12 December: Today in U.S. military history

Bell X-1A, Chuck Yeager, USAF

Today’s post is in honor of Sgt. Jarrod W. Black, who was killed by an improvised explosive device on this day in 2003 in Ramadi, Iraq. Black, 26, of Peru, Ind. was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 34th Armor Regiment.

1753: 21-year-old Virginia adjutant George Washington delivers an ultimatum for French forces to abandon Fort Le Boeuf (present-day Waterford, Penn.) as they were trespassing on British territory. Lt. Christopher Gist, Washington’s guide, would save the future president’s life twice during their trip through the Ohio Country.

1770: Six British soldiers charged with murder for their role in the Boston Massacre are acquitted thanks to their counselor, future president John Adams. He argued that they were endangered by the mob and had the right to defend themselves. Of the eight soldiers and one officer to stand trial (Capt. Thomas Preston had been acquitted in October), two are found guilty of manslaughter and are branded on the thumb.

“Judgment of Death against those Soldiers would have been as foul a Stain upon this Country as the Executions of the Quakers or Witches, anciently,” Adams wrote. “As the Evidence was, the Verdict of the Jury was exactly right. This however is no Reason why the Town should not call the Action of that Night a Massacre, nor is it any Argument in favour of the Governor or Minister, who caused them to be sent here. But it is the strongest Proofs of the Danger of Standing Armies.”

1937: As the gunboat USS Panay and three Standard Oil tankers work to evacuate U.S. citizens and Standard Oil employees from Nanking, China during the Second Sino-Japanese War, the vessels are attacked and sunk by the Japanese. Two U.S. sailors and one civilian are killed during the attack, which strained U.S.-Japanese relations, and Japan offers to pay $2 million in reparations.

1953: Maj. (future Maj. Gen.) Chuck Yeager pilots the Bell X-1A to Mach 2.44 (1648 mph), setting a speed record (for straight-wing aircraft on level flight) that still stands today. However, the X-1 tumbles out of control and falls some 50,000 feet in just over a minute. Yeager manages to recover and is able to land the aircraft.

1985: As members of the 101st Airborne Division return from Egypt following a peacekeeping mission, the DC-8 civilian airliner carrying them crashes shortly after takeoff in Newfoundland, killing 248 soldiers. While officials state the cause of the incident is ice accumulation, Islamic Jihad – the Hezbollah-associated group that carried out the deadly attack on the Marine barracks in Beirut two years prior – declares that they brought down the plane.

1992: Less than a week after U.S. forces arrive in Somalia for a humanitarian aid mission, Marine Corps AH-1 Cobra helicopter gunships destroy a Somali armed vehicle, marking the first combat action of Operation RESTORE HOPE.

Author: Chris Carter

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