Jan. 5 in U.S. military history

[The series “This Day in U.S. Military History” is regularly published at OpsLens.com]

Medal of Honor recipient Staff Sgt. Franklin D. Miller served over six years in Vietnam

1781: Commanding 1,600 British troops, the American turncoat – now a British brigadier general – Benedict Arnold captures and burns Richmond, Va.

1855: A landing party from the USS Plymouth skirmishes with Chinese forces near Canton during the Taiping Rebellion.

1861: After South Carolina secedes from the Union, Fort Sumter (in Charleston Harbor) is surrounded by Confederate forces and in need of supplies. The civilian merchant vessel Star of the West departs New York on this date for the besieged Federal troops with supplies and 250 reinforcements. Upon arriving four days later, shore batteries attack the vessel, forcing it to turn around. The standoff continues until April, when the first shots of the Civil War were fired at Fort Sumter.

1875: Cdr. Edward Lull (USN) leads an expedition to locate the best route for the Panama Canal.

1904: Marines arrive in Korea to defend the U.S. legation assembly at Seoul.

1945: Japanese pilots receive their first order to execute kamikaze suicide tactics. At Okinawa alone, 1,465 kamikaze pilots destroy at least 30 U.S. warships and kill 5,000 Americans.

1951: 59 B-29 “Superforts” hammer Pyongyang with nearly 700 tons of bombs and the 18th Fighter-Bomber Group takes off from Suwon Air Base for the final time. The base is destroyed in the face of an advancing Chinese and North Korean military.

1967: U.S. and South Vietnamese Marines conduct a joint amphibious assault of the Mekong Delta. The goal of Operation “Deckhouse V” is to capture Viet Cong prisoners from the Thanh Phu Secret Zone, and it is the first time U.S. troops operate in the delta.

1970: Staff Sgt. Franklin D. Miller was leading a long range patrol of Special Forces soldiers and Montagnards in Laos when a booby trap wounded several members. A firefight ensued, wounding the entire patrol. Despite a serious chest wound, Miller is the last man standing and keeps up the fight for several hours, holding off repeated enemy assaults against their position. That evening, as he is about to exhaust his ammunition, a team arrives to relieve the Green Berets.

Miller would serve over six years in Southeast Asia. When asked by Richard Nixon upon awarding Miller the Medal of Honor, the president asks him where he wanted to be assigned next. Miller’s answer: “Vietnam.”

2002: Air Force C-17 cargo planes deliver materials at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba so the “Seabees” can construct a detention facility for captured Al Qaeda and Taliban detainees.

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Dec. 7 in U.S. military history

The famous “Blue Marble” photo taken by the Apollo 17 crew. Yes, the earth appears to be “upside down” but that is due to the astronauts’ position on the moon.

1917: Four U.S. battleships, USS Delaware (BB-28), USS Florida (BB-30), New York (BB-34), and USS Wyoming (BB-32) arrive in British waters and join the British Grand Fleet for service during World War I. That same day, the United States declares war on Austria-Hungary.

1941: At 3:57 a.m. the minesweeper USS Condor spots a periscope at the entrance to Pearl Harbor. The ship signals the nearby destroyer USS Ward, whose crew begins searching for the unidentified vessel. At 6:37 a.m., Ward spots the periscope as a two-man Japanese mini sub attempts to follow a U.S. cargo ship into the harbor and sinks the enemy warship – the first U.S. shots of World War II.

Having achieved total tactical and strategic surprise, Vice Adm. Chuichi Nagumo’s 1st Air Fleet begins their attack on Pearl Harbor. The strike is conducted in two waves: The first wave of 183 enemy aircraft strikes just before 8:00 a.m. The second wave of 170 planes hits a little after 8:30 a.m.

Of the ships anchored at Pearl Harbor, five of the eight battleships, three destroyers, and seven other ships were either sunk or severely damaged. By day’s end, 2,718 American sailors, 582 soldiers (including Army Air Forces personnel), 178 Marines, and 103 civilians will be dead, dying or wounded. Japanese losses were minimal: 30 planes, five minisubs, 65 killed, and one Japanese sailor captured. All but two of the battleships – Arizona and Oklahoma – are raised to fight again.

Meanwhile, Japanese forces bomb Guam and Wake as destroyers and planes attack Midway. Other Japanese targets include Shanghai, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Thailand, Malaya, and the Dutch East Indies.

1942: USS New Jersey (BB-62), one of the world’s largest battleships ever built, is launched. The “Big J” will serve a total of 21 years in the active fleet, seeing action in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. In 1982 the Iowa-class battleship will put to sea once again after being modified to carry Tomahawk cruise missiles, and is decommissioned for the last time in 1991.

1943: At the Bernhardt defensive line in Italy, Lt. Gen. Mark Clark’s Fifth Army secures the Mignano Gap.

1944: Patton’s Third Army crosses the Siegfried Line at Saarlautern.

In the Pacific, the 77th Infantry Division lands at Ormoc in the Philippines as one of the escort destroyers, USS Ward (the same ship that sunk the midget submarine three years ago at Pearl Harbor), is sunk by kamikaze attacks. Nearby, the USS Mahan is also sunk by kamikaze attacks.

1950: Air Force cargo planes drop eight “Treadway” bridge spans in the Funchilin Pass, enabling the First Marine Division to cross the most difficult natural obstacle on their breakout of the Chosin Reservoir.

1952: U.S. Air Force F-86 “Saber” pilots shoot down seven of 32 enemy aircraft – the highest tally of the Korean War.

1959: America’s first operational ballistic missile, the PGM-17 “Thor”, is successfully launched at Cape Canaveral, Fla.

1972: Apollo 17 launches for NASA’s final lunar mission. Aboard are two U.S. Navy captains: Eugene A. Cernan and Ronald E. Evans, and Harrison H. Schmitt – a civilian geologist.

Posted on December 7, 2017 at 15:16 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
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Dec. 6 in U.S. military history

[Originally published at OpsLens.com]

Battle of San Pasqual, painting by Col. Charles Woodhouse (USMCR)

1846: Gen. Stephen Watts Kearney’s U.S. Army of the West, accompanied by a small detachment of mounted rifle volunteers commanded by Marine Lt. Archibald Gillespie, attack Mexican “Californios” in the Battle of San Pasqual, near present-day San Diego. Both sides claimed victory and the engagement became one of the bloodiest of the Mexican-American War.

1917: A German U-boat torpedoes the destroyer USS Jacob Jones off the coast of England, which becomes the first U.S. destroyer to be sunk by a submarine.

1941: After an Australian scout plane spots a Japanese fleet near the Malayan Coast, the Allies presume that the Japanese plan to invade Thailand. However, British intelligence intercepts a radio signal warning to the Japanese fleet to be on full alert, prompting advisers to question whether the move is a diversion.

Meanwhile, Admiral Yamamoto tells his First Air Fleet “The rise or fall of the empire depends upon this battle. Everyone will do his duty with utmost efforts.”

Also, the Japanese fleet departs Palau for the invasion of the Philippines.

1950: American forces – primarily leathernecks of the now-famous 1st Marine Division​, a few American soldiers, and a handful of British commandos – begin their epic “fighting withdrawal” from Hagaru-ri to Koto-ri and on to Hamnung, during the breakout from the Chosin Reservoir, Korea. At Koto-ri, a few officers express concern that their vastly outnumbered, bloodied, freezing, near-starving columns might not survive the final trek to Hamnung.

As the UN orders communist forces to halt at the 38th Parallel, U.S. and Australian planes kill an estimated 2,500 enemy troops.

1961: The U.S. Air Force is authorized to begin combat operations in Vietnam – provided they carry a Vietnamese national with them for training purposes.

1967: When his company was attacked by a battalion-sized enemy force in South Vietnam’s Biên Hòa Province, U.S. Army chaplain, Capt. Charles J. Liteky moved multiple times through heavy enemy fire to deliver last rights to dying soldiers and aid to wounded soldiers. Despite incoming small arms and rocket fire, Liteky stood up multiple times in order to direct the incoming helicopters to the landing zone. During the engagement, he would carry 20 wounded soldiers to the landing zone for evacuation. For his actions, Liteky is awarded the Medal of Honor.

1968: The Navy launches Operation “Giant Slingshot” to interdict the flow of men and weapons flowing through the Mekong Delta from the Cambodian border.

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Dec. 1 in U.S. military history

[Originally published at OpsLens.com]

“Marine One” – a Sikorsky SH-3 Sea King of HMX-1, along with an identical decoy. (White House photo)

1779: During what is perhaps the worst winter of the century, Gen. George Washington’s army establishes their winter camp at Morristown, N.J.

1918: The American Army of Occupation enters Germany. Rejecting the Treaty of Versailles, the United States technically remained in a state of war against the Germans until 1921 when a separate peace agreement was signed.

1921: Lt. Cmdr. Ralph F. Wood departs Norfolk, Va. in a blimp for Washington, D.C. in the first flight of a helium-filled aircraft.

1941: With the Japanese fleet secretly steaming towards Pearl Harbor, Japanese emperor Hirohito signs a declaration of war against the United States.

1941: The Civil Air Patrol is established. Originally intended for reconnaissance, civilian planes are eventually fitted with bombs and depth charges when German submarines begin attacking U.S. shipping on the east coast. During the war, CAP pilots would log half a million hours, spotting 173 submarines, hitting 10 and sinking two – at the cost of 64 pilots.

1943: The Teheran Conference between Franklin Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, and Joseph Stalin concludes. The three leaders agree on plans to invade western Europe in May, 1944; to invade southern France; and that the Soviets would join the war against Japan once the Germans were defeated.

1943: The improved P-51D “Mustang” is sent into combat for the first time, during a fighter sweep over Belgium. By war’s end the Mustang will shoot down nearly five thousand German planes – an incredible 19 enemy fighters per Mustang lost. The P-51D will also see service in the Pacific Theater, and later provide close air support for troops during the Korean War.

1949: The Marine Corps’ first helicopter squadron, HMX-1, is commissioned at Quantico, Va. Today, HMX-1 is tasked with transportation of the president, vice president, and other high-ranking military and government officials.

1950: Col. Allan MacLean’s Regimental Combat Team 31 is annihilated by Chinese forces during the Battle of the Chosin Reservoir. Although enemy casualties are extremely heavy, over 1,000 U.S. soldiers are killed (to include Col. MacLean), freeze to death, or die in Chinese captivity. After the battle, only 385 of the task force’s original 3,200 soldiers are fit for duty.

1969: The U.S. government holds its first draft lottery since 1942.

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Nov. 21 in U.S. military history

The Grumman F9F-2 “Panther” – Ensign Neil Armstrong (future Apollo 11 astronaut) is flying the jet in the background

1817: The First Seminole War begins when Gen. (and future president) Andrew Jackson leads forces into Spanish-held Florida to reclaim escaped slaves from Seminole tribal areas.

1943: USS Nautilus (SS-168) surfaces and disembarks Capt. James L. Jones and his Marine Amphibious Reconnaissance Company off the beaches of Abemama Atoll in the Gilbert Islands. The raiders board rubber rafts and paddle ashore under cover of darkness, spending the next several days wiping out the defenders and capturing the islands along with fire support from the sub. The Marine Corps’ modern-day Force Reconnaissance companies trace their roots to Jones’ team.

1947: Grumman’s first jet fighter, the F9F “Panther” makes its first flight. The F9F will serve as the Navy and Marine Corps’ primary jet fighter during the Korean War and will be flown by Hall of Fame baseball player Ted Williams (USMC) and Apollo 11 astronaut Neil Armstrong (USN).

1967: Gen. William Westmoreland, the commander of U.S. Military Assistance Command Vietnam, tells the American press that “I am absolutely certain that whereas in 1965 the enemy was winning, today he is certainly losing.”

1970: Col. Arthur D. “Bull” Simons leads a 56-man rescue operation on the Son Tay POW camp, just 23 miles from Hanoi, North Vietnam. Although the prisoners had been relocated to another camp prior to the operation, the raid – involving over 100 aircraft from multiple services – was a tactical success. Dozens of enemy guards are killed during the brief engagement and the assault would serve in part as a model for the formation of Special Operations Command.

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Oct. 26 in U.S. military history

An Aeromarine 39 on final approach for USS Langley, Oct. 1922

1909: U.S. Army Lt. (future brig. gen.) Frederick Erastus Humphreys​ becomes the first Army aviator to solo in a heavier-than-air craft – the Wright Flyer​ – following three hours of instruction by Wilbur Wright​.

1922: Off Cape Henry, Va., Lt. Commander Godfrey Chevalier becomes the first aviator to land on a moving ship when his Aeromarine 39B biplane touches down on the deck of USS Langley.

1942: Japanese carrier-based aircraft sink the carrier USS Hornet, leaving only one operational American carrier in the Pacific. The Battle of Santa Cruz is a pyrrhic victory for the Japanese, however, as their carrier pilots were decimated in the attack and can no longer conduct attacks on U.S. forces at Guadalcanal.

On Guadalcanal, Platoon Sergeant Mitchell Paige single-handedly fought off waves of Japanese soldiers while all the Marines in his machine gun section are either killed or wounded. Once reinforcements arrived, Paige will lead a bayonet charge that drives off the enemy. For his actions, Paige is awarded the Medal of Honor.

1950: The First Marine Division lands at Wonsan, Korea and moves north toward the Yalu River. In a month, they will be attacked by 10 Chinese divisions and have to fight their way out of the Chosin Reservoir.

Meanwhile, Republic of Korean (South Korea) forces arrive at the Yalu River and learn that two entire Chinese Armies have already crossed into Korea.

1966: A magnesium parachute flare ignites aboard the aircraft carrier USS Oriskany (CV-34) off the coast of Vietnam, igniting the worst ship-board fire since World War II. 44 sailors perish in the blaze.

1968: An estimated four battalions of North Vietnamese soldiers attempt to overrun Fire Support Base Julie near the Cambodian border. Supported by dozens of B-52 strikes, the defenders manage to repel the attack.

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Oct. 24 in U.S. military history

Texas Air National Guard pilot – and future Pres. – George W. Bush flew the F-102 “Delta Dagger”

1742: After poor leadership and disease claim all but 600 of the 3,500-man 61st Regiment of Foot, the American expeditionary force is disbanded and returns to the colonies. “Gooch’s Regiment”, named after regimental commander – also the Governor of Virginia – Lt. Col. William Gooch, had been part of the ill-fated British expedition to capture the Spanish colony of Cartagena (present-day Colombia).

1944: On day two of the Battle of Leyte Gulf – the largest naval engagement of World War II – U.S. aircraft attack the Japanese fleet, sinking the battleship Musashi and damaging four others. A single Japanese dive bomber attacks the light carrier USS Princeton igniting an internal blaze that will sink the ship with just one bomb.

In the air, Cmdr. David McCampbell and wingman Ens. Roy Rushing spot a flight of 60 Japanese planes and engage despite the outrageous odds. McCampbell shoots down nine warplanes, setting a single sortie record, and his partner claims six. After becoming the only U.S. aviator to claim “ace in a day” status twice, McCampbell lands his F6F “Hellcat” as it runs out of fuel and with only two bullets left. For his daring actions, the top Naval ace of the war is awarded the Medal of Honor.

In the Taiwan Straight, the submarine USS Tang, whose crew sank five Japanese ships in a single engagement the day before, fires another torpedo, which circles around and sinks Tang. The sub bottoms out in 180 feet of water, but nine crew members – including skipper Richard O’Kane – escape in the only known successful use of the Momsen rebreather.

1951: In the skies over Korea, 150 Russian MiG-15 fighters intercept a formation of B-29 bombers and 55 F-84 “Thunderjet” escorts. The Communists manage to shoot down four of the B-29s and one escort, but at least eight MiGs are lost in the largest air battle of the Korean War. The sortie will be the last daylight bombing raid for the B-29.

1953: At Edwards Air Force Base, Convair’s chief test pilot Richard L. “Dick” Johnson takes off with his YF-102 prototype, marking the first flight of the “Delta Dagger.” The F-102 served as an interceptor, capable of attacking enemy bomber formations with its AIM-26 “Nuclear Falcon” missile. Future President George W. Bush would fly the “Deuce” during his service as a pilot with the Texas Air National Guard.

Prior to his days as a test pilot, Johnson flew 190 missions over North Africa and Italy in his P-47 “Thunderbolt”, then went on to become the second Air Force pilot to break the sound barrier. He deployed to Korea where he was supposed to be supervising the installation of equipment on F-86 “Sabre” fighters, but was sent home after the Air Force discovered Johnson was flying unauthorized combat missions.

1954: President Dwight Eisenhower sends a letter to Prime Minister Ngo Dinh Diem, pledging direct support to the South Vietnamese government. Although United States assets have been in French Indochina since World War II, this date is considered the beginning of the U.S. commitment to South Vietnam.

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Oct. 20 in U.S. military history

1922: Lt. Harold R. Harris (Army Air Service) performs the world’s first emergency parachute jump when the wings of his Loening PW-2A come apart during a simulated dogfight 2,500 feet over McCook Field. Harris bails out of his cockpit and after free-falling 2,000 feet, he lands safely in a garden in Dayton, Ohio.

1926: After a brutal murder of a post office truck driver, President Calvin Coolidge orders the Marine Corps to protect the mail delivery. 2,500 Marines of the 4th Marine Regiment, commanded by two-time Medal of Honor recipient Brig. Gen. Smedley D. Butler, serve as the “Western Mail Guards” until they return to their regular posts in 1927.

1944: Two-and-a-half years after Gen. Douglas MacArthur vows to return to the Philippines, MacArthur and some 130,000 soldiers of the Sixth Army land at Leyte Island. The island will be captured after 67 days of intense fighting, signaling the beginning of the end for the Japanese. The Japanese Army’s 16th Division, which conducted the brutal Bataan Death March and held Leyte Island, is completely wiped out during the fighting.

1950: 2,860 soldiers of the 187th Regimental Combat Team jump from Air Force C-119 and C-47 transports on the first airborne operation of the Korean War. The paratroopers’ mission is to drop north of the North Vietnamese capital of Pyongyang, trapping units attempting to escape the now UN-held capital, but by the time the 187th hits the ground, Communist forces have already slipped through.

1951: A day after having 83 pieces of shrapnel removed from his body, and still badly injured from bullet wounds received during six days of constant fighting, Master Sergeant Woodrow W. Keeble (USA) refuses to let medics keep him out of the fight. When his company is pinned down by enemy fire while assaulting Hill 765 near Sangsan-ni, Korea, the badly wounded veteran of the Guadalcanal campaign and now platoon sergeant courageously crawls forward alone and silences three machine gun positions with grenades and automatic rifle fire. Originally awarded the Distinguished Service Cross – paperwork recommending him for the Medal of Honor kept getting lost – Keeble will be eventually awarded the Medal of Honor in 2008, 26 years after his passing.

Posted on October 20, 2017 at 14:49 by Chris Carter · Permalink · 2 Comments
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Oct. 19 in U.S. military history

[Originally published at OpsLens.com]

A TDR assault drone during World War II. This drone is now at the National Naval Aviation Museum (see link in article)

1781: British Gen. Charles Cornwallis formally surrenders 7,087 officers and men, 900 seamen, 144 cannons, 15 galleys, a frigate, and 30 transport ships to an American and French force at Yorktown, Va., effectively ending the American Revolution.

1944: Two Interstate TDR assault drones are launched against Japanese gun emplacements on Ballale Island – one drone missing its target and another delivering two of its four 100-lb. bombs on the target. The TDR was a two-engine, unmanned airplane remotely controlled by a Grumman TBF “Avenger” via a television camera feed.

1950: Troopers with the 5th Cavalry Regiment enter Pyongyang, capturing the North Korean capitol. The following day, the 187th Regimental Combat Team will conduct two parachute drops north of the capitol to cut off retreating North Korean forces. The Communists will recapture Pyongyang on Dec. 5, after China joins the war.

1965: Two regiments of North Vietnamese soldiers begin a week-long siege on the Special Forces camp at Plei Me in South Vietnam’s central highlands. The outnumbered defenders repelled repeated attacks and eventually drove off the NVA forces. Following the battle, Gen. William Westmoreland ordered the 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) to find and defeat the forces that attacked Plei Me, resulting in the bloody Battle of Ia Drang.

1987: Following an Iranian missile attack on a merchant vessel, U.S. warships attack and destroy two Iranian oil platforms being used by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps to attack shipping in the Persian Gulf.

2001: 200 Army Rangers parachute into – and quickly secure – an airfield southwest of Kandahar, Afghanistan, while special operation forces conduct other air-assault operations on several targets near Kandahar. These raids are the first known combat operations of the war in Afghanistan. In November, the captured airfield will become the first U.S. base in Afghanistan when Marines establish Camp RHINO.

Meanwhile, Spec. Jonn J. Edmunds and Pvt. 1st Class Kristofor T. Stonesifer become the first combat-related casualties in the War on Terror when the helicopter carrying them crashes in Pakistan.

Oct. 10 in U.S. military history

A U.S. Air Force Sikorsky SH-19B helicopter from the 3rd Air Rescue Group, hoisting USAF Capt. Joseph McConnell – America’s top jet ace – from the Yellow sea off Korea on Apr. 12, 1953.

1845: Secretary of the Navy George Bancroft founds the Naval School in Annapolis, Md. – later renamed the U.S. Naval Academy. The nation’s second-oldest service academy (the U.S. Military Academy was established by Thomas Jefferson in 1802) is built on the grounds of Fort Severn, which traces its roots to the American Revolution.

1944: Although assigned as a gunnery instructor and advised not to actively seek out combat, Maj. Richard I. Bong, America’s all-time leading ace, volunteers for several missions between Oct. 10 and Nov. 11, shooting down eight Japanese warplanes from his P-38 “Lightning” fighter. For his actions during this period, Bong is awarded the Medal of Honor. After scoring his 40th victory, Bong is sent back to the states where he becomes a test pilot. He will perish just before the Japanese surrender, when his P-80 “Shooting Star” jet fighter malfunctions and crashes in California.

1950: As the 1st Cavalry Division begins crossing the 38th Parallel near Kaesong, helicopter crews with the 3rd Air Rescue Squadron apply plasma to a rescued pilot for the first time as they return to base. During the Korean War, members of the Air Force’s 3rd Air Rescue Group will rescue thousands of downed aviators.

1985: After Palestine Liberation Front terrorists – part of Yasser Arafat’s Palestinian Liberation Organization – take over the Italian-flagged cruise liner MS Achille Lauro, U.S. Navy F-14 “Tomcats” intercept a Boeing 737 passenger jet carrying the terrorists to Tunisia, forcing the jet to land at a NATO airbase on Sigonella, Sicily. Once on the ground, the terrorists are brought to custody following a five-hour jurisdictional standoff between an 80-man group of Delta Force and SEAL Team SIX commandos and hundreds of Italian military police.

Posted on October 10, 2017 at 09:58 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
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