1775 – At Fort Ticonderoga, Henry Knox begins his historic transport of artillery to Cambridge, Massachusetts.
1782 – Martin Van Buren, 8th President (1837-1841) and first born in the United States, was born in Kinderhook, N.Y.
1792 – George Washington was re-elected president; John Adams was re-elected vice president.
1804 – Thomas Jefferson was re-elected US president. George Clinton, the seven-term governor of New York, was elected vice president under Jefferson and again under Madison in 1808. Clinton died in office on April 20, 1812.
1831 – Former President John Quincy Adams took his seat as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives.
1832 – Andrew Jackson was re-elected US president. The US anti-Mason Party with William Wirt drew 8% of the vote against Henry Clay and the eventual winner, Andrew Jackson. Clay led the Whig Party which coalesced against the power of Andrew Jackson. The Whigs came from the conservative, nationalist wing of the Jeffersonian Republicans.
1839 – Union General George Armstrong Custer is born in Harrison County, Ohio. Although he is best known for his demise at the hands of the Lakota and Cheyenne Indians at the Battle of the Little Big Horn in 1876, Custer built a reputation as a dashing and effective cavalry leader during the Civil War. Custer entered West Point in 1857, where he earned low grades and numerous demerits for his mischievous behavior. He graduated last in the class of 1861. Despite his poor academic showing, Custer did not have to wait long to see military action. Less than two months after leaving West Point, Custer fought in the First Battle of Bull Run in July 1861. Custer served the entire war in the Army of the Potomac. He was present for nearly all of the army’s major battles, and Custer became, at age 23, the youngest general in the Union army in June 1863. He led the Michigan cavalry brigade in General Judson Kilpatrick’s 3rd Cavalry Division. Less than a week after his promotion, Custer and his “Wolverines” played a key role in stopping Confederate General J.E.B. Stuart’s cavalry attack, which helped preserve the Union victory at Gettysburg. As a leader, Custer earned the respect of his men because he personally led every charge in battle. Wrote one man of Custer’s command, “So brave a man I never saw and as competent as brave. Under him a man is ashamed to be cowardly. Under him our men can achieve wonders.” He achieved his greatest battlefield success in the campaigns of 1864. At Yellow Tavern on May 11, 1864, Custer led the charge that resulted in the death of Stuart. One month later at Trevalian Station, Custer’s command attacked a supply train before being surrounded by Confederate cavalry. His men formed a triangle and bravely held off the Rebels until help arrived. In October, Custer’s men scored a decisive victory over the Confederate cavalry at Tom’s Brook in the Shenandoah Valley, the most one-sided Yankee cavalry victory of the war in the East. Custer was demoted to Lieutenant Colonel in the downsizing that took place after the war ended. He was much less effective in his postwar assignments fighting Indians, and his reckless assault on the camp at Little Big Horn on June 25, 1876, earned him an unsavory reputation that overshadowed his earlier success in the Civil War.
1843 – Launching of USS Michigan at Erie, Penn., America’s first iron-hulled warship, as well as first prefabricated ship.
1848 – President Polk triggered the Gold Rush of ’49 by confirming that gold had been discovered in California.
1861 – Gatling gun was patented.
1862 – Union general Ulysses Grant’s cavalry received a setback in an engagement on the Mississippi Central Railroad at Coffeeville, Mississippi.
1864 – Confederate General Hood sent Nathan Bedford Forrest’s cavalry and a division of infantry towards Murfreesboro, Tenn.
1864 – The naval landing force under Commander Preble participated in heavy fighting around Tulifinny Crossroads, Georgia, while Federal troops attempted to cut the Savannah-Charleston Railway and join with the advancing forces of General Sherman. The Naval Brigade was withdrawn from Boyd’s Landing, Broad River, on 5 December, and while Union gunboats, made a feint against the Coosawwatchie River fortifications, soldiers and sailors landed up the nearby Tulifinny River. During the next four days, the versatile naval brigade participated in a series of nearly continuous heavy actions, though plagued by rain and swampy terrain. Union forces advanced close enough to the strategic railway to shell it but failed to destroy it.
1904 – Japanese destroyed Russian fleet at Port Arthur in Korea.
1912 – Italy, Austria, and Germany renewed the Triple Alliance for six years.
1929 – Marine Captain A. N. Parker was the first person to fly over unexplored Antarctica.
1932 – German physicist Albert Einstein was granted a visa, making it possible for him to travel to the United States. In 2003 Thomas Levenson authored “Einstein in Berlin.”
1933 – Prohibition was repealed–much to the delight of thirsty revelers–when Utah became the 36th state to ratify the 21st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The nationwide prohibition of the manufacture, sale or transportation of alcoholic beverages was established in January 1919 with passage of the 18th Amendment. Prohibition’s supporters gradually became disenchanted with it as the illegal manufacture and sale of liquor fostered a wave of criminal activity. By 1932, the Democratic Party’s platform called for the repeal of Prohibition. In February 1933, Congress adopted a resolution proposing the 21st Amendment to repeal the 18th and with Utah’s vote in December, Prohibition ended. Three-quarters of the states approved the repeal of the 18th amendment and FDR proclaimed the end of Prohibition.1936 – Armenian SSR, Azerbaijan SSR, Georgian SSR, Kazakh SSR & Kirghiz SSR became constituent republics of Soviet Union.
1936 – The New Constitution in the Soviet Union promised universal suffrage, but the Communist Party remained the only legal political party.
1941 – President Roosevelt sent a message to Japanese Emperor Hirohito expressing hope that gathering war clouds would be dispelled. Hirohito smiled enigmatically, knowing that Japan would attack Pearl Harbor the next day.
1941 – USS Lexington, one of the two largest aircraft carriers employed by the United States during World War II, makes its way across the Pacific in order to carry a squadron of dive bombers to defend Midway Island from an anticipated Japanese attack. Negotiations between the United States and Japan had been ongoing for months. Japan wanted an end to U.S. economic sanctions. The Americans wanted Japan out of China and Southeast Asia and Japan to repudiate the Tripartite “Axis” Pact with Germany and Italy before those sanctions could be lifted. Neither side was budging. President Roosevelt and Secretary of State Cordell Hull were anticipating a Japanese strike as retaliation-they just didn’t know where. The Philippines, Wake Island, Midway Island-all were possibilities. American intelligence reports had sighted the Japanese fleet movement out from Formosa (Taiwan), apparently headed for Indochina. The U.S. State Department demanded from Japanese envoys explanations for the fleet movement across the South China Sea. The envoys claimed ignorance. Army intelligence reassured the president that, despite fears, Japan was most likely headed for Thailand-not the United States. The Lexington never made it to Midway Island; when it learned that the Japanese fleet had, in fact, attacked Pearl Harbor, it turned back-never encountering a Japanese warship en route or employing a single aircraft in its defense. By the time it reached Hawaii, it was December 13.
1942 – Japanese forces repel a strong US attack on their defensive positions at Buna, New Guinea.
1943 – U.S. Army Air Force begins attacking Germany’s secret weapons bases in Operation Crossbow. Crossbow was the code name of the World War II campaign of Anglo-American “operations against all phases of the German long-range weapons program, specifically the V series rockets—operations against research and development of the weapons, their manufacture, transportation and their launching sites, and against missiles in flight”.
1945 – At 2:10 p.m., five U.S. Navy Avenger torpedo-bombers comprising Flight 19 take off from the Ft. Lauderdale Naval Air Station in Florida on a routine three-hour training mission. Flight 19 was scheduled to take them due east for 120 miles, north for 73 miles, and then back over a final 120-mile leg that would return them to the naval base. They never returned. Two hours after the flight began, the leader of the squadron, who had been flying in the area for more than six months, reported that his compass and back-up compass had failed and that his position was unknown. The other planes experienced similar instrument malfunctions. Radio facilities on land were contacted to find the location of the lost squadron, but none were successful. After two more hours of confused messages from the fliers, a distorted radio transmission from the squadron leader was heard at 6:20 p.m., apparently calling for his men to prepare to ditch their aircraft simultaneously because of lack of fuel. By this time, several land radar stations finally determined that Flight 19 was somewhere north of the Bahamas and east of the Florida coast, and at 7:27 p.m. a search and rescue Mariner aircraft took off with a 13-man crew. Three minutes later, the Mariner aircraft radioed to its home base that its mission was underway. The Mariner was never heard from again. Later, there was a report from a tanker cruising off the coast of Florida of a visible explosion seen at 7:50 p.m. The disappearance of the 14 men of Flight 19 and the 13 men of the Mariner led to one of the largest air and seas searches to that date, and hundreds of ships and aircraft combed thousands of square miles of the Atlantic Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico, and remote locations within the interior of Florida. No trace of the bodies or aircraft were ever found. Although naval officials maintained that the remains of the six aircraft and 27 men were not found because stormy weather destroyed the evidence, the story of the “Lost Squadron” helped cement the legend of the Bermuda Triangle, an area of the Atlantic Ocean where ships and aircraft are said to disappear without a trace. The Bermuda Triangle is said to stretch from the southern U.S. coast across to Bermuda and down to the Atlantic coast of Cuba and Santo Domingo.
1950 – Pyongyang in Korea fell to the invading Chinese army.
1950 – The carrier, USS Princeton, commanded by World War II hero Captain William O. Gallery, arrived on station in Korea.
1962 – Pres. Kennedy discussed stockpiling nuclear weapons to deter Soviet attacks with senior staff including Def. Sec. McNamara and Gen. Maxwell Taylor.
1969 – The four node–UCLA-Stanford Research Institute, UC-Santa Barbara, University of Utah–ARPANET network is established.
1970 – A North Vietnamese newspaper declares that the country will not be intimidated by U.S. bombing threats. Earlier in the week, U.S. Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird had warned that the U.S. would initiate new bombing raids on North Vietnam if the communists continued to fire on unarmed reconnaissance aircraft flying over their air space. Responding to Laird’s threats, North Vietnamese officials declared that any U.S. reconnaissance planes that flew over North Vietnam would be fired upon. This declaration implied that North Vietnam would not be forced into concessions, and was prepared to continue the war regardless of the cost.
1978 – The American space probe Pioneer Venus I, orbiting Venus, began beaming back its first information and picture of the planet to scientists in Mountain View, Calif.
1978 – In an effort to prop up an unpopular pro-Soviet regime in Afghanistan, the Soviet Union signs a “friendship treaty” with the Afghan government agreeing to provide economic and military assistance. The treaty moved the Russians another step closer to their disastrous involvement in the Afghan civil war between the Soviet-supported communist government and the Muslim rebels, the Mujahideen, which officially began in 1979. The Soviet Union always considered the bordering nation of Afghanistan of interest to its national security. Since the 1950s, the Soviet Union worked diligently to establish close relations with its neighbor by providing economic aid and military assistance. In the 1970s matters took a dramatic turn in Afghanistan, and in April 1978, members of the Afghan Communist Party overthrew and murdered President Sardar Mohammed Daoud. Nur Mohammed Taraki, head of the Communist Party, took over and immediately declared one-party rule in Afghanistan. The regime was extremely unpopular with many Afghans so the Soviets sought to bolster it with the December 1978 treaty. The treaty established a 20-year period of “friendship and cooperation” between the Soviet Union and Afghanistan. In addition to increased economic assistance, the Soviet Union promised continued cooperation in the military field. Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev declared that the treaty marked a “qualitatively new character” of relations between the two nations. The treaty, however, did not help Afghanistan. Taraki was overthrown and killed by members of the Afghan Communist Party who were dissatisfied with his rule in September 1979. In December, Soviet troops moved into Afghanistan and established a regime more amenable to Russian desires. Thus began what many pundits referred to as “Russia’s Vietnam,” as the Soviets poured endless amounts of money, weapons, and manpower into a seemingly endless civil war. Mikhail Gorbachev finally began the withdrawal of Russian troops nearly 10 years later.
1987 – FBI agents searched a federal prison where Cuban inmates had peacefully ended an 11-day hostage siege the day before. The agents reported finding bottle bombs and homemade machetes, but no booby-traps or bodies.
1988 – Shuttle Atlantis launched the world’s 1st nuclear-war-fighting satellite.
1990 – President Bush, on a visit to Argentina, said he was “not optimistic” that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein would withdraw from Kuwait without a fight. 1993 – Astronauts began the repair of Hubble telescope in space.
1994 – President Clinton, on a whirlwind visit to the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Budapest, Hungary, urged European leaders to “prevent future Bosnias.”
1997 – Pres. Clinton said US troops in Haiti will continue their presence. Some 300-500 troops were posted on a rotating basis for civil affairs work with an additional 150 US military police for security.
1997 – The space shuttle Columbia returned from a 16-day mission that had been marred by the bungled release of a satellite.
1997 – Turkish troops began an offensive against Turkish Kurds in northern Iraq. The 20,000 man force was to be assisted by 8,000 men of the Kurdistan Democratic party, an Iraqi group.
2001 – Nasa launched space shuttle Endeavour to deliver a new 3-man crew to the Alpha space station. Russian cosmonaut Yuri Onufrienko flew to replace Doug Culbertson as skipper.
2001 – A 2000-pound US bomb killed 3 American Green Berets near Kandahar along with 18 Afghan fighters. 20 Americans were injured along with 18 Afghan fighters including newly appointed Afghan leader Hamid Karzai.
2001 – Afghan delegates in Koenigswinter, Germany, signed an agreement for an interim post-Taliban government to begin Dec 22.
2003 – Syria continued to reject US pressure to hand over an estimated $250 million that Saddam Hussein’s regime had deposited there.
2004 – Gunmen opened fire at the bus as it dropped off Iraqis employed by coalition forces at a weapons dump in Tikrit. 17 people died and 13 were wounded. A suicide car bomber drove into an Iraqi National Guard checkpoint in Beiji. 3 guardsmen, including a company commander, were killed and 18 wounded. Guerrillas ambushed a joint Iraqi-coalition patrol in Latifiyah and attacked Iraqi National Guardsmen patrolling near Samarra. 2 Iraqis were killed and 10 wounded.
2014 – The first flight test of NASA’s Orion spacecraft launches successfully at 7:05 EST (12:05 UTC) and splashes down safely in the Pacific Ocean at 8:29 PST (16:29 UTC).
Congressional Medal of Honor Citations for Actions Taken This Day
Rank and organization: Drummer, Company C, 33d New Jersey Infantry. Place and date: At Murfreesboro, Tenn., 5 December 1864. Entered service at:——. Birth: Newark, N.J. Date of issue: 7 February 1866. Citation: In a charge, was among the first to reach a battery of the enemy and, with one or two others, mounted the artillery horses and took two guns into the Union lines.
WALLING, WILLIAM H.
Rank and organization: Captain, Company C, 142d New York Infantry. Place and date: At Fort Fisher, N.C., 25 December 1864. Entered service at:——. Birth: Hartford, N.Y. Date of issue: 28 March 1892. Citation: During the bombardment of the fort by the fleet, captured and brought the flag of the fort, the flagstaff having been shot down.
WELD, SETH L.
Rank and organization: Corporal, Company L, 8th U.S. Infantry. Place and date: At La Paz, Leyte, Philippine Islands, 5 December 1906. Entered service at: Altamont, Tenn. Birth: Sandy Hook, Md. Date of issue: 20 October 1908. Citation: With his right arm cut open with a bolo, went to the assistance of a wounded constabulary officer and a fellow soldier who were surrounded by about 40 Pulajanes, and, using his disabled rifle as a club, beat back the assailants and rescued his party.
*McWHORTER, WILLIAM A.
Rank and organization: Private First Class, U.S. Army, Company M, 126th Infantry, 32d Infantry Division. Place and date: Leyte, Philippine Islands, 5 December 1944. Entered service at: Liberty, S.C. Birth: Liberty, S.C. G.O. No.: 82, 27 September 1945. Citation: He displayed gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while engaged in operations against the enemy. Pfc. McWhorter, a machine gunner, was emplaced in a defensive position with 1 assistant when the enemy launched a heavy attack. Manning the gun and opening fire, he killed several members of an advancing demolition squad, when 1 of the enemy succeeded in throwing a fused demolition charge in the entrenchment. Without hesitation and with complete disregard for his own safety, Pfc. McWhorter picked up the improvised grenade and deliberately held it close to his body, bending over and turning away from his companion. The charge exploded, killing him instantly, but leaving his assistant unharmed. Pfc. McWhorter’s outstanding heroism and supreme sacrifice in shielding a comrade reflect the highest traditions of the military service.