1934: The Marines depart Haiti, ending the United States’ 19-year occupation of the Caribbean island.
1942: U.S. Navy destroyers finally manage to deliver the first load of supplies to Marines on Guadalcanal, who have been coping with limited rations and ammunition since landing nearly ten days ago.
Also on this day, Maj. Gen. Matthew Ridgway’s 82d “All-American” Infantry Division is redesignated as the 82d Airborne Division, becoming the first airborne division in American military history. The division’s first combat jumps will take place in Sicily and Italy the following year.
1943: 35,000 American and Canadian troops conduct an amphibious landing on the beaches of Kiska, Alaska – only to discover that the Japanese had abandoned the island weeks ago.
In the Solomon Islands, 6,500 soldiers of the 25th Infantry Division storm ashore on Vella Lavella. The islands will be captured in just under a month.
1944: (featured image) Well over 100,000 American and French troops land on the French Riviera, easily driving the German defenders back and capturing several strategic ports. The soldiers move so quickly across France that the supply trains can’t keep up, and most of Southern France is liberated in four weeks.
On Cape Cavalaire’s “Red Beach,” Sgt. James P. Connor charges through a defense network of mines, mortars, 20-mm flak guns, machineguns, and snipers. When the German defenders take out both his platoon leader and platoon sergeant, Connor takes command, despite being wounded in the landing. He personally eliminates two enemy snipers before being hit again, then pushes his men forward through “almost impregnable mortar concentrations.”
Connor and his platoon drive forward to their objective: a group of buildings overlooking the beach that are home to several snipers and machinegun nests. Wounded a third time, Connor is unable to continue, but still orders his men from the prone position. Despite being reduced to one-third of their original strength, the platoon flanks the enemy and takes the objective. Seven Germans are killed, 40 captured, along with three machineguns. Sgt. Connor is awarded the Medal of Honor.
German ace Helmut Lennartz, flying the Messerschmidt 262 “Schwalbe”, shoots down an American B-17 bomber – the first American warplane to be claimed by a jet fighter.
1945: Emperor Hirohito, in his first-ever communication to the common Japanese people, announces via radio that Japan has unconditionally surrendered to the Allies. Not all of Japan is ready for the war to end, however: after hearing the emperor’s speech, Adm. Matome Ugaki climbs into a dive bomber and conducts the last kamikaze raid of the war. The Japanese military leadership attempts a coup, unsuccessfully storming the palace, and will order submarines to continue the war. The Japanese Army also executes scores of Allied prisoners. But on September 2, the deadliest war in human history will officially come to an end on the deck of the battleship USS Missouri.