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”
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.
1944: A plane carrying Maj. Glenn Miller, leader of the world-famous “Glenn Miller Orchestra” prior to World War II, disappears in bad weather over the English Channel. Miller volunteered for service and led the Army Air Force Band from 1942 until his disappearance.
Meanwhile, the US Seventh Army enters Germany.
1945: Gen. Douglas MacArthur orders the end of Shintoism as the state religion of Japan, which viewed Emperor Hirohito as a divine authority.
1948: The Navy and State Department sign a memorandum establishing the Marine Security Guard program for US embassies across the world.
1950: F-86 Sabres make their combat debut in Korea. Meanwhile, UN forces withdraw south of the 38th Parallel.
1964: The AC-47, the Air Force’s first gunship, makes its combat debut in Vietnam.
1965: U.S. bombers conduct their first major attack against North Vietnamese industrial targets, destroying a power plant north of Haiphong that supplied 15 percent of the country’s electricity.
Meanwhile, Walter M. Schirra (USN) and Thomas P. Stafford (USAF) blast off aboard Gemini VI. The crew test rendezvous procedures in space with Gemini VII, which had already been in space for several days.
1969: President Richard Nixon announces that 50,000 additional US troops will be withdrawn from Vietnam.
Medal of Honor: 44 years ago, Private Allen J. Lynch crossed a kill zone multiple times and killed numerous enemies in order to rescue three wounded comrades.
Adapted (and abridged) in part from “This Week in US Military History” by W. Thomas Smith Jr. at Human Events.