This Day in U.S. Military History…… September 4

4 September
1781 – Mexican Provincial Governor, Felipe de Neve, founded Los Angeles. He founded El Pueblo de Nuestra Senora la Reina de Los Angeles (Valley of Smokes), originally named Nuestra Senora la Reina de Los Angeles de Porciuncula, by Gaspar de Portola, a Spanish army captain and Juan Crespi, a Franciscan priest, who had noticed the beautiful area as they traveled north from San Diego in 1769. 44 Spanish settlers named a tiny village near San Gabriel, Los Angeles. Los Angeles, first an Indian village Yangma, was founded by Spanish decree. 26 of the settlers were of African ancestry.
1807 – Robert Fulton began operating his steamboat.
1812 – The Siege of Fort Harrison begins when the fort is set on fire. On September 3, 1812, a band of Miami arrived and warned Captain Zachary Taylor that they would soon be attacked by a large force of Native Americans. That evening, shots were heard, but Taylor was hesitant to send a scout party. He only had 50 men in his garrison, and sickness had reduced the number of effective soldiers to only 15. In the morning, a party was dispatched and discovered the bodies of two white settlers, the Doyle brothers. The brothers were buried, and the party reported back to Fort Harrison. Captain Taylor, with his 15 able soldiers and about 5 healthy settlers, made ready for the expected attack. Each of the 20 men was issued sixteen rounds to fire. That day, September 4, a force of 600 Potawatomi (under Chief Pa-koi-shee-can), Wea (under War Chief Stone Eater), Shawnee, Kickapoo and Winnebago warriors approached Fort Harrison. A party of 40 men under command of Kickapoo Chief Namahtoha approached under a flag of truce and asked to parley with Taylor the next morning. Taylor agreed, and the Indian force retreated to camp for the night. That night, a warrior crawled up and set the blockhouse on fire. When the sentries opened fire on the arsonist, the 600-strong Indian war party attacked the west side of the fort. Taylor ordered the fort’s surgeon and a handful of defenders to control the fire. The blockhouse, which was attached to the barracks, had a store of whiskey, which soon ignited, and the fire raged out of control. Taylor admitted in his report that the situation looked hopeless, and two of his healthy men fled the fort. Warning the fort that “Taylor never surrenders!”, the captain organized a bucket brigade to fight the fire before it destroyed the fort’s picket walls. One woman, Julia Lambert, even lowered herself down into the fort’s well to fill buckets more quickly. The fire did serve one purpose, in that it illuminated the night, revealing the attackers. The fire left a 20-foot-wide (6.1 m) gap in the outer wall, which the garrison temporarily sealed with a 5-foot-high (1.5 m) breastwork. The remaining few of the garrison returned the fire of the Indians so fiercely that they were able to hold off the attack. All remaining invalids were armed to maintain defense, while healthy men were put to work repairing a hole left in the fort’s walls. The fort was repaired by daybreak of September 5. The Indian force withdrew just beyond gun range and butchered area farm animals within sight of the fort. The garrison and settlers inside the fort, meanwhile, had lost most of their food in the fire, and had only a few bushels of corn, and faced starvation. News of the siege arrived in Vincennes as Colonel William Russell was passing through with a company of regular infantry and a company of rangers, on their way to join Ninian Edwards, governor of Illinois Territory. Colonel Russell’s companies joined with the local militia and 7th Infantry Regiment and marched to the relief of Fort Harrison. Over 1000 men arrived from Vincennes on September 12, and the Indian force departed. The next day, however, a supply train following Colonel Russell was attacked in what became known as the Attack at the Narrows in modern Sullivan County, Indiana.
1861 – C.S.S. Yankee (also known as C.S.S. Jackson) and Confederate batteries at Hickman, Kentucky, fired on U.S.S.Tyler, Commander J Rodgers, and Lexington. Commander Stembel, while the gunboats were reconnoitering Mississippi River south from Cairo.
1862 – Robert E. Lee’s Confederate 50,000-man army invaded Maryland, starting the Antietam Campaign. New York Tribune reporter George Smalley scooped the world with his vivid account of the Battle of Antietam.
1863 – Small boats manned by Union sailors under Lieutenant Francis J. Higginson transported troops in an attempted night assault on Fort Gregg at Cumming’s Point, Morris Island. “The object,” Brigadier General Gillmore reported, “was to spike the guns and blow up the magazine.” At the mouth of Vincent’s Creek a boat carrying a wounded Confederate soldier was captured, but the shots fired alerted the defenders at Fort Gregg and the secret attack was called off. A similar attempt the next night found the Southerners ready and no further attempts were made. Gillmore reported that Lieutenant Higginson “has rendered good service. Major [Oliver S.] Sanford . . . speaks highly of his presence of mind and personal bravery, as well as his efficiency as a commander. I give this testimonial unasked because it is deserved.”
1864 – Bread riots took place in Mobile, Alabama.
1864 – An amazing career ends when feared Confederate cavalry leader John Hunt Morgan is killed during a Union cavalry raid on the town of Greenville, Tennessee. An Alabama native, Morgan grew up in Kentucky and attended Transylvania University before being expelled for poor behavior. He served under Zachary Taylor in the Mexican War and became a successful hemp manufacturer in Kentucky afterwards. Morgan was a strong sympathizer with the Southern cause in the 1850s, and moved to Alabama when Kentucky did not secede from the Union. After joining the Confederate Army, Morgan quickly became a colonel in the cavalry. He fought at Shiloh and soon became famous for his cavalry raids. In one year, starting in July 1862, Morgan made four spectacular raids on Union-held territory. In the first raid, Morgan rode 1,000 miles around Kentucky, disrupting Yankee supply lines and capturing 1,200 Union soldiers. His force, consisting of as many as 1,800 troopers, traveled light and lived off the land. By December 1862, Morgan’s raids had successfully diverted 20,000 Union troops in order to secure supply lines and communications networks. His fourth raid was the most dramatic, but it ended in disaster. Leaving Tennessee in July 1863 with 2,400 men, Morgan headed again for Kentucky. This time, he continued northward into the Union states. Morgan’s force swept through southern Indiana and Ohio before heading back to the Ohio River, but Union troops blocked his passage back to Kentucky, and Yankee cavalry chased him into northeastern Ohio. He and the remnants of his force were trapped, and they surrendered at Salineville, Ohio, on July 26. Morgan and his officers were incarcerated at the Ohio State Penitentiary in Columbus. On November 23, 1863, he and some of his men tunneled out of the prison and escaped to the South. He returned to duty and commanded the Department of Southwestern Virginia. At the time of his death, Morgan was preparing for a raid on Knoxville, Tennessee. Alerted to his presence, Union cavalry attacked his headquarters at Greenville. Morgan was shot and killed while trying to join his men.
1882 – Thomas Edison displayed the first practical electrical lighting system. He successfully turned on the lights in a one square mile area of New York City with the world’s 1st electricity generating plant.
1886 – For almost 30 years he had fought the whites who invaded his homeland, but Geronimo, the wiliest and most dangerous Apache warrior of his time, finally surrenders in Skeleton Canyon, Arizona. Known to the Apache as Goyalkla, or “One Who Yawns,” most non-Indians knew him by his Spanish nickname, Geronimo. When he was a young man, Mexican soldiers had murdered his wife and children during a brutal attack on his village in Chihuahua, Mexico. Though Geronimo later remarried and fathered other children, the scars of that early tragedy left him with an abiding hatred for Mexicans. Operating in the border region around Mexico’s Sierra Madre and southern Arizona and New Mexico, Geronimo and his band of 50 Apache warriors succeeded in keeping white settlers off Apache lands for decades. Geronimo never learned to use a gun, yet he armed his men with the best modern rifles he could obtain and even used field glasses to aid reconnaissance during his campaigns. He was a brilliant strategist who used the Apache knowledge of the arid desert environment to his advantage, and for years Geronimo and his men successfully evaded two of the U.S. Army’s most talented Indian fighters, General George Crook and General Nelson A. Miles. But by 1886, the great Apache warrior had grown tired of fighting and further resistance seemed increasingly pointless: there were just too many whites and too few Apaches. On September 4, 1886, Geronimo turned himself over to Miles, becoming the last American Indian warrior in history to formally surrender to the United States. After several years of imprisonment, Geronimo was given his freedom, and he moved to Oklahoma where he converted to Christianity and became a successful farmer. He even occasionally worked as a scout and adviser for the U.S. army. Transformed into a safe and romantic symbol of the already vanishing era of the Wild West, he became a popular celebrity at world’s fairs and expositions and even rode in President Theodore Roosevelt’s inaugural parade in 1905. He died at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, in 1909, still on the federal payroll as an army scout.
1888 – George Eastman received patent #388,850 for his roll-film camera and registered his trademark: “Kodak.” George Eastman introduced the box camera.
1910 – A Marine Battalion under Major Smedley D. Butler sailed from Nicaragua for Panama.
1912 – Provisional Regiment landed in Nicaragua during uprisings.
1915 – The U.S. military placed Haiti under martial law to quell a rebellion in its capital Port-au-Prince.
1917 – The American expeditionary force in France suffered its first fatalities in World War I.
1923 – Maiden flight of the first U.S. airship, the USS Shenandoah.
1940 – The United States warns the Japanese government against making aggressive moves in Indochina.
1940 – American destroyer Greer becomes the first U.S. vessel fired on in the war when a German sub aims a few torpedoes at it, sparking heightened tensions between Germany and the United States. It was a case of mistaken identity. As the Greer made its way through the North Atlantic, a British patrol bomber spotted a German sub, the U-652. The British bomber alerted the Greer, which responded by tracking the sub. As the American destroyer approached Iceland, the area in which the sub had been spotted, a British aircraft dropped a depth charge into the water, rocking the sub. The U-652, believing the Greer responsible for the charge, fired its torpedoes. They missed. The Greer made it safely to Iceland. Although the United States was still officially a neutral country, Roosevelt unofficially declared war on anyone who further attacked American vessels in the North Atlantic: “If German or Italian vessels of war enter these waters, they do so at their own peril.”
1941 – A German submarine makes the first attack against a United States ship, the USS Greer. By all accounts, a German submarine (later identified as U-652) fired upon the Greer, but made no contact. When news of the encounter reached the United States, public concern ran high. Initial reports reported that a British aircraft aided in repelling the attack. In response, Germany claimed “that the attack had not been initiated by the German submarine; on the contrary, … the submarine had been attacked with depth bombs, pursued continuously in the German blockade zone, and assailed by depth bombs until midnight.”[1] The communique implied that the US destroyer had dropped the first depth bombs. Germany accused President Roosevelt of “endeavoring with all the means at his disposal to provoke incidents for the purpose of baiting the American people into the war.” Hitler specifically cited the Greer incident as a US provocation in his declaration of war against the US in December 1941. The United States Department of the Navy replied that the German claims were inaccurate and that “the initial attack in the engagement was made by the submarine on the Greer.” Roosevelt made the Greer incident the principal focus of one of his famed “fireside chats”, where he explained a new order he issued as commander-in-chief that escalated America nearer to outright involvement in the European war. In Roosevelt’s words: “The Greer was flying the American flag. Her identity as an American ship was unmistakable. She was then and there attacked by a submarine. Germany admits that it was a German submarine. The submarine deliberately fired a torpedo at the Greer, followed by another torpedo attack. In spite of what Hitler’s propaganda bureau has invented, and in spite of what any American obstructionist organisation may prefer to believe, I tell you the blunt fact that the German submarine fired first upon this American destroyer without warning, and with the deliberate design to sink her.” Declaring that Germany had been guilty of “an act of piracy,” President Roosevelt announced what became known as his “shoot-on-sight” order: that Nazi submarines’ “very presence in any waters which America deems vital to its defense constitutes an attack. In the waters which we deem necessary for our defense, American naval vessels and American planes will no longer wait until Axis submarines lurking under the water, or Axis raiders on the surface of the sea, strike their deadly blow—first.”
1942 – At Guadalcanal, the Japanese receive additional reinforcements. Off the coast, two older American destroyers utilized as transports are sunk by Japanese destroyers.
1943 – Elements of the Australian 9th Division (20th and 26th Brigades) land on Huon Gulf, east of Lae. Naval support includes 10 US destroyers under Admiral Barbey.
1943 – Allied On Arundel, American forces begin to advance out of their beachhead after a quiet period of consolidation.
1945 – 2,200 Japanese soldiers finally lay down their arms-days after their government had already formally capitulated. Wake Island was one of the islands bombed as part of a wider bombing raid that coincided with the attack on Pearl Harbor. In December of 1941, the Japanese invaded in force, taking the island from American hands, losing 820 men, while the United States lost 120. The United States decided not to retake the island but to cut off the Japanese occupiers from reinforcement, which would mean they would eventually starve. Rear Adm. Shigematsu Sakaibara, commander of the Japanese forces there, ordered the 96 Allied prisoners of war who had been left behind shot dead on trumped-up charges of trying to signal American forces by radio. And so the Japanese garrison sat on Wake Island for two years, suffering the occasional U.S. bombing raid, but no land invasion. In that time, 1,300 Japanese soldiers died from starvation, and 600 from the American air attacks. Two days after the formal Japanese surrender onboard the USS Missouri, Sakaibara capitulated to American forces, which finally landed on the island. Sakaibara was eventually tried for war crimes and executed in 1947.
1945 – The Coast Guard Cutter USCG 83434 became the first and only cutter to host an official surrender ceremony when Imperial Japanese Army Second Lieutenant Kinichi Yamada surrendered the garrison of Aguijan Island on board this Coast Guard 83-footer. Rear Admiral Marshall R. Greer, USN, accepted the surrender for the United States.
1950 – The Mort Walker Beetle Bailey cartoon appeared for the 1st time in syndication.
1950 – The 1st helicopter rescue of American pilot behind enemy lines.
1951 – President Truman addressed the nation from the Japanese peace treaty conference in San Francisco in the first live, coast-to-coast television broadcast. The broadcast was carried by 94 stations.
1954 – Icebreakers, USS Burton Island (AGB-1) and USCG Northwind, complete first transit of Northwest passage through McClure Strait.
1957 – Under orders from the governor of Arkansas, armed National Guardsmen prevent nine African-American students from attending the all-white Central High School in Little Rock. What began as a domestic crisis soon exploded into a Cold War embarrassment. The United States and the Soviet Union engaged in a heated and costly war of words during the early years of the Cold War. Propaganda became an important weapon as each nation sought to win the “hearts and minds” of people around the world. In this war, the United States suffered from one undeniable weakness: racial discrimination in America. This was a particularly costly weakness, for it made America’s rhetoric about democracy and equality seem hollow, especially to people of color in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. The Soviets eagerly seized on the issue, and tales of the horrors suffered by African Americans in the United States became a staple of their propaganda. In 1954, however, the monumental Supreme Court case of Brown v. Topeka Board of Education declared segregated schools unconstitutional and ordered school integration to proceed “with all deliberate speed.” The case was trumpeted by the American government’s propaganda as evidence of the great strides being made toward full equality for all citizens. In 1957, a Federal District Court ordered the all-white Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, to allow African-American students to attend. Governor Orval Faubus declared that he would not follow the decree. When nine African-American students attempted to enter the school on September 4, 1957, a crowd of several hundred angry and belligerent whites confronted them. Hundreds of National Guardsmen, called up by Faubus, blocked the students’ entry into the school. To the chants of “Go home, niggers” from the mob, the nine students left. Faubus’s action won him acclaim in his home state, and in much of the South, but it was a serious embarrassment to the administration of President Dwight D. Eisenhower. Eisenhower himself was no great supporter of civil rights, but he understood the international significance of the events in Little Rock. Pictures of the angry mob, the terrified African-American students, and National Guardsmen with guns and gas masks were seen around the world. The Soviets could not have created better propaganda. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles informed Eisenhower that the Little Rock incident was hurting the United States overseas, and might even cost the country the support of other nations in the United Nations. Eisenhower tried to negotiate a settlement with Faubus, but when this failed, he sent in federal troops. The nine African-American students were finally allowed to attend Central High. The Little Rock incident indicated that America’s domestic problems, particularly racial discrimination, could not remain purely domestic in the context of the Cold War. The United States portrayed itself as the defender of democracy, justice, and equality in its struggle with the Soviet Union and communism. The ugly reality of the Little Rock integration, however, forced both allies and enemies to question America’s dedication to the principles it so often professed.
1967 – The U.S. 1st Marine Division launches Operation SWIFT, a search and destroy operation in Quang Nam and Quang Tin Provinces in I Corps Tactical Zone (the region south of the Demilitarized Zone). A fierce four-day battle ensued in the Que Son Valley, 25 miles south of Da Nang. During the course of the battle, 114 men of the U.S. 5th Marine Regiment were killed while the North Vietnamese forces suffered 376 casualties.
1969 – Radio Hanoi announces the death of Ho Chi Minh, proclaiming that the National Liberation Front will halt military operations in the South for three days, September 8-11, in mourning for Ho. He had been the spiritual leader of the communists in Vietnam since the earliest days of the struggle against the French and, later, the United States and its ally in Saigon. Chinese Premier Chou En-Lai and a delegation from China held talks with First Secretary Le Duan and other members of the North Vietnamese Politburo. The Chinese leaders assured the North Vietnamese of their continued support in the war against the United States. This support was absolutely essential if the North Vietnamese wished to continue the war. Many in the United States hoped the death of Ho Chi Minh would provide a new opportunity to achieve a negotiated settlement to the war in Vietnam, but this did not materialize.
1989 – The US Air Force launched its last Titan 3 rocket, which reportedly carried a reconnaissance satellite. Since 1964, the Titan 3 had sent more than 200 satellites into space.
1990 – The air evacuation of Western women and children stranded in Iraq and Kuwait resumed, with 25 Americans among the nearly 300 who made it to Jordan.
1996 – Anti-aircraft fire lit up the skies of Baghdad, hours after the United States fired a new round of cruise missiles into southern Iraq and destroyed an Iraqi radar site. The US again launched Tomahawk cruise missiles at Iraqi air defense sites. The 2nd launch was deemed a success after the first launch failed to destroy intended targets. The Tomahawks were made by Hughes Aircraft Co. and cost about $1 mil apiece. Kurdish leader Barzani wrote a latter to Sec. of State Christopher Warren and asked that the US mediate. 44 cruise missiles were launched over 2 days plus a rocket from an F-16 fighter.
1998 – In Nevada two Air Force helicopters crashed during training and all 12 people aboard were killed.
2002 – President Bush promised to seek Congress’ approval for “whatever is necessary” to oust Saddam Hussein including using military force.
2002 – In Afghanistan Pres. Karzai announced a new currency to replace the array of inflated banknotes issued by the Taliban and regional warlords. Warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a former US ally, called for a jihad against US forces.
2002 – In Puerto Rico US Navy security officers fired tear gas at protesters who hurled rocks over a fence during bombing exercises on the island of Vieques.
2004 – Insurgents clashed with American and Iraqi troops in northern Iraq. A suicide attacker detonated a car bomb outside a police academy in the northern city of Kirkuk as hundreds of trainees and civilians were leaving for the day, killing 17 people and wounding 36. Saboteurs blew up an oil pipeline in southern Iraq.
2007 – A bomb plot in Germany was discovered following an extensive nine-month investigation, involving some 300 people, three men were arrested while leaving a rented cottage in the Oberschledorn district of Medebach, Germany where they had stored 700 kg (1,500 lb) of a hydrogen peroxide-based mixture and 26 military-grade detonators and were attempting to build car bombs intended for use against “a disco filled with American sluts”, as well as Ramstein Air Base and the Frankfurt airport. They were convicted and sentenced to jail sentences of 11-12 years.
2009 – The United States eases more restrictions on Cuba, allowing unlimited family visits and telephone exchanges.
2009 – Former US soldier Steven Dale Green is sentenced to life in prison with no possibility of release for the 2006 gang rape and murder of an Iraqi girl and the slaughter of her family in their home in Mahmudiyah, south of Baghdad.

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