1774 – In response to the continuing rebelliousness of the Massachusetts colony, an angry parliament passes a series of Coercive Acts. The first of these is the Boston Port Bill, to go into force June 1. The port bill forbids any shipping or trade in Boston harbor except for that involving military supplies and certain approved cargoes of food and fuel. The bill also provides for the stationing of customs officials at Salem rather than Boston. If Massachusetts reimburses customs for the duties owed and the costs of the Boston Tea Party, only then will the port be opened to all maritime traffic.
1777 – A young Abigail Adams encouraged her husband John to give women voting privileges in the new American government. She wrote to her husband on March 31, 1777, while he was a delegate to the Constitutional Convention: “I desire you would remember the ladies and be more generous to them than were your ancestors. Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of husbands. Remember all men would be tyrants if they could. If particular care and attention are not paid to the ladies we are determined to foment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound to obey any laws in which we have no voice or representation.” Twenty years later her husband was a candidate in America’s first real election.
1801 – Lt Col Commandant William W. Burrows rode with president Thomas Jefferson to look for “a proper place to fix the Marine Barracks on.” President Jefferson was a personal friend of the Commandant, and deeply interested in the welfare of the Corps and accompanied Burrows on horseback on the morning of 31 March. They chose a square in Southeast Washington, bounded by 8th and 9th streets, and a & I streets, because it lay near the Navy Yard and was within easy marching distance of the Capitol.
1814 – In a message to Congress, President Madison recommends the repeal of the Embargo and Non-Importation Acts. This legislation has failed to achieve its purpose, and the repeal is supported by New England, despite the newly developing industries that have been protected by the acts.
1854 – In Tokyo, Commodore Matthew Calbraith Perry, representing the U.S. government, signs the Treaty of Kanagawa with the Japanese government, opening the ports of Shimoda and Hakodate to American trade and permitting the establishment of a U.S. consulate in Japan. In July 1853, Commodore Perry sailed into Tokyo Bay with a squadron of four U.S. vessels. For a time, Japanese officials refused to speak with Perry, but eventually they accepted letters from U.S. President Millard Fillmore, making the United States the first Western nation to establish relations with Japan since it was declared closed to foreigners in 1683. After giving Japan time to consider the establishment of external relations, Perry returned to Tokyo in March 1854, and on March 31 signed the Treaty of Kanagawa, which opened Japan to trade with the United States, and thus the West. In April 1860, the first Japanese diplomats to visit a foreign power reached Washington, D.C., and remained in the U.S. capital for several weeks discussing expansion of trade with the United States. Perry’s great achievement was widely recognized at the time. Perhaps there is no better praise for this naval veteran of 45 years’ service than the collective memorial sent by the American merchants at Canton to the Commodore in Sept. 1854 on his return trip to the U.S.: “You have conquered the obstinate will of man and, by overturning the cherished policy of an empire, have brought an estranged but culturated people into the family of nations. You have done this without violence, and the world has looked on with admiration to see the barriers of prejudice fall before the flag of our country without the firing of a shot.”
1862 – Skirmishing between Rebels and Union forces took place at Island 10 on the Mississippi River.
1863 – Confederate troops opened a sustained attack and siege of the Union position at Washington, North Carolina. The assaulting forces erected numerous batteries along the Pamlico River in an effort to check the Union Navy. Nonetheless, the senior naval officer, Commander Daven-port, moved quickly to aid the beleaguered Union soldiers. He dispatched all but two gunboats guarding New Bern to Washington and left only one at Plymouth, before the attack was broken up on 16 April, the warships’ heavy gunfire support swung the balance in stopping the Con-federates. In addition, small boats transported desperately needed ammunition to the troops and ultimately it was the waterborne supplies reaching the garrison that induced the Confederates to withdraw.
1865 – The final offensive of the Army of the Potomac gathers steam when Union General Phil Sheridan moves against the left flank of Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. The limited action set the stage for the Battle of Five Forks on April 1. This engagement took place at the end of the Petersburg line. For 10 months, the Union had laid siege to Lee’s army at Petersburg, but the trenches stretched all the way to Richmond, 25 miles north of Petersburg. Lee’s thinning army attacked Fort Stedman on March 25 in a futile attempt to break the siege, but the Union line held. On March 29, General Ulysses S. Grant, General-in-Chief of the Union Army and the field commander around Petersburg, began moving his men past the western end of Lee’s line. Torrential rains almost delayed the move. Grant planned to send Sheridan against the Confederates on March 31, but called off the operation. Sheridan would not be denied a chance to fight, though. “I am ready to strike out tomorrow and go to smashing things!” he told his officers. They encouraged him to meet with Grant, who consented to begin the move. Near Dinwiddie Court House, Sheridan advanced but was driven back by General George Pickett’s division. Pickett was alerted to the Union advance, and during the night of March 31, he pulled his men back to Five Forks. This set the stage for a major strike by Sheridan on April 1, when the Yankees crushed the Rebel flank and forced Lee to evacuate Richmond and Petersburg.
1870 – Following its ratification by the requisite three-fourths of the states, the 15th Amendment, granting African-American men the right to vote, is formally adopted into the U.S. Constitution. Passed by Congress the year before, the amendment reads, “the right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” One day after it was adopted, Thomas Peterson-Mundy of Perth Amboy, New Jersey, became the first African American to vote under the authority of the 15th Amendment. In 1867, the Republican-dominated Congress passed the First Reconstruction Act, over President Andrew Johnson’s veto, dividing the South into five military districts and outlining how new governments based on universal manhood suffrage were to be established. With the adoption of the 15th Amendment in 1870, a politically mobilized African-American community joined with white allies in the Southern states to elect the Republican Party to power, which brought about radical changes across the South. By late 1870, all the former Confederate states had been readmitted to the Union, and most were controlled by the Republican Party, thanks to the support of African-American voters. In the same year, Hiram Rhoades Revels, a Republican from Natchez, Mississippi, became the first African American ever to sit in Congress. Although African-American Republicans never obtained political office in proportion to their overwhelming electoral majority, Revels and a dozen other African-American men served in Congress during Reconstruction, more than 600 served in state legislatures, and many more held local offices. However, in the late 1870s, the Southern Republican Party vanished with the end of Reconstruction, and Southern state governments effectively nullified the 14th and 15th Amendments, stripping Southern African Americans of the right to vote. It would be nearly a century before the nation would again attempt to establish equal rights for African Americans in the South.
1899 – Malolos, capital of the First Philippine Republic, was captured by American forces. The Capture of Malolos, alternately known as the Battle of Malolos, occurred on Bulacan, during the Philippine-American War. General Arthur MacArthur, Jr.’s division advanced to Malolos along the Manila–Dagupan Railway. By March 30, American forces were advancing on Malolos. Meanwhile, the Aguinaldo government had moved its seat from Malolos to San Isidro, Nueva Ecija.
1916 – General Pershing and his army routed Pancho Villa’s army in Mexico.
1917 – The United States takes possession of the Danish West Indies after paying $25 million to Denmark, and renames the territory the United States Virgin Islands.
1918 – Daylight Savings Time went into effect throughout the U.S. for the first time.
1933 – Congress authorized the Civilian Conservation Corps in an attempt to relieve rampant unemployment. The US unemployment rate had reached 25%. In its nine years of existence, the New Deal’s Civilian Conservation Corps had a total of 2.9 million men aged 18 to 25 enrolled. The program was designed to provide jobs for young men in the national forests, conservation programs and national road construction. Enacted as one of President Franklin Roosevelt’s first New Deal programs, it lasted until World War II. At its high point in September 1935, the CCC had 2,514 work camps across the U.S. with 502,000 men enrolled.
1943 – An American battalion occupies positions around Morobe at the mouth of the Waria River.
1945 – The U.S. and Britain barred a Soviet supported provisional regime in Warsaw from entering the U.N. meeting in San Francisco.
1945 – US naval forces, including Task Force 58 and TF52, continue air strikes on Okinawa while TF54 continues bombarding the island. Japanese Kamikaze and submarine attacks continue.
1945 – A defecting German pilot delivers a Messerschmitt Me 262A-1, the world’s first operational jet-powered fighter aircraft, to the Americans, the first to fall into Allied hands.
1948 – Congress passed a $6.2 billion foreign aid bill, the Marshall Aid Act, to rehabilitate war-torn Europe.
1951 – Operation RIPPER was officially terminated as Eighth Army fought its way back to the 38th parallel.
1951 – Remington Rand delivers the first UNIVAC I computer to the United States Census Bureau.
1952 – The Kimpo Provisional Regiment was organized by and within the U.S. 1st Marine Division for the defense of the Kimpo peninsula.1958 – US Navy formed the atomic sub division.
1958 – Moscow declared a halt on all atomic tests and asked other nations to follow.
1965 – US ordered the 1st combat troops to Vietnam.
1965 – Responding to questions from reporters about the situation in Vietnam, President Johnson says, “I know of no far-reaching strategy that is being suggested or promulgated.” Early in the month, Johnson had sent 3,500 Marines to Da Nang to secure the U.S. airbase there. These troops were ostensibly there only for defensive purposes, but Johnson, despite his protestations to the contrary, was already considering giving the authorization for the U.S. troops to go from defensive to offensive tactics. This was a sensitive area, since such an authorization could (and did) lead to escalation in the war and a subsequent increase in the American commitment to it.
1967 – President Lyndon Johnson signed the Consular Treaty, the first bi-lateral pact with the Soviet Union since the Bolshevik Revolution.
1968 – In a televised speech to the nation, President Lyndon B. Johnson announces a partial halt of bombing missions over North Vietnam and proposes peace talks. He said he had ordered “unilaterally” a halt to air and naval bombardments of North Vietnam “except in the area north of the Demilitarized Zone, where the continuing enemy build-up directly threatens Allied forward positions.” He also stated that he was sending 13,500 more troops to Vietnam and would request further defense expenditures–$2.5 billion in fiscal year 1968 and $2.6 billion in fiscal year 1969–to finance recent troop build-ups, re-equip the South Vietnamese Army, and meet “responsibilities in Korea.” In closing, Johnson shocked the nation with an announcement that all but conceded that his own presidency had become another wartime casualty: “I shall not seek, and I will not accept, the nomination of my party for another term as your president.”
1970 – The U.S. forces in Vietnam downed a MIG-21, the first since September 1968.
1970 – Explorer 1, the first US satellite, launched in 1958, re-enters the Earth’s atmosphere after 12 years in orbit.
1971 – Poseidon (C-3) missile becomes operational when USS James Madison began her 3rd patrol carrying 16 tactical Poseidon missiles.
1972 – After firing more than 5,000 rockets, artillery, and mortar shells on 12 South Vietnamese positions just below the Demilitarized Zone, the North Vietnamese Army launches ground assaults against South Vietnamese positions in Quang Tri Province. The attacks were thrown back, with 87 North Vietnamese killed. South Vietnamese fire bases Fuller, Mai Loc, Holcomb, Pioneer, and two smaller bases near the Demilitarized Zone were abandoned as the North Vietnamese pushed the defenders back toward their rear bases. At the same time, attacks against three bases west of Saigon forced the South Vietnamese to abandon six outposts along the Cambodian border. These were a continuation of the opening attacks of the North Vietnamese Nguyen Hue Offensive, a major coordinated communist offensive initiated on March 30. Committing almost their entire army to the offensive, the North Vietnamese launched a massive three-pronged attack. In the initial attack, four North Vietnamese divisions attacked directly across the Demilitarized Zone into Quang Tri province. Following the assault in Quang Tri province, the North Vietnamese launched two more major attacks: at An Loc in Binh Long Province, 60 miles north of Saigon, and at Kontum in the Central Highlands. With the three attacks, the North Vietnamese had committed 500 tanks and 150,000 regular troops (as well as thousands of Viet Cong) supported by heavy rocket and artillery fire. After initial successes, especially against the newly formed South Vietnamese 3rd Division in Quang Tri, the North Vietnamese attack was stopped cold by the combination of defending South Vietnamese divisions (along with their U.S. advisers) and massive American airpower. Estimates placed the North Vietnamese losses at more than 100,000 and at least one-half of their tanks and large caliber artillery.
1980 – Iranian officials say American hostages may be handed over to government by militants holding U.S. embassy, as militant leaders meet with President Bani-Sadr
1991 – The Warsaw Pact spent the last day of its existence as a military alliance.
1992 – The U.N. Security Council voted to ban flights and arms sales to Libya, branding it a terrorist state for shielding six men accused of blowing up Pan Am Flight 103 and a French airliner.
1992 – USS Missouri (BB-63), the last active American battleship is decommissioned. USS Missouri (BB-63) (“Mighty Mo” or “Big Mo”) is a United States Navy Iowa-class battleship and was the third ship of the U.S. Navy to be named in honor of the US state of Missouri. Missouri was the last battleship commissioned by the United States and was the site of the surrender of the Empire of Japan which ended World War II. Missouri was ordered in 1940 and commissioned in June 1944. In the Pacific Theater of World War II she fought in the battles of Iwo Jima and Okinawa and shelled the Japanese home islands, and she fought in the Korean War from 1950 to 1953. She was decommissioned in 1955 into the United States Navy reserve fleets (the “Mothball Fleet”), but reactivated and modernized in 1984 as part of the 600-ship Navy plan, and provided fire support during Operation Desert Storm in January/February 1991. Missouri received a total of 11 battle stars for service in World War II, Korea, and the Persian Gulf, and was finally decommissioned on 31 March 1992, but remained on the Naval Vessel Register until her name was struck in January 1995. In 1998, she was donated to the USS Missouri Memorial Association and became a museum ship at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
1993 – The U.N. Security Council increased international pressure on Bosnian Serbs, authorizing NATO warplanes to shoot down aircraft that violated a ban on flights over Bosnia.
1995 – President Clinton briefly visited Haiti, where he declared the U.S. mission to restore democracy there a “remarkable success.”
1995 – Coast Guard Communication Area Master Station Atlantic sent a final message by Morse Code and then signed off, officially ending more than 100 years of telegraph communication.
1998 – The UN Security Council imposed a new arms embargo on Yugoslavia to press Milosevic to grant ethnic Albanians concessions in Kosovo.
1999 – Three peacekeeping US soldiers were captured by Serb forces near the Yugoslav-Macedonia border. Sgt. James Stone (25), Spec. Steven Gonzales (21) and Sgt. Andrew Ramirez (24) were shown on Serbian TV and were released more than a month later. Azen Syla, founder of the KLA, said that his guerrilla supply lines from Albania were cut off when the bombing began. Yugoslav soldiers herded ethnic Albanians onto trains bound for the Macedonian border as NATO bombing continued for the 8th day.
1999 – NATO bombs destroyed the Sloboda household utilities plant in Cacak, Serbia. It had employed some 5,000 people. Allied leaders said they would bomb government buildings in Belgrade.
1999 – On Serbian TV Ibrahim Rugova appealed for an end to NATO bombings. He had recently been quoted by a German magazine that chaos would result if NATO does not send in ground troops immediately. Serbs put Rugova under house arrest and ordered him to appear on TV.
2000 – The UN Security Council decided to let Iraq spend more money to repair its oil industry—an investment intended to boost the amount of food and medicine Baghdad could buy through the UN humanitarian program.
2001 – In Serbia commandos stormed the residence of Slobodan Milosevic and attempted to arrest him as the US deadline for cooperation with the UN War Crimes tribunal approached. But a defiant Milosevic rejected a warrant, reportedly telling police he wouldn’t “go to jail alive.”
2002 – Serbia’s government, faced with a midnight suspension of US aid, issued arrest warrants against 4 former Milosevic associates.
2003 – In the 13th day of Operation Iraqi Freedom US-led troops fought pitched battles with Saddam Hussein’s Republican Guard within 50 miles of the capital. B-1, B-2 and B-52 bombers struck communication and command centers in Baghdad, and cruise missiles set Iraq’s Information Ministry ablaze. Casualties from the war to date US total: 40 dead, 7 captured, 18 missing; British total: 25 dead. Of 8,000 precision bombs dropped since the war began, 3,000 fell in the last 3 days. Port operations at Umm Qasr looked to be delayed for weeks.
2003 – NBC said it severed its relations with reporter Peter Arnett after he told Iraqi television that the US war plan against Saddam Hussein had failed. Arnett was quickly hired by London’s Daily Mirror.
2003 – In Macedonia the EU began its first military operation by taking over peacekeeping duties from NATO.
2004 – The US Navy closed Naval Station Roosevelt Roads, its last base in Puerto Rico. It was transferred to a special naval agency that will coordinate the closing process. The base had been used for 6 decades to keep watch over the Caribbean.
2004 – The highly-publicized killing and mutilation of four Blackwater private military contractors takes place. Five days before American troops withdrew from Fallujah after intense fighting on March 26, 2004 (at which point Fallujah had already been declared insurgent-occupied) killed one Marine. The troops retreated to the city’s outskirts. The four independent contractors were guarding food shipments for a U.S. base on the outskirts of Fallujah, Iraq, when they took a wrong turn and entered the city. They were killed in a grenade attack by suspected insurgents, and their corpses were mutilated by cheering crowds.
2004 – The US suspended $26 million in aid to Serbia for refusal to give up war crimes fugitives.
2005 – A US presidential commission reported that US intelligence agencies were wrong in their prewar assessment of Iraq’s nuclear, biological and chemical weapons.
Congressional Medal of Honor Citations for Actions Taken This Day
BOEHM, PETER M.
Rank and organization: Second Lieutenant, Company K, 15th New York Cavalry. Place and date: At Dinwiddie Courthouse, Va., 31 March 1865. Entered service at: Brooklyn, N.Y. Birth: New York. Date of issue: 15 December 1898. Citation: While acting as aide to General Custer, took a flag from the hands of color bearer, rode in front of a line that was being driven back and, under a heavy fire, rallied the men, re-formed the line, and repulsed the charge.
HOOPER, WILLIAM B.
Rank and organization: Corporal, Company L, 1st New Jersey Cavalry. Place and date: At Chamberlains Creek, Va., 31 March 1865. Entered service at:——. Birth: Willimantic, Conn. Date of issue: 3 July 1865. Citation: With the assistance of a comrade, headed off the advance of the enemy, shooting two of his color bearers; also posted himself between the enemy and the led horses of his own command, thus saving the herd from capture.
KING, HORATIO C.
Rank and organization: Major and Quartermaster, U.S. Volunteers. Place and date: Near Dinwiddie Courthouse, Va., 31 March 1865. Entered service at: Brooklyn, N.Y. Born: 22 December 1837, Portland, Maine. Date of issue: 23 September 1897. Citation: While serving as a volunteer aide, carried orders to the reserve brigade and participated with it in the charge which repulsed the enemy.
LUTES, FRANKLIN W.
Rank and organization: Corporal, Company D, 111th New York Infantry. Place and date: At Petersburg, Va., 31 March 1865. Entered service at: ——. Birth: Oneida County, N.Y. Date of issue: 3 April 1865. Citation: Capture of flag of 41st Alabama Infantry (C.S.A.), together with the color bearer and one of the color guard.
SICKLES, WILLIAM H.
Rank and organization: Sergeant, Company B, 7th Wisconsin Infantry. Place and date: At Gravelly Run, Va., 31 March 1865. Entered service at: Columbia County, Wis. Birth: Danube, N.Y. Date of issue: Unknown. Citation: With a comrade, attempted capture of a stand of Confederate colors and detachment of 9 Confederates, actually taking prisoner 3 members of the detachment, dispersing the remainder, and recapturing a Union officer who was a prisoner in hands of the detachment.
Rank and organization: Sergeant, Company L, 1st New Jersey Cavalry. Place and date: At Chamberlains Creek, Va., 31 March 1865. Entered service at: Jersey City, N.J. Birth: England. Date of issue: 3 July 1865. Citation: With the assistance of one comrade, headed off the advance of the enemy, shooting 2 of his color bearers; also posted himself between the enemy and the lead horses of his own command, thus saving the herd from capture.
Rank and organization: Chief Master-at-Arms, U.S. Navy. Born: 12 June 1871, New York, N.Y. Accredited to: New York. G.O. No.: 525 29 July 1899. Citation: On board the U.S.S. New York off the coast of Jamaica, 31 March 1899. Showing gallant conduct, Stokes jumped overboard and assisted in the rescue of Peter Mahoney, watertender, U.S. Navy.
Rank and organization: Seaman, U.S. Navy. Born: 13 April 1870, Bellfast, Ireland. Accredited to: New York. G.O. No.: 85, 22 March 1902. Citation: On board the U.S.S. Petrel for heroism and gallantry, fearlessly exposing his own life to danger in saving others on the occasion of the flre on board that vessel, 31 March 1901.
Rank and organization: Seaman, U.S. Navy. Born: 21 January 1868, Guadaloupe, West Indies. Accredited to: Pennsylvania. G.O. No.: 85, 22 March 1902. Citation: Serving on board the U.S.S. Petrel, for heroism and gallantry, fearlessly exposing his own life to danger for the saving of others, on the occasion of the fire on board that vessel, 31 March 1901.
PFEIFER, LOUIS FRED
Rank and organization: Private, U.S. Marine Corps. (Served as Theis, Louis F., during first enlistment.) Born: 19 June 1876, Philadelphia, Pa. Accredited to: New Jersey. G.O. No.: 85, 22 March 1902. Citation: Serving on board the U.S.S. Petrel; for heroism and gallantry, fearlessly exposing his own life to danger for the saving of the others on the occasion of the fire on board that vessel, 31 March 1901.
THACKER, BRIAN MILES
Rank and organization: First Lieutenant, U.S. Army, Battery A, 1st Battalion, 92d Artillery. Place and date: Kontum Province, Republic of Vietnam, 31 March 1971. Entered service at: Salt Lake City, Utah. Born: 25 April 1945, Columbus, Ohio. Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. 1st Lt. Thacker, Field Artillery, Battery A, distinguished himself while serving as the team leader of an Integrated Observation System collocated with elements of 2 Army of the Republic of Vietnam units at Fire Base 6. A numerically superior North Vietnamese Army force launched a well-planned, dawn attack on the small, isolated, hilltop fire base. Employing rockets, grenades, flame-throwers, and automatic weapons, the enemy forces penetrated the perimeter defenses and engaged the defenders in hand-to-hand combat. Throughout the morning and early afternoon, 1st Lt. Thacker rallied and encouraged the U.S. and Republic of Vietnam soldiers in heroic efforts to repulse the enemy. He occupied a dangerously exposed observation position for a period of 4 hours while directing friendly air strikes and artillery fire against the assaulting enemy forces. His personal bravery and inspired leadership enabled the outnumbered friendly forces to inflict a maximum of casualties on the attacking enemy forces and prevented the base from being overrun. By late afternoon, the situation had become untenable. 1st Lt. Thacker organized and directed the withdrawal of the remaining friendly forces. With complete disregard for his personal safety, he remained inside the perimeter alone to provide covering fire with his M-16 rifle until all other friendly forces had escaped from the besieged fire base. Then, in an act of supreme courage, he called for friendly artillery fire on his own position to allow his comrades more time to withdraw safely from the area and, at the same time, inflict even greater casualties on the enemy forces. Although wounded and unable to escape from the area himself, he successfully eluded the enemy forces for 8 days until friendly forces regained control of the fire base. The extraordinary courage and selflessness displayed by 1st Lt. Thacker were an inspiration to his comrades and are in the highest traditions of the military service.