1776 – George Washington received an honorary doctor of law degree from Harvard College.
1797 – CAPT Thomas Truxtun issued first known American signal book using numerary system.
1817 – The “Peace Establishment Act” reduced the Marine Corps to 50 officers and 942 enlisted.
1847 – Marines and Sailors from the USS Portsmouth landed and captured San Lycas, Mexico.
1860 – The first Pony Express mail simultaneously leaves St. Joseph, Missouri, and Sacramento, California, carried by Henry Wallace riding west and John Roff riding east. During the 1,800-mile journey, the riders changed horses dozens of times, and on April 13 the westbound packet arrived in Sacramento, beating the eastbound packet’s arrival in St. Joseph by two days. Operating on a semiweekly basis for nearly two years, the route followed a pioneer trail across the present-day states of Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, and Nevada to California, carrying mail as well as some small freight for the young Wells Fargo Company. The Pony Express Company, a private enterprise, charged $5 for every half-ounce of mail. Although short-lived and unprofitable, the mail service captivated the American imagination and helped win federal aid for a more economical overland mail service. The Pony Express also contributed to the economy of the towns on its route and served the mail-service needs of the American West in the days before the telegraph or an efficient transcontinental railroad. Pony Express mail service was discontinued in October 1861.
1865 – The Rebel capital of Richmond falls to the Union, the most significant sign that the Confederacy is nearing its final days. For ten months, General Ulysses S. Grant had tried unsuccessfully to infiltrate the city. After Lee made a desperate attack against Fort Stedman along the Union line on March 25, Grant prepared for a major offensive. He struck at Five Forks on April 1, crushing the end of Lee’s line southwest of Petersburg. On April 2, the Yankees struck all along the Petersburg line, and the Confederates collapsed. On the evening of April 2, the Confederate government fled the city with the army right behind. Now, on the morning of April 3, blue-coated troops entered the capital. Richmond was the holy grail of the Union war effort, the object of four years of campaigning. Tens of thousands of Yankee lives were lost trying to get it, and nearly as many Confederate lives lost trying to defend it. Now, the Yankees came to take possession of their prize. One resident, Mary Fontaine, wrote, “I saw them unfurl a tiny flag, and I sank on my knees, and the bitter, bitter tears came in a torrent.” As the Federals rode in, another wrote that the city’s black residents were “completely crazed, they danced and shouted, men hugged each other, and women kissed.” Among the first forces into the capital were black troopers from the 5th Massachusetts Cavalry, and the next day President Abraham Lincoln visited the city. For the residents of Richmond, these were symbols of a world turned upside down. It was, one reporter noted, “…too awful to remember, if it were possible to be erased, but that cannot be.”
1865 – Battle at Namozine Church, Virginia (Appomattox Campaign).
1865 – Fifty of the sixty Midshipmen at the Confederate Naval Academy, under the command of Lieutenant William H. Parker, escorted the archives of the government and the specie and bullion of the treasury from Richmond to Danville.
1926 – Virgil Grissom (d.1967), Lt. Col. USAF, astronaut (Mercury 4, Gemini 3), was born in Mitchell, Ind. He was the Mercury and Gemini astronaut who was killed in a fire while preparing for the first Apollo flight.
1926 – Robert Goddard launched his 2nd flight of a liquid-fueled rocket.
1942 – The Japanese infantry stage a major offensive against Allied troops in Bataan, the peninsula guarding Manila Bay of the Philippine Islands. The invasion of the Japanese 14th Army, which began in December 1941 and was led by General Masaharu Homma, had already forced General Douglas MacArthur’s troops from Manila, the Philippine capital, into Bataan, in part because of poor strategizing on MacArthur’s part. By March, after MacArthur had left for Australia on President Roosevelt’s orders and been replaced by Major General Edward P. King Jr., the American Luzon Force and its Filipino allies were half-starved and suffering from malnutrition, malaria, beriberi, dysentery, and hookworm. Homma, helped by reinforcements and an increase in artillery and aircraft activity, took advantage of the U.S. and Filipinos’ weakened condition. The Japanese attack signaled the beginning of the end and would result, six days later, in the surrender of the largest number of U.S. troops in U.S. military history.
1942 – ADM Nimitz named Commander-in-Chief, Pacific Ocean Areas, a joint command, and retained his other title, Commander-in-Chief, Pacific Fleet.
1943 – Attacks by American General Patton’s 2nd Corps around El Guettar are held by the Axis defenders.
1944 – The B-17 and B-24 bombers of the US 15th Air Force drop 1100 tons of bombs on rail and industrial targets in Budapest. During the night, RAF Liberator and Wellington bombers carry out a follow-up raid. The attacks necessitate the closure of all the railway stations in the city.
1945 – On Okinawa, Marines of the III Amphibious Corps continued to make good progress all along their front, clearing Zampa Misaki and seizing the Katchin Peninsula, thus effectively cutting the island in two. By this date (D+2), III AC elements had reached objectives thought originally to require 11 days to take. In Kamikaze attacks by Japanese planes, one escort carrier and other ships are hit. American artillery spotter planes begin operating from Kadena airfield.
1945 – Part of the US 40th Division lands on Masbate to assist Filipino guerrillas who have controlled part of it for several days.
1946 – Lt. General Masaharu Homma, the Japanese commander responsible for the Bataan Death March, was executed outside Manila in the Philippines.
1948 – President Harry S. Truman signs off on legislation establishing the Foreign Assistance Act of 1948, more popularly known as the Marshall Plan. The act eventually provided over $12 billion of assistance to aid in the economic recovery of Western Europe. In the first years following the end of World War II, the economies of the various nations of Western Europe limped along. Unemployment was high, money was scarce, and homelessness and starvation were not unknown in the war-ravaged countries. U.S. policymakers considered the situation fraught with danger. In the developing Cold War era, some felt that economic privation in Western Europe made for a fertile breeding ground for communist propaganda. A key element of America’s policy to contain the influence of the Soviet Union was the recovery of Western Germany (Eastern Germany was occupied by Soviet troops), and that recovery required the revitalization of Germany’s natural markets in Western Europe. In addition, strengthening the economies of other Western European countries would better equip them to fight the threat of communism, either from Soviet expansion or from domestic communist parties. In June 1947, Secretary of State George C. Marshall made a dramatic call for a massive economic recovery program, one that would provide billions for the stagnant economies of Western Europe. The result of Marshall’s call to action was the Foreign Assistance Act of 1948, which was passed by wide margins in Congress. In signing the act, President Truman declared that it represented “perhaps the greatest venture in constructive statesmanship that any nation has undertaken.” Secretary Marshall congratulated Congress for having “faced a great crisis with courage and wisdom.” The act provided an initial grant of $4 billion for Western Europe. By the time the program came to an end in late 1951 over $12 billion had been expended. Although the Marshall Plan was not an absolute success (the large influx of American dollars led to rampant inflation in some areas), it did stabilize and revitalize the economies of Western Europe. British Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin declared that it had been “a lifeline to sinking men.”
1951 – Eighth Army, led by the 1st Cavalry Division, crossed the 38th parallel.
1951 – U.S. Air Force Captain Robert H. Moore, 4th Fighter-Interceptor Wing, shot down his fifth enemy plane and became the ninth ace of the Korean War.
1965 – Three days of combined US/South Vietnam air raids begin against bridges and roads in the North. Particular targets are the Hamrong and Dongphong bridges, major rail links to Hanoi. Four Russian built MiG fighters engage the raiders in the first reported combat by the North Vietnamese Air Force.
1966 – Three-thousand South Vietnamese Army troops led a protest against the Ky regime in Saigon.
1968 – North Vietnam agreed to meet with U.S. representatives to set up preliminary peace talks though Hanoi first denounces bombing limitations as a “perfidious trick.” In its regular radio broadcasts they characterize the meeting to discuss “the unconditional cessation of the US bombing raids and all other acts of war against the Democratic Republic of Vietnam so that talks may start.” President Johnson ignores the rhetoric and simply announces the intent to “establish contact with the representatives of North Vietnam.”
1969 – Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird announces that the United States is moving to “Vietnamize” the war as rapidly as possible. By this, he meant that the responsibility for the fighting would be gradually transferred to the South Vietnamese as they became more combat capable. However, Laird emphasized that it would not serve the United States’ purpose to discuss troop withdrawals while the North Vietnamese continued to conduct offensive operations in South Vietnam. Despite Laird’s protestations to the contrary, Nixon’s “Vietnamization” program, as he would announce it in June, did include a series of scheduled U.S. troop withdrawals, the first of the war.
1969 – U.S. military headquarters in Saigon announce that combat deaths for the last week of March have pushed the total number of Americans killed during eight years of U.S. involvement in Vietnam to 33,641. This was 12 more deaths than during the Korean War. By the end of the war, 47,244 Americans had been killed in action in Vietnam. An additional 10,446 died as a result of non-hostile causes like disease and accidents.
1970 – US troops pursuing a Communist battalion toward the Cambodian border meet heavy resistance.
1972 – The United States prepares hundreds of B-52s and fighter-bombers for possible air strikes to blunt the recently launched North Vietnamese invasion. The aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk was sent from the Philippines to join the carriers already off the coast of Vietnam and provide additional air support. This attack was the opening move of the North Vietnamese Nguyen Hue Offensive (later called the “Easter Offensive”), a massive invasion by North Vietnamese forces designed to strike the blow that would win them the war. The attacking force included 14 infantry divisions and 26 separate regiments, with more than 120,000 troops and approximately 1,200 tanks and other armored vehicles. The main North Vietnamese objectives, in addition to Quang Tri in the north, were Kontum in the Central Highlands, and An Loc farther to the south. North Vietnam had a number of reasons for launching the offensive: impressing the communist world and its own people with its determination; capitalizing on U.S. antiwar sentiment and possibly hurting President Richard Nixon’s chances for re-election; proving that “Vietnamization” was a failure; damaging the South Vietnamese forces and government stability; gaining as much territory as possible before a possible truce; and accelerating negotiations on their own terms. Initially, the South Vietnamese defenders were almost overwhelmed, particularly in the northernmost provinces, where they abandoned their positions in Quang Tri and fled south in the face of the enemy onslaught. At Kontum and An Loc, the South Vietnamese were more successful in defending against the attacks, but only after weeks of bitter fighting. Although the defenders suffered heavy casualties, they managed to hold their own with the aid of U.S. advisors and American airpower. Fighting continued all over South Vietnam into the summer months, but eventually the South Vietnamese forces prevailed against the invaders and retook Quang Tri in September. With the communist invasion blunted, President Nixon declared that the South Vietnamese victory proved the viability of his Vietnamization program, instituted in 1969 to increase the combat capability of the South Vietnamese armed forces.
1973 – Martin Cooper of Motorola makes the first handheld mobile phone call to Joel S. Engel of Bell Labs, though it took ten years for the DynaTAC 8000X to become the first such phone to be commercially released.
1974 – A tape from the SLA announced Patty Hearst’s decision to “stay and fight” with the SLA.
1974 – The Joint Committee on Internal Revenue Taxation of the Congress reported that $476,531 in back taxes and interest was owed by President Richard Nixon. Responding to charges of fraud, Nixon requested the committee investigation of his taxes and, upon its report, agreed to pay. The report made no conclusion regarding fraud.
1981 – The Osborne 1, the first successful portable computer, is unveiled at the West Coast Computer Faire in San Francisco.
1991 – U.N. Security Council Resolution 687 specifies the cease-fire conditions. The Resolution mandates that Iraq respect the sovereignty of Kuwait and declare and destroy, remove, or render harmless all ballistic missile systems with a range of more than 150 kilometres. It also confirms that Iraq must repatriate all Kuwaiti and third-state nationals and extend complete cooperation to the Red Cross in these efforts; and create a compensation fund, financed by Iraq, to meet its liability for losses, damages, and injuries related to its unlawful occupation of Kuwait.
1992 – First five coed recruit companies from Orlando, FL Naval Training Center granduate.
1996 – At his small wilderness cabin near Lincoln, Montana, Theodore John Kaczynski is arrested by FBI agents and accused of being the Unabomber, the elusive terrorist blamed for 16 mail bombs that killed three people and injured 23 during an 18-year period. Kaczynski, born in Chicago in 1942, won a scholarship to study mathematics at Harvard University at age 16. After receiving his Ph.D. from the University of Michigan, he became a professor at the University of California at Berkeley. Although celebrated as a brilliant mathematician, he suffered from persistent social and emotional problems, and in 1969 abruptly ended his promising career at Berkeley. Disillusioned with the world around him, he tried to buy land in the Canadian wilderness but in 1971 settled for a 1.4-acre plot near his brother’s home in Montana. For the next 25 years, Kaczynski lived as a hermit, occasionally working odd jobs and traveling but mostly living off his land. He developed a philosophy of radical environmentalism and militant opposition to modern technology, and tried to get academic essays on the subjects published. It was the rejection of one of his papers by two Chicago-area universities in 1978 that may have prompted him to manufacture and deliver his first mail bomb. The package was addressed to the University of Illinois from Northwestern University, but was returned to Northwestern, where a security guard was seriously wounded while opening the suspicious package. In 1979, Kaczynski struck again at Northwestern, injuring a student at the Technological Institute. Later that year, his third bomb exploded on an American Airlines flight, causing injuries from smoke inhalation. In 1980, a bomb mailed to the home of Percy Wood, the president of United Airlines, injured Wood when he tried to open it. As Kaczynski seemed to be targeting universities and airlines, federal investigators began calling their suspect the Unabomber, an acronym of sorts for university, airline, and bomber. From 1981 to 1985, there were seven more bombs, four at universities, one at a professor’s home, one at the Boeing Company in Auburn, Wash., and one at a computer store in Sacramento. Six people were injured, and in 1985 the owner of the computer store was killed–the Unabomber’s first murder. In 1987, a woman saw a man wearing aviator glasses and a hooded sweatshirt placing what turned out to be a bomb outside a computer store in Salt Lake City. The sketch of the suspect that emerged became the first representation of the Unabomber, and Kaczynski, fearing capture, halted his terrorist campaign for six years. In June 1993, a lethal mail bomb severely injured a University of California geneticist at his home, and two days later a computer science professor at Yale was badly injured by a similar bomb. Various federal departments established the UNABOM Task Force, which launched an intensive search for a Unabomber suspect. In 1994, a mail bomb killed an advertising executive at his home in New Jersey. Kaczynski had mistakenly thought that the man worked for a firm that repaired the Exxon Company’s public relations after the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill. In April 1995, a bomb killed the president of a timber-industry lobbying group. It was the Unabomber’s last attack. Soon after, Kaczynski sent a manifesto to The New York Times and The Washington Post, saying he would stop the killing if it were published. In 1995, The Washington Post published the so-called “Unabomber’s Manifesto,” a 35,000-word thesis on what Kaczynski perceived to be the problems with America’s industrial and technological society. Kaczynski’s brother, David, read the essay and recognized his brother’s ideas and language; he informed the FBI in February 1996 that he suspected that his brother was the Unabomber. On April 3, Ted Kaczynski was arrested at his cabin in Montana, and extensive evidence–including a live bomb and an original copy of the manifesto–was discovered at the site. Indicted on more than a dozen federal charges, he appeared briefly in court in 1996 to plead not guilty to all charges. During the next year and a half, Kaczynski wrangled with his defense attorneys, who wanted to issue an insanity plea against his wishes. Kaczynski wanted to defend what he saw as legitimate political motives in carrying out the attacks, but at the start of the Unabomber trial in January 1998 the judge rejected his requests acquire a new defense team and represent himself. On January 22, Kaczynski pleaded guilty on all counts and was spared the death penalty. He showed no remorse for his crimes and in May was sentenced to four life sentences plus 30 years.
1996 – Ronald H. Brown, the U.S. secretary of commerce, is killed along with 32 other Americans when their U.S. Air Force plane crashes into a mountain near Dubrovnik, Croatia. Brown was leading a delegation of business executives to the former Yugoslavia to explore business opportunities that might help rebuild the war-torn region. Brown, born in Washington, D.C., in 1941, grew up in New York City’s Harlem neighborhood, where he worked as a welfare caseworker before joining the U.S. Army. After holding positions in the National Urban League, an advocacy group for the renewal of inner cities, he became a member of the U.S. Supreme Court bar and served as chief counsel for the Senate Judiciary Committee. In 1989, he was elected chairman of the Democratic Party National Committee, becoming the first African American to hold the top position in a major political party in the United States. As chairman, Brown played a pivotal role in securing the 1992 election of Bill Clinton, the first Democratic president in 12 years. In 1993, Clinton appointed Brown to be the first African American secretary of commerce, a position he held until his death in 1996.
1998 – Douglas Fred Groat, a disgruntled spy fired by the CIA, was charged with espionage and extortion. Groat later pleaded guilty to extortion, and was sentenced to five years in prison.
1999 – NATO missiles struck downtown Belgrade for the first time, destroying the headquarters of security forces accused of waging a campaign against Kosovo Albanians. NATO bombs struck the Serbian Internal Ministry buildings near the Sava River.
1999 – The Iraqi port of Mina al-Bakr, export terminal for roughly half of all Iraqi oil exports under the United Nations oil-for-food program, is reopened.
2000 – US defense chief Cohen said that the US would join an int’l. force in south Lebanon when Israel pulls out.
2000 – In Bosnia NATO troops arrested Momcilo Krajisnik, former speaker of the Bosnian Serb assembly, for war crimes and flew him to the Netherlands to stand trial.
2001 – President Bush warned China it risked damaging relations with the United States unless it quickly released the American crew of a damaged Navy spy plane. The plane had made an emergency landing in China after colliding with a Chinese fighter.
2002 – The US-financed Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty began broadcasting in the North Caucasus region that included Chechnya. The Kremlin viewed the broadcasts as interference with internal affairs.
2002 – Afghan security officials reported the arrests of hundreds of political opponents who planned a conspiracy and bombing campaign that was linked to Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. 140 men were released the next day, while 160 remained under detention.
2003 – Moving with a sense of wartime urgency, the House and Senate separately agreed to give President Bush nearly $80 billion to carry out the battle against Iraq and meet the threat of terrorism.
2003 – In the 16th day of Operation Iraqi Freedom US Marines and infantry moved with surprising speed toward Baghdad. Central Command said there was “increasing evidence” that Saddam Hussein’s regime had lost control of its fighting forces. US troop casualty totaled: 51 dead, 16 missing and 7 captured. A power blackout in Baghdad coincided with heavy artillery fire. US forces attacked Saddam Int’l. Airport.
2003 – US Sec. of State Colin Powell assured NATO allies and the EU that the Bush administration seeks a partnership with the United Nations for the reconstruction of post-war Iraq.
2003 – Afghan militia soldiers and 2-day blistering airstrikes by US-led coalition planes killed eight suspected Taliban fighters in the southern mountains.
2004 – A U.S.-led multinational force trying to bring stability to Haiti helped detain Jean Robert, a rebel sympathizer and gang leader accused of terrorizing supporters of Aristide.
2004 – In Spain Sarhane Abdelmajid Fakhet (35), a Tunisian national and the alleged ringleader of last month’s train bombings in Madrid, was among 5 suspects who blew themselves up as police raided their apartment.
Congressional Medal of Honor Citations for Actions Taken This Day
Rank and organization: Corporal, Company E, 126th Ohio Infantry. Place and date: At Petersburg, Va., 3 April 1865. Entered service at: ——. Birth: Lancaster, Pa. Date of issue: 10 May 1865. Citation: Capture of flag.
Rank and organization: Lieutenant, Company B, 1st New Jersey Veteran Battalion. Place and date: At Petersburg, Va., 3 April 1865. Entered service at:——. Birth: Elizabeth, N.J. Date of issue: 10 May 1865. Citation: Capture of battle flag of 46th North Carolina (C.S.A.).
BRIGGS, ELIJAH A.
Rank and organization: Corporal, Company B, 2d Connecticut Heavy Artillery. Place and date: At Petersburg, Va., 3 April 1865. Entered service at: Salisbury, Conn. Birth: Salisbury, Conn. Date of issue: 10 May 1865. Citation: Capture of battle flag.
*WETZEL, WALTER C.
Rank and organization: Private First Class, U.S. Army, 13th Infantry, 8th Infantry Division. Place and date: Birken, Germany, 3 April 1945. Entered service at: Roseville, Mich. Birth: Huntington, W. Va. G.O. No.: 21, 26 February 1946. Citation: Pfc. Wetzel, an acting squad leader with the Antitank Company of the 13th Infantry, was guarding his platoon’s command post in a house at Birken, Germany, during the early morning hours of 3 April 1945, when he detected strong enemy forces moving in to attack. He ran into the house, alerted the occupants and immediately began defending the post against heavy automatic weapons fire coming from the hostile troops. Under cover of darkness the Germans forced their way close to the building where they hurled grenades, 2 of which landed in the room where Pfc. Wetzel and the others had taken up firing positions. Shouting a warning to his fellow soldiers, Pfc. Wetzel threw himself on the grenades and, as they exploded, absorbed their entire blast, suffering wounds from which he died. The supreme gallantry of Pfc. Wetzel saved his comrades from death or serious injury and made it possible for them to continue the defense of the command post and break the power of a dangerous local counterthrust by the enemy. His unhesitating sacrifice of his life was in keeping with the U.S. Army’s highest traditions of bravery and heroism.