March 16

16 March

1621The first Indian appears to colonists in Plymouth, Massachusetts. An unidentified Pilgrim had gone out fowling and, near a creek about a mile and a half from the plantation, twelve Indians passed near the place he was hiding. He rushed back to Plymouth and raised the alarm. Myles Standish and Francis Cooke, who had been working in the woods when the alarm went out, rushed back to the little community, leaving their tools behind them. The colonists armed themselves and went back to the place where the Indians had been seen, but found none. In the evening, the men built a great fire near the place where the Indians had been seen.
1739 – George Clymer, US merchant (signed Declaration of Independence and Constitution), was born.
1751James Madison (d.1836), Jefferson’s successor as secretary of state and fourth president of the United States (1809-17), was born in Port Conway, Va. He invented the 1787 electoral college system “to break the tyranny of the majority.” “If men were angels, no government would be necessary.” Pierce Butler of South Carolina first proposed the electoral college system.
1782Spanish troops capture the British-held island of Roatán. The Battle of Roatán (sometimes spelled “Rattan”) was an American War of Independence battle between British and Spanish forces for control of Roatán, an island off the Caribbean coast of present-day Honduras. A Spanish expeditionary force under Matías de Gálvez, the Captain General of Spanish Guatemala, gained control of the British-held island after bombarding its main defences. The British garrison surrendered the next day. The Spanish evacuated the captured soldiers, 135 civilians and 300 slaves, and destroyed their settlement, which they claimed had been used as a base for piracy and privateering. The assault was part of a larger plan by Gálvez to eliminate British influence in Central America. Although he met with temporary successes, the British were able to maintain a colonial presence in the area.
1802 – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was established for the second time.
1802The United States Military Academy–the first military school in the United States–is founded by Congress for the purpose of educating and training young men in the theory and practice of military science. Located at West Point, New York, the U.S. Military Academy is often simply known as West Point. Located on the high west bank of New York’s Hudson River, West Point was the site of a Revolutionary-era fort built to protect the Hudson River Valley from British attack. In 1780, Patriot General Benedict Arnold, the commander of the fort, agreed to surrender West Point to the British in exchange for 6,000 pounds. However, the plot was uncovered before it fell into British hands, and Arnold fled to the British for protection. Ten years after the establishment of the U.S. Military Academy in 1802, the growing threat of another war with Great Britain resulted in congressional action to expand the academy’s facilities and increase the West Point corps. Beginning in 1817, the U.S. Military Academy was reorganized by superintendent Sylvanus Thayer–later known as the “father of West Point”–and the school became one of the nation’s finest sources of civil engineers. During the Mexican-American War, West Point graduates filled the leading ranks of the victorious U.S. forces, and with the outbreak of the Civil War former West Point classmates regretfully lined up against one another in the defense of their native states. In 1870, the first African-American cadet was admitted into the U.S. Military Academy, and in 1976, the first female cadets. The academy is now under the general direction and supervision of the department of the U.S. Army and has an enrollment of more than 4,000 students.
1822John Pope, Union general in the American Civil War is born. The only army commander operating against the Army of Northern Virginia to earn the personal animosity of Robert E. Lee was John Pope. The Kentucky native had spent his entire career in the military service. Receiving an appointment to West Point from Illinois, he was graduated in 1842 and was posted to the topographical engineers. Performing creditably, he was considered a top soldier. The Mexican War brought him two brevets and he continued to rise regularly in rank. Having served in the escort of Lincoln to the Washington inaugural ceremonies, Pope was named to be a brigadier of volunteers and performed organizational duties in Illinois before serving under Fremont in the Western Department. His capabilities being displayed in Missouri, he was eventually given charge of the operations along the Mississippi River. In early 1862 he scored major successes at New Madrid and Island # 10 and the advance on Memphis. He then led one of the three field armies serving under Henry W. Halleck in a painfully slow advance on Corinth, Mississippi. In the meantime he had been awarded a second star in the volunteer service and was marked for advancement. With the scattered forces in northern Virginia unable to contain Stonewall Jackson’s small mobile command in the Shenandoah Valley and thus unable to advance on Richmond from the North, Pope was called east. Three departments were merged into his newly formed Army of Virginia. His former commander, Fremont, refused to be one of his corps commanders and was relieved. Pope was then advanced to a brigadier generalship in the regular establishment. Not taking command of his scattered forces in the field until late July, he lost the faith of his men when he made an address praising the western armies and disparaging the efforts of the eastern forces up to that time. In bombastic fashion he declared his headquarters would be in the saddle. This led to a quip that he didn’t know his headquarters from his hindquarters. His proposals on how to deal with the secessionist population raised the ire of his opponents, especially Lee. Part of Pope’s command was defeated at Cedar Mountain. Later that month his command and parts of McClellan’s Army of the Potomac fought at 2nd Bull Run. Pope had no idea of the true situation on the field and was routed. Blaming the defeat upon his subordinates, he came into conflict with those officers who were McClellan partisans. He charged Fitz-John Porter with disobedience of orders in failing to launch an attack which was in fact impossible. Nonetheless Porter was cashiered, but Pope also lost his command on September 21 1862, and the Army of Virginia was merged into the Army of the Potomac 10 days later. While there was recognition of a lack of support from McClellan and his officers, Lincoln felt he had little choice but to give the consolidated command to McClellan in the face of the Confederate invasion of Maryland. Pope then spent most of the balance of the war commanding the Department of the Northwest and dealing with the Sioux uprising. He performed his job ably and in 1865 was brevetted a regular army major general for Island #10. Mustered out of the volunteers on September 1, 1866, he held departmental commands in the regular army, mostly in the West, until his 1886 retirement. Four years later he was named a full major general.
1836 – The Republic of Texas approved a constitution.
1861 – Arizona Territory voted to leave the Union.
1862Union gunboats and mortar boats under Flag Officer Foote commenced bombardment of strongly fortified and strategically located Island No. 10 in the Mississippi River. After the loss of Forts Henry and Donelson, and as General Grant continued to wisely use the mobile force afloat at his disposal, the Confederates fell back on Island No. 10, concentrated artillery and troops, and prepared for an all-out defense of this bastion which dominated the river. Meanwhile, Lieutenant Gwin reported the operations of the wooden gunboats on the Tennessee River into Mississippi and Alabama where they kept constantly active: ”I reported to General Grant at Fort Foote on the 7th instant and remained at Danville Bridge, 25 miles above, awaiting the fleet of transports until Monday morning, by direction of General Grant, when, General Smith arriving with a large portion of his command, forty transports, I convoyed them to Savannah, arriving there without molestation on the 11th. The same evening, with General Smith and staff on board, made a reconnaissance of the river as high as Pittsburg. The rebels had not renewed their attempts to fortify at that point, owing to the vigilant watch that had been kept on them in my absence by Lieutenant Commanding Shirk.”
1863U.S.S. Chillicothe, Lieutenant Commander J. P. Foster, resumed the attack on Fort Pemberton, Mississippi In a brief engagement, the gunboat was struck eight times which rendered her guns unworkable and forced her to retire. Foster reported, ‘The Chillicothe’s loss on the 11th, 13th, and today is 22 killed, wounded, and drowned.” Next day, the Yazoo Pass expedition fell back, and no further major effort was mounted against the Confederate position. The Army was unable to land because the country was flooded. Brigadier General Isaac F. Quinby shortly ordered the troops withdrawn and on 10 April the Confederate defenders could report “Yazoo Pass expedition abandoned.”
1864Nine Union vessels had arrived at Alexandria, Louisiana, by morning and a landing party under Lieutenant Commander Selfridge, U.S.S. Osage, occupied the town prior to the arrival of Rear Admiral Porter and the troops. At Alexandria, Porter’s gunboats and the soldiers awaited the arrival of Major General Banks’ Army, which was delayed by heavy rains.
1865The mighty army of Union General William T. Sherman encounters its most significant resistance as it tears through the Carolinas on its way to join General Ulysses Grant’s army at Petersburg, Virginia. Confederate General William Hardee tried to block one wing of Sherman’s force, commanded by Henry Slocum, but the motley Rebel force was swept aside at Averasboro, North Carolina. Sherman’s army left Savannah, Georgia, in late January and began to drive through the Carolinas with the intention of inflicting the same damage on those states as it famously had on Georgia two months prior. The Confederates could offer little opposition, and Sherman rolled northward while engaging in only a few small skirmishes. Now, however, the Rebels had gathered more troops and dug in their heels as the Confederacy entered its final days. Hardee placed his troops across the main roads leading away from Fayetteville in an effort to determine Sherman’s objective. Union cavalry under General Hugh Judson Kilpatrick contacted some of Hardee’s men along the old Plank Road northeast of Fayetteville on March 15. Kilpatrick could not punch through, so he regrouped and waited until March 16 to renew the attack. When they tried again, the Yankees still could not break the Confederate lines until two divisions of Slocum’s infantry arrived. In danger of being outflanked and possibly surrounded, Hardee withdrew his troops and headed toward a rendezvous with Joseph Johnston’s gathering army at Bentonville, North Carolina. The Yankees lost 95 men killed, 533 wounded, and 54 missing, while Hardee lost about 865 total. The battle did little to slow the march of Sherman’s army.
1882 – US Senate ratified a treaty establishing the Red Cross.
1911 – Hulk of USS Maine sunk at sea in deep water with full military honors.
1913The 15,000-ton battleship Pennsylvania is launched at Newport News, Va. The Pennsylvania class battleships were an enlargement of the preceding Nevada class, with two more 14″/45 main battery guns, greater length and displacement, four propellers and slightly higher speed. They also had a very large secondary battery of 5″/51 guns, which was soon reduced when many of the guns’ locations proved to be impossibly wet. The only other ship of this class, the USS Arizona will be lost at Pearl Harbor in 1941.
1916 – The 7th and 10th US cavalry regiments under John J. Pershing cross the US-Mexico border to join the hunt for Pancho Villa.
1922 – Marines guarded the U.S. mail during a national crime wave.
1926The first man to give hope to dreams of space travel is American Robert H. Goddard, who successfully launches the world’s first liquid-fueled rocket at Auburn, Massachusetts. The rocket traveled for 2.5 seconds at a speed of about 60 mph, reaching an altitude of 41 feet and landing 184 feet away. The rocket was 10 feet tall, constructed out of thin pipes, and was fueled by liquid oxygen and gasoline. The Chinese developed the first military rockets in the early 13th century using gunpowder and probably built firework rockets at an earlier date. Gunpowder-propelled military rockets appeared in Europe sometime in the 13th century, and in the 19th century British engineers made several important advances in early rocket science. In 1903, an obscure Russian inventor named Konstantin E. Tsiolkovsky published a treatise on the theoretical problems of using rocket engines in space, but it was not until Robert Goddard’s work in the 1920s that anyone began to build the modern, liquid-fueled type of rocket that by the early 1960s would be launching humans into space. Goddard, born in Worcester, Massachusetts, in 1882, became fascinated with the idea of space travel after reading the H.G. Wells’ science fiction novel War of the Worlds in 1898. He began building gunpowder rockets in 1907 while a student at the Worcester Polytechnic Institute and continued his rocket experiments as a physics doctoral student and then physics professor at Clark University. He was the first to prove that rockets can propel in an airless vacuum like space and was also the first to explore mathematically the energy and thrust potential of various fuels, including liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen. He received U.S. patents for his concepts of a multistage rocket and a liquid-fueled rocket, and secured grants from the Smithsonian Institute to continue his research. In 1919, his classic treatise A Method of Reaching Extreme Altitudes was published by the Smithsonian. The work outlined his mathematical theories of rocket propulsion and proposed the future launching of an unmanned rocket to the moon. The press picked up on Goddard’s moon-rocket proposal and for the most part ridiculed the scientist’s innovative ideas. In January 1920, The New York Times printed an editorial declaring that Dr. Goddard “seems to lack the knowledge ladled out daily in high schools” because he thought that rocket thrust would be effective beyond the earth’s atmosphere. (Three days before the first Apollo lunar-landing mission in July 1969, the Times printed a correction to this editorial.) In December 1925, Goddard tested a liquid-fueled rocket in the physics building at Clark University. He wrote that the rocket, which was secured in a static rack, “operated satisfactorily and lifted its own weight.” On March 16, 1926, Goddard accomplished the world’s first launching of a liquid-fueled rocket from his Aunt Effie’s farm in Auburn. Goddard continued his innovative rocket work until his death in 1945. His work was recognized by the aviator Charles A. Lindbergh, who helped secure him a grant from the Guggenheim Fund for the Promotion of Aeronautics. Using these funds, Goddard set up a testing ground in Roswell, New Mexico, which operated from 1930 until 1942. During his tenure there, he made 31 successful flights, including one of a rocket that reached 1.7 miles off the ground in 22.3 seconds. Meanwhile, while Goddard conducted his limited tests without official U.S. support, Germany took the initiative in rocket development and by September 1944 was launching its V-2 guided missiles against Britain to devastating effect. During the war, Goddard worked in developing a jet-thrust booster for a U.S. Navy seaplane. He would not live to see the major advances in rocketry in the 1950s and ’60s that would make his dreams of space travel a reality. NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, is named in his honor.
1928 – The United States plans to send 1,000 more Marines to Nicaragua to keep the peace in the civil war there and to help administer and monitor upcoming elections.
1930 – USS Constitution (Old Ironsides) was floated out to become a national shrine.
1935 – Adolf Hitler scrapped the Treaty of Versailles. Hitler ordered a German rearmament and violated the Versailles Treaty.
1940US envoy and Under-Secretary of State, Sumner Welles, holds talks with Mussolini, Count Ciano, the foreign minister, and King Victor Emmanuel III on the last stop of his mission to discuss conditions for mediation or peace talks in Europe. He receives a cordial but non-committal welcome.
1942 – Japanese siege guns bombard American forts in Manila Bay. One 240 mm shell detonates beneath a Fort Frank powder room, breaking up the concrete and hurling some 60 (filled) powder cans about. Miraculously, none of them explode or catch fire.
1944 – The Allied forces of the US 5th Army continue attacking around Cassino. No progress is made. The German 1st Paratroop Division (part of the 76th Panzer Corps, 10th Army) continues to hold.
1944 – On Los Negros and Manus, American forces are advancing. Japanese resistance is increasing on Manus.
1944 – US aircraft strike a Japanese convoy off Wewak.
1945Part of the US 41st Division lands on Basilan Island. Here, as on other small islands, the US forces to subdue the Japanese garrison during the first few days of battle and then mostly to withdraw, leaving the mopping up to Filipino irregulars. Meanwhile, fighting continues on Luzon, with US 14th Corps engaged along the Japanese held Shimbu Line, southeast of Manila, while the US 1st Corps is engaged to the north on the Villa Verde track.
1945 – Bitche is taken as US 7th Army continues its efforts to break through the Siegfried Line.
1945Iwo Jima is declared secured by the U.S. military after months of fiercely fighting its Japanese defenders. The Americans began applying pressure to the Japanese defense of Iwo Jima in February 1944, when B-24 and B-25 bombers raided the island for 74 days straight. It was the longest pre-invasion bombardment of the war, necessary because of the extent to which the Japanese–21,000 strong–fortified the island, above and below ground, including a network of caves. Underwater demolition teams (“frogmen”) were dispatched by the Americans just before the actual invasion to clear the shores of mines and any other obstacles that could obstruct an invading force. In fact, the Japanese mistook the frogmen for an invasion force and killed 170 of them. The amphibious landings of Marines began the morning of February 19, 1945, as the secretary of the Navy, James Forrestal, accompanied by journalists, surveyed the scene from a command ship offshore. The Marines made their way onto the island–and seven Japanese battalions opened fire, obliterating them. By that evening, more than 550 Marines were dead and more than 1,800 were wounded. In the face of such fierce counterattack, the Americans reconciled themselves to the fact that Iwo Jima could be taken only one yard at a time. A key position on the island was Mt. Suribachi, the center of the Japanese defense. The 28th Marine Regiment closed in and around the base of the volcanic mountain at the rate of 400 yards per day, employing flamethrowers, grenades, and demolition charges against the Japanese that were hidden in caves and pillboxes (low concrete emplacements for machine-gun nests). Approximately 40 Marines finally began a climb up the volcanic ash mountain, which was smoking from the constant bombardment, and at 10 a.m. on February 23, a half-dozen Marines raised an American flag at its peak, using a pipe as a flag post. Two photographers caught a restaging of the flag raising for posterity, creating one of the most reproduced images of the war. With Mt. Suribachi claimed, one-third of Iwo Jima was under American control. On March 16, with a U.S. Navy military government established, Iwo Jima was declared secured and the fighting over. When all was done, more than 6,000 Marines died fighting for the island, along with almost all the 21,000 Japanese soldiers trying to defend it.
1951 – In the wake of allied successes of Operation RIPPER, communist forces attempted to disengage and withdraw.
1954 – France calculates that the greater portion of its expenses in Indochina (Vietnam) has been borne by the United States. The US has opposed a negotiated settlement, believing that this would doom Southeast Asia to Communist control.
1955 – President Eisenhower upheld the use of atomic weapons in case of war.
1959 – Michael J. Bloomfield, Major USAF, astronaut (STS 86), was born in Flint, Mich.
1959 – John Sailling (111), last documented Civil War vet, died.
1966 – In Vietnam Col. Paul Underwood flew a bombing mission over Lai Chau Province and crashed after releasing bombs from his F-105 Thunderchief. His remains were returned to the US in 1998.
1966 – Launch of Gemini 8. Former naval aviator Neil Armstrong flew on this mission which completed 7 orbits in 10 hours and 41 minutes at an altitude of 161.3 nautical miles. Recovery was by USS Leonard F. Mason (DD-852).
1968 – LBJ decided to send 35-50,000 more troops to Vietnam.
1968In what would become the most publicized war atrocity committed by U.S. troops in Vietnam, a platoon slaughters between 200 and 500 unarmed villagers at My Lai 4, a cluster of hamlets in the coastal lowlands of the northernmost region of South Vietnam. My Lai 4 was situated in a heavily mined region where Viet Cong guerrillas were firmly entrenched and numerous members of the participating platoon had been killed or maimed during the preceding month. Lt. William L. Calley, a platoon leader, was leading his men on a search-and-destroy mission; the unit entered the village only to find women, children, and old men. Frustrated by unanswered losses due to snipers and mines, the soldiers took out their anger on the villagers. During the ensuing massacre, several old men were bayoneted; some women and children praying outside the local temple were shot in the back of the head; and at least one girl was raped before being killed. Others were systematically rounded up and led to a nearby ditch where they were executed. Reportedly, the killing was only stopped when Warrant Officer Hugh Thompson, an aero-scout helicopter pilot, landed his helicopter between the Americans and the fleeing South Vietnamese, confronting the soldiers and blocking them from further action against the villagers. The incident was subsequently covered up, but came to light a year later. An Army board of inquiry investigated the massacre and produced a list of 30 persons who knew of the atrocity. Only 14, including Calley and his company commander, Captain Ernest Medina, were charged with crimes. All eventually had their charges dismissed or were acquitted by courts-martial except Calley, who was found guilty of personally murdering 22 civilians and sentenced to life imprisonment. His sentence was reduced to 20 years by the Court of Military Appeals and further reduced later to 10 years by the Secretary of the Army. Proclaimed by much of the public as a “scapegoat,” Calley was paroled in 1974 after having served about a third of his 10-year sentence.
1969 – “1776,” a musical about the writing of the Declaration of Independence, opened on Broadway.
1975The withdrawal from Pleiku and Kontum begins, as thousands of civilians join the soldiers streaming down Route 7B toward the sea. In late January 1975, just two years after the cease-fire established by the Paris Peace Accords, the North Vietnamese launched Campaign 275. The objective of this campaign was to capture the city of Ban Me Thuot in the Central Highlands. The battle began on March 4 and the North Vietnamese quickly encircled the city with five main force divisions, cutting it off from outside support. The South Vietnamese 23rd Division, which had been sent to defend the city, was vastly outnumbered and quickly succumbed to the communists. As it became clear that the city–and probably the entire Darlac province-would fall to the communists, South Vietnamese President Nguyen Van Thieu decided to withdraw his forces in order to protect the more critical populous areas to the south. Accordingly, he ordered his forces in the Central Highlands to pull back from their positions. Abandoning Pleiku and Kontum, the South Vietnamese forces began to move toward the sea. By March 17, civilians and soldiers came under heavy communist attack; the withdrawal, scheduled to take three days, was still underway on April 1. Only 20,000 of 60,000 soldiers ever reached the coast; of 400,000 refugees, only 100,000 arrived. The survivors of what one South Vietnamese general described as the “greatest disaster in the history of the ARVN [Army of the Republic of Vietnam]” escaped down the coastal highway toward Saigon. The North Vietnamese overran the South Vietnamese forces in both the Central Highlands and further north at Quang Tri, Hue, and Da Nang. The South Vietnamese collapsed as a cogent fighting force and the North Vietnamese continued the attack all the way to Saigon. South Vietnam surrendered unconditionally to North Vietnam on April 30 and the war was over.
1980 – A member of Iranian Revolutionary Council says US hostages suspected of spying have been kept in solitary confinement.
1984 – William Buckley, the CIA station chief in Beirut, was kidnapped by gunmen; he died in captivity.
1985In Beirut, Lebanon, Islamic militants kidnap American journalist Terry Anderson and take him to the southern suburbs of the war-torn city, where other Western hostages are being held in scattered dungeons under ruined buildings. Before his abduction, Anderson covered the Lebanese Civil War for The Associated Press (AP) and also served as the AP’s Beirut bureau chief. On December 4, 1991, Anderson’s Hezbollah captors finally released him after 2,455 days. He was the last and longest-held American hostage in Lebanon. Although his seven-year ordeal was the longest of the 92 foreigners abducted during Lebanon’s civil war, he was saved the fate of 11 hostages who died or were believed murdered. Anderson spent his entire captivity blindfolded and was released when the 16-year civil war came to an end.
1988As part of his continuing effort to put pressure on the leftist Sandinista government in Nicaragua, President Ronald Reagan orders over 3,000 U.S. troops to Honduras, claiming that Nicaraguan soldiers had crossed its borders. As with so many of the other actions taken against Nicaragua during the Reagan years, the result was only more confusion and criticism. Since taking office in 1981, the Reagan administration had used an assortment of means to try to remove the leftist Sandinista government of Nicaragua. President Reagan charged that the Sandinistas were pawns of the Soviet Union and were establishing a communist beachhead in the Western Hemisphere, though there was little evidence to support such an accusation. Nonetheless, Reagan’s administration used economic and diplomatic pressure attempting to destabilize the Sandinista regime. Reagan poured millions of dollars of U.S. military and economic aid into the so-called “Contras,” anti-Sandinista rebels operating out of Honduras and Costa Rica. By 1988, however, the Contra program was coming under severe criticism from both the American people and Congress. Many Americans came to see the Contras as nothing more than terrorist mercenaries, and Congress had acted several times to limit the amount of U.S. aid to the Contras. In an effort to circumvent Congressional control, the Reagan administration engaged in what came to be known as the Iran-Contra Affair, in which arms were illegally and covertly sold to Iran in order to fund the Contras. This scheme had come to light in late 1987. Indeed, on the very day that Reagan sent U.S. troops to Honduras, his former national security advisor John Poindexter and former National Security staffer Lt. Col. Oliver North were indicted by the U.S. government for fraud and theft related to Iran-Contra. The New York Times reported that Washington, not Honduras, had initiated the call for the U.S. troops. In fact, the Honduran government could not even confirm whether Sandinista troops had actually crossed its borders, and Nicaragua steadfastly denied that it had entered Honduran territory. Whatever the truth of the matter, the troops stayed for a brief time and were withdrawn. The Sandinista government remained unfazed.
1988Former National Security Adviser John M. Poindexter, former White House aide Oliver L. North, retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Richard V. Secord and Secord’s business partner, Albert Hakim, were indicted on charges relating to the Iran-Contra affair. Poindexter and North had their convictions thrown out; Secord and Hakim received probation after each pleaded guilty to a single count.
1988 – Saddam Hussein uses mustard gas to attack Kurds. In the northern Iraqi town of Halabja, nearly 5,000 people are killed.
1993 – President Clinton met with ousted Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide; afterward, Clinton announced he was sending a special envoy to Haiti to seek a return to democracy.
1994 – Russia agreed to phase out production of weapons-grade plutonium.
1995 – Mississippi formally abolished slavery and ratified 13th Amendment.
1996 – NASA astronaut Norman Thagard was welcomed aboard the Russian space station Mir as the first American to visit the orbiting outpost.
1999Retired Major General David Hale (53) pleaded guilty to charges of sexual affairs with the wives of subordinate officers. Hale was ordered to pay $22,000 in penalties. He was the highest officer to be court-martialed since 1952. Hale was demoted in Sept. to a one-star brigadier general.
1999 – North Korea agreed to allow US inspectors to visit a suspected nuclear weapons site in exchange for assistance to increase potato yields.
2000 – Thomas Wilson Ferebee, the Enola Gay bombardier who dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, died in Windermere, Fla., at age 81.
2000 – About a dozen whales became stranded on 2 Bahama beaches one day after a US Navy exercise propagated loud noises through the waters of the region. 5 of the whales died. In 2001 testing confirmed that Navy sonar caused the whales to beach themselves.
2003US President George W. Bush, British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar hold an emergency summit in the Azores. They give the United Nations 24 hours to enforce “the immediate and unconditional disarmament” of Saddam Hussein.President Bush says: “Tomorrow is a moment of truth for the world. Tomorrow is the day that we can determine whether or not diplomacy will work.” Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein warned that if Iraq were attacked, it would take the war anywhere in the world “wherever there is sky, land or water.” Thirteen missile-firing US warships sail into the Red sea.
2004Hundreds of Pakistani troops clashed with tribesmen suspected of sheltering al-Qaida and Taliban fugitives near the Afghan border. At least 15 paramilitary soldiers and 24 suspects including some foreigners presumed to be members of al-Qaida, were killed in the raid on a mud-brick compound at Kaloosha.
2004 – Yemen authorities said 9 suspects in the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole had been arrested, including 8 who escaped from jail in 2003.
2005 – Iraq’s first freely elected parliament in half a century began its opening session after a series of explosions targeted the gathering.
2006Near the third anniversary of the beginning of the Iraq war, U.S. and Iraqi forces on Thursday launch an air assault known as Operation Swarmer into Salahuddin province in what was termed the largest air assault since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003. The area was a hotbed for insurgent activity including the kidnapping and killing of civilians and soldiers. Samarra was the site of the bombing of the revered Al-Askari Shiite Shrine on 22 February 2006, that set off a wave of sectarian killing that claimed almost 500 lives. Coalition forces said they had captured a number of weapons caches containing shells, explosives and military uniforms. The US military expected this operation to last several days. Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari stated that insurgents were “trying to create another Fallujah”. The Operation netted at least 48 suspects, of which about 17 were released. The U.S Military reports no significant resistance, and also says it achieved the tactical surprise factor it was seeking. Other reports, however, have suggested that the lack of resistance may have been due to a lack of significant targets in the region. Time magazine’s .

Congressional Medal of Honor Citations for Actions Taken This Day

Rank and organization: Corporal, Company D, 1st Michigan Cavalry. Place and date: At Mason’s Hill, Va., 16 March 1864. Entered service at: Rome, N.Y. Birth: Newark, N.J. Date of issue: 28 September 1897. Citation: Having been surprised and captured by a detachment of guerrillas, this soldier, with other prisoners, seized the arms of the guard over them, killed 2 of the guerrillas, and enabled all the prisoners to escape.

Rank and organization: Quartermaster, U.S. Navy. Born: 1871, Virginia. Accredited to: Virginia. G.O. No.: 157, 20 April 1904. Citation: Serving on board the U.S.S. Nipsic, Taylor displayed gallantry during the hurricane at Apia, Samoa, 16 March 1889.

Rank and organization: Captain of the Hold, U.S. Navy. Born: 1845 Norway. Accredited to: California. G.O. No.: 326, 18 October 1884 Second award. Citation: For jumping overboard from the U.S.S Lackawanna, 16 March 1883, at Honolulu, T.H., and rescuing from drowning Thomas Moran, landsman.

Rank and organization: Pharmacist’s Mate First Class, U.S. Navy serving with 2d Battalion, 24th Marines, 4th Marine Division. Place and date: Iwo Jima, 15 and 16 March 1945. Entered service at lowa Born: 7 December 1924, Earlville, lowa. Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while attached to the 2d Battalion, 24th Marines, 4th Marine Division, during the Iwo Jima campaign, 15 and 16 March 1945. Almost continuously under fire while carrying out the most dangerous volunteer assignments, Pierce gained valuable knowledge of the terrain and disposition of troops. Caught in heavy enemy rifle and machinegun fire which wounded a corpsman and 2 of the 8 stretcher bearers who were carrying 2 wounded marines to a forward aid station on 15 March, Pierce quickly took charge of the party, carried the newly wounded men to a sheltered position, and rendered first aid. After directing the evacuation of 3 of the casualties, he stood in the open to draw the enemy’s fire and, with his weapon blasting, enabled the litter bearers to reach cover. Turning his attention to the other 2 casualties he was attempting to stop the profuse bleeding of 1 man when a Japanese fired from a cave less than 20 yards away and wounded his patient again. Risking his own life to save his patient, Pierce deliberately exposed himself to draw the attacker from the cave and destroyed him with the last of his ammunition Then lifting the wounded man to his back, he advanced unarmed through deadly rifle fire across 200 feet of open terrain. Despite exhaustion and in the face of warnings against such a suicidal mission, he again traversed the same fire-swept path to rescue the remaining marine. On the following morning, he led a combat patrol to the sniper nest and, while aiding a stricken marine, was seriously wounded. Refusing aid for himself, he directed treatment for the casualty, at the same time maintaining protective fire for his comrades. Completely fearless, completely devoted to the care of his patients, Pierce inspired the entire battalion. His valor in the face of extreme peril sustains and enhances the finest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service.

Rank and organization: Specialist Fourth Class, U.S. Army, Reconnaissance Platoon, Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion (Airborne), 503rd Infantry,173d Airborne Brigade (Separate) Place and date: Republic of Vietnam, 16 March 1966 Born: 1945, Chihuahua, Mexico Citation: Specialist Four Alfred Rascon, distinguished himself by a series of extraordinarily courageous acts on 16 March 1966, while assigned as a medic to the Reconnaissance Platoon, Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion (Airborne), 503rd Infantry, 173d Airborne Brigade (Separate). While moving to reinforce its sister battalion under intense enemy attack, the Reconnaissance Platoon came under heavy fire from a numerically superior enemy force. The intense enemy fire from crew-served weapons and grenades severely wounded several point squad soldiers. Specialist Rascon, ignoring directions to stay behind shelter until covering fire could be provided, made his way forward. He repeatedly tried to reach the severely wounded point machine-gunner laying on an open enemy trail, but was driven back each time by the withering fire. Disregarding his personal safety, he jumped to his feet, ignoring flying bullets and exploding grenades to reach his comrade. To protect him from further wounds, he intentionally placed his body between the soldier and enemy machine guns, sustaining numerous shrapnel injuries and a serious wound to the hip. Disregarding his serious wounds he dragged the larger soldier from the fire-raked trail. Hearing the second machine-gunner yell that he was running out of ammunition, Specialist Rascon, under heavy enemy fire crawled back to the wounded machine-gunner stripping him of his bandoleers of ammunition, giving them to the machine-gunner who continued his suppressive fire. Specialist Rascon fearing the abandoned machine gun, its ammunition and spare barrel could fall into enemy hands made his way to retrieve them. On the way, he was wounded in the face and torso by grenade fragments, but disregarded these wounds to recover the abandoned machine gun, ammunition and spare barrel items, enabling another soldier to provide added suppressive fire to the pinned-down squad. In searching for the wounded, he saw the point grenadier being wounded by small arms fire and grenades being thrown at him. Disregarding his own life and his numerous wounds, Specialist Rascon reached and covered him with his body absorbing the blasts from the exploding grenades, and saving the soldier’s life, but sustaining additional wounds to his body. While making his way to the wounded point squad leader, grenades were hurled at the sergeant. Again, in complete disregard for his own life, he reached and covered the sergeant with his body, absorbing the full force of the grenade explosions. Once more Specialist Rascon was critically wounded by shrapnel, but disregarded his own wounds to continue to search and aid the wounded. Severely wounded, he remained on the battlefield, inspiring his fellow soldiers to continue the battle. After the enemy broke contact, he disregarded aid for himself, instead treating the wounded and directing their evacuation. Only after being placed on the evacuation helicopter did he allow aid to be given to him. Specialist Rascon’s extraordinary valor in the face of deadly enemy fire, his heroism in rescuing the wounded, and his gallantry by repeatedly risking his own life for his fellow soldiers 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 “March 16

  1. T.S. Wanless says:

    Re: Iwo Jima. 74 days prior to the Marine’s landing on 16 Feb, 1945 is not Feb, 1944. Rather than dissecting this post may I suggest reading the Wikipedia version of the Battle of Iwo Jima? It’s close enough to accurate to see the errors herein. It will also point out that the island was not “Officially” secure until 26 March. I hope this doesn’t sound harsh as it was not my intention.
    One more thing, although it is not covered in the Wiki article, is the second raising of the flag was nor “restaged” as is a common misperception. Joe Rosenthal nearly missed the raising of the flag and his famous photo was only a snapshot (literally) that he took when someone pointed out that it was being raised.

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