1776 – John Paul Jones was commissioned as a captain and appointed to command the Alfred. His orders were to harass enemy merchant ships and defend the American coast.
1786 – The US Congress adopted the silver dollar and decimal system of money.
1813 – US Schooners Hamilton and Scourge founder in storm on Lake Ontario.
1839 – Nelson Miles, one of the most successful but controversial officers in the Plains Indian Wars, is born on a farm in Massachusetts. Unlike many of his future colleagues in the army officer corps, Miles was not born into a life of privilege. As a teen, Miles worked as a clerk, spending his few moments of leisure pursuing a disciplined program of self-improvement through lectures, night school, and reading. When a war between the states seemed imminent in 1860, he concentrated his efforts on studying military tactics. He joined the Union Army as soon as the conflict erupted, and his gift for making effective tactical use of terrain won him rapid advances in rank. In 1869, Miles assumed command of the 5th Infantry at Fort Hays, Kansas, and began his career as an Indian fighter. Miles was a courageous and bold officer, with an outstanding ability to organize and supply a large army. He was also arrogant and pompous, and he shamelessly maneuvered to advance his own career at the expense of his fellow officers. He considered many of his colleagues incompetent fools-especially those who had graduated from West Point-and was equally disliked in return. Following the disastrous defeat of Custer’s 7th Cavalry at the Little Big Horn in late June 1876, Miles was given the task of running down the offending Sioux and Cheyenne Indians. Miles proved a highly effective opponent, craftily mixing threats of force with offers of good treatment if the hostile Indians agreed to surrender. Eventually, Miles succeeded in winning the surrender of thousands of Plains Indians. Miles most celebrated victory came in 1886, when he secured the peaceful surrender of Geronimo and a small band of renegade Apache warriors. Although many other officers had played a role in encouraging Geronimo’s surrender, Miles characteristically accepted full credit for winning the surrender of the last hostile Indian in the U.S. He was less eager to accept blame for the massacre of at least 200 Indians at Wounded Knee four years later. Although Miles was not at Wounded Knee and regarded the massacre as an unforgivable blunder, the soldiers who participated had been under his command. After 1895, Miles left the West and was appointed to a variety of prestigious posts in Washington, D.C. He eventually achieved the rank of lieutenant general before retiring. When the United States entered World War I, he volunteered to resume active duty. The war department tactfully declined to give the 77-year-old retired warrior a position. He died on May 15, 1925, at the age of 85 and was buried with full honors in Arlington National Cemetery.
1854 – Smith and Wesson patented metal bullet cartridges.
1862 – Minnesota’s 5th Infantry fought the Sioux Indians in Redwood, Minn., and 24 soldiers were killed.
1863 – In the aftermath of his defeat at Gettysburg, Confederate General Robert E. Lee sends a letter of resignation as commander of the Army of Northern Virginia to Confederate President Jefferson Davis. The letter came more than a month after Lee’s retreat from Pennsylvania. At first, many people in the South wondered if in fact Lee had lost the battle. Lee’s intent had been to drive the Union army from Virginia, which he did. The Army of the Potomac suffered over 28,000 casualties, and the Union army’s offensive capabilities were temporarily disabled. But the Army of Northern Virginia absorbed 23,000 casualties, nearly one-third of its total. As the weeks rolled by and the Union army reentered Virginia, it became clear that the Confederacy had suffered a serious defeat at Gettysburg. As the press began to openly speculate about Lee’s leadership, the great general reflected on the campaign at his headquarters in Orange Courthouse, Virginia. The modest Lee took the failure at Gettysburg very personally. In his letter to Davis, he wrote, “I have been prompted by these reflections more than once since my return from Pennsylvania to propose to Your Excellency the propriety of selecting another commander for this army…. No one is more aware than myself of my inability for the duties of my position. I cannot even accomplish what I myself desire…. I, therefore, in all sincerity, request your Excellency to take measure to supply my place.” Lee not only seriously questioned his ability to lead his army, he was also experiencing significant physical fatigue. He might also have sensed that Gettysburg was his last chance to win the war. Regardless, President Davis refused the request. He wrote, “To ask me to substitute you by someone … more fit to command, or who would possess more of the confidence of the army … is to demand an impossibility.”
1864 – Though the Union fleet under Rear Admiral Farragut controlled Mobile Bay and Forts Powell and Gaines were in Northern hands, Brigadier General Richard L. Page, formerly a U.S. naval officer and until recently a Commander in the Confederate Navy, gallantly refused to surrender Fort Morgan to the overwhelming forces opposing him. Federal naval forces took station in the Bay while troops began the land investment of Fort Morgan. After a brief bombardment, Farragut and Union Army commander Major General Gordon Granger advised page: “To prevent the unnecessary sacrifice of human life which must follow the opening of our batteries, we demand the unconditional surrender of Fort Morgan and its dependencies.” Undaunted, the Confederate officer replied: “I am prepared to sacrifice life, and will only surrender when I have no means of defense.” He was fighting his fort as he would have his ship. Ram Tennessee, whose big guns had so valiantly sought to defend Confederate possession of Mobile Bay on 5 August, now in Union hands, bombarded Fort Morgan. Her log recorded: “At 10 a.m. having no steam up on this vessel, the U.S. gunboat Port Royal took us in tow down towards the Fort Morgan. Anchored between the Middle Ground and the fort and opened our battery upon the fort.” At 10 p.m. Winnebago towed Tennessee back up to her anchorage.
1864 – Two resourceful members of the Confederate Torpedo Corps, John Maxwell and R. K. Dillard, planted a clockwork torpedo containing twelve pounds of powder on a Union transport at City Point, Virginia, causing a huge explosion which rocked the entire area. Maxwell and Dillard succeeded in getting through Union lines to the wharf area, where Maxwell convinced the trusting wharf sentry that he had been ordered by the captain of the ammunition barge to deliver a box on board. The box was accepted and the two Confederates hastily started back for Richmond. When the torpedo exploded an hour later, it set in motion a devastating chain reaction which spread the holocaust from the barges to storage buildings on shore and even to General Grant’s headquarters. Grant hurried off a message to General Halleck in Washington: “Five minutes ago an ordnance boat exploded, carrying lumber, grape, canister, and all kinds of shot over this point. Every part of the yard used as my headquarters is filled with splinters and fragments of shell.”
1864 – The 1st Geneva Convention was issued on protecting the war wounded.
1876 – Thomas Edison receives a patent for his mimeograph.
1885 – More than 1.5 million people attend the funeral of Ulysses S. Grant in New York City.
1890 – Daughters of American Revolution (DAR) organized.
1899 – Marines of “U.S.S. Yosemite” start to form garrison at Agana, Cuba.
1908 – Wilbur Wright makes his first flight at a racecourse at Le Mans, France. It is the Wright Brothers’ first public flight.
1942 – The invasion of Guadalcanal continues as the remainder of the first wave of American troops come ashore. Advancing rapidly inland, they capture the Japanese airstrip intact, renaming it Henderson Field. The missions on Tulagi and Gavutu are completed and the islands captured. Due to Japanese air and submarine attacks, Admiral Fletcher decides to withdraw his carriers, leaving the cruisers and transports near the island. This action is probably a mistake.
1942 – US President Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Churchill approve the appointment of American General Eisenhower to command Operation Torch , the proposed Allied invasion of North Africa.
1942 – During World War II, six German saboteurs who secretly entered the United States on a mission to attack its civil infrastructure are executed by the United States for spying. Two other saboteurs who disclosed the plot to the FBI and aided U.S. authorities in their manhunt for their collaborators were imprisoned. In 1942, under Nazi leader Adolf Hitler’s orders, the defense branch of the German Military Intelligence Corps initiated a program to infiltrate the United States and destroy industrial plants, bridges, railroads, waterworks, and Jewish-owned department stores. The Nazis hoped that sabotage teams would be able to slip into America at the rate of one or two every six weeks. The first two teams, made up of eight Germans who had all lived in the United States before the war, departed the German submarine base at Lorient, France, in late May. Just before midnight on June 12, in a heavy fog, a German submarine reached the American coast off Amagansett, Long Island, and deployed a team who rowed ashore in an inflatable boat. Just as the Germans finished burying their explosives in the sand, John C. Cullen, a young U.S. Coast Guardsman, came upon them during his regular patrol of the beach. The leader of the team, George Dasch, bribed the suspicious Cullen, and he accepted the money, promising to keep quiet. However, as soon as he passed safely back into the fog, he sprinted the two miles back to the Coast Guard station and informed his superiors of his discovery. After retrieving the German supplies from the beach, the Coast Guard called the FBI, which launched a massive manhunt for the saboteurs, who had fled to New York City. Although unaware that the FBI was looking for them, Dasch and another saboteur, Ernest Burger, decided to turn themselves in and betray their colleagues, perhaps because they feared capture was inevitable after the botched landing. On July 15, Dasch called the FBI in New York, but they failed to take his claims seriously, so he decided to travel to FBI headquarters in Washington, D.C. On July 18, the same day that a second four-man team successfully landed at Ponte Verdra Beach, Florida, Dasch turned himself in. He agreed to help the FBI capture the rest of the saboteurs. Burger and the rest of the Long Island team were picked up by June 22, and by June 27 the whole of the Florida team was arrested. To preserve wartime secrecy, President Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered a special military tribunal consisting of seven generals to try the saboteurs. At the end of July, Dasch was sentenced to 30 years in prison, Burger was sentenced to hard labor for life, and the other six Germans were sentenced to die. The six condemned saboteurs were executed by electric chair in Washington, D.C., on August 8. In 1944, two other German spies were caught after a landing in Maine. No other instances of German sabotage within wartime America has come to light. In 1948, Dasch and Burger were freed by order of President Harry Truman, and they both returned to Germany.
1943 – The US 180th Regiment, of the 45th Division (OKARNG) land a small force east of Sant Agata in an amphibious operation supported by 1 cruiser and 3 destroyers. The Germans withdraw and US forces take Sant Agata and Cesaro.
1943 – On New Georgia fighting continues. US forces are attempting to prevent further Japanese evacuations to Kolombangara.
1944 – The German offensive toward Arromanches continues with heavy fighting around Mortain. Despite the threat posed by the German attack, US 3rd Army continues attacking south and southwest. Elements of US 15th Corps penetrate Le Mans while the new US 20th Corps advances toward Nantes and Angers. In Brittany, US 8th Corps continues attacks on the German-held ports.
1944 – Following the American break out from Normandy in July, 1944, the Germans decided that the only way to stop the Allied advance and push them back to the sea was to launch a massive attack in the Avranches region, about 150 miles west of Paris. To do this they moved tanks and men of the XLVII Panzer Corps into place and opened their operation on August 7th. Their main thrust, lead by the 2nd SS Panzer Division, was to cut the American line between Normandy and Brittany, forcing the two groups to fall back on different beach areas, possibly compelling at least one group to withdraw. But almost immediately the Germans were blocked by determined resistance. On Hill 317, near the village of Mortain, their advance was stopped by 700 men of North Carolina’s 2nd Battalion, 120th Infantry, 30th Infantry Division (which also included Guard units from SC and TN). Firing at almost point-blank range their one anti-tank gun and numerous anti-tank rockets (fired from ‘bazooka’s’) the Guardsmen destroyed 40 vehicles including several heavy battle tanks. The Germans bypassed the hill leaving it surrounded. They launched repeated assaults to capture it but these were beaten back with artillery support from the Guard’s 35th Infantry Division (KS, MO, NE) and RAF air strikes on the German positions. After five days of being cut off and with the loss of nearly 300 men the 2nd Battalion was rescued by elements of the 35th Division. For it’s determined and stubborn resistance in blocking the enemy advance the 2/120th Infantry was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation.
1944 – On Guam, American troops overrun Mount Santa Rosa. The remaining Japanese garrison is compelled to withdraw to the north end of the island.
1945 – President Harry S. Truman signs the United Nations Charter and the United States becomes the first nation to complete the ratification process and join the new international organization. Although hopes were high at the time that the United Nations would serve as an arbiter of international disputes, the organization also served as the scene for some memorable Cold War clashes. August 8, 1945, was a busy day in the history of World War II. The United States dropped a second atomic bomb on Japan, devastating the city of Nagasaki. The Soviet Union, following through with an agreement made earlier in the war, declared war on Japan. All observers agreed that the combination of these two actions would bring a speedy end to Japanese resistance. At the same time, in Washington, D.C., President Truman took a step that many Americans hoped would mean continued peace in the post-World War II world. The president signed the United Nations Charter, thus completing American ratification of the document. Secretary of State James F. Byrnes also signed. In so doing, the United States became the first nation to complete the ratification process. The charter would come into full force when China, Russia, Great Britain, France, and a majority of the other nations that had constructed the document also completed ratification. The signing was accomplished with little pomp and ceremony. Indeed, President Truman did not even use one of the ceremonial pens to sign, instead opting for a cheap 10-cent desk pen. Nonetheless, the event was marked by hope and optimism. Having gone through the horrors of two world wars in three decades, most Americans–and people around the world–were hopeful that the new international organization would serve as a forum for settling international disagreements and a means for maintaining global peace. Over the next decades, the United Nations did serve as the scene for some of the more notable events in the Cold War: the decision by the Security Council to send troops to Korea in 1950; Khrushchev pounding the table with his shoe during a U.N. debate; and continuous and divisive discussion over admission of communist China to membership in the UN. As for its role as a peacekeeping institution, the record of the U.N. was not one of great success during the Cold War. The Soviet veto in the Security Council stymied some efforts, while the U.S. desire to steer an independent course in terms of military involvement after the unpopular Korean War meant less and less recourse to the U.N. to solve world conflicts. In the years since the end of the Cold War, however, the United States and Russia have sometimes cooperated to send United Nations forces on peacekeeping missions, such as the effort in Bosnia.
1945 – The Soviet Union declares itself to be at war with Japan as of midnight (August 9th), citing the Japanese failure to respond to the Potsdam Declaration. Commissar Molotov says that the USSR has declared war because Japan is the only great power preventing peace. He indicates that it was in the interests of shortening the war and bring peace to the world that the Soviet Union has agreed to the Allied request made at Potsdam to join the war. Furthermore, Molotov states that the Soviets had been asked to mediate by Japan, but that proposal had lost all basis when Japan refused to surrender unconditionally.
1945 – The Japanese Supreme War Council agrees, late that night, that they should accept the Potsdam Declaration if the monarchy is preserved. Some of the objections from the military are overruled by the Emperor himself.
1945 – President Truman makes a public radio broadcast in which he threatens Japan with destruction by atomic bombs.
1945 – The survivors of the USS Indianapolis are rescued. Only 316 of the 1196 men onboard the ship have survived.
1946 – First flight of the Convair B-36, the world’s first mass-produced nuclear weapon delivery vehicle, the heaviest mass-produced piston-engined aircraft, with the longest wingspan of any military aircraft, and the first bomber with intercontinental range.
1950 – As part of Task Force Kean in the first American counterattack of the war, the leading 35th Infantry Regiment of the 25th Infantry Division had advanced to its initial objective, the high ground just north of Munchon-ni. The regiment was then ordered to hold until the 5th Regimental Combat Team could come up on the left.
1950 – The Coast Guard commenced screening merchant seaman signing on American vessels on the East and Gulf Coasts where the vessels were foreign bound. Those seamen designated as poor security risks were not permitted to sign on.
1953 – The United States and South Korea initialed a mutual security pact.
1953 – In Russia Georgi Malenkov reported the possession of hydrogen bomb.
1959 – Announcement of Project Teepee, electronic system to monitor 95 percent of earth’s atmosphere for missile launchings or nuclear explosions. System developed by William Thaler, Office of Naval Research physicist.
1968 – There was a race riot in Miami, Florida.
1972 – Navy women authorized for sea duty as regular ship’s company.
1974 – In an evening televised address, President Richard M. Nixon announces his intention to become the first president in American history to resign. With impeachment proceedings underway against him for his involvement in the Watergate affair, Nixon was finally bowing to pressure from the public and Congress to leave the White House. “By taking this action,” he said in a solemn address from the Oval Office, “I hope that I will have hastened the start of the process of healing which is so desperately needed in America.” Just before noon the next day, Nixon officially ended his term as the 37th president of the United States. Before departing with his family in a helicopter from the White House lawn, he smiled farewell and enigmatically raised his arms in a victory or peace salute. The helicopter door was then closed, and the Nixon family began their journey home to San Clemente, California. Minutes later, Vice President Gerald R. Ford was sworn in as the 38th president of the United States in the East Room of the White House. After taking the oath of office, President Ford spoke to the nation in a television address, declaring, “My fellow Americans, our long national nightmare is over.” He later pardoned Nixon for any crimes he may have committed while in office, explaining that he wanted to end the national divisions created by the Watergate scandal. On June 17, 1972, five men, including a salaried security coordinator for President Nixon’s reelection committee, were arrested for breaking into and illegally wiretapping the Democratic National Committee headquarters in the Washington, D.C., Watergate complex. Soon after, two other former White House aides were implicated in the break-in, but the Nixon administration denied any involvement. Later that year, reporters Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward of The Washington Post discovered a higher-echelon conspiracy surrounding the incident, and a political scandal of unprecedented magnitude erupted. In May 1973, the Senate Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities, headed by Senator Sam Ervin of North Carolina, began televised proceedings on the rapidly escalating Watergate affair. One week later, Harvard law professor Archibald Cox was sworn in as special Watergate prosecutor. During the Senate hearings, former White House legal counsel John Dean testified that the Watergate break-in had been approved by former Attorney General John Mitchell with the knowledge of White House advisers John Ehrlichman and H.R. Haldeman, and that President Nixon had been aware of the cover-up. Meanwhile, Watergate prosecutor Cox and his staff began to uncover widespread evidence of political espionage by the Nixon reelection committee, illegal wiretapping of thousands of citizens by the administration, and contributions to the Republican Party in return for political favors. In July, the existence of what were to be called the Watergate tapes–official recordings of White House conversations between Nixon and his staff–was revealed during the Senate hearings. Cox subpoenaed these tapes, and after three months of delay President Nixon agreed to send summaries of the recordings. Cox rejected the summaries, and Nixon fired him. His successor as special prosecutor, Leon Jaworski, leveled indictments against several high-ranking administration officials, including Mitchell and Dean, who were duly convicted. Public confidence in the president rapidly waned, and by the end of July 1974 the House Judiciary Committee had adopted three articles of impeachment against President Nixon: obstruction of justice, abuse of presidential powers, and hindrance of the impeachment process. On July 30, under coercion from the Supreme Court, Nixon finally released the Watergate tapes. On August 5, transcripts of the recordings were released, including a segment in which the president was heard instructing Haldeman to order the FBI to halt the Watergate investigation. Three days later, Nixon announced his resignation.
1976 – John Roselli, hired by CIA to kill Castro, was found murdered.
1978 – The United States launched Pioneer Venus II, which carried scientific probes to study the atmosphere of Venus.
1985 – The Coast Guard awarded a contract to build the 110-foot Island-Class patrol boats to Bollinger Machine Shop and Shipyard in Lockport, Louisiana after a drawn-out legal battle.
1987 – In the Persian Gulf, a Navy F-14 “Tomcat” fighter fired two missiles at an Iranian jet approaching an unarmed U.S. scout plane. Both missiles missed their target and the Iranian plane flew off.
1989 – The space shuttle Columbia blasted off from Cape Canaveral, Fla., on a secret, five-day military mission to deploy a new Pentagon spy satellite.
1990 – As the Persian Gulf crisis deepened, American forces began taking up positions in Saudi Arabia; Iraq announced it had annexed Kuwait as its 19th province; President Bush warned Iraqi President Saddam Hussein that “a line has been drawn in the sand.”
1991 – James B. Irwin, pilot of the Lunar Roving Vehicle, died on this day. Irwin visited the surface of the moon during the Apollo 15 mission in 1971, during which he spent almost three days on the moon’s surface investigating the Hadley-Apennine site, 462 miles north of the lunar equator. The Lunar Rover was a specially designed vehicle used to transport Irwin and David Scott around the moon’s surface while collecting rocks and core samples. Irwin died at the age of 61.
1992 – The space shuttle Atlantis returned from a problem-plagued mission.
1993 – In Somalia, four U.S. soldiers were killed when a land mine was detonated underneath their vehicle. This prompted President Clinton to order Army Rangers to try to capture Somali warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid.
1995 – Jordan grants asylum to two sons-in-law of Saddam Hussein – Lt. Gen. Hussein Kamel Hassan al-Majid, who had supervised Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction development programs since 1987, and his brother, Lt. Col. Saddam Kamel Hassan al-Majid, who formerly headed the presidential security forces. The two men were married to the two eldest daughters of Saddam Hussein.
1996 – The United States withdraws its opposition to United Nations Security Council Resolution 986. The United States had been the only nation on the 15-member U.N. Security Council to oppose the plan, ostensibly to ensure proper monitoring procedures were in place to allow for the equitable distribution of humanitarian supplies to civilians.
1997 – Gen’l. Eric Shinseki, the American in charge of NATO forces in Bosnia, announced a plan to force all paramilitary troops to disband or face arrest.
1997 – The United Nations approves a sale-price formula for Iraqi crude oil sales under the oil-for-food plan. The approval cleares the way for Iraq to resume limited oil exports immediately through the Turkish port of Ceyhan on the Mediterranean Sea and Iraq’s Gulf port of Mina al-Bakr. The United Nations will also begin reviewing contracts for Iraqi crude oil purchases. Iraq has until September 5 to raise the $1.07 billion allowed under the existing 90 day oil-for-food plan window. Iraqi officials state they will boost exports to 2 million barrels per day to meet the sales target. However, industry experts say that Iraq’s export capacity is untested beyond1.4 million barrel per day.
1998 – President Clinton, in his Saturday radio address, vowed the bombers of two U.S. embassies in Africa would be brought to justice, “no matter how long it takes or where it takes us.”
1998 – A group called the Liberation Arm of the Islamic Sanctuaries claimed responsibility for the bombing of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania and threatened more attacks. Israeli troops began to arrive to assist in rescue efforts.
1998 – In Serbia Slobodan Milijkovic, a Serb wanted by the Int’l. War Crimes Tribunal, was shot and killed by a policeman along with 2 others following insults at an outdoor cafe in Belgrade. Milijkovic, a suspected member of the Chetnicks ultra-nationalist paramilitary unit, had rejected responsibility and said politicians were to blame for the war.
2000 – Confederate submarine H.L. Hunley is raised to the surface after 136 years on the ocean floor and 30 years after its discovery by undersea explorer E. Lee Spence.
2001 – Four American Senators met with Pres. Jiang Zemin in China and warned him that the continued sales of sensitive missile technology would trigger an arms race and boost internal US support for a missile defense system.
2002 – Saddam Hussein organized a big military parade and then warned “the forces of evil” not to attack Iraq as he sought once more to shift the debate away from world demands that he live up to agreements that ended the Gulf War.
2003 – A US federal judge ruled that some 264,000 square miles of submerged lands in the Northern Mariana Islands, a US commonwealth, belong to the United States.
2003 – Mahmud Dhiyab Al-Ahmad, Saddam Hussein’s former interior minister, (No. 29 on the list of 55 most-wanted Iraqis) surrendered to coalition forces.
2004 – Iraq reinstated capital punishment for people guilty of murder, endangering national security and distributing drugs.
2004 – Militants in Iraq said they had taken a top Iranian diplomat hostage. Faridoun Jihani was identified as the “consul for the Islamic Republic of Iran in Karbala.”
2004 – Pakistan confirmed that Qari Saifullah Akhtar, a senior bin Laden operative, had been captured in the UAR and transferred to Lahore.
2007 – Taliban fighters launched a direct assault on a US and Afghan coalition firebase codenamed Firebase Anaconda. The Taliban assault was repulsed, with at least two dozen Taliban fighters killed.
2014 – The US asserted that the systematic destruction of the Yazidi people by the Islamic State was genocide. The US military launched indefinite airstrikes targeting Islamic State fighters, equipment and installations, with humanitarian aid support from the UK and France, in order to protect civilians in northern Iraq. The Islamic State had advanced to within 30 km of Erbil in northern Iraq.
Congressional Medal of Honor Citations for Actions Taken This Day
None This Day