January 17

17 January

1766 – A committee of English merchants working for the repeal of the Stamp Act presents a petition to Parliament citing the increase in merchant bankruptcies resulting from the colonial nonimportation movement.
1781The Battle of Cowpens took place in the latter part of the Southern Campaign of the American Revolution and of the Revolution itself. It became known as the turning point of the war in the South, part of a chain of events leading to Patriot victory at Yorktown. The Cowpens victory was one over a crack British regular army and brought together strong armies and leaders who made their mark on history. From the Battle of Moore’s Creek Bridge on, the British had made early and mostly futile efforts in the South, including a failed naval expedition to take Charleston in 1776. Such victories boosted Patriot morale and blunted British efforts, but, by 1779-80, with stalemate in the North, British strategists again looked south. They came south for a number of reasons, primarily to assist Southern Loyalists and help them regain control of colonial governments, and then push north, to crush the rebellion. They estimated that many of the population would rally to the Crown. In 1779-80, British redcoats indeed came South en masse, capturing first, Savannah and then Charleston and Camden in South Carolina, in the process, defeating and capturing much of the Southern Continental Army. Such victories gave the British confidence they would soon control the entire South, that Loyalists would flock to their cause. Conquering these population centers, however, gave the British a false sense of victory they didn’t count on so much opposition in the backcountry. Conflict in the backcountry, to their rear, turned out to be their Achilles’ heel. The Southern Campaign, especially in the backcountry, was essentially a civil war as the colonial population split between Patriot and Loyalist. Conflict came, often pitting neighbor against neighbor and re-igniting old feuds and animosities. Those of both sides organized militia, often engaging each other. The countryside was devastated, and raids and reprisals were the order of the day. Into this conflict, General George Washington sent the very capable Nathanael Greene to take command of the Southern army. Against military custom, Greene, just two weeks into his command, split his army, sending General Daniel Morgan southwest of the Catawba River to cut supply lines and hamper British operations in the backcountry, and, in doing so “spirit up the people”. General Cornwallis, British commander in the South, countered Greene’s move by sending Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton to block Morgan’s actions. Tarleton was only twenty-six, but he was an able commander, both feared and hated – hated especially for his victory at the Waxhaws. There, Tarleton was said to have continued the fight against remnants of the Continental Army trying to surrender. His refusal, tradition says, of offering no quarter, led to the derisive term “Tarleton’s Quarter”. These events set the stage for the Battle of Cowpens. On January 12, 1781, Tarleton’s scouts located Morgan’s army at Grindal’s Shoals on the Pacolet River in South Carolina’s backcountry and thus began an aggressive pursuit. Tarleton, fretting about heavy rains and flooded rivers, gained ground as his army proceeded toward the flood-swollen Pacolet. As Tarleton grew closer, Morgan retreated north to Burr’s Mill on Thicketty Creek. On January 16, with Tarleton reported to have crossed the Pacolet and much closer than expected, Morgan and his army made a hasty retreat, so quickly as to leave their breakfast behind. Soon, he intersected with and traveled west on the Green River Road. Here, with the flood-swollen Broad River six miles to his back, Morgan decided to make a stand at the Cowpens, a well-known crossroads and frontier pasturing ground. The term “cowpens”, endemic to such South Carolina pastureland and associated early cattle industry, would be etched in history. The field itself was some 500 yards long and just as wide, a park-like setting dotted with trees, but devoid of undergrowth, having been kept clear by cattle grazing in the spring on native grasses and peavine. There was forage at the Cowpens for horses, and evidence of free-ranging cattle for food. Morgan, too, since he had learned of Tarleton’s pursuit, had spread the word for militia units to rendezvous at the Cowpens. Many knew the geography some were Overmountain men who had camped at the Cowpens on their journey to the Battle of Kings Mountain. Camp was made in a swale between two small hills, and through the night Andrew Pickens’ militia drifted into camp. Morgan moved among the campfires and offered encouragement; his speeches to militia and Continentals alike were command performances. He spoke emotionally of past battles, talked of the battle plan, and lashed out against the British. His words were especially effective with the militia the “Old Waggoner” of French and Indian War days and the hero of Saratoga, spoke their language. He knew how to motivate them even proposing a competition of bravery between Georgia and Carolina units. By the time he was through, one soldier observed that the army was “in good spirits and very willing to fight”. But, as one observed, Morgan hardly slept a wink that night. Dawn at the Cowpens on January 17, 1781, was clear and bitterly cold. Morgan, his scouts bearing news of Tarleton’s approach, moved among his men, shouting, “Boys, get up! Benny’s coming! Tarleton, playing catch up, and having marched his army since two in the morning, ordered formation on the Green River Road for the attack. His aggressive style was made even now more urgent, since there were rumors of Overmountain men on the way, reminiscent of events at Kings Mountain. Yet he was confident of victory: he reasoned he had Morgan hemmed in by the Broad, and the undulating park-like terrain was ideal for his dragoons. He thought Morgan must be desperate, indeed, to have stopped at such a place. Perhaps Morgan saw it differently: in some past battles, Patriot militia had fled in face of fearsome bayonet charges – but now the Broad at Morgan’s back could prevent such a retreat. In reality, though, Morgan had no choice – to cross the flood-swollen Broad risked having his army cut down by the feared and fast-traveling Tarleton. Tarleton pressed the attack head on, his line extending across the meadow, his artillery in the middle, and fifty Dragoons on each side. It was as if Morgan knew he would make a frontal assault – it was his style of fighting. To face Tarleton, he organized his troops into three lines. First, out front and hiding behind trees were selected sharpshooters. At the onset of battle they picked off numbers of Tarleton’s Dragoons, traditionally listed as fifteen, shooting especially at officers, and warding off an attempt to gain initial supremacy. With the Dragoons in retreat, and their initial part completed, the sharpshooters retreated 150 yards or more back to join the second line, the militia commanded by Andrew Pickens. Morgan used the militia well, asking them to get off two volleys and promised their retreat to the third line made up of John Eager Howard’s Continentals, again close to 150 yards back. Some of the militia indeed got off two volleys as the British neared, but, as they retreated and reached supposed safety behind the Continental line, Tarleton sent his feared Dragoons after them. As the militia dodged behind trees and parried saber slashes with their rifles, William Washington’s Patriot cavalry thundered onto the field of battle, seemingly, out of nowhere. The surprised British Dragoons, already scattered and sensing a rout, were overwhelmed, and according to historian Babits, lost eighteen men in the clash. As they fled the field, infantry on both sides fired volley after volley. The British advanced in a trot, with beating drums, the shrill sounds of fifes, and shouts of halloo. Morgan, in response, cheering his men on, said to give them the Indian halloo back. Riding to the front, he rallied the militia, crying out, “form, form, my brave fellows! Old Morgan was never beaten!” Now Tarleton’s 71st Highlanders, held in reserve, entered the charge toward the Continental line, the wild wail of bagpipes adding to the noise and confusion. A John Eager Howard order for the right flank to face slightly right to counter a charge from that direction, was, in the noise of battle, misunderstood as a call to retreat. As other companies along the line followed suite, Morgan rode up to ask Howard if he were beaten. As Howard pointed to the unbroken ranks and the orderly retreat and assured him they were not, Morgan spurred his horse on and ordered the retreating units to face about, and then, on order, fire in unison. The firing took a heavy toll on the British, who, by that time had sensed victory and had broken ranks in a wild charge. This event and a fierce Patriot bayonet charge in return broke the British charge and turned the tide of battle. The re-formed militia and cavalry re-entered the battle, leading to double envelopment of the British, perfectly timed. British infantry began surrendering en masse. Tarleton and some of his army fought valiantly on; others refused his orders and fled the field. Finally, Tarleton, himself, saw the futility of continued battle, and with a handful of his men, fled from whence he came, down the Green River Road. In one of the most dramatic moments of the battle, William Washington, racing ahead of his cavalry, dueled hand-to-hand with Tarleton and two of his officers. Washington’s life was saved only when his young bugler fired his pistol at an Englishman with raised saber. Tarleton and his remaining forces galloped away to Cornwallis’ camp. Stragglers from the battle were overtaken, but Tarleton escaped to tell the awful news to Cornwallis. The battle was over in an hour. It was a complete victory for the Patriot force. British losses were staggering: 110 dead, over 200 wounded and 500 captured. Morgan lost only 12 killed and 60 wounded, a count he received from those reporting directly to him. Knowing Cornwallis would come after him, Morgan saw to it that the dead were buried – the legend says in wolf pits — and headed north with his army. Crossing the Broad at Island Ford , he proceeded to Gilbert Town, and, yet burdened as he was by the prisoners, pressed swiftly northeastward toward the Catawba River, and some amount of safety. The prisoners were taken via Salisbury on to Winchester, Virginia. Soon Morgan and Greene reunited and conferred, Morgan wanting to seek protection in the mountains and Greene wanting to march north to Virginia for supplies. Greene won the point, gently reminding Morgan that he was in command. Soon after Morgan retired from his duty because of ill health— rheumatism, and recurring bouts of malarial fever. Now it was Greene and his army on the move north. Cornwallis, distressed by the news from Cowpens, and wondering aloud how such an interior force could defeat Tarleton’s crack troops, indeed came after him. Now it was a race for the Dan River on the Virginia line, Cornwallis having burned his baggage and swiftly pursuing Greene. Cornwallis was subsequently delayed by Patriot units stationed at Catawba River crossings. Greene won the race, and, in doing so, believed he had Cornwallis where he wanted — far from urban supply centers and short of food. Returning to Guilford Courthouse, he fought Cornwallis’ army employing with some success, Morgan’s tactics at Cowpens. At battle’s end, the British were technically the winners as Greene’s forces retreated. If it could be called a victory, it was a costly one: Five hundred British lay dead or wounded. When the news of the battle reached London, a member of the House of Commons said, “Another such victory would ruin the British army”. Perhaps the army was already ruined, and Greene’s strategy of attrition was working. Soon, Greene’s strategy was evident: Cornwallis and his weary army gave up on the Carolinas and moved on to Virginia. On October 18, 1781, the British army surrendered at Yorktown. Cowpens, in its part in the Revolution, was a surprising victory and a turning point that changed the psychology of the entire war. Now, there was revenge – the Patriot rallying cry Tarleton’s Quarter. Morgan’s unorthodox but tactical masterpiece had indeed “spirited up the people”, not just those of the backcountry Carolinas, but those in all the colonies. In the process, he gave Tarleton and the British a “devil of a whipping”.
1798In Paris, speaking for the US diplomatic mission to France, John Marshall formally rejects the bribes requested by agents of Foreign Minister Tallyrand (the XYZ Affiar) in exchange for the French presence at the negotiating table regarding the ongoing undeclared naval Quasi-War. The US commission also reiterates its position against French interference with US commercial shipping. Negotiations will end with an unsatisfactory French reply on March 18.
1832 – USS Peacock makes contact with Vietnamese court officials
1865General William T. Sherman’s army is rained in at Savannah, Georgia, as it waits to begin marching into the Carolinas. In the fall of 1864, Sherman and his army marched across Georgia and destroyed nearly everything in their path. Sherman reasoned that the war would end sooner if the conflict were taken to the civilian South, a view shared by President Lincoln and General-in-Chief Ulysses S. Grant. Sherman’s men tore up railroads, burned grain stores, carried away livestock, and left plantations in ruins. The Yankees captured the port city of Savannah just before Christmas, and Sherman paused for three weeks to rest his troops and resupply his force. After his rest, he planned to move into the Carolinas and subject those states to the same brutal treatment that Georgia received. His 60,000 troops were divided into two wings. General Oliver O. Howard was to take two corps and move northeast to Charleston, South Carolina, while General Henry Slocum was to move northwest toward Augusta, Georgia. These were just diversions to the main target: Columbia, South Carolina. As Sherman was preparing to move, the rains began. On January 17, the Yankees waited while heavy rains pelted the region. The downpour lasted for ten days, the heaviest rainfall in 20 years. Some of Sherman’s aides thought a winter campaign in the Carolinas would be difficult with such wet weather, but Sherman had spent four years in Charleston as a young lieutenant in the army, and he believed that the march was possible. He also possessed an army that was ready to continue its assault on the Confederacy. Sherman wrote to his wife that he “…never saw a more confident army…The soldiers think I know everything and that they can do anything.” Sherman’s army did not begin moving until the end of the month. When the army finally did move, it conducted a campaign against South Carolina that was worse than that against Georgia. Sherman wanted to exact revenge on the state that had led secession and started the war by firing on Fort Sumter.
1865 – Naval forces, commanded by Lieutenant Moreau Forrest of the Mississippi Squadron, cooperated with Army cavalry in a successful attack on the town of Somerville, Alabama. The expedition resulted in the capture of 90 prisoners, 150 horses and one piece of artillery.
1873In November 1872, soldiers and settlers attacked Modoc Indian leader Captain Jack’s camp on Lost River. After the battle, about 50 Modocs fled to the strategic position of the lava beds between Tule Lake and present-day Canby, California. Jack lived in the stronghold and successfully defended it for about one year. The first battle for the stronghold took place in January 1873, and the second in April 1873. During the repeated attacks by soldiers and settlers, Captain Jack was able to use the lava beds to his advantage, and only a few people were ever allowed to enter the stronghold to negotiate with him. After several unsuccessful attempts at resolving the whole problem, negotiators sent word back to Washington that the Modocs must be defeated militarily. Captain Jack surrendered on June 1, 1873, and was executed along with five other Modoc men on October 3, 1873. Those remaining in Jack’s band were removed to Indian territory in Oklahoma. In 1909, most surviving Modocs returned to the Klamath Reservation. It is important to note that Jack never signed a treaty, and that he defended the stronghold with only a few Indians while the number of men fighting against him at times exceeded 300.
1878 – A treaty between the US and Samoa is ratified by Congress. The harbor of Pago Pago will be given to the US Navy for use as a refueling station.
1893On the Hawaiian Islands, a group of American sugar planters under Sanford Ballard Dole overthrow Queen Liliuokalani, the Hawaiian monarch, and establish a new provincial government with Dole as president. The coup occurred with the foreknowledge of John L. Stevens, the U.S. minister to Hawaii, and 300 U.S. Marines from the U.S. cruiser Boston were called to Hawaii, allegedly to protect American lives. The first known settlers of the Hawaiian Islands were Polynesian voyagers who arrived sometime in the eighth century, and in the early 18th century the first American traders came to Hawaii to exploit the islands’ sandalwood, which was much valued in China at the time. In the 1830s, the sugar industry was introduced to Hawaii and by the mid-19th century had become well established. American missionaries and planters brought about great changes in Hawaiian political, cultural, economic, and religious life, and in 1840 a constitutional monarchy was established, stripping the Hawaiian monarch of much of his authority. Four years later, Sanford B. Dole was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, to American parents. During the next four decades, Hawaii entered into a number of political and economic treaties with the United States, and in 1887 a U.S. naval base was established at Pearl Harbor as part of a new Hawaiian constitution. Sugar exports to the United States expanded greatly during the next four years, and U.S. investors and American sugar planters on the islands broadened their domination over Hawaiian affairs. However, in 1891 Liliuokalani, the sister of the late King Kalakaua, ascended to the throne, refusing to recognize the constitution of 1887 and replacing it with a constitution increasing her personal authority. In January 1893, a revolutionary “Committee of Safety,” organized by Sanford B. Dole, staged a coup against Queen Liliuokalani with the tacit support of the United States. On February 1, Minister John Stevens recognized Dole’s new government on his own authority and proclaimed Hawaii a U.S. protectorate. Dole submitted a treaty of annexation to the U.S. Senate, but most Democrats opposed it, especially after it was revealed that most Hawaiians did want annexation. President Grover Cleveland sent a new U.S. minister to Hawaii to restore Queen Liliuokalani to the throne under the 1887 constitution, but Dole refused to step aside and instead proclaimed the independent Republic of Hawaii. Cleveland was unwilling to overthrow the government by force, and his successor, President William McKinley, negotiated a treaty with the Republic of Hawaii in 1897. In 1898, the Spanish-American War broke out, and the strategic use of the naval base at Pearl Harbor during the war convinced Congress to approve formal annexation. Two years later, Hawaii was organized into a formal U.S. territory and in 1959 entered the United States as the 50th state.
1899 – The United States takes possession of Wake Island in the Pacific Ocean.
1900US (CDR Taussig in USS Bennington) takes formal possession of Wake Island actually an atoll with three islets (Wake, Wilkes, and Peale), 3 sq mi (7.8 sq km), central Pacific, between Hawaii and Guam. It is a U.S. commercial and military base under the jurisdiction of the Federal Aviation Agency. There is no indigenous population. Wake Island was discovered by the Spanish in 1568, visited by the British in 1796 and named after Capt. William Wake, and annexed by the United States in 1898. The island became (1935) a commercial air base on the route to Asia and later served as a U.S. military base. In Dec., 1941, Wake Island was seized by the Japanese. U.S. forces bombed the island from 1942 until Japan’s surrender in 1945.
1917 –The Virgin Islands are bought from Denmark for $25,000,000. The islands are an important strategic base guarding the Panama Canal.
1942 – The convoy PQ-8 is attacked by U-Boats. This is the first such attack on an Arctic convoy. One destroyer and one merchantman are sunk by U-454.
1943 – The Australians penetrate the Japanese positions at Sanananda but the Japanese continue to resist here and against the US forces at Giruwa on New Guinea.
1944Operation Panther, the Allied invasion of Cassino, in central Italy, is launched. The Italian Campaign had been underway for more than six months. Beginning with the invasion of Sicily, the Allies had been fighting their way up the Italian peninsula against German resistance–the Italians had already surrendered and signed an armistice with the Allies in September 1943. The ancient town of Cassino, near the Rapido River, was a strategic point in the German Gustav Line, a defensive front across central Italy and based at the Rapido, Garigliano, and Sangro rivers. Taking Cassino would mean a breach in the German line and their inevitable retreat farther north. Although the campaign to take Cassino commenced in January, the town was not safely in Allied hands until May. The campaign caused considerable destruction, including the bombing of the ancient Benedictine abbey Monte Cassino, which took the lives of a bishop and several monks
1945Soviet troops liberate the Polish capital from German occupation. Warsaw was a battleground since the opening day of fighting in the European theater. Germany declared war by launching an air raid on September 1, 1939, and followed up with a siege that killed tens of thousands of Polish civilians and wreaked havoc on historic monuments. Deprived of electricity, water, and food, and with 25 percent of the city’s homes destroyed, Warsaw surrendered to the Germans on September 27. The USSR had snatched a part of eastern Poland as part of the “fine print” of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact (also known as the Hitler-Stalin Pact) signed in August 1939, but soon after found itself at war with its “ally.” In August 1944, the Soviets began pushing the Germans west, advancing on Warsaw. The Polish Home Army, fearful that the Soviets would march on Warsaw to battle the Germans and never leave the capital, led an uprising against the German occupiers. The Polish residents hoped that if they could defeat the Germans themselves, the Allies would help install the Polish anticommunist government-in-exile after the war. Unfortunately, the Soviets, rather than aiding the Polish uprising, which they encouraged in the name of beating back their common enemy, stood idly by and watched as the Germans slaughtered the Poles and sent survivors to concentration camps. This destroyed any native Polish resistance to a pro-Soviet communist government, an essential part of Stalin’s postwar territorial designs. After Stalin mobilized 180 divisions against the Germans in Poland and East Prussia, Gen. Georgi Zhukov’s troops crossed the Vistula north and south of the Polish capital, liberating the city from Germans-and grabbing it for the USSR. By that time, Warsaw’s prewar population of approximately 1.3 million had been reduced to a mere 153,000.
1946 – The United Nations Security Council held its first meeting at Church House, Westminster, in London, England.
1951 – Eighth Army re-entered Suwon. This was the most favorable entry in Eighth Army’s journal since the Chinese intervention in the war in late November 1950.
1951A 4th FIG detachment began operating from Taegu, restoring F-86 operations in Korea. For the first time, the Sabres flew in the air-to-ground role as fighter-bombers, conducting armed reconnaissance and close air support missions. Far East Air Forces temporarily suspended Tarzon bombing missions because of a shortage of the radio-guided bombs. Only three, earmarked for emergencies, remained in the theater.
1952 – Two MiG-15s were destroyed after accidentally colliding with each other during air combat with F-86s.
1953 – The 98th BW attacked the Pyongyang radio installation, which was forty-two feet underground and only a thousand feet from a possible POW camp. The eleven B-29s scored eight to ten hits with 2,000-pound general-purpose bombs, but these did not penetrate deeply enough to destroy the radio station.
1955 – USS Nautilus (SSN-571), the first nuclear-powered submarine, is commissioned and sends message “underway on nuclear power”
1961In his farewell address to the nation, President Dwight D. Eisenhower warns the American people to keep a careful eye on what he calls the “military-industrial complex” that has developed in the post-World War II years. A fiscal conservative, Eisenhower had been concerned about the growing size and cost of the American defense establishment since he became president in 1953. In his last presidential address to the American people, he expressed those concerns in terms that frankly shocked some of his listeners. Eisenhower began by describing the changing nature of the American defense establishment since World War II. No longer could the U.S. afford the “emergency improvisation” that characterized its preparations for war against Germany and Japan. Instead, the United States was “compelled to create a permanent armaments industry” and a huge military force. He admitted that the Cold War made clear the “imperative need for this development,” but he was gravely concerned about “the acquisition of unwarranted influence…by the military-industrial complex.” In particular, he asked the American people to guard against the “danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite.” Eisenhower’s blunt language stunned some of his supporters. They believed that the man who led the country to victory in Europe in World War II and guided the nation through some of the darkest moments of the Cold War was too negative toward the military-industrial complex that was the backbone of America’s defense. For most listeners, however, it seemed clear that Eisenhower was merely stating the obvious. World War II and the ensuing Cold War resulted in the development of a large and powerful defense establishment. Necessary though that development might be, Eisenhower warned, this new military-industrial complex could weaken or destroy the very institutions and principles it was designed to protect.
1966A B-52 bomber collides with KC-135 jet tanker over Spain’s Mediterranean coast, dropping three 70-kiloton hydrogen bombs near the town of Palomares and one in the sea. It was not the first or last accident involving American nuclear bombs. As a means of maintaining first-strike capability during the Cold War, U.S. bombers laden with nuclear weapons circled the earth ceaselessly for decades. In a military operation of this magnitude, it was inevitable that accidents would occur. The Pentagon admits to more than three-dozen accidents in which bombers either crashed or caught fire on the runway, resulting in nuclear contamination from a damaged or destroyed bomb and/or the loss of a nuclear weapon. One of the only “Broken Arrows” to receive widespread publicity occurred on January 17, 1966, when a B-52 bomber crashed into a KC-135 jet tanker over Spain. The bomber was returning to its North Carolina base following a routine airborne alert mission along the southern route of the Strategic Air Command when it attempted to refuel with a jet tanker. The B-52 collided with the fueling boom of the tanker, ripping the bomber open and igniting the fuel. The KC-135 exploded, killing all four of its crew members, but four members of the seven-man B-52 crew managed to parachute to safety. None of the bombs were armed, but explosive material in two of the bombs that fell to earth exploded upon impact, forming craters and scattering radioactive plutonium over the fields of Palomares. A third bomb landed in a dry riverbed and was recovered relatively intact. The fourth bomb fell into the sea at an unknown location. Palomares, a remote fishing and farming community, was soon filled with nearly 2,000 U.S. military personnel and Spanish civil guards who rushed to clean up the debris and decontaminate the area. The U.S. personnel took precautions to prevent overexposure to the radiation, but the Spanish workers, who lived in a country that lacked experience with nuclear technology, did not. Eventually some 1,400 tons of radioactive soil and vegetation were shipped to the United States for disposal. Meanwhile, at sea, 33 U.S. Navy vessels were involved in the search for the lost hydrogen bomb. Using an IBM computer, experts tried to calculate where the bomb might have landed, but the impact area was still too large for an effective search. Finally, an eyewitness account by a Spanish fisherman led the investigators to a one-mile area. On March 15, a submarine spotted the bomb, and on April 7 it was recovered. It was damaged but intact. Studies on the effects of the nuclear accident on the people of Palomares was limited, but the United States eventually settled some 500 claims by residents whose health was adversely affected. Because the accident happened in a foreign country, it received far more publicity than did the dozen or so similar crashes that occurred within U.S. borders. As a security measure, U.S. authorities do not announce nuclear weapons accidents, and some American citizens may have unknowingly been exposed to radiation that resulted from aircraft crashes and emergency bomb jettisons. Today, two hydrogen bombs and a uranium core lie in yet undetermined locations in the Wassaw Sound off Georgia, in the Puget Sound off Washington, and in swamplands near Goldsboro, North Carolina.
1971Led by South Vietnamese Lt. Gen. Do Cao Tri, and with U.S. air support and advisers, some 300 paratroopers raid a communist prisoner of war camp near the town of Mimot in Cambodia on information that 20 U.S. prisoners were being held there. They found the camp empty, but captured 30 enemy soldiers and sustained no casualties.
1972President Richard Nixon warns South Vietnamese President Nguyen Van Thieu in a private letter that his refusal to sign any negotiated peace agreement would render it impossible for the United States to continue assistance to South Vietnam. Nixon’s National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger had been working behind the scenes in secret negotiations with North Vietnamese representatives in Paris to reach a settlement to end the war. However, Thieu stubbornly refused to even discuss any peace proposal that recognized the Viet Cong as a viable participant in the post-war political solution in South Vietnam. As it turned out, the secret negotiations were not close to reaching an agreement because the North Vietnamese launched a massive invasion of South Vietnam in March 1972. With the help of U.S. airpower and advisers on the ground, the South Vietnamese withstood the North Vietnamese attack, and by December, Kissinger and North Vietnamese representatives were back in Paris and close to an agreement. Among Thieu’s demands was the request that all North Vietnamese troops had to be withdrawn from South Vietnam before he would agree to any peace settlement. The North Vietnamese walked out of the negotiations in protest. In response, President Nixon initiated Operation Linebacker II, a massive bombing campaign against Hanoi, to force the North Vietnamese back to the negotiating table. After 11 days of intense bombing, Hanoi agreed to return to the talks in Paris. When Kissinger and Le Duc Tho, the main North Vietnamese negotiator, met again in early January, they quickly worked out a settlement. The Paris Peace Accords were signed on January 23 and a cease-fire went into effect five days later. Again, President Thieu refused to sign the Accords, but Nixon promised to come to the aid of South Vietnam if the communists violated the terms of the peace treaty, and Thieu agreed to sign. Unfortunately for Thieu and the South Vietnamese, Nixon was forced from office by the Watergate scandal in August 1974, and no U.S. aid came when the North Vietnamese launched a general offensive in March 1975. South Vietnam succumbed in 55 days.
1990A federal judge in Miami set March 1990 for the trial of ex-Panamanian leader Manuel Noriega on drug trafficking charges. After initial delays, Noriega was tried and convicted of racketeering and conspiracy to distribute cocaine, and was sentenced to 40 years in prison, later cut to 30 years.
1991The Persian Gulf War began as Coalition planes struck targets in Iraq and Kuwait. The first Iraqi Scud missile attacks on Israel were launched. There were reports of death and injury, and possibly even chemical weapons being used. For a few tense hours, it looked as though Israel would retaliate against Iraq, causing the allied coalition to break up. Six months of preparation and diplomacy might be undone by a few poorly aimed, 1950s-vintage ballistic missiles. Later that evening, U.S. Patriot surface-to-air missiles were launched against the incoming Scuds, and for the first time in history, a ballistic missile was shot down by another missile. The use of Patriot missiles in Israel’s defense helped to keep that country out of the Gulf War, thereby safeguarding the integrity of the American-European-Arab coalition. Jeffrey Zahn became the 1st US pilot shot down. Lt. Cmdr. Michael Scott Speicher (33) was shot down over western Iraq. The ruins of his plane were found in 1993.
1993 – The United States, accusing Iraq of a series of military provocations, unleashed Tomahawk missiles against a military complex eight miles from downtown Baghdad.
1996 – Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman and nine followers were handed long prison sentences for plotting to blow up New York-area landmarks.
1996Iraq agrees to talks concerning a U.N. plan to allow for the Iraqi sale of $1 billion of oil for 90 days for a 180-day trial period. Under U.N. Security Council Resolution 986, proceeds from the sale would be used for humanitarian purposes. In the past, Iraq has opposed clauses 6 and 8b contained in Resolution 986. Clause 6 stipulates that oil exports under this plan must pass through the 1.6-million b/d Iraq-Turkey pipeline, which currently is unusable because of sludge build-ups and pumping station damage. By most estimates, the line would take a minimum of three months to repair. Clause 8b states that part of the proceeds from the sales would be disbursed under U.N. supervision to Kurdish provinces in northern Iraq. Negotiations between Iraq and the U.N. are scheduled to begin February 6, 1996.
1997 – A $40 million navigation satellite for the US Air Force blew up on takeoff at Cape Canaveral.
1998 – US military began to clear away over 50,000 land mines around Guantanamo Naval base.
1998 – In Iraq Sadam Hussein threatened to expel all UN arms inspectors in 6 months if the country is not cleared of suspicions about weapons programs and if sanctions are not lifted.
1999 – US talks with North Korea over inspection of an underground nuclear site were adjourned. North Korea demanded $300 million in compensation to inspect the Kumchangni site.
2001 – U.S. President Bill Clinton posthumously promotes William Clark, of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, from Lieutenant to Captain.
2002 – US Sec. of State Powell visited Afghanistan and pledged that the US would not abandon the country
2002 – In Arizona 2 A-10 Thunderbolt II attack jets collided and 1 pilot was killed.
2003 – Tom Ridge sailed through Senate confirmation hearings on his way to becoming the nation’s first Homeland Security Department chief.
2003 – On the 12th anniversary of the Gulf War, a defiant Saddam Hussein called on his people to rise up and defend the nation against a new U.S.-led attack.
2003Iraq awards a contract to Russian company Stroitransgaz for a small oil field in western Iraq and sets aside two others for Russian companies. Some analysts interpret these awards as an attempt at rapprochement between Iraq and Russia after Iraq canceled a giant contract with Russia’s Lukoil in December 2002.
2007 – United States President George W. Bush announces that the NSA has ended its practice of warrantless wiretapping for domestic surveillance, and will go to the courts for warrants in the future.
2009 – North Korea claims to have “weaponized” 30.8 kilograms of plutonium, enough for four to five nuclear warheads.

Congressional Medal of Honor Citations for Actions Taken This Day

Rank and organization: Major, 1st U.S. Cavalry. Place and date: At the Lava Beds, Calif., 17 January 1873. Entered service at: Ohio. Birth: Germany. Date of issue: 18 November 1897. Citation: In order to reassure his command, this officer, in the most fearless manner and exposed to very great danger, walked in front of the line; the command, thus encouraged, advanced over the lava upon the Indians who were concealed among the rocks.

Rank and organization: Contract Surgeon, U.S. Army. Place and date: At Lava Beds, Oreg., 17 January 1873. Entered service at: Maryland. Birth: Maryland. Date of issue: Unknown. Citation: Rescued a wounded soldier who lay under a close and heavy fire during the assault on the Modoc stronghold after 2 soldiers had unsuccessfully attempted to make the rescue and both had been wounded in doing so.

Rank and Organization: Specialist Fourth Class. U.S. Army, 3rd Platoon, Delta Company, 1st Infantry Regiment, 196th Brigade. Place and Date: Hawk Hill Fire Base, Quang Tin, Republic of Vietnam. 17 January 1970. Entered Service At: March 19, 1959. Born: 2 February 1949. Departed: Yes (01/17/1970). G.O. Number:. Date of Issue: 09/15/2014. Accredited To:. Citation: On the morning of Jan. 17, 1970, Sloat’s squad was conducting a patrol, serving as a blocking element in support of tanks and armored personnel carriers from F Troop in the Que Son valley. As the squad moved through dense terrain up a small hill in file formation, the lead Soldier tripped a wire attached to a hand grenade booby-trap, set up by enemy forces. When the grenade rolled down the hill toward Sloat, he had a choice. He could hit the ground and seek cover, or pick up the grenade and throw it away from his fellow Soldiers. After initially attempting to throw the grenade, Sloat realized that detonation was imminent, and that two or three men near him would be killed or seriously injured if he couldn’t shield them from the blast. In an instant, Sloat chose to draw the grenade to his body, shielding his squad members from the blast, and saving their lives. Sloat’s actions define the ultimate sacrifice of laying down his own life in order to save the lives of his comrades. Specialist Four Donald P. Sloat’s extraordinary heroism and selflessness are in keeping with the highest traditions of military service, and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit, and the United States Army.

One thought on “January 17

  1. R. H. says:

    1964 – Battle of Thanh Phu Island.

    Six American crewmen of MACV’s Utility Tactical Transport (UTT) Co. are KIA when their UH-1B helicopters are shot down in the Mekong Delta.

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