1493 – Christopher Columbus first sights the island now known as Puerto Rico.
1820 – U.S. Navy Capt. Nathaniel B. Palmer discovered the frozen continent of Antarctica. Nathaniel B. Palmer, born in l799 in Stonington, Connecticut like many young men of his time Nathaniel went to sea at an early age. With great tenacity, skill, and some luck, he became a ship’s master before his l9th birthday. During his early years he sailed to some of the most desolate regions of the world in search of profits from sealing and whaling. During a particular voyage to the South Atlantic in l820, Captain “Nat”, as he was known, skippered his small 47 foot sloop “Hero” southward searching for new seal rookeries. In the area at the same time was another ship’s master on a similar mission. He was Captain Bellinghaus of the Russian Imperial Navy. Captain Nat sighted land not yet shown on any chart. The next morning the Russian Captain sailed his 250 foot ship into the same area only to find the small sloop already anchored in the harbor. Curious to learn who had beaten him to this unknown land, Captain Bellinghaus signaled for the master of the sloop to come aboard his ship to identify himself. Upon meeting the young skipper, the Russian acknowledged his skill and bravery and said to him, “You, sir, have discovered new territory so let it be named Palmer Land. Today’s maps of Antarctica show Palmer Peninsula named in honor of the Yankee Skipper from Stonington.
1824 – Franz Sigel (d.1902), Major General (Union volunteers), was born. Franz Sigel was born in Baden, Germany. A graduate of the German Military Academy, he resigned from the German Army in 1847 and became involved in radical politics. Sigel took part in the 1848 German Revolution and was afterwards forced to flee to Switzerland. Sigel lived in England for a while until emigrating to the United States. He taught in New York City schools before becoming the director of education in St. Louis. An opponent of slavery, he immediately joined the Union Army on the outbreak of the American Civil War. He was commissioned Colonel of the 3rd Missouri but within a few weeks had been promoted to the rank of Brigadier General. Sigel commanded the 4th Brigade of Army of Southwest Missouri from January to February of 1862. He took part in the battles at Wilson’s Creek. and Pea Ridge before being appointed Major General on 21st March, 1862. Three months later he fought against Thomas Stonewall Jackson in the Shenandoah Valley (4th to 26th June) and against Robert E. Lee at the 2nd Battle of Bull Run. In the winter of 1863 bad health forced Sigel to rest from active duty. He returned in March, 1864, but was badly defeated at New Market. In July he fought Major General Jubal Early at Harpers Ferry but soon afterwards was relieved of his command for “lack of aggression”. After the war Sigel went to live in Baltimore where he worked as a journalist. He later moved to New York City where he became involved in publishing and lecturing. Franz Sigel died in New York on 21st August, 1902.
1861 – Poet and abolitionist Julia Ward Howe writes the lyrics for the Battle Hymn of hte Republic. She had accompanied her husband, Dr. Samuel Howe, to Fort Griffin, Virginia, to review Union troops defending the capital. The ceremony was cut short when the Federals were forced to give chase to a nearby party of Confederates. Dr. and Mrs. Howe returned to their Washington hotel, but Mrs. Howe awoke in the early morning hours with “long lines” of a poem in her mind. She rose in darkness and wrote six stanzas of The Battle Hymn of the Republic on her husband’s stationery based on chapter 63 of the Old Testament’s Book of Isaiah. In February 1862, The Atlantic Monthly printed the poem for a $5 payment. Soon troops all over the North were singing the stirring words to the popular tune of John Brown’s Body, which had been composed in 1852.
1863 – Merchant schooner Joseph L. Garrity, 2 days out of Matamoras bound for New York, was seized by five Southern sympathizers under Thomas E. Hogg, later a Master in the Confederate Navy. They had boarded the ship as passengers. Hogg landed Joseph L. Garrity’s crew “without injury to life or limb” on the coast of Yucatan on 26 November, and sailed her to British Honduras where he entered her as blockade runner Eureka and sold her cargo of cotton. Three of the crew were eventually captured in Liverpool, England, and charged with piracy, but on 1 June 1864, Confederate Commissioner James Mason informed Secretary of State Benjamin that they had been acquitted of the charge. In the meantime, Garrity was turned over to the custody of the U.S. commercial agent at Belize, British Honduras, and ultimately returned to her owners.
1863 – President Lincoln boards a train for Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, to deliver a short speech at the dedication for the cemetery of soldiers killed during the battle there on July 1 to 3, 1863. The address he gave became perhaps the most famous speech in American history. Lincoln had given much thought to what he wanted to say at Gettysburg, but he nearly missed his chance to say it. On November 18, Lincoln’s son, Tad, became ill with a fever. Abraham and Mary Lincoln were, sadly, no strangers to juvenile illness: they had already lost two sons. Prone to fits of hysteria, Mary Lincoln panicked when the president prepared to leave for Pennsylvania. Lincoln felt that the opportunity to speak at Gettysburg and present his defense of the war was too important to miss, though. He boarded a train at noon and headed for Gettysburg. Despite his son’s illness, Lincoln was in good spirits on the journey. He was accompanied by an entourage that included Secretary of State William Seward, Postmaster General Montgomery Blair, Interior Secretary John Usher, Lincoln’s personal secretaries John Hay and John Nicolay, several members of the diplomat corps, some foreign visitors, a Marine band, and a military escort. During one stop, a young girl lifted a bouquet of flowers to his window. Lincoln kissed her and said, “You’re a sweet little rose-bud yourself. I hope your life will open into perpetual beauty and goodness.” When Lincoln arrived in Gettysburg, he was handed a telegram that lifted his spirits: Tad was feeling much better. Lincoln enjoyed an evening dinner and a serenade by Fifth New York Artillery Band before he retired to finalize his famous Gettysburg Address.
1883 – At exactly noon on this day, American and Canadian railroads begin using four continental time zones to end the confusion of dealing with thousands of local times. The bold move was emblematic of the power shared by the railroad companies. The need for continental time zones stemmed directly from the problems of moving passengers and freight over the thousands of miles of rail line that covered North America by the 1880s. Since human beings had first begun keeping track of time, they set their clocks to the local movement of the sun. Even as late as the 1880s, most towns in the U.S. had their own local time, generally based on “high noon,” or the time when the sun was at its highest point in the sky. As railroads began to shrink the travel time between cities from days or months to mere hours, however, these local times became a scheduling nightmare. Railroad timetables in major cities listed dozens of different arrival and departure times for the same train, each linked to a different local time zone. Efficient rail transportation demanded a more uniform time-keeping system. Rather than turning to the federal governments of the United States and Canada to create a North American system of time zones, the powerful railroad companies took it upon themselves to create a new time code system. The companies agreed to divide the continent into four time zones; the dividing lines adopted were very close to the ones we still use today. Most Americans and Canadians quickly embraced their new time zones, since railroads were often their lifeblood and main link with the rest of the world. However, it was not until 1918 that Congress officially adopted the railroad time zones and put them under the supervision of the Interstate Commerce Commission.
1886 – Chester A. Arthur (56), 21st president of the United States (1881-1885), died in New York. Born in Fairfield, Vermont in 1830, and a lawyer noted for civil rights work on behalf of slaves, Arthur was a high ranking Union staff officer during the Civil War. Because he had been a loyal Republican, President Grant appointed him to the powerful position of collector of the Port of New York in 1871. Several years later President Rutherford B. Hayes, a fellow Republican from Ohio with renowned integrity, fired Arthur, alleging that he had used tax money to reward his political supporters. Although there was no doubt of Arthur’s connections with the incredibly powerful and corrupt New York political machine of that era, Arthur’s direct involvement with any illegal act could not be established with certainty. As a result, sympathy within the Republican party for what was considered unfair treatment of Arthur by Hayes contributed to Arthur receiving the Republican Vice Presidential nod to run with James Garfield in the election of 1880, which the Garfield/Arthur ticket won. In July 1881, after only four months in office, President Garfield was mortally wounded at the Washington railroad station by gunfire from a disgruntled office seeker and died 80 days later, leaving Chester A. Arthur as President of the United States and the third President to have served as President within a 12 month period. Spectres of the tainted past greeted Arthur when he assumed office as the political pundits of the day predicted a flood of corruption and graft. However, that never occurred and Arthur ran the presidency in an honest and upright fashion. In fact, he showed great political courage by vetoing a graft-laden “rivers and harbors” bill, by breaking relations with his former New York political boss and by vigorously prosecuting fellow Republicans accused of defrauding the government. Legislatively, though, little of any consequence was achieved during his term except for the creation of the modern Civil Service system with its competitive examinations and non-political merit system. It became law because, in another display of exceptional political courage, Chester Arthur went against the will of his own party and supported it. President Arthur could not seek a second term as President because he had been diagnosed as having kidney disease. In fact, it claimed his life within two years of leaving office.
1890 – USS Maine, first American battleship, is launched. The first Maine, a second-class armored battleship, was laid down at the New York Navy Yard 17 October 1888; sponsored by Miss Alice Tracy Wllinerding, granddaughter of Secretary of the Navy Benjamin Tracy; and commissioned 17 September 1895, Capt. Arent S. Crowninshield in command. Maine departed the New York Navy Yard 5 November 1895 for Newport, R.I., via Gardiner’s Bay, N.Y., to fit out 16 to 23 November, and then proceeded on the 25th to Portland, Me. , to visit her namesake. The battlewagon then put to sea on the 29th on trials and inspection, being as signed to the North Atlantic Squadron 16 December, and sailing via Newport to Tompkinsvllle, N.Y., arriving 23 December. The ship sailed the next day for Fort Monroe, Va., arriving on Christmas Day. She operated out of that place and Newport News through June 1896 and then on the 4th sailed for Key West on a 2-month training cruise, returning to Norfolk 3 August. Maine continued extensive east coast operations until late 1897. Then the ship prepared for a voyage to Havana, Cuba, to show the flag and to protect American citizens in event of violence in the Spanish struggle with the revolutionary forces in Cuba. On 11 December Maine stood out of Hampton Roads bound for Key West, arriving on the 15th. She was joined there by ships of the North Atlantic Squadron on maneuvers, then left Key West 24 January 1898 for Havana. Arriving 25 January, Maine anchored in the center of the port, remained on vigilant watch, allowed no liberty, and took extra precautions against sabotage. Shortly after 2140, 15 February, the battleship was torn apart by a tremendous explosion that shattered the entire forward part of the ship. Out of 350 officers and men on board that night (4 officers were ashore), 252 were dead or missing. Eight more were to die in Havana hospitals during the next few days. The survivors of the disaster were taken on board Ward Line steamer City of Washington and Spanish cruiser Alfonso XII. The Spanish officials at Havana showed every attention to the survivors of the disaster and great respect for those killed. The Court of Inquiry convened in March was unable to obtain evidence associating the destruction of the battleship with any person or persons. The destruction of Maine did not cause the U.S. to declare war on Spain, but it served as a catalyst, accelerating the approach to a diplomatic impasse. In addition, the sinking and deaths of U.S. sailors rallied American opinion more strongly behind armed intervention. The United States declared war on Spain 21 April. On 5 August 1910, Congress authorized the raising of Maine and directed Army engineers to supervise the work. A second board of inquiry appointed to inspect the wreck after it was raised reported that injuries to the ship’s bottom were caused by an external explosion of low magnitude that set off the forward magazine, completing destruction of the ship. It has never been determined who placed the explosive. Technical experts at the time of both investigations disagreed with the findings, believing that spontaneous combustion of coal in the bunker adjacent to the reserve six-inch magazine was the most likely cause of the explosion on board the ship. In 1976, Admiral Hyman G. Rickover published his book, How the Battleship Maine Was Destroyed. The admiral became interested in the disaster and wondered if the application of modern scientific knowledge could determine the cause. He called on two experts on explosions and their effects on ship hulls. Using documentation gathered from the two official inquiries, as well as information on the construction and ammunition of Maine, the experts concluded that the damage caused to the ship was inconsistent with the external explosion of a mine. The most likely cause, they speculated, was spontaneous combustion of coal in the bunker next to the magazine. Some historians have disputed the findings in Rickover’s book, maintaining that failure to detect spontaneous combustion in the coal bunker was highly unlikely. Yet evidence of a mine remains thin and such theories are based primarily on conjecture. Despite the best efforts of experts and historians in investigating this complex and technical subject, a definitive explanation for the destruction of Maine remains one of the continuing enigmas of American history. Maine’s hulk was finally floated 2 February 1912 and towed out to sea where it was sunk in deep water in the Gulf of Mexico with appropriate ceremony and military honors 16 March.
1901 – The 2nd Hay-Pauncefote Treaty was signed. The U.S. was given extensive rights by Britain for building and operating a canal through Central America. The course of Spanish-American War had highlighted the need for rapid access between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Foreign policy experts began to question adherence to the Clayton-Bulwer Treaty of 1850, an agreement pledging the U.S. and Britain to not take independent action in constructing a transoceanic canal in Central America. Negotiations began during the McKinley administration between John Hay, the U.S. secretary of state, and Lord Julian Pauncefote, the British ambassador to Washington. Initial bargaining was slowed by disagreements over fortifying the proposed canal and seeking other signatories for any agreement that might be reached. Agreement was reached late in the year after Roosevelt had succeeded the slain McKinley.
1903 – The Hay-Bunau-Varilla Treaty was signed, granting the United States a strip of land across the Isthmus of Panama and the right to build and fortify the Panama Canal. Building an interoceanic canal was not a new idea at the turn of the 20th century, but U.S. acquisition of California in 1848 and territories in the Pacific and the Caribbean after the Spanish-American War made the canal crucial to American foreign policy. In January 1903, the Hay-Herran Treaty with Columbia–Panama was a part of Columbia–would have given the United States the land and the right to build a canal across Panama, but Columbia refused to ratify the treaty. Subsequently, Panamanian rebels–encouraged by American agents–rose against Columbia on November 3, 1903. After a one-day coup, in which an American warship offshore prevented Columbia from quelling the revolt and the only casualty was a donkey, Panama declared her independence. A jubilant President Theodore Roosevelt, pictured here at a Panama Canal construction site, recognized the new republic three days later. The Panama Canal, a cornerstone of Roosevelt’s aggressive foreign policy, was completed in 10 years.
1909 – Two United States warships are sent to Nicaragua after 500 revolutionaries (including two Americans) are executed by order of José Santos Zelaya.
1915 – Marines participated in the Battle of Fort Riviere during the occupation of Haiti. In the dark of the night on Nov. 17 1915, Butler, leading a strong force of Marines and sailors surrounded the last stronghold of the Cacos. Fort Riviere, on a mountain to the south of Grand Riviere du Nord. At 0730 the next morning, Butler gave a signal on a whistle and all the Marines attacked. The surprise was total and the Cacos were taken in confusion. Crawling through a tunnel. Butler and his men were involved in bloody hand to hand fighting. In 15 minutes, more than 50 Cacos were killed.
1916 – Ten JN-4 “Jennies” bi-wing aircraft lift off to undertake a historic flight, becoming the first multi-plane organization to fly a cross-country course totaling about 200 miles. They land in Princeton, NJ, and then return to Mineola the next morning, arriving to find fog and low clouds, however all the planes land safely. Starting just six years after the Wright Brothers made their first flight at Kitty Hawk, NC, in 1903 several Guardsmen in different states started bringing their personal airplanes to drill to teach flying to their comrades. However, it was not until July 16, 1916 that the first National Guard flying unit received federal recognition. New York’s 1st Aero Squadron, commanded by Captain Raynal Bolling, an early flight pioneer, made this nationally recognized flight. In 1917 the unit enters active duty for World War I, but never sees combat, being disbanded with its pilots sent to France as individuals. Bolling himself would die in the war, killed not in a “dog fight” against a German airplane but rather in a pistol fight with an enemy officer after Bolling’s car was ambushed while near the Front. Bolling Air Force Base in Washington, DC, is named for this Guard aviator.
“Trail-Blazers in The Sky” showing the successful return of the 1st Aero Squadron back to Mineola.
Painting by Woodi Ishmael for the National Guard Bureau Heritage Series
1922 – CDR Kenneth Whiting in a PT seaplane, makes first catapult launching from aircraft carrier, USS Langley, at anchor in the York River.
1923 – Alan Shepard, the first American astronaut in space, was born in East Derry, NH. Shepard began his naval career, after graduation from Annapolis, on the destroyer COGSWELL, deployed in the pacific during World War II. He subsequently entered flight training at Corpus Christi, Texas, and Pensacola, Florida, and received his wings in 1947. His next assignment was with Fighter Squadron 42 at Norfolk, Virginia, and Jacksonville, Florida. He served several tours aboard aircraft carriers in the Mediterranean while with this squadron. In 1950, he attended the United States Navy Test Pilot School at Patuxent River, Maryland. After graduation, he participated in flight test work which included high- altitude tests to obtain data on light at different altitudes and on a variety of air masses over the American continent; and test and development experiments of the Navy’s in-flight refueling system, carrier suitability trails of the F2H3 Banshee, and Navy trials of the first angled carrier deck. He was subsequently assigned to Fighter Squadron 193 at Moffett Field, California, a night fighter unit flying Banshee jets. As operations officer of this squadron, he made two tours to the Western pacific onboard the carrier ORISKANY. He returned to Patuxent for a second tour of duty and engaged in flight testing the F3H Demon, F8U Crusader, F4D Skyray, and F11F Tigercat. He was also project test pilot on the F5D Skylancer, and his last five months at Patuxent were spent as an instructor in the Test Pilot School. He later attended the Naval War College at Newport, Rhode Island, and upon graduating in 1957 was subsequently assigned to the staff of the Commander-in-Chief, Atlantic Fleet, as aircraft readiness officer. Rear Admiral Shepard was one of the Mercury astronauts named by NASA in April 1959, and he holds the distinction of being the first American to journey into space. On May 5, 1961, in the Freedom 7 spacecraft, he was launched by a Redstone vehicle on a ballistic trajectory suborbital flight–a flight which carried him to an altitude of 116 statute miles and to a landing point 302 statute miles down the Atlantic Missile Range. In 1963, he was designated Chief of the Astronaut Office with responsibility for monitoring the coordination, scheduling, and control of all activities involving NASA astronauts. This included monitoring the development and implementation of effective training programs to assure the flight readiness of available pilot/non-pilot personnel for assignment to crew positions on manned space flights; furnishing pilot evaluations applicable to the design, construction, and operations of spacecraft systems and related equipment; and providing qualitative scientific and engineering observations to facilitate overall mission planning, formulation of feasible operational procedures, and selection and conduct of specific experiments for each flight. He was restored to full flight status in May 1969, following corrective surgery for an inner ear disorder. Shepard made his second space flight as spacecraft commander on Apollo 14, January 31 – February 9, 1971. He was accompanied on man’s third lunar landing mission by Stuart A. Roosa, command module pilot, and Edgar D. Mitchell, lunar module pilot. Maneuvering their lunar module, “Antares,” to a landing in the hilly upland Fra Mauro region of the moon, Shepard and Mitchell subsequently deployed and activated various scientific equipment and experiments and collected almost 100 pounds of lunar samples for return to earth. Other Apollo 14 achievements included: first use of Mobile Equipment Transporter (MET); largest payload placed in lunar orbit; longest distance traversed on the lunar surface; largest payload returned from the lunar surface; longest lunar surface stay time (33 hours); longest lunar surface EVA (9 hours and 17 minutes); first use of shortened lunar orbit rendezvous techniques; first use of colored TV with new vidicon tube on lunar surface; and first extensive orbital science period conducted during CSM solo operations. Rear Admiral Shepard has logged a total of 216 hours and 57 minutes in space, of which 9 hours and 17 minutes were spent in lunar surface EVA. He resumed his duties as Chief of the Astronaut Office in June 1971 and served in this capacity until he retired from NASA and the Navy on August 1, 1974. Shepard was in private business in Houston, Texas. He served as the President of the Mercury Seven Foundation, a non-profit organization which provides college science scholarships for deserving students.
1941 – 11 Japanese submarines are launched to take up station keeping off Hawaii and scouting mission. A further nine Japanese vessels sail for Hawaii from Kwajalein.
1942 – On Guadalcanal, US forces once again begin moving west with reduced opposition.
1943 – Around Aachen, the British 30th Corps (part of British 2nd Army) coordinates assaults with the US 9th and 1st Armies. Julich and Duren are penetrated. Meanwhile, US 3rd Army advances approach the German border. Bouzonville on the Nied River is captured. Metz is entered from north and south.1949 – The U.S. Air Force grounded B-29s after two crashes and 23 deaths in three days. 1950 – South Korea Pres. Syngman Rhee was forced to end mass executions.
1951 – For the first time in the Korean War, MiG jet fighters are destroyed on the ground in North Korea by two F-86 Sabres in a strafing run.
1952 – Captain Leonard W. Lilley of the 334th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron, 4th Fighter-Interceptor Wing, became the 22nd ace of the Korean War.
1952 – F9F Panthers from the USS Oriskany shot down two Russian MiG jet fighters and damaged a third over North Korea. The Russian MiGs had been operating from a base near Vladivostok.
1955 – Bell X-2 rocket plane was taken up for its 1st powered flight. The Bell X-2 was a rocket-powered, swept-wing research aircraft designed to investigate the structural effects of aerodynamic heating as well as stability and control effectiveness at high speeds and altitudes. Two X-2 airframes, nicknamed “Starbuster,” were built at Bell’s plant in Wheatfield, N.Y., using stainless steel and K-monel (a copper-nickel alloy). The vehicles were designed to employ a two-chamber Curtiss-Wright XLR25 throttleable liquid-fueled rocket engine. It had a variable thrust rating from 2,500 to 15,000 pounds. The X-2 was equipped with an escape capsule for the pilot. In an emergency, the entire nose assembly would jettison and deploy a stabilizing parachute. Once at a safe altitude, the pilot would then manually open the canopy and bail out. The first attempt at a powered flight took place on Oct. 25, 1955, but a nitrogen leak resulted in a decision to change the flight plan. Everest completed the mission as a glide flight. An aborted second attempt ended as a captive flight. Everest finally made the first powered X-2 flight on Nov. 18, igniting only the 5,000-pound-thrust chamber. His maximum speed during the mission was Mach 0.95. Following several aborted attempts, Everest completed a second powered flight on March 24, 1956, this time only igniting the 10,000-pound-thrust rocket chamber.
1955 – A memorial honoring the 4th Marine Brigade was dedicated at Belleau Wood, France by General Lemuel C. Shepherd, Jr.
1961 – JFK sent 18,000 military “advisors” to South Vietnam.
1963 – The first push-button telephone goes into service.
1964 – In the largest air assault of the war thus far, 116 U.S. and South Vietnamese aircraft fly 1,100 South Vietnamese troops into Binh Duong and Tay Ninh Provinces to attack what is believed to be a major communist stronghold. General Nguyen Khanh personally directed the operation, but the troops made only light contact with the Viet Cong.
1969 – Sixty South Vietnamese men are killed or wounded when their troops clash with communist forces in the Mekong Delta. The North Vietnamese lost only 14 men. A South Vietnamese spokesman said that the high South Vietnamese casualties were “due to bad fighting on our part.” The battle was the first major action in the northern delta since the U.S. 9th Division was withdrawn and the South Vietnamese assumed responsibility for the area.
1970 – President Nixon asks Congress for supplemental appropriations for the Cambodian government of Premier Lon Nol. Nixon requested $155 million in new funds for Cambodia – $85 million of which would be for military assistance, mainly in the form of ammunition. He also asked for an additional $100 million to restore funds taken from other foreign appropriations during the year by “presidential determination” and given to Cambodia. Nixon wanted the funds to provide aid and assistance to Lon Nol to preclude the fall of Cambodia to the communist Khmer Rouge and their North Vietnamese allies. Lon Nol was a Cambodian general who had overthrown the government of Prince Norodom Sihanouk in March 1970. He and his army, the Forces Armees Nationale Khmer (FANK), were engaged in a desperate struggle with the communists for control of the Cambodian countryside. The Nixon administration had initiated a program of aid to Lon Nol in April 1970 with $7.5 million in arms and supplies. This aid did not have an immediate impact as the government forces reeled under heavy communist attacks. Besides trying to get additional funds for more military aid for Cambodia, Nixon also committed U.S. aircraft in direct support of Cambodian government troops and initiated a program whereby U.S. Army Special Forces would train Lon Nol’s troops. With this U.S. support, Lon Nol was able to successfully withdraw most of his forces (which numbered over 200,000 troops) from the rural areas to the larger urban centers, where they were able to hold out against the communist attacks. The fighting continued, but generally a stalemate prevailed so that neither side gained the upper hand. This situation changed in 1973 after the signing of the Paris Peace Accords. Under the provisions of that agreement, the United States withdrew its forces from South Vietnam and both the Cambodians and South Vietnamese found themselves fighting the communists alone. Without U.S. support, Lon Nol’s forces succumbed to the Khmer Rouge in April 1975. During the five years of bitter fighting, approximately 10 percent of Cambodia’s 7 million people died, but the suffering of the Cambodian people did not end with the communist takeover. The victorious Khmer Rouge evacuated Phnom Penh and set about to reorder Cambodian society, which resulted in a killing spree and the notorious “killing fields.” During this period, hundreds of thousands of Cambodians died from murder, exhaustion, hunger, and disease.
1978 – People’s Temple leader Jim Jones leads hundreds of his followers in a mass murder-suicide at their agricultural commune in remote northwestern Guyana. The few cult members who refused to take the cyanide-laced fruit-flavored concoction were either forced to do so at gunpoint or shot as they fled. The final death toll was 913, including 276 children. Jim Jones was a charismatic churchman who founded the People’s Temple, a Christian sect, in Indianapolis in the 1950s. He preached against racism, and his integrated congregation attracted mostly African Americans. In 1965, he moved the group to northern California, settling in Ukiah and after 1971 in San Francisco. In the 1970s, his church was accused by the press of financial fraud, physical abuse of its members, and mistreatment of children. In response to the mounting criticism, Jones led several hundred of his followers to South America in 1977 and set up a utopian agricultural settlement called Jonestown in the jungle of Guyana. A year later, a group of ex-members convinced U.S. Congressman Leo Ryan, a Democrat of California, to travel to Jonestown and investigate the commune. On November 17, 1978, Ryan arrived in Jonestown with a group of journalists and other observers. At first the visit went well, but the next day, as Ryan’s group was about to leave, several People’s Church members approached members of the group and asked them for passage out of Guyana. Jones became distressed at the defection of his members, and one of Jones’ lieutenants attacked Ryan with a knife. Ryan escaped from the incident unharmed, but Jones then ordered Ryan and his companions ambushed and killed at the airstrip as they attempted to leave. The congressman and four others were murdered as they attempted to board their charter planes. Back in Jonestown, Jones directed his followers in a mass suicide in a clearing in the town. With Jones exhorting the “beauty of dying” over a loudspeaker, hundreds drank a lethal cyanide and Flavor-Aid drink. Those who tried to escape were chased down and shot by Jones’ lieutenants. Jones died of a gunshot wound in the head, probably self-inflicted. Guyanese troops, alerted by a cult member who escaped, reached Jonestown the next day. Only a dozen or so followers survived, hidden in the jungle. Most of the 913 dead were lying side by side in the clearing where Jones had preached to them for the last time.
1979 – Ayatollah Khomeini charged US ambassador and embassy of espionage.
1987 – After nearly a year of hearings into the Iran-Contra scandal, the joint Congressional investigating committee issues its final report. It concluded that the scandal, involving a complicated plan whereby some of the funds from secret weapons sales to Iran were used to finance the Contra war against the Sandinista government in Nicaragua, was one in which the administration of Ronald Reagan exhibited “secrecy, deception, and disdain for the law.” Naming several members of the Reagan administration as having been directly involved in the scheme (including National Security Advisor John Poindexter and deceased CIA Director William Casey), the report stated that Reagan must bear “ultimate responsibility.” A number of government officials were charged and convicted of various crimes associated with the scandal. A minority opinion by some of the Republican members of the committee contained in the report argued that the hearings had been politically motivated. They also suggested that while Reagan administration officials might have used poor judgment, the ultimate end-continuing the fight against the leftist regime in Nicaragua-was a worthy goal.
1990 – President Bush began a series of meetings in Paris with allied leaders aimed at solidifying support for his Persian Gulf policies.
1990 – In Iraq Saddam offered to free an estimated 2,000 men held in Kuwait.
1996 – Harold James Nicholson, former CIA station chief, was arrested for espionage. He was said to have started passing information to Russia from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in June of 1994 and collected [more than $120,000] as much as $180,000. He was the highest-ranking CIA official ever arrested for espionage. Nicholson was arrested at a Washington, D. C., airport en route to a clandestine meeting in Europe with his Russian intelligence handlers. At the time of his arrest, he was carrying rolls of exposed film which contained Secret and Top Secret information. In March 1997, Nicholson pleaded guilty to the charges, and he was sentenced to 23 years in prison.
1997 – In Russia Tariq Aziz and Pres. Yeltsin worked on a peaceful resolution to the UN weapons inspection crises and announced a plan.
1998 – Serbian Pres. Milan Milutinovic rejected a US blueprint for the future of Kosovo, saying that it gave too much power to the ethnic Albanians.2000 – In Florida the absentee ballot count raised Gov. Bush’s lead over Al Gore to 930 votes.
2001 – Northern Alliance leaders agreed to join UN sponsored talks to form a new government. Haji Qadir formed a new alliance to govern Jalalabad. US planes continued strikes around Kunduz and Kandahar. US strikes on a Taliban convoy were later considered as a marking point for the downfall of the Taliban.
2001 – In Spain 8 men, Soldiers of Allah, detained last week were reported to be members of the al Qaeda network and to have played a role in the Sep 11 attacks.
2002 – UN inspectors returned to Iraq after a 4-year hiatus to resume the search for weapons of mass destruction.
2003 – Pres. Bush brought a forceful defense of the Iraq invasion to skeptical Britons, arguing that history proves war is sometimes necessary when certain values are threatened.
2003 – The UN war crimes tribunal issued an indictment against former Croatian Serb leader Milan Babic on five counts of war crimes for a campaign of ethnic cleansing in the Krajina region of Croatia early in the Balkan wars.
2013 – NASA launches the MAVEN probe to Mars. Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN Mission (MAVEN) is a space probe designed to study the Martian atmosphere while orbiting Mars. Mission goals include determining how the Martian atmosphere and water, presumed to have once been substantial, were lost over time. MAVEN was successfully launched aboard an Atlas V launch vehicle. Following the first engine burn of the Centaur second stage, the vehicle coasted in low Earth orbit for 27 minutes before a second Centaur burn of five minutes to insert it into a heliocentric Mars transit orbit. On September 22, 2014, MAVEN reached Mars and was inserted into an areocentric elliptic orbit 6,200 km (3,900 mi) by 150 km (93 mi) above the planet’s surface. NASA reported that MAVEN, as well as the Mars Odyssey Orbiter and the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, were healthy after the Comet Siding Spring flyby on October 19, 2014.
Congressional Medal of Honor Citations for Actions Taken This Day
NIETZEL, ALFRED B.
Rank and Organization: Sergeant. U.S. Army. Company H, 16th Infantry Regiment. 1st Infantry Division. Place and Date: November 18, 1944, Heistern, Germany. Born: April 27, 1921, Queens, NY . Departed: Yes (11/18/1944). Entered Service At: Jamaica, NY. G.O. Number: . Date of Issue: 03/18/2014. Accredited To: . Citation: Nietzel is being recognized for his valorous actions in Heistern, Germany, Nov. 18, 1944. When an enemy assault threatened to overrun his unit’s position, Nietzel selflessly covered for the retreating members of his squad, expending all his ammunition and holding his post until he was killed by an enemy hand grenade.
DAVIS, SAMMY L.
Rank and organization: Sergeant, U.S. Army, Battery C, 2d Battalion, 4th Artillery, 9th Infantry Division. Place and date: West of Cai Lay, Republic of Vietnam, 18 November 1967. Entered service at: Indianapolis, Ind. Born: 1 November 1946, Dayton, Ohio. Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life and beyond the call of duty. Sgt. Davis (then Pfc.) distinguished himself during the early morning hours while serving as a cannoneer with Battery C, at a remote fire support base. At approximately 0200 hours, the fire support base was under heavy enemy mortar attack. Simultaneously, an estimated reinforced Viet Cong battalion launched a fierce ground assault upon the fire support base. The attacking enemy drove to within 25 meters of the friendly positions. Only a river separated the Viet Cong from the fire support base. Detecting a nearby enemy position, Sgt. Davis seized a machine gun and provided covering fire for his guncrew, as they attempted to bring direct artillery fire on the enemy. Despite his efforts, an enemy recoilless rifle round scored a direct hit upon the artillery piece. The resultant blast hurled the guncrew from their weapon and blew Sgt. Davis into a foxhole. He struggled to his feet and returned to the howitzer, which was burning furiously. Ignoring repeated warnings to seek cover, Sgt. Davis rammed a shell into the gun. Disregarding a withering hail of enemy fire directed against his position, he aimed and fired the howitzer which rolled backward, knocking Sgt. Davis violently to the ground. Undaunted, he returned to the weapon to fire again when an enemy mortar round exploded within 20 meters of his position, injuring him painfully. Nevertheless, Sgt. Davis loaded the artillery piece, aimed and fired. Again he was knocked down by the recoil. In complete disregard for his safety, Sgt. Davis loaded and fired 3 more shells into the enemy. Disregarding his extensive injuries and his inability to swim, Sgt. Davis picked up an air mattress and struck out across the deep river to rescue 3 wounded comrades on the far side. Upon reaching the 3 wounded men, he stood upright and fired into the dense vegetation to prevent the Viet Cong from advancing. While the most seriously wounded soldier was helped across the river, Sgt. Davis protected the 2 remaining casualties until he could pull them across the river to the fire support base. Though suffering from painful wounds, he refused medical attention, joining another howitzer crew which fired at the large Viet Cong force until it broke contact and fled. Sgt. Davis’ extraordinary heroism, at the risk of his life, are in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself and the U.S. Army.