[Featured image: Apollo 16 astronaut John Young standing on the moon. Behind him is the “Orion” Lunar Module and lunar rover.]
1898: Following the sinking of the USS Maine in Havana Harbor, the Secretary of the Navy orders Marine Corps commandant Maj. Gen. Charles Heywood to organize a battalion for duty in Cuba. Lt. Col. Robert W. Huntington will form the 1st Marine Battalion (Reinforced) out of Marines from across the East Coast, and in one week, the Leathernecks will board a banana boat and sail for Guantanamo Bay.
1916: The French Air Service establishes the Escadrille Américaine — a group of volunteer American pilots flying for the French military. When Germany protests about naming the outfit after the supposedly neutral United States, the fighter squadron changes its name to La Fayette Escadrille.
Former U.S. Army rifleman – turned French Foreign Legionary and pilot – Gervais Raoul Lufbery becomes the outfit’s first ace in October 1916. In 1918, La Fayette Escadrille will be absorbed into the 103rd Pursuit Squadron of the new U.S. Army Air Service.
1945: Before dawn, thousands of Soviet guns open fire on the entrenched German soldiers defending Seelow Heights while nearly one million Red Army soldiers begin their assault. The Battle for Berlin has begun.
The German defenders inflict staggering losses on the Soviets, but after three days of intense fighting, the last defensive line between Berlin and the Red Army has been wiped out. World War II will end in days.
1972: Former Naval aviators Kenn Mattingly, John Young, and Air Force fighter pilot Charles Duke lift off from Kennedy Space Center on the Apollo 16 mission. Their 11-day mission will be NASA’s next-to-last manned mission to the moon.
1986: Several hours before dawn, U.S. Air Force and Navy warplanes roar into Libyan airspace and begin a series of airstrikes against military and terrorist targets. Code-named EL DORADO CANYON, the attacks are in retaliation for Libyan-leader Col. Muammar Qaddafi’s direct involvement in terrorist attacks against Americans worldwide.
The U.S. operation is built around two primary strike groups: U.S. Air Force F-111 fighter-bombers based in the United Kingdom, and carrier-based A-6 Intruders, A-7 Corsairs, and F/A-18 Hornets from USS America and USS Coral Sea operating in the Mediterranean with F-14 Tomcats flying combat air patrol over the carriers.