On this day in 1967, A launch pad fire during Apollo program tests at Cape Canaveral, Florida, kills astronauts Virgil “Gus” Grissom, Edward H. White II, and Roger B. Chafee. An investigation indicated that a faulty electrical wire inside the Apollo 1 command module was the probable cause of the fire. The astronauts, the first Americans to die in a spacecraft, had been participating in a simulation of the Apollo 1 launch scheduled for the next month.
On this day in 1777, John Burgoyne, poet, playwright and British general, submits an ill-fated plan to the British government to isolate New England from the other colonies.
On January 29, 1915, in the Argonne region of France, German lieutenant Erwin Rommel leads his company in the daring capture of four French block-houses, the structures used on the front to house artillery positions.
On this day in 1968, at dawn on the first day of the Tet holiday truce, Viet Cong forces–supported by large numbers of North Vietnamese troops–launch the largest and best coordinated offensive of the war, driving into the center of South Vietnam’s seven largest cities and attacking 30 provincial capitals from the Delta to the DMZ.
On this day in 1968, as part of the Tet Offensive, a squad of Viet Cong guerillas attacks the U.S. Embassy in Saigon. The soldiers seized the embassy and held it for six hours until an assault force of U.S. paratroopers landed by helicopter on the building’s roof and routed the Viet Cong.
On this day in 1861, Texas becomes the seventh state to secede from the Union when a state convention votes 166 to 8 in favor of the measure.
On this day in 1803, Confederate General Albert Sidney Johnston is born in Washington, Kentucky. Johnston was considered one of the best Confederate commanders until he was killed at the Battle of Shiloh, Tennessee, the first major engagement in the West.