April 9 in military history

[Today in Military History is originally published at OpsLens.com]

1865: The war lost, Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee concludes, “There is nothing left for me to do, but to go and see Gen. [Ulysses S.] Grant, and I would rather die a thousand deaths.”

Lee formally surrenders the Army of Northern Virginia to Grant at the home of Wilmer McLean in the village of Appomattox Court House, Virginia. Still-operating Confederate forces will surrender within months.

94th Aero Squadron pilots (left to right) Eddie Rickenbacker, Douglas Campbell, and Kenneth Marr in front of a Nieuport fighter. (U.S. Army image)

1918: The famed 94th “Hat in the Ring” Aero Squadron moves up to the Croix de Metz Aerodrome in France, becoming the first American aviation outfit to enter combat. In May, Lt. Douglas Campbell becomes the first American-trained pilot to earn “ace” status, and fellow squadron mate Lt. Eddie Rickenbacker – who will ultimately become America’s top flying ace of World War I – scores his fifth victory in June.

1942: Having run out of food, ammunition, and supplies after months of fighting the Japanese, Maj. Gen. Edward P. King surrenders over 11,000 American and 60,000 Filipino forces under his command on Luzon Island to the Japanese. Immediately after the fall of Bataan, the Japanese begin bombarding Lt. Gen. Jonathan M. Wainwright and some 10,000 troops now isolated on the island fortress of Corregidor, who will manage to hold out for a month before they must surrender as well.

A captured Japanese photo showing prisoners on the Bataan Death March having to carry their comrades in litters. (National Archives image)

This day also marks the beginning of the brutal Bataan Death March. The Japanese force the sick, starving, and wounded prisoners to march some 80-90 miles in extreme heat and humidity to a Japanese prison camp in the backcountry of Luzon.

Along the way, thousands of captives are beaten, raped, bayoneted, disemboweled, beheaded, or shot. Those too weak to keep up with the march – or who stop to relieve themselves – are summarily executed. All are deprived of food and water. Fewer than 55,000 survive. Thousands more will not survive the prison camps or the so-called “hell ships” delivering them to labor facilities in Japan.

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Posted on April 9, 2018 at 09:27 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: Military History

April 6 in Military History

[This Day in Military History is published daily at OpsLens.com]

1862: As Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant’s 42,000-man force marches for the rail center of Corinth (Tenn.), they are intercepted and driven back by Confederate Gen. Albert Sidney Johnston’s Army of Mississippi near Shiloh Church.

The fighting is desperate on both sides – described as “a murderous fistfight” – and the bloodiest battle to date in American military history. Confederate and Union casualties combined will exceed well over 23,000 in two days. The Confederates carry the first day, but Johnston becomes the highest-ranking officer for either side to be killed during the Civil War.

A chromeolithograph of the Battle of Shiloh. (Courtesy of the Library of Congress)

In the end, Grant wins the Battle of Shiloh (also known as the the Battle of Pittsburg Landing): stiff Union resolve and reinforcements determining the outcome.

1906: An expedition led by Cmdr. Robert Peary reaches the geographic North Pole. Peary leaves behind a note in a bottle stating; “I have this day hoisted the national ensign of the United States of America at this place […] and have formally taken possession of the entire region, and adjacent, for and in the name of the President of the United States of America.”

1917: After Germany resumes unrestricted submarine warfare on Allied (including U.S.) shipping and discovery of the “Zimmerman Telegram”, proposing German alliance with Mexico if the U.S. enters World War I, Congress declares war on Germany.

1924: Four modified Douglas torpedo bombers known as the Douglas World Cruisers take off from Seattle on the first-ever circumnavigation of the globe by an airplane. 175 days later, two of the Army biplanes return to Seattle, having covered 26,345 miles in 363 hours of flying time.

1952: F-86 Sabre pilot Capt. Iven C. Kincheloe, Jr. of the 25th Fighter Interceptor Squadron kills his fifth enemy MiG, becoming the United States’ tenth ace of the Korean War. Following the war, Kincheloe becomes a test pilot and, in the seat of the Bell X-2 rocketplane, becomes the first human to fly above 100,000 feet – earning him the nickname “America’s No. 1 Spaceman.” Read the rest of this post »

Posted on April 6, 2018 at 09:48 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: Military History

April 5 in Military History

[This Day in Military History is originally published at OpsLens.com]

1862: On the same ground where the Continental Army defeated Lord Cornwallis’ Redcoats and secured American independence 81 years before, the Army of the Potomac – the largest army fielded in the United States to that point – clashes with Confederate forces at Yorktown (Va.). Although outnumbered significantly, Maj. Gen. John B. Magruder maneuvers his two divisions in such a way that tricks Union Maj. Gen. George McClellan into thinking that there are far more Confederates than there actually were.

A 13-in. mortar of the Connecticut Heavy Artillery during the Siege of Yorktown. (Library of Congress photo)

A cautious McClellan orders his troops to dig trenches, beginning a month-long siege. By the time his massive artillery pieces and naval artillery are in place in May, the Confederates manage to slip away.

1911: The Army creates a provisional aero company in Fort Sam Houston (Texas) as part of the military buildup on the southern border to discourage Mexican revolutionaries. The new outfit is commanded by Capt. Paul W. Beck, who is joined by 1st Lt. Benjamin Foulois, 2nd Lt. George E.M. Kelly, and 2nd Lt. John C. Walker, Jr.

Lt. Foulois and Orville Wright in 1909. (Photo courtesy of the Goodier Collection, Air Force Historical Research Agency, Maxwell Air Force Base, Ill.)

Among the pioneer’s many firsts, Foulois holds the distinction of being the United States’ first military aviator, flying the airship “Army Dirigible No. 1” in 1908. All four pilots previously served as infantry officers before earning their wings.

1945: 18 U.S. divisions begin their attack on 370,000 encircled German soldiers in the Ruhr Pocket. With Nazi Germany on their last legs, much of the fighting force consists of old men (including many World War I veterans) with the Volksturm militia and boys of the Hitler Youth – so poorly supplied that many didn’t even have weapons. While some units resist fanatically, most are captured.

Meanwhile, a German firing squad executes the former commandant of the Buchenwald concentration camp SS-Standartenführer Karl-Otto Koch for heinous crimes and brutal treatment of prisoners.

1951: Corpsman Richard De Wert, serving with the 7th Marines in Korea, rushes through enemy fire to retrieve a wounded comrade. While wounded himself, De Wert refuses to stop to be treated and returns for another fallen Marine. Hit again, he braves incoming fire a third time, and on his fourth trip into the kill zone, the corpsman is mortally wounded.

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Posted on April 5, 2018 at 09:14 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: Military History

Great work is always measurable

Global expedition leader receives three lofty honors in less-than-four weeks

By W. Thomas Smith Jr.

Great men are often recognized by single great achievements. Truly great men are recognized – and measured – by regular accomplishments achieved in relatively short spans of time; with those spans being linked to a longer chain of the same, year-after-year.

Take, for example, my longtime friend Tom Mullikin. He is always doing something, going somewhere, leading a team, climbing a mountain, diving with sharks, or finding a solution in a world of problems. And a measure (though not all) of what he does has been recognized in his latest three acknowledgments of measurably good work.

Last month, Mullikin – an attorney, professor, and global expedition leader (a “NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC expert,” by the way) – traveled to New York for a three-day conference where he was welcomed into the company of the famed EXPLORERS CLUB as a Fellow. The Explorers Club is an elite organization of, yes, accomplished explorers, some of whom have been the first to the North Pole, first to the South Pole, first to the summit of Mount Everest, first to the Mariana Trench (the deepest point in the ocean), and first to the surface of the moon.

Then earlier this week, Mullikin was named a Fellow in the ROYAL GEOGRAPHICAL SOCIETY. Since its founding in 1830 as the Geographical Society of London, the Royal Geographical Society has included the likes Ernest Shackleton and Charles Darwin among its number. Read the rest of this post »

Posted on April 5, 2018 at 09:08 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: Uncategorized

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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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