1779 Anthony Wayne launches risky attack against British forces On July 16, 1779, American Brigadier General Anthony Wayne launches a coup de main against British fortifications at Stony Point, New York, on the orders of General George Washington. He earns the moniker “Mad” Anthony Wayne for the ensuing maneuver. The British fort on the cliffs at Stony Point overlooking the Hudson River threatened West Point, which was only 12 miles upriver. Wayne, at the head of 1,200 light infantry, successfully assaulted what the British believed was an impregnable position, losing only 15 killed and 83 wounded while the British lost 94 killed and wounded and 472 captured. Remarkably, the attack took place under cover of darkness, employed only bayonets as weaponry and lasted a mere 30 minutes. Two days later, Wayne, now dubbed “mad” for his enthusiastic and successful undertaking of a mission that had seemed doomed to failure, destroyed the fortifications and evacuated the area. Congress rewarded Wayne’s efforts with a medal. Much of Wayne’s ensuing career involved divesting Native Americans of their land. Following the victory at Yorktown, Wayne traveled to Georgia, where he negotiated treaties with the Creeks and Cherokees. They paid dearly in land for their decision to side with the British, and Georgia paid Wayne in land—giving him a large plantation—for his efforts on their behalf. In 1794, President George Washington called upon Wayne to bring the ongoing violence with British-backed Indians in the Northwest Territory to a close. Wayne was victorious at the Battle of Fallen Timbers, near what is now Toledo, Ohio, and gained much of what would become Ohio and Indiana for the U.S. in the Treaty of Greenville. The first atomic bomb test is successfully exploded On July 16, 1945, at 5:29:45 a.m., the Manhattan Project comes to an explosive end as the first atom bomb is successfully tested in Alamogordo, New Mexico. Plans for the creation of a uranium bomb by the Allies were established as early as 1939, when Italian emigre physicist Enrico Fermi met with U.S. Navy department officials at Columbia University to discuss the use of fissionable materials for military purposes. That same year, Albert Einstein wrote to President Franklin Roosevelt supporting the theory that an uncontrolled nuclear chain reaction had great potential as a basis for a weapon of mass destruction. In February 1940, the federal government granted a total of $6,000 for research. But in early 1942, with the United States now at war with the Axis powers, and fear mounting that Germany was working on its own uranium bomb, the War Department took a more active interest, and limits on resources for the project were removed. Brigadier-General Leslie R. Groves, himself an engineer, was now in complete charge of a project to assemble the greatest minds in science and discover how to harness the power of the atom as a means of bringing the war to a decisive end. The Manhattan Project (so-called because of where the research began) would wind its way through many locations during the early period of theoretical exploration, most importantly, the University of Chicago, where Enrico Fermi successfully set off the first fission chain reaction. But the Project took final form in the desert of New Mexico, where, in 1943, Robert J. Oppenheimer began directing Project Y at a laboratory at Los Alamos, along with such minds as Hans Bethe, Edward Teller, and Fermi. Here theory and practice came together, as the problems of achieving critical mass—a nuclear explosion—and the construction of a deliverable bomb were worked out. Finally, on the morning of July 16, in the New Mexico desert 120 miles south of Santa Fe, the first atomic bomb was detonated. The scientists and a few dignitaries had removed themselves 10,000 yards away to observe as the first mushroom cloud of searing light stretched 40,000 feet into the air and generated the destructive power of 15,000 to 20,000 tons of TNT. The tower on which the bomb sat when detonated was vaporized. The question now became—on whom was the bomb to be dropped? Germany was the original target, but the Germans had already surrendered. The only belligerent remaining was Japan. A footnote: The original $6,000 budget for the Manhattan Project finally ballooned to a total cost of $2 billion. 1969 July 16 Apollo 11 departs Earth At 9:32 a.m. EDT, Apollo 11, the first U.S. lunar landing mission, is launched on a historic journey to the surface of the moon. After traveling 240,000 miles in 76 hours, Apollo 11 entered into a lunar orbit on July 19. The next day, at 1:46 p.m., the lunar module Eagle, manned by astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, separated from the command module, where a third astronaut, Michael Collins, remained. Two hours later, the Eagle began its descent to the lunar surface, and at 4:18 p.m. the craft touched down on the southwestern edge of the Sea of Tranquility. Armstrong immediately radioed to Mission Control in Houston a famous message, “The Eagle has landed.” At 10:39 p.m., five hours ahead of the original schedule, Armstrong opened the hatch of the lunar module. Seventeen minutes later, at 10:56 p.m., Armstrong spoke the following words to millions listening at home: “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” A moment later, he stepped off the lunar module’s ladder, becoming the first human to walk on the surface of the moon. Aldrin joined him on the moon’s surface at 11:11 p.m., and together they took photographs of the terrain, planted a U.S. flag, ran a few simple scientific tests, and spoke with President Richard M. Nixon via Houston. By 1:11 a.m. on July 21, both astronauts were back in the lunar module, and the hatch was closed. The two men slept that night on the surface of the moon, and at 1:54 p.m. the Eagle began its ascent back to the command module. Among the items left on the surface of the moon was a plaque that read: “Here men from the planet Earth first set foot on the moon–July 1969 A.D.–We came in peace for all mankind.” At 5:35 p.m., Armstrong and Aldrin successfully docked and rejoined Collins, and at 12:56 a.m. on July 22 Apollo 11 began its journey home, safely splashing down in the Pacific Ocean at 12:51 p.m. on July 24. There would be five more successful lunar landing missions, and one unplanned lunar swing-by, Apollo 13. The last men to walk on the moon, astronauts Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt of the Apollo 17 mission, left the lunar surface on December 14, 1972. The Apollo program was a costly and labor intensive endeavor, involving an estimated 400,000 engineers, technicians, and scientists, and costing $24 billion (close to $100 billion in today’s dollars). The expense was justified by President John F. Kennedy’s 1961 mandate to beat the Soviets to the moon, and after the feat was accomplished, ongoing missions lost their viability.