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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July 13 in U.S. military history

1861: Following their victory in the Battle of Rich Mountain in western Virginia two days ago, Union forces led by Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan catch the fleeing Confederates at Cheat River. Brig. Gen. Robert S. Garnett, commanding the Confederate troops, is killed, becoming the first general killed in the Civil War.

The victory at Corrick’s Ford marks the high point of McClellan’s career, as his inflated accomplishment makes him a national hero – he will become general-in-chief of the Union army – and sets in motion the creation of West Virginia.

1863: In New York City, residents kick off three days of violent riots against the draft – perhaps the worst riot in American history. Firemen are attacked and their equipment destroyed, and the outnumbered police officers can’t control the huge crowd. Soldiers are ordered to New York City, many of whom fought days ago at Gettysburg, and by the time order is restored, 4,000 troops occupy the city. Hundreds of citizens are dead, thousands wounded, and dozens of buildings are burned.

1943: Allied and Japanese ships clash in the Solomon Islands during the Battle of Kolombangara. The force had just landed Marine Raiders on New Georgia and the Japanese intended to land reinforcements, but are driven off after a brief nighttime engagement. Heavy gunfire and torpedoes sink the Japanese light cruiser Jintsu, taking almost the entire crew with her. Japanese torpedoes sink the destroyer USS Gwin (DD-443), and heavily damage three other cruisers.

1985: Vice President – and former TBM “Avenger” torpedo bomber pilot during World War II – George H.W. Bush becomes Acting President for the Day when Pres. Ronald Reagan undergoes surgery.

2008: At 4a.m., over 100 Taliban fighters launch a coordinated assault against a joint American-Afghan patrol base in eastern Afghanistan. The remote outpost had just been established and its defenses had not yet been fully constructed, enabling the enemy to destroy the heavy U.S. weapons almost immediately. After four hours of close combat, the attackers are driven off with help from artillery and aircraft support. Nine American soldiers are killed and another 29 wounded in one of the Taliban’s deadliest attacks of the war.

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June 27 in U.S. military history

A North American F-82F Twin Mustang from the 52d Fighter Group (All Weather) at Mitchel Air Force Base, N.Y.

[Originally published at OpsLens.com]

1864: After two months of flanking maneuvers, driving Confederate Gen. Joseph E. Johnston’s Confederate Army of Tennessee some 70 miles rearward, Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman launches a frontal assault at Kennesaw Mountain (near Marietta, Ga.). Casualties are heavy on both sides: 3,000 Union soldiers and 1,000 Confederates. Although Sherman’s assault was unsuccessful, Maj. Gen. John M. Schofield’s successful attack on Johnston’s left flank forces the Confederates to withdraw again towards Atlanta.

1942: Gen. Henry H. “Hap” Arnold presents 23 “Doolittle Raiders” with the Distinguished Flying Cross at a ceremony in Washington, D.C.’s Bolling Field. A week later, another three crewmembers are awarded their medals at Walter Reed Army Hospital.

That same day, the FBI announces it has captured all eight of the German military intelligence operatives that had landed in New York and Florida to sabotage American strategic targets. Six are tried by military tribunal and executed by electric chair while the two agents that cooperated with investigators are eventually released by President Harry S. Truman in 1948.

1950: Two days after the communist invasion of South Korea by the Soviet-backed North, the United Nations Security Council approves a resolution to “repel the armed attack and to restore international peace and security in the area.” Although 21 nations will provide support, the United States will send the vast majority of troops to the conflict. On this day, President Truman authorizes Naval and air operations south of the 38th Parallel and dispatches the 7th Fleet to Taiwan to prevent hostilities from spreading elsewhere in Asia.

Meanwhile, F-82 “Twin Mustang” fighters score three kills against North Korean fighters attempting to intercept a flight of C-54 “Skymaster” aircraft evacuating personnel from Gimpo Air Field – the first air battle of the Korean War. And P-80C “Shooting Star” fighter-bombers knock four more Korean fighters out of the sky in the Air Force’s first combat victory for a jet-powered aircraft.

1993: After a foiled assassination attempt on former President George H.W. Bush in Kuwait, the cruiser USS Chancellorsville (CG-62) and destroyer USS Peterson (DD-969) launch 23 cruise missiles at the Iraqi Intelligence Service’s command and control complex in Baghdad.

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June 26 in U.S. military history

[Originally published at OpsLens.com]

1862: Confederate forces led by Gen. Robert E. Lee launch a counteroffensive against Maj. Gen. George McClellan’s Army of the Potomac. Although the outnumbered Confederates suffer heavy casualties and subordinates fail to execute Lee’s plans, McClellan will ultimately withdraw from Richmond following the Battle of Mechanicsburg – the first major engagement of the Seven Days Battles – and abandon the Peninsula Campaign.

1917: A convoy containing the first American Expeditionary Forces – members of the 5th Marine Regiment – land at the beaches of Saint-Nazaire France. The American troops will train for four months before entering combat. More than two million Americans will serve on the battlefields of Western Europe, and over 50,000 will lay down their lives in the “War to End All War.”

1942: The Grumman F6F “Hellcat” – credited with the most aerial victories of any Allied naval aircraft during World War II – makes its first flight. Designed to compete with the agile Mitsubishi A6M “Zero” fighter, the Hellcat will come to dominate the skies over the Pacific. 34 Japanese warplanes are knocked out of the sky by top Navy ace and Medal of Honor recipient Capt. David McCampbell – one of an incredible 305 Hellcat aces in the war.

1944: U.S. 7th Corps captures the French port city of Cherbourg, taking the garrison commander Lt. General Karl-Wilhelm von Schlieben and the naval commander, Rear Admiral Walter Hennecke, prisoner. A pocket of Germans still control the vital port facilities, and Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Quentin R. Walsh leads a 53-man naval reconnaissance unit through hostile fire and assaults the naval arsenal, capturing 400 Germans. His force then moved to Fort Du Homet where he received the surrender of another 350 Germans, and released 52 American paratroopers that had been taken prisoner. For his heroic actions, Walsh is awarded the Navy Cross.

1948: When the Soviet Union cuts off West Berlin by sealing off highway and railroad routes, the U.S. Air Force begins the Berlin Airlift. American and other allied nations perform some 300,000 air-transport flights into West Berlin delivering an average of 5,000 tons of food, coal, and other essential items per day to the blockaded city until the Soviets relent a year later.

1950: A day after North Korean forces cross into South Korea, kicking off the Korean War, the destroyers USS De Haven (DD-727) and USS Mansfield (DD-728) evacuate 700 American and foreign nationals from Inchon.

1965: Gen. William Westmoreland is granted the authority to send American combat forces on offensive operations. Prior to this decision, U.S. forces primarily served in a defensive role at air bases and other installations.

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June 23 in U.S. military history

[Originally published at OpsLens.com]

1812: Immediately after war is declared, a squadron of American ships led by Commodore John Rodgers sails to intercept a British convoy sailing from Jamaica. When the frigate HMS Belvidera is spotted, Rodgers personally aims and fires the first shot of the War of 1812 – the cannonball striking the British ship’s rudder and penetrating the gun room.

1865: Confederate Brig. Gen. – and Cherokee chief – Stand Watie surrenders his First Indian Brigade of the Army of the Trans-Mississippi to Union forces in Oklahoma Territory, becoming the last general to surrender in the Civil War.

1923: Over the skies of San Diego, an Army Air Service DH-4 biplane flown by Capt. Lowell Smith tops off its fuel tanks from a hose attached to another DH-4, marking the world’s first mid-air refueling operation.

1944: During one of the largest bombing missions of the war, 761 bombers of the 15th Air Force attack the oil fields at Ploesti, Romania.

When one of the B-17s on the raid is damaged by flak and has to drop out of formation, bombardier 2nd Lt. David R. Kingsley drops his bombs and goes to the back of the aircraft to administer first aid to the wounded tail gunner. When another gunner is wounded by enemy aircraft, Kingsley attends to him as well. When the pilot orders the crew to abandon the plane before it explodes, Kingsley gives one of the wounded gunners his own parachute, sacrificing his life. His body is later discovered in the burned wreckage of the plane, and Kingsley is posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.

1945: As the Sixth Army drives north to encircle the remaining Japanese forces on northern Luzon Island in the Philippines, paratroopers from the 11th Airborne Division perform their last combat jump of the war and cut off Gen. Tomoyuki Yamashita’s Shobu Group’s retreat.

1969: The Special Forces Camp at Ben Het in Vietnam’s Central Highlands, eight miles east of the border with Laos and Cambodia, is cut off and besieged by North Vietnamese Army. Over the next several days B-52s fly 100 strikes while fighter-bombers, artillery, and helicopter gunships hammer the NVA until the Americans are relieved on July 2nd.

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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,

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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.

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June 6 in U.S. military history

Soldiers from Company E, 16th Infantry, 1st Infantry Division are among the first waves of troops to land at Normandy’s Omaha Beach.

1862: A Union flotilla decisively defeats the Confederate fleet at Memphis, Tenn. and captures the city.

1918: Two battalions of Marines, led by Brig. Gen. James Harbord, advance against four German divisions in Belleau Wood, the site of an old French hunting preserve near Chateau-Thierry. The Marines face withering fire, with over 1,000 casualties in the first day of battle alone. In three weeks, the Marines drive out the Germans, but at a high cost; Enemy machine guns, artillery, and gas attacks inflict 10,000 American casualties. But the tenacity of the “Devil Dogs” at Belleau Wood becomes legend.

1942: Commander-in-chief of the Combined Fleet Admiral Yamamoto Isoroku orders his fleet to withdraw from the Battle of Midway. Although the Americans have lost the carrier Yorktown and a destroyer, Japanese losses are staggering: all four of the fleet’s aircraft carriers (whose aircraft attacked Pearl Harbor six months ago) and a heavy cruiser are sent to the bottom. After a long string of defeats, the United States Navy has dealt Japan “the most stunning and decisive blow in the history of naval warfare.”

1944: Just after 2 a.m., some 13,000 American and British paratroopers and glider troops begin landing behind enemy lines in France. 2,000 Allied aircraft bombard German positions in preparation of the invasion. And five hours later, nearly 150,000 American, British, and Canadian troops hit the beaches at Normandy. 1,200 warships and over 4,000 landing ships from eight different navies support the invasion. Losses are heavy for both sides and 4,414 American and Allied soldiers die on “D-Day” – the first day of the largest amphibious operation in history.

1957: Two Navy F-8U “Crusaders” and two A-3D “Skywarriors” launch from the deck of USS Bon Homme Richard (CVA 31) off the coast of California and fly to USS Saratoga (CVA 60), operating off Florida in the first transcontinental, carrier-to-carrier flight. The Crusaders land after three hours and 28 minutes, while the Skywarriors make the trip in four hours and one minute.

1964: Communist Pathet Lao anti-aircraft fire shoots down a Navy RF-8A “Crusader” aircraft flying a low-altitude reconnaissance mission over Laos. The pilot, Lt. Charles F. Klusmann, is taken prisoner, but escapes captivity. The downing of the reconnaissance plane is the first loss of a fixed-wing aircraft in what would become the Vietnam War.

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June 2 in U.S. military history

Capt. Roger Locher (right) and Seventh Air Force Commander, Gen. John W. Vogt, Jr., at Udorn Air Force Base in Thailand after Locher’s rescue

1865: Confederate Gen. Kirby Smith signs documents surrendering his 43,000-man Army of the Trans-Mississippi at Galveston, Tex. Although Smith is not the last Confederate officer to surrender to the Union, this ends all organized Southern military action in the war.

1942: As the U.S. Navy prepares for the upcoming Japanese invasion, Task Forces 16 and 17 merge 350 miles northeast of to the northeast of Midway Island, putting three aircraft carriers, eight cruisers, and 16 destroyers under the command of Rear Adm. Frank J. Fletcher. A picket line of 25 submarines waits for the Japanese. The Battle of Midway is less than 24 hours away.

1943: The “Tuskegee Airmen” of the 99th Pursuit Squadron fly their first combat mission against Axis forces on the island of Pantelleria, off the coast of Tunisia.

1969: At 3 a.m. off the coast of Vietnam, the Australian aircraft carrier HMS Melbourne runs into the destroyer USS Frank E. Evans (DD-754), cutting the American ship in half. The severed bow section sinks in less than five minutes and takes 74 sailors with her. A series of errors and the absence of running lights due to preparations for flight operations places the American destroyer directly in the path of the much larger vessel.

1972: U.S. Air Force Gen. John W. Vogt, Jr. effectively shuts down the air war in Vietnam to rescue Capt. Roger Locher, an F-4 “Phantom” weapons systems officer shot down behind enemy lines in North Vietnam. Locher has evaded capture for 23 days – a record for downed airmen during the Vietnam War. Gen. Vogt diverts all available resources – 150 aircraft – from a planned strike against Hanoi and tasked them with the rescue mission. Planes bomb a nearby North Vietnamese airfield while Locher is located and rescued under heavy enemy fire.

Air Force captains Dale E. Stovall, flying the HH-53 “Jolly Green Giant” helicopter, and Ronald Smith, piloting the A-1H “Skyraider” attack plane receive the Air Force Cross (the nation’s second-highest award for valor) for the deepest rescue into North Vietnam of the entire war. No aircraft are lost in the operation.

As aircrews work to extract Locher, F-4E pilot Maj. Phil Handley scores the only supersonic gun kill in history, flying 900 miles per hour when he shoots down an enemy MiG 19.

2014: The fast-attack Virginia-class submarine USS Mississippi (SSN-782) is commissioned at Pascagoula, Miss., 12 months ahead of schedule and $60 million under budget.

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June 1 in U.S. military history

1813: The frigate USS Chesapeake – one of the United States Navy’s original six ships – clashes with British ship HMS Shannon outside Boston Harbor. After being mortally wounded by a sniper round Chesapeake captain James Lawrence’s last words to his crew are “Tell the men to fire faster and [don’t] give up the ship! Fight her till she sinks!” Shannon’s crew boards and will capture Chesapeake, taking her crew prisoner, but Capt. Lawrence’s famous final words live on today.

1864: The bloody battle of Cold Harbor opens in earnest between Union Army forces under the command of Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant and Confederate forces under Gen. Robert E. Lee. Grant will launch a series of futile attacks over the next three days. Lee will defend and hold. Union losses will be staggering: 13,000 to the Confederacy’s 2,500.

1918: At Belleau Wood, the site of an old French hunting preserve near Chateau-Thierry, Germans punch through the French lines, and American soldiers and Marines move up to fill the hole. When Marine Capt. Lloyd W. Williams arrives, he sees French troops withdrawing from battle. After being advised by a French officer to retreat, the Marine officer famously replies, “Retreat? Hell! We just got here!”

Williams will die during the battle, but the crack shooting and tenacious fighting of the Marines at Belleau Wood becomes legend and earns them the nickname “Teufelhunden” – devil dogs.

1944: Airships K-123 and K-130 of the U.S. Navy’s Blimp Squadron Fourteen land at French Morocco following a 50-hour, 3,100 nautical mile flight from Naval Air Station, South Weymouth, Mass. – the first transatlantic flight of a non-rigid, lighter-than-air aircraft. The massive airships made two stops for fuel and maintenance in Newfoundland and the Azores.

1990: As the Cold War nears its end, Presidents George H.W. Bush and Mikhail Gorbachev sign a treaty banning the production of chemical weapons and reducing the two superpowers’ stockpiles of the deadly weapons by 20 percent.

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