This week in U.S. military history

Jan. 19

1770: The little-known but historically significant Battle of Golden Hill erupts in New York City between members of the patriot organization “Sons of Liberty” and a contingent of British soldiers. Several are wounded on both sides and one civilian is killed in what is considered by some historians as the first armed clash of the American Revolution.

1862: Union forces led by Brig. Gen. George H. Thomas defeat Confederates under Maj. Gen. George B. Crittenden in the Battle of Mill Springs (Ky.). The engagement marks the Union’s first significant victory of the war.

Jan. 20

1783: Diplomats in Versailles sign a treaty ending hostilities between the United States and Britain. After eight long years of fighting, the Americans have secured their independence.

1914: A naval aviation unit from Annapolis, Md. consisting of nine officers, 23 men, seven aircraft, portable hangars, and other gear, under Lieutenant J. H. Towers” arrives at Pensacola, Fla. aboard the battleship USS Mississippi and the bulk-cargo ship USS Orion to set up a flying school. The “Cradle of Naval Aviation” is born.

1944: The U.S. 5th Army, commanded by Lt. Gen. Mark Clark, reaches the Gustav Line and clashes with German forces near Monte Cassino, Italy. After four months of bloody fighting, the Allies have Field Marshall Albert Kesselring’s Tenth Army on their heels and in danger of being surrounded.

1968: The North Vietnamese Army tries – and fails – to overrun Marines patrolling the hills surrounding their combat outpost. The Battle of Khe Sanh has begun – the heavily outnumbered and besieged Marines will fight off their attackers for 77 days, shattering two enemy divisions.

1981: 20 minutes after Ronald Reagan is sworn in as president, Iran releases 52 American hostages (including 18 military personnel) after 444 days of captivity.

Jan. 21

1903: The Militia Act of 1903 – also known as the “Dick Act” (Congressman and Maj. Gen. Charles Dick authored much of the legislation) – is passed, establishing federal standards and greater federal control over state militias, essentially creating the modern National Guard.

1918: 12 officers and 133 enlisted men from the Marine Corps’ First Aeronautical Company arrive for anti-submarine duty at Ponta Delgada, Azores. The unit was one of the first completely equipped American aviation units to serve overseas in World War I.

1968: An Air Force B-52 carrying four hydrogen bombs crashes near Thule Air Base, Greenland. The nuclear payload releases, causing widespread radioactive contamination.

Jan. 22

1944: Allied forces, including the U.S. VI Corps under the command of Maj. Gen. John P. Lucas (of Lt. Gen. Mark Clark’s Fifth Army), begin a series of landings along a stretch of western Italian coastline in the Anzio-Nettuno area. Codenamed Operation Shingle, the Allies achieve complete surprise against – and encounter little initial resistance from – the Germans. But the landings kick off what will become one of the most grueling campaigns of World War II.

1954: First Lady Mamie Eisenhower breaks a bottle of champagne across the bow of USS Nautilus in Groton, Connecticut, launching the world’s first nuclear-powered submarine. The following year, Nautilus gets underway, begins breaking numerous sea-travel records, and becomes the first “ship” to cross the North Pole.

1968: The U.S. Air Force begins Operation Igloo White, it’s state-of-the-art electronic warfare operation utilizing a network of sensors to detect and interdict communist infiltration into South Vietnam.

1969: Operation Dewey Canyon, the Marine Corps’ last major offensive of the Vietnam War, begins. Marines under the command of Col. Robert H. Barrow spent 56 days clearing out the North Vietnamese Army’s stronghold near the A Shau Valley.

Jan. 23

1968: North Korean forces seize USS Pueblo (AGER-2) in the Sea of Japan, killing one sailor and capturing 82. The prisoners spend 11 months in captivity and Pueblo is now a museum in Pyongyang.

Jan. 24

1942: A U.S. destroyer division led by Cmdr. Paul H. Talbot engages a Japanese convoy, sinking at least four transports and one of their escorts. The Battle of Makassar Strait is the U.S. Navy’s first surface action of World War II.

1961: A B-52 bomber on an airborne alert mission breaks up over Goldsboro, N.C., killing three of the crew and releasing its payload of two Mark 39 nuclear bombs. One bomb is recovered and another buries itself nearly 200 feet below the ground.

Jan. 25

1856: Marines and seamen from the sloop USS Decatur land at Seattle to protect settlers from an Indian attack. The Battle of Seattle lasted seven hours and the Indians suffered severe casualties, while only two settlers died.

1951: The Eighth Army, inspired by their new commander Lt. Gen. Matthew Ridgway, launches the first UN counteroffensive of the Korean War.

Adapted (and abridged) in part from “This Week in US Military History” by W. Thomas Smith Jr.

Chris Carter is the Director of the Victory Institute. Visit his website here:

Author: Chris Carter

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