JULY 11 - TODAY IN MILITARY HISTORY
11 JULY/ TODAY IN MILITARY HISTORY:
◆1244 The Khwarismian Turks take Jerusalem, amid great slaughter.
◆1269 Battle of the Val d'Elsa: Florentine Guelfs defeat the Sienese Ghibellines.
◆1289 Battle of Campaldino: Florentine Guelfs (including Dante) defeat the Arretine Ghibbelines.
◆1302 Battle of Courtrai/Battle of the Spurs: Flemish burgers defeat French knights.
◆1767 John Quincy Adams, the sixth president of the United States (1825-1829), was born in Braintree, Mass.
◆1782 British evacuate Savannah.★
◆1786 Morocco agreed to stop attacking American ships in the Mediterranean for a payment of $10,000.
◆1792 Prussia invades France.
◆1798 President John Adams signed the bill that re-established the Marine Corps. The Continental Congress had disbanded the service in April of 1783 at the end of the American Revolution. The Marine Corps, however, recognizes its "official" birthday to be the date that the Second Continental Congress first authorized the establishment of the "Corps of Marines" on 10 November 1775. To add to the confusion of the Corps' actual "historical" birthday, on 1 July 1797 Congress authorized the Revenue cutters to carry, in addition to their regular crew, up to "30 marines." Congress directed the cutters to interdict French privateers operating off the coast during the Quasi-War with France and thought the additional firepower of 30 marines would be needed by the under-manned and under-gunned cutters. It is unknown if any "marines" were enlisted for service with the Revenue cutters during this time.
◆1804 A duel between Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton leaves Hamilton dead.★
◆1812 US invades Canada near Detroit.
◆1818 The Revenue Cutter Dallas seized and libeled the Venezuelan privateer Cerony off Savannah for having violated the nation's neutrality laws.
◆1846 California under US control.★
◆1861 Union troops under General George B. McClellan score a victory in the struggle for western Virginia at the Battle of Rich Mountain.
◆1862 President Abraham Lincoln appointed General Henry Halleck as general in chief of the Federal army.
◆1863 Rear Admiral Hiram Paulding, Commandant of the New York Navy Yard, stationed gunboats around Manhattan to assist in maintaining order during the Draft Riots.
◆1864 Battle of Fort Stevens.★
◆1864 Landing party from U.S.S. James L. Davis, Acting Master Griswold, destroyed Confederate salt works near Tampa, Florida. The works were capable of producing some 150 bushels of salt per day. On 16 July a similar raid near Tampa was carried out in which a salt work consisting of four boilers was destroyed.
◆1869 Tall Bull, a prominent leader of the Cheyenne Dog Soldier warrior society, is killed during the Battle of Summit Springs in Colorado.★
◆1898 USN bombards Santiago harbor defenses.
1917 3rd Battle of Ypres.★
◆1918 Enrico Caruso joined the war effort and recorded "Over There", the patriotic song written by George M. Cohan.
◆1934 President Roosevelt became the first chief executive to travel through the Panama Canal while in office.
◆1941 Roosevelt appoints William Donovan to head a new civilian intelligence agency with the title "coordinator of defense information." This appointment will lead to the creation of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) which in turn will develop into the modern CIA.
◆1942 MCAS El Centro, California activated.
1943 The British advance almost unopposed. Palazzolo is taken. On the coast, there is a halt late in the day at Priolo. The American forces encounter resistance in their advance. The German Panzer Division "Hermann Goring" strikes toward American held Gela from its positions around Caltagirone. Allied naval bombardment forces the German forces to retire.
◆1944 German forces counterattack the US 1st Army. The German Panzerlehr Division spearheads the assault against US 9th Division southwest of St. Jean de Daye. US forces hold.
◆1944 American forces around Aitape pull back from the Driniumor River under pressure from Japanese forces.
◆1944 President Roosevelt announces that the US will recognize the French Provisional Government, led by de Gualle, as the de facto authority for the civil administration of liberated territory in France. Roosevelt also tells a press conference that he will run for president again if the Democratic Party nominates him. He say, "If the people command me to continue in office... I have as little right as a soldier to leave his position in the line."
◆1945 Fulfilling agreements reached at various wartime conferences, the Soviet Union promises to hand power over to British and U.S. forces in West Berlin.★
◆1945 The redeployment of 2118 4-engined bombers of the US 8th Air Force, to the USA (en route for the Pacific theater) begins. It is completed in 51 days.
◆1945 Napalm was first used.★
◆1950 A 10-man demolition party of sailors and Marines led by Commander William B. Porter conducted the first naval commando operation of the Korean War.
◆1952 Far East Air Force established a one-day record by flying 1,330 sorties.
◆1953 Lieutenant Colonel John F. Bolt became the 37th Korean War ace and the only U.S. Marine Corps pilot to qualify as an ace during the Korea War. He also has the distinction of being the only jet ace in Marine Corps history and the only U.S. Marine to become an ace in two wars (World War II and Korea). Bolt was flying an F-86 Sabre, "Darling Dottie," attached to the Air Force's 51st Fighter-Interceptor Wing.
◆1955 The new US Air Force Academy was dedicated at Lowry Air Base in Colorado.
◆1962 The Telstar I satellite carried the first transatlantic TV transmission. It picked up broadcast signals from France and bounced them down to an antenna in Maine, delivering the first live television picture from Europe to America.
◆1979 Parts of Skylab, America's first space station, come crashing down on Australia and into the Indian Ocean five years after the last manned Skylab mission ended.
◆1986 President Ronald Reagan placed the Contras, who were fighting the government of Nicaragua, under CIA jurisdiction.
Medal of Honor Citations for Actions Taken This Day
Rank and organization: Corporal, Company C, 8th U.S. Cavalry. Place and date: Near Fort Selden, N. Mex., 8-11 July 1873. Entered service at: ------. Birth: Germany. Date of issue: 12 August 1875. Citation: Services against hostile Indians.
HUMPHREY, CHARLES F.
Rank and organization: First Lieutenant, 4th U.S. Artillery. Place and date: At Clearwater, Idaho, 11 July 1877. Entered service at: ------. Birth: New York. Date of issue: 2 March 1897. Citation: Voluntarily and successfully conducted, in the face of a withering fire, a party which recovered possession of an abandoned howitzer and 2 Gatling guns Iying between the lines a few yards from the Indians.
LYTLE, LEONIDAS S.
Rank and organization: Sergeant, Company C, 8th U.S. Cavalry. Place and date: Near Fort Selden, N. Mex., 8-11 July 1873. Entered service at: ------. Birth: Warren County, Pa. Date of issue: 12 April 1875. Citation: Services against hostile Indians.
MORRIS, JAMES L.
Rank and organization: First Sergeant, Company C, 8th U.S. Cavalry. Place and date: Near Fort Selden, N. Mex., 8-11 July 1873. Entered service at:------. Birth: Ireland. Date of issue: 12 August 1875. Citation: Services against hostile Indians.
Rank and organization: Blacksmith, Company C, 8th U.S. Cavalry. Place and date: Near Fort Selden, N. Mex., 8-11 July 1873. Entered service at: ------. Birth: Camden County, N.J. Date of issue: 12 August 1875. Citation: Services against hostile Indians.
Rank and organization: Private, Company C, 8th U.S. Cavalry. Place and date: Near Fort Selden, N. Mex., 8-11 July 1873. Entered service at. Pennsylvania. Birth: Gracon, Pa. Date of issue: 12 August 1875. Citation: Services against hostile Indians.
Rank and organization: Second Lieutenant, U.S. Army, 15th Infantry, 3d Infantry Division. Place and date: Near Favoratta, Sicily, 11 July 1943. Entered service at: Toledo, Ohio. Birth: Scotland. G.O. No.: 41, 26 May 1944. Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life, above and beyond the call of duty, on 11 July 1943 at Favoratta, Sicily. 2d Lt. Craig voluntarily undertook the perilous task of locating and destroying a hidden enemy machinegun which had halted the advance of his company. Attempts by 3 other officers to locate the weapon had resulted in failure, with each officer receiving wounds. 2d Lt. Craig located the gun and snaked his way to a point within 35 yards of the hostile position before being discovered. Charging headlong into the furious automatic fire, he reached the gun, stood over it, and killed the 3 crew members with his carbine. With this obstacle removed, his company continued its advance. Shortly thereafter while advancing down the forward slope of a ridge, 2d Lt. Craig and his platoon, in a position devoid of cover and concealment, encountered the fire of approximately 100 enemy soldiers. Electing to sacrifice himself so that his platoon might carry on the battle, he ordered his men to withdraw to the cover of the crest while he drew the enemy fire to himself. With no hope of survival, he charged toward the enemy until he was within 25 yards of them. Assuming a kneeling position, he killed 5 and wounded 3 enemy soldiers. While the hostile force concentrated fire on him, his platoon reached the cover of the crest. 2d Lt. Craig was killed by enemy fire, but his intrepid action so inspired his men that they drove the enemy from the area, inflicting heavy casualties on the hostile force.
*ENDL, GERALD L.
Rank and organization: Staff Sergeant, U S. Army, 32d Infantry Division. Place and date: Near Anamo, New Guinea, 11 July 1944. Entered service at: Janesville, Wis. Birth: Ft. Atkinson, Wis. G.O. No.: 17, 13 March 1945. Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty near Anamo, New Guinea, on 11 July 1944. S/Sgt. Endl was at the head of the leading platoon of his company advancing along a jungle trail when enemy troops were encountered and a fire fight developed. The enemy attacked in force under heavy rifle, machinegun, and grenade fire. His platoon leader wounded, S/Sgt. Endl immediately assumed command and deployed his platoon on a firing line at the fork in the trail toward which the enemy attack was directed. The dense jungle terrain greatly restricted vision and movement, and he endeavored to penetrate down the trail toward an open clearing of Kunai grass. As he advanced, he detected the enemy, supported by at least 6 light and 2 heavy machineguns, attempting an enveloping movement around both flanks. His commanding officer sent a second platoon to move up on the left flank of the position, but the enemy closed in rapidly, placing our force in imminent danger of being isolated and annihilated. Twelve members of his platoon were wounded, 7 being cut off by the enemy. Realizing that if his platoon were forced farther back, these 7 men would be hopelessly trapped and at the mercy of a vicious enemy, he resolved to advance at all cost, knowing it meant almost certain death, in an effort to rescue his comrades. In the face of extremely heavy fire he went forward alone and for a period of approximately 10 minutes engaged the enemy in a heroic close-range fight, holding them off while his men crawled forward under cover to evacuate the wounded and to withdraw. Courageously refusing to abandon 4 more wounded men who were Iying along the trail, 1 by 1 he brought them back to safety. As he was carrying the last man in his arms he was struck by a heavy burst of automatic fire and was killed. By his persistent and daring self-sacrifice and on behalf of his comrades, S/Sgt. Endl made possible the successful evacuation of all but 1 man, and enabled the 2 platoons to withdraw with their wounded and to reorganize with the rest of the company.
ROBERTS, GORDON R.
Rank and organization: Sergeant (then Sp4c.), U.S. Army, Company B, 1st Battalion, 506th Infantry, 101st Airborne Division. Place and date: Thua Thien Province, Republic of Vietnam, 11 July 1969.
THIRD BATTLE OF YPRES (Battle of Passchendaele)
Allied Forces, 1,000,000
General Sir Douglas Haig, Commander-in-Chief
General Sir William Robertson, Chief of Staff
2d British Army—General Plumer
6th British Army—General Gough
1st French Army—General Antoine
Canadian Troops—General Sir Arthur Currie
German Forces, 1,800,000
General von Hindenberg, Commander
General von Ludendorff, Chief of Staff
General von Arnim
General von Marwitz
Crown Prince Rupprecht
Finding the new Hindenberg line too difficult a problem to solve, the Allied Armies in June returned more hopefully to the scenes of their former triumphs —the British toward Ypres, the French toward Verdun. In both these areas of operation, the battles which ensued were as bloody, almost, as any that had preceded them. Everywhere, both on land and on sea, the military and strategic situation had undergone a sudden and startling transformation.
With the overthrow of the Czar's government during the Socialist Revolution in March, the Russian armies had been eliminated from the Eastern battle front. Relieved from further anxiety in this direction, Germany had transferred half a million troops from the Eastern to the Western theater of War, thus restoring her numerical superiority over the Allies.
Germany then was at the zenith of her military power; England's military power on the Western front had reached its maximum strength; French man-power was declining, and America had not yet assembled her mighty host on the soil of France. Germany, therefore, was in a position to spend men and blood without stint in her effort to crush the spirit both of France and England before America could stay her hand.
Germany's submarine warfare, too, had wrought such dire destruction to Allied shipping that England was facing at last the menace of starvation. From their submarine bases, on the Belgian coast, at Zeebrugge, Ostend and Bruges, the German U-boats could sally forth at will to prey upon the helpless cargo vessels of all nations. If these submarine nests were not quickly destroyed, the commerce of France and England would be brought to a standstill. The British Navy had failed to cope successfully with the peril. It was now proposed that the British Army should attempt to remove the danger.
The Germans still occupied the series of commanding heights, extending through Belgium to within a few miles of the sea, which they had seized in 1914 after their retreat from the Marne. If their right flank at Lille were turned and rolled back, they would be compelled to evacuate their bases on the Belgian coast and retreat behind the Scheldt. But first it was necessary to dislodge the Germans from the heights which enclosed Ypres on three sides. The most important of these were the Messines, Wytschaete, Scherpenburg, Pilkem and Kemmel Ridges to the south and east of Ypres, and the Passchendaele Heights to the north.
Possession of these heights gave the Germans a perfect view of every movement of the Allied Armies in the adjacent valleys. The town of Ypres itself had been reduced to ashes by the ceaseless pounding of the German guns posted on the heights above, but the salient in which it lay had been held by the Allies to prevent the Germans breaking through to the sea.
Although comparative quiet had reigned in the Ypres salient for a year or more, the British Army, meanwhile, had by no means been idle. For upward of two years, in fact, the Australian and British sappers had been secretly engaged in tunneling under the Messines-Wytschaete range of hills, which rise in gentle slopes 150 feet above the plains. They had dug a gallery five miles long under the Messines Ridge, and at intervals along this laid 20 mines, containing in all 600 tons of high explosives. This battery of mines was to be exploded, at the appropriate moment, and the Germans on the crest of Messines blown into eternity.
General Plumer, the British Commander, had made elaborate preparations for the infantry attack following the explosion. The single track that formerly sufficed behind the lines had expanded into a series of railroad junctions traversed by broad and narrow gauge trains, as busy as a London terminus. All the roads and paths in the district were greatly improved. In order to provide an adequate water supply for the Army, the existing lakes were tapped, pits to catch the rain water were dug around Kemmel Ridge, and the water of the Lys River pumped into barges and then sterilized. Pipe lines were run forward, from lakes, pits and barges, and provision made for their rapid extension in the event of victory.
All being in readiness, it was decided that the explosion of the mines under Messines Ridge should take place on June 7, 1917 at 3.10 AM. Promptly on the minute, in the dead of night, the mines were discharged by electrical contact and, with a roar "like the sound of many earthquakes," that was distinctly heard in London, 140 miles away, the crest of Messines Ridge was blown skyward.
Amidst the torrents of spouting flames, large sections of the German dugouts went up in debris, killing outright or entombing 20,000 German soldiers. Twenty gigantic streams of flame were seen to shoot up, each a volcano in itself. The whole horizon gleamed with coruscating flame, stabs of bursting shells, and streams of light flares, the whole sky being ringed with lightning, which flashed white, yellow, orange, red and green.
Without a pause, the British artillery smothered with shells all the German works and trenches in the salient along a ten-mile front, preparatory to an infantry advance. Then, under a curtain of fire, General Plumer's shock troops, supported by tanks and squadrons of airplanes, dashed across the open field and ascended the slopes of the entire range of hills. The Irish regiments captured Wytschaete Ridge in two hours; the New Zealanders reached Messines a little later, and before sunset every objective had been taken, together with 7,000 prisoners, 67 guns, 94 trench mortars and 294 machine guns.
For the most part, the terror-stricken German survivors crawled out of their burrows, in the still quivering earth, and weakly raised their hands in token of surrender. At other places, where the dugouts had not been demolished by the artillery fire, hundreds of Huns crouched in the dark and could only be persuaded to surrender after bombs had been hurled among them. The British met with stubborn resistance in the vicinity of Chateau Matthieu, but they finally overcame the foe.
The capture of Messines Ridge not only gave the British control of the last natural position that commanded their lines, it straightened out the British line between St. Julien and Armentieres and wiped out the Ypres salient. In three months, the British had successfully captured Bapaume, the Vimy and Messines Ridges, as well as the Monchy Plateau. Technically considered, General Plumer's capture of the Ridges was as brilliant an operation as Petain's victory at Verdun and it raised him at once to the proud distinction of "the first Field General of the British Army."
Unwilling to rest on his laurels, General Plumer thrust out east and south of Messines. On June 12, 1917, the British troops stormed and occupied two miles of German trenches, in the neighborhood of Gaspard. On June 15, 1917, the Germans made some gains east of Monchy, but five days later the British recovered the position. Attacking by starlight, they stormed and carried a section of German trench. The Canadians, meantime, had seized Reservoir Hill and were pressing on the heels of the retreating Huns in the direction of La Coulette.
Everywhere, along their 120-mile front, the British were exerting a strong pressure on the enemy position. Especially they were drawing their circle closer around Lens. On June 20, 1917, the Canadians routed from their trenches a column of Germans that barred the way to Lens. Repeated counter attacks by the Germans failed to recover the lost position. With the British forces virtually enveloping the town, the Germans could no longer carry on their coal-mining operations in the immediate region of Lens. In the last week of June, the operations of the British Armies were brought to a standstill by reason of the heavy rains.
The Germans on July 10, 1917 violently bombarded the British lines north of Nieuport, on the Belgian coast, leveling all the British defenses in the dune sector, destroying the bridges over the Yser River and capturing a mile of trenches. The British losses were 3,000 in killed and captured. During this engagement the superiority of the German air forces was apparent. The British airmen retaliated the next day by dropping several tons of bombs on five towns in Flanders occupied by the Germans, setting fire to German ammunition dumps.
The Germans, ceaselessly, for three weeks, drenched the whole region with shells, in a wide sweeping storm of fire, endeavoring to destroy the hidden British batteries. Nieuport and Ypres especially were deluged with shells. The British gunners responded with surpassing fury and a rivalry of destruction followed that baffles description. At the close of this artillery duel, on July 31st, the British and French troops advanced on a front of 20 miles from Dixmude to Warneton, capturing ten towns and 5,000 prisoners. All objectives were carried. Large squadrons of British and French planes led the advance against the German lines and many air battles were fought, the Germans being wholly outclassed.
A New Franco-British offensive was launched east of Ypres on August 1, 1917, the British gaining new territory, besides taking 60,000 prisoners and 100 guns. The German dead lay in piles, hundreds of them being shot in the back by their own artillery fire during the frenzied German failure to check the advance of the British. On August 4, 1917, Canadian troops to the southwest of Lens drove the enemy patrols helter-skelter back to Lens and occupied a position within half a mile of the center of the city. After five days of torrential rain, the Germans reopened the battle north of the Ypres-Commines Canal, and for a brief spell gained a footing in Hollebeke, but were presently driven out again.
Step by step the British closed in on Lens. On August 14, 1917, the Canadians stormed and captured Hill 70, and repelled all the German counter-assaults. In this bloody engagement, 10,000 Canadians and 20,000 Germans fell. Excepting at Verdun, the German losses had never been so heavy as in this battle. The entire Seventh Prussian Division was annihilated. So intense was the fire of the Canadian guns that German ration parties refused to go to the relief of their comrades, and most of the prisoners taken were half famished. Another sanguinary battle was fought soon after midnight on August 18, 1917, when the Germans in great numbers hurled themselves repeatedly against the Canadians on the line north of Lens. Hand-to-hand conflicts of the fiercest description followed. The Canadians used their bayonets most effectively on this day, prodding the Huns back with heavy losses.
The British smashed the German line east of Ypres on an eight-mile front, September 20, 1917, penetrating the center to the depth of a mile and taking 3,000 prisoners. Two days later, massed attacks on the new British positions were made by the Germans, with only slight success and at a frightful cost. British aircraft swept in flocks over the wide area of battle, dropping tons of explosives at Roulers, Menin and Ledeghem. Ten German airships were brought to earth, eight were put out of control, while the British lost 12 machines.
"Flaming Bullets" were used by the Germans for the first time during this battle along the Menin Road. As they struck, they set fire to the clothing of the British soldiers. Again, on September 26, 1917, the British attacked east of Ypres, on a six-mile front, piercing the German line to a depth of a mile and taking 1,600 prisoners. The British were almost ready to drive in a wedge between the German advanced line in Flanders and the Osten-Lilie Railway. Could this be done, the Germans must evacuate Belgium as far as the Scheldt, evacuating the cities of Lille, Roubaix, and Turcoing.
Field Marshal Haig struck his next blow at the German line east of Ypres on October 4, 1917, advancing one mile on a front of eight miles, and taking 4,500 prisoners. Though the heavy rains had transformed the battlefield into a vast swamp, in which the men sank up to their knees, Marshal Haig began another offensive early in the morning of October 12, 1917, along the whole terrain in Flanders. The British troops, in three hours pushed the Germans back nearly a mile toward Passchendaele. Another heavy rain delayed operations for a week ; then the British and French together advanced north of Ypres, winning a series of fortified places.
Canadian Corps, 75,000
General Sir Arthur Currie, Commander
German Troops, 120,000
Crown Prince Rupprecht, Commander
The capture of Passchendaele Ridge, by the Canadian troops, under command of General Sir Arthur Currie, formed the brilliant climax to the Fourth Battle of Ypres. On October 26, 1917, Canadian and English troops attacked on a front extending from the Ypres-Roulers Railway to beyond Poelcappelle. The Canadians advanced on both banks of the Ravebeek River, which flows southwest- ward from Passchendaele. On the left bank of the stream they made themselves masters of the small hill south of Passchendaele. North of the Ravebeek, they smashed their way across Bellevue Spur and other fortifications, meeting with stiff resistance.
While pressing up the slope of the spur, the Canadian troops at times were almost hip-deep in the mire, but they struggled onward for six hours until, in the face of a shattering machine-gun fire, they were ordered to withdraw temporarily. Then reinforcements were brought up, the waves reorganized, again the Canadians advanced, and, inch by inch, the semi-liquid slope was at length brested. It was necessary to clear many German "pill-boxes" before the crest of the spur was reached and passed. Two strong counterattacks south and west of the ridge were beaten off and by nightfall the Canadians had gained practically the whole of their objectives. The victory had cost them 24,000 in casualties, while the German losses were fully as great.
The fighting on the outposts of Flanders continued. On October 30, 1917, Canadian and English troops attacked on a front extending from the Ypres-Roulers Railway to the Poelcappelle—Westroosebeck
Fighting was severe at all points, but particularly on the spur west of the Yser, where five strong counter-attacks were beaten off, the Canadians using captured German cannon in repulsing the enemy. On November 6, 1917, the Canadians renewed the attack and captured the village of Passchendaele, together with the high ground surrounding it. Four days later, the Canadian and British troops attacked northward from Passchendaele, and captured further ground on the main ridge after heavy fighting.
The Canadian Cavalry, chiefly Fort Garry Horse, which aided General Byng at Cambrai, performed a feat on November 20, 1917 which ranked with the best exploits of the War. A single squadron, in a gallant charge, captured a German battery, then raced two miles inside the enemy's lines over infantry and other obstacles, and the 43 survivors of this daring raid fought their way back through guns and soldiers to Masnieres.
The capture of Passchendaele gave the Allied forces a firm footing on a series of great spurs, extending from Gheluvelt to Roulers, and relegated the enemy to lower levels. The apex of the salient was bent back in dangerous proximity to Roulers, the fall of which would have cut Germany's communication from her submarine bases at Ostend and Zeebrugge with the South. Were it not for the sea of mud which lapped around the salient and hindered the Allied operations, the Germans must surely have been expelled from Belgium.
Since July 31, 1917, the Allies had taken 25,000 prisoners, 71 guns and 138 trench mortars. In the early stages of the battle, they had whipped 78 German divisions, but 600,000 fresh German soldiers had arrived from the Russian front, and the enemy now held the superiority in numbers. They could not yet be expelled. The losses on both sides had been unusually severe, mounting into the hundreds of thousands.
Source: King’s Complete History of the World War, W.C. King, published 1922, pages 335 - 339 Added by: Brian Hand
Whereas the first and second battles of Ypres were launched by the Germans in 1914 and 1915 respectively, Third Ypres was intended as Sir Douglas Haig's Allied forces breakthrough in Flanders in 1917.
Haig had long mulled the idea of launching a major offensive in Flanders. It was his preferred choice for 1916, although in the event the Battle of the Somme took precedence that summer.
Meticulously planned, Third Ypres was launched on 31 July 1917 and continued until the fall of Passchendaele village on 6 November. The offensive resulted in gains for the Allies but was by no means the breakthrough Haig intended, and such gains as were made came at great cost in human terms.
[Passchendaele aerial view]
11 JULY 1869
DOG SOLDIER WARRIOR SOCIETY. Tall Bull, a prominent leader of the Cheyenne Dog Soldier warrior society, is killed during the Battle of Summit Springs in Colorado. Tall Bull was the most distinguished of several Cheyenne warriors who bore this hereditary name. He was a leader of the Dog Soldiers, a fierce Cheyenne society of warriors that had initially fought against other Indian tribes.
In the 1860s, though, the Dog Soldiers increasingly became one of the most implacable foes of the U.S. government in the bloody Plains Indian Wars. In October 1868, Tall Bull and his Dog Soldiers badly mauled an American cavalry force in Colorado. He confronted General Philip Sheridan's forces the following winter in Oklahoma.
Near the Washita River, Sheridan's Lieutenant Colonel George Custer attacked a peaceful Cheyenne village under Chief Black Kettle. The Cheyenne suffered more than 100 casualties, and Custer's soldiers brutally butchered more than 800 of their horses. However, Custer was forced to flee when Tall Bull and other chiefs camped in nearby villages began to mass for attack.
Custer's attack had badly damaged the Cheyenne, but Tall Bull refused to surrender to the Americans. In the spring of 1869, Tall Bull and his Dog Soldiers took their revenge, staging a series of successful attacks against soldiers who were searching for him. Determined to destroy the chief, the U.S. Army formed a special expeditionary force under the command of General Eugene Carr.
On this day in 1869, Carr surprised Tall Bull and his warriors in their camp at Summit Springs, Colorado. In the ensuing battle, Tall Bull was killed and the Dog Soldiers were overwhelmed. Without the dynamic leadership of their chief, the surviving Dog Soldiers' resistance was broken. Although other Cheyenne continued to fight the American military for another decade, they did so without the aid of their greatest warrior society and its leader. [contemporary painting of Tall Bull]
NAPALM WAS FIRST USED. On Luzon, Americans forces drop thousands of napalm bombs on Japanese pockets on the Sierra Madre and in the Kiangan area.
Napalm is a thickening/gelling agent generally mixed with petroleum or a similar fuel for use in an incendiary device, primarily as an anti-personnel weapon. "Napalm" is a combination of the names of two of the constituents of the gel: naphthenic acid and palmitic acid.
"Napalm B" is the more modern version of napalm and, although distinctly different in its chemical composition, it is often referred to simply as "napalm". Colloquially, napalm has been used as the generic name of several flammable liquids used in warfare, often forms of jellied gasoline, such as to be expelled by flamethrowers in infantry and armored warfare.
THE HAMILTON-BURR DUEL. A duel between Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton leaves Hamilton dead. Since New Jersey did not have a law against dueling at the time, Burr and Hamilton, both New Yorkers, crossed the Hudson to Weehawken, New Jersey. New York had banned the practice earlier, partly due to Hamilton’s own campaign efforts after his son was killed in a duel.
Dueling was outlawed in the North much earlier than it was in the South. The state of Massachusetts declared it “detestable and infamous.” Duelists in that state could be punished even if they both survived the duel. A typical penalty would be to stand an hour with a rope around their neck at the gallows and then to spend a year in prison.
Transgressors might also receive lashes from a whip. For duelists who died, there was still a civic penalty to be paid. The loser was buried without a coffin near the spot of the duel with a stake driven through his body. The winner could be prosecuted for murder, executed, and buried in the same manner. Even the mere threat of a duel had serious consequences: In 1818, George Norton challenged someone to a duel in New York for insulting his honor and was sentenced to a month in prison for his dare.
In the South, dueling was much more popular and accepted, especially among upper-class society. The practice was so common that legislators were asked to take an oath to declare that they had never been in a duel. Even after dueling became illegal, the law was rarely enforced. The Burr-Hamilton duel was not the last high-profile case.
In 1809, future senator Henry Clay and Humphrey Marshall were arguing over legislation in Kentucky’s state house when Clay called Marshall a demagogue and Marshall responded by calling Clay a liar. Their subsequent duel was fought with pistols at a length of ten paces. Luckily for both, neither was a good shot (nor were the weapons particularly accurate), and they both recovered from their injuries.
BRITISH EVACUATE SAVANNAH. On this day in 1782, British Royal Governor Sir James Wright, along with several civil officials and military officers, flee the city of Savannah, Georgia, and head to Charleston, South Carolina. As part of the British evacuation, a group consisting of British regulars led by General Alured Clarke traveled to New York, while Colonel Thomas Brown led a mixed group of rangers and Indians to St. Augustine, Florida.
The remaining British soldiers were transported to the West Indies aboard the frigate HMS Zebra and the sloop of war HMS Vulture. Wright had been the only colonial governor and Georgia the only colony to successfully implement the Stamp Act in 1765. As revolutionary fervor grew elsewhere in the colonies, Georgia remained the most loyal colony, declining to send delegates to the Continental Congress in 1774.
Governor Wright, though, had been taken into custody and placed under house arrest nearly a month earlier on January 18, 1776, by Patriots under the command of Major Joseph Habersham of the Provincial Congress. On February 11, Wright escaped from his residence in Savannah to the safety of a waiting British warship, the HMS Scarborough, anchored at the mouth of the Savannah River, and returned to London.
Wright organized a military action and retook Savannah on December 29, 1778. He resumed his role as royal governor on July 22, 1779, and held the city until the British left of their own accord on this day in 1782, following General Charles Cornwallis surrender to General George Washington at Yorktown in 1781. Wright then moved to London, where he died three years later.
FREMONT SEIZES CALIFORNIA FOR THE U.S.: The “Grizzly Bear” flag proclaiming the “California Republic” is lowered to be replaced by the Unites States flag as the former Mexican colony comes under American control. The ‘bear’ flag was adopted by the California Battalion organized in Sacramento in mid June by Major John C. Fremont, a Regular Army officer and famed western explorer.
As soon as he received word that the U.S. and Mexico were at war, he quickly enrolled local Anglo settlers, mostly recent immigrants from Missouri and Iowa, into a militia force. Numbering about 500 men, Fremont moved the battalion south toward Los Angeles. He soon took the city without a fight.
In fact, except for one small engagement of Mexican cavalry against a force of Army Regulars lead by General Stephen Kearny, coming into California from New Mexico, the rest of the colony willingly accepted American control. [pictured is Fremont's flag]
THE BATTLE OF FORT STEVENS was an American Civil War battle fought in Northwest Washington, D.C., as part of the Valley Campaigns of 1864 between forces under Confederate Lt. Gen. Jubal A. Early and Union Maj. Gen. Alexander McD. McCook. Although Early caused consternation in the Union government, reinforcements under Maj. Gen. Horatio G. Wright and the strong defenses of Fort Stevens minimized the military threat and Early withdrew after two days of skirmishing without attempting any serious assaults. The battle is noted for the personal presence of President Abraham Lincoln observing the fighting.
In June 1864, Gen. Jubal Early was dispatched by Gen. Robert E. Lee with the Second Corps of the Army of Northern Virginia from the Confederate lines around Richmond with orders to clear the Shenandoah Valley of Federals and then if practical, invade Maryland, disrupt the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad and if possible threaten Washington, D.C. The hope was that a movement into Maryland would force Union Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant to send troops to defend Washington against the threat, thus reducing his strength to take the Confederate capital.
After easily driving off the Army of West Virginia under Maj. Gen. David Hunter at the short-lived Battle of Lynchburg on June 18, the Second Corps marched down the valley, entering Maryland on July 5 near Sharpsburg. They then turned east towards Frederick where they arrived on July 7. Two days later, as the Second Corps prepared to march on Washington, Maj. Gen. Lew Wallace leading a small rag-tag army, bolstered by the eleventh-hour addition of two brigades of the VI Corps sent from Richmond under Maj. Gen. James B. Ricketts, attempted to resist the Confederate advance at the Battle of Monocacy.
The battle lasted from about 8 a.m. until around 4 p.m., but ultimately Early's corps drove off the small Union force, which was the only substantial Union army between it and the capital. After the battle Early resumed his march on Washington, arriving at its northeast border near Silver Spring at around noontime on July 11. Because of the battle and then long march through stifling summer heat, and unsure of the strength of the Federal position in front of him, Early decided to not send his army against the fortifications around Washington until the next day.
Early's invasion of Maryland had the desired effect on Grant, who dispatched the rest of the VI Corp and XIX Corps under Maj. Gen. Horatio G. Wright to Washington on July 9. The steamer carrying the Union force arrived in southeast Washington around noon on the July 11, at about the same time that Early himself had reached the outskirts of Fort Stevens with the lead elements of his troops.
The arrival of the VI Corps brought desperately needed veteran reinforcements. It also added another high ranking officer into a jumbled Federal command. The Washington defenses played host to a number of generals ejected from major theaters of the war or incapacitated for field command due to wounds or disease. Maj. Gen. Alexander M. McCook was one of the former, having not held a command since being relieved of command after the Battle of Chickamauga. McCook was however placed in command of the Defenses of the Potomac River & Washington, superseding Christopher Columbus Augur who commanded the Department of Washington.
Augur also commanded the XXII Corps whose troops manned the capital's defensive works. Maj. Gen. Henry W. Halleck called upon Maj. Gen. Quincy A. Gillmore in New York City to take command of a detachment from the XIX Corps. The U.S. Army's Quartermaster General, Brig. Gen. Montgomery C. Meigs, took command of an "Emergency Division" directly under the command of McCook Even President Abraham Lincoln personally arrived at the battlefield.
McCook tried to sort out the problem of too many generals in the face of Early's advance. He was unable to rid himself of the generals, and their attempts to gain leverage over one another, but a somewhat a workable command structure was established.
With McCook in overall command, Gillmore commanded the northeast line of fortresses (Fort Lincoln to Fort Totten), Meigs commanded the northern line of forts (Fort Totten to Fort DeRussy—including Fort Stevens) and Augur's First Division commander, Martin D. Hardin, commanded the northwest line of forts (Fort DeRussy to Fort Sumner). Wright and the VI Corps were to be held in reserve but McCook immediately decided against this, stating that he felt veteran troops needed to take the front lines against Early's troops. As it was, Hardin's troops engaged in some light skirmishing but as McCook intended, it was to be Wright's veterans who bore the brunt of the fighting.
At about the time Wright's command was arriving in Washington, Early's corps began to arrive at the breastworks of Fort Stevens, yet Early delayed the attack because he was still unsure of the federal strength defending the fort, much of his army was still in transit to the front, and the troops he had were exhausted due to the excessive heat and the fact that they had been on the march since June 13. Additionally, many of the Confederate troops had looted the home of Montgomery Blair, the son of the founder of Silver Spring, Maryland. They found barrels of whiskey in the basement of the mansion, called Blair Mansion, and many troops were too drunk to get a good start in the morning. This allowed for further fortification by Union troops.
Around 3 p.m., with the bulk of their force present, the Confederates commenced skirmishing, probing the defense maintained by Brig. Gen. Martin D. Hardin's division of the XXII Corps with a line of skirmishers backed by artillery. Near the start of the Confederate attack the lead elements of the VI and XIX Corps arrived at the fort, reinforcing it with battle-hardened troops. The battle picked up around 5 p.m. when Confederate cavalry pushed through the advance Union picket line. A Union counterattack drove back the Confederate cavalry and the two opposing lines confronted each other throughout the evening with periods of intense skirmishing. The Union front was aided by artillery from the fort, which shelled Confederate positions, destroying many houses that Confederate sharpshooters used for protection.
President Lincoln, his wife Mary, and some officers rode out to observe the attack, and were briefly under enemy fire that wounded a Union surgeon standing next to him on the Fort Stevens parapet. Lincoln was brusquely ordered to take cover by an officer, probably Horatio Wright, although apocryphal stories claim that it was Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.
Maj. Gen. John C. Breckinridge, former U.S. vice president and one of Lincoln's opponents in the presidential election of 1860, was one of the Confederate commanders; the Battle of Fort Stevens marks the only occasion in American history when two former opponents in a presidential election faced one another across battle lines and the only time in American history a sitting president was under fire in combat. Breckinridge was a cousin of Mary Todd Lincoln's and a beau in her youth. (Stephen Douglas—another Lincoln opponent in the 1860 presidential election—was also a beau of Mary Todd.)
The skirmishing continued into July 12, until Early finally decided Washington could not be taken without heavy losses too severe to warrant the attempt. His corps withdrew that evening, headed back into Montgomery County, Maryland, and crossed the Potomac River on July 13 at White's Ferry into Leesburg, Virginia. Early remarked to one of his officers after the battle, "Major, we didn't take Washington but we scared Abe Lincoln like hell." It would be nearly another day before the Union pursuit under Wright would set out after them.
THE IRON CURTAIN. Fulfilling agreements reached at various wartime conferences, the Soviet Union promises to hand power over to British and U.S. forces in West Berlin. Although the division of Berlin (and of Germany as a whole) into zones of occupation was seen as a temporary postwar expedient, the dividing lines quickly became permanent.
The divided city of Berlin became a symbol for Cold War tensions. During a number of wartime conferences, the United States, Great Britain, and the Soviet Union agreed that following the defeat of Germany, that nation would be divided into three zones of occupation. Berlin, the capital city of Germany, would likewise be divided. When the war in Europe ended in May 1945, however, Soviet troops were in complete control of eastern Germany and all of Berlin.
Some U.S. officials, who had come to see the Soviet Union as an emerging threat to the postwar peace in Europe, believed that the Soviets would never relinquish control over any part of Berlin. However, on July 11, 1945, the Russian government announced that it would hand over all civilian and military control of West Berlin to British and American forces. This was accomplished, without incident, the following day. (The United States and Great Britain would later give up part of their zones of occupation in Germany and Berlin to make room for a French zone of occupation.)
In the years to come, West Berlin became the site of some notable Cold War confrontations. During 1948 and 1949, the Soviets blocked all land travel into West Berlin, forcing the United States to establish the Berlin Airlift to feed and care for the population of the city.
In 1961, the government of East Germany constructed the famous Berlin Wall, creating an actual physical barrier to separate East and West Berlin. The divided city came to symbolize the animosities and tensions of the Cold War. In 1989, with communist control of East Germany crumbling, the Berlin Wall was finally torn down. The following year, East and West Germany formally reunited.