Today’s post is in honor of Pfc. Charles E. Bush Jr. who was killed by an improvised explosive device in Balad, Iraq on this day in 2003. Bush, a 43-year-old cook from Buffalo, N.Y., had volunteered for assignment as a door gunner with the 402d Civil Affairs Battalion, 354th Civil Affairs Brigade, 352nd Civil Affairs Command and was supposed to be home in time for Christmas.
1777: 18 miles northwest of Philadelphia, Gen. George Washington’s Continental Army establishes its winter camp at Valley Forge. 2,500 of the original force of 12,000 would not survive the winter thanks in part to harsh weather conditions, disease, supply shortages, and malnutrition. Over the winter, the Prussian drillmaster – later, Washington’s Chief of Staff – Baron Friedrich von Steuben drills the Americans, greatly increasing their combat effectiveness and morale.
1862: Confederate cavalry under Brig. Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest dismantle the Mobile and Ohio railroad tracks around Jackson, Tenn., delaying Union Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant’s drive to Vicksburg.
1941: After the Battle of Moscow, Adolf Hitler fires Field Marshall Walther von Brauchitsch, the commander-in-chief of Nazi Germany’s armed forces for their highly successful campaigns across most of Europe. Hitler appoints himself as von Brauchitsch’s replacement. Continue reading “19 December: Today in U.S. military history”
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 he enters Pearl Harbor, Vice Adm. William “Bull” Halsey says, “Before we’re through with ’em, the Japanese language will be spoken only in hell.”
Japanese forces surround the river patrol gunboat USS Wake at anchor in Shanghai Harbor. The crew attempt to scuttle the vessel, but are forced to surrender their ship — the only U.S. warship to do so during World War II. Also at Shanghai, Col. William W. Ashurst’s China Marines (along with a few sailors) are captured, held as prisoners until the end of the war.
Meanwhile, the Japanese invasion fleet departs Kwajalein Atoll, bound for Wake Island. In the Philippines, Japanese forces land at Batan Island, as enemy airstrikes take out roughly half of the American warplanes on Luzon Island to the south.
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 years, China formally declares war — against both Japan and Germany — on this date. Continue reading “8 December: 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.
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.
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”
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.