1862: President Abraham Lincoln signs a law creating the Medal of Honor – the nation’s highest decoration for valor. The award is presented to “such non-commissioned officers and privates as shall most distinguish themselves by their gallantry in action and other soldier-like qualities during the present insurrection.” The Navy had established their version, the “Medal of Valor,” six months previously. To date, 3,502 Americans have been awarded the Medal of Honor – roughly half of which were from the Civil War.
1916: In Pensacola Bay, Fla. the armored cruiser USS North Carolina (ACR-12) becomes the first naval vessel to carry and operate aircraft when aviation pioneer Lt. Godfrey de Chevalier launches his AB-3 flying boat from a catapult while the ship is underway.
1944: When three dug-in and camouflaged German machineguns pin down an American company, Sgt. Roy W. Harmon’s orders his squad forward to neutralize the positions. German gunners are pouring “murderous” fire from behind haystacks, and left unchecked, will annihilate an entire platoon. When tracer rounds fail to ignite the haystacks, Harmon orders his soldiers to stay put while he crawls forward alone.
Harmon reaches the first machinegun nest, setting it on fire with a white phosphorous grenade and shooting the escaping gunners with his submachine gun. Harmon then moved towards the next position and was wounded before he took out the nest and its occupants with hand grenades. The approach to the third position was completely exposed and Harmon was wounded a second time as he closed in. At 20 yards away, he pops up to his knees to eliminate the last position with a grenade, but was cut down by close-range fire. Rising again to his knees, he hurls the grenade and dies. Harmon’s grenade destroys the third – and final – machinegun emplacement and saves an entire platoon. Sgt. Harmon is posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.
1950: Elements of the 21st Infantry Regiment continue fighting delay operations against the advancing North Korean Army. Although the Americans are outgunned and outnumbered, they manage to hold off the enemy long enough for the establishment of the Pusan Perimeter. Col. Robert R. Martin, commanding officer of the 34th Infantry Regiment is posthumously awarded the first Distinguished Service Cross (the Army’s second-highest decoration for valor) of the Korean War after he is killed while attacking a North Korean T-34 tank with a bazooka.
1993: 17 American AH-64 “Cobra” helicopters attack a safe house in Mogadishu, believing that the infamous Somali warlord Muhamad Farrah Aidid is present. Dozens of Somalis are killed, but the self-declared president is not among the dead. Four journalists attempting to cover the attack are stoned to death by an angry mob.