Aug. 11 in U.S. military history

1945: While American planes continue hammering Japanese facilities, Secretary of State James Byrnes rejects the Japanese War Council’s surrender terms, including the the Emperor would remain in power. The Allies’ terms dictate that the Japanese people themselves would determine their own form of government and that the Emperor would be subject to the Supreme Allied Commander.

1949: President Harry Truman appoints Gen. Omar Bradley to the new position of Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Bradley advises that the post-World War II Army had been weakened to the point that it “could not fight its way out of a paper bag,” but the Truman administration does not implement his recommendations. As a result, the United States military enters the Korean War significantly understaffed and with outdated equipment.

1952: In western Korea, the First Marine Division takes Hill 122 – subsequently named “Bunker Hill” – and begins several days of bloody clashes with Chinese troops. The Marines, supported by tanks and and air strikes, repel numerous communist assaults and drive off the enemy. 48 of Col. Walter F. Layer’s men give their lives in defense of the hill, but inflict several thousand Chinese casualties.

1965: When deadly race riots break out across Los Angeles, the California National Guard deploys over 12,000 Guardsmen to the area to restore order.

1967: While on a patrol in South Vietnam’s Quảng Nam Province, Marine Lance Cpl. Roy M. Wheat accidentally steps on an enemy “Bouncing Betty” anti-personnel mine. When he hears the distinctive sound made by the triggered fuze, Wheat throws himself over the mine’s location and absorbs the blast with his body. For his actions, Wheat is posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.

Posted on August 11, 2017 at 09:40 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
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August 3 in U.S. military history

Daniel Fraser saves Stephen Decatur during the Battle of Tripoli Harbor

[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.

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.

Congress initiates an involuntary recall of former enlisted soldiers, ordering 30,000 men to report for duty in September.

That same day in Southeast Asia, the first members of the U.S. Military Assistance Advisory Group members arrive in Saigon. The 35-man group will supervise the allocation of military aid to the French military in Vietnam, and later act as military trainers.

1958: USS Nautilus — the world’s first nuclear-powered submarine and the U.S. Navy’s sixth so-named vessel — becomes the first “ship” to cross the North Pole.

August 2 in U.S. military history

[Originally published at OpsLens.com]

1776: Although the Continental Congress voted to establish “the thirteen united [sic] States of America” on July 2 and adopted Thomas Jefferson’s draft of the Declaration of Independence two days later, congressional delegates sign the Declaration on this date. The most famous inscription belongs to John Hancock, the president of Congress, who is said to have declared, “There, I guess King George will be able to read that without his spectacles,” after adding his rather substantial signature.

1909: After a successful demonstration for the military by Orville Wright, the Army Signal Corps purchases a Wright Flyer for $30,000 (the equivalent of $800,000 today). The two-seat “Signal Corps Airplane No. 1” will train America’s first military pilots at College Park, Md. and Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio over the next two years – crashing several times – before it’s retirement. Today, the legendary aircraft hangs in the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum.

1934: Upon the death of German president Paul von Hindenberg, Chancellor Adolf Hitler begins his “thousand-year Reich,” assuming full dictatorial powers as Reichsführer. Also on this date, Hitler changes the military oath so that the Wehrmacht swears allegiance to him instead of Germany.

1944: Convoy HX 300, the largest convoy of World War II, safely crosses the Atlantic, bringing over 1 million tons of supplies to ports in the United Kingdom. 32 escort vessels protected the 155 cargo ships, and the formation spanned nine miles across and four miles long. Not a single ship was attacked by a German submarine.

1950: As the North Korean Army bears down on the American and UN forces occupying the southern tip of the Korean Peninsula, the 1st Provisional Marine Brigade lands at Pusan and mans the Pusan Perimeter’s left flank.

1964: The destroyer USS Maddox (DD-731), supporting South Vietnamese covert operations against the North in the Gulf of Tonkin, is attacked by three North Vietnamese torpedo boats in the Gulf of Tonkin. Within days, Congress would pass the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, paving the way for full-scale conflict in Vietnam.

1990: At 2a.m., several divisions of the Iraqi military’s elite Republican Guards cross into Kuwait, beginning a seven-month occupation of the neighboring state. The United States will lead a 35-nation coalition to liberate Kuwait in January.

Posted on August 2, 2017 at 08:39 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
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July 28 in U.S. military history

[Originally published at OpsLens.com]

1779: 40 Continental Marines and Massachusetts Militia, including their leader, Marine Capt. John Welsh, are killed in the unsuccessful assault on Britain’s Fort George at Penobscot Bay, Maine.

1914: One month after Gavrillo Princip assassinates Austria-Hungary’s heir to the throne, the Archduke Francis Ferdinand, Austria-Hungary declares war on Serbia. Within days, a peaceful European continent will be transformed into a battlefield of never-before-seen scale of carnage when Germany, France, Russia, and the United Kingdom join the conflict. Dozens of other countries mobilize troops, and in four years, some 20 million people will perish in the “Great War.”

1915: 340 Marines and sailors land at Port au Prince, Hayti, beginning an occupation that would last until 1934.

1918: Brig. Gen. John A. Lejeune assumes command of the 2d U.S. Army Division in France – becoming the second Marine to command an Army Division (Brig. Gen. Charles A. Doyen was the first).

1932: Following an unsuccessful attempt to remove “Bonus Army” marchers from the nation’s capital by Washington, D.C. police, President Herbert Hoover orders Army Chief of Staff, Gen. Douglas A. MacArthur, to evict the protestors by force. Other notable officers participating were Majors George S. Patton (in command of tanks) and Dwight D. Eisenhower (junior aide to MacArthur).

1943: During the joint U.S. and British bombing campaign, Operation “Gomorrah”, nearly 800 Royal Air Force bombers target Hamburg, Germany in a nighttime bombing raid. The concentrated incendiary bombing combined with warm and dry weather creates a literal firestorm; a 1,000ft-tall tornado of flame driving 150-mph winds consumes everything in its path. Eight square miles of Hamburg are incinerated, along with tens of thousands of Germans.

1945: A B-25 “Mitchell” bomber, flying through thick fog over New York City, slams into the 79th floor of the Empire State Building, killing the plane’s three crewmembers, 11 occupants and igniting a four-story blaze.

1965: Pres. Lyndon Johnson sends 50,000 troops to Vietnam, bringing the number to 125,000. To meet the requirements, monthly draft calls are increased from 17,000 to 35,000 – the highest since the Korean War.

Posted on July 28, 2017 at 10:45 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
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July 20 in U.S. military history: Old Ironsides, and ‘one small step’

[Originally published at OpsLens.com]

1944: As Adolf Hitler meets with officials at his “Wolf’s Lair” headquarters in East Prussia, a suitcase bomb planted by Col. Claus von Stauffenberg detonates, killing three German officers and wounding the Führer. Stauffenberg and several fellow “Operation Valkyrie” conspirators are shot by firing squad within 24 hours, and the Gestapo will arrest and execute several thousand Germans (some having no connection to the plot whatsoever) in coming months.

In the Marianas Islands, Naval Underwater Demolition Teams (the predecessor to today’s SEAL Teams) destroy obstacles on the beaches of Guam as aircraft and warships bombard enemy positions in preparation of the invasion.

1945: As the Manhattan Project scientists put the finishing touches on the atomic bomb, Army Air Force B-29 “Superfortress” crews begin flying multiple small-scale bombing raids against Japan, so the defenders would become accustomed to the sight of individual bombers.

1960: The ballistic missile submarine USS George Washington (SSBN-598) conducts the first submerged launch of a Polaris missile. The missile hits the target over 1,000 miles away. The nuclear-tipped Polaris is capable of accurately delivering three 200 kiloton warheads 2,500 nautical miles downrange.

1969: Apollo 11 Astronaut Neil A. Armstrong – a U.S. Naval aviator who flew multiple combat missions over Korea, and was once shot down – takes “one small step,” becoming the first human in history to walk on the surface of the moon.

Armstrong, who serves as Apollo 11 mission commander, is accompanied on the historic voyage by command module pilot Michael Collins, a U.S. Air Force fighter pilot who will become a major general in 1978, and lunar module pilot Edwin Eugene “Buzz” Aldrin (also an Air Force fighter pilot), who shot down two MiG-15 fighters over Korea.

1997: In honor of her 200th birthday, the USS Constitution – the world’s oldest ship remaining in active service – sets sail for the first time in 116 years. “Old Ironsides” was one of the United States’ original six frigates, and is the only warship in the U.S. Navy to have sunk an enemy vessel.

Posted on July 20, 2017 at 07:37 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
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July 19 in U.S. military history: Morgan’s Raid, and the end of the Happy Times

[Originally published at Opslens.com]

1779: 1,000 Continental Marines and militiamen, including a 100-man artillery detachment commanded by Paul Revere, depart Boston, sailing to attack the British at Fort George (present-day Castine, Maine). The 44-ship Penobscot Expedition – the largest naval expedition of the Revolutionary War – proves to be a disastrous defeat for the Americans, as every vessel is either destroyed or captured by the British, and survivors of the failed attack must find their way back to Massachusetts with little to no supplies.

1863: The Confederate Army’s “Great Raid of 1863” is dealt a serious blow in Ohio, where Union gunboats and pursuing cavalry attack Brig. Gen. John H. Morgan’s handpicked cavalry force as they attempt to cross the swollen Ohio River. After covering some 1,000 miles in Northern territory, capturing and paroling some 6,000 Union soldiers, seizing supplies, destroying railroads and bridges, and spreading terror throughout the North, Morgan’s weary force is trapped and hundreds are captured. Within days, most of the raiders are taken prisoner, including Morgan, who is sent to the Ohio State Penitentiary. But in November, Morgan and several of his officers will tunnel out of the prison and escape to safety.

1942: Adm. Karl Dönitz orders his U-boats to abandon their hunting grounds off the American coast; the institution of anti-submarine countermeasures, such as the convoy system, has put an end to the easy pickings of what German submariners referred to as the “Happy Time.”

1943: As the Allies march across Sicily, over 500 American bombers conduct a daylight bombing raid on Rome, the first time the Italian capital is targeted. Prime Minister Benito Mussolini, with his army on the brink of collapse, will be removed from power and arrested within a week.

1953: Just days before the armistice ends combat between the United States and North Korea, Air Force Lt. Col. Vermont Garrison scores his 10th kill of the war, becoming a “double ace.” Garrison flew for both Britain’s Royal Air Force and the U.S. Army Air Force during World War II, with 7 victories in Europe. When war breaks out in Vietnam, the 51-year-old “Grey Eagle” will command the 405th Fighter Wing, flying 97 combat missions over Laos and Vietnam.

1963: NASA test pilot – and former Army Air Forces pilot during World War II – Joseph A. Walker flies his North American “X-15” aircraft to an altitude of 66 miles, becoming the first civilian to fly in space.

Posted on July 19, 2017 at 12:01 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
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July 13 in U.S. military history

1861: Following their victory in the Battle of Rich Mountain in western Virginia two days ago, Union forces led by Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan catch the fleeing Confederates at Cheat River. Brig. Gen. Robert S. Garnett, commanding the Confederate troops, is killed, becoming the first general killed in the Civil War.

The victory at Corrick’s Ford marks the high point of McClellan’s career, as his inflated accomplishment makes him a national hero – he will become general-in-chief of the Union army – and sets in motion the creation of West Virginia.

1863: In New York City, residents kick off three days of violent riots against the draft – perhaps the worst riot in American history. Firemen are attacked and their equipment destroyed, and the outnumbered police officers can’t control the huge crowd. Soldiers are ordered to New York City, many of whom fought days ago at Gettysburg, and by the time order is restored, 4,000 troops occupy the city. Hundreds of citizens are dead, thousands wounded, and dozens of buildings are burned.

1943: Allied and Japanese ships clash in the Solomon Islands during the Battle of Kolombangara. The force had just landed Marine Raiders on New Georgia and the Japanese intended to land reinforcements, but are driven off after a brief nighttime engagement. Heavy gunfire and torpedoes sink the Japanese light cruiser Jintsu, taking almost the entire crew with her. Japanese torpedoes sink the destroyer USS Gwin (DD-443), and heavily damage three other cruisers.

1985: Vice President – and former TBM “Avenger” torpedo bomber pilot during World War II – George H.W. Bush becomes Acting President for the Day when Pres. Ronald Reagan undergoes surgery.

2008: At 4a.m., over 100 Taliban fighters launch a coordinated assault against a joint American-Afghan patrol base in eastern Afghanistan. The remote outpost had just been established and its defenses had not yet been fully constructed, enabling the enemy to destroy the heavy U.S. weapons almost immediately. After four hours of close combat, the attackers are driven off with help from artillery and aircraft support. Nine American soldiers are killed and another 29 wounded in one of the Taliban’s deadliest attacks of the war.

Posted on July 13, 2017 at 09:20 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
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July 10 in U.S. military history: ‘Chips’ the wonder dog, and the Akutan Zero

“Chips” earned the Silver Star and Purple Heart for his actions on July 10, 1943

1942: A PBY “Catalina” crew spots an intact Japanese A6M “Zero” fighter that crash-landed on the Alaskan island of Akutan. The fighter is salvaged and shipped to the United States, where test pilots will use the captured warplane to identify tactics that negate the formidable Zero’s advantages. The newly developed F6F “Hellcat” is modified to take full advantage of the Zero’s weaknesses discovered during tests, and Hellcat aviators will enjoy an impressive 13:1 kill ratio against Zeroes in the Pacific War.

1943: Just after midnight, paratroopers from the 82d Airborne Division perform their first combat jump behind enemy lines on the island of Sicily. That morning, over 100,000 American, British, and Canadian troops will hit on the beach in one of the biggest airborne and amphibious invasions of the war. The Allied force captures the island after six weeks of fighting, but is unable to prevent the withdrawal of many of the Axis forces.

“Chips,” a German Shepherd military police dog serving in Sicily with Company I, 30th Infantry Regiment, attacks a hidden German pillbox, forcing four enemy soldiers to surrender. Chips is wounded in the attack, but the canine will be awarded the Silver Star and Purple Heart by the 3rd Infantry Division’s commander, Maj. Gen. Lucian Truscott.

1950: North Korean forces clash with soldiers of the U.S. 24th Infantry Division in the Battle of Chochiwon. Two days of airstrikes against the approaching armored column of North Korean vehicles and infantry had seriously weakened the attackers, but the Americans are outnumbered and have antiquated equipment, and are quickly routed. The battle marks the first engagement of American and North Korean tanks, and the light M24 “Chaffee” tank proves no match for the heavier armor and guns of the Soviet-built T-34. The Americans mount a counterattack, and successfully delay the communist force for three days, resorting to hand-to-hand fighting before having to withdraw.

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June 27 in U.S. military history

A North American F-82F Twin Mustang from the 52d Fighter Group (All Weather) at Mitchel Air Force Base, N.Y.

[Originally published at OpsLens.com]

1864: After two months of flanking maneuvers, driving Confederate Gen. Joseph E. Johnston’s Confederate Army of Tennessee some 70 miles rearward, Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman launches a frontal assault at Kennesaw Mountain (near Marietta, Ga.). Casualties are heavy on both sides: 3,000 Union soldiers and 1,000 Confederates. Although Sherman’s assault was unsuccessful, Maj. Gen. John M. Schofield’s successful attack on Johnston’s left flank forces the Confederates to withdraw again towards Atlanta.

1942: Gen. Henry H. “Hap” Arnold presents 23 “Doolittle Raiders” with the Distinguished Flying Cross at a ceremony in Washington, D.C.’s Bolling Field. A week later, another three crewmembers are awarded their medals at Walter Reed Army Hospital.

That same day, the FBI announces it has captured all eight of the German military intelligence operatives that had landed in New York and Florida to sabotage American strategic targets. Six are tried by military tribunal and executed by electric chair while the two agents that cooperated with investigators are eventually released by President Harry S. Truman in 1948.

1950: Two days after the communist invasion of South Korea by the Soviet-backed North, the United Nations Security Council approves a resolution to “repel the armed attack and to restore international peace and security in the area.” Although 21 nations will provide support, the United States will send the vast majority of troops to the conflict. On this day, President Truman authorizes Naval and air operations south of the 38th Parallel and dispatches the 7th Fleet to Taiwan to prevent hostilities from spreading elsewhere in Asia.

Meanwhile, F-82 “Twin Mustang” fighters score three kills against North Korean fighters attempting to intercept a flight of C-54 “Skymaster” aircraft evacuating personnel from Gimpo Air Field – the first air battle of the Korean War. And P-80C “Shooting Star” fighter-bombers knock four more Korean fighters out of the sky in the Air Force’s first combat victory for a jet-powered aircraft.

1993: After a foiled assassination attempt on former President George H.W. Bush in Kuwait, the cruiser USS Chancellorsville (CG-62) and destroyer USS Peterson (DD-969) launch 23 cruise missiles at the Iraqi Intelligence Service’s command and control complex in Baghdad.

Posted on June 27, 2017 at 09:47 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
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June 26 in U.S. military history

[Originally published at OpsLens.com]

1862: Confederate forces led by Gen. Robert E. Lee launch 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 Mechanicsburg – the first major engagement of the Seven Days Battles – and abandon the Peninsula 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 War.”

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.

1944: U.S. 7th Corps captures the French port city of Cherbourg, taking the garrison commander Lt. General Karl-Wilhelm von Schlieben and the naval commander, Rear Admiral Walter Hennecke, prisoner. A pocket of Germans still control the vital port facilities, and Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Quentin R. Walsh leads a 53-man naval reconnaissance unit through hostile fire and assaults the naval arsenal, capturing 400 Germans. His force then moved to Fort Du Homet where he received the surrender of another 350 Germans, and released 52 American paratroopers that had been taken prisoner. For his heroic actions, Walsh is awarded the Navy Cross.

1948: When the Soviet Union cuts off West Berlin by sealing off highway and railroad routes, the U.S. Air Force begins the Berlin Airlift. American and other allied nations perform some 300,000 air-transport flights into West Berlin delivering an average of 5,000 tons of food, coal, and other essential items per day to the blockaded city until the Soviets relent a year later.

1950: A day after North Korean forces cross into South Korea, kicking off the Korean War, the destroyers USS De Haven (DD-727) and USS Mansfield (DD-728) evacuate 700 American and foreign nationals from Inchon.

1965: Gen. William Westmoreland is granted the authority to send American combat forces on offensive operations. Prior to this decision, U.S. forces primarily served in a defensive role at air bases and other installations.

Posted on June 26, 2017 at 11:15 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
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