Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Revolutionary Turning Point

Today is a big day for history buffs. The United States would probably not exist were it not for the support France provided the fledgling nation against the power of Great Britain, then the world's most powerful nation. On this day in 1778, the Continental Congress signed a treaty with France that made France an ally and changed the Revolutionary War from a rebellion into an international conflict.

Once the treaty was signed, France dispatched their West Indies Fleet under Admiral Francois de Grasse to the United States. deGrasse's defeat of the British fleet commanded by Admiral Thomas Graves off Cheasapeake in 1781 led to the Franco-American victory at Yorktown over General Lord Cornwallis' army, which to all intents and purposes ended the Revolutionary War.

Although France was acting mainly for its own interests (France and Britain were then engaged in a long-running war that would cover nearly a hundred years and only end with the final defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo in 1815), France is to be thanked, as without their timely intervention, Britain would probably have won the war eventually.

Today is also an important day in history for naval history buffs. On this day in 1991, the battleship USS Wisconsin used her 16-inch main battery to destroy an Iraqi anti-aircraft battery in Kuwait. This was her first service since the Korean War. Today, the Wisconsin, together with her sister-ship USS Iowa, are the only two battleships remaining in US government service.

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