This Day in Military History

21 December: This Day in Military History

Today’s post is in honor of Lance Cpl. Ryan L. Mayhan, who was killed during combat operations in Iraq’s Anbar province on this day in 2006. The 25-year-old from Hawthorne, Calif. was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force.


1861: President Abraham Lincoln signs a bill creating a “Medal of Honor” for enlisted sailors and Marines who “distinguish themselves by their gallantry and other seamanlike qualities during the present war.” The Army version of the medal is signed into law the following summer.

1866: In the biggest defeat on the Great Plains until Little Big Horn, Crazy Horse tricks Capt. William J. Fetterman into leading an ad hoc force outside the walls of Fort Phil Kearny, where the 78 soldiers and two civilian scouts are wiped out by approximately 2,000 Cheyenne and Sioux.

1943: Just days into her ninth war patrol, with one-quarter of skipper John A. Moore’s crew having no combat experience, the submarine USS Grayback sinks its fourth Japanese ship in just three days.

USS Grayback (SS-208)

1944: German troops from the 5th Panzer Army have surrounded the 101st Airborne at Bastogne, Belgium.

Nearby, Pvt. Francis S. “Frank” Currey ignores heavy incoming fire, killing one German tank, disabling three others, and forcing an enemy unit to retreat after inflicting heavy casualties with an effective combination of fire from his automatic rifle, a bazooka, a halftrack, and anti-tank grenades. Five soldiers that had been pinned down for hours by enemy infantry and the now-empty tanks are able to escape. For his actions, Currey is awarded the Medal of Honor.

Francis S. “Frank” Currey

1945: (Featured Image) Nearly one month after a vehicle accident that paralyzed him, Gen. George S. Patton dies of a pulmonary embolism in a military hospital in Heidelberg, Germany.

1950: Airmen from the Fifth Air Force conduct Operation KIDDY CAR – evacuating nearly 1,000 Korean War orphans to the island of Cheju-do to escape approaching communist forces.

1951: During Operation HELICOPTER, medevac choppers land on the pad of USS Consolation, ferrying wounded from the battlefield directly to a hospital ship for the first time.

USS Consolation
Americans receiving treatment aboard USS Consolation

1968: Frank Borman (Col. USAF, ret.), James Lovell (Capt. USN, ret.), and William Anders (Maj. Gen. USAF, ret.) blast off aboard Apollo 8, becoming the first humans to leave low Earth orbit and, on Christmas Eve, become the first to orbit the moon.

James A. Lovell Jr. (left), William A. Anders (center), and Frank Borman (right).
The Apollo 8 Command Module on the deck of USS Yorktown
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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, 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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