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15 November: Today in U.S. military history

Today’s post is in honor of the 17 soldiers killed when two UH-60L Blackhawk helicopters collided over Mosul, Iraq on this day in 2003. Lost were Chief Warrant Officer 2 Scott A. Saboe (33, of Willow Lake, S.D.), 2nd Lt. Jeremy L. Wolfe (27, of Wisconsin), Spc. Jeremiah J. DiGiovanni (21, of Tylertown, Miss.), Spc. Ryan T. Baker (24, of Brown Mills, N.J.), Spc. William D. Dusenbery (30, of Fairview Heights, Ill.), and Sgt. John W. Russell (26, of Portland Texas) with the 4th Battalion, 101st Aviation Regiment. Killed in the second helicopter: Warrant Officer 1 Erik C. Kesterson (29, of Independence, Ore.), Sgt. Warren S. Hansen (36, of Clintonville, Wis.) with 9th Battalion, 101st Aviation Regiment; Capt. Pierre E. Piche (29, of Starksboro, Vt.) and Spc. John R. Sullivan (26, of Countryside, Ill.) of the 626th Forward Support Battalion; Sgt. Michael D. Acklin II (25, of Louisville, Ky.), Pfc. Sheldon R. Hawk Eagle (21, of Grand Forks, N.D.), Pfc. Richard W. Hafer (21, of Cross Lanes, W.Va.), Spc. Eugene A. Uhl III (21, of Amherst, Wis.), and PFC Joey D. Whitener (19, of Nebo, N.C.) of the 1st Battalion, 320th Field Artillery; Pfc. Damian L. Heidelberg (21, of Batesville, Miss.) assigned to 1st Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment; amd Sgt. 1st Class Kelly Bolor (37, of Whittier, Calif.) of the U.S. Army Reserve’s 137th Quartermaster Company.

Prior to joining the Army, WO1 Kesterson served in the Marine Corps as a crew chief and was awarded the Marine Corps Medal for pulling seven crewmen from the burning wreckage of a crashed helicopter.

1942: Just north of Guadalcanal, U.S. and Japanese warships engage in one of only two battleship-on-battleship engagements of the Pacific War. While Kirishima hammers USS South Dakota (BB-57) in the early morning hours, USS Washington (BB-56) slips away undetected and maneuvers to near point-blank range, raking the Japanese battleship with devastating salvos. Japanese naval guns and torpedoes send three U.S. destroyers (Walke, Preston, and Benham) to the bottom of Savo Sound, joining dozens of other sunken ships in what becomes known as “Ironbottom Sound.” Meanwhile, U.S. warplanes destroy four troop transport ships carrying soldiers and badly needed supplies.

The Allies have inflicted such heavy losses on the Japanese that they abandon the mission to retake Guadalcanal.

USS South Dakota in 1943

Injured in the attack on South Dakota is 12-year-old Seaman 1st Class Calvin L. Graham, who lied about his age that summer to join the Navy. Graham earns the Bronze Star with Combat “V” and the Purple Heart during the battle. When the government learns his actual age, Graham is thrown in the brig for three months, dishonorably discharged, and his medals are stripped. He enlists in the Marine Corps when he turns 17.

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7 October: Today in U.S. military history


Today’s post is in honor of CWO3 Bryan L. Ellis (USA) and Cpl. Steven Crowley (USMC) who were killed when Islamic terrorists stormed the United States Embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan on 21 November 1979. Crowley (20, from Port Jefferson Station, N.Y.), of the Marine Security Guard was posthumously promoted to sergeant and awarded the Bronze Star Medal with Combat “V.” Ellis (29, from Swansboro, N.C.) had served with the 117th Assault Helicopter Company in Vietnam.

1777: Continental forces under the command of Gen. Horatio Gates​ decisively defeat British forces under Gen. John “Gentleman Johnny” Burgoyne in the Second Battle of Saratoga (also known as the Battle of Bemis Heights​).

According to the National Parks Service, “This crucial American victory renewed patriots’ hopes for independence, secured essential foreign recognition and support, and forever changed the face of the world.”

But the war is far from over.

1780: Three years to the day after Second Saratoga, patriot militia forces armed with rifles, knives, and tomahawks decisively defeat musket-armed Loyalist militia under the command of British Army Maj. Patrick Ferguson​ (who will be killed in the fighting) in the bloody Battle of King’s Mountain on the border between North and South Carolina.

Among the patriots is John Crockett, father of Davy Crockett​.

1864: After the U.S. Navy has spent months chasing the Confederate raider USS Florida, the crew of the sloop-of-war USS Wachusett spots the enemy cruiser in Bahia, Brazil. Cmdr. Napoleon Collins illegally attacks Florida in the pre-dawn hours while the Confederate captain was ashore, ramming the enemy ship before opening fire. The Confederate lieutenant left in charge of the vessel surrenders to Collins, who tows the prize out of Bahia under fire from Brazilian coastal guns.

Upon his return to the United States, Collins is court-martialed (Florida was harbored in a neutral country), but the charges are dismissed. Florida, which captured 37 ships before falling into Federal hands, mysteriously sinks before she can be returned to the Brazilians and Collins goes on to become a rear admiral, commanding the South Pacific Fleet. Continue reading “7 October: Today in U.S. military history”

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Today in U.S. military history: Enola Gay and Extortion 17

30 SEALs, soldiers, sailors, and airmen died when a CH-47 Chinook codenamed EXTORTION 17 was shot down in Afghanistan’s Tangi Valley on this date in 2011, marking the deadliest incident during Operation ENDURING FREEDOM (Unto the Breach image)

1763: With Ottawa chief Pontiac laying siege to Fort Pitt (modern-day Pittsburgh), a force marches to the frontier fort to break the siege, consisting of Pennsylvania rangers and Scottish soldiers of the 42d Royal Highlanders – the famed “Black Watch.” Allied natives ambush the relief force at a creek known as Bushy Run and a bloody two-day battle kicks off. Col. Henry Bouquet’s men emerge victorious, routing the Indians – although at high cost to the Scottish/American troops – and lifting the siege at Fort Pitt.

Today’s 111th Infantry Regiment traces its lineage to the Philadelphia “Associators” militia regiment (formed by Benjamin Franklin) that manned Fort Pitt. Each year at their “dining-in” banquet, an empty table setting is left in honor of the commander of the Black Watch. At least twice in the last 200-plus year tradition, the officer has been on hand to accept the honor.

1945: A lone B-29 bomber takes off from Tinian Island’s North Field and heads out for a six-hour flight to Japan. Once the Enola Gay is over its target of Hiroshima, Col. Paul Tibbetts releases the bomb and dives to speed away from the device’s powerful shock wave. 43 seconds later, the world’s first atomic bomb detonates, killing between 80,000 and 140,000 Japanese instantly, and severely wounding another 100,000.

Although the United States demonstrated they now possess the ability to utterly annihilate entire cities, the Japanese government vows to fight on. Another atomic bomb will have to fall before Japan is brought to its knees.

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Nov. 9: Today in U.S. military history

United States Army Captain James D. Nehl

Today’s post is in honor of Capt. James D. Nehl, who was killed by enemy small-arms fire on this day in 2012 during a patrol in Afghanistan’s Ghazni province. Nehl was a company commander in 2d Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division and had served as an enlisted soldier in the 75th Ranger Regiment before earning his commission.

1822: During an anti-piracy cruise in the Caribbean, the brig USS Alligator – the third of four so-named U.S. warships – intercepts a flotilla of American ships captured by pirates near Cuba. Lt. William H. Allen, Alligator‘s commanding officer, is mortally wounded when he and his sailors board the heavily-armed schooner Revenge, but his crew retakes all but one of the eight ships.

1906: Theodore Roosevelt boards the battleship USS Louisiana (BB-19) and heads south to inspect construction on the Panama Canal – marking the first foreign trip by a sitting U.S. president.

1942: U.S. troops advance on Oran, capturing 2,000 French soldiers after some hard fighting. Off the coast, Allied warships sink three French destroyers. Meanwhile to the east, German paratroopers land in Tunisia. And to the west, Maj. Gen. George Patton’s soldiers fight to secure the beachhead at Casablanca.

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Oct. 22: Today in U.S. military history

Master Sgt. Joshua Wheeler was posthumously awarded the Cherokee Nation’s Medal of Patriotism and is listed as the first U.S. servicemember to give his life in the fight against the Islamic State

Today’s post is in honor of 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta Master Sgt. Joshua Wheeler who was killed in action on this day in 2015. Wheeler, 39, of Roland, Okla., was conducting a joint U.S.-Kurdish operation to liberate prisoners from an Islamic State detention facility at the time of his death and was the first servicemember killed in action in Iraq since 2011. During his 20-year career, he had well over a dozen combat deployments, for which he was awarded the Silver Star, 11 Bronze Stars – several with the combat “V” device.

1951: Operation BUSTER-JANGLE, a series of low-yield atomic weapons tests in the Nevada desert, begins with the “Able” shot. Some 6,500 troops are stationed just six miles away, witnessing the blast and then moving towards the detonation site to determine the effectiveness of fortifications and also provide data to scientists on the psychology of soldiers in the aftermath of atomic attacks.

Soldiers from the 11th Airborne Division watch the 21 kiloton “Dog” shot from six miles away. (U.S. Army photo by Cpl. Alexander McCaughey)

1957: The U.S. military suffers its first casualties in Vietnam when a wave of terrorist attacks hits Military Assistance Advisory Group and U.S. Information Service installations in Saigon, injuring 13 advisors.

1962: After consulting with former president Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy announces that the Soviet Union had placed nuclear weapons in Cuba and the United States will establish a naval blockade around the island to prevent further offensive weapons from entering Cuba.

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