Today in US Military History
1962: U.S. Navy SEAL Teams “One” and “Two” are established.
1863: Union Maj. Gen. William S. Rosecrans' Army of the Cumberland defeats Confederate Gen. Braxton Bragg's Army of Tennessee in Murphysboro, Tenn. Losses were heavy; casualty percentages were higher during the Battle of Stones River than during any other engagement during the Civil War.
1777: Capitalizing on his successful Christmas night crossing of the Delaware River followed by a pair of victories in two separate battles of Trenton (N.J.), Continental Army Gen. George Washington defeats a British force under Lt. Col. Charles Mawhood in the Battle of Princeton.
At one point during the battle, Washington – at the head of his advancing infantry – reportedly gallops through a thick haze of musket and artillery smoke, shouting: "Parade with me my brave fellows, we will have them soon!"
1861: Eight days before Alabama secedes from the Union, four companies of Alabama volunteers led by Col. John B. Todd capture Fort Morgan in Mobile Bay.
1847: The U.S. Government Ordnance Department orders 1,000 revolvers designed by Samuel. Colt and Texas Ranger Capt. Samuel H. Walker. Historians would later say that Colt's invention altered the course of human history.
1910: USS Michigan (BB 27), America's first dreadnought battleship, is commissioned.
1943: USS Helena (CL 50), operating off the coast of Munda Island, shoots down a Japanese Type 99 Val bomber, marking the first kill using Variable Timing (proximity-fused) anti-aircraft shells.
1944: U.S. Army Air Force bombers begin dropping weapons and supplies to resistance fighters in Europe during Operation Carpetbagger.
1989: Two F-14 Tomcats from the carrier USS John F. Kennedy shoot down two Libyan MiG-23 Flogger aircraft in the Gulf of Sidra.
1781: Commanding 1,600 British troops, American Traitor - now a British brigadier general - Benedict Arnold captures and burns Richmond, Va.
1855: A landing party from the USS Plymouth skirmishes with Chinese forces near Canton during the Taiping Rebellion.
1861: The civilian merchant vessel Star of the West departs New York for Fort Sumter with supplies and 250 troops. South Carolina had seceded from the Union and the base was surrounded by Confederate forces and in need of supplies. Upon arriving in Charleston Harbor four days later, shore batteries attacked the vessel, forcing it to turn around. The standoff would continue until April, when the first shots of the Civil War were fired at Fort Sumter.
1875: Cdr. Edward Lull (USN) leads an expedition to locate the best route for the Panama Canal.
1904: Marines arrive in Korea to defend the U.S. legation assembly at Seoul.
1945: Japanese pilots receive their first order to become kamikaze suicide attackers. At Okinawa alone, 1,465 kamikaze pilots destroy at least 30 U.S. warships and kill 5,000 Americans.
1967: U.S. and South Vietnamese Marines conduct a joint amphibious assault of the Mekong Delta. The goal of Operation Deckhouse V is to capture Viet Cong prisoners from the Thanh Phu Secret Zone, and it is the first time U.S. troops operate in the delta.
Medal of Honor: 42 years ago, SSgt. Franklin D. Miller was leading a long range patrol of Special Forces soldiers and Montagnards in Laos when a booby trap wounded several members. Eventually, the entire patrol was wounded - including Miller, who was shot in the chest. The last man able to fight, Miller held off repeated enemy assaults against their position, despite being vastly outnumbered.
Miller would serve over six years in Southeast Asia. When asked by Pres. Richard Nixon at his award ceremony where he wanted to be assigned next, Miller answered "Vietnam."
1777: Gen. George Washington sets up winter camp for the Continental Army in the hills surrounding Morristown, N.J.
1861: Florida militia forces seize the Union Apalachicola Arsenal, which is defended by only Ordnance Sergeant Edwin Powell and three laborers. Although hopelessly outnumbered, Powell was prepared to fight if ordered to hold and initially refuses to surrender the keys to the magazines or armory. But when the militia allows him to send a telegram to his command for instruction - and he receives no response - he reluctantly concedes.
1927: U.S. Marines return to Nicaragua to protect American lives and property.
1942: Pres. Franklin Roosevelt informs Congress that he is authorizing the largest armaments production in United States history: 8 million tons of shipping, 45,000 planes, and 45,000 tanks, and 20,000 anti-aircraft guns will roll off assembly lines within the year.
1944: Brig. Gen. Frank Merrill is designated to lead the 5307th Composite Unit (provisional), a long-range penetration special operations unit, now popularly known as Merrill's Marauders. Of the 2,750 men to enter the unit at Burma, only two were not wounded or killed. Today's 75th Ranger Regiment is a descendant of Merrill's Marauders.
Medal of Honor: 44 years ago in South Vietnam, Army helicopter pilot Maj. Patrick H. Brady conducted multiple medical evacuation missions in dense fog and in the face of heavy enemy fire. Over the course of the day, he rescued 51 soldiers and 400 bullet holes were counted in the three helicopters he flew.
1973: An F-4 Phantom flown by U.S. Air Force Capt. Paul Howman and 1st Lt. Lawrence Kullman shoots down a MiG-21 fighter over North Vietnam, chalking up the final USAF air-to-air kill of the Vietnam War.
1815: U.S. forces (including soldiers, sailors, Marines, pirates, a few freed slaves, Choctaw Indians, and militiamen from several states) under the command of Maj. Gen. Andrew Jackson defeat a numerically superior British amphibious force under the overall command of Vice Admiral Sir Alexander Cochrane in the Battle of New Orleans (La.).
Though a decisive victory for the Americans, the battle takes place 15 days after the signing of the war-ending Treaty of Ghent. Communications being what they were in 1815, news of the treaty did not reach New Orleans until February.
1847: Thirty-two years to the day after Jackson’s victory at New Orleans, a combined U.S. Army-Navy-Marine force under the joint command of Commodore Robert F. Stockton and Gen. Stephen W. Kearny (uncle of the future Union Army Gen. Philip Kearny) decisively defeat Mexican forces under the command of Gen. José María Flores in the Battle of San Gabriel, California.
At one point during the fighting, attacking American infantrymen are reportedly heard shouting, “New Orleans! New Orleans!” as a battle-cry tribute to Jackson’s better-known victory. Within days, U.S. troops are in control of Los Angeles.
1967: 16,000 U.S. and 14,000 South Vietnamese troops enter the "Iron Triangle," a major Viet Cong stronghold near Saigon, on a massive search and destroy mission. The Viet Cong largely avoided contact with the large force, withdrawing to Cambodia or hiding in tunnels. Operation Cedar Falls was the largest ground operation of the Vietnam War and marked the first time "tunnel rats" were used.
1861: Confederate coastal-artillery batteries – including a four-gun battery manned by cadets under the command of Maj. Peter F. Stevens of the Citadel (the Military College of South Carolina) – open fire on the U.S. commercial paddlesteamer "Star of the West" in Charleston harbor. The shots – the first of the American Civil War – repel the Star, forcing the ship to abort its mission of resupplying the besieged U.S. Army garrison at Fort Sumter.
1945: Warplanes from the U.S. Navy’s carrier Task Force 38 under the command of Vice Adm. John Sidney McCain Sr. (grandfather of Sen. John S. McCain III), attack enemy convoys and bases along the coast of Japanese-held French Indochina (Vietnam) in the Battle of the South China Sea.
Codenamed “Operation Gratitude,” the attacks are wildly successful. Despite rough seas and high winds from a dangerously close typhoon, Japanese bases at Saigon, Cape Saint Jacques (Vung Tau), Cam Ranh Bay, Qui Nhon, and Tourane Bay (Da Nang) are hit hard, resulting in the destruction of docks, barracks, weapons depots, hangars, and scores of Japanese seaplanes and other aircraft, as well as the sinking of more than 40 enemy ships.
1962: The U.S. military begins defoliation operations to deny the Viet Cong use of jungle cover for their movements. Over nine years, Operation Ranch Hand pilots, whose motto was "Only you can prevent forests," would fly 19,000 sorties and drop an estimated 20 million gallons of defoliant. 10 percent of the vegetation in South Vietnam is destroyed.
1973: An F-4 Phantom flown by U.S. Navy Lieutenants Vic Kovaleski and Jim Wise splash a MiG-17, making it the Navy’s final air-to-air kill and the last aerial-combat kill of the war.
1865: U.S. soldiers, sailors, and Marines under the joint command of Maj. Gen. Alfred Howe Terry and Rear Adm. David Dixon Porter begin landing operations – in what will prove to be the largest American amphibious operation until World War II – aimed at seizing Fort Fisher, N.C., a Confederate stronghold near the port city of Wilmington. The fort – commanded by Confederate Gen. Braxton Bragg – will fall to Union forces within two days.
1917: British intelligence intercepts a coded telegram from the German government requesting an alliance with Mexico if the U.S. enters World War I. In return for a Mexican attack on the United States, Germany would offer financial aid and assist Mexico in regaining Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona. The Mexicans refuse, and the "Zimmermann Telegram" sparks outrage when published in U.S. papers, leading Congress to declare war on Germany in April.
1781: Continental Army forces -- including infantry, cavalry, dragoons (horse-mounted infantry), and militia – under the command of Brig. Gen. Daniel Morgan, clash with a better-equipped, more-experienced force of British Army regulars and Loyalists under the command of Lt. Col. Banastre “Bloody Ban” Tarleton in a sprawling pastureland known as Hannah’s Cowpens in the South Carolina upcountry.
The Battle of Cowpens ends in a decisive victory for Morgan – who defeats Tarleton in a classic double-envelopment – and a near-irrevocable loss of men, equipment, and reputation for the infamous Tarleton and his "British Legion."
1991: U.S. and coalition forces launch a massive air campaign aimed at destroying the Iraqi Air Force, Iraq’s air-defense forces and overall command and control facilities in Iraq and occupied Kuwait. Operation Desert Storm is underway, and in one week, the ground campaign would begin.
1911: Eugene B. Ely lands his Curtiss Pusher Model "D" aircraft on the USS Pennsylvania, fitted with a special platform with makeshift tailhook system, becoming the first-ever airplane landing aboard a ship.
1951: Following their return to action after the breakout from the Chosin Reservoir, the First Marine Division begins mopping-up guerillas in the Pohang area of South Korea.
1770: The little-known but historically significant Battle of Golden Hill erupts in New York City between members of the patriot organization "Sons of Liberty" and a contingent of British soldiers. The clash begins when the "Sons," whom the Redcoats had labeled as "the real enemies of society," snatch a few of the King’s men, who are cutting down wooden "liberty poles" (symbols of resistance against British rule) which the Sons had erected. Redcoats from the nearby barracks respond, and a bayonet charge is ordered. Several are wounded on both sides, and one civilian is killed.
Less than seven weeks before the Boston Massacre, the Battle of Golden Hill is considered by some historians as the first armed clash of the American Revolution.
1914: A naval aviation unit from Annapolis, Md. consisting of nine officers, 23 men, seven aircraft, portable hangars, and other gear, under Lieutenant J. H. Towers” arrives at Pensacola, Fla. aboard the battleship USS Mississippi and the bulk-cargo ship USS Orion to set up a flying school. The "Cradle of Naval Aviation" is born.
1944: The U.S. 5th Army, commanded by Lt. Gen. Mark Clark, reaches the Gustav Line and clashes with German forces near Monte Cassino, Italy. After four months of bloody fighting, the Allies will have the German Tenth Army, led by Field Marshall Albert Kesselring, on their heels and in danger of being surrounded.
1968: North Vietnamese Army tries - and fails - to overrun Marines patrolling hills surrounding the Combat Outpost Khe Sanh. The Battle of Khe Sanh begins, and for the next 77 days, the heavily outnumbered and besieged Marines fought off their attackers, shattering two enemy divisions.
1903: The Militia Act of 1903 – also known as the "Dick Act" (Congressman and Maj. Gen. Charles Dick authored much of the legislation) – is passed, establishing federal standards and greater federal control over state militias, essentially creating the modern National Guard.
1918: 12 officers and 133 enlisted men from the 1st Aeronautical Company arrive for anti-submarine duty at Ponta Delgada, Azores. The unit was one of the first completely equipped American aviation units to serve overseas in World War I.
1944: Allied forces, including the U.S. VI Corps under the command of Maj. Gen. John P. Lucas (of Lt. Gen. Mark Clark’s Fifth Army), begin a series of landings along a stretch of western Italian coastline in the Anzio-Nettuno area. Codenamed Operation Shingle, the Allies achieve complete surprise against – and encounter little initial resistance from – the Germans. But the landings kick off what will become one of the most grueling campaigns of World War II.
1954: First Lady Mamie Eisenhower breaks a bottle of champagne across the bow of USS Nautilus in Groton, Connecticut, launching the world’s first nuclear-powered submarine. The following year, Nautilus gets underway, begins breaking numerous sea-travel records, and becomes the first "ship" to cross the North Pole.
1969: Operation Dewey Canyon, the Marine Corps' last major offensive of the Vietnam War, begins. Marines under the command of Col. Robert H. Barrow spent 56 days clearing out the North Vietnamese Army's stronghold near the A Shau Valley.
1856: Marines and seamen from the sloop USS Decatur land at Seattle to protect settlers from an Indian attack. The Battle of Seattle lasted seven hours and the Indians suffered severe casualties, while only two settlers died.
1948: Pres. Harry S. Truman signs executive order 9981, which essentially directs the desegregation of the armed forces.
1837: U.S. soldiers and Marines under the command of Col. Archibald Henderson – a serving Marine Corps commandant – defeat a force of Seminole Indians in the running battle of Hatchee-Lustee Creek (Florida). For his actions, Henderson will receive a brevet promotion to brigadier general, becoming the Corps’ first general officer.
1862: Pres. Abraham Lincoln issues the first of two war orders. The first, General War Order No. One, directs U.S. Army and Naval forces to move “against the insurgent forces [of the Southern states].” In four days, Lincoln will issue Special War Order No. One, calling for an expeditionary force to seize and hold “a point” along the railroad southwest of Manassas Junction.
1942: The submarine USS Gudgeon sinks a Japanese submarine – becoming the first American sub to send an enemy warship to the bottom during World War II. Gudgeon also becomes the first sub to patrol Japanese waters. She will go on to rack up more than a dozen kills. She will conduct rescue missions and special operations. But in 1944, on her 12th patrol, she mysteriously disappears with all hands.
1943: American bombers – specifically B-17 Flying Fortresses and B-24 Liberators – of the U.S. Eighth Air Force strike German U-boat facilities at Wilhelmshaven. The bombing raid is the first U.S. Army Air Forces mission over Germany.
1915: Pres. Woodrow Wilson signs into law the congressionally approved merger of the “Life Saving” and “Revenue Cutter” services, thus establishing the U.S. Coast Guard. Still, the officially recognized birthday of the Coast Guard is Aug. 4, 1790, the day Congress approved Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton's proposal to “build ten cutters to protect the new nation's revenue.”
1991: Following an Iraqi attack into Saudi Arabia, centering on the port city of Khafji. US forces support Saudi and Qatari troops in expelling the Iraqi forces. 29 Americans were killed, two captured, and one AC-130 gunship was shot down during in the Battle of Khafji, which was the first ground engagement of Operation Desert Storm.
1862: The U.S. Navy’s first ironclad ship, USS Monitor, is launched at Greenpoint, N.Y. Designed by Swedish engineer John Ericsson, the turreted gunship will make history in March when it trades shots with the Confederate ironclad Virginia (a vessel built from the previously scuttled USS Merrimac) in a duel ending in a draw at Hampton Roads, Virginia.
1968: The Vietnamese TET Offensive – launched by jointly operating North Vietnamese and Viet Cong forces – kicks off across South Vietnam.
1945: U.S. Army Private Eddie Slovik is executed by firing squad near Ste Marie-aux-Mines, France for desertion under fire. Gen. Dwight Eisenhower personally signed the execution order to discourage further desertions. Slovik remains the only American shot for desertion since the Civil War.
1800: The frigate USS Constellation (the first of four so-named American warships) under the command of Capt. Thomas Truxtun defeats the French frigate La Vengeance under Capt. F.M. Pitot in a night battle lasting several hours. The engagement, fought during America’s Quasi War with France, is – according to Truxtun – “as sharp an action as ever was fought between two frigates.”
1862: Julia Ward Howe's poem "Battle Hymn of the Republic," which begins “Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord,” is published in the Atlantic Monthly. It will become a Union Army ballad. Today, the ballad is a martial hymn sung in American military chapels worldwide and by descendents of Union and Confederate soldiers alike.
1943: Having been defeated by the U.S. Marine Corps, Emperor Hirohito orders Japanese troops on Guadalcanal to withdraw from the island.
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.
2003: The doomed Space Shuttle Columbia (STS-107) disintegrates upon reentering the earth’s atmosphere, killing all seven crewmembers.
1848: The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo is signed by representatives of the United States and Mexico, 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.
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 Sept. 23 – 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 – in some circles – it is argued that title belongs to Commodore John Barry.
1787: Shays' Rebellion – a short-lived Massachusetts uprising led by former Continental Army Capt. Daniel Shays and spawned by crippling taxes and an economic depression in the wake of the American Revolution – is quashed by Massachusetts militia.
1944: Kwajalein Atoll is secured by U.S. forces.
1945: The Big Three – U.S. Pres. Franklin D. Roosevelt, British Prime 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.
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 bomber as a gunner on one of their missions. It is on that mission that Thompson shoots down a German Albatross fighter over Saarbrucken, Germany; making him the first American in uniform to shoot down an enemy airplane.
Today, the U.S. Air Force’s 1st Reconnaissance Squadron traces its lineage back to the 1st Aero Squadron.
1787: Representatives of the French and U.S. governments sign the Treaty of Amity and Commerce and the Treaty of Alliance in Paris. France recognized the United States as an independent nation and provided much-needed military aid.
1802: Congress authorizes Pres. 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 February 1831.
1862: Union Army and Navy forces under Brig. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant capture Fort Henry from Confederate forces in 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 of the upcoming landing.
1965: North Vietnamese sappers attack the helicopter base Camp Holloway, killing eight, wounding over 100, and destoying 18 aircraft. The attack prompted Pres. Lyndon Johnson to begin bombing North Vietnam.
1945: For three days, 1,300 Royal Air Force and US Army Air Force heavy bombers drop 3,900 tons of bombs on Dresden, Germany. The bombs and incendiary devises created a firestorm that killed 25,000 Germans.
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 captures Lovely Ann, a British armed merchant vessel, and HMS Pictou, a Royal Navy schooner, within hours of each other.
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.
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.
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 close-quarters struggle – in which several pirates but no Americans are killed – Decatur orders the Philadelphia burned.
1945: 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.
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: The first two of three dispatched 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, some 20,800 will be killed. Almost 7,000 Marines will lose their lives. Another 26,000 will be wounded.
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 in order to achieve irreversible air superiority before the Normandy landings. Allied losses will be high. German losses will be staggering.
1962: U.S. Marine Lt. Col. (future colonel) and two-war fighter pilot John H. Glenn Jr. becomes the first American to orbit Earth. Glenn orbits Earth three times in less than five hours in his spacecraft, Friendship 7.
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.
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 becomes the first female Naval aviator. In 1982, she will be killed in a crash while training a student pilot.
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 present-day) 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 I-17 surfaced off the Santa Barbara (Calif.) Coast and attacked the Ellwood Oil Field. The sub's 5.5-inch gun inflicted minimal damage, but the incident sparked an invasion scare along the Pacific coast and would lead 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.
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 bomber flown by Capt. James Gallagher and his 13-man crew, begins the first leg of the first-ever nonstop flight around the world. The flight, requiring nearly four days and four in-flight refuelings, will be successful, and it will prove to the world that U.S. aircraft are capable of flying from their North American bases and striking any city on earth.
1943: Elements of the U.S. Army Air Forces and Royal Australian Air Force intercept and all-but-destroy an entire Japanese troop-transport convoy in the Battle of the Bismarck Sea. Several enemy ships, scores of enemy aircraft, and thousands of enemy soldiers will be sent to the bottom.
1949: Pilot James Gallagher (Capt., USAF) and the 14-man crew of the Lucky Lady II touch down at Carswell Air Force Base (Tex.), having just completed the first non-stop flight around the world. The B-50 - an updated version of the B-29 Superfortress bomber - covers 23,452 miles in 94 hours. KB-29M tanker crews in the Azores, Saudi Arabia, Philippines, and Hawaii perform four mid-air refueling operations to keep the Lady in the air, despite having only performed one aerial refueling operation prior to the record-setting flight.
1965: Operation Rolling Thunder begins.
1776: 250 Continental Marines and sailors led by Marine Capt. Samuel Nicholas land at New Providence Island in the Bahamas, quickly capturing Fort Montague from the British in the first amphibious operation in American military history.
1815: The U.S. Congress authorizes American Naval action against the pirate state of Algiers.
1883: The U.S. Congress approves the creation of the “new Navy” with an authorization to build three “steel-protected cruisers” and a “steel dispatch boat.” The authorization begins a steel-ship renaissance for the U.S. Navy.
1931: The U.S. Congress adopts “The Star Spangled Banner” as the official national anthem.
1944: B-17 Flying Fortresses of the U.S. Army Air Forces participate in the first daylight bombing raid over Berlin. A massive B-17 raid over the German capitol will follow in two days.
1770: A contingent of armed British soldiers fire into a crowd of protesting colonists in what will become known as the Boston Massacre. Five colonists are killed. The soldiers, charged with murder, will contend the protestors were threatening them with rocks and clubs. The killings will spark public outrage, demands for the death penalty for the soldiers responsible, and draw America even closer toward revolution.
1942: The Seabees – the U.S. Navy’s celebrated combat-capable Construction Battalions (CBs) – are established.
1966: The "Ballad of the Green Berets" composed by U.S. Army Special Forces Staff Sergeant Barry Sadler and author Robin Moore hits the number-one spot on the Billboard Chart where it will remain for five weeks.
1836: Following a two-week siege, the Alamo – commanded by Lt. Col. William Barret Travis – falls to Mexican forces after the Texas garrison puts up one of the most heroic defenses in American military history. The garrison of nearly 200 volunteers is wiped out to a man.
1942: The first black airmen graduate from flight school at Tuskegee, Alabama.
1945: U.S. Army armored forces race to seize the strategically vital Ludendorff Bridge (also known as the Remagen bridge) before the Germans blow the structure. The Americans are successful, thus enabling the allies to establish a bridgehead on the enemy side of the Rhine River.
1965: The lead elements of 3rd Battalion, 9th Marines begin coming ashore at Da Nang, South Vietnam. Within hours, 1st Battalion, 3rd Marines will arrive aboard transport aircraft at the nearby airbase. The Marines of 3/9 and 1/3 – both part of the 9th Marine Expeditionary Brigade – are the first American ground-combat forces destined for offensive operations against the enemy in Southeast Asia.
1862: The CSS Virginia and USS Monitor exchange shots in one of the first battles between ironclad ships.
1945: 279 B-29 Stratofortress bombers from the 314th Bombardment Wing destroy over 16 square miles of Tokyo and kill 84,000 civilians in a firestorm created by incendiary bombs.
1783: Three Royal Navy ships open fire on Continental Navy ships Duc De Lauzun and Alliance off the coast of Cape Canaveral, Florida, but are defeated in what became the last naval engagement of the American Revolution.
1862: President Abraham Lincoln fires Gen. George B. McClellan from his post as general-in-chief due to McClellan's unwillingness to attack the Confederate army.
1918: Lt. Paul Baer singlehandedly attacks seven German aircraft over Cerney-les-Reims, France, shooting down one and becoming the Army Air Corps' first Distinguished Service Cross recipient. Baer would ultimately become an ace, splashing nine enemy aircraft during World War I.
1941: The United States becomes an "arsenal of democracy" when President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs the Lend-Lease Act. The program provided over $50 billion in funds, weapons, aircraft, and ships to allied nations.
1945: B-29 Stratofortress bombers conduct a strategic bombing campaign against mainland Japan. Within a week, Osaka, Kobe, and Nagoya go up in flames. 120,000 Japanese civilians die at the cost of only 20 B-29s lost.
1965: The U.S. Navy conducts the first patrols of Operation MARKET TIME. The blockade lasted eight-and-a-half years and effectively blocked enemy troops and supplies from reaching South Vietnam by sea.
1942: Four PT boats transport Gen. Douglas MacArthur, his family, and staff from the Philippine island fortress of Corregidor to Australia.
1865: The Confederate government approves the use of slaves for soldiers. Although Gen. Robert E. Lee requested that slaves who fought should be granted freedom, the bill did not allow such a provision. Several thousands slaves would go on to fight for the Confederacy. 200,000 blacks fought for the Union.
1942: The U.S. Army Quartermaster Corps begins training dogs for it's "K-9 Corps." Following basic training, the dogs were utilized in sentry, scout, messenger, and mine detection duties.
1951: United Nations forces under the command of U.S. Army Gen. Matthew B. Ridgway recapture Seoul, Korea.
1965: U.S. and South Vietnamese forces launch the second bombing wave of Operation ROLLING THUNDER, targeting facilities on Tiger Island, off the North Vietnamese coast, and the ammunition depot at Phu Qui, 100 miles south of Hanoi.
1781: British Army forces under the command of Lt. Gen. Charles Cornwallis march toward a pyrrhic victory over Continental Army and militia forces commanded by Maj. Gen. Nathaniel Greene at Guilford Courthouse (near present-day Greensboro), N.C.
1916: As World War I rages in Europe, a U.S. Army expeditionary force under the command of Gen. John J. “Black Jack” Pershing crosses into Mexico in pursuit of the bandit, Pancho Villa.
1802: President Thomas Jefferson signs into law the establishment of a corps of engineers, which "shall be stationed at West Point in the State of New York and shall constitute a Military Academy." The United States Military Academy is born.
1916: Following Mexican bandit Pancho Villa's raid on Columbia, New Mexico, the U.S. Army Signal Corps' 1st Aero Squadron conducts the first military aerial reconnaissance flight over Mexico.
1945: Though Japanese resistance will continue for several more days, Iwo Jima is declared secure.
1966: Neil A. Armstrong (USN, ret.) and David R. Scott (USAF) rocket into space aboard Gemini VIII, conducting the first docking operation in space. Gemini VIII suffered the first critical in-space system failure and had to abort the remainder of the mission, splashing down safely in the Pacific Ocean.
1988: When forces from Nicaragua's leftist government crossed into Honduras to strike Contra rebel targets, President Ronald Reagan deploys 3,000 U.S. troops to Honduras.
1776: After an 11-month siege by George Washington's Continental Army and the recent fortification of nearby Dorcester Heights with cannons captured from Fort Ticonderoga, Gen. Sir William Howe decides to evacuate the nearly 10,000 British troops garrisoned in Boston. The fleet of 120 ships carries the British and around 1,000 Loyalists to Nova Scotia.
The generals would face each other again in New York that July.
1973: The first U.S. prisoners of war are released from the infamous "Hanoi Hilton" prison camp in North Vietnam.
1945: Some 1,250 American bombers and their fighter escorts roar toward Berlin in one of the U.S. Army Air Forces’ “heaviest” bombing raids on the German capitol.
1945: Adm. Marc A. Mitscher’s Fast Carrier “Task Force 58” begins a several-day series of attacks on Japanese bases at Kyushu, Honshu, and Shikoku in preparation for the forthcoming Okinawa campaign. The enemy will mount a counterattack, but with only moderate effect. Japanese losses of shore facilities, aircraft, and men will be heavy.
1916: Four days after “Black Jack” Pershing crosses into Mexico, the U.S. Army’s 1st Aero Squadron under Capt. (future major general) Benjamin D. Foulois joins the hunt for Pancho Villa. Though Foulois’ aircraft will be used primarily for observation and delivery of dispatches, the squadron will be the first to test tactical air support of ground forces.
2003: U.S. and coalition air and sea forces fire the opening shots in the invasion of Iraq.
1863: Confederate cavalry under the command of Kentucky raider, Brig. Gen. John Hunt Morgan, strikes a sizeable Union reconnaissance force under Col. Albert S. Hall at Vaught’s Hill, Tennessee. Though outnumbered and surrounded, Hall’s hilltop position enables the colonel to beat back a series of attacks until Morgan – learning that Hall is to be reinforced with additional U.S. troops from Murfreesboro – is forced to disengage.
1922: America’s first aircraft carrier, USS Langley, is commissioned at Norfolk, Virginia. Converted from the coaling ship USS Jupiter, Langley will see action in World War II. But she will be so badly damaged in an action off Java in 1942, her escorts will be forced to scuttle her.
1942: U.S. Army Gen. Douglas MacArthur – ordered by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to leave his besieged soldiers in the Philippines (where their capture is inevitable) and make his way to Australia – delivers his famous “I shall return” speech. MacArthur will return to the Philippines in Oct. 1944.
1820: Commodore Stephen Decatur – “America’s Lord Nelson,” the hero of Tripoli, and the author of the famous aphorism, “Our country, right or wrong” – is mortally wounded in a duel with Commodore James Barron near Bladensburg, Maryland.
1775: In a speech before the House of Burgesses, future Virginia governor (and colonel of the 1st Virginia Regiment) Patrick Henry exclaims, “Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!”
1776: As a force-multiplier for the fledgling Continental Navy, the Continental Congress authorizes the employment of privateers (privately owned and armed merchant ships) against “enemies of these United Colonies,” specifically Great Britain, her commercial shipping, privately owned vessels, and ships of the Royal Navy.
1815: Though the War of 1812 has officially ended – communications being what they are in the early 19th century – the Royal Navy sloop-of-war HMS Penguin under the command of Capt. James Dickenson engages the sloop USS Hornet (the third of eight so-named American Navy ships) under Capt. James Biddle off the South Atlantic archipelago Tristan da Cunha. The fighting is quick and hot: Both captains are wounded; Dickenson mortally. HMS Penguin surrenders in less than one half hour.
1943: Elements of Germany's vaunted Afrika Korps clash with U.S. Army forces near the oasis of El Guettar in Tunisia.
2003: Task Force Tarawa (2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade) under the command of Brig. Gen. Richard F. Natonski attack – and will ultimately defeat – Iraqi forces in heavy fighting at An Nasiriyah.
1945: Paratroopers of Maj. Gen. Matthew B. Ridgway’s XVIII Airborne Corps – composed of the U.S. 17th Airborne “Thunder from Heaven” Division and their British 6th Airborne Division comrades – strike and seize key German positions on the enemy side of the Rhine River. The airborne assault is the last major parachute and gliderborne operation of World War II.
1959: Elvis Presley is sworn into the Army as a private. He would attend basic and advanced training at Fort Hood, Texas and later serve in Europe in the 3d Armored Division. He ultimately reached the rank of sergeant before completing his two years of active duty service. Elvis was a jeep driver and reconnaissance scout, although he could also drive, load, and fire the M-48 Patton tank.
1863: Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton presents six Union Army soldiers – members of Andrews’ Raiders – with the first-ever Medals of Honor. Today, America recognizes all of its Medal of Honor recipients on National Medal of Honor Day – Mar. 25 (of each year) – the anniversary of the first presentations.
1864: Confederate cavalry under the command of Maj. Gen. (future Lt. Gen.) Nathan Bedford Forrest, “the wizard of the saddle,” strike Union forces under Col. Stephen G. Hicks in the Battle of Paducah, Kentucky.
1915: While on maneuvers off the coast of Hawaii, USS F-4 (SS-23) develops a fatal leak, going down with the entire 21-man crew and becoming the first commissioned submarine lost at sea. When a fellow Navy diver becomes entangled during recovery operations on the sunken vessel in April, Chief Gunner's Mate Frank W. Crilley volunteers to rescue his comrade. Crilley's dive of 306 feet sets a world-record and he is awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions.
1945: In what was to become the largest amphibious landing in the Pacific Theater, the first of 50,000 U.S. troops land on the beaches of Okinawa. Although the Tenth Army quickly sweeps across southern portion of the island - capturing the Japanese airfields at Kadena and Yomitan within hours after landing. However, the 82-day campaign to secure Okinawa is so brutal (20,000 U.S. soldiers, sailors, and Marine combat deaths) that it is the last major operation of the war; Pres. Truman decides to end World War II with atomic weapons six weeks later.
1865: After four bloody years of fighting, Union troops capture the Confederate capital of Richmond, Va. The war will be over in six days.
1942: Japan's 14th Army, led by Lt. Gen. Masaharu Homma, launches a major offensive against American and Filipino forces on the Bataan Peninsula. In six days, the 75,000 defenders, already weakened by starvation and disease, will have no choice but to surrender to the Japanese.
1946: Gen. Homma is convicted of nearly 50 counts of war crimes for his troops' treatment of prisoners in the Bataan Death March, and is shot by firing squad.
1965: Two B-57 Canberra bombers, supported by a C-130 flare ship, fly the first interdiction mission on the Ho Chi Minh Trail in Southeast Laos. Aircrews will fly over 100,000 sorties in the covert Operation STEEL TIGER in an attempt to stem the flow of Communist forces and matériel into South Vietnam through Laos.
1969: Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird introduces "Vietnamization," the Nixon Administration's plan to gradually withdraw U.S. combat forces while preparing the South Vietnamese to assume responsibility for the conflict, which had already cost over 30,000 American lives.
1917: After Germany resumes unrestricted submarine warfare on Allied (including U.S.) shipping and discovery of the "Zimmerman Telegram", proposing German alliance with Mexico if the U.S. enters World War I, Congress declares war on Germany.
1945: Carrier-based bombers and torpedo bombers from Adm. Marc Mitscher's Task Force 58 engage and sink the Japanese battleship Yamato, the largest battleship ever constructed. Only 280 of the 2,778 crew are rescued, making the attack the largest loss of life at sea of a single ship during World War II. In addition to the Yamato, a Japanese cruiser and four destroyers were also sunk at a cost of only 10 U.S. aircraft.
1979: The nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine USS Ohio (SSBN-726), the largest submarine built by the U.S. Navy, is launched at the Groton, Conn. shipyard.
1942: Maj. Gen. Edward P. King surrenders US forces at Bataan to the Japanese.
1959: NASA introduces the "Mercury Seven," the men chosen to become United States' first astronauts after an intensive selection process. Pres. Dwight Eisenhower directed that all would be drawn from the ranks of military test pilots. Out of the 500 applicants, NASA chose Scott Carpenter, Wally Schirra, and Alan Shepard from the Navy... Gordo Cooper, Gus Grissom, and Deke Slayton from the Air Force, and John Glenn from the Marine Corps.
1941: When Germany invades Denmark, Greenland (a Danish colony) asks for U.S. military protection.
1942: A day after surrendering to Japanese Forces, an estimated 80,000 U.S. and Filipino prisoners of war begin the six-day, 85-mile “Bataan Death March.” Despite 14th Army commander Gen. Masaharu Homma’s orders that POWs be treated peacefully, the captives suffer extreme physical abuse, are given little to no food and water, and thousands are murdered or die from starvation or disease on their journey.
1945: Marine Bombing Squadron 612 (VMB-612) launches night attacks from Iwo Jima against the Japanese coast.
1972: B-52 bombers strike North Vietnamese targets (SAM-2 sites near Vinh), the first bombing missions flown north of the Demilitarized Zone since 1967.
1945: American forces liberate Buchenwald Concentration Camp near Weimar, Germany. The Nazis incarcerated over a quarter million people in the camp, leading to some 56,000 deaths.
1951: Pres. Harry Truman removes Gen. Douglas MacArthur from his position as Supreme Commander for the Allied Forces in South Korea for repeated disrespect to the president. Truman replaced MacArthur, whose military career spanned four wars and 52 years, with Gen. Matthew B. Ridgway, Commanding Officer of the 8th Army.
1970: At 13:13 NASA Time (1:30pm Central), Capt. Jim Lovell (US Navy), Jack Swigert (former U.S. Air Force captain), and Fred Haise, Jr. (former Marine Corps/Air Force captain) blast off from Kennedy Space Center aboard Apollo 13. Two days into their journey to the moon (on Apr. 13), an oxygen module explodes, aborting the mission. The crew manages to return the wounded spacecraft back to Earth safely on Apr. 17.
1861: Confederate Brig. Gen. Pierre G.T. Beauregard’s artillery forces — strategically positioned around Charleston harbor, S.C. — open fire on Union-held Fort Sumter (constructed atop shoals at the harbor entrance).
Unable to effectively return fire and with his position indefensible, Union Army Maj. Robert Anderson will surrender the fort: The garrison will be evacuated on the 14th.
The firing on Fort Sumter is considered to be the opening engagement of the Civil War. Technically it is; though shots were fired in January by militia batteries — including a battery manned by cadets of the Citadel (the Military College of South Carolina) — on the U.S. commercial paddlesteamer “Star of the West” in Charleston harbor.
1862: Andrews’ Raiders — an ad hoc Union Army commando force (22 Ohio Infantrymen led by civilian spy James J. Andrews) — commandeer a Confederate train at Big Shanty, Georgia during an operation aimed at disrupting the rail-line between Atlanta and Chattanooga.
Following a dramatic pursuit known today as “the Great Locomotive Chase,” the raiders will be caught. Many will escape. Eight of them, including Andrews, will be convicted of espionage and executed.
Nineteen of the raiders will be awarded the Medal of Honor (many of them posthumously). Six will become the first-ever recipients of the Medal of Honor.
1961: Yuri Gargarin tells the control room "Let's go!" and his Vostok spacecraft launches the first human into space. The Soviet cosmonaut orbits the earth once and returns to a hero's welcome. The Soviet Union will have a leg up on the United States in the Space Race until John Glenn makes his orbital flight aboard "Friendship Seven" nearly a year later.
1975: Marines evacuate nearly 300 Americans and foreign nationals from Cambodia during Operation EAGLE PULL.
1981: 20 years after Gargarin became the first man in space, John W. Young (Capt, USN) and Robert L. Crippen (Capt, USN) blast off on the first space shuttle mission. Columbia lands safely two days later at Edwards Air Force base after orbiting the earth 37 times.
1943: Nazi Germany announces the discovery of a mass grave in Russia's Katyn Forest. Josef Stalin ordered Soviet security forces to execute over 20,000 Polish officers, soldiers, and officials. Russia would deny involvement in the massacre until 2010.
1945: As Nazi SS troops race to evacuate prisoners of war from advancing American forces, over 1,000 Polish prisoners of war are herded into a barn at Gardelegen, Germany and the building is set on fire. Those that attempted to escape the blaze are shot. The 102nd Infantry Division reaches Gardelegen the next day, before the Nazis can destroy evidence of the massacre.
1953: CIA Director Allen Dulles authorizes Project MKUltra, the agency's secret experimental mind control program. The CIA sought to replicate and protect against Communist mind control techniques used to interrogate U.S. troops during the Korean War.
1960: A Thor-Ablestar rocket launches Transit 1B, America's first satellite global positioning system into orbit. The satellite provided data to the Navy's ballistic missile submarine fleet.
1970: "Houston, we have a problem": Apollo 13 command module's oxygen tank explodes, aborting the lunar landing.
1993: U.S. warplanes begin Operation DENY FLIGHT, enforcing a NATO "no-fly zone" over Bosnia.
1861: Following the capture of Fort Sumter by Confederate forces, Pres. Abraham Lincoln issues a proclamation calling for 75,000 volunteers (at the time, the Army consisted of just 16,000 men) to quell the rebellion.
Four years to the day later, Lincoln would die from John Wilkes Booth mortally wounding him with a gunshot to the back of the head at Ford's Theater.
1912: U.S. Navy scout cruisers USS Chester (CL-1) and USS Salem (CL-3) set out from Massachusetts to assist survivors of RMS Titanic.
1947: Former platoon leader in the 761st "Black Panther" Tank Battalion Jackie Robinson breaks the "color barrier," becoming the first black baseball player in the Major Leagues.
1961: B-26B Invader bombers, painted by the CIA to resemble Cuban Air Force planes, attack Cuban airfields in preparation for the upcoming Bay of Pigs Invasion. Under cover of darkness, a diversionary landing of 164 Cuban exiles, supported by U.S. Navy destroyers, departs for Baracoa, Cuba but turns around due to militia activity on the coast.
That same day, USS Bainbridge (DLGN-25) - America's first nuclear-powered frigate - launches at Quincy, Mass. Together with the aircraft carrier Enterprise (CVN-65) and cruiser Long Beach (CGN-9), the three nuclear-powered ships would sail non-stop around the world in 1964, covering over 30,000 miles in 65 days.
1962: Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 362 deploys to the Mekong Delta, becoming the first operational Marine Corps unit to serve in Vietnam.
1898: The Secretary of the Navy orders Maj. Gen. Charles Heywood, the ninth Commandant of the Marine Corps, to organize a battalion for duty in Cuba.
1916: The Escadrille Americaine — a group of volunteer American pilots flying for the French military air service — is established. The Escadrille Americaine will become known as the Escadrille Lafayette (also Lafayette Escadrille), and, in 1918, it will be absorbed into the 103rd Pursuit Squadron of the new U.S. Army Air Service.
1986: Several hours before dawn — on the 70th birthday of the Escadrille Americaine — U.S. Air Force and Navy warplanes roar into Libyan airspace and begin a series of blistering airstrikes against military and terrorist targets.
Code-named El Dorado Canyon, the attacks are in retaliation for Libyan-leader Col. Muammar Qaddafi’s direct involvement in terrorist attacks against Americans worldwide.
The U.S. operation is built around two primary strike groups: U.S. Air Force F-111 fighter-bombers based in the United Kingdom, and carrier-based A-6 Intruders, A-7 Corsairs, and F/A-18 Hornets from USS America and USS Coral Sea operating in the Mediterranean with F-14 Tomcats flying combat air patrol over the carriers.
In his post-attack address to the nation, Pres. Ronald Reagan says, “Today we have done what we had to do. If necessary, we shall do it again.”
1847: U.S. Army forces under the command of Gen. Winfield Scott outmaneuver, drive from a superior position, inflict heavy losses, and decisively defeat a numerically superior Mexican Army under Gen. Antonio López de Santa Anna at Cerro Gordo.
1961: More than 1,500 CIA-trained and financed Cuban freedom fighters hit the beach along the Cuban coastline including the Bay of Pigs (Bahia de Cochinos), while nearly 180 "Free Cuba" paratroopers begin landing north of the beachhead. Their goal is to overthrow the communist regime of Fidel Castro, but the operation is doomed when locals fail to rise up and support the invasion and President Kennedy withholds the promised American air and naval gunfire support.
1775: Paul Revere and William Dawes begin their famous "midnight ride" from Boston to Lexington, Mass., where they link-up with Samuel Prescott, who rides on to Concord. All three are sounding the alarm – warning town leaders and alerting the militia – that nearly 1,000 British infantrymen, grenadiers, and Royal Marines are advancing from Boston.
1942: Sixteen B-25 Mitchell bombers led by U.S. Army Air Forces Lt. Col. James H. "Jimmy" Doolittle launch from the aircraft carrier USS Hornet in the first raid against the Japanese mainland during World War II. The raid will be successful, but all aircraft will be lost. Eleven men will be killed or captured.
1943: P-38 "Lightning" fighters ambush the "Betty" bomber transporting Adm. Isoroku Yamamoto, killing the commander-in-chief of the Japanese Navy.
1983: A suicide bomber crashes a truck carrying 2,000 lbs of explosives into the U.S. Embassy in Beirut, Lebanon, setting off a blast that kills 63 people. Among the fallen are 17 Americans, including the CIA's station chief, his deputy, and the agency's regional director) and four service members.
1775: An expedition of 700 British regulars under the command of Lt. Col. Frances Smith departs Boston to seize and destroy military stores of the Massachusetts Militia in Concord. At dawn, 70 militia members led by Capt. John Parker meet the British at Lexington, and the two sides briefly skirmish. The Americans withdraw and regroup, attacking the redcoats again at North Bridge with a much larger force, forcing the British to turn back towards Boston.
The American Revolution has begun.
1861: 86 years to the day after the "shot heard round the world," Massachusetts volunteers headed for Washington, D.C. are attacked by a secessionist mob in Baltimore. Four soldiers and eight rioters die in the opening shots of the American Civil War.
Meanwhile, Pres. Abraham Lincoln orders a Naval blockade of Confederate ports in South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas. The blockade is extended to North Carolina and Virginia the following week.
1945: Following the most massive artillery, Naval gunfire and air bombardment of the Pacific War, U.S. soldiers and Marines of the Tenth Army launch a coordinated ground assault against the dug-in Japanese defenders of the infamous Shuri Line on Okinawa.
1960: Grumman's A-6 "Intruder" makes its first flight. The Navy and Marine Corps relied heavily on the versatile all weather/night attack aircraft until the Intruder's retirement 1997, and the Marines still operate the EA-6B "Prowler" electronic warfare variant nearly 60 years later.
1967: Maj. Leo K. Thorsness, leading a flight of Air Force F-105 "Thunderchief" aircraft on a "Wild Weasel" mission in a heavily defended area around Hanoi, North Vietnam, destroys two surface-to-air missile sites. When one of his planes is hit and the crew has to eject, Thorsness circles the area to notify search and rescue crews of the downed airmen's location. Spotting an enemy MiG-17 in the area, he engages and kills the enemy fighter, and draws its wingmen off as he heads for fuel. After refueling, helicopter crews attempting to rescue Thorsness' teammates reported more enemy fighters in the area. He damages one MiG and drives the rest away from the area.
For his actions, Thorsness is awarded the Medal of Honor.
1989: The number two 16-inch turret on USS Iowa (BB-61) explodes during a live-fire exercise near Puerto Rico, killing 47 sailors.
1861: Col. Robert E. Lee, considered for a top command by Gen. Winfield Scott (whom Lee served as a chief aide during the Mexican-American War), and having just rejected an offer of command in the Confederate Army, reluctantly resigns his commission in the U.S. Army following the secession of his home state of Virginia. In three days, Lee takes command of Virginia state forces – one of the first five generals appointed to the Confederate Army.
Meanwhile, Norfolk Navy Yard is abandoned and burned by Union forces to prevent it from falling into enemy hands after Virgnia’s secession. The Confederates would do the same when they abandon the shipyard in May 1862.
1914: Following the arrest of U.S. sailors in Veracruz and the discovery of an illegal arms shipment from Germany to Gen. Victoriano Huerta’s regime, Pres. Woodrow Wilson obtains Congress’ approval to occupy the Mexican port. The following day, Marines and Naval “Bluejacket” infantry sieze the port and, supported by Naval gunfire, take the town. Marines will remain in Veracruz until November.
1918: German pilot Manfred von Richtofen – the infamous “Red Baron” – scores his last two kills of the war. The next day, Richtofen (who began the war as a cavalry officer) is shot down and killed. The Australian fighter squadron credited with shooting the German ace down gives Richtofen a full military funeral. Over the course of the war, the Red Baron shoots down an incredible 80 planes – the most victories by any pilot in World War I.
1945: After five days of perhaps the most fierce urban combat of the war, the 7th Army captures Nuremberg. The Stars and Stripes are raised over Adolf Hitler Platz, the site of Nazi party rallies, on the Führer’s 56th birthday.
1947: U.S. Navy Capt. L.O. Fox accepts the surrender – in fact the last formal surrender of World War II – of Lt. Ei Yamaguchi and 26 Japanese soldiers and sailors on the island of Peleliu. After the Japanese holdouts attack the island’s Marine Corps detachment in March, a Japanese admiral had to be flown in to convince Yamaguchi that the war had ended nearly two years a
1777: British Army forces commanded by Gen. William Tryon begin burning the village of Danbury, Conn. Much of the town is destroyed before Continental forces can arrive several days later.
1836: Texas Army forces led by Gen. Sam Houston surprise and decisively defeat Gen. Antonio López de Santa Anna’s Mexican army in the Battle of San Jacinto. In 18 minutes, some 650 Mexicans lay dead while less than a dozen Texans are killed. The Mexican army surrenders and Texas secures its independence. Santa Anna is captured – hiding and dressed as a common soldier – the following day.
1898: Spain severs diplomatic relations with the United States and Pres. William McKinley orders the Naval blockade of Cuba, putting the United States on a war footing with Spain. The following day, the gunboat USS Nashville (PG-7) fires the first official shots of the war.
1940: U.S. Army Capt. Robert M. Losey becomes the first American casualty of World War II when he is killed by German bombing raid on a rail yard in Norway. Losey was attempting to evacuate U.S. personnel in the wake of the German invasion. Luftwaffe commander Hermann Göring would apologize for the incident.
1951: Two Marine Corps aviators, including World War II ace Capt. Phillip DeLong from the USS Bataan (CVL-29), splash three Yak fighters and damage another in the first dogfight with North Korean pilots.
1863: Union cavalry troopers, led by Col. Benjamin Grierson, begin a two-week raid through Mississippi. Grierson’s raiders cut the state's telegraph lines, destroy two train loads of Confederate ammunition, sabotage 50 miles of railroad, kill 100 and capture 500 Confederates - at the cost of three wounded, seven wounded, and 14 missing.
1915: German artillery near Gravenstafel, Belgium fires over 150 tons of chlorine gas on French forces, including French Colonial Moroccan and Algerian troops, in the first large-scale successful use of chemical weapons. Within moments, the toxic gas cloud inflicts about 6,000 casualties - including many of the German artillery troops. Some 2,000 Americans alone would die from chemical weapons during World War I, and the deadly new tactic inflicts half a million casualties by war's end.
1942: The Coordinator of Information (predecessor to the Office of Strategic Services, and ultimately, the CIA) activates Detachment 101 - a special operations unit in Burma. The group collected intelligence, destroyed bridges, derailed trains, captured or destroyed enemy vehicles, located targets for the 10th Air Force, rescued downed Allied airmen, and most importantly, recruited and trained over 10,000 native troops for a highly effective guerrilla campaign against Japanese Forces. Detachment 101 and its OSS teams became the prototype for modern-day Special Forces (Army Green Berets).
1944: American soldiers and Marines, supported by over 200 ships, land in New Guinea for Operations RECKLESS and PERSECUTION, beginning a three month battle that would claim the lives of 12,811 of the heavily outnumbered Japanese troops, compared to only 527 Americans.
1945: As Russian air force and artillery and bombard targets in central Berlin - with some explosions rocking the underground Führerbunker command post - Adolf Hitler confides to his aides that the war is lost and declares suicide is his only option. The Führer will kill himself in eight days.
1951: Chinese and North Korean forces, totalling some 700,000 soldiers, launch their Spring Offensive. The communist assault, which is the last all-out Chinese offensive of the war, inflicts heavy casualties on both sides but fails to accomplish the objective of capturing Seoul and driving UN forces off the peninsula.
2004: Pat Tillman, who left a multi-million dollar career in professional football to join the Army after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, is killed while on patrol in eastern Afghanistan. Pat and his brother Kevin (a minor-league baseball player in the Cleveland Indians organization before enlisting) served in both Iraq and Afghanistan with 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment.
1778: Capt. John Paul Jones - commanding the Continental sloop-of-war Ranger - leads a daring ship-to-shore raid on the British fortress at Whitehaven, England. Jones’ sailors and Marines spike the enemy’s guns, burn a few buildings, and set fire to a ship before withdrawing. The raid is the first on British soil by an American force.
1781: A 2,500-man force of British and Hessian troops, led by Gen. William Phillips, lands at City Point, Va., joining with (notorious traitor) Gen. Benedict Arnold's "American Legion." The next morning, the combined force marches towards Petersburg, defended by Virginia militiamen under the command of Prussian Maj. Gen. Friederich Wilhelm von Steuben. After putting up several hours of fierce resistance, the outnumbered Americans disengage and Petersburg falls to the British.
1862: Adm. David Farragut's squadron of 43 Union vessels fight past Confederate batteries at Forts Jackson and St. Philip in the Mississippi River at New Orleans and destroy most of the Confederate fleet upriver. The Union captures the crucial port city the following day - one of the worst setbacks for the Confederacy during the Civil War.
1942: The first B-29 "Superfortress" bomber flies "over the hump" (the Himalayan Mountains), airlifting supplies and ammunition from India to nationalist Chinese forces, following the Japanese capture of the Burma Road. Army Air Force bombers will begin bombing the Japanese mainland from forward air bases in China, but the "India-China Ferry" aircraft must fly seven transport missions over the hump for just one bombing raid.
1951: When a wave of Chinese soldiers charged his machine gun position, Army Cpl. Hiroshi Miyamura told his crew to cover him as he fixed his bayonet and advanced into the enemy force, killing ten in hand to hand combat and scattering the attackers. Upon returning to his position, Miyamura ordered his men to withdraw as he manned the machine gun and covered their retreat. He killed some 50 communist fighters before running out of ammunition and becoming severely wounded. Miyamura's position was overrun and he would spend the next 28 months as a prisoner of war. His daring actions made him the first Medal of Honor recipient whose citation was classified "Top Secret" - until his repatriation 28 months later.
1980: Following a string of glitches from missed deadlines to malfunctioning helicopters, a U.S. operation aimed at freeing American hostages in Iran is aborted at a remote staging area – code-named “Desert One” – some 200 miles from Tehran. As the rescue force begins to withdraw, one of the helicopters operating in night black-out conditions accidentally hovers into a C-130 transport aircraft. A terrific explosion follows, killing five U.S. airmen and three Marines.
Though an operational disaster, America’s enemies will be stunned by the fact that such a mission in adverse conditions was nearly carried out so far from American shores. Moreover, the disaster will force military planners to ramp up and retool U.S. special operations forces, establishing a special warfare capability that is today the envy of foreign militaries worldwide.
1846: When Maj. Gen. (and future president) Zachary Taylor receives reports that Mexican forces - seeking to reclaim Texas - have crossed the Rio Grande, he dispatches two companies of dragoons (mounted infantry) to investigate. The American soldiers are ambushed by some 1,600 Mexican soldiers and those not killed are taken prisoner.
The Mexican-American War has begun.
1914: Navy lieutenant (future vice admiral) Patrick N.L. Bellinger flies the first naval combat mission when his AB-3 flying boat conducts reconnaissance of Veracruz and searches the Mexican harbor for mines. Bellinger also becomes the first American aviator to be fired upon by the enemy.
1944: When an Army Air Forces plane carrying wounded British soldiers goes down 100 miles behind Japanese lines in Burma, Lt. Carter Harmon conducts the first known military helicopter rescue. His YR-4B helicopter can carry only one passenger, so Harmon has to fly four trips to everyone back to safety.
1945: A U.S. Army reconnaissance patrol crosses the Elbe River and makes contact with a forward element of the Russian Guards. Germany is effectively split in two. Meanwhile, the Nazi occupation army in Italy surrenders and the last German troops in Finland evacuate.
World War II will be over in days.
1960: The nuclear-powered submarine USS Triton (SSRN 586) arrives at the St. Peter and Paul rocks in the Atlantic Ocean, becoming the first vessel to cross the globe submerged. Triton traveled 26,723 nautical miles in only 60 days.
1777: 16-year-old Sybil Ludington – "the female Paul Revere" – begins her 40-mile, all-night ride across an isolated circuit of New York–Connecticut backcountry, warning villagers of a British attack on nearby Danbury, Connecticut.
1865: After three days of negotiations with Union Maj. Gen. William Sherman, Gen. Joseph Johnson surrenders the Army of Tennessee, along with the remaining Confederates in the Carolinas, Georgia, and Florida - nearly 90,000 troops - to Union Maj. Gen. William Sherman in the largest surrender of the war. Sherman supplies the Confederate soldiers with rations and orders food to be distributed to Southerners, in stark contrast to his "scorched earth" campaign.
That same day, Union cavalry troopers track down John Wilkes Booth - Pres. Abraham Lincoln's assassin - at a tobacco barn in Virginia. 12 days after shooting the president, the fugitive is himself shot and killed.
1948: Test pilot (and former World War II ace) George Welch puts his North American YP-86 Saber jet into a dive and breaks the sound barrier - marking the first supersonic flight of a fighter aircraft.
1952: While performing night carrier operations off the coast of Newfoundland, the minesweeper USS Hobson (DD-464) collides with the aircraft carrier USS Wasp (CV-18). The minesweeper breaks in half and within five minutes, 176 sailors perish in one of the Navy's largest non-combat losses of life at sea.
1805: Following an extremely difficult march across a 500-to-700-mile stretch of desert, a force of U.S. Marines and foreign mercenaries led by U.S. Army officer William Eaton attack and seize the fortress at Derna (modern-day Libya) during the First Barbary War. The battle was the first U.S. land battle on foreign soil and the first time the U.S. flag is raised over foreign soil.
1813: An 1800-man American infantry force, led by Brig. Gen. Zebulon Pike, land west of the Canadian town of York (present-day Toronto). The Americans, supported by a 14-ship naval flotilla, drive back the defending force of British regulars, Canadian militia, and Ojibwe warriors. The outnumbered British forces withdraw after taking heavy losses from the Americans. The fort's magazine explodes during the battle, killing 38 Americans (including Pike) and wounding over 200. York is burned after the town's capture, enraging the British and inspiring them to retaliate at Washington, D.C. the next year.
1865: The overcrowded Mississippi River steamboat Sultana, carrying 2,400 Union soldiers just released from Confederate prison, explodes and sinks just north of Memphis. At least 1,500 soldiers perish in the greatest maritime disaster in U.S. history.
1953: As armistice negotiations begin, Gen. Mark Clark - the commander of UN forces in Korea - informs Communist pilots through shortwave radio broadcasts in Russian, Chinese, and Korean that defecting MiG-15 pilots would receive political asylum and $50,000 (the first defecting pilot would be awarded $100,000) to fly an operational jet to South Korea. The Russian MiG-15 was considered to be superior to any Allied fighter at the time and had inflicted heavy casualties on Allied airmen.
Although no pilot took up the offer, Operation MOOLAH had the indirect effect of grounding MiG-15 sorties for several days - perhaps as Communist leaders investigated the loyalty of their pilots. And following Clark's broadcasts, there would be no more sightings of Russian pilots or aircraft, which were considerably better pilots than their Chinese or North Korean MiG pilots.
1907: A detachment of Marines from the gunboat USS Paducah (PG-18) land in Honduras to protect American nationals during a conflict with Nicaragua.
1944: As allied ships rehearse for the upcoming Normandy Invasion on the English coast, they come under fire by nine torpedo-armed German E-Boats in Lyme Bay. Two tank landing ships are sunk and one is damaged, killing 749 soldiers and sailors. Several ships went ahead with the landing, and unfortunately the British ships bombarding the beach - Gen. Dwight Eisenhower wanted live ammunition to prepare the troops for combat - continued to fire, not knowing the Americans are already hitting the beach, and some 300 additional soldiers are killed from friendly fire.
1965: A battalion of U.S. Marines land at Haina in the Dominican Republic to protect American nationals following the outbreak of civil war. In two days, Pres. Lyndon B. Johnson sends thousands of soldiers from the 82d Airborne and Marines from the 6th Marine Expeditionary Brigade to the island to prevent the nation from falling to communism.
1967: Boxing legend Muhammad Ali refuses to take the oath of enlistment after being drafted for service in the Armed Forces and is immediately stripped of his championship. It is three years before he is able to box again.
1970: Pres. Richard Nixon authorizes U.S. military incursions into Cambodia. While the country was officially neutral, Communist forces used Cambodia as a safe haven and staging area for cross-border operations into South Vietnam. While falling short of its major goals: eliminating a significant number of enemy troops or capturing their headquarters, troops capture a massive amount of weapons, ammunition, equipment, and supplies - so much so that after the incursion ends in July, Nixon declares the Cambodian campaign "the most successful military operation of the entire war."
1798: The U.S. Navy Department – parent company of the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps – is established.
1943: The British submarine HMS Seraph drops a cadaver overboard off the coast of Spain, disguised as a British Royal Marine officer with documents suggesting an upcoming Allied invasion of Greece and Sardinia. German intelligence discovers the files and shift reinforcements. In two months, over 100,000 U.S. and British soldiers would hit the beaches at Sicily - the actual invasion target.
1945: Stalag Luft I, the Nazi prison camp home to 9,000 Allied airmen (including over 7,000 Americans) is liberated by the Red Army.
1945: German leader Adolf Hitler commits suicide in Hitler’s Berlin Bunker. German Army forces will surrender to the Allies within days.
1962: The CIA's A-12 reconnaissance aircraft - the predecessor of the SR-71 Blackbird, a two-seat variant of the A-12 - makes its first official flight at the highly classified Groom Lake, Nev. test site (Area 51).
1970: Pres. Richard M. Nixon announces that U.S. troops would conduct operations in North Vietnamese-controlled areas of Cambodia. Congress would shortly ban combat troops in Laos and Cambodia.
1898: U.S. Navy Commodore George Dewey's Asiatic Squadron steams single file into Manila Bay and destroys the out-armored and out-gunned Spanish fleet in the Philippines. Despite the support of shore batteries, the Spanish lose all seven of their vessels and only six American sailors are wounded. The Spanish-American War will effectively end in August, and Spain will cede control of the islands to the United States.
1943: When his B-17 bomber is hit by German flak and Sgt. Maynard H. "Snuffy" Smith loses power in his ball turret gun, he climbs out to assist the other members of the crew. The explosion started a fire started in the fuselage and three of the airmen had already bailed out. He treats two severely wounded comrades and begins fighting the fire that was melting holes in the aircraft. For the next 90 minutes, Smith alternates between caring for the wounded, extinguishing the fire, and manning the .50 caliber guns against attacking German fighters. The plane makes it safely back to England, but breaks in half upon landing from the fire and 3,500 bullets and pieces of shrapnel.
1960: CIA pilot Frances Gary Powers (former Captain, USAF) takes off from a military airbase in Pakistan on a reconnaissance overflight mission of the Soviet Union. His U-2 spy plane, flying some 70,000 feet above Russia, is hit by a surface-to-air missile and crashes into the Ural Mountains. Powers ejects safely and is held in a Soviet prison until his famous exchange on a Berlin bridge nearly two years later.
2003: George W. Bush becomes the first president to make an arrested landing when the S-3 Viking dubbed "Navy One" touches down on the USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) following its 10-month combat deployment. Bush delivers a speech on the deck of the aircraft carrier announcing the end of major combat operations in Iraq.
Although the insurgency would drag on for years, the 21-day conventional campaign against Saddam Hussein's Ba'athist regime is over.
1863: During day-two of the Battle of Chancellorsville, Gen. Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson is shot by a Confederate sentry while performing a leaders-reconnaissance mission. Following the amputation of Jackson’s shattered arm, Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee will lament, “He has lost his left arm, but I have lost my right arm.” The revered Jackson will die in eight days of pneumonia.
1945: Members of the 82d Airborne and the 8th Infantry Division liberate the Wöbbelin concentration camp in northern Germany. The Nazis allowed the 5,000 inmates to starve, and U.S. soldiers found some 1,000 dead upon arrival. Conditions were so extreme that some of the inmates had resorted to cannibalism, and hundreds more would die after the camp's liberation.
That same day, Gen. Heinrich von Vietinghoff surrenders all Wehrmacht forces in Italy and the Red Army flies the Soviet flag over the Reichstag building. Berlin has fallen.
1946: When prisoners at Alcatraz riot - breaking into the prison armory and taking hostages - Marines from Treasure Island Naval Base assist in suppressing the riot.
1964: Two months prior to the Gulf of Tonkin incident, a North Vietnamese frogman plants an explosive charge on USNS Card - a reactivated World War II escort carrier ferrying helicopters and American soldiers to South Vietnam - as the ship sits at a dock in Saigon. The blast kills five civilian crew members and Card sinks. The vessel is patched, raised, and will return to service in December.
2011: After perhaps the largest manhunt in history, U.S. intelligence has finally tracked down Osama bin Laden - the founder of Al Qaeda. Specially modified Black Hawk helicopters launched from Afghanistan carry a team of elite "DEVGRU" Navy SEALs (formerly known as SEAL Team Six) on a daring raid to bin Laden's secret compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. One helicopter crash lands, but no one is seriously injured and the operators drive on to the objective. Nearly ten years after the 9/11 attacks, the SEALs finally gun down the man responsible for the deaths of thousands of Americans.
1898: Following the Battle of Manila Bay, Marines from the cruisers USS Baltimore (C-3) and USS Raleigh (C-8) raise the Stars and Stripes for the first time in the Philippines over Cavite, the historical capital.
1923: 26 hours and 50 minutes after taking off in New York, Army Air Corps First Lieutenants Oakley Kelly and John Macready touch down at Rockwell Field, San Diego, becoming the first aviators to fly non-stop across the United States. The specially modified Fokker T-2 passenger plane averaged a blistering 92 mph.
1942: The first air-naval battle in history takes place between American and Japanese carriers in the Battle of the Coral Sea. Aircraft carriers used aircraft to fight each other instead of the ships directly engaging each other with guns. 66 American and 70 Japanese warplanes are shot down.
1946: Prosecution of 28 Japanese military and political leaders begin at the War Ministry Office in Tokyo. After two-and-a-half years, 25 of the 28 high-ranking officials (one is determined mentally unfit and two die during the trial) are found guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Seven are executed, including the prime minister and Gen. Iwane Matsui, who oversaw the Japanese military's Rape of Nanking.
1951: The Senate Armed Services and Foreign Relations committees begin closed-session hearings into the dismissal of Gen. Douglas MacArthur. The five-star general served as Commander-in-Chief of the United Nations Command in Korea until being relieved of command in April for his insubordination and disrespect to President Harry Truman. MacArthur will retire - for a second time - after 52 years of military service.
1952: Air Force Lt. Col Joseph O. Fletcher, piloting a C-47 with skis for landing gear - along with fellow USAF Lt. Col. William P. Benedict and scientist Dr. Albert P. Crary - become the first Americans to land at the geographic North Pole. That day, Crary becomes the first person to have stood on both the North and South Poles.
1965: Lead elements of the 173rd Airborne Brigade depart Okinawa for South Vietnam, becoming the first Army ground combat units deployed in the Vietnam War. The "Sky Soldiers" will make the only major combat parachute jump of the war in February 1967 during Operation Junction City - the mission to locate the North Vietnamese political and military headquarters for South Vietnam.
1975: USS Nimitz (CVN-68) is commissioned at Naval Station Norfolk, Va. by President Gerald R. Ford. Although slightly shorter than the USS Enterprise (CVN-65), the new Nimitz Class carriers are the largest warships ever built - displacing over 100,000 tons. Pres. Ford, who served as a Naval Reserve officer aboard an aircraft carrier in the Pacific Theater during World War II, states "Only in America can we build this machine; there's nothing else like it in the world."
1864: Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, general-in-chief of all Union forces, moves the Army of the Potomac out of their winter encampments and 100,000 Union soldiers cross the Rapidan River in Virginia to begin the campaign that would set the stage for the defeat of Gen. Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia. Union losses in the Overland Campaign - the bloodiest in American history - are heavy, but Grant's troops are replaceable. Lee's are not.
1916: To avoid a diplomatic break with the United States, Germany announces it will abandon its policy of unrestricted submarine warfare. Instead of indiscriminately sinking all vessels in the British Isles, German subs will only torpedo those found to carry war materials. Germany reverses course in less than a year, sparking America's entry into World War I on April 6, 1917.
1917: After a nine-day crossing of the Atlantic through stormy seas, a detachment of destroyers commanded by Cmdr. Joseph K. Taussig arrives at Queenstown, Ireland (now known as Cobh). The destroyers will assist convoy escorts against German U-Boats, which are reportedly sinking a staggering 600,000 tons of shipping per month.
1945: Germany's new president, Grand Admiral Karl Dönitz sends envoys to Gen. Sir Bernard Montgomery's headquarters - a carpeted tent in Lüneburg Heath, Germany - and sign the unconditional surrender of German air, land, and sea forces in the Netherlands, Denmark, and northern Germany.
Meanwhile as the fighting rages on at Okinawa, the Japanese 32nd Army attempts - and fails - to make an amphibious assault behind American lines. A frenzy of kamikaze attacks on U.S. Navy send two destroyers and two rocket-armed amphibious ships to the bottom. Numerous other vessels are damaged.
1968: As soldiers of the 7th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) move uphill, braving intense sniper fire, towards fortified enemy positions in Vietnam's infamous Vietnam's A Shau Valley, a soldier discovers an enemy claymore. Platoon Leader Douglas B. Fournet orders his men to take cover while he charges forward to disarm the mine. He unsheaths a knife and attempts to cut the wire used to detonate the device, but it explodes. Fournet shields his teammates from the blast with his body and he is posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions.
1970: After days of violent protests and rioting sparked by Pres. Nixon's decision to begin military incursion into Cambodia, Ohio National Guard units open fire on protestors at Kent State University. In 13 seconds, four students lay dead and nine more are wounded.
1862: Disappointed in the lack of progress of Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan's Peninsula Campaign, President Abraham Lincoln departs for Hampton Roads, Va. on the Treasury Department revenue cutter Miami to personally oversee operations. Over five days, the president - a former militia rifle company commander - directs the bombardment of Confederate positions and lands to conduct reconnaissance of the area with Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton and Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase.
1864: The bloody albeit inconclusive Battle of the Wilderness (Virginia) opens between Union Army forces under the command of Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant and Maj. Gen. George G. Meade, and Confederate forces under Gen. Robert E. Lee. Fighting is grim: Casualties will be heavy on both sides. Union and Confederate generals will be killed. Wounded and trapped soldiers will be burned alive by a battle-sparked woods fire. Within two days, Grant will disengage and advance toward Spotsylvania Courthouse.
1916: Two companies of Marines from the transport USS Prairie (AD-5) land at Santo Domingo, beginning the United States' eight-year occupation of the Dominican Republic. The leathernecks provide protection for the U.S. Legation and Consulate, and occupy the nearby Fort San Geronimo.
1917: Eugene J. Bullard becomes the first black combat aviator, earning his wings with the French Air Service. 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. The "Black Swallow of Death" would fly 20 combat missions for the French - claiming two aerial kills - before war's end. He volunteered for the infantry when Germany invaded France again in 1940 and was wounded.
1945: A Japanese balloon bomb explodes in Bly, Oregon, killing a pastor, his wife, and five Sunday schoolchildren on the way to a picnic. The Japanese sent over 9,000 of these incendiary devices into the jet stream, hoping some would land in America and the small explosives would start forest fires or cause casualties. A few hundred of the world's first "intercontinental weapon" were observed in the United States, going as far inland as Iowa and Michigan, but the only casualties are the one explosion in Bly. The highly technical devices use altimeters and valves to control the hydrogen-filled balloons during the three-day, 8,000-mile flight from the east coast of Japan's Honshu island.
1961: At 9:34 am, U.S. Navy Commander (future rear admiral) Alan B. Shepard Jr.'s Mercury-Redstone rocket blasts off from Cape Canaveral, Fla. Shepard becomes the first American in space as his "Freedom 7" capsule carries him 116 miles above the Earth's surface. NASA's first manned space flight tests the ability of humans to withstand the intense g-forces during liftoff and re-entry as Shepard encounters 11.6 g's as he plummets to the surface during his 15 minute flight.
1942: Lt. Gen. Jonathan Wainwright unconditionally surrenders all US forces in the Philippines to the Japanese.
1962: During "the 1962 atomic tests," the submarine USS Ethan Allen launches the first and only nuclear-tipped Polaris missile fired from a submerged sub. The warhead detonates over the South Pacific.
1873: Marines from the USS Pensacola and USS Tuscarora land at the Bay of Columbia to protect American citizens and interests as local groups fight for control of the Panamanian government.
1942: The Battle of the Coral Sea begins in earnest between Allied (primarily U.S.) Naval forces and the Japanese Navy.
The battle – the first fought between opposing ships beyond visual range – is largely a carrier-air fight, and will result in the loss or damage of several American ships, including the loss of USS Lexington, scores of destroyed planes and hundreds of sailors and Marines killed.
The Japanese will also suffer serious losses.
According to the U.S. Naval Historical Center, the battle "was an operational and strategic defeat for [Japan], the first major check on the great offensive they had begun five months earlier at Pearl Harbor."
1945: Germany surrenders one week after Adolf Hitler commits suicide in Hitler’s Berlin Bunker.
1846: In the first major battle of the Mexican War, U.S. Army forces under the command of Gen. (and future president) Zachary Taylor decisively defeat Mexican forces under Gen. Mariano Arista in the Battle of Palo Alto (Texas). The Mexicans will retreat to a seemingly more defensible position at Resaca de la Palma the following day, but Taylor will pursue and beat them badly there too.
1864: Union Army forces under the command of Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant and Confederate forces under Gen. Robert E. Lee clash in the Battle of Spotsylvania Courthouse. The outcome at Spotsylvania Courthouse will be inconclusive and the casualties terribly heavy. In less than two weeks, Grant will again break contact and continue his advance toward Richmond.
1904: U.S. Marines land at Tangier, Morocco to protect the Belgian legation.
1911: U.S. Navy Capt. Washington I. Chambers places an order for two A-1 Triad floatplanes from the Curtiss aircraft company. Thus, May 8 becomes the official birthday of Naval Aviation.
1945: V-E Day: The unconditional surrender of German forces signed by Gen. Alfred Jodl at the "little red schoolhouse" (supreme allied headquarters in Reims, France) the previous day becomes official. Although clashes between the Wehrmacht and the Red Army will continue for another day, Nazi Germany has laid down their arms. After nearly six years of fighting, claiming tens of millions of lives in the largest and bloodiest conflict the world had ever seen, the European Theater of World War II is over.
1972: Following a massive invasion of South Vietnam by the North Vietnamese Army, Pres. Richard M. Nixon announces that he has ordered the mining of North Vietnamese ports to stop the flow of weapons to the communists.
1775: Militia forces, led by Ethan Allen and Benedict Arnold, catch the British troops at Fort Ticonderoga (present-day Ticonderoga, N.Y.) by surprise. The strategic fort, and its large supply of cannon and armaments is captured without a shot fired.
1797: The 55-gun heavy frigate USS United States is launched at Philadelphia, becoming the first commissioned ship of the U.S. Navy. The warship will be seized by Confederate forces in 1861 and rechristened CSS United States.
1801: Following Thomas Jefferson's innauguration, Yusuf Karamanly - the Pasha of Tripoli - demands tribute from the United States to prevent the Barbary pirates from continuing their practice of taking hostages and capturing ships.
Jefferson refuses, and the Pasha declares war.
1865: Union cavalry troopers capture Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederate States of America, near Irwinville, Ga. The Confederacy is all but finished. Davis is charged with treason and held at Fort Monroe, Va. but is never tried and he will be released on bond after two years.
1960: The nuclear-powered radar picket submarine USS Triton (SSRN-586) returns to port after completing the first-ever completely submerged circumnavigation of the Earth. Skippered by Capt. Edward L. Beach Jr. – a Navy Cross recipient and best-selling author of “Run Silent, Run Deep” – Triton has followed a trek closely paralleling that of the first-ever global circumnavigation led by Portugese Capt. Ferdinand Magellan in the 16th century. The submarine covers the 26,723 nautical mile journey in just 60 days and 21 hours, averaging 19 knots.
1969: Soldiers of the 101st Airborne Division move into the A Shau Valley for what would become an intense ten-day battle against North Vietnamese Army on Hill 937 - dubbed "Hamburger Hill." The Americans charge up the steep slopes 11 times before dislodging the heavily fortified defenders. Although the U.S. forces inflict heavy casualties on the communists and survivors retreat into Laos, the U.S. military abandons the hill, which is retaken by the NVA four weeks later.
Following Hamburger Hill, the White House instructs its military commanders to avoid engagements that result in large American casualties as public support is dwindling for the war.
1846: Three days after Gen. Zachary Taylor's forces defeat the Mexican Army in the Battle of Palo Alto, Pres. James K. Polk tells Congress: "Mexico has passed the boundary of the United States, has invaded our territory and shed American blood upon American soil."
The Mexican-American War - already underway - is formally declared within two days.
1863: During the Battle of Yellow Tavern, Condederate Maj. Gen. J.E.B. Stuart is shot by a dismounted Union cavalry trooper north of Richmond, Va. "The greatest cavalry officer ever foaled in America" is mortally wounded and will die the next day.
1943: 3,000 soldiers of the 7th Infantry Division land at Attu Island in Alaska's Aleutian Islands to repel Japanese troops that landed in June of 1942. After a month of fighting under harsh arctic conditions, the Americans finish off the remaining Japanese in hand-to-hand combat after a last-ditch Bansai charge. The Battle of Attu is the only land combat on American soil during World War II.
1945: As U.S. soldiers launch another attack against Japanese forces on Okinawa's Shuri Line, Japanese pilot Kiyoshi Ogawa's specially modified Mitsubishi Zero fighter slips through anti-aircraft fire and drops a 550-lb. bomb on the USS Bunker Hill (CV-17) before slamming his aircraft into the flight deck, igniting a fuel fire and causing several explosions that kill some 400 sailors and takes Adm. Marc Mitscher's flagship out of the war.
1957: President Dwight D. Eisenhower announces that the United States will work with South Vietnam to ensure the peaceful unification of Vietnam and continue to provide support in their fight against communism. At this point, the Military Assistance Advisory Group serving in Vietnam consists of only 700 men.
1961: President John F. Kennedy approves the deployment of 400 Special Forces soldiers (Green Berets) and 100 CIA operatives to Vietnam to train South Vietnamese forces. The Green Berets have served as advisors in Vietnam since 1957, but on this day, Pres. Kennedy authorizes Americans to lead clandestine attacks against North Vietnam.
1780: Gen. Benjamin Lincoln, commanding American forces at Charleston, S.C., surrenders to Gen. Sir Henry Clinton after a six-week siege. Although the fall of Charleston and capture of thousands of Continental Army soldiers is the largest setback of the war for the Americans, British operations in the Southern colonies will quickly prove to be the undoing of the king’s men in North America.
1864: Gen. Ulysses S. Grant orders his forces to assault the Confederate salient known as the "Mule Shoe" during the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House. 15,000 Union soldiers break through, but Gen. Robert E. Lee quickly plugs the gaps and the Confederates counterattack. Over the next 20 hours, the two sides engage in intense close combat - much of it hand-to-hand. The carnage at "Bloody Angle" is some of the most brutal fighting of the Civil War with 9,000 Union and 8,000 Confederate casualties in just one day.
1865: Although President Andrew Johnson proclaimed an end to the Civil War three days ago, a Union force led by Col. John S. Ford attacks Confederate forces in the Battle of Palmito Ranch, near Brownsville, Tex. The Confederates repulse the attack, killing four of the attacking Union soldiers and capturing over 100, at the cost of only a handful of wounded and captured themselves. The one-sided engagement is the last encounter between organized Union and Confederate troops in the war.
1942: The German U-boat U-507 torpedoes the SS Virginia at the mouth of the Mississippi River, sinking the 10,000-ton tanker and killing 26 sailors. The German sub sinks nine ships in the Gulf of Mexico on its two-month patrol.
1943: After his capture by the British, German Gen. Hans-Jürgen von Arnim surrenders his Army Group Africa to the Allies in Tunisia. Hundreds of thousands of Axis forces are taken prisoner and the war in North Africa is over.
1975: In what is considered to be the last official action of the Vietnam War, Khmer Rouge forces seize the merchant ship SS Mayaguez off the coast of Cambodia. During the rescue operation, Marines boarded and secured the Mayaguez - the first such operation since 1826 - and the 39 prisoners were released. 41 Marines and airmen died assaulting nearby Kaoh Tang island where the prisoners were mistakenly believed to be held.
1862: Cpl. John F. Mackie becomes the first Marine awarded the Medal of Honor when the he mans the mans the guns of the ironclad USS Galena after most of the Naval gun crew are killed or wounded during the Battle of Drewry's Bluff.
1864: As 9,000 Union troops led by Maj. Gen. Franz Sigel march into Virginia's Shenandoah Valley, Confederate Maj. Gen. John C. Breckenridge musters a defense force that includes cadets from the nearby Virginia Military Academy. The cadets are held in reserve, but when the Union breaks the Confederate lines, Breckenridge declares "Put the boys in... and may God forgive me for the order." Within moments, 47 cadets are wounded and ten lay dead in the Battle of New Market. Sigel's men retreat after taking heavy casualties from the outnumbered defenders.
1918: Privates Henry Johnson and Needham Roberts of the all-black "Harlem Hellfighters" become the first American soldiers to be awarded the Croix de Guerre - France's highest decoration for military valor. When a German raiding party attacks their outpost and captures Roberts, Johnson fights back with grenades, gun fire, his rifle butt, knife, and fists, rescuing his fellow soldier and forcing the Germans to retreat. Johnson is wounded 21 times in the fight, but is not awarded the Purple Heart until 1996 - decades after his passing - and is finally awarded the Medal of Honor in 2015.
1963: U.S. Air Force Maj. (future Col.) Leroy Gordon "Gordo" Cooper, Jr. blasts off aboard "Faith 7", the final Mercury mission. Cooper will spend over 34 hours in space - circling the globe 22 times - before a short circuit kills the capsule's automated control system. Cooper has to use the constellations and his watch to manually fly the capsule back to Earth, splashing down just four miles from the recovery ship in the Pacific Ocean.
The former U.S. Marine private (serving in the Presidential Honor Guard in Washington, D.C.) ultimately was commissioned an Army second lieutenant, before his days as an Air Force fighter jock and test pilot.
1899: 22 U.S. Army scouts come across a group of some 600 Filipino rebels attempting to destroy a bridge during the Philippine Insurrection. While under heavy fire, the scouts charge across the bridge and rout the enemy force. The following day, the Americans cross the bridge and capture San Isidro, the capital of the insurrection. 15 scouts from the Battle of San Isidro are awarded the Medal of Honor.
1863: Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant's Army of the Tennessee clashes with three Confederate divisions led by Lt. Gen. John C. Pemberton in the Battle of Champion Hill (Miss.). Pemberton's men take heavy casualties and have to retreat 20 miles to Vicksburg, where they will surrender to Grant after a 40-day siege.
1927: Although a peace treaty ended the Nicaraguan Civil War earlier in the month, a crowd of 75 Liberal rebels attack a platoon of U.S. Marines, led by Capt. Richard B. Buchanan. Two Marines - including Capt. Buchanan - are killed in the Battle of La Paz Centro. In a few days, the Marines will track down and kill General Cabulla, the man believed responsible for the attack.
1951: 150,000 communist soldiers cross the Soyang River and manage to push back UN forces on the eastern portion of the peninsula some 20 miles. The Chinese Spring Offensive - the last all-out offensive campaign for the Chinese in the Korean War - fails as the Eighth Army, led by new commander Lt. Gen. James Van Fleet, drives the communists back to the 38th Parallel, where the battle lines will remain largely static until the Armistice.
1943: The crew of the "Memphis Belle", a B-17F Flying Fortress bomber, lands safely in England after a bombing raid on Lorient, France. Capt. Robert K Morgan's crew have completed their 25th mission of the war. The "Memphis Belle" dropped 60 tons of bombs, and although virtually every part of the plane is replaced at least once, none of the crew are seriously injured. Morgan will fly another 26 missions against Japan in his B-29 Superfortress.
1962: When communist Pathet Lao forces mass near the border during the Laotian Crisis, Thailand requests assistance from the United States. President John F. Kennedy deploys a 3,000-man Marine Expeditionary Brigade to Udorn, Thailand in a show of force.
1968: When Private First Class Robert C. Burke's company comes under heavy mortar, machine gun, rocket-propelled grenade, and rifle fire, the Marine grabs his machine gun and charges single-handedly against the large fortified enemy position. As Burke maneuvers from one position to another, suppressing enemy bunkers and neutralizing machine gun crews, his fellow Marines are able to move forward and evacuate their wounded. When his automatic weapon malfunctions, he picks up a weapon from a casualty and keeps firing. Once his machine gun is operational, he moves to an exposed position and pours heavy fire into the treeline, but will be mortally wounded.
1987: An Iraqi aircraft fires two Exocet anti-ship missiles at the frigate USS Stark (FFG-31) while on patrol in the Persian Gulf during the Iraq-Iran War. Both missiles hit the American warship, igniting a blaze that kills 37 sailors and injures 21.
1775: Future turncoat Col. Benedict Arnold leads a successful surprise attack against a British fort and the adjacent shipyards at St. Johns, Canada. Among Arnold’s prizes is the British sloop HMS George which he renames "Enterprise,” the first of eight so-named American Navy ships.
1846: Gen. Zachary Taylor's Army of Occupation captures the fortified city of Matamoros during the Mexican-American War.
1863: Union Army forces under the command of Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant move against the city of Vicksburg, Mississippi. Vastly outnumbered Confederate forces under Lt. Gen. John Pemberton fall back on prepared defenses, and Pemberton’s army is quickly surrounded. Grant strikes Pemberton’s positions the following day hoping to destroy his army before it is properly positioned. Losses are heavy among the ranks of the assault forces.
The siege of Vicksburg, which will last until July 4, has begun.
1902: Marines from the gunboat USS Ranger land at Panama City to protect American citizens.
1916: Despite engine troubles with his Nieuport fighter, Kiffin Rockwell shoots down a German plane over the Alsace battlefield - the first aerial victory by an American pilot during World War I. When war broke out, Kiffin and brother Paul volunteer for the French Air Service, and joined the French Foreign Legion as infantry instead of waiting stateside for a response. Both brothers are wounded in combat, and after healing from his wounds, Kiffin is one of the first Americans to join the Lafayette Escadrille.
1945: On Okinawa, the Sixth Marine Division has captured most of Sugar Loaf Hill - a 50-ft. tall, 300-yard long, heavily fortified hill. It takes the Marines 11 bloody assaults to finally secure the terrain, and after 12 days, over 1,600 Marines lay dead and 7,400 are wounded.
1953: On his last day of combat, U.S. Air Force Capt. Joseph C. McConnell shoots down three enemy MiG-15 fighters. McConnell is the first American triple ace of the Korean War and his 16 victories are the most of any U.S. pilot (two Soviet Air Force pilots had 22 kills). During World War II, McConnell flew 60 missions over Europe as a navigator on a B-24 Liberator bomber.
1969: Apollo 10 launch
1848: The Mexican government agrees to the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, officially ending the Mexican-American War and ceding over 500,000 square miles of territory to the United States. Over 1,500 Americans gave their lives in combat and another 10,000 died from illness during the two-year war.
1855: Marines from the screw frigate USS Powhatan land in Shanghai to protect American lives and property during the Taiping Rebellion.
1942: After evading capture by Japanese forces in China and returning safely to the United States, President Franklin D. Roosevelt awards Brig. Gen. Jimmy Doolittle the Medal of Honor for leading the Doolittle Raid against Japan.
1944: The crew of destroyer escort USS England (DE-635) sinks their first of six Japanese submarines in 12 days - the most subs sunk by any ship in history. Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Ernest J. King declares, "There'll always be a England in the United States Navy."
1960: Air Force Maj. (future Maj. Gen.) Robert M. White pilots his North American X-15 rocket-powered aircraft to an altitude of 108,000 feet (20.6 miles). Prior to becoming the first human to reach Machs 4, 5, and 6 (over 4,000 miles per hour), White flew combat missions in World War II and Korea, and would earn the Air Force Cross (the service's second-highest award for valor, behind the Medal of Honor) on one of his 70 missions over North Vietnam.
1944: West Loch disaster
1804: The "Corps of Discovery," a group of about four dozen Army volunteers led by Capt. Meriwether Lewis and 2nd Lt. William Clark, departs St. Charles Missouri on the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Altogether, the company will travel some 8,000 miles as they map and explore the recently acquired Louisiana Purchase and find a route to the Pacific Ocean for President Thomas Jefferson.
1912: The aviation arm of the U.S. Marine Corps is born with the arrival of 1st Lt. Alfred A. Cunningham at the Naval Aviation Camp, Annapolis, Maryland. There, Cunningham will begin his flight training, and with less than three hours of instruction, he will solo in a Wright Model B-1 biplane.
1945: As the threat of Cold War with the Soviets begins to materialize following the end the war in Europe, the U.S. military begins recruiting and evacuation of valuable German rocket scientists and their families. Some 1,600 scientists, technicians, and engineers begin work for the United States, most notably Wernher von Braun - the father of American rocket technology and space science.
1968: The fast-attack submarine USS Scorpion (SSN-589) is mysteriously lost at sea several hundred miles off the Azores. All hands – 99 sailors – perish. Scorpion is the second American nuclear sub to sink, after USS Thresher (SSN-593) goes down in 1963.
1862: Confederate forces under the command of Maj. Gen. Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson strike, outmaneuver, and – with textbook coordination of infantry, cavalry, and artillery – decisively defeat Union Army forces under Col. John R. Kenly at Front Royal, Virginia.
1943: The most decorated battleship in the U.S. Navy, USS New Jersey (BB-62), is commissioned at Philadelphia. "The Big J" earned 19 battle stars and numerous other commendations during her 48 years of service, which covered actions in the Pacific Theater of World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Lebanon, and the Persian Gulf.
1944: In Italy, VI Corps at the Anzio Beachhead begin their breakout. Fighting is intense - the 3rd Infantry Division suffers nearly 1,000 casualties, the most by any American division in a single day of the entire war, and the German troops defending Cisterna are annihilated in house-to-house combat.
The breakout is a success. Rome will be in Allied hands in days.
1967: U.S. congressman James Howard reads a letter sent from a Marine serving in Vietnam stating that most of the casualties in the Battle of Hill 881 were due to malfunctions with the unit's new M-16 rifle. The weapon is shorter and lighter than the M-14 it replaced earlier in the year as the U.S. military's standard service rifle, but does not come with adequate cleaning kit as the new rifle is billed as self-cleaning. Serial reports of dead soldiers and Marines found next to their malfunctioning M-16s anger the American public, until improvements to the rifle and ammunition make the weapon far more reliable.
50 years later, the M-16/M-4 platform remains the standard rifle of the U.S. military.
1818: Gen. (future U.S. pres.) Andrew Jackson and his expeditionary army march into Spanish-controlled Florida, easily capturing the Gulf-coastal town of Pensacola. Col. José Masot, the Spanish governor, retreats to nearby Fort San Carlos de Barrancas (originally built by the British as “the Royal Navy Redoubt”) where he briefly puts up a token resistance – to save face – before hoisting the white flag there, too.
1861: Less than 24 hours after Virginia secedes from the Union, a regiment of zouave infantry consisting of volunteer fire fighters from New York City land at Alexandria and occupy the town. The regiment's commander (and personal friend of President Abraham Lincoln), Col. Elmer E. Ellsworth, becomes the first Union officer killed in the Civil War when he is shot while taking down a Confederate flag.
1939: A day after the submarine USS Squalus sinks during a series of test dives off the coast of Portsmouth, N.H., the submarine salvage ship USS Falcon arrives and begins rescue operations. Although 26 sailors drowned instantly when the submarine went down, divers use a newly designed rescue chamber to save the remaining 33 crewmembers. Four divers are awarded the Medal of Honor for the world's first rescue of a submarine crew in deep water, and Squalus will be raised and recommissioned as USS Sailfish - seeing action in the Pacific Theater of World War II.
1943: One quarter of the German U-boat fleet is sent to the bottom in one month, thanks to breaking the new German Enigma radio code, modern radar, new long range patrol aircraft, aggressive tactics, and escort carriers. German U-boats have sunk thousands of Allied ships, keeping millions of tons of war material off the battlefield, but the tide has turned. The Kriegsmarine is losing more ships than they are sinking. Adm. Karl Dönitz orders his U-boats to break off operations in the North Atlantic, declaring "We had lost the battle of the Atlantic."
1962: U.S. Navy Lt. Cmdr. Malcolm "Scott" Carpenter orbits the earth three times in his "Aurora 7" space capsule, spending nearly four hours above the Earth's surface performing science experiments. When Carpenter accidentally bumps his hand against the cockpit wall, he discovers that the mysterious "fireflies" spotted by John Glenn during his orbital mission are in fact ice particles knocked loose from the capsule.
1942: Having broken the Japanese naval code, the Navy secretly prepares for the expected Japanese invasion of Midway. Two companies of Marine Raiders land on the island to reinforce the garrison and submarines take up their patrol positions.
1945: As the Joint Chiefs of Staff meet in Washington and approve plans for the invasion of Japan (set for November 1), 464 B-29 "Superfortress" heavy bombers target Tokyo, burning 16 square miles of the city.
1953: The North American F-100 "Super Sabre" makes its first flight, with test pilot George Welch pushing the jet to Mach 1.03. The sleek new warplane is the first Air Force fighter capable of reaching supersonic speeds at level flight. An Army Air Corps pilot with 16 victories during World War II, Welch is 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. Welch will perish in a crash while performing tests on the F-100 in 1954.
That same day, the specially built 11-inch gun nicknamed "Atomic Annie" fires a nuclear warhead 10,000 yards downrange as 3,200 soldiers and civilians are on hand to witness the United States' only nuclear artillery test. The projectile is similar in design and yield (15 kilotons) to the "Little Boy" dropped on Hiroshima.
1961: Less than a month after the first American blasts off into space, President John F. Kennedy declares his intention to put a man on the moon in less than ten years and asks Congress to make the space program a high priority. Although Kennedy does not live to see it, his dream comes true when Apollo 11 lifts off from the space center named in his honor on July 16, 1969.
1973: Capt. Charles Conrad, Jr., Cmdr. Paul J. Weitz and Cmdr. Joseph P. Kerwin blast off aboard a Saturn IB rocket. The all-Navy crew are the first to visit the Skylab space station, already in orbit. The astronauts spend a record 28 days in space, making repairs and conducting science experiments until their successful recovery by USS Ticonderoga (CV-14) near San Diego.
1917: U.S. Army Gen. John Joseph “Black Jack” Pershing is named commander-in-chief of the American Expeditionary Force, which is destined for European combat the following year.
1967: USS John F. Kennedy (CV 67) – the last conventionally powered American aircraft carrier – is launched.
1918: Elements of the 1st Infantry Division, under the command of Lt. Gen. Robert Lee Bullard, launch the first major attack by U.S. forces in World War I, capturing the French town of Cantigny from a far-more experienced German army.
1959: Two years before humans would reach space, monkeys Able and Baker blast off from Cape Canaveral aboard a Jupiter rocket, reaching a height of 360 miles above the earth. The monkeys splashed down safely in the Atlantic after traveling 1,700 miles in 16 minutes.
1980: The first female cadets graduate from the U.S. Military Academy (West Point), the Naval Academy, the Air Force Academy, and the Coast Guard Academy.
1866: "Decoration Day" – the predecessor to Memorial Day – is first observed by order of U.S. Army Gen. John A. Logan, who designated the day "for the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country." Maj. Gen. (future U.S. pres.) James A. Garfield presides over ceremonies at Arlington Cemetery (the former estate of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee), and approximately 5,000 participants decorate the graves of both Union and Confederate dead — about 20,000 of them — buried on the grounds.
1864: The bloody battle of Cold Harbor opens in earnest between Union Army forces under the command of Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant and Confederate forces under Gen. Robert E. Lee.
Grant will launch a series of futile attacks over the next three days. Lee will defend and hold. Union losses will be staggering: 13,000 to the Confederacy’s 2,500.
1942: The great Naval battle of Midway opens between U.S. Naval and air forces under the command of Adm. Chester W. Nimitz and Japanese forces under Adm. Isoroku Yamamoto, who had hoped to lure the U.S. Pacific Fleet into a great air-sea battle and destroy it.
Considered a turning point in the Pacific theater of operations, the Japanese fleet is intercepted near Midway atoll, engaged, and will be decisively defeated by Nimitz. The Americans will lose one carrier, USS Yorktown, but four Japanese carriers will be sent to the bottom.
According to the U.S. Naval Historical Center: "[Midway] represents the strategic high water mark of Japan's Pacific Ocean war. Prior to this action, Japan possessed general naval superiority over the United States and could usually choose where and when to attack. After Midway, the two opposing fleets were essentially equals, and the United States soon took the offensive."
1965: Air Force astronauts Edward H. White II and James A. McDivitt blast off aboard Gemini IV. White will become the first American to "walk" in space - enjoying the experience so much that he had to be ordered to return to the capsule.
1944: Rome falls to U.S. forces, becoming the first European capital to be liberated by the Allies.
Meanwhile, a U.S. "Hunter-Killer" task force intercepts the German submarine U-505 off the Cape Verde islands. The destroyer escorts hammer the sub with depth charges and anti-submarine mortars, forcing the U-boat to surface. After taking additional fire from automatic weapons and aircraft from the escort carrier USS Guadalcanal (CVE-60), skipper Harald Lange orders the crew to abandon ship. As the task force picks the German sailors out of the water, an eight-man team boards and captures U-505 - the first capture of a vessel at sea since the War of 1812.
1967: During the Six-Day War between Israel and Arab nations, the technical research ship USS Liberty (AGTR-5) is attacked by Israeli forces in Mediterranean, killing 34 sailors and injuring nearly 200.
1944: 75 B-29 "Superfortress" heavy bombers take off from forward air bases in China, targeting the Imperial Iron and Steel Works at Yawata, Japan - the first bombing raid on the Japanese mainland since the Doolittle Raid in 1942.
1812: President James Madison approves an Act of Congress declaring that a state of war exists between the United States and Great Britain, launching the War of 1812.
1950: The Democratic People's Republic of Korea's Army crosses the 38th Parallel and invades South Korea, launching the Korean War.
1942: The Japanese submarine I-25 surfaces at the mouth of the Columbia River, off the coast of Oregon, and attacks Fort Stevens. The sub causes little damage, but the event marks the only time that a stateside U.S. military installation is bombarded.
1923: Over the skies of San Diego, an Army Air Service DH-4 biplane flown by Capt. Lowell Smith tops off its fuel tanks from a hose attached to another DH-4, marking the world's first mid-air refueling operation.
1917: The first U.S. troops arrive in France to fight alongside the Allies in World War I. More than two million Americans will serve on the battlefields of Western Europe, and over 50,000 will lose their lives.
1914: Austrian Archduke Francis Ferdinand and his wife are assassinated by a Bosnian Serb. One month later, Austria-Hungary will declare war on Serbia, triggering World War I.
1943: Nearly half a million Allied troops invade Sicily. In just over a month of fighting, U.S., British, and Canadian forces will drive the enemy from the island.
Chips, a German Sheperd military police dog serving in Sicily with Company I, 30th Infantry Regiment, attacks a hidden German pillbox, forcing four enemy soldiers to surrender. Chips is wounded in the attack, but is awarded the Silver Star and Purple Heart by the 3rd Infantry Division's commander, Maj. Gen. Lucian Truscott.
1945: The atomic age dawns when the first nuclear weapon is tested at Alamogordo Air Base, N.M. (present-day White Sands Missile Range). The shock wave from the device could be felt 100 miles away and the mushroom cloud reached over six miles in the air.
1957: Maj. John Glenn streaks across the country on the first supersonic transcontinental flight, flying his F8U-1 Crusader jet from California to New York in a record-setting 3 hours and 23 minutes. Glenn averaged 725.55 mph, despite having to slow down for three mid-air refueling contacts with propeller-driven AJ-2 "Savage" tankers.
1898: Spanish forces under the command of Gen. José Toral surrender Cuba to U.S. forces under Gen. William R. Shafter during the Spanish American War.
1944: Two ships are destroyed along with hundreds of sailors and civilians killed and wounded when ammunition being loaded aboard the ships at Port Chicago, Calif. explodes. One ship is so badly obliterated that no identifiable pieces can be found. The explosion was reportedly heard 200 miles away.
1779: 300 Continental Marines attack the British at Fort George, Penobscot Bay (present-day Castine, Maine).
1969: Apollo 11 Astronaut Neil A. Armstrong – a U.S. Naval aviator who flew multiple combat missions over Korea, and was once shot down – becomes the first human in history to walk on the surface of the moon.
Armstrong, who serves as Apollo 11 mission commander, is accompanied on the historic voyage by command module pilot Michael Collins, a U.S. Air Force fighter pilot who will become a major general in 1978, and lunar module pilot Edwin Eugene “Buzz” Aldrin (also an Air Force fighter pilot, who shot down two MiG-15 fighters over Korea.
1823: U.S. Navy Midshipman and acting-lieutenant (future admiral) David Glasgow Farragut leads a raiding party of cutlass-armed sailors and Marines against a pirate base on Cape Cruz, Cuba. Farragut’s men attack and destroy the pirate stronghold.
1861: In what the Union hoped and generally believed would be an overwhelming Union victory that would end the rebellion before it got started, Confederate Army forces under the command of Brig. Gen. Pierre G.T. Beauregard and reinforced by Confederate Gen. Joseph E. Johnston–and Johnston’s soon-to-be famous Brig. Gen. Thomas J. Jackson, who on-this-day will earn the nom d’ guerre, “Stonewall”–defeat and rout Union Army forces under Brig. Gen. Irvin McDowell during the First Battle of Bull Run, known to many Southerners as First Manassas.
1943: Elements of Gen. George S. Patton Jr.’s 7th Army seize Palermo, Sicily.
1866: David Glasgow Farragut – best known for purportedly uttering the command, "Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead!" during the 1864 Battle of Mobile Bay, Alabama – is appointed to the rank of admiral (the first such rank in U.S. Naval history). Also, future American Pres. Ulysses S. Grant becomes the first "full [four star] general" in the history of the U.S. Army.
1947: The National Security Act of 1947 – the law reorganizing the post-World War II national defense/intelligence structure of the United States – is passed, establishing the Department of Defense, the National Security Council, and the Central Intelligence Agency. The Act, which will become effective Sept. 18, is considered to be the most sweeping reorganization of the American defense structure since the establishment of the Department of the Navy in 1798.
1909: 10,000 people, including Pres. Howard Taft, gather to watch aviation pioneer Orville Wright fly himself and U.S. Army Lt. Frank P. Lahm above the Fort Myer, Virginia countryside for more than an hour in his now-famous Wright Flyer. The Army leadership is impressed enough that it takes delivery of its first Wright Flyer, "the world’s first military airplane," within days.
1953: An armistice is signed, ending the Korean War.
1779: 40 Continental Marines and Massachusetts Militia, including their leader, Marine Capt. John Welsh, are killed in an unsuccessful assault on Britain's Fort George at Penobscot Bay, Maine.
1914: One month after the assassination of Austria's Archduke Francis Ferdinand, Austria-Hungary declares war on Serbia, triggering World War I. Nearly 20 million military and civilians will be dead by conflict's end four years later.
1915: 340 Marines and sailors land at Port au Prince, Hayti, beginning an occupation that would last until 1934.
1918: Brig. Gen. John A. Lejeune assumes command of the 2d U.S. Army Division in France - becoming the second Marine to command an Army Division (Brig. Gen. Charles A. Doyen was the first).
1932: Following an unsuccessful attempt to remove "Bonus Army" marchers from the nation's capital by Washington, D.C. police, President Herbert Hoover orders Army Chief of Staff, Gen. Douglas A. MacArthur, to evict the protestors by force. Other notable officers participating were Majors George S. Patton (in command of tanks) and Dwight D. Eisenhower (junior aide to MacArthur).
1943: Eight square miles of Hamburg, Germany and 42,000 citizens are consumed in a firestorm caused by thousands of British incendiary bombs.
1945: A B-25 Mitchell bomber, flying through thick fog over New York City, slams into the 79th floor of the Empire State Building, killing the plane's three crewmembers, 11 occupants and igniting a four-story blaze.
1965: Pres. Lyndon Johnson sends 50,000 troops to Vietnam, bringing the number to 125,000. To meet the requirements, monthly draft calls are increased from 17,000 to 35,000 - the highest since the Korean War.
1846: Sailors and Marines of USS Cyane seize San Diego, California, during the Mexican War.
1780: A force of 600 militiamen, led by Col. Isaac Shelby, captures Thickety Fort (South Carolina) from British Loyalists without firing a shot.
1864: In a special-operation that proves disastrous for the initiators, Union Army troops under the command of Maj. Gen. Ambrose E. Burnside detonate a mine, blowing a huge hole (or crater) in the Confederate defenses at Petersburg, Virginia. Several units of Union soldiers charge in after the explosion, but each unit is beaten back with heavy losses by Confederates under Brig. Gen. William Mahone.
1909: Days after a successful demonstration flight, the Army Signal Corps takes delivery of the "world's first military airplane," the Wright military flyer of 1909.
1919: The USS New Orleans (CL 22) lands a Marine detachment in Tyutuke Bay, Siberia, in support of a White Russian attack on Bolshevik forces.
1941: The river gunboat USS Tutuila (PR 4) becomes the first U.S. warship attacked during World War II when Japanese aircraft mistakenly bomb the vessel in Chunking, China.
1945: Days after completing its top-secret mission of delivering components of the atomic bomb destined for Hiroshima to Tinian Island, the USS Indianapolis is hit by a Japanese torpedo. The cruiser sinks in the shark-infested waters within 12 minutes, and only 317 of the original 1,196 crewmembers survive. The Indianapolis is the last U.S. ship sunk during World War II.
1967: Fire erupts on the flight deck of the USS Forrestal when a electrical glitch launches a rocket into another plane's fuel tank, resulting in a conflagration and series of explosions that would kill 134 sailors and destroy 21 aircraft.
1777: The Marquis de Lafayette, a 19-year-old French nobleman whom Gen. George Washington will soon take under his wing, is commissioned "major general" in the Continental Army.
1945: The U.S. government warns Japan that eight cities will be destroyed if they refuse to surrender. Days later, atomic bombs fall on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but the Japanese surrender before further cities are leveled.
1964: The U.S. Navy's all-nuclear Task Force One USS Enterprise (CVAN 65), USS Long Beach (CGN 9), and USS Bainbridge (DLGN 25) pass through the Straights of Gibraltar, beginning their 30,565-mile cruise around the world. Including port calls, the fleet crosses the globe - unrefueled - in 65 days.
1955: The famous U-2 high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft makes its first-ever flight above Groom Lake (Area 51), Nevada.
1943: PT 109, commanded by LTJG (and future pres.) John F. Kennedy, is run down and cut in half by the Japanese destroyer Amagiri.
1964: The USS Maddox, supporting South Vietnamese covert operations against the North in the Gulf of Tonkin, is attacked by three North Vietnamese torpedo boats in the Gulf of Tonkin. The three ships are destroyed, and within days, Congress would pass the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, leading to full-scale conflict in Vietnam.
1950: The first members of the U.S. Military Assistance Advisory Group members arrive in Saigon. The group will supervise the allocation of military aid to the French military in Vietnam, and later act as military trainers.
1958: USS Nautilus — the world’s first nuclear-powered submarine and the U.S. Navy’s sixth so-named vessel — becomes the first “ship” to cross the North Pole.
1790: Congress approves Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton’s proposal to "build ten cutters to protect the new nation’s revenue," establishing the Revenue Cutter Service – first of the predecessor services of the modern Coast Guard.
1846: Sailors and Marines from the USS Congress capture Santa Barbara, Calif. during the Mexican-American War.
1873: Lt. Col. George Custer and his 7th Cavalry have their first engagement with Sioux warriors, led by Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse. When 7th Cavalry meets Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse at the Little Big Horn River in three years, Custer and 200 cavalrymen will perish.
1914: As Europe plunges into World War I, President Woodrow Wilson announces that the United States shall remain neutral.
1964: Less than 48 hours after North Vietnamese torpedo boats attacked the USS Maddox, the destroyer USS Turner Joy detects what appears to be - on radar - a small watercraft approaching the destroyer. For two-and-a-half hours, Maddox and Turner Joy - accompanied by aircraft from USS Ticonderoga - fire at the supposed targets.
In response, aircraft from the carriers Ticonderoga and Constellation attack North Vietnamese patrol boat bases and the oil storage facility at Vinh. Within days, Congress would pass the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, leading to full-scale conflict in Vietnam.
1945: A single American B-29 bomber, Enola Gay, flying from the island of Tinian drops the first-ever atomic bomb used in war on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. Between 80,000 and 140,000 Japanese are killed instantly, and another 100,000 are severely wounded.
1964: Congress overwhelmingly passes the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, enabling Pres. Lyndon Johnson to increase U.S. involvement in Vietnam and leading to full-scale war.
1945: The second atomic bomb is dropped on Nagasaki, Japan.
1944: After three weeks of fighting, the island of Guam is declared secure.
1945: Japan surrenders (V-J Day).
1945: Japan surrenders to the United States on the deck of the battleship USS Missouri, anchored in Tokyo Bay.
1783: John Adams, John Jay, and Benjamin Franklin sign the Treaty of Paris, ending the Revolutionary War.
1942: The Japanese submarine I-25 surfaces off the Oregon coast, launching an E14Y "Glen" floatplane. Pilots Nobuo Fujita and Shoji Okuda drop their incendiary bombs in the Oregon forest, becoming the only pilots to bomb the continental United States.
1777: Battle of Freeman's Farm — first engagement in the Battle of Saratoga (during the American Revolution) — opens between Continental forces under the command of Gen. Horatio Gates and British forces under Gen. John "Gentleman Johnny" Burgoyne. Brits carry the day, but suffer heavy losses. Continentals will ultimately win Saratoga.
1797: The Continental Navy frigate Constitution is launched in Boston harbor.
Today USS Constitution – known affectionately as “Old Ironsides” -- is the “oldest ship in the American Navy,” and continues serving in the 21st century as a duly commissioned ship crewed by active-duty U.S. sailors and Naval officers in order to further public awareness of American Naval tradition.
1863: Confederate forces under the command of Gen. Braxton Bragg prevail against Union forces under Maj. Gen. William Rosecrans at Chickamauga, Georgia. Bragg’s casualties are far higher than those of Rosecrans, and - apart from Gettysburg - the battle is the bloodiest engagement of the Civil War.
1988: U.S. forces protecting American tankers in the Persian Gulf spot an Iranian vessel laying mines in international waters. The Iran Ajr is captured and scuttled. In April, the USS Samuel B. Roberts (FFG-58) strikes - and is nearly sunk by - a mine laid by the Iran Ajr, prompting the U.S. to retaliate against the Iranian fleet.
1779: The famous battle of the North Sea opens between Continental Navy frigate Bonhomme Richard under the command of Capt. John Paul Jones, and Royal Navy frigate HMS Serapis. When the British Captain Richard Pearson asks Jones whether he has struck his colors, Jones reportedly replies: "I have not yet begun to fight!"
The Bonhomme Richard does sink: But not before the British captain 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.
1918: U.S. Navy Ensign (future rear admiral) David S. Ingalls – on loan to the Royal Air Force and flying an RAF Sopwith Camel – shoots down enemy aircraft number five, becoming the first ace in U.S. Naval Aviation history, and the Navy’s only ace of World War I.
1960: USS Enterprise (CVN 65), America's first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier (the eighth of eight so-named American Navy ships since 1775) is launched.
1957:U.S. Army paratroopers – members of the 101st Airborne Division – escort nine black students into Little Rock Central High School, Little Rock, Arkansas, ending segregation there.
1918: Though technically launched at 11:30 p.m., Sept. 25, with an intense artillery barrage; the Meuse-Argonne Offensive – the six-week long “greatest battle of World War I in which the Americans participated” – officially begins just before dawn when whistles are blown along the American trench-lines, and with fixed-bayonets, American soldiers clamber over the top and begin their assault against the German lines.
The battle, which begins with approximately 600,000 American soldiers and Marines, will see U.S. ranks swell to more than one million men. 26,277 Americans will be killed, another 95,786 wounded. But the campaign will end the war.
1945: U.S. Army Lt. Col. A. Peter Dewey, the chief of the Saigon Office of Special Services, is mistaken for a Frenchman and shot in the head by Viet Minh forces, making Dewey the first American killed by communists in Vietnam.
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 Bemis Heights).
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 surrender-demand, 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 Europe.”
1942: U.S. Naval forces under the command of Rear Admiral Norman Scott intercept a Japanese fleet, commanded by Rear Admiral Aritomo Gotō, attempting to reinforce troops on Guadalcanal in the Battle of Cape Esperance. Fighting began shortly before midnight off the northwest coast of the island. The Navy sank one Japanese cruiser and three destroyers, losing only one U.S. destroyer, the USS Duncan (DD 485). Adm. Gotō was mortally wounded in the engagement. Japanese sailors who jumped overboard refused to be rescued by American ships, instead choosing to remain in the shark-infested waters.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
1922: Lt. Commander Virgil C. Griffin, 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 Griffin 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.
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 an American and French force at Yorktown, Va., effectively ending the American Revolution.
1950: U.S. forces take the North Korean capitol Pyongyang.
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 repelled repeated attacks and eventually drove off the NVA forces. Following the battle, Gen. William Westmoreland ordered the 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) to find and defeat the forces that attacked Plei Me, resulting 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 Iranian forces to attack shipping in the Persian Gulf.
2001: U.S. Army Rangers and Special Forces soldiers (Green Berets) conduct airborne and air-assault operations on several targets in Kandahar. These raids are the first known combat operations of the war in Afghanistan.
In Pakistan, two Rangers are killed in a helicopter crash, becoming the first combat-related casualties in the War on Terror.
1922: Lt. Harold R. Harris performs the world's first emergency parachute jump when the controls of his Loening PW-2A malfunction over McCook Field, Ohio.
1944: Gen. Douglas MacArthur returns to the Philippines - along with more than 100,000 soldiers - as U.S. forces land at Leyte Island. The island is 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.
1917: Four months after arriving in France, U.S. soldiers get their first taste of combat on the front lines in France.
1957: The U.S. military suffers its first casualties in Vietnam when a wave of terrorist attacks strikes American military facilities in Saigon, wounding 13.
1962: President 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.
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 withdrew from Lebanon four months later.
1954: President Dwight Eisenhower pledges direct support to the South Vietnamese government.
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 the Azores.
1942: On Guadalcanal, Japanese forces launch a series of full-frontal assaults to retake Henderson Field. The defending Marines - led by Lt. Col. Lewis "Chesty" Puller - and soldiers kill upwards of 3,000 Japanese troops at the cost of only 80 Americans.
1944: During the Battle of Leyte Gulf, the escort carrier USS St. Lo (CVE-63) becomes the first major warship to be sunk by Japanese kamikaze pilots. By war's end, kamikaze attacks would sink 34 U.S. ships.
Torpedoes from the destroyer USS Melvin (DD-680) sink the Japanese battleship Fusō, considered to be the largest warship to go down with all hands during World War II. Rear. Adm. Jesse Oldendorf's 7th Fleet Support Group, consisting of several battleships sunk or damaged during Pearl Harbor, engage and sink the battleship Yamashiro, marking the last battleship-versus-battleship engagement in history.
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 effectively over.
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 UN all the way to the southern tip of the Korean peninsula.
1972: Pres. Richard Nixon suspends the bombing campaign against North Vietnam following secret peace talks in Paris. A cease fire will be signed in just three months.
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.
Medal of Honor: On this day in 1942, Sgt. John Basilone became a Marine legend, fighting off wave after wave of Japanese soldiers on Guadalcanal despite being incredibly outnumbered.
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: Lt. Commander Godfrey de Courcelles Chevalier makes the first aircraft-carrier landing on the deck of America’s first carrier, USS Langley (CV-1).
1942: Japanese carrier-based aircraft sink the carrier USS Hornet, leaving only one operational 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 Guadalcanal.
1944: The Battle of Leyte Gulf – the last great naval battle of the Pacific during World War II – ends in a lopsided victory for the Americans. An epic three-day, four-part engagement fought in defense of the U.S. effort to retake the Philippines, the battle has all but ended the Japanese Navy’s ability to fight as a substantive fleet. It is also history's last sea battle in which battleships engage one another in pitched battle.
All total, 282 U.S. and Japanese warships and 190,000 sailors on both sides have been directly involved in the battle. Four Japanese carriers, three battleships, six cruisers, 14 destroyers, and nearly 10,000 sailors have been sent to the bottom. The U.S. Navy has suffered the loss of three carriers, three destroyers, and one submarine.
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.
Medal of Honor: On this day in 1942, Marine platoon sergeant Mitchell Paige single-handedly fought off waves of Japanese soldiers on Guadalcanal when all his men were killed or wounded. When reinforcements arrived, Paige led a bayonet charge that drove off the enemy.
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: Japanese troops begin to withdraw from Guadalcanal.
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.
Medal of Honor: On this day in 1944, three Japanese-American soldiers with the 442nd Regimental Combat Team earn the Medal of Honor near Biffontaine, France: T/5 James K. Okubo, Pvt. Barney F. Hajiro, and Pvt. George T. Sakato.
1918: Famous World War I flying ace Capt. Eddie Rickenbacker shoots down his 26th - and final - enemy aircraft over Rémonville, 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.
1950: Gen. Douglas A. MacArthur orders U.S. forces north of the 38th Parallel to "mop up" the North Korean Army.
1954: The last racially segregated unit in the U.S. Armed Forces is abolished; the military is officially desegregated.
Medal of Honor: On this day in 1944, Pvt. Wilburn K. Ross almost single-handedly fought off a German attack that devastated his company. Pvt. Ross killed or wounded dozens of enemy soldiers, forcing their retreat.
1941: Although the United States has not yet entered the war, a German submarine torpedoes and sinks the destroyer USS Reuben James (DD-245), which was providing convoy escort. 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.
1968: Five days before the elections, Pres. Lyndon B. Johnson ends Operation Rolling Thunder, the bombing campaign against North Vietnam. Over three-and-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. Hundreds of U.S. planes and aircrew are shot down.
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.
1976: The Air Force's E-3A Sentry airborne warning and control systems (AWACS) aircraft makes its first flight.
Medal of Honor: On this day in 1972, Navy Petty Officer Michael E. Thornton became the only Medal of Honor recipient to save the life of another Medal of Honor recipient, Lt. Thomas Norris, who was believed to be dead. Thornton fought and ran through a harrowing field of fire to rescue his officer, then swam out to sea for four hours before being rescued while holding two incapacitated teammates - even though he himself was wounded multiple times.
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 Jack” Pershing.
1943: The 3d Marine Division, led by Gen. Allen H. Turnage, invades Japanese-held Bougainville.
1944: Japan sends 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 reconnaissance plane makes the first U.S. flight over Tokyo since the Doolittle Raid of 1942.
1952: The U.S. tests the world's first hydrogen bomb at Eniwetok Atoll. The thermonuclear weapon, with a yield 1000 times greater than previous bombs, gave the United States a temporary advantage over the Soviet Union in the arms race.
1983: 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 military forces.
Medal of Honor: On this day in 1942, a machine gun section led by Cpl. Anthony Casamento was hit so badly 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.
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 all slaves.
1943: The cruisers and destroyers of Task Force 39, commanded by Rear Admiral Aaron S. "Tip" Merrill, defeat Japanese naval forces attempting to in the Battle of Empress Bay off the coast of Bougainville.
1963: Unpopular South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem is assassinated following a U.S.-backed coup by the South Vietnamese army.
Medal of Honor: On this day in 1943, 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, drawing their fire so his fellow pilots could escape the deadly air defenses. Wilkins would not survive, but the raid sinks 30 of the 38 Japanese vessels anchored at Rabaul.
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: The Battle of Dak To begins, which would last for three weeks and was among the heaviest fighting seen in the Central Highlands area. North Vietnamese forces sustained heavy casualties and were denied their goal of destroying a U.S. unit.
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 Union commander, to be replaced days later by Gen. Ambrose Burnside.
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 in 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 (a former U.S. Army cavalry colonel who will receive the Medal of Honor in 2001 for actions during the Spanish-American War), lead the first American patrol into "No Man’s Land" during World War I.
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.
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. military installation.
Medal of Honor: On this day in 1966, PFC John F. Baker, Jr. attacked and destroyed several enemy bunkers, killed several snipers, and rescued eight fellow soldiers. Capt. Robert F. Foley, Baker's company commander, earned the Medal of Honor during the same engagement.
1945: Ensign Jake West's FR-1 Fireball touches down aboard the USS Wake Island, making him the first pilot to land a jet on an aircraft carrier.
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 battalions (1,600 soldiers) of North Vietnamese regulars, resulting in hand-to-hand 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 set-piece battles of the Vietnam War.
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.
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 II.
1962: 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.
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. The prisoners had been relocated to another camp prior to the operation, but the raid - involving over 100 aircraft from multiple services - was a tactical success and would serve in part as a model for the formation of Special Operations Command.
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 Atlanta.
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 Strasbourg, France.
1972: Peace talks between the US and North Vietnam secretly resume in Paris, but quickly reach an impasse.
Medal of Honor: On this date in 1944, near Moyenmoutier, France, 1st Lt. Edward A. Silk single-handedly silenced a German machine-gun position that had halted his battalion.
1863: Union forces scale the slopes of Lookout Mountain under cover of fog, capturing the objective and breaking the Confederate siege of Chattanooga, Tenn.
1944: 111 U.S. Army Air Forces B-29 bombers based in 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 December.
Medal of Honor: Three Union soldiers were awarded the Medal for actions in the Battle of Lookout Mountain: 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).
In Korea, 1951, PFC Noah O. Knight discovered enemy soldiers entering a friendly position. He had previously depleted his ammunition, stemming an enemy advance and causing heavy enemy casualties. PFC Knight rushed the soldiers, neutralizing two with his rifle butt, but was mortally wounded when the third enemy soldier detonated his explosives.
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.
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 (CVN-65) 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.
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.
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: The British transport HMT Rohna is struck by a German radio-controlled bomb, killing 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.
Medal of Honor: In 1862, Maj. William H. Powell leads twenty men on a charge of a 500-man encampment at Sinking Creek Valley, Va., capturing the enemy soldiers without losing a man.
In 1970, 1st Lt. James P. Fleming rescues a trapped six-man special forces long reconnaissance patrol near the Cambodian border, despite his helicopter nearly out of fuel and in the face of heavy enemy fire.
Nov. 27, 1817: Maj. Gen. Edmund P. Gaines dispatches soldiers to attack the Seminole camp at Fowltown, Fla., formally beginning the First Seminole War.
Nov. 27, 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.
Nov. 27, 1909: Following the execution of two American mercenaries in Nicaragua, US troops land in Bluefields to prepare for an invasion.
Nov. 27, 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 German hands.
Nov. 27, 1951: A Nike anti-aircraft missile shoots down a QB-17 target drone over White Sands Missile Range, becoming the first successful surface-to-air missile test.
Medal of Honor: In Korea, 1950, Army Capt. Reginald B. Desiderio personally charged the enemy, inflicting heavy casualties and ultimately repelling a “fanatical” assault. Capt. Desiderio was mortally wounded in the assault. His replacement, Capt. Lewis L. Millett, would also be awarded the Medal of Honor for a historic bayonet charge in February.
1941: The aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CV-6) departs Pearl Harbor to ferry F4F Wildcat fighters from 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 exterminated.
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: Franklin Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, and Joseph Stalin meet in Teheran, Iran 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.
Medal of Honor: The Chinese launched a massive offensive, intending to wipe out the First Marine Division. On Nov. 28, 1950, three Marines from the 2nd 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.) - would receive the Medal of Honor.
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: Navy beats Army, 24-0, in the first-ever Army (West Point) – Navy (Annapolis) 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 – is the navigator of 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.
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 informed 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.
Medal of Honor: For nearly two weeks, SSgt. Andrew Miller engaged 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.
1779: Gen. George Washington's army establishes their winter headquarters at Morristown, N.J. during the worst winter of the 1700s.
1918: The American Army of Occupation enters Germany. Rejecting the Treaty of Versailles, the US 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: Japanese emperor Hirohito signs a declaration of war against the United States.
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 US ships on the east coast. 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 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 first utilized in a fighter sweep over Belgium. The Mustang will shoot down nearly five thousand German planes - an incredible 19 enemy fighters for ever one Mustang lost. The P-51D would see service in the Pacific Theater as well as close air support for troops during the Korean War.
1949: The Marine Corps' first helicopter squadron, HMX-1, is commissioned at Quantico, Va. Today HMX-1 is tasked with transportation of the President.
1950: Regimental Combat Team 31 is annihilated by Chinese forces during the Battle of the Chosin Reservoir. Enemy casualties are extremely heavy, but over 1000 US soldiers are killed, freeze to death, or die in Chinese captivity. The unit's commanding officer, Col. Allan MacLean, became the highest-ranking officer to die in combat during the Korean War. Only 385 of the unit's original 3200 soldiers are fit for duty.
1964: President Lyndon Johnson agrees to a two-phase bombing campaign against North Vietnam.
1969: The government holds its first draft lottery since 1942.
1941: The USS Lexington (CV-2) departs Pearl Harbor with Marine dive bombers destined for Midway Island, leaving no carriers at the base as the Enterprise departed for Wake on Nov. 28. The mission saves the aircraft carrier from destruction in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in two days.
1943: U.S. Army Air Forces begin attacks against German V-1 and V-2 rocket bases in 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 malfuntioned and that their position is unknown, with other 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 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.
1790: The US Congress moves from New York City to Philadelphia.
1846: Army, Marine, Navy, and civilian forces under the command of Col. Stephen Watts Kearney 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 US destroyer to be sunk by a submarine.
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 on 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 an 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, US and Australian planes kill an estimated 2,500 enemy troops.
1961: The US Air Force is authorized to begin combat operations in Vietnam - provided they carry a Vietnamese national for training purposes.
1968: The US Navy launches Operation Giant Slingshot to interdict the flow of men and weapons flowing through the Mekong Delta from the Cambodian border.
Medal of Honor: When his company was attacked by a battalion-sized enemy force in 1967, Chaplain 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. The chaplain would carry 20 wounded soldiers to the landing zone for evacuation.
1917: Four US 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 in service during World War I.
1941: The destroyer USS Ward spots and sinks a Japanese minisub, firing the first US shots in World War II.
Having achieved total tactical and strategic surprise, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor begins. The attack 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 - the Arizona and Oklahoma - are raised to fight again. Admiral Hara Tadaichi would say, "We won a great tactical victory at Pearl Harbor and thereby lost the war."
Meanwhile, Japanese forces bomb Guam and Wake as destroyers and planes attack Midway.
1942: The USS New Jersey, one of the world's largest battleships ever built, is launched.
1943: The Fifth Army secures the Mignano Gap in Italy.
1944: The Third Army crosses the Siegfried Line at Saarlautern.
In the Pacific, the 77th 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: US Air Force F-86 Saber pilots shoot down seven of 32 enemy aircraft for 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 (Navy Capt.) Eugene A. Cernan, (Navy Capt.) Ronald E. Evans, and (civilian) Harrison H. Schmitt.
Medal of Honor: 15 sailors earned the Medal of Honor during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
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.
1961: 33 H-21C Shawnee helicopters from the U.S. Army 8th and 57th Transportation Companies arrive in Vietnam, becoming the first US helicopters in Vietnam.
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.
Christopher Gist, Washington's guide, would save the future president's life twice during the trip.
1770: The British soldiers responsible for the Boston Massacre are acquitted. Future president John Adams is their lawyer.
1937: The gunship USS Panay and three Standard Oil tankers are sunk by Japanese as they evacuate US citizens from Nanking following the Japanese invasion during the Second Sino-Japanese War.
1953: Maj. (future Maj. Gen.) Chuck Yeager pilots the Bell X-1A to Mach 2.44 (1648 mph), setting a speed record that still stands today (straight-wing aircraft on level flight). The flight almost costs Yeager his life.
1985: Arrow Air Flight 1285, returning soldiers of the 101st Airborne to Fort Campbell following a peacekeeping mission in Egypt, crashes after takeoff, killing 248 soldiers.
1992: Marine Corps Cobra helicopter gunships destroy a Somali armed vehicle, marking the first combat action of Operation Restore Hope.
Medal of Honor: 70 years ago during the defense of Wake Island, Marine Capt. Henry T. Elrod shot down enemy planes, sunk a ship, and commanded Marines on the ground as they defended against the Japanese invasion.
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 US 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 during the Korean War. Davis was the war's first double ace (10 kills) of the war, 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. He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.
1966: US bombers attacked Hanoi, North Vietnam for the first time.
1974: The North Vietnamese Army attacks Phuoc Long Province, just north of Saigon 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 will surrender unconditionally.
2003: Soldiers from the Fourth Infantry Division and special operators from Task Force 121 capture deposed Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein in a "spider hole" near his hometown of Tikrit.
1791: The Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments to the Constitution of the United States, becomes law.
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 fighting force.
1944: A plane carrying Maj. Glenn Miller, leader of the world-famous "Glenn Miller Orchestra" prior to World War II, 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, the US Seventh Army enters Germany.
1945: Gen. Douglas MacArthur orders the end of Shintoism as the state religion of Japan, which viewed Emperor Hirohito as a divine authority.
1948: The Navy and State Department sign a memorandum establishing the Marine Security Guard program for US embassies across the world.
1950: F-86 Sabres make their combat debut in Korea. Meanwhile, UN forces withdraw south of the 38th Parallel.
1964: The AC-47, the Air Force's first gunship, makes its combat debut in Vietnam.
1965: US 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.
1969: President Richard Nixon announces that 50,000 additional US troops will be withdrawn from Vietnam.
Medal of Honor: 44 years ago, Private Allen J. Lynch crossed a kill zone multiple times and killed numerous enemies in order to rescue three wounded comrades.
1944: A massive German Army force — composed of SS Panzer (SS armored units), Volksgrenadier (infantry), Panzergrenadier (armored infantry), and Fallschirmjäger (paratroopers) — burst through the snow-covered Ardennes Forest and smash headlong into the weakest stretch of the Allied frontlines in Belgium.
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 more flights that day. The modern 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.
1969: Operation Linebacker II begins
1777: Gen. George Washington's Continental Army establishes its winter camp at Valley Forge.
1862: Confederate cavalry under Brig. Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest dismantle railroad tracks north and south of Jackson, Tenn., disrupting Union supplies.
1941: Adolf Hitler replaces Field Marshall Walther von Brauchitsch as commander-in-chief of Germany's armed forces.
1972: Apollo 17 astronauts Eugene A. Cernan (Capt., USN ret.), Ronald E. Evans (Capt., USN ret.), and civilian Harrison H. Schmitt splash down in the South Pacific after spending a record 75 hours on the Moon's surface. Cernan is the last human to set foot on the moon.
2000: The UN Security Council voted 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 embassies.
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 and Britain.
Medal of Honor: 67 years ago, Tech Sgt. Robert E. Gerstung braved eight hours of intense tank, artillery, and mortar fire. He crossed the killzone to retrieve more ammunition, and later, another weapon when his malfunctioned. When the order was given to withdraw, Gerstung provided the only covering fire for the unit.
1803: The Louisiana Purchase is completed, doubling the size of the United States. France sells 828,000 square miles of territory west of the Mississippi River for less than three cents an acre.
1860: Delegates meeting in Charleston, S.C. unanimously adopt the ordinance to dissolve ties with the United States. South Carolina becomes the first state to secede from the Union.
1862: Confederate forces under Gen. Earl Van Dorn attack the supply depot for Union General Ulysses S. Grant's troops, derailing Grant's plan to capture Vicksburg, Miss.
1941: The 1st American Volunteer Group, better known as the "Flying Tigers," enters combat with the Japanese over China.
1989: 27,000 US troops, supported by 300 aircraft, invade Panama to protect American lives and overthrow dictator Manuel Noriega.
1992: US Marines and Belgian paratroopers secure the Somalian port city of Kismaayo in the first combined amphibious assault since the Vietnam War.
Medal of Honor: 68 years ago over the North Sea, Tech. Sgt. Forrest L. "Woody" Vosler's B-17 was damaged and forced to leave the formation after a bombing raid on Bremen, Germany. Despite his wounds, Vosler left his station to man the machinegun when the tailgunner was wounded. Vosler was blinded by shrapnel, and had to repair the radio by touch in order to send a distress signal as the damaged plane was about to ditch in the North Sea.
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 leads 79 soldiers and two civilians into a deadly ambush at Fort Kearny in present-day Wyoming. The 81 Americans are wiped out by approximately 2,000 Indians.
1943: The submarine USS Grayback sinks its fourth Japanese ship in three days.
1944: German troops from the 5th Panzer Army surround the 101st Airborne at Bastogne, Belgium.
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.
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.
Medal of Honor: 67 years ago in Belgium, Private Francis S. "Frank" Currey kills one tank, disables three others, and forces a German unit to retreat after inflicting heavy casualties with a bazooka, automatic rifle, a halftrack, and anti-tank grenades.
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: British Prime Minister Winston Churchill arrives in Washington, D.C. for the Arcadia Conference, the first summit between Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt to discuss military strategy.
Meanwhile, the first US troops arrive at Australia.
1944: Having surrounded the 101st Airborne at Bastogne, Belgium, German General Heinrich Freiherr von Lüttwitz 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, including the Chief of the General Staff, recommend ending the Rundstedt Offensive (Battle of the Bulge) due to a lack of significant progress.
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.
Medal of Honor: 67 years ago near Kalterherberg, Germany, Tech. Sgt. Peter J. Dalessondro saved his unit from being completely routed by multiple overwhelming attacks.
1941: Japanese air and land forces assault Wake, Wilkes, and Peale islands. U.S. forces surrender after 12 hours of desperate fighting.
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 singing, Maj. Gen. (and future president) Andrew Jackson defeats a British invasion force in the Battle New Orleans.
1943: 670 B-17s and B-24s from the 8th Air Force conduct a bombing raid at German long-range rocket sites at Pas de Calais, France.
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."
1944: Elements of the U.S. 4th Armored Division – the spearhead of Gen. George S. Patton Jr.'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: 120 B-52 Stratofortress bombers attack Hanoi, as part of Operation Linebacker II in the largest single combat launch in Strategic Air Command history.
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 (present-day Texas) and captures the city in one of the major battles of the Mexican-American War.
1935: When a volcanic eruption threatens Hilo, Hawaii, Army Air Force 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 would become the United States' top ace of World War II and would earn the Medal of Honor.
1992: Lt. Col. Gary North shoots down an Iraqi MiG-25 in Iraq's southern no-fly-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.
1778: British troops capture Savannah, Ga.
1812: The USS Constitution defeats the British frigate HMS Java in a three-hour battle off the coast of Brazil.
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 on entrenched Confederate forces is defeated 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.
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.
Adapted (and abridged) in part from "This Week in US Military History" by W. Thomas Smith Jr. at Human Events.