Featured image: This photograph was taken through the periscope of U.S. submarine USS Nautilus (SS-168) after sinking Japanese destroyer Yamakaze 60 miles from Yokosuka, Japan on this date in 1942.
1864: Fighting at Petersburg (Va.) has reached a stalemate and Lt. Col. Henry Pleasants comes up with an idea. Soldiers of the 48th Pennsylvania Regiment – mostly coal miners before the war – begin construction of a 500-foot long underground shaft. Once the soldier-miners reach enemy trench line on July 30, they detonate the gunpowder and blow a hole in the Rebel trenches, instantly killing nearly 300 Confederate troops. Unfortunately for the Yankees, they are unable to quickly exploit the breach and Brig. Gen. William Mahone seals the hole and defeats the Union assault.
1876: In southeastern Montana Territory, Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer’s 7th Cavalry Regiment squares off against thousands of allied Lakota and Cheyenne Indian warriors under the command of Crazy Horse and Chief Gall in the Battle of the Little Bighorn. The Americans are encircled and annihilated. Custer, his two brothers, a nephew, and a brother-in-law are among the 268 Americans killed in action.
“Custer’s Last Stand” is the greatest defeat for the Americans during the Great Plains War.
1942: Maj. Gen. Dwight Eisenhower arrives in London and is named Commander of U.S. Forces in Europe, despite having no combat experience in his 27-year career. Continue reading “This day in U.S. military history: Korean War launches and “Custer’s Last Stand””
[Featured image: “Chips,” a military police sentry dog with the 3rd Infantry Division, earned the Distinguished Service Cross, Silver Star, and Purple Heart during World War II. (U.S. Army photo)]
1865: Desperate for manpower on the front lines, the Confederate government approves enlisting and arming slaves. Although Gen. Robert E. Lee requested that slaves who fought should be granted freedom, the bill did not allow such a provision. A few thousand slaves would go on to fight for the Confederacy; over 200,000 blacks fought for the Union.
1942: The U.S. Army establishes the “K-9 Corps” – training dogs to serve in sentry, scout, messenger, and mine detection duties during World War II. The Quartermaster Corps puts the dogs through an 8-12 week basic training at camps across the United States, weeding out the animals who can’t handle the sound of gunfire or handle the military lifestyle. Starting with 32 acceptable breeds, the Army eventually cuts down the list to seven: German Shepherds, Doberman Pinschers, Belgian Sheep Dogs, Siberian huskies, farm collies, Eskimo dogs, and Malamutes.
Some even serve on the front lines. The Japanese are said to have never attacked a patrol accompanied by a war dog. A German Shepherd named “Chips” serving with a military police company on Sicily attacked a German pillbox, forcing the occupants to surrender. Wounded in his attack, Chips was awarded the Purple Heart and Silver Star.
Today’s post is in honor of Cpl. Nathan B. Carse, who was killed by an improvised explosive device on this day in 2011 in Afghanistan’s Kandahar province. The 32-year-old native of Harrod, Ohio was the son of a Green Beret and was assigned to 2d Engineer Battalion, 176th Engineer Brigade.
1862: A day after 10,000 soldiers under the command of Brig. Gen. Ambrose Burnside, supported by a flotilla of Union gunships, land at Roanoke Island (N.C.), the Confederates surrender the island’s four forts and two batteries. Federal forces now control a strategically significant section of the Atlantic coast, and coupled with Gen. Ulysses S. Grant’s victory at Fort Henry in Tennessee two days ago, Northerners finally have something to cheer about.
1910: William D. Boyce incorporates the Boy Scouts of America. Countless boys will cut their teeth as young adventurers in Boyce’s scouting program before joining the military. When sub commander Eugene Fluckey – one of nine Medal of Honor recipients to earn the Boy Scouts’ top distinction of Eagle Scout — assembled a landing party to go ashore and destroy a Japanese train, he wanted former Boy Scouts to do the job, since they would most likely have the skills to find their way there and back.
11 of the 12 humans to set foot on the moon were Boy Scout alumni; and Neil Armstrong — the first — was an Eagle Scout.
Today’s post is in honor of Sgt. Alejandro Carrillo, who was killed during combat operations on this day in 2007 in Iraq’s Anbar province. The 22-year-old from Los Angeles was on his second deployment to Iraq and was assigned to Combat Logistics Battalion 7, Combat Logistics Regiment 1, 1st Marine Logistics Group, I Marine Expeditionary Force.
1862: The U.S. Navy’s first ironclad ship, USS Monitor, is launched at Greenpoint, N.Y. Designed by Swedish engineer John Ericsson, the turreted gunship will make history in March when she trades shots with the Confederate ironclad Virginia (a vessel built from the previously scuttled USS Merrimac) in a duel that ends with a draw at Hampton Roads, Virginia.
1942: A formation of over 50 Japanese bombers target Singapore harbor — unprotected by either fighters or anti-aircraft guns. Among the enemy bombardiers’ targets is USS Wakefield, a former luxury ocean liner, until her conversion to a troop transport in 1941. Wakefield had just disembarked 20,000 British troops, destined to surrender in just two weeks when Singapore falls to the Japanese.
Five Coast Guardsmen perish during the attack — the service’s first casualties of World War II. After some quick repairs, Wakefield loads about 500 women and children fleeing the Japanese and carries them to Sri Lanka.
Today’s post is in honor of Spc. Dale J. Kridlo, who was one of two U.S. soldiers killed by small-arms fire on an observation post in Afghanistan’s Kunar province. Kridlo, 33, of Hughestown, Pa., was assigned to the 27th Engineer Battalion, 20th Engineer Brigade, XVIII Airborne Corps.
1811: At the confluence of the Wabash and Tippecanoe Rivers, William Henry Harrison’s 1,000-man force of militia and regular infantry soldiers clash with American Indian warriors led by Tenskwatawa (known as “The Prophet”). Although outnumbered by the Americans, the Indians charge multiple times into Harrison’s lines, inflicting serious casualties on the defenders. The Prophet’s force withdraws once the sun rises and Tecumseh’s confederacy abandons the area. Harrison – destined to become a brigadier general during the War of 1812 and ultimately president of the United States – will forever be known as “the hero of Tippecanoe.”
1861: A Naval force under Flag Officer Samuel F. DuPont boldly steams into Port Royal Sound (S.C.) as Union gunners pour heavy fire into Confederate-held Forts Walker and Beauregard. Marines and sailors land and occupy the forts, giving the Union a crucial supply base for their Naval blockade.
Today’s post is in honor of Sgt. 1st Class Jose A. Rivera, who was killed in action on this day in 2003 in Mumuhdyah, Iraq. The 34-year-old native of Bayamon, Puerto Rico was assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 3rd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment.
1862: Realizing an army led by Gen. George McClellan would never defeat the Confederates, Pres. Abraham Lincoln removes the cautious Army of the Potomac commander, choosing Gen. Ambrose Burnside as his replacement. Two years and three days later, Lincoln would defeat McClellan – a Democrat – in the 1864 presidential election.
1915: Lt. Commander Henry Mustin catapults from the USS North Carolina in a Curtiss AB-2 flying boat, becoming the first American to make a catapult launch from a ship underway.
1917: U.S. Army Maj. (future Brig. Gen.) Theodore Roosevelt Jr. and his younger brother Lt. (future Lt. Col.) Archibald Roosevelt – both sons of former Pres. Theodore Roosevelt – lead the first American patrol into “No Man’s Land” during World War I. “Archie” will be wounded severely enough to merit a retirement with full disability, only to rejoin the Army during World War II. When an enemy grenade destroys the same knee wounded in the previous world war, Lt. Col. Roosevelt becomes the first person declared 100 percent disabled in two wars.
Theodore Jr. also rejoined the Army during World War II and earned the Medal of Honor while leading his troops at Utah Beach during the Invasion of Normandy. He died one month later of a heart attack. His brother Kermit left basic training and joined the British Army during World War I, transferring back to the U.S. military as a captain when the American Expeditionary Force arrived in Europe. He rejoined the British military during World War II, serving in Finland and Africa before being medically discharged. He would later serve as an Army intelligence officer in Alaska. The youngest Roosevelt son, Quentin, was a pursuit pilot and was shot down over enemy lines, becoming the only son of a U.S. president killed in combat. He and Theodore Jr. are buried side-by-side at the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial near Colleville-sur-Mer, France.
Today’s post is in honor of Lt. Col. Kim S. Orlando, who gave his life for our country on this day in 2003. The 43-year-old Tennessee native was attempting to negotiate with armed men congregating after curfew near a Karbala, Iraq mosque when the men opened fire, killing Orlando, Staff Sgt. Joseph P. Bellavia, Cpl. Sean R. Grilley, and wounding seven other soldiers. Orlando commanded the 101st Airborne Division’s 716th Military Police Battalion and was a veteran of the 1991 Persian Gulf War.
1821: The schooner USS Enterprise (the third of 12 so-named Continental and U.S. Naval vessels) intercepts a flotilla of four ships led by the infamous Capt. Charles Gibbs as the pirates attack American and British-flagged ships in Cuban waters. Although outnumbered, Lt. Cmdr. John Kearney and his crew quickly defeat the pirate force, and Gibbs escapes into the jungles of Cuba as three of his ships are burned. Gibbs will eventually be caught and is one of the last people executed for piracy in the United States.
1859: A small party of abolitionists led by John Brown occupies the military arsenal at Harper’s Ferry (modern-day West Virginia), hoping to inspire a slave rebellion. However, Brown’s uprising does not materialize and local militia force the rebels into a firehouse. A company of Marines under the command of Brevet Colonel Robert E. Lee is dispatched to the scene and after an unsuccessful attempt by Lee’s aide-de-camp, Lt. J.E.B. Stuart, to convince Brown to surrender, the Marines assault the barricaded fire station and bring an end to the crisis.
Today’s post is in honor of Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Aaron J. Taylor, who gave his life for our country on this date in 2009. The 27-year-old explosive ordnance technician from Bovey, Minn. was clearing a bridge near Camp Dwyer, Afghanistan, when he was killed by an improvised explosive device. He had previously served in Iraq and was assigned to Marine Wing Support Squadron 372, Marine Wing Support Group 37, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, I Marine Expeditionary Force.
1861: 1,000 Confederate soldiers land on Florida’s Santa Rosa Island and assault Union-held Fort Pickens. The attackers withdraw after the federal guns inflict 90 casualties. Fort Pickens sits across the bay from Naval Air Station Pensacola – the birthplace of Naval aviation – and coastal defense guns were installed at the old fort during World War II.
1940: After USS Nautilus (SS-168) conducts a successful test, Secretary of the Navy William F. Knox approves a plan for 24 submarines to each carry 20,000 gallons of aviation gasoline for refueling seaplanes at sea.