Today’s post is in honor of Pfc. Charles E. Bush Jr. who was killed by an improvised explosive device in Balad, Iraq on this day in 2003. Bush, a 43-year-old cook from Buffalo, N.Y., had volunteered for assignment as a door gunner with the 402d Civil Affairs Battalion, 354th Civil Affairs Brigade, 352nd Civil Affairs Command and was supposed to be home in time for Christmas.
1777: 18 miles northwest of Philadelphia, Gen. George Washington’s Continental Army establishes its winter camp at Valley Forge. 2,500 of the original force of 12,000 would not survive the winter thanks in part to harsh weather conditions, disease, supply shortages, and malnutrition. Over the winter, the Prussian drillmaster – later, Washington’s Chief of Staff – Baron Friedrich von Steuben drills the Americans, greatly increasing their combat effectiveness and morale.
1862: Confederate cavalry under Brig. Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest dismantle the Mobile and Ohio railroad tracks around Jackson, Tenn., delaying Union Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant’s drive to Vicksburg.
1941: After the Battle of Moscow, Adolf Hitler fires Field Marshall Walther von Brauchitsch, the commander-in-chief of Nazi Germany’s armed forces for their highly successful campaigns across most of Europe. Hitler appoints himself as von Brauchitsch’s replacement.
1944: At the Siegfried Line in southern Germany, all members of Tech Sgt. Robert E. Gerstung‘s heavy machine gun squad are killed or wounded, Gerstung keeps his gun firing, braving eight hours of intense tank, artillery, and mortar fire. When he runs out of ammunition, he crosses crossed the killzone to retrieve more ammunition, and later, another weapon when his malfunctioned. When the order was given for the Americans to withdraw, Gerstung provided the only covering fire for the unit. He is awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions.
1972: After spending a record 75 hours on the moon’s surface, Apollo 17 astronauts Eugene A. Cernan (Capt., USN and the last human to set foot on the moon), Ronald E. Evans (Capt., USN), and civilian geologist Harrison H. Schmitt splash down in the South Pacific, just four miles from the recovery ship USS Ticonderoga.
2000: The UN Security Council votes to impose sanctions on the Taliban in Afghanistan, directing them to close terrorist training camps and to hand over Osama bin Laden, who was suspected in attacks against United States embassies.
2001: Firefighters finally extinguish fires that had been burning for over three months under the rubble of the World Trade Center.
2003: Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi halts his nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons programs after secret negotiations with the United States and Britain.