Archive for the ‘Military’ Category

July 20 in U.S. military history: Old Ironsides, and ‘one small step’

[Originally published at OpsLens.com]

1944: As Adolf Hitler meets with officials at his “Wolf’s Lair” headquarters in East Prussia, a suitcase bomb planted by Col. Claus von Stauffenberg detonates, killing three German officers and wounding the Führer. Stauffenberg and several fellow “Operation Valkyrie” conspirators are shot by firing squad within 24 hours, and the Gestapo will arrest and execute several thousand Germans (some having no connection to the plot whatsoever) in coming months.

In the Marianas Islands, Naval Underwater Demolition Teams (the predecessor to today’s SEAL Teams) destroy obstacles on the beaches of Guam as aircraft and warships bombard enemy positions in preparation of the invasion.

1945: As the Manhattan Project scientists put the finishing touches on the atomic bomb, Army Air Force B-29 “Superfortress” crews begin flying multiple small-scale bombing raids against Japan, so the defenders would become accustomed to the sight of individual bombers.

1960: The ballistic missile submarine USS George Washington (SSBN-598) conducts the first submerged launch of a Polaris missile. The missile hits the target over 1,000 miles away. The nuclear-tipped Polaris is capable of accurately delivering three 200 kiloton warheads 2,500 nautical miles downrange.

1969: Apollo 11 Astronaut Neil A. Armstrong – a U.S. Naval aviator who flew multiple combat missions over Korea, and was once shot down – takes “one small step,” becoming the first human in history to walk on the surface of the moon.

Armstrong, who serves as Apollo 11 mission commander, is accompanied on the historic voyage by command module pilot Michael Collins, a U.S. Air Force fighter pilot who will become a major general in 1978, and lunar module pilot Edwin Eugene “Buzz” Aldrin (also an Air Force fighter pilot), who shot down two MiG-15 fighters over Korea.

1997: In honor of her 200th birthday, the USS Constitution – the world’s oldest ship remaining in active service – sets sail for the first time in 116 years. “Old Ironsides” was one of the United States’ original six frigates, and is the only warship in the U.S. Navy to have sunk an enemy vessel.

Posted on July 20, 2017 at 07:37 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
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July 19 in U.S. military history: Morgan’s Raid, and the end of the Happy Times

[Originally published at Opslens.com]

1779: 1,000 Continental Marines and militiamen, including a 100-man artillery detachment commanded by Paul Revere, depart Boston, sailing to attack the British at Fort George (present-day Castine, Maine). The 44-ship Penobscot Expedition – the largest naval expedition of the Revolutionary War – proves to be a disastrous defeat for the Americans, as every vessel is either destroyed or captured by the British, and survivors of the failed attack must find their way back to Massachusetts with little to no supplies.

1863: The Confederate Army’s “Great Raid of 1863” is dealt a serious blow in Ohio, where Union gunboats and pursuing cavalry attack Brig. Gen. John H. Morgan’s handpicked cavalry force as they attempt to cross the swollen Ohio River. After covering some 1,000 miles in Northern territory, capturing and paroling some 6,000 Union soldiers, seizing supplies, destroying railroads and bridges, and spreading terror throughout the North, Morgan’s weary force is trapped and hundreds are captured. Within days, most of the raiders are taken prisoner, including Morgan, who is sent to the Ohio State Penitentiary. But in November, Morgan and several of his officers will tunnel out of the prison and escape to safety.

1942: Adm. Karl Dönitz orders his U-boats to abandon their hunting grounds off the American coast; the institution of anti-submarine countermeasures, such as the convoy system, has put an end to the easy pickings of what German submariners referred to as the “Happy Time.”

1943: As the Allies march across Sicily, over 500 American bombers conduct a daylight bombing raid on Rome, the first time the Italian capital is targeted. Prime Minister Benito Mussolini, with his army on the brink of collapse, will be removed from power and arrested within a week.

1953: Just days before the armistice ends combat between the United States and North Korea, Air Force Lt. Col. Vermont Garrison scores his 10th kill of the war, becoming a “double ace.” Garrison flew for both Britain’s Royal Air Force and the U.S. Army Air Force during World War II, with 7 victories in Europe. When war breaks out in Vietnam, the 51-year-old “Grey Eagle” will command the 405th Fighter Wing, flying 97 combat missions over Laos and Vietnam.

1963: NASA test pilot – and former Army Air Forces pilot during World War II – Joseph A. Walker flies his North American “X-15” aircraft to an altitude of 66 miles, becoming the first civilian to fly in space.

Posted on July 19, 2017 at 12:01 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
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July 13 in U.S. military history

1861: Following their victory in the Battle of Rich Mountain in western Virginia two days ago, Union forces led by Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan catch the fleeing Confederates at Cheat River. Brig. Gen. Robert S. Garnett, commanding the Confederate troops, is killed, becoming the first general killed in the Civil War.

The victory at Corrick’s Ford marks the high point of McClellan’s career, as his inflated accomplishment makes him a national hero – he will become general-in-chief of the Union army – and sets in motion the creation of West Virginia.

1863: In New York City, residents kick off three days of violent riots against the draft – perhaps the worst riot in American history. Firemen are attacked and their equipment destroyed, and the outnumbered police officers can’t control the huge crowd. Soldiers are ordered to New York City, many of whom fought days ago at Gettysburg, and by the time order is restored, 4,000 troops occupy the city. Hundreds of citizens are dead, thousands wounded, and dozens of buildings are burned.

1943: Allied and Japanese ships clash in the Solomon Islands during the Battle of Kolombangara. The force had just landed Marine Raiders on New Georgia and the Japanese intended to land reinforcements, but are driven off after a brief nighttime engagement. Heavy gunfire and torpedoes sink the Japanese light cruiser Jintsu, taking almost the entire crew with her. Japanese torpedoes sink the destroyer USS Gwin (DD-443), and heavily damage three other cruisers.

1985: Vice President – and former TBM “Avenger” torpedo bomber pilot during World War II – George H.W. Bush becomes Acting President for the Day when Pres. Ronald Reagan undergoes surgery.

2008: At 4a.m., over 100 Taliban fighters launch a coordinated assault against a joint American-Afghan patrol base in eastern Afghanistan. The remote outpost had just been established and its defenses had not yet been fully constructed, enabling the enemy to destroy the heavy U.S. weapons almost immediately. After four hours of close combat, the attackers are driven off with help from artillery and aircraft support. Nine American soldiers are killed and another 29 wounded in one of the Taliban’s deadliest attacks of the war.

Posted on July 13, 2017 at 09:20 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
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July 10 in U.S. military history: ‘Chips’ the wonder dog, and the Akutan Zero

“Chips” earned the Silver Star and Purple Heart for his actions on July 10, 1943

1942: A PBY “Catalina” crew spots an intact Japanese A6M “Zero” fighter that crash-landed on the Alaskan island of Akutan. The fighter is salvaged and shipped to the United States, where test pilots will use the captured warplane to identify tactics that negate the formidable Zero’s advantages. The newly developed F6F “Hellcat” is modified to take full advantage of the Zero’s weaknesses discovered during tests, and Hellcat aviators will enjoy an impressive 13:1 kill ratio against Zeroes in the Pacific War.

1943: Just after midnight, paratroopers from the 82d Airborne Division perform their first combat jump behind enemy lines on the island of Sicily. That morning, over 100,000 American, British, and Canadian troops will hit on the beach in one of the biggest airborne and amphibious invasions of the war. The Allied force captures the island after six weeks of fighting, but is unable to prevent the withdrawal of many of the Axis forces.

“Chips,” a German Shepherd military police dog serving in Sicily with Company I, 30th Infantry Regiment, attacks a hidden German pillbox, forcing four enemy soldiers to surrender. Chips is wounded in the attack, but the canine will be awarded the Silver Star and Purple Heart by the 3rd Infantry Division’s commander, Maj. Gen. Lucian Truscott.

1950: North Korean forces clash with soldiers of the U.S. 24th Infantry Division in the Battle of Chochiwon. Two days of airstrikes against the approaching armored column of North Korean vehicles and infantry had seriously weakened the attackers, but the Americans are outnumbered and have antiquated equipment, and are quickly routed. The battle marks the first engagement of American and North Korean tanks, and the light M24 “Chaffee” tank proves no match for the heavier armor and guns of the Soviet-built T-34. The Americans mount a counterattack, and successfully delay the communist force for three days, resorting to hand-to-hand fighting before having to withdraw.

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June 28 in U.S. military history

1776: The unfinished American garrison guarding Charleston harbor comes under attack by nine British ships under the command of Adm. Sir Peter Parker. The British attack the fort for 12-plus hours, but their cannonballs are no match for the palmetto log defenses of Fort Sullivan. In what has been described as the “first decisive victory of American forces over the British Navy” during the American Revolution, Col. William Moultrie and his South Carolina militiamen inflict heavy casualties on the Royal Navy forces and repel the assault.

1778: The Battle of Monmouth, N.J. is fought between Gen. George Washington’s Continental Army (including the legendary Molly Pitcher) and British forces under Gen. Sir Henry Clinton. Though tactically inconclusive, the battle is a strategic victory for the Americans who prove they can go toe-to-toe with the British Army in a large pitched battle.

1814: 200 miles west of Plymouth, England, the sloop-of-war USS Wasp – the fifth of ten so-named vessels – engages HMS Reindeer. After 19 minutes of intense fire, with the Americans repulsing numerous attempts by the British to board their vessel, Master Commandant Johnston Blakely and his men devastate the British crew, killing the ship’s captain, Commander William Manners, and 24 others. Reindeer is boarded, but is too heavily damaged to be taken as a prize and is burned.

1914: Austrian Archduke Francis Ferdinand and his wife are assassinated by a Bosnian Serb. One month later, Austria-Hungary will declare war on Serbia, triggering World War I.

1919: Following six months of negotiations, the Treaty of Versailles is finally signed, formally ending World War I five years to the day after the event that triggered the conflict. The armistice of November 11, 1918 put an end to hostilities, but a state of war remained until the treaty. Germany is devastated – disarmed and forced to pay $31 billion in reparations (roughly the equivalent to nearly half a trillion dollars in 2017 dollars).

The U.S. Senate will not ratify a peace treaty with Germany until 1921. The “Carthaginian Peace” brought about by the Versailles Treaty will annihilate the German economy, leading to the rise of the Nazi Party – and ultimately World War II.

1950: As the South Korean capital of Seoul falls to the North Koreans, the first American combat forces – a 35-man anti-aircraft artillery unit – arrive in Korea. Gen. Douglas MacArthur, the newly appointed Commander of United Nations forces, also arrives in theater.

Posted on June 28, 2017 at 08:04 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
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June 27 in U.S. military history

A North American F-82F Twin Mustang from the 52d Fighter Group (All Weather) at Mitchel Air Force Base, N.Y.

[Originally published at OpsLens.com]

1864: After two months of flanking maneuvers, driving Confederate Gen. Joseph E. Johnston’s Confederate Army of Tennessee some 70 miles rearward, Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman launches a frontal assault at Kennesaw Mountain (near Marietta, Ga.). Casualties are heavy on both sides: 3,000 Union soldiers and 1,000 Confederates. Although Sherman’s assault was unsuccessful, Maj. Gen. John M. Schofield’s successful attack on Johnston’s left flank forces the Confederates to withdraw again towards Atlanta.

1942: Gen. Henry H. “Hap” Arnold presents 23 “Doolittle Raiders” with the Distinguished Flying Cross at a ceremony in Washington, D.C.’s Bolling Field. A week later, another three crewmembers are awarded their medals at Walter Reed Army Hospital.

That same day, the FBI announces it has captured all eight of the German military intelligence operatives that had landed in New York and Florida to sabotage American strategic targets. Six are tried by military tribunal and executed by electric chair while the two agents that cooperated with investigators are eventually released by President Harry S. Truman in 1948.

1950: Two days after the communist invasion of South Korea by the Soviet-backed North, the United Nations Security Council approves a resolution to “repel the armed attack and to restore international peace and security in the area.” Although 21 nations will provide support, the United States will send the vast majority of troops to the conflict. On this day, President Truman authorizes Naval and air operations south of the 38th Parallel and dispatches the 7th Fleet to Taiwan to prevent hostilities from spreading elsewhere in Asia.

Meanwhile, F-82 “Twin Mustang” fighters score three kills against North Korean fighters attempting to intercept a flight of C-54 “Skymaster” aircraft evacuating personnel from Gimpo Air Field – the first air battle of the Korean War. And P-80C “Shooting Star” fighter-bombers knock four more Korean fighters out of the sky in the Air Force’s first combat victory for a jet-powered aircraft.

1993: After a foiled assassination attempt on former President George H.W. Bush in Kuwait, the cruiser USS Chancellorsville (CG-62) and destroyer USS Peterson (DD-969) launch 23 cruise missiles at the Iraqi Intelligence Service’s command and control complex in Baghdad.

Posted on June 27, 2017 at 09:47 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
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June 26 in U.S. military history

[Originally published at OpsLens.com]

1862: Confederate forces led by Gen. Robert E. Lee launch a counteroffensive against Maj. Gen. George McClellan’s Army of the Potomac. Although the outnumbered Confederates suffer heavy casualties and subordinates fail to execute Lee’s plans, McClellan will ultimately withdraw from Richmond following the Battle of Mechanicsburg – the first major engagement of the Seven Days Battles – and abandon the Peninsula Campaign.

1917: A convoy containing the first American Expeditionary Forces – members of the 5th Marine Regiment – land at the beaches of Saint-Nazaire France. The American troops will train for four months before entering combat. More than two million Americans will serve on the battlefields of Western Europe, and over 50,000 will lay down their lives in the “War to End All War.”

1942: The Grumman F6F “Hellcat” – credited with the most aerial victories of any Allied naval aircraft during World War II – makes its first flight. Designed to compete with the agile Mitsubishi A6M “Zero” fighter, the Hellcat will come to dominate the skies over the Pacific. 34 Japanese warplanes are knocked out of the sky by top Navy ace and Medal of Honor recipient Capt. David McCampbell – one of an incredible 305 Hellcat aces in the war.

1944: U.S. 7th Corps captures the French port city of Cherbourg, taking the garrison commander Lt. General Karl-Wilhelm von Schlieben and the naval commander, Rear Admiral Walter Hennecke, prisoner. A pocket of Germans still control the vital port facilities, and Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Quentin R. Walsh leads a 53-man naval reconnaissance unit through hostile fire and assaults the naval arsenal, capturing 400 Germans. His force then moved to Fort Du Homet where he received the surrender of another 350 Germans, and released 52 American paratroopers that had been taken prisoner. For his heroic actions, Walsh is awarded the Navy Cross.

1948: When the Soviet Union cuts off West Berlin by sealing off highway and railroad routes, the U.S. Air Force begins the Berlin Airlift. American and other allied nations perform some 300,000 air-transport flights into West Berlin delivering an average of 5,000 tons of food, coal, and other essential items per day to the blockaded city until the Soviets relent a year later.

1950: A day after North Korean forces cross into South Korea, kicking off the Korean War, the destroyers USS De Haven (DD-727) and USS Mansfield (DD-728) evacuate 700 American and foreign nationals from Inchon.

1965: Gen. William Westmoreland is granted the authority to send American combat forces on offensive operations. Prior to this decision, U.S. forces primarily served in a defensive role at air bases and other installations.

Posted on June 26, 2017 at 11:15 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
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June 23 in U.S. military history

[Originally published at OpsLens.com]

1812: Immediately after war is declared, a squadron of American ships led by Commodore John Rodgers sails to intercept a British convoy sailing from Jamaica. When the frigate HMS Belvidera is spotted, Rodgers personally aims and fires the first shot of the War of 1812 – the cannonball striking the British ship’s rudder and penetrating the gun room.

1865: Confederate Brig. Gen. – and Cherokee chief – Stand Watie surrenders his First Indian Brigade of the Army of the Trans-Mississippi to Union forces in Oklahoma Territory, becoming the last general to surrender in the Civil War.

1923: Over the skies of San Diego, an Army Air Service DH-4 biplane flown by Capt. Lowell Smith tops off its fuel tanks from a hose attached to another DH-4, marking the world’s first mid-air refueling operation.

1944: During one of the largest bombing missions of the war, 761 bombers of the 15th Air Force attack the oil fields at Ploesti, Romania.

When one of the B-17s on the raid is damaged by flak and has to drop out of formation, bombardier 2nd Lt. David R. Kingsley drops his bombs and goes to the back of the aircraft to administer first aid to the wounded tail gunner. When another gunner is wounded by enemy aircraft, Kingsley attends to him as well. When the pilot orders the crew to abandon the plane before it explodes, Kingsley gives one of the wounded gunners his own parachute, sacrificing his life. His body is later discovered in the burned wreckage of the plane, and Kingsley is posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.

1945: As the Sixth Army drives north to encircle the remaining Japanese forces on northern Luzon Island in the Philippines, paratroopers from the 11th Airborne Division perform their last combat jump of the war and cut off Gen. Tomoyuki Yamashita’s Shobu Group’s retreat.

1969: The Special Forces Camp at Ben Het in Vietnam’s Central Highlands, eight miles east of the border with Laos and Cambodia, is cut off and besieged by North Vietnamese Army. Over the next several days B-52s fly 100 strikes while fighter-bombers, artillery, and helicopter gunships hammer the NVA until the Americans are relieved on July 2nd.

Posted on June 23, 2017 at 11:25 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
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June 22 in U.S. military history

Col Theodore Roosevelt stands triumphant on San Juan Hill, Cuba after his “Rough Riders” captured this hill and its sister Kettle Hill during the Spanish American War. (Library of Congress photo)

1807: Off the coast of Norfolk, Va., the British frigate HMS Leopard attacks the American vessel USS Chesapeake, forcing Commodore James Barron to surrender the ship after only managing to fire one shot. Four Americans are dead and 17 wounded in the attack, and the British board Chesapeake, taking four British deserters. The British impress thousands of American sailors into their service during the Napoleonic War, but “Chesapeake-Leopard Affair” outrages the Americans and will lead to the War of 1812.

1813: Some 2,000 Royal Marines and British soldiers attempt to attack the American fortifications at Craney Island, guarding Hapton Roads, Va. But unlike the crew of the Chesapeake six years ago (which in fact, took place near the site of Craney Island), the defenders are prepared – and repel the invasion. The American guns inflict 200 casualties in one of the first engagements of the War of 1812.

1865: The Confederate commerce raider CSS Shenandoah fires the last shot of the Civil War – a warning shot at a U.S. whaling vessel in the Bering Straight. Shenandoah captured 38 ships and some 1,000 sailors during the Civil War, and becomes the only Confederate ship to circumnavigate the globe when it sails to England to surrender – marking the last time the Confederate colors are struck.

1884: After three years of being stranded by ice in the Canadian Arctic, a rescue expedition led by Cmdr. Winfield S. Schley finds Lt. Adolphus W. Greely and six of his men from the ill-fated Lady Franklin Bay Expedition. 16 of Greely’s men had perished from hypothermia, starvation, drowning, and one man was ordered shot for repeatedly stealing food rations.

1898: The “Rough Riders” of the 1st United States Volunteer Cavalry, led by Col. Leonard Wood and Lt. Col. Theodore Roosevelt, begin landing at Daiquiri, Cuba during the Spanish-American War.

1944: Following a preparatory airstrike, the U.S. 7th Corps launches an assault against German forces at the French town of Cherbourg. The Allies meet stiff resistance at first, but 30,000 German defenders will surrender after a week of fighting. The Germans and Allies take heavy casualties – with both sides losing 8,000 soldiers killed in action or missing apiece.

1963: Four ballistic missile submarines are launched in one day – USS Tecumseh (SSBN-628), USS Daniel Boone (SSBN-629), USS Flasher (SSN-613), and USS John Calhoun (SSBN-630). The James Madison-class subs each carry 16 of the new Polaris A-3 nuclear missiles, with a range of 2,500 nautical miles.

Posted on June 22, 2017 at 10:55 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
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June 21 in U.S. military history

American troops in the relief of Peking. Painting by H. Charles McBarron, Jr.

1900: The Chinese empress Cixi formally declares war on foreign powers. 100,000 members of the nationalist “Righteous and Harmonious Fists” movement (nickamed the “Boxers” by the British) launch attacks against Christian and foreign targets in Peking’s (modern-day Beijing) Legation Quarter. The siege lasts nearly two months before Western reinforcements arrive. Marine legend Dan Daly will earn his first of two Medals of Honor (one of only two men to accomplish the feat) when he single-handedly kills some 200 Boxers.

1916: During Gen. John J. Pershing’s “Punitive Expedition” into Mexico to capture or kill Pancho Villa, Buffalo Soldiers of the 10th Cavalry Regiment clash with – and defeat – a Mexican Army force at Carrizal. The incident nearly puts the two countries on a war footing, but with the “War to End All War” raging across the Atlantic, tensions would soon dissipate.

1921: Army and Navy aircraft attack the former German battleship Ostfriesland, sinking the massive vessel and giving support to famed World War I aviator Brig. Gen. William “Billy” Mitchell’s theory that dreadnought battleships could be easily sunk by planes and are taking up too much of the military budget.

1942: The Japanese submarine I-25 surfaces at the mouth of the Columbia River, off the coast of Oregon, and targets Fort Stevens. The sub’s gun inflicts virtually no damage, but the attack marks the only time that a stateside U.S. military installation is bombarded.

Halfway across the Pacific, PBY “Catalina” crew members rescue two downed aviators floating in the ocean, over 300 miles north of Midway. The men have been drifting since their TBD “Devastator” torpedo bomber went down during the Battle of Midway on June 4.

1945: After 82 days of the bloodiest fighting during World War II, the last remaining Japanese resistance on Okinawa collapses. Gen. Mitsuru Ushijima, commander of the Japanese forces on the island, commits ritual suicide. The Battle of Okinawa is over. Over 100,000 Japanese soldiers perish and 12,500 American Marines, soldiers, and sailors are killed in combat. Kamikaze attacks account for the sinking of dozens of American ships.

1969: Following two days of artillery attacks, a 600-man North Vietnamese Army force assaults the American combat base of Tay Ninh, 50 miles northwest of Saigon. After two days of fighting, 196 NVA soldiers and ten Americans lay dead.

Posted on June 21, 2017 at 15:50 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
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