Posted in Military History

Sept. 18: Today in military history

[Originally published at OpsLens.com]

Today’s post is in honor of Pvt. 1st Class James W. Price, who gave his life for our country on this date in 2004. The 22-year-old native of Cleveland, Tenn. was killed when his vehicle was hit by an improvised explosive device in Baghdad. Price was assigned to the 4th Battalion, 5th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division.


1862: A day after the bloody Battle of Antietam, Gen. George B. McClellan blows yet another opportunity to capture Gen. Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia, perhaps ending the Civil War. While Lee abandons his invasion of Maryland and turns south, McClellan allows the significantly outnumbered Confederates to withdraw 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 series of massive exercises in Louisiana. In addition to learning how to direct and supply such a large force, Gen. George Marshall’s growing army is testing the effectiveness of combined-arms mechanized units that would be facing the German military and their (so-far) unstoppable blitzkrieg tactics.

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, who says “If you could take these tanks through Louisiana, you could take them through Hell.”

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.

Two years after landing at Guadalcanal, the 7th Marines are fighting their way across the island of Peleliu. When a platoon of Marines is held up by concealed enemy positions on their left flank, Pvt. 1st Class Arthur J. Jackson moves forward through a barrage of heavy enemy fire. He reaches a pillbox containing 35 enemy soldiers, pinning them in with automatic weapons fire, then hurling white phosphorous grenades and explosive charges into the position, killing all of its occupants. He then turned his attention to two nearby positions, silencing them as well.

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Sept. 17: Today in military history

Featured image: The Shuttle Enterprise rolls out of the Palmdale manufacturing facilities with Star Trek television cast members. From left to right they are: Dr. James C. Fletcher (NASA Administrator), DeForest Kelley (Dr. “Bones” McCoy), George Takei (Mr. Sulu), James Doohan (Chief Engineer Montgomery “Scotty” Scott), Nichelle Nichols (Lt. Uhura), Leonard Nimoy (Mr. Spock), Gene Roddenberry (series creator), Congressman Don Fuqua, and Walter Koenig (Ensign Chekov).

Today’s post is in honor of Staff Sgt. Michael W. Hosey, who gave his life for our country on this day in 2011. While serving in his fourth deployment, Hosey, 27, of Birmingham, Ala. was killed when his unit was attacked by insurgent small-arms fire in Afghanistan’s Uruzgan province. He was assigned to Headquarters Support Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne) and serving on his fourth deployment.


1862: The Battle of Antietam (Maryland) – the bloodiest single-day battle in American history – opens between Confederate Army forces under Gen. Robert E. Lee and Union Army forces under Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan. After 12 hours of fighting, some 23,000 Americans are dead, wounded, or missing.

Though a strategic victory for the Union, the battle will prove tactically inconclusive for both sides.

1908: 2,500 people gather at Fort Myer, Va. to watch Orville Wright demonstrate his Wright Flyer to the Army Signal Corps. One of the propellers breaks during the flight, sending the aircraft nose-first into the ground, severely wounding Wright and killing his passenger, Lt. Thomas E. Selfridge. Although Wright survived the first-ever fatal aircraft incident, he would spend the next seven weeks recovering in an Army hospital.

1916: At 11:00 a.m. over Villers-Pouich, France, a German Albatros D.II fighter closes in on a Royal Air Force scout bomber and shoots it out the sky. Former cavalry officer Manfred Albrecht Freiher von Richtofen – the soon-to-be-infamous Red Baron – has scored his first victory for the German Luftstreitkräfte. Although he is now known for his red Fokker triplane, Richtofen was in the seat of an Albatros biplane for most of his 84 kills.

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Sept. 14: Today in U.S. military history

[Originally published at OpsLens.com]

Today’s post is in honor of U.S. Army Sgt. Trevor A. Blumberg, who gave his life for our country on this date in 2003. The 22-year-old Canton, Mich. native was killed by an improvised explosive device while riding in a vehicle through Fallujah, Iraq. He was assigned to 1st Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division.


1862: Maj. Gen. George McClellan’s Army of the Potomac gets the better of Gen. Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia, which was divided amongst three passes through Maryland’s Blue Ridge Mountains. The 23rd Ohio Regiment, commanded by Lt. Col. (and future president) Rutherford B. Hayes is the first to make contact with Lee’s army. An enemy bullet shatters Hayes’ arm as he leads a charge, and he has one of his men bandage the wound so he can stay in the fight. Another future president served under Hayes: his friend and protégé, commissary sergeant William McKinley.

After the Battle of South Mountain, Lee had considered abandoning his first invasion of the north as McClellan could have crushed the Confederate army – if he pressed the attack. Instead, the timid McClellan stays put, ceding the initiative to his opponent. Rather than heading south, Lee concentrates his forces for what becomes the Battle of Antietam – the bloodiest battle in American history.

1901: 39 years – to the day – after facing heavy fire on the front lines of South Mountain, President William McKinley dies from a gunshot wound he received eight days ago from anarchist assassin Leon Czolgoszan. Vice President Theodore Roosevelt is sworn in as the 26th President of the United States. Before being named vice president, Roosevelt served as McKinley’s Assistant Secretary to the Navy until USS Maine explodes in Havana, inspiring Roosevelt to form the 1st U.S. Volunteer Cavalry Regiment – the “Rough Riders.”

McKinley was the last president with Civil War service (ultimately becoming a brevetted Major) and the only one to fight as an enlisted soldier. Apart from Grover Cleveland’s tenures in office, the nation was run by Civil War veterans from 1865 until 1901. The others were Andrew Johnson (Brig. Gen. and military governor of Tennessee), Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, Hayes (brevet Maj. Gen.), Maj. Gen. James Garfield, Brig. Gen. Chester Arthur, and Benjamin Harrison (brevet Brig. Gen.).

Following the McKinley assassination, Congress tasks the U.S. Secret Service with protecting the president.

1939: At the controls of his Vought-Sikorsky VS-300 prototype, Igor Sikorsky makes a 10-second tethered flight – the first successful flight of a single main rotor, single tail rotor helicopter.

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Sept. 5: Today in military history

[Originally published at OpsLens.com]

Today’s post is in honor of U.S. Air Force Staff Sergeant Todd J. “TJ” Lobraico Jr. who was killed on this day in 2013 by enemy small-arms fire during a patrol outside Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan. The 22-yer-old native of New Fairfield, Conn. was serving with the New York Air National Guard’s 105th Security Forces Squadron at the time and had previously been deployed to Iraq.


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.

1917: At Gouzeaucourt, France, an American engineer unit comes under enemy artillery fire, wounding Sgt. Matthew Calderwood and Pvt. William Branigan – the first U.S. casualties of World War I.

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Sept. 4: Today in military history

[Originally published at OpsLens.com]

Today’s post is in honor of Sgt. Joel L. Murray, who gave his life for his country on this day in 2007. The 26-year-old infantryman from Kansas City, Kan. was on his second combat deployment, serving with 2d Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team when the vehicle he was riding was hit by an improvised explosive device.


1812: In Indiana Territory (near modern-day Terre Haute), Capt. – and future president – Zachary Taylor and 50 soldiers defended Fort Harrison against an attack by 600 Native Americans. One Indian crawls up to the blockhouse and sets it on fire, threatening to burn down the outpost. However, the flames made it easier to see the attackers, and although sickness left the garrison with just 15 able-bodied soldiers at the time of the attack, Taylor’s heavily outnumbered force defeats the attackers and hands the United States her first land victory during the War of 1812.

1862: Gen. Robert E. Lee’s troops begin crossing the Potomac River into Maryland, kicking off the Confederacy’s short-lived invasion of the north.

1886: Worn out after being relentlessly pursued by the U.S. Cavalry, the feared Apache leader Geronimo (featured image, on left) surrenders to the Army for the last time.

1941: While enroute to Iceland, the destroyer USS Greer (DD-145) spots a German submarine. Although the United States is not yet at war with Germany, the sub launches a torpedo at Greer, who responds by dropping depth charges, becoming the first U.S. warship to fire on – and receive fire from – a German vessel. President Franklin Roosevelt responds by issuing an order which states that from now on, American ships or planes will shoot any Axis vessels they come across.

1945: Wake Island’s 2,200 surviving Japanese soldiers surrender. Rather than retake the island following it’s capture, the United States simply bypassed it and prevented its resupply. 1,300 Japanese on the island died over the course of the war, mostly due to starvation. The Japanese commander, Rear Adm. Shigematsu Sakaibara, will be tried for war crimes and executed for the massacre of nearly 100 U.S. prisoners of war following an air raid.

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Aug. 31: Today in military history

[Originally published at OpsLens.com]

Today’s piece is in honor of Army Staff Sgt. Joshua Bowden, who died of injuries from a small-arms battle in Ghazni, Afghanistan. The 28-year-old native of Villa Rica, Ga. was on his second Afghan deployment and assigned to the 242d Ordnance Battalion (EOD), 71st Ordnance Group.

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: As war rages across Europe and Asia, 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.

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Aug. 30: Today in military history

[Originally published at OpsLens.com]

Today’s post is in honor of Army Staff Sgt. Aaron N. Holleyman. On this day in 2004, an improvised explosive device detonated near Holleyman’s vehicle as it drove through Khutayiah, Iraq, killing the 26-year-old native of Glasgow, Mont. Holleyman served in the 1st Battalion of the 5th Special Forces Group and had served in Iraq in 2003, earning the Purple Heart and Bronze Star. He was sent back to the States after being wounded and volunteered to go back to Iraq after his recovery.

1776: After a series of defeats by the British, Gen. George Washington’s Continental Army conducts a strategic withdrawal of Long Island, sneaking 10,000 men and their equipment through British Adm. Richard Howe’s picket force under cover of darkness. Gen. William Howe (yes, the Howes are brothers) sends a letter to Gen. George Washington seeking a peace conference. Washington rejects the offer, forwarding the message to Congress instead. Diplomacy falls flat when the British refuse to recognize American independence on Sept. 11, and the British respond by capturing New York City four days later.

1862: Near Lexington, Ky., Maj. Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith accomplishes the “nearest thing to a Cannae” (Hannibal’s double envelopment of the Roman army – perhaps the greatest tactical achievement in military history) during the Civil War. The Confederates rout Maj. Gen. William “Bull” Nelson’s inexperienced Union troops – capturing over 4,000 – in the Battle of Richmond.

1918: Southeast of Verdun, France, Gen. John J. Pershing’s First Army moves into position at the Saint-Mihiel salient. Among Pershing’s three U.S. (and one French) corps is Lt. Col. George S. Patton, Jr.’s newly formed 1st Provisional Tank Brigade, which will conduct the first tank warfare in American history in the upcoming Battle of Saint-Mihiel – the first independently-led American operation of World War I.

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Aug. 28: Today in military history

[Originally published at OpsLens.com]

Today’s post is in honor of Sgt. Edgar E. Lopez of the 1st Battalion, 2d Marine Regiment, 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, II Marine Expeditionary Force. On this day in 2004, the 27-year-old native of Los Angeles was killed by enemy action in Iraq’s Babil Province.

1862: One year after the Confederacy’s “glorious but dear-bought victory” over the Union in the First Battle of Bull Run, the two (significantly larger) armies meet again on the same battleground. 70,000 soldiers of Union Maj. Gen. John Pope’s Army of Virginia engage Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee’s 50,000-man Army of Northern Virginia, resulting in heavy casualties on both sides. Maj. Gen. James Longstreet’s five divisions (25,000 men) execute the largest mass assault of the war, smashing their opponents’ left flank and forcing and the Union to once again withdraw.

1944: Army Air Force pilots Maj. Joseph Myers and 2nd Lt. Manford Croy, Jr., flying P-47 Thunderbolts, become the first fighter pilots to score a victory over a jet aircraft when they shoot down German pilot Hieronymus Lauer’s Me 262.

Meanwhile, the First Army crosses the Marne River in France just days after the liberation of Paris, and to the south, the coastal towns of Marseilles and Toulon surrender to the Allies.

1945: An advance party of 150 soldiers – the first American troops to set foot in Japan – land at the naval airfield at Atsugi to prepare for the 11th Airborne Division’s arrival in two days.

1952: Off the Korean coast, USS Boxer launches the first “guided missile” ever fired from an aircraft carrier – a radio-controlled F6F-5K Hellcat fighter fitted with 1,000-lb. bombs. A pilot controlled the drone, which was fitted with a TV camera, from a two-seat AD-2Q Skyraider. Of the six drones launched by Boxer, only one will reach its target.

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Aug. 22: Today in military history

[Originally published at OpsLens.com]

1776: A force of over 20,000 Redcoats led by Gen. William Howe land on Long Island, N.Y.. Over the next few days the British will force the Americans to withdraw to New Jersey, and the British capture the vital port of New York City – which they hold for the duration of the war.

1863: The crew of Union steamer USS Shokokon spots the Confederate schooner Alexander Cooper in New Topsail Inlet on the North Carolina Coast (just south of present-day Camp Lejeune). A crew of sailors board a dinghy which they use to reach the rear of the Confederate camp guarding the ship, where Master-at-arms Robert T. Clifford sneaks ashore and counts the enemy. Although outnumbered three-to-one, Clifford leads a charge against the Rebels, who are routed and leave behind their ship and supplies. For his actions, Clifford is awarded the Medal of Honor.

1914: During the opening days of World War I, the world is introduced to a level of violence on a scale never before seen as the German army kills 27,000 French soldiers in one day at Ardennes and Charleroi. By month’s end, the Battle of the Frontiers will account for over a quarter million French casualties – with 75,000 killed in action. Meanwhile, the French, British, and Belgian troops manage to inflict 200,000 casualties on German General Helmuth von Moltke’s invasion force.

1942: Elements of Gen. Friedrich Paulus’ Sixth Army begin arriving outside Stalingrad, beginning what would become perhaps the largest and deadliest engagement in human history – claiming some 2 million casualties over the course of the battle. The Sixth Army will be surrounded and wiped out after five brutal months of urban combat, and only 6,000 of the 107,000 prisoners will survive the war.

1945: As Japanese forces surrender across Asia, American aircraft drop several teams of French colonial administrators into French Indochina (present-day Vietnam). Having worked alongside Ho Chi Minh against the Japanese during World War II, the United States was originally supportive of Vietnamese independence, but soon will reluctantly have to side with the French during the Cold War.

Ho Chi Minh (in shorts) with American OSS agents in 1945. The man in the suit is Gen. Vo Nguyen Giap, who commanded the Viet Minh during World War II and fought the Americans as commander of the North Vietnamese Army during the Vietnam War. The smiling man in the center is Maj. Allison Thomas, commander of the OSS’ “Deer Team” that parachuted into French Indochina to link up with Ho Chi Minh and Gen. Giap to fight the Japanese.

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Aug. 17: Today in military history

1861: The Departments of Northeastern Virginia, Washington, and Shenandoah are merged into one outfit: the Army of the Potomac. Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan, the only Union general with any victories under his belt so far, will be its first commander.

1942: (Featured image) In the Marshall Islands, the submarines USS Argonaut and USS Nautilus unload 211 Marine Raiders who board rubber boats and head for Makin Island. Lt. Col. Evan Carlson’s Raiders manage to make it ashore despite heavy surf and engine troubles, succeeding in wiping out most of the island’s Japanese defenders, but fail to accomplish their objectives of taking prisoners and gaining intelligence. The raid on Makin Island, along with the raid on Tulagi earlier in the month, are considered the first use of special operations during World War II.

That same day, B-17 bombers target Nazi-occupied Europe for the first time, hitting a railroad marshaling yard in Rouen, France. Piloting the lead bomber is Maj. Paul W. Tibbetts Jr., who will drop the atomic bomb on Hiroshima nearly three years later.

1943: The Eighth Air Force conducts a massive raid against a Messerschmidt aircraft factory and ball bearing production facilities in Germany. Of the 376 B-17s that flew, 96 are shot down and another 95 are unable to be used again. The factory is destroyed, and ball bearing production is significantly reduced.

Meanwhile, as Axis troops evacuate the island, Lt. Gen. George Patton and his Seventh Army enter the Sicilian capital of Messina. Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery intended to relegate Patton’s maligned force to protecting the British Eighth Army’s flank and mop-up operations, but Patton’s “Race to Messina” proved the mettle of American combat troops and restored prestige to his troops after the North African campaign.

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