1864: In Westport, Mo. (present-day Kansas City), Maj. Gen. Samuel R. Curtis’ 22,000-man Army of the Border defeats a heavily outnumbered Confederate force commanded by Maj. Gen. Sterling Price in the largest battle fought west of the Mississippi River. The Union brings an end to Price’s Missouri Expedition with his defeat in the “Gettysburg of the West,” and Price retreats into Kansas. After the Battle of Westport, the border state of Missouri will remain under Union control for the rest of the Civil War.
1942: On Guadalcanal, Imperial Japanese soldiers and tanks attempt to cross the Matanikau River, and are quickly defeated – signaling the beginning of the Battle for Henderson Field. For the next three days, the 1st Marine Division and the 164th Infantry Regiment, supported by the “Cactus Air Force”, will shatter wave after wave of Japanese assaults on the ground and in the air. The battle marks the final major Japanese ground operation before they abandon the island.
1944: Three days after over 100,000 U.S. troops land in the Philippines, the Battle of Leyte Gulf – the largest naval engagement during World War II – begins. On the first day, the submarines USS Darter and USS Dace attack Vice Adm. Takeo Kurita’s Center Fleet, sinking two heavy cruisers (including Kurita’s flagship) and damaging another. During the three-day battle, nearly 400 ships will square off, with Japan suffering crippling losses: four aircraft carriers, four battleships, and 21 cruisers and destroyers are sunk, along with the loss of 12,000 sailors and 300 planes. An increasingly desperate Japanese military uses kamikaze tactics for the first time during the battle.
Meanwhile in the Taiwan Straight, the submarine USS Tang – the most successful U.S. submarine ever – engages a convoy of Japanese transports, freighters, tankers, and their escorts. Tang sinks five ships and then escapes. The sub’s skipper, Cmdr. Richard H. O’Kane, will be awarded the Medal of Honor for the engagement.
1972: As peace talks with the North resume, Pres. Richard Nixon calls a halt to Operation “Linebacker” – the U.S bombing campaign in North Vietnam. In start contrast to Pres. Lyndon Johnson’s tightly controlled Operation “Rolling Thunder”, Nixon had granted the military much more latitude to carry out their mission, which put a serious dent in the Communist supply chain.
1983: A 2000-pound truck bomb explodes at the Marine Corps Barracks in Beirut, Lebanon, killing 220 Marines, 18 sailors, and three soldiers. The bombing would become known as “the bloodiest day in Marine Corps history since Iwo Jima.” Moments later, another truck bomb hits the French barracks, killing 58. American troops will withdraw from Lebanon four months later.
1777: A week after losing Philadelphia to the British, Gen. George Washington decides to surprise Gen. Sir William Howe’s force encamped at Germantown (Pa.). 11,000 Continental troops and militia have marched 16 miles through the night, and begin their assault at 5:30 a.m.. Although initially successful, heavy fog, insufficiently trained troops, and stiff British resistance unravel Washington’s coordinated assault and the attack falls apart. Washington’s army suffers over 1,000 casualties and will have to spend the winter at Valley Forge.
1822: Rutherford B. Hayes, the 19th President of the United States, is born in Delaware, Oh.. Despite having no military background, Hayes will be appointed Major in the 23rd Regiment of Ohio Volunteer Infantry. The talented officer will be wounded five times during the Civil War, ultimately reaching the rank of Brevet Major General. Also serving in the 23rd Regiment is Pvt. – and future Pres. – William McKinley.
1918: An explosion at the T. A. Gillespie Co. Shell Loading Plant in Sayreville, N.J. ignites a fire, leading to several more explosions that will last for three days. 300 buildings are destroyed, 100 people are killed, and hundreds are wounded. The plant is said to have on hand enough ammunition to supply the Western Front for six months. 12 Coast Guardsmen will be awarded the Navy Cross for their actions during the incident, and two will perish.
1943: USS Ranger conducts the only American carrier operation in the northern Atlantic, when its Dauntless and Avenger crews attack a German convoy near Bod, Norway, sinking or damaging ten enemy vessels.
1985: The terrorist group Hezbollah announces that they have executed former CIA Beirut station chief William F. Buckley. Buckley, a former Special Forces Lt. Col. and veteran of both the Korean and Vietnam Wars, had been held captive for over 14 months.
1940: At Lawson Army Airfield (modern-day Fort Benning, Ga.), 1st Lt. William T. Ryder and his Parachute Test Platoon conduct the first mass parachute jump in U.S. military history.
Meanwhile, a delegation of British scientists begin sharing radar and other military technologies with the United States, hoping to secure assistance from the still-neutral nation.
1944: Four years after German conquerors marched through Paris’ famous Arc de Triomphe, 15,000 American soldiers of the 28th Infantry Division parade down the newly-liberated capital’s Champs-Élysées.
1945: An American B-29 “Superfortress”, carrying a load of humanitarian aid to Allied prisoners of war in Korea, is intercepted by Soviet Yak-9 fighters. The supposed allies attack the bomber, forcing 1st Lt. Joseph Queen’s crew to bail out before the plane crashes. The air crew are rescued, and the incident marks one of the first international confrontations between the soon-to-be Cold War rivals.
Across the Sea of Japan, Allied occupation forces begin arriving in Japan, as well as the battleship USS Missouri, which will host the upcoming formal surrender ceremonies on Sept. 2. Gen. Douglas MacArthur is granted the authority to oversee the formation of a new Japanese government. Rather than disband the existing government, MacArthur rules through the emperor – whom the Japanese people still view as divine – during Japan’s transition to democracy.
1983: During the Lebanese Civil War, mortar crews target American positions, killing two Marines and wounding 14 – the first fatalities for the American peacekeeping force in Beirut. In less than two months, suicide bombers will target a barracks complex, killing nearly 300 U.S. and French peacekeepers, and leading to the eventual withdrawal of the Multinational Force in February.
Egypt: According to Ynet, Egyptian security forces captured 100 anti-aircraft missiles and other weapons believed destined for Gaza on Wednesday according to the Egyptian newspaper al-Youm al-Sabe’. Egyptian forces also discovered three tunnels linking Rafah to the Gaza Strip, and confiscated dozens of vehicles used for smuggling.
Gaza: The Kuwait News Agency reports that Palestinians fired two more rockets into Israel on Wednesday. Local radio stations said the Ali Mustafa Brigade – the armed wing of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – claimed responsibility.
And just hours after Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov urged Hamas to stop militants from firing rockets into Israel, a Qassam rocket was fired into Ashkelon.
Israeli warplanes responded by launching at least five attacks on various targets.
Lebanon: Tribunal investigators have summoned 12 Hizballah members and close supporters for questioning for the 2005 assassination of Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri.
Hizballah secretary general Hassan Nasrallah referred to the 12 as “witnesses and not as suspects,” and told al Manar – the jihadist group’s television station – that “We have nothing to fear and we will co-operate.”
Nasrallah stated that six additional members would appear for questioning.
Hizballah, Israel, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps, Syrian intelligence, and even al Qaeda have been speculated to be involved in the Hariri killing. But in May of last year, Der Spiegel reported the tribunal had evidence showing that Hizballah was behind the massacre.
Russia: Chechen terrorist leader Doku Umarov has claimed responsibility for the “Black Widow” suicide attacks on the Moscow Metro, which killed 39 Russians on Monday. Another double attack in Dagestan killed 12, including nine policemen on Wednesday. A second Dagestan bombing killed two more on Thursday. President Dimitri Medvedev said in a Security Council meeting that the attacks are “links in the same chain,” and called for a “brutal” response.
Monday’s blasts were the first terrorist attacks against Russia in six years.
This Week in American Military History (by W. Thomas Smith Jr.):
Oct. 18, 1859: U.S. Marine Lt. Israel Greene and a detachment of Marines – under the overall command of U.S. Army Col. (future Confederate general) Robert E. Lee – storm the now-famous fire-engine house at Harper’s Ferry, Virginia. Inside the building, abolitionist John Brown and his raiders have barricaded themselves following a failed attempt to spark a slave uprising in the town.
The signal for Greene’s Marines to attack is a simple waving of U.S. Army Lt. (future Confederate general) James Ewell Brown “J.E.B.” Stuart’s plumed hat, after Stuart (Col. Lee’s aide and the designated negotiator) fails to persuade Brown to surrender.
Signal given, the Marines rush forward. Two leathernecks attempt to batter down the door with sledgehammers. Greene then orders 10-12 men to break through the door by ramming it with a wooden ladder. They do, and Greene leads his Marines into the breach.
A recent explosion in Southern Lebanon provides another glaring example that Hezbollah operates with impunity despite U.N. Security Council Resolutions expressly calling for their disarmament, and that the 15,000-strong UNIFIL force won’t do anything to stop them.
The exploding warehouse actually turned out to be a Hezbollah weapons cache that according to military analyst W. Thomas Smith Jr. “is said to have stored all manner of ‘rockets, mortars, artillery shells, grenades,’ and other munitions smuggled by Iran and Syria to the terrorist group in Lebanon since the Hizballah-Israel war.”
… upon setting up a security perimeter around the blast site, the Lebanese army blocked soldiers with the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) from entering the security zone to investigate. Hizballah on the other hand, was given a green light.
In the same article, Smith reports that Hezbollah has trained between 100 and 150 Lebanese army soldiers on the use of the terrorist group’s offensive missiles obtained from Iran.
How can this be?
Smith’s sources tell him that “Hizballah has penetrated many elements of the Lebanese army from intelligence to combat arms units; and this is due primarily to the active, though illegal, joint Hizballah-Lebanese Army ‘Operations Room’ established by the Lebanese government and Syria in the 1990s.”
Elements within the Lebanese army (an army which receives direct military support from the U.S.) are complicit. And UNIFIL – 14 of whose soldiers were injured by stone-throwing civilians when they attempted to move against another suspected cache – appears unable to do anything about it.
Israel’s U.N. ambassador, Gabriela Shalev said in a letter to the Security Council that Hezbollah’s actions represented “a clear violation of [UNSCR] 1701,” and added that “Such violations jeopardize the fragile stability along Israel’s northern border and stand in contravention of UN Security Council resolution 1701, in particular paragraph 8 that calls for ‘full respect for the Blue Line by both parties’.”
Who has any respect the ‘Blue Line’ at this point? UNIFIL considers this incident a “serious violation,” but really – what are they going to do about it?
On May 22, U.S. vice president Joe Biden traveled to Lebanon to express support for the Lebanese government. Biden’s trip has drawn criticism from the Iranian-backed terrorist group Hezbollah, but considering Biden’s history regarding Hezbollah and their handlers, the anger isn’t likely to be long-lived.
The Central News Agency reported that Biden would deliver a message from President Obama expressing U.S. support for Lebanese stability, discussing cooperation with the Lebanese military, and calling for the implementation of security resolutions, including United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701, which calls for the disarmament of Hezbollah.
Biden’s trip was the second trip in two months by a high-ranking American official (Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited in April) and was the first by an American vice president in 26 years. George H.W. Bush traveled there in 1983, two days after Hezbollah terrorists killed 241 American Marines, sailors, and soldiers.
“Lebanon has suffered terribly from war and we have a real opportunity now … for peace,” Biden said after meeting with President Michel Suleiman. “So I urge those who think about standing with the spoilers of peace not to miss this opportunity to walk away from the spoilers.”
Hezbollah is now accusing the U.S. of trying to influence the vote in favor of the pro-freedom, Western-backed March 14 Alliance. They claim that the visits by Clinton and now Biden raised “strong suspicion and amounted to a clear and detailed interference in Lebanon’s affairs.”
“The U.S. will evaluate the shape of its assistance program based on the composition of the new government and the policies it is advocating.” Biden said of future American assistance to Lebanon. Since 2006, the U.S. has contributed over $400 million worth of military assistance alone to Lebanon – including ammunition, artillery, M60 battle tanks, Raven unmanned aerial vehicles, and other weapons systems.
“The high American interest in Lebanon raises strong suspicion as to the real reason behind it,” said Hezbollah in a statement, “especially since it has become a clear and detailed intervention in Lebanese affairs.” Apparently Biden’s call for “fair, free and transparent elections” classifies as an “intervention in Lebanese affairs” to Hezbollah.
But the terrorist group will not likely remain angry at Biden. Back in 2007, Biden voted against a Senate amendment that would name Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) – Hezbollah’s benefactor – as a terrorist organization.
LEBANON – A Polish ambassador announced that Poland will withdraw its 450-member force from Lebanon after a Polish officer was arrested by Hezbollah.
On March 28 in Southern Lebanon, a UNIFIL patrol was stopped by armed Hezbollah militants. Hezbollah searched the vehicle, seizing a map and camera, which were handed over to authorities. The Polish officer was arrested and handed over to the Lebanese army.
NOW Lebanon reports that an investigation is underway as to why the captain took pictures without permission from UNIFIL and whether he was spying for Israel.
Poland – who has maintained a peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon since 1982 – blames their withdrawal on the global economic downturn. Agence France Press reported that Poland announced their intention to withdraw in February 2009. They are also ending their troop commitments to Chad and the Golan Heights.
GAZA – HAMAS terrorists got a nasty surprise when they tried to shoot down an Israeli helicopter during their 22-day war with Israel in January.
According to The World Tribune, HAMAS had smuggled four American-made Stinger portable anti-aircraft missile systems through Egypt in 2008. When an (American-made) Israeli Apache attack helicopter came under fire by HAMAS, the Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) system on the Stinger would not allow the gunner to target what the system thought was a friendly target. When the missile was launched, instead of acquiring the helicopter, it picked up the heat signature of a HAMAS machine gun position.
“The Stinger was drawn by the heat of our guns rather than the engines of the Israeli helicopters,” The Tribune‘s source said. “At that point, we stopped using this weapon.”
The source said that HAMAS is now on the market for a Russian-made SA-16.
Recently on Unto the Breach, we interviewed military analyst W. Thomas Smith, Jr. on the activity of the terrorist organization Hezbollah. The audio can be found here. Following is a transcript of the interview.
W. Thomas Smith, Jr. will be appearing on Unto the Breach on Friday, September 5. He will be discussing Hezbollah’s recent activities in Lebanon.
From his website, uswriter.com:
Author, journalist, nationally-acclaimed military analyst W. Thomas Smith, Jr. specializes in counterterrorism and international defense issues: His work appearing in The New York Post, USA Today, U.S. News & World Report, BusinessWeek, Human Events, many others.
A former U.S. Marine rifle-squad leader and parachutist, Smith is a technical consultant for military tech films airing on The Military Channel. He directs the Counterterrorism Research Center of the Family Security Foundation, and he is a contract technical editor for two major book publishing houses.
Smith — a columnist and veteran war correspondent — has covered conflict in Iraq, Lebanon, the Balkans, and on the West Bank.