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: The USS Michigan (BB-27), the first US dreadnought battleship, is commissioned.
1943: The 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.
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.
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.
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.
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: 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.
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.
1783: Three Royal Navy ships open fire on Continental Navy ships Duc De Lauzun and the 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.
1942: Four PT boats transport Gen. Douglas MacArthur, his family, and staff from Corregidor.
1951: United Nations forces under the command of U.S. Army Gen. Matthew B. Ridgeway recaptures Seoul, Korea.
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.
1945: Though Japanese resistance will continue for several more days, Iwo Jima is declared secure.
1776: British forces under the command of Gen. Sir William Howe begin evacuating Boston after Howe reluctantly concludes that the American artillery positions atop Boston’s commanding Dorchester Heights are “impregnable.”
===Mar. 18 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.
Mar. 19, 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 McArthur – ordered by FDR 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. McArthur will return to the Philippines in Oct. 1944.
Mar. 22, 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 attended 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.
Mar. 25, 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.
Mar. 25, 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.
1942: Maj. Gen. Edward P. King surrenders US forces at Bataan to the Japanese.
1945: Marine Bombing Squadron 612 (VMB-612) launches night attacks from Iwo Jima against the Japanese coast.
1975: Marines evacuate nearly 300 Americans and foreign nationals from Cambodia during Operation EAGLE PULL.
1961: Under cover of darkness, a diversionary landing of 164 Cuban exiles, supported by US Navy destroyers, departs for Baracoa, Cuba, but turns around due to militia activity on the coast. At 0600, eight B-26B Invader bombers, prepared by the CIA, attack Cuban airfields in preparation for the Bay of Pigs invasion.
1962: Marine Medium Transport Helicopter Squadron 362 (HMM-362) arrives at the Soc Trang airfield in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta, becoming the first operational Marine Corps unit deployed to Vietnam.
1898: The Secretary of the Navy ordered Maj. Gen. Charles Heywood, the ninth Commandant of the Marine Corps, to organize a battalion for duty in Cuba.
1961: Bay of Pigs invasion.
1778: Capt. John Paul Jones leads a raid on the small British port of Whitehaven, aimed at destroying the merchant vessels anchored there. The raid is unsuccessful, but marks the first U.S. action on British soil.
1863: Union Col. Benjamin Grierson begins a two-week raid through Mississippi cutting the state's telegraph lines, destroying two trainloads of Confederate ammunition, destroying 50 miles of railroad, killing 100 and capturing 500 Confederates - at the cost of three wounded, seven wounded, and 14 missing.
1944: American soldiers land in New Guinea for Operations RECKLESS and PERSECUTION, beginning a three month battle that would claim the lives of 12,811 of the original 15,000 Japanese troops, compared to only 527 Americans.
1945: Adolf Hitler confides to his aides in his underground bunker that the war is lost and suicide is his only option. He will kill himself in eight days.
2004: Pat Tillman, who left a multi-million dollar career in professional football to join the Army Rangers, is killed while on patrol in eastern Afghanistan.
1778: Capt. John Paul Jones – commanding the Continental sloop-of-war Ranger (the first of 10 so-named American warships) – captures the Royal Navy sloop HMS Drake in an action off the Irish coast in which Drake’s captain, Commander George Burdon, is killed by a Continental Marine.
1862: Union Naval forces under the command of Adm. David Farragut knife past Confederate gunboats and batteries at Forts Jackson and St. Philip in the Mississippi River at New Orleans. Farragut will capture the city.
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.
1945: Russian and U.S. armies link up at the Elbe River and Torgau. World War II will be over in 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.
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.
1965: U.S. Marines land in the Dominican Republic to prevent the nation from falling to communism.
1798: The U.S. Navy Department – parent company of the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps – is established.
1945: German leader Adolf Hitler commits suicide in Hitler’s Berlin Bunker. German Army forces will surrender to the Allies within days.
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.
1862: 5,000 Union troops under command of Maj. Gen. Benjamin Butler march unopposed into New Orleans, capturing the city.
1942: Lt. Gen. Jonathan Wainwright unconditionally surrenders all US forces in the Philippines to the Japanese.
1961: President John F. Kennedy approves the deployment of 400 Special Forces soldiers (Green Berets) to Vietnam to train South Vietnamese forces.
1944: West Loch disaster
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.
1944: Port Chicago disaster
1953: An armistice is signed, ending the Korean War.
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.
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 $10 million in military aid to the French military in Vietnam, and later as military trainers.
1964: Less than 48 hours after North Vietnamese torpedo boats attacked the USS Maddox, the destroyer USS Turner Joy's radar detects what appears to be small watercraft approaching the destroyer. For two-and-a-half hours, the Maddox and Turner Joy - accompanied by aircraft from the 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: The first atomic bomb is dropped on Hiroshima, Japan.
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.
1945: Japan surrenders (V-J Day).
1945: Japan surrenders to the United States on the deck of the USS Missouri, anchored in Tokyo Bay.
1783: The Treaty of Paris is signed, 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: The USS Enterprise, 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.
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.
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.
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.
1983: President Ronald Reagan orders the invasion of Grenada to secure American citizens and topple the Marxist regime.
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, the first of two carriers named in honor of aviation scientist Samuel Pierpont Langley.
1942: Mitchell Paige earns the Medal of Honor 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.
1962: Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev “blinks,” ordering the withdrawal of ballistic missiles from Cuba and putting an end to the Cuban Missile Crisis.
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.
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.
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."
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.
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.
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.
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 attack became the largest loss of American lives at sea.
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.
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.
1812: The US and UK signs the Treaty of Ghent in modern-day Belgium, ending the War of 1812.
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.
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."
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.