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.

Posted on June 23, 2017 at 11:25 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
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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,

Posted on June 16, 2017 at 09:02 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
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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.

Posted on June 13, 2017 at 09:26 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
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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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June 2 in U.S. military history

Capt. Roger Locher (right) and Seventh Air Force Commander, Gen. John W. Vogt, Jr., at Udorn Air Force Base in Thailand after Locher’s rescue

1865: Confederate Gen. Kirby Smith signs documents surrendering his 43,000-man Army of the Trans-Mississippi at Galveston, Tex. Although Smith is not the last Confederate officer to surrender to the Union, this ends all organized Southern military action in the war.

1942: As the U.S. Navy prepares for the upcoming Japanese invasion, Task Forces 16 and 17 merge 350 miles northeast of to the northeast of Midway Island, putting three aircraft carriers, eight cruisers, and 16 destroyers under the command of Rear Adm. Frank J. Fletcher. A picket line of 25 submarines waits for the Japanese. The Battle of Midway is less than 24 hours away.

1943: The “Tuskegee Airmen” of the 99th Pursuit Squadron fly their first combat mission against Axis forces on the island of Pantelleria, off the coast of Tunisia.

1969: At 3 a.m. off the coast of Vietnam, the Australian aircraft carrier HMS Melbourne runs into the destroyer USS Frank E. Evans (DD-754), cutting the American ship in half. The severed bow section sinks in less than five minutes and takes 74 sailors with her. A series of errors and the absence of running lights due to preparations for flight operations places the American destroyer directly in the path of the much larger vessel.

1972: U.S. Air Force Gen. John W. Vogt, Jr. effectively shuts down the air war in Vietnam to rescue Capt. Roger Locher, an F-4 “Phantom” weapons systems officer shot down behind enemy lines in North Vietnam. Locher has evaded capture for 23 days – a record for downed airmen during the Vietnam War. Gen. Vogt diverts all available resources – 150 aircraft – from a planned strike against Hanoi and tasked them with the rescue mission. Planes bomb a nearby North Vietnamese airfield while Locher is located and rescued under heavy enemy fire.

Air Force captains Dale E. Stovall, flying the HH-53 “Jolly Green Giant” helicopter, and Ronald Smith, piloting the A-1H “Skyraider” attack plane receive the Air Force Cross (the nation’s second-highest award for valor) for the deepest rescue into North Vietnam of the entire war. No aircraft are lost in the operation.

As aircrews work to extract Locher, F-4E pilot Maj. Phil Handley scores the only supersonic gun kill in history, flying 900 miles per hour when he shoots down an enemy MiG 19.

2014: The fast-attack Virginia-class submarine USS Mississippi (SSN-782) is commissioned at Pascagoula, Miss., 12 months ahead of schedule and $60 million under budget.

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May 23 in U.S. military history

USS New Jersey (BB-62) firing its 16-inch Mark 7 naval guns. Each of the nine barrels could be aimed and fired independently, sending a 2,700-lb. armor piercing shell some 24 miles downrange. The shell could pierce 20 inches of armor and 21 feet of hardened concrete. A 1,700-lb. explosive round leaves a 20-ft. deep by 50-ft. wide crater and could defoliate trees 400 feet away from the impact site.

1862: Confederate forces under the command of Maj. Gen. Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson strike, outmaneuver, and – with textbook coordination of infantry, cavalry, and artillery – decisively defeat Union Army forces under Col. John R. Kenly at Front Royal, Virginia.

1943: The most decorated battleship in the U.S. Navy, USS New Jersey (BB-62), is commissioned at Philadelphia. “The Big J” earned 19 battle stars and numerous other commendations during her 48 years of service, which covered actions in the Pacific Theater of World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Lebanon, and the Persian Gulf.

1944: In Italy, VI Corps at the Anzio Beachhead begin their breakout. Fighting is intense – the 3rd Infantry Division suffers nearly 1,000 casualties, the most by any American division in a single day of the entire war, and the German troops defending Cisterna are annihilated in house-to-house combat.

The breakout is a success. Rome will be in Allied hands in days.

1967: U.S. congressman James Howard reads a letter sent from a Marine serving in Vietnam stating that most of the casualties in the Battle of Hill 881 were due to malfunctions with the unit’s new M-16 rifle. The weapon is shorter and lighter than the M-14 it replaced earlier in the year as the U.S. military’s standard service rifle, but does not come with adequate cleaning kit as the new rifle is billed as self-cleaning. Serial reports of dead soldiers and Marines found next to their malfunctioning M-16s anger the American public, until improvements to the rifle and ammunition make the weapon far more reliable.

50 years later, the M-16/M-4 platform remains the standard rifle of the U.S. military.

Posted on May 23, 2017 at 11:06 by Chris Carter · Permalink · 3 Comments
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May 12 in U.S. military history

Air Force security police volunteers aboard the CH-53 helicopter “Knife 13” which crashed while enroute to the Mayaguez operation, killing the 18 SP’s and the five-man crew

1780: Gen. Benjamin Lincoln, commanding American forces at Charleston, S.C., surrenders to Gen. Sir Henry Clinton after a six-week siege. Although the fall of Charleston and capture of thousands of Continental Army soldiers is the largest setback of the war for the Americans, British operations in the Southern colonies will quickly prove to be the undoing of the king’s men in North America.

1864: Gen. Ulysses S. Grant orders his forces to assault the Confederate salient known as the “Mule Shoe” during the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House. 15,000 Union soldiers break through, but Gen. Robert E. Lee quickly plugs the gaps and the Confederates counterattack. Over the next 20 hours, the two sides engage in intense close combat – much of it hand-to-hand. The carnage at “Bloody Angle” is some of the most brutal fighting of the Civil War with 9,000 Union and 8,000 Confederate casualties in just one day.

1865: Although President Andrew Johnson proclaimed an end to the Civil War three days ago, a Union force led by Col. John S. Ford attacks Confederate forces in the Battle of Palmito Ranch, near Brownsville, Tex. The Confederates repulse the attack, killing four of the attacking Union soldiers and capturing over 100, at the cost of only a handful of wounded and captured themselves. The one-sided engagement is the last encounter between organized Union and Confederate troops in the war. (more…)

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May 11 in U.S. military history

USS Bunker Hill burns after being hit by two kamikaze pilots

1846: Three days after Gen. Zachary Taylor’s forces defeat the Mexican Army in the Battle of Palo Alto, Pres. James K. Polk tells Congress: “Mexico has passed the boundary of the United States, has invaded our territory and shed American blood upon American soil.”

The Mexican-American War – already underway – is formally declared within two days.

1864: During the Battle of Yellow Tavern, Condederate Maj. Gen. J.E.B. Stuart is shot by a dismounted Union cavalry trooper north of Richmond, Va. “The greatest cavalry officer ever foaled in America” is mortally wounded and will die the next day.

1943: 3,000 soldiers of the 7th Infantry Division land at Attu Island in Alaska’s Aleutian Islands to repel Japanese troops that landed in June of 1942. After a month of fighting under harsh arctic conditions, the Americans finish off the remaining Japanese in hand-to-hand combat after a last-ditch Bansai charge. The Battle of Attu is the only land combat on American soil during World War II.

1945: As U.S. soldiers launch another attack against Japanese forces on Okinawa’s Shuri Line, Japanese pilot Kiyoshi Ogawa’s specially modified Mitsubishi Zero fighter slips through anti-aircraft fire and drops a 550-lb. bomb on the USS Bunker Hill (CV-17) before slamming his aircraft into the flight deck, igniting a fuel fire and causing several explosions that kill some 400 sailors and takes Adm. Marc Mitscher’s flagship out of the war.

1957: President Dwight D. Eisenhower announces that the United States will work with South Vietnam to ensure the peaceful unification of Vietnam and continue to provide support in their fight against communism. At this point, the Military Assistance Advisory Group serving in Vietnam consists of only 700 men.

1961: President John F. Kennedy approves the deployment of 400 Special Forces soldiers (Green Berets) and 100 CIA operatives to Vietnam to train South Vietnamese forces. The Green Berets have served as advisors in Vietnam since 1957, but on this day, Pres. Kennedy authorizes Americans to lead clandestine attacks against North Vietnam.

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May 8 in U.S. military history

A Curtis A-1 Triad, the Navy’s first aircraft

1846: In the first major battle of the Mexican War, U.S. Army forces under the command of Gen. (and future president) Zachary Taylor decisively defeat Mexican forces under Gen. Mariano Arista in the Battle of Palo Alto (Texas). The Mexicans will retreat to a seemingly more defensible position at Resaca de la Palma the following day, but Taylor will pursue and beat them badly there too.

1864: Union Army forces under the command of Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant and Confederate forces under Gen. Robert E. Lee clash in the Battle of Spotsylvania Courthouse. The outcome at Spotsylvania Courthouse will be inconclusive and the casualties terribly heavy. In less than two weeks, Grant will again break contact and continue his advance toward Richmond.

1904: U.S. Marines land at Tangier, Morocco to protect the Belgian legation.

1911: U.S. Navy Capt. Washington I. Chambers places an order for two A-1 Triad floatplanes from the Curtiss aircraft company. Thus, May 8 becomes the official birthday of Naval Aviation.

1945: V-E Day: The unconditional surrender of German forces signed by Gen. Alfred Jodl at the “little red schoolhouse” (supreme allied headquarters in Reims, France) the previous day becomes official. Although clashes between the Wehrmacht and the Red Army will continue for another day, Nazi Germany has laid down their arms. After nearly six years of fighting, claiming tens of millions of lives in the largest and bloodiest conflict the world had ever seen, the European Theater of World War II is over.

1972: Following a massive invasion of South Vietnam by the North Vietnamese Army, Pres. Richard M. Nixon announces that he has ordered the mining of North Vietnamese ports to stop the flow of weapons to the communists.

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May 4 in U.S. military history

1864: Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, general-in-chief of all Union forces, moves the Army of the Potomac out of their winter encampments and 100,000 Union soldiers cross the Rapidan River in Virginia to begin the campaign that would set the stage for the defeat of Gen. Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. Union losses in the Overland Campaign – the bloodiest in American history – are heavy, but Grant’s troops are replaceable. Lee’s are not.

1916: To avoid a diplomatic break with the United States, Germany announces it will abandon its policy of unrestricted submarine warfare. Instead of indiscriminately sinking all vessels in the British Isles, German subs will only torpedo those found to carry war materials. Germany reverses course in less than a year, sparking America’s entry into World War I on April 6, 1917.

1917: After a nine-day crossing of the Atlantic through stormy seas, a detachment of destroyers commanded by Cmdr. Joseph K. Taussig arrives at Queenstown, Ireland (now known as Cobh). The destroyers will assist convoy escorts against German U-Boats, which are reportedly sinking a staggering 600,000 tons of shipping per month.

1945: Germany’s new president, Grand Admiral Karl Dönitz sends envoys to Gen. Sir Bernard Montgomery’s headquarters – a carpeted tent in Lüneburg Heath, Germany – and sign the unconditional surrender of German air, land, and sea forces in the Netherlands, Denmark, and northern Germany.

Meanwhile as the fighting rages on at Okinawa, the Japanese 32nd Army attempts – and fails – to make an amphibious assault behind American lines. A frenzy of kamikaze attacks on U.S. Navy send two destroyers and two rocket-armed amphibious ships to the bottom. Numerous other vessels are damaged.

1968: As soldiers of the 7th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) move uphill, braving intense sniper fire, towards fortified enemy positions in Vietnam’s infamous Vietnam’s A Shau Valley, a soldier discovers an enemy claymore. Platoon Leader Douglas B. Fournet orders his men to take cover while he charges forward to disarm the mine. He unsheaths a knife and attempts to cut the wire used to detonate the device, but it explodes. Fournet shields his teammates from the blast with his body and he is posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions.

1970: After days of violent protests and rioting sparked by Pres. Nixon’s decision to begin military incursion into Cambodia, Ohio National Guard units open fire on protestors at Kent State University. In 13 seconds, four students lay dead and nine more are wounded.

Posted on May 4, 2017 at 02:19 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
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