Sept. 19 in U.S. military history

Lithograph of the Battle of Chickamauga

1777: The Battle of Freeman’s Farm — the first engagement in the Battle of Saratoga — opens between Continental forces under the command of Gen. Horatio Gates and British forces under Gen. John “Gentleman Johnny” Burgoyne. The Brits carry the day, but suffer heavy losses.

1863: On the border of Georgia and Tennessee, fighting begins in earnest between forces commanded by Maj. Gen. William Rosecrans and Gen. Braxton Bragg. After two days of fighting, the Confederate Army of Tennessee inflicts 18,000 casualties on the Army of the Cumberland, driving Rosecrans from the battlefield, but Union soldiers kill, wound, and capture 16,000 Confederates. After Gettysburg, the Battle of Chickamauga marks the second-highest casualty totals of the Civil War.

1864: Lt. Gen. Jubal Early’s Army of Shenandoah and Maj. Gen. Philip Sheridan’s Army of the Valley meet in Winchester, Va. – the third time Confederate and Union forces square off at that site. Sheridan manages to turn Early’s left flank, leading to a Confederate retreat in what is considered perhaps the most crucial battle of the Shenandoah Valley Campaign. Casualties are heavy for both sides, and among the many fallen senior officers is Confederate brigade commander Col. George S. Patton, Sr. – grandfather of the legendary Gen. George S. Patton, Jr.

1881: President James A. Garfield, who served as Rosecrans’ chief of staff during the Battle of Chickamauga, finally succumbs to wounds suffered during an assassination attempt in July. Vice President Chester A. Arthur, formerly quartermaster general in the New York state militia, is sworn is as the 21st President of the United States.

1944: As the Allied drive across Europe slows due to the stretched supply lines, Gen. Courtney Hodges’ First Army runs into Generalfeldmarschall Walter Model’s forces at the border between Belgium and Germany. The Germans manage to scratch out a defensive victory, inflicting some 33,000 casualties in the three-month Battle of Hürtgen Forest – marking the longest battle in U.S. Army history.

Posted on September 19, 2017 at 10:23 by Chris Carter · Permalink · 2 Comments
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Sept. 18 in U.S. military history

Marines landing on Guadalcanal

1862: Following the bloody Battle of Antietam, Gen. George B. McClellan blows an opportunity to capture Gen. Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia, – perhaps ending the Civil War. Lee abandons his invasion of Maryland as McClellan allows the significantly outnumbered Confederates to withdraw his significantly outnumbered forces to Virginia without pursuit.

1906: As revolution sweeps Cuba, the auxiliary cruiser USS Dixie (AD-1) disembarks a battalion of Marines at Cienfuegos to help protect American-owned plantations.

1941: In preparation for World War II, 19 divisions of soldiers – 400,000 troops – participate in a massive exercise in Louisiana. In light of Germany’s highly effective blitzkrieg tactics, the Army is testing the effectiveness of combined-arms mechanized units. 26 soldiers will die during the maneuvers, but the Army gains experience that will prove invaluable during the upcoming war. Among those participating are future commanders Dwight Eisenhower, Omar Bradley, Mark Clark, and George Patton.

1942: Over 4,000 Marines of the 7th Marine Regiment land at Guadalcanal and join the battle, along with much-needed supplies. Maj. Gen. Archer A. Vandegrift’s men had dubbed the invasion “Operation Shoestring” as the Navy only managed to unload half of the supplies on Guadalcanal before departing. After suffering heavy casualties, the Marine 1st Parachute Battalion is pulled from the lines and sent to Espiritu Santo.

1944: During the drive across Europe, the 101st Airborne Division captures the Dutch city of Eindhoven and the Ninth Army captures Brest, France.

1947: 70 years ago today, the National Security Act of 1947 enacts sweeping reorganization of the Armed Forces and intelligence service structure. After 40 years of service as a component of the Army, the newly formed Air Force stands up as an independent branch of the military. The act creates a National Military Establishment – renamed the Department of Defense in 1949 – with the Army, Navy, and Air Force now under a unified command. Also established is the Joint Chiefs of Staff, which provides military advice to the president and the new Cabinet position of Secretary of Defense.

The act also establishes the Central Intelligence Agency – America’s first peacetime intelligence service – and the National Security Council, which advises the president on matters of national security and foreign policy.

1948: The first delta-winged aircraft prototype – Convair’s XF-92 – conducts its maiden flight. The cutting-edge design will pave the way for forthcoming platforms such as the F-102 “Delta Dagger,” F-106 “Delta Dart,” and the B-58 “Hustler.”

Posted on September 18, 2017 at 10:45 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
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National debt by the numbers: Just how big is $20 trillion?

[Originally published at OpsLens.com]

With our national debt passing the $20 trillion threshold this week, let’s look at some figures that will help us wrap our mind around this unfathomable amount of money.

To make 20 trillion one dollar bills, it would require commandeering every cotton field in the United States for 19 years (the dollar is actually 75 percent cotton) and 30 years for the Bureau of Engraving and Printing to stamp out the notes. The price tag for printing this vast quantity of bills would cost taxpayers another $2 trillion.

Our mountain of 20 trillion George Washingtons would weigh in at a whopping 22 million tons, which just might actually be enough – with a hat tip to Congressman Hank Johnson – to tip over the island of Guam. Chicago’s 108-story Willis Tower, formerly known as the Sears Tower, weighs about 222,500 tons, so it would take 99 such skyscrapers to equal the weight of our national debt. Guam would have an incredible skyline, which we could easily afford to build when you consider that, adjusting for inflation, $20 trillion would buy 21,000 Willis Towers.

To ship all that money across the Pacific, it would require 758,000 semi trucks and 75 trips with the world’s largest cargo ship. But where would we store it? The world’s largest building – by volume – is the 97-acre Boeing Factory in Everett, Wash., where the aircraft manufacturer assembles airliners like the 747 “Jumbo Jet.” If you were to neatly stack one-dollar bills – without pallets – in every available square inch of the monstrous facility, Boeing would still have to build a second factory to store the rest.

A stack of 20 trillion one dollar bills, if you could somehow keep Congress from snatching it, would reach an incredible 1,357,300 miles into space. Considering that the moon is only 238,855 miles away, you could place five stacks of one dollar bills between Earth and the moon and still have enough bills left to reach over halfway on a sixth stack.

A line of 20 trillion one dollar bills placed end to end would extend 2.3 trillion miles, which would go around the world 93 million times. If astronauts could place the bills in a line into space, it would take light nearly five months to travel that distance.

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Posted on September 17, 2017 at 18:45 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
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Sept. 14 in U.S. military history

Standing on the charred remains of a fire truck, President George W. Bush gives a speech to first responders at Ground Zero on Sept. 14, 2001

1901: Eight days after being shot by the assassin Leon Czolgoszan, President William McKinley dies of his wounds, and Theodore Roosevelt is sworn in as the 26th President of the United States. Before being named vice president, Roosevelt served as McKinley’s Assistant Secretary to the Navy until USS Maine explodes in Havana, inspiring Roosevelt to form the 1st U.S. Volunteer Cavalry Regiment – the “Rough Riders.” Following McKinley’s assassination, Congress tasks the U.S. Secret Service with protecting the president.

1939: At the controls of his Vought-Sikorsky VS-300 prototype, Igor Sikorsky makes a 10-second tethered flight – the first successful flight of a single main rotor, single tail rotor helicopter.

1942: The 7th Marine Regiment departs Espiritu Santo to join the battle at Guadalcanal. Among the men are Sgts. John Basilone and Mitchell Paige – who both earn the Medal of Honor at Guadalcanal – and Marine legend Lt. Col. Lewis “Chesty” Puller.

1943: After a devastating German counterattack, over 2,000 paratroopers of the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment jump into action at the beachhead at Salerno, Italy. Together with Naval gun battery support, every available bomber is summoned to Salerno and the German attack is devastated. Gen. Mark Clark’s invasion, once in danger of being driven into the sea, is back on the offensive.

1944: Underwater Demolition Teams have cleared obstacles and Naval bombardment continues on the eve of the 1st Marine Division’s landing at Peleliu. Maj. Gen. William Rupertus predicts that his Marines can secure the small island in just four days, but over 10,000 fortified Japanese defenders are prepared to dish out what will become “the bitterest battle of the war for the Marines.”

2001: Congress passes the Authorization for Use of Military Force, granting President George W. Bush the ability to use all “necessary and appropriate force” against those who “planned, authorized, committed or aided” the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

The president authorizes the Pentagon to activate some 50,000 Reservists, and while touring Ground Zero, Bush proclaims “the people that knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon.”

Posted on September 14, 2017 at 09:12 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
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16 years ago: ‘the people that knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon’

Posted on September 14, 2017 at 08:59 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
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Sept. 12 in U.S. military history

An engraving of Brevet 2nd Lt. Ulysses S. Grant in 1843

1847: “From the halls of Montezuma…” Gen. Winfield Scott’s army of Marines and soldiers begin their attack on the castle Chapultepec, sitting 200 feet above in Mexico City. During the battle, 90 percent of Marine commissioned and non-commissioned officers are killed by snipers, memorialized by the “blood stripe” on the Marine Corps’ Dress Blue trousers. Participating in the engagement are many young officers – such as Ulysses S. Grant, Robert E. Lee, and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson – who will face each other in the Civil War.

1918: The Battle of Saint-Mihiel, the first and only U.S.-led and executed operation of World War I, begins when Gen. John J. Pershing’s American Expeditionary Force attacks Gen. Johannes Georg von der Marwitz’ Imperial German Army forces. The coordinated assault of artillery, tanks (commanded by Lt. Col. George Patton), and aircraft devastates the German lines and in just three days, over 22,000 Germans are killed, wounded, or captured.

1942: 5,000 Japanese soldiers, supported by aircraft and naval artillery, begin a series of nighttime frontal assaults against the Marines defending Guadalcanal’s Henderson Field. The defenders, many of whom are mostly members of the elite 1st Raider and 1st Parachute Battalions, devastate Maj. Gen. Kiyotake Kawaguchi’s force, despite nearly being overrun and resorting to hand-to-hand combat.

The Battle of Edson’s Ridge is named after the Col. Merrit A. Edson, the commanding officer of the 1st Raider Battalion, who “was all over the place, encouraging, cajoling, and correcting as he continually exposed himself to enemy fire.” For his actions during the battle, Edson was awarded the Medal of Honor.

1945: Marine aviators of VMF-214 – the famed “Black Sheep Squadron” – are reunited with Col. Gregory “Pappy” Boyington at Naval Air Station Alameda following their former commanding officer’s release after spending 20 months in captivity as a Japanese prisoner of war. After the reunion, Boyington heads for Washington, where he is to be awarded both the Medal of Honor and Navy Cross.

Posted on September 12, 2017 at 10:00 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
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Sept. 11 in U.S. military history

The Pentagon following the 9/11 attacks

1776: After the British capture Long Island, Continental Congressional delegates Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and Edward Rutledge meet with British Adm. Lord Richard Howe for a peace conference at Staten Island. Hoping to bring a quick end to the conflict, King George granted Howe the authority to discuss peace terms, but not including the recognition of American independence. When Howe states that the loss of America would be like losing a brother, Franklin replies that “we will do our utmost endeavors to save your lordship that mortification.”

1814: New York is saved from a possible invasion by British forces when Commodore Thomas MacDonough’s squadron decisively defeats the British fleet led by Capt. George Downie in the Battle of Plattsburgh.

2001: As air controllers learn that several planes appear to have been hijacked, fighter jets are scrambled but do not arrive in time to disrupt a complex terrorist attack that kills 2,997 Americans and injures some 6,000. At 9:37a.m., a Boeing 757 flown by Al Qaeda terrorists slams into the Pentagon, killing 55 military personnel and 70 civilian employees. The area hit by the plane was undergoing renovations at the time of the attack, which meant only a few hundred of what would normally be around 5,000 occupants were endangered. Structural reinforcements and a sprinkler system had recently been added – in response to the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing – which increased survivability.

Although it is too late for the Pentagon, all U.S. military facilities worldwide are ordered to enter Force Protection Condition “Delta” – the highest level of readiness for a possible terrorist attack. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld increases the military alert level from DEFCON 5 (the lowest state of military preparedness) to DEFCON 3. Although the Russians would typically match the increase, President Vladimir Putin notifies George W. Bush that he would order his forces to stand down and denounces the terrorist attack. A report of a possible truck bomb attack targeting the North American Aerospace Command (NORAD) headquarters in the Cheyenne Mountain Complex leads to the first time the facility closes its massive blast doors, which are designed to withstand a nuclear attack. NORAD now controls of all American air space as combat air patrols guarded the skies and enforced a nationwide no-fly-zone.

2012: Terrorists launch a coordinated assault on a U.S. government compound in Benghazi, Libya. Although the battle rages for hours, the military isn’t permitted to mount any kind of effective response. Two CIA contractors – Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods – are killed, as well as foreign service officer Sean Smith and Ambassador Chris Stevens.

Posted on September 11, 2017 at 09:25 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
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Sept. 8 in U.S. military history

Marine Raiders in Bougainville, January 1944. (AP Photo)

1740: Some 800 volunteers from the American colonies board transports to take part in the disastrous British/American colonial expedition to capture the Spanish territory of Cartagena (modern-day Colombia).

1781: 2,000 Continental soldiers commanded by Maj. Gen. Nathanael Greene meet with Lt. Col. Alexander Stewart’s 2,200-man force of British troops near present-day Eutawville, S.C.. Although both sides claim victory in the Battle of Eutaw Springs, the British must abandon much of their previously gained ground in the south.

1863: When the Union attempts an amphibious invasion in Texas to prevent the Mexican government from supplying the Confederacy, well-trained artillerymen at Fort Griffin blast the Union ships as they unsuccessfully attempt to navigate the shallow waters of the Sabine River. Two gunboats are captured and the Union suffers 200 casualties in one of the most one-sided engagements of the Civil War.

1925: As Destroyer Squadron 11 cruises from San Francisco to San Diego, several ships run aground at Honda Point. Unusually strong swells and currents from a massive earthquake in Japan, together with darkness and fog contribute to the largest loss of U.S. Navy ships during peacetime. Seven destroyers are destroyed, another two damaged, and 23 sailors die.

1939: Just days after Germany invades Poland, kicking off what will become World War II, President Franklin Roosevelt declares a national emergency – increasing the size of the Armed Forces – in part by recalling many retired enlisted troops and officers.

1942: The 1st Raider Battalion lands on Guadalcanal and begins operations to disrupt the Japanese advance by attacking supplies and a radio tower, despite orders to avoid contact.

1943: When Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower publicly announces Italy’s surrender, the Nazis invade, beginning a bloody campaign to disarm their former ally and prevent Italy from falling into Allied hands. The next day, eight divisions of U.S. and British soldiers land at Salerno.

1945: U.S. troops land at Inchon to establish a military transitional government and to prevent further Soviet expansion in Korea. A month earlier, the Soviet Union violated an agreement not to declare war on Japan and had invaded Japanese-held Korea. Following Japan’s surrender, the new country was split at the 38th Parallel with the Russians administering the north and the Americans, the south. Five years later, North Korea will invade the South, once both superpowers have left the peninsula, to reunite Korea under the flag of communism.

Posted on September 8, 2017 at 08:57 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
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Sept. 7 in U.S. military history

F-22A Raptor

1776: Sgt. Ezra Lee silently makes his way down the Hudson River in an 8-ft. long submersible named Turtle towards British Adm. Richard Howe’s flagship, HMS Eagle, anchored just south of Manhattan. Turning two hand cranks for propulsion, Lee reaches the ship but is unable to drill into the hull in order to attach a “torpedo.” While Lee’s attack is unsuccessful, the craft designed by inventor David Bushnell marks the first-ever submarine attack.

1864: As he prepares for his March to the Sea, Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman orders an evacuation of Atlanta. When the mayor protests, Sherman replies with “War is cruelty and you cannot refine it.” Government and military facilities are destroyed, and the Union provides transportation south for the displaced residents.

1903: During a period of unrest, Marines from USS Brooklyn (ACR-3) land at Beirut (modern-day Lebanon) to protect U.S. citizens and the American University.

1940: 1,200 German bombers and escorts depart airfields in France and cross into English airspace. Instead of targeting Royal Air Force bases, the warplanes hit London’s East End, marking the first day of the London Blitz. For 57 straight days, the Luftwaffe hits the English capital, killing over 40,000 but the German air crews are unable to cripple England’s war production or break the will of its people, and Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring will call off the campaign in 1941.

1942: Japan suffers its first setback of World War II when a battalion of elite Special Naval Landing Forces are forced to withdraw following their defeat by a numerically superior joint Australian-U.S. defense force at New Guinea’s Milne Bay.

1950: After a month of combat, the 1st Marine Brigade (Provisional) is pulled from the lines and sent to Japan to join the 1st and 7th Marine Regiments for the upcoming amphibious invasion at Inchon.

1997: Lockheed Martin’s F-22 “Raptor”, a fifth-generation stealth fighter billed as unmatched by “any known or projected fighter aircraft,” makes its first flight. Only 187 of the $150 million Raptors are built before production ends.

2001: Four days before the 9/11 attacks, the State Department issues a warning to U.S. citizens worldwide of a possible “terrorist threat” from “extremist groups with links to Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda organization.”

Posted on September 7, 2017 at 08:03 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
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Sept. 6 in U.S. military history

Mahmoud Abbas, seen here with President Barack Obama, financed the 1972 Munich Massacre

1918: U.S. Navy railroad artillery crews conduct their first attack – a German rail center in Tergnier. The five massive 14″/50cal Mark 4 guns, normally mounted to a battleship, are transported by train and can hit targets well over 20 miles downrange.

1972: During the Olympic Games in Munich, Germany, Palestinian terrorists storm the apartment housing Israeli athletes, killing two and taking nine hostage. The terrorists demand the release of over 200 Israeli-held Palestinian prisoners, but the Israelis refuse to negotiate. Five terrorists – and all hostages – are killed when German police attempt to ambush the kidnappers at the airport as they attempted to fly to Cairo. The operation was financed by Mahmoud Abbas, who today serves as the chairman for the Palestinian Authority.

1976: Soviet Air Force pilot Lt. Viktor Belenko lands his brand-new MiG-25P “Foxbat” at Hakodate Airport in Japan and asks for political asylum in the United States. His request is granted and American officials begin analyzing what was believed to be at the time as perhaps the world’s most advanced fighter. However, they learn that intelligence vastly overestimated the capabilities of the Foxbat. The fighter is returned to the Soviet Union in pieces.

Posted on September 6, 2017 at 16:41 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: Military History