On this day in 1780, Colonel Banastre Tarleton gave no quarter to a group of about 300 Virginia prisoners. After they had surrendered, the British under the command of Tarleton began to systematically shoot and hack the POWs to death. The term “Banastre Quarter” would be coined about the ruthlessness of the treatment he gave to them.
By proclamation of General John A. Logan of the Grand Army of the Republic, a Union veterans social group, the first major Memorial Day observance is held to honor those who died “in defense of their country during the late rebellion.” Known to some as “Decoration Day,” mourners honored the Civil War dead by decorating their graves with flowers. On the first Decoration Day, General James Garfield made a speech at Arlington National Cemetery, after which 5,000 participants helped to decorate the graves of the more than 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers buried in the cemetery.
On this day in 1862, under pressure from the government in Richmond, General Johnston clash in the area of Seven Pines. Part of the peninsular campaign under General George McClellan, Seven Pines or Fair Oaks would become known for its particular brutality and viciousness. McClellan would be so horrified at the wounded men, that he would be compelled to have a more cautious outlook on the campaign. Thus giving the confederacy time to breathe.
On this day in 1941, the British and Greek stronghold of Crete would fall to German paratroopers. This would be the first time in which paratroops were THE attacking force and not just considered a side show. However, without ground or adequate air support, the Germans would suffer horrendous losses, that Hitler would proclaim to General Student, that the day of the paratrooper was over. There would never be another large scale airborne operation taken on the part of the Nazis.
On this day in 1944, the U.S. 15th Air Force began operations known as shuttle bombings. They would take off from England, bomb targets in Germany, and land in occupied Eastern Europe. This was to give assurance to Josef Stalin that something major was in the works and to reassure him that the Allies were still fighting.
On this day in 1916, United States President Woodrow Wilson signs into law the National Defense Act, which expanded the size and scope of the National Guard—the network of states’ militias that had been developing steadily since colonial times—and guaranteed its status as the nation’s permanent reserve force.
On this day in 1942, the Battle of Midway–one of the most decisive U.S. victories against Japan during World War II–begins. During the four-day sea-and-air battle, the outnumbered U.S. Pacific Fleet succeeded in destroying four Japanese aircraft carriers while losing only one of its own, the Yorktown, to the previously invincible Japanese navy.