1777 – The 1st America Thanksgiving Day commemorated Burgoyne’s surrender at Saratoga. A national Thanksgiving was declared by Congress after the American victory over the British at the Battle of Saratoga in December 1777. For many years Thanksgiving celebrations were haphazard with Presidents Washington, Adams and Madison declaring occasional national festivities.
1787 – New Jersey became the third state to ratify the U.S. Constitution. New Jersey is a state in the Northeastern and Middle Atlantic regions of the United States. It is bordered on the north and east by New York State, on the southeast and south by the Atlantic Ocean, on the west by Pennsylvania, and on the southwest by Delaware. The area was inhabited by Native Americans for more than 2,800 years, with historical tribes such as the Lenape along the coast. In the early 17th century, the Dutch and the Swedes made the first European settlements. The English later seized control of the region, naming it the Province of New Jersey. It was granted as a colony to Sir George Carteret and John Berkeley, 1st Baron Berkeley of Stratton. At this time, it was named after the largest of the Channel Islands, Jersey, Carteret’s birthplace. New Jersey was the site of several decisive battles during the American Revolutionary War.
1799 – George Washington’s body was interred at Mount Vernon.
1813 – British took Ft. Niagara in War of 1812.
1859 – South Carolina declared itself an “independent commonwealth.”
1862 – Confederate cavalry leader General Nathan Bedford Forrest routs a Union force under the command of Colonel Robert Ingersoll on a raid into western Tennessee, an area held by the Union. With the main Union army in the region occupying northern Mississippi, General Braxton Bragg ordered Forrest to cut the Federal supply lines in Tennessee. Forrest left Columbia, Tennessee, on December 11 and began crossing the Tennessee River on December 13. On December 16, Union General Jeremiah Sullivan dispatched Ingersoll and 200 men from Jackson to Lexington, where Ingersoll picked up 470 reinforcements. Most of the troops were raw recruits with no combat experience. On December 17, Ingersoll’s scouts detected more than half of Forrest’s 2,500 men approaching Lexington from the south. Ingersoll guessed that Forrest would attack along one of two main roads, Old Stage Road and Lower Road. To impede the Confederate advance, Ingersoll ordered the destruction of a bridge across Beech Creek along Lower Road. He then concentrated the bulk of his force along Old Stage Road. Forrest pulled his force up to Lexington, but did not attack until December 18. In the morning, Forrest advanced along Lower Road. Ingersoll’s scouts had failed to eliminate the bridge the day before, leaving the Confederates a clear path towards the smaller part of Ingersoll’s command. The Yankees swung around to stop the attack, but it was too late. Forrest’s troops overwhelmed the panicked Federals and captured 147 men, including Ingersoll. The rest of the Union force scattered into the countryside. Forrest also captured two artillery pieces, 70 horses, many rifles, and supplies. Forrest continued to Jackson, but found the city well defended. He continued his raid into Kentucky, destroying bridges and hampering supplies to the Union armies in Mississippi.
1862 – Grant announced the organization of his army in the West. Sherman, Hurlbut, McPherson, and McClernand would be Corps Commanders.
1864 – U.S.S. Louisiana, Commander Rhind, arrived off Fort Fisher, having that day been towed from Beaufort, North Carolina, by U.S.S. Sassacus, Lieutenant Commander J. L. Davis, in company with Rear Admiral Porter and his fleet. Louisiana had been loaded with powder and was to be blown up as near Fort Fisher as possible in the hope of reducing or substantially damaging that formidable Confederate work. The day before, Porter had sent detailed instructions to Commander Rhind, adding: “Great risks have to be run, and there are chances that you may lose your life in this adventure; but the risk is worth the running, when the importance of the object is to be considered and the fame to be gained by this novel undertaking, which is either to prove that forts on the water are useless or that rebels are proof against gunpowder. . . . I expect more good to our cause from a success in this instance than from an advance of all the armies in the field.” Rhind and his brave crew of volunteers proceeded in toward Fort Fisher towed by U.S.S.Wilderness, Acting Master Henry Arey, but finding the swells too severe, turned back. Major General Butler, seeing the worsening weather at Beaufort, asked Porter to postpone the attempt until the sea was calm enough to land his troops with safety.
1865 – Following its ratification by the requisite three-quarters of the states earlier in the month, the 13th Amendment is formally adopted into the U.S. Constitution, ensuring that “neither slavery nor involuntary servitude… shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” Before the American Civil War, Abraham Lincoln and other leaders of the anti-slavery Republican Party sought not to abolish slavery but merely to stop its extension into new territories and states in the American West. This policy was unacceptable to most Southern politicians, who believed that the growth of free states would turn the U.S. power structure irrevocably against them. In November 1860, Lincoln’s election as president signaled the secession of seven Southern states and the formation of the Confederate States of America. Shortly after his inauguration in 1861, the Civil War began. Four more Southern states joined the Confederacy, while four border slave states in the upper South remained in the Union. Lincoln, though he privately detested slavery, responded cautiously to the call by abolitionists for emancipation of all American slaves after the outbreak of the Civil War. As the war dragged on, however, the Republican-dominated federal government began to realize the strategic advantages of emancipation: The liberation of slaves would weaken the Confederacy by depriving it of a major portion of its labor force, which would in turn strengthen the Union by producing an influx of manpower. With 11 Southern states seceded from the Union, there were few pro-slavery congressmen to stand in the way of such an action. In 1862, Congress annulled the fugitive slave laws, prohibited slavery in the U.S. territories, and authorized Lincoln to employ freed slaves in the army. Following the major Union victory at the Battle of Antietam in September, Lincoln issued a warning of his intent to issue an emancipation proclamation for all states still in rebellion on New Year’s Day. That day–January 1, 1863–President Lincoln formally issued the Emancipation Proclamation, calling on the Union army to liberate all slaves in states still in rebellion as “an act of justice, warranted by the Constitution, upon military necessity.” These three million slaves were declared to be “then, thenceforward, and forever free.” The proclamation exempted the border slave states that remained in the Union and all or parts of three Confederate states controlled by the Union army. The Emancipation Proclamation transformed the Civil War from a war against secession into a war for “a new birth of freedom,” as Lincoln stated in his Gettysburg Address in 1863. This ideological change discouraged the intervention of France or England on the Confederacy’s behalf and enabled the Union to enlist the 180,000 African American soldiers and sailors who volunteered to fight between January 1, 1863, and the conclusion of the war. As the Confederacy staggered toward defeat, Lincoln realized that the Emancipation Proclamation, a war measure, might have little constitutional authority once the war was over. The Republican Party subsequently introduced the 13th Amendment into Congress, and in April 1864 the necessary two-thirds of the overwhelmingly Republican Senate passed the amendment. However, the House of Representatives, featuring a higher proportion of Democrats, did not pass the amendment by a two-thirds majority until January 1865, three months before Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox. On December 2, 1865, Alabama became the 27th state to ratify the 13th Amendment, thus giving it the requisite three-fourths majority of states’ approval necessary to make it the law of the land. Alabama, a former Confederate state, was forced to ratify the amendment as a condition for re-admission into the Union. On December 18, the 13th Amendment was officially adopted into the Constitution–246 years after the first shipload of captive Africans landed at Jamestown, Virginia, and were bought as slaves. Slavery’s legacy and efforts to overcome it remained a central issue in U.S. politics for more than a century, particularly during the post-Civil War Reconstruction era and the African American civil rights movement of the 1950s and ’60s.
1902 – Admiral of the Navy George Dewey receives orders to send his battleship to Trinidad and then to Venezuela to make sure that Great Britain’s and Germany’s dispute with Venezuela was settled by peaceful arbitration not force.
1903 – Marines escorted American diplomats to Addis Ababa, Abyssinia.
1917 – The resolution containing the language of the Eighteenth Amendment to enact Prohibition is passed by the United States Congress.
1939 – The US Navy promises to send 40 planes to Finland.
1940 – Hitler dictated Directive No. 21 to crush Russia in a quick campaign. Its message is simple: “The German Armed Forces must be prepared, even before the conclusion of the war against England, to crush Soviet Russia in a rapid campaign.” The projected operation is given the code name Barbarossa. Hitler has modified the draft plans prepared by the army in one important respect. Although three lines of attack are still suggested, Hitler’s scheme reduces the importance which has been laid on the advance to Moscow. He suggests that after the first battles the center group should swing north to help clear the Baltic States and Leningrad before moving on the capital. The preparations are to be ready by May 15, 1940.
1941 – Defended by 610 fighting men, the American-held island of Guam fell to more than 5,000 Japanese invaders in a three-hour battle.
1941 – Censorship is imposed with the passage of the 1st American War Powers Act. The War Powers Act is passed by Congress, authorizing the president to initiate and terminate defense contracts, reconfigure government agencies for wartime priorities, and regulate the freezing of foreign assets. It also permitted him to censor all communications coming in and leaving the country. FDR appointed the executive news director of the Associated Press, Byron Price, as director of censorship. Although invested with the awesome power to restrict and withhold news, Price took no extreme measures, allowing news outlets and radio stations to self-censor, which they did. Most top secret information, including the construction of the atom bomb, remained just that. The most extreme use of the censorship law seems to have been the restriction of the free flow of “girlie” magazines to servicemen-including Esquire, which the Post Office considered obscene for its occasional saucy cartoons and pinups. Esquire took the Post Office to court, and after three years the Supreme Court ultimately sided with the magazine.
1943 – The US 5th Army captures Monte Lungo, threatening the German position at San Pietro. German forces launch counterattacks. San Pietro falls to the US 36th Division (part of 2nd Corps, 5th Army). The 6th Corps advances as the German forces withdraw.
1944 – The Supreme Court upheld the wartime relocation of Japanese-Americans, but also said undeniably loyal Americans of Japanese ancestry could not be detained.
1944 – US Task Force 38 is caught in a typhoon while retiring to refuel and replenish. Three destroyers, “Hull,” “Spence” & “Monaghan,” are sunk and 3 fleet carriers, 4 escort carriers and 11 destroyers sustain damage.
1944 – US B-29 Superfortress bombers raid Nagoya (nominally the Mitsubishi aircraft assembly works).
1944 – Some 200 US 14th Air Force planes, and 84 B-29 bombers, attack the Japanese supply base at Hankow causing fires that burn for three days.
1950 – U.S. Navy Patrol Squadron 892, the first all-Reserve squadron to operate in Korea’s war zone, began operations from Iwakuni, Japan.
1951 – The U.N. command and the communists exchanged prisoner of war lists at Panmunjom. The UNC list contained 132,472 names. The communists listed 11,359.
1956 – Japan was admitted to the United Nations.
1957 – The Shippingport Atomic Power Station in Pennsylvania, the first nuclear facility to generate electricity in the United States, went online. It was taken out of service in 1982.
1958 – Project SCORE, the world’s first communications satellite, is launched. Project SCORE (Signal Communications by Orbiting Relay Equipment) was the world’s first communications satellite. Launched aboard an American Atlas rocket, SCORE provided a first test of a communications relay system in space, as well as the first successful use of the Atlas as a launch vehicle. It captured world attention by broadcasting a Christmas message via short wave radio from U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower through an on-board tape recorder. SCORE, as a geopolitical strategy, placed the United States at an even technological par with the Soviet Union as a highly functional response to the Sputnik satellites.
1965 – River Patrol Force established in Vietnam.
1965 – U.S. Marines attacked VC units in the Que Son Valley during Operation Harvest Moon.
1965 – The Borman and Lovell splash down in the Atlantic ended a 2 week Gemini VII mission.
1967 – Operation Preakness II begins in Mekong Delta.
1970 – An atomic leak in Nevada forced hundreds to flee the test site.
1971 – North Vietnamese troops captured the Plain of Jars in Laos.
1972 – The Nixon administration announces that the bombing and mining of North Vietnam will resume and continue until a “settlement” is reached. On December 13, North Vietnamese negotiators walked out of secret talks with National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger. President Richard Nixon issued an ultimatum to Hanoi to send its representatives back to the conference table within 72 hours “or else.” The North Vietnamese rejected Nixon’s demand and the president ordered Operation Linebacker II, a full-scale air campaign against the Hanoi area. White House Press Secretary Ronald Ziegler said that the bombing would end only if all U.S. prisoners of war were released and an internationally recognized cease-fire were in force. Linebacker II was the most concentrated air offensive of the war, and was conducted by U.S. aircraft, including B-52s, Air Force fighter-bombers flying from bases in Thailand, and Navy and Marine fighter-bombers flying from carriers in the South China Sea. During the 11 days of the attack, 700 B-52 sorties and more than 1,000 fighter-bomber sorties were flown. These planes dropped roughly 20,000 tons of bombs, mostly over the densely populated area between Hanoi and Haiphong. The North Vietnamese fired more than 1,000 surface-to-air missiles at the attacking aircraft and also used their MiG fighter-interceptor squadrons, eight of which were shot down. In a throwback to past aerial combat, Staff Sgt. Samuel O. Turner, the tail gunner on a Boeing B-52D bomber, downed a trailing MiG-21 with a blast from his .50 calibre machine guns over Hanoi. Six days later, airman, first class Albert E. Moore, also a B-52 gunner, shot down a second MiG-21 after a strike on the Thai Nguyen railyard. These were the only aerial gunner kills of the war. Twenty-six U.S. aircraft were lost, including 15 B-52s. Three aircraft were brought down by MiGs; the rest, including the B-52s, were downed by surface-to-air missiles. American antiwar activists dubbed Linebacker II the “Christmas bombing,” and charged that it involved “carpet bombing”–deliberately targeting civilian areas with intensive bombing that “carpeted” a city with bombs. The campaign was focused on specific military targets and was not intended to be “carpet bombing,” but it did result in the deaths of 1,318 civilians in Hanoi. The Linebacker II bombing was deemed a success because in its wake, the North Vietnamese returned to the negotiating table, where the Paris Peace Accords were signed less than a month later.
1985 – UN Security Council unanimously condemned “acts of hostage-taking.”
1989 – Robert E. Robinson, an attorney and alderman in Savannah, Ga., was killed by a mail bomb similar to a device that had claimed the life of a federal judge in Alabama two days earlier. Walter Leroy Moody Junior was later convicted of both bombings, and is on Alabama’s death row.
1990 – Less than a month before a UN deadline for Iraq to withdraw from Kuwait, President Bush told reporters he believed Americans would support a military strike, if one proved necessary. In Baghdad, the ruling Revolutionary Command Council said Iraq was “ready for the decisive showdown.”
1993 – The United States and Germany pledged close cooperation to help Boris Yeltsin through Russia’s political and economic crises in a meeting in Oggersheim between Vice President Al Gore and Chancellor Helmut Kohl.
1995 – A powerful fertilizer bomb was found outside an Internal Revenue Service office in Reno, Nevada, but fizzled before its lit fuse could do much damage.
1996 – Earl Edwin Pitts, a senior US FBI agent, was arrested on espionage charges. He was most active as a Russian spy from 1987-1992. Pitts was sentenced in June 1997 to 27 years in prison after admitting that he’d conspired and attempted to commit espionage.
1997 – President Clinton extended indefinitely the deadline for withdrawal of U.S. troops helping with the U.N. peacekeeping effort in Bosnia.
1997 – In Lebanon a foundation stone was laid for the new US consulate in Beirut.
1997 – HTML 4.0 is published by the World Wide Web Consortium.
1998 – US and British struck Iraq for a 3rd day with little resistance. The US B-1 bomber was used to drop bombs. Gen’l. Henry Shelton, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said more cruise missiles were launched in the first 2 days than the 289 in the 1991 Gulf War.
1999 – Iraq rejected the UN proposal for an inspection plan that would lead to suspension of sanctions.
1999 – NASA launches into orbit the Terra platform carrying five Earth Observation instruments, including ASTER, CERES, MISR, MODIS and MOPITT. Terra (EOS AM-1) is a multi-national NASA scientific research satellite in a Sun-synchronous orbit around the Earth. It is the flagship of the Earth Observing System (EOS). The name “Terra” comes from the Latin word for Earth.
2000 – US electors voted for their party’s candidates. In the 224 years of the Electoral College only 9 electors had switched votes. The DC elector withheld her vote to protest lack of representation. Bush won 271 votes, one over the constitutional minimum, and became the official president-elect.
2000 – In Canada Pres. Putin of Russia met with Prime Minister Chretien and together supported existing nuclear arms accords. Chretien did not join Putin’s opposition to a US missile defense plan.
2001 – Yemeni troops assaulted tribal forces in the Marib region after local leaders refused to turn over suspected members of al Qaeda. At least 12 people were killed and 22 wounded.
2002 – DoD issues preliminary orders for the deployment of 50,000 troops to threaten Iraq.
2003 – A federal judge in NY ruled that Pres. Bush does not have the power to order that a US citizen captured in this country be held indefinitely as an enemy combatant. Federal judges in SF ruled that the administration’s policy of imprisoning some 600 non-citizens in Cuba without access to US legal protection raises concerns under US and Int’l. law.
2003 – Lee Boyd Malvo (18) was convicted in Virginia for his role in the 2002 sniper shootings. 2003 – Iran signed a key accord opening its nuclear facilities to unfettered and unannounced inspections.
2003 – The U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) in Iraq announces that it will provide the Iraqi Oil Ministry with $600 million for infrastructure improvement. The director-general of the state-owned Iraqi Drilling Company says that he expects that the investment could raise daily production, now at about 1.9 million barrels per day, by as much as 1.05 million barrels per day over an 18 month period.
2004 – In Haiti bands of former soldiers and armed residents looted police arsenals, set bonfires and fired shots into the air amid escalating chaos.
2004 – The former Iraqi general known as “Chemical Ali,” Ali Hassan al-Majid, went before a judge in the first investigative hearings of former members of his regime.
2004 – Insurgents claiming to represent three Iraqi militant groups issued a videotape saying they had captured 10 Iraqis working for an American security and reconstruction company and would kill them if the firm did not leave this turbulent country. A clash in Mosul left an Iraqi child dead. An insurgent attack in Mosul left one Iraqi dead. National Guardsmen there killed 3 insurgents.
2010 – The United States Senate repeals “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” by a vote of 65-35. The bill will now be sent to President Barack Obama to be signed.
2011 – The last U.S. troops withdrew from Iraq, although the US embassy and consulates continues to maintain a staff of more than 20,000 including US Marine Embassy Guards and between 4,000 and 5,000 private military contractors.
Congressional Medal of Honor Citations for Actions Taken This Day
Rank and organization: Chief Gunner’s Mate, U.S. Navy. Place and date: Off Provincetown, Mass., 18 December 1927. Entered service at: Rhode Island. Born: 7 April 1887, Scotland. Other Navy award: Navy Cross. Citation: For display of extraordinary heroism in the line of his profession above and beyond the call of duty on 18 December 1927, during the diving operations in connection with the sinking of the U.S.S. S-4 with all on board, as a result of a collision off Prividencetown, Mass. On this occasion when Michels, Chief Torpedoman, U.S. Navy, while attempting to connect an airline to the submarine at a depth of 102 feet became seriously fouled, Eadie, under the most adverse diving conditions, deliberately, knowingly, and willingly took his own life in his hands by promptly descending to the rescue in response to the desperate need of his companion diver. After 2 hours of extremely dangerous and heartbreaking work, by his cool, calculating, and skillful labors, he succeeded in his mission and brought Michels safely to the surface.
BELL, BERNARD P.
Rank and organization: Technical Sergeant, U.S. Army, Company I, 142d Infantry, 36th Infantry Division. Place and date: Mittelwihr, France, 18 December 1944. Entered service at: New York, N.Y. Birth: Grantsville, W. Va. G.O. No.: 73, 30 August 1945. Citation: For fighting gallantly at Mittelwihr, France. On the morning of 18 December 1944, he led a squad against a schoolhouse held by enemy troops. While his men covered him, he dashed toward the building, surprised 2 guards at the door and took them prisoner without firing a shot. He found that other Germans were in the cellar. These he threatened with hand grenades, forcing 26 in all to emerge and surrender. His squad then occupied the building and prepared to defend it against powerful enemy action. The next day, the enemy poured artillery and mortar barrages into the position, disrupting communications which T/Sgt. Bell repeatedly repaired under heavy small-arms fire as he crossed dangerous terrain to keep his company commander informed of the squad’s situation. During the day, several prisoners were taken and other Germans killed when hostile forces were attracted to the schoolhouse by the sound of captured German weapons fired by the Americans. At dawn the next day the enemy prepared to assault the building. A German tank fired round after round into the structure, partially demolishing the upper stories. Despite this heavy fire, T/Sgt. Bell climbed to the second floor and directed artillery fire which forced the hostile tank to withdraw. He then adjusted mortar fire on large forces of enemy foot soldiers attempting to reach the American position and, when this force broke and attempted to retire, he directed deadly machinegun and rifle fire into their disorganized ranks. Calling for armored support to blast out the German troops hidden behind a wall, he unhesitatingly exposed himself to heavy small-arms fire to stand beside a friendly tank and tell its occupants where to rip holes in walls protecting approaches to the school building. He then trained machineguns on the gaps and mowed down all hostile troops attempting to cross the openings to get closer to the school building. By his intrepidity and bold, aggressive leadership, T/Sgt. Bell enabled his 8-man squad to drive back approximately 150 of the enemy, killing at least 87 and capturing 42. Personally, he killed more than 20 and captured 33 prisoners.
BARNUM, HARVEY C., IR.
Rank and organization: Captain (then Lt.), U.S. Marine Corps, Company H, 2d Battalion, 9th Marines, 3d Marine Division (Rein). Place and date: Ky Phu in Quang Tin Province, Republic of Vietnam, 18 December 1965. Entered service at: Cheshire, Conn. Born: 21 July 1940, Cheshire, Conn. Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. When the company was suddenly pinned down by a hail of extremely accurate enemy fire and was quickly separated from the remainder of the battalion by over 500 meters of open and fire-swept ground, and casualties mounted rapidly. Lt. Barnum quickly made a hazardous reconnaissance of the area, seeking targets for his artillery. Finding the rifle company commander mortally wounded and the radio operator killed, he, with complete disregard for his safety, gave aid to the dying commander, then removed the radio from the dead operator and strapped it to himself. He immediately assumed command of the rifle company, and moving at once into the midst of the heavy fire, rallying and giving encouragement to all units, reorganized them to replace the loss of key personnel and led their attack on enemy positions from which deadly fire continued to come. His sound and swift decisions and his obvious calm served to stabilize the badly decimated units and his gallant example as he stood exposed repeatedly to point out targets served as an inspiration to all. Provided with 2 armed helicopters, he moved fearlessly through enemy fire to control the air attack against the firmly entrenched enemy while skillfully directing 1 platoon in a successful counterattack on the key enemy positions. Having thus cleared a small area, he requested and directed the landing of 2 transport helicopters for the evacuation of the dead and wounded. He then assisted in the mopping up and final seizure of the battalion’s objective. His gallant initiative and heroic conduct reflected great credit upon himself and were in keeping with the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the U.S. Naval Service.