15 November: Today in U.S. military history

Today’s post is in honor of the 17 soldiers killed when two UH-60L Blackhawk helicopters collided over Mosul, Iraq on this day in 2003. Lost were Chief Warrant Officer 2 Scott A. Saboe (33, of Willow Lake, S.D.), 2nd Lt. Jeremy L. Wolfe (27, of Wisconsin), Spc. Jeremiah J. DiGiovanni (21, of Tylertown, Miss.), Spc. Ryan T. Baker (24, of Brown Mills, N.J.), Spc. William D. Dusenbery (30, of Fairview Heights, Ill.), and Sgt. John W. Russell (26, of Portland Texas) with the 4th Battalion, 101st Aviation Regiment. Killed in the second helicopter: Warrant Officer 1 Erik C. Kesterson (29, of Independence, Ore.), Sgt. Warren S. Hansen (36, of Clintonville, Wis.) with 9th Battalion, 101st Aviation Regiment; Capt. Pierre E. Piche (29, of Starksboro, Vt.) and Spc. John R. Sullivan (26, of Countryside, Ill.) of the 626th Forward Support Battalion; Sgt. Michael D. Acklin II (25, of Louisville, Ky.), Pfc. Sheldon R. Hawk Eagle (21, of Grand Forks, N.D.), Pfc. Richard W. Hafer (21, of Cross Lanes, W.Va.), Spc. Eugene A. Uhl III (21, of Amherst, Wis.), and PFC Joey D. Whitener (19, of Nebo, N.C.) of the 1st Battalion, 320th Field Artillery; Pfc. Damian L. Heidelberg (21, of Batesville, Miss.) assigned to 1st Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment; amd Sgt. 1st Class Kelly Bolor (37, of Whittier, Calif.) of the U.S. Army Reserve’s 137th Quartermaster Company.

Prior to joining the Army, WO1 Kesterson served in the Marine Corps as a crew chief and was awarded the Marine Corps Medal for pulling seven crewmen from the burning wreckage of a crashed helicopter.


1942: Just north of Guadalcanal, U.S. and Japanese warships 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 Savo Sound, joining dozens of other sunken ships in what becomes known as “Ironbottom Sound.” Meanwhile, 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.

USS South Dakota in 1943

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. When the government learns his actual age, Graham is thrown in the brig for three months, dishonorably discharged, and his medals are stripped. 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 U.S. Air Force Maj. Michael J. Adams (featured image) 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 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.

Author: Chris Carter

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