1775: In a speech before the House of Burgesses, future Virginia governor (and colonel of the 1st Virginia Regiment) Patrick Henry exclaims, “Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!”
1776: As a force-multiplier for the fledgling Continental Navy, the Continental Congress authorizes the employment of privateers (privately owned and armed merchant ships) against “enemies of these United Colonies,” specifically Great Britain, her commercial shipping, privately owned vessels, and ships of the Royal Navy.
1815: Though the War of 1812 has officially ended – communications being what they are in the early 19th century – the Royal Navy sloop-of-war HMS Penguin under the command of Capt. James Dickenson engages the sloop USS Hornet (the third of eight so-named American Navy ships) under Capt. James Biddle off the South Atlantic archipelago Tristan da Cunha. The fighting is quick and hot: Both captains are wounded; Dickenson mortally. HMS Penguin surrenders in less than one-half hour. Continue reading “23 March: This Day in U.S. Military History”
Today’s post is in honor of 2nd Lt. Michael P. Ruane who was killed by hostile fire during a combat operation just north of An Hoa Combat Base on this day in 1967. The 24-year-old Brooklyn, N.Y. native, assigned to Company M, 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines, 1st Marine Division, had only been in country for a week.
1902: Pres. Theodore Roosevelt orders Adm. George Dewey to take the U.S. North and South Atlantic Squadrons and sail to Venezuela, in order to prevent blockading European navies from waging war against Venezuela over unpaid debts.
1927: A day after a Coast Guard vessel accidentally rams – and sinks – the submarine USS S-4 (SS-109) off Cape Cod, Navy divers are rushed to the scene. Chief Gunner’s Mate Thomas Eadie learns by tapping on the hull that six sailors remain alive. When fellow diver Fred Michels attempts to attach a line pumping fresh air into the sub, which lies 100 feet below the surface, his own airline is fouled. Although exhausted from his previous dives – for which he will receive his second Navy Cross – Eadie quickly dives again and manages to save Michels after two hours of grueling work. Unfortunately, bad weather prevents the divers from saving the sub’s sailors in time, but Eadie is awarded the Medal of Honor.
1944: In the Philippine Sea, Adm. William “Bull” Halsey’s Task Force 38 sails directly into Typhoon “Cobra”. The 100 mph-plus winds and high seas capsize and sink three destroyers, while heavily damaging a cruiser, five aircraft carriers, and three destroyers. The deadly storm claims the lives of 790 U.S. sailors and destroys over 100 planes, leading to the creation of a Naval weather center and typhoon tracking center on Guam the following year.
Over China, nearly 300 B-29s Superfortress, B-24 Liberator, and B-25 Mitchell bombers – accompanied by P-51 Mustang escorts of the 14th Air Force – attack the Japanese Army’s expeditionary base at Hankao, igniting supply fires that will burn for three days. Continue reading “18 December: Today in U.S. military history”
Today’s post is in honor of Gunnery Sgt. Justin E. Schmalstieg who was killed while defusing a roadside bomb he in Afghanistan’s Helmand province on this day in 2010. The 28-year-old Pittsburgh native had served three tours in Iraq and was on his first deployment to Afghanistan. He was assigned to 1st Explosive Ordnance Disposal Company, 7th Engineer Support Battalion, 1st Marine Logistics Group, I Marine Expeditionary Force in Camp Pendleton, Calif.
1791: The Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments to the Constitution of the United States, become law.
1862: Union Army Maj. Gen. Ambrose E. Burnside ends his disastrous series of frontal attacks against Gen. Robert E. Lee’s well-entrenched Confederate forces along Marye’s Heights during the Battle of Fredericksburg. It is during the battle that Lee – emotionally moved by the valor of the Federal Army, which, despite terrible losses, attacks his impregnable position time-and-again – says, “It is well that war is so terrible, lest we grow too fond of it.”
1864: Gen. John Bell Hood’s Confederate Army of Tennessee is routed in the Battle of Nashville by a Union army under command of Gen. George Thomas. After the battle, Hood’s once-formidable army would no longer be an effective fighting force. Continue reading “15 December: Today in U.S. military history”
1918: When enemy fighters shoot down Ensign George M. Ludlow’s Machhi M.5 seaplane (featured image) off the Austria-Hungary coast, Charles H. Hammann lands beside him and rescues the downed aviator. Hamman’s fighter is also damaged, and the winds high and seas choppy, but he manages to take off with Ludlow holding the struts behind him (the plane wasn’t designed to carry two pilots) and flies 65 miles across the Adriatic Sea to the air station at Porto Cassini, Italy. The plane sinks from the weight of the extra passenger after landing but both aviators are safe.
Hammann, an enlisted pilot at the time, becomes the first Naval aviator awarded the Medal of Honor and is commissioned as an ensign after his daring flight.
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: Grumman’s last piston-powered fighter, the F8F-1 Bearcat, 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.
If you’ve ever tried to keep pace with another vehicle and talk to someone while both vehicles are in motion, you can probably appreciate how difficult it must be to accomplish the feat at 17,000 miles per hour like Gemini 6 and 7 astronauts had to.
On 15 December 1965 Walter M. Schirra and Thomas P. Stafford blasted off from Cape Canaveral to rendezvous with Frank Borman and Jim Lovell, who had already been in space for several days, studying the effects of long-term spaceflight. The original Gemini 6A aborted on the pad, and some quick thinking by Schirra saved the mission, when he opted not to follow procedure and eject the capsule when their Titan II launch vehicle failed to lift off. Three days later, the astronauts were back on the pad and lifted off without a hitch — with Borman and Lovell watching from space.
Just under six hours later, Gemini 6 closed in on the cramped and weary Gemini 7 crew and practiced rendezvous procedures. Schirra flew circles around Gemini 7 and the astronauts spent five hours traveling together, sometimes just inches apart. NASA produced a fascinating film about the joint missions called PROUD CONQUEST, which you can watch below the fold. Continue reading “Sunday Movie Matinee: Gemini 6 and 7”