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.

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Nov. 21 in U.S. military history

The Grumman F9F-2 “Panther” – Ensign Neil Armstrong (future Apollo 11 astronaut) is flying the jet in the background

1817: The First Seminole War begins when Gen. (and future president) Andrew Jackson leads forces into Spanish-held Florida to reclaim escaped slaves from Seminole tribal areas.

1943: USS Nautilus (SS-168) surfaces and disembarks Capt. James L. Jones and his Marine Amphibious Reconnaissance Company off the beaches of Abemama Atoll in the Gilbert Islands. The raiders board rubber rafts and paddle ashore under cover of darkness, spending the next several days wiping out the defenders and capturing the islands along with fire support from the sub. The Marine Corps’ modern-day Force Reconnaissance companies trace their roots to Jones’ team.

1947: Grumman’s first jet fighter, the F9F “Panther” makes its first flight. The F9F will serve as the Navy and Marine Corps’ primary jet fighter during the Korean War and will be flown by Hall of Fame baseball player Ted Williams (USMC) and Apollo 11 astronaut Neil Armstrong (USN).

1967: Gen. William Westmoreland, the commander of U.S. Military Assistance Command Vietnam, tells the American press that “I am absolutely certain that whereas in 1965 the enemy was winning, today he is certainly losing.”

1970: Col. Arthur D. “Bull” Simons leads a 56-man rescue operation on the Son Tay POW camp, just 23 miles from Hanoi, North Vietnam. Although the prisoners had been relocated to another camp prior to the operation, the raid – involving over 100 aircraft from multiple services – was a tactical success. Dozens of enemy guards are killed during the brief engagement and the assault would serve in part as a model for the formation of Special Operations Command.

Posted on November 21, 2017 at 09:46 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
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Mullikin honored by USC during gameday halftime ceremonies

By W. Thomas Smith Jr.

COLUMBIA, S.C. – Maj. Gen. Tom Mullikin, commander of the S.C. State Guard (SCSG) and a former U.S. Army officer, was honored for his service to the state and nation during halftime ceremonies at the South Carolina vs. Wofford football game, Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia, Saturday, November 18.

A Camden-based attorney, university professor and internationally-recognized global expedition leader, Mullikin [pictured center and to the right of USC athletic director Ray Tanner] has served as commander (commanding general) of the SCSG since 2014.

Mullikin was joined by two other military veterans who were also recognized: Mr.  Frank Singleton, a U.S. Navy veteran of World War II, and Sgt. Ramon Guitard, a U.S. Army veteran of the Iraq War. The three were honored as part of the University of South Carolina’s “Military Appreciation Day.” The previous Saturday, November 11, was Veterans Day. And November is Veterans Month.

“I am humbled and tremendously honored to receive this recognition by my alma mater,” said Mullikin. “But perhaps more-so because this great university is always recognizing and striving to find new ways to reach out to and serve this state’s sizeable veterans’ community. And our veterans – active, Reserve, Guard, retired and former – are so important to this state.”

A graduate of both USC (undergraduate) and the USC School of Law, Mullikin is today a research professor in environmental policy at Coastal Carolina University. He began his military career as a U.S. Army Reserve JAG lawyer and was attached as an international legal officer to a Civil Affairs Brigade (Airborne) within the U.S. Special Operations Command. Following his Army service, Mullikin served as special assistant to the Chief Prosecutor of Military Commissions, U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Mark Martins, who previously said, “Because of his extraordinary work, I can confidently affirm that Mullikin’s efforts are a meaningful contribution to the whole of our national security efforts.”

Mullikin is a noted world adventurer, having climbed four of the world’s seven great summits and having logged multiple dives in five oceans (now nearing a record for the combination of both climbs and dives). He is also an author and an award-winning film producer.

Founded in 1801, USC is a nationally ranked public university and the flagship university for the Palmetto State.

For more information about USC, please visit http://www.sc.edu/.

Posted on November 20, 2017 at 17:39 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
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Oct. 27 in U.S. military history

Benjamin O. Davis, Jr., Commander of the Tuskegee Airmen, and future four-star General

1864: In a daring nighttime commando raid, Lt. William B. Cushing, piloting a torpedo-armed steam launch, slips past a Confederate schooner guarding the ironclad CSS Albemarle. Cushing detonates the spar torpedo, blowing a massive hole in the warship, which had been dominating the Roanoke River. Although several of his crew are drowned and captured, Cushing and another sailor escape, leaving behind a destroyed ironclad.

1942: After several days of intense fighting, a shattered Japanese military abandons their offensive on Guadalcanal’s Henderson Field. The Japanese will evacuate the island in February, and the Americans will turn Guadalcanal into a major base during the Solomon Islands campaign.

1954: Following in his father’s pioneering footsteps, Brig. Gen. Benjamin O. Davis, Jr. becomes the first black general in the U.S. Air Force. Benjamin O. Davis, Sr., who served in the Spanish-American War, the Philippine-American War, and both World Wars, had been the first black man ever promoted to the rank of general in the United States Armed Forces. After becoming the first black pilot to ever solo in a U.S. Army Air Corps aircraft, the younger Davis commanded the 99th Pursuit Squadron – the famous “Tuskegee Airmen” – during World War II. He again saw combat when he deployed to Korea as Commander of the 51st Fighter-Interceptor Wing in 1953.

1962: Maj. Rudolph Anderson (USAF) becomes the only casualty from hostile fire during the Cuban Missile Crisis when a Soviet SA-2 surface-to-air missile shoots down his U-2 spy plane during a reconnaissance overflight of Cuba. Anderson will be posthumously awarded the Air Force Cross, the U.S. military’s second-highest award for valor, after the Medal of Honor.

Posted on October 27, 2017 at 10:48 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
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Oct. 26 in U.S. military history

An Aeromarine 39 on final approach for USS Langley, Oct. 1922

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: 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 single-handedly fought off waves of Japanese soldiers while all the Marines in his machine gun section are either killed or wounded. Once reinforcements arrived, Paige will lead a bayonet charge that drives off the enemy. For his actions, Paige is awarded the Medal of Honor.

1950: The First Marine Division lands at Wonsan, Korea and moves north toward the Yalu River. In a month, they will be attacked by 10 Chinese divisions and have to fight their way out of the Chosin Reservoir.

Meanwhile, Republic of Korean (South Korea) forces arrive at the Yalu River and learn that two entire Chinese Armies have already crossed into Korea.

1966: A magnesium parachute flare ignites aboard the aircraft carrier USS Oriskany (CV-34) off the coast of Vietnam, igniting the worst ship-board fire since World War II. 44 sailors perish in the blaze.

1968: An estimated four battalions of North Vietnamese soldiers attempt to overrun Fire Support Base Julie near the Cambodian border. Supported by dozens of B-52 strikes, the defenders manage to repel the attack.

Posted on October 26, 2017 at 09:23 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
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Oct. 25 in U.S. military history

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.

1944: During the Battle of Leyte Gulf, torpedoes from the destroyer USS Melvin (DD-680) sink the Japanese battleship Fusō, considered to be the largest warship to go down with all hands during World War II. Rear. Adm. Jesse Oldendorf’s 7th Fleet Support Group, consisting of several battleships sunk or damaged during Pearl Harbor, engage and sink the battleship Yamashiro, marking the last battleship-versus-battleship engagement in history. The escort carrier USS St. Lo (CVE-63) becomes the first major warship to be sunk by Japanese kamikaze pilots. By war’s end, kamikaze attacks would sink 34 U.S. ships.

Elsewhere in the gulf, three Japanese destroyers are sunk at the cost of one U.S. escort carrier, two destroyers, and a destroyer escort.

Aircraft from the U.S. 3rd Fleet, commanded by Adm. Bill Halsey, sink the Japanese aircraft carrier Zuikaku, the last surviving carrier that struck Pearl Harbor. Also headed for the bottom are two more light carriers and a destroyer. Two more ships – including another light carrier – are crippled. Later that day, naval gunfire and torpedoes will claim another Japanese light carrier, two destroyers, and a light cruiser. The Battle for Leyte Gulf is effectively over.

1950: Well over 200,000 Chinese Communist troops attack UN forces in their first assault of the Korean War. The Chinese force withdraws to the mountains and when they attack again one month later, they will drive the American-led force all the way back to the southern tip of the Korean peninsula.

1983: In the largest military operation since Vietnam, nearly 2,000 U.S. troops land on the tiny Caribbean island of Grenada to secure American citizens and topple the Marxist regime. On the first day of fighting, members of the 75th Ranger Regiment parachute into the Port Salines International Airport, allowing planes to deliver soldiers of the 82d Airborne Division. When a SEAL team determines that the beach is unsuitable for the planned amphibious invasion to capture Pearl Airport on the opposite side of the island, helicopters ferry Marines ashore and quickly secure their objective.

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Oct. 24 in U.S. military history

Texas Air National Guard pilot – and future Pres. – George W. Bush flew the F-102 “Delta Dagger”

1742: After poor leadership and disease claim 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 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.

In the Taiwan Straight, the submarine USS Tang, whose crew sank five Japanese ships in a single engagement the day before, fires another torpedo, which circles around and sinks Tang. The sub bottoms out in 180 feet of water, but nine crew members – including skipper Richard O’Kane – escape in the only known successful use of the Momsen rebreather.

1951: In the skies over Korea, 150 Russian MiG-15 fighters intercept a formation of B-29 bombers and 55 F-84 “Thunderjet” escorts. The Communists manage to shoot down four of the B-29s and one escort, but at least eight MiGs are lost in the largest air battle of the Korean War. The sortie will be the last daylight bombing raid for the B-29.

1953: At Edwards Air Force Base, Convair’s chief test pilot Richard L. “Dick” Johnson takes off with his YF-102 prototype, marking the first flight of the “Delta Dagger.” The F-102 served as an interceptor, capable of attacking enemy bomber formations with its AIM-26 “Nuclear Falcon” missile. Future President George W. Bush would fly the “Deuce” during his service as a pilot with the Texas Air National Guard.

Prior to his days as a test pilot, Johnson flew 190 missions over North Africa and Italy in his P-47 “Thunderbolt”, then went on to become the second Air Force pilot to break the sound barrier. He deployed to Korea where he was supposed to be supervising the installation of equipment on F-86 “Sabre” fighters, but was sent home after the Air Force discovered Johnson was flying unauthorized combat missions.

1954: President Dwight Eisenhower sends a letter to Prime Minister Ngo Dinh Diem, pledging direct support to the South Vietnamese government. Although United States assets have been in French Indochina since World War II, this date is considered the beginning of the U.S. commitment to South Vietnam.

Posted on October 24, 2017 at 10:00 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
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Oct. 23 in U.S. military history

1864: In Westport, Mo. (present-day Kansas City), Maj. Gen. Samuel R. Curtis’ 22,000-man Army of the Border defeats a heavily outnumbered Confederate force commanded by Maj. Gen. Sterling Price in the largest battle fought west of the Mississippi River. The Union brings an end to Price’s Missouri Expedition with his defeat in the “Gettysburg of the West,” and Price retreats into Kansas. After the Battle of Westport, the border state of Missouri will remain under Union control for the rest of the Civil War.

1942: On Guadalcanal, Imperial Japanese soldiers and tanks attempt to cross the Matanikau River, and are quickly defeated – signaling the beginning of the Battle for Henderson Field. For the next three days, the 1st Marine Division and the 164th Infantry Regiment, supported by the “Cactus Air Force”, will shatter wave after wave of Japanese assaults on the ground and in the air. The battle marks the final major Japanese ground operation before they abandon the island.

1944: Three days after over 100,000 U.S. troops land in the Philippines, the Battle of Leyte Gulf – the largest naval engagement during World War II – begins. On the first day, the submarines USS Darter and USS Dace attack Vice Adm. Takeo Kurita’s Center Fleet, sinking two heavy cruisers (including Kurita’s flagship) and damaging another. During the three-day battle, nearly 400 ships will square off, with Japan suffering crippling losses: four aircraft carriers, four battleships, and 21 cruisers and destroyers are sunk, along with the loss of 12,000 sailors and 300 planes. An increasingly desperate Japanese military uses kamikaze tactics for the first time during the battle.

Meanwhile in the Taiwan Straight, the submarine USS Tang – the most successful U.S. submarine ever – engages a convoy of Japanese transports, freighters, tankers, and their escorts. Tang sinks five ships and then escapes. The sub’s skipper, Cmdr. Richard H. O’Kane, will be awarded the Medal of Honor for the engagement.

1972: As peace talks with the North resume, Pres. Richard Nixon calls a halt to Operation “Linebacker” – the U.S bombing campaign in North Vietnam. In start contrast to Pres. Lyndon Johnson’s tightly controlled Operation “Rolling Thunder”, Nixon had granted the military much more latitude to carry out their mission, which put a serious dent in the Communist supply chain.

1983: A 2000-pound truck bomb explodes at the Marine Corps Barracks in Beirut, Lebanon, killing 220 Marines, 18 sailors, and three soldiers. The bombing would become known as “the bloodiest day in Marine Corps history since Iwo Jima.” Moments later, another truck bomb hits the French barracks, killing 58. American troops will withdraw from Lebanon four months later.

Posted on October 23, 2017 at 11:42 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
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Oct. 20 in U.S. military history

1922: Lt. Harold R. Harris (Army Air Service) performs the world’s first emergency parachute jump when the wings of his Loening PW-2A come apart during a simulated dogfight 2,500 feet over McCook Field. Harris bails out of his cockpit and after free-falling 2,000 feet, he lands safely in a garden in Dayton, Ohio.

1926: After a brutal murder of a post office truck driver, President Calvin Coolidge orders the Marine Corps to protect the mail delivery. 2,500 Marines of the 4th Marine Regiment, commanded by two-time Medal of Honor recipient Brig. Gen. Smedley D. Butler, serve as the “Western Mail Guards” until they return to their regular posts in 1927.

1944: Two-and-a-half years after Gen. Douglas MacArthur vows to return to the Philippines, MacArthur and some 130,000 soldiers of the Sixth Army land at Leyte Island. The island will be captured after 67 days of intense fighting, signaling the beginning of the end for the Japanese. The Japanese Army’s 16th Division, which conducted the brutal Bataan Death March and held Leyte Island, is completely wiped out during the fighting.

1950: 2,860 soldiers of the 187th Regimental Combat Team jump from Air Force C-119 and C-47 transports on the first airborne operation of the Korean War. The paratroopers’ mission is to drop north of the North Vietnamese capital of Pyongyang, trapping units attempting to escape the now UN-held capital, but by the time the 187th hits the ground, Communist forces have already slipped through.

1951: A day after having 83 pieces of shrapnel removed from his body, and still badly injured from bullet wounds received during six days of constant fighting, Master Sergeant Woodrow W. Keeble (USA) refuses to let medics keep him out of the fight. When his company is pinned down by enemy fire while assaulting Hill 765 near Sangsan-ni, Korea, the badly wounded veteran of the Guadalcanal campaign and now platoon sergeant courageously crawls forward alone and silences three machine gun positions with grenades and automatic rifle fire. Originally awarded the Distinguished Service Cross – paperwork recommending him for the Medal of Honor kept getting lost – Keeble will be eventually awarded the Medal of Honor in 2008, 26 years after his passing.

Posted on October 20, 2017 at 14:49 by Chris Carter · Permalink · 2 Comments
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Oct. 19 in U.S. military history

[Originally published at OpsLens.com]

A TDR assault drone during World War II. This drone is now at the National Naval Aviation Museum (see link in article)

1781: British Gen. Charles Cornwallis formally surrenders 7,087 officers and men, 900 seamen, 144 cannons, 15 galleys, a frigate, and 30 transport ships to an American and French force at Yorktown, Va., effectively ending the American Revolution.

1944: Two Interstate TDR assault drones are launched against Japanese gun emplacements on Ballale Island – one drone missing its target and another delivering two of its four 100-lb. bombs on the target. The TDR was a two-engine, unmanned airplane remotely controlled by a Grumman TBF “Avenger” via a television camera feed.

1950: Troopers with the 5th Cavalry Regiment enter Pyongyang, capturing the North Korean capitol. The following day, the 187th Regimental Combat Team will conduct two parachute drops north of the capitol to cut off retreating North Korean forces. The Communists will recapture Pyongyang on Dec. 5, after China joins the war.

1965: Two regiments of North Vietnamese soldiers begin a week-long siege on the Special Forces camp at Plei Me in South Vietnam’s central highlands. The outnumbered defenders repelled repeated attacks and eventually drove off the NVA forces. Following the battle, Gen. William Westmoreland ordered the 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) to find and defeat the forces that attacked Plei Me, resulting in the bloody Battle of Ia Drang.

1987: Following an Iranian missile attack on a merchant vessel, U.S. warships attack and destroy two Iranian oil platforms being used by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps to attack shipping in the Persian Gulf.

2001: 200 Army Rangers parachute into – and quickly secure – an airfield southwest of Kandahar, Afghanistan, while special operation forces conduct other air-assault operations on several targets near Kandahar. These raids are the first known combat operations of the war in Afghanistan. In November, the captured airfield will become the first U.S. base in Afghanistan when Marines establish Camp RHINO.

Meanwhile, Spec. Jonn J. Edmunds and Pvt. 1st Class Kristofor T. Stonesifer become the first combat-related casualties in the War on Terror when the helicopter carrying them crashes in Pakistan.