Naval watercraft from the Vietnam War era. Credit: Naval Historical Foundation

OCTOBER 10, 1969

President Richard Nixon begins removing U.S. troops from the combat zone in Vietnam

By 1969, the US had been involved in the war in Vietnam for approximately four years. This prolonged involvement sparked a long, ongoing string of protests from the American public. In response, President Richard Nixon initiated a plan for the gradual removal of U.S. troops from the combat zone in Vietnam; This process came to be known as Vietnamization.

On October 10,1969, in the single largest transfer of naval equipment since the war began, 80 U.S. Naval river-patrol boats were transferred to the South Vietnamese Navy in an effort to equip the South Vietnamese forces. This transfer would allow Vietnam to begin turning over combat responsibilities to the South Vietnamese in an effort to reduce the United States’ presence in the combat zone.

USS Cole attack

OCTOBER 12, 2000

Remembering the crew of the USS Cole

At 10:30 a.m. on October 12, 2000, the U.S. Naval Destroyer, USS Cole, began refueling at the port of Aden in Yemen. While fueling, a small boat carrying al-Qaeda suicide bombers and loaded with explosives pulled up alongside the USS Cole. The bombers attached C4 onto the side of the ship and detonated it, creating a huge gash in the hull. Seventeen U.S. service members were killed by the blast, and 39 others were wounded. An al-Qaeda recruitment video featuring Osama bin Laden took responsibility for the attack and encouraged more attacks to be executed by al-Qaeda and its supporters. Today, we remember all the service members and families affected by this event.

Two US Navy training vessels take part in the parade for Fleet Week 2019, on May 22, 2019 in New York. Credit: Johannes Eisele/AFP

OCTOBER 13

U.S. Navy Birthday

The U.S. Navy was established by the Second Continental Congress in 1775 and was first called the Continental Navy. The first ships of the Continental Navy were the USS Providence and the USS Wasp. After the American Revolutionary War, the Continental Navy was disbanded until the Naval Act of 1794, which created a permanent U.S. Navy. October 13, 1775, formally became known as the birthday of the Navy in 1972 by the Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Elmo R. Zumwalt. 

EXCOMM meeting at the White House Cabinet Room during the Cuban Missile Crisis

OCTOBER 16, 1962

The Cuban missile crisis begins

On October 16, 1962, President John F. Kennedy was shown photos that were taken by a high-altitude U-2 spy plane showing Soviet nuclear missile installations in Cuba. The missiles, located just 90 miles off the coast of Florida, could carry nuclear warheads putting the U.S. in jeopardy of an attack with minimal notice. President Kennedy convened his advisers to analyze options in order to form a response. Robert McNamara, Secretary of Defense, presented President Kennedy with three options: diplomacy with Cuban leader Fidel Castro and Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, a naval isolation of Cuba or an air attack on Cuba to destroy the missile sites. Kennedy elected to institute a quarantine to buy time to negotiate the withdrawal of missiles. 

John Trumbull:  Surrender of Lord Cornwallis

OCTOBER 17, 1781

British Gen. Lord Charles Cornwallis surrenders at Yorktown

During the American Revolution, England also was at war with Spain and France. In October of 1781, Gen. George Washington, French ally Lt. Gen. Comte de Rochambeau, and the Continental Army traveled to Yorktown, Virginia, where Gen. Charles Lord Cornwallis’s troops were stationed. With Washington’s forces nearly doubling those of the British, and the added element of surprise, Gen. Lord Cornwallis surrendered, resulting in the last major land battle of the American Revolution.

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