Military History by Month
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
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
descendents of Union and Confederate soldiers alike.
1942: 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 are the first American offensive
operation against the Japanese during the war in the Pacific.
1944: Maj. Gen. Harry Schmidt's 4th Marine Division lands at Kwajalein
Island and Roi-Namur. Of the 8,000 original Japanese defenders, only 300 are
captured when the islands are secured after three days of combat.
1961: The "Minuteman I" intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) — the first
three-staged, solid-fueled ICBM — is launched for the first time in a
successful "all systems" test. The Boeing-manufactured missile can carry a 1.3
megaton thermonuclear warhead over 5,500 miles.
2003: The doomed Space Shuttle Columbia (STS-107) disintegrates upon
reentering the earth's atmosphere, killing all seven crewmembers. Aboard are
Col. Rick D. Husband (USAF), Cmdr. William C. McCool (USN), Lt. Col.
Michael P. Anderson (USAF), Capt. David M. Brown (USN), Capt. Laurel
Clark (USN), Israeli Air Force Col. Ilan Ramon, and Kalpana Chawla, a
civilian mission specialist.
1848: Representatives of the United States and Mexico sign the Treaty of
Guadalupe Hidalgo, officially ending the Mexican-American War. According
to the Library of Congress, the treaty "[extends] the boundaries of the United
States by over 525,000 square miles. In addition to establishing the Rio Grande
as the border between the two countries, the territory acquired by the U.S.
included what will become the states of Texas, California, Nevada, Utah, most
of New Mexico and Arizona, and parts of Colorado and Wyoming."
1901: Congress authorizes the establishment of the Army Nurse Corps under
the Army Medical Department.
1943: The last remnants of Field Marshal Friedrich Paulus' encircled Sixth
German Army surrender to the Soviets. Of the army's 250,000 men at the
beginning of the Battle of Stalingrad, 147,000 are killed and 91,000 captured.
Only 5,000 will survive the war and return to Germany.
1945: As the 124th Cavalry Regiment (incidentally, the U.S. Army's last
remaining horse cavalry unit) battles to recapture the Burma Road, the
troopers assault a 400-foot hill near Loi-Kang, Burma, that is heavily
defended by Japanese soldiers. 1st Lt. Jack L. Knight spearheads the advance,
singlehandedly taking out two machine gun nests and multiple bunkers.
Knight was blinded, exhausted, and mortally wounded by a grenade, but still
continued the charge as his men inflicted heavy casualties on the Japanese. For
his charge at "Knight's Hill," he was posthumously awarded the Medal of
1801: The U.S. Senate ratifies the Mortefontaine treaty, officially ending the
Quasi War with France.
1961: The U.S. Air Force's Strategic Air Command (SAC) launches its EC-135
flying command post — codenamed "Looking Glass" — in order to maintain
seamless and secure command-and-control of U.S. nuclear forces in the event
ground-based command-and-control is wiped out in a nuclear attack. "Looking
Glass" aircraft will be airborne 24/7 for the next three decades. According to
the U.S. Strategic Command (which replaced SAC): "On July 24, 1990,
Looking Glass ceased continuous airborne alert, but remained on ground or
airborne alert 24 hours a day."
Today, the U.S. Navy's E-6B Mercury is America's "Looking Glass."
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
1942: After unloading ammunition for U.S. and Filipino forces for the Battle
of Bataan, the submarine USS Trout (SS-202) requests ballast to replace the
tonnage she dropped off. Supplies like concrete and sandbags are unavailable,
and sailors instead load the sub with 38 tons of gold bullion and silver coins
that had been emptied from Filipino banks. Trout fights her way out of the
Philippines, sinking a Japanese freighter and patrol boat before they sail for
1944: (Featured image) After three days of combat, Marines and soldiers of
Maj. Gen. Holland M. "Howlin' Mad" Smith's V Amphibious Corps have
secured Kwajalein Atoll. Only 300 of the 8,000 Japanese defenders are
1945: The Big Three -- U.S. Pres. Franklin D. Roosevelt, British Prime
9 Minister Winston Churchill, and Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin -- meet at the
Crimea Conference (best known as the Yalta Conference) to discuss among
other points what was to become of soon-to-be conquered Germany and the
nations the Nazis had previously defeated.
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 in a reserve infantry
regiment as a runner.
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 Getman 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.
1958: A F-86 "Sabre" collides with a B-47 "Stratojet" bomber piloted by Maj.
Howard Richardson during a simulated combat exercise. The Sabre pilot ejects
and the B-47's wings are severely damaged, forcing an emergency landing.
Before the bomber can land safely, the crew jettisons the 7,600-lb. Mark 15
hydrogen bomb off the coast of Savannah, Ga. before landing at Hunter Air
The Pentagon tells the public that the weapon's nuclear capsule was removed
prior to the mission and therefore presents no threat.
1787: Representatives of the French and U.S. governments sign the Treaty of
Amity and Commerce and the Treaty of Alliance in Paris. France recognizes
the United States as an independent nation and provides much-needed military
1802: Congress authorizes President Thomas Jefferson to arm U.S. ships to
defend against Barbary pirates in the Mediterranean.
1832: Marines and sailors aboard the USS Potomac (the first of five so named ships) attack pirates from the village of Quallah Batoo, Sumatra
(present-day Indonesia) following the massacre of a U.S. merchant vessel in
1862: In northwestern Tennessee, a Union Naval flotilla commanded by Flag
Officer (a temporary rank which soon is replaced by the grade of
Commodore) Andrew H. Foote and a force commanded by Brig. Gen. Ulysses
S. Grant converge upon Fort Henry. The plan is for Foote's warships and
Grant's troops to attack simultaneously, but heavy rains and water from the
swollen Tennessee River force the Confederates to surrender the flooding fort
to Foote before Grant can arrive. The capture of the poorly engineered Fort
Henry is the first major Union victory of the Civil War.
1945: Army Air Force B-24 and B-29 bombers begin attacking Iwo Jima in
preparation for the upcoming landing. Believing that the massive Naval and
aerial bombardments have wiped out most of the island's defenders, Adm.
Chester Nimitz says "Well, this will be easy. The Japanese will surrender Iwo
Jima without a fight." What the American war planners don't know that the
Japanese have dug some 11 miles of tunnels on the island, including an
elaborate network of underground command centers and barracks, pill boxes,
1967: In North Vietnam's Mu Gia Pass, Airman Second Class Duane D.
Hackney volunteers to be lowered from a HH-3E "Jolly Green Giant" rescue
helicopter into the jungle - despite the presence of enemy forces - to locate a
downed pilot. The Pararescueman comes up empty on the first attempt, but
finds the pilot on a second sortie. During the flight home, the helicopter is hit
by ant-aircraft fire. Hackney gives the pilot his own parachute, then looks for
another for himself. Before Hackney can strap on the chute, the "Jolly Green"
is hit again, forcing the crew to jump.
For his actions, Hackney becomes the first living recipient of the Air Force
Cross. He will go on to become the highest awarded enlisted man in Air Force
history, earning 28 decorations for combat valor.
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
1965: North Vietnamese sappers attack the Camp Holloway helicopter base ,
killing eight, wounding over 100, and destroying over a dozen helicopters and
planes. The attack prompts Pres. Lyndon Johnson to strike back by ordering
the bombing of military targets along the de-militarized zone and in North
Vietnam. However, the Soviet premier Alexei Kosygin is in Hanoi during the
attacks, and the Soviet Union uses the timing of Johnson's retaliation as an
opportunity to increase military aid to North Vietnam.
1984: Space Shuttle Challenger astronauts Bruce McCandless (Capt., USN)
and Robert L. Stewart (Brig. Gen., USA) are the first humans to "walk"
untethered in space, using nitrogen-powered Maimed Maneuvering Units.
Stewart, a helicopter pilot with over 1,000 hours combat experience before
joining NASA, becomes the first soldier to receive the Astronaut Badge.
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.
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 be able to
find their way back.
11 of the 12 humans to walk on the moon were Boy Scout alumni; and Neil
Armstrong — the first — was an Eagle Scout.
1980: Following the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan, President Jimmy
Carter (formerly a lieutenant in the Navy's submarine service) announces his
intent to reinstate draft registration. Carter's decision comes just four years after
Pres. Gerald Ford (Eagle Scout and Naval officer during World War II) ended
mandatory draft registration.
1991: A Marine reconnaissance unit in occupied Kuwait gives the Iowa-class
battleship USS Wisconsin (BB-64) her first call for fire support in nearly 50
years. The 16-in. guns fire 29 rounds at Iraqi artillery positions, infantry
bunkers, and a mechanized unit.
1799: In the Caribbean, the American frigate Constellation spots the larger
and more heavily armed French frigate L'Insurgente and gives chase. After
pursuing the French vessel through a storm, Capt. Thomas Truxtun - one of
the first six Naval officers appointed by President George Washington -
manages to force his counterpart into a clash that lasts over an hour, with
Constellation inflicting heavy casualties and capturing the ship in the United
States' first naval engagement since the end of the Revolutionary War.
1942: Gen. George Marshall (Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army), Gen. Henry
"Hap" Arnold (Chief of Army Air Forces), Adm. Harold Stark (Chief of
Naval Operations), and Adm. Ernest King (Commander in Chief, United
States Fleet) meet to discuss better coordination between the Navy and War
Departments - the first formal meeting of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS).
Today, the President of the United States appoints a chairman, vice-chairman,
four service chiefs, and the head of the National Guard to JCS. Their mission
is to advise the White House on military matters.
1965: In response to the Viet Cong attack on Camp Holloway two days
before, President Lyndon Johnson orders the deployment of a Marine Corps
surface-to-air missile battalion to Vietnam. The Marines, which will be
stationed at Da Nang Air Base, are the first U.S. troops sent to Vietnam in a
1972: 173 years after Constellation's victory in the Caribbean, the Kitty Hawk class aircraft carrier Constellation arrives off the coast of Vietnam. Connie (the fourth so-named vessel to serve the U.S. Navy) is one of three U.S.
carriers operating in theater, until four more flattops are sent to Vietnam
during the North Vietnam Army's Easter Offensive, which begins in March
1935: As the Navy's helium-filled rigid airship USS Macon (ZRS-5) flies
through a storm, its tail fin and interior structural members are destroyed,
puncturing the massive vessel's helium cells. The "flying aircraft carrier,"
which houses five Curtiss F9C-2 "Sparrowhawk" reconnaissance planes,
crash-lands in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Point Sur, Calif, and all but
two of the airship's 76-man crew are saved.
The 785-ft. Macon and her sister ship Akron (which crashed in 1933) are the
largest aircraft ever produced by the United States - just 20 feet shorter than
the ill-fated Hindenburg, which will famously be lost in 1937. Incidentally,
Macon's commanding officer, Lt. Cmdr. Herbert Wiley, was Akron's
executive officer and one of only three men to survive that crash.
1947: The USS Cusk launches a KGW-1 "Loon" missile, which is a reverseengineered German V-1 flying bomb, becoming the first U.S. submarine to
fire a guided missile.
1991: The Pentagon announces that U.S. warplanes have flown 65,000 sorties
during Operation DESERT STORM. The battleship USS Missouri (BB-63)
fires 60 of its 16-in. projectiles in support of a combined-arms attack against
Iraqi infantry, armor, artillery, and a command bunker in southern Kuwait.
1861: When Chiracahua Apaches capture a 60-man force of 7th Infantry t
soldiers in Arizona Territory, Col. Bernard J.D. Irwin, an assistant surgeon,
volunteers to lead 14 soldiers on a daring 100-mile rescue mission. With no
horses available, the men of the 1st Dragoons (today's 1st Cavalry Regiment)
must start their journey on mules, and Irwin's force fight their way to the
beleaguered soldiers and help break the siege.
While the Medal of Honor is not created until 1862, and Irwin isn't decorated
until just before his retirement (as brigadier general) in 1894, his actions make
him the first man to earn the Medal of Honor.
1917: Over Pensacola, Fla., Capt. Francis T. Evans (USMC) becomes the first
aviator to perform a loop in a seaplane. His Curtiss N-9 stalls after the
maneuver and Evans barely manages to save the plane before splashing into
the Gulf of Mexico. The techniques he discovers while recovering from the
stall are still used by pilots to this day. In 1936, Evans is awarded the
Distinguished Flying Cross for his feat, which the plane's manufacturers said
was not possible.
1945: Over the next three days, 1,300 Royal Air Force and US Army Air
Force heavy bombers drop 3,900 tons of bombs on Dresden, Germany,
creating a firestorm that killed 25,000 Germans.
That same day in the Philippine Islands' Luzon Straight, the crew of the
submarine USS BaOsh (SS-310) sinks RO-113 - accomplishing the incredible
feat of sinking three enemy subs in just 76 hours.
1965: President Lyndon Johnson gives the go-ahead for Operation "Rolling
Thunder," the bombing campaign to interdict the flow of Communist troops
and supplies from North Vietnam. The first strikes will begin in just over two
weeks and when the campaign finally ends in 1968, American warplanes will
have dropped nearly 650,000 tons of munitions - at the cost of over 900 U.S.
1968: In response to the TET Offensive, Pres. Johnson orders the deployment
of 10,500 82d Airborne Division soldiers and a regimental landing team from
the 5th Marine Division to Vietnam and discusses the possibility of calling up
tens of thousands more Reservists and former service members in the event of a
second Communist offensive.
2010: Helicopters bring wave after wave of American, Afghan, and other
coalition forces into the Taliban stronghold of Marjah, in Afghanistan's
Helmand Province. Some 15,000 troops will participate in the Battle of
Marjah, and the city is not declared secure until December. 45 American
service members will perish during the operation.
1778: The Continental sloop-of-war Ranger (the first of 10 so-named
American warships) under the command of Capt. John Paul Jones fires a 13-
gun salute to French Adm. Toussaint-Guillaume Picquet de la Motte's fleet
anchored in France's Quiberon Bay. The French return the salute with nine
guns. It is the first time America's new flag — "the stars and stripes" — is
officially recognized by a foreign power.
1814: The American frigate USS Constitution, commanded by Capt. David
Porter, captures Lovely Ann, a British armed merchant vessel, and HMS
Pictou, a Royal Navy schooner, within hours of each other. The crew of "Old
Ironsides" will capture two more vessels over the next five days.
1912: USS E-1 (SS-24), the U.S. Navy's first diesel-powered submarine, is
commissioned in Groton, Connecticut. The sub is skippered by an almost 27-
year-old Lt. Chester W. Nimitz, destined to become the famous five-star fleet
admiral of World War II.
1945: As the destroyer USS Fletcher (DD-445) supports amphibious landings
at Corregidor in the Philippines, a Japanese 6-in. coastal defense gun nails the
ship's forecastle and ignites a fire in the Number 1 magazine. Knowing that he
may only have seconds to extinguish the fire before it kills the ship, Water
Tender Second Class Elmer C. Bigelow dives into the blazing compartment
without the putting on breathing apparatus. He saves the ship, but at the cost
of his life. For his actions, Bigelow is posthumously awarded the Medal of
1991: Air Force Captains Tim Bennett and Dan Bakke score the only air-toair kill for the F-15E "Strike Eagle" of Operation DESERT STORM: when
responding to a distress call from a Special Forces unit, the air crew spots a
Iraqi Mil Mi-24 "Hind" helicopter unloading soldiers. They fire a 2,000-lb.
laser-guided bomb at the gunship, and the resulting blast "shoots down" the
helicopter, which was reportedly some 800 feet above the ground.
1862: A week after Brig. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant and Flag Officer Andrew H.
Foote capture Fort Henry, the combined force has besieged nearby Fort
Donelson (Tenn.). The Confederate defenders manage to drive off Foote's
gunboats, but are surrounded by Grant's soldiers. On this date, Brig. Gen. John
B. Floyd attempts a breakout, hoping to open an escape route to Nashville.
Grant's men drive the Confederates back to the fort, and the next day accepts
the surrender of some 12,000 soldiers.
After his victories at Forts Henry and Donelson, Grant has given the North
control of both the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers in the first major
victories for the Union. He earns the nickname "Unconditional Surrender"
Grant and a promotion to major general.
1898: A terrific explosion rips through the bow of USS Maine anchored in
Havana Harbor, Cuba. Within minutes, 260 U.S. sailors and Marines are dead.
Convinced that the explosion (the cause of which is still being debated) is the
result of a mine or the work of Spanish saboteurs, American newspapers will
demand vengeance. America will soon be at war with Spain.
1944: When the Fifth Air Force attack planes and bombers target the Papua
New Guinea island of New Ireland, several planes are shot down. Lt. Nathan
G. Gordon and his eight-man PBY "Catalina" seaplane crew are dispatched to
rescue the downed airmen. Despite very rough seas and being targeted by
heavy, close-range enemy fire, Gordon and his crew make multiple landings
and pick up 15 officers and men.
Gordon is awarded the Medal of Honor and his crew are each awarded the
In Italy, 254 B-17 and B-25 bombers of the Twelfth Air Force destroy the
centuries-old abbey atop Monte Cassino. Believing the Germans had been
using the historic landmark as an observation post, General Sir Harold
Alexander, the Commander-in-Chief of Allied Armies in Italy, had ordered its
destruction. Although the Germans avoided using the site before the bombing,
they did move into the ruins following its destruction.
After several bloody assaults on Monte Cassino, the Allies fmally prevail in
May, but at the cost of well over 50,000 casualties.
1804: U.S. Navy Lt. (future commodore) Stephen Decatur sails a captured
Tripolitan ketch he renames USS Intrepid into the harbor at Tripoli. There,
Decatur and a volunteer force of sailors and Marines board the frigate USS
Philadelphia (the second of six so-named American warships), which had
been previously captured by Tripolitan pirates. After a brief but violent closequarters struggle — in which several pirates but no Americans are killed
Decatur orders the Philadelphia burned.
1945: 2,000 American paratroopers jump over the Philippines' "fortress
---- Corregidor" in one of the most difficult airborne operations of the war. For
the next 11 days, the Americans will root out the enemy from a labyrinth of
caves and tunnels and beat back multiple banzai attacks before wiping out
almost all of the 6,500-man enemy garrison.
1953: Marine aviator - and future baseball Hall of Famer - Capt. Ted Williams
crash-lands his crippled Marine Corps F9F "Panther" fighter at Suwon's K-13
airstrip. During a massive 200-plane raid on a troop encampment, Williams
was hit by enemy ground fire which knocked out his instrument panel, landing
gear, and hydraulic system; damaged his control surfaces; and set the plane on
fire. Rather than eject, Williams brings the plane down on its belly and skids
down the runway for over a mile before the mortally wounded plane comes to
Williams, often flying as the wingman for future Mercury astronaut John
Glenn, walks away with just a sprained ankle and goes on to fly 38 more
missions over Korea before returning to baseball for good (he also flew in
the Pacific Theater during World War II).
1864: The Confederate submarine H.L. Hunley sinks the Federal sloop-of-war
USS Housatonic in Charleston (S.C.) harbor, becoming the first submarine in
history to sink an enemy warship in action. It is a pyrrhic victory however: the
submarine also sinking — either with its victim or soon after the attack — with
the loss of all hands.
1865: Columbia, S.C. falls to Union Army forces under the command of
Maj. Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman.
1944: U.S. Marines land and quickly capture Engebi island, the first obstacle
to seizing Eniwetok Atoll in the Marshalls. The following day, U.S. Army
forces strike Eniwetok — a tougher fight — and soldiers and Marines seize
the island in three days.
1945: Following 74 days of aerial bombardment - the longest pre-invasion
attacks of the war - two U.S. Marine divisions begin hitting the beach on Day
One of the epic battle for Iwo Jima. Of the 21,000 Japanese diehards
defending Iwo, all but around 200 are killed. Almost 7,000 Marines will lose
their lives. Another 26,000 will be wounded.
Gunnery Sergeant John Basilone, who had earned the Medal of Honor on
Guadalcanal, gives his life on this day. During the fierce two-month battle, 22
Marines will earn the nation's highest award for valor, along with five Navy
Corpsmen and one Naval landing craft officer
1942: Considered to be "one of the most daring, if not the most daring, single
action in the history of combat aviation" at the time, Lt. Edward "Butch"
O'Hare - flying a F4F "Wildcat" from the deck of the USS Lexington (CV-2) -
single-handedly shoots down five Japanese Mitsubishi G4M "Betty" bombers
and severely damages a sixth. O'Hare becomes the Navy's first ace of the war
and is awarded the Medal of Honor.
1944: U.S. Army Air Forces and Britain's Royal Air Force begin Operation
ARGUMENT, a massive thousand-plus bomber offensive aimed at destroying
the German Air Force and Luftwaffe manufacturing facilities to achieve
irreversible air superiority before the Normandy landings. Allied losses during
the "Big Week" will be high. German losses will be staggering.
1962: Nearly five hours after blasting off from Cape Canaveral, Fla. in an
Atlas LV-3B rocket, U.S. Marine Lt. Col. John H. Glenn Jr.'s Friendship 7
splashes down in the Atlantic Ocean and is recovered by the destroyer USS
Noa. Glenn has just become the first American to orbit the Earth - doing so
three times during his historic spaceflight.
Prior to becoming one of the original "Mercury Seven" astronauts, Glenn flew
over 50 combat missions in the F4U "Corsair" fighter during World War II and
90 missions in F9F "Panther" and F-86 "Sabre" jets during the Korean War,
scoring three victories against enemy MiG-15s. As a military test pilot, Glenn
flew the first-ever supersonic transcontinental flight, and at the age of 77,
returned to space in 1998 aboard Space Shuttle Discovery, becoming the oldest
person to fly in space.
2008: The guided-missile cruiser USS Lake Erie launches a modified SM-3
surface-to-air missile at a malfunctioned satellite that was about to re-enter
Earth's atmosphere. Although designed to intercept ballistic missiles, the
SM-3 hits the satellite, which was traveling at 17,500 miles per hour, some
130 miles above the Pacific Ocean.
1945: As Task Force 58's carrier-based planes fly close air support for the
Marines fighting on Iwo Jima, Japanese kamikaze pilots target the flattops. One
plane hits the escort carrier USS Bismarck Sea (CVE-95), igniting the ship's
magazines. Once crews have nearly contained the blaze, another kamikaze
slams into the ship and disables the firefighting system. Bismarck Sea is
destroyed, killing 318 officers and men, and is the last American carrier sunk in
the war. Japanese suicide tactics also damage USS Saratoga (CV-3), killing
On the killing fields of Iwo Jima, described to by one correspondent as a
"nightmare in hell," Lt. Col. Justice M. Chambers, Capt. Robert H. Dunlap,
Sgt. Ross F. Gray, Capt. Joseph J. McCarthy, and PFC Donald J. Ruhl will —
each earn the Medal of Honor on this date.
1961: As the "Mercury Seven" astronauts begin their final phase of training,
NASA selects Alan Shepard (USN), "Gus" Grissom (USAF), and John Glenn
(USMC) as the pilots that will fly the United States' first missions to space.
1991: During Operation DESERT STORM, Marine Attack Squadron 331
begins flying the first-ever AV-8B "Harrier II" operations from a landing
helicopter assault ship, the USS Nassau (LHA-4). During the campaign, Harrier
pilots would fly 3,380 flights (243 by Nassau aviators) with the loss of five jets
and two Marine pilots.
Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf will name the Harrier as one of the seven most
valuable weapons systems of the war.
2001: At Nevada's Nellis Air Force Base, a General Atomics RQ-1 "Predator"
busts a tank with an AGM-114 "Hellfire" missile during testing, marking the
first armored kill by an unmanned aerial vehicle.
1847: Although outnumbered more than three-to-one, Maj. Gen. Zachary
Taylor 4,500-man force defeats Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna in the Battle of
Buena Vista. During the engagement, an artillery battery led by Capt. Braxton
Bragg - who goes on to become a Confederate general - plugs a gap in the
American lines, and is instrumental in the victory.
Although historians call it a misquote, Taylor's order of "Give them a little
more grape, Capt. Bragg," (meaning load the cannons with double the
"grapeshot" used to cut down infantry charges) becomes a famous campaign
slogan, helping carry Taylor to the White House and making a hero out of
Commanding a regiment of Mississippi volunteers is Colonel Jefferson Davis,
the former son-in-law of Gen. Taylor. Davis will be offered a commission as a
brigadier general in the U.S. Army following the war, which he turns down. He
does go on to a career in government, serving as a U.S. congressman, senator,
and the Secretary of War.
1862: 15 years to the day after being wounded at Buena Vista, Jefferson Davis
is inaugurated as the Confederacy's first official president. Davis had been
serving as the provisional president.
1909: Pres. Theodore Roosevelt's "Great White Fleet" — a four-squadron
armada of white-painted warships manned by some 14,000 sailors and
Marines — returns to Hampton Roads, Virginia after sailing around the
world in a grand show of American Naval power.
1942: Pres. Franklin Roosevelt orders Gen. Douglas MacArthur, America's
only general with experience fighting the Japanese, to leave the Philippines.
MacArthur had previously informed his superiors that he would "share the
fate of the garrison" at Corregidor. He delays the trip as long as possible,
departing by PT boat on March 11.
1967: The U.S. Army's 173rd Airborne Brigade conducts the first and only
mass parachute jump of the Vietnam War. The jump is but one element of the
much broader airborne (primarily heliborne assault) and infantry "search and
destroy" operation, Junction City. The operation will continue through May.
1974: Lt. J.G. Barbara Ann Allen Rainey pins on her wings, becoming the
first female Naval aviator. Rainey is assigned to a transport squadron, flying
C-1 "Trader" planes .In 1982, she will be killed in a crash while training a
1778: Baron Friedrich von Steuben, a Prussian Army officer — arguably the
father of American drill instructors — arrives at Valley Forge with the task
of whipping the Continental Army into shape.
1836: The advance elements of a 4,000-plus-man Mexican army under the
command of Gen. Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna begin the siege of the
isolated Texas Army garrison at the Alamo mission near (now part of presentday) San Antonio, Texas, during the Texas War of Independence.
The Alamo's approximately 200-man garrison will be wiped out nearly to a
man when the Mexicans storm the mission on March 6.
1847: During the Mexican-American War, a Mexican army under Santa Anna
launches a series of attacks against a numerically inferior U.S. Army force
under the command of Gen. (and future president) Zachary Taylor near Buena
Vista. Though surprised and outnumbered, the Americans beat back the
Mexicans who are forced to withdraw with heavy losses.
1942: The Japanese submarine 1-17 surfaces off the Santa Barbara (Calif.)
Coast and attacks the Ellwood Oil Field. The sub's 5.5-inch gun inflicts
minimal damage, but the incident causes an invasion scare along the Pacific
coast and leads to the internment of Japanese-American citizens.
1945: After several days of savage fighting, U.S. Marines capture the summit
of Mt. Suribachi on Iwo Jima. Just after 10:30 a.m., a small flag is raised on
Suribachi. But an officer orders a larger flag be hoisted so that it might be seen
from the far end of the island.
1991: A Marine patrol engages a group of 12 Iraqi tanks, destroying four with t
TOW missiles. The surviving tanks flee, but are targeted by artillery and air
support. The Pentagon announces that by this date 1,685 Iraqi tanks, 925
alinored vehicles, and 1,450 artillery pieces have been destroyed.
In defiance of their mandate to withdraw from Kuwait within 24 hours, Iraq
announces "We will never surrender. A lot of Americans will die." In one day,
the ground campaign of Operation DESERT STORM will begin. And in just
100 hours, it will be over.
1813: The sloop-of-war USS Hornet (the third of eight so-named American
warships) under the command of Capt. James Lawrence sinks the Royal Navy
brig HMS Peacock in a swift action in which Peacock's skipper, Capt.
William Peake, is killed.
1991: At 4:00 a.m. the lead elements of the enormous coalition ground force
— surges forward into Iraq and Kuwait aimed at ousting Saddam Hussein's army
from Kuwait. President George H.W. Bush will order a ceasefire on the 28th.
The 42-day "mother of all battles" (38 days for the initial air campaign and four
days for the ground campaign) will end.
1779: Following an arduous campaign through freezing floodwaters, a joint
American-French force under Virginia militia Lt. Col. George Rogers Clark
captures British-held Fort Sackville at Vincennes in the Illinois backcountry.
1949: Lucky Lady II, a U.S. Air Force B-50 "Superfortress" bomber flown by
Capt. James Gallagher and his 13-man crew, takes off from Fort Carswell
(Tex.) on their first leg of the first-ever nonstop flight around the world. The
flightcovers 23,452 miles in 94 hours and 1 minute, requiring mid-air
refuelings over the Azores, Saudi Arabia, the Philippines, and Hawaii.
After Gallagher touches down, Air Force General Curtis LeMay announces
that his Strategic Air Command bombers can reach "any place in the world
that required the atomic bomb." Unfortunately one of the KB-29 tankers from
Clark Field in the Philippines crashes after fueling the Lady, killing all 9
1955: As North American Aviation test pilot Charles F. Smith tests an F-100
"Super Sabre" prior to the fighter's delivery to the Air Force, his controls
freeze up, sending the fighter into a dive. Smith ejects at 777 miles per hour
and becomes the first airman to punch out of a aircraft traveling at supersonic
speeds (Mach 1.05). He is subjected to over 40 G's during violent
deceleration, which destroys much of his parachute. The unconscious pilot
lands in the Pacific Ocean, remarkably less than 100 yards from a former
Naval rescue worker on his fishing boat. Smith will spend the next seven
months in the hospital recovering.
1991: Although Saddam Hussein refers to it as a withdrawal and not a retreat,
his forces are being routed in Kuwait by the American-led ground campaign -
only in its third day. Far from being the "Mother of All Battles" that the Iraqi
dictator predicted, 21 of his divisions are either destroyed or are no longer
combat effective. Meanwhile, a Marine reconnaissance unit enters Kuwait
City, the first American outfit to reach the Kuwaiti capital.
That evening, a large column of Iraqi Army vehicles heading north along
Highway 80 are targeted by Marine A-6 "Intruder" aircraft. The attack planes
hit the first and last vehicles, boxing in the column. Over the next ten hours,
coalition aircraft hammer the hundreds of trapped vehicles, creating a swath of
destruction known as the "Highway of Death."
1942: A flotilla of 14 Dutch, British, Australian, and American ships suffers a
disastrous defeat at the hands of a much-larger Japanese invasion force in the
Battle of the Java Sea. 11 vessels are sunk and over 3,000 sailors are killed in
Meanwhile, the seaplane tender USS Langley (AV-3) - America's first aircraft
carrier - is sunk by Japanese land-based aircraft while ferrying P-40
"Warhawk" attack planes to Java.
1963: Test pilots from the Hughes Tool Company (Aviation Division)
conduct the first test flight of their Model 369 prototype helicopter, which will
become the OH-6 "Cayeuse" helicopter when it enters service with the Army in
1966. The light observation helicopter will soon see service in Vietnam, and the
special operations/attack variants (IV11-1-6 and AH-6) are still flying to this
1991: The 1st Marine Division captures Kuwait International Airport and the
2nd Marine Division has cut off any further egress routes from Kuwait City.
29 Iraqi combat divisions have either been destroyed or are combat
ineffective, and 50,000 troops have surrendered to coalition forces. The
Pentagon announces that after the massive tank Battles of 73 Easting and
Norfolk - which resulted in the loss of thousands of Iraqi tanks, armored
vehicles, and artillery pieces - that Iraq's military is no longer a valid regional
Although outnumbered two-to-one by a dug-in enemy, which was at the time
the world's fourth-largest military, the U.S. military has devastated Saddam
Hussein's forces, with only 28 U.S. troops killed in action and less than 100
wounded. At 9:00pm Eastern, President George H.W. Bush declares that
"Kuwait is liberated. Iraq's army is defeated." At midnight, coalition forces
begin a ceasefire.
Just 100 hours into the ground campaign and six weeks after the air campaign
began, Operation DESERT STORM is over.
1844: As the screw steamship USS Princeton carries President John Tyler,
members of his Cabinet, and some 400 other guests on a demonstration cruise
up the Potomac River, Capt. Robert F. Stockton fires the massive 12" gun,
nicknamed "Peacemaker," which explodes. Shrapnel flies through the crowd
killing seven onlookers, including Secretary of State Abel P. Upshur,
Secretary of the Navy Thomas W. Gilmer.
1864: Brig. Gen. Hugh Judson Kilpatrick leads 3,500 Union cavalry troopers
around Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee's flank and heads south towards
Richmond (Va.). His mission is to free Union prisoners of war, but despite
supporting raids to distract Lee's troops, including one by a detachment of
cavalry led by Brig. Gen. George A. Custer, Kilpatrick finds the area too
heavily defended and a detachment of his men are ambushed. Confederates
doctor a captured set of orders taken from a dead Union officer to read that the
Union men intended to burn Richmond and kill President Jefferson Davis and
Rather than hang the captured Union troopers, Gen. Lee urges calm and
contacts his counterpart Gen. Robert Meade under a flag of truce, who
confirms the orders were merely to rescue POWs. 324 of Kilpatrick's soldiers
are killed or wounded in the raid and another 1,000 are taken prisoner.
1893: The U.S. Navy launches its first "true battleship," USS Indiana (BB-1).
The 350-foot-long vessel required a crew of 32 officers and 441 men, and
featured two twin 13"/35 cal. Mark 1 guns, four twin 8"/35 cal. guns, and
dozens of batteries of smaller calibers. Indiana was designed to be used in
close proximity to the coasts, and quickly became obsolete after the SpanishAmerican War.
1994: Two pairs of U.S. Air Force F-16 "Fighting Falcons" conduct the first
combat operation in NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) history,
when the fighters engage a flight of Serbian Air Force attack aircraft on a
bombing mission in the no-fly zone. Capt. Robert G. "Wilbur" Wright (whose
wingman was Capt. Scott O'Grady - who is shot down and rescued the
following year) shoots down three enemy aircraft, and Capt. Stephen L.
"Yogi" Allen claims one.
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
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, frmx-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.
1783: Nine days after the British evacuate New York City, Gen. George
Washington bids farewell to his fellow Continental Army officers over a turtle
feast at Fraunces Tavern. Washington tells them that "With a heart full of love
and gratitude, I now take leave of you. I most devoutly wish that your latter
days may be as prosperous and happy as your former ones have been glorious
1861: Jefferson Davis is elected President of the Confederate States of
America. Previously, Davis served as a junior officer in the U.S. Army
following graduation from the U.S. Military Academy. During the MexicanAmerican War, he raised a volunteer infantry regiment and became its
colonel. President James Polk will offer Davis a federal commission as
brigadier general, which he will turn down.
1941: PBY "Catalina" patrols report that a flotilla of 30 transports at the
Indochina (Vietnam) port of Cam Ranh Bay have disappeared. Marine Fighter
Squadron 211, having just been delivered to Wake Island by the carrier USS
Enterprise immediately begin their patrols, as the carrier returns to Hawaii.
The Pearl Harbor attack schedule is dispatched to the Japanese submarine
fleet, and a destroyer squadron sets out for the Japanese invasion of Guam.
1942: B-24 "Liberator" bombers of the 12th Air Force bomb Naples,
marking the first time U.S. aircraft target Italy.
1950: While flying a search-and-destroy mission during the Battle of the
Chosin Reservoir, Ensign Jesse L. Brown - the Navy's first black aviator -
is shot down. His wingman, Lieutenant Junior Grade Thomas J. Hudner, Jr.
crash-lands his Corsair and feverishly attempts to rescue the seriously
injured Brown. A helicopter arrives to rescue the downed pilots, but the
men are unable to extricate the mortally wounded Brown from the plane.
For his actions, Hudner is awarded the Medal of Honor.
1965: A Titan H rocket carrying Lt. Cmdr. James Lovell (USN) and Mai
Frank Borman (USAF) blasts off from Cape Canaveral. The Gemini VII
crew will spend the next 14 days in space, doubling the amount of time
humans, have spent in space - a record that will stand for the next five years.
1941: USS Lexington (CV-2) departs Pearl Harbor loaded with Marine dive
bombers destined for Midway Atoll, leaving no carriers at the base (USS
Enterprise departed for Wake on Nov. 28). The mission saves the aircraft
carrier from destruction in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Meanwhile,
Japanese submarines, having been informed of the Pearl Harbor attack
timetables the day before, have surrounded the Hawaiian islands. And, prior
to their surprise invasion of the Philippines, Japanese planes conduct
reconnaissance flights of Luzon Island's coastline.
1943: The Eighth Air Force conducts their first bombing mission against
secret German V-1 and V-2 launch sites as part of Operation "Crossbow.
1945: A squadron of five Navy Avenger torpedo bombers departs Fort
Lauderdale, Fla. for a flight over the so-called "Bermuda Triangle" in the
Atlantic Ocean. Two hours later, the lead pilot radios that both of his
compasses have malfunctioned and that their position is unknown, with other
4 planes reporting similar problems. Four hours after takeoff, a message is heard
ordering pilots to prepare for ditching their aircraft. A rescue operation is
launched, and a Mariner search-and-rescue aircraft is also lost. Hundreds of
ships and planes are unable to find any trace of the men or aircraft.
1950: Pyongyang, Korea falls to the invading Chinese army. Meanwhile, the
aircraft carrier USS Princeton (CV-37) arrives off the coast of Korea to
provide air support to US troops retreating from Chinese forces.
1964: President Lyndon Johnson presents Army Capt. Roger H.C. Donlon
the first Medal of Honor of the Vietnam War in ceremonies
at the White House. Capt. Donlon led a Green Beret team as they defended
against a reinforced Viet Cong battalion near Laos on July 6, 1964.
1846: Gen. Stephen Watts Kearney's U.S. Army of the West, accompanied by
a small detachment of mounted rifle volunteers commanded by Marine Lt.
Archibald Gillespie, attack Mexican "Californios" in the Battle of San
Pasqual, near present-day San Diego. Both sides claimed victory and the
engagement became one of the bloodiest of the Mexican-American War.
1917: A German U-boat torpedoes the destroyer USS Jacob Jones off the
coast of England, which becomes the first U.S. destroyer to be sunk by a
1941: After an Australian scout plane spots a Japanese fleet near the Malayan
Coast, the Allies presume that the Japanese plan to invade Thailand. However,
British intelligence intercepts a radio signal warning to the Japanese fleet to be
Thn full alert, prompting advisers to question whether the move is a diversion.
Meanwhile, Admiral Yamamoto tells his First Air Fleet "The rise or fall of
the empire depends upon this battle. Everyone will do his duty with utmost
efforts." Also, the Japanese fleet departs Palau for the invasion of the Philippines.
1950: American forces — primarily leathernecks of the now-famous 1st
Marine Division, a few American soldiers, and a handful of British
commandos — begin their epic "fighting withdrawal" from Hagaru-ri to
Koto-ri and on to Hamnung, during the breakout from the Chosin Reservoir,
Korea. At Koto-ri, a few officers express concern that their vastly
outnumbered, bloodied, freezing, near-starving columns might not survive the
final trek to Hamnung. As the UN orders communist forces to halt at the 38th Parallel, U.S.
and Australian planes kill an estimated 2,500 enemy troops.
1961: The U.S. Air Force is authorized to begin combat operations in Vietnam
- provided they carry a Vietnamese national with them for training purposes.
1967: When his company was attacked by a battalion-sized enemy force in
South Vietnam's Bien Flea Province, U.S. Army chaplain, Capt. Charles J.
Liteky moved multiple times through heavy enemy fire to deliver last rights to dying
soldiers and aid to wounded soldiers. Despite incoming small arms and rocket
fire, Liteky stood up multiple times in order to direct the incoming helicopters
to the landing zone. During the engagement, he would carry 20 wounded
soldiers to the landing zone for evacuation. For his actions, Liteky is awarded
the Medal of Honor.
1968: The Navy launches Operation "Giant Slingshot" to interdict the flow
of men and weapons flowing through the Mekong Delta from the
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 Saarlautem.
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. Ceman and Ronald E. Evans, and Harrison H.
Schmitt - a civilian geologist.
1941: As Japanese warplanes continue to hammer Allied bases across Asia
and the Pacific, President Franklin D. Roosevelt famously declares Dec. 7 as
"a date which will live in infamy," asking Congress to declare war on Japan -
which they will do in a matter of hours. The United Kingdom, Canada,
Australia, New Zealand, and numerous other governments also declare war on
Japan. Eyeing the destruction from USS Enterprise (CV-6) as the aircraft carrier
steams into Pearl Harbor, he says that "Before we're through with 'em, the
Japanese language will be spoken only in hell."
Col. William W. Ashurst (USMC) is captured and surrenders his remaining
"China Marines" will be held as prisoners until the end of the war. Also in
China, USS Wake becomes the only U.S. warship to surrender during World
War II, when the Japanese capture the river patrol gunboat and her crew by
surprise while the ship is at anchor. A Japanese invasion fleet departs
Kwajalein Atoll, and in three days will assault Wake Island.
In the Philippines, Japanese forces land at Bataan Island, as enemy air strikes
take out roughly half of the American warplanes on Luzon Island.
Meanwhile, Adolf Hitler declares war on the United States, ordering his naval
forces to begin attacking U.S. shipping. Although the Chinese have been
fighting Japan for over four years, China formally declares war against Japan -
and Germany - on this date.
1942: Considered "perhaps the greatest individual success of American PT
boats during the war," eight PT boats engage - and turn around - a force of
eight Japanese destroyers on a mission to supply soldiers on Guadalcanal
1965: 150 Air Force and Navy warplanes begin conducting the covert
Operation "Tiger Hound", strikes against North Vietnamese Army infiltration
routes along the Ho Chi Minh Trail in Laos. The campaign will continue until
1968, when it becomes part of Operation "Commando Hunt."
2012: Chief Petty Officer (SEAL) Edward C. Byers, Jr. earns the Medal of
Honor during a mission to rescue an American doctor who had been captured
1992: 1,800 U.S. Marines land on the beaches of Somalia to restore order to
the war-torn country. Backed by the Marines, aid workers are soon able to —
restore humanitarian aid to civilians.
1941: When a Japanese submarine reports the sighting of the aircraft carrier
USS Enterprise (CV-6) northeast of Hawaii, Japanese vessels still in the area
are ordered to attack. Meanwhile, one of Enterprise's bombers spots the
submarine 1-70 and drops a 1,000-1b. bomb, nearly missing the sub but
knocking out its ability to submerge. Later another SBD Dauntless attacks 1-
70, sending the sub to the bottom - the first fleet submarine lost by the
Japanese and the first to be sunk by aircraft during World War II.
Off the coast of Malaya, the British battleship HMS Prince of Wales and
battle cruiser HMS Repulse become the first capital ships sunk solely by air
power during the war, of which Winston Churchill would later say, "In all
the war I never received a more direct shock. [...] There were no British or
American capital ships in the Indian Ocean or the Pacific except the
American survivors of Pearl Harbor who were hastening back to California.
Over this vast expanse of waters Japan was supreme and we everywhere
were weak and naked."
Over the Philippines, a PBY Catalina is attacked by three Japanese
Mitsubishi A6M Zeros. Chief Boatswain Earl D. Payne shoots down one,
marking the first (verified) air-to-air kill of a Japanese plane. Meanwhile,
Capt. Henry T. Elrod shoots down a Mitsubishi G3M "Rikko" bomber over
Wake Island - the first aerial victory for the Marine Corps. Elrod will soon
earn the Medal of Honor for sinking a destroyer, and is killed on the ground
while defending Wake.
The Naval Governor of Guam, Capt. George J. McMillin (a veteran of the
Dominican Republic occupation, Veracruz campaign, and two World Wars),
surrenders the island when 7,000 Japanese land on the island and overwhelm
Also on this day, the United States conducts its first heavy bombardment
mission of the war, targeting Lt. Gen. Masaharu Homma's 14th Japanese
krmy as they land on Luzon.
1954: At Holloman Air Force Base, Lt. Col. John P. Stapp straps into a rocket
sled and blasts off to a speed of 632 miles per hour, becoming the "fastest man
on earth." However, the more noteworthy of his ride was his sudden
deceleration - experiencing 46.2 G's as he stopped. This test demonstrated the
possibility of pilots to eject from supersonic aircraft.
1941: The small American garrison on Wake - consisting of a few hundred
Marines, sailors, and civilian contractors - repels a Japanese invasion force
seeking to capture the island. As coastal defense guns hammer the incoming
warships, sinking one destroyer and damaging several others, the island's four
remaining F4F-3 "Wildcat" fighters take off to intercept a flight of Japanese
warplanes. Despite being heavily outnumbered, Marine Capt. Henry T. Elrod
will shoot down two aircraft before he and his fellow aviators set their sights
on the Japanese ships. Elrod becomes the first pilot to sink a ship, when his
bombs detonate the depth charges on Kisaragi. The destroyer goes down with
— all hands.
* That same day, Adolf Hitler declares war on the United States. Although Nazi
Germany and Japan had signed an agreement stating that Germany would
come to Japan's aid if they were attacked, Germany was under no such
obligation since Japan was the aggressor. However, and with virtually no
consultation with his staff, Hitler declares war against the United States
anyways. Within hours, Congress responds with a unanimous declaration of
war against Germany.
1954: The world's first "supercarrier", USS Forrestal, is launched. The
conventionally powered aircraft carrier is the first U.S. flattop built with an
angled flight deck and steam catapults, and is the first designed to operate jet
aircraft. With an overall length of over 1,000 feet, Forrestal' was the largest
warship built at the time.
1961: At Saigon harbor, the aviation transport ship USNS Core unloads 33
U.S. Army H-21C "Shawnee" helicopters, which are the first American
helicopters deployed to Vietnam. The crews' mission will be to transport
South Vietnamese soldiers into combat.
1753: 21-year-old Virginia adjutant George Washington delivers an
ultimatum for French forces to abandon Fort Le Boeuf (present-day
Waterford, Penn.) as they were trespassing on British territory.
Lt. Christopher Gist, Washington's guide, would save the future president's
life twice during on their trip through the Ohio Country.
1770: The British soldiers responsible for the Boston Massacre are acquitted.
Future president John Adams is their lawyer.
1937: As the gunboat USS Panay and three Standard Oil tankers work to
evacuate U.S. citizens and Standard Oil employees from Nanking, China, the
vessels are attacked and sunk by the Japanese during the Second SinoJapanese War.
1953: Maj. (future Maj. Gen.) Chuck Yeager pilots the Bell X-1A to Mach
2.44 (1648 mph), setting a speed record (for straight-wing aircraft on level
flight) that still stands today. However, the X-1 tumbles out of control and falls
some 50,000 feet in just over a minute. Yeager manages to recover and is able
to land the aircraft.
1985: As members of the 101st Airborne Division return from Egypt
following a peacekeeping mission, the DC-8 civilian airliner carrying them
crashes shortly after takeoff, killing 248 soldiers. While officials state the
cause of the incident is ice accumulation, Islamic Jihad - the Hezbollahassociated group that carried out the deadly attack on the Marine barracks in
Beirut two years prior - declares that they brought down the plane.
1992: Less than a week after U.S. forces arrive in Somalia for a humanitarian
aid mission, Marine Corps Cobra helicopter gunships destroy a Somali armed
vehicle, marking the first combat action of Operation "Restore Hope."
1636: The Massachusetts General Court in Salem orders the creation of a
militia, requiring all able-bodied men between the ages of 16 and 60 join, to
defend the colony if necessary. Three regiments are created: the North
Regiment - today's 181st and 182nd Infantry Regiments; the East Regiment -
today's 101st Engineer Battalion; and the South Regiment - today's 101st Field
Artillery Regiment. The National Guard is born.
1918: The U.S. Army of Occupation crosses the Rhine and enters Germany.
1951: Air Force pilot George A. Davis Jr. shoots down four MiG-15 jets, the largest one-day total of
the Korean War. Davis was the war's first double ace (10 kills), shooting down
a total of 14 Chinese, Korean, and Soviet jets (adding to seven Japanese planes
shot down during World War II), but he would later become the only ace to be
killed during the conflict and will be posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.
1966: U.S. aircraft bomb the North Vietnamese capital of Hanoi and
Haiphong harbor for the first time, targeting oil facilities.
1970: U.S. forces return from Cambodia, bringing an end to President Richard
Nixon's limited incursion. Some 30,000 Americans and 50,000 South
Vietnamese troops had been deployed, making the two-month mission the
largest combat operation in the Vietnam War since 1967's "Junction City".
1974: Just north of Saigon, the North Vietnamese Army attacks Phuoc Long
Province in a "test" attack. South Vietnamese resistance is ineffective and the --
United States does nothing. In coming weeks, North Vietnamese forces will
capture Saigon and South Vietnam surrenders unconditionally.
2003: Some 600 members of the Fourth Infantry Division, along with special
operators from Task Force 121, conduct a massive search for the deposed Iraqi
dictator Saddam Hussein when intelligence suggests he is hiding near his
hometown of Tikrit. Operation "Red Dawn" is about to come up empty-handed,
but with helicopters enroute to pick up the team, one of the operators discovers
a "spider hole" hidden under a section of flooring, where Saddam had been
hiding. Although armed with an AK-47 and a Glock handgun, he surrenders
without a fight.
1799: George Washington passes away at Mount Vernon. The former
president and commander-in-chief of the Continental Army was 64.
1924: The battleship USS Mississippi (BB-41) launches a Martin MO-1
observation plane by using its forward turret as an explosive-powered
1941: While a Japanese sub shells the Hawaiian Islands, Vice Adm. Wilson
Brown's Task Force 11 departs Pearl Harbor, attempting to divert the Japanese
fleet from their attack on Wake Island. The fleet consists of the aircraft carrier
USS Lexington, three cruisers, and nine destroyers.
1944: Congress creates the temporary, five-star grades of Fleet Admiral and
General of the Army. Admirals William Leahy, Ernest King, and Chester
Nimitz are promoted to the new rank within days, as are Generals George
Marshall, Douglas MacArthur, Dwight Eisenhower, and the Army Air Force's
Henry "Hap" Arnold (who in 1947 will become the only "General of the Air
Force"). William Halsey, the United States' last fleet admiral, will pin on his
fifth star on December 11, 1945. And during the Korean War, Gen. Omar
Bradley becomes the last man promoted to the elite rank.
1961: President John F. Kennedy informs President Ngo Dinh Diem that the
United States would increase military aid and expand our military ---
commitment to South Vietnam. Upon their return from a fact-fmding mission,
Gen. Maxwell D. Taylor and Special Assistant for National Security Affairs
Walt W. Rostow recommend that Kennedy send helicopters, aircraft, military
advisors, and support personnel. They also suggested the secret deployment of
8,000 troops for combat operations. Kennedy will implement all but the combat
1964: U.S. warplanes attack targets of opportunity in northern Laos in the first
strikes of Pres. Lyndon B. Johnson's top-secret Operation "Barrel Roll". The
air campaign is intended to interdict the flow of communist supplies along the
Ho Chi Minh Trail, but also becomes a close air support campaign against
Pathet Lao and North Vietnamese forces. Over time, neutral Laos will become
the most heavily bombed country in the world.
1972: After Apollo 17 commander - and U.S. Navy captain - Eugene Ceman
sets the unofficial lunar speed record at 11.2 mph on the Lunar Rover, Cernan
becomes the last human to set foot on the moon.
1862: Union Army Maj. Gen. Ambrose E. Burnside ends his disastrous series
of frontal attacks against Gen. Robert E. Lee's well-entrenched Confederate
forces along Marye's Heights during the Battle of Fredericksburg. It is during
the battle that Lee — emotionally moved by the valor of the Federal Army,
which, despite terrible losses, attacks his impregnable position time-and-again
— says, "It is well that war is so terrible, lest we grow too fond of it."
1864: Gen. John Bell Hood's Confederate Army of Tennessee is routed in the
Battle of Nashville by a Union army under command of Gen. George Thomas.
After the battle, Hood's once formidable army would no longer be an effective
1944: A plane carrying Maj. Glenn Miller, leader of the world-famous "Glenn
Miller Orchestra" prior to World War H, disappears in bad weather over the
English Channel. Miller volunteered for service and led the Army Air Force
Band from 1942 until his disappearance.
Meanwhile, Lt. Gen. Alexander Patch's Seventh Army enters Germany.
1945: During the American occupation of Japan, Gen. Douglas MacArthur
orders the end of Shintoism as the state religion, which viewed Emperor
Hirohito as a divine authority.
1948: The Navy and State Department sign a memorandum establishing the
Marine Security Guard program for U.S. embassies across the world.
1950: As UN forces withdraw south of the 38th Parallel, the F-86 "Sabre"
makes its combat debut in Korea. Considered to be perhaps the best aircraft of
the Korean War, F-86 pilots claimed nearly 800 MiG-15 kills during the
conflict, at the cost of only 78 Sabres. In fact, all but one of the 41 United
States aces during the Korean War were Sabre pilots.
1964: The AC-47, the Air Force's first gunship, makes its combat debut in
1965: American bombers conduct their first major attack against North
Vietnamese industrial targets, destroying a power plant north of Haiphong that
supplied 15 percent of the country's electricity.
Meanwhile, Walter M. Schirra (USN) and Thomas P. Stafford (USAF) blast
off aboard Gemini VI. The crew test rendezvous procedures in space with
Gemini VII, which had already been in space for several days.
1967: During a firefight in South Vietnam's Binh Dinh province, Specialist
Allen J. Lynch crosses a kill zone multiple times, killing
numerous enemies, in order to carry three wounded comrades to safety. As his
company withdraws from the numerically superior enemy, Lynch remains
behind with the wounded - after crossing the kill zone several more times to
carry the casualties to a safer location, and then single-handedly defends the
position for two hours until another company mounts a counterattack and the
men are evacuated.
1969: President Richard Nixon announces that 50,000 U.S. troops will be
withdrawn from Vietnam.
1944: A massive German Army force — composed of SS Panzer (SS armored
units), Volksgrenadier (infantry), Panzergrenadier (armored infantry), and
Fallschirmjager (paratroopers) ___ burst through the snow-covered Ardennes
Forest and smash headlong into the weakest stretch of the Allied frontlines in
The attack — which will become known as the Battle of the Bulge (because of
the temporary bulging salient the German thrust will create in the Allied lines)
— is a last ditch gamble on the part of the Germans, a surprise
counteroffensive aimed at cutting American and British forces in half;
crossing the Meuse River; encircling, isolating, and destroying Allied armies
west of the Meuse; and perhaps reaching the North Sea. It is not to be.
Despite the initial shock along a 60-to-70-mile front — and a 50-mile-deep
penetration — German forces will quickly find themselves running up against
giants of men like Gen. Anthony McAuliffe's diehard paratroopers of the
crack 101st Airborne Division, who — though surrounded, outnumbered,
outgunned, freezing, and nearly starving to death — refuse to surrender the
strategically vital highway hub at Bastogne.
The battle, which will last until Jan. 28, 1945, will prove to be the largest land
battle in western Europe during World War II, and it will be a decisive
American victory. But it will not be without heavy losses: 19,000 American
soldiers will be killed out of 81,000 total U.S. casualties in five weeks.
1903: Brothers Orville and Wilbur Wright pilot the first heavier than air
machine. The Wright Flyer travels 120 feet in the air over the sand dunes of
Kitty Hawk, N.C., staying aloft for 12 seconds. The aviators will make three
nore flights that day. The modem aviation age is born.
1947: 44 years to the day after the Wright Brothers' first flight, the world's first
swept-wing bomber makes its first flight - thanks in part to research captured
from German scientists in World War II. The Boeing B-47 Stratojet becomes
the cornerstone of the newly-formed Strategic Air Command until its
retirement in 1965.
1947: Boeing's XB-47 prototype, the world's first swept-wing bomber, makes
its first flight. The six-engine B-47 "Stratojet" will serve as Strategic Air
Command's front line nuclear bomber from 1951 through 1965, staged at
forward operating bases across the globe and on advanced alert at all times.
While the B-47 never sees combat, three RB-47s (reconnaissance models) will
be shot down by the Soviets during overflight missions in the 1950s and early
1902: Pres. Theodore Roosevelt orders Adm. George Dewey to take the U.S.
—North and South Atlantic Squadrons and sail to Venezuela, in order to
prevent blockading European navies from waging war against Venezuela over
1927: A day after a Coast Guard vessel accidentally rams - and sinks - the
submarine USS S-4 (SS-109) off Cape Cod, Navy divers are rushed to the
scene. Chief Gunner's Mate Thomas Eadie learns by tapping on the hull that
six sailors remain alive. When fellow diver Fred Michels attempts to attach a
line pumping fresh air into the sub, which lies 100 feet below the surface, his
own air line is fouled. Although exhausted from his previous dives - for which
he will receive his second Navy Cross - Eadie quickly dives again and
manages to save Michels after two hours of grueling work. Unfortunately, bad
weather prevents the divers from saving the sub's sailors in time, but Eadie is
awarded the Medal of Honor.
1944: In the Philippine Sea, Adm. William "Bull" Halsey's Task Force 38
sails directly into Typhoon "Cobra". The 100 mph-plus winds and high seas --
capsize and sink three destroyers, while heavily damaging a cruiser, five
aircraft carriers, and three destroyers. The deadly storm claims the lives of 790
U.S. sailors and destroys over 100 planes, leading to the creation of a Naval
weather center and typhoon tracking center on Guam the following year.
Over China, nearly 300 B-29s Superfortress, B-24 Liberator, and B-25
Mitchell bombers - accompanied by P-51 Mustang escorts of the 14th Air
Force - attack the Japanese Army's expeditionary base at Hankao, igniting
supply fires that will burn for three days.
1965: Two days after the aircraft carrier USS Wasp recovers Gemini VI
astronauts Walter M. Schirra (USN) and Thomas P. Stafford (USAF) in the
first-ever televised landing of a spacecraft, the crew of Gemini VII - Frank
Borman (USAF) and Jim Lovell (USN) - splash down safely in the Atlantic
just 11 miles away from Wasp.
1972: On the first day of President Richard Nixon's Operation "Linebacker II"
bombing campaign, an enemy MiG-21 "Fishbed" locks on to a B-52 following
their bomb run and closes in. Tail gunner Staff Sergeant Samuel 0. Turner
opens fire with the bomber's quad .50-caliber machine guns, blasting the MiG
out of the sky and scoring the first tail gun kill for the B-52. Turner is awarded
the Silver Star for saving his crew and his bomber now sits on display at
Fairchild Air Force Base in Washington.
1777: 18 miles northwest of Philadelphia, Gen. George Washington's
Continental Army establishes its winter camp at Valley Forge. 2,500 of the
original force of 12,000 would not survive the winter thanks in part to harsh
weather conditions, disease, supply shortages, and malnutrition. Over the
winter, the Prussian drillmaster - later, Washington's Chief of Staff - Baron
Friedrich von Steuben drills the Americans, greatly increasing their combat
effectiveness and morale.
1862: Confederate cavalry under Brig. Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest --
dismantle the Mobile and Ohio railroad tracks around Jackson, Tenn.,
delaying Union Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant's drive to Vicksburg.
1941: After the Battle of Moscow, Adolf Hitler fires Field Marshall Walther
von Brauchitsch, the commander-in-chief of Nazi Germany's armed forces for
their highly successful campaigns across most of Europe. Hitler appoints
himself as von Brauchitsch's replacement.
1944: At the Siegfried Line in southern Germany, all members of Tech Sgt.
Robert E. Gerstung's heavy machine gun squad are killed or
wounded, Gerstung keeps his gun firing, braving eight hours of intense tank,
artillery, and mortar fire. When he runs out of ammunition, he crosses
the killzone to retrieve more ammunition, and later, another weapon when his
malfunctioned. When the order was given for the Americans to withdraw,
Gerstung provided the only covering fire for the unit. He is awarded the Medal
of Honor for his actions.
1972: After spending a record 75 hours on the moon's surface, Apollo 17
astronauts Eugene A. Cernan (Capt., USN and the last human to set foot on
the moon), Ronald E. Evans (Capt., USN), and civilian geologist Harrison H.
Schmitt splash down in the South Pacific, just four miles from the recovery
ship USS Ticonderoga.
2000: The UN Security Council votes to impose sanctions on the Taliban in
Afghanistan, directing them to close terrorist training camps and to hand over
Osama bin Laden, who was suspected in attacks against United States
2001: Fires that had been burning for over three months under the rubble of
the World Trade Center are finally declared to be extinguished.
2003: Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi halts his nuclear, biological, and
chemical weapons programs after secret negotiations with the United States
1860: Delegates meeting in Charleston, S.C. unanimously adopt the ordinance to
dissolve ties with the United States; South Carolina has become the first state to
secede from the Union.
1941: Flying in support of the Nationalist Chinese in combat against the
Japanese, the 1st American Volunteer Group - better known as the "Flying
Tigers" - enters combat for the first time. Out of the ten Japanese bombers
intercepted, nine are shot out of the sky by the AVG's P-40 "Warhawks".
Thanks to innovative tactics skipper Claire Chennault learned from observing
the more nimble Japanese fighters prior to America's entry in the war, Flying
Tigers would rack up an incredible 296 victories during the 18 months of
combat, while only losing 14 pilots.
Across the Pacific, the battleships USS Pennsylvania, USS Maryland, and USS
Tennessee depart Pearl Harbor for a nine-day journey to shipyards on the West
Coast to repair damage suffered during the Pearl Harbor attack.
1943: 30,000 feet over the North Sea, Staff Sgt. Forrest L. "Woody" Vosler 's B-17 is damaged and forced to leave the
formation after a bombing raid on Bremen, Germany. Despite his own
wounds, the radio operator left his station to man a machinegun when the
tailgunner is wounded. Blinded by shrapnel, Vosler repairs his radio - by
touch - in order to send a distress signal as the damaged plane was about to
ditch in the frigid waters of the North Sea. For his lifesaving actions, Vosler
receives a promotion and is awarded the Medal of Honor.
1989: Less than a week after Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega declares
that a state of war exists between his country and the United States, over
27,000 US troops and 300 aircraft invade Panama to protect American lives
and overthrow Noriega. In two weeks, Noriega's Panama Defense Forces are
defeated, the country has a new (democratically elected) president, and
Noriega surrenders to the U.S. military.
1992: During Operation "Restore Hope", 300 American Marines and
Belgian paratroopers hit the beaches of the Somalian port city of Kismayo in
the first combined amphibious assault since the Vietnam War.
1861: President Abraham Lincoln signs a bill creating a "Medal of Honor" for
enlisted sailors and Marines who "distinguish themselves by their gallantry and
other seamanlike qualities during the present war." The Army version of the
medal is signed into law the following summer.
1866: In the biggest defeat on the Great Plains until Little Big Horn, Crazy
Horse tricks Capt. William J. Fetterman into leading an ad hoc force outside
the walls of Fort Phil Kearny, where the 78 soldiers and two civilian scouts
are wiped out by approximately 2,000 Cheyenne and Sioux.
1943: Just days into her ninth war patrol, with one-quarter of skipper John
A. ,Moore's crew having no combat experience, the submarine USS Grayback
sinks its fourth Japanese ship in just three days.
1944: German troops from the 5th Panzer Army have surrounded the 101st
Airborne at Bastogne, Belgium. Nearby, Pvt. Francis S. "Frank" Currey
tank, disabling three others, and forcing an enemy unit to retreat after
inflicting heavy casualties with an effective combination of fire from his
automatic rifle, a bazooka, a halftrack, and anti-tank grenades. Five soldiers
that had been pinned down for hours by enemy infantry and the now-empty
tanks are able to escape. For his actions, Currey is awarded the Medal of
1945: Nearly one month after a vehicle accident that paralyzed him,
Gen. George S. Patton dies of a pulmonary embolism in a military
hospital in Heidelberg, Germany.
1950: Airmen from the Fifth Air Force conduct "Operation Kiddy Car," the
evacuation of nearly 1,000 Korean War orphans to the island of Cheju-do to
escape approaching communist forces.
1951: During Operation "Helicopter", medevac choppers land on the pad of
FUSS Consolation, ferrying wounded from the battlefield directly to a hospital
ship for the first time.
1968: Frank Borman (Col. USAF, ret.), James Lovell (Capt. USN, ret.), and
William Anders (Maj. Gen. USAF, ret.) blast off aboard Apollo 8, becoming
the first humans to leave Earth's orbit and on Christmas Eve, would become
the first to orbit the moon.
1775: The Continental Congress creates the Continental Navy. Esek Hopkins,
Esq. is named commander-in-chief of the fleet, four captains are
commissioned, as well as five first lieutenants (including future hero John
Paul Jones), five second lieutenants, and three third lieutenants.
1864: Following his "March to the Sea" and just before his "March through
the Carolinas," Union Army Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman presents the
captured city of Savannah (Ga.) to Pres. Lincoln as a "Christmas gift."
The wire from Sherman to Lincoln reads; "I beg to present you, as a
Christmas gift, the city of Savannah, with 150 heavy guns and plenty of
ammunition, and also about 25,000 bales of cotton."
1941: Winston Churchill arrives in Washington, D.C. for the Arcadia
Conference, the first military strategy summit between Pres. Franklin D.
Roosevelt and the British Prime Minister.
Meanwhile, the first U.S. troops arrive at Australia. By 1943, a quarter of a
million Americans will be stationed "down under."
1944: Having surrounded the 101st Airborne at Bastogne, Belgium, German
General Heinrich Freiherr von Liittwitz issues a surrender ultimatum to Gen.
Anthony C. McAuliffe, the acting commander for the 101st. Clement's one word response: "NUTS!"
Despite being heavily outnumbered, the 101st was able to hold out until the
4th Armored Division relieved them on Dec. 26th. Meanwhile, German
commanders recommend ending the Rundstedt Offensive (Battle of the
Bulge) due to a lack of significant progress.
And on this day near Kalterherberg Germany, Tech. Sgt. Peter J. Dalessondro
called in mortar strikes and used his rifle, grenades, and an
acquired automatic weapon to save his unit from being completely routed by
multiple overwhelming attacks. Dalessondro remains behind and is last heard
calling for mortar strike on his own position as enemy troops surround and are
poised to overtake him. For his selfless actions, he is posthumously awarded
the Medal of Honor.
1950: Air Force F-86 Sabres shoot down six communist MiG-15 fighters
without losing a single jet in the biggest dogfight of the Korean War.
1783: Although Congress had granted him what amounted to dictatorial
powers during the war, George Washington resigns his position as
commander-in-chief of the Continental Army.
1814: One day before a peace treaty is signed which ends the War of 1812, a
force of 2,000 Regular Army and militia, commanded by Maj. Gen. (and future
president) Andrew Jackson, attacks and overruns 1,500 British troops on
Villere's Plantation, Louisiana. The British are so disorganized that they are
unable to launch their attack on New Orleans for several days. And when they
do, it becomes one of the most lopsided victories in U.S. military history.
1941: After being repulsed by the American defenders during their first
assault on Wake Atoll, Japanese air and land forces return and assault Wake,
Wilkes, and Peale islands. After having endured 15 days of attacks and 12
hours of desperate fighting, U.S. forces finally surrender - but not until after
they inflict heavy casualties on the landing force.
Also on this date, the C-47 "Skytrain" makes its first flight. Douglas Aircraft
will stamp out 10,000 of the versatile "Gooney Birds" which will serve the
U.S. Armed Forces for three decades: towing gliders and delivering
paratroopers at Normandy, dropping supplies during the Berlin Airlift, and
providing close air support over Vietnam.
1968: 82 crewmembers of the captured USS Pueblo walk across the "Bridge
of No Return," ending 11 months of brutal captivity in North Korea.
2002: A General Atomics MQ-1 "Predator" drone and an Iraqi MiG-25
"Foxbat" engage each other in Iraq's "no-fly zone." The aircraft trade missiles,
and the Iraqi fighter shoots down the Predator in the first-ever drone-versusconventional-aircraft dogfight.
1812: Delegates from the United States and Great Britain sign the Treaty of
Ghent in modern-day Belgium, bringing an end to the War of 1812. News
travels slowly, however, and two weeks after the signing, Maj. Gen. (and
future president) Andrew Jackson defeats a British invasion force in the Battle
1943: 670 B-17s and B-24s from the Eighth Air Force conduct a bombing
raid at German long-range rocket sites at Pas de Calais, France.
1944: The heavy cloud cover and winter weather which had been kept
American warplanes grounded during the Battle of the Bulge finally breaks
after a week. Nearly 3,000 heavy bombers and fighters of the Eighth Air
—Force take off from England for the largest strike mission of the war to relieve
the troops on the ground.
Brig. Gen. Frederick W. Castle, commanding the 3rd Combat Bomb Wing,
assigns himself as co-pilot of the lead bomber for this vital mission. While
enroute, his B-17 develops engine problems causing it to drop out of
formation. Since the bomber was over allied-controlled Belgium, he decided
not to jettison his load of bombs, which would help them regain speed and
maneuverability, but risked the lives of those below. Castle's hobbled bomber
makes an easy target for Luftwaffe Bf-109 fighters, whose repeated attacks set
the bomber on fire and send it into a dive. Castle orders the men to bail out
while he remains at the controls, and the plane explodes before he can
parachute safely. Castle's sacrifice saves the lives of five of his nine
crewmembers and Gen. Castle is posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.
1950: An armada of ships and aircraft evacuate over 100,000 U.S. and South
Korean troops, along with their equipment and 91,000 Korean refugees from
the North Korean port of Hungnam, in what has become known by historians
as the "greatest evacuation movement by sea in U.S. military history."
1972: A North Vietnamese Mig-21 Fishbed fighter closes in on the B-52
Diamond Lil while the bombers approach their target of a railyard at Thai
Nguyen. Tail gunner Airman First Class Albert E. Moore fires three bursts of
fire from the B-52's quad .50 cal machine guns, shooting down the MiG and
scoring the last-ever tail gun kill - and saving his bomber crew. Today, the
Diamond Lil is on display at the Air Force Academy with a red star painted on
the rear of the plane commemorating Moore's victory.
1776: After Gen. George Washington's famous crossing of the icy Delaware
River the night before and a eight-mile forced march, 2,500 Continental Army
soldiers and militia catch the Hessian (German mercenaries fighting for the
British) garrison at Trenton, N.J. completely by surprise. Washington's force
captures 900 soldiers along with weapons and supplies, incredibly without
losing a single American soldier to combat. Lt. (and future president) James
Madison is one of the few soldiers wounded during the battle.
1943: Following a naval and air bombardment, the 1st Marine Division
lands at Cape Gloucester in their first combat operation since Guadalcanal.
Dense jungles, horrible weather, and near-impassable mud welcomed the
invaders, but the Marines "adapt, improvise, and overcome," capturing the
island from the Japanese in just over a week.
1944: Elements of the U.S. 4th Armored Division — the spearhead of George
Patton's Third Army — break the German Army's siege of Bastogne
relieving the paratroopers of the 101st Airborne Division. The grateful but
proud Airborne soldiers insist they are only being "relieved," not "rescued."
1972: Under cover of darkness, approaching from different headings, and
flying at different altitudes, seven waves of B-52s - 120 bombers total - attack
Hanoi and Haiphong. After just 15 minutes, 8,000 bombs have pounded North
Vietnamese targets; in the largest raid of Operation "Linebacker II", and the
largest single combat launch in Strategic Air Command history.
That same day, Harry S. Truman passes away. The future president enlisted
in the Missouri National Guard as an artilleryman prior to World War I, and
would fight in Alsace and the Meuse-Argonne campaign. By war's end,
Truman had been promoted to captain, and he remained in the Reserve
Officer Corps - ultimately achieving the rank of colonel in 1938.
1998: A week after the four-day bombing and cruise missile attack against
targets in Iraq known as Operation "Desert Fox", Saddam Hussein announces
that his military will target U.S. and British aircraft patrolling the "no-fly
zones". The dictator will offer up a $14,000 reward to anyone that shoots
down an American plane, but the Iraqi military can't come through.
2006: Former president Gerald Ford passes away. After the Pearl Harbor
attacks, Ford enlisted in the Navy. The former University of Michigan football
star receives his commission, serving as a navigator, antiaircraft battery officer,
and athletic officer aboard the light carrier USS Monterrey in the Pacific
Theater. Lt. Commander Ford will remain on the inactive reserve list
1846: Although heavily outnumbered, a force of Missouri militia led by Col.
Alexander W. Doniphan called the "Doniphan Thousand" defeats the Mexican
army at El Paso (Texas) and captures the city in one of the major battles of the
Mexican-American War. By the time Doniphan and his men return to
Missouri, they have undertaken what could be the longest military march
(some 5,500 miles) since Alexander the Great.
1935: When a volcanic eruption threatens Hilo, Hawaii, Army Air Corps
planes drop bombs in order to divert the lava flow.
1942: 2nd Lt. (future Maj.) Richard I. Bong, flying a P-38 Lighting over
Buna, scores his first of 40 kills against Japanese aircraft. Bong will become
the United States' top ace of World War II and is awarded the Medal of
1943: With railroad workers threatening a wartime strike, Pres. Franklin D.
Roosevelt seizes the critical infrastructure, putting the railroads under the
supervision of the War Department.
1950: Lt. Gen. Matthew B. Ridgway takes over as commander of the
retreating 8th Army and immediately travels to the front lines, where he
reorganizes the command structure and restores his men's morale. The
Chinese offensive soon grinds to a halt and Ridgway will lead a
counteroffensive in the spring.
1992: Lt. Col. Gary North shoots down an Iraqi MiG-25 in Iraq's southern nofly zone with an AIM-120A missile, marking the first beyond-visual-range kill and the first combat air-to-air victory for the F-16 Falcon.
1941: After the execution of civilian construction contractors who fought ----
alongside the Marines on Wake Island until their capture by the Japanese, the
Navy's Chief of Bureau of Yards and Docks, Rear Admiral Ben Moreell,
requests that Naval construction battalions be created. The teams would be
capable of building anything, anywhere, under any conditions, at any time,
and - if necessary - picking up weapons and fighting.
The famous Seabees have been born. In the Pacific Theater alone, they
construct 111 major air fields, over 300 bases, and countless roads, bridges,
and facilities. Just two years after their founding, Admiral Ernest King will
write that "Your ingenuity and fortitude have become a legend in the naval
1944: In Belgium, the Allies begin gaining ground during their counteroffensive in the Battle of the Bulge. Against the advice of his generals, who
believe that further progress is impossible, Adolf Hitler orders renewed
offensives in the Ardennes and Alsace.
1982: 40 years after being launched, the Iowa-class battleship USS New
Jersey (BB-62) is re-commissioned for the third - and final - time, after
refitting the ship to carry Tomahawk cruise missiles. The "Big J" will finally
be taken out of service following Operation "Desert Storm" in 1991.
1990: In preparation for "Desert Storm", the aircraft carriers USS America
(CV-66) and USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71) deploy from Norfolk, Va.,
joining USS Ranger (CV-61) and USS Midway (CV-41) in the Persian Gulf,
and USS John F. Kennedy (CV-67) and USS Saratoga (CV-60) in the Red
1778: British troops, commanded by Lt. Col. Archibald Campbell, assault a
force of militia and Continental Army soldiers defending Savannah, Ga. The
King's Men easily defeat Maj. Gen. Robert Howe's army, killing, capturing or
wounding over 500. When the British gain control of the colony the following
year, Campbell writes that he is "the first British officer to [take] a star and
stripe from the flag of Congress."
1812: The USS Constitution defeats the British frigate HMS Java - the second
of Old Ironsides' five victories - in a three-hour battle off the coast of Brazil.
After Java is burned, the British admiralty orders their frigates never to engage
American frigates in a one-on-one confrontation.1862: Plans to capture Vicksburg, Tenn. - the last remaining Confederate
stronghold on the Mississippi River - are thwarted when Gen. William
Tecumseh Sherman's frontal assault across open ground against entrenched
Confederate forces fails in the Battle of Chickasaw Bluffs.
1890: 7th Cavalry troops surround a Sioux encampment at Wounded Knee
Creek (present-day South Dakota), attempting to disarm the Indians under
Chief Big Foot. The soldiers attack when a shot is fired (it is not known who
fired) and massacre over 150 Sioux, including many women and children. The
Massacre at Wounded Knee is the last major engagement in the Plains Wars.
1943: The submarine USS Silversides (SS-236) sinks three Japanese cargo
ships and damages a fourth off the Palau Islands.
1972: In what very well could be the last mass bomber formation in history, 60
B-52 bombers target the North Vietnamese capital of Hanoi. While the
"Stratofortresses" are still in the air, the communists inform the White House
that they are ready to return to the peace talks. Over the 11 days of the
Operation "Linebacker II" bombing campaign, over 20,000 tons of ordinance
hammered Hanoi and Haiphong, crippling their war production and supply
chain, and the communists had shot most of their surface-to-air missiles. The
signing of the Paris Peace Accords in January will effectively end U.S.
involvement in the Vietnam War.
1813: British troops burn Buffalo, N.Y.
1959: The USS George Washington, America's first ballistic missile
—submarine, is commissioned at Groton, Conn.
2006: Former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein is executed by hanging following
a conviction by an Iraqi court for murdering 148 Shiites from Dujail after an
unsuccessful 1982 assassination attempt.
1904: The new U.S. Army War College opens its doors to three majors and
six captains, among them Capt. (future General of the Armies) John J. "Black
1942: On Guadalcanal, a machine gun section led by Marine Cpl. Anthony
Casamento- casamento-medal-of-honor-citation/) is hit so badly during the fourth (and
final) battle at the Matanikau River that all but Casamento were grievously
wounded or killed. Despite his own wounds (he was hit 14 times during the
engagement), Casamento single-handedly held his position and repelled
numerous enemy attacks. Casamento will be awarded the Medal of Honor in
1980 after surviving eyewitnesses to his actions are found.
1943: The 3rd Marine Division, led by Gen. Allen H. Turnage, hits the
beaches on Japanese-held Bougainville.
1944: Japan launches the first of some 9,000 hydrogen-filled balloon bombs
towards the U.S. and Canada. By war's end, only six Americans would be
killed and a small amount of damage is inflicted by the bombs.
Meanwhile, the Tokyo Rose, a B-29 "Superfortress" modified for photo
reconnaissance, makes the first U.S. flight over Tokyo since the Doolittle Raid
1952: The U.S. tests the world's first hydrogen bomb, codenamed "Ivy Mike",
at Eniwetok Atoll. The thermonuclear device, with a yield 1000 times greater
than previous bombs, gave the United States a temporary leg up on the Soviet
Union in the arms race. The blast digs a mile-wide, 150-ft. crater and literally
wipes the small island of Elugelab off the face of the Earth.
1983: During Operation "Urgent Fury", 300 Marines from the 22nd Marine
Amphibious Unit conduct an air and amphibious landing on the Caribbean
island of Carriacou, 15 miles northeast of Grenada, in search of Cuban
1783: Gen. George Washington delivers his "Farewell Address to the Army"
near Princeton, N.J., in which he refers to the Continental Army as "one
patriotic band of brothers."
1861: Pres. Abraham Lincoln removes Union Gen. John C. Fremont as
commander of the Western Department, following Fremont's unilateral
decision to declare martial law in the border state of Missouri and thus freeing
1943: One day after the 3rd Marine Division lands at Bougainville, the
cruisers and destroyers of Admiral Aaron S. "Tip" Merrill's Task Force 39
defeat Japanese naval forces attempting to attack the landing force in the
Battle of Empress Bay. Two Japanese ships are sent to the bottom, with
numerous enemy warships receiving heavy damage.
Meanwhile, in the skies over the nearby Japanese fortress of Rabaul, Maj.
Raymond H. Wilkins, Commander of the Army Air Corps' 8th Bombing
Squadron, led an attack against Japanese-held Rabaul. His bombs destroyed
an enemy transport and destroyer, and although his plane was badly damaged
and his bombs expended, Wilkins strafed a Japanese cruiser, sacrificing
himself by drawing their fire so his fellow pilots could escape the deadly air
defenses. The raid sinks 30 of the 38 Japanese vessels anchored at Rabaul, and
Wilkins will posthumously be awarded the Medal of Honor.
1944: Nearly 1,000 8th Air Force bombers conducts a massive strike against
synthetic fuel facilities in Merseburg, Germany. The Americans shoot down
183 enemy fighters - including four jets - at the cost of 40 bombers and 28
fighters. By wars' end, the 8th Air Force has severely crippled the synthetic
fuel production necessary for Luftwaffe jets.
1950: During a fanatical nighttime assault by enemy forces near Sudong, North
Korea, Staff Sgt. Archie Van Winkle leads his outnumbered Marines through
heavy fire and enables them to gain the upper hand. Despite a bullet rendering
his arm useless and further wounds from an enemy grenade, Van Winkle rushes
through hostile fire to rally his men, refusing evacuation and providing
leadership until Van Winkle loses consciousness. The combat veteran of World
War II will be awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions at Sudong, and will
be decorated for valor 18 years later during the Battle of Khe Sanh in the
1963: Unpopular South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem is assassinated
following a U.S.-backed coup by the South Vietnamese army.
1967: Seeking to unite the country behind the war effort in Vietnam, Pres.
Lyndon B. Johnson holds a secret meeting with a group of advisors referred to
as "the Wise Men." The group, which includes General of the Army Omar
Bradley, former Secretary of State Dean Acheson, and former Ambassador to
South Vietnam Henry Cabot Lodge, determines that the military should issue
more optimistic reports to influence more favorable press.
1783: The Continental Army is disbanded following the signing of the Treaty
of Paris. The role of the national defense force returns to state militias, save a -----
-egiment on the western frontier and an artillery battery at West Point, N.Y.(which will soon become the U.S. Military Academy). These few "regulararmy" soldiers will become the Legion of the United States in 1792, and the U.S. Army in 1796.
1917: German forces attack a vastly-outnumbered U.S. unit near Artois,
France, killing three and capturing 11, marking the first U.S. ground combat
casualties of World War I.
1941: The Combined Japanese Fleet receives Top-Secret Order No. 1 -
ordering the fleet to attack the U.S. naval base in Pearl Harbor as well as
Malaya, the Dutch East Indies, and the Philippines.
1967: Seeking to wipe out an American brigade-sized force, the North
Vietnamese Army begins the Battle of Dak To. The engagement will last for
three weeks and was among the heaviest fighting seen in the Central
Highlands. Soldiers of the 4th Infantry Division and 173rd Airborne Brigade
inflict such heavy casualties on the Communists that three of the four brigades
that participated in the battle were not able to participate in the Tet Offensive
1979: Iranian students loyal to Ayatollah Khomeini storm the U.S. embassy in
Teheran, taking 90 hostages and holding them in captivity for 444 days.
1862: Realizing an army led by Gen. George McClellan would never defeat
Confederate forces, Pres. Abraham Lincoln removes the cautious Army of the
Potomac commander, chosing Gen. Ambrose Burnside as his replacement.
Two years and three days later, Lincoln would defeat McClellan - a Democrat
- in the 1864 presidential election.
1915: Lt. Commander Henry Mustin catapults from the USS North Carolina n
a Curtiss AB-2 flying boat, becoming the first American to make a catapult
launch from a ship underway.
1917: U.S. Army Maj. (future Brig. Gen.) Theodore Roosevelt Jr. and his
younger brother Lt. (future Lt. Col.) Archibald Roosevelt - both sons of
former Pres. Theodore Roosevelt - lead the first American patrol into "No
Man's Land" during World War I. "Archie" was wounded severely enough to
merit a retirement with full disability, only to rejoin the Army during World
War II. When an enemy grenade destroys the same knee wounded in the
previous world war, Lt. Col. Roosevelt becomes the first person declared 100
percent disabled in two wars.
Theodore Jr. also rejoined the Army during World War II and earned the Medal
of Honor while leading his troops at Utah Beach during the Invasion of
Normandy. He died one month later of a heart attack. His brother Quentin left
basic training and joined the British Army during World War I, transferring
back to the U.S. military as a captain when the American Expeditionary Force
arrived in Europe. He rejoined the British military during World War II, serving
in Finland and Africa before being medically discharged. He would later serve
as an Army intelligence officer in Alaska. The youngest Roosevelt
— son, Quentin, was a pursuit pilot and was shot down over enemy lines,
becoming the only son of a U.S. president killed in combat. He and Theodore
Jr. are buried side-by-side at the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial
near Colleville-sur-Mer, France.
Meanwhile in the Atlantic, a torpedo fired by a German U-boat sinks the yacht
USS Alcedo, which had been escorting a convoy to France. 21 sailors perish
when the yacht becomes the first U.S. warship sunk during World War I.
1923: The submarine USS SS-1 (SS-105) launches a Martin MS-1 seaplane,
marking the first flight of a submarine-launched aircraft.
1966: When U.S. soldiers are pinned down by the Viet Cong (VC) near the
Cambodian border, Capt. Robert F. Foley's "A" Company rushes to the battle
to relieve their sister company. Pvt. 1st Class John F. Baker, Jr.
and another soldier take out two enemy bunkers. When hiscomrade is mortally wounded, Baker spots four enemy snipers and eliminates
all of them, then evacuates his fellow soldier. Returning to the front, he leads
several attacks on the enemy, killing several VC and silencing additional
bunkers. After charging through the jungle with his machine gun to wipe out
another bunker, Baker covers his unit's evacuation. In total, he rescued eight
Meanwhile, the fire concentrated on Capt. Robert F. Foley
's location is so intense that he loses two of his radio
operators. Grabbing a machinegun from a wounded soldier, Foley charges
forward - alone - to maintain the momentum of the attack and keeps firing
until the wounded can be extracted. Once his men rally, he leads attacks
against several machine gun positions, personally eliminating three, despite
being wounded by an enemy grenade.
For their actions, Baker and Foley are both awarded the Medal of Honor.
1950: Gen. Douglas MacArthur begins a heavy air campaign against North
Korean targets, including bridges over the Yalu River, violating orders from
the Joint Chiefs of Staff that restricted operations within five miles of North
Korea's border with China.
2009: U.S. Army Maj. Nidal Malik Hassan kills 13 and wounds another 29
soldiers and civilians at Fort Hood, Texas in the deadliest shooting on a U.S.
1915: Lt. Cmdr. Henry C. Mustin's Curtiss Model AB-2 launches from the
armored cruiser USS North Carolina, marking the world's first catapult
launch from a ship.
1941: While searching for blockade runners in the Caribbean, the cruiser USS
Omaha and destroyer USS Somers spot a cargo ship flying U.S. colors but
behaving oddly and whose sailors looked "uniquely un-American." When
—Omaha attempts to make contact, the ship's crew attempt to sabotage the
vessel and a boarding crew is sent over. The captured ship turns out to be the
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German Odenwald, transporting rubber and other supplies from Japan. The
sailors from the boarding party are each awarded $3,000 as bounty from the
seized cargo and everyone else involved receives two month's pay - the last
time U.S. sailors will be awarded prize money.
1942: The 2d Raider Battalion sets out on a month-long patrol to cut off
Japanese forces attempting to escape encirclement at Guadalcanal's Koli Point.
Over the next four weeks, Lt. Col. Evans Carlson's Raiders marched 150 miles
through dense jungles, using their trademark guerilla tactics to kill 500 enemy
troops in several engagements. Only 16 Marines died during the operation, but
virtually the entire battalion suffered from tropical diseases that were said to be
worse than combat.
1944: Capt. Charles Yeager becomes one of the first U.S. pilots to shoot down
a Messerschmidt Me-262 jet fighter, scoring his victory as the warplane
attempts to land on a German airfield.
During a three-day battle at Kommerscheidt, Germany, U.S. Army 1st Lt.
Turney W. Leonard "repeatedly braved overwhelming enemy fire in advance
of his platoon to direct the fire of his tank destroyer from exposed, dismounted
positions. He went on lone reconnaissance missions to discover what
opposition his men faced, and on 1 occasion, when fired upon by a hostile
machinegun, advanced alone and eliminated the enemy emplacement with a
hand grenade. When a strong German attack threatened to overrun friendly
positions, he moved through withering artillery, mortar, and small arms fire,
reorganized confused infantry units whose leaders had become casualties, and
exhorted them to hold firm. Although wounded early in battle, he continued to
direct fire from his advanced position until he was disabled by a highexplosive shell which shattered his arm, forcing him to withdraw. He was last
seen at a medical aid station which was subsequently captured by the enemy."
Leonard reportedly asked to be concealed in a foxhole with a weapon as he
did not want to be taken prisoner. For his actions, he was posthumously
awarded the Medal of Honor.
1945: Ensign Jake West's FR-1 Fireball, a combination piston- and jetpowered aircraft, touches down aboard the USS Wake Island (CVE-65),
making him the first pilot to land a jet on an aircraft carrier. The feat wasn't
intentional, however: the fighter's piston engine failed on final approach and
West had to start the jet engine to land - catching the third (and final) arrestor
The Navy equipped a squadron with Fireballs in 1945, but the landing gear
wasn't strong enough to handle the harsh loads experienced during carrier
landings and World War II ended before the FR-1 could participate in combat
1950: After three attempts to dislodge well-fortified heavy enemy infantry
through "a veritable hail of shattering hostile machine gun, grenade, and rifle
fire," 2nd Lt. Robert D. Reem's rallied what was left of his platoon for a fourth
assault up the hill. As he was issuing last-minute orders to his noncommissioned officers, Reem spotted an enemy grenade that landed amongst
the Marines and unhesitatingly hurled himself on it, absorbing the deadly blast
with his own body. For his heroic actions, Reem was posthumously awarded
the Medal of Honor.
1951: Near Vladivostok, two Soviet Air Force fighters engage and shoot down
a U.S. Navy P2V-3 "Neptune" patrol bomber 18 miles from the Russian coast.
All ten crew members are lost.
1967: Cmdr. Joseph P. Smolinski and copilot Cmdr. George A. Surovik fly
their SP-5B "Marlin" flying boat over Naval Air Station North Island and
splash down in San Diego Bay on the last-ever operation of a U.S. Navy
1811: At the confluence of the Wabash and Tippecanoe Rivers, William Henry
Harrison's 1,000-man force of militia and regular infantry soldiers clash 'with
American Indian warriors led by Tenskwatawa (known as "The Prophet").
Although outnumbered by the Americans, the Indians charge
multiple times into Harrison's lines, inflicting serious casualties on the
defenders, but withdraw once the sun rises and Tecumseh's confederacy
abandons the area. Harrison - destined to become a brigadier general during the
War of 1812 and ultimately president of the United States — will forever be
known as "the hero of Tippecanoe."
1861: A Naval force under Flag Officer Samuel F. DuPont boldly steams into
Port Royal Sound (S.C.), and Union gunners pour heavy fire into Confederateheld Forts Walker and Beauregard. Marines and sailors land and occupy the forts, giving the Union a crucial supply base for their Naval blockade.
1863: Union forces under the command of Maj. Gen. John Sedgwick
decisively defeat Confederate forces under Maj. Gen. Jubal Early in the Battle
of Rappahannock Station (Va.). Though a "a complete and glorious victory" for
the Union Army, Confederate Col. Walter Taylor will refer to the battle as "the
saddest chapter in the history of this army ... miserable, miserable
In six months, Sedgwick will be shot and killed by a Confederate sharpshooter
during the bloody Battle of Spotsylvania Court House.
1917: Eugene J. Bullard, an American flying for the French Air Service,
becomes the first black pilot to shoot down an enemy aircraft. The "Black
Swallow of Death" would fly 20 combat missions for the French - claiming
two aerial kills - before war's end.
The Columbus, Ga. native's father came to America from the Caribbean island
of Martinique and his mother was a Creek indian. Bullard fled to Europe to
escape racism in the United States and joined the French Foreign Legion as a
machine gunner, seeing action in the Somme, Champagne, and Verdun
campaigns before being wounded. After recovering, he joined the air service
and earned his pilot's license. He volunteered for the infantry when Germany
invaded France again in 1940 and was wounded.
2007: When a friendly unit operating in Afghanistan calls for air support, an
Air Force MQ-9A Reaper unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) responds to the
firefight. The Reaper's operators, remotely piloting the vehicle from Creech
Air Force Base in Nevada, drop 500-pound bombs on the enemy combatants,
marking the first time bombs are dropped by a UAV in combat.
The Reaper can carry four AGM-114 Hellfire missiles and two precisionguided, 500-pound bombs and is larger, faster, and can carry 15 times the
ordnance of the earlier MQ-1 Predator drones.
1950: After completing a strafing run against enemy antiaircraft positions in
his Lockheed P-80C "Shooting Star", Air Force 1st Lt. Russel J. Brown spots
a formation of Soviet MiG-15 fighters. Brown claims one of the enemy
warplanes, marking the world's first jet-on-jet victory.
1822: During an anti-piracy cruise in the Caribbean, the brig USS Alligator -
the third of four so-named U.S. warships - intercepts a flotilla of American
ships captured by pirates near Cuba. Lt. William H. Allen, Alligator's
commanding officer, is mortally wounded when he and his sailors board the
heavily-armed schooner Revenge, but his crew retakes all but one of the eight
1906: Theodore Roosevelt boards the battleship USS Louisiana (BB-19) and
heads south to inspect construction on the Panama Canal - marking the first
foreign trip by a sitting U.S. president.
1942: U.S. troops advance on Oran, capturing 2,000 French soldiers after
some hard fighting. Off the coast, Allied warships sink three French
destroyers. Meanwhile to the east, German paratroopers land in Tunisia. And
to the west, Maj. Gen. George Patton's soldiers fight to secure the beachhead Casablanca.
1944: Boeing's new long distance transport prototype makes its first flight.
The new cargo plane is essentially a B-29 Superfortress heavy bomber, but
with a significantly larger fuselage. The Stratofreighter enters service in 1947,
participating in the Berlin Airlift, Korean War, and the Vietnam War. Most of
the nearly 900 airframes are , but
Strategic Air Command puts a few platforms into service as aerial command
posts, while other C-97s serve with Aerospace Rescue and Recovery squadrons.
1950: As Task Force 77 aircraft make their attack on the Yalu River bridges
connecting Korea and China, Lt. Cmdr. William T. Amen engages a Soviet jet
formation attempting to intercept the Americans and shoots down a MiG-15
with his F9F-2B "Panther". Amen, the commanding officer of Fighter
Squadron 111 (VF-l11), becomes the first pilot to score a jet-on-jet kill
(confirmed by both combatants) in aviation history.
That same day over Sinuiju, North Korea, RB-50 Superfortress tail gunner Cpl.
Harry J. LaVene becomes the first aerial gunner to shoot down a MiG-15.
2001: During the Battle of Mazar-e-Sharif U.S. Army and Air Force special
operations forces ride into combat on horseback - the first cavalry charge by
the United States military since 1943. Hundreds of Taliban and al Qaeda
fighters are killed during the battle and another 1,500 are captured or defect.
Although war planners figured it would take months to capture the strategic
city and its airfield, the Taliban withdraw the following day.
1775: On this day 242 years ago, the Marine Corps is born. The Continental
Congress decrees that two battalions of Marines be raised in Philadelphia,
consisting of "good seamen, or so acquainted with maritime affairs as to be
able to serve by sea when required; that they be enlisted and commissioned to
serve for and during the present war with Great Britain and the Colonies."
Capt. Samuel Nicholas - commissioned just days before as the first Marine
officer - sets up his recruiting headquarters at Tun Tavern.
1944: While anchored at Papua New Guinea, 3,800 tons of ammunition aboard
the cargo ship USS Mount Hood explodes, obliterating the 350-man crew and
destroying or damaging dozens of ships nearby. The destruction was so
complete that apart from a 16-foot chunk of the hull found in a trench, no
recognizable pieces of the 459-foot ship remained.
1949: The Sikorsky H-19 "Chickasaw" helicopter makes its first flight. The
Army and Air Force will order dozens of the helicopters and use them for
medical evacuation and rescue operations during the Korean War.
1959: USS Triton (SSRN-586), the largest, most powerful, and most
expensive submarine of its age (thanks to two nuclear power plants) is
commissioned. On her shakedown cruise "The Big T" becomes the first
submarine to circumnavigate the globe without surfacing. Shortly after
entering service as a radar picket vessel, the advent of early warning aircraft
makes Triton's role obsolete and in 1969 Triton will be the first nuclear
submarine to be decommissioned.
2001: U.S.-led coalition forces defeat Taliban forces in Mazar-e-Sharif,
scoring the first major victory of the war in Afghanistan.
1918: The armistice is signed, ending World War I.
1965: 450 soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry under the command of
Lt. Col. Harold Moore are choppered in to assault the communist stronghold
in the Ia Drang Valley. Upon landing, the unit is nearly overrun by three
-Thattalions (1,600 soldiers) of North Vietnamese regulars, resulting in hand-tohand combat, but the soldiers hold out for two days before being relieved -inflicting heavy casualties on the enemy. The Battle of the Ia Drang Valley is
the first major battle between U.S. and NVA forces and one of the only setpiece battles of the Vietnam War.
1942: Off Guadalcanal, the U.S. and Japanese fleets engage in one of only
two battleship-on-battleship engagements of the Pacific War. While
Kirishima hammers USS South Dakota in the early morning hours, USS
Washington slips away undetected and maneuvers to near point-blank range,
raking the Japanese battleship with devestating salvos. Japanese naval guns
and torpedoes send three U.S. destroyers (Walke, Preston, and Benham) to
the bottom of Ironbottom Sound, while U.S. warplanes destroy four troop
transport ships carrying soldiers and badly needed supplies. The Allies have
inflicted such heavy losses on the Japanese that they abandon the mission to
Injured in the attack on South Dakota is 12-year-old Seaman 1st Class Calvin
L. Graham, who lied about his age that summer to join the Navy. Graham earns
the Bronze Star with Combat "V" and the Purple Heart during the battle. When
the government learns his actual age, Graham is thrown in the brig for three
months, dishonorably discharged, and his medals are stripped. He enlists in the
Marine Corps when he turns 17.
1950: "As a squad leader of the 3d Platoon [U.S. Army Pfc. Mack A. Jordan]
was participating in a night attack on key terrain against a fanatical hostile
force when the advance was halted by intense small-arms and automaticweapons fire and a vicious barrage of handgrenades. Upon orders for the
platoon to withdraw and reorganize, Pfc. Jordan voluntarily remained behind
to provide covering fire. Crawling toward an enemy machine gun
emplacement, he threw 3 grenades and neutralized the gun. He then rushed
the position delivering a devastating hail of fire, killing several of the enemy
and forcing the remainder to fall back to new positions. He courageously
attempted to move forward to silence another machine gun but, before he
could leave his position, the ruthless foe hurled explosives down the hill and
in the ensuing blast both legs were severed. Despite mortal wounds, he continued to deliver deadly fire and held off the assailants until the platoon returned."Pfc. Jordan was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.
1960: The U.S. Navy's first ballistic missile submarine, USS George
Washington (SSBN-598) departs Charleston harbor (S.C.) harbor for its first
deterrent patrol. Aboard are 16 Polaris A-1 missiles, which carry a one
megaton nuclear warhead (nearly 70 times more powerful than the bomb
dropped on Hiroshima 15 years before) that can strike targets over 1,000 miles
1966: After descending from a 266,000-foot climb, a North American X-15
rocket carrying U.S. Air Force Maj. Michael J. Adams enters a violent spin at
Mach 5, killing the pilot. Adams had flown 49 combat missions during the
Korean War before joining the X-15 program. Having crossed the 50-mile
threshold, qualifying his last flight as a space flight, Adams is posthumously
awarded astronaut wings.
2006: 82d Airborne soldiers begin what will be an intense 40-hour battle with
heavily armed and well-disciplined insurgents in in Iraq's Diyala province. By
the time the shooting stops, U.S. troops have destroyed an extensive network
of trenches and capture a stockpile of ammunition and heavy weapons. 5th
Squadron of the 73rd Cavalry Regiment earns the Presidential Unit Citation
for their role in the Battle of Turki.
1927: The United States Navy commissions its second-ever aircraft carrier,
USS Saratoga (CV-3). Following her service during World War II, the flattop
(which was originally designed to be a battlecruiser) is sunk during atomic
1944: Over 4,000 Allied warplanes hammer Nazi Germany with one of the
heaviest bombardments of World War II prior to an advance by the 1st and
9th U.S. Armies.
2004: Nine days after launching Operation Phantom Fury — the Second Battle
of Fallujah (Iraq) — U.S. Marines and soldiers (as well as a few British and
Iraqi troops) begin the mopping-up phase of what has since been described as
the most intense urban combat since the bloody battle for the Vietnamese city
of Hue in 1968.
It is during the battle for Fallujah, that a radio transmission is intercepted by
U.S. forces in which a panicking al-Qaeda insurgent is heard exclaiming to his
chief: "We are fighting, but the Marines keep coming! We are shooting, but the
Marines won't stop!"
1917: The destroyers USS Fanning and USS Nicholson attack the German
U-boat U-58, becoming the first ships to sink a submarine in US history.
1863: Four months after the Battle of Gettysburg, President Abraham Lincoln
addresses an audience with a brief speech honoring the fallen: "...we can not
dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The
brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above
our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember
what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. ... we here highly
resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under
God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people,
by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."
Lincoln's Gettysburg Address becomes one of the most famous speeches in
1950: Maj. Gen. Oliver P. Smith's 1st Marine Division fights arctic
temperatures dropping to —35 °F, moving slowly towards North Korea's
Chosin Reservoir. Meanwhile, the Chinese 9th Corps Army closes in on the
Americans from the north.
1967: During the Battle of Dak To, Chaplain (Maj.) Charles J. Watters, "with
complete disregard for his safety, rushed forward to the line of contact.
Unarmed and completely exposed, he moved among, as well as in front of the
advancing troops, giving aid to the wounded, assisting in their evacuation,
giving words of encouragement, and administering the last rites to the dying.
When a wounded paratrooper was standing in shock in front of the assaulting
forces, Chaplain Watters ran forward, picked the man up on his shoulders and
carried him to safety. As the troopers battled to the first enemy entrenchment,
Chaplain Watters ran through the intense enemy fire to the front of the
entrenchment to aid a fallen comrade. A short time later, the paratroopers
pulled back in preparation for a second assault. Chaplain Watters exposed
himself to both friendly and enemy fire between the 2 forces in order to
recover 2 wounded soldiers. Later, when the battalion was forced to pull back
into a perimeter, Chaplain Watters noticed that several wounded soldiers were
Lying outside the newly formed perimeter. Without hesitation and ignoring
attempts to restrain him, Chaplain Watters left the perimeter three times in the
face of small arms, automatic weapons, and mortar fire to carry and to assist
the injured troopers to safety. Satisfied that all of the wounded were inside the
perimeter, he began aiding the medics—applying field bandages to open
wounds, obtaining and serving food and water, giving spiritual and mental
strength and comfort. During his ministering, he moved out to the perimeter
from position to position redistributing food and water, and tending to the
needs of his men. Chaplain Watters was giving aid to the wounded when he
himself was mortally wounded."
Chaplain Watters was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.
1969: Apollo 12 astronauts Charles "Pete" Conrad Jr. (Cmdr., USN) and Alan
L. Bean (Cmdr, USN) become the third and fourth humans to walk on the
noon. Orbiting above in the command module is Richard F. Gordon Jr.
(Cmdr., USN) The entire crew of Apollo 12 are former Naval aviators.
1776: Having defeated the American garrison at Fort Washington, 5,000
British soldiers land at The Palisades and begin their New Jersey invasion.
Gen. George Washington orders Fort Lee (directly across the Hudson River
from Fort Washington) abandoned and the Continental Army retreats across
the Hackensack River.
1918: The 369th Infantry Regiment receives the honor of becoming the first
American unit to enter German territory for occupation duty. The famed "Hell
Fighters from Harlem" fought with distinction under French command during
World War I, spending more time in combat and suffering more casualties than
any other American regiment during the war.
1943: A flotilla of over 100 warships, including 17 aircraft carriers and 12
battleships, hammers the Tarawa Atoll as the first of 35,000 Marines and
soldiers land in the face of stiff Japanese resistance. Rear Adm. Keiji
Shibasaki, in command of the defenders, stated that "a million men could not
take Tarawa in a hundred years." In fact, it will only take 76 hours to secure
The fanatical defenders will fight almost to the last man in the first heavily
opposed U.S. landing in the Pacific. Many of the American casualties were due
to low tide conditions that forced Marines to wade hundreds of yards across
jagged coral reefs - under withering fire - to reach the shore. The resulting
losses inspired the creation of the Navy's Underwater Demolition Teams to
provide critical hydrographic reconnaissance and destroy obstacles for
amphibious landings - the birth of what will become today's SEAL Teams.
1944: The USS Mississinewa becomes the first victim of the Japanese Kaiten
suicide submarine when the tanker is sunk in the Caroline Islands.
1945: The Nuremberg Trials begin when 24 high-ranking Nazi officials face
charges in Nuremberg, Germany for atrocities committed during World War
1962: With assurances that the Soviet Union would remove their ballistic
missiles from the island, President Kennedy lifts the naval blockade against
Cuba, ending the Cuban Missile Crisis.
1817: The First Seminole War begins when Gen. (and future president)
Andrew Jackson leads forces into Spanish-held Florida to reclaim escaped
slaves from Seminole tribal areas.
1943: USS Nautilus (SS-168) surfaces and disembarks Capt. James L. Jones
and his Marine Amphibious Reconnaissance Company off the beaches of
Abemama Atoll in the Gilbert Islands. The raiders board rubber rafts and
paddle ashore under cover of darkness, spending the next several days wiping
out the defenders and capturing the islands along with fire support from the
sub. The Marine Corps' modern-day Force Reconnaissance companies trace
their roots to Jones' team.
1947: Grumman's first jet fighter, the F9F "Panther" makes its first flight. The
F9F will serve as the Navy and Marine Corps' primary jet fighter during the
Korean War and will be flown by Hall of Fame baseball player Ted Williams
(USMC) and Apollo 11 astronaut Neil Armstrong (USN).
1967: Gen. William Westmoreland, the commander of U.S. Military
Assistance Command Vietnam, tells the American press that "I am absolutely
certain that whereas in 1965 the enemy was winning, today he is certainly
1970: Col. Arthur D. "Bull" Simons leads a 56-man rescue operation on the
Son Tay POW camp, just 23 miles from Hanoi, North Vietnam. Although the
prisoners had been relocated to another camp prior to the operation, the raid -
involving over 100 aircraft from multiple services - was a tactical success.
Dozens of enemy guards are killed during the brief engagement and the
assault would serve in part as a model for the formation of Special Operations
1718: The Royal Navy locates Edward Teach, the notorious pirate known as
"Blackbeard", off the coast of North Carolina. After two devastating
broadsides from Blackbeard's ship Adventure, a boarding party led by Lt.
Robert Maynard of HMS Ranger boards the pirate sloop and kills Blackbeard.
1942: After crushing the Romanians, the Soviet 4th Mechanized Corps and
4th Tank Corps meet at Kalach-na-Donu, surrounding the 250,000 men of
Gen. Friedrich Paulus' 6th Army. The trapped Germans eventually surrender
in what becomes perhaps the bloodiest battle in the history of warfare, with
some two million casualties over the five-month engagement.
1963: President John F. Kennedy is assassinated by former Marine radar
operator Lee Harvey Oswald while the presidential motorcade travels through
Dallas, Texas. Oswald also seriously wounds Texas Governor John Connally
in the attack. Both Kennedy and Connally served in the Navy during World
— War II - Kennedy as a PT boat skipper and Connally as a fighter plane
director aboard aircraft carriers.
1972: Although North Vietnam claimed that they had already shot down 19 B52 bombers, this date marks the first time a "Stratofortress" falls victim to
enemy surface-to-air missiles. Following their raid on Vinh, the crew bails out
of the stricken bird over Thailand. 30 more B-52s will be destroyed by hostile
fire during the remainder of the war.
1988: Northrop's B-2 "Spirit" stealth bomber is unveiled to an audience of
government officials and press at Air Force Plant 42 in Palmdale, Calif.. The
B-2 will not make its first flight until the following year and doesn't enter
combat until Kosovo in 1999.
1863: The battles of the Chattanooga campaign begin between newly
appointed commander of the Western armies, Union Maj. Gen. Ulysses S.
Grant, and Confederate Gen. Braxton Bragg.
Within days, Union Army forces will attack and capture Orchard Knob,
Lookout Mountain, and the Confederate works on Missionary Ridge. The
"Gateway to the Lower South" will open, and within a year, Union Gen.
William Tecumseh Sherman will pass through the "gateway" enroute to
1943: Japanese-held Tarawa falls to American forces despite the boast of its
defending commander, Rear Adm. Keiji Shibasaki, that "a million men could
not take Tarawa in a hundred years." It takes several thousand Marines and
about 76 hours to seize Tarawa.
Makin Atoll, 100 miles north of Tarawa, is also declared secure.
1944: The Seventh Army, commanded by Gen. Alexander Patch, captures
1972: Peace talks between the US and North Vietnam secretly resume in
Paris, but quickly reach an impasse.
1863: Union forces scale the slopes of Lookout Mountain under cover of fog,
capturing high ground and breaking the Confederate siege of Chattanooga,
Tenn. Meanwhile, Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant's Military Division of the
Mississippi defeats Gen. Braxton Bragg's Army of Tennessee in the Battle of
—Lookout Mountain. Three Union soldiers were awarded the Medal for actions
in the engagement: Pvt. Peter Kappesser and 1st Sgt. Norman F. Potter (for
capturing Confederate Gen. Braxton Bragg's flag) and Sgt. John Kiggins (for
waving colors to save the lives of troops being fired at by friendly artillery
batteries — drawing concentrated enemy fire).
1943: The Japanese submarine 1-75 torpedoes the escort carrier USS Liscome
Bay during the Battle of Makin Island, detonating the aircraft bomb magazine
and engulfing the ship in flames. 23 minutes later, the carrier sinks, taking
over 700 sailors and officers with her to the bottom. Among the dead are Rear
Adm. Henry M. Mullinnix and Petty Officer Doris "Dorie" Miller, one of the
"first U.S. heroes of Pearl Harbor, as the first black sailor ever awarded the
1944: 111 U.S. B-29 bombers of the 73rd Bombardment Wing, flying out of
Saipan, attack the Nakajima Aircraft engine plant near Tokyo in the first
attack on the Japanese mainland since Doolittle's 1942 raid.
1950: Gen. Douglas MacArthur launches the "Home by Christmas" offensive
against Chinese and North Korean forces. The attack meets heavy resistance
and a Chinese counterattack would drive UN forces from North Korea by
1951: Near Kowang-San, Korea, Pvt. 1st Class Noah 0. Knight
spots enemy soldiers entering a friendly position. Having
previously exhausted his ammunition while stemming an enemy advance and
causing heavy enemy casualties, Knight rushed the soldiers, neutralizing two
with his rifle butt, but was mortally wounded when the third enemy soldier
detonated his explosives. For his actions, he is posthumously awarded the
Medal of Honor.
1963: Two days after assassinating Pres. John F. Kennedy, former Marine Lee
Harvey Oswald is himself shot and killed by Jack Ruby - formerly a mechanic
in the Army Air Forces, who served during World War II.
1783: Three months after the end of the Revolutionary War, the last British
soldiers withdraw from New York City. British forces had held the city since
1776, and after its liberation, New York would become the first national
capital under the Constitution.
1863: One day after capturing Lookout Mountain, Union forces under Gen.
Ulysses S. Grant rout Gen. Braxton Bragg's Confederate Army of Tennessee
on Missionary Ridge, breaking the Confederate siege of Chattanooga.
Medal of Honor: 1st Lt. Arthur MacArthur Jr., father of Gen. Douglas
MacArthur, seizes "the colors of his regiment at a critical moment and planted
them on the captured works on the crest of Missionary Ridge." The
MacArthurs are the first father and son to be awarded the Medal of Honor.
The only other pair is Theodore Roosevelt and Theodore Roosevelt, Jr.
1864: The Confederate plot to burn New York City fails. Agents did manage
to burn several hotels, but most of the fires either were contained quickly or
failed to ignite. Robert Kennedy, a Confederate officer who escaped from a
Union prisoner of war camp in Ohio, was the only operative to be caught.
1876: In Wyoming Territory, Army cavalry soldiers defeat Cheyenne warriors
under chiefs Dull Knife and Little Wolf, effectively ending the Cheyenne's
ability to wage war.
1941: Adm. Harold R. Stark, the Chief of Naval Operations, warns Adm.
Husband E. Kimmel, commander of the Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor, that
both President Roosevelt and Secretary of State Cordell Hull think a Japanese
surprise attack is a distinct possibility. The next day, the Japanese task force
sets sail for Pearl Harbor.
1943: Five US destroyers under the command of Capt. Arleigh Burke sink
three Japanese destroyers while receiving no damage themselves in the Battle
of Cape St. George in the Solomon Islands, marking the end of Japan's
"Tokyo Express" resupply route in the South Pacific.
1943: Bombers from the US 14th Air Force, based in China, strike the
Japanese-held island of Formosa (Taiwan) for the first time.
1944: Four US carriers are damaged in a mass kamikaze assault by Japanese
aircraft as US warplanes sink two Japanese cruisers off Luzon.
1961: The world's first nuclear-powered carrier, the USS Enterprise is commissioned.
2001: US Marines of the 15th and 26 Marine Expeditionary Unit land near
Kandahar, becoming the first major combat force in Afghanistan.
2001: CIA operative and former Marine Johnny Michael Spann becomes the
first US combat death in Afghanistan when hundreds of Taliban prisoners in
the makeshift prison near Mazar-I-Sharif revolt.
1789: Pres. George Washington issues a proclamation declaring 26 November
"to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and
glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or
that will be." This marks the first designated Thanskgiving Day by the United
1862: Maj. William H. Powell leads twenty troopers on a cavalry charge
against a 500-man encampment at Sinking Creek Valley (Va.). The Union
men capture 114 Confederates and 200 guns without losing a single man.
Powell is awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions.
1941: After receiving an ultimatum from the US ordering Japan to vacate
China or face further sanctions, the Japanese First Air Fleet, commanded by
Adm. Chuichi Nagumo, departs for their attack on Pearl Harbor.
1943: Off the Algerian coast, a Luftwaffe Heinkel He 177A heavy bomber
releases its Hs 293 radio-controlled glide bomb, which heads for the British —
transport ship HMT Rohna. The bomb impacts the side of the ship, knocking
out electricity and setting Rohna ablaze. When the transport slips under the
waves, she takes with her over 1000 American troops. The sinking of the
Rohna remains the greatest loss of life at sea in the history of the U.S. Navy.
1950: Chinese forces launch a massive counterattack against US and South
Korean forces, driving them south and putting an end to any hopes of a quick
conclusion to the Korean War.
1970: When a six-man reconnaissance patrol of Green Berets under heavy
enemy fire radios for extraction, U.S. Air Force 1st Lt. James P. Fleming lands
his Uff,-1 helicopter - which was low on fuel - in the middle of the firefight
so that the Special Forces soldiers can be rescued. On their way to the chopper,
the team shoots three Viet Cong just ten feet from Fleming's helicopter, which
was running low on fuel. Fleming is awarded the Medal of Honor for his
1817: Maj. Gen. Edmund P. Gaines dispatches soldiers to attack the Seminole
camp at Fowltown, Fla., formally beginning the First Seminole War.
1868: Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer's Seventh Cavalry attacks a peaceful
Cheyenne encampment near present-day Cheyenne, Okla. The Battle of
Washita River — more of a massacre — would be the first substantial
"victory" in the Indian Wars.
1909: Following the execution of two American mercenaries in Nicaragua,
U.S. forces land in Bluefields to prepare for an invasion.
1942: Adm. Jean de Laborde orders the destruction of the French fleet
anchored at Toulon, to avoid falling into German hands. Three battleships, six
cruisers, 1 aircraft transport, 30 destroyers, and 16 submarines are sunk. Three
submarines sail for Allied-controlled Algiers, and only one falls into Gelman
1950: Near psok, Korea, Army Capt. Reginald B. Desiderio
charges into the enemy, inflicting heavy casualties
before being killed himself by enemy fire. Prior to his one-man assault, which
ultimately repelled the fanatical enemy attack, Desiderio had been wounded
twice and refused evacuation. Desiderio's replacement as company
commander, Capt. Lewis L. Millett
will also be awarded the Medal of Honor - for a historic
bayonet charge in February.
1951: A "Nike" anti-aircraft missile shoots down a QB-17 "Flying
Fortress" target drone over White Sands Missile Range, becoming the first
successful surface-to-air missile test. The Army will begin putting Nike
systems in the field in 1953.
1965: The Pentagon tells Pres. Lyndon B. Johnson that in order to have
success in his military objectives, the troop commitment in Vietnam would
have to be increased nearly four times - from 120,000 troops to 400,000.
1864: Lt. Gen. James Longstreet's forces assault Union-held Fort Sanders.
The defenders are well prepared: telegraph wire is strung up around the
position - one of the first times in military history that wire is used as a
defensive tool. Many Confederates break their ankles on the wires during the
assault, and are picked off as they attempt to disentangle themselves. Those
that don't become casualties from the wire are unable to climb over the frozen
and near-vertical wall surrounding the fort. As a result of the disaster at Fort
Sanders, Longstreet is forced to abandon his campaign to capture Knoxville.
1941: The aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CV-6) departs Pearl Harbor to
ferry F4F Wildcat fighters from Marine Fighter Squadron 211 (VMF-211) to
Wake Island, thus saving the carrier from the coming Japanese attack.
1941: Adolf Hitler meets with Mohammad Amin al-Husayni, the Grand Mufti
of Jerusalem, and the two determine that Jews in the Middle East must be
1942: The first Ford production B-24 Liberator rolls off the new production
line in Ypsilanti, Mich. By war's end, the plant would turn out some 8,500
Liberators — and by June of 1944, at the incredible rate of one per hour.
1943: In Teheran, Iran, Franklin Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, and Joseph
Stalin meet for the first time to plan a strategy to defeat Nazi Germany.
1950: Gen. Walton Walker, Commander of the Eighth Army, declares that his
offensive is over. Gen. Douglas MacArthur informs the Joint Chiefs that "We
face an entirely new war." Nearly half a million Chinese soldiers drive US
forces before them.
Meanwhile, the Chinese launch a massive offensive intending to wipe out the
First Marine Division. Three Marines from the 2d Battalion, Seventh Marines,
First Marine Division - one in E Company (SSgt. Robert S. Kennemore)
and two in F Company (Capt. William E. Barber)
and Pvt. Hector A. Cafferata Jr.
will earn the Medal of Honor on this date.
1760: Rogers' Rangers under the command of Massachusetts-born Maj. (future
Lt. Col.) Robert Rogers capture Fort Detroit from the French. U.S. Army
Rangers in the 20th and 21st centuries will trace their lineage to Rogers and his
British Colonial irregulars. 1804: Marine Corps 1st Lt. Presley O'Bannon,
William Eaton, Navy Midshipman George Mann, and seven Marines land at
Alexandria, Egypt with the intention of overthrowing the ruler
of Tripoli. Five months - and 600 miles - later, the men would arrive in the
port city of Derne and defeat the Bashaw's forces.
1890: At West Point, the visiting U.S. Naval Academy beats the U.S. Military
Academy, 24-0, in the first-ever Army — Navy football game.
1929: U.S. Navy Commander Richard E. Byrd Jr. makes the first-ever flight
over the South Pole. Byrd — a future rear admiral and recipient of the Medal of
Honor for his 1926 flight over the North Pole — serves as navigator for the
South Pole flight. His companions include pilot Bernt Balchen, radio operator
Harold June, and photographer Ashley McKinley. The team crosses the Pole in
a modified Ford tri-motor airplane.
1941: The Japanese decide that the terms issued by the United States are
unacceptable and that Japan must go to war. Meanwhile, the passenger ship
Lurline sends a radio signal that they have spotted Japanese fleet in the North
Pacific, heading East.
1944: The submarine USS Archerfish sinks the Japanese carrier Shinano,
the largest warship sunk by a submarine during World War II, off Honshu. In
the Philippines, the battleship USS Maryland and two destroyers are heavily
damaged by kamikaze attacks.
Meanwhile in France, for nearly two weeks SSgt. Andrew Miller
engages in a "series of heroic events," to include single-handedly
silencing multiple machinegun positions; killing or wounding dozens of
German soldiers, and capturing scores more. Then on Nov. 29 1944, SSgt.
Miller's platoon was pinned down by German fire. He led a charge that
smothered the Germans, but the attack cost Miller his life.
1952: Newly elected president - and former Gen. - Dwight Eisenhower fulfills
his campaign promise of visiting Korea in hopes of ending the conflict. Upon
taking office, President Eisenhower informs the Chinese that he would
unleash Nationalist Chinese forces in Taiwan against Communist China
unless peace negotiations progressed. An armistice was signed in July of 1953
1968: Viet Cong High Command issues a directive to its forces to wage a new
assault to "utterly destroy" US and South Vietnamese forces, specifically
targeting the highly effective Phoenix counterinsurgency program.
1947: Former World War II ace George Welch climbs into the cockpit of his
North American Aviation XF-86 for the maiden flight of the Sabre. When the
Korean War breaks out, F-86 pilots will dominate the skies, with its pilots
boasting a 10:1 kill ratio over the once-feared MiG-15s. Of the war's 40
American aces, all but one are Sabre pilots.
1951: The Air Force activates the 1st Pilotless Bomber Squadron at the
Missile Test Center, which is now part of Cape Canaveral Air Force Station
(Fla.). The squadron was armed with primitive cruise missiles (surface-tosurface) such as the Republic-Ford JB-2 - a copy of Nazi Germany's Vbuzzbomb - and the B-61 Matador missile, an improved design which could
be armed with a 40-kiloton nuclear warhead.
In less than three years, the unit is deployed to West Germany's Bitburg Air
Base where it becomes the 1st Tactical Missile squadron - America's first
operational missile unit.
1955: America's first "supercarrier," the USS Forrestal (CVA-59), is
commissioned. Forrestal, with its angled flight deck and steam catapults, is
the first flattop designed to operate jet aircraft.
1942: Col. Laurence C. Craigie becomes the U.S. military's first official jet
pilot when he takes off from Muroc Dry Lake (present-day Edwards Air Force
Base) in the Bell XP-59. The day before, a Bell test pilot accidentally lifted off
during a high-speed taxi test. Craigie will go on to command a fighter wing in
North Africa, then becomes Vice Commander of the Far East Air Forces during
the Korean War.
1794: President George Washington calls on the governors of Maryland, New
Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Virginia to mobilize troops to put down the Whiskey
Rebellion. Washington himself will lead the army - the only time a sitting
president commands troops in the field. Henry "Light Horse" Lee, veteran of
the American Revolution and father of Confederate general Robert E. Lee will
also lead troops, and also participating in the campaign is Pvt. Meriwether
Lewis, of the Lewis and Clark Expedition.
1912: Four Marine battalions - including one led by Maj. Smedley Butler -
converge and assault the fortress atop the 500-ft. Coyotepe Hill. Nicaraguan
rebel commander Gen. Benjamin ZeledOn is killed during the battle, and the
rebellion effectively ends once the Marines capture the city of LeOn in two
days. Butler, a veteran of the Boxer Rebellion, Banana Wars, Mexican Revolution,
and World War I, is the only Marine in history to be awarded two Medal of
Honors and the Marine Corps Brevet Medal.
1950: Major League Baseball rules that Philadelphia Phillies' 17-game winner
Curt Simmons, whose National Guard unit had just been activated during the
Korean War, would not be eligible to pitch in the World Series, despite the fact
that he was on furlough. The Phillies were swept by a New York Yankee team
managed by World War I veteran Casey Stengel (USN), and featuring Joe
DiMaggio (USA), Whitey Ford (soon-to-be USA), Hank Bauer (USMC), Jerry
Coleman (USMC), and Yogi Berra (USN).
1962: Cmdr. Walter M. "Wally" Schirra, Jr. (USN) becomes the fifth
American in space when he orbits the earth six times in his Sigma 7 capsule.
After a nine-hour flight, he splashes down just half a mile from the recovery
ship USS Kearsarge (CVS-33), joking that his target was the carrier's
"number three elevator."
1993: Special operations forces board several Army Black Hawk helicopters and
set out to capture the Somali warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid. The snatch-andgrab operation was supposed to take only one hour, but when a rocketpropelled-grenade takes out one of the helicopters, Operation GOTHIC
SERPENT begins to spin out of control. As the vehicle convoy, originally
intended to haul the captured leaders of the Habr Gidr clan, races through
barricaded streets to establish a security perimeter around the first Black
Hawk, another Black Hawk is shot down.
With resources stretched to the maximum and the vehicle convoy unable to
,reach the crash sites, Delta Force snipers Master Sgt. Gary I. Gordon and Sgt.
1st Class Randall D. Shughart volunteer to land and provide cover fire for the
second downed helicopter. Both are overrun and killed while protecting the
four wounded crew members in the face of overwhelming numbers, and will
be awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously.
Maj. Gen. William F. Garrison assembles a quick reaction force of 100 UN and
10th Mountain Division vehicles as the task force battles through the night. 19
American service members will be killed and 73 wounded during the intense
urban combat of the Battle of Mogadishu. Chief Warrant Officer Michael J.
Durant, one of the downed Black Hawk pilots, is captured and held as a
prisoner for 11 days.
2010: 92 years after the end of World War I, Germany makes its last
reparation payment demanded by the Treaty of Versailles.
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.
1822: Rutherford B. Hayes, the 19th President of the United States, is born in
Delaware, Oh.. Despite having no military background, Hayes will be
appointed Major in the 23rd Regiment of Ohio Volunteer Infantry. The talented
officer will be wounded five times during the Civil War, ultimately reaching
the rank of Brevet Major General. Also serving in the 23rd Regiment is Pvt. -
and future Pres. - William McKinley.
1906: A Marine expeditionary force, under command of Lt. Col. Franklin J.
Moses, sets sail for Cuba to restore law and order. The Marines are
supplemented by a squadron of cavalry troopers of the llth Cavalry Regiment
(today's llth Armored Cavalry "Blackhorse" Regiment).
1918: An explosion at the T. A. Gillespie Co. Shell Loading Plant in
Sayreville, N.J. ignites a fire, leading to several more explosions that will last
for three days. 300 buildings are destroyed, 100 people are killed, and
hundreds are wounded. The plant is said to have on hand enough ammunition
to supply the Western Front for six months. 12 Coast Guardsmen will be
awarded the Navy Cross for their actions during the incident, and two will
That same day, in Montrebeau Woods, France, a tank driven by Cpl. Harold
W. Roberts of the Tank Corps' 344th Battalion slides into a shell hole while
positioning his tank to provide cover for a disabled tank. The 10-foot shell
hole is filled with water and only one of the tank's two occupants will be able
to exit before the vehicle is flooded. Roberts tells his companion, "Well, only
one of us can get out, and out you go." For saving his fellow soldier's life at
the cost of his own, Cpl. Roberts is posthumously awarded the Medal of
1943: USS Ranger conducts the only American carrier operation in the
northern Atlantic, when its Dauntless and Avenger crews attack a German
convoy near Bod, Norway, sinking or damaging ten enemy vessels.
1944: After a heavy mortar barrage on Mt. Battaglia, Italy, Staff Sgt. Manuel
Mendoza spots 200 enemy soldiers charging up the slope towards his
position. He grabs his Thompson submachine gun and empties his five
magazines into the charging force. He then switches to a carbine, exhausting
that weapon's ammunition as well. He draws his pistol and shoots a soldier
armed with a flame-thrower, just before the German can reach Mendoza's
position. He then switches to a machinegun, pouring withering fire into the
enemy and scattering them. When his gun jams, he switches to grenades and
causes the enemy to begin fleeing. He charges after them, grabbing discarded
weapons and capturing an enemy soldier. For single-handedly defeating a
German counterattack, Staff Sgt. Mendoza is awarded the Distinguished
Service Cross, which is upgraded to the Medal of Honor in 2014.
1985: The terrorist group Hezbollah announces that they have executed
former CIA Beirut station chief William F. Buckley. Buckley, a former
Special Forces Lt. Col. and veteran of both the Korean and Vietnam Wars,
had been held captive for over 14 months.
1813: British troops and Native American warriors led by Maj. Gen. Henry
Proctor and Shawnee Chief Tecumseh are defeated by American Maj. Gen.
Henry Harrison's men in the Battle of the Thames (Ontario, Canada). The
outnumbered British troops are routed and Tecumseh's tribal confederation
collapses when he and his war chief Roundhead are killed. Soon, control of
contested tribal-held lands, in what was then-called Northwest Territory
(Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, and the eastern part of
Minnesota), would be ceded to the U.S. government.
1918: Sgt. Michael B. Ellis of the 28th Infantry Regiment single-handedly
attacks a German machine gun nest near Exermount, France, killing two enemy
soldiers and capturing 17. He then moves on to capture 27 more enemy troops
and six machine guns. Two captured officers cough up the locations of four
additional machine gun positions, and the "Sgt. York of St. Louis" takes them
as well. In addition to numerous valor medals from foreign countries, Ellis is
awarded the Medal of Honor.
1950: Just a few short weeks after the U.S. military had its back to the sea in
the Pusan Perimeter, the tables have completely turned. Lt. Gen. Walton H.
Walker's Eighth U.S. Army issues orders to cross the 38th Parallel into North
Korea. The communist capital of Pyongyang will soon be in allied hands, but
China has threatened to join the war if the United States invades North Korea.
1969: Lt. Eduardo Jimenez of the Cuban Air Force manages to fly his Mig-17
fighter undetected through the U.S. military's air defense network, landing at
Homestead Air Force Base (near Miami, Fla.). Fortunately, Lt. Jimenez was
defecting - especially since he was able to park his jet right next to Air Force
2013: Special operations forces conduct two simultaneous counterterrorism
missions in Africa. In Baraawe, Somalia, SEAL Team Six/DEVGRU
commandos swim ashore, hoping to snatch the Al Shabaab terrorist suspected
in the deadly attack on a Nairobi, Kenya shopping mall the previous month,
but are forced to abort the mission after an intense 20-minute firefight.
Meanwhile in Libya, Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta soldiers
grab a high-value Al Qaeda target involved in the 1998 U.S. Embassy
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 --
vrench and American units advancing on their flanks have been 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 "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.
1777: Continental forces under the command of Gen. Horatio Gates
decisively defeat British forces under Gen. John "Gentleman Johnny"
Burgoyne in the Second Battle of Saratoga (also known as the Battle of
According to the National Parks Service, "This crucial American victory
renewed patriots' hopes for independence, secured essential foreign
recognition and support, and forever changed the face of the world."
But the war is far from over.
1780: Three years to the day after Second Saratoga, patriot militia forces
armed with rifles, knives, and tomahawks decisively defeat musket-armed
Loyalist militia under the command of British Army Maj. Patrick Ferguson
(who will be killed in the fighting) in the bloody Battle of King's Mountain on
the N.C.-S.C. border.
Among the patriots is John Crockett, father of Davy Crockett.
1918: Nearly two weeks into the Meuse-Argonne Offensive of World War I,
the U.S. Army's 82nd Division (destined to become the famed 82nd Airborne
Division) battles its way toward -- and successfully relieves -- the now famous
"Lost Battalion" (combined elements of three battalions of the 77th Infantry
Division, which had been surrounded during a German counterattack).
For days without blankets and overcoats, always running short of ammunition
and medical supplies (the wounded often patched up with bloody bandages
removed from the dead), and with little food and nearly no water; the "Lost
Battalion" -- under the command of Maj. (future lieutenant colonel) Charles S.
Whittlesey -- had refused to surrender. Responding to a German surrenderdemand, Whittlesey allegedly replied, "Go to hell!" Some reports suggest he
said, "Come and get us."
Whittlesey and two of his officers -- Captains George McMurtry and Nelson
Holderman -- will receive the Medal of Honor.
1941: Although the United States has not yet entered the war, a German
U-boat torpedoes USS Kearny (DD-432), killing 11 sailors - the first Naval
casualties of World War II.
2001: Post 9/11 America goes on the offensive against terrorists when U.S.
and allied forces launch a massive retaliatory air and naval strike against the
Taliban and Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeda network in Afghanistan.
1918: The day following the relief of the "Lost Battalion," Private First Class
(future U.S. Army sergeant and future colonel in the Tennessee State Guard)
Alvin C. York captures "the whole damned German Army."
In the action for which he will receive both the Medal of Honor and the
French Croix de Guerre, York leads a seven-man team of doughboys against a
strong enemy position. The team kills at least 25 Germans and captures four
officers, 128 soldiers, and over 30 machineguns.
French Marshall Ferdinand Foch will tell York, "What you did was the
greatest thing accomplished by any private soldier of all the armies of
1861: 1,000 Confederate soldiers land on Florida's Santa Rosa Island and
assault Union-held Fort Pickens. The attackers withdraw after the federal guns
inflict 90 casualties. Fort Pickens sits across the bay from Naval Air Station
Pensacola - the birthplace of Naval aviation - and coastal defense guns were
installed at the old fort during World War II.
1940: After USS Nautilus (SS-168) conducts a successful test, Secretary
of the Navy William F. Knox approves a plan for 24 submarines to each
carry 20,000 gallons of aviation gasoline for refueling seaplanes at sea.
1950: As the U.S. military crosses into North Korea, Pfc. Robert H. Young
and his fellow troopers of the 1st Cavalry Division are spearheading an
assault. Young is wounded once by an enemy barrage, but he refuses medical
treatment and remains on the line. He is wounded a second time, and is
awaiting treatment when the enemy threatens to surround the Americans.
Young rejoins the action and, from an exposed position, kills five enemy
soldiers. He is hit a third time, but remains on the field - directing friendly
tanks to destroy enemy gun positions. Young is hit by an enemy mortar blast
while he is treating his fellow wounded soldiers, but despite his multiple
grievous wounds, he instructs the medics to help the others first.
Pfc. Young will perish from his wounds on November 9, 1950, and is
posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.
1951: When a dug-in enemy position hammers his fellow soldiers during the
battle for Heartbreak Ridge, Sgt. 1st Class Tony K. Burris charges and
destroys the position with grenades - killing 15. The next day (Oct. 9), Burris
is wounded by enemy machinegun fire while assaulting enemy positions on
the next ridge. He continues his assault and is wounded a second time. He
reaches the top of the ridge, then remains in an exposed position to draws
enemy fire and pinpoint their location for a recoilless rifle team. When that
position is destroyed, Burris continues on to the next ridge, killing the heavy
machinegun crew's six members. He charges one more position, and is fatally
cut down as he hurls his last grenade into the position, which destroys the
Burris is posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.
1967: Che Guevara, co-founder of Fidel Castro's Communist regime, is
executed by firing squad while leading a revolution in Bolivia. While the
cold-blooded murderer and terrorist remains an icon to many Americans,
many of his fans wouldn't exist had the Soviets left their ballistic missiles on
Cuba: "If the nuclear missiles had remained," Che said, "we would have used
them against the very heart of America, including New York City [...] We will
march the path of victory even if it costs millions of atomic victims [...] We
must keep our hatred alive and fan it to paroxysm."
1845: Secretary of the Navy George Bancroft founds the Naval School in
Annapolis, Md. - later renamed the U.S. Naval Academy. The nation's secondoldest service academy (the U.S. Military Academy was established by Thomas
Jefferson in 1802) is built on the grounds of Fort Severn, which traces its roots
to the American Revolution.
1944: Although assigned as a gunnery instructor and advised not to actively
seek out combat, Maj. Richard I. Bong, America's all-time leading ace,
volunteers for several missions between Oct. 10 and Nov. 11, shooting down
eight Japanese warplanes from his P-38 Lightning fighter. For his actions
during this period, Bong is awarded the Medal of Honor. After scoring his
40th victory, Bong is sent back to the states where he becomes a test pilot. He
will perish just before the Japanese surrender, when his Lockheed P-80
Shooting Star jet fighter malfunctions and crashes in California.
1950: As the 1st Cavalry Division crosses the 38th Parallel near Kaesong,
helicopter crews with the 3rd Air Rescue Squadron apply plasma to a rescued
pilot for the first time as they return to base. During the Korean War, members
of the Air Force's 3rd Air Rescue Group will rescue thousands of downed
1985: After Palestine Liberation Front (PLF) terrorists - part of KGB-trained
terrorist Yasser Arafat's Palestinian Liberation Organization - take over the
Italian-flagged cruise liner MS Achille Lauro, U.S. Navy F-14 Tomcats
intercept their Boeing 737 getaway jet carrying the terrorists to Tunisia,
forcing the jet to land at a NATO airbase on Sigonella, Sicily. Once on the
ground, the terrorists are brought to custody following a five-hour
jurisdictional standoff between an 80-man group of Delta Force and SEAL
Team SIX commandos and hundreds of Italian military police.
The terrorists killed one of their hostages and threw his body overboard:
wheelchair-bound American citizen Leon Klinghoffer, who flew as a
navigator aboard B-24 Liberator bombers in the European Theater of World
War II. After leaving Sigonella, PLF founder and the attack's ringleader Abu
Abbas flies to Italy and ultimately makes it to Iraq, where Saddam Hussein
protects him from extradition to Italy. He is captured in 2003 by American
forces and dies of natural causes in U.S. custody.
1994: In response to two Iraqi divisions massing on the Kuwaiti border, the
Air Force deploys warplanes and begins ferrying thousands of soldiers and
Marines to the Persian Gulf. Operation VIGILANT WARRIOR winds down
by the end of the month when Saddam Hussein withdraws his forces.
1910: Wright Brothers pilot Archibald Hoxsey crosses paths with President
Theodore Roosevelt while at St. Louis during a cross-country flying exhibition
and invites him for a ride. Roosevelt initially refuses, but his adventuresome
spirit gets the best of him and he changes his mind. Roosevelt straps in and
becomes the first president to fly.
1939: A letter written by Hungarian-born physicist Leo Szilard, and signed
by Albert Einstein, reaches President Franklin D. Roosevelt, warning that the
Germans could develop an atomic weapon and that the United States should
begin their own nuclear research. Roosevelt quickly authorizes a committee
on uranium, setting in motion what will eventually become the Manhattan
1942: U.S. Naval forces under the command of Rear Admiral Norman Scott
intercept a Japanese fleet, commanded by Rear Adm. Aritomo Goto,
attempting to reinforce troops on Guadalcanal in the Battle of Cape
Esperance. Fighting begins shortly before midnight off the northwest coast of
the island when the Japanese are caught by surprise. The heavy cruiser
Furutaka and destroyer Fubuki are sunk during the gun battle, and Adm. Goto
is mortally wounded. Planes from Henderson Field strike the retreating
Japanese fleet the next morning and sink two additional Japanese destroyers the
following day. Japanese sailors who jumped overboard refuse to be rescued by
American ships, instead consigning themselves to a horrifying
death in the shark-infested waters.
1945: Marines of the III Amphibious Corps land in China to assist in
repatriating hundreds of thousands of Japanese and Koreans and to protect
American lives and property. By the time the Marines depart China the
following year, 35 have been killed and 43 wounded in clashes with Mao
Zedong's Communist forces.
1961: President John F. Kennedy authorizes deployment of the Air Force's
4400th Combat Crew Training Squadron to South Vietnam to support the
counterinsurgency effort against the Viet Cong. The airmen are equipped with
World War II-era warplanes and conduct strikes against the communist supply
lines and fly close air support missions in support of U.S. Special Forces and
the South Vietnamese military.
1968: Astronauts Walter M. Schirra (Capt., USN), Donn F. Eisele (Col.,
USAF), and Walter Cunningham (Col. USMCR ) blast off aboard Apollo 7.
The crew, commanded by Schirra, would orbit the Earth for 11 days and
transmit the first live television broadcasts from orbit.
1971: Marine legend Lt. Gen. Lewis B. "Chesty" Puller, the highest decorated
Marine in history, passes away. Among his numerous decorations, Puller
earned the nation's second-highest award for valor six times (five Navy Crosses
and a Distinguished Service Cross) - second only to Capt. Eddie Rickenbacker,
America's top flying ace of World War I. The 37-year veteran served in the
Nicaraguan and Haitian campaigns, as well as World War II and the Korean
1862: Confederate cavalry commander Gen. James Ewell Brown "J.E.B."
Stuart completes his "second ride" around Union Gen. George B. McClellan's
Army of the Potomac.
1870: Five years after surrendering his Army of Northern Virginia to Gen.
Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox, Gen. Robert E. Lee passes away after
suffering a stroke. The revered general served his country 44 years, fighting
alongside Grant in the Mexican-American War, and against him in the Civil
1944: U.S. Army Air Force 1st Lt. Charles E. "Chuck" Yeager and his 357th
Fighter Group surprise a flight of 22 Messerschmitt Bf-109 fighters near
Hanover, Germany. Yeager's P-51D "Mustang", named Glamorous Glenn II,
Yeager will score five of the group's eight victories - two without firing a shot
- becoming an "ace in a day." Yeager finishes World War II with 11.5 kills,
and will go on to fly 127 missions during the Vietnam War. The former Army
private will retire a Brigadier General in 1975, but continues flying for the Air
Force and NASA.
That same day, aircraft from seven U.S. aircraft carriers of Carrier Task Force
38 attack targets on Japanese-held Formosa (modern-day Taiwan).
1945: President (and former artillery officer during World War I) Harry S.
Truman awards the Medal of Honor to Cpl. Desmond Doss for saving the lives
of 75 wounded soldiers on Okinawa's Hacksaw Ridge. Since Doss was a
conscientious objector, the Army made him a combat medic. Prior to his
service on Okinawa, where Doss was wounded four times, he also saw action
on Guam and the Philippines, where he earned two Bronze Stars with "V" for
1954: World War II ace, now chief test pilot for North American Aviation,
George S. Welch dies when his F-100 "Super Sabre" disintegrates during
testing. An Army Air Force pilot with 16 victories during World War II,
Welch was one of two pilots able to get airborne and engage Japanese aircraft
during the attack on Pearl Harbor. He was recommended for the Medal of
Honor for his actions on December 7th, but having taken off without orders, he
only receives the Distinguished Flying Cross. While serving as an
instructor and test pilot for North American during the Korean War, he —
reportedly shot down several MiG-15 aircraft, but again did so against orders, so
he did not receive credit for the kills.
2000: While the destroyer USS Cole stops to refuel in Yemen, two suicide
bombers ram an explosive-laden fiberglass boat into the warship, blowing a
massive hole in the side of Cole, claiming the lives of 17 U.S. sailors and
injures another 39.
1775: "...[M]eeting in Philadelphia, the Continental Congress voted to fit out
two sailing vessels, armed with ten carriage guns, as well as swivel guns, and
manned by crews of eighty, and to send them out on a cruise of three months
to intercept transports carrying munitions and stores to the British army in
America." (from Naval History and Heritage Command)
The U.S. Navy is born.
1777: After having been decisively defeated by Continental Army Gen.
Horatio Gates at Second Saratoga, British Gen. John "Gentleman Johnny"
Burgoyne surrenders his entire army, between 5,000 and 7,000 men.
1943: In what will become known as "Black Thursday," U.S. Army Air Force
B-17 Flying Fortresses — elements of the famed 8th Air Force — attack the
ball-bearing plants (critical to Germany's aviation industry) at the heavily
defended Bavarian city of Schweinfurt. Though the raid is successful, scores
of bombers — and more than 600 airmen — are lost.
1947: 45,000 feet over California's Mojave Desert, USAF test pilot Charles
"Chuck" Yeager becomes the first human to break the sound barrier, piloting
his Bell X-1 to Mach 1.07 - two days after breaking his ribs.
1917: When a German submarine launches a torpedo at USS Cassin (DD-43)
during an escort patrol, Gunner's Mate First Class Osmond Kelly Ingram
realizes the torpedo will impact the destroyer's store of depth charges. Instead
of remaining in a position of safety, he charges across the deck to the depth
charges to jettison the stockpiled explosives that could sink his ship. Ingram is
killed while trying to save Cassin, becoming the first U.S. sailor killed during
World War I and is posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.
1918: Near Landres-et-St. Georges, France, Lt. Col. William "Wild Bill"
Donovan earns the Medal of Honor while leading his soldiers during an
assault on strong German positions. Wounded in the leg by a burst of
machinegun fire, Donovan refuses evacuation and remains in command until
his unit is withdrawn. Donovan is named Coordinator of Information by
President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1941 and he will form the Office of
Strategic Services the following year — the predecessor to today's Central
1952: President Harry S. Truman authorizes a B-47 Stratojet reconnaissance
overflight of the Soviet Union's Chukostky Peninsula (just across the Bering
Strait from Alaska). The photos reveal Soviet staging areas for bombers that
can now target much of the Continental United States.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Navy conducts a massive amphibious mock landing at
Kojo, North Korea, featuring 100 ships and support from carrier aircraft. The
Navy hopes to draw the Communist fighters out into the open, allowing Task
Force 77 aviators to wipe out the exposed right flank, but but the enemy
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 (modem-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 Goring, 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.
1918: Brig. Gen. William "Billy" Mitchell meets with American Expeditionary
Force Commander Gen. John J. Pershing and floats the idea of dropping
soldiers of the 1st Infantry Division behind enemy lines. Pershing approves the
concept, but the war ends before paratroopers become a reality.
1922: Lt. Commander Virgil C. Griffm, piloting a Vought VE-7SF bi-winged
fighter, makes the first-ever "official" takeoff from a U.S. Navy aircraft
carrier, USS Langley - a coaling ship which had been converted into
America's first aircraft carrier - in York River, Va.
Though Griffm is indeed the first man to takeoff from a "carrier", he is not the
first to takeoff from a warship. That distinction belongs to Eugene B. Ely who
took-off from a platform affixed to a cruiser in 1910.
1941: When a "wolfpack" of German U-boats attacks an allied convoy,
overwhelming its Canadian escort ships, USS Kearny and three other
American destroyers depart their base at Iceland and begin dropping depth
charges. A German torpedo strikes Kearny, killing 11 sailors and injuring 22 -
the first American casualties of World War II. Adolf Hitler will use the
engagement as a reason for declaring war on the United States in December.
1944: The 6th Ranger Battalion lands on Dinagat, Homonhon, and Suluan and
sweep the islands guarding the entrance of Leyte Gulf in preparation for Sixth
Army's upcoming landing (Operation KING H).
1962: Light Photographic Squadron 62 (VFP-62) begins Operation BLUE
MOON - low-level reconnaissance of suspected Soviet military installations
on Cuba. Soon, pairs of RF-8A Crusader jets (featured image) will streak
through Cuban airspace, avoiding enemy anti-aircraft fire while snapping
photos of Soviet ballistic and tactical nuclear missile sites.
1986: Lt. Cmdr. Barry D. Gabler of VFP-206, the Navy's last
photoreconnaissance squadron, makes the fmal catapult takeoff and carrier
landing of an F-8 Crusader, aboard USS America (CV-66).
1775: A small British fleet commanded by Capt. Henry Mowat bombards the
town of Falmouth, Mass. (modem-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-ofstaff 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
nehind enemy lines, staging raids, and intelligence gathering.
1944: Following an hour-long enemy artillery barrage, Sgt. Max Thompson
was working on evacuating casualties when he noticed that German troops
had overrun a position held by his fellow soldiers. Thompson charges toward
an unoccupied machinegun and works to stem the assault. He fires away until
his weapon is destroyed by an enemy tank round. Alone and dazed from the
blast, he grabs an automatic rifle and manages to halt and disperse some of
the assaulting force. When his gun jams, Thompson picks up a rocket
launcher and sets an enemy tank on fire. Later that evening, his squad was
given the task of dislodging the few Germans that Thompson didn't run off
with his one-man attack. He crawls to within 20 yards of a pillbox and attacks
the occupants with grenades. Once they were aware of his position, the
enemy poured heavy fire on Thompson. Although wounded by the bursts, he
held his ground and continued raining grenades into the position until the
Germans abandoned it.
For his incredible heroism, Sgt. Thompson is awarded the Medal of Honor.
1977: USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN-69) is commissioned, becoming the
United States' third nuclear-powered submarine.
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-lBs.
1781: British Gen. Charles Cornwallis formally surrenders 7,087 officers and
men, 900 seamen, 144 cannons, 15 galleys, a frigate, and 30 transport ships to
-tn American and French force at Yorktown, Va., effectively ending the
1944: Two Interstate TDR assault drones are launched against Japanese gun
emplacements on Ballale Island - one drone missing its target and another
delivering two of its four 100-1b. bombs on the target. The TDR was a twoengine, unmanned airplane remotely controlled by a Grumman TBF
"Avenger" via a television camera feed.
1950: Troopers with the 5th Cavalry Regiment enter Pyongyang, capturing the
North Korean capitol. The following day, the 187th Regimental Combat Team
will conduct two parachute drops north of the capitol to cut off retreating North
Korean forces. The Communists will recapture Pyongyang on Dec. 5, after
China joins the war.
1965: Two regiments of North Vietnamese soldiers begin a week-long siege on
the Special Forces camp at Plei Me in South Vietnam's central highlands. The
outnumbered defenders repel repeated attacks and eventually drive off the
NVA forces. Following the battle, Gen. William Westmoreland orders the 1st
Cavalry Division (Airmobile) to find and defeat the forces that attacked Plei
Me, which will result in the bloody Battle of Ia Drang.
1987: Following an Iranian missile attack on a merchant vessel, U.S. warships
attack and destroy two Iranian oil platforms being used by the Iranian
Revolutionary Guard Corps to attack shipping in the Persian Gulf.
2001: 200 Army Rangers parachute into - and quickly secure - an airfield
southwest of Kandahar, Afghanistan, while special operation forces conduct
other air-assault operations on several targets near Kandahar. These raids are
the first known combat operations of the war in Afghanistan. In November,
the captured airfield will become the first U.S. base in Afghanistan when
Marines establish Camp RHINO.
Meanwhile, Spec. Jonn J. Edmunds and Pvt. 1st Class Kristofor T. Stonesifer
become the first combat-related casualties in the War on Terror when the
helicopter carrying them crashes in Pakistan.
1922: Lt. Harold R. Harris (Army Air Service) performs the world's first
emergency parachute jump when the wings of his Loening PW-2A come apart
during a simulated dogfight 2,500 feet over McCook Field. Harris bails out of
his cockpit and after free-falling 2,000 feet, he lands safely in a garden in
1926: After a brutal murder of a post office truck driver, President Calvin
Coolidge orders the Marine Corps to protect the mail delivery. 2,500 Marines
of the 4th Marine Regiment, commanded by two-time Medal of Honor
recipient Brig. Gen. Smedley D. Butler, serve as the "Western Mail Guards"
until they return to their regular posts in 1927.
1944: Two-and-a-half years after Gen. Douglas MacArthur vows to return to
the Philippines, MacArthur and some 130,000 soldiers of the Sixth Army land
at Leyte Island. The island will be captured after 67 days of intense fighting,
signaling the beginning of the end for the Japanese. The Japanese Army's 16th
Division, which conducted the brutal Bataan Death March and held Leyte
Island, is completely wiped out during the fighting.
1950: 2,860 soldiers of the 187th Regimental Combat Team jump from Air
Force C-119 and C-47 transports on the first airborne operation of the Korean
War. The paratroopers' mission is to drop north of the North Vietnamese
capital of Pyongyang, trapping units attempting to escape the now UN-held
capital, but by the time the 187th hits the ground, Communist forces have
already slipped through.
1951: A day after having 83 pieces of shrapnel removed from his body, and
still badly injured from bullet wounds received during six days of constant
fighting, Master Sergeant Woodrow W. Keeble (USA) refuses to let medics
keep him out of the fight. When his company is pinned down by enemy fire
while assaulting Hill 765 near Sangsan-ni, Korea, the badly wounded veteran
of the Guadalcanal campaign and now platoon sergeant courageously crawls
forward alone and silences three machine gun positions with grenades and
automatic rifle fire. Originally awarded the Distinguished Service Cross -
paperwork recommending him for the Medal of Honor kept getting lost -
Keeble will be eventually awarded the Medal of Honor in 2008, 26 years after
1917: Four months after arriving in France, U.S. soldiers get their first taste of combat on the front lines in France.
1951: Operation BUSTER-JANGLE, a series of low-yield atomic weapons
tests in the Nevada desert, begins with the "Able" shot. Some 6,500 troops are
stationed just six miles away, witnessing the blast and then moving towards the
detonation site to determine the effectiveness of fortifications and also provide
data to scientists on the psychology of soldiers in the aftermath of atomic
1957: The U.S. military suffers its first casualties in Vietnam when a wave of
terrorist attacks hits Military Assistance Advisory Group and U.S. Information
Service installations in Saigon, injuring 13 advisors.
1962: After consulting with former president Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F.
Kennedy announces that the Soviet Union had placed nuclear weapons in
Cuba and the United States will establish a naval blockade around the island
to prevent further offensive weapons from entering Cuba.
1968: The Apollo 7 capsule splashes down in the North Atlantic Ocean after
the completing the first manned mission of the Apollo program. Capt. Walter
M. Schirra, USN; Maj. Donn F. Eisele, USAF; and Maj. R. Walter
Cunningham, USMC have spent 10 days in space testing the
command/service module that would carry astronauts to the moon and back
on future missions.
1864: In Westport, Mo. (present-day Kansas City), Maj. Gen. Samuel R.
Curtis' 22,000-man Army of the Border defeats a heavily outnumbered
Confederate force commanded by Maj. Gen. Sterling Price in the largest battle
fought west of the Mississippi River. The Union brings an end to Price's
Missouri Expedition with his defeat in the "Gettysburg of the West," and Price
retreats into Kansas. After the Battle of Westport, the border state of Missouri
will remain under Union control for the rest of the Civil War.
1918: When a battalion commander needs to send a message to an endangered
company on the front lines, he realizes sending a runner would be too
hazardous due to heavy incoming fire. However, Pfc. Parker F. Dunn
volunteers for the job and races through the fire-swept terrain toward the unit.
He is hit once and gets up. He is hit again, and continues. Undaunted, Dunn
carries on towards his objective, but is finished off by an enemy machinegun
burst. He is posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.
1942: On Guadalcanal, Imperial Japanese soldiers and tanks attempt to cross
the Matanikau River, and are quickly defeated - signaling the beginning of the
Battle for Henderson Field. For the next three days, the 1st Marine Division
and the 164th Infantry Regiment, supported by the "Cactus Air Force", will
shatter wave after wave of Japanese assaults on the ground and in the air. The
battle marks the final major Japanese ground operation before they abandon
1944: Three days after 100,000 U.S. troops land in the Philippines, the Battle
of Leyte Gulf - the largest naval engagement during World War II - begins.
On the first day, the submarines USS Darter and USS Dace attack Vice Adm.
Takeo Kurita's Center Fleet, sinking two heavy cruisers (including Kurita's
flagship) and damaging another. During the three-day battle, nearly 400 ships
will square off, with Japan suffering crippling losses: four aircraft carriers,
four battleships, and 21 cruisers and destroyers are sunk, along with the loss of
12,000 sailors and 300 planes. An increasingly desperate Japanese military
ises kamikaze tactics for the first time during the battle.
Meanwhile in the Taiwan Straight, the submarine USS Tang - the most
— successful U.S. submarine ever - engages a convoy of Japanese transports,
freighters, tankers, and their escorts. Tang sinks five ships and then
escapes. The sub's skipper, Cmdr. Richard H. (Mane, will be awarded the
Medal of Honor for the engagement.
1972: As peace talks with the North resume, Pres. Richard Nixon calls a halt
to Operation LINEBACKER - the U.S bombing campaign in North Vietnam.
In start contrast to Pres. Lyndon Johnson's tightly controlled Operation
"Rolling Thunder", Nixon had granted the military much more latitude to
carry out their mission, which put a serious dent in the Communist supply
1983: A 2000-pound truck bomb explodes at the Marine Corps Barracks in
Beirut, Lebanon, killing 220 Marines, 18 sailors, and three soldiers. The
bombing would become known as "the bloodiest day in Marine Corps history
since Iwo Jima." Moments later, another truck bomb hits the French barracks,
killing 58. American troops will withdraw from Lebanon four months later.
1742: After disease and poor management leads to the deaths of all but 600
of the 3,500-man 61st Regiment of Foot, the American expeditionary force is
disbanded and returns to the colonies. "Gooch's Regiment", named after
regimental commander - also the Governor of Virginia - Lt. Col. William
Gooch, had been part of the ill-fated British expedition to capture the
Spanish colony of Cartagena (present-day Colombia).
1944: On day two of the Battle of Leyte Gulf - the largest naval engagement
of World War II - U.S. aircraft attack the Japanese fleet, sinking the battleship
Musashi and damaging four others. A single Japanese dive bomber attacks the
light carrier USS Princeton (CVL-23), igniting an internal blaze that will sink
the ship with just one bomb.
In the air, Cmdr. David McCampbell and wingman Ens. Roy Rushing spot a
flight of 60 Japanese planes and engage despite the outrageous odds.
McCampbell shoots down nine warplanes, setting a single sortie record, and
his partner claims six. After becoming the only U.S. aviator to claim "ace in a
day" status twice, McCampbell lands his F6F Hellcat as it runs out of fuel and
with only two bullets left. For his daring actions, the top Naval ace of the war
is awarded the Medal of Honor.
In the Taiwan Straight, the submarine USS Tang, whose crew sank five
Japanese ships in a single engagement the day before, fires another torpedo,
which circles around and sinks Tang. The sub bottoms out in 180 feet of
water, but nine crew members - including skipper Richard O'Kane - escape in
the only known successful use of the Momsen rebreather.
1951: In the skies over Korea, 150 Russian MiG-15 fighters intercept a
formation of B-29 bombers and 55 F-84 Thunderjet escorts. The Communists
manage to shoot down four of the B-29s and one escort, but at least eight MiGs
are lost in the largest air battle of the Korean War. The sortie will be the last
daylight bombing raid for the B-29.
1953: Convair's chief test pilot Richard L. "Dick" Johnson takes off from
Edwards Air Force Base in a YF-102 prototype, marking the first flight of the
Delta Dagger. The interceptor carried the AIM-26 Nuclear Falcon missile,
which was designed for use against Soviet bomber formations. President
George W. Bush flew a "Duce" during his service as a pilot with the Texas Air
But back to Johnson: Prior to his days as a test pilot, he flew 190 missions
over North Africa and Italy in his P-47 Thunderbolt, then went on to become
the second Air Force pilot to break the sound barrier. Johnson deployed to
Korea where he was supposed to be supervising the installation of equipment
on F-86 Sabre fighters, but was sent home after the Air Force discovered
Johnson was flying unauthorized combat missions.
1954: President Dwight Eisenhower sends a letter to Prime Minister Ngo
Dinh Diem, pledging direct support to the South Vietnamese government.
Although United States assets have been in French Indochina since World
War II, this date is considered the beginning of the U.S. commitment to South
1812: The frigate USS United States under the command of Capt. (future
commodore) Stephen Decatur — hero of Tripoli and said to be the U.S. Navy's
own Lord Nelson — captures the Royal Navy frigate HMS Macedonian under
the command of Capt. John Carden in a brisk fight several hundred miles off
1925: The court martial of Col. William "Billy" Mitchell, America's chief
aviation officer during World War I and considered to be the "Father of the
U.S. Air Force", begins in Washington, D.C.. The outspoken Mitchell is
charged with multiple counts of insubordination due to his criticism of Navy
leadership for investing in battleships instead of aircraft carriers and the
handling of numerous fatal aviation incidents. Maj. Gen. Douglas MacArthur,
one of Mitchell's 12 judges, refers to his assignment as "one of the most
distasteful orders I ever received."
1942: On Guadalcanal, Japanese forces launch a series of full-frontal assaults
to retake Henderson Field. The defending Marines - led by Lt. Col. B. Lewis
"Chesty" Puller - and soldiers kill upwards of 3,000 Japanese troops at the cost
of only 80 Americans. Sgt. John Basilone
(http://www.victoryinstitute.net/blogs/utb/1942/10/24/j ohn-basilone-medal-ofhonor-citation/) became a Marine legend during the battle, fighting off wave
after wave of Japanese soldiers for two days despite being incredibly
1944: During the Battle of Leyte Gulf, torpedoes from the destroyer USS
Melvin (DD-680) sink the Japanese battleship Fuso, considered to be the
'largest warship to go down with all hands during World War II. Rear. Adm.
Jesse Oldendorfs 7th Fleet Support Group, consisting of several battleships
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sunk or damaged during Pearl Harbor, engage and sink the battleship
Yamashiro, marking the last battleship-versus-battleship engagement in
history. The escort carrier USS St. Lo (CVE-63) becomes the first major
4) warship to be sunk by Japanese kamikaze pilots. By war's end, kamikaze
attacks would sink 34 U.S. ships.
Elsewhere in the gulf, three Japanese destroyers are sunk at the cost of one
U.S. escort carrier, two destroyers, and a destroyer escort.
Aircraft from the U.S. 3rd Fleet, commanded by Adm. Bill Halsey, sink the
Japanese aircraft carrier Zuikaku, the last surviving carrier that struck Pearl
Harbor. Also headed for the bottom are two more light carriers and a
destroyer. Two more ships - including another light carrier - are crippled.
Later that day, naval gunfire and torpedoes will claim another Japanese light
carrier, two destroyers, and a light cruiser. The Battle for Leyte Gulf is
1950: Well over 200,000 Chinese Communist troops attack UN forces in their
first assault of the Korean War. The Chinese force withdraws to the mountains
and when they attack again one month later, they will drive the American-led
force all the way back to the southern tip of the Korean peninsula.
1983: In the largest military operation since Vietnam, nearly 2,000 U.S.
troops land on the tiny Caribbean island of Grenada to secure American
citizens and topple the Marxist regime. On the first day of fighting, members
of the 75th Ranger Regiment parachute into the Port Salines International
Airport, allowing planes to deliver soldiers of the 82d Airborne Division.
When a SEAL team determines that the beach is unsuitable for the planned
amphibious invasion to capture Pearl Airport on the opposite side of the
island, helicopters ferry Marines ashore and quickly secure their objective.
1909: U.S. Army Lt. (future brig. gen.) Frederick Erastus Humphreys ----
becomes the first Army aviator to solo in a heavier-than-air craft — the Wright
Flyer — following three hours of instruction by Wilbur Wright.
1922: Off Cape Henry, Va., Lt. Commander Godfrey Chevalier becomes the
first aviator to land on a moving ship when his Aeromarine 39B biplane
touches down on the deck of USS Langley.
1942: Japanese carrier-based aircraft sink the carrier USS Hornet, leaving
only one operational American carrier in the Pacific. The Battle of Santa Cruz
is a pyrrhic victory for the Japanese, however, as their carrier pilots were
decimated in the attack and can no longer conduct attacks on U.S. forces at
On Guadalcanal, Platoon Sergeant Mitchell Paige fights off wave after wave of
Japanese soldiers single-handedly, as all the Marines in his machine gun
section are dead or wounded. Once reinforcements arrive, Paige leads a
bayonet charge that drives off the enemy. For his actions, Paige is awarded the
Medal of Honor and becomes a Marine legend.
1950: The First Marine Division lands at Wonsan, Korea and moves north
toward the Yalu River. In a month, they will be attacked by 10 Chinese
divisions and have to fight their way out of the Chosin Reservoir.
Meanwhile, Republic of Korean (South Korea) forces arrive at the Yalu River
and learn that two entire Chinese Armies have already crossed into Korea.
1966: A magnesium parachute flare ignites aboard the aircraft carrier USS
Oriskany (CV-34) off the coast of Vietnam, igniting the worst ship-board fire
since World War II. 44 sailors perish in the blaze.
1968: An estimated four battalions of North Vietnamese soldiers attempt to
overrun Fire Support Base Julie near the Cambodian border. Supported by
dozens of B-52 strikes, the defenders manage to repel the attack.
1864: In a daring nighttime commando raid, Lt. William B. Cushing, aboard a
.--„torpedo-armed steam launch, slips past a Confederate schooner guarding the
ironclad CSS Albemarle. Cushing detonates the spar torpedo, blowing a
massive hole in the warship, which had been dominating the Roanoke River. -
--- Although several of his crew are drowned and captured, Cushing and another
sailor escape, leaving behind a destroyed ironclad.
1942: After several days of intense fighting, a shattered Japanese military
abandons their offensive on Guadalcanal's Henderson Field. The Japanese will
evacuate the island in February, and the Americans will turn Guadalcanal into a
major base during the Solomon Islands campaign.
1954: Following in his father's pioneering footsteps, Brig. Gen. Benjamin 0.
Davis, Jr. becomes the first black general in the U.S. Air Force. Benjamin 0.
Davis, Sr., who served in the Spanish-American War, the PhilippineAmerican War, and both World Wars, had been the first black man ever
promoted to the rank of general in the United States Armed Forces. After
becoming the first black pilot to ever solo in a U.S. Army Air Corps aircraft,
the younger Davis commanded the 99th Pursuit Squadron - the famous
"Tuskegee Airmen" - during World War II. He again saw combat when he
deployed to Korea as Commander of the 51st Fighter-Interceptor Wing in
1962: Maj. Rudolph Anderson (USAF) becomes the only casualty from hostile
fire during the Cuban Missile Crisis when a Soviet SA-2 surface-to-air missile
shoots down his U-2 spy plane during a reconnaissance overflight of Cuba.
Anderson will be posthumously awarded the Air Force Cross, the U.S.
military's second-highest award for valor, after the Medal of Honor.
1962: Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev "blinks," ordering the withdrawal of
ballistic missiles from Cuba and putting an end to the Cuban Missile Crisis
1814: The wooden floating battery Demologos, the first steam-powered
warship, is launched at New York City.
1942: Decimated by combat losses, malnutrition, and tropical diseases, the
first soldiers of the Japanese garrison begin departing Guadalcanal.
1944: Three 442d Regimental Combat Team soldiers earn the Medal of Honor
near Biffontaine, France on this day. Technician 5th Grade James K. Okubo,
Pvt. Barney F. Hajiro, and Pvt. George T. Sakato (click the links to read their
The all-Nisei (second-generation Japanese-American citizens) 442d RCT
holds the distinction of being the most decorated unit in United States Armed
1998: 36 years after becoming the first American to orbit the earth, John
Glenn (Col, USMC ret.) blasts off aboard Space Shuttle Discovery, becoming
the oldest man in space at 77 years old. Glenn was the third member of
Congress to fly in space. He was preceded by Senator Jake Gam, a former U.S.
Navy and Utah Air National Guard aviator, and Congressman (future senator)
Bill Nelson, who was an officer in the Army Reserve.
1918: Famous World War I flying ace Capt. Eddie Rickenbacker shoots down
his 26th - and final - enemy aircraft over Remonville, France.
1940: The Royal Air Force's First Eagle Squadron, consisting of volunteer
pilots from the United States, becomes operational. Thousands of Americans
would apply, but only 244 were chosen for service during the early days of
World War II.
1944: Pvt. Wilburn K. Ross
(http://www.victoryinstitute.net/blogs/utb/1944/10/30/wilbum-k-ross-medalof-honor-citation/) almost single-handedly fights off a German attack that
devastated his company. Pvt. Ross killed or wounded dozens of enemy
soldiers, forcing a retreat.
Meanwhile in the Philippines, the new tactic of kamikaze attacks become an
increasing threat, with Japanese planes striking the aircraft carriers USS
Franklin and USS Belleau Wood. Over 100 sailors are killed and the crippled
flattops must sail back to the United States for repairs.
1954: The Defense Department announces that it has completed the process of
eliminating racial segregation in the U.S. Armed Forces.
1961: On a remote island north of the Arctic Circle, a Soviet Air Force Tu95 "Bear" bomber drops the Tsar Bomba, setting off the largest man-made
explosion in human history. The 50-megaton device has ten times the
explosive force of all conventional weapons dropped during World War II
and was over 1,500 times stronger than the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs.
The blast is so powerful that windows are broken well over 500 miles away
and the aircrew is only given a 50 percent chance of survival. A U.S. Air
Force JKC-135A intelligence gathering plane on a secret mission to collect
data on the blast is scorched by the heat wave and is removed from service
1963: 500 miles east of the Massachussetts coast, Lt. (future Rear Adm.)
James H. Flately III makes his first of what will be 21 touch-and-go landings
aboard USS Forrestal (CV-59) in a C-130 Hercules. The Navy is testing the
massive C-130, which is not equipped with a tailhook, for supplying the
flattop while at sea. Ultimately, Flately will make 29 full-stop landings, and
his wingtips clear Forrestal's island by just 15 feet.
1941: Although the United States has not yet entered the war, U.S. Naval
vessels are serving as convoy escorts. When a German U-boat "wolfpack"
attacks an Allied convoy near Iceland, the American destroyer USS Reuben
James places itself between an incoming torpedo and an ammunition ship. The
torpedo detonates the destroyer's magazine, blowing the Reuben James in half
115 sailors perish in the first sinking of a U.S. warship in World War II.
1943: Lt. Hugh D. O'Neill, flying at night in a specially modified F4U Corsair,
shoots down a Japanese Betty bomber over Vella Lavella, scoring the first kill
for the radar-equipped night fighters.
1966: While on a patrol mission of the Mekong Delta, two patrol boats of the
"Brown Water Navy" are fired upon by Vietnamese sampans. When Petty
Officer First Class James E. Williams gives chase, he discovers a hornet's nest
of enemy activity in the isolated section of the delta. During a three-hour battle
with enemy boats and fortifications, Williams and his crew, supported by
helicopter gunships, destroy 65 vessels and kill hundreds of the enemy force.
For his role in the engagement, the Navy's most-decorated sailor (having
already received two Silver Stars and three Bronze Stars - all for valor - in
addition to the Navy Cross) is awarded the Medal of Honor.
1968: Five days before the elections, Pres. Lyndon B. Johnson ends Operation
"Rolling Thunder", the bombing campaign against North Vietnam. Over threeand-a-half years, 864,000 tons of bombs fell on the Communist nation more
tonnage dropped than either the Korean War or the Pacific Theater of World
War II. Nearly 1,000 U.S. planes are shot down during Rolling Thunder, with
over 1,000 aircrew killed, wounded or captured. But despite the damage
inflicted by the Americans, the North Vietnamese show they can take what
Washington can dish out.
1971: Saigon begins releasing the first of around 3,000 Viet Cong prisoners of
war. American POWs won't be released until Feb. 12, 1973.
1972: Two Navy SEAL advisors and their South Vietnamese naval
commando counterparts on a reconnaissance mission realize they were
accidentally inserted smack dab in the middle of thousands of North
Vietnamese soldiers. As the team maneuvers back to the sea, they are
compromised. Lt. Thomas Norris receives a massive facial wound, and a
Vietnamese frogman tells Petty Officer Michael E. Thornton that Norris is
dead. Instead of leaving his supposedly fallen officer behind (Norris was alive
— barely — but unconscious), Thornton fights his way through a murderous
field of fire to rescue Norris, then swam out to sea for four hours before being
rescued while holding two incapacitated teammates — even though Thornton
himself had been wounded multiple times. Thornton will be awarded the
Medal of Honor for his incredible lifesaving feat.
1976: The Air Force's E-3A Sentry airborne warning and control systems
(AWACS) aircraft makes its first flight.
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