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Sept. 18: Today in military history

[Originally published at OpsLens.com]

Today’s post is in honor of Pvt. 1st Class James W. Price, who gave his life for our country on this date in 2004. The 22-year-old native of Cleveland, Tenn. was killed when his vehicle was hit by an improvised explosive device in Baghdad. Price was assigned to the 4th Battalion, 5th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division.


1862: A day after the bloody Battle of Antietam, Gen. George B. McClellan blows yet another opportunity to capture Gen. Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia, perhaps ending the Civil War. While Lee abandons his invasion of Maryland and turns south, McClellan allows the significantly outnumbered Confederates to withdraw to Virginia without pursuit.

1906: As revolution sweeps Cuba, the auxiliary cruiser USS Dixie (AD-1) disembarks a battalion of Marines at Cienfuegos to help protect American-owned plantations.

1941: In preparation for World War II, 19 divisions of soldiers – 400,000 troops – participate in a series of massive exercises in Louisiana. In addition to learning how to direct and supply such a large force, Gen. George Marshall’s growing army is testing the effectiveness of combined-arms mechanized units that would be facing the German military and their (so-far) unstoppable blitzkrieg tactics.

26 soldiers will die during the maneuvers, but the Army gains experience that will prove invaluable during the upcoming war. Among those participating are future commanders Dwight Eisenhower, Omar Bradley, Mark Clark, and George Patton, who says “If you could take these tanks through Louisiana, you could take them through Hell.”

1942: Over 4,000 Marines of the 7th Marine Regiment land at Guadalcanal and join the battle, along with much-needed supplies. Maj. Gen. Archer A. Vandegrift’s men had dubbed the invasion “Operation Shoestring” as the Navy only managed to unload half of the supplies on Guadalcanal before departing. After suffering heavy casualties, the Marine 1st Parachute Battalion is pulled from the lines and sent to Espiritu Santo.

1944: During the drive across Europe, the 101st Airborne Division captures the Dutch city of Eindhoven and the Ninth Army captures Brest, France.

Two years after landing at Guadalcanal, the 7th Marines are fighting their way across the island of Peleliu. When a platoon of Marines is held up by concealed enemy positions on their left flank, Pvt. 1st Class Arthur J. Jackson moves forward through a barrage of heavy enemy fire. He reaches a pillbox containing 35 enemy soldiers, pinning them in with automatic weapons fire, then hurling white phosphorous grenades and explosive charges into the position, killing all of its occupants. He then turned his attention to two nearby positions, silencing them as well.

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Sept. 4: Today in military history

[Originally published at OpsLens.com]

Today’s post is in honor of Sgt. Joel L. Murray, who gave his life for his country on this day in 2007. The 26-year-old infantryman from Kansas City, Kan. was on his second combat deployment, serving with 2d Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team when the vehicle he was riding was hit by an improvised explosive device.


1812: In Indiana Territory (near modern-day Terre Haute), Capt. – and future president – Zachary Taylor and 50 soldiers defended Fort Harrison against an attack by 600 Native Americans. One Indian crawls up to the blockhouse and sets it on fire, threatening to burn down the outpost. However, the flames made it easier to see the attackers, and although sickness left the garrison with just 15 able-bodied soldiers at the time of the attack, Taylor’s heavily outnumbered force defeats the attackers and hands the United States her first land victory during the War of 1812.

1862: Gen. Robert E. Lee’s troops begin crossing the Potomac River into Maryland, kicking off the Confederacy’s short-lived invasion of the north.

1886: Worn out after being relentlessly pursued by the U.S. Cavalry, the feared Apache leader Geronimo (featured image, on left) surrenders to the Army for the last time.

1941: While enroute to Iceland, the destroyer USS Greer (DD-145) spots a German submarine. Although the United States is not yet at war with Germany, the sub launches a torpedo at Greer, who responds by dropping depth charges, becoming the first U.S. warship to fire on – and receive fire from – a German vessel. President Franklin Roosevelt responds by issuing an order which states that from now on, American ships or planes will shoot any Axis vessels they come across.

1945: Wake Island’s 2,200 surviving Japanese soldiers surrender. Rather than retake the island following it’s capture, the United States simply bypassed it and prevented its resupply. 1,300 Japanese on the island died over the course of the war, mostly due to starvation. The Japanese commander, Rear Adm. Shigematsu Sakaibara, will be tried for war crimes and executed for the massacre of nearly 100 U.S. prisoners of war following an air raid.

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Aug. 28: Today in military history

[Originally published at OpsLens.com]

Today’s post is in honor of Sgt. Edgar E. Lopez of the 1st Battalion, 2d Marine Regiment, 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, II Marine Expeditionary Force. On this day in 2004, the 27-year-old native of Los Angeles was killed by enemy action in Iraq’s Babil Province.

1862: One year after the Confederacy’s “glorious but dear-bought victory” over the Union in the First Battle of Bull Run, the two (significantly larger) armies meet again on the same battleground. 70,000 soldiers of Union Maj. Gen. John Pope’s Army of Virginia engage Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee’s 50,000-man Army of Northern Virginia, resulting in heavy casualties on both sides. Maj. Gen. James Longstreet’s five divisions (25,000 men) execute the largest mass assault of the war, smashing their opponents’ left flank and forcing and the Union to once again withdraw.

1944: Army Air Force pilots Maj. Joseph Myers and 2nd Lt. Manford Croy, Jr., flying P-47 Thunderbolts, become the first fighter pilots to score a victory over a jet aircraft when they shoot down German pilot Hieronymus Lauer’s Me 262.

Meanwhile, the First Army crosses the Marne River in France just days after the liberation of Paris, and to the south, the coastal towns of Marseilles and Toulon surrender to the Allies.

1945: An advance party of 150 soldiers – the first American troops to set foot in Japan – land at the naval airfield at Atsugi to prepare for the 11th Airborne Division’s arrival in two days.

1952: Off the Korean coast, USS Boxer launches the first “guided missile” ever fired from an aircraft carrier – a radio-controlled F6F-5K Hellcat fighter fitted with 1,000-lb. bombs. A pilot controlled the drone, which was fitted with a TV camera, from a two-seat AD-2Q Skyraider. Of the six drones launched by Boxer, only one will reach its target.

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Aug. 27: Today in military history

[Originally published at OpsLens.com]

1776: Five days after 15,000 British soldiers land on Long Island, Gen. William Howe’s forces attack the Patriots garrisoned at Brooklyn Heights. Gen. George Washington’s troops are flanked by the Redcoats during the first major battle of the Revolutionary War and suffer some 2,000 casualties before retreating to their redoubt at Brooklyn.

Rather than press the attack and smash the rebellion, Howe ordered his troops to prepare for a siege. However, in two days, the entire 10,000-man army slips through the Royal Navy stationed along the East River and evacuates (with their arms and supplies) to Manhattan. Washington is the last man to leave. While New York City falls into enemy hands, the patriots have survived to fight another day.

1918:  (Featured image) U.S. and Mexican Army soldiers, along with militia and armed civilians, clash along the border between Nogales, Ariz. and Nogales, Mexico. A handful of U.S. soldiers are killed and over 100 Mexicans, but the battle is over when the Americans seize the high ground overlooking the two Nogales on the Mexican side.

Following the battle, a chain-link fence is installed, splitting the two towns and becoming the first permanent border fence between the United States and Mexico.

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Aug. 24: Today in military history

[Originally published at OpsLens.com]

1814: Just ten miles northeast of Washington, D.C., British soldiers and Royal Marines clash with an American force of militia and a detachment of Marines and sailors in the Battle of Bladensburg. The professional British troops easily scatter the militia, but run into a wall when they square off against the Marines. In their first volley, the leathernecks destroy an entire company of the King’s men then pursue their foe into a ravine.

Capt. Samuel Bacon, Quartermaster of the Marine Corps, said “I will tell you something now about the battle of Bladensburg. […] The Marines are a dead shot.” The bodies of 150 British soldiers covered the battlefield in front of the Marines’ lines before the Americans are routed, leaving to road to the capital open in what is considered “the greatest disgrace ever dealt to American arms.” Gen. Robert Ross’ exhausted troops – several of which died during the battle from exhaustion after long marches – avenge the American destruction of Port Dover (in present-day Ontario) in May by setting fire to the Presidential Mansion (now called the White House), Capitol Building, and numerous other government and military facilities.

However, the British only hold Washington for one day before a massive storm blows through, severely damaging the British ships and causes the occupiers to abandon the area.

1912: The Navy’s first electrically powered ship, USS Jupiter (AC-3) is launched. Ten years later, a flight deck is added to the 542-ft. vessel, and the renamed USS Langley becomes America’s first aircraft carrier.

1942: Vice Adm. Frank J. Fletcher’s Task Force 61 and a Japanese carrier division converge in the Solomon Islands as Japanese troops attempt to reinforce Guadalcanal. The Battle of the Eastern Solomons is fought entirely by aircraft; the Japanese inflict serious damage on USS Enterprise (CV-6), while the Americans sink several vessels, including the light carrier Ryujo.

Over Guadalcanal, Japanese warplanes clash with Army and Marine aircraft of the “Cactus Air Force,” with Capt. Marion E. Carl in his F4F Wildcat scoring four of the day’s ten Allied victories, becoming the Marine Corps’ first ace.

Left to right: Maj. John L. Smith, Maj. Robert D. Galer, and Capt. Marion E. Carl after being awarded the Navy Cross. These three aviators accounted for 46 Japanese warplanes during their time at Guadalcanal. Carl would finish the war with 18-1/2 victories, going on to become a test pilot before deploying to Vietnam, where he flew combat missions in jets and helicopters despite being a brigadier general.

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August 2: Today in military history

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.

1862: The brass approves the plan by Maj. Jonathan Letterman, Medical Director for the Army of the Potomac, to establish an ambulance corps. Letterman is considered the “Father of Battlefield Medicine” for revolutionizing the way casualties are handled; soldiers now had first aid stations at the regimental level where they could be treated and triaged. Those more seriously wounded could be sent – by ambulance – to field hospitals at the division and corps level.

During the Peninsula Campaign, one out of every three Army of the Potomac casualties would die prior to implementing Letterman’s system. But after, just 2 percent of soldiers wounded Battle of Gettysburg died.

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.

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June 15 in military history

1775: John Adams of the Second Congressional Congress nominates George Washington, a fellow congressional delegate and veteran of the French and Indian Wars, to lead the newly formed Continental Army. Washington is unanimously elected.

1864: Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton signs an order setting aside 200 acres of Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s estate as a cemetery for fallen Civil War soldiers. Today, Arlington National Cemetery is the final resting place to over 400,000 fallen military members.

1877: Former slave Henry O. Flipper is the first black cadet to graduate from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. 2nd Lt. Flipper will lead the Buffalo Soldiers of the 10th Cavalry during the Apache Wars.

1944: Following a three-hour Naval and air bombardment, 8,000 Marines under the command of Maj. Gen. Holland M. “Howlin’ Mad” Smith (a recipient of France’s Croix de Guerre for his actions during the battle of Belleau Wood in World War I), hit the beaches of Saipan. The Japanese war planners are caught by surprise, and by nightfall the 2d and 4th Marine Divisions have a beachhead spanning six miles and reaching inland nearly 1,500 yards. Japanese propaganda leads its people to believe that unspeakable acts await anyone unlucky enough to be captured by the U.S. military, and thousands of Japanese civilians will leap to their deaths from the cliffs of Saipan.

On July 7, some 3,000 Japanese troops charge forward in the largest banzai charge of the war, nearly wiping out two battalions of soldiers from the 27th Infantry Division. The Japanese defenders inflict 14,000 casualties on the Americans, but the island is declared secure on July 9.

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June 13 in military history

1777: Marquis de Lafayette lands in South Carolina, having crossed the Atlantic on a ship that the 19-year-old French officer purchased with his own money. He soon makes fast friends with Gen. George Washington and the Continental Congress, and is offered a commission as a major general.

1917: Taking off from bases in Belgium, German Gotha bombers target London for the first time. Hundreds of civilians are killed and the air raids would continue, virtually unopposed, for the next month.

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.

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This week in military history: Battle of Saipan and Kedenburg’s Medal of Honor

 

Click above for the abridged audio version, or here to watch this week’s History Matters segment on CRTV’s EXPERIENCE MATTERS

On June 12, 1944 (D-Day + 6), Paratroopers of the 101st Airborne Division capture Carentan, France after three days of heavy urban combat, finally linking the Utah and Omaha beachheads. Meanwhile, a third wave of troops and supplies land at the beaches of Normandy. Over 300,000 men, tens of thousands of vehicles, and hundreds of thousands of tons of materiel have hit the beach so far.

That same day in the Pacific, airplanes from Adm. Marc Mitscher’s Task Force 58, consisting of nine aircraft carriers and six light carriers, pound Japanese positions in the Marianas Islands in preparation for the upcoming invasions. The next day, over a dozen battleships join in the attack and being leveling the defenses of Saipan.

This week also marks the first American bombing missions of both world wars. On June 12, 1918, eight pilots of the 96th Aero Squadron conduct the first-ever American bombing mission in Europe, attacking rail yards at Etain, France. 24 years later (to the day), Col. Harry A. Halverson leads a flight of 13 B-24 Liberator bombers from Libya 1,000 miles to the Axis oil fields at Ploesti, Romania. One plane has to turn back due to mechanical issues, and the bombers inflict minimal damage to the target. Crews land at Turkey (where they are interned), Iraq, and Syria.

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June 1 in Military History

1779: Maj. Gen. Benedict Arnold’s court martial begins in Philadelphia, but the trial is immediately postponed when Lt. Gen. Sir Henry Clinton captures Stony Point, N.Y.. The Americans did not know that Arnold had already contacted Clinton about switching sides, and in July he begins to give the British intelligence on troop locations and strength.

The disaffected American officer is charged with misconduct and will be cleared of all but two minor charges in December, and 12 months later Arnold becomes a British brigadier general.

1813: The frigate USS Chesapeake – one of the United States Navy’s original six ships – clashes with British ship HMS Shannon outside Boston Harbor. After being mortally wounded by a sniper round Chesapeake captain James Lawrence’s last words to his crew are “Tell the men to fire faster and [don’t] give up the ship! Fight her till she sinks!” Shannon‘s crew boards and will capture Chesapeake, taking her crew prisoner, but Capt. Lawrence’s famous final words live on today.

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