April 19 in U.S. military history

1775: An expedition of 700 British regulars under the command of Lt. Col. Frances Smith departs Boston to seize and destroy military stores of the Massachusetts Militia in Concord. At dawn, 70 militia members led by Capt. John Parker meet the British at Lexington, and the two sides briefly skirmish. The Americans withdraw and regroup, attacking the redcoats again at North Bridge with a much larger force, forcing the British to turn back towards Boston.

The American Revolution has begun.

1861: 86 years to the day after the “shot heard round the world,” Massachusetts volunteers headed for Washington, D.C. are attacked by a secessionist mob in Baltimore. Four soldiers and eight rioters die in the opening shots of the American Civil War.

Meanwhile, Pres. Abraham Lincoln orders a Naval blockade of Confederate ports in South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas. The blockade is extended to North Carolina and Virginia the following week.

1945: Following the most massive artillery, Naval gunfire and air bombardment of the Pacific War, U.S. soldiers and Marines of the Tenth Army launch a coordinated ground assault against the dug-in Japanese defenders of the infamous Shuri Line on Okinawa.

1960: Grumman’s A-6 “Intruder” makes its first flight. The Navy and Marine Corps relied heavily on the versatile all weather/night attack aircraft until the Intruder’s retirement 1997, and the Marines still operate the EA-6B “Prowler” electronic warfare variant nearly 60 years later.

1967: Maj. Leo K. Thorsness, leading a flight of Air Force F-105 “Thunderchief” aircraft on a Wild Weasel mission in a heavily defended area around Hanoi, North Vietnam, destroys two surface-to-air missile sites. When one of his planes is hit and the crew has to eject, Thorsness circles the area to notify search and rescue crews of the downed airmen’s location. Spotting an enemy MiG-17 in the area, he engages and kills the enemy fighter, and draws its wingmen off as he heads for fuel. After refueling, helicopter crews attempting to rescue Thorsness’ teammates reported more enemy fighters in the area. He damages one MiG and drives the rest away from the area.

For his actions, Thorsness is awarded the Medal of Honor.

1989: The number two 16-inch turret on the battleship USS Iowa (BB-61) explodes during a live-fire exercise near Puerto Rico, killing 47 sailors.

Author: Chris Carter

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