1775 – Congress commissions first naval officers: Esek Hopkins, Commander in Chief of the Fleet, Captains Dudley Saltonstall, Abraham Whipple, Nicolas Biddle, and John Hopkins. Lieutenants included John Paul Jones.
1783 – Washington resigned his military commission.
1807 – The House passed Jefferson’s Embargo Act, which barred trading between the U.S. and European nations. In Jefferson’s eyes, the Embargo Act was not merely a defensive measure; he also hoped to demonstrate the United States’ growing power as a trade partner. The Napoleonic Wars threatened to engulf the nation. French Emperor Napoleon I had vowed to seal off all foreign trade with Britain; the British responded in kind and moved to halt all foreign trade with France. America’s fleet of merchant ships and economic livelihood were effectively caught in the middle of the conflict. Looking to protect the ships without sacrificing the nation’s neutral stance, Jefferson resorted to legislative action. Alas, the Embargo Act had a far different impact than Jefferson intended: it not only took a severe toll on U.S. agricultural and mercantile interests, but also proved to be a financial boon to British and French traders. By 1809, an angry chorus of farmers, mercantilists, and political critics forced Jefferson to repeal the Embargo Act and re-open the doors to trade with Europe, save for Britain and France.
1819 – The Revenue cutter Dallas seized a vessel laden with lumber that had been unlawfully cut from public land in one of the first recorded instance of a revenue cutter enforcing an environmental law.
1828 – Rachel Jackson, beloved wife of Andrew Jackson, died of heart disease just weeks before her recently elected husband was inaugurated as president of the United States. Andrew Jackson had been 21 and a promising young lawyer when Rachel Donelson Robards, his landlady’s daughter and the estranged wife of Lewis Robards of Kentucky, caught his eye. Robards had started divorce proceedings, but had dropped them without his wife’s knowledge. Believing she was a free woman, Rachel married Andrew Jackson in 1791. Two years later, the couple discovered that Robards was finally suing for divorce–on the grounds of adultery and desertion. The divorce was granted, and in 1794, the couple quietly remarried. Yet, for the rest of her life, Rachel was unjustly slandered for her irregular marriage. The gossip became particularly painful during the 1828 presidential campaign when the 37-year-old scandal was resurrected as a campaign issue. Andrew Jackson defeated his opponent John Quincy Adams, but when Rachel died soon after the election, Jackson bitterly attributed her death to “those vile wretches who…slandered her.”
1837 – Congress authorized President “to cause any suitable number of public vessels, adapted to the purpose, to cruise upon the coast, in the severe portion of the season, and to afford aid to distressed navigators.” First statute authorizing activities in the field of maritime safety. Thus interjecting the national government into the field of lifesaving for the first time. Although revenue cutters were specifically mentioned, the performance of this duty was imposed primarily upon the Revenue Marine Service and quickly became one of its major activities.
1841 – Commissioning of USS Mississippi, first U.S. ocean-going side-wheel steam warship, at Philadelphia.
1862 – Captain Dahlgren, confidant of and advisor to the President, went to the White House at the request of President Lincoln to observe the testing of a new type of gunpowder.
1864 – Union General William T. Sherman presents the city of Savannah, Georgia, to President Lincoln. Sherman captured Georgia’s largest city after his famous “March to the Sea” from Atlanta. Savannah had been one of the last major ports that remained open to the Confederates. After Sherman captured Atlanta in September 1864, he did not plan to stay for long. There was still the Confederate army of General John Bell Hood in the area, and cavalry leaders like Nathan Bedford Forrest and Joe Wheeler, who could threaten Sherman’s supply lines. In November, Sherman dispatched part of his force back to Nashville, Tennessee, to deal with Hood while Sherman cut free from his supply lines and headed south and east across Georgia. Along the way, his troops destroyed nearly everything that lay in their path. Sherman’s intent was to wreck the morale of the South and bring the war to a swift end. For nearly six weeks, nothing was heard from Sherman’s army. Finally, just before Christmas, word arrived that Sherman’s army was outside Savannah. A Union officer reached the coast and found a Union warship that carried him to Washington to personally deliver news of the success. Sherman wired Lincoln with the message, “I beg to present you, as a Christmas gift, the city of Savannah, with 150 heavy guns and plenty of ammunition, and also about 25,000 bales of cotton.”
1882 – 1st string of Christmas tree lights was created by Thomas Edison.
1918 – The last of the food restrictions, that had been enforced because of the shortages during World War I, were lifted.
1941 – The Arcadia Conference is being held. The purpose of the meeting is war planning by the British leader, Churchill and the American President Roosevelt as well as their Chiefs of Staff and other political leaders from both countries. Now that the United States was directly involved in both the Pacific and European wars, it was incumbent upon both Great Britain and America to create and project a unified front. Toward that end, Churchill and Roosevelt created a combined general staff to coordinate military strategy against both Germany and Japan and to draft a future joint invasion of the Continent. Roosevelt also agreed to a radical increase in the U.S. arms production program: the 12,750 operational aircraft to be ready for service by the end of 1943 became 45,000; the proposed 15,450 tanks also became 45,000; and the number of machine guns to be manufactured almost doubled, to 500,000. Among the momentous results of these U.S.-Anglo meetings was a declaration issued by Churchill and Roosevelt that enjoined 26 signatory nations to use all resources at their disposal to defeat the Axis powers and not sue for a separate peace. This confederation called itself the “United Nations.” Lead by the United States, Great Britain, and the Soviet Union, all 26 nations declared a unified goal to “ensure life, liberty, independence and religious freedom, and to preserve the rights of man and justice.” The blueprint for the destruction of fascism and a future international peacekeeping organization was born. Decisions made at the conference included a confirmation of policy to Germany First as well as the establishment of a Combined Chiefs of Staff to direct the entire Allied military endeavor. British General Wavell is appointed to control operations in the East. Plans are also made for a buildup of US forces in Britain prior to a land invasion of Europe, and the continuation of bombing offensive in Europe.
1941 – After continuing the bombardment of Wake Island the Japanese land 200 men on the island to fierce resistance from the 450 US Marines stationed there1941 – Japanese troops made an amphibious landing on the coast of Lingayen Gulf on Luzon, the Philippines.
1942 – Pharmacist’s Mate First Class Thomas A. Moore performs appendectomy on Fireman Second Class George M. Platter on board USS Silversides (SS-236).
1942 – Sue Dauser takes oath of office as Superintendant of Navy Nurse Corps, becoming first woman with the relative rank of captain in U.S. Navy. She was promoted to the rank of captain on 26 February 1944.
1944 – Commissioning of first 2 African-American WAVES officers, Harriet Ida Pickens and Frances F. Wills.
1944 – With Ho Chi Minh’s support, Giap sets up an armed propaganda brigade of 34 Vietnamese and within two days will begin to attack French outposts in northern Vietnam. This is essentially the beginning of the Vietminh’s armed struggle against the French.
1944 – In the advance of German 5th Panzer Army, Bastogne is surrounded and the Germans demand the surrender of United States troops. The demand to surrender, issued to the American defenders, is rejected by American General McAuliffe commanding the encircled troops. St. Vith is captured late in the day. However, the lack of substantial progress leads Model, commanding Army Group B, and Rundstedt, Commander in Chief West, to recommend an end to the offensive. Brigadier Gen. Anthony C. McAuliffe reportedly replied: “Nuts!”
1944 – On Leyte, there is fighting around Palompon where the Japanese forces on the island are now concentrated.
1945 – The U.S. recognized Tito’s government in Yugoslavia.
1950 – The Eighth Army main command post moved from Seoul to Taegu.
1950 – In the biggest air battle of the Korean War, U.S. Air Force F-86 Sabres shot down six communist MiG-15s over North Korea with the loss of a single F-86. This was a fitting end to the 4th Fighter Interceptor Wing’s first week in Korea.
1950 – Vice Admiral C. Turner Joy, commander of the U.N. Naval Forces, announced that 400 ships from the United States, Great Britain, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the Republic of Korea, France, the Netherlands and Thailand were participating in the U.N. blockade of North Korea.
1951 – The communists were invited to inspect U.N. prison camps to see that over 35,000 Koreans previously listed as prisoners had been removed from POW status and reclassified, mostly as civilian internees after further screening. The U.N. Command demanded an explanation of why 1,000 missing soldiers (mostly American) were omitted from the communist list of POWs. The U.N. Command proposed an immediate exchange of all sick and wounded prisoners.
1956 – The evacuation of the Suez Canal was completed by Britain and France.
1960 – HS-3 and HU-2 (USS Valley Forge) helicopters rescue 27 men from oiler SS Pine Ridge breaking up in heavy seas off Cape Hatteras.
1963 – The official 30 days of mourning ended following the assassination of President Kennedy.
1964 – The first test flight of the SR-71 (Blackbird) took place at Air Force Plant 42 in Palmdale, California.
1965 – The EF-105F Wild Weasel made its first kill over Vietnam.
1971 – The Soviet Union accuses China of backing U.S. policies in Vietnam, an accusation that illustrates the growing rift between the two communist superpowers. China, which had previously taken a hard line toward negotiations between Hanoi and Washington, softened its position by endorsing a North Vietnamese peace plan for ending the war. Although the peace proposal was unacceptable to the United States, the fact that China advocated negotiations between Hanoi and Washington was significant. The Soviet Union, whose relations with China were already deteriorating, was highly suspicious of what they rightfully perceived as a “warming” in Sino-American relations. This suspicion only grew stronger in February 1972, when President Richard Nixon visited China.
1972 – Washington announces that the bombing of North Vietnam will continue until Hanoi agrees to negotiate “in a spirit of good will and in a constructive attitude.” North Vietnamese negotiators walked out of secret talks in Paris on December 13. President Nixon issued an ultimatum to North Vietnam to send its representatives back to the conference table within 72 hours “or else.” They rejected Nixon’s demand, and in response the president ordered Operation Linebacker II, a full-scale air campaign against the Hanoi area. During the 11 days of the operation, 700 B-52 sorties and more than 1,000 fighter-bomber sorties dropped an estimated 20,000 tons of bombs, mostly over the densely populated area between Hanoi and Haiphong. In the course of the bombing, the Cuban, Egyptian, and Indian embassies were hit in Hanoi, as were Russian and Chinese freighters in Haiphong. Bach Mai, Hanoi’s largest hospital, was also damaged by the attacks. In the United States, 41 American religious leaders issued a letter condemning the bombing.
1990 – Twenty-one sailors returning from shore leave to the aircraft carrier USS “Saratoga” drowned when the Israeli ferry they were traveling on capsized.
1991 – The body of Lt. Col. William R. Higgins, an American hostage murdered by his captors, was found dumped along a highway in Lebanon.
1994 – North Korea handed over the body of American pilot David Hilemon, killed when his helicopter was shot down over the communist country three days earlier.
1997 – During his visit to Bosnia, President Clinton thanked American troops and lectured the nation’s three presidents to set aside their differences.
1998 – The Energy Dept. for the first time awarded a billion-dollar contract to the Tennessee Valley Authority to produce tritium at a TVA nuclear reactor for military use.
1999 – President Clinton urged Americans not to panic despite enhanced security measures prompted by fears of terrorism.
1999 – An Algerian accused of trying to smuggle nitroglycerin and other bomb-making materials into the United States from Canada pleaded innocent in Seattle to all five counts of a federal indictment.
1999 – Two astronauts from the shuttle “Discovery” went on a spacewalk to replace broken instruments in the Hubble Space Telescope.
2001 – A new “thermobaric” bomb had been developed by the Pentagon for use in caves and tunnels. The BLU-118b was capable of destroying a tunnel’s contents without collapsing the tunnel mouth.
2001 – Passengers and flight attendants subdued Richard Colvin Reid on AA Flight 63 from Paris to Miami. He appeared to have explosive materials in his shoes. The flight was diverted to Boston and the FBI confirmed that his shoes were packed with explosives. French police identified the man as Tariq Raja (28), a Sri Lankan traveling on a British passport. The sneakers contained pentaerythritol tetranitrate (PETN) and triacetone triperoxide (TATP). On Jan 30, 2003 Reid was sentenced to life in prison.
2001 – Hamid Karzai was sworn in as prime minister of Afghanistan.
2002 – Afghanistan’s 6 neighbors (Iran, Pakistan, China, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan) agreed to halt meddling and signed a non-intervention agreement in Kabul.
2002 – North Korea said it had begun removing U.N. monitoring equipment from a nuclear reactor at the centre of the communist state’s suspected pursuit of nuclear weapons.
2003 – Leaders of Arab countries from the Persian Gulf agreed to form a pact to combat terrorism and praised Washington for planning to transfer power to Iraqis by mid-2004.
2003 – Pakistan acknowledged that some scientists participating in its nuclear program may have been involved in the proliferation of sensitive technology.
2004 – Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, stung by criticism that he’d been insensitive to the needs of troops and their families, offered an impassioned defense, saying when he meets wounded soldiers or relatives of those killed in battle, “their grief is something I feel to my core.”
2004 – The US signed a 99-year lease on a site for its new de facto embassy in Taiwan, an event described as a milestone in relations.
2005 – At about 8:45 AM, in Baghdad, Iraq, an improvised explosive device (IED) exploded near a convoy, killing two government contractors (1 American; 1 South African) and wounding three others (3 South African). No group claimed responsibility.
2006 – Space Shuttle Discovery lands safely at the Kennedy Space Center at 5:32 p.m. EST (22:32 UTC), concluding mission STS-116. They spent 13 days in space and visited the International Space Station.
2008 – A jury finds five men guilty of conspiring to kill soldiers at Fort Dix, New Jersey, United States. Six men were arrested on May 7, 2007, in New Jersey, as two of them were meeting a confidential government witness to purchase three AK-47 automatic machine guns and four semi-automatic M-16s to be used in an attack they had been planning from at least January 2006. The sixth defendant, Agron Abdullahu, pleaded guilty in October to a reduced charge of providing firearms to illegal aliens and received a sentence of 20 months in prison and three years of supervised release.
2010 – The repeal of the Don’t ask, don’t tell policy, the 17-year-old policy banning homosexuals serving openly in the United States military, is signed into law by President Barack Obama.
2010 – The United States Senate votes to ratify the New START Treaty with the Russia, which halves the number of deployed strategic nuclear missile launchers maintained by each nation.
Congressional Medal of Honor Citations for Actions Taken This Day
DALESSONDRO, PETER J.
Rank and organization: Technical Sergeant, U.S. Army, Company E, 39th Infantry, 9th Infantry Division. Place and date: Near Kalterherberg, Germany, 22 December 1944. Entered service at: Watervliet, N.Y. Born: 19 May 1918, Watervliet, N.Y. G.O. No.: 73, 30 August, 1945. Citation: He was with the 1st Platoon holding an important road junction on high ground near Kalterherberg, Germany, on 22 December 1944. In the early morning hours, the enemy after laying down an intense artillery and mortar barrage, followed through with an all-out attack that threatened to overwhelm the position. T/Sgt. Dalessondro, seeing that his men were becoming disorganized, braved the intense fire to move among them with words of encouragement. Advancing to a fully exposed observation post, he adjusted mortar fire upon the attackers, meanwhile firing upon them with his rifle and encouraging his men in halting and repulsing the attack. Later in the day the enemy launched a second determined attack. Once again, T/Sgt. Dalessondro, in the face of imminent death, rushed to his forward position and immediately called for mortar fire. After exhausting his rifle ammunition, he crawled 30 yards over exposed ground to secure a light machinegun, returned to his position, and fired upon the enemy at almost pointblank range until the gun jammed. He managed to get the gun to fire 1 more burst, which used up his last round, but with these bullets he killed 4 German soldiers who were on the verge of murdering an aid man and 2 wounded soldiers in a nearby foxhole. When the enemy had almost surrounded him, he remained alone, steadfastly facing almost certain death or capture, hurling grenades and calling for mortar fire closer and closer to his outpost as he covered the withdrawal of his platoon to a second line of defense. As the German hordes swarmed about him, he was last heard calling for a barrage, saying, “OK, mortars, let me have it–right in this position!” The gallantry and intrepidity shown by T/Sgt. Dalessondro against an overwhelming enemy attack saved his company from complete rout.