Dec. 11 in U.S. military history

Today’s post is in honor of Spc. Marshall L. Edgerton, who was killed when suicide bombers attacked his camp in Ramadi, Iraq on this day in 2003. The 27-year-old native of Rocky Face, Ga. was assigned to Company A, 82d Signal Battalion, 82d Airborne Division.

1941: The small American garrison on Wake – consisting of a few hundred Marines, sailors, and civilian contractors – repels a Japanese invasion force seeking to capture the island. The 5-inch coastal defense guns (taken from the former battleship USS Texas) hammer the incoming warships, sinking one destroyer and damaging several others, the island’s four remaining F4F-3 Wildcat fighters take off to intercept a flight of Japanese warplanes.

Despite being heavily outnumbered, Marine Capt. Henry T. Elrod will shoot down two aircraft before he and his fellow aviators set their sights on the Japanese ships. Elrod becomes the first American pilot to sink a surface ship during World War II when his bombs detonate the depth charges on Kisaragi. The destroyer goes down with all hands.

That same day, Adolf Hitler declares war on the United States. Although Nazi Germany and Japan had signed an agreement stating that Germany would come to Japan’s aid if they were attacked, Germany was under no such obligation since Japan was the aggressor. However, and with virtually no consultation with his staff, Hitler declares war against the United States anyways. Within hours, Congress responds with a unanimous declaration of war against Germany.

1950: The battered and nearly frozen men of the 1st Marine Division complete their breakout of the Chosin Reservoir and head for the nearby port of Hungnam, where the survivors load up and sail to Pusan. Within the space of just two weeks, the Chinese intervention in Korea had wiped out total victory and reunification of the Korean Peninsula. Though the UN withdrew south of the 38th Parallel after Chosin, the fighting (and poor logistical support) proved so costly to the Chinese Army – which killed or wounded tens of thousands of Chinese – that the communists would not be able to take South Korea.

1954: The world’s first “supercarrier,” USS Forrestal, is launched. The conventionally powered aircraft carrier is the first U.S. flattop built with an angled flight deck and steam catapults, and is the first designed to operate jet aircraft. With an overall length of over 1,000 feet, Forrestal was the largest warship built at the time.

1961: At Saigon harbor, the aviation transport ship USNS Core unloads 33 U.S. Army H-21C Shawnee helicopters, which are the first American helicopters deployed to Vietnam. The crews’ mission will be to transport South Vietnamese soldiers into combat.

[Originally published at]

Author: Chris Carter

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