September 20, 1565 - Spanish forces under Pedro Menendez de Aviles capture the French Huguenot settlement of Fort Caroline, near present-day Jacksonville, Florida. The French, commanded by René Goulaine de Laudonnière, lost 135 men in the first instance of colonial warfare between European powers in America. Most of those killed were massacred on the order of Aviles, who allegedly had the slain hung on trees beside the inscription "Not as Frenchmen, but as heretics." Laudonniere and some 40 other Huguenots escaped. In 1564, the French Huguenots (Protestants) had settled on the Banks of May, a strategic point on the Florida coast. King Philip II of Spain was disturbed by this challenge to Spanish authority in the New World and sent Pedro Menendez de Aviles to Florida to expel the French heretics and establish a Spanish colony there. In early September 1565, Aviles founded San Augustin on the Florida coast, which would later grow into Saint Augustine--the oldest city in North America. Two weeks later, on September 20, he attacked and destroyed the French settlement of Fort Caroline. The decisive French defeat encouraged France to refocus its colonial efforts in America far to the north, in what is now Quebec and Nova Scotia in Canada.
September 20, 1776 - American soldiers, some of them members of Nathan Hale’s regiment, filtered into British-held New York City and stashed resin soaked logs into numerous buildings and a roaring inferno was started. A fourth of the city was destroyed including Trinity Church. The events are documented in the 1997 book "Liberty by Thomas Fleming."
September 20, 1777 - British Dragoons massacred sleeping Continental troops at Paoli, Pa. Prior to launching a surprise night attack on Anthony Wayne’s Continental division at Paoli, General Charles Grey ordered his troops to rely entirely on their bayonets. To ensure that his troops obeyed, he had his men remove the flints from their weapons so they could not be fired.
September 20, 1797 - The US frigate Constitution (Old Ironsides) was launched in Boston.
September 20, 1806 - After nearly two-and-a-half years spent exploring the western wilderness, the Corps of Discovery arrived at the frontier village of La Charette, the first white settlement they had seen since leaving behind the outposts of eastern civilization in 1804. Entirely out of provisions and trade goods and subsisting on wild plums, Meriwether Lewis, William Clark, and their men were understandably eager to reach home. Upon arriving at La Charette, the men fired a three-round salute to alert the inhabitants of their approach and were answered by three rounds from the trading boats moored at the riverbank. The people of La Charette rushed to the banks of the Missouri to greet the returning heroes. "Every person," Clark wrote with his characteristic inventive spelling, "both French and americans Seem to express great pleasure at our return, and acknowledge them selves astonished in Seeing us return. They informed us that we were Supposed to have been lost long Since." The Lewis and Clark mission had been a spectacular success. With the aid of friendly Native American tribes, the explorers had charted the upper reaches of the Missouri, proved there was no easy water passage across the Continental Divide, reached the shores of the Pacific Ocean, and made the first major step to opening of the trans-Mississippi West to the American settlement. After spending the evening celebrating with the people of La Charette, the next day the expedition continued rapidly down the river and after two more days reached St. Louis, the city where their long journey had begun. Lewis' first act upon leaping from his canoe to the St. Louis dock was to send a note asking the postmaster to delay the mail headed east so he could write a quick letter to President Jefferson telling him that the intrepid Corps of Discovery had, at long last, come home.
September 20, 1814 - With the U.S. Capitol destroyed by the British, Marines protected Congress in a hotel.
September 20, 1820 - John Fulton Reynolds, Major General (Union volunteers), was born. He died in 1863 on first day at Gettysburg.
September 20, 1861 - Lexington, Missouri, was captured by Union forces.
September 20, 1863 - In one of the bloodiest battles of the war, the Confederate Army of Tennessee drives the Union Army of the Cumberland back into Chattanooga, Tennessee, from Chickamauga Creek in northern Georgia. Although technically a Confederate victory, the battle had little long-term effect on the military situation in the region. During the summer of 1863, Union General William Rosecrans had outmaneuvered Confederate General Braxton Bragg. Without fighting any major battles, Rosecrans had moved Bragg out of Tullahoma, Tennessee, and, by September, had captured Chattanooga. Pursuing Bragg into the mountainous region of northern Georgia, Rosecrans gleaned information from Confederate deserters that indicated Bragg was retreating. However, this information was false and had been deliberately fed to the Yankees. Bragg had hoped to attack Rosecrans and drive the Federals south, away from Chattanooga and Union supply lines. On September 19, a division from Union General George Thomas's corps moved out to strike at what Thomas thought was an isolated Confederate brigade. But his force ran into dismounted Rebel cavalry, and the battle escalated when Bragg sent additional troops to the skirmish. As the day wore on, the battle spread down the lines until both armies were fully engaged. That night, additional Confederate troops arrived under the command of James Longstreet. Longstreet was part of Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia, and his men had fought at Gettysburg two months prior. He was dispatched with two of his divisions to stem the tide of Confederate defeat in the West. Longsteet's appearance paid off for the Confederates. Around noon on September 20, the stalemate broke when Rosecrans ordered General Thomas Wood to move his division to plug a gap in the Yankee line. Although no such gap existed, one was created when Wood moved his division. Longstreet's troops were now able to march through the gap, and the Union line collapsed in chaos. Most of the Union army began a hasty retreat to nearby Chattanooga, leaving Thomas's corps alone on the battlefield. Thomas stubbornly held his ground and halted the Rebel attack, which allowed him to successfully withdraw without further losses. His action earned him the nickname "The Rock of Chickamauga." Bragg did not immediately pursue Rosecrans to Chattanooga. Instead, the Confederates besieged the city until Union reinforcements arrived in late October. One of the largest battles of the war, Chickamauga resulted in 18,500 Confederate casualties and 16,100 Union casualties. Each side lost about 28 percent of their forces.
September 20, 1881 - Chester A. Arthur was sworn in as the 21st president of the United States, succeeding James A. Garfield, who had been assassinated.
September 20, 1917 - The 26th “Yankee” Division (CT, ME, MA, NH, RI, VT) becomes the first American division to arrive in Europe during World War I. More than one million American soldiers and Marines will join them by war’s end in November 1918. All 18 National Guard divisions will serve in France, but only 11 see combat as intact units. Six others become “depot” divisions, serving as a source of replacements for casualties suffered by the frontline divisions. One, the 93rd Division, composed of all of the Guard’s African American units, has each of its four regiments parceled out to three different French divisions because American army leadership did not want to mix black and white soldiers together.
September 20, 1943 - American forces on Sagekarasa discover that the Japanese forces have been evacuated.
September 20, 1943 - In an ongoing debate over drafting fathers of families, General Marshal and Admiral King tell a Senate Committee hearing that failure to draft such persons will probably prolong the war.
September 20, 1943 - General Lucas replaces General Dawley in command of the US 6th Corps (part of the US 5th Army).
September 20, 1944 - Operation Market Garden continues. A joint attack by the British Guards Armored Division and the US 82nd Airborne Division captures Nijmegen and the bridge over the Waal River. At Arnhem, the British 1st Airborne Division is forced away from the bridge by German forces. Meanwhile, Polish forces, part of Canadian 1st Army, make gains along the Scheldt River. Farther south, US 3rd Army (part of US 12th Army Group) captures Chatel and Luneville.
September 20, 1944 - On Angaur, most of the Japanese garrison has been eliminated by American forces. Some Japanese forces continue to resist in the northwest of the island.1945 - German rocket engineers who have been captured at the end of the war and been brought to the US start work on the American rocket program.
September 20, 1945 - Automotive manufacturers had been at the heart of a seamless war machine during World War II, producing trucks, tanks, and planes at astounding rates. But only after the last shots were fired did auto factories begin to produce cars again, focusing their sights on the booming postwar market. A month after the surrender of Japan, Packard followed the lead of every other company and ceased military production, turning out its last wartime Rolls-Royce Merlin engine on this day.
September 20, 1950 - Marines of the 1st Marine Division crossed the Han River along a six-mile beachhead, eight miles northwest of Seoul, Korea. Five days later, the 1st and 5th Marines would attack Seoul and the city would be captured by 27 September.
September 20, 1951 - In Operation Summit, the first combat helicopter landing in history, U.S. Marines were landed in Korea.
September 20, 1954 - The 1st FORTRAN computer program was executed.
September 20, 1972 - The USAF reveals that U.S. planes have been mining the coastal rivers and canals of northern Quang Tri province below the DMZ, the first mining of waterways within South Vietnam. This was an attempt to impede further reinforcement of North Vietnamese forces in the area and to remove the threat to the newly recaptured city of Quang Tri.
September 20, 1984 - Twelve people were killed today when a suicide car bomber attacked the U.S. embassy complex in Beirut, Lebanon. Unfortunately, these deaths were not an isolated tragedy. Car bombs have become the weapon of choice for terrorists in recent years, used by militant groups all over the world. The car bomb method has sadly proven an effective way of achieving mass destruction, as it is much easier for a terrorist to find a parking space than bypass a building's internal security. From Beirut to Oklahoma City, entire buildings have been destroyed from car bomb blasts, and countless lives have been lost. Among the most recent tragedies were the dual U.S. embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania, where two car bombs killed 257 people, and reduced several buildings to rubble.
September 20, 1990 - Both Germanys ratified reunification.
September 20, 1990 - Demanding equal time, Iraq asked US networks to broadcast a message by President Saddam Hussein in response to President Bush’s videotaped address to the Iraqi people.
September 20, 1990 - PSU 301 became the second reserve Coast Guard port security unit deployed in support of Operation Desert Shield. PSU 301 was staffed by reservists from Buffalo, New York. They were stationed in Al-Jubayl, Saudi Arabia.
September 20, 1991 - U.N. weapons inspectors left Bahrain for Iraq to renew their search for Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.
September 20, 1992 - The space shuttle Endeavour landed at the Kennedy Space Center.
September 20, 1994 - Space shuttle Discovery and its six astronauts landed at Edwards Air Force Base in California after an 11-day mission.
September 20, 1995 - Bosnian Serb rebels pulled back enough heavy weapons from around Sarajevo to keep NATO airstrikes at bay.
September 20, 1999 - In Kosovo NATO and the KLA agreed on a transformation of the KLA into a civil defense group named the Kosovo Protection Corps.
September 20, 2001 - Pictures of most of the Sep 11 hijackers were published along with some personal data.
September 20, 2001 - Iraq accuses Kuwait of excessive extraction of the joint al-Ratqa border oilfield. Iraq's foreign minister requests compensation from Kuwait.
September 20, 2001 - The FBI arrested Nabil Al-Marabh (34), a suspected bin laden associate, in the Chicago area.
September 20, 2001 - A chartered flight left the US with members of the sprawling bin Laden family. The FBI interviewed 22 of the 26 people aboard.
September 20, 2001 - In Afghanistan Muslim clerics issued an edict that suggested Osama bin Laden be persuaded to leave the country.
September 20, 2001 - In Macedonia NATO troops began the 3rd stage of Essential Harvest.
September 20, 2001 - President Bush addresses joint session of Congress in response to 9/11 attacks, proposing a new Office of Homeland Security.
September 20, 2002 - In Yemen 2 suspected members of al-Qaida were killed in a gunbattle and three others were arrested after security forces raided several homes looking for members of the terrorist network.
September 20, 2003 - In Iraq gunmen attacked and wounded Aquila al-Hashimi, one of three women on Iraq's Governing Council and a leading candidate to become the country's representative at the United Nations.
September 20, 2004 - A car bomb exploded in the northern Iraq city of Mosul, killing three people. Gunmen killed a Sunni Muslim cleric as he entered a mosque in Baghdad to perform noon prayers. At least two people were killed and three wounded in explosions that rocked the rebel-held city of Fallujah. An Islamic group posted a video showing the beheading of US contract employee Eugene Armstrong.