Dec. 8 in U.S. military history

Chief Petty Officer Edward C. Byers, Jr., one of two actively serving Medal of Honor recipients in the United States Armed Forces

1941: As Japanese warplanes continue to hammer Allied bases across Asia and the Pacific, President Franklin D. Roosevelt famously declares Dec. 7 as “a date which will live in infamy,” asking Congress to declare war on Japan – which they will do in a matter of hours. The United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and numerous other governments also declare war on Japan.

Eyeing the destruction from USS Enterprise (CV-6) as the aircraft carrier steams into Pearl Harbor, he says that “Before we’re through with ’em, the Japanese language will be spoken only in hell.”

Col. William W. Ashurst (USMC) is captured and surrenders his remaining “China Marines”, who are held as prisoners until the end of the war. Also in China, USS Wake becomes the only U.S. warship to surrender during World War II, when the Japanese capture the river patrol gunboat and her crew by surprise while the ship is at anchor. A Japanese invasion fleet departs Kwajalein Atoll, and in three days will assault Wake Island.

In the Philippines, Japanese forces land at Batan Island, as enemy air strikes take out roughly half of the American warplanes on Luzon Island to the south.

Meanwhile, Adolf Hitler declares war on the United States, ordering his naval forces to begin attacking U.S. shipping. Although the Chinese have been fighting Japan for over four years, China formally declares war against Japan – and Germany – on this date.

1942: Considered “perhaps the greatest individual success of American PT boats during the war,” eight PT boats engage – and turn around – a force of eight Japanese destroyers on a mission to supply soldiers on Guadalcanal.

1965: 150 Air Force and Navy warplanes begin conducting strikes against North Vietnamese Army infiltration routes along the Ho Chi Minh Trail in Laos. The covert Operation “Tiger Hound” will continue until 1968, when it becomes part of Operation “Commando Hunt.”

2012: Chief Petty Officer (SEAL) Edward C. Byers, Jr. earns the Medal of Honor during a mission to rescue an American doctor who had been captured in Afghanistan. His citation can be read here.

Author: Chris Carter

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