The White House confirms reports that, at the request of South Vietnam, the United States is sending two battalions of U.S. Marines for security work at the Da Nang air base, which will hopefully free South Vietnamese troops for combat. On March 1, Ambassador Maxwell Taylor informed South Vietnamese Premier Phan Huy Quat that the United States was preparing to send 3,500 U.S. Marines to Vietnam. Three days later, a formal request was submitted by the U.S. Embassy, asking the South Vietnamese government to “invite” the United States to send the Marines. Premier Quat, a mere figurehead, had to obtain approval from the real power, Gen. Nguyen Van Thieu, chief of the Armed Forces Council. Thieu approved, but asked that the Marines be “brought ashore in the most inconspicuous way feasible.” The Marines began landing near Da Nang on March 8. Read more here Read more
During the War of 1812, British forces under General Robert Ross overwhelm American militiamen at the Battle of Bladensburg, Maryland, and march unopposed into Washington, D.C. Most congressmen and officials fled the nation’s capital as soon as word came of the American defeat, but President James Madison and his wife, Dolley, escaped just before the invaders arrived. Earlier in the day, President Madison had been present at the Battle of Bladensburg and had at one point actually taken command of one of the few remaining American batteries, thus becoming the first and only president to exercise in actual battle his authority as commander in chief. Read more
In perhaps the most famous civilian-military confrontation in the history of the United States, President Harry S. Truman relieves General Douglas MacArthur of command of the U.S. forces in Korea. The firing of MacArthur set off a brief uproar among the American public, but Truman remained committed to keeping the conflict in Korea a “limited war.” Read more
On this day in 1887, Groundhog Day, featuring a rodent meteorologist, is celebrated for the first time at Gobbler’s Knob in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. According to tradition, if a groundhog comes out of its hole on this day and sees its shadow, there will be six more weeks of winter weather; no shadow means an early spring. Read more
In his annual budget message, President Lyndon B. Johnson asks for $26.3 billion to continue the war in Vietnam, and announces an increase in taxes. The war was becoming very expensive, both in terms of lives and national treasure. Johnson had been given a glowing report on progress in the war from Gen. William Westmoreland, senior U.S. commander in South Vietnam. Westmoreland stated in a speech before the National Press Club that, “We have reached an important point when the end begins to come into view. I am absolutely certain that, whereas in 1965 the enemy was winning, today he is certainly losing. The enemy’s hopes are bankrupt.”Read more
In his farewell address to the nation, President Dwight D. Eisenhower warns the American people to keep a careful eye on what he calls the “military-industrial complex” that has developed in the post-World War II years.
A fiscal conservative, Eisenhower had been concerned about the growing size and cost of the American defense establishment since he became president in 1953. In his last presidential address to the American people, he expressed those concerns in terms that frankly shocked some of his listeners. Read more
Citing “progress” in the Paris peace negotiations between National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger and Le Duc Tho of North Vietnam, President Richard Nixon halts the most concentrated bombing of the war, as well as mining, shelling, and all other offensive action against North Vietnam. The cessation of direct attacks against North Vietnam did not extend to South Vietnam, where the fighting continued as both sides jockeyed for control of territory before the anticipated cease-fire. Read more
The Knights of Labor, a labor union of tailors in Philadelphia, hold the first Labor Day ceremonies in American history. The Knights of Labor was established as a secret society of Pennsylvanian tailors earlier in the year and later grew into a national body that played an important role in the labor movement of the late 19th century.
The first annual observance of Labor Day was organized by the American Federation of Labor in 1884, which resolved in a convention in Chicago that “the first Monday in September be set aside as a laborer’s national holiday.” In 1887, Oregon became the first state to designate Labor Day a holiday, and in 1894 Congress designated the first Monday in September a legal holiday for all federal employees and the residents of the District of Columbia.
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On this day in 1988,Pan Am Flight 103 from London to New York explodes in midair over Lockerbie, Scotland, killing all 243 passengers and 16 crew members aboard, as well as 11 Lockerbie residents on the ground. A bomb hidden inside an audio cassette player detonated in the cargo area when the plane was at an altitude of 31,000 feet. The disaster, which became the subject of Britain’s largest criminal investigation, was believed to be an attack against the United States. One hundred eighty nine of the victims were American. Read more
On this day, Adolf Hitler declares war on the United States, bringing America, which had been neutral, into the European conflict.
The bombing of Pearl Harbor surprised even Germany. Although Hitler had made an oral agreement with his Axis partner Japan that Germany would join a war against the United States, he was uncertain as to how the war would be engaged. Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor answered that question. On December 8, Japanese Ambassador Oshima went to German Foreign Minister von Ribbentrop to nail the Germans down on a formal declaration of war against America. Von Ribbentrop stalled for time; he knew that Germany was under no obligation to do this under the terms of the Tripartite Pact, which promised help if Japan was attacked, but not if Japan was the aggressor. Von Ribbentrop feared that the addition of another antagonist, the United States, would overwhelm the German war effort. Read more