June 12 in U.S. military history

Pres. Ronald Reagan delivering his famous line, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall” in front of the Berlin Wall’s Brandenburg Gate.

1775: British Gen. Thomas Gage declares that the city of Boston is under martial law until the colonists repay for the tea they destroyed during the Boston Tea Party. Gage will pardon all colonists who lay down their arms except Samuel Adams and John Hancock, who are to be hanged.

Meanwhile, British ships arrive at Machiasport (present-day Machias, Maine) to commandeer a load of lumber for the construction of barracks during the colonists’ Siege of Boston. 31 militia members, led by Jeremiah O’Brien, board the merchant ship Unity and engage the British armed sloop HMS Margaretta. After an hour of fighting, Margaretta is captured and the British flag is surrendered to the colonists for the first time. The U.S. Merchant Marine traces their roots to the Battle of Machias.

1862: Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, the new commander of the Army of Northern Virginia, orders Brig. Gen. J.E.B. Stuart to investigate the Union army’s right flank during the Peninsula Campaign. Stuart and his 1,200 troopers determine that the right flank is vulnerable, and with Union cavalry is in pursuit, Stuart and his men ride a 100-mile circle around Gen. George McClellan’s 105,000-man Army of the Potomac – capturing soldiers, horses, and supplies. Four days later, Stuart arrives in Richmond to a hero’s welcome.

1944 (D-Day Plus Six): Paratroopers of the 101st Airborne Division capture Carentan after three days of heavy urban combat, linking the Utah and Omaha beachheads. A third wave of troops and supplies land at the beaches of Normandy. Over 300,000 men, tens of thousands of vehicles, and hundreds of thousands of tons of materiel have hit the beach so far.

In the Pacific, airplanes from Adm. Marc Mitscher’s Task Force 58, consisting of nine aircraft carriers and six light carriers, pound Japanese positions in the Marianas Islands in preparation for the upcoming invasions.

1987: “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”

Standing in front of Brandenburg Gate, President Ronald Reagan – a cavalry trooper prior to World War II and ultimately an Army Air Force officer in a motion picture unit – challenges his Soviet counterpart, Mikhail Gorbachev to tear down the Berlin Wall. In two years the wall does come down, signifying the end of the Cold War.

Posted on June 12, 2017 at 09:21 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
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June 9 in U.S. military history

LBJ swears in aboard Air Force One in Dallas, TX following the assasination of John F. Kennedy on 22 November, 1963. Visible on Johnson’s left lapel is the Silver Star, which he wore prominently throughout his career as a politician.

1772: In what is considered to be the first naval engagement of the American Revolution, colonists led by Abraham Whipple and John Brown board and set fire to the British customs schooner HMS Gaspee, which has run aground off Warwick, R.I. while conducting ant-smuggling operations.

1942: Naval Reserve Lt. Cmdr. Lyndon B. Johnson – a U.S. congressman for Texas at the time – volunteered to observe an Army Air Force bombing raid on New Guinea. Johnson’s plane turned around moments later under suspicious circumstances – some accounts say the B-26 came under enemy fire and others cite engine malfunction. Inexplicably, Johnson is awarded the Silver Star for “gallantry in action.” The future president’s own biographer stated that the award is “surely one of the most undeserved Silver Stars in history.”

1943: After flying 25 missions over Europe, the B-17F “Flying Fortress” known as Memphis Belle is flying back to the United States for a publicity tour. The Memphis Belle is the second bomber to accomplish the full combat tour of 25 missions, after the B-24 “Liberator” Hot Stuff accomplished the feat some three months earlier. Today, the famous aircraft resides at the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

1944: In Borneo’s heavily patrolled Sibitu Passage, the Gato-class submarine USS Harder (SS-257) torpedoes and sinks Tanikaze – the third Japanese destroyer Harder sends to the bottom in four days, and scores a hit on another destroyer. Tanikaze sinks immediately, but when the sub surfaces moments later, the other destroyer has vanished as well. On June 10, Harder will spot a Japanese naval task force and fire torpedoes at another destroyer, heavily damaging or sinking that ship as well.

With four destroyers sunk and another heavily damaged or destroyed, Harder’s highly productive fourth war patrol makes her one of the most famous submarines during World War II.

1945: On Okinawa, the 6th Marine Division has cut off and surrounded Japanese forces on the Oroku Peninsula, while the 1st Marine Division advances on Kunishi Ridge, one of the last Japanese strong points.

1959: USS George Washington (SSBN-598) is commissioned, becoming the world’s first operational ballistic missile submarine. The “Georgefish” carried 16 Polaris A-1 missiles, which had a 1,000 nautical mile range and carried a 600 kiloton warhead.

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June 8 in U.S. military history

Pres. George H.W. Bush greets Gen. Norman Schwartzkopf during the victory parade

1966: During a test flight of the North American XB-70 “Valkyrie,” an experimental six-engine bomber capable of flying at three times the speed of sound, an F-104 “Starfighter” chase plane collides with the Valkyrie, sending the bomber spiraling out of control and instantly killing the pilot of the chase plane, Joseph A. Walker – a former Army Air Force captain, fighter pilot during World War II, NASA chief test pilot, and the first U.S. civilian to fly high enough to be considered “spaceflight.” The Valkyrie’s pilot manages to eject, but the co-pilot is trapped inside the stricken warplane and crashes into the ground near Barstow, Calif. The Air Force backs out of the Valkyrie program shortly after the collision.

1967: During the Six-Day War between Israel and Arab nations, the technical research ship USS Liberty (AGTR-5), a converted World War II freighter, is attacked by Israeli fighter jets and torpedo boats in Mediterranean, killing 34 sailors and injuring nearly 200. The ship was operating 30 miles north of the Sinai Peninsula, gathering electronic intelligence during Israel’s brief conflict with the Soviet-supported Arabs.

Crews frantically work to save the vessel, which was nearly broken in half. Liberty’s skipper, Cmdr. William McGonagle, receives the Medal of Honor for his actions in an atypical private ceremony. Although the details surrounding the incident are still unclear 50 years later, Israel immediately apologizes for the incident, citing fog of war, and offers compensation to the sailors’ families.

1991: Hundreds of thousands gather to see Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf lead a victory parade through Washington, D.C. following Operation Desert Storm. A flyover of F-117 stealth fighters kicks off the parade, while tanks and thousands of troops pass in front of Pres. George H.W. Bush and other officials.

1995: Nearly a week after a Bosnian-Serb surface to air missile shoots down his F-16C “Fighting Falcon,” Capt. Scott O’Grady radios for help. The Air Force pilot has been behind enemy lines evading his would-be captors for six days, and searching for a safe location suitable for landing a helicopter. Within hours, a 41-man Marine Corps specially trained rescue unit boards two CH-53 “Super Stallion” helicopters, accompanied by attack helicopters and some 40 other aircraft. Although the helicopters take fire on the return trip, O’Grady is recovered and no one is injured in the daring mission.

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June 7 in U.S. military history

Capt. Charles Chandler (with prototype Lewis Gun) and Lt. Roy Kirtland in a Wright Model B Flyer after the first successful firing of a machine gun from an airplane.

1830: Following nearly four years at sea, the sloop of war USS Vincennes arrives at New York, becoming the first United States warship to circumnavigate the globe.

1912: At College Park, Md., U.S. Army Capt. Charles D. Chandler fires the first machine gun ever mounted to an aircraft. The plane is a Wright Model B flown by Lt. Roy C. Kirtland – the namesake of Kirtland Air Force Base. While The “Lewis Gun,” designed by Col. Isaac N. Lewis is not picked up by the United States military, the weapon sees extensive service during World War I with both the British and French.

1942: While the Japanese are defeated at Midway, they land troops and occupy the Alaskan islands of Attu and Kiska. 25 American soldiers are killed on Attu and the inhabitants of both islands are relocated and placed in internment. Less than a year later, U.S. and Canadian troops will wipe out the Japanese occupying force nearly to a man.

1944: (D-Day Plus 1) The soldiers of 2d Ranger Battalion, which scaled the 100-ft. cliffs at Pointe du Hoc under fire, have taken 50 percent casualties, with their commander Lt. Col. James Rudder having been shot twice. The Rangers will endure numerous counter-attacks and won’t be relieved until D-Day Plus 2. The Allies have air superiority and pound enemy armor and vehicles moving towards the beaches. The 1st and 29th Infantry Divisions make slow progress expanding the beachhead at Omaha Beach, where casualties are heavier than all other sectors combined. On Utah Beach, the 4th Infantry Division begins linking up with the heavily scattered paratroopers (only ten percent landed in their drop zones) of the 82d and 101st Airborne Divisions. Meanwhile, construction begins on harbors that will deliver soldiers, vehicles, and materiel to the new Western Front.

LSTs unload cargo during low tide at Omaha Beach

1959: 100 miles east of Jacksonville, Fla., the Balao-class submarine USS Barbero (SSA-317) fires a Regulus cruise missile loaded with 3,000 pieces of mail towards the Naval Air Station at Mayport, Fla. 22 minutes later, the first-ever “missile mail” arrives.

2006: Intelligence officials finally pinpoint the location of Al Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, at a safe house near Baqubah, Iraq. Zarqawi and several other terrorist leaders are killed when an Air Force F-16C “Fighting Falcon” levels the building with two 500-lb. bombs. While Iraq’s most wanted man, responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Iraqis is dead, his terrorist group lives on and will eventually become the Islamic State.

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June 6 in U.S. military history

Soldiers from Company E, 16th Infantry, 1st Infantry Division are among the first waves of troops to land at Normandy’s Omaha Beach.

1862: A Union flotilla decisively defeats the Confederate fleet at Memphis, Tenn. and captures the city.

1918: Two battalions of Marines, led by Brig. Gen. James Harbord, advance against four German divisions in Belleau Wood, the site of an old French hunting preserve near Chateau-Thierry. The Marines face withering fire, with over 1,000 casualties in the first day of battle alone. In three weeks, the Marines drive out the Germans, but at a high cost; Enemy machine guns, artillery, and gas attacks inflict 10,000 American casualties. But the tenacity of the “Devil Dogs” at Belleau Wood becomes legend.

1942: Commander-in-chief of the Combined Fleet Admiral Yamamoto Isoroku orders his fleet to withdraw from the Battle of Midway. Although the Americans have lost the carrier Yorktown and a destroyer, Japanese losses are staggering: all four of the fleet’s aircraft carriers (whose aircraft attacked Pearl Harbor six months ago) and a heavy cruiser are sent to the bottom. After a long string of defeats, the United States Navy has dealt Japan “the most stunning and decisive blow in the history of naval warfare.”

1944: Just after 2 a.m., some 13,000 American and British paratroopers and glider troops begin landing behind enemy lines in France. 2,000 Allied aircraft bombard German positions in preparation of the invasion. And five hours later, nearly 150,000 American, British, and Canadian troops hit the beaches at Normandy. 1,200 warships and over 4,000 landing ships from eight different navies support the invasion. Losses are heavy for both sides and 4,414 American and Allied soldiers die on “D-Day” – the first day of the largest amphibious operation in history.

1957: Two Navy F-8U “Crusaders” and two A-3D “Skywarriors” launch from the deck of USS Bon Homme Richard (CVA 31) off the coast of California and fly to USS Saratoga (CVA 60), operating off Florida in the first transcontinental, carrier-to-carrier flight. The Crusaders land after three hours and 28 minutes, while the Skywarriors make the trip in four hours and one minute.

1964: Communist Pathet Lao anti-aircraft fire shoots down a Navy RF-8A “Crusader” aircraft flying a low-altitude reconnaissance mission over Laos. The pilot, Lt. Charles F. Klusmann, is taken prisoner, but escapes captivity. The downing of the reconnaissance plane is the first loss of a fixed-wing aircraft in what would become the Vietnam War.

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June 5 in U.S. military history

Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower gives paratroopers about to embark on “the Great Crusade” the order of the day: “Full victory – nothing else.”

1794: The first six officers of the new United States Navy receive their commissions: Captain John Barry (the first captain in the Continental Navy and considered the “father of the American Navy), Samuel Nicholson, Silas Talbot, Joshua Barney, Richard Dale, and Thomas Truxtun.

1917: The First Naval Aeronautical Detachment lands at Brest, France, becoming the first American military unit deployed for World War I. The Naval aviators, commanded by Lt. Kenneth Whiting, will conduct anti-submarine patrols throughout the war. The service collier USS Jupiter that carried the detachment across the Atlantic will be converted to the United States’ first aircraft carrier, USS Langley (CV-1) in 1920.

1944: As the sun sets on airfields across England, 13,328 American paratroopers with the 82d and 101st Airborne Divisions (along with nearly 8,000 British and Canadian paratroopers) board the C-47 transports and gliders that will carry them behind Nazi lines on “the Great Crusade.” 1,000 British bombers pound German defenses at the beaches of Normandy while thousands of ships carrying some 130,000 Allied soldiers steam towards France After months of planning, Operation Overlord is finally underway.

Meanwhile, the B-29 “Superfortress” flies its first combat mission. Bombers flying out of airfields in India attack Japanese rail lines and other targets in Bangkok, Thailand.

1945: On Okinawa, Marines capture the airfield on the Oroku Peninsula, while a typhoon damages nearly every ship at sea. Kamikaze attacks cripple the battleship USS Mississippi (BB-41) and the heavy cruiser USS Louisville (CA-28).

On Japan, 473 B-29 bombers drop some 3,000 tons of incendiary bombs on Kobe, destroying much of the city.

1948: A Northrop YB-49 “flying wing” experimental bomber crashes while conducting stall recovery tests at Muroc Air Force Base (now Edwards AFB – in honor of the YB-49’s copilot, Capt. Glen Edwards), killing all five airmen on board. The advanced warplane program will be scrapped, but designer Jack Northrop’s dream of a flying wing aircraft will become reality when Northrop’s B-2 stealth bomber makes its first flight 51 years later.

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Lightning ‘Hot Load’

MARINE CORPS AIR STATION YUMA, Ariz. – U.S. Marines with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, conduct the first ever hot load on the F-35B Lightning II in support of Weapons and Tactics Instructor Course 1-17 at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz., Sept. 22, 2016. The exercise is part of WTI 1-17, a seven-week training event hosted by Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron One cadre. MAWTS-1 provides standardized tactical training and certification of unit instructor qualifications to support Marine Aviation Training and Readiness and assists in developing and employing aviation weapons and tactics. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Artur Shvartsberg)

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June 2 in U.S. military history

Capt. Roger Locher (right) and Seventh Air Force Commander, Gen. John W. Vogt, Jr., at Udorn Air Force Base in Thailand after Locher’s rescue

1865: Confederate Gen. Kirby Smith signs documents surrendering his 43,000-man Army of the Trans-Mississippi at Galveston, Tex. Although Smith is not the last Confederate officer to surrender to the Union, this ends all organized Southern military action in the war.

1942: As the U.S. Navy prepares for the upcoming Japanese invasion, Task Forces 16 and 17 merge 350 miles northeast of to the northeast of Midway Island, putting three aircraft carriers, eight cruisers, and 16 destroyers under the command of Rear Adm. Frank J. Fletcher. A picket line of 25 submarines waits for the Japanese. The Battle of Midway is less than 24 hours away.

1943: The “Tuskegee Airmen” of the 99th Pursuit Squadron fly their first combat mission against Axis forces on the island of Pantelleria, off the coast of Tunisia.

1969: At 3 a.m. off the coast of Vietnam, the Australian aircraft carrier HMS Melbourne runs into the destroyer USS Frank E. Evans (DD-754), cutting the American ship in half. The severed bow section sinks in less than five minutes and takes 74 sailors with her. A series of errors and the absence of running lights due to preparations for flight operations places the American destroyer directly in the path of the much larger vessel.

1972: U.S. Air Force Gen. John W. Vogt, Jr. effectively shuts down the air war in Vietnam to rescue Capt. Roger Locher, an F-4 “Phantom” weapons systems officer shot down behind enemy lines in North Vietnam. Locher has evaded capture for 23 days – a record for downed airmen during the Vietnam War. Gen. Vogt diverts all available resources – 150 aircraft – from a planned strike against Hanoi and tasked them with the rescue mission. Planes bomb a nearby North Vietnamese airfield while Locher is located and rescued under heavy enemy fire.

Air Force captains Dale E. Stovall, flying the HH-53 “Jolly Green Giant” helicopter, and Ronald Smith, piloting the A-1H “Skyraider” attack plane receive the Air Force Cross (the nation’s second-highest award for valor) for the deepest rescue into North Vietnam of the entire war. No aircraft are lost in the operation.

As aircrews work to extract Locher, F-4E pilot Maj. Phil Handley scores the only supersonic gun kill in history, flying 900 miles per hour when he shoots down an enemy MiG 19.

2014: The fast-attack Virginia-class submarine USS Mississippi (SSN-782) is commissioned at Pascagoula, Miss., 12 months ahead of schedule and $60 million under budget.

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June 1 in U.S. military history

1813: The frigate USS Chesapeake – one of the United States Navy’s original six ships – clashes with British ship HMS Shannon outside Boston Harbor. After being mortally wounded by a sniper round Chesapeake captain James Lawrence’s last words to his crew are “Tell the men to fire faster and [don’t] give up the ship! Fight her till she sinks!” Shannon’s crew boards and will capture Chesapeake, taking her crew prisoner, but Capt. Lawrence’s famous final words live on today.

1864: The bloody battle of Cold Harbor opens in earnest between Union Army forces under the command of Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant and Confederate forces under Gen. Robert E. Lee. Grant will launch a series of futile attacks over the next three days. Lee will defend and hold. Union losses will be staggering: 13,000 to the Confederacy’s 2,500.

1918: At Belleau Wood, the site of an old French hunting preserve near Chateau-Thierry, Germans punch through the French lines, and American soldiers and Marines move up to fill the hole. When Marine Capt. Lloyd W. Williams arrives, he sees French troops withdrawing from battle. After being advised by a French officer to retreat, the Marine officer famously replies, “Retreat? Hell! We just got here!”

Williams will die during the battle, but the crack shooting and tenacious fighting of the Marines at Belleau Wood becomes legend and earns them the nickname “Teufelhunden” – devil dogs.

1944: Airships K-123 and K-130 of the U.S. Navy’s Blimp Squadron Fourteen land at French Morocco following a 50-hour, 3,100 nautical mile flight from Naval Air Station, South Weymouth, Mass. – the first transatlantic flight of a non-rigid, lighter-than-air aircraft. The massive airships made two stops for fuel and maintenance in Newfoundland and the Azores.

1990: As the Cold War nears its end, Presidents George H.W. Bush and Mikhail Gorbachev sign a treaty banning the production of chemical weapons and reducing the two superpowers’ stockpiles of the deadly weapons by 20 percent.

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May 31 in U.S. military history

1900: While the bloody Chinese campaign against foreigners and Christians known as the Boxer Rebellion intensifies, Marines from the battleship USS Oregon (BB-3) and cruiser USS Newark (C-1) arrive at the Chinese capital of Peking (now Beijing) to protect American and foreign legations.

1943: As the Allied attack begins on the island of Pantelleria, halfway between Tunisia and Sicily, the 99th Pursuit Squadron – the first all-black fighter squadron of the U.S. military – arrives in Tunisia. In two days, the famed “Tuskegee Airmen” will fly their first combat mission, and some 11,000 Italian (and a few dozen German) troops will become the first force in history to surrender from air attacks alone. The 99th is commanded by Lt. Col. (future Gen.) Benjamin O. Davis, Jr. Davis, who will go on to become the Air Force’s first black general. His father Benjamin Sr. was the U.S. military’s first black general.

1945: On Okinawa’s “Hen Hill,” PFC Clarence B. Craft launches an incredible one-man attack against Japanese defenders when his five-man reconnaissance force is wounded by grenades and pinned down. He exposes himself to intense enemy fire, shooting at anything that moves. Craft advances single-handedly up the hill, against defenses that previously beat back battalion-sized U.S. forces. Once he reaches the crest of the hill, his fellow soldiers advance, supplying him with cases of grenades and a satchel charge, which he used to seal off a cave containing an unknown number of enemies. Craft continued pumping rounds into Japanese soldiers, and silenced an enemy machine gun position. Dozens of Japanese soldiers die at the hands of Craft, and his charge against the critical position of Hen Hill leads to the collapse of the entire Japanese line.

1994: The United States announced that it is no longer “aiming” (preprogrammed computer targeting) nuclear weapons at Russian targets.

2014: Nearly five years after walking away from his post in eastern Afghanistan, the Taliban hands Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl over to a team of Delta Force operators. The former prisoner of war is exchanged for five high-ranking Taliban officials in a highly controversial deal between the U.S. government and the Afghan terrorist group. Soldiers from Bergdahl’s unit state that six soldiers died attempting to locate the missing soldier, and numerous other deaths have been attributed to the reallocation of resources during the search for Bergdahl.

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