1865: A day after the Confederate government evacuates by rail, Union troops march into the Confederate capital of Richmond, Va. Retreating Soldiers and citizens set buildings on fire as they depart, and the conflagration will consume some 35 blocks of Richmond. It takes Union soldiers until the afternoon to contain the blaze. President Abraham Lincoln tours the captured city the next day.
The Civil War will be over in just six days.
1942: Japan’s 14th Army, led by Lt. Gen. Masaharu Homma, launches a major offensive against American and Filipino forces on the Bataan Peninsula. In six days, the 75,000 defenders, already weakened by starvation and disease, will have no choice but to surrender to the Japanese.
1946: Gen. Homma is convicted of nearly 50 counts of war crimes for his troops’ treatment of prisoners in the Bataan Death March, and is executed by firing squad. Continue reading “3 April: Today in U.S. military history”
1775: In a speech before the House of Burgesses, future Virginia governor (and colonel of the 1st Virginia Regiment) Patrick Henry exclaims, “Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!”
1776: As a force-multiplier for the fledgling Continental Navy, the Continental Congress authorizes the employment of privateers (privately owned and armed merchant ships) against “enemies of these United Colonies,” specifically Great Britain, her commercial shipping, privately owned vessels, and ships of the Royal Navy.
1815: Though the War of 1812 has officially ended – communications being what they are in the early 19th century – the Royal Navy sloop-of-war HMS Penguin under the command of Capt. James Dickenson engages the sloop USS Hornet (the third of eight so-named American Navy ships) under Capt. James Biddle off the South Atlantic archipelago Tristan da Cunha. The fighting is quick and hot: Both captains are wounded; Dickenson mortally. HMS Penguin surrenders in less than one-half hour. Continue reading “23 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. Continue reading “20 March: This Day in U.S. Military History”
1945: The aircraft carrier USS Franklin sails to within 50 miles of the Japanese mainland – closer than any U.S. carrier during World War II. A lone Japanese bomber slips through the flattop’s defenses and hits Franklin with two armor-piercing bombs. The bombs detonate below the flight deck, igniting fires and devastating the ship. Around 800 sailors are killed and another 400 wounded – the highest casualties for a surviving ship during the war.
“Big Ben’s” death toll would have been far higher were it not for men like Lt. (j.g.) Donald A. Gary, who earned the Medal of Honor when he located a blacked-out mess compartment holding 300 trapped sailors. Gary made repeated trips through the ship, guiding the men to (relative) safety.
1989: The jointly developed Bell-Boeing V-22 Osprey makes its maiden flight. The U.S. military’s first tiltrotor aircraft will not enter service until 2007.
1992: Two F-15 Eagles intercept a pair of Russian Tu-95 “Bear” bombers near the Alaskan coast – the first such confrontation since the breakup of the Soviet Union. Continue reading “19 March: Today in U.S. Military History”