Oct. 27 in U.S. military history

Benjamin O. Davis, Jr., Commander of the Tuskegee Airmen, and future four-star General

1864: In a daring nighttime commando raid, Lt. William B. Cushing, piloting a torpedo-armed steam launch, slips past a Confederate schooner guarding the ironclad CSS Albemarle. Cushing detonates the spar torpedo, blowing a massive hole in the warship, which had been dominating the Roanoke River. Although several of his crew are drowned and captured, Cushing and another sailor escape, leaving behind a destroyed ironclad.

1942: After several days of intense fighting, a shattered Japanese military abandons their offensive on Guadalcanal’s Henderson Field. The Japanese will evacuate the island in February, and the Americans will turn Guadalcanal into a major base during the Solomon Islands campaign.

1954: Following in his father’s pioneering footsteps, Brig. Gen. Benjamin O. Davis, Jr. becomes the first black general in the U.S. Air Force. Benjamin O. Davis, Sr., who served in the Spanish-American War, the Philippine-American War, and both World Wars, had been the first black man ever promoted to the rank of general in the United States Armed Forces. After becoming the first black pilot to ever solo in a U.S. Army Air Corps aircraft, the younger Davis commanded the 99th Pursuit Squadron – the famous “Tuskegee Airmen” – during World War II. He again saw combat when he deployed to Korea as Commander of the 51st Fighter-Interceptor Wing in 1953.

1962: Maj. Rudolph Anderson (USAF) becomes the only casualty from hostile fire during the Cuban Missile Crisis when a Soviet SA-2 surface-to-air missile shoots down his U-2 spy plane during a reconnaissance overflight of Cuba. Anderson will be posthumously awarded the Air Force Cross, the U.S. military’s second-highest award for valor, after the Medal of Honor.

Posted on October 27, 2017 at 10:48 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: Military History · Tagged with: , , , ,

Oct. 23 in U.S. military history

1864: In Westport, Mo. (present-day Kansas City), Maj. Gen. Samuel R. Curtis’ 22,000-man Army of the Border defeats a heavily outnumbered Confederate force commanded by Maj. Gen. Sterling Price in the largest battle fought west of the Mississippi River. The Union brings an end to Price’s Missouri Expedition with his defeat in the “Gettysburg of the West,” and Price retreats into Kansas. After the Battle of Westport, the border state of Missouri will remain under Union control for the rest of the Civil War.

1942: On Guadalcanal, Imperial Japanese soldiers and tanks attempt to cross the Matanikau River, and are quickly defeated – signaling the beginning of the Battle for Henderson Field. For the next three days, the 1st Marine Division and the 164th Infantry Regiment, supported by the “Cactus Air Force”, will shatter wave after wave of Japanese assaults on the ground and in the air. The battle marks the final major Japanese ground operation before they abandon the island.

1944: Three days after over 100,000 U.S. troops land in the Philippines, the Battle of Leyte Gulf – the largest naval engagement during World War II – begins. On the first day, the submarines USS Darter and USS Dace attack Vice Adm. Takeo Kurita’s Center Fleet, sinking two heavy cruisers (including Kurita’s flagship) and damaging another. During the three-day battle, nearly 400 ships will square off, with Japan suffering crippling losses: four aircraft carriers, four battleships, and 21 cruisers and destroyers are sunk, along with the loss of 12,000 sailors and 300 planes. An increasingly desperate Japanese military uses kamikaze tactics for the first time during the battle.

Meanwhile in the Taiwan Straight, the submarine USS Tang – the most successful U.S. submarine ever – engages a convoy of Japanese transports, freighters, tankers, and their escorts. Tang sinks five ships and then escapes. The sub’s skipper, Cmdr. Richard H. O’Kane, will be awarded the Medal of Honor for the engagement.

1972: As peace talks with the North resume, Pres. Richard Nixon calls a halt to Operation “Linebacker” – the U.S bombing campaign in North Vietnam. In start contrast to Pres. Lyndon Johnson’s tightly controlled Operation “Rolling Thunder”, Nixon had granted the military much more latitude to carry out their mission, which put a serious dent in the Communist supply chain.

1983: A 2000-pound truck bomb explodes at the Marine Corps Barracks in Beirut, Lebanon, killing 220 Marines, 18 sailors, and three soldiers. The bombing would become known as “the bloodiest day in Marine Corps history since Iwo Jima.” Moments later, another truck bomb hits the French barracks, killing 58. American troops will withdraw from Lebanon four months later.

Posted on October 23, 2017 at 11:42 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: Military History · Tagged with: , , ,

Oct. 12 in U.S. military history

Pres. Truman presents the Medal of Honor to Cpl. Desmond Doss on Oct. 12, 1944.

1862: Confederate cavalry commander Gen. James Ewell Brown “J.E.B.” Stuart completes his “second ride” around Union Gen. George B. McClellan’s Army of the Potomac.

1870: Five years after surrendering his Army of Northern Virginia to Gen. Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox, Gen. Robert E. Lee passes away after suffering a stroke. The revered general served his country 44 years, fighting alongside Grant in the Mexican-American War, and against him in the Civil War.

1944: U.S. Army Air Force 1st Lt. Charles E. “Chuck” Yeager and his 357th Fighter Group surprise a flight of 22 Messerschmitt Bf-109 fighters near Hanover, Germany. Yeager’s P-51D “Mustang”, named Glamorous Glenn II, Yeager will score five of the group’s eight victories – two without firing a shot – becoming an “ace in a day.” Yeager finishes World War II with 11.5 kills, and will go on to fly 127 missions during the Vietnam War. The former Army private will retire a Brigadier General in 1975, but continues flying for the Air Force and NASA.

That same day, aircraft from seven U.S. aircraft carriers of Carrier Task Force 38 attack targets on Japanese-held Formosa (modern-day Taiwan).

1945: President (and former artillery officer during World War I) Harry S. Truman awards the Medal of Honor to Cpl. Desmond Doss for saving the lives of 75 wounded soldiers on Okinawa’s Hacksaw Ridge. Since Doss was a conscientious objector, the Army made him a combat medic. Prior to his service on Okinawa, where Doss was wounded four times, he also saw action on Guam and the Philippines, where he earned two Bronze Stars with “V” for valor device.

1954: World War II ace, now chief test pilot for North American Aviation, George S. Welch dies when his F-100 “Super Sabre” disintegrates during testing. An Army Air Force pilot with 16 victories during World War II, Welch was one of two pilots able to get airborne and engage Japanese aircraft during the attack on Pearl Harbor. He was recommended for the Medal of Honor for his actions on December 7th, but having taken off without orders, he only receives the Distinguished Flying Cross. While serving as an instructor and test pilot for North American during the Korean War, he reportedly shot down several MiG-15 aircraft, but again did so against orders, so he did not receive credit for the kills.

2000: While the destroyer USS Cole stops to refuel in Yemen, two suicide bombers ram an explosive-laden fiberglass boat into the warship, blowing a massive hole in the side of Cole, claiming the lives of 17 U.S. sailors and injures another 39.

Posted on October 12, 2017 at 10:20 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: Military History · Tagged with: , , ,

Sept. 19 in U.S. military history

Lithograph of the Battle of Chickamauga

1777: The Battle of Freeman’s Farm — the first engagement in the Battle of Saratoga — opens between Continental forces under the command of Gen. Horatio Gates and British forces under Gen. John “Gentleman Johnny” Burgoyne. The Brits carry the day, but suffer heavy losses.

1863: On the border of Georgia and Tennessee, fighting begins in earnest between forces commanded by Maj. Gen. William Rosecrans and Gen. Braxton Bragg. After two days of fighting, the Confederate Army of Tennessee inflicts 18,000 casualties on the Army of the Cumberland, driving Rosecrans from the battlefield, but Union soldiers kill, wound, and capture 16,000 Confederates. After Gettysburg, the Battle of Chickamauga marks the second-highest casualty totals of the Civil War.

1864: Lt. Gen. Jubal Early’s Army of Shenandoah and Maj. Gen. Philip Sheridan’s Army of the Valley meet in Winchester, Va. – the third time Confederate and Union forces square off at that site. Sheridan manages to turn Early’s left flank, leading to a Confederate retreat in what is considered perhaps the most crucial battle of the Shenandoah Valley Campaign. Casualties are heavy for both sides, and among the many fallen senior officers is Confederate brigade commander Col. George S. Patton, Sr. – grandfather of the legendary Gen. George S. Patton, Jr.

1881: President James A. Garfield, who served as Rosecrans’ chief of staff during the Battle of Chickamauga, finally succumbs to wounds suffered during an assassination attempt in July. Vice President Chester A. Arthur, formerly quartermaster general in the New York state militia, is sworn is as the 21st President of the United States.

1944: As the Allied drive across Europe slows due to the stretched supply lines, Gen. Courtney Hodges’ First Army runs into Generalfeldmarschall Walter Model’s forces at the border between Belgium and Germany. The Germans manage to scratch out a defensive victory, inflicting some 33,000 casualties in the three-month Battle of Hürtgen Forest – marking the longest battle in U.S. Army history.

Posted on September 19, 2017 at 10:23 by Chris Carter · Permalink · 2 Comments
In: Military History · Tagged with: , ,

Sept. 18 in U.S. military history

Marines landing on Guadalcanal

1862: Following the bloody Battle of Antietam, Gen. George B. McClellan blows an opportunity to capture Gen. Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia, – perhaps ending the Civil War. Lee abandons his invasion of Maryland as McClellan allows the significantly outnumbered Confederates to withdraw his significantly outnumbered forces to Virginia without pursuit.

1906: As revolution sweeps Cuba, the auxiliary cruiser USS Dixie (AD-1) disembarks a battalion of Marines at Cienfuegos to help protect American-owned plantations.

1941: In preparation for World War II, 19 divisions of soldiers – 400,000 troops – participate in a massive exercise in Louisiana. In light of Germany’s highly effective blitzkrieg tactics, the Army is testing the effectiveness of combined-arms mechanized units. 26 soldiers will die during the maneuvers, but the Army gains experience that will prove invaluable during the upcoming war. Among those participating are future commanders Dwight Eisenhower, Omar Bradley, Mark Clark, and George Patton.

1942: Over 4,000 Marines of the 7th Marine Regiment land at Guadalcanal and join the battle, along with much-needed supplies. Maj. Gen. Archer A. Vandegrift’s men had dubbed the invasion “Operation Shoestring” as the Navy only managed to unload half of the supplies on Guadalcanal before departing. After suffering heavy casualties, the Marine 1st Parachute Battalion is pulled from the lines and sent to Espiritu Santo.

1944: During the drive across Europe, the 101st Airborne Division captures the Dutch city of Eindhoven and the Ninth Army captures Brest, France.

1947: 70 years ago today, the National Security Act of 1947 enacts sweeping reorganization of the Armed Forces and intelligence service structure. After 40 years of service as a component of the Army, the newly formed Air Force stands up as an independent branch of the military. The act creates a National Military Establishment – renamed the Department of Defense in 1949 – with the Army, Navy, and Air Force now under a unified command. Also established is the Joint Chiefs of Staff, which provides military advice to the president and the new Cabinet position of Secretary of Defense.

The act also establishes the Central Intelligence Agency – America’s first peacetime intelligence service – and the National Security Council, which advises the president on matters of national security and foreign policy.

1948: The first delta-winged aircraft prototype – Convair’s XF-92 – conducts its maiden flight. The cutting-edge design will pave the way for forthcoming platforms such as the F-102 “Delta Dagger,” F-106 “Delta Dart,” and the B-58 “Hustler.”

Posted on September 18, 2017 at 10:45 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: Military History · Tagged with: ,

Sept. 8 in U.S. military history

Marine Raiders in Bougainville, January 1944. (AP Photo)

1740: Some 800 volunteers from the American colonies board transports to take part in the disastrous British/American colonial expedition to capture the Spanish territory of Cartagena (modern-day Colombia).

1781: 2,000 Continental soldiers commanded by Maj. Gen. Nathanael Greene meet with Lt. Col. Alexander Stewart’s 2,200-man force of British troops near present-day Eutawville, S.C.. Although both sides claim victory in the Battle of Eutaw Springs, the British must abandon much of their previously gained ground in the south.

1863: When the Union attempts an amphibious invasion in Texas to prevent the Mexican government from supplying the Confederacy, well-trained artillerymen at Fort Griffin blast the Union ships as they unsuccessfully attempt to navigate the shallow waters of the Sabine River. Two gunboats are captured and the Union suffers 200 casualties in one of the most one-sided engagements of the Civil War.

1925: As Destroyer Squadron 11 cruises from San Francisco to San Diego, several ships run aground at Honda Point. Unusually strong swells and currents from a massive earthquake in Japan, together with darkness and fog contribute to the largest loss of U.S. Navy ships during peacetime. Seven destroyers are destroyed, another two damaged, and 23 sailors die.

1939: Just days after Germany invades Poland, kicking off what will become World War II, President Franklin Roosevelt declares a national emergency – increasing the size of the Armed Forces – in part by recalling many retired enlisted troops and officers.

1942: The 1st Raider Battalion lands on Guadalcanal and begins operations to disrupt the Japanese advance by attacking supplies and a radio tower, despite orders to avoid contact.

1943: When Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower publicly announces Italy’s surrender, the Nazis invade, beginning a bloody campaign to disarm their former ally and prevent Italy from falling into Allied hands. The next day, eight divisions of U.S. and British soldiers land at Salerno.

1945: U.S. troops land at Inchon to establish a military transitional government and to prevent further Soviet expansion in Korea. A month earlier, the Soviet Union violated an agreement not to declare war on Japan and had invaded Japanese-held Korea. Following Japan’s surrender, the new country was split at the 38th Parallel with the Russians administering the north and the Americans, the south. Five years later, North Korea will invade the South, once both superpowers have left the peninsula, to reunite Korea under the flag of communism.

Posted on September 8, 2017 at 08:57 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: Military History · Tagged with: , ,

Sept. 7 in U.S. military history

F-22A Raptor

1776: Sgt. Ezra Lee silently makes his way down the Hudson River in an 8-ft. long submersible named Turtle towards British Adm. Richard Howe’s flagship, HMS Eagle, anchored just south of Manhattan. Turning two hand cranks for propulsion, Lee reaches the ship but is unable to drill into the hull in order to attach a “torpedo.” While Lee’s attack is unsuccessful, the craft designed by inventor David Bushnell marks the first-ever submarine attack.

1864: As he prepares for his March to the Sea, Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman orders an evacuation of Atlanta. When the mayor protests, Sherman replies with “War is cruelty and you cannot refine it.” Government and military facilities are destroyed, and the Union provides transportation south for the displaced residents.

1903: During a period of unrest, Marines from USS Brooklyn (ACR-3) land at Beirut (modern-day Lebanon) to protect U.S. citizens and the American University.

1940: 1,200 German bombers and escorts depart airfields in France and cross into English airspace. Instead of targeting Royal Air Force bases, the warplanes hit London’s East End, marking the first day of the London Blitz. For 57 straight days, the Luftwaffe hits the English capital, killing over 40,000 but the German air crews are unable to cripple England’s war production or break the will of its people, and Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring will call off the campaign in 1941.

1942: Japan suffers its first setback of World War II when a battalion of elite Special Naval Landing Forces are forced to withdraw following their defeat by a numerically superior joint Australian-U.S. defense force at New Guinea’s Milne Bay.

1950: After a month of combat, the 1st Marine Brigade (Provisional) is pulled from the lines and sent to Japan to join the 1st and 7th Marine Regiments for the upcoming amphibious invasion at Inchon.

1997: Lockheed Martin’s F-22 “Raptor”, a fifth-generation stealth fighter billed as unmatched by “any known or projected fighter aircraft,” makes its first flight. Only 187 of the $150 million Raptors are built before production ends.

2001: Four days before the 9/11 attacks, the State Department issues a warning to U.S. citizens worldwide of a possible “terrorist threat” from “extremist groups with links to Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda organization.”

Posted on September 7, 2017 at 08:03 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: Military History · Tagged with: , ,

Sept. 5 in U.S. Military History

On this date in 1968, McDonnell Douglas delivers its 3,000th “Phantom”

1781: The Royal Navy fleet commanded by Rear Admiral Sir Thomas Grave’s Royal fleet clashes with Comte de Grasse’s French armada at the entrance to the Chesapeake Bay. The navies fight each other at close range for two hours before the British disengage and sail for New York. The French victory traps Lt. Gen. Lord Corwallis’ army at Yorktown, preventing their reinforcement or evacuation and ultimately contributing to Cornwallis’ surrender in October.

1813: Off the coast of Maine, the brig USS Enterprise spots HMS Boxer and the two vessels begin maneuvering to attack. Boxer’s captain Samuel Blyth declares “We are going to fight both ends and both sides of this ship as long as the ends and the sides hold together.” Blyth is killed in the opening barrage, and in less than 30 minutes, his ship is wrecked. A mortally wounded Capt. William Burrows refuses to accept Blyth’s sword and orders it sent back to the English captain’s family. The two captains are buried side by side during an elaborate funeral in Portland.

1862: U.S. Ambassador to Great Britain, Charles F. Adams (the son of President John Quincy Adams and grandson of Pres. John Adams), informs the British government that sending ironclad warships to aid the Confederacy would lead to war.

1939: As Germany fights its way across Poland, President Franklin Roosevelt issues two neutrality proclamations. While required to put in place an arms embargo by law, Roosevelt will soon ask Congress to remove the ban.

1944: While escorting a bombing mission to Stuttgart, Lt. William H. Lewis shoots down five Heinkel He-111 bombers taking off from Göppingen, Germany, becoming an ace in one mission. His flight of P-51 “Mustangs” would shoot down 16 bombers during the attack.

Posted on September 5, 2017 at 09:42 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: Military History · Tagged with: , , ,

Aug. 31 in U.S. military history

“Paramarines” – an elite force within an elite force – were never utilized in their intended roles (Ranger-style commando raids as opposed to the Army’s parachute infantry), but instead served throughout the war as conventional Marines. Five former Paramarines would earn the Medal of Honor on Iwo Jima, and several of the legendary flag-raisers were former Paramarines.

1864: Two armies under the command of Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman engage Confederate Gen. John Bell Hood’s vastly outnumbered Army of Tennessee just south of Atlanta. Despite brilliant fighting and generalship in the Battle of Jonesborough, the Confederates destroy a trainload of military supplies to prevent its capture by the Union and withdraw to Atlanta.

1916: Near Guillemont, France, a German artillery shell scores a direct hit on 2nd Lt. Henry A. “Harry” Butters, instantly killing the popular Royal Field Artillery officer. Butters, an American citizen that joined the British Army at the outbreak of World War I, was so reknowned that Winston Churchill (then a battalion commander with the Royal Scots Fusiliers) met with him and would write of Butters after his death. Butters’ gravestone simply read “An American Citizen” – as he requested – and every soldier that could be spared attended his funeral.

1940: President Franklin Roosevelt federalizes 60,000 National Guard soldiers.

1942: After a squadron of eight Japanese destroyers finally manages to squeeze through Guadalcanal’s defensive ring and disembarks 1,000 Japanese troops the night before, the arriving force stages an attack on Henderson Field. Meanwhile, the Marine Corps’ elite 1st Marine Raider Battalion and 1st Parachute Battalion arrive from Tulagi.

While four Marine Corps parachute operations are planned during the war, the highly trained Paramarines are never used for their intended purpose and will only be used in conventional roles. The Paramarines and Raiders – considered to be among America’s first special operations units – will both be disbanded by war’s end.

1943: The Navy commissions the destroyer escort USS Harmon – the first warship to be named after an African-American. While serving aboard the USS San Francisco (CA-36) during the Battle of the Solomon Islands, Mess Attendant First Class Leonard R. Harmon “deliberately exposed himself to hostile gunfire” to protect a medic providing care to wounded sailors, in addition to displaying unusual loyalty on behalf of the ship’s injured executive officer. For his actions, Harmon was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross.

1955: The Boeing KC-135 “Stratotanker” makes its first flight. The mid-air refueller was built to serve Strategic Air Command’s B-52 fleet, but 62 years later it remains in service for the foreseeable future (not scheduled for replacement until 2040), and is one of six aircraft to serve the U.S. military for over 50 years.

Posted on August 31, 2017 at 09:38 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: Military History · Tagged with: , , , ,

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.

Posted on July 19, 2017 at 12:01 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: Military History · Tagged with: , , , ,