July 19 in U.S. military history: Morgan’s Raid, and the end of the Happy Times

[Originally published at Opslens.com]

1779: 1,000 Continental Marines and militiamen, including a 100-man artillery detachment commanded by Paul Revere, depart Boston, sailing to attack the British at Fort George (present-day Castine, Maine). The 44-ship Penobscot Expedition – the largest naval expedition of the Revolutionary War – proves to be a disastrous defeat for the Americans, as every vessel is either destroyed or captured by the British, and survivors of the failed attack must find their way back to Massachusetts with little to no supplies.

1863: The Confederate Army’s “Great Raid of 1863” is dealt a serious blow in Ohio, where Union gunboats and pursuing cavalry attack Brig. Gen. John H. Morgan’s handpicked cavalry force as they attempt to cross the swollen Ohio River. After covering some 1,000 miles in Northern territory, capturing and paroling some 6,000 Union soldiers, seizing supplies, destroying railroads and bridges, and spreading terror throughout the North, Morgan’s weary force is trapped and hundreds are captured. Within days, most of the raiders are taken prisoner, including Morgan, who is sent to the Ohio State Penitentiary. But in November, Morgan and several of his officers will tunnel out of the prison and escape to safety.

1942: Adm. Karl Dönitz orders his U-boats to abandon their hunting grounds off the American coast; the institution of anti-submarine countermeasures, such as the convoy system, has put an end to the easy pickings of what German submariners referred to as the “Happy Time.”

1943: As the Allies march across Sicily, over 500 American bombers conduct a daylight bombing raid on Rome, the first time the Italian capital is targeted. Prime Minister Benito Mussolini, with his army on the brink of collapse, will be removed from power and arrested within a week.

1953: Just days before the armistice ends combat between the United States and North Korea, Air Force Lt. Col. Vermont Garrison scores his 10th kill of the war, becoming a “double ace.” Garrison flew for both Britain’s Royal Air Force and the U.S. Army Air Force during World War II, with 7 victories in Europe. When war breaks out in Vietnam, the 51-year-old “Grey Eagle” will command the 405th Fighter Wing, flying 97 combat missions over Laos and Vietnam.

1963: NASA test pilot – and former Army Air Forces pilot during World War II – Joseph A. Walker flies his North American “X-15” aircraft to an altitude of 66 miles, becoming the first civilian to fly in space.

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June 28 in U.S. military history

1776: The unfinished American garrison guarding Charleston harbor comes under attack by nine British ships under the command of Adm. Sir Peter Parker. The British attack the fort for 12-plus hours, but their cannonballs are no match for the palmetto log defenses of Fort Sullivan. In what has been described as the “first decisive victory of American forces over the British Navy” during the American Revolution, Col. William Moultrie and his South Carolina militiamen inflict heavy casualties on the Royal Navy forces and repel the assault.

1778: The Battle of Monmouth, N.J. is fought between Gen. George Washington’s Continental Army (including the legendary Molly Pitcher) and British forces under Gen. Sir Henry Clinton. Though tactically inconclusive, the battle is a strategic victory for the Americans who prove they can go toe-to-toe with the British Army in a large pitched battle.

1814: 200 miles west of Plymouth, England, the sloop-of-war USS Wasp – the fifth of ten so-named vessels – engages HMS Reindeer. After 19 minutes of intense fire, with the Americans repulsing numerous attempts by the British to board their vessel, Master Commandant Johnston Blakely and his men devastate the British crew, killing the ship’s captain, Commander William Manners, and 24 others. Reindeer is boarded, but is too heavily damaged to be taken as a prize and is burned.

1914: Austrian Archduke Francis Ferdinand and his wife are assassinated by a Bosnian Serb. One month later, Austria-Hungary will declare war on Serbia, triggering World War I.

1919: Following six months of negotiations, the Treaty of Versailles is finally signed, formally ending World War I five years to the day after the event that triggered the conflict. The armistice of November 11, 1918 put an end to hostilities, but a state of war remained until the treaty. Germany is devastated – disarmed and forced to pay $31 billion in reparations (roughly the equivalent to nearly half a trillion dollars in 2017 dollars).

The U.S. Senate will not ratify a peace treaty with Germany until 1921. The “Carthaginian Peace” brought about by the Versailles Treaty will annihilate the German economy, leading to the rise of the Nazi Party – and ultimately World War II.

1950: As the South Korean capital of Seoul falls to the North Koreans, the first American combat forces – a 35-man anti-aircraft artillery unit – arrive in Korea. Gen. Douglas MacArthur, the newly appointed Commander of United Nations forces, also arrives in theater.

Posted on June 28, 2017 at 08:04 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
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June 16 in U.S. military history

Saddam Hussein’s presidential secretary Abid Hamid Mahmud al-Tikriti, the “Ace of Diamonds” from the military’s deck of playing cards featuring the 55 most-wanted members of the Hussein regime. (Photo by the author)

1775: Under cover of darkness, a 1,200-man American force commanded by Col. William Prescott fortifies Breed’s Hill, overlooking Boston.

1861: 9,000 Federal troops led by Brig. Gen. Henry W. Benham attempt to capture Charleston, S.C. in the Battle of Secessionville. Although the Confederate defenders are heavily outnumbered, the marshy terrain and fortifications spell disaster for Union. The problematic Benham had moved without orders, and is court-martialed following the battle.

1943: 94 Japanese warplanes set out to raid the Allied invasion force before it reaches the island of New Georgia in the Solomon Islands. American aircraft operating out of Guadalcanal’s Henderson Field splash 93 out of 94 Japanese warplanes, while losing only six planes. Two tank landing ships are beached and only one cargo ship is damaged.

1944: One day after landing on Saipan, Marines repel Japanese counterattacks and capture Afetna Point and the town of Charan Karoa, linking the beachheads. Meanwhile, soldiers of the 27th Infantry Division come ashore and move to take Aslito airfield.

Across the Philippine Sea, American battleships shell targets at Guam in preparation for the invasion. However, the landings are postponed as the Japanese fleet is steaming for the Marianas with hopes of finally crushing the American fleet in a decisive battle.

1959: North Korean MiG 17s attack a Martin P4M “Mercator” reconnaissance aircraft in international waters, injuring the tail gunner and forcing the Navy spy plane to perform an emergency landing in Japan.

1965: Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara announces that in addition to the Marines and paratroopers of the 173rd Airborne Brigade recently deployed, the United States will send 21,000 more troops to Vietnam. McNamara also acknowledges that the military knew North Vietnam had been sending soldiers into South Vietnam prior to launching Operation Rolling Thunder, the politically managed bombing campaign on the North.

1992: After the first day of a summit in Washington, President George H.W. Bush and Russian president Boris Yeltsin announce that they have agreed to cut their countries’ nuclear arsenals by two-thirds.

2003: Delta Force operators, along with British Special Air Service commandos, capture Lt. Gen. Abid Hamid Mahmud al-Tikriti – Saddam Hussein’s right hand man. Mahmud was the fourth-most wanted man in Iraq, after Saddam and his sons Uday and Qusay,

Posted on June 16, 2017 at 09:02 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
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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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May 12 in U.S. military history

Air Force security police volunteers aboard the CH-53 helicopter “Knife 13” which crashed while enroute to the Mayaguez operation, killing the 18 SP’s and the five-man crew

1780: Gen. Benjamin Lincoln, commanding American forces at Charleston, S.C., surrenders to Gen. Sir Henry Clinton after a six-week siege. Although the fall of Charleston and capture of thousands of Continental Army soldiers is the largest setback of the war for the Americans, British operations in the Southern colonies will quickly prove to be the undoing of the king’s men in North America.

1864: Gen. Ulysses S. Grant orders his forces to assault the Confederate salient known as the “Mule Shoe” during the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House. 15,000 Union soldiers break through, but Gen. Robert E. Lee quickly plugs the gaps and the Confederates counterattack. Over the next 20 hours, the two sides engage in intense close combat – much of it hand-to-hand. The carnage at “Bloody Angle” is some of the most brutal fighting of the Civil War with 9,000 Union and 8,000 Confederate casualties in just one day.

1865: Although President Andrew Johnson proclaimed an end to the Civil War three days ago, a Union force led by Col. John S. Ford attacks Confederate forces in the Battle of Palmito Ranch, near Brownsville, Tex. The Confederates repulse the attack, killing four of the attacking Union soldiers and capturing over 100, at the cost of only a handful of wounded and captured themselves. The one-sided engagement is the last encounter between organized Union and Confederate troops in the war. (more…)

Posted on May 12, 2017 at 09:25 by Chris Carter · Permalink · One Comment
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Apr. 21 in U.S. military history

An AU-1 Corsair, similar in appearance to the F4U-F fighter that Capt. DeLong used to knock out two Yaks and damage a third in 1951.

1777: British Army forces commanded by Gen. William Tryon begin burning the village of Danbury, Conn. Much of the town is destroyed before Continental forces can arrive several days later.

1836: Texas Army forces led by Gen. Sam Houston surprise and decisively defeat Gen. Antonio López de Santa Anna’s Mexican army in the Battle of San Jacinto. In 18 minutes, some 650 Mexicans lay dead while less than a dozen Texans are killed. The Mexican army surrenders and Texas secures its independence. Santa Anna is captured – hiding and dressed as a common soldier – the following day.

1898: Spain severs diplomatic relations with the United States and Pres. William McKinley orders the Naval blockade of Cuba, putting the United States on a war footing with Spain. The following day, the gunboat USS Nashville (PG-7) fires the first official shots of the war.

1940: U.S. Army Capt. Robert M. Losey becomes the first American casualty of World War II when he is killed by German bombing raid on a rail yard in Norway. Losey was attempting to evacuate U.S. personnel in the wake of the German invasion. Luftwaffe commander Hermann Göring would apologize for the incident.

1951: Two Marine Corps aviators, including World War II ace Capt. Phillip DeLong from the USS Bataan (CVL-29) splash three Yak fighters and damage another in the first dogfight with North Korean pilots.

[Originally published at OpsLens.com]

“I have not yet begun to fight!”

The USS Bonhomme Richard and HMS Serapis

From W. Thomas Smith, Jr.’s “This Week in American Military History” article in Human Events:

Sept. 23, 1779: The famous battle of the North Sea opens between Continental Navy frigate Bonhomme Richard under the command of Capt. John Paul Jones​, and Royal Navy frigate HMS Serapis.

During the height of the fighting, Serapis’ Captain Richard Pearson issues an appeal to Jones that the American ship surrender. Jones refuses.

According to the story, the British captain – aware that Bonhomme Richard is badly damaged and sinking – shouts across the water between the two dueling ships, inquiring as to whether or not Jones has lowered or struck his colors. Jones shouts back, “I have not yet begun to fight!”

It has since been widely reported that Jones reply was, “I may sink, but I’ll be damned if I strike!”

In fact, Bonhomme Richard does sink: But not before Pearson himself surrenders (believed to be “the first time in naval history that colors are surrendered to a sinking ship”), and Jones transfers his flag to his newly captured prize, Serapis.

The American fleet sailed the Dutch port of Texel Roads, but Jones had to transfer the entire fleet – minus the USS Alliance – to the French due to political pressure. Jones may have lost his fleet, but his remarkable victory would earn him the title “the Father of the American Navy.”

Posted on September 20, 2011 at 14:10 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
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Sgt. William Jasper

Charleston, 28 June 1776 By H. Charles McBarron (Source: U.S. Army Center of Military History)

From the U.S. Army Center of Military History:

In June 1776 British Admiral Peter Parker ‘s fleet, loaded with troops commanded by General Henry Clinton, made an appearance off Charleston, South Carolina. The city, feverishly preparing for an attack, had partially completed Fort Sullivan, Charleston’s key defense position. The 30-gun fort on Sullivan’s Island was hastily constructed from the moat abundant materials available, palmetto logs and sand. The garrison, commanded by Colonel William Moultrie, contained over 400 men including 22 artillerists and the 2d South Carolina Provincial Regiment.

Because of a sand bar the British delayed their attack on Charleston until 28 June 1775 while they lightened ship. Clinton’s 2,000 British soldiers, landing on adjacent Long Island, were unable to cross an estuary to join in the attack. The fleet began its bombardment at a range of about 400 yards. Low on powder, Moultrie directed his men to fire slowly and accurately in reply.

During the engagement a shell struck the flagpole, and the blue South Carolina banner fell outside the fort. Sergeant William Jasper retrieved it and, oblivious to British fire, secured the flag to a makeshift staff.

The falling shells, absorbed by the soft palmetto loge and sand, caused little damage to the fort and few casualties. Even shells that did enter the fort buried themselves in the swampy parade ground. The wooden frigates on the other hand were riddled with shot. One explosion blew away Sir Peter Parker’s breeches.

Finally, after more than ten hours of firing, the British fleet withdrew and several weeks later sailed for New York. For three years following the defeat at Charleston the British were to leave the South unmolested and the Southern Tories, who were undoubtedly numerous, without succor.

Posted on May 3, 2010 at 11:44 by Chris Carter · Permalink · 2 Comments
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This Week in American Military History

From W. Thomas Smith, Jr.’s series at Human Events:

Mar. 8, 1965: The lead elements of 3rd Battalion, 9th Marines begin coming ashore at Da Nang, South Vietnam. Within hours, 1st Battalion, 3rd Marines will arrive aboard transport aircraft at the nearby airbase. The Marines of 3/9 and 1/3 – both part of the 9th Marine Expeditionary Brigade – are the first of America’s ground-combat forces destined for offensive operations against the enemy in Southeast Asia, once again putting teeth in the Marine Corps’ claim that it is “first to fight.”

Mar. 9, 1847: Thousands of American soldiers and a company-sized force of Marines (though referred to as a battalion) under the overall command of U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Winfield Scott and “Home Squadron” Commodore David E. Conner begin landing at Collado Beach, Mexico, just south of Vera Cruz.

In what will prove to be “a model” for future amphibious operations, the landings are unprecedented: The largest American amphibious operation to date, conducted in less than five hours without a single loss of life.

A portion of Conner’s dispatch to the Secretary of the Navy reads:

“Gen. Scott has now with him upwards of 11,000 men. At his request, I permitted the Marines of the squadron, under Capt. [Alvin] Edson, to join him, as a part of the 3rd Regiment of artillery. The general-in-chief landed this morning, and the army put itself in motion at an early hour, to form its lines around the city. There has been some distant firing of shot and shells from the town and castle upon the troops as they advanced, but without result.”

Though the landings are bloodless, grim fighting will continue in the Mexican-American War.
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