Today’s post is in honor of Pfc. Gregory F. Ambrose, who was killed during a firefight on 15 March 1968 in the Republic of Vietnam’s Gia Dinh province. Pfc. Ambrose had served in Vietnam for just under a year, assigned to B Company, 1st Battalion, 18th Infantry, 1st Infantry Division and was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star Medal with Combat “V.”
1865: The war lost, Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee concludes, “There is nothing left for me to do, but to go and see Gen. [Ulysses S.] Grant, and I would rather die a thousand deaths.”
Lee formally surrenders the Army of Northern Virginia to Grant at the home of Wilmer McLean in the village of Appomattox Court House, Virginia. Still-operating Confederate forces will surrender within months.
1918: The famed 94th “Hat in the Ring” Aero Squadron moves up to the Croix de Metz Aerodrome in France, becoming the first American aviation outfit to enter combat. In May, Lt. Douglas Campbell becomes the first American-trained pilot to earn “ace” status, and fellow squadron mate Lt. Eddie Rickenbacker – who will ultimately become America’s top flying ace of World War I – scores his fifth victory in June.
1942: Having run out of food, ammunition, and supplies after months of fighting the Japanese, Maj. Gen. Edward P. King surrenders over 11,000 American and 60,000 Filipino forces under his command on Luzon Island to the Japanese. Immediately after the fall of Bataan, the Japanese begin bombarding Lt. Gen. Jonathan M. Wainwright and some 10,000 troops now isolated on the island fortress of Corregidor, who will manage to hold out for a month before they must surrender as well. Continue reading “9 April: This day in military history”
1865: A day after the Confederate government evacuates by rail, Union troops march into the Confederate capital of Richmond, Va. Retreating Soldiers and citizens set buildings on fire as they depart, and the conflagration will consume some 35 blocks of Richmond. It takes Union soldiers until the afternoon to contain the blaze. President Abraham Lincoln tours the captured city the next day.
The Civil War will be over in just six days.
1942: Japan’s 14th Army, led by Lt. Gen. Masaharu Homma, launches a major offensive against American and Filipino forces on the Bataan Peninsula. In six days, the 75,000 defenders, already weakened by starvation and disease, will have no choice but to surrender to the Japanese.
1946: Gen. Homma is convicted of nearly 50 counts of war crimes for his troops’ treatment of prisoners in the Bataan Death March, and is executed by firing squad. Continue reading “3 April: Today in U.S. military history”
1775: In a speech before the House of Burgesses, future Virginia governor (and colonel of the 1st Virginia Regiment) Patrick Henry exclaims, “Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!”
1776: As a force-multiplier for the fledgling Continental Navy, the Continental Congress authorizes the employment of privateers (privately owned and armed merchant ships) against “enemies of these United Colonies,” specifically Great Britain, her commercial shipping, privately owned vessels, and ships of the Royal Navy.
1815: Though the War of 1812 has officially ended – communications being what they are in the early 19th century – the Royal Navy sloop-of-war HMS Penguin under the command of Capt. James Dickenson engages the sloop USS Hornet (the third of eight so-named American Navy ships) under Capt. James Biddle off the South Atlantic archipelago Tristan da Cunha. The fighting is quick and hot: Both captains are wounded; Dickenson mortally. HMS Penguin surrenders in less than one-half hour. Continue reading “23 March: This Day in U.S. Military History”
1863: Confederate cavalry under the command of the famous — some might argue, infamous — Kentucky raider, Brig. Gen. John Hunt Morgan, strikes a sizeable Union reconnaissance force under Col. Albert S. Hall at Vaught’s Hill, Tennessee. Though outnumbered and surrounded, Hall’s hilltop position enables the colonel to beat back a series of attacks until Morgan — learning that Hall is to be reinforced with additional U.S. troops from Murfreesboro — is forced to disengage.
Though Vaught’s Hill was a defeat for Morgan, he was far from whipped.
1922: America’s first aircraft carrier, USS Langley (CV-1), is commissioned at Norfolk, Virginia. Converted from the coaling ship USS Jupiter that supplied ships during World War I, the “Covered Wagon” will again see action as a seaplane tender during World War II. But she will be so badly damaged in an action off Java in 1942, her escorts will be forced to scuttle her. Continue reading “20 March: This Day in U.S. Military History”
1945: The aircraft carrier USS Franklin sails to within 50 miles of the Japanese mainland – closer than any U.S. carrier during World War II. A lone Japanese bomber slips through the flattop’s defenses and hits Franklin with two armor-piercing bombs. The bombs detonate below the flight deck, igniting fires and devastating the ship. Around 800 sailors are killed and another 400 wounded – the highest casualties for a surviving ship during the war.
“Big Ben’s” death toll would have been far higher were it not for men like Lt. (j.g.) Donald A. Gary, who earned the Medal of Honor when he located a blacked-out mess compartment holding 300 trapped sailors. Gary made repeated trips through the ship, guiding the men to (relative) safety.
1989: The jointly developed Bell-Boeing V-22 Osprey makes its maiden flight. The U.S. military’s first tiltrotor aircraft will not enter service until 2007.
1992: Two F-15 Eagles intercept a pair of Russian Tu-95 “Bear” bombers near the Alaskan coast – the first such confrontation since the breakup of the Soviet Union. Continue reading “19 March: Today in U.S. Military History”