Oct. 18 in U.S. military history

Nicknamed “The Bone,” The B-1B can carry 75,000 lbs. of ordinance and its four engines can push the heavy bomber to Mach 1.2

1775: A small British fleet commanded by Capt. Henry Mowat bombards the town of Falmouth, Mass. (modern-day Portland, Maine), setting most of the coastal settlement on fire with incendiary cannonballs. Mowat then sends a landing party ashore to destroy any buildings that were still standing, and the “Burning of Falmouth” will provide the inspiration for the Continental Congress to establish the Continental Navy.

1917: A convoy bearing the newly created 42d “Rainbow” Infantry Division sails from Hoboken, N.J. for France. The unit consists of federalized National Guard soldiers from 26 states and the District of Colombia, and its chief-of-staff is Col. (later, five-star general) Douglas MacArthur.

1942: Adolf Hitler issues his “Commando Order”, stipulating that any captured Allied commandos – even if they are wearing uniforms – will be executed without trial. Numerous Office of Strategic Services (OSS) agents and Army Air Force pilots and crewmembers are killed because of the order, and German officers carrying out illegal executions under the Commando Order will be tried for war crimes during the Nuremberg Trials.

1943: After 11 months of intense training, the 29th Ranger Battalion (Provisional) is disbanded before the American commandos can participate in combat action. The Rangers return to their original units, bringing with them advanced skills they can share with the regular troops, like penetrating deep behind enemy lines, staging raids, and intelligence gathering.

1983: Two years after the project was revived by President Ronald Reagan, the Rockwell B-1B “Lancer” supersonic bomber makes its first flight. Originally envisioned in the 1960s to combine the speed of the B-58 “Hustler” and the payload of the B-52 “Stratofortress”, the B-1 had been cancelled in 1977 after just four swept-wing prototypes were built. Lancers, originally intended to carry nuclear payloads, would later be fitted for conventional weapons and will not see combat until the 1998 bombing of Iraq (Operation “Desert Fox”). During the War on Terror, 40 percent of the munitions dropped during the Afghanistan campaign have been delivered by B-1Bs.

Posted on October 18, 2017 at 15:03 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
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Oct. 16 in U.S. military history

1821: The schooner USS Enterprise (the third of 12 so-named Continental and U.S. Naval vessels) intercepts a flotilla of four ships led by the infamous Capt. Charles Gibbs as the pirates attack American and British-flagged ships in Cuban waters. Although outnumbered, Lt. Cmdr. John Kearney and his crew quickly defeat the pirate force, and Gibbs escapes into the jungles of Cuba as three of his ships are burned. Gibbs will eventually be caught and is one of the last people executed for piracy in the United States.

1859: A small party of abolitionists, led by John Brown, occupies the military arsenal at Harper’s Ferry (modern-day West Virginia), hoping to inspire a slave rebellion. However, Brown’s hoped-for uprising does not take place and local militia force the rebels into a firehouse. A company of Marines under the command of Brevet Colonel Robert E. Lee is dispatched to the scene and after an unsuccessful attempt by Lt. J.E.B. Stuart to get Brown to surrender, the Marines assault the barricaded fire station and bring an end to the crisis.

1918: When all other members of his machine gun detachment are killed or wounded, Pvt. Thomas C. Neibaur foils an entire German counterattack by himself. Four enemy soldiers attempt to kill him at close quarters, but the wounded Neibaur manages to kill them, and captures another 11 with his pistol. For his actions, Pvt. Neibaur is awarded the Medal of Honor.

1942: As Japanese planes attack a ship unloading badly needed supplies for Guadalcanal’s “Cactus Air Force”, Lt. Col. Harold W. “Indian Joe” Bauer – dangerously low on fuel following a 600-mile ferry flight from Espirito Santo – single-handedly engages the enemy warplanes, shooting down one bomber, four fighters, and damaging another before running out of fuel. The commander of Marine Fighting Squadron 212 (VMF-212) is awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions.

1946: After nine months of trials, ten Nazi war criminals are executed by hanging, including top Wehrmacht officers Alfred Jodl, Wilhelm Keitel, and SS officer Ernst Kaltenbrunner. Also sentenced is former Luftwaffe boss (and World War I fighter ace) Hermann Göring, who committed suicide the night before his execution.

1956: The Pan American airliner Clipper Sovereign Of The Skies (a Boeing 377 “Stratocruiser”, which is based off the B-29 “Superfortress” bomber) experiences failures in two of its four engines while in the middle of the Pacific Ocean on a around-the-world flight and has to ditch in the water. The Coast Guard cutter USCGC Pontchartrain is only a half mile away from the crash site and rescues all passengers and crew before the plane slips under the waves after 20 minutes.

2002: Congress grants President George W. Bush the authority to use military force against Iraq, however the U.S.-led coalition will not invade Iraq until March of 2003.

Posted on October 16, 2017 at 10:20 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
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Oct. 6 in U.S. military history

[Originally published at OpsLens.com]

Soldiers of the 77th Division parade through New York City on Feb. 22, 1918, to mark George Washington’s Birthday. The division was nicknamed the “Metropolitan” Division because the bulk of its soldiers came from New York. On March 27, 1918, the division shipped out for France. (Library of Congress photo)

1777: Near what will soon become the United States Military Academy (West Point, N.Y.), British troops simultaneously attack – and defeat – Continental forces at Forts Clinton and Montgomery, and also destroy the chain that had been placed across the Hudson River to prevent British ships from sailing upriver. The engagement is sometimes called the Battle of the Clintons since the British troops are led by Gen. Sir Henry Clinton, and the garrisons are led by Gens. (and brothers) James Clinton and George Clinton – who is also the governor or New York.

1918: 500 men of the 77th “Metropolitan” Division under the command of Maj. Charles W. Whittlesey have been surrounded by German forces after the French and American units advancing on their flanks have been held up. With no communication other than carrier pidgeons and no other means to send supplies, 1st Lt. Harold E. “Dad” Goettler and 2nd Lt. Erwin R. Bleckley volunteer to fly through withering enemy fire to drop much-needed supplies to the “Lost Battalion” in a DH-4 “Liberty Plane.” On their second trip, both airmen are killed, and will be posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor – America’s highest award for combat valor.

Also killed while attempting to locate the force is Capt. Eddie Grant, the former leadoff hitter and third baseman for the Philadelphia Phillies. Grant was one of the first baseball players to join the Armed Forces during World War I. All but 194 members of the Lost Battalion are killed, wounded, or captured, and five 77th Division soldiers – including Whittlesey – will earn the Medal of Honor during the six-day engagement.

1942: Five battalions of Marines, supported a group of scout snipers, cross Guadalcanal’s heavily defended Matanikau River and engage the Japanese. Col. Lewis B. “Chesty” Puller’s battalion traps a Japanese battalion in a ravine, creating what he called a “machine for extermination,” when heavy artillery, mortar fire, and small arms annihilates the enemy. The operation plays a major role in the American victory on Guadalcanal, when Japanese planners opt for an exhausting overland march for their major offensive against Lunga Point later in the month, instead of crossing the Matanikau.

1993: Three days after leading an assault at the Bakaara Market in the bloody Battle of Mogadishu, Delta Force’s Sgt. 1st Class Matt Rierson is killed by enemy mortar fire at the Mogadishu airport. 12 other soldiers are wounded in the attack. Another two soldiers are wounded during a mission to reach one of the downed Black Hawks.

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Sept. 29 in U.S. military history

2nd Lt. Frank Luke, Jr. in front of his SPAD XIII fighter, near Verdun, France on Sept. 19, 1918 (Photograph by Lt. Harry S. Drucker, Signal Corps, United States Army)

1909: Construction begins on the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. when President (and former commander of the “Rough Riders”) Theodore Roosevelt lays the cornerstone. 81 years later – to the day – work on the church is completed when the “final finial” is placed with Pres. (and former World War II torpedo bomber pilot) George H.W. Bush in attendance.

1918: During the opening days of the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, a battalion of African-American soldiers serving under French command secures Sechault, France, but is quickly surrounded when the French units on their flanks retreat. German troops surround the “Hell Fighters from Harlem”, as the Americans hold their ground through the night despite numerous assaults and artillery barrage that devastates the town.

Once relief arrives, the former members of the 15th New York Infantry have nearly exhausted their supplies, and have suffered 982 casualties. One officer receives the Medal of Honor, two soldiers will earn the Legion of Honor (France’s highest award for valor), and another 100 are decorated for valor.

That same day, 2nd Lt. Frank Luke, Jr. takes to the skies on a voluntary patrol, shooting down four German observation balloons despite hot pursuit by eight enemy fighters. Luke exposes himself to additional ground fire when he strafes German troop positions, crippling his SPAD XIII warplane. The fate of America’s second-leading ace of the war remained a mystery until after the armistice, when America learns that Luke pulled out his pistol after crash-landing and the wounded pilot fought off approaching German infantry until he was finally killed.

Luke, whom America’s top ace Eddie Rickenbacker described as “the most daring aviator and greatest fighter pilot of the entire war,” shot down an incredible 14 enemy aircraft in ten days – a feat surpassing all aviators during the war. Luke is posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor, and Arizona’s Luke Air Force Base is named in his honor.

1941: Outside of Kiev, Ukraine, German SS troops massacre 33,371 Jews in just two days at the Bibi Yar ravine. The captives are driven from town, stripped, and forced to lay down on the pile of corpses when they are systematically shot in the back of the neck by a submachine gun.

1942: Three new U.S. fighter squadrons are formed, consisting of American pilots that had crossed into Canada to join the war in Europe. The aviators had previously flown for the Royal Air Force, under English squadron commanders, until rejoining the Army Air Forces.

1946: A Lockheed P2V “Neptune” patrol aircraft takes off from Perth, Australia for a non-stop, unrefueled flight to the United States. The Truculent Turtle manages to cover 11,235 miles, in 55 hours and 17 minutes – setting a record that will stand until 1962.

1990: The YF-22, predecessor for the F-22 “Raptor” makes its first flight. Although slower and less stealthy than Northrop’s YF-23, the jointly produced Lockheed/Boeing/General Dynamics YF-22 is far more agile, and will soon win the Air Force’s Advanced Tactical Fighter competition.

Posted on September 29, 2017 at 08:38 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
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Sept. 26 in U.S. military history

American troops operating the M1916 37mm gun in France, 1918

[Originally published at OpsLens.com]

1777: Gen. Sir William Howe outmaneuvers Gen. George Washington’s Continental Army and takes the American capital of Philadelphia. Historically, wars usually end when the capital city falls into enemy hands, but the American Revolution will continue for another six years.

1918: Though technically launched at 11:30 p.m., Sept. 25, with an intense artillery barrage; the Meuse-Argonne Offensive – the six-week long “greatest battle of World War I in which the Americans participated” – officially begins just before dawn when whistles are blown along the American trench-lines, and with fixed-bayonets, American soldiers clamber over the top and begin their assault against the German lines. On this day alone, the Army awards eight soldiers with the Medal of Honor.

The battle, which begins with approximately 600,000 American soldiers and Marines, will see U.S. ranks swell to more than one million men. 26,277 Americans will be killed, another 95,786 wounded. But the campaign will end the war.

Meanwhile off the coast of Great Britain, a German U-boat sinks the Coast Guard cutter Tampa on convoy escort duty. Tampa takes 119 Coast Guardsmen and Navy sailors and 11 Royal Navy passengers with her to the bottom of the Bristol Channel – the greatest combat-related loss of life at sea for the Americans during World War I.

1945: U.S. Army Lt. Col. A. Peter Dewey, the chief of the Saigon Office of Special Services, is mistaken for a Frenchman and shot in the head by Viet Minh forces, making Dewey the first American killed by communists in Vietnam.

1983: Shortly after midnight, Moscow’s early warning network reports the launch of an American intercontinental ballistic missile. Despite a period of high tensions between the U.S. and Soviet Union, Lt. Col. Stanislav Petrov realizes that it must be a glitch in the computer system since an American first strike would surely involve hundreds of missiles and does not initiate a retaliatory strike, as Soviet doctrine required. Later, another the system reports the launch of another four missiles. This marks the closest the United States and Soviet Union come to accidental nuclear war.

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Sept. 25 in U.S. military history

1775: A small force of American and Canadian militia led by Ethan Allen attempts to capture the British-held city of Montreal. British Gen. Guy Carleton quickly gathers a force of British regulars and Canadian militia, scattering Allen’s troops and capturing the hero of Fort Ticonderoga and former commander of Vermont’s famed “Green Mountain Boys.” Allen will remain a prisoner in England until his exchange in 1778.

That same day, Col. Benedict Arnold sets out with 1,000 men on a poorly planned expedition to Quebec. The trip takes far longer than anticipated, forcing the men to eat their shoes and other leather equipment to survive, and they are soundly defeated by the British once the weakened force reaches their objective in December.

1918: Former Indianapolis 500 driver – now Captain and commander of the Army Air Corps’ 94th “Hat in the Ring” Aero Squadron – Eddie Rickenbacker becomes a double ace, singlehandedly attacking a flight of seven German warplanes and downing two. For his actions on this day, he will receive one of his nine Distinguished Service Crosses – later upgraded to the Medal of Honor. Rickenbacker’s 26 aerial victories by war’s end marks the most by any U.S. fighter pilot during World War I.

1950: Following the successful landing at Inchon and capture of Kimpo Airfield, soldiers and Marines cross the Han River and enter Seoul. The following day, Gen. Douglas MacArthur declares that his forces have recaptured the South Korean capital.

1957: U.S. Army paratroopers – members of the 101st Airborne Division – escort nine black students into Little Rock (Ark.) Central High School, ending racial segregation. Despite the U.S. Supreme Court declaring that racially segregated schools are unconstitutional, Governor Orval Faubus, a Democrat, had deployed the Arkansas National Guard to prevent the students from attending.

1993: A week before the Battle of Mogadishu, an American Blackhawk helicopter is shot down by a rocket-propelled grenade while on a patrol mission over the Somali capital. American and Pakistani units brave heavy enemy fire to secure the site and recover the three soldiers killed in the crash.

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Sept. 20 in U.S. military history

Marines during Operation SUMMIT – the first battlefield deployment of troops by helicopter

1777: British Maj. Gen. Charles Grey launches a daring nighttime attack on Brig. Gen. Anthony Wayne’s Continental Army forces encamped near the Paoli Tavern near modern-day Malvern, Pa.. Grey orders his troops to only use bayonets, and has his men remove the flints from their rifles. The Redcoats catch the Americans completely by surprise, routing an entire division while only suffering 11 British casualties.

1797: The Continental Navy frigate Constitution is launched in Boston harbor. 220 years later, USS Constitution – known affectionately as “Old Ironsides” – is the “oldest ship in the American Navy,” and continues serving in the 21st century as a duly commissioned ship crewed by active-duty U.S. sailors and Naval officers in order to further public awareness of American Naval tradition.

1917: The 26th Infantry Division arrives at Saint-Nazaire, France, becoming the first division entirely organized in the United States to arrive in Europe for World War I. The National Guard soldiers immediately travel to Neufchâteau, where they are trained by experienced French soldiers. The “Yankee” Division will spend 210 days in combat, with 1,587 killed in action and another 12,077 soldiers wounded.

1944: Just three days after landing, the 81st Infantry Division has eliminated most of the Japanese garrison on the island of Angaur. Once the island is secured, the 81st will join the 1st Marine Division in the bloody battle on Peleliu, only seven miles away.

1950: 12 Sikorsky HRS-1 “Chickasaw” helicopters of Marine Helicopter Squadron 161 (HMR-161) conduct the first combat landing of troops, landing over 200 Marines and their equipment on Hill 844 near Kansong, Korea.

1984: The Iranian-supported terrorist group Hezbollah carries out a suicide car bomb attack on the U.S. Embassy Annex building in East Beirut, Lebanon. The explosion kills 24 – including Chief Warrant Officer Kenneth V. Welch (USA) and Petty Officer 1st Class Michael Ray Wagner (USN) – and injures both the U.S. and British ambassadors.

2001: President George W. Bush addresses a joint session of Congress, announcing the newly proposed Department of Homeland Security and requesting a declaration of war in response to the 9/11 attacks just nine days ago. Bush states “Our war on terror begins with al Qaeda, but it does not end there. It will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped and defeated.”

Posted on September 20, 2017 at 09:06 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
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Sept. 12 in U.S. military history

An engraving of Brevet 2nd Lt. Ulysses S. Grant in 1843

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. The coordinated assault of artillery, tanks (commanded by Lt. Col. George Patton), and aircraft devastates the German lines and 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 mostly 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.

The Battle of Edson’s Ridge is named after the Col. Merrit A. Edson, the commanding officer of the 1st Raider Battalion, who “was all over the place, encouraging, cajoling, and correcting as he continually exposed himself to enemy fire.” For his actions during the battle, Edson was awarded the Medal of Honor.

1945: Marine aviators of VMF-214 – the famed “Black Sheep Squadron” – are reunited with Col. Gregory “Pappy” Boyington at Naval Air Station Alameda following their former commanding officer’s release after spending 20 months in captivity as a Japanese prisoner of war. After the reunion, Boyington heads for Washington, where he is to be awarded both the Medal of Honor and Navy Cross.

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Aug. 31 in U.S. military history

“Paramarines” – an elite force within an elite force – were never utilized in their intended roles (Ranger-style commando raids as opposed to the Army’s parachute infantry), but instead served throughout the war as conventional Marines. Five former Paramarines would earn the Medal of Honor on Iwo Jima, and several of the legendary flag-raisers were former Paramarines.

1864: Two armies under the command of Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman engage Confederate Gen. John Bell Hood’s vastly outnumbered Army of Tennessee just south of Atlanta. Despite brilliant fighting and generalship in the Battle of Jonesborough, the Confederates destroy a trainload of military supplies to prevent its capture by the Union and withdraw to Atlanta.

1916: Near Guillemont, France, a German artillery shell scores a direct hit on 2nd Lt. Henry A. “Harry” Butters, instantly killing the popular Royal Field Artillery officer. Butters, an American citizen that joined the British Army at the outbreak of World War I, was so reknowned that Winston Churchill (then a battalion commander with the Royal Scots Fusiliers) met with him and would write of Butters after his death. Butters’ gravestone simply read “An American Citizen” – as he requested – and every soldier that could be spared attended his funeral.

1940: President Franklin Roosevelt federalizes 60,000 National Guard soldiers.

1942: After a squadron of eight Japanese destroyers finally manages to squeeze through Guadalcanal’s defensive ring and disembarks 1,000 Japanese troops the night before, the arriving force stages an attack on Henderson Field. Meanwhile, the Marine Corps’ elite 1st Marine Raider Battalion and 1st Parachute Battalion arrive from Tulagi.

While four Marine Corps parachute operations are planned during the war, the highly trained Paramarines are never used for their intended purpose and will only be used in conventional roles. The Paramarines and Raiders – considered to be among America’s first special operations units – will both be disbanded by war’s end.

1943: The Navy commissions the destroyer escort USS Harmon – the first warship to be named after an African-American. While serving aboard the USS San Francisco (CA-36) during the Battle of the Solomon Islands, Mess Attendant First Class Leonard R. Harmon “deliberately exposed himself to hostile gunfire” to protect a medic providing care to wounded sailors, in addition to displaying unusual loyalty on behalf of the ship’s injured executive officer. For his actions, Harmon was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross.

1955: The Boeing KC-135 “Stratotanker” makes its first flight. The mid-air refueller was built to serve Strategic Air Command’s B-52 fleet, but 62 years later it remains in service for the foreseeable future (not scheduled for replacement until 2040), and is one of six aircraft to serve the U.S. military for over 50 years.

Posted on August 31, 2017 at 09:38 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
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Aug. 30 in U.S. military history

Lt. Col. George S. Patton, Jr. in front of a French-built Renault FT light tank, which the Americans used during World War I

1776: After a series of defeats by the British, the Continental Army conducts a strategic withdrawal of Long Island, and Gen. William Howe 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.

1963: After the United States and Soviet Union narrowly avoid war during the Cuban Missile Crisis, a “hot line” is installed between the Pentagon and Kremlin, providing the two nuclear-armed superpowers with instant communication in hopes of preventing another conflict. The U.S. sends “The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog’s back 1234567890,” and the Soviets respond with another message indicating all their teletype keys are functioning. The 10,000-mile secure cable connection still operates today, however it has been upgraded to a telephone system.

1995: NATO begins its first bombing campaign, Operation “Deliberate Force.” American land- and carrier-based warplanes, along with aircraft from 14 other nations, drop over 1,000 precision-guided munitions on Bosnian Serb positions, and the operation marks the first combat action for the German Luftwaffe since the end of World War II 50 years earlier.

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