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This Day in U.S. History: March 12


1550 – Several hundred Spanish and indigenous troops under the command of Pedro de Valdivia defeat an army of 60,000 Mapuche at the Battle of Penco during the Arauco War in present-day Chile.

1864 – American Civil War: The Red River Campaign begins as a US Navy fleet of 13 Ironclads and 7 Gunboats and other support ships enter the Red River.

1894 – Coca-Cola is bottled and sold for the first time in Vicksburg, Mississippi, by local soda fountain operator Joseph Biedenharn.

1912 – The Girl Guides (later renamed the Girl Scouts of the USA) are founded in the United States.

1928 – In California, the St. Francis Dam fails; the resulting floods kill over 600 people.

1933 – Great Depression: Franklin D. Roosevelt addresses the nation for the first time as President of the United States. This is also the first of his "fireside chats".

in Bandung, West Java, Dutch East Indies.

1947 – The Truman Doctrine is proclaimed to help stem the spread of Communism.

1993 – The 1993 Storm of the Century: Snow begins to fall across the eastern portion of the US with tornadoes, thunder snow storms, high winds and record low temperatures. The storm lasts for 30 hours.

1993 – Janet Reno is sworn in as the United States' first female attorney general.

1999 – Former Warsaw Pact members the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland join NATO.

2009 – Financier Bernard Madoff pleads guilty in New York to scamming $18 billion, the largest in Wall Street's history.


1806 – Jane Pierce, American wife of Franklin Pierce, 15th First Lady of the United States (d. 1863)

1831 – Clement Studebaker, American businessman, co-founded Studebaker (d. 1901)

1913 – Agathe von Trapp, Hungarian-American singer and author (d. 2010)

1922 – Jack Kerouac, American author and poet (d. 1969)

1923 – Wally Schirra, American captain, pilot, and astronaut (d. 2007)

1946 – Liza Minnelli, American actress, singer, and dancer

1960 – Courtney B. Vance, American actor and painter


1914 – George Westinghouse, American engineer and businessman (b. 1846)

1947 – Winston Churchill, American author and playwright (b. 1871)

1955 – Charlie Parker, American saxophonist and composer (b. 1920)