Four F9F-2 Panther jet fighters roar past the carrier, with dive brakes, landing gear and arresting hooks down, preparing to land on board after returning from a mission over North Korea, 23 June 1951. The planes and their pilots are from Fighter Squadron 721 (VF-721), a Naval Reserve squadron formerly based at Naval Air Station, Glenview, Illinois. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Navy.

APRIL 2, 1951

First U.S. Navy jet aircraft utilized as a bomber

First U.S. Navy jet aircraft utilized as a bomber is launched from the USS Princeton. Two F9F-2B Panthers catapulted from the Princeton to attack a railroad bridge near Songlin, North Korea.

President Harry Truman signs the Economic Cooperation Act of 1948 surrounded by the Act’s supporters. (Left to right) Senator Arthur Vandenberg, Treasury Secretary John Snyder, Representative Charles A. Eaton, Senator Tom Connally, Secretary of the Interior Julius A. Krug, Representative Joseph Martin, Representative Sol Bloom, and Attorney General Tom Clark, April 3, 1948. Photo courtesy of the U.S. National Archives.

APRIL 3, 1948

President Harry Truman signed the Economic Cooperation Act of 1948

President Harry S. Truman signed legislation authorizing the Economic Cooperation Act of 1948. Today, we refer to this legislation as the Marshall Plan in honor of George C. Marshall Jr., a General of the U.S. Army and the Secretary of State when the document was signed. The goal of the Marshall Plan was to both stabilize and reinvigorate the economy of Western Europe after the destruction of World War II. The Marshall Plan provided over $12 billion dollars in economic assistance to the Western European economy. Eventually, the Marshall Plan was replaced with the Mutual Security Act of 1951, also enacted by the Truman Administration, with the goal of economically lifting less developed countries up to prevent the spread of communism throughout the world.

Official Gold Star lapel pin/button.

APRIL 5

Gold Star Spouses Day

Gold Star Spouses Day is observed. The first Gold Star Spouses Day began as Gold Star Wives Day in 2010. It was later changed to be more inclusive. The term Gold Star has its origins from the service flags and banners that were first flown by families during World War I. They represented a blue star for family members serving in the armed forces and a gold star if their family member made the ultimate sacrifice during service. This day brings awareness about the sacrifices and grief spouses face. It is a reminder for all of us to remember them and their loved ones on this day and every day.

Enlisted crewmen of USCGC Tampa, all killed in action (KIA), 1918. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Coast Guard.

APRIL 6, 1917

Coast Guard service is transferred to the Navy

When the U.S. enters World War I, Coast Guard service is transferred to the Navy. The United States declared war on Germany, nearly three years after World War I started. On the same day, the U.S. Navy’s communications center in Arlington, Virginia, transmitted the code words “Plan One, Acknowledge,” to Coast Guard cutters, units and bases initiating the Coast Guard’s transfer from the Treasury Department to the Navy and placing the service on a wartime footing.

American survivors of the Battle of Bataan under Japanese guard before beginning the Bataan Death March. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Marine Corps.

APRIL 9

National Former Prisoner of War Recognition Day

National Former Prisoner of War Recognition Day honors all who were Prisoners of War (POWs). This day of remembrance occurs on the anniversary of the Bataan Death March. On April 9, 1942, U.S. armed forces surrendered to Japanese forces on the Bataan Peninsula in the Philippines. On that day the Imperial Japanese Army forced American and Filipino POWs to march 65 miles. During this exodus, the POWs were beaten, robbed, starved, tortured and executed by Imperial Japanese service members. It is estimated over 20,000 men died during the march. Those who did not perish suffered cruel treatment for two years as POWs before they made it back to the United States. Today is a reminder of their service and sacrifice.

U.S. Army soldiers in a firefight near Al Doura, Baghdad. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Army.

APRIL 9, 2003

U.S. forces captured Baghdad during the Iraq War

U.S. forces captured Baghdad during the Iraq War. The Battle of Baghdad, later known as the Fall of Baghdad, was a military invasion of Iraq that took place in early 2003. On April 9, just three weeks into the invasion, U.S. forces toppled a large bronze statue of Saddam Hussein overlooking Baghdad’s Firdos Square. With Hussein in hiding and much of the city now under U.S. control, this moment came to symbolize the end of the Iraqi president’s long, often brutal reign, and a major early victory for the United States.

Confederate forces bombarding Fort Sumter, Charleston, South Carolina, on April 12, 1861, in a lithograph by Currier & Ives. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.

APRIL 12, 1861

First shots of the Civil War

The first shots of the Civil War occured when Confederate forces fired on Fort Sumter. The resupply of Fort Sumter became one of the first crises of President Lincoln’s administration. He notified the Governor of South Carolina, Francis W. Pickens, that he was sending supply ships, which resulted in an ultimatum from the Confederate government for the immediate evacuation of Fort Sumter. Confederates bombarded the fort from artillery batteries surrounding the harbor, thus causing the Battle of Fort Sumter.

Lee surrenders to Grant at Appomattox. Photo courtesy of the U.S. National Archives.

APRIL 12, 1865

Confederate General Lee surrendered to Union General Grant at Appomattox Court House

Confederate General Lee surrendered to Union General Grant at Appomattox Court House. “It would be useless and therefore cruel,” Robert E. Lee remarked on the morning of April 9, 1865, “to provoke the further effusion of blood, and I have arranged to meet with General Grant with a view to surrender.” Rather than destroy his army and sacrifice the lives of his soldiers, Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia. Three days later, a formal ceremony marked the disbanding of Lee’s army. On April 9, 1865, at the home of Wilmer McLean in the village of Appomattox Court House, Virginia, General Lee formally surrendered to Union General Ulysses S. Grant bringing an end to the bloodiest conflict in American history. This happened just over four years after the Confederate bombardment of Fort Sumter, which then led to the first land battle at Manassas, Virginia, later that year.

Photo courtesy of the U.S. Air Force.

APRIL 14

Air Force Reserve Birthday

Air Force Reserve celebrates its 74th Birthday. Since President Harry S. Truman called for the formation of the Air Force Reserve in 1948, it has been a critical part of the nation’s defense. We honor the more than 82,000 men and women who provide combat ready forces to Fly, Fight and Win.

Emancipation Celebrations. Photo courtesy of the White House Historical Association.

APRIL 16, 1862

Emancipation Day is celebrated in the District of Columbia

Emancipation Day is celebrated in the District of Columbia. President Abraham Lincoln signed the Compensated Emancipation Act, which effectively abolished slavery in the District of Columbia. Slavery in other parts of the United States came to an end in 1865.

Boston Marathon runners nearing the finish line of the Boston Marathon, 2016. Photo courtesy of the Encyclopedia Britannica.

APRIL 18

Patriots’ Day

Patriots’ Day commemorates the battles of Lexington, Concord and Menotomy, some of the first battles of the American Revolutionary War. It occurs on the third Monday of April each year, including battle reenactments and the Boston Marathon in Massachusetts.

USS Samuel B. Roberts (FFG-58) underway after the ship struck a mine on 14 April 1988. A USMC CH-47 Sea Knight helicopter is on the helicopter pad. Naval History and Heritage Command photograph.

APRIL 18, 1988

U.S. launched Operation Praying Mantis, the largest naval battle since World War II

The United States launched Operation Praying Mantis against Iranian targets, the largest naval battle since World War II. The operation was launched in retaliation of the placement of mines in the Persian Gulf during the Iran-Iraq War. The guided missile frigate USS Samuel B. Roberts struck a mine four days earlier, blowing a 15-foot hole in the ship’s hull. The ship should have sunk, but thanks to an extraordinary damage control effort by all hands of an extremely well-trained crew, the ship was kept afloat. Operation Praying Mantis was the largest of five major U.S. Navy surface actions since World War II. It was the first, and so far only, time the U.S. Navy has exchanged surface-to-surface missile fire with an enemy. In the one-day operation, the U.S. Navy destroyed two Iranian surveillance platforms, sank two of their ships, and severely damaged another. 

Battle of Lexington. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Army.

APRIL 19, 1775

The Battles of Lexington and Concord were the first military engagements of the American Revolutionary War

The first military engagements of the American Revolution were the battles at Lexington and Concord. About 700 British Army regulars in Boston were given secret orders to capture and destroy Colonial supplies stored by the Massachusetts Militia at Concord. Through intelligence gathering, Patriot leaders had received word weeks ahead and moved most of it to other locations. On the night before the battle, warning of the British expedition had been rapidly sent from Boston to militias in the area by several riders, including Paul Revere, with information about British plans. The initial mode of the Army’s arrival by water was signaled from the Old North Church in Boston using lanterns to communicate “one if by land, two if by sea”. The first shots of battle were fired just as the sun was rising at Lexington. Ralph Waldo Emerson describes the first shot fired by the Patriots at the North Bridge as the “shot heard round the world.”

Photo courtesy of the U.S. Army.

APRIL 23

U.S. Army Reserve Birthday

U.S. Army Reserve celebrates its 114th Birthday. In 1908, the Army Reserve began as a small corps of medical professionals held in readiness for duty. Today, they serve as the Army’s global operational reserve force with a presence in 50 states, five U.S. Territories and 20 time zones across the globe. We recognize the more than 188,000 soldiers that protect our nation.

Photo courtesy of the U.S. Army.

APRIL 23, 1908

Medical Reserve Corps is created

Congress passed legislation that created the Medical Reserve Corps, the Army’s first Federal Reserve force. Congress created the Medical Reserve Corps to increase the Medical Department of the U.S. Army’s efficiency. The Army’s Medical Department would now consist of both a Medical Corps and a Medical Reserve Corps thereby increasing the number of medical professionals available for soldiers serving on the front lines.

Captain Beach traces the route of Triton’s submerged circumnavigation. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Naval Institute.

APRIL 25, 1960

USS Triton completed the first submerged circumnavigation of the globe

The U.S. Navy submarine USS Triton completed the first submerged circumnavigation of the globe. Dubbed “Operation Sandblast,” the mission was conducted by the nuclear-powered submarine USS Triton, and was done for purposes of geophysical and oceanographic research. Commanding the submarine was Captain Edward L. Beach Jr., who already forged a stellar naval career to that point. The son of Edward L. Beach Sr., a U.S. Navy captain, Beach Jr.’s career spanned from 1939-1966, and during this time he was awarded the Navy Cross, two Silver Stars and two Bronze Stars, among other commendations.

General William T. Sherman (left) and General Joseph E. Johnston (right). Photo courtesy of the U.S. National Archives.

APRIL 26, 1865

Confederate General Johnston accepted terms of surrender to Union General Sherman at Bennett Place

Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston accepted terms of surrender to Union General William T. Sherman at Bennett Place near Durham, North Carolina. Following Lee’s surrender and the assassination of Lincoln, Sherman met with Johnston on April 17, 1865, to negotiate a Confederate surrender. At the insistence of Johnston, Confederate President Jefferson Davis and Confederate Secretary of War John C. Breckinridge, Sherman conditionally agreed to generous terms. On April 20, Sherman sent a memorandum of those terms to Washington to prevent Johnston from ordering his men to go into the wilderness and conduct a destructive guerilla campaign. However, Sherman proceeded without Grant’s authority as well as President Johnson’s and his Cabinet. Grant intervened to save Sherman from dismissal and offered Johnston purely military terms, like those negotiated with General Lee. Johnston accepted those terms and then formally surrendered his army and all the Confederate forces in the Carolinas, Georgia and Florida.

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