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Sept. 17: Today in military history

Featured image: The Shuttle Enterprise rolls out of the Palmdale manufacturing facilities with Star Trek television cast members. From left to right they are: Dr. James C. Fletcher (NASA Administrator), DeForest Kelley (Dr. “Bones” McCoy), George Takei (Mr. Sulu), James Doohan (Chief Engineer Montgomery “Scotty” Scott), Nichelle Nichols (Lt. Uhura), Leonard Nimoy (Mr. Spock), Gene Roddenberry (series creator), Congressman Don Fuqua, and Walter Koenig (Ensign Chekov).

Today’s post is in honor of Staff Sgt. Michael W. Hosey, who gave his life for our country on this day in 2011. While serving in his fourth deployment, Hosey, 27, of Birmingham, Ala. was killed when his unit was attacked by insurgent small-arms fire in Afghanistan’s Uruzgan province. He was assigned to Headquarters Support Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne) and serving on his fourth deployment.


1862: The Battle of Antietam (Maryland) – the bloodiest single-day battle in American history – opens between Confederate Army forces under Gen. Robert E. Lee and Union Army forces under Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan. After 12 hours of fighting, some 23,000 Americans are dead, wounded, or missing.

Though a strategic victory for the Union, the battle will prove tactically inconclusive for both sides.

1908: 2,500 people gather at Fort Myer, Va. to watch Orville Wright demonstrate his Wright Flyer to the Army Signal Corps. One of the propellers breaks during the flight, sending the aircraft nose-first into the ground, severely wounding Wright and killing his passenger, Lt. Thomas E. Selfridge. Although Wright survived the first-ever fatal aircraft incident, he would spend the next seven weeks recovering in an Army hospital.

1916: At 11:00 a.m. over Villers-Pouich, France, a German Albatros D.II fighter closes in on a Royal Air Force scout bomber and shoots it out the sky. Former cavalry officer Manfred Albrecht Freiher von Richtofen – the soon-to-be-infamous Red Baron – has scored his first victory for the German Luftstreitkräfte. Although he is now known for his red Fokker triplane, Richtofen was in the seat of an Albatros biplane for most of his 84 kills.

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Sept. 12: Today in military history

[Originally published at OpsLens.com]

Today’s post is in honor of 2nd Lt. Emily J.T. Perez, who gave her life for our country on this date in 2006. Lt. Perez had volunteered to lead a convoy in Al Kifl, Iraq when an improvised explosive device detonated near her vehicle, killing the former Cadet Command Sergeant Major at the U.S. Military Academy. Born in Heidelberg, West Germany, the 23-year-old medical service officer was serving with the 204th Support Battalion, 2nd Brigade, 4th Infantry Division.


1847: “From the halls of Montezuma…” Gen. Winfield Scott’s army of Marines and soldiers begin their attack on the castle Chapultepec, sitting 200 feet above in Mexico City. During the battle, 90 percent of Marine commissioned and non-commissioned officers are killed by snipers, memorialized by the “blood stripe” on the Marine Corps’ Dress Blue trousers. Participating in the engagement are many young officers – such as Ulysses S. Grant, Robert E. Lee, and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson – who will face each other in the Civil War.

1918: The Battle of Saint-Mihiel, the first and only U.S.-led and executed operation of World War I, begins when Gen. John J. Pershing’s American Expeditionary Force attacks Gen. Johannes Georg von der Marwitz’ Imperial German Army forces. Brig. Gen. William “Billy” Mitchell leads an armada of nearly 1,500 warplanes during the offensive – the largest air force assembled (at that point) in history. On the ground, artillery and tanks(commanded by Lt. Col. George Patton) join the infantry in devastating the German lines. In just three days, over 22,000 Germans are killed, wounded, or captured.

1942: 5,000 Japanese soldiers, supported by aircraft and naval artillery, begin a series of nighttime frontal assaults against the Marines defending Guadalcanal’s Henderson Field. The defenders, many of whom are members of the elite 1st Raider and 1st Parachute Battalions, devastate Maj. Gen. Kiyotake Kawaguchi’s force, despite nearly being overrun and resorting to hand-to-hand combat.

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Sept. 6: Today in military history

Today’s post is in honor of U.S. Army Corporal Jeremy R. Shank, who gave his life for his country on this date in 2006. The 18-year-old native of Jackson, Mo. was serving with the 2d Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade, 25th Infantry Division when he sustained mortal wounds from small-arms fire during a dismounted security patrol in Hawijah, Iraq.


1918: U.S. Navy railroad artillery crews conduct their first attack – a German rail center in Tergnier. The five massive 14″/50cal Mark 4 guns, normally mounted to a battleship, are transported by train and can hit targets well over 20 miles downrange.

1950: When their listening post near Satae-ri, Korea is targeted by enemy artillery and about to be overrun, the commanding officer orders his soldiers to withdraw from their post to safety. Machinegunner Cpl. Benito Martinez and Pvt. 1st Class Paul G. Myatt remain behind to cover the retreat, despite numerous calls from the CO to abandon the post and turns down an offer of a rescue mission for the surrounded Americans. Martinez knew the only way his fellow soldiers would survive was if he continues to provide covering fire. The men hold off the enemy assault until the machinegun’s ammunition is expended. Martinez then withdraws to a destroyed bunker and continues to hammer the communists with his Browning Automatic Rifle and pistol.

After a “magnificent stand” lasting six hours, Martinez has enabled his fellow soldiers to retake the position, but does not survive. He is posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor and PFC Myatt is awarded the Silver Star.

1972: During the Olympic Games in Munich, Germany, Palestinian terrorists storm the apartment housing Israeli athletes, killing two and taking nine hostage. The terrorists demand the release of over 200 Israeli-held Palestinian prisoners, but the Israelis refuse to negotiate. Five terrorists – and all hostages – are killed when German police attempt to ambush the kidnappers at the airport as they attempted to fly to Cairo. The operation was financed by Mahmoud Abbas, who today serves as the chairman for the Palestinian Authority.

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Sept. 5: Today in military history

[Originally published at OpsLens.com]

Today’s post is in honor of U.S. Air Force Staff Sergeant Todd J. “TJ” Lobraico Jr. who was killed on this day in 2013 by enemy small-arms fire during a patrol outside Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan. The 22-yer-old native of New Fairfield, Conn. was serving with the New York Air National Guard’s 105th Security Forces Squadron at the time and had previously been deployed to Iraq.


1781: The Royal Navy fleet commanded by Rear Admiral Sir Thomas Grave’s Royal fleet clashes with Comte de Grasse’s French armada at the entrance to the Chesapeake Bay. The navies fight each other at close range for two hours before the British disengage and sail for New York. The French victory traps Lt. Gen. Lord Corwallis’ army at Yorktown, preventing their reinforcement or evacuation and ultimately contributing to Cornwallis’ surrender in October.

1813: Off the coast of Maine, the brig USS Enterprise spots HMS Boxer and the two vessels begin maneuvering to attack. Boxer’s captain Samuel Blyth declares “We are going to fight both ends and both sides of this ship as long as the ends and the sides hold together.” Blyth is killed in the opening barrage, and in less than 30 minutes, his ship is wrecked. A mortally wounded Capt. William Burrows refuses to accept Blyth’s sword and orders it sent back to the English captain’s family. The two captains are buried side by side during an elaborate funeral in Portland.

1862: U.S. Ambassador to Great Britain, Charles F. Adams (the son of President John Quincy Adams and grandson of Pres. John Adams), informs the British government that sending ironclad warships to aid the Confederacy would lead to war.

1917: At Gouzeaucourt, France, an American engineer unit comes under enemy artillery fire, wounding Sgt. Matthew Calderwood and Pvt. William Branigan – the first U.S. casualties of World War I.

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Aug. 30: Today in military history

[Originally published at OpsLens.com]

Today’s post is in honor of Army Staff Sgt. Aaron N. Holleyman. On this day in 2004, an improvised explosive device detonated near Holleyman’s vehicle as it drove through Khutayiah, Iraq, killing the 26-year-old native of Glasgow, Mont. Holleyman served in the 1st Battalion of the 5th Special Forces Group and had served in Iraq in 2003, earning the Purple Heart and Bronze Star. He was sent back to the States after being wounded and volunteered to go back to Iraq after his recovery.

1776: After a series of defeats by the British, Gen. George Washington’s Continental Army conducts a strategic withdrawal of Long Island, sneaking 10,000 men and their equipment through British Adm. Richard Howe’s picket force under cover of darkness. Gen. William Howe (yes, the Howes are brothers) sends a letter to Gen. George Washington seeking a peace conference. Washington rejects the offer, forwarding the message to Congress instead. Diplomacy falls flat when the British refuse to recognize American independence on Sept. 11, and the British respond by capturing New York City four days later.

1862: Near Lexington, Ky., Maj. Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith accomplishes the “nearest thing to a Cannae” (Hannibal’s double envelopment of the Roman army – perhaps the greatest tactical achievement in military history) during the Civil War. The Confederates rout Maj. Gen. William “Bull” Nelson’s inexperienced Union troops – capturing over 4,000 – in the Battle of Richmond.

1918: Southeast of Verdun, France, Gen. John J. Pershing’s First Army moves into position at the Saint-Mihiel salient. Among Pershing’s three U.S. (and one French) corps is Lt. Col. George S. Patton, Jr.’s newly formed 1st Provisional Tank Brigade, which will conduct the first tank warfare in American history in the upcoming Battle of Saint-Mihiel – the first independently-led American operation of World War I.

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Aug. 22: Today in military history

[Originally published at OpsLens.com]

1776: A force of over 20,000 Redcoats led by Gen. William Howe land on Long Island, N.Y.. Over the next few days the British will force the Americans to withdraw to New Jersey, and the British capture the vital port of New York City – which they hold for the duration of the war.

1863: The crew of Union steamer USS Shokokon spots the Confederate schooner Alexander Cooper in New Topsail Inlet on the North Carolina Coast (just south of present-day Camp Lejeune). A crew of sailors board a dinghy which they use to reach the rear of the Confederate camp guarding the ship, where Master-at-arms Robert T. Clifford sneaks ashore and counts the enemy. Although outnumbered three-to-one, Clifford leads a charge against the Rebels, who are routed and leave behind their ship and supplies. For his actions, Clifford is awarded the Medal of Honor.

1914: During the opening days of World War I, the world is introduced to a level of violence on a scale never before seen as the German army kills 27,000 French soldiers in one day at Ardennes and Charleroi. By month’s end, the Battle of the Frontiers will account for over a quarter million French casualties – with 75,000 killed in action. Meanwhile, the French, British, and Belgian troops manage to inflict 200,000 casualties on German General Helmuth von Moltke’s invasion force.

1942: Elements of Gen. Friedrich Paulus’ Sixth Army begin arriving outside Stalingrad, beginning what would become perhaps the largest and deadliest engagement in human history – claiming some 2 million casualties over the course of the battle. The Sixth Army will be surrounded and wiped out after five brutal months of urban combat, and only 6,000 of the 107,000 prisoners will survive the war.

1945: As Japanese forces surrender across Asia, American aircraft drop several teams of French colonial administrators into French Indochina (present-day Vietnam). Having worked alongside Ho Chi Minh against the Japanese during World War II, the United States was originally supportive of Vietnamese independence, but soon will reluctantly have to side with the French during the Cold War.

Ho Chi Minh (in shorts) with American OSS agents in 1945. The man in the suit is Gen. Vo Nguyen Giap, who commanded the Viet Minh during World War II and fought the Americans as commander of the North Vietnamese Army during the Vietnam War. The smiling man in the center is Maj. Allison Thomas, commander of the OSS’ “Deer Team” that parachuted into French Indochina to link up with Ho Chi Minh and Gen. Giap to fight the Japanese.

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Aug. 21: Today in military history

[Originally published at OpsLens.com]

1918: When enemy fighters shoot down Ensign George M. Ludlow’s Machhi M.5 seaplane (featured image) off the Austria-Hungary coast, Charles H. Hammann lands beside him and rescues the downed aviator. Hamman’s fighter is also damaged, and the winds high and seas choppy, but he manages to take off with Ludlow holding the struts behind him (the plane wasn’t designed to carry two pilots) and flies 65 miles across the Adriatic Sea to the air station at Porto Cassini, Italy. The plane sinks from the weight of the extra passenger after landing but both aviators are safe.

Hammann, an enlisted pilot at the time, becomes the first Naval aviator awarded the Medal of Honor and commissioned as an ensign after his daring flight.

1942: On Guadalcanal, around 900 soldiers of Japan’s 17th Army slam into about 2,500 Marines manning positions along Alligator Creek. Wave after wave of Japanese soldiers are cut down by the Marines, killing well over 700 attackers – including the Japanese commander – while inflicting nearly 100 percent casualties.

1944: The F8F-1 Bearcat – Grumman’s last piston-powered fighter – makes its first flight. The warplane can fly faster and climb more quickly than the venerable Hellcat, but enters service too late to see action in World War II. The Blue Angels will begin using the Bearcat for their demonstrations, and many Navy and Marine aviators – including Neil Armstrong – consider the agile warplane as their favorite.

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Aug. 20: Today in military history

[Originally published at OpsLens.com]

1910: 100 feet over New York City’s Sheepshead Bay Race Track, Lt. Jacob E. Fickel becomes the world’s first aerial gunner. Sitting in the biplane’s passenger seat, with Glenn Curtiss at the controls, Fickel fires his Army Springfield .30-caliber rifle, demonstrating that a bullet can be fired from a moving aircraft without the recoil knocking the plane out of the sky.

Fickel goes on to command the Fourth Air Force during World War II and retires as a major general.

1912: After less than three hours of instruction, 1st Lt. Alfred A. Cunningham boards a Curtiss (yes, the famed aircraft designer that flew alongside Lt. Fickel two years ago) biplane and makes his first solo flight, becoming the Marine Corps’ first aviator. A veteran of the Spanish-American War and several Caribbean campaigns, Cunningham deploys to the Western Front during World War I where he observes aviation tactics – while over German lines – and formulates procedures for Marine aviators to use against enemy submarines and their bases.

1950: (featured image) After over two weeks of fighting at Taegu, South Korea, an outnumbered UN force consisting of the American 1st Cavalry Division and the Republic of Korea’s II Corps defeats five divisions of North Korean soldiers. MacArthur’s Pusan Perimeter still holds.

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August 3: Today in military history

[Originally published at OpsLens.com]

1804: During the First Barbary War, Commodore Edward Preble’s Mediterranean Squadron begins his first bombardment of Tripoli Harbor. Commanding a division of ships is Stephen Decatur, the youngest sailor ever to be promoted to captain in U.S. Naval history. When Decatur’s brother is killed while boarding a Tripolitan gunboat, Decatur hands over command of his ship and, along with a small crew, boards the enemy vessel and engages the much-larger force in fierce hand-to-hand combat. When the captain responsible for his brother’s death attempts to behead Decatur, Daniel Fraser throws himself over Decatur, taking the lethal blow for his captain. Decatur shoots and kills the captain and avenges his brother.

1914: As Germany declares war on France, Britain mobilizes their military. The Ottoman Empire declares armed neutrality (although they have secretly signed an alliance with Germany) and mobilizes their forces as well. Meanwhile, Belgium rejects Germany’s ultimatum to allow their troops to pass through on their way to invade France.

1943: As American, British, and Canadian troops drive across Sicily, Axis forces begin evacuating the island. While visiting soldiers awaiting evacuation at Nicosia, Gen. George S. Patton, commanding the Seventh Army, slaps a soldier suffering from battle fatigue and orders him back to the front lines. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower reprimands Patton for the incident and the legendary general will not command another combat force for 11 months.

1950: Eight F4U-4B “Corsairs” of Marine Fighter Squadron (VMF) 214 take off from the deck of USS Sicily (CVE-118) and attack enemy installations at Chengu, marking the first Marine aviation sortie of the Korean War. During World War II, the “Black Sheep” of VMF-214 destroyed hundreds of Japanese aircraft, sank several vessels, and earned the Presidential Unit Citation under Medal of Honor recipient and former “Flying Tiger” Maj. Greg “Pappy” Boyington – the Marine Corps’ top ace, with 28 aerial victories.

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Aug. 1: Today in military history

1914: As France begins mobilization of its army, Germany crosses into neighboring Luxembourg and declares war against Russia.

1943: 177 B-24 Liberator bombers of the Ninth and (newly formed) Eighth Air Forces depart Libya to conduct a low-level strike the Axis oil fields at Ploiesti, Romania. A massive German air defense network inflicts heavy casualties on the Americans, shooting down 53 B-24s and damaging another 55. One bomber manages to limp back to the Benghazi air field with an incredible 365 bullet holes. Over 310 Americans are killed with over 200 captured or missing. Five raiders earn the Medals of Honor – the most ever awarded for a single mission.

In the Solomon Islands, the Japanese destroyer Aragiri rams the motor torpedo boat PT-109. Two sailors are killed by the nighttime collision. Lieutenant (junior grade) John F. Kennedy and his remaining 11-man crew swim over three miles to a nearby deserted island and are rescued days later. The future president is awarded the Purple Heart and the Navy and Marine Corps Medal for gallantry.

1944: Gen. George Patton’s Third Army becomes operational and forms the right flank of the Allied force sweeping across France.

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