Historical Tidbits

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Historical Tidbits

Historical Events Commemorated This Month

1 April -21 June 1945  :  Battle of Okinawa

The invasion and battle to take the island of Okinawa begins on 1 April and lasts until 21 June.

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The Battle of Okinawa, also known as Operation Iceberg, was fought on the Japanese island of Okinawa and was the largest amphibious assault in the Pacific Theater of World War II.[1][2] It lasted from late March through June 1945.  The battle has been referred to as the "Typhoon of Steel" in English, and tetsu no ame ("rain of steel") or tetsu no bofu ("violent wind of steel") in Japanese. The nicknames refer to the ferocity of the fighting, the intensity of gunfire involved, and sheer numbers of Allied ships and armored vehicles that assaulted the island. Particularly note the very high number of US Casualties listed 2/3rds into this page below that impacted future decisions on the war. Okinawa had a prewar civilian population of 435,000, of whom an estimated 75,000 to 140,000 died during the battle.   The Allies were planning to use Okinawa as a staging ground for Operation Downfall, the invasion of the Japanese mainland. However, this need was obviated after a significant series of events which included the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the Soviet Union's declaration of war on Japan in August 1945. Japan surrendered and World War II ended.  Source: Wikipedia


18 April 1942 : Doolittle Raid on Japan - "Doolittle's Raiders"

B-25 "Mitchell" bombers launch off the aircraft carrier USS Hornet to bomb targets in Japan.

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The Doolittle Raid, 18 April 1942 was the first air raid by the United States to strike the Japanese home island of Honshu during World War II. The mission was notable since it was the only time in U.S. military history that United States Army Air Forces bombers were launched from a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier on a combat mission. The Doolittle Raid demonstrated that the Japanese home islands were vulnerable to Allied air attack, and it provided an expedient means for U.S. retaliation for Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941.  The raid was planned and led by Lieutenant Colonel James "Jimmy" Doolittle, already a famous civilian aviator and aeronautical engineer before the war. The raid, however, had its roots in the mind of Navy Captain Francis Low, who early in the war surmised that, under the right conditions, twin-engined Army bombers could be successfully launched from an aircraft carrier.  Requirements for the aircraft for a cruising range of 2,400 miles (3,900 km) with a 2,000 pound (900 kg) bomb load resulted in the selection of the North American B-25B Mitchell to carry out the mission. The B-26 Marauder and B-23 Dragon were also considered, but the B-26 had questionable takeoff characteristics from a carrier deck, and the B-23's wingspan was nearly 50% greater than the B-25's, reducing the number that could be taken aboard a carrier and posing risks to the ship's island. Subsequent tests with B-25s indicated it could be launched from a carrier, hit military targets in Japan, and fly on to land in China. Negotiations with the Soviet Union to land in Siberia, shortening the flight by 600 miles (970 km), were fruitless.[1]   All 16 aircraft were lost on the mission, and 11 crewmen were either killed or captured. The crews of 13 aircraft, however, were recovered and returned to the United States, and a 14th crew interned by the Soviet Union eventually made its way home in 1943   Source: Wikipedia. 


8 May 1945  :  VE-Day (Victory in Europe)

Victory in Europe Day - the day that the Germans finally surrendered to the Allies, on both the Western and Eastern Fronts, and the war in Europe ended.

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Victory in Europe Day (V-E Day or VE Day) was May 7 and May 8, 1945, the dates when the World War II Allies formally accepted the unconditional surrender of the armed forces of Nazi Germany and the end of Adolf Hitler's Third Reich. On April 30, Hitler committed suicide during the Battle for Berlin, and so the surrender of Germany was authorized by his replacement, President of Germany Karl Dnitz. The administration headed up by Dnitz was known as the Flensburg government. The act of military surrender was signed on May 7 in Reims, France, and May 8 in Berlin, Germany.    Source: Wikipedia. 


4 June 1942  :  Battle of Midway

The Battle of Midway turns the tide of the battle in the Pacific during World War II

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The Battle of Midway was a major naval battle in the Pacific Theater of World War II. It took place from June 4, 1942 to June 7, 1942, approximately one month after the Battle of the Coral Sea, five months after the Japanese capture of Wake Island, and exactly six months to the day after Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor.   During the battle, the United States Navy defeated a Japanese attack against Midway Atoll, losing one aircraft carrier and one destroyer, while destroying four Japanese carriers and a heavy cruiser.  The battle was a decisive victory for the Americans, widely regarded as the most important naval engagement of the Pacific Campaign of World War II.  The battle permanently weakened the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN), in particular through the loss of four fleet carriers and over 200 irreplaceable experienced naval aviators.   Both nations sustained losses in the battle, but Japan was unable to reconstitute her naval forces, while the American shipbuilding and aircrew training programs provided quick replacements. By 1942, the United States was three years[citation needed] into a massive ship building program intended to expand the Navy to a size superior to Japan's. As a result of Midway, the Japanese were faced with naval inferiority within months. Strategically, the U.S. Navy was able to seize the initiative in the Pacific and go on the offensive.      Source: Wikipedia. 


6 June 1944  :  D-Day

The Allied invasion of Western Europe at Normandy, France

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D-Day is a term often used in military parlance to denote the day on which a combat attack or operation is to be initiated. "D-Day" often represents a variable, designating the day upon which some significant event will occur or has occurred.  The initial D in D-Day has had various meanings in the past, while more recently it has obtained the connotation of "Day" itself, thereby creating the phrase "Day-Day", or "Day of Days".

By far, the best known D-Day is June 6, 1944 — the day on which the Invasion of Normandy began — commencing the Western Allied effort to liberate mainland Europe from Nazi occupation during World War II. However, many other invasions and operations had a designated D-Day, both before and after that operation.

The Invasion of Normandy was the invasion and establishment of Allied forces in Normandy, France during Operation Overlord in World War II. It covers from the initial landings on June 6, 1944 until the Allied breakout in mid-July.  The invasion was the largest seaborne invasion at the time, involving over 156,000 troops crossing the English Channel from the United Kingdom to Normandy.  Allied land forces that saw combat in Normandy on June 6 came from Canada, Free French Forces, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America. In the weeks following the invasion, Polish forces also participated and there were also contingents from Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Greece, and the Netherlands. Most of the above countries also provided air and naval support, as did the Royal Australian Air Force,  Royal New Zealand Air Force and the Royal Norwegian Navy.  The Normandy invasion began with overnight parachute and glider landings, massive air attacks, naval bombardments, an early morning amphibious landing and during the evening the remaining elements of the parachute divisions landed. The "D-Day" forces deployed from bases along the south coast of England, the most important of these being Portsmouth.    Source: Wikipedia


1 July 1916  :  Battle of the Somme

The Battle of the Somme, fought in the summer and autumn of 1916, was one of the largest battles of the First World War. With more than one million casualties, it was also one of the bloodiest battles in human history. The Allied forces attempted to break through the German lines along a 25-mile (40 km) front north and south of the River Somme in northern France. One purpose of the battle was to draw German forces away from the Battle of Verdun; however, by its end the losses on the Somme had exceeded those at Verdun.  Source: Wikipedia

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4 July 1943  :  Battle of Kursk

The Battle of Kursk or Kursk Campaign (July 4 – July 20, 1943), also called Operation Citadel (German: Unternehmen Zitadelle) by the German Army, was a major battle on the Eastern Front of World War II, and the last German blitzkrieg offensive in the east. Overall, the campaign, which included the famous sub-battle at Prokhorovka, remains both the largest armored engagement and the most costly single day of aerial warfare to date. Source: Wikipedia

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7 August 1942  :  Battle of Guadalcanal

The Guadalcanal campaign, also known as the Battle of Guadalcanal, was fought between August 7, 1942, and February 7, 1943, in the Pacific theatre of World War II. This campaign, fought on the ground, at sea, and in the air, pitted Allied forces against Imperial Japanese forces, and was a decisive, strategically significant campaign of World War II. The fighting took place on and around the island of Guadalcanal in the southern Solomon Islands and was the first major offensive launched by Allied forces against the Empire of Japan.

On August 7, 1942, Allied forces, predominantly composed of troops from the United States (U.S.), initiated landings on the islands of Guadalcanal, Tulagi, and Florida in the southern Solomons with the objective of denying their use by Japanese forces as bases to threaten supply routes between the U.S., Australia, and New Zealand. The Allies also intended to use Guadalcanal and Tulagi as bases to support a campaign to eventually isolate the major Japanese base at Rabaul on New Britain. The initial Allied landings overwhelmed the outnumbered Japanese defenders, who had occupied the islands in May 1942, and captured Tulagi and Florida as well as an airfield (later named Henderson Field) that was under construction by the Japanese on Guadalcanal. Surprised by the Allied offensive, the Japanese made several attempts between August and November 1942 to retake Henderson Field on Guadalcanal. These attempts resulted in three major land battles, five large naval battles, and continuous, almost daily, aircraft battles, culminating in the decisive Naval Battle of Guadalcanal in early November 1942, in which the last Japanese attempt to land enough troops to capture Henderson Field was defeated. In December 1942, the Japanese abandoned further efforts to retake Guadalcanal and successfully evacuated their remaining forces from the island by February 7, 1943, leaving the island in Allied hands  Source: Wikipedia

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13 August 1940  :  Battle of Britain

The Battle of Britain is the name commonly given to the effort by the German Luftwaffe to gain air superiority over the Royal Air Force (RAF), before a planned sea and airborne invasion of Britain (Operation Sealion) during the Second World War. The Battle of Britain was the first major battle to be fought entirely by air forces. It was the largest and most sustained bombing campaign yet attempted, and the first real test of the strategic bombing theories developed since the previous World War. The failure of Nazi Germany to destroy Britain's air force, or to break the spirit of the British government or people, is considered the Third Reich's first major defeat.  Source: Wikipedia

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15 August 1940  :  VJ Day

Victory in the Pacific Day (V-P Day) (or Victory over Japan Day, V-J day) is the celebration of the Surrender of Japan, which was initially announced on August 15, 1945 (August 14 North American date), ending combat in the Second World War. In Japan, the day is known as Shuusen-kinenbi (?????), which literally means the "Memorial day for the end of the war". This is commemorated as Liberation Day in Korea and some other nations.  At noon Japan standard time on August 15, 1945, Emperor Hirohito's announcement of Japan's acceptance of the terms of the Potsdam Declaration was broadcast to the Japanese people over the radio. Earlier the same day, the Japanese government broadcast an announcement over Radio Tokyo that "acceptance of the Potsdam Proclamation [would be] coming soon," then advised the Allies of the surrender by sending a cable to U.S. President Harry S. Truman via the Swiss diplomatic mission in Washington, D.C..  Since Japan was the last Axis Power to surrender and V-P Day followed V-E Day by three months, V-P Day marked the end of World War II.  Source: Wikipedia

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1 September 1939  :  Invasion of Poland - Start of WW II

The Invasion of Poland, 1939 (in Poland also "the September Campaign," "Kampania wrzesniowa," and "the 1939 Defensive War," "Wojna obronna 1939 roku"; in Germany, "the Poland Campaign," "Polenfeldzug," codenamed "Fall Weiss," "Case White," by the German General Staff, and sometimes called "the Polish-German War of 1939"), which precipitated World War II, was carried out by Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union and a small German-allied Slovak contingent.

The invasion of Poland marked the start of World War II in Europe as Poland's western allies, the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand, declared war on Germany on September 3, soon followed by France, South Africa and Canada, among others. The invasion of Poland began September 1, 1939, one week after the signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, and ended October 6, 1939, with Germany and the Soviet Union occupying the entirety of Poland. Although the United Kingdom and France declared war on Germany soon after Germany attacked Poland, very little direct military action was rendered.  Source: Wikipedia

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18 September :  Anniversary of the USAF

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On Sept. 18,2007 the United States Air Force will celebrate its 60th anniversary. The Department of Defense and the Air Force were created on the same day as a result of the National Security Act of 1947. Before that, the Air Force was part of the United States Army and was known by many different names before emerging as a separate service.

For the record, it was variously known as the Aeronautical Division, U.S. Signal Corps; Aviation Section, U.S. Signal Corps; Division of Military Aeronautics; U.S. Army Air Service; U.S. Army Air Corps; U.S. Army Air Forces; and finally, the United States Air Force.

Check out the Official USAF 60th Anniversary Website at: http://www.af.mil/library/usaf60.asp

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11 November :  Veterans Day

Veterans Day is an American holiday honoring military veterans. Both a federal holiday and a state holiday in all states, it is celebrated on the same day as Armistice Day or Remembrance Day in other parts of the world, falling on November 11, the anniversary of the signing of the Armistice that ended World War I.  Major hostilities of World War I were formally ended at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918 with the German signing of the Armistice.  President Eisenhower signed the bill HR7786 on June 1, 1954 that officially changed Armistice Day to Veterans Day (bottom right photo).  The holiday is commonly misprinted as Veteran's Day or Veterans' Day in calendars and advertisements.  Source: Wikipedia

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7 December 1941  :  Attack on Pearl Harbor

The attack on Pearl Harbor was a preventive military strike on the United States Pacific Fleet base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii by the Empire of Japan's Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN), on the morning of Sunday, December 7, 1941. Two attack waves, totalling 350 aircraft, were launched from six IJN aircraft carriers which destroyed two U.S. Navy battleships, one minelayer, two destroyers and 188 aircraft. Personnel losses were 2,333 killed and 1,139 wounded. Damaged warships included three cruisers, a destroyer, and six battleships. Of those six, one was deliberately grounded and was later refloated and repaired. Two sank at their berths but were later repaired and both rejoined the fleet late in the war. Vital fuel storage, shipyards, and submarine facilities were not hit. Japanese losses were minimal at 29 aircraft and five midget submarines, with 65 Japanese servicemen killed or wounded. 
Source: Wikipedia

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February 23, 1945

63rd Anniversary of Raising the Flag at Mount Suribachi, Iwo Jima

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Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima is a historic photograph taken on February 23, 1945, by Joe Rosenthal. It depicts five United States Marines and a U.S. Navy corpsman raising the flag of the United States atop Mount Suribachi during the Battle of Iwo Jima in World War II.  The photograph was extremely popular, being reprinted in thousands of publications. Later, it became the only photograph to win the Pulitzer Prize for Photography in the same year as its publication, and ultimately came to be regarded as one of the most significant and recognizable images of the war, and possibly the most reproduced photograph of all time.  Of the six men depicted in the picture, three (Franklin Sousley, Harlon Block, and Michael Strank) did not survive the battle; the three survivors (John Bradley, Rene Gagnon, and Ira Hayes) became celebrities upon the publication of the photo. The picture was later used by Felix de Weldon to sculpt the USMC War Memorial, located adjacent to Arlington National Cemetery just outside Washington, D.C.  Source: Wikipedia


29 March 2007 : 

Chile Con 2006 Guest Speaker Honored with Congressional Gold Medal

Click here for article on Mr. Bob Lawrence, Tuskegee Airmen in World War II



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