1942: Off Guadalcanal, the U.S. and Japanese fleets engage in one of only two battleship-on-battleship engagements of the Pacific War. While Kirishima hammers USS South Dakota (BB-57) in the early morning hours, USS Washington (BB-56) slips away undetected and maneuvers to near point-blank range, raking the Japanese battleship with devastating salvos. Japanese naval guns and torpedoes send three U.S. destroyers (Walke, Preston, and Benham) to the bottom of Ironbottom Sound, while U.S. warplanes destroy four troop transport ships carrying soldiers and badly needed supplies. The Allies have inflicted such heavy losses on the Japanese that they abandon the mission to retake Guadalcanal.
Injured in the attack on South Dakota is 12-year-old Seaman 1st Class Calvin L. Graham, who lied about his age that summer to join the Navy. Graham earns the Bronze Star with Combat “V” and the Purple Heart during the battle. Shockingly, Graham is thrown in the brig for three months, dishonorably discharged, and has his medals stripped when the government learns his actual age. He enlists in the Marine Corps when he turns 17.
1950: “As a squad leader of the 3d Platoon [U.S. Army Pfc. Mack A. Jordan] was participating in a night attack on key terrain against a fanatical hostile force when the advance was halted by intense small-arms and automatic-weapons fire and a vicious barrage of handgrenades. Upon orders for the platoon to withdraw and reorganize, Pfc. Jordan voluntarily remained behind to provide covering fire. Crawling toward an enemy machine gun emplacement, he threw 3 grenades and neutralized the gun. He then rushed the position delivering a devastating hail of fire, killing several of the enemy and forcing the remainder to fall back to new positions. He courageously attempted to move forward to silence another machine gun but, before he could leave his position, the ruthless foe hurled explosives down the hill and in the ensuing blast both legs were severed. Despite mortal wounds, he continued to deliver deadly fire and held off the assailants until the platoon returned.”
Pfc. Jordan was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.
1960: The U.S. Navy’s first ballistic missile submarine, USS George Washington (SSBN-598) departs Charleston harbor (S.C.) for its first deterrent patrol. Aboard are 16 Polaris A-1 missiles, which carry a one megaton nuclear warhead (nearly 70 times more powerful than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima 15 years before) that can strike targets over 1,000 miles away.
1966: After descending from a 266,000-foot climb, a North American X-15 rocket carrying Maj. Michael J. Adams (USAF) enters a violent spin at Mach 5, killing the pilot. Having crossed the 50-mile threshold, qualifying his last flight as a space flight, Adams is posthumously awarded astronaut wings. Maj. Adams had flown 49 combat missions during the Korean War before joining the X-15 program.
2006: 82d Airborne soldiers begin what will be an intense 40-hour battle with heavily armed and well-disciplined insurgents in in Iraq’s Diyala province. By the time the shooting stops, U.S. troops have destroyed an extensive network of trenches and capture a stockpile of ammunition and heavy weapons. 5th Squadron of the 73rd Cavalry Regiment earns the Presidential Unit Citation for their role in the Battle of Turki.