Dec. 7 in U.S. military history

The famous “Blue Marble” photo taken by the Apollo 17 crew. Yes, the earth appears to be “upside down” but that is due to the astronauts’ position on the moon.

1917: Four U.S. battleships, USS Delaware (BB-28), USS Florida (BB-30), New York (BB-34), and USS Wyoming (BB-32) arrive in British waters and join the British Grand Fleet for service during World War I. That same day, the United States declares war on Austria-Hungary.

1941: At 3:57 a.m. the minesweeper USS Condor spots a periscope at the entrance to Pearl Harbor. The ship signals the nearby destroyer USS Ward, whose crew begins searching for the unidentified vessel. At 6:37 a.m., Ward spots the periscope as a two-man Japanese mini sub attempts to follow a U.S. cargo ship into the harbor and sinks the enemy warship – the first U.S. shots of World War II.

Having achieved total tactical and strategic surprise, Vice Adm. Chuichi Nagumo’s 1st Air Fleet begins their attack on Pearl Harbor. The strike is conducted in two waves: The first wave of 183 enemy aircraft strikes just before 8:00 a.m. The second wave of 170 planes hits a little after 8:30 a.m.

Of the ships anchored at Pearl Harbor, five of the eight battleships, three destroyers, and seven other ships were either sunk or severely damaged. By day’s end, 2,718 American sailors, 582 soldiers (including Army Air Forces personnel), 178 Marines, and 103 civilians will be dead, dying or wounded. Japanese losses were minimal: 30 planes, five minisubs, 65 killed, and one Japanese sailor captured. All but two of the battleships – Arizona and Oklahoma – are raised to fight again.

Meanwhile, Japanese forces bomb Guam and Wake as destroyers and planes attack Midway. Other Japanese targets include Shanghai, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Thailand, Malaya, and the Dutch East Indies.

1942: USS New Jersey (BB-62), one of the world’s largest battleships ever built, is launched. The “Big J” will serve a total of 21 years in the active fleet, seeing action in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. In 1982 the Iowa-class battleship will put to sea once again after being modified to carry Tomahawk cruise missiles, and is decommissioned for the last time in 1991.

1943: At the Bernhardt defensive line in Italy, Lt. Gen. Mark Clark’s Fifth Army secures the Mignano Gap.

1944: Patton’s Third Army crosses the Siegfried Line at Saarlautern.

In the Pacific, the 77th Infantry Division lands at Ormoc in the Philippines as one of the escort destroyers, USS Ward (the same ship that sunk the midget submarine three years ago at Pearl Harbor), is sunk by kamikaze attacks. Nearby, the USS Mahan is also sunk by kamikaze attacks.

1950: Air Force cargo planes drop eight “Treadway” bridge spans in the Funchilin Pass, enabling the First Marine Division to cross the most difficult natural obstacle on their breakout of the Chosin Reservoir.

1952: U.S. Air Force F-86 “Saber” pilots shoot down seven of 32 enemy aircraft – the highest tally of the Korean War.

1959: America’s first operational ballistic missile, the PGM-17 “Thor”, is successfully launched at Cape Canaveral, Fla.

1972: Apollo 17 launches for NASA’s final lunar mission. Aboard are two U.S. Navy captains: Eugene A. Cernan and Ronald E. Evans, and Harrison H. Schmitt – a civilian geologist.

Posted on December 7, 2017 at 15:16 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
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Dec. 1 in U.S. military history

[Originally published at OpsLens.com]

“Marine One” – a Sikorsky SH-3 Sea King of HMX-1, along with an identical decoy. (White House photo)

1779: During what is perhaps the worst winter of the century, Gen. George Washington’s army establishes their winter camp at Morristown, N.J.

1918: The American Army of Occupation enters Germany. Rejecting the Treaty of Versailles, the United States technically remained in a state of war against the Germans until 1921 when a separate peace agreement was signed.

1921: Lt. Cmdr. Ralph F. Wood departs Norfolk, Va. in a blimp for Washington, D.C. in the first flight of a helium-filled aircraft.

1941: With the Japanese fleet secretly steaming towards Pearl Harbor, Japanese emperor Hirohito signs a declaration of war against the United States.

1941: The Civil Air Patrol is established. Originally intended for reconnaissance, civilian planes are eventually fitted with bombs and depth charges when German submarines begin attacking U.S. shipping on the east coast. During the war, CAP pilots would log half a million hours, spotting 173 submarines, hitting 10 and sinking two – at the cost of 64 pilots.

1943: The Teheran Conference between Franklin Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, and Joseph Stalin concludes. The three leaders agree on plans to invade western Europe in May, 1944; to invade southern France; and that the Soviets would join the war against Japan once the Germans were defeated.

1943: The improved P-51D “Mustang” is sent into combat for the first time, during a fighter sweep over Belgium. By war’s end the Mustang will shoot down nearly five thousand German planes – an incredible 19 enemy fighters per Mustang lost. The P-51D will also see service in the Pacific Theater, and later provide close air support for troops during the Korean War.

1949: The Marine Corps’ first helicopter squadron, HMX-1, is commissioned at Quantico, Va. Today, HMX-1 is tasked with transportation of the president, vice president, and other high-ranking military and government officials.

1950: Col. Allan MacLean’s Regimental Combat Team 31 is annihilated by Chinese forces during the Battle of the Chosin Reservoir. Although enemy casualties are extremely heavy, over 1,000 U.S. soldiers are killed (to include Col. MacLean), freeze to death, or die in Chinese captivity. After the battle, only 385 of the task force’s original 3,200 soldiers are fit for duty.

1969: The U.S. government holds its first draft lottery since 1942.

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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.

Posted on September 26, 2017 at 15:52 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
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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.

Posted on September 25, 2017 at 09:08 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
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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.

Posted on September 12, 2017 at 10:00 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
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