[Featured image: Marines from 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment take cover during a firefight on Feb. 13, 2010 during the opening hours of the Battle of Marjah. (USMC photo)]
1861: When Chiracahua Apaches capture a 60-man force of 7th Infantry soldiers in Arizona Territory, Col. Bernard J.D. Irwin, an assistant surgeon, volunteers to lead 14 soldiers on a daring 100-mile rescue mission. With no horses available, the men of the 1st Dragoons (today’s 1st Cavalry Regiment) must start their journey on mules, and Irwin’s force fight their way to the beleaguered soldiers and help break the siege.
While the Medal of Honor is not created until 1862, and Irwin isn’t decorated until just before his retirement (as brigadier general) in 1894, his actions make him the first man to earn the Medal of Honor.
1917: Over Pensacola, Fla., Capt. Francis T. Evans (USMC) becomes the first aviator to perform a loop in a seaplane. His Curtiss N-9 stalls after the maneuver and Evans barely manages to save the plane before splashing into the Gulf of Mexico. The techniques he discovers while recovering from the stall are still used by pilots to this day. In 1936, Evans is awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his feat, which the plane’s manufacturers said was not possible.
1945: Over the next three days, 1,300 Royal Air Force and US Army Air Force heavy bombers drop 3,900 tons of bombs on Dresden, Germany, creating a firestorm that killed 25,000 Germans.
That same day in the Philippine Islands’ Luzon Straight, the crew of the submarine USS Batfish (SS-310) sinks RO-113 – accomplishing the incredible feat of sinking three enemy subs in just 76 hours.
1965: President Lyndon Johnson gives the go-ahead for Operation “Rolling Thunder,” the bombing campaign to interdict the flow of Communist troops and supplies from North Vietnam. The first strikes will begin in just over two weeks and when the campaign finally ends in 1968, American warplanes will have dropped nearly 650,000 tons of munitions – at the cost of over 900 U.S. aircraft.
1968: In response to the TET Offensive, Pres. Johnson orders the deployment of 10,500 82d Airborne Division soldiers and a regimental landing team from the 5th Marine Division to Vietnam and discusses the possibility of calling up tens of thousands more Reservists and former service members in the event of a second Communist offensive.
2010: Helicopters bring wave after wave of American, Afghan, and other coalition forces into the Taliban stronghold of Marjah, in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province. Some 15,000 troops will participate in the Battle of Marjah, and the city is not declared secure until December. 45 American service members will perish during the operation.