Posted in Military History

Today in U.S. military history: The Doolittle Raid is born

Today’s post is in honor of Sgt. Michael J. McMullen, who on this day in 2006 died of wounds sustained from an improvised explosive device in Ramadi, Iraq. The 25-year-old from Salisbury, Md. served as a firefighter-paramedic on the Salisbury Fire Department and was assigned to the Maryland National Guard’s 243rd Engineer Company. McMullen was posthumously awarded the Silver Star (for saving the life of a fellow soldier during the attack), the Purple Heart, and promoted to Staff Sergeant.


1942: After just a month of war in the Pacific, the United States Navy meets to determine the best way to quickly strike the Japanese home islands. President Franklin D. Roosevelt wanted an attack to boost U.S. morale while weakening that of Japan’s. Several potential options were discussed, such as:

  1. Dispatching B-24 Liberators from Hawaii and refueling them with Navy seaplanes (nearly an 8,000-mile round trip);
  2. Launching B-17s from Midway and topping off with fuel from B-24 tankers (over 5,000 miles round-trip);
  3. B-17s towing fuel-laden gliders

One suggestion from a Naval antisubmarine officer made the most sense: sail an aircraft carrier within striking range and launch Army twin-engine bombers. The “Doolittle Raid” is born, and will be carried out in just three months.

Continue reading “Today in U.S. military history: The Doolittle Raid is born”

Posted in Military History

Dec. 26: Today in U.S. military history

Today’s post is in honor of Spc. Jason M. Johnston, who was killed by an improvised explosive device in Arghandab, Afghanistan on this day in 2009. The 24-year-old from Albion, N.Y. was assigned to the 2d Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82d Airborne Division.


1776: After Gen. George Washington’s famous crossing of the icy Delaware River the night before and a eight-mile forced march, 2,500 Continental Army soldiers and militia catch the Hessian (German mercenaries fighting for the British) garrison at Trenton, N.J. completely by surprise. Washington’s force captures 900 soldiers along with weapons and supplies, incredibly without losing a single American soldier to combat. Lt. (and future president) James Madison is one of the few soldiers wounded during the battle.

1943: (Featured Image) Following a naval and air bombardment, the 1st Marine Division lands at Cape Gloucester in their first combat operation since Guadalcanal. Fifth Air Force’s pre-landing bombardment of the Japanese defenses was so thorough that completely destroying a target would be referred to as “Gloucesterizing.”

Dense jungles, horrible weather, and near-impassable mud welcomed the invaders, but the Marines “adapt, improvise, and overcome,” capturing the island from the Japanese in just over a week.

Continue reading “Dec. 26: Today in U.S. military history”
Posted in Military History

Nov. 5: Today in U.S. military history

Today’s post is in honor of Sgt. 1st Class Jose A. Rivera, who was killed in action on this day in 2003 in Mumuhdyah, Iraq. The 34-year-old native of Bayamon, Puerto Rico was assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 3rd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment.


1862: Realizing an army led by Gen. George McClellan would never defeat the Confederates, Pres. Abraham Lincoln removes the cautious Army of the Potomac commander, choosing Gen. Ambrose Burnside as his replacement. Two years and three days later, Lincoln would defeat McClellan – a Democrat – in the 1864 presidential election.

1915: Lt. Commander Henry Mustin catapults from the USS North Carolina in a Curtiss AB-2 flying boat, becoming the first American to make a catapult launch from a ship underway.

1917: U.S. Army Maj. (future Brig. Gen.) Theodore Roosevelt Jr​. and his younger brother Lt. (future Lt. Col.) Archibald Roosevelt​ – both sons of former Pres. Theodore Roosevelt – lead the first American patrol into “No Man’s Land” during World War I​. “Archie” will be wounded severely enough to merit a retirement with full disability, only to rejoin the Army during World War II. When an enemy grenade destroys the same knee wounded in the previous world war, Lt. Col. Roosevelt becomes the first person declared 100 percent disabled in two wars.

Theodore Jr. also rejoined the Army during World War II and earned the Medal of Honor while leading his troops at Utah Beach during the Invasion of Normandy. He died one month later of a heart attack. His brother Kermit left basic training and joined the British Army during World War I, transferring back to the U.S. military as a captain when the American Expeditionary Force arrived in Europe. He rejoined the British military during World War II, serving in Finland and Africa before being medically discharged. He would later serve as an Army intelligence officer in Alaska. The youngest Roosevelt son, Quentin, was a pursuit pilot and was shot down over enemy lines, becoming the only son of a U.S. president killed in combat. He and Theodore Jr. are buried side-by-side at the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial near Colleville-sur-Mer, France.

Theodore Jr. (left), Archibald (middle), and Quentin Roosevelt (right) all served during both world wars. Youngest brother Quentin (not pictured) was killed on 14 July 1918 and buried with full military honors by the Germans.

Continue reading “Nov. 5: Today in U.S. military history”

Posted in Military History

Nov. 2: Today in U.S. military history

Today’s post is in honor of Sgt. 1st Class Johnny C. Walls, who died of wounds sustained from small-arms fire in Uruzgan, Afghanistan on this date in 2007. Walls, 41, of Bremerton, Wash., was assigned to 1st Brigade, 1st Infantry Division and had previously deployed to Iraq in 2003.


1783: Gen. George Washington​ delivers his “Farewell Address to the Army” near Princeton, N.J., in which he refers to the Continental Army as “one patriotic band of brothers.”

1861: Pres. Abraham Lincoln removes Union Gen. John C. Fremont as commander of the Western Department, following Fremont’s unilateral decision to declare martial law in the border state of Missouri and thus freeing all slaves.

1943: One day after the 3rd Marine Division lands at Bougainville, the cruisers and destroyers of Admiral Aaron S. “Tip” Merrill’s Task Force 39 defeat Japanese naval forces attempting to attack the landing force in the Battle of Empress Bay. Two Japanese ships are sent to the bottom, with numerous enemy warships receiving heavy damage.

(Featured image) Meanwhile, in the skies over the nearby Japanese fortress of Rabaul, Maj. Raymond H. Wilkins, Commander of the Army Air Corps’ 8th Bombing Squadron, led an attack against Japanese-held Rabaul. His bombs destroyed an enemy transport and destroyer, and although his plane was badly damaged and his bombs expended, Wilkins strafed a Japanese cruiser, sacrificing himself by drawing their fire so his fellow pilots could escape the deadly air defenses. The raid sinks 30 of the 38 Japanese vessels anchored at Rabaul, and Wilkins will posthumously be awarded the Medal of Honor.

Continue reading “Nov. 2: Today in U.S. military history”

Posted in Images Military History

20 lesser-known U.S. aircraft of the Vietnam War

While you surely know about iconic Vietnam-era planes like the F-4 Phantom II or the UH-1 Huey helicopter, you probably haven’t heard much about aircraft like the Black Spot, Skyknight, or the Dragonfly. Although they aren’t as well-known, these fascinating warplanes played crucial roles during operations in Southeast Asia.

Hiller OH-23 Raven

The OH-23 was used as a scout helicopter during a time when the U.S. military was still figuring out how to best utilize helicopters on the battlefield. Ravens would scout ahead of friendly units, but were underpowered for Vietnam’s terrain and their skid guns (when they worked) weren’t adequate either. Nearly 100 of these lightweight helicopters were lost before the Army replaced them with the vastly improved OH-6 Cayuse in 1966.

Posted in Military History

Oct. 31: Today in U.S. military history

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.

Continue reading “Oct. 31: Today in U.S. military history”

Posted in Military History

Oct. 26: Today in U.S. military history

Today’s post is in honor of Sgt. John A. Lyons, who died of wounds received from enemy small-arms fire in Afghanistan’s Ghazni province on this day in 2011. Lyons, 26, of Seaside Park, N.J., was assigned to the 8th Engineer Battalion, 36th Engineer Brigade.


1909: U.S. Army Lt. (future brig. gen.) Frederick Erastus Humphreys​ becomes the first Army aviator to solo in a heavier-than-air craft – the Wright Flyer​ – following three hours of instruction by Wilbur Wright​.

1922: (Featured image) Off Cape Henry, Va., Lt. Commander Godfrey Chevalier becomes the first aviator to land on a moving ship when his Aeromarine 39B biplane touches down on the deck of USS Langley.

1942: Japanese carrier-based aircraft sink the carrier USS Hornet, leaving only one operational American carrier in the Pacific. The Battle of Santa Cruz is a pyrrhic victory for the Japanese, however, as their carrier pilots were decimated in the attack and can no longer conduct attacks on U.S. forces at Guadalcanal.

On Guadalcanal, Platoon Sergeant Mitchell Paige fights off wave after wave of Japanese soldiers single-handedly, as every Marine in his machine gun section are dead or wounded. Once reinforcements arrive, Paige leads a bayonet charge that drives off the enemy. For his actions, Paige is awarded the Medal of Honor and becomes a Marine legend.

Continue reading “Oct. 26: Today in U.S. military history”

Posted in Military History

Oct. 24: Today in U.S. military history

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.

Continue reading “Oct. 24: Today in U.S. military history”