This Day in U.S. Military History…… October 31

31 October
1803 – Congress ratified the purchase of the entire Louisiana area in North America, which added territory to the United States for 13 subsequent states.
1831 – Daniel Butterfield (d.1901), Major General (Union volunteers), was born. Thoroughly hated by his fellow officers, Daniel Butterfield was wounded at Gettysburg and “fortunately for him and to the joy of all has gone home.” A New York businessman with the American Express company, he had been active in the militia before the war. Leading his regiment of militia-the first to cross the Long Bridge-into Virginia, he later commanded a brigade of Patterson’s army. About this time he was given a commission in one of the new regular army regiments. In the Peninsula Campaign he earned a Congressional Medal of Honor-awarded in 1892-for the carrying of the flag of the 3rd Pennsylvania at Gaines’ Mill. He was also wounded in this action. While the army was encamped at Harrison’s Landing, he experimented with bugle calls, designing a special call for his brigade to be played before the regular calls to avoid confusion with those of other commands. He is also, incorrectly, credited with originating “Taps.” His subsequent rise was rapid-commanding a brigade at 2nd Bull Run and a corps by Fredericksburg. When Hooker was given command of the army, Butterfield, by now a major general, was made his chief of staff. It was during this period that the army headquarters was termed “a combination of bar-room and brothel.” Most officers considered the culprits to be Hooker, Daniel E. Sickles, and Butterfield. During the fighting at Chancellorsville, Butterfield was left behind at Falmouth to coordinate the actions of the two wings and communicate with Washington. With Meade’s taking command of the army, a few days before Gettysburg, he reluctantly kept Butterfield as his staff chief, preferring not to replace him during active campaigning. The problem was finally solved when Butterfield was struck by a spent piece of shell on the third day of the battle. Returning to duty in the fall of 1863, he joined Hooker again at Chattanooga and was his chief of staff in the battle. With the formation of the 20th Corps he was given a division, which he commanded in the Atlanta Campaign. Illness forced him to leave the field before its conclusion. He later was given an assignment at Vicksburg and then was on recruiting duty in New York as a regular army colonel following his August 24, 1865, muster out of the volunteers. Resigning in 1870, he returned to his business interests and was active in veterans groups. Ironically he is buried at West Point, which he never attended, with one of the most ornate monuments.
1835 – Adelbert Ames (d.1933), Bvt Major General (Union Army), was born. Born in Rockland, Maine, Adelbert Ames went to sea on a clipper ship as a young man. Attending West Point and graduating fifth in his class in 1861, he was commissioned a lieutenant of artillery. Ames commanded a section of Battery D/5th U.S. Artillery at the First Battle of Bull Run, and was seriously wounded in the thigh. He issued orders until he was unable to continue, refusing to leave the field. Brevetted a major for his courage, he returned to duty in a few weeks. Ames commanded Battery A/5th U.S. Artillery in the Peninsula Campaign, and led the 20th Maine infantry in the Antietam Campaign and at Fredericksburg, Virginia. He served as Maj., Gen. George G. Meade’s aide at the Battle of Chancellorsville. In 1863, Ames was commissioned a brigadier general of volunteers, and he commanded a division at the Battles of Gettysburg, Cold Harbor, Petersburg, Fort Fisher. Ames was brevetted major general of volunteers and major general in the Regular Army for his efforts. After the war, he served as Mississippi’s provisional governor, U.S. senator, and the state’s elected governor. Involved in the corrupt politics of Reconstruction Mississippi, he resigned from public office in 1876, while facing impeachment. During the Spanish-American War, Ames served briefly as brigadier general of volunteers. Awarded the Medal of Honor in 1893, he died in Ormand, Florida, on April 13, 1933, at the age of 97. Ames was the last surviving full-rank Civil War general.
1860 – Juliette Low, founder of the Girl Scouts, was born. She was born into the wealthy Gordon Family of Savannah on the eve of the Civil War. Her socialite mother was impatient with the trouble of bearing children and could not take seriously her husband’s loyalty to the Confederacy. The tension between social appearance and hard reality was felt by little Juliette from her earliest years. All through her childhood, she showed a rebellious, tomboyish streak that kept her from ever entirely fitting the conventional image of the aristocratic Southern Belle. An unhappy marriage to a wealthy and self-indulgent English gentleman left her determined to find a life of service. At this point, she was fortunate to meet Sir Robert Baden-Powell, a popular hero of the Boer War. He was making good use of his heroic charisma to found and promote the Boy Scouts. Mrs. Low was thoroughly captivated by his values of self-discipline and personal honor and his success in communicating these values to the Boy Scouts. She was troubled, however, that he could not find much place for girls in his plans. Like others of his time, he could not see girls learning to live outdoors and be leaders, much less learning to follow careers outside the home. He would not permit girls’ groups to be called “scouts” at all, although he authorized a few troops of Girl Guides under the direction of his sister. Juliette Low did all she could with troops of the Girl Guides in England, but found the program too restricted for her high hopes. In 1912, she returned to Savannah determined to put everything she had into those hopes. On the night of her return, she called an old friend and cousin and said, “I’ve got something for the girls of Savannah, and all America, and all the world, and we’re going to start it tonight!” On her own property and with her own wealth, she began Girl Scouts, U.S.A., with a group of eighteen Savannah girls. On a tennis court shielded by curtains, she put them in bloomers and put them through a physical fitness program. She trained them in the basics of independent living and service to others, preparation for careers as well as for home and family. She broke the traditional walls that restricted the life of the southern lady and prepared girls to compete and succeed in any endeavor they chose. As the movement spread like wildfire across the country, she directed it into paths of community and national service. In World War I, she had Girl Scout troops working with the Red Cross, raising vegetables in their backyard gardens, and selling Liberty Bonds. Presidents and other national leaders showered her with honors. By the end of her life there were some 167,000 Girl Scouts in the United States and how, on their eightieth anniversary, the Girl Scouts have served an estimated fifty million members worldwide. In the early days, Juliette Low shocked her fashionable contemporaries by decorating her hat with parsley and carrots. She would tell them proudly that she had put her whole fortune into the Girl Scouts. In later years, the Girl Scout uniform was her dress for all occasions. She lies buried in that uniform in Savannah. In her breast-pocket is a note from the head of the Girl Scouts, U.S.A. : “You are not only the first Girl Scout but the best Girl Scout of them all.”
1861 – Citing failing health, General Winfield Scott, commander of the Union forces, retires from service. The hero of the Mexican War recognized early in the Civil War that his health and advancing years were a liability in the daunting task of directing the Federal war effort. Scott was born in Virginia in 1786. He graduated from William and Mary College and joined the military in 1808, where he had become the youngest general in the army by the end of the War of 1812. He was an important figure in the development of the U.S. Army after that war, having designed a system of regulations and tactical manuals that defined the institution for most of the 19th century. Scott borrowed heavily from the French, but his tactics were of little use in the irregular warfare the army waged against the Seminoles and Creek in the southeast. His methods, however, worked brilliantly during the war with Mexico in 1846 and 1847. His campaign against Mexico City, in particular, was well planned and executed. During the crisis of 1861, Scott remained at his post and refused to join his native state in secession. President Lincoln asked Scott to devise a comprehensive plan to defeat the Confederacy. Scott’s strategy called for the blockading of ports to isolate the South economically, then an offensive down the Mississippi River. In the optimistic early days of the war, this strategy seemed hopelessly sluggish-in fact, critics dubbed it the “Anaconda Plan” after the giant Amazonian snake that slowly strangles its prey. Despite initial criticism, it was the basic strategy that eventually won the war. Scott also drew criticism for ordering the advance of General Irwin McDowell’s army into Virginia, which resulted in the disastrous Union defeat at the First Battle of Bull Run on July 21, 1861. With the arrival of George McClellan as commander of the Army of the Potomac shortly after, Scott’s influence waned. He weighed over 300 pounds, suffered from gout and rheumatism, and was unable to mount a horse. His resignation on October 31 did not end his influence on the war, however. Lincoln occasionally sought his counsel, and many of his former officers commanded forces and executed the same maneuvers that he had used in Mexico. Scott retired to West Point to write his memoirs before he died in 1866.
1864 – Anxious to have support of the Republican-dominated Nevada Territory for President Abraham Lincoln’s reelection, the U.S. Congress quickly admits Nevada as the 36th state in the Union. In 1864, Nevada had only 40,000 inhabitants, considerably short of the 60,000 normally required for statehood. But the 1859 discovery of the incredibly large and rich silver deposits at Virginia City had rapidly made the region one of the most important and wealthy in the West. The inexpert miners who initially developed the placer gold deposits at Virginia City had complained for some time about the blue-gray gunk that kept clogging up their gold sluices. Eventually several of the more experienced miners realized that the gunk the gold miners had been tossing aside was actually rich silver ore, and soon after, they discovered the massive underground silver deposit called the Comstock Lode. Unlike the easily developed placer deposits that had inspired the initial gold rushes to California and Nevada, the Comstock Lode ore demanded a wide array of expensive new technologies for profitable development. For the first time, western mining began to attract investments from large eastern capitalists, and these powerful men began to push for Nevada statehood. The decisive factor in easing the path to Nevada’s statehood was President Lincoln’s proposed 13th Amendment banning slavery. Throughout his administration Lincoln had appointed territorial officials in Nevada who were strong Republicans, and he knew he could count on the congressmen and citizens of a new state of Nevada to support him in the coming presidential election and to vote for his proposed amendment. Since time was so short, the Nevada constitutional delegation sent the longest telegram on record up to that time to Washington, D.C., containing the entire text of the proposed state constitution and costing the then astronomical sum of $3,416.77. Their speedy actions paid off with quick congressional approval of statehood and the new state of Nevada did indeed provide strong support for Lincoln. On January 31, 1865, Congress approved the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution banning slavery.
1913 – Dedication of the Lincoln Highway, the first automobile highway across United States.
1918 – In the worst global epidemic of the century, influenza (an acute, contagious respiratory viral infection) had been spreading around the world since May. Before it ended in 1919 some 20 million people were killed worldwide, about twice as many as World War I, with about 500-600,000 of them in the US. October was the deadliest month and about 195,000 died with 21,000 dead the 1st week. It was estimated that 20-40 million people died worldwide.
1918 – Pershing’s troops break through the third and final German defensive line. The Meuse-Argonne Offensive is to be renewed after a brief period of rest and reinforcement.
1922 – Mussolini was made prime minister of Italy. He centralized all power in himself as leader of the Fascist party and attempted to create an Italian empire, ultimately in alliance with Hitler’s Germany.
1941 – The U.S. Navy destroyer “Reuben James” was torpedoed by a German U-boat off Iceland, killing 115, even though the United States had not yet entered World War II.
1943 – LT Hugh D. O’Neill of VF(N)-75 destroys a Japanese aircraft during night attack off Vella Lavella in first kill by a radar-equipped night fighter of the Pacific Fleet.
1943 – The British 10th Corps (part of the US 5th Army) captures Teano in attacks toward Monte Santa Croce. Meanwhile, the US 6th Corps attacks Monte Massico.
1950 – The Chinese launched a strong attack on Eighth Army at Unsan.
1951 – Eighteen of the 67 Air Guard squadrons mobilized in 1950-1951 during the Korean War are returned to state control on this date. Only one of the 18, the 116th Fighter Squadron from Moses Lake Air Force Base, WA, served overseas during this period. Issued new F-86A Sabre jets the 116th was stationed at the Royal Air Force base at Manston, England as part of the reinforcement of NATO forces put in place to discourage a Soviet attack in Europe. The six squadrons that actually deployed and fought in Korea were released in July 1952. The last flying units of the Air Guard serving on active duty during this period were finally released on December 31, 1952.
1952 – The United States exploded the first hydrogen bomb at Eniwetok Atoll in the Pacific. The first H-bomb ever ‘Mike’ was exploded at 7.15 am local time on November 1st 1952. The mushroom cloud was 8 miles across and 27 miles high. The canopy was 100 miles wide. Radioactive mud fell out of the sky followed by heavy rain. 80 million tons of earth was vaporised. Mike was the first ever megaton yeild explosion.
1954 – The Vietnamese Marine Corps is formally organized wit US marine Colonel Victor Croziat as its senior US advisor. At two-battalion strength by the end of the year, the Vietnamese Marine Corps enjoys the reputation of a well-disciplined unit.
1955 – Lewis B. “Chesty” Puller, who earned five Navy Crosses (and 1 Army Distinguished Service Cross), retired as a Lieutenant General.
1956 – President Dwight D. Eisenhower praised the promise by Moscow made the previous day of major concessions to Hungarians in revolt as “the dawning of a new day” in Eastern Europe. Anti-government demonstrations in Budapest a week earlier had forced a reshuffling of the Hungarian government and demands that the new government denounce the Warsaw Pact and seek liberation from Soviet domination.
1956 – Rear Admiral G.J. Dufek became the first person to land an airplane at the South Pole. Navy men land in R4D Skytrain on the ice at the South Pole. RADM George Dufek, CAPT Douglas Cordiner, CAPT William Hawkes, LCDR Conrad Shinn, LT John Swadener, AD2 J. P. Strider and AD2 William Cumbie are the first men to stand on the South Pole since Captain Robert F. Scott in 1912.
1956 – USS Burdo (APD-133) and USS Harlan R. Dickson (DD-708) evacuate 166 persons from Haifa, Israel due to the fighting between Egypt and Israel.
1959 – A former U.S. Marine from Fort Worth, Texas, Lee Harvey Oswald, announced in Moscow that he would never return to the United States.
1961 – End of Lighter than Air in U.S. Navy with disestablishment of Fleet Airship Wing One and ZP-1 and ZP-3, the last operating units in LTA branch of Naval Aviation, at Lakehurst, New Jersey.
1967 – Nguyen Van Thieu took the oath of office as the first president of South Vietnam’s second republic.
1968 – President Johnson announces bombing halt. In a televised address to the nation five days before the presidential election, President Lyndon Johnson announces that on the basis of developments in the Paris peace negotiations, he has ordered the complete cessation of “all air, naval, and artillery bombardment of North Vietnam.” Accordingly, effective November 1, the U.S. Air Force called a halt to the air raids on North Vietnam known as Operation Rolling Thunder. The President further disclosed that Hanoi had finally agreed to allow the South Vietnamese government to participate in the peace talks. Johnson said that the United States would consent to a role for the National Liberation Front, though he stated that the latter concession “in no way involves recognition of the National Liberation Front in any form.” The National Liberation Front (or Viet Cong, as it was more popularly known) was the classic Communist front organization that included both Communists and non-Communists who had banded together in opposition against the Saigon regime. Domestically, President Johnson’s action drew widespread acclaim; both major presidential candidates expressed their full support. The reaction in Saigon, however, was much more subdued; President Thieu issued a communiqué declaring that the United States had acted unilaterally in its decision to halt the bombing.
1970 – South Vietnamese President Nguyen Van Thieu delivers a speech on the state of the nation before a joint session of the South Vietnamese National Assembly, asserting that 99.1 percent of the country had been “pacified.” The pacification program that he alluded to had been a long-term multi-faceted effort to provide territorial security, destroy the enemy’s underground government, reassert political control, involve the people in their own government, and provide for economic and social reforms. Citing success in this program, Thieu said that a military victory was close at hand and that “we are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.” With regard to the ongoing peace talks in Paris, the South Vietnamese president declared that the Communists viewed negotiations merely as a way to gain time and “to achieve victory gradually.” He said he would never accept a coalition government with the Communists, because “countless past experiences” had already shown that such an approach would not bring peace.
1971 – Saigon began the release of 1,938 Hanoi POW’s. 1980 – In Iran Reza Pahlavi, eldest son of the late shah, proclaimed himself the rightful successor to the Peacock Throne.
1984 – The tanker Puerto Rican exploded outside of San Francisco Bay. Coast Guard units responded. Puerto Rican arrived in San Francisco Bay on October 25, 1984, and called at Richmond and Alameda. She loaded a cargo of 91,984 barrels of lubrication oil and additives, took on 8,500 barrels of bunker fuel, and departed for sea shortly after midnight on October 31, bound for New Orleans. At 3:24 a.m., as she was disembarking the pilot outside the San Francisco Bay Entrance Channel, an explosion occurred near the No. 6 center-independent tank, which blew flames several hundred feet into the air, knocked the pilot and two crew members into the water, and folded back an immense section of the deck measuring nearly 100 feet square. The pilot boat San Francisco rescued pilot James S. Nolan and third mate Philip R. Lempiere, but able seaman John Peng was lost. Response by the Coast Guard was immediate, and the burning tanker was towed to sea in order to minimize the chance of a disastrous oil spill on the sensitive areas of San Francisco Bay, the adjacent ocean shoreline, and the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary. By the following afternoon, the fires had been extinguished, but on November 3, Puerto Rican, her hull weakened by explosion and fires, broke in two sections, releasing 30,000 barrels of oil into the water. The stern section, containing 8,500 barrels of fuel oil, sank at 37 degrees, 30.6 minutes north latitude and 123 degrees, 007. minutes west longitude, one mile inside the boundaries of the sanctuary. The remains at a depth of 1,476 feet have been thoroughly surveyed by side-scan sonar. Oil still leaks slowly from the vessel.
1989 – President Bush announced he and Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev would hold an early December summit aboard ships in the Mediterranean near Malta.
1991 – During an extremely severe winter storm, CGC Tamaroa rescued four of five Air National Guard crewmen from an H-60 that had ditched south of Long Island due to fuel exhaustion. The Tamaroa had been attempting to rescue three persons off the sailing vessel Satori (as had the ANG H-60) the previous day (see 30 October entry above) when she was diverted to assist the Air National Guard pararescuemen. The fifth pararescueman was never found. The Tamaroa was awarded the Coast Guard Unit Commendation for these rescue attempts.
1992 – It was announced that five American nuns in Liberia had been shot to death near the capital Monrovia; the killings were blamed on rebels loyal to Charles Taylor.
1997 – The US announced a plan to increase spending over the next decade to $1 billion per year to clear the world of land mines that threaten civilian populations by 2010.
1998 – The US and Israel signed a strategic cooperation agreement to protect the Jewish state from ballistic missiles. The Arrow “anti¬tactical ballistic missile” program is one of the centerpieces of the U.S.-Israel strategic relationship. It is one of the most advanced missile defense systems currently in existence. The Arrow will offer Israel an essential capability against Scud-type ballistic missiles, and provides the U.S. with key research and technology for other “theater missile defense” programs.
1998 – Iraq said that it was suspending all cooperation with int’l. arms inspectors and would close down their long-term monitoring operations in response to a Security Council rejection of demands that a review of its relations with the UN should automatically result in a lifting of sanctions. The move condemned by the Security Council.
2000 – American astronaut Bill Shepherd and two Russian cosmonauts rocketed into orbit aboard a Soyuz rocket on a quest to become the first residents of the international space station.
2001 – US bombing in Afghanistan was reported to be the heaviest in the 4-week campaign.
2001 – The Bush administration said the Saudi government has issued an order to freeze assets of people and groups suspected of links to terrorism.
2001 – Attorney Gen. John Ashcroft announced plans to block hostile foreigners from entering the US.
2001 – The US Consulate in Lahore, Pakistan, received a letter that was later confirmed to contain anthrax.
2001 – Former Symbionese Liberation Army fugitive Sara Jane Olson pleaded guilty to 2 felony accounts in Los Angeles to the attempted murder of police officers from activities with the Symbionese Liberation Army in 1975. She was later sentenced to 20 years to life in prison.
2001 – Kathy Nguyen (61), a NYC hospital worker, died of anthrax. She was the 4th person to perish in a spreading wave of bioterrorism. The source of infection remained a mystery.
2002 – Authorities charged the two Washington sniper suspects John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo with murder in a Louisiana attack that came just two days after a similar slaying in Alabama.
2003 – Fighting between Afghan soldiers and police in a tense province in southern Afghanistan killed two military commanders and up to eight policemen.
2004 – Iran’s parliament unanimously approved the outline of a bill that would require the government to resume uranium enrichment.
2004 – In Iraq a terrorist rocket attack in Tikrit killed 15 Iraqis and wounded 8.
2004 – Japan condemned the beheading of a Japanese hostage in Iraq as a despicable act of terrorism and vowed to keep its troops in the country on their reconstruction mission.
2008 – Libya pays US$1.5 billion in compensation for past terrorist attacks to the United States, clearing the way for normal diplomatic ties between the two countries.
2010 – A United States military commission sentences Guantanamo Bay detainee Omar Khadr to eight more years in prison after pleading guilty to the murder of an American soldier in 2002.
2013 – The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons declares that Syria has destroyed 21 of 23 known chemical weapons facilities, and now must destroy the chemical weapons themselves.
2014 – One person is dead and another injured after Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo explodes and crashes in California’s Mojave Desert during a test flight of the spaceplane.
2014 – A Mexican judge releases a United States Marine Corps member detained for crossing the border with loaded guns eight months ago.

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