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16 October: Today in U.S. military history

L-R: Orlando, Bellavia, and Grilley

Today’s post is in honor of three 716th Military Police Battalion soldiers killed during a firefight in Karbala, Iraq on this date in 2003. Killed were Lt. Col. Kim S. Orlando (43, of Tennessee), SSgt. Joseph P. Bellavia (28, Wakefield, Mass.), and Cpl. Sean R. Grilley (24, San Bernardino, Calif.) Orlando was battalion commander and had served in the 1991 Persian Gulf War. Seven U.S. soldiers were wounded in the attack.


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 uprising does not materialize 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 Lee’s aide-de-camp, Lt. J.E.B. Stuart, to convince Brown to surrender, the Marines assault the barricaded fire station and bring an end to the crisis.

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The ‘Fightingest’ Skippers of the 7th Marines

Senior officers of 7th Marine Regiment at New Britain, January 1944. From left to right: Lt. Col. Odell M. Conoley (Commanding 2d Battalion), LTC Lewis B. “Chesty” Puller (Regimental Executive Officer), Col. Julian N. Frisbie (Regimental Commanding Officer), Lt. Col. Henry W. Buse Jr. (Commanding 3rd Battalion), Lt. Col. John E. Weber (Commanding 1st Battalion), and Capt. John E. Buckley (Commanding Regimental Weapons Company).

While researching the Battle of Cape Gloucester, I came across this photo of the 7th Marine Regiment’s commanders in January 1944. Granted, any group of officers that includes Chesty Puller (second from the left) has an epic advantage over the enemy, but when you consider these officers’ service records, it really shows how stacked this unit was, and perhaps why the 7th Marines were called the “fightingest outfit in the world.”

One Marine officer enlisted during World War I and served as a drill instructor (Frisbie)… two fought in Nicaragua (Puller and Frisbie)… Frisbie also faced rebels in the Dominican Republic… Puller saw action in Hayti… Two were China Marines (Conoley and Puller)… Two would later serve in Korea (Puller and Buse), and Buse also served during Vietnam… Continue reading “The ‘Fightingest’ Skippers of the 7th Marines”

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6 October: Today in U.S. military history

Today’s post is in honor of Pfc. Giles W. Stallard, who was killed during a firefight in the Republic of Vietnam’s Long An province on this day in 1968. The 19-year-old Saltville, Va. native had only been in country for a month and was assigned to B Company, 2d Battalion, 60th Infantry Regiment, 9th Infantry Division.


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.

Despite being 34 years old, “Harvard Eddie” volunteered to fight in World War I. He is buried at the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery and Memorial in France.

1918: In the Argonne Forest, German forces have surrounded 500 American doughboys of the 77th “Metropolitan” Division under the command of Maj. Charles W. Whittlesey after the French and American units advancing on their flanks are held up. With no communication other than carrier pigeons 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 Americans in a DH-4 Liberty Plane. On their second trip, both airmen are killed and are posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.

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 1st Battalion, 7th Marines trap a Japanese battalion in a ravine, creating what he called a “machine for extermination,” annihilating the force with a deadly combination of heavy artillery, mortar fire, and small arms fire. 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.

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Oct. 4: Today in U.S. military history

Today’s post is in honor of the four 3rd Special Forces Group soldiers who were killed during a reconnaissance patrol in Niger on this day two years ago: Staff Sgt. Bryan C. Black, 34 of Puyallup, Wa.; Staff Sgt. Jeremiah W. Johnson, 39 of Springboro, Ohio; Sgt. La David T. Johnson, 25 of Miami Gardens, Fla.; and Staff Sgt. Dustin M. Wright, 29 of Lyons, Ga.

Left to right: Black, Jeremiah Johnson, La David Johnson, and Wright

1777: A week after losing Philadelphia to the British, Gen. George Washington decides to surprise Gen. Sir William Howe’s force encamped at Germantown (Pa.). 11,000 Continental troops and militia have marched 16 miles through the night, and begin their assault at 5:30 a.m.. Although initially successful, heavy fog, insufficiently trained troops, and stiff British resistance unravel Washington’s coordinated assault and the attack falls apart. Washington’s army suffers over 1,000 casualties and will have to spend the winter at Valley Forge.

1821: Lt. Robert F. Stockton, veteran of the War of 1812 who also fought the Barbary pirates, sets sail from Boston to interdict the African slave trade. Stockton will help establish the country of Liberia, where thousands of former American slaves and free blacks are resettled. He will capture several slave ships on this cruise, of which he writes, “I have great satisfaction in the reflection that I have procrastinated the slavery of some 800 Africans, and have broken off this horrible traffic to the northward of Cape Palmas for at least this season.

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24 September: Today in U.S. military history

Today’s post is in honor of Army Sgt. Tyler N. Holtz, who was killed on this day in 2011 in Afghanistan’s Wardak province by enemy small-arms fire. The 22-year-old native of Dana Point, Calif. was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star and was serving his fourth tour in Afghanistan. Holtz was assigned to 2d Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment out of Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.


1780: Maj. Gen. Benedict Arnold learns that British spy Maj. John André has been captured, along with the evidence that would expose Arnold’s secret plot to turn West Point over to the British. He flees to the nearby sloop HMS Vulture, which carries him to New York. Gen. George Washington suggests a prisoner exchange: André for Arnold, but Gen. Henry Clinton refused. André is hanged and Arnold is commissioned as a brigadier general.

1918: U.S. Navy Ensign (future rear admiral) David S. Ingalls – on loan to the Royal Air Force and flying an RAF Sopwith Camel – shoots down enemy aircraft number five, becoming the first ace in U.S. Naval Aviation history, and the Navy’s only ace of World War I. Over the course of the war Ingalls is awarded the Distinguished Service Cross from the United States, a Distinguished Flying Cross from Britain, and made a member of the French Foreign Legion. When America enters World War II, he rejoins the Navy and will command the Naval Air Station at Pearl Harbor.

1929: Lt. James L. “Jimmy” Doolittle boards his Consolidated NY-2 Husky at Long Island’s Mitchel Field and buttons himself in a completely blacked-out cockpit. He becomes the first pilot to take off, fly, and land “blind” – having to relying solely on the aircraft’s (newly developed) instruments. Continue reading “24 September: Today in U.S. military history”