1776 – In Philadelphia most members of the Continental Congress began attaching their signatures to the parchment copy of the Declaration of Independence. Benjamin Harrison was one of the signers. His son and grandson later became the 9th and 23rd presidents of the US. Most of the 55 signatures were affixed on August 2, but Matthew Thornton of New Hampshire, who was not a member of Congress when the declaration was adopted, added his name in November.
1819 – The first parachute jump from a balloon was made by Charles Guille in New York City.
1832 – Some 1,300 Illinois militia under General Henry Atkinson massacred Sauk Indian men, women and children who were followers of Black Hawk at the Bad Axe River in Wisconsin. Black Hawk himself finally surrendered three weeks later, bringing the Black Hawk War to an end.
1861 – The United States Congress passes the first income tax to raise revenues for the war effort. Although never enacted, it was an important fiscal innovation that paved the way for growth of the government in the 20th century.
1862 – The US Army Ambulance Corps was established by Maj. Gen. George McClellan.
1862 – Union General John Pope captured Orange Court House, Virginia.
1864 – After months of attempting to ready C.S.S. Rappahannock and negotiating her clearance from French authorities in Calais, Flag Officer Barron reluctantly concluded that she could not be taken to sea under the Confederate flag. This date, he received a letter from Lieutenant Charles M. Fauntleroy, commanding Rappahannock, informing him that while the French would now permit her put to sea, her crew could not exceed 35 men. Barron at once replied: “I agree with you in the “absolute impossibility of navigating the ship” with so small a complement as thirty-five, including yourself and officers. You will therefore proceed to pay off and discharge your officers and crew, keeping sufficient officers and men to look after the public property, and lay up the ship until we determine upon what course we shall pursue in regard to her.” Private agents acting for the Confederacy had purchased Rappahannock from the British in November, 1863, at Sheerness, where she was refitting. Concerned that the British, suspecting that she was to be used as a cruiser, would detain her, the Confederates ran Rappahannock out of port on 24 November. Her officers joined in the channel, and intended to rendezvous with C.S.S. Georgia off the French coast, where she would take on armament. However, in passing out of the Thames estuary her bearings burned out and she ‘was taken across the channel to Calais for repairs. Though the South had entertained high hopes for her as a commerce raider, she was destined never to put to sea under the Stars and Bars”. Fauntleroy, disillusioned with the command which cost the South so much in time and effort, termed her “The Confederate White Elephant.”
1865 – The captain and crew of the C.S.S. Shenandoah, still prowling the waters of the Pacific in search of Yankee whaling ships, is finally informed by a British vessel that the South has lost the war. The Shenandoah was the last major Confederate cruiser to set sail. Launched as a British vessel in September 1863, it was purchased by the Confederates and commissioned in October 1864. The 230-foot-long craft was armed with eight large guns and a crew of 73 sailors. Commanded by Captain James I. Waddell, the Shenandoah steered toward the Pacific and targeted Yankee whaling ships. Waddell enjoyed great success, taking six ships in the South Pacific before slipping into Melbourne, Australia, for repairs in January 1865. Within a month, the Shenandoah was back on the loose, wreaking havoc in the waters around Alaska. The Rebel ship captured 32 additional Union vessels, most of which were burned. The damage was estimated at $1.6 million, a staggering figure in such a short period of time. Although the crew heard rumors that the Confederate armies had surrendered, Waddell continued to fight. He finally accepted an English captain’s report on August 2, 1865. The Shenandoah pulled off another remarkable feat by sailing from the northern Pacific all the way to Liverpool, England, without stopping at any ports. Arriving on November 6, Waddell surrendered his ship to British officials.
1887 – Rowell Hodge patented barbed wire.
1909 – The 1st Lincoln head pennies were minted. It was 95% copper and was the first US coin to depict the likeness of a president.
1909 – What will become the US Army Air Corps formed as the Army Signal Corps took 1st delivery from the Wright Brothers.
1914 – German troops occupy neutral Luxembourg and delivers an ultimatum to Belgium at 1900 hours demanding that German forces be allowed to move through Belgian territory unhindered to pre-empt a French attack on Germany. The ultimatum expires in 12 hours.
1914 – War Minister of Turkey, Enver Pasha, an aggressive nationalist and eager to restore Turkey’s fortunes as a major regional power, arranges a secret military alliance with Germany as a means of protecting his country from a possible Russian attack.
1923 – In a hotel in San Francisco, President Warren G. Harding dies of a stroke at the age of 58. Harding was returning from a presidential tour of Alaska and the West Coast, a journey some believed he had embarked on to escape the rumors circulating in Washington of corruption in his administration. Harding, a relatively unremarkable U.S. senator of Ohio, won the Republican presidential nomination in 1920 after the party deadlocked over several more prominent candidates. Harding ran pledging a “return to normalcy” after World War I and in November was elected the 29th U.S. president in a landslide election victory. Conscious of his own limitations, Harding promised to appoint a cabinet representing the “best minds” in America, but unfortunately he chose several intelligent men who possessed little sense of public responsibility. In the summer of 1923, as Washington began discussing rumors of corruption in the departments of the Interior and Justice and in the Veterans Bureau, Harding departed on a speaking tour of Alaska and the West. On August 2, he died of an embolism, perhaps brought on by worry over the political scandals about to explode on the national stage. Early the next morning, Vice President Calvin Coolidge was sworn in as president by his father, a notary public, in his family home in Plymouth, Vermont. For the rest of his first term, one of President Coolidge’s principal duties was responding to public outrage over the Teapot Dome oil-leasing scandals, the revelations of fraudulent transactions in the Veterans Bureau and Justice Department, and the reports of his predecessor’s multiple extramarital affairs.
1934 – With the death of German President Paul von Hindenburg, Chancellor Adolf Hitler becomes absolute dictator of Germany under the title of Reichsführer, or “Imperial Leader.” The German army took an oath of allegiance to its new commander-in-chief, and the last remnants of Germany’s democratic government were dismantled to make way for Hitler’s Third Reich. The Führer assured his people that the Third Reich would last for a thousand years, but Nazi Germany collapsed just 11 years later. Adolf Hitler was born in Braunau am Inn, Austria, in 1889. As a young man he aspired to be a painter, but he received little public recognition and lived in poverty in Vienna. Of German descent, he came to detest Austria as a “patchwork nation” of various ethnic groups, and in 1913 he moved to the German city of Munich in the state of Bavaria. After a year of drifting, he found direction as a German soldier in World War I, and was decorated for his bravery on the battlefield. He was in a military hospital in 1918, recovering from a mustard gas attack that left him temporarily blind, when Germany surrendered. He was appalled by Germany’s defeat, which he blamed on “enemies within”–chiefly German communists and Jews–and was enraged by the punitive peace settlement forced on Germany by the victorious Allies. He remained in the German army after the war, and as an intelligence agent was ordered to report on subversive activities in Munich’s political parties. It was in this capacity that he joined the tiny German Workers’ Party, made up of embittered army veterans, as the group’s seventh member. Hitler was put in charge of the party’s propaganda, and in 1920 he assumed leadership of the organization, changing its name to Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (National Socialist German Workers’ party), which was abbreviated to Nazi. The party’s socialist orientation was little more a ploy to attract working-class support; in fact, Hitler was fiercely right-wing. But the economic views of the party were overshadowed by the Nazis’ fervent nationalism, which blamed Jews, communists, the Treaty of Versailles, and Germany’s ineffectual democratic government for the country’s devastated economy. In the early 1920s, the ranks of Hitler’s Bavarian-based Nazi party swelled with resentful Germans. A paramilitary organization, the Sturmabteilung (SA), was formed to protect the Nazis and intimidate their political opponents, and the party adopted the ancient symbol of the swastika as its emblem. In November 1923, after the German government resumed the payment of war reparations to Britain and France, the Nazis launched the “Beer Hall Putsch”–an attempt at seizing the German government by force. Hitler hoped that his nationalist revolution in Bavaria would spread to the dissatisfied German army, which in turn would bring down the government in Berlin. However, the uprising was immediately suppressed, and Hitler was arrested and sentenced to five years in prison for treason. Imprisoned in Landsberg fortress, he spent his time there dictating his autobiography, Mein Kampf (My Struggle), a bitter and rambling narrative in which he sharpened his anti-Semitic and anti-Marxist beliefs and laid out his plans for Nazi conquest. In the work, published in a series of volumes, he developed his concept of the Fýhrer as an absolute dictator who would bring unity to German people and lead the “Aryan race” to world supremacy. Political pressure from the Nazis forced the Bavarian government to commute Hitler’s sentence, and he was released after nine months. However, Hitler emerged to find his party disintegrated. An upturn in the economy further reduced popular support of the party, and for several years Hitler was forbidden to make speeches in Bavaria and elsewhere in Germany. The onset of the Great Depression in 1929 brought a new opportunity for the Nazis to solidify their power. Hitler and his followers set about reorganizing the party as a fanatical mass movement, and won financial backing from business leaders, for whom the Nazis promised an end to labor agitation. In the 1930 election, the Nazis won six million votes, making the party the second largest in Germany. Two years later, Hitler challenged Paul von Hindenburg for the presidency, but the 84-year-old president defeated Hitler with the support of an anti-Nazi coalition. Although the Nazis suffered a decline in votes during the November 1932 election, Hindenburg agreed to make Hitler chancellor in January 1933, hoping that Hitler could be brought to heel as a member of his cabinet. However, Hindenburg underestimated Hitler’s political audacity, and one of the new chancellor’s first acts was to exploit the burning of the Reichstag (parliament) building as a pretext for calling general elections. The police under Nazi Hermann Goering suppressed much of the party’s opposition before the election, and the Nazis won a bare majority. Shortly after, Hitler took on dictatorial power through the Enabling Acts. Chancellor Hitler immediately set about arresting and executing political opponents, and even purged the Nazis’ own SA paramilitary organization in a successful effort to win support from the German army. With the death of President Hindenburg on August 2, 1934, Hitler united the chancellorship and presidency under the new title of Führer. As the economy improved, popular support for Hitler’s regime became strong, and a cult of Führer worship was propagated by Hitler’s capable propagandists. German remilitarization and state-sanctioned anti-Semitism drew criticism from abroad, but the foreign powers failed to stem the rise of Nazi Germany. In 1938, Hitler implemented his plans for world domination with the annexation of Austria, and in 1939 Germany seized all of Czechoslovakia. Hitler’s invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939, finally led to war with Germany and France. In the opening years of World War II, Hitler’s war machine won a series of stunning victories, conquering the great part of continental Europe. However, the tide turned in 1942 during Germany’s disastrous invasion of the USSR. By early 1945, the British and Americans were closing in on Germany from the west, the Soviets from the east, and Hitler was holed up in a bunker under the chancellery in Berlin awaiting defeat. On April 30, with the Soviets less than a mile from his headquarters, Hitler committed suicide with Eva Braun, his mistress whom he married the night before. Hitler left Germany devastated and at the mercy of the Allies, who divided the country and made it a major battlefield of Cold War conflict. His regime exterminated nearly six millions Jews and an estimated 250,000 Gypsies in the Holocaust, and an indeterminable number of Slavs, political dissidents, disabled persons, homosexuals, and others deemed unacceptable by the Nazi regime were systematically eliminated. The war Hitler unleashed upon Europe took even more lives–close to 20 million people killed in the USSR alone. Adolf Hitler is reviled as one of history’s greatest villains.
1939 – Albert Einstein signed a letter to President Roosevelt urging creation of an atomic weapons research program.
1941 – Lend-Lease aid begins to be sent to the Soviet Union.
1942 – US troops are now being transported to the UK in the passenger liners Queen Elizabeth, Queen Mary, and Nieuw Amsterdam. These vessels are too fast for standard escorts. Their routes across the Atlantic are based on Admiralty intelligence on U-boat concentrations.
1943 – The 10-day allied bombing of Hamburg, Germany, ended.
1943 – American naval forces bombard Kiska Island, unaware that the Japanese garrison has been evacuated.
1943 – On New Georgia, American forces have advanced to the edge of Munda airfield. The Japanese have decided not to reinforce the garrison on New Georgia. Some of its garrison are withdrawn to Kolombangara where the Japanese intend to make their next stand.
1944 – The US 3rd Army advances. The 8th Corps reaches Dinan and the outskirts of Rennes, in Brittany. To the left, elements of US 1st Army capture Villedieu in an attack around Tessy toward Mortain.
1944 – On Guam, US forces make progress in attacks on the west side of the island but American attacks on the east side are repulse by the Japanese garrison.
1945 – The last wartime conference of the “Big Three”–the Soviet Union, the United States, and Great Britain–concludes after two weeks of intense and sometimes acrimonious debate. The conference failed to settle most of the important issues at hand and thus helped set the stage for the Cold War that would begin shortly after World War II came to an end. The meeting at Potsdam was the third conference between the leaders of the Big Three nations. The Soviet Union was represented by Joseph Stalin, Britain by Winston Churchill, and the United States by President Harry S. Truman. This was Truman’s first Big Three meeting. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who died in April 1945, attended the first two conferences–in Tehran in 1943 and Yalta in February 1945. At the Potsdam meeting, the most pressing issue was the postwar fate of Germany. The Soviets wanted a unified Germany, but they also insisted that Germany be completely disarmed. Truman, along with a growing number of U.S. officials, had deep suspicions about Soviet intentions in Europe. The massive Soviet army already occupied much of Eastern Europe. A strong Germany might be the only obstacle in the way of Soviet domination of all of Europe. In the end, the Big Three agreed to divide Germany into three zones of occupation (one for each nation), and to defer discussions of German reunification until a later date. The other notable issue at Potsdam was one that was virtually unspoken. Just as he arrived for the conference, Truman was informed that the United States had successfully tested the first atomic bomb. Hoping to use the weapon as leverage with the Soviets in the postwar world, Truman casually mentioned to Stalin that America was now in possession of a weapon of monstrously destructive force. The president was disappointed when the Soviet leader merely responded that he hoped the United States would use it to bring the war with Japan to a speedy end. The Potsdam Conference ended on a somber note. By the time it was over, Truman had become even more convinced that he had to adopt a tough policy toward the Soviets. Stalin had come to believe more strongly that the United States and Great Britain were conspiring against the Soviet Union. As for Churchill, he was not present for the closing ceremonies. His party lost in the elections in England, and he was replaced midway through the conference by the new prime minister, Clement Attlee. Potsdam was the last postwar conference of the Big Three.
1945 – During the night (August 1-2), 820 US B-29 Superfortress bombers drop a record total of 6632 tons of bombs on five Japanese cities including Hachioji, Nagaoka, Mito, Toyama and the petroleum center of Kawasaki. Most of Toyama is obliterated. Also, Americans claim to have sunk 26 ships in the raids.
1950 – Amphibious force ships land Marine First Provisional Brigade at Pusan, Korea helping to save this last area of South Korea from capture.
1950 – Korea suffered its worst winter of the century.
1950 – By early August, 134 National Guard units had received activation orders.
1950 – The Ford Motor Company created the Defense Products Division in order to handle the large number of government contracts related to the Korean War. The conversion from automobile manufacture to weapons production had already been made several times in history, including during World War II, when civilian automobile production in the U.S. virtually ceased as manufacturers began turning out tanks instead.
1956 – Albert Woolson (109), last veteran US Union army, died.
1964 – North Vietnamese torpedo boats attack the destroyer USS Maddox (DD-731). The American ship had been cruising around the Tonkin Gulf monitoring radio and radar signals following an attack by South Vietnamese PT boats on North Vietnamese facilities on Hon Me and Hon Nhieu Islands (off the North Vietnamese coast) under Oplan 34A. U.S. crews interpreted one North Vietnamese message as indicating that they were preparing “military operations,” which the Maddox’s Captain John Herrick assumed meant some sort of retaliatory attack. His superiors ordered him to remain in the area. Early that afternoon, three North Vietnamese patrol boats began to chase the Maddox. About 3 p.m., Captain Herrick ordered his crew to commence firing as the North Vietnamese boats came within 10,000 yards of his ship; at the same time he radioed the aircraft carrier USS Ticonderoga for air support. The North Vietnamese boats each fired one torpedo at the Maddox, but two missed and the third failed to explode. U.S. gunfire hit one of the North Vietnamese boats, and then three U.S. Crusader jets proceeded to strafe them. Within 20 minutes, Maddox gunners sunk one of the boats and two were crippled; only one bullet hit the Maddox and there were no U.S. casualties. The Maddox was ordered to withdraw and await further instructions. In Washington, President Lyndon B. Johnson, alarmed by this situation, at first rejected any reprisals against North Vietnam. In his first use of the “hot line” to Russia, Johnson informed Khrushchev that he had no desire to extend the conflict. In the first U.S. diplomatic note ever sent to Hanoi, Johnson warned that “grave consequences would inevitably result from any further unprovoked offensive military action” against U.S. ships “on the high seas.” Meanwhile, the U.S. military command took several critical actions. U.S. combat troops were placed on alert and additional fighter-bombers were sent to South Vietnam and Thailand. The carrier USS Constellation was ordered to the South China Sea to join the USS Ticonderoga. Admiral U.S. Grant Sharp, commander of the Pacific Fleet, ordered a second destroyer, the USS C. Turner Joy, to join the Maddox on station and to make daylight approaches to within eight miles of North Vietnam’s coast and four miles of its islands to “assert the right of freedom of the seas.”
1965 – Newsman Morley Safer filmed the destruction of a Vietnamese village by U.S. Marines.
1971 – The Nixon administration officially acknowledges that the CIA is maintaining a force of 30,000 ‘irregulars’ fighting the Communist Pathet Lao in Laos. The CIA trained and equipped this force of mountain tribesman, mostly from the Hmong tribe, to fight a secret war against the Communists and to sever the Ho Chi Minh Trail into South Vietnam. According to a once top-secret report released this date by the U.S. Defense and State Departments, U.S. financial involvement in Laos had totaled $284,200,000 in 1970.
1989 – NASA confirmed Voyager 2’s discovery of 3 more moons of Neptune designated temporarily 1989 N2, 1989 N3 and 1989 N24.
1990 – Iraq invaded Kuwait, seizing control of the oil-rich emirate. The day came to be known in Kuwait as “Black Thursday.” 330 Kuwaitis died during the occupation and war. Sadam Hussein, leader of Iraq, took over Kuwait. G. Bush led an inter-national coalition for sanctions and a demand for withdrawal. The Iraqis were later driven out in Operation Desert Storm.
1990 – By a vote of 14-0, the United Nations Security Council condemned the invasion and annexation of Kuwait by Iraq and demanded in Resolution 660 the unconditional withdrawal of Iraqi troops from Kuwait.
1990 – Yasser Arafat supported Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait. This resulted in the PLO’s isolation.
1991 – UNSCOM uncovers a major Iraqi biological weapons program, including seed stocks of three biological warfare agents and threepotential warfare strains.
1995 – China ordered the expulsion of two US Air Force officers it said were caught spying on military sites.
1996 – In Somalia Mohamed Farrah Aidid was buried after dying from wounds received during fighting in Mogadishu. Followers named his son, Hussein, as their new leader.
1999 – The US Army THAAD missile, Theater High-Altitude Air Defense, was tested successfully over New Mexico for a 2nd time following a string of failures dating to 1995.
1999 – In Bosnia NATO troops arrested Radomir Kovac, former Bosnian Serb paramilitary leader, for enslaving and raping Muslim women in 1992-1993.
2001 – The UN war crimes tribunal found Radislav Krstic, former Bosnian Serb general, guilty for the 1995 genocide of some 8,000 Muslim men in Srebrenica. He was sentenced to 46 years in prison.
2001 – On Vieques, Puerto Rico, the US Navy used tear gas and foam rubber projectiles to clear protesters and journalists.
2002 – A federal judge ruled the U.S. government had to reveal the names of people detained in the investigation of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks; an appeals court later sided with federal authorities.
2002 – Facing an increasing possibility of U.S. military action, Iraq gave the first solid indication in nearly four years that it will allow U.N. weapons inspectors to return and invited the chief inspector to Baghdad for talks.
2003 – Saddam Hussein’s two elder sons and a grandson were buried as martyrs near the deposed Iraqi leader’s hometown of Tikrit, where insurgents afterward attacked U.S. troops with three remote-controlled bombs.
2003 – In Liberia Pres. Charles Taylor agreed to cede power on Aug. 11.
2003 – Afghan troops backed by U.S. warplanes killed as many as 70 militants in a daylong battle near the Pakistani border.
2004 – Pres. Bush proposed creating a national intelligence director in line with the Sep 11 Commission recommendations.
2004 – Masked gunmen killed a Turkish hostage with three gunshots to the head, according to a video posted on the Internet, and the Turkish truckers’ union said it would stop bringing supplies to U.S. forces in Iraq.
2004 – A car bomb in Baquba killed at least 3 Iraqi national guardsmen.
2014 – ISIS and its Al-Nusra Front allies invade Lebanon in and around the town of Arsal, sparking a five day battle between them and the Lebanese army, who push them back across the border into Syria. Over a hundred fighters are killed and scores of civilians are killed or wounded.
Congressional Medal of Honor Citations for Actions Taken This Day
None this Day