personnel carrier was shoe-horned into an ATAC of River Assault Division NINETY-TWO. Tests were initiated and the results were excellent. This weapon would prove to be a great asset in future combat operations. It would give yeoman service as a destroyer of offensive bunkers. This weapon was first put into play on Operation CORONADO VII (21-23 October) in the Rung Sat Special Zone. This operation was conducted to provide security to the Republic of Vietnam Lower House election conducted 22 October. The security provided by units of River Assault Squadron NINE and other elements of River Assault Flotilla ONE allowed 83.2 percent of all registered voters to move to the polls without incident. Numerous civilians reported that the presence of U. S. boats on the waterways of the district was a significant factor in providing reassurance to the voters. This indicates that extensive operations conducted by the Mobile Riverine Force in the district during the month were very successful in undermining the Viet Cong influence in the area.
1973 – Arab oil-producing nations banned oil exports to the United States, following the outbreak of Arab-Israeli war.
1973 – “Saturday Night Massacre”: United States President Richard Nixon fires U.S. Attorney General Elliot Richardson and Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus after they refuse to fire Watergate special prosecutor Archibald Cox, who is finally fired by Robert Bork.
1978 – The cutter Cuyahoga sank after colliding with M/V Santa Cruz II near the mouth of the Potomac River. Eleven Coast Guard personnel were killed.
1981 – Three members of the radical Weather Underground were arrested following a bungled armored truck robbery in Nanuet, N.Y., where a guard was killed. 2 police officers were killed when the getaway truck was halted in Nyack. Kathy Boudin was sentenced 20 years to life for assisting in the getaway. In 2003 Boudin was paroled.
1983 – Due to political strife, USS Independence (CV-59) ordered to Grenada.

1987 – Ten people were killed when an Air Force jet crashed into a Ramada Inn hotel near Indianapolis International Airport after the pilot, who was trying to make an emergency landing, ejected safely.
1992 – The host Toronto Blue Jays defeated the Atlanta Braves, 3-2 in game three of the World Series, taking a two-games-to-one lead. This was the first World Series game to be played outside the U.S. During the pre-game ceremony, a Marine color guard presented the Canadian flag.
1993 – The Senate adopted a non-binding resolution saying Congress should give its approval before any U.S. troops were sent to enforce a Bosnian peace accord.
1994 – The Pentagon announced that more than 100,000 U.S. troops were being taken off alert for possible movement to the Persian Gulf because the Iraqi threat to Kuwait had abated.
1995 – France, the United States and Britain announced a treaty banning atomic blasts in the South Pacific—but only after France finished testing there the following year.
1995 – Space shuttle “Columbia” was launched on a research flight that had been delayed six times. The second United States Microgravity Laboratory (USML-2) Spacelab mission will be the prime payload on STS-73. The 16-day flight will continue a cooperative effort of the U.S. government, universities and industry to push back the frontiers of science and technology in “microgravity”, the near-weightless environment of space.
1998 – King Hussein of Jordan, at the invitation of Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, joined Pres. Clinton to press for the Israeli-Palestinian compromise in Maryland.
1999 – The Cold War (1951-1977) locations of nuclear weapons minus their nuclear charges was partly revealed in a 1978 top secret Pentagon document titled “History of the Custody and Deployment of Nuclear Weapons.”
2000 – Egyptian-born Ali Mohamed, a U.S. citizen who’d served in the Army (1986), pleaded guilty in New York to helping plan the deadly U.S. Embassy bombings in Africa in 1998 that killed 224 people, including 12 Americans. It was later reported that Mohamed, a former Egyptian Army major, had served as an FBI informant.
2001 – US Special Forces struck 2 targets in Afghanistan that included an airfield and a command complex near Kandahar.
2001 – It was reported that the US was using a 40-year-old EC C-130 plane called “Commando Solo” to broadcast messages and music over Afghanistan.
2001 – Traces of anthrax were found in a US House of Representatives mail room. This became the 3rd Capital Hill building infected.
2002 – In the Philippines a bomb exploded at an open-air Christian shrine in the southern city of Zamboanga, killing one Marine and wounding 16 people.
2003 – Saudi authorities announced the arrests of terrorist suspects and the discovery of large quantities of weapons and ammunition during raids around the kingdom.
2004 – Reservist Staff Sgt. Ivan Frederick (38), the highest-ranking soldier charged in the Abu Ghraib scandal pleaded guilty to five charges of abusing Iraqi detainees, as a two-day court-martial opened at a U.S. base in Baghdad.
2011 – The former leader of Libya, Muammar Gaddafi, and his son Mutassim Gaddafi are killed shortly after the Battle of Sirte while in the custody of NTC fighters.

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