18
Dec
08

On This Day, 12-18-2008: Plymouth Harbor

December 18, 1620

Mayflower passengers come ashore at Plymouth Harbor

On December 18, 1620, passengers on the British ship Mayflower come ashore at modern-day Plymouth, Massachusetts, to begin their new settlement, Plymouth Colony.

The famous Mayflower story began in 1606, when a group of reform-minded Puritans in Nottinghamshire, England, founded their own church, separate from the state-sanctioned Church of England. Accused of treason, they were forced to leave the country and settle in the more tolerant Netherlands. After 12 years of struggling to adapt and make a decent living, the group sought financial backing from some London merchants to set up a colony in America. On September 6, 1620, 102 passengers–dubbed Pilgrims by William Bradford, a passenger who would become the first governor of Plymouth Colony–crowded on the Mayflower to begin the long, hard journey to a new life in the New World.

On November 11, 1620, the Mayflower anchored at what is now Provincetown Harbor, Cape Cod. Before going ashore, 41 male passengers–heads of families, single men and three male servants–signed the famous Mayflower Compact, agreeing to submit to a government chosen by common consent and to obey all laws made for the good of the colony. Over the next month, several small scouting groups were sent ashore to collect firewood and scout out a good place to build a settlement. Around December 10, one of these groups found a harbor they liked on the western side of Cape Cod Bay. They returned to the Mayflower to tell the other passengers, but bad weather prevented them reaching the harbor until December 16. Two days later, the first group of Pilgrims went ashore.   
After exploring the region, the settlers chose a cleared area previously occupied by members of a local Native American tribe, the Wampanoag. The tribe had abandoned the village several years earlier, after an outbreak of European disease. That winter of 1620-21 was brutal, as the Pilgrims struggled to build their settlement, find food and ward off sickness. By spring, 50 of the original 102 Mayflower passengers were dead. The remaining settlers made contact with returning members of the Wampanoag tribe and in March they signed a peace treaty with a tribal chief, Massasoit. Aided by the Wampanoag, especially the English-speaking Squanto, the Pilgrims were able to plant crops–especially corn and beans–that were vital to their survival. The Mayflower and its crew left Plymouth to return to England on April 5, 1621.

Over the next several decades, more and more settlers made the trek across the Atlantic to Plymouth, which gradually grew into a prosperous shipbuilding and fishing center. In 1691, Plymouth was incorporated into the new Massachusetts Bay Association, ending its history as an independent colony.

“Mayflower passengers come ashore at Plymouth Harbor.” 2008. The History Channel website. 18 Dec 2008, 10:49 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=52289.

On This Day

1787 – New Jersey became the third state to ratify the U.S. Constitution.

1796 – The “Monitor,” of Baltimore, MD, was published as the first Sunday newspaper.

1865 – Slavery was abolished in the United States with the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution being ratified.

1903 – The Panama Canal Zone was acquired ‘in perpetuity’ by the U.S. for an annual rent.

1912 – The U.S. Congress prohibited the immigration of illiterate persons.

1915 – U.S. President Wilson, widowed the year before, married Edith Bolling Galt at her Washington home.

1916 – During World War I, after 10 months of fighting the French defeated the Germans in the Battle of Verdun.

1917 – The Eighteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was passed by the U.S. Congress. (Prohibition)

1940 – Adolf Hitler signed a secret directive ordering preparations for a Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union. Operation “Barbarossa” was launched in June 1941.

1944 – The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the wartime relocation of Japanese-Americans, but also stated that undeniably loyal Americans of Japanese ancestry could not be detained.

1950 – NATO foreign ministers approved plans to defend Western Europe, including the use of nuclear weapons, if necessary.

1957 – The Shippingport Atomic Power Station in Pennsylvania went online. It was the first nuclear facility to generate electricity in the United States. It was taken out of service in 1982.

1972 – The United States began the heaviest bombing of North Vietnam during the Vietnam War. The attack ended 12 days later.

1987 – Ivan F. Boesky was sentenced to three years in prison for plotting Wall Street’s biggest insider-trading scandal. He only served about two years of the sentence.

1998 – Russia recalled its U.S. ambassador in protest of the U.S. attacks on Iraq.

1999 – After living atop an ancient redwood in Humboldt County, CA, for two years, environmental activist Julia “Butterfly” Hill came down, ending her anti-logging protest.

December 18, 1941

Japan invades Hong Kong

On this day, Japanese troops land in Hong Kong and a slaughter ensues.

A week of air raids over Hong Kong, a British crown colony, was followed up on December 17 with a visit paid by Japanese envoys to Sir Mark Young, the British governor of Hong Kong. The envoys’ message was simple: The British garrison there should simply surrender to the Japanese–resistance was futile. The envoys were sent home with the following retort: “The governor and commander in chief of Hong Kong declines absolutely to enter into negotiations for the surrender of Hong Kong. …”

The first wave of Japanese troops landed in Hong Kong with artillery fire for cover and the following order from their commander: “Take no prisoners.” Upon overrunning a volunteer antiaircraft battery, the Japanese invaders roped together the captured soldiers and proceeded to bayonet them to death. Even those who offered no resistance, such as the Royal Medical Corps, were led up a hill and killed.

The Japanese quickly took control of key reservoirs, threatening the British and Chinese inhabitants with a slow death by thirst. The Brits finally surrendered control of Hong Kong on Christmas Day.

On this same day: Censorship is imposed with the passage of the 1st American War Powers Act

The War Powers Act is passed by Congress, authorizing the president to initiate and terminate defense contracts, reconfigure government agencies for wartime priorities, and regulate the freezing of foreign assets. It also permitted him to censor all communications coming in and leaving the country.

FDR appointed the executive news director of the Associated Press, Byron Price, as director of censorship. Although invested with the awesome power to restrict and withhold news, Price took no extreme measures, allowing news outlets and radio stations to self-censor, which they did. Most top secret information, including the construction of the atom bomb, remained just that.

The most extreme use of the censorship law seems to have been the restriction of the free flow of “girlie” magazines to servicemen-including Esquire, which the Post Office considered obscene for its occasional saucy cartoons and pinups. Esquire took the Post Office to court, and after three years the Supreme Court ultimately sided with the magazine.

“Japan invades Hong Kong.” 2008. The History Channel website. 18 Dec 2008, 10:57 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=6647.

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