August 20

20 August

1494 – Columbus returned to Hispaniola. He had confirmed that Jamaica was an island and failed to find a mainland.
1619 – The 1st African slaves arrived to North America aboard a Dutch privateer. It docked in Jamestown, Virginia, with twenty human captives among its cargo.
1707 – The first siege of Pensacola in Spanish Florida by English supported Creek Indians resulted in the destruction of the town, but Fort San Carlos de Austria successfully resisted the onslaught.
1775 – The Spanish establish the Presidio San Augustin del Tucson in the town that became Tucson, Arizona.
1781 – George Washington began to move his troops south to fight Cornwallis.
1785 – Oliver Hazard Perry, US Naval hero (“We have met the enemy”), was born in Rhode Island.
1794 – American General “Mad Anthony” Wayne defeated the Ohio Indians at the Battle of Fallen Timbers in the Northwest territory, ending Indian resistance in the area. The Battle of Fallen Timbers was the final battle of the Northwest Indian War, a struggle between American Indian tribes affiliated with the Western Confederacy, including minor support from the British, against the United States for control of the Northwest Territory (an area bounded on the south by the Ohio River, on the west by the Mississippi River, and on the northeast by the Great Lakes). The battle, which was a decisive victory for the United States, ended major hostilities in the region until Tecumseh’s War and the Battle of Tippecanoe in 1811.
1804Sergeant Charles Floyd dies three months into the voyage of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, becoming the only member of the Corps of Discovery to die during the journey. Lewis and Clark left St. Louis the previous May, heading up the Missouri River with a party of 35 men, called the Corps of Discovery. Among the voyagers was Charles Floyd, a native of Kentucky who had enlisted in the U.S. military a few years earlier. When word went out asking for volunteers to join the ambitious expedition across the continent to the Pacific, Floyd was among the first to apply. Young, vigorous, and better educated than most of the soldiers, Floyd was a natural choice. The two co-captains not only selected him to join the mission, they promoted him to sergeant. Sadly, Floyd’s part in the great voyage of the Corps of Discovery was short-lived. By late July, Lewis and Clark reported that Floyd “has been very sick for several days.” He seemed to grow better for a time, but on August 15, he was “seized with a complaint somewhat like a violent chorlick [colic] . . . [and] he was sick all night.” Concerned, the two captains did what they could to treat Floyd’s ailment, but the previously robust young man steadily weakened. The illness grew severe during the evening of August 19, and Clark sat up with the suffering man almost the entire night. Floyd died in the early afternoon of this day, reportedly “with a good deal of composure.” The members of the expedition buried his body on a high bluff overlooking a river that flowed into the Missouri, affixing a red-cedar post with his name, title, and date of death over the grave. Lewis read the funeral service, and the two captains concluded the ceremony by naming the nearby stream Floyds River and the hill Floyds Bluff. Lewis and Clark regretted that their limited wilderness medical skills were inadequate to cure the young soldier, yet even if Floyd had been in Philadelphia, the best doctors of the day would likely have been unable to save him. Based on the symptoms described by Lewis and Clark, modern physicians have concluded that Floyd was probably suffering from acute appendicitis. When his appendix ruptured, Floyd quickly died of peritonitis. Lacking antibiotics and ignorant of the proper surgical procedures, no early 19th century physician could have done much more than Lewis and Clark did. On their triumphant return journey from the Pacific in 1806, Lewis and Clark stopped to pay their respects at Sergeant Floyd’s grave. Amazingly, Floyd’s was the only death the Corps of Discovery suffered in more than two years of dangerous wilderness travel.
1833Future 23rd President of the United States, Benjamin Harrison, is born on this day. He was the grandson of former 9th President (and Guard general) William H. Harrison, who died one month into his term in 1841. A lawyer by training and active in Indiana politics Benjamin was appointed in 1862 as the colonel of the 70th Indiana Volunteer Infantry, a regiment he helped to organize. Over the next three years he led the 70th in numerous engagements including taking part in General William T. Sherman’s “March to the Sea” through Georgia in 1864. He ended the Civil War as a brigadier general of volunteers. After resigning his commission he again became active in politics and was elected first to the Senate and then in 1888 as President. He served one term and died in 1901. 1847 – General Winfield Scott won the battle of Churubusco on his drive to Mexico City. The Mexican War gave future civil war generals their first taste of combat.
1864 – The 8th and last day of battle at Deep Bottom Run, Va., left about 3900 casualties.
1865 – Pres. Johnson proclaimed an end to the “insurrection” in Texas.
1866 – President Andrew Johnson formally declared the Civil War over, even though the fighting had stopped months earlier.
1908 – The American Great White Fleet arrived in Sydney, Australia, to a warm welcome.
1910 – The 1st shot fired from an airplane was during a test flight over Brooklyn’s Sheepshead Bay.
1920 – Pioneering American radio station 8MK in Detroit (later WWJ) began daily broadcasting.
1940 – Radar was used for the first time, by the British during the Battle of Britain.
1941 – Adolf Hitler authorized the development of the V-2 missile.
1942 – Plutonium was first weighed. Glenn T. Seaborg was a co-discoverer of Plutonium.
1942 – On Guadalcanal, the first aircraft, 31 Marine (MAG-23) fighters from the escort carrier USS Long Island are flown into Henderson Field Air Strip.
1942Searchlights crossing the sky cease to be a fixture of Hollywood premieres as of this day in 1942. In an attempt to avoid attack and surveillance by enemy forces in World War II, the entire West Coast was required to dim its lights at night. During the war, movie studies were also limited in the amount of cloth they could use in costumes, the quantity of new construction they could devote to sets, and the amount of film stock they could purchase.
1944During the night, the last elements of German 5th Panzer and 7th Armies to escape the Falaise pocket filter through Allied line around Chambois and St. Lambert. Some 70-80 miles to the east, the US 3rd Army captures crossings over the Seine River at Mantes Grassicourt, 30 miles west of Paris. To the southwest of Paris, the US 20th Corps (also part of US 3rd Army) enters Fontainbleau.
1944 – Americans announce that Japanese resistance on Biak Island has ended. The Japanese have suffered 4700 killed and 220 captured. US casualties are listed at 2550.
1945The War Production Board removes most of its controls over manufacturing activity. These and many other measures help the US economy to convert quickly to a peacetime basis. The American economy is actually stronger and more productive now, than before the war, and the standard of living, unlike that of any of the other major participants in the war, has actually increased.
1946World War II civilian truck restrictions were lifted in the U.S. Truck restrictions were only the beginning of special regulations during the war. Civilian auto production virtually ceased after the attack on Pearl Harbor as the U.S. automotive industry turned to war production, and gas rationing began in 1942.
1948 – The United States ordered the expulsion of the Soviet Consul General in New York, Jacob Lomakin, accusing him of attempting to return two consular employees to the Soviet Union against their will.
1950 – General MacArthur repeated his July 4th warning to North Korean leader Kim Il Sung concerning the treatment of prisoners of war as a result of the Hill 303 (Waegwan) murder of 36 American soldiers.
1952 – In interservice air operation at Chang Pyong-ni, Korea, U.S. Navy, Marine and Air Force aircraft destroy 80 percent of assigned area.
1953 – The Soviet Union publicly acknowledged it had tested a hydrogen bomb.
1954President Eisenhower approves a National Security Council paper titled “Review of U.S. Policy in the Far East.” This paper supported Secretary of State Dulles’ view that the United States should support Diem, while encouraging him to broaden his government and establish more democratic institutions. Ultimately, however, Diem would refuse to make any meaningful concessions or institute any significant new reforms and U.S. support was withdrawn. Diem was subsequently assassinated during a coup by opposition generals on November 2, 1963.
1956 – The US state department reaffirmed its ban on travel to China.
1966 – Operation “Allegheny” in Quang Nam, RVN. (Concluded 29 August)
1968In the face of rising anti-Soviet protests in Czechoslovakia, Soviet troops (backed by troops from other Warsaw Pact nations) intervene to crush the protest. The brutal Soviet action shocked the West and dealt a devastating blow to U.S.-Soviet relations. The troubles in Czechoslovakia began when Alexander Dubcek took over as secretary general of the nation’s Communist Party in January 1968. It was immediately apparent that Dubcek wanted a major overhaul of Czechoslovakia’s political and economic system-he called his particular ideology “Socialism with a human face.” He called for greater political freedom, including more participation by noncommunist parties. Dubcek also pressed for economic policies that would ensure less state control and more reliance on free market economics. Finally, he insisted on greater freedom from Soviet domination, although he reiterated his nation’s allegiance to the Warsaw Pact, the Soviet bloc’s counterpart to NATO. Dubcek’s policies shocked the Soviets and leaders in other Eastern European nations. Throughout early and mid-1968, negotiations took place between Dubcek and representatives from Russia and other Soviet bloc nations in an attempt to have the Czechoslovakian leader soften his reforms. Dubcek refused, and tensions with the Soviet Union steadily increased. Meanwhile, the sudden atmosphere of freedom that Dubcek was encouraging took root, and Czech citizens embraced and celebrated the new tolerance for free exchange of ideas and open discussion in what came to be known as the “Prague Spring.” On the night of August 20, 1968, more than 200,000 Warsaw Pact troops crossed into Czechoslovakia and headed for the capital city of Prague. In just over a day, the entire country was occupied; within a week nearly three-quarters of a million foreign troops were in Czechoslovakia. Anti-Soviet riots broke out in Prague, but these were viciously crushed and thousands of Czechs fled the country. The Soviet action in August 1968 shocked the West. Not since 1956, when Soviet troops intervened in Hungary, had the Russian government resorted to such force to bring one of its communist allies into line with its own policies. The Czech invasion was particularly damaging to U.S.-Soviet relations. In June 1967, President Lyndon B. Johnson met with Soviet Premier Aleksei Kosygin to begin discussions related to a number of issues, including arms control. It was agreed that Johnson would visit the Soviet Union in October 1968 to continue the talks. The Soviet intervention in Czechoslovakia caused Johnson to cancel his visit abruptly.
1974 – In the wake of Nixon’s resignation, Congress reduces military aid to South Vietnam from $1 billion to $700 million. This was one of several actions that signaled the North Vietnamese that the United States was backing away from its commitment to South Vietnam.
1975Viking 1, an unmanned U.S. planetary probe, is launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on a mission to Mars. On June 19, 1976, the spacecraft entered into orbit around Mars and devoted the next month to imaging the Martian surface with the purpose of finding an appropriate landing site for its lander. On July 20–the seventh anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar landing–the Viking 1 lander separated from the orbiter and touched down on the Chryse Planitia region, becoming the first spacecraft to successfully land on the surface of Mars. The same day, the craft sent back the first close-up photographs of the rust-colored Martian surface. In September 1976, Viking 2–launched only three weeks after Viking 1–entered into orbit around Mars, where it assisted Viking 1 in imaging the surface and also sent down a lander. During the dual Viking missions, the two orbiters imaged the entire surface of Mars at a resolution of 150 to 300 meters, and the two landers sent back more than 1,400 images of the planet’s surface.
1977 – The United States launched Voyager 2, an unmanned spacecraft carrying a 12-inch copper phonograph record containing greetings in dozens of languages, samples of music and sounds of nature.
1982During the Lebanese Civil War, a multinational force including 800 U.S. Marines lands in Beirut to oversee the Palestinian withdrawal from Lebanon. It was the beginning of a problem-plagued mission that would stretch into 17 months and leave 262 U.S. servicemen dead. In 1975, a bloody civil war erupted in Lebanon, with Palestinian and leftist Muslim guerrillas battling militias of the Christian Phalange Party, the Maronite Christian community, and other groups. During the next few years, Syrian, Israeli, and United Nations interventions failed to resolve the factional fighting, and in August 1982 a multinational force arrived to oversee the Palestinian withdrawal from Lebanon.
1987 – A federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., rejected Lt. Col. Oliver North’s argument that the independent counsel investigating the Iran-Contra affair was operating under an invalid Justice Department regulation.
1990 – For the first time since Iraq began detaining foreigners, President Bush publicly referred to the detainees as hostages, and demanded their release. Iraq moved Western hostages to military installations (human shields).
1994 – President Clinton slapped new sanctions on Cuba that included prohibiting payments by Cuban-Americans to their relatives in Cuba.
1995Iraq provides to UNSCOM and the IAEA previously concealed information: 680,000 pages of documents, computer disks, videotapes, and microfilm, related to its prohibited weapons programs which subsequently leads to further disclosures by Iraq concerning the production of the nerve agent VX (the most advanced, deadly, and long-lasting chemical agent) and Iraq’s development of a nuclear weapon. Observers speculate that this was prompted by the defection of Lt. Gen. Hussein Kamel Hassan al-Majid, who the Iraqi government believed would cooperate with UN inspectors and Western governments to provide previously undisclosed information on Iraqi weapons programs.
1997 – NATO troops in Bosnia seized truckloads of weapons from police stations in Banja Luka. They moved to force out officers loyal to Karadzic.
1998Pres. Clinton ordered cruise missile attacks on Sudan and Afghanistan 13 days after the deadly embassy bombings in East Africa. About 50 missiles were fired at the camp of Osama Bin Laden and some 25 missiles against a suspected chemical plant in Khartoum. The plant in Sudan was suspected of producing the chemical EMPTA, one of the ingredients in VX nerve gas, but also an ingredient in fungicides and anti-microbial agents.
1998 – Iraq and Syria sign an agreement to reopen an oil pipeline linking Iraq’s Kirkuk oil fields to Mediterranean terminals in Banias, Syria and Tripoli, Lebanon.
1998 – Following its regular 60-day review of trade sanctions against Iraq, the U.N. Security Council decides to extend the sanctions and expresses concern over Iraq’s continuing refusal to cooperate with arms inspectors.
2002The Guardian reports that U.S. oil companies have radically reduced imports from Iraq in the past five months amid fears that any military action will disrupt supplies. Iraq exported 69% of its oil to the US a year ago, but the figure has dropped to only 16% since the end of May. Iraqi oil exports have halved overall, dropping from around an average of 2m barrels a day last year to just short of 1m barrels at the end of May.

Congressional Medal of Honor Citations for Actions Taken This Day

Rank and organization: Private, Company K, 56th Pennsylvania Infantry. Place and date: At Weldon Railroad, Va., 20 August 1864. Entered service at: Bucks County, Pa. Birth: England. Date of issue: 1 December 1864. Citation: Capture of flag of 55th North Carolina Infantry (C.S.A.).

Rank and organization: Private, Company L, 2d U.S. Cavalry. Place and date: At Big Hole, Mont., 9 August 1877; at Camas Meadows, Idaho, 20 August 1877. Entered service at:——. Birth: Philadelphia Pa. Date of issue: 28 February 1878. Citation: Conspicuous gallantry, especial skill as sharpshooter.

Rank and organization: Captain, 1st U.S. Cavalry. Place and date: At Camas Meadows, Idaho, 20 August 1877. Entered service at: ——. Birth: New Jersey. Date of issue: 17 April 1896. Citation: Dismounted from his horse in the face of a heavy fire from pursuing Indians, and with the assistance of 1 or 2 of the men of his command secured to a place of safety the body of his trumpeter, who had been shot.

Rank and organization: Farrier, Company L, 2d U.S. Cavalry. Place and date: At Little Muddy Creek, Mont., 7 May 1877- at Camas Meadows, Idaho, 20 August 1877. Entered service at: Louisville, Ky. Birth. Davidson County, N.C. Date of issue: 28 February 1878. Citation: Gallantry in the attack against hostile Sioux Indians on May 7, 1877 at Muddy Creek, Mont., and in the engagement with Nez Perces Indians at Camas Meadows, Idaho, on 20 August 1877 in which he sustained a painful knee wound.

Rank and organization: First Sergeant, Company L, 2d U.S. Cavalry. Place and date: At Little Muddy Creek, Mont., 7 May 1877; at Camas Meadows, Idaho, 20 August 1877. Entered service at: ——. Birth: Germany. Date of issue: 28 February 1878. Citation: Bravery in actions with Indians.

Rank and organization: Sergeant, U.S. Army, Company E, 359th Infantry, 90th Infantry Division. Place and date: Near Chambois, France, 20 August 1944. Entered service at: Bremerton, Wash. Birth: San Francisco, Calif. G.O. No.: 55, 13 July 1945. Citation: He manned a light machinegun on 20 August 1944, near Chambois, France, a key point in the encirclement which created the Falaise Pocket. During an enemy counterattack, his position was menaced by a strong force of tanks and infantry. His fire forced the infantry to withdraw, but an artillery shell knocked out his gun and wounded him in the right thigh. Securing a bazooka, he and another man stalked the tanks and forced them to retire to a wooded section. In the lull which followed, Sgt. Hawk reorganized 2 machinegun squads and, in the face of intense enemy fire, directed the assembly of 1 workable weapon from 2 damaged guns. When another enemy assault developed, he was forced to pull back from the pressure of spearheading armor. Two of our tank destroyers were brought up. Their shots were ineffective because of the terrain until Sgt. Hawk, despite his wound, boldly climbed to an exposed position on a knoll where, unmoved by fusillades from the enemy, he became a human aiming stake for the destroyers. Realizing that his shouted fire directions could not be heard above the noise of battle, he ran back to the destroyers through a concentration of bullets and shrapnel to correct the range. He returned to his exposed position, repeating this performance until 2 of the tanks were knocked out and a third driven off. Still at great risk, he continued to direct the destroyers’ fire into the Germans’ wooded position until the enemy came out and surrendered. Sgt. Hawk’s fearless initiative and heroic conduct, even while suffering from a painful wound, was in large measure responsible for crushing 2 desperate attempts of the enemy to escape from the Falaise Picket and for taking more than 500 prisoners.

Rank and organization: Staff Sergeant, U.S. Army, Company A, 2d Battalion, 27th Infantry, 25th Infantry Division. place and date: Tay Ninh province, Republic of Vietnam, 20 August 1968. Entered service at: Holland, Mich. Born: 25 June 1942, Holland, Mich. Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. S/Sgt. (then Sgt.) Lambers distinguished himself in action while serving with the 3d platoon, Company A. The unit had established a night defensive position astride a suspected enemy infiltration route, when it was attacked by an estimated Viet Cong battalion. During the initial enemy onslaught, the platoon leader fell seriously wounded and S/Sgt. Lambers assumed command of the platoon. Disregarding the intense enemy fire, S/Sgt. Lambers left his covered position, secured the platoon radio and moved to the command post to direct the defense. When his radio became inoperative due to enemy action, S/Sgt. Lambers crossed the fire swept position to secure the 90mm recoilless rifle crew’s radio in order to re-establish communications. Upon discovering that the 90mm recoilless rifle was not functioning, S/Sgt. Lambers assisted in the repair of the weapon and directed canister fire at point-blank range against the attacking enemy who had breached the defensive wire of the position. When the weapon was knocked out by enemy fire, he single-handedly repulsed a penetration of the position by detonating claymore mines and throwing grenades into the midst of the attackers, killing 4 more of the Viet Cong with well aimed hand grenades. S/Sgt. Lambers maintained command of the platoon elements by moving from position to position under the hail of enemy fire, providing assistance where the assault was the heaviest and by his outstanding example inspiring his men to the utmost efforts of courage. He displayed great skill and valor throughout the 5-hour battle by personally directing artillery and helicopter fire, placing them at times within 5 meters of the defensive position. He repeatedly exposed himself to hostile fire at great risk to his own life in order to redistribute ammunition and to care for seriously wounded comrades and to move them to sheltered positions. S/Sgt. Lambers’ superb leadership, professional skill and magnificent courage saved the lives of his comrades, resulted in the virtual annihilation of a vastly superior enemy force and were largely instrumental in thwarting an enemy offensive against Tay Ninh City. His gallantry at the risk of his life is in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflects great credit upon himself, his unit, and the U.S. Army.

One thought on “August 20

  1. 1964 – Ambush at Phu Tuc Outpost.

    Four U.S. advisors of MACV SD-5891 are Killed In Action by small-arms fire during a heroic last stand, while advising the 41st ARVN Ranger Battalion near Ben Tre in Kien Hoa province. They hold off the enemy for nearly 2 hours, covering the withdrawal of the unit. The Distinguished Service Cross was awarded posthumously the following year to 1st Lt. James M. Coyle, 1st Lt. William D. H. Ragin, Capt. Byron C. Stone and Sgt. 1st Class Tom Ward.

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