Archive for the ‘Military History’ Category

Jan. 17 in U.S. military history

[Originally published at OpsLens.com]

Master Chief Carl Brashear

1781: Continental Army forces — including infantry, cavalry, dragoons (horse-mounted infantry), and militia – under the command of Brig. Gen. Daniel Morgan, clash with a better-equipped, more-experienced force of British Army regulars and Loyalists under the command of Lt. Col. Banastre “Bloody Ban” Tarleton in a sprawling pastureland known as Hannah’s Cowpens in the South Carolina upcountry.

The Battle of Cowpens ends in a decisive victory for Morgan – who defeats Tarleton in a classic double-envelopment – and a near-irrevocable loss of men, equipment, and reputation for the infamous Tarleton and his “British Legion.”

1966: A nuclear-equipped B-52 bomber flying an Operation “Chrome Dome” airborne alert mission off the coast of Spain collides with a KC-135 “Stratotanker” during refueling, destroying both planes. Four B28 thermonuclear weapons fall from the sky; three landing near the village of Palomares and one sinks in the Mediterranean Sea in what is one of the worst nuclear disasters in U.S. military history.

Two of the weapons’ conventional charges went off upon impact, spreading small amounts of contamination, one lands largely intact, and after two-and-a-half months of searching, crews locate and recover the fourth device which had been sitting 2,850 feet below the surface. Navy Master Diver Carl Brashear – the Navy’s first black diver – will lose his leg in the recovery operation and will later return to duty despite being an amputee. His incredible story is portrayed in the 2000 film Men of Honor, starring Cuba Gooding Jr. as Master Chief Petty Officer Brashear.

1991: A massive U.S. and coalition air campaign continues to pound the Iraq’ air force and air defense systems, expanding the attacks to include Saddam Hussein’s command and control infrastructure. Meanwhile, the dictator fires eight Soviet-built “Scud” ballistic missiles into Israel. Saddam sought to draw Israel into the campaign, which he hoped would split Arab nations from the coalition as they would be unlikely to fight alongside Israel. President George H.W. Bush convinces the Israelis not to enter the war and pledges to deploy U.S. Patriot surface-to-air missiles to protect against further attacks.

Posted on January 17, 2018 at 16:47 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: Military History · Tagged with: , ,

Jan. 10 in Medal of Honor history

On this date in 1943, Japanese troops on Guadalcanal’s Mount Austen knock out a machine gun section of 25th Infantry Division soldiers that were protecting their battalion. Sgt. William J. Fournier and Technician 5th Grade Louis Hall disregard orders to withdraw and man a still-operable machine gun, pouring fire into the enemy and inflicting heavy casualties until both soldiers are killed. Fournier and Hall are posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.

On this day in 1968, Specialist Clarence E. Sasser and his company are ambushed on three sides by enemy fire as helicopters drop them off for a reconnaissance mission in the Mekong Delta. Within moments, Sasser’s company has taken 30 casualties and the medic must race through the killzone multiple times to treat his wounded soldiers. He is hit multiple times himself, and refuses medical attention despite the fact that his legs are immobilized and he has to drag himself to treat the wounded during the five-hour engagement. President Richard Nixon will award Sasser the Medal of Honor in 1969.

And today in 1945, Master Sgt. Vito R. Bertoldo engages in an incredible two-day-long, one-man battle against German infantry and armor while defending a command post in Hatten, France. As German armor and infantry pound his position, Bertoldo moves his machine gun from place to place, holding off the attack despite tanks pouring fire into his position from less than 100 yards away. Armored personnel carriers attempt to knock him out, but he waits for them to dismount and then cuts down the entire group. When orders come down to abandon the post, Bertoldo remains behind to cover the withdrawal. After holding off the Germans all night, he moves to another position and defeats additional assaults, including near point-blank rounds fired by enemy tanks. Incredibly, he withstands numerous tank shells impacting his location and holds off assault after assault until the next evening. When his machine gun is finally blown up, Bertoldo uses a rifle and white phosphorous grenades to foil one last German attack. Incredibly, he survives his grim battle against insurmountable odds and is awarded the Medal of Honor the following year.

Posted on January 10, 2018 at 11:21 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: Military History · Tagged with: ,

Jan. 5 in U.S. military history

[The series “This Day in U.S. Military History” is regularly published at OpsLens.com]

Medal of Honor recipient Staff Sgt. Franklin D. Miller served over six years in Vietnam

1781: Commanding 1,600 British troops, the American turncoat – 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.

1861: After South Carolina secedes from the Union, Fort Sumter (in Charleston Harbor) is surrounded by Confederate forces and in need of supplies. The civilian merchant vessel Star of the West departs New York on this date for the besieged Federal troops with supplies and 250 reinforcements. Upon arriving four days later, shore batteries attack the vessel, forcing it to turn around. The standoff continues until April, when the first shots of the Civil War were fired at Fort Sumter.

1875: Cdr. Edward Lull (USN) leads an expedition to locate 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 execute kamikaze suicide tactics. At Okinawa alone, 1,465 kamikaze pilots destroy at least 30 U.S. warships and kill 5,000 Americans.

1951: 59 B-29 “Superforts” hammer Pyongyang with nearly 700 tons of bombs and the 18th Fighter-Bomber Group takes off from Suwon Air Base for the final time. The base is destroyed in the face of an advancing Chinese and North Korean military.

1967: U.S. and South Vietnamese Marines conduct a joint amphibious assault of the Mekong Delta. The goal of Operation “Deckhouse V” is to capture Viet Cong prisoners from the Thanh Phu Secret Zone, and it is the first time U.S. troops operate in the delta.

1970: Staff Sgt. Franklin D. Miller was leading a long range patrol of Special Forces soldiers and Montagnards in Laos when a booby trap wounded several members. A firefight ensued, wounding the entire patrol. Despite a serious chest wound, Miller is the last man standing and keeps up the fight for several hours, holding off repeated enemy assaults against their position. That evening, as he is about to exhaust his ammunition, a team arrives to relieve the Green Berets.

Miller would serve over six years in Southeast Asia. When asked by Richard Nixon upon awarding Miller the Medal of Honor, the president asks him where he wanted to be assigned next. Miller’s answer: “Vietnam.”

2002: Air Force C-17 cargo planes deliver materials at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba so the “Seabees” can construct a detention facility for captured Al Qaeda and Taliban detainees.

Posted on January 5, 2018 at 10:03 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: Military History · Tagged with: ,

Jan. 4 in U.S. military history

[Today in U.S. Military History is regularly published at OpsLens.com]

Lt. Herman C. Cook III and Lt. Cmdr. Steven Patrick Collins’ Gypsy 202 of the VF-32 “Swordsmen” displaying their silhouette of a MiG 23 downed in the engagement

1847: The U.S. Government Ordnance Department orders 1,000 revolvers designed by Samuel. Colt and Texas Ranger Capt. Samuel H. Walker. The powerful firearm features a revolving cylinder that can effectively fire its six .44 bullets up to 100 yards. Historians would later say that Colt’s invention altered the course of human history.

1910: USS Michigan (BB-27), America’s first dreadnought battleship, is commissioned. The massive ship features eight 12-inch guns mounted in twin turrets, which are capable of sending an 870-lb. projectile over 11 miles away and could penetrate over 16 inches of armor.

1943: Off the coast of Munda Island, USS Helena (CL-50) shoots down a Japanese Type 99 Val bomber, marking the first kill using Variable Timing (proximity-fused) anti-aircraft shells.

1944: U.S. Army Air Force and Royal Air Force bombers begin dropping weapons and supplies to resistance fighters in France, Belgium, and Italy during Operation “Carpetbagger.”

1951: The South Korean capital of Seoul falls into enemy hands for a second time.

1989: Two Libyan MiG-23 “Flogger” fighters approach two F-14 “Tomcats” from the carrier USS John F. Kennedy (CV-67) flying a combat air patrol mission over the Mediterranean Sea. The Tomcats engage and splash the MiGs in the first dogfight for the U.S. military since a 1981 engagement with Libya. Muammar Gaddafi claims that the U.S. Navy shot down unarmed reconnaissance planes, but gun camera footage shows the world that the fighters were armed with missiles.

Posted on January 4, 2018 at 17:30 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: Military History

Dec. 18 in U.S. military history

[Originally published at OpsLens.com]

After his victory in the Battle of Manila Bay, George Dewey was promoted to the new rank of “Admiral of the Navy,” the highest rank ever held by a U.S. Naval officer.

1902: Pres. Theodore Roosevelt orders Adm. George Dewey to take the U.S. North and South Atlantic Squadrons and sail to Venezuela, in order to prevent blockading European navies from waging war against Venezuela over unpaid debts.

1927: A day after a Coast Guard vessel accidentally rams – and sinks – the submarine USS S-4 (SS-109) off Cape Cod, Navy divers are rushed to the scene. Chief Gunner’s Mate Thomas Eadie learns by tapping on the hull that six sailors remain alive. When fellow diver Fred Michels attempts to attach a line pumping fresh air into the sub, which lies 100 feet below the surface, his own air line is fouled. Although exhausted from his previous dives – for which he will receive his second Navy Cross – Eadie quickly dives again and manages to save Michels after two hours of grueling work. Unfortunately, bad weather prevents the divers from saving the sub’s sailors in time, but Eadie is awarded the Medal of Honor.

1944: In the Philippine Sea, Adm. William “Bull” Halsey’s Task Force 38 sails directly into Typhoon “Cobra”. The 100 mph-plus winds and high seas capsize and sink three destroyers, while heavily damaging a cruiser, five aircraft carriers, and three destroyers. The deadly storm claims the lives of 790 U.S. sailors and destroys over 100 planes, leading to the creation of a Naval weather center and typhoon tracking center on Guam the following year.

Over China, nearly 300 B-29s Superfortress, B-24 Liberator, and B-25 Mitchell bombers – accompanied by P-51 Mustang escorts of the 14th Air Force – attack the Japanese Army’s expeditionary base at Hankao, igniting supply fires that will burn for three days.

1965: Two days after the aircraft carrier USS Wasp recovers Gemini VI astronauts Walter M. Schirra (USN) and Thomas P. Stafford (USAF) in the first-ever televised landing of a spacecraft, the crew of Gemini VII – Frank Borman (USAF) and Jim Lovell (USN) – splash down safely in the Atlantic just 11 miles away from Wasp.

1972: On the first day of President Richard Nixon’s Operation “Linebacker II” bombing campaign, an enemy MiG-21 “Fishbed” locks on to a B-52 following their bomb run and closes in. Tail gunner Staff Sergeant Samuel O. Turner opens fire with the bomber’s quad .50-caliber machine guns, blasting the MiG out of the sky and scoring the first tail gun kill for the B-52. Turner is awarded the Silver Star for saving his crew and his bomber now sits on display at Fairchild Air Force Base in Washington.

Posted on December 18, 2017 at 08:45 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: Military History · Tagged with: ,

Dec. 8 in U.S. military history

Chief Petty Officer Edward C. Byers, Jr., one of two actively serving Medal of Honor recipients in the United States Armed Forces

1941: As Japanese warplanes continue to hammer Allied bases across Asia and the Pacific, President Franklin D. Roosevelt famously declares Dec. 7 as “a date which will live in infamy,” asking Congress to declare war on Japan – which they will do in a matter of hours. The United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and numerous other governments also declare war on Japan.

Eyeing the destruction from USS Enterprise (CV-6) as the aircraft carrier steams into Pearl Harbor, he says that “Before we’re through with ’em, the Japanese language will be spoken only in hell.”

Col. William W. Ashurst (USMC) is captured and surrenders his remaining “China Marines”, who are held as prisoners until the end of the war. Also in China, USS Wake becomes the only U.S. warship to surrender during World War II, when the Japanese capture the river patrol gunboat and her crew by surprise while the ship is at anchor. A Japanese invasion fleet departs Kwajalein Atoll, and in three days will assault Wake Island.

In the Philippines, Japanese forces land at Batan Island, as enemy air strikes take out roughly half of the American warplanes on Luzon Island to the south.

Meanwhile, Adolf Hitler declares war on the United States, ordering his naval forces to begin attacking U.S. shipping. Although the Chinese have been fighting Japan for over four years, China formally declares war against Japan – and Germany – on this date.

1942: Considered “perhaps the greatest individual success of American PT boats during the war,” eight PT boats engage – and turn around – a force of eight Japanese destroyers on a mission to supply soldiers on Guadalcanal.

1965: 150 Air Force and Navy warplanes begin conducting strikes against North Vietnamese Army infiltration routes along the Ho Chi Minh Trail in Laos. The covert Operation “Tiger Hound” will continue until 1968, when it becomes part of Operation “Commando Hunt.”

2012: Chief Petty Officer (SEAL) Edward C. Byers, Jr. earns the Medal of Honor during a mission to rescue an American doctor who had been captured in Afghanistan. His citation can be read here.

Posted on December 8, 2017 at 11:55 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: Military History · Tagged with: , , ,

Dec. 7 in U.S. military history

The famous “Blue Marble” photo taken by the Apollo 17 crew. Yes, the earth appears to be “upside down” but that is due to the astronauts’ position on the moon.

1917: Four U.S. battleships, USS Delaware (BB-28), USS Florida (BB-30), New York (BB-34), and USS Wyoming (BB-32) arrive in British waters and join the British Grand Fleet for service during World War I. That same day, the United States declares war on Austria-Hungary.

1941: At 3:57 a.m. the minesweeper USS Condor spots a periscope at the entrance to Pearl Harbor. The ship signals the nearby destroyer USS Ward, whose crew begins searching for the unidentified vessel. At 6:37 a.m., Ward spots the periscope as a two-man Japanese mini sub attempts to follow a U.S. cargo ship into the harbor and sinks the enemy warship – the first U.S. shots of World War II.

Having achieved total tactical and strategic surprise, Vice Adm. Chuichi Nagumo’s 1st Air Fleet begins their attack on Pearl Harbor. The strike is conducted in two waves: The first wave of 183 enemy aircraft strikes just before 8:00 a.m. The second wave of 170 planes hits a little after 8:30 a.m.

Of the ships anchored at Pearl Harbor, five of the eight battleships, three destroyers, and seven other ships were either sunk or severely damaged. By day’s end, 2,718 American sailors, 582 soldiers (including Army Air Forces personnel), 178 Marines, and 103 civilians will be dead, dying or wounded. Japanese losses were minimal: 30 planes, five minisubs, 65 killed, and one Japanese sailor captured. All but two of the battleships – Arizona and Oklahoma – are raised to fight again.

Meanwhile, Japanese forces bomb Guam and Wake as destroyers and planes attack Midway. Other Japanese targets include Shanghai, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Thailand, Malaya, and the Dutch East Indies.

1942: USS New Jersey (BB-62), one of the world’s largest battleships ever built, is launched. The “Big J” will serve a total of 21 years in the active fleet, seeing action in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. In 1982 the Iowa-class battleship will put to sea once again after being modified to carry Tomahawk cruise missiles, and is decommissioned for the last time in 1991.

1943: At the Bernhardt defensive line in Italy, Lt. Gen. Mark Clark’s Fifth Army secures the Mignano Gap.

1944: Patton’s Third Army crosses the Siegfried Line at Saarlautern.

In the Pacific, the 77th Infantry Division lands at Ormoc in the Philippines as one of the escort destroyers, USS Ward (the same ship that sunk the midget submarine three years ago at Pearl Harbor), is sunk by kamikaze attacks. Nearby, the USS Mahan is also sunk by kamikaze attacks.

1950: Air Force cargo planes drop eight “Treadway” bridge spans in the Funchilin Pass, enabling the First Marine Division to cross the most difficult natural obstacle on their breakout of the Chosin Reservoir.

1952: U.S. Air Force F-86 “Saber” pilots shoot down seven of 32 enemy aircraft – the highest tally of the Korean War.

1959: America’s first operational ballistic missile, the PGM-17 “Thor”, is successfully launched at Cape Canaveral, Fla.

1972: Apollo 17 launches for NASA’s final lunar mission. Aboard are two U.S. Navy captains: Eugene A. Cernan and Ronald E. Evans, and Harrison H. Schmitt – a civilian geologist.

Posted on December 7, 2017 at 15:16 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: Military History · Tagged with: , , ,

The 15 men who earned the Medal of Honor during the Pearl Harbor attacks

On Sunday, Dec. 7, 1941, Vice Adm. Chuichi Nagumo’s 1st Air Fleet begins their surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. Two waves of aircraft strike the U.S. Pacific Fleet at anchor, as well as bases across Hawaii. Five of the eight battleships, three destroyers, and seven other ships are either sunk or severely damaged. By day’s end, 2,718 American sailors, 582 soldiers (including Army Air Forces personnel), 178 Marines, and 103 civilians are dead, dying or wounded.
In a day full of countless acts of American bravery and sacrifice, 15 men and officers of the U.S. Navy earned the Medal of Honor – 11 posthumously – during the battle. Here are the accounts of their actions.

The President of the United States in the name of The Congress takes pleasure in presenting the Medal of Honor to John William Finn for service as set forth in the following CITATION:

For extraordinary heroism distinguished service, and devotion above and beyond the call of duty. During the first attack by Japanese airplanes on the Naval Air Station, Kaneohe Bay, on 7 December 1941, Lt. Finn promptly secured and manned a .50-caliber machinegun mounted on an instruction stand in a completely exposed section of the parking ramp, which was under heavy enemy machinegun strafing fire. Although painfully wounded many times, he continued to man this gun and to return the enemy’s fire vigorously and with telling effect throughout the enemy strafing and bombing attacks and with complete disregard for his own personal safety. It was only by specific orders that he was persuaded to leave his post to seek medical attention. Following first aid treatment, although obviously suffering much pain and moving with great difficulty, he returned to the squadron area and actively supervised the rearming of returning planes. His extraordinary heroism and conduct in this action were in keeping with the highest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service.

For The President of the United States of America, in the name of Congress, takes pride in presenting the Medal of Honor (Posthumously) to Ensign Herbert Charpoit Jones, United States Naval Reserve, for conspicuous devotion to duty, extraordinary courage, and complete disregard of his own life, above and beyond the call of duty, during the attack on the Fleet in Pearl Harbor, Territory of Hawaii, by Japanese forces on 7 December 1941. Ensign Jones organized and led a party, which was supplying ammunition to the anti-aircraft battery of the U.S.S. CALIFORNIA (BB-44) after the mechanical hoists were put out of action when he was fatally wounded by a bomb explosion. When two men attempted to take him from the area which was on fire, he refused to let them do so, saying in words to the effect, “Leave me alone! I am done for. Get out of here before the magazines go off.” (more…)

Posted on December 7, 2017 at 15:04 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: Military History · Tagged with: , ,

Dec. 6 in U.S. military history

[Originally published at OpsLens.com]

Battle of San Pasqual, painting by Col. Charles Woodhouse (USMCR)

1846: Gen. Stephen Watts Kearney’s U.S. Army of the West, accompanied by a small detachment of mounted rifle volunteers commanded by Marine Lt. Archibald Gillespie, attack Mexican “Californios” in the Battle of San Pasqual, near present-day San Diego. Both sides claimed victory and the engagement became one of the bloodiest of the Mexican-American War.

1917: A German U-boat torpedoes the destroyer USS Jacob Jones off the coast of England, which becomes the first U.S. destroyer to be sunk by a submarine.

1941: After an Australian scout plane spots a Japanese fleet near the Malayan Coast, the Allies presume that the Japanese plan to invade Thailand. However, British intelligence intercepts a radio signal warning to the Japanese fleet to be on full alert, prompting advisers to question whether the move is a diversion.

Meanwhile, Admiral Yamamoto tells his First Air Fleet “The rise or fall of the empire depends upon this battle. Everyone will do his duty with utmost efforts.”

Also, the Japanese fleet departs Palau for the invasion of the Philippines.

1950: American forces – primarily leathernecks of the now-famous 1st Marine Division​, a few American soldiers, and a handful of British commandos – begin their epic “fighting withdrawal” from Hagaru-ri to Koto-ri and on to Hamnung, during the breakout from the Chosin Reservoir, Korea. At Koto-ri, a few officers express concern that their vastly outnumbered, bloodied, freezing, near-starving columns might not survive the final trek to Hamnung.

As the UN orders communist forces to halt at the 38th Parallel, U.S. and Australian planes kill an estimated 2,500 enemy troops.

1961: The U.S. Air Force is authorized to begin combat operations in Vietnam – provided they carry a Vietnamese national with them for training purposes.

1967: When his company was attacked by a battalion-sized enemy force in South Vietnam’s Biên Hòa Province, U.S. Army chaplain, Capt. Charles J. Liteky moved multiple times through heavy enemy fire to deliver last rights to dying soldiers and aid to wounded soldiers. Despite incoming small arms and rocket fire, Liteky stood up multiple times in order to direct the incoming helicopters to the landing zone. During the engagement, he would carry 20 wounded soldiers to the landing zone for evacuation. For his actions, Liteky is awarded the Medal of Honor.

1968: The Navy launches Operation “Giant Slingshot” to interdict the flow of men and weapons flowing through the Mekong Delta from the Cambodian border.

Posted on December 6, 2017 at 15:20 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: Military History · Tagged with: , , ,

Dec. 1 in U.S. military history

[Originally published at OpsLens.com]

“Marine One” – a Sikorsky SH-3 Sea King of HMX-1, along with an identical decoy. (White House photo)

1779: During what is perhaps the worst winter of the century, Gen. George Washington’s army establishes their winter camp at Morristown, N.J.

1918: The American Army of Occupation enters Germany. Rejecting the Treaty of Versailles, the United States technically remained in a state of war against the Germans until 1921 when a separate peace agreement was signed.

1921: Lt. Cmdr. Ralph F. Wood departs Norfolk, Va. in a blimp for Washington, D.C. in the first flight of a helium-filled aircraft.

1941: With the Japanese fleet secretly steaming towards Pearl Harbor, Japanese emperor Hirohito signs a declaration of war against the United States.

1941: The Civil Air Patrol is established. Originally intended for reconnaissance, civilian planes are eventually fitted with bombs and depth charges when German submarines begin attacking U.S. shipping on the east coast. During the war, CAP pilots would log half a million hours, spotting 173 submarines, hitting 10 and sinking two – at the cost of 64 pilots.

1943: The Teheran Conference between Franklin Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, and Joseph Stalin concludes. The three leaders agree on plans to invade western Europe in May, 1944; to invade southern France; and that the Soviets would join the war against Japan once the Germans were defeated.

1943: The improved P-51D “Mustang” is sent into combat for the first time, during a fighter sweep over Belgium. By war’s end the Mustang will shoot down nearly five thousand German planes – an incredible 19 enemy fighters per Mustang lost. The P-51D will also see service in the Pacific Theater, and later provide close air support for troops during the Korean War.

1949: The Marine Corps’ first helicopter squadron, HMX-1, is commissioned at Quantico, Va. Today, HMX-1 is tasked with transportation of the president, vice president, and other high-ranking military and government officials.

1950: Col. Allan MacLean’s Regimental Combat Team 31 is annihilated by Chinese forces during the Battle of the Chosin Reservoir. Although enemy casualties are extremely heavy, over 1,000 U.S. soldiers are killed (to include Col. MacLean), freeze to death, or die in Chinese captivity. After the battle, only 385 of the task force’s original 3,200 soldiers are fit for duty.

1969: The U.S. government holds its first draft lottery since 1942.

Posted on December 1, 2017 at 18:37 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: Military History · Tagged with: , ,