1813: Near the Galapagos Islands, Lt. John M. Gamble becomes the only Marine to ever command a ship in battle. When the frigate USS Essex (the first of five so-named vessels) captures two prize ships, Capt. David Porter awards Gamble command of the sloop-of-war USS Greenwich. Gamble will capture the British ship HMS Seringapatam after a brief battle, out-maneuvering and out-gunning Capt. William Stavers and his 41-man Royal Navy crew.
Gamble’s exploits will become legendary, though few know of him outside Marine Corps circles, and the Navy names a destroyer in his honor 100 years later.
1944: (featured image) Land-based bombers flying out of Saipan attack Iwo Jima for the first time. Army Air Forces Commander, Gen. Henry H. “Hap” Arnold, recommends the capture of the strategic island – situated halfway between Saipan and Japan. Planners figure it will only take a week of fighting to secure Iwo Jima, but are unaware that Japanese military is preparing a defense network so well dug-in that bombings and preparatory strikes will be virtually useless.
1945: As carrier based planes raid targets across Japan, a naval task force of battleships, heavy cruisers, and destroyers attacks the Japanese home islands for the first time, targeting the iron works at Kamaishi.
1950: The exhausted and battered 24th Infantry Division, having fought a series of delaying actions against the numerically superior and better equipped North Koreans for two weeks, crosses the Kum River and destroys the bridges in preparation for their final stand at Taejon. The communist soldiers surround the city, inflicting heavy casualties on the Americans before advancing into the town. Several days of heavy urban combat ensue, and division commander Maj. Gen. William F. Dean will himself attack – and destroy – a North Korean tank before becoming the highest-ranking officer captured during the Korean War.
Dean and another soldier, Sgt. George D. Libby are awarded the Medal of Honor for their actions during the Battle of Taejon, and the 24th Divisions last stand buys enough time for the Allies to establish the Pusan Perimeter and drive the North Koreans north, finally turning the tide of battle.
1964: American military intelligence publicly announces that North Vietnamese Army officers are leading Vietcong units in South Vietnam and are personally engaging in battle.