Events in History over the next 15 day period that had U.S. military involvement or impacted in some way on U.S military operations or American interests
- JAN 16 1780 – American Revolution: British demonstrate naval supremacy in The Moonlight Battle » British Admiral Sir George Rodney, with 18 ships-of-the-line, engages an inferior Spanish squadron of 11 battleships commanded by Don Juan de Langara off the southwestern coast of Portugal at Cape St. Vincent, in what comes to be known as The Moonlight Battle. (Ships-of-the-line is the 18th century term for ships substantial enough to be used in a battle line, a tactic of war in which two lines of ships faced off against each other.)
The Spanish, who were at war with the British because they had chosen to back the American rebels in the War for Independence, saw the British fleet in pursuit and attempted to retreat home to the port of Cadiz. As they fled, Rodney decided to ignore the accepted rules of naval engagement, which involved two lines of ships bombarding one another with cannon much like two lines of infantry confronting one another across a battlefield. Instead, he decided to attempt to overtake of the Spanish ships by giving orders of general chase–having each British ship chase the Spanish fleet to the best of its ability. The British hounded the Spanish until 2 a.m., when the Spaniards finally surrendered.
Four Spanish battleships and two frigates escaped capture, but the British took De Langara’s flagship and five others before running into shoals and ending the chase. One Spanish ship with its entire crew was lost in battle. Thirty-two Britons died, and 102 were wounded.
Credit for the British victory belongs not only to their greater number of ships and Admiral Rodney’s decision to give chase, but also to the British ships’ barnacle-free copper bottoms, which allowed them to outpace the less technologically advanced Spanish fleet. The fact that the two fleets engaged in battle overnight was an anomaly in 18th-century sea warfare, and earned the encounter the title The Moonlight Battle, and a painting by Francis Holman, despite its comparative insignificance in the Revolutionary War.
- JAN 16 1861 – Civil War: Crittenden Compromise is killed in Senate » The last chance to keep North and South united, dies in the U.S. Senate. Proposed by Senator John J. Crittenden of Kentucky, the compromise was a series of constitutional amendments. The amendments would continue the old Missouri Compromise provisions of 1820, which divided the West along the latitude of 36 30′. North of this line, slavery was prohibited. The Missouri Compromise was negated by the Compromise of 1850, which allowed a vote by territorial residents (popular sovereignty) to decide the issue of slavery. Other amendments protected slavery in the District of Columbia, forbade federal interference with the interstate slave trade, and compensated owners whose slaves escaped to the free states.
Essentially, the Crittenden Compromise sought to alleviate all concerns of the Southern states. Four states had already left the Union when it was proposed, but Crittenden hoped the compromise would lure them back. Crittenden thought he could muster support from both South and North and avert either a split of the nation or a civil war. The major problem with the plan was that it called for a complete compromise by the Republicans with virtually no concessions on the part of the South. The Republican Party formed in 1854 for the main purpose of opposing the expansion of slavery into the Western territories, particularly the areas north of the Missouri Compromise line. Just six years later, the party elected a president, Abraham Lincoln, over the opposition of the slave states. Crittenden was asking the Republicans to abandon their most key issues.
The vote was 25 against the compromise and 23 in favor of it. All 25 votes against it were cast by Republicans, and six senators from states that were in the process of seceding abstained. One Republican editorial insisted that the party “cannot be made to surrender the fruits of its recent victory.” There would be no compromise; with the secession of states continuing, America marched inexorably towards civil war.
- JAN 16 1865 – Civil War: General William T. Sherman begins a march through the Carolinas.
- Jan 16 1916 – WWI: Montenegro capitulates to Austro-Hungarian forces » After an eight-day offensive that marked the beginning of a new, aggressive strategy in the region, Austro-Hungarian troops under commander in chief Franz Conrad von Hotzendorf take control of the Balkan state of Montenegro.
By the end of 1915, after initial setbacks, the Central Powers had completed their conquest of Serbia, the upstart Balkan country that they claimed had provoked the war in June 1914, when a Serbian nationalist had assassinated Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand. Despite their success in the Balkans, Conrad was incensed that the victories had been achieved largely by German, not Austrian, forces. He opposed the establishment of a joint German-Austrian command in the region, fearing, with reason, that Austria would be subordinated to its stronger ally. Relations between Conrad and his German counterpart, Erich von Falkenhayn, who sought to turn German energies more fully toward France and the Western Front, had become so strained that they ceased direct communication almost entirely for a full month from December 1915 to January 1916. During that time, Conrad proceeded to develop Austria’s strategy for early 1916, which was to capture Montenegro in the winter and then turn toward Italy with an attack in the Trentino.
On January 8, 1916, with a 500-gun artillery barrage, 45,000 Austrian troops and 5,000 Bosnian Muslims attacked Serbia’s ally, the neighboring state of Montenegro. Events unfolded quickly: Within 48 hours, the Montenegrins had retreated to their capital, Cetinje, after being driven from their fortresses at Mount Lovcen on the Adriatic Sea. Cetinje fell on 11 JAN and the end was already in sight. Montenegro surrendered on 16 JAN. When her emergency came, there was no one to help her, the American diplomat John Coolidge wrote of Montenegro, so she had to go.
- Jan 16 1940 – WW2: Hitler cancels an attack in the West due to bad weather and the capture of German attack plans in Belgium because the Allies knew of them as a result of a German plane crashing in Belgium in January 1940 – a copy of the plan was on board.
- Jan 16 1942– WW2: Japan’s advance into Burma begins » A Japanese battalion occupied Victoria Point, at the southern tip of Burma, giving them their first airfield inside the country. Tavoy fell on 19 JAN, isolating the garrison of Mergui, which had to be withdrawn by sea. This gave the Japanese control of three airfields, and allowed them to launch the first air raids on Rangoon. These first air raids ended with a rare Allied victory, as the radar assisted fighter squadrons based around Rangoon inflicted heavy losses on the Japanese, forcing them to abandon daylight raids until the radar was lost. The main purpose of the Japanese invasion of Burma was to cut the Burma Road, the one remaining land supply route to China.
- Jan 16 1944 – WW2: Eisenhower assumes supreme command of the Allied Expeditionary Force in Europe.
- Jan 16 1945 – WW2: Battle of the Bulge ends » The U.S. First and Third armies link up at Houffalize, effectively ending the Battle. Houffalize was secured by Combat Command A in the late hours of 16 JAN. The little town, a prewar resort with a population of 1,200, stands in the loop of the Ourthe River. Correspondent Harold Denny wrote that Houffalize appeared to be a “miniature St. Lo,” due to the extensive damage inflicted upon it by American air bombardment while it had been held by the Germans. The town, which traced its roots back to medieval times, was a major supply depot for the German Army during the Battle of the Bulge and also served as headquarters for the 116th Panzer Division in the struggle’s final stages.
Just before Houffalize fell to the Americans, most of its inhabitants had fled and were living in the nearby woods. U.S. air and artillery attacks had not spared a single building. Civilian survivors told the Americans that over 200 of their number had been killed and more than 300 wounded during the week before the town was occupied by American forces. Final resistance from the Germans was a running battle with a Tiger tank positioned on the main road leading into the town from the north. A Mark IV tank, situated in the town’s center near a roofless gray stone church, offered some parting shots before clanking its way east.
- Jan 16 1945 – WW2: Hitler descends into his bunker » Adolf Hitler takes to his underground bunker, where he remains for 105 days until he commits suicide. He retired to his bunker after deciding to remain in Berlin for the last great siege of the war. Fifty-five feet under the chancellery (Hitler’s headquarters as chancellor), the shelter contained 18 small rooms and was fully self-sufficient, with its own water and electrical supply. He left only rarely (once to decorate a squadron of Hitler Youth) and spent most of his time micromanaging what was left of German defenses and entertaining Nazi colleagues like Hermann Goering, Heinrich Himmler, and Joachim von Ribbentrop. Constantly at his side during this time were his companion, Eva Braun, and his Alsatian, Blondi.
On 29 APR, Hitler married Eva in their bunker hideaway. Eva Braun met Hitler while working as an assistant to Hitler’s official photographer. Braun spent her time with Hitler out of public view, entertaining herself by skiing and swimming. She had no discernible influence on Hitler’s political career but provided a certain domesticity to the life of the dictator. Loyal to the end, she refused to leave the bunker even as the Russians closed in.
Rear entrance to the Führerbunker in the garden of the Reich Chancellery. The bodies of Hitler and Eva Braun were burned in a shell hole in front of the emergency exit at left; the cone-shaped structure in the center served for ventilation, and as a bomb shelter for the guards.
Only hours after they were united in marriage, both Hitler and Eva committed suicide. Warned by officers that the Russians were only about a day from overtaking the chancellery and urged to escape to Berchtesgarden, a small town in the Bavarian Alps where Hitler owned a home, the dictator instead chose to take his life. Both he and his wife swallowed cyanide capsules (which had been tested for their efficacy on his “beloved” dog and her pups). For good measure, he shot himself with his pistol.
- Jan 16 1964 – Vietnam War: Johnson approves Oplan 34A » Oplan 34A covered operations to be conducted by South Vietnamese forces supported by the United States to gather intelligence and conduct sabotage to destabilize the North Vietnamese regime.
Actual operations began in February and involved raids by South Vietnamese commandos operating under U.S. orders against North Vietnamese coastal and island installations. Although American forces were not directly involved in the actual raids, U.S. Navy ships were on station to conduct electronic surveillance and monitor North Vietnamese defense responses under another program called Operation De Soto.
The Oplan 34A attacks played a major role in what became known as the Gulf of Tonkin Incident. On August 2, 1964, North Vietnamese patrol boats attacked the destroyer USS Maddox, which was conducting a De Soto mission in the area. Two days after the first attack, there was another incident that still remains unclear. The Maddox, joined by destroyer USS C. Turner Joy, engaged what were believed to be more attacking North Vietnamese patrol boats. Although it was questionable whether the second attack actually happened, the incident provided the rationale for retaliatory air attacks and the subsequent Tonkin Gulf Resolution, which became the basis for the initial escalation of the war in Vietnam and ultimately the insertion of U.S. combat troops into the area.
- Jan 16 1969 – Vietnam War: Agreement to open peace talks reached » In Paris it was agreed that representatives of the United States, South Vietnam, North Vietnam, and the National Liberation Front would sit at a circular table without nameplates, flags or markings.
The talks had been plagued from the beginning by procedural questions, and the participants literally jockeyed for desirable positions at the negotiating table. Prolonged discussions over the shape of the negotiating table were finally resolved by the placement of two square tables separated by a round table. Seemingly insignificant matters as the table placement and seating arrangement became fodder for many arguments between the delegations at the negotiations.
- Jan 16 1979 – U.S.*Iran: Shah flees Iran » Faced with an army mutiny and violent demonstrations against his rule, Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, the leader of Iran since 1941, is forced to flee the country. Fourteen days later, the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the spiritual leader of the Islamic revolution, returned after 15 years of exile and took control of Iran.
Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, Mohammad Mosaddeq, and Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini
In 1941, British and Soviet troops occupied Iran, and the first Pahlavi shah, who they regarded with suspicion, was forced to abdicate in favor of his son, Mohammad Reza. The new shah promised to act as a constitutional monarch but often meddled in the elected government’s affairs. After a Communist plot against him was thwarted in 1949, he took on even more powers. However, in the early 1950s, the shah was eclipsed by Mohammad Mosaddeq, a zealous Iranian nationalist who convinced the Parliament to nationalize Britain’s extensive oil interests in Iran. Mohammad Reza, who maintained close relations with Britain and the United States, opposed the decision. Nevertheless, he was forced in 1951 to appoint Mosaddeq premier, and two years of tension followed.
In August 1953, Mohammad Reza attempted to dismiss Mosaddeq, but the premier’s popular support was so great that the shah himself was forced out of Iran. A few days later, British and U.S. intelligence agents orchestrated a stunning coup d’etat against Mosaddeq, and the shah returned to take power as the sole leader of Iran. He repealed Mosaddeq’s legislation and became a close Cold War ally of the United States in the Middle East.
In 1963, the shah launched his “White Revolution,” a broad government program that included land reform, infrastructure development, voting rights for women, and the reduction of illiteracy. Although these programs were applauded by many in Iran, Islamic leaders were critical of what they saw as the westernization of Iran. Ruhollah Khomeini, a Shiite cleric, was particularly vocal in his criticism and called for the overthrow of the shah and the establishment of an Islamic state. In 1964, Khomeini was exiled and settled across the border in Iraq, where he sent radio messages to incite his supporters.
The shah saw himself foremost as a Persian king and in 1971 held an extravagant celebration of the 2,500th anniversary of the pre-Islamic Persian monarchy. In 1976, he formally replaced the Islamic calendar with a Persian calendar. Religious discontent grew, and the shah became more repressive, using his brutal secret police force to suppress opposition. This alienated students and intellectuals in Iran, and support for Khomeini grew. Discontent was also rampant in the poor and middle classes, who felt that the economic developments of the White Revolution had only benefited the ruling elite. In 1978, anti-shah demonstrations broke out in Iran’s major cities.
On September 8, 1978, the shah’s security force fired on a large group of demonstrators, killing hundreds and wounding thousands. Two months later, thousands took to the streets of Tehran, rioting and destroying symbols of westernization, such as banks and liquor stores. Khomeini called for the shah’s immediate overthrow, and on 11 DEC a group of soldiers mutinied and attacked the shah’s security officers. With that, his regime collapsed and the shah fled.
The shah traveled to several countries before entering the United States in October 1979 for medical treatment of his cancer. In Tehran, Islamic militants responded on 4 NOV by storming the U.S. embassy and taking the staff hostage. With the approval of Khomeini, the militants demanded the return of the shah to Iran to stand trial for his crimes. The United States refused to negotiate, and 52 American hostages were held for 444 days. Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi died in Egypt in July 1980.
- Jan 16 1990 – Russia*Azerbaijan: Soviets send troops into Azerbaijan » In the wake of vicious fighting between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces in Azerbaijan, the Soviet government sends in 11,000 troops to quell the conflict. The fighting–and the official Soviet reaction to it–was an indication of the increasing ineffectiveness of the central Soviet government in maintaining control in the Soviet republics, and of Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev’s weakening political power.
Strife in Azerbaijan was the result of centuries of tensions between the Islamic Azerbaijanis and the Christian Armenians. Since the Russian Revolution in 1917, the communist regime managed to maintain relative peace between the two groups, but with the gradual weakening of the Soviet Union during the late-1980s, ethnic rivalries began to re-emerge. In its weakened state, the Soviet Union chose to only partially involve itself in the conflict. The approach was unusual–had it occurred under the strict communist regime of the Cold War’s peak, such a tense internal conflict would likely have been immediately and forcefully quelled.
In the latest outbreak of violence, Armenians took the brunt of the attacks and nearly 60 people were killed. Armenian spokesmen condemned the lack of action on the part of the Gorbachev regime and pleaded for military intervention. Soviet officials, however, were not eager to leap into the ethnic fray and attempted to downplay the seriousness of the situation in the press. One Soviet official declared that the fighting in Azerbaijan was not a “civil war,” but merely “national strife.” Some Gorbachev supporters even voiced the suspicion that the violence in the region was being stirred up by anti-Gorbachev activists merely to discredit the regime. Gorbachev dispatched 11,000 Soviet troops to quiet the situation, and the United States government supported his action as a humanitarian response to the killings and terror.
The troops Gorbachev sent did little to alleviate the situation–over the next two years, ethnic violence in Azerbaijan continued, and the weakening Soviet regime was unable to bring a lasting resolution to the situation. Less than two years later, Gorbachev resigned from power and the Soviet Union ceased to exist.
- Jan 16 1991 – U.S.*Iraq: Bush waits for deadline in Iraq » President George Herbert Walker Bush waits to see if Iraq will withdraw from Kuwait by midnight, a deadline mandated by the United Nations, or if war will ensue.
Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein and hard-liner Iraqi nationalists did believe Kuwait should be part of Iraq, but acquiring control of Kuwait’s oil fields was Hussein’s primary interest. Control of Kuwait also represented a strategic military objective should Iraq be forced into a war with its western-friendly Arab neighbors. Hussein calculated, incorrectly, that the United States and the United Nations, who were closely tracking the military buildup along Kuwait’s borders, would not try to stop him. When Iraqi ground forces entered Kuwait on August 2, 1990, President Bush immediately proclaimed that the invasion would not stand and vowed to help Saudi Arabia and Kuwait in their efforts to force the Iraqis from Kuwaiti land. To that end, Bush authorized an increase in U.S. troops and resources in the Persian Gulf in the following months.
On 29 NOV, the United Nations Security Council authorized the use of all means necessary to remove Hussein’s forces from Kuwait, giving Iraq the deadline of midnight on 6 JAN to leave or risk forcible removal. After negotiations between U.S. Secretary of State James Baker and Iraqi Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz failed, Congress authorized President Bush to use American troops in the coming conflict.
- Jan 16 1991 – U.S.*Iraq: The Persian Gulf War begins » At midnight in Iraq, the United Nations deadline for the Iraqi withdrawal from Kuwait expires, and the Pentagon prepares to commence offensive operations to forcibly eject Iraq from its five-month occupation of its oil-rich neighbor. At 4:30 p.m. EST, the first fighter aircraft were launched from Saudi Arabia and off U.S. and British aircraft carriers in the Persian Gulf on bombing missions over Iraq. All evening, aircraft from the U.S.-led military coalition pounded targets in and around Baghdad as the world watched the events transpire in television footage transmitted live via satellite from Baghdad and elsewhere. At 7:00 p.m., Operation Desert Storm, the code name for the massive U.S.-led offensive against Iraq, was formally announced at the White House.
Saddam Hussein (left) grew up in a poor family. As a boy he was forced to steal eggs and chickens so the family could eat. In his late childhood he became a gun man for the Ba’ath Party and was involved in an assassination attempt on a military leader in Iraq. Saddam (center left) formally rose to power in 1979, although he had already been the de facto head of Iraq for several years. Statue of Saddam being toppled in Firdos Square (center right) after the invasion, and shortly after capture (right) in DEC 2003
The operation was conducted by an international coalition under the command of U.S. General Norman Schwarzkopf and featured forces from 32 nations, including Britain, Egypt, France, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait. During the next six weeks, the allied force engaged in a massive air war against Iraq’s military and civil infrastructure, and encountered little effective resistance from the Iraqi air force or air defenses. Iraqi ground forces were helpless during this stage of the war, and Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein’s only significant retaliatory measure was the launching of SCUD missile attacks against Israel and Saudi Arabia. Saddam hoped that the missile attacks would provoke Israel to enter the conflict, thus dissolving Arab support of the war. At the request of the United States, however, Israel remained out of the war.
On 24 FEB, a massive coalition ground offensive began, and Iraq’s outdated and poorly supplied armed forces were rapidly overwhelmed. Kuwait was liberated in less than four days, and a majority of Iraq’s armed forces surrendered, retreated into Iraq, or were destroyed. Following an intense bombing of Baghdad, U.S.-led coalition ground forces marched into Kuwait and across the Iraq border. Regular Iraqi troops surrendered in droves, leaving only Hussein’s hard-line Republican Guard to defend the capital. After pushing Hussein’s forces out of Kuwait, Schwarzkopf called a ceasefire and accepted the surrender of Iraqi generals on 3 MAR. Iraq pledged to honor future coalition and U.N. peace terms. One hundred and twenty-five American soldiers were killed in the Persian Gulf War, with another 21 regarded as missing in action.
On March 20, 2003, a second war between Iraq and a U.S.-led coalition began, this time with the stated U.S. objective of removing Saddam Hussein from power and, ostensibly, finding and destroying the country’s weapons of mass destruction. Hussein was captured by a U.S. military unit on December 13, 2003. No weapons of mass destruction were found. Although U.S. President George W. Bush declared an end to major combat operations in Iraq on May 1, 2003, an insurgency has continued an intense guerrilla war in the nation that has resulted in thousands of coalition military, insurgent and civilian deaths.
- Jan 16 2001 – Spanish American War: Theodore Roosevelt MOH » US President Bill Clinton awards former President Theodore Roosevelt a posthumous Medal of Honor for his service in the Spanish American War.
On July 1, 1898 the Rough Riders and several other Regular Army units charged Spanish entrenchments overlooking the city of Santiago, driving the enemy from their positions. Teddy led the charge as the only man on horseback. With the help of fire support from a battery of Gatling guns, the Americans took the San Juan Heights – also known as “Kettle Hill” – and Roosevelt achieved much of the renown for leading the charge and his enthusiastic conduct during the fight.
Afterwards, Roosevelt was recommended for the Congressional Medal of Honor by the chain of command in Cuba: Brigadier General Leonard Wood, who had won the Medal of Honor fighting the Apaches; Major General Samuel S. Sumner, an eyewitness to the San Juan Heights battle; Major General “Fighting Joe” Wheeler; and Major General William R. Shafter, Teddy’s immediate superior who had himself won the Medal of Honor in the Civil War. The recommendation was, however, rejected.
The probable reason is that TR had sent a telegram and a letter to Secretary of War Russell A. Alger strongly urging that American troops, ravaged by tropical diseases, be immediately returned to the United States now that the fighting was over. (TR himself contracted malaria, which remained with him the rest of his life). General Shafter leaked these messages to the press, thereby embarrassing and infuriating Secretary of War Alger as well as President William McKinley. Alger was subsequently forced to resign from the cabinet after an investigating commission exposed his incompetence at the War Department.
In the “Fiscal Year 1996 National Defense Authorization Act,” passed by Congress on February 10, 1996, the statute of limitations on military decorations was repealed. The legislation was passed primarily because of the failure of the United States to award the Medal of Honor to worthy African Americans during World War II and the Korean War, but the 1996 Congressional measure potentially opened the door for the consideration of any case from the past involving military decorations. Over the next five years, legislation was introduced to give Teddy the award. Once more, the Army opposed the retroactive recognition.
Finally, legislation was passed at the end of 1998, recommending a board of review be formed to receive new evidence. The board recommended the award for Teddy, but it was still almost 2 years before the Clinton Administration acted. Four days before he would leave office – President Bill Clinton held a ceremony in the Roosevelt Room of the White House. Attended by many Roosevelt family members, the President presented the Medal of Honor to Tweed Roosevelt, Teddy’s great-grandson.
- Jan 17 1781 – Revolutionary War: Battle of Cowpins SC » The militia’s defeat of a battle–hardened force of British regulars in South Carolina was the turning point of the war in the south. Casualties and losses: US 149 – GB 1,168
This depiction of the Battle of Cowpens shows an unnamed black soldier (left) firing his pistol
and saving the life of Colonel William Washington
- Jan 17 1865 – Civil War: Sherman’s army rained in » In the fall of 1864, Sherman and his army marched across Georgia and destroyed nearly everything in their path. Sherman reasoned that the war would end sooner if the conflict were taken to the civilian South, a view shared by President Abraham Lincoln and General-in-Chief Ulysses S. Grant. Sherman’s men tore up railroads, burned grain stores, carried away livestock, and left plantations in ruins. The Yankees captured the port city of Savannah just before Christmas, and Sherman paused for three weeks to rest and resupply his troops.
After this rest, Sherman planned to move into the Carolinas and subject those states to the same brutal treatment that Georgia received. His 60,000 troops were divided into two wings. General Oliver O. Howard was to take two corps and move northeast to Charleston, South Carolina, while General Henry Slocum was to move northwest toward Augusta, Georgia. These were just diversions to the main target: Columbia, South Carolina.
As Sherman was preparing to move, the rains began. On January 17, the Yankees waited while heavy rains pelted the region. The downpour lasted for10 days, the heaviest rainfall in 20 years. Some of Sherman’s aides thought a winter campaign in the Carolinas would be difficult with such wet weather, but Sherman had spent four years in Charleston as a young lieutenant in the army, and believed that the march was possible. He also possessed an army that was ready to continue its assault on the Confederacy. Sherman wrote to his wife that he “…never saw a more confident army…The soldiers think I know everything and that they can do anything.”
Sherman’s army did not begin moving until the end of January 1865. When the army finally did move, it conducted a campaign against South Carolina that was worse than the one against Georgia. Sherman wanted to exact revenge on the state that had led secession and started the war by firing on Fort Sumter.
- Jan 17 1893 – U.S.*Republic of Hawaii: Americans overthrow Hawaiian monarchy » On the Hawaiian Islands, a group of American sugar planters under Sanford Ballard Dole overthrow Queen Liliuokalani, the Hawaiian monarch, and establish a new provincial government with Dole as president. The coup occurred with the foreknowledge of John L. Stevens, the U.S. minister to Hawaii, and 300 U.S. Marines from the U.S. cruiser Boston were called to Hawaii, allegedly to protect American lives.
The first known settlers of the Hawaiian Islands were Polynesian voyagers who arrived sometime in the eighth century, and in the early 18th century the first American traders came to Hawaii to exploit the islands’ sandalwood, which was much valued in China at the time. In the 1830s, the sugar industry was introduced to Hawaii and by the mid-19th century had become well established. American missionaries and planters brought about great changes in Hawaiian political, cultural, economic, and religious life, and in 1840 a constitutional monarchy was established, stripping the Hawaiian monarch of much of his authority. Four years later, Sanford B. Dole was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, to American parents.
Sanford B. Dole and Queen Liliuokalani
During the next four decades, Hawaii entered into a number of political and economic treaties with the United States, and in 1887 a U.S. naval base was established at Pearl Harbor as part of a new Hawaiian constitution. Sugar exports to the United States expanded greatly during the next four years, and U.S. investors and American sugar planters on the islands broadened their domination over Hawaiian affairs. However, in 1891 Liliuokalani, the sister of the late King Kalakaua, ascended to the throne, refusing to recognize the constitution of 1887 and replacing it with a constitution increasing her personal authority.
In January 1893, a revolutionary “Committee of Safety,” organized by Sanford B. Dole, staged a coup against Queen Liliuokalani with the tacit support of the United States. On February 1, Minister John Stevens recognized Dole’s new government on his own authority and proclaimed Hawaii a U.S. protectorate. Dole submitted a treaty of annexation to the U.S. Senate, but most Democrats opposed it, especially after it was revealed that most Hawaiians did want annexation.
President Grover Cleveland sent a new U.S. minister to Hawaii to restore Queen Liliuokalani to the throne under the 1887 constitution, but Dole refused to step aside and instead proclaimed the independent Republic of Hawaii. Cleveland was unwilling to overthrow the government by force, and his successor, President William McKinley, negotiated a treaty with the Republic of Hawaii in 1897. In 1898, the Spanish-American War broke out, and the strategic use of the naval base at Pearl Harbor during the war convinced Congress to approve formal annexation. Two years later, Hawaii was organized into a formal U.S. territory and in 1959 entered the United States as the 50th state.
- Jan 17 1899 – Wake Island: The United States takes possession of Wake Island in the Pacific Ocean.
- Jan 17 1939 – Germany: The Reich issues an order forbidding Jews to practice as dentists, veterinarians and chemists.
- Jan 17 1944 – WW2: Battle of Monte Cassino, Italy begins.
- Jan 17 1944 – WW2: Allied forces launch the first of four battles with the intention of breaking through the Winter Line and seizing Rome, an effort that would ultimately take four months and cost 105,000 Allied casualties.
- Jan 17 1945 – WW2: At Saint-Valery-en-Caux, a commune in the Seine-Maritime department in the Normandy region in northern France, the railway station was destroyed when a runaway train full of American troops crashed into it. Eighty-nine American soldiers were killed and 152 were injured.
- Jan 17 1945 – WW2: The Nazis begin the evacuation of the Auschwitz concentration camp as Soviet forces close in.
- Jan 17 1945 – WW2. Soviets capture Warsaw » Soviet troops liberate the Polish capital from German occupation. Warsaw was a battleground since the opening day of fighting in the European theater. Germany declared war by launching an air raid on September 1, 1939, and followed up with a siege that killed tens of thousands of Polish civilians and wreaked havoc on historic monuments. Deprived of electricity, water, and food, and with 25 percent of the city’s homes destroyed, Warsaw surrendered to the Germans on September 27.
The USSR had snatched a part of eastern Poland as part of the “fine print” of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact (also known as the Hitler-Stalin Pact) signed in August 1939, but soon after found itself at war with its “ally.” In August 1944, the Soviets began pushing the Germans west, advancing on Warsaw. The Polish Home Army, fearful that the Soviets would march on Warsaw to battle the Germans and never leave the capital, led an uprising against the German occupiers. The Polish residents hoped that if they could defeat the Germans themselves, the Allies would help install the Polish anticommunist government-in-exile after the war. Unfortunately, the Soviets, rather than aiding the Polish uprising, which they encouraged in the name of beating back their common enemy, stood idly by and watched as the Germans slaughtered the Poles and sent survivors to concentration camps. This destroyed any native Polish resistance to a pro-Soviet communist government, an essential part of Stalin’s postwar territorial designs.
After Stalin mobilized 180 divisions against the Germans in Poland and East Prussia, Gen. Georgi Zhukov’s troops crossed the Vistula north and south of the Polish capital, liberating the city from Germans—and grabbing it for the USSR. By that time, Warsaw’s prewar population of approximately 1.3 million had been reduced to a mere 153,000.
- Jan 17 1961 – Cold War: Eisenhower warns of the “military-industrial complex” » In his farewell address to the nation, President Dwight D. Eisenhower warns the American people to keep a careful eye on what he calls the “military-industrial complex” that has developed in the post-World War II years.
A fiscal conservative, Eisenhower had been concerned about the growing size and cost of the American defense establishment since he became president in 1953. In his last presidential address to the American people, he expressed those concerns in terms that frankly shocked some of his listeners.
Eisenhower began by describing the changing nature of the American defense establishment since World War II. No longer could the U.S. afford the “emergency improvisation” that characterized its preparations for war against Germany and Japan. Instead, the United States was “compelled to create a permanent armaments industry” and a huge military force. He admitted that the Cold War made clear the “imperative need for this development,” but he was gravely concerned about “the acquisition of unwarranted influence…by the military-industrial complex.” In particular, he asked the American people to guard against the “danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite.”
Eisenhower’s blunt language stunned some of his supporters. They believed that the man who led the country to victory in Europe in World War II and guided the nation through some of the darkest moments of the Cold War was too negative toward the military-industrial complex that was the backbone of America’s defense. For most listeners, however, it seemed clear that Eisenhower was merely stating the obvious. World War II and the ensuing Cold War resulted in the development of a large and powerful defense establishment. Necessary though that development might be, Eisenhower warned, this new military-industrial complex could weaken or destroy the very institutions and principles it was designed to protect.
- Jan 17 1966 – Cold War: Soviet leader Khrushchev visits the Berlin Wall.
- Jan 17 1966 – Cold War: H-Bomb lost in Spain » A B-52 bomber collides with a KC-135 jet tanker over Spain’s Mediterranean coast, dropping three 70-kiloton hydrogen bombs near the town of Palomares and one in the sea. It was not the first or last accident involving American nuclear bombs.
As a means of maintaining first-strike capability during the Cold War, U.S. bombers laden with nuclear weapons circled the earth ceaselessly for decades. In a military operation of this magnitude, it was inevitable that accidents would occur. The Pentagon admits to more than three-dozen accidents in which bombers either crashed or caught fire on the runway, resulting in nuclear contamination from a damaged or destroyed bomb and/or the loss of a nuclear weapon. One of the only “Broken Arrows” to receive widespread publicity occurred on January 17, 1966, when a B-52 bomber crashed into a KC-135 jet tanker over Spain.
The bomber was returning to its North Carolina base following a routine airborne alert mission along the southern route of the Strategic Air Command when it attempted to refuel with a jet tanker. The B-52 collided with the fueling boom of the tanker, ripping the bomber open and igniting the fuel. The KC-135 exploded, killing all four of its crew members, but four members of the seven-man B-52 crew managed to parachute to safety. None of the bombs were armed, but explosive material in two of the bombs that fell to earth exploded upon impact, forming craters and scattering radioactive plutonium over the fields of Palomares. A third bomb landed in a dry riverbed and was recovered relatively intact. The fourth bomb fell into the sea at an unknown location.
Palomares, a remote fishing and farming community, was soon filled with nearly 2,000 U.S. military personnel and Spanish civil guards who rushed to clean up the debris and decontaminate the area. The U.S. personnel took precautions to prevent overexposure to the radiation, but the Spanish workers, who lived in a country that lacked experience with nuclear technology, did not. Eventually some 1,400 tons of radioactive soil and vegetation were shipped to the United States for disposal.
Meanwhile, at sea, 33 U.S. Navy vessels were involved in the search for the lost hydrogen bomb. Using an IBM computer, experts tried to calculate where the bomb might have landed, but the impact area was still too large for an effective search. Finally, an eyewitness account by a Spanish fisherman led the investigators to a one-mile area. On March 15, a submarine spotted the bomb, and on April 7 it was recovered. It was damaged but intact.
The B28RI nuclear bomb, recovered from 2,850 feet (870 m) of water, on the deck of the USS Petrel.
Studies on the effects of the nuclear accident on the people of Palomares were limited, but the United States eventually settled some 500 claims by residents whose health was adversely affected. Because the accident happened in a foreign country, it received far more publicity than did the dozen or so similar crashes that occurred within U.S. borders. As a security measure, U.S. authorities do not announce nuclear weapons accidents, and some American citizens may have unknowingly been exposed to radiation that resulted from aircraft crashes and emergency bomb jettisons. Today, two hydrogen bombs and a uranium core lie in yet undetermined locations in the Wassaw Sound off Georgia, in the Puget Sound off Washington, and in swamplands near Goldsboro, North Carolina.
- Jan 17 1971 – Vietnam War: South Vietnamese forces raid POW camp » Led by South Vietnamese Lt. Gen. Do Cao Tri, and with U.S. air support and advisers, some 300 paratroopers raid a communist prisoner of war camp near the town of Mimot in Cambodia on information that 20 U.S. prisoners were being held there. They found the camp empty, but captured 30 enemy soldiers and sustained no casualties.
- Jan 17 1972 – Vietnam War: Nixon threatens President Thieu » The U.S. president warns South Vietnamese President Nguyen Van Thieu in a private letter that his refusal to sign any negotiated peace agreement would render it impossible for the United States to continue assistance to South Vietnam.
Nixon’s National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger had been working behind the scenes in secret negotiations with North Vietnamese representatives in Paris to reach a settlement to end the war. However, Thieu stubbornly refused to even discuss any peace proposal that recognized the Viet Cong as a viable participant in the post-war political solution in South Vietnam. As it turned out, the secret negotiations were not close to reaching an agreement because the North Vietnamese launched a massive invasion of South Vietnam in March 1972. With the help of U.S. airpower and advisers on the ground, the South Vietnamese withstood the North Vietnamese attack, and by December, Kissinger and North Vietnamese representatives were back in Paris and close to an agreement.
Among Thieu’s demands was the request that all North Vietnamese troops had to be withdrawn from South Vietnam before he would agree to any peace settlement. The North Vietnamese walked out of the negotiations in protest. In response, President Nixon initiated Operation Linebacker II, a massive bombing campaign against Hanoi, to force the North Vietnamese back to the negotiating table. After 11 days of intense bombing, Hanoi agreed to return to the talks in Paris. When Kissinger and Le Duc Tho, the main North Vietnamese negotiator, met again in early January, they quickly worked out a settlement. The Paris Peace Accords were signed on 23 JAN and a cease-fire went into effect five days later.
Again, President Thieu refused to sign the Accords, but Nixon promised to come to the aid of South Vietnam if the communists violated the terms of the peace treaty, and Thieu agreed to sign. Unfortunately for Thieu and the South Vietnamese, Nixon was forced from office by the Watergate scandal in August 1974, and no U.S. aid came when the North Vietnamese launched a general offensive in March 1975. South Vietnam succumbed in 55 days.
- Jan 17 1991 – Persian Gulf War: Allies start Operation Desert Storm with air attacks on Iraq. Iraq fires 8 Scud missiles into Israel in an unsuccessful bid to provoke Israeli retaliation. The coalition flew over 100,000 sorties dropping 88,500 tons of bombs.
- Jan 17 1992 – Japan*Korea: During a visit to South Korea, Japanese Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa apologizes for forcing Korean women into sexual slavery during World War II.
- Jan 17 2007 – Cold War: The Doomsday Clock is set to five minutes to midnight in response to North Korea nuclear testing.
- Jan 18 1776 – American Revolution: Georgia’s royal governor is arrested » the Council of Safety in Savannah, Georgia, issues an arrest warrant for the colony’s royal governor, James Wright. Patriots led by Major Joseph Habersham of the Provincial Congress then took Wright into custody and placed him under house arrest. Wright remained under guard in the governor’s mansion in Savannah until February 11, 1776, when he escaped to the British man-of-war, HMS Scarborough. After failing to negotiate a settlement with the revolutionary congress, he sailed for London.
On December 29, 1778, Wright returned with troops and was able to retake Savannah. Although Georgia was never fully under his control, Wright again served as royal governor until July 11, 1782, when the British voluntarily abandoned Savannah before Continental General Mad Anthony Wayne could take the city by force. Wayne had already defeated British, Loyalist and allied Indian forces who, combined, outnumbered Patriots by at least 2 to 1, as he progressed through Georgia following the Battle of Yorktown. Facing likely defeat at Wayne’s hands, Wright retired to London, where he died on November 20, 1785.
Wright was the only royal governor to successfully oversee the use of the hated stamps mandated by the Stamp Act of 1765. When Wright recaptured Savannah and was reinstated as the royal governor of Georgia in 1778, he also made Georgia the only colony to return to imperial rule following a Patriot uprising. Georgians seemed to be of mixed mind regarding independence–despite these instances of loyalty to the crown, Georgia was one of the first colonies to argue for a declaration of independence from Britain in early 1776
- Jan 18 1911 – U.S. Navy: Naval Lieutenant Eugene Ely became the first man ever to land an airplane on the deck of a ship, the converted cruiser USS Pennsylvania, in San Francisco Bay.
First fixed-wing aircraft landing on a warship
- Jan 18 1919 – WWI: Post-World War I peace conference begins in Paris » In Paris, France, some of the most powerful people in the world meet to begin the long, complicated negotiations that would officially mark the end of the First World War.
Leaders of the victorious Allied powers–France, Great Britain, the United States and Italy–would make most of the crucial decisions in Paris over the next six months. For most of the conference, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson struggled to support his idea of a “peace without victory” and make sure that Germany, the leader of the Central Powers and the major loser of the war, was not treated too harshly. On the other hand, Prime Ministers Georges Clemenceau of France and David Lloyd George of Britain argued that punishing Germany adequately and ensuring its weakness was the only way to justify the immense costs of the war. In the end, Wilson compromised on the treatment of Germany in order to push through the creation of his pet project, an international peacekeeping organization called the League of Nations.
Representatives from Germany were excluded from the peace conference until May, when they arrived in Paris and were presented with a draft of the Versailles Treaty. Having put great faith in Wilson’s promises, the Germans were deeply frustrated and disillusioned by the treaty, which required them to forfeit a great deal of territory and pay reparations. Even worse, the infamous Article 231 forced Germany to accept sole blame for the war. This was a bitter pill many Germans could not swallow.
The Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919, five years to the day after a Serbian nationalist’s bullet ended the life of Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand and sparked the beginning of World War I. In the decades to come, anger and resentment of the treaty and its authors festered in Germany. Extremists like Adolf Hitler’s National Socialist (Nazi) Party capitalized on these emotions to gain power, a process that led almost directly to the exact thing Wilson and the other negotiators in Paris in 1919 had wanted to prevent–a second, equally devastating global war.
- Jan 18 1942 – WW2: General MacArthur repels the Japanese in Bataan.
- Jan 18 1943 – WW2: Germans resume deportations from Warsaw to Treblinka » The deportation of Jews from the Warsaw ghetto to the concentration camp at Treblinka is resumed—but not without much bloodshed and resistance along the way.
On July 18, 1942, Heinrich Himmler promoted Auschwitz camp commandant Rudolf Hess to SS major. He also ordered that the Warsaw ghetto, the Jewish quarter constructed by the Nazis upon the occupation of Poland and enclosed first by barbed wire and then by brick walls, be depopulated—a “total cleansing,” as he described it. The inhabitants were to be transported to what became a second extermination camp constructed at the railway village of Treblinka, 62 miles northeast of Warsaw.
Within the first seven weeks of Himmler’s order, more than 250,000 Jews were taken to Treblinka by rail and gassed to death, marking the largest single act of destruction of any population group, Jewish or non-Jewish, civilian or military, in the war. Upon arrival at “T. II,” as this second camp at Treblinka was called, prisoners were separated by sex, stripped, and marched into what were described as “bathhouses,” but were in fact gas chambers. T. II’s first commandant was Dr. Irmfried Eberl, age 32, the man who had headed up the euthanasia program of 1940 and had much experience with the gassing of victims, especially children. He was assisted in his duties by several hundred Ukrainian and about 1,500 Jewish prisoners, who removed gold teeth from victims before hauling the bodies to mass graves.
In January 1943, after a four-month hiatus, the deportations started up again. A German SS unit entered the ghetto and began rounding up its denizens—but they did not go without a fight. Six hundred Jews were killed in the streets as they struggled with the Germans. Rebels with smuggled firearms opened fire on the SS troops. The Germans returned fire—machine-gun fire against the Jews’ pistol shots. Nine Jewish rebels fell—as did several Germans. The fighting continued for days, with the Jews refusing to surrender and even taking arms from their Germans persecutors in surprise attacks.
Amazingly, the Germans withdrew from the ghetto in the face of the unexpected resistance. They likely did not realize how few armed resisters there were, but the fact that resistance was given at all intimidated them. But there was no happy ending. Before this new incursion into the ghetto was over, 6,000 more Jews were transported to their likely deaths at Treblinka.
- Jan 18 1943 – WW2: The German Army launches its second attempt to relieve the besieged city of Budapest from the advancing Red Army.
- Jan 18 1945– WW2: Holocaust » As Soviet units approach, between 18 and 27 JAN the SS evacuates to the west the prisoners of the Auschwitz concentration camp complex. Tens of thousands of prisoners, mostly Jews, are forced to march to the cities of Wodzislaw and Gliwice in the western part of Upper Silesia. During the march, SS guards shoot anyone who cannot continue. In Wodzislaw and Gliwice, the prisoners were put on unheated freight trains and deported to concentration camps in Germany, particularly to Flossenbürg, Sachsenhausen, Gross-Rosen, Buchenwald, and Dachau, and to Mauthausen in Austria. In all, nearly 60,000 prisoners are forced on death marches from the Auschwitz camp system. As many as 15,000 die during the forced marches. Thousands more were killed in the days before the evacuation.
- Jan 18 1950 – Vietnam War: China and Soviet Union recognize Democratic Republic of Vietnam » People’s Republic of China formally recognizes the communist Democratic Republic of Vietnam and agrees to furnish it military assistance; the Soviet Union extended diplomatic recognition to Hanoi on January 30. China and the Soviet Union provided massive military and economic aid to North Vietnam, which enabled North Vietnam to fight first the French and then the Americans. Chinese aid to North Vietnam between 1950 and 1970 is estimated at $20 billion. It is thought that China provided approximately three-quarters of the total military aid given to Hanoi since 1949, with the Soviets providing most of the rest. It would have been impossible for the North Vietnamese to continue the war without the aid from both the Chinese and Soviets.
- Jan 18 1962 – Vietnam War: The United States begins spraying foliage with herbicides in South Vietnam, in order to reveal the whereabouts of Vietcong guerrillas.
- Jan 18 1971 – Vietnam War: McGovern begins his presidential campaign » In a televised speech, Senator George S. McGovern (D-SD) begins his antiwar campaign for the 1972 Democratic presidential nomination by vowing to bring home all U.S. soldiers from Vietnam if he is elected. McGovern won his party’s nomination, but was defeated in the general election by incumbent Richard Nixon.
With only 55 percent of the electorate voting–the lowest turnout since 1948–Nixon carried all states but Massachusetts, taking 97 percent of the electoral votes. During the campaign, Nixon pledged to secure “peace with honor” in Vietnam. Aided by the potential for a peace agreement in the ongoing Paris negotiations and the upswing in the American economy, Nixon easily defeated McGovern, an outspoken dove whose party was divided over several issues, including McGovern’s extreme views on the war. McGovern said during the campaign, “If I were president, it would take me 24 hours and the stroke of a pen to terminate all military operations in Southeast Asia.” He further stated that he would withdraw all American troops within 90 days of taking office, whether or not U.S. POWs were released. To many Americans, including a large number of Democrats, McGovern’s position was tantamount to total capitulation in Southeast Asia. Given this alternative, most voters chose Nixon.
- Jan 18 1985 – U.S.*Nicaragua: United States walks out of World Court case » For the first time since joining the World Court in 1946, the United States walks out of a case. The case that caused the dramatic walkout concerned U.S. paramilitary activities against the Nicaraguan government.
For the Reagan administration, efforts to undermine the Sandinista government in Nicaragua had been a keystone of its anticommunist foreign policy since it took office in 1981. Policies designed to economically and diplomatically isolate the Nicaraguan government were combined with monetary and material aid to the “Contras,” a paramilitary anti-Sandinista force that carried out armed attacks against the Sandinistas. Although some of these U.S. efforts were public knowledge, others were covert and remained hidden from public view.
Charging that the Nicaraguan government was receiving weapons from the communist bloc and was using those arms to aid revolutions elsewhere in Central America, the Reagan administration even resorted to mining Nicaragua’s harbors. Infuriated by these acts, the Nicaraguan government appeared before the World Court and asked that orders be issued to the United States to cease the hostile activity and pay reparations for the damage.
On January 18, 1985, the United States walked out of the World Court, charging that the case was a “misuse of the court for political and propaganda purposes.” A State Department spokesperson stated that, “We profoundly hope that court does not go the way of other international organizations that have become politicized against the interests of the Western democracies.” Opponents of the Reagan policies roundly condemned the decision to walk out. Congressman Michael Barnes stated that he was “shocked and saddened that the Reagan Administration has so little confidence in its own policies that it chooses not even to defend them.”
The Reagan administration’s decision in regards to the World Court had little impact on the continuing conflict in Central America. The Court heard Nicaragua’s case and decided against the United States; it charged that the U.S. violated international law with its actions against the Sandinistas, and ordered it to pay reparations to Nicaragua in June 1986. The U.S. government ignored the decision. Meanwhile, the Contra actions in Nicaragua achieved little more than death and destruction, and Congress banned further U.S. military aid to the Contras in 1988.
- Jan 18 1991 – Iraq*Israel: Iraq starts firing Scud missiles at Israeli cities » In the predawn hours at the outbreak of the First Gulf War, the Iraqi army launched eight Scud missiles at Israel, hitting both Tel Aviv and Haifa, wounding seven people and causing damage to several residential buildings. Saddam Hussein’s military went on to fire 30 more Scuds at central Israeli cities, killing two people in direct hits and 11 others indirectly from heart attacks and asphyxiation, and raising the possibility that Jerusalem would conduct retaliatory airstrikes on Iraqi targets.
Ultimately, Israel did not carry out any strikes against Iraq, mostly in light of the US pressure against it.
- Jan 19 1764 – American Revolution: The British Parliament expels John Wilkes from its ranks for his reputedly libelous, seditious and pornographic writings. Over the next 12 years, Wilkes’ name became a byword for Parliamentary oppression both in Britain and in Britain’s North American colonies.
- Jan 19 1862 – Civil War: Battle of Logan’s Crossroads » Union General George Thomas defeats Confederates commanded by George Crittenden in southern Kentucky. The battle, also called Mill Springs or Beech Grove, secured Union control of the region and resulted in the death of Confederate General Felix Zollicoffer. He commanded a brigade that moved across the Cumberland River in November 1861 in order to control as much of Kentucky as possible. Crittenden was the key Confederate commander in the region, and he arrived in early January to supervise Rebel operations. Crittenden had initially ordered a withdrawal to the south bank of the Cumberland, butfound Zollicoffer’s force safely entrenched on the north bank of the river, which was running unusually high. Thomas’ Yankees were just10 miles north. Crittenden ordered Zollicoffer to advance, and Thomas’ scouts detected the move. Thomas sent his troops south, and the two forces collided early in the morning of 19 JAN.
The Confederates attacked the Union left flank, then the center. As additional Federal troops arrived, the tide of battle turned. At one point, Zollicoffer approached a unit that he thought was part of his army. It was the 4th Kentucky, a Union regiment. Before he and his entourage could flee, a volley killed Zollicoffer.Union troops pressed all along the line and the Confederates began to break en masse. Fortunately for the Confederates, Thomas’ troops were low on ammunition and could not take advantage of the situation. That night, Crittenden withdrew his forces across the swollen Cumberland but had to abandon most of the Rebel artillery and horses. The Confederates lost some 400 men in the engagement; the Yankees lost about 250. Crittenden was heavily criticized for the defeat and he resigned that fall. The Union retained control of Kentucky, but the engagement was a prelude to the much larger Battle of Shiloh in Tennessee in April 1862.
- Jan 19 1915 – WWI: First air raid on Britain » Britain suffers its first casualties from an air attack when two German zeppelins drop bombs on Great Yarmouth and King’s Lynn on the eastern coast of England. The zeppelin, a motor-driven rigid airship, was developed by German inventor Ferdinand Graf von Zeppelin in 1900. Although a French inventor had built a power-driven airship several decades before, the zeppelin’s rigid dirigible, with its steel framework, was by far the largest airship ever constructed. However, in the case of the zeppelin, size was exchanged for safety, as the heavy steel-framed airships were vulnerable to explosion because they had to be lifted by highly flammable hydrogen gas instead of non-flammable helium gas. In January 1915, Germany employed three zeppelins, the L.3, the L.4, and the L.6, in a two-day bombing mission against Britain. The L.6 turned back after encountering mechanical problems, but the other two zeppelins succeeded in dropping their bombs on English coastal towns.
- Jan 19 1941 – WW2: British forces in East Africa, acting on information obtained by breaking the Italians’ coded messages, invade Italian-occupied Eritrea. A solid step towards victory in Africa.
- Jan 19 1946 – WW2: General Douglas MacArthur establishes the International Military Tribunal for the Far East in Tokyo to try Japanese war criminals.
- Jan 19 1950 –Cold War: Communist China recognizes North Vietnam » The People’s Republic of China bestows diplomatic recognition upon the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. Communist China’s official recognition of Ho Chi Minh’s communist regime resulted in much needed financial and military assistance in Ho’s battle against the French in Vietnam, and also pushed the United States to take a more intensive and active role in the conflict in Southeast Asia.
French colonialists and Ho’s revolutionary forces had been fighting for control over Vietnam since the end of World War II. Although maintaining a neutral public stance, the administration of President Harry S. Truman was actually aiding the French with monetary and material assistance. As the battle dragged on, Ho’s government issued feelers to the newly established communist regime in China concerning diplomatic recognition and military and economic assistance. Despite their shared commitment to the communist ideology, the Chinese and Vietnamese also shared a long and acrimonious history of aggression and resistance, so it was not a guarantee that the request would be granted. China’s desire to play a larger role in Asian affairs, combined with its deepening suspicions of French and American designs in neighboring Vietnam, pushed it toward closer relations with Ho’s government. Shortly after the formal declaration of recognition, China began sending large quantities of military aid and many advisors into Vietnam.
The United States responded by taking a more active role in supporting the French in Vietnam. Two months after China’s decision to recognize North Vietnam, the Truman administration officially declared its support for the French and asked Congress for increased military assistance, which was provided. Both the United States and China dramatically increased their roles in Vietnam in the years to come-while China continued to offer support and aid to the communists in North Vietnam, the United States became increasingly involved in fighting the communist threat in the Vietnam War.
- Jan 19 1961 – Vietnam War: Eisenhower cautions successor about Laos » Outgoing President Dwight D. Eisenhower cautions incoming President John F. Kennedy that Laos is “the key to the entire area of Southeast Asia,” and might even require the direct intervention of U.S. combat troops. Fearing that the fall of Laos to the communist Pathet Lao forces might have a domino effect in Southeast Asia, President Kennedy sent a carrier task force to the Gulf of Siam in April 1961. However, he decided not to intervene in Laos with U.S. troops and in June 1961, he sent representatives to Geneva to work out a solution to the crisis. In 1962, an agreement was signed that called for the neutrality of Laos and set up a coalition government to run the country. By this time, Kennedy had turned his attention to South Vietnam, where a growing insurgency threatened to topple the pro-western government of Ngo Dinh Diem. Kennedy had already sent combat advisers to the South Vietnamese army and this commitment expanded over time. By the time Kennedy was assassinated in November 1963, he had overseen the assignment of over 17,000 U.S. advisers to South Vietnam.
- Jan 19 1968 – Vietnam War: Operation McLain is launched » “Sky Soldiers” from the 173rd Airborne Brigade begin Operation McLain with a reconnaissance-in-force operation in the Central Highlands. The purpose of this operation was to find and destroy the communist base camps in the area in order to promote better security for the province. The operation ended on January 31, 1970, with 1,042 enemy casualties.
- Jan 19 1977 – Post WWII: Ford pardons Tokyo Rose » Although the nickname originally referred to several Japanese women who broadcast Axis propaganda over the radio to Allied troops during World War II, it eventually became synonymous with a Japanese-American woman named Iva Toguri. On the orders of the Japanese government, Toguri and other women broadcast sentimental American music and phony announcements regarding U.S. troop losses in a vain attempt to destroy the morale of Allied soldiers.
Iva Toguri aka Tokjo Rose
An American citizen born in Los Angeles, Toguri was in Japan at the time the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. She graduated from UCLA in 1940 and hoped to become a doctor, but when an elderly aunt living in Japan became ill, Toguri’s family sent Toguri to take care of her. She left the United States in July 1941 carrying an identification card, but no passport. When rumblings of war between Japan and the U.S. reached a crescendo later that year, she tried to return to the U.S. but was denied because she did not have proof of citizenship.
Toguri experienced alienation in both the U.S. and Japan. Although an American citizen, she frequently encountered anti-Japanese racism while living in California. For their part, the Japanese government considered her an enemy alien and unsuccessfully tried to force her to renounce her U.S. citizenship. They also refused her request to be interned as a foreign national. Left to fend for herself in Japan, she found a job as a translator and typist for Radio Tokyo. Privately, Toguri refused to stifle her pro-American views on the war and as a result earned the trust of two Allied POWs who were forced to work at the station. The POWs were tortured until they agreed to write phony reports of Allied troop movements and casualty reports that a number of unidentified Tokyo Roses then broadcast. When the war ended, intense efforts to capture the notorious broadcasters began.
Upon her capture in 1945, Toguri insisted that she was forced into her traitorous role by the Japanese government and swore that she had never broadcast false military reports, limiting her shows to light musical fare while smuggling food and medicine to the Allied POWs. Nevertheless, Toguri was labeled a traitor for airing songs like My Resistance is Low. After a year’s imprisonment in Japan, Toguri was released and returned to the United States, only to be promptly re-arrested for treason. The judge, who later admitted having anti-Japanese prejudice, sentenced her to 10 years in prison and fined her $10,000. She was released early in 1956 for good behavior, but was immediately given an order deporting her back to Japan. Over the next 20 years, Toguri fought for a pardon from three presidential administrations with the help of family members, attorneys and the POWs she had helped at Radio Tokyo. Finally in 1977, after an episode of 60 Minutes was broadcast revealing Toguri’s true story and highlighting her ongoing fight for justice, President Gerald Ford granted her clemency just before leaving office.
- Jan 19 1977 – Post WWII: Butcher of Lyons arrested in Bolivia » Klaus Barbie, the Nazi Gestapo chief of Lyons, France, during the German occupation, is arrested in Bolivia for his crimes against humanity four decades earlier.
As chief of Nazi Germany’s secret police in occupied France, Barbie sent thousands of French Jews and French Resistance members to their deaths in concentration camps, while torturing, abusing, or executing many others. After the Allied liberation of France, he fled to Germany, where under an assumed identity he joined other ex-Nazi officials in the formation of an underground anti-communist organization. In 1947, the U.S. Counter-Intelligence Corps (CIC) broke up the organization and arrested its senior members, although Barbie remained at large until the CIC offered him money and protection in exchange for his cooperation in countering Soviet espionage efforts. Barbie worked as a U.S. agent in Germany for two years and in 1949 was smuggled to Bolivia, where he assumed the name of “Klaus Altmann” and continued his work as a U.S. agent.
In addition to his work for the Americans, he performed services for Bolivia’s various military regimes, especially that of Hugo “El Petiso” Banzer, who came to power in 1971 and became one of the country’s most oppressive leaders. Barbie provided a similar expertise for Banzer as he had for the Nazis, torturing and interrogating political opponents and dispatching many of them to internment camps, where many were executed or died from mistreatment. It was at this time that Nazi hunters Serge Klarsfeld and Beatte Kunzel discovered Barbie’s whereabouts, but Banzer refused to extradite him to France. In the early 1980s, a liberal regime came to power in Bolivia and agreed to extradite Barbie in exchange for French aid to the destitute nation. In January 1983, Barbie was arrested, and he arrived in France on 7 FEB.
Legal wrangling, especially between the groups representing his Jewish and French Resistance victims, delayed his trial for four years. Finally, on May 11, 1987, the “Butcher of Lyons,” as he was known in France, went on trial for 177 crimes against humanity. In a courtroom twist unimaginable four decades earlier, Barbie was defended by three minority lawyers–an Asian, an African, and an Arab–who made the dramatic case that the French and the Jews were as guilty of crimes against humanity as Barbie or any other Nazi. Barbie’s lawyers were more interested in putting France and Israel on trial than in actually proving their client’s innocence, and on July 4, 1987, he was found guilty. For his crimes, Klaus Barbie was sentenced to spend the rest of his life in prison, France’s highest punishment. He died in prison of cancer on September 25, 1991, at the age of 77.
- Jan 19 1991 – Gulf War: Iraq fires a second Scud missile into Israel, causing 15 injuries.
- Jan 20 1777 – American Revolution: Battle of Millstone » Brigadier General Philemon Dickinson leads 400 raw men from the New Jersey militia and 50 Pennsylvania riflemen in an attack against a group of 500 British soldiers foraging for food near Van Nest’s Mills in Millstone, New Jersey.
- Jan 20 1841 – First Opium War: Hong Kong ceded to the British » China cedes the island of Hong Kong to the British with the signing of the Chuenpi Convention, an agreement seeking an end to the first Anglo-Chinese conflict.
In 1839, Britain invaded China to crush opposition to its interference in the country’s economic and political affairs. One of Britain’s first acts of the war was to occupy Hong Kong, a sparsely inhabited island off the coast of southeast China. In 1841, China ceded the island to the British, and in 1842 the Treaty of Nanking was signed, formally ending the First Opium War.
Britain’s new colony flourished as an East-West trading center and as the commercial gateway and distribution center for southern China. In 1898, Britain was granted an additional 99 years of rule over Hong Kong under the Second Convention of Peking. In September 1984, after years of negotiations, the British and the Chinese signed a formal agreement approving the 1997 turnover of the island in exchange for a Chinese pledge to preserve Hong Kong’s capitalist system. On July 1, 1997, Hong Kong was peaceably handed over to China in a ceremony attended by numerous Chinese and British dignitaries. The chief executive under the new Hong Kong government, Tung Chee Hwa, formulated a policy based upon the concept of “one country, two systems,” thus preserving Hong Kong’s role as a principal capitalist center in Asia.
- Jan 20 1873 – Civil War: Mud March Begins » Union General Ambrose Burnside’s Army of the Potomac begins an offensive against General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia that quickly bogs down as several days of heavy rain turn the roads of Virginia into a muddy quagmire. The campaign was abandoned three days later.
- Jan 20 1887 – U.S. Navy: The United States Senate allows the Navy to lease Pearl Harbor as a naval base.
- Jan 20 1918 – WWI: Goeben and Breslau battle the Allies in the Aegean » In the morning British and German forces clash in the Aegean Sea when the German battleships Goeben and Breslau attempt a surprise raid on Allied forces off the Dardanelle Straits. The Goeben and Breslau—the same two swift, powerful cruisers that had famously eluded capture by the British in the Dardanelles in 1914 to reach Constantinople and bring Turkey into the war on the side of Germany—had attempted to leave the Dardanelles and head towards Salonika, Greece, when they encountered the British fleet. Just after sunrise on January 20, the Goeben and Breslau fired upon and sank two British monitors, the HMS Raglan and the M28, leaving 127 sailors dead.
With two British destroyers, Tigress and Lizard, in pursuit, the German ships continued heading south toward Lemnos Island. The two ships rounded Cape Kephalo and were driven into a British minefield where Breslau was sunk, killing 208 men. Goeben turned back and attempted to tow Breslau to safety, until it too suffered severe damage after striking several mines and was forced to run aground near Chanak (now Cannanakale) in the Dardanelles. Repaired and put back into action on January 26, the hardy Goeben sailed to Sevastopol for the surrender of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet in early May. At the end of the war, the ship was formally turned over to the Turks and in 1930 became the flagship of the Turkish navy; it was retired in 1950.
- Jan 20 1942 – WWII: Holocaust (The Wannsee Conference) » Nazi officials meet to discuss the details of the “Final Solution” of the “Jewish question.” In July 1941, Herman Goering, writing under instructions from Hitler, had ordered Reinhard Heydrich, SS general and Heinrich Himmler’s number-two man, to submit “as soon as possible a general plan of the administrative, material, and financial measures necessary for carrying out the desired final solution of the Jewish question.”
Heydrich met with Adolf Eichmann, chief of the Central Office of Jewish Emigration, and 15 other officials from various Nazi ministries and organizations at Wannsee, a suburb of Berlin. The agenda was simple and focused: to devise a plan that would render a “final solution to the Jewish question” in Europe. Various gruesome proposals were discussed, including mass sterilization and deportation to the island of Madagascar. Heydrich proposed simply transporting Jews from every corner Europe to concentration camps in Poland and working them to death. Objections to this plan included the belief that this was simply too time-consuming. What about the strong ones who took longer to die? What about the millions of Jews who were already in Poland? Although the word “extermination” was never uttered during the meeting, the implication was clear: anyone who survived the egregious conditions of a work camp would be “treated accordingly.”
Months later, the “gas vans” in Chelmno, Poland, which were killing 1,000 people a day, proved to be the “solution” they were looking for–the most efficient means of killing large groups of people at one time. The minutes of this conference were kept with meticulous care, which later provided key evidence during the Nuremberg war crimes trials
- Jan 20 1944 – WW2: Allied forces in Italy begin unsuccessful operations to cross the Rapido River and seize Cassino.
- Jan 20 1949 – Cold War: President Harry S. Truman calls for a “bold new program for making the benefits of our scientific advances and industrial progress available for the improvement and growth of underdeveloped nations.” The resulting Point Four program (so-called because it was the fourth point in Truman’s speech) resulted in millions of dollars in scientific and technical assistance–as well as hundreds of U.S. experts–sent to Latin American, Asian, Middle Eastern, and African nations.
- Jan 20 1969 – Vietnam War: Richard Nixon takes office » Richard Nixon is inaugurated as president of the United States and says, “After a period of confrontation [in Vietnam], we are entering an era of negotiation.” Eight years after losing to John F. Kennedy in the 1960 election, Nixon had defeated Hubert H. Humphrey for the presidency. Shortly after taking office, Nixon put his new team in place. William Rogers replaced Dean Rusk as Secretary of State, Melvin Laird replaced Clark Clifford as Secretary of Defense, and Henry Kissinger replaced Walt Rostow as National Security Adviser.
In 1962, Nixon ran for governor of California and lost in a bitter campaign to Edmund G. (“Pat”) Brown. Most observers believed that Nixon’s political career was over at that point, but by February 1968, he had sufficiently recovered his political standing in the Republican Party to announce his candidacy for president. Taking a stance between the more conservative elements of his party led by Ronald Reagan, and the liberal northeastern wing led by Governor Nelson Rockefeller, Nixon won the nomination on the first ballot at the Republican National Convention in Miami Beach.
For his running mate, he chose Spiro T. Agnew, the governor of Maryland. His Democratic opponent, Vice President Hubert Humphrey, was weakened by internal divisions within his own party and the growing dissatisfaction with the Johnson administration’s handling of the war in Vietnam. Although Nixon and Humphrey each gained about 43 percent of the popular vote, the distribution of Nixon’s nearly 32 million votes gave him a clear majority in the Electoral College.
- Jan 20 1972 – Vietnam War: A contingent of more than 10,000 South Vietnamese troops begin a sweep 45 miles northwest of Saigon to find and destroy enemy forces. There was much speculation that the North Vietnamese would launch a major offensive around the Tet (Chinese New Year) holiday.
- Jan 20 1981 – U.S.*Iran: Iran Hostage Crisis ends » Minutes after Ronald Reagan’s inauguration as the 40th president of the United States, the 52 U.S. captives held at the U.S. embassy in Teheran, Iran, are released, ending the 444-day Iran Hostage Crisis.
On November 4, 1979, the crisis began when militant Iranian students, outraged that the U.S. government had allowed the ousted shah of Iran to travel to New York City for medical treatment, seized the U.S. embassy in Teheran. The Ayatollah Khomeini, Iran’s political and religious leader, took over the hostage situation, refusing all appeals to release the hostages, even after the U.N. Security Council demanded an end to the crisis in an unanimous vote. However, two weeks after the storming of the embassy, the Ayatollah began to release all non-U.S. captives, and all female and minority Americans, citing these groups as among the people oppressed by the government of the United States. The remaining 52 captives remained at the mercy of the Ayatollah for the next 14 months.
President Jimmy Carter was unable to diplomatically resolve the crisis, and on April 24, 1980, he ordered a disastrous rescue mission in which eight U.S. military personnel were killed and no hostages rescued. Three months later, the former shah died of cancer in Egypt, but the crisis continued. In November 1980, Carter lost the presidential election to Republican Ronald Reagan. Soon after, with the assistance of Algerian intermediaries, successful negotiations began between the United States and Iran. On the day of Reagan’s inauguration, the United States freed almost $8 billion in frozen Iranian assets, and the hostages were released after 444 days. The next day, Jimmy Carter flew to West Germany to greet the Americans on their way home.
- Jan 21 1813 – War of 1812: Battle of Raisin River » American General William Henry Harrison’s Northwest Army split into three groups in order to attack British forces stationed in Detroit. One of the divisions, consisting of 700 Kentuckians, ignored orders and sought to find food and shelter in the frigid weather. The division, led by Brigadier General James Winchester, captured an enemy store in Frenchtown on the River Raisin and set up camp. Because it was in a poor defensive position, the division was massacred by a surprise attack of 1,200 Brits and 1,400 Indians led by British General Henry Proctor. The Kentuckians attempted to flee but were hunted in the woods by the Indians. Over 400 Kentuckians died; 80 wounded were left behind to face the tomahawks of the Indians. Only 15 to 20 wounded Kentuckians managed to escape and survived.
- Jan 21 1861 – Civil War: Jefferson Davis resigns from the United States Senate.
- Jan 21 1863 – Civil War: First Battle of Sabine Pass. Two Confederate ships drive away two Union ships as the Rebels recapture Sabine Pass, Texas, and open an important port for the Confederacy.
- Jan 21 1924 – Post WWI: Vladimir Ilyich Lenin dies » In Moscow shock and near-hysterical grief greets the news that Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, leader of the radical socialist Bolshevik movement that toppled the czarist regime in 1917 and head of the first government of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (U.S.S.R.), had died of a massive cerebral hemorrhage.
Influenced early on by Karl Marx s seminal text Das Kapital, Lenin was radicalized further by the execution of his older brother, Alexander, for conspiring to kill Czar Alexander III in 1887. The brooding, fiercely intellectual Lenin married the principles of Marxist thought to his own theory of organization and the reality of Russian demographics, envisioning a group of elite professional revolutionaries, or a “vanguard of the proletariat,” who would first lead the agrarian masses of Russia to victory over the tyrannical czarist regime and eventually incite a worldwide revolution. He laid out this theory in his most famous treatise, What Is To Be Done, in 1902. Lenin s insistence on the necessity of this vanguard led to a split in Russia s Social Democratic Labor Party in 1903 between his supporters, a small majority that was thereafter known as the Bolsheviks and his opponents, the Mensheviks.
After the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, Lenin then living in Switzerland, urged his Bolshevik supporters in Russia to turn the “imperialist” conflict into a civil war that would liberate the working classes from the yoke of the bourgeoisie and monarchy. With the success of the February Revolution and the abdication of Czar Nicholas II in March 1917, Lenin managed, with German help, to travel back to Russia, where he worked with his deputy, LÉon Trotsky, to orchestrate the Bolshevik seizure of power from the unsteady provisional government that November. Lenin declared an immediate armistice with the Central Powers and acted quickly to consolidate the power of the new Soviet state under his newly named Communist Party; to that end, in a brutal civil war, his supporters, the “Reds,” had to combat “White” rebellions that sprung up all over Russia.
In his six years in power, Lenin struggled with the difficulty of implementing his utopian vision within the borders of the Soviet state as well as the failure of his predicted international revolution to materialize. Together, Lenin and his circle of advisers, or Politburo, which included Trotsky, his faithful henchman during the civil war, and Joseph Stalin, the general secretary of the Communist Party worked to ruthlessly and systematically destroy all opposition to Communist policies within the new U.S.S.R., proclaimed in 1922. Instruments in this repression included a newly created secret police, the Cheka, and the first of the gulags, or concentration camps, that Stalin would later put to even more deadly use.
Lenin suffered a stroke in May 1922; a second one, more debilitating, came in March of the following year, leaving him mute and effectively ending his political career. At the time of his death, The New York Times reported that “it is the general opinion that Lenin’s death will unify and strengthen the Communist Party as nothing else could do. No one who knows them both doubts that Trotsky and Stalin will bury the hatchet over his grave.” This would not be the case: Stalin worked quickly to control the situation, encouraging the deification of Lenin who before his death had called for Stalin’s dismissal while simultaneously working to discredit (and eventually destroy) Trotsky and the rest of his rivals in the Politburo. By 1930, Stalin stood alone at the head of the Soviet state, with all the terrifying machinery Lenin s revolution had created at his disposal.
- Jan 21 1942 – WW2: Holocaust » Between 21 and 23 JUL Hungarian Fascists drive 550 Jews and 292 Serbs to the Danube River at Novi Sad, Yugoslavia. They force them onto the ice, shoot the ice to break it up, and then shoot those who do not quickly drown.
- Jan 21 1950 – Cold War: Alger Hiss convicted of perjury » In the conclusion to one of the most spectacular trials in U.S. history, former State Department official Alger Hiss is convicted of perjury. He was convicted of having perjured himself in regards to testimony about his alleged involvement in a Soviet spy ring before and during World War II. Hiss served nearly four years in jail, but steadfastly protested his innocence during and after his incarceration.
The case against Hiss began in 1948, when Whittaker Chambers, an admitted ex-communist and an editor with Time magazine, testified before the House Un-American Activities Committee and charged that Hiss was a communist in the 1930s and 1940s. Chambers also declared that Hiss, during his work in the Department of State during the 1930s, had passed him top secret reports. Hiss appeared before HUAC and vehemently denied the charges, stating that he did not even know Chambers. Later, after confronting Chambers face to face, Hiss admitted that he knew him, but that Chambers had been using another name at the time. In short order, Chambers produced the famous “Pumpkin Papers”—copies of the documents he said Hiss passed him during the 1930s. They were dubbed the “Pumpkin Papers” because Chambers kept them hidden in a pumpkin in his pumpkin patch.
Charges and countercharges about the spy accusations soon filled the air. Defenders of Hiss, such as Secretary of State Dean Acheson, declared that President Truman’s opponents were making a sacrificial lamb out of Hiss. Truman himself declared that HUAC was using “red herrings” to defame Hiss. Critics fired back that Truman and Acheson were “coddling” communists, and that Hiss was only the tip of the iceberg—they claimed that communists had penetrated the highest levels of the American government. Eventually, Hiss was brought to trial. Because the statute of limitations had run out, he was not tried for treason. Instead, he was charged with two counts of perjury—for lying about passing government documents to Chambers and for denying that he had seen Chambers since 1937. In 1949, the first trial for perjury ended in a deadlocked jury. The second trial ended in January 1950 with a guilty verdict on both counts.
The battle over the Hiss case continued long after the guilty verdict was handed down. Though many believed that Hiss was a much-maligned official who became a victim of the anticommunist hysteria of the late-1940s, others felt strongly that he was a lying communist agent. Until his death at the age of 92 on November 15, 1996, Hiss never deviated from his claim of innocence.
- Jan 21 1954 – U.S. Navy: The first nuclear–powered submarine (USS Nautilus) was launched in Groton CT by Mamie Eisenhower.
- Jan 21 1968 – Vietnam War: Battle for Khe Sanh begins » One of the most publicized and controversial battles of the Vietnam War begins at Khe Sanh, 14 miles below the DMZ and six miles from the Laotian border. Seized and activated by the U.S. Marines a year earlier, the base, which had been an old French outpost, was used as a staging area for forward patrols and was a potential launch point for contemplated future operations to cut the Ho Chi Minh Trail in Laos.
The battle began on this date with a brisk firefight involving the 3rd Battalion, 26th Marines and a North Vietnamese battalion entrenched between two hills northwest of the base. The next day North Vietnamese forces overran the village of Khe Sanh and North Vietnamese long-range artillery opened fire on the base itself, hitting its main ammunition dump and detonating 1,500 tons of explosives. An incessant barrage kept Khe Sanh’s Marine defenders pinned down in their trenches and bunkers. Because the base had to be resupplied by air, the American high command was reluctant to put in any more troops and drafted a battle plan calling for massive artillery and airstrikes.
During the 66-day siege, U.S. planes, dropping 5,000 bombs daily, exploded the equivalent of five Hiroshima-sized atomic bombs in the area. The relief of Khe Sanh, called Operation Pegasus, began in early April as the 1st Cavalry (Airmobile) and a South Vietnamese battalion approached the base from the east and south, while the Marines pushed westward to re-open Route 9.
The siege was finally lifted on 6 APR when the cavalrymen linked up with the 9th Marines south of the Khe Sanh airstrip. In a final clash a week later, the 3rd Battalion, 26th Marines drove enemy forces from Hill 881 North. Gen. William Westmoreland, commander of U.S. Military Assistance Command Vietnam, contended that Khe Sanh played a vital blocking role at the western end of the DMZ, and asserted that if the base had fallen, North Vietnamese forces could have outflanked Marine defenses along the buffer zone.
Various statements in the North Vietnamese Communist Party newspaper suggested that Hanoi saw the battle as an opportunity to re-enact its famous victory at Dien Bien Phu, when the communists had defeated the French in a climactic decisive battle that effectively ended the war between France and the Viet Minh.
- Jan 21 1968 – U.S. Air Force: A B-52 bomber crashes near Thule Air Base, contaminating the area after its nuclear payload ruptures. One of the four bombs remains unaccounted for after the cleanup operation is complete.
- Jan 21 1977 – Post Vietnam War: President Carter pardons draft dodgers » An unconditional pardon to hundreds of thousands of men who evaded the draft during the Vietnam War is granted by the president. In total, some 100,000 young Americans went abroad in the late 1960s and early 70s to avoid serving in the war. Ninety percent went to Canada, where after some initial controversy they were eventually welcomed as immigrants. Still others hid inside the United States. In addition to those who avoided the draft, a relatively small number–about 1,000–of deserters from the U.S. armed forces also headed to Canada. While the Canadian government technically reserved the right to prosecute deserters, in practice they left them alone, even instructing border guards not to ask too many questions.
For its part, the U.S. government continued to prosecute draft evaders after the Vietnam War ended. A total of 209,517 men were formally accused of violating draft laws, while government officials estimate another 360,000 were never formally accused. If they returned home, those living in Canada or elsewhere faced prison sentences or forced military service. During his 1976 presidential campaign, Jimmy Carter promised to pardon draft dodgers as a way of putting the war and the bitter divisions it caused firmly in the past. After winning the election, Carter wasted no time in making good on his word. Though many transplanted Americans returned home, an estimated 50,000 settled permanently in Canada, greatly expanding the country’s arts and academic scenes and pushing Canadian politics decidedly to the left.
Back in the U.S., Carter’s decision generated a good deal of controversy. Heavily criticized by veterans’ groups and others for allowing unpatriotic lawbreakers to get off scot-free, the pardon and companion relief plan came under fire from amnesty groups for not addressing deserters, soldiers who were dishonorably discharged or civilian anti-war demonstrators who had been prosecuted for their resistance.
Years later, Vietnam-era draft evasion still carries a powerful stigma. Though no prominent political figures have been found to have broken any draft laws, Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush and Vice-Presidents Dan Quayle and Dick Cheney–none of whom saw combat in Vietnam–have all been accused of being draft dodgers at one time or another. Although there is not currently a draft in the U.S., desertion and conscientious objection have remained pressing issues among the armed forces during the recent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
- Jan 22 1779 – American Revolution: Famed Tory outlaw Claudius Smith meets his end on the Goshen, New York gallows. In the wake of his death, Patriot civilians hope for relief from guerilla warfare in upstate New York.
- Jan 22 1813 – War of 1812: British forces under Henry Proctor defeat a U.S. contingent planning an attack on Fort Detroit.
- Jan 22 1863 – Civil War: In an attempt to out flank Robert E. Lee‘s Army of Northern Virginia, General Ambrose Burnside leads his army on a march to north Fredericksburg, but foul weather bogs his army down in what will become known as the “Mud March.”
- Jan 22 1879 – Indian Wars: Chief Dull Knife makes last fight for freedom » Pursuing American soldiers badly beat Cheyenne Chief Dull Knife and his people as they make a desperate bid for freedom. In doing so, the soldiers effectively crushed the so-called Dull Knife Outbreak.
A leading chief of the Northern Cheyenne, Dull Knife (sometimes called Morning Star) had long urged peace with the powerful Anglo-Americans invading his homeland in the Powder River country of modern-day Wyoming and Montana. However, the 1864 massacre of more than 200 peaceful Cheyenne Indians by Colorado militiamen at Sand Creek, Colorado, led Dull Knife to question whether the Anglo-Americans could ever be trusted. He reluctantly led his people into a war he suspected they could never win. In 1876, many of Dull Knife’s people fought alongside Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull at their victorious battle at Little Bighorn, though the chief himself apparently did not participate.
Little Coyote (Little Wolf) and Morning Star (Dull Knife), chiefs of the Northern Cheyenne
During the winter after Little Bighorn, Dull Knife and his people camped along the headwaters of the Powder River in Wyoming, where they fell victim to the army’s winter campaign for revenge. In November, General Ranald Mackenzie’s expeditionary force discovered the village and attacked. Dull Knife lost many of his people, and along with several other Indian leaders, reluctantly surrendered the following spring.
In 1877, the military relocated Dull Knife and his followers far away from their Wyoming homeland to the large Indian Territory on the southern plains (in present-day Kansas and Oklahoma). No longer able to practice their traditional hunts, the band was largely dependent on meager government provisions. Beset by hunger, homesickness, and disease, Dull Knife and his people rebelled after one year. In September 1878, they joined another band to make an epic march back to their Wyoming homeland. Although Dull Knife publicly announced his peaceful intentions, the government regarded the fleeing Indians as renegades, and soldiers from bases scattered throughout the Plains attacked the Indians in an unsuccessful effort to turn them back.
Arriving at Fort Robinson, Nebraska, near their Wyoming homeland, Dull Knife and his people surrendered to the government in the hopes they would be allowed to stay in the territory. To their dismay, administrators instead threatened to hold the band captive at Fort Robinson until they would agree to return south to the Indian Territory. Unwilling to give up when his goal was so close, in early January, Dull Knife led about 100 of his people in one final desperate break for freedom. Soldiers from Fort Robinson chased after the already weak and starving band of men, women, and children, and on 22 JAN, they attacked and killed at least 30 people, including several in the immediate family of Dull Knife.
Badly bloodied, most of the survivors returned to Fort Robinson and accepted their fate. Dull Knife managed to escape, and he eventually found shelter with Chief Red Cloud on the Sioux reservation in Nebraska. Permitted to remain on the reservation, Dull Knife died four years later, deeply bitter towards the Anglo-Americans he had once hoped to live with peacefully. The same year, the government finally allowed the Northern Cheyenne to move to a permanent reservation on the Tongue River in Montana near their traditional homeland. At last, Dull Knife’s people had come home, but their great chief had not lived to join them.
- Jan 22 1879 – Britain*South Africa: Eighty-two British soldiers hold off attacks by 4,000 Zulu warriors at the Battle of Rorke’s Drift in South Africa.
- Jan 22 1905 – Russia: Russian troops fire on civilians beginning Bloody Sunday in St. Petersburg.
- Jan 22 1927 – Post Civil War: John McCausland dies » Confederate General John A. McCausland dies at age 90 inWest Virginia. He lived for over 50 years after the war and remained an unreconstructed Rebel at the time of his death.
Nicknamed “Tiger John,” McCausland was born to Irish immigrants in 1836 in St. Louis, Missouri,and moved to Virginia as an adolescent. He attended the Virginia Military Institute and graduated in 1857. When the Civil War began, he organized an artillery regiment and formed the 36th Virginia from the western part of the state. McCausland spent most of the war in the mountainous region of western Virginia. On May 9, 1864 he distinguished himself at the Battle of Cloyd’s Mountain. For the victory, he was promoted to brigadier general.
Two bold actions defined McCausland’s career. First, in June 1864, he drove a larger Union force commanded by General David Hunter from Lynchburg, Virginia, earning him the city’s gratitude. He then joined General Jubal Early’s invasion of Maryland in July. Early dispatched McCausland and his cavalry to Hagerstown to exact a $200,000 ransom from city officials. McCausland rode into Hagerstown and delivered his hand-written note to authorities. However, due to a mathematical error, only $20,000 was secured. McCausland then moved on to Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, and pulled his second notorious feat–he tried to extort more than $500,000 from Chambersburg officials, andburned the city when he did not receive the money.
McCausland joined General Robert E. Lee for the Confederates’ last desperate attempt to escape in early 1865. He broke through the Union lines near Appomattox, Virginia,and surrendered later at Charleston, West Virginia, after many Rebels had laid down their arms. After the war, McCausland, facing an indictment for the burning of Chambersburg, fled to Canada, Britain, and then Mexico. He returned to the U.S. in the late 1860s after being told he would not be prosecuted for his war crimes. He settled on a farm in West Virginia and lived as a recluse for the rest of his life, stubbornly defendingthe Confederate cause. McCausland died 13 months before Felix Robertson, the last surviving Confederate general.
- Jan 22 1939 – Germany: A Nazi order erases the old officer caste, tying the army directly to the Party.
- Jan 22 1941 – WWII: British and Commonwealth forces enter the port at Tobruk, in Libya, and take 30,000 Italian prisoners, 236 guns, and 87 tanks.
- Jan 22 1943 – WWII: Battle of Buna–Gona (16 Nov thru 22 Jan) » The campaign in New Guinea ends with an Allied victory after two months of fighting. Allied air power interrupted the Japanese capacity to reinforce and resupply the beachheads from Rabaul. This ultimately made the Japanese position untenable. There was widespread evidence of the Japanese defenders cannibalizing the dead. In the closing stages of the battle, significant numbers of the defenders were withdrawn by sea or escaped overland toward the west and the Japanese base around Salamaua and Lae. The remaining garrison fought to the death, almost to the man.
The resolve and tenacity of the Japanese in defense was unprecedented and had not previously been encountered. It was to mark the desperate nature of fighting that characterized battles for the remainder of the Pacific war. For the Allies, there were a number of valuable but costly lessons in the conduct of jungle warfare. Allied losses in the battle were at a rate higher than that experienced at Guadalcanal. For the first time, the American public was confronted with the images of dead American troops. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Buna%E2%80%93Gona)
- Jan 22 1943 – WWII: Axis forces pull out of Tripoli for Tunisia, destroying bases as they leave.
- Jan 22 1944 – WW2: Operation Shingle. Battle of Anzio » U.S. troops under Major General John P. Lucas make an amphibious landing behind German lines at Anzio, Italy, just south of Rome. Casualties and losses: US|UK|Can 43,000 – GE|IT 40,000.
U.S. Army soldiers landing at Anzio in late January 1944.
- Jan 22 1964 – Vietnam War: U.S. Joint Chiefs foresee larger U.S. commitment » The U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff inform Defense Secretary Robert McNamara that they “are wholly in favor of executing the covert actions against North Vietnam.”
President Johnson had recently approved Oplan 34A, provocative operations to be conducted by South Vietnamese forces (supported by the United States) to gather intelligence and conduct sabotage to destabilize the North Vietnamese regime. Actual operations would begin in February and involve raids by South Vietnamese commandos operating under American orders against North Vietnamese coastal and island installations. Although American forces were not directly involved in the actual raids, U.S. Navy ships were on station to conduct electronic surveillance and monitor North Vietnamese defense responses under another program called Operation De Soto.
Although the Joint Chiefs agreed with the president’s decision on these operations, they further advocated even stronger measures, advising McNamara: “…We believe, however, that it would be idle to conclude that these efforts will have a decisive effect on the communist determination to support the insurgency, and it is our view that we must therefore be prepared fully to undertake a much higher level of activity.” Among their recommendations were “aerial bombing of key North Vietnamese targets,” and “commitment of additional U.S. forces, as necessary, in support of the combat actions within South Vietnam.”
President Johnson at first resisted this advice, but in less than a year, U.S. airplanes were bombing North Vietnam, and shortly thereafter the first U.S. combat troops began arriving in South Vietnam.
- Jan 22 1968 – Vietnam War: Operation Igloo White, a US electronic surveillance system to stop communist infiltration into South Vietnam begins installation.
- Jan 22 1968 – Vietnam War: Operations Jeb Stuart and Pershing II kick off » Operating in the two northernmost military regions, the 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) launches two major operations. In the first operation, conducted by the 1st Cavalry Division in Quang Tri and Thua Thien provinces, south of the Demilitarized Zone, “First Team” units launched Operation Jeb Stuart. This operation was a large-scale reinforcement of the Marines in the area and focused on clearing enemy Base Areas 101 and 114. Jeb Stuart was terminated on 31 MAR with enemy casualties listed at 3,268; U.S. casualties were 291 killed in action and 1,735 wounded. On the same day that Jeb Stuart was launched, other 1st Cavalry units launched Operation Pershing II in the coastal lowlands in Binh Dinh Province. This operation, designed to clear enemy forces from the area, lasted until 29 FEB.
- Jan 22 1971 – Vietnam War: Communist forces shell Phnom Penh, Cambodia, for the first time.
- Jan 22 1982 – Cold War: Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev survived what was seen as an assassination attempt, an incident that was not revealed to the public until after the fall of the Soviet Union.
- Jan 22 1982 – Cold War: Reagan links arms talks with Soviets to oppression in Poland » In a revival of the diplomacy “linkages” that were made famous by Henry Kissinger during the Nixon years, the administration of President Ronald Reagan announces that further progress on arms talks will be linked to a reduction of Soviet oppression in Poland. The U.S. ploy was but one more piece of the increasingly complex jigsaw puzzle of nuclear arms reduction.
Faced with a growing anti-nuke movement in the United States and abroad, and having drawn criticism for some off-the-cuff remarks about “winning” a nuclear war, President Reagan called for negotiations on reducing intermediate-range nuclear forces (INF) in Europe. These talks began in November 1981 but quickly bogged down as both the U.S. and Soviet negotiators charged each other with acting in bad faith. Almost immediately, both nations began to increase their nuclear arsenals in Europe. Some speculated that neither side was truly seeking arms control, and the reaction of building up arms as a result caused a firestorm of protest in several western European nations.
Perhaps in an effort to divert attention from the failed talks, the Reagan administration in January 1982 linked further arms negotiations to Soviet actions in Poland, indicating that the U.S. would not engage in further talks until Soviet repression in Poland was eased. In that nation, the Soviet-backed communist government imposed martial law in late 1981 in an effort to destroy the growing Solidarity movement among Poland’s labor unions. Claiming that arms reduction talks could not be “insulated from other events,” the Reagan administration declared, “The continuing repression of the Polish people—in which Soviet responsibility is clear—obviously constitutes a major setback to the prospects for constructive East-West relations.”
It was unclear whether the U.S. stance had any direct impact on the ongoing INF talks. Domestic U.S. political opposition to any arms control agreement with the Soviets, combined with intense mutual distrust between the Soviet Union and the United States during much of the Reagan administration, were much more important factors in the delay in finally securing an agreement. The INF agreement did eventually get signed in 1987, when new Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev broke the ice for more fruitful talks.
- Jan 22 1991 – Gulf War: Three SCUDs and one Patriot missile hit Ramat Gan in Israel, injuring 96 people. Three elderly people die of heart attacks.
Patriot missiles launched to intercept an Iraqi Scud over Tel Aviv
- Jan 23 1865 – American Revolution: London merchants petition for reconciliation with America » London merchants petition Parliament for relief from the financial hardship put upon them by the curtailment of trade with the North American colonies. In the petition, the merchants provided their own history of the dispute between the colonies and Parliament, beginning with the Stamp Act of 1765. Most critical to the merchants’ concerns were the £2 million sterling in outstanding debts owed to them by their North American counterparts.
The merchants claimed that, a total stop is now put to the export trade with the greatest and most important part of North America, the public revenue is threatened with a large and fatal diminution, the petitioners with grievous distress, and thousands of industrious artificers and manufacturers with utter ruin. The petitioners begged Parliament to consider re-implementing the system of mercantile trade between Britain and the American colonies, which had served the interests of all parties in the empire prior to 1764.
Following the Coercive Acts of 1774, the colonies had quickly agreed to reinstate the non-importation agreements first devised in response to the Stamp Act in the autumn of 1765. They threatened to enter non-exportation agreements if Britain failed to meet their demands by August 1775. Because debts the colonies owed British merchants were generally paid in exports, not currency, such an action would indeed have caused tremendous financial loss to the British economy. Non-importation had a comparatively minor impact, because British merchants could and did find other markets. However, no one else would pay the vast debts owed to the merchants by tobacco planters like Thomas Jefferson or New England shipping magnates like John Hancock.
- Jan 23 1865 – Civil War: Hood removed from command » Confederate General John Bell Hood is officially removed as commander of the Army of Tennessee. He had requested the removal a few weeks before; the action closed a bleak chapter in the history of the Army of Tennessee.
A Kentucky native, Hood attended West Point and graduated in 1853. He served in the frontier army until the outbreak of the Civil War. Hood resigned his commission and became a colonel commanding the 4th Texas Infantry. Hood’s unit was sent to the Army of Northern Virginia, and fought during the Peninsular Campaign of 1862. Hood, now a brigadier general, built a reputation as an aggressive field commander. He distinguished himself during the Seven Days Battles in June 1862, and was given command of a division. His counterattack at the Battle of Antietam in Maryland in September 1862 may have saved Robert E. Lee’s army from total destruction.
General John Bell Hood
After being wounded at the Battle of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, in July 1863, Hood was transferred to the Army of Tennessee. He was soon wounded again, losing a leg at Chickamauga in September. Hood was promoted to corps commander for the Atlanta campaign of 1864, and was elevated to commander of the army upon the removal of Joseph Johnston in July. Over the next five months, Hood presided over the near destruction of that great Confederate army. He unsuccessfully attacked Union General William T. Sherman’s army three times near Atlanta, relinquished the city after a month-long siege, then took his army back to Tennessee in the fall to draw Sherman away from the Deep South. Sherman dispatched part of his army to Tennessee, and Hood lost two battles at Franklin and Nashville in November and December 1864.
There were about 65,000 soldiers in the Army of Tennessee when Hood assumed command in July. On January 1, a generous assessment would count 18,000 men in the army, which was no longer a viable fighting force.
- Jan 23 1870 – Indian Wars: Soldiers massacre the wrong camp of Indians » Declaring he did not care whether or not it was the rebellious band of Indians he had been searching for, Colonel Eugene Baker orders his men to attack a sleeping camp of peaceful Blackfeet along the Marias River in northern Montana.
The previous fall, Malcolm Clarke, an influential Montana rancher, had accused a Blackfeet warrior named Owl Child of stealing some of his horses; he punished the proud brave with a brutal whipping. In retribution, Owl Child and several allies murdered Clarke and his son at their home near Helena, and then fled north to join a band of rebellious Blackfeet under the leadership of Mountain Chief. Outraged and frightened, Montanans demanded that Owl Child and his followers be punished, and the government responded by ordering the forces garrisoned under Major Eugene Baker at Fort Ellis (near modern-day Bozeman, Montana) to strike back.
Strengthening his cavalry units with two infantry groups from Fort Shaw near Great Falls, Baker led his troops out into sub-zero winter weather and headed north in search of Mountain Chief’s band. Soldiers later reported that Baker drank a great deal throughout the march. On January 22, Baker discovered an Indian village along the Marias River, and, postponing his attack until the following morning, spent the evening drinking heavily.
At daybreak on the morning of January 23, 1870, Baker ordered his men to surround the camp in preparation for attack. As the darkness faded, Baker’s scout, Joe Kipp, recognized that the painted designs on the buffalo-skin lodges were those of a peaceful band of Blackfeet led by Heavy Runner. Mountain Chief and Owl Child, Kipp quickly realized, must have gotten wind of the approaching soldiers and moved their winter camp elsewhere. Kipp rushed to tell Baker that they had the wrong Indians, but Baker reportedly replied, “That makes no difference, one band or another of them; they are all Piegans [Blackfeet] and we will attack them.” Baker then ordered a sergeant to shoot Kipp if he tried to warn the sleeping camp of Blackfeet and gave the command to attack.
Baker’s soldiers began blindly firing into the village, catching the peaceful Indians utterly unaware and defenseless. By the time the brutal attack was over, Baker and his men had, by the best estimate, murdered 37 men, 90 women, and 50 children. Knocking down lodges with frightened survivors inside, the soldiers set them on fire, burnt some of the Blackfeet alive, and then burned the band’s meager supplies of food for the winter. Baker initially captured about 140 women and children as prisoners to take back to Fort Ellis, but when he discovered many were ill with smallpox, he abandoned them to face the deadly winter without food or shelter.
When word of the Baker Massacre (now known as the Marias Massacre) reached the east, many Americans were outraged. One angry congressman denounced Baker, saying “civilization shudders at horrors like this.” Baker’s superiors, however, supported his actions, as did the people of Montana, with one journalist calling Baker’s critics “namby-pamby, sniffling old maid sentimentalists.” Neither Baker nor his men faced a court martial or any other disciplinary actions. However, the public outrage over the massacre did derail the growing movement to transfer control of Indian affairs from the Department of Interior to the War Department–President Ulysses S. Grant decreed that henceforth all Indian agents would be civilians rather than soldiers.
- Jan 23 1920 – Post WWI: The Dutch government refuses demands by the Allies for the extradition of Wilhelm II, the former Kaiser of Germany, who has been living in exile in the Netherlands since November 1918. Wilhelm headed the list of so-called war criminals put together by the Allies. Wilhelm turned down Winston Churchill’s offer of asylum in Britain in 1940, as Hitler’s armies pushed through Holland, choosing instead to live under German occupation. He died the following year.
Kaiser Wilhelm II, c. 1914
- Jan 23 1941 – Pre WW2: Charles Lindbergh testifies before the U.S. Congress and recommends that the United States negotiate a neutrality pact with Adolf Hitler. When, in 1941, President Roosevelt denounced Lindbergh publicly, the aviator resigned from the Air Corps Reserve. He eventually contributed to the war effort, though, flying 50 combat missions over the Pacific.
- Jan 23 1942 – WW2: The Battle of Rabaul begins, the first fighting of the New Guinea campaign.
- Jan 23 1943 – WW2: Australian and American forces finally defeat the Japanese army in Papua. This turning point in the Pacific War marks the beginning of the end of Japanese aggression.
- Jan 23 1943 – WW2: The Battle of Mount Austen, the Galloping Horse, and the Sea Horse on Guadalcanal during the Guadalcanal campaign ends.
- Jan 23 1945 – WW2: Karl Dönitz launches Operation Hannibal. Hannibal was a German naval operation involving the evacuation by sea of German troops and civilians from Courland, East Prussia, and the Polish Corridor from mid-January to May, 1945 as the Red Army advanced during the East Prussian and East Pomeranian Offensives and subsidiary operations.
- Jan 23 1968 – Cold War: USS Pueblo captured » A Navy intelligence vessel, engaged in a routine surveillance of the North Korean coast when is intercepted by North Korean patrol boats. According to U.S. reports, the Pueblo was in international waters almost 16 miles from shore, but the North Koreans turned their guns on the lightly armed vessel and demanded its surrender. The Americans attempted to escape, and the North Koreans opened fire, wounding the commander and two others. With capture inevitable, the Americans stalled for time, destroying the classified information aboard while taking further fire. Several more crew members were wounded.
USS Pueblo (AGER-2) – Pyongyang”>
USS Pueblo (AGER-2) – Pyongyang
Finally, the Pueblo was boarded and taken to Wonson. There, the 83-man crew was bound and blindfolded and transported to Pyongyang, where they were charged with spying within North Korea’s 12-mile territorial limit and imprisoned. It was the biggest crisis in two years of increased tension and minor skirmishes between the United States and North Korea.
The United States maintained that the Pueblo had been in international waters and demanded the release of the captive sailors. With the Tet Offensive raging 2,000 miles to the south in Vietnam, President Lyndon Johnson ordered no direct retaliation, but the United States began a military buildup in the area. North Korean authorities, meanwhile, coerced a confession and apology out of Pueblo commander Bucher, in which he stated, “I will never again be a party to any disgraceful act of aggression of this type.” The rest of the crew also signed a confession under threat of torture.
The prisoners were then taken to a second compound in the countryside near Pyongyang, where they were forced to study propaganda materials and beaten for straying from the compound’s strict rules. In August, the North Koreans staged a phony news conference in which the prisoners were to praise their humane treatment, but the Americans thwarted the Koreans by inserting innuendoes and sarcastic language into their statements. Some prisoners also rebelled in photo shoots by casually sticking out their middle finger; a gesture that their captors didn’t understand. Later, the North Koreans caught on and beat the Americans for a week.
On December 23, 1968, exactly 11 months after the Pueblo‘s capture, U.S. and North Korean negotiators reached a settlement to resolve the crisis. Under the settlement’s terms, the United States admitted the ship’s intrusion into North Korean territory, apologized for the action, and pledged to cease any future such action. That day, the surviving 82 crewmen walked one by one across the “Bridge of No Return” at Panmunjon to freedom in South Korea. They were hailed as heroes and returned home to the United States in time for Christmas.
Incidents between North Korea and the United States continued in 1969, and in April 1969 a North Korean MiG fighter shot down a U.S. Navy intelligence aircraft, killing all 31 men aboard. In 1970, quiet returned to the demilitarized zone.
- Jan 23 1973 – Vietnam War: Nixon announces peace settlement reached in Paris » President Nixon announces that Henry Kissinger and Le Duc Tho, the chief North Vietnamese negotiator, have initialled a peace agreement in Paris “to end the war and bring peace with honor in Vietnam and Southeast Asia.”
Kissinger and Tho had been conducting secret negotiations since 1969. After the South Vietnamese had blunted the massive North Vietnamese invasion launched in the spring of 1972, Kissinger and the North Vietnamese had finally made some progress on reaching a negotiated end to the war. However, a recalcitrant South Vietnamese President Nguyen Van Thieu had inserted several demands into to the negotiations that caused the North Vietnamese negotiators to walk out of the talks with Kissinger on December 13.
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. This operation was the most concentrated air offensive of the war. During the 11 days of the attack, 700 B-52 sorties and more than 1,000 fighter-bomber sorties dropped roughly 20,000 tons of bombs, mostly over the densely populated area between Hanoi and Haiphong. On December 28, after 11 days of intensive bombing, the North Vietnamese agreed to return to the talks. When the negotiators met again in early January, they quickly worked out a settlement.
Under the terms of the agreement, which became known as the Paris Peace Accords, a cease-fire would begin at 8 a.m., January 28, Saigon time (7 p.m., January 27, Eastern Standard Time). In addition, all prisoners of war were to be released within 60 days and in turn, all U.S. and other foreign troops would be withdrawn from Vietnam within 60 days. With respect to the political situation in South Vietnam, the Accords called for a National Council of Reconciliation and Concord, with representatives from both South Vietnamese sides (Saigon and the National Liberation Front) to oversee negotiations and organize elections for a new government.
The actual document was entitled “An Agreement Ending the War and Restoring Peace in Vietnam” and it was formally signed on January 27.
- Jan 23 1986 – U.S.*Libya: The United States begins maneuvers off the Libyan coast » In the Action in the Gulf of Sidra, the United States Navy deployed aircraft carrier groups in the disputed Gulf of Sidra in the Mediterranean Sea. Libya claimed that the entire Gulf was their territory, at 32° 30′ N, with an exclusive 62 nautical miles (115 km; 71 mi) fishing zone. Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi asserted this in 1973, and dubbed it The Line of Death. The United States claimed its rights to conduct naval operations in international waters, a standard of 12-nautical-mile (22 km; 14 mi) territorial limit from a country’s shore.
- Jan 23 2001 – China: Five people attempted to set themselves on fire in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, an act that many people later claimed was staged by the Communist Party of China to frame the Falun Gong movement and thus escalate their persecution.
- Jan 24 1781 – American Revolution: Light Horse and Swamp Fox raid Georgetown, South Carolina » Patriot commanders Lieutenant Colonel Light Horse Henry Lee and Brigadier General Francis Swamp Fox Marion of the South Carolina militia combine forces and conduct a raid on Georgetown, South Carolina, which is defended by 200 British soldiers.
Marion won fame and the Swamp Fox moniker for his ability to strike and then quickly retreat into the South Carolina swamps without a trace. His military strategy is considered an 18th-century example of guerilla warfare and served as partial inspiration for the film The Patriot, starring Mel Gibson.
Marion took over the South Carolina militia force first assembled by Thomas Sumter in 1780. Sumter, the other inspiration for Mel Gibson’s character in the film, returned Carolina Loyalists’ terror tactics in kind after Loyalists burned his plantation. When Sumter withdrew from active fighting to care for a wound, Marion replaced him and strategized with Major General Nathaniel Greene, who had recently arrived in the Carolinas to lead the Continental forces. On January 24, the Patriots under Marion and Lee managed to arrive at Georgetown undetected and captured at least three officers, including the British commander.
The following month, Lee’s cavalry was able to defeat a band of Loyalist cavalry at Haw River, North Carolina, by taking advantage of the extreme similarity of Patriot uniforms to those of British Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton’s troops. British Colonel John Pyle’s men at Haw River were surprised to discover that the horsemen approaching them were not friends, as they appeared from a distance, but foes. Losing three fingers and blinding one eye in the course of combat, Colonel Pyle, a doctor by profession, survived by hiding in what is now known as Pyle’s Pond.
- Jan 24 1865 – Civil War: Confederate Congress to resume prisoner exchanges » The Confederate Congress agrees to continue prisoner exchanges, opening a process that had operated only sporadically for three years.
In the first year of the Civil War, prisoner exchanges were conducted primarily between field generals on an ad hoc basis. The Union was reluctant to enter any formal agreements, fearing that it would legitimize the Confederate government. But the issue became more important as the campaigns escalated in 1862. In July 1862, Union General John Dix and Confederate General Daniel H. Hill reached an agreement in which each soldier was assigned a value according to rank. For example, one private was worth another private; corporals and sergeants were worth two privates; and lieutenants were worth three privates. A commanding general was worth 60 privates. Under this system, thousands of soldiers were exchanged rather than languishing in prisons like those in Andersonville, Georgia, or Elmira, New York.
The system was really a gentlemen’s agreement, relying on the trust of each side. It broke down in 1862 when Confederates refused to exchange black Union soldiers. From 1862 to 1865, prisoner exchanges were rare. When they did happen, it was usually because two local commanders came to a workable agreement. The result of the breakdown was the swelling of prisoner-of-war camps in both the North and South. The most notorious of all the camps was Andersonville, where one-third of the approximately 46,000 Union troops incarcerated died of disease, exposure, or starvation.
Though the prisoner exchanges resumed in January 1865, the end of the war was so close that it did not make much difference.
- Jan 24 1911 – U.S.*Mexico: The U.S. Cavalry is sent to preserve the neutrality of the Rio Grande during the Mexican Civil War.
- Jan 24 1915 – WWI: British and German navies battle at the Dogger Bank » German naval forces under Admiral Franz von Hipper, encouraged by the success of a surprise attack on the British coastal towns of Hartlepool and Scarborough the previous month, set off toward Britain once again, only to be intercepted by a squadron of British cruisers led by Vice-Admiral Sir David Beatty on the morning of January 24, 1915, near the Dogger Bank in the North Sea.
Franz von Hipper & David Beatty
Knowing his Scouting Squadron would be overpowered by the British, Hipper turned his boats around, figuring his ships would be able to outrun the British boats in pursuit. Beatty’s cruisers were faster than von Spee anticipated, however, and caught up to the Germans within an hour. At about 9 a.m., the British flagship, HMS Lion, opened fire on the Germans from a distance of more than 20,000 yards. The lead German ship, Seydlitz, was soon ablaze; 192 of its crew members died but the ship itself was saved despite the damage. Of the four German ships in Hipper’s squadron, only the oldest and biggest, the Blucher, was sunk, killing 782 men. The demise of the Blucher was captured on moving film; an engraving of a still in the film, of its sailors sliding off the sinking ship into the sea, was later used to adorn silver cigarette cases sold as souvenirs in Britain.
The Lion herself took a beating, but only 15 British sailors were killed in the battle, which ended later that same day when Beatty, fearful of running into German mines and believing the enemy was setting up for a submarine attack, turned his ships around and let the rest of Hipper’s squadron escape.
- Jan 24 1917 – WWI: Zimmerman telegram sent to the Mexican government by the German foreign minister intercepted. Promised Mexico that the lands taken from it by the U.S. during the 1846–1848 war would be returned if Mexico entered on Germany’s side and the Germans won.
- Jan 24 1942 – WW2: The Allies bombard Bangkok, leading Thailand to declare war against the United States and United Kingdom.
- JAN 24 1942 – WW2: Holocaust » Four hundred Jewish intellectuals are arrested and subsequently murdered in Kolomyia, Ukraine.
- Jan 24 1942 – WW2: USS S–26 (SS–131) sunk after collision with USS PC–460 in Gulf of Panama. 46 died.
- Jan 24 1943 – WW2: Von Paulus to Hitler: Let us surrender! » German Gen. Friedrich von Paulus, commander in chief of the German 6th Army at Stalingrad, urgently requests permission from Adolf Hitler to surrender his position there, but Hitler refuses.
The Battle of Stalingrad began in the summer of 1942, as German forces assaulted the city, a major industrial center and a prized strategic coup. But despite repeated attempts and having pushed the Soviets almost to the Volga River in mid-October and encircling Stalingrad, the 6th Army, under Paulus, and part of the 4th Panzer Army could not break past the adamantine defense of the Soviet 62nd Army.
Diminishing resources, partisan guerilla attacks, and the cruelty of the Russian winter began to take their toll on the Germans. On November 19, the Soviets made their move, launching a counteroffensive that began with a massive artillery bombardment of the German position. The Soviets then assaulted the weakest link in the German force-inexperienced Romanian troops. Sixty-five thousand were ultimately taken prisoner by the Soviets.
The Soviets then made a bold strategic move, encircling the enemy, and launching pincer movements from north and south simultaneously, even as the Germans encircled Stalingrad. The Germans should have withdrawn, but Hitler wouldn’t allow it. He wanted his armies to hold out until they could be reinforced. By the time those fresh troops arrived in December, it was too late. The Soviet position was too strong, and the Germans were exhausted.
By 24 JAN, the Soviets had overrun Paulus’ last airfield. His position was untenable and surrender was the only hope for survival. Hitler wouldn’t hear of it: “The 6th Army will hold its positions to the last man and the last round.” Paulus held out until 31 JAN, when he finally surrendered. Of more than 280,000 men under Paulus’ command, half were already dead or dying, about 35,000 had been evacuated from the front, and the remaining 91,000 were hauled off to Soviet POW camps. Paulus eventually sold out to the Soviets altogether, joining the National Committee for Free Germany and urging German troops to surrender. Testifying at Nuremberg for the Soviets, he was released and spent the rest of his life in East Germany.
- Jan 24 1943 – WW2: Operation Pamphlet » The operation was a convoy to bring the Australian Army’s 9th Division home from Egypt. The convoy included five transports, which were protected from Japanese warships by several Allied naval task forces during their trip across the Indian Ocean and along the Australian coastline. The Australian Government had requested an end to the Second Australian Imperial Force’s role in the North African Campaign. Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt attempted to convince the Australian Prime Minister, John Curtin, to withdraw the request until the Allied victory in North Africa was complete, but Curtin and Allied military leaders in the South West Pacific believed that the veteran division was needed for planned offensive operations in New Guinea. The 9th Division arrived in Australian ports on 27 FEB with no losses from enemy action, and went on to make important contributions in New Guinea during late 1943.
- Jan 24 1945 – WW2: A German attempt to relieve the besieged city of Budapest is finally halted by the Soviets.
- Jan 24 1961 – Cold War: A B–52 bomber carrying two H–bombs breaks up in mid–air over North Carolina. The uranium core of one weapon remains lost.
- Jan 24 1966 – Vietnam War: Operation Masher/White Wing/Thang Phong II launched » In the largest search-and-destroy operation to date–Operation Masher/White Wing/Thang Phong II–the U.S. 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile), South Vietnamese, and Korean forces ssweep through Binh Dinh Province in the central lowlands along the coast.
The purpose of the operation was to drive the North Vietnamese out of the province and destroy enemy supply areas. In late January, it became the first large unit operation conducted across corps boundaries when the cavalrymen linked up with Double Eagle, a U.S. Marine Corps operation intended to destroy the North Vietnamese 325A Division. Altogether, there were reported enemy casualties of 2,389 by the time the operation ended.
- Jan 24 1966 – Vietnam War: Defense Secretary Robert McNamara, in a memorandum to President Johnson, recommends raising the number of U.S. troops in Vietnam to more than 400,000 by the end of the year. However, he warned that planned deployments and increased bombing would not ensure military success. Ultimately, McNamara was correct and the war raged on even as total U.S. troop strength in country went over 500,000 soldiers in 1969.
- Jan 24 1972 – Post WW2: Japanese soldier found hiding on Guam » After 28 years of hiding in the jungles of Guam, local farmers discover Shoichi Yokoi, a Japanese sergeant who was unaware that World War II had ended.
Guam, a 200-square-mile island in the western Pacific, became a U.S. possession in 1898 after the Spanish-American War. In 1941, the Japanese attacked and captured it, and in 1944, after three years of Japanese occupation, U.S. forces retook Guam. It was at this time that Yokoi, left behind by the retreating Japanese forces, went into hiding rather than surrender to the Americans. In the jungles of Guam, he carved survival tools and for the next three decades waited for the return of the Japanese and his next orders. After he was discovered in 1972, he was finally discharged and sent home to Japan, where he was hailed as a national hero. He subsequently married and returned to Guam for his honeymoon. His handcrafted survival tools and threadbare uniform are on display in the Guam Museum in Agana.
- Jan 24 1973 – Vietnam War: Truce is expected in Laos and Cambodia » National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger announces that a truce is expected in Laos and Cambodia. Kissinger had been meeting privately with Le Duc Tho and other North Vietnamese and Viet Cong representatives in Paris since early January. They had worked out a peace agreement that was initialled in Paris on January 23 “to end the war and bring peace with honor in Vietnam and Southeast Asia.” Under the provisions of the agreement, a cease-fire would begin in Vietnam at 8 a.m., January 28, Saigon time (7 p.m., January 27, Eastern Standard Time). Kissinger said that the terms of the agreement would be extended to Cambodia and Laos, where government troops had been locked in deadly combat with the local communist forces (Khmer Rouge and Pathet Lao, respectively) and their North Vietnamese allies.
- Jan 24 1980 – Cold War: U.S. announces military equipment sales to China » In an action obviously designed as another in a series of very strong reactions to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, U.S. officials announce that America is ready to sell military equipment (excluding weapons) to communist China. The surprise statement was part of the U.S. effort to build a closer relationship with the People’s Republic of China for use as leverage against possible Soviet aggression.
The announcement concerning military equipment sales was one of many actions on the U.S-China front taken in the wake of the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan in December 1979. The U.S. Congress, on the same day, approved most-favored-nation trading status for China. In addition, an agreement was signed for the construction of a station in China that would be able to receive information from an American satellite; such information would aid China in such fields as agriculture and mining. The proposed sale of military equipment, however, was the most dramatic and controversial move made by the administration of President Jimmy Carter. Though such equipment would be limited to non-weapon materiel related to such areas as transportation and communications, the step was a significant one in terms of the developing U.S.-China relationship. The fact that the announcement occurred so soon after the Soviet action in Afghanistan was no coincidence–as one U.S. official noted, that action “sped up or catalyzed the process.”
The Carter administration’s decision to sell military equipment to communist China barely a year after establishing diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China was an indication of just how seriously the United States government viewed the Soviet attack on Afghanistan. The U.S. response to the Soviet Union was multi-faceted and vigorous, including diplomatic broadsides, economic sanctions, and even boycotting the 1980 Olympic games in Moscow. Many political analysts believed that the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan was a grievous diplomatic error, as it virtually ended any talk of detente with the United States.
- Jan 24 1982 – Vietnam War: A draft of Air Force history reports that the U.S. secretly sprayed herbicides on Laos during the war.
- Jan 25 1776 – American Revolution: The Continental Congress authorizes the first national Revolutionary War memorial in honor of Brigadier General Richard Montgomery, who had been killed during an assault on Quebec on December 31, 1775. They directed a Monument be procured, from Paris, or any other part of France, with an inscription, sacred to his memory, and expressive of his amiable character and heroick achievements; and that the Continental Treasurers be directed to advance a sum, not exceeding three hundred Pounds sterling, to Dr. Benjamin Franklin, (who is desired to see this Resolution properly executed,) for defraying the expenses thereof.
- Jan 25 1787 – Post-Revolutionary America: Shays’ Rebellion » The rebellion’s largest confrontation, outside the Springfield Armory, results in the killing of four rebels and the wounding of twenty.
The crisis of the 1780s was most intense in the rural and relatively newly settled areas of central and western Massachusetts. Many farmers in this area suffered from high debt as they tried to start new farms. Unlike many other state legislatures in the 1780s, the Massachusetts government didn’t respond to the economic crisis by passing pro-debtor laws (like forgiving debt and printing more paper money). As a result local sheriffs seized many farms and some farmers who couldn’t pay their debts were put in prison.
These conditions led to the first major armed rebellion in the post-Revolutionary United States. Once again, Americans resisted high taxes and unresponsive government that was far away. But this time it was Massachusetts’s settlers who were angry with a republican government in Boston, rather than with the British government across the Atlantic.
The rebels had planned an assault for 25 JAN, but Shay changed this at the last minute and sent a message indicating that he would not be ready to attack until the 26th. The message was intercepted, so the settler’s militia approached the armory not knowing that they would have no support from the west. Instead, they found the government militia waiting for them. Warning shots were fired over the heads of the attackers, and then two cannons fired grape shot. There was no musket fire from either side and the rebel advance collapsed.
- Jan 25 1863 – Civil War: Burnside relieved of command » Union General Ambrose Burnside is removed as commander of the Army of the Potomac after serving in the role for two months. Burnside assumed command of the army after President Abraham Lincoln removed General George B. McClellan from command in November 1862. Lincoln had a difficult relationship with McClellan, who built the army admirably but was a sluggish and overly cautious field commander.
General Ambrose Burnside (left) and General Joseph Hooker
Lincoln wanted an attack on the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia, which was commanded by Robert E. Lee. Burnside drafted a plan to move south towards Richmond, Virginia. The plan was sound, but delays in its execution alerted Lee to the danger. Lee headed Burnside off at Fredericksburg, Virginia, on 13 DEC. Burnside attacked repeatedly against entrenched Confederates along Marye’s Heights above Fredericksburg with tragic results for the Union. More than 13,000 Yankees fell; Lee lost just 5,000 troops. Northern morale sunk in the winter of 1862-1863.
Lincoln allowed Burnside one more chance. In January 1863, Burnside attempted another campaign against Lee. Four days of rain turned the Union offensive into the ignominious “Mud March,” during which the Yankees floundered on mud roads while Lee’s men jeered at them from across the Rappahannock River. Lincoln had seen enough–General Joseph Hooker took over command of the army from Burnside.
- Jan 25 1918 – WWI: Austria and Germany reject U.S. peace proposals.
- Jan 25 1942 – WW2: Thailand declares war on the United States and England » When war broke out in Europe in September 1939, Thailand declared its neutrality, much to the distress of France and England. Both European nations had colonies surrounding Thailand and hoped Thailand would support the Allied effort and prevent Japanese encroachment on their Pacific territory. But Thailand began moving in the opposite direction, creating a “friendship” with Japan and adding to its school textbooks a futuristic map of Thailand with a “Greater Thailand” encroaching on Chinese territory.
Thailand’s first real conflict with the Allies came after the fall of France to the Germans and the creation of the puppet government at Vichy. Thailand saw this as an opportunity to redraw the borders of French Indochina. The Vichy government refused to accommodate the Thais, so Thai troops crossed into French Indochina and battled French troops. Japan interceded in the conflict on the side of the Thais, and used its political alliance with Germany to force Vichy France to cede 21,000 square miles to Thailand.
On December 8, 1941, the Japanese made an amphibious landing on the coast of Thailand, part of the comprehensive sweep of South Pacific islands that followed the bombing raid at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The Japanese had assistance, though: Thailand’s Prime Minister, Lang Pipul, collaborated with the Japanese, embracing the Axis power’s war goal of usurping territory in China and ruling over the South Pacific. Pipul wanted to partake in the spoils; toward that end, he declared war on the United States and England. In October, he took dictatorial control of Thailand and became a loyal puppet of the Japanese.
- Jan 25 1943 – WW2: The last German airfield in Stalingrad is captured by the Red Army.
- Jan 25 1945 – WW2: The Battle of the Bulge ends.
- Jan 25 1949 – Post WW2: Axis Sally, who broadcasted Nazi propaganda to U.S. troops in Europe, stands trial in the United States for war crimes.
- Jan 25 1951 – Korea: The U.S. Eighth Army in Korea launches Operation Thunderbolt, a counter attack to push the Chinese Army north of the Han River.
- Jan 25 1956 – Cold War: Khrushchev declares that Eisenhower is “striving for peace” » In a long interview with visiting American attorney Marshall MacDuffie, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev adopts a friendly attitude toward the United States and indicates that he believes President Dwight Eisenhower is sincere in his desire for peace. The interview was the precursor to Khrushchev’s announcement later that same year that he wanted “peaceful coexistence” between the United States and the Soviet Union.
MacDuffie, a long-time acquaintance of the Soviet leader and a proponent of closer relations between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, spent three hours conducting the interview. During the discussion, Khrushchev indicated that it was his desire that “We should have disarmament and we should think how to avoid a new war.” He was critical of some U.S. officials that he accused of making belligerent statements towards the Soviet Union, but he was also quick to point out that he did not hold Eisenhower responsible for those statements. In fact, the Soviet leader praised the president’s leadership, and apparently hoped that Eisenhower might negotiate seriously on a number of issues.
Later that year, Khrushchev announced that the goal of the Soviet Union was “peaceful coexistence” with the United States. Eisenhower and his secretary of state, John Foster Dulles, were cautiously optimistic about this new Soviet approach—an American response that was markedly different from the pessimistic vigilance assumed during the harsh confrontational Stalin era. Later in the year, however, much of the new optimism was shattered when Soviet troops brutally suppressed revolts in Hungary, as any talk of striving for peace was overshadowed by that use of armed force.
- Jan 25 1969 – Vietnam War: First plenary session of the formal Paris Peace talks is held » The first fully attended meeting of the formal Paris peace talks is held. Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge, the chief negotiator for the United States, urged an immediate restoration of a genuine DMZ as the first “practical move toward peace.” Lodge also suggested a mutual withdrawal of “external” military forces and an early release of prisoners of war. Tran Buu Kiem and Xuan Thuy, heads of the National Liberation Front and North Vietnamese delegations respectively, refused Lodge’s proposals and condemned American “aggression.”
- Jan 25 1972 – Vietnam War: Nixon reveals information about secret negotiations » President Richard Nixon, in response to criticism that his administration has not made its best efforts to end the war, reveals that his National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger has held 12 secret peace negotiating sessions between August 4, 1969, and August 16, 1971. The negotiations took place in Paris with Le Duc Tho, a member of Hanoi’s Politburo, and/or with Xuan Thuy, Hanoi’s chief delegate to the formal Paris peace talks.
Nixon also disclosed the text of an eight-point peace proposal presented privately to the North Vietnamese on October 11, 1971. The main features of the eight-point plan were: withdrawal of all U.S. and Allied troops and all communist troops from South Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos within six months of an agreement; simultaneous release of all military and civilian prisoners of both sides; supervision of the cease-fire by an international commission; and presidential elections in South Vietnam organized and supervised by a coalition of factions including the Viet Cong, with President Nguyen Van Thieu and Vice President Tran Van Huong resigning one month after the voting.
The North Vietnamese rejected the U.S. peace proposal and presented a proposal of their own. While Washington wanted the withdrawal of all foreign forces from South Vietnam with the condition of an agreement in principle on a final solution, Hanoi insisted on the withdrawal of U.S. and Allied troops from all of Indochina without condition. Hanoi also wanted the immediate resignation of the Thieu regime. With the secret talks now public and at an impasse, the North Vietnamese leadership decided to order a massive invasion of South Vietnam, which was launched in March 1972.
- Jan 25 1984 – Space Travel: President Reagan endorses the development of the first U.S. permanently-manned space station.
- Jan 25 1995 – Cold War: Near launching of Russian nukes » Russia’s early-warning defense radar detects an unexpected missile launch near Norway, and Russian military command estimates the missile to be only minutes from impact on Moscow. Moments later, Russian President Boris Yeltsin, his defense minister, and his chief of staff were informed of the missile launch. The nuclear command systems switched to combat mode, and the nuclear suitcases carried by Yeltsin and his top commander were activated for the first time in the history of the Soviet-made weapons system. Five minutes after the launch detection, Russian command determined that the missile’s impact point would be outside Russia’s borders. Three more minutes passed, and Yeltsin was informed that the launching was likely not part of a surprise nuclear strike by Western nuclear submarines.
These conclusions came minutes before Yeltsin and his commanders should have ordered a nuclear response based on standard launch on warning protocols. Later, it was revealed that the missile, launched from Spitzbergen, Norway, was actually carrying instruments for scientific measurements. Nine days before, Norway had notified 35 countries, including Russia, of the exact details of the planned launch. The Russian Defense Ministry had received Norway’s announcement but had neglected to inform the on-duty personnel at the early-warning center of the imminent launch. The event raised serious concerns about the quality of the former Soviet Union’s nuclear systems.
- Jan 25 2003 –Iraq: A group of people leave London, England, for Baghdad, Iraq, to serve as human shields, intending to prevent the U.S.-led coalition troops from bombing certain locations.
Human shields greeted as they cross the border into Iraq, 15 February 2003
- Jan 26 1856 – Indian Wars: First Battle of Seattle » At the time, Seattle was a settlement in the Washington Territory that had recently named itself after Chief Seattle (Sealth), a leader of the Suquamish and Duwamish peoples of central Puget Sound.
Backed by artillery fire and supported by Marines from the United States Navy sloop-of-war Decatur, anchored in Elliott Bay (Seattle’s harbor, then called Duwam-sh Bay), the settlers suffered only two deaths. It is not known if any of the Native American raiders died, though the historian Phelps writes that they later “would admit” to 28 dead and 80 wounded. The battle, part of the multi-year Puget Sound War or Yakima War, lasted a single day.
- Jan 26 1942 – WW2: The first United States forces arrive in Europe landing in Northern Ireland.
- Jan 26 1970 – Vietnam War: POW spends 2,000th day in captivity » U.S. Navy Lt. Everett Alvarez Jr. spends his 2,000th day in captivity in Southeast Asia. First taken prisoner when his plane was shot down on August 5, 1964, he became the longest-held POW in U.S. history. Alvarez was downed over Hon Gai during the first bombing raids against North Vietnam in retaliation for the disputed attack on U.S. destroyers in the Gulf of Tonkin in August 1964.
Alvarez was released in 1973 after spending over eight years in captivity, the first six months as the only American prisoner in North Vietnam. From the first day of his captivity, he was shackled, isolated, nearly starved, and brutally tortured. Although he was among the more junior-rank prisoners of war, his courageous conduct under horrendous conditions and treatment helped establish the model emulated by the many other POWs that later joined him. After retirement from the Navy, he served as deputy director of the Peace Corps and deputy administrator of the Veterans Administration during the Reagan administration, before founding his own military consulting firm.
- Jan 26 1972 – Vietnam War: North Vietnam rejects U.S. peace proposal » Radio Hanoi announces North Vietnam’s rejection of the latest U.S. peace proposal. Revealing more details of the secret Paris peace talks, Henry Kissinger responds publicly, condemning the North Vietnamese announcement and criticizing Hanoi’s nine-point counter-proposal, which had been submitted during the secret talks.
Kissinger took exception with the communist insistence on the end of all U.S. support for the South Vietnamese government. The communists maintained that “withdrawal” meant not only withdrawal of U.S. troops, but also the removal of all U.S. equipment, aid, and arms in the possession of the South Vietnamese army. Kissinger asserted that the abrupt removal of all U.S. aid would guarantee the collapse of the Saigon regime. With the peace talks at a virtual impasse, the North Vietnamese leadership decided to launch a massive invasion of South Vietnam in March 1972.
- Jan 26 1980 – Cold War: U.S. Olympic Committee votes against Moscow games » At the request of President Jimmy Carter, the U.S. Olympic Committee votes to ask the International Olympic Committee to cancel or move the upcoming Moscow Olympics. The action was in response to the Soviet military invasion of Afghanistan the previous month.
Demonstrating once again that the Cold War infiltrated every facet of world life, the action indicated that even the Olympic Games, an arena for sportsmanship and friendly international competition, could be a highly politicized event. Although the Committee stopped short of announcing a U.S. boycott of the Olympics in Moscow, the U.S. stance left little room for optimism on that count.
President Carter made it clear that if the Soviets did not disengage from Afghanistan by 20 FEB, a cancellation of U.S. participation in the Olympics was all but certain. As one member of the committee stated, the vote reflected “what the president requested the committee to do.” He indicated that the vote was a message to the Soviets that “their aggression in Afghanistan will not go unanswered.” On the other side of the argument, a number of U.S. Olympic athletes were highly critical of both the vote and President Carter’s ultimatum, feeling that an international sports competition should not be a tool for political statements.
The Soviets ignored the vote and the ultimatum, and the U.S. Olympic Committee decided to boycott the games. It was the first time in the modern history of the Olympics that the United States refused to participate. Almost a decade passed before the Soviets pulled out of Afghanistan.
- Jan 27 1776 – American Revolution: Henry Knox’s “noble train of artillery” arrives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
- Jan 27 1825 – Old West: The U.S. Congress approves Indian Territory (in what is present-day Oklahoma), clearing the way for forced relocation of the Eastern Indians on the “Trail of Tears”.
- Jan 27 1862 – Civil War: President Abraham Lincoln issues General War Order No. 1, ordering all land and sea forces to advance on February 22, 1862. This bold move sent a message to his commanders that the president was tired of excuses and delays in seizing the offensive against Confederate forces.
- Jan 27 1918 – WW1: Plagued by hunger and increasingly frustrated with the continuing Great War, hundreds of thousands of long-suffering German workers prepare for a massive strike in Berlin.
- Jan 27 1939 – U.S. Air Force: First flight of the Lockheed P-38 Lightning.
- Jan 27 1943 – WW2: Americans Bomb Nazi Germany for the First Time » The 8th Bomber Command bombers carried out the first American air raids on German targets. The B-24 Liberators took off from a base in eastern England and flew across the North Sea to attack the Third Reich. This was the first time that American bombers were in action and in the next two years, the USAAF flew thousands of sorties over Germany and occupied Europe.
The 8th Bomber Command was formed in February 1942 as a heavy bomber force. It was sent to England to take part in raids on Germany. The Air Force had a large number of B-17 Flying Fortress bombers that had the ability to drop many tons of bombs on a target. The Command also had many B-24 Liberators that became famous for their precision bombing. The fleet was commanded by Brigadier General Newton Longfellow. Their target was Wilhelmshaven in Lower Saxony in eastern Germany. It was a key naval port on the Baltic Sea and was regularly attacked by Allied aircraft throughout the war. Indeed, by the end of the war, Wilhelmshaven was almost totally devastated.
The 8th Bomber Command flew to Wilhelmshaven, with the 306th Bomb Group (H) leading the way. In total, some 60 planes were involved in the raid, but only about 50 actually made it to their target successfully. The B-24s and B-17s dropped over 130 tons of high explosives. The Americans, although inexperienced, proved equal to the mission. They dropped tons of bombs on warehouses and industrial plants. The raid caused considerable damage. The Germans had installed many anti-aircraft guns in and around the port and the American bombers came under intense anti-aircraft fire. The Americans lost three planes to German fire, and the crews on board those planes perished.
In 1944, the 8th Bomber command was reformed and merged with another command to form the 8th air force. It was to play a very important role in the bombing campaign against Nazi Germany. The 8th Air Force also regularly bombed Berlin and sustained heavy losses in these attacks. In the summer of 1944, the Air Force bombed occupied France extensively in the run-up to the D-Day landings. The American air campaign, carried out in conjunction with the RAF, was a critical component in destroying the Nazis’ ability to wage war. This came at a great cost, as thousands of crewmen died in raids over occupied Europe and Nazi Germany. Americans conducted air raids on Germany until almost the final days of the war.
- Jan 27 1943 – WW2: Reagan serves in film unit » Future President Ronald Reagan, an Army Air Corps first lieutenant during World War II, is on an active-duty assignment with the Army’s First Motion Picture Unit.
Capt. Ronald Reagan at Fort Roach
Technically, Reagan was a unit public relations officer, however Warner Brothers Studios and the American Army Air Corps had tapped him the previous year to star in a motion picture called Air Force. To allow filming to go forward, Reagan was transferred from his cavalry unit to the Air Corps’ motion-picture unit in early January 1943.
Housed in the old Hal Roach studios, the First Motion Picture Unit (FMPU)–its acronym was pronounced fum-poo–produced military training, morale and propaganda films to aid the war effort. FMPU released Frank Capra’s Why We Fight series and a documentary of the bomber Memphis Belle, the crew of which completed a standard-setting 35 bombing missions in Europe. The films were screened on domestic training grounds and in troop camps overseas as well as in U.S. movie theaters.
Air Force, which was later renamed Beyond the Line of Duty, conveyed the true story of the heroic feats of aviator Shorty Wheliss and his crew and featured narration by Lt. Ronald Reagan. The documentary, intended to promote investment in war bonds, won an Academy Award in 1943 for best short subject. Reagan went on to narrate or star in three more shorts for FMPU including For God and Country, Cadet Classification, and The Rear Gunner. Reagan also appeared as Johnny Jones in the 1943 full-length musical film ‘This is the Army’.
- Jan 27 1951 – Cold War: Nuclear testing at the Nevada Test Site begins with a one–kiloton bomb dropped on Frenchman Flat.
- Jan 27 1944 – WW2: Siege of Leningrad is lifted » Soviet forces permanently break the Leningrad siege line, ending the almost 900-day German-enforced containment of the city, which cost hundreds of thousands of Russian lives.
The siege began officially on September 8, 1941. The people of Leningrad began building antitank fortifications and succeeded in creating a stable defense of the city, but as a result were cut off from all access to vital resources in the Soviet interior, Moscow specifically. In 1942, an estimated 650,000 Leningrad citizens perished from starvation, disease, exposure, and injuries suffered from continual German artillery bombardment.
Barges offered occasional relief in the summer and ice-borne sleds did the same in the winter. Slowly but surely a million of Leningrad’s young, sick, and elderly residents were evacuated, leaving about 2 million to ration available food and use all open ground to plant vegetables.
On 12 JAN, Soviet defenses punctured the siege, ruptured the German encirclement, and allowed more supplies to come in along Lake Ladoga. The siege officially ended after 872 days (though it is often called the 900-day siege), after a Soviet counteroffensive pushed the Germans westward.
- Jan 27 1945 – WW2: Auschwitz liberated – The Soviet Red Army liberated more than 7,500 prisoners left behind by Nazi personnel in the camp. The Auschwitz concentration camp was a complex of over 40 concentration and extermination camps built and operated by Nazi Germany in occupied Poland during World War II and the Holocaust. It consisted of Auschwitz I, the main camp (Stammlager) and administrative headquarters, in Oświęcim; Auschwitz II–Birkenau, a combined concentration/extermination camp three kilometers away in Brzezinka; Auschwitz III–Monowitz, a labor camp seven kilometers from Auschwitz I, set up to staff an IG Farben factory; and dozens of other subcamps
The first prisoners, German criminals brought to the camp as functionaries, arrived in May 1940. The first gassing of prisoners, using Zyklon B, a cyanide-based pesticide, took place in the basement of block 11 of Auschwitz I in September 1941. Auschwitz II–Birkenau went on to become a major site of the Nazis’ Final Solution to the Jewish Question. From early 1942 until late 1944, transport trains delivered Jews from all over German-occupied Europe to the camp’s gas chambers.
Of the estimated 1.3 million people sent to Auschwitz, at least 1.1 million died, around 90 percent of them Jews. Others deported to Auschwitz included 150,000 Poles, 23,000 Romani and Sinti, 15,000 Soviet prisoners of war, 400 Jehovah’s Witnesses, tens of thousands of others of diverse nationalities, and an unknown number of gay men. Many of those not killed in the gas chambers died of starvation, forced labor, infectious diseases, individual executions, and medical experiments.
In the course of the war, the camp was staffed by 7,000 members of the German Schutzstaffel (SS), approximately 12 percent of whom were later convicted of war crimes. Several, including camp commandant Rudolf Höss, were executed. The Allies did not act on early reports of atrocities at the camp, and their failure to bomb the camp or its railways remains controversial. At least 802 prisoners tried to escape from Auschwitz, 144 successfully, and on 7 October 1944 two Sonderkommando units, consisting of prisoners assigned to staff the gas chambers, launched a brief, unsuccessful uprising.
As Soviet troops approached Auschwitz in January 1945, most of its population was sent west on a death march. The prisoners remaining at the camp were liberated on 27 January 1945, a day commemorated since 2005 as International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
- Jan 27 1951 – Cold War: First atomic detonation at the Nevada test site » Forcefully marking the continued importance of the West in the development of nuclear weaponry, the government detonates the first of a series of nuclear bombs at its new Nevada test site.
Although much of the West had long lagged behind the rest of the nation in technological and industrial development, the massive World War II project to build the first atomic bomb single-handedly pushed the region into the 20th century. Code named the Manhattan Project, this ambitious research and development program pumped millions of dollars of federal funds into new western research centers like the bomb building lab at Los Alamos, New Mexico and the fissionable material production center at Hanford, Washington. Ironically, the very conditions that had once impeded western technological development became benefits: lots of wide-open unpopulated federal land where dangerous experiments could be conducted in secret.
After the war ended, the West continued to be the ideal region for Cold War-era nuclear experimentation for the same reasons. In December 1950, the Atomic Energy Commission designated a large swath of unpopulated desert land 65 miles northwest of Las Vegas as the Nevada Proving Ground for atmospheric atomic testing. On January 27, 1951, the government detonated its first atomic device on the site, resulting in a tremendous explosion, the flash from which was seen as far away as San Francisco.
The government continued to conduct atmospheric tests for six more years at the Nevada site. They studied the effects on humans by stationing ground troops as close as 2,500 yards from ground zero and moving them even closer shortly after the detonation. By 1957, though, the effects of radioactivity on the soldiers and the surrounding population led the government to begin testing bombs underground, and by 1962, all atmospheric testing had ceased.
In recent years, the harm caused to soldiers and westerners exposed to radioactivity from the Nevada test site has become a controversial topic. Some critics argue the government waged a “nuclear war on the West,” and maintain that the government knew of the dangers posed to people living near the test site well before the 1957 shift to underground tests. Others, though, point out that the test site has brought billions of dollars into the state and resulted in great economic benefit to Nevada.
- Jan 27 1967 – Space Travel: Astronauts die in launch pad fire » A launch pad fire during Apollo program tests at Cape Canaveral, Florida, kills astronauts Virgil “Gus” Grissom, Edward H. White II, and Roger B. Chafee. An investigation indicated that a faulty electrical wire inside the Apollo 1 command module was the probable cause of the fire. The astronauts, the first Americans to die in a spacecraft, had been participating in a simulation of the Apollo 1 launch scheduled for the next month.
The Apollo 1 crew, from left to right, Gus Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chaffee
The Apollo program was initiated by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) following President John F. Kennedy’s 1961 declaration of the goal of landing men on the moon and bringing them safely back to Earth by the end of the decade. The so-called “moon shot” was the largest scientific and technological undertaking in history. In December 1968, Apollo 8 was the first manned spacecraft to travel to the moon, and on July 20, 1969, astronauts Neil A. Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin Jr. walked on the lunar surface. In all, there were 17 Apollo missions and six lunar landings.
- Jan 27 1967 – Space Travel: The Outer Space Treaty is signed » The treaty forms the basis of international space law, opened for signature in the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union. As of October 2018, 107 countries are parties to the treaty, while another 23 have signed the treaty but have not completed ratification. In addition, Taiwan, which is currently recognized by 16 UN member states, ratified the treaty prior to the United Nations General Assembly’s vote to transfer China’s seat to the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in 1971.
It represents the basic legal framework of international space law. Among its principles, it bars states party to the treaty from placing weapons of mass destruction in Earth orbit, installing them on the Moon or any other celestial body, or otherwise stationing them in outer space. It exclusively limits the use of the Moon and other celestial bodies to peaceful purposes and expressly prohibits their use for testing weapons of any kind, conducting military maneuvers, or establishing military bases, installations, and fortifications (Article IV). However, the treaty does not prohibit the placement of conventional weapons in orbit and thus some highly destructive attack strategies such as kinetic bombardment are still potentially allowable. The treaty also states that the exploration of outer space shall be done to benefit all countries and that space shall be free for exploration and use by all the States.
The treaty explicitly forbids any government to claim a celestial resource such as the Moon or a planet. Article II of the treaty states that “outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies, is not subject to national appropriation by claim of sovereignty, by means of use or occupation, or by any other means.” However, the State that launches a space object retains jurisdiction and control over that object. The State is also liable for damages caused by its space object.
- Jan 27 1973 – Vietnam War: Paris Peace Accords signed » The United States, South Vietnam, Viet Cong, and North Vietnam formally sign “An Agreement Ending the War and Restoring Peace in Vietnam” in Paris. Due to South Vietnam’s unwillingness to recognize the Viet Cong’s Provisional Revolutionary Government, all references to it were confined to a two-party version of the document signed by North Vietnam and the United States—the South Vietnamese were presented with a separate document that did not make reference to the Viet Cong government. This was part of Saigon’s long-time refusal to recognize the Viet Cong as a legitimate participant in the discussions to end the war.
The settlement included a cease-fire throughout Vietnam. It addition, the United States agreed to the withdrawal of all U.S. troops and advisors (totalling about 23,700) and the dismantling of all U.S. bases within 60 days. In return, the North Vietnamese agreed to release all U.S. and other prisoners of war.
Both sides agreed to the withdrawal of all foreign troops from Laos and Cambodia and the prohibition of bases in and troop movements through these countries. It was agreed that the DMZ at the 17th Parallel would remain a provisional dividing line, with eventual reunification of the country “through peaceful means.” An international control commission would be established made up of Canadians, Hungarians, Poles, and Indonesians, with 1,160 inspectors to supervise the agreement. According to the agreement, South Vietnamese President Nguyen Van Thieu would continue in office pending elections. Agreeing to “the South Vietnamese People’s right to self-determination,” the North Vietnamese said they would not initiate military movement across the DMZ and that there would be no use of force to reunify the country.
Footnote: The last U.S. serviceman to die in combat in Vietnam, Lt. Col. William B. Nolde, was killed by an artillery shell at An Loc, 60 miles northwest of Saigon, only 11 hours before the truce went into effect.
- Jan 28 1777 – American Revolution: British plan to isolate New England » John Burgoyne, poet, playwright and British general, submits an ill-fated plan to the British government to isolate New England from the other colonies on this day in 1777. The plan revolved around an invasion of 8,000 British troops from Canada, who would move southward through New York by way of Lake Champlain and the Mohawk River, taking the Americans by surprise. General Burgoyne believed he and his troops could then take control of the Hudson River and isolate New England from the other colonies, freeing British General William Howe to attack Philadelphia.
General Burgoyne’s plan went into effect during the summer of 1777 and was initially a success—the British captured Fort Ticonderoga on June 2, 1777. However, the early success failed to lead to victory, as Burgoyne overextended his supply chain, which stretched in a long, narrow strip from the northern tip of Lake Champlain south to the northern curve of the Hudson River at Fort Edward, New York. As Burgoyne’s army marched south, Patriot militia circled north, cutting the British supply line.
Burgoyne then suffered defeat in Bennington, Vermont, and bloody draws at Bemis Heights, New York. On October 17, 1777, a frustrated Burgoyne retreated 10 miles and surrendered his remaining 6,000 British forces to the Patriots at Saratoga. Upon hearing of the Patriot victory, France agreed to recognize the independence of the United States. It was, of course, France’s eventual support that enabled the Patriots’ ultimate victory. The defeat at Saratoga led to General Burgoyne’s downfall. He returned to England, where he faced severe criticism and soon retired from active service.
- Jan 28 1828 – Pre Civil War: Thomas Hindman born » Confederate General Thomas Carmichael Hindman is born in Knoxville, Tennessee. He was raised in Alabama and educated in New York and New Jersey. His family moved to a Mississippi plantation, and he returned from the North to study law. His studies were interrupted by service in the Mexican War (1846-48), but he was admitted to the Mississippi Bar Association in 1851. He earned a reputation as an avid secessionist long before many Southerners held that view. He moved to Arkansas and was elected to Congress in 1858. Hindman’s law partner was Patrick Cleburne, who also became a Confederate general.
When the Civil War began, Hindman raised his own regiment and led it as a colonel. He was soon promoted to general and raised an army of 18,000 from Arkansas. His tenure as commander in Arkansas was stormy. Hindman declared martial law, imposed price controls, and enforced conscription. After his force was stopped at the Battle of Prairie Grove, Arkansas, in December 1862, Hindman was reassigned to the Army of Tennessee. He fought at Chickamauga and Atlanta, and was wounded twice.
After the war, Hindman fled to Mexico and joined a number of Confederates there. He returned to Arkansas in the late 1860s and became involved in politics again. He led a faction that challenged the Republican Party, and, in a pragmatic political maneuver, he began working on a biracial coalition. Hindman was shot as he sat in home, most likely by one of his political opponents. He died in September 1868 at age 40.
- Jan 28 1909 – Cuba: United States troops leave Cuba with the exception of Guantanamo Bay Naval Base after being there since the Spanish–American War.
- Jan 28 1915 – U.S. Coast Guard: An act of the U.S. Congress creates the U.S. Coast Guard as a branch of the United States Armed Forces to fight contraband trade and aid distressed vessels at sea.
- Jan 28 1915 – WWI: Germans sink American merchant ship » In the Germany’s first such action against American shipping interests on the high seas, the captain of a German cruiser orders the destruction of the William P. Frye, an American merchant ship.
The William P. Frye, a four-masted steel barque built in Bath, Maine, in 1901 and named for the well-known Maine senator William Pierce Frye (1830-1911), was on its way to England with a cargo of wheat. On 27 JAN, it was intercepted by a German cruiser in the South Atlantic Ocean off the Brazilian coast and ordered to jettison its cargo as contraband. When the American ship’s crew failed to fulfill these orders completely by the next day, the German captain ordered the destruction of the ship.
As the first American merchant vessel lost to Germany’s aggression during the Great War, the William P. Frye incident sparked the indignation of many in the United States. The German government’s apology and admission of the attack as a mistake did little to assuage Americans’ anger, which increased exponentially when German forces torpedoed and sank the British-owned ocean liner Lusitania on May 7, 1915, killing more than 1,000 people, including 128 Americans. The U.S., under President Woodrow Wilson, demanded reparations and an end to German attacks on all unarmed passenger and merchant ships. Despite Germany’s initial assurances to that end, the attacks continued.
In early February 1917, when Germany announced a return to unrestricted submarine warfare, the U.S. broke off diplomatic relations with the country. By the end of March, Germany had sunk several more passenger ships with Americans aboard and Wilson went before Congress to ask for a declaration of war on April 2, which was made four days later. The first American ships arrived in Europe within a week, marking a decisive end to U.S. neutrality.
- Jan 28 1932 – Japan*China: The Japanese attack Shanghai, China, and declare martial law.
- Jan 28 1941 – WW2: French General Charles DeGaulle‘s Free French forces sack south Libya oasis.
- Jan 28 1944 – WW2: U-571 Sunk » German submarine U-571 was a Type VIIC U-boat built for the Kriegsmarine of Nazi German. She conducted eleven war patrols, sinking seven ships totaling 47,169 gross register tons (GRT), and damaging one other, which displaced 11,394 tons. On this day she was attacked by an Australian-crewed Sunderland aircraft from No. 461 Squadron RAAF west of Ireland and was destroyed by depth charges. The aircraft’s captain, Flight Lieutenant R.D. Lucas, reported that most of the crew successfully abandoned ship, but soon died from hypothermia. U-571 sank with all hands – 52 dead. She had not, until her loss, suffered any casualties to her crew during her entire career. The fictional 2000 U.S. war film U-571 has no relation to this U-boat, but is very loosely based on the British capture of U-110 and her Enigma and cipher keys.
- Jan 28 1945 – WW2: Burma Road is reopened » Part of the 717-mile “Burma Road” from Lashio, Burma to Kunming in southwest China is reopened by the Allies, permitting supplies to flow back into China.
At the outbreak of war between Japan and China in 1937, when Japan began its occupation of China’s seacoast, China began building a supply route that would enable vital resources to evade the Japanese blockade and flow into China’s interior from outside. It was completed in 1939, and allowed goods to reach China via a supply route that led from the sea to Rangoon, and then by train to Lashio. When, in April 1942, the Japanese occupied most of Burma, the road from Lashio to China was closed, and the supply line was cut off.
The Allies were not able to respond until 1944, when Allied forces in eastern India made their way into northern Burma and were able to begin construction of another supply road that linked Ledo, India, with the part of the original Burma Road still controlled by the Chinese. The Stillwell Road (named for Gen. Joseph Stillwell, American adviser to Chiang Kai-shek, China’s leader) was finally opened on this day in 1945, once again allowing the free transport of supplies into China.
- Jan 28 1955 – Cold War: The U.S. Congress passes a bill allowing mobilization of troops if China should attack Taiwan.
- Jan 28 1964 – Cold War: Soviets shoot down U.S. jet » The U.S. State Department angrily accuses the Soviet Union of shooting down an American jet that strayed into East German airspace. Three U.S. officers aboard the plane were killed in the incident. The Soviets responded with charges that the flight was a “gross provocation,” and the incident was an ugly reminder of the heightened East-West tensions of the Cold War era.
A T-39 Sabreliner of the U.S. Air Force
The T-39 crossed the border into East Germany. Within five minutes, two blips appeared near the American jet. For 11 minutes, radar blips indicated the three planes were moving eastward, then two blips suddenly veered west and the third blip disappeared. American personnel monitoring the T-39’s flight could not determine what had happened, although it was later reported that residents in Vogelsberg, 50 miles from the border, had heard machine-gun and cannon fire and had witnessed the plane crash
According to the U.S. military, the jet was on a training flight over West Germany and pilots became disoriented by a violent storm that led the plane to veer nearly 100 miles off course. The Soviet attack on the plane provoked angry protests from the Department of State and various congressional leaders, including Senator Hubert H. Humphrey, who charged that the Soviets had intentionally downed the plane “to gain the offensive” in the aggressive Cold War maneuvering.
For their part, the Soviets refused to accept U.S. protests and responded that they had “all grounds to believe that this was not an error or mistake…It was a clear intrusion.” Soviet officials also claimed that the plane was ordered to land but refused the instructions. Shortly after the incident, U.S. officials were allowed to travel to East Germany to recover the bodies and the wreckage.
Like numerous other similar Cold War incidents–including the arrest of suspected “spies” and the seizure of ships–this event resulted in heated verbal exchanges between the United States and the Soviet Union, but little else. Both nations had bigger issues to contend with: the United States was engaged in the Vietnam War, and the Soviet Union was dealing with a widening split with communist China. The deaths were, however, another reminder that the heated suspicion, heightened tension, and loaded rhetoric of the Cold War did have the potential to erupt into meaningless death and destruction.
- Jan 28 1966 – Vietnam War: Operation White Wing, a search and destroy mission, begins.
- Jan 28 1973 – Vietnam War: Cease-fire goes into effect » At 8 a.m., Saigon time (midnight on January 27, Greenwich Mean Time) a cease-fire goes into effect. At that time Saigon controlled about 75 percent of South Vietnam’s territory and 85 percent of the population. The South Vietnamese Army was well equipped via last-minute deliveries of U.S. weapons and continued to receive U.S. aid after the cease-fire. The CIA estimated North Vietnamese presence in the South at 145,000 men, about the same as the previous year. The cease-fire began on time, but both sides violated it. South Vietnamese forces continued to take back villages occupied by communists in the two days before the cease-fire deadline and the communists tried to capture additional territory.
Each side held that military operations were justified by the other side’s violations of the cease-fire. What resulted was an almost endless chain of retaliations. During the period between the initiation of the cease-fire and the end of 1973, there were an average of 2,980 combat incidents per month in South Vietnam. Most of these were low-intensity harassing attacks designed to wear down the South Vietnamese forces, but the North Vietnamese intensified their efforts in the Central Highlands in September when they attacked government positions with tanks west of Pleiku. As a result of these post-cease-fire actions, about 25,000 South Vietnamese were killed in battle in 1973, while communist losses in South Vietnam were estimated at 45,000.
- Jan 28 1975 – Vietnam War: Ford asks for additional aid » President Gerald Ford asks Congress for an additional $522 million in military aid for South Vietnam and Cambodia. He revealed that North Vietnam now had 289,000 troops in South Vietnam, and tanks, heavy artillery, and antiaircraft weapons “by the hundreds.” Ford succeeded Richard Nixon when he resigned the presidency in August 1974. Despite his wishes to honor Nixon’s promise to come to the aid of South Vietnam, he was faced with a hostile Congress who refused to appropriate military aid for South Vietnam and Cambodia; both countries fell to the communists later in the year.
- Jan 28 1980 – U.S. Coast Guard: USCGC Blackthorn collides with the tanker Capricorn while leaving Tampa Florida and capsizes killing 23 Coast Guard crewmembers.
- Jan 28 1986 – Space Travel: Challenger disaster » At 11:38 a.m. EST the space shuttle Challenger lifts off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, and Christa McAuliffe is on her way to becoming the first ordinary U.S. civilian to travel into space. McAuliffe, a 37-year-old high school social studies teacher from New Hampshire, won a competition that earned her a place among the seven-member crew of the Challenger. She underwent months of shuttle training but then, beginning 23 JAN, was forced to wait six long days as the Challenger‘s launch countdown was repeatedly delayed because of weather and technical problems. Finally, on 28 JAN, the shuttle lifted off.
Seventy-three seconds later, hundreds on the ground, including Christa’s family, stared in disbelief as the shuttle broke up in a forking plume of smoke and fire. Millions more watched the wrenching tragedy unfold on live television. There were no survivors.
In 1976, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) unveiled the world’s first reusable manned spacecraft, the Enterprise. Five years later, space flights of the shuttle began when Columbia traveled into space on a 54-hour mission. Launched by two solid-rocket boosters and an external tank, only the aircraft-like shuttle entered into orbit around Earth. When the mission was completed, the shuttle fired engines to reduce speed and, after descending through the atmosphere, landed like a glider. Early shuttles took satellite equipment into space and carried out various scientific experiments. The Challenger disaster was the first major shuttle accident.
In the aftermath of the disaster, President Ronald Reagan appointed a special commission to determine what went wrong with Challenger and to develop future corrective measures. The presidential commission was headed by former secretary of state William Rogers, and included former astronaut Neil Armstrong and former test pilot Chuck Yeager. The investigation determined that the disaster was caused by the failure of an “O-ring” seal in one of the two solid-fuel rockets. The elastic O-ring did not respond as expected because of the cold temperature at launch time, which began a chain of events that resulted in the massive loss. As a result, NASA did not send astronauts into space for more than two years as it redesigned a number of features of the space shuttle.
In September 1988, space shuttle flights resumed with the successful launching of the Discovery. Since then, the space shuttle has carried out numerous important missions, such as the repair and maintenance of the Hubble Space Telescope and the construction of the International Space Station.
On February 1, 2003, a second space-shuttle disaster rocked the United States when Columbia disintegrated upon reentry of the Earth’s atmosphere. All aboard were killed. Despite fears that the problems that downed Columbia had not been satisfactorily addressed, space-shuttle flights resumed on July 26, 2005, when Discovery was again put into orbit.
- Jan 29 1777 – American Revolution: Facing a surprise British counterassault in the bitter cold and with a snowstorm approaching, American commander Major General William Heath and his army of 6,000 abandon their siege on Fort Independence, in Bronx County, New York
- Jan 29 1861 – Civil War: Divided Kansas enters the Union » The territory of Kansas is admitted into the Union as the 34th state, or the 28th state if the secession of eight Southern states over the previous six weeks is taken into account. Kansas, deeply divided over the issue of slavery, was granted statehood as a free state in a gesture of support for Kansas’ militant anti-slavery forces, which had been in armed conflict with pro-slavery groups since Kansas became a territory in 1854.
Trouble in territorial Kansas began with the signing of the 1854 Kansas-Nebraska Act by President Franklin Pierce. The act stipulated that settlers in the newly created territories of Nebraska and Kansas would decide by popular vote whether their territory would be free or slave. In early 1855, Kansas’ first election proved a violent affair, as more than 5,000 so-called Border Ruffians invaded the territory from western Missouri and forced the election of a pro-slavery legislature. To prevent further bloodshed, Andrew H. Reeder, appointed territorial governor by President Pierce, reluctantly approved the election. A few months later, the Kansas Free State forces were formed, armed by supporters in the North and featuring the leadership of militant abolitionist John Brown.
During the next four years, raids, skirmishes, and massacres continued in “Bleeding Kansas,” as it became popularly known. The territory’s admittance into the Union in January 1861 only increased tension, but just three and a half months later the irrepressible differences in Kansas were swallowed up by the full-scale outbreak of the American Civil War. During the Civil War, Kansas suffered the highest rate of fatal casualties of any Union state, largely because of its great internal divisions over the issue of slavery.
- Jan 29 1865 – Civil War: William Quantrill and his Confederate raiders attack Danville, Kentucky.
- Jan 29 1915 – WWI: German lieutenant Erwin Rommel leads daring mission in France » In the Argonne region of France, German lieutenant Erwin Rommel leads his company in the daring capture of four French block-houses, the structures used on the front to house artillery positions.
Rommel crept through the French wire first and then called for the rest of his company to follow him. When they hung back after he had repeatedly shouted his orders, Rommel crawled back, threatening to shoot the commander of his lead platoon if the other men did not follow him. The company finally advanced, capturing the block-houses and successfully combating an initial French counter-attack before they were surrounded, subjected to heavy fire and forced to withdraw.
Rommel was awarded the Iron Cross, First Class, for his bravery in the Argonne; he was the first officer of his regiment to be so honored. Where Rommel is, there is the front, became a popular slogan within his regiment. The bravery and ingenuity he displayed throughout the Great War, even in light of the eventual German defeat, led to Rommel’s promotion through the ranks of the army in the post-war years.
In May 1940, Erwin Rommel was at the head of the 7th Panzer Division that invaded France with devastating success at the beginning of the Second World War. Promoted to general and later to field marshal, he was sent to North Africa at the head of the German forces sent to aid Hitler’s ally, Benito Mussolini. Known as the Desert Fox, Rommel engineered impressive victories against Britain in Libya and Egypt before his troops were decisively defeated at El Alamein in Egypt in 1943 and forced to retreat from the region.
Back in France to see the success of the Allied invasion in June and July 1944, Rommel warned Hitler that the end of the war was near. The unequal struggle is nearing its end, Rommel sent in a teletype message on July 15. I must ask you immediately to draw the necessary conclusions from this situation.
Suspected by Hitler of conspiring against him in the so-called July Plot, Rommel was presented with an ultimatum: suicide, with a state funeral and protection for his family, or trial for high treason. Rommel chose the former, taking poison pills on October 14, 1944. He was buried with full military honors.
- Jan 29 1916 – WWI: Paris is first bombed by German zeppelins.
- Jan 29 1942 – WW2: German and Italian troops take Benghazi in North Africa.
- Jan 29 1942 – WW2: Britain and the USSR secure an agreement with Iran that offers the Iran protection while creating a “Persian corridor” for the Allies—a supply route from the West to Russia.
- Jan 29 1943 – WW2: Battle of Rennell Island Guadalcanal » The last major naval engagement between the United States Navy and the Imperial Japanese Navy during the Guadalcanal Campaign of World War II. It occurred in the South Pacific between Rennell Island and Guadalcanal in the southern Solomon Islands.
In the battle, Japanese naval land-based torpedo bombers, seeking to provide protection for the impending evacuation of Japanese forces from Guadalcanal, made several attacks over two days on U.S. warships operating as a task force south of this island. In addition to approaching Guadalcanal with the objective of engaging any Japanese ships that might come into range, the U.S. task force was protecting an Allied transport ship convoy carrying replacement troops there.
USS Chicago low in the water on the morning of 30 January 1943, from torpedo damage inflicted the night before. She was sunk by another air attack that afternoon.
As a result of the Japanese air attacks on the task force, one U.S. heavy cruiser was sunk, a destroyer was heavily damaged, and the rest of the U.S. task force was forced to retreat from the southern Solomons area. Partly because they turned back the U.S. task force in this battle, the Japanese successfully evacuated their remaining troops from Guadalcanal by 7 February 1943, leaving it in the hands of the Allies and ending the battle for the island.
- Jan 29 1944 – WW2: The world’s greatest warship, Missouri, is launched.
- Jan 29 1964 – Cold War: Dr. Strangelove premieres » Stanley Kubrick’s black comic masterpiece, Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb opens in theaters to both critical and popular acclaim. The movie’s popularity was evidence of changing attitudes toward atomic weapons and the concept of nuclear deterrence.
The movie focused on the actions of a rogue U.S. officer who believes that communists are threatening the “precious bodily fluids” of Americans. Without authorization, he issues orders to U.S. bombers to launch atomic attacks against the Soviet Union. When it becomes evident that some of the bombers may actually drop their atomic payloads, American President Merkin Muffley frantically calls his Soviet counterpart. The Russian leader informs Muffley that an atomic attack on the Soviet Union will automatically unleash the terrible “doomsday machine,” which will snuff out all life on the planet. Muffley’s chief foreign policy advisor, Dr. Strangelove, reassures the president and chief officials that all is not lost: they can, he posits, survive even the doomsday machine by retreating to deep mineshafts.
Close scrutiny of the Dr. Strangelove character indicated that he was probably a composite of three people: Henry Kissinger, a political scientist who had written about nuclear deterrence strategy; Edward Teller, a key scientist in the development of the hydrogen bomb; and Wernher von Braun, the German scientist who was a leading figure in missile technology.
Little scrutiny was needed, however, to grasp Kubrick’s satirical attacks on the American and Russian policies of nuclear stockpiling and massive retaliation. The film’s jabs at some of the sacred core beliefs of America’s defense strategy struck a chord with the American people. Particularly after the frightening Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962–when nuclear annihilation seemed a very real possibility–the American public was increasingly willing to question the nation’s reliance on nuclear weapons.
- Jan 29 1967 – Vietnam War: Thirty-seven civilians are killed by a U.S. helicopter attack in Vietnam.
- Jan 29 1968 – Vietnam War: President Johnson requests additional funds » In his annual budget message, President Lyndon B. Johnson asks for $26.3 billion to continue the Vietnam War, and announces an increase in taxes. The war was becoming very expensive, both in terms of lives and national treasure. Johnson had been given a glowing report on progress in the war from Gen. William Westmoreland, senior U.S. commander in South Vietnam. Westmoreland stated in a speech before the National Press Club that, “We have reached an important point when the end begins to come into view. I am absolutely certain that, whereas in 1965 the enemy was winning, today he is certainly losing. The enemy’s hopes are bankrupt.”
The day after Johnson’s budget speech, the communists launched a massive attack across the length and breadth of South Vietnam. This action, the Tet Offensive, proved to be a critical turning point for the United States in Vietnam. In the end, the offensive resulted in a crushing military defeat for the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese, but the size and scope of the communist attacks caught the American and South Vietnamese allies by surprise. The heavy U.S. and South Vietnamese casualties incurred during the offensive, coupled with the disillusionment over the administration’s earlier overly optimistic reports of progress in the war, accelerated the growing disenchantment with the president’s conduct of the war. Johnson, frustrated with his inability to reach a solution in Vietnam, announced on March 31, 1968, that he would neither seek nor accept the nomination of his party for re-election.
- Jan 29 1974 – Vietnam War: Fighting continues in South Vietnam » The fighting continues in South Vietnam despite the cease-fire that was initiated on January 28, 1973, under the provisions of the Paris Peace Accords.
This latest fighting was part of the ongoing battles that followed the brief lull of the cease-fire. The Peace Accords had left an estimated 145,000 North Vietnamese troops in South Vietnam when the cease-fire went into effect. Renewed fighting broke out after the cease-fire as both sides jockeyed for control of territory throughout South Vietnam. Each side held that military operations were justified by the other side’s violations of the cease-fire, resulting in an almost endless chain of retaliations.
During the period between the initiation of the cease-fire and the end of 1973, there were an average of 2,980 combat incidents per month in South Vietnam. Most of these were low-intensity harassing attacks designed to wear down the South Vietnamese forces, but the North Vietnamese intensified their efforts in the Central Highlands in September when they attacked government positions with tanks west of Pleiku. As a result of these post-cease-fire actions, approximately 25,000 South Vietnamese were killed in battle in 1973, while communist losses in South Vietnam were estimated at 45,000.
- Jan 29 1984 – Cold War: The Soviets issue a formal complaint against alleged U.S. arms treaty violations.
- Jan 29 1991 – U.S.*China: Deng Xiaoping and Jimmy Carter sign accords » Deng Xiaoping, deputy premier of China, meets President Jimmy Carter, and together they sign historic new accords that reverse decades of U.S. opposition to the People’s Republic of China.
Deng Xiaoping lived out a full and complete transformation of China. The son of a landowner, he joined the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in 1920 and participated in Mao Zedong’s Long March in 1934. In 1945, he was appointed to the Party Central Committee and, with the 1949 victory of the communists in the Chinese Civil War, became the regional party leader of southwestern China. Called to Beijing as deputy premier in 1952, he rose rapidly, became general secretary of the CCP in 1954, and a member of the ruling Political Bureau in 1955.
A major policy maker, he advocated individualism and material incentives in China’s attempt to modernize its economy, which often brought him into conflict with Mao and his orthodox communist beliefs. With the launch of the Cultural Revolution in 1966, Deng was attacked as a capitalist and removed from high party and government posts. He disappeared from public view and worked in a tractor factory, but in 1973 was reinstated by Premier Zhou Enlai, who again made him deputy premier. When Zhou fell ill in 1975, Deng became the effective leader of China.
In January 1976, Zhou died, and in the subsequent power struggle Deng was purged by the “Gang of Four”–strict Maoists who had come to power in the Cultural Revolution. In September, however, Mao Zedong died, and Deng was rehabilitated after the Gang of Four fell from power. He resumed his post as deputy premier, often overshadowing Premier Hua Guofeng. Deng sought to open China to foreign investment and create closer ties with the West. In January 1979, he signed accords with President Jimmy Carter, and later that year the United States granted full diplomatic recognition to the People’s Republic of China.
In 1981, Deng strengthened his position by replacing Hua Guofeng with his protege, Hu Yaobang, and together the men instituted widespread economic reforms in China. The reforms were based on capitalist models, such as the decentralization of various industries, material incentives as the reward for economic success, and the creation of a skilled and well-educated financial elite. As chief adviser to a series of successors, he continued to be the main policy maker in China during the 1980s.
Under Deng, China’s economy rapidly grew, and citizens enjoyed expanded personal, economic, and cultural freedoms. Political freedoms were still greatly restricted, however, and China continued as an authoritative one-party state. In 1989, Deng hesitantly supported the government crackdown on the democratic demonstrations in Tiananmen Square. Later that year, he resigned his last party post but continued to be an influential adviser to the Chinese government until his death in 1997.
- Jan 29 1991 – Gulf War: Iraqi forces attack into Saudi Arabian town of Kafji, but are turned back by Coalition forces.
- Jan 30 1781 – American Revolution: Maryland becomes the 13th and final state to ratify the Articles of Confederation, almost three years after the official deadline given by Congress of March 10, 1778.
- Jan 30 1862 – Pre Civil War: Nathaniel Banks born » Union General Nathaniel Banks is born in Waltham, Massachusetts. Banks was a political general–he had few military skills, but as an anti-slave Republican from Massachusetts, he helped President Abraham Lincoln’s administration maintain support in that region.
Banks was born to a cotton mill worker and never attended college. Nonetheless, he studied law, languages, and oratory, and became a lawyer by the late 1830s. He served in the state legislature, and was speaker of the Massachusetts House of Representatives. In 1853, Banks was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. From 1858 to 1861, he served as governor of his home state, and was considered a popular and effective leader.
When the Civil War began, Banks was commissioned as a general despite his complete lack of military experience. This was typical during the war. There were simply not enough qualified men to fill the positions, and the Lincoln administration had to make appointments with, in part, political motives in mind. Banks commanded an army in the Shenandoah Valley during Confederate General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson’s campaign there in 1862. He suffered two serious defeats to Jackson at Front Royal and Winchester, and his army lost so many supplies that the Confederates began calling him “Commissary Banks.” In August, Banks commanded a corps at the Battle of Cedar Mountain, Virginia. He again found himself pitted against Jackson, and again lost to him. Banks was forced to retreat to Washington, D.C.
Banks was then sent to New Orleans to command the Department of the Gulf. In 1863,he managed to capture Port Hudson, a key Confederate stronghold on the Mississippi River. His victory was difficult and came with a high price in casualties, but it was the general’s first victory of the war. In 1864, Banks commanded the Red River Campaign in northern Louisiana, which turned into a complete Union disaster. He did not command troops in the field again. Banks also managed the reconstruction of Louisiana during the war, and his record in doing so was also suspect. He used the state’s antebellum constitution to govern and simply deleted references to slavery, which did little to promote the rights of freed slaves. In fact, Banks actually forced many black “vagrants” back to work on plantations.
After the war, Banks served two more stints in Congress and also spent time as a U.S. marshall. He was serving in Congress when he died in 1894 at age 78.
- Jan 30 1862 – U.S. Navy: The first American ironclad warship, the USS Monitor is launched at Greenpoint, Long Island.
- Jan 30 1911 – U.S. Navy: The destroyer USS Terry (DD–25) makes the first airplane rescue at sea saving the life of James McCurdy 10 miles from Havana, Cuba.
- Jan 30 1915 – WWI: Germany is the first to make large-scale use of poison gas in warfare in the Battle of Bolimów against Russia.
- Jan 30 1917 – WWI: Germany announces that its U-boats will resume unrestricted submarine warfare after a two-year hiatus.
- Jan 30 1918 – WWI: Paris Again on the Front Lines » Paris once again became a target for German bombardment aimed at demoralizing the Parisians. On 30 JAN, four squadrons of seven German Gotha bombers each appeared over the city and suburbs to drop two hundred bombs. There were more attacks on 8 & 11 MAR. The attacks took place at night, and Parisians took sanctuary in the Métro stations. During a new attack on the night of 11–12 MAR, a panic took place in the crowded Bolivar Métro station that caused the deaths of seventy civilians.
On 21 MAR, the Germans launched a major new offensive, hoping to end the war before the bulk of American forces arrived. They attacked through a gap between the British and French Armies and headed directly toward Paris. On 23 MAR, the Germans introduced a new weapon to terrorize the Parisians: the long-ranged Paris Gun. It could fire shells 120 kilometers into the heart of the city. 303 huge shells were lobbed into the city. On 29 MAR one shell struck the Saint-Gervais church, killing 88 persons. A total of 256 Parisians were killed and 629 were wounded by German shells. Another enemy struck Paris in the spring of 1918, even deadlier than the German artillery: an epidemic of the Spanish influenza. At the peak of the epidemic, in October 1918, 1,769 Parisians died, including the writers Guillaume Apollinaire and Edmond Rostand.
By July 14, 1918, the new German offensive had reached Château-Thierry, only seventy kilometers from Paris. The city was put back under military government. The bombardments of the city intensified; works of art were once again evacuated from the Louvre; sandbags were placed around monuments; and the street lights were turned off at ten in the evening to hide the city from German night bombers. To resist the Germans more effectively, Clemenceau insisted that the French, British and American armies be under a single commander, Marshal Ferdinand Foch. Large numbers of American soldiers arrived in France every month, while German resources and manpower were nearly exhausted. The German offensive was turned back by an Allied counter-offensive on 21 JUL, and the threat to Paris lifted again.
- Jan 30 1933 – Pre WW2: President Paul von Hindenburg names Adolf Hitler, leader or fuhrer of the National Socialist German Workers Party (or Nazi Party), as chancellor of Germany.
- Jan 30 1942 – WW2: Holocaust » In a speech to the German public, Hitler commemorates the ninth anniversary of his taking power, declaring that the end result of the war will not be the destruction of the Aryans but will be the complete annihilation of the Jews. The speech is monitored in Washington, D.C., and London.
- Jan 30 1942 – WW2: Allied forces are defeated by the Japanese at the Battle of Malaya and retreat to the island of Singapore.
- Jan 30 1942 – WW2: Japanese forces invade the island of Ambon in the Dutch East Indies.
- Jan 30 1943 – WW2: The British Royal Air Force begins a bombing campaign on the German capital that coincides with the 10th anniversary of Hitler’s accession to power.
- Jan 30 1943 – WW2: German Field Marshal Friedrich Paulus surrenders himself and his staff to the Soviets at Stalingrad, followed 2 days later by the remainder of his Sixth Army, ending one of the war’s fiercest battles.
Paulus (left) and his aides Col. Wilhelm Adam (right) and Lt.-Gen. Arthur Schmidt (middle), after their surrender in Stalingrad
- Jan 30 1943 – WW2: Second day of the Battle of Rennell Island. The USS Chicago (CA–29) is sunk and a U.S. destroyer is heavily damaged by Japanese torpedoes.
- Jan 30 1944 – WW2: The Battle of Cisterna, part of Operation Shingle, takes place in central Italy with a clear German victory.
- Jan 30 1944 – WW2: American forces land on Kwajalein Atoll and other islands in the Japanese-held Marshall Islands.
- Jan 30 1945 – WW2: Burma supply route cleared » A vital supply route linking India to China through Burma is finally cleared for Allied military transports on this day in 1945. The first convoy of 133 trucks under British General Mountbatten left Ledo several weeks earlier, but could not enter China until the Americans were able to remove the last Japanese troops, retreating southward from a Chinese counter-offensive. Chinese General Chiang Kai-shek said the road had broken Japan’s siege of China.
- Jan 30 1945 – WW2: The Allies launch a drive on the Siegfried line in Germany.
- Jan 30 1945 – WW2: Raid at Cabanatuan: 126 American Rangers and Filipino resistance liberate 500 prisoners from the Cabanatuan POW camp.
- Jan 30 1945 – WW2: About 3,000 inmates from the Stutthof concentration camp are forcibly marched into the Baltic Sea at Palmnicken (now Yantarny, Russia) and executed.
- Jan 30 1945 – WW2: The Wilhelm Gustloff, overfilled with German refugees, sinks in the Baltic Sea after being torpedoed by a Soviet submarine, leading to the deadliest known maritime disaster with approximately 9,500 people killed.
- Jan 30 1953 – Cold War: President Dwight Eisenhower announces that he will pull the Seventh Fleet out of Formosa to permit the Nationalists to attack Communist China.
- Jan 30 1964 – Space Travel: The Ranger spacecraft, equipped with six TV cameras, is launched to the moon from Cape Canaveral.
- Jan 30 1968 – Vietnam War: Tet Offensive begins » At dawn on the first day of the Tet holiday truce, Viet Cong forces–supported by large numbers of North Vietnamese troops–launch the largest and best coordinated offensive of the war, driving into the center of South Vietnam’s seven largest cities and attacking 30 provincial capitals from the Delta to the DMZ.
Among the cities taken during the first four days of the offensive were Hue, Dalat, Kontum, and Quang Tri; in the north, all five provincial capitals were overrun. At the same time, enemy forces shelled numerous Allied airfields and bases. In Saigon, a 19-man Viet Cong suicide squad seized the U.S. Embassy and held it for six hours until an assault force of U.S. paratroopers landed by helicopter on the building’s roof and routed them. Nearly 1,000 Viet Cong were believed to have infiltrated Saigon, and it took a week of intense fighting by an estimated 11,000 U.S. and South Vietnamese troops to dislodge them.
By 10 FEB, the offensive was largely crushed, but with heavy casualties on both sides. The former Imperial capital of Hue took almost a month of savage house-to-house combat to regain. Efforts to assess the offensive’s impact began well before the fighting ended. On 2 FEB, President Johnson announced that the Viet Cong had suffered complete military defeat. General Westmoreland echoed that appraisal four days later in a statement declaring that Allied forces had killed more enemy troops in the previous seven days than the United States had lost in the entire war.
Militarily, Tet was decidedly an Allied victory, but psychologically and politically, it was a disaster. The offensive was a crushing military defeat for the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese, but the size and scope of the communist attacks caught the American and South Vietnamese allies by surprise. The early reporting of a smashing communist victory went largely uncorrected in the media and led to a psychological victory for the communists. The heavy U.S. and South Vietnamese casualties incurred during the offensive, coupled with the disillusionment over the earlier overly optimistic reports of progress in the war, accelerated the growing disenchantment with President Johnson’s conduct of the war. Johnson, frustrated with his inability to reach a solution in Vietnam, announced on March 31, 1968, that he would neither seek nor accept the nomination of his party for re-election.
- Jan 30 1971 – Vietnam War: The Winter Soldier Investigation, organized by the Vietnam Veterans against the War to publicize war crimes and atrocities by Americans and allies in Vietnam, begins in Detroit, Michigan.
- Jan 30 1971 – Vietnam War: Operation Dewey Canyon II begins » The Operation is the initial phase of Lam Son 719, the South Vietnamese invasion of Laos that would commence on 8 FEB. The purpose of the South Vietnamese operation was to interdict the Ho Chi Minh Trail, advance to Tchepone in Laos, and destroy the North Vietnamese supply dumps in the area.
In Dewey Canyon II, the vanguard of the U.S. 1st Brigade, 5th Infantry Division began moving from Vandegrift Combat Base along highway Route 9 toward Khe Sanh with an armored cavalry/engineer task force. These units were to clear the way for the move of 20,000 South Vietnamese troops along the highway to reoccupy 1,000 square miles of territory in northwest South Vietnam and to mass at the Laotian border in preparation for Lam Son 719.
U.S. ground forces were not to enter Laos, in accordance with a U.S. congressional ban. Instead they gave logistical support, with some 2,600 helicopters on call to airlift Saigon troops and supplies. In addition, U.S. artillerymen provided long-range artillery fires into Laos from American firebases just inside the South Vietnamese border.
- Jan 31 1865 – Civil War: House passes the 13th Amendment » On this day in 1865, the U.S. House of Representatives passes the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, abolishing slavery in America. The amendment read, “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude … shall exist within the United States or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”
When the Civil War began, President Abraham Lincoln’s professed goal was the restoration of the Union. But early in the war, the Union began keeping escaped slaves rather than returning them to their owners, so slavery essentially ended wherever the Union army was victorious. In September 1862, Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing all slaves in areas that were still in rebellion against the Union. This measure opened the issue of what to do about slavery in Border States that had not seceded or in areas that had been captured by the Union before the proclamation.
In 1864, an amendment abolishing slavery passed the U.S. Senate but died in the House as Democrats rallied in the name of states’ rights. The election of 1864 brought Lincoln back to the White House along with significant Republican majorities in both houses, so it appeared the amendment was headed for passage when the new Congress convened in March 1865. Lincoln preferred that the amendment receive bipartisan support–some Democrats indicated support for the measure, but many still resisted. The amendment passed 119 to 56, seven votes above the necessary two-thirds majority. Several Democrats abstained, but the 13th Amendment was sent to the states for ratification, which came in December 1865. With the passage of the amendment, the institution that had indelibly shaped American history was eradicated.
- Jan 31 1915 – WWI: Battle of Bolimów » The Battle was the first attempt by the Germans at a large-scale use of poison gas; the eighteen thousand gas shells they fired proved unsuccessful when the xylyl bromide—a type of tear gas—was blown back at their own lines. The gas caused few, if any, casualties, however, since the cold weather caused it to freeze, rendering it ineffective. The failure of the xylyl bromide caused the German commanders to call off their attack. In response, the Russians sent 11 divisions, led by Vasily Gurko to launch a counterattack; German artillery repelled the Russian troops, who suffered 40,000 casualties.
- Jan 31 1915 – WWI: German U-boats sink two British steamers in the English Channel.
- Jan 31 1917 – WWI: Germany resumes submarine warfare » Germany announces the renewal of unlimited submarine warfare in the Atlantic, and German torpedo-armed submarines prepare to attack any and all ships, including civilian passenger carriers, said to be sited in war-zone waters. Three days later, the United States broke diplomatic relations with Germany, and just hours after that the American liner Housatonic was sunk by a German U-boat. None of the 25 Americans on board were killed, and all were later picked up by a British steamer.
When World War I erupted in 1914, President Woodrow Wilson pledged neutrality for the United States, a position that the vast majority of Americans favored. Britain, however, was one of America’s closest trading partners, and tension soon arose between the United States and Germany over the latter’s attempted quarantine of the British Isles. Several U.S. ships traveling to Britain were damaged or sunk by German mines, and in February 1915 Germany announced unrestricted warfare against all ships, neutral or otherwise, that entered the war zone around Britain. One month later, Germany announced that a German cruiser had sunk the William P. Frye, a private American vessel that was transporting grain to England when it disappeared. President Wilson was outraged, but the German government apologized and called the attack an unfortunate mistake.
The Germans’ most formidable naval weapon was the U-boat, a submarine far more sophisticated than those built by other nations at the time. The typical U-boat was 214 feet long, carried 35 men and 12 torpedoes, and could travel underwater for two hours at a time. In the first few years of World War I, the U-boats took a terrible toll on Allied shipping.
In early May 1915, several New York newspapers published a warning by the German embassy in Washington that Americans traveling on British or Allied ships in war zones did so at their own risk. The announcement was placed on the same page as an advertisement of the imminent sailing of the British-owned Lusitania ocean liner from New York to Liverpool. On 7 MAY, the Lusitania was torpedoed without warning just off the coast of Ireland. Of the 1,959 passengers, 1,198 were killed, including 128 Americans.
The German government maintained that the Lusitania was carrying munitions, but the U.S. demanded reparations and an end to German attacks on unarmed passenger and merchant ships. In August, Germany pledged to see to the safety of passengers before sinking unarmed vessels but in November sunk an Italian liner without warning, killing 272 people, including 27 Americans. Public opinion in the United States began to turn irrevocably against Germany.
In 1917, Germany, determined to win its war of attrition against the Allies, announced the resumption of unrestricted warfare. The United States broke off relations with Germany, and on February 22 Congress passed a $250 million arms appropriations bill intended to make the United States ready for war. Two days later, British authorities gave the U.S. ambassador to Britain a copy of the “Zimmermann Note,” a coded message from German foreign secretary Arthur Zimmermann to Count Johann von Bernstorff, the German ambassador to Mexico. In the telegram, intercepted and deciphered by British intelligence, Zimmermann stated that, in the event of war with the United States, Mexico should be asked to enter the conflict as a German ally. In return, Germany promised to restore to Mexico the lost territories of Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona. On 1 MAR, the U.S. State Department published the note, and American public opinion was galvanized against Germany.
In late March, Germany sunk four more U.S. merchant ships, and on 2 APR President Wilson appeared before Congress and called for a declaration of war against Germany. On 4 APR, the Senate voted 82 to six to declare war against Germany. Two days later, the House of Representatives endorsed the declaration by a vote of 373 to 50, and America formally entered World War I.
On 26 JUN, the first 14,000 U.S. infantry troops landed in France to begin training for combat. After four years of bloody stalemate along the western front, the entrance of America’s well-supplied forces into the conflict was a major turning point in the war. When the war finally ended, on November 11, 1918, more than two million American soldiers had served on the battlefields of Western Europe, and some 50,000 of these men had lost their lives.
- Jan 31 1942 – WW2: Allied forces are defeated by the Japanese at the Battle of Malaya and retreat to the island of Singapore.
- Jan 31 1943 – WW2: The Battle of Stalingrad ends as small groups of German soldiers of the Sixth Army surrender to the victorious Red Army forces.
- Jan 31 1944 – WW2: During the Anzio campaign the 1st Ranger Battalion (Darby’s Rangers) is destroyed behind enemy lines in a heavily outnumbered encounter at Battle of Cisterna, Italy.
- Jan 31 1944 – WW2: U.S. troops under Vice Adm. Spruance land on Kwajalein atoll in the Japanese-held Marshall Islands.
- Jan 31 1945 – WW2: Battle for the Kapelsche Veer ends (26-31 JAN) » In the hard winter 1944/45, this battle between German Wehrmacht and allied troops happened at the Maas River in Noord-Brabant near the village of Capelle, Netherlands. Commander of the 1st British Corps, John Crocker, thought this German bridgehead should be overwhelmed at any price. The last part of this battle was Operation Elephant, the codename of an Allied operation against paratroopers holding a ferry crossing at Kapelsche Veer, Maas River by the Lincoln and Welland Regiment, the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada and the South Alberta Regiment tanks (elements of the 4th Canadian Armoured Division). The small ferry slip and harbour was heavily defended.
The German General Student, desiring to give training and battle inoculation to his young paratroopers, established on this desolate spot a tiny bridgehead in allied territory, which he maintained by relieving the troops in it with a new company every three or four days. The Germans dug themselves in with remarkable thoroughness, and eliminating this foothold was a long, cold and costly business, involving attacking across open and snow-covered ground in the face of a determined enemy. The Poles tried it in the last days of December and again on 7 January 1945, both times without success. The 47th Royal Marine Commando, under Polish command, attacked the place on 13 and 14 January (Operation HORSE) with no better result.
Finally the 4th Canadian Armoured Division mounted a very considerable attack (Operation ELEPHANT) against the position with ample artillery support and tanks; but there were five icy days of thoroughly nasty fighting–the phrase of the 10th Brigade’s historian is “sheer misery”–before it was reported on 31 JAN that all enemy south of the Maas had been liquidated. The brunt was borne by the Lincoln and Welland Regiment, assisted by the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders and South Alberta Regiment tanks. The allies suffered 300 casualties. The Germans had lost 145 killed, 64 wounded and 34 prisoners. The tough young paratroopers had received in the end a rather more severe lesson in the art of war than Student had intended.
- Jan 31 1945 – WW2: The execution of Pvt. Slovik » Pvt. Eddie Slovik becomes the first American soldier since the Civil War to be executed for desertion-and the only one who suffered such a fate during World War II. Slovik was a draftee. Originally classified 4-F because of a prison record (grand theft auto), he was reclassified 1-A 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 France and 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 and stumbled upon a Canadian unit that took them in.
Slovik stayed on with the Canadians until 5 OCT, when they turned him and his buddy over to the American military police. They were reunited with the 28th Division, which had been moved to Elsenborn, Belgium. No charges were brought, as 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 confession was ignored-and Slovik took off. One day later he returned and 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 were serious. Slovik refused and was confined to the stockade.
The 28th Division had many cases of soldiers wounding themselves or deserting in the hopes of a prison sentence that might protect them from the perils of combat. 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 11 NOV for desertion and was convicted in less than two hours. The nine-officer court-martial panel passed a unanimous sentence of 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 had to pay for his recalcitrant attitude, and the military made an example of him. One last appeal was made-to Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Supreme Allied Commander-but the timing was bad for mercy. The Battle of the Bulge in the Ardennes forest was resulting in literally thousands of American casualties, not to mention the second largest surrender of an U.S. Army unit during the war. Eisenhower upheld the death sentence.
Slovik was shot and killed by a 12-man firing squad in eastern France. None of the rifleman even flinched, firmly believing Slovik had gotten what he deserved.
- Jan 31 1950 – Cold War: Truman announces development of H-bomb » President Harry S. Truman publicly announces his decision to support the development of the hydrogen bomb, a weapon theorized to be hundreds of times more powerful than the atomic bombs dropped on Japan during World War II.
Five months earlier, the United States had lost its nuclear supremacy when the Soviet Union successfully detonated an atomic bomb at their test site in Kazakhstan. Then, several weeks after that, British and U.S. intelligence came to the staggering conclusion that German-born Klaus Fuchs, a top-ranking scientist in the U.S. nuclear program, was a spy for the Soviet Union. These two events, and the fact that the Soviets now knew everything that the Americans did about how to build a hydrogen bomb, led Truman to approve massive funding for the superpower race to complete the world’s first “superbomb,” as he described it in his public announcement on 31 JAN.
On November 1, 1952, the United States successfully detonated “Mike,” the world’s first hydrogen bomb, on the Elugelab Atoll in the Pacific Marshall Islands. The 10.4-megaton thermonuclear device, built upon the Teller-Ulam principles of staged radiation implosion, instantly vaporized an entire island and left behind a crater more than a mile wide. The incredible explosive force of Mike was also apparent from the sheer magnitude of its mushroom cloud–within 90 seconds the mushroom cloud climbed to 57,000 feet and entered the stratosphere. One minute later, it reached 108,000 feet, eventually stabilizing at a ceiling of 120,000 feet. Half an hour after the test, the mushroom stretched 60 miles across, with the base of the head joining the stem at 45,000 feet.
Three years later, on November 22, 1955, the Soviet Union detonated its first hydrogen bomb on the same principle of radiation implosion. Both superpowers were now in possession of the “hell bomb,” as it was known by many Americans, and the world lived under the threat of thermonuclear war for the first time in history.
- Jan 31 1961 – Space Travel: Aboard NASA’s Mercury-Redstone 2, Ham the Chimp became the first hominid launched into outer space. Ham’s name is an acronym for the laboratory that prepared him for his historic mission—the Holloman Aerospace Medical Center, located at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico, southwest of Alamogordo. His name was also in honor of the commander of Holloman Aeromedical Laboratory, Lieutenant Colonel Hamilton “Ham” Blackshear
After the flight, Ham lived for 17 years in the National Zoo in Washington, D.C.,:255–257 before joining a small group of captive chimps at North Carolina Zoo. After his death in 1983, Ham’s body was turned over to the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology for necropsy. Following the necropsy, the plan was to have him stuffed and placed on display at the Smithsonian Institution, following Soviet precedent with pioneering space dogs Belka and Strelka. However, this plan was abandoned after a negative public reaction. Ham’s remains, minus the skeleton, were buried at the International Space Hall of Fame in Alamogordo, New Mexico.
- Jan 31 1966 – Vietnam War: U.S. planes resume bombing of North Vietnam after a 37-day pause.
- Jan 31 1968 – Vietnam War: Viet Cong attack U.S. Embassy » As part of the Tet Offensive, a squad of Viet Cong guerillas attacks the U.S. Embassy in Saigon. The soldiers seized the embassy and held it for six hours until an assault force of U.S. paratroopers landed by helicopter on the building’s roof and routed the Viet Cong.
The Tet Offensive was planned as a massive, simultaneous attack on the major cities and provincial capitals of South Vietnam. It was scheduled to take place during Tet, the Vietnamese lunar New Year celebration, which was traditionally a time of decreased fighting. In December 1967, following an attack on the U.S. Marine base at Khe Sanh, 50,000 American troops were sent in to defend the area, thereby weakening U.S. positions elsewhere. This American response played into the Viet Cong’s strategy to clear the way for the surprise Tet Offensive, in which Communist forces attacked Saigon, Hue (the imperial capital) and over 100 other urban areas.
The timing and magnitude of the attacks caught the South Vietnamese and American forces off guard, although they quickly recovered and recaptured the occupied areas. Militarily, the Tet Offensive was a disaster for the Communists, who suffered devastating losses. However, while the offensive was a crushing military defeat, the Communists scored a huge psychological victory that would ultimately help them win the war. The graphic images of U.S. casualties suffered during the offensive helped stoke anti-war sentiment among the American people, who had grown tired of the long conflict (active U.S. combat troops had been in Vietnam since 1965; the U.S. first sent in military advisers in 1961). The public was disillusioned by earlier overly optimistic reports of progress in the war and disenchanted with President Lyndon Johnson’s handling of it.
Johnson, frustrated with his inability to reach a solution in Vietnam, announced on March 31, 1968, that he would neither seek nor accept the nomination of his party for re-election. General William Westmoreland, commander of U.S. forces in Vietnam, requested an additional 206,000 troops to finish off the weakened enemy forces. Johnson denied Westmoreland’s request and replaced him with General Creighton Abrams. In May 1968, the U.S. and North Vietnamese began peace talks in Paris and reached a formal agreement in January 1973. Fighting between the North and South continued in Vietnam before the war finally ended on April 30, 1975, when Saigon fell to the Communists and the last Americans left Vietnam.
- Jan 31 1968 – Vietnam War: Battle of Hue begins » The Battle– also called the Siege of Huế – was one of the longest and bloodiest battles of the Vietnam War. Between 30 January and 3 March 1968, in the South Vietnamese city of Huế, 11 battalions of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN), four U.S. Army battalions, and three U.S. Marine Corps battalions – totaling 18 battalions – defeated 10 battalions of the People’s Army of Vietnam and the Viet Cong (VC).
- Jan 31 1971 – Space Travel: Apollo 14 departs for the moon » Apollo 14, piloted by astronauts Alan B. Shepard Jr., Edgar D. Mitchell, and Stuart A. Roosa, is successfully launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on a manned mission to the moon. On 5 FEB, after suffering some initial problems in docking the lunar and command modules, Shepard and Mitchell descended to the lunar surface on the third U.S. moon landing. Upon stepping out of the lunar module, Shepard, who in 1961, aboard Freedom 7, was the first American in space, became the fifth astronaut to walk on the moon. Shepard and Mitchell remained on the lunar surface for nearly 34 hours, conducting simple scientific experiments, such as hitting golf balls into space with Shepard’s golf club, and collecting 96 pounds of lunar samples. On 9 FEB, Apollo 14 safely returned to Earth.
- Jan 31 1972 – Vietnam War: North Vietnam presents nine-point peace proposal » In a communiqué charging President Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger with “unilaterally” divulging the substance of the secret talks, creating the impasse at the secret meeting, and distorting the facts, North Vietnam publishes the nine-point plan they submitted during the secret talks.
Since August 1969, talks between Kissinger and North Vietnamese representatives had been going on secretly in Paris. On January 25, Nixon, in response to criticism that his administration had not made its best efforts to end the war, revealed that Kissinger had been involved in the secret talks. Nixon also disclosed the text of an eight-point peace proposal presented privately to the North Vietnamese on October 11, 1971.
In their communiqué, the North Vietnamese answered with their own peace plan. While Washington requested the withdrawal of all foreign forces from South Vietnam with the condition of an agreement in principle on a final solution, Hanoi insisted on the withdrawal of U.S. and Allied troops from all of Indochina without condition. Hanoi also demanded the immediate resignation of the South Vietnamese Thieu regime. With the secret talks made public and at an impasse, the North Vietnamese leadership decided to launch a massive invasion of South Vietnam in March 1972.