Posts Tagged ‘Ferdinand Magellan

27
Apr
09

On This Day, April 27: The Barbary Wars

April 27, 1805

To the shores of Tripoli

After marching 500 miles from Egypt, U.S. agent William Eaton leads a small force of U.S. Marines and Berber mercenaries against the Tripolitan port city of Derna. The Marines and Berbers were on a mission to depose Yusuf Karamanli, the ruling pasha of Tripoli, who had seized power from his brother, Hamet Karamanli, a pasha who was sympathetic to the United States.

The First Barbary War had begun four years earlier, when U.S. President Thomas Jefferson ordered U.S. Navy vessels to the Mediterranean Sea in protest of continuing raids against U.S. ships by pirates from the Barbary states–Morocco, Algeria, Tunis, and Tripolitania. American sailors were often abducted along with the captured booty and ransomed back to the United States at an exorbitant price. After two years of minor confrontations, sustained action began in June 1803, when a small U.S. expeditionary force attacked Tripoli harbor in present-day Libya.

In April 1805, a major American victory came during the Derna campaign, which was undertaken by U.S. land forces in North Africa. Supported by the heavy guns of the USS Argus and the USS Hornet, Marines and Arab mercenaries under William Eaton captured Derna and deposed Yusuf Karamanli. Lieutenant Presley O’ Bannon, commanding the Marines, performed so heroically in the battle that Hamet Karamanli presented him with an elaborately designed sword that now serves as the pattern for the swords carried by Marine officers. The phrase “to the shores of Tripoli,” from the official song of the U.S. Marine Corps, also has its origins in the Derna campaign.

“To the shores of Tripoli,” The History Channel website, 2009, http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=4952 [accessed Apr 27, 2009]

On this Day

1296 – The Scots were defeated by Edward I at the Battle of Dunbar.

1509 – Pope Julius II excommunicated the Italian state of Venice.

1521 – Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan was killed by natives in the Philippines.

1861 – U.S. President Lincoln suspended the writ of habeas corpus.

1861 – West Virginia seceded from Virginia after Virginia seceded from the Union during the American Civil War.

1865 – In the U.S. the Sultana exploded while carrying 2,300 Union POWs. Between 1,400 – 2,000 were killed.

1937 – German bombers devastated Guernica, Spain.

1950 – South Africa passed the Group Areas Act, which formally segregated races.

1961 – The United Kingdom granted Sierra Leone independence.

1967 – In Montreal, Prime Minister Lester Pearson lighted a flame to open Expo 67.

1989 – Student protestors took over Tiananmen Square in Beijing.

1987 – The U.S. Justice Department barred Austrian President Kurt Waldheim from entering the U.S. He claimed that he had aided in the deportation and execution of thousands of Jews and others as a German Army officer during World War II.

April 27, 1978

Afghan president is overthrown and murdered

Afghanistan President Sardar Mohammed Daoud is overthrown and murdered in a coup led by procommunist rebels. The brutal action marked the beginning of political upheaval in Afghanistan that resulted in intervention by Soviet troops less than two years later.

Daoud had ruled Afghanistan since coming to power in a coup in 1973. His relations with the neighboring Soviet Union had grown progressively worse since that time as he pursued a campaign against Afghan communists. The murder of a leading Afghan Communist Party leader in early April 1978 may have encouraged the communists to launch their successful campaign against the Daoud regime later that month. In the political chaos that followed the death of Daoud, Nur Mohammed Taraki, head of the Afghan Communist Party, took over the presidency. In December 1978, Afghanistan signed a 20-year “friendship treaty” with the Soviet Union, by which increasing amounts of Russian military and economic assistance flowed into the country. None of this, however, could stabilize the Taraki government. His dictatorial style and his decision to turn Afghanistan into a one-party state alienated many people in the heavily Moslem country. In September 1979, Taraki was himself overthrown and murdered. Three months later, Soviet troops crossed into Afghanistan and installed a government acceptable to the Russians, and a war between Afghan rebels and Soviet troops erupted. The conflict lasted until Russian leader Mikhail Gorbachev withdrew the Soviet forces in 1988.

In the years following the Soviet intervention, Afghanistan became a Cold War battlefield. The United States responded quickly and harshly to the Soviet action by freezing arms talks, cutting wheat sales to Russia, and boycotting the 1980 Olympic games in Moscow. Tension increased after Ronald Reagan became president in 1981. The United States provided arms and other assistance to what Reagan referred to as the “freedom fighters” in Afghanistan. For the Soviets, the Afghanistan intervention was a disaster, draining both Soviet finances and manpower. In the United States, commentators were quick to label the battle in Afghanistan “Russia’s Vietnam.”

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16
Mar
08

On This Day, 3-16-08: My Lai

My Lai massacre takes place in Vietnam

On this day in 1968, a platoon of American soldiers brutally kill between 200 and 500 unarmed civilians at My Lai, one of a cluster of small villages located near the northern coast of South Vietnam.

During the Vietnam War, U.S. troops frequently bombed and shelled the province of Quang Ngai, believing it to be a stronghold for forces of the National Front for the Liberation of Vietnam, or Viet Cong (VC). In March 1968, a platoon of soldiers called Charlie Company received word that Viet Cong guerrillas had taken cover in the Quang Ngai village of Son My. Led by Lieutenant William L. Calley, the platoon entered one of the village’s four hamlets, My Lai 4, on a search-and-destroy mission on the morning of March 16. Instead of guerrilla fighters, they found unarmed villagers, most of them women, children and old men.

The soldiers had been advised before the attack by army command that all who were found in My Lai could be considered VC or active VC sympathizers, and told to destroy the village. Still, they acted with extraordinary brutality, raping and torturing villagers before killing them and dragging dozens of people, including young children and babies, into a ditch and executing them with automatic weapons. The massacre reportedly ended when an Army helicopter pilot, Warrant Officer Hugh Thompson, landed his aircraft between the soldiers and the retreating villagers and threatened to open fire if they continued their attacks.

The events at My Lai were covered up by high-ranking army officers until the following March, when one soldier, Ron Ridenhour, heard of the incident secondhand and wrote about it in a letter to President Richard Nixon, the Pentagon, the State Department, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and various congressmen. The letter was largely ignored until later that year, when investigative journalist Seymour Hersh interviewed Calley and broke the story. Soon, My Lai was front-page news and an international scandal. In March 1970, an official U.S. Army inquiry board charged 14 officers, including Calley and his company commander, Captain Ernest Medina, of crimes relating to My Lai. Of that number, only Calley was convicted. Found guilty of personally killing 22 people, he was sentenced to life imprisonment. Upon appeal, his sentence was reduced to 20 years, and eventually to 10. Seen by many as a scapegoat, Calley was paroled in 1974 after serving just one-third of his sentence.

“My Lai massacre takes place in Vietnam.” 2008. The History Channel website. 15 Mar 2008, 12:37 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=52554.

1190 – The Crusaders began the massacre of Jews in York, England.

1521 – Portuguese navigator Ferdinand Magellan reached the Philippines. He was killed the next month by natives.

1621 – Samoset walked into the settlement of Plymouth Colony, later Plymouth, MA. Samoset was a native from the Monhegan tribe in Maine who spoke English. He greeted the Pilgrims by saying, “Welcome, Englishmen! My name is Samoset.”

1802 – The U.S. Congress established the West Point Military Academy in New York.

1850 – The novel “The Scarlet Letter,” by Nathaniel Hawthorne, was published for the first time.

1883 – Susan Hayhurst graduated from the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy. She was the first woman pharmacy graduate.

1926 – Physicist Robert H. Goddard launched the first liquid-fuel rocket.

1935 – Adolf Hitler ordered a German rearmament and violated the Versailles Treaty.

1939 – Germany occupied the rest of Czechoslovakia.

1964 – Paul Hornung and Alex Karras were reinstated to the NFL after an 11-month suspension for betting on football games.

1978 – Italian politician Aldo Moro was kidnapped by left-wing urban guerrillas. Moro was later murdered by the group.

1998 – Rwanda began mass trials for 1994 genocide with 125,000 suspects for 500,000 murders.

First liquid-fueled rocket

The first man to give hope to dreams of space travel is American Robert H. Goddard, who successfully launches the world’s first liquid-fueled rocket at Auburn, Massachusetts, on March 16, 1926. The rocket traveled for 2.5 seconds at a speed of about 60 mph, reaching an altitude of 41 feet and landing 184 feet away. The rocket was 10 feet tall, constructed out of thin pipes, and was fueled by liquid oxygen and gasoline.  “First liquid-fueled rocket.” 2008. The History Channel website. 15 Mar 2008, 12:44 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=6838.

Goddard’s research goes largely unnoticed in the United States, however Wernher von Braun, a young German scientist, would continue Goddard’s research, developing the German V-2 rocket during World War II.  After World War II von Braun went to work for the United States, making an instrumental contribution to US efforts to land a man on the moon.

Germany during World War II developed many rocket type weapons.  Pictured below is the JB-2 (Loon) an American copy of the German V-1 surface to surface pilot-less rocket.  The V-1 rocket was used to terrorize London and later Antwerp after the Allies had landed in France and pushed toward the German border.  The second picture is a wire-guided missile dubbed the Fritz-x — officially known as Ruhrstahl SD 1400 by the Germans.  The Germans hoped to use the Fritz-x against Allied warships and developed the smaller Henschel Hs 293 for attacking merchant vessels.  The HS 293 struck a devastating blow against Allied war efforts when one missile attack sunk the HMT Rohna.  Of the 2000 military personnel on board the Rohna 1138, of which 1035 were Americans, perished.  The US military did not want the Germans to know how successful their attack had been so the story was classified “top secret” and not released to the public until 1967.  For more information about the Rohna disaster please see: http://www.rohna.org/

V-1

Missile

Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about the universe.
– Albert Einstein

The story is that Albert Einstein’s driver used to sit at the back of the hall during each of his lectures, and after a period of time, remarked to Einstein that he could probably give the lecture himself, having heard it several times.
So, at the next stop on the tour, Einstein and the driver switched places, with Einstein sitting at the back, in driver’s uniform.
The driver gave the lecture, flawlessly. At the end, a member of the audience asked a detailed question about some of the subject matter, upon which the lecturer replied, ‘well, the answer to that question is quite simple, I bet that my driver, sitting up at the back, there, could answer it…’

“I want to know God’s thoughts,….. the rest are details..” — Albert Einstein




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