This Day in Military History

19 December: This Day in Military History

Today’s post is in honor of Pfc. Charles E. Bush Jr. who was killed by an improvised explosive device in Balad, Iraq on this day in 2003. Bush, a 43-year-old cook from of Buffalo, N.Y., had volunteered for assignment as a door gunner with the 402d Civil Affairs Battalion, 354th Civil Affairs Brigade, 352nd Civil Affairs Command and was supposed to be home in time for Christmas.

1777: 18 miles northwest of Philadelphia, Gen. George Washington’s Continental Army establishes its winter camp at Valley Forge. 2,500 of the original force of 12,000 would not survive the winter thanks to harsh weather conditions, disease, supply shortages, and malnutrition. Over the winter, the Prussian drillmaster – later, Washington’s Chief of Staff – Baron Friedrich von Steuben drills the Americans, greatly increasing their combat effectiveness and morale.

1862: Confederate cavalry under Brig. Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest dismantle the Mobile and Ohio railroad tracks around Jackson, Tenn., delaying Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant’s drive to Vicksburg.

1941: After the Battle of Moscow, Adolf Hitler fires Field Marshall Walther von Brauchitsch, a veteran of the Western Front during World War I and commander-in-chief of Nazi Germany’s armed forces for their highly successful campaigns across most of Europe. Hitler appoints himself as von Brauchitsch’s replacement.

Walther von Brauchitsch (left) and Adolf Hitler

1944: At the Siegfried Line in southern Germany, all members of Tech Sgt. Robert E. Gerstung’s heavy machinegun squad are killed or wounded, Gerstung keeps his gun firing, braving eight hours of intense tank, artillery, and mortar fire. When he runs out of ammunition, he crosses the kill-zone to retrieve more ammunition, and then again to grab another machinegun when his malfunctioned. When the order was given for the Americans to withdraw, Gerstung remained behind to provide the only covering fire for the unit. He then picks up his heavy weapon and slings ammunition over his shoulder to cover his own withdrawal, firing as he moves. Just 100 yards before reaching friendly lines, an enemy mortar round hits Gerstung in the leg and he has to drag himself and his weapon to safety.

Gerstung’s “remarkable perseverance, indomitable courage, and heroic devotion” earns him the Medal of Honor.

Robert E. Gerstung memorial site. Arlington National Cemetery.

1972: After spending a record 75 hours on the moon’s surface, Apollo 17 astronauts Eugene A. Cernan (Capt., USN and the last human to set foot on the moon), Ronald E. Evans (Capt., USN), and civilian geologist Harrison H. Schmitt splash down in the South Pacific, just four miles from the recovery ship USS Ticonderoga.

Apollo 17 crew: Commander, Eugene A. Cernan (seated), Command Module pilot Ronald E. Evans (standing on right), and Lunar Module pilot, Harrison H. Schmitt.
Apollo 17 and USS Ticonderoga. A Navy Underwater Demolition Team frogman stands on the capsule’s flotation collar

2000: The UN Security Council votes to impose sanctions on the Taliban in Afghanistan, directing them to close terrorist training camps and to hand over Osama bin Laden, who was suspected in attacks against United States embassies.

2001: (Featured Image) Fires that had been burning for over three months under the rubble of the World Trade Center are finally declared to be extinguished.

2003: Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi halts his nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons programs after secret negotiations with the United States and Britain.

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,, 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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