Posted in Military History

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. 15: Today in U.S. military history

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.

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. 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.

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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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Oct. 19: Today in U.S. military history

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.

The National Naval Aviation Museum calls the TDR assault drone, pictured here during World War II, “the world’s first legitimate cruise missile”

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