Posted By Crush • [February 16, 2010]
From W. Thomas Smith, Jr.'s latest piece at Human Events:
Feb. 14, 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.
Feb. 14, 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.
(known affectionately as “Old Ironsides”) is the oldest ship in the
American Navy. Launched in 1797, she serves today 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.
Feb. 14, 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.
Feb. 14, 1968:
As the bloody Battle of Hue rages (part of the broader Vietnamese TET
Offensive), Capt. Myron Harrington and his Delta Company, 1st
Battalion, 5th Marines prepare to assault the city’s Citadel with its
commanding Dong Ba tower.
Harrington is ordered to attack, to
which he responds simply, "aye aye, sir." Harrington’s Marines take the
tower and other objectives in fierce fighting. Harrington will receive
the Navy Cross for “extraordinary heroism” in an action on the 23rd,
and ultimately rise to the rank of colonel.
In a PBS documentary Harrington recalls:
all of this, you constantly had this fear. Not so much that you were
going to die, because I think to a certain degree that was a given.
This was combined with the semi-darkness type of environment that we
were fighting in because of the low overcast – the fact that we didn't
see the sun – gave it a very eerie, spooky look. You had this utter
devastation all around you. You had this horrible smell. I mean you
just cannot describe the smell of death especially when you're looking
at it a couple of weeks along. It's horrible. It was there when you ate
your rations. It was almost like you were eating death. You couldn't
Feb. 15, 1898: A
terrific explosion rips through the bow of USS Maine anchored in Havana
Harbor, Cuba. Almost everyone in the forward third of the vessel is
instantly killed. Black smoke and seawater begin pouring into the
remaining spaces. The dying ship, its bulkheads groaning under the
stress of collapse, is then rocked by a series of jarring secondary
explosions. Capt. Charles Sigsbee, the Maine’s skipper, orders “Abandon
ship!” Within minutes, 260 U.S. sailors and Marines are dead.
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.
Maine is the first of three so-named American battleships and one submarine.
Feb 16, 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.
time, Decatur will be referred to as “America’s Lord Nelson,” an
affectionate comparison to Britain’s legendary Admiral Horatio Nelson.
In fact, when Nelson himself learns of Decatur’s action at Tripoli, he
says it is “the most bold and daring act of the age.” And contemporary
British historian John Keegan will describe Decatur as “the most
dashing of the frigate captains whom the Corsair and 1812 Wars
Destined to be killed in a duel with fellow Naval
officer Commodore James Barron in 1820, Decatur is author of the famous
aphorism, “Our country, right or wrong.”
Decatur has had five American warships and numerous American towns and counties named in his honor.
Feb 16, 1945:
American paratroopers – members of the U.S. Army’s famed 503rd
Regimental Combat Team – jump over the Philippines’ “fortress
Corregidor” (also known as “the Rock”) in one of the most difficult
airborne operations of the war. Jumping in relatively high winds, the
paratroopers hit the ground hard, fighting Japanese soldiers who had
been ordered to fight to the death. For the next 11 days, the Americans
will root out the enemy (deeply burrowed in a labyrinth of caves and
tunnels) and beat back multiple banzai attacks before wiping out almost
all of the 6,500-man enemy garrison.
Feb. 17, 1864:
The Confederate submarine H.L. Hunley – a pioneering vessel designed to
help break the Union Navy’s blockade of Southern ports – 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
The submarine is named for its designer and builder,
Tennessee-born engineer Horace Lawson Hunley, who incidentally was
killed during one of the submarine’s test dives.
Feb. 17, 1865:
Exactly one year to the day after Hunley’s famous attack in South
Carolina waters, S.C.’s capital, Columbia – site of the first secession
convention – falls to Union Army forces under the command of Maj. Gen.
William Tecumseh Sherman. Columbia is subsequently burned. Both sides
blame the other for the destruction of the city, fueling a controversy
that continues into the 21st century. Sherman will withdraw from
Columbia within three days, and continue his march up through the
Palmetto state. He will write in his memoirs, “Having utterly ruined
Columbia, the right wing [of the army] began its march northward toward
Feb. 18, 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.
Feb. 19, 1945:
One year after the Eniwetok landings, the first two of three dispatched
U.S. Marine divisions begin hitting the beach on day-one of the epic
battle for Iwo Jima (one of the great U.S. Marine Corps victories which
we will expound on over the coming weeks). Described as “throwing human
flesh against reinforced concrete,” the battle is best remembered by
the dramatic photograph of the flag-raising on Mt. Suribachi and the 27
Medals of Honor awarded. But it will not be without great cost: 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. Aside from Marine losses, a handful of casualties will be
suffered among the ranks of U.S. Army, Navy, and Coast Guard personnel
who also were there.
Feb. 20, 1944:
U.S. Army Air Forces and Britain’s Royal Air Force begin Operation
Argument – also known as “Big Week” – a massive thousand-plus bomber
offensive (with all of the bombers’ supporting fighter aircraft) aimed
at destroying the German Air Force in the air and the Luftwaffe
manufacturing facilities on the ground in order to achieve irreversible
air superiority before the Normandy landings. Allied losses will be
high. German losses will be staggering.
Feb. 20, 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.
will become a U.S. senator in 1974. In 1998, at the age of 77, he will
return to space (becoming the oldest human in space) aboard Space
Shuttle Discovery (STS-95) commanded and piloted respectively by U.S.
Air Force Lt. Colonels Curtis L. Brown and Steven W. Lindsey.
increase awareness of American military tradition and honor America’s
greatest heroes by supporting the Medal of Honor Society's 2010
Convention to be held in Charleston, S.C., Sept. 29 –Oct. 3, 2010 (for
more information, click here).