1941: Although the United States has not yet entered the war, a German submarine torpedoes and sinks the destroyer USS Reuben James (DD-245), which was providing convoy escort. 115 sailors perish in the first sinking of a U.S. warship in World War II.
1943: Lt. Hugh D. O'Neill, flying at night in a
specially modified F4U Corsair, shoots down a Japanese Betty bomber
over Vella Lavella, scoring the first kill for the radar-equipped night
1968: Five days before the elections, Pres. Lyndon
B. Johnson ends Operation Rolling Thunder, the bombing campaign against
North Vietnam. Over three-and-a-half years, 864,000 tons of bombs fell
on the Communist nation - more tonnage dropped than either the Korean
War or the Pacific Theater of World War II. Hundreds of U.S. planes and
aircrew are shot down.
1971: Saigon begins releasing the first of around
3,000 Viet Cong prisoners of war. American POWs won't be released until
Feb. 12, 1973.
1976: The Air Force's E-3A Sentry airborne warning and control systems (AWACS) aircraft makes its first flight.
Medal of Honor: On this day in 1972, Navy Petty Officer Michael E. Thornton
became the only Medal of Honor recipient to save the life of another
Medal of Honor recipient, Lt. Thomas Norris, who was believed to be
dead. Thornton fought and ran through a harrowing field of fire to
rescue his officer, then swam out to sea for four hours before being
rescued while holding two incapacitated teammates - even though he
himself was wounded multiple times.
Image of the Day: Elvis and a bazooka
For more "This day in U.S. military history" content, visit the Center for American Military History