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”

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Never Forget: Capt. Joseph S. Smith

Smith was posthumously promoted to captain

On 4 April 1971, two 612th Tactical Fighter Squadron F-100 Super Sabres took off from the Republic of Vietnam’s Phan Rang Air Base just before 3:30 p.m. to hit a large warehouse deep in central Cambodia. Behind the controls of the lead plane — codenamed BLADE 05 — was 1st Lt. Joseph S. Smith, a 25-year-old Notre Dame graduate from Assumption, Ill. who had started his tour in August 1970.

After four successful passes over their target, Smith was lining up for a strafing run when his aircraft suddenly leveled off before reaching the warehouse. Smith’s F-100 started trailing white smoke. His wingman and the forward air controller watched as the jet descended slowly and rolled over before impacting the ground half a mile away. He did not eject. There was no emergency beacon. Visibility at the crash site was obscured by smoke so there was no way the pilots could know what happened. But there was no parachute and no emergency beacon. With little to no chance of survival, they would have to wait.

The military determined that Lt. Smith had been hit by unseen enemy ground fire and died instantly. Aircrews observed heavy enemy activity in the area the next day when they returned to investigate the crash site — too heavy to send in ground units to recover the body. Continue reading “Never Forget: Capt. Joseph S. Smith”

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18 December: Today in U.S. military history

Today’s post is in honor of 2nd Lt. Michael P. Ruane who was killed by hostile fire during a combat operation just north of An Hoa Combat Base on this day in 1967. The 24-year-old Brooklyn, N.Y. native, assigned to Company M, 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines, 1st Marine Division, had only been in country for a week.


1902: Pres. Theodore Roosevelt orders Adm. George Dewey to take the U.S. North and South Atlantic Squadrons and sail to Venezuela, in order to prevent blockading European navies from waging war against Venezuela over unpaid debts.

After his victory in the Battle of Manila Bay, Dewey was promoted to the new rank of “Admiral of the Navy,” the highest rank ever held by a U.S. Naval officer.

1927: A day after a Coast Guard vessel accidentally rams – and sinks – the submarine USS S-4 (SS-109) off Cape Cod, Navy divers are rushed to the scene. Chief Gunner’s Mate Thomas Eadie learns by tapping on the hull that six sailors remain alive. When fellow diver Fred Michels attempts to attach a line pumping fresh air into the sub, which lies 100 feet below the surface, his own airline is fouled. Although exhausted from his previous dives – for which he will receive his second Navy Cross – Eadie quickly dives again and manages to save Michels after two hours of grueling work. Unfortunately, bad weather prevents the divers from saving the sub’s sailors in time, but Eadie is awarded the Medal of Honor.

1944: In the Philippine Sea, Adm. William “Bull” Halsey’s Task Force 38 sails directly into Typhoon “Cobra”. The 100 mph-plus winds and high seas capsize and sink three destroyers, while heavily damaging a cruiser, five aircraft carriers, and three destroyers. The deadly storm claims the lives of 790 U.S. sailors and destroys over 100 planes, leading to the creation of a Naval weather center and typhoon tracking center on Guam the following year.

Over China, nearly 300 B-29s Superfortress, B-24 Liberator, and B-25 Mitchell bombers – accompanied by P-51 Mustang escorts of the 14th Air Force – attack the Japanese Army’s expeditionary base at Hankao, igniting supply fires that will burn for three days. Continue reading “18 December: Today in U.S. military history”

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15 December: Today in U.S. military history

Today’s post is in honor of Gunnery Sgt. Justin E. Schmalstieg who was killed while defusing a roadside bomb he in Afghanistan’s Helmand province on this day in 2010. The 28-year-old Pittsburgh native had served three tours in Iraq and was on his first deployment to Afghanistan. He was assigned to 1st Explosive Ordnance Disposal Company, 7th Engineer Support Battalion, 1st Marine Logistics Group, I Marine Expeditionary Force in Camp Pendleton, Calif.


1791: The Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments to the Constitution of the United States, become law.

1862: Union Army Maj. Gen. Ambrose E. Burnside ends his disastrous series of frontal attacks against Gen. Robert E. Lee’s well-entrenched Confederate forces along Marye’s Heights during the Battle of Fredericksburg. It is during the battle that Lee – emotionally moved by the valor of the Federal Army, which, despite terrible losses, attacks his impregnable position time-and-again – says, “It is well that war is so terrible, lest we grow too fond of it.”

1864: Gen. John Bell Hood’s Confederate Army of Tennessee is routed in the Battle of Nashville by a Union army under command of Gen. George Thomas. After the battle, Hood’s once-formidable army would no longer be an effective fighting force. Continue reading “15 December: Today in U.S. military history”

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13 December: Today in U.S. military history

1636: The Massachusetts General Court in Salem orders the creation of a militia, requiring all able-bodied men between the ages of 16 and 60 join, to defend the colony if necessary. Three regiments are created: the North Regiment – today’s 181st and 182nd Infantry Regiments; the East Regiment – today’s 101st Engineer Battalion; and the South Regiment – today’s 101st Field Artillery Regiment. The National Guard is born.

1918: The U.S. Army of Occupation crosses the Rhine and enters Germany.

1951: Air Force pilot George A. Davis Jr. shoots down four MiG-15 jets, the largest one-day total during the Korean War. Davis was the war’s first double ace (10 kills) of the war, shooting down a total of 14 Chinese, Korean, and Soviet jets (adding to seven Japanese planes shot down during World War II), but he would later become the only ace to be killed during the conflict. He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.

1966: The Pentagon confirms that China is holding captive Capt. Phillip E. Smith, a U.S. Air Force F-104 Starfighter pilot. Smith was escorting an EC-121 Looking Glass aircraft on 20 September 1965 when his navigational equipment failed, causing him to stray into Chinese airspace. After being shot down and captured by the Chinese Army, Smith would spend the next seven years in captivity. Continue reading “13 December: Today in U.S. military history”