Today in U.S. military history: the first soldier in space

Today’s post is in honor of Spc. Allen D. Kokesh Jr. who was died on this day in 2006 from wounds sustained by an improvised explosive device attack on his vehicle in Baghdad. The 21-year-old from Yankton, S.D. was assigned to the South Dakota Army National Guard’s 1st Battalion, 147th Field Artillery.

1943: The submarine USS Growler (SS-215) spots the supply ship Hayasaki and begins a nighttime battle. The Japanese ship turns to ram the sub and rakes Growler‘s bridge with machine gun fire, wounding the skipper, Commander Howard W. Gilmore.

Unable to get off the bridge, Gilmore orders the crew to “Take her down!” — sacrificing his life to save his men. For his actions, Gilmore is awarded the Medal of Honor – the first of seven sub commanders to earn the nation’s top award for valor during World War II.

Meanwhile, the Imperial Japanese Navy completes Operation “Xe” – the evacuation of nearly 1,800 remaining troops from Guadalcanal. After six months of brutal fighting, nearly 15,000 Americans killed or wounded, and over 600 aircraft and dozens of ships lost, the island is now completely in American hands.

1965: Sappers cut their way through the defensive wires surrounding Camp Holloway in Pleiku, opening the way for 300 Viet Cong guerrillas to attack the helicopter base near Pleiku. Simultaneously, the VC attacks other nearby targets, killing eight Americans and wounding over 100, while destroying and damaging dozens of helicopters and planes. Pres. Lyndon Johnson orders a retaliatory strike, and 49 aircraft from the carriers USS Coral Sea (CV-43) and USS Hancock (CV-19) hit military targets along the de-militarized zone and in North Vietnam.

Soviet premier Alexei Kosygin was visiting Hanoi at the time of the U.S. strikes, and in two weeks, the Soviet Union begins shipping surface-to-air missiles to North Vietnam.

1984: (Featured image) Space Shuttle Challenger astronauts Bruce McCandless II (Capt., USN) and Robert L. Stewart (Col., USA) become the first humans to “walk” untethered in space, using nitrogen-powered Manned Maneuvering Units. McCandless was the son of Rear Adm. Bruce McCandless I, who earned the Medal of Honor during the Battle of Guadalcanal, and the grandson of Rear Adm. Willis W. Bradley, who earned the Medal of Honor during World War I. Stewart, a helicopter pilot with over 1,000 hours combat experience before joining NASA, is the first soldier in space.

NASA astronaut (and former Naval aviator) Bruce McCandless becomes the first human to “walk” untethered in space

[Originally published at]

Author: Chris Carter

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