1542 – On the banks of the Mississippi River in present-day Louisiana, Spanish conquistador Hernando de Soto dies, ending a three-year journey for gold that took him halfway across what is now the United States. In order that Indians would not learn of his death, and thus disprove de Soto’s claims of divinity, his men buried his body in the Mississippi River. In late May 1539, de Soto landed on the west coast of Florida with 600 troops, servants, and staff, 200 horses, and a pack of bloodhounds. From there, the army set about subduing the natives, seizing any valuables they stumbled upon, and preparing the region for eventual Spanish colonization. Traveling through Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, across the Appalachians, and back to Alabama, de Soto failed to find the gold and silver he desired, but he did seize a valuable collection of pearls at Cofitachequi, in present-day Georgia. Decisive conquest also eluded the Spaniards, as what would become the United States lacked the large, centralized civilizations of Mexico and Peru. As was the method of Spanish conquest elsewhere in the Americas, de Soto ill-treated and enslaved the natives he encountered. For the most part, the Indian warriors they encountered were intimidated by the Spanish horsemen and kept their distance. In October 1540, however, the tables were turned when a confederation of Indians attacked the Spaniards at the fortified Indian town of Mabila, near present-day Mobile, Alabama. All the Indians were killed, along with 20 of de Soto’s men. Several hundred Spaniards were wounded. In addition, the Indian conscripts they had come to depend on to bear their supplies had all fled with baggage. De Soto could have marched south to reconvene with his ships along the Gulf Coast, but instead he ordered his expedition north-westward in search of America’s elusive riches. In May 1541, the army reached and crossed the Mississippi River, probably the first Europeans ever to do so. From there, they traveled through Arkansas and Louisiana, still with few material gains to show for their efforts. Turning back to the Mississippi, de Soto died of a fever on its banks on May 21, 1542. The Spaniards, now under the command of Luis de Moscoso, traveled west again, crossing into north Texas before returning to the Mississippi. With nearly half of the original expedition dead, the Spaniards built rafts and traveled down the river to the sea, and then made their way down the Texas coast to New Spain, finally reaching Veracruz, Mexico, in late 1543.
1758 – Ten-year-old Mary Campbell is abducted in Pennsylvania by Lenape tribesmen during the French and Indian War. She is returned six and a half years later.
1850 – Washington Navy Yard begins work on first castings for the Dahlgren guns.
1856 – Lawrence, Kansas, was captured and sacked by pro-slavery forces. The Sacking of Lawrence occurred when pro-slavery activists attacked and ransacked the town of Lawrence, Kansas, which had been founded by anti-slavery settlers to help ensure that Kansas would become a “free state”. The incident made worse the guerrilla war in Kansas Territory that became known as Bleeding Kansas.
1863 – Nathaniel Banks, commander of the Union Department of the Gulf, surrounds the Confederate stronghold at Port Hudson and attacks. Fortifications were built at Port Hudson in 1863 to protect New Orleans from a Union attack down the Mississippi River. On April 25, 1862, New Orleans had fallen into Union hands following an attack from the Gulf of Mexico by Admiral David Farragut. Still, Port Hudson was considered an important installation for the South since it was a significant threat to Federal ships on the Mississippi River. In 1863, the Union command began to focus attention on clearing the Mississippi of all Rebels. The major thrust of this effort was taking Vicksburg, Mississippi, the Confederate stronghold to the north of Port Hudson. In April, Ulysses S. Grant summoned Nathaniel Banks to participate in the campaign against Vicksburg. Banks wavered at first, preferring instead to wage an independent campaign against Confederates in Louisiana. But in May, he set out to take Port Hudson, then under the command of Franklin Gardner. Banks had some 30,000 troops under his command, while Gardner possessed a force of just 3,500. When Banks began to encircle Port Hudson, Gardner made some feeble attacks to drive him away. On May 21, Gardner received orders from Joseph Johnston, operating in Mississippi, to abandon the fort. But Gardner refused, and asked for reinforcements. This was a fatal mistake, and Banks soon had Gardner surrounded. For the next three weeks, Banks attempted to capture Port Hudson but failed each time. It was not until Vicksburg surrendered on July 4 that Gardner also surrendered.
1863 – Under Lieutenant Commander J. G. Walker, U.S.S. Baron De Kalb, Choctaw, Forest Rose, Linden, and Petrel pushed up the Yazoo River from Haynes’ Bluff to Yazoo City, Mississippi. As the gunboats approached the city, Commander Isaac N. Brown, CSN, who had commanded the heroic ram C.S.S. Arkansas the preceding summer, was forced to destroy three ”powerful steamers, rams and a “fine navy yard, with machine shops of all kinds, sawmills, blacksmith shops, etc. . . to prevent their capture. Porter noted that ”what he had begun our forces finished,” as the city was evacuated by the Southerners. The Confederate steamers destroyed were Mobile, Republic, and ”a monster, 310 feet long and 70 feet beam.” Had the latter been completed, ”she would have given us much trouble.” Porter’s prediction to Secretary Welles at the end of the expedition, though overly optimistic in terms of the time that would be required, was nonetheless a clear summary of the effect of the gunboats’ sweep up the Yazoo: ”It is a mere question of a few hours, and then, with the exception of Port Hudson (which will follow Vicksburg), the Mississippi will be open its entire length.”
1864 – Gen. David Hunter took command of Dept. of West Virginia.
1864 – Gunfire from ironclad steamer U.S.S. Atlanta, Acting Lieutenant Thomas J. Woodward, and U.S.S. Dawn, Acting Lieutenant John W. Simmons, dispersed Confederate cavalry attacking Fort Powhatan on the James River, Virginia. Dawn, a wooden steamer, remained above the fort during the night to prevent another attack.
1881 – In Washington, D.C., humanitarians Clara Barton and Adolphus Solomons found the American National Red Cross, an organization established to provide humanitarian aid to victims of wars and natural disasters in congruence with the International Red Cross. Barton, born in Massachusetts in 1821, worked with the sick and wounded during the American Civil War and became known as the “Angel of the Battlefield” for her tireless dedication. In 1865, President Abraham Lincoln commissioned her to search for lost prisoners of war, and with the extensive records she had compiled during the war she succeeded in identifying thousands of the Union dead at the Andersonville prisoner-of-war camp. She was in Europe in 1870 when the Franco-Prussian War broke out, and she went behind the German lines to work for the International Red Cross. In 1873, she returned to the United States, and four years later she organized an American branch of the International Red Cross. The American Red Cross received its first U.S. federal charter in 1900. Barton headed the organization into her 80s and died in 1912.
1917 – USS Ericsson fires first US torpedo of World War I.
1927 – Charles Lindbergh touches down at Le Bourget Field in Paris, completing the world’s first solo nonstop flight across the Atlantic Ocean.
1940 – Nazis surrounded the British Army at Dunkirk.
1941 – The first U.S. ship, the SS Robin Moor, was sunk by a U-boat. Roosevelt describes the sinking of the Robin Moor as “an act of intimidation” to which “we do not propose to yield.”
1944 – A small American force lands at Sperlonga, having embarked at Gaeta. Meanwhile, forces of the US 5th Army continue attacking. The US 2nd Corps captures Fondi while the French Expeditionary Corps takes Campodimele. German resistance in the Liri Valley and around Pico prevents significant gains in these areas.
1944 – The American beachhead at Arare is reinforces and the airfield at Wadke is repaired.
1944 – The Coast Guard-manned USS LST-69 exploded at Pearl Harbor. None of her crew were killed but 13 were seriously injured.
1945 – On Okinawa, US 3rd Amphibious Corps reports advances near the Horseshoe, Half Moon and Wana positions, on the western flank. On the east-side, US 7th and 96th Divisions (parts of US 24th Corps) attack near Yonabaru. Japanese forces begin to pull out of the Shuri Line.
1945 – Hermann Goring, former Reichsmarshal of the Luftwaffe, is transferred from the prisoner of war camp at Augsburg to the Palace Hotel at Mondorf where he joins other senior Nazi officials awaiting Allied interrogation.
1945 – The Japanese supply base at Malaybalay on Mindanao is captured by elements of the US 31st Division.
1951 – The U.S. Eighth Army counterattacked to drive the Communist Chinese and North Koreans out of South Korea.
1951 – The Coast Guard announced the formation, within the Washington, DC area, of a new Organized Reserve Training Unit (Vessel Augmentation). The mission of this new unit was to develop a force of experienced personnel, well-trained in all shipboard billets, with particular emphasis on anti-submarine warfare, and the use of radar, radio, and other branches of electronics. Training was to be directed towards readying personnel of the unit for immediate assignment to ships of the Coast Guard and Navy in the event of mobilization.
1956 – The first known airborne US hydrogen bomb was tested over Bikini Atoll in the Pacific.
1961 – Governor Patterson declared martial law in Montgomery, Alabama.
1964 – The Navy initiates a the standing carrier presence at “Yankee Station” in the South China Sea.
1964 – The UN Security Council meets to consider Cambodia’s charge that the United States directs South Vietnamese raids into Cambodia. US Ambassador Adali Stevenson calls for a clear marking of the border and the stationing of some force to police it.
1968 – The allied command in Saigon announces the start of a new program, Operation Hearts Together, designed to resettle Saigon area families.
1968 – The nuclear-powered U.S. submarine Scorpion, with 99 men aboard, was last heard from. The remains of the sub were later found on the ocean floor 400 miles southwest of the Azores.
1970 – The National Guard was mobilized to quell disturbances at Ohio State University.
1980 – Ensign Jean Marie Butler became the first woman to graduate from a U.S. service academy as she accepted her degree and commission from the Coast Guard Academy in New London, Conn.
1987 – In the wake of the Iraqi attack on the U.S. frigate Stark that claimed 37 lives, the Senate approved a proposal requiring President Reagan to send Congress a report detailing the threat to U.S. ships in the Persian Gulf.
1992 – The Coast Guard announced that high-seas interdiction of Haitian refugees was being drastically scaled back because refugee camps at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo, Cuba, were filled.
1997 – The space shuttle Atlantis undocked from the Russian Mir space station.
2002 – The Bush administration announced that it would resume economic aid to Yugoslavia because it had met requirements to cooperate with the war crimes tribunal in The Hague.
2003 – In Iraq US forces captured Aziz Saleh Numan, former Baath regional command chairman for west Baghdad. He was No. 8 on the most wanted list.
2003 – NATO’s 19 nations agreed unanimously to start planning to help Poland lead a multinational peacekeeping force in Iraq.
2004 – American AC-130 gunships and tanks bombarded militia positions near two shrines in the holy city of Karbala, killing 18 fighters loyal to a rebel cleric.
2009 – Four men are arrested for planning to bomb two synagogues and destroy military aircraft in New York, United States. The terrorist ring, led by James Cromitie, was tried and all were convicted. Cromitie, Onta Williams, David Williams, and Payen and were charged with conspiracy and weapons offenses at their first court appearance on May 21, 2009 and were ordered to be held without bail.
2011 – Dawn, Pakistan’s largest English-language newspaper, begins publication of thousands of U.S. diplomatic cables it has obtained in a deal with WikiLeaks and Julian Assange. The cables show that the Pakistani military asked the United States to increase its drone attacks against insurgents on Pakistani territory, a request Pakistani authorities have not admitted in public.
2013 – U.S. Army Brigadier General Bryan T. Roberts, the Commanding General of the U.S. Army Training Center and Fort Jackson in Fort Jackson, South Carolina, is suspended from his duties because of an investigation into alleged adultery (which is treated as a criminal violation, not just a civil matter, in the U.S. military), and for allegedly being in a physical altercation.
2014 – Obama says he “will not stand” for misconduct at VA hospitals, but asks for time to allow the investigation to run its course. The same day, Shinseki rescinds Phoenix VA director Sharon Helman’s $8,495 bonus. Helman got the bonus in April, even as agency investigators were looking into allegations at the facility.
Congressional Medal of Honor Citations for Actions Taken This Day
HORSFALL, WILLIAM H.
Rank and organization. Drummer, Company G, 1st Kentucky Infantry. Place and date: At Corinth, Miss., 21 May 1862. Entered service at : ——. Birth: Campbell County, Ky. Date of issue: 17 August 1895. Citation: Saved the life of a wounded officer lying between the lines.
CROUSE, WILLIAM ADOLPHUS
Rank and organization: Watertender, U.S. Navy. Born: 22 October 1866, Tannettsburg, Pa. Accred ited to: Pennsylvania. C. O. No.: 502, 14 December 1898. Citation: On board the U.S.S. Concord off Cavite, Manila Bay, P.I., 21 May 1898. Following the blowing out of a lower manhole plate joint on boiler B of that vessel, Crouse hauled the fires in the hot, vapor_filled atmosphere which necessitated the playing of water into the fireroom from a hose.
EHLE, JOHN WALTER
Rank and organization: Fireman First Class, U.S. Navy. Born: 11 May 1873, Kearney, Nebr. Accredited to: Nebraska. G.O. No.: 502 14 December 1898. Citation: On board the U.S.S. Concord off Cavite, Manila Bay, Philippine Islands, 21 May 1898. Following the blowing out of a lower manhole plate joint on boiler B of that vessel, Ehle assisted in hauling the fires in the hot, vapor_filled atmosphere which necessitated the playing of water into the fireroom from a hose.
HULL, JAMES, L.
Rank and organization: Fireman First Class, U.S. Navy. Born: 27 November 1873, Patoka, Ill. Accredited to: Illinois. G.O. No.: 502, 14 December 1898. Citation: On board the U.S.S. Concord off Cavite, Manila Bay, Philippine Islands, 21 May 1898. Following the blowing out of a lower manhole plate joint on boiler B of that vessel, Hull assisted in hauling the fires in the hot, vapor-filled atmosphere, which necessitated the playing of water into the fireroom from a hose.
IZAC, EDOUARD VICTOR MICHEL
Rank and organization: Lieutenant, U.S. Navy. Place and date: Aboard German submarine U-90 as prisoner of war, 21 May 1918. Entered service at: Illinois. Born: 18 December 1891, Cresco, Howard County, lowa. Citation: When the U.S.S. President Lincoln was attacked and sunk by the German submarine U-90, on 21 May 1918, Lt. Izac was captured and held as a prisoner on board the U-90 until the return of the submarine to Germany, when he was confined in the prison camp. During his stay on the U-90 he obtained information of the movements of German submarines which was so important that he determined to escape, with a view to making this information available to the U.S. and Allied Naval authorities. In attempting to carry out this plan, he jumped through the window of a rapidly moving train at the imminent risk of death, not only from the nature of the act itself but from the fire of the armed German soldiers who were guarding him. Having been recaptured and reconfined, Lt. Izac made a second and successful attempt to escape, breaking his way through barbed-wire fences and deliberately drawing the fire of the armed guards in the hope of permitting others to escape during the confusion. He made his way through the mountains of southwestern Germany, having only raw vegetables for food, and at the end, swam the River Rhine during the night in the immediate vicinity of German sentries.
SULLIVAN, DANIEL AUGUSTUS JOSEPH
Rank and organization: Ensign, U.S. Naval Reserve Force. Born: 31 July 1884, Charleston, S.C. Appointed from: South Carolina. Citation: For extraordinary heroism as an officer of the U.S.S. Cristabel in conflict with an enemy submarine on 21 May 1918. As a result of the explosion of a depth bomb dropped near the submarine, the Christabel was so badly shaken that a number of depth charges which had been set for firing were thrown about the deck and there was imminent danger that they would explode. Ens. Sullivan immediately fell on the depth charges and succeeded in securing them, thus saving the ship from disaster, which would inevitably have caused great loss of life.
LINDBERGH, CHARLES A.
Rank and organization: Captain, U.S. Army Air Corps Reserve. Place and date: From New York City to Paris, France, 20-21 May 1927. Entered service at: Little Falls, Minn. Born: 4 February 1902, Detroit, Mich. G.O. No.: 5, W.D., 1928; act of Congress 14 December 1927. Citation: For displaying heroic courage and skill as a navigator, at the risk of his life, by his nonstop flight in his airplane, the Spirit of St. Louis, from New York City to Paris, France, 20-21 May 1927, by which Capt. Lindbergh not only achieved the greatest individual triumph of any American citizen but demonstrated that travel across the ocean by aircraft was possible.
DOSS, DESMOND T.
Rank and organization: Private First Class, U.S. Army, Medical Detachment, 307th Infantry, 77th Infantry Division. Place and date: Near Urasoe Mura, Okinawa, Ryukyu Islands, 29 April-21 May 1945. Entered service at: Lynchburg, Va. Birth: Lynchburg, Va. G.O. No.: 97, 1 November 1945. Citation: He was a company aid man when the 1st Battalion assaulted a jagged escarpment 400 feet high As our troops gained the summit, a heavy concentration of artillery, mortar and machinegun fire crashed into them, inflicting approximately 75 casualties and driving the others back. Pfc. Doss refused to seek cover and remained in the fire-swept area with the many stricken, carrying them 1 by 1 to the edge of the escarpment and there lowering them on a rope-supported litter down the face of a cliff to friendly hands. On 2 May, he exposed himself to heavy rifle and mortar fire in rescuing a wounded man 200 yards forward of the lines on the same escarpment; and 2 days later he treated 4 men who had been cut down while assaulting a strongly defended cave, advancing through a shower of grenades to within 8 yards of enemy forces in a cave’s mouth, where he dressed his comrades’ wounds before making 4 separate trips under fire to evacuate them to safety. On 5 May, he unhesitatingly braved enemy shelling and small arms fire to assist an artillery officer. He applied bandages, moved his patient to a spot that offered protection from small arms fire and, while artillery and mortar shells fell close by, painstakingly administered plasma. Later that day, when an American was severely wounded by fire from a cave, Pfc. Doss crawled to him where he had fallen 25 feet from the enemy position, rendered aid, and carried him 100 yards to safety while continually exposed to enemy fire. On 21 May, in a night attack on high ground near Shuri, he remained in exposed territory while the rest of his company took cover, fearlessly risking the chance that he would be mistaken for an infiltrating Japanese and giving aid to the injured until he was himself seriously wounded in the legs by the explosion of a grenade. Rather than call another aid man from cover, he cared for his own injuries and waited 5 hours before litter bearers reached him and started carrying him to cover. The trio was caught in an enemy tank attack and Pfc. Doss, seeing a more critically wounded man nearby, crawled off the litter; and directed the bearers to give their first attention to the other man. Awaiting the litter bearers’ return, he was again struck, this time suffering a compound fracture of 1 arm. With magnificent fortitude he bound a rifle stock to his shattered arm as a splint and then crawled 300 yards over rough terrain to the aid station. Through his outstanding bravery and unflinching determination in the face of desperately dangerous conditions Pfc. Doss saved the lives of many soldiers. His name became a symbol throughout the 77th Infantry Division for outstanding gallantry far above and beyond the call of duty.
RODRIGUEZ, JOSEPH C.
Rank and organization: Sergeant (then Pfc.), U.S. Army, Company F, 17th Infantry Regiment, 7th Infantry Division. Place and date: Near Munye-ri, Korea, 21 May 1951. Entered service at: California. Born: 14 November 1928, San Bernardino, Calif. G.O. No.: 22, 5 February 1952. Citation: Sgt. Rodriguez, distinguished himself by conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty in action against an armed enemy of the United Nations. Sgt. Rodriguez, an assistant squad leader of the 2d Platoon, was participating in an attack against a fanatical hostile force occupying well-fortified positions on rugged commanding terrain, when his squad’s advance was halted within approximately 60 yards by a withering barrage of automatic weapons and small-arms fire from 5 emplacements directly to the front and right and left flanks, together with grenades which the enemy rolled down the hill toward the advancing troops. Fully aware of the odds against him, Sgt. Rodriguez leaped to his feet, dashed 60 yards up the fire-swept slope, and, after lobbing grenades into the first foxhole with deadly accuracy, ran around the left flank, silenced an automatic weapon with 2 grenades and continued his whirlwind assault to the top of the peak, wiping out 2 more foxholes and then, reaching the right flank, he tossed grenades into the remaining emplacement, destroying the gun and annihilating its crew. Sgt. Rodriguez’ intrepid actions exacted a toll of 15 enemy dead and, as a result of his incredible display of valor, the defense of the opposition was broken, and the enemy routed, and the strategic strongpoint secured. His unflinching courage under fire and inspirational devotion to duty reflect highest credit on himself and uphold the honored traditions of the military service.
DOLBY, DAVID CHARLES
Rank and organization. Sergeant (then Sp4c.), U.S. Army, Company B, 1st Battalion (Airborne), 8th Cavalry, 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile). Place and date. Republic of Vietnam, 21 May 1966. Entered service at: Philadelphia, Pa. Born: 14 May 1946, Norristown, Pa. G.O. No.: 45, 20 October 1967. Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty, when his platoon, while advancing tactically, suddenly came under intense fire from the enemy located on a ridge immediately to the front. Six members of the platoon were killed instantly and a number were wounded, including the platoon leader. Sgt. Dolby’s every move brought fire from the enemy. However, aware that the platoon leader was critically wounded, and that the platoon was in a precarious situation, Sgt. Dolby moved the wounded men to safety and deployed the remainder of the platoon to engage the enemy. Subsequently, his dying platoon leader ordered Sgt. Dolby to withdraw the forward elements to rejoin the platoon. Despite the continuing intense enemy fire and with utter disregard for his own safety, Sgt. Dolby positioned able-bodied men to cover the withdrawal of the forward elements, assisted the wounded to the new position, and he, alone, attacked enemy positions until his ammunition was expended. Replenishing his ammunition, he returned to the area of most intense action, single-handedly killed 3 enemy machine gunners and neutralized the enemy fire, thus enabling friendly elements on the flank to advance on the enemy redoubt. He defied the enemy fire to personally carry a seriously wounded soldier to safety where he could be treated and, returning to the forward area, he crawled through withering fire to within 50 meters of the enemy bunkers and threw smoke grenades to mark them for air strikes. Although repeatedly under fire at close range from enemy snipers and automatic weapons, Sgt. Dolby directed artillery fire on the enemy and succeeded in silencing several enemy weapons. He remained in his exposed location until his comrades had displaced to more secure positions. His actions of unsurpassed valor during 4 hours of intense combat were a source of inspiration to his entire company, contributed significantly to the success of the overall assault on the enemy position, and were directly responsible for saving the lives of a number of his fellow soldiers. Sgt. Dolby’s heroism was in the highest tradition of the U.S. Army.
*EREVIA, SANTIAGO J.
Rank and Organization: Sergeant, U.S. Army, Company C, 1st Battalion, 501st Infantry, 101st Airborne Division. Place and Date: May 21, 1969, Tam Ky, Vietnam. Born: 1946, Nordheim, TX. Departed: No. Entered Service At: San Antonio, TX. G.O. Number: . Date of Issue: 03/18/2014. Accredited To: . Citation: Then-Spc. 4 Erevia distinguished himself May 21, 1969, while serving as a radio-telephone operator during a search-and-clear mission near Tam Ky City, in the Republic of Vietnam.