December 17

17 December

1750 – Deborah Sampson, was born. She fought in the American Revolution as a man under the alias Robert Shurtleff.
1777 – George Washington’s army returned to winter quarters in Valley Forge, Pa.
1777 – France recognized American independence.
1812 – War of 1812: U.S. forces attack a Lenape village in the Battle of the Mississinewa. The Battle of the Mississinewa, also known as Mississineway, was an expedition ordered by William Henry Harrison against Miami Indian villages in response to the attacks on Fort Wayne and Fort Harrison in the Indiana Territory. The site is near the city of Marion, Indiana. Today, the location is the site of Mississinewa 1812, the largest War of 1812 reenactment in the United States, which is held every October. The annual festival draws thousands of visitors from all over the world.
1835US Marines assist firefighters in efforts to control the Great Fire of New York as the fire levels lower Manhattan. The Great Fire of 1835 began in a five-story warehouse at 25 Merchant Street (now called Beaver Street) at the intersection with Pearl Street between Hanover Square, Manhattan and Wall Street in the snow-covered city and was fed by gale-force winds blowing from the northwest towards the East River. With temperatures as low as −17 °F (−27 °C) and the East River frozen solid, firefighters had to cut holes in the ice to get water. Water then froze in the hoses and pumps. Attempts to blow up buildings in its path (a technique later regarded as counterproductive) were thwarted by a lack of gunpowder in Manhattan. Firefighters coming to help from Philadelphia said they could see signs of the fire there. About 2 a.m. Marines arrived with gunpowder from the Brooklyn Navy Yard and blew up buildings in the fire’s path. By then it covered 50 acres (200,000 m2), 17 blocks of the city, destroying between 530 and 700 buildings. The area is now reported as Coenties Slip in the south to Maiden Lane in the north and from William Street in the west to the East River. The losses were estimated at twenty million dollars, which, in today’s value would be hundreds of millions. Twenty people were killed.
1846 – Ships under Commodore Matthew Calbraith Perry capture Laguna de Terminos during Mexican War.
1861 – The Stonewall Brigade began to dismantle Dam No. 5 of the C&O Canal near
1861Flag Officer Foote, Commanding U.S. Naval Forces, Western Waters, issued General Order regarding observance of Sunday on board ships of his flotilla: “It is the wish. . . that on Sunday the public worship of Almighty God may be observed . . . and that the respective commanders will either them­selves, or cause other persons to pronounce prayers publicly on Sunday. . .” Foote added: “Discipline to be permanent must be based on moral grounds, and officers must in themselves, show a good example in morals, order, and patriotism to secure these qualities in the men.” Since 1775 Navy Regulations have required that religious services be held on board ships of the Navy in peace and war.
1862Union General Ulysses S. Grant lashes out at cotton speculators when he expels all Jews from his department in the west. At the time, Grant was trying to capture Vicksburg, Mississippi, the last major Confederate stronghold on the Mississippi River. Grant’s army now effectively controlled much territory in western Tennessee, northern Mississippi, and parts of Kentucky and Arkansas. As in other parts of the South, Grant was dealing with thousands of escaped slaves. John Eaton, a chaplain, devised a program through which the freed slaves picked cotton from abandoned fields and received part of the proceeds when it was sold by the government. Grant also had to deal with numerous speculators who followed his army in search of cotton. Cotton supplies were very short in the North, and these speculators could buy bales in the captured territories and sell it quickly for a good profit. In December, Grant’s father arrived for a visit with two friends from Cincinnati. Grant soon realized that the friends, who were Jews, were speculators hoping to gain access to captured cotton. Grant was furious and fired off his notorious Order No. 11: “The Jews, as a class violating every regulation of trade established by the Treasury Department and also department orders, are hereby expelled from the department within twenty-four hours from receipt of this order.” The fallout from his action was swift. Among 30 Jewish families expelled from Paducah, Kentucky, was Cesar Kaskel, who rallied support in Congress against the order. Shortly after the uproar, President Lincoln ordered Grant to rescind the order. Grant later admitted to his wife that the criticism of his hasty action was well deserved. As Julia Grant put it, the general had “no right to make an order against any special sect.”
1863 – Lieutenant Commander Fitch, U.S.S. Moose, reported that he had sent landing parties ashore at Seven Mile Island and Palmyra, Tennessee, where they had destroyed distilleries used by Con-federate guerrilla troops.
1900 – Ellis Island immigration center re -opened following an 1897 fire.
1903Near Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, Orville and Wilbur Wright make the first successful flight in history of a self-propelled, heavier-than-air aircraft. Orville piloted the gasoline-powered, propeller-driven biplane, which stayed aloft for 12 seconds and covered 120 feet on its inaugural flight. Orville and Wilbur Wright grew up in Dayton, Ohio, and developed an interest in aviation after learning of the glider flights of the German engineer Otto Lilienthal in the 1890s. Unlike their older brothers, Orville and Wilbur did not attend college, but they possessed extraordinary technical ability and a sophisticated approach to solving problems in mechanical design. They built printing presses and in 1892 opened a bicycle sales and repair shop. Soon, they were building their own bicycles, and this experience, combined with profits from their various businesses, allowed them to pursue actively their dream of building the world’s first airplane. After exhaustively researching other engineers’ efforts to build a heavier-than-air, controlled aircraft, the Wright brothers wrote the U.S. Weather Bureau inquiring about a suitable place to conduct glider tests. They settled on Kitty Hawk, an isolated village on North Carolina’s Outer Banks, which offered steady winds and sand dunes from which to glide and land softly. Their first glider, tested in 1900, performed poorly, but a new design, tested in 1901, was more successful. Later that year, they built a wind tunnel where they tested nearly 200 wings and airframes of different shapes and designs. The brothers’ systematic experimentations paid off–they flew hundreds of successful flights in their 1902 glider at Kill Devils Hills near Kitty Hawk. Their biplane glider featured a steering system, based on a movable rudder, that solved the problem of controlled flight. They were now ready for powered flight. In Dayton, they designed a 12-horsepower internal combustion engine with the assistance of machinist Charles Taylor and built a new aircraft to house it. They transported their aircraft in pieces to Kitty Hawk in the autumn of 1903, assembled it, made a few further tests, and on December 14 Orville made the first attempt at powered flight. The engine stalled during take-off and the plane was damaged, and they spent three days repairing it. Then at 10:35 a.m. on December 17, in front of five witnesses, the aircraft ran down a monorail track and into the air, staying aloft for 12 seconds and flying 120 feet. The modern aviation age was born. Three more tests were made that day, with Wilbur and Orville alternately flying the airplane. Wilbur flew the last flight, covering 852 feet in 59 seconds. During the next few years, the Wright brothers further developed their airplanes but kept a low profile about their successes in order to secure patents and contracts for their flying machines. By 1905, their aircraft could perform complex maneuvers and remain aloft for up to 39 minutes at a time. In 1908, they traveled to France and made their first public flights, arousing widespread public excitement. In 1909, the U.S. Army’s Signal Corps purchased an especially constructed plane, and the brothers founded the Wright Company to build and market their aircraft. Wilbur Wright died of typhoid fever in 1912; Orville lived until 1948. The historic Wright brothers’ aircraft of 1903 is on permanent display at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.
1903 Life-Saving Service personnel from Kill Devil Hills Life-Saving Station helped carry materials to the launch site for the first successful heavier-than-air aircraft flight by the Wright Brothers at Kitty Hawk, NC. The life-savers were John T. Daniels, W.S. Dough and A.D. Etheridge.
1925 – Col. William “Billy” Mitchell was convicted of insubordination at his court -martial. Mitchell was found guilty of conduct prejudicial to the good of the armed services. He was awarded the Medal of Honor 20 years after his death.
1927 – U.S. Secretary of State Kellogg suggested a worldwide pact renouncing war.
1938 – German chemist Otto Hahn discovers the nuclear fission of the heavy element uranium, the scientific and technological basis of nuclear energy.
1940President Roosevelt gives a press conference outlining a scheme which he plans to introduce to bring further aid to Britain which he will call Lend-Lease. His argument is that if a neighbor’s house is on fire it is only sensible to lend him a hose to stop the fire spreading to your own house, and that it would be stupid to think of asking for payment in such circumstances.
1941Admiral Chester W. Nimitz named Commander in Chief, US Pacific Fleet, to relieve Admiral Husband Kimmel. Admiral William Pye becomes acting commander until Nimitz’s arrival. Admiral Kimmel had enjoyed a successful military career, beginning in 1915 as an aide to the Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. He served admirably on battleships in World War I, winning command of several in the interwar period. At the outbreak of World War II, Kimmel had already attained the rank of rear admiral and was commanding the cruiser forces at Pearl Harbor. In January 1941, he was promoted to commander of the Pacific Fleet, replacing James Richardson, who FDR relieved of duty after Richardson objected to basing the fleet at Pearl Harbor. If Kimmel had a weakness, it was that he was a creature of habit, of routine. He knew only what had been done before, and lacked imagination-and therefore insight-regarding the unprecedented. So, even as word was out that Japan was likely to make a first strike against the United States as the negotiations in Washington floundered, Kimmel took no extraordinary actions at Pearl Harbor. In fact, he believed that a sneak attack was more likely at Wake Island or Midway Island, and requested from Lieutenant General Walter Short, Commander of the Army at Pearl Harbor, extra antiaircraft artillery for support there (none could be spared). Kimmel’s predictability was extremely easy to read by Japanese military observers and made his fleet highly vulnerable. As a result, Kimmel was held accountable, to a certain degree, for the absolute devastation wrought on December 7. Although he had no more reason than anyone else to believe Pearl Harbor was a possible Japanese target, a scapegoat had to be found to appease public outrage. He avoided a probable court-martial when he requested early retirement. When Admiral Kimmel’s Story, an “as told to” autobiography, was published in 1955, Kimmel made it plain that he believed FDR sacrificed him-and his career-to take suspicion off himself; Kimmel believed Roosevelt knew Pearl Harbor was going to be bombed, although no evidence has ever been adduced to support his allegation.
1941 – 17 SB 2U-3s of Marine Scout Bomber Squadron 281 flew 1,137 miles, the longest massed flight over water.
1942 – The Navy credited the CGC Ingham with attacking and sinking the submerged U-boat U-626 south of Greenland.
1942 – Heavy US air attacks continue on Tunis and Gabes and other German air bases in Tunisia.
1943 – Some German forces withdraw from San Pietro and other positions further north. The US 5th Army capture Monte Sammucro.
1944Eisenhower releases the US 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions from AEF reserve to reinforce American troops in the Ardennes. Other infantry and armored forces from US 12th Army Group are also being redeployed to meet the German offensive. Meanwhile, German forces capture 9000 Americans at Echternach, on the extreme right flank of the attack. Soldiers of the 2nd SS Panzer Division Das Reich kill some 71 American POWs near Malmedy.
1944During World War II, U.S. Major General Henry C. Pratt issues Public Proclamation No. 21, declaring that, effective January 2, 1945, Japanese American “evacuees” from the West Coast could return to their homes. On February 19, 1942, 10 weeks after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, authorizing the removal of any or all people from military areas “as deemed necessary or desirable.” The military in turn defined the entire West Coast, home to the majority of Americans of Japanese ancestry or citizenship, as a military area. By June, more than 110,000 Japanese Americans were relocated to remote internment camps built by the U.S. military in scattered locations around the country. For the next two and a half years, many of these Japanese Americans endured extremely difficult living conditions and poor treatment by their military guards. During the course of World War II, 10 Americans were convicted of spying for Japan, but not one of them was of Japanese ancestry. In 1988, President Ronald Reagan signed a bill to recompense each surviving internee with a tax-free check for $20,000 and an apology from the U.S. government.
1944 – The Germans renewed their attack on the Belgian town of Losheimergraben against the American Army during the Battle of the Bulge.
1944 – Battle of the Bulge – Malmedy massacre – 84 American 285th Field Artillery Observation Battalion POWs are shot by Waffen-SS Kampfgruppe Peiper.
1944 – On Mindoro, American forces capture San Jose Airfield. On Leyte, parts of US 10th and 24th Corps record advances against Japanese positions.
1947First flight of the Boeing B-47 Stratojet strategic bomber. The Boeing B-47 Stratojet (company Model 450) was a long range, six-engine, jet-powered strategic bomber designed to fly at high subsonic speed and at high altitude to avoid enemy interception. The B-47’s primary mission was to drop nuclear bombs on the Soviet Union. With its engines carried in nacelles under the swept wing, the B-47 was a major innovation in post-World War II combat jet design, and helped lead to modern jet airliners. The B-47 entered service with the United States Air Force’s Strategic Air Command (SAC) in 1951. It never saw combat as a bomber, but was a mainstay of SAC’s bomber strength during the late 1950s and early 1960s, and remained in use as a bomber until 1965. It was also adapted to a number of other missions, including photographic reconnaissance, electronic intelligence and weather reconnaissance, remaining in service as a reconnaissance platform until 1969 and as a testbed until 1977.
1950 – U.S. Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Bruce H. Hinton, commander of the 336th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron, earned the distinction of becoming the first F-86 Sabre fighter pilot to shoot down a MiG-15 during the Korean War.

On this day in 1950, U.S. Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Bruce H. Hinton, commander of the 336th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron, earned the distinction of becoming the first F-86 Sabre fighter pilot to shoot down a MiG-15 during the Korean War.

1951President Harry Truman presented the Collier Trophy to the Coast Guard, the Department of Defense and the “helicopter industry” in a joint award, citing “outstanding development and use of rotary-winged aircraft for air rescue operations.” Coast Guard commandant VADM Merlin O’Neill accepted the trophy for the Coast Guard.
1957 – The United States successfully test -fired the Atlas intercontinental ballistic missile for the first time.
1960 – A Convair C-131D Samaritan operated by the United States Air Force on a flight from Munich to RAF Northolt, crashed shortly after take-off from Munich-Riem Airport, due to fuel contamination. All 20 passengers and crew on board as well as 32 people on the ground were killed.
1969The SALT I talks begin. SALT I is the common name for the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks Agreement, also known as the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty. SALT I froze the number of strategic ballistic missile launchers at existing levels and provided for the addition of new submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) launchers only after the same number of older intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) and SLBM launchers had been dismantled.
1969 – The U.S. Air Force closed its Project “Blue Book” by finding no evidence of extraterrestrial spaceships behind thousands of UFO sightings.
1971Cambodian government positions in Prak Ham, 40 miles north of Phnom Penh, and the 4,000-man base at Taing Kauk are the targets of continuous heavy bombardment by communist forces. The communist Khmer Rouge and their North Vietnamese allies were trying to encircle the capital city. Premier Lon Nol took over the government from Prince Norodom Sihanouk in March 1970, and Lon Nol’s troops were locked in a desperate battle with the communists. Despite U.S. air support, the Cambodian government troops were under heavy pressure from the communists. The Prak Ham siege was lifted four days later, but the communists continued to encircle Phnom Penh in the face of weakened Cambodian resistance. Meanwhile, antigovernment demonstrations against the Lon Nol regime broke out inside the capital. The government reacted by banning all such protests, as well as political meetings, and by authorizing police searches of private houses. Despite the unrest in Phnom Penh and a series of major defeats, Lon Nol managed to retain control of the government. Lon Nol’s government troops managed to hold on largely because of U.S. support. However, with the signing of the Paris Peace Accords in January 1973, American forces were withdrawn from Southeast Asia, and Lon Nol’s forces soon found themselves fighting alone against the communists. The last U.S. airstrikes flown in support of Cambodian forces were in August 1973. Lon Nol and his forces fought on, but with no external support, it was an overwhelming task. On April 17, 1975, Lon Nol’s greatly depleted forces surrendered to the Khmer Rouge. During the five years of war, approximately 10 percent of Cambodia’s 7 million people died. The victorious Khmer Rouge emptied the cities and forced millions of Cambodians into forced labor camps, murdered hundreds of thousands of real or imagined opponents, and caused hundreds of thousands of deaths from exhaustion, hunger, and disease.
1975 – A federal jury in Sacramento, California, sentences Lynette Alice Fromme, also known as “Squeaky” Fromme, to life in prison for her attempted assassination of President Gerald R. Ford. On September 5, a Secret Service agent wrested a semi-automatic .45-caliber pistol from Fromme, who brandished the weapon during a public appearance of President Ford in Sacramento. “Squeaky” Fromme, a follower of incarcerated cult leader Charles Manson, was pointing the loaded gun at the president when the Secret Service agent grabbed it. Seventeen days later, Ford escaped injury in another assassination attempt when 45-year-old Sara Jane Moore fired a revolver at him. Moore, a leftist radical who once served as an informant for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, had a history of mental illness. She was arrested at the scene, convicted, and sentenced to life. In trial, Fromme pleaded not guilty to the “attempted assassination of a president” charge, arguing that although her gun contained bullets, it had not been cocked, and therefore she had not actually intended to shoot the president. She was convicted, sentenced to life in prison, and sent to the Alderson Federal Correctional Institution in West Virginia. Fromme remained a dedicated disciple of Charles Manson and in December 1987 escaped from Alderson Prison after she heard that Manson, also imprisoned, had cancer. After 40 hours roaming the rugged West Virginia hills, she was caught on Christmas Day, about two miles from the prison. Five years were added to her life sentence for the escape.
1981 – Red Brigade terrorists kidnapped Brigadier General James Dozier, the highest-ranking U.S. NATO officer in Italy.
1986 – Eugene Hasenfus, the American convicted by Nicaragua for his part in running guns to the Contras, was pardoned, then released.
1990 – President Bush pledged “no negotiation for one inch” of Kuwaiti territory would take place as he repeated his demand for Iraq’s complete withdrawal.
1990Jean-Bertrand Aristide, a radical Roman Catholic priest and opponent of the dictatorship of Jean-Claude Duvalier, is elected president of Haiti in a landslide victory. It was the first free election in Haiti’s history. However, less than one year later, in September 1991, Aristide was deposed in a bloody military coup. He escaped to exile, and a three-man junta took power. In 1994, reacting to evidence of atrocities committed by Haiti’s military dictators, the United Nations authorized the use of force to restore Aristide. On September 18, the eve of the American invasion, a diplomatic delegation led by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter brokered a last-minute agreement with Haiti’s military to give up power. Bloodshed was prevented, and on September 19, 1994, 20,000 U.S. troops landed unopposed to oversee Haiti’s transition to democracy. In October, Aristide returned and served as president until the expiration of his term in 1996. He was succeeded by his close friend and handpicked successor Rene Preval, who was elected president in a landslide victory the previous year. In 2000, Aristide was again elected Haitian president in an election marked by violence and corruption.
1991After a long meeting between Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev and President of the Russian Federation Boris Yeltsin, a spokesman for the latter announces that the Soviet Union will officially cease to exist on or before New Year’s Eve. Yeltsin declared that, “There will be no more red flag.” It was a rather anti-climactic culmination of events leading toward the dismantling of the Soviet Union. Despite its dramatic implications, the announcement inspired mostly yawns and skeptical jokes from a Russian population weary from months of political intrigue and instability and a crumbling economy. For many people, the Soviet Union had already disintegrated. The various Russian republics had already declared their independence; in a few days they would meet and form the Commonwealth of Independent States. Gorbachev’s power was steadily ebbing: a coup attempt the previous August had already nearly toppled him. Yeltsin, on the other hand, was busily planning the takeover of Soviet facilities and the symbolic lowering of the Soviet hammer-and-sickle to be replaced by the flag of Russia. Even Gorbachev seemed to accept the inevitable, taking time off from his less and less meaningful job to have a photo op with the rock group Scorpion. It was all a rather unexciting end to the nation President Ronald Reagan once called “the evil empire.”
1993 – 2/14 Infantry, 10th Mountain Division, departs Somalia.
1994 – Six shots were fired at the White House by an unidentified gunman.
1994 – North Korea shot down a U.S. Army helicopter which had strayed north of the demilitarized zone – – the co -pilot, Chief Warrant Officer David Hilemon, was killed; the pilot, Chief Warrant Officer Bobby Hall, was captured and held for nearly two weeks.
1996A U.N. panel rules that Kuwait Oil Company will receive $610 million, almost two-thirds of the $951 million it claims to have spent while extinguishing oil fires left by the retreating Iraqi army in 1991. In addition, the United Nations has approved 862,000 claims amounting to $3.2 billion for people forced to leave Kuwait because of the Iraqi occupation.
1997 – A US court ordered Cuba to pay $187.6 million for three men killed when their planes were shot down in 1996 by MiG fighters.
1998US and British forces launched more missiles on the 2nd day of attacks against Iraq. The strikes included some 100 cruise missiles with 2,000 pound warheads. Pres. Boris Yeltsin withdrew the Russian ambassador from Washington and demanded an immediate end to military action. France and Italy expressed strong opposition while Germany rallied to support the US and Britain. A stray US missile hit Khorramshahr, Iran. The US later apologized.
1999The U.N. Security Council passes Resolution 1284 on returning weapons inspectors to Iraq. Under the Resolution, sanctions could be suspended if Iraq were to cooperate with the inspectors over a period of nine months. Iraq has stated that it does not accept the Resolution, which also creates the new United Nations Monitoring, Verification, and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) for Iraq.
2001 – The Bush administration announced that the anthrax attacks most likely originated from a domestic source.
2001 – Space shuttle Endeavour returned to Cape Canaveral following A 12 -day mission for a crew change at the Int’l. Space Station.
2001 – US Marines raised the Stars and Stripes over the long -abandoned American Embassy in Kabul, inaugurating what U.S. envoy James F. Dobbins promised would be a long commitment to the rebuilding.
20012001 – The last cave complex at Tora Bora had been taken and its defenders overrun. U.S. and U.K. forces continued searching into January, but no sign of al-Qaeda leadership emerged. An estimated 200 al-Qaeda fighters were killed during the battle, along with an unknown number of tribal fighters. No American or British deaths were reported.
2002 – U.S. President George W. Bush ordered the military to begin deploying a national missile defence system with land – and sea -based interceptor rockets to be operational starting in 2004.
2002Iraqi exiles in London declared they want to build a “new Iraq” and agreed on a power -sharing plan that for the first time recognizes the political clout of Shiite Muslims, a majority in a nation long controlled by Sunni Muslims such as Saddam Hussein. Some delegates walked out of the London meeting warning of possible civil war if they were sidelined in any new government.
2003 – In Greece a court handed multiple life sentences to the leader, chief assassin and three other members of the November 17 terror organization.
2003 – SpaceShipOne, piloted by Brian Binnie, makes its first powered and first supersonic flight.
2003 – South Korea agreed to send 3,000 troops to Iraq in 2004.
2004 – President Bush signed into law the largest overhaul of US intelligence-gathering in 50 years.
2004 – Afghan forces retook control of Pul-e-Charkhi, the country’s largest jail, following a day-long standoff. 4 inmates and 4 guards were killed in the violence.
2004 – Bosnian Serb Prime Minister Dragan Mikerevic resigned, one day after the international community imposed sanctions against Bosnian Serb police and officials for allegedly helping fugitive war crimes suspects evade justice.
2007 – Russia delivers its first shipment of nuclear fuel to the Bushehr nuclear reactor in Iran
2012 – Daniel Inouye, Medal of Honor recipient, senior Senator from Hawaii and the President pro tempore, dies in Honolulu at the age of 88.
2012 – NASA’s twin GRAIL spacecrafts crash into a mile-high cliff near the Lunar North Pole to close out a successful mission to map the Moon’s gravity field with unprecedented precision.
2013 – Edward Snowden offers Brazil information over the NSA spying of its citizens.
2014 – Sony Pictures cancels the release of the upcoming 2014 film The Interview, originally scheduled for the next day, due to threatening messages by hackers connected to North Korea.
2014 – U.S. President Barack Obama announces release of Alan Gross, held prisoner by Cuba for five years; announces resumption of normal relations between the U.S. and Cuba for the first time since January 1961. An American embassy will open in Havana and talks to lift the embargo will begin.

Congressional Medal of Honor Citations for Actions Taken This Day

Rank and organization: Major and Assistant Adjutant General, Cavalry Corps, Army of the Mississippi. Place and date: At Harpeth River, Tenn., 17 December 1864; at Selma, Ala., 2 April 1865. Entered service at: Wilkes Barre, Pa. Birth: Luzerne County, Pa. Date of issue: 30 March 1898. Citation: Obtained permission from the corps commander to advance upon the enemy’s position with the 4th U.S. Cavalry, of which he was a lieutenant; led an attack upon a battery, dispersed the enemy, and captured the guns. At Selma, Ala., charged, at the head of his regiment, into the second and last line of the enemy’s works.

Rank and organization: First Lieutenant, 4th U.S. Cavalry. Place and date: Near Harpeth River, Tenn., 17 December 1864. Entered service at: Ohio. Birth: Ohio. Date of issue: 5 April 1898. Citation: At the head of his regiment charged a field battery with strong infantry supports, broke the enemy’s line and, with other mounted troops, captured 3 guns and many prisoners.

Rank and organization: Chief Boatswain’s Mate, U.S. Navy. Born: 7 July 1886, Bridgeport, Conn. Accredited to: Massachusetts. G.O. No.: 391, 1918. Citation: For extraordinary heroism while serving on board the U.S.S. Remlik, on the morning of 17 December 1917, when the Remlik encountered a heavy gale. During this gale, there was a heavy sea running. The depth charge box on the taffrail aft, containing a Sperry depth charge, was washed overboard, the depth charge itself falling inboard and remaining on deck. MacKenzie, on his own initiative, went aft and sat down on the depth charge, as it was impracticable to carry it to safety until the ship was headed up into the sea. In acting as he did, MacKenzie exposed his life and prevented a serious accident to the ship and probable loss of the ship and the entire crew.

Rank and organization: Private First Class, U.S. Army, Company M, 23d Infantry, 2d Infantry Division. Place and date: Near Krinkelter Wald, Belgium, 17 December 1944. Entered service at: Wichita, Kans. Birth: Lincoln, Nebr. G.O. No.: 48, 23 June 1945. Citation: He was a heavy machinegunner in a section attached to Company I in the vicinity of Krinkelter Wald, Belgium, 17 December 1944, when that company was attacked by a numerically superior force of German infantry and tanks. The first 6 waves of hostile infantrymen were repulsed with heavy casualties, but a seventh drive with tanks killed or wounded all but 3 of his section, leaving Pvt. Cowan to man his gun, supported by only 15 to 20 riflemen of Company I. He maintained his position, holding off the Germans until the rest of the shattered force had set up a new line along a firebreak. Then, unaided, he moved his machinegun and ammunition to the second position. At the approach of a Royal Tiger tank, he held his fire until about 80 enemy infantrymen supporting the tank appeared at a distance of about 150 yards. His first burst killed or wounded about half of these infantrymen. His position was rocked by an 88mm. shell when the tank opened fire, but he continued to man his gun, pouring deadly fire into the Germans when they again advanced. He was barely missed by another shell. Fire from three machineguns and innumerable small arms struck all about him; an enemy rocket shook him badly, but did not drive him from his gun. Infiltration by the enemy had by this time made the position untenable, and the order was given to withdraw. Pvt. Cowan was the last man to leave, voluntarily covering the withdrawal of his remaining comrades. His heroic actions were entirely responsible for allowing the remaining men to retire successfully from the scene of their last-ditch stand.

Rank and organization: Sergeant, U.S. Army, 23d Infantry, 2d Infantry Division. Place and date: Near Krinkelt, Belgium, 17 December 1944. Entered service at: Brownsville, Tex. Birth: Mission, Tex. G.O. No.: 47, 18 June 1945. Citation: On his own initiative, he carried his heavy machinegun from Company K’s right flank to its left, in order to protect that flank which was in danger of being overrun by advancing enemy infantry supported by tanks. Occupying a shallow hole offering no protection above his waist, he cut down a group of 10 Germans. Ignoring enemy fire from an advancing tank, he held his position and cut down 25 more enemy infantry attempting to turn his flank. Glancing to his right, he saw a large number of infantry swarming in from the front. Although dazed and shaken from enemy artillery fire which had crashed into the ground only a few yards away, he realized that his position soon would be outflanked. Again, alone, he carried his machinegun to a position to the right rear of the sector; enemy tanks and infantry were forcing a withdrawal. Blown over backward by the concussion of enemy fire, he immediately reset his gun and continued his fire. Single-handed he held off the German horde until he was satisfied his company had effected its retirement. Again he loaded his gun on his back and in a hail of small arms fire he ran to a point where a few of his comrades were attempting to set up another defense against the onrushing enemy. He fired from this position until his ammunition was exhausted. Still carrying his gun, he fell back with his small group to Krinkelt. Sgt. Lopez’s gallantry and intrepidity, on seemingly suicidal missions in which he killed at least 100 of the enemy, were almost solely responsible for allowing Company K to avoid being enveloped, to withdraw successfully and to give other forces coming up in support time to build a line which repelled the enemy drive.

Rank and organization: Private First Class, U.S. Army, Company K, 9th Infantry, 2d Infantry Division. Place and date: Near Rocherath, Belgium, 17 December 1944. Entered service at: West Haven, Conn. Birth: West Haven, Conn. G.O. No.: 97, 1 November 1945. Citation: Armed with a bazooka, he defended a key road junction near Rocherath, Belgium, on 17 December 1944, during the German Ardennes counteroffensive. After a heavy artillery barrage had wounded and forced the withdrawal of his assistant, he heard enemy tanks approaching the position where he calmly waited in the gathering darkness of early evening until the 5 Mark V tanks which made up the hostile force were within pointblank range. He then stood up, completely disregarding the firepower that could be brought to bear upon him, and launched a rocket into the lead tank, setting it afire and forcing its crew to abandon it as the other tanks pressed on before Pfc. Soderman could reload. The daring bazookaman remained at his post all night under severe artillery, mortar, and machinegun fire, awaiting the next onslaught, which was made shortly after dawn by 5 more tanks Running along a ditch to meet them, he reached an advantageous point and there leaped to the road in full view of the tank gunners, deliberately aimed his weapon and disabled the lead tank. The other vehicles, thwarted by a deep ditch in their attempt to go around the crippled machine, withdrew. While returning to his post Pfc. Soderman, braving heavy fire to attack an enemy infantry platoon from close range, killed at least 3 Germans and wounded several others with a round from his bazooka. By this time, enemy pressure had made Company K’s position untenable. Orders were issued for withdrawal to an assembly area, where Pfc. Soderman was located when he once more heard enemy tanks approaching. Knowing that elements of the company had not completed their disengaging maneuver and were consequently extremely vulnerable to an armored attack, he hurried from his comparatively safe position to meet the tanks. Once more he disabled the lead tank with a single rocket, his last; but before he could reach cover, machinegun bullets from the tank ripped into his right shoulder. Unarmed and seriously wounded he dragged himself along a ditch to the American lines and was evacuated. Through his unfaltering courage against overwhelming odds, Pfc. Soderman contributed in great measure to the defense of Rocherath, exhibiting to a superlative degree the intrepidity and heroism with which American soldiers met and smashed the savage power of the last great German offensive

One thought on “December 17

  1. r. h. says:

    1971 – The Plaine des Jarres (PDI) in northern Laos falls.

    During 1970 the Laotian forces had essentially surrendered the Plain of Jars and were backed up to Long Tieng just short of Vientiane, where they managed to hold. The NVA had improved their lines of communication to a point where they were subsequently able to contest Vang Pao for the Plain with multi-division offensives by 1970-71.

    An exception to the rule of small-scale engagements was the major North Vietnamese-Pathet Lao offensive against Vang Pao that began in mid-December 1971 and lasted until the end of April 1972. This battle involved more than twenty North Vietnamese battalions and some 10,000 Hmong irregulars and Royal Lao Army defenders. After blasting the last defensive positions on the Plain of Jars with newly introduced 130-mm guns with a thirty-kilometer range, the North Vietnamese continued their advancement. They captured a number of positions on a ridge dominating the airfield before being driven off with heavy loss of life on both sides. The Hmong halted an attack of T-34 tanks against the airfield by skillfully placing land mines.

    Through 1972, the communists slowly occupied more territory in northern Laos with their superior numbers, but they failed to overwhelm government forces. By 1973, the Meo had completely lost the Plain of Jars and had only one remaining major base at Long Tieng.

    The Plaine des Jarres was named after the large ancient stone ‘jars’ that dot the landscape. A natural crossroads, the PDJ was strategically important to both the Communists and the Royal Laotian armed forces and was the main battleground of the “secret war” in Laos.

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