Honoring the deeds of those who have fought for our freedom.

Military History – December 2018

The attack on Pearl Harbor was a surprise military strike by the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service against the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii Territory, on the morning of December 7, 1941. The attack, also known as the Battle of Pearl Harbor, led to the United States’ entry into World War II. The Japanese military leadership referred to the attack as the Hawaii Operation and Operation AI, and as Operation Z during its planning.

Japan intended the attack as a preventive action to keep the U.S. Pacific Fleet from interfering with military actions they planned in Southeast Asia against overseas territories of the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and the United States. Over the next seven hours there were coordinated Japanese attacks on the U.S.-held Philippines, Guam and Wake Island and on the British Empire in Malaya, Singapore, and Hong Kong.

The attack commenced at 7:48 a.m. Hawaiian Time (18:18 UTC). The base was attacked by 353 Imperial Japanese aircraft (including fighters, level and dive bombers, and torpedo bombers) in two waves, launched from six aircraft carriers. All eight U.S. Navy battleships were damaged, with four sunk. All but the USS Arizona were later raised, and six were returned to service and went on to fight in the war. The Japanese also sank or damaged three cruisers, three destroyers, an anti-aircraft training ship, and one minelayer. One hundred eighty-eight U.S. aircraft were destroyed; 2,403 Americans were killed and 1,178 others were wounded. Important base installations such as the power station, dry dock, shipyard, maintenance, and fuel and torpedo storage facilities, as well as the submarine piers and headquarters building (also home of the intelligence section), were not attacked. Japanese losses were light: 29 aircraft and five midget submarines lost, and 64 servicemen killed. One Japanese sailor, Kazuo Sakamaki, was captured.

The surprise attack came as a profound shock to the American people and led directly to the American entry into World War II in both the Pacific and European theaters. The following day, December 8, the United States declared war on Japan, and several days later, on December 11, Germany and Italy declared war on the U.S. The U.S. responded with a declaration of war against Germany and Italy. Domestic support for non-interventionism, which had been fading since the Fall of France in 1940, disappeared..

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Military History – August 2018

Berlin Wall, 1961 – 1989

The Berlin Wall (German: Berliner Mauer) was a barrier that divided Berlin from 1961 to 1989. Constructed by the German Democratic Republic (GDR, East Germany), starting on 13 August 1961, the wall completely cut off (by land) West Berlin from surrounding East Germany and from East Berlin until it was opened in November 1989. Its demolition officially began on 13 June 1990 and was completed in 1992. The barrier included guard towers placed along large concrete walls, which circumscribed a wide area (later known as the “death strip”) that contained anti-vehicle trenches, “fakir beds” and other defenses. The Eastern Bloc claimed that the wall was erected to protect its population from fascist elements conspiring to prevent the “will of the people” in building a socialist state in East Germany. In practice, the Wall served to prevent the massive emigration and defection that marked East Germany and the communist Eastern Bloc during the post-World War II period.

The Berlin Wall was officially referred to as the “Anti-Fascist Protective Wall” (German: Antifaschistischer Schutzwall) by GDR authorities, implying that the NATO countries and West Germany in particular were “fascists” by GDR propaganda. The West Berlin city government sometimes referred to it as the “Wall of Shame“—a term coined by mayor Willy Brandt—while condemning the Wall’s restriction on freedom of movement. Along with the separate and much longer Inner German border (IGB), which demarcated the border between East and West Germany, it came to symbolize the “Iron Curtain” that separated Western Europe and the Eastern Bloc during the Cold War.

Before the Wall’s erection, 3.5 million East Germans circumvented Eastern Bloc emigration restrictions and defected from the GDR, many by crossing over the border from East Berlin into West Berlin; from which they could then travel to West Germany and other Western European countries. Between 1961 and 1989, the wall prevented almost all such emigration. During this period, around 5,000 people attempted to escape over the wall, with an estimated death toll ranging from 136 to more than 200 in and around Berlin.

In 1989, a series of radical political changes occurred in the Eastern Bloc, associated with the liberalization of the Eastern Bloc’s authoritarian systems and the erosion of political power in the pro-Soviet governments in nearby Poland and Hungary. After several weeks of civil unrest, the East German government announced on 9 November 1989 that all GDR citizens could visit West Germany and West Berlin. Crowds of East Germans crossed and climbed onto the wall, joined by West Germans on the other side in a celebratory atmosphere. Over the next few weeks, euphoric people and souvenir hunters chipped away parts of the wall; the governments later used industrial equipment to remove most of what was left. Contrary to popular belief the wall’s actual demolition did not begin until the summer of 1990 and was not completed until 1992. The fall of the Berlin Wall paved the way for German reunification, which was formally concluded on 3 October 1990.

 

For more information on the Berlin Wall, see Wikipedia.org

Military History July 2018

The Battle for Guam, 1944

Guam is the largest of the Marianas, 32 miles (52 km) long and 10 miles (16 km) wide. It had been a United States possession since its capture from Spain in 1898 until it was captured by the Japanese on 10 December 1941, following the attack on Pearl Harbor. It was not as heavily fortified as the other Mariana Islands such as Saipan that had been Japanese possessions since the end of World War I, but by 1944 it had a large Japanese garrison.

The Allied plan for the invasion of the Marianas, Operation Forager, called for heavy preliminary bombardment, first by carrier aircraft and planes based in the Marshall Islands to the east, then once air superiority was gained, close bombardment by battleships. Saipan, Tinian, and Guam were chosen as targets due to their size, their suitability as a base for supporting the next stage of operations toward the Philippines, Taiwan and the Ryukyu Islands; the deep-water harbor at Apra was suitable for the largest ships; and airfields for Boeing B-29 Superfortresses could be built from which to bomb Japan.

The invasion of Saipan was scheduled for 15 June 1944, with landings on Guam tentatively set for 18 June. The original timetable was optimistic, however. A large Japanese carrier attack and stubborn resistance by the unexpectedly large garrison on Saipan led to the invasion of Guam being postponed for a month.

A US naval and air bombardment lasted from 11-13 June 1944, involving 216 carrier aircraft and B-24s. On the 12th and 13th, 12 Japanese cargo ships and several fishing vessels were sunk. Battleships started shelling the island on 27 June, joined by a carrier group on 4 July, and two more on 6 July, with the loss of 16 US aircraft.

Guam, ringed by reefs, cliffs, and heavy surf, presents a formidable challenge for an attacker. Underwater demolition teams reconnoitered the beaches and removed obstacles from 14-17 July. Despite the obstacles, on 21 July, the Americans landed on both sides of the Orote Peninsula on the western side of Guam, planning to secure Apra Harbor. The 3rd Marine Division landed near Agana to the north of Orote at 08:29, and the 1st Provisional Marine Brigade landed near Agat to the south. Japanese artillery sank 20 LVTs, and inflicted heavy casualties on the Americans, especially on the 1st Provisional Marine Brigade, but, by 09:00, men and tanks were ashore at both beaches.  By nightfall, the Americans had established beachheads about 6,600 feet (2,000 m) deep. Japanese counterattacks were made throughout the first few days of the battle, mostly at night, using infiltration tactics. Several times they penetrated the American defenses and were driven back with heavy losses of men and equipment.

The 77th Infantry Division had a more difficult landing on 23-24 July. Lacking amphibious vehicles, they had to wade ashore from the edge of the reef where they were dropped by their landing craft. The men stationed in the two beachheads were pinned down by heavy Japanese fire, making initial progress inland quite slow. Supply was very difficult[3] for the Americans in the first days of the battle. Landing ships could not come closer than the reef, several hundred yards from the beach, and amphibious vehicles were scarce.

The 1st Provisional blocked off the Orote Peninsula on 25 July, and that same night Lt. General Takeshi counterattacked, coordinated with a similar attack against the 3rd Division to the north. The next day, General Obata reported, “our forces failed to achieve the desired objectives.” Lieutenant General Takeshi Takashina was killed on 28 July, and Lieutenant General Hideyoshi Obata took over the command of the defenders. On 28 July, the two beachheads were linked, and by 29 July, the peninsula was secure.

The counterattacks against the American beachheads, as well as the fierce fighting, had exhausted the Japanese. At the start of August, they were running out of food and ammunition and had only a handful of tanks left. Obata withdrew his troops from the south of Guam, planning to make a stand in the mountainous central and northern part of the island, “to engage in delaying action in the jungle in northern Guam to hold the island as long as possible”.

After ensuring no significant Japanese forces operated in the southern portion of Guam, Major General Geiger started an offensive north with the 3rd Marine Division on the left flank, and the 77th Infantry Division on the right, liberating Agana on the same day. The Tiyan Airfield was captured on 1 Aug.

Rain and thick jungle made conditions difficult for the Americans, but after an engagement with the main Japanese line of defense around Mount Barrigada from 2-4 August, the Japanese line collapsed. The 1st Provisional formed up on the left flank of the 3rd Marine on 7 August, due to the widening front and continued casualties, in an effort to prevent the Japanese from slipping through the American gaps. The Japanese had another stronghold at Mount Santa Rosa, which was secured on 8 Aug.

On 10 August, organized Japanese resistance ended, and Guam was declared secure, though an estimated 7,500 Japanese soldiers were estimated to be at-large. The next day, Obata committed ritual suicide at his headquarters on Mount Mataguac, after sending a farewell message to Japan.

A few Japanese soldiers held out in the jungle. On 8 December 1945, three U.S. Marines were ambushed and killed. On 24 January 1972, Sergeant Shoichi Yokoi was discovered by hunters. He had lived alone in a cave for 27 years.

After the battle, Guam was turned into a base for Allied operations. Five large airfields were built by the Seabees, and B-29 bombers flew from Northwest Field and North Field on the island to attack targets in the Western Pacific and on mainland Japan.

Military History June 2018

The Battle of Midway was a decisive naval battle in the Pacific Theater of World War II. Between 4 and 7 June 1942, only six months after Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor and one month after the Battle of the Coral Sea, the United States Navy under Admirals Chester Nimitz, Frank Jack Fletcher, and Raymond A.  Spruance decisively defeated an attacking fleet of the Imperial Japanese Navy under Admirals Isoroku Yamamoto, Chuichi Nagumo, and Nobutake Kondo near Midway Atoll, inflicting devastating damage on the Japanese fleet that proved irreparable. Military historian John Keegan called it “the most stunning and decisive blow in the history of naval warfare.”

The operation, like the earlier attack on Pearl Harbor, sought to eliminate the United States as a strategic power in the Pacific, thereby giving Japan a free hand in establishing its Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere. The Japanese hoped another demoralizing defeat would force the U.S. to capitulate in the Pacific War and thus ensure Japanese dominance in the Pacific. Luring the American aircraft carriers into a trap and occupying Midway was part of an overall “barrier” strategy to extend Japan’s defensive perimeter, in response to the Doolittle air raid on Tokyo. This operation was also considered preparatory for further attacks against Fiji, Samoa, and Hawaii itself.

The plan was handicapped by faulty Japanese assumptions of the American reaction and poor initial dispositions. Most significantly, American codebreakers were able to determine the date and location of the planned attack, enabling the forewarned U.S. Navy to prepare its own ambush. All four of Japan’s large aircraft carriers—Akagi, Kaga, Soryu and Hiryu, part of the six-carrier force that had attacked Pearl Harbor six months earlier—and a heavy cruiser were sunk, while the U.S. lost only the carrier Yorktown and a destroyer. After Midway and the exhausting attrition of the Solomon Islands campaign, Japan’s capacity to replace its losses in materiel (particularly aircraft carriers) and men (especially well-trained pilots and maintenance crewmen) rapidly became insufficient to cope with mounting casualties, while the United States’ massive industrial and training capabilities made losses far easier to replace. The Battle of Midway is considered a turning point in the Pacific War.

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Military History – May 2018

Berlin Blockade

C-47 Skytrains unloading at Tempelhof Airport during the Berlin Airlift.

The Berlin Blockade (24 June 1948 – 12 May 1949) was one of the first major international crises of the Cold War. During the multinational occupation of post–World War II Germany, the Soviet Union blocked the Western Allies’ railway, road, and canal access to the sectors of Berlin under Western control. The Soviets offered to drop the blockade if the Western Allies withdrew the newly introduced Deutsche mark from West Berlin.

 

In response, the Western Allies organized the Berlin airlift (26 June 1948 – 30 September 1949) to carry supplies to the people of West Berlin, a difficult feat given the size of the city’s population. Aircrews from the United States Air Force, the British Royal Air Force, the Royal Canadian Air Force, the Royal Australian Air Force, the Royal New Zealand Air Force, and the South African Air Force :338 flew over 200,000 flights in one year, providing to the West Berliners up to 8,893 tons of necessities each day, such as fuel and food. The Soviets did not disrupt the airlift for fear this might lead to open conflict.

 

By the spring of 1949, the airlift was clearly succeeding, and by April it was delivering more cargo than had previously been transported into the city by rail. On 12 May 1949, the USSR lifted the blockade of West Berlin. The Berlin Blockade served to highlight the competing ideological and economic visions for postwar Europe.

 

For more information on this event, visit “Berlin Blockade” at Wikipedia.org!

Military History – April 2018

April 1, 1945 – Operation Iceberg

April 1, 1945On Okinawa, American forces launch Operation Iceberg, the invasion of Okinawa. Two corps of the US 10th Army (General Buckner) land in the area of Hagushi, in the southwest of the island.

 

US Task Force 51 (Admiral Turner) provides the 1,200 transports and landing ships including seven Coast Guard-manned transports, 29 LSTs, the cutters Bibb and Woodbine, and 12 LCI(L)s, with over 450,000 Army and Marine Corps personnel embarked. The troops landed are from US 3rd Amphibious Corps (Geiger) with US 6th and 1st Marine Divisions, on the left or northern flank, and 24th Corps (Hodge) with US 7th and 96th Infantry Divisions, on the right or southern flank. On land, US forces encounter almost no resistance on the first day and establish a beachhead three miles deep and nine miles wide. (Okinawa is 70 miles long and a maximum of 10 miles wide.) Kadena and Yontan airfields are captured.  Japanese forces on the island, consisting of the 130,000 troops of the Japanese 32nd Army (General Ushijima), are entrenched in concealed positions and caves, mostly to the south of the American landing area along the Shuri Line. (There are also 450,000 civilians on the island.) At sea, US TF58 and TF54 as well as the British Pacific Fleet conduct air and naval bombardments.  Japanese conventional and Kamikaze air strikes hit the battleship USS West Virginia, and the carrier, HMS Indomitable, along with eight other ships.

The Battle of Okinawa, codenamed Operation Iceberg, was fought on the Ryukyu Islands of Okinawa and was the largest amphibious assault in the Pacific War of World War II. The 82-day-long battle lasted from early April until mid-June 1945. After a long campaign of island hopping, the Allies were approaching Japan, and planned to use Okinawa, a large island only 340 mi (550 km) away from mainland Japan, as a base for air operations on the planned invasion of Japanese mainland (coded Operation Downfall). Four divisions of the U.S. 10th Army (the 7th, 27th, 77th, and 96th) and two Marine Divisions (the 1st and 6th) fought on the island. Their invasion was supported by naval, amphibious, and tactical air forces.

The battle has been referred to as the “typhoon of steel” in English, and tetsu no ame (“rain of steel”) or tetsu no bōfū (“violent wind of steel”) in Japanese. The nicknames refer to the ferocity of the fighting, the intensity of kamikaze attacks from the Japanese defenders, and to the sheer numbers of Allied ships and armored vehicles that assaulted the island. The battle resulted in the highest number of casualties in the Pacific Theater during World War II. Based on Okinawan government sources,[10] mainland Japan lost 77,166 soldiers, who were either killed or committed suicide, and the Allies suffered 14,009 deaths (with an estimated total of more than 65,000 casualties of all kinds). Simultaneously, 42,000-150,000 local civilians were killed or committed suicide, a significant proportion of the local population. The atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki caused Japan to surrender less than two months after the end of the fighting on Okinawa.

 

Military History – March 2018

 

USS Iowa

Over the course of American History, there have been three ships given the name USS Iowa, with plans for a fourth.  Here is a brief history of each.

USS Iowa (BB-4) was a United States Navy battleship. It was the first ship commissioned in honor of Iowa and was America’s first seagoing battleship. Iowa saw substantial action in the Spanish–American War. While she was an improvement over the Indiana class because of a superior design, the warship became obsolete quickly in the first quarter of the 20th century, and was used for target practice and sunk on 23 March 1923 in Panama Bay by a salvo of 14-inch shells.

Read more about the USS Iowa (BB-4) on Wikipedia.org.

USS Iowa (BB-53) was the fifth of six South Dakota class battleships, laid down in 1920 but never completed. They would have been the last dreadnoughts in the Naval Act of 1916 to be commissioned had the Washington Naval Treaty not caused their cancellation one-third of the way through their construction.  They would have been the largest, most heavily armed and armored battleships in the U.S. Navy and, designed to achieve 23 knots (43 km/h), represented an attempt to abandon its 21-knot (39 km/h) standardized fleet speed and catch up with the increasing fleet speeds of its main rivals, the British Royal Navy and Imperial Japanese Navy. In this, size and secondary armament, they represented a break from the Standard-type battleship that had dominated American capital ship design for the prior five ship classes, while their use of standardized bridges, lattice masts and other features was a continuation of this practice and the increase in the number of main guns from the preceding Colorado class had long been standard U.S. naval policy. The main restriction to which they had to adhere was the ability to pass through the Panama Canal.

Read more about the USS Iowa (BB-53) at Wikipedia.org.

USS Iowa (BB-61) is the lead ship of her class of battleship and the third in the United States Navy to be named in honor of the state of Iowa. Owing to the cancellation of the Montana-class battleships, Iowa is the last lead ship of any class of United States battleships and was the only ship of her class to have served in the Atlantic Ocean during World War II.

During World War II, she carried President Franklin D. Roosevelt across the Atlantic to Mers El Kébir, Algeria, en route to a crucial 1943 meeting in Tehran with Prime Minister Winston Churchill of Britain and Josef Stalin, leader of the Soviet Union. She has a bathtub—an amenity installed for Roosevelt, along with an elevator to shuttle him between decks.[1] When transferred to the Pacific Fleet in 1944, Iowa shelled beachheads at Kwajalein and Eniwetok in advance of Allied amphibious landings and screened aircraft carriers operating in the Marshall Islands. She also served as the Third Fleet flagship, flying Adm. William F. Halsey‘s flag at the Japanese surrender in Tokyo Bay. During the Korean War, Iowa was involved in raids on the North Korean coast, after which she was decommissioned into the United States Navy reserve fleets, better known as the “mothball fleet.” She was reactivated in 1984 as part of the 600-ship Navy plan and operated in both the Atlantic and Pacific Fleets to counter the recently expanded Soviet Navy. In April 1989, an explosion of undetermined origin wrecked her No. 2 gun turret, killing 47 sailors.

Read more about the USS Iowa (BB-61) at Wikipedia.org

Finally, Iowa (SSN-797), a Virginia-class submarine, will be the fourth U.S. Navy ship named for the state of Iowa. Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus officially announced the name on September 2, 2015, during a news briefing at Iowa State University.

 

Military History – December 2017

The attack on Pearl Harbor was a surprise military strike by the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service against the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii Territory, on the morning of December 7, 1941. The attack, also known as the Battle of Pearl Harbor, led to the United States’ entry into World War II. The Japanese military leadership referred to the attack as the Hawaii Operation and Operation AI, and as Operation Z during its planning.

Japan intended the attack as a preventive action to keep the U.S. Pacific Fleet from interfering with military actions they planned in Southeast Asia against overseas territories of the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and the United States. Over the next seven hours there were coordinated Japanese attacks on the U.S.-held Philippines, Guam and Wake Island and on the British Empire in Malaya, Singapore, and Hong Kong.

The attack commenced at 7:48 a.m. Hawaiian Time (18:18 UTC). The base was attacked by 353 Imperial Japanese aircraft (including fighters, level and dive bombers, and torpedo bombers) in two waves, launched from six aircraft carriers. All eight U.S. Navy battleships were damaged, with four sunk. All but the USS Arizona were later raised, and six were returned to service and went on to fight in the war. The Japanese also sank or damaged three cruisers, three destroyers, an anti-aircraft training ship, and one minelayer. One hundred eighty-eight U.S. aircraft were destroyed; 2,403 Americans were killed and 1,178 others were wounded. Important base installations such as the power station, dry dock, shipyard, maintenance, and fuel and torpedo storage facilities, as well as the submarine piers and headquarters building (also home of the intelligence section), were not attacked. Japanese losses were light: 29 aircraft and five midget submarines lost, and 64 servicemen killed. One Japanese sailor, Kazuo Sakamaki, was captured.

The surprise attack came as a profound shock to the American people and led directly to the American entry into World War II in both the Pacific and European theaters. The following day, December 8, the United States declared war on Japan, and several days later, on December 11, Germany and Italy declared war on the U.S. The U.S. responded with a declaration of war against Germany and Italy. Domestic support for non-interventionism, which had been fading since the Fall of France in 1940, disappeared..

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Military History – November 2017

The United States Marine Corps traces its roots to the Continental Marines of the American Revolutionary War, formed by Captain Samuel Nicholas by a resolution of the Second Continental Congress on 10 November 1775, to raise two battalions of Marines. That date is regarded and celebrated as the date of the Marine Corps’ birthday. At the end of the American Revolution, both the Continental Navy and Continental Marines were disbanded in April 1783. The institution itself would not be resurrected until 11 July 1798. At that time, in preparation for the Quasi-War with France, Congress created the United States Marine Corps. Marines had been enlisted by the War Department as early as August 1797 for service in the new-build frigates authorized by the Congressional “Act to provide a Naval Armament” of 18 March 1794, which specified the numbers of Marines to recruit for each frigate.

 

British and American troops garrisoned aboard Hornet and Penguin exchanging small arms musket fire with Tristan da Cuna in the background during the final engagement between British and American forces of the war.

The Marines’ most famous action of this period occurred during the First Barbary War (1801–1805) against the Barbary pirates, when William Eaton and First Lieutenant Presley O’Bannon led eight Marines and 500 mercenaries in an effort to capture Tripoli. Though they only reached Derna, the action at Tripoli has been immortalized in the Marines’ hymn and the Mameluke Sword carried by Marine officers.

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Military History – October 2017

World War II (often abbreviated to WWII or WW2), also known as the Second World War, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945, although related conflicts began earlier. It involved the vast majority of the world’s countries—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. It was the most widespread war in history, and directly involved more than 100 million people from over 30 countries. In a state of total war, the major participants threw their entire economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities behind the war effort, er asing the distinction between civilian and military resources.

World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history, marked by 50 million to 85 million fatalities, most of which were civilians in the Soviet Union and China. It included massacres, the deliberate genocide of the Holocaust, strategic bombing, starvation, disease and the first use of nuclear weapons in history.[1][2][3][4]

The Empire of Japan aimed to dominate Asia and the Pacific and was already at war with the Republic of China in 1937,[5] but the world war is generally said to have begun on 1 September 1939[6] with the invasion of Poland by Nazi Germany and subsequent declarations of war on Germany by France and the United Kingdom. Supplied by the Soviet Union, from late 1939 to early 1941, in a series of campaigns and treaties, Germany conquered or controlled much of continental Europe, and formed the Axis alliance with Italy and Japan. Under the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact of August 1939, Germany and the Soviet Union partitioned and annexed territories of their European neighbors, Poland, Finland, Romania and the Baltic states. The war continued primarily between the European Axis powers and the coalition of the United Kingdom and the British Commonwealth, with campaigns including the North Africa and East Africa campaigns, the aerial Battle of Britain, the Blitz bombing campaign, the Balkan Campaign as well as the long-running Battle of the Atlantic. On 22 June 1941, the European Axis powers launched an invasion of the Soviet Union, opening the largest land theatre of war in history, which trapped the major part of the Axis military forces into a war of attrition. In December 1941, Japan attacked the United States and European colonies in the Pacific Ocean, and quickly conquered much of the Western Pacific.

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