June 28 in U.S. military history

1776: The unfinished American garrison guarding Charleston harbor comes under attack by nine British ships under the command of Adm. Sir Peter Parker. The British attack the fort for 12-plus hours, but their cannonballs are no match for the palmetto log defenses of Fort Sullivan. In what has been described as the “first decisive victory of American forces over the British Navy” during the American Revolution, Col. William Moultrie and his South Carolina militiamen inflict heavy casualties on the Royal Navy forces and repel the assault.

1778: The Battle of Monmouth, N.J. is fought between Gen. George Washington’s Continental Army (including the legendary Molly Pitcher) and British forces under Gen. Sir Henry Clinton. Though tactically inconclusive, the battle is a strategic victory for the Americans who prove they can go toe-to-toe with the British Army in a large pitched battle.

1814: 200 miles west of Plymouth, England, the sloop-of-war USS Wasp – the fifth of ten so-named vessels – engages HMS Reindeer. After 19 minutes of intense fire, with the Americans repulsing numerous attempts by the British to board their vessel, Master Commandant Johnston Blakely and his men devastate the British crew, killing the ship’s captain, Commander William Manners, and 24 others. Reindeer is boarded, but is too heavily damaged to be taken as a prize and is burned.

1914: Austrian Archduke Francis Ferdinand and his wife are assassinated by a Bosnian Serb. One month later, Austria-Hungary will declare war on Serbia, triggering World War I.

1919: Following six months of negotiations, the Treaty of Versailles is finally signed, formally ending World War I five years to the day after the event that triggered the conflict. The armistice of November 11, 1918 put an end to hostilities, but a state of war remained until the treaty. Germany is devastated – disarmed and forced to pay $31 billion in reparations (roughly the equivalent to nearly half a trillion dollars in 2017 dollars).

The U.S. Senate will not ratify a peace treaty with Germany until 1921. The “Carthaginian Peace” brought about by the Versailles Treaty will annihilate the German economy, leading to the rise of the Nazi Party – and ultimately World War II.

1950: As the South Korean capital of Seoul falls to the North Koreans, the first American combat forces – a 35-man anti-aircraft artillery unit – arrive in Korea. Gen. Douglas MacArthur, the newly appointed Commander of United Nations forces, also arrives in theater.

Posted on June 28, 2017 at 08:04 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
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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.

Posted on June 23, 2017 at 11:25 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
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June 22 in U.S. military history

Col Theodore Roosevelt stands triumphant on San Juan Hill, Cuba after his “Rough Riders” captured this hill and its sister Kettle Hill during the Spanish American War. (Library of Congress photo)

1807: Off the coast of Norfolk, Va., the British frigate HMS Leopard attacks the American vessel USS Chesapeake, forcing Commodore James Barron to surrender the ship after only managing to fire one shot. Four Americans are dead and 17 wounded in the attack, and the British board Chesapeake, taking four British deserters. The British impress thousands of American sailors into their service during the Napoleonic War, but “Chesapeake-Leopard Affair” outrages the Americans and will lead to the War of 1812.

1813: Some 2,000 Royal Marines and British soldiers attempt to attack the American fortifications at Craney Island, guarding Hapton Roads, Va. But unlike the crew of the Chesapeake six years ago (which in fact, took place near the site of Craney Island), the defenders are prepared – and repel the invasion. The American guns inflict 200 casualties in one of the first engagements of the War of 1812.

1865: The Confederate commerce raider CSS Shenandoah fires the last shot of the Civil War – a warning shot at a U.S. whaling vessel in the Bering Straight. Shenandoah captured 38 ships and some 1,000 sailors during the Civil War, and becomes the only Confederate ship to circumnavigate the globe when it sails to England to surrender – marking the last time the Confederate colors are struck.

1884: After three years of being stranded by ice in the Canadian Arctic, a rescue expedition led by Cmdr. Winfield S. Schley finds Lt. Adolphus W. Greely and six of his men from the ill-fated Lady Franklin Bay Expedition. 16 of Greely’s men had perished from hypothermia, starvation, drowning, and one man was ordered shot for repeatedly stealing food rations.

1898: The “Rough Riders” of the 1st United States Volunteer Cavalry, led by Col. Leonard Wood and Lt. Col. Theodore Roosevelt, begin landing at Daiquiri, Cuba during the Spanish-American War.

1944: Following a preparatory airstrike, the U.S. 7th Corps launches an assault against German forces at the French town of Cherbourg. The Allies meet stiff resistance at first, but 30,000 German defenders will surrender after a week of fighting. The Germans and Allies take heavy casualties – with both sides losing 8,000 soldiers killed in action or missing apiece.

1963: Four ballistic missile submarines are launched in one day – USS Tecumseh (SSBN-628), USS Daniel Boone (SSBN-629), USS Flasher (SSN-613), and USS John Calhoun (SSBN-630). The James Madison-class subs each carry 16 of the new Polaris A-3 nuclear missiles, with a range of 2,500 nautical miles.

Posted on June 22, 2017 at 10:55 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
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June 1 in U.S. military history

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.

1864: The bloody battle of Cold Harbor opens in earnest between Union Army forces under the command of Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant and Confederate forces under Gen. Robert E. Lee. Grant will launch a series of futile attacks over the next three days. Lee will defend and hold. Union losses will be staggering: 13,000 to the Confederacy’s 2,500.

1918: At Belleau Wood, the site of an old French hunting preserve near Chateau-Thierry, Germans punch through the French lines, and American soldiers and Marines move up to fill the hole. When Marine Capt. Lloyd W. Williams arrives, he sees French troops withdrawing from battle. After being advised by a French officer to retreat, the Marine officer famously replies, “Retreat? Hell! We just got here!”

Williams will die during the battle, but the crack shooting and tenacious fighting of the Marines at Belleau Wood becomes legend and earns them the nickname “Teufelhunden” – devil dogs.

1944: Airships K-123 and K-130 of the U.S. Navy’s Blimp Squadron Fourteen land at French Morocco following a 50-hour, 3,100 nautical mile flight from Naval Air Station, South Weymouth, Mass. – the first transatlantic flight of a non-rigid, lighter-than-air aircraft. The massive airships made two stops for fuel and maintenance in Newfoundland and the Azores.

1990: As the Cold War nears its end, Presidents George H.W. Bush and Mikhail Gorbachev sign a treaty banning the production of chemical weapons and reducing the two superpowers’ stockpiles of the deadly weapons by 20 percent.

Posted on June 1, 2017 at 08:43 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
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Military Milestones from Humphrey’s Solo to Thornton’s Swim

In his “This Week in American Military History” series at Human Events this week, W. Thomas Smith Jr. mentions the anniversary of Navy SEAL Michael Thornton’s amazing battle with the North Vietnamese Army:

Oct. 31, 1972: U.S. Navy SEAL Petty Officer (future lieutenant) Michael E. Thornton; his commanding officer, Lt. Thomas R. Norris; and three South Vietnamese Naval commandos are conducting an intelligence-collection and prisoner-snatch operation deep behind enemy lines when they are discovered by a force that outnumbers them at least 10 to one.

Fierce, close fighting ensues. Thornton and Norris are both wounded, Norris badly.

As the team begins a fighting withdrawal toward the beach, Thornton learns that Norris is down, perhaps dead.

Thornton races back through a hailstorm of enemy fire to find and retrieve his commander — dead or alive.

Thornton finds Norris, kills two enemy soldiers who are standing over his wounded commander, then hoists Norris onto his shoulders and sprints back toward the beach for several hundred yards under heavy enemy fire.

When he hits the surf, Thornton ties Norris to his own body and starts swimming. When he sees one of the South Vietnamese commandos shot in the hip and unable to swim, Thornton grabs him too; swimming both men out to sea for more than two hours before they are rescued.

For his actions, Thornton will receive the Medal of Honor.

Norris will survive and receive the Medal himself for a previous action.

I did a radio show on Mike Thornton in January, and the transcript is available here.

The remainder of the article can be found at Human Events or by clicking below.

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Military Milestones from Blood Stripes to Bloody Ridge

This Week in American Military History (by W. Thomas Smith Jr.):

Sept. 13, 1814:  From the deck of a Royal Navy ship aboard which he has been detained, Washington, D.C. lawyer Francis Scott Key pens his now-famous poem, “The Star Spangled Banner,” on an envelope as he witnesses the British night-bombardment of Fort McHenry, Baltimore during the War of 1812.

It will be more than a century before the U.S. Congress adopts “The Star Spangled Banner” as the official national anthem.

Sept. 13, 1847:  U.S. Army and Marine forces (including lots of future Civil War generals like Robert E. Lee, James Longstreet, George Pickett, Pierre G.T. Beauregard, Thomas J. Jackson, Joseph E. Johnston, Ulysses S. Grant, future Admiral Raphael Semmes, and I’m probably leaving out a few) participate in the storming of Chapultepec Castle during the Mexican War.

Chapultepec defends Mexico City, which will fall on the 14th.

For those of us fortunate enough since to claim the title, “Marine,” the taking of Chapultepec and ultimately Mexico City will give us two things:

First: The first five words of our hymn: “From the halls of Montezuma, to the shores of Tripoli …”

Second: The “blood” red stripe along the seams of our dress-blue uniform trousers (Marines don’t wear pants).

The origin of the blood stripe is more tradition than absolute fact. But we Marines heartily claim it. According to tradition, the blood stripe represents the blood shed by Marines storming Chapultepec. And the reason only corporals and above are authorized to wear the stripe is because there was such a high percentage of NCOs and officers killed in the storming of the castle.

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Military Milestones from the Turtle to 9/11

By W. Thomas Smith, Jr.

Originally published at Human Events

This week in American military history:

Sept. 7, 1776: Just before dawn, an odd-looking barrel-shaped craft silently makes its way down the Hudson River from Manhattan toward a British warship, HMS Eagle, anchored in New York Harbor.

The craft, designed by Yale graduate David Bushnell and christened “Turtle,” is piloted by a Continental Army sergeant who is hand-cranking two screws for propulsion. As the Turtle nears its target, the pilot opens a valve allowing enough water into a small ballast tank, increasing the weight of the craft and causing it to slip beneath the surface. Maneuvering underwater, the pilot positions his craft below the Eagle then attempts to bore a hole through the enemy hull.

If everything goes according to plan, a timed explosive-device will to be placed into the hole. The device will then detonate after the Turtle makes its escape.

The operation, however, will not be successful, as the pilot will be unable to drill through a layer of copper sheathing on the enemy hull. But the bold attempt will go down in history as one of America’s great Naval milestones.

Bushnell’s Turtle is not the first functional submarine in history (Dutch inventor Cornelius Drebbel’s “underwater boat” successfully navigated a portion of England’s Thames River in 1623). But the Turtle is the first-ever submarine to be used as an attack platform in combat.

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Military Milestones from the King’s Proclamation to Richie’s MiG

By W. Thomas Smith, Jr.

Originally published at Human Events

Rear Admiral David Farragut

Rear Admiral David Farragut

This Week in American Military History:

Aug. 23, 1775: Less than two months after the Second Continental Congress issues its “Declaration on the Causes and Necessity of Taking Up Arms [against the British]” in which the Congress resolves “to die free men rather than live as slaves,” King George III issues his own proclamation declaring the American colonies to be in a state of rebellion.

The king adds, “not only all our Officers, civil and military, are obliged to exert their utmost endeavours to suppress such rebellion, and to bring the traitors to justice, but that all our subjects of this Realm, and the dominions thereunto belonging, are bound by law to be aiding and assisting in the suppression of such rebellion, and to disclose and make known all traitorous conspiracies and attempts against us, our crown and dignity.”

Aug. 23, 1864: Union Naval forces under the command of Adm. David Glasgow Farragut — best known for purportedly uttering the command, “Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead!” — take Fort Morgan, effectively ending the near-month-long battle of Mobile Bay.

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