1745 – John Jay, first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, was born. He became a diplomat and governor of NY, served as the first Supreme Court Head Justice, and negotiated treaties for the United States.
1753 – George Washington, the adjutant of Virginia, delivered an ultimatum to the French forces at Fort Le Boeuf, south of Lake Erie, reiterating Britain’s claim to the entire Ohio river valley. Washington (22) was sent by Gov. Robert Dinwiddie to warn the French soldiers that they were trespassing on English territory.
1770 – The British soldiers responsible for the “Boston Massacre” were acquitted on murder charges.
1776 – The Armor branch traces its origin to the Cavalry. A regiment of cavalry was authorized to be raised by the Continental Congress Resolve. Although mounted units were raised at various times after the Revolution, the first in continuous service was the United States Regiment of Dragoons, organized in 1833. The Tank Service was formed on March 5, 1918. The Armored Force was formed on July 10, 1940. Armor became a permanent branch of the Army in 1950.
1781 – At the Second Battle of Ushant, a British fleet, led by HMS Victory, defeats a French fleet. A French convoy sailed from Brest on 10 December with reinforcements and stores for the East and West Indies, protected by a fleet of 19 ships of the line commanded by Comte de Guichen. The British squadron of 13 ships of the line, commanded by Rear Admiral Richard Kempenfelt in HMS Victory, which had been ordered to sea to intercept the expected convoy, sighted the French on 12 December, discovering only then that the protective escort had been strengthened. De Guichen’s fleet was downwind of the convoy, which let the British ships sweep down to capture 15 ships carrying troops and supplies, before the French ships could intervene. Kempenfelt’s force was not strong enough to attack the 19 French escorts, but fortunately for Britain, the convoy, which had deliberately risked setting sail in the North Atlantic storm season to avoid British forces, was dispersed in a gale shortly afterwards, and most of the ships forced to return to port. Only two of the ships of the line intended for the West Indies arrived with a few transport vessels in time for the Battle of the Saintes in April. When news of the battle reached Britain, the Opposition in Parliament questioned the sending of such a small force against the convoy, and forced an official inquiry into the administration of the Royal Navy. This was the first of a succession of Opposition challenges which would ultimately bring about the fall of the government of Lord North on 20 March 1782 and pave the way for the Peace of Paris (1783), which ended the American Revolutionary War.
1787 – Pennsylvania became the second state to ratify the U.S. Constitution. Pennsylvania, officially the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, is a U.S. state that is located in the Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic regions of the United States, and the Great Lakes region. The state borders Delaware to the southeast, Maryland to the south, West Virginia to the southwest, Ohio to the west, Lake Erie and Ontario, Canada to the northwest, New York to the north and New Jersey to the east. The Appalachian Mountains run through the middle of the state.
1799 – Two days before his death, George Washington composed his last letter, to Alexander Hamilton, his aide-de-camp during the Revolution and later his Secretary of the Treasury. In the letter he urged Hamilton to work for the establishment of a national military academy. Washington wrote that letter at the end of a long, cold day of snow, sleet and rain that he had spent out-of-doors. He remained outside for more than five hours, according to his secretary Tobias Lear, did not change out of his wet clothes or dry his hair when he returned home.
1800 – Washington DC was established as the capital of US.
1806 – Confederate General Stand Watie is born near Rome, Georgia. Watie, a Cherokee Indian, survived the tribe’s Trail of Tears in the 1830s and became the only Native American to achieve the rank of general during the Civil War. Watie came from an influential family and played a major role during the Cherokee difficulties in Georgia. The tribe was under increasingly intense pressure by their Anglo neighbors to remove to in the West. Watie was part of a faction that began to believe that voluntary removal might be the only way to preserve their autonomy. He was a signer of the Treaty of New Echota in 1835, which ceded the Cherokee’s Georgia lands for a reservation in Indian Territory. After the disastrous Trail of Tears trek to the West, during which one in four Cherokee died, all who signed the treaty were assassinated except for Watie. Even though the Cherokee suffered at the hands of Southerners, Watie and others always saw the federal government as the real culprit. When the South began to secede from the Union in 1860, Watie and others supported the new Confederacy. Watie was named colonel and raised a regiment of 300 mixed-blood Cherokee. Watie’s first action came against Unionist Creek Indians near the Kansas border in 1861. At the Battle of Pea Ridge in 1862, Watie’s regiment captured a Union battery in the midst of a Confederate defeat. From the summer of 1862 until the end of the war, Watie served back in his home territory. In 1864, he captured a Union steamboat on the Arkansas River and a large supply train at Cabin Creek in Indian Territory. Mostly, however, Watie fought against his own people. The Cherokee became bitterly divided between the followers of John Ross, who pledged loyalty to the Union, and Watie, who stood by his Confederate allies. For the rest of the war, the Cherokee waged a bitter internecine guerilla war. After a brief foray into the tobacco business after the war, Watie died in 1871 at his home along Honey Creek in Indian Territory.
1862 – U.S.S. Cairo, Lieutenant Commander Thomas O. Selfridge, on an expedition up the Yazoo River to destroy torpedoes (mines), was sunk by one of the infernal machines” and Selfridge reported: “The Cairo sunk in about twelve minutes after the explosion, going totally out of sight, except the top of her chimneys, in 6 fathoms of water.” Cairo was the first of some 40 Union vessels to be torpedoed during the war. The torpedo which destroyed Cairo was a large demijohn fired with a friction primer by a trigger line from torpedo pits on the river bank. Rear Admiral D. D. Porter later observed: “It was an accident liable to occur to any gallant officer whose zeal carries him to the post of danger and who is loath to let others do what he thinks he ought to do himself.” Despite the loss of Cairo, Porter wrote: “I gave Captain Walke orders to hold Yazoo River at all hazards . . . We may lose three or four vessels, but will succeed in carrying out the plan for the capture of Vicksburg.”
1862 – Naval force under Commander Murray including U.S.S. Delaware, Shawsheen, Lockwood, and Seymour with armed transports in the Neuse River supported an Army expedition to destroy railroad bridges and track near Goldsboro, North Carolina. Low water prevented the gunboats from advancing more than about 15 miles up the river.
1863 – Orders were given in Richmond that no more supplies from the Union should be received by Federal prisoners.
1876 – First examination for Revenue Cutter cadets held in Washington, D.C.
1901 – Italian physicist and radio pioneer Guglielmo Marconi succeeds in sending the first radio transmission across the Atlantic Ocean, disproving detractors who told him that the curvature of the earth would limit transmission to 200 miles or less. The message–simply the Morse-code signal for the letter “s”–traveled more than 2,000 miles from Poldhu in Cornwall, England, to Newfoundland, Canada. Born in Bologna, Italy, in 1874 to an Italian father and an Irish mother, Marconi studied physics and became interested in the transmission of radio waves after learning of the experiments of the German physicist Heinrich Hertz. He began his own experiments in Bologna beginning in 1894 and soon succeeded in sending a radio signal over a distance of 1.5 miles. Receiving little encouragement for his experiments in Italy, he went to England in 1896. He formed a wireless telegraph company and soon was sending transmissions from distances farther than 10 miles. In 1899, he succeeded in sending a transmission across the English Channel. That year, he also equipped two U.S. ships to report to New York newspapers on the progress of the America’s Cup yacht race. That successful endeavor aroused widespread interest in Marconi and his wireless company. Marconi’s greatest achievement came on December 12, 1901, when he received a message sent from England at St. John’s, Newfoundland. The transatlantic transmission won him worldwide fame. Ironically, detractors of the project were correct when they declared that radio waves would not follow the curvature of the earth, as Marconi believed. In fact, Marconi’s transatlantic radio signal had been headed into space when it was reflected off the ionosphere and bounced back down toward Canada. Much remained to be learned about the laws of the radio wave and the role of the atmosphere in radio transmissions, and Marconi would continue to play a leading role in radio discoveries and innovations during the next three decades. In 1909, he was jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in physics with the German radio innovator Ferdinand Braun. After successfully sending radio transmissions from points as far away as England and Australia, Marconi turned his energy to experimenting with shorter, more powerful radio waves. He died in 1937, and on the day of his funeral all British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) stations were silent for two minutes in tribute to his contributions to the development of radio.
1930 – Last Allied troops left the Saar of Germany.
1931 – Under pressure from the Communists in Canton, Chiang Kai-shek resigned as President of the Nanking Government but remained the head of the Nationalist government that held nominal rule over most of China.
1936 – Chinese Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek declared war on Japan.
1937 – During the battle for Nanking in the Sino-Japanese War, the U.S. gunboat Panay is attacked and sunk by Japanese warplanes in Chinese waters. The American vessel, neutral in the Chinese-Japanese conflict, was escorting U.S. evacuees and three Standard Oil barges away from Nanking, the war-torn Chinese capital on the Yangtze River. After the Panay was sunk, the Japanese fighters machine-gunned lifeboats and survivors huddling on the shore of the Yangtze. Two U.S. sailors and a civilian passenger were killed and 11 personnel seriously wounded, setting off a major crisis in U.S.-Japanese relations. Although the Panay’s position had been reported to the Japanese as required, the neutral vessel was clearly marked, and the day was sunny and clear, the Japanese maintained that the attack was unintentional, and they agreed to pay $2 million in reparations. Two neutral British vessels were also attacked by the Japanese in the final days of the battle for Nanking.
1941 – Naval Air Transport Service is established.
1941 – Kimura Detachment and 2500 men of the Japanese 16th Infantry Division, land in south Luzon at Legaspi. Air attacks continue against any remaining American aircraft.
1941 – U.S. Navy takes control of the largest and most luxurious ocean liner on the seas at that time, France’s Normandie, while it is docked at New York City. Shortly thereafter, the conversion for U.S. wartime use began. The Normandie was unique in many ways. It was the first ship built, in 1931, in accordance with the guidelines laid down in the 1929 Convention for Safety of Life at Sea. It was also huge, measuring 1,029 feet long and 119 feet wide. It displaced 85,000 tons of water. It offered passengers seven accommodation classes (including the new “tourist” class, as opposed to the old “third” class, commonly known as “steerage”) and 1,975 berths. It took a crew of more than 1,300 to work her. But despite its size, it was also fast: capable of 32.1 knots. The liner was launched in 1932 and made its first transatlantic crossing in 1935. In 1937, it was reconfigured with four-bladed propellers, which meant it could now cross the Atlantic in less than four days. When France surrendered to the Germans in June 1940, and the puppet Vichy regime was installed, the Normandie was in dock at New York City. Immediately placed in “protective custody” by the Navy, it was clear that the U.S. government was not about to let a ship of such size and speed fall into the hands of the Germans, which it certainly would upon returning to France. In November 1941, Time magazine ran an article stating that in the event of the United States’ involvement in the war, the Navy would seize the liner altogether and turn it into an aircraft carrier. It also elaborated on how the design of the ship made such a conversion relatively simple. When the Navy did take control of the ship, shortly after Pearl Harbor, it began the conversion of the liner-but to a troop ship, renamed the USS Lafayette (after the French general who aided the American Colonies in their original quest for independence). The Lafayette never served its new purpose. On February 9, 1942, the ship caught fire and capsized. Sabotage was originally suspected, but the likely cause was sparks from a welder’s torch. Although the ship was finally righted, the massive salvage operation cost $3,750,000–and the fire damage made any hope of employing the vessel impossible. It was scrapped–literally chopped up for scrap metal–in 1946.
1941 – USMC F4F “Wildcats” sink the first 4 major Japanese ships off Wake Island.
1943 – The US 5th Army attacks continue. The US 36th Division of the 2nd Corps attacks Monte Lungo, near its former positions on Monte Maggiore.
1944 – Forces of the US 1st Army battle towards Duren, through the Hurtgen Forest. The US 3rd Army establishes another crossing of the German frontier east of the Saar. To the south, in Alsace, the US 7th Army is fighting in Seltz.
1944 – Bomber Command Lancaster bombers, escorted by Mustang fighters, attack Witten, the only city in the Ruhr industrial area that has not been bombed yet.
1946 – A United Nations committee voted to accept a six-block tract of Manhattan real estate offered as a gift by John D. Rockefeller Jr. to be the site of U.N. headquarters.
1950 – The 1st Marine Division closed into Hungnam having cut its way through six Chinese divisions, killing approximately 20,000 of the enemy, on the way to the sea from Chosin/Changjin Reservoir. Legend has it that the division commander, Major General O. P. Smith, supposedly characterized the operation with, “Retreat? Hell, we’re just attacking in a different direction!”
1950 – U.N. General Assembly Resolution 483(V) established the United Nations Service Medal.
1951 – First flight of helicopter with gas-turbine engine at Windsor Locks, CT, demonstrates adaptability of this engine to helicopters.
1953 – Chuck Yeager reached Mach 2.43 in Bell X-1A rocket plane.
1955 – The US consulate in Hanoi is closed.
1967 – The U.S. ended the airlift of 6,500 men in Vietnam.
1968 – The Paris Peace talks, which opened on May 10, continue to be plagued by procedural questions that impeded any meaningful progress. South Vietnamese Premier Nguyen Cao Ky refused to consent to any permanent seating plan that would place the National Liberation Front (NLF) on an equal footing with Saigon. North Vietnam and the NLF likewise balked at any arrangement that would effectively recognize the Saigon as the legitimate government of South Vietnam. Prolonged discussions over the shape of the negotiating table was finally resolved by the placement of two square tables separated by a round table. Chief U.S. negotiator Averell Harriman proposed this arrangement so that NLF representatives could join the North Vietnamese team without having to be acknowledged by Saigon’s delegates; similarly, South Vietnamese negotiators could sit with their American allies without having to be acknowledged by the North Vietnamese and the NLF representatives. Such seemingly insignificant matters became fodder for many arguments between the delegations at the negotiations.
1969 – The Philippine Civic Action Group, a 1,350-man contingent from the Army of the Philippines, departs South Vietnam. The contingent was part of the Free World Military Forces, an effort by President Lyndon B. Johnson to enlist allies for the United States and South Vietnam. By securing support from other nations, Johnson hoped to build an international consensus behind his policies in Vietnam. The effort was also known as the “many flags” program. The Philippine Civic Action Group entered Vietnam in September 1966, setting up operations in a base camp in Tay Ninh Province northwest of Saigon. The force included an engineer construction battalion, medical and rural community development teams, a security battalion, a field artillery battery, and a logistics and headquarters element. In agreeing to commit troops, Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos was partially motivated by the desire for financial aid. In return for the military assistance, the United States not only agreed to pay for the deployment and maintenance of the Philippine force, but also granted Marcos several types of military aid, much of it for use in the Philippines rather than in South Vietnam. Ultimately, Johnson’s Free World Military Forces program failed. The Philippines was one of only five nations that responded to Johnson’s repeated plea for military support and troops in South Vietnam.
1975 – Sara Jane Moore pleaded guilty to a charge of trying to kill President Ford in San Francisco the previous September.
1979 – In response to the Iran hostage crisis, the Carter administration ordered the removal of most Iranian diplomats in the United States.
1983 – A truck bomb exploded at the US Embassy in Kuwait.
1985 – 248 American soldiers and eight crew members were killed when an Arrow Air charter crashed after takeoff from Gander, Newfoundland.
1987 – During an official visit to Denmark, U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz issues a statement calling on America’s NATO allies in western Europe to sharply increase their defense spending. Shultz bluntly informed his Danish hosts that it was “important for all of us to increase our contributions to NATO to insure that we do everything we can to preserve our values.” The call for funds was in direct response to the INF Treaty that had recently been signed by the U.S. and the Soviet Union. Shultz’s visit was the first of many stops in Europe. Just days before, the Soviet Union and the United States signed the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Force (INF) Treaty that promised to eliminate much of the two nations’ nuclear arsenals in Europe. Critics of the treaty in the United States and in Western Europe argued that this would leave America’s NATO allies nearly defenseless against the massive conventional forces of the Soviet Union. Shultz himself had not been a supporter of the treaty. With the treaty in force, however, the secretary now issued a call for increased spending by NATO members on their conventional armed forces. As Shultz concluded, “It’s not a viewpoint. It’s a description of reality.” Denmark strongly supported the INF Treaty. However, the United States had criticized Denmark for years because of its small defense budget. According to one U.S. diplomat, the Danes’ philosophy was that “the Soviets are not a major threat and that in any case, their British and American friends would always come to their aid.” Talks between Shultz and Danish officials were cordial, but reflected the growing tension between the United States and some of its NATO allies concerning defense issues in Europe. Instead of agreeing with the secretary’s suggestion for increased defense spending, the Danish representative pushed even more to render Europe a “nuclear-free” zone. The inconclusive talks, and the Danish refusal to consider increased defense spending, were evidence of the increasing power of the “no-nuke” movement in Western Europe.
1992 – First US combat action, 2 Marine Cobra gunships destroy an armed Somali vehicle. 2 Somalis KIA.
1993 – Two US MP’s are WIA by Somali gunman in Mogadishu. Navy SEAL’s kill a Somali gunman.
1995 – By only three votes, the US Senate killed a constitutional amendment giving Congress authority to outlaw flag burning and other forms of desecration against Old Glory.
1996 – In Iraq Uday Hussein, eldest son of Sadam, was wounded in a car ambush by assailants with machine guns and grenades. The Mohammed Madhlum Dulaimi Group claimed responsibility.
1997 – Ilich Ramirez Sanchez, the international terrorist known as “Carlos the Jackal,” went on trial in Paris on charges of killing two French investigators and a Lebanese national. He was convicted and began serving a life prison sentence.
2000 – The US Supreme Court decided 5-4 to block all ballot recounts and effectively secured the presidency for Gov. George W. Bush. A later review of the ballots suggested that George W. bush would have won anyway. The high court agreed, 7-to-2, to reverse the Florida court’s order of a state recount and voted 5-to-4 that there was no acceptable procedure by which a timely new recount could take place.
2000 – The Marine Corps grounded all eight of its high-tech V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft following a fiery crash in North Carolina that killed four Marines.
2001 – In Los Angeles police arrested Irving David Rubin (56) and Earl Leslie Krugel (59), leaders of the Jewish Defense League, for plotting to blow up a local mosque.
2001 – Gerardo Hernandez, the leader of a Cuban spy ring, received a life sentence in federal court in Miami for his role in the infiltration of U.S. military bases and the deaths of four Cuban-Americans.
2001 – David Criswell, director of the Univ. of Houston Space Systems Operations, proposed a “Lunar Solar Power System” to collect solar energy on the moon, convert it to microwaves, and beam it to Earth for electrical power.
2001 – A $200 million US Air Force B-1 bomber crashed into the India Ocean near Diego Garcia Island. The 4 crewmen were rescued.
2001 – In Afghanistan al Qaeda fighters at Tora Bora were given a new ultimatum to surrender and turn over their leaders.
2001 – Lt. Gen. Abdullah Hendropriyono, the Indonesia intelligence chief, said that a network of al Qaeda training camps were located on Sulawesi Island.
2002 – North Korea said it was immediately activating the nuclear reactor at Yongbyon that was shut down in 1994, due to suspension of fuel deliveries.
2003 – Pres. Bush signed legislation calling for economic penalties against Syria for not doing enough to fight terrorism.
2003 – An investigation by the Defense Contract Audit Agency of the U.S. Defense Department finds evidence indicating that the Halliburton Company subsidiary Kellogg, Brown & Root overcharged the government as much as $61 million for fuel delivered to Iraq.
Congressional Medal of Honor Citations for Actions Taken This Day
*ELROD, HENRY TALMAGE
Rank and organization: Captain, U.S. Marine Corps. Born: 27 September 1905, Rebecca, Ga. Entered service at: Ashburn, Ga. Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while attached to Marine Fighting Squadron 211, during action against enemy Japanese land, surface and aerial units at Wake Island, 8 to 23 December 1941. Engaging vastly superior forces of enemy bombers and warships on 9 and 12 December, Capt. Elrod shot down 2 of a flight of 22 hostile planes and, executing repeated bombing and strafing runs at extremely low altitude and close range, succeeded in inflicting deadly damage upon a large Japanese vessel, thereby sinking the first major warship to be destroyed by small caliber bombs delivered from a fighter-type aircraft. When his plane was disabled by hostile fire and no other ships were operative, Capt. Elrod assumed command of 1 flank of the line set up in defiance of the enemy landing and, conducting a brilliant defense, enabled his men to hold their positions and repulse intense hostile fusillades to provide covering fire for unarmed ammunition carriers. Capturing an automatic weapon during 1 enemy rush in force, he gave his own firearm to 1 of his men and fought on vigorously against the Japanese. Responsible in a large measure for the strength of his sector’s gallant resistance, on 23 December, Capt. Elrod led his men with bold aggressiveness until he fell, mortally wounded. His superb skill as a pilot, daring leadership and unswerving devotion to duty distinguished him among the defenders of Wake Island, and his valiant conduct reflects the highest credit upon himself and the U.S. Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country.