April in American History: Part II

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April 17, 1961
The Bay of Pigs Invasion begins. Drafted by Dwight D. Eisenhower and executed by John F. Kennedy, CIA-trained Cuban rebels were deployed at the Bay of Pigs in Cuba. US officials had sought to overthrow the regime of Fidel Castro, following the Cuban Revolution of 1959, during which Castro gained power. The rebels were severely unsupported and the mission resulted in disaster. Virtually all rebel forces were captured or killed. The invasion strengthened Castro’s relationship with the Soviet Union and increased Cold War tensions. During the Cold War, Castro aided communist forces during the conflicts in Angola and Grenada.

April 18, 1775
Paul Revere, William Dawes, and Samuel Prescott conduct their Midnight Ride. As a result of growing tension between colonists and British regulars in Boston and nearby towns, Parliament sought a crackdown on the people of Massachusetts. Secretary of State William Legge, Earl of Dartmouth, sent orders to disarm the patriots and imprison rebel leaders, including Samuel Adams and John Hancock. On the night of April 18, 1775, Robert Newman ascended the tower of Boston’s Old North Church and placed a lantern. His signal pertaining to the number of lights to be displayed regarding the position of British troops was, “One if by land, two if by sea.” On horseback, Revere, Dawes, and Prescott rode through the countryside, warning the people of Lexington and Concord of an imminent British approach. Revere was captured, but became the more renowned of the three. The following day, the American Revolution began with battles at the towns of Lexington and Concord.

April 19, 1775
The Battles of Lexington and Concord are fought, starting the American Revolution. In Middlesex County, Massachusetts, British troops were under order to seize colonial militia supplies and gunpowder. Under the command of Captain John Parker, a militia force of about 80 men stood against a much larger British force. It is said that Parker addressed his men with, “Stand your ground. Don’t fire unless fired upon, but if they mean to have a war, let it begin here.” Following the firing of the first shots, the militia, outnumbered, retreated to Concord. It was here, at the Old North Bridge, that the tide turned. As British forces approached the town, the colonists opened fire. Not long after, the British retreated to Boston, and the American Revolution had officially begun.

April 19, 1995
The Murrah Building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma is bombed. The Murrah Building was a federal complex and contained a children’s’ daycare on one of the lower floors. Prior to this tragedy, two highly controversial incidents occurred, which involved both armed and unarmed civilians in standoffs against federal officers. The first occurred near Naples, Idaho in 1992, while the second was in Waco, Texas in 1993. Timothy McVeigh, a former Gulf War veteran, sought revenge against the government for these two tragedies. On April 19, 1995, McVeigh and three other conspirators detonated a truck bomb outside of the Murrah Building. An estimated 168 people were killed and more than 680 were injured. Nineteen of the casualties were children. McVeigh was caught shortly after and sentenced to death. He was executed on June 11, 2001. The Oklahoma City Bombing was the deadliest act of terrorism on American soil until the attacks of September 11, 2001. Today, the Oklahoma City Memorial stands in dedication to those lost lives. The memorial contains several parts, including a Survivor Tree, Reflecting Pool, and Field of Lost Chairs.

April 20, 1775
The Siege of Boston begins. Following the battles of Lexington and Concord, British troops were intercepted by Bostonian militia along their march towards the city. In response to the outbreak of open conflict, Britain declared the Colony of Massachusetts to be in a state of rebellion. What followed was an 11-month-long siege. During this time, some of the most significant early battles of the war were fought, including those of Bunker Hill and Fort Ticonderoga. The siege ended the following year with British forces retreating to Nova Scotia.

April 21, 1898
The Spanish-American War begins. Following the explosion of the USS Maine in Havana Harbor, many Americans sought retaliation against Spain. President William McKinley had hoped to avoid war, while his future vice president, Theodore Roosevelt, advocated for it. The conflict lasted a little over three months and consisted of fighting in the Caribbean and the Philippines. The result was a significant US victory, resulting in the American acquisition of Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines.

April 23, 1791
James Buchanan is born in Cove Gap, Pennsylvania. The son of Irish immigrants, Buchanan became a well-known lawyer and representative in his home state. During the War of 1812, he served as a private, and helped defend Baltimore, Maryland from invading British troops. Originally a Federalist, he joined the Democratic Party in 1828, and became well-acquainted with Andrew Jackson. During his political career, he served as US Minister to Russia, Secretary of State, and US Minister to the UK. He served as President from 1857-1861, during which time he lessened the federal government’s role on the issue of slavery and casted support for popular sovereignty. This was an idea, driven by Democrat Senator Stephen Douglas, that populations within a state or territory should decide the fate of slavery in that particular region. When the southern states began seceding in December 1860, Buchanan allowed it, claiming he did not have constitutional authority to prevent them from doing so, though he did not recognize the Confederacy as a legitimate nation. He passed away on June 1, 1868.

April 24, 1800
The Library of Congress is established. Contained within three buildings in Washington DC, it is the world’s largest library, containing over 170 million items. After being partially burned by the British Army in 1814, the library purchased Thomas Jefferson’s book collection. The library’s three buildings are named after presidential founding fathers: Adams, Jefferson, and Madison. Over 38 million books are contained there, along with numerous other printed materials. The current Librarian of Congress is Carla Hayden, who has held the position since September 14, 2016. Hayden is the first female and African-American to hold the position.

April 27, 1822
Ulysses S. Grant is born in Point Pleasant, Ohio. A graduate of West Point Military Academy, Grant served in the Mexican-American War, where he fought alongside other notable figures, including Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson. During the Civil War, he served most of his time commanding Union forces in the Western Theater, and he saw much action in Tennessee and Mississippi. Grant was eventually given command of the entire Union Army, and he was present for General Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Courthouse, Virginia in 1865. Following the Civil War, he oversaw much of the Union’s Reconstruction of the southern states, and became an advocate of civil rights for African-Americans. A member of the Republican Party, Grant served as President from 1869-1877. He passed away on July 23, 1885.

April 28, 1758
James Monroe is born in Westmoreland County, Virginia. A soldier in the Continental Army during the American Revolution, he served as a delegate to the Continental Congress near the war’s end. A Democratic-Republican, Monroe opposed the Constitutional Convention of 1787, and later became a leader for his party. During the War of 1812, he served as James Madison’s Secretary of State and Secretary of War, earning him political recognition. He served as President from 1817-1825, during which time he signed the Missouri Compromise, admitting Missouri into the union as a slave state, while simultaneously prohibiting slavery in Midwestern territories. He is perhaps most credited with the policy known as the Monroe Doctrine, which asserted that the US would not tolerate European intervention in the New World. Monroe passed away on July 4, 1831.

April 28, 1945
Benito Mussolini is executed in Giulino di Mezzegra, Italy. On April 25, Mussolini and his mistress, Clara Petacci, attempted an escape to Switzerland as Allied troops pushed through Italy. After being stopped by communist partisans, they were escorted to Giulino di Mezzegra. On April 28, Mussolini and Petacci, along with most members of their party, were executed. The following day, their bodies were hanged upside down in the street. Mussolini was later buried in an unmarked grave. Originally a Marxist, he converted to fascism in 1917, and in 1922, he led a successful coup in Rome, transforming Italy into the world’s first fascist state. Like other leading fascists, Mussolini believed fascism to be a better means of totalitarianism than communism, stemming from their opposition to globalism and class warfare.

April 29, 1946
The International Military Tribunal for the Far East convenes. The Pacific equivalent of the German Nuremberg Trials, many of these hearings were conducted in Tokyo, Japan. Lasting more than two years, over 400 individuals were tried. Hideki Tojo, along with other Japanese military leaders, was accused of war crimes. The Tribunal ended on November 12, 1948. Tojo was executed on December 23 of that year. Following this, other nations held various trials, including the Soviet Union, China, and Australia.

April 30, 1945
Adolf Hitler commits suicide in his bunker in Berlin, Germany. After shooting himself in his Fuhrerbunker, his wife of one day, Eva Braun, committed suicide via cyanide pill. Their bodies were then carried to the Reich Chancellery Garden and burned. Hitler formed the Nazi Party in 1920, and in November 1923, he led an attempted coup against the Weimar Republic, known as the Beer Hall Putsch. During his time in prison, he narrated Mein Kampf to his cellmate; it was typed and subsequently published, though not taken seriously by most. Hitler assumed power as Chancellor of Germany in 1933, then as Fuhrer from 1934 until his death.

Garrett Smith
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