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Today in U.S. military history: The first air strikes of Operation DESERT STORM

Today’s post is in honor of Lt. Cmdr. Michael Scott Speicher, a Naval F/A-18 aviator who was shot down by an Iraqi MiG on this day in 1991, becoming the first American casualty of Operation DESERT STORM. For years the fate of the 33-year-old from Kansas City, Mo. was unknown until Marines managed to track down his remains in 2009, which had been buried by Bedouins after being shot down 100 miles west of Baghdad. Speicher served with Strike Fighter Squadron 81 (VFA-18), the “Sunliners,” flying out of USS Saratoga (CV-60).


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.

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Dec. 12 in military history

Today’s post is in honor of Sgt. Jarrod W. Black, who was killed by an improvised explosive device on this day in 2003 in Ramadi, Iraq. Black, 26, of Peru, Ind. was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 34th Armor Regiment.


1753: 21-year-old Virginia adjutant George Washington delivers an ultimatum for French forces to abandon Fort Le Boeuf (present-day Waterford, Penn.) as they were trespassing on British territory. Lt. Christopher Gist, Washington’s guide, would save the future president’s life twice during their trip through the Ohio Country.

1770: Six British soldiers charged with murder for their role in the Boston Massacre are acquitted thanks to their counselor, future president John Adams. He argued that they were endangered by the mob and had the right to defend themselves. Of the eight soldiers and one officer to stand trial (Capt. Thomas Preston had been acquitted in October), two are found guilty of manslaughter and are branded on the thumb.

“Judgment of Death against those Soldiers would have been as foul a Stain upon this Country as the Executions of the Quakers or Witches, anciently,” Adams wrote. “As the Evidence was, the Verdict of the Jury was exactly right. This however is no Reason why the Town should not call the Action of that Night a Massacre, nor is it any Argument in favour of the Governor or Minister, who caused them to be sent here. But it is the strongest Proofs of the Danger of Standing Armies.”

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Nov. 2: Today in U.S. military history

Today’s post is in honor of Sgt. 1st Class Johnny C. Walls, who died of wounds sustained from small-arms fire in Uruzgan, Afghanistan on this date in 2007. Walls, 41, of Bremerton, Wash., was assigned to 1st Brigade, 1st Infantry Division and had previously deployed to Iraq in 2003.


1783: Gen. George Washington​ delivers his “Farewell Address to the Army” near Princeton, N.J., in which he refers to the Continental Army as “one patriotic band of brothers.”

1861: Pres. Abraham Lincoln removes Union Gen. John C. Fremont as commander of the Western Department, following Fremont’s unilateral decision to declare martial law in the border state of Missouri and thus freeing all slaves.

1943: One day after the 3rd Marine Division lands at Bougainville, the cruisers and destroyers of Admiral Aaron S. “Tip” Merrill’s Task Force 39 defeat Japanese naval forces attempting to attack the landing force in the Battle of Empress Bay. Two Japanese ships are sent to the bottom, with numerous enemy warships receiving heavy damage.

(Featured image) Meanwhile, in the skies over the nearby Japanese fortress of Rabaul, Maj. Raymond H. Wilkins, Commander of the Army Air Corps’ 8th Bombing Squadron, led an attack against Japanese-held Rabaul. His bombs destroyed an enemy transport and destroyer, and although his plane was badly damaged and his bombs expended, Wilkins strafed a Japanese cruiser, sacrificing himself by drawing their fire so his fellow pilots could escape the deadly air defenses. The raid sinks 30 of the 38 Japanese vessels anchored at Rabaul, and Wilkins will posthumously be awarded the Medal of Honor.

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Oct. 19: Today in U.S. military history

Today’s post is in honor of Pvt. Edwardo J. Lopez, who was killed in action in Asad, Iraq on this day in 2006. The 21-year-old native of Aurora, Ill. was assigned to the 2d Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force.


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.

The National Naval Aviation Museum calls the TDR assault drone, pictured here during World War II, “the world’s first legitimate cruise missile”

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Sept. 26: Today in military history

[Originally published at OpsLens.com]

Today’s post is in honor of Sgt. Howard Paul Allen, who gave his life for our country on this date in 2005. The 31-year-old native of Mesa, Ariz. was participating in a search-and-rescue mission in Baghdad when his vehicle was hit by an improvised explosive device. Allen had enlisted with the Navy before re-enlisting in the Arizona National Guard. He was serving with the 860th Military Police Company.


1777: Gen. Sir William Howe outmaneuvers Gen. George Washington’s Continental Army and takes the American capital of Philadelphia. Historically, wars usually end when the capital city falls into enemy hands, but the American Revolution will continue for another six years.

1918: Though technically launched just before midnight on Sept. 25 with an intense artillery barrage, the Meuse-Argonne Offensive – the six-week long “greatest battle of World War I in which the Americans participated” – officially begins just before dawn when whistles are blown along the American trench-lines, and with fixed-bayonets, American soldiers climb over the top and begin their assault against the German lines. On this day alone, the Army awards eight soldiers with the Medal of Honor.

The battle, which begins with approximately 600,000 American soldiers and Marines, will see U.S. ranks swell to more than one million men. 26,277 Americans will be killed, another 95,786 wounded. But the campaign will end the war.

Meanwhile off the coast of Great Britain, a German U-boat sinks the Coast Guard cutter Tampa on convoy escort duty. Tampa takes 119 Coast Guardsmen and Navy sailors and 11 Royal Navy passengers with her to the bottom of the Bristol Channel – the greatest combat-related loss of life at sea for the Americans during World War I.

And in the skies, American pilots will shoot down 74 German aircraft and 15 balloons over the next six days.

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Sept. 25: Today in military history

[Originally published at OpsLens.com]

Today’s post is in honor of U.S. Army 1st Lt. Andres Zermeno, who gave his life for our country on this date in 2011. The 26-year-old native of San Antonio died of wounds received from a rocket-propelled grenade attack on his unit in Afghanistan’s Wardak province. He was serving with the 2nd Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division.


1775: A small force of American and Canadian militia led by Ethan Allen attempts to capture the British-held city of Montreal. British Gen. Guy Carleton quickly gathers a force of British regulars and Canadian militia, scattering Allen’s troops and capturing the hero of Fort Ticonderoga and former commander of Vermont’s famed “Green Mountain Boys.” Allen will remain a prisoner in England until his exchange in 1778.

That same day, Col. Benedict Arnold sets out with 1,000 men on a poorly planned expedition to Quebec. The trip takes far longer than anticipated, forcing the men to eat their shoes and other leather equipment to survive, and they are soundly defeated by the British once the weakened force reaches their objective in December.

1918: Former Indianapolis 500 driver – now Captain and commander of the Army Air Corps’ 94th “Hat in the Ring” Aero Squadron – Eddie Rickenbacker becomes a double ace, singlehandedly attacking a flight of seven German warplanes and downing two. For his actions on this day, he will receive one of his nine Distinguished Service Crosses – later upgraded to the Medal of Honor. Rickenbacker’s 26 aerial victories by war’s end marks the most by any U.S. fighter pilot during World War I.

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Sept. 24: Today in military history

[Originally published at OpsLens.com]

Today’s post is in honor of Army Specialist Joseph V. White, who gave his life for our country on this date in 2009. The 21-year-old native of Bellevue, Wa. was one of three soldiers killed when their vehicle was hit by an improvised explosive device. White was serving in the 4th Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, 5th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2d Infantry Division.


1780: Maj. Gen. Benedict Arnold learns that British spy Maj. John André has been captured, along with the evidence that would expose Arnold’s secret plot to turn West Point over to the British. He flees to the nearby sloop HMS Vulture, which carries him to New York. Gen. George Washington suggests a prisoner exchange: André for Arnold, but Gen. Henry Clinton refused. André is hanged and Arnold is commissioned as a brigadier general.

1918: U.S. Navy Ensign (future rear admiral) David S. Ingalls – on loan to the Royal Air Force and flying an RAF Sopwith Camel – shoots down enemy aircraft number five, becoming the first ace in U.S. Naval Aviation history, and the Navy’s only ace of World War I. Over the course of the war Ingalls is awarded the Distinguished Service Cross from the United States, a Distinguished Flying Cross from Britain, and made a member of the French Foreign Legion. When America enters World War II, he rejoins the Navy and will command the Naval Air Station at Pearl Harbor.

1929: Lt. James L. “Jimmy” Doolittle boards his Consolidated NY-2 Husky at Long Island’s Mitchel Field and buttons himself in a completely blacked-out cockpit. He becomes the first pilot to take off, fly, and land “blind” – having to relying solely on the aircraft’s (newly developed) instruments.

1942: Navy and Marine Dauntless dive bombers take off from Guadalcanal’s Henderson Field and attack the Japanese destroyers Umikaze and Kawakaze, which are attempting a “Tokyo Express” resupply mission. The convoy has to turn back, and Umikaze is so damaged that she has to be towed to Truk for repairs.

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Sept. 20: Today in military history

[Originally published at OpsLens.com]

Today’s post is in honor of Marine Sgt. Foster L. Harrington, who gave his life for our country on this day in 2003. Harrington, a 31-year-old native of Ft. Worth, Tex., was killed by enemy action in Iraq’s Anbar province. He was serving with the 3rd Force Reconnaissance Company, 4th Marine Division, Marine Corps Reserve.


1777: British Maj. Gen. Charles Grey launches a daring nighttime attack on Brig. Gen. Anthony Wayne’s Continental Army forces encamped near the Paoli Tavern near modern-day Malvern, Pa.. Grey orders his troops to only use bayonets, and has his men remove the flints from their rifles. The Redcoats catch the Americans completely by surprise, routing an entire division while only suffering 11 British casualties.

1797: (Featured image) The Continental Navy frigate Constitution is launched in Boston harbor. 220 years later, USS Constitution – known affectionately as “Old Ironsides” – is the “oldest ship in the American Navy,” and continues serving in the 21st century as a duly commissioned ship crewed by active-duty U.S. sailors and Naval officers in order to further public awareness of American Naval tradition.

1917: The 26th Infantry Division arrives at Saint-Nazaire, France, becoming the first division entirely organized in the United States to arrive in Europe for World War I. The National Guard soldiers immediately travel to Neufchâteau, where they are trained by experienced French soldiers. The “Yankee” Division will spend 210 days in combat, with 1,587 killed in action and another 12,077 soldiers wounded.

1944: Just three days after landing, the 81st Infantry Division has eliminated most of the Japanese garrison on the island of Angaur. Once the island is secured, the 81st will join the 1st Marine Division in the bloody battle on Peleliu, only seven miles away.

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