This Day In U.S. Military History 8 August 1944

This Day In U.S. Military History 8 August 1944

Following the American break out from Normandy in July, 1944, the Germans decided that the only way to stop the Allied advance and push them back to the sea was to launch a massive attack in the Avranches region, about 150 miles west of Paris. To do this they moved tanks and men of the XLVII Panzer Corps into place and opened their operation on August 7th.

Their main thrust, lead by the 2nd SS Panzer Division, was to cut the American line between Normandy and Brittany, forcing the two groups to fall back on different beach areas, possibly compelling at least one group to withdraw. But almost immediately the Germans were blocked by determined resistance.
On Hill 317, near the village of Mortain, their advance was stopped by 700 men of North Carolina’s 2nd Battalion, 120th Infantry, 30th Infantry Division (which also included Guard units from SC and TN).

Firing at almost point-blank range their one anti-tank gun and numerous anti-tank rockets (fired from ‘bazooka’s’) the Guardsmen destroyed 40 vehicles including several heavy battle tanks. The Germans bypassed the hill leaving it surrounded.

They launched repeated assaults to capture it but these were beaten back with artillery support from the Guard’s 35th Infantry Division (KS, MO, NE) and RAF air strikes on the German positions. After five days of being cut off and with the loss of nearly 300 men the 2nd Battalion was rescued by elements of the 35th Division.

For it’s determined and stubborn resistance in blocking the enemy advance the 2/120th Infantry was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation.

This Day In U.S. Military History 8 August 1944

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This Day In U.S. Military History 7 August 1964

The United States Congress overwhelming approves the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, giving President Lyndon B. Johnson nearly unlimited powers to oppose “communist aggression” in Southeast Asia.

The resolution marked the beginning of an expanded military role for the United States in the Cold War battlefields of Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. By 1964, America’s ally, South Vietnam, was in serious danger of falling to a communist insurgency. The insurgents, aided by communist North Vietnam, controlled large areas of South Vietnam, and no amount of U.S. military aid and training seemed able to save the southern regime.

During the presidencies of Dwight D. Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy, hundreds-and then thousands-of U.S. military advisers had been sent to South Vietnam to train that nation’s military forces. In addition, hundreds of millions of dollars in military and economic assistance had been given to South Vietnam. The administration of President Lyndon B. Johnson made the decision that only direct U.S. military intervention in the conflict could turn the tide.

However, Johnson was campaigning in the presidential election of 1964 as the “responsible” candidate who would not send American troops to fight and die in Asia. In early August, a series of events occurred that allowed Johnson to appear statesmanlike while simultaneously expanding the U.S. role in Vietnam.

On August 2, North Vietnamese torpedo boats attacked an American destroyer in the Gulf of Tonkin. Johnson responded by sending in another destroyer. On August 4, the two destroyers reported that they were under attack. This time, Johnson authorized retaliatory air attacks against North Vietnam. He also asked Congress to pass the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution. This resolution declared, “The United States regards as vital to its national interest and to world peace the maintenance of international peace and security in Southeast Asia.”

It also gave Johnson the right to “take all necessary measures to repel any armed attack against the forces of the United States and to prevent further aggression.” The House passed the resolution by a unanimous vote; the vote in the Senate was 88 to 2. Johnson’s popularity soared in response to his “restrained” handling of the crisis. The Johnson administration went on to use the resolution as a pretext to begin heavy bombing of North Vietnam in early 1965 and to introduce U.S. combat troops in March 1965.

Thus began a nearly eight-year war in which over 58,000 U.S. troops died. In a wider sense, the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution can be considered America’s Cold War policy toward all of Southeast Asia at the time. The resolution was also another example of the American government’s less than candid discussion of “national security” matters during the Cold War.

Unspoken during the Congressional debate over the resolution was the fact that the commanders of the U.S. destroyers could not state with absolute accuracy that their ships had actually been attacked on the night of August 4, nor was any mention made of the fact that the U.S. destroyers had been assisting South Vietnamese commandos in their attacks on North Vietnamese military installations.

By the late 1960s, the tangle of government deceptions and lies began to unravel as public confidence in both Johnson and the American military effort in Vietnam began to erode.

image for The Gulf of Tonkin Resolution

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This Day in U.S. Military History 5 August 1917

This Day in U.S. Military History 5 August 1917

The entire membership of the National Guard was drafted into federal service for World War I. After war was declared in April, 1917, National Guard units were first called into federal service by President Wilson under the militia clause of the Constitution.
Most of these units mobilized at their local armories or in state military camps, and they began actively recruiting up to full wartime strength while conducting local patrols to defend against suspected German saboteurs.

Guardsmen could not be deployed overseas as militia, however, since the Constitution stipulated that the militia could only be used to “execute the laws of the Union, suppress insurrection, and repel invasions.”

To circumvent this restriction, the Army’s Judge Advocate General determined that it would be necessary to draft each Guardsman into federal service, thus severing his ties to the state militia and freeing him for service overseas. Just over 379,000 Guardsmen were drafted on August 5, 1917, more then doubling the size of the U.S. Army with the stroke of a pen.

Despite the fact that the military would swell to over 4 million men during the war, the brunt of the fighting in the trenches in France would be borne by the Guard. All 18 National Guard divisions served overseas as part of the 43 division American Expeditionary Forces; 12 of the 29 divisions that saw combat were from the Guard (the rest of the divisions were broken up and the men used as replacements).

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This Day In U.S. Military History 4 August 1964

This Day In U.S. Military History 4 August 1964

At 8 p.m., the destroyers USS Maddox and USS C. Turner Joy, operating in the Gulf of Tonkin, intercept radio messages from the North Vietnamese that give Captain John Herrick of the Maddox the “impression” that Communist patrol boats are planning an attack against the American ships, prompting him to call for air support from the carrier USS Ticonderoga. Eight Crusader jets soon appeared overhead, but in the darkness, neither the pilots nor the ship crews saw any enemy craft. However, about 10 p.m. sonar operators reported torpedoes approaching. The U.S. destroyers maneuvered to avoid the torpedoes and began to fire at the North Vietnamese patrol boats. When the action ended about two hours later, U.S. officers reported sinking two, or possibly three of the North Vietnamese boats, but no American was sure of ever having seen any enemy boats nor any enemy gunfire. Captain Herrick immediately communicated his doubts to his superiors and urged a “thorough reconnaissance in daylight.” Shortly thereafter, he informed Admiral U. S. Grant Sharp, commander of the Pacific Fleet, that the blips on the radar scope were apparently “freak weather effects” while the report of torpedoes in the water were probably due to “overeager” radar operators. Because of the time difference, it was only 9:20 a.m. in Washington when the Pentagon received the initial report of a potential attack on the U.S. destroyers. When a more detailed report was received at 11 a.m. there was still a lot of uncertainty as to just what had transpired. President Johnson, convinced that the second attack had taken place, ordered the Joint Chiefs of Staff to select targets for possible retaliatory air strikes. At a National Security Council meeting, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, Secretary of State Dean Rusk, and McGeorge Bundy, Special Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, recommended to the president that the reprisal strikes be ordered. Johnson was cautious at first, but in a follow-up meeting in the afternoon, he gave the order to execute the reprisal, code-named Pierce Arrow. The President then met with 16 Congressional leaders to inform them of the second unprovoked attack and that he had ordered reprisal attacks. He also told them he planned to ask for a Congressional resolution to support his actions. At 11:20 p.m., McNamara was informed by Admiral Sharp that the aircraft were on their way to the targets and at 11:26, President Johnson appeared on national television and announced that the reprisal raids were underway in response to unprovoked attacks on U.S. warships. He assured the viewing audience that, “We still seek no wider war.” However, these incidents proved to be only the opening moves in an escalation that would eventually see more than 500,000 U.S. troops in Vietnam.

This Day In U.S. Military History 4 August 1964

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This Day in U.S. Military History 3 August 2005

The Battle of Haditha continues. Two days after the deaths of six Marine snipers in Haditha, Marine forces launched Operation Quick Strike to disrupt insurgent presence in the Haditha area.
Around 1000 Marines from the Regimental Combat Team 2 (RCT-2) and Iraqi soldiers started “Operation Quick Strike”, which included efforts to find the insurgents responsible, however the primary intent was to interdict and disrupt militants’ presence in the Haditha, Haqliniyah, and Barwanah areas.

The operation began when Marines and Iraqi soldiers moved into Haqliniyah, about seven kilometers southwest of Haditha. 40 insurgents were killed, including four in a Super Cobra helicopter attack. On the second day of the operation, a Marine amphibious assault vehicle, which was transporting Marines to the initial assault, hit a huge roadside bomb.

The vehicle was completely destroyed and 15 out of the 16 people that were inside it were killed, with only one Marine surviving. The lone surviving Marine was a young man from Mississippi. Among the killed was also an Iraqi civilian interpreter.

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