Today’s post is in honor of Seaman Apprentice William Flores, who was one of 23 Coast Guardsmen that perished on this day in 1980 when USCGC Blackthorn collides with another vessel. Flores, 18, of Carlsbad, N.M., was posthumously awarded the Coast Guard Medal — the service’s highest non-combat award for heroism — for tossing life jackets to guardsmen that had jumped overboard, then remained aboard the sinking vessel to assist injured and disoriented crew, sacrificing his life to save his shipmates.
1945: The Eighth Air Force celebrates its third birthday by sending 1,006 B-24 and B-17 bombers and 249 P-51 escorts to Dortmund, Germany on Mission 809 — a raid on marshaling yards, bridges and benzol plants, and other targets of opportunity. German air defenses shoot down seven B-24s and three B-17s, damage 464 bombers, and upon landing, another four bombers are damaged beyond repair. 16 airmen are killed, 31 wounded, and 106 missing in action.
By this time, the Mighty Eighth had flown more than 250,000 bomber and 210,000 fighter sorties, delivering well over half a million tons of bombs and destroying 13,000 enemy planes.
1966: Marines hit the beaches of the South Vietnam’s Quang Ngai province in the first amphibious landing since Korea. The Americans meet little resistance as they head inland, then move to cut off retreating North Vietnamese Army and Viet Cong forces.
1973: B-52s carried out their final combat sortie in Southeast Asia — striking targets in South Vietnam. Operation ARC LIGHT had started in 1965.
1986: After nearly a week delays for weather and technical issues, Space Shuttle Challenger finally blasts off from the launch pad at Cape Canaveral, Fla., planning to put a satellite into orbit to study the approaching Halley’s Comet. But 73 seconds into the flight, an o-ring on the Solid Rocket Booster fails, causing Challenger to explode.
Among the crew were Dick Scobee (Lt. Col., USAF) and Michael J. Smith (Capt., USN) both Vietnam combat veterans; Ellison Onizuka (Lt. Col., USAF), and Gregory Jarvis (former Capt., USAF). This tragic event marks the first time a manned American orbital mission fails. It will be two years before NASA launches another space shuttle mission.