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Nov. 6: Today in U.S. military history

Today’s post is in honor of Sgt. 1st Class William R. Brown, who was killed by an improvised explosive device in Sperwan Gar, Afghanistan on this date in 2006. Brown, 30, of Fort Worth, Texas, was assigned to 1st Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group.


1941: While searching for blockade runners in the Caribbean, the cruiser USS Omaha and destroyer USS Somers spot a cargo ship flying U.S. colors but behaving oddly and whose sailors looked “uniquely un-American.” When Omaha attempts to make contact, the ship’s crew attempt to sabotage the vessel and a boarding crew is sent over. The captured ship turns out to be the German Odenwald, transporting rubber and other supplies from Japan. The sailors from the boarding party are each awarded $3,000 as bounty from the seized cargo and everyone else involved receives two month’s pay – the last time U.S. sailors will be awarded prize money.

1942: The 2d Raider Battalion sets out on a month-long patrol to cut off Japanese forces attempting to escape encirclement at Guadalcanal’s Koli Point. Over the next four weeks, Lt. Col. Evans Carlson’s Raiders march 150 miles through dense jungles, using their trademark guerilla tactics to kill 500 enemy troops in several engagements. Only 16 Marines died during the operation, but virtually the entire battalion suffered from tropical diseases that were said to be worse than combat.

1944: Capt. Charles Yeager becomes one of the first U.S. pilots to shoot down a Messerschmidt Me-262 jet fighter, scoring his victory as the warplane attempts to land on a German airfield.

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Nov. 1 in U.S. military history

Today’s post is in honor of Navy Special Warfare Operator (SEAL) 2nd Class Matthew G. Kantor (22, of Gillette, N.J.), who was killed in action during a firefight in Zabul, Afghanistan on this day in 2012. Kantor was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star with Combat V, and his citation can be found at the bottom of this page.


1904: The brand-new U.S. Army War College opens its doors to three majors and six captains, among them Capt. (future General of the Armies) John J. “Black Jack” Pershing.

1942: On Guadalcanal, a machine gun section led by Marine Cpl. Anthony Casamento is hit so badly during the fourth (and final) battle at the Matanikau River that all but Casamento were grievously wounded or killed. Despite his own wounds (he was hit 14 times during the engagement), Casamento single-handedly held his position and repelled numerous enemy attacks. Casamento will be awarded the Medal of Honor in 1980 after surviving eyewitnesses to his actions are found.

1943: The 3rd Marine Division, led by Gen. Allen H. Turnage, hits the beaches on Japanese-held Bougainville. U.S. Marines and soldiers kill some 8,000 of the island’s garrison, and around 16,000 die from starvation and disease.

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Oct. 30 in U.S. military history

Today’s post is in honor of Cpl. Brett W. Land, who died of wounds from an improvised explosive devise in Afghanistan’s Zhari district on this day in 2010. The 24-year-old native of Wasco, Calif. was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault).


1918: Famous World War I flying ace Capt. Eddie Rickenbacker shoots down his 26th – and final – enemy aircraft over Rémonville, France.

1940: The Royal Air Force’s First Eagle Squadron, consisting of volunteer pilots from the United States, becomes operational. Thousands of Americans would apply, but only 244 were chosen for service during the early days of World War II.

Featured image caption: Three American pilots of No. 71 (Eagle) Squadron RAF, Pilot Officers Andrew B. Mamedoff, Vernon C. “Shorty” Keough and Eugene Q. Tobin, show off their new squadron badge in October 1940. All three officers will perish within a year.

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Posted in Articles Military History

Maskirovka Matters: Khrushchev Puts a ‘Hedgehog Down Uncle Sam’s Pants’

[Originally published at OpsLens.com]

56 years ago this week, the United States and Soviet Union were on the verge of all-out nuclear war. Suddenly, American families learned that they were in the crosshairs of Soviet nuclear-tipped missiles stationed 90 miles away from Florida, and virtually the entire continental U.S. was now moments away from annihilation. We know how the Cuban Missile Crisis ended, but how did it come about in the first place?

During the early days of the Cold War, the Soviet Union had a big problem: mutually assured destruction only works when both sides can assure destruction. The United States could target Moscow with intercontinental ballistic missiles, strategic bombers, and nuclear-armed submarines. By deploying nuclear missiles to Italy and Turkey, the USSR could be devastated in just minutes. Sure, the Kremlin could target Western Europe and Alaska, but Washington, D.C. was well outside of the reach of the Soviets.

That was a problem. But Nikita Khrushchev saw a solution, and he declared his intention to “throw a hedgehog down Uncle Sam’s pants.”

Khrushchev meets with fellow officers during the Battle of Stalingrad (RIA Novosti image)

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Oct. 22: Today in U.S. military history

Master Sgt. Joshua Wheeler was posthumously awarded the Cherokee Nation’s Medal of Patriotism and is listed as the first U.S. servicemember to give his life in the fight against the Islamic State

Today’s post is in honor of 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta Master Sgt. Joshua Wheeler who was killed in action on this day in 2015. Wheeler, 39, of Roland, Okla., was conducting a joint U.S.-Kurdish operation to liberate prisoners from an Islamic State detention facility at the time of his death and was the first servicemember killed in action in Iraq since 2011. During his 20-year career, he had well over a dozen combat deployments, for which he was awarded the Silver Star, 11 Bronze Stars – several with the combat “V” device.


1951: Operation BUSTER-JANGLE, a series of low-yield atomic weapons tests in the Nevada desert, begins with the “Able” shot. Some 6,500 troops are stationed just six miles away, witnessing the blast and then moving towards the detonation site to determine the effectiveness of fortifications and also provide data to scientists on the psychology of soldiers in the aftermath of atomic attacks.

Soldiers from the 11th Airborne Division watch the 21 kiloton “Dog” shot from six miles away. (U.S. Army photo by Cpl. Alexander McCaughey)

1957: The U.S. military suffers its first casualties in Vietnam when a wave of terrorist attacks hits Military Assistance Advisory Group and U.S. Information Service installations in Saigon, injuring 13 advisors.

1962: After consulting with former president Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy announces that the Soviet Union had placed nuclear weapons in Cuba and the United States will establish a naval blockade around the island to prevent further offensive weapons from entering Cuba.

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Oct. 17: This day in U.S. military history

Today’s post is in honor of Cpl. Jorge Villarreal Jr., who gave his life on this day in 2010 in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province. The 22-year-old San Antonio native was killed when an improvised explosive device hit his vehicle. Villarreal was serving with the 1st Battalion, 11th Marines, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force.


1918: Brig. Gen. William “Billy” Mitchell meets with American Expeditionary Force Commander Gen. John J. Pershing and floats the idea of dropping soldiers of the 1st Infantry Division behind enemy lines. Pershing approves the concept, but the war ends before paratroopers become a reality.

1922: Lt. Commander Virgil C. Griffin, piloting a Vought VE-7SF bi-winged fighter, makes the first-ever “official” takeoff from a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier, USS Langley – a coaling ship which had been converted into America’s first aircraft carrier – in York River, Va.

Though Griffin is indeed the first man to takeoff from a “carrier”, he is not the first to takeoff from a warship. That distinction belongs to Eugene B. Ely who took-off from a platform affixed to a cruiser in 1910.

1941: When a “wolfpack” of German U-boats attacks an allied convoy, overwhelming its Canadian escort ships, USS Kearny and three other American destroyers depart their base at Iceland and begin dropping depth charges. A German torpedo strikes Kearny, killing 11 sailors and injuring 22 – the first American casualties of World War II. Adolf Hitler will use the engagement as a reason for declaring war on the United States in December.

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Oct. 15: Today in U.S. military history

Today’s post is in honor of Lance Cpl. Joshua M. Hines, who gave his life for our country on this day in 2006. The 26-year-old native of Olney, Ill. perished during combat operations in Fallujah, Iraq. Hines was serving with the 3rd Battalion, 24th Marines, 4th Marine Division, Marine Forces Reserve.


1917: When a German submarine launches a torpedo at USS Cassin (DD-43) during an escort patrol, Gunner’s Mate First Class Osmond Kelly Ingram realizes the torpedo will impact the destroyer’s store of depth charges. Instead of remaining in a position of safety, he charges across the deck to the depth charges to jettison the stockpiled explosives that could sink his ship. Ingram is killed while trying to save Cassin, becoming the first U.S. sailor killed during World War I and is posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.

1918: Near Landres-et-St. Georges, France, Lt. Col. William “Wild Bill” Donovan earns the Medal of Honor while leading his soldiers during an assault on strong German positions. Wounded in the leg by a burst of machinegun fire, Donovan refuses evacuation and remains in command until his unit is withdrawn. Donovan is named Coordinator of Information by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1941 and he will form the Office of Strategic Services the following year – the predecessor to today’s Central Intelligence Agency.

Lt. Col. Donovan during World War I. Prior to his Medal of Honor, Donovan was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross and the French Croix du Guerre for valor on the battlefield.

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Oct. 5 in U.S. military history

Today’s post is in honor of Cpl. Rachel L. Hugo, who gave her life for our country on this date in 2007. The 24-year-old native of Madison, Wis. was killed when insurgents attacked her convoy with an improvised explosive device and small-arms fire. She was serving in the 303rd Military Police Company, 97th Military Police Battalion, 89th Military Police Brigade, U.S. Army Reserve.


1813: British troops and Native American warriors led by Maj. Gen. Henry Proctor and Shawnee chief Tecumseh are defeated by American Maj. Gen. Henry Harrison’s men in the Battle of the Thames (Ontario, Canada). The outnumbered British troops are routed Tecumseh’s tribal confederation collapses when he and his war chief Roundhead are killed. Soon, control of contested tribal-held lands in what was then-called Northwest Territory (Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, and the eastern part of Minnesota) will be ceded to the U.S. government.

1918: Sgt. Michael B. Ellis of the 28th Infantry Regiment single-handedly attacks a German machine gun nest near Exermount, France, killing two enemy soldiers and capturing 17. He then moves on to capture 27 more enemy troops and six machine guns. Two captured officers cough up the locations of four additional machine gun positions, and the “Sgt. York of St. Louis” takes them as well. In addition to numerous valor medals from foreign countries, Ellis is awarded the Medal of Honor.

1950: Just a few short weeks after the U.S. military had its back to the sea in the Pusan Perimeter, the tables have completely turned. Lt. Gen. Walton H. Walker’s Eighth U.S. Army issues orders to cross the 38th Parallel into North Korea. The communist capital of Pyongyang will soon be in allied hands, but China has threatened to join the war if the United States invades North Korea.

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