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20 February: This Day in Military History

Today’s post is in honor of Sgt. Justin A. Harris, who was killed on this date in 1995 when his UH-1N helicopter crashed off the coast of Mogadishu. Harris, 23, of Toledo, Ohio, was part of a Naval Task Force that was evacuating the last remaining UN peacekeepers from Somalia.


1942: In “one of the most daring, if not the most daring, single action in the history of combat aviation,” Lt. Edward “Butch” O’Hare – flying a F4F Wildcat from the deck of the USS Lexington (CV-2) — single-handedly shoots down five Japanese Mitsubishi G4M “Betty” bombers and severely damages a sixth. O’Hare becomes the Navy’s first ace of the war and is awarded the Medal of Honor.

1944: U.S. Army Air Forces and Britain’s Royal Air Force begin Operation ARGUMENT, a massive thousand-plus bomber offensive aimed at destroying the German Air Force and Luftwaffe manufacturing facilities to achieve irreversible air superiority before the Normandy landings. Allied losses during the “Big Week” will be high. German losses will be staggering.

1962: (Featured image) Nearly five hours after blasting off from Cape Canaveral, Fla. in an Atlas LV-3B rocket, U.S. Marine Lt. Col. John H. Glenn Jr.’s Friendship 7 splashes down in the Atlantic Ocean and is recovered by the destroyer USS Noa. Glenn has just become the first American to orbit the Earth – doing so three times during his historic spaceflight.

John Glenn climbing into Friendship 7

Prior to becoming one of the original “Mercury Seven” astronauts, Glenn flew over 50 combat missions in an F4U Corsair during World War II and 90 missions in F9F Panther and F-86 Sabre jets during the Korean War, scoring three victories against enemy MiG-15s. As a military test pilot, Glenn flew the first-ever supersonic transcontinental flight, and at the age of 77, returned to space in 1998 aboard Space Shuttle Discovery, becoming the oldest person to fly in space.

2008: The guided-missile cruiser USS Lake Erie (CG-70) launches a modified SM-3 surface-to-air missile at a malfunctioning reconnaissance satellite that was about to re-enter Earth’s atmosphere. Although designed to intercept ballistic missiles, the SM-3 hits the satellite, which was traveling at 17,500 miles per hour, some 130 miles above the Pacific Ocean.

USS Lake Erie fires a SM-3 missile at the National Reconnaissance Office satellite USA-193 on Feb. 20, 2008. (U.S. Navy photo)
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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 SWAT Magazine, Human Events, Canada Free Press, Deutsche Welle, NavySEALs.com, Lifezette, and other publications. Chris is a veteran of the U.S. Air Force, warrant officer in the South Carolina State Guard, and retired firefighter.

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