November In American History: Part I

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November 1, 1955
The Vietnam War begins. This was the largest and longest proxy conflict of the Cold War. Following the First Indochina War, Communist sympathizers in South Vietnam – known as Viet Cong – initiated guerilla warfare in the south. Concurrent to this, North Vietnam invaded Laos to support Viet Cong forces. Under the order of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, the first US troops were commissioned to Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. The North Vietnamese government received support primarily from the USSR, China, and North Korea, while South Vietnam allied with the US, South Korea, and other anti-Communist nations. The last US forces withdrew in 1973 and the conflict officially ended two years later. South Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia became Communist regimes, and from 1975-1979, the Cambodian Genocide resulted in the deaths of nearly two million people. In 2021, the Vietnam War was surpassed by the War in Afghanistan as America’s longest-involved conflict.

November 2, 1795
James K. Polk is born in Pineville, North Carolina. Born into a family of 10 children, he relocated with them to Tennessee at a young age. Polk began attending UNC Chapel Hill in 1816, and upon graduating two years later, he returned to Nashville, Tennessee, to study law. Polk arrived on the national political stage in 1825, when he represented Tennessee in the US House of Representatives until 1839, serving as Speaker of the House during the last four years. A member of the Democratic Party, Polk served as Governor of Tennessee from 1839-1841, and then as President from 1845-1849. As Chief Executive, his presidency was largely defined by territorial expansion, and he saw the acquisition of Texas and Oregon, as well as much of the American West, following a victory during the war with Mexico. He passed away on June 15, 1849.

November 2, 1865
Warren G. Harding is born in Blooming Grove, Ohio. At a young age, he purchased a newspaper called “The Marion Star,” and ran it successfully along with his wife, Florence. A member of the Republican Party, Harding served his home state of Ohio in several political positions, including State Senator from 1900-1904, Lieutenant Governor from 1904-1906, and US Senator from 1915-1921. He served as President from 1921-1923, during which time he released anti-war political prisoners, saw success with the Washington Naval Conference, and became the first sitting President to deliver a speech against lynching in the Deep South. Harding passed away while in office on August 2, 1923. It was later revealed that his administration was riddled with scandals.

November 3, 1942
The Koli Point Action begins during the Guadalcanal Campaign. Situated in the Solomon Islands, Guadalcanal was an important target for Allied forces, as Japan used the area as a stronghold, and a blow to Guadalcanal meant cutting off Japanese supply lines, as well as halting their advance to Australia. Beginning on August 7, 1942, Allied troops landed on Guadalcanal, surprising the Japanese. Under the command of Major General Alexander Vandegrift, the US Army and US Marine Corps, alongside British, Australian, and Solomon Island forces, engaged Japanese troops around Koli Point. The action ended on November 12 with an Allied victory. The Guadalcanal Campaign proved to be a major turning point for World War II in the Pacific, ending on February 9, 1943.

November 4, 1979
The Iran Hostage Crisis begins. During World War II, British and Soviet troops occupied Iran, fearing an alliance between the Pahlavi Monarchy and Nazi Germany. In February 1979, the Pahlavi Dynasty was overthrown, leading to the crisis. Under Ruhollah Khomenini, Iranian students belonging to a group known as Muslim Student Followers of the Imam’s Line stormed the US embassy in Tehran. From there, they captured 52 American citizens and diplomats. The hostages were held for 444 days, during which a rescue attempt ordered by President Jimmy Carter failed. Known as Operation Eagle Claw, the attempt resulted in the deaths of one hostage and eight US servicemen. The crisis ended on January 20, 1981, during the presidential inauguration of Ronald Reagan.

November 5, 1872
Susan B. Anthony votes for the first time, defying the US suffrage law. As a result of Anthony’s actions, she was fined $100, which she refused to pay. She also began working with anti-slavery factions as early as age 17, and became a New York state agent for the American Anti-Slavery Society in 1856. Anthony went on to become one of the strongest supporters of abolition and women’s suffrage in the US. Women’s suffrage was officially legalized nationally on August 18, 1920, with the addition of the 19th Amendment to the US Constitution. Wyoming was the first territory in the union to legalize women’s suffrage, doing so in 1869. Wyoming has since retained its nickname, “The Equality State.” On August 18, 2020 – the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment – President Donald Trump posthumously pardoned Susan B. Anthony.

November 6, 1962
The UN General Assembly condemns apartheid in South Africa. Simultaneously, the UN called on its members to cut off economic and military aid to the nation. Apartheid in South Africa was government-sanctioned and lasted from 1948-1994. An authoritarian, race-based political structure, apartheid segregated the people of South Africa (and present-day Namibia) and divided them into four racial categories. The system placed whites at the top of the social structure, then followed with Asians, “Indians,” and then blacks. The first major pieces of legislation during the era of apartheid were the Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act and Immorality Amendment Act, introduced respectively in 1949 and 1950. These laws prohibited interracial marriages and relationships. Apartheid was labeled a crime against humanity in 1973, and was officially abolished on April 27, 1994.

November 7, 1811
The Battle of Tippecanoe is fought. This was the largest battle of Tecumseh’s War, which began in August 1810, and served as a precursor conflict to the War of 1812. A Shawnee chief and warrior, Tecumseh had previously led several raids against Midwestern settlers. Seeking a multi-tribal alliance, Tecumseh discouraged Natives from adapting to European lifestyles. With the signing of the Treaty of Fort Wayne, over three million acres of land in the Indiana Territory were sold to the US by several tribes. Tecumseh was outraged, and as a result, he led a rebellion against the United States. On November 7, 1811, Governor of the Indiana Territory (and future president) William H. Harrison engaged Tecumseh’s Confederacy near present-day Battle Ground, Indiana. The result was a significant US victory and Harrison earned the nickname, “Old Tippecanoe.” Tecumseh later served under the British during the War of 1812 and was killed at the Battle of the Thames. Harrison’s presidential campaign slogan for the 1840 Election became “Tippecanoe and Tyler too.” Harrison served the shortest term of any US President, lasting only from March 4 – April 4, 1841.

November 7, 1918
Reverend Billy Graham is born in Charlotte, North Carolina. From 1947-2005, he held “Crusades,” or evangelistic campaigns, across the world. Graham was a spiritual advisor to every US president from Harry Truman to Barack Obama, and he was particularly close to Dwight D. Eisenhower, Lyndon B. Johnson, and Richard Nixon. He abhorred racial segregation, and beginning in 1953, he insisted on racial integration for his revivals. In 1957, he invited Martin Luther King Jr. to speak jointly at a revival in New York City, where Nixon was also present. His sermons have reached over 200 million people worldwide. He passed away on February 21, 2018. Graham is quoted as saying, “Someday, you will read that Billy Graham is dead. Don’t you believe a word of it. I shall be more alive than I am now. I will have just changed my address. I will have gone into the presence of God.”

November 8, 1923
The Beer Hall Putsch begins in Munich, Germany. Under Adolf Hitler and Eric Ludendorff, the newly-formed Nazi (National Socialist German Workers) Party, with approximately 2,000 supporting revolutionaries, marched on Munich. Their goal was to use the city as a base for a march against the Weimar Republic, overthrow it, and establish a National Socialist system. Upon reaching the city’s center, they were confronted by police; four police officers and 16 Nazis were killed. Hitler, though wounded, fled to the countryside, where he was captured two days later and charged with treason. He was imprisoned in Landsberg Jail, where he spent five years, during which time he narrated Mein Kampf (My Struggle) to his cellmate. Mein Kampf was subsequently published, though originally not taken seriously by most. Hitler and the Nazi Party were elected to power in 1933, where Hitler radically transformed the German state and established a one-party authoritarian nation, lasting until 1945. Similar coups occurring near this time frame included Vladimir Lenin’s revolution in Saint Petersburg and Benito Mussolini’s march on Rome.

November 9, 1989
The Berlin Wall collapses. With the fall of the Third Reich, Germany was divided by East and West after World War II, with the US, Britain, and France claiming the West, and the USSR taking the East. Constructed by Soviet forces in 1961, the Berlin Wall was raised to separate East and West Germany. In doing so, many of Berlin’s citizens were cut off from one another, and those in the East were prevented from escaping to freedom in the West. The Berlin Wall was heavily patrolled by Eastern Bloc military forces, who also used automatic turrets and land mines to prevent non-approved passage. On November 9, 1989, the wall saw its destruction, bringing an end to 28 years of division. Two US presidents delivered prominent speeches in Berlin during the Cold War, in an effort to reunite the German people: “Ich bin ein Berliner” by John F. Kennedy in 1963, and “Tear Down This Wall” by Ronald Reagan in 1987.

November 10, 1775
The United States Marine Corps is founded in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Upon its founding, two battalions from the Continental Marines were used to create a military branch that could fight equally on land or water. Since 1834, the USMC has been a component of the US Navy. During World War II, Marines led some of the largest amphibious assaults in world history, including those of Peleliu and Okinawa. In the Pacific Theater, they used a strategy known as “Island Hopping,” where they captured numerous islands and crippled the Imperial Japanese military. On November 10, 1954, President Dwight D. Eisenhower dedicated the Marine Corps Memorial in Arlington, Virginia. As of 2021, there are over 170,000 active duty Marines, with another 28,500 in the reserves. The USMC motto, “Semper Fidelis,” means “Always faithful.”

November 11 – Veterans Day
Veterans Day was originally commemorated in 1919 as the celebration of the end of World War I. Known then as Armistice Day, Americans used this as a day of recognition in honor of all soldiers who served during the First World War. In 1938, US Congress passed a bill that federally recognized Armistice Day as a holiday. In 1954, it was changed to Veterans Day, so that all US veterans could be honored. From the snowy fields of Valley Forge to the sandy beaches of Tripoli; from Gettysburg to San Juan Hill; from No Man’s Land to Guadalcanal; from Korea to Afghanistan, we greatly love and appreciate our veterans. You have our gratitude!

November 11, 1921
The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is dedicated in Arlington, Virginia. Approval of a burial site for unidentified veterans by US Congress occurred on March 4, 1921. The site chosen was Memorial Amphitheater, located at Arlington National Cemetery. The first Unknown Soldier was a World War I veteran returned from France. The tomb was carved using Yule marble, taken from Gunnison County, Colorado. Carving was completed by the Piccirilli Brothers (who also carved the Lincoln Memorial) and Thomas Jones. The tomb was officially completed on April 9, 1932. Since its dedication, the tomb has also seen the burial of Unknown Soldiers from World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. The tomb is guarded day and night, rain or shine, 24/7, by a soldier of the US Army. The soldier follows a strict set of directions, beginning with marching 21 steps down a black mat that is 63 feet long. The number 21 represents the 21-Gun Salute, the highest military honor.

November 12, 1948
The International Military Tribunal for the Far East sentences Hideki Tojo to death. An orchestrator of the Attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, Tojo served as Prime Minister of the Japanese Empire from 1941-1944. Following Japan’s surrender at the end of World War II, Tojo was captured, though not before shooting himself in a failed suicide attempt. The International Military Tribunal for the Far East (the Pacific equivalent of the Nazi Nuremberg Trials) found Tojo guilty and convicted of numerous war crimes, as well as other crimes against humanity. He was executed on December 23, 1948.

November 13, 1982
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial is dedicated in Washington DC. Also known as the Vietnam Wall, this memorial spans two acres and honors the soldiers who were killed or captured during the Vietnam War. Designed by Maya Lin, the wall contains the names of 58,320 soldiers. The Vietnam War was the longest conflict of the Cold War and lasted from 1955-1975. Located near the wall are two famous statues: The Three Servicemen, who face the wall solemnly; and the Women’s Memorial, which is dedicated to all women who served during the Vietnam War. Presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump both issued proclamations to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War, 2012 and 2017, respectively.

November 14, 1965
The Battle of la Drang begins. This was the first major battle during the Vietnam War between the United States Army and the North Vietnamese Army. Beginning on November 1, 1955, the Vietnam War was a proxy conflict of the Cold War, during which the US and USSR fought one-another indirectly through their respective allies. At la Drang, US and South Vietnamese forces engaged the North Vietnamese Army in the Central Highlands of South Vietnam. The battle saw a high mortality rate and an indecisive outcome, with both sides claiming a victory. This was also the first large-scale aerial assault with helicopters in wartime.

November 15, 1939
President Franklin D. Roosevelt lays the cornerstone for the Jefferson Memorial in Washington DC. Thomas Jefferson was a Founding Father of the United States and has been renowned as the primary author of the Declaration of Independence. Jefferson served in numerous positions throughout his political career, culminating as US President from 1801-1809. He has been regarded as a complex figure who, while owning numerous slaves, also signed some of the nation’s first anti-slavery legislation. Jefferson was a founder of the Democratic-Republican Party, which split into the Democratic and Whig Parties during the 1820s and 1830s, respectively. The Jefferson Memorial was completed in 1943 and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1966. Inside the memorial are excerpts from Jefferson’s various quotes and speeches.

Stay tuned for American history in November, coming soon!

Garrett Smith
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