1942: Off Guadalcanal, the U.S. and Japanese fleets 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 Ironbottom Sound, while 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.
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. Shockingly, Graham is thrown in the brig for three months, dishonorably discharged, and has his medals stripped when the government learns his actual age. He enlists in the Marine Corps when he turns 17.
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.
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.
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.
Today’s post is in honor of Pvt. Edwardo J. Lopez, who was killed in action in Asad, Iraq on this day in 2006. The 21-year-old native of Aurora, Ill. was assigned to the 2d Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force.
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.
Today’s post is in honor of Cpl. Rachel L. Hugo, who gave her life for our country on this date in 2007. The 24-year-old native of Madison, Wis. was killed when insurgents attacked her convoy with an improvised explosive device and small-arms fire. She was serving in the 303rd Military Police Company, 97th Military Police Battalion, 89th Military Police Brigade, U.S. Army Reserve.
1813: British troops and Native American warriors led by Maj. Gen. Henry Proctor and Shawnee chief Tecumseh are defeated by American Maj. Gen. Henry Harrison’s men in the Battle of the Thames (Ontario, Canada). The outnumbered British troops are routed Tecumseh’s tribal confederation collapses when he and his war chief Roundhead are killed. Soon, control of contested tribal-held lands in what was then-called Northwest Territory (Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, and the eastern part of Minnesota) will be ceded to the U.S. government.
1918: Sgt. Michael B. Ellis of the 28th Infantry Regiment single-handedly attacks a German machine gun nest near Exermount, France, killing two enemy soldiers and capturing 17. He then moves on to capture 27 more enemy troops and six machine guns. Two captured officers cough up the locations of four additional machine gun positions, and the “Sgt. York of St. Louis” takes them as well. In addition to numerous valor medals from foreign countries, Ellis is awarded the Medal of Honor.
1950: Just a few short weeks after the U.S. military had its back to the sea in the Pusan Perimeter, the tables have completely turned. Lt. Gen. Walton H. Walker’s Eighth U.S. Army issues orders to cross the 38th Parallel into North Korea. The communist capital of Pyongyang will soon be in allied hands, but China has threatened to join the war if the United States invades North Korea.
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.
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.