If you had to name the ten most-famous Americans ever, who would be on your list? Better yet: if you could go back in time with any of them and have a beer, who would you pick? John Glenn would have to be at the top of my list. He flew combat missions in World War II and Korea, flew alongside baseball great Ted Williams, was one of the original Mercury astronauts, the first American to orbit the earth, was a politician, ran for president, then became the oldest man in space. Man, wouldn’t you just kill to hear some of those stories?
The following pages feature historic photos of John H. Glenn Jr., some you might have seen, some you haven’t. Hopefully you enjoy reading this slideshow as much as we did writing it.
Maj. Glenn’s fighter took so much damage from enemy fire that his fellow aviators nicknamed him “Magnet Ass.” Here he stands in front of the F-86 Sabre which he used to kill three enemy MiG-15s. Between World War II and Korea, Glenn flew 149 combat missions and was hit 12 different times. On two occasions, his plane returned with over 250 holes.
Today’s post is in honor of Maj. Jeffrey R. Calero, who died of wounds sustained during a dismounted patrol in Kajaki, Afghanistan on this day in 2007. Calero, 34, was born in Puerto Rico and raised in Queens Village, N.Y.. He was a member of Company C’s Operational Detachment Alpha 2132, 1st Battalion, 20th Special Forces Group (Airborne) and was serving on his second Afghan deployment.
1814: The wooden floating battery Demologos, the United States’ first steam-powered warship, is launched at New York City.
1942: Decimated by combat losses, malnutrition, and tropical diseases, the first soldiers of the Japanese garrison begin departing Guadalcanal.
1944: Three 442d Regimental Combat Team soldiers earn the Medal of Honor near Biffontaine, France on this day. Technician 5th Grade James K. Okubo, Pvt. Barney F. Hajiro, and Pvt. George T. Sakato (click the links to read their citations).
The all-Nisei (second-generation Japanese-American citizens) 442d RCT holds the distinction of being the most decorated unit in United States Armed Forces history.
1861: Brig. Gen. Irvin McDowell’s 35,000-man army departs Washington, D.C., marching to meet Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard’s Confederate force assembled along Bull Run some 25 miles away. Just weeks ago, McDowell was a major and now leads the largest field army assembled in North America to that point.
1945: (featured image) The atomic age dawns when man’s first nuclear weapon is tested at Alamogordo Air Base, N.M. (present-day White Sands Missile Range). The shock wave from the 19-kiloton device, nicknamed “Gadget,” could be felt 100 miles away and the mushroom cloud reached over six miles in the air. (note: the above image is taken just 16 milliseconds after detonation. The fireball is already 660 feet high.)
Within hours of the Trinity test, the cruiser USS Indianapolis (CA-35) departs San Francisco on a top-secret mission. The un-escorted cruiser sprints across the Pacific at a record-setting pace, bound for Tinian. On board is the uranium and parts for the “Little Boy” weapon that will level Hiroshima on August 6.
[Today in Military History is originally published at OpsLens.com]
1865: The war lost, Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee concludes, “There is nothing left for me to do, but to go and see Gen. [Ulysses S.] Grant, and I would rather die a thousand deaths.”
Lee formally surrenders the Army of Northern Virginia to Grant at the home of Wilmer McLean in the village of Appomattox Court House, Virginia. Still-operating Confederate forces will surrender within months.
1918: The famed 94th “Hat in the Ring” Aero Squadron moves up to the Croix de Metz Aerodrome in France, becoming the first American aviation outfit to enter combat. In May, Lt. Douglas Campbell becomes the first American-trained pilot to earn “ace” status, and fellow squadron mate Lt. Eddie Rickenbacker – who will ultimately become America’s top flying ace of World War I – scores his fifth victory in June.
1942: Having run out of food, ammunition, and supplies after months of fighting the Japanese, Maj. Gen. Edward P. King surrenders over 11,000 American and 60,000 Filipino forces under his command on Luzon Island to the Japanese. Immediately after the fall of Bataan, the Japanese begin bombarding Lt. Gen. Jonathan M. Wainwright and some 10,000 troops now isolated on the island fortress of Corregidor, who will manage to hold out for a month before they must surrender as well.
This day also marks the beginning of the brutal Bataan Death March. The Japanese force the sick, starving, and wounded prisoners to march some 80-90 miles in extreme heat and humidity to a Japanese prison camp in the backcountry of Luzon.
Along the way, thousands of captives are beaten, raped, bayoneted, disemboweled, beheaded, or shot. Those too weak to keep up with the march – or who stop to relieve themselves – are summarily executed. All are deprived of food and water. Fewer than 55,000 survive. Thousands more will not survive the prison camps or the so-called “hell ships” delivering them to labor facilities in Japan.