This Month in Military History

JAN11929MAJ Carl A. Spaatz and his modified Fokker C2-3 trimotor lift off for a record-setting flight that lasts 150 hours and 40 minutes. The Question Mark takes on 5,700 gallons of fuel from 43 in-flight refuelings as it flies back and forth between San Diego and Santa Monica, California.
JAN11945After two weeks of weather delays, the German Luftwaffe musters all available pilots and aircraft to execute their top-secret operation to wipe out Allied air forces and gain air superiority over France, Holland and Belgium. 120 Royal Air Force and 20 American warplanes are destroyed on the ground, but one-quarter of the German force - 200 aircraft - are lost (many due to friendly fire). The last-ditch Operation BODENPLATTE will be the Luftwaffe's final major strategic operation of the war.
JAN11946A solitary U.S. soldier registering American graves on Corregidor is interrupted by 20 Japanese soldiers waving a flag of surrender. The men had lived in a tunnel on the island and learned of Japan's surrender months before by spotting a newspaper while on a foraging mission.
JAN11951Half a million Communist Chinese and North Korean troops launch a new offensive, hammering away at the UN forces falling back from the 38th Parallel. As the South Korean capital of Seoul is about to fall into enemy hands a second time, GEN Douglas MacArthur informs the Japanese that they may have to rearm due to the threat. However, the overextended and exhausted communists break off the attack by month's end.
JAN11962U.S. Navy SEAL Teams "One" and "Two" are established. The special warfare operators, created for guerilla and counter-guerilla operations, are drawn from the ranks of the Navy's Underwater Demolition Teams. Team One is headquartered at Naval Amphibious Base (NAB) Coronado on the West Coast and Two at NAB Little Creek on the East Coast.
JAN21863MG William S. Rosecrans' Army of the Cumberland narrowly defeats GEN Braxton Bragg's Army of Tennessee in Murphysboro. Losses were heavy: roughly one-third of the 42,000 Union and 35,000 Confederate soldiers are killed, wounded, or missing. In fact, casualty percentages were higher during the Battle of Stones River than during any other engagement during the Civil War.
JAN21942Manila falls to Japanese LTG Masaharu Homma's 14th Army, as well as the naval base at Cavite and Clark Field.
JAN21951When enemy machine gun fire from an adjacent hill tear into SFC Junior D. Edwards and his platoon near Changbong-ni, Edwards rushes the nest. He temporarily drives off the enemy gun crew until running out of ammunition and has to cross the killzone a second time for additional grenades. Upon returning, he kills the remaining crew, but another machine gun opens fire on his position. Racing through enemy fire again for more grenades, he manages to neutralize the second position. Edwards falls while making yet another assault against the enemy and will posthumously be awarded the Medal of Honor.
JAN21967COL Robin Olds' 8th Tactical Fighter Wing - the "Wolfpack" - wipes out half of North Vietnam's MiG 21 fighter fleet in Operation BOLO. Olds' advanced F-4C "Phantoms" tricked Communist intelligence into thinking the advanced fighters were just another easy target of F-105 "Thunderchief" fighter-bombers by flying at altitudes, speeds, routes, and using radio callsigns typical to the less maneuverable F-105s. When the MiGs flew into Olds' ambush, seven "Fishbeds" are shot down in 12 minutes. Olds scores one of the victories, making him the only Air Force ace with kills in both World War II and Vietnam.
JAN21994The F-4G "Wild Weasel V" flies its last combat mission, during a flight over Iraq. During Operation DESERT STORM, the Wild Weasel crews took on the dangerous role of targeting Iraqi air defense networks, destroying some 200 sites.
JAN31777GEN George Washington defeats a British force under LTC Charles Mawhood in the Battle of Princeton.
JAN31861Four companies of Alabama volunteers led by COL John B. Todd capture Fort Morgan in Mobile Bay.
JAN31944Over Rabaul, New Guinea, MAJ George "Pappy" Boyington's F4U "Corsair" is shot down after the Marine aviator scores his 26th official victory. The former "Flying Tiger" and commander of VMF-214 will spend the remainder of the war - 20 months - in Japanese captivity and is awarded the Medal of Honor upon his repatriation.
JAN31944Off the coast of New Jersey, the destroyer USS Turner (DD-648) suffers a series of explosions - possibly due to a German U-boat attack - and sinks, taking 15 officers and 123 men with her. A Coast Guard HNS-1 helicopter flown by LCDR Frank A. Erickson flies in life-saving plasma to the scene, marking the first time a helicopter is used in a rescue role.
JAN31945ADM Chester Nimitz is placed in command of all naval forces and GEN Douglas MacArthur is charge of ground operations.
JAN31945First Army attacks the Germans as they retreat from the "bulge" in the Ardennes, as 1,100 bombers and 11 groups of fighter escorts hammer railroad and communication centers in western Germany.
JAN41847The U.S. Ordnance Department orders 1,000 revolvers designed by Samuel. Colt and Texas Ranger CPT Samuel H. Walker. The powerful firearm features a revolving cylinder that can effectively fire its six .44 bullets up to 100 yards.
JAN41910USS Michigan (BB-27), America's first dreadnought battleship, is commissioned. The massive ship features eight 12-inch guns mounted in twin turrets, which are capable of sending an 870-lb. projectile over 11 miles away and could penetrate over 16 inches of armor.
JAN41943Off the coast of Munda Island, USS Helena (CL-50) shoots down a Japanese Type 99 Val bomber, marking the first kill using Variable Timing (proximity-fused) anti-aircraft shells.
JAN41944U.S. Army Air Force and Royal Air Force bombers begin dropping weapons and supplies to resistance fighters in France, Belgium, and Italy during Operation CARPETBAGGER.
JAN41951The South Korean capital of Seoul falls into enemy hands for a second time.
JAN41989Two Libyan MiG-23 "Flogger" fighters approach two F-14 "Tomcats" from the carrier USS John F. Kennedy (CV-67) flying a combat air patrol mission over the Mediterranean Sea. The Tomcats engage and splash the MiGs in the first dogfight for the U.S. military since a 1981 engagement with Libya. Muammar Gaddafi claims that the U.S. Navy shot down unarmed reconnaissance planes, but gun camera footage shows the world that the fighters were armed with missiles.
JAN51781BG Benedict Arnold captures and burns Richmond, Virginia with a force of 1,600 redcoats.
JAN51855A landing party from the USS Plymouth skirmishes with Chinese forces near Canton during the Taiping Rebellion.
JAN51861Fort Sumter is surrounded by Confederate forces. The civilian merchant vessel Star of the West departs New York for the besieged Federal troops with supplies and 250 reinforcements.
JAN51875U.S. Navy CDR Edward Lull leads an expedition to locate the best route for the Panama Canal.
JAN51904Marines arrive in Korea to defend the U.S. legation assembly at Seoul.
JAN51945Japanese pilots receive their first order to execute kamikaze suicide tactics.
JAN5195159 B-29 "Superforts" hammer Pyongyang with nearly 700 tons of bombs and the 18th Fighter-Bomber Group takes off from Suwon Air Base for the final time. The base is destroyed in the face of an advancing Chinese and North Korean military.
JAN51967U.S. and South Vietnamese Marines conduct a joint amphibious assault of the Mekong Delta. The goal of Operation DECKHOUSE V is to capture Viet Cong prisoners from the Thanh Phu Secret Zone, and it is the first time U.S. troops operate in the delta.
JAN51970SSG Franklin D. Miller was leading a long range patrol of Special Forces soldiers and Montagnards in Laos when a booby trap wounded several members. A firefight ensued, wounding the entire patrol. Despite a serious chest wound, Miller is the last man standing and keeps up the fight for several hours, holding off repeated enemy assaults against their position. That evening, as he is about to exhaust his ammunition, a team arrives to relieve the Green Berets.
JAN52002Air Force C-17 cargo planes deliver materials at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba so the "Seabees" can construct a detention facility for captured Al Qaeda and Taliban detainees.
JAN61777GEN George Washington sets up winter camp for the Continental Army in the hills surrounding Morristown, N.J.
JAN61861Florida militia forces seize the Union Apalachicola Arsenal, which is defended by Ordnance SGT Edwin Powell and three laborers. Powell was prepared to fight if ordered to hold and initially refuses to surrender the keys to the magazines or armory. But when the militia allows him to send a telegram to his command for instruction - and he receives no response - he reluctantly concedes.
JAN61927U.S. Marines return to Nicaragua to protect American lives and property.
JAN61942President Franklin Roosevelt informs Congress that he is authorizing the largest armaments production in United States history: eight million tons of shipping, 45,000 planes, and 45,000 tanks, and 20,000 anti-aircraft guns will roll off assembly lines within the year.
JAN61944BG Frank Merrill is designated to lead the 5307th Composite Unit (provisional), a long-range penetration special operations unit, now popularly known as Merrill's Marauders.
JAN61968Army helicopter pilot MAJ Patrick H. Brady conducted multiple medical evacuation missions in South Vietnam in dense fog and in the face of heavy enemy fire. Over the course of the day, he rescued 51 soldiers and 400 bullet holes were counted in the three helicopters he flew.
JAN111944In the skies over Oschersleben, Germany, MAJ James H. Howard is leading a group of P-51 “Mustangs”, escorting a formation of B-17 “Flying Fortress” heavy bombers. When Luftwaffe fighters intercept the group, Howard immediately shoots down a Messerschmitt Bf-110 long range fighter. Upon returning, he finds 30 German pilots attacking the bombers. Without any tactical advantage, he nonetheless single-handedly attacks the enemy planes, shooting down three, and damaging or possibly destroying three more. GEN Carl A. Spaatz presents Howard with the Medal of Honor to Howard in June.
JAN111945Near Bastogne, Belgium, SSG Archer T. Gammon’s platoon is advancing through the woods when it is targeted by a German machine gun position. Archer wades through waist-deep snow to attack the position, eliminating it with grenades. Now rid of the deadly obstacle, the platoon moves forward again, but runs into a hornet’s nest of machine guns, infantry, and a tank. Despite hostile fire zeroing in on him, he again charges forward and eliminates another machine gun nest with grenades and closes within 25 yards of the vehicle while eliminating soldiers protecting their tank. Gammon's daring assault proves to be too much for the enemy armor, but as it fires a parting shot, an 88-mm shells scores a direct hit on the daring American staff sergeant. Gammon is posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.
JAN111945During the American invasion of Luzon Island in the Philippines, CPT William A. Shomo was leading an armed reconnaissance mission of two P-51 “Mustangs”. He and his wingman spotted a formation of Japanese fighters escorting a Mitsubishi G4M “Betty” bomber. Although outnumbered 13-2, the American aviators began the attack. Shomo shot down three fighters, then the bomber they were protecting. He will shoot down three more enemy fighters and his wingman, LT Paul Lipscomb, scores three. Shomo’s seven victories give him the second-highest single mission tally for U.S. pilots in history, and he is awarded the Medal of Honor.
JAN111969While leading an armored convoy down a highway in Vietnam’s Binh Long Province, 1LT Harold A. Fritz’s formation is ambushed. Surrounded on all sides and in danger of being overrun, Fritz – who had been wounded in the initial moments – disregards his injuries and heavy enemy fire, leaping from his vehicle to rally his men, directing them to reposition and shift their fire. As the battle wore on, a group of enemy soldiers closed in on the unit. Fritz, armed with just a pistol and bayonet, and some of his fellow men defeat the infiltrating force. Upon arrival of the relief force, Fritz again braves incoming fire to direct the unit.
JAN121945Warplanes from the U.S. Navy’s carrier Task Force 38 under the command of VADM John Sidney McCain Sr. (grandfather of Senator John S. McCain III), attack enemy convoys and bases along the coast of Japanese-held French Indochina (Vietnam) in the Battle of the South China Sea.
JAN121962Ten miles west of Saigon, U.S. Army H-21 flying banana helicopters ferry South Vietnamese paratroopers into battle - the first major American combat operation in what will become the Vietnam War.
JAN121962The U.S. military begins defoliation operations to deny the Viet Cong use of jungle cover for their movements. Over nine years, Operation RANCH HAND pilots, whose motto was "Only you can prevent forests," would fly 19,000 sorties and drop an estimated 20 million gallons of defoliant.
JAN121973An F-4 Phantom flown by U.S. Navy LTs Vic Kovaleski and Jim Wise splash a MiG-17, making it the Navy’s final air-to-air kill and the last aerial-combat kill of the war.
JAN121991With President George H.W. Bush having already deployed 500,000 U.S. troops to the Persian Gulf, Congress passes an Authorization for Use of Military Force against Iraq.
JAN131865U.S. forces under the joint command of MG Alfred Howe Terry and RADM. David Dixon Porter begin landing operations aimed at seizing Fort Fisher, N.C. The fort falls to Union forces within two days.
JAN151815The frigate USS President, under the command of Stephen Decatur, breaks out of the British blockade at New York Harbor, but is soon intercepted by four British ships. President deals out significant damage to the frigate HMS Endymion, but an outnumbered Decatur must surrender the ship.
JAN151943The Pentagon, the headquarters for the Department of Defense and one of the world's largest office buildings, is dedicated. World War II began shortly after construction started, and the design had to be altered to accommodate the shortage of materials such as steel.
JAN151943Over Guadalcanal, Marine Corps aviator CPT Joseph J. Foss shoots down three Japanese planes, bringing his total victories to 26. The top official Marine ace of World War II is awarded the Medal of Honor, tying top World War I ace Eddie Rickenbacker's tally in just 95 days.
JAN151967In Los Angeles, the Green Bay Packers defeat the Kansas City Chiefs 35-10 in the AFL-NFL World Championship. Among many military veterans on the field are Green Bay Hall-of-Famers Ray Nitschke, Paul Hornung, and Boyd Dowler.
JAN152009A U.S. Airways Airbus 320 flown by Chesley Sullenberger runs into a flock of geese during takeoff, disabling the engines. Sullenberger skillfully ditches the plane in the Hudson River. All the 150 passengers and five-person crew were safely rescued.
JAN161917British intelligence intercepts a coded telegram from the German government requesting an alliance with Mexico if the U.S. enters World War I. In return for a Mexican attack on the United States, Germany would offer financial aid and assist Mexico in regaining Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona. The Mexicans decline, and the "Zimmermann Telegram" sparks outrage when published in U.S. papers, leading Congress to declare war on Germany in April.
JAN161942As U.S. and Philippine soldiers conduct a delaying action on Luzon Island, 26th Cavalry Regiment troopers and their Philippine Scouts spot a detachment of Japanese troops approaching the town of Morong. LT Edwin P. Ramsey orders a cavalry charge, which surprises and scatters the enemy.
JAN161942On Bataan, U.S. Army SGT Jose Calugas - a Philippine Scout - notices that one of the gun batteries have been disabled by enemy attacks. Without orders, he charges across a 1,000-yard killzone, and organizes a crew of men to get the cannon working again. After being relieved, he returns to his normal post as mess sergeant. He falls into enemy hands when the island is captured. The Japanese put Calugas on a work detail, and he secretly joins a guerilla unit and fights to liberate the Philippines. After the war, he is finally awarded the Medal of Honor and receives a commission.
JAN161945As the Red Army drives west through Poland and the Wehrmacht is beaten back to its positions prior to their last-ditch Ardennes Offensive (the Battle of the Bulge), Adolf Hitler enters the underground bomb shelter and Nazi command post known as the Führerbunker. The German dictator will spend the rest of his life at the compound.
JAN161991When the UN deadline for Saddam Hussein to withdraw his military from Kuwait expires at midnight, hundreds of planes take off from U.S. carriers and from bases in Saudi Arabia, decimating Iraq's air force and air defense network. DESERT STORM - Saddam's "Mother of All Battles" - has begun.
JAN171781Continental Army forces under the command of BG Daniel Morgan, clash with a better-equipped, more-experienced force of British Army regulars and Loyalists under the command of LTC Banastre “Bloody Ban” Tarleton in a sprawling pastureland known as Hannah’s Cowpens in the South Carolina upcountry. The Battle of Cowpens ends in a decisive victory for Morgan.
JAN171966A nuclear-equipped B-52 bomber flying an Operation CHROME DOME airborne alert mission off the coast of Spain collides with a KC-135 "Stratotanker" during refueling, destroying both planes. Four B28 thermonuclear weapons fall from the sky; three landing near the village of Palomares and one sinks in the Mediterranean Sea in what is one of the worst nuclear disasters in U.S. military history.
JAN171991A massive U.S. and coalition air campaign continues to pound the Iraq' air force and air defense systems, expanding the attacks to include Saddam Hussein's command and control infrastructure. Meanwhile, the dictator fires eight Soviet-built "Scud" ballistic missiles into Israel. Saddam sought to draw Israel into the campaign.
JAN1819111911: During the San Francisco Air Meet, exhibition pilot Eugene B. Ely lands his Curtiss Pusher Model "D" aircraft on the armored cruiser USS Pennsylvania, which had been fitted with a special 119-foot-long wooden platform with makeshift tailhook system. Ely's feat marks the first-ever airplane landing aboard a ship.
JAN181945In a speech to the House of Commons, British prime minister Winston Churchill recognizes the immense American sacrifice in the Battle of the Bulge. Possibly alluding to British general Bernard Montgomery's reluctance to engage, resulting in only 1,400 British casualties compared to well over 100,000 Americans, Churchill states "U.S. troops have done almost all the fighting, suffering losses equal to those of both sides at the Battle of Gettysburg."
JAN181951Following their return to action after the breakout from the Chosin Reservoir, the First Marine Division begins mopping-up guerillas in the Pohang area of South Korea.
JAN181957Three B-52 "Stratofortress" bombers, led by MG Archie J. Old Jr., land at March Air Force Base in California after completing a non-stop flight around the world. The 45-hour mission, codenamed Operation POWER FLITE, includes three mid-air refuelings and a simulated bombing run in the Malay Peninsula, demonstrating to the world that the United States could put nuclear weapons on target anywhere in the world.
JAN191770The Battle of Golden Hill erupts in New York City between members of the patriot organization "Sons of Liberty" and a contingent of British soldiers. The clash begins when the "Sons," whom the Redcoats had labeled as "the real enemies of society," snatch a few of the King’s men, who are cutting down wooden "liberty poles." Redcoats from the nearby barracks respond, and a bayonet charge is ordered. Several are wounded on both sides, and one civilian is killed.
JAN191862In southern Kentucky, a Union force commanded by BG George H. Thomas hands the Confederates their first significant defeat of the Civil War in the Battle of Mill Springs - known to Southerners as the Battle of Fishing Creek.
JAN191967A-4 "Skyhawk" pilot CPT Michael J. Estocin (USN) earned the Distinguished Flying Cross during aerial combat over North Vietnam. His citation states: "As the leader of three Shrike-configured aircraft, Captain Estocin was responsible for providing warning, detection, and suppression of hostile surface-to-air missile activity directed at elements of the main strike group conducting a coordinated attack against the Dong Phong Thuong Railroad Bridge north of Thanh Hoa, North Vietnam. He lured the opposing missile sites to direct their fire toward his widely dispersed position by deploying the Shrike aircraft well ahead of the main strike group. During the course of the mission, Captain Estocin broadcast timely and accurate warning of enemy missile firings and personally took under fire two enemy missile site, destroying one and causing significant damage to the radar facilities of the other. He was subjected to heavy and accurate enemy anti-aircraft fire throughout the execution of these attacks. After exhausting his ordnance and at great personal peril, Captain Estocin remained on station to act as a lure in drawing any missile fire away from the remaining strike group. Only when assured that the main strike group was clear of the missile threat did Captain Estocin leave the hostile area."
JAN201914A naval aviation unit from Annapolis, MD consisting of nine officers, 23 men, seven aircraft, portable hangars, and other gear, under LT J. H. Towers” arrives at Pensacola, FL aboard the battleship USS Mississippi and the bulk-cargo ship USS Orion to set up a flying school.
JAN201944The U.S. 5th Army, commanded by LTG Mark Clark, reaches the Gustav Line and clashes with German forces near Monte Cassino, Italy. After four months of bloody fighting, the Allies will have the German Tenth Army, led by Field Marshall Albert Kesselring, on their heels and in danger of being surrounded.
JAN201968North Vietnamese Army fails to overrun Marines patrolling hills surrounding the Combat Outpost Khe Sanh. The Battle of Khe Sanh begins, and for the next 77 days, the heavily outnumbered and besieged Marines fought off their attackers, shattering two enemy divisions.
JAN211903The Militia Act of 1903 is passed, establishing federal standards and greater federal control over state militias, essentially creating the modern National Guard.
JAN21191812 officers and 133 enlisted men from the 1st Aeronautical Company arrive for anti-submarine duty at Ponta Delgada, Azores. The unit was one of the first completely equipped American aviation units to serve overseas in World War I.
JAN221944Allied forces, including the U.S. VI Corps under the command ofMG John P. Lucas, begin a series of landings along a stretch of western Italian coastline in the Anzio-Nettuno area. Codenamed SHINGLE, the Allies achieve complete surprise against the Germans.
JAN221946Four months after dismantling the Office of Strategic Services, President Harry S. Truman creates the Central Intelligence Group, the predecessor to today's Central Intelligence Agency.
JAN221954First Lady Mamie Eisenhower breaks a bottle of champagne across the bow of USS Nautilus (SSN-571) in Groton, Connecticut, launching the world’s first nuclear-powered submarine.
JAN221968With aerial photographs, ground reconnaissance reports, and a massive array of electronic sensors indicating that some 20,000 North Vietnamese Army soldiers surround the Khe Sanh Combat Base, Operation NIAGRA, is underway. The massive air campaign will rain down nearly 100,000 tons of bombs - and eight times that amount of artillery shells - on the enemy.
JAN221969Operation DEWEY CANYON, the Marine Corps' last major offensive of the Vietnam War, begins. Marines under the command of COL Robert H. Barrow will spend 56 days clearing out the North Vietnamese Army's stronghold near the A Shau Valley.
JAN231870Following the murder of a Montana rancher and his son, COL Eugene Baker forms a band of infantry and cavalry in search of the Blackfoot responsible for the attack. Coming across a Blackfoot encampment, Baker orders his men to attack the camp, not caring if it was the correct group or not. The massacre sparked public outrage. President Ulysses S. Grant, wanting a "peace policy" with Native Americans, ends the Army's hopes of taking over native affairs by appointing civilian ministers instead.
JAN231945With the Soviet Army approaching, Grand Admiral Karl Dönitz orders the evacuation German citizens and troops from East Prussia, Courland, and the Polish Corridor. With hundreds of merchant vessels and German warships transporting nearly a million civilians and 350,000 troops, Operation HANNIBAL was in fact three times larger than the famous British evacuation at Dunkirk in 1940.
JAN231968North Korean warships surround the intelligence-gathering ship USS Pueblo operating in international waters in the Sea of Japan and order the crew to surrender. The enemy opens fire on the unarmed vessel and the ship is captured. One sailor is killed during the engagement. The 82 surviving Americans will endure 11 months of brutal treatment before their release.
JAN241961When a nuclear-armed B-52 bomber from Seymour Johnson Air Force Base develops a fuel leak in its wing, the pilot flies over the ocean to vent the excess fuel before landing. However, the hole in the wing worsens significantly during the flight. Before the plane can land, it begins to oscillate wildly, and the movements manage to trigger many of the bombs' redundant arming systems. The plane breaks up mid-air and three of the eight crew members perish. The weapons landed north of Goldsboro, N.C., but fortunately, neither of the 3-plus megaton Mark 39 devices exploded.
JAN241985The first all-military Space Shuttle crew blasts off. Discovery's crew are commander Ken Mattingly (USN), pilot Loren Shriver (USAF), and specialists Ellison Onizuka (USAF), Gary Payton (USAF), and James Buchli (USMC). All are former test pilots, and Buchli served as an infantry Platoon Commander during the Vietnam War before earning his pilot’s wings.
JAN241991Helicopters carry Navy SEALs from USS Leftwich (DD-984) and USS Nicholas (FFG-47) to the Kuwaiti island of Jazirat Qurah, where the operators engage in a battle with the occupying Iraqi military. Three enemy soldiers are killed and 51 are captured, liberating the island with no American losses.
JAN241999Navy F/A-18C "Hornet" aircraft fire the AFG-154A Joint Standoff Weapon against air defense targets in Iraq, the first use of the JSOW in combat. The GPS-guided gliding cluster bomb can precisely hit targets, blanketing a football-field-sized area with deadly munitions from up to 40 miles away.
JAN251787Former Continental Army CPT Daniel Shays leads a group of 2,000 American rebels on a raid against the Springfield Armory, hoping to obtain rifles. 1,200 militia meet Shays' force, turning the attackers away by firing grapeshot into their ranks and killing four. Shays is tried and sentenced to be hanged but is pardoned.
JAN251856Marines and seamen from the sloop-of-war USS Decatur land at Seattle to protect settlers from a native attack. The Battle of Seattle lasted seven hours.
JAN251939In a basement of Columbia University, scientists split the uranium atom for the first time.
JAN251960A MIM-23 "Hawk" missile shoots down an MGR-1 "Honest John" nuclear-capable missile during tests, the first time a missile "kills" a ballistic missile.
JAN251995Although the Cold War is over, Russia and the United States are the closest the two nations will come to all-out nuclear war when a Norwegian scientific research rocket launch makes Russian missile defense radar officials think that a U.S. submarine may have launched a nuclear "Trident" missile. The Russian military goes on full alert in preparation for war and an armed nuclear briefcase sits in front of Russian President Boris Yeltsin - just one step away from mutually assured destruction. Fortunately, radar shows the rocket traveling away from Russian airspace after a few minutes and the Russians stand down.
JAN261863President Abraham Lincoln relieves MG Ambrose Burnside from his command of the Army of the Potomac, appointing Joseph Hooker in his place.
JAN261942Elements of the 133rd Infantry Regiment land at Belfast Harbor in Northern Ireland - the first American troops to arrive in Europe. The soldiers begin establishing the "air bridge" between the United States and the United Kingdom.
JAN261945A 19-year-old 2LT named Audie Murphy orders his company to fall back to safety when they are attacked by German armor and infantry. 2LT Murphy remains behind to covers their withdrawal with his M-1 carbine and directs fire support on the Germans before manning a .50-cal. machine gun mounted on a burning tank destroyer. Murphy holds off wave after wave of enemy assaults, with multiple 88-mm rounds hitting his position. After an hour of being decimated by the one-man army, the Germans withdraw. Murphy then organizes his men and leads a counterattack.
JAN261946USAAF COL William H. Councill takes off from Daugherty Field in his Lockheed P-80 "Shooting Star" on the country's first transcontinental jet flight. Councill reaches New York's La Guardia Airport in just 4 hours and 13 minutes.
JAN261968Reserve and National Guard units are mobilized following North Korea's capture of USS Pueblo and increased enemy activity in Vietnam.
JAN271837U.S. soldiers and Marines under the command of COL Archibald Henderson defeat a force of Seminole in the running battle of Hatchee-Lustee Creek.
JAN271862President Abraham Lincoln issues the first of two war orders. The first, General War Order No. One, directs U.S. Army and Naval forces to move “against the insurgent forces [of the Southern states].”
JAN271942The submarine USS Gudgeon sinks a Japanese submarine – becoming the first American sub to send an enemy warship to the bottom during World War II.
JAN271943American bombers of the U.S. Eighth Air Force strike German U-boat facilities at Wilhelmshaven. The bombing raid is the first U.S. Army Air Forces mission over Germany.
JAN281915President Woodrow Wilson signs into law the congressionally approved merger of the "Life Saving" and "Revenue Cutter" services, thus establishing the U.S. Coast Guard.
JAN281945The Eighth Air Force celebrates its third birthday by sending 1,006 B-24 and B-17 bombers and 249 P-51 escorts to Dortmund, Germany on Mission 809 -- a raid on marshaling yards, bridges and benzol plants, and other targets of opportunity. German air defenses shoot down seven B-24s and three B-17s, damage 464 bombers, and upon landing, another four bombers are damaged beyond repair. 16 airmen are killed, 31 wounded, and 106 missing in action.
JAN281966Marines hit the beaches of the South Vietnam's Quang Ngai province in the first amphibious landing since Korea. The Americans meet little resistance as they head inland, then move to cut off retreating North Vietnamese Army and Viet Cong forces.
JAN281973B-52s under Operation ARC LIGHT carried out their final combat sortie in Southeast Asia - striking targets in South Vietnam.
JAN281986Space Shuttle Challenger finally blasts off from the launch pad at Cape Canaveral, FL, planning to put a satellite into orbit to study the approaching Halley's Comet. But 73 seconds into the flight, an O-ring on the Solid Rocket Booster fails, causing Challenger to explode.
JAN291863COL Patrick E. Connor's 3rd California Volunteer Infantry Regiment attacks a Shoshone encampment in Washington Territory (present day Utah-Idaho border). Hundreds of Shoshone and 21 Union soldiers are killed in the Battle of Bear River.
JAN291943As Task Force 18 brings American replacement troops to Guadalcanal, Japanese land-based torpedo bombers attack the flotilla, sinking the heavy cruiser USS Chicago (CA-29) and damaging a destroyer. The American warships withdraw after the Battle of Rennell Island - the last major naval engagement of the Guadalcanal campaign - opening the door for the Japanese evacuation of Guadalcanal.
JAN291944MG James H. "Jimmy" Doolittle's Eighth Air Force bombers and escorts take off from fields across England for their largest bombing mission of the war to that point. Over 800 B-17s and B-24s target the German cities of Frankfurt and Ludwigshaven. 29 heavy bombers are lost and another five are shot up badly enough to be scrapped after limping back across the channel. 22 American airmen are killed and 299 are listed as missing in action, but the gunners and P-38 Lightning, P-47 Thunderbolt, and P-51 Mustang escort pilots claim over 150 German warplanes and damage dozens more.
JAN291945As crews load depth charges onto the cargo ship USS Serpens (AK-97) at port in Guadalcanal, an explosion obliterates most of Serpens, killing 196 Coast Guardsmen and 58 soldiers.
JAN291991Hoping to lure the U.S.-led Coalition into a major land battle, three divisions of Iraqi soldiers invade Saudi Arabia. After a brief clash with American reconnaissance troops manning observation posts along the Saudi-Kuwaiti border, the Iraqis take the port city of Khafji.
JAN292002During his State of the Union address, President George W. Bush names Iran, Iraq, and North Korea as the "Axis of Evil," claiming the three nations are state supporters of terrorism and either are actively pursuing or seek to obtain weapons of mass destruction.
JAN301862The U.S. Navy’s first ironclad ship, USS Monitor, is launched at Greenpoint, N.Y. Designed by Swedish engineer John Ericsson, the turreted gunship will make history in March when she trades shots with the Confederate ironclad Virginia (a vessel built from the previously scuttled USS Merrimac) in a duel that ends with a draw at Hampton Roads, Virginia.
JAN301942A formation of over 50 Japanese bombers target Singapore harbor - unprotected by either fighters or anti-aircraft guns. Among the enemy bombardiers' targets is USS Wakefield, a former luxury ocean liner, until her conversion to a troop transport in 1941.
JAN301942The Treasury-class Coast Guard cutter USCGC Alexander Hamilton capsizes off the coast of Iceland after being torpedoed by the German submarine U-132, becoming the Coast Guard's first vessel lost during World War II.
JAN301944Just after midnight, two battalions of COL William O. Darby's Rangers march to the Italian town of Cisterna, charged with sneaking behind enemy lines to seize and hold the town until the main assault force can wipe out the Germans. Planners are unaware, however, that the two battalions of elite soldiers will be going up against several fortified divisions of enemy infantry and armor. The Rangers fight valiantly but are cut down nearly to the last man by overwhelming numbers of well-prepared Germans.
JAN301945Behind Japanese lines, a P-61 Black Widow night fighter flies overhead, distracting enemy troops while 133 soldiers of the 6th Ranger Battalion and Alamo Scouts, along with over 200 Filipino guerrillas, crawl up to conduct a surprise attack on the Cabanatuan prison camp. Once the men were in position, they ambushed the guards, knocking out the camp's defenses within a few seconds.
JAN301945In the Baltic Sea, the Soviet submarine S-13 spots massive military transport ship MV Wilhelm Gustloff as it evacuates German sailors, civilians, and wounded soldiers from Eastern Europe. Three torpedoes strike Gustloff in her port side and the ship slips under the frigid waves, taking over 9,000 souls with her to the bottom - the largest loss of life at sea by a single ship in human history.
JAN301968At 0245, a 19-man Viet Cong suicide squad blows a hole in the wall of the U.S. Embassy at Saigon, managing to hold the courtyard for six hours until paratroopers can retake the compound. 10,000 North Vietnamese soldiers take the city of Hue, triggering a grueling house-to-house battle with U.S. and South Vietnamese soldiers.
JAN301968The Vietnamese Tet Offensive – launched by over 70,000 jointly operating North Vietnamese and Viet Cong forces – has kicked off across South Vietnam. The Communists trade their typical guerilla tactics for a risky, more conventional strategy intended to weaken the government in Saigon and inspire a revolutionary uprising.
JAN311865Robert E. Lee is promoted to General-in-Chief of the Armies of the Confederate States. Lee is the only man to hold the prestigious rank during the Confederacy's brief existence.
JAN311917Kaiser Wilhelm orders the Imperial German Navy's fleet of 105 U-boats to resume their campaign of unrestricted submarine warfare, effectively causing the United States to enter World War I.
JAN311945U.S. Army PVT Eddie Slovik is executed by firing squad near Sainte Marie-aux-Mines, France for abandoning his rifle company as he admits to being "too scared" for combat. GEN Dwight Eisenhower had personally signed the execution order to discourage further desertions. To date, Slovik remains the only American shot for desertion since the Civil War.
JAN311950President Harry S. Truman announces a program that would create a thermonuclear weapon, many times more powerful than the atomic weapon the Soviet Union recently tested.
JAN311971A Saturn V rocket lifts off from Cape Canaveral, carrying Alan Shepard (USN), Stuart Roosa (USAF), and Edgar Mitchell (USN) on NASA's third manned mission to reach the lunar surface. The crew of Apollo 14 spend two days on the moon, and ten years after Shepard becomes the first American in space - he becomes the first person to hit a golf ball on the moon.