Posted in Military History

Today in U.S. military history: an airborne rendezvous with history

Pvt. Pvt. Clarence C. Ware (San Pedro, Calif.) applies war paint to Pvt. Charles R. Plaudo, (Minneapolis, Minn.) on the eve of the Normandy Invasion. These men are from the demolition section of the 101st Airborne Division’s 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment — the “Filthy 13” — which inspired the 1967 film The Dirty Dozen.

1777: A force of militiamen from New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Vermont – led by Gen. John Stark – clash with a detachment of British General John Burgoyne’s army in the Battle of Bennington (near present-day Bennington, Vt.). The Americans rout the British, and the amount of supplies captured during the engagement leads to Burgoyne’s forthcoming defeat at Saratoga – which convinces the French to join the war.

1780: Following his successful campaign in the south, Lord Cornwallis engages Gen. Horatio Gates’ force in Camden, S.C.. The Americans are annihilated, taking nearly 2,000 casualties in just one hour. The infamous cavalry commander Col. Banastre Tarleton wrote that “rout and slaughter ensued in every quarter.” Gates’ defeat is so severe that the “Hero of Saratoga” will never again command troops in battle.

1918: 600 miles north of Moscow, American troops (Along with British, Australian, Canadian, and French allies) assist in capturing Archangel from Vladimir Lenin’s Bolshevik forces. The war will end before the “Polar Bear Brigade” can reach the rear of the German lines and some 200 Americans never return from the little-known Russian expedition.

1940: Happy National Airborne Day! At Fort Benning, Ga., Brig. Gen. William C. Lee and 48 volunteers from the 27th Infantry Regiment perform the Army’s first official parachute jump, demonstrating the use of airplanes to drop soldiers behind enemy lines. It will be two years before the U.S. military uses paratroopers in combat when the 509th Parachute Infantry Regiment jumps into North Africa.

Continue reading “Today in U.S. military history: an airborne rendezvous with history”