JANUARY 12 - TODAY IN MILITARY HISTORY
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12 JANUARY/ TODAY IN MILITARY HISTORY:
◆1258 Battle of Anbar: The Mongols defeat the Abbasids.
◆1500 Cesare Borgia captures the citadel of Forli.
◆1777 Brig. Gen. Hugh Mercer dies.★
◆1779 Wargaom: Mahrattas defeat a British column.
◆1809 British capture Cayenne from the French.
◆1813 US Frigate Chesapeake captures British Volunteer.
◆1828 The US and Mexico agree to a common border along the Sabine River.
◆1861 Fort Barrancas and the Pensacola Navy Yard, Captain James Armstrong, USN, were seized by Florida and Alabama militia. Union troops escaped across the Bay to Fort Pickens on Santa Rosa Island, a position which remained in Union hands throughout the war.
◆1848 Attack on Sloop Lexington, San Blas, Mexico. She landed a party at and captured several of the enemy guns.
◆1872 Russian Grand Duke Alexis goes on a gala buffalo hunting expedition with Gen. Phil Sheridan and Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer.
◆1893 Hermann Goering, Nazi leader, commander of the Luftwaffe, is born.★
◆1908 A wireless message is sent long-distance for the first time from the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
◆1913 Kiel and Wilhelmshaven become submarine bases in Germany.
◆1918 The Distinguished Service Cross was established.★
◆1918 The Distinguished Service Medal authorized.★
◆1927 U.S. Secretary of State Frank Kellogg claims that Mexican President, former rebel, Plutarco Calles is aiding a Bolshevist plot in Nicaragua.
◆1943 Operation Iskra.★
◆1943 In the Aleutians, Amchitka Island is occupied by a small US force led by General Jones. The destroyer Warden is lost in an accident.
◆1944 US 5th Army forces (particularly 34th Division) capture Cervaro and advance toward Cassino.
◆1945 There are air attacks from the planes of the carriers of Task Force 38 against Japanese installations at the naval base at Camranh Bay and others areas in Indochina. TG 38.5 continues the attacks from its specially trained carriers. Japanese losses to the attacks amount to 29 ships of 116,000 tons. Eleven small warships are also sunk.
◆1951 After Wonju fell to communist forces, 98th BG sent ten B-29s to attack the occupied city.For the first time, B-29s dropped 500-pound general purpose bombs fused to burst in the air and shower enemy troops with thousands of steel fragments. The innovation slowed the enemy advance. To improve bombing precision, Far East Air Forces installed SHORAN (a short-range navigation system) on a B-26 for the first time.
◆1952 F-84s caught three supply trains at Sunchon, racing for the shelter of a tunnel. They blasted the tunnel mouth shut, trapping the trains in the open, then destroyed the boxcars and at least two locomotives.
◆1954 Secretary of State John Foster Dulles announces that the United States will protect its allies through the “deterrent of massive retaliatory power.”★
◆1962 Operation Chopper.★
◆1962 Operation Ranch Hand.★
◆1991 After a two day debate, a deeply divided Congress gave President Bush the authority to wage war in the Persian Gulf. The Senate voted 52-to-47 to empower Bush to use armed forces to expel Iraq from Kuwait; the House followed suit on a vote of 250-to-183. The 5th MEB embarked and arrived in the North Arabian Sea in support of Desert Shield.
◆2005 United States intelligence officials confirm that its search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq ended last month. The claim that Iraq had an active WMD program was one of a laundry list of justifications by the White House for the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
DAVIS, CHARLES W.
Rank and organization: Major, U.S. Army, 25th Infantry Division. Place and date: Guadalcanal Island, 12 January 1943. Entered service at: Montgomery, Ala. Birth: Gordo, Ala. G.O. No.: 40, 17 July 1943. Citation: For d1stinguishing himself conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty in action with the enemy on Guadalcanal Island. On 12 January 1943, Maj. Davis (then Capt.), executive officer of an infantry battalion, volunteered to carry instructions to the leading companies of his battalion which had been caught in crossfire from Japanese machineguns. With complete disregard for his own safety, he made his way to the trapped units, delivered the instructions, supervised their execution, and remained overnight in this exposed position. On the following day, Maj. Davis again volunteered to lead an assault on the Japanese position which was holding up the advance. When his rifle jammed at its first shot, he drew his pistol and, waving his men on, led the assault over the top of the hill. Electrified by this action, another body of soldiers followed and seized the hill. The capture of this position broke Japanese resistance and the battalion was then able to proceed and secure the corps objective. The courage and leadership displayed by Maj. Davis inspired the entire battalion and unquestionably led to the success of its attack.
LAWS, ROBERT E.
Rank and organization: Staff Sergeant, U.S. Army, Company G, 169th Infantry, 43d Infantry Division. Place and date: Pangasinan Province, Luzon, Philippine Islands, 12 January 1945. Entered service at: Altoona, Pa. Birth: Altoona, Pa. G.O. No.: 77, 10 September 1945. Citation: He led the assault squad when Company G attacked enemy hill positions. The enemy force, estimated to be a reinforced infantry company, was well supplied with machineguns, ammunition, grenades, and blocks of TNT and could be attacked only across a narrow ridge 70 yards long. At the end of this ridge an enemy pillbox and rifle positions were set in rising ground. Covered by his squad, S/Sgt Laws traversed the hogback through vicious enemy fire until close to the pillbox, where he hurled grenades at the fortification. Enemy grenades wounded him, but he persisted in his assault until 1 of his missiles found its mark and knocked out the pillbox. With more grenades, passed to him by members of his squad who had joined him, he led the attack on the entrenched riflemen. In the advance up the hill, he suffered additional wounds in both arms and legs, about the body and in the head, as grenades and TNT charges exploded near him. Three Japs rushed him with fixed bayonets, and he emptied the magazine of his machine pistol at them, killing 2. He closed in hand-to-hand combat with the third, seizing the Jap's rifle as he met the onslaught. The 2 fell to the ground and rolled some 50 or 60 feet down a bank. When the dust cleared the Jap lay dead and the valiant American was climbing up the hill with a large gash across the head. He was given first aid and evacuated from the area while his squad completed the destruction of the enemy position. S/Sgt. Laws' heroic actions provided great inspiration to his comrades, and his courageous determination, in the face of formidable odds and while suffering from multiple wounds, enabled them to secure an important objective with minimum casualties.
*NININGER, ALEXANDER R., JR.
Rank and organization: Second Lieutenant, U.S. Army, 57th Infantry, Philippine Scouts. Place and date: Near Abucay, Bataan, Philippine Islands, 12 January 1942. Entered service at: Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Birth: Gainesville, Ga. G.O. No.: 9, 5 February 1942. Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty in action with the enemy near Abucay, Bataan, Philippine Islands, on 12 January 1942. This officer, though assigned to another company not then engaged in combat, voluntarily attached himself to Company K, same regiment, while that unit was being attacked by enemy force superior in firepower. Enemy snipers in trees and foxholes had stopped a counterattack to regain part of position. In hand-to-hand fighting which followed, 2d Lt. Nininger repeatedly forced his way to and into the hostile position. Though exposed to heavy enemy fire, he continued to attack with rifle and handgrenades and succeeded in destroying several enemy groups in foxholes and enemy snipers. Although wounded 3 times, he continued his attacks until he was killed after pushing alone far within the enemy position. When his body was found after recapture of the position, 1 enemy officer and 2 enemy soldiers lay dead around him.
ROSSER, RONALD E.
Rank and organization: Corporal, U.S. Army, Heavy Mortar Company, 38th Infantry Regiment, 2d Infantry Division. Place and date: Vicinity of Ponggilli, Korea, 12 January 1952. Entered service at: Crooksville, Ohio. Born: 24 October 1929, Columbus, Ohio. G.O. No.: 67, 7 July 1952. Citation: Cpl. Rosser, distinguished himself by conspicuous gallantry above and beyond the call of duty. While assaulting heavily fortified enemy hill positions, Company L, 38th Infantry Regiment, was stopped by fierce automatic-weapons, small-arms, artillery, and mortar fire. Cpl. Rosser, a forward observer was with the lead platoon of Company L, when it came under fire from 2 directions. Cpl. Rosser turned his radio over to his assistant and, disregarding the enemy fire, charged the enemy positions armed with only carbine and a grenade. At the first bunker, he silenced its occupants with a burst from his weapon. Gaining the top of the hill, he killed 2 enemy soldiers, and then went down the trench, killing 5 more as he advanced. He then hurled his grenade into a bunker and shot 2 other soldiers as they emerged. Having exhausted his ammunition, he returned through the enemy fire to obtain more ammunition and grenades and charged the hill once more. Calling on others to follow him, he assaulted 2 more enemy bunkers. Although those who attempted to join him became casualties, Cpl. Rosser once again exhausted his ammunition obtained a new supply, and returning to the hilltop a third time hurled grenades into the enemy positions. During this heroic action Cpl. Rosser single-handedly killed at least 13 of the enemy. After exhausting his ammunition he accompanied the withdrawing platoon, and though himself wounded, made several trips across open terrain still under enemy fire to help remove other men injured more seriously than himself. This outstanding soldier's courageous and selfless devotion to duty is worthy of emulation by all men. He has contributed magnificently to the high traditions of the military service.
*PORT, WILLIAM D.
Rank and organization: Sergeant (then Pfc.), U.S. Army, Company C, 5th Battalion, 7th Cavalry, 1st Air Cavalry Division. Place and date: Que Son Valley, Heip Duc Province, Republic of Vietnam, 12 January 1968. Entered service at: Harrisburg, Pa. Born: 13 October 1941, Petersburg, Pa. Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. Sgt. Port distinguished himself while serving as a rifleman with Company C, which was conducting combat operations against an enemy force in the Que Son Valley. As Sgt. Port's platoon was moving to cut off a reported movement of enemy soldiers, the platoon came under heavy fire from an entrenched enemy force. The platoon was forced to withdraw due to the intensity and ferocity of the fire. Although wounded in the hand as the withdrawal began, Sgt. Port, with complete disregard for his safety, ran through the heavy fire to assist a wounded comrade back to the safety of the platoon perimeter. As the enemy forces assaulted in the perimeter, Sgt. Port and 3 comrades were in position behind an embankment when an enemy grenade landed in their midst. Sgt. Port, realizing the danger to his fellow soldiers, shouted the warning, "Grenade," and unhesitatingly hurled himself towards the grenade to shield his comrades from the explosion. Through his exemplary courage and devotion he saved the lives of his fellow soldiers and gave the members of his platoon the inspiration needed to hold their position. Sgt. Port's selfless concern for his comrades, at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty are in keeping with the highest tradition of the military service and reflect great credit on himself, his unit, and the U.S. Army.
12 JANUARY 1777
BG HUGH MERCER DIES. American Brigadier General Hugh Mercer died as a result of his wounds received at the Battle of Princeton and became a fallen hero and rallying symbol of the American Revolution. Mercer (January 17, 1726 – January 12, 1777) was a soldier and physician. He initially served with British forces during the Seven Years’ War but later became a brigadier general in the Continental Army and a close friend to George Washington.
There are rumors that Mercer exclusively originated Washington’s daring plan to cross the Delaware River and surprise the Hessians at the Battle of Trenton on December 26, 1776, and he was certainly a major contributor to its execution. Because of the win at Trenton (and a small monetary bonus), Washington’s men agreed to a ten-day extension to their enlistment.
When Washington decided to face off with Cornwallis during the Second Battle of Trenton on January 2, 1777, Mercer was given a major role in the defense of the city. The next day, January 3, Washington’s army was en route to Princeton, New Jersey. While leading a vanguard of 350 soldiers, Mercer’s brigade encountered two British regiments and a mounted unit.
A fight broke out at an orchard grove and Mercer’s horse was shot from under him. Getting to his feet, he was quickly surrounded by British troops who mistook him for George Washington and ordered him to surrender. Outnumbered, he drew his saber and began an unequal contest.
He was finally beaten to the ground, then bayoneted repeatedly – seven times – and left for dead. When he learned of the British attack and saw some of Mercer’s men in retreat, Washington himself entered the fray. Washington rallied Mercer’s men and pushed back the British regiments, but Mercer had been left on the field to die with multiple bayonet wounds to his body and blows to his head. (Legend has it that a beaten Mercer, with a bayonet still impaled in him, did not want to leave his men and the battle and was given a place to rest on a white oak tree’s trunk, while those who remained with him stood their ground.
The tree became known as “the Mercer Oak” and is the key element of the seal of Mercer County, New Jersey.) When he was discovered, Mercer was carried to the field hospital in the Thomas Clarke House (now a museum) at the eastern end of the battlefield. In spite of medical efforts by Benjamin Rush, Mercer was mortally wounded and died nine agonizing days later.
12 JANUARY 1893
REICH MARSHALL HERMANN GOERING BORN. Hermann Goering, Nazi leader, commander of the Luftwaffe, is born. The son of a judge who had been sent by Bismarck to South-West Africa as the first Resident Minister Plenipotentiary, Goering entered the army in 1914 as an Infantry Lieutenant, before being transferred to the air force as a combat pilot.
Goering distinguished himself as an air ace, credited with shooting down twenty-two Allied aircraft. Awarded the Pour le Merite and the Iron Cross (First Class), he ended the war with the romantic aura of a much decorated pilot and war hero. After World War I he was employed as a showflier.
Goering’s aristocratic background and his prestige as a war hero made him a prize recruit to the infant Nazi Party and Hitler appointed him to command the SA Brownshirts in December 1922. In 1923 he took part in the Munich Beer-Hall putsch, in which he was seriously wounded and forced to flee from Germany for four years until a general amnesty was declared.
Returning to Germany in 1927, he rejoined the NSDAP and was elected as one of its first deputies to the Reichstag a year later. Following Hitler’s appointment as Chancellor on 30 January 1933, Goering was made Prussian Minister of the Interior, Commander-in-Chief of the Prussian Police and Gestapo and Commissioner for Aviation.
As the creator of the secret police, Goering, together with Himmler (q.v.) and Heydrich (q.v.), set up the early concentration camps forpolitical opponents, showing formidable energy in terrorizing and crushing all resistance. On 1 March 1935 he was appointed Commander-in-Chief of the Air Force and was responsible for organizing the rapid build-up of the aircraft industry and training of pilots.
Goering identified with Hitler’s territorial aspirations, playing a key role in bringing about the Anschluss in 1938 and the bludgeoning of the Czechs into submission. Appointed Reich Council Chairman for National Defence on 30 August 1939 and officially designated as Hitler’s successor on 1 September, Goering directed the Luftwaffe campaigns against Poland and France, and on 19 June 1940 was promoted to Reich Marshal.
In August 1940 he confidently threw himself into the great offensive against Great Britain, Operation Eagle, convinced that he would drive the RAF from the skies and secure the surrender of the British by means of the Luftwaffe alone. Goering, however, lost control of the Battle of Britain and made a fatal, tactical error when he switched to massive night bombings of London.
This move saved the RAF sector control stations from destruction and gave the British fighter defences precious time to recover. The failure of the Luftwaffe caused the abandonment of Operation Sea Lion, the planned invasion of England, and began the political eclipse of Goering.
9 May 1945, Goering was captured by forces of the American Seventh Army and put on trial at Nuremberg in 1946. Goering was found guilty on all four counts: of conspiracy to wage war, crimes against peace, war crimes and crimes against humanity. No mitigating circumstances were found and Goering was sentenced to death by hanging. On 15 October 1946, two hours before his execution was due to take place, Goering committed suicide in his Nuremberg cell.
THE DISTINGUISHED SERVICE CROSS was established by President Woodrow Wilson. General Pershing, Commander-in-Chief of the Expeditionary Forces in France, had recommended that recognition other than the Medal of Honor, be authorized for the Armed Forces of the United States for service rendered, in like manner, to that awarded by the European Armies. The request for establishment of the medal was forwarded from the Secretary of War to the President in a letter dated December 28, 1917.
The Act of Congress establishing this award (193-65th Congress) dated July 9, 1918 is contained in Title 10 United States Code (USC) 3742. The establishment of the Distinguished Service Cross was promulgated in War Department General Order No. 6, dated January 12, 1918.is the second highest military award that can be given to a member of the United States Army (and previously, the United States Army Air Forces and the United States Air Force), for extreme gallantry and risk of life in actual combat with an armed enemy force.
Actions that merit the Distinguished Service Cross must be of such a high degree that they are above those required for all other U.S. combat decorations but do not meet the criteria for the Medal of Honor. The Distinguished Service Cross is equivalent to the Navy Cross (Navy and Marine Corps), the Air Force Cross (Air Force), and the Coast Guard Cross (Coast Guard).
The Distinguished Service Cross was first awarded during World War I. In addition, a number of awards were made for actions before World War I. In many cases, these were to soldiers who had received a Certificate of Merit for gallantry which, at the time, was the only other honor for gallantry the Army could award, or recommend a Medal of Honor. Others were belated recognition of actions in the Philippines, on the Mexican Border and during the Boxer Rebellion.
The Distinguished Service Cross is distinct from the Distinguished Service Medal, which is awarded to persons in recognition of exceptionally meritorious service to the government of the United States in a duty of great responsibility.
12 JANUARY 1918
THE DISTINGUISHED SERVICE MEDAL, authorized by Presidential Order January 2, 1918, and confirmed by Congress July 9, 1918, was announced by War Department General Order No. 6, January 12, 1918, with the following information concerning the medal: "A bronze medal of appropriate design and a ribbon to be worn in lieu thereof, to be awarded by the President to any person who, while serving in any capacity with the Army shall hereafter distinguish himself or herself, or who, since April 6, 1917, has distinguished himself or herself by exceptionally meritorious service to the Government in a duty of great responsibility in time of war or in connection with military operations against an armed enemy of the United States."
The Act of Congress on July 9, 1918, recognized the need for different types and degrees of heroism and meritorious service and included such provisions for award criteria. The current statutory authorization for the Distinguished Service Medal is Title 10, United States Code, Section 3743. Among the first awards of the Distinguished Service Medal for service in World War I, were those to the Commanding Officers of the Allied Armies: Marshals Foch and Joffre, General Petain of France, Field Marshal Haig of Great Britain, General Diaz of Italy, General Gillain of Belgium, and General Pershing.
12 JANUARY 1943
OPERATION ISKRA (Russian: Операция Искра, Operatsia Iskra; English translation - Operation Spark) was a Soviet military operation conducted by the Red Army's Leningrad and Volkhov Fronts, and the Baltic Fleet during January 12 —January 30, 1943 with the aim of creating a land connection to Leningrad, in order to raise the German Wehrmacht siege of the city.
The full-scale offensive of troops of the Leningrad and Volkhov Fronts started in the morning of January 12, 1943. After heavy and fierce battles, the Red Army units overcame the powerful German fortified zones to the South of Lake Ladoga, and on January 18, 1943 the Leningrad and Volkhov Fronts' units met, opening a land corridor 8 to 11 km wide to the besieged city. Almost immediately, truck and rail traffic began to bring supplies to Leningrad. The first train from the main part of Russia arrived in St Petersburg on 7th February 1943.
The city was still subject to at least a partial siege, as well as air and artillery bombardment, until the Leningrad-Novgorod Offensive broke through the German lines, lifting the siege completely in March 1944.
12 JANUARY 1954
MASSIVE RETALIATORY POWER. In a speech at a Council on Foreign Relations dinner in his honor, Secretary of State John Foster Dulles announces that the United States will protect its allies through the “deterrent of massive retaliatory power.” The policy announcement was further evidence of the Eisenhower administration’s decision to rely heavily on the nation’s nuclear arsenal as the primary means of defense against communist aggression.
Dulles began his speech by examining communist strategy that, he concluded, had as its goal the “bankruptcy” of the United States through overextension of its military power. Both strategically and economically, the secretary explained, it was unwise to “permanently commit U.S. land forces to Asia,” to “support permanently other countries,” or to “become permanently committed to military expenditures so vast that they lead to ‘practical bankruptcy.'”
Instead, he believed a new policy of “getting maximum protection at a bearable cost” should be developed. Although Dulles did not directly refer to nuclear weapons, it was clear that the new policy he was describing would depend upon the “massive retaliatory power” of such weapons to respond to future communist acts of war. The speech was a reflection of two of the main tenets of foreign policy under Eisenhower and Dulles.
First was the belief, particularly on the part of Dulles, that America’s foreign policy toward the communist threat had been timidly reactive during the preceding Democratic administration of President Harry S. Truman. Dulles consistently reiterated the need for a more proactive and vigorous approach to rolling back the communist sphere of influence.
Second was President Eisenhower’s belief that military and foreign assistance spending had to be controlled. Eisenhower was a fiscal conservative and believed that the U.S. economy and society could not long take the strain of overwhelming defense budgets.
A stronger reliance on nuclear weapons as the backbone of America’s defense answered both concerns – atomic weapons were far more effective in terms of threatening potential adversaries, and they were also, in the long run, much less expensive than the costs associated with a large standing army.
12 JANUARY 1962
OPERATION CHOPPER occurred on January 12, 1962 and was the first time US forces participated in major combat in the Vietnam War. In December of 1961, the USNS docked in Saigon with 82 US Army Piasecki H-21 helicopters. A little more than 12 days later, Operation Chopper commenced.
The helicopters transported over 1,000 South Vietnamese paratroopers for an assault on a suspected NLF stronghold 10 miles west of Saigon. The Viet Cong were surprised and soundly defeated, but they gained valuable combat experience they would later use with great effect against US troops. The paratroopers also captured a sought-after underground radio transmitter.
This operation heralded a new era of air mobility for the U.S. Army, which had been slowly growing as a concept since the Army formed twelve helicopter battalions in 1952 as a result of the Korean War. These new battalions eventually formed a sort of modern day cavalry for the Army.
12 JANUARY 1962
AGENT ORANGE. The United States Air Force launches Operation Ranch Hand, a "modern technological area-denial technique" designed to expose the roads and trails used by the Viet Cong. Flying C-123 Providers, U.S. personnel dumped an estimated 19 million gallons of defoliating herbicides over 10-20 percent of Vietnam and parts of Laos between 1962-1971.
Agent Orange - named for the color of its metal containers - was the most frequently used defoliating herbicide. The operation succeeded in killing vegetation, but not in stopping the Viet Cong. The use of these agents was controversial, both during and after the war, because of the questions about long-term ecological impacts and the effect on humans who either handled or were sprayed by the chemicals.
Beginning in the late 1970s, Vietnam veterans began to cite the herbicides, especially Agent Orange, as the cause of health problems ranging from skin rashes to cancer to birth defects in their children. Similar problems, including an abnormally high incidence of miscarriages and congenital malformations, have been reported among the Vietnamese people who lived in the areas where the defoliating agents were used.
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