[Featured image: and F-15E “Strike Eagle” deploying flares over Afghanistan in 2008. (USAF photo)]
1778: The Continental sloop-of-war Ranger (the first of 10 so-named American warships) under the command of Capt. John Paul Jones fires a 13-gun salute to French Adm. Toussaint-Guillaume Picquet de la Motte’s fleet anchored in France’s Quiberon Bay. The French return the salute with nine guns. It is the first time America’s new flag – “the stars and stripes” – is officially recognized by a foreign power.
1814: The American frigate USS Constitution, commanded by Capt. David Porter, captures Lovely Ann, a British armed merchant vessel, and HMS Pictou, a Royal Navy schooner, within hours of each other. The crew of “Old Ironsides” will capture two more vessels over the next five days.
1912: USS E-1 (SS-24), the U.S. Navy’s first diesel-powered submarine, is commissioned in Groton, Connecticut. The sub is skippered by an almost 27-year-old Lt. Chester W. Nimitz, destined to become the famous five-star fleet admiral of World War II.
1945: As the destroyer USS Fletcher (DD-445) supports amphibious landings at Corregidor in the Philippines, a Japanese 6-in. coastal defense gun nails the ship’s forecastle and ignites a fire in the Number 1 magazine. Knowing that he may only have seconds to extinguish the fire before it kills the ship, Water Tender Second Class Elmer C. Bigelow dives into the blazing compartment without putting on a breathing apparatus. He saves the ship, but at the cost of his life. For his actions, Bigelow is posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.
1991: Air Force Captains Tim Bennett and Dan Bakke score the only air-to-air kill for the F-15E “Strike Eagle” of Operation DESERT STORM: when responding to a distress call from a Special Forces unit, the air crew spots a Iraqi Mil Mi-24 “Hind” helicopter unloading soldiers. They fire a 2,000-lb. laser-guided bomb at the gunship, and the resulting blast “shoots down” the helicopter, which was reportedly some 800 feet above the ground.