In April 1972, the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) launched its Easter Offensive — the largest military invasion since China crossed the Yalu River during the Korean War. American military presence in Vietnam had largely been reduced to air power, and the 5th Division of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam'(ARVN) was soon surrounded by three enemy divisions at An Loc, the capital of Binh Phuoc province. The only shot the defenders had at victory would be through the devastating firepower of U.S. Air Force B-52s and AC-130 gunships, but in order to survive, they would need the unsung heroes referred to as “trash haulers” — C-130 crews flying in ammunition and badly needed supplies.
The roads to An Loc were cut so the defenders had to rely on aerial resupply. The drop zone was in such a small area (a soccer field), in close proximity to what one crew member described as the “deadliest concentration of antiaircraft fire ever seen in South Vietnam.” Vietnamese Air Force C-123 pilots, used to daylight drops in far less challenging situations, couldn’t put the supplies on target, so the job went to the better trained American crews.
Two Vietnamese C-123s were shot down and several American C-130s were badly damaged during the campaign. NVA gunfire was so deadly that air crews began building custom armor to improve their chances of surviving the flight. On 15 April, the enemy guns tore through the belly of a C-130 flown by Capt. William Caldwell, killing the engineer, Tech. Sgt. Jon Sanders and wounding two crew members. Also hit was the 27,000-pound load of ammunition, which caught fire. Loadmaster Staff Sgt. Charles Shaub quickly jettisoned the pallets, which exploded almost instantly after leaving the plane, then fought a raging fire which burned him badly. Although two of the Hercules’ four engines were no longer operable, Caldwell limped the broken bird back to Tan Son Nhut Air Base. The landing gear had to be extended manually and the C-130 lost one of its two functioning engines just before landing. Caldwell and Shaub were both awarded the Air Force Cross for their superb airmanship.
1863: Following his defeat at Gettysburg, General Robert E. Lee sends a letter of resignation to Confederate president Jefferson Davis. Davis refuses.
1918: 100 years ago today, ten Allied divisions and hundreds of tanks attack the Germans at Amiens, France, in the first battle of what will be known as the Hundred Days Offensive – a series of engagements that drive the Germans out of France and leads to the armistice. The Battle of Amiens signifies the end of trench warfare and the first large-scale use of tanks in combat. The Allies catch the German defenders by surprise and on this day alone, the Allies kill, wound, or capture 30,000 German soldiers. By its conclusion, the offensive will produce over two million Allied and German casualties.
1942: One day after hitting the beaches, Marines capture the unfinished Japanese airfield on Guadalcanal – later completed and renamed Henderson Field – and also secure the islands of Tulagi, Gavutu, and Tanambogo. That evening, a Japanese naval force catches the Allied fleet by surprise and hands the U.S. Navy one of its worst-ever defeats. Three American cruisers, one Australian cruiser, and an American destroyer are sunk during the Battle of Savo Island, or as it was nicknamed by veterans as the Battle of the Five Sitting Ducks. Continue reading “Today in U.S. military history: the Battle of Five Sitting Ducks”
By Tom Mullikin
COLUMBIA, S.C. – With hurricane season upon us, the entire east coast of the United States is again holding its breath, particularly southeastern states like those of us in S.C., N.C., Georgia and Florida. States with coastlines along the Gulf of Mexico are facing similar angst and anticipation. Here in South Carolina we might expect what we have experienced since 2015: record flooding, displacement, property damage, even loss of life. It is not a pleasant expectation, but a new reality nonetheless.
But the Palmetto State is not taking it lying down. In Oct. 2018, Gov. Henry McMaster established the S.C. Floodwater Commission, a first-of-its-kind in-state effort bringing together stakeholders from government, academia, the military, and environmental groups and others in the nonprofit sector to analyze and address the flooding issue comprehensively, as a single team. It is a proactive approach aimed at mitigating disasters (like we’ve experienced in recent years) and protecting lives and property. Other states might wish to take note.
No one can’t prevent hurricanes. But we can mitigate their effects in a fashion similar to what the Netherlands did in 1953 when nearly 2,000 people were killed following the North Sea Flood. For the Dutch, it was an inflection point, resulting in construction of the most sweeping flood-defense system in the world. In the 66 years since, the country has not lost a single citizen to flooding.
In the U.S., sadly, we can’t say the same. Each year, hurricanes cost billions in damages and dozens of lives. Last year alone, storm damage cost us $50 billion. If a foreign enemy invaded our country and caused that kind of damage, we would be at war. Instead, we throw money at repairing the problem after the fact rather than preventing it in the first place. Continue reading “South Carolina’s unique approach to battling disastrous flooding”
1763: With Ottawa chief Pontiac laying siege to Fort Pitt (modern-day Pittsburgh), a force marches to the frontier fort to break the siege, consisting of Pennsylvania rangers and Scottish soldiers of the 42d Royal Highlanders – the famed “Black Watch.” Allied natives ambush the relief force at a creek known as Bushy Run and a bloody two-day battle kicks off. Col. Henry Bouquet’s men emerge victorious, routing the Indians – although at high cost to the Scottish/American troops – and lifting the siege at Fort Pitt.
Today’s 111th Infantry Regiment traces its lineage to the Philadelphia “Associators” militia regiment (formed by Benjamin Franklin) that manned Fort Pitt. Each year at their “dining-in” banquet, an empty table setting is left in honor of the commander of the Black Watch. At least twice in the last 200-plus year tradition, the officer has been on hand to accept the honor.
1945: A lone B-29 bomber takes off from Tinian Island’s North Field and heads out for a six-hour flight to Japan. Once the Enola Gay is over its target of Hiroshima, Col. Paul Tibbetts releases the bomb and dives to speed away from the device’s powerful shock wave. 43 seconds later, the world’s first atomic bomb detonates, killing between 80,000 and 140,000 Japanese instantly, and severely wounding another 100,000.
Although the United States demonstrated they now possess the ability to utterly annihilate entire cities, the Japanese government vows to fight on. Another atomic bomb will have to fall before Japan is brought to its knees.