Posted in Military History

Sept. 10: Today in military history

 

[Originally published at OpsLens.com]

Today’s post is in honor of U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Joseph E. Robsky Jr. who gave his life for our country on this day in 2003. The 31-year-old native of Elizaville, N.Y. was killed in Baghdad, Iraq, when an enemy explosive device he was attempting to defuse detonated. He had served in the Marine Corps for four years before joining the 759th Ordinance Company.


1813: Along the shores of Lake Erie, Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry’s squadron engages the Royal Navy in the Battle of Put-in-Bay. Perry’s ship is so damaged that he boards an open lifeboat and transfers his flag to another ship in the face of heavy gunfire before resuming the fight. After defeating the British, he writes a brief report to Maj. Gen. (and future president) William Henry Harrison, commanding the Army of the Northwest: “We have met the enemy and they are ours. Two ships, two brigs, one schooner and one sloop.”

1944: The First U.S. Army captures Luxembourg. After being conquered by the Germans during both world wars, the tiny nation strips neutrality from its constitution and becomes a founding member of NATO.

1945: Just eight days after the end of World War II, the aircraft carrier USS Midway (CV-41) is commissioned., becoming the largest ship in the world. Midway would hold the title of the world’s largest ship for the next ten years, and her 1,001-foot flight deck would later be expanded from 2.8 to a whopping 4 acres. Midway aviators scored the first (June 17, 1965) and last (Jan. 12, 1973) victories of the Vietnam War. Later, she served as the flagship carrier during Operation DESERT STORM before retiring in 1992.

1950: When an enemy machinegun pins down his fellow 1st Cavalry troopers, Cpl. Gordon M. Craig and four other soldiers crawl forward to silence the enemy gun. When an enemy grenade lands in their position, Craig throws himself on the device to shield the others from the blast. Craig is killed, and posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.

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Sept. 7: Today in military history

[Originally published at OpsLens.com]

Today’s post is in honor of Cpl. Philip G. E. Charte, who gave his life for our country on this day in 2010. The 22-year-old native of Goffstown, N.H. was serving in the 2d Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force when he was killed during combat operations in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province.


1776: Sgt. Ezra Lee silently makes his way down the Hudson River in an 8-ft. long submersible named Turtle towards British Adm. Richard Howe’s flagship, HMS Eagle, anchored just south of Manhattan. Turning two hand cranks for propulsion, Lee reaches the ship but is unable to drill into the hull in order to attach a “torpedo.” While Lee’s attack is unsuccessful, the craft designed by inventor David Bushnell marks the first-ever submarine attack.

1864: As he prepares for his March to the Sea, Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman orders an evacuation of Atlanta. When the mayor protests, Sherman replies with “War is cruelty and you cannot refine it.” Government and military facilities are destroyed, and the Union provides transportation south for the displaced residents.

1903: During a period of unrest, Marines from USS Brooklyn (ACR-3) land at Beirut (modern-day Lebanon) to protect U.S. citizens and the American University.

1940: 1,200 German bombers and escorts depart airfields in France and cross into English airspace. Instead of targeting Royal Air Force bases, the warplanes hit London’s East End, marking the first day of the London Blitz. For 57 straight days, Luftwaffe pilots target the English capital, killing over 40,000. But the German air crews are unable to cripple England’s war production or break the will of its people, and Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring will call off the campaign in 1941.

1942: Japan suffers one of its first setbacks of World War II when a battalion of elite Special Naval Landing Forces are forced to withdraw following their defeat by a numerically superior joint Australian-U.S. defense force at New Guinea’s Milne Bay.

1950: After a month of combat, the 1st Marine Brigade (Provisional) is pulled from the lines and sent to Japan to join the 1st and 7th Marine Regiments for the upcoming amphibious invasion at Inchon. Continue reading “Sept. 7: Today in military history”

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Sept. 6: Today in military history

Today’s post is in honor of U.S. Army Corporal Jeremy R. Shank, who gave his life for his country on this date in 2006. The 18-year-old native of Jackson, Mo. was serving with the 2d Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade, 25th Infantry Division when he sustained mortal wounds from small-arms fire during a dismounted security patrol in Hawijah, Iraq.


1918: U.S. Navy railroad artillery crews conduct their first attack – a German rail center in Tergnier. The five massive 14″/50cal Mark 4 guns, normally mounted to a battleship, are transported by train and can hit targets well over 20 miles downrange.

1950: When their listening post near Satae-ri, Korea is targeted by enemy artillery and about to be overrun, the commanding officer orders his soldiers to withdraw from their post to safety. Machinegunner Cpl. Benito Martinez and Pvt. 1st Class Paul G. Myatt remain behind to cover the retreat, despite numerous calls from the CO to abandon the post and turns down an offer of a rescue mission for the surrounded Americans. Martinez knew the only way his fellow soldiers would survive was if he continues to provide covering fire. The men hold off the enemy assault until the machinegun’s ammunition is expended. Martinez then withdraws to a destroyed bunker and continues to hammer the communists with his Browning Automatic Rifle and pistol.

After a “magnificent stand” lasting six hours, Martinez has enabled his fellow soldiers to retake the position, but does not survive. He is posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor and PFC Myatt is awarded the Silver Star.

1972: During the Olympic Games in Munich, Germany, Palestinian terrorists storm the apartment housing Israeli athletes, killing two and taking nine hostage. The terrorists demand the release of over 200 Israeli-held Palestinian prisoners, but the Israelis refuse to negotiate. Five terrorists – and all hostages – are killed when German police attempt to ambush the kidnappers at the airport as they attempted to fly to Cairo. The operation was financed by Mahmoud Abbas, who today serves as the chairman for the Palestinian Authority.

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Sept. 5: Today in military history

[Originally published at OpsLens.com]

Today’s post is in honor of U.S. Air Force Staff Sergeant Todd J. “TJ” Lobraico Jr. who was killed on this day in 2013 by enemy small-arms fire during a patrol outside Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan. The 22-yer-old native of New Fairfield, Conn. was serving with the New York Air National Guard’s 105th Security Forces Squadron at the time and had previously been deployed to Iraq.


1781: The Royal Navy fleet commanded by Rear Admiral Sir Thomas Grave’s Royal fleet clashes with Comte de Grasse’s French armada at the entrance to the Chesapeake Bay. The navies fight each other at close range for two hours before the British disengage and sail for New York. The French victory traps Lt. Gen. Lord Corwallis’ army at Yorktown, preventing their reinforcement or evacuation and ultimately contributing to Cornwallis’ surrender in October.

1813: Off the coast of Maine, the brig USS Enterprise spots HMS Boxer and the two vessels begin maneuvering to attack. Boxer’s captain Samuel Blyth declares “We are going to fight both ends and both sides of this ship as long as the ends and the sides hold together.” Blyth is killed in the opening barrage, and in less than 30 minutes, his ship is wrecked. A mortally wounded Capt. William Burrows refuses to accept Blyth’s sword and orders it sent back to the English captain’s family. The two captains are buried side by side during an elaborate funeral in Portland.

1862: U.S. Ambassador to Great Britain, Charles F. Adams (the son of President John Quincy Adams and grandson of Pres. John Adams), informs the British government that sending ironclad warships to aid the Confederacy would lead to war.

1917: At Gouzeaucourt, France, an American engineer unit comes under enemy artillery fire, wounding Sgt. Matthew Calderwood and Pvt. William Branigan – the first U.S. casualties of World War I.

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Aug. 31: Today in military history

[Originally published at OpsLens.com]

Today’s piece is in honor of Army Staff Sgt. Joshua Bowden, who died of injuries from a small-arms battle in Ghazni, Afghanistan. The 28-year-old native of Villa Rica, Ga. was on his second Afghan deployment and assigned to the 242d Ordnance Battalion (EOD), 71st Ordnance Group.

1864: Two armies under the command of Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman engage Confederate Gen. John Bell Hood’s vastly outnumbered Army of Tennessee just south of Atlanta. Despite brilliant fighting and generalship in the Battle of Jonesborough, the Confederates destroy a trainload of military supplies to prevent its capture by the Union and withdraw to Atlanta.

1916: Near Guillemont, France, a German artillery shell scores a direct hit on 2nd Lt. Henry A. “Harry” Butters, instantly killing the popular Royal Field Artillery officer. Butters, an American citizen that joined the British Army at the outbreak of World War I, was so reknowned that Winston Churchill (then a battalion commander with the Royal Scots Fusiliers) met with him and would write of Butters after his death. Butters’ gravestone simply read “An American Citizen” – as he requested – and every soldier that could be spared attended his funeral.

1940: As war rages across Europe and Asia, President Franklin Roosevelt federalizes 60,000 National Guard soldiers.

1942: After a squadron of eight Japanese destroyers finally manages to squeeze through Guadalcanal’s defensive ring and disembarks 1,000 Japanese troops the night before, the arriving force stages an attack on Henderson Field. Meanwhile, the Marine Corps’ elite 1st Marine Raider Battalion and 1st Parachute Battalion arrive from Tulagi.

While four Marine Corps parachute operations are planned during the war, the highly trained Paramarines are never used for their intended purpose and will only be used in conventional roles. The Paramarines and Raiders – considered to be among America’s first special operations units – will both be disbanded by war’s end.

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Aug. 20: Today in military history

[Originally published at OpsLens.com]

1910: 100 feet over New York City’s Sheepshead Bay Race Track, Lt. Jacob E. Fickel becomes the world’s first aerial gunner. Sitting in the biplane’s passenger seat, with Glenn Curtiss at the controls, Fickel fires his Army Springfield .30-caliber rifle, demonstrating that a bullet can be fired from a moving aircraft without the recoil knocking the plane out of the sky.

Fickel goes on to command the Fourth Air Force during World War II and retires as a major general.

1912: After less than three hours of instruction, 1st Lt. Alfred A. Cunningham boards a Curtiss (yes, the famed aircraft designer that flew alongside Lt. Fickel two years ago) biplane and makes his first solo flight, becoming the Marine Corps’ first aviator. A veteran of the Spanish-American War and several Caribbean campaigns, Cunningham deploys to the Western Front during World War I where he observes aviation tactics – while over German lines – and formulates procedures for Marine aviators to use against enemy submarines and their bases.

1950: (featured image) After over two weeks of fighting at Taegu, South Korea, an outnumbered UN force consisting of the American 1st Cavalry Division and the Republic of Korea’s II Corps defeats five divisions of North Korean soldiers. MacArthur’s Pusan Perimeter still holds.

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Aug. 17: Today in military history

1861: The Departments of Northeastern Virginia, Washington, and Shenandoah are merged into one outfit: the Army of the Potomac. Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan, the only Union general with any victories under his belt so far, will be its first commander.

1942: (Featured image) In the Marshall Islands, the submarines USS Argonaut and USS Nautilus unload 211 Marine Raiders who board rubber boats and head for Makin Island. Lt. Col. Evan Carlson’s Raiders manage to make it ashore despite heavy surf and engine troubles, succeeding in wiping out most of the island’s Japanese defenders, but fail to accomplish their objectives of taking prisoners and gaining intelligence. The raid on Makin Island, along with the raid on Tulagi earlier in the month, are considered the first use of special operations during World War II.

That same day, B-17 bombers target Nazi-occupied Europe for the first time, hitting a railroad marshaling yard in Rouen, France. Piloting the lead bomber is Maj. Paul W. Tibbetts Jr., who will drop the atomic bomb on Hiroshima nearly three years later.

1943: The Eighth Air Force conducts a massive raid against a Messerschmidt aircraft factory and ball bearing production facilities in Germany. Of the 376 B-17s that flew, 96 are shot down and another 95 are unable to be used again. The factory is destroyed, and ball bearing production is significantly reduced.

Meanwhile, as Axis troops evacuate the island, Lt. Gen. George Patton and his Seventh Army enter the Sicilian capital of Messina. Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery intended to relegate Patton’s maligned force to protecting the British Eighth Army’s flank and mop-up operations, but Patton’s “Race to Messina” proved the mettle of American combat troops and restored prestige to his troops after the North African campaign.

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August 3: Today in military history

[Originally published at OpsLens.com]

1804: During the First Barbary War, Commodore Edward Preble’s Mediterranean Squadron begins his first bombardment of Tripoli Harbor. Commanding a division of ships is Stephen Decatur, the youngest sailor ever to be promoted to captain in U.S. Naval history. When Decatur’s brother is killed while boarding a Tripolitan gunboat, Decatur hands over command of his ship and, along with a small crew, boards the enemy vessel and engages the much-larger force in fierce hand-to-hand combat. When the captain responsible for his brother’s death attempts to behead Decatur, Daniel Fraser throws himself over Decatur, taking the lethal blow for his captain. Decatur shoots and kills the captain and avenges his brother.

1914: As Germany declares war on France, Britain mobilizes their military. The Ottoman Empire declares armed neutrality (although they have secretly signed an alliance with Germany) and mobilizes their forces as well. Meanwhile, Belgium rejects Germany’s ultimatum to allow their troops to pass through on their way to invade France.

1943: As American, British, and Canadian troops drive across Sicily, Axis forces begin evacuating the island. While visiting soldiers awaiting evacuation at Nicosia, Gen. George S. Patton, commanding the Seventh Army, slaps a soldier suffering from battle fatigue and orders him back to the front lines. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower reprimands Patton for the incident and the legendary general will not command another combat force for 11 months.

1950: Eight F4U-4B “Corsairs” of Marine Fighter Squadron (VMF) 214 take off from the deck of USS Sicily (CVE-118) and attack enemy installations at Chengu, marking the first Marine aviation sortie of the Korean War. During World War II, the “Black Sheep” of VMF-214 destroyed hundreds of Japanese aircraft, sank several vessels, and earned the Presidential Unit Citation under Medal of Honor recipient and former “Flying Tiger” Maj. Greg “Pappy” Boyington – the Marine Corps’ top ace, with 28 aerial victories.

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August 2: Today in military history

1776: Although the Continental Congress voted to establish “the thirteen united [sic] States of America” on July 2 and adopted Thomas Jefferson’s draft of the Declaration of Independence two days later, congressional delegates sign the Declaration on this date. The most famous inscription belongs to John Hancock, the president of Congress, who is said to have declared, “There, I guess King George will be able to read that without his spectacles,” after adding his rather substantial signature.

1862: The brass approves the plan by Maj. Jonathan Letterman, Medical Director for the Army of the Potomac, to establish an ambulance corps. Letterman is considered the “Father of Battlefield Medicine” for revolutionizing the way casualties are handled; soldiers now had first aid stations at the regimental level where they could be treated and triaged. Those more seriously wounded could be sent – by ambulance – to field hospitals at the division and corps level.

During the Peninsula Campaign, one out of every three Army of the Potomac casualties would die prior to implementing Letterman’s system. But after, just 2 percent of soldiers wounded Battle of Gettysburg died.

1909: After a successful demonstration for the military by Orville Wright, the Army Signal Corps purchases a Wright Flyer for $30,000 (the equivalent of $800,000 today). The two-seat “Signal Corps Airplane No. 1” will train America’s first military pilots at College Park, Md. and Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio over the next two years – crashing several times – before it’s retirement. Today, the legendary aircraft hangs in the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum.

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July 3 in military history

1775: Gen. George Washington, the newly appointed commander-in-chief of the Continental Army, takes formal command of his troops in Cambridge, Mass.

1778: A force of 1,000 Loyalists and Iroquois warriors commanded by Col. John Butler attacks American fortifications and settlements in Pennsylvania’s Wyoming Valley, killing some 360 militiamen and destroying 1,000 houses. Reportedly, women and children are also killed in Butler’s “Wyoming massacre,” and those that escape the slaughter will die of starvation and exposure.

1863: During the third – and final – day of the Battle of Gettysburg, Gen. Robert E. Lee orders three divisions of Lt. Gen. James Longstreet’s Confederate soldiers across open ground to assault the Union position on Cemetery Ridge. Union fire shatters the rebels, inflicting thousands of casualties before the troops can return to the Confederate lines after the failed attack, which becomes known as “Pickett’s Charge.”

Fearing a Union counter-attack, Lee orders Maj. Gen. George Pickett to rally what is left of his division, Pickett replies, “General, I have no division.” After three days of fighting at Gettysburg, Lee abandons his invasion and retreats to Virginia. In terms of total casualties, Gettysburg is the deadliest battle of the Civil War with some 50,000 soldiers from both armies killed, wounded, or captured.

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