Posted in Military History

3 April: Today in U.S. military history

The Martin B-57A Canberra. (U.S. Air Force photo)

1865: A day after the Confederate government evacuates by rail, Union troops march into the Confederate capital of Richmond, Va. Retreating Soldiers and citizens set buildings on fire as they depart, and the conflagration will consume some 35 blocks of Richmond. It takes Union soldiers until the afternoon to contain the blaze. President Abraham Lincoln tours the captured city the next day.

The Civil War will be over in just six days.

1942: Japan’s 14th Army, led by Lt. Gen. Masaharu Homma, launches a major offensive against American and Filipino forces on the Bataan Peninsula. In six days, the 75,000 defenders, already weakened by starvation and disease, will have no choice but to surrender to the Japanese.

1946: Gen. Homma is convicted of nearly 50 counts of war crimes for his troops’ treatment of prisoners in the Bataan Death March, and is executed by firing squad. Continue reading “3 April: Today in U.S. military history”

Posted in World War II Chronicle

World War II Chronicle: 14 January 1942

Col. Robin Olds, son of Brig. Gen. Robert Olds

Looking at the promotion list on page A-2 we find several soon-to-become-important names moving up in ranks. Col. Robert Olds, a World War I veteran aviator, former aide to Gen. Billy Mitchell, and advocate for strategic bombing and an independent Air Force branch, will pin on his first star.

His son Robert Jr. — better known as “Robin” — is a cadet captain at the U.S. Military Academy in 1942. Just a week before Pearl Harbor, Robin was part of the squad that lost to Annapolis in the Army-Navy game, but this season he will be named the top lineman in the country, and renowned sportswriter Grantland Rice dubs him “Player of the Year.”

Disappointed by the pettiness at West Point, Robin scorned the practice of “ring knocking,” where service academy graduates enjoyed advancement and other preferential treatment over other soldiers and sailors. He became the only pilot to make ace in both a P-38 Lightning and a P-51 Mustang. Olds briefly served as an assistant coach for West Point’s football team before the Vietnam War and after his legendary time as commander of the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing, he was named Commandant of the Air Force Academy. After his time at Colorado Springs, the triple ace became an inspector and warned the USAF that their combat doctrine and training program left fighter pilots dreadfully unprepared for dogfights. Once North Vietnamese fighters began shooting down Air Force pilots on a 1:1 basis during Operation LINEBACKER, Olds volunteered to drop back to colonel so he could return to Southeast Asia as a commander where he could correct the issue. The Pentagon refused, so Olds retired in 1973. In 1985 he was named to the college football hall of fame. Continue reading “World War II Chronicle: 14 January 1942”