This Day in History
November 20th: the Beginning of the Battle of Tarawa, the Occupation of Alcatraz and Other Events of the Date
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November 20th: the Beginning of the Battle of Tarawa, the Occupation of Alcatraz and Other Events of the Date


A number of important events have taken place on November 20th in U.S. history. Here is our take on the most interesting and valuable of them.

1776 – American Revolutionary War: the Battle of Fort Lee

This battle marked the successful British and Hessian Armies invasion of New Jersey that led to the retreat of the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War. At that point in the war the new nation had to struggle hard against a well-organized and professional British Army, so the Patriots couldn’t beat them even in the heart of the future United States, which the state of New Jersey was.

We’ve recently remembered the events of November 16, 1776, when the Continental Army abandoned Fort Washington, that defeat contributed to the disaster in New Jersey, as the Brits controlled the Hudson River territory by that time. Trying to add to the success of November 16th, British general William Howe ordered Charles Cornwallis to, quote, "Clear the rebel troops from New Jersey without a major engagement, and to do it quickly before the weather changed,” the Brits then managed to achieve another important victory, as more than 5000 of their troops landed near New Dock Landing (modern day Alpine).

Being outnumbered (as there were just 2000 American soldiers defending the fort), the American generals George Washington and Nathanael Greene quickly ordered the evacuation of Fort Lee.

1943 – Second World War: Pacific Theater: The Beginning of the Battle of Tarawa

The Battle of Tarawa was fought between November 20th and November 23, 1943, and took place at the Tarawa Atoll in the Gilbert Islands. This battle was also a part of the wide-scale Operation Galvanic. This was the first American offensive during the war that happened in the strategically important central Pacific region, and also – the first time, that the Japanese seriously opposed an American landing, as the previous battles were characterized with almost no resistance from the Japanese side.

This is the reason the Allies, primarily – the Americans, lost no less than 3600 soldiers and sailors killed and suffered about the same number of wounded, which was considered to be a very high death toll for a battle on such tiny islands. The casualties were quite heavy especially in light of the fact that only about 5000 Japanese soldiers defended the atoll, whilst the number of American troops deployed for the operation exceeded 50000 people.

Yet, the goal of the operation was achieved, the Tarawa Atoll was captured, and it provided the Americans with an advantage for their future military actions in the Pacific.

1969 – The Era of Changes: The Occupation of Alcatraz

Historians still argue about the exact reasons why Native Americans decided to occupy the island of Alcatraz, yet, it happened, and their voice was finally heard by the Federal Government.

The occupation of the culturally recognized island near San Francisco was initiated by 89 American Indians and their supporters. The action was led by Richard Oakes, LaNada Means, and others. The “occupation committee” chose the title of “Indians of All Tribes (IOAT)” and made John Trudell their spokesperson.

According to the version of IOAT, under the Treaty of Fort Laramie (1868), which was signed between the U.S. and the Lakota people, all “retired, abandoned or out-of-use federal land was returned to the Native people who once occupied it.”

There were many lands that fit that description in America at the end of the 1960’s, and Alcatraz – was just one of a kind, but since notorious Alcatraz penitentiary had been closed on March 21, 1963, and the island had been declared a surplus federal property a year later, in 1964, a number of Native American activists felt the island qualified for a reclamation, so they landed there and occupied it peacefully.

The Native American “occupation” of the island lasted for nineteen months, from November 20, 1969, to June 11, 1971, and was forcibly ended by the U.S. government on that date. The main result of this action was that it established an important precedent for future Indian activism.

These are the most notable events in U.S. history that occurred on November 20th, at least in our view.

Author: USA Really