Archive for the ‘Military History’ Category
“A nation reveals itself not only by the the men it produces, but also by the men it honors, the men it remembers…”
- President John F. Kennedy
Last week, America lost two outstanding warriors. Ola L. Mize, veteran of the Korean and Vietnam Wars and Medal of Honor recipient, and William J. Guarnere, from the legendary “Band of Brothers” unit of World War II.
Alabama native Ola Mize tried repeatedly to enlist in the Army, but at 120 pounds was told he was too small. He also had to trick his way past a vision test as he was also blind in one eye from a childhood accident. Eventually, the Army relented and he served in the 82nd Airborne, re-enlisting once the Korean War broke out.
On June 10, 1953, a battalion-sized force of Chinese troops attacked and overran Mize’s outpost. With his company officers dead or wounded, Mize organized a defense, dragged wounded to safety, and formed a patrol to fight the Chinese bunker to bunker – despite having been hit by grenade and artillery blasts multiple times. Fighting for hours – hand-to-hand at times – Mize killed several dozen enemy soldiers with his carbine and many more by calling in American artillery fire. His full citation can be read here.
Mize was one of only eight Americans of the original 56 to survive the attack on the outpost. Initially, he refused the Medal of Honor, but eventually accepted it on behalf of his men.
Following the Korean War, Mize earned his commission and served multiple tours in Vietnam with the 5th Special Forces Group. He later founded the Combat Diver Qualification Course in Key West, Fla. and commanded the Special Forces School at Fort Bragg.
Col. Mize retired in 1981, having earned the Silver Star, Legion of Merit, five Bronze Stars, and the Purple Heart. He passed away in his Gadsden, Ala. home on March 12 of lung cancer.
When the Japanese struck Pearl Harbor, William Guarnere dropped out of high school and went to work building Sherman tanks. His job was considered essential to the war effort, which allowed him to stay stateside. But he enlisted in the Army, and trained for the newly formed parachute infantry. He would be assigned to Easy Company, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, which would be immortalized by historian Stephen Ambrose in the book “Band of Brothers.”
Guarnere’s oldest brother Harry was killed fighting the Germans at Monte Cassino, Italy, and William couldn’t wait to kill every German he could. His fierce fighting earned him the nickname “Wild Bill.” Guarnere parachuted into France prior to the D-Day invasion, and was platoon sergeant during a June 6 assault on German artillery at Brecourt Manor featured on “Band of Brothers” miniseries, for which he earned the Silver Star.
In: Military History · Tagged with: Medal of Honor, Ola L. Mize
Walter D. Ehlers, the last surviving Medal of Honor recipient for the Normandy campaign, was laid to rest March 10 at Riverside (Calif.) National Cemetery.
Ehlers was born in Junction City, Ks. on May 7, 1921. He enlisted in the Army with his brother Roland and the two served together throughout the North Africa and Sicily campaigns, but anticipating high casualties, their company commander separated the brothers for the Normandy invasion due to fears that the two would perish together. Walter learned on June 14 that his brother perished when a mortar struck his landing craft at Omaha Beach on D-Day.
As Walter’s reconnaissance squad fought through France on June 9 and 10, he repeatedly moved far forward of his men, leading a bayonet charge and assaulting multiple heavily defended strongpoints – at times, single-handedly. While covering the withdrawal of his platoon from heavy fire, and despite being wounded himself, Ehlers crossed a killzone to retrieve his wounded automatic rifleman. Once his man was secured, he returned for the soldier’s weapon. His full citation can be read here.
He was wounded three more times as the First Infantry Division fought across Europe. In addition to his Medal of Honor and Purple Hearts, he also earned the Silver Star and Bronze Star. He served as a counselor for the Veterans Administration, and his son Walter Jr. retired as a lieutenant colonel, also having served with the First Infantry Division. Ehlers spoke at the 50th anniversary commemoration of the D-Day invasion in 1994 and walked alongside President Bill Clinton on Omaha Beach.
Many who worked alongside Ehlers never knew he was a Medal of Honor recipient. “This was a man who was a warrior,” recalled former California governor Pete Wilson. “There’s no doubt about that, but this was also one of the most gentle, kindest, most modest human beings I’ve ever encountered.” Hundreds attended his funeral.
Of the 12 Medals of Honor awarded for Normandy, all but three were posthumous. With Ehlers’ passing, only 75 surviving Medal of Honor recipients remain. However, the Marine Corps Times reports that former Marine Corporal Kyle Carpenter will receive the award for shielding his comrades from a grenade blast in Afghanistan back in 2010.
In: Military History · Tagged with: Medal of Honor, Walter D. Ehlers
1862: The Battle of Mechanicsville (Va.) — second of the Seven Days Battles — is fought between Union forces under the command of Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan and Brig. Gen. Fitz John Porter, and Confederates under Gen. Robert E. Lee. Though the Confederates suffer heavy losses in a series of futile attacks against Federal positions, Porter is forced to withdraw in the face of fresh Confederate forces under Maj. Gen. Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson.
1948: A day after the Soviet Union blockades West Berlin, 32 U.S. C-47 cargo planes loaded with supplies takeoff on the first flight of the Berlin Airlift. Over 2 million tons of supplies are delivered during the 15-month operation.
Across the Atlantic, Strategic Air Command receives its first B-36A “Peacekeeper.” The six-engine strategic bomber is the world’s largest warplane and, with a range over 6,000 miles, is the first unrefueled intercontinental bomber.
1963: President John F. Kennedy proclaims, “Ich bin ein Berliner,” as a Cold War expression of America’s support for West Berlin following East Germany’s erecting the Berlin Wall.
1917: The first convoy of troop transport ships carrying the American Expeditionary Force arrives in France. More than two million Americans will serve on the battlefields of Western Europe, and over 50,000 will lose their lives during World War I.
1876: A 3,000-strong Native American allied force led by Lakota chief Sitting Bull wipes out five companies of cavalry led by Lt. Col. George A. Custer near the Little Bighorn River in modern-day Montana.
1918: After what Gen. John J. Pershing called “the most considerable engagement American troops had ever had with a foreign enemy,” Marines finally secure Belleau Wood.
1950: North Korean infantry, tanks, and aircraft cross the 38th Parallel into South Korea, launching the Korean War.
1996: Islamists detonate a massive truck bomb outside the Khobar Towers near Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, killing 19 American airmen and wounding hundreds more.
Following World War I, the Belgians built a system of fortifications – similar to France’s Maginot Line – surrounding Liège to prevent another German invasion. Fort Eben-Emael, the largest fortress ever built, anchored the network and was completed in 1935. Eben-Emael featured multiple 60, 75, and 120mm gun emplacements protected by armor plating and reinforced concrete as thick as 13 feet. Barbed wire, cliffs, anti-aircraft batteries, machine guns and additional – albeit smaller – fortifications in the surrounding area protected the underground fort.
As the Wermacht moved west toward France in May, 1940, the Germans had to capture the bridges spanning the Albert Canal intact (they were rigged to detonate), and the guns at Eben-Emael had to be neutralized.
With some 1,200 soldiers manning the technologically advanced fortress, defeating Eben-Emael would be extraordinary difficult. But Adolf Hitler himself figured that a few dozen engineers with specialized explosives landing directly on top of the structure could pull off the operation.
What followed was the world’s first combat glider landing and perhaps one of the most daring raids in military history.
In: Military History · Tagged with: World War II
1770: The little-known but historically significant Battle of Golden Hill erupts in New York City between members of the patriot organization “Sons of Liberty” and a contingent of British soldiers. Several are wounded on both sides and one civilian is killed in what is considered by some historians as the first armed clash of the American Revolution.
1862: Union forces led by Brig. Gen. George H. Thomas defeat Confederates under Maj. Gen. George B. Crittenden in the Battle of Mill Springs (Ky.). The engagement marks the Union’s first significant victory of the war.
1783: Diplomats in Versailles sign a treaty ending hostilities between the United States and Britain. After eight long years of fighting, the Americans have secured their independence.
1914: A naval aviation unit from Annapolis, Md. consisting of nine officers, 23 men, seven aircraft, portable hangars, and other gear, under Lieutenant J. H. Towers” arrives at Pensacola, Fla. aboard the battleship USS Mississippi and the bulk-cargo ship USS Orion to set up a flying school. The “Cradle of Naval Aviation” is born.
1944: The U.S. 5th Army, commanded by Lt. Gen. Mark Clark, reaches the Gustav Line and clashes with German forces near Monte Cassino, Italy. After four months of bloody fighting, the Allies have Field Marshall Albert Kesselring’s Tenth Army on their heels and in danger of being surrounded.
1968: The North Vietnamese Army tries – and fails – to overrun Marines patrolling the hills surrounding their combat outpost. The Battle of Khe Sanh has begun – the heavily outnumbered and besieged Marines will fight off their attackers for 77 days, shattering two enemy divisions.
1981: 20 minutes after Ronald Reagan is sworn in as president, Iran releases 52 American hostages (including 18 military personnel) after 444 days of captivity.
In: Military History
1781: Commanding 1,600 British troops, American Traitor – now a British brigadier general – Benedict Arnold captures and burns Richmond, Va.
1855: A landing party from the USS Plymouth skirmishes with Chinese forces near Canton during the Taiping Rebellion.
1875: U.S. Navy Cdr. Edward Lull leads an expedition to determine the best route for the Panama Canal.
1904: Marines arrive in Korea to defend the U.S. legation assembly at Seoul.
1945: Japanese pilots receive their first order to become kamikaze suicide attackers. At Okinawa alone, 1,465 kamikaze pilots destroy at least 30 U.S. warships and kill 5,000 Americans.
1777: Gen. George Washington sets up winter camp for the Continental Army in the hills surrounding Morristown, N.J.
1861: Florida militia forces seize the Union Apalachicola Arsenal, which is defended by only Ordnance Sergeant Edwin Powell and three laborers. Although hopelessly outnumbered, Powell was prepared to fight if ordered to hold and initially refuses to surrender the keys to the magazines or armory. The militia permits Powell to telegram his command for instruction. Powell reluctantly concedes when he receives no response.
1942: Pres. Franklin Roosevelt informs Congress that he is authorizing the largest armaments production in United States history: 8 million tons of shipping, 45,000 planes, and 45,000 tanks, and 20,000 anti-aircraft guns will roll off assembly lines within the year.
In: Military History
Happy 51st birthday to the Navy SEALs, who were founded on Jan. 1, 1962.
In: Images, Military History · Tagged with: Navy SEALs
1777: Following the surprise American victory at Trenton (N.J.) days earlier, British forces under Lt. Gen. Charles Cornwallis counterattack Gen. George Washington’s Continental Army at Assunpink Creek. The British withdraw after three failed assaults against American positions, and abandon New Jersey after another defeat the following day.
1863: Union Maj. Gen. William S. Rosecrans’ Army of the Cumberland defeats Confederate Gen. Braxton Bragg’s Army of Tennessee in Murphreesboro, Tenn. Losses were heavy; casualty percentages were higher during the Battle of Stones River than during any other engagement during the Civil War.
1943: The 32nd Infantry Division captures the strategic town of Buna, New Guinea and its airfield in the first major land victory against the Japanese in World War II.
1944: U.S. forces – including the 32nd Infantry Division – land at Saidor, New Guinea, isolating 15,000 Japanese troops.
1967: Col. (future Brig. Gen. and triple ace) Robin Olds leads a flight of F-4 Phantoms over North Vietnam, shooting down nearly half of the North Vietnamese air force’s fighter inventory without a single loss to U.S. aircraft.
Adapted (and abridged) in part from “This Week in US Military History” by W. Thomas Smith Jr. at Human Events.
1775: The Continental Army suffers its first major defeat when an American invasion force commanded by Maj. Gen. Richard Montgomery unsuccessfully assaults the British at Quebec. The attack yields fewer than 20 British casualties at the cost of over 50 killed – including Gen. Montgomery – and over 400 captured.
1862: USS Monitor, the U.S. Navy’s first ironclad ship, sinks during a storm off the coast of Cape Hatteras, N.C., along with 16 of her crew.
1942: Emperor Hirohito permits Japanese forces on Guadalcanal to retreat after five months of fighting.
1946: Although noting that “a state of war still exists,” Pres. Harry Truman proclaims an end to American hostilities in World War II. Treaties with Germany or Japan are not signed until 1951 and 1952, respectively.
1995: The 1st Armored Division crosses the Sava River into Bosnia-Herzogovina to begin a NATO peacekeeping operation.