March 21

21 March

1617Pocahontas (Rebecca Rolfe) died of either small pox or pneumonia while in England with her husband, John Rolfe. As Pocahontas and John Rolfe prepared to sail back to Virginia, she died reportedly from the wet English winter. She was buried at the parish church of St. George in Gravesend, England.
1788 – Almost the entire city of New Orleans, Louisiana, was destroyed by fire. 856 buildings were burned.
1791Hopley Yeaton of New Hampshire was commissioned as “Master of a Cutter in the Service of the United States for the Protection of the Revenue.” This first commission of a seagoing officer of the United States was signed by George Washington and attested to by Thomas Jefferson. Twelve other commissions of officers of revenue cutters were signed on the same date. Yeaton was subsequently assigned to command the Revenue cutter Scammel, stationed in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.
1806 – Lewis and Clark began their trip home after an 8,000 mile trek of the Mississippi basin and the Pacific Coast.
1851Yosemite Valley was discovered (by non-natives) in California. The 58 men of the Mariposa Battalion under Major James D. Savage were the first whites to enter Yosemite Valley. Their first view of the valley was from the plateau later named Mount Beatitude. They expelled Chief Tenaya and his band of Ahwahneechee Indians. Dr. Bunnell, a physician in the battalion, named the valley Yosemite to honor the local Indians. He did not realize that the word “yohemeti” meant “some of them are killers” and was an insult against the valley people.
1863Union General Edwin Vose Sumner dies while awaiting reassignment to the far West. His death came months after he led his corps at the Battle of Antietam. Born in Boston in 1793, Sumner joined the army in 1819. He had already spent more than a quarter of a century in the military when he fought in the Mexican War, traveling down the Santa Fe Trail with Stephen Watts Kearney to capture New Mexico. Sumner was transferred to Winfield Scott’s command for the remainder of the war, and he earned the nickname “Bullhead” when a bullet ricocheted off his skull at the Battle of Cerro Gordo. Sumner served in Kansas during the troubles of the 1850s when pro-slave and anti-slave settlers clashed. He provided escort for president-elect Abraham Lincoln in 1861, and when the war erupted, Lincoln made Sumner commander of the Department of the Pacific. In March 1862, he was given command of II Corps in the Army of the Potomac. During the Seven Days’ battle in June, Sumner performed somewhat sluggishly but his fighting spirit carried down to his men. At Antietam in September, Sumner’s men attacked General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson’s corps and nearly broke it before heavy fire drove them back. Sumner’s command suffered a frightful toll, absorbing nearly half of the Union’s 12,500 casualties from that day. Sumner fought at Fredericksburg in December, and he remained loyal to General Ambrose Burnside in early 1863 when several generals were contemplating a mutiny against their commander. Tired of the infighting and political intrigue among the Army of the Potomac’s staff, and perhaps feeling too old to command in the field, Sumner requested reassignment. He was again appointed to the Department of the Pacific, but he died in Syracuse, New York, before moving to the West.
1865The Battle of Bentonville, N.C. ended, marking the last Confederate attempt to stop Sherman. Union General William Sherman considered Judson Kilpatrick, his cavalry chief, ‘a hell of a damn fool.’ At Monroe’s Cross Roads, N.C., his carelessness and disobedience of orders proved Sherman’s point.
1865The heavy guns of Union gunboats supported the landing of troops of General Canby’s command at Dannelly’s Mills on the Fish River, Alabama. This was a diversionary operation intended to prevent the movement of additional Confederate troops to Mobile during the week prior to the opening of the Federal attack against that city.
1866 – The US Congress authorized national soldiers’ homes.
1885 – Raoul Lufbery, French-born American fighter pilot of World War I, was born.
1907Following the Roosevelt Corollary, Marines land in Honduras to protect American interests and to help quell revolution there. Nicaragua’s powerful President Zelaya began to support exiled Honduran liberals in their efforts to topple Manuel Bonilla, who had become, in effect, the Honduran dictator. Supported by elements of the Nicaraguan army, the exiles invaded Honduras in February 1907 and established a provisional junta. With the assistance of Salvadoran troops, Manuel Bonilla tried to resist, but in March his forces were decisively beaten in a battle notable for the introduction of machine guns into Central American civil strife. By 1907 the United States looked with considerable disfavor on the role Zelaya of Nicaragua was playing in regional affairs. When the Nicaraguan army entered Honduras in 1907 to overthrow Bonilla, the United States government, believing that Zelaya wanted to dominate the entire region, landed marines at Puerto Cortés to protect the North American bananas trade. Other United States naval units prevented a Nicaraguan attack on Bonilla’s last position at Amapala in the Golfo de Fonseca. After negotiations conducted by the United States naval commander, Manuel Bonilla sought refuge on the U.S.S. Chicago, and the fighting came to an end. The United States chargé d’affaires in Tegucigalpa took an active role in arranging a final peace settlement, with which Zelaya was less than happy. The settlement provided for the installation of a compromise regime, headed by General Miguel Dávila, in Tegucigalpa. Dávila was a liberal but was distrusted by Zelaya, who made a secret arrangement with El Salvador to oust him from office. This plan failed to reach fruition.
1917 – Loretta Walsh becomes first woman Navy petty officer when sworn in as Chief Yeoman.
1918General Erich Ludendorff has planned a knock-out blow on the Western Front. He recognizes that, with the imminent arrival of scores of thousands of US troops in France, Germany is likely to lose the war. Ludendorff plans to strike first. He transfers some 70 divisions of troops from the Eastern Front, where the turmoil following the Russian Revolution has effectively ended Russian involvement in the war. In the short term, therefore, Germany has a clear numerical advantage over the British and French. Ludendorff’s plan is to exploit the differences between Britain’s and France’s strategies for facing any major German offensive. He believes the French will give priority to the defense of Paris, while the British are more concerned with defending the ports along the north French coast through which their supplies and troops flow. Ludendorff aims to attack the juncture between the French and British forces in northeast France. To this end he ahs three armies, the Seventeenth under General Otto von Below, the Second led by General Georg von der Marwitz, and General Oskar von Huiter’s Eighteenth, prepare for the offensive. These are to advance along a 50-mile front from Arras to St. Quentin and La Fere. This zone is defended byt the British Third Army under General Sir Julian Byng and General Sir Hubert Gough’s Fifth Army. Ludendorff had 63 divisions, many led by elite storm trooper units, earmarked for the attack, while the British can muster just 26. the offensive is code-named Operation Michael but it is also known as the Kaiserschlacht (Kaiser’s Battle). Operation Michael begins with a sudden five-hour bombardment on the British by 6,000 artillery pieces. They fire both gas and high-explosive shells. Under cover of thick fog the Germans attack, with the specially trained storm trooper units leading the way. The surprise and shock of the onslaught overwhelms the thinly spread British. Gough’s Fifth Army collapses in confusion, exposing the right flank of Byng’s Third Army. However, Bying’s forces, which are holding a narrower front than those of Gough, withdraw across the Somme River in good order. The attackers here, drawn from the German Seventeenth and Second Armies, make significantly fewer gains. Operation Michael will end on April 5th with no decisive victory along these lines on the Somme.
1919 – Navy installs and tests Sperry gyrocompass, in first instance of test of aircraft gyrocompass.
1928 – Coolidge gave the Congressional Medal of Honor to Charles Lindbergh. The Medal of Honor was not always awarded for “courage above and beyond” the call of duty.
1943The second military conspiracy plan to assassinate Hitler in a week fails to come off. Maj. Gen. Henning von Tresckow, a member of Gen. Fedor von Bock’s Army Group Center, was the leader of one of many conspiracies against Adolf Hitler. Along with his staff officer, Lt. Fabian von Schlabrendorff, and two other conspirators, both of old German families who also believed Hitler was leading Germany to humiliation, Tresckow had planned to arrest the Fuhrer when he visited the Army Group’s headquarters at Borisov, in the Soviet Union. But their naivete in such matters became evident when Hitler showed up-surrounded by SS bodyguards and driven in one of a fleet of cars. They never got near him. Tresckow would try again on March 13, 1943, in a plot called Operation Flash. This time, Tresckow, Schlabrendorff, et al., were stationed in Smolensk, still in the USSR. Hitler was planning to fly back to Rastenburg, Germany, from Vinnitsa, in the USSR. A stopover was planned at Smolensk, during which the Fuhrer was to be handed a parcel bomb by an unwitting officer thinking it was a gift of liquor for two senior officers at Rastenburg. All went according to plan and Hitler’s plane took off–the bomb was set to go off somewhere over Minsk. At that point, co-conspirators in Berlin were ready to take control of the central government at the mention of the code word “Flash.” Unfortunately, the bomb never went off at all-the detonator was defective. A week later on March 21, on Heroes’ Memorial Day, (a holiday honoring German World War I dead), Tresckow selected Col. Freiherr von Gersdorff to act as a suicide bomber at the Zeughaus Museum in Berlin, where Hitler was to attend the annual memorial dedication. With a bomb planted in each of his two coat pockets, Gersdorff was to sidle up to Hitler as he reviewed the memorials and ignite the bombs, taking the dictator out-along with himself and everyone in the immediate vicinity. Schlabrendorff supplied Gersdorff with bombs-each with a 10-minute fuse. Once at the exhibition hall, Gersdorff was informed that the Fuhrer was to inspect the exhibits for only eight minutes-not enough time for the fuses to melt down.
1944 – US forces moving west from Yalau Plantation link up with Australian forces advancing north, from inland, on the Huon Peninsula.
1945 – The US 8th Air Force targets Me262 fighter bases in western Germany.
1945 – Bureau of Aeronautics initiates rocket-powered surface-to-air guided missile development by awarding contract to Fairchild.
1945US Task Force 58 (Admiral Mitscher) is replenishing in preparation for operations around Okinawa. The Japanese 5th Air Force deploys the first Ohka piloted rocket bombs, slung under Misubishi bombers, against the American fleet. The flight of 18 aircraft is intercepted by carrier aircraft and all but one are shot down. Admiral Spruance, command the US 5th Fleet, is present for the operations.
1945 – Most of US 3rd Army forces are engaged in clearing German resistance on the west bank of the Rhine River, to the north of Mannheim. Other elements of US 3rd and US 7th Army units are cooperating to take Annweiler, Neunkirchen, Neustadt and Homberg.
1945 – General A. A. Vandergrift, 18th Commandant of the Marine Corps, became the first Marine four-star general on active duty.
1946 – The United Nations set up temporary headquarters at Hunter College in New York City.
1947 – Pres. Truman signed Executive Order 9835 requiring all federal employees to swear allegiance to the United States.
1951 – Chief of Staff General George C. Marshall reports that the U.S. military has doubled to 2.9 million since the start of the Korean War.
1951 – The 1st Cavalry Division recaptured Chunchon. The Chinese 3rd Field Army appeared in combat for the first time in Korea.
1953 – U.S. Air Force Captains Manuel J. Fernandez, Jr., 4th Fighter-Interceptor Wing, and Harold Fischer, 51st Fighter-Interceptor Wing, qualified as the fourth and fifth “double aces” of the war. An ace has shot down five enemy aircraft; a double ace, 10.
1953 – North Korean truce negotiators expressed their willingness to observe the provisions of the Geneva Convention and exchange sick and wounded prisoners of war. At the same time they hinted that the exchange might lead to a resolution of other issues hindering an armistice.
1965 – The U.S. launched Ranger 9, last in a series of lunar explorations.
1967The North Vietnamese press agency reports that an exchange of notes took place in February between President Lyndon B. Johnson and Ho Chi Minh. The agency said that Ho rejected a proposal made by Johnson for direct talks between the United States and North Vietnam on ending the war. The North Vietnamese demanded that the United States “stop definitely and unconditionally its bombing raids and all other acts of war against North Vietnam.” The U.S. State Department confirmed the exchange of letters and expressed regret that Hanoi had divulged this information, since the secret letters were intended as a serious diplomatic attempt to end the conflict. Nothing of any consequence came from Johnson’s initiative. Meanwhile, in South Vietnam, Operation Junction City produced what General Westmoreland described as “one of the most successful single actions of the year.” In the effort, U.S. forces killed 606 Viet Cong in Tay Ninh Province and surrounding areas along the Cambodian border northwest of Saigon. The purpose of Operation Junction City was to drive the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese troops away from populated areas and into the open where superior American firepower could be more effectively used against them.
1972In Cambodia, more than 100 civilians are killed and 280 wounded as communist artillery and rockets strike Phnom Penh and outlying areas in the heaviest attack since the beginning of the war in 1970. Following the shelling, a communist force of 500 troops attacked and entered Takh Mau, six miles southeast of Pnom Penh, killing at least 25 civilians.
1975 – As North Vietnamese forces advanced, Hue and other northern towns in South Vietnam were evacuated.
1980President Jimmy Carter informs a group of U.S. athletes that, in response to the December 1979 Soviet incursion into Afghanistan, the United States will boycott the 1980 Olympics in Moscow. It marked the first and only time that the United States has boycotted the Olympics. After the Soviet Union intervened in Afghanistan in December 1979 to prop up an unstable pro-Soviet government, the United States reacted quickly and sharply. It suspended arms negotiations with the Soviets, condemned the Russian action in the United Nations, and threatened to boycott the Olympics to be held in Moscow in 1980. When the Soviets refused to withdraw their troops from Afghanistan, President Carter finalized his decision to boycott the games. On March 21, 1980, he met with approximately 150 U.S. athletes and coaches to explain his decision. He told the crowd, “I understand how you feel,” and recognized their intense disappointment. However, Carter defended his action, stating, “What we are doing is preserving the principles and the quality of the Olympics, not destroying it.” Many of the athletes were devastated by the news. As one stated, “As citizens, it is an easy decision to make-support the president. As athletes, it is a difficult decision.” Others declared that the president was politicizing the Olympics. Most of the athletes only reluctantly supported Carter’s decision. The U.S. decision to boycott the 1980 Olympic games had no impact on Soviet policy in Afghanistan (Russian troops did not withdraw until nearly a decade later), but it did tarnish the prestige of the games in Moscow. It was not the first time that Cold War diplomacy insinuated itself into international sports. The Soviet Union had refused to play Chile in World Cup soccer in 1973 because of the overthrow and death of Chile’s leftist president earlier that year. Even the playing field was not immune from Cold War tensions
1984 – A Soviet submarine crashed into the USS Kitty Hawk off the coast of Japan.
1991 – Two US Navy anti-submarine planes collided and 27 were lost at sea.
1991 – A UN Security Council panel decided to lift the food embargo on Iraq.
1996 – The US decided to proceed with plans to deliver weapons to the Islamabad government in Pakistan. $368 mil has already been paid for a naval Orion aircraft and two types of missiles.
1997 – President Clinton and Russian President Boris Yeltsin wrapped up their summit in Helsinki, Finland, still deadlocked over NATO expansion, but able to agree on slashing nuclear weapons arsenals.
1998 – Six members of the San Francisco-based Peaceworkers group were arrested in Kosovo and sentenced to 10 days in jail for not reporting their presence to police. 3 were from the Bay Area. They were released Mar 23.
1999 – It was reported that the Space Laser Energy group, SELENE, proposed to transmit energy to satellites by 2004.
1999 – On the 2nd day of Serb attacks against Kosovo, envoy Richard Holbrooke met with Pres. Milosevic with serious threats of NATO air strikes.
2000 – NATO acknowledged that depleted uranium rounds were used during the 1999 Kosovo war whenever American A-10 ground attack aircraft engaged armored vehicles.
2000 – Croatia handed over Mladen Naletilic, a Bosnian Croat indicted in 1998 on 17 counts of war crimes, to the UN tribunal. Naletilic commanded a gang of convicts who terrorized Muslims in southwestern Bosnia between 1993-1994.
2001 – The US State Dept. ordered the expulsion of 5 suspected Russian spies and informed Moscow that as many as 50 intelligence officers using diplomatic cover would have to leave over the next few months.
2001 – Space shuttle Discovery glided to a predawn touchdown, bringing home the first residents of the international space station.
2003 – A CH-46 Sea Knight helicopter crashed in Kuwait and killed 12 British and 4 US soldiers. US Marines captured the strategic port in the southern Iraqi city of Umm Qasr.
2003 – US and British troops have captured the Iraqi border town of Umm Qasr. Marines raise US flag over the port area and aim to use it as an entry point for humanitarian aid into the country.
2003 – American troops have seized two airfields in the Iraqi desert west of Baghdad.
2003 – The Bush administration seizes $US 1.7 billion in Iraqi assets already frozen in the US, saying it will use the money for humanitarian purposes in Iraq.
2004Pakistani forces agreed to allow a 25-member tribal council free passage into a battlezone in an effort to negotiate a peace deal with local elders sheltering hundreds of al-Qaida fighters. Up to 6,000 Pakistani forces were engaged with some 500 foreign militants, in the Wana area of South Waziristan. The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) was suspected to be involved.

Congressional Medal of Honor Citations for Actions Taken This Day

Rank and organization: Master Sergeant, U.S. Army, Company A, 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne), 1st Special Forces. Place and date: Phuoc Long Province, Republic of Vietnam, 21 March 1967. Entered service at: Fort Dix, N.J. Born: 12 May 1924, Ramsey, N.J. Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. M/Sgt. Hosking (then Sfc.), Detachment A-302, Company A, greatly distinguished himself while serving as company advisor in the III Corps Civilian Irregular Defense Group Reaction Battalion during combat operations in Don Luan District. A Viet Cong suspect was apprehended and subsequently identified as a Viet Cong sniper. While M/Sgt. Hosking was preparing the enemy for movement back to the base camp, the prisoner suddenly grabbed a hand grenade from M/Sgt. Hosking’s belt, armed the grenade, and started running towards the company command group which consisted of 2 Americans and 2 Vietnamese who were standing a few feet away. Instantly realizing that the enemy intended to kill the other men, M/Sgt. Hosking immediately leaped upon the Viet Cong’s back. With utter disregard for his personal safety, he grasped the Viet Cong in a “Bear Hug” forcing the grenade against the enemy soldier’s chest. He then wrestled the Viet Cong to the ground and covered the enemy’s body with his body until the grenade detonated. The blast instantly killed both M/Sgt. Hosking and the Viet Cong. By absorbing the full force of the exploding grenade with his body and that of the enemy, he saved the other members of his command group from death or serious injury. M/Sgt. Hosking’s risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty are in the highest tradition of the U.S. Army and reflect great credit upon himself and the Armed Forces of his country.

Rank and organization: Specialist Fourth Class, U.S. Army, Company D, 1st Battalion, 8th Cavalry, 1st Cavalry Division. Place and date: Tay Ninh Province, Republic of Vietnam, 21 March 1969. Entered service at: Columbus, Ga. Born: 19 November 1947, Columbus, Ga. Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. Sp4c. Johnston distinguished himself while serving as a mortarman with Company D, at a fire support base in Tay Ninh Province. Sp4c. Johnston’s company was in defensive positions when it came under a devastating rocket and mortar attack. Under cover of the bombardment, enemy sappers broke through the defensive perimeter and began hurling explosive charges into the main defensive bunkers. Sp4c. Johnston and 6 of his comrades had moved from their exposed positions to 1 of the bunkers to continue their fight against the enemy attackers. As they were firing from the bunker, an enemy soldier threw 3 explosive charges into their position. Sensing the danger to his comrades, Sp4c. Johnston, with complete disregard for his safety, hurled himself onto the explosive charges, smothering the detonations with his body and shielding his fellow soldiers from the blast. His heroic action saved the lives of 6 of his comrades. Sp4c. Johnston’s concern for his fellow men at the cost of his life were in the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit, and the U.S. Army.

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