September 20

20 September

National POW/MIA Recognition Day is observed across the nation on the third Friday of September each year (can fall on any date from the 14th to the 20th of a given year). Many Americans take the time to remember those who were prisoners of war (POW) and those who are missing in action (MIA), as well as their families.


1565Spanish forces under Pedro Menendez de Aviles capture the French Huguenot settlement of Fort Caroline, near present-day Jacksonville, Florida. The French, commanded by René Goulaine de Laudonnière, lost 135 men in the first instance of colonial warfare between European powers in America. Most of those killed were massacred on the order of Aviles, who allegedly had the slain hung on trees beside the inscription “Not as Frenchmen, but as heretics.” Laudonniere and some 40 other Huguenots escaped. In 1564, the French Huguenots (Protestants) had settled on the Banks of May, a strategic point on the Florida coast. King Philip II of Spain was disturbed by this challenge to Spanish authority in the New World and sent Pedro Menendez de Aviles to Florida to expel the French heretics and establish a Spanish colony there. In early September 1565, Aviles founded San Augustin on the Florida coast, which would later grow into Saint Augustine–the oldest city in North America. Two weeks later, on September 20, he attacked and destroyed the French settlement of Fort Caroline. The decisive French defeat encouraged France to refocus its colonial efforts in America far to the north, in what is now Quebec and Nova Scotia in Canada.
1737The finish of the Walking Purchase which forces the cession of 1.2 million acres (4,860 km²) of Lenape-Delaware tribal land to the Pennsylvania Colony. In Delaware Nation v. Pennsylvania (2004), the current nation claimed 314 acres (1.27 km2) included in the original purchase, but the US District Court granted the Commonwealth’s motion to dismiss. It ruled that the case was nonjusticiable, although it acknowledged that Indian title appeared to have been extinguished by fraud. This ruling held through the United States courts of appeals. The US Supreme Court refused to hear the case.
1776 American soldiers, some of them members of Nathan Hale’s regiment, filtered into British-held New York City and stashed resin soaked logs into numerous buildings and a roaring inferno was started. A fourth of the city was destroyed including Trinity Church. The events are documented in the 1997 book “Liberty by Thomas Fleming.”
1777 British Dragoons massacred sleeping Continental troops at Paoli, Pa. Prior to launching a surprise night attack on Anthony Wayne’s Continental division at Paoli, General Charles Grey ordered his troops to rely entirely on their bayonets. To ensure that his troops obeyed, he had his men remove the flints from their weapons so they could not be fired.
1797 – The US frigate Constitution (Old Ironsides) was launched in Boston.
1806 After nearly two-and-a-half years spent exploring the western wilderness, the Corps of Discovery arrived at the frontier village of La Charette, the first white settlement they had seen since leaving behind the outposts of eastern civilization in 1804. Entirely out of provisions and trade goods and subsisting on wild plums, Meriwether Lewis, William Clark, and their men were understandably eager to reach home. Upon arriving at La Charette, the men fired a three-round salute to alert the inhabitants of their approach and were answered by three rounds from the trading boats moored at the riverbank. The people of La Charette rushed to the banks of the Missouri to greet the returning heroes. “Every person,” Clark wrote with his characteristic inventive spelling, “both French and americans Seem to express great pleasure at our return, and acknowledge them selves astonished in Seeing us return. They informed us that we were Supposed to have been lost long Since.” The Lewis and Clark mission had been a spectacular success. With the aid of friendly Native American tribes, the explorers had charted the upper reaches of the Missouri, proved there was no easy water passage across the Continental Divide, reached the shores of the Pacific Ocean, and made the first major step to opening of the trans-Mississippi West to the American settlement. After spending the evening celebrating with the people of La Charette, the next day the expedition continued rapidly down the river and after two more days reached St. Louis, the city where their long journey had begun. Lewis’ first act upon leaping from his canoe to the St. Louis dock was to send a note asking the postmaster to delay the mail headed east so he could write a quick letter to President Jefferson telling him that the intrepid Corps of Discovery had, at long last, come home.
1814 – With the U.S. Capitol destroyed by the British, Marines protected Congress in a hotel.
1820 – John Fulton Reynolds, Major General (Union volunteers), was born. He died in 1863 on first day at Gettysburg.
1861 – Lexington, Missouri, was captured by Union forces.
1863 In one of the bloodiest battles of the war, the Confederate Army of Tennessee drives the Union Army of the Cumberland back into Chattanooga, Tennessee, from Chickamauga Creek in northern Georgia. Although technically a Confederate victory, the battle had little long-term effect on the military situation in the region. During the summer of 1863, Union General William Rosecrans had outmaneuvered Confederate General Braxton Bragg. Without fighting any major battles, Rosecrans had moved Bragg out of Tullahoma, Tennessee, and, by September, had captured Chattanooga. Pursuing Bragg into the mountainous region of northern Georgia, Rosecrans gleaned information from Confederate deserters that indicated Bragg was retreating. However, this information was false and had been deliberately fed to the Yankees. Bragg had hoped to attack Rosecrans and drive the Federals south, away from Chattanooga and Union supply lines. On September 19, a division from Union General George Thomas’s corps moved out to strike at what Thomas thought was an isolated Confederate brigade. But his force ran into dismounted Rebel cavalry, and the battle escalated when Bragg sent additional troops to the skirmish. As the day wore on, the battle spread down the lines until both armies were fully engaged. That night, additional Confederate troops arrived under the command of James Longstreet. Longstreet was part of Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia, and his men had fought at Gettysburg two months prior. He was dispatched with two of his divisions to stem the tide of Confederate defeat in the West. Longsteet’s appearance paid off for the Confederates. Around noon on September 20, the stalemate broke when Rosecrans ordered General Thomas Wood to move his division to plug a gap in the Yankee line. Although no such gap existed, one was created when Wood moved his division. Longstreet’s troops were now able to march through the gap, and the Union line collapsed in chaos. Most of the Union army began a hasty retreat to nearby Chattanooga, leaving Thomas’s corps alone on the battlefield. Thomas stubbornly held his ground and halted the Rebel attack, which allowed him to successfully withdraw without further losses. His action earned him the nickname “The Rock of Chickamauga.” Bragg did not immediately pursue Rosecrans to Chattanooga. Instead, the Confederates besieged the city until Union reinforcements arrived in late October. One of the largest battles of the war, Chickamauga resulted in 18,500 Confederate casualties and 16,100 Union casualties. Each side lost about 28 percent of their forces.
1881 – Chester A. Arthur was sworn in as the 21st president of the United States, succeeding James A. Garfield, who had been assassinated.
1917 The 26th “Yankee” Division (CT, ME, MA, NH, RI, VT) becomes the first American division to arrive in Europe during World War I. More than one million American soldiers and Marines will join them by war’s end in November 1918. All 18 National Guard divisions will serve in France, but only 11 see combat as intact units. Six others become “depot” divisions, serving as a source of replacements for casualties suffered by the frontline divisions. One, the 93rd Division, composed of all of the Guard’s African American units, has each of its four regiments parceled out to three different French divisions because American army leadership did not want to mix black and white soldiers together.
1943 – American forces on Sagekarasa discover that the Japanese forces have been evacuated.
1943 – In an ongoing debate over drafting fathers of families, General Marshal and Admiral King tell a Senate Committee hearing that failure to draft such persons will probably prolong the war.
1943 – General Lucas replaces General Dawley in command of the US 6th Corps (part of the US 5th Army).
1944 Operation Market Garden continues. A joint attack by the British Guards Armored Division and the US 82nd Airborne Division captures Nijmegen and the bridge over the Waal River. At Arnhem, the British 1st Airborne Division is forced away from the bridge by German forces. Meanwhile, Polish forces, part of Canadian 1st Army, make gains along the Scheldt River. Farther south, US 3rd Army (part of US 12th Army Group) captures Chatel and Luneville.
1944 – On Angaur, most of the Japanese garrison has been eliminated by American forces. Some Japanese forces continue to resist in the northwest of the island.1945 – German rocket engineers who have been captured at the end of the war and been brought to the US start work on the American rocket program.
1945 Automotive manufacturers had been at the heart of a seamless war machine during World War II, producing trucks, tanks, and planes at astounding rates. But only after the last shots were fired did auto factories begin to produce cars again, focusing their sights on the booming postwar market. A month after the surrender of Japan, Packard followed the lead of every other company and ceased military production, turning out its last wartime Rolls-Royce Merlin engine on this day.
1950 Marines of the 1st Marine Division crossed the Han River along a six-mile beachhead, eight miles northwest of Seoul, Korea. Five days later, the 1st and 5th Marines would attack Seoul and the city would be captured by 27 September.
1951 – In Operation Summit, the first combat helicopter landing in history, U.S. Marines were landed in Korea.
1954 – The 1st FORTRAN computer program was executed.
1954Nine of Diem’s 15 cabinet members resign, apparently convinced that Diem is doomed. This has been predicated by Diem’s suspension of his Chief of Staff, General Nguyen Van Hinh on the 11th in an attempt to gain control of his military. Diem had ordered Hinh to leave for France. Hinh refuses to give up command or to leave the country. 8 days later, Hinh will station tanks around the presidential palace. A coalition of anti-Diem factions send a representative, Le Van Dien to Paris to see permission form Emperor Bao Dai to depose Diem in a coup. Following he resignations, Colonel Lansdale and negotiators armed with US funds try to strike a bargain with the opposition.
1972 The USAF reveals that U.S. planes have been mining the coastal rivers and canals of northern Quang Tri province below the DMZ, the first mining of waterways within South Vietnam. This was an attempt to impede further reinforcement of North Vietnamese forces in the area and to remove the threat to the newly recaptured city of Quang Tri.
1984 Twelve people were killed today when a suicide car bomber attacked the U.S. embassy complex in Beirut, Lebanon. Unfortunately, these deaths were not an isolated tragedy. Car bombs have become the weapon of choice for terrorists in recent years, used by militant groups all over the world. The car bomb method has sadly proven an effective way of achieving mass destruction, as it is much easier for a terrorist to find a parking space than bypass a building’s internal security. From Beirut to Oklahoma City, entire buildings have been destroyed from car bomb blasts, and countless lives have been lost. Among the most recent tragedies were the dual U.S. embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania, where two car bombs killed 257 people, and reduced several buildings to rubble.
1990 – Both Germanys ratified reunification.
1990 – Demanding equal time, Iraq asked US networks to broadcast a message by President Saddam Hussein in response to President Bush’s videotaped address to the Iraqi people.
1990 PSU 301 became the second reserve Coast Guard port security unit deployed in support of Operation Desert Shield. PSU 301 was staffed by reservists from Buffalo, New York. They were stationed in Al-Jubayl, Saudi Arabia.
1991 – U.N. weapons inspectors left Bahrain for Iraq to renew their search for Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.
1992 – The space shuttle Endeavour landed at the Kennedy Space Center.
1994 – Space shuttle Discovery and its six astronauts landed at Edwards Air Force Base in California after an 11-day mission.
1995 – Bosnian Serb rebels pulled back enough heavy weapons from around Sarajevo to keep NATO airstrikes at bay.
1999 – In Kosovo NATO and the KLA agreed on a transformation of the KLA into a civil defense group named the Kosovo Protection Corps.
2001 – Pictures of most of the September 11 hijackers were published along with some personal data.
2001 – Iraq accuses Kuwait of excessive extraction of the joint al-Ratqa border oilfield. Iraq’s foreign minister requests compensation from Kuwait.
2001 – The FBI arrested Nabil Al-Marabh (34), a suspected bin laden associate, in the Chicago area.
2001 – A chartered flight left the US with members of the sprawling bin Laden family. The FBI interviewed 22 of the 26 people aboard.
2001A grand council of over 1,000 Muslim clerics from across Afghanistan that had convened to decide bin Laden’s fate, issued a fatwa, expressing sadness for the deaths in the 9/11 attacks, urging bin Laden to leave their country and calling on the United Nations and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation to conduct an independent investigation of “recent events to clarify the reality and prevent harassment of innocent people”. The fatwa went on to warn that should the United States not agree with its decision and invade Afghanistan, “jihad becomes an order for all Muslims.” White House spokesperson Ari Fleischer rejected the response, saying the time for talk had ended and it was time for action.
2001 – In Macedonia NATO troops began the 3rd stage of Essential Harvest.
2001 – President Bush addresses joint session of Congress in response to 9/11 attacks, proposing a new Office of Homeland Security and requesting a declaration of a War on Terror.
2002 – In Yemen 2 suspected members of al-Qaida were killed in a gunbattle and three others were arrested after security forces raided several homes looking for members of the terrorist network.
2003 – In Iraq gunmen attacked and wounded Aquila al-Hashimi, one of three women on Iraq’s Governing Council and a leading candidate to become the country’s representative at the United Nations.
2004 A car bomb exploded in the northern Iraq city of Mosul, killing three people. Gunmen killed a Sunni Muslim cleric as he entered a mosque in Baghdad to perform noon prayers. At least two people were killed and three wounded in explosions that rocked the rebel-held city of Fallujah. An Islamic group posted a video showing the beheading of US contract employee Eugene Armstrong.
2007 – The New York Police Department denies a request by the President of Iran Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to visit Ground Zero of the September 11, 2001 attacks in New York City.
2010 – Admiral Thad Allen of the United States Coast Guard, the man responsible for leading the cleanup of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, declares that BP’s Macondo well is sealed.
2011 – The United States military ends its “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, allowing gay men and women to serve openly for the first time.

Congressional Medal of Honor Citations for Actions Taken This Day

Rank and organization: First Sergeant, Company B, 2d U.S. Infantry. Place and date: At Shepherdstown Ford, Va., 20 September 1862. Entered service at: Connecticut. Birth: New Haven, Conn. Date of issue 21 April 1892. Citation: Voluntarily attempted to spike a gun in the face of the enemy.

Rank and organization: Sergeant, Company B, 2d New York Veteran Cavalry. Place and date: At Alabama Bayou, La., 20 September 1864. Entered service at:——. Birth: Broome, N.Y. Date of issue: 17 August 1894. Citation: Swam the bayou under fire of the enemy and captured and brought off a boat by means of which the command crossed and routed the enemy.

Rank and organization: Second Lieutenant, Company G, 74th Indiana Infantry. Place and date: At Chickamauga, Ga., 20 September 1863. Entered service at: Elkhart, Ind. Birth: Kosciusko County, Ind. Date of issue: 1 I March 1896. Citation: While exposed to a galling fire, went in search of another regiment, found its location, procured ammunition from the men thereof, and returned with the ammunition to his own company.

Rank and organization: Captain, Company C, 2d Minnesota Infantry. Place and date: At Chickamauga, Ga., 20 September 1863. Entered service at: Sasioja, Minn. Birth: Rockingham County, N.H. Date of issue: 12 June 1895. Citation: Seized the colors of a retreating regiment and led it into the thick of the attack.

Rank and organization: Musician, 1st Illinois Cavalry. Place and date. At Lexington, Mo., 20 September 1861. Entered service at: Illinois. Birth: New York. Date of issue. 10 March 1896. Citation: Volunteered to fight in the trenches and also led a charge which resulted in the recapture of a Union hospital, together with Confederate sharpshooters then occupying the same.

Rank and organization: Captain, Ordnance Department, U.S. Army. Place and date: At Chickamauga, Ga., 20 September 1863. Entered service at: Harrisburgh, Pa. Born: 15 April 1837, Huntington, Pa. Date of issue: 8 July 1902. Citation: While acting as a volunteer aide, at a critical moment when the lines were broken, rallied enough fugitives to hold the ground under heavy fire long enough to effect the escape of wagon trains and batteries.

Rank and organization: First Lieutenant, Company A, 15th Pennsylvania Cavalry. Place and date: At Chickamauga, Ga., 20 September 1863. Entered service at: Philadelphia, Pa. Born: 11 October 1837, Burlington, N.J. Date of issue: 4 December 1893. Citation: Held out to the last with a small force against the advance of superior numbers of the enemy.

Rank and organization: Sergeant, Company B, 11th Michigan Infantry. Place and date: At Chickamauga, Ga., 20 September 1863. Entered service at: Quincy, Mich. Born. 13 December 1840, Allen, Mich. Date of issue: 21 October 1895. Citation: As the enemy were about to charge, this officer went outside the temporary Union works among the dead and wounded enemy and at great exposure to himself cut off and removed their cartridge boxes, bringing the same within the Union lines, the ammunition being used with good effect in again repulsing the attack.

Rank and organization: Captain, U.S. Marine Corps, Company C, 1st Battalion, 1st Marines, 1st Marine Division. Place and date: Peleliu Island, Palau group, 19-20 September 1944. Entered service at: Massachusetts. Born: 16 July 1919, Milton, Mass. Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as commanding officer of Company C, 1st Battalion, 1st Marines, 1st Marine Division, during action against enemy Japanese forces on Peleliu Island, Palau group, on 19-20 September 1944. Subjected to pointblank cannon fire which caused heavy casualties and badly disorganized his company while assaulting a steep coral hill, Capt. Pope rallied his men and gallantly led them to the summit in the face of machinegun, mortar, and sniper fire. Forced by widespread hostile attack to deploy the remnants of his company thinly in order to hold the ground won, and with his machineguns out of order and insufficient water and ammunition, he remained on the exposed hill with 12 men and 1 wounded officer determined to hold through the night. Attacked continuously with grenades, machineguns, and rifles from 3 sides, he and his valiant men fiercely beat back or destroyed the enemy, resorting to hand-to-hand combat as the supply of ammunition dwindled, and still maintaining his lines with his 8 remaining riflemen when daylight brought more deadly fire and he was ordered to withdraw. His valiant leadership against devastating odds while protecting the units below from heavy Japanese attack reflects the highest credit upon Capt. Pope and the U.S. Naval Service .

Rank and organization: First Lieutenant (then 2d Lt.), U.S. Marine Corps, Company C, 1st Battalion, 1st Marines, 1st Marine Division (Rein.). Place and date: Near Yongdungp’o, Korea, 20 September 1950. Entered service at: Hattiesburg, Miss. Birth: 10 January 1927, Hattiesburg, Miss. Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as a platoon leader in Company C, in action against enemy aggressor forces. Directed to attack hostile forces well dug in on Hill 85, 1st Lt. Commiskey, spearheaded the assault, charging up the steep slopes on the run. Coolly disregarding the heavy enemy machine gun and small arms fire, he plunged on well forward of the rest of his platoon and was the first man to reach the crest of the objective. Armed only with a pistol, he jumped into a hostile machine gun emplacement occupied by 5 enemy troops and quickly disposed of 4 of the soldiers with his automatic pistol. Grappling with the fifth, 1st Lt. Commiskey knocked him to the ground and held him until he could obtain a weapon from another member of his platoon and killed the last of the enemy guncrew. Continuing his bold assault, he moved to the next emplacement, killed 2 more of the enemy and then led his platoon toward the rear nose of the hill to rout the remainder of the hostile troops and destroy them as they fled from their positions. His valiant leadership and courageous fighting spirit served to inspire the men of his company to heroic endeavor in seizing the objective and reflect the highest credit upon 1st Lt. Commiskey and the U.S. Naval Service.

Rank and organization: Private First Class, U.S. Marine Corps, Company F, 2d Battalion, 1st Marines, 1st Marine Division (Rein.). Place and date: Near Sosa-ri, Korea, 17 and 20 September 1950. Entered service at: Seattle, Wash. Born: 25 December 1930, Melrose, Mass. Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as a rocket gunner attached to Company F, and in action against enemy aggressor forces. Dug in on a hill overlooking the main Seoul highway when 6 enemy tanks threatened to break through the battalion position during a predawn attack on 17 September, Pfc. Monegan promptly moved forward with his bazooka, under heavy hostile automatic weapons fre and engaged the lead tank at a range of less than 50 yards. After scoring a direct hit and killing the sole surviving tankman with his carbine as he came through the escape hatch, he boldly fired 2 more rounds of ammunition at the oncoming tanks, disorganizing the attack and enabling our tank crews to continue blasting with their 90-mm guns. With his own and an adjacent company’s position threatened by annihilation when an overwhelming enemy tank-infantry force bypassed the area and proceeded toward the battalion command post during the early morning of September 20, he seized his rocket launcher and, in total darkness, charged down the slope of the hill where the tanks had broken through. Quick to act when an illuminating shell lit the area, he scored a direct hit on one of the tanks as hostile rifle and automatic-weapons fire raked the area at close range. Again exposing himself, he fired another round to destroy a second tank and, as the rear tank turned to retreat, stood upright to fire and was fatally struck down by hostile machine gun fire when another illuminating shell silhouetted him against the sky. Pfc. Monegan’s daring initiative, gallant fighting spirit and courageous devotion to duty were contributing factors in the success of his company in repelling the enemy, and his self-sacrificing efforts throughout sustain and enhance the highest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country .

Rank and organization: Sergeant, U.S. Army, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion (Airborne), 503d Infantry, 173d Airborne Brigade. Place and date: Near Ben Cat, Republic of Vietnam, 20 September 1965. Entered service at: Fresno, Calif. Born: 6 July 1941, Wewoka, Okla. G.O. No.: 7, 24 February 1966. Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty. Sgt. Pierce was serving as squad leader in a reconnaissance platoon when his patrol was ambushed by hostile forces. Through his inspiring leadership and personal courage, the squad succeeded in eliminating an enemy machinegun and routing the opposing force. While pursuing the fleeing enemy, the squad came upon a dirt road and, as the main body of his men entered the road, Sgt. Pierce discovered an antipersonnel mine emplaced in the road bed. Realizing that the mine could destroy the majority of his squad, Sgt. Pierce saved the lives of his men at the sacrifice of his life by throwing himself directly onto the mine as it exploded. Through his indomitable courage, complete disregard for his safety, and profound concern for his fellow soldiers, he averted loss of life and injury to the members of his squad. Sgt. Pierce’s extraordinary heroism, at the cost of his life, are in the highest traditions of the U.S. Army and reflect great credit upon himself and the Armed Forces of his country.

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