On this day in 1941, Adm. Chuichi Nagumo leads the Japanese First Air Fleet, an aircraft carrier strike force, toward Pearl Harbor, with the understanding that should “negotiations with the United States reach a successful conclusion, the task force will immediately put about and return to the homeland.”
On this day in 1942, French Admiral Jean de Laborde sinks the French fleet anchored in Toulon harbor, off the southern coast of France, in order to keep it out of German hands.
On this day in 1964, President Lyndon Johnson’s top advisers–Maxwell Taylor, Dean Rusk, Robert McNamara, and other members of the National Security Council–agree to recommend that the president adopt a plan for a two-stage escalation of the bombing of North Vietnam.
On this day in 1967, Robert S. McNamara announces that he will resign as Secretary of Defense and will become president of the World Bank.
On this day in 1864, the once proud Confederate Army of Tennessee suffers a devastating defeat after its commander, General John Bell Hood, orders a frontal assault on strong Union positions around Franklin, Tennessee. The loss cost Hood six of his finest generals and nearly a third of his force.
General George Washington’s army settles into a second season at Morristown, New Jersey, on this day in 1779. Washington’s personal circumstances improved dramatically as he moved into the Ford Mansion and was able to conduct his military business in the style of a proper 18th-century gentleman.
On this day in 1942, Enrico Fermi, the Italian-born Nobel Prize-winning physicist, directs and controls the first nuclear chain reaction in his laboratory beneath the bleachers of Stagg Field at the University of Chicago, ushering in the nuclear age. Upon successful completion of the experiment, a coded message was transmitted to President Roosevelt: “The Italian navigator has landed in the new world.”