Aug. 11 in U.S. military history

1945: While American planes continue hammering Japanese facilities, Secretary of State James Byrnes rejects the Japanese War Council’s surrender terms, including the the Emperor would remain in power. The Allies’ terms dictate that the Japanese people themselves would determine their own form of government and that the Emperor would be subject to the Supreme Allied Commander.

1949: President Harry Truman appoints Gen. Omar Bradley to the new position of Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Bradley advises that the post-World War II Army had been weakened to the point that it “could not fight its way out of a paper bag,” but the Truman administration does not implement his recommendations. As a result, the United States military enters the Korean War significantly understaffed and with outdated equipment.

1952: In western Korea, the First Marine Division takes Hill 122 – subsequently named “Bunker Hill” – and begins several days of bloody clashes with Chinese troops. The Marines, supported by tanks and and air strikes, repel numerous communist assaults and drive off the enemy. 48 of Col. Walter F. Layer’s men give their lives in defense of the hill, but inflict several thousand Chinese casualties.

1965: When deadly race riots break out across Los Angeles, the California National Guard deploys over 12,000 Guardsmen to the area to restore order.

1967: While on a patrol in South Vietnam’s Quảng Nam Province, Marine Lance Cpl. Roy M. Wheat accidentally steps on an enemy “Bouncing Betty” anti-personnel mine. When he hears the distinctive sound made by the triggered fuze, Wheat throws himself over the mine’s location and absorbs the blast with his body. For his actions, Wheat is posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.

Posted on August 11, 2017 at 09:40 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
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August 3 in U.S. military history

Daniel Fraser saves Stephen Decatur during the Battle of Tripoli Harbor

[Originally published at OpsLens.com]

1804: During the First Barbary War, Commodore Edward Preble’s Mediterranean Squadron begins his first bombardment of Tripoli Harbor. Commanding a division of ships is Stephen Decatur, the youngest sailor ever to be promoted to captain in U.S. Naval history. When Decatur’s brother is killed while boarding a Tripolitan gunboat, Decatur hands over command of his ship and, along with a small crew, boards the enemy vessel and engages the much-larger force in fierce hand-to-hand combat. When the captain responsible for his brother’s death attempts to behead Decatur, Daniel Fraser throws himself over Decatur, taking the lethal blow for his captain. Decatur shoots and kills the captain and avenges his brother.

1943: As American, British, and Canadian troops drive across Sicily, Axis forces begin evacuating the island. While visiting soldiers awaiting evacuation at Nicosia, Gen. George S. Patton, commanding the Seventh Army, slaps a soldier suffering from battle fatigue and orders him back to the front lines. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower reprimands Patton for the incident and the legendary general will not command another combat force for 11 months.

1950: Eight F4U-4B “Corsairs” of Marine Fighter Squadron (VMF) 214 take off from the deck of USS Sicily (CVE-118) and attack enemy installations at Chengu, marking the first Marine aviation sortie of the Korean War. During World War II, the “Black Sheep” of VMF-214 destroyed hundreds of Japanese aircraft, sank several vessels, and earned the Presidential Unit Citation under Medal of Honor recipient and former “Flying Tiger” Maj. Greg “Pappy” Boyington – the Marine Corps’ top ace, with 28 aerial victories.

Congress initiates an involuntary recall of former enlisted soldiers, ordering 30,000 men to report for duty in September.

That same day in Southeast Asia, the first members of the U.S. Military Assistance Advisory Group members arrive in Saigon. The 35-man group will supervise the allocation of military aid to the French military in Vietnam, and later act as military trainers.

1958: USS Nautilus — the world’s first nuclear-powered submarine and the U.S. Navy’s sixth so-named vessel — becomes the first “ship” to cross the North Pole.

August 2 in U.S. military history

[Originally published at OpsLens.com]

1776: Although the Continental Congress voted to establish “the thirteen united [sic] States of America” on July 2 and adopted Thomas Jefferson’s draft of the Declaration of Independence two days later, congressional delegates sign the Declaration on this date. The most famous inscription belongs to John Hancock, the president of Congress, who is said to have declared, “There, I guess King George will be able to read that without his spectacles,” after adding his rather substantial signature.

1909: After a successful demonstration for the military by Orville Wright, the Army Signal Corps purchases a Wright Flyer for $30,000 (the equivalent of $800,000 today). The two-seat “Signal Corps Airplane No. 1” will train America’s first military pilots at College Park, Md. and Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio over the next two years – crashing several times – before it’s retirement. Today, the legendary aircraft hangs in the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum.

1934: Upon the death of German president Paul von Hindenberg, Chancellor Adolf Hitler begins his “thousand-year Reich,” assuming full dictatorial powers as Reichsführer. Also on this date, Hitler changes the military oath so that the Wehrmacht swears allegiance to him instead of Germany.

1944: Convoy HX 300, the largest convoy of World War II, safely crosses the Atlantic, bringing over 1 million tons of supplies to ports in the United Kingdom. 32 escort vessels protected the 155 cargo ships, and the formation spanned nine miles across and four miles long. Not a single ship was attacked by a German submarine.

1950: As the North Korean Army bears down on the American and UN forces occupying the southern tip of the Korean Peninsula, the 1st Provisional Marine Brigade lands at Pusan and mans the Pusan Perimeter’s left flank.

1964: The destroyer USS Maddox (DD-731), supporting South Vietnamese covert operations against the North in the Gulf of Tonkin, is attacked by three North Vietnamese torpedo boats in the Gulf of Tonkin. Within days, Congress would pass the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, paving the way for full-scale conflict in Vietnam.

1990: At 2a.m., several divisions of the Iraqi military’s elite Republican Guards cross into Kuwait, beginning a seven-month occupation of the neighboring state. The United States will lead a 35-nation coalition to liberate Kuwait in January.

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July 28 in U.S. military history

[Originally published at OpsLens.com]

1779: 40 Continental Marines and Massachusetts Militia, including their leader, Marine Capt. John Welsh, are killed in the unsuccessful assault on Britain’s Fort George at Penobscot Bay, Maine.

1914: One month after Gavrillo Princip assassinates Austria-Hungary’s heir to the throne, the Archduke Francis Ferdinand, Austria-Hungary declares war on Serbia. Within days, a peaceful European continent will be transformed into a battlefield of never-before-seen scale of carnage when Germany, France, Russia, and the United Kingdom join the conflict. Dozens of other countries mobilize troops, and in four years, some 20 million people will perish in the “Great War.”

1915: 340 Marines and sailors land at Port au Prince, Hayti, beginning an occupation that would last until 1934.

1918: Brig. Gen. John A. Lejeune assumes command of the 2d U.S. Army Division in France – becoming the second Marine to command an Army Division (Brig. Gen. Charles A. Doyen was the first).

1932: Following an unsuccessful attempt to remove “Bonus Army” marchers from the nation’s capital by Washington, D.C. police, President Herbert Hoover orders Army Chief of Staff, Gen. Douglas A. MacArthur, to evict the protestors by force. Other notable officers participating were Majors George S. Patton (in command of tanks) and Dwight D. Eisenhower (junior aide to MacArthur).

1943: During the joint U.S. and British bombing campaign, Operation “Gomorrah”, nearly 800 Royal Air Force bombers target Hamburg, Germany in a nighttime bombing raid. The concentrated incendiary bombing combined with warm and dry weather creates a literal firestorm; a 1,000ft-tall tornado of flame driving 150-mph winds consumes everything in its path. Eight square miles of Hamburg are incinerated, along with tens of thousands of Germans.

1945: A B-25 “Mitchell” bomber, flying through thick fog over New York City, slams into the 79th floor of the Empire State Building, killing the plane’s three crewmembers, 11 occupants and igniting a four-story blaze.

1965: Pres. Lyndon Johnson sends 50,000 troops to Vietnam, bringing the number to 125,000. To meet the requirements, monthly draft calls are increased from 17,000 to 35,000 – the highest since the Korean War.

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July 27 in U.S. military history

[Originally published at OpsLens.com]

1816: After freed slaves serving as Colonial British Marines attack and kill several American sailors stopping to fill their canteens near Negro Fort in Spanish Florida, Maj. Gen. (and future president) Andrew Jackson is granted permission to reduce the redoubt. Gunboat No. 154 fires one shot at Negro Fort, detonating the powder magazine and killing 300 defenders, becoming the deadliest cannon shot in U.S. military history. What few survivors remain are captured with no American military casualties.

1898: During the Spanish-American War, Marines from USS Dixie raise the U.S. flag over Puerto Rico for the first time.

1909: 10,000 people, including President Howard Taft, gather to watch aviation pioneer Orville Wright fly himself and U.S. Army Lt. Frank P. Lahm above the Fort Myer, Virginia countryside for more than an hour in his now-famous Wright Flyer. The Army leadership is impressed enough that it takes delivery of its first Wright Flyer, “the world’s first military airplane,” within days.

1953: After three years of fighting in Korea, which kills over 50,000 Americans and millions of Chinese and Korean troops, an armistice is signed, ending hostilities in the Korean War at 2200 hours. At 2159, the cruiser USS St. Paul (CA-73) fires the last shot of the war, firing a shell signed by Rear Adm. Harry Sanders at an communist gun emplacement.

The agreement establishes a De-Militarized Zone near the 38th Parallel and prisoners are exchanged, but to this day, North and South Korea are technically still at war. Dozens of Americans have been killed in clashes in the DMZ, with several U.S. aircraft and helicopters shot down since the armistice.

1965: Three days after Communist forces attack U.S. warplanes on a bombing raid northwest of Hanoi, 46 F-105 “Thunderchief” attack aircraft target the missile sites. The raid destroys one launcher, but five F-105s are shot down.

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June 26 in U.S. military history

[Originally published at OpsLens.com]

1862: Confederate forces led by Gen. Robert E. Lee launch a counteroffensive against Maj. Gen. George McClellan’s Army of the Potomac. Although the outnumbered Confederates suffer heavy casualties and subordinates fail to execute Lee’s plans, McClellan will ultimately withdraw from Richmond following the Battle of Mechanicsburg – the first major engagement of the Seven Days Battles – and abandon the Peninsula Campaign.

1917: A convoy containing the first American Expeditionary Forces – members of the 5th Marine Regiment – land at the beaches of Saint-Nazaire France. The American troops will train for four months before entering combat. More than two million Americans will serve on the battlefields of Western Europe, and over 50,000 will lay down their lives in the “War to End All War.”

1942: The Grumman F6F “Hellcat” – credited with the most aerial victories of any Allied naval aircraft during World War II – makes its first flight. Designed to compete with the agile Mitsubishi A6M “Zero” fighter, the Hellcat will come to dominate the skies over the Pacific. 34 Japanese warplanes are knocked out of the sky by top Navy ace and Medal of Honor recipient Capt. David McCampbell – one of an incredible 305 Hellcat aces in the war.

1944: U.S. 7th Corps captures the French port city of Cherbourg, taking the garrison commander Lt. General Karl-Wilhelm von Schlieben and the naval commander, Rear Admiral Walter Hennecke, prisoner. A pocket of Germans still control the vital port facilities, and Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Quentin R. Walsh leads a 53-man naval reconnaissance unit through hostile fire and assaults the naval arsenal, capturing 400 Germans. His force then moved to Fort Du Homet where he received the surrender of another 350 Germans, and released 52 American paratroopers that had been taken prisoner. For his heroic actions, Walsh is awarded the Navy Cross.

1948: When the Soviet Union cuts off West Berlin by sealing off highway and railroad routes, the U.S. Air Force begins the Berlin Airlift. American and other allied nations perform some 300,000 air-transport flights into West Berlin delivering an average of 5,000 tons of food, coal, and other essential items per day to the blockaded city until the Soviets relent a year later.

1950: A day after North Korean forces cross into South Korea, kicking off the Korean War, the destroyers USS De Haven (DD-727) and USS Mansfield (DD-728) evacuate 700 American and foreign nationals from Inchon.

1965: Gen. William Westmoreland is granted the authority to send American combat forces on offensive operations. Prior to this decision, U.S. forces primarily served in a defensive role at air bases and other installations.

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June 23 in U.S. military history

[Originally published at OpsLens.com]

1812: Immediately after war is declared, a squadron of American ships led by Commodore John Rodgers sails to intercept a British convoy sailing from Jamaica. When the frigate HMS Belvidera is spotted, Rodgers personally aims and fires the first shot of the War of 1812 – the cannonball striking the British ship’s rudder and penetrating the gun room.

1865: Confederate Brig. Gen. – and Cherokee chief – Stand Watie surrenders his First Indian Brigade of the Army of the Trans-Mississippi to Union forces in Oklahoma Territory, becoming the last general to surrender in the Civil War.

1923: Over the skies of San Diego, an Army Air Service DH-4 biplane flown by Capt. Lowell Smith tops off its fuel tanks from a hose attached to another DH-4, marking the world’s first mid-air refueling operation.

1944: During one of the largest bombing missions of the war, 761 bombers of the 15th Air Force attack the oil fields at Ploesti, Romania.

When one of the B-17s on the raid is damaged by flak and has to drop out of formation, bombardier 2nd Lt. David R. Kingsley drops his bombs and goes to the back of the aircraft to administer first aid to the wounded tail gunner. When another gunner is wounded by enemy aircraft, Kingsley attends to him as well. When the pilot orders the crew to abandon the plane before it explodes, Kingsley gives one of the wounded gunners his own parachute, sacrificing his life. His body is later discovered in the burned wreckage of the plane, and Kingsley is posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.

1945: As the Sixth Army drives north to encircle the remaining Japanese forces on northern Luzon Island in the Philippines, paratroopers from the 11th Airborne Division perform their last combat jump of the war and cut off Gen. Tomoyuki Yamashita’s Shobu Group’s retreat.

1969: The Special Forces Camp at Ben Het in Vietnam’s Central Highlands, eight miles east of the border with Laos and Cambodia, is cut off and besieged by North Vietnamese Army. Over the next several days B-52s fly 100 strikes while fighter-bombers, artillery, and helicopter gunships hammer the NVA until the Americans are relieved on July 2nd.

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June 16 in U.S. military history

Saddam Hussein’s presidential secretary Abid Hamid Mahmud al-Tikriti, the “Ace of Diamonds” from the military’s deck of playing cards featuring the 55 most-wanted members of the Hussein regime. (Photo by the author)

1775: Under cover of darkness, a 1,200-man American force commanded by Col. William Prescott fortifies Breed’s Hill, overlooking Boston.

1861: 9,000 Federal troops led by Brig. Gen. Henry W. Benham attempt to capture Charleston, S.C. in the Battle of Secessionville. Although the Confederate defenders are heavily outnumbered, the marshy terrain and fortifications spell disaster for Union. The problematic Benham had moved without orders, and is court-martialed following the battle.

1943: 94 Japanese warplanes set out to raid the Allied invasion force before it reaches the island of New Georgia in the Solomon Islands. American aircraft operating out of Guadalcanal’s Henderson Field splash 93 out of 94 Japanese warplanes, while losing only six planes. Two tank landing ships are beached and only one cargo ship is damaged.

1944: One day after landing on Saipan, Marines repel Japanese counterattacks and capture Afetna Point and the town of Charan Karoa, linking the beachheads. Meanwhile, soldiers of the 27th Infantry Division come ashore and move to take Aslito airfield.

Across the Philippine Sea, American battleships shell targets at Guam in preparation for the invasion. However, the landings are postponed as the Japanese fleet is steaming for the Marianas with hopes of finally crushing the American fleet in a decisive battle.

1959: North Korean MiG 17s attack a Martin P4M “Mercator” reconnaissance aircraft in international waters, injuring the tail gunner and forcing the Navy spy plane to perform an emergency landing in Japan.

1965: Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara announces that in addition to the Marines and paratroopers of the 173rd Airborne Brigade recently deployed, the United States will send 21,000 more troops to Vietnam. McNamara also acknowledges that the military knew North Vietnam had been sending soldiers into South Vietnam prior to launching Operation Rolling Thunder, the politically managed bombing campaign on the North.

1992: After the first day of a summit in Washington, President George H.W. Bush and Russian president Boris Yeltsin announce that they have agreed to cut their countries’ nuclear arsenals by two-thirds.

2003: Delta Force operators, along with British Special Air Service commandos, capture Lt. Gen. Abid Hamid Mahmud al-Tikriti – Saddam Hussein’s right hand man. Mahmud was the fourth-most wanted man in Iraq, after Saddam and his sons Uday and Qusay,

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June 13 in U.S. military history

1942: While patrolling a beach on New York’s Long Island, Coast Guardsman John C. Cullen catches four German saboteurs posing as stranded fishermen. The Germans escape, but the leader turns himself in to the FBI – kicking off a two-week manhunt for the remaining Abwehr military intelligence operatives (all are American citizens born in Germany). The lid is blown off “Operation Pastorius,” the German plot to sabotage strategic American targets. All of the agents are captured and six are executed.

1943: 76 B-17F “Flying Fortress” bombers set out to attack the U-boat pens at Kiel, Germany. 60 “Forts” hit the pens, and Luftwaffe aircraft knock 22 more out of the sky in the heaviest fighter attacks on the Eighth Air Force to date. While gunners claim at least 39 German aircraft, 23 bombers are damaged – one so critical that it is no longer operable. Three airmen are killed, 20 wounded, and 213 are missing in action. The costly raid will lead war planners to realize that the heavily armed B-17s can no longer defend themselves against German aircraft. Escort fighters will begin accompanying bombers into Europe.

1968: Deep inside the jungles of Laos, Specialist Fifth Class John J. Kedenburg‘s unit is encircled and attacked by a North Vietnamese Army force shortly after the Special Operations Group team’s insertion. Kedenburg calls in tactical air support and radios for extraction while the heavily outnumbered SOG members attempt to break contact. One South Vietnamese soldier goes missing during the battle, but when helicopters arrive with slings to pull out the operators, the missing soldier reappears. Kedenburg gives him his spot on the harness, sacrificing his life for his teammate. Kedenburg bravely fights on as the helicopters fly to safety, but will fall shortly after. Another SOG team returns to the area to recover his body, and Kedenburg is posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.

1969: Laos’ prime minister publicly announces that the United States has been bombing targets in Laos and will continue to do so as long as the Communists were using his country as an infiltration route into South Vietnam. B-52 bombers, prevented from bombing North Vietnam since 1968, have flown thousands of missions into Laos targeting the Ho Chi Minh Trail with 160,000 tons of bombs.

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June 6 in U.S. military history

Soldiers from Company E, 16th Infantry, 1st Infantry Division are among the first waves of troops to land at Normandy’s Omaha Beach.

1862: A Union flotilla decisively defeats the Confederate fleet at Memphis, Tenn. and captures the city.

1918: Two battalions of Marines, led by Brig. Gen. James Harbord, advance against four German divisions in Belleau Wood, the site of an old French hunting preserve near Chateau-Thierry. The Marines face withering fire, with over 1,000 casualties in the first day of battle alone. In three weeks, the Marines drive out the Germans, but at a high cost; Enemy machine guns, artillery, and gas attacks inflict 10,000 American casualties. But the tenacity of the “Devil Dogs” at Belleau Wood becomes legend.

1942: Commander-in-chief of the Combined Fleet Admiral Yamamoto Isoroku orders his fleet to withdraw from the Battle of Midway. Although the Americans have lost the carrier Yorktown and a destroyer, Japanese losses are staggering: all four of the fleet’s aircraft carriers (whose aircraft attacked Pearl Harbor six months ago) and a heavy cruiser are sent to the bottom. After a long string of defeats, the United States Navy has dealt Japan “the most stunning and decisive blow in the history of naval warfare.”

1944: Just after 2 a.m., some 13,000 American and British paratroopers and glider troops begin landing behind enemy lines in France. 2,000 Allied aircraft bombard German positions in preparation of the invasion. And five hours later, nearly 150,000 American, British, and Canadian troops hit the beaches at Normandy. 1,200 warships and over 4,000 landing ships from eight different navies support the invasion. Losses are heavy for both sides and 4,414 American and Allied soldiers die on “D-Day” – the first day of the largest amphibious operation in history.

1957: Two Navy F-8U “Crusaders” and two A-3D “Skywarriors” launch from the deck of USS Bon Homme Richard (CVA 31) off the coast of California and fly to USS Saratoga (CVA 60), operating off Florida in the first transcontinental, carrier-to-carrier flight. The Crusaders land after three hours and 28 minutes, while the Skywarriors make the trip in four hours and one minute.

1964: Communist Pathet Lao anti-aircraft fire shoots down a Navy RF-8A “Crusader” aircraft flying a low-altitude reconnaissance mission over Laos. The pilot, Lt. Charles F. Klusmann, is taken prisoner, but escapes captivity. The downing of the reconnaissance plane is the first loss of a fixed-wing aircraft in what would become the Vietnam War.

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