Sept. 12 in U.S. military history

An engraving of Brevet 2nd Lt. Ulysses S. Grant in 1843

1847: “From the halls of Montezuma…” Gen. Winfield Scott’s army of Marines and soldiers begin their attack on the castle Chapultepec, sitting 200 feet above in Mexico City. During the battle, 90 percent of Marine commissioned and non-commissioned officers are killed by snipers, memorialized by the “blood stripe” on the Marine Corps’ Dress Blue trousers. Participating in the engagement are many young officers – such as Ulysses S. Grant, Robert E. Lee, and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson – who will face each other in the Civil War.

1918: The Battle of Saint-Mihiel, the first and only U.S.-led and executed operation of World War I, begins when Gen. John J. Pershing’s American Expeditionary Force attacks Gen. Johannes Georg von der Marwitz’ Imperial German Army forces. The coordinated assault of artillery, tanks (commanded by Lt. Col. George Patton), and aircraft devastates the German lines and in just three days, over 22,000 Germans are killed, wounded, or captured.

1942: 5,000 Japanese soldiers, supported by aircraft and naval artillery, begin a series of nighttime frontal assaults against the Marines defending Guadalcanal’s Henderson Field. The defenders, many of whom are mostly members of the elite 1st Raider and 1st Parachute Battalions, devastate Maj. Gen. Kiyotake Kawaguchi’s force, despite nearly being overrun and resorting to hand-to-hand combat.

The Battle of Edson’s Ridge is named after the Col. Merrit A. Edson, the commanding officer of the 1st Raider Battalion, who “was all over the place, encouraging, cajoling, and correcting as he continually exposed himself to enemy fire.” For his actions during the battle, Edson was awarded the Medal of Honor.

1945: Marine aviators of VMF-214 – the famed “Black Sheep Squadron” – are reunited with Col. Gregory “Pappy” Boyington at Naval Air Station Alameda following their former commanding officer’s release after spending 20 months in captivity as a Japanese prisoner of war. After the reunion, Boyington heads for Washington, where he is to be awarded both the Medal of Honor and Navy Cross.

Posted on September 12, 2017 at 10:00 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
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Aug. 31 in U.S. military history

“Paramarines” – an elite force within an elite force – were never utilized in their intended roles (Ranger-style commando raids as opposed to the Army’s parachute infantry), but instead served throughout the war as conventional Marines. Five former Paramarines would earn the Medal of Honor on Iwo Jima, and several of the legendary flag-raisers were former Paramarines.

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: 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.

1943: The Navy commissions the destroyer escort USS Harmon – the first warship to be named after an African-American. While serving aboard the USS San Francisco (CA-36) during the Battle of the Solomon Islands, Mess Attendant First Class Leonard R. Harmon “deliberately exposed himself to hostile gunfire” to protect a medic providing care to wounded sailors, in addition to displaying unusual loyalty on behalf of the ship’s injured executive officer. For his actions, Harmon was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross.

1955: The Boeing KC-135 “Stratotanker” makes its first flight. The mid-air refueller was built to serve Strategic Air Command’s B-52 fleet, but 62 years later it remains in service for the foreseeable future (not scheduled for replacement until 2040), and is one of six aircraft to serve the U.S. military for over 50 years.

Posted on August 31, 2017 at 09:38 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
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