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December 19th ~ { continued... }

1963 – Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara arrives in Saigon to evaluate the new government’s war effort against the Vietcong.

1964 – Another bloodless coup occurs when Maj. Gen. Nguyen Khanh and a group of generals led by Air Commodore Nguyen Cao Ky and Army Gen. Nguyen Van Thieu arrest three dozen high officers and civilian officials. The coup was part of the continuing political instability that erupted after the November 1963 coup that resulted in the murder of President Ngo Dinh Diem. The period following the overthrow of Diem was marked by a series of coups and “revolving door” governments. The coup on this day was engineered by a faction of younger military officers known as the “Young Turks,” who were fed up with what they believed was the ineffective government headed by a group of older generals known as the Military Revolutionary Council.

1972 – Hanoi’s foreign ministry, calling the new B-52 raids against Hanoi and Haiphong “extremely barbaric,” accuses the United States of premeditated intensification of the war and labels the actions “insane.” On December 13, North Vietnamese negotiators walked out of secret talks in Paris with National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger. President 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. During the 11 days of Linebacker II, 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.

Nixon was severely criticized both by American antiwar activists and in the international community for ordering what became known as the “Christmas bombing.” Italy, the Netherlands, Sweden, China and the Soviet Union officially condemned the resumption of American bombing above the 20th parallel. The French newspaper Le Monde compared the attacks to the bombing of Guernica during the Spanish Civil War, when German planes from the Condor Legion attacked the Spanish city and caused great devastation and loss of life. In England, the Manchester Guardian called the bombing “the action of a man blinded by fury or incapable of seeing the consequences of what he is doing.”

Pope Paul VI and United Nations Secretary General Kurt Waldheim expressed concern for world peace. American antiwar activists charged that Linebacker II involved “carpet bombing”–deliberately targeting civilian areas with intensive bombing designed to “carpet” a city with bombs. Though the bombing was focused on specific military targets, it did result in the deaths of 1,318 civilians in Hanoi. The “Christmas bombing” was deemed a success by the U.S., since it caused the North Vietnamese to return to the negotiating table, where the Paris Peace Accords were signed less than a month later.

1972 – The Apollo lunar-landing program ends on December 19, 1972, when the last three astronauts to travel to the moon splash down safely in the Pacific Ocean. Apollo 17 had lifted off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, 10 days before. In July 1969, after three years of preparation, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) accomplished President John F. Kennedy’s goal of putting a man on the moon and safely returning him to Earth with Apollo 11. From 1969 to 1972, there were six successful lunar landing missions, and one aborted mission, Apollo 13.

During the Apollo 17 mission, astronauts Eugene A. Cernan and Harrison H. Schmitt stayed for a record 75 hours on the surface of the moon, conducting three separate surface excursions in the Lunar Rover vehicle and collecting 243 pounds of rock and soil samples. Although Apollo 17 was the last lunar landing, the last official Apollo mission was conducted in July 1975, when an Apollo spacecraft successfully rendezvoused and docked with the Soviet Soyuz 19 spacecraft in orbit around the Earth. It was fitting that the Apollo program, which first visited the moon under the banner of “We came in peace for all mankind,” should end on a note of peace and international cooperation.

1974 – Nelson Rockefeller is sworn in as Vice President of the United States under President Gerald Ford under the provisions of the twenty-fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

1974 – Former President Nixon’s presidential papers were seized by an act of Congress. A court later ruled that much of the material belonged to Nixon and that he deserved compensation. In 1998 there was still no settlement on value.

1980 – Iran requested $24 billion in US guarantees to free hostages.

1989 – Police in Jacksonville, Fla., disarmed a parcel bomb at the local NAACP office, the fourth in a series of mail bombs to turn up in the Deep South. One bomb killed a Savannah, Ga., alderman, and another a federal judge in Alabama. Walter L. Moody Jr. was convicted in both bombings.
 

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Discussion Starter #282
December 19th ~ { continued... }

1990 – Iraq urged its people to stockpile oil to avoid shortages should war break out, and Saddam Hussein declared he was “ready to crush any attack.”

1994 – CNN publicly acknowledged it had disobeyed a judge’s order in broadcasting former Panamanian military ruler Manuel Noriega’s prison telephone conversations.

1996 – The Pentagon chose Lawrence Livermore National Labs. for a $1.1 billion super-laser project. Known as the National Ignition Facility, its goal will be to ignite a self-sustaining fusion reaction in a controlled lab setting.

1998 – After nearly 14 hours of debate, the House of Representatives approves two articles of impeachment against President Bill Clinton, charging him with lying under oath to a federal grand jury and obstructing justice. Clinton, the second president in American history to be impeached, vowed to finish his term. In November 1995, Clinton began an affair with Monica Lewinsky, a 21-year-old unpaid intern. Over the course of a year and a half, the president and Lewinsky had nearly a dozen sexual encounters in the White House.

In April 1996, Lewinsky was transferred to the Pentagon. That summer, she first confided in Pentagon co-worker Linda Tripp about her sexual relationship with the president. In 1997, with the relationship over, Tripp began secretly to record conversations with Lewinsky, in which Lewinsky gave Tripp details about the affair. In December, lawyers for Paula Jones, who was suing the president on sexual harassment charges, subpoenaed Lewinsky. In January 1998, allegedly under the recommendation of the president, Lewinsky filed an affidavit in which she denied ever having had a sexual relationship with him. Five days later, Tripp contacted the office of Kenneth Starr, the Whitewater independent counsel, to talk about Lewinsky and the tapes she made of their conversations. Tripp, wired by FBI agents working with Starr, met with Lewinsky again, and on January 16, Lewinsky was taken by FBI agents and U.S. attorneys to a hotel room where she was questioned and offered immunity if she cooperated with the prosecution.

A few days later, the story broke, and Clinton publicly denied the allegations, saying, “I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Ms. Lewinsky.” In late July, lawyers for Lewinsky and Starr worked out a full-immunity agreement covering both Lewinsky and her parents, all of whom Starr had threatened with prosecution.

On August 6, Lewinsky appeared before the grand jury to begin her testimony, and on August 17 President Clinton testified. Contrary to his testimony in the Paula Jones sexual-harassment case, President Clinton acknowledged to prosecutors from the office of the independent counsel that he had had an extramarital affair with Ms. Lewinsky.

In four hours of closed-door testimony, conducted in the Map Room of the White House, Clinton spoke live via closed-circuit television to a grand jury in a nearby federal courthouse. He was the first sitting president ever to testify before a grand jury investigating his conduct. That evening, President Clinton also gave a four-minute televised address to the nation in which he admitted he had engaged in an inappropriate relationship with Lewinsky. In the brief speech, which was wrought with legalisms, the word “sex” was never spoken, and the word “regret” was used only in reference to his admission that he misled the public and his family.

Less than a month later, on September 9, Kenneth Starr submitted his report and 18 boxes of supporting documents to the House of Representatives. Released to the public two days later, the Starr Report outlined a case for impeaching Clinton on 11 grounds, including perjury, obstruction of justice, witness-tampering, and abuse of power, and also provided explicit details of the sexual relationship between the president and Ms. Lewinsky. On October 8, the House authorized a wide-ranging impeachment inquiry, and on December 11, the House Judiciary Committee approved three articles of impeachment. On December 19, the House impeached Clinton.

On January 7, 1999, in a congressional procedure not seen since the 1868 impeachment trial of President Andrew Johnson, the trial of President Clinton got underway in the Senate. As instructed in Article 1 of the U.S. Constitution, the chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court (William Rehnquist at this time) was sworn in to preside, and the senators were sworn in as jurors. Five weeks later, on February 12, the Senate voted on whether to remove Clinton from office.

The president was acquitted on both articles of impeachment. The prosecution needed a two-thirds majority to convict but failed to achieve even a bare majority. Rejecting the first charge of perjury, 45 Democrats and 10 Republicans voted “not guilty,” and on the charge of obstruction of justice the Senate was split 50-50. After the trial concluded, President Clinton said he was “profoundly sorry” for the burden his behavior imposed on Congress and the American people.

1998 – The US and Britain ended their attack on Iraq after 4 days of air and missile strikes in Operation Desert Fox. An early estimate of US defense expenses was put at $500 million. Some 62 members of the Republican Guard were killed.

1999 – The shuttle Discovery was launched following 9 delays from Cape Canaveral with 7 astronauts on a mission to repair the Hubble Space Telescope.

2000 – The U.N. Security Council voted to impose broad sanctions on Afghanistan Taliban rulers unless they closed “terrorist” training camps and surrender U.S. embassy bombing suspect Osama bin Laden.

2001 – The September 11th WTC death toll was reduced to 3,000. In 2002 a revised tally put the total dead at 2,795. In 2003 the count was reduced to 2,752.

2001 – The fires that had burned beneath the ruins of the World Trade Center in New York City for the previous three months were declared extinguished except for a few scattered hot spots.

2001 – Britain advised the UN that it would lead a security force in Afghanistan and contribute 1,500 soldiers to a force of 5,000.

2001 – In the Comoros Islands troops killed 5 of 13 gunmen who posed as American agents hunting al Qaeda fugitives.

2001 – Al Qaeda prisoners in Pakistan revolted and 14 were killed. Another 18 escaped.

2002 – U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell declares that Iraq is in “material breach” of United Nations resolutions after reviewing Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction declaration released December 7 to the United Nations. States Powell: “Our [U.S.] experts have found it to be anything but currently accurate, full or complete. The Iraqi declaration … totally fails to meet the resolution’s requirements.”

2002 – U.N. weapons inspectors reported that Iraq’s new arms declaration contained inconsistencies and contradictions and didn’t answer key questions about its nuclear, chemical and biological programs.

2002 – In Pakistan Asif Ramzi, a member of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, died with 3 others in a covert bomb-making facility in Karachi.

2003 – New plans revealed that the signature NYC skyscraper at the World Trade Center site will be a 1,776-foot glass tower that twists into the sky, topped by energy-generating windmills and a spire that evokes the Statue of Liberty. The plan was produced after months of contentious negotiations between Daniel Libeskind, who designed the overall five-building site plan, and David Childs, the lead architect for the Freedom Tower.

2003 – China said it has issued rules restricting exports of missile, nuclear and biological technologies that can be used to make or deliver weapons of mass destruction.

2003 – Japan announced that it will begin building a missile defense system.

2003 – Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, after secret negotiations with the United States and Britain, agreed to halt his nation’s drive to develop nuclear and chemical weapons and the long-range missiles to deliver them. Libya admitted to nuclear fuel projects, including possessing centrifuges and centrifuge parts used in uranium enrichment. Libya showed American and British inspectors a significant quantity of mustard agent. Libya acknowledged it intended to acquire equipment and develop capabilities to create biological weapons. Libya admitted “elements of the history of its cooperation with North Korea” to develop extended-range Scud missiles.

2004 – A vehicle carrying a group of suspected Taliban fighters attacked a military checkpoint in southern Afghanistan, sparking a firefight that left six dead.

2004 – Car bombs rocked Najaf and Karbala, Iraq’s two holiest Shiite cities, killing 67 people and wounding more than 120. In downtown Baghdad dozens of gunmen carried out a brazen ambush that killed three Iraqi employees of the organization running next month’s elections.

2006 – A NATO air strike targeting a car in a deserted area of Helmand province killed Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Osmani along with two other men. He was the top Taliban commander for all of their operations in southern Afghanistan.

2007 – A fire breaks out at the Old Executive Office Building in Washington, D.C., which houses ceremonial offices of Vice President Dick Cheney and the majority of White House staff. No injuries are reported.

2009 – NASA releases the first ever photo of liquid outside of Earth, in the form of sunlight reflecting on a lake on Saturn’s largest moon, Titan.
 

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December 20th ~

1606 – Virginia Company settlers left London to establish Jamestown.

1669 – The 1st American jury trial was held in Delaware. Marcus Jacobson was condemned for insurrection and sentenced to flogging, branding & slavery.

1790 – In Pawtucket, Rhode Island, 23-year-old British subject Samuel Slater began production of the first American spinning mill. The British jealously guarded their technological superiority in the early stages of the Industrial Revolution, making it illegal for machinery, plans and even the men who built and repaired them to leave the country. After serving a 7-year mill apprenticeship in England, Slater recognized the potential offered in America. He memorized the plans for intricate machine specifications, disguised himself as a farm worker and in 1789 sailed to a new life across the Atlantic. Slater entered into a partnership with Rhode Island merchant Moses Brown and built a small spinning mill–the equivalent of 72 spinning wheels. At first, Slater’s Mill employed only a handful of children between the ages of 7 and 12, but by 1800, he had more than 100 employees. By the time of Slater’s death in 1835, he owned or had an interest in 13 textile mills and left an estate of almost $700,000. From this small beginning, America’s own Industrial Revolution grew.

1803 – U.S. and French governments put the finishing touches on a little land transaction known as the Louisiana Purchase. For the relatively paltry price tag of $15 million, the U.S. acquired an area that effectively doubled the size of the nation. The bargain price reflected French fears that their army, already occupied with the Napoleonic Wars, would not be able to stave off revolutionaries in New Orleans. U.S. officials, meanwhile, coveted New Orleans as a duty-free port for American goods that were about to be shipped. Of course, the resulting deal provided the U.S. with much more than a port; indeed, the nation now owned the land that would become Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, the Dakotas, as well as chunks of Minnesota, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, and of course, Louisiana.

Without a shot fired, the French hand over New Orleans and Lower Louisiana to the United States. In April 1803, the United States purchased from France the 828,000 square miles that had formerly been French Louisiana. The area was divided into two territories: the northern half was Louisiana Territory, the largely unsettled (though home to many Indians) frontier section that was later explored by Lewis and Clark; and the southern Orleans Territory, which was populated by Europeans. Unlike the sprawling and largely unexplored northern territory (which eventually encompassed a dozen large states), Orleans Territory was a small, densely populated region that was like a little slice of France in the New World.
With borders that roughly corresponded to the modern state of Louisiana, Orleans Territory was home to about 50,000 people, a primarily French population that had been living under the direction of a Spanish administration. These former citizens of France knew almost nothing about American laws and institutions, and the challenging task of bringing them into the American fold fell to the newly appointed governor of the region, twenty-eight-year-old William Claiborne.

Historians have found no real evidence that the French of Orleans Territory resented their transfer to American control, though one witness claimed that when the French tri-color was replaced by the Stars and Stripes in New Orleans, the citizens wept. The French did resent that their new governor was appointed rather than elected, and they bridled when the American government tried to make English the official language and discouraged the use of French.

1812 – Sacagawea, Shoshone interpreter for Lewis & Clark, died.

1822 – Congress authorizes the 14-ship West Indies Squadron to suppress piracy in the Caribbean.

1860 – South Carolina officially leaves the United States when a convention ratifies an article of secession. South Carolina, the first state to secede, was followed within a few weeks by six other states, who collectively formed the Confederate States of America. When hostilities erupted in April 1861, four more states joined the Confederacy.

1861 – Transports were loaded with 8,000 troops in England. They were setting sail for Canada so that troops would be available if the “Trent Affair” was not settled without war.

1862 – Rear Admiral D. D. Porter in his flagship U.S.S. Black Hawk joined General William T. Sherman at Helena, Arkansas, and prepared for the joint assault on Vicksburg. The fleet under Admiral Porter’s command for the Vicksburg campaign was the largest ever placed under one officer up to that time, equal in number to all the vessels composing the U.S. Navy at the outbreak of war.

1862 – Confederate General Earl Van Dorn thwarts Union General Ulysses S. Grant’s first attempt to capture Vicksburg, Mississippi, when Van Dorn attacks Grant’s supplies at Holly Springs, Mississippi. Grant planned a two-pronged attack on the last Confederate stronghold on the Mississippi River. He would take a force from western Tennessee to approach Vicksburg from the interior of Mississippi. Meanwhile, General William T. Sherman would lead an army down the Mississippi River for an attack from the north. Grant said, “We can go as far as supplies can go.” The plan started on a good note–Grant’s army pushed aside Confederates in northern Mississippi. In response, Confederate cavalry colonel John Griffith suggested attacking Grant’s supply line at Holly Springs, and he recommended Van Dorn for the mission.

To that point, Van Dorn had done little to build his reputation. He lost the Battle of Pea Ridge and the Battle of Corinth earlier in 1862, and he was known for his drunkenness and tendency to cavort with prostitutes. Van Dorn gathered three cavalry brigades and left Grenada, Mississippi, on December 17. On December 20, Van Dorn fell on the Union supply depot at Holly Springs, driving the Yankee defenders away and capturing materials. What could not be carried was destroyed. Van Dorn remained in the area a few more days, cutting rail and telegraph lines, before fleeing in the face of pursuing Union cavalry. The Confederates rode 500 miles in two weeks, returning on December 28 after successfully disrupting Grant’s campaign. The raid was the highlight of Van Dorn’s military career. He was murdered five months later by the husband of a woman with whom he was having an affair.

1864 – Confederate forces evacuated Savannah, Ga., as Union Gen. William T. Sherman continued his “March to the Sea.”

1879 – Thomas A. Edison privately demonstrated his incandescent light at Menlo Park, N.J. 1880 – NY’s Broadway was lit by electricity. It later became known as “Great White Way.”

1892 – Alexander Brown and George Stillman of Syracuse, New York, patented an inflatable automobile tire. Before the pneumatic tire, wheels were often made of solid rubber. This made travel a bumpy experience. After all, the streets of 1892 were made of dirt or cobblestone. Some horse-drawn carriages had been made with inflatable tires, but Brown and Stillman got the first patent for pneumatic automobile tires.
 

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Discussion Starter #284
December 20th ~ { continued...}

1924 – Adolf Hitler was released from Landsberg Prison after serving less than one year of a five year sentence for treason.

1939 – The American cruiser USS Tuscalossa arrives in New York with 579 survivors from the scuttled German liner Columbus. They disembark on Ellis Island.

1941 – The Flying Tigers, American pilots in China, entered combat against the Japanese over Kunming. Aircraft of the 1st and 2nd squadrons intercepted 10 unescorted Kawasaki Ki-48 “Lily” bombers of the 21st Hikōtai attacking Kunming. The bombers jettisoned their loads before reaching Kunming. Three of the Japanese bombers were shot down near Kunming and a fourth was damaged so severely that it crashed before returning to its airfield at Hanoi. Furthermore, the Japanese discontinued their raids on Kunming while the AVG was based there.

1941 – Admiral Ernest J. King designated Commander-in-Chief, United States Fleet in charge of all operating naval fleets and coastal frontier forces, reporting directly to the President.

1941 – Japanese troops landed on Mindanao.

1943 – CGC Bodega grounded off the Canal Zone. No lives were lost.

1943 – Allied aircraft drop about 2000 tons of bombs on Frankfurt, Mannheim and other cities in southern Germany. There are also raids on the V-1 ramps in France.

1944 – The Women’s Air Force Service Pilots were deactivated. Before deactivation 1,074 WASPs logged 60 million miles flying for the U.S. Army Air Forces.

1944 – The 5th Panzer Army continues to advance to the south against forces of US 12th Army Group, but American defenders of the road junctions of St. Vith and Bastogne continue to hold their positions. Allied sources allege that in the area of Monschau the Germans have been shooting American prisoners with machineguns. Meanwhile, the US 3rd Army reports attacking from the Saarlautern bridgehead and having cleared 40 pillboxes and fortified houses.

1945 – Tire rationing in the U.S. ended on this day as World War II wound to a close, and widespread shortages in the States began to ease.

1946 – The morning after Viet Minh forces under Ho Chi Minh launched a night revolt in the Vietnamese capital of Hanoi, French colonial troops crack down on the communist rebels. Ho and his soldiers immediately fled the city to regroup in the countryside. That evening, the communist leader issued a proclamation that read: “All the Vietnamese must stand up to fight the French colonials to save the fatherland. Those who have rifles will use their rifles; those who have swords will use their swords; those who have no swords will use spades, hoes, or sticks. Everyone must endeavor to oppose the colonialists and save his country. Even if we have to endure hardship in the resistance war, with the determination to make sacrifices, victory will surely be ours.” The First Indochina War had begun.

Born in Hoang Tru, Vietnam, in 1890, Ho Chi Minh left his homeland in 1911 as a cook on a French steamer. After several years as a seaman, he lived in London and then moved to France, where he became a founding member of the French Communist Party in 1920. He later traveled to the Soviet Union, where he studied revolutionary tactics and took an active role in the Communist International. In 1924, he went to China, where he set about organizing exiled Vietnamese communists.

Expelled by China in 1927, he traveled extensively before returning to Vietnam in 1941. There, he organized a Vietnamese guerrilla organization–the Viet Minh–to fight for Vietnamese independence. Japan occupied French Indochina in 1940 and collaborated with French officials loyal to France’s Vichy regime. Ho, meanwhile, made contact with the Allies and aided operations against the Japanese in South China. In early 1945, Japan ousted the French administration in Vietnam and executed numerous French officials.

When Japan surrendered to the Allies on September 2, 1945, Ho Chi Minh felt emboldened enough to declare the independence of Vietnam from France. French forces seized southern Vietnam and opened talks with the Vietnamese communists in the north. Negotiations collapsed in November 1946, and French warships bombarded the northern Vietnamese city of Haiphong, killing thousands. In response, the Viet Minh launched an attack against the French in Hanoi in December 1946. The French quickly struck back, and Ho and his followers found refuge in a remote area of northern Vietnam. The Viet Minh, undefeated and widely supported by the Vietnamese people, waged an increasingly effective guerrilla war against the French. The conflict stretched on for eight years, with Mao Zedong’s Chinese communists supporting the Viet Minh, and the United States aiding the French and anti-communist Vietnamese forces.

In 1954, the French suffered a major defeat at Dien Bien Phu, in northwest Vietnam, prompting peace negotiations and the division of Vietnam along the 17th parallel at a conference in Geneva. Vietnam was divided into northern and southern regions, with Ho in command of North Vietnam and Emperor Bao Dai in control of South Vietnam.

In the late 1950s, Ho Chi Minh organized a communist guerrilla movement in the South, called the Viet Cong. North Vietnam and the Viet Cong successfully opposed a series of ineffectual U.S.-backed South Vietnam regimes and beginning in 1964 withstood a decade-long military intervention by the United States, known as the Vietnam War in America but also called the Second Indochina War. Ho Chi Minh died on September 2, 1969, 25 years after declaring Vietnam’s independence from France and nearly six years before his forces succeeded in reuniting North and South Vietnam under communist rule. Saigon, the capital of South Vietnam, was renamed Ho Chi Minh City after it came under the control of the communists in 1975.

1948 – U.S. Supreme Court announced that it had no jurisdiction to hear the appeals of Japanese war criminals sentenced by the International Military Tribunal.
 

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December 20th ~ { continued... }

1948 – U.S. Supreme Court announced that it had no jurisdiction to hear the appeals of Japanese war criminals sentenced by the International Military Tribunal.

1950 – The 1st Marine Division was active against enemy guerillas in Masan-Pohang-Sondong-Ansong areas. Enemy pressure lessened as Marines forced the 10th North Korean Division to abandon guerilla activity and withdraw northward.

1952 – A United States Air Force C-124 crashes and burns in Moses Lake, Washington killing 87.

1957 – Elvis Presley was given a draft notice to join US Army for National Service.

1960 – North Vietnam announces the formation of the National Front for the Liberation of the South at a conference held “somewhere in the South.” This organization, more commonly known as the National Liberation Front (NLF), was designed to replicate the success of the Viet Minh, the umbrella nationalist organization that successfully liberated Vietnam from French colonial rule. The NLF reached out to those parts of South Vietnamese society who were displeased with the government and policies of President Ngo Dinh Diem. One hundred delegates representing more than a dozen political parties and religious groups–both communists and non-communists–were in attendance at the conference.

However, from the beginning, the NLF was dominated by the Lao Dong Party Central Committee (North Vietnamese Communist Party) and served as the North’s shadow government in South Vietnam. The Saigon regime dubbed the NLF the “Viet Cong,” a pejorative contraction of Viet Nam Cong San (Vietnamese Communists). The NLF’s military arm was the People’s Liberation Armed Forces (PLAF).

In February 1965, the PLAF attacked U.S. Army installations at Pleiku and Qui Nhon, which convinced President Lyndon B. Johnson to send the first U.S. ground troops to South Vietnam a month later. Ultimately, more than 500,000 U.S. troops were sent to Vietnam to fight the PLAF and the People’s Army of Vietnam (PAVN, or North Vietnamese Army). The NLF reached the height of its power during the 1968 Tet Offensive, when the communists launched a massive coordinated attack against key urban centers throughout South Vietnam. Although the Viet Cong forces were soundly defeated during the course of the offensive, they achieved a great psychological victory because the attack prompted many long time supporters of the war to question the Johnson administration’s optimistic predictions.

The Saigon regime dubs the NLF the ‘Vietcong,’ a pejorative contraction of Viet Nam Cong San (Vietnamese Communists). This label, created by Diem’s publicists, is designed to brand the rebels as Communists, and comes to be applied generally to supporters of and participants in the insurgency.

1963 – More than two years after the Berlin Wall was constructed by East Germany to prevent its citizens from fleeing its communist regime, nearly 4,000 West Berliners are allowed to cross into East Berlin to visit relatives. Under an agreement reached between East and West Berlin, over 170,000 passes were eventually issued to West Berlin citizens, each pass allowing a one-day visit to communist East Berlin. The day was marked by moments of poignancy and propaganda. The construction of the Berlin Wall in August 1961 separated families and friends. Tears, laughter, and other outpourings of emotions characterized the reunions that took place as mothers and fathers, sons and daughters met again, if only for a short time.

Cold War tensions were never far removed from the scene, however. Loudspeakers in East Berlin greeted visitors with the news that they were now in “the capital of the German Democratic Republic,” a political division that most West Germans refused to accept. Each visitor was also given a brochure that explained that the wall was built to “protect our borders against the hostile attacks of the imperialists.” Decadent western culture, including “Western movies” and “gangster stories,” were flooding into East Germany before the wall sealed off such dangerous trends. On the West Berlin side, many newspapers berated the visitors, charging that they were pawns of East German propaganda.

Editorials argued that the communists would use this shameless ploy to gain West German acceptance of a permanent division of Germany. The visits, and the high-powered rhetoric that surrounded them, were stark reminders that the Cold War involved very human, often quite heated, emotions.

1964 – USS Richard E. Kraus (DD-849) completes a successful emergency mission in aiding the disabled American Merchant Ship, SS Oceanic Spray in the Red Sea.

1967 – Some 474,300 US soldiers were stationed in Vietnam.

1967 – President Lyndon B. Johnson attends a memorial service for Australian Prime Minister Harold Holt in Melbourne and then visits Vietnam, Thailand, and the Vatican. Arriving in Thailand on December 23, Johnson visited the U.S. air base at Korat, where he told the U.S. pilots there that the United States and its allies were “defeating this aggression.”

The president then visited U.S. combat troops in Cam Ranh, South Vietnam, and told them that the enemy “knows that he has met his master in the field.” Next, Johnson flew to Rome and met with Pope Paul VI for over an hour with only interpreters present. A Vatican statement said the Pope advanced proposals toward attaining peace in Vietnam during the meeting.

1974 – Clearance of Suez Canal for mines and unexploded ordnance completed by Joint Task Force.

1978 – Former White House chief of staff H.R. Haldeman was released from prison after serving 18 months for his role in the Watergate cover-up.
 

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1989 – The United States invades Panama in an attempt to overthrow military dictator Manuel Noriega, who had been indicted in the United States on drug trafficking charges and was accused of suppressing democracy in Panama and endangering U.S. nationals. Noriega’s Panamanian Defense Forces (PDF) were promptly crushed, forcing the dictator to seek asylum with the Vatican anuncio in Panama City, where he surrendered on January 3, 1990.

In 1970, Noriega, a rising figure in the Panamanian military, was recruited by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to assist in the U.S. struggle against the spread of communism in Central America. Noriega became involved in drug trafficking and in 1977 was removed from the CIA payroll. After the Marxist Sandinista government came to power in 1979, Noriega was brought back into the CIA fold. In 1983, he become military dictator of Panama. Noriega supported U.S. initiatives in Central America and in turn was praised by the White House, even though a Senate committee concluded in 1983 that Panama was a major center for drug trafficking.

In 1984, Noriega committed fraud in Panama’s presidential election in favor of Nicolýs Ardito Barletta, who became a puppet president. Still, Noriega enjoyed the continued support of the Reagan administration, which valued his aid in its efforts to overthrow Nicaragua’s Sandinista government. In 1986, just months before the outbreak of the Iran-Contra affair, allegations arose concerning Noriega’s history as a drug trafficker, money launderer, and CIA employee. Most shocking, however, were reports that Noriega had acted as a double agent for Cuba’s intelligence agency and the Sandinistas. The U.S. government disowned Noriega, and in 1988 he was indicted by federal grand juries in Tampa and Miami on drug-smuggling and money-laundering charges. Tensions between Americans in the Panama Canal Zone and Noriega’s Panamanian Defense Forces grew, and in 1989 the dictator annulled a presidential election that would have made Guillermo Endara president.

President George H. Bush ordered additional U.S. troops to the Panama Canal Zone, and on December 16 an off-duty U.S. Marine was shot to death at a PDF roadblock. The next day, President Bush authorized “Operation Just Cause”–the U.S. invasion of Panama to overthrow Noriega. On December 20, 9,000 U.S. troops joined the 12,000 U.S. military personnel already in Panama and were met with scattered resistance from the PDF. By December 24, the PDF was crushed, and the United States held most of the country. Endara was made president by U.S. forces, and he ordered the PDF dissolved. On January 3, Noriega was arrested by U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency agents.

The U.S. invasion of Panama cost the lives of only 23 U.S. soldiers and three U.S. civilians. Some 150 PDF soldiers were killed along with an estimated 500 Panamanian civilians. The Organization of American States and the European Parliament both formally protested the invasion, which they condemned as a flagrant violation of international law.

In 1992, Noriega was found guilty on eight counts of drug trafficking, racketeering, and money laundering, marking the first time in history that a U.S. jury convicted a foreign leader of criminal charges. He was sentenced to 40 years in federal prison.

1990 – Pentagon warned Saddam that US air power was ready to attack on January 15th.

1992 – U.S. Marines and Belgian paratroopers in Somalia took control of Kismayu’s port and airport; the first truck convoy in more than a month reached the starving inland town of Baidoa. This is the first US combined amphibious assualt since the Vietnam War.

1993 – Alina Fernandez Revuelta, a daughter of Cuban President Fidel Castro, flew to Spain, where she was granted political asylum by the U.S. Embassy.

1994 – Marcelino Corniel, a homeless man, was shot and mortally wounded by White House security officers as he brandished a knife near the executive mansion.

1995 – During a brief military ceremony in Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina, French General Bernard Janvier, head of the United Nations peacekeeping force, formally transfers military authority in Bosnia to U.S. Admiral Leighton Smith, commander of North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) forces in Southern Europe.

The solemn ceremony cleared the path for the deployment of 60,000 NATO troops to enforce the Dayton Peace Accords, signed in Paris by the leaders of the former Yugoslavia on December 14. The U.S.-backed peace plan was proposed during talks in Dayton, Ohio, earlier in the year and was reluctantly accepted by the last of the belligerent parties in November, ending four years of bloody conflict in the former Yugoslavia, which cost more than 200,000 lives.

The United Nations peacekeeping mission to Bosnia began in early 1992, shortly after the war erupted over efforts by the Bosnian Serbs to achieve independence from Bosnia-Herzegovina and unite with Serbia. Although the U.N. force was crucial in distributing humanitarian aid to the impoverished population of Bosnia, it was unable to stop the fighting. Approximately 25,000 U.N. peacekeepers served in Bosnia over three and a half years, and during that time 110 of those were killed, 831 wounded, and hundreds taken hostage. The NATO force, with its strong U.S. support and focused aim of enforcing the Dayton agreement, was more successful in bringing stability to the war-torn region.

1998 – Germany extradited Mamdouh Mahmud Salim to the US in relation to the bombing of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

2000 – In Afghanistan the Taliban ordered UN offices closed and pledged to boycott peace talks. New sanctions were imposed in response to the Taliban’s refusal to surrender Osama bin Laden.

2001 – Pres. Bush marked the 100-day anniversary of Sep 11 by freezing the assets of 2 Pakistan-based groups suspected of terrorist support.

2001 – More than two months after the attack began, the UNSC authorized the creation of International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) to assist the Afghan Interim Authority in maintaining security. Command of ISAF passed to NATO on 11 August 2003, following the US invasion of Iraq in March of that year. ISAF was initially established as a stabilization force by the UN Security Council to secure Kabul. Its mandate did not extend beyond this area for the first few years.

2001 – It was reported that Adnan Ihsan Saeed al-Haideri, a defector from Iraq, said he worked on renovations of secret facilities for biological, chemical and nuclear weapons in Iraq before fleeing a year ago.

2002 – U.S. jets fired on two Iraqi air defense sites in the southern no-fly zone after an Iraqi jet entered the restricted air space.

2002 – Grote Reber (90), a pioneer of radio astronomy died in Tasmania. He followed up Karl Jansky’s 1933 announcement of the discovery of radio waves from space and in his spare time in 1937 built a 30-foot antenna dish, the 1st radio telescope, in his back yard in Wheaton, Ill., and managed to pick up signals two years later.

2002 – U.N. weapons inspectors put Iraq on notice that it must provide far more evidence about its weapons of mass destruction. Chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix urged the United States and Britain to hand over any evidence they have about Iraq’s secret weapons programs so U.N. inspectors can check it on the ground. The US began sharing sensitive information with the UN.

2002 – Yemeni security forces battled suspected al-Qaida members holed up in a building in a gunfight that left 2 policemen dead.

2003 – Lt. Gen. David W. Barno, the new U.S. commander in Afghanistan said he will use his forces to open up the lawless south and east to development aid, in a tactical switch to beat a stubborn insurgency threatening next year’s elections.

2003 – Insurgents attacked pipelines and an oil storage depot in three parts of Iraq, setting fires that blazed for hours and lost millions of gallons of oil.

2003 – A Lebanese military court convicted 32 people of bombing American and British businesses, and imposed sentences ranging from three months to life imprisonment.

2004 – In a sobering assessment of the Iraq war, President Bush acknowledged during a news conference that Americans’ resolve had been shaken by grisly scenes of death and destruction, and he pointedly criticized the performance of US-trained Iraqi troops.
 

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1620 – The Mayflower reached Plymouth, Mass. after a 63-day voyage. Pilgrims aboard the Mayflower went ashore for the first time at present-day Plymouth, Mass. The crew of the ship did not have enough beer to get to Virginia and back to England so they dropped the Pilgrims at Plymouth Rock to preserve their beer stock.

1861 – Lord Lyons, the British minister to the United States, meets with Secretary of State William Seward concerning the fate of James Mason and John Slidell, Confederate envoys arrested by the U.S. Navy aboard the British mail steamer Trent. During the meeting, Lyons took a hard line against Seward and forced the Lincoln administration to release the Confederates a few days later. The arrest of Mason and Slidell on November 8 near the Bahamas triggered a major diplomatic crisis between Britain and the United States. The British had not taken sides in the American Civil War and they accepted any paying customers wishing to travel on their ships. When Mason and Slidell were arrested, the British were furious that their ship had been detained and their guests arrested. The British government demanded their release. The Lincoln administration refused, and the Americans waited for the British reaction.

The British stood firm by their demand and prepared for war with the United States. After Lyons met with Seward, he wrote to Lord Russell, the British Foreign Minister. “I am so concerned that unless we give our friends here a good lesson this time, we shall have the same trouble with them again very soon,” wrote Lyons. “Surrender or war will have a very good effect on them.” The Lincoln administration got the message, and Mason and Slidell were released within a week. “One war at a time,” Lincoln said. The Trent affair was the most serious diplomatic crisis between the two nations during the Civil War.

1861 – U.S. Congress authorized the Medal of Honor to be awarded to Navy personnel that had distinguished themselves by their gallantry in action. The Navy and Marine Corps’ Medal of Honor is our country’s oldest continuously awarded decoration, even though its appearance and award criteria has changed since it was created for enlisted men by Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles on 16 December 1861. Legislation in 1915 made naval officers eligible for the award. Although originally awarded for both combat and non-combat heroism, the Medal of Honor today is presented for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life, above and beyond the call of duty. The design of our highest military decoration is rooted in the War Between the States.

Crafted by the artist Christian Schuller, the central motif is an allegory in which Columbia, in the form of the goddess Minerva uses the shield of the republic to put down the figure of discord, plainly a reference to the unfolding split in our nation. The design is encircled by 38 stars, representing the states of the Union at the time of the outbreak of the Civil War.

1864 – The Confederate Navy continued vigorous efforts to save the remnants of the Savannah squadron still at that city on the eve of its capture. On 10 December Commander Thomas W. Brent, C.S.S. Savannah, ordered the torpedoes in Savannah harbor removed in order that his vessels might fight their way to Charleston. As Brent later reported to Flag Officer Hunter: “. . . after every endeavor he [Lieutenant McAdam] found that with all the appliances at his command, grapnels, etc., he was unable with the motive power of the boats to remove any one of them, the anchors to which they are attached being too firmly embedded in the sand. . . . Under these circumstances it did not seem to me possible to carry out the instructions of the Department in regard to taking the Savannah to sea and fighting her way into this [Charleston] or some other port.”

After attempting futilely to move the smaller of his vessels upriver, Hunter this date destroyed C.S.S. Savannah, Isondiga, Firefly, and floating battery Georgia. General Sherman occupied Savannah on 23 December having fought his way across Georgia to the sea where he knew the mobility of naval power would be ready to provide him with support, supplies, and means of carrying out the next operation.

1866 – Determined to challenge the growing American military presence in their territory, Indians in northern Wyoming lure Lieutenant Colonel William Fetterman and his soldiers into a deadly ambush on this day in 1866. Tensions in the region started rising in 1863, when John Bozeman blazed the Bozeman Trail, a new route for emigrants traveling to the Montana gold fields. Bozeman’s trail was of questionable legality since it passed directly through hunting grounds that the government had promised to the Sioux, Cheyenne, and Arapahoe in the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1851.

Thus when Colorado militiamen murdered more than two hundred peaceful Cheyenne during the Sand Creek Massacre of 1864, the Indians began to take revenge by attacking whites all across the Plains, including the emigrants traveling the Bozeman Trail. The U.S. government responded by building a series of protective forts along the trail; the largest and most important of these was Fort Phil Kearney, erected in 1866 in north-central Wyoming. Indians under the leadership of Red Cloud and Crazy Horse began to focus their attacks on Fort Phil Kearney, constantly harassing the soldiers and raiding their wood and supply parties.

On December 6, 1866, Crazy Horse discovered to his surprise that he could lead a small detachment of soldiers into a fatal ambush by dismounting from his horse and fleeing as if he were defenseless. Struck by the foolish impulsiveness of the soldiers, Crazy Horse and Red Cloud reasoned that perhaps a much larger force could be lured into a similar deadly trap. On the bitterly cold morning of December 21, about 2,000 Indians concealed themselves along the road just north of Fort Phil Kearney. A small band made a diversionary attack on a party of woodcutters from the fort, and commandant Colonel Henry Carrington quickly ordered Colonel Fetterman to go to their aid with a company of 80 troopers. Crazy Horse and 10 decoy warriors then rode into view of the fort. When Carrington fired an artillery round at them, the decoys ran away as if frightened. The party of woodcutters made it safely back to the fort, but Colonel Fetterman and his men chased after the fleeing Crazy Horse and his decoys, just as planned. The soldiers rode straight into the ambush and were wiped out in a massive attack during which some 40,000 arrows rained down on the hapless troopers. None of them survived.

With 81 fatalities, the Fetterman Massacre was the army’s worst defeat in the West until the Battle of Little Bighorn in 1876. Further Indian attacks eventually forced the army to reconsider its commitment to protecting the Bozeman Trail, and in 1868 the military abandoned the forts and pulled out. It was one of only a handful of clear Indian victories in the Plains Indian Wars.
 

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1919 – J. Edgar Hoover gallantly deported anarchist, feminist Emma Goldman to Russia for agitating against forced conscription in the US.

1943 – USS Grayling (SS-208) sinks fourth Japanese ship since December 18th.

1943 – US 5th Army is heavily engaged near Monte Sammucro.

1944 – In the north, US forces recapture Stavelot and bring the advance of the German 67th Corps (part of 6th SS Panzer Army), on the right flank of the German attack, to a halt from here to Monschau. To the south, the German 5th Panzer Army has nearly surrounded Bastogne while Houffalize has been secured.

1944 – On Leyte, advances by US 10th Corps and US 24th Corps link up in the center of the Ormoc Valley. Isolated Japanese forces continue to resist in the area.

1944 – US B-29 Superfortress bombers attacked Mukden in Manchuria.

1945 – General George S. Patton, commander of the U.S. 3rd Army, dies from injuries suffered not in battle but in a freak car accident. He was 60 years old. Descended from a long line of military men, Patton graduated from the West Point Military Academy in 1909. He represented the United States in the 1912 Olympics-as the first American participant in the pentathlon. He did not win a medal.

He went on to serve in the Tank Corps during World War I, an experience that made Patton a dedicated proponent of tank warfare. During World War II, as commander of the U.S. 7th Army, he captured Palermo, Sicily, in 1943 by just such means. Patton’s audacity became evident in 1944, when, during the Battle of the Bulge, he employed an unorthodox strategy that involved a 90-degree pivoting move of his 3rd Army forces, enabling him to speedily relieve the besieged Allied defenders of Bastogne, Belgium. Along the way, Patton’s mouth proved as dangerous to his career as the Germans. When he berated and slapped a hospitalized soldier diagnosed with “shell shock,” but whom Patton accused of “malingering,” the press turned on him, and pressure was applied to cut him down to size. He might have found himself enjoying early retirement had not General Dwight Eisenhower and General George Marshall intervened on his behalf.

After several months of inactivity, he was put back to work. And work he did-at the Battle of the Bulge, during which Patton once again succeeded in employing a complex and quick-witted strategy, turning the German thrust into Bastogne into an Allied counterthrust, driving the Germans east across the Rhine. In March 1945, Patton’s army swept through southern Germany into Czechoslovakia-which he was stopped from capturing by the Allies, out of respect for the Soviets’ postwar political plans for Eastern Europe.

Patton had many gifts, but diplomacy was not one of them. After the war, while stationed in Germany, he criticized the process of denazification, the removal of former Nazi Party members from positions of political, administrative, and governmental power. His impolitic press statements questioning the policy caused Eisenhower to remove him as U.S. commander in Bavaria. He was transferred to the 15th Army Group, but in December of 1945 he suffered a broken neck in a car accident and died less than two weeks later.

1948 – Seishiro Itagaki, Japanese General and minister of War, was hanged.

1950 – Far East Air Force executed “Operation Kiddie Car” by transporting 1,000 Korean War orphans to the island of Cheju-do. Major Dean E. Hess, an F-51 Mustang pilot and military advisor considered the “Father of the ROK Air Force,” organized and led a desperate cross-country trek from Osan to Kimpo Airport to bring the children to safety from the advancing communist forces.

1951 – First helicopter landing aboard a hospital ship, USS Consolation.

1951 – General Matthew Ridgeway broadcast a message requesting that the Red Cross be allowed to inspect communist POW camps.
 

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1963 – In his formal report to President Johnson, McNamara calls Operation Hardnose, which provides intelligence and disrupts Vietcong movements along the Laos corridor ‘remarkably effective,’ and urges its expansion.

1968 – Apollo 8, the first manned mission to the moon, is successfully launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, with astronauts Frank Borman, James Lovell, Jr., and William Anders aboard. On Christmas Eve, the astronauts entered into orbit around the moon, the first manned spacecraft ever to do so. During Apollo 8’s 10 lunar orbits, television images were sent back home, and spectacular photos were taken of Earth and the moon from the spacecraft. In addition to being the first human beings to view firsthand their home world in its entirety, the three astronauts were also the first to see the dark side of the moon. On Christmas morning, Apollo 8 left its lunar orbit and began its journey back to Earth, landing safely in the Pacific Ocean on December 27. On July 20 of the next year, Neil A. Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, astronauts of the Apollo 11 mission, became the first men to walk on the moon. Recovery was by HS-4 helicopters from USS Yorktown (CVS-10).

1969 – Thailand announces plans to withdraw its 12,000-man contingent from South Vietnam. Thai forces went to Vietnam as 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 first Thai contribution to the South Vietnamese war effort came in September 1964, when a 16-man Royal Thai Air Force group arrived in Saigon to assist in flying and maintaining some of the cargo aircraft operated by the South Vietnamese Air Force.

In 1966, in response to further urging from President Johnson, the Thais agreed to increase their support to South Vietnam. The Royal Thai Military Assistance Group was formed in Saigon in February 1966. Later that year, the Thai government, once again at Johnson’s insistence, agreed to send combat troops to aid the South Vietnamese government. In September 1967, the first elements of the Royal Thai Volunteer Regiment, the “Queen’s Cobras,” arrived in Vietnam and were stationed in Bear Cat (near Bien Hoa, north of Saigon). The Thai regiment began combat operations in October 1967.

In July 1968, the Queen’s Cobras were replaced by the Royal Thai Army Expeditionary Division (the “Black Panthers”), which included two brigades of infantry, three battalions of 105-mm field artillery, and an armored cavalry unit. In August 1970, the Black Panther Division was renamed the Royal Thai Army Volunteer Force, a title it retained throughout the rest of its time in South Vietnam. The decision by the Thai government to begin withdrawing its troops was in line with President Nixon’s plan to withdraw U.S. troops from South Vietnam as the war was turned over to the South Vietnamese. The first Thai troops departed South Vietnam in 1971 and all were gone by early 1972.

1972 – The Defense Department announces that eight B-52 bombers and several fighter-bombers were lost since the commencement of Operation Linebacker II on December 18. These losses included at least 43 flyers captured or killed. President Richard Nixon ordered the operation after the North Vietnamese negotiators walked out of the peace talks in Paris. In response, President Nixon immediately issued an ultimatum that North Vietnam send its representatives back to the conference table within 72 hours “or else.”

When they rejected Nixon’s demand, he ordered a full-scale air campaign against Hanoi and Haiphong to force them back to the negotiating table. On December 28, after 11 days of intensive bombing, the North Vietnamese agreed to return to the talks.

1975 – In Vienna, Austria, Carlos the Jackal leads a raid on a meeting of oil ministers from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). German and Arab terrorists stormed in with machine guns, killed three people, and took 63 people hostage, including 11 OPEC ministers. Calling his group the “Arm of the Arab Revolution,” Carlos demanded that an anti-Israeli political statement be broadcast over radio, and that a bus and jet be provided for the terrorists and their hostages. Austrian authorities complied, and all the hostages were released in Algeria unharmed. OPEC did not hold another summit for 25 years.

In 1949, Ilich Ramýrez Sýnchez was born the son of a millionaire Marxist lawyer in Caracas, Venezuela, and attended Patrice Lumumba University in Moscow, where he became involved with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. During the 1970s and early 1980s, he acted as a freelance terrorist for various Arab groups and is suspected to have killed as many as 80 people in a chain of bombings, hijackings, and assassinations.

Nearly apprehended on several occasions, Carlos the Jackal managed to evade international authorities until 1994, when French agents captured him hiding in the Sudan. Secretly extradited to France, he was sent to a French prison, where he lived for three years before being put on trial in 1997 for the 1975 Paris murders of two French counterintelligence officers and a pro-Palestinian Lebanese who had turned informant. On December 23, 1997, a French jury found Sýnchez guilty and sentenced him to life imprisonment.

1988 – Pan Am Flight 103 from London to New York explodes in midair over Lockerbie, Scotland, an hour after departure. A bomb that had been hidden inside an audio cassette player detonated inside the cargo area when the plane was at an altitude of 31,000 feet. All 259 passengers, including 38 Syracuse University students returning home for the holidays, were killed in the explosion. In addition, 11 residents of Lockerbie were killed in the shower of airplane parts that unexpectedly fell from the sky.

Authorities accused Islamic terrorists of having placed the bomb on the plane while it was at the low-security airport in Frankfurt, Germany. They apparently believed that the attack was in retaliation for either the 1986 bombing attack on Libya in which Gadhafi was the target, or a 1988 incident, in which the United States killed 290 passengers when it mistakenly shot down an Iran Air commercial flight over the Persian Gulf. Sixteen days before the explosion over Lockerbie, a call was made to the U.S. embassy in Helsinki, Finland, warning that a bomb would be placed on a Pan Am flight out of Frankfurt. Though some claimed that travelers should have been alerted to this threat, U.S. officials later said that the connection between the call and the bomb was purely coincidental. In the early 1990s, investigators identified Libyan intelligence agents Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi and Lamen Khalifa Fhimah as suspects, but Libya refused to turn them over to be tried in the United States.

But in 1999-in an effort to ease United Nations sanctions against Libya-Colonel Moammar Gadhafi agreed to turn the suspects over to Scotland for trial in the Netherlands using Scottish law and prosecutors. Families of the victims were dissatisfied with this deal, however, complaining that it did not allow prosecutors to pursue the leads that suggested the bombing was planned and authorized by the highest levels of the Libyan government. The United States did insist, though, that Libya pay compensation to the victims’ families before sanctions against Libya are lifted.
 

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1990 – In Iraq, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis participated in an evacuation drill to test war readiness.

1991 – El Sayyid Nosair was acquitted in New York of killing Jewish extremist Rabbi Meir Kahane. Nosair was later convicted in a federal trial.

1991 – In a final step signifying the dismemberment of the Soviet Union, 11 of the 12 Soviet republics declare that they are forming the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). Just a few days later, Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev announced he was stepping down from his position. The Soviet Union ceased to exist. The 11 republics-Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, the Russian Federation, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan-signed an agreement creating the CIS. Only Georgia, embroiled in a civil war, abstained from participation. Exactly what they created was open to debate.

The CIS was not a new nation, but merely an “alliance” between independent states. The political meaning of the alliance was hazy. The independent states each took over the former Soviet government facilities within their borders. The military side of the CIS was even more confusing. They agreed to sustain any arms agreements signed by the former Soviet Union. The former Soviet defense minister would retain control over the military until the CIS could agree on what to do with the nuclear weapons and conventional forces within their borders.
Complicating the situation were terrific economic problems and outbreaks of ethnic violence in the new republics. For Gorbachev, the announcement was the final signal that his power-and the existence of the Soviet Union-was at an end. Four days later, on Christmas Day, he announced his resignation.

1997 – President Clinton, accompanied by his wife and daughter, left for Bosnia to spread holiday cheer and to carry the news that he wanted U.S. troops to remain there indefinitely as the region recovered from its devastating war.

1999 – Amid heightened concerns about the possibility of a holiday terrorist attack, security was ordered tightened at American airports and the Pentagon said it was taking “appropriate action” to protect US forces overseas.

2001 – In Kabul, Afghanistan, power was officially transferred from President Rabbani to Hamid Karzai.

2002 – President Bush received a smallpox vaccination, fulfilling a promise he’d made when he ordered inoculations for about a-half million U.S. troops.

2002 – In Qatar some Persian Gulf leaders opened a summit by calling for regional unity and fast inspections by U.N. experts searching for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

2003 – Time magazine’s named The American soldier, who bears the duty of “living with and dying for a country’s most fateful decisions,” as Person of the Year.

2004 – A suicide bombing on a base near Mosul killed 22 people and wounded 72 at Forward Operating Base Marez as US soldiers sat down to lunch. Halliburton Co. lost four employees in the attack at the military base. A radical Muslim group, the Ansar al-Sunnah Army, claimed responsibility. 2 French reporters held hostage for 4 months in Iraq were released.

2004 – Janes’ Defense Weekly said the US will assign serving military officers to its de facto embassy in Taiwan for the first time since 1979 in a reversal of a longstanding policy.
 

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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.
 

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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.

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.
 

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December 22nd ~ { continued... }

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.
 

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Discussion Starter #294
December 22nd ~ { continued... }

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.
 

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December 23rd ~

1620 – One week after the Mayflower arrived at Plymouth harbor in present-day Massachusetts, construction of the first permanent European settlement in New England begins. On September 16, the Mayflower departed Plymouth, England, bound for the New World with 102 passengers. The ship was headed for Virginia, where the colonists–half religious dissenters and half entrepreneurs–had been authorized to settle by the British crown.

In a difficult Atlantic crossing, the 90-foot Mayflower encountered rough seas and storms and was blown more than 500 miles off course. Along the way, the settlers formulated and signed the Mayflower Compact, an agreement that bound the signatories into a “civil body politic.” Because it established constitutional law and the rule of the majority, the compact is regarded as an important precursor to American democracy. After a 66-day voyage, the ship landed on November 21 at the tip of Cape Cod at what is now Provincetown, Massachusetts.

After coming to anchor in Provincetown harbor, a party of armed men under the command of Captain Myles Standish was sent out to explore the area and find a location suitable for settlement. While they were gone, Susanna White gave birth to a son, Peregrine, aboard the Mayflower. He was the first English child born in New England. In mid-December, the explorers went ashore at a location across Cape Cod Bay where they found cleared fields and plentiful running water, and they named the site Plymouth. The expedition returned to Provincetown, and on December 21 the Mayflower came to anchor in Plymouth harbor. Two days later, the pilgrims began work on dwellings that would shelter them through their difficult first winter in America. In the first year of settlement, half the colonists died of disease.

In 1621, the health and economic condition of the colonists improved, and that autumn Governor William Bradford invited neighboring Indians to Plymouth to celebrate the bounty of that year’s harvest season. Plymouth soon secured treaties with most local Indian tribes, and the economy steadily grew, and more colonists were attracted to the settlement. By the mid-1640s, Plymouth’s population numbered 3,000 people, but by then the settlement had been overshadowed by the larger Massachusetts Bay Colony to the north, settled by Puritans in 1629.

The term “Pilgrim” was not used to describe the Plymouth colonists until the early 19th century and was derived from a manuscript in which Governor Bradford spoke of the “saints” who traveled to the New World as “pilgrimes.” In 1820, the orator Daniel Webster spoke of “Pilgrim Fathers” at a bicentennial celebration of Plymouth’s founding, and thereafter the term entered common usage.

1776 – Continental Congress negotiated a war loan of $181,500 from France.

1776 – Thomas Paine wrote “These are the times that try men’s souls.”

1779 – Benedict Arnold was court-martialed for improper conduct. He followed the time-honored military tradition of using government carts to transport his personal items. He was routinely sentenced to be censured by Gen. Washington- a formality which the thin-skinned Arnold took personally, ultimately leading him to switch allegiance to the British cause.

1783 – George Washington resigned as commander-in-chief of the Army and retired to his home at Mount Vernon, Va, an act that stunned aristocratic Europe. King George III ( commander of the army the colonies beat ) called Washington “the greatest character of the age” because of this.

1788 – Maryland voted to cede a 100-square-mile area for the seat of the national government; about two-thirds of the area became the District of Columbia.

1823 – The poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas” by Clement C. Moore, often called “Twas the night before Christmas,” was published in the Troy, N.Y., Sentinel. Recent scholarship reveals the original to have been written by Major Henry Livingston (1748-1828).

1826 – Captain Thomas ap Catesby Jones of USS Peacock and King Kamehameha negotiate first treaty between Hawaii and a foreign power.

1861 – Lord Lyons, The British minister to America presented a formal complaint to secretary of state, William Seward, regarding the Trent affair.

1862 – Confederate President Jefferson Davis declares Union General Benjamin Butler a felon and insists that he be hanged if captured. Butler had earned few friends in New Orleans-indeed, his treatment of the city’s residents outraged most Southerners. The Union captured New Orleans in early 1862 and Butler became the military commander of the city. His actions there soon made him the most hated Yankee in the Confederacy.
Butler worked to root out all signs of the Confederacy from the city. He hung a gambler who tore down an American flag and he ordered civil officers, attorneys, and clergy to take an oath of allegiance to the United States.

Most notoriously, he offended southern women with General Order No. 28, which stated that any woman who insulted Union troops would “be treated as a woman of the town plying her avocation.” Butler confiscated the property of rebels and was accused of stealing silver spoons from the locals, earning him the nickname “Spoons.” Butler’s brother, Andrew, gained permits to trade in the area and made a fortune from the sale of contraband items. Southerners began to view Butler’s mistreatment of New Orleans residents as a symbol of Yankee rudeness. Perhaps only William T. Sherman, who led the famously destructive march across Georgia, earned greater opprobrium in the South.

1864 – President Lincoln signed a bill passed the preceding day by Congress which created the rank of vice admiral. A fortnight before Secretary Welles had written in his report to the President: “In recommending, therefore, that the office of vice-admiral should be created, and the appointment conferred on Rear-Admiral David G. Farragut, I but respond, as I believe, to the voice and wishes of the naval service and of the whole country.”

Thus was Farragut made the first vice admiral in the Nation’s history as he had been its first rear admiral. The Army and Navy Journal wrote of him: “In Farragut the ideal sailor, the seaman of Nelson’s and Collingwood’s days, is revived, and the feeling of the people toward him is of the same peculiar character as that which those great and simple-hearted heroes of Great Britain evoked in the hearts of their countrymen.

1864 – After many days of delay because of heavy weather, powder ship U.S.S. Louisiana, Commander Rhind, towed by U.S.S. Wilderness late at night, anchored and was blown up 250 yards off Fort Fisher, North Carolina. After Rhind and his gallant crew set the fuzes and a fire in the stern, they escaped by small boat to Wilderness. Rear Admiral Porter and General Butler, who was waiting in Beaufort to land his troops the next morning and storm Fort Fisher, placed great hope in the exploding powder ship, hope that Dahlgren as an ordnance expert no doubt disdained.

The clock mechanism failed to ignite the powder at the appointed time, 1:18 a.m., and after agonizing minutes of waiting, the fire set by Rhind in the stern of Louisiana reached the powder and a tremendous explosion occurred. Fort Fisher and its garrison, however, were not measur-ably affected, although the blast was heard many miles away; in fact, Colonel Lamb, the fort’s resolute commander, wrote in his diary: “A blockader got aground near the fort, set fire to herself and blew up.” It remained for the massed gunfire from ships of Porter’s huge fleet, the largest ever assembled up to that time under the American flag, to cover the landings and reduce the forts.
 

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Discussion Starter #296
December 23rd ~ { continued... }

1910 – LT Theodore G. Ellyson becomes first naval officer sent to flight training.

1913 – The Federal Reserve Act was signed by President Woodrow Wilson. The Owen-Glass Act established the decentralized, government-controlled banking system in the U.S. known as the Federal Reserve. It repealed the gold standard and replaced it with a system that ensured that the US dollar would be a better store of value than gold. The act guarded against inflation but allowed deflation. It was the first thorough reorganization of the national banking system since the Civil War.

1919 – The 1st hospital ship built to move wounded naval personnel was launched.

1933 – Marinus van der Lubbe was sentenced to death for Reichstag “Fire.”

1939 – A Pan-American protest is issued to the governments of Britain, France and Germany about the fighting inside the “security zone” during the battle of the River Plate. The detention and destruction of German merchant ships by British warships is also noted.

1941 – Japanese forces launched a predawn landing, their second attempt, on Wake Island and Wilkes Island, while their carriers launched air strikes against Wilkes, Wake, and Peale islands in support of the landing force. After nearly 12 hours of desperate fighting, the three islands were surrendered.

1941 – The first Japanese air attacks on Rangoon, Burma. The city’s air defense consist of only two fighter squadrons, one from the RAF, the other an American Volunteer Group.

1941 – The 440-foot tanker Montebello was sunk off the California coast near Cambria by a Japanese submarine. The crew of 38 survived and in 1996 it was found that the 4.1 million gallon cargo of crude oil appeared intact.

1941 – A conference of industry and labor officials agrees that there would be no strikes or lockouts in war industries while World War II continued.1943 – Gen. Montgomery was appointed British commandant for D-Day.

1944 – Although the American defenders of Bastogne continue to hold out against German attacks, elements of the German 5th Panzer Army have by-passed the town and are advancing to the west and northwest. These attacks have reached beyond Rochefort and Laroche. However, improved weather conditions allows Allied ground attack aircraft to harass the German columns. A sudden improvement in the weather permits Allied fighter-bombers to conduct about 900 sorties against German forces in “the Bulge”.

1944 – Gen. Dwight Eisenhower endorses the finding of a court-martial in the case of Eddie Slovik, who was tried for desertion, and authorizes his execution, the first such sentence against a U.S. Army soldier since the Civil War, and the only man so punished during World War II. Private Eddie Slovik was a draftee. Originally classified 4-F because of a prison record (grand theft auto), he was bumped up to a 1-A classification when draft standards were lowered to meet growing personnel needs.

In January 1944, he was trained to be a rifleman, which was not to his liking, as he hated guns. In August of the same year, Slovik was shipped to France to fight with the 28th Infantry Division, which had already suffered massive casualties in the fighting there and in Germany. Slovik was a replacement, a class of soldier not particular respected by officers. As he and a companion were on the way to the front lines, they became lost in the chaos of battle, only to stumble upon a Canadian unit that took them in. Slovik stayed on with the Canadians until October 5, when they turned him and his buddy over to the American military police, who reunited them with the 28th Division, now in Elsenborn, Belgium. No charges were brought; replacements getting lost early on in their tours of duty were not unusual.

But exactly one day after Slovik returned to his unit, he claimed he was “too scared and too nervous” to be a rifleman and threatened to run away if forced into combat. His admission was ignored-and Slovik took off. One day after that he returned, and Slovik signed a confession of desertion, claiming he would run away again if forced to fight, and submitted it to an officer of the 28th. The officer advised Slovik to take the confession back, as the consequences would be serious. Slovik refused, and he was confined to the stockade.

The 28th Division had seen many cases of soldiers wounding themselves or deserting in the hopes of a prison sentence that would at least protect them from the perils of combat. So a legal officer of the 28th offered Slovik a deal: Dive into combat immediately and avoid the court-martial. Slovik refused. He was tried on November 11 for desertion and was convicted in less than two hours. The nine-officer court-martial panel passed a unanimous sentence: execution= “to be shot to death with musketry.”

Slovik’s appeal failed. It was held that he “directly challenged the authority” of the United States and that “future discipline depends upon a resolute reply to this challenge.” Slovik was to pay for his recalcitrant attitude, and he was to be made an example. One last appeal was made-to General Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Supreme Allied Commander. The timing was bad for mercy. The Battle of the Bulge in the Ardennes forest was issuing in literally thousands of American casualties, not to mention the second largest surrender of an American Army unit during the war.
Eisenhower upheld the sentence. Slovik would be shot to death by a 12-man firing squad in eastern France in January of 1945. None of the rifleman so much as flinched, believing Slovik had gotten what he deserved.

1944 – All horse racing in the US is banned in an effort to save labor.

1947 – Truman granted a pardon to 1,523 who had evaded the World War II draft.

1947 – John Bardeen and Walter Brattain of AT&T Bell Labs in Murray Hill, New Jersey, unveiled what was soon to be called the transistor, short for the electrical property known as trans-resistance, which paved the way to a new era of miniaturized electronics. The device was improved by William Schockley as a junction transistor. All 3 received a Nobel Prize in 1956.

1948 – In Tokyo, Japan, Hideki Tojo, former Japanese premier and chief of the Kwantung Army, is executed along with six other top Japanese leaders for their war crimes during World War II. Seven of the defendants were also found guilty of committing crimes against humanity, especially in regard to their systematic genocide of the Chinese people. On November 12, death sentences were imposed on Tojo and the six other principals, such as Iwane Matsui, who organized the Rape of Nanking, and Heitaro Kimura, who brutalized Allied prisoners of war. Sixteen others were sentenced to life imprisonment, and the remaining two of the original 25 defendants were sentenced to lesser terms in prison.

Unlike the Nuremberg trial of German war criminals, where there were four chief prosecutors representing Great Britain, France, the United States, and the USSR, the Tokyo trial featured only one chief prosecutor–American Joseph B. Keenan, a former assistant to the U.S. attorney general. However, other nations, especially China, contributed to the proceedings, and Australian judge William Flood Webb presided. In addition to the central Tokyo trial, various tribunals sitting outside Japan judged some 5,000 Japanese guilty of war crimes, of whom more than 900 were executed.
 

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December 23rd ~ { continued... }

1950 – Lieutenant General Walton Walker, Eighth Army commander, was killed in a jeep accident. Major General Frank W. Milburn assumed temporary command of Eighth Army.

1950 – The United States signs a Mutual Defense Assistance Agreement with France, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. In 1951 military aid tops $500,000,000. Congressman John F. Kennedy asserts America has allied itself with a desperate French attempt to hang on to the remnants of its empire. By 1954 American military aid to Vietnam tops $2 billion.

1951 – The communists rejected any prisoner exchange until an armistice was signed. The U.N. Command alleged that 65,363 U.N. soldiers had been captured during the first nine months of the war and demanded an explanation of why the communist list did not include over 50,000 names.

1954 – First successful kidney transplant is performed by J. Hartwell Harrison and Joseph Murray.

1961 – Fidel Castro announced Cuba he would release 1,113 prisoners from failed 1961 Bay of Pigs Invasion in exchange for $62M worth of food and medical supplies.

1962 – Cuba started returning US prisoners from Bay of Pigs invasion.

1966 – Francis Cardinal Spellman, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of New York and military vicar of the U.S. armed forces for Roman Catholics, visits U.S. servicemen in South Vietnam. In an address at mass in Saigon, Spellman said that the Vietnamese conflict was “a war for civilization–certainly it is not a war of our seeking. It is a war thrust upon us–we cannot yield to tyranny.” Anything “less than victory is inconceivable.”
On December 26, Spellman told U.S. soldiers that they were in Vietnam for the “defense, protection, and salvation not only of our country, but …of civilization itself.” The next day, Vatican sources expressed displeasure with Spellman’s statements in Vietnam. One source said, “The Cardinal did not speak for the Pope or the Church.” The Pope had previously called for negotiations and an end to the war in Vietnam.

1967 – U.S. Navy SEALs were ambushed during an operation southeast of Saigon.

1968 – The crew and captain of the U.S. intelligence gathering ship Pueblo are released after 11 months imprisonment by the government of North Korea. The ship, and its 83-man crew, was seized by North Korean warships on January 23 and charged with intruding into North Korean waters. The seizure infuriated U.S. President Lyndon Johnson. Later, he claimed that he strongly suspected (although it could not be proven) that the incident with the Pueblo, coming just a few days before the communist Tet Offensive in South Vietnam, was a coordinated diversion.

At the time, however, Johnson did little. The Tet Offensive, which began just a week after the ship was taken by North Korea, exploded on the front pages and televisions of America and seemed to paralyze the Johnson administration. To deal with the Pueblo incident, the United States urged the U.N.’s Security Council to condemn the action and pressured the Soviet Union to negotiate with the North Koreans for the ship’s release. It was 11 long months before the Pueblo’s men were freed. Both captain and crew were horribly treated and later recounted their torture at the hands of the North Koreans.

With no help in sight, Captain Lloyd Bucher reluctantly signed a document confessing that the ship was spying on North Korea. With this propaganda victory in hand, the North Koreans released the prisoners and also returned the body of one crewman who died in captivity. Some Americans criticized Johnson for not taking decisive retaliatory action against North Korea; others argued that he should have used every diplomatic means at his disposal to secure a quick release for the crew. In any case, the event was another blow to Johnson and America’s Cold War foreign policy.

1970 – The NY World Trade Center reached its highest point. The World Trade Center was completed at a cost of $350 million. The twin 110-story towers housed 55,000 employees working for 350 firms.

1972 – The East German Embassy and the Hungarian commercial mission in Hanoi are hit in the eighth day of Operation Linebacker II. Although there were reports that a prisoner of war camp holding American soldiers was hit, the rumor was untrue. President Nixon initiated the full-scale bombing campaign against North Vietnam on December 18, when the North Vietnamese–who walked out of the peace talks in Paris–refused an ultimatum from Nixon to return to the negotiating table.

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. President Nixon was vilified at home and abroad for ordering the “Christmas bombing,” but on December 28, the North Vietnamese did agree to return to the talks in Paris. When the negotiators met again in early January, they quickly arrived at a settlement. The Paris Peace Accords were signed on January 23 and a cease-fire went into effect five days later.

1973 – 6 Persian Gulf nations doubled their oil prices.

1974 – The B-1 bomber made its first successful test flight.

1975 – Richard S. Welch, the Central Intelligence Agency station chief in Athens, was shot and killed outside his home. The left-wing November 17 urban guerrilla group was responsible. In 2002 Pavlos Serifis was arrested in connection with the murder.

1986 – The experimental airplane Voyager, piloted by Dick Rutan and Jeana Yeager, completed the first non-stop, round-the-world flight without refueling as it landed safely at Edwards Air Force Base in California.

1987 – Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme, serving a life sentence for the attempted assassination of President Ford in 1975, escaped from the Alderson Federal Prison for Women in West Virginia. She was recaptured two days later.
 

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December 23rd ~ { continued... }

1991 – President George H.W. Bush spoke by telephone with Russian President Boris Yeltsin, after which a senior Bush administration official said the United States would extend diplomatic recognition to the Russian republic.

1992 – An American mission to save lives in Somalia lost the first of its own when a U.S. vehicle hit a land mine near Bardera, killing civilian Army employee Lawrence N. Freedman of Fayetteville, N.C.

1994 – John Connolly, FBI agent, came to the Winter Hill gang’s headquarters in a Boston liquor store and warned Kevin Weeks of pending FBI arrests for mobsters James Bulger, Stephen Flemmi and Francis Salemme. Connolly was convicted for corruption in 2002 and sentenced to 121 months.

1996 – President Clinton expressed gratitude to the nation’s armed forces as he visited Marines at Camp Lejeune, N.C.

1997 – A jury in Denver convicted Terry Nichols for conspiracy and involuntary manslaughter in the Apr 19, 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.

1997 – In France “Carlos the Jackal,” aka Ilich Ramirez Sanchez, was convicted in the murder of 2 French agents and a Lebanese informant on Jun 27, 1975 and sentenced to life in prison.

1999 – President Clinton pardoned Freddie Meeks, a black sailor court-martialed for mutiny during World War Two when he and other sailors refused to load live ammunition following a deadly explosion at the Port Chicago Naval Magazine near San Francisco that had claimed more than 300 lives.

1997 – After changing one word, the U.N. Security Council agrees to a statement criticizing, but not condemning, Iraq for refusing to grant U.N. weapons inspectors full access to suspected weapons sites. Opposition from Russia and other council members prompted the wording change. The statement comes after chief weapons inspector Richard Butler told the Security Council that Iraq would not allow access to all suspected weapons sites, including Iraqi President Saddam Hussein’s palaces and homes.

2001 – It was reported that Hazrat Ali, an Afghanistan eastern alliance commander, had negotiated a deal to release al Qaeda troops in the Tora Bora region. The new cabinet met in Kabul for the 1st time.

2002 – Iraqi aircraft shot down a U.S. unmanned surveillance drone over southern Iraq.

2002 – North Korea dismantled UN surveillance cameras and broke locks on the Yangbyon reprocessing plant for spent nuclear fuel.

2003 – A Virginia jury recommended a sentence of life in prison for Lee Boyd Malvo.

2003 – The South Korean Cabinet approved a plan to send 3,000 troops to the northern oil town of Kirkuk as early as April.

2004 – Afghan President Hamid Karzai chose a new Cabinet, heeding calls to sideline warlords from top positions, including the defense minister, and creating a new post to oversee the fight against opium production.

2004 – US Marines battled insurgents in Fallujah with warplanes dropping bombs and tanks shelling suspected guerrilla positions. Three U.S. Marines were killed. 24 guerrillas, most of them non-Iraqi Arabs, were killed in battles according to a posting on an Islamic web site the next day. The 1st Fallujah residents were allowed to return. A bomb killed a US soldier in Baghdad.

2009 – Soyuz TMA-17, carrying an international crew of one Russian, one American and one Japanese astronaut, docks with the International Space Station.
 

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December 24th ~

1724 – Benjamin Franklin arrived in London.

1809 – Christopher Houston “Kit” Carson, one of the most celebrated heroes of the American West, is born in Richmond, Kentucky. Shortly after Carson was born, his family moved west to Howard County, Missouri, an ideal spot for a future frontiersman to learn his trade.

By the early 1820s, nearby Franklin, Missouri, had become the starting point for the newly opened Santa Fe Trail. As an apprentice to a Franklin saddle maker, Carson spent three years watching the covered wagons head westward for Santa Fe. Finally, the yearning to follow overwhelmed young Carson, and he ran away from home to join a trading caravan. Intelligent and resourceful, Carson made a new life for himself once he reached Santa Fe. He learned enough Spanish to serve as a translator, and soaked up information about frontier knowledge and skills from the many mountain men who came to town. When Carson was 22 years old, he met the famous Irish mountain man Thomas Fitzpatrick, who offered to take Carson on a trapping expedition in the northern Rockies. Carson jumped at the chance, and soon became a skilled trapper and a cunning tracker. In January 1833, when a band of Crow Indians stole his party’s horses, Carson trailed the Indians for 40 miles and his party was able to recover the stolen steeds.

Possessed of an uncanny ability to remember geography and topography, the illiterate Carson gained international fame after he served as a guide for John C. Fremont’s 1842 western mapping expedition along the Oregon Trail. Fremont was so impressed with Carson’s frontier and guiding skills that he rehired him to guide his 1843 exploration of the Great Salt Lake and the Sierra Nevada. When Fremont published his reports on the two expeditions, he wrote glowingly of the young scout, and Carson had his first taste of national fame. After serving with Fremont in the Mexican War, Carson gained even greater renown as an Indian fighter in New Mexico, and the authors of popular dime novels began featuring him in their western tales. Literally a legend in his own time, Carson had the bizarre experience of colliding with his own mythic self.

Late in 1849, Carson led the pursuit of a band of Jicarilla Apache who had kidnapped Mrs. J.M. White and her child from an emigrant caravan. Carson and a company of Taos soldiers tracked down and defeated the Apache, but they were too late to save Mrs. White, who was found with an arrow through her heart. Carson discovered a dime novel lying near White’s body-the novel featured Carson as the hero of a story where he single-handedly fought off eight Indians. Although he spent much of his life fighting Indians, Carson apparently had great sympathy and respect for them–in 1867 he became the Superintendent of Indian Affairs for Colorado Territory. Despite his failing health, Carson made a strenuous trip to Washington with delegates from the Ute tribe to argue on the Indians’ behalf in treaty negotiations. Shortly after he returned to his home in Boggsville, Colorado, he died at the age of 58, but his legend continues to grow, thanks to countless novels and movies celebrating his life and adventures.

1812 – Joel Barlow, aged 58, American poet and lawyer, died from exposure near Vilna, Poland [Lithuania], during Napoleon’s retreat from Moscow. Barlow was on a diplomatic mission to the emperor for President Madison.

1814 – The Treaty of Peace and Amity between His Britannic Majesty and the United States of America is signed by British and American representatives at Ghent, Belgium, ending the War of 1812. By terms of the treaty, all conquered territory was to be returned, and commissions were planned to settle the boundary of the United States and Canada. In June 1812, the United States declared war against Great Britain in reaction to three issues: the British economic blockade of France, the induction of thousands of neutral American seamen into the British Royal Navy against their will, and the British support of hostile Indian tribes along the Great Lakes frontier. A faction of Congress, made up mostly of western and southern congressmen, had been advocating the declaration of war for several years. These “War Hawks,” as they were known, hoped that war with Britain, which was preoccupied with its struggle against Napoleonic France, would result in U.S. territorial gains in Canada and British-protected Florida.

In the months following the U.S. declaration of war, American forces launched a three-point invasion of Canada, all of which were repulsed. At sea, however, the United States was more successful, and the USS Constitution and other American frigates won a series of victories over British warships. In 1813, American forces won several key victories in the Great Lakes region, but Britain regained control of the sea and blockaded the eastern seaboard. In 1814, with the downfall of Napoleon, the British were able to allocate more military resources to the American war, and Washington, D.C., fell to the British in August. In Washington, British troops burned the White House, the Capitol, and other buildings in retaliation for the earlier burning of government buildings in Canada by U.S. soldiers. The British soon retreated, however, and Fort McHenry in Baltimore harbor withstood a massive British bombardment and inspired Francis Scott Key to pen the “Star-Spangled Banner.”

On September 11, 1814, the tide of the war turned when Thomas Macdonough’s American naval force won a decisive victory at the Battle of Plattsburg Bay on Lake Champlain. A large British army under Sir George Prevost was thus forced to abandon its invasion of the U.S. northeast and retreat to Canada. The American victory on Lake Champlain led to the conclusion of U.S.-British peace negotiations in Belgium, and on December 24, 1814, the Treaty of Ghent was signed, ending the war. Although the treaty said nothing about two of the key issues that started the war–the rights of neutral U.S. vessels and the impressment of U.S. sailors–it did open up the Great Lakes region to American expansion and was hailed as a diplomatic victory in the United States. News of the treaty took almost two months to cross the Atlantic, and British forces were not informed of the end of hostilities in time to end their drive against the mouth of the Mississippi River.

On January 8, 1815, a large British army attacked New Orleans and was decimated by an inferior American force under General Andrew Jackson in the most spectacular U.S. victory of the war. The American public heard of the Battle of New Orleans and the Treaty of Ghent at approximately the same time, fostering a greater sentiment of self-confidence and shared identity throughout the young republic.

1826 – The Eggnog Riot at the United States Military Academy begins that night, wrapping up the following morning. The Eggnog Riot, sometimes known as the Grog Mutiny, was a riot that took place at the United States Military Academy in West Point, New York, on 24–25 December 1826. It was caused by a drunken Christmas Day party in the North Barracks of the Academy. Two days prior to the incident, a large quantity of whiskey was smuggled into the academy to make eggnog for the party, giving the riot its name.

The riot eventually involved more than one-third of the cadets by the time it ceased on Christmas morning. A subsequent investigation by Academy officials resulted in the implication of seventy cadets and the court-martialing of twenty of them and one enlisted soldier. Among the participants in the riot—though he was not court-martialed—was future Confederate States President Jefferson Davis.

1851 – A devastating fire at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., destroys about two-thirds of its 55,000 volumes, including most of Thomas Jefferson’s personal library, sold to the institution in 1815. The Library of Congress was established in 1800, when President John Adams approved legislation that appropriated $5,000 to purchase “such books as may be necessary for the use of Congress.” The first books, ordered from London, arrived in 1801 and were stored in the U.S. Capitol, the library’s first home. The first library catalog, dated April 1802, listed 964 volumes and nine maps.

Twelve years later, the British army invaded the city of Washington and burned the Capitol, including the 3,000-volume Library of Congress. Former president Thomas Jefferson, who advocated the expansion of the library during his two terms in office, responded to the loss by selling his personal library, the largest and finest in the country, to Congress to “recommence” the library. The purchase of Jefferson’s 6,487 volumes was approved in the next year, and a professional librarian, George Watterston, was hired to replace the House clerks in the administration of the library.

In 1851, a second major fire at the library destroyed about two-thirds of its books. Congress responded quickly and generously to the disaster, and within a few years a majority of the lost books were replaced. After the Civil War, the collection was greatly expanded, and by the 20th century the Library of Congress had become the de facto national library of the United States and one of the largest in the world. Today, the collection, housed in three enormous buildings in Washington, contains more than 17 million books, as well as millions of maps, manuscripts, photographs, films, audio and video recordings, prints, and drawings.
 

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December 24th ~ { continued... }

1861 – The USS Gem of the Sea destroyed the British blockade runner Prince of Wales off the coast at Georgetown, S.C.

1862 – A Christmas present arrived a day early for the Federal troops at Columbus, Ky., in the way of artillery on board the USS New Era.

1864 – A Union fleet under Admiral David Dixon Porter begins a bombardment of Fort Fisher, North Carolina. Although an impressive display of firepower, the attack failed to destroy the fort; a ground attack the next day did not succeed either. Fort Fisher guarded the mouth of the Cape Fear River, the approach to Wilmington.

Throughout the war, Wilmington was one of the most important ports as the Confederates tried to break the Union blockade of its coasts. By late 1864, Wilmington was one of the last ports open in the South. The massive wood and sand Fort Fisher was built in 1862 to withstand attack by the most powerful Federal cannon. Even though it was an important city, the Union leaders directed more attention to other targets, such as the capture of the Confederate capital of Richmond. Not until late 1864 did the Union turn attention to Fort Fisher.

Now, 60 ships attacked the fort on Christmas Eve. Inside the stronghold, 500 Confederates hunkered down and withstood the siege. Although buildings in the fort caught fire, there were few casualties. The next day, a small Yankee force attacked on the ground, but reinforcing Confederates from Wilmington drove them away. The Union fleet sailed back to Hampton Roads, Virginia, with nothing to show for their efforts. The Union tried again to take Fort Fisher in January. After two days, a Union force overwhelmed the fort and the last major Confederate port was closed.

1864 – Rear Admiral Lee, commanding the Mississippi Squadron, arrived off Chickasaw, Alabama, in an attempt to cut off the retreat of Confederate General Hood’s army from Tennessee. At Chickasaw, U.S.S. Fairy, Acting Ensign Charles Swendson, with Lee embarked, destroyed a Confederate fort and magazine, but even this small, shallow-draft river boat was unable to go beyond Great Mussel Shoals on the Tennessee River because of low water.

1865 – In Pulaski, Tennessee, a group of Confederate veterans convenes to form a secret society that they christen the “Ku Klux Klan.” The KKK rapidly grew from a secret social fraternity to a paramilitary force bent on reversing the federal government’s progressive Reconstruction Era activities in the South, especially policies that elevated the rights of the local African American population.

The name of the Ku Klux Klan was derived from the Greek word kyklos, meaning “circle,” and the Scottish-Gaelic word “clan,” which was probably chosen for the sake of alliteration. Under a platform of philosophized white racial superiority, the group employed violence as a means of pushing back Reconstruction and its enfranchisement of African Americans.

Former Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest was the KKK’s first grand wizard; in 1869, he unsuccessfully tried to disband it after he grew critical of the Klan’s excessive violence. Most prominent in counties where the races were relatively balanced, the KKK engaged in terrorist raids against African Americans and white Republicans at night, employing intimidation, destruction of property, assault, and murder to achieve its aims and influence upcoming elections. In a few Southern states, Republicans organized militia units to break up the Klan.

In 1871, the Ku Klux Act passed Congress, authorizing President Ulysses S. Grant to use military force to suppress the KKK. The Ku Klux Act resulted in nine South Carolina counties being placed under martial law and thousands of arrests. In 1882, the U.S. Supreme Court declared the Ku Klux Act unconstitutional, but by that time Reconstruction had ended and the KKK had faded away. The 20th century witnessed two revivals of the KKK: one in response to immigration in the 1910s and ’20s, and another in response to the African American civil rights movement of the 1950s and ’60s.

1904 – Herbert D Riley, US vice-admiral (WW II, Guadalcanal, Okinawa), was born.

1905 – Howard Hughes, the manufacturing magnate, Hollywood mogul, and record-setting aviator, is born. Born in Houston, Hughes entered the business world at age seventeen, taking the reigns of his family’s Texas-based tool company after his father passed away. However, Hughes wasn’t long for the Lone Star State: in 1926 he headed to Hollywood to become a producer of gritty classics like Hell’s Angels and Scarface.
In 1948, Hughes snapped up a “controlling interest” in RKO Pictures, though a few years later he relinquished his shares in the company only to buy the studio outright in 1954. However, in 1955 Hughes reversed course again and sold RKO. Along the way, the eccentric millionaire indulged his passion for aviation, establishing the Hughes Aircraft Company and later buying a majority stake in Trans World Airlines. During the 1930s, Hughes flew his own custom-made plane into the record books, breaking various speed and flight-time records.

Despite his glittery achievements and hefty bankroll, Hughes was never one for publicity. As the years wore on, his reclusive tendencies increased: Hughes eventually sequestered himself away in an ever-rotating series of luxury hotels, where he would toil on end for days, surviving on a diet that leaned heavier on drugs than food. Hughes died in 1976 while on a flight back to his hometown of Houston.

1906 – Canadian physicist Reginald A. Fessenden became the first person to broadcast a music program over radio, from Brant Rock, Mass.
 
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