Events in History over the next 14 day period that had U.S. military involvement or impacted in some way on U.S military operations or American interests
- Feb 01 1781 – American Revolutionary War: Davidson College Namesake Killed at Cowan’s Ford » American Brigadier General William Lee Davidson dies in combat attempting to prevent General Charles Cornwallis’ army from crossing the Catawba River in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina.
Davidson’s North Carolina militia, numbering between 600 and 800 men, set up camp on the far side of the river, hoping to thwart or at least slow Cornwallis’ crossing. The Patriots stayed back from the banks of the river in order to prevent Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tartleton’s forces from fording the river at a different point and surprising the Patriots with a rear attack.
At 1 a.m., Cornwallis began to move his troops toward the ford; by daybreak, they were crossing in a double-pronged formation–one prong for horses, the other for wagons. The noise of the rough crossing, during which the horses were forced to plunge in over their heads in the storm-swollen stream, woke the sleeping Patriot guard. The Patriots fired upon the Britons as they crossed and received heavy fire in return. Almost immediately upon his arrival at the river bank, General Davidson took a rifle ball to the heart and fell from his horse; his soaked corpse was found late that evening. Although Cornwallis’ troops took heavy casualties, the combat did little to slow their progress north toward Virginia.
General Davidson was the son of Ulster-Scot Presbyterian immigrants to Lancaster, Pennsylvania. The family moved in 1748, two years after William’s birth, to what was then known as Rowan (now Iredell) County, North Carolina. In 1835, Davidson’s son, William Lee Davidson II, gave the Concord Presbytery land on which to build a college in his father’s honor. The school was named Davidson College.
- Feb 01 1861 – Civil War: Texas Secedes » Texas becomes the seventh state to secede from the Union when a state convention votes 166 to 8 in favor of the measure. The Texans who voted to leave the Union did so over the objections of their governor, Sam Houston. A staunch Unionist, Houston’s election in 1859 as governor seemed to indicate that Texas did not share the rising secessionist sentiments of the other Southern states.
However, events swayed many Texans to the secessionist cause. John Brown’s raid on the federal armory at Harper’s Ferry, Virginia (now West Virginia), in October 1859 had raised the specter of a major slave insurrection, and the ascendant Republican Party made many Texans uneasy about continuing in the Union. After Abraham Lincoln’s election to the presidency in November 1860, pressure mounted on Houston to call a convention so that Texas could consider secession. He did so reluctantly in January 1861, and sat in silence on 1 FEB as the convention voted overwhelmingly in favor of secession. Houston grumbled that Texans were “stilling the voice of reason,” and he predicted an “ignoble defeat” for the South. Houston refused to take an oath of allegiance to the Confederacy and was replaced in March 1861 by his lieutenant governor.
Texas’ move completed the first round of secession. Seven states–South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas–left the Union before Lincoln took office. Four more states–Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Arkansas– waited until the formal start of the Civil War, with the April 1861 firing on Fort Sumter at Charleston, South Carolina, before deciding to leave the Union. The remaining slave states–Delaware, Maryland, Kentucky, and Missouri–never mustered the necessary majority for secession.
- Feb 01 1864 – Civil War: Battle of New Bern (1-3 Feb) » Union forces had captured New Bern during Ambrose Burnside’s North Carolina Expedition in March 1862 and had been under Union control ever since. In 1864 the Union garrison was a brigade-sized force commanded by Brig. Gen. Innis N. Palmer. Major General George E. Pickett commanded the Confederate ground forces coordinating against New Bern with a detachment of Confederate Marines and sailors led by Commander John T. Wood. Pickett organized a three-prong attack against the town.
Brigadier General Robert F. Hoke’s brigade first made contact on 1 FEB along Bachelor’s Creek where he hoped to surprise the Union outpost under Col. Peter Claassen of the 132nd New York Infantry. Both sides brought forward artillery as the fight began to grow and Claassen ordered his men back into New Bern. In the darkness and fog Union reinforcements bound for the fighting became cut off and were captured. Hoke then halted his brigade outside New Bern and waited to hear from the rest of the Confederate attacks.
The second Confederate attack was led by Brig. Gen. Seth Barton which moved across the Trent River against the 17th Massachusetts Infantry under Col. Thomas I. C. Amory supported by the 3rd New York Light Artillery. Amory’s artillery opened against Barton causing him to believe the Union defenses he faced were far too strong and withdrew from range of the artillery. Pickett’s third attack was led by Col. James Dearing against Fort Anderson across the Neuse River. When Dearing came within sight of the fort, like Barton, he too believed the defenses facing him were too formidable to attack.
By nightfall Palmer’s Union defenses maintained their position and Pickett gave up hope of renewing the assault. On 2 FEB Commander Wood and his naval contingent surprised the crew of the USS Underwriter anchored in the Neuse River. The majority of the Underwriter’s crew escaped but Wood’s Confederates seized the ship and set about to sail her downriver and attack the Union Navy Yard. Union artillery from Fort Stevenson opened fire on the Underwriter setting it on fire and forcing the recent captors to flee. Pickett called off the offensive and retreated on 4 FEB.
- Feb 01 1909 – Cuba: U.S. troops leave Cuba after installing Jose Miguel Gomez as president.
- Feb 01 1915 – WWI Era: The Turks begin forced deportations of Armenians. Over the next two years, an estimated 1.5 million Armenians will either starve to death, die of thirst in the Syrian Desert, or be murdered by Turkish troops and bandits, during the Armenian Genocide.
- Feb 01 1917 – WWI Era: Germany Resumes Unrestricted Submarine Warfare » The lethal threat of the German U-boat submarine raises its head again, as Germany returns to the policy of unrestricted submarine warfare it had previously suspended in response to pressure from the United States and other neutral countries.
Unrestricted submarine warfare was first introduced in World War I in early 1915, when Germany declared the area around the British Isles a war zone, in which all merchant ships, including those from neutral countries, would be attacked by the German navy. A string of attacks on merchant ships followed, culminating in the sinking of the British ship Lusitania by a German U-boat on May 7, 1915. Although the Lusitania was a British ship and it was carrying a supply of munitions—Germany used these two facts to justify the attack—it was principally a passenger ship, and the 1,201 people who drowned in its sinking included 128 Americans. The incident prompted U.S. President Woodrow Wilson to send a strongly worded note to the German government demanding an end to German attacks against unarmed merchant ships. By September 1915, the German government had imposed such strict constraints on the operation of the nation’s submarines that the German navy was persuaded to suspend U-boat warfare altogether.
German navy commanders, however, were ultimately not prepared to accept this degree of passivity, and continued to push for a more aggressive use of the submarine, convincing first the army and eventually the government, most importantly Kaiser Wilhelm, that the U-boat was an essential component of German war strategy. Planning to remain on the defensive on the Western Front in 1917, the supreme army command endorsed the navy’s opinion that unrestricted U-boat warfare against the British at sea could result in a German victory by the fall of 1917. In a joint audience with the Kaiser on January 8, 1917, army and naval leaders presented their arguments to Wilhelm, who supported them in spite of the opposition of the German chancellor, Theobald von Bethmann Hollweg, who was not at the meeting. Though he feared antagonizing the U.S., Hollweg accepted the Kaiser’s decision, pressured as he was by the armed forces and the hungry and frustrated German public, which was angered by the continuing Allied naval blockade and which supported aggressive action towards Germany’s enemies.
On January 31, 1917, Bethmann Hollweg went before the German Reichstag government and made the announcement that unrestricted submarine warfare would resume the next day, 1 FEB. The destructive designs of our opponents cannot be expressed more strongly. We have been challenged to fight to the end. We accept the challenge. We stake everything, and we shall be victorious.
- Feb 01 1941 – WW2 Era: US Navy authorized to gradually increase crews of warships to full wartime strength.
- Feb 01 1942 – WW2: U.S. Navy conducts Marshalls–Gilberts raids, the first offensive action by the United States against Japanese forces in the Pacific Theater.
- Feb 01 1943 – WW2: Japanese Begin Evacuation of Guadalcanal » Defeated by Marines the Japanese forces on Guadalcanal Island, start to withdraw after the Japanese emperor finally gives them permission.
On July 6, 1942, the Japanese landed on Guadalcanal Island, part of the Solomon Islands chain, and began constructing an airfield. In response, the U.S. launched Operation Watchtower, in which American troops landed on five islands within the Solomon chain, including Guadalcanal. The landings on Florida, Tulagi, Gavutu, and Tananbogo met with much initial opposition from the Japanese defenders, despite the fact that the landings took the Japanese by surprise because bad weather had grounded their scouting aircraft. “I have never heard or read of this kind of fighting,” wrote one American major general on the scene. “These people refuse to surrender.”
The Americans who landed on Guadalcanal had an easier time of it, at least initially. More than 11,000 Marines landed, but 24 hours passed before the Japanese manning the garrison knew what had happened. The U.S. forces quickly met their main objective of taking the airfield, and the outnumbered Japanese troops temporarily retreated. Japanese reinforcements were landed, though, and fierce hand-to-hand jungle fighting ensued. The Americans were at a particular disadvantage because they were assaulted from both sea and air, but when the U.S. Navy supplied reinforcement troops, the Americans gained the advantage. By February 1943, the Japanese retreated on secret orders of their emperor. In fact, the Japanese retreat was so stealthy that the Americans did not even know it had taken place until they stumbled upon abandoned positions, empty boats, and discarded supplies.
In total, the Japanese lost more than 25,000 men compared with a loss of 1,600 by the Americans. Each side lost 24 warships.
- Feb 01 1945 – WW2: U.S. Rangers and Filipino guerrillas rescue 513 American survivors of the Bataan Death March.
- Feb 01 1951 – Cold War: U.N. Condemns PRC for Aggression » By a vote of 44 to 7, the United Nations General Assembly passes a resolution condemning the communist government of the People’s Republic of China for acts of aggression in Korea. It was the first time since the United Nations formed in 1945 that it had condemned a nation as an aggressor.
In June 1950, communist forces from North Korea invaded South Korea in an attempt to unify the nation, which had been divided in 1945 when Soviet troops occupied the northern portion of the country and U.S. troops the southern in order to accept the surrender of Japanese forces in Korea. In late 1950, hundreds of thousands of Chinese troops crossed into North Korea to do battle with U.S. forces, which had earlier driven the invading North Korean forces out of South Korea. By 1951, the United States was deeply involved in Korea, having committed thousands of troops and millions of dollars in aid to South Korea.
The General Assembly vote followed unsuccessful attempts by the U.S. delegation to the United Nations to have the Security Council take action against the Chinese. Exercising his nation’s veto power, the Soviet representative on the Security Council consistently blocked the U.S. effort. (The United States, France, Great Britain, the Soviet Union, and Nationalist China had absolute veto power of any Security Council proposal.) Turning to the General Assembly, the U.S. delegation called for the United Nations to condemn communist China as an aggressor in Korea. The final vote fell largely along ideological lines, with the communist bloc nations of the Soviet Union, Byelorussia, Ukraine, Poland, and Czechoslovakia, joined by neutralists Burma and India, voting against the resolution. Despite the votes against it, the resolution passed, declaring that China was “engaged in aggression in Korea,” and asked that it “cause its forces and nationals in Korea to cease hostilities against the United Nations forces and to withdraw from Korea.”
The action was largely symbolic, because many nations-including some that voted for the resolution-were reluctant to take more forceful action against the People’s Republic of China for fear that the conflict in Korea would escalate. While economic and political sanctions could have been brought against China, the United Nations decided to take no further action. The Korean War dragged on for two more bloody years, finally ending in a stalemate and cease-fire in 1953. By that time, over 50,000 U.S. troops had died in the conflict.
- Feb 01 1964 – Vietnam War: Operation Plan 34A Commences » U.S. and South Vietnamese naval forces initiate Operation Plan (Oplan) 34A, which calls for 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. The Oplan 34A attacks played a major role in events that led to what became known as the Gulf of Tonkin Incident. On August 2, 1964, North Vietnamese patrol boats, responding to an Oplan 34A attack by South Vietnamese gunboats against the North Vietnamese island of Hon Me, 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 thought at the time 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 against the North Vietnamese 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.
- Feb 01 1968 – Vietnam War: U.S. troops drive the North Vietnamese out of Tan Son Nhut airport in Saigon.
- Feb 01 1979 – Iran: Ayatollah Khomeini Returns to Iran » The Ayatollah Khomeini returns to Iran in triumph after 15 years of exile. The shah and his family had fled the country two weeks before, and jubilant Iranian revolutionaries were eager to establish a fundamentalist Islamic government under Khomeini’s leadership.
Born around the turn of the century, Ruhollah Khomeini was the son of an Islamic religious scholar and in his youth memorized the Qur’an. He was a Shiite–the branch of Islam practiced by a majority of Iranians–and soon devoted himself to the formal study of Shia Islam in the city of Qom. A devout cleric, he rose steadily in the informal Shiite hierarchy and attracted many disciples.
In 1941, British and Soviet troops occupied Iran and installed Mohammad Reza Pahlavi as the second modern shah of Iran. The new shah had close ties with the West, and in 1953 British and U.S. intelligence agents helped him overthrow a popular political rival. Mohammad Reza embraced many Western ideas and in 1963 launched his “White Revolution,” a broad government program that called for the reduction of religious estates in the name of land redistribution, equal rights for women, and other modern reforms. Khomeini, now known by the high Shiite title “ayatollah,” was the first religious leader to openly condemn the shah’s program of westernization. In fiery dispatches from his Faziye Seminary in Qom, Khomeini called for the overthrow of the shah and the establishment of an Islamic state. In 1963, Mohammad Reza imprisoned him, which led to riots, and on November 4, 1964, expelled him from Iran.
Khomeini settled in An Najaf, a Shiite holy city across the border in Iraq, and sent home recordings of his sermons that continued to incite his student followers. Breaking precedence with the Shiite tradition that discouraged clerical participation in government, he called for Shiite leaders to govern Iran.
In the 1970s, Mohammad Reza further enraged Islamic fundamentalists in Iran by holding an extravagant celebration of the 2,500th anniversary of the pre-Islamic Persian monarchy and replaced the Islamic calendar with a Persian calendar. As discontent grew, the shah became more repressive, and support for Khomeini grew. In 1978, massive anti-shah demonstrations broke out in Iran’s major cities. Dissatisfied members of the lower and middle classes joined the radical students, and Khomeini called for the shah’s immediate overthrow. In December, the army mutinied, and on January 16, 1979, the shah fled.
Khomeini arrived in Tehran in triumph on February 1, 1979, and was acclaimed as the leader of the Iranian Revolution. With religious fervor running high, he consolidated his authority and set out to transform Iran into a religious state. On November 4, 1979, the 15th anniversary of his exile, students stormed the U.S. embassy in Tehran and took the staff hostage. With Khomeini’s approval, the radicals demanded the return of the shah to Iran and held 52 Americans hostage for 444 days. The shah died in Egypt of cancer in July 1980.
In December 1979, a new Iranian constitution was approved, naming Khomeini as Iran’s political and religious leader for life. Under his rule, Iranian women were denied equal rights and required to wear a veil, Western culture was banned, and traditional Islamic law and its often-brutal punishments were reinstated. In suppressing opposition, Khomeini proved as ruthless as the shah, and thousands of political dissidents were executed during his decade of rule. In 1980, Iraq invaded Iran’s oil-producing province of Khuzestan. After initial advances, the Iraqi offense was repulsed. In 1982, Iraq voluntarily withdrew and sought a peace agreement, but Khomeini renewed fighting. Stalemates and the deaths of thousands of young Iranian conscripts in Iraq followed. In 1988, Khomeini finally agreed to a U.N.-brokered cease-fire.
After the Ayatollah Khomeini died on June 3, 1989, more than two million anguished mourners attended his funeral. Gradual democratization began in Iran in early the 1990s, culminating in a free election in 1997 in which the moderate reformist Mohammed Khatami was elected president.
- Feb 01 1998 – U.S. Navy: Rear Admiral Lillian E. Fishburne becomes the first female African American to be promoted to rear admiral.
- Feb 01 2003 – Space Travel: Columbia Mission Ends in Disaster » The space shuttle Columbia breaks up while entering the atmosphere over Texas, killing all seven crew members on board.
The Columbia‘s 28th space mission, designated STS-107, was originally scheduled to launch on January 11, 2001, but was delayed numerous times for a variety of reasons over nearly two years. Columbia finally launched on January 16, 2003, with a crew of seven. Eighty seconds into the launch, a piece of foam insulation broke off from the shuttle’s propellant tank and hit the edge of the shuttle’s left wing.
Cameras focused on the launch sequence revealed the foam collision but engineers could not pinpoint the location and extent of the damage. Although similar incidents had occurred on three prior shuttle launches without causing critical damage, some engineers at the space agency believed that the damage to the wing could cause a catastrophic failure. Their concerns were not addressed in the two weeks that Columbia spent in orbit because NASA management believed that even if major damage had been caused, there was little that could be done to remedy the situation.
Columbia reentered the earth’s atmosphere on the morning of 1 FEB. It wasn’t until 10 minutes later, at 8:53 a.m.–as the shuttle was 231,000 feet above the California coastline traveling at 23 times the speed of sound–that the first indications of trouble began. Because the heat-resistant tiles covering the left wing’s leading edge had been damaged or were missing, wind and heat entered the wing and blew it apart. The first debris began falling to the ground in west Texas near Lubbock at 8:58 a.m. One minute later, the last communication from the crew was heard, and at 9 a.m. the shuttle disintegrated over southeast Texas, near Dallas. Residents in the area heard a loud boom and saw streaks of smoke in the sky. Debris and the remains of the crew were found in more than 2,000 locations across East Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana. Making the tragedy even worse, two pilots aboard a search helicopter were killed in a crash while looking for debris. Strangely, worms that the crew had used in a study that were stored in a canister aboard the Columbia did survive.
In August 2003, an investigation board issued a report that revealed that it in fact would have been possible either for the Columbia crew to repair the damage to the wing or for the crew to be rescued from the shuttle. The Columbia could have stayed in orbit until 15 FEB and the already planned launch of the shuttle Atlantis could have been moved up as early as 10 FEB, leaving a short window for repairing the wing or getting the crew off of the Columbia. In the aftermath of the Columbia disaster, the space shuttle program was grounded until July 16, 2005, when the space shuttle Discovery was put into orbit.
- Feb 02 1781 – U.S. Revolutionary War: Nathanael Greene Finds Fortification at Steele’s Tavern » American General Nathanael Greene receives two bags of specie (coin as opposed to paper currency) from Elizabeth Maxwell Steele at her tavern in Salisbury, North Carolina–an incident later memorialized in a painting by Alonzo Chappel.
General Greene spent the night of 1 FEB until midnight awaiting the remaining militia from the previous day’s encounter at Cowan’s Ford in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina. But the militia never arrived at the appointed meeting spot, David Carr’s house on the road to the town of Salisbury, and General Greene soon learned of Brigadier General William Davidson’s death at Cowan’s Ford the previous day. He also learned that British Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton’s Dragoons had launched a surprise attack on Davidson’s remaining forces gathered at Tarrant’s (or Torrence’s) Tavern six miles south of Carr’s, killing between 10 and 50 men. The battle-weary militia took significant casualties before alighting on horseback.
Greene rode overnight and arrived at Steele’s Tavern for breakfast on the morning of 2 FEB. Once there, Greene told his physician, who was also at the tavern, that he was hungry and penniless. After overhearing their conversation, Mrs. Steele saw first to Greene’s hunger with breakfast and then gave him the much-needed money to supply both him and his army. With his mood boosted, Greene inscribed the back of Mrs. Steele’s portrait of George III, O George, Hide thy face and mourn, before turning it to face the wall. The picture and inscription remain at the Thyatira Presbyterian Church Museum, in Salisbury, North Carolina.
Greene’s circumstances improved greatly while in Salisbury. First, he garnered Mrs. Steele’s aid. Second, he discovered a collection of more than 1,700 Continental arms stashed away for the militia. In writing Baron von Steuben the following day, Greene happily observed that the Patriot’s distribution of publick stores is enough to ruin a nation.
- Feb 02 1803 – Civil War: Albert Sidney Johnston Born » Confederate General Albert Sidney Johnston is born in Washington, Kentucky. Johnston was considered one of the best Confederate commanders until he was killed at the Battle of Shiloh, Tennessee, the first major engagement in the West.
Johnston grew up in Kentucky and received an appointment to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1822. While there, he became acquainted with Robert E. Lee and future Confederate President Jefferson Davis, two men who shaped Johnston’s career. After graduation, Johnston served in the Black Hawk War of 1832 and resigned from the service in 1834 to care for his invalid wife. After her death, he moved to the new Republic of Texas and enlisted in the army as a private. Within three years he rose to General of the Army, then secretary of war for his adopted country. After Texas was annexed by the United States in 1845, Johnston served in the Mexican War (1846-48) and was commended for bravery at the Battle of Monterrey.
Johnston retired to his Texas plantation after the war, but struggled financially. He returned to the military as paymaster for the forts in Texas, and in 1857 was appointed to lead an expedition against members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (otherwise known as the Mormons) in Utah Territory. The Mormons disagreed with the government on issues of the territory’s governance, and some officials thought a rebellion was in the making. Johnston arrived and found no opposition, and spent the next three years occupying the territory.
When the Civil War erupted, Davis appointed Johnston commander of the Confederate department that stretched from the Appalachians to Texas. On April 6, 1862, Johnston attacked Union General Ulysses S. Grant’s army at Pittsburgh Landing (Shiloh), Tennessee. The Confederates enjoyed great success initially. Grant’s army was surprised and nearly destroyed until the afternoon, when the 59-year-old Johnston rode forward to supervise the battle. He was mortally wounded, and the tide turned against the Confederates. The armies struggled into the next day but the Union held the field.
Johnston and Union General James McPherson were the only two army commanders killed in action during the Civil War. Johnston’s death left a void in the leadership of the Western armies that was never effectively filled.
- Feb 02 1812 – Old West: Russians Establish Fort Ross » Staking a tenuous claim to the riches of the Far West, Russians establish Fort Ross on the coast north of San Francisco. As a growing empire with a long Pacific coastline, Russia was in many ways well positioned to play a leading role in the settlement and development of the West. The Russians had begun their expansion into the North American continent in 1741 with a massive scientific expedition to Alaska. Returning with news of abundant sea otters, the explorers inspired Russian investment in the Alaskan fur trade and some permanent settlement. By the early 19th century, the semi-governmental Russian-American Company was actively competing with British and American fur-trading interests as far south as the shores of Spanish-controlled California.
Russia’s Alaskan colonists found it difficult to produce their own food because of the short growing season of the far north. Officials of the Russian-American Company reasoned that a permanent settlement along the more temperate shores of California could serve both as a source of food and a base for exploiting the abundant sea otters in the region. To that end, a large party of Russians and Aleuts sailed for California where they established Fort Ross (short for Russia) on the coast north of San Francisco.
Fort Ross, though, proved unable to fulfill either of its expected functions for very long. By the 1820s, the once plentiful sea otters in the region had been hunted almost to extinction. Likewise, the colonists’ attempts at farming proved disappointing, because the cool foggy summers along the coast made it difficult to grow the desired fruits and grains. Potatoes thrived, but they could be grown just as easily in Alaska.
At the same time, the Russians were increasingly coming into conflict with the Mexicans and the growing numbers of Americans settling in the region. Disappointed with the commercial potential of the Fort Ross settlement and realizing they had no realistic chance of making a political claim for the region, the Russians decided to sell out. After making unsuccessful attempts to interest both the British and Mexicans in the fort, the Russians finally found a buyer in John Sutter. An American emigrant to California, Sutter bought Fort Ross in 1841 with an unsecured note for $30,000 that he never paid. He cannibalized the fort to provide supplies for his colony in the Sacramento Valley where, seven years later, a chance discovery ignited the California Gold Rush.
- Feb 02 1848 – Mexican*American War: Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo is Signed » The Treaty ended the Mexican-American War in favor of the United States. It also added an additional 525,000 square miles to United States territory, including the area that would become the states of Texas, California, Nevada, Utah, New Mexico and Arizona, as well as parts of Colorado and Wyoming. Controversy during and after the war pitted President James K. Polk in a political war against two future presidents: Zachary Taylor and Abraham Lincoln.
Polk, Taylor, and Lincoln
Polk, a Democrat, ignited the Mexican-American War when he sent his Commanding General of the Army Zachary Taylor and his troops to claim territory along the Rio Grande River between the U.S. and Mexico. Polk insisted Mexico had invaded the U.S. when an earlier skirmish between American and Mexican troops erupted over the ill-defined territorial boundaries of Texas. Polk’s action was immediately denounced by Abraham Lincoln, then a leading Whig member of Congress, who described the resulting war as unconstitutional, unnecessary and expensive. While Taylor performed his military duty in Texas, Polk wrestled with Congressional opposition led by Lincoln in Washington.
Polk was a firm believer in America’s “Manifest Destiny” of increased U.S. territorial expansion in order to bring democracy and Protestant Christianity to a “backward” region. Lincoln and his cohorts protested not so much expansionism itself, but Polk’s justification of the war. Although the war ended favorably for the U.S., Lincoln continued to attack Polk after the signing of the treaty for his lack of an exit strategy that clearly defined citizenship and property rights for former Mexican citizens. Lincoln called the president “a bewildered, confounded, and miserably perplexed man.” Although Polk’s war was successful, he lost public support after two bloody years of fighting during which the U.S. lost 1,773 men and spent a whopping $100 million.
Meanwhile, Taylor earned national popularity for his heroic actions during the war and for the camaraderie he shared with even his lowliest subordinates. When the war ended, Taylor decided to run for the presidency. One of his political mentors happened to be Abraham Lincoln, who wrote a note to Taylor after the war ended advising him of what he ought to say regarding the Mexican-American War and the question of slavery in any newly won territories. Lincoln suggested that Taylor should declare “we shall probably be under a sort of necessity of taking some territory; but it is my desire that we shall not acquire any extending so far south as to enlarge and aggravate the distracting question of slavery.”
Polk chose not to run again for the presidency, and Taylor barely won the popular vote in a race that included former President Martin Van Buren and Democratic nominee Lewis Cass. Van Buren, the Free-Soil Party candidate and former Democrat, acted as a spoiler, siphoning off Democratic votes that would likely have gone to Cass. Unfortunately for Lincoln, Taylor and his immediate successors failed to address the issue of slavery during their terms, leaving the question to Lincoln to solve over a bloody civil war a decade later.
- Feb 02 1916 – WWI: Two days after nine German zeppelins dropped close to 400 bombs throughout the English Midlands, the crew of the British fishing trawler King Stephen comes across the crashed remains of one of the giant airships floating in the North Sea.
- Feb 02 1942 – WW2: Quisling Becomes Prime Minister of Puppet Regime in Norway » Vidkun Quisling, a collaborator with the German occupiers of Norway, is established as prime minister of a puppet government.
On April 9, 1940, German warships entered major Norwegian ports, from Narvik to Oslo, deployed thousands of German troops, and occupied Norway. German forces were able to slip through the mines Britain had laid around Norwegian ports because local garrisons were ordered to allow the Germans to land unopposed. The order came from a Norwegian commander, Vidkun Quisling, who was loyal to Norway’s pro-fascist former foreign minister.
Hours after the invasion, the German minister in Oslo demanded Norway’s surrender. The Norwegian government refused, and the Germans responded with a parachute invasion. In September 1940, “commissarial counselors” in the control of the Germans replaced Norway’s administrative council. Chief of these “counselors” was Quisling, who was given dictatorial powers and who proceeded to earn the enmity of Norwegians as he sent thousands of people to German concentration camps and executed members of the resistance movement.
On February 1, 1942, the commissarial counselors formed a formal government loyal to Germany, with Quisling as its prime minister. When Germany finally surrendered in May 1945, Quisling was arrested by Norway’s Allied liberators, tried for treason, and executed. His name continues to be a synonym for “traitor.”
- Feb 02 1943 – WW2: Battle of Stalingrad Ends » The last German troops in the Soviet city of Stalingrad surrender to the Red Army, ending one of the pivotal battles of World War II.
On June 22, 1941, despite the terms of the Nazi-Soviet Pact of 1939, Nazi Germany launched a massive invasion against the USSR. Aided by its greatly superior air force, the German army raced across the Russian plains, inflicting terrible casualties on the Red Army and the Soviet population. With the assistance of troops from their Axis allies, the Germans conquered vast territory, and by mid-October the great Russian cities of Leningrad and Moscow were under siege. However, the Soviets held on, and the coming of winter forced a pause to the German offensive.
For the 1942 summer offensive, Adolf Hitler ordered the Sixth Army, under General Friedrich von Paulus, to take Stalingrad in the south, an industrial center and obstacle to Nazi control of the precious Caucasian oil wells. In August, the German Sixth Army made advances across the Volga River while the German Fourth Air Fleet reduced Stalingrad to a burning rubble, killing over 40,000 civilians. In early September, General Paulus ordered the first offensives into Stalingrad, estimating that it would take his army about 10 days to capture the city. Thus began one of the most horrific battles of World War II and arguably the most important because it was the turning point in the war between Germany and the USSR.
In their attempt to take Stalingrad, the German Sixth Army faced a bitter Red Army under General Vasily Zhukov employing the ruined city to their advantage, transforming destroyed buildings and rubble into natural defensive fortifications. In a method of fighting the Germans began to call the Rattenkrieg, or “Rat’s War,” the opposing forces broke into squads eight or 10 strong and fought each other for every house and yard of territory. The battle saw rapid advances in street-fighting technology, such as a German machine gun that shot around corners and a light Russian plane that glided silently over German positions at night, dropping lethal bombs without warning. However, both sides lacked necessary food, water, or medical supplies, and tens of thousands perished every week.
Soviet leader Joseph Stalin was determined to liberate the city named after him, and in November he ordered massive reinforcements to the area. On November 19, General Zhukov launched a great Soviet counteroffensive out of the rubble of Stalingrad. German command underestimated the scale of the counterattack, and the Sixth Army was quickly overwhelmed by the offensive, which involved 500,000 Soviet troops, 900 tanks, and 1,400 aircraft. Within three days, the entire German force of more than 200,000 men was encircled.
Italian and Romanian troops at Stalingrad surrendered, but the Germans hung on, receiving limited supplies by air and waiting for reinforcements. Hitler ordered Von Paulus to remain in place and promoted him to field marshal, as no Nazi field marshal had ever surrendered. Starvation and the bitter Russian winter took as many lives as the merciless Soviet troops, and on January 21, 1943, the last of the airports held by the Germans fell to the Soviets, completely cutting the Germans off from supplies. On January 31, Von Paulus surrendered German forces in the southern sector, and on February 2 the remaining German troops surrendered. Only 90,000 German soldiers were still alive, and of these only 5,000 troops would survive the Soviet prisoner-of-war camps and make it back to Germany.
The Battle of Stalingrad turned the tide in the war between Germany and the Soviet Union. General Zhukov, who had played such an important role in the victory, later led the Soviet drive on Berlin. On May 1, 1945, he personally accepted the German surrender of Berlin. Von Paulus, meanwhile, agitated against Adolf Hitler among the German prisoners of war in the Soviet Union and in 1946 provided testimony at the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg. After his release by the Soviets in 1953, he settled in East Germany.
- Feb 02 1949 – Cold War: In response to Soviet leader Joseph Stalin’s proposal that President Harry S. Truman travel to Russia for a conference, Secretary of State Dean Acheson brusquely rejects the idea as a “political maneuver.” This rather curious exchange was further evidence of the diplomatic sparring between the United States and the Soviet Union that was so characteristic of the early years of the Cold War.
- Feb 02 1962 – Vietnam War: First U.S. Air Force Plane Crashes in South Vietnam » The C-123 aircraft crashed while spraying defoliant on a Viet Cong ambush site. The aircraft was part of Operation Ranch Hand, a technological area-denial technique designed to expose the roads and trails used by the Viet Cong. U.S. personnel dumped an estimated 19 million gallons of defoliating herbicides over 10-20 percent of Vietnam and parts of Laos from 1962 to 1971. Agent Orange–so named from the color of its metal containers–was the most frequently used.
The operation succeeded in killing vegetation but not in stopping the Viet Cong. The use of these agents was controversial, both during and after the war, because of questions about long-term ecological impacts and the effect on humans who handled or were sprayed by the chemicals. Beginning in the late 1970s, Vietnam veterans began to cite the herbicides, especially Agent Orange, as the cause of health problems ranging from skin rashes to cancer and birth defects in their children. Similar problems, including an abnormally high incidence of miscarriages and congenital malformations, have been reported among the Vietnamese people who lived in the areas where the defoliate agents were used.
- Feb 02 1970 – Vietnam War: Viet Cong Officer Shot in the Head Photo » Saigon, South Vietnam was a chaotic and bloody place in the winter of 1968. On January 30, North Vietnamese forces struck suddenly and with shocking force at targets throughout the South, taking the South Vietnamese and their American allies by surprise and turning the tide of a war that President Lyndon Johnson had assured his people they were close to winning. As the reeling South Vietnamese army worked to re-establish order in their capital, an American photographer captured an image that would come to symbolize the brutality of the conflict.
The Tet Offensive directly countered the American narrative that the North was incapable of mobilizing in large numbers and was on the retreat. Conventional and guerrilla warriors struck targets and areas that had been considered to be safely under U.S./Southern control. As the Viet Cong overran Saigon in the first hours of the Tet Offensive, a fighter named Nguyễn Văn Lém was part of a death squad that targeted the National Police and their families. According to the South Vietnamese military, Lém’s squad had just killed 34 people associated with the police, at least 24 of whom were civilians, when he was captured on 1 FEB.
Lém, who had worn civilian clothes as he carried out his alleged war crimes, was brought to Brigadier General Nguyễn Ngọc Loan. Associated Press photographer Eddie Adams saw the prisoner being escorted to the general and decided to take a few pictures. “I prepared to make that picture—the threat, the interrogation,” Adams recalled. “But it didn’t happen. The man just pulled a pistol out of his holster, raised it to the VC’s head and shot him in the temple.”
Adams captured the exact moment when the bullet from Loan’s Smith & Wesson entered Lém’s head at point-blank range. The image, which very much appeared to depict the summary execution of an unarmed civilian by a South Vietnamese military official, ran in newspapers around the world, causing a sensation. The story behind the photo was much more complex, but the shot came to encapsulate Americans’ darkest fears about the war: that it was a haphazard, amoral bloodletting in which the United States’ cruelty rivaled that of its enemies.
Indeed, while Lém was not the innocent victim he appeared to be, it was later concluded that his execution had been a war crime. It was far from the only one committed by American and South Vietnamese forces—just a few months later, on 16 MAR, American troops killed somewhere between 347 and 504 civilians in what came to be known as the My Lai Massacre. “Saigon Execution,” as Adams titled his photo, became a symbol of all that was wrong with American involvement in the war and won the Pulitzer Prize for Spot News Photography for 1969. Four years later, another AP photographer would win the prize for a similar photo, “Terror of War,” which depicted terrified children fleeing after the South Vietnamese air force mistakenly attacked their village with napalm.
- Feb 02 1970 – Vietnam War: Antiwar Protestors Sue Dow Chemical » Antiwar protestors take legal action in an attempt to prove that the Dow Chemical Company is still making napalm. Dow had claimed that it had stopped making napalm. Members of the antiwar movement filed suit against the Dow Chemical Company in a Washington, D.C., court. The plaintiffs were trying to force the company to disclose all government contracts to prove that the company was still making napalm.
- Feb 02 1989 – Soviet war in Afghanistan: Soviet participation in the war in Afghanistan ended as Red Army troops withdrew from the capital city of Kabul. They left behind many of their arms for use by Afghan government forces. They were driven out principally by the insurgent mujahadin, armed through covert U.S. funding.
- Feb 03 1781 – American Revolutionary War: Greene Crosses the Yadkin with Kosciusko’s Boats » American General Nathanael Greene and his troops successfully cross the Yadkin River to evade General Charles Cornwallis. The crossing followed consecutive Patriot losses at the Catawba River and at Tarrant’s Tavern, as well as heavy rainfall on 1 FEB, which Greene feared would soon make the river impassable.
Nathanael Greene & Charles Cornwallis
Although contradictory evidence exists, it is likely that the efforts of Polish engineer and military advisor Thaddeus Kosciusko made the crossing possible. Kosciusko had made a canoe expedition up the Catawba and Pedee Rivers, assessing Greene’s options, in December 1780. He then built a fleet of flat-bottomed boats for General Greene to use as a means of transporting his men across the water without having to waste time on manual portage, which would have involved soldiers removing the boats from the water and carrying them on their shoulders over land. The boats could be loaded into the Southern Army’s wagons for transport between river crossings. Kosciusko’s study of the rivers also allowed Greene to accurately predict the two-day interval between a heavy rainfall and rising river water.
Greene had ordered the Kosciusko-designed boats to be waiting for his men at the Yadkin. Thus, despite the flood of refugees clogging North Carolina’s roads in a desperate rush to leave before notoriously cruel British Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton arrived, Greene was able to move his troops to the river and cross it. Although Cornwallis caught the tail-end of the Patriot crossing and shelled Greene’s camp on the far side of the river on 4 FEB, he was not able to cause major damage or disruption.
Greene’s timing was impeccable–Cornwallis was unable to ford the quickly rising Yadkin behind him. Instead, Cornwallis was forced to march his men to the aptly named Shallow Ford and did not finish crossing the Yadkin until the morning of the 7 FEB, by which time Greene and the Southern Army had a two-day lead in the race towards the Dan River and safety in Patriot-held Virginia.
- Feb 03 1783 – American Revolutionary War: Spain recognizes United States independence.
- Feb 03 1865 – Civil War: Meridian Campaign (3 FEB – 6 MAR) » The campaign from Vicksburg, Mississippi to Meridian, Mississippi, by the Union Army of the Tennessee was led by Maj. Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman. Sherman planned to take Meridian and, if the situation was favorable, push on to Selma, Alabama, and possibly even threaten Mobile. While Sherman set out on 3 FEB with the main force of 20,000 men from Vicksburg, he ordered Brig. Gen. William Sooy Smith to lead a cavalry force of 7,000 men from Memphis, Tennessee, south through Okolona, Mississippi, along the Mobile and Ohio Railroad to meet the rest of the Union force at Meridian.
To counter the threat, Confederate President Jefferson Davis ordered troops to the area from other localities. The Confederate commander in the area, Lt. Gen. Leonidas Polk, consolidated a number of commands in and around Morton, Mississippi, but lost his nerve and retreated rapidly eastward. On the journey towards Meridian, Sherman ordered several feints into other regions of the state to keep Polk guessing about Sherman’s true point of attack. Sherman also asked Maj. Gen. Nathaniel Banks, Union commander of the Department of the Gulf at New Orleans, Louisiana, to have boats maneuvering in Mobile Bay as if they were preparing to attack. Doing this forced the Confederates to keep troops from leaving Mobile to aid Meridian in case of an attack on the gulf.
To further confuse Polk, Sherman sent gunboats and infantry up the Yazoo River to divert his attention. Cavalry units commanded by Maj. Gen. Stephen D. Lee periodically skirmished with Sherman’s force. As Sherman approached Meridian, he met stiffer resistance from the combined forces but steadily moved on. Polk finally realized that he could not stop Sherman and was convinced he was headed not for Meridian but for Mobile, so he decided to evacuate Meridian on 14 FEB, fall back to Demopolis, Alabama, and prepare to launch a rear attack, leaving Meridian and its surrounding territory to the mercy of the enemy. While evacuating, Polk and his army began removing some railroad rolling stock to McDowell’s Bluff.
Smith never reached Meridian; he and his troops met Confederate resistance led by Maj. Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest at West Point, Mississippi. Forrest and his army forced Smith to begin to retreat to Tennessee. When Forrest saw Smith’s army retreating, he ordered his troops to chase the army down. Forrest caught Smith and his troops in Okolona, Mississippi, and forced them to retreat more rapidly after a defeat in the Battle of Okolona on 22 FEB which ultimately resulted in General Sherman’s entire left flank being eliminated during the campaign.
Sherman’s army reached Meridian on 14 FEB. Still unaware of Smith’s defeat at West Point and the one to come at Okolona, Sherman decided to continue waiting for Smith in Meridian until the morning of 20 FEB, when he gave up and returned to Vicksburg. While he and his army were waiting, Sherman ordered his troops “to wipe the appointed meeting place off the map” by destroying the railroads and burning much of the area to the ground. Sherman’s troops destroyed 115 mi of railroad, 61 bridges, 6,075 ft of trestle work, 20 locomotives, 28 cars, and 3 steam sawmills. After the troops departed, inhabitants of the city were without food for some days, but the soldiers had not directly inflicted any personal injuries during the attack. After the destruction of the economic and military infrastructure of Meridian, Sherman is reported to have said, “Meridian with its depots, store-houses, arsenal, hospitals, offices, hotels, and cantonments no longer exists.”
When Sherman left Meridian, heading west by way of Canton, Mississippi, he was still unaware of Smith’s defeats, so he began looking for Smith and his force. He did not discover what happened to Smith until he arrived back at Vicksburg. Sherman had destroyed some important Confederate transportation facilities but had to abandon his aspirations for continuing into Alabama. The campaign is viewed by historians as a prelude to Sherman’s March to the Sea (Savannah campaign) in that a large swath of damage and destruction was inflicted on Central Mississippi as Sherman marched across the state and back.
- Feb 03 1865 – Civil War: Hampton Roads Conference » President Abraham Lincoln meets with a delegation of Confederate officials at Hampton Roads, Virginia, to discuss a possible peace agreement. Lincoln refused to grant the delegation any concessions, however, and the meeting ended within hours.
New York Tribune editor and abolitionist Horace Greeley provided the impetus for the conference when he contacted Francis Blair, a Maryland aristocrat and presidential adviser. Greeley suggested that Blair was the “right man” to open discussions with the Confederates to end the war. Blair sought permission from Lincoln to meet with Confederate President Jefferson Davis, and did so twice in January 1865. Blair suggested to Davis that an armistice be forged and the two sides turn their attention to removing the French-supported regime of Maximilian in Mexico. This plan would help cool tensions between North and South by providing a common enemy, he believed.
Meanwhile, the situation was becoming progressively worse for the Confederates in the winter of 1864 and 1865. In January, Union troops captured Fort Fisher and effectively closed Wilmington, North Carolina, the last major port open to blockade runners. Davis conferred with his vice president, Alexander Stephens, who recommended that a peace commission be appointed to explore a possible armistice. Davis sent Stephens and two others to meet with Lincoln at Hampton Roads.
The Conference took place on the River Queen, near Union-controlled Fort Monroe in Hampton, Virginia.
The meeting convened on 3 FEB. Stephens asked if there was any way to stop the war and Lincoln replied that the only way was “for those who were resisting the laws of the Union to cease that resistance.” The delegation underestimated Lincoln’s resolve to make the end of slavery a necessary condition for any peace. The president also insisted on immediate reunification and the laying down of Confederate arms before anything else was discussed. In short, the Union was in such an advantageous position that Lincoln did not need to concede any issues to the Confederates. Robert M.T. Hunter, a member of the delegation, commented that Lincoln was offering little except the unconditional surrender of the South.
After less than five hours, the conference ended and the delegation left with no concessions. The war continued for more than two months.
- Feb 03 1904 – Panama: Colombian troops clash with U.S. Marines in Panama.
- Feb 03 1915 – WWI Era: Turkish troops launch an unsuccessful attack against the British-controlled Suez Canal, which is regularly used by the British to ferry Dominion troops from Australia, New Zealand and India to European battle grounds.
- Feb 03 1917 – WWI Era: A day after Germany announced a new policy of unrestricted submarine warfare and the same day the American converted ocean liner S.S. Housatonic is torpedoed and sunk Germany’s U-53, President Woodrow Wilson speaks for two hours before a historic session of Congress to announce that the United States is breaking diplomatic relations with them.
- Feb 03 1930 – Vietnam: The Communist Party of Indochina, the Communist Party of Annam and the Communist League of Indochina merged to form the Communist Party of Vietnam.
- Feb 03 1943 – WW2: The USAT Dorchester is sunk by a German U-boat. Only 230 of 902 men aboard survived. Congress declares this as Four Chaplains Day. The Chapel of the Four Chaplains, dedicated by President Harry Truman, is one of many memorials established to commemorate the Four Chaplains story.
- Feb 03 1944 – WW2: Beginning of the German Army offensive against the Anzio bridgehead in Italy.
- Feb 03 1944 – WW2: U.S. Troops Capture the Marshall Islands » American forces invade and take control of the Marshall Islands, long occupied by the Japanese and used by them as a base for military operations.
The Marshalls, east of the Caroline Islands in the western Pacific Ocean, had been in Japanese hands since World War I. Occupied by the Japanese in 1914, they were made part of the “Japanese Mandated Islands” as determined by the League of Nations. The Treaty of Versailles, which concluded the First World War, stipulated certain islands formerly controlled by Germany–including the Marshalls, the Carolines, and the Marianas (except Guam)–had to be ceded to the Japanese, though “overseen” by the League. But the Japanese withdrew from the League in 1933 and began transforming the Mandated Islands into military bases. Non-Japanese, including Christian missionaries, were kept from the islands as naval and air bases–meant to threaten shipping lanes between Australia and Hawaii–were constructed.
During the Second World War, these islands, as well as others in the vicinity, became targets of Allied attacks. The U.S. Central Pacific Campaign began with the Gilbert Islands, south of the Mandated Islands; U.S. forces conquered the Gilberts in November 1943. Next on the agenda was Operation Flintlock, a plan to capture the Marshall Islands.
Adm. Raymond Spruance
Adm. Raymond Spruance led the 5th Fleet from Pearl Harbor on January 22, 1944, to the Marshalls, with the goal of getting 53,000 assault troops ashore two islets: Roi and Namur. Meanwhile, using the Gilberts as an air base, American planes bombed the Japanese administrative and communications center for the Marshalls, which was located on Kwajalein, an atoll that was part of the Marshall cluster of atolls, islets, and reefs.
By 31 JAN, Kwajalein was devastated. Repeated carrier- and land-based air raids destroyed every Japanese airplane on the Marshalls. By 3 FEB, U.S. infantry overran Roi and Namur atolls. The Marshalls were then effectively in American hands–with the loss of only 400 American lives.
- Feb 03 1944 – WW2: The United States shells the Japanese homeland for the first time at Kurile Islands.
- Feb 03 1945 – WW2: As part of Operation Thunderclap, 1000 B–17’s of the Eighth Air Force bomb Berlin, a raid which kills between 2,500 to 3,000 and dehouses another 120,000.
- Feb 03 1945 – WW2: Battle of Manila (03 Feb – 03 MAR) » U.S. forces push into Manila, Philippines, starting a battle for the city that would last a month. The campus of the University of Santo Tomas is liberated along with the U.S. nurses who had been held prisoner there. By 4 FEB, the 37st Infantry Division had freed more than 1,000 American POWs, including those captured in the battles of Bataan and Corregidor three years before. Fighting would go on for weeks as Americans pounded Japanese positions and Japanese troops massacred thousands of civilians. More than 100,000 civilians were killed in the battle for the city and much of Manila’s architectural heritage was destroyed.
- Feb 03 1950 – Cold War: Klaus Fuchs arrested For Passing Atomic Bomb Information to Soviets » German-born British scientist Klaus Fuchs who helped develop the atomic bomb, is arrested in Great Britain for passing top-secret information about the bomb to the Soviet Union. The arrest of Fuchs led authorities to several other individuals involved in a spy ring, culminating with the arrest of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg and their subsequent execution.
Fuchs and his family fled Germany in 1933 to avoid Nazi persecution and came to Great Britain, where Fuchs earned his doctorate in physics. During World War II, British authorities were aware of the leftist leanings of both Fuchs and his father. However, Fuchs was eventually invited to participate in the British program to develop an atomic bomb (the project named “Tube Alloys”) because of his expertise. At some point after the project began, Soviet agents contacted Fuchs and he began to pass information about British progress to them. Late in 1943, Fuchs was among a group of British scientists brought to America to work on the Manhattan Project, the U.S. program to develop an atomic bomb. Fuchs continued his clandestine meetings with Soviet agents. When the war ended, Fuchs returned to Great Britain and continued his work on the British atomic bomb project.
Fuchs’ arrest in 1950 came after a routine security check of Fuchs’ father, who had moved to communist East Germany in 1949. While the check was underway, British authorities received information from the American Federal Bureau of Investigation that decoded Soviet messages in their possession indicated Fuchs was a Russian spy. On 3 FEB, officers from Scotland Yard arrested Fuchs and charged him with violating the Official Secrets Act. Fuchs eventually admitted his role and was sentenced to 14 years in prison. His sentence was later reduced, and he was released in 1959 and spent his remaining years living with his father in East Germany.
Fuchs’ capture set off a chain of arrests. Harry Gold, whom Fuchs implicated as the middleman between himself and Soviet agents, was arrested in the United States. Gold thereupon informed on David Greenglass, one of Fuchs’ co-workers on the Manhattan Project. After his apprehension, Greenglass implicated his sister-in-law and her husband, Ethel and Julius Rosenberg. They were arrested in New York in July 1950, found guilty of conspiracy to commit espionage, and executed at Sing Sing Prison in June 1953.
- Feb 03 1955 – U.S.*Vietnam: Diem Institutes Limited Agrarian Reforms » After months of prodding by U.S. advisors, South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem introduces the first in a series of agrarian reform measures. This first measure was a decree governing levels of rent for farmland.
U.S. officials had strongly urged that Diem institute such reforms to win the support of the common people, but later critics maintained his land reform program began too late, progressed too slowly, and never went far enough. What the South Vietnamese farmers wanted was a redistribution of land from the absentee landlords to those that actually worked the fields, but Diem’s program to return the land to the tiller was implemented halfheartedly and did little to meet the rising appetite for land among South Vietnam’s rural population. Provisions for payment by peasants granted land created unnecessary hardships. Although 1 million tenants received some relief, more than 1 million received no land at all, and the lack of impartial enforcement agencies crippled many potential benefits. Instead of redistributing land to the poor, Diem’s land reform program ended up taking back what the peasants had been given by the Viet Minh and returning it to the landlords, forcing peasants to pay for the land they considered theirs on impossible terms. In 1960, 75 percent of the land was owned by 15 percent of the people. The communists capitalized on unresolved peasant unrest throughout Diem’s regime. Discontent towards Diem reached its height when dissident South Vietnamese officers murdered him during a coup in November 1963.
- Feb 03 1961 – Cold War: The United States Air Forces begins Operation Looking Glass, and over the next 30 years, a “Doomsday Plane” is always in the air, with the capability of taking direct control of the United States’ bombers and missiles in the event of the destruction of the SAC’s command post.
- Feb 03 1966 – Space Travel: Lunik 9 Soft-Lands on Lunar Surface » The Soviet Union accomplishes the first controlled landing on the moon, when the unmanned spacecraft Lunik 9 touches down on the Ocean of Storms. After its soft landing, the circular capsule opened like a flower, deploying its antennas, and began transmitting photographs and television images back to Earth. The 220-pound landing capsule was launched from Earth on 31 JAN.
Lunik 9 was the third major lunar first for the Soviet space program: On September 14, 1959, Lunik 2 became the first manmade object to reach the moon when it impacted with the lunar surface, and on 7 OCT of the same year Lunik 3 flew around the moon and transmitted back to Earth the first images of the dark side of the moon. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, the U.S. space program consistently trailed the Soviet program in space firsts–a pattern that shifted dramatically with the triumph of America’s Apollo lunar program in the late 1960s.
- Feb 03 1970 –Vietnam War: Senate Foreign Relations Committee Opens Hearings » The Senate Foreign Relations Committee opens hearings on the conduct of the war by the Nixon administration. Senator Charles Goodell (R-New York) said that Vietnamization (President Richard Nixon’s program to transfer war responsibility to the South Vietnamese) had been a “great public relations success.” Taking exception with Senator Goodell’s assessment, Senators Harold Hughes (D-IA), Thomas Eagleton (D-MO), and Alan Cranston (D-CA) testified in support of a Senate resolution calling for the termination of the American commitment to South Vietnam unless the Saigon government took steps to broaden its cabinet, stop press censorship, and release political prisoners.
- Feb 03 1994 – Post Vietnam War: Clinton Ends Vietnam Trade Embargo » Nearly two decades after the fall of Saigon, U.S. President Bill Clinton announces the lifting of the 19-year-old trade embargo against Vietnam, citing the cooperation of Vietnam’s communist government in helping the United States locate the 2,238 Americans still listed as missing in the Vietnam War. Despite the lifting of the embargo, high tariffs remained on Vietnamese exports pending the country’s qualification as a “most favored nation,” a U.S. trade-status designation that Vietnam might earn after broadening its program of free-market reforms.
In July 1995, the Clinton administration established full diplomatic relations with Vietnam. In making the decision, Clinton was advised by Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona, an ex-Navy pilot who spent five years as a prisoner of war in Hanoi. Brushing aside criticism of Clinton’s decision by some Republicans, McCain asserted that it was time for America to normalize relations with its old enemy.
Five years later, in November 2000, President Clinton became the first president to visit Vietnam since Richard Nixon’s 1969 trip to South Vietnam during the Vietnam War.
- Feb 04 1789 – Post American Revolutionary War: Washington Unanimously Elected by Electoral College to First & Second Terms » George Washington becomes the first and only president to be unanimously elected by the Electoral College. He repeated this notable feat on the same day in 1792.
The peculiarities of early American voting procedure meant that although Washington won unanimous election, he still had a runner-up, John Adams, who served as vice president during both of Washington’s terms. Electors in what is now called the Electoral College named two choices for president. They each cast two ballots without noting a distinction between their choice for president and vice president. Washington was chosen by all of the electors and therefore is considered to have been unanimously elected. Of those also named on the electors’ ballots, Adams had the most votes and became vice president.
Although Washington’s overwhelming popularity prevented problems in 1789 and 1792, this procedure caused great difficulty in the elections of 1796 and 1800. In 1796, Federalist supporters of John Adams cast only one of their two votes in an effort to ensure that Adams would win the presidency without giving votes to any of the other candidates. This led to a situation in which the Federalist Adams won the highest number of votes and became president, but Thomas Jefferson, the opposing Democratic-Republican candidate, came in second and therefore became his opponent’s vice president.
Adams, Jefferson & Burr
In 1800, the system led to a tie between the Democratic-Republican candidates for president and vice president, Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr. This sent the vote to the House of Representatives, where Federalists voted for Burr instead of Jefferson, whom they despised. As a result, the Congressional vote ended in a tie 35 times before the Federalists decided to hand in blank ballots and concede the White House to Jefferson.
In 1804, the 12th Amendment to the Constitution ended this particular form of electoral chaos by stipulating that separate votes be cast for president and vice president.
- Feb 04 1861 – Civil War: States Meet to Form Confederacy » The Confederacy is open for business when in Montgomery, Alabama, delegates from six break-away U.S. states convene the Provisional Confederate Congress and form the Confederate States of America. The first order of business was drafting a constitution. The congress used the U.S. Constitution as a model, taking most of it verbatim. In just four days, a tentative document to govern the new nation was hammered out. Unlike the U.S. Constitution, the word “slave” was used and the institution protected in all states and any territories to be added later. Importation of slaves was prohibited, as this would alienate European nations and would detract from the profitable “internal slave trade” in the South. Other components of the constitution were designed to enhance the power of the states–governmental money for internal improvements was banned and the president was given a line-item veto on appropriations bills.
As early as 1858, the ongoing conflict between the North and the South over the issue of slavery led Southern leadership to discuss a unified separation from the United States. By 1860, the majority of the slave states were publicly threatening secession if the Republicans, the anti-slavery party, won the presidency. Following Abraham Lincoln’s victory over the divided Democratic Party in November 1860, South Carolina immediately initiated secession proceedings. On 20 DEC, its legislature passed the “Ordinance of Secession,” which declared that “the Union now subsisting between South Carolina and other states, under the name of the United States of America, is hereby dissolved.” After the declaration, South Carolina set about seizing forts, arsenals, and other strategic locations within the state. Within six weeks, five more Southern states had followed South Carolina’s lead.
In February 1861, representatives from the six seceded states met in Montgomery, Alabama, to formally establish a unified government, which they named the Confederate States of America. On 9 FEB, Jefferson Davis, a West Point graduate and former U.S. senator from Mississippi who served as the U.S. secretary of war in the 1850s, was elected the Confederacy’s first president
1864 Skirmish at Big Black River Bridge, Mississippi
- Feb 04 1899 –Philippine*American War: The war begins with the two day Battle of Manila between American and Philippine revolutionary forces. Casualties and losses: US 285 – PI 2,000
- Feb 04 1915 – WWI Era: Germany Declares War Zone Around British Isles » A full two years before Germany’s aggressive naval policy would draw the United States into the war against them, Kaiser Wilhelm announces an important step in the development of that policy, proclaiming the North Sea a war zone, in which all merchant ships, including those from neutral countries, were liable to be sunk without warning.
In widening the boundaries of naval warfare, Germany was retaliating against the Allies for the British-imposed blockade of Germany in the North Sea, an important part of Britain’s war strategy aimed at strangling its enemy economically. By war’s end—according to official British counts—the so-called hunger blockade would take some 770,000 German lives.
The German navy, despite its attempts to build itself up in the pre-war years, was far inferior in strength to the peerless British Royal Navy. After resounding defeats of its battle cruisers, such as that suffered in the Falkland Islands in December 1914, Germany began to look to its dangerous U-boat submarines as its best hope at sea. Hermann Bauer, the leader of the German submarine service, had suggested in October 1914 that the U-boats could be used to attack commerce ships and raid their cargoes, thus scaring off imports to Britain, including those from neutral countries. Early the following month, Britain declared the North Sea a military area, warning neutral countries that areas would be mined and that all ships must first put into British ports, where they would be searched for possible supplies bound for Germany, stripped of these, and escorted through the British minefields. With this intensification of the blockade, Bauer’s idea gained greater support within Germany as the only appropriate response to Britain’s actions.
Though German Chancellor Theobald von Bethmann Hollweg and the German Foreign Ministry worried about angering neutral countries, pressure from naval leaders and anger in the German press about the British blockade convinced them to go through with the declaration. On February 4, 1915, Kaiser Wilhelm announced Germany’s intention to sink any and all ships sailing under the flags of Britain, Russia or France found within British waters. The Kaiser warned neutral countries that neither crews nor passengers were safe while traveling within the designated war zone around the British Isles. If neutral ships chose to enter British waters after February 18, when the policy went into effect, they would be doing so at their own risk.
The U.S. government immediately and strongly protested the war-zone designation, warning Germany that it would take any steps it might be necessary to take in order to protect American lives and property. Subsequently, a rift opened between Germany’s politicians—who didn’t want to provoke America’s anger—and its navy, which was determined to use its deadly U-boats to the greatest possible advantage.
After a German U-boat sank the British passenger ship Lusitania on May 7, 1915, killing over 1,000 people, including 128 Americans, pressure from the U.S. prompted the German government to greatly constrain the operation of submarines; U-boat warfare was completely suspended that September. Unrestricted submarine warfare was resumed on February 1, 1917, prompting the U.S., two days later, to break diplomatic relations with Germany.
- Feb 04 1938 – Germany: Adolf Hitler seizes control of German army and puts Nazis in key posts,
- Feb 04 1941 – WW2 Era: The United Service Organization (USO) is created to entertain American troops and their families.
- Feb 04 1941 – WW2 Era: British tanks occupy Maus, Libya
- Feb 04 1942 – WW2: Clinton Pierce becomes 1st US general wounded in action in WW II.
- Feb 04 1944 – WW2: Japanese Attack the Indian Seventh Army in Burma » The Japanese opened their offensive in February 1944 with a stunning tactical surprise, using only one of the Japanese 28th Army’s two divisions. However, the Allies rallied and were able to frustrate the attack, inflicting a loss of 5,000 men upon the Japanese, whose total force had numbered 8,000. For the first time since December 8, 1941, the Indian army had won an unequivocal victory. It was one of the turning points of the war in Burma.
- Feb 04 1945 – WW2: Santo Tomas Internment Camp » The Camp is liberated from Japanese authority. It was the largest of several camps in the Philippines in which the Japanese interned enemy civilians, mostly Americans. The campus of the University of Santo Tomas in Manila was utilized for the camp, which housed more than 3,000 internees from January 1942 until February 1945. The biggest problem for the internees was sanitation. The Sanitation and Health Committee had more than 600 internee men working for it. Their tasks included building more toilets and showers, laundry, dishwashing, and cooking facilities, disposal of garbage, and controlling the flies, mosquitoes, and rats that infested the compound.
During the first two years of imprisonment conditions for the internees were tolerable with no serious outbreaks of disease, malnutrition, or other symptoms of poor conditions. Conditions for the internees deteriorated during the war and by the time of the liberation of the camp by the U.S. Army many of the internees were near death from lack of food. In January 1945, a doctor reported that the average loss of weight among male internees had been 53 pounds during the three years at Santo Tomas, 32.5 percent of average body weight. Forty percent loss of normal body weight will usually result in death. From January 1942 until March 1945, 390 total deaths from all causes in Santo Tomas were recorded, a death rate about three times that of the United States in the 1940s. People over 60 years old were the most vulnerable. They comprised 18 percent of the total population, but suffered 64 percent of deaths
The total number of internees liberated at Santo Tomas was 3,785, of which 2,870 were Americans and most of the remainder were British. The American force that liberated the internees at Santo Tomas was small in numbers, and the Japanese still had soldiers near the compound. Fighting went on for several days. The internees received food and medical treatment but were not allowed to leave Santo Tomas. Registration of them for return to their countries of origin began. On 7 FEB, General Douglas MacArthur visited the compound, an event that was accompanied by Japanese shelling. That night and again on 10 FEB, 28 people in the compound were killed in the artillery barrage, including 16 internees.
The evacuation of the internees began on 11 FEB. Sixty-four U.S. Army and Navy nurses interned in Santo Tomas were the first to leave that day and board airplanes for the United States. Flights and ships to the United States for most internees began on 22 FEB. Although food became adequate with the arrival of American soldiers, life continued to be difficult. The lingering effects of near-starvation for so many months saw 48 people die in the camp in February, the highest death total for any month. Most internees could not leave the camp because of a lack of housing in Manila. The American military pressured all American internees to return to the U.S., including long-time residents and mixed-blood families who wished to remain in the Philippines. Tensions between the remaining internees and the American military were high. Slowly, in March and April 1945 the camp emptied out, but it was not until September that Santo Tomas finally closed and the last internees boarded a ship for the US or sought out places to live in Manila, almost completely destroyed in the Battle of Manila
- Feb 04 1945 – WW2: First Firebombing Raid Against Japan at Kobe » After trials on the Japanese Village set on the Dugway Proving Grounds in Utah, Curtis LeMay of the American Forces ordered the B-29 bombers to drop incendiary bombs to burn Japan’s mostly wood-and-paper houses, in an “experimental” carpet bombing against Kobe on 4 FEB.
Kobe was selected as a target for firebombing raids for a number of reasons. First off, it was the sixth-largest city in Japan at the time, with a population of roughly 1 million. The houses were mostly built with wood and thus highly flammable—perfect for starting and sustaining large fires. Second, it was Japan’s largest port, home to the largest concentration of shipbuilding and marine-engine manufacturing. Kobe was also an important city for transportation and business. National highways ran through the city, especially through the congested business section, and Kobe contained business facilities for steel, machinery, rubber, railway equipment, and ordnance. Lastly, Kobe’s low water supply, consisting of only three reservoirs, and its poor firefighting equipment created a very fire-prone environment.
- Feb 04 1945 – WW2: Belgium Liberated » The liberation of Belgium from German occupation was completed this day when the entire country was reportedly free of German troops. The operation began when Allied forces entered on 2 September 1944. The liberation came after four years of German-occupied rule. The Belgian government was returned to power on 8 September 1944, after Allied forces captured Brussels four days earlier.
- Feb 04 1945 – WW2: The Yalta Conference Commences » President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and Premier Joseph Stalin meet at Yalta, in the Crimea, to discuss and plan the postwar world—namely, to address the redistribution of power and influence. It is at Yalta that many place the birth of the Cold War.
It had already been determined that a defeated Germany would be sliced up into zones occupied by the United States, Great Britain, France, and the Soviet Union, the principal Allied powers. Once in Germany, the Allies would see to the deconstruction of the German military and the prosecution of war criminals. A special commission would also determine war reparations.
But the most significant issue, the one that marked the conference in history, was Joseph Stalin’s designs on Eastern Europe. (Stalin’s demands had started early with his desire that the location of the conference be at a Black Sea resort close to the USSR. He claimed he was too ill to travel far.) Roosevelt and Churchill attempted to create a united front against the Soviet dictator; their advisers had already mapped out clear positions on Europe and the creation and mission of the United Nations. They propounded the principles of the Atlantic Charter formulated back in August 1941 that would ensure “life, liberty, independence, and religious freedom” for a free Europe and guarantee that only those nations that had declared war on the Axis powers would gain entry into the new United Nations.
Stalin agreed to these broad principles (although he withdrew his promise that all 16 Soviet republics would have separate representation within the United Nations), as well as an agreement that the Big Three would help any nation formerly in the grip of an Axis power in the establishment of “interim governmental authorities broadly representative of all democratic elements in the population… and the earliest possible establishment through free elections of governments responsive to the will of the people.” Toward that end, Roosevelt and Churchill gave support to the Polish government-in-exile in London; Stalin demurred, insisting that the communist-dominated and Soviet-loyal Polish Committee of National Liberation, based in Poland, would govern. The only compromise reached was the inclusion of “other” political groups in the committee. As for Poland’s new borders, they were discussed, but no conclusions were reached.
The conference provided the illusion of more unanimity than actually existed, especially in light of Stalin’s reneging on his promise of free elections in those Eastern European nations the Soviets occupied at war’s end. Roosevelt and Churchill had believed Stalin’s promises, primarily because they needed to—they were convinced the USSR’s support in defeating the Japanese was crucial. In fact, the USSR played much less of a role in ending the war in the East than assumed. But there was no going back. A divisive “iron curtain,” in Churchill’s famous phrase, was beginning to descend in Europe.
As the Cold War became a reality in the years that followed the Yalta Conference, many critics of Roosevelt’s foreign policy accused him of “selling out” at the meeting and naively letting Stalin have his way. It seems doubtful, however, that Roosevelt had much choice. He was able to secure Russian participation in the war against Japan (Russia declared war on Japan on August 8, 1945), established the basic principles of the United Nations, and did as much as possible to settle the Poland issue. With World War II still raging, his primary interest was in maintaining the Grand Alliance. He believed that troublesome political issues could be postponed and solved after the war. Unfortunately, Roosevelt never got that chance—almost exactly two months after the end of the conference, Roosevelt suffered a stroke and died.
- Feb 04 1945 – WW2: The British Indian Army and Imperial Japanese Army begin a series of battles known as the Battle of Pokoku and Irrawaddy River operations.
- Feb 04 1945 – WW2: USS Barbel (SS–316) sunk by Japanese naval aircraft in South China Sea in Palawan Passage. 81 killed.
On Eternal Patrol
- Feb 04 1957 – U.S. Navy: The first nuclear–powered submarine, the USS Nautilus (SSN–571), logs its 60,000th nautical mile.
- Feb 04 1962 – Vietnam War: First U.S. Helicopter Is Shot Down in Vietnam » It was one of 15 helicopters ferrying South Vietnamese Army troops into battle near the village of Hong My in the Mekong Delta. The first U.S. helicopter unit had arrived in South Vietnam aboard the ferry carrier USNS Core on December 11, 1961. This contingent included 33 Vertol H-21C Shawnee helicopters and 400 air and ground crewmen to operate and maintain them. Their assignment was to airlift South Vietnamese Army troops into combat.
- Feb 04 1965 – Vietnam War: Rumors Fly about U.S.-Soviet Pressure on Allies in Vietnam » McGeorge Bundy, American Special Assistant for National Security, arrives in Saigon for talks with U.S. Ambassador General Maxwell Taylor. Two days later Soviet Premier Aleksei Kosygin arrived in Hanoi. There was worldwide speculation that their visits were linked–that the United States and the Soviet Union had agreed to pressure their “clients” into negotiations–but this was denied by all the principals. Bundy, in fact, was there to confer with Ambassador Taylor on the best way to deal with the political situation. And although Kosygin publicly proclaimed continued Soviet support for North Vietnam and the communist war, a Soviet participant in the talks later described the North Vietnamese as “a bunch of stubborn bastards.”
Bundy, Taylor, and Kosygin
- Feb 04 1966 – Vietnam War: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee begins televised hearings on the Vietnam War.
- Feb 04 1969 – Middle Easr: PLO is Founded » With Yasir Arafat as its leader, the Palestine Liberation Organization was founded on February 4, 1969. By 1974 when he addressed the United Nations, Arafat had made significant strides towards establishing new respectability for the PLO’s campaign for a Palestinian homeland. But gaining legitimacy hinged on cooling down terrorism, and Arafat found it increasingly difficult to reconcile the moderate and extremist segments of Palestinian politics.
- Feb 04 1972 – Vietnam War: Last Thai Contingent Departs South Vietnam » A force of 824 soldiers, the last of Thailand’s 12,000 troops serving in South Vietnam, departs. The Thai contingent, which had first arrived in country in the fall of 1967, had been part of the Free World Military Forces, an effort by President Lyndon B. Johnson to enlist allies for the United States and South Vietnam. By securing support from other nations, Johnson hoped to build an international consensus behind his policies in Vietnam. The effort was also known as the “many flags” program. In all, 44 countries responded to Johnson plea for military aid to South Vietnam, but only Australia, New Zealand, Korea, and Thailand provided combat troops. In the end, the program never achieved the widespread international support that Johnson sought.
- Feb 05 1783 – American Revolutionary War: Georgia Constitution Abolishes Primogeniture and Entail » Georgia formally adopts a new state constitution and becomes the first U.S. state to abolish the inheritance practices of primogeniture and entail.
Primogeniture ensured that the eldest son in a family inherited the largest portion of his father’s property upon the father’s death. The practice of entail, guaranteeing that a landed estate remain in the hands of only one male heir, was frequently practiced in conjunction with primogeniture. (Virginia abolished entail in 1776, but permitted primogeniture to persist until 1785.)
Georgians restructured inheritance laws in Article LI of the state’s constitution by abolishing entail in all forms and proclaiming that any person who died without a will would have his or her estate divided equally among their children; the widow shall have a child’s share, or her dower at her option.
The British colonies in North America, and particularly the southern colonies, were known as a haven for younger sons of the British gentry. Most famously, Benjamin Franklin announced in his autobiography that he was the youngest Son of the youngest Son for 5 Generations back. Moving to the colonies was an attractive option for younger sons like Franklin because there younger sons could take their monetary inheritance and build up their own estates, whereas primogeniture and entail prevented them from inheriting similar estates in the mother country.
- Feb 05 1783 – American Revolutionary War: Sweden recognizes U.S. independence.
- Feb 05 1864 – Civil War: Federal forces occupy Jackson, MS.
- Feb 05 1865 – Civil War: The Battle of Dabney’s Mill (Hatcher’s Run) » Union and Confederate forces around Petersburg, Virginia, begin a three-day battle that produces 3,000 casualties but ends with no significant advantage for either side.
Dabney’s Mill was another attempt by Union General Ulysses S. Grant to break the siege of Petersburg and Richmond, Virginia. In 1864, Grant and Confederate General Robert E. Lee pounded each other as they wheeled south around the cities. After a month of heavy battling that produced the highest casualty rates of the war, Grant and Lee settled into trenches around Petersburg. These lines eventually stretched 25 miles to Richmond, and the stalemate continued for 10 months. Periodically, Grant mounted offensives either to break through Lee’s lines or envelope the ends. In June, August, and October, these moves failed to extricate the Confederates from their trenches.
Now, Grant sent cavalry under General David Gregg to capture a road that carried supplies from Hicksford, Virginia, into Petersburg. On 5 FEB, Gregg moved and captured a few wagons along his objective, the Boydton Plank Road. He found little else, so he pulled back toward the rest of the Union Army. Yankee infantry under General Gouverneur K. Warren also moved forward and probed the area at the end of the Confederate’s Petersburg line. The Rebels responded by moving troops into the area. Skirmishes erupted that evening and the fighting continued for two more days as each side maneuvered for an advantage. The fighting surged back and forth around Dabney’s Mill, but the Yankees were never able to penetrate the Confederate lines. The Union suffered some 2,000 men killed, wounded, or captured, while the Confederates lost about 1,000. The battle did extend the Petersburg line a few miles to further stretch Lee’s thin lines, but the stalemate continued for six more weeks before Grant’s forces finally sent Lee racing west with the remnants of his army. The chase ended in April 1865 when Lee surrendered at Appomattox Court House, Virginia.
- Feb 05 1917 – U.S.*Mexico: Pancho Villa Expedition » Having failed in their mission to capture Villa, and under continued pressure from the Mexican government, the Americans under Gen. John Pershing were ordered home. Pancho Villa continued his guerrilla activities in northern Mexico. On 21 May 1920, a break for Villa came when President Carranza, along with his top advisers and supporters, were assassinated by supporters of Álvaro Obregón. With his nemesis dead, Villa was now ready to negotiate a peace settlement and retire.
On 22 July 1920, Villa finally was able to send a telegram to Mexican interim President Adolfo de la Huerta, which stated that he recognized Huerta’s presidency and requested amnesty. Six days later, de la Huerta met with Villa and successfully negotiated a peace settlement. In exchange for his retirement from hostilities, Villa was granted a 25,000 acre hacienda in Canutillo, just outside Hidalgo del Parral, Chihuahua, by the national government. This was in addition to the Quinta Luz estate that he owned with his wife, María Luz Corral de Villa, in Chihuahua, Chihuahua. The last remaining 200 guerrillas and veterans of Villa’s militia who were still loyal to him would reside with him in his new hacienda as well, and the Mexican government also granted them a pension that totaled 500,000 gold pesos. The 50 guerrillas who still remained in Villa’s small cavalry would be allowed to serve as Villa’s personal bodyguards.
On 20 July 1923, Villa was killed while visiting Parral. He frequently made trips from his ranch to Parral for banking and other errands, where he generally felt secure. Villa usually was accompanied by his large entourage of armed Dorados, or bodyguards, but for some unknown reason on that day he had gone into the town without most of them, taking with him only three bodyguards and two other ranch employees. He went to pick up a consignment of gold from the local bank with which to pay his Canutillo ranch staff. While driving back through the city in his black 1919 Dodge touring car, Villa passed by a school, and a pumpkinseed vendor ran toward his car and shouted “Viva Villa!”, a signal to a group of seven riflemen who then appeared in the middle of the road and fired more than 40 rounds into the automobile. In the fusillade, nine dumdum bullets, normally used for hunting big game, hit Villa in the head and upper chest, killing him instantly.
- Feb 05 1918 – WWI: Luxury Liner SS Tuscania » The Cunard Line subsidiary Anchor Line luxury liner Tuscania, is torpedoed by the German U-boat UB-77 off the coast of Ireland, sending 210 people to their deaths; it is the first ship carrying American troops to Europe to be torpedoed and sunk during World War I.
Since 1912, Italy had occupied Libya because of purely economic “expansion” motives. In 1935, Mussolini began sending tens of thousands of Italians to Libya, mostly farmers and other rural workers, in part to relieve overpopulation concerns in Italy. So by the time of the outbreak of the Second World War, Italy had enjoyed a long-term presence in North Africa, and Mussolini began dreaming of expanding that presence–always with an eye toward the same territories that the old “Roman Empire” had counted among its conquests.
Also sitting in North Africa were British troops, which, under a 1936 treaty, were garrisoned in Egypt to protect the Suez Canal and Royal Navy bases at Alexandria and Port Said. Hitler had offered to aid Mussolini early on in his North African expansion, to send German troops to help fend off a British counterattack. But Mussolini had been rebuffed when he had offered Italian assistance during the Battle of Britain. He now insisted that as a matter of national pride, Italy would have to create a Mediterranean sphere of influence on its own–or risk becoming a “junior” partner of Germany’s.
But despite expansion into parts of East Africa and Egypt, Mussolini’s forces proved no match for the Brits in the long run. British troops pushed the Italians westward, inflicting extraordinary losses on the Axis forces in an attack at Beda Fomm. As Britain threatened to push the Italians out of Libya altogether and break through to Tunisia, Mussolini swallowed his pride and asked Hitler for assistance. Hitler reluctantly agreed (it would mean the first direct German-British encounter in the Mediterranean)–but only if Mussolini stopped the Italians’ retreat and kept the British out of Tripoli, the Libyan capital. But the Italians continued to be overwhelmed; in three months, 20,000 men were wounded or killed and 130,000 were taken prisoner. Only with the arrival of German Gen. Erwin Rommel would the Italian resistance be strengthened against further British advances. Even with Germany’s help, Italy was able to defend its North African territory only until early 1943.
- Feb 05 1941 – WW2 Era: Battle of Keren » Allied forces begin their capture of the town of Keren (Africa) as part of the East African Campaign. The engagement was between a mixed Italian army of regular and colonial troops and British (mostly Sudanese and Indian troops under the British flag) and Free French forces. Keren had no built-in fortifications or defensive structures but it is surrounded on most sides by a jumble of steep granite mountains and sharp ridges which gave the defending forces on the high ground a distinct advantage whilst providing their artillery with perfect observation of any attacking formations.
British 18-pounder gun in action and Vickers Wellesley in flight during a bombing sortie at the Battle of Keren
The town was of strategic importance to both sides in 1941. The road and railway through Keren were the main routes to the colonial capital at Asmara and the Red Sea port of Massawa, which surrendered to the British after the battle. On 27 MAR the Italian defenders withdrew opening the route to Asmara and Massawa. On 11 APR, the President Franklin D. Roosevelt, rescinded the status of the Red Sea as a combat zone under the Neutrality Acts, freeing US merchant ships to use the route to carry supplies to the Middle East. Casualties and losses: UK/IN/FR 3,765 – Italy 33,847.
- Feb 05 1945 – WW2: American and French troops destroy German forces in the Colmar Pocket in France.
- Feb 05 1945 – WW2: General Douglas MacArthur returns to Manila.
- Feb 05 1958 – U.S. Air Force: Thermonuclear Bomb Lost » The Air Force lost a 7,600-pound Mark 15 weapon in the waters off Tybee Island near Savannah, Georgia, United States. During a practice exercise, an F-86 fighter plane collided with the B-47 bomber carrying the bomb. To protect the aircrew from a possible detonation in the event of a crash, the bomb was jettisoned.
Mk 15 nuclear bomb
Starting on 6 FEB the Air Force 2700th Explosive Ordnance Disposal Squadron and 100 Navy personnel equipped with hand-held sonar and galvanic drag and cable sweeps mounted a search. On 16 APR, the military announced the search had been unsuccessful. Based on a hydrologic survey, the bomb was thought by the Department of Energy to lie buried under 5 to 15 feet of silt at the bottom of Wassaw Sound off the shores of Tybee Island. It has never been recovered. In February 2015, a satirical news site ran an article stating that the bomb was found by vacationing Canadian divers and that the bomb had since been removed from the bay. The fake story spread widely via social media.
- Feb 05 1960 – Vietnam War: South Vietnam Requests More Support » The South Vietnamese government requests that Washington double U.S. Military Assistance and Advisory Group (MAAG-Vietnam) strength from 342 to 685. The advisory group was formed on November 1, 1955 to provide military assistance to South Vietnam. It had replaced U.S. Military Assistance Advisory Group Indochina (MAAG-Indochina), which had been providing military assistance to “the forces of France and the Associated States in Indochina” (Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam) in accordance with President Harry S. Truman’s order of June 27, 1950.
MAAG-Vietnam had U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps elements that provided advice and assistance to the South Vietnamese Ministry of Defense, Joint General Staff and corps and division commanders, as well as to training centers and province and district headquarters. In May 1964, MAAG-Vietnam was disbanded and its personnel and responsibilities absorbed by the U.S. Military Assistance Command Vietnam (MACV), which had been established in Saigon two years earlier.
- Feb 05 1961 – Space Travel: The Soviets launch Sputnik V, the heaviest satellite to date at 7.1 tons.
- Feb 05 1968 – Vietnam War: U.S. troops divide the Viet Cong at Hue while the Saigon government claims they will arm loyal citizens.
- Feb 05 1971 – Space Travel: Two Apollo 14 astronauts walk on the moon.
- Feb 05 1975 – Vietnam War: North Vietnamese Begin Preparations for Offensive » North Vietnamese Gen. Van Tien Dung departs for South Vietnam to take command of communist forces in preparation for a new offensive. In December 1974, the North Vietnamese 7th Division and the newly formed 3rd Division attacked Phuoc Long Province, north of Saigon. This attack represented an escalation in the “cease-fire war” that started shortly after the Paris Peace Accords were signed in 1973.
The North Vietnamese wanted to see how Saigon and Washington would react to a major attack so close to Saigon. President Richard Nixon and his successor, Gerald Ford, had promised to come to the aid of South Vietnam if the North Vietnamese launched a major new offensive. With Nixon’s Watergate resignation and Ford facing an increasingly hostile Congress, Hanoi was essentially conducting a “test” attack to see if the United States would honor its commitment to Saigon. The attack was much more successful than the North Vietnamese anticipated: the South Vietnamese soldiers fought poorly and the United States did nothing.
Emboldened by their success, the North Vietnamese decided to launch a major offensive against the South Vietnamese. “Campaign 275″ began on March 1, 1975. The North Vietnamese forces quickly overran the South Vietnamese and the United States failed to provide the promised support. Saigon fell on April 30 and the South Vietnamese government officially surrendered.
- Feb 05 1989 – Afghanistan: In an important move signaling the close of the nearly decade-long Soviet military intervention in Afghanistan, the last Russian troops withdraw from the capital city of Kabul. Less than two weeks later, all Soviet troops departed Afghanistan entirely, ending what many observers referred to as Russia’s “Vietnam.”
- Feb 05 1989 – Russia: Novye Aldi Massacre » The event was a mass killing in which Russian federal forces summarily executed dozens of people in the Novye Aldi suburb of Grozny, the capital of Chechnya, in the course of a “mopping-up” operation conducted there on February 5, 2000, soon after the end of the battle for the city. As a result of a deadly rampage by the special police forces 60 to 82 local civilians were killed and at least six women were raped. Numerous houses were also burned and civilian property was stolen in an organized manner.
The villagers collectively decided not to bury the bodies immediately (as demanded by Muslim tradition), but to instead keep the victims’ bodies inside homes so their deaths could be documented. Following the massacre, Russian forces returned to Aldi on numerous occasions to loot and to threaten residents with reprisals should they speak out about what they witnessed. While there was some plunder on 5 FEB, systematic pillage on a massive scale first took place during the following week, including on 10 FEB when OMON returned to Aldi in large numbers and began rounding-up any Chechen males they could find, taking away 16 of them along with whole truckloads of looted items. (They were later returned alive.)
The official investigation into the Aldi massacre established that the “sweep operation” there was conducted by the paramilitary police of OMON from the northern Russian city of Saint Petersburg (possibly also from the southern Ryazan Oblast), yet as of 2016 the Russian authorities have failed to hold anyone to account for the crime. The guilt of the Russian state in the Aldi murders and the denial of justice to the victims has been formally established in two different judgements by the European Court of Human Rights several years later in 2006–07.
- Feb 05 2007 – U.S. Army: American Lieutenant Ehren Watada faced a court martial for refusing to deploy to Iraq and for publicly criticizing the war, the first officer since Vietnam to be so tried. A volunteer from Hawaii who joined the U.S. Army prior to the invasion in 2003. Initially having served in South Korea, he learned more about the Iraqi conflict and the bogus claims of Saddam Hussein’s possession of weapons of mass destruction.
- Feb 05 2009 – U.S. Navy: USS Port Royal Grounding » The guided missile cruiser Port Royal off Oahu, Hawaii ran aground on a coral reef, damaging both the ship and the reef. The incident received wide press coverage in Hawaii, in part because of the damage caused to a sensitive coral environment. Navy investigation found that the grounding was caused by a combination of a misread navigation system, a sleep-deprived commanding officer, broken equipment, and an inexperienced and dysfunctional bridge team. Commanding officer Captain John Carroll was relieved of duty and disciplined. Three other officers and one enlisted sailor were also disciplined. The Navy reattached 5,400 coral colonies in an attempt to repair damage to the reef.
- Feb 06 1778 – American Revolutionary War: Franco-American Alliances Signed » During the American War for Independence, representatives from the United States and France sign the Treaty of Amity and Commerce and the Treaty of Alliance in Paris.
The Amity and Commerce Treaty recognized the United States as an independent nation and encouraged trade between France and the America, while the Treaty of Alliance provided for a military alliance against Great Britain, stipulating that the absolute independence of the United States be recognized as a condition for peace and that France would be permitted to conquer the British West Indies.
With the treaties, the first entered into by the U.S. government, the Bourbon monarchy of France formalized its commitment to assist the American colonies in their struggle against France’s old rival, Great Britain. The eagerness of the French to help the United States was motivated both by an appreciation of the American revolutionaries’ democratic ideals and by bitterness at having lost most of their American empire to the British at the conclusion of the French and Indian Wars in 1763.
In 1776, the Continental Congress appointed Benjamin Franklin, Silas Deane, and Arthur Lee to a diplomatic commission to secure a formal alliance with France. Covert French aid began filtering into the colonies soon after the outbreak of hostilities in 1775, but it was not until the American victory at the Battle of Saratoga in October 1777 that the French became convinced that the Americans were worth backing in a formal treaty.
On February 6, 1778, the treaties of Amity and Commerce and Alliance were signed, and in May 1778 the Continental Congress ratified them. One month later, war between Britain and France formally began when a British squadron fired on two French ships. During the American Revolution, French naval fleets proved critical in the defeat of the British, which culminated in the Battle of Yorktown in October 1781.
- Feb 06 1862 – Civil War: Battle of Fort Henry » The U.S. Navy gives the United States its first victory of the war, by capturing Tennessee’s Fort Henry. It was a five-sided, open-bastioned earthen structure covering 10 acres on the eastern bank of the Tennessee River, On February 4 and 5, Grant landed two divisions just north of Fort Henry on the Tennessee River. Grant’s plan was to advance upon the fort on 6 FEB while it was being simultaneously attacked by Union gunboats commanded by Flag Officer Andrew Hull Foote. A combination of accurate and effective naval gunfire, heavy rain, and the poor siting of the fort, nearly inundated by rising river waters, caused its commander, Brig. Gen. Lloyd Tilghman, to surrender to Foote before the Union Army arrived.
Fort Henry, on the morning after its capture
The surrender of Fort Henry opened the Tennessee River to Union traffic south of the Alabama border. In the days following the fort’s surrender, from 6 FEB through 12 FEB, Union raids used ironclad boats to destroy Confederate shipping and railroad bridges along the river. On 12 FEB, Grant’s army proceeded overland 12 miles to engage with Confederate troops in the Battle of Fort Donelson. Casualties and losses: US 40 – CSA 79.
- Feb 06 1864 – Civil War: Battle of Morton’s Ford » The Battle, though it was really more of a large skirmish, was the brainchild of General Benjamin Butler of Massachusetts, a man not exactly known for his strategic insight. During the winter of 1864, Butler became convinced that General Robert E. Lee had sent away a large portion of the Army of Northern Virginia to reinforce North Carolina, leaving the Confederate Capital of Richmond open for taking. To do this, he devised a plan to send a few brigades across the Rapidan River at Morton’s Ford and attract the attention of the remaining Confederates, while the main army advanced on Richmond. Despite some objections from his colleagues, particularly John Sedgwick, Butler’s plan had the backing of the Lincoln Administration, and so they were ignored.
On the morning of 6 FEB, the first Union troops under John C. Caldwell’s command crossed the Rapidan. Despite the freezing conditions, at least one brigade under Alexander Hays and 300 skirmishers from the II Corps made it successfully across with limited casualties and captured 30 of the 80 Confederate soldiers guarding the ford. By 1:00, at least four brigades had managed to cross the river, and had actually managed to catch the Confederates by surprise, as many were still in their camps, and had left their artillery batteries exposed to Union fire. Unfortunately, the commanding officer of the Morton sector, General Richard Ewell, was less than three miles away, and immediately gathered his men to reinforce his defenses. Ewell’s men manned the ridge and pinned down the Union brigades between the banks of the Rapidan. This created a stalemate for the next few hours, and though Hays made an assault on the Confederate line, he was repulsed, and began the retreat as darkness fell.
Ultimately, Butler had badly misjudged both the number of men Lee had at his disposal, and the feasibility of a flanking maneuver in such terrible winter conditions. Lee himself dismissed concerns about the attack, writing it off as a Union probe on Confederate weaknesses. The fighting would not flare up again until the beginning of Grant’s Overland Campaign.
- Feb 06 1865 – Civil War: John Pegram Killed » Confederate General John Pegram, age 33, dies at the Battle of Dabney’s Mill (also called Hatcher’s Run), Virginia.
Pegram graduated from West Point in 1854, and served in various posts in the West before resigning his commission at the start of the Civil War. Pegram then received an appointment as a lieutenant colonel in the Confederate army. Sent to fight in western Virginia during the summer of 1861, he was captured by General George McClellan’s men at the Battle of Rich Mountain. Pegram was exchanged in April 1862 and sent to serve with General Pierre G. T. Beauregard in Mississippi. He fought in Tennessee and Kentucky and earned a promotion to brigadier general. After the Battle of Chickamauga in September 1863, Pegram was transferred to General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. He was wounded at the Battle of the Wilderness in May 1864, but recovered to fight with General Jubal Early during the Shenandoah Valley campaign in the summer of 1864. That fall, he was sent to defend his native city of Petersburg, Virginia.
On January 19, 1865, Pegram married Hetty Cary, a prominent Richmond socialite. Even in the gloom of the ongoing siege, the ceremony was a grand affair attended by nearly all of the high-ranking Confederates, including President Jefferson Davis and his wife, Varina. One onlooker said of the bride that the “happy gleam of her beautiful brown eyes seemed to defy all sorrow.” Just three weeks later, Pegram’s body was returned to the same church, St. Paul’s Episcopal, and his young widow knelt beside his coffin as the minister who married them presided over the general’s funeral.
- Feb 06 1899 – Spanish American War: The Treaty of Paris (1898), a peace treaty between the United States and Spain, is ratified by the United States Senate ending the Spanish-American War.
- Feb 06 1916 – Pre WWI: Germany admits full liability for the Lusitania incident and recognizes the right of the United State to claim indemnity.
- Feb 06 1917 – WWI: German Sub Sinks U.S. Passenger Ship California » Just three days after U.S. President Woodrow Wilson’s speech of February 3, 1917—in which he broke diplomatic relations with Germany and warned that war would follow if American interests at sea were again assaulted—a German submarine torpedoes and sinks the Anchor Line passenger steamer California off the Irish coast.
The SS California departed New York on January 29 bound for Glasgow, Scotland, with 205 passengers and crewmembers on board. Eight days later, some 38 miles off the coast of Fastnet Island, Ireland, the ship’s captain, John Henderson, spotted a submarine off his ship’s port side at a little after 9 a.m. and ordered the gunner at the stern of the ship to fire in defense if necessary. Moments later and without warning, the submarine fired two torpedoes at the ship. One of the torpedoes missed, but the second torpedo exploded into the port side of the steamer, killing five people instantly. The explosion of the torpedo was so violent and devastating that the 470-foot, 9,000-ton steamer sank just nine minutes after the attack. Despite desperate S.O.S. calls sent by the crew to ensure the arrival of rescue ships, 38 people drowned after the initial explosion, for a total of 43 dead.
This type of blatant German defiance of Wilson’s warning about the consequences of unrestricted submarine warfare, combined with the subsequent discovery and release of the Zimmermann telegram—an overture made by Germany’s foreign minister to the Mexican government involving a possible Mexican-German alliance in the event of a war between Germany and the U.S.—drove Wilson and the United States to take the final steps towards war. On April 2, Wilson went before Congress to deliver his war message; the formal declaration of U.S. entrance into the First World War came four days later.
- Feb 06 1922 – U.S. Navy: The Washington Disarmament Conference in Washington, DC was conducted outside the auspice of the League of Nations. It was attended by nine nations—the United States, Japan, China, France, Britain, Italy, Belgium, Netherlands, and Portugal regarding interests in the Pacific Ocean and East Asia. Soviet Russia was not invited to the conference. It was the first arms control conference in history. On 16 FEB it ended with the ratification of the final treaty forbidding fortification of the Aleutian Islands for 14 years and limiting the naval armaments of United States, Britain, Japan, France, and Italy. The treaty led to an effective end to building new battleship fleets and those few ships that were built were limited in size and armament. Numbers of existing capital ships were scrapped. Some ships under construction were turned into aircraft carriers instead.
- Feb 06 1929 – Germany: Kellogg–Briand Pact Accepted by Germany » The Pact sponsored by France and the U.S., was a General Treaty for Renunciation of War as an Instrument of National Policy. It was a 1928 international agreement in which signatory states promised not to use war to resolve disputes or conflicts of whatever nature or of whatever origin they may be, which may arise among them. Parties failing to abide by this promise were to be denied of the benefits furnished by the treaty”. Most other states soon after signed it.
- Feb 06 1933 – Germany: Adolf Hitler‘s Third Reich begins press censorship.’
- Feb 06 1941 – WW2 Era: Battle of Beda Fomm (6-7 Feb) » Italian 10th army destroyed. The rapid British advance during Operation Compass forced the Italian 10th Army to evacuate Cyrenaica, the eastern province of Libya. In late January, the British learned that the Italians were retreating along the Litoranea Balbo (Via Balbia) from Benghazi. The 7th Armored Division was dispatched to intercept the remnants of the 10th Army by moving through the desert, south of the Jebel Akhdar (Green Mountain) via Msus and Antelat as the 6th Australian Division pursued the Italians along the coast road, north of the mountain range. The terrain was hard going for the British tanks and Combeforce, a flying column of wheeled vehicles, was sent ahead across the chord of the mountain.
Late on 5 FEB, Combeforce arrived at the Via Balbia south of Benghazi and set up road blocks near Sidi Saleh, about 30 mi south-west of Antelat and 20 mi north of Ajedabia. The leading elements of the Italian 10th Army arrived thirty minutes after the British who sprung the ambush. Next day the Italians attacked to break through and continued their attacks into 7 FEB. With British reinforcements arriving and the Australians pressing down the road from Benghazi, the 10th Army surrendered later that day. Between Benghazi to Agedabia, the British took 25,000 prisoners, captured 107 tanks and 93 guns of the Operation Compass totals of 133,298 men, 420 tanks and 845 guns.
- Feb 06 1943 – WW2: The U.S. government required the 110,000 dispossessed Japanese Americans forcibly held in concentration (internment) camps to answer loyalty surveys.
The Manzanar Relocation Center, a one of the concentration camps where Japanese-Americans were forced to live throughout World War II.
- Feb 06 1943 – WW2: Mussolini Fires His Son-In-Law » Wary of his growing antiwar attitude, Benito Mussolini removes Count Galeazzo Ciano, his son-in-law, as head of Italy’s foreign ministry and takes over the duty himself.
Ciano had been loyal to the fascist cause since its inception, having taking part in the march on Rome in 1922, which marked the Black Shirts’ rise to power in Italy. He graduated from the University of Rome with a degree in law, and then went to work as a journalist. Soon thereafter he began a career in Italy’s diplomatic corps, working as consul general in China. He married Mussolini’s daughter, Edda, in 1930; from there it was a swift climb up the political ladder: from chief of the press bureau to member of the Fascist Grand Council, Mussolini’s inner circle of advisers.
Ciano flew a bombing raid against Ethiopia in 1935-36 and was made foreign minister upon his return to Rome. Both because of his experience in foreign affairs and personal relationship to the Duce, Ciano became Mussolini’s right-hand man and likely successor. It was Ciano who promoted an Italian alliance with Germany, despite Mussolini’s virtual contempt for Hitler. Ciano began to suspect the Fuhrer’s loyalty to the “Pact of Steel”–a term Mussolini used to describe the alliance between Germany and Italy–when Germany invaded Poland without consulting its Axis partner, despite an agreement to the contrary Ciano made with his German counterpart, Joachim von Ribbentrop. Despite his concern about Germany’s loyalty, he felt that Italy stood to profit nicely from an alliance with the “winning side,” so when France fell to the Germans, Ciano advocated Italian participation in the war against the Allies.
After humiliating defeats in Greece and North Africa, Ciano began arguing for a peace agreement with the Allies. Mussolini considered this defeatist–and dismissed him as foreign minister, taking control of that office himself. Ciano became ambassador to the Vatican until he and other members of the Grand Council finally pushed Mussolini out of power in July 1943. Mussolini never forgave his son-in-law for what he later considered a betrayal. Ciano soon fled Rome for the north when the new provisional government began preparing charges of embezzlement against him. Ciano unwittingly fled into the arms of pro-fascist forces in northern Italy and was charged with treason. He was executed on January 11, 1944 on his father-in-law’s orders–Mussolini was installed in a puppet government that had been set up by the Germans. Ciano’s diaries, which contained brutally frank and sardonic commentaries on the personalities of the war era, are considered an invaluable part of the historical record.
- Feb 06 1944 – WW2: Kwajalein Island in the Central Pacific falls to U.S. Army troops.
- Feb 06 1944 – WW2: Helsinki Great Raids » The Soviet Union launched three massive bombing raids against Helsinki. The aim was to break the Finnish fighting spirit and force the Finns to the peace table. The raids were conducted on the nights of 6–7, 16-17 and 26–27 February. Joseph Stalin had obtained British and American support for this measure at the Tehran conference in 1943. In this manner, the USSR hoped to force Finland to break its ties with Germany and agree to a peace settlement.
Finnish air defense forces counted 2,121 bombers in the three raids of February 1944, which dropped more than 16,000 bombs. Of the 34,200 shots fired against the bombers, 21,200 were with heavy AA artillery, and 12,900 were with light AA artillery. The Finns deceived Soviet pathfinders by lighting fires on the islands outside the city, and only using the searchlights east of the city, thereby leading the pathfinders to believe that it was the city. Only 530 bombs fell within the city itself. The majority of the population of Helsinki had left the city, and the casualties were low compared to other cities bombed during the war. Of the 22–25 Soviet bombers lost in the raids, 18–21 were destroyed by AA fire, and four were shot down by German night fighters.
The Finnish Air Force responded to the air raids with series of night infiltration bombings of ADD airfields near Leningrad. Finnish bombers – Junkers Ju 88s, Bristol Blenheims, and Dornier Do 17s – either tailed or in some cases even joined formation with returning Soviet bombers over the Gulf of Finland and followed these to their bases. Once most Soviet bombers had landed the Finnish bombers approached to bomb both the landed and still landing Soviet bombers and then escaped in the ensuing confusion. The first major night infiltration bombing took place on 9 March 1944 and they lasted until May 1944.
- Feb 06 1945 – WW2: MacArthur reports the fall of Manila, and the liberation of 5,000 prisoners.
- Feb 06 1959 – Cold War: The United States successfully test-fired its first intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), known as Titan, from Cape Canaveral. It was a two-stage rocket designed to carry nuclear warheads.
- Feb 06 1963 – U.S.*Cuba: The United States reports that all Soviet offensive arms are out of Cuba.
- Feb 06 1964 – U.S.*Cuba: Cuba blocks the water supply to the Guantanamo Naval Base in retaliation for the seizure by the United States of four Cuban fishing boats.
- Feb 06 1965 – Vietnam War: Seven U.S. GIs are killed in a Viet Cong raid on a base in Pleiku.
- Feb 06 1966 – Vietnam War: Johnson Meets with South Vietnamese Premier » Accompanied by his leading political and military advisers, U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson meets with South Vietnamese Premier Nguyen Cao Ky in Honolulu.
The talks concluded with issuance of a joint declaration in which the United States promised to help South Vietnam “prevent aggression,” develop its economy, and establish “the principles of self-determination of peoples and government by the consent of the governed.” Johnson declared: “We are determined to win not only military victory but victory over hunger, disease, and despair.” He announced renewed emphasis on “The Other War”–the effort to provide the South Vietnamese rural population with local security, and economic and social programs to win over their active support. In his final statement on the discussions, Johnson warned the South Vietnamese that he would be monitoring their efforts to build democracy, improve education and health care, resettle refugees and reconstruct South Vietnam’s economy.
- Feb 06 1968 – Vietnam War: Marine Units 1/1 and 2/5 recapture Thua Thien Province Headquarters, Hue City, Vietnam
- Feb 06 1973 – Vietnam War: ICCS Take Up Positions » Supervisors from the International Commission of Control and Supervision (ICCS), delegated to oversee the cease-fire, start to take up their positions.
The cease-fire had gone into effect as a provision of the Paris Peace Accords. The ICCS included representatives from Canada, Poland, Hungary, and Indonesia, and was supposed to supervise the cease-fire. However, the ICCS had no enforcement powers and had extreme difficulty in settling the many quarrels that quickly arose. In the end, the ICCS proved incapable of enforcing the provisions of the Accords and was largely ineffectual. Consequently, renewed fighting between the South and North Vietnamese broke out after only a brief lull and continued for the next two years, until the North Vietnamese successfully launched their final offensive in 1975 and South Vietnam surrendered.
- Feb 06 1985 – Cold War: The “Reagan Doctrine” is Announced » In his State of the Union address, President Ronald Reagan defines some of the key concepts of his foreign policy, establishing what comes to be known as the “Reagan Doctrine.” The doctrine served as the foundation for the Reagan administration’s support of “freedom fighters” around the globe.
Reagan began his foreign policy comments with the dramatic pronouncement that, “Freedom is not the sole prerogative of a chosen few; it is the universal right of all God’s children.” America’s “mission” was to “nourish and defend freedom and democracy.” More specifically, Reagan declared that, “We must stand by our democratic allies. And we must not break faith with those who are risking their lives—on every continent, from Afghanistan to Nicaragua—to defy Soviet-supported aggression and secure rights which have been ours from birth.” He concluded, “Support for freedom fighters is self-defense.”
With these words, the Reagan administration laid the foundation for its program of military assistance to “freedom fighters.” In action, this policy translated into covertly supporting the Contras in their attacks on the leftist Sandinista government in Nicaragua; the Afghan rebels in their fight against the Soviet occupiers; and anticommunist Angolan forces embroiled in that nation’s civil war. President Reagan continued to defend his actions throughout his two terms in office. During his farewell address in 1989, he claimed success in weakening the Sandinista government, forcing the Soviets to withdraw from Afghanistan, and bringing an end to the conflict in Angola. Domestic critics, however, decried his actions, claiming that the support of so-called “freedom fighters” resulted only in prolonging and escalating bloody conflicts and in U.S. support of repressive and undemocratic elements in each of the respective nations.
- Feb 07 1775 – Pre U.S. Revolutionary War: Benjamin Franklin Publishes “An Imaginary Speech” » Published in defense of American courage it was intended to counter an unnamed officer’s comments to Parliament that the British need not fear the colonial rebels, because “Americans are unequal to the People of this Country [Britain] in Devotion to Women, and in Courage, and worse than all, they are religious.”
Franklin responded to the three-pronged critique with his usual wit and acuity. Noting that the colonial population had increased while the British population had declined, Franklin concluded that American men must therefore be more “effectually devoted to the Fair Sex” than their British brethren.
As for American courage, Franklin relayed a history of the Seven Years’ War in which the colonial militia forever saved blundering British regulars from strategic error and cowardice. With poetic flare, Franklin declared, “Indiscriminate Accusations against the Absent are cowardly Calumnies.” In truth, the colonial militias were notoriously undisciplined and ineffective at the beginning of the Seven Years’ War. New Englanders, unused to taking orders and unfamiliar with the necessary elements of military life, brought illness upon themselves when they refused to build latrines and were sickened by their own sewage. During the American Revolution, Washington repeated many of the same complaints spoken by British officers when he attempted to organize American farmers into an effective army.
Not everyone saw the conflict in the same way Franklin did. “The Americans,” wrote Maj. Gen. James Wolfe in 1758, “are in general the dirtiest, most contemptible, cowardly dogs that you can conceive. There is no depending upon ’em in action. They fall down dead in their own dirt and desert by battalions, officers and all. Such rascals as these are rather an encumbrance than any real strength to an army.”
With regard to religion, Franklin overcame his own distaste for the devout and reminded his readers that it was zealous Puritans that had rid Britain of the despised King Charles I. Franklin surmised that his critic was a Stuart [i.e. Catholic] sympathizer, and therefore disliked American Protestants, “who inherit from those Ancestors, not only the same Religion, but the same Love of Liberty and Spirit.”
- Feb 07 1861 – Native Americans: The general council of the Choctaw Indian nation adopted a resolution declaring allegiance with the South “in the event a permanent dissolution of the American Union takes place.”
- Feb 07 1862 – Civil War: Confederates Order Reinforcements To Fort Donelson » One day after the fall of Fort Henry on the Tennessee River, Confederate General Albert Sidney Johnston, commander of Rebel forces in the West, orders 15,000 reinforcements to Fort Donelson. This fort lay on the Cumberland River just a few miles from Fort Henry. Johnston’s decision turned out to be a mistake, as many of the troops were captured when the Fort Donelson fell to the Yankees on 16 FEB.
During the fall and winter of 1861 to 1862, the Union Army and Navy penetrated through Kentucky and into Tennessee. Led by General Ulysses S. Grant, the Yankees were gaining crucial advantages by controlling parts of the major rivers in the upper South. Johnston sought to stop the bleeding of lost Confederate territory by strengthening the garrison inside Fort Donelson. In retrospect, his mistake was in not providing enough support to Donelson. Johnston wanted to buy time so he could gather his forces from eastern Kentucky and Tennessee to Nashville, which lay south and east of Fort Donelson. If Johnston had concentrated his force at Donelson, he would have had a significant advantage over Grant. Instead, Grant surrounded the fort and sent a squadron to attack from the river. On February 16, 1862, the Yankees cut off the fort from the south and forced the surrender of 15,000 Confederates.
After the fall of Fort Donelson, Johnston gathered his remaining forces to northern Mississippi. On April 6, 1862, at the Battle of Shiloh in Tennessee, the Western armies clashed in one of the most destructive battles of the war. Johnston was killed in the Confederate defeat.
- Feb 07 1915 – WWI: Winter Battle of the Masurian Lakes (7-22 FEB) » On the Eastern Front in Europe in a blinding snowstorm, General Fritz von Below and Germany’s Eighth Army launch a surprise attack against the Russian lines just north of the Masurian Lakes beginning the Winter Battle of the Masurian Lakes (also known as the Second Battle of the Masurian Lakes).
A previous battle in the Masurian Lakes region, located near the villages of Frogenau and Tannenberg in East Prussia, had taken place in September 1914 and ended in the second major defeat of the Russians by Erich Ludendorff s German forces (the first had come at Tannenberg the previous month). The second battle marked the beginning of an aggressive strategy against Russia conceived by the German commander Paul von Hindenburg, who reasoned that if the Central Powers could manage a string of decisive victories on the Eastern Front, it could knock Russia out of the war and concentrate on the real challenge: confronting Britain and France in the west.
Hindenburg’s strategy called for two armies–the Eighth and Tenth–to be deployed in East Prussia against Russia’s Tenth Army, commanded by General Thadeus von Sievers, which consisted of four corps positioned north of the Masurian Lakes. On February 7, 1915, Below’s Eighth Army attacked the Russian left flank in the driving snow and quickly overwhelmed the Russian lines, easily advancing against the enemy position from the south.
On the second day of the battle, General Hermann von Eichorn and Germany s Tenth Army came at the Russians from the north, severely outnumbering and nearly surrounding Sievers army, which had retreated into the Augustow forest. Faced with tremendous opposition, the Russian XX Corps managed to hold off the German advance for more than two weeks–long enough for the three remaining Russian corps to escape–before finally surrendering to the Germans on February 21, 1915. All told, the Russians suffered 56,000 casualties in the Winter Battle of the Masurian Lakes; an estimated 100,000 more had been taken prisoner. German losses were comparatively small, though many German troops suffered from exposure due to the extreme cold.
General Fritz von Below was awarded Germany s highest military medal, the Pour le Merite, for his service as commander of the Eighth Army during the Winter Battle of the Masurian Lakes. The Germans had managed to advance a full 70 miles during the first week of the battle. Further German progress eastward was halted, however, when the Russian Twelfth Army attacked the German right flank on February 22, and the victory at the Masurian Lakes ended up having little strategic impact on the Eastern Front.
- Feb 07 1943 – WW2: The government announced the start of shoe rationing, limiting consumers to buying three pairs per person for the remainder of the year
- Feb 07 1943 – WW2: Imperial Japanese naval forces complete the evacuation of 10,652 Imperial Japanese Army troops from Guadalcanal during Operation Ke, ending Japanese attempts to retake the island from Allied forces in the Guadalcanal Campaign.
- Feb 07 1944 – WW2: In Anzio, Italy, German forces launch a counteroffensive during the Allied Operation Shingle beachhead hoping to push the Allies back into the sea.
- Feb 07 1950 – Korea: The United States recognizes Vietnam under the leadership of Emperor Bao Dai (original name Nguyen Vinh Thuy), not Ho Chi Minh who is recognized by the Soviets.
Emperor Bao Dai & Ho Chi Minh
Although the most visible symbol of America’s chief enemy in the Vietnam War, Ho Chi Minh was still a difficult figure to hate. A frail and benign-looking old man in peasant garb or Mao jacket, the leader of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam seemed perfectly described as ‘Uncle Ho,’ an epithet bestowed upon him by friend and enemy alike. Indeed, he often seemed more symbol than substance–a mere face on a poster, an intangible foe unreachable by modern means of warfare, an almost mythical personification of the Communist enemy.
But Ho Chi Minh was the very real driving force without which the unified Vietnamese state would never have been achieved. For more than 50 years, most of which he spent away from Southeast Asia, Ho worked single-mindedly to realize the end of French colonialism and the erection of a Vietnamese national state. That determination, rather than genius, was his hallmark as a leader. Ho Chi Minh was the essential man whose drive and determination focused the efforts of others and whose leadership excited the admiration and support of Vietnamese on both sides of the 17th parallel.
In sum, Ho Chi Minh was that great contradiction: a dedicated Communist who was also a fervent nationalist. Throughout his life he never lost sight of his goal of an independent Vietnamese state, and even as a Communist leader he pursued an essentially Vietnamese course, even when pure Communist theory might have dictated other choices. Yet there is no doubt that he was fully committed to the Communist ideal, that he accepted it completely in 1920, and that he never had second thoughts. Ho Chi Minh’s Communist ideology was flexible enough to serve his purposes. In any case, he was never the doctrinaire, and always much more a political activist whose strong will was directed at the goal of the independence and unification of Vietnam.
- Feb 07 1951 – Korea: Sancheong-Hamyang massacre: South Korean Army 11th Division killed 705 unarmed citizens in Sancheong and Hamyang, South Gyeongsang district of South Korea. The victims were civilians and 85% of them were women, children and elderly people.
- Feb 07 1965 – Vietnam War: U.S. Jets Conduct Retaliatory Raids » As part of Operation Flaming Dart, 49 U.S. Navy jets from the 7th Fleet carriers Coral Sea and Hancock drop bombs and rockets on the barracks and staging areas at Dong Hoi, a guerrilla training camp in North Vietnam. Escorted by U.S. jets, a follow-up raid by South Vietnamese planes bombed a North Vietnamese military communications center.
These strikes were in retaliation for communist attacks on the U.S. installation at Camp Holloway and the adjacent Pleiku airfield in the Central Highlands, which killed eight U.S. servicemen, wounded 109, and destroyed or damaged 20 aircraft.
Even before the attack, presidential advisors John T. McNaughton and McGeorge Bundy had favored bombing North Vietnam. After the attack in the Central Highlands, they strongly urged President Johnson to order the retaliatory raids. Johnson agreed and gave the order to commence Operation Flaming Dart, hoping that a quick and effective retaliation would persuade the North Vietnamese to cease their attacks in South Vietnam.
Bundy, who had just returned from Vietnam, defended the air raids as “right and necessary.” Senate Majority Leader Mansfield (D-MT) and GOP leader Everett Dirksen (Illinois) supported the president’s decision, but Senators Wayne Morse (D-Oregon) and Ernest Gruening (D-Alaska) attacked the action as a dangerous escalation of the war.
The retaliatory raids did not have the desired effect. On 10 FEB, the Viet Cong struck again, this time at an American installation in Qui Nhon, killing 23 Americans. Johnson quickly ordered another retaliatory strike, Flaming Dart II.
- Feb 07 1968 – Vietnam War: North Vietnamese use 11 Soviet–built light tanks to overrun the U.S. Special Forces camp at Lang Vei at the end of an 18–hour long siege. Casualties and losses: NVA 310 – US/ARVN/KOL 534.
- Feb 07 1971 – Vietnam War: Operation Dewey Canyon II Ends » Although ended, U.S. units continue to provide support for South Vietnamese army operations in Laos. Operation Dewey Canyon II began on 30 JAN as the initial phase of Lam Son 719, the South Vietnamese invasion of Laos that was to 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, an armored cavalry/engineer task force, cleared the road from Vandegrift Combat Base (southwest of Cam Lo in the region south of the DMZ) along highway Route 9 toward Khe Sanh. The area was cleared so that 20,000 South Vietnamese troops could reoccupy 1,000 square miles of territory in northwest South Vietnam and mass at the Laotian border in preparation for the invasion of Laos. In accordance with a U.S. congressional ban, U.S. ground forces were not to enter Laos. Instead, the only direct U.S. support permitted was long-range cross-border artillery fire, fixed-wind air strikes, and 2,600 helicopters to airlift Saigon troops and supplies.
- Feb 07 1971 – Post WW2: The “Angel of Death” Dies » The infamous Nazi doctor who performed medical experiments at the Auschwitz death camps, dies of a stroke while swimming in Brazil—although his death was not verified until 1985.
Mengele sometime before 1945 and “Selection” of Hungarian Jews on the ramp at Auschwitz-II (Birkenau), May/June 1944 during which he sought subjects for his experiments
When war erupted, Mengele was a medical officer with the SS, the elite squad of Hitler’s bodyguards who later emerged as a secret police force that waged campaigns of terror in the name of Nazism. In 1943, Mengele was called to a position that would earn him his well-deserved infamy. SS head Heinrich Himmler appointed Mengele the chief doctor of the Auschwitz death camps in Poland.
Mengele, in distinctive white gloves, supervised the selection of Auschwitz’ incoming prisoners for either torturous labor or immediate extermination, shouting either “Right!” or “Left!” to direct them to their fate. Eager to advance his medical career by publishing “groundbreaking” work, he then began experimenting on live Jewish prisoners. In the guise of medical “treatment,” Mengele injected, or ordered others to inject, thousands of inmates with everything from petrol to chloroform to study the chemicals’ effects. Among other atrocities, he plucked out the eyes of Gypsy corpses to study eye pigmentation, and conducted numerous gruesome studies of twins.
Mengele managed to escape imprisonment after the war, first by working as a farm stableman in Bavaria, then by moving to South America. He became a citizen of Paraguay in 1959. He later moved to Brazil, where he met up with another former Nazi party member, Wolfgang Gerhard. In 1985, a multinational team of forensic experts traveled to Brazil in search of Mengele. They determined that a man named Gerhard had died of a stroke while swimming in 1979. Dental records later revealed that Mengele had, at some point, assumed Gerhard’s identity and was the stroke victim.
A fictional account of Josef Mengele’s life after the war was depicted in the film Boys from Brazil, with Mengele portrayed by Gregory Peck.
- Feb 07 1984 – Iran*Iran: Iran opens an invasion in the southeast of Iraq.
- Feb 07 1984 – Space Travel: First Human Satellite » While in orbit 170 miles above Earth, Navy Captain Bruce McCandless becomes the first human being to fly untethered in space when he exits the U.S. space shuttle Challenger and maneuvers freely, using a bulky white rocket pack of his own design. McCandless orbited Earth in tangent with the shuttle at speeds greater than 17,500 miles per hour and flew up to 320 feet away from the Challenger. After an hour and a half testing and flying the jet-powered backpack and admiring Earth, McCandless safely reentered the shuttle.
Later that day, Army Lieutenant Colonel Robert Stewart tried out the rocket pack, which was a device regarded as an important step toward future operations to repair and service orbiting satellites and to assemble and maintain large space stations. It was the fourth orbital mission of the space shuttle Challenger.
- Feb 07 1990 – Cold War: Soviet Communist Party Gives Up Monopoly On Political Power » The Central Committee of the Soviet Union’s Communist Party agrees to endorse President Mikhail Gorbachev’s recommendation that the party give up its 70-year long monopoly of political power. The Committee’s decision to allow political challenges to the party’s dominance in Russia was yet another signal of the impending collapse of the Soviet system.
At the end of three days of extremely stormy meetings dealing with economic and political reforms in the Soviet Union, the Central Committee announced that it was endorsing the idea that the Soviet Communist Party should make “no claim for any particular role to be encoded in the Constitution” that was currently being rewritten. The proposal was but one of many made by President Gorbachev during the meetings. Critics of Gorbachev’s plan charged that dissipating the Communist Party’s power would erode the gains made since the Bolshevik Revolution and would weaken the international stature of the Soviet Union. Supporters, however, carried the day–they noted the impatience of the Soviet people with the slow pace of change and the general pessimism about the crumbling economy under communist rule. As one Communist Party official noted, “Society itself will decide whether it wishes to adopt our politics.” However, he was also quick to add that the move by the Central Committee did not mean that the Communist Party was removing itself from public affairs. Many foreign observers stressed that even in a new pluralistic political system in Russia, the well-established party would have immense advantages over any challengers.
The response from the United States was surprise and cautious optimism. One State Department official commented that, “The whole Soviet world is going down the drainpipe with astonishing speed. It’s mind-boggling.” Former Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger indicated that he was “personally gratified and astonished that anyone would have the chance to say such things in Moscow without being shot.” President George Bush was more circumspect, merely congratulating President Gorbachev for his “restraint and finesse.”
Ironically, the fact that the Communist Party was willing to accept political challenges to its authority indicated how desperately it was trying to maintain its weakening power over the country. The measures were little help, however–President Gorbachev resigned on December 25, 1991 and the Soviet Union officially ceased to exist on December 31, 1991.
- Feb 07 1995 – Ethnic Conflict: Ramzi Yousef, the mastermind of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, is arrested in Islamabad, Pakistan
- Feb 07 2006 – Ethnic Conflict: Abu Hamza al-Masri, a radical Muslim cleric linked to 9/11 plotter Zacarias Moussaoui, was sentenced in London to seven years in prison for inciting followers to kill non-Muslim
- Feb 08 1777 – U.S. Revolutionary War: Former POW Timothy Bigelow Is Named Colonel » Just six months after his release as a prisoner-of-war, Major Timothy Bigelow becomes colonel of the 15th Massachusetts Colonial Line of the Continental Army on this day in 1777.
Bigelow, a blacksmith who was born in Worcester, Massachusetts, on August 12, 1739, began his Patriot involvement when he, upon learning of the Battle of Lexington, took a body of Minutemen to Cambridge. Later, he was one of two majors to march with Benedict Arnold and his freezing, starving, ailing men through Maine to Canada. In December 1775, the British captured Bigelow and took him prisoner at the Battle of Quebec. He remained in British captivity until August 1776.
After his promotion to colonel, Bigelow fought valiantly in some of the most important battles of the Revolutionary War, including the Battle of Saratoga in October 1777, the Battle of Monmouth in June 1778 and the Battle of Yorktown in October 1781. After leaving his command in the army, Bigelow returned home to Worcester, Massachusetts, where he fell into financial ruin and was jailed for failure to repay his debts. Bigelow died in prison on March 31, 1790; he was survived by a wife and five children.
Bigelow’s death in debtors’ prison remains a mystery, as his wife was the heiress to a large fortune and Bigelow himself had garnered title to 23,000 acres in Vermont for his military service. However, his wife and namesake son had moved to Groton, Connecticut, before his death. The son, a Harvard graduate, became an acclaimed attorney, Freemason and Federalist politician. A monument dedicated to Bigelow is located at Worcester Common in Worcester, Massachusetts.
- Feb 08 1790 – Post U.S. Revolutionary War:: President George Washington Delivers First State of the Union » Washington began by congratulating Congress assembled in New York City on the present favorable prospects of our public affairs, most notable of which was North Carolina’s recent decision to join the federal republic. North Carolina had rejected the Constitution in July 1788 because it lacked a bill of rights. Under the terms of the Constitution, the new government acceded to power after only 11 of the 13 states accepted the document. By the time North Carolina ratified in November 1789, the first Congress had met, written the Bill of Rights and dispatched them for review by the states. When Washington spoke in January, it seemed likely the people of the United States would stand behind Washington’s government and enjoy the concord, peace, and plenty he saw as symbols of the nation’s good fortune.
Washington’s address gave a brief, but excellent, outline of his administration’s policies as designed by Alexander Hamilton. The former commander in chief of the Continental Army argued in favor of securing the common defense, as he believed preparedness for war to be one of the most effectual means of preserving peace. Washington’s guarded language allowed him to hint at his support for the controversial idea of creating a standing army without making an overt request.
The most basic functions of day-to-day governing had yet to be organized, and Washington charged Congress with creating a competent fund designated for defraying the expenses incident to the conduct of our foreign affairs, a uniform rule of naturalization, and Uniformity in the Currency, Weights and Measures of the United States.
After covering the clearly federal issues of national defense and foreign affairs, Washington urged federal influence over domestic issues as well. The strongly Hamilton-influenced administration desired money for and some measure of control over Agriculture, Commerce and Manufactures as well as Science and Literature. These national goals required a Federal Post-Office and Post-Roads and a means of public education, which the president justified as a means to secure the Constitution, by educating future public servants in the republican principles of representative government.
- Feb 08 1861– Civil War: Delegates from seceded states adopt a provisional Confederate Constitution.
- Feb 08 1862– Civil War: Battle of Roanoke Island (7-8 Feb) » Union General Ambrose Burnside scores a major victory when his troops capture Roanoke Island in North Carolina. It was one of the first major Union victories of the Civil War and gave the Yankees control of the mouth of Albemarle Sound, allowing them to threaten the Rebel capital of Richmond, Virginia, from the south.
During the war’s first winter, Union strategists focused their efforts on capturing coastal defenses to deny the Confederates sea outlets. In August 1861, the Yankees took two key forts on North Carolina’s Outer Banks, paving the way for the campaign against Roanoke Island. On January 11, 1862, Burnside took a force of 15,000 soldiers and a flotilla of 80 ships down to the Outer Banks. The expeditionary force arrived at Hatteras Inlet on January 13, but poor weather delayed an attack for three weeks. On February 7, Burnside landed 10,000 troops on the island. They were met by about 2,500 Confederates. Burnside attacked, and his force overwhelmed the outer defenses of the island. Confederate commander Colonel Henry Shaw retreated to the north end of the island but had no chance to escape. On February 8, Shaw surrendered his entire force.
The Yankees suffered 37 men killed and 214 wounded, while the Confederates lost 23 men killed and 62 wounded before the surrender. The Union now controlled a vital section of the coast. The victory came two days after Union General Ulysses S. Grant captured Fort Henry in northern Tennessee, and, for the first time in the war, the North had reason for optimism.
- Feb 08 1865– Civil War: Confederate raider William Quantrill and his men attack a group of Federal wagons at New Market, Kentucky.
- Feb 08 1904 – Russia*Japan: The Russo-Japanese War Begins » Following the Russian rejection of a Japanese plan to divide Manchuria and Korea into spheres of influence, Japan launches a surprise naval attack against Port Arthur, a Russian naval base in China. The Russian fleet was decimated.
During the subsequent Russo-Japanese War, Japan won a series of decisive victories over the Russians, who underestimated the military potential of its non-Western opponent. In January 1905, the strategic naval base of Port Arthur fell to Japanese naval forces under Admiral Heihachiro Togo; in March, Russian troops were defeated at Shenyang, China, by Japanese Field Marshal Iwao Oyama; and in May, the Russian Baltic fleet under Admiral Zinovi Rozhdestvenski was destroyed by Togo near the Tsushima Islands.
These three major defeats convinced Russia that further resistance against Japan’s imperial designs for East Asia was hopeless, and in August 1905 U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt mediated a peace treaty at Portsmouth, New Hampshire. (He was later awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for this achievement.) Japan emerged from the conflict as the first modern non-Western world power and set its sights on greater imperial expansion. However, for Russia, its military’s disastrous performance in the war was one of the immediate causes of the Russian Revolution of 1905.
- Feb 08 1918 – WWI: U.S. Army Resumes Publication of Stars and Stripes » Begun as a newsletter for Union soldiers during the American Civil War, Stars and Stripes was published weekly during World War I from February 8, 1918, until June 13, 1919. The newspaper was distributed to American soldiers dispersed across the Western Front to keep them unified and informed about the overall war effort and America’s part in it, as well as supply them with news from the home front.
The front page of the newspaper’s first World War I issue featured A Message from Our Chief, a short valedictory from General John J. Pershing, commander in chief of the American Expeditionary Force (AEF): The paper, written by the men in the service, should speak the thoughts of the new American army and the American people from whom the army has been drawn. It is your paper. Good luck to it.
The World War I-era Stars and Stripes was largely the creation of Second Lieutenant Guy T. Viskniskki, an AEF press officer and former censor at the American Field Test Headquarters in Neufchateau, France. Featuring news articles, sports news, poetry, letters to the editor and cartoons, among other content, the eight-page weekly publication was printed on presses that had been borrowed from Paris newspapers. Viskniskki’s staff was made up mostly of enlisted men and featured prominent journalists like Harold Ross, future co-founder of The New Yorker magazine, Alexander Woollcott, a former drama critic for The New York Times, and Grantland Rice, who went onto become known as the dean of American sports writers. At its peak during the war, Stars and Stripes reached a circulation of 526,000.
Stars and Stripes resumed publication during World War II, during which circulation reached 1,000,000. Serving as a daily hometown newspaper for service members, government civilians and their families stationed around the world, it has been in continuous publication in Europe since 1942 and in the Pacific since 1945. In these two regions, Stars and Stripes reaches 80,000 and 60,000 readers respectively. It also publishes a Middle East edition as well as an electronic edition on the Internet.
- Feb 08 1942 – WW2: Japan invades Singapore.
- Feb 08 1943 – WW2: Americans Secure Guadalcanal » Japanese troops evacuate Guadalcanal, leaving the island in Allied possession after a prolonged campaign. The American victory paved the way for other Allied wins in the Solomon Islands.
Guadalcanal is the largest of the Solomons, a group of 992 islands and atolls, 347 of which are inhabited, in the South Pacific Ocean. The Solomons, which are located northeast of Australia and have 87 indigenous languages, were discovered in 1568 by the Spanish navigator Alvaro de Mendana de Neyra (1541-95). In 1893, the British annexed Guadalcanal, along with the other central and southern Solomons. The Germans took control of the northern Solomons in 1885, but transferred these islands, except for Bougainville and Buka (which eventually went to the Australians) to the British in 1900.
The Japanese invaded the Solomons in 1942 during World War II and began building a strategic airfield on Guadalcanal. On August 7 of that year, U.S. Marines landed on the island, signaling the Allies’ first major offensive against Japanese-held positions in the Pacific. The Japanese responded quickly with sea and air attacks. A series of bloody battles ensued in the debilitating tropical heat as Marines sparred with Japanese troops on land, while in the waters surrounding Guadalcanal, the U.S. Navy fought six major engagements with the Japanese between 24 AUG and 30 NOV. In mid-November 1942, the five Sullivan brothers from Waterloo, Iowa, died together when the Japanese sunk their ship, the USS Juneau.
Both sides suffered heavy losses of men, warships and planes in the battle for Guadalcanal. An estimated 1,600 U.S. troops were killed, over 4,000 were wounded and several thousand more died from disease. The Japanese lost 24,000 soldiers. On December 31, 1942, Emperor Hirohito told Japanese troops they could withdraw from the area; the Americans secured Guadalcanal about five weeks later.
The Solomons gained their independence from Britain in 1978. In the late 1990s, fighting broke out between rival ethnic groups on Guadalcanal and continued until an Australian-led international peacekeeping mission restored order in 2003. Today, with a population of over half a million people, the Solomons are known as a scuba diver and fisherman’s paradise.
- Feb 08 1948 – Korea: The formal creation of the Korean People’s Army of North Korea is announced.
- Feb 08 1948 – Cold War: Cardinal Mindszenty of Hungary Sentenced » Joseph Cardinal Mindszenty, the highest Catholic official in Hungary, is convicted of treason and sentenced to life imprisonment by the Communist People’s Court. Outraged observers in Western Europe and the United States condemned both the trial and Mindszenty’s conviction as “perversions” and “lynchings.”
Mindszenty was no stranger to political persecution. During World War II, Hungary’s fascist government arrested him for his speeches denouncing the oppression of Jews in the nation. After the war, as a communist regime took power in Hungary, he continued his political work, decrying the political oppression and lack of religious freedom in his nation. In 1948, the Hungarian government arrested the cardinal. Mindszenty, several other Catholic Church officials, a journalist, a professor, and a member of the Hungarian royal family were all found guilty of various crimes during a brief trial before the Communist People’s Court in Budapest. Most had been charged with treason, trying to overthrow the Hungarian government, and speculation in foreign currency (illegally sending money out of the country). All but Mindszenty received prison sentences ranging from a few years to life.
Mindszenty was the focus of the trial. During the proceedings, the prosecutors produced several documents implicating Mindszenty in antigovernment activities. The Cardinal admitted that he was “guilty in principle and in detail of most of the accusations made,” but he vigorously denied that his activities were designed to overthrow the Hungarian government. Nevertheless, he was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment.
The reaction to Mindszenty’s conviction was swift and indignant. British Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin declared that the trial was an affront to Britain’s understanding of liberty and justice. The Vatican issued a statement proclaiming that the Cardinal was “morally and civilly innocent.” In the United States, Speaker of the House Sam Rayburn (Democrat-Texas) stated that the “Christian world cannot help but be shocked over the verdict.” Protests were held in a number of U.S. cities, but the protests did not change the verdict.
The case was significant in demonstrating the depth of the anticommunist movement in Hungary. In 1956, Mindszenty was released when a reformist government took power in Hungary. Shortly thereafter, Soviet troops entered Hungary to put down anticommunist protests. Mindszenty took refuge in the U.S. embassy in Budapest and stayed inside the embassy grounds until 1971. That year he was recalled by the Vatican and settled in Vienna, where he died in 1975.
- Feb 08 1962 – Vietnam War: MACV Established » The Military Assistance Command Vietnam (MACV), headed by Gen. Paul D. Harkins, former U.S. Army Deputy Commander-in-Chief in the Pacific, is installed in Saigon as the United States reorganizes its military command in South Vietnam.
Gen. Paul D. Harkins
Before MACV, the senior U.S. military command in South Vietnam was the U.S. Military Assistance and Advisory Group (MAAG-Vietnam), which was formed on November 1, 1955 to provide military assistance to South Vietnam. MAAG-Vietnam had U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps elements that provided advice and assistance to the South Vietnamese Ministry of Defense, Joint General Staff and corps and division commanders, as well as to training centers and province and district headquarters.
MAAG-Vietnam was disbanded in 1964 and its personnel and responsibilities absorbed by MACV. The establishment of MACV, which greatly enlarged and reorganized the advisory effort, represented a substantial increase in the U.S. commitment to the war in Vietnam, and American assistance to the South Vietnamese doubled between 1961 and 1962. Thereafter, the conduct of the war was directed by MACV and a major build-up of American advisers, support personnel, and eventually an escalation that included the commitment of U.S. combat troops began.
- Feb 08 1965 – Vietnam War: The South Vietnamese bomb the North Vietnamese communications center at Vinh Linh.
- Feb 08 1971 – Vietnam War: Operation Lam Son 719 Begins » South Vietnamese army forces invade southern Laos. Dubbed Operation Lam Son 719, the mission goal was to disrupt the communist supply and infiltration network along Route 9 in Laos, adjacent to the two northern provinces of South Vietnam.
The operation was supported by U.S. airpower (aviation and airlift) and artillery (firing across the border from firebases inside South Vietnam). Observers described the drive on North Vietnam’s supply routes and depots as some of the bloodiest fighting of the war. Enemy resistance was initially light, as a 12,000-man spearhead of the South Vietnamese army thrust its way across the border into the communists’ deepest jungle stronghold–the town of Tchepone, a major enemy supply center on Route 9, was their major objective. However, resistance stiffened in the second week when the North Vietnamese rushed reinforcements to the area. During the last week of February, the big push bogged down about 16 miles from the border, after bloody fighting in which the communist troops overran two South Vietnamese army battalions. Casualties and losses: ARVN/US/KOL 22,121 – NVA/PLO 8339
- Feb 09 1775 – Pre U.S. Revolutionary War: British Parliament declares Massachusetts in rebellion.
- Feb 09 1776 – U.S. Revolutionary War: Future New Jersey Governor Is Promoted » Joseph Bloomfield becomes captain of the third New Jersey Regiment of Foot in the Continental Army on this day in 1776.
Bloomfield was born in 1753 in Woodbridge, New Jersey; he was the son of a physician, Moses Bloomfield. He was educated in Deerfield, New Jersey, at Reverend Enoch Green’s school and studied law before his admittance to the bar in 1775. He briefly practiced his profession in Bridgeton, New Jersey, before joining the Patriot cause.
After serving honorably as captain and then major of the third battalion, Bloomfield resigned his military post on October 29, 1778, to accept the elected position of clerk for the New Jersey Assembly. He also served as New Jersey’s attorney general from 1783 to 1792. He briefly returned to military service in 1794 to lead the United States Army’s efforts to quash the Whiskey Rebellion in western Pennsylvania. Upon his return, he became the mayor of Burlington from 1795 to 1800. Bloomfield also served as president of the first Society for the Abolition of Slavery, which originated in Burlington in 1783, and trustee of Princeton University from 1773 until 1801, when he resigned to become the fourth governor of New Jersey.
Bloomfield remained governor until 1812, when he resigned to become brigadier general of the United States Army at the onset of the War of 1812. Following this third stint in military service, he represented New Jersey in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1817 to 1821. Upon his death in 1823, Bloomfield was buried at Old Saint Mary’s Episcopal Church in Burlington, joining fellow New Jersey Patriot and anti-slavery activist, Elias Boudinot. In recognition of his accomplishments and sacrifice to the state, the city of Bloomfield, New Jersey, was incorporated in his name in 1812.
- Feb 09 1862 – Civil War: A Union naval flotilla destroys the bulk of the Confederate Mosquito Fleet in the Battle of Elizabeth City on the Pasquotank River in North Carolina.
- Feb 09 1918 – Civil War: The first peace treaty of World War I is signed when the newly declared independent state of Ukraine officially comes to terms with the Central Powers at 2 a.m. in Berlin, Germany, on this day in 1918.
- Feb 09 1941 – Holocaust: Riots in Amsterdam » Anti-Jewish riots were provoked in Amsterdam by Dutch Nazi sympathizers, protected by the German authorities. WA men (i.e. “Weer Afdeling”, a uniformed and lightly armed section of the Dutch Nazi Party), attacked Jewish establishments and places that refused to put up ‘No jews allowed’ signs. Members threw bicycles through the windows of the building, smashed the interior to smithereens and harassed people inside. The thugs then moved into the nearby Jewish quarter molested people and rifled their houses. It is often forgotten that the Dutch police tried to stop this but was pushed aside and then stopped from intervening by German soldiers who soon joined the behavior of the WA. This started the first – and only – massive protest against the anti-Jewish measures in any occupied country during the war.
- Feb 09 1942 – WW2: The Normandie Catches Fire » The largest and most luxurious ocean liner on the seas at that time, France’s Normandie, catches fire while in the process of being converted for military use by the United States.
The Normandie, built in 1931, was the first ship to be constructed in accordance with the guidelines laid down in the 1929 Convention for Safety of Life at Sea. It was also enormous, measuring 1,029 feet long and 119 feet wide and displacing 85,000 tons of water. It offered passengers seven accommodation classes (including the new “tourist” class, as opposed to the old “third” class, commonly known as “steerage”) and 1,975 berths. It took a crew of more than 1,300 to work her. Despite its size, it was also fast: capable of 32.1 knots. The liner was launched in 1932 and made its first transatlantic crossing in 1935. In 1937, it was reconfigured with four-bladed propellers, which meant it could cross the Atlantic in less than four days.
When France surrendered to the Germans in June 1940, and the puppet Vichy regime was installed, the Normandie was in dock at New York City. The Navy immediately placed it in “protective custody,” since the U.S. government did not want a ship of such size and speed to fall into the hands of the Germans, which it certainly would if it returned to France. In November 1941, Time magazine ran an article stating that in the event of the United States’ involvement in the war, the Navy would seize the liner altogether and turn it into an aircraft carrier. It also elaborated on how the design of the ship made such a conversion relatively simple. When the Navy did take control of the ship, shortly after Pearl Harbor, it began the conversion of the liner–but to a troop ship, renamed the USS Lafayette in honor of the French general who aided the American colonies in their original quest for independence.
The Lafayette never served its new purpose, as it caught fire and capsized. Sabotage was originally suspected, but the likely cause was sparks from a welder’s torch. Although the ship was finally righted, the massive salvage operation cost $3,750,000 and the fire damage made any hope of employing the vessel impossible. It was scrapped–literally chopped up for scrap metal–in 1946.
- Feb 09 1942 – WW2: Dwight D. Eisenhower and top United States military leaders hold their first formal meeting to discuss American military strategy in the war.
- Feb 09 1943 – WW2: Under the command of Major General Orde Wingate, the 77th Indian Brigade, also called the Chindits, launch guerrilla raids behind Japanese lines in Burma.
- Feb 09 1943 – WW2: Allied authorities declare Guadalcanal secure after Imperial Japan evacuates its remaining forces from the island, ending the Battle of Guadalcanal. Casualties and losses: Allies 7104 – JP 32,000.
- Feb 09 1945 – WW2: U-864 Sunk » German submarine U-864 was a Type IXD2 U-boat of Nazi Germany’s Kriegsmarine. She departed from Kiel on 5 December 1944 on her last mission, to transport to Japan a large quantity of mercury, parts, and engineering drawings for German jet fighters. While returning to Bergen, Norway to repair a misfiring engine, the U-864 was detected and sunk this day by the British submarine HMS Venturer, killing all 73 on board. It is the only documented instance in the history of naval warfare where one submarine intentionally sank another while both were submerged.
The shipwreck was located in March 2003 by the Royal Norwegian Navy 2 nmi west of the island of Fedje in the North Sea, at 490 ft. The mercury had been seeping out of rusted containers, contaminating the region and sea life. One study recommended entombing the wreck under a layer of sand as well as gravel and concrete. The Norwegian government instead awarded a contract to a salvage company to raise the wreck; however, the proposed operation was put on hold pending additional studies. The fragmented wreck contains 67 tonnes of toxic liquid mercury. Over time part of the toxic metal had spread over an area of 30,000 square meters. A supportive stone filling was made in 2016 to secure the seabed area to prevent the front part of the wreck from sliding down. The seabed was covered with a half meter layer of sand and then further covered with 160,000 tonnes of rock.
- Feb 09 1950 – Cold War: McCarthy Accuses U.S. State Department Of Communist Infiltration » Joseph Raymond McCarthy, a relatively obscure Republican senator from Wisconsin, announces during a speech in Wheeling, West Virginia, that he has in his hand a list of 205 communists who have infiltrated the U.S. State Department. The unsubstantiated declaration, which was little more than a publicity stunt, suddenly thrust Senator McCarthy into the national spotlight.
Asked to reveal the names on the list, the reckless and opportunistic senator named officials he determined guilty by association, such as Owen Lattimore, an expert on Chinese culture and affairs who had advised the State Department. McCarthy described Lattimore as the “top Russian spy” in America.
These and other equally shocking accusations prompted the Senate to form a special committee, headed by Senator Millard Tydings of Maryland, to investigate the matter. The committee found little to substantiate McCarthy’s charges, but McCarthy nevertheless touched a nerve in the American public, and during the next two years he made increasingly sensational charges, even attacking President Harry S. Truman’s respected former secretary of state, George C. Marshall.
In 1953, a newly Republican Congress appointed McCarthy chairman of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations of Governmental Operations, and “McCarthyism” reached a fever pitch. In widely publicized hearings, McCarthy bullied defendants under cross-examination with unlawful and damaging accusations, destroying the reputations of hundreds of innocent citizens and officials.
In the early months of 1954, McCarthy, who had already lost the support of much of his party because of his bullying tactics, finally overreached himself when he took on the U.S. Army. Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower pushed for an investigation of McCarthy’s conduct, and the televised hearings exposed the senator as a reckless and excessive tyrant who never produced proper documentation for any of his charges. In December, the Senate voted to condemn him for misconduct. By the time of his death from alcoholism in 1957, the influence of Senator Joseph McCarthy in Congress was negligible.
- Feb 09 1964 –U.S. Army: The G.I. JOE action figure made its debut as an 11.5 inch “doll” for boys with 21 moving parts, named after the movie, The Story of G.I. JOE.
- Feb 09 1965 – Vietnam War: U.S. Sends First Combat Troops to South Vietnam » A U.S. Marine Corps Hawk air defense missile battalion is deployed to Da Nang. President Johnson had ordered this deployment to provide protection for the key U.S. airbase there.
This was the first commitment of American combat troops in South Vietnam and there was considerable reaction around the world to the new stage of U.S. involvement in the war. Predictably, both communist China and the Soviet Union threatened to intervene if the United States continued to apply its military might on behalf of the South Vietnamese. In Moscow, some 2,000 demonstrators, led by Vietnamese and Chinese students and clearly supported by the authorities, attacked the U.S. Embassy. Britain and Australia supported the U.S. action, but France called for negotiations.
- Feb 09 1972 – Vietnam War: USS Constellation Arrives Off Coast of Vietnam » The aircraft carrier USS Constellation joins aircraft carriers Coral Sea and Hancock off the coast of Vietnam. From 1964 to 1975, there were usually three U.S. carriers stationed in the water near Vietnam at any given time. Carrier aircraft participated in the bombing of North Vietnam and also provided close air support for U.S. and South Vietnamese forces in South Vietnam. In 1972, the number of U.S. carriers off Vietnam increased to seven as part of the U.S. reaction to the North Vietnamese Eastertide Offensive that was launched on 30 MAR–carrier aircraft played a major role in the air operations that helped the South Vietnamese defeat the communist invasion.
- Feb 09 2001 – U.S. Navy: U.S. Sub Collides With Japanese Fishing Boat in Pearl Harbor » A United States military submarine collides with a Japanese fishing boat in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, killing four students and five other people. The USS Greenville was hosting a cruise for VIPs at the time, some of whom were actually at the controls of the sub when the collision occurred.
Scott Waddle was the commander of the Greenville, a 7,000-ton nuclear submarine. As part of the Distinguished Visitor program, 16 civilians were on board the sub on the morning of February 9. The last maneuver that was to be shown to the VIPs was the Emergency Ballast Tank Blow that brings the submarine to the surface very quickly.
It was at this point that proper procedures broke down completely. Commander Waddle gave orders that could not be completed properly in the time assigned. Appropriate sonar and periscope sweeps to determine the safety of surfacing were not completed. In addition, the crew failed to communicate its intentions properly in part because civilians were sitting at the sub controls. It also failed to notice that the Ehime Maru, a Japanese fishing vessel, was above them on the surface.
The Greenville‘s rudder sliced right through the Ehime Maru‘s engine room as it rose to the surface. The fishing boat, used as a training vessel for high school students, was damaged so severely that it sank within 10 minutes. Nine people, including four students, drowned. A week later, the boat was found resting on the ocean floor 2,000 feet below the surface and was carried (still underwater) closer to the island of Oahu for salvage operations. Divers recovered eight bodies in October and, later, a memorial was established at Kakaako Park in Honolulu.
Despite the failures of Commander Waddle, Navy administrators did not pursue a court-martial. Waddle received only a reprimand and was allowed to keep his rank and pension. The Greenville went on to be involved in two other incidents the following year: In August, it ran aground in a Saipan port, and on January 27, 2002, it collided with the USS Ogden near Oman. Commanding officer David Bogdan was removed from duty following the Saipan incident but there were no disciplinary measures taken after the Ogden collision.
- Feb 09 2003 – Iraq: Six weeks before the Iraq War began, Secretary of State Colin Powell on ABC-TV’s “This Week” dismissed the need for U.N. weapons inspectors to continue searching Iraq for weapons of mass destruction.
- Feb 10 1763 – French and Indian War: The French and Indian War Ends » The Seven Years’ War, a global conflict known in America as the French and Indian War, ends with the signing of the Treaty of Paris by France, Great Britain, and Spain.
In the early 1750s, France’s expansion into the Ohio River valley repeatedly brought the country into armed conflict with the British colonies. In 1756, the British formally declared war against France. In the first year of the war, the British suffered a series of defeats at the hands of the French and their broad network of Native American alliances. However, in 1757, British Prime Minister William Pitt (the older) recognized the potential of imperial expansion that would come out of victory against the French and borrowed heavily to fund an expanded war effort. Pitt financed Prussia’s struggle against France and her allies in Europe and reimbursed the colonies for the raising of armies in North America. By 1760, the French had been expelled from Canada, and by 1763 all of France’s allies in Europe had either made a separate peace with Prussia or had been defeated. In addition, Spanish attempts to aid France in the Americas had failed, and France also suffered defeats against British forces in India.
The Seven Years’ War ended with the signing of the treaties of Hubertusburg and Paris in February 1763. In the Treaty of Paris, France lost all claims to Canada and gave Louisiana to Spain, while Britain received Spanish Florida, Upper Canada, and various French holdings overseas. The treaty ensured the colonial and maritime supremacy of Britain and strengthened the 13 American colonies by removing their European rivals to the north and the south. Fifteen years later, French bitterness over the loss of most of their colonial empire contributed to their intervention in the American Revolution on the side of the Patriots.
- Feb 10 1779 – U.S. Revolutionary War: The Battle of Carr’s Fort » A force of more than 340 men from the South Carolina and Georgia militias, led by Colonel Andrew Pickens of South Carolina with Colonel John Dooly and Lieutenant Colonel Elijah Clarke of Georgia, attack a group of approximately 200 Loyalists under the command of Colonel John Hamilton at Robert Carr’s Fort, in Wilkes County, Georgia.
After quickly taking the upper hand in the battle, the Patriots were on the brink of victory when they received word that the Loyalists would soon be getting assistance from several hundred reinforcements then marching to North Carolina to join the battle under the command of Colonel John Boyd, a South Carolina Loyalist. Boyd’s mission was to recruit colonists for the British army from behind Patriot lines. The Patriot commanders decided to abandon the siege at Carr’s Fort and surprise the approaching Loyalists under Boyd. The Patriots marched for four days, then successfully surprised and routed the Loyalists in the Battle of Kettle Creek, during which Boyd was mortally wounded.
Wilkes County, the site of both battles, was founded in 1777 and named in honor of John Wilkes, the radical British pamphleteer. Wilkes supporters, or Wilkites, constituted one quarter of the British population. They advocated for electoral reforms and publication of parliamentary debates. They also supported the American colonial protests of the late 1760s and early 1770s. The colonists responded with money for Wilkes’ legal defense and supportive pamphlets including a mock Apostle’s Creed beginning: I believe in Wilkes, the firm Patriot.
- Feb 10 1861 – Civil War: Davis Learns He Is President » Jefferson Davis, a former U.S. senator from Mississippi who served as U.S. secretary of war in the 1850s,receives word he has been selected president of the new Confederate States of America. Delegates at the Confederacy’s constitutional convention in Montgomery, Alabama, chose him for the job.
Davis was at his plantation, Brierfield, pruning rose bushes with his wife Varina when a messenger arrived from nearby Vicksburg, Mississippi. The presidency was not a position Davis wanted, but he accepted it out of a sense of duty to his new country. Varina later wrote of her husband’s reaction to the news:”Reading that telegram he looked so grieved that I feared some evil had befallen our family. After a few minutes he told me like a man might speak of a sentence of death.”
Davis and Stephens
Davis said of the job: “I have no confidence in my ability to meet its requirement. I think I could perform the function of a general.” He could see the difficulties involved in launching the new nation. “Upon my weary heart was showered smiles, plaudits, and flowers, but beyond them I saw troubles innumerable. We are without machinery, without means, and threatened by powerful opposition but I do not despond and will not shrink from the task before me.”
Davis was prescient in his concerns, and drew sharp criticism during the Civil War. Alexander Stephens, the vice president, said Davis was “weak and vacillating, timid, petulant, peevish, obstinate.” Davis remained president of the Confederacy until its government was dissolved on May 5, 1865. Less than a week later, he was captured by the Union and jailed for two years. He died at age 81 in New Orleans in 1889.
- Feb 10 1915 – PreWWI: US President Woodrow Wilson warns Germany that the US will hold it ‘to a strict accountability’ for ‘property endangered or lives lost’. On the same day he protests to Britain on the use of US flags on British merchant ships to deceive the Germans.
- Feb 10 1916 – PreWWI: U.S. Secretary Of War Resigns » As a result of bitter disagreements with President Woodrow Wilson over America’s national defense strategies, Lindley M. Garrison resigns his position as the United States secretary of war on this day in 1916.
Wilson and Garrison
Garrison came to Wilson’s attention while serving as vice-chancellor of New Jersey (in addition to running a legal practice) and was appointed secretary of war in January 1913 upon Wilson’s ascent to the White House. After the outbreak of war in Europe in 1914, Garrison clashed repeatedly with many in the Wilson administration, including the president himself, who regarded the secretary as notably hawkish with respect to America’s national defense.
The main disagreement between Garrison and the president arose from the Wilson administration’s long-term national defense plans and short-term U.S. military preparedness in light of the ongoing war in Europe. At the time, Wilson favored a policy of strict neutrality—he would be reelected later that year on a platform promising to keep America out of the war—and he objected to Garrison’s belief that a full-time reserve army should be created as a foundation for national defense and, more immediately, for support in case the U.S. entered the European war.
In his letter of resignation to the president, Mr. Garrison wrote, It is evident that we hopelessly disagree upon what I conceive to be fundamental principles. This makes manifest the impropriety of my longer remaining your seeming representative with respect to those matters. I hereby tender my resignation as Secretary of War, to take effect at your convenience. Assistant Secretary of War Henry Breckinridge also resigned his position out of loyalty to Mr. Garrison.
Newton D. Baker, a former mayor of Cleveland, took over as secretary of war upon Garrison’s resignation. Chosen by Wilson for his pacifist leanings—and distrusted by such hawks as Wilson’s steadfast Republican opponent, Senator Henry Cabot Lodge—Baker would nonetheless help the president reach the decision to enter the war in April 1917, submit a plan for universal military conscription to Congress and preside over the mobilization of some 4 million American soldiers.
- Feb 10 1942 – WW2: Japanese Sub Bombards Midway » A Japanese submarine launched a brutal attack on Midway, a coral atoll used as a U.S. Navy base. It was the fourth bombing of the atoll by Japanese ships since 7 DEC.
The capture of Midway was an important part of the broader Japanese strategy of trying to create a defensive line that would stretch from the western Aleutian Islands in the north to the Midway, Wake, Marshall, and Gilbert Islands in the south, then west to the Dutch West Indies. Occupying Midway would also mean depriving the United States of a submarine base and would provide the perfect launching pad for an all-out assault on Hawaii.
Adm. Isoroku Yamamoto, mastermind of the Pearl Harbor attack and commander in chief of the Japanese combined fleet, knew that only the utter destruction of U.S. naval capacity would ensure Japanese free reign in the Pacific. Japanese bombing of the atoll by ship and submarine failed to break through the extraordinary defense put up by Adm. Chester Nimitz, commander of the U.S. Navy in the Pacific, who used every resource available to protect Midway and, by extension, Hawaii. Yamamoto persevered with an elaborate warship operation, called Mi, launched in June, but the Battle of Midway was a disaster for Japan, and was the turning point for ultimate American victory in the Pacific.
- Feb 10 1954 – Vietnam War: President Dwight Eisenhower warns against United States intervention in Vietnam.
- Feb 10 1962 – Cold War: Spies Swapped » American spy pilot Francis Gary Powers is released by the Soviets in exchange for Soviet Colonel Rudolf Abel, a senior KGB spy who was caught in the United States five years earlier. The two men were brought to separate sides of the Glienicker Bridge, which connects East and West Berlin across Lake Wannsee. As the spies waited, negotiators talked in the center of the bridge where a white line divided East from West. Finally, Powers and Abel were waved forward and crossed the border into freedom at the same moment–8:52 a.m., Berlin time. Just before their transfer, Frederic Pryor–an American student held by East German authorities since August 1961–was released to American authorities at another border checkpoint.
In 1957, Reino Hayhanen, a lieutenant colonel in the KGB, walked into the American embassy in Paris and announced his intention to defect to the West. Hayhanen had proved a poor spy during his five years in the United States and was being recalled to the USSR, where he feared he would be disciplined. In exchange for asylum, he promised CIA agents he could help expose a major Soviet spy network in the United States and identify its director. The CIA turned Hayhanen over to the FBI to investigate the claims.
Powers and Abel
During the Cold War, Soviet spies worked together in the United States without revealing their names or addresses to each other, a precaution in the event that one was caught or, like Hayhanen, defected. Thus, Hayhanen initially provided the FBI with little useful information. He did, however, remember being taken to a storage room in Brooklyn by his superior, whom he knew as “Mark.” The FBI tracked down the storage room and found it was rented by one Emil R. Goldfus, an artist and photographer who had a studio in Brooklyn Heights.
Emil Goldfus was Rudolf Ivanovich Abel, a brilliant Soviet spy who was fluent in at least five languages and an expert at the technical requirements of espionage. After decorated service as an intelligence operative during World War II, Abel assumed a false identity and entered an East German refugee camp where he successfully applied for the right to immigrate to Canada. In 1948, he slipped across the Canadian border into the United States, where he set about reorganizing the Soviet spy network.
After learning of Hayhanen’s defection, Abel fled to Florida, where he remained underground until June, when he felt it was safe to return to New York. On June 21, 1957, he was arrested in Manhattan’s Latham Hotel. In his studio, FBI investigators found a hollow pencil used for concealing messages, a shaving brush containing microfilm, a code book, and radio transmitting equipment. He was tried in a federal court in Brooklyn and in October was found guilty on three counts of espionage and sentenced to 30 years imprisonment. He was sent to the federal penitentiary in Atlanta, Georgia.
U-2 Spy Plane
Less than three years later, on May 1, 1960, Francis Gary Powers took off from Peshawar, Pakistan, at the controls of an ultra-sophisticated Lockheed U-2 high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft. Powers, a CIA-employed pilot, was to fly over some 2,000 miles of Soviet territory to Bodo military airfield in Norway, collecting intelligence information en route. Roughly halfway through his journey, he was shot down over Sverdlovsk in the Ural Mountains. Forced to bail out at 15,000 feet, he survived the parachute jump but was promptly arrested by Soviet authorities.
On 5 MAY, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev announced that the American spy aircraft had been shot down and two days later revealed that Powers was alive and well and had confessed to being on an intelligence mission for the CIA. On 7 MAY, the United States acknowledged that the U-2 had probably flown over Soviet territory but denied that it had authorized the mission. On 16 MAY, leaders of the United States, the USSR, Britain, and France met in Paris for a long-awaited summit meeting. The four powers were to discuss tensions in the two Germanys and negotiate new disarmament treaties. However, at the first session, the summit collapsed after President Dwight D. Eisenhower refused to apologize to Khrushchev for the U-2 incident. Khrushchev also canceled an invitation for Eisenhower to visit the USSR.
In August, Powers pleaded guilty to espionage charges in Moscow and was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment–three in prison and seven in a prison colony. At the end of his 1957 trial, Rudolf Abel escaped the death penalty when his lawyer, James Donovan, convinced the federal judge that Abel might one day be used either as a source of intelligence information or as a hostage to be traded with the Soviets for a captured U.S. agent. In his five years in prison, Abel kept his silence, but the latter prophecy came true in 1962 when he was exchanged for Powers in Berlin. Donovan had played an important role in the negotiations that led to the swap.
Upon returning to the United States, Powers was cleared by the CIA and the Senate of any personal blame for the U-2 incident. In 1970, he published a book, Operation Overflight, about the incident and in 1977 was killed in the crash of a helicopter that he flew as a reporter for a Los Angeles television station. Abel returned to Moscow, where he was forced into retirement by the KGB, who feared that during his five years of captivity U.S. authorities had convinced him to become a double agent. He was given a modest pension and in 1968 published KGB-approved memoirs. He died in 1971.
- Feb 10 1965 – Vietnam War: Viet Cong Blow Up U.S. Barracks » Viet Cong guerrillas 75 miles east of Pleiku on the central coast blow up the U.S. barracks at Qui Nhon, with a 100-pound explosive charge under the building. A total of 23 U.S. personnel were killed, as well as two Viet Cong. In response to the attack, President Lyndon B. Johnson ordered a retaliatory air strike operation on North Vietnam called Flaming Dart II.
This was the second in a series of retaliations launched because of communist attacks on U.S. installations in South Vietnam. Just 48 hours before, the Viet Cong struck Camp Holloway and the adjacent Pleiku airfield in the Central Highlands. This attack killed eight U.S. servicemen, wounded 109, and destroyed or damaged 20 aircraft. With his advisors advocating a strong response, President Johnson gave the order to launch Operation Flaming Dart, retaliatory air raids on a barracks and staging areas at Dong Hoi, a guerrilla training camp 40 miles north of the 17th parallel in North Vietnam.
Johnson hoped that quick and effective retaliation would persuade the North Vietnamese to cease their attacks in South Vietnam. Unfortunately, Operation Flaming Dart did not have the desired effect. The attack on Qui Nhon was only the latest in a series of communist attacks on U.S. installations, and Flaming Dart II had very little effect.
- Feb 10 1971 – Vietnam War: Journalists Killed In Helicopter Crash » Four journalists, including photographer Larry Burrows of Life magazine, Kent Potter of United Press International, Nenri Huett of the Associated Press, and Keisaburo Shimamoto of Newsweek, die in a South Vietnamese helicopter operating in Laos. The journalists had been covering Operation Lam Son 719, a limited attack into Laos by South Vietnamese forces, when their helicopter crashed.
Vietnam was one of the most reported conflicts in the history of warfare. In 1964, when the massive American buildup began, there were roughly 40 U.S. and foreign journalists in Saigon. By August 1966, there were over 400 news media representatives in South Vietnam from 22 nations. The Vietnam War correspondents in the field shared the same dangers that confronted the front-line troops, risking their lives to witness and report the realities of the battlefield. Sixteen Americans lost their lives while covering the war. American journalists are among the 42 U.S. civilians still missing in action and unaccounted for in Southeast Asia, including NBC News correspondent Welles Hangen and Time photographer Sean Flynn, both of whom disappeared while covering the war in Cambodia.
- Feb 10 2003 – Iraq: Iraq acceded to U-2 surveillance flights over its territory, meeting a key demand by U.N. inspectors searching for banned weapons of mass destruction (WMD) there.
- Feb 10 2009 – Space Travel: The first accidental hypervelocity collision between two intact satellites in low Earth orbit took place when Iridium 33 and Kosmos 2251 collided, destroying each other. They collided at a speed of 26,000 mph; and an altitude of 490 miles above the Taymyr Peninsula in Siberia. U.S. space agency NASA estimated that the satellite collision created approximately 1,000 pieces of debris larger than 10 centimeters (4 inches), in addition to many smaller ones. By December 2011, many pieces of debris were in a steady orbital decay towards Earth, and expected to burn up in the atmosphere within one or two years. By January 2014, 24% of the known debris had decayed. In 2016, Space News listed the collision as the fourth biggest fragmentation event in history, with Iridium 33 producing 628 pieces of cataloged debris, of which 364 pieces of tracked debris remained in orbit as of January 2016. A small piece of Cosmos 2251 satellite debris safely passed by the International Space Station at 2:38 am. EDT, Saturday, March 24, 2012. As a precaution, the six crew members on board the orbiting complex took refuge inside the two docked Soyuz rendezvous spacecraft until the debris had passed.
- Feb 11 1715 – American Indians: Tuscarora War ends » The war, which started in September 1711 and ended this date, was a battle between the Tuscarora tribe and the North Carolina settlers in the area, who were Dutch, German, and British. In 1653, the Europeans began to establish permanent settlements in North Carolina. For more than 50 years, despite other tribes having conflicts with settlers, peace was maintained between the Tuscarora’s in North Carolina and the settlers. Unfortunately, the settlers eventually caused major problems for the Tuscarora Indians.
The Tuscarora lived in two primary groups. One was led by Chief Hancock and lived in the south. The other was further north. They were led by Chief Tom Blunt. The tribe led by Chief Tom Blunt was located on the Roanoke River, near what is now Bertie County. Chief Hancock’s tribe was living along the Pamplico River, near New Bern. Later, the river was renamed the Pamlico. The Blount family and Chief Blunt became quite close. However, the settlers near Chief Hancock’s settlement were not as friendly. His people were often captured and sold as slaves and his villages were sometimes damaged and property destroyed in the process. European diseases and encroaching settlers caused many of the Tuscarora Indians in both groups to become ill or die. Chief Hancock finally felt that he had no choice. He began to attack the settlers. However, Chief Tom Blunt did not join him.
Chief Hancock’s group of southern Tuscarora Indians joined forces with the Mattamuskeets, the Cores, the Matchepungoes, the Pamplicos, and the Cothechneys. Together, they raided several areas and attacked many settlers. The settlers planting crops along the Trent, Neuse, and Roanoake rivers were primary targets. Residents of Bath were also targeted. The first attack took place on September 22, 1711. Over the next several months, hundreds of people were either killed or forced to flee, including prominent political people. The North Carolina militia were called into service by Governor Edward Hyde. He also asked for assistance from South Carolina’s legislature. They sent Colonel Barnwell, who was in command of 360 Indians and 600 militia members to help. Together, they all attacked the Craven County tribes, including Chief Hancock’s Tuscarora. In 1712, they attacked at Fort Narhantes on the Neuse River. They Tuscarora lost the battle, with approximately 100 being taken prisoner and 300 dying in the attack. Most of the prisoners were children and women, who were enslaved.
The settlers offered to give Chief Blunt complete control of the Tuscaroras, if he would help them to kill Chief Hancock. He agreed, and Chief Hancock was captured and then executed in 1712. The following year, Fort Neoheroka fell to the settlers. Approximately 900 Tuscaroras were captured or killed in that attack. Many of the remaining southern Tuscaroras soon began traveling north to New York in order to escape.
In June of 1718 a treaty was signed between the settlers and the Tuscaroras who were left in the region. The Indians were given some land in present-day Bertie County, near the Roanoke River. The area consisted of 56,000 acres, which Tom Blunt, who was now calling himself Blount, was already occupying. He was recognized as King Tom Blount by the North Carolina legislature. Some last Tuscarora hold outs were forced to move from the Pamlico River to Bertie. Bertie County was chartered in 1722. From that point onward, over the course of several decades, their lands were slowly acquired and sold off.
- Feb 11 1776 – Pre U.S. Revolutionary War: Townshend Acts » Britain finally realized that it was time for more decisive policies in the colonies and taxation was still the main goal. The newly appointed British Chancellor of the Exchequer, Charles Townshend sought to restructure the tax duties and made it more difficult to evade them. The lesson learned from the failure of the Stamp Act was that duties had to be shifted back to the trade, instead of unpopular direct taxation of citizens. A series of acts were passed to increase the trade duties and the headquarters of British Customs were established in Boston with added powers to enforce them.
The response from Samuel Adams was to organize more political and street protests. Under his lead, the Massachusetts House of Representatives wrote a direct protest letter to the king known as the Massachusetts Circular Letter. Circular, because it was meant to circulate or to be distributed among other colonies. He also sent a letter to the King petitioning for Governor Bernard’s resignation. The reaction from Boston’s merchants was to organize the first Boston non-importation agreement, which called for merchants to stop importing certain goods from Britain. Soon New York and Philadelphia joined the boycott, but not all merchants participated and the boycott came to an end without the effectiveness that was initially expected.
On the streets, the Sons of Liberty were stirring up the colonial population to sabotage collection of tax duties and directly attacking the tax collectors. The tensions escalated to a point when it was clear for Britain that sending troops to Boston was the only remaining option. On June 10, 1768 a street riot that occurred in Boston was the last drop for this decision. Unfortunately for the British the news about two regiments being sent to Boston somehow spread in the city. Faced with the threat of the military enforcement of the British rule in Boston Samuel Adams and the Sons of Liberty were quick to organize the protests.
His first step was to protest the arrival of the troops in the town meeting where he opposed face to face with the Governor Bernard. The next step was calling for a colony-wide convention that would openly declare the British troops to be invaders. However such plans fell short and the convention failed to generate much of political and even popular support. This was one of his biggest setbacks and British troops arrived in Boston practically unchallenged.
- Feb 11 1776 – Pre U.S. Revolutionary War: Georgia’s governor escapes imprisonment » Georgia’s royal governor, Sir James Wright, escapes from his residence in Savannah to the safety of a waiting British warship, the HMS Scarborough, anchored at the mouth of the Savannah River, and returns to London. Governor Wright had been taken into custody and placed under house arrest nearly a month earlier on January 18, 1776, by Patriots under the command of Major Joseph Habersham of the Provincial Congress.
Parliament had taken control of Georgia from its corporate charter-holders in 1752. Georgia’s founders had hoped to establish a colony of worthy, poor white men able to defend the wealthy slaveholders of South Carolina from the Spanish in Florida. Their vision of an economically viable Southern colony without slaves failed. The trustees legalized slavery and alcohol in a last-ditch effort to save their colony between 1750 and 1752. Wright, who practiced law and held a large plantation in South Carolina, was serving as that colony’s agent in London when he was appointed lieutenant governor in 1760. Upon moving to Georgia, he sold much of his South Carolina property and invested in Georgia. Wright became Georgia’s third royal governor in April 1761.
Wright was the only colonial governor and Georgia the only colony to successfully implement the Stamp Act in 1765. As revolutionary fervor grew elsewhere in the colonies, Georgia remained the most loyal colony, declining to send delegates to the Continental Congress in 1774. Although briefly removed from power, Wright organized a military action and retook Savannah on December 29, 1778. He then resumed office as royal governor on July 22, 1779, remaining in office until July 11, 1782, when the British abandoned Georgia for good. Wright then moved to London, where he died three years later.
- Feb 11 1815 – War of 1812: News of the Treaty of Ghent, ending the War of 1812, finally reaches the United States.
- Feb 11 1861 – Civil War: Lincoln leaves Springfield » President-elect Abraham Lincoln leaves home in Springfield, Illinois, and embarks on his journey to Washington, D.C.
On a cold, rainy morning, Lincoln boarded a two-car private train loaded with his family’s belongings, which he himself had packed and bound. Hiw wife, Mary Lincoln, was in St. Louis on a shopping trip, and joined him later in Indiana. It was a somber occasion. Lincoln was leaving his home and heading into the maw of national crisis. Since he had been elected, seven Southern stateshad seceded from the Union. Lincoln knew that his actions upon entering office would likely lead to civil war. He spoke to a crowd before departing: “Here I have lived a quarter of a century, and have passed from a young man to an old man. Here my children have been born, and one is buried. I now leave, not knowing when, or whether ever, I may return, with a task before me greater than that which rested upon Washington. Without the assistance of that Divine Being… I cannot succeed. With that assistance, I cannot fail… To His care commending you, as I hope in your prayers you will commend me, I bid you an affectionate farewell.”
A bystander reported that the president-elect’s “breast heaved with emotion and he could scarcely command his feelings.” Indeed, Lincoln’s words were prophetic—a funeral train carried him back to Springfield just over four years later.
- Feb 11 1862 – Civil War: Battle of Fort Donelson (11-16 FEB) » General Ulysses S. Grant commences the 6 day battle. Grant moved his army 12 miles overland to Fort Donelson from February 11 to 13 and conducted several small probing attacks. On the 14th, Union gunboats under Flag Officer Andrew H. Foote attempted to reduce the fort with gunfire, but were forced to withdraw after sustaining heavy damage from Fort Donelson’s water batteries.
On the15th, with the fort surrounded, the Confederates, commanded by Brig. Gen. John B. Floyd, launched a surprise attack against the right flank of Grant’s army in an attempt to open an escape route to Nashville, Tennessee. Grant, who was away from the battlefield at the start of the attack, arrived to rally his men and counterattack. Despite achieving partial success and opening the way for a retreat, Brig. Gen. Gideon Johnson Pillow, Floyd’s second-in-command who commanded the troops in the attack, lost his nerve and ordered his men back to the fort. The following morning, Floyd and Pillow escaped with a small detachment of troops, relinquishing command to Brig. Gen. Simon Bolivar Buckner, who accepted Grant’s terms of unconditional surrender later that day.
The Union capture of the Confederate fort near the Tennessee–Kentucky border opened the Cumberland River, an important avenue for the invasion of the South. The Union’s success also elevated Brig. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant from an obscure and largely unproven leader to the rank of major general, and earned him the nickname of “Unconditional Surrender” Grant.
- Feb 11 1904 – Russo-Japanese War: President Theodore Roosevelt proclaims strict neutrality for the United States in the Russo-Japanese War.
- Feb 11 1904 – U.S.*Santo Domingo Affair: Marines land at Santo Domingo » During the Banana Wars era, revolution in Central America was widespread. In order to protect American citizens and their interests in these war zones, the United States Navy patrolled the hostile coasts. Rebels in the city of Santo Domingo had previously fired on two American merchant ships and damaged property at the American-owned sugar cane plantations. USS Detroit had also landed sailors and marines beginning in November 1903, but they were withdrawn when the situation appeared stable.
On 1 FEB, the auxiliary cruiser USS Yankee was on patrol off Santo Domingo, observing the fighting between government and rebel troops loyal to Carlos F. Morales and General Juan Isidro Jiminez. The American captain decided to put some men in a launch and send them ashore to make contact with the Dominicans, but when it drew away from Yankee the insurgents attacked it with small arms fire and Seaman J.C. Johnston was mortally wounded. In response, President Theodore Roosevelt ordered the protected cruisers USS Columbia and USS Newark to proceed to the islands and exact an apology. The temporary commander of the Brazil Squadron, Captain Richard Wainwright, was placed in charge of the operation on board the Newark
USS Yankee, USS Columbia & USS Newark
Wainwright arrived at Santo Domingo on the 10 FEB, finding that the USS Columbia had arrived on 8 FEB. The Columbia was under the command of Captain James M. Miller who was senior to Wainwright. Miller was anchored near the SS New York, one of the merchant ships attacked in November 1903 by the Dominican cruiser Presidente. On 11 FEB, the launch from the Columbia, flying the American flag, was sent in toward the docks escorting the New York whose crew intended to offload their cargo. As they did so, the insurgents violated a pre-established armistice by opening fire with their small arms. Several shots hit the steamer and a few grazed the navy launch but there were no casualties.
The two American vessels withdrew. Wainwright, having informed his superiors and gotten their approval, launched an amphibious assault and naval bombardment after first warning the American consul and civilians living in the city. Newark opened fire with her broadside at 3:25 pm, while the Columbia covered the landing. Ten minutes later the bombardment ceased and a force of 375 Americans headed to the beach.
At least 100 armed rebels were using the old Fort Ozama as a base. The Americans received some enemy rifle fire while still on the water and when they landed at 4:30 pm, they attacked and routed the rebels. When the men on board Columbia observed the gunfire, Captain Wainwright ordered his gunners to open fire until 4:47, though the Newark continued the attack until 5:00. With the battle over, the Americans returned to their ships between 9:00 and 10:00 pm. Morales, Jiminez, and Wainwright signed another armistice and later a peace treaty which ended the hostilities.
Only one American was hurt in the engagement when he accidentally fired his revolver into his foot; Dominican casualties are not known. The United States Marine Corps maintains a small cemetery in Santo Domingo. Seaman Johnston was the first to be buried there, followed by other men killed on the island during the Banana Wars.
- Feb 11 1916 – WWI: Germany and Austria-Hungary notify the US that they will sink any armed merchant ships starting on 1 March.
- Feb 11 1918 – WWI: Russia’s General Kaledin commits suicide » Alexei Maximovitch Kaledin, a commander of Russian forces and a staunch opponent of the Bolsheviks, commits suicide on this day.Kaledin, born in 1861, was the son of a Don Cossack officer who early on began a military career of his own. The Cossacks, a group of soldier-peasants of mostly Russian and Ukrainian stock who lived mainly on the steppes that began north of the Black Sea and Caucasus Mountains and extended eastward to the Altai Mountains in Siberia, established the virtually independent Don Cossack republic along the Don River in 1635. By the mid-19th century it had been taken over by the czarist government, which granted the Cossacks special privileges in return for military service. In later years, the empire used Cossack troops as a border patrol and as a special force to quell internal unrest, including the suppression of the Revolution of 1905.
In 1915, Kaledin served with the celebrated general Alexei Brusilov on the front in Galicia (in western Ukraine, then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire) and went on to earn great acclaim as commander of the Eighth Army at the Battle of Lutsk in June 1916. This battle launched the spectacularly successful Brusilov Offensive, in which the Russians retook more than 15,000 square miles of territory on the Eastern Front, costing the Central Powers 315,000 casualties and 450,000 POWs, and nearly knocking Austria-Hungary out of the war.
Shortly after the February Revolution in 1917—during which the Cossacks refused to be used again by the czar’s government to suppress rebellion—Kaledin came out against military reforms proposed by the new provisional government, leading to his dismissal from the army in May 1917. He subsequently returned to the Don Cossack region, where he became a leader of the local government, which shared his preference for a return to autonomous rule in the region.
In the aftermath of the Bolshevik ascent to power in November 1917, the Don Cossack region asserted its virtual independence from the Soviet state, becoming a haven for political and military figures who had been effectively exiled because of their opposition to the Bolsheviks. Kaledin supported these refugees and oversaw the formation of an anti-Bolshevik army. Almost immediately, the Bolsheviks sent their own military force to take back the region, viewing the Cossacks as a threat to their successful consolidation of power. Facing an army that severely outnumbered their own, the newly formed Don Cossack government voted to submit to the Soviets, despite Kaledin’s protests. Upon the vote, Kaledin resigned his position, walked into the next room, and ended his life with a single gunshot to the chest.
- Feb 11 1936 – Germany: The Reich arrests 150 Catholic youth leaders in Berlin.
- Feb 11 1938 – Pre WWII: Japan refuses to reveal naval data requested by the U.S. and Britain.
- Feb 11 1942 – WW2: USS Shark (SS–174) sunk by Japanese destroyer Yamakaze; Makassar Strait, 120 miles east of Menado, Celebes. 59 killed.
- Feb 11 1942 – WW2: The “Channel Dash” » The German battleships Gneisenau and Scharnhorst, as well as the heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen, escape from the French port of Brest and make a mad dash up the English Channel to safety in German waters.
German battleships Gneisenau, Scharnhorst, and Prinz Eugen
The Gneisenau and Scharnhorst had been anchored at Brest since March 1941. The Prinz Eugen had been tied to the French port since the Bismarck sortie in May 1941, when it and the battleship Bismarck made their own mad dash through the Atlantic and the Denmark Strait to elude Royal Navy gunfire. All three were subject to periodic bombing raids–and damage–by the British, as the Brits attempted to ensure that the German warships never left the French coast. But despite the careful watch of British subs and aircraft, German Vice Admiral Otto Ciliax launched Operation Cerberus to lead the ships out of the French port.
The Germans, who had controlled and occupied France since June 1940, drew British fire deliberately, and the Gneisenau,Scharnhorst, and Prinz Eugen used the resulting skirmish as a defensive smoke screen. Six German destroyers and 21 torpedo boats accompanied the ships for protection as they moved north late on the night of February 11.
In the morning, German planes provided air cover as well; ace pilot Adolf Galland led 250 other fighters in an unusually well-coordinated joint effort of the German navy and Luftwaffe. The British Royal Air Force also coordinated its attack with the Royal Navy Swordfish squadron, but a late start–the RAF did not realize until the afternoon of 12 FEB that the German squadron had pushed out to sea–and bad weather hindered their effort. All three German warships made it to a German port on February 13, although the Gneisenau and Scharnhorst had been damaged by British mines along the way.
The British lost 40 aircraft and six Navy Swordfish in the confrontation, while the Germans lost a torpedo boat and 17 aircraft. The “Channel Dash,” as it came to be called, was extremely embarrassing to the British, as it happened right under their noses. They would get revenge of a sort, though: British warships sunk the Scharnhorst in December 1944 as the German ship attempted to attack a Russian convoy. The Gneisenau was destroyed in a bombing raid while still in port undergoing repairs, and the Prinz Eugen survived the war, but was taken over by the U.S. Navy at war’s end.
- Feb 11 1943 – WW2: General Dwight Eisenhower is selected to command the allied armies in Europe. British General Montgomery was not pleased.
- Feb 11 1945 – WW2: Yalta Conference ends » A week of intensive bargaining by the leaders of the three major Allied powers ends in Yalta, a Soviet resort town on the Black Sea. It was the second conference of the “Big Three” Allied leaders–U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin–and the war had progressed mightily since their last meeting, which had taken place in Tehran in late 1943.
What was then called the Crimea conference was held at the old summer palace of Czar Nicholas II on the outskirts of Yalta, now a city in the independent Ukraine. With victory over Germany three months away, Churchill and Stalin were more intent on dividing Europe into zones of political influence than in addressing military considerations. Germany would be divided into four zones of occupation administered by the three major powers and France and was to be thoroughly demilitarized and its war criminals brought to trial. The Soviets were to administer those European countries they liberated but promised to hold free elections. The British and Americans would oversee the transition to democracy in countries such as Italy, Austria, and Greece. Final plans were made for the establishment of the United Nations, and a charter conference was scheduled to begin in San Francisco in April.
A frail President Roosevelt, two months from his death, concentrated his efforts on gaining Soviet support for the U.S. war effort against Japan. The secret U.S. atomic bomb project had not yet tested a weapon, and it was estimated that an amphibious attack against Japan could cost hundreds of thousands of American lives. After being assured of an occupation zone in Korea, and possession of Sakhalin Island and other territories historically disputed between Russia and Japan, Stalin agreed to enter the Pacific War within two to three months of Germany’s surrender.
Most of the Yalta accords remained secret until after World War II, and the items that were revealed, such as Allied plans for Germany and the United Nations, were generally applauded. Roosevelt returned to the United States exhausted, and when he went to address the U.S. Congress on Yalta he was no longer strong enough to stand with the support of braces. In that speech, he called the conference “a turning point, I hope, in our history, and therefore in the history of the world.” He would not live long enough, however, to see the iron curtain drop along the lines of division laid out at Yalta. In April, he traveled to his cottage in Warm Springs, Georgia, to rest and on 12 APR died of a cerebral hemorrhage.
On 16 JUL, the United States successfully tested an atomic bomb in the New Mexico desert. On 6 AUG, it dropped one of these deadly weapons on Hiroshima, Japan. Two days later, true to its pledge at Yalta, the Soviet Union declared war against Japan. The next day, the United States dropped another atomic bomb on Nagasaki, and the Soviets launched a massive offensive against the Japanese in Manchuria. On 15 AUG, the combination of the U.S. atomic attacks and the Soviet offensive forced a Japanese surrender. At the end of the month, U.S. troops landed in Japan unopposed.
When the full text of the Yalta agreements were released in the years following World War II, many criticized Roosevelt and Churchill for delivering Eastern Europe and North Korea into communist domination by conceding too much to Stalin at Yalta. The Soviets never allowed free elections in postwar Eastern Europe, and communist North Korea was sharply divided from its southern neighbor.
Eastern Europe, liberated and occupied by the Red Army, would have become Soviet satellites regardless of what had happened at Yalta. Because of the atomic bomb, however, Soviet assistance was not needed to defeat the Japanese. Without the Soviet invasion of the Japanese Empire in the last days of World War II, North Korea and various other Japanese-held territories that fell under Soviet control undoubtedly would have come under the sway of the United States. At Yalta, however, Roosevelt had no guarantee that the atomic bomb would work, and so he sought Soviet assistance in what was predicted to be the costly task of subduing Japan. Stalin, more willing than Roosevelt to sacrifice troops in the hope of territorial gains, happily accommodated his American ally, and by the end of the war had considerably increased Soviet influence in East Asia.
- Feb 11 1945 – Post WW2: Operation Deadlight ends » The Royal Navy operation to scuttle German U-boats surrendered to the Allies after the defeat of Germany. Of the 156 U-boats that surrendered to the allies at the end of the war, 116 were scuttled as part of the Operation. The Royal Navy planned to tow the submarines to three areas about 100 miles north-west of Ireland and sink them. The areas were codenamed XX, YY and ZZ. They intended to use XX as the main scuttling area, while towing 36 boats to ZZ to use as practice targets for aerial attack. YY was to be a reserve position where, if the weather was good enough, they could divert submarines from XX to sink with naval forces. The plan was to sink those submarines not used for target practice with explosive charges, with naval gunfire as a fallback option if that failed.
42 surrendered U-boats moored at Lisahally, Northern Ireland in June 1945
When Operation Deadlight began, the navy found that many of the U-boats were in extremely poor condition from being moored in exposed harbors while awaiting disposal. These conditions combined with poor weather, sank 56 of the boats before they reached the scuttling areas, and those that did reach the area were generally sunk by gunfire rather than explosive charges. The first sinking took place on 17 November 1945 and the last on 11 February 1946
- Feb 11 1951 – Korea: U.N. forces push north across the 38th parallel for the second time in the Korean War.
- Feb 11 1956 – Cold War: Burgess and Maclean resurface » Donald Maclean and Guy Burgess, former members of the British Foreign Office who had disappeared from England in 1951, resurface in Moscow. Their surprise appearance and formal statement to the press put an end to one of the most intriguing mysteries of the early Cold War.
Maclean and Burgess
Maclean and Burgess had been senior officials in the British Foreign Office and in 1951, they seemed to disappear without a trace. There were rumors that they had been spies for the Soviet Union and had left England to avoid prosecution. For five years, nothing was heard of the pair. British intelligence suspected that they were in the Soviet Union, but Russian officials consistently denied any knowledge of their whereabouts.
On February 11, 1956, the pair invited a group of journalists to a hotel room in Moscow. Burgess and Maclean were there to greet them, give a brief interview, and hand out a typed joint statement. In the statement, both men denied having served as Soviet spies. However, they very strongly declared their sympathy with the Soviet Union and stated that they had both been “increasingly alarmed by the post-war character of Anglo-American policy.” They claimed that the decision to leave England and live in Russia was due to their belief that only in Russia would there be “some chance of putting into practice in some form the convictions they had always had.” They were convinced that the Soviet Union desired a policy of “mutual understanding” with the West, but that many officials in the United States and Great Britain were adamant in their opposition to any working relationship with the Russians. They concluded by stating, “Our life in the Soviet Union convinced us we took at the time the correct decision.”
While the surprise news conference solved the mystery of where Burgess and Maclean had been for the past five years, it did little to settle the question of why they had gone to the Soviet Union in the first place. Their statement also did not clear up the issue of whether or not they had spied for the Soviet Union. Evidence from both British and American intelligence agencies strongly suggested that the two, together with fellow Foreign Office workers Kim Philby and Sir Anthony Blunt, had engaged in espionage for the Russians. Both men spent the rest of their lives in the Soviet Union. Burgess died in 1963 and Maclean passed away in 1983.
- Feb 11 1959 – Iran: Iran turns down Soviet aid in favor of a U.S. proposal for aid. The US agreed to support an Iranian Seven Year Plan (funded by the World Bank and based on oil revenue) which was designed to expand capital-intensive development and commit to a preservation of the monarchy. The Americans made clear that they would not support the shah’s extensive aid demands, particularly his vision of an expanded state-of-the-art military. As the US ambassador to Iran stated in a letter to Secretary of State Acheson in August 1949: No one imagines that now or in future Iranian army could prevent Soviet invasion. As we understand it, object of MAP from military point of view is to insure internal security and to increase cost of invasion in terms of personnel and time required . . . . It was now clear that (regardless of the shah’s expectations) Iran would have to depend on its own oil revenue for most development funding.
- Feb 11 1962 – Vietnam War: Farm Gate aircraft crashes » Nine U.S. and South Vietnamese crewmen are killed in a SC-47 crash about 70 miles north of Saigon. The aircraft was part of Operation Farm Gate, a mission that had initially been designed to provide advisory support in assisting the South Vietnamese Air Force to increase its capability. In December, President John F. Kennedy expanded the Farm Gate mission to include limited combat missions by the U.S. Air Force pilots in support of South Vietnamese ground forces–the downed aircraft was part of this expanded effort.
By late 1962, communist activity and combat intensity had increased so much that President Kennedy ordered a further expansion of Farm Gate. In early 1963, additional aircraft arrived and new detachments were established at Pleiku and Soc Trang. Farm Gate was upgraded in early 1964 and then again in October 1965 when Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara approved the replacement of South Vietnamese markings on Farm Gate aircraft with regular U.S. Air Force markings. By this point in the war, the Farm Gate squadrons were flying 80 percent of all missions in support of the South Vietnamese army. With the buildup of U.S. combat forces in South Vietnam and the increase in an U.S. Air Force presence there, the role of the Farm Gate program gradually decreased in significance. The Farm Gate squadrons were moved to Thailand in 1967, and from there they launched missions against the North Vietnamese in Laos.
- Feb 11 1964 – Vietnam War: Cambodian Prince Sihanouk blames the United States for a South Vietnamese air raid on a village in his country.
- Feb 11 1965 – Vietnam War: President Lyndon Johnson orders air strikes against targets in North Vietnam, in retaliation for guerrilla attacks on the American military in South Vietnam.
- Feb 11 1970 – Space Travel: The world’s fourth space power » From the Kagoshima Space Center on the east coast of Japan’s Ohsumi Peninsula, Ohsumi, Japan’s first satellite, is successfully launched into an orbit around Earth. The achievement made Japan the world’s fourth space power, after the Soviet Union in 1957, the United States in 1958, and France in 1965. Two months after Japan’s launching of Ohsumi, China became the world’s fifth space power when it successfully launched Mao 1 into space. The satellite, named after Mao Zedong, the leader of communist China, orbited Earth broadcasting the Chinese patriotic song The East Is Red once a minute.
- Feb 11 1971 – Cold War: US, UK, USSR, others sign the Arms Control Treaty (or Seabed Treaty) Treaty nuclear weapons banning the emplacement of nuclear weapons or “weapons of mass destruction” on the ocean floor beyond a 12-mile (22.2 km) coastal zone. It allows signatories to observe all seabed “activities” of any other signatory beyond the 12-mile zone to ensure compliance. Like the Antarctic Treaty, the Outer Space Treaty, and the Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone treaties, the Seabed Arms Control Treaty sought to prevent the introduction of international conflict and nuclear weapons into an area hitherto free of them. Reaching agreement on the seabed, however, involved problems not met in framing the other two agreements.
- Feb 11 1973 – Vietnam War: First release of American prisoners of war from Vietnam takes place.
- Feb 11 1974 – Vietnam War: Communist-led rebels shower artillery fire into a crowded area of Phnom Pehn, killing 139 and injuring 46 others.
- Feb 11 1979 – Iran: Iran’s premier Bakhtiar resigns, Ayatollah Khomeini seizes power
- Feb 11 1986 – Iran*Iraq: Iran begins Fajr-8 offensive against Iraq
- Feb 11 2011 – Egypt: Egyptian Revolution culminates in the resignation of Hosni Mubarak and the transfer of power to the Supreme Military Council after 18 days of protests (Arab Spring)
- Feb 12 1789 – Post U.S. Revolutionary War: Ethan Allen dies » Vermont Patriot Ethan Allen dies of a stroke at age 52 on his Winooski River homestead. Allen is best remembered as the patriotic leader of the Green Mountain Boys, who took the British fort at Ticonderoga with Benedict Arnold in May 1775. He also had a varied career defending his land interests in the New Hampshire Grants (now part of Vermont) from any challenge. Allen, like Arnold, faced charges of treason; he attempted to negotiate terms by which Vermont could rejoin the British Empire in the early 1780s when New York blocked its acceptance as one of the United States.
Allen was the eldest of eight children born to Joseph and Mary Baker Allen in Connecticut. Joseph Allen was among a group of New Englanders who had acquired titles to land in what is now Vermont from the government of New Hampshire. When New York claimed the right to sell the same land and began to do so, Allen led the protest in defense of the New Hampshire Grants. When his father died in 1755, Ethan assumed the mantle of leadership, and led the Green Mountain Boys in guerrilla actions against New York landowners in Vermont. New Yorkers responded by issuing a warrant for his arrest and a reward of £100 for anyone bringing him into custody.
Allen earned the title of Patriot by his actions at Ticonderoga. Although displeased with his colonial neighbors, Allen had no affection for the British. He and Arnold took Ticonderoga and seized the cannon that would allow the Patriots to drive the British from Boston before the 22 British troops stationed at the fort realized that they were at war with their colonies. Allen continued into Canada, where he was taken prisoner by the British in Montreal in August 1775. He was held for three years before being released in the colony he most despised, New York. Allen spent the rest of his life serving and promoting the interests of Vermont.
- Feb 12 1825 – Native Americans: Treaty of Indian Springs » Creek Indian treaty signed.
Tribal chiefs agree to turn over all their land in Georgia to the government & migrate west by Sept 1, 1826. In the First Treaty of Indian Springs, Georgia government officials bribed Creek leader William McIntosh (who had a Scottish father and an Indian mother) into signing away pieces of Creek land in return for a 1,000-acre plantation along the Ocmulgee River, where McIntosh owned slaves and built a hotel. In 1825, in the Second Treaty of Indian Springs, McIntosh, along with only six other Creek chiefs, signed away all Creek land east of the Chattahoochee River for $200,000, eliminating any Creek claim to land in Georgia. This treaty violated a law, which McIntosh had originally supported, against ceding land to the United States without the full assent of the Creek Nation.
- Feb 12 1915 – WWI: One of the biggest air raids of the war occurs when 34 planes from the British Naval Wing attack the German-occupied coastal towns of Blankenberghe, Ostend and Zeebrugge in Belgium.
- Feb 12 1917 – WWI: The Austrian submarine U-35 bombs and sinks the American schooner Lyman M. Law in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Cagliari, Sardinia. The Lyman M. Law, captained by S.W. McDonough, had embarked on its final journey from Stockton, Maine, with a crew of 10 on January 6, 1917, carrying a cargo of 60,000 bundles of lemon-box staves. The schooner was traveling across the Atlantic bound for Palermo, Italy, when it was captured on the morning of 12 FEB. The Austrians ordered the crew of eight Americans and two British sailors off the schooner before a bomb was detonated, setting fire to the 1,300-ton wooden vessel prior to its sinking. The crew was uninjured and transported to the coastal town of Cagliari, where they were released.
On 26 FEB President Woodrow Wilson referred to the unprovoked sinking of the Lyman M. Law and the February 3, 1917, sinking of the American steamship Housatonic by the German submarine U-53, in his request for Congressional authorization to arm U.S. merchant ships so that they could defend themselves against possible German attacks. In his address, Wilson insisted repeatedly that the American people did not desire war, but merely sought to “defend our commerce and the lives of our people in the midst of the present trying circumstances.” Less than two months later, however, angered by continued German submarine aggression against American interests at sea, Wilson would go before Congress again, this time to deliver his message of war. The U.S. would formally enter World War I on April 6, 1917.
- Feb 12 1919 – WWI: Leaders of the Big Four nations meet for the first time in Paris » The day after British Prime Minister David Lloyd George’s arrival in Paris, he meets with representatives from the other Big Four nations—Prime Ministers Georges Clemenceau of France and Vittorio Orlando of Italy and President Woodrow Wilson of the United States—at the French Foreign Ministry on the Quai d’Orsay, for the first of what will be more than 100 meetings.
Victors of the Great War, the leaders of these four nations were determined to control the agenda of the conference that would decide its peace terms. There was no precedent for such a momentous peace conference; even the Congress of Vienna of 1815, which had preserved order in Europe for almost a century before collapsing in 1914, had been far smaller and less complicated than the gathering at Versailles.
As soon as Wilson arrived in Europe in mid-December (in the first-ever official visit to the continent by a U.S. president), Clemenceau and Lloyd George convinced him of the need for the Allies to establish their own position on the peace terms before beginning the general conference and sitting down with the enemy. In a break with traditional diplomacy, Germany was not invited to this preliminary round of talks. This made Wilson nervous, as he feared—understandably, as it turned out—that the Allies would end up setting the majority of the terms of the peace before the general conference even began, an eventuality that would surely frustrate and anger the Germans and would damage the ideal 12 JAN also failed to include representatives from the smaller allies or any neutral countries, though at the wishes of Britain, Japan later joined the group, which became known as the Supreme Council. The Council met daily, sometimes two or three times a day, knowing that the eyes of the world were on them. Even after the general conference began on 18 JAN—a day chosen to rankle the Germans, as it was the anniversary of the coronation of Kaiser Wilhelm I as ruler of a new, united Germany in 1871—the smaller group continued to meet separately to hash out the crucial questions of the peace settlement.
- Feb 12 1938 – U.S. Navy: USS Macon (ZRS-5) crashed » The United States Navy rigid airship USS Macon (ZRS-5), under the command of Lieutenant Commander Herbert Victor Wiley, crashed into the Pacific Ocean off Monterey Bay, on the central California coastline. The airship soon sank to the sea floor, approximately 1,500 feet below. Of the crew of 76 men, 74 survived.
During an earlier transcontinental flight, USS Macon had encountered severe turbulence while crossing mountains in Arizona. A diagonal girder in one of the ring frames failed. Temporary repairs were made, but permanent repairs were deferred until the next scheduled overhaul. On 12 FEB the airship flew into a storm near Point Sur, California. The ring frame failed and the upper vertical fin was lost. Pieces of broken girders punctured several of the aft helium cells. With the loss of helium, Macon lost rear buoyancy and began to settle. To compensate, all engines were run at full power and ballast was released. The airship began to climb with a nose-up pitch angle. When it passed 2,800 feet altitude, it reached its Pressure Altitude Limit.
USS Macon (ZRS-5) recovering two Curtiss F9C Sparrowhawk scout biplanes
At this point, expanding helium began to vent from the gas cells. Macon continued rising until reaching 4,850 feet by which time it had lost so much helium that the engines could no longer keep it airborne and it again began to settle toward the ocean’s surface. The descent took twenty minutes. One sailor jumped from the airship, but did not survive the fall. Another swam back to the sinking ship to collect personal belongings and drowned. Survivors were rescued by three U.S. Navy Omaha-class light cruisers, USS Cincinnati (CL-6), USS Richmond (CL-9), and USS Concord (CL-10), which had responded to Macon‘s distress signal. USS Macon was the U.S. Navy’s last rigid airship. For the next twenty years, all lighter-than-air craft were non-rigid “blimps”.
- Feb 12 1938 – Pre WW2: Japan refuses to reveal naval data requested by the U.S. and Britain.
- Feb 12 1940 – Pre WW2: The Soviet Union signs a trade treaty with Germany to provide aid against the British blockade.
- Feb 12 1941 – WW2: Rommel in Africa » German General Erwin Rommel arrives in Tripoli, Libya, with the newly formed Afrika Korps, to reinforce the beleaguered Italians’ position.
In January 1941, Adolf Hitler established the Afrika Korps for the explicit purpose of helping his Italian Axis partner maintain territorial gains in North Africa. “For strategic, political, and psychological reasons, Germany must assist Italy in Africa,” the Fuhrer declared. The British had been delivering devastating blows to the Italians; in three months they pushed the Italians out of Egypt while wounding or killing 20,000 Italian soldiers and taking another 130,000 prisoner.
Having commanded a panzer division in Germany’s successful French and Low Countries’ campaigns, General Rommel was dispatched to Libya along with the new Afrika Korps to take control of the deteriorating situation. Until that time, Italian General Ettore Bastico was the overall commander of the Axis forces in North Africa—which included a German panzer division and the Italian armored division. Rommel was meant to command only his Afrika Korps and an Italian corps in Libya, but he wound up running the entire North African campaign.
The German soldiers of the Afrika Korps found adapting to the desert climate initially difficult; Rommel found commanding his Italian troops, who had been used to an Italian commander, difficult as well. When Hitler, preoccupied with his plans for his Soviet invasion, finally gave the go-ahead for an offensive against British positions in Egypt, Rommel’s forces were stopped dead in their tracks and then forced to retreat. In the famous battle of El Alamein, the British Eighth Army—beginning in October 23, 1942—surprised the German commander with its brute resolve, and pushed him and his Afrika Korps back across and out of North Africa. (Ironically, the Arabs celebrated Rommel, called “the Desert Fox,” as a liberator from British imperialism.) Retreat followed retreat, and Rommel finally withdrew from North Africa entirely and returned to Europe in March of 1943, leaving the Afrika Korps in other hands.
- Feb 12 1942 – WW2: Roosevelt (re)creates the National War Labor Board » The President reinstates Woodrow Wilson’s National War Labor Board (NWLB) in an attempt to forestall labor-management conflict during World War II. Engaged in a two-front war, the United States was supplying not only its own military but those of the other Allies as well. Roosevelt wanted to prevent potential labor union strikes, which would slow industrial production and impede the war effort. The nation’s urgent and massive conversion to a war economy had catapulted the United States out of the Great Depression, but the dramatic increase in employment also threatened to put labor unions and industrial leaders at odds over working conditions and wages.
The evolution of the NWLB illustrated the complexity of developing labor policy in the rapidly changing early-war years. It was formed in 1940 as the National Defense Advisory Board; later it became the Labor Division of the Office of the Production of Management (OPM), which morphed into the National Defense Mediation Board (NDMB) until 1942 when Roosevelt renamed the unit the National War Labor Board. The NWLB was made up of political, business and labor leaders and was tasked with providing labor-policy recommendations. Although the NWLB was established to mediate between parties involved in industrial disputes, Roosevelt also gave the board power to intercede and impose settlements in order to preempt any pause in production. The following October, Roosevelt issued the Order Providing for the Stabilization of the National Economy, which expanded the NWLB’s control over wages and prices by stipulating that any adjustment of wages had to be cleared through it.
The Truman administration discontinued the National War Labor Board in 1946, giving labor-arbitration duties back to the National Labor Relations Board.
- Feb 12 1942 – WW2: Operation Cerberus » German dash out of Brest and up the English Channel by the their battle cruisers Scharnhorst and Gneisenau and heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen. Vice- Admiral Otto Ciliax has decided the breakout from Brest would be on February 11 at 10:30pm. The 6 ships of the destroyer screen were in position while mines had been swept away by torpedo boasts and German aircraft were ready to supply air-cover at dawn. By 11:45 pm, all three major ships were underway. By 1:30 am on the 12th all ships were in the channel making 30 knots and no evidence of enemy shipping appeared on radar. The destroyer Z-29 was in the lead with the Schamhorst next in line along with Gneisenay and Prinz Eugin. Two destroyers were deployed along both flanks with Z-25 covering the rear.
Luck was with the Germans on this day for the breakout was proceeding as planned. Bad weather and faulty British radar equipment gave the German ships a 13 hour, 300 mile head start up the English Channel undetected. The luck continued when Bomber command’s aircraft fount the weather conditions to hinder Bristol Beaufort squadron airfields based along the northern coast. As the German ships passed Dover the gun batteries that were not radar controlled fired but were ineffective because of the poor weather conditions. Torpedo bombers from Dover attacked but due to the destroyer screen and intense AA fire their ordinance was launched from a distance of 2 miles with no direct hits. Six Swordfish torpedo planes were lost in the attack due to German based fighter support.
The British used 242 bombers to attack the Schamhorst and the other ships and, of these, at least 39 were to drop their bombs while none found their target. A friendly-fire incident involved RAF aircraft attacking British destroyers launched from Harwich, the Royal Navy neglecting to notify RAF of their intent in the area. At dawn on the 13th the German convoy sailed into port almost intact. The Schamhorst hit mines on the journey and one of their E-boat escorts was lost along with seventeen covering fighter planes.
The Germans had completed a risky action in moving a powerful fleet from Brst, France to the German port of Brunsbuttel. The British were in effect, humiliated by the effort though now the Scharnhorst, Gneisenau, and Prinz Eugen were bottled up northeast of Britain, limiting their role in the Battle of the Atlantic. The Scharnhorst was one again laid up for repairs due to her mine damage. Made for the home market in Germany during WWII, a silent film “German warships break through the Channel” is available for viewing at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4qdsNdMElHQ.
- Feb 12 1947 – Post WWII: An estimated 400-500 veterans and conscientious objectors from World Wars I and II burned their draft cards during two demonstrations, in front of the White House and at New York City’s Labor Temple, in protest of a proposed universal conscription law. This was the first peacetime draft-card burning.
- Feb 12 1951 – Nuclear Age: Einstein Opposes the H-Bomb » Appearing on on the first edition of Today with Mrs. Roosevelt, a weekly television show hosted by her, Albert Einstein spoke out against U.S. development of the hydrogen bomb, for which President Harry Truman had announced a crash research program two weeks earlier. “If successful,” Einstein warned, “radioactive poisoning of the atmosphere, hence the annihilation of any life on earth, has been brought within the range of technical possibilities.”
When The Washington Post reported the next morning that “Einstein Fears Hydrogen Bomb Might Annihilate ‘Any Life,’” the FBI’s J. Edgar Hoover ordered a full domestic intelligence report on the scientist, and the INS began a five-year examination of the possibility of deporting him. Einstein’s statement came only one week after Senator Joseph McCarthy had announced that “I have here in my hand a list of 205” known Communists working for the State Department, which launched the Red Scare into high gear, and only nine days after the arrest in Great Britain of Klaus Fuchs for nuclear spying for the USSR. Refer to http://www.budgetfilms.com/clip/15353 to see Einstein making his statement.
- Feb 12 1951 – Korea: U.N. forces push north across the 38th parallel for the second time.
- Feb 12 1955 – Vietnam: President Eisenhower sends 1st US advisors to South Vietnam.
- Feb 12 1962 – Vietnam War: Operation Ranch Hand initiated » The United States Air Force launches Operation Ranch Hand, a “modern technological area-denial technique” designed to expose the roads and trails used by the Viet Cong.
Flying C-123 Providers, U.S. personnel dumped an estimated 19 million gallons of defoliating herbicides over 10-20 percent of Vietnam and parts of Laos between1962-1971. Agent Orange–named for the color of its metal containers–was the most frequently used defoliating herbicide. The operation succeeded inn killing vegetation, but not in stopping the Viet Cong. The use of these agents was controversial, both during and after the war, because of the questions about long-term ecological impacts and the effect on humans who either handled or were sprayed by the chemicals.
Beginning in the late 1970s, Vietnam veterans began to cite the herbicides, especially Agent Orange, as the cause of health problems ranging from skin rashes to cancer to birth defects in their children. Similar problems, including an abnormally high incidence of miscarriages and congenital malformations, have been reported among the Vietnamese people who lived in the areas where the defoliating agents were used.
- Feb 12 1966 – Vietnam War: The South Vietnamese win two big battles in the Mekong Delta. The engagements were said to have taken the lives of 262 Vietcong guerrillas.
- Feb 12 1968 – Vietnam War: Phong Nhị & Phong Nhất massacre » Unarmed citizens in the villages of and Phong Nhất were massacred, allegedly by South Korean Marines. At the time the massacre occurred, the Phong Nhị villagers had had a close relationship with the U.S. Marines as it formed a part of the Combined Action Program and the village men were enlisted as South Vietnamese soldiers. As reported by members of CAP-2, the 2nd Marine Division had passed the CAP-2 team on their way out of the village “swung left and firing was heard throughout”. Just 30 minutes following this, the CAP-2 members attempted to contact the ROK 2nd Marine Division, without any success as ROK Commanders said ROK Marines were not in the area, and switched to the ROK-Command radio requesting to fire mortars at where the ROK forces were operating but permission was denied.
Neither the operation by the ROK Forces was approved by nor notified by the District Chief, but the ROK Executive Officer apologized and left “30 bags of rice” following the massacre. The ROK Company was identified as having fired artillery at the village, having shot at the villages with small-arms fire, and having directly been within the vicinity at the time of the massacre. After the massacre, U.S. Marines and Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) soldiers reached the village later that day; they treated and transported the surviving villagers to nearby hospitals. An etomted 69 to 79 had been killed.
The massacres had negatively impacted ongoing pacification efforts in the region, and became widely known. Transferring Korean Marines to the populated Da Nang sector of I Corps and I Field Force from an unpopulated sector had set back considerable effort in winning support and deteriorated relations with locals. This massacre alongside the Hà My massacre and other ongoing massacres and atrocities had undermined continual efforts at pacification. South Vietnamese and US commanders from the region had a negative appraisal of Koreans with General Rathvon M. Tompkins and General Robert E. Cushman Jr. being quite negative about the Koreans being transferred to the sector, as they were regarded as generally uncooperative and unwilling to engage in security while committing atrocities.
These atrocities were reported by ARVN/US commanders and sent down to Saigon. Korean forces were transferred back to II Corps/II Field Force following this incident, and were relegated to guarding bases and minimizing any offensive or combat actions.
- Feb 12 1971 – Vietnam War: Johnson says U.S. should stay in Vietnam » In his State of the Union address, the president commits the United States to staying in Vietnam as long as aggression commands us to battle. Johnson justified his position on the basis of national security and the principles of democracy and national sovereignty. Citing communist China’s intention to dominate all of Asia, Johnson pledged renewed commitment to helping the South Vietnamese defeat North Vietnam in a war that had become increasingly controversial among Americans.
By 1965, the number of U.S. military advisors in Vietnam had increased to approximately 200,000 troops. In December, the draft quota doubled. Growing numbers of Americans protested the escalation of the U.S. bombing of North Vietnam. In his speech, Johnson attempted to restore confidence in America’s word and in America’s protection [while] the American Nation is asked to sacrifice the blood of its children and the fruits of its labor for the love of freedom.
Seeking to appease domestic opponents of the war, Johnson vowed to limit the conflict. He assured the international community that the United States sought neither territory nor bases, economic domination nor military alliance in Vietnam. At the same time, he pledged to give our fighting men what they must have: every gun, and every dollar, and every decision–whatever the cost or whatever the challenge. Johnson’s speech was a wasted attempt to sway increasingly polarized public opinion in favor of the Vietnam War. By year’s end, Johnson increased American troop numbers in Vietnam to 400,000.
- Feb 12 1971 – Vietnam War: “Harrisburg Six” charged with conspiracy » The Reverend Philip F. Berrigan, serving a six-year prison term on charges of destroying draft records, and five others are indicted by a grand jury on charges of conspiring to kidnap presidential adviser Henry Kissinger and of plotting to blow up the heating tunnels of federal buildings in Washington. The “Harrisburg Six,” as they came to be known, denied the charges and denounced them as a government effort to destroy the peace movement.
- Feb 12 1972 – Vietnam War: Cambodians launch attack to retake Angkor Wat » About 6,000 Cambodian troops launch a major operation to wrestle the religious center of Angkor Wat from 4,000 North Vietnamese troops entrenched around the famous Buddhist temple complex, which had been seized in June 1970. Fighting continued throughout the month. Even with the addition of 4,000 more troops, the Cambodians were unsuccessful, and eventually abandoned their efforts to expel the North Vietnamese.
- Feb 12 1972 – Vietnam War: Senator Edward Kennedy advocates amnesty for Vietnam draft resisters.
- Feb 12 1973 – Vietnam War: Release of U.S. POWs begins » As part of the Paris peace settlement the release of U.S. POWs begins in Hanoi. The return of U.S. POWs began when North Vietnam released 142 of 591 U.S. prisoners at Hanoi’s Gia Lam Airport. Part of what was called Operation Homecoming, the first 20 POWs arrived to a hero’s welcome at Travis Air Force Base in California on February 14. Operation Homecoming was completed on March 29, 1973, when the last of 591 U.S. prisoners were released and returned to the United States.
- Feb 12 1988 – Cold War: Russian ships bump U.S. destroyer and cruiser » Two Soviet warships bump two U.S. navy vessels in waters claimed by the Soviet Union. The incident was an indication that even though the Cold War was slowly coming to a close, old tensions and animosities remained unabated.
The incident between the ships took place in the Black Sea, off the Crimean peninsula. The American destroyer Caron and cruiser Yorktown were operating within the 12-mile territorial limit claimed by the Soviet Union. They were challenged by a Soviet frigate and destroyer and told to leave the waters. Then, according to a Navy spokesman, the Soviet ships “shouldered” the U.S. ships out of the way, bumping them slightly. There was no exchange of gunfire, and the American ships eventually departed from the area. There was no serious damage to either U.S. vessel or any injuries.
In many ways, the incident was an unnecessarily provocative action by the United States. For many years, the United States had challenged the Russian claim of a 12-mile territorial limit in the waters off the Crimean peninsula. However, the timing and the use of the Caron in this particular operation made this a rather foolish act. The United States and the Soviet Union were engaged in negotiations to limit long-range nuclear weapons, and in December 1987, the important INF Treaty, by which both the United States and the Soviet Union agreed to eliminate their medium-range nuclear missiles in Europe, had been signed. The Caron was well known as an intelligence gathering vessel and its appearance in waters claimed by the Soviets would be seen as suspicious at best. For their part, the Soviets probably overreacted. American ships regularly moved through the area and were usually unchallenged. Perhaps the Soviet military felt a message should be sent that Russia, which was experiencing severe economic and political problems, was still a nation to be taken seriously as a major military power.
- Feb 12 2002 – Yugoslavia: Milosevic goes on trial for war crimes » Former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic goes on trial at The Hague, Netherlands, on charges of genocide and war crimes in Bosnia, Croatia and Kosovo. The trial began on 12 FEB 2002 but experienced numerous delays because of the poor health of Milošević, who served as his own defense lawyer. On 14 FEB he launched his defense against war crimes charges by justifying his actions as a “struggle against terrorism” and said he was a victim of twisted facts and “terrible fabrication.” The trial ended without a verdict when the so-called “Butcher of the Balkans” was found dead in his cell at age 64 from an apparent heart attack in his prison cell on March 11, 2006.
Slobodan Milosevic during his war crimes trial
Yugoslavia, consisting of Croatia, Montenegro, Slovenia, Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Macedonia, became a federal republic, headed by Communist leader Marshal Tito, on January 31, 1946. Tito died in May 1980 and Yugoslavia, along with communism, crumbled over the next decade.
Milosevic, born August 20, 1941, joined the Communist Party at age 18; he became president of Serbia in 1989. On June 25, 1991, Croatia and Slovenia declared their independence from Yugoslavia and Milosevic sent tanks to the Slovenian border, sparking a brief war that ended in Slovenia’s secession. In Croatia, fighting broke out between Croats and ethnic Serbs and Serbia sent weapons and medical supplies to the Serbian rebels in Croatia. Croatian forces clashed with the Serb-led Yugoslav army troops and their Serb supporters. An estimated 10,000 people were killed and hundreds of Croatian towns were destroyed before a U.N. cease-fire was established in January 1992. In March, Bosnia-Herzegovina declared its independence, and Milosevic funded the subsequent Bosnian Serb rebellion, starting a war that killed an estimated 200,000 people, before a U.S.-brokered peace agreement was reached at Dayton, Ohio, in 1995.
In Kosovo, a formerly autonomous province of Serbia, liberation forces clashed with Serbs and the Yugoslav army was sent in. Amidst reports that Milosevic had launched an ethnic cleansing campaign against Kosovo’s ethnic Albanians, NATO forces launched air strikes against Yugoslavia in 1999.
Ineligible to run for a third term as Serbian president, Milosevic had made himself president of Yugoslavia in 1997. After losing the presidential election in September 2000, he refused to accept defeat until mass protests forced him to resign the following month. He was charged with corruption and abuse of power and finally surrendered to Serbian authorities on April 1, 2001, after a 26-hour standoff. That June, he was extradited to the Netherlands and indicted by a United Nations war crimes tribunal. In February 2003, Serbia and Montenegro became a commonwealth and officially dropped the name Yugoslavia. In June 2006, the two countries declared their independence from each other.
- Feb 12 2013 – North Korea: Conducts Nuclear Test » South Korea confirmed that the North had indeed carried out the test, and condemned it. North Korea state media said the nation successfully detonated a miniaturized nuclear device at a northeastern test site defying U.N. Security Council orders to shut down atomic activity or face more sanctions and international isolation. Experts say regular tests are needed to perfect North Korea’s goal of building nuclear warheads small enough to be placed on long-range missiles. This atomic test — North Korea’s third since 2006 — is expected to take Pyongyang closer to possessing nuclear-tipped missiles designed to strike the United States.
- Feb 13 1776 – Pre U.S. Revolutionary War: Patrick Henry named colonel of First Virginia battalion » Patrick Henry becomes colonel of the First Virginia battalion in defense of the state’s supply of gunpowder. A Virginia lawyer, Henry gained fame as a member of the House of Burgesses with his passionate speeches against British rule and what he saw as their unfair taxation policy. First elected in 1765, he promptly proposed five resolutions opposing the Stamp Act that became models for other colonies. Henry’s was the first, and often the loudest and most articulate, voice raised against taxation without representation.
Henry was elected to the First Continental Congress in 1774 and quickly became the group’s most outspoken member. As a member of the Second Continental Congress, Henry attended the Second Virginia Convention to show solidarity with Bostonians suffering under British military occupation in March 1775. On March 23, 1775, at St. John’s Church in Richmond, Virginia, Henry gave his most famous speech, in which he urged Virginians to ally themselves with besieged Boston with the words give me liberty or give me death!
Less than a month later, on April 20, Virginia’s Royal Governor Lord Dunmore attempted to take the gunpowder from the Williamsburg magazine as part of his attempt to hold on to power in the colony. In response, Henry led the Patriot militia in a standoff with Dunmore’s troops until fellow Virginian Patriot Carter Braxton negotiated a settlement. The incident is known as the Gunpowder Affair.
From 1776 to 1779, Henry served as the first governor of the state of Virginia. He held the post again from 1784 to 1786. After serving as governor, Henry continued to influence American politics. Among his most important work was his fight for the addition of the first 10 amendments, known as the Bill of Rights, to the U.S. Constitution, which guarantee basic freedoms, such as the freedoms of speech and religion, to American citizens.
- Feb 13 1776 – U.S. Revolutionary War: British raid Prudence Island in Narragansett Bay » In the early morning hours of January 13, 1776, British forces raid Prudence Island, Rhode Island, in an effort to steal a large quantity of sheep. But, upon landing on the island’s southern beaches, the British were ambushed by fifteen Minutemen from Rhode Island’s Second Company led by Captain Joseph Knight, who had been tipped off to the Brits’ plans and rowed across Narragansett Bay from Warwick Neck the previous morning.
A brief but deadly battle ensued before the British were forced to retreat. Three British marines were killed and seven injured during the ambush. Two Minutemen were wounded; one died and the other was taken prisoner. Afraid of further violence, residents abandoned the island between 1776 and 1777, and the island’s homes and windmill were burned.
Rhode Island’s Second Company continued to guard the area between Providence, Warwick Neck and Chopmist on Rhode Island for the next three years. Captain Knight rose to the rank of major in 1777, taking command of the Third Providence County Regiment. The Rhode Island General Assembly chose to end the Minutemen system in 1777 and the Second Company was reorganized as the Fifth Company of Scituate Militia. Major Knight and his regiment served the Patriot cause throughout the Rhode Island campaign of 1778. Knight received a further promotion to the rank of lieutenant colonel in 1778 and remained in the militia until his retirement in 1800, by which time he had served 34 years in the service of Rhode Island. During his tenure, Rhode Island had progressed from colony to independent state to member state of the federal union.
- Feb 13 1807 – Pre Civil War: Napoleon Bonaparte Buford is born » Born in Woodford, Kentucky. Buford held many commands in the West and was a hero at the Battle of Belmont, Missouri, early in the war. He attended West Point and graduated in 1827. After a stint with the frontier military, he was given leave to study law at Harvard. He taught at West Point before leaving the service to become a businessman. He was an engineer and banker in Illinois during the 1840s and 1850s.
When the Civil War began, the 54-year-old Buford raised his own regiment, the 27th Illinois. He was commissioned as a colonel, and his unit was sent to Cairo, Illinois, and placed in General Ulysses S. Grant’s army. On November 7, 1861, Grant attacked a Confederate camp at Belmont, Missouri, and quickly drove the Rebels away. However, Grant’s men became preoccupied with plundering the area, and a Confederate counterattack nearly turned to disaster for the Yankees. Buford’s regiment was almost cut off from the main Union force. He rallied his men and they fought their way out of the Confederate trap. Buford was commended for his bravery.
After Belmont, Buford participated in the capture of Island No. 10, a Confederate stronghold in the Mississippi River. He was left in command of the island after its capture. Buford and his regiment fought at Corinth, Mississippi, in October 1862, but the colonel fell seriously ill from sunstroke and left field command.
Buford eventually returned to the West and was promoted to brigadier general in charge of the district of Eastern Arkansas. He remained there for the rest of the war, although his main military action came in chasing off Confederate raiders in the area. Buford generated controversy in his dealings with black troops. He had drawn earlier criticism for not helping refugee slaves, and now he proclaimed his preference for commanding white troops. He silenced some of the criticism by implementing programs for freed slaves in Arkansas that generally succeeded in taking care of their immediate needs. Poor health forced Buford’s resignation in March 1865, just before the end of the war. He was brevetted to major general following his retirement. He worked in a variety of businesses after the war and died in Chicago in 1883.
Napoleon Bonaparte Buford was the older half-brother of John Buford, a Union General who commanded the Yankee force that first engaged the Confederates at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, in 1863.
- Feb 13 1831 – Pre Civil War: John Rawlins born » Union General John Rawlins is born in Galena, Illinois. Rawlins was a close personal aide to General Ulysses S. Grant and was reported to have kept Grant from drinking heavily during the war.
Rawlins’ family was originally from Virginia but had settled in Illinois shortly before Rawlins’ birth. When Rawlins was a teenager, his father abandoned the family and headed for the gold fields of California. The younger Rawlins received little formal education, but was admitted to the bar in Illinois in 1854 and went on to practice law and involve himself in state politics.
When the Civil War started, Rawlins became the aide-de-camp to Grant. He was Grant’s principal staff officer throughout the war, and Grant said that Rawlins was nearly indispensable. Grant was known to be a heavy drinker when he served on the frontier in the 1850s, and it appears Rawlins was instrumental in keeping the general from excessive imbibing throughout the Civil War.
After the war, Rawlins served in the West. He helped General Greenville Dodge survey the route for the Union Pacific Railroad, which later became part of the first transcontinental line. For his efforts, the town of Rawlins, Wyoming, was named after him. When Grant became U.S. president in 1869, he made Rawlins secretary of war. However, Rawlins’ health declined after taking office, and the 38-year-olddied in September 1869.Hewas buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.
- Feb 13 1861 – U.S.*Apache Conflict: First Medal of Honor action » The earliest military action to be revered with a Medal of Honor award is performed by Colonel Bernard J.D. Irwin, an assistant army surgeon serving in the first major U.S.-Apache conflict. Near Apache Pass, in southeastern Arizona, Irwin, an Irish-born doctor, volunteered to go to the rescue of Second Lieutenant George N. Bascom, who was trapped with 60 men of the U.S. Seventh Infantry by the Chiricahua Apaches. Irwin and 14 men, initially without horses, began the 100-mile trek to Bascom’s forces riding on mules. After fighting and capturing Apaches along the way and recovering stolen horses and cattle, they reached Bascom’s forces on 14 FEB and proved instrumental in breaking the siege.
The first U.S.-Apache conflict had begun several days before, when Cochise, the Chiricahua Apache chief, kidnapped three white men to exchange for his brother and two nephews held by the U.S. Army on false charges of stealing cattle and kidnapping a child. When the exchange was refused, Cochise killed the white men, and the army responded by killing his relatives, setting off the first of the Apache wars.
Although Irwin’s bravery in this conflict was the earliest Medal of Honor action, the award itself was not created until 1862, and it was not until January 21, 1894, that Irwin received the nation’s highest military honor.
- Feb 13 1865 – Civil War: The Confederacy approves the recruitment of slaves as soldiers, as long as the approval of their owners is gained.
- Feb 13 1874 – Kingdom of Hawaii: US Marines land in Honolulu for the first time to protect the soon to be elected King Kalakaua who very popular with American citizens in the islands at the time. Hawaiian elections never included Hawaiian people — just the members of the Legislative Assembly — the Chiefs — who voted 36 to 6 for him over his rival Queen Emma who was favored by a group of rebellious Hawaiian people.
- Feb 13 1917 – WWI: Dutch exotic dancer Mata Hari is arrested in Paris on suspicion that she is a German spy, charged with espionage and confined to Paris’ infamous Saint-Lazare prison.
Mata Hari’s mug shot on the day of her arrest (left) and as she was pictured a few years earlier (right)
When not languishing in her damp, lice-ridden cell, the dancer spent the next several months under interrogation. While she spoke frankly about her promiscuous lifestyle, she was adamant that she had never committed espionage for any country other than France. “A courtesan, I admit it,” she said. “A spy, never!” When questioned she came clean about accepting money from the Germans, but denied passing them any secrets. “I never considered myself a German agent with a number,” she pleaded, “because I never did anything for them.”
Mata Hari’s espionage trial commenced on July 24, 1917. Despite a lack of evidence about the secrets she might have passed to the Germans, the prosecution blamed her for the deaths of thousands of Allied soldiers and pointed to her numerous affairs as proof that she had been gathering intelligence. “The evil that this woman has done is unbelievable,” prosecutor Andre Mornet concluded in his final statement. “This is perhaps the greatest woman spy of the century.” In the end, it took a military tribunal less than an hour to find her guilty and sentence her to death. On November 17, 1917, Mata Hari was driven to a field on the outskirts of Paris. After refusing a blindfold, she was placed against a wooden stake and executed by a firing squad of twelve French soldiers. Ever the performer, she supposedly blew a kiss to the troops moments before the fatal shots rang out.
- Feb 13 1920 – Post WWI: League of Nations recognizes perpetual Swiss neutrality » The League of Nations, the international organization formed at the peace conference at Versailles in the wake of World War I, recognizes the perpetual neutrality of Switzerland on this day in 1920.
Switzerland was a loose confederation of German-, French-, and Italian-speaking communities until 1798, when the French, under Napoleon Bonaparte, conquered and unified the country as the Helvetic Republic and imposed a constitution, which was enforced by French occupation troops. Bitterly resented by the Swiss people, the French occupation ended in 1803, when Napoleon agreed to a new Swiss-approved constitution and withdrew his troops. The Congress of Vienna in 1815, which would determine Europe’s borders until the outbreak of World War I nearly a century later, recognized the perpetual neutrality of Switzerland.
The Swiss considered preserving this neutrality essential to Switzerland’s economic and political development. A new constitution, adopted in 1848, reinforced the neutrality principle by outlawing Swiss service in foreign armies or the acceptance of pensions from foreign governments. Neither the unification of Italy in 1861 nor the birth of the German empire in 1871 shook the loyalty of the nation’s Italian or German population to Switzerland. With industrialization, fueled largely by hydroelectric power, and the construction of an efficient railroad network, Switzerland’s economy continued to grow, spawning a thriving tourism industry by the end of the 19th century.
Though Switzerland maintained its neutrality during World War I, with German, French and Italian Swiss standing firm to preserve their country’s solidarity, a costly military mobilization to protect the Swiss borders diverted most of the working population to war-related work and brought economic hardship. After the war ended, membership in the League of Nations—the international organization established at the Versailles peace conference—was narrowly approved by Swiss voters after a federal council opposed it. In February 1920, the League voted to recognize the perpetual neutrality of Switzerland. The League also established its headquarters in the Swiss city of Geneva, a tribute to the country’s neutrality as well as its relative economic and political stability, which has continued to the present day.
- Feb 13 1942 – WW2: Holocaust » At the Minsk Ghetto, Nazis execute Jewish leaders deported from Hamburg, Germany, three months earlier.
- Feb 13 1943 – WW2: United States Marine Corps Women’s Reserve was formed
- Feb 13 1945 – WW2: The siege of Budapest concludes with the unconditional surrender of German and Hungarian forces to the Red Army after a 49-day battle with Nazi Germany in which 159,000 die.
- Feb 13 1945 – WW2: Fire Bombing of Dresden – On the evening of 13 FEB a series of Allied firebombing raids begins against the German city of Dresden, reducing the “Florence of the Elbe” to rubble and flames, and killing roughly 25,000 people. Despite the horrendous scale of destruction, it arguably accomplished little strategically, since the Germans were already on the verge of surrender.
More than 3,400 tons of explosives were dropped on the city by 800 American and British aircraft. The firestorm created by the two days of bombing set the city burning for many more days, littering the streets with charred corpses, including many children. Eight square miles of the city was ruined, and the total body count was between 22,700 and 25,000 dead, according to a report published by the city of Dresden in 2010. The hospitals that were left standing could not handle the numbers of injured and burned, and mass burials became necessary.
Among the conclusions reached at the February 1945 Yalta Conference of the Allied powers was the resolution that the Allies would engage in concerted strategic bombing raids against German cities known for war-production and manufacturing, in an effort to bring the Nazi war machine to a crashing halt. The tragic irony of the raid on Dresden, a medieval city renowned for its rich artistic and architectural treasures, is that during the war it had never been a site of war-production or major industry.
Both Allies and Germans alike have argued over the real purpose of the firebombing; the ostensible “official” rationale was that Dresden was a major communications center and bombing it would hamper the German ability to convey messages to its army, which was battling Soviet forces at the time. But the extent of the destruction was, for many, disproportionate to the stated strategic goal—many believe that the attack was simply an attempt to punish the Germans and weaken their morale. To view some actual war footage of Air Force Bombing missions go to https://youtu.be/mF8N7oiKmAQ/
- Feb 13 1950 – Cold War: Soviets boycott United Nations Security Council » For the second time in a week, Jacob Malik, the Soviet representative to the United Nations, storms out of a meeting of the Security Council, this time in reaction to the defeat of his proposal to expel the Nationalist Chinese representative. At the same time, he announced the Soviet Union’s intention to boycott further Security Council meetings.
Several days before the 13 JAN meeting, Malik walked out to show his displeasure over the United Nations’ refusal to unseat the Nationalist Chinese delegation. The Soviet Union had recognized the communist People’s Republic of China (PRC) as the true Chinese government, and wanted the PRC to replace the Nationalist Chinese delegation at the United Nations.
Malik returned on 13 JAN, however, to vote on the Soviet resolution to expel Nationalist China. Six countries–the United States, Nationalist China, Cuba, Ecuador, Cuba, and Egypt–voted against the resolution, and three–the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia, and India–voted in favor of it. Malik immediately left the meeting, declaring that the United States was “encouraging lawlessness” by refusing to recognize the “illegal presence” of the Nationalist Chinese representatives. He concluded that “even the most convinced reactionaries” had to recognize the justness of the Soviet resolution, and he vowed that the Soviet Union would not be bound by any decisions made by the Security Council if the Nationalist Chinese representative remained. Hoping to forestall any future Security Council action, Malik announced that the Soviet Union would no longer attend its meetings. The remaining members of the Security Council decided to carry on despite the Soviet boycott.
In late June 1950, it became apparent that the Soviet action had backfired when the issue of North Korea’s invasion of South Korea was brought before the Security Council. By 27 JUN, the Security Council voted to invoke military action by the United Nations for the first time in the organization’s history. The Soviets could have blocked the action in the Security Council, since the United States, Soviet Union, China, Britain, and France each had absolute veto power, but no Russian delegate was present. In just a short time, a multinational U.N. force arrived in South Korea and the grueling three-year Korean War was underway.
- Feb 13 1951 – Korea: Battle of Chipyong–ni, which represented the “high–water mark” of the Chinese incursion into South Korea, commences. U.N. troops contained the Chinese forces’ offensive in a two-day battle .Casualties and losses: China 5,079 – UN 343.
- Feb 13 1960 – Cold War: France became the world’s fourth nuclear power, conducting its first plutonium bomb test at the Reggane base in the Sahara Desert in what was then French Algeria. “Gerboise Bleue” was detonated from a 330-foot tower and had a yield of 60-70 kilotons (equivalent to nearly 70,000 tons of TNT).
- Feb 13 1965 – Vietnam War: First Operation Farm Gate missions flown » In the first Farm Gate combat missions, T-28 fighter-bombers are flown in support of a South Vietnamese outpost under Viet Cong attack.
By the end of the month, U.S. Air Force pilots had flown 229 Farm Gate sorties. Operation Farm Gate was initially designed to provide advisory support to assist the South Vietnamese Air Force in increasing its capability. The 4400th Combat Crew Training Squadron arrived at Bien Hoa Airfield in November 1961 and began training South Vietnamese Air Force personnel with older, propeller-driven aircraft. In December, President John F. Kennedy expanded Farm Gate to include limited combat missions by the U.S. Air Force pilots in support of South Vietnamese ground forces.
By late 1962, communist activity and combat intensity had increased so much that President Kennedy ordered a further expansion of Farm Gate. In early 1963, additional aircraft arrived and new detachments were established at Pleiku and Soc Trang. In early 1964, Farm Gate was upgraded again with the arrival of more modern aircraft. In October 1965, another squadron of A-1E aircraft was established at Bien Hoa. Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara approved the replacement of South Vietnamese markings on Farm Gate aircraft with regular U.S. Air Force markings. By this point in the war, the Farm Gate squadrons were flying 80 percent of all missions in support of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN). With the buildup of U.S. combat forces in South Vietnam and the increase in U.S. Air Force presence there, the role of the Farm Gate program gradually decreased in significance. The Farm Gate squadrons were moved to Thailand in 1967, and from there they launched missions against the North Vietnamese in Laos.
- Feb 13 1965 – Vietnam War: Johnson approves Operation Rolling Thunder » President Lyndon B. Johnson decides to undertake the sustained bombing of North Vietnam that he and his advisers have been contemplating for a year.
Called Operation Rolling Thunder, the bombing campaign was designed to interdict North Vietnamese transportation routes in the southern part of North Vietnam and slow infiltration of personnel and supplies into South Vietnam. The first Rolling Thunder mission took place on March 2, 1965, when 100 U.S. Air Force and Republic of Vietnam Air Force (VNAF) planes struck the Xom Bang ammunition dump 100 miles southeast of Hanoi.
From 1965 to 1968, about 643,000 tons of bombs were dropped on North Vietnam, and a total of nearly 900 U.S. aircraft were lost during Operation Rolling Thunder. The operation continued, with occasional suspensions, until President Johnson, under increasing domestic political pressure, halted it on October 31, 1968.
- Feb 13 1968 – Vietnam War: Additional troops ordered to South Vietnam » As an emergency measure in response to the 1968 communist Tet Offensive, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara approves the deployment of 10,500 troops to cope with threats of a second offensive. The Joint Chiefs of Staff, who had argued against dispatching any reinforcements at the time because it would seriously deplete the strategic reserve, immediately sent McNamara a memorandum asking that 46,300 reservists and former servicemen be activated. Not wanting to test public opinion on what would no doubt be a controversial move, Johnson consigned the issue of the reservists to “study.” Ultimately, he decided against a large-scale activation of the reserve forces.
- Feb 13 1971 – Vietnam War: Backed by American air and artillery support, South Vietnamese troops invade Laos.
- Feb 13 1972 – Vietnam War: Enemy attacks in Vietnam decline for the third day as the United States continues its intensive bombing strategy.
- Feb 13 1972 – Vietnam War: Nixon announces additional troop withdrawals » The president announces that 70,000 U.S. troops will leave South Vietnam over the next three months, reducing U.S. troop strength there by 1 MAY to 69,000 troops. Since taking office, Nixon had withdrawn more than 400,000 American troops from Vietnam. With the reduction in total troop strength, U.S. combat deaths were down to less than 10 per week. However, Nixon still came under heavy criticism from those who charged that he was pulling out troops but, by turning to the use of air power instead of ground troops, was continuing the U.S. involvement in Vietnam rather than disengaging from the war. The last American troops would be withdrawn in March 1973 under the provisions of the Paris Peace Accords.
- Feb 13 1984 – Cold War: Chernenko becomes general secretary » Following the death of Yuri Andropov four days earlier, Konstantin Chernenko takes over as the general secretary of the Soviet Communist Party, the ruling position in the Soviet Union. Chernenko was the last of the Russian communist “hard-liners” prior to the ascension to power of the reform-minded Mikhail Gorbachev in 1985.
Before becoming general secretary, Chernenko was little known outside of the Soviet Union. Born in 1911, he became active in communist organizations in Russia during the late-1920s. In 1931, he formally joined the Soviet Communist Party. He became something of an expert in the area of propaganda and held several lower level positions in the government during the 1940s. His fortunes changed dramatically after he became acquainted with Leonid Brezhnev in the 1950s. Brezhnev took Chernenko under his wing and as Brezhnev rose through the party hierarchy during the 1950s and 1960s, Chernenko climbed to higher levels in the Soviet bureaucracy. Brezhnev became general secretary in 1964 and served until his death in 1982. Chernenko seemed a natural choice to succeed his former mentor, but reformists within the Soviet government turned instead to Andropov. When Andropov became ill and died just 15 months later, Chernenko’s supporters overrode the reformists and he took over as general secretary.
Chernenko’s brief rule was characterized by a return to the hard-line policies of Brezhnev. He pulled back from supporting the few economic and political reforms instituted by Andropov. Russian foreign policy took on a harsher tone, and the Soviets retaliated for the U.S. boycott of the 1980 Olympic games held in Moscow by refusing to attend the 1984 summer games in Los Angeles. Declining health during the last several months of his rule, however, prevented Chernenko from making much of an impression either domestically or internationally. When he died on March 10, 1985, Mikhail Gorbachev took power and began his program of dramatic economic reforms and his efforts at improving relations with the United States, which led to the eventual dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991.
- Feb 13 1991 – Gulf War: Two precision-guided missiles destroyed the Amiriyah subterranean bunker in Baghdad while being used as an air-raid shelter by 408 Iraqi civilians during the first Gulf War. The resulting deaths of all inside made it the single most lethal incident for non-combatants in modern air warfare. The U.S. had detected signals coming from the bunker and considered it a military command and control center.
Visitors tour the Amiriyah Bunker. The Iraqi government has preserved the bunker as a public memorial.
- Feb 14 1778 – U.S. Revolutionary War: The United States Flag is formally recognized by a foreign naval vessel for the first time, when French Admiral Toussaint-Guillaume Picquet de la Motte rendered a nine gun salute to USS Ranger, commanded by John Paul Jones.
13 Star Flags (1777-1795)
- Feb 14 1779 – U.S. Revolutionary War: Patriots defeat Loyalists at Kettle Creek » A Patriot militia force of 340 led by Colonel Andrew Pickens of South Carolina with Colonel John Dooly and Lieutenant Colonel Elijah Clarke of Georgia defeats a larger force of 700 Loyalist militia commanded by Colonel James Boyd on this day in 1779 at Kettle Creek, Georgia.
The Patriots attempted a two-pronged attack. Pickens’ line engaged the Loyalists, while Dooly and Clarke’s men attempted to cross the creek and surrounding swamp. Dooly and Clarke’s troops were soon bogged down in the difficult crossing and though Boyd had sent 150 of his men out to forage for food that morning, the Loyalists still had the upper hand.
The tide turned when the Loyalists saw their commander, Boyd, collapse from a musket wound. Panicked, they disintegrated into a disorderly retreat towards the creek as Pickens’ Patriots fired down upon their camp from above. Shortly thereafter, the two South Carolina commanders, Dooly and Clarke, emerged with their men from the swamp and surrounded the shocked Loyalists, who were attempting to retreat across the creek.
By the end of the action, the Loyalists suffered 70 killed and another 70 captured, compared to 9 killed and 23 wounded for the Patriots. Colonel Boyd, who was wounded during the engagement, died shortly afterward. The victory was the only significant Patriot victory in Georgia and delayed the consolidation of British control in the largely Loyalist colony.
In 1780, Colonel John Dooly was murdered at his log cabin home on his Georgia plantation by South Carolina Loyalists. Dooly County, Georgia, was named in his honor, and the spring near his former cabin in Lincoln County, Georgia, within the grounds of the Elijah Clarke State Park—named for his former Patriot partner—bears a historic marker in the martyred patriot’s memory.
- Feb 14 1864 – Civil War: Sherman enters Meridian, Mississippi » Union troops enter Meridian, Mississippi, during a winter campaign that served as a precursor to General William T. Sherman’s March to the Sea campaign in Georgia. This often-overlooked Mississippi campaign was the first attempt by the Union at total warfare, a strike aimed not just at military objectives but also at the will of the Southern people.
Sherman launched the campaign from Vicksburg, Mississippi, with the goal of destroying the rail center at Meridian and clearing central Mississippi of Confederate resistance. Sherman believed this would free additional Federal troops that he hoped to use on his planned campaign against Atlanta, Georgia, in the following months.
Sherman, Smith, and Polk
Sherman led 25,000 troops east from Vicksburg and ordered another 7,000 under General William Sooy Smith to march southeast from Memphis, Tennessee. They planned to meet at Meridian in eastern Mississippi. The Confederates had few troops with which to stop Sherman. General Leonidas Polk had less than 10,000 men to defend the state. Polk retreated from the capital at Jackson as Sherman approached, and some scattered cavalry units could not impede the Yankees’ progress. Polk tried to block the roads to Meridian so the Confederates could move as many supplies as possible from the city’s warehouses, but Sherman pushed into the city on February 14 in the middle of a torrential rain.
After capturing Meridian, Sherman began to destroy the railroad and storage facilities while he waited for the arrival of Smith. Sherman later wrote: “For five days, 10,000 men worked hard and with a will in that work of destruction… Meridian, with its depots, storehouses, arsenals, hospitals, offices, hotels, and cantonments no longer exists.” Sherman waited for Smith to arrive, buthe never reached Meridian. On February 21, Confederate troops under General Nathan Bedford Forrest waylaid Smith at West Point, Mississippi, and dealt the Federals a resounding defeat. Smith returned to Memphis, and Sherman turned back towards Vicksburg.
Ultimately, Sherman failed to clear Mississippi of Rebels, and the Confederates repaired the rail lines within a month. Sherman did learn how to live off the land, however, and took notes on how to strike a blow against the civilian population of the South. He used that knowledge with devastating results in Georgia later that year.
- Feb 14 1919 – WWI: Wilson presents draft covenant for League of Nations » In a plenary session of the Versailles peace conference on this day in 1919, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson presents the draft of the covenant for the League of Nations prepared by a League commission that had been established two weeks earlier.
The commission, which was set up on 25 JAN and had its first meeting on 4 FEB, had tackled the formidable task of laying down the specific tenets of Wilson’s ambitious but nebulous vision—expressed in his famous Fourteen Points—of an international organization that would regulate future conflicts between nations and preserve world peace. At its start, the commission included two representatives from each of the Big Five nations (Great Britain, France, Italy, Japan and the United States); nine more representatives were eventually added from the other countries present at the peace conference.
Tensions flared during the commission’s deliberations, particularly over the issues of general disarmament and the establishment of an international military force to give the League the power to enforce its principles. The French argued strongly in favor of both; the U.S. and Britain disagreed, suspicious of continued French aggression against Germany and unwilling to cede control of their own military operations to the League.
Despite these difficulties, Wilson was able to present the commission’s draft in less than two weeks. In it, the commission had outlined all aspects of the League, including its administration: a general assembly, a secretariat and an executive council. There would be no League army and no mandate for disarmament—France had lost on these points. The French had held fast, however, in their insistence that Germany not be invited to join the League right away; this would later force a frustrated Germany to agree, in the Treaty of Versailles, to the formation of an organization that it could not join. (Germany joined the League in 1926; in 1933, after the rise to power of the National Socialist or Nazi Party, it withdrew.)
With a few modifications, the covenant was approved in another plenary session of the conference on 28 APR. Many terrible things have come out of this war, Wilson had said as he presented the draft of the League covenant, but some very beautiful things have come out of it. In Wilson’s idealistic vision, the League of Nations was intended to be the most beautiful of these things, but in practice it failed to live up to expectations. For one thing, the Treaty of Versailles was never ratified by the U.S. Senate, largely because of opposition to the League covenant’s Article X, which required that all League members preserve the territorial independence of all other members and commit to joint military action, when necessary, in order to do this.
The absence of the U.S. in the League of Nations, as well as the covenant’s requirement that all League decisions be unanimous, greatly detracted from the organization’s efficacy, and within two decades, the world would again be at war. Ultimately, the League’s greatest legacy would not be its ability to keep the peace, but the groundwork it laid for another international organization: the United Nations, which would borrow some of the League’s organizational principles and, perhaps more importantly, learn from its mistakes.
- Feb 14 1942 – WW2: Home Army » Formed this day from the Armed Resistance, it was the dominant Polish resistance movement in Poland, occupied by Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, during World War II. Over the next two years, it absorbed most other Polish underground forces. Its allegiance was to the Polish government-in-exile, and it constituted the armed wing of what became known as the “Polish Underground State”. Estimates of the Home Army’s 1944 strength range between 200,000 and 600,000, the most commonly cited number being 400,000. This last number would make the Home Army not only the largest Polish underground resistance movement but one of the three largest in Europe during World War II.
The Home Army sabotaged German operations such as transports headed for the Eastern Front in the Soviet Union. It also fought several full-scale battles against the Germans, particularly in 1943 and in Operation Tempest in 1944. The Home Army tied down substantial German forces and destroyed much-needed German supplies. The most widely known Home Army operation was the 1944 Warsaw Uprising. The partisans also defended Polish civilians against atrocities perpetrated by other military formations.
The Home Army was disbanded on 19 January 1945, after the Soviet Red Army had largely cleared Polish territory of German forces. Because the Home Army was loyal to the Polish Government-in-Exile, the Soviet Union saw it as an obstacle to Communism in Poland. Consequently, over the course of the war, conflict grew between the Home Army and Soviet forces. During the Soviet occupation of Poland thousands of former Home Army operatives were deported to Gulags and Soviet prisons, while others – including senior commanders like Leopold Okulicki and Emil August Fieldorf – were executed. Following the war, the official propaganda line in communist Poland was that the Home Army was an oppressive and reactionary force, at least in the 1950s and 1960s. Following the fall of communism in Eastern Europe the image of the Home Army has been more positive.
- Feb 14 1942 – WW2: Battle of Pasir Panjang contributes to the fall of Singapore.
- Feb 14 1943 – WW2: Battle of the Kasserine Pass » General Erwin Rommel launches his offensive. Rommel was dispatched to North Africa in February 1942, along with the new Afrika Korps, to prevent his Italian Axis partner from losing its territorial gains in the region to the British. Despite his skill, until this point Rommel had been unable to do much more than manage his own forces’ retreats, but the Battle of Kasserine Pass would finally display the “Desert Fox’s” strategic genius.
In the Battle of El Alamein in August 1942, British General Bernard Montgomery had pushed Rommel out of Egypt and into Tunisia, behind the Mareth Line, a defensive fortification built by Vichy French forces. After taking several months to regroup, Rommel decided on a bold move. Rommel set his sites of Tunis, Tunisia’s capital and a key strategic goal for both Allied and Axis forces. Rommel determined that the weakest point in the Allied defensive line was at the Kasserine Pass, a 2-mile-wide gap in Tunisia’s Dorsal Mountains, which was defended by American troops. His first strike was repulsed, but with tank reinforcements, Rommel broke through on 20 FEB, inflicting devastating casualties on the U.S. forces. The Americans withdrew from their position, leaving behind most of their equipment. More than 1,000 American soldiers were killed by Rommel’s offensive, and hundreds were taken prisoner. The United States had finally tasted defeat in battle.
- Feb 14 1945 – WW2: Anti-Japanese revolt on Java » PETA (Tentara Pembela Tanah Air) was an Indonesian volunteer army organized under Japanese auspices in 1943 during the Japanese Occupation. In February, one of the Battalions of the PETA Army, located at Blitar City, Kediri Residency, in East Java, rose in armed rebellion against Japanese rule. With Soeprijadi Shoodan-cho (Platoon Commander) as leader, several young officers of this Battalion began to plot an anti-Japanese revolt in September 1944. Their hatred and anger against Japan were caused primarily by the cruelty of the Japanese toward the Indonesian population, the pitiful condition of the Roomusha in particular aroused bitter hatred in the hearts of PETA officers who had once worked with those forced laborers.
The arrogant attitude of the Japanese Instructors appointed to each Battalion also irritated the Indonesian officers. Furthermore they felt that Indonesia should be totally liberated from Japanese rule. Taking all these factors into consideration, we can interpret this revolt as the prelude to the Indonesian Revolution, which began in August 1945. The Revolt, involving three-fourths of the soldiers of the Battalion, began at dawn on February 14. Four Japanese civilians and 7 Chinese who were considered to be pro-Japanese, were killed, but the revolt was easily suppressed because of lack of coordination with other Battalions combined with the fact that they had begun the revolt before their plans were complete.
Fifty-five of the revolutionaries were tried and sentenced. Six were sentenced to death and executed before the surrender of Japan. The leader of this revolt, Soeprijadi Shoodan-cho disappeared during the rebellion and has not been found to this day. Nonetheless, he was appointed the first Defense Minister and Supreme Commander of the Indonesian National Army, although he never actually assumed these posts. His appointment demonstrated the extent of the influence of the Blitar Rebellion on the development of nationalism and the revolution in Indonesia.
- Feb 14 1945 – WW2: On the first day of the bombing of Dresden, the British Royal Air Force and the United States Army Air Forces begin fire-bombing Dresden, the capital of the German state of Saxony.
- Feb 14 1945 – WW2: Bombing of Prague » Navigational error leads to the mistaken bombing of Prague, Czechoslovakia by an American squadron of B-17s assisting in the Soviet’s Vistula-Oder Offensive. Forty B-17 Flying Fortresses of the Eighth Army Air Force dropped about 152 tons of bombs on many populated areas of the city. The bombing resulted in the deaths of 701 people and the wounding of 1,184. About one hundred houses and historical sites were totally destroyed and another two hundred were heavily damaged. All the casualties were civilians and not one of the city’s factories, which might have been of use to the Wehrmacht, were damaged.
The American pilots have voiced their regret many times. The radar navigational equipment on the aircraft was not functioning correctly and high winds en route produced a dead reckoning navigational error of some 70 miles. This caused the formation to arrive over the supposed “target”, which was believed to be Dresden, at the time bombing commenced. Prague was mostly obscured by broken clouds, with occasional glimpses of the Vltava river. Additionally, Prague and Dresden looked similar from the air, with rivers running through both cities. The bombing was carried out as a “blind attack” using radar. After the war, the Americans were billed for some of the damages sustained by the historical buildings. The raid was used for anti-American propaganda purposes, both by the Nazis and the subsequent Communist regime in Czechoslovakia.
- Feb 14 1962 – Vietnam War: Kennedy authorizes U.S. advisors to fire in self-defense » The President authorizes U.S. military advisors in Vietnam to return fire if fired upon. At a news conference, he said, “The training missions we have [in South Vietnam] have been instructed that if they are fired upon, they are of course to fire back, but we have not sent combat troops in [the] generally understood sense of the word.” In effect, Kennedy was acknowledging that U.S. forces were involved in the fighting, but he wished to downplay any appearance of increased American involvement in the war. The next day former Vice President Nixon expressed hopes that President Kennedy would “step up the build-up and under no circumstances curtail it because of possible criticism.”
- Feb 14 1970 – Vietnam War: Gallup Poll released » Despite an increasingly active antiwar movement, a Gallup Poll shows that a majority of those polled (55 percent) oppose an immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from Vietnam. Those that favored American withdrawal had risen from 21 percent, in a November poll, to 35 percent. President Nixon had taken office in January 1969 promising to bring the war to an end, but a year later the fighting continued and support for the president’s handling of the war had begun to slip significantly.
- Feb 14 1979 – U.S.*Iran: Iranian guerrillas stormed the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, trapping Ambassador William Sullivan and 100 staff members. Forces of the Ayatollah Khomeini later freed them but the incident foreshadowed the embassy takeover in November.
- Feb 14 1979 – U.S.*Afghanistan: U.S. Ambassador murdered » Adolph Dubs, United States Ambassador to Afghanistan, was kidnapped by unknown agents. He was being driven from his residence to the U.S. embassy slightly before 9 a.m. on, on the same day that Iranian militants attacked the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, Iran, and just months before the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. He was approaching the U.S. Cultural Center when four men stopped his armored black Chevrolet limousine.
Some accounts say that the men were wearing Afghan police uniforms, while others state that only one of the four was wearing a police uniform. The men gestured to the car to open its windows, which were bulletproof, and the ambassador’s driver complied. The militants then stuck a pistol in the driver’s face and carjacked the vehicle, forcing the driver to take Dubs to the Kabul Serena Hotel in downtown Kabul. The abduction occurred “within plain sight of at least one real Afghan policeman.” Dubs was held in Room 117 on the first floor of the hotel and the driver was sent to the U.S. embassy to tell the Americans of the kidnapping
At the hotel, the abductors allegedly demanded that the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan (DRA) release “one or more religious or political prisoners.” “No demands were made of the American government, nor did the DRA ever give a complete or consistent account of the kidnappers’ desires. The Americans urged waiting in order not to endanger Dubs’ life, but the Afghan police disregarded these pleas to negotiate and attacked on the advice of Soviet officers. The weapons and flak jackets used by the Afghans were provided by the Soviets, and the hotel lobby had multiple Soviet officials, including the KGB security chief, the lead Soviet advisor to the Afghan police, and the second secretary at the Soviet embassy
At the end of the morning, a shot was heard. Afghan police then stormed Room 117 with heavy automatic gunfire. After a short, intense firefight, estimated at 40 seconds to one minute, Dubs was “found slumped in a chair”, killed by shots to the head. Two abductors died in the firefight, as well. An autopsy showed that he had been shot in the head from a distance of six inches. The other two abductors were captured alive but were inexplicably shot shortly after; their bodies were shown to U.S. officials before dusk.
- Feb 14 1989 – Cold War: Sandinistas agree to free elections » At a meeting of the presidents of Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, Costa Rica, and El Salvador, the leftist Sandinista government of Nicaragua agrees to free a number of political prisoners and hold free elections within a year; in return, Honduras promises to close bases being used by anti-Sandinista rebels. Within a year, elections in Nicaragua resulted in the defeat of the Sandinistas, removing what officials during the administration of President Ronald Reagan (1981-1989) referred to as a “beachhead of communism” in the Western Hemisphere.
Nicaragua had been a Cold War battlefield ever since the Sandinista regime came to power in 1979, following the overthrow of long-time dictator Anastacio Somoza. Almost immediately, U.S. officials criticized the new government, claiming that it was leftist—possibly Marxist—in its orientation. As relations between the United States and Nicaragua worsened, and Nicaragua moved toward a closer relationship with the communist bloc, the Reagan administration took action to bring down the Sandinista government. The foundation of this effort was economic and military aid totaling nearly one billion dollars by 1988 to the so-called Contras—anti-Sandinista rebels operating from Honduras and Costa Rica. By the late 1980s, concerns about regional stability and the widening Contra war effort spurred other Central American governments to work toward a solution to the Nicaraguan conflict. The February 1989 agreement was the culmination of that work, with Nicaragua promising free elections within a year in exchange for Honduran promises to close the Contra bases within its borders.
Contra leaders were quick to criticize the agreement, but it was obvious that their days were numbered. The Sandinista government declared that the agreement symbolized the failure of the U.S. effort to bring it down through force. Officials of the new administration of President George Bush in the United States adopted a wait-and-see attitude towards events in the region. Ronald Reagan and other officials who served during his tenure, however, were quick to take credit for the outcome of the meeting—despite the fact that they had not participated in it. They claimed that the U.S. pressure during the previous eight years, particularly support of the Contras, had forced the Sandinistas to agree to elections. When the Sandinistas-who were heavily favored to win the election—went down to a shocking electoral defeat in February 1990, Reaganites claimed total victory.
- Feb 14 2006 – Iran: A senior Iranian nuclear official confirmed the country had resumed enriching uranium, considered a first step in nuclear production
[Source: www.history.com/this-day-in-history, www.history.navy.mil/today-in-history/february-1.html, https://www.historycentral.com, & https://www.historyanswers.co.uk/history-of-war/day | January 2020 ++]