Posted in Military History

Sept. 13: Today in military history

[Originally published at OpsLens.com]

Today’s post is in honor of Master Sgt. Danial R. Adams, a Green Beret that gave his life for our country on this day in 2011. The 35-year-old native of Portland, Ore. was killed during an intense firefight in Afghanistan’s Wardak Province. He was serving in the 1st Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne).


1814: Unable to break the strong American defensive lines around Baltimore after a series of attacks, British troops return to their ships. Meanwhile, Vice Adm. Alexander Cochrane’s fleet begins a 25-hour bombardment of Fort McHenry, which guards the entrance to Baltimore harbor. The ships fire their cannons and rockets at maximum range and are unable to inflict any serious damage.

American lawyer and amateur poet Francis Scott Key observes the attack while aboard a Royal Navy ship to secure the release of an American prisoner. Key is so moved by the nighttime bombardment and the sight of the American flag in the morning that he writes “Defence of Fort M’Henry” on the back of an envelope, which will become the “Star-Spangled Banner.” The song does not become our national anthem, however, until 1931.

1847: After Marines capture the castle Chapultepec, the Mexican capital is now in American hands. The Duke of Wellington, who defeated Napoleon in the Battle of Waterloo, will say that American Maj. Gen. Winfield Scott’s brilliant campaign against Santa Anna’s forces during the Mexican-American War is “unsurpassed in military annals,” and names Scott the “greatest living general.”

1906: As revolution threatens Cuban President Tomás Estrada Palma’s government, six officers and 124 Marines and sailors disembark from USS Denver (C-14) to help restore order.

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Sept. 10: Today in military history

 

[Originally published at OpsLens.com]

Today’s post is in honor of U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Joseph E. Robsky Jr. who gave his life for our country on this day in 2003. The 31-year-old native of Elizaville, N.Y. was killed in Baghdad, Iraq, when an enemy explosive device he was attempting to defuse detonated. He had served in the Marine Corps for four years before joining the 759th Ordinance Company.


1813: Along the shores of Lake Erie, Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry’s squadron engages the Royal Navy in the Battle of Put-in-Bay. Perry’s ship is so damaged that he boards an open lifeboat and transfers his flag to another ship in the face of heavy gunfire before resuming the fight. After defeating the British, he writes a brief report to Maj. Gen. (and future president) William Henry Harrison, commanding the Army of the Northwest: “We have met the enemy and they are ours. Two ships, two brigs, one schooner and one sloop.”

1944: The First U.S. Army captures Luxembourg. After being conquered by the Germans during both world wars, the tiny nation strips neutrality from its constitution and becomes a founding member of NATO.

1945: Just eight days after the end of World War II, the aircraft carrier USS Midway (CV-41) is commissioned., becoming the largest ship in the world. Midway would hold the title of the world’s largest ship for the next ten years, and her 1,001-foot flight deck would later be expanded from 2.8 to a whopping 4 acres. Midway aviators scored the first (June 17, 1965) and last (Jan. 12, 1973) victories of the Vietnam War. Later, she served as the flagship carrier during Operation DESERT STORM before retiring in 1992.

1950: When an enemy machinegun pins down his fellow 1st Cavalry troopers, Cpl. Gordon M. Craig and four other soldiers crawl forward to silence the enemy gun. When an enemy grenade lands in their position, Craig throws himself on the device to shield the others from the blast. Craig is killed, and posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.

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Sept. 5: Today in military history

[Originally published at OpsLens.com]

Today’s post is in honor of U.S. Air Force Staff Sergeant Todd J. “TJ” Lobraico Jr. who was killed on this day in 2013 by enemy small-arms fire during a patrol outside Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan. The 22-yer-old native of New Fairfield, Conn. was serving with the New York Air National Guard’s 105th Security Forces Squadron at the time and had previously been deployed to Iraq.


1781: The Royal Navy fleet commanded by Rear Admiral Sir Thomas Grave’s Royal fleet clashes with Comte de Grasse’s French armada at the entrance to the Chesapeake Bay. The navies fight each other at close range for two hours before the British disengage and sail for New York. The French victory traps Lt. Gen. Lord Corwallis’ army at Yorktown, preventing their reinforcement or evacuation and ultimately contributing to Cornwallis’ surrender in October.

1813: Off the coast of Maine, the brig USS Enterprise spots HMS Boxer and the two vessels begin maneuvering to attack. Boxer’s captain Samuel Blyth declares “We are going to fight both ends and both sides of this ship as long as the ends and the sides hold together.” Blyth is killed in the opening barrage, and in less than 30 minutes, his ship is wrecked. A mortally wounded Capt. William Burrows refuses to accept Blyth’s sword and orders it sent back to the English captain’s family. The two captains are buried side by side during an elaborate funeral in Portland.

1862: U.S. Ambassador to Great Britain, Charles F. Adams (the son of President John Quincy Adams and grandson of Pres. John Adams), informs the British government that sending ironclad warships to aid the Confederacy would lead to war.

1917: At Gouzeaucourt, France, an American engineer unit comes under enemy artillery fire, wounding Sgt. Matthew Calderwood and Pvt. William Branigan – the first U.S. casualties of World War I.

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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. 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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April 27 in military history

Featured image: “… to the shores of Tripoli…” Lt. Presley O’Bannon leading Marines during the Battle of Derna, inspiring the famous opening line to the Marine Corps Hymn.  (painting by Col. Charles Waterhouse, USMC art collection)

1805: Following an extremely difficult march across a 500-to-700-mile stretch of North African desert, a force of eight U.S. Marines, two Navy midshipmen, and band of Arab and Greek mercenaries commanded by U.S. Army officer William Eaton have reached the fortress at Derna (modern-day Libya) during the First Barbary War.

Supported by three warships (USS Nautilus, USS Hornet, and USS Argus), Eaton personally leads the two-and-a-half-hour assault on the fortress. One Marine is killed in action and another mortally wounded in the first U.S. land battle on foreign soil. The Battle of Derna also marks the first time the U.S. flag is raised over foreign soil.

Legend states that newly installed, pro-American pasha Hamet Karamanli was so impressed with Marine 1st Lt. Presley O’Bannon’s leadership and heroics that he presents O’Bannon with a Mameluke sword. U.S. Marine officers today still carry the Mameluke sword, whereas Marine NCOs carry the traditional Naval infantry saber.

1813: Brig. Gen. Zebulon Pike’s 1,800-man American infantry force lands west of the Canadian town of York (present-day Toronto). Supported by a 14-ship naval flotilla, the Americans inflict heavy losses on the outnumbered British regulars, Canadian militia, and Ojibwe warriors. The fort’s magazine explodes during the battle, killing 38 Americans (including Pike) and wounding over 200. York is burned after the town’s capture, enraging the British and inspiring them to retaliate by burning Washington, D.C. the next year.

1865: The overcrowded Mississippi River steamboat Sultana, carrying 2,400 Union soldiers just released from Confederate prison, explodes and sinks just north of Memphis. At least 1,500 soldiers perish in the greatest maritime disaster in U.S. history.

1953: As armistice negotiations begin, Gen. Mark Clark – the commander of UN forces in Korea – informs Communist pilots through shortwave radio broadcasts in Russian, Chinese, and Korean that defecting MiG-15 pilots would receive political asylum and $50,000 (the first defecting pilot would be awarded $100,000) to fly an operational jet to South Korea. The Russian MiG-15 was considered to be superior to any Allied fighter at the time and had inflicted heavy casualties on Allied airmen.

A North Korean MiG-15 painted in U.S. Air Force markings. Senior Lieutenant Kum Sok No of the North Korean Air Force – unaware of Operation MOOLAH and the $100,000 reward – had grown “sick and tired of the Red deceit” and flew this fighter to Kimpo Airbase on Sept. 21, 1953.

Although no pilot would take up the offer until September, Operation MOOLAH had the indirect effect of grounding MiG-15 sorties for several days – perhaps as Communist Party leaders investigated the loyalty of their pilots. And following Clark’s broadcasts, there would be no more sightings of Russian pilots or aircraft, which were considerably better pilots than their Chinese or North Korean MiG counterparts.

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Oct. 25 in U.S. military history

1812: The frigate USS United States under the command of Capt. (future commodore) Stephen Decatur – hero of Tripoli and said to be the U.S. Navy’s own Lord Nelson​ – captures the Royal Navy frigate HMS Macedonian under the command of Capt. John Carden in a brisk fight several hundred miles off the Azores.

1925: The court martial of Col. William “Billy” Mitchell, America’s chief aviation officer during World War I and considered to be the “Father of the U.S. Air Force”, begins in Washington, D.C.. The outspoken Mitchell is charged with multiple counts of insubordination due to his criticism of Navy leadership for investing in battleships instead of aircraft carriers and the handling of numerous fatal aviation incidents. Maj. Gen. Douglas MacArthur, one of Mitchell’s 12 judges, refers to his assignment as “one of the most distasteful orders I ever received.”

1942: On Guadalcanal, Japanese forces launch a series of full-frontal assaults to retake Henderson Field. The defending Marines – led by Lt. Col. B. Lewis “Chesty” Puller – and soldiers kill upwards of 3,000 Japanese troops at the cost of only 80 Americans. Sgt. John Basilone became a Marine legend during the battle, fighting off wave after wave of Japanese soldiers for two days despite being incredibly outnumbered.

1944: During the Battle of Leyte Gulf, torpedoes from the destroyer USS Melvin (DD-680) sink the Japanese battleship Fusō, considered to be the largest warship to go down with all hands during World War II. Rear. Adm. Jesse Oldendorf’s 7th Fleet Support Group, consisting of several battleships sunk or damaged during Pearl Harbor, engage and sink the battleship Yamashiro, marking the last battleship-versus-battleship engagement in history. The escort carrier USS St. Lo (CVE-63) becomes the first major warship to be sunk by Japanese kamikaze pilots. By war’s end, kamikaze attacks would sink 34 U.S. ships.

Elsewhere in the gulf, three Japanese destroyers are sunk at the cost of one U.S. escort carrier, two destroyers, and a destroyer escort.

Aircraft from the U.S. 3rd Fleet, commanded by Adm. Bill Halsey, sink the Japanese aircraft carrier Zuikaku, the last surviving carrier that struck Pearl Harbor. Also headed for the bottom are two more light carriers and a destroyer. Two more ships – including another light carrier – are crippled. Later that day, naval gunfire and torpedoes will claim another Japanese light carrier, two destroyers, and a light cruiser. The Battle for Leyte Gulf is effectively over.

1950: Well over 200,000 Chinese Communist troops attack UN forces in their first assault of the Korean War. The Chinese force withdraws to the mountains and when they attack again one month later, they will drive the American-led force all the way back to the southern tip of the Korean peninsula.

1983: In the largest military operation since Vietnam, nearly 2,000 U.S. troops land on the tiny Caribbean island of Grenada to secure American citizens and topple the Marxist regime. On the first day of fighting, members of the 75th Ranger Regiment parachute into the Port Salines International Airport, allowing planes to deliver soldiers of the 82d Airborne Division. When a SEAL team determines that the beach is unsuitable for the planned amphibious invasion to capture Pearl Airport on the opposite side of the island, helicopters ferry Marines ashore and quickly secure their objective.

Posted in Military History

Sept. 11 in U.S. military history

The Pentagon following the 9/11 attacks

1776: After the British capture Long Island, Continental Congressional delegates Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and Edward Rutledge meet with British Adm. Lord Richard Howe for a peace conference at Staten Island. Hoping to bring a quick end to the conflict, King George granted Howe the authority to discuss peace terms, but not including the recognition of American independence. When Howe states that the loss of America would be like losing a brother, Franklin replies that “we will do our utmost endeavors to save your lordship that mortification.”

1814: New York is saved from a possible invasion by British forces when Commodore Thomas MacDonough’s squadron decisively defeats the British fleet led by Capt. George Downie in the Battle of Plattsburgh.

2001: As air controllers learn that several planes appear to have been hijacked, fighter jets are scrambled but do not arrive in time to disrupt a complex terrorist attack that kills 2,997 Americans and injures some 6,000. At 9:37a.m., a Boeing 757 flown by Al Qaeda terrorists slams into the Pentagon, killing 55 military personnel and 70 civilian employees. The area hit by the plane was undergoing renovations at the time of the attack, which meant only a few hundred of what would normally be around 5,000 occupants were endangered. Structural reinforcements and a sprinkler system had recently been added – in response to the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing – which increased survivability.

Although it is too late for the Pentagon, all U.S. military facilities worldwide are ordered to enter Force Protection Condition “Delta” – the highest level of readiness for a possible terrorist attack. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld increases the military alert level from DEFCON 5 (the lowest state of military preparedness) to DEFCON 3. Although the Russians would typically match the increase, President Vladimir Putin notifies George W. Bush that he would order his forces to stand down and denounces the terrorist attack. A report of a possible truck bomb attack targeting the North American Aerospace Command (NORAD) headquarters in the Cheyenne Mountain Complex leads to the first time the facility closes its massive blast doors, which are designed to withstand a nuclear attack. NORAD now controls of all American air space as combat air patrols guarded the skies and enforced a nationwide no-fly-zone.

2012: Terrorists launch a coordinated assault on a U.S. government compound in Benghazi, Libya. Although the battle rages for hours, the military isn’t permitted to mount any kind of effective response. Two CIA contractors – Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods – are killed, as well as foreign service officer Sean Smith and Ambassador Chris Stevens.

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Sept. 5 in U.S. Military History

On this date in 1968, McDonnell Douglas delivers its 3,000th “Phantom”

1781: The Royal Navy fleet commanded by Rear Admiral Sir Thomas Grave’s Royal fleet clashes with Comte de Grasse’s French armada at the entrance to the Chesapeake Bay. The navies fight each other at close range for two hours before the British disengage and sail for New York. The French victory traps Lt. Gen. Lord Corwallis’ army at Yorktown, preventing their reinforcement or evacuation and ultimately contributing to Cornwallis’ surrender in October.

1813: Off the coast of Maine, the brig USS Enterprise spots HMS Boxer and the two vessels begin maneuvering to attack. Boxer’s captain Samuel Blyth declares “We are going to fight both ends and both sides of this ship as long as the ends and the sides hold together.” Blyth is killed in the opening barrage, and in less than 30 minutes, his ship is wrecked. A mortally wounded Capt. William Burrows refuses to accept Blyth’s sword and orders it sent back to the English captain’s family. The two captains are buried side by side during an elaborate funeral in Portland.

1862: U.S. Ambassador to Great Britain, Charles F. Adams (the son of President John Quincy Adams and grandson of Pres. John Adams), informs the British government that sending ironclad warships to aid the Confederacy would lead to war.

1939: As Germany fights its way across Poland, President Franklin Roosevelt issues two neutrality proclamations. While required to put in place an arms embargo by law, Roosevelt will soon ask Congress to remove the ban.

1944: While escorting a bombing mission to Stuttgart, Lt. William H. Lewis shoots down five Heinkel He-111 bombers taking off from Göppingen, Germany, becoming an ace in one mission. His flight of P-51 “Mustangs” would shoot down 16 bombers during the attack.

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Aug. 24 in U.S. military history

British troops burn Washington, D.C.

1814: The British Army routs the Americans in the Battle of Bladensburg, then marches into Washington, D.C. in what is considered “the greatest disgrace ever dealt to American arms.” Gen. Robert Ross’ exhausted troops – several 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” scores four of the day’s ten Allied victories , becoming the Marine Corps’ first ace.

Bob Feller

1945: Just two days after being discharged from the service, Chief Petty Officer Bob Feller returns to Cleveland and is honored by a parade before pitching in his first major league game since becoming the first professional athlete to enlist in the Armed Forces during World War II. Despite losing nearly four years to his military service – Feller served aboard the battleship USS Alabama – the future Hall of Famer strikes out 12 batters and only allows four hits in the Indians 4-2 win over the Detroit Tigers.