20 March: This Day in U.S. Military History

1863: Confederate cavalry under the command of the famous — some might argue, infamous — Kentucky raider, Brig. Gen. John Hunt Morgan, strikes a sizeable Union reconnaissance force under Col. Albert S. Hall at Vaught’s Hill, Tennessee. Though outnumbered and surrounded, Hall’s hilltop position enables the colonel to beat back a series of attacks until Morgan — learning that Hall is to be reinforced with additional U.S. troops from Murfreesboro — is forced to disengage.

Though Vaught’s Hill was a defeat for Morgan, he was far from whipped.

1922: America’s first aircraft carrier, USS Langley (CV-1), is commissioned at Norfolk, Virginia. Converted from the coaling ship USS Jupiter that supplied ships during World War I, the “Covered Wagon” will again see action as a seaplane tender during World War II. But she will be so badly damaged in an action off Java in 1942, her escorts will be forced to scuttle her.

1941: U.S. intelligence warns the Soviets of the possibility that Germany may invade the Soviet Union. In three months, the largest invasion force in history (nearly 4 million Germans) crosses into the Soviet Union, catching Joseph Stalin completely by surprise.

1942: Gen. Douglas MacArthur – ordered by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to leave his besieged soldiers in the Philippines (where their capture is inevitable) and make his way to Australia – delivers his famous “I shall return” speech at an Australian train station.

MacArthur will return to the Philippines in Oct. 1944.

Author: Chris Carter

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