This Month in Military History

JUL21863The Battle of Gettysburg enters its second day. COL Joshua L. Chamberlain's 20th Maine Volunteers occupy "Little Round Top" at the extreme left flank of the Union forces. With ammunition running low from repeated attacks by the 15th Regiment of Alabama, inflicting heavy casualties on the defenders, Chamberlain orders a bayonet charge. His men rush downhill, capturing over 100 soldiers. Chamberlain, who personally took a Confederate officer prisoner with his saber, is awarded the Medal of Honor.
JUL21863On Cemetery Ridge, the 1st Minnesota Volunteers arrive just in time to plug a gap left by retreating Yankees. The Minnesotans conduct another bayonet charge, and by day's end only 47 of an original 262-man force are capable of fighting - one of the highest casualty rates of the war.
JUL21926The Distinguished Flying Cross is established. The decoration is awarded to individuals who distinguish themselves by single acts of heroism or extraordinary achievement while participating in aerial flight. Both heroism and extraordinary achievement are entirely distinctive, involving operations that are not routine.
JUL21937Amelia Earhart takes off from New Guinea and heads for the tiny coral atoll of Howland Island, over 22,000 miles into her around-the-world flight. The Coast Guard cutter USCGC Itasca was positioned near Howland to assist Earhart, and received a transmission that her Lockheed Electra was running out of fuel. The Navy dispatches the battleship USS Colorado (BB-45), aircraft carrier USS Lexington CV-2), and PBY Catalinas from Hawaii (1,700 miles away) to join Itasca in the search, but they come up empty-handed.
JUL21943A flight of 16 B-25 Mitchell bombers, escorted by P-40 Warhawk fighters of the all-black 99th Pursuit Squadron, conducts a raid on Sicily. 1LT Charles P. Hall becomes the first Tuskegee Airman to shoot down an Axis warplane - a Fw-190.
JUL31775GEN George Washington, the newly appointed commander-in-chief of the Continental Army, takes formal command of his troops in Cambridge.
JUL31778A force of 1,000 Loyalists and Iroquois warriors commanded by COL John Butler attacks American fortifications and settlements in Pennsylvania's Wyoming Valley, killing some 360 militiamen and destroying 1,000 houses. Reportedly, women and children are also killed in Butler's "Wyoming massacre," and those that escape the slaughter will die of starvation and exposure.
JUL31863During the final day of the Battle of Gettysburg, GEN Robert E. Lee orders three divisions of LTG James Longstreet's Confederate soldiers across open ground to assault the Union position on Cemetery Ridge. Union fire shatters the rebels, inflicting thousands of casualties before the troops can return to the Confederate lines after the failed attack, which becomes known as "Pickett's Charge."
JUL31863Fearing a Union counter-attack, GEN Robert E. Lee Lee orders MG George Pickett to rally what is left of his division, Pickett replies, "General, I have no division."
JUL31898RADM William T. Sampson cables the Secretary of the Navy, John D. Long, declaring that the Atlantic Squadron has decisively defeated the Spanish Navy in the Battle of Santiago de Cuba, offering the captured fleet as a "Fourth of July present" to the nation.
JUL31950Off the coast of Korea, carriers from both the United States and Britain begin combat operations against North Korea. F9F Panthers, AD Skyraiders, and F4U Corsairs launch from the deck of USS Valley Forge (CV-45) and strike the airfield at Pyongyang. The raid marks the first time the Panther and Skyraider see combat and is the first-ever combat strike by a jet aircraft.
JUL31950LT Leonard H. Plog and ENS E. W. Brown of Fighter Squadron 51 (VF-51) each shoot down a Yak-9 fighter in the Navy's first victories of the Korean War.
JUL31951When a Marine Corsair flown by CPT James V. Wilkins is shot down 35 miles southwest of Wonsan, LT John K. Koelsch volunteers to rescue the downed aviator. Overcast conditions force Koelsch to fly very low and without fighter protection. His helicopter is hit by enemy fire during the search, and once Koelsch hoists Wilkins out and is in the process of flying back to friendly lines, the chopper is shot down. Koelsch extricates fellow crewman George M. Neal and Wilkins from the wreckage and the Americans evade enemy soldiers for nine days before being captured. Neal and Wilkins survive their captivity, and Neal is awarded the Navy Cross. The communists subject Koelsch to especially harsh treatment, from which he will not survive, and he is awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously.
JUL51814On the banks of the Niagara River in Upper Canada, The United States Army proves that they are capable of going toe-to-toe with the British. Wrongly believing that the American soldiers are militia British GEN Phineas Rail orders his Redcoats to advance on MG Jacob Brown's Army of the North. The king's men are cut down and retreat to nearby Fort George after suffering heavy casualties in the Battle of Chippawa.
JUL51814The sloop-of-war USS Peacock captures four British warships. Peacock will capture 20 British ships before participating in the last naval engagement during the War of 1812.
JUL51859CPT N.C. Brooks, sailing aboard the bark Gambia, discovers the Midway Islands some 1,300 miles northwest of Hawaii. The island will become an important strategic base for the U.S. Navy and is the first offshore island claimed by the United States.
JUL51861Federal troops led by COL Franz Sigel skirmish with a Missouri State Guard force personally commanded by Governor Claiborne F. Jackson at Carthage. Although better armed and more experienced than their counterparts, Sigel's men are outnumbered nearly six-to-one and withdraw from the field, ceding victory to the pro-Confederate state defense force in the first large-scale engagement of the Civil War.
JUL51942The submarine USS Growler (SS-215), skippered by LCDR Howard W. Gilmore, attacks three Japanese destroyers operating in Alaska's Aleutian Islands. She sinks Arare and severely damages two others, narrowly avoiding enemy torpedoes. For this engagement, Gilmore is awarded the first of his two Navy Crosses.
JUL51944LTC Francis "Gabby" Gabreski shoots down his 28th German warplane. Gabreski is the top American ace in the European Theater but will spend the rest of the war as a German prisoner after being shot down later in the month.
JUL51945GEN Douglas MacArthur announces that the Philippine Islands have been liberated.
JUL51950Two infantry companies and an artillery battery under the command of LTC Brad Smith set up a defensive line at Osan, hoping to hold off the communist advance long enough for American forces to land at Pusan. The Americans' obsolete anti-tank weapons are no match for the Soviet-built T-34 tanks, who quickly overrun the task force. Task Force Smith manages to hold off two full divisions of enemy troops for several hours before retreating in the first clash of U.S. and North Korean forces. Only 185 of Smith's 520-man force return to friendly lines after the Battle of Osan.
JUL61911Henry H. "Hap" Arnold overcomes his fear of flight and receives his pilot's license, becoming one of the world's first military aviators.
JUL61944LTG George S. Patton finally arrives in France. The Germans held Patton in such high regard that kept their 15th Army in Calais, thinking that would be the site where Patton's "phantom army" would be landing - the result of a successful Allied deception campaign. Patton's Third Army will form the extreme right flank of the march across France.
JUL619442LT Jackie Robinson refuses to move to the back of a bus. Military police meet Robinson at his stop, and investigators recommend a court martial. Although his commanding officer refuses to press charges, Robinson is transferred to another unit whose commander does pursue a court martial. His former unit, the 761st "Black Panther" tank battalion is sent to Europe, and Robinson will receive an honorable discharge.
JUL61945Marine Corps MG Keller E. Rockey, commanding the Third Amphibious Corps, accepts the surrender of 50,000 Japanese soldiers in northern China.
JUL61947Mikhail Kalashnikov's iconic AK-47 assault rifle goes into production in the Soviet Union.
JUL61951Joseph Stalin announces that the Soviet Union has developed an atomic bomb.
JUL61961President John F. Kennedy advises Americans to construct fallout shelters in case of nuclear war between the United States and Soviet Union.
JUL61962USS Bainbridge (DLGN-25), America's first nuclear-powered frigate, is commissioned.
JUL71798The "Quasi War" with France begins when Congress rescinds treaties with the revolutionary French government.
JUL71846Commodore John D. Sloat, commanding the Pacific Squadron during the Mexican-American War, lands at Monterrey and raises the flag over the Custom House, claiming California for the United States.
JUL71941Marines from the Fifth Marine Defense Battalion and the Sixth Marine Regiment land at Reykjavik, relieving the British garrison on Iceland.
JUL71944On Saipan, 3,000 Japanese troops conduct the largest banzai charge of the war, nearly wiping out two battalions of soldiers from the 105th Infantry Regiment in a 12-hour pitched battle.
JUL71944Marine PFC Harold C. Agerholm commandeers an abandoned ambulance and for three hours makes repeated trips through perilous enemy fire, rescuing 45 wounded Americans before he is mortally wounded by an enemy sniper. For his actions, Agerholm was awarded the Medal of Honor.
JUL81942The Gato class submarine USS Barb (SS-220) is commissioned in Groton.
JUL91944Saipan is declared secure following a wave of banzai charges. Pockets of resistance will continue for some time. The 30,0000-man Japanese garrison force is wiped out, but the Battle of Saipan is the costliest campaign in the Pacific War to date with over 12,000 American casualties - including (soon-to-be) famous actor Lee Marvin, then a Marine Corps private, who was twice wounded in the assault on Mount Tapochau.
JUL101942A PBY "Catalina" crew spots an intact Japanese A6M "Zero" fighter that crash-landed on the Alaskan island of Akutan. The fighter is salvaged and shipped to the United States, where test pilots will use the captured warplane to identify tactics that negate the formidable Zero's advantages. The newly developed F6F "Hellcat" is modified to take full advantage of the Zero's weaknesses discovered during tests, and Hellcat aviators will enjoy an impressive 13:1 kill ratio against Zeroes in the Pacific War.
JUL101943Just after midnight, 82d Airborne Division paratroopers perform their first combat jump behind enemy lines on the island of Sicily. That morning, over 100,000 American, British, and Canadian troops hit on the beach in one of the biggest airborne and amphibious invasions of the war. The Allied force captures the island after six weeks of fighting but is unable to prevent the withdrawal of many of the Axis forces.
JUL101943Chips," a German Shepherd military police dog serving in Sicily with Company I, 30th Infantry Regiment, attacks a hidden German pillbox, forcing four enemy soldiers to surrender. Chips is wounded in the attack, but the canine will be awarded the Silver Star and Purple Heart by the 3rd Infantry Division's commander, MG Lucian Truscott.
JUL101943As the American fleet prepares for the Sicily invasion, ENS John H. Parle spots a small fire aboard a landing ship that was loaded with ammunition and explosives. Fearing that the detonation of the craft could compromise the invasion, Parle rushes through the smoke towards the flames. Unable to put out the fire pot that threatened the dangerous cargo, he throws it overboard. Parle perishes from smoke inhalation a week later and is awarded the Medal of Honor for his sacrifice.
JUL101950North Korean forces clash with soldiers of the U.S. 24th Infantry Division in the Battle of Chochiwon. Two days of airstrikes against the approaching armored column of North Korean vehicles and infantry had seriously weakened the attackers, but the Americans are outnumbered and have antiquated equipment, and are quickly routed. The battle marks the first engagement of American and North Korean tanks, and the light M24 "Chaffee" tank proves no match for the heavier armor and guns of the Soviet-built T-34. The Americans mount a counterattack, and successfully delay the communist force for three days, resorting to hand-to-hand fighting before having to withdraw.
JUL111798President John Adams reinstitutes the United States Marine Corps for the Quasi War with France.
JUL111804Vice President Aaron Burr and former Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton engage in a duel at Weehawken, New Jersey. Hamilton reportedly fires first, but misses. Burr's shot hit Hamilton in the abdomen - mortally wounding George Washington's former aide-de-camp.
JUL111864A corps of Confederate soldiers led by LTG Jubal A. Early assaults Fort Stevens in Washington, D.C.. President Abraham Lincoln personally observes the battle, and a surgeon standing next to the president is wounded by enemy fire.
JUL111941President Franklin D. Roosevelt names William J. Donovan to the position of Coordinator of Information.
JUL1119452,100 Eighth Air Force heavy bombers begin redeploying from their bases in England to the Pacific Theater.
JUL111953LTC John F. Bolt, a Marine Corps F-86 pilot attached to an Air Force unit, scores his fifth victory during the Korean War, becoming the only Marine ace of the Korean War and, to this day, the Marines' only jet ace.
JUL111969When well-camouflaged enemy machine gun fortifications open fire on SPC Gordon R. Roberts' platoon, pinning the Americans down, Roberts crawls towards the nearest bunker, then leaps to his feet and kills the occupants. Ignoring the bullets whizzing past him, he charges towards another bunker, but a burst of fire knocks Roberts' weapon from his hands. After obtaining another weapon from the battlefield, he continues forward and silences a second position. He then takes out a third bunker with grenades, then a fourth - despite being completely separated from his unit. Roberts manages to link up with another company and helps drag wounded soldiers down the hill before returning to his unit. President Richard Nixon awards him the Medal of Honor in 1971.
JUL121862President Abraham Lincoln signs a law creating the Medal of Honor - the nation's highest decoration for valor. The award is presented to "such non-commissioned officers and privates as shall most distinguish themselves by their gallantry in action and other soldier-like qualities during the present insurrection."
JUL121916In Pensacola Bay the armored cruiser USS North Carolina (ACR-12) becomes the first naval vessel to carry and operate aircraft when aviation pioneer LT Godfrey de Chevalier launches his AB-3 flying boat from a catapult while the ship is underway.
JUL121944When three dug-in and camouflaged German machineguns pin down an American company, SGT Roy W. Harmon's orders his squad forward to neutralize the positions. German gunners are pouring "murderous" fire from behind haystacks, and left unchecked, will annihilate an entire platoon. When tracer rounds fail to ignite the haystacks, Harmon orders his men to stay put while he crawls forward alone. Harmon reaches the first machinegun nest, setting it on fire with a white phosphorous grenade and shooting the escaping gunners with his submachine gun. Harmon moved towards the next position and was wounded before he took out the nest and its occupants with hand grenades. The approach to the third position was completely exposed and Harmon was wounded a second time as he closed in. At 20 yards away, he pops up to his knees to eliminate the last position with a grenade but was cut down by close-range fire. Rising again to his knees, he hurls the grenade and dies. Harmon's grenade destroys the third - and final - machine gun emplacement and saves an entire platoon. SGT Harmon was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.
JUL121950Elements of the 21st Infantry Regiment continue fighting delay operations against the advancing North Korean Army. Although the Americans are outgunned and outnumbered, they manage to hold off the enemy long enough for the establishment of the Pusan Perimeter. COL Robert R. Martin, commanding officer of the 34th Infantry Regiment is posthumously awarded the first Distinguished Service Cross of the Korean War after he is killed while attacking a North Korean T-34 tank with a bazooka.
JUL12199317 American AH-64 "Apache" helicopters attack a safe house in Mogadishu, believing that the infamous Somali warlord Muhamad Farrah Aidid is present. Dozens of Somalis are killed, but the self-declared president is not among the dead.
JUL131861Union forces led by MG George B. McClellan catch the fleeing Confederates at Cheat River. BG Robert S. Garnett, commanding the Confederate troops, is killed, becoming the first general killed in the Civil War.
JUL131863In New York City, residents kick off three days of violent riots against the draft - perhaps the worst riot in American history. Firemen are attacked and their equipment destroyed, and the outnumbered police officers can't control the huge crowd. Soldiers are ordered to New York City, many of whom fought days ago at Gettysburg, and by the time order is restored, 4,000 troops occupy the city. Hundreds of citizens are dead, thousands wounded, and dozens of buildings are burned.
JUL131943Allied and Japanese ships clash in the Solomon Islands during the Battle of Kolombangara. The force had just landed Marine Raiders on New Georgia and the Japanese intended to land reinforcements but are driven off after a brief nighttime engagement. Heavy gunfire and torpedoes sink the Japanese light cruiser Jintsu, taking almost the entire crew with her. Japanese torpedoes sink the destroyer USS Gwin (DD-443), and heavily damage three other cruisers.
JUL131985Vice President George H.W. Bush becomes Acting President for the Day when President Ronald Reagan undergoes surgery.
JUL132008At 0400, over 100 Taliban fighters launch a coordinated assault against a joint American-Afghan patrol base in eastern Afghanistan. The remote outpost had just been established and its defenses had not yet been fully constructed, enabling the enemy to destroy the heavy U.S. weapons almost immediately. After four hours of close combat, the attackers are driven off with help from artillery and aircraft support. Nine American soldiers are killed and another 29 wounded in one of the Taliban's deadliest attacks of the war.
JUL141918Quentin Roosevelt, the youngest son of former president Theodore Roosevelt, is shot down and killed following a dogfight with German pilots. Despite the fallen aviator's proximity to the front lines, the Germans give him a funeral with full honors.
JUL161861BG Irvin McDowell's 35,000-man army departs Washington, D.C., marching to meet GEN P.G.T. Beauregard's Confederate force assembled along Bull Run some 25 miles away.
JUL161945The first nuclear weapon is tested at Alamogordo Air Base, New Mexico. The shock wave from the 19-kiloton device, nicknamed "Gadget," could be felt 100 miles away and the mushroom cloud reached over six miles in the air.
JUL161945The cruiser USS Indianapolis (CA-35) departs San Francisco on a top-secret mission. The un-escorted cruiser sprints across the Pacific at a record-setting pace, bound for Tinian. On board is the uranium and parts for the "Little Boy" weapon.
JUL16195030 critically wounded soldiers of the 19th Infantry Regiment, along with a medic and Chaplain Herman G. Felhoelter are cut off from escape by a North Korean roadblock. When the communist soldiers discover the unarmed men, Felhoelter orders the medic to escape and prays over the wounded until all remaining Americans are cut down by enemy machineguns.
JUL161957MAJ John Glenn (USMC) streaks across the country on the first supersonic transcontinental flight. Glenn pilots his F8U-1 Crusader jet from California to New York in a record-setting 3 hours and 22 minutes. He averaged 725.55 mph, despite having to slow down for three mid-air refueling contacts with propeller-driven AJ-2 Savage tankers.
JUL161969Millions of Americans tune in to watch the Saturn V rocket carrying Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong (USN), Michael Collins (USAF), and “Buzz” Aldrin (also USAF) blast off from Kennedy Space Center on the first-ever mission to the moon's surface.
JUL171898Spanish forces under the command of GEN José Toral surrender Cuba to GEN William R. Shafter, practically ending COL Teddy Roosevelt's "splendid little war."
JUL171927When Nicaraguan rebels attack the Marine garrison at Ocotal, MAJ Ross E. Rowell's Marine Corps DeHavilland DH-4 biplanes disperse the force with strafing runs - and the first use of dive bombing in support of ground forces
JUL171944Two transport ships are destroyed - along with over 300 sailors and civilians killed and nearly 400 wounded - when ammunition being loaded aboard the ships at Port Chicago, California explodes. One vessel is so badly obliterated that no identifiable pieces can be found. The explosion was reportedly heard 200 miles away and registered a 3.4 on the Richter scale.
JUL171953A Marine Corps R4Q "Packet" transport plane loses power after takeoff and crashes, killing 43 Naval ROTC students and crewmembers.
JUL171975The American Apollo spacecraft - manned by former Air Force pilots Thomas P. Stafford, Donald "Deke" Slayton, and Naval aviator Vance D. Brand - docks with the Soviet Soyuz capsule on the first joint spaceflight of the two nations.
JUL171989The Northrop B-2 "Spirit" stealth bomber takes off from Palmdale's Air Force Plant 42 on its first public flight. Former Air Force pilot Bruce Hinds is at the controls for the flight to Edwards Air Force Base.
JUL181863At 1945 hours., Union soldiers led by BG Truman Seymore launch a second attack against Battery Wagner, in Charleston Harbor. Spearheading the attack is COL Robert G. Shaw's all-black 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment. Shaw's regiment reaches the fortification walls, fighting hand-to-hand until they are driven back by devastating fire. The Confederates inflict 1,500 casualties on the attackers, killing several of the top Union officers, including Shaw. During the battle, SGT William H. Carney becomes the first African American soldier awarded the Medal of Honor.
JUL181918When Marine Corps SGT Matej Kocak's battalion is stopped by a German machinegun during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, Kocak single-handedly advances on the enemy position. He charges forward under fire and drives off the Germans with his bayonet. Later that day, he organized a unit of French colonial soldiers and led a successful attack against another German machinegun emplacement. Kocak will die a few weeks after his heroic actions but is posthumously awarded both the Army and Navy Medals of Honor.
JUL181918When an enemy machine gun position targets his unit, GSGTLouis Cukela crawls forward until he is behind the nest. He then springs up and charges the Germans, killing and driving off several with his bayonet. Using captured grenades, he kills or captures those that remained behind. He was awarded the Medal of Honor.
JUL181918Near Belleau, France, a German machinegun opens fire on Army PFC George Dilboy and his platoon leader as the Americans are conducting reconnaissance. Despite the position being only 100 yards away, Dilboy stands up and fires at the enemy gun crew, then moves through a wheat field until he is 25 yards away. He fires again and is torn to pieces by the enemy gunners. Dilboy manages to silence the gun but is killed in the process. For heroism and valor that American Expeditionary Force Commander GEN John J. Pershing refers to as "super-human," Dilboy is awarded the Medal of Honor.
JUL181943Naval airship K-34, a K-class patrol blimp, spots the German U-boat U-134 off the Florida coast. Under cover of darkness, the airship approaches the surfaced sub undetected, then opens fire with its .50-cal machine guns. But when it passes overhead and attempts to finish off the U-boat with depth charges, the ordinance fails to release. U-134 shoots down the blimp, marking the only airship lost to combat during World War II. Nine of the ten crewmembers were rescued the following day.
JUL181966John W. Young, Naval aviator and veteran of the Korean War, and Air Force pilot Michael Collins blast off on Gemini 10 mission
JUL1917791,000 Continental Marines and militiamen, including a 100-man artillery detachment commanded by Paul Revere, depart Boston, sailing to attack the British at Fort George.
JUL191863The Confederate Army's "Great Raid of 1863" is dealt a serious blow in Ohio, where Union gunboats and pursuing cavalry attack BG John H. Morgan's handpicked cavalry force as they attempt to cross the swollen Ohio River. After covering some 1,000 miles in Northern territory, capturing, and paroling some 6,000 Union soldiers, seizing supplies, destroying railroads and bridges, and spreading terror throughout the North, Morgan's weary force is trapped, and hundreds are captured.
JUL191942ADM Karl Dönitz orders his U-boats to abandon their hunting grounds off the American coast; the institution of anti-submarine countermeasures, such as the convoy system, has put an end to the easy pickings of what German submariners referred to as the "Happy Time."
JUL191943As the Allies march across Sicily, 700 B-17 and B-24 bombers conduct a daylight bombing raid on Rome, the first time the "Eternal City" is targeted during World War II. Prime Minister Benito Mussolini, with his army on the brink of collapse, will be removed from power and arrested within a week.
JUL191944In New Guinea, enemy mortars and machineguns have pinned down a platoon of 112th Cavalry troopers. 2LT Dale E. Christensen orders his men to stay put while he crawls forward to pinpoint the enemy weapons and the best approaches of attack. Although enemy fire knocks Christensen's rifle from his hands, he continues his mission, locating five machine gun nests and wiping one out with his grenades. He then leads the charge which neutralizes ten machinegun positions and four mortars. For his actions, Christensen was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.
JUL191953Just days before the armistice ends combat between the United States and North Korea, Air Force LTC Vermont Garrison scores his 10th kill of the war, becoming a "double ace."
JUL191963NASA test pilot Joseph A. Walker flies his North American X-15 aircraft to an altitude of 66 miles, becoming the first civilian to fly in space.
JUL201944As Adolf Hitler meets with officials at his "Wolf's Lair" headquarters in East Prussia, a suitcase bomb planted by COL Claus von Stauffenberg detonates, killing three German officers and wounding the Führer. Stauffenberg and several fellow Operation VALKYRIE conspirators are shot by firing squad within 24 hours.
JUL201944In the Marianas Islands, Naval Underwater Demolition Teams destroy obstacles on the beaches of Guam as aircraft and warships bombard enemy positions in preparation of the invasion.
JUL201945As the Manhattan Project scientists put the finishing touches on the atomic bomb, Army Air Force B-29 "Superfortress" crews begin flying multiple small-scale bombing raids against Japan, so the defenders would become accustomed to the sight of individual bombers.
JUL201950Following the Battle of Taejon, a truck containing several soldiers attempts to break through an enemy roadblock. Gunfire disables the vehicle, killing and wounding everyone except SGT George D. Libby. He takes cover in a nearby ditch, braving heavy enemy fire on two occasions to treat wounded soldiers and move them to cover. Libby stops a halftrack as it passes through the kill zone and loads the wounded aboard. Since no one else could operate the vehicle, Libby placed himself between the driver and the enemy fire concentrated on the Americans, receiving several wounds. As the halftrack moved on, he loaded several more wounded soldiers until they met another enemy roadblock. Libby continued shielding the driver until he lost consciousness from his many wounds. SGT Libby perishes from loss of blood and is awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously.
JUL201960The ballistic missile submarine USS George Washington (SSBN-598) conducts the first submerged launch of a Polaris missile. The missile hits the target over 1,000 miles away. The nuclear-tipped Polaris is capable of accurately delivering three 200 kiloton warheads 2,500 nautical miles downrange.
JUL201969Apollo 11 Astronaut Neil A. Armstrong takes "one small step," becoming the first human in history to walk on the surface of the moon. Armstrong, who serves as Apollo 11 mission commander, is accompanied on the historic voyage by command module pilot Michael Collins and lunar module pilot Edwin Eugene “Buzz” Aldrin (also an Air Force fighter pilot).
JUL201997In honor of her 200th birthday, the USS Constitution sets sail for the first time in 116 years. "Old Ironsides" was one of the United States' original six frigates and is the only warship in the U.S. Navy to have sunk an enemy vessel.
JUL211823U.S. Navy Midshipman and acting-LT David Glasgow Farragut leads a raiding party of cutlass-armed sailors and Marines against a pirate base on Cape Cruz, Cuba. Farragut’s men attack and destroy the pirate stronghold.
JUL211861In what the Union hoped, and generally believed, would be an overwhelming Union victory that would end the rebellion before it got started, Confederate Army forces under the command of BG Pierre G.T. Beauregard defeat and rout Union Army forces under BG Irvin McDowell during the First Battle of Bull Run, known to many Southerners as First Manassas.
JUL211921Army and Navy aircraft attack the former German battleship Ostfriesland, sinking the massive vessel and giving support to famed World War I aviator BG William "Billy" Mitchell's theory that dreadnought battleships could be easily sunk by planes and are taking up too much of the military budget.
JUL211944The 3rd Marine Division and 1st Provisional Marine Brigade storm the beaches of Guam, seeking to reclaim the American territory after its capture nearly three years ago. The Japanese defenders inflict heavy casualties, but the Marines secure the beachheads and are several thousand feet inland by nightfall. Soldiers from the 77th Infantry Division will wade ashore under heavy fire after the Marines.
JUL211946LCDR James Davidson, piloting the McDonnell XFD-1 "Phantom" aircraft, performs a series of takeoffs and landings on the deck of USS Franklin D. Roosevelt (CVB-42) - the first carrier flight operations of a jet aircraft.
JUL211961Virgil I. "Gus" Grissom blasts off aboard his Redstone Rocket, becoming the second American in space. The astronaut's "Liberty Bell 7" capsule soars to a height of 100 nautical miles and flies for 15 minutes before splashing down in the Atlantic Ocean.
JUL221943Elements of Gen. George S. Patton Jr.’s 7th Army seize Palermo, Sicily.
JUL221945A crew of sailors from USS Barb (SS-220) land at Karafuto, Japan and place explosives that will destroy a train - the only land combat on Japanese home islands during the war.
JUL231944On Dutch New Guinea’s Noemfoor Island, SGT Ray E. Eubanks leads a squad against an enemy position that is devastating his company with machinegun, rifle, and mortar fire. Once the soldiers reach a spot 30 yards away from the enemy, Eubanks orders his men to keep firing at the position while he moves forward alone through the intensely fire-swept terrain. When he reaches a spot just 15 yards away, he opens fire with his automatic rifle, inflicting serious casualties on the Japanese defenders, but rendering his firearm useless in the process. Ignoring his wounds, he rushes forward and uses his broken gun as a club to kill four enemy soldiers before Eubanks is himself killed. For his actions, SGT Eubanks was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously.
JUL231950The 8th Cavalry Regiment is falling back to the Pusan Perimeter during the opening days of America’s involvement in the Korean War. The job of holding up the North Koreans goes to CPL Tibor Rubin, who over the next 24 hours, single-handedly fights-off overwhelming numbers of enemy, inflicting “staggering” casualties while his fellow troopers withdraw. Dozens of American lives were saved due to Rubin, and in 2005 he is finally awarded the Medal of Honor.
JUL231970The U.S. military decides to abandon Fire Support Base Ripcord after a brutal 23-day siege by the North Vietnamese Army. 75 soldiers are killed during the battle, including 1LT Bob Kalsu, the only active NFL football player killed in action during the Vietnam War.
JUL231970As soldiers are evacuated from Fire Support Base Ripcord, LTC Andre C. Lucas is working to extricate a wounded comrade from a burning helicopter. While enemy mortar fire and exploding ammunition add to the threat of the expanding blaze, Lucas orders the rest of his fellow rescuers to safety while he works to free the soldier by himself. Lucas is mortally wounded and posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for this action in addition to his previous acts of valor during the siege.
JUL241897A crowd of over 10,000 greets the black soldiers of the 25th Infantry Regiment's "Bicycle Corps" (featured image) as they ride into St. Louis' Forest Park, completing a 41-day, 1,900-mile trip from Fort Missoula, Montana.
JUL241944Thanks to a custom-built landing vehicle known as the "Doodlebug," specially modified to carry ladders that allows vehicles to scale rocky shorelines, the Fourth Marine Division avoids the heavily defended beaches on Tinian and catches the island's Japanese defenders off guard.
JUL241945600 aircraft from Task Force 38, commanded by VADM John S. McCain, and hundreds of B-29 "Superfortress" bombers attack mainland Japan. Five Japanese warships are destroyed and several more damaged in the raid.
JUL241945President Harry Truman authorizes the use of the new atomic weapon, and GEN Henry H. "Hap" Arnold is presented with a list of potential targets. Truman informs his Soviet counterpart Joseph Stalin that America has developed such a weapon, but Stalin has already learned this from spies within the Manhattan Project.
JUL241950A captured German V-2 rocket with a WAC Corporal missile fitted on top as a second stage blasts off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Florida's Atlantic coast. "Bumper 8" traveled 200 miles downrange and reached a height of 10 miles in the first-ever launch from a facility that will soon begin sending men rockets -- and later, men -- into space.
JUL241965Soviet missile crews claim their first surface-to-air missile kill of the Vietnam War. Four F-4 Phantoms, flying escort for a bombing raid north of Hanoi, are targeted. Three jets are damaged, and a Phantom flown by CPT Richard P. Kiern and his weapons/systems officer Roscoe H. Fobair become the first pilots shot down by a SAM. Fobair fails to eject and is killed in action, and his remains are repatriated in 2001. Kiern is captured and spends the next seven and a half years in captivity.
JUL241966When LCPL Richard A. Pittman learns of a company of Marines is taking heavy casualties near the De-Militarized Zone, he grabs a machine gun and several belts of ammunition and rushes to the firefight. Along the way he blows through an enemy force and wipes them out at point-blank range, then knocks out two more automatic weapons. Reaching the battle, Pittman sets up his machinegun in the face of a full-frontal assault by 30-40 enemy soldiers. He fires away until his weapon is destroyed, then obtains a submachine gun from a fallen enemy soldier and a pistol from a fellow Marine and keeps up his defense until the Communist attack is shattered. Pittman is awarded the Medal of Honor in 1968.
JUL241969The Apollo 11 mission comes to an end when the capsule containing Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins splashes down in the Pacific Ocean and is recovered by a team of hand-picked Underwater Demolition Team swimmers. Soon, the astronauts (wearing biological isolation gear to protect Earth from possible lunar contamination) are transferred by helicopter to the aircraft carrier USS Hornet, where they will spend 21 days in isolation.
JUL251814Days after proving America's mettle against the British in the Battle of Chippawa, MG Jacob Brown again clashes with the King's Men in Upper Canada, near Niagara Falls. British artillery commands the high ground, but Americans capture the guns, and the two armies engage in close combat throughout the evening with neither side able to gain a tactical advantage.
JUL251866David Glasgow Farragut is appointed to the rank of admiral - the first such rank in U.S. Naval history.
JUL251866Ulysses S. Grant becomes the first "full [four star] general" in the history of the U.S. Army.
JUL251944Thousands of Allied bombers begin a bombardment of German positions, kicking off Operation COBRA - the breakout of American, British, and Canadian forces in Normandy.
JUL251944Near Saint-Lô, a seriously wounded U.S. Army CPT Matthew Urban limps out of the hospital and rejoins his armored company on the front lines. Urban dashes through German fire and takes command of a tank and leads the pinned-down element on an assault against the German armor. For his actions on this day, in addition to a series of other valorous events both before and after, Urban is awarded the Medal of Honor.
JUL251945As a transport plane carrying the uranium destined for the Little Boy bomb flies towards Tinian, GEN Carl Spaatz is ordered to prepare for the upcoming atomic attacks - with the estimated target date of 3 AUG.
JUL251946A 23-kiloton atomic bomb named Helen of Bikini detonates 90 feet underwater in the Bikini Atoll in one of the first nuclear tests since the attacks on Japan the previous year. One target ship is completely vaporized and numerous others, including the obsolete battleship USS Arkansas, are sunk or seriously damaged by the underwater shockwave.
JUL251950The Essex class aircraft carrier USS Boxer (CV-21) crosses the Pacific in record time, delivering 145 P-51 "Mustangs", 1,000 Air Force crewmembers, and over 2,000 tons supplies for the Far East Air Force in Korea. Boxer departs Japan and Sets a new trans-Pacific record on the return trip, covering some 5,000 miles in just 7 days and 10 hours.
JUL261861President Abraham Lincoln summons MG George B. McClellan to Washington, D.C., and McClellan is appointed commander of the Military Division of the Potomac - charged with defending the nation's capital.
JUL261941President Franklin D. Roosevelt recalls Douglas MacArthur from retirement, naming the former general Commander of U.S. Army Forces in the Far East. Roosevelt also freezes Japanese assets on this day and forbids the export of oil and other war materiel to Japan. ADM Husband E. Kimmel, commander of the Pacific Fleet, orders base to begin long-range patrols in the event of an aggressive Japanese response.
JUL261945The cruiser USS Indianapolis (CA-35) completes her top-secret, 5,000-mile cruise from San Francisco to Tinian, delivering parts and nuclear material for the Little Boy atomic weapon that will be dropped on Hiroshima. President Harry Truman advises Japan that if they do not surrender, they will face "prompt and utter destruction."
JUL261945On Guam, CPT Louis H. Wilson Jr. of the 2d Battalion, 9th Marines is tasked with taking a section of Fonte Hill. His company fights through 300 yards of "terrific" machinegun and rifle fire and secures the objective. Still under heavy enemy fire, Wilson organizes a night defense of the newly captured position and seeks medical attention after being wounded three times during the action. When the Japanese defenders launch a savage counterattack, Wilson rejoins his unit. During the series of fanatical Japanese counterattacks that lasted 10 hours and at times came down to hand-to-hand combat, Wilson and his tenacious men held the line. After racing across fire-swept terrain to rescue a wounded Marine, Wilson organized a 17-man patrol to take a strategic slope. Heavy enemy mortar, machinegun, and rifle fire cut down 13 of his Marines, but Wilson and his men kept charging forward and captured the ground. When the fighting was over, 350 Japanese bodies littered the battlefield, and the Marines had the high ground. Wilson was awarded the Medal of Honor.
JUL261947The National Security Act of 1947 – the law reorganizing the post-World War II national defense/intelligence structure of the United States – is passed, establishing the Department of Defense, the National Security Council, and the Central Intelligence Agency.
JUL261948President Truman signs Executive Order 9981, beginning desegregation the United States Armed Forces.
JUL261954After a Cathay Pacific DC-4 passenger plane, enroute from Bangkok to Hong Kong, is shot down by the Chinese Air Force, a flight of two U.S. Navy AD "Skyraiders" search the area for survivors. The American planes are themselves engaged by two Chinese Lavochkin La-11 fighters, and the Skyraiders return fire - shooting down the communist aircraft.
JUL271816After freed slaves serving as Colonial British Marines attack and kill several American sailors stopping to fill their canteens in Spanish Florida, MG Andrew Jackson is granted permission to reduce the redoubt. Gunboat No. 154 fires one shot at the fort, detonating the powder magazine and killing 300 defenders, becoming the deadliest cannon shot in U.S. military history. What few survivors remain are captured with no American military casualties.
JUL271898During the Spanish-American War, Marines land at Ponce and La Playa and capture the towns, raising the U.S. flag over Puerto Rico for the first time.
JUL27190910,000 people, including President Howard Taft, gather to watch aviation pioneer Orville Wright fly himself and U.S. Army LT Frank P. Lahm above the Fort Myer, Virginia countryside for more than an hour in his now-famous Wright Flyer. The Army leadership is impressed enough that it takes delivery of its first Wright Flyer, "the world’s first military airplane," within days.
JUL271953After three years of fighting in Korea, which kills over 50,000 Americans and millions of Chinese and Korean troops, an armistice is signed, ending hostilities in the Korean War at 2200 hours. At 2159, the cruiser USS St. Paul (CA-73) fires the last shot of the war, firing a shell signed by RADM Harry Sanders at a communist gun emplacement.
JUL271953Air Force CPT Ralph S. Parr shoots down a Soviet Navy transport plane, making him a double ace (10 confirmed kills) and notching the last air-to-air victory of the war.
JUL271965After Communist forces attack U.S. warplanes on a bombing raid northwest of Hanoi, 46 F-105 "Thunderchief" attack aircraft target the missile sites. The raid destroys one launcher, but five F-105s are shot down.
JUL28177940 Continental Marines and Massachusetts Militia, including their leader, Marine CPT John Welsh, are killed in the unsuccessful assault on Britain's Fort George at Penobscot Bay, Maine.
JUL281914Austria-Hungary declares war on Serbia. Within days, a peaceful European continent will be transformed into a battlefield of never-before-seen scale of carnage when Germany, France, Russia, and the United Kingdom join the conflict. Dozens of other countries mobilize troops, and in four years, some 20 million people will perish in the "Great War."
JUL281915340 Marines and sailors land at Port au Prince, Hayti, beginning an occupation that would last until 1934.
JUL281918BG John A. Lejeune assumes command of the 2d U.S. Army Division in France - becoming the second Marine to command an Army Division.
JUL281932Following an unsuccessful attempt to remove "Bonus Army" marchers from the nation's capital by Washington, D.C. police, President Herbert Hoover orders Army Chief of Staff, GEN Douglas A. MacArthur, to evict the protestors by force. Other notable officers participating were MAJ George S. Patton (in command of tanks) and MAJ Dwight D. Eisenhower (junior aide to MacArthur).
JUL281943During the joint U.S. and British bombing campaign, Operation GOMORRAH, nearly 800 Royal Air Force bombers target Hamburg, Germany in a nighttime bombing raid. The concentrated incendiary bombing combined with warm and dry weather creates a literal firestorm; a 1,000-foot-tall tornado of flame driving 150-mph winds consumes everything in its path. Eight square miles of Hamburg are incinerated, along with tens of thousands of Germans.
JUL281945A B-25 "Mitchell" bomber, flying through thick fog over New York City, slams into the 79th floor of the Empire State Building, killing the plane's three crewmembers, 11 occupants and igniting a four-story blaze.
JUL281965President Lyndon Johnson sends 50,000 troops to Vietnam, bringing the number to 125,000. To meet the requirements, monthly draft calls have been increased from 17,000 to 35,000 - the highest since the Korean War.
JUL291846Sailors and Marines of USS Cyane seize San Diego, California, during the Mexican War.
JUL301780A force of 600 militiamen, led by COL Isaac Shelby, surrounds Thicketty Fort and demands that the Loyalists surrender. Despite having sufficient arms to repel the patriots, and a promise by garrison commander CPT Patrick Moore to defend the fort to the last, the Loyalists surrender without firing a shot.
JUL301864In a special operation that proves disastrous for the initiators, Union Army troops under the command of MG Ambrose E. Burnside detonate a mine, blowing a huge hole in the Confederate defenses at Petersburg, Virginia.
JUL301909The Army Signal Corps takes delivery of the "world's first military airplane," the Wright military flyer of 1909.
JUL301918Spearheading an American assault on German lines, SGT Richard W. O'Neill attacks a detachment of 25 enemy soldiers. He closes in and engages in fierce hand-to-hand combat. Though all his troops are killed, and he is wounded ten times, he continues until he has to be evacuated. Before leaving the battle, he insists on reporting to the battalion commander on enemy locations and the disposition of friendly troops. O'Neill is awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions.
JUL301919The USS New Orleans (CL-22) lands a Marine detachment in Tyutuke Bay, Siberia, in support of a White Russian attack on Bolshevik forces.
JUL301941The river gunboat USS Tutuila (PR-4) of the Yangtze Patrol becomes the first U.S. warship attacked during World War II when Japanese aircraft mistakenly bomb the vessel in Chunking, China.
JUL301945The cruiser USS Indianapolis is hit by two Japanese torpedoes, and slips beneath the waves in just 12 minutes, becoming the last U.S. ship sunk during World War II. The Navy is unaware of the sinking, so the sailors will spend the next three-and-a-half days in shark infested waters before they are spotted. Only 317 of the original 1,196 crewmembers survive.
JUL301967Fire erupts on the aircraft carrier USS Forrestal when a power surge in an F-4 Phantom launches a rocket into an A-4 Skyhawk's fuel tank. The flight deck is packed with planes ready for takeoff, loaded with fuel and ordinance, resulting in a conflagration and series of explosions that kills 134 sailors and destroys 21 aircraft.
JUL311777Marquis de Lafayette is commissioned "major general" in the Continental Army after offering to serve without pay.
JUL311874USS Intrepid, the world's first warship armed with self-propelled torpedoes, is commissioned.
JUL311942Operation WATCHTOWER. As Army Air Forces aircraft begin their week-long preparatory bombardment, 16,000 Marines of MG Alexander Vandegrift's soon-to-be-famous First Marine Division board their landing craft and depart for the invasion of Guadalcanal - the first American offensive of World War II.
JUL311943As ten soldiers work to fill in a crater on a Sicilian road, the Americans come under machinegun fire from two enemy positions. SGT Gerry H. Kisters and his officer move forward to the first nest and capture the gun and its four operators. Then, Kisters closes in on the second gun - by himself. Although wounded five times during his approach, he kills three of the emplacement's occupants and captures the second machine gun. For his actions, Kisters was awarded the Medal of Honor.
JUL311943On New Georgia, PVT Rodger W. Young's men were ordered to fall back as the brass reorganized the defensive lines for the night. Suddenly, an enemy machine gun opens fire on the soldiers, and PVT Young spots the gun through the foliage 75 yards away. Despite being wounded by the opening burst of fire, he charges the enemy position as his fellow soldiers fall back. Wounded again on his approach, he reaches a distance where he can engage the enemy with grenades but is finally cut down. Thanks to his sacrifice, Young's teammates escape without injury and several Japanese soldiers are neutralized. Young is posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.
JUL311944Boldly penetrating the screen of a heavily escorted convoy, CMDR Lawson P. "Red" Ramage, skipper of the submarine USS Parche (SS-384), launched a perilous surface attack by delivering a crippling stern shot into a freighter and quickly following up with a series of bow and stern torpedoes to sink the leading tanker and damage the second one. Exposed by the light of bursting flares and bravely defiant of terrific shellfire passing close overhead, he struck again, sinking a transport by two forward reloads. In the mounting fury of fire from the damaged and sinking tanker, he calmly ordered his men below, remaining on the bridge to fight it out with an enemy now disorganized and confused. Swift to act as a fast transport closed into ram, CMDR Ramage daringly swung the stern of the speeding Parche as she crossed the bow of the onrushing ship, clearing by less than 50 feet but placing his submarine in a deadly crossfire from escorts on all sides and with the transport dead ahead. Undaunted, he sent three smashing “down the throat” bow shots to stop the target, then scored a killing hit as a climax to 46 minutes of violent action with the Parche and her valiant fighting company retiring victorious and unscathed." Ramage, a two-time recipient of the Navy Cross, earned the Medal of Honor for his daring pre-dawn attack on the Japanese convoy. His crew was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation.
JUL311945The U.S. government warns Japan that eight cities will be destroyed if they refuse to surrender. In addition to the "Little Boy" and "Fat Man" devices, another "special weapon" will come online by August 19, with three projected to be ready in August and another three in September.
JUL311964The U.S. Navy's all-nuclear Task Force One USS Enterprise (CVAN 65), USS Long Beach (CGN-9), and USS Bainbridge (DLGN-25) pass through the Straights of Gibraltar, beginning their 30,565-mile cruise around the world. Including port calls, the fleet crosses the globe - unrefueled - in just 65 days.
JUL311971Behind the wheel of NASA's Lunar Roving Vehicle, Apollo 15 astronaut and former Air Force test pilot David R. Scott becomes the first human to drive on the moon.