[Featured image: “Chips,” a military police sentry dog with the 3rd Infantry Division, earned the Distinguished Service Cross, Silver Star, and Purple Heart during World War II. (U.S. Army photo)]
1865: Desperate for manpower on the front lines, the Confederate government approves enlisting and arming slaves. Although Gen. Robert E. Lee requested that slaves who fought should be granted freedom, the bill did not allow such a provision. A few thousand slaves would go on to fight for the Confederacy; over 200,000 blacks fought for the Union.
1942: The U.S. Army establishes the “K-9 Corps” – training dogs to serve in sentry, scout, messenger, and mine detection duties during World War II. The Quartermaster Corps puts the dogs through an 8-12 week basic training at camps across the United States, weeding out the animals who can’t handle the sound of gunfire or handle the military lifestyle. Starting with 32 acceptable breeds, the Army eventually cuts down the list to seven: German Shepherds, Doberman Pinschers, Belgian Sheep Dogs, Siberian huskies, farm collies, Eskimo dogs, and Malamutes.
Some even serve on the front lines. The Japanese are said to have never attacked a patrol accompanied by a war dog. A German Shepherd named “Chips” serving with a military police company on Sicily attacked a German pillbox, forcing the occupants to surrender. Wounded in his attack, Chips was awarded the Purple Heart and Silver Star.
Today’s post is in honor of Cpl. Nathan B. Carse, who was killed by an improvised explosive device on this day in 2011 in Afghanistan’s Kandahar province. The 32-year-old native of Harrod, Ohio was the son of a Green Beret and was assigned to 2d Engineer Battalion, 176th Engineer Brigade.
1862: A day after 10,000 soldiers under the command of Brig. Gen. Ambrose Burnside, supported by a flotilla of Union gunships, land at Roanoke Island (N.C.), the Confederates surrender the island’s four forts and two batteries. Federal forces now control a strategically significant section of the Atlantic coast, and coupled with Gen. Ulysses S. Grant’s victory at Fort Henry in Tennessee two days ago, Northerners finally have something to cheer about.
1910: William D. Boyce incorporates the Boy Scouts of America. Countless boys will cut their teeth as young adventurers in Boyce’s scouting program before joining the military. When sub commander Eugene Fluckey – one of nine Medal of Honor recipients to earn the Boy Scouts’ top distinction of Eagle Scout — assembled a landing party to go ashore and destroy a Japanese train, he wanted former Boy Scouts to do the job, since they would most likely have the skills to find their way there and back.
11 of the 12 humans to set foot on the moon were Boy Scout alumni; and Neil Armstrong — the first — was an Eagle Scout.
Today’s post is in honor of Spc. Allen D. Kokesh Jr. who was died on this day in 2006 from wounds sustained by an improvised explosive device attack on his vehicle in Baghdad. The 21-year-old from Yankton, S.D. was assigned to the South Dakota Army National Guard’s 1st Battalion, 147th Field Artillery.
1943: The submarine USS Growler (SS-215) spots the supply ship Hayasaki and begins a nighttime battle. The Japanese ship turns to ram the sub and rakes Growler‘s bridge with machine gun fire, wounding the skipper, Commander Howard W. Gilmore.
Unable to get off the bridge, Gilmore orders the crew to “Take her down!” — sacrificing his life to save his men. For his actions, Gilmore is awarded the Medal of Honor – the first of seven sub commanders to earn the nation’s top award for valor during World War II.
Meanwhile, the Imperial Japanese Navy completes Operation “Xe” – the evacuation of nearly 1,800 remaining troops from Guadalcanal. After six months of brutal fighting, nearly 15,000 Americans killed or wounded, and over 600 aircraft and dozens of ships lost, the island is now completely in American hands.
1965: Sappers cut their way through the defensive wires surrounding Camp Holloway in Pleiku, opening the way for 300 Viet Cong guerrillas to attack the helicopter base near Pleiku. Simultaneously, the VC attacks other nearby targets, killing eight Americans and wounding over 100, while destroying and damaging dozens of helicopters and planes. Pres. Lyndon Johnson orders a retaliatory strike, and 49 aircraft from the carriers USS Coral Sea (CV-43) and USS Hancock (CV-19) hit military targets along the de-militarized zone and in North Vietnam.
During the Cold War, U.S. aircraft designers produced some absolutely incredible warplanes. Looking back from an era of stealth technology and fifth-generation jets, some of these aircraft may seem primitive and a few are remembered for their flaws, but make no mistake: these machines were truly cutting edge in their day. Not only our freedom and security, but that of the rest of the world, depended on holding the edge over the communists. Because had it not been for a constant output of highly advanced and steadily improving fighters, attack planes, and interceptors, we might not have deterred a possible third world war between the United States and the Soviet Union. Below are just some of these amazing platforms that kept the Cold War cold.
By the time the United States Air Force became a standalone service in 1947, the dawning of the jet age was rapidly making our stockpiles of piston-engine aircraft left over from World War II obsolete. Republic Aviation produced over 15,000 P-47s from 1941-1945, and made constant improvements to the aircraft. By the time the United States invaded Normandy, the rugged fighter-bomber could either escort heavy bombers into Europe or devastate Axis ground targets with its eight M2 .50-cal. machineguns and 2,500 pounds of bombs. It was re-designated the F-47 in 1948 and would be retired from active duty Air Force service in 1949.
Today’s post is in honor of Capt. Lucius L. Heiskell, who was lost in a helicopter crash on this day in 1967 in North Vietnam. The 27-year-old Naval Academy graduate (Class of 1962) from Memphis, Tenn. was a forward air control pilot with the Air Force’s 23rd Tactical Air Support Squadron. Also listed as missing were Maj. Patrick H. Wood, Capt. Richard A. Kibbey, and Staff Sgt. Donald J. Hall of the 38th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron’s Detachment 5. Wood’s and Hall’s remains were identified in 2017 and Kibbey’s in 2018. The story of Heiskell’s attempted rescue follows.
1787: Representatives of the French and U.S. governments sign the Treaty of Amity and Commerce and the Treaty of Alliance in Paris. France now recognizes the United States as an independent nation and provides much-needed military aid.
1802: Congress authorizes President Thomas Jefferson to arm U.S. ships to defend against Barbary pirates in the Mediterranean.
1832: Marines and sailors aboard the USS Potomac (the first of five so-named ships) attack pirates from the village of Quallah Batoo, Sumatra (present-day Indonesia) following the massacre of a U.S. merchant vessel in February 1831.
1862: In northwestern Tennessee, a Union Naval flotilla commanded by Flag Officer (a temporary rank which soon is replaced by the grade of Commodore) Andrew H. Foote and a force commanded by Brig. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant converge upon Fort Henry. The plan is for Foote’s warships and Grant’s troops to attack simultaneously, but heavy rains and water from the swollen Tennessee River force the Confederates to surrender the flooding fort to Foote before Grant can arrive. The capture of the poorly engineered Fort Henry is the first major Union victory of the Civil War.
1914: Austrian doctors examine a young Adolf Hitler, determining him unfit for service in the Austro-Hungarian military. Hitler will volunteer for the German army when war breaks out in August, serving as a runner for a reserve infantry regiment.
1918: U.S. Army Lt. Stephen W. Thompson, a member of the American 1st Aero Squadron, is invited by French aviators to fly in a French “Breguet” biplane bomber as a gunner on one of their missions. Thompson shoots down a German Albatross fighter over Saarbrucken, Germany, making him the first American in uniform to shoot down an enemy airplane.
Today, the U.S. Air Force’s 1st Reconnaissance Squadron traces its lineage back to the 1st Aero Squadron.
1943: President Franklin D. Roosevelt awards Maj. Gen. Alexander A. Vandegrift the Medal of Honor for his role as commanding general of the 1st Marine Division during the Guadalcanal campaign.
1944: Over Forges-les-Eaux, France, Oberstleutnant (Lt. Col.) Egon Mayer shoots down a P-47 Thunderbolt, becoming the first Luftwaffe pilot to shoot down 100 enemy warplanes entirely on the Western Front. Mayer is shot down and killed two days later while leading an attack on a B-17 formation over Sedan.
Today’s post is in honor of Sgt. Daniel Torres, who was killed by an improvised explosive device on this day in 2005 in Bayji, Iraq. The 23-year-old native of Fort Worth, Texas was assigned to 2d Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division.
1779: Continental Navy Capt. John Paul Jones takes command of the former French frigate Duc de Duras, renaming her Bonhomme Richard (after Benjamin Franklin’s pen name). It will be aboard the Richard — badly damaged and sinking during the famous battle in the North Sea with the Royal Navy frigate HMS Serapis on 23 September — that Jones refuses a surrender demand, allegedly replying, “I have not yet begun to fight!” It has also been widely reported that when the Serapis’ Captain Richard Pearson inquired as to whether or not Jones had lowered or struck his colors, Jones shouted back, “I may sink, but I’ll be damned if I strike!”
Incidentally, Bonhomme Richard (the first of five so-named American warships) does sink. But not before Pearson himself surrenders (believed to be “the first time in naval history that colors are surrendered to a sinking ship”), and Jones transfers his flag to his newly captured prize, Serapis.
Jones is destined to become “the Father of the American Navy,” though some argue that the title belongs to Commodore John Barry.
1787: Shays’ Rebellion — a short-lived Massachusetts uprising led by former Continental Army Capt. Daniel Shays, spawned by crippling taxes and an economic depression in the wake of the American Revolution — is quashed by Massachusetts militia.