June 26 in U.S. military history

[Originally published at OpsLens.com]

1862: Confederate forces led by Gen. Robert E. Lee launch a counteroffensive against Maj. Gen. George McClellan’s Army of the Potomac. Although the outnumbered Confederates suffer heavy casualties and subordinates fail to execute Lee’s plans, McClellan will ultimately withdraw from Richmond following the Battle of Mechanicsburg – the first major engagement of the Seven Days Battles – and abandon the Peninsula Campaign.

1917: A convoy containing the first American Expeditionary Forces – members of the 5th Marine Regiment – land at the beaches of Saint-Nazaire France. The American troops will train for four months before entering combat. More than two million Americans will serve on the battlefields of Western Europe, and over 50,000 will lay down their lives in the “War to End All War.”

1942: The Grumman F6F “Hellcat” – credited with the most aerial victories of any Allied naval aircraft during World War II – makes its first flight. Designed to compete with the agile Mitsubishi A6M “Zero” fighter, the Hellcat will come to dominate the skies over the Pacific. 34 Japanese warplanes are knocked out of the sky by top Navy ace and Medal of Honor recipient Capt. David McCampbell – one of an incredible 305 Hellcat aces in the war.

1944: U.S. 7th Corps captures the French port city of Cherbourg, taking the garrison commander Lt. General Karl-Wilhelm von Schlieben and the naval commander, Rear Admiral Walter Hennecke, prisoner. A pocket of Germans still control the vital port facilities, and Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Quentin R. Walsh leads a 53-man naval reconnaissance unit through hostile fire and assaults the naval arsenal, capturing 400 Germans. His force then moved to Fort Du Homet where he received the surrender of another 350 Germans, and released 52 American paratroopers that had been taken prisoner. For his heroic actions, Walsh is awarded the Navy Cross.

1948: When the Soviet Union cuts off West Berlin by sealing off highway and railroad routes, the U.S. Air Force begins the Berlin Airlift. American and other allied nations perform some 300,000 air-transport flights into West Berlin delivering an average of 5,000 tons of food, coal, and other essential items per day to the blockaded city until the Soviets relent a year later.

1950: A day after North Korean forces cross into South Korea, kicking off the Korean War, the destroyers USS De Haven (DD-727) and USS Mansfield (DD-728) evacuate 700 American and foreign nationals from Inchon.

1965: Gen. William Westmoreland is granted the authority to send American combat forces on offensive operations. Prior to this decision, U.S. forces primarily served in a defensive role at air bases and other installations.

Posted on June 26, 2017 at 11:15 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
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June 23 in U.S. military history

[Originally published at OpsLens.com]

1812: Immediately after war is declared, a squadron of American ships led by Commodore John Rodgers sails to intercept a British convoy sailing from Jamaica. When the frigate HMS Belvidera is spotted, Rodgers personally aims and fires the first shot of the War of 1812 – the cannonball striking the British ship’s rudder and penetrating the gun room.

1865: Confederate Brig. Gen. – and Cherokee chief – Stand Watie surrenders his First Indian Brigade of the Army of the Trans-Mississippi to Union forces in Oklahoma Territory, becoming the last general to surrender in the Civil War.

1923: Over the skies of San Diego, an Army Air Service DH-4 biplane flown by Capt. Lowell Smith tops off its fuel tanks from a hose attached to another DH-4, marking the world’s first mid-air refueling operation.

1944: During one of the largest bombing missions of the war, 761 bombers of the 15th Air Force attack the oil fields at Ploesti, Romania.

When one of the B-17s on the raid is damaged by flak and has to drop out of formation, bombardier 2nd Lt. David R. Kingsley drops his bombs and goes to the back of the aircraft to administer first aid to the wounded tail gunner. When another gunner is wounded by enemy aircraft, Kingsley attends to him as well. When the pilot orders the crew to abandon the plane before it explodes, Kingsley gives one of the wounded gunners his own parachute, sacrificing his life. His body is later discovered in the burned wreckage of the plane, and Kingsley is posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.

1945: As the Sixth Army drives north to encircle the remaining Japanese forces on northern Luzon Island in the Philippines, paratroopers from the 11th Airborne Division perform their last combat jump of the war and cut off Gen. Tomoyuki Yamashita’s Shobu Group’s retreat.

1969: The Special Forces Camp at Ben Het in Vietnam’s Central Highlands, eight miles east of the border with Laos and Cambodia, is cut off and besieged by North Vietnamese Army. Over the next several days B-52s fly 100 strikes while fighter-bombers, artillery, and helicopter gunships hammer the NVA until the Americans are relieved on July 2nd.

Posted on June 23, 2017 at 11:25 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
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June 22 in U.S. military history

Col Theodore Roosevelt stands triumphant on San Juan Hill, Cuba after his “Rough Riders” captured this hill and its sister Kettle Hill during the Spanish American War. (Library of Congress photo)

1807: Off the coast of Norfolk, Va., the British frigate HMS Leopard attacks the American vessel USS Chesapeake, forcing Commodore James Barron to surrender the ship after only managing to fire one shot. Four Americans are dead and 17 wounded in the attack, and the British board Chesapeake, taking four British deserters. The British impress thousands of American sailors into their service during the Napoleonic War, but “Chesapeake-Leopard Affair” outrages the Americans and will lead to the War of 1812.

1813: Some 2,000 Royal Marines and British soldiers attempt to attack the American fortifications at Craney Island, guarding Hapton Roads, Va. But unlike the crew of the Chesapeake six years ago (which in fact, took place near the site of Craney Island), the defenders are prepared – and repel the invasion. The American guns inflict 200 casualties in one of the first engagements of the War of 1812.

1865: The Confederate commerce raider CSS Shenandoah fires the last shot of the Civil War – a warning shot at a U.S. whaling vessel in the Bering Straight. Shenandoah captured 38 ships and some 1,000 sailors during the Civil War, and becomes the only Confederate ship to circumnavigate the globe when it sails to England to surrender – marking the last time the Confederate colors are struck.

1884: After three years of being stranded by ice in the Canadian Arctic, a rescue expedition led by Cmdr. Winfield S. Schley finds Lt. Adolphus W. Greely and six of his men from the ill-fated Lady Franklin Bay Expedition. 16 of Greely’s men had perished from hypothermia, starvation, drowning, and one man was ordered shot for repeatedly stealing food rations.

1898: The “Rough Riders” of the 1st United States Volunteer Cavalry, led by Col. Leonard Wood and Lt. Col. Theodore Roosevelt, begin landing at Daiquiri, Cuba during the Spanish-American War.

1944: Following a preparatory airstrike, the U.S. 7th Corps launches an assault against German forces at the French town of Cherbourg. The Allies meet stiff resistance at first, but 30,000 German defenders will surrender after a week of fighting. The Germans and Allies take heavy casualties – with both sides losing 8,000 soldiers killed in action or missing apiece.

1963: Four ballistic missile submarines are launched in one day – USS Tecumseh (SSBN-628), USS Daniel Boone (SSBN-629), USS Flasher (SSN-613), and USS John Calhoun (SSBN-630). The James Madison-class subs each carry 16 of the new Polaris A-3 nuclear missiles, with a range of 2,500 nautical miles.

Posted on June 22, 2017 at 10:55 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
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June 21 in U.S. military history

American troops in the relief of Peking. Painting by H. Charles McBarron, Jr.

1900: The Chinese empress Cixi formally declares war on foreign powers. 100,000 members of the nationalist “Righteous and Harmonious Fists” movement (nickamed the “Boxers” by the British) launch attacks against Christian and foreign targets in Peking’s (modern-day Beijing) Legation Quarter. The siege lasts nearly two months before Western reinforcements arrive. Marine legend Dan Daly will earn his first of two Medals of Honor (one of only two men to accomplish the feat) when he single-handedly kills some 200 Boxers.

1916: During Gen. John J. Pershing’s “Punitive Expedition” into Mexico to capture or kill Pancho Villa, Buffalo Soldiers of the 10th Cavalry Regiment clash with – and defeat – a Mexican Army force at Carrizal. The incident nearly puts the two countries on a war footing, but with the “War to End All War” raging across the Atlantic, tensions would soon dissipate.

1921: Army and Navy aircraft attack the former German battleship Ostfriesland, sinking the massive vessel and giving support to famed World War I aviator Brig. Gen. William “Billy” Mitchell’s theory that dreadnought battleships could be easily sunk by planes and are taking up too much of the military budget.

1942: The Japanese submarine I-25 surfaces at the mouth of the Columbia River, off the coast of Oregon, and targets Fort Stevens. The sub’s gun inflicts virtually no damage, but the attack marks the only time that a stateside U.S. military installation is bombarded.

Halfway across the Pacific, PBY “Catalina” crew members rescue two downed aviators floating in the ocean, over 300 miles north of Midway. The men have been drifting since their TBD “Devastator” torpedo bomber went down during the Battle of Midway on June 4.

1945: After 82 days of the bloodiest fighting during World War II, the last remaining Japanese resistance on Okinawa collapses. Gen. Mitsuru Ushijima, commander of the Japanese forces on the island, commits ritual suicide. The Battle of Okinawa is over. Over 100,000 Japanese soldiers perish and 12,500 American Marines, soldiers, and sailors are killed in combat. Kamikaze attacks account for the sinking of dozens of American ships.

1969: Following two days of artillery attacks, a 600-man North Vietnamese Army force assaults the American combat base of Tay Ninh, 50 miles northwest of Saigon. After two days of fighting, 196 NVA soldiers and ten Americans lay dead.

Posted on June 21, 2017 at 15:50 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
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Arthur Jackson’s one man assault at Pelelieu

Pres. Harry S. Truman presents the Medal of Honor to Jackson at the White House on Oct. 5, 1945.

Pres. Harry S. Truman presents the Medal of Honor to Jackson at the White House on Oct. 5, 1945.[/caption]Today we honor the memory of recently departed Medal of Honor recipient Arthur J. Jackson. On Sept. 18, 1944 on Pelelieu, Private First Class Jackson charged towards a large enemy pillbox containing 35 Japanese soldiers. Facing an intensive barrage, he suppressed the enemy with automatic weapons fire and then destroyed the fortification with grenades and explosives, killing all of the occupants. Despite incoming fire from all sides, Jackson single-handedly moved on another 11 positions, killing 15 more of the enemy.

For his incredible one-man assault, Jackson is awarded the Medal of Honor. His citation can be viewed here.

Jackson was wounded on Pelelieu and again at Okinawa, where he served as a platoon sergeant. He received a commission from the Marine Corps in August, 1945 and would serve in the Army during the Korean War. He returned to the Marines in 1952 and while serving at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Jackson killed an alleged Cuban spy that attacked him. Fearing an international incident, the military silently discharged Jackson after the event. He entered the Army Reserves and ultimately reached the rank of Captain in 1954.

Jackson, one of the few surviving recipients of the Medal of Honor from World War II, passed away on June 14, 2017.

Posted on June 17, 2017 at 12:24 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
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June 16 in U.S. military history

Saddam Hussein’s presidential secretary Abid Hamid Mahmud al-Tikriti, the “Ace of Diamonds” from the military’s deck of playing cards featuring the 55 most-wanted members of the Hussein regime. (Photo by the author)

1775: Under cover of darkness, a 1,200-man American force commanded by Col. William Prescott fortifies Breed’s Hill, overlooking Boston.

1861: 9,000 Federal troops led by Brig. Gen. Henry W. Benham attempt to capture Charleston, S.C. in the Battle of Secessionville. Although the Confederate defenders are heavily outnumbered, the marshy terrain and fortifications spell disaster for Union. The problematic Benham had moved without orders, and is court-martialed following the battle.

1943: 94 Japanese warplanes set out to raid the Allied invasion force before it reaches the island of New Georgia in the Solomon Islands. American aircraft operating out of Guadalcanal’s Henderson Field splash 93 out of 94 Japanese warplanes, while losing only six planes. Two tank landing ships are beached and only one cargo ship is damaged.

1944: One day after landing on Saipan, Marines repel Japanese counterattacks and capture Afetna Point and the town of Charan Karoa, linking the beachheads. Meanwhile, soldiers of the 27th Infantry Division come ashore and move to take Aslito airfield.

Across the Philippine Sea, American battleships shell targets at Guam in preparation for the invasion. However, the landings are postponed as the Japanese fleet is steaming for the Marianas with hopes of finally crushing the American fleet in a decisive battle.

1959: North Korean MiG 17s attack a Martin P4M “Mercator” reconnaissance aircraft in international waters, injuring the tail gunner and forcing the Navy spy plane to perform an emergency landing in Japan.

1965: Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara announces that in addition to the Marines and paratroopers of the 173rd Airborne Brigade recently deployed, the United States will send 21,000 more troops to Vietnam. McNamara also acknowledges that the military knew North Vietnam had been sending soldiers into South Vietnam prior to launching Operation Rolling Thunder, the politically managed bombing campaign on the North.

1992: After the first day of a summit in Washington, President George H.W. Bush and Russian president Boris Yeltsin announce that they have agreed to cut their countries’ nuclear arsenals by two-thirds.

2003: Delta Force operators, along with British Special Air Service commandos, capture Lt. Gen. Abid Hamid Mahmud al-Tikriti – Saddam Hussein’s right hand man. Mahmud was the fourth-most wanted man in Iraq, after Saddam and his sons Uday and Qusay,

Posted on June 16, 2017 at 09:02 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
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June 15 in U.S. military history

A Grumman F6F “Hellcat” aboard the USS Yorktown

1775: John Adams of the Second Congressional Congress nominates George Washington, a fellow congressional delegate and veteran of the French and Indian Wars, to lead the newly formed Continental Army. Washington is unanimously elected.

1864: Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton signs an order setting aside 200 acres of Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s estate as a cemetery for fallen Civil War soldiers. Today, Arlington National Cemetery is the final resting place to over 400,000 fallen military members.

1877: Former slave Henry O. Flipper is the first black cadet to graduate from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. 2nd Lt. Flipper will lead the Buffalo Soldiers of the 10th Cavalry during the Apache Wars.

1944: Following a three-hour Naval and air bombardment, 8,000 Marines under the command of Maj. Gen. Holland M. “Howlin’ Mad” Smith (a recipient of France’s Croix de Guerre for his actions during the battle of Belleau Wood in World War I), hit the beaches of Saipan. The Japanese war planners are caught by surprise, and by nightfall the Marines have reached six miles inland. Japanese propaganda leads its people to believe that unspeakable acts await anyone unlucky enough to be captured bythe U.S. military, and thousands of Japanese civilians will leap to their deaths from the cliffs of Saipan. On July 7, some 3,000 Japanese troops charge forward in the largest banzai charge of the war, nearly wiping out two battalions of soldiers from the 27th Infantry Division. Although resistance will continue for weeks, Saipan is secured on July 9.

1946: Three specially modified blue and gold Grumman F6F-5 “Hellcat” fighters perform a 15-minute aerial acrobatic performance over Jacksonville, Florida’s Craig Field in the first public performance of the newly formed Navy Flight Demonstration Team. The “Blue Angels,” as the team would come to be known, are led by Officer-in-Charge and World War II flying ace Lt. Cmdr. Roy M. “Butch” Voris. Chief of Naval Operations Chester Nimitz formed the team that April to boost morale, increase public interest in Naval aviation, demonstrate the capabilities of Naval air power, and increase support for a larger share of the shrinking military budget.

1952: After only six days in combat, Air Force 2nd Lt. James F. Low scores his fifth MiG victory of the Korean War, becoming an ace. Low will eventually shoot down enemy warplanes during the conflict, and will himself be shot down in 1968 and is taken prisoner during the Vietnam War.

Posted on June 15, 2017 at 09:31 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
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June 14 in U.S. military history

Edward Percy Moran’s painting of Betsy Ross presenting the first American flag to George Washington

1775: Following the Battles of Lexington and Concord, the Second Continental Congress establishes the Continental Army. The force is disbanded after the American Revolution, but in 1792, President George Washington forms the Legion of the United States – the nation’s first “professional” fighting force – renamed the United States Army in 1796.

1777: Congress formally declares the “Stars and Stripes” as the official flag of the thirteen United States. The declaration resolves that it consists of “thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new constellation.”

1863: Days after bragging that he could hold the town of Winchester (Va.) against a Confederate force of any size, Maj. Gen. Robert H. Milroy’s garrison is surrounded and defeated by a corps led by Maj. Gen. Richard S. Ewell. The Rebels capture 4,000 Union troops, hundreds of wagons and horses, and 23 artillery pieces at the cost of only some 250 casualties in the Second Battle of Winchester.

1940: The German Sixth Army capture the French capital of Paris unopposed. The Nazi flag will fly over the Arc de Triomphe for four years until Free French forces and the American 4th Infantry Division take the city back.

1944: 75 B-29 “Superfortress” heavy bombers take off from forward air bases in China, targeting the Imperial Iron and Steel Works at Yawata, Japan – the first bombing raid on the Japanese mainland since the Doolittle Raid in 1942.

1945: While soldiers and Marines mop up Japanese resistance on Okinawa, the Joint Chiefs of Staff direct Gens. Douglas MacArthur, Omar Bradley, and Adm. Chester Nimitz to prepare plans to occupy Japan in case they suddenly surrender.

1954: Pres. Dwight D. Eisenhower, five-star general and Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Forces in Europe during World War II, signs the law adding the words “under God” to the Pledge of Allegiance.

1985: Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad terrorists hijack TWA Flight 847 after the Boeing 727 lifts off from Greece. The hijackers beat the American military passengers aboard the plane and, upon landing in Beirut, Steelworker Second Class Robert D. Stethem is tortured and murdered, his body dumped on the tarmac. The plane makes multiple trips between Beirut and Algiers, and the remaining hostages are released in groups.

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June 13 in U.S. military history

1942: While patrolling a beach on New York’s Long Island, Coast Guardsman John C. Cullen catches four German saboteurs posing as stranded fishermen. The Germans escape, but the leader turns himself in to the FBI – kicking off a two-week manhunt for the remaining Abwehr military intelligence operatives (all are American citizens born in Germany). The lid is blown off “Operation Pastorius,” the German plot to sabotage strategic American targets. All of the agents are captured and six are executed.

1943: 76 B-17F “Flying Fortress” bombers set out to attack the U-boat pens at Kiel, Germany. 60 “Forts” hit the pens, and Luftwaffe aircraft knock 22 more out of the sky in the heaviest fighter attacks on the Eighth Air Force to date. While gunners claim at least 39 German aircraft, 23 bombers are damaged – one so critical that it is no longer operable. Three airmen are killed, 20 wounded, and 213 are missing in action. The costly raid will lead war planners to realize that the heavily armed B-17s can no longer defend themselves against German aircraft. Escort fighters will begin accompanying bombers into Europe.

1968: Deep inside the jungles of Laos, Specialist Fifth Class John J. Kedenburg‘s unit is encircled and attacked by a North Vietnamese Army force shortly after the Special Operations Group team’s insertion. Kedenburg calls in tactical air support and radios for extraction while the heavily outnumbered SOG members attempt to break contact. One South Vietnamese soldier goes missing during the battle, but when helicopters arrive with slings to pull out the operators, the missing soldier reappears. Kedenburg gives him his spot on the harness, sacrificing his life for his teammate. Kedenburg bravely fights on as the helicopters fly to safety, but will fall shortly after. Another SOG team returns to the area to recover his body, and Kedenburg is posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.

1969: Laos’ prime minister publicly announces that the United States has been bombing targets in Laos and will continue to do so as long as the Communists were using his country as an infiltration route into South Vietnam. B-52 bombers, prevented from bombing North Vietnam since 1968, have flown thousands of missions into Laos targeting the Ho Chi Minh Trail with 160,000 tons of bombs.

Posted on June 13, 2017 at 09:26 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
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30th anniversary of Reagan’s “Tear down this wall” speech

Posted on June 12, 2017 at 09:30 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
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