Today in 1968 Apollo 8, the first manned mission to the moon, was successfully launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, with astronauts Frank Borman, James Lovell, Jr., and William Anders aboard. Apollo 8 orbited the moon 10 times before returning to earth.
“Give me 80 men and I can ride through the whole Sioux nation.” – Capt. William J. Fetterman
Today in 1866 on the Bozeman Trail, near Ft. Phil Kearny, near what is today Buffalo, Wyoming, brevet Lt. Col. William Fetterman with a force of 80 troopers rode from Ft. Kearny to rescue a wood cutting detail from attacking Lakota warriors, led by Crazy Horse. Fetterman was ordered by Colonel Henry Carrington not to pursue the Indians; to return with the detail. “Under no circumstances” was the relief party to “pursue over the ridge that is Lodge Trail Ridge.”
Crazy Horse and about 10 warriors pretended fear and retreated. Fetterman took the bait and gave chase, running into an ambush of about 1,000 warriors—more than the number at the Battle of Little Bighorn. Fetterman and his force were killed. There were no survivors. The Indians had few guns and fought mostly with bows and arrows, spears, and clubs. Only six of the 81 soldiers died of gunshot wounds.
Mutilating the bodies of their dead foes was an Indian custom, ensuring, according to their religion, that their enemies were unable to enjoy the physical pleasures of an afterlife. All were mutilated, except that of the bugler, Adolph Metzger, whose corpse was covered with a buffalo robe, a sign of respect for his courage.
On December 26, the bodies of Fetterman, his officers, and his men were buried in a common trench.
Today in 1970 Elvis Presley visited the White House and greeted by President Nixon.
Presley had checked into a hotel at Washington, D.C. under an alias and the next day with two bodyguards proceeded to the White House gates. The guard recognized Elvis and asked for permission to allow him to the White House. There is a White House memo dated the morning of December 21 from presidential advisor Dwight Chapin suggesting that Elvis be introduced to the president. It suggested that Nixon should meet “bright young people outside the Government, Presley might be the one to start with.” Elvis was not searched before being granted admission: Upon meeting Nixon he presented the president with a gift–a World War II-era Colt .45 pistol.
On December 31, Nixon wrote a thank-you note to Presley for the gift of the pistol and for visiting him at the White House.
Rest in Peace General George Smith Patton, Jr., controversial and audacious WWII Army general, who died today in 1945 from an injury following a car accident near Mannheim, Germany, December 9, at a hospital in Heidelberg. He was age 60.
“Old Blood and Guts” Patton was born November 11, 1885, at San Gabriel, California. He was age 60. Patton is buried at the American Cemetery and Memorial, Luxembourg, Luxembourg.