1863: At 7:45 p.m., Union soldiers led by Brig. Gen. Truman Seymore launch a second attack against Battery Wagner, in Charleston (S.C.) Harbor. Spearheading the attack is Col. Robert G. Shaw’s all-black 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment (portrayed in the 1989 film GLORY). Shaw’s regiment reaches the fortification walls, fighting hand-to-hand until they are driven back by devastating fire. The Confederates inflict 1,500 casualties on the attackers, killing several of the top Union officers, including Shaw. During the battle, Sgt. William H. Carney (featured image) becomes the first African-American soldier awarded the Medal of Honor.
1918: When Marine Corps Sgt. Matej Kocak’s battalion is stopped by a German machinegun during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, Kocak single-handedly advances on the enemy position. He charges forward under fire and drives off the Germans with his bayonet. Later that day, he organized a unit of French colonial soldiers and led a successful attack against another German machinegun emplacement. Kocak will die a few weeks after his heroic actions, but is posthumously awarded both the Army and Navy Medals of Honor.
Another Marine earned both versions of the Medal of Honor on this date. When an enemy machinegun position targets his unit, Gunnery Sgt. Louis Cukela crawls forward until he is behind the nest. He then springs up and charges the Germans, killing and driving off several with his bayonet. Using captured grenades, he kills or captures those that remained behind.
That same day near Belleau, France, a German machinegun opens up on Army Private First Class George Dilboy and his platoon leader as the Americans are conducting reconnaissance. Despite the position being only 100 yards away, Dilboy stands up and fires at the enemy gun crew, then moves through a wheat field until he is 25 yards away. He fires again, and is torn to pieces by the enemy gunners. Dilboy manages to silence the gun, but is killed in the process. For heroism and valor that American Expeditionary Force commander Gen. John J. Pershing refers to as “super-human,” Dilboy is awarded the Medal of Honor. Continue reading “This day in U.S. military history: Glory and Gemini 10”
1776: The unfinished American garrison guarding Charleston harbor comes under attack by nine British ships under the command of Adm. Sir Peter Parker. The British attack the fort for 12-plus hours, but their cannonballs are no match for the palmetto log defenses of Fort Sullivan. In what has been described as the “first decisive victory of American forces over the British Navy” during the American Revolution, Col. William Moultrie and his South Carolina militiamen inflict heavy casualties on the Royal Navy forces and repel the assault.
1778: The Battle of Monmouth, N.J. is fought between Gen. George Washington’s Continental Army (including the legendary Molly Pitcher) and British forces under Gen. Sir Henry Clinton. Though tactically inconclusive, the battle is a strategic victory for the Americans who prove they can go toe-to-toe with the British Army in a large pitched battle.
1814: 200 miles west of Plymouth, England, the sloop-of-war USS Wasp – the fifth of ten so-named vessels – engages HMS Reindeer. After 19 minutes of intense fire, with the Americans repulsing numerous attempts by the British to board their vessel, Master Commandant Johnston Blakely and his men devastate the British crew, killing the ship’s captain, Commander William Manners, and 24 others. Reindeer is boarded, but is too heavily damaged to be taken as a prize and is burned.
1914: Austrian Archduke Francis Ferdinand and his wife are assassinated by a Bosnian Serb. One month later, Austria-Hungary will declare war on Serbia, triggering World War I. Continue reading “Today in U.S. military history: Seoul falls to Communists”
Featured image: Convair’s first B-36A in flight. (U.S. Air Force photo)
1862: Confederate forces led by Gen. Robert E. Lee launches a counteroffensive against Maj. Gen. George McClellan’s Army of the Potomac. Although the outnumbered Confederates suffer heavy casualties and subordinates fail to execute Lee’s plans, McClellan will ultimately withdraw from Richmond following the Battle of Mechanicsville – the first major engagement of the Seven Days Battles – and abandon the Peninsular Campaign.
1917: A convoy containing the first American Expeditionary Forces – members of the 5th Marine Regiment – land at the beaches of Saint-Nazaire France. The American troops will train for four months before entering combat. More than two million Americans will serve on the battlefields of Western Europe, and over 50,000 will lay down their lives in the “War to End All Wars.”
1942: The Grumman F6F Hellcat – credited with the most aerial victories of any Allied naval aircraft during World War II – makes its first flight. Designed to compete with the agile Mitsubishi A6M Zero fighter, the Hellcat will come to dominate the skies over the Pacific. 34 Japanese warplanes are knocked out of the sky by top Navy ace and Medal of Honor recipient Capt. David McCampbell – one of an incredible 305 Hellcat aces in the war. Continue reading “This day in U.S. military history: Coast Guard captures French port of Cherbourgh”
1865: Robert E. Lee is promoted to General-in-Chief of the Armies of the Confederate States. Lee is the only man to hold the prestigious rank during the Confederacy’s brief existence.
1917: Kaiser Wilhelm orders the Imperial German Navy’s fleet of 105 U-boats to resume their campaign of unrestricted submarine warfare, effectively causing the United States to enter World War I. No vessel – civilian or naval – is safe, and war’s end, German subs will have sent 5,000 ships to the bottom.
1945: U.S. Army Private Eddie Slovik is executed by firing squad near Sainte Marie-aux-Mines, France for abandoning his rifle company after admitting he is “too scared” for combat. Gen. Dwight Eisenhower personally signs the execution order to discourage further desertions. To date, Slovik remains the only American shot for desertion since the Civil War.
1950: To regain the upper hand in the nuclear arms race, President Harry S. Truman announces a program that would create a thermonuclear weapon, many times more powerful than the atomic weapon the Soviet Union recently tested.
Today’s post is in honor of Cpl. Christopher G. Singer, who was killed during combat operations in Afghanistan’s Helmand province on this day in 2012. The 23-year-old from Temecula, Calif. was assigned to the 3rd Combat Engineer Battalion, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force.
1903: The Militia Act of 1903 – also known as the “Dick Act” (Congressman and Maj. Gen. Charles Dick authored much of the legislation) – is passed, establishing federal standards and greater federal control over state militias, essentially creating the modern National Guard.
1918: 12 officers and 133 enlisted men from the 1st Aeronautical Company arrive for anti-submarine duty at Ponta Delgada, Azores. The unit was one of the first completely equipped American aviation units to serve overseas in World War I.
1954: (Featured image) First Lady Mamie Eisenhower christens USS Nautilus (SSN-571), the world’s first-ever nuclear submarine, at General Dynamics’ Electric Boat Division in Groton, Conn. Nautilus then launches into the Thames River, and in just under a year will cast her lines and ship out under nuclear power. Her Submarine Thermal Reactor obliterated anti-submarine warfare tactics honed against World War II-era diesel-electric subs since nuclear subs no longer need to surface periodically, can dive deeper, and (if detected) could clear the search area in record time.
1961: Seven years to the day after the first nuclear sub is commissioned, USS George Washington (SSBN-598) completes her first operational voyage. The United States’ first ballistic missile submarine remained underwater for 66 days during her maiden deterrent patrol.
Today’s post is in honor of Spc. Dale J. Kridlo, who was one of two U.S. soldiers killed by small-arms fire on an observation post in Afghanistan’s Kunar province. Kridlo, 33, of Hughestown, Pa., was assigned to the 27th Engineer Battalion, 20th Engineer Brigade, XVIII Airborne Corps.
1811: At the confluence of the Wabash and Tippecanoe Rivers, William Henry Harrison’s 1,000-man force of militia and regular infantry soldiers clash with American Indian warriors led by Tenskwatawa (known as “The Prophet”). Although outnumbered by the Americans, the Indians charge multiple times into Harrison’s lines, inflicting serious casualties on the defenders. The Prophet’s force withdraws once the sun rises and Tecumseh’s confederacy abandons the area. Harrison – destined to become a brigadier general during the War of 1812 and ultimately president of the United States – will forever be known as “the hero of Tippecanoe.”
1861: A Naval force under Flag Officer Samuel F. DuPont boldly steams into Port Royal Sound (S.C.) as Union gunners pour heavy fire into Confederate-held Forts Walker and Beauregard. Marines and sailors land and occupy the forts, giving the Union a crucial supply base for their Naval blockade.
Today’s post is in honor of Sgt. 1st Class Jose A. Rivera, who was killed in action on this day in 2003 in Mumuhdyah, Iraq. The 34-year-old native of Bayamon, Puerto Rico was assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 3rd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment.
1862: Realizing an army led by Gen. George McClellan would never defeat the Confederates, Pres. Abraham Lincoln removes the cautious Army of the Potomac commander, choosing Gen. Ambrose Burnside as his replacement. Two years and three days later, Lincoln would defeat McClellan – a Democrat – in the 1864 presidential election.
1915: Lt. Commander Henry Mustin catapults from the USS North Carolina in a Curtiss AB-2 flying boat, becoming the first American to make a catapult launch from a ship underway.
1917: U.S. Army Maj. (future Brig. Gen.) Theodore Roosevelt Jr. and his younger brother Lt. (future Lt. Col.) Archibald Roosevelt – both sons of former Pres. Theodore Roosevelt – lead the first American patrol into “No Man’s Land” during World War I. “Archie” will be wounded severely enough to merit a retirement with full disability, only to rejoin the Army during World War II. When an enemy grenade destroys the same knee wounded in the previous world war, Lt. Col. Roosevelt becomes the first person declared 100 percent disabled in two wars.
Theodore Jr. also rejoined the Army during World War II and earned the Medal of Honor while leading his troops at Utah Beach during the Invasion of Normandy. He died one month later of a heart attack. His brother Kermit left basic training and joined the British Army during World War I, transferring back to the U.S. military as a captain when the American Expeditionary Force arrived in Europe. He rejoined the British military during World War II, serving in Finland and Africa before being medically discharged. He would later serve as an Army intelligence officer in Alaska. The youngest Roosevelt son, Quentin, was a pursuit pilot and was shot down over enemy lines, becoming the only son of a U.S. president killed in combat. He and Theodore Jr. are buried side-by-side at the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial near Colleville-sur-Mer, France.
Today’s post is in honor of Cpl. Brett W. Land, who died of wounds from an improvised explosive devise in Afghanistan’s Zhari district on this day in 2010. The 24-year-old native of Wasco, Calif. was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault).
1918: Famous World War I flying ace Capt. Eddie Rickenbacker shoots down his 26th – and final – enemy aircraft over Rémonville, France.
1940: The Royal Air Force’s First Eagle Squadron, consisting of volunteer pilots from the United States, becomes operational. Thousands of Americans would apply, but only 244 were chosen for service during the early days of World War II.