Military and Police

8 June: This Day in Military History

1944: A second wave of troops land at Normandy while soldiers battle to link the Omaha and Utah beachheads. As the 29th Infantry Division attacks a strongly fortified enemy emplacement atop a hill overlooking Grandcamp. When artillery and armor support fails to take out the German position Tech. Sgt. Frank D. Peregory charges up the hill through machinegun fire and is able to reach the German trench lines. He attacks an enemy squad with grenades and his bayonet, killing eight and capturing three. As he maneuvers his way to the top, he forces another 32 to surrender and captures the machine guns.

Peregory is killed in action six days later and will be posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroic actions on this day.

1945: Fred F. Lester, a Navy corpsman with the 1st Battalion, 22d Marines, spots a wounded Marine during a furious battle on Okinawa. Lester crawls through a barrage of machine guns, rifles, and grenades to aid his comrade, but is hit multiple times by enemy fire. Despite his own serious wounds, he pulls the Marine to safety and instructs men from his squad how to treat the casualty. Lester realizes that his own wounds are fatal and refuses treatment, and spends the last moments of his life guiding his men as they treat the wounded. Lester is posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.

1966: During a test flight of the North American XB-70 “Valkyrie,” an experimental six-engine bomber capable of flying at three times the speed of sound, an F-104 “Starfighter” chase plane collides with the Valkyrie, sending the bomber spiraling out of control and instantly killing the pilot of the chase plane, Joseph A. Walker – a former Army Air Force captain, fighter pilot during World War II, NASA chief test pilot, and the first U.S. civilian to fly high enough to be considered “spaceflight.” The Valkyrie’s pilot manages to eject, but the co-pilot is trapped inside the stricken warplane and crashes into the ground near Barstow, Calif. The Air Force backs out of the Valkyrie program shortly after the collision.

North American XB-70 “Valkyrie”



North American XB-70A Valkyrie after collision

1967: As the Six-Day War between Israel and her Soviet-backed Arab neighbors begins its fourth day of combat, the “technical research ship” USS Liberty (AGTR-5) was slowly steaming back and forth north of the Sinai Peninsula as it gathered electronic intelligence for the National Security Agency. For reasons still unknown 51 years later, unmarked Israeli fighter jets appear and begin strafing the decks of the American-flagged ship, killing and wounding scores of Liberty’s sailors. Those that survive the armor-piercing bullets are targeted by napalm bombs while Israeli torpedo boats blast a gaping hole in the side of the converted World War II freighter and systematically wipe out the life boats with their machine guns.

Upon hearing Liberty’s distress calls, the Navy’s Sixth Fleet scrambles eight planes to rush to the defense of the stricken ship, but President Lyndon Johnson orders them to return to their carriers before they could arrive. Crews frantically work to save the vessel, which was nearly broken in half. 34 sailors are killed and 171 wounded. Liberty‘s skipper Cmdr. William McGonagle receives the Medal of Honor for his actions in an atypical low-key private ceremony at a naval yard. His sailors are issued gag orders – threatened by their own government that if they talk of the incident, they will be thrown in prison, never to be heard from again.

Cdr. McGonagle in his cabin on board USS Liberty, June 1967

Details surrounding the incident are still a tightly held secret, but Israel immediately apologizes for the incident – citing fog of war – and offers compensation to the sailors’ families.

1991: (Featured image) Hundreds of thousands gather to see Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf lead a victory parade through Washington, D.C. following Operation Desert Storm. A flyover of F-117 stealth fighters kicks off the parade, while tanks and thousands of troops pass in front of Pres. George H.W. Bush and other officials.

1995: After nearly a week behind enemy lines after being shot down by a Bosnian-Serb surface-to-air missile, Air Force captain Scott O’Grady makes breaks radio silence and requests evacuation. The downed airman had been evading his would-be captors while searching for a location suitable to land rescue helicopters. Within moments, a 41-man specially trained Marine rescue force from USS Kearsarge boards two CH-53 Super Stallion helicopters and, together with attack helicopters and some 40 other aircraft, chopper their way into Bosnia. On board one of the Super Stallions is the now-deceased Col. Martin R. Berndt, a former platoon commander during the Vietnam War who would not order his Marines to do anything that he wasn’t willing to do himself. (Berndt passed away in 2011 after retiring as a lieutenant general.)

The team punches through heavy fog and lands in a small clearing, where they are greeted by a grateful but exhausted O’Grady, who has to be forcibly disarmed before boarding. The helicopters race back to the amphibious assault ship at treetop level, dodging enemy anti-aircraft fire and missiles along the way, but fortunately, no one is injured in the daring rescue mission.

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Chris Carter

Chris Carter is the Director of the Victory Institute, and deputy regional director of the U.S. Counterterrorism Advisory Team. His work appears at The US Report, International Analyst Network, Human Events, Canada Free Press, Family Security Matters, Deutsche Welle,, Blackfive and other publications. Chris is a veteran of the U.S. Air Force, non-commissioned officer in the South Carolina State Guard, and retired firefighter.

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