1776 – The Hurricane of Independence makes landfall. Between this day and 9 September it will kill 4,170 people from North Carolina to Nova Scotia.
1789 – Although the United States Treasury Department was founded on September 2, 1789, its roots can be traced back to the American Revolution. Back in 1775, the Revolutionary leaders were groping with ways to fund the war. Their solution–issuing cash that doubled as redeemable “bills of credit”–raised enough capital to fuel the Revolution. However, the war notes also led to the country’s first debt. The Continental Congress attempted to reign in the economy, even forming a pre-Constitutional version of the Treasury. Neither this move, nor the signing of the Declaration of Independence, which enabled the U.S. to seek loans from foreign countries, proved effective. The debt kept mounting, while war notes rapidly deflated in value. With the ratification of the Constitution in 1789, the Government established a permanent Treasury Department in hopes of quelling the debt. President Washington named his former “aide-de-camp,” Alexander Hamilton, to head the new office. The former New York lawyer and staunch Federalist stepped in as Secretary of the Treasury on September 11. Hamilton soon outlined a practical plan for reviving the nation’s ailing economy: the Government would pay back its $75 million war debt and thus repair its badly damaged public credit.
1859 – A solar super storm affects electrical telegraph service.
1862 – President Lincoln reluctantly restores Union General George B. McClellan to full command after General John Pope’s disaster at Second Bull Run on August 29 and 30. McClellan, commander of the Army of the Potomac, saw much of his army transferred to Pope’s Army of Virginia after his failure to capture Richmond during the Seven Days’ Battles in June 1862. Pope, who had one chance to prove his leadership at Second Bull Run against Confederate General Robert E. Lee, failed miserably and retreated to Washington. He had not received any help from McClellan, who sat nearby in Alexandria and refused to go to Pope’s aid. After a summer of defeats, the Union forces in the east were now in desperate need of a boost in morale. Even though McClellan was, in part, the architect of those losses, Lincoln felt he was the best available general to raise the sagging spirits of the men in blue. The president recognized McClellan’s talent for preparing an army to fight, even if he had proven to be a poor field commander. Lincoln wrote to his secretary John Hay: “We must use the tools we have. There is no man in the Army who can man these fortifications and lick these troops into shape half as well as he. If he can’t fight himself, he excels in making others ready to fight.” There was little time for the Union to dawdle after Second Bull Run. Lee’s army lurked just 25 miles from Washington, and had tried to cut off the Union retreat at Chantilly on September 1. Even as Lincoln restored McClellan’s command, the Confederates were starting to move northward. McClellan was soon on the road in pursuit of Lee’s army.
1863 – Dahlgren, flying his flag in U.S.S. Weehawken, took the ironclads against Fort Sumter late at night following an intensive, day-long bombardment by Army artillery. Moving to within 500 yards of the Fort, the ships cannonaded it for 5 hours, “demolishing,” as Brigadier General Ripley, CSA, reported, “nearly the whole of the eastern scarp . . . .” Confederates returned a heavy fire from Fort Moultrie, scoring over 70 hits on the ironclads. One shot struck Weehawken’s turret, driving a piece of iron into the leg of Captain Oscar C. Badger, severely wounding him. Noting that he was the third Flag Captain he had lost in 2 months, Dahlgren wrote: “I shall feel greatly the loss of Captain Badger’s services at this time.” The Admiral broke off the attack as the flood tide set in, “which,” Dahlgren said, had he remained, “would have exposed the monitors unnecessarily.
1864 – The forces of Union General William T. Sherman march into Atlanta, Georgia—one day after the Confederates evacuate the city.
1864 – Small, 8-gun paddle-wheeler U.S.S. Naiad, Acting Master Keene, engaged Confederate battery near Rowe’s Landing, Louisiana, and, after a brisk exchange, silenced it.
1885 – 150 white miners in Rock Springs, Wyoming, brutally attack their Chinese coworkers, killing 28, wounding 15 others, and driving several hundred more out of town. The miners working in the Union Pacific coal mine had been struggling to unionize and strike for better working conditions for years. But at every juncture the powerful railroad company had bested them. Searching for a scapegoat, the angry miners blamed the Chinese. The Chinese coal miners were hard workers, but the Union Pacific had initially brought many of them to Rock Springs as strikebreakers, and they showed little interest in the miners’ union. Outraged by a company decision to allow Chinese miners to work the richest coal seams, a mob of white miners impulsively decided to strike back by attacking Rock Spring’s small Chinatown. When they saw the armed mob approaching, most of the Chinese abandoned their homes and businesses and fled for the hills. But those who failed to escape in time were brutally beaten and murdered. A week later, on September 9, U.S. troops escorted the surviving Chinese back into the town where many of them returned to work. Eventually the Union Pacific fired 45 of the white miners for their roles in the massacre, but no effective legal action was ever taken against any of the participants. The Rock Springs massacre was symptomatic of the anti-Chinese feelings shared by many Americans at that time. The Chinese had been victims of prejudice and violence ever since they first began to come to the West in the mid-nineteenth century, fleeing famine and political upheaval. Widely blamed for all sorts of social ills, the Chinese were also singled-out for attack by some national politicians who popularized strident slogans like “The Chinese Must Go” and helped pass an 1882 law that closed the U.S. to any further Chinese immigration. In this climate of racial hatred, violent attacks against the Chinese in the West became all too common, though the Rock Springs massacre was notable both for its size and savage brutality.
1901 – Vice President of the United States Theodore Roosevelt utters the famous phrase, “Speak softly and carry a big stick” at the Minnesota State Fair.
1912 – Arthur Rose Eldred is awarded the first Eagle Scout award of the Boy Scouts of America.
1918 – Navy ships and crews assist earthquake victims of Yokohama and Tokyo, Japan.
1940 – Following the agreement made in July and later detailed negotiations, a deal is now ratified between Britain and the USA by which Britain gets 50 old destroyers, veterans of World War I, but desperately needed for escort work, in return for bases granted to the United States in the West Indies and Bermuda. Considerable modification will be necessary to make the ships ready for service.
1944 – Allied landings amount to 190,000 men with 41,000 vehicles and 220,000 tons of supplies. American elements of US 7th Army approach Lyons. French forces are brought forward to be the first into the city.
1944 – The US 12th Army Group experiences shortages as a result of supply problems.
1944 – Navy pilot George Herbert Walker Bush was shot down by Japanese forces as he completed a bombing run over the Bonin Islands. Bush was rescued by the crew of the U.S. submarine Finback; his two crew members, however, died.
1945 – Aboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay, Japan formally surrenders to the Allies, bringing an end to World War II. By the summer of 1945, the defeat of Japan was a foregone conclusion. The Japanese navy and air force were destroyed. The Allied naval blockade of Japan and intensive bombing of Japanese cities had left the country and its economy devastated. At the end of June, the Americans captured Okinawa, a Japanese island from which the Allies could launch an invasion of the main Japanese home islands. U.S. General Douglas MacArthur was put in charge of the invasion, which was code-named “Operation Olympic” and set for November 1945. The invasion of Japan promised to be the bloodiest seaborne attack of all time, conceivably 10 times as costly as the Normandy invasion in terms of Allied casualties. On July 16, a new option became available when the United States secretly detonated the world’s first atomic bomb in the New Mexico desert. Ten days later, the Allies issued the Potsdam Declaration, demanding the “unconditional surrender of all the Japanese armed forces.” Failure to comply would mean “the inevitable and complete destruction of the Japanese armed forces and just as inevitable the utter devastation of the Japanese homeland.” On July 28, Japanese Prime Minister Kantaro Suzuki responded by telling the press that his government was “paying no attention” to the Allied ultimatum. U.S. President Harry Truman ordered the devastation to proceed, and on August 6, the U.S. B-29 bomber Enola Gay dropped an atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima, killing an estimated 80,000 people and fatally wounding thousands more. After the Hiroshima attack, a faction of Japan’s supreme war council favored acceptance of the Potsdam Declaration, but the majority resisted unconditional surrender. On August 8, Japan’s desperate situation took another turn for the worse when the USSR declared war against Japan. The next day, Soviet forces attacked in Manchuria, rapidly overwhelming Japanese positions there, and a second U.S. atomic bomb was dropped on the Japanese coastal city of Nagasaki. Just before midnight on August 9, Japanese Emperor Hirohito convened the supreme war council. After a long, emotional debate, he backed a proposal by Prime Minister Suzuki in which Japan would accept the Potsdam Declaration “with the understanding that said Declaration does not compromise any demand that prejudices the prerogatives of His Majesty as the sovereign ruler.” The council obeyed Hirohito’s acceptance of peace, and on August 10 the message was relayed to the United States. Early on August 12, the United States answered that “the authority of the emperor and the Japanese government to rule the state shall be subject to the Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers.” After two days of debate about what this statement implied, Emperor Hirohito brushed the nuances in the text aside and declared that peace was preferable to destruction. He ordered the Japanese government to prepare a text accepting surrender. In the early hours of August 15, a military coup was attempted by a faction led by Major Kenji Hatanaka. The rebels seized control of the imperial palace and burned Prime Minister Suzuki’s residence, but shortly after dawn the coup was crushed. At noon that day, Emperor Hirohito went on national radio for the first time to announce the Japanese surrender. In his unfamiliar court language, he told his subjects, “we have resolved to pave the way for a grand peace for all the generations to come by enduring the unendurable and suffering what is insufferable.” The United States immediately accepted Japan’s surrender. President Truman appointed MacArthur to head the Allied occupation of Japan as Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers. For the site of Japan’s formal surrender, Truman chose the USS Missouri, a battleship that had seen considerable action in the Pacific and was named after Truman’s native state. MacArthur, instructed to preside over the surrender, held off the ceremony until September 2 in order to allow time for representatives of all the major Allied powers to arrive. On Sunday, September 2, more than 250 Allied warships lay at anchor in Tokyo Bay. The flags of the United States, Britain, the Soviet Union, and China fluttered above the deck of the Missouri. Just after 9 a.m. Tokyo time, Japanese Foreign Minister Mamoru Shigemitsu signed on behalf of the Japanese government. General Yoshijiro Umezu then signed for the Japanese armed forces, and his aides wept as he made his signature. Supreme Commander MacArthur next signed on behalf of the United Nations, declaring, “It is my earnest hope and indeed the hope of all mankind that from this solemn occasion a better world shall emerge out the blood and carnage of the past.” Ten more signatures were made, by the United States, China, Britain, the USSR, Australia, Canada, France, the Netherlands, and New Zealand, respectively. Admiral Chester W. Nimitz signed for the United States. As the 20-minute ceremony ended, the sun burst through low-hanging clouds. The most devastating war in human history was over.
1945 – Hours after Japan’s surrender in World War II, Vietnamese communist Ho Chi Minh declares the independence of Vietnam from France. The proclamation paraphrased the U.S. Declaration of Independence in declaring, “All men are born equal: the Creator has given us inviolable rights, life, liberty, and happiness!” and was cheered by an enormous crowd gathered in Hanoi’s Ba Dinh Square. It would be 30 years, however, before Ho’s dream of a united, communist Vietnam became reality. Born in 1890, Ho Chi Minh left Vietnam as a cook on a French steamer in 1911. After several years as a seaman, he lived in London and then moved to France, where he became a founding member of the French Communist Party in 1920. He later traveled to the Soviet Union, where he studied revolutionary tactics and took an active role in the Communist International. In 1924, he went to China, where he set about organizing exiled Vietnamese communists. Expelled by China in 1927, he traveled extensively before returning to Vietnam in 1941. There, he organized a Vietnamese guerrilla organization–the Viet Minh–to fight for Vietnamese independence. Japan occupied French Indochina in 1940 and collaborated with French officials loyal to France’s Vichy regime. Ho, meanwhile, made contact with the Allies and aided operations against the Japanese in South China. In early 1945, Japan ousted the French administration in Vietnam and executed numerous French officials. When Japan formally surrendered to the Allies on September 2, 1945, Ho Chi Minh felt emboldened enough to proclaim the independent Democratic Republic of Vietnam. French forces seized southern Vietnam and opened talks with the Vietnamese communists. These talks collapsed in 1946, and French warships bombarded the northern Vietnamese city of Haiphong, killing thousands. In response, the Viet Minh launched an attack against the French in Hanoi on December 19, 1945–the beginning of the First Indochina War. During the eight-year war, Mao Zedong’s Chinese communists supported the Viet Minh, while the United States aided the French and anti-communist Vietnamese forces. In 1954, the French suffered a major defeat at Dien Bien Phu, in northwest Vietnam, prompting peace negotiations and the division of Vietnam along the 17th parallel at a conference in Geneva. Vietnam was divided into northern and southern regions, with Ho in command of North Vietnam and Emperor Bao Dai in control of South Vietnam. In the late 1950s, Ho Chi Minh organized a communist guerrilla movement in the South, called the Viet Cong. North Vietnam and the Viet Cong successfully opposed a series of ineffectual U.S.-backed South Vietnam regimes and beginning in 1964 withstood a decade-long military intervention by the United States. Ho Chi Minh died on September 2, 1969, 25 years after declaring Vietnam’s independence from France and nearly six years before his forces succeeded in reuniting North and South Vietnam under communist rule. Saigon, the capital of South Vietnam, was renamed Ho Chi Minh City after it fell to the communists in 1975.
1948 – Christa McAuliffe, the first civilian passenger on a space mission, was born in Boston, Mass. During that 1986 mission, she and the six other crew members on the space shuttle Challenger perished in an explosion shortly after launch.
1951 – The 2nd Infantry Division attacked enemy positions on Bloody Ridge.
1951 – Twenty-two F-86 Sabre jets clashed with 40 MiG-15s in a 30-minute dogfight over the skies between Sinuiju and Pyongyang. The air battle resulted in the destruction of four MiGs.
1956 – Tennessee National Guardsmen halted rioters protesting the admission of 12 African-Americans to schools in Clinton.
1958 – United States Air Force C-130A-II is shot down by fighters over Yerevan in Armenia when it strays into Soviet airspace while conducting a SIGINT mission. All crew members are killed.
1969 – President Ho Chi Minh of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam dies of a heart attack in Hanoi. North Vietnamese officials announced his death the next day. Ho Chi Minh had been the heart and soul of Vietnamese communism since the earliest days of the movement. Born in 1890, he was the son of a Vietnamese government official who resigned in protest against French domination of his country. He was educated in Hue and as a young man worked as a cook on a French steamship, travelling to the United States, Africa, and then Europe, where he took work in London and Paris. In 1920, having accepted Marxist Leninism because of its anticolonial stance, he changed his name to Nguyen Ai Quoc (“Nguyen the Patriot”) and helped found the French Communist Party. He traveled to Moscow in 1923 for study and training. In 1924, he went to Canton, China, to meet with Phan Boi Chau, one of the leading Vietnamese nationalists of the era. While in China, Ho played the leading role in the founding of the Indochinese Communist Party in 1929. Ho spent most of the next 10 years writing and organizing, all while outside Vietnam. When the Japanese invaded Vietnam at the beginning of World War II, he changed his name to Ho Chi Minh (“Ho, the Bringer of Light”) and moved his revolutionary group to the caves of Pac Bo in northern Vietnam. There, in May 1941, he organized the Viet Minh, a nationalist and communist organization created to mobilize the people. During the war, Ho and the Viet Minh entered into a loose alliance with the American Office of Strategic Services (OSS), helping to rescue downed American pilots. In 1945, when the Japanese surrendered, the Viet Minh seized power and proclaimed the Democratic Republic of Vietnam with Ho as president. However, the French, wanting to reimpose colonial rule, refused to grant independence to the Vietnamese. In late 1946, war broke out between the Viet Minh and the French. It lasted for eight bloody years, ending finally with the Viet Minh defeating the French at the Battle of Dien Bien Phu in 1954. The subsequent Geneva Accords divided Vietnam into North and South Vietnam. Ho devoted his efforts to constructing a communist society in North Vietnam. In the early 1960s, a new war broke out in the South, where communist-led guerrillas mounted an insurgency against the U.S.-supported regime in Saigon. When the United States intervened militarily, Ho directed his forces in a protracted war against the Americans. During this period, Ho continued to provide inspirational leadership to his people, but as his health deteriorated, he increasingly assumed a more ceremonial role as policy was shaped by others. Still, he was the embodiment of the revolution and remained a communist icon after his death in 1969.
1970 – NASA announces the cancellation of two Apollo missions to the Moon, Apollo 15 (the designation is re-used by a later mission), and Apollo 19.
1972 – Phuc Yen, 10 miles north of Hanoi, and one of the largest air bases in North Vietnam, is smashed by U.S. fighter-bombers. During the attack, a MiG was shot down, bringing the total to 47 enemy aircraft shot down since the beginning of the North Vietnamese offensive. At this point in the war, 18 U.S. planes had been shot down by MiGs.
1990 – Dozens of Americans reached freedom in the first major airlift of Westerners from Iraq during the month-old Persian Gulf crisis.
1991 – President Bush formally recognized the independence of the Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.
1993 – The United States and Russia formally ended decades of competition in space by agreeing to a joint venture to build a space station.
1996 – The US launched cruise missiles at selected air defense targets in Iraq to discourage Sadam Hussein’s military moves against a Kurd faction.
1997 – In Bosnia US troops relinquished control of the TV transmitter in exchange for agreements to permit opposition voices on the air and an end to inflammatory rhetoric.
1997 – The US demanded exemptions to a proposed global ban on land mines at an int’l meeting in Oslo, Norway. The exemptions were for mines on the Korean peninsula and for certain types of mines.
1999 – NATO and UN officials agreed to the formation of a civilian emergency force in Kosovo from the remnants of the KLA.
2002 – Hans Blix rejects the Iraqi request that he travel to Baghdad for technical talks, saying he would not do so until Saddam Hussein approved the return of weapons inspectors.
2003 – In Indonesia a court convicted radical Muslim cleric Abu Bakar Bashir of inciting others to overthrow the government. He was sentenced to four years in prison for sedition. The court threw out charges that he belonged to al-Qaida’s main Asian ally.
2003 – Secretary Ridge announces the “One Face at the Border” initiative to unify the border inspection process.
2004 – Kidnappers handed over two French journalists in Iraq to an Iraqi Sunni Muslim opposition group. A militant group in Iraq said it had killed three Turkish captives. Gunmen ambushed an Associated Press driver, riddling his car with bullets and killing him near his home in Baghdad.
2004 – The UN Security Council narrowly approved a U.S.-backed resolution aimed at pressuring Lebanon to reject a second term for its pro-Syrian president and calling for an immediate withdrawal of all foreign forces.
2005 – The NASA Mars Exploration Rover Mission robotic Spirit rover sends back a partial panoramic view from the top of “Husband Hill” at Gusev Crater on Mars.
2006 – A 16 day Canadian-led offensive during the second Battle of Panjwaii of the war in Afghanistan. The operation was fought primarily by the 1st Battalion, The Royal Canadian Regiment Battle Group and other elements of the International Security Assistance Force, supported by the Afghan National Army and a team from the 1st Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne) augmented by C Company, 2nd Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment. Its goal was to establish government control over an area of Kandahar Province centered on the town of Panjwayi some 30 kilometres (19 mi) west of Kandahar city. A tactical victory, it resulted in the deaths of 12 Canadian soldiers, five during the major combat operations, five in bombings and two in a mortar/RPG attack during the reconstruction phase of the operation. Fourteen British military personnel were also killed when their plane crashed. NATO announced the operation over on September 17, 2006. They said that the operation was a success in destroying the Taliban force that was massing near Kandahar, and the Taliban had been driven from both Panjwayi and Zhari districts of Kandahar province.
2012 – U.S. special operations personnel temporarily halt the training of all Afghan army and police recruits while a full background check of 27,000 people is ongoing. 45 NATO troops have been killed this year in so-called green-on-blue attacks.
2014 – ISIL releases an Internet video showing the beheading of American journalist Steven Sotloff.
2014 – The United States sends an additional 250 US troops to protect American personnel.
Congressional Medal of Honor Citations for Actions Taken This Day
Rank and organization: Corporal, Company A, 3d U.S. Infantry. Place and date: Near Fort Dodge, Kans., 2 September 1868. Entered service at: ——. Birth: Bucks County, Pa. Date of issue: Unknown. Citation: While detailed as mail courier from the fort, voluntarily went to the assistance of a party of 4 enlisted men, who were attacked by about 50 Indians at some distance from the fort and remained with them until the party was relieved.
LEE, DANIEL W.
Rank and organization: First Lieutenant, U.S. Army, Troop A, 117th Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron. Place and date: Montreval, France, 2 September 1944. Entered service at: Alma, Ga. Born: 23 June 1919, Alma, Ga. G.O. No.: 14, 4 February 1946. Citation: 1st Lt. (then 2d Lt. ) Daniel W. Lee was leader of Headquarters Platoon, Troop A, 117th Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron, Mechanized, at Montreval, France, on 2 September 1944, when the Germans mounted a strong counterattack, isolating the town and engaging its outnumbered defenders in a pitched battle. After the fight had raged for hours and our forces had withstood heavy shelling and armor-supported infantry attacks, 2d Lt. Lee organized a patrol to knock out mortars which were inflicting heavy casualties on the beleaguered reconnaissance troops. He led the small group to the edge of the town, sweeping enemy riflemen out of position on a ridge from which he observed 7 Germans manning 2 large mortars near an armored half-track about 100 yards down the reverse slope. Armed with a rifle and grenades, he left his men on the high ground and crawled to within 30 yards of the mortars, where the enemy discovered him and unleashed machine-pistol fire which shattered his right thigh. Scorning retreat, bleeding and suffering intense pain, he dragged himself relentlessly forward He killed 5 of the enemy with rifle fire and the others fled before he reached their position. Fired on by an armored car, he took cover behind the German half-track and there found a panzerfaust with which to neutralize this threat. Despite his wounds, he inched his way toward the car through withering machinegun fire, maneuvering into range, and blasted the vehicle with a round from the rocket launcher, forcing it to withdraw. Having cleared the slope of hostile troops, he struggle back to his men, where he collapsed from pain and loss of blood. 2d Lt. Lee’s outstanding gallantry, willing risk of life, and extreme tenacity of purpose in coming to grips with the enemy, although suffering from grievous wounds, set an example of bravery and devotion to duty in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service.