June in American History: Part I

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June 1, 1918
The Battle of Belleau Wood begins. Following the interception of the Zimmerman Telegram in 1917, the United States entered World War I on behalf of the Allies. This battle, fought near the Marne River in France, occurred during the German Spring Offensive. Under the command of General John “Blackjack” Pershing, US troops fought alongside French and British forces. The battle ended on June 26 with an Allied victory. It is rumored that this is where US Marines earned their nickname, “Devil Dogs.”

June 2, 1924
President Calvin Coolidge signs the Indian Citizenship Act. This law granted citizenship to all Native Americans born within US territory and was crucial in giving all Native Americans who served in the armed forces during World War I. The act was proposed by Homer P. Snyder, a Republican US Representative from New York. In 1927, President Coolidge was inducted into the Sioux Tribe of South Dakota. Near the town of Custer, South Dakota, a large memorial in dedication to Crazy Horse is being carved. Unlike Mount Rushmore, the Crazy Horse memorial does not receive any federal funds. Construction began on June 3, 1948, where several Native veterans who fought at the Battle of Little Bighorn were present. The monument is far from completion.

June 3, 1539
Hernando de Soto officially claims Florida for Spain. Although Spanish Florida was founded in 1513, what would later become the state of Florida was not formally claimed by the Spanish Empire until 1539. Spanish Florida consisted of the area which would also contain the states of South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana. The city of St. Augustine became its capital and is the oldest city in the United States.

June 6, 1944
The D-Day Invasion begins in Normandy, France. With the aim of breaking through heavily-fortified German defenses and infiltrating the countryside, US, Canadian, and British forces engaged in one of the largest amphibious landings in history. The invasion was successful, opening the window for Allied forces to begin their liberation of Europe. Prior to the invasion, Supreme Allied Commander Dwight D. Eisenhower delivered a speech to those who would heroically storm the beaches and stare death in the face. His words were as follows: “You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you. In company with our brave Allies and brothers-in-arms on other fronts, you will bring about the destruction of the German War Machine, the elimination of Nazi tyranny over the oppressed people of Europe, and security for ourselves in a free world. Your task will not be an easy one. Your enemy is well-trained, well-equipped, and battle-hardened. He will fight savagely. But this is the year 1944! Much has happened since the great Nazi triumphs of 1940-41. The United Nations have inflicted upon the Germans great defeats, in open battle, man-to-man. Our air offensive has seriously reduced their ability to wage war on the ground. Our home fronts have given us an overwhelming superiority in weapons and munitions of war and placed at our disposal great reserves of trained fighting men. The tide has turned! The free men of the world are marching together to victory! I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty and skill in battle. We will accept nothing less than full victory. Good luck! And let us beseech the blessing of Almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking.”


June 7, 1942
The Battle of Midway comes to an end. While the Siege of Stalingrad is considered to be the turning point of World War II on the Eastern Front, Midway is considered to be the turning point in the Pacific Theater. US forces engaged several Japanese fleets and hundreds of aircraft, which attacked near Midway Atoll. Lasting three days, historian John Keegan described the battle as “The most stunning and decisive blow in the history of naval warfare.” US forces ended up destroying four Japanese carriers and over 200 aircraft. A couple of months following the battle, the Guadalcanal Campaign began, which also proved to be a major turning point for the Pacific Theater.

June 8, 1906
President Theodore Roosevelt signs the Antiquities Act. This law allows the president to establish national monuments on federal lands. During his time as president, Roosevelt declared 18 landmarks as national monuments. Devil’s Tower was the first of these. Located in eastern Wyoming, Devil’s Tower stands over 800 feet tall. Other national monuments declared by Roosevelt include the Petrified Forest in Arizona, Muir Woods in California, and Natural Bridges in Utah. Roosevelt also greatly expanded the National Park movement.

June 9, 1862
The Shenandoah Valley Campaign comes to an end. Also known as Jackson’s Valley Campaign, Confederate troops under the command of General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson fought to secure the Shenandoah Valley in western Virginia from Union occupation. Several battles were fought during the campaign, with Union troops originally winning a victory. Jackson, however, eventually pushed them back, and the campaign ended in a Confederate victory with the Battle of Port Republic. Union troops lost control of the valley until 1864, when another campaign began. This one ended in a Union victory.

June 11, 1776
Continental Congress appoints the Committee of Five to draft the Declaration of Independence. The Committee consisted of John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman, and Robert Livingstone. Independence from the British Empire would officially be declared on July 3 of that year. John Trumbell’s famous portrait, featuring the Committee presenting their draft before Congress, is perhaps the most well-known visualized concept of this incident. The portrait itself, however, is historically inaccurate, as the delegates were never present in the room all at once.

June 12, 1924
George H. W. Bush is born in Milton, Massachusetts. Raised by a wealthy family, Bush attended Phillips Academy, then served as one of the youngest pilots in the US Navy at the time. During World War II, he flew combat missions at Wake Island and Chichijima; his plane was shot down at the latter, though he escaped and was rescued. Afterward, he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. Bush entered the political arena during the 1960s. A member of the Republican Party, he represented Texas in the US House of Representatives from 1967-1971, then served as Ambassador to the United Nations from 1971-1973; Chief of the US Liaison Office to China from 1974-1975; Director of the CIA from 1976-1977; and Vice President from 1981-1989. He served as President from 1989-1993, during which time he oversaw the end of the Cold War with the fall of the Berlin Wall and the signing of the first Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty. He also deployed troops during the US Invasion of Panama, Operation Desert Storm, and the Somali Civil War. On the home front, Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act. He passed away on November 30, 2018. His son, George W. Bush, served as President from 2001-2009.

June 12, 1987
President Ronald Reagan delivers his “Tear Down This Wall” speech. Constructed in 1961, the Berlin Wall separated Communist East Germany from Capitalist West Germany. Many German citizens who sought to escape to freedom in the West were prevented from doing so. President Reagan’s speech restored hope in the hearts of many people throughout the world and signaled that the long-awaited ending to the Cold War was near. In 1989, the Berlin Wall was toppled, and in 1991, the Soviet Union dissolved, leaving the United States as the world’s sole remaining superpower and bringing an end to the nearly-50-year-long period of international political turmoil. One of the most memorable excerpts of Reagan’s speech reads, “General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization; Come here to this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”

June 13, 1805
The Lewis and Clark Expedition finds the Great Falls of the Missouri River. Located in what is now present-day north-central Montana, the Great Falls of the Missouri consist of five waterfalls within a 10-mile segment. Meriwether Lewis described the falls as the greatest sighting of the journey up to that point. The Lewis and Clark Expedition reached the Pacific Ocean on November 7, 1805. A few months later, on March 23, 1806, the expedition began their return trip, finally reaching St. Louis on September 23 of that year.

June 14, 1777
The first flag of the United States is adopted. During the earliest days of the American Revolution, the flag often flown by colonial forces contained the red and white stripes, but with the British flag in the canton (top left). Then, in 1777, the Flag Resolution was passed by the Second Continental Congress. The Flag Resolution stated: “Resolved, that the flag of the thirteen United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new constellation.” The first official flag of the US is often considered to be the design created by Elizabeth “Betsy” Ross, though this claim is occasionally disputed. Ross’s design consisted of the thirteen stars arranged in a circle on a blue canton. During the Civil War, the flag’s canton design was changed several times, in order to represent new states being admitted to the union. In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation for the nation’s first official Flag Day. From 1912-1959, the design remained the same, consisting of 48 stars to represent 48 states. In 1959, Alaska and Hawaii became the 49th and 50th states to join the union, laying the foundation for the US flag design that we recognize to this day.

June 14, 1946
Donald Trump is born in New York City, New York. After receiving an Economics degree from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, he took charge of his family’s real estate business. This began in 1971 and he renamed it the Trump Organization. His business expanded worldwide and he owned skyscrapers, casinos, and golf courses in numerous locations. He was also involved in movies and television and is one of two presidents to have held a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (the other being Ronald Reagan). Thus far, Trump is the only president who has never held a prior position in a political office, and he is currently the only president to have been impeached twice by the House of Representatives. His political positions have varied, consisting of him being a member of the Reform Party from 1999-2001; Democrat from 2001-2009; Independent from 2011-2012; and Republican from 2012-present. Trump served as President from 2017-2021, during which time he oversaw the removal of the US from the Paris Climate Accords, a historic peace attempt in the Korean Peninsula, a trade war with China, and the start of the Covid-19 Pandemic. He also oversaw the relocation of the US Embassy to Jerusalem, while simultaneously recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital city.

June 15, 1921
Elizabeth Coleman becomes the first African-American / Native American pilot. Born in Atlanta, Texas on January 26, 1892, Coleman went to Langston University for one term. Because neither women nor minorities could become pilots in the United States during this time, Coleman traveled to France, where she earned her International Pilots License. Inspired by World War I pilots, she later flew in air shows. Coleman stated, “The air is the only place free from prejudices. I knew we had no aviators, neither men nor women, and I knew the Race needed to be represented along the most important line, so I thought it my duty to risk my life to learn aviation.” On April 30, 1926, Coleman died in an airplane crash in Jacksonville, Florida.

Garrett Smith
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