This Day in Military History

20 November: This Day in Military History

Today’s post is in honor of Army Spc. Joseph L. Lister, who was killed by an improvised explosive device attack in Ramadi, Iraq on this day in 2003. Lister, 22, of Pleasanton, Kan. was assigned to 1st Battalion, 34th Armored Regiment, 1st Infantry Division.


1776: Having defeated the American garrison at Fort Washington, 5,000 British soldiers land at The Palisades and begin their New Jersey invasion. Gen. George Washington orders Fort Lee (directly across the Hudson River from Fort Washington) abandoned and the Continental Army retreats across the Hackensack River.

1918: The 369th Infantry Regiment (featured image) receives the honor of becoming the first American unit to enter German territory for occupation duty. The famed “Hell Fighters from Harlem” fought with distinction under French command during World War I, spending more time in combat and suffering more casualties than any other American regiment during the war.

1943: A flotilla of over 100 warships, including 17 aircraft carriers and 12 battleships, hammers the Tarawa Atoll as the first of 35,000 Marines and soldiers land in the face of stiff Japanese resistance. Rear Adm. Keiji Shibasaki, in command of the defenders, stated that “a million men could not take Tarawa in a hundred years.” In fact, it will only take 76 hours to secure the islands.

“Tarawa, South Pacific, 1943” by USMC Sgt. Tom Lovell

The fanatical defenders will fight almost to the last man in the first heavily opposed U.S. landing in the Pacific. Many of the American casualties were due to low tide conditions that forced Marines to wade hundreds of yards across jagged coral reefs – under withering fire – to reach the shore. The resulting losses inspired the creation of the Navy’s Underwater Demolition Teams to provide critical hydrographic reconnaissance and destroy obstacles for amphibious landings – the birth of what will become today’s SEAL Teams.

During the assault waves, withering  enemy fire kills all but four men in Staff Sgt. William J. Bordelon’s vehicle. He disembarks and assembles explosive charges, taking out two enemy pillboxes. An enemy round detonates an explosive charge the Marine was holding as he attempted to neutralize a third position, but Bordelon ignores his own wounds and begins providing covering fire for the Marines scaling the sea wall. Spotting a wounded man in the water calling for help, he rushes to rescue the wounded Marine. Upon returning to his demolition duties, Bordelon is killed while single-handedly assaultings a fourth enemy pillbox, posthumously earning the Medal of Honor.

1944: USS Mississinewa (AO-59) becomes the first victim of the Japanese Kaiten suicide submarine when the tanker is sunk in the Caroline Islands.

1945: The Nuremberg Trials begin when 24 high-ranking Nazi officials face charges in Nuremberg, Germany for atrocities committed during World War II.

Nuremburg trials

1962: With assurances that the Soviet Union would remove their ballistic missiles from the island, President Kennedy lifts the naval blockade against Cuba, ending the Cuban Missile Crisis.

U-2 reconnaissance photo during the Cuban Missile Crisis
The opinions expressed here by contributors are their own and are not the view of OpsLens which seeks to provide a platform for experience-driven commentary on today's trending headlines in the U.S. and around the world. Have a different opinion or something more to add on this topic? Contact us for guidelines on submitting your own experience-driven commentary.
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, NavySEALs.com, 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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