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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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6 October: Today in U.S. military history

Today’s post is in honor of Pfc. Giles W. Stallard, who was killed during a firefight in the Republic of Vietnam’s Long An province on this day in 1968. The 19-year-old Saltville, Va. native had only been in country for a month and was assigned to B Company, 2d Battalion, 60th Infantry Regiment, 9th Infantry Division.


1777: Near what will soon become the United States Military Academy (West Point, N.Y.), British troops simultaneously attack – and defeat – Continental forces at Forts Clinton and Montgomery, and also destroy the chain that had been placed across the Hudson River to prevent British ships from sailing upriver. The engagement is sometimes called the Battle of the Clintons since the British troops are led by Gen. Sir Henry Clinton, and the garrisons are led by Gens. (and brothers) James Clinton and George Clinton – who is also the governor or New York.

Despite being 34 years old, “Harvard Eddie” volunteered to fight in World War I. He is buried at the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery and Memorial in France.

1918: In the Argonne Forest, German forces have surrounded 500 American doughboys of the 77th “Metropolitan” Division under the command of Maj. Charles W. Whittlesey after the French and American units advancing on their flanks are held up. With no communication other than carrier pigeons and no other means to send supplies, 1st Lt. Harold E. “Dad” Goettler and 2nd Lt. Erwin R. Bleckley volunteer to fly through withering enemy fire to drop much-needed supplies to the Americans in a DH-4 Liberty Plane. On their second trip, both airmen are killed and are posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.

Also killed while attempting to locate the force is Capt. Eddie Grant, the former leadoff hitter and third baseman for the Philadelphia Phillies. Grant was one of the first baseball players to join the Armed Forces during World War I. All but 194 members of the Lost Battalion are killed, wounded, or captured, and five 77th Division soldiers – including Whittlesey – will earn the Medal of Honor during the six-day engagement.

1942: Five battalions of Marines, supported a group of scout snipers, cross Guadalcanal’s heavily defended Matanikau River and engage the Japanese. Col. Lewis B. “Chesty” Puller’s 1st Battalion, 7th Marines trap a Japanese battalion in a ravine, creating what he called a “machine for extermination,” annihilating the force with a deadly combination of heavy artillery, mortar fire, and small arms fire. The operation plays a major role in the American victory on Guadalcanal, when Japanese planners opt for an exhausting overland march for their major offensive against Lunga Point later in the month, instead of crossing the Matanikau.

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25 September: Today in U.S. military history

Today’s post is in honor of Staff Sgt. William E. Hill, who was killed on this day in 1965 during a sweep and clear mission in the Republic of Vietnam’s Quang Nam province. The 33-year-old Leesburg, Fla. native had served in the Marine Corps for 14 years and was one of four Marines killed when an estimated platoon-sized Viet Cong force detonated a land mine and then engaged the Americans with small-arms fire.


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 (featured image) 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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24 September: Today in U.S. military history

Today’s post is in honor of Army Sgt. Tyler N. Holtz, who was killed on this day in 2011 in Afghanistan’s Wardak province by enemy small-arms fire. The 22-year-old native of Dana Point, Calif. was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star and was serving his fourth tour in Afghanistan. Holtz was assigned to 2d Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment out of Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.


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. Continue reading “24 September: Today in U.S. military history”

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19 December: Today in U.S. military history

Today’s post is in honor of Pfc. Charles E. Bush Jr. who was killed by an improvised explosive device in Balad, Iraq on this day in 2003. Bush, a 43-year-old cook from Buffalo, N.Y., had volunteered for assignment as a door gunner with the 402d Civil Affairs Battalion, 354th Civil Affairs Brigade, 352nd Civil Affairs Command and was supposed to be home in time for Christmas.


1777: 18 miles northwest of Philadelphia, Gen. George Washington’s Continental Army establishes its winter camp at Valley Forge. 2,500 of the original force of 12,000 would not survive the winter thanks in part to harsh weather conditions, disease, supply shortages, and malnutrition. Over the winter, the Prussian drillmaster – later, Washington’s Chief of Staff – Baron Friedrich von Steuben drills the Americans, greatly increasing their combat effectiveness and morale.

1862: Confederate cavalry under Brig. Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest dismantle the Mobile and Ohio railroad tracks around Jackson, Tenn., delaying Union Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant’s drive to Vicksburg.

1941: After the Battle of Moscow, Adolf Hitler fires Field Marshall Walther von Brauchitsch, the commander-in-chief of Nazi Germany’s armed forces for their highly successful campaigns across most of Europe. Hitler appoints himself as von Brauchitsch’s replacement. Continue reading “19 December: Today in U.S. military history”