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Today in U.S. military history: Decatur battles Royal Navy weeks after War of 1812 ends

Today’s post is in honor of Sgt. Jayton D. Patterson, who was killed by enemy action on this day in 2005 in Iraq’s Babil province. The 26-year-old from Sedley, Va. was assigned to 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force.


1815: Like Andrew Jackson’s victory at New Orleans earlier in the month, the Americans and British clash again before word that the War of 1812 is over can cross the ocean. The frigate USS President, under the command of Commodore Stephen Decatur, breaks out of the British blockade at New York Harbor, but is soon intercepted by four British ships. President deals out significant damage to the frigate HMS Endymion but an outnumbered Decatur has to surrender the ship.

1911: (Featured image) At the San Francisco Air Meet, Lt. Myron S. Crissy drops a bomb he designed (along with Lt. Paul W. Beck) from a Wright Brothers airplane flown by Philip O. Parmalee. Although aerial bombs had been used before by hot-air balloon crews, this marks the first-ever deployment of a live bomb from an airplane.

1943: The Pentagon, the headquarters for the Department of Defense and one of the world’s largest office buildings, is dedicated. The famous five-sided concrete structure resembles an old star-shaped fortress from the gunpowder era, and houses some 23,000 employees. World War II began shortly after construction starts, and the design had to be altered to accommodate the shortage of materials such as steel.

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Today in U.S. military history: The Doolittle Raid is born

Today’s post is in honor of Sgt. Michael J. McMullen, who on this day in 2006 died of wounds sustained from an improvised explosive device in Ramadi, Iraq. The 25-year-old from Salisbury, Md. served as a firefighter-paramedic on the Salisbury Fire Department and was assigned to the Maryland National Guard’s 243rd Engineer Company. McMullen was posthumously awarded the Silver Star (for saving the life of a fellow soldier during the attack), the Purple Heart, and promoted to Staff Sergeant.


1942: After just a month of war in the Pacific, the United States Navy meets to determine the best way to quickly strike the Japanese home islands. President Franklin D. Roosevelt wanted an attack to boost U.S. morale while weakening that of Japan’s. Several potential options were discussed, such as:

  1. Dispatching B-24 Liberators from Hawaii and refueling them with Navy seaplanes (nearly an 8,000-mile round trip);
  2. Launching B-17s from Midway and topping off with fuel from B-24 tankers (over 5,000 miles round-trip);
  3. B-17s towing fuel-laden gliders

One suggestion from a Naval antisubmarine officer made the most sense: sail an aircraft carrier within striking range and launch Army twin-engine bombers. The “Doolittle Raid” is born, and will be carried out in just three months.

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Today in U.S. military history: UFOs and Pirates of the Caribbean

Today’s post is in honor of Lance Cpl. Joseph R. Giese, who was killed during combat operations in Afghanistan’s Helmand province on this day in 2011. The 24-year-old native of Winder, Ga. was assigned to 2d Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force.


1822: The sailors of the West Indies Squadron made this a pretty rough day for the pirates of the Caribbean: the schooner USS Porpoise (the first of five so-named Naval vessels) captures six pirate ships off the Cuban coast and destroys their base. Meanwhile, the heavily-armed brig USS Spark recaptures a Dutch sloop from pirates as another landing party destroys their base.

1942: After sailing across the Pacific to Japan, USS Pollack (SS-180) becomes the first U.S. submarine to sink an enemy vessel during World War II by torpedoing the 2,250-ton cargo ship Unkai Maru No. 1 off the coast of Honshu.

Lt. Cmdr. Stanley P. Moseley’s crew will send another Japanese cargo vessel to the bottom two days later.

1945: Off Manila Bay, a screening force of four American destroyers – USS Charles Ausburne (DD-294), USS Braine (DD-630), USS Shaw (DD-373), and USS Russel (DD-419) – move out to intercept a target spotted by radar. They find the Japanese destroyer Hinoki, which the flotilla quickly sinks, marking the last surface naval engagement of the Pacific War.

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Dec. 26: Today in U.S. military history

Today’s post is in honor of Spc. Jason M. Johnston, who was killed by an improvised explosive device in Arghandab, Afghanistan on this day in 2009. The 24-year-old from Albion, N.Y. was assigned to the 2d Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82d Airborne Division.


1776: After Gen. George Washington’s famous crossing of the icy Delaware River the night before and a eight-mile forced march, 2,500 Continental Army soldiers and militia catch the Hessian (German mercenaries fighting for the British) garrison at Trenton, N.J. completely by surprise. Washington’s force captures 900 soldiers along with weapons and supplies, incredibly without losing a single American soldier to combat. Lt. (and future president) James Madison is one of the few soldiers wounded during the battle.

1943: (Featured Image) Following a naval and air bombardment, the 1st Marine Division lands at Cape Gloucester in their first combat operation since Guadalcanal. Fifth Air Force’s pre-landing bombardment of the Japanese defenses was so thorough that completely destroying a target would be referred to as “Gloucesterizing.”

Dense jungles, horrible weather, and near-impassable mud welcomed the invaders, but the Marines “adapt, improvise, and overcome,” capturing the island from the Japanese in just over a week.

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Dec. 24: Today in U.S. military history

Today’s post is in honor of Lance Cpl. Kenneth A. Corzine, who on this day in 2010 died of wounds sustained in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province. The 23-year-old from Bethalto, Ill. was assigned to 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force.


1814: Delegates from the United States and Great Britain sign the Treaty of Ghent in modern-day Belgium, bringing an end to the War of 1812. News travels slowly, however, and two weeks after the signing, Maj. Gen. (and future president) Andrew Jackson defeats a British invasion force in the Battle New Orleans.

1943: 670 B-17s and B-24s from the Eighth Air Force conduct a bombing raid at German long-range rocket sites at Pas de Calais, France.

1944: After a week of foul weather that had kept American warplanes grounded during the Battle of the Bulge finally breaks, the Eighth Air Force takes advantage of the break in the clouds and restore their air supremacy. Nearly 3,000 heavy bombers and fighters take off from England for the largest strike mission of the war to provide troops on the ground the support they need to break the Germans.

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Dec. 12 in military history

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.”

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Dec. 11 in U.S. military history

Today’s post is in honor of Spc. Marshall L. Edgerton, who was killed when suicide bombers attacked his camp in Ramadi, Iraq on this day in 2003. The 27-year-old native of Rocky Face, Ga. was assigned to Company A, 82d Signal Battalion, 82d Airborne Division.


1941: The small American garrison on Wake – consisting of a few hundred Marines, sailors, and civilian contractors – repels a Japanese invasion force seeking to capture the island. The 5-inch coastal defense guns (taken from the former battleship USS Texas) hammer the incoming warships, sinking one destroyer and damaging several others, the island’s four remaining F4F-3 Wildcat fighters take off to intercept a flight of Japanese warplanes.

Despite being heavily outnumbered, Marine Capt. Henry T. Elrod will shoot down two aircraft before he and his fellow aviators set their sights on the Japanese ships. Elrod becomes the first American pilot to sink a surface ship during World War II when his bombs detonate the depth charges on Kisaragi. The destroyer goes down with all hands.

That same day, Adolf Hitler declares war on the United States. Although Nazi Germany and Japan had signed an agreement stating that Germany would come to Japan’s aid if they were attacked, Germany was under no such obligation since Japan was the aggressor. However, and with virtually no consultation with his staff, Hitler declares war against the United States anyways. Within hours, Congress responds with a unanimous declaration of war against Germany.

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Dec. 10 in military history

Today’s post is in honor of Staff Sgt. Wesley R. Williams, who on this date in 2012, was killed by an improvised explosive device in Kandahar, Afghanistan. Williams, 25, of New Carlisle, Ohio, was assigned to 1st Battalion, 38th Infantry Regiment, 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division and had previously deployed to Iraq.


1941: When a Japanese submarine reports the sighting of the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CV-6) northeast of Hawaii, Japanese vessels still in the area are ordered to attack. Meanwhile, one of Enterprise‘s bombers spots the submarine I-70 and drops a 1,000-lb. bomb, just missing the sub, but knocking out its ability to submerge. Later, another SBD Dauntless finishes off the crippled I-70, sending the sub to the bottom – the first fleet submarine lost by the Japanese and the first to be sunk by aircraft during World War II.

Off the coast of Malaya, the British battleship HMS Prince of Wales and battle cruiser HMS Repulse become the first capital ships sunk solely by air power during the war. Prime Minister Winston Churchill would later say, “In all the war I never received a more direct shock. […] There were no British or American capital ships in the Indian Ocean or the Pacific except the American survivors of Pearl Harbor who were hastening back to California. Over this vast expanse of waters Japan was supreme and we everywhere were weak and naked.”

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