Posted in Military History

Sept. 4: Today in military history

[Originally published at OpsLens.com]

Today’s post is in honor of Sgt. Joel L. Murray, who gave his life for his country on this day in 2007. The 26-year-old infantryman from Kansas City, Kan. was on his second combat deployment, serving with 2d Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team when the vehicle he was riding was hit by an improvised explosive device.


1812: In Indiana Territory (near modern-day Terre Haute), Capt. – and future president – Zachary Taylor and 50 soldiers defended Fort Harrison against an attack by 600 Native Americans. One Indian crawls up to the blockhouse and sets it on fire, threatening to burn down the outpost. However, the flames made it easier to see the attackers, and although sickness left the garrison with just 15 able-bodied soldiers at the time of the attack, Taylor’s heavily outnumbered force defeats the attackers and hands the United States her first land victory during the War of 1812.

1862: Gen. Robert E. Lee’s troops begin crossing the Potomac River into Maryland, kicking off the Confederacy’s short-lived invasion of the north.

1886: Worn out after being relentlessly pursued by the U.S. Cavalry, the feared Apache leader Geronimo (featured image, on left) surrenders to the Army for the last time.

1941: While enroute to Iceland, the destroyer USS Greer (DD-145) spots a German submarine. Although the United States is not yet at war with Germany, the sub launches a torpedo at Greer, who responds by dropping depth charges, becoming the first U.S. warship to fire on – and receive fire from – a German vessel. President Franklin Roosevelt responds by issuing an order which states that from now on, American ships or planes will shoot any Axis vessels they come across.

1945: Wake Island’s 2,200 surviving Japanese soldiers surrender. Rather than retake the island following it’s capture, the United States simply bypassed it and prevented its resupply. 1,300 Japanese on the island died over the course of the war, mostly due to starvation. The Japanese commander, Rear Adm. Shigematsu Sakaibara, will be tried for war crimes and executed for the massacre of nearly 100 U.S. prisoners of war following an air raid.

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Posted in Military History

Aug. 31: Today in military history

[Originally published at OpsLens.com]

Today’s piece is in honor of Army Staff Sgt. Joshua Bowden, who died of injuries from a small-arms battle in Ghazni, Afghanistan. The 28-year-old native of Villa Rica, Ga. was on his second Afghan deployment and assigned to the 242d Ordnance Battalion (EOD), 71st Ordnance Group.

1864: Two armies under the command of Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman engage Confederate Gen. John Bell Hood’s vastly outnumbered Army of Tennessee just south of Atlanta. Despite brilliant fighting and generalship in the Battle of Jonesborough, the Confederates destroy a trainload of military supplies to prevent its capture by the Union and withdraw to Atlanta.

1916: Near Guillemont, France, a German artillery shell scores a direct hit on 2nd Lt. Henry A. “Harry” Butters, instantly killing the popular Royal Field Artillery officer. Butters, an American citizen that joined the British Army at the outbreak of World War I, was so reknowned that Winston Churchill (then a battalion commander with the Royal Scots Fusiliers) met with him and would write of Butters after his death. Butters’ gravestone simply read “An American Citizen” – as he requested – and every soldier that could be spared attended his funeral.

1940: As war rages across Europe and Asia, President Franklin Roosevelt federalizes 60,000 National Guard soldiers.

1942: After a squadron of eight Japanese destroyers finally manages to squeeze through Guadalcanal’s defensive ring and disembarks 1,000 Japanese troops the night before, the arriving force stages an attack on Henderson Field. Meanwhile, the Marine Corps’ elite 1st Marine Raider Battalion and 1st Parachute Battalion arrive from Tulagi.

While four Marine Corps parachute operations are planned during the war, the highly trained Paramarines are never used for their intended purpose and will only be used in conventional roles. The Paramarines and Raiders – considered to be among America’s first special operations units – will both be disbanded by war’s end.

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Posted in Military History

Aug. 30: Today in military history

[Originally published at OpsLens.com]

Today’s post is in honor of Army Staff Sgt. Aaron N. Holleyman. On this day in 2004, an improvised explosive device detonated near Holleyman’s vehicle as it drove through Khutayiah, Iraq, killing the 26-year-old native of Glasgow, Mont. Holleyman served in the 1st Battalion of the 5th Special Forces Group and had served in Iraq in 2003, earning the Purple Heart and Bronze Star. He was sent back to the States after being wounded and volunteered to go back to Iraq after his recovery.

1776: After a series of defeats by the British, Gen. George Washington’s Continental Army conducts a strategic withdrawal of Long Island, sneaking 10,000 men and their equipment through British Adm. Richard Howe’s picket force under cover of darkness. Gen. William Howe (yes, the Howes are brothers) sends a letter to Gen. George Washington seeking a peace conference. Washington rejects the offer, forwarding the message to Congress instead. Diplomacy falls flat when the British refuse to recognize American independence on Sept. 11, and the British respond by capturing New York City four days later.

1862: Near Lexington, Ky., Maj. Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith accomplishes the “nearest thing to a Cannae” (Hannibal’s double envelopment of the Roman army – perhaps the greatest tactical achievement in military history) during the Civil War. The Confederates rout Maj. Gen. William “Bull” Nelson’s inexperienced Union troops – capturing over 4,000 – in the Battle of Richmond.

1918: Southeast of Verdun, France, Gen. John J. Pershing’s First Army moves into position at the Saint-Mihiel salient. Among Pershing’s three U.S. (and one French) corps is Lt. Col. George S. Patton, Jr.’s newly formed 1st Provisional Tank Brigade, which will conduct the first tank warfare in American history in the upcoming Battle of Saint-Mihiel – the first independently-led American operation of World War I.

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Posted in Military History

Marshall tells Truman ‘no’ to World War II service

Col. Harry S. Truman

I came across an interesting record of conversation while watching a documentary on Gen. George C. Marshall. Harry S. Truman, who fought on the front lines during World War I, was serving as a United States Senator when the United States was preparing for a potential role in World War II. Truman was also a colonel in the Officers Reserve Corps (today’s Army Reserve) and decided he wanted to serve the country on active duty, so he put on his uniform and went into Gen. Marshall’s office.

“General, I would like very much to have a chance to work in this war as a field artillery colonel,” Senator Truman informed the Army’s Chief of Staff.

Gen. Marshall, who served as Gen. John J. Pershing’s aide-de-camp during the Great War, pulled his glasses down to the tip of his nose and looked up at Truman. “Senator, how old are you?”

“I’m 56 years old,” Truman replied.

“Senator, you’re too damned old. You go on back and stay in the Senate.”

“But I’m four years younger than you are.”

“Yes, but I’m already in.” Marshall went back to his work and Truman back to the Senate. In five years, Truman would be president and Marshall would serve as his Secretary of State, and later, Secretary of Defense.

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Posted in Military History

Aug. 29: Today in military history

[Originally published at OpsLens.com]

Today’s post is in honor of Staff Sgt. James R. Ide V, who gave his life for our country on this day in 2010. The 32-year-old native of Festus, Mo. died of wounds from an engagement with insurgents in Hyderabad, Afghanistan. Ide was with the 230th Military Police Company, 95th Military Police Battalion, 18th Military Police Brigade, 21st Theater Sustainment Command and had previously served two tours in Iraq.

1940: At Lawson Army Airfield (modern-day Fort Benning, Ga.), 1st Lt. William T. Ryder and his Parachute Test Platoon conduct the first mass parachute jump in U.S. military history.

Meanwhile, a delegation of British scientists begin sharing radar and other military technologies with the United States, hoping to secure assistance from the still-neutral nation.

1944: (Featured image) Four years after German conquerors marched through Paris’ famous Arc de Triomphe, 15,000 American soldiers of the 28th Infantry Division parade down the newly-liberated capital’s Champs-Élysées.

Meanwhile, a 21-man OSS force led by Lt. Cmdr. Frank Wisner parachutes into Romania, coordinating the rescue operation of well over 1,000 American prisoners of war.

1945: An American B-29 Superfortress, carrying a load of humanitarian aid to Allied prisoners of war in Korea, is intercepted by Soviet Yak-9 fighters. The supposed allies attack the bomber, forcing 1st Lt. Joseph Queen’s crew to bail out before the plane crashes. The air crew are rescued, and the incident marks one of the first international confrontations between the soon-to-be Cold War rivals.

Across the Sea of Japan, Allied occupation forces begin arriving in Japan, as well as the battleship USS Missouri, which will host the upcoming formal surrender ceremonies on Sept. 2. Gen. Douglas MacArthur is granted the authority to oversee the formation of a new Japanese government. Rather than disband the existing government, MacArthur rules through the emperor – whom the Japanese people still view as divine – during Japan’s transition to democracy.

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Posted in Military History

Aug. 28: Today in military history

[Originally published at OpsLens.com]

Today’s post is in honor of Sgt. Edgar E. Lopez of the 1st Battalion, 2d Marine Regiment, 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, II Marine Expeditionary Force. On this day in 2004, the 27-year-old native of Los Angeles was killed by enemy action in Iraq’s Babil Province.

1862: One year after the Confederacy’s “glorious but dear-bought victory” over the Union in the First Battle of Bull Run, the two (significantly larger) armies meet again on the same battleground. 70,000 soldiers of Union Maj. Gen. John Pope’s Army of Virginia engage Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee’s 50,000-man Army of Northern Virginia, resulting in heavy casualties on both sides. Maj. Gen. James Longstreet’s five divisions (25,000 men) execute the largest mass assault of the war, smashing their opponents’ left flank and forcing and the Union to once again withdraw.

1944: Army Air Force pilots Maj. Joseph Myers and 2nd Lt. Manford Croy, Jr., flying P-47 Thunderbolts, become the first fighter pilots to score a victory over a jet aircraft when they shoot down German pilot Hieronymus Lauer’s Me 262.

Meanwhile, the First Army crosses the Marne River in France just days after the liberation of Paris, and to the south, the coastal towns of Marseilles and Toulon surrender to the Allies.

1945: An advance party of 150 soldiers – the first American troops to set foot in Japan – land at the naval airfield at Atsugi to prepare for the 11th Airborne Division’s arrival in two days.

1952: Off the Korean coast, USS Boxer launches the first “guided missile” ever fired from an aircraft carrier – a radio-controlled F6F-5K Hellcat fighter fitted with 1,000-lb. bombs. A pilot controlled the drone, which was fitted with a TV camera, from a two-seat AD-2Q Skyraider. Of the six drones launched by Boxer, only one will reach its target.

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Posted in Military History

Aug. 27: Today in military history

[Originally published at OpsLens.com]

1776: Five days after 15,000 British soldiers land on Long Island, Gen. William Howe’s forces attack the Patriots garrisoned at Brooklyn Heights. Gen. George Washington’s troops are flanked by the Redcoats during the first major battle of the Revolutionary War and suffer some 2,000 casualties before retreating to their redoubt at Brooklyn.

Rather than press the attack and smash the rebellion, Howe ordered his troops to prepare for a siege. However, in two days, the entire 10,000-man army slips through the Royal Navy stationed along the East River and evacuates (with their arms and supplies) to Manhattan. Washington is the last man to leave. While New York City falls into enemy hands, the patriots have survived to fight another day.

1918:  (Featured image) U.S. and Mexican Army soldiers, along with militia and armed civilians, clash along the border between Nogales, Ariz. and Nogales, Mexico. A handful of U.S. soldiers are killed and over 100 Mexicans, but the battle is over when the Americans seize the high ground overlooking the two Nogales on the Mexican side.

Following the battle, a chain-link fence is installed, splitting the two towns and becoming the first permanent border fence between the United States and Mexico.

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Posted in Baseball Military History

Military veterans of the MLB

Following the 1958 season, Pittsburgh Pirate rightfielder Roberto Clemente reported to Parris Island for boot camp. After becoming a Marine (serving in the Reserves until 1964), Clemente won four batting titles, two World Series, and 12 Gold Gloves before joining the Hall of Fame.

Following graduation from Virginia State University (on a basketball scholarship), Al Bumbry deployed to Vietnam as a platoon leader, earning the Bronze Star. After completing his service commitment, he would become the American League Rookie of the Year in 1973 and go on to win two World Series with the Baltimore Orioles.

Bob Feller holds the distinction of becoming the first professional athlete to enlist in the Armed Forces for World War II. The Hall of Fame left-hander served as a chief petty officer aboard the battleship USS Alabama in both the Atlantic and Pacific Theaters. After losing four seasons to the Navy, Feller struck out 12 batters and only allowed four hits in his first game back after the war. Ted Williams called him the “fastest and best pitcher I ever saw.”

Veteran Boston Braves catcher Hank Gowdy became the first professional baseball player to enlist during World War I, joining the Ohio National Guard’s 166th Infantry Regiment and seeing plenty of action on the Western Front. Gowdy volunteers again when World War II breaks out, and the 53-year-old captain becomes the only baseball player to have served during both world wars.

[Note: new players are added frequently. Message us if there is someone you would like to see on the list.]

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Posted in Military History

Aug. 24: Today in military history

[Originally published at OpsLens.com]

1814: Just ten miles northeast of Washington, D.C., British soldiers and Royal Marines clash with an American force of militia and a detachment of Marines and sailors in the Battle of Bladensburg. The professional British troops easily scatter the militia, but run into a wall when they square off against the Marines. In their first volley, the leathernecks destroy an entire company of the King’s men then pursue their foe into a ravine.

Capt. Samuel Bacon, Quartermaster of the Marine Corps, said “I will tell you something now about the battle of Bladensburg. […] The Marines are a dead shot.” The bodies of 150 British soldiers covered the battlefield in front of the Marines’ lines before the Americans are routed, leaving to road to the capital open in what is considered “the greatest disgrace ever dealt to American arms.” Gen. Robert Ross’ exhausted troops – several of which died during the battle from exhaustion after long marches – avenge the American destruction of Port Dover (in present-day Ontario) in May by setting fire to the Presidential Mansion (now called the White House), Capitol Building, and numerous other government and military facilities.

However, the British only hold Washington for one day before a massive storm blows through, severely damaging the British ships and causes the occupiers to abandon the area.

1912: The Navy’s first electrically powered ship, USS Jupiter (AC-3) is launched. Ten years later, a flight deck is added to the 542-ft. vessel, and the renamed USS Langley becomes America’s first aircraft carrier.

1942: Vice Adm. Frank J. Fletcher’s Task Force 61 and a Japanese carrier division converge in the Solomon Islands as Japanese troops attempt to reinforce Guadalcanal. The Battle of the Eastern Solomons is fought entirely by aircraft; the Japanese inflict serious damage on USS Enterprise (CV-6), while the Americans sink several vessels, including the light carrier Ryujo.

Over Guadalcanal, Japanese warplanes clash with Army and Marine aircraft of the “Cactus Air Force,” with Capt. Marion E. Carl in his F4F Wildcat scoring four of the day’s ten Allied victories, becoming the Marine Corps’ first ace.

Left to right: Maj. John L. Smith, Maj. Robert D. Galer, and Capt. Marion E. Carl after being awarded the Navy Cross. These three aviators accounted for 46 Japanese warplanes during their time at Guadalcanal. Carl would finish the war with 18-1/2 victories, going on to become a test pilot before deploying to Vietnam, where he flew combat missions in jets and helicopters despite being a brigadier general.

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Posted in Military History

Aug. 23 in military history

[Originally published at OpsLens.com]

1942: While Japanese reinforcements depart Truk to join the fighting on Guadalcanal, American P-40 Warhawks with the 49th Fighter Group shoot down 15 Japanese fighters and bombers attempting to target the air base in Darwin, Australia.

1944: When Gen. George S. Patton’s Third Army reaches the Seine River, Adolf Hitler orders Gen. Hans Speidel to destroy all bridges in Paris – which Speidel ignores, as well as another order days later to target Paris with V-1 buzz bombs and V-2 rockets. Speidel’s garrison will surrender in two days and the 28th Infantry Division will parade through the streets of Paris, ending four years of Nazi occupation.

300 miles to the west in Brittany, Staff Sgt. Alvin P. Carrey spots an enemy machinegun nest 200 yards up a hill that is pinning down his soldiers. He grabs as many grenades as he can carry and has his soldiers cover him, then crawls up the hill. Carrey shoots a German soldier on the way up, then begins hurling grenades at the enemy position – drawing the machine gunners’ fire. Although mortally wounded, he still manages to hurl a grenade right on target, killing the crew and knocking their guns out. Carrey is posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.

1950: Over 70,000 Army Reservists are ordered to report for duty during the Korean War.

1954: A Lockheed YC-130 prototype takes off for its first flight – a 61-minute trip from the Lockheed plant in Burbank, Calif., to Edwards Air Force Base. Designed to haul a tank and take off/land on short, primitive fields, the plane lifts off in just 800 feet. Once it becomes operational, the versatile C-130 Hercules can even make takeoffs and landings on an aircraft carrier without using the catapult or wires.

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