March 19

19 March

Swallows’ Day. The swallows return to Capistrano California.

1628 – Massachusetts colony was founded by Englishmen.
1687 – French explorer Robert Cavelier (43), Sieur de La Salle, the first European to navigate the length of the Mississippi River, was murdered by mutineers while searching for the mouth of the Mississippi, along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico in present-day Texas.
1776The Continental Congress authorizes privateering raids on British shipping. There was not much of a U.S .Navy during the Revolution. The U.S. forces at sea were primarily privateers, preying on British commerce. They were extremely effective in capturing British merchant ships, cutting off British supplies and raising insurance rates for shipping. Although they did not constitute a US Navy, American privateers were a significant presence at sea, and played an important role in the success of the Revolution.
1798President John Adams informs Congress of the failure of US negotiations with France. France had been America’s major ally in the War of Independence, and without its assistance the United States may not have won independence. But the new government of Revolutionary France viewed a 1794 commercial agreement between the United States and Great Britain, known as Jay’s Treaty, as a violation of France’s 1778 treaties with the United States. The French initiated seizures of American ships trading with their British enemies and refused to receive a new United States minister when he arrived in Paris in December 1796. In his annual message to Congress at the close of 1797, President John Adams had reported on France’s refusal to negotiate and spoke of the need “to place our country in a suitable posture of defense.”
1822 – Boston was incorporated as a city.
1862Flag Officer Foote’s forces attacking Island No. 10 continued to meet with strong resistance from Confederate batteries. “This place, Island No. 10,” Foote observed, ”is harder to conquer than Columbus, as the island shores are lined with forts, each fort commanding the one above it. We are gradually approaching . . . The mortar shells have done fine execution.
1863 – The SS Georgiana, said to have been the most powerful Confederate cruiser, is destroyed on her maiden voyage with a cargo of munitions, medicines and merchandise then valued at over $1,000,000.
1865Confederate General Joseph Johnston makes a desperate attempt to stop Union General William T. Sherman’s drive through the Carolinas in the war’s last days, but Johnston’s motley army cannot stop the advance of Sherman’s mighty army. Following his famous March to the Sea in late 1864, Sherman paused for a month at Savannah, Georgia. He then turned north into the Carolinas, destroying all that lay in his path in an effort to demoralize the South and hasten the end of the war. Sherman left Savannah with 60,000 men divided into two wings. He captured Columbia, South Carolina, in February and continued towards Goldsboro, North Carolina, where he planned to meet up with another army coming from the coast. Sherman intended to march to Petersburg, Virginia, where he would join General Ulysses S. Grant and crush the army of Robert E. Lee, the largest remaining Confederate force. Sherman assumed that Rebel forces in the Carolinas were too widely dispersed to offer any significant resistance, but Johnston assembled 17,000 troops and attacked one of Sherman’s wings at Bentonville on March 19. The Confederates initially surprised the Yankees, driving them back before a Union counterattack halted the advance and darkness halted the fighting. The next day, Johnston established a strong defensive position and hoped for a Yankee assault. More Union troops arrived and gave Sherman a nearly three to one advantage over Johnston. When a Union force threatened to cut off the Rebel’s only line of retreat on March 21, Johnston withdrew his army northward. The Union lost 194 men killed, 1,112 wounded, and 221 missing, while the Confederates lost 240 killed, 1,700 wounded, and 1,500 missing. About Sherman, Johnston wrote to Lee that, “I can do no more than annoy him.” A month later, Johnston surrendered his army to Sherman.
1883 – Joseph W. Stilwell, US general (China), was born.
1892James Alward Van Fleet was born in Coytesville, New Jersey and raised in Florida. He graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1915, and was commissioned as a second lieutenant of infantry. The following year he participated in the Mexican border campaign of 1916-1917. During World War I he commanded a machine-gun battalion in the 6th Division and saw action in the Gerardmer sector and in the Meuse-Argonne offensive. In the interwar period, Van Fleet endured the round of peacetime assignments: teaching military science at Kansas State Agricultural College, South Dakota State College and the University of Florida; he was a student and an instructor at the Infantry School; a unit instructor of the organized reserve at San Diego, California; commanded a battalion in the 42nd Infantry Regiment in Panama, served with the 5th Infantry Regiment at Fort Williams, Maine, commanded a battalion in the 29th Infantry Regiment; and, beginning in February 1941, with the rank of colonel, commanded the 8th Infantry Regiment. Unlike his contemporaries, America’s entry into World War II did not bring Van Fleet rapid promotion to general rank or high command. When Van Fleet had been at the Infantry School, George C. Marshall, then assistant commandant in charge of the academic department, had confused him with someone else who had a similar name and was a well-known alcoholic. Consequently, as Marshall’s importance in the Army grew in the 1930s, culminating in his appointment as chief of staff in 1939, Van Fleet’s career progression suffered. He was not selected either for the Command and General Staff College or the Army War College. The pattern continued after Pearl Harbor, so that in 1944, Van Fleet was still commanding the 8th Infantry with the rank of colonel. On D-Day he led the 8th Infantry, part of the 4th Division, ashore at Utah beach, Normandy, and several weeks later in the capture of Cherbourg, France. In these actions, Van Fleet displayed courage under fire and demonstrated that he was a driving leader who got things done. Thereafter, with the confusion about his identity finally “cleared up” to Marshall’s satisfaction, Van Fleet’s rise was spectacular. Promoted to the rank of brigadier general, Van Fleet was assistant commander of the 2nd Division during the St. Lo breakout and the capture of Brest, France, and commanded the 4th Division during the Siegfried Line Campaign and the 90th Division during the operation to capture Metz, France, and the Battle of the Bulge. In March 1945, Van Fleet, now holding the rank of major general, assumed command of the III Corps, leading it through the American First Army’s encirclement of the Ruhr pocket in Germany and the American Third Army’s drive into Austria. By the end of the war, General Dwight D. Eisenhower, supreme commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force, regarded Van Fleet as one of the “greatest fighting” soldiers in his command. Immediately following the war, Van Fleet held several commands in the United States, and in 1947, he was transferred to the European Command in Frankfurt, Germany. In February 1948, he was appointed director of the joint U.S. Military Advisory and Planning Group in Athens, Greece, with the responsibility for advising the Greek government in its struggle against Communist insurgents. Soon after, he was promoted to the rank of lieutenant general and named a member of the Greek National Defense Council. During the next two years Van Fleet struggled to turn the Greek Army into an effective fighting force, overseeing its training, organization and operations. On his recommendation, incompetent officers were sacked, more maneuver battalions created and aggressive offensive actions undertaken. Backed by massive American aid and assisted by the faulty tactics of the insurgents and the decision of Marshal Josip Tito of Yugoslavia to close the Yugoslav-Greek border through which the insurgents were supplied, the Greek Army, in a personal triumph for Van Fleet, had completely routed the Communists by the end of 1949. After duty as commander of the Second Army in the United States, Van Fleet was sent to Korea in April 1951, to command the American Eighth Army as the replacement for General Matthew B. Ridgway, who had succeeded General Douglas MacArthur as Far East commander. The Eighth Army was more or less straddling the 38th Parallel. Van Fleet arrived just as the Chinese Communists and the North Koreans were preparing to launch their single greatest military effort of the Korean War. In a fierce battle that lasted from April 22-29, he skillfully withdrew the Eighth Army’s front line, shifted the IX and X Corps to prevent an enemy breakthrough to Seoul, and inflicted 70,000 casualties on the enemy. Following the rebuff of another Communist attack in May, Van Fleet took the offensive and inflicted 200,000 casualties on the Communists in a drive north of the 38th Parallel to the Iron Triangle area of North Korea. There Ridgway concluded that a deeper advance into North Korea would be too costly, and had Van Fleet construct fortifications on the “Kansas” and “Wyoming” lines while the United Nations (U.N.) Command pursued cease-fire talks. Van Fleet later complained that he had the Communists on the run in June 1951, and that he could have won the war by advancing to the Yalu River if he had not been halted. In this complaint he was expressing the frustration of a blunt soldier who saw victory and defeat in absolute terms. In fact, the Eighth Army probably did not possess the strength to advance even as far as Pyongyang, North Korea; and if it did, the price in casualties would have been too high considering the likely results. Notwithstanding his later statement, Van Fleet in June 1951, recognized that further advances were neither desirable nor feasible and agreed with Ridgway’s decision to stand on the Kansas and Wyoming lines. In August 1951, Van Fleet, recently promoted to full general, launched a limited offensive in eastern Korea after truce talks had stalled; and after two months of bitter fighting, he seized Heartbreak Ridge and Bloody Ridge. He followed up this offensive with another limited offensive in central Korea in October. Van Fleet’s offensives inflicted heavy casualties on the Communists but at a high cost in U.N. casualties as well. When truce talks resumed, Ridgway in November 1951, ordered Van Fleet to cease offensive action and emphasize an active defense of the existing front line. During 1952, Van Fleet chafed under the restrictions placed on him by the Truman administration’s commitment to a limited war strategy in Korea. Seeing no point in fighting battles for the same hills and concerned about the combat readiness of his army, he produced plans for a major offensive. But Ridgway and his successor, General Mark W. Clark, saw little profit in such an operation. As a result, except for costly limited attacks in the Iron Triangle area in the summer and fall, Van Fleet engaged only in small-scale actions and artillery duels. Relying heavily on firepower to minimize his own casualties, he demanded greatly increased ammunition allowances. However, inadequate domestic production and resupply problems forced him to ration ammunition, and later he complained that he had been handicapped by shortages. Despite his differences with his superiors, Van Fleet was an able army commander. By constantly working to keep the Eighth Army at peak fighting efficiency, he maintained it as an effective and reliable force capable of delivering devastating blows against the Communists. Van Fleet likewise worked to revitalize the South Korean Army. He started new training programs and pressed for its expansion to prepare it for offensive action. In the process he made it into a formidable fighting force and was recognized by the South Koreans as the “father” of their army. To the chagrin of many of his colleagues, Van Fleet also strongly identified with the authoritarian government of South Korean President Syngman Rhee and its opposition to the truce talks and the repatriation of prisoners and its desire to unify Korea militarily. Grieving over-the loss of his son, an Air Force pilot who was shot down while on a mission over North Korea in 1952, and embittered by the strategy of limited war in Korea followed by the Truman administration and then by Eisenhower’s administration, Van Fleet relinquished his command of the Eighth Army in February 1953, and two months later retired from the Army. On his return to the United States, he sparked controversy by charging that he had been denied the opportunity to achieve total victory in Korea by political decisions in Washington, D.C., and by the failure of Washington to provide him with adequate quantities of ammunition. These charges aroused the interest of politicians who believed that Communists must be firmly defeated everywhere, but they were strongly challenged by Ridgway, Army Chief of Staff General Joseph L. Collins, and Lieutenant General Maxwell Taylor, Van Fleet’s replacement with the Eighth Army. In 1954, Van Fleet served as Eisenhower’s special ambassador to the Far East, and in 1961-1962, he was a consultant on guerrilla warfare for the office of the secretary of the Army. Quiet, self-assured, Van Fleet stands out for his record as a combat commander and for his achievements in Greece and Korea.
1898 – USS Oregon departs San Francisco for 14,000 mile trip around South America to join U.S. Squadron off Cuba.
1903 – The U.S. Senate ratified the Cuban treaty, gaining naval bases in Guantanamo and Bahia Honda.
1916Eight Curtiss “Jenny” planes of the First Aero Squadron take off from Columbus, New Mexico, in the first combat air mission in U.S. history. The First Aero Squadron, organized in 1914 after the outbreak of World War I, was on a support mission for the 7,000 U.S. troops who invaded Mexico to capture Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa. On March 9, 1916, Villa, who opposed American support for Mexican President Venustiano Carranza, led a band of several hundred guerrillas across the border on a raid of the town of Columbus, New Mexico, killing 17 Americans. On March 15, under orders from President Woodrow Wilson, U.S. Brigadier General John J. Pershing launched a punitive expedition into Mexico to capture Villa. Four days later, the First Aero Squadron was sent into Mexico to scout and relay messages for General Pershing. Despite numerous mechanical and navigational problems, the American fliers flew hundreds of missions for Pershing and gained important experience that would later be used by the pilots over the battlefields of Europe. However, during the 11-month mission, U.S. forces failed to capture the elusive revolutionary, and Mexican resentment over U.S. intrusion into their territory led to a diplomatic crisis. In late January 1917, with President Wilson under pressure from the Mexican government and more concerned with the war overseas than with bringing Villa to justice, the Americans were ordered home.
1917 – Navy Department authorizes enrollment of women in Naval Reserve with ratings of yeoman, radio electrician, or other essential ratings.
1918 – Congress authorized time zones and approved Daylight Saving Time.
1918 – A German seaplane was shot down for the first time by an American pilot.
1920 – The U.S. Senate rejected for the second time the Treaty of Versailles by a vote of 49-35, falling short of the two-thirds majority needed for approval.
1924U.S. troops are rushed to Tegucigalpa as rebel forces take the Honduran capital. The October 1923 Honduran presidential elections and the subsequent political and military conflicts had proved to be especially contentious. Under heavy pressure from Washington, local military commander and governor of Tegucigalpa, General Rafael López Gutiérrez allowed an unusually open campaign and election. The long-fragmented conservatives had reunited in the form of the National Party of Honduras (Partido Nacional de Honduras–PNH), which ran as its candidate General Tiburcio Carías Andino, the governor of the department of Cortés. However, the Liberal Party of Honduras (Partido Liberal de Honduras–PLH), was unable to unite around a single candidate and split into two dissident groups, one supporting former president Policarpo Bonilla, the other advancing the candidacy of Juan Angel Arias. As a result, each candidate failed to secure a majority. Carías received the greatest number of votes, with Bonilla second, and Arias a distant third. By the terms of the Honduran constitution, this stalemate left the final choice of president up to the legislature, but that body was unable to obtain a quorum and reach a decision. In January 1924, López Gutiérrez announced his intention to remain in office until new elections could be held, but he repeatedly refused to specify a date for the elections. Carías, reportedly with the support of United Fruit, declared himself president, and an armed conflict broke out. In February the United States, warning that recognition would be withheld from anyone coming to power by revolutionary means, suspended relations with the López Gutiérrez government for its failure to hold elections. Conditions rapidly deteriorated in the early months of 1924. On February 28, a pitched battle took place in La Ceiba between government troops and rebels. Even the presence of the U.S.S. Denver and the landing of a force of United States Marines were unable to prevent widespread looting and arson resulting in over US$2 million in property damage. Fifty people, including a United States citizen, were killed in the fighting. In the weeks that followed, additional vessels from the United States Navy Special Service Squadron were concentrated in Honduran waters, and landing parties were put ashore at various points to protect United States interests. One force of marines and sailors was even dispatched inland to Tegucigalpa to provide additional protection for the United States legation. Shortly before the arrival of the force, López Gutiérrez died, and what authority remained with the central government was being exercised by his cabinet. General Carías and a variety of other rebel leaders controlled most of the countryside but failed to coordinate their activities effectively enough to seize the capital.
1928 Marine planes bombed a bandit group at Nueve Segovia, Nicaragua. This was the first use of close air support. In 1927, a civil war led to American intervention. Following were years of sporadic bush fighting which continued until 1932. Observation Squadron One from San Diego and Observation Squadron Four from Quantico, constituted the Marine Aviation support for the brigade. The Nicaraguan deployment produced some notable achievements by Marine Aviation, precursors of what was to become the Marine air-ground team standard of future decades. In Jan. 1927, 8 officers and 81 enlisted men of VO-1M, led by Maj. Ross Rowell, arrived at Corinto, Nicaragua with six DH’s. Amidst the anarchy of the civil and banditry, the U.S. Marines held the railroad. In July the Sandinista rebels (the original ones) besieged 37 Marines at the Ocotal garrison, 125 miles from Manaagua. Patrolling Marine pilots, Lt. Hayne Boyden and Gunner Micahel Wodarczyk, discovered the defenders’ plight. After they reported this to Maj. Rowell, he led five DH’s to bomb the rebels. From 1,500 feet, they conducted one of the first dive bombing missions, killing dozens of Sandinistas. Rowell and his fliers flew 50 missions against the Nicaraguan guerrillas.
1941 – The 99th Pursuit Squadron also known as the Tuskegee Airmen, the first all-black unit of the US Army Air Corps, is activated. The Tuskegee Airmen is the popular name of a group of African-American military pilots (fighter and bomber) who fought in World War II. Formally, they also included the 332nd Fighter Group and the 477th Bombardment Group of the United States Army Air Forces. The name also applies to the navigators, bombardiers, mechanics, instructors, crew chiefs, nurses, cooks and other support personnel for the pilots. The Tuskegee Airmen were the first African-American military aviators in the United States armed forces. During World War II, Black Americans in many U.S. states were still subject to the Jim Crow laws and the American military was racially segregated, as was much of the federal government. The Tuskegee Airmen were subjected to racial discrimination, both within and outside the army. All black military pilots who trained in the United States trained at Moton Field and Tuskegee Army Air Field, located near Tuskegee, Alabama, which included five Haitians from the Haitian Air Force (Alix Pasquet, Raymond Cassagnol, Pelissier Nicolas, Ludovic Audant, and Eberle Guilbaud). Although the 477th Bombardment Group trained with North American B-25 Mitchell bombers, they never served in combat. The 99th Pursuit Squadron (later, 99th Fighter Squadron) was the first black flying squadron, and the first to deploy overseas (to North Africa in April 1943, and later to Sicily and Italy). The 332nd Fighter Group, which originally included the 100th, 301st, and 302nd Fighter Squadrons, was the first black flying group. The group deployed to Italy in early 1944. In June 1944, the 332nd Fighter Group began flying heavy bomber escort missions, and in July 1944, the 99th Fighter Squadron was assigned to the 332nd Fighter Group, which then had four fighter squadrons. The 99th Fighter Squadron was initially equipped with Curtiss P-40 Warhawk fighter-bomber aircraft. The 332nd Fighter Group and its 100th, 301st and 302nd Fighter Squadrons were equipped for initial combat missions with Bell P-39 Airacobras (March 1944), later with Republic P-47 Thunderbolts (June–July 1944), and finally with the aircraft with which they became most commonly associated, the North American P-51 Mustang (July 1944). When the pilots of the 332nd Fighter Group painted the tails of their P-47s and later, P-51s, red, the nickname “Red Tails” was coined. The red markings that distinguished the Tuskegee Airmen included red bands on the noses of P-51s as well as a red rudder, the P-51B and D Mustangs flew with similar color schemes, with red propeller spinners, yellow wing bands and all-red tail surfaces.
1942 – FDR ordered men between 45 and 64 to register for non military duty.
1942 – SecNav gave Civil Engineering Corps command of Seabees.
1945US 7th Army forces complete the capture of Saarlouis. Fighting in Saarbrucken and the towns to the east continues. US 3rd Army continues to advance east and southeast toward the Rhine River. Worms is reached, while to the left and right other units are near Mainz and Kaiserslautern.
1945 – In their northward attacks along the west coast, US 1st Corps captures Bauang, south of San Fernando, on Luzon.
1945US Task Force 58 (Admiral Mitscher) conducts air raids naval bases in the Inland Sea, with Kure specifically targeted. Six Japanese carriers and 3 battleships are reported damaged. There are Japanese Kamikaze attacks in response which badly damage the carriers Franklin and Wasp as well as hitting Enterprise and Essex. The 832 killed on board the USS Franklin is the heaviest casualty list ever recorded on a US ship. Admiral Spruance, command the US 5th Fleet, is present for the operations.
1945Adolf Hitler issued his so-called “Nero Decree,” ordering the destruction of German facilities that could fall into Allied hands. Hitler ordered a scorched-earth policy. Hitler had decreed that Paris should be left a smoking ruin, but Dietrich von Choltitz thought better of his Führer’s order.
1945 – Off the coast of Japan, a dive bomber hits the aircraft carrier USS Franklin, killing 724 of her crew. Badly damaged, the ship is able to return to the U.S. under her own power.
1945The first all-Coast Guard hunter-killer group ever established during the war, made up of four units of Escort Division 46, searched for a reported German U-boat near Sable Island. The hunter-killer group was made up of the Coast Guard-manned destroyer escorts USS Lowe, Menges, Mosley, and Pride, and was under the overall command of CDR R. H. French, USCG. He flew his pennant from the Pride. Off Sable Island the warships located, attacked and sank the U-866 with the loss of all hands. Interestingly, the Menges had been a victim of a German acoustic torpedo during escort of convoy operations in the Mediterranean in 1944. The torpedo had detonated directly under her stern, causing major damage and casualties, but she remained afloat. She was later towed to port and the stern of another destroyer escort, one that had been damaged well forward, was welded onto the Menges. She then returned to action.
1949In a precursor to the establishment of a separate, Soviet-dominated East Germany, the People’s Council of the Soviet Zone of Occupation approves a new constitution. This action, together with the U.S. policy of pursuing an independent pathway in regards to West Germany, contributed to the permanent division of Germany. The postwar status of Germany had become a bone of contention between the United States and the Soviet Union even before World War II ended. The Soviet Union wanted assurances that Germany would be permanently disarmed and demanded huge reparations from the postwar German government. The United States, however, was hesitant to commit to these demands. By 1945, many U.S. officials began to see the Soviet Union as a potential adversary in the postwar world and viewed a reunified-and pro-West-Germany as valuable to the defense of Europe. When the war ended in May 1945, Russian forces occupied a large portion of Germany, including Berlin. Negotiations between the United States, Russia, Britain, and France resulted in the establishment of occupation zones for each nation. Berlin was also divided in zones of occupation. While both the United States and Russia publicly called for a reunified Germany, both nations were coming to the conclusion that a permanently divided Germany might be advantageous. For the United States, West Germany, with its powerful economy and potential military strength, would make for a crucial ally in the developing Cold War. The Soviets came to much the same conclusion in regards to East Germany. When, in 1949, the United States proposed the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (a military and political alliance between America and several European states) and began to discuss the possible inclusion of a remilitarized West Germany in NATO, the Soviets reacted quickly. The new constitution for East Germany, approved by the People’s Council of the Soviet Zone of Occupation (a puppet legislative body dominated by the Soviets), made clear that the Russians were going to establish a separate and independent East Germany. In October 1949, the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) was declared. Months earlier, in May, the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) had been formally proclaimed. Germany remained a divided nation until the collapse of the communist government in East Germany and reunification in 1990.
1952The 1,000,000th Jeep was produced. In 1939, the American Bantam Car Company submitted its original design for an all-terrain troop transport vehicle–featuring four-wheel drive, masked fender-mount headlights, and a rifle rack under the dash–to the U.S. Armed Forces. The Army loved Bantam’s design, but the development contract for the vehicle was ultimately awarded to the Willys-Overland Company for its superior production capabilities. Bantam wound up fulfilling a government contract for 3,000 vehicles during the war; but the Jeep, as designed by Willys-Overland, would become the primary troop transport of the U.S. Army. Mass production of the Willys Jeep began after the U.S. declaration of war in 1941. The name “Jeep” is reportedly derived from the Army’s request that car manufacturers develop a “General Purpose” vehicle. “Gee Pee” turned to “Jeep” somewhere along the battle lines. Another story maintains that the name came from a character in the Popeye cartoon who, like the vehicle, was capable of incredible feats. The Willys Jeep became a cultural icon in the U.S. during World War II, as images of G.I.’s in “Gee Pees,” liberating Europe, saturated newsreels in movie theaters across the country. Unlike the Hummer of recent years, the Jeep was not a symbol of technological superiority but rather of the courage of the American spirit–a symbol cartoonist Bill Mauldin captured when he drew a weeping soldier firing a bullet into his broken down Willys Jeep. By 1945, 660,000 Jeeps had rolled off the assembly lines and onto battlefields in Asia, Africa, and Europe. Many remained abroad after the war, where their parts were integrated into other vehicles or their broken bodies were mended with colorful impromptu repairs. Wherever the Jeep roamed, it lived up to its design as a vehicle for general use. During the war, Jeep hoods were used as altars for field burials. Jeeps were also used as ambulances, tractors, and scout cars. After the war, surplus Jeeps found their way into civilian life as snowplows, field plows, and mail carriers. Willys-Overland released its first civilian Jeep model, called the CJ (Civilian Jeep) in 1945.
1954 – The 1st rocket-driven sled on rails was tested in Alamogordo, NM.
1963 – In San Jose, Costa Rica, President John F. Kennedy and the presidents of Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, and El Salvador pledge to fight Communism.
1965 – The wreck of the SS Georgiana, valued at over $50,000,000 and said to have been the most powerful Confederate cruiser, is discovered by teenage diver and pioneer underwater archaeologist E. Lee Spence, exactly 102 years after its destruction.
1966The South Korean Assembly votes to send 20,000 additional troops to Vietnam to join the 21,000 Republic of Korea (ROK) forces already serving in the war zone. The South Korean contingent was part of the Free World Military Forces, an effort by President Lyndon B. Johnson to enlist allies for the United States and South Vietnam. By securing support from other nations, Johnson hoped to build an international consensus behind his policies in Vietnam. The effort was also known as the “many flags” program. South Korean forces had been in South Vietnam since August 1964, when Seoul sent a liaison unit to Saigon. The first contingent was followed in February 1965 by engineer units and a mobile hospital. Although initially assigned to non-combat duties, they came under fire on April 3. In September 1965, in response to additional pleas from Johnson, the South Korean government greatly expanded its troop commitment to Vietnam and agreed to send combat troops. By the close of 1969, over 47,800 Korean soldiers were actively involved in combat operations in South Vietnam. Seoul began to withdraw its troops in February 1972, following the lead of the United States as it drastically reduced its troop commitment in South Vietnam.
1970The National Assembly grants “full power” to Premier Lon Nol, declares a state of emergency, and suspends four articles of the constitution, permitting arbitrary arrest and banning public assembly. Lon Nol and First Deputy Premier Prince Sisowath Sirik Matak had conducted a bloodless coup against Prince Norodom Sihanouk the day before and proclaimed the establishment of the Khmer Republic. Between 1970 and 1975, Lon Nol and his army, the Forces Armees Nationale Khmer (FANK), with U.S. support and military aid, fought the communist Khmer Rouge for control of Cambodia. When the U.S. forces departed South Vietnam in 1973, both the Cambodians and South Vietnamese found themselves fighting the communists alone. Without U.S. support, Lon Nol’s forces succumbed to the Khmer Rouge in April 1975. The victorious Khmer Rouge evacuated Phnom Penh and began reordering Cambodian society, which resulted in a killing spree and the notorious “killing fields.” Eventually, hundreds of thousands of Cambodians were murdered or died from exhaustion, hunger, and disease. During the five years of bitter fighting, approximately 10 percent of Cambodia’s 7 million people died.
1979 – The U.S. House of Representatives began televising its day-to-day business. Brian Lamb launched C-Span, a TV public service broadcasting medium that focused on public affairs without comment or analysis.
1981 – One technician was killed and two others were injured during a routine test on space shuttle Columbia.
1985 – In a legislative victory for President Reagan, the Senate voted, 55-45, to authorize production of the MX missile.
1987 – President Reagan, in a news conference, repudiated his policy of selling arms to Iran, saying, “I would not go down that road again.”
1994 – Talks between North Korea and South Korea collapsed, imperiling a U.S.-brokered deal to resolve the North Korean nuclear dispute.
1996 – The U.N. Security Council issues a Presidential statement terming Iraq’s behavior a clear violation of Iraq’s obligations under relevant resolutions.
1998 – Pres. Clinton eased US restrictions on humanitarian aid and travel to Cuba. Cuban-American households would be allowed to send back $1,200 a year.
1999 – At a White House news conference, President Clinton prepared the nation for airstrikes against Serbian targets following the collapse of Kosovo peace talks in Paris.
2001 – Nato asked for additional troops in Kosovo to help stop Albanian guerrillas from crossing into Macedonia. Macedonia moved tanks and troops into Tetovo.
2002 – Former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega’s appeal for parole was turned down.
2003Iraqi President Saddam Hussein appears on national television and rejects the US ultimatum to leave the country or face war. He says “this battle will be Iraq’s last battle against the tyrannous villains and the last battle of aggression undertaken by America against the Arabs”.
2003A Cuban airliner was hijacked to Key West. 6 hijackers took control of the plane without telling the 25 passengers and six crew members about their asylum plans. The six were later convicted of federal hijacking charges.
2003 – PM Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey was preparing to open its airspace to US warplanes but would not allow them access to airbases.
2003 – The Pentagon says that British and American warplanes have bombed 10 Iraqi artillery positions in the southern no-fly zone.
2004 – In central Afghanistan U.S. warplanes and ground forces killed five suspected Taliban fighters at a compound in Uruzgan province.
2004 – Thousands of Pakistani army reinforcements joined a major offensive in tribal border villages where al-Qaida’s No. 2 leader, Ayman al-Zawahri and hundreds of other militants are believed surrounded.
2004 – Yemen security forces captured the nation’s most wanted man and another militant who escaped from prison last year after being detained for the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole. Jamal Badawi and Fahd al-Quso were arrested in the mountains of southern Abyan province.
2007 – Waleed bin Attash, a suspected al Qaeda operative, confesses plotting the USS Cole bombing as well as the bombing of two United States embassies in Africa. Walid Muhammad Salih bin Roshayed bin Attash (born 1979) is a Yemeni prisoner held in extrajudicial detention at the United States’ Guantanamo Bay detention camps. He confessed purchasing the explosives and small boat used in the Cole bombing, as well as recruiting the perpetrators, and planning the operation 18 months before the actual attack; he stated that he was in Kandahar, Afghanistan with bin Laden at the time of the Cole attack, and in Karachi at the time of the simultaneous embassy bombings meeting with the mastermind of the attack.
2011 – The United States Navy fires Tomahawk cruise missiles at Gaddafi’s air defenses as Operation Odyssey Dawn gets underway.
2013 – The United States Air Force successfully launches an Atlas V 401 rocket carrying a missile defense satellite SBIRS-GEO 2.

Congressional Medal of Honor Citations for Actions Taken This Day

Rank and organization: Private, Company B, 31st Wisconsin Infantry. Place and date: At Bentonville, N.C., 19 March 1865. Entered service at:——. Birth: Lafayette County, Wis. Date of issue: 16 June 1865. Citation: Entirely unassisted, brought from the field an abandoned piece of artillery and saved the gun from falling into the hands of the enemy.

Rank and organization: Corporal, Company I, 14th Michigan Infantry. Place and date: At Bentonville, N.C., 19 March 1865. Entered service at: ——. Birth: Marathon, Mich. Date of issue: 26 August 1898. Citation: In a charge, captured the flag of the 40th North Carolina (C.S.A.), the flag being taken in a personal encounter with an officer who carried and defended it.

Rank and organization: First Lieutenant and Adjutant, 88th Indiana Infantry. Place and date: At Bentonville, N.C., 19 March 1865. Entered service at: New Haven, Allen County, Ind. Birth: Scotland. Date of issue: 16 February 1897. Citation: In the face of a galling fire from the enemy he voluntarily returned to where the color bearer had fallen wounded and saved the flag of his regiment from capture.

Rank and organization: Corporal, Company F, 14th Michigan Infantry. Place and date: At Bentonville, N.C., 19 March 1865. Entered service at: Cockery, Mich. Birth: Oswego County, N.Y. Date of issue: 27 April 1896. Citation: Rushed into the midst of the enemy and rescued the colors, the color bearer having fallen mortally wounded.

Rank and organization: Staff Sergeant, U.S. Army, Company C, 41st Tank Battalion, 11th Armored Division. Place and date: Near Dorrmoschel, Germany, 19 March 1945. Entered service at: Kansas City, Mo. Birth: St. Joseph, Mo. G.O. No.: 73, 30 August 1945. Citation: He displayed conspicuous gallantry during action when the tank in which he was bow gunner was hit by an enemy rocket, which severely wounded the platoon sergeant and forced the remainder of the crew to abandon the vehicle. Deafened, but otherwise unhurt, S/Sgt. Burr immediately climbed into the driver’s seat and continued on the mission of entering the town to reconnoiter road conditions. As he rounded a turn he encountered an 88-mm. antitank gun at pointblank range. Realizing that he had no crew, no one to man the tank’s guns, he heroically chose to disregard his personal safety in a direct charge on the German weapon. At considerable speed he headed straight for the loaded gun, which was fully manned by enemy troops who had only to pull the lanyard to send a shell into his vehicle. So unexpected and daring was his assault that he was able to drive his tank completely over the gun, demolishing it and causing its crew to flee in confusion. He then skillfully sideswiped a large truck, overturned it, and wheeling his lumbering vehicle, returned to his company. When medical personnel who had been summoned to treat the wounded sergeant could not locate him, the valiant soldier ran through a hail of sniper fire to direct them to his stricken comrade. The bold, fearless determination of S/Sgt. Burr, his skill and courageous devotion to duty, resulted in the completion of his mission in the face of seemingly impossible odds.

Rank and organization: Lieutenant, Junior Grade, U.S. Navy, U.S.S. Franklin. Place and date: Japanese Home Islands near Kobe, Japan, 19 March 1945. Entered service at: Ohio. Born: 23 July 1903, Findlay, Ohio. Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as an engineering officer attached to the U.S.S. Franklin when that vessel was fiercely attacked by enemy aircraft during the operations against the Japanese Home Islands near Kobe, Japan, 19 March 1945. Stationed on the third deck when the ship was rocked by a series of violent explosions set off in her own ready bombs, rockets, and ammunition by the hostile attack, Lt. (j.g.) Gary unhesitatingly risked his life to assist several hundred men trapped in a messing compartment filled with smoke, and with no apparent egress. As the imperiled men below decks became increasingly panic stricken under the raging fury of incessant explosions, he confidently assured them he would find a means of effecting their release and, groping through the dark, debris-filled corridors, ultimately discovered an escapeway. Stanchly determined, he struggled back to the messing compartment 3 times despite menacing flames, flooding water, and the ominous threat of sudden additional explosions, on each occasion calmly leading his men through the blanketing pall of smoke until the last one had been saved. Selfless in his concern for his ship and his fellows, he constantly rallied others about him, repeatedly organized and led fire-fighting parties into the blazing inferno on the flight deck and, when firerooms 1 and 2 were found to be inoperable, entered the No. 3 fireroom and directed the raising of steam in 1 boiler in the face of extreme difficulty and hazard. An inspiring and courageous leader, Lt. (j.g.) Gary rendered self-sacrificing service under the most perilous conditions and, by his heroic initiative, fortitude, and valor, was responsible for the saving of several hundred lives. His conduct throughout reflects the highest credit upon himself and upon the U.S. Naval Service.

Rank and organization: Commander (Chaplain Corps), U.S. Naval Reserve, U.S.S. Franklin. Place and date: Near Kobe, Japan, 19 March 1945. Entered service at: Massachusetts. Born: 14 May 1904, Boston, Mass. Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as chaplain on board the U.S.S. Franklin when that vessel was fiercely attacked by enemy Japanese aircraft during offensive operations near Kobe, Japan, on 19 March 1945. A valiant and forceful leader, calmly braving the perilous barriers of flame and twisted metal to aid his men and his ship, Lt. Comdr. O’Callahan groped his way through smoke-filled corridors to the open flight deck and into the midst of violently exploding bombs, shells, rockets, and other armament. With the ship rocked by incessant explosions, with debris and fragments raining down and fires raging in ever-increasing fury, he ministered to the wounded and dying, comforting and encouraging men of all faiths; he organized and led firefighting crews into the blazing inferno on the flight deck; he directed the jettisoning of live ammunition and the flooding of the magazine; he manned a hose to cool hot, armed bombs rolling dangerously on the listing deck, continuing his efforts, despite searing, suffocating smoke which forced men to fall back gasping and imperiled others who replaced them. Serving with courage, fortitude, and deep spiritual strength, Lt. Comdr. O’Callahan inspired the gallant officers and men of the Franklin to fight heroically and with profound faith in the face of almost certain death and to return their stricken ship to port.

Rank and organization: Captain, U.S. Army, Company D, 3d Battalion. 187th Infantry, 3d Brigade, 101st Airborne Division. Place and date: Near Phuoc Vinh, Binh Duong Province, Republic of Vietnam, 16- 19 March 1968. Entered service at: U .S. Military Academy, West Point, N.Y. Born: 1 August 1943, Washington, D.C. Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. Capt. Bucha distinguished himself while serving as commanding officer, Company D, on a reconnaissance-in-force mission against enemy forces near Phuoc Vinh, The company was inserted by helicopter into the suspected enemy stronghold to locate and destroy the enemy. During this period Capt. Bucha aggressively and courageously led his men in the destruction of enemy fortifications and base areas and eliminated scattered resistance impeding the advance of the company. On 18 March while advancing to contact, the lead elements of the company became engaged by the heavy automatic weapon, heavy machine gun, rocket propelled grenade, Claymore mine and small-arms fire of an estimated battalion-size force. Capt. Bucha, with complete disregard for his safety, moved to the threatened area to direct the defense and ordered reinforcements to the aid of the lead element. Seeing that his men were pinned down by heavy machine gun fire from a concealed bunker located some 40 meters to the front of the positions, Capt. Bucha crawled through the hail of fire to single-handedly destroy the bunker with grenades. During this heroic action Capt. Bucha received a painful shrapnel wound. Returning to the perimeter, he observed that his unit could not hold its positions and repel the human wave assaults launched by the determined enemy. Capt. Bucha ordered the withdrawal of the unit elements and covered the withdrawal to positions of a company perimeter from which he could direct fire upon the charging enemy. When 1 friendly element retrieving casualties was ambushed and cut off from the perimeter, Capt. Bucha ordered them to feign death and he directed artillery fire around them. During the night Capt. Bucha moved throughout the position, distributing ammunition, providing encouragement and insuring the integrity of the defense. He directed artillery, helicopter gunship and Air Force gunship fire on the enemy strong points and attacking forces, marking the positions with smoke grenades. Using flashlights in complete view of enemy snipers, he directed the medical evacuation of 3 air-ambulance loads of seriously wounded personnel and the helicopter supply of his company. At daybreak Capt. Bucha led a rescue party to recover the dead and wounded members of the ambushed element. During the period of intensive combat, Capt. Bucha, by his extraordinary heroism, inspirational example, outstanding leadership and professional competence, led his company in the decimation of a superior enemy force which left 156 dead on the battlefield. His bravery and gallantry at the risk of his life are in the highest traditions of the military service, Capt. Bucha has reflected great credit on himself, his unit, and the U.S. Army.

Rank and organization: Specialist Fourth Class, U.S. Army, Company A, 2d Battalion, 1st Infantry, 196th Infantry Brigade, Americal Division. place and date: Quang Tin province, Republic of Vietnam, 19 March 1969. Entered service at: portland, Maine. Born: 24 June 1948, Washington, D.C. Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. Sp4c. McMahon distinguished himself while serving as medical aid man with Company A. When the lead elements of his company came under heavy fire from well-fortified enemy positions, 3 soldiers fell seriously wounded. Sp4c. McMahon, with complete disregard for his safety, left his covered position and ran through intense enemy fire to the side of 1 of the wounded, administered first aid and then carried him to safety. He returned through the hail of fire to the side of a second wounded man. Although painfully wounded by an exploding mortar round while returning the wounded man to a secure position, Sp4c. McMahon refused medical attention and heroically ran back through the heavy enemy fire toward his remaining wounded comrade. He fell mortally wounded before he could rescue the last man. Sp4c. McMahon’s undaunted concern for the welfare of his comrades at the cost of his life are in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit on himself, his unit, and the U.S. Army.

Rank and organization: Hospital Corpsman Second Class, U.S. Navy, 2d Battalion, 11th Marines, 1st Marine Division (Rein), FMF. Place and date: Quang Nam Province, Republic of Vietnam, 19 March 1969. Entered service at: Nashville, Tenn. Born: 14 February 1945, McMinnville, Tenn. Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as a HC2c. with Battery D, 2d Battalion, at Phu Loc 6, near An Hoa. During the early morning hours, an estimated battalion-sized enemy force launched a determined assault against the battery’s position, and succeeded in effecting a penetration of the barbed-wire perimeter. The initial burst of enemy fire caused numerous casualties among the marines who had immediately manned their howitzers during the rocket and mortar attack. Undaunted by the intense hostile fire, HC2c. Ray moved from parapet to parapet, rendering emergency medical treatment to the wounded. Although seriously wounded himself while administering first aid to a marine casualty, he refused medical aid and continued his lifesaving efforts. While he was bandaging and attempting to comfort another wounded marine, HC2c. Ray was forced to battle 2 enemy soldiers who attacked his position, personally killing 1 and wounding the other. Rapidly losing his strength as a result of his severe wounds, he nonetheless managed to move through the hail of enemy fire to other casualties. Once again, he was faced with the intense fire of oncoming enemy troops and, despite the grave personal danger and insurmountable odds, succeeded in treating the wounded and holding off the enemy until he ran out of ammunition, at which time he sustained fatal wounds. HC2c. Ray’s final act of heroism was to protect the patient he was treating. He threw himself upon the wounded marine, thus saving the man’s life when an enemy grenade exploded nearby. By his determined and persevering actions, courageous spirit, and selfless devotion to the welfare of his marine comrades, HC2c. Ray served to inspire the men of Battery D to heroic efforts in defeating the enemy. His conduct throughout was in keeping with the finest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service.

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