Sept. 14: Today in U.S. military history

[Originally published at OpsLens.com]

Today’s post is in honor of U.S. Army Sgt. Trevor A. Blumberg, who gave his life for our country on this date in 2003. The 22-year-old Canton, Mich. native was killed by an improvised explosive device while riding in a vehicle through Fallujah, Iraq. He was assigned to 1st Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division.


1862: Maj. Gen. George McClellan’s Army of the Potomac gets the better of Gen. Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia, which was divided amongst three passes through Maryland’s Blue Ridge Mountains. The 23rd Ohio Regiment, commanded by Lt. Col. (and future president) Rutherford B. Hayes is the first to make contact with Lee’s army. An enemy bullet shatters Hayes’ arm as he leads a charge, and he has one of his men bandage the wound so he can stay in the fight. Another future president served under Hayes: his friend and protégé, commissary sergeant William McKinley.

After the Battle of South Mountain, Lee had considered abandoning his first invasion of the north as McClellan could have crushed the Confederate army – if he pressed the attack. Instead, the timid McClellan stays put, ceding the initiative to his opponent. Rather than heading south, Lee concentrates his forces for what becomes the Battle of Antietam – the bloodiest battle in American history.

1901: 39 years – to the day – after facing heavy fire on the front lines of South Mountain, President William McKinley dies from a gunshot wound he received eight days ago from anarchist assassin Leon Czolgoszan. Vice President Theodore Roosevelt is sworn in as the 26th President of the United States. Before being named vice president, Roosevelt served as McKinley’s Assistant Secretary to the Navy until USS Maine explodes in Havana, inspiring Roosevelt to form the 1st U.S. Volunteer Cavalry Regiment – the “Rough Riders.”

McKinley was the last president with Civil War service (ultimately becoming a brevetted Major) and the only one to fight as an enlisted soldier. Apart from Grover Cleveland’s tenures in office, the nation was run by Civil War veterans from 1865 until 1901. The others were Andrew Johnson (Brig. Gen. and military governor of Tennessee), Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, Hayes (brevet Maj. Gen.), Maj. Gen. James Garfield, Brig. Gen. Chester Arthur, and Benjamin Harrison (brevet Brig. Gen.).

Following the McKinley assassination, Congress tasks the U.S. Secret Service with protecting the president.

1939: At the controls of his Vought-Sikorsky VS-300 prototype, Igor Sikorsky makes a 10-second tethered flight – the first successful flight of a single main rotor, single tail rotor helicopter.

1942: The 7th Marine Regiment departs Espiritu Santo to join the battle at Guadalcanal. Among the men are sergeants John Basilone and Mitchell Paige – both destined to earn the Medal of Honor at Guadalcanal – and Marine legend Lt. Col. Lewis “Chesty” Puller.

1943: After a devastating German counterattack, over 2,000 paratroopers of the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment jump into action at the beachhead at Salerno, Italy. Together with Naval gun battery support, every available bomber is summoned to Salerno and the German attack is devastated. Gen. Mark Clark’s invasion, once in danger of being driven into the sea, is back on the offensive.

1944: Underwater Demolition Teams have cleared obstacles and Naval bombardment continues on the eve of the 1st Marine Division’s landing at Peleliu. Maj. Gen. William Rupertus predicts that his Marines can secure the small island in just four days, but over 10,000 fortified Japanese defenders are prepared to dish out what will become “the bitterest battle of the war for the Marines.”

2001: Congress passes the Authorization for Use of Military Force, granting President George W. Bush the ability to use all “necessary and appropriate force” against those who “planned, authorized, committed or aided” the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

The president authorizes the Pentagon to activate some 50,000 Reservists, and while touring Ground Zero, Bush proclaims “the people that knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon.”

Author: Chris Carter

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