1863: During day two of the Battle of Chancellorsville, Gen. Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson is shot by a Confederate sentry while performing a leaders-reconnaissance mission. Following the amputation of Jackson’s shattered arm, Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee will lament, “He has lost his left arm, but I have lost my right arm.”
The revered Jackson will die in eight days of pneumonia.
1945: Soldiers with the 82d Airborne and the 8th Infantry Division liberate the Wöbbelin concentration camp in northern Germany. The Nazis allowed many of the 5,000 inmates to starve, and U.S. soldiers found 1,000 dead upon arrival.
The soldiers force nearby German townspeople to visit the camp and bury the dead. Conditions were so extreme at Wöbbelin that some of the inmates had resorted to cannibalism, and hundreds more would die after the camp’s liberation.
1861: Col. Robert E. Lee, considered for a top command by Gen. Winfield Scott (whom Lee served as a chief aide during the Mexican-American War), and having just rejected an offer of command in the Confederate Army, reluctantly resigns his commission in the U.S. Army following the secession of his home state of Virginia.
However, in three days Lee will take command of Virginia state forces – one of the first five generals appointed to the Confederate Army.
Meanwhile, Norfolk Navy Yard is abandoned and burned by Union forces to prevent the facility from falling into enemy hands after Virginia’s secession. The Confederates would do the same when they abandon the shipyard in May 1862.
1914: Following the arrest of U.S. sailors in Veracruz and the discovery of an illegal arms shipment from Germany to Gen. Victoriano Huerta’s regime, Pres. Woodrow Wilson obtains Congress’ approval to occupy the Mexican port. The following day, Marines and Naval “Bluejacket” infantry seize the port and, supported by Naval gunfire, take the town. Marines will remain in Veracruz until November.
This date also marks the first-ever combat deployment of a Naval aviation unit: Lt. John H. Towers, 1st Lt. Bernard L. Smith (USMC), and Ens. Godfrey deC. Chevalier, 12 enlisted support personnel, and three planes board the cruiser USS Birmingham and sail for Tampico.
1918: In the skies over France, German pilot Manfred von Richtofen – the infamous “Red Baron” – guns down two Sopwith Camels of the Royal Air Force’s No. 3 Squadron within three minutes, scoring what will be his final two kills.
The next day, Richtofen (who began the war as a cavalry officer) is shot down and killed. The Australian fighter squadron credited with shooting the German ace down gives Richtofen a full military funeral. Over the course of the war, the Red Baron shoots down an incredible 80 planes – the most victories by any pilot in World War I.
1945: After five days of perhaps the most fierce urban combat of the war, the 7th Army captures Nuremberg. The Stars and Stripes are raised over Adolf Hitler Platz, the site of Nazi party rallies, on the Führer’s 56th birthday.
1941: As Japanese warplanes continue to hammer Allied bases across Asia and the Pacific, President Franklin D. Roosevelt famously declares Dec. 7 as “a date which will live in infamy,” asking Congress to declare war on Japan – which they will do in a matter of hours. The United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and numerous other governments also declare war on Japan.
Eyeing the destruction from USS Enterprise (CV-6) as the aircraft carrier steams into Pearl Harbor, he says that “Before we’re through with ’em, the Japanese language will be spoken only in hell.”
Col. William W. Ashurst (USMC) is captured and surrenders his remaining “China Marines”, who are held as prisoners until the end of the war. Also in China, USS Wake becomes the only U.S. warship to surrender during World War II, when the Japanese capture the river patrol gunboat and her crew by surprise while the ship is at anchor. A Japanese invasion fleet departs Kwajalein Atoll, and in three days will assault Wake Island.
In the Philippines, Japanese forces land at Batan Island, as enemy air strikes take out roughly half of the American warplanes on Luzon Island to the south.
Meanwhile, Adolf Hitler declares war on the United States, ordering his naval forces to begin attacking U.S. shipping. Although the Chinese have been fighting Japan for over four years, China formally declares war against Japan – and Germany – on this date.
1942: Considered “perhaps the greatest individual success of American PT boats during the war,” eight PT boats engage – and turn around – a force of eight Japanese destroyers on a mission to supply soldiers on Guadalcanal.
1965: 150 Air Force and Navy warplanes begin conducting strikes against North Vietnamese Army infiltration routes along the Ho Chi Minh Trail in Laos. The covert Operation “Tiger Hound” will continue until 1968, when it becomes part of Operation “Commando Hunt.”
2012: Chief Petty Officer (SEAL) Edward C. Byers, Jr. earns the Medal of Honor during a mission to rescue an American doctor who had been captured in Afghanistan. His citation can be read here.
1781: British Gen. Charles Cornwallis formally surrenders 7,087 officers and men, 900 seamen, 144 cannons, 15 galleys, a frigate, and 30 transport ships to an American and French force at Yorktown, Va., effectively ending the American Revolution.
1944: Two Interstate TDR assault drones are launched against Japanese gun emplacements on Ballale Island – one drone missing its target and another delivering two of its four 100-lb. bombs on the target. The TDR was a two-engine, unmanned airplane remotely controlled by a Grumman TBF “Avenger” via a television camera feed.
1950: Troopers with the 5th Cavalry Regiment enter Pyongyang, capturing the North Korean capitol. The following day, the 187th Regimental Combat Team will conduct two parachute drops north of the capitol to cut off retreating North Korean forces. The Communists will recapture Pyongyang on Dec. 5, after China joins the war.
1965: Two regiments of North Vietnamese soldiers begin a week-long siege on the Special Forces camp at Plei Me in South Vietnam’s central highlands. The outnumbered defenders repelled repeated attacks and eventually drove off the NVA forces. Following the battle, Gen. William Westmoreland ordered the 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) to find and defeat the forces that attacked Plei Me, resulting in the bloody Battle of Ia Drang.
1987: Following an Iranian missile attack on a merchant vessel, U.S. warships attack and destroy two Iranian oil platforms being used by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps to attack shipping in the Persian Gulf.
2001: 200 Army Rangers parachute into – and quickly secure – an airfield southwest of Kandahar, Afghanistan, while special operation forces conduct other air-assault operations on several targets near Kandahar. These raids are the first known combat operations of the war in Afghanistan. In November, the captured airfield will become the first U.S. base in Afghanistan when Marines establish Camp RHINO.
Meanwhile, Spec. Jonn J. Edmunds and Pvt. 1st Class Kristofor T. Stonesifer become the first combat-related casualties in the War on Terror when the helicopter carrying them crashes in Pakistan.
1821: The schooner USS Enterprise (the third of 12 so-named Continental and U.S. Naval vessels) intercepts a flotilla of four ships led by the infamous Capt. Charles Gibbs as the pirates attack American and British-flagged ships in Cuban waters. Although outnumbered, Lt. Cmdr. John Kearney and his crew quickly defeat the pirate force, and Gibbs escapes into the jungles of Cuba as three of his ships are burned. Gibbs will eventually be caught and is one of the last people executed for piracy in the United States.
1859: A small party of abolitionists, led by John Brown, occupies the military arsenal at Harper’s Ferry (modern-day West Virginia), hoping to inspire a slave rebellion. However, Brown’s hoped-for uprising does not take place and local militia force the rebels into a firehouse. A company of Marines under the command of Brevet Colonel Robert E. Lee is dispatched to the scene and after an unsuccessful attempt by Lt. J.E.B. Stuart to get Brown to surrender, the Marines assault the barricaded fire station and bring an end to the crisis.
1918: When all other members of his machine gun detachment are killed or wounded, Pvt. Thomas C. Neibaur foils an entire German counterattack by himself. Four enemy soldiers attempt to kill him at close quarters, but the wounded Neibaur manages to kill them, and captures another 11 with his pistol. For his actions, Pvt. Neibaur is awarded the Medal of Honor.
1942: As Japanese planes attack a ship unloading badly needed supplies for Guadalcanal’s “Cactus Air Force”, Lt. Col. Harold W. “Indian Joe” Bauer – dangerously low on fuel following a 600-mile ferry flight from Espirito Santo – single-handedly engages the enemy warplanes, shooting down one bomber, four fighters, and damaging another before running out of fuel. The commander of Marine Fighting Squadron 212 (VMF-212) is awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions.
1946: After nine months of trials, ten Nazi war criminals are executed by hanging, including top Wehrmacht officers Alfred Jodl, Wilhelm Keitel, and SS officer Ernst Kaltenbrunner. Also sentenced is former Luftwaffe boss (and World War I fighter ace) Hermann Göring, who committed suicide the night before his execution.
1956: The Pan American airliner Clipper Sovereign Of The Skies (a Boeing 377 “Stratocruiser”, which is based off the B-29 “Superfortress” bomber) experiences failures in two of its four engines while in the middle of the Pacific Ocean on a around-the-world flight and has to ditch in the water. The Coast Guard cutter USCGC Pontchartrain is only a half mile away from the crash site and rescues all passengers and crew before the plane slips under the waves after 20 minutes.
2002: Congress grants President George W. Bush the authority to use military force against Iraq, however the U.S.-led coalition will not invade Iraq until March of 2003.
1862: Confederate cavalry commander Gen. James Ewell Brown “J.E.B.” Stuart completes his “second ride” around Union Gen. George B. McClellan’s Army of the Potomac.
1870: Five years after surrendering his Army of Northern Virginia to Gen. Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox, Gen. Robert E. Lee passes away after suffering a stroke. The revered general served his country 44 years, fighting alongside Grant in the Mexican-American War, and against him in the Civil War.
1944: U.S. Army Air Force 1st Lt. Charles E. “Chuck” Yeager and his 357th Fighter Group surprise a flight of 22 Messerschmitt Bf-109 fighters near Hanover, Germany. Yeager’s P-51D “Mustang”, named Glamorous Glenn II, Yeager will score five of the group’s eight victories – two without firing a shot – becoming an “ace in a day.” Yeager finishes World War II with 11.5 kills, and will go on to fly 127 missions during the Vietnam War. The former Army private will retire a Brigadier General in 1975, but continues flying for the Air Force and NASA.
That same day, aircraft from seven U.S. aircraft carriers of Carrier Task Force 38 attack targets on Japanese-held Formosa (modern-day Taiwan).
1945: President (and former artillery officer during World War I) Harry S. Truman awards the Medal of Honor to Cpl. Desmond Doss for saving the lives of 75 wounded soldiers on Okinawa’s Hacksaw Ridge. Since Doss was a conscientious objector, the Army made him a combat medic. Prior to his service on Okinawa, where Doss was wounded four times, he also saw action on Guam and the Philippines, where he earned two Bronze Stars with “V” for valor device.
1954: World War II ace, now chief test pilot for North American Aviation, George S. Welch dies when his F-100 “Super Sabre” disintegrates during testing. An Army Air Force pilot with 16 victories during World War II, Welch was one of two pilots able to get airborne and engage Japanese aircraft during the attack on Pearl Harbor. He was recommended for the Medal of Honor for his actions on December 7th, but having taken off without orders, he only receives the Distinguished Flying Cross. While serving as an instructor and test pilot for North American during the Korean War, he reportedly shot down several MiG-15 aircraft, but again did so against orders, so he did not receive credit for the kills.
2000: While the destroyer USS Cole stops to refuel in Yemen, two suicide bombers ram an explosive-laden fiberglass boat into the warship, blowing a massive hole in the side of Cole, claiming the lives of 17 U.S. sailors and injures another 39.
1781: Gen. George Washington leads a combined army of 8,000 Continentals, 7,800 French soldiers, and 3,100 Colonial militia out of Williamsburg (Va.) to the newly constructed trenches surrounding Lt. Gen. Lord Cornwallis’ trapped British forces at Yorktown, beginning the siege that will effectively bring an end to the American Revolution.
1787: After putting the finishing touches on the Constitution of the United States, the Continental Congress sends copies out to the states for ratification.
1924: Two Douglas DT-2 biplanes land at Sand Point, Wash., completing the U.S. Army Air Service’s 175-day, 27,553-mile journey, marking the first ever aerial circumnavigation of the globe.
1941: Capt. Joseph J. Rochefort, officer-in-charge of Pearl Harbor’s cryptology section, warns commanders that a change in Japanese radio traffic could indicate a major operation.
1945: Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower relieves Gen. George S. Patton, Jr. of his post as military governor in Bavaria following controversial statements about the de-nazification process. Next month, Eisenhower transfers Patton from his beloved Third Army to lead the Fifteenth Army, a relatively small staff responsible for compiling a history of the European War.
1964: The Lafayette-class ballistic missile submarine USS Daniel Webster departs Charleston (S.C.) Harbor, becoming the first ship to deploy with the new Polaris A3 missiles. The A3 carries three 200-kiloton warheads with a maximum range of 2,500 nautical miles. When the USS Daniel Boone joins the Pacific Fleet in December, American nuclear missiles can now target anywhere on the entire Eurasian landmass.
2001: President George W. Bush declares that American combat forces are in “hot pursuit” of those responsible for the 9/11 attacks, while the Pentagon adds that American and British special operations forces have deployed to Afghanistan.
2012: Contrary to the Obama Administration’s narrative that the deadly attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi was a spontaneous protest over a YouTube video, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence announces that it was in fact a “deliberate and organized terrorist attack.”
1780: After deliberately weakening the defenses of Fort Arnold (now known as West Point), Hudson River, and other areas under his command, Maj. Gen. Benedict Arnold gives the British the plans for the strategic fort. The Colonists will soon capture Maj. John André, Britain’s top spy in the United States, foiling Arnold’s plan to hand over West Point – which will become the U.S. Military Academy in 1802 and is the Army’s oldest continually operating post.
1939: With war breaking out in Europe, President Franklin D. Roosevelt asks Congress to relax neutrality laws – permitting the United States to arm belligerent nations.
1942: In Seattle, Boeing’s massive B-29 “Superfortress” bomber makes its first flight. The new Superfort featured radar-controlled guns and could fly further, faster, and deliver more bombs than its predecessor, the B-17 “Flying Fortress.” The B-29 will see its first combat in 1944, and will bring an end to World War II when the Enola Gay and Bock’s Car drop atomic weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
1956: Grumman test pilot Tom Attridge, at the controls of an F11F-1 “Tiger” aircraft flying over Long Island, tests the plane’s ability to fire its guns at supersonic speeds. After firing, he actually runs into the bullets he had fired earlier from a higher altitude, mortally wounding the Tiger’s jet engine. The pilot manages to safely eject after shooting himself down.
1961: The 5th Special Forces Group is activated at Fort Bragg (N.C.). The “Green Berets” of 5th SFG will see extensive combat during the Vietnam War, as well as service in Operation Desert Storm and Somalia. In October, 2001, they are among the first U.S. forces to deploy to Afghanistan following the 9/11 attacks, where they would famously conduct the first American attack on horeseback since World War II.
1988: U.S. forces protecting tankers in the Persian Gulf spot the Iranian vessel Iran Ajr laying mines in international waters. Helicopters halt the vessel with rocket and machine gun fire, and a team of Navy SEALs boards the ship. In April, the USS Samuel B. Roberts (FFG-58) strikes – and is nearly sunk by – a mine laid by the Iran Ajr, prompting the U.S. to retaliate against the Iranian fleet.
Operation “Earnest Will” is the largest convoy operation since World War II and marks the first tactical operation of the newly formed Special Operations Command – utilizing the Army’s 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, SEALs, and special boat units all working together.
1777: British Maj. Gen. Charles Grey launches a daring nighttime attack on Brig. Gen. Anthony Wayne’s Continental Army forces encamped near the Paoli Tavern near modern-day Malvern, Pa.. Grey orders his troops to only use bayonets, and has his men remove the flints from their rifles. The Redcoats catch the Americans completely by surprise, routing an entire division while only suffering 11 British casualties.
1797: The Continental Navy frigate Constitution is launched in Boston harbor. 220 years later, USS Constitution – known affectionately as “Old Ironsides” – is the “oldest ship in the American Navy,” and continues serving in the 21st century as a duly commissioned ship crewed by active-duty U.S. sailors and Naval officers in order to further public awareness of American Naval tradition.
1917: The 26th Infantry Division arrives at Saint-Nazaire, France, becoming the first division entirely organized in the United States to arrive in Europe for World War I. The National Guard soldiers immediately travel to Neufchâteau, where they are trained by experienced French soldiers. The “Yankee” Division will spend 210 days in combat, with 1,587 killed in action and another 12,077 soldiers wounded.
1944: Just three days after landing, the 81st Infantry Division has eliminated most of the Japanese garrison on the island of Angaur. Once the island is secured, the 81st will join the 1st Marine Division in the bloody battle on Peleliu, only seven miles away.
1950: 12 Sikorsky HRS-1 “Chickasaw” helicopters of Marine Helicopter Squadron 161 (HMR-161) conduct the first combat landing of troops, landing over 200 Marines and their equipment on Hill 844 near Kansong, Korea.
1984: The Iranian-supported terrorist group Hezbollah carries out a suicide car bomb attack on the U.S. Embassy Annex building in East Beirut, Lebanon. The explosion kills 24 – including Chief Warrant Officer Kenneth V. Welch (USA) and Petty Officer 1st Class Michael Ray Wagner (USN) – and injures both the U.S. and British ambassadors.
2001: President George W. Bush addresses a joint session of Congress, announcing the newly proposed Department of Homeland Security and requesting a declaration of war in response to the 9/11 attacks just nine days ago. Bush states “Our war on terror begins with al Qaeda, but it does not end there. It will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped and defeated.”
1901: Eight days after being shot by the assassin Leon Czolgoszan, President William McKinley dies of his wounds, and Theodore Roosevelt is sworn in as the 26th President of the United States. Before being named vice president, Roosevelt served as McKinley’s Assistant Secretary to the Navy until USS Maine explodes in Havana, inspiring Roosevelt to form the 1st U.S. Volunteer Cavalry Regiment – the “Rough Riders.” Following McKinley’s assassination, Congress tasks the U.S. Secret Service with protecting the president.
1939: At the controls of his Vought-Sikorsky VS-300 prototype, Igor Sikorsky makes a 10-second tethered flight – the first successful flight of a single main rotor, single tail rotor helicopter.
1942: The 7th Marine Regiment departs Espiritu Santo to join the battle at Guadalcanal. Among the men are Sgts. John Basilone and Mitchell Paige – who both earn the Medal of Honor at Guadalcanal – and Marine legend Lt. Col. Lewis “Chesty” Puller.
1943: After a devastating German counterattack, over 2,000 paratroopers of the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment jump into action at the beachhead at Salerno, Italy. Together with Naval gun battery support, every available bomber is summoned to Salerno and the German attack is devastated. Gen. Mark Clark’s invasion, once in danger of being driven into the sea, is back on the offensive.
1944: Underwater Demolition Teams have cleared obstacles and Naval bombardment continues on the eve of the 1st Marine Division’s landing at Peleliu. Maj. Gen. William Rupertus predicts that his Marines can secure the small island in just four days, but over 10,000 fortified Japanese defenders are prepared to dish out what will become “the bitterest battle of the war for the Marines.”
2001: Congress passes the Authorization for Use of Military Force, granting President George W. Bush the ability to use all “necessary and appropriate force” against those who “planned, authorized, committed or aided” the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
The president authorizes the Pentagon to activate some 50,000 Reservists, and while touring Ground Zero, Bush proclaims “the people that knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon.”