Posted in Military History

Aug. 1: Today in military history

1914: As France begins mobilization of its army, Germany crosses into neighboring Luxembourg and declares war against Russia.

1943: 177 B-24 Liberator bombers of the Ninth and (newly formed) Eighth Air Forces depart Libya to conduct a low-level strike the Axis oil fields at Ploiesti, Romania. A massive German air defense network inflicts heavy casualties on the Americans, shooting down 53 B-24s and damaging another 55. One bomber manages to limp back to the Benghazi air field with an incredible 365 bullet holes. Over 310 Americans are killed with over 200 captured or missing. Five raiders earn the Medals of Honor – the most ever awarded for a single mission.

In the Solomon Islands, the Japanese destroyer Aragiri rams the motor torpedo boat PT-109. Two sailors are killed by the nighttime collision. Lieutenant (junior grade) John F. Kennedy and his remaining 11-man crew swim over three miles to a nearby deserted island and are rescued days later. The future president is awarded the Purple Heart and the Navy and Marine Corps Medal for gallantry.

1944: Gen. George Patton’s Third Army becomes operational and forms the right flank of the Allied force sweeping across France.

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History Matters: The Great Crusade and USS Liberty

As of June 4, 1940, the British Expeditionary Force, along with thousands of French and other Allied forces trapped at Dunkirk, were safely back on the shores of England. One-third of a million troops had been saved, but a dozen destroyers and hundreds of small vessels lay at the bottom of the English Channel, while enough vehicles, ammunition, and equipment to outfit nearly ten divisions have fallen into enemy hands.

Why Hitler inexplicably halted his Panzer corps and allowed the Allies to escape remains a source of debate to this day, but nearly two years after the miracle at Dunkirk, the Fuhrer orders the construction of the Atlantic Wall – a massive defensive fortification which ran from France’s border with Spain to the northern tip of Denmark in preparation for the inevitable Allied invasion of Europe.

In early 1944, Field Marshall Erwin Rommel takes charge of the Atlantic Wall. Having witnessed first-hand the strength of Allied air power while in North Africa, and realizing that Germany’s only hope for victory was to stop the Allies on the beach, Rommel beefed up the wall by adding more minefields and gun emplacements. American paratroopers will tell you that where Germany went wrong on the Atlantic Wall was they forgot to put a roof on it.

As the sun sets on airfields across England on June 5, 1944, 13,000 American paratroopers with the 82d and 101st Airborne Divisions (along with nearly 8,000 British and Canadian paratroopers) board the C-47 transports and gliders that will carry them behind Nazi lines on “the Great Crusade.” 1,000 British bombers pound German defenses at the beaches of Normandy while thousands of ships carrying some 130,000 Allied soldiers steam towards France.

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May 1 in military history

[Featured image: President George W. Bush after a successful trap aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) in a S-3B Viking assigned to the Blue Wolves of Sea Control Squadron Three Five (VS-35) designated “NAVY 1”. Although not a carrier pilot like his father, former president George H.W. Bush, he did fly the F-102 Delta Dagger interceptor for the Texas Air National Guard.]

1898: U.S. Navy Commodore George Dewey’s Asiatic Squadron steams single file into Manila Bay and destroys the out-armored and out-gunned Spanish fleet in the Philippines. Despite the support of shore batteries, the Spanish lose all seven of their vessels and only six American sailors are wounded. The Spanish-American War will effectively end in August, and Spain will cede control of the islands to the United States.

1943: When his B-17 bomber is hit by German flak and Sgt. Maynard H. “Snuffy” Smith loses power in his ball turret gun, he climbs out to assist the other airmen. With a fire now burning in the fuselage, three of the crew had already bailed out. Smith treats two severely wounded comrades and begins fighting the fire that was melting holes in the aircraft.

For the next 90 minutes, Smith alternates between caring for the wounded, extinguishing the fire, and manning the .50 caliber guns against attacking German fighters. The plane makes it safely back to England, but breaks in half upon landing from the fire and 3,500 bullets and pieces of shrapnel. Smith is awarded the Medal of Honor.

1945: Eighth Air Force B-17s drop 700 tons of food over German-occupied Holland, whose residents are suffering from famine. The Germans told the Allies that their bombers would not be targeted so long as they remained within approved air corridors. Over the next week, Over the next week, Operation CHOW HOUND delivers 7,000 tons of food, bringing an end to the “Hunger Winter.”

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Sept. 1 in U.S. Military History

Lockheed’s SR-71 “Blackbird”

1925: As Cmdr. John Rodgers attempts a long-distance flight from California to Hawaii, his PN-9 flying boat runs out of fuel several hundred miles short of the goal. Rogers’ four-man crew turns the airplane into a sailboat, and despite not having any food and very limited water, sails the remaining 450 miles to the island of Kauai. Although the plane did not reach its intended target, Rogers’ flight still sets a record for flying a seaplane 1,992 miles non-stop.

1939: Three waves of Luftwaffe Ju 87 B “Stuka” dive bombers cross Germany’s border with Poland at 4:40 a.m., destroying most of the defenseless town of Wieluń. The sneak attack is the first combat action of Germany’s invasion, which was preceded by a series of false flag operations intended to bolster support for a military campaign against its neighbor – launching what will become the deadliest conflict in human history.

That same day, Gen. George Marshall, aide-de-camp to Gen. John J. Pershing during World War I, is promoted to Chief of Staff. Marshall will oversee the greatest military buildup in American military history, labelled by Winston Churchill as the “organizer of victory.”

1942: 357 men and five officers of the 6th Naval Construction Battalion arrives in Guadalcanal, the first combat deployment of the legendary “Seabees.”

1974: A SR-71 “Blackbird” flown by Air Force Maj. James V. Sullivan streaks from New York to London in 1 hour and 55 minutes, setting a record that still stands today. Despite having to slow down to take on fuel from a specially modified KC-135 tanker, the reconnaissance plane still averages a blistering Mach 2.27.

2005: Soldiers with the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment and the 82nd Airborne Division, together with Iraqi soldiers launch an operation to clear Al Qaeda fighters from the city of Tal Afar. Col. H.R. McMaster’s force kills nearly 200 insurgents and capture hundreds more in the 17-day operation.

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Iraqi Insurgents Hacking Drone Video

A fully armed MQ-9 Reaper taxis down a runway in Southwest Asia.  The Reaper's primary mission is as a persistent hunter-killer against emerging targets. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Brian Ferguson)
A fully armed MQ-9 Reaper taxis down a runway in Southwest Asia. The Reaper's primary mission is as a persistent hunter-killer against emerging targets. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Brian Ferguson)

Iranian-backed Shiite fighters in Iraq have been hacking the live video feeds from U.S. unmanned drones according to senior defense officials. The Wall Street Journal reports that the insurgents are using a Russian-made, off-the-shelf program called SkyGrabber to view the non-encrypted information coming from the drones.

Officials say that there have been no reports of insurgents interfering with the flights, and also assure that no harm has come to our troops and that no missions have been compromised as a result of the security breach.

“That may be true today, but may not be the case in future conflicts,” remarks Bill Roggio of LongWarJournal.

Roggio speculates:

Don’t be surprised if you read a story in the next few days or weeks saying that elements within Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency have been monitoring US Predator and Reaper feeds, and relaying targeting information to al Qaeda and Taliban leaders. I have heard far too many stories about how senior al Qaeda and Taliban leaders miraculously avoided attacks and left the target sites just minutes before the strikes. The officials repeatedly told me that they believed the anti-US elements in the ISI were tipping off the terrorist commanders before the strikes.

Many hours – even days – worth of recorded drone video feeds have been found on captured insurgent computers operating in Iraq, and sources say that feeds have also been intercepted by enemies operating in Afghanistan. According to WSJ‘s sources, the Pentagon has known of the encryption vulnerability since the Bosnia campaign during the 1990’s, but assumed that our enemies would not have the wherewithal to intercept the signals.

If the Pentagon is going to assume anything, they should be assuming that our enemies will compromise our communications, and design systems with that possibility in mind.

Posted in Military History

Military Milestones from the King of Battle to Second Fallujah

By W. Thomas Smith, Jr.

Originally published at Human Events

This Week in American Military History:

Nov. 16, 1778: In a letter to Frenchman Jacques Donatien Le Ray de Chaumont, an intermediary between King Louis XVI and American emissaries seeking support for the American Revolution (including ships), Continental Navy Capt. John Paul Jones writes, “I wish to have no connection with any ship that does not sail fast, for I intend to go in harm’s way.”

Readers will recall Jones dramatic refusal-to-surrender — “I have not yet begun to fight!” — the following year during the famous battle of the North Sea between the Continental Navy frigate Bonhomme Richard and the British frigate HMS Serapis.

Nov. 16, 2004: Nine days after launching Operation Phantom Fury — the Second Battle of Fallujah (Iraq) — U.S. Marines and soldiers (as well as a few British and Iraqi troops) begin the mopping-up phase of what has since been described as the most intense urban combat since the bloody battle for the Vietnamese city of Hué in 1968.

It is during the height of the battle for Fallujah, that a radio transmission is intercepted by U.S. forces in which a panicking al-Qaeda insurgent is heard exclaiming to his chief: “We are fighting, but the Marines keep coming! We are shooting, but the Marines won’t stop!”

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Former NBA basketball player serving in Iraq

Kent Horner/NBAE — Getty Images
Kent Horner/NBAE — Getty Images

Specialist Tim James can say that he is one of the few soldiers who were actually drafted. In 1999, James was the 25th overall pick in the NBA draft. Following a career in the U.S. and European leagues, James joined the Army, and now serves in Iraq.

But according to The New York Times, he carries an “M-15 rifle.” Hadn’t heard of that one before.

James, who earned more than $2 million playing in the N.B.A., is making less than $2,000 a month. His commander, Capt. Curtis Byron, said he was unaware that the 6-foot-7 soldier in his unit was a former professional basketball player until James sought permission to be interviewed for news articles.

“Spc. James has always been very respectful and professional since being in the unit,” Captain Byron wrote in an e-mail message. “His job is not always the most glamorous, but he completes his missions in a timely manner and gets the job done.” He added, “He seems to be a fairly humble guy and takes it all in stride.”

To the best of my knowledge, James is the first athlete to join the service since brothers Pat and Kevin Tillman fought with the 2nd Raider Battalion.

Posted in Military History

Military Milestones from a Kentucky Raider to ‘a Bulldog of a Fighter’

By W. Thomas Smith, Jr.

Originally published at Human Events

Mar. 15, 1781:  British Army forces under the command of Lt. Gen. Charles Cornwallis march toward a pyrrhic victory over Continental Army and militia forces commanded by Maj. Gen. Nathaniel Greene at Guilford Courthouse (near present-day Greensboro), N.C.

Once engaged, the two armies fight for less than two hours. Tactically, it ends in a victory for Cornwallis, who drives Greene’s forces from the field. But British losses are heavy.

Cornwallis will purportedly say, “I never saw such fighting since God made me. The Americans fought like demons.” When word of Guilford Courthouse reaches London, Parliamentarian Charles James Fox will declare: “Another such victory would ruin the British army!”

Cornwallis’ entire army will surrender to the combined American-French forces of Generals George Washington and Comte de Rochambeau at Yorktown, Virginia, Oct. 19, almost seven months to the day after Guilford Courthouse.

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