January 17, 1706
Benjamin Franklin is born in Boston, Massachusetts. A writer, scientist, inventor, diplomat, and statesman, Franklin was known for his various inventions, including the Franklin Stove and the lightning rod. In 1752, he conducted his kite experiment, in which he and his son, William, proved the electric nature of lightning by using a kite and hemp string. An Independent, Franklin was originally a slave owner, but in the 1750s, began practicing abolitionism and later became an avid anti-slavery activist. In 1775, he was one of the Committee of Five chosen to draft the Declaration of Independence. He served as the US Minister to France from 1779-1785, US Minister to Sweden from 1782-1783, and Governor of Pennsylvania from 1785-1788. In 1787, he served as a delegate to the Constitutional Convention. It is said that when the convention ended, Franklin was approached by a townsperson and asked what the delegates had created. Franklin replied, “A republic, if you can keep it.” He passed away on April 17, 1790.
January 17, 1781
The Battle of Cowpens is fought. Under the command of General Daniel Morgan, Continental forces met British troops under Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton near Cowpens, South Carolina. Part of the Carolina Campaign, this battle proved to be a major turning point for the Revolution in the southern theater. During this campaign, Colonel Tarleton proved to be a notable adversary for Continental forces, capturing Charleston, Camden, and other locations of importance. At Cowpens, Continental troops won a major victory, causing Tarleton and his remaining troops to retreat. Later that year, Continental forces won another significant victory against Major Patrick Ferguson and his Tories at nearby Kings Mountai
January 17, 1991
Operation Desert Storm begins. Several months prior, Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi Army invaded Kuwait to annex the country for oil fields. In response, the largest Allied coalition since World War II readied to Kuwait’s defense. Primary Coalition forces consisted of Kuwait, the US, Britain, France, and Saudi Arabia, but many other nations provided support, including China and even the dying Soviet Union. Desert Storm ended on February 28 of that year, bringing an end to the Gulf War and crushing Hussein’s army.
January 18 – Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
Martin Luther King, Jr. was born in Atlanta, Georgia on January 15, 1929. A Christian minister and activist, King was very active during the American Civil Rights Movement, and lead the Montgomery Bus Boycotts, March on Washington, Chicago Freedom Movement, and many other significant events. King was arrested in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963, and during his time in the Birmingham City Jail, he wrote his famous letter, calling for Christian unity against segregation and Jim Crow laws. President Ronald Reagan signed Martin Luther King, Jr. Day into law in 1983, though it was not celebrated by all 50 states until 2000. He was assassinated by James Earl Ray in Memphis, Tennessee on April 4, 1968. May we never forget his timeless words: “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up, live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.’ I have a dream that one day, on the red hills of Georgia, sons of former slaves and sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.”
January 19, 1983
Nazi war criminal Klaus Barbie is captured in Bolivia. Sometimes referred to as the “Butcher of Lyon,” Barbie was a chief in the Gestapo, and was responsible for the capture of 7,500 French Jews and Resistance partisans, as well as the deaths of over 4,000. In 1947, he surrendered to US Counter-Intelligence Corps, where he offered intelligence service in exchange for protection. He fled to South America in 1949, and in 1971, began assisting Hugo Banzer Suarez in establishing internment camps for political opponents. Barbie was indicted for war crimes in 1984 and died in prison on September 25, 1991.
January 20 – Inauguration Day
Inauguration Day has been held on January 20 since 1937. The inauguration years for each president since is as follows:
Franklin D. Roosevelt – 1937, 1941, 1945
Harry Truman – 1949
Dwight D. Eisenhower – 1953, 1957
John F. Kennedy – 1961
Lyndon B. Johnson – 1965
Richard Nixon – 1969, 1973
James Carter – 1977
Ronald Reagan – 1981, 1985
George H. W. Bush – 1989
William Clinton – 1993, 1997
George W. Bush – 2001, 2005
Barack Obama – 2009, 2013
Donald Trump – 2017
Joseph Biden – 2021
January 21, 1968
The Battle of Khe Sanh begins. This was one of the largest battles of the Vietnam War. US, South Vietnamese, and Laotian troops fought against North Vietnamese forces, and the battle lasted until July 9 of that year. The result was indecisive, with both sides claiming a victory. As a result of the battle, the McNamara Line was terminated, allowing for North Vietnamese communication to be extended further into South Vietnam. A little over a week following this battle, the Tet Offensive began, which was another major military operation that resulted in heavy casualties for the NVA and Viet Cong.
January 22, 1944
Operation Shingle begins. The start of the Battle of Anzio, this was an Allied amphibious operation in which American, Canadian, and British troops stormed the beaches of Italy and fought to capture Rome. The US forces were commanded by General Mark W. Clark, one of the youngest four-star generals in the US Army during World War II. Clark had previously served in World War I, and he later served in Korea.
January 23, 1941
Charles Lindbergh testifies before Congress. Lindbergh was a famed aviator who won the Ortega Prize for conducting a nonstop flight from New York to Paris. This took 33 ½ hours and was the world’s first solo transatlantic flight. In 1932, Lindbergh’s son was kidnapped, and the incident was referred to as the “Crime of the Century.” His son was later found deceased. Lindbergh’s testimony consisted of him pleading with Congress to seek neutrality with Nazi Germany and basing his stance on an isolationist ideology.
January 24, 1848
The California Gold Rush begins. After gold was discovered by James W. Marshall at Sutter’s Mill in Coloma, California, word spread quickly. The news of gold in California brought an estimated 300,000 people to the region. The surge in immigration revitalized the economy and lead to California’s statehood with the Compromise of 1850, in which California entered the union as a free state. Simultaneously, the territories of Utah and New Mexico were admitted under the concept of Popular Sovereignty. Some settlers traveling on the Oregon Trail would branch off at Fort Hall, Idaho, and embark on the California Trail, in which some would end up at Sutter’s Mill.
January 25, 1961
President John F. Kennedy delivers the first televised news conference, viewed by an estimated 65-million people. In the speech, which lasted approximately 37 minutes, Kennedy announced he had postponed nuclear test negotiations with the Soviet Union until March of that year. Likewise, he informed the nation that the Soviets had released two survivors of a downed US RB-47 aircraft, and that America would be increasing food aid to the Congo.
January 28, 1986
The Challenger Disaster occurs. The names of the seven brave space pioneers were Francis Scobee, Michael Smith, Ronald McNair, Ellison Onizuka, Judith Resnik, Gregory Jarvis, and Christa McAuliffe. Shortly after takeoff, the Challenger’s O-ring, which was not designed to withstand unusually cold temperatures, failed and caused a breach in the SRB joint, leading to the explosion. This tragic event grounded the shuttle fleet for nearly three years and the Reagan Administration appointed a special commission to investigate. The remains of the Challenger Seven were buried in Arlington National Cemetery. May they never be forgotten.
January 29, 1843
William McKinley is born in Niles, Ohio. When the Civil War began, McKinley was among the thousands in Ohio to volunteer for service. During the war, he served under the 23rd Ohio Infantry, during which time he was mentored by Rutherford B. Hayes. After the war, he served in the US House of Representatives from 1877-1884, and as the Governor of Ohio from 1892-1896. A member of the Republican Party, McKinley lead the US into war with Spain – though he was originally reluctant to do so – following the explosion of the USS Maine in Havana Harbor. He served as president from 1897-1901, and during this time, he oversaw the American victory during the war with Spain, as well as the annexation of Hawaii. On September 6, 1901, McKinley was shot by an anarchist named Leon Czolgosz in Buffalo, New York. Although his condition originally appeared to improve, he passed away from his wounds on September 14. He was the third president to be assassinated, following Abraham Lincoln and James Garfield.
January 30, 1882
Franklin D. Roosevelt is born in Hyde Park, New York. The fifth cousin of Theodore Roosevelt and most commonly referred to as FDR, he originally served as a member of the New York State Senate from 1911-1913 before serving as Assistant Secretary of the Navy from 1913-1920. He then served as Governor of New York from 1929-1932. A member of the Democratic Party, Roosevelt was elected to the presidency during the Great Depression and remained president until World War II was near its end. His terms lasted from 1933-1945, during which time he enacted a series of social programs, collectively called the “New Deal.” Some of these programs consisted of large amounts of government spending in an attempt to reinvigorate the economy. He served the longest of any US president and passed away on April 12, 1945. FDR remains a favorite among progressives.
January 31, 1865
The 13th Amendment to the US Constitution is passed. The first of three Reconstruction amendments, this new addition to the Constitution prohibited slavery and involuntary servitude, except as punishable for a crime. Often considered one of the most important amendments added to the Constitution, it reinforced President Lincoln’s vision of a “New birth of freedom,” upheld the proposition that “all men are created equal,” and paved the way for racial equality in the US. African-Americans would, unfortunately, still have a long road towards racial equality, as state laws in both the North and South would defy the federal Constitution.
Dedicated to Lance Neighbors, a true friend and patriot.
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