Today’s post is in honor of 1st Lt. Todd J. Bryant, who was killed by an improvised explosive device during a patrol in Fallujah, Iraq on this day in 2003. The 23-year-old native of Riverside, Calif. was assigned to 1st Battalion, 34th Armor Regiment, 1st Infantry Division and is one of nine graduates of the U.S. Military Academy’s Class of 2002 who gave their lives in Iraq or Afghanistan.
1941: Although the United States has not yet entered the war, U.S. Naval vessels are serving as convoy escorts. When a German U-boat wolfpack attacks an Allied convoy near Iceland, the American destroyer USS Reuben James places itself between an incoming torpedo and an ammunition ship. The torpedo detonates the destroyer’s magazine, blowing the Reuben James in half. 115 sailors perish in the first sinking of a U.S. warship in World War II.
1943: Lt. Hugh D. O’Neill, flying at night in a specially modified F4U Corsair, shoots down a Japanese Betty bomber over Vella Lavella, scoring the first kill for the radar-equipped night fighters.
1966: While on a patrol mission of the Mekong Delta, two patrol boats of the Brown Water Navy are fired upon by Vietnamese sampans. When Petty Officer First Class James E. Williams gives chase, he discovers a hornet’s nest of enemy activity in the isolated section of the delta. During a three-hour battle with enemy boats and fortifications, Williams and his crew, supported by helicopter gunships, destroy 65 vessels and kill hundreds of the enemy force. For his role in the engagement, the Navy’s most-decorated enlisted sailor (having already received two Silver Stars and three Bronze Stars – all for valor – in addition to the Navy Cross) is awarded the Medal of Honor.
Today’s post is in honor of Cpl. Brett W. Land, who died of wounds from an improvised explosive devise in Afghanistan’s Zhari district on this day in 2010. The 24-year-old native of Wasco, Calif. was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault).
1918: Famous World War I flying ace Capt. Eddie Rickenbacker shoots down his 26th – and final – enemy aircraft over Rémonville, France.
1940: The Royal Air Force’s First Eagle Squadron, consisting of volunteer pilots from the United States, becomes operational. Thousands of Americans would apply, but only 244 were chosen for service during the early days of World War II.
Today’s post is in honor of Maj. Jeffrey R. Calero, who died of wounds sustained during a dismounted patrol in Kajaki, Afghanistan on this day in 2007. Calero, 34, was born in Puerto Rico and raised in Queens Village, N.Y.. He was a member of Company C’s Operational Detachment Alpha 2132, 1st Battalion, 20th Special Forces Group (Airborne) and was serving on his second Afghan deployment.
1814: The wooden floating battery Demologos, the United States’ first steam-powered warship, is launched at New York City.
1942: Decimated by combat losses, malnutrition, and tropical diseases, the first soldiers of the Japanese garrison begin departing Guadalcanal.
1944: Three 442d Regimental Combat Team soldiers earn the Medal of Honor near Biffontaine, France on this day. Technician 5th Grade James K. Okubo, Pvt. Barney F. Hajiro, and Pvt. George T. Sakato (click the links to read their citations).
The all-Nisei (second-generation Japanese-American citizens) 442d RCT holds the distinction of being the most decorated unit in United States Armed Forces history.
Today’s post is in honor of Sgt. John A. Lyons, who died of wounds received from enemy small-arms fire in Afghanistan’s Ghazni province on this day in 2011. Lyons, 26, of Seaside Park, N.J., was assigned to the 8th Engineer Battalion, 36th Engineer Brigade.
1909: U.S. Army Lt. (future brig. gen.) Frederick Erastus Humphreys becomes the first Army aviator to solo in a heavier-than-air craft – the Wright Flyer – following three hours of instruction by Wilbur Wright.
1922: (Featured image) Off Cape Henry, Va., Lt. Commander Godfrey Chevalier becomes the first aviator to land on a moving ship when his Aeromarine 39B biplane touches down on the deck of USS Langley.
1942: Japanese carrier-based aircraft sink the carrier USS Hornet, leaving only one operational American carrier in the Pacific. The Battle of Santa Cruz is a pyrrhic victory for the Japanese, however, as their carrier pilots were decimated in the attack and can no longer conduct attacks on U.S. forces at Guadalcanal.
On Guadalcanal, Platoon Sergeant Mitchell Paige fights off wave after wave of Japanese soldiers single-handedly, as every Marine in his machine gun section are dead or wounded. Once reinforcements arrive, Paige leads a bayonet charge that drives off the enemy. For his actions, Paige is awarded the Medal of Honor and becomes a Marine legend.
56 years ago this week, the United States and Soviet Union were on the verge of all-out nuclear war. Suddenly, American families learned that they were in the crosshairs of Soviet nuclear-tipped missiles stationed 90 miles away from Florida, and virtually the entire continental U.S. was now moments away from annihilation. We know how the Cuban Missile Crisis ended, but how did it come about in the first place?
During the early days of the Cold War, the Soviet Union had a big problem: mutually assured destruction only works when both sides can assure destruction. The United States could target Moscow with intercontinental ballistic missiles, strategic bombers, and nuclear-armed submarines. By deploying nuclear missiles to Italy and Turkey, the USSR could be devastated in just minutes. Sure, the Kremlin could target Western Europe and Alaska, but Washington, D.C. was well outside of the reach of the Soviets.
That was a problem. But Nikita Khrushchev saw a solution, and he declared his intention to “throw a hedgehog down Uncle Sam’s pants.”
Today’s post is in honor of Capt. Jeb F. Seagle, who was killed in action during Operation URGENT FURY on this day in 1983. The 30-year-old attack helicopter pilot from Lincolnton, N.C. was serving in Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 261 (HMM-261), 22nd Marine Amphibious Unit. He was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross for his actions.
1812: The frigate USS United States under the command of Capt. (future commodore) Stephen Decatur – hero of Tripoli and said to be the U.S. Navy’s own Lord Nelson – captures the Royal Navy frigate HMS Macedonian under the command of Capt. John Carden in a brisk fight several hundred miles off the Azores.
1925: The court martial of Col. William “Billy” Mitchell, America’s chief aviation officer during World War I and considered to be the “Father of the U.S. Air Force”, begins in Washington, D.C.. The outspoken Mitchell is charged with multiple counts of insubordination due to his criticism of Navy leadership for investing in battleships instead of aircraft carriers and the handling of numerous fatal aviation incidents. Maj. Gen. Douglas MacArthur, one of Mitchell’s 12 judges, refers to his assignment as “one of the most distasteful orders I ever received.”
1942: On Guadalcanal, Japanese forces launch a series of full-frontal assaults to retake Henderson Field. The defending Marines – led by Lt. Col. B. Lewis “Chesty” Puller – and soldiers kill upwards of 3,000 Japanese troops at the cost of only 80 Americans. Sgt. John Basilone became a Marine legend during the battle, fighting off wave after wave of Japanese soldiers for two days despite being incredibly outnumbered.
Today’s post is in honor of Spc. Jose L. Mesa, who was killed by an enemy mortar attack in Samaria, Iraq on this day in 2003. Mesa, 26, of Bell Gardens, Calif., was assigned to C Company, 1st Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division.
1742: After disease and poor management leads to the deaths of all but 600 of the 3,500-man 61st Regiment of Foot, the American expeditionary force is disbanded and returns to the colonies. “Gooch’s Regiment”, named after regimental commander – also the Governor of Virginia – Lt. Col. William Gooch, had been part of the ill-fated British expedition to capture the Spanish colony of Cartagena (present-day Colombia).
1944: On day two of the Battle of Leyte Gulf – the largest naval engagement of World War II – U.S. aircraft attack the Japanese fleet, sinking the battleship Musashi and damaging four others. A single Japanese dive bomber attacks the light carrier USS Princeton (CVL-23) igniting an internal blaze that will sink the ship with just one bomb.
In the air, Cmdr. David McCampbell and wingman Ens. Roy Rushing spot a flight of 60 Japanese planes and engage despite the outrageous odds. McCampbell shoots down nine warplanes, setting a single sortie record, and his partner claims six. After becoming the only U.S. aviator to claim “ace in a day” status twice, McCampbell lands his F6F Hellcat as it runs out of fuel and with only two bullets left. For his daring actions, the top Naval ace of the war is awarded the Medal of Honor.
It’s hard to believe that the B-52B in this photo from 1969…
… is the same plane (NASA Tail Number 008) in this picture from 2001: