December 19, 1776 - Thomas Paine published his first "American Crisis" essay, writing: "These are the times that try men's souls."
December 19, 1777 - With the onset of the bitter winter cold, the Continental Army under General George Washington, still in the field, enters its winter camp at Valley Forge, 22 miles from British-occupied Philadelphia. Washington chose a site on the west bank of the Schuylkill River that could be effectively defended in the event of a British attack. During 1777, Patriot forces under General Washington suffered major defeats against the British at the battles of Brandywine and Germantown; Philadelphia, the capital of the United States, fell into British hands. The particularly severe winter of 1777-1778 proved to be a great trial for the American army, and of the 11,000 soldiers stationed at Valley Forge, hundreds died from disease. However, the suffering troops were held together by loyalty to the Patriot cause and to General Washington, who stayed with his men. As the winter stretched on, Prussian military adviser Frederick von Steuben kept the soldiers busy with drills and training in modern military strategy. When Washington's army marched out of Valley Forge on June 19, 1778, the men were better disciplined and stronger in spirit than when they had entered. Nine days later, they won a victory against the British under Lord Cornwallis at the Battle of Monmouth in New Jersey.
December 19, 1817 - Confederate General James Archer is born in Harford County, Maryland. Archer received his education at Princeton University and Boston College before serving in the Maryland volunteers during the Mexican War. He earned a brevet promotion (an honorary promotion usually given for battlefield heroism) to major for bravery at the Battle of Chapultepec during the Mexico City campaign. After the war, he practiced law until he joined the U.S. Army in 1855. Archer served in the Pacific Northwest, and when the Civil War broke out, he joined General John Bell Hood's Texas Brigade in the Confederate Army. Archer fought with the Army of Northern Virginia throughout the war. He earned a promotion to brigadier general for his gallantry at the Battle of Seven Pines in June 1862, and his brigade played a key role during the Seven Days' battles later that month. He was ill during the army's invasion of Maryland in September 1862, so he relinquished his command for the Battle of Antietam. In 1863, Archer marched north to Gettysburg as part of Henry Heth's division in A.P. Hill's corps. This placed him in the middle of battle's initial action on July 1. Archer led an attack on the center of the Union line on Seminary Ridge that was so successful that Archer and his men were cut off from the rest of the Confederates. He was captured, the first Confederate general from the Army of Northern Virginia to be captured since Robert E. Lee assumed command on June 1, 1862. Ironically, Archer's old friend, General Abner Doubleday, commanded the Union force that captured Archer. When he saw Archer being led to the rear, he rode up and extended a handshake and said he was happy to see his old friend. Archer reportedly retorted, "Well, I'm not glad to see you by a damned sight!" Archer was held at prisons in Ohio and Delaware for more than a year before he was exchanged in August 1864. After his release, Archer received orders to return to his old brigade, which was now serving as part of Hood's Army of Tennessee in Atlanta. Prison life, however, had compromised his health and his orders were changed. He was sent instead to the trenches around Petersburg, Virginia. His health continued to deteriorate and he died there on October 24, 1864.
December 19, 1862 - Nathan B. Forrest tore up the railroads in Grant and Rosecrans' rear, causing considerable delays in the movement of Union supplies.
December 19, 1862 - Skirmish at Jackson-Salem Church, Tenn., left 80 casualties.
December 19, 1863 - Expedition under Acting Master W. R. Browne, comprising U.S.S. Restless, Bloomer, and Caroline, proceeded up St. Andrew's Bay, Florida, to continue the destruction of salt works. A landing party went ashore under Bloomer's guns and destroyed those works not already demolished by the Southerners when reports of the naval party were received. Browne was able to report that he had "cleared the three arms of this extensive bay of salt works. . . .Within the past ten days," he added, "290 salt works, 33 covered wagons, 12 flatboats, 2 sloops (3 ton each) 6 ox carts, 4,000 bushels of salt, 268 buildings at the different salt works, 529 iron kettles averaging 150 gallons each, 103 iron boilers for boiling brine [were destroyed], and it is believed that the enemy destroyed as many more to prevent us from doing so."
December 19, 1864 - C.S.S. Water Witch, captured from the Union on 3 June, was burned by the Confederates in the Vernon River near Savannah, in order to prevent her capture by General Sherman's troops ad-vancing on the city.
December 19, 1870 - After a month at sea in a 22-foot boat, Coxswain William Halford, the lone survivor of 5, reaches Hawaii to seek help for crew of USS Saginaw, wrecked near Midway Island. Rescuers reach the 88 Saginaw survivors on 4 January 1871.
December 19, 1928 - The 1st autogiro flight was made in the US. It was a predecessor of the helicopter.
December 19, 1939 - The German liner Columbus, closely trailed by the US cruiser Tuscaloosa, is scuttled some 300 miles from the American coast, to avoid capture by the approaching British destroyer HMS Hyperion. The American warship has been trailing the German liner since its departure from Vera Cruz, Mexico and has been constantly reporting the position of the Columbus by radio for any and all ships to hear. The actions taken by the USS Tuscaloosa make the official US position of neutrality highly suspect, but Berlin never protests the incident.
December 19, 1941 - Adolf Hitler assumes the position of commander in chief of the German army. The German offensive against Moscow was proving to be a disaster. A perimeter had been established by the Soviets 200 miles from the city-and the Germans couldn't break through. The harsh winter weather-with temperatures often dropping to 31 degrees below zero-had virtually frozen German tanks in their tracks. Soviet General Georgi Zhukov had unleashed a ferocious counteroffensive of infantry, tanks, and planes that had forced the flailing Germans into retreat. In short, the Germans were being beaten for the first time in the war, and the toll to their collective psyche was great. "The myth of the invincibility of the German army was broken," German General Franz Halder would write later. But Hitler refused to accept this notion. He began removing officers from their command. General Fedor von Bock, who had been suffering severe stomach pains and who on December 1 had complained to Halder that he was no longer able to "operate" with his debilitated troops, was replaced by General Hans von Kluge, whose own 4th Army had been pushed into permanent retreat from Moscow. General Karl von Runstedt was relieved of the southern armies because he had retreated from Rostov. Hitler clearly did not believe in giving back captured territory, so in the biggest shake-up of all, he declared himself commander in chief of the army. He would train it "in a National Socialist way"-that is, by personal fiat. He would compose the strategies and the officers would dance to his tune.
December 19, 1941 - Japanese land 500 men from the 56th Infantry Regiment near Davao on Mindanao.
December 19, 1942 - On Guadalcanal, US forces on Mount Austen meet heavy resistance.
December 19, 1943 - The American regiment at Arawe captures the nearby Japanese airstrip and hold against counterattacks.
December 19, 1944 - At a meeting of senior Allied commanders, Eisenhower decides to appoint Field Marshal Montgomery, commanding British 21st Army Group, to lead all Allied forces to the north of " the Bulge" in the line created by the German attack. General Bradley, commanding US 12th Army Group, is responsible for all Allied forces to the south. The arrangement is not made public at this time.
December 19, 1944 - It is decided that the Japanese 35th Army on Leyte is no longer to be reinforced or supplied. Nonetheless, fighting continues to the north of Ormoc and throughout the northwest of the island.
December 19, 1944 - Forces of the German 6th SS Panzer Army reach Stavelot in the north while elements of 5th Panzer Army approach Houffalize. Some US forces between these advance continue to defend positions around Gouvy and St. Vith.
December 19, 1944 - During the Battle of the Bulge, American troops began pulling back from the twin Belgian cities of Krinkelt and Rocherath in front of the advancing German Army.
December 19, 1946 - War broke out in Indochina as Ho Chi Minh attacked the French in Hanoi.
December 19, 1950 - The North Atlantic Council named General Eisenhower supreme commander of Western European defense forces of NATO.
December 19, 1950 - The carrier USS Bataan, commanded by Captain T. N. Neale, arrived on station in Korean waters.
December 19, 1959 - Reputed to be the last civil war veteran, Walter Williams, died at 117 in Houston.
December 19, 1960 - A fire aboard USS Constellation, under construction at Brooklyn, killed 50.
December 19, 1964 - Another bloodless coup occurs when Maj. Gen. Nguyen Khanh and a group of generals led by Air Commodore Nguyen Cao Ky and Army Gen. Nguyen Van Thieu arrest three dozen high officers and civilian officials. The coup was part of the continuing political instability that erupted after the November 1963 coup that resulted in the murder of President Ngo Dinh Diem. The period following the overthrow of Diem was marked by a series of coups and "revolving door" governments. The coup on this day was engineered by a faction of younger military officers known as the "Young Turks," who were fed up with what they believed was the ineffective government headed by a group of older generals known as the Military Revolutionary Council. Khanh and the newly formed Armed Forces Council, made up of the generals who had participated in the coup, restored civilian control on January 7, 1965, under Tran Van Huong. Hunon proved unable to put together a viable government and the Armed Forces Council ousted him on January 27 and installed Gen. Khanh in power. Khanh was ousted by yet another coup on February 18 led by Ky and Thieu. Khanh then went to the United States and settled in Palm Beach, Florida. A short-lived civilian government under Dr. Phan Huy Quat was installed, but it lasted only until June 12, 1965. At that time, Thieu and Ky formed a new government with Thieu as the chief of state and Ky as the prime minister. Thieu and Ky were elected as president and vice-president in general elections held in 1967.
December 19, 1972 - Hanoi's foreign ministry, calling the new B-52 raids against Hanoi and Haiphong "extremely barbaric," accuses the United States of premeditated intensification of the war and labels the actions "insane." On December 13, North Vietnamese negotiators walked out of secret talks in Paris with National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger. President Nixon issued an ultimatum to Hanoi to send its representatives back to the conference table within 72 hours "or else." The North Vietnamese rejected Nixon's demand and the president ordered Operation Linebacker II, a full-scale air campaign against the Hanoi area. During the 11 days of Linebacker II, 700 B-52 sorties and more than 1,000 fighter-bomber sorties were flown. These planes dropped roughly 20,000 tons of bombs, mostly over the densely populated area between Hanoi and Haiphong. Nixon was severely criticized both by American antiwar activists and in the international community for ordering what became known as the "Christmas bombing." Italy, the Netherlands, Sweden, China and the Soviet Union officially condemned the resumption of American bombing above the 20th parallel. The French newspaper Le Monde compared the attacks to the bombing of Guernica during the Spanish Civil War, when German planes from the Condor Legion attacked the Spanish city and caused great devastation and loss of life. In England, the Manchester Guardian called the bombing "the action of a man blinded by fury or incapable of seeing the consequences of what he is doing." Pope Paul VI and United Nations Secretary General Kurt Waldheim expressed concern for world peace. American antiwar activists charged that Linebacker II involved "carpet bombing"--deliberately targeting civilian areas with intensive bombing designed to "carpet" a city with bombs. Though the bombing was focused on specific military targets, it did result in the deaths of 1,318 civilians in Hanoi. The "Christmas bombing" was deemed a success by the U.S., since it caused the North Vietnamese to return to the negotiating table, where the Paris Peace Accords were signed less than a month later.
December 19, 1972 - The Apollo lunar-landing program ends on December 19, 1972, when the last three astronauts to travel to the moon splash down safely in the Pacific Ocean. Apollo 17 had lifted off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, 10 days before. In July 1969, after three years of preparation, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) accomplished President John F. Kennedy's goal of putting a man on the moon and safely returning him to Earth with Apollo 11. From 1969 to 1972, there were six successful lunar landing missions, and one aborted mission, Apollo 13. During the Apollo 17 mission, astronauts Eugene A. Cernan and Harrison H. Schmitt stayed for a record 75 hours on the surface of the moon, conducting three separate surface excursions in the Lunar Rover vehicle and collecting 243 pounds of rock and soil samples. Although Apollo 17 was the last lunar landing, the last official Apollo mission was conducted in July 1975, when an Apollo spacecraft successfully rendezvoused and docked with the Soviet Soyuz 19 spacecraft in orbit around the Earth. It was fitting that the Apollo program, which first visited the moon under the banner of "We came in peace for all mankind," should end on a note of peace and international cooperation.
December 19, 1974 - Former Pres. Nixon’s presidential papers were seized by an act of Congress. A court later ruled that much of the material belonged to Nixon and that he deserved compensation. In 1998 there was still no settlement on value.
December 19, 1980 - Iran requested $24 billion in US guarantees to free hostages.
December 19, 1989 - Police in Jacksonville, Fla., disarmed a parcel bomb at the local NAACP office, the fourth in a series of mail bombs to turn up in the Deep South. One bomb killed a Savannah, Ga., alderman, and another a federal judge in Alabama. Walter L. Moody Jr. was convicted in both bombings.
December 19, 1990 - Iraq urged its people to stockpile oil to avoid shortages should war break out, and Saddam Hussein declared he was “ready to crush any attack.”
December 19, 1994 - CNN publicly acknowledged it had disobeyed a judge's order in broadcasting former Panamanian military ruler Manuel Noriega's prison telephone conversations.
December 19, 1996 - The Pentagon chose Lawrence Livermore National Labs. for a $1.1 billion super-laser project. Known as the National Ignition Facility, its goal will be to ignite a self-sustaining fusion reaction in a controlled lab setting.
December 19, 1998 - After nearly 14 hours of debate, the House of Representatives approves two articles of impeachment against President Bill Clinton, charging him with lying under oath to a federal grand jury and obstructing justice. Clinton, the second president in American history to be impeached, vowed to finish his term. In November 1995, Clinton began an affair with Monica Lewinsky, a 21-year-old unpaid intern. Over the course of a year and a half, the president and Lewinsky had nearly a dozen sexual encounters in the White House. In April 1996, Lewinsky was transferred to the Pentagon. That summer, she first confided in Pentagon co-worker Linda Tripp about her sexual relationship with the president. In 1997, with the relationship over, Tripp began secretly to record conversations with Lewinsky, in which Lewinsky gave Tripp details about the affair. In December, lawyers for Paula Jones, who was suing the president on sexual harassment charges, subpoenaed Lewinsky. In January 1998, allegedly under the recommendation of the president, Lewinsky filed an affidavit in which she denied ever having had a sexual relationship with him. Five days later, Tripp contacted the office of Kenneth Starr, the Whitewater independent counsel, to talk about Lewinsky and the tapes she made of their conversations. Tripp, wired by FBI agents working with Starr, met with Lewinsky again, and on January 16, Lewinsky was taken by FBI agents and U.S. attorneys to a hotel room where she was questioned and offered immunity if she cooperated with the prosecution. A few days later, the story broke, and Clinton publicly denied the allegations, saying, "I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Ms. Lewinsky." In late July, lawyers for Lewinsky and Starr worked out a full-immunity agreement covering both Lewinsky and her parents, all of whom Starr had threatened with prosecution. On August 6, Lewinsky appeared before the grand jury to begin her testimony, and on August 17 President Clinton testified. Contrary to his testimony in the Paula Jones sexual-harassment case, President Clinton acknowledged to prosecutors from the office of the independent counsel that he had had an extramarital affair with Ms. Lewinsky. In four hours of closed-door testimony, conducted in the Map Room of the White House, Clinton spoke live via closed-circuit television to a grand jury in a nearby federal courthouse. He was the first sitting president ever to testify before a grand jury investigating his conduct. That evening, President Clinton also gave a four-minute televised address to the nation in which he admitted he had engaged in an inappropriate relationship with Lewinsky. In the brief speech, which was wrought with legalisms, the word "sex" was never spoken, and the word "regret" was used only in reference to his admission that he misled the public and his family. Less than a month later, on September 9, Kenneth Starr submitted his report and 18 boxes of supporting documents to the House of Representatives. Released to the public two days later, the Starr Report outlined a case for impeaching Clinton on 11 grounds, including perjury, obstruction of justice, witness-tampering, and abuse of power, and also provided explicit details of the sexual relationship between the president and Ms. Lewinsky. On October 8, the House authorized a wide-ranging impeachment inquiry, and on December 11, the House Judiciary Committee approved three articles of impeachment. On December 19, the House impeached Clinton. On January 7, 1999, in a congressional procedure not seen since the 1868 impeachment trial of President Andrew Johnson, the trial of President Clinton got underway in the Senate. As instructed in Article 1 of the U.S. Constitution, the chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court (William Rehnquist at this time) was sworn in to preside, and the senators were sworn in as jurors. Five weeks later, on February 12, the Senate voted on whether to remove Clinton from office. The president was acquitted on both articles of impeachment. The prosecution needed a two-thirds majority to convict but failed to achieve even a bare majority. Rejecting the first charge of perjury, 45 Democrats and 10 Republicans voted "not guilty," and on the charge of obstruction of justice the Senate was split 50-50. After the trial concluded, President Clinton said he was "profoundly sorry" for the burden his behavior imposed on Congress and the American people.
December 19, 1998 - The US and Britain ended their attack on Iraq after 4 days of air and missile strikes in Operation Desert Fox. An early estimate of US defense expenses was put at $500 million. Some 62 members of the Republican Guard were killed.
December 19, 1999 - The shuttle Discovery was launched following 9 delays from Cape Canaveral with 7 astronauts on a mission to repair the Hubble Space Telescope.
December 19, 2000 - The U.N. Security Council voted to impose broad sanctions on Afghanistan Taliban rulers unless they closed “terrorist” training camps and surrender U.S. embassy bombing suspect Osama bin Laden.
December 19, 2001 - The Sep 11 WTC death toll was reduced to 3,000. In 2002 a revised tally put the total dead at 2,795. In 2003 the count was reduced to 2,752.
December 19, 2001 - The fires that had burned beneath the ruins of the World Trade Center in New York City for the previous three months were declared extinguished except for a few scattered hot spots.
December 19, 2001 - Britain advised the UN that it would lead a security force in Afghanistan and contribute 1,500 soldiers to a force of 5,000.
December 19, 2001 - In the Comoros Islands troops killed 5 of 13 gunmen who posed as American agents hunting al Qaeda fugitives.
December 19, 2001 - Al Qaeda prisoners in Pakistan revolted and 14 were killed. Another 18 escaped.
December 19, 2002 - U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell declares that Iraq is in "material breach" of United Nations resolutions after reviewing Iraq's weapons of mass destruction declaration released December 7 to the United Nations. States Powell: "Our [U.S.] experts have found it to be anything but currently accurate, full or complete. The Iraqi declaration ... totally fails to meet the resolution's requirements."
December 19, 2002 - U.N. weapons inspectors reported that Iraq's new arms declaration contained inconsistencies and contradictions and didn't answer key questions about its nuclear, chemical and biological programs.
December 19, 2002 - In Pakistan Asif Ramzi, a member of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, died with 3 others in a covert bomb-making facility in Karachi.
December 19, 2003 - New plans revealed that the signature NYC skyscraper at the World Trade Center site will be a 1,776-foot glass tower that twists into the sky, topped by energy-generating windmills and a spire that evokes the Statue of Liberty. The plan was produced after months of contentious negotiations between Daniel Libeskind, who designed the overall five-building site plan, and David Childs, the lead architect for the Freedom Tower.
December 19, 2003 - China said it has issued rules restricting exports of missile, nuclear and biological technologies that can be used to make or deliver weapons of mass destruction.
December 19, 2003 - Japan announced that it will begin building a missile defense system.
December 19, 2003 - Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, after secret negotiations with the United States and Britain, agreed to halt his nation's drive to develop nuclear and chemical weapons and the long-range missiles to deliver them. Libya admitted to nuclear fuel projects, including possessing centrifuges and centrifuge parts used in uranium enrichment. Libya showed American and British inspectors a significant quantity of mustard agent. Libya acknowledged it intended to acquire equipment and develop capabilities to create biological weapons. Libya admitted "elements of the history of its cooperation with North Korea" to develop extended-range Scud missiles.
December 19, 2004 - A vehicle carrying a group of suspected Taliban fighters attacked a military checkpoint in southern Afghanistan, sparking a firefight that left six dead.
December 19, 2004 - Car bombs rocked Najaf and Karbala, Iraq's two holiest Shiite cities, killing 67 people and wounding more than 120. In downtown Baghdad dozens of gunmen carried out a brazen ambush that killed three Iraqi employees of the organization running next month's elections.