This Month in Military History

FEB11800The frigate USS Constellation under the command of CPT Thomas Truxtun defeats the French frigate La Vengeance under CPT F.M. Pitot in a night battle lasting several hours.
FEB11862Julia Ward Howe's poem "Battle Hymn of the Republic" is published in the Atlantic Monthly. It will become a Union Army ballad.
FEB11942VADM William Halsey Jr.'s Task Force 8 (USS Enterprise) hits Japanese facilities in the Marshall Islands, while RADM Jack Fletcher's Task Force 17 (USS Yorktown) attacks the Gilberts. The Marshalls-Gilberts Raids are the first American offensive operation against the Japanese during the war in the Pacific.
FEB11944MG Harry Schmidt's 4th Marine Division lands at Kwajalein Island and Roi-Namur. Of the 8,000 original Japanese defenders, only 300 are captured when the islands are secured after three days of combat.
FEB11961The "Minuteman I" intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) is launched for the first time in a successful "all systems" test.
FEB12003The doomed Space Shuttle Columbia (STS-107) disintegrates upon reentering the earth’s atmosphere, killing all seven crewmembers. Aboard are COL Rick D. Husband (USAF), CMDR William C. McCool (USN), LTC Michael P. Anderson (USAF), CPT David M. Brown (USN), CPT Laurel Clark (USN), Israeli Air Force COL Ilan Ramon, and Kalpana Chawla, a civilian mission specialist.
FEB21848Representatives of the United States and Mexico sign the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, officially ending the Mexican-American War.
FEB21901Congress authorizes the establishment of the Army Nurse Corps under the Army Medical Department.
FEB21943The last remnants of Field Marshal Friedrich Paulus' encircled Sixth German Army surrender to the Soviets.
FEB21945As the 124th Cavalry Regiment battles to recapture the Burma Road, the troopers assault a 400-foot hill near Loi-Kang, Burma, that is heavily defended by Japanese soldiers. 1LT Jack L. Knight spearheads the advance, singlehandedly taking out two machine gun nests and multiple bunkers. Knight was mortally wounded by a grenade, but continued the charge as his men inflicted heavy casualties on the Japanese. For his charge at "Knight's Hill," he was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.
FEB31801The U.S. Senate ratifies the Mortefontaine treaty, officially ending the Quasi War with France.
FEB31961The U.S. Air Force’s Strategic Air Command (SAC) launches its EC-135 flying command post – codenamed “Looking Glass” – to maintain seamless and secure command-and-control of U.S. nuclear forces in the event ground-based command-and-control is wiped out in a nuclear attack.
FEB41779Continental Navy CPT John Paul Jones takes command of the former French frigate Duc de Duras, renaming her Bonhomme Richard.
FEB41787Shays' Rebellion is quashed by Massachusetts militia.
FEB41942After unloading ammunition for U.S. and Filipino forces for the Battle of Bataan, the submarine USS Trout (SS-202) requests ballast to replace the tonnage she dropped off. Supplies like concrete and sandbags are unavailable, and sailors instead load the sub with 38 tons of gold bullion and silver coins that had been emptied from Filipino banks.
FEB41944After three days of combat, Marines, and Soldiers of MG Holland M. "Howlin' Mad" Smith's V Amphibious Corps secured Kwajalein Atoll.
FEB41945The Big Three -- U.S. Pres. Franklin D. Roosevelt, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin -- meet at the Crimea Conference (best known as the Yalta Conference) to discuss among other points what was to become of soon-to-be conquered Germany and the nations the Nazis had previously defeated.
FEB51914Austrian doctors examine a young Adolf Hitler, determining him unfit for service in the Austro-Hungarian military. Hitler will volunteer for the German army when war breaks out in August, serving in a reserve infantry regiment as a runner.
FEB51918U.S. Army LT Stephen W. Thompson, a member of the American 1st Aero Squadron, is invited by French aviators to fly in a French "Breguet" biplane bomber as a gunner on one of their missions. Thompson shoots down a German Albatross fighter over Saarbrucken, Germany, making him the first American in uniform to shoot down an enemy airplane.
FEB51943President Franklin D. Roosevelt awards MG Alexander A. Vandegrift the Medal of Honor for his role as commanding general of the 1st Marine Division during the Guadalcanal campaign.
FEB51958An F-86 "Sabre" collides with a B-47 "Stratojet" bomber piloted by MAJ Howard Richardson during a simulated combat exercise. The Sabre pilot ejects, and the B-47's wings are severely damaged, forcing an emergency landing. Before the bomber can land safely, the crew jettisons the 7,600-lb. Mark 15 hydrogen bomb off the coast of Savannah, GA before landing at Hunter Air Force Base.
FEB61787Representatives of the French and U.S. governments sign the Treaty of Amity and Commerce and the Treaty of Alliance in Paris. France recognizes the United States as an independent nation and provides much-needed military aid.
FEB61802Congress authorizes President Thomas Jefferson to arm U.S. ships to defend against Barbary pirates in the Mediterranean.
FEB61832Marines and sailors aboard the USS Potomac attack pirates from the village of Quallah Batoo, Sumatra.
FEB61862In northwestern Tennessee, a Union Naval flotilla commanded by Flag Officer Andrew H. Foote and a force commanded by BG Ulysses S. Grant converge upon Fort Henry.
FEB61945USAAF B-24 and B-29 bombers begin attacking Iwo Jima in preparation for the upcoming landing. The air raid unfortunately does little to soften Japanese fortifications.
FEB61967In North Vietnam's Mu Gia Pass, Airman Second Class Duane D. Hackney volunteers to be lowered from a HH-3E "Jolly Green Giant" rescue helicopter into the jungle - despite the presence of enemy forces - to locate a downed pilot. The Pararescueman comes up empty on the first attempt but finds the pilot on a second sortie. During the flight home, the helicopter is hit by anti-aircraft fire. Hackney gives the pilot his own parachute, then looks for another for himself. Before Hackney can strap on the chute, the "Jolly Green" is hit again, forcing the crew to jump. For his actions, Hackney becomes the first living recipient of the Air Force Cross.
FEB71943The submarine USS Growler (SS-215) spots the supply ship Hayasaki and begins a nighttime battle. The Japanese ship turns to ram the sub and rakes Growler's bridge with machine gun fire, wounding the skipper, CMDR Howard W. Gilmore.
FEB71943Meanwhile, the Imperial Japanese Navy completes Operation XE - the evacuation of nearly 1,800 remaining troops from Guadalcanal.
FEB71965North Vietnamese sappers attack the Camp Holloway helicopter base, killing eight, wounding over 100, and destroying over a dozen helicopters and planes. The attack prompts President Lyndon Johnson to strike back by ordering the bombing of military targets along the de-militarized zone and in North Vietnam.
FEB71984Space Shuttle Challenger astronauts Bruce McCandless (USN) and Robert L. Stewart (USA) are the first humans to "walk" untethered in space, using nitrogen-powered Manned Maneuvering Units.
FEB81862A day after 10,000 soldiers under the command of BG Ambrose Burnside, supported by a flotilla of Union gunships, land at Roanoke Island, NC, the Confederates surrender the island's four forts and two batteries.
FEB81910William D. Boyce incorporates the Boy Scouts of America. Countless boys will cut their teeth as young adventurers in Boyce's scouting program before joining the military.
FEB81981Following the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan, President Jimmy Carter announces his intent to reinstate draft registration. Carter's decision comes just four years after President Gerald Ford ended mandatory draft registration.
FEB81991A Marine reconnaissance unit in occupied Kuwait gives the Iowa-class battleship USS Wisconsin (BB-64) her first call for fire support in nearly 50 years. The 16-in. guns fire 29 rounds at Iraqi artillery positions, infantry bunkers, and a mechanized unit.
FEB91799In the Caribbean, the American frigate Constellation spots the larger and more heavily armed French frigate L'Insurgente and gives chase. After pursuing the French vessel through a storm, CPT Thomas Truxtun manages to force his counterpart into a clash that lasts over an hour, with Constellation inflicting heavy casualties and capturing the ship in the United States' first naval engagement since the end of the Revolutionary War.
FEB91942GEN George Marshall, GEN. Henry "Hap" Arnold, ADM Harold Stark, and ADM Ernest King meet to discuss better coordination between the Navy and War Departments - the first formal meeting of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS).
FEB91965In response to the Viet Cong attack on Camp Holloway two days before, President Lyndon Johnson orders the deployment of a Marine Corps surface-to-air missile battalion to Vietnam.
FEB91972173 years after Constellation's victory in the Caribbean, the Kitty Hawk-class aircraft carrier Constellation arrives off the coast of Vietnam.
FEB121935As the Navy's helium-filled rigid airship USS Macon (ZRS-5) flies through a storm, its tail fin and interior structural members are destroyed, puncturing the massive vessel's helium cells. The "flying aircraft carrier," which houses five Curtiss F9C-2 "Sparrowhawk" reconnaissance planes, crash-lands in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Point Sur, CA.
FEB121947The USS Cusk launches a KGW-1 "Loon" missile, which is a reverse-engineered German V-1 flying bomb, becoming the first U.S. submarine to fire a guided missile.
FEB121991The Pentagon announces that U.S. warplanes have flown 65,000 sorties during Operation DESERT STORM. The battleship USS Missouri (BB-63) fires 60 of its 16-in. projectiles in support of a combined-arms attack against Iraqi infantry, armor, artillery, and a command bunker in southern Kuwait.
FEB131861When Chiracahua Apaches capture a 60-man force of 7th Infantry soldiers in Arizona Territory, COL Bernard J.D. Irwin volunteers to lead 14 soldiers on a daring 100-mile rescue mission. With no horses available, the men of the 1st Dragoons (today's 1st Cavalry Regiment) must start their journey on mules, and Irwin's force fight their way to the beleaguered soldiers and help break the siege.
FEB131917Over Pensacola, FL, CPT Francis T. Evans (USMC) becomes the first aviator to perform a loop in a seaplane. His Curtiss N-9 stalls after the maneuver and Evans barely manages to save the plane before splashing into the Gulf of Mexico.
FEB131945Allied forces commence the three-day bombing of Dresden, Germany, creating a firestorm that killed 25,000 Germans.
FEB131945In the Philippine Islands' Luzon Straight, the crew of the submarine USS Batfish (SS-310) sinks RO-113; her third sinking in 76 hours.
FEB131965President Lyndon Johnson gives the go-ahead for Operation ROLLING THUNDER.
FEB131968In response to the Tet Offensive, President Johnson orders the deployment of 10,500 82d Airborne Division soldiers and a regimental landing team from the 5th Marine Division to Vietnam and discusses the possibility of calling up tens of thousands more Reservists and former service members in the event of a second Communist offensive.
FEB132010Helicopters bring wave after wave of American, Afghan, and other coalition forces into the Taliban stronghold of Marjah, in Afghanistan's Helmand Province.
FEB141778The Continental sloop-of-war Ranger under the command of CPT John Paul Jones fires a 13-gun salute to French ADM Toussaint-Guillaume Picquet de la Motte’s fleet anchored in France’s Quiberon Bay. The French return the salute with nine guns. It is the first time America’s new flag – “the stars and stripes” – is officially recognized by a foreign power.
FEB141814The American frigate USS Constitution, commanded by CPT David Porter, captures Lovely Ann, a British armed merchant vessel, and HMS Pictou, a Royal Navy schooner, within hours of each other.
FEB141912USS E-1 (SS-24), the U.S. Navy’s first diesel-powered submarine, is commissioned in Groton, CT. The sub is skippered by an almost 27-year-old LT Chester W. Nimitz.
FEB141945As the destroyer USS Fletcher (DD-445) supports amphibious landings at Corregidor in the Philippines, a Japanese 6-in. coastal defense gun nails the ship's forecastle and ignites a fire in the Number 1 magazine. Knowing that he may only have seconds to extinguish the fire before it kills the ship, Water Tender Second Class Elmer C. Bigelow dives into the blazing compartment without putting on breathing apparatus. He saves the ship, but at the cost of his life. For his actions, Bigelow is posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.
FEB141991Air Force CPTs Tim Bennett and Dan Bakke score the only air-to-air kill for the F-15E "Strike Eagle" of Operation DESERT STORM: when responding to a distress call from a Special Forces unit, the air crew spots an Iraqi Mil Mi-24 "Hind" helicopter unloading soldiers. They fire a 2,000-lb. laser-guided bomb at the gunship, and the resulting blast "shoots down" the helicopter, which was reportedly some 800 feet above the ground.
FEB151862A week after BG Ulysses S. Grant and Flag Officer Andrew H. Foote captured Fort Henry, the combined force besieged nearby Fort Donelson. The Confederate defenders manage to drive off Foote's gunboats but are surrounded by Grant's soldiers. BG John B. Floyd attempts a breakout, hoping to open an escape route to Nashville. Grant's men drive the Confederates back to the fort, and the next day accepts the surrender of some 12,000 soldiers.
FEB151898A terrific explosion rips through the bow of USS Maine anchored in Havana Harbor, Cuba. Within minutes, 260 U.S. sailors and Marines are dead.
FEB151944When the Fifth Air Force attack planes and bombers target the Papua New Guinea island of New Ireland, several planes are shot down. LT Nathan G. Gordon and his eight-man PBY "Catalina" seaplane crew are dispatched to rescue the downed airmen. Despite very rough seas and being targeted by heavy, close-range enemy fire, Gordon and his crew make multiple landings and pick up 15 officers and men.
FEB151944In Italy, 254 B-17 and B-25 bombers of the Twelfth Air Force destroy the centuries-old abbey atop Monte Cassino. Believing the Germans had been using the historic landmark as an observation post, GEN Sir Harold Alexander, the Commander-in-Chief of Allied Armies in Italy, had ordered its destruction.
FEB161804U.S. Navy LT Stephen Decatur sails a captured Tripolitan ketch that he had renamed USS Intrepid into the harbor at Tripoli. There, Decatur and a volunteer force of sailors and Marines board the frigate USS Philadelphia, which had been previously captured by Tripolitan pirates. After a brief but violent close quarters struggle Decatur orders Philadelphia to be burned.
FEB1619452,000 American paratroopers jump over the Philippines’ "fortress Corregidor" in one of the most difficult airborne operations of the war.
FEB161953Marine aviator - and future baseball Hall of Famer - CPT Ted Williams crash-lands his crippled Marine Corps F9F "Panther" fighter at Suwon's K-13 airstrip. During a massive 200-plane raid on a troop encampment, Williams was hit by enemy ground fire which knocked out his instrument panel, landing gear, and hydraulic system; damaged his control surfaces; and set the plane on fire. Rather than eject, Williams brings the plane down on its belly and skids down the runway for over a mile before the mortally wounded plane comes to a stop. Williams walks away with just a sprained ankle.
FEB171864The Confederate submarine H.L. Hunley sinks the Federal sloop-of-war USS Housatonic in Charleston Harbor, becoming the first submarine in history to sink an enemy warship in action. It is a pyrrhic victory however as the submarine also sinks with all hands aboard.
FEB171865Columbia, S.C. falls to Union Army forces under the command of MG William Tecumseh Sherman.
FEB181944U.S. Marines land and quickly capture Engebi island, the first obstacle to seizing Eniwetok Atoll in the Marshalls.
FEB191945Following 74 days of aerial bombardment two U.S. Marine divisions begin hitting the beach on Day One of the epic battle for Iwo Jima.
FEB201942LT Edward "Butch" O'Hare - flying a F4F "Wildcat" from the deck of the USS Lexington (CV-2) - single-handedly shoots down five Japanese Mitsubishi G4M "Betty" bombers and severely damages a sixth. O'Hare becomes the Navy's first ace of the war and is awarded the Medal of Honor.
FEB201944U.S. Army Air Forces and Britain’s Royal Air Force begin Operation ARGUMENT, a massive thousand-plus bomber offensive aimed at destroying the German Air Force and Luftwaffe manufacturing facilities to achieve irreversible air superiority before the Normandy landings.
FEB201962Nearly five hours after blasting off from Cape Canaveral, FL in an Atlas LV-3B rocket, USMC LTC John H. Glenn Jr.'s Friendship 7 splashes down in the Atlantic Ocean and is recovered by the destroyer USS Noa. Glenn has just become the first American to orbit the Earth.
FEB202008The guided-missile cruiser USS Lake Erie launches a modified SM-3 surface-to-air missile at a malfunctioning satellite that was about to re-enter Earth's atmosphere. Although designed to intercept ballistic missiles, the SM-3 hits the satellite, which was traveling at 17,500 miles per hour, some 130 miles above the Pacific Ocean.
FEB211945As Task Force 58's carrier-based planes fly close air support for the Marines fighting on Iwo Jima, Japanese kamikaze pilots target the flattops. One plane hits the escort carrier USS Bismarck Sea (CVE-95), igniting the ship's magazines. Once crews have nearly contained the blaze, another slams into the ship and disables the firefighting system. Bismarck Sea is destroyed, killing 318 officers and men, and is the last American carrier sunk in the war.
FEB211961As the "Mercury Seven" astronauts begin their final phase of training, NASA selects Alan Shepard (USN), "Gus" Grissom (USAF), and John Glenn (USMC) as the pilots that will fly the United States' first missions to space.
FEB211991During Operation DESERT STORM, Marine Attack Squadron 331 begins flying the first-ever AV-8B "Harrier II" operations from a landing helicopter assault ship, the USS Nassau (LHA-4).
FEB212001At Nevada's Nellis Air Force Base, a General Atomics RQ-1 "Predator" busts a tank with an AGM-114 "Hellfire" missile during testing, marking the first armored kill by an unmanned aerial vehicle.
FEB221847Although outnumbered more than three-to-one, MG Zachary Taylor 4,500-man force defeats Antonio López de Santa Anna in the Battle of Buena Vista.
FEB221862Jefferson Davis is inaugurated as the Confederacy's first official president. Davis had been serving as the provisional president.
FEB221909President Theodore Roosevelt’s "Great White Fleet" returns to Hampton Roads, VA after sailing around the world in a grand show of American Naval power.
FEB221942President Franklin Roosevelt orders GEN Douglas MacArthur, America's only general with experience fighting the Japanese, to leave the Philippines. He delays the trip as long as possible, departing by PT boat on March 11.
FEB221967The U.S. Army’s 173rd Airborne Brigade conducts the first and only mass parachute jump of the Vietnam War.
FEB221974LT J.G. Barbara Ann Allen Rainey pins on her wings, becoming the first female Naval aviator. Rainey is assigned to a transport squadron, flying C-1 "Trader" planes.
FEB231778Baron Friedrich von Steuben, a Prussian Army officer arrives at Valley Forge with the task of whipping the Continental Army into shape.
FEB231836The advance elements of a 4,000-plus-man Mexican army under the command of GEN Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna begin the siege of the isolated Texas Army garrison at the Alamo.
FEB231847During the Mexican-American War, a Mexican army under Santa Anna launches a series of attacks against a numerically inferior U.S. Army force under the command of GEN Zachary Taylor near Buena Vista. Though surprised and outnumbered, the Americans beat back the Mexicans who are forced to withdraw.
FEB231942The Japanese submarine I-17 surfaces off the Santa Barbara Coast and attacks the Ellwood Oil Field. The sub's 5.5-inch gun inflicts minimal damage, but the incident causes an invasion scare along the Pacific coast and leads to the internment of Japanese-American citizens.
FEB231945After several days of savage fighting, U.S. Marines capture the summit of Mt. Suribachi on Iwo Jima. Just after 1030., a small flag is raised on Suribachi. But an officer orders a larger flag be hoisted so that it might be seen from the far end of the island.
FEB231955The Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker makes its first flight. The mid-air refueller was built to serve Strategic Air Command's B-52 fleet.
FEB231991A Marine patrol engages a group of 12 Iraqi tanks, destroying four with TOW missiles. The surviving tanks flee but are targeted by artillery and air support.
FEB241813The sloop-of-war USS Hornet under the command of CPT James Lawrence sinks the Royal Navy brig HMS Peacock in a swift action.
FEB241991At 0400 the lead elements of the enormous coalition ground force surges forward into Iraq and Kuwait aimed at ousting Saddam Hussein’s army from Kuwait.
FEB242022Shortly before 0500 in Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a "special military operation" in Ukraine. This involved a massive escalation of the Russia's war in Ukraine and consisted of unilateral invasions from the Eastern Donbas, Belarus, and occupied Crimea. In addition, heavy missile strikes struck as far west as Lviv and targeted both military and civilian facilities. Russia's first day of attacks left a reported 137 Ukrainian civilians and Soldiers dead.
FEB251779Following an arduous campaign through freezing floodwaters, a joint American-French force under Virginia militia LTC George Rogers Clark captures British-held Fort Sackville at Vincennes in the Illinois backcountry.
FEB261949Lucky Lady II, a U.S. Air Force B-50 "Superfortress" bomber flown by CPT James Gallagher and his 13-man crew, takes off from Fort Carswell on their first leg of the first-ever nonstop flight around the world.
FEB261955As North American Aviation test pilot Charles F. Smith tests an F-100 "Super Sabre" prior to the fighter's delivery to the Air Force, his controls freeze up, sending the fighter into a dive. Smith ejects at 777 miles per hour and becomes the first airman to punch out of an aircraft traveling at supersonic speeds. He is subjected to over 40 G's during violent deceleration, which destroys much of his parachute. The unconscious pilot lands in the Pacific Ocean, remarkably less than 100 yards from a former Naval rescue worker on his fishing boat. Smith will spend the next seven months in the hospital recovering.
FEB261991Although Saddam Hussein refers to it as a withdrawal and not a retreat, his forces are being routed in Kuwait by the American-led ground campaign.
FEB271942A flotilla of 14 Dutch, British, Australian, and American ships suffer a disastrous defeat at the hands of a much-larger Japanese invasion force in the Battle of the Java Sea.
FEB271942USS Langley (AV-3) is sunk by Japanese land-based aircraft while ferrying P-40 "Warhawk" attack planes to Java.
FEB271963Test pilots from the Hughes Tool Company conduct the first test flight of their Model 369 prototype helicopter, which will become the OH-6 "Cayeuse" helicopter when it enters service with the Army in 1966.
FEB271991The 1st Marine Division captures Kuwait International Airport, and the 2nd Marine Division has cut off any further egress routes from Kuwait City.
FEB281844As the screw steamship USS Princeton carries President John Tyler, members of his Cabinet, and some 400 other guests on a demonstration cruise up the Potomac River, CPT Robert F. Stockton fires the massive 12" gun, nicknamed "Peacemaker," which explodes. Shrapnel flies through the crowd killing seven onlookers, including Secretary of State Abel P. Upshur and Secretary of the Navy Thomas W. Gilmer.
FEB281864BG Hugh Judson Kilpatrick leads 3,500 Union cavalry troopers around Confederate GEN Robert E. Lee's flank and heads south towards Richmond. He is routed by defenders and the plan to burn Richmond is thwarted.
FEB281893The U.S. Navy launches its first "true battleship," USS Indiana (BB-1). The 350-foot-long vessel required a crew of 32 officers and 441 men and featured two twin 13" .35 cal. Mark 1 guns, four twin 8" .35 cal. guns, and dozens of batteries of smaller calibers.
FEB281994Two pairs of USAF F-16 "Fighting Falcons" conduct the first combat operation in NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) history, when the fighters engage a flight of Serbian Air Force attack aircraft on a bombing mission in the no-fly zone.