1780 – The Battle of Cape St. Vincent took place off the southern coast of Portugal during the American War of Independence. A British fleet under Admiral Sir George Rodney defeated a Spanish squadron under Don Juan de Lángara. The battle is sometimes referred to as the Moonlight Battle because it was unusual for naval battles in the Age of Sail to take place at night. It was also the first major naval victory for the British over their European enemies in the war and proved the value of copper sheathing the hulls of warships. Admiral Rodney was escorting a fleet of supply ships to relieve the Spanish siege of Gibraltar with a fleet of about twenty ships of the line when he encountered Lángara’s squadron south of Cape St. Vincent. When Lángara saw the size of the British fleet, he attempted to make for the safety of Cádiz, but the copper-sheathed British ships chased his fleet down. In a running battle that lasted from mid-afternoon until after midnight, the British captured four Spanish ships, including Lángara’s flagship. Two other ships were also captured, but their final disposition is unclear; some Spanish sources indicate they were retaken by their Spanish crews, while Rodney’s report indicates the ships were grounded and destroyed. After the battle Rodney successfully resupplied Gibraltar and Minorca before continuing on to the West Indies station. Lángara was released on parole, and was promoted to lieutenant general by King Carlos III.
1847 – A leader in the successful fight to wrest California away from Mexico, the explorer and mapmaker John C. Fremont briefly becomes governor of the newly won American territory. Still only in his early mid-30s at the time, Fremont had already won national acclaim for his leadership of two important explorations of the West with the military’s Corps of Topographical Engineers. Shortly after the government published Fremont’s meticulously accurate maps of the Far West, they became indispensable guides for the growing numbers of overland emigrants heading for California and Oregon. In 1845, though, the lines between military exploration and military conquest began to blur when President James Polk sent Captain Fremont and his men on a third “scientific” mission to explore the Rockies and Sierra Nevada-with 60 armed men accompanying them. Polk’s ambition to take California from Mexico was no secret, and Fremont’s expedition was clearly designed to place a military force near the region in case of war. When Mexico and the U.S. declared war in May 1846, Fremont and his men were in Oregon. Upon hearing the news, Fremont immediately headed south, calling his return “the first step in the conquest of California.” When the Anglo-American population of California learned of Fremont’s arrival, many of them began to rebel against their Mexican leaders. In June, a small band of American settlers seized Sonoma and raised a flag with a bear facing a five-pointed star-with this act, the revolutionaries declared the independent Republic of California. The Bear Flag Republic was short-lived. In August, Fremont and General Robert Stockton occupied Los Angeles. By January 1847, they had put down the small number of Californians determined to maintain a nation independent of the United States. With California now clearly in the U.S. hands, Stockton agreed to appoint Fremont as the territorial governor. However, a dispute broke out within the army over the legitimacy of Fremont’s appointment, and the young captain’s detractors accused him of mutiny, disobedience, and conduct prejudicial to military discipline. Recalled to Washington for a court martial, Fremont was found guilty of all three charges, and his appointment to take the position of governor was revoked. Though President Polk pardoned him and ordered him back to active duty in the army, Fremont was deeply embittered, and he resigned from the military and returned to California a private citizen. Although he never regained the governorship of California, the turmoil of Fremont’s early political career did not harm his future prospects. In 1851, citizens of California elected him a senator, and became the territorial governor of Arizona in 1878. Today, however, Fremont’s youthful accomplishments as an explorer and mapmaker are more celebrated than his subsequent political career.
1861 – The Crittenden Compromise, the last chance to keep North and South together, dies in the U.S. Senate. Proposed by Senator John J. Crittenden of Kentucky, the compromise was a series of constitutional amendments. The amendments would continue the old Missouri Compromise provisions of 1820, which divided the west along the latitude of 36ý 30″. North of this line, slavery was prohibited. The Missouri Compromise was negated by the Compromise of 1850, which allowed a vote by territorial residents (popular sovereignty) to decide the issue of slavery. Other amendments protected slavery in the District of Columbia, forbade federal interference with the interstate slave trade, and compensated owners whose slaves escaped to the free states. Essentially, the Crittenden Compromise sought to alleviate all concerns of the southern states. Four states had already left the Union when it was proposed, but Crittenden hoped the compromise would lure them back. Crittenden thought he could muster support from both South and North and avert either a split of the nation or a civil war. The major problem with the plan was that it called for a complete compromise by the Republicans with virtually no concession on the part of the South. The Republican Party formed in 1854 solely for the purpose of opposing the expansion of slavery into the western territories, particularly the areas north of the Missouri Compromise line. Just six years later, the party elected a president, Abraham Lincoln, over the complete opposition of the slave states. Crittenden was asking the Republicans to abandon their most key issues. The vote was 25 against the compromise and 23 in favor of it. All 25 votes against it were cast by Republicans, and six senators from states that were in the process of seceding abstained. One Republican editorial insisted that the party “cannot be made to surrender the fruits of its recent victory.” There would be no compromise; with the secession of states continuing, the country marched inexorably towards civil war.
1862 – Gunfire and boat Crews, including Marines, from U.S.S. Hatteras, Commander Emmons, destroyed a Confederate battery, seven small vessels loaded with cotton and turpentine ready to run the blockade, a railroad depot and wharf, and the telegraph office at Cedar Keys, Florida. A small detachment of Confederate troops was taken prisoner. Such unceasing attack from the sea on any point of her long coastline and inland waterways cost the South sorely in losses, economic disruption, and dispersion of strength in defense.
1865 – General William T. Sherman begins a march through the Carolinas.
1865 – With Fort Fisher lost and foreseeing that the Union fleet’s entrance into the Cape Fear River would cut the waterborne communications system, General Bragg ordered the evacuation of the remaining Confederate positions at the mouth of the river. At 7 a.m. Forts Caswell and Campbell were abandoned and destroyed. Fort Holmes on Smith’s Island and Fort Johnson at Smith-ville were likewise destroyed by the retreating garrisons, which fell back on Fort Anderson, on the west bank of the Cape Fear River between Fort Fisher and Wilmington. “The Yankees,” wrote one Confederate, not perceiving the full import of the fateful results, “have made a barren capture. . . .” In fact, however, Wilmington, the last major port open to blockade runners, was now effectively sealed and General Lee was cut off from his only remaining supply line from Europe. Rear Admiral Porter recognized the implications of the Union victory more clearly. He wrote Captain Godon: . . . the death knell of another fort is booming in the distance. Fort Caswell with its powerful batteries is in flames and being blown up, and thus is sealed the door through which this rebellion is fed.”
1900 – The U.S. Senate consented to the Anglo-German treaty of 1899 by which the UK renounced its rights to the Samoan Islands.
1928 – Allies lifted the blockade on trade with Russia.
1940 – Hitler cancels an attack in the West due to bad weather and the capture of German attack plans in Belgium.
1942 – Japan’s advance into Burma begins.
1943 – On Guadalcanal, American forces advance west and southwest of their perimeter. Japanese positions overlooking the upper part of the Matanikau River are captured.
1943 – In converging attacks near Sanananda, New Guinea, the US 163rd Infantry Regiment and the Australian 18th Brigade are making progress.
1944 – Eisenhower assumes supreme command of the Allied Expeditionary Force in Europe.
1944 – The U.S. First and Third armies link up at Houffalize, effectively ending the Battle of the Bulge.
1945 – Adolf Hitler takes to his underground bunker, where he remains for 105 days until he commits suicide. Hitler retired to his bunker after deciding to remain in Berlin for the last great siege of the war. Fifty-five feet under the chancellery (Hitler’s headquarters as chancellor), the shelter contained 18 small rooms and was fully self-sufficient, with its own water and electrical supply. He left only rarely (once to decorate a squadron of Hitler Youth) and spent most of his time micromanaging what was left of German defenses and entertaining Nazi colleagues like Hermann Goering, Heinrich Himmler, and Joachim von Ribbentrop. Constantly at his side during this time were his companion, Eva Braun, and his Alsatian, Blondi. On April 29, Hitler married Eva in their bunker hideaway. Eva Braun met Hitler while working as an assistant to Hitler’s official photographer. Braun spent her time with Hitler out of public view, entertaining herself by skiing and swimming. She had no discernible influence on Hitler’s political career but provided a certain domesticity to the life of the dictator. Loyal to the end, she refused to leave the bunker even as the Russians closed in. Only hours after they were united in marriage, both Hitler and Eva committed suicide. Warned by officers that the Russians were only about a day from overtaking the chancellery and urged to escape to Berchtesgarden, a small town in the Bavarian Alps where Hitler owned a home, the dictator instead chose to take his life. Both he and his wife swallowed cyanide capsules (which had been tested for their efficacy on his “beloved” dog and her pups). For good measure, he shot himself with his pistol.
1945 – In the Ardennes the US 1st and 3rd Armies link up at Houffalize. An Allied offensive aimed at eliminating the German bridgehead across the Rhine River, 8 miles north of Strasbourg, begins about 0200 hrs.
1952 – Knowing Korean requirements firsthand, General Earle E. Partridge, former Fifth Air Force Commander, put the full resources of the USAF Air Research and Development Command into searching for ways to increase the performance of the F-86 Sabre during this period. This top-priority effort led to the improved wing design “F” model that entered service with the 51st Wing in August 1952. The aircraft’s operating altitude increased to 52,000 feet and its maximum speed went to Mach 1.05. In addition, the F-86F could make tighter turns at high altitudes.
1955 – A six month period of martial law ends in Russell County, Ala., and the last of about 300 Guardsmen leave for home. Phenix City had a national reputation for gambling, bootleg liquor, prostitution and other vices. The Guard became involved when Gov. Gordon Persons determined that the county and city were out of control. In July 1954, a key witness due to testify for a grand jury about local corruption was murdered. The governor appointed Maj. Gen. Walter Hanna, commander of the 31st Infantry Division, to take charge of the situation and “clean up” the county. Over the next few months, Hanna’s men (rotating to a total of 300) destroyed slot machines, roulette tables and other gambling equipment. The illegal bars were shut and the brothels closed down. By early 1955, the clean up program was about complete, all with no loss of life.
1964 – President Johnson approves Oplan 34A, operations to be conducted by South Vietnamese forces supported by the United States to gather intelligence and conduct sabotage to destabilize the North Vietnamese regime. Actual operations began in February and involved raids by South Vietnamese commandos operating under U.S. orders against North Vietnamese coastal and island installations. Although American forces were not directly involved in the actual raids, U.S. Navy ships were on station to conduct electronic surveillance and monitor North Vietnamese defense responses under another program called Operation De Soto. The Oplan 34A attacks played a major role in what became known as the Gulf of Tonkin Incident. On August 2, 1964, North Vietnamese patrol boats attacked the destroyer USS Maddox, which was conducting a De Soto mission in the area. Two days after the first attack, there was another incident that still remains unclear. The Maddox, joined by destroyer USS C. Turner Joy, engaged what were believed to be more attacking North Vietnamese patrol boats. Although it was questionable whether the second attack actually happened, the incident provided the rationale for retaliatory air attacks and the subsequent Tonkin Gulf Resolution, which became the basis for the initial escalation of the war in Vietnam and ultimately the insertion of U.S. combat troops into the area.
1969 – President Johnson established the Meritorious Service Medal per Executive Order No. 11448. The Executive Order was amended by President Reagan per Executive Order 12312, dated 2 July 1981, to authorize award to members of the armed forces of friendly foreign nations. Awarded to members of the Armed Forces of the United States who distinguished themselves by outstanding non-combat meritorious achievement or service to the United States subsequent to 16 January 1969, normally, the acts or services rendered must be comparable to that required for the Legion of Merit but in a duty of lesser though considerable responsibility.
1969 –An agreement is reached in Paris for the opening of expanded peace talks. It was agreed that representatives of the United States, South Vietnam, North Vietnam, and the National Liberation Front would sit at a circular table without nameplates, flags or markings. The talks had been plagued from the beginning by procedural questions, and the participants literally jockeyed for desirable positions at the negotiating table. Prolonged discussions over the shape of the negotiating table were finally resolved by the placement of two square tables separated by a round table. Seemingly insignificant matters as the table placement and seating arrangement became fodder for many arguments between the delegations at the negotiations.
1979 –Faced with an army mutiny and violent demonstrations against his rule, Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, the leader of Iran since 1941, is forced to flee the country. Fourteen days later, the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the spiritual leader of the Islamic revolution, returned after 15 years of exile and took control of Iran. In 1941, British and Soviet troops occupied Iran, and the first Pahlavi shah, who they regarded with suspicion, was forced to abdicate in favor of his son, Mohammad Reza. The new shah promised to act as a constitutional monarch but often meddled in the elected government’s affairs. After a Communist plot against him was thwarted in 1949, he took on even more powers. However, in the early 1950s, the shah was eclipsed by Mohammad Mosaddeq, a zealous Iranian nationalist who convinced the Parliament to nationalize Britain’s extensive oil interests in Iran. Mohammad Reza, who maintained close relations with Britain and the United States, opposed the decision. Nevertheless, he was forced in 1951 to appoint Mosaddeq premier, and two years of tension followed. In August 1953, Mohammad Reza attempted to dismiss Mosaddeq, but the premier’s popular support was so great that the shah himself was forced out of Iran. A few days later, British and U.S. intelligence agents orchestrated a stunning coup d’etat against Mosaddeq, and the shah returned to take power as the sole leader of Iran. He repealed Mosaddeq’s legislation and became a close Cold War ally of the United States in the Middle East. In 1963, the shah launched his “White Revolution,” a broad government program that included land reform, infrastructure development, voting rights for women, and the reduction of illiteracy. Although these programs were applauded by many in Iran, Islamic leaders were critical of what they saw as the westernization of Iran. Ruhollah Khomeini, a Shiite cleric, was particularly vocal in his criticism and called for the overthrow of the shah and the establishment of an Islamic state. In 1964, Khomeini was exiled and settled across the border in Iraq, where he sent radio messages to incite his supporters. The shah saw himself foremost as a Persian king and in 1971 held an extravagant celebration of the 2,500th anniversary of the pre-Islamic Persian monarchy. In 1976, he formally replaced the Islamic calendar with a Persian calendar. Religious discontent grew, and the shah became more repressive, using his brutal secret police force to suppress opposition. This alienated students and intellectuals in Iran, and support for Khomeini grew. Discontent was also rampant in the poor and middle classes, who felt that the economic developments of the White Revolution had only benefited the ruling elite. In 1978, anti-shah demonstrations broke out in Iran’s major cities. On September 8, 1978, the shah’s security force fired on a large group of demonstrators, killing hundreds and wounding thousands. Two months later, thousands took to the streets of Tehran, rioting and destroying symbols of westernization, such as banks and liquor stores. Khomeini called for the shah’s immediate overthrow, and on December 11 a group of soldiers mutinied and attacked the shah’s security officers. With that, his regime collapsed and the shah fled. The shah traveled to several countries before entering the United States in October 1979 for medical treatment of his cancer. In Tehran, Islamic militants responded on November 4 by storming the U.S. embassy and taking the staff hostage. With the approval of Khomeini, the militants demanded the return of the shah to Iran to stand trial for his crimes. The United States refused to negotiate, and 52 American hostages were held for 444 days. Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi died in Egypt in July 1980.
1986 – First meeting of the Internet Engineering Task Force. The Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) develops and promotes voluntary Internet standards, in particular the standards that comprise the Internet protocol suite (TCP/IP). It is an open standards organization, with no formal membership or membership requirements. All participants and managers are volunteers, though their work is usually funded by their employers or sponsors. The IETF started out as an activity supported by the US federal government, but since 1993 it has operated as a standards development function under the auspices of the Internet Society, an international membership-based non-profit organization.
1990 – In the wake of vicious fighting between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces in Azerbaijan, the Soviet government sends in 11,000 troops to quell the conflict. The fighting–and the official Soviet reaction to it–was an indication of the increasing ineffectiveness of the central Soviet government in maintaining control in the Soviet republics, and of Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev’s weakening political power. Strife in Azerbaijan was the result of centuries of tensions between the Islamic Azerbaijanis and the Christian Armenians. Since the Russian Revolution in 1917, the communist regime managed to maintain relative peace between the two groups, but with the gradual weakening of the Soviet Union during the late-1980s, ethnic rivalries began to re-emerge. In its weakened state, the Soviet Union chose to only partially involve itself in the conflict. The approach was unusual–had it occurred under the strict communist regime of the Cold War’s peak, such a tense internal conflict would likely have been immediately and forcefully quelled. In the latest outbreak of violence, Armenians took the brunt of the attacks and nearly 60 people were killed. Armenian spokesmen condemned the lack of action on the part of the Gorbachev regime and pleaded for military intervention. Soviet officials, however, were not eager to leap into the ethnic fray and attempted to downplay the seriousness of the situation in the press. One Soviet official declared that the fighting in Azerbaijan was not a “civil war,” but merely “national strife.” Some Gorbachev supporters even voiced the suspicion that the violence in the region was being stirred up by anti-Gorbachev activists merely to discredit the regime. Gorbachev dispatched 11,000 Soviet troops to quiet the situation, and the United States government supported his action as a humanitarian response to the killings and terror. The troops Gorbachev sent did little to alleviate the situation–over the next two years, ethnic violence in Azerbaijan continued, and the weakening Soviet regime was unable to bring a lasting resolution to the situation. Less than two years later, Gorbachev resigned from power and the Soviet Union ceased to exist.
1990 – The Coast Guard Cutter Mellon fires a Harpoon missile, the first cutter to do so.
1991 –At midnight in Iraq, the United Nations deadline for the Iraqi withdrawal from Kuwait expires, and the Pentagon prepares to commence offensive operations to forcibly eject Iraq from its five-month occupation of its oil-rich neighbor. At 4:30 p.m. EST, the first fighter aircraft were launched from Saudi Arabia and off U.S. and British aircraft carriers in the Persian Gulf on bombing missions over Iraq. All evening, aircraft from the U.S.-led military coalition pounded targets in and around Baghdad as the world watched the events transpire in television footage transmitted live via satellite from Baghdad and elsewhere. At 7:00 p.m., Operation Desert Storm, the code-name for the massive U.S.-led offensive against Iraq, was formally announced at the White House. The operation was conducted by an international coalition under the command of U.S. General Norman Schwarzkopf and featured forces from 32 nations, including Britain, Egypt, France, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait. During the next six weeks, the allied force engaged in a massive air war against Iraq’s military and civil infrastructure, and encountered little effective resistance from the Iraqi air force or air defenses. Iraqi ground forces were helpless during this stage of the war, and Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein’s only significant retaliatory measure was the launching of SCUD missile attacks against Israel and Saudi Arabia. Saddam hoped that the missile attacks would provoke Israel to enter the conflict, thus dissolving Arab support of the war. At the request of the United States, however, Israel remained out of the war. On February 24, a massive coalition ground offensive began, and Iraq’s outdated and poorly supplied armed forces were rapidly overwhelmed. Kuwait was liberated in less than four days, and a majority of Iraq’s armed forces surrendered, retreated into Iraq, or were destroyed. On February 28, President George Bush declared a cease-fire, and Iraq pledged to honor future coalition and U.N. peace terms. One hundred and twenty-five American soldiers were killed in the Persian Gulf War, with another 21 regarded as missing in action.
1993 – Operation Restore Hope in Somalia reaches peak US troop strength: 25,800.
1997 – At the outset of his first term as president, Bill Clinton moved to deregulate the weapons industry. While the move hardly pleased anti-monopolists and latter-day trustbusters, it was a boon to an industry that, with the close of the Cold War, was seemingly staring at a bleak future. Indeed, deregulation opened the flood gates to a series of large-scale mergers, as the some of the nation’s main weapons manufacturers hopped into bed with each other in order to protect their bottom lines. And, this day in 1997 brought another super-sized deal, as the Massachusetts-based Raytheon Corp., then the nation’s sixth-largest weapons contractor, inked a deal to acquire Hughes Electronics, which had previously been General Motors’ weapons unit and then the country’s fourth-largest military manufacturer. All told, the acquisition cost Raytheon $9.5 billion: the company agreed to pay $5.1 billion in freshly issued stock, and also pledged to pick up $4.4 billion of Hughes’ hefty debts. Though the deal pleased Wall Street both Raytheon and G.M.ýs respective stocks posted decent gains on the day it raised the ire of anti-trust officials. However, in fall of 1997, the U.S. Defense and Justice departments gave the green light to the pick-up, provided Hughes divest itself of some of its previously held businesses. Though the deal left Raytheon in a seemingly potent position in the defense electronics field, the company still engaged in two sizeable rounds of layoffs in 1998.
1999 – The US and North Korea opened talks on inspections of a suspected underground nuclear facility.
2000 – In Kosovo an American soldier, Staff Sgt. Frank J. Ronghi (35), was charged with the rape and murder of an 11-year-old Albanian girl.
2002 – Richard Reid, the al Qaeda trained shoe-bomber, was indicted on 9 counts in Boston.
2002 – Mokhtar Haouari was sentenced to 24 years in prison for providing fake ID and $3,000 to Ahmed Ressam in 1999. Ressam planned to detonate explosives at the LA Int’l. Airport during millennium celebrations.
2002 – U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft announced that John Walker Lindh would be brought the the United States to face trial. He was charged in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Va., with conspiracy to kill U.S. citizens, providing support to terrorist organizations, and engaging in prohibited transactions with the Taliban of Afghanistan.
2003 – The US government announced that men from Bangladesh, Egypt, Jordan, Indonesia and Kuwait will be subject to fingerprints, photographs and interviews in addition to men from 18 other Arab and Muslim countries.
2003 – The shuttle Columbia carried a crew of 7 for a 16-day mission. Col. Ilan Ramon was aboard as Israel’s 1st astronaut. The mission ended in tragedy on Feb. 1, when the shuttle broke up during its return descent, killing all seven crew members.
2004 – Paul Bremmer, the U.S. administrator in Iraq, said the US will revise its plan to create self-rule in Iraq, following consultations with President Bush.
2004 – The US Army awarded Halliburton a 2-year contract worth up to $1.2 billion to rebuild the oil industry in southern Iraq.
2004 – NASA said it would not send another shuttle mission to service and repair the Hubble Space Telescope.
2005 – The US military freed 81 Afghan prisoners, and the Afghan government was negotiating the release of hundreds more from American custody.
2005 – The first Kuwaiti released from Guantanamo Bay was taken into government custody after he arrived home.
2006 – Former United States President Gerald Ford is hospitalized with pneumonia.
2014 – NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter finds the Beagle 2 spacecraft that disappeared in 2003 intact on the surface of Mars. An error had stopped the spacecraft’s solar panels from working and communicating back to Earth.
Congressional Medal of Honor Citations for Actions Taken This Day
NEAHR, ZACHARIAH C.
Rank and organization: Private, Company K, 142d New York Infantry. Place and date: At Fort Fisher, N.C., 16 January 1865. Entered service at: ——. Birth: Canajoharie, N.Y. Date of issue: 11 September 1890. Citation: Voluntarily advanced with the head of the column and cut down the palisading.
Rank and organization: Sergeant, U.S. Army, Battery B, 88th Field Artillery, Philippine Scouts. Place and date: At Culis, Bataan Province, Philippine Islands, 16 January 1942. Entered service at: Fort Stotsenburg, Philippine Islands. Born: 29 December 1907, Barrio Tagsing, Leon, Ploilo, Philippine Islands. G.O. No.: 10, 24 February 1942. Citation: The action for which the award was made took place near Culis, Bataan Province, Philippine Islands, on 16 January 1942. A battery gun position was bombed and shelled by the enemy until 1 gun was put out of commission and all the cannoneers were killed or wounded. Sgt. Calugas, a mess sergeant of another battery, voluntarily and without orders ran 1,000 yards across the shell-swept area to the gun position. There he organized a volunteer squad which placed the gun back in commission and fired effectively against the enemy, although the position remained under constant and heavy Japanese artillery fire.