1781 – In Pompton , New Jersey, troops mutiny. They are suppressed on January 27 by General Robert Howe’s 600-man force sent by Washington. Two leaders of the mutiny are executed.
1783 – The fighting of the Revolutionary War ended. Britain signed peace agreements with France and Spain, who allied against it in the American War of Independence. The peace agreement between the US and England will not go into effect until England and France reach a settlement.
1861 – Fort on Ship Island, Mississippi, seized by Confederates; Ship Island was a key base for operations in the Gulf of Mexico and at the mouth of the Mississippi River.
1863 – Union General Ambrose Burnside’s Army of the Potomac begins an offensive against General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia that quickly bogs down as several days of heavy rain turn the roads of Virginia into a muddy quagmire. The campaign was abandoned three days later. The Union army was still reeling from the disastrous Battle of Fredericksburg on December 13, 1862. Burnside’s force suffered more than 13,000 casualties as it assaulted Lee’s troops along hills above Fredericksburg. Lee suffered only 5,000 casualties, making Fredericksburg one of the most one-sided engagements in the eastern theater of operations. Morale was very low among the Yankees that winter. Now, Burnside sought to raise morale and seize the initiative from Lee. His plan was to swing around Lee’s left flank and draw the Confederates away from their defenses and into the open. Speed was essential to the operation. January had been a dry month to that point, but as soon as the Federals began to move, a drizzle turned into a downpour that last for four days. Logistical problems delayed the laying of a pontoon bridge across the Rappahannock River, and a huge traffic jam snarled the army’s progress. In one day, the 5th New York moved only a mile and a half. The roads became unnavigable, and conflicting orders caused two corps to march across each others’ paths. Horses, wagons, and cannon were stuck in mud, and the element of surprise was lost. Jeering Confederates taunted the Yankees with shouts and signs that read “Burnside’s Army Stuck in the Mud.” Burnside tried to lift spirits by issuing liquor to the soldiers on January 22, but this only compounded the problems. Drunken troops began brawling, and entire regiments fought one another. The operation was a complete fiasco, and on January 23 Burnside gave up his attempt to, in his words, “strike a great and mortal blow to the rebellion.” The campaign was considered so disastrous that Burnside was removed as commander of the army on January 25.
1887 – The U.S. Senate approved an agreement to lease Pearl Harbor in Hawaii as a naval base.
1899 – The Philippine Commission is appointed by President McKinley. It is headed by Jacob G. Schurman who will suggest US rule of the islands until the Philippinos are ready for self-government. The move will prevent annexation by Germany which has moved its navy nearby. It will also make the US a major power in the Pacific, brining it into conflict with Japan.
1903 – Theordore Roosevelt issues Executive Order placing Midway Islands under jurisdiction of the Navy Department. The Midway Islands consist of a circular atoll, 6 miles in diameter, enclosing two islands. Lying about 1,150 miles west-northwest of Hawaii, the islands were first explored by Captain N. C. Brooks on July 5, 1859, in the name of the United States. The atoll was formally declared a U.S. possession in 1867, and in 1903 Theodore Roosevelt made it a naval reservation. The island was renamed “Midway” by the U.S. Navy in recognition of its geographic location on the route between California and Japan. Air traffic across the Pacific increased the island’s importance in the mid-1930s; the San Francisco–Manila mail route included a regular stop on Midway. Its military importance was soon recognized, and the navy began building an air and submarine base there in 1940.
1905 – The United States and the Dominican Republic sign a protocol giving the United States control of the Dominican Republic’s international debts. The US fears that European creditors will use the debt as justification for occupation of the Caribbean republic. As much as 90% of receipts have been stolen by corrupt public officials, leading to the crisis.
1914 – School for naval air training opens in Pensacola, FL.
1940 – The USA protests to Britain over the detention of its ships in Gibraltar.
1942 – Top Nazis met at Grossen-Wannsee, outside Berlin, and there formulated the infamous “Final Solution” to the Jewish question. Chaired by SS General Reinhard Heydrich, the one-day conference was designed to address the Nazi efforts at removing the Jews. The 15 top-ranking men of the German Reich agreed upon a blueprint for the extermination of Europe’s Jews. Their “final solution” called for exterminating Europe’s Jews. Until this time, the plan had been to deport all Jews to the island of Madagascar off Africa, but by 1942 this plan was rejected in favor of transporting Jews to the east where the able-bodied would become slave laborers for the Reich. SS chief Heinrich Himmler would be in charge. Those unfit to work would be, the conference minutes noted, “appropriately dealt with.” This phrase was left unexplained, but there was no doubt of its sinister meaning. After approving genocide as Nazi policy, the conference attendees adjourned for lunch. The minutes were taken by Adolf Eichmann.
1942 – Japanese aircraft from four carries make major attacks on Rabaul.
1943 – Japanese resistance on Mount Austen, Guadalcanal weakens. The garrison at the Gifu strongpoint has taken heavy losses from artillery.
1944 – Allied forces in Italy begin unsuccessful operations to cross the Rapido River and seize Cassino. At 20:00 36th US Division attempts to cross the Rapido river with two Infantry Regiments after an artillery barrage program. However, because of heavy German retaliatory fire only about 2 companies get across the river on the 141st Regiment’s front. On the other (143rd) Regiment’s front no troops get across at all.
1945 – The Allies signed a truce with the Hungarians.
1946 – By Executive Order, President Truman creates the Central Intelligence Group, the precursor to the Central Intelligence Agency.
1949 – Point Four Program a program for economic aid to poor countries announced by United States President Harry S. Truman in his inaugural address for a full term as President.
1951 – After weeks of almost unbroken absence, MiGs appeared again over Korea, resulting on this date in the first encounter between USAF F-84s and CCF MiG-15s.
1952 – The 40th Infantry Division, California Army National Guard, arrived in Korea.
1954 – The CIA built a tunnel from west Berlin to East Berlin to tap Soviet and East German communications.
1972 – In continued efforts to disrupt an anticipated communist offensive, a contingent of more than 10,000 South Vietnamese troops begin a sweep 45 miles northwest of Saigon to find and destroy enemy forces. There was much speculation that the North Vietnamese would launch such an offensive around the Tet (Chinese New Year) holiday. Although the communists did not attack during the Tet holiday in early February, in March they launched a massive invasion involving more than 150,000 main force troops and large amounts of tanks and artillery pieces. The battles raged throughout South Vietnam into the fall and resulted in some of the fiercest fighting of the war.
1981 – Ronald Reagan was sworn in as president as 52 American hostages boarded a plane in Tehran and headed toward freedom. Iran released 52 Americans held hostage for 444 days, minutes after the presidency had passed from Jimmy Carter to Ronald Reagan.
1991 – During the Gulf War, Iraqi missiles were shot down by U-S Patriot rockets as they approached Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. Iraqi television showed interviews with seven downed allied pilots, three of them Americans.
1994 – Shannon Faulkner became the first woman to attend classes at The Citadel in South Carolina. She joined the cadet corps in August 1995, under court order, but soon dropped out, citing isolation and stress.
1999 – NATO moved forces within striking distance of Yugoslavia and warned Belgrade to stop its repression in Kosovo.
1999 – The U.N. releases more than $81 million to Iraq to buy equipment to increase its supply of electricity. Iraq, which suffers frequent power shortages, as power plants fail and electrical demand rises, applied to buy the necessary generating equipment in 1998, when the “Oil-for-Food” program was expanded to allow Iraq to begin rebuilding its crumbling public services. U.N. trade sanctions and a more limited oil sales program had earlier prevented the Iraqis from replacing the old equipment.
2001 – IAEA inspectors conduct inspections in Iraq which verified presence of nuclear material.
2003 – Secretary of State Colin Powell, faced with stiff resistance and calls to go slow, bluntly told the U.N. Security Council that the United Nations “must not shrink” from its responsibility to disarm Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.
2003 – The chief UN arms inspectors and Iraqi officials agreed on practical steps to greater Iraqi cooperation in the UN disarmament program, including Baghdad’s encouragement of weapons scientists to submit to private UN interviews.
2003 – British defense secretary Geoff Hoon announces the deployment of 26,000 troops to the Gulf. The force includes more than 100 Challenger 2 battle tanks, 150 armored personnel carriers, and an air assault brigade, including 1,400 paratroopers. It is bigger than Britain’s contribution at the start of the 1991 Gulf war.
2003 – US military officials announce that they are sending a force of about 37,000 soldiers to the Persian Gulf region. This takes the number of US troops ordered to deploy to around 125,000.
2005 – U.S. President George W. Bush is sworn in for his second term, with a pledge to seek “freedom in all the world”.
2005 – Mars rover Opportunity uses its spectrometers to prove that Heat Shield Rock is a meteorite, the first to be found on another planet.
2006 – At 4 o’clock UTC NASA’s Pluto probe New Horizons crossed the orbit of the Moon, eight hours and thirty-five minutes after launch. This is a new Earth-to-Moon-distance flight record.
2006 – Three former workers at the Davis-Besse nuclear power plant in Ohio are indicted for repeatedly falsifying inspection reports and other information to the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The plant’s owner, FirstEnergy Corporation, accepts a plea bargain and $28 million in fines in lieu of criminal prosecution.
2009 – Barack Obama is inaugurated as the 44th and first African-American President of the United States.
2011 – The largest rocket ever launched from the U.S. West Coast blasted off on Thursday from Vandenberg Air Force Base, carrying a top secret satellite into orbit. The Delta IV Heavy rocket stood 23 stories tall, and its engines produced 2 million pounds of thrust, according to the 30th Space Wing of the U.S. Air Force. Blasting off at 1:10 p.m. Pacific time from Space Launch Complex-6 at Vandenberg in California, the rocket carried a payload for the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office.
2011 – United States Congress blocks President of the United States Barack Obama’s attempts to close the prison for detainees of the War on Terror at Guantamo Bay, Cuba.
2013 – The second inauguration of Barack Obama as the President of the United States takes place in the Blue Room of the White House.
2013 – A NASA spacecraft, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, provides new evidence of a wet underground environment on Mars that adds to an increasingly complex picture of the Red Planet’s early evolution.
2014 – The United States rejects the invitation of Iran by the United Nations in peace talks involving Syria.
2014 – Certain sanctions against Iran are lifted by the European Union and the United States through a nuclear deal.
2014 – Kenneth Bae, an American prisoner in North Korea, releases a message to the United States for help.
Congressional Medal of Honor Citations for Actions Taken This Day
GOWAN, WILLIAM HENRY
Rank and organization: Boatswain’s Mate, U.S. Navy. Born: 2 June 1884, Rye, New York. Accredited to: New York. G.O. No.: 18, 19 March 1909. Citation: For bravery and extraordinary heroism displayed by him during a conflagration in Coquimbo, Chile, 20 January 1909.
WHEELER, GEORGE HUBER
Rank and organization: Shipfitter First Class, U.S. Navy. Born: 26 September 1881, Charleston, S.C. Accredited to: South Carolina. G.O. No.: 18, 19 March 1909. Citation: For bravery and extraordinary heroism displayed by him during a conflagration in Coquimbo, Chile, 20 January 1909.