Archive for the ‘Military History’ Category

May 24 in U.S. military history

A New York Zouave

1818: Gen. (future U.S. pres.) Andrew Jackson and his expeditionary army march into Spanish-controlled Florida, easily capturing the Gulf-coastal town of Pensacola. Col. José Masot, the Spanish governor, retreats to nearby Fort San Carlos de Barrancas (originally built by the British as “the Royal Navy Redoubt”) where he briefly puts up a token resistance – to save face – before hoisting the white flag there, too.

1861: Less than 24 hours after Virginia secedes from the Union, a regiment of Zouave infantry consisting of volunteer fire fighters from New York City land at Alexandria and occupy the town. The regiment’s commander (and personal friend of President Abraham Lincoln), Col. Elmer E. Ellsworth, becomes the first Union officer killed in the Civil War when he is shot while taking down a Confederate flag.

1939: A day after the submarine USS Squalus sinks during a series of test dives off the coast of Portsmouth, N.H., the submarine salvage ship USS Falcon arrives and begins rescue operations. Although 26 sailors drowned instantly when the submarine went down, divers use a newly designed rescue chamber to save the remaining 33 crewmembers. Four divers are awarded the Medal of Honor for the world’s first rescue of a submarine crew in deep water, and Squalus will be raised and recommissioned as USS Sailfish – seeing action in the Pacific Theater of World War II.

1943: One quarter of the German U-boat fleet is sent to the bottom in one month, thanks to breaking the new German Enigma radio code, modern radar, new long range patrol aircraft, aggressive tactics, and escort carriers. German U-boats have sunk thousands of Allied ships, keeping millions of tons of war material off the battlefield, but the tide has turned. The Kriegsmarine is losing more ships than they are sinking. Adm. Karl Dönitz orders his U-boats to break off operations in the North Atlantic, declaring “We had lost the battle of the Atlantic.”

1962: U.S. Navy Lt. Cmdr. Malcolm “Scott” Carpenter orbits the earth three times in his “Aurora 7” space capsule, spending nearly four hours above the Earth’s surface performing science experiments. When Carpenter accidentally bumps his hand against the cockpit wall, he discovers that the mysterious “fireflies” spotted by John Glenn during his orbital mission are in fact ice particles knocked loose from the capsule.

Posted on May 24, 2017 at 09:03 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
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May 23 in U.S. military history

USS New Jersey (BB-62) firing its 16-inch Mark 7 naval guns. Each of the nine barrels could be aimed and fired independently, sending a 2,700-lb. armor piercing shell some 24 miles downrange. The shell could pierce 20 inches of armor and 21 feet of hardened concrete. A 1,700-lb. explosive round leaves a 20-ft. deep by 50-ft. wide crater and could defoliate trees 400 feet away from the impact site.

1862: Confederate forces under the command of Maj. Gen. Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson strike, outmaneuver, and – with textbook coordination of infantry, cavalry, and artillery – decisively defeat Union Army forces under Col. John R. Kenly at Front Royal, Virginia.

1943: The most decorated battleship in the U.S. Navy, USS New Jersey (BB-62), is commissioned at Philadelphia. “The Big J” earned 19 battle stars and numerous other commendations during her 48 years of service, which covered actions in the Pacific Theater of World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Lebanon, and the Persian Gulf.

1944: In Italy, VI Corps at the Anzio Beachhead begin their breakout. Fighting is intense – the 3rd Infantry Division suffers nearly 1,000 casualties, the most by any American division in a single day of the entire war, and the German troops defending Cisterna are annihilated in house-to-house combat.

The breakout is a success. Rome will be in Allied hands in days.

1967: U.S. congressman James Howard reads a letter sent from a Marine serving in Vietnam stating that most of the casualties in the Battle of Hill 881 were due to malfunctions with the unit’s new M-16 rifle. The weapon is shorter and lighter than the M-14 it replaced earlier in the year as the U.S. military’s standard service rifle, but does not come with adequate cleaning kit as the new rifle is billed as self-cleaning. Serial reports of dead soldiers and Marines found next to their malfunctioning M-16s anger the American public, until improvements to the rifle and ammunition make the weapon far more reliable.

50 years later, the M-16/M-4 platform remains the standard rifle of the U.S. military.

Posted on May 23, 2017 at 11:06 by Chris Carter · Permalink · 3 Comments
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May 22 in U.S. military history

USS Scorpion‘s tail photographed in 1986 as it rests on the ocean floor, some 10,000 feet below the surface.

1804: The “Corps of Discovery,” a group of about four dozen Army volunteers led by Capt. Meriwether Lewis and 2nd Lt. William Clark, departs St. Charles Missouri on the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Altogether, the company will travel some 8,000 miles as they map and explore the recently acquired Louisiana Purchase and find a route to the Pacific Ocean for President Thomas Jefferson.

1912: The aviation arm of the U.S. Marine Corps is born with the arrival of 1st Lt. Alfred A. Cunningham at the Naval Aviation Camp, Annapolis, Maryland. There, Cunningham will begin his flight training, and with less than three hours of instruction, he will solo in a Wright Model B-1 biplane.

1945: As the threat of Cold War with the Soviets begins to materialize following the end the war in Europe, the U.S. military begins recruiting and evacuation of valuable German rocket scientists and their families. Some 1,600 scientists, technicians, and engineers begin work for the United States, most notably Wernher von Braun – the father of American rocket technology and space science.

1968: The fast-attack submarine USS Scorpion (SSN-589) is mysteriously lost at sea several hundred miles off the Azores. All hands – 99 sailors – perish. Scorpion is the second American nuclear sub to sink, after USS Thresher (SSN-593) goes down in 1963.

Posted on May 22, 2017 at 12:19 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
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May 15 in U.S. military history

1862: Cpl. John F. Mackie becomes the first Marine awarded the Medal of Honor when the he mans the mans the guns of the ironclad USS Galena after most of the Naval gun crew are killed or wounded during the Battle of Drewry’s Bluff.

1864: As 9,000 Union troops led by Maj. Gen. Franz Sigel march into Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, Confederate Maj. Gen. John C. Breckenridge musters a defense force that includes cadets from the nearby Virginia Military Academy. The cadets are held in reserve, but when the Union breaks the Confederate lines, Breckenridge declares “Put the boys in… and may God forgive me for the order.” Within moments, 47 cadets are wounded and ten lay dead in the Battle of New Market. Sigel’s men retreat after taking heavy casualties from the outnumbered defenders.

1918: Privates Henry Johnson and Needham Roberts of the all-black “Harlem Hellfighters” become the first American soldiers to be awarded the Croix de Guerre – France’s highest decoration for military valor. When a German raiding party attacks their outpost and captures Roberts, Johnson fights back with grenades, gun fire, his rifle butt, knife, and fists, rescuing his fellow soldier and forcing the Germans to retreat. Johnson is wounded 21 times in the fight, but is not awarded the Purple Heart until 1996 – decades after his passing – and is finally awarded the Medal of Honor in 2015.

1963: U.S. Air Force Maj. (future Col.) Leroy Gordon “Gordo” Cooper, Jr. blasts off aboard “Faith 7”, the final Mercury mission. Cooper will spend over 34 hours in space – circling the globe 22 times – before a short circuit kills the capsule’s automated control system. Cooper has to use the constellations and his watch to manually fly the capsule back to Earth, splashing down just four miles from the recovery ship in the Pacific Ocean.

The former U.S. Marine private (serving in the Presidential Honor Guard in Washington, D.C.) ultimately was commissioned an Army second lieutenant, before his days as an Air Force fighter jock and test pilot.

Posted on May 15, 2017 at 14:37 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
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May 12 in U.S. military history

Air Force security police volunteers aboard the CH-53 helicopter “Knife 13” which crashed while enroute to the Mayaguez operation, killing the 18 SP’s and the five-man crew

1780: Gen. Benjamin Lincoln, commanding American forces at Charleston, S.C., surrenders to Gen. Sir Henry Clinton after a six-week siege. Although the fall of Charleston and capture of thousands of Continental Army soldiers is the largest setback of the war for the Americans, British operations in the Southern colonies will quickly prove to be the undoing of the king’s men in North America.

1864: Gen. Ulysses S. Grant orders his forces to assault the Confederate salient known as the “Mule Shoe” during the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House. 15,000 Union soldiers break through, but Gen. Robert E. Lee quickly plugs the gaps and the Confederates counterattack. Over the next 20 hours, the two sides engage in intense close combat – much of it hand-to-hand. The carnage at “Bloody Angle” is some of the most brutal fighting of the Civil War with 9,000 Union and 8,000 Confederate casualties in just one day.

1865: Although President Andrew Johnson proclaimed an end to the Civil War three days ago, a Union force led by Col. John S. Ford attacks Confederate forces in the Battle of Palmito Ranch, near Brownsville, Tex. The Confederates repulse the attack, killing four of the attacking Union soldiers and capturing over 100, at the cost of only a handful of wounded and captured themselves. The one-sided engagement is the last encounter between organized Union and Confederate troops in the war. (more…)

Posted on May 12, 2017 at 09:25 by Chris Carter · Permalink · One Comment
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May 11 in U.S. military history

USS Bunker Hill burns after being hit by two kamikaze pilots

1846: Three days after Gen. Zachary Taylor’s forces defeat the Mexican Army in the Battle of Palo Alto, Pres. James K. Polk tells Congress: “Mexico has passed the boundary of the United States, has invaded our territory and shed American blood upon American soil.”

The Mexican-American War – already underway – is formally declared within two days.

1864: During the Battle of Yellow Tavern, Condederate Maj. Gen. J.E.B. Stuart is shot by a dismounted Union cavalry trooper north of Richmond, Va. “The greatest cavalry officer ever foaled in America” is mortally wounded and will die the next day.

1943: 3,000 soldiers of the 7th Infantry Division land at Attu Island in Alaska’s Aleutian Islands to repel Japanese troops that landed in June of 1942. After a month of fighting under harsh arctic conditions, the Americans finish off the remaining Japanese in hand-to-hand combat after a last-ditch Bansai charge. The Battle of Attu is the only land combat on American soil during World War II.

1945: As U.S. soldiers launch another attack against Japanese forces on Okinawa’s Shuri Line, Japanese pilot Kiyoshi Ogawa’s specially modified Mitsubishi Zero fighter slips through anti-aircraft fire and drops a 550-lb. bomb on the USS Bunker Hill (CV-17) before slamming his aircraft into the flight deck, igniting a fuel fire and causing several explosions that kill some 400 sailors and takes Adm. Marc Mitscher’s flagship out of the war.

1957: President Dwight D. Eisenhower announces that the United States will work with South Vietnam to ensure the peaceful unification of Vietnam and continue to provide support in their fight against communism. At this point, the Military Assistance Advisory Group serving in Vietnam consists of only 700 men.

1961: President John F. Kennedy approves the deployment of 400 Special Forces soldiers (Green Berets) and 100 CIA operatives to Vietnam to train South Vietnamese forces. The Green Berets have served as advisors in Vietnam since 1957, but on this day, Pres. Kennedy authorizes Americans to lead clandestine attacks against North Vietnam.

Posted on May 11, 2017 at 09:36 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
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May 8 in U.S. military history

A Curtis A-1 Triad, the Navy’s first aircraft

1846: In the first major battle of the Mexican War, U.S. Army forces under the command of Gen. (and future president) Zachary Taylor decisively defeat Mexican forces under Gen. Mariano Arista in the Battle of Palo Alto (Texas). The Mexicans will retreat to a seemingly more defensible position at Resaca de la Palma the following day, but Taylor will pursue and beat them badly there too.

1864: Union Army forces under the command of Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant and Confederate forces under Gen. Robert E. Lee clash in the Battle of Spotsylvania Courthouse. The outcome at Spotsylvania Courthouse will be inconclusive and the casualties terribly heavy. In less than two weeks, Grant will again break contact and continue his advance toward Richmond.

1904: U.S. Marines land at Tangier, Morocco to protect the Belgian legation.

1911: U.S. Navy Capt. Washington I. Chambers places an order for two A-1 Triad floatplanes from the Curtiss aircraft company. Thus, May 8 becomes the official birthday of Naval Aviation.

1945: V-E Day: The unconditional surrender of German forces signed by Gen. Alfred Jodl at the “little red schoolhouse” (supreme allied headquarters in Reims, France) the previous day becomes official. Although clashes between the Wehrmacht and the Red Army will continue for another day, Nazi Germany has laid down their arms. After nearly six years of fighting, claiming tens of millions of lives in the largest and bloodiest conflict the world had ever seen, the European Theater of World War II is over.

1972: Following a massive invasion of South Vietnam by the North Vietnamese Army, Pres. Richard M. Nixon announces that he has ordered the mining of North Vietnamese ports to stop the flow of weapons to the communists.

Posted on May 8, 2017 at 09:07 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
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May 4 in U.S. military history

1864: Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, general-in-chief of all Union forces, moves the Army of the Potomac out of their winter encampments and 100,000 Union soldiers cross the Rapidan River in Virginia to begin the campaign that would set the stage for the defeat of Gen. Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. Union losses in the Overland Campaign – the bloodiest in American history – are heavy, but Grant’s troops are replaceable. Lee’s are not.

1916: To avoid a diplomatic break with the United States, Germany announces it will abandon its policy of unrestricted submarine warfare. Instead of indiscriminately sinking all vessels in the British Isles, German subs will only torpedo those found to carry war materials. Germany reverses course in less than a year, sparking America’s entry into World War I on April 6, 1917.

1917: After a nine-day crossing of the Atlantic through stormy seas, a detachment of destroyers commanded by Cmdr. Joseph K. Taussig arrives at Queenstown, Ireland (now known as Cobh). The destroyers will assist convoy escorts against German U-Boats, which are reportedly sinking a staggering 600,000 tons of shipping per month.

1945: Germany’s new president, Grand Admiral Karl Dönitz sends envoys to Gen. Sir Bernard Montgomery’s headquarters – a carpeted tent in Lüneburg Heath, Germany – and sign the unconditional surrender of German air, land, and sea forces in the Netherlands, Denmark, and northern Germany.

Meanwhile as the fighting rages on at Okinawa, the Japanese 32nd Army attempts – and fails – to make an amphibious assault behind American lines. A frenzy of kamikaze attacks on U.S. Navy send two destroyers and two rocket-armed amphibious ships to the bottom. Numerous other vessels are damaged.

1968: As soldiers of the 7th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) move uphill, braving intense sniper fire, towards fortified enemy positions in Vietnam’s infamous Vietnam’s A Shau Valley, a soldier discovers an enemy claymore. Platoon Leader Douglas B. Fournet orders his men to take cover while he charges forward to disarm the mine. He unsheaths a knife and attempts to cut the wire used to detonate the device, but it explodes. Fournet shields his teammates from the blast with his body and he is posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions.

1970: After days of violent protests and rioting sparked by Pres. Nixon’s decision to begin military incursion into Cambodia, Ohio National Guard units open fire on protestors at Kent State University. In 13 seconds, four students lay dead and nine more are wounded.

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May 3 in U.S. military history

1898: Following the Battle of Manila Bay, Marines from the cruisers USS Baltimore (C-3) and USS Raleigh (C-8) raise the Stars and Stripes for the first time in the Philippines over Cavite, the historical capital.

1923: 26 hours and 50 minutes after taking off in New York, Army Air Corps First Lieutenants Oakley Kelly and John Macready touch down at Rockwell Field, San Diego, becoming the first aviators to fly non-stop across the United States. The specially modified Fokker T-2 passenger plane averaged a blistering 92 mph.

1942: The first air-naval battle in history takes place between American and Japanese carriers in the Battle of the Coral Sea. Aircraft carriers used aircraft to fight each other instead of the ships directly engaging each other with guns. 66 American and 70 Japanese warplanes are shot down.

1946: Prosecution of 28 Japanese military and political leaders begin at the War Ministry Office in Tokyo. After two-and-a-half years, 25 of the 28 high-ranking officials (one is determined mentally unfit and two die during the trial) are found guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Seven are executed, including the prime minister and Gen. Iwane Matsui, who oversaw the Japanese military’s Rape of Nanking.

1951: The Senate Armed Services and Foreign Relations committees begin closed-session hearings into the dismissal of Gen. Douglas MacArthur. The five-star general served as Commander-in-Chief of the United Nations Command in Korea until being relieved of command in April for his insubordination and disrespect to President Harry Truman. MacArthur will retire – for a second time – after 52 years of military service.

1952: Air Force Lt. Col Joseph O. Fletcher, piloting a C-47 with skis for landing gear – along with fellow USAF Lt. Col. William P. Benedict and scientist Dr. Albert P. Crary – become the first Americans to land at the geographic North Pole. That day, Crary becomes the first person to have stood on both the North and South Poles.

1965: Lead elements of the 173rd Airborne Brigade depart Okinawa for South Vietnam, becoming the first Army ground combat units deployed in the Vietnam War. The “Sky Soldiers” will make the only major combat parachute jump of the war in February 1967 during Operation Junction City – the mission to locate the North Vietnamese political and military headquarters for South Vietnam.

1975: USS Nimitz (CVN-68) is commissioned at Naval Station Norfolk, Va. by President Gerald R. Ford. Although slightly shorter than the USS Enterprise (CVN-65), the new Nimitz Class carriers are the largest warships ever built – displacing over 100,000 tons. Pres. Ford, who served as a Naval Reserve officer aboard an aircraft carrier in the Pacific Theater during World War II, states “Only in America can we build this machine; there’s nothing else like it in the world.”

Posted on May 3, 2017 at 05:32 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
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May 1 in U.S. military history

1898: U.S. Navy Commodore George Dewey’s Asiatic Squadron steams single file into Manila Bay and destroys the out-armored and out-gunned Spanish fleet in the Philippines. Despite the support of shore batteries, the Spanish lose all seven of their vessels and only six American sailors are wounded. The Spanish-American War will effectively end in August, and Spain will cede control of the islands to the United States.

1943: When his B-17 bomber is hit by German flak and Sgt. Maynard H. “Snuffy” Smith loses power in his ball turret gun, he climbs out to assist the other members of the crew. The explosion started a fire started in the fuselage and three of the airmen had already bailed out. He treats two severely wounded comrades and begins fighting the fire that was melting holes in the aircraft. For the next 90 minutes, Smith alternates between caring for the wounded, extinguishing the fire, and manning the .50 caliber guns against attacking German fighters. The plane makes it safely back to England, but breaks in half upon landing from the fire and 3,500 bullets and pieces of shrapnel.

1960: CIA pilot Francis Gary Powers (former Captain, USAF) takes off from a military airbase in Pakistan on a reconnaissance overflight mission of the Soviet Union. His U-2 spy plane, flying some 70,000 feet above Russia, is hit by a surface-to-air missile and crashes into the Ural Mountains. Powers ejects safely and is held in a Soviet prison until his famous exchange on a Berlin bridge nearly two years later.

2003: George W. Bush becomes the first president to make an arrested landing when the S-3 Viking dubbed “Navy One” touches down on the USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) following its 10-month combat deployment. Bush delivers a speech on the deck of the aircraft carrier announcing the end of major combat operations in Iraq.

Although the insurgency would drag on for years, the 21-day conventional campaign against Saddam Hussein’s Ba’athist regime is over.

Posted on May 1, 2017 at 11:48 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
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