1620 – The Mayflower sails from Plymouth, England, bound for the New World with 102 passengers. The ship was headed for Virginia, where the colonists–half religious dissenters and half entrepreneurs–had been authorized to settle by the British crown. However, stormy weather and navigational errors forced the Mayflower off course, and on November 21 the “Pilgrims” reached Massachusetts, where they founded the first permanent European settlement in New England in late December. Thirty-five of the Pilgrims were members of the radical English Separatist Church, who traveled to America to escape the jurisdiction of the Church of England, which they found corrupt. Ten years earlier, English persecution had led a group of Separatists to flee to Holland in search of religious freedom. However, many were dissatisfied with economic opportunities in the Netherlands, and under the direction of William Bradford they decided to immigrate to Virginia, where an English colony had been founded at Jamestown in 1607. The Separatists won financial backing from a group of investors called the London Adventurers, who were promised a sizable share of the colony’s profits. Three dozen church members made their way back to England, where they were joined by about 70 entrepreneurs–enlisted by the London stock company to ensure the success of the enterprise. In August 1620, the Mayflower left Southampton with a smaller vessel–the Speedwell–but the latter proved unseaworthy and twice was forced to return to port. On September 16, the Mayflower left for America alone from Plymouth. In a difficult Atlantic crossing, the 90-foot Mayflower encountered rough seas and storms and was blown more than 500 miles off course. Along the way, the settlers formulated and signed the Mayflower Compact, an agreement that bound the signatories into a “civil body politic.” Because it established constitutional law and the rule of the majority, the compact is regarded as an important precursor to American democracy. After a 66-day voyage, the ship landed on November 21 on the tip of Cape Cod at what is now Provincetown, Massachusetts. After coming to anchor in Provincetown harbor, a party of armed men under the command of Captain Myles Standish was sent out to explore the area and find a location suitable for settlement. While they were gone, Susanna White gave birth to a son, Peregrine, aboard the Mayflower. He was the first English child born in New England. In mid-December, the explorers went ashore at a location across Cape Cod Bay where they found cleared fields and plentiful running water and named the site Plymouth. The expedition returned to Provincetown, and on December 21 the Mayflower came to anchor in Plymouth harbor. Just after Christmas, the pilgrims began work on dwellings that would shelter them through their difficult first winter in America. In the first year of settlement, half the colonists died of disease. In 1621, the health and economic condition of the colonists improved, and that autumn Governor William Bradford invited neighboring Indians to Plymouth to celebrate the bounty of that year’s harvest season. Plymouth soon secured treaties with most local Indian tribes, and the economy steadily grew, and more colonists were attracted to the settlement. By the mid 1640s, Plymouth’s population numbered 3,000 people, but by then the settlement had been overshadowed by the larger Massachusetts Bay Colony to the north, settled by Puritans in 1629. The term “Pilgrim” was not used to describe the Plymouth colonists until the early 19th century and was derived from a manuscript in which Governor Bradford spoke of the “saints” who left Holland as “pilgrimes.” The orator Daniel Webster spoke of “Pilgrim Fathers” at a bicentennial celebration of Plymouth’s founding in 1820, and thereafter the term entered common usage.
1776 – The Battle of Harlem Heights was fought during the New York and New Jersey campaign of the American War of Independence. The action took place in what is now the Morningside Heights and west into the future Harlem neighborhoods of northwestern Manhattan Island in New York Town. The Continental Army, under Commander-in-Chief General George Washington, Major General Nathanael Greene, and Major General Israel Putnam, totaling around 1,800 men, held a series of high ground positions in upper Manhattan against an attacking British Army division totaling around 5,000 men under the command of Major General Alexander Leslie. British troops made a tactical error by having their light infantry buglers sound a fox hunting call, “gone away,” while in pursuit. This was intended to insult Washington, himself a keen fox hunter, who learned the sport from his neighbor and mentor near Alexandria, Virginia, the Sixth Lord Fairfax (Thomas Fairfax) during the French and Indian War. “Gone away” means that a fox is in full flight from the hounds on its trail. The Continentals, who were in orderly retreat, were infuriated by this and galvanized to hold their ground. After flanking the British attackers, the Americans slowly pushed the British back. After the British withdrawal, Washington had his troops end the pursuit. The battle went a long way to restoring the confidence of the Continental Army after suffering several defeats. It was Washington’s first battlefield victory of the war. After a month without any major fighting between the armies, Washington was forced to withdraw his army north to the town of White Plains in southeastern New York when the British moved north into Westchester County and threatened to trap Washington further south on Manhattan. Washington suffered two more defeats, at White Plains and Fort Washington. After these two defeats, and also with the evacuation of Fort Lee, (named after his deputy, Gen. Charles Lee) across the Hudson River guarding the western shore in New Jersey, Washington and the army retreated across New Jersey to Pennsylvania. The New York and New Jersey campaign ended after the subsequent American Christmas victories at Trenton and Princeton, that reinvigorated the Continental Army and the new nation.
1779 – The Siege of Savannah or the Second Battle of Savannah was an encounter of the American War of Independence. The year before, the city of Savannah, Georgia, had been captured by a British expeditionary corps under Lieutenant-Colonel Archibald Campbell. The siege itself consisted of a joint Franco-American attempt to retake Savannah from September 16 to October 18, 1779. On October 9 a major assault against the British siege works failed. During the attack, Polish nobleman, Kazimierz Pułaski, fighting on the American side, was mortally wounded. With the failure of the so-called joint American-French attack, the siege failed, and the British remained in control of Savannah until July 1782, near the end of the war. In 1779, more than 500 Haitian volunteers from Saint-Domingue, Haiti under the command of Comte d’Estaing, fought alongside American colonial troops against the British in the Siege of Savannah, one of the most significant foreign contributions to the American Revolutionary War.
1814 – A detachment of Marines under Major Daniel Carmick from the Naval Station at New Orleans, together with an Army detachment, destroyed a pirate stronghold at Barataria, on the Island of Grande Terre, near New Orleans.
1832 – George Washington Custis Lee is born to Robert E. and Mary Custis Lee in Fort Monroe, Virginia. The eldest son and the second of seven children, Custis Lee, as his family called him, followed his father’s footsteps to West Point. At age 16, Custis had been denied entry into the military academy, but his father wrote an appeal to General Winfield Scott and so he was admitted the following year. Though he had needed his father’s influence to gain admission, once in West Point Lee made the most of his opportunity. He graduated first in his class of 46 in 1854. For the last two years of his studies, his father was superintendent of the academy. Lee served in the Engineering Corps until 1860, primarily in California. When Fort Sumter fell in April 1861, he was stationed in Washington, D.C. Lee resigned his commission on May 2, 1861, about two weeks after his father resigned from the U.S. Army, and became a captain in the Confederate Army, assisting in the construction of fortifications for Richmond. In August 1861, Confederate President Jefferson Davis selected Lee to serve as his aide-de-camp, and he was soon promoted to colonel. Custis Lee spent the next three years in this position, gathering military information for Davis and conferring with him on a wide variety of military issues. For his service, he was promoted to brigadier general in 1863. Lee was always torn between his desire for a field command and Davis’s wish that he remain in that position. Although he never seriously lobbied for a field command, opportunities did arise. During the Gettysburg campaign, when his father’s army was in Pennsylvania, Lee commanded part of the force defending Richmond, and he oversaw the Richmond defenses during Union General Ulysses S. Grant’s Virginia campaign of 1864. He also assumed leadership of a division in October 1864, but his command saw action only when the Confederates evacuated Richmond in March 1865. He and his force were captured at Sayler’s Creek a few days before his father surrendered the rest of the Army of Northern Virginia. After the war, Custis Lee taught engineering at the Virginia Military Institute. He later replaced his father as president of Washington College (which was eventually renamed Washington and Lee College) upon the elder Lee’s death in 1870. Custis Lee retired from that post in 1897, and died in Fairfax City, Virginia, on February 18, 1913.
1854 – CDR David G. Farragut takes possession of Mare Island, the first U.S. Navy Yard on the Pacific.
1862 – Confederate Congress passed a resolution expressing thanks to Commander Ebenezer Farrand, CSN, senior officer in command of the combined naval and military forces at Drewry’s Bluff on 15 May, “for the great and signal victory achieved over the naval forces of the United States in the engagement . . . at Drewry’s Bluff;” Farrand was praised for his “gallantry, courage, and endurance in that protracted fight. . . .” which Confederate statesmen knew could have been so disastrous to their cause.
1864 – Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest led 4,500 men out of Verona, Miss. to harass Union outposts in northern Alabama and Tennessee.
1893 – The largest land run in history begins with more than 100,000 people pouring into the Cherokee Strip of Oklahoma to claim valuable land that had once belonged to Native Americans. With a single shot from a pistol the mad dash began, and land-hungry pioneers on horseback and in carriages raced forward to stake their claims to the best acres. Ironically, not many years before that same land had once been considered worthless desert. Early explorers of Oklahoma believed that the territory was too arid and treeless for white settlement, but several suggested it might be the perfect place to resettle Indians, whose rich and fertile lands in the southeast were increasingly coveted by Americans. The U.S. government later took this advice and began removing eastern Indian tribes like the Cherokee and Choctaw to Oklahoma Territory in 1817. No more eager than the whites to leave their green and well-watered lands for the arid plains, some Indians resisted and had to be removed by force-most tragically, the 4,000 Cherokee who died during the brutal overland march known appropriately as the “Trail of Tears.” By 1885, a diverse mixture of Native American tribes had been pushed onto reservations in eastern Oklahoma and promised that the land would be theirs “as long as the grass grows and the water runs.” Yet even this seemingly marginal land did not long escape the attention of land-hungry Americans. By the late nineteenth century, farmers had developed new methods that suddenly made the formerly reviled Plains hugely valuable. Pressure steadily increased to open the Indian lands to settlement, and in 1889, President Benjamin Harrison succumbed and threw open large areas of unoccupied Indian lands to white settlement. The giant Cherokee Strip rush was only the largest of a series of massive “land runs” that began in the 1890s, with thousands of immigrants stampeding into Oklahoma Territory and establishing towns like Norman and Oklahoma City almost overnight.
1917 – Navy Department authorizes establishment of 16 Naval air stations abroad.
1918 – CGC Seneca’s crew attempted to bring the torpedoed British collier Wellington into Brest, France. Eleven of Seneca‘s crew, sent as a boarding party aboard the collier, were lost when Wellington foundered in a gale on 16 September 1918.
1919 – The American Legion was incorporated by an act of Congress.
1920 – As lunchtime approached on September 16, 1920, New York’s financial district was grinding through its regular motions–people were gathering outside to eat, and brokers were holed up inside, busily trading away the day. But before the clock hit noon, routine gave way to panic, as a horse-drawn wagon filled with explosives suddenly detonated near the subtreasury. Flames flooded Wall Street, shooting up nearly six-stories-high. The blast shattered windows around the area and sent a pipe crashing against the neck of a man strolling some six blocks away from the subtreasury. All told, 300 people were killed and a hundred more were wounded. The only famous financial figure to be injured was Junius Spencer, J.P. Morgan’s grandson, who suffered a slight gash on one hand. Since radical bashing was in vogue at the time, Communists, Anarchists, and anyone else leaning too far to the left were accused of having staged a violent protest against capitalism. More pragmatic souls argued that the wagon belonged to an explosives operation and had simply strayed from its prescribed route. Whatever merits these theories have, the ensuing investigation failed to uncover the culprit or cause of the blast, and the case remains a mystery.
1940 – The Burke-Wadsworth Act is passed by Congress, by wide margins in both houses, and the first peacetime draft in the history of the United States is imposed. Selective Service was born. The registration of men between the ages of 21 and 36 began exactly one month later, as Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson, who had been a key player in moving the Roosevelt administration away from a foreign policy of strict neutrality, began drawing draft numbers out of a glass bowl. The numbers were handed to the president, who read them aloud for public announcement. There were some 20 million eligible young men-50 percent were rejected the very first year, either for health reasons or illiteracy (20 percent of those who registered were illiterate). In November 1942, with the United States now a participant in the war, and not merely a neutral bystander, the draft ages expanded; men 18 to 37 were now eligible. Blacks were passed over for the draft because of racist assumptions about their abilities and the viability of a mixed-race military. But this changed in 1943, when a “quota” was imposed, meant to limit the numbers of blacks drafted to reflect their numbers in the overall population, roughly 10.6 percent of the whole. Initially, blacks were restricted to “labor units,” but this too ended as the war progressed, when they were finally used in combat. “Conscientious objector” status was granted to those who could demonstrate “sincerity of belief in religious teachings combined with a profound moral aversion to war.” Quakers made up most of the COs, but 75 percent of those Quakers who were drafted fought. COs had to perform alternate service in Civilian Public Service Camps, which entailed long hours of hazardous work for no compensation. About 5,000 to 6,000 men were imprisoned for failing to register or serve the nation in any form; these numbers were comprised mostly of Jehovah’s Witnesses. By war’s end, approximately 34 million men had registered, and 10 million served with the military.
1940 – Under authority granted by Congress, President Franklin Roosevelt orders the Army to begin mobilizing the entire National Guard for one year’s training prompted by the worsening conditions in Europe. The Nazis armies had conquered most of Western Europe except Britain. The president and Congress wanted the 242,000 men in the Guard to rapidly expand the Regular Army of only 190,000 men and begin to prepare in case of attack. The first of 18 increments enter active duty today, the last units will not be called up until the spring of 1941. Guardsmen report to forts located all across the country. Once settled in, they begin large maneuver training not usually available in peacetime. Guard aerial observation squadrons, separated from their parent divisions and placed in Army Air Corps groups, began antisubmarine patrols along the coasts. Helping to fill in the ranks were men drafted under a newly enacted conscription law passed by Congress. America was preparing for war.
1942 – 3rdMarDiv activated at Camp Elliott in California.
1942 – The Japanese base at Kiska in the Aleutian Islands was raided by American bombers.
1942 – Allied prospects are brighter as they establish local air superiority over Ioribaiwa. This halts the Japanese advance. American reinforcements brought into Port Moresby to join the Australians mean that an effective offense can now be planned.
1944 – The US marine forces consolidate their beachhead and are engaged in a battle for control of the airfield on the island.
1944 – The Octagon Conference ends. Churchill and Roosevelt and their staffs conclude their meeting in Quebec to discuss strategy. There is general agreement on continuing the campaigns underway in Europe. A campaign in Burma is agreed upon. There is also agreement on British forces joining the American forces in the final campaigns in the Pacific.
1950 – The U.S. 1st Marine Division, assisted by four battalions of ROK Marines, secured the Inchon peninsula. The way was now clear for the landing of the rest of X Corps and the attack towards Seoul and Suwon.
1950 – The U.S. 8th Army broke out of the Pusan Perimeter in South Korea and began heading north to meet MacArthur’s troops heading south from Inchon.
1958 – USS Grayback fires first operational launch of Regulus II surface to surface guided missile off CA coast; Missile carries first U.S. mail sent by guided missile.
1960 – In a cable to Secretary of State Christian A. Herter, US Ambassador In Saigon, Elbridge Durbrow analyzes two separate threats to the Diem regime–danger from demonstration or coup, predominantly non-Communist in origin; and the danger of the gradual Communist extension of control over the countryside.
1961 – The United States Navy’s National Hurricane Research Project drops eight cylinders of silver iodide into the eyewall of Hurricane Esther. Wind speed temporarily reduces by 10%, giving rise to Project Stormfury.
1969 – President Richard Nixon announces the second round of U.S. troop withdrawals from Vietnam. This was part of the dual program that he had announced at the Midway conference on June 8 that called for “Vietnamization” of the war and U.S. troop withdrawals, as the South Vietnamese forces assumed more responsibility for the fighting. The first round of withdrawals was completed in August and totaled 25,000 troops (including two brigades of the 9th Infantry Division). There would be 15 announced withdrawals in total, leaving only 27,000 U.S. troops in Vietnam by November 1972.
1972 – South Vietnamese troops recaptured Quang Tri province in South Vietnam from the North Vietnamese Army.
1974 – President Ford announced a conditional amnesty program for Vietnam War deserters and draft-evaders. Limited amnesty was offered to Vietnam-era draft resisters who would now swear allegiance to the United States and perform two years of public service.
1990 – Iraqi television broadcast an eight-minute videotaped address by President Bush, who warned the Iraqi people that Saddam Hussein’s brinkmanship could plunge them into war “against the world.”
1990 – The U.N. Security Council passes Resolution 667condemning Iraqi efforts to force nations to close their embassies in Kuwait and move them to Baghdad.
1991 – A federal judge in Washington dismissed all Iran-Contra charges against Oliver North.
1992 – Manuel Noriega, former Panamanian strongman, is sentenced to 40 years in prison, later reduced to 30 years, on charges of drug trafficking, racketeering, and money laundering. His sentence was later further reduced to 17 years and sentence ended in 2007 so he could be extradited to France to stand trial there, where he was sentenced to 7 years in 2010, then released from French prison and extradited to Panama to be tried for human rights violations.
1994 – Two astronauts from the space shuttle Discovery went on the first untethered spacewalk in 10 years.
1996 – Space shuttle Atlantis blasted off more than six weeks late on a mission to pick up NASA astronaut Shannon Lucid, aloft since last March, from the Russian space station Mir.
1996 – Kuwait agreed to allow the US to send 3,300 troops to its soil over the confrontation with Iraq.
1997 – Two Air national Guard F-16 fighters collided off Atlantic City, N.J. All the crew members survived.
1998 – Iraq urges the Security Council to reverse its decision on sanctions reviews.
2001 – President George W. Bush pledged a crusade against terrorists, saying there was “no question” Osama bin Laden was the “prime suspect” in the Sept. 11 attack. US officials warned that the new war on terrorism will be a long, often secret and a “dirty” contest.
2001 – Pakistan told Afghanistan to surrender Osama bin Laden within 3 days or face almost certain military action.
2001 – More than 10,000 Army and Air Guard personnel from 29 states and Washington, DC, are on active duty providing humanitarian relief, security, air defense and communications support as a result of the attacks of September 11th.
2002 – Iraq said it would allow UN weapons inspectors unconditional access to suspected weapons sites. Naji Sabri, Iraq’s minister of foreign affairs, addressed the letter to UN Sec. Gen. Kofi Annan. The inspection commission, headed by Hans Blix, is responsible for overseeing the destruction of Iraq’s chemical and biological weapons and the long-range missiles to deliver them. Core staff: 63 people from 17 nations.
2002 – In Singapore authorities announced the arrests of 21 men they identified as members of an extremist Islamic organization. The men were initially detained in August and linked to Riduan Isamuddin, an Indonesian militant.
2004 – Gunmen abducted two Americans and a Briton in a brazen attack on a house in an upscale Baghdad neighborhood. The US military said it killed 60 in Fallujah and Ramadi strikes.
2006 – Operation Mountain Fury was a NATO-led operation begun as a follow-up operation to Operation Medusa, to clear Taliban rebels from the eastern provinces of Afghanistan. Another focus of the operation was to enable reconstruction projects such as schools, health-care facilities, and courthouses to take place in the targeted provinces. During the operation, the Taliban suffered large losses during direct battle with NATO coalition forces; as a result, they are expected to focus more on tactics such as the use of Improvised Explosive Devices, according to sources such as NATO’s top commander James L. Jones and Canadian defense minister Gordon O’Connor. Jones also linked the large-scale production of opium to increased insurgent violence.
2007 – Employees of Blackwater Worldwide, a private security firm engaged for the protection of US officials, allegedly shoot and kill 17 Iraqis in Nisour Square, Baghdad; all criminal charges against them are later dismissed, sparking outrage in the Arab world.
2013 – Lone gunman Aaron Alexis fatally shot twelve people and injured three others in a mass shooting at the headquarters of the Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) inside the Washington Navy Yard in Southeast Washington, D.C. The attack, which took place in the Navy Yard’s Building 197, began around 8:20 a.m. EDT and ended when Alexis was killed by police around 9:20 a.m. EDT.
2013 – The United States and Russia agree to a deal to eradicate chemical weapons in Syria.
2014 – The United States announces it will send thousands of troops to West Africa to build Ebola virus clinics and train health workers.
Congressional Medal of Honor Citations for Actions Taken This Day
PRESTON, ARTHUR MURRAY
Rank and organization: Lieutenant, U.S. Navy Reserve, Torpedo Boat Squadron 33. Place and date. Wasile Bay, Halmahera Island, 16 September 1944. Entered service at: Maryland. Born: 1 November 1913, Washington, D.C. Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as commander, Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron 33, while effecting the rescue of a Navy pilot shot down in Wasile Bay, Halmahera Island, less than 200 yards from a strongly defended Japanese dock and supply area, 16 September 1944. Volunteering for a perilous mission unsuccessfully attempted by the pilot’s squadron mates and a PBY plane, Lt. Comdr. (then Lieutenant) Preston led PT-489 and PT-363 through 60 miles of restricted, heavily mined waters. Twice turned back while running the gauntlet of fire from powerful coastal defense guns guarding the 11-mile strait at the entrance to the bay, he was again turned back by furious fire in the immediate area of the downed airman. Aided by an aircraft smokescreen, he finally succeeded in reaching his objective and, under vicious fire delivered at 150-yard range, took the pilot aboard and cleared the area, sinking a small hostile cargo vessel with 40-mm. fire during retirement. Increasingly vulnerable when covering aircraft were forced to leave because of insufficient fuel, Lt. Comdr. Preston raced PT boats 489 and 363 at high speed for 20 minutes through shell-splashed water and across minefields to safety. Under continuous fire for 2l/2 hours, Lt. Comdr. Preston successfully achieved a mission considered suicidal in its tremendous hazards, and brought his boats through without personnel casualties and with but superficial damage from shrapnel. His exceptional daring and great personal valor enhance the finest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service.
Rank and organization: Corporal, U.S. Marine Corps Reserve, Company F, 2d Battalion, 1st Marines, 1st Marine Division (Rein.). Place and date: Hill 749, Korea, 15 and 16 September 1951. Entered service at: Beverly, Mass. Born: 1 August 1929, Beverly, Mass. Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as an automatic-rifleman in Company F, in action against enemy aggressor forces. With a forward platoon suffering heavy casualties and forced to withdraw under a vicious enemy counterattack as his company assaulted strong hostile forces entrenched on Hill 749, Cpl. Vittori boldly rushed through the withdrawing troops with 2 other volunteers from his reserve platoon and plunged directly into the midst of the enemy. Overwhelming them in a fierce hand-to-hand struggle, he enabled his company to consolidate its positions to meet further imminent onslaughts. Quick to respond to an urgent call for a rifleman to defend a heavy machine gun positioned on the extreme point of the northern flank and virtually isolated from the remainder of the unit when the enemy again struck in force during the night, he assumed position under the devastating barrage and, fighting a single-handed battle, leaped from 1 flank to the other, covering each foxhole in turn as casualties continued to mount manning a machine gun when the gunner was struck down and making repeated trips through the heaviest shellfire to replenish ammunition. With the situation becoming extremely critical, reinforcing units to the rear pinned down under the blistering attack and foxholes left practically void by dead and wounded for a distance of 100 yards, Cpl. Vittori continued his valiant stand, refusing to give ground as the enemy penetrated to within feet of his position, simulating strength in the line and denying the foe physical occupation of the ground. Mortally wounded by the enemy machine gun and rifle bullets while persisting in his magnificent defense of the sector where approximately 200 enemy dead were found the following morning, Cpl. Vittori, by his fortitude, stouthearted courage, and great personal valor, had kept the point position intact despite the tremendous odds and undoubtedly prevented the entire battalion position from collapsing. His extraordinary heroism throughout the furious nightlong battle reflects the highest credit upon himself and the U.S. Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country.