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Burning the Philadelphia & ROE

14 FEB 1778 – The USS Ranger, under command by John Paul Jones, arrives in France. The USS Ranger was flying for the first time, to a foreign port, the recently adopted Stars and Stripes. This marks the first time the US flag was recognized by a foreign vessel, after a French Admiral rendered a 9 gun salute to the USS Ranger. John Paul Jones is often referred to the Father of the American Navy. 

14 FEB 1962 – President Kennedy authorizes US Military advisors in Vietnam to return fire if fired upon. These updated Rules of Engagement, ROE, acknowledged that US troops were in combat situations but also was used to downplay the appearance of the increased amount of US involvement in Vietnam. 

16 FEB 1804 – US Navy Lieutenant Stephen Decatur leads what would be described as the “most daring act of the age” during the First Barbary War. Months before the USS Philadelphia ran around near the harbor in Tripoli and was captured by Tripolitan forces. Fearing the enemy would use the ship as a base to improve their inferior naval ships, Decatur would lead a daring raid to either regain or destroy the USS Philadelphia. With 80 volunteers he sailed into the harbor aboard the USS Intrepid, disguised as a common merchant ship. The Sailors and Marines that were to board the ship were ordered to avoid the use of any firearms unless absolutely necessary in order to maintain the secrecy of the mission. Decatur and 60 men would come along side of the USS Philadelphia and board her, quickly storming and overwhelming the small force holding the ship. The raiding force would only suffer one minor wounded and they would kill at least 20 of the enemy Tripolitan crew, in only 10 minutes time. After regaining the ship Decatur would find the USS Philadelphia to badly damaged to be sailed out of port and would set the ship on fire. As the raiding party escaped the ships gun powder stores and loaded cannons would explode, helping to cover the daring escape of Decatur and his men. Upon hearing of the event British Vice Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson would be the one to call the mission the “most daring act of the age” while the Pope Pius VII would declare the young USA had done more in one night to fight the “anti-Christian barbarians on the African coast” than Europeans had done in a long period of time.

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