May 17

17 May

1673 – Louis Joliet and Jacques Marquette began exploring the Mississippi.
1733 – England passed the Molasses Act, putting high tariffs on rum and molasses imported to the colonies from a country other than British possessions.
1775 – The Continental Congress bans trade with Quebec.
1792The early 1790s were not a good time for New York’s burgeoning class of speculative traders. Their collective reputation had been badly tarnished by the fall of William Duer, a powerful speculator who illegally parlayed privileged information into successful speculative trades. Along with an extended jail term, the maneuver left Duer broke, which all but destroyed the tradersý nascent market. However, rather than give up on speculative trading, the dealers and auctioneers decided to clean up their operations. On this day in 1792, a group of twenty-four traders gathered under a buttonwood tree at 68 Wall Street in lower Manhattan to mete out the conditions and regulations of the speculative market. The result was the Buttonwood Agreement, a modest, two-sentence contract that gave birth to the New York Stock Exchange, which would become the worldýs largest forum for trading stocks and securities. Where speculators had previously conducted their auctions twice a day in various locations, including street corners and coffeehouses, the Buttonwood Agreement established stricter rules and parameters to more effectively govern trading.
1862Joint expedition including U.S.S. Sebago, Lieutenant Murray, and U.S.S. Currituck, Acting Master Shankland, with troops embarked on transport Seth Low, at the request of General McClellan ascended the Pamunkey River to twenty-five miles above White House. Confederates burned seventeen vessels, some loaded with coal and commissary stores. The river was so narrow at this point that the Union gunboats were compelled to return stern foremost for several miles. General McClellan reported that the ”expedition was admirably managed, and all concerned deserve great credit.”
1863The Union army defeats the Confederates on the Big Black River and drives them into Vicksburg in part of a brilliant campaign by General Ulysses S. Grant. Grant had swung his army down the Mississippi River past the strong riverfront defenses, and landed in Mississippi south of Vicksburg. He then moved northeast toward Jackson and split his force to defeat Joseph Johnston’s troops in Jackson and John C. Pemberton’s at Champion’s Hill. During the engagement at Champion’s Hill, a Confederate division under William Loring split from Pemberton’s main force and drifted south of the battlefield. Pemberton was forced to retreat to the Big Black River where he waited for Loring’s troops. Loring, however, was heading east to join Johnston’s army because he believed he could not reach Pemberton. While Pemberton waited for Loring on a bridge over the Big Black River, Grant attacked. Pemberton suffered his second defeat in two days at the Big Black River. The battle began at dawn, and by 10 a.m. the Confederate position appeared hopeless. Confederate casualties numbered 1,752 killed, wounded, and captured, to the Yankees’ 279. Pemberton withdrew across the bridge and then burned it down. With the bridge out, Grant could no longer advance. But he now had Pemberton backed up into Vicksburg. He soon closed the ring and laid siege to the town, which surrendered on July 4.
1864 – The Battle of Adairsville, Georgia, resulted in a Confederate retreat.
1871 – Gen. Sherman, Indian fighter, escaped in ambulance from the Comanches.
1876 – The 7th US Cavalry under Custer left Ft. Lincoln.
1884 – Alaska became a US territory.
1885For the second time in two years, the Apache chief Geronimo breaks out of an Arizona reservation, sparking panic among Arizona settlers. A famous medicine man and the leader of the Chiricahua Apache, Geronimo achieved national fame by being the last American Indian to surrender formally to the United States. For nearly 30 years, Geronimo and his followers resisted the attempts of Americans to take away their southwestern homeland and confine them to a reservation. He was a fearless warrior and a master of desert survival. The best officers of the U.S. Army found it nearly impossible to find Geronimo, much less decisively defeat him. In 1877, Geronimo was forced to move to the San Carlos, Arizona, reservation for the first time, but he was scarcely beaten. Instead, Geronimo treated the reservation as just one small part of the vast territory he still considered to belong to the Apache. Fed up with the strictures and corruption of the reservation, he and many other Apache broke out for the first time in 1881. For nearly two years, the Apache band raided the southwestern countryside despite the best efforts of the army to stop them. Finally, Geronimo wearied of the continual harassment of the U.S. Army and agreed to return to the reservation in 1884, much on his own terms. He did not stay long. Among the many rules imposed upon the Apache on the reservation was the prohibition of any liquor, including a weak beer they had traditionally brewed from corn. In early May 1885, Geronimo and a dozen other leaders deliberately staged a corn beer festival. Reasoning that the authorities would be unlikely to try to punish such a large group, they openly admitted the deed, expecting that it would lead to negotiations. Because of a communication mix-up, however, the army failed to respond. Geronimo and the others assumed the delay indicated the army was preparing some drastic punishment for their crime. Rather than remain exposed and vulnerable on the reservation, Geronimo fled with 42 men and 92 women and children. Quickly moving south, Geronimo raided settlements along the way for supplies. In one instance, he attacked a ranch owned by a man named Phillips, killing him, his wife, and his two children. Frightened settlers demanded swift military action, and General George Crook coordinated a combined Mexican and American manhunt for the Apache. Thousands of soldiers tracked the fugitives but Geronimo and his band split into small groups and remained elusive. Crook’s failure to apprehend the Indians led to his eventual resignation. General Nelson Miles replaced him. Miles committed 5,000 troops to the campaign and even established 30 heliograph stations to improve communications. Still, Miles was also unable to find the elusive warrior. Informed that many of the reservation Apache, including his own family, had been taken to Florida, Geronimo apparently lost the will to fight. After a year and a half of running, Geronimo and his 38 remaining followers surrendered unconditionally to Miles on September 3, 1886. Relocated to Florida, Geronimo was imprisoned and kept from his family for two years. Finally, he was freed and moved with this family to Indian Territory in Oklahoma. He died of pneumonia at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, in 1909.
1916 – President Woodrow Wilson announces that the US may have to intervene in the war in Europe and should certainly have a role in any peace-making process.
1938 – Congress passed the Vinson Naval Act, providing for a two-ocean navy.
1940 – FDR announces plans to recommission 35 more destroyers.
1942 – USS Tautog (SS-199) sinks Japanese sub, I-28; while USS Triton (SS-201) sinks I-164.
1943The Memphis Belle, one of a group of American bombers based in Britain, becomes the first B-17 to complete 25 missions over Europe. The Memphis Belle performed its 25th and last mission, in a bombing raid against Lorient, a German submarine base. But before returning back home to the United States, film footage was shot of Belle’s crew receiving combat medals. This was but one part of a longer documentary on a day in the life of an American bomber, which included dramatic footage of a bomber being shot out of the sky, with most of its crew parachuting out, one by one. Another film sequence showed a bomber returning to base with its tail fin missing. What looked like damage inflicted by the enemy was, in fact, the result of a collision with another American bomber. The Memphis Belle documentary would not be released for another 11 months, as more footage was compiled to demonstrate the risks these pilots ran as they bombed “the enemy again and again and again-until he has had enough.” The film’s producer, Lieutenant Colonel William Wyler, was known for such non-military fare as The Letter, Wuthering Heights, and Jezebel.
1944Allied forces of the US 5th Army continue to advance in the Liri Valley. Piumarolo, Monte Faggeta, Esperia and Formia are all captured. The Polish 2nd Corps captures Sant’Angelo. The French Expeditionary Corps is held beyond Esperia, near Monte d’Ore. The German 10th Army (Vietinghoff) has been reinforced by 3 division from Army Group C (Kesselring) reserves but it is unable to halt the Allies. The German command decides withdraw to a new line of defense.
1944 – US forces land on Insumarai Island and at Arare on the mainland nearby. Admiral Crutchley and Admiral Berkey command cruisers and destroyers covering the landings.
1944Allied aircraft carriers HMS Illustrious and USS Saratoga raid oil installations at Surabaya, on Java. Battleships of the British Eastern Fleet (Admiral Sommerville) provide escort. The Japanese lose 1 freighter and 12 aircraft on the ground. Only 1 Allied plane is lost. During the night, land-based Liberator bombers raid the installations again.
1945On Luzon, the US 152nd Division, part of US 11th Corps, entrenches in favorable positions on Woodpecker Ridge as the Japanese retire. The US 43rd Division captures the Ipoh dam, the main source of water for Manila, intact after an intensive bombing and artillery preparation.
1945On Okinawa, the US 6th Marine Division, part of US 3rd Amphibious Corps, continues assaulting Sugar Loaf hill have Japanese positions are heavily bombarded by aircraft, artillery and ships. Elements of US 1st Marine Division capture the western part of the Wana valley but fail to take the ridge. Units of the US 77th Division, part of US 24th Corps, make a surprise attack on Ishimmi Ridge, west of the village, and end up in positions exposed to Japanese fire.
1945 – Aircraft from the USS Ticonderoga attack targets on the Japanese held island of Taroa and the Maleolap atoll, encountering limited resistance.
1951 – Aircraft from carriers attack bridges between Wonsan and Hamhung, Korea.
1961 – Cuban leader Fidel Castro offered to exchange prisoners captured in the abortive Bay of Pigs invasion for 500 bulldozers.
1962Three thousand US Marines begin landing at Bangkok, Thailand, in response to troop movements near the Thai border by the Soviet-supported Laotian Pathet Lao army. The Marines are flown 350 miles north to Udorn, which is 35 miles form the Laotian capital of Vientiane. This US show of force, ordered by President Kennedy at the request of the Thai government, is out of Thailand by the beginning of August.
1964On the 16th, the Communist Pathet Lao succeeded in driving the neutralist forces lead by Kong-Le from the Plain of Jars, marking the end of any efforts at a coalition government and leaving Souvanna Phouma and his followers in control. When word of this reaches Washington, President Johnson orders the Seventh Fleet in the South China Sea to prepare for a possible military action. Officials begin drawing up a resolution that Johnson might present to Congress to get it to declare that the independence and integrity of Laos are vital to US interests.
1966 – Naval Support Activity Saigon established.
1967 – US Marines at Dongha, Giolinh, Camlo, and Camp Carroll are bombarded.
1968 – 1st Air Cavalry’s Operation Jeb Stuart III begins along the border of Quang Tri and Thua Thien provinces. The operation will continue to the first week of November.
1968 – 101st Airborne Division’s Operation Nevada Eagle begins in =central Thua Thien Province. This operation will conclude at the end of February 1969.
1968The second Air Guard unit to arrive in Vietnam is Iowa’s 174th Tactical Fighter Squadron. When not engaged in combat operations many of the men volunteered their time to work with abandoned children in nearby orphanages. The medical personnel treated Vietnamese civilians for a variety of diseases and injuries under the MEDCAP (Medical Civic Action Program) project. Some Guardsmen wrote home about the bad conditions at the orphanage and had their families, with the help of local churches and businesses, gather donated clothes, toys, books, and school supplies to help these children.
1970A force of 10,000 South Vietnamese troops, supported by 200 U.S. advisers, aircraft and logistical elements, attack into what was known as the “Parrot’s Beak,” the area of Cambodia that projects into South Vietnam above the Mekong Delta. The South Vietnamese reached the town of Takeo in a 20-mile thrust. This action was part of the ongoing operation ordered by President Richard Nixon in April. U.S. and South Vietnamese forces launched a limited “incursion” into Cambodia that included 13 major ground operations to clear North Vietnamese sanctuaries 20 miles inside the Cambodian border in both the “Parrot’s Beak” and the densely vegetated “Fishhook” area (across the border from South Vietnam, 70 miles from Saigon). Some 50,000 South Vietnamese soldiers and 30,000 U.S. troops were involved, making it the largest operation of the war since Operation Junction City in 1967. In the United States, news of the incursion set off a wave of antiwar demonstrations, including one at Kent State University that resulted in the killing of four students by Army National Guard troops. Another protest at Jackson State in Mississippi resulted in the shooting of two students when police opened fire on a women’s dormitory. The incursion also angered many in Congress who felt that Nixon was illegally widening the scope of the war; this resulted in a series of congressional resolutions and legislative initiatives that would severely limit the executive power of the president.
1972 – All colleges and universities in South Vietnam are closed to allow for the conscription of students.
1972Preceded by five B-52 strikes, which reportedly killed 300 North Vietnamese to the south, South Vietnamese forces arrive by helicopter to within two miles of An Loc in continuing efforts to relieve this besieged city. It had been surrounded by three North Vietnamese divisions since early April. The North Vietnamese had been holding An Loc under siege for almost three months while they made repeated attempts to take the city. The defenders suffered heavy casualties, including 2,300 dead or missing, but with the aid of U.S. advisors and American airpower, they managed to hold An Loc against vastly superior odds until the siege was finally lifted on June 18.
1973In Washington, D.C., the Senate Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities, headed by Senator Sam Ervin of North Carolina, begins televised hearings on the escalating Watergate affair. One week later, Harvard law professor Archibald Cox was sworn in as special Watergate prosecutor. On June 17, 1972, five men were arrested for breaking into and illegally wiretapping the Democratic National Committee headquarters in the Watergate complex in Washington, D.C. One of the suspects, James W. McCord Jr., was revealed to be the salaried security coordinator for President Richard Nixon’s reelection committee. Two other men with White House ties were later implicated in the break-in: E. Howard Hunt, Jr., a former White House aide, and G. Gordon Liddy, finance counsel for the Committee for the Re-election of the President. Journalists and the Select Committee discovered a higher-echelon conspiracy surrounding the incident, and a political scandal of unprecedented magnitude erupted. In May 1973, the special Senate committee began televised proceedings on the Watergate affair. During the Senate hearings, former White House legal counsel John Dean testified that the Watergate break-in had been approved by former Attorney General John Mitchell with the knowledge of chief White House advisers John Ehrlichman and H.R. Haldeman, and that President Nixon had been aware of the cover-up. Meanwhile, Watergate prosecutor Cox and his staff began to uncover widespread evidence of political espionage by the Nixon reelection committee, illegal wiretapping of thousands of citizens by the administration, and contributions to the Republican Party in return for political favors. In July, the existence of what were to be called the Watergate tapes–official recordings of White House conversations between Nixon and his staff–was revealed during the Senate hearings. Cox subpoenaed these tapes, and after three months of delay President Nixon agreed to send summaries of the recordings. Cox rejected the summaries, and Nixon fired him. His successor as special prosecutor, Leon Jaworski, leveled indictments against several high-ranking administration officials, including Mitchell and Dean, who were duly convicted. Public confidence in the president rapidly waned, and by the end of July 1974 the House Judiciary Committee had adopted three articles of impeachment against President Nixon: obstruction of justice, abuse of presidential powers, and hindrance of the impeachment process. On July 30, under coercion from the Supreme Court, Nixon finally released the Watergate tapes. On August 5, transcripts of the recordings were released, including a segment in which the president was heard instructing Haldeman to order the FBI to halt the Watergate investigation. Four days later, Nixon became the first president in U.S. history to resign. On September 8, his successor, President Gerald Ford, pardoned him from any criminal charges.
1973 – First woman to hold a major Navy command, Captain Robin Lindsay Quigley assumes command of Navy Service School, San Diego, CA.
1987 – At 8:00pm local time, a Mirage F-1 fighter jet took off from Iraq’s Shaibah military airport and headed south into the Persian Gulf, flying along the Saudi Arabian coast. An Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) plane, in the air over Saudi Arabia and manned by a joint American-Saudi crew, detected the aircraft. Aboard the USS Stark, a Perry-class frigate on duty in the gulf,… radar operators picked up the Mirage when it was some 200 miles away; it was flying at 5,000 feet and traveling at 550 mph. Captain Glenn Brindel, 43, commander of the Stark, was not particularly alarmed. He knew it was fairly common for Iraqi and Iranian warplanes to fly over the gulf. Earlier in the day, Iraqi jets had fired missiles into a Cypriot tanker, disabling the vessel. But no American vessel had been attacked.  In keeping with standard procedure, Captain Brindel ordered a radio message flashed at 10:09 PM: “Unknown aircraft, this is U.S. Navy warship on your 078 for twelve miles. Request you identify yourself.” There was no reply. A second request was sent. Still no answer. Brindel noted that the aircraft’s pilot had not locked his targeting radar on the Stark, so he expected it to veer away.  At 10:10 PM, the AWACS crew noticed that the Mirage had banked suddenly and then turned northward, as though heading for home. What they failed to detect was the launching by the Iraqi pilot of two Exocet AM39 air-to-surface missiles. The Exocets had a range of 40 miles and each carried a 352 lb. warhead. For some reason, the sea-skimming missiles were not detected by the Stark’s sophisticated monitoring equipment. A lookout spotted the first Exocet just seconds before the missile struck, tearing a ten-by-fifteen-foot hole in the warship’s steel hull on the port side before ripping through the crew’s quarters. The resulting fire rushed upward into the vessel’s combat information center, disabling the electrical systems. The second missile plowed into the frigate’s superstructure.  A crewman sent a distress signal with a handheld radio that was picked up by the USS Waddell, a destroyer on patrol nearby. Meanwhile, the AWACS crew requested that two airborne Saudi F-15s pursue the Iraqi Mirage. But ground controllers at Dhahran airbase said they lacked the authority to embark on such a mission, and the Mirage was safely back in Iraqi airspace before approval could be obtained.  As fires raged aboard the Stark, Brindel ordered the starboard side blooded to keep the gaping hole on the port side above the waterline. All through the night the fate of the stricken frigate was in doubt. Once the inferno was finally under control, the Stark limped back to port. The Navy immediately launched an investigation into an incident that had cost 37 American seamen their lives. The Stark was endowed with an impressive array of defenses — an MK92 fire control system that could intercept incoming aircraft at a range of 90 miles; an OTO gun that could fire three-inch anti-aircraft shells at a rate of 90 per minute; electronic defenses that could produce bogus radar images to deceive attackers; and the Phalanx, a six-barreled gun that could fire 3,000 uranium rounds a minute at incoming missiles. Brindel insisted that his ship’s combat system was fully operational, but Navy technicians in Bahrain said the Stark’s Phalanx system had not been working properly when the frigate put out to sea. (Brindel was relieved of duty and later forced to retire.)  A C141B Starlifter carried 35 flag-draped caskets to the Stark’s home base at Mayport, Florida. (Two of the crewmen were lost at sea during the attack.) President Reagan and the First Lady were on hand to extend condolences to grieving families. Reagan was under fire from Congress and the press for putting American servicemen in harm’s way on a vaguely defined mission. “We need to rethink exactly what we are doing in the Persian Gulf,” said Republican Senator Robert Dole. The Senate overwhelmingly passed a resolution, sponsored by Dole and Democratic Senator Robert Byrd, that demanded the president explain to Congress the strategy and goals of the Persian Gulf mission — and the risks involved. Congress was also unhappy with Saudi Arabia for what it viewed as a lackadaisical response to the request to pursue the Iraqi Mirage — so unhappy, in fact, that the administration thought it wise to delay submission of a proposal to sell new F-15 fighter jets to the Saudis.  The strife in the gulf had started in 1984 when Iran and Iraq, at war since 1980, began attacking each other’s ships. Inevitably, the vessels of third countries became targets. Over 200 ships had been attacked in the past three years. The Iranians were particularly keen to target the ships of Iraq’s ally, Kuwait. Even though only 7% of American oil supplies came from the region, the Reagan administration insisted that U.S. strategic interests required a naval presence in the gulf. Critics complained that Western Europe and Japan, which acquired 25% and 60% of their respective oil needs from the gulf, weren’t doing their part in keeping the sea lanes open. In fact, certain Western European nations had become major suppliers of military hardware to both Iran and Iraq. Damage done to the Stark had been caused by French-built missiles fired from a French-built aircraft.  The administration argued that to withdraw from the gulf would be to surrender America’s role as leader of the free world, and that if oil shipments were disrupted, prices would soar, adversely affecting the U.S. economy. As one Western diplomat put it, if the U.S. backed out, it wouldn’t “have enough credibility to float a teacup.” Furthermore, the Soviet Union had increased its naval presence in the gulf, and the fear was that if the U.S. faltered, the Soviets would gain the upper hand in the region — and growing Soviet influence in the region would pose a long-term threat to the West’s oil supplies. “We will not be intimidated,” said Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger. “We will not be driven from the gulf.” He described the attack on the Stark as a “horrible error,” and Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was quick to apologize for the “unintentional incident.” Evidently, the Mirage pilot had mistaken the Stark for an Iranian tanker. Iraq promised to pay compensation to the families of the 37 slain seamen, and reparations for damages to the frigate. Officially the United States was neutral in the Iran-Iraq conflict, but the administration had decided that geopolitic considerations required that Iraq not lose the war. In the aftermath of the Stark incident, the rhetoric coming out of Washington was of a forgiving nature where Iraq was concerned, while growing increasingly hostile in reference to Iran.  The White House was resolute. “The use of the vital sea lanes of the Persian Gulf will not be dictated by the Iranians,” said President Reagan during a press conference. “Those lanes will not be allowed to come under the control of the Soviet Union. The Persian Gulf will remain open to navigation by the nations of the world.” The U.S. naval presence was increased from six to nine ships. Air cover would be provided by a carrier stationed outside the gulf. The American warships would escort convoys of Kuwaiti tankers every ten days or so. Iran vowed to continue attacking Kuwaiti tankers regardless of whether they flew the Stars and Stripes.  Congress objected to the open-ended nature of this commitment. Memories of Vietnam — and of the Lebanon peacekeeping debacle in the early 1980s, during which 241 Marines were killed in their barracks by a suicide bomber — prompted many solons to insist on knowing what rules of engagement the U.S. Navy would be operating under while escorting oil tankers in the gulf. The answer: A U.S. warship could fire on any aircraft that came within 20 miles of it, on the authority of the captain.  Unfortunately, the U.S. was so concerned about Iranian Sidewinder missiles being placed so as to control the Strait of Hormuz that it neglected to sweep the approaches for mines, one of which damaged an escorted tanker in July. The incident was egg on the face of the Navy, accused of sloppy mission preparation, and embarrassed the administration, which, while presiding over an unprecedented peacetime military buildup, had only three operational ocean-going minesweepers in service. But on 21 September 1987, the military redeemed itself by conducting a successful raid involving U.S. Navy SEALS on an Iranian vessel caught laying mines. Five Iranian seamen were killed. That same week, Iran attacked a British-flagged tanker; Britain responded by shutting down Iran’s London-based arms procurement office. (By this time, British, French, Belgian, Dutch and Italian warships had joined the Americans and Soviets in patrolling the gulf.) The American raid gave some senators an excuse to push for invocation of the War Powers Act; they claimed the U.S. was clearly engaged in hostilities. The law required that the president obtain congressional approval of military action extending beyond a period of 60 days. But the Senate voted 51-40 not to invoke the law.  Following the September 21 raid, Iran amassed 60 gunboats and directed the flotilla toward Khafji, a Saudi-Kuwaiti oil facility. The USS La Salle, flagship of Rear Admiral Harold Bernsen, commander of the U.S. Navy Middle East Force, moved to intercept the gunboats, which turned back after being buzzed by Saudi warplanes. Another encounter involved an Iranian warship that locked fire control radar on a USN destroyer, the Kidd; warned off by the Kidd’s skipper, the Iranian ship sailed away. Then, on October 8, Iranian gunboats fired at a U.S. Army helicopter, missing the target but attracting the attention of two U.S. AH-6 gunship choppers, which sank one of the gunboats and damaged two others. Iran responded by firing Silkworm missiles at the U.S.-owned Liberian supertanker Sungari and the reflagged Kuwaiti tanker Sea Isle City, damaging both vessels. There were no fatalities, though the American skipper of the Sea Isle City, Captain John Hunt, was blinded.  Few doubted the U.S. would retaliate. Two weeks later, four U.S. destroyers fired over one thousand rounds of 5-in. shells into Iran’s Rashadat oil-loading platforms in the Persian Gulf — after giving the platform crews twenty minutes to evacuate. Ninety minutes of continuous shelling left the platforms smoldering ruins; SEAL commando teams exploded the pilings and sent the rubble plunging into the sea. The Iranians answered by firing another Silkworm at Sea Island, Kuwait’s deep-water oil-loading facility, destroying the loading dock. “We’re not going to have a war with Iran,” said President Reagan. “They’re not that stupid.” But it certainly seemed as though an undeclared war was already underway. A public opinion poll revealed that while 68% of Americans expected a “military exchange” between the U.S. and Iran, 60% were in favor of stronger retaliatory action against the Iranians.  The situation remained tense throughout the winter, but not until April 1988 did violence erupt once again in the Persian Gulf. Ten seamen were injured when the USN frigate Samuel B. Roberts struck an Iranian mine on April 14. Being careful to consult with Congress this time, President Reagan ordered a retaliatory strike against two Iranian oil platforms in the southern gulf — platforms that served as bases for Iran’s intelligence service. While one platform was shelled by the frigates Simpson and Bagley, Marines helicoptered to the second, seized it, planted explosive charges, and destroyed it. A few minutes later, the Simpson sank an Iranian patrol boat that had fired a missile at the USN guided-missile cruiser Wainwright. (The Wainwright defended itself by dispensing aluminum chaff in the air, which deflected the missile.) Meanwhile, near the Strait of Hormuz, two Iranian frigates and several gunboats were sunk by American warships and an F-14 Tomcat from the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise. During the day-long battle, a Cobra helicopter carrying two American crewmen was shot down by the Iranians.  This defeat at sea, coupled with grave setbacks in the land war with Iraq, persuaded Iranian leaders to seek improved relations with the West. The Ayatollah Khomeini agreed with Hashemi Rafsanjani, Speaker of the Iranian Parliament, on the need to pursue a new foreign policy that would defuse tensions in the Persian Gulf. As for the United States, its resolve in the gulf in 1987-88 improved its standing with allies, not only in the Middle East but also around the world.
1990 – USS Roark rescues 42 refugees from unseaworthy craft in South China Sea.
1993 – Intel Corp. introduced the Pentium microprocessor. It had 3.1 million transistors.
1993 – Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal is approved for Somalia veterans by the Joints Chief of Staff.
1995 – Shawn Nelson steals a tank from a military installation and goes on a rampage in San Diego resulting in a 25 minute police chase. Nelson is killed by an officer after the tank got stuck on a concrete barrier and tried to break free.
1997 – Russia’s Mir space station received a new oxygen generator and a fresh American astronaut, courtesy of space shuttle Atlantis.
1999 – The US announced a 400,000 ton food aid donation to North Korea, as inspectors flew in to check on nuclear weapons development.
1999 – US authorities charged Jean-Philippe Wispelaere of Australia for trying to sell classified American defense documents. Wispelaere had worked in Canberra for the Australian Defense Intelligence Organization.
1999 – The Coast Guard “kept the peace” when the Makah Indian tribe hunted and killed a gray whale in Neah Bay, Washington. The Makah were guaranteed the right to hunt whales in their 1855 treaty with the U.S.
2002 – Coalition forces battled enemy forces in Operation Condor in the Khost region. A pan-Arab newspaper quoted Mullah Mohammed Omar as saying Osama bin Laden is alive and that the future of the US in Afghanistan is “fire, hell and total defeat.”
2003 – In Iraq US forces arrested Kamal Mustafa Abdallah Sultan al-Tikriti, former secretary of the Republican Guard (listed as No. 10 and the queen of clubs). Univ. students and teachers returned to their campuses.
2004 – The US military in Iraq reported that a roadside bomb containing deadly sarin nerve agent had exploded a few days earlier near a U.S. military convoy.
2005 – U.S. authorities detain Luis Posada Carriles, a CIA-linked anti-Castro militant, considered a terrorist by Cuba.
2006Operation Mountain Thrust was launched. There was heavy fighting during June and July 2006, with Afghanistan seeing the bloodiest period since the fall of the Taliban regime. The Taliban showed great coordination in their attacks, even capturing two districts of Helmand province at the end of July, which were retaken a few days later. The Taliban suffered during the fighting more than 1,100 killed and close to 400 captured. Heavy aerial bombing was the main factor. But even so the coalition forces had close to 150 soldiers killed and 40 Afghan policemen captured by the Taliban.
2006The aircraft carrier USS Oriskany is sunk in the Gulf of Mexico as an artificial reef. USS Oriskany (CV/CVA-34) – nicknamed Mighty O, and occasionally referred to as the O-boat – was one of the few Essex-class aircraft carriers completed only after World War II for the United States Navy. The ship was named for the Revolutionary War Battle of Oriskany. The history of Oriskany differs considerably from that of her sister ships. Originally designed as a “long-hulled” Essex-class ship (considered by some authorities to be a separate class, the Ticonderoga class) her construction was suspended in 1947. She eventually was commissioned in 1950 after conversion to an updated design called SCB-27 (“27-Charlie”), which became the template for modernization of 14 other Essex-class ships. Oriskany was the final Essex-class ship completed. She operated primarily in the Pacific into the 1970s, earning two battle stars for service in the Korean War, and five for service in the Vietnam War. In 1966 one of the worst shipboard fires since World War II broke out on Oriskany when a magnesium flare was accidentally ignited; forty-four men died in the fire. Oriskany‍’s post-service history also differs considerably from that of her sister ships. Decommissioned in 1976, she was sold for scrap in 1995, but was repossessed in 1997 because nothing was being done (lack of progress). In 2004 it was decided to sink her as an artificial reef off the coast of Florida in the Gulf of Mexico. After much environmental review and remediation to remove toxic substances, she was carefully sunk, settling in an upright position at a depth accessible to recreational divers. As of 2008, Oriskany is “the largest vessel ever sunk to make a reef”. Oriskany is mentioned in the 1986 film Top Gun as the ship from which the main character’s father had flown during the Vietnam War. She has been featured in films such as Men of the Fighting Lady and The Bridges at Toko-Ri (1954) and What Dreams May Come (1998).

Congressional Medal of Honor Citations for Actions Taken This Day

Rank and organization: First Sergeant, Company A, 49th Indiana Infantry. Place and date: At Black River Bridge, Miss., 17 May 1863. Entered service at: Dubois County, Ind. Birth: Dubois County, Ind. Date of issue: 12 February 1894. Citation: Voluntarily led the company in a charge and was the first to enter the enemy’s works, taking a number of prisoners.

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as a squad leader serving with the Second Battalion, Twenty-Second Marines, Sixth Marine Division, in sustained combat operations against Japanese forces on Okinawa, Ryukya Islands from 14 to 17 May 1945. On the first day, Corporal Day rallied his squad and the remnants of another unit and led them to a critical position forward of the front lines of Sugar Loaf Hill. Soon thereafter, they came under an intense mortar and artillery barrage that was quickly followed by a ferocious ground attack by some forty Japanese soldiers. Despite the loss of one-half of his men, Corporal Day remained at the forefront, shouting encouragement, hurling hand grenades, and directing deadly fire, thereby repelling the determined enemy. Reinforced by six men, he led his squad in repelling three fierce night attacks but suffered five additional Marines killed and one wounded, whom he assisted to safety. Upon hearing nearby calls for corpsman assistance, Corporal Day braved heavy enemy fire to escort four seriously wounded Marines, one at a time, to safety. Corporal Day then manned a light machine gun, assisted by a wounded Marine, and halted another night attack. In the ferocious action, his machine gun was destroyed, and he suffered multiple white phosphorous and fragmentation wounds. He reorganized his defensive position in time to halt a fifth enemy attack with devastating small arms fire. On three separated occasions, Japanese soldiers closed to within a few feet of his foxhole, but were killed by Corporal Day. During the second day, the enemy conducted numerous unsuccessful swarming attacks against his exposed position. When the attacks momentarily subsided, over 70 enemy dead were counted around his position. On the third day, a wounded and exhausted Corporal Day repulsed the enemy’s final attack, killing a dozen enemy soldiers at close range. Having yielded no ground and with more than 100 enemy dead around his position, Corporal Day preserved the lives of his fellow Marines and made a significant contribution to the success of the Okinawa campaign. By his extraordinary heroism, repeated acts of valor, and quintessential battlefield leadership, Corporal Day inspired the efforts of his outnumbered Marines to defeat a much larger enemy force, reflecting great credit upon himself and upholding the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service.

Rank and organization: Private First Class, U.S. Marine Corps, Company 1, 3d Battalion, 27th Marines, 1st Marine Division (Rein), FMF. Place and date: Southern Quang Nam Province Republic of Vietnam, 17 May 1968. Entered service at: Chicago, Ill. Born: 7 November 1949, Monticello, Ill. Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty for service as a machine gunner with Company 1. While on Operation ALLEN BROOK, Company 1 was approaching a dry river bed with a heavily wooded treeline that borders the hamlet of Le Nam (1), when they suddenly came under intense mortar, rocket propelled grenades, automatic weapons and small-arms fire from a large, well concealed enemy force which halted the company’s advance and wounded several marines. Realizing that key points of resistance had to be eliminated to allow the units to advance and casualties to be evacuated, Pfc. Burke, without hesitation, seized his machine gun and launched a series of 1-man assaults against the fortified emplacements. As he aggressively maneuvered to the edge of the steep river bank, he delivered accurate suppressive fire upon several enemy bunkers, which enabled his comrades to advance and move the wounded marines to positions of relative safety. As he continued his combative actions, he located an opposing automatic weapons emplacement and poured intense fire into the position, killing 3 North Vietnamese soldiers as they attempted to flee. Pfc. Burke then fearlessly moved from one position to another, quelling the hostile fire until his weapon malfunctioned. Obtaining a casualty’s rifle and hand grenades, he advanced further into the midst of the enemy fire in an assault against another pocket of resistance, killing 2 more of the enemy. Observing that a fellow marine had cleared his malfunctioning machine gun he grasped his weapon and moved into a dangerously exposed area and saturated the hostile treeline until he fell mortally wounded. Pfc. Burke’s gallant actions upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the U.S. Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country.

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