Military Milestones from Humphrey’s Solo to Thornton’s Swim

In his “This Week in American Military History” series at Human Events this week, W. Thomas Smith Jr. mentions the anniversary of Navy SEAL Michael Thornton’s amazing battle with the North Vietnamese Army:

Oct. 31, 1972: U.S. Navy SEAL Petty Officer (future lieutenant) Michael E. Thornton; his commanding officer, Lt. Thomas R. Norris; and three South Vietnamese Naval commandos are conducting an intelligence-collection and prisoner-snatch operation deep behind enemy lines when they are discovered by a force that outnumbers them at least 10 to one.

Fierce, close fighting ensues. Thornton and Norris are both wounded, Norris badly.

As the team begins a fighting withdrawal toward the beach, Thornton learns that Norris is down, perhaps dead.

Thornton races back through a hailstorm of enemy fire to find and retrieve his commander — dead or alive.

Thornton finds Norris, kills two enemy soldiers who are standing over his wounded commander, then hoists Norris onto his shoulders and sprints back toward the beach for several hundred yards under heavy enemy fire.

When he hits the surf, Thornton ties Norris to his own body and starts swimming. When he sees one of the South Vietnamese commandos shot in the hip and unable to swim, Thornton grabs him too; swimming both men out to sea for more than two hours before they are rescued.

For his actions, Thornton will receive the Medal of Honor.

Norris will survive and receive the Medal himself for a previous action.

I did a radio show on Mike Thornton in January, and the transcript is available here.

The remainder of the article can be found at Human Events or by clicking below.

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“Covered Wagon” – Navy’s First Aircraft Carrier

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The USS Langley off San Diego, Calif. with USS Somers in 1930

The USS Langley (CV-1) was converted from the collier USS Jupiter in 1920 and became the U.S. Navy’s first aircraft carrier upon being commissioned in March 1922. Naval aviators of the old “Covered Wagon” crafted carrier operation tactics that were essential to our victory in World War II.

Interestingly, Langley’s sister ships all disappeared in the Bermuda Triangle: USS Cyclops disappeared during World War I, and the Proteus and Nereus were lost on similar routes during World War II.

The Langley was scuttled on 27 February, 1942 after taking five hits from Japanese bombers.

Posted on October 20, 2009 at 10:38 by Chris Carter · Permalink · 6 Comments
In: Military History · Tagged with: , , , ,

From the Navy’s Birthday to Black Thursday

LCdr. Virgil C. "Squash" Griffin becomes the first man to take off from an aircraft carrier in 1922.

LCdr. Virgil C. "Squash" Griffin becomes the first man to take off from an aircraft carrier in 1922.

This Week in American Military History (by W. Thomas Smith Jr.):

Oct. 12, 1862: Confederate cavalry commander Gen. James Ewell Brown “J.E.B.” Stuart completes his “second ride” around Union Gen. George B. McClellan’s Army of the Potomac.

Oct. 13, 1775: Happy Birthday U.S. Navy!

According to the Naval History and Heritage Command:

“…meeting in Philadelphia, the Continental Congress voted to fit out two sailing vessels, armed with ten carriage guns, as well as swivel guns, and manned by crews of eighty, and to send them out on a cruise of three months to intercept transports carrying munitions and stores to the British army in America.

“This was the original legislation out of which the Continental Navy grew and as such constitutes the birth certificate of the navy.”

Oct. 14, 1943: In what will become known as “Black Thursday,” U.S. Army Air Force B-17 Flying Fortresses – elements of the famed 8th Air Force – attack the ball-bearing plants (critical to Germany’s aviation industry) at the heavily defended Bavarian city of Schweinfurt. Though the raid is successful, scores of bombers – and more than 600 airmen – are lost.

According to Bruce Crawford writing for Aviation History magazine: “There is not much there to commemorate the carnage that took place overhead so many years ago, and that is too bad, because Schweinfurt should rank with Pickett’s Charge, Bataan, Chosin and other battlefields as an epic of American heroism. As it is, we can only look at grainy wartime pictures of the bombers going down in flames, and try to imagine what it was like for the men trapped inside.”

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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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