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.

Author: Chris Carter

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