Today’s post is in honor of 1st Lt. Todd J. Bryant, who was killed by an improvised explosive device during a patrol in Fallujah, Iraq on this day in 2003. The 23-year-old native of Riverside, Calif. was assigned to 1st Battalion, 34th Armor Regiment, 1st Infantry Division and is one of nine graduates of the U.S. Military Academy’s Class of 2002 who gave their lives in Iraq or Afghanistan.
1941: Although the United States has not yet entered the war, U.S. Naval vessels are serving as convoy escorts. When a German U-boat wolfpack attacks an Allied convoy near Iceland, the American destroyer USS Reuben James places itself between an incoming torpedo and an ammunition ship. The torpedo detonates the destroyer’s magazine, blowing the Reuben James in half. 115 sailors perish in the first sinking of a U.S. warship in World War II.
1943: Lt. Hugh D. O’Neill, flying at night in a specially modified F4U Corsair, shoots down a Japanese Betty bomber over Vella Lavella, scoring the first kill for the radar-equipped night fighters.
1966: While on a patrol mission of the Mekong Delta, two patrol boats of the Brown Water Navy are fired upon by Vietnamese sampans. When Petty Officer First Class James E. Williams gives chase, he discovers a hornet’s nest of enemy activity in the isolated section of the delta. During a three-hour battle with enemy boats and fortifications, Williams and his crew, supported by helicopter gunships, destroy 65 vessels and kill hundreds of the enemy force. For his role in the engagement, the Navy’s most-decorated enlisted sailor (having already received two Silver Stars and three Bronze Stars – all for valor – in addition to the Navy Cross) is awarded the Medal of Honor.
Today’s post is in honor of Capt. Jeb F. Seagle, who was killed in action during Operation URGENT FURY on this day in 1983. The 30-year-old attack helicopter pilot from Lincolnton, N.C. was serving in Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 261 (HMM-261), 22nd Marine Amphibious Unit. He was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross for his actions.
1812: The frigate USS United States under the command of Capt. (future commodore) Stephen Decatur – hero of Tripoli and said to be the U.S. Navy’s own Lord Nelson – captures the Royal Navy frigate HMS Macedonian under the command of Capt. John Carden in a brisk fight several hundred miles off the Azores.
1925: The court martial of Col. William “Billy” Mitchell, America’s chief aviation officer during World War I and considered to be the “Father of the U.S. Air Force”, begins in Washington, D.C.. The outspoken Mitchell is charged with multiple counts of insubordination due to his criticism of Navy leadership for investing in battleships instead of aircraft carriers and the handling of numerous fatal aviation incidents. Maj. Gen. Douglas MacArthur, one of Mitchell’s 12 judges, refers to his assignment as “one of the most distasteful orders I ever received.”
1942: On Guadalcanal, Japanese forces launch a series of full-frontal assaults to retake Henderson Field. The defending Marines – led by Lt. Col. B. Lewis “Chesty” Puller – and soldiers kill upwards of 3,000 Japanese troops at the cost of only 80 Americans. Sgt. John Basilone became a Marine legend during the battle, fighting off wave after wave of Japanese soldiers for two days despite being incredibly outnumbered.
Today’s post is in honor of Spc. Jose L. Mesa, who was killed by an enemy mortar attack in Samaria, Iraq on this day in 2003. Mesa, 26, of Bell Gardens, Calif., was assigned to C Company, 1st Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division.
1742: After disease and poor management leads to the deaths of all but 600 of the 3,500-man 61st Regiment of Foot, the American expeditionary force is disbanded and returns to the colonies. “Gooch’s Regiment”, named after regimental commander – also the Governor of Virginia – Lt. Col. William Gooch, had been part of the ill-fated British expedition to capture the Spanish colony of Cartagena (present-day Colombia).
1944: On day two of the Battle of Leyte Gulf — the largest naval engagement of World War II — U.S. aircraft attack the Japanese fleet, sinking the battleship Musashi and damaging four others. A single Japanese dive bomber attacks the light carrier USS Princeton (CVL-23) igniting an internal blaze that will sink the ship with just one bomb.
In the air, Cmdr. David McCampbell and wingman Ens. Roy Rushing spot a flight of 60 Japanese planes and engage despite the outrageous odds. McCampbell shoots down nine warplanes, setting a single sortie record, and his partner claims six. After becoming the only U.S. aviator to claim “ace in a day” status twice, McCampbell lands his F6F Hellcat as it runs out of fuel and with only two bullets left. For his daring actions, the top Naval ace of the war is awarded the Medal of Honor.
Today’s post is in honor of Lance Cpl. Stephen E. Spencer, 23, or Portsmouth, R.I., who was one of 241 Marines, sailors, and soldiers killed in the Beirut Barracks Bombing (see below). A majority of the casualties from the terrorist attack were members of 1st Battalion, 8th Marines.
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.
1918: When a battalion commander needs to send a message to an endangered company on the front lines, he realizes sending a runner would be too hazardous due to heavy incoming fire. However, Pfc. Parker F. Dunn volunteers for the job and races through the fire-swept terrain toward the unit. He is hit once and gets up. He is hit again, and continues. Undaunted, Dunn carries on towards his objective, but is finished off by an enemy machinegun burst. He is posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.
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. Over the next three days the 1st Marine Division and the 164th Infantry Regiment, supported by the “Cactus Air Force,” 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.
Today’s post is in honor of Cpl. Jorge Villarreal Jr., who gave his life on this day in 2010 in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province. The 22-year-old San Antonio native was killed when an improvised explosive device hit his vehicle. Villarreal was serving with the 1st Battalion, 11th Marines, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force.
1918: Brig. Gen. William “Billy” Mitchell meets with American Expeditionary Force Commander Gen. John J. Pershing and floats the idea of dropping soldiers of the 1st Infantry Division behind enemy lines. Pershing approves the concept, but the war ends before paratroopers become a reality.
1922: Lt. Commander Virgil C. Griffin, piloting a Vought VE-7SF bi-winged fighter, makes the first-ever “official” takeoff from a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier, USS Langley – a coaling ship which had been converted into America’s first aircraft carrier – in York River, Va.
Though Griffin is indeed the first man to takeoff from a “carrier”, he is not the first to takeoff from a warship. That distinction belongs to Eugene B. Ely who took-off from a platform affixed to a cruiser in 1910.
1941: When a “wolfpack” of German U-boats attacks an allied convoy, overwhelming its Canadian escort ships, USS Kearny and three other American destroyers depart their base at Iceland and begin dropping depth charges. A German torpedo strikes Kearny, killing 11 sailors and injuring 22 – the first American casualties of World War II. Adolf Hitler will use the engagement as a reason for declaring war on the United States in December.