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
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Oct. 11 in U.S. military history

[Originally published at OpsLens.com]

1st Lt. Lewis B. “Chesty” Puller (with pipe) in Nicaragua, 1931

1939: A letter written by Hungarian-born physicist Leo Szilard, and signed by Albert Einstein, reaches President Franklin D. Roosevelt, warning that the Germans could develop an atomic weapon and that the United States should begin their own nuclear research. Roosevelt quickly authorizes a committee on uranium, setting in motion what will eventually become the Manhattan Project.

1942: U.S. Naval forces under the command of Rear Admiral Norman Scott intercept a Japanese fleet, commanded by Rear Adm. Aritomo Gotō, attempting to reinforce troops on Guadalcanal in the Battle of Cape Esperance. Fighting begins shortly before midnight off the northwest coast of the island when the Japanese are caught by surprise. The heavy cruiser Furutaka and destroyer Fubuki are sunk during the gun battle, and Adm. Gotō is mortally wounded. Planes from Henderson Field strike the retreating Japanese fleet the next morning and sink two additional Japanese destroyers the following day. Japanese sailors who jumped overboard refuse to be rescued by American ships, instead choosing to remain in the shark-infested waters.

1945: Marines of the III Amphibious Corps land in China to assist in repatriating hundreds of thousands of Japanese and Koreans and to protect American lives and property. By the time the Marines depart China the following year, 35 have been killed and 43 wounded in clashes with Mao Zedong’s Communist forces.

1968: Astronauts Walter M. Schirra (Capt., USN), Donn F. Eisele (Col., USAF), and Walter Cunningham (Col. USMCR ) blast off aboard Apollo 7. The crew, commanded by Schirra, would orbit the Earth for 11 days and transmit the first live television broadcasts from orbit.

1971: Marine legend Lt. Gen. Lewis B. “Chesty” Puller, the highest decorated Marine in history, passes away. Among his numerous decorations, Puller earned the nation’s second-highest award for valor (five Navy Crosses and a Distinguished Service Cross) six times – second only to Capt. Eddie Rickenbacker, America’s top flying ace of World War II. The 37-year veteran served in the Nicaraguan and Haitian campaigns, as well as World War I and the Korean War.

Posted on October 11, 2017 at 18:30 by Chris Carter · Permalink · One Comment
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Sept. 26 in U.S. military history

American troops operating the M1916 37mm gun in France, 1918

[Originally published at OpsLens.com]

1777: Gen. Sir William Howe outmaneuvers Gen. George Washington’s Continental Army and takes the American capital of Philadelphia. Historically, wars usually end when the capital city falls into enemy hands, but the American Revolution will continue for another six years.

1918: Though technically launched at 11:30 p.m., Sept. 25, with an intense artillery barrage; the Meuse-Argonne Offensive – the six-week long “greatest battle of World War I in which the Americans participated” – officially begins just before dawn when whistles are blown along the American trench-lines, and with fixed-bayonets, American soldiers clamber over the top and begin their assault against the German lines. On this day alone, the Army awards eight soldiers with the Medal of Honor.

The battle, which begins with approximately 600,000 American soldiers and Marines, will see U.S. ranks swell to more than one million men. 26,277 Americans will be killed, another 95,786 wounded. But the campaign will end the war.

Meanwhile off the coast of Great Britain, a German U-boat sinks the Coast Guard cutter Tampa on convoy escort duty. Tampa takes 119 Coast Guardsmen and Navy sailors and 11 Royal Navy passengers with her to the bottom of the Bristol Channel – the greatest combat-related loss of life at sea for the Americans during World War I.

1945: U.S. Army Lt. Col. A. Peter Dewey, the chief of the Saigon Office of Special Services, is mistaken for a Frenchman and shot in the head by Viet Minh forces, making Dewey the first American killed by communists in Vietnam.

1983: Shortly after midnight, Moscow’s early warning network reports the launch of an American intercontinental ballistic missile. Despite a period of high tensions between the U.S. and Soviet Union, Lt. Col. Stanislav Petrov realizes that it must be a glitch in the computer system since an American first strike would surely involve hundreds of missiles and does not initiate a retaliatory strike, as Soviet doctrine required. Later, another the system reports the launch of another four missiles. This marks the closest the United States and Soviet Union come to accidental nuclear war.

Posted on September 26, 2017 at 15:52 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
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Aug. 30 in U.S. military history

Lt. Col. George S. Patton, Jr. in front of a French-built Renault FT light tank, which the Americans used during World War I

1776: After a series of defeats by the British, the Continental Army conducts a strategic withdrawal of Long Island, and Gen. William Howe 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.

1963: After the United States and Soviet Union narrowly avoid war during the Cuban Missile Crisis, a “hot line” is installed between the Pentagon and Kremlin, providing the two nuclear-armed superpowers with instant communication in hopes of preventing another conflict. The U.S. sends “The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog’s back 1234567890,” and the Soviets respond with another message indicating all their teletype keys are functioning. The 10,000-mile secure cable connection still operates today, however it has been upgraded to a telephone system.

1995: NATO begins its first bombing campaign, Operation “Deliberate Force.” American land- and carrier-based warplanes, along with aircraft from 14 other nations, drop over 1,000 precision-guided munitions on Bosnian Serb positions, and the operation marks the first combat action for the German Luftwaffe since the end of World War II 50 years earlier.

Posted on August 30, 2017 at 09:38 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
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Aug. 22 in U.S. Military History

P4M-1Q Mercator of the VQ-2 Electronics Reconnaissance Squadron

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.

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).

1956: Chinese fighters engage a U.S. Navy P4M “Mercator” flying a nighttime patrol over international waters, killing all 16 crew members. During the Cold War, communist warplanes will shoot down several Mercator electronic surveillance aircraft.

Posted on August 22, 2017 at 08:50 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
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Aug. 21 in U.S. Military History

Grumman F8F Bearcat fighters ready for takeoff aboard the Essex-class aircraft carrier, USS Tarawa (CV-40) circa 1948. (U.S. Navy photo)

1942: On Guadalcanal, around 900 soldiers of Japan’s 17th Army slam into about 2,500 Marines manning positions along Alligator Creek. Wave after wave of Japanese soldiers are cut down by the Marines, killing well over 700 attackers – including the Japanese commander – while inflicting nearly 100 percent casualties.

1944: The F8F-1 “Bearcat” – Grumman’s last piston-powered fighter – makes its first flight. The warplane can fly faster and climb more quickly than the venerable “Hellcat”, but enters service too late to see action in World War II. The Blue Angels will begin using the Bearcat for their demonstrations, and many Navy and Marine aviators – including Neil Armstrong – consider the agile warplane as their favorite.

1957: The Soviet Union launches the R-7 “Semyorka”, the world’s first intercontinental ballistic missile. The R-7 was capable of carrying a 3-ton nuclear warhead a distance of over 5,000 miles away.

1959: President Dwight D. Eisenhower signs an executive order granting statehood to the territory of Hawaii, and Capt. Daniel Inouye (USA, Ret.) begins what will be a career spanning 53 years in Congress. During World War II, Inouye served in the highly decorated all-Nisei 442d Regimental Combat Team. He lost his arm during a daring attack on German machine gun positions in Italy, in which the already wounded officer had to pry a live grenade from his severed hand and used it to destroy a bunker. For his actions, Inouye was eventually awarded the Medal of Honor.

1965: A Titan II rocket blasts off from Cape Canaveral, carrying Gemini V astronauts Col. “Gordo” Cooper (USAF) and Lt. Cmdr. “Pete” Conrad (USN) into space to spend what Conrad refers to as “eight days in a garbage can.” The long, cramped spaceflight marks the first time Americans set the endurance record for time in space.

1980: During a Western Pacific patrol, the nuclear-powered cruiser USS Truxtun (CGN-35) and the destroyer USS Merrill (DD-976) rescue over 100 Vietnamese refugees some 200 miles southeast of Saigon.

Posted on August 21, 2017 at 09:10 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
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30th anniversary of Reagan’s “Tear down this wall” speech

Posted on June 12, 2017 at 09:30 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
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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.

Posted on June 12, 2017 at 09:21 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
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May 1 in U.S. military history

1898: U.S. Navy Commodore George Dewey’s Asiatic Squadron steams single file into Manila Bay and destroys the out-armored and out-gunned Spanish fleet in the Philippines. Despite the support of shore batteries, the Spanish lose all seven of their vessels and only six American sailors are wounded. The Spanish-American War will effectively end in August, and Spain will cede control of the islands to the United States.

1943: When his B-17 bomber is hit by German flak and Sgt. Maynard H. “Snuffy” Smith loses power in his ball turret gun, he climbs out to assist the other members of the crew. The explosion started a fire started in the fuselage and three of the airmen had already bailed out. He treats two severely wounded comrades and begins fighting the fire that was melting holes in the aircraft. For the next 90 minutes, Smith alternates between caring for the wounded, extinguishing the fire, and manning the .50 caliber guns against attacking German fighters. The plane makes it safely back to England, but breaks in half upon landing from the fire and 3,500 bullets and pieces of shrapnel.

1960: CIA pilot Francis Gary Powers (former Captain, USAF) takes off from a military airbase in Pakistan on a reconnaissance overflight mission of the Soviet Union. His U-2 spy plane, flying some 70,000 feet above Russia, is hit by a surface-to-air missile and crashes into the Ural Mountains. Powers ejects safely and is held in a Soviet prison until his famous exchange on a Berlin bridge nearly two years later.

2003: George W. Bush becomes the first president to make an arrested landing when the S-3 Viking dubbed “Navy One” touches down on the USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) following its 10-month combat deployment. Bush delivers a speech on the deck of the aircraft carrier announcing the end of major combat operations in Iraq.

Although the insurgency would drag on for years, the 21-day conventional campaign against Saddam Hussein’s Ba’athist regime is over.

Apr. 14 in U.S. military history

1865: Four days after Gen. Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appamatox, famed actor John Wilkes Booth shoots and mortally wounds Pres. Abraham Lincoln in the back of the head at Ford’s Theater in Washington, D.C.

1945: The Tirante (SS-240) torpedoes and sinks a Japanese ammunition ship in Cheju Harbor (modern-day South Korea). The explosion illuminates the surfaced Tirante, and as the sub rushes to escape the harbor, it launches its last two torpedoes, killing the two escort frigates in hot pursuit. Commander George L. Street is awarded the Medal of Honor for the engagement.

1969: Two North Korean Mig-21 fighters shoot down a Navy EC-121M “Warning Star” reconnaissance aircraft on an electronic intelligence-gathering mission against the Soviet Union. 30 sailors and one Marine perish in the largest single loss of life during an aircraft engagement during the Cold War.

1986: In response to a Libyan terrorist bombing in Berlin that killed two U.S. servicemen and wounded 79, Pres. Ronald Reagan orders airstrikes against Muammar Gaddafi. 45 Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps aircraft drop 60 tons of munitions on Libyan military targets. An Air Force F-111 “Aardvark” fighter-bomber is shot down by a surface to air missile – killing the two-man crew.

Western European governments denied the U.S. access to their airspace for the strike, forcing the F-111 crews based in England to fly around Spain. The route change added 13 hours of flight time and six mid-air refuelings, making Operation El Dorado Canyon the longest fighter mission in U.S. military history.

1988: The guided missile frigate Samuel B. Roberts (FFG-58) strikes an Iranian mine in the Persian Gulf, injuring ten sailors. In four days, the United States retaliates against Iran in the largest surface engagement since World War II.

Posted on April 14, 2017 at 18:08 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
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