Today in military history: Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps is formed - We Are The Mighty
Today in Military History

Today in military history: Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps is formed

On May 15, 1942, the Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps (WAAC) was created, granting women official military status.

Thousands of women enlisted, but it would be another year before the “auxiliary” was dropped from the name and the Women’s Army Corps (WAC) received full benefits.

Around 150,000 American women served in the Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps and the Women’s Army Corps during World War II — the first women other than nurses to serve in the Army in an official capacity. They served in the United States, Europe, North Africa, New Guinea, and even Normandy Beach after the initial invasion.

At its inception, the WAACs was created to “release men for combat” — and an overwhelming number of men protested the addition of women in uniform. It wasn’t until 1978 that the Army would become sexually integrated an army of one, and it wasn’t until 2015 that the Pentagon would open combat jobs to women. 

Of course, women have served in combat roles since the Revolutionary war, but those bad ass babes had to disguise themselves to serve their country and pave the way for future female warriors.

Featured Image: (Left) WACS working in the communications section of the operations room at an air force station. No opportunity was overlooked to replace men with personnel of the Women’s Army Corps both in the United States and overseas, WACs were given many technical and specialized jobs to do, as well as administrative and office work. The Medical Corps employed the largest number of WACs in technical jobs, but other technical services such as the Transportation Corps, Signal Corps, Ordnance Department, and Quartermaster Corps had many positions that could be performed by women as efficiently as by men. (Right) WAC Air Controller painting by Dan V. Smith, 1943

MIGHTY HISTORY

Today in military history: US forces land at Inchon

On Sep. 15 1950, U.S. Marines under United Nations Supreme Commander Douglas MacArthur land at Inchon on the west coast of Korea, dividing the Northern forces in two.

The Korean War began a few months before when 90,000 North Korean troops swept across the 38th parallel and pushed South Korean forces into a hasty retreat. By September, it was not going well for the United Nations forces. American troops were relegated to a small corner of the Korean Peninsula, barely holding off the Communist onslaught as North Korea fought to push them into the sea and out of the war. In what came to be known as the Pusan Perimeter, American and South Korean forces held the line until the Americans could relieve them.

In true joint force action, the Army and Marines, supported by the Navy and Air Force, planned a landing at Inchon, behind the North Korean lines. The enemy around Pusan practically dissipated as the Army broke out of the Pusan Perimeter while Marines were landing at Inchon. Within two weeks, the UN forces had partially retaken Seoul and cut off the enemy’s supply and communications ability.

Codenamed “Operation Chromite,” the U.S. Marines’ amphibious invasion at Inchon was extremely risky, but its success allowed the U.S. to recapture Seoul, the capital of South Korea. 

Unfortunately, the intervention of the Chinese military stalled the U.S. and South Korean advances, preventing them from achieving a decisive victory in the war, which would continue for another brutal three years. 

Featured Image: The UN fleet off the coast of Inchon, Korea.

Articles

Today in military history: ‘Swamp Fox’ victory in South Carolina

On Aug. 15, 1780, American Colonial militia leader Francis Marion continued to frustrate the British in South Carolina after an overwhelming win at Port’s Ferry.

Francis Marion learned guerrilla warfare as a militia lieutenant in a war against the Cherokee Indians in 1761. When the Revolutionary War began, Marion was named a captain and given command of an infantry unit. He rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel and fought hard, but he was there when the battle of Camden ended organized resistance in South Carolina.

Rather than sit out the rest of the war, he enlisted a force of a few dozen men known as Marion’s Partisans and led them in harassing operations against the British. The Partisans scattered British and Loyalist forces on multiple occasions and once rescued 150 Patriot prisoners. Multiple British task forces to capture or kill Marion and the Partisans failed.

Called the “Swamp Fox” for his ability to hit the British and disappear without a trace into the South Carolina swamps, Marion was the only senior officer to escape the British capture of Charleston (and he went on to inspire Mel Gibson’s character in the 2000 film The Patriot).

Marion took command of a force of irregular troops who would hit British forces and terrorize Loyalists. He and his men fought for no pay and supplied their own horses, arms, and food.

The Swamp Fox and his irregular cavalry of 250 completely routed a loyalist force on the Pee Dee River at Port’s Ferry.

After General Horatio Gates sent Marion away from the main body of the Continental Army, Marion launched a strategic campaign against all British and Tory forces in the colony. Port’s Ferry was an important river crossing for the Swamp Fox’s forces.

Marion’s campaign was so successful that support for the British in South Carolina was largely restricted and Lt. Col. Francis Marion  was never captured.

Featured Image: Mel Gibson in The Patriot (Columbia Pictures)

Articles

Today in military history: Confederate invasion of Kentucky begins

On Aug. 14, 1862, the Confederate invasion of Kentucky began.

Wanting to draw the Union army away from Chattanooga, Tennessee, and hoping to win over Kentucky and the midwest for the South, Confederate General Edmund Kirby Smith led ten thousand troops toward the Cumberland Gap and spent the month of August defeating Yankee forces throughout the state. 

Smith was joined by General Braxton Bragg’s forces, and throughout the fall the Confederates would repeatedly engage with Union General Don Carlos Buell, who finally secured a Yankee victory in October, causing the Confederates to retreat back to Tennessee. 

Often referred to as the Confederate Heartland Offensive, the Kentucky Campaign was a strategic failure overall. Though it would slow Union forces down, they would regain the lost ground within a year and Kentucky would remain in Union hands for the remainder of the war.

Featured Image: The Battle of Perryville as depicted in Harper’s Weekly. (Public Domain)

MIGHTY HISTORY

Today in military history: Battle of Flamborough Head

On Sep. 23, 1779, John Paul Jones won the naval Battle of Flamborough Head.

During the Revolutionary War, Jones was commissioned into the new Continental Navy and in August 1779, took command of the Bonhomme Richard, a French ship flying under the American flag and creating havoc within the British Isles.

On Sep. 23, Jones engaged the British ships of war Serapis and Countess of Scarborough in a battle he managed to win — despite having the odds and numbers against him. During the conflict, when asked by the captain of the Serapis if he wished to surrender, Jones replied, “I have not yet begun to fight.”

He then crashed his ship into the Serapis, had his sharpshooters clear the enemy deck, and captured the Serapis while the Bonhomme Richard sank.

After the battle, he was both hailed as a hero and denigrated a pirate, depending on which country you ask. 

His remains are interred at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.

As for his flagship, the Bonhomme Richard, today there is still a search to find her. The Global Foundation for Ocean Exploration, led by GFOE Vice President Melissa Ryan, started a project in 2006 to search for the remains of the legendary Revolutionary War ship. Their current focus is the investigation of a high priority wreck site first discovered by the French Navy on a joint expedition in 2012. The site has revealed an iron anchor, rigging block, lengths of partially buried wooden planking, and other artifacts indicating that it may be an 18th-century wreck.

Articles

Today in military history: Brits capture and burn Washington DC

On Aug. 24, 1814, British forces achieved victory in the Battle of Bladensburg, Maryland, and marched into Washington, D.C.

The burning of Washington was a retaliation attack for the American burning of Toronto and much of America’s capital was set on fire. Little remained of the original city, including the original White House.

The United States had been engaged in the War of 1812 against the British Empire for two years. Battles were rough and fierce, and it seemed like the war would never end. Then some British troops decided to burn down the White House – which had serious consequences.

There were lots of reasons for the war but there were two main ones. First, there were really strict regulations on American trade and secondly, the U.K. was falsely imprisoning American seamen. Plus, the Brits weren’t exactly happy about the fact that America was pushing its boundaries and trying to expand in all directions.

During the battle, President James Madison took command of one of the American batteries, becoming the only sitting U.S. president to engage in combat as commander-in-chief, but he and his wife were forced to flee the capital before the arrival of the invaders.

British General Robert Ross and his officers dined in the White House that night as British troops began to set the city on fire in retaliation for the burning of Canadian government buildings by American troops earlier in the war. They burned the White House, the Capitol building and the Library of Congress before rains fell, extinguishing the flames. 

After 24 hours of occupation, Ross withdrew from the city, leaving its charred remains behind. 

President Madison hired the original architect, James Hoban, to rebuild the White House, which was restored by 1817.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Today in military history: Legendary 5th Special Forces Group activated

On Sep. 21, 1961, the  5th Special Forces Group was activated at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

The Cold War completely changed the way the U.S. planned to fight hot wars. Special Forces were designed to organize and train guerrillas behind enemy lines.

The U.S. Army’s 5th Special Forces Group, 1st Special Forces was formed to do just that as the war in Vietnam began to heat up.

President John F. Kennedy was a strong believer in the capabilities of Special Warfare. He visited the Special Warfare Center on Fort Bragg to review the training program there and authorized Special Forces soldiers to wear their distinctive green berets.

But how America’s premier unconventional warfare force got that iconic headwear is as much a testament to the force’s tenacity as it is a tribute to the founding soldiers who challenged Big Army’s authority.

The beret is said to be somewhat derived from America’s ties to the British Commandos of World War II, who wore a green beret as their standard-issue headdress beginning in 1941.

According to the official history of the Army Special Forces Association, America’s green beret was first designed by SF major and OSS veteran Herbert Brucker about two years after the unit was formed, likely due to the close work between the OSS — the predecessor to the Special Forces — and Royal British Commandos during the war.

The beret was later adopted by 1st Lt. Roger Pezelle and worn by his Operational Detachment Alpha team with the 10th Special Forces Group based in Germany. The SF troopers were reportedly not authorized to wear the berets, but being unconventional warriors, they basically gave Big Army the middle finger and wore them anyway.

“The berets were only worn in the field during exercises,” according to retired SF Command Sgt. Maj. Joe Lupyak. “The Army would not allow the wearing of berets in garrison.”

But that all changed in the early 1960s, when then-President John F. Kennedy adopted the Special Forces as America’s answer to the guerrilla wars that marked the first decades of the Cold War. Before a visit to Fort Bragg in 1961, Kennedy reportedly ordered then Special Warfare School commander Brig. Gen. William P. Yarborough to outfit his soldiers with the distinctive caps, arguing these unconventional warriors deserved headgear that set them apart from the rest of the Army.

The “Green Berets” – as they would become known based on that specific Army green “Shade 297” cap  – would deploy to Vietnam in 1964 to take control of all Special Forces in the country. 

They accomplished their mission of controlling Vietnam’s indigenous tribes and rallying them against the Communists. At the war’s height, the 5th SF Group controlled 84 of these Civilian Irregular Defense Groups, comprising some forty-two thousand men.

Featured Image: Vietnam-era 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne) Soldiers participate in 5th SFG(A)’s flash changeover ceremony at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, March 23, 2016. During the ceremony, 5th SFG(A) reinstated the Vietnam-era beret flash, adding a diagonal yellow stripe with three red stripes to the existing black and white background. The stripes pay homage to the Group’s history in the Vietnam War and its crucible under fire.

Today in Military History

Today in military history: The US enters WWI

On April 6, 1917, the United States of America finally entered World War I. After years of a formal position of neutrality, the United States declared war against Germany in response to their aggressive naval tactics, including Germany’s policy of unrestricted warfare against all ships that entered the waters surrounding the British Isles. 

The naval attacks began in 1915, including the sinking of the William P. Frye, a private American vessel; the sinking of the Luisitania on May 7, 1915, where 1,198 passengers were killed, including 128 Americans; and the sinking of an Italian liner in August 1915, which killed 272 people, including 27 Americans. 

Public opinion began to turn against Germany and by early 1917, President Woodrow Wilson was preparing Congress to strike. On Feb. 3, 1917, the U.S. broke diplomatic relations with Germany. A few hours later, the American liner S.S. Housatonic was sunk by a German U-boat — although the German commander politely ordered the Housatonic’s crew to abandon the ship first, sparing their lives.

On Feb. 22, Congress passed a $250 million arms appropriations bill in order to prepare the U.S. for war and by April four more U.S. ships had been sunk by Germany’s naval fleet. On April 2, President Wilson called for war. 

Four days later, Congress approved his request. U.S. troops would land in France by June in a war that would continue for another year and a half, killing nearly 20 million people across the globe including 2 million Americans.

Articles

Today in military history: First use of Agent Orange in Vietnam

On Aug. 10, 1961, the U.S. Army used Agent Orange in Vietnam for the first time.

Agent Orange was a chemical herbicide used to destroy forest cover used by North Vietnamese and Viet Cong troops. In what became a program codenamed Operation Ranch Hand, the U.S. sprayed more than 19 million gallons of the chemical over 4.5 million acres of land, including roads, rivers, forests, crops and military buildings.

It should come as no surprise that Agent Orange was later revealed to cause very serious health problems, including tumors, birth defects and cancer among U.S. and Vietnamese personnel and their families. 

In addition to Trichlorophenoxyacetic and Dichlorophenoxyacetic acid, Agent Orange also contains Tetrachlorodibenzodioxin. TCCD is known for being extremely dangerous, even in small amounts. When troops serving in Vietnam came home, many reported side effects of cancer, congenital disabilities in their children, miscarriages and skin diseases among others.

According to the History Channel, evidence of Agent Orange can still be found in many areas where the chemical was dropped decades ago.

Class-action lawsuits were filed on behalf of Vietnam war veterans and their families that were exposed, and finally President George H.W. Bush signed into law an act mandating that conditions resulting from exposure be treated by the VA. 

400,000 Vietnamese citizens were killed or injured by Agent Orange and millions more suffer from cancer or related illnesses. When Vietnamese citizens filed lawsuits against chemical companies responsible for the chemical, however, federal judges in the U.S. dismissed the suits. 

Let that sink in.

Today in Military History

Today in military history: US evacuates Saigon

On April 29, 1975, Operation Frequent Wind began, evacuating the last Americans and “at-risk” Vietnamese from Saigon, South Vietnam.

After the orders came through, armed forces radio began playing Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas” to signal that the evacuation was underway. 

Nearly 100 helicopters were deployed from aircraft carriers to airlift approximately 7 thousand men, women, and children out of harm’s way in under 24 hours. 

The heroic pilots swarmed in and landed on confined rooftops, enclosed courtyards, and other various spaces loading countless people into the already cramped cargo areas to shuttle them to nearby Navy ships as Vietnamese forces stormed towards the city.  

Today in military history: Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps is formed
A South Vietnamese helicopter is pushed over the side of the USS Okinawa during Operation Frequent Wind, April 1975. The helicopter had to be disposed of to make room for the extensive Marine Corps helicopter operation helping to evacuate the city of Saigon.

So many helicopters landed on the decks of the nearby U.S. Navy aircraft carriers that empty helicopters were pushed overboard to make room for incoming aircraft. Other pilots were told to drop their passengers off then ditch their helicopter in the sea and await rescue.

The U.S. Marines — who provided security for the evacs — were the last to fly out, just as the Embassy fell to the Communists, leaving nearly 400 evacuees remaining.

Operation Frequent Wind remains the largest helicopter evacuation on record. In 19 hours, a total of 1,373 Americans and 5,595 Vietnamese and third country nationals were rescued. 

Featured Image: Vietnamese refugees board a U.S. Marine Corps Sikorsky CH-53 Sea Stallion helicopter from HMH-463 at Landing Zone 39, a parking lot At Ton Son Nhut Air Base in Saigon, Vietnam, 29 April 1975.

Today in Military History

Today in military history: John Paul Jones sets out to raid British ships

On April 10, 1778, the Father of the American Navy John Paul Jones set out to raid British ships.

An accomplished merchant sailor, John Paul Jones volunteered for Continental Navy service in 1775. He was commissioned as an officer and quickly placed as lieutenant and second-in-command of Esek Hopkins’ flagship Alfred. Jones was extremely successful in early cruises, capturing 16 British vessels in a single cruise after taking command of the Providence.

But Jones had an ambitious plan for the young Continental Navy. Rather than fighting on the American coastline, ensuring that Britain would send additional ships to America where they could provide support to land commanders, he would sail to Europe and fight British ships there, forcing them to pull ships in the Americas back to England.

On April 10, 1778, Jones set his plan into action and sailed from France for the British Isles and the Irish Sea. Jones and his men attacked the British port of Whitehaven Harbor and then his former home in Kirkcudbright Bay, Scotland.

In Scotland, he attempted to abduct the local Earl, but contented himself with stealing the silver instead when he discovered that the Earl wasn’t home. The legend says he even stole the Earl’s teapot from his wife with her morning tea still inside.

Jones went on to fight legendary battles for the U.S., including his victory against two British warships escorting gold from the West Indies to Britain. He is remembered as the “Father of the American Navy” and is buried at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.

Featured Image: John Paul Jones seizing the silver plate of Lady Selkirk (Henry Davenport Northrop, Library of Congress)

Articles

Today in military history: Germans ambush allies during secret Normandy landings practice

On April 28, 1944, German E-boats ambushed allied forces during a secret dress rehearsal for the historic Normandy landings called “Exercise Tiger.” 

Exercise Tiger was one of the largest scale training operations for the D-Day invasion, and for obvious reasons, it was a major hush-hush operation.

Still, nine German E-boats caught sight of the exercise in the early morning hours of April 28th and opened fire. 

They attacked a convoy of eight large tank landing ships, or LSTs, the vessels the allies would use to deliver vehicles and landing troops on D-Day. Only one of the two ships assigned to protect the convoy was present. The other was undergoing repairs.

The German E-Boats attacked four LSTs before they were driven away. 749 allied servicemen were killed in the attack. For perspective, only 197 servicemen were killed on Utah Beach during the actual D-Day landing. 

Additionally, ten officers involved in the exercise had intimate knowledge of the D-Day plan, but luckily, none were captured by the Germans.

Despite the tragic loss of life, many historians believe that lessons learned from the surprise ambush at Exercise Tiger contributed to the eventual success of the June 6th D-Day landing.

Articles

Today in military history: Crusader control of Holy Land ends

On May 18, 1291, Acre, the last Crusader stronghold in the Middle East, fell to the Muslim Mamluks, ending Crusader control of the Holy Land.

European Christian Crusaders had been reeling from Sala-a-din’s conquest of Jerusalem in 1187. The Third Crusade recaptured Acre (in modern-day Israel) for the next 100 years. But in that time, one by one, Crusader cities would fall to the Mamluk Sultanate.

The Muslim Mamluks came to power in the region in 1250, marking a shift in the balance of power in the region. The Muslims were then able to compete with the heavy cavalry of the Crusader knights – and they did. 

Crusader cities in Caesarea, Haifa, Galilee, and Antioch sparked more Crusades from Europe, but they were largely ineffective. Latakia fell in 1278, Tripoli in 1289. Acre was surrounded. 

The Crusaders hoped for either an army from Italy or an unlikely alliance with the Mongols. Neither materialized and the Mamluks laid siege to Acre on April 5, 1291. By May 18, Al-Ashraf Khalil’s 222,000-strong army entered the city and killed its Crusader defenders, ending the last Crusader control of the region.

The Siege of Acre, also known as the Fall of Acre, marked the end of further crusades to the Levant. With the fall of Acre, the Crusaders lost their last major stronghold of the Kingdom of Jerusalem, and by 1302 with the loss of Ruad, they were no longer control any part of the Holy Land.

Featured Image: Siège d’Acre (1291) by unknown 14th century French artist (Gallica Digital Library)

Do Not Sell My Personal Information