Posted in Military History

Today in U.S. military history: Boy Scouts go to war – and the moon, Cpl. Huff’s Medal of Honor

Today’s post is in honor of Cpl. Nathan B. Carse, who was killed by an improvised explosive device on this day in 2011 in Afghanistan’s Kandahar province. The 32-year-old native of Harrod, Ohio was the son of a Green Beret and was assigned to 2d Engineer Battalion, 176th Engineer Brigade.


1862: A day after 10,000 soldiers under the command of Brig. Gen. Ambrose Burnside, supported by a flotilla of Union gunships, land at Roanoke Island (N.C.), the Confederates surrender the island’s four forts and two batteries. Federal forces now control a strategically significant section of the Atlantic coast, and coupled with Gen. Ulysses S. Grant’s victory at Fort Henry in Tennessee two days ago, Northerners finally have something to cheer about.

1910: William D. Boyce incorporates the Boy Scouts of America. Countless boys will cut their teeth as young adventurers in Boyce’s scouting program before joining the military. When sub commander Eugene Fluckey – one of nine Medal of Honor recipients to earn the Boy Scouts’ top distinction of Eagle Scout — assembled a landing party to go ashore and destroy a Japanese train, he wanted former Boy Scouts to do the job, since they would most likely have the skills to find their way there and back.

11 of the 12 humans to set foot on the moon were Boy Scout alumni; and Neil Armstrong — the first — was an Eagle Scout.

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Today in U.S. military history: the first soldier in space

Today’s post is in honor of Spc. Allen D. Kokesh Jr. who was died on this day in 2006 from wounds sustained by an improvised explosive device attack on his vehicle in Baghdad. The 21-year-old from Yankton, S.D. was assigned to the South Dakota Army National Guard’s 1st Battalion, 147th Field Artillery.


1943: The submarine USS Growler (SS-215) spots the supply ship Hayasaki and begins a nighttime battle. The Japanese ship turns to ram the sub and rakes Growler‘s bridge with machine gun fire, wounding the skipper, Commander Howard W. Gilmore.

Unable to get off the bridge, Gilmore orders the crew to “Take her down!” — sacrificing his life to save his men. For his actions, Gilmore is awarded the Medal of Honor – the first of seven sub commanders to earn the nation’s top award for valor during World War II.

Meanwhile, the Imperial Japanese Navy completes Operation “Xe” – the evacuation of nearly 1,800 remaining troops from Guadalcanal. After six months of brutal fighting, nearly 15,000 Americans killed or wounded, and over 600 aircraft and dozens of ships lost, the island is now completely in American hands.

1965: Sappers cut their way through the defensive wires surrounding Camp Holloway in Pleiku, opening the way for 300 Viet Cong guerrillas to attack the helicopter base near Pleiku. Simultaneously, the VC attacks other nearby targets, killing eight Americans and wounding over 100, while destroying and damaging dozens of helicopters and planes. Pres. Lyndon Johnson orders a retaliatory strike, and 49 aircraft from the carriers USS Coral Sea (CV-43) and USS Hancock (CV-19) hit military targets along the de-militarized zone and in North Vietnam.

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Today in U.S. military history: ‘Broken Arrow’ — B-47 drops nuclear weapon after mid-air collision

1914: Austrian doctors examine a young Adolf Hitler, determining him unfit for service in the Austro-Hungarian military. Hitler will volunteer for the German army when war breaks out in August, serving as a runner for a reserve infantry regiment.

1918: U.S. Army Lt. Stephen W. Thompson, a member of the American 1st Aero Squadron, is invited by French aviators to fly in a French “Breguet” biplane bomber as a gunner on one of their missions. Thompson shoots down a German Albatross fighter over Saarbrucken, Germany, making him the first American in uniform to shoot down an enemy airplane.

Today, the U.S. Air Force’s 1st Reconnaissance Squadron traces its lineage back to the 1st Aero Squadron.

1943: President Franklin D. Roosevelt awards Maj. Gen. Alexander A. Vandegrift the Medal of Honor for his role as commanding general of the 1st Marine Division during the Guadalcanal campaign.

1944: Over Forges-les-Eaux, France, Oberstleutnant (Lt. Col.) Egon Mayer shoots down a P-47 Thunderbolt, becoming the first Luftwaffe pilot to shoot down 100 enemy warplanes entirely on the Western Front. Mayer is shot down and killed two days later while leading an attack on a B-17 formation over Sedan.

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World War II, 7th Infantry Division soldiers, Kwajalein Atoll, Operation FLINTLOCK
Posted in Military History

Today in Military History: a victory at Kwajalein

Today’s post is in honor of Sgt. Daniel Torres, who was killed by an improvised explosive device on this day in 2005 in Bayji, Iraq. The 23-year-old native of Fort Worth, Texas was assigned to 2d Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division.


1779: Continental Navy Capt. John Paul Jones takes command of the former French frigate Duc de Duras, renaming her Bonhomme Richard (after Benjamin Franklin’s pen name). It will be aboard the Richard — badly damaged and sinking during the famous battle in the North Sea with the Royal Navy frigate HMS Serapis on 23 September — that Jones refuses a surrender demand, allegedly replying, “I have not yet begun to fight!” It has also been widely reported that when the Serapis’ Captain Richard Pearson inquired as to whether or not Jones had lowered or struck his colors, Jones shouted back, “I may sink, but I’ll be damned if I strike!”

Incidentally, Bonhomme Richard (the first of five so-named American warships) does sink. But not before Pearson himself surrenders (believed to be “the first time in naval history that colors are surrendered to a sinking ship”), and Jones transfers his flag to his newly captured prize, Serapis.

Jones is destined to become “the Father of the American Navy,” though some argue that the title belongs to Commodore John Barry.

1787: Shays’ Rebellion — a short-lived Massachusetts uprising led by former Continental Army Capt. Daniel Shays, spawned by crippling taxes and an economic depression in the wake of the American Revolution — is quashed by Massachusetts militia.

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Today in U.S. military history: America strikes back at Japan

Today’s post is in honor of Staff Sgt. Roger C. Turner Jr., who was killed during an enemy mortar attack on this day in 2004 at Camp Anaconda, Iraq. The 37-year-old from Parkersburg, W. Va. was assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, 1st Squadron, 10th Cavalry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division.


1800: The frigate USS Constellation (the first of four so-named American warships) under the command of Capt. Thomas Truxtun defeats the French frigate La Vengeance under Capt. F.M. Pitot in a night battle lasting several hours. The engagement, fought during America’s Quasi War with France, is – according to Truxtun – “as sharp an action as ever was fought between two frigates.”

1862: Julia Ward Howe’s poem “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” which begins “Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord,” is published in the Atlantic Monthly. It will become a Union Army ballad. Today, the ballad is a martial hymn sung in American military chapels worldwide and by descendants of Union and Confederate soldiers alike.

1941: The 1st Marine Brigade is re-designated as the 1st Marine Division, and the 2d Marine Brigade becomes the 2d Marine Division — marking the first time Marine units are ever organized on the division level.

1942: (Featured image) Vice Adm. William Halsey Jr.’s Task Force 8 (USS Enterprise) hits Japanese facilities in the Marshall Islands, while Rear Adm. Jack Fletcher’s Task Force 17 (USS Yorktown) attacks the Gilberts. Aircraft and naval artillery inflict moderate damage to the Japanese garrisons and sink several smaller vessels. The Marshalls-Gilberts Raids mark the first American offensive operation against the Japanese during the war in the Pacific.

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Today in U.S. military history: Apollo 14, and human shields in Iraq

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.

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Today in U.S. military history: The Great Raid

Today’s post is in honor of Sgt. Alejandro Carrillo, who was killed during combat operations on this day in 2007 in Iraq’s Anbar province. The 22-year-old from Los Angeles was on his second deployment to Iraq and was assigned to Combat Logistics Battalion 7, Combat Logistics Regiment 1, 1st Marine Logistics Group, I Marine Expeditionary Force.


1862: The U.S. Navy’s first ironclad ship, USS Monitor, is launched at Greenpoint, N.Y. Designed by Swedish engineer John Ericsson, the turreted gunship will make history in March when she trades shots with the Confederate ironclad Virginia (a vessel built from the previously scuttled USS Merrimac) in a duel that ends with a draw at Hampton Roads, Virginia.

1942: A formation of over 50 Japanese bombers target Singapore harbor — unprotected by either fighters or anti-aircraft guns. Among the enemy bombardiers’ targets is USS Wakefield, a former luxury ocean liner, until her conversion to a troop transport in 1941. Wakefield had just disembarked 20,000 British troops, destined to surrender in just two weeks when Singapore falls to the Japanese.

Five Coast Guardsmen perish during the attack — the service’s first casualties of World War II. After some quick repairs, Wakefield loads about 500 women and children fleeing the Japanese and carries them to Sri Lanka.

USS Wakefield, which until June 1941 was the United States Lines’ SS Manhattan

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Today in U.S. military history: The Battle of Khafji

Today’s post is in honor of Pfc. Scott A. Schroeder, who was one of several Marines killed on this day in 1991 during the Battle of Khafji (see below.) The 19-year-old from Wauwatosa, Wisc. was assigned to the 3rd Light Armored Infantry Battalion.


1863: Following a series of clashes between white settlers and the Shoshone Indians, Col. Patrick E. Connor’s 3rd California Volunteer Infantry Regiment attacks a Shoshone encampment in Washington Territory (present day Utah-Idaho border). Hundreds of Shoshone and 21 Union soldiers are killed in the Battle (or massacre) of Bear River.

1943: As Task Force 18 brings American replacement troops to Guadalcanal, Japanese land-based torpedo bombers attack the flotilla, sinking the heavy cruiser USS Chicago (CA-29) and damaging a destroyer. The American warships withdraw after the Battle of Rennell Island – the last major naval engagement of the Guadalcanal campaign – opening the door for the Japanese evacuation of Guadalcanal.

1944: Maj. Gen. James H. “Jimmy” Doolittle’s Eighth Air Force bombers and escorts take off from fields across England for their largest bombing mission of the war to that point. Over 800 B-17s and B-24s target the German cities of Frankfurt and Ludwigshaven. 29 heavy bombers are lost and another five are shot up badly enough to be scrapped after limping back across the channel. 22 American airmen are killed and 299 are listed as missing in action, but the gunners and P-38 Lightning, P-47 Thunderbolt, and P-51 Mustang escort pilots claim over 150 German warplanes and damage dozens more.

Eighth Air Force B-17s in formation. This bomber was one of 19 bombers shot down during a massive 1,100-bomber raid on Leipzig on 20 July 1944. Liberty Run was crippled by flak and crashed south of Aschaffenberg, Germany on 20 July 1944. The “A” inside the triangle on the tailfin shows that this bomber belongs to the 1st Combat Wing’s 91st Bomb Group (Heavy), flying out of RAF Bassingbourn.

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