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March 18: This Day in U.S. Military History in the 1900s


1906 – Roy L. Johnson, US admiral (WW II-Pacific Ocean), was born.

1909 – Einar Dessau of Denmark used a short-wave transmitter to converse with a government radio post about six miles away in what is believed to have been the first broadcast by a “ham” operator.

1917 – The Germans sank the U.S. ships, City of Memphis, Vigilante and the Illinois, without any type of warning.

1924 – The Soldier’s Bonus Bill is passed by the House. It offers 20-year annuities for veterans and will cost $2,000,000,000. The Senate will concur in 23 April, but Coolidge will veto it. Congress will override the veto.

1938 – Mexico nationalizes all oil properties of the US and other foreign-owned companies. There will be no financial settlement until 1941.

1939 – Georgia finally ratified the Bill of Rights, 150 years after the birth of the federal government. Connecticut and Massachusetts, the only other states to hold out, also accepted the Bill of Rights in this year.

1942 – War Relocation Authority is created to “Take all people of Japanese descent into custody, surround them with troops, prevent them from buying land, and return them to their former homes at the close of the war.” Anger toward and fear of Japanese Americans began in Hawaii shortly after the bombing of Pearl Harbor; everyone of Japanese ancestry, old and young, prosperous and poor, was suspected of espionage. This suspicion quickly broke out on the mainland; as early as February 19, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered that German, Italian, and Japanese nationals-as well as Japanese Americans-be barred from certain areas deemed sensitive militarily. California, which had a significant number of Japanese and Japanese Americans, saw a particularly virulent form of anti-Japanese sentiment, with the state’s attorney general, Earl Warren (who would go on to be the chief justice of the United States), claiming that a lack of evidence of sabotage among the Japanese population proved nothing, as they were merely biding their time. While roughly 2,000 people of German and Italian ancestry were interned during this period, Americans of Japanese ancestry suffered most egregiously. The War Relocation Authority, established on March 18, 1942, was aimed at them specifically: 120,000 men, women, and children were rounded up on the West Coast. Three categories of internees were created: Nisei (native U.S. citizens of Japanese immigrant parents), Issei (Japanese immigrants), and Kibei (native U.S. citizens educated largely in Japan). The internees were transported to one of 10 relocation centers in California, Utah, Arkansas, Arizona, Idaho, Colorado, and Wyoming. The quality of life in a relocation center was only marginally better than prison: Families were sardined into 20- by 25-foot rooms and forced to use communal bathrooms. No razors, scissors, or radios were allowed. Children attended War Relocation Authority schools. One Japanese American, Gordon Hirabayashi, fought internment all the way to the Supreme Court. He argued that the Army, responsible for effecting the relocations, had violated his rights as a U.S. citizen. The court ruled against him, citing the nation’s right to protect itself against sabotage and invasion as sufficient justification for curtailing his and other Japanese Americans’ constitutional rights. In 1943, Japanese Americans who had not been interned were finally allowed to join the U.S. military and fight in the war. More than 17,000 Japanese Americans fought; the all-Nisei 442nd Regiment, which fought in the Italian campaign, became the single most decorated unit in U.S. history. The regiment won 4,667 medals, awards, and citations, including 1 Medal of Honor, 52 Distinguished Service Crosses, and 560 Silver Stars. Many of these soldiers, when writing home, were writing to relocation centers. In 1990, reparations were made to surviving internees and their heirs in the form of a formal apology by the U.S. government and a check for $20,000.

1943 – The US 2nd Corps (commanded by General Patton) captures Gafsa and advances toward El Guettar.

1943 – The CGC Ingham rescued all hands from the torpedoed SS Matthew Luckenbach.

1944 – Allied destroyers bombard the Japanese base at Wewak during the night (March 18-19).

1944 – On Manus, the village of Lorengau is captured by US forces. On Los Negros American and Japanese forces engage near Papitalai.

1944 – US Task Group 50.10 (Admiral Lee) bombards Mili Atoll. Two battleships and the carrier Lexington are involved. The USS Iowa is damaged by fire from a Japanese coastal battery.

1945 – About 1300 American bombers, with some 700 escorting fighters, drop 3000 tons of bombs on Berlin, despite heavy anti-aircraft defenses, including numerous jet fighters. The US fleet loses 25 bombers and 5 fighters.

1945 – Forces of US 3rd Army capture Bingen and Bad Kreuznach as the advance to the southwest continues. To the south, the progress of US 7th Army is beginning to accelerate, with most of its forward units having now crossed the German border.

1945 – There are American landings on Panay by 14,000 men of US 40th Infantry Division (General Brush) in the area near Iloilo. There is little initial opposition from the Japanese garrison.

1945 – US Task Force 58 (Admiral Mitscher) conducts air raids on airfields on Kyushu. There are Japanese Kamikaze attacks by about 10 planes which hit Intrepid, Yorktown and Enterprise but fail to disable any of the aircraft carriers. Admiral Spruance, command the US 5th Fleet, is present for the operations.

1950 – In a surprise raid on the communist People’s Republic of China (PRC), military forces of the Nationalist Chinese government on Taiwan invade the mainland and capture the town of Sungmen. Because the United States supported the attack, it resulted in even deeper tensions and animosities between the U.S. and the PRC. In October 1949, the leader of the communist revolution in China, Mao Zedong, declared victory against the Nationalist government of China and formally established the People’s Republic of China. Nationalist troops, politicians, and supporters fled the country and many ended up on Taiwan, an island off the Chinese coast. Once there, they declared themselves the real Chinese government and were immediately recognized as such by the United States. Officials from the United States refused to have anything to do with the PRC government and adamantly refused to grant it diplomatic recognition. Nationalist Chinese leader Chiang Kai-Shek bombarded the mainland with propaganda broadcasts and pamphlets dropped from aircraft signaling his intention of invading the PRC and removing what he referred to as the “Soviet aggressors.” In the weeks preceding the March 18, 1950 raid, Chiang had been particularly vocal, charging that the Soviets were supplying the PRC with military advisors and an imposing arsenal of weapons. On March 18, thousands of Nationalist troops, supported by air and sea units, attacked the coast of the PRC, capturing the town of Sungmen that lay about 200 miles south of Shanghai. The Nationalists reported that they killed over 2,500 communist troops. Battles between the raiding group and communist forces continued for weeks, but eventually the Nationalist forces were defeated and driven back to Taiwan. Perhaps more important than the military encounter was the war of words between the United States and the PRC. Communist officials immediately charged that the United States was behind the raid, and even suggested that American pilots and advisors accompanied the attackers. (No evidence has surfaced to support those charges.) American officials were cautiously supportive of the Nationalist attack, though what they hoped it would accomplish beyond minor irritation to the PRC remains unknown. Just eight months later, military forces from the PRC and the United States met on the battlefield in Korea. Despite suggestions from some officials, including the commander of U.S. troops Gen. Douglas MacArthur, that the United States “unleash” the Nationalist armies against mainland China, President Harry S. Truman refrained from this action, fearing that it would escalate into World War III.

1951 – Following the withdrawal of communist forces, Seoul was again in U.N. hands.

1952 - There was a Communist offensive in Korea.

1953 – The Eisenhower Administration protests the Soviet Union’s firing on a US bomber over international water.

1959 – President Eisenhower signed the Hawaii statehood bill.

1963 – The US Supreme Court made its Gideon ruling which said poor defendants have a constitutional right to an attorney. Gideon had been forced to defend himself in Florida in Jan 1962, and petitioned the Supreme Court to hear his complaint.

1968 – The U.S. Congress repeals the requirement for a gold reserve to back US currency.

1969 - U.S. B-52 bombers are diverted from their targets in South Vietnam to attack suspected communist base camps and supply areas in Cambodia for the first time in the war. President Nixon approved the mission–formally designated Operation Breakfast–at a meeting of the National Security Council on March 15. This mission and subsequent B-52 strikes inside Cambodia became known as the “Menu” bombings. A total of 3,630 flights over Cambodia dropped 110,000 tons of bombs during a 14-month period through April 1970. This bombing of Cambodia and all follow up “Menu” operations were kept secret from the American public and the U.S. Congress because Cambodia was ostensibly neutral. To keep the secret, an intricate reporting system was established at the Pentagon to prevent disclosure of the bombing. Although the New York Times broke the story of the secret bombing campaign in May 1969, there was little adverse public reaction.

1970 – Returning to Cambodia after visits to Moscow and Peking, Prince Norodom Sihanouk is ousted as Cambodian chief of state in a bloodless coup by pro-western Lt. Gen. Lon Nol, premier and defense minister, and First Deputy Premier Prince Sisowath Sirik Matak, who proclaim the establishment of the Khmer Republic. Sihanouk had tried to maintain Cambodian neutrality, but the communist Khmer Rouge, supported by their North Vietnamese allies, had waged a very effective war against Cambodian government forces. After ousting Sihanouk and taking control of the government, Lon Nol immediately set about to defeat the communists. Between 1970 and 1975, he and his army, the Forces Armees Nationale Khmer (FANK), with U.S. support and military aid, would battle the Khmer Rouge communists for control of Cambodia. When the U.S. forces departed South Vietnam in 1973, both the Cambodians and South Vietnamese found themselves suddenly fighting the communists alone. Without U.S. support, Lon Nol’s forces succumbed to the Khmer Rouge in April 1975. The victorious Khmer Rouge evacuated Phnom Penh and began reordering Cambodian society, which resulted in a killing spree and the notorious “killing fields.” Eventually, hundreds of thousands of Cambodians were murdered or died from exhaustion, hunger, and disease. During the five years of bitter fighting for control of the country, approximately 10 percent of Cambodia’s 7 million people died.

1970 – The U.S. postal strike of 1970 begins, one of the largest wildcat strikes in U.S. history. The U.S. postal strike of 1970 was a groundbreaking two-week strike by federal postal workers in March 1970. The strike was unique both because it was against the government and because it was the largest wildcat strike in U.S. history. President Richard Nixon called out the United States armed forces and the National Guard in an attempt to distribute the mail and break the strike. The strike influenced the contents of the Postal Reorganization Act of 1970, which transformed the Post Office into the more corporate United States Postal Service and guaranteed collective bargaining rights (though not the right to strike.)

1971 – U.S. helicopters airlifted 1,000 South Vietnamese soldiers out of Laos.

1974 – Navy sent to sweep mines from Suez Canal.

1975 – South Vietnam abandoned most of the Central Highlands of Vietnam to Hanoi.

1977 – US restricted citizens from visiting Cuba, Vietnam, N. Korea and Cambodia.

1977 – Vietnam handed over MIA to US.

1980 – A congressman claims many U.S. combat planes can’t fly for lack of spare parts.

1981 – The U.S. disclosed that there were biological weapons tested in Texas in 1966.

1989 – The space shuttle Discovery landed at Edwards Air Force Base in California, completing a five-day mission.

1991 – The CGC Cape Hatteras (WPB 95305) was decommissioned on 18 March 1991. She was the last 95-foot patrol boat in the Coast Guard. She was then transferred to Uruguay.

1994 – The space shuttle Columbia returned from a two-week mission.

1996 – In New York, the United Nations and Iraq end a second round of negotiations over the sale of Iraq’s oil. While both sides have reached agreement on several key issues, the details concerning distribution of aid to Kurds in northern Iraq remains unresolved. Due in part to market uncertainty surrounding the talks, oil prices rise to their highest levels since the 1991 Gulf War. The U.N.-Iraq talks are scheduled to restart on April 8.

1997 – Iraq grants Russia most favoured nation status to receive Iraqi oil exports in exchange for humanitarian goods. Of the first 37 contracts approved by the United Nations in the oil-for-food sale,7 went to Russian companies representing almost 20% of the volume of oilin the sale.

1999 – A US federal judge ordered US telephone companies to pay $6.2 million owed to Cuba to the families of 3 Cuban Americans killed in 1996.

1999 – In Paris the ethnic Albanians signed the peace proposal, which the Serbian delegation rejected. The Kosovar Albanian delegation signed a U.S.-sponsored peace accord following talks in Paris; the Clinton administration warned NATO would act against Serb targets if Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic didn’t accept the agreement.


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