[Featured image: Space Shuttle Columbia lifts off on the first-ever space shuttle mission.]
1861: Confederate Brig. Gen. Pierre G.T. Beauregard’s artillery forces — strategically positioned around Charleston harbor, S.C. — open fire on Union-held Fort Sumter (constructed atop shoals at the harbor entrance).
Unable to effectively return fire and with his position indefensible, Union Army Maj. Robert Anderson will surrender the fort and the garrison will be evacuated on the 14th.
The firing on Fort Sumter is considered to be the opening engagement of the Civil War. Technically it is; though shots were fired in January by militia batteries — including a battery manned by cadets of the Citadel (the Military College of South Carolina) — on the U.S. commercial paddlesteamer “Star of the West” in Charleston harbor.
1862: Andrews’ Raiders — an ad hoc Union Army commando force (22 Ohio Infantrymen led by civilian spy James J. Andrews) — commandeer a Confederate train at Big Shanty, Georgia during an operation aimed at disrupting the rail-line between Atlanta and Chattanooga.
Following a dramatic pursuit known today as “the Great Locomotive Chase,” the raiders will be caught. Many will escape. Eight of them, including Andrews, will be convicted of espionage and executed.
Nineteen of the raiders will be awarded the Medal of Honor (many of them posthumously). Six will become the first-ever recipients of the Medal of Honor.
1911: Lt. Theodore Ellyson graduates the Glenn Curtiss Aviation Camp near San Diego, becoming Naval Aviator No. 1.
1945: Former World War I artillery officer Harry S. Truman becomes president when Franklin D. Roosevelt passes away from a cerebral hemorrhage in his Georgia home.
1961: Yuri Gargarin tells the control room “Let’s go!” and his Vostok spacecraft launches the first human into space. The Soviet cosmonaut orbits the earth once and returns to a hero’s welcome. The Soviet Union will have a leg up on the United States in the Space Race until John Glenn makes his orbital flight aboard “Friendship Seven” nearly a year later.
1975: Marines evacuate nearly 300 Americans and foreign nationals from Cambodia during Operation EAGLE PULL.
1981: 20 years after Gargarin became the first man in space, former Naval aviators John W. Young and Robert L. Crippen blast off on the first space shuttle mission. Columbia lands safely two days later at Edwards Air Force base after orbiting the earth 37 times.
1993: Aircraft from USS Theodore Roosevelt begin enforcing NATO’s no-fly zone over Bosnia during Operation DENY FLIGHT.