On this day in 1862, the U.S.S. Monitor sinks in a storm off Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. Just nine months earlier, the ship had been part of a revolution in naval warfare when the ironclad dueled to a standstill with the C.S.S. Virginia (Merrimack)off Hampton Roads, Virginia, in one of the most famous naval battles in American history–the first time two ironclads faced each other in a naval engagement.
On this day in 1775, Patriot forces under generals Benedict Arnold and Richard Montgomery are defeated by the British defenders of the city of Quebec in Canada.
On this day in 1959, facing a popular revolution spearheaded by Fidel Castro’s 26th of July Movement, Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista flees the island nation. Amid celebration and chaos in the Cuban capitol of Havana, the U.S. debated how best to deal with the radical Castro and the ominous rumblings of anti-Americanism in Cuba.
On this day in 1967, in what is described as the biggest air battle of the war to date, U.S. Air Force F-4 Phantom jets down seven communist MiG-21s over North Vietnam. The Phantoms were flying cover for F-105 Thunderchief fighter-bombers, which were attacking surface-to-air missile sites in the Red River Delta. During this operation, Col. Robin Olds shot down one of the MiGs, becoming the first and only U.S. Air Force ace with victories in both World War II and Vietnam (“ace” was a designation traditionally awarded for five enemy aircraft shot down).
On this day in 1990, Panama’s General Manuel Antonio Noriega, after holing up for 10 days at the Vatican embassy in Panama City, surrenders to U.S. military troops to face charges of drug trafficking. Noriega was flown to Miami the following day and crowds of citizens on the streets of Panama City rejoiced. On July 10, 1992, the former dictator was convicted of drug trafficking, money laundering and racketeering and sentenced to 40 years in prison.
On this day in 1847, Samuel Colt rescues the future of his faltering gun company by winning a contract to provide the U.S. government with 1,000 of his .44 caliber revolvers.
On this day in 1895, French officer Alfred Dreyfus, condemned for passing military secrets to the Germans, is stripped of his rank in a humiliating public ceremony in the courtyard of Paris’ Ecole Militaire. The Jewish artillery captain, convicted on flimsy evidence in a highly irregular trial, began his life sentence on the notorious Devil’s Island Prison in French Guyana four months later.