Posted in Military History

Sept. 18: Today in military history

[Originally published at OpsLens.com]

Today’s post is in honor of Pvt. 1st Class James W. Price, who gave his life for our country on this date in 2004. The 22-year-old native of Cleveland, Tenn. was killed when his vehicle was hit by an improvised explosive device in Baghdad. Price was assigned to the 4th Battalion, 5th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division.


1862: A day after the bloody Battle of Antietam, Gen. George B. McClellan blows yet another opportunity to capture Gen. Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia, perhaps ending the Civil War. While Lee abandons his invasion of Maryland and turns south, McClellan allows the significantly outnumbered Confederates to withdraw to Virginia without pursuit.

1906: As revolution sweeps Cuba, the auxiliary cruiser USS Dixie (AD-1) disembarks a battalion of Marines at Cienfuegos to help protect American-owned plantations.

1941: In preparation for World War II, 19 divisions of soldiers – 400,000 troops – participate in a series of massive exercises in Louisiana. In addition to learning how to direct and supply such a large force, Gen. George Marshall’s growing army is testing the effectiveness of combined-arms mechanized units that would be facing the German military and their (so-far) unstoppable blitzkrieg tactics.

26 soldiers will die during the maneuvers, but the Army gains experience that will prove invaluable during the upcoming war. Among those participating are future commanders Dwight Eisenhower, Omar Bradley, Mark Clark, and George Patton, who says “If you could take these tanks through Louisiana, you could take them through Hell.”

1942: Over 4,000 Marines of the 7th Marine Regiment land at Guadalcanal and join the battle, along with much-needed supplies. Maj. Gen. Archer A. Vandegrift’s men had dubbed the invasion “Operation Shoestring” as the Navy only managed to unload half of the supplies on Guadalcanal before departing. After suffering heavy casualties, the Marine 1st Parachute Battalion is pulled from the lines and sent to Espiritu Santo.

1944: During the drive across Europe, the 101st Airborne Division captures the Dutch city of Eindhoven and the Ninth Army captures Brest, France.

Two years after landing at Guadalcanal, the 7th Marines are fighting their way across the island of Peleliu. When a platoon of Marines is held up by concealed enemy positions on their left flank, Pvt. 1st Class Arthur J. Jackson moves forward through a barrage of heavy enemy fire. He reaches a pillbox containing 35 enemy soldiers, pinning them in with automatic weapons fire, then hurling white phosphorous grenades and explosive charges into the position, killing all of its occupants. He then turned his attention to two nearby positions, silencing them as well.

Continue reading “Sept. 18: Today in military history”

Posted in Military History

Sept. 17: Today in military history

Featured image: The Shuttle Enterprise rolls out of the Palmdale manufacturing facilities with Star Trek television cast members. From left to right they are: Dr. James C. Fletcher (NASA Administrator), DeForest Kelley (Dr. “Bones” McCoy), George Takei (Mr. Sulu), James Doohan (Chief Engineer Montgomery “Scotty” Scott), Nichelle Nichols (Lt. Uhura), Leonard Nimoy (Mr. Spock), Gene Roddenberry (series creator), Congressman Don Fuqua, and Walter Koenig (Ensign Chekov).

Today’s post is in honor of Staff Sgt. Michael W. Hosey, who gave his life for our country on this day in 2011. While serving in his fourth deployment, Hosey, 27, of Birmingham, Ala. was killed when his unit was attacked by insurgent small-arms fire in Afghanistan’s Uruzgan province. He was assigned to Headquarters Support Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne) and serving on his fourth deployment.


1862: The Battle of Antietam (Maryland) – the bloodiest single-day battle in American history – opens between Confederate Army forces under Gen. Robert E. Lee and Union Army forces under Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan. After 12 hours of fighting, some 23,000 Americans are dead, wounded, or missing.

Though a strategic victory for the Union, the battle will prove tactically inconclusive for both sides.

1908: 2,500 people gather at Fort Myer, Va. to watch Orville Wright demonstrate his Wright Flyer to the Army Signal Corps. One of the propellers breaks during the flight, sending the aircraft nose-first into the ground, severely wounding Wright and killing his passenger, Lt. Thomas E. Selfridge. Although Wright survived the first-ever fatal aircraft incident, he would spend the next seven weeks recovering in an Army hospital.

1916: At 11:00 a.m. over Villers-Pouich, France, a German Albatros D.II fighter closes in on a Royal Air Force scout bomber and shoots it out the sky. Former cavalry officer Manfred Albrecht Freiher von Richtofen – the soon-to-be-infamous Red Baron – has scored his first victory for the German Luftstreitkräfte. Although he is now known for his red Fokker triplane, Richtofen was in the seat of an Albatros biplane for most of his 84 kills.

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Posted in Military History

Sept. 14: Today in U.S. military history

[Originally published at OpsLens.com]

Today’s post is in honor of U.S. Army Sgt. Trevor A. Blumberg, who gave his life for our country on this date in 2003. The 22-year-old Canton, Mich. native was killed by an improvised explosive device while riding in a vehicle through Fallujah, Iraq. He was assigned to 1st Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division.


1862: Maj. Gen. George McClellan’s Army of the Potomac gets the better of Gen. Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia, which was divided amongst three passes through Maryland’s Blue Ridge Mountains. The 23rd Ohio Regiment, commanded by Lt. Col. (and future president) Rutherford B. Hayes is the first to make contact with Lee’s army. An enemy bullet shatters Hayes’ arm as he leads a charge, and he has one of his men bandage the wound so he can stay in the fight. Another future president served under Hayes: his friend and protégé, commissary sergeant William McKinley.

After the Battle of South Mountain, Lee had considered abandoning his first invasion of the north as McClellan could have crushed the Confederate army – if he pressed the attack. Instead, the timid McClellan stays put, ceding the initiative to his opponent. Rather than heading south, Lee concentrates his forces for what becomes the Battle of Antietam – the bloodiest battle in American history.

1901: 39 years – to the day – after facing heavy fire on the front lines of South Mountain, President William McKinley dies from a gunshot wound he received eight days ago from anarchist assassin Leon Czolgoszan. Vice President Theodore Roosevelt is sworn in as the 26th President of the United States. Before being named vice president, Roosevelt served as McKinley’s Assistant Secretary to the Navy until USS Maine explodes in Havana, inspiring Roosevelt to form the 1st U.S. Volunteer Cavalry Regiment – the “Rough Riders.”

McKinley was the last president with Civil War service (ultimately becoming a brevetted Major) and the only one to fight as an enlisted soldier. Apart from Grover Cleveland’s tenures in office, the nation was run by Civil War veterans from 1865 until 1901. The others were Andrew Johnson (Brig. Gen. and military governor of Tennessee), Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, Hayes (brevet Maj. Gen.), Maj. Gen. James Garfield, Brig. Gen. Chester Arthur, and Benjamin Harrison (brevet Brig. Gen.).

Following the McKinley assassination, Congress tasks the U.S. Secret Service with protecting the president.

1939: At the controls of his Vought-Sikorsky VS-300 prototype, Igor Sikorsky makes a 10-second tethered flight – the first successful flight of a single main rotor, single tail rotor helicopter.

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Posted in Images Military

‘Trust in Thrust’

Capt. Andrew “Dojo” Olson, F-35 Heritage Flight Team pilot and commander, performs a high-speed pass during the Canadian International Air Show in Toronto, Sept. 1, 2018. Olson has flown 61 combat missions over Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan employing 69 precision guided munitions against Islamic State targets. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Alexander Cook)
Posted in Military History

Sept. 13: Today in military history

[Originally published at OpsLens.com]

Today’s post is in honor of Master Sgt. Danial R. Adams, a Green Beret that gave his life for our country on this day in 2011. The 35-year-old native of Portland, Ore. was killed during an intense firefight in Afghanistan’s Wardak Province. He was serving in the 1st Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne).


1814: Unable to break the strong American defensive lines around Baltimore after a series of attacks, British troops return to their ships. Meanwhile, Vice Adm. Alexander Cochrane’s fleet begins a 25-hour bombardment of Fort McHenry, which guards the entrance to Baltimore harbor. The ships fire their cannons and rockets at maximum range and are unable to inflict any serious damage.

American lawyer and amateur poet Francis Scott Key observes the attack while aboard a Royal Navy ship to secure the release of an American prisoner. Key is so moved by the nighttime bombardment and the sight of the American flag in the morning that he writes “Defence of Fort M’Henry” on the back of an envelope, which will become the “Star-Spangled Banner.” The song does not become our national anthem, however, until 1931.

1847: After Marines capture the castle Chapultepec, the Mexican capital is now in American hands. The Duke of Wellington, who defeated Napoleon in the Battle of Waterloo, will say that American Maj. Gen. Winfield Scott’s brilliant campaign against Santa Anna’s forces during the Mexican-American War is “unsurpassed in military annals,” and names Scott the “greatest living general.”

1906: As revolution threatens Cuban President Tomás Estrada Palma’s government, six officers and 124 Marines and sailors disembark from USS Denver (C-14) to help restore order.

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Posted in Military History

Sept. 12: Today in military history

[Originally published at OpsLens.com]

Today’s post is in honor of 2nd Lt. Emily J.T. Perez, who gave her life for our country on this date in 2006. Lt. Perez had volunteered to lead a convoy in Al Kifl, Iraq when an improvised explosive device detonated near her vehicle, killing the former Cadet Command Sergeant Major at the U.S. Military Academy. Born in Heidelberg, West Germany, the 23-year-old medical service officer was serving with the 204th Support Battalion, 2nd Brigade, 4th Infantry Division.


1847: “From the halls of Montezuma…” Gen. Winfield Scott’s army of Marines and soldiers begin their attack on the castle Chapultepec, sitting 200 feet above in Mexico City. During the battle, 90 percent of Marine commissioned and non-commissioned officers are killed by snipers, memorialized by the “blood stripe” on the Marine Corps’ Dress Blue trousers. Participating in the engagement are many young officers – such as Ulysses S. Grant, Robert E. Lee, and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson – who will face each other in the Civil War.

1918: The Battle of Saint-Mihiel, the first and only U.S.-led and executed operation of World War I, begins when Gen. John J. Pershing’s American Expeditionary Force attacks Gen. Johannes Georg von der Marwitz’ Imperial German Army forces. Brig. Gen. William “Billy” Mitchell leads an armada of nearly 1,500 warplanes during the offensive – the largest air force assembled (at that point) in history. On the ground, artillery and tanks(commanded by Lt. Col. George Patton) join the infantry in devastating the German lines. In just three days, over 22,000 Germans are killed, wounded, or captured.

1942: 5,000 Japanese soldiers, supported by aircraft and naval artillery, begin a series of nighttime frontal assaults against the Marines defending Guadalcanal’s Henderson Field. The defenders, many of whom are members of the elite 1st Raider and 1st Parachute Battalions, devastate Maj. Gen. Kiyotake Kawaguchi’s force, despite nearly being overrun and resorting to hand-to-hand combat.

Continue reading “Sept. 12: Today in military history”

Posted in Military History

Sept. 11: Today in military history

[Originally published at OpsLens.com]

Today’s post is in honor of the nearly 3,000 Americans that were killed by terrorists on this date in 2001 and the four Americans that also lost their lives 11 years later in Benghazi, Libya.

John D. Yamnicky Sr. graduated the U.S. Naval Academy in 1952, then flew attack planes during the Korean and Vietnam Wars. The 71-year-old native of Waldorf, Md. had retired as a captain in 1979, and was on a business trip for a defense contractor when American Airlines Flight 77 slammed into the Pentagon, killing all 64 aboard.

Lt. Cmdr. Otis V. Tolbert Jr. was the son of a Naval aviator and played football for the Fresno State Bulldogs before receiving his commission in the Navy. Football had taken its toll on his knees so he couldn’t follow his father’s footsteps and become a pilot, so he earned his commission and joined Naval intelligence. On this date, the 38-year-old Lemoore, Calif. native was working in the Pentagon when the building was hit by Flight 77, killing 125 service members and civilians on the ground.


1776: After the British capture Long Island, Continental Congressional delegates Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and Edward Rutledge meet with British Adm. Lord Richard Howe for a peace conference at Staten Island. Hoping to bring a quick end to the conflict, King George granted Howe the authority to discuss peace terms, but not including the recognition of American independence. When Howe states that the loss of America would be like losing a brother, Franklin replies that “we will do our utmost endeavors to save your lordship that mortification.”

1814: New York is saved from a possible invasion by British forces when Commodore Thomas MacDonough’s squadron decisively defeats the British fleet led by Capt. George Downie in the Battle of Plattsburgh.

2001: As air controllers learn that several planes appear to have been hijacked, fighter jets are scrambled but do not arrive in time to disrupt a complex terrorist attack that kills 2,997 Americans and injures some 6,000. At 9:37a.m., a Boeing 757 flown by Al Qaeda terrorists slams into the Pentagon, killing 55 military personnel and 70 civilian employees. The area hit by the plane was undergoing renovations at the time of the attack, which meant only a few hundred of what would normally be around 5,000 occupants were endangered. Structural reinforcements and a sprinkler system had recently been added – in response to the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing – which increased survivability.

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Posted in Military History

Sept. 10: Today in military history

 

[Originally published at OpsLens.com]

Today’s post is in honor of U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Joseph E. Robsky Jr. who gave his life for our country on this day in 2003. The 31-year-old native of Elizaville, N.Y. was killed in Baghdad, Iraq, when an enemy explosive device he was attempting to defuse detonated. He had served in the Marine Corps for four years before joining the 759th Ordinance Company.


1813: Along the shores of Lake Erie, Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry’s squadron engages the Royal Navy in the Battle of Put-in-Bay. Perry’s ship is so damaged that he boards an open lifeboat and transfers his flag to another ship in the face of heavy gunfire before resuming the fight. After defeating the British, he writes a brief report to Maj. Gen. (and future president) William Henry Harrison, commanding the Army of the Northwest: “We have met the enemy and they are ours. Two ships, two brigs, one schooner and one sloop.”

1944: The First U.S. Army captures Luxembourg. After being conquered by the Germans during both world wars, the tiny nation strips neutrality from its constitution and becomes a founding member of NATO.

1945: Just eight days after the end of World War II, the aircraft carrier USS Midway (CV-41) is commissioned., becoming the largest ship in the world. Midway would hold the title of the world’s largest ship for the next ten years, and her 1,001-foot flight deck would later be expanded from 2.8 to a whopping 4 acres. Midway aviators scored the first (June 17, 1965) and last (Jan. 12, 1973) victories of the Vietnam War. Later, she served as the flagship carrier during Operation DESERT STORM before retiring in 1992.

1950: When an enemy machinegun pins down his fellow 1st Cavalry troopers, Cpl. Gordon M. Craig and four other soldiers crawl forward to silence the enemy gun. When an enemy grenade lands in their position, Craig throws himself on the device to shield the others from the blast. Craig is killed, and posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.

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Posted in Articles

Lewis and Clark (virtual) Ride: The City of Jefferson

[This is part four in a series of articles documenting my virtual bike ride across America, following the route of the Lewis and Clark expedition. For previous posts, click here.]

Three weeks after beginning their journey westward, Lewis and Clark reached the site of modern-day Jefferson City. There were no white settlers in this area – just water, trees and rocks. In fact, the Corps of Discovery passed the last European settlement right after shoving off from St. Charles (read the first piece in the series for more).

Crossing the Missouri River, just north of Jefferson City. (Google Street View image)

For the rest of their 3,000-plus mile journey, the explorers were literally in Indian country. The area south of the Missouri River was Osage territory – or “Osarge” as Clark writes in his journals. While they frequently came across Indians along their route, the expedition never did make contact with the Osage.

While Clark typically stayed with the keelboat, Capt. Lewis would often go ashore and explore. It was in the Jefferson City area where they began to find species of plants and animals that were – at the time – completely new to science. For example, in addition to finding “many curious Plants & Srubs [sic],” the corps also caught several large rats in this area that had never before been described, possibly the eastern woodrat (Neotoma floridana).

After Lewis and Clark returned from mapping their way to the Pacific, the United States began carving states out of the Louisiana Territory. When Louisiana became the 18th state in 1812, the remaining area purchased from Napoleon became known as the Missouri Territory. Then in 1819 the Territory of Arkansaw (yes, spelled the way it sounds until a few years after its founding) split off.

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Posted in Military History

Sept. 7: Today in military history

[Originally published at OpsLens.com]

Today’s post is in honor of Cpl. Philip G. E. Charte, who gave his life for our country on this day in 2010. The 22-year-old native of Goffstown, N.H. was serving in the 2d Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force when he was killed during combat operations in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province.


1776: Sgt. Ezra Lee silently makes his way down the Hudson River in an 8-ft. long submersible named Turtle towards British Adm. Richard Howe’s flagship, HMS Eagle, anchored just south of Manhattan. Turning two hand cranks for propulsion, Lee reaches the ship but is unable to drill into the hull in order to attach a “torpedo.” While Lee’s attack is unsuccessful, the craft designed by inventor David Bushnell marks the first-ever submarine attack.

1864: As he prepares for his March to the Sea, Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman orders an evacuation of Atlanta. When the mayor protests, Sherman replies with “War is cruelty and you cannot refine it.” Government and military facilities are destroyed, and the Union provides transportation south for the displaced residents.

1903: During a period of unrest, Marines from USS Brooklyn (ACR-3) land at Beirut (modern-day Lebanon) to protect U.S. citizens and the American University.

1940: 1,200 German bombers and escorts depart airfields in France and cross into English airspace. Instead of targeting Royal Air Force bases, the warplanes hit London’s East End, marking the first day of the London Blitz. For 57 straight days, Luftwaffe pilots target the English capital, killing over 40,000. But the German air crews are unable to cripple England’s war production or break the will of its people, and Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring will call off the campaign in 1941.

1942: Japan suffers one of its first setbacks of World War II when a battalion of elite Special Naval Landing Forces are forced to withdraw following their defeat by a numerically superior joint Australian-U.S. defense force at New Guinea’s Milne Bay.

1950: After a month of combat, the 1st Marine Brigade (Provisional) is pulled from the lines and sent to Japan to join the 1st and 7th Marine Regiments for the upcoming amphibious invasion at Inchon. Continue reading “Sept. 7: Today in military history”