Battlefield Chronicles

WW1 – The First Battle of the Somme (1916)

WW1 – The First Battle of the Somme (1916)

In the annals of military history, few battles evoke the same sense of sacrifice, tragedy, and valor as the First Battle of the Somme. Fought during the First World War, this monumental clash took place between July 1st and November 18th, 1916, primarily along the banks of the River Somme in France. It remains one of the most significant engagements of the Great War, characterized by its staggering casualties and strategic significance. The First Battle of the Somme is famous chiefly on account of the loss of 58,000 British troops (one third of them killed) on the first day of the battle, July 1, 1916, which to this day remains a one-day record The First Battle of the Somme: The Ill-Fated Bombardment The attack was preceded by an eight-day preliminary bombardment of the German lines, with expectations that the ferocity of the bombardment would entirely destroy all forward German defenses, enabling the attacking British troops to practically walk across No Man's Land and take...

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Korean War – the Battle Of Heartbreak Ridge

Korean War – the Battle Of Heartbreak Ridge

By the summer of 1951, the Korean War had reached a stalemate as peace negotiations began at Kaesong. The opposing armies faced each other across a line which ran with many twists and turns along the way from east to west, through the middle of the Korean peninsula, a few miles north of the 38th parallel. UN and communist forces jockeyed for position along this line, clashing in several relatively small but intense and bloody battles.  The First Bloody Ground Battle One bloody ground battle took place from August 18 to September 5, 1951. It began as an attempt by UN forces to seize a ridge of hills which they believed were being used as observation posts to call in artillery fire on a UN supply road. It was a joint operation conducted by South Korean and the U.S. Army's 2nd Division. Their mission was to seize a ridge of hills used by the North Koreans as observation posts to call in artillery fire on a UN supply road. Leading the initial attacks was the 36th ROK Regiment. It...

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War in Afghanistan – The Battle of Kunduz

War in Afghanistan – The Battle of Kunduz

The Battle of Kunduz took place from April to October 2015 for control of the city of Kunduz, located in northern Afghanistan, with Taliban fighters attempting to displace Afghan security forces. On September 28, 2015, the Taliban forces suddenly overran the city, with government forces retreating outside the city. The capture marked the first time since 2001 that the Taliban had taken control of a major city in Afghanistan. The Afghan government claimed to have largely recaptured Kunduz by October 1, 2015, in a counterattack, although local sources in the city disputed the claim made by government officials. Twelve hospital staff of Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) and ten patients, including three children, were killed on October 3rd by a prolonged series of U.S. airstrikes on Kunduz Trauma Centre, an emergency trauma hospital run by the agency. Thirty-seven people were injured including nineteen staff members The Initial Attack of the Battle of Kunduz The Taliban...

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Ending the Battle of the Bulge

Ending the Battle of the Bulge

In December 1944, the German Wehrmacht launched what would be its last offensive of World War II, a last-ditch, all-out effort to throw the Western Allies back from Germany's borders. It would take the Allies almost six weeks to blunt the effort and force the German Army back, but for a time, it looked like the Nazi offensive might actually succeed in splintering the Allied invasion of Europe.  Germany threw everything it could into the effort, including an estimated 410,000 men, 1,500 armored vehicles, a thousand combat aircraft, and thousands of artillery guns. The response to such an assault would turn the Battle of the Bulge into the largest and one of the deadliest battles in U.S. military history.  The Ardennes Offensive: The Battle Unleashed Only in January 1945 did it become apparent the offensive had failed and that Germans would spend the rest of World War II in retreat.  On the morning of Dec. 16, 1944, the German Army achieved total surprise against an Allied force...

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WW2 – Battle Of Wake Island (1941)

WW2 – Battle Of Wake Island (1941)

The Battle of Wake Island was fought December 8-23, 1941, during the opening days of World War II. A tiny atoll in the central Pacific Ocean, Wake Island was annexed by the United States in 1899. Located between Midway and Guam, the island was not permanently settled until 1935 when Pan American Airways built a town and hotel to service their trans-Pacific China Clipper flights. Consisting of three small islets, Wake, Peale, and Wilkes, Wake Island was to the north of the Japanese-held Marshall Islands and east of Guam. As tensions with Japan rose in the late 1930s, the U.S. Navy began efforts to fortify the island. Work on an airfield and defensive positions began in January 1941. The following month, as part of Executive Order 8682, the Wake Island Naval Defensive Sea Area was created which limited maritime traffic around the island to U.S. military vessels and those approved by the Secretary of the Navy. An accompanying Wake Island Naval Airspace Reservation was also established...

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Civil War – The Battle of Chattanooga

Civil War – The Battle of Chattanooga

The November 1863 Battle of Chattanooga was a series of battles that were fought over the course of three days. It was also a series of battles that probably should have never happened in the first place. Around the same time, Gen. Ulysses S. Grant captured the key city of Vicksburg, Mississippi, and the Union Army defeated Robert E. Lee at Gettysburg; Gen. William Rosecrans managed to defeat Confederate Gen. Braxton Bragg at Chattanooga, forcing the south out of middle Tennessee. But Rosecrans failed to follow up on his big win in good time. When he finally did, he was soundly beaten at Chickamauga and pushed back to Chattanooga. Gen. Thomas: The Hero of The Battle of Chattanooga It was only because of Gen. George Henry Thomas’ determined stand at Chickamauga in September 1863 that the Union Army avoided destruction. Chattanooga was an important transportation hub at the time critical to both the Union and the Confederates. There was no going around it: both sides needed the city....

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Three American Battles Fought on Christmas

Three American Battles Fought on Christmas

In the days before industrialized warfare, armies would hole up in winter months, as colder temperatures and harsher weather limited the mobility and food quantities of forces on campaigns. Even after the rise of industry, mechanized warfare, and powered flight, the operational tempo of fighting seems to have slowed down slightly.  Christmas is a national holiday for the United States (even celebrated by most non-Christian Americans), and so having a combat operation is rare. Even more rare is a pitched battle. But that doesn't mean it didn't happen. Wars stop for no one, and if the timing is right, one side or another is going to strike, and American troops are no exception. Here are three times the United States decided to give the enemy a taste of defeat for Christmas.  The Battle of Trenton (1776) By the end of the year 1776, things weren't looking so great for Gen. George Washington and his Continental Army. They had beaten the British in Boston but were walloped in...

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Civil War – The Battle of Fort Donelson

Civil War – The Battle of Fort Donelson

After the successful siege of Fort Henry by Federal troops on February 6th, 1862, the Confederate forces hurried back to the neighboring Fort Donelson, which was located a few miles away. The Federals sought control over the waterways of Cumberland and Tennessee, knowing full well the advantage that it would afford them in the Western Theater of the Civil War. scan from 4x5 color copy transparency The chief agitator of the move to conquer the forts was Brig. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, who had sent several telegrams to his superior officer, Maj. Gen. Henry Wager Halleck. In his messages, he urged Halleck to deliver his consent to besiege the forts along the Cumberland and Tennessee waterways, all without favorable response. Despite being a very successful commander in the Civil War, Halleck had little faith in Grant, fearing him to be very irrational in his thinking. Once Grant's requests were backed up by Flag Officer, A.H. Foote, the petitions made by Grant were accepted. ...

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WW1 – The Christmas Truce of 1914

WW1 – The Christmas Truce of 1914

During World War I, in the bitter winter of 1914, on the battlefields of Flanders, one of the most unusual events in all of human history took place. The Germans had been in a fierce battle with the British and French. Both sides were dug in, safe in muddy, man-made trenches six to eight feet deep that seemed to stretch forever. The Sudden Christmas Truce During World War I All of a sudden, German troops began to put small Christmas trees, lit with candles, outside of their trenches. Then, they began to sing songs. Across the way, in the "no man's land" between them came songs from the British and French troops. Incredibly, many of the Germans, who had worked in England before the war, were able to speak good enough English to propose a "Christmas" truce. A spontaneous truce resulted. Soldiers left their trenches, meeting in the middle in fortified trenches to shake hands. The first order of business was to bury the dead who had been previously unreachable because of the conflict....

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WW2 – Battle Of the Aleutian Islands

WW2 – Battle Of the Aleutian Islands

In June 1942, six months after the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor that drew the U.S. into World War II, the Japanese targeted the Aleutians, an American-owned chain of remote, sparsely inhabited, volcanic islands extending some 1,200 miles west of the Alaskan Peninsula. After reaching the Aleutians, the Japanese conducted airstrikes on Dutch Harbor, the site of two American military bases, on June 3 and June 4. The Japanese then made landfall at Kiska Island on June 6 and Attu Island, approximately 200 miles away, on June 7. Japanese troops quickly established military bases on both islands, which had belonged to the U.S. since it purchased Alaska from Russia in 1867. The Aleutians to Have Little Military or Strategic Value Like the other volcanic islands in the Aleutians, Attu and Kiska appeared to have little military or strategic value because of their barren, mountainous terrain and harsh weather, infamous for its sudden dense fogs, high winds, rains, and frequent snow. Some...

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The Fall of Tenochtitlan

The Fall of Tenochtitlan

Tenochtitlan was an amazing city and larger than any in Europe at the time and held approximately 200,000 people with some estimates as high as 350,000. Built over 100 years or so on Lake Texcoco, the city was impressively organized. Being built on the lake meant that land platforms were created as needed in an orderly fashion leaving clean canal streets for canoe traffic and multiple bridges and paths for pedestrians. Each neighborhood was distinct and had its required services from schools to garbage collectors. The city also had fabulous amenities befitting a great city. Huge gardens were popular and the city zoo and aquariums held wildlife from all over Mesoamerica. Fresh spring water flowed through several aqueducts along the three long causeways that connected the city to the north, west and south shores. Among the beauty of Tenochtitlan was a great amount of war and death. The large central temple complex usually held daily sacrifices and many of the different gods required...

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Civil War – The Battle of Nashville

Civil War – The Battle of Nashville

On Dec. 15, 1864, Confederate Gen. John Bell Hood had the unfortunate job of going up against the Union's only undefeated general officer, Maj. Gen. George H. Thomas. Thomas, nicknamed "The Rock of Chickamauga" for preventing a disaster for the Union in 1863, would keep that record throughout the Civil War. After the two-day Battle of Nashville, his nickname would become "The Sledge of Nashville," after he effectively destroyed the Confederate Army of Tennessee. Sherman's Famous March to the Sea Aft Hood failed to prevent Gen. William T. Sherman's forces from destroying Atlanta; he sought to disrupt Sherman's supply lines by moving north to Chattanooga. Sherman instead conducted his now-famous March to the Sea, instead leaving Gen. Thomas to secure Tennessee. Hood would have been better off against Sherman.  In moving north, he chased Maj. Gen. John M. Schofield's army to Nashville, where the Union forces retreated into the fortified city, which had been in Union hands since...

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