Battlefield Chronicles

The First Indochina War – The Battle of Dien Bien Phu

The First Indochina War – The Battle of Dien Bien Phu

"The Battle of Dien Bien Phu, fought from March 13 to May 7, 1954, was a decisive Vietnamese military victory that brought an end to French colonial rule in Vietnam." The causes of the Vietnam War trace their roots back to the end of World War II. A French colony, Indochina (Vietnam, Laos, & Cambodia) had been occupied by the Japanese during the war. In 1941, a Vietnamese nationalist movement, the Viet Minh, was formed by Ho Chi Minh to resist the occupiers. A communist, Ho Chi Minh, waged a guerilla war against the Japanese with the support of the United States. The Battle of Dien Bien Phu that settled the fate of French Indochina was initiated in November 1953. Ho Chi Minh Proclaimed the Independent Democratic Republic of Vietnam On September 2, 1945, hours after the Japanese signed their unconditional surrender in World War II, Ho Chi Minh proclaimed the independent Democratic Republic of Vietnam, hoping to prevent the French from reclaiming their former colonial possession....

read more
WW2 – The Malmedy Massacre

WW2 – The Malmedy Massacre

In the last German offensive of World War II, three German Armies conducted a surprise attack along a 50 mile front in the mountainous and remote Ardennes Forest beginning on December 16, 1944, and quickly overtook thin U.S. lines during what became known as the Battle of the Bulge, the deadliest battle in the European campaign. On December 17, men from Battery B of the 285th Field Artillery Observation Battalion were ordered to move from Schevenhutte, near Aachen, to St Vith in the Ardennes. Their route took them near to the town of Malmedy. On their journey, on the N-23 St Vith road that passed to the east of Malmedy, Battery B met up with Lt. Colonel David Pergrin of the 291st Engineer Combat Battalion. Pergrin had heard that the Germans were along the route which the men from Battery B were taking. He advised them to take a different route to St Vith. However, the officers in charge of the battery decided that they had their orders and, ignoring Pergrin's advice, continued along...

read more
Cold War – The Berlin Airlift (1948)

Cold War – The Berlin Airlift (1948)

After World War II, the Allies partitioned Germany into a Soviet-occupied zone, an American-occupied zone, a British-occupied zone, and a French-occupied zone. Berlin, the German capital city, was located deep in the Soviet zone, but it was also divided into four sections. In June 1948, the Russians–who wanted Berlin all for themselves–closed all highways, railroads, and canals from western-occupied Germany into western-occupied Berlin. This, they believed, would make it impossible for the people who lived there to get food or any other supplies and would eventually drive Britain, France, and the U.S. out of the city for good. Instead of retreating from West Berlin, however, the U.S. and its allies decided to supply their sectors of the city from the air. This effort, known as the "Berlin Airlift," lasted for more than a year and carried more than 2.3 million tons of cargo into West Berlin. The Berlin Airlift: The Partitioning of Berlin As World War II came to an end in 1945, the...

read more
WW2 – The Wereth 11 – Murder in the Ardennes

WW2 – The Wereth 11 – Murder in the Ardennes

In the early hours of December 16, 1944, Adolf Hitler's army launched a massive surprise attack on Allied lines across the frozen, forested landscape of Belgium. Caught off-guard, the Americans fell back into defensive positions. For a few desperate days before Christmas, the outcome of the war in Europe hung in the balance.   Desperate battles to stem the German advance were fought at St.-Vith, Elsenborn Ridge, Houffalize, and Bastogne. As the Germans drove deeper into the Ardennes in an attempt to secure vital bridgeheads, the Allied line took on the appearance of a large bulge, giving rise to the battle's name: Battle of the Bulge. The brutality rivaled that of the Eastern Front; no quarter was given. Incidents like the Malmedy Massacre became well-known. On the afternoon of December 17, 1944, over 80 GIs who had been taken prisoner were gunned down by men of the 1st SS Panzer Division. Some escaped to spread the story, which led to a steely resolve on the part of American...

read more
Vietnam War – The Battle of Ia Drang, LZ X-Ray

Vietnam War – The Battle of Ia Drang, LZ X-Ray

American involvement in Vietnam can stretch back as far as the end of World War II, depending on how you define "involvement," but one thing is for sure; when the U.S. committed its combat troops to defend South Vietnam, things got hot almost immediately. The most stunning example of the ferocity of Vietnam battlegrounds is the 1965 Battle of Ia Drang, the first time the U.S. Army fought a major battle against the People's Army of Vietnam (PAVN), North Vietnam's regular forces.  There are actually several notable firsts that occurred in the Battle of Ia Drang. It was the first time the U.S. employed a large-scale helicopter air assault and the first time B-52 Stratofortress bombers were used as tactical support. Both of these historic firsts would have a huge effect on the battle.  The Beginning of Airmobile Assault on November 14 PAVN and Viet Cong guerilla forces controlled much of the South Vietnamese countryside by the end of 1964. Their main military forces...

read more
WW2 – D-Day – The Longest Day

WW2 – D-Day – The Longest Day

It was a cloudy, breezy morning on Tuesday, June 6, 1944 as the largest seaborne invasion in history began when British, Canadian and American troops set off across the unpredictable, dangerous English Channel from Portsmouth, England. Their destination: the beaches at Normandy, France. As the 5000-ship convoy carrying over 150,000 men and nearly 30,000 vehicles made its way across the choppy channel, thousands of paratroopers and glider troops were already on the ground behind enemy lines, securing bridges and exit roads. More than 300 planes dropped 13,000 bombs over coastal Normandy immediately in advance of the invasion. Naval guns fired volley after volley on and behind the beaches. Allied infantry and armored divisions began landing on the coast of France starting at 06:30. They landed under heavy, deadly fire from gun emplacements overlooking the beaches, and the shore was mined and covered with wooden stakes, metal tripods, and barbed wire, making the work of the beach...

read more
Gulf War – The Lightning in Desert Storm (1991)

Gulf War – The Lightning in Desert Storm (1991)

The Screaming Eagles of the 101st Airborne were among the first soldiers deployed to Saudi Arabia following Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in August of 1990. Before Operation Desert Storm Roughly six months later, the storied division would launch an unprecedented airborne assault taking them over 150 miles (241 kilometers) behind enemy lines and within 100 miles (161 kilometers) of the Iraqi capital, Baghdad. In 1990, a coalition of forces from around the world, headed by the United States, gathered in Saudi Arabia. The task was to remove the Iraqi Army from Kuwait and protect against an expansion of Saddam Hussein's aggressiveness. Within 12 hours of the invasion of its southern neighbor, Kuwait, the Iraqi army was without any significant opposition. The world's 4th largest army at the time now had solid control of Middle East oil production and was moving troops to the border with Saudi Arabia. The coalition of forces sought a peaceful solution to the conflict and insisted that the...

read more
Civil War – The Battle of Atlanta

Civil War – The Battle of Atlanta

In the summer of 1864, the Confederate States of America was reeling from a series of defeats that would ultimately lead to its demise. Despite the Union victory at Gettysburg in 1863 that turned the Army of Northern Virginia back and the capture of Vicksburg that gave the Union control of the Mississippi River, the outcome of the Civil War was anything but assured.  After leading the Union Army at the Siege of Vicksburg and his subsequent win at Chattanooga, Ulysses S. Grant was promoted to Lieutenant General and given overall command of the Union Armies. With the Confederacy now split in two, Grant took over command of the Army of the Potomac while command of the Western Theater fell to Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman.  In the spring of 1864, Grant decided to launch simultaneous offensives all along the Confederate lines in an effort to exhaust the Confederacy's resources and its ability to prolong the war. For Sherman, this meant engaging Confederate Gen. Joseph E....

read more
Operation Ivory Coast – The Son Tay Raid

Operation Ivory Coast – The Son Tay Raid

It has been called the most daring raid of the Vietnam War; Operation Ivory Coast was an effort to rescue prisoners of war who had been held by North Vietnam for years. It did not rescue any of the prisoners, but it did change the way U.S. Special Operations planned and executed its missions.  By 1970, the United States not only knew that hundreds of American POWs were being held by the communist North Vietnamese, but they also knew those prisoners were being subjected to torture and mistreatment - and many had been suffering for years on end.  Special operations planners knew the location of where at least 61 of them were being held, a camp near the North Vietnamese capital of Hanoi known as Son Tay. The United States designed a plan to rescue them right out from under the communists' noses.  The mission would not be an easy one. At least six of the prisoners were believed to be near death, and the Son Tay prison was in an area where intelligence planners believed...

read more
The Revolutionary War – The Penobscot Expedition

The Revolutionary War – The Penobscot Expedition

The U.S. Navy has had its wins and losses since its birthday on Oct. 13, 1775. Its victories are too numerous to count. While its losses are few and far between, two devastating losses stand out among all the others.  Its most memorable significant loss is, of course, a day that continues to live in infamy. The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor devastated the Navy's Pacific Fleet but did not cripple it. The Navy's first-ever significant is on par with Pearl Harbor but is often forgotten: The ill-fated Penobscot Expedition.  The Ill-fated Penobscot Expedition In 1779, the Revolutionary War was in full swing. An American victory over British forces at Saratoga in 1777 brought recognition of the 13 American colonies from European powers like France and Spain. France allied itself with the new country, and the British Empire was forced to alter its strategy for dealing with the rebels.  A British force under Gen. Francis McLean captured a large portion of Maine, then part of...

read more
War in Afghanistan – The Fall Of Kandahar

War in Afghanistan – The Fall Of Kandahar

After the fall of Mazar-i-Sharif, Kabul, and Herat, Kandahar was the last major city under Taliban control. Kandahar was where the Taliban movement had originated and where its power base was located, so it was assumed that capturing Kandahar would be difficult. The city fell after several weeks of fighting to a force of local militia under Pashtun military commanders and their American advisers.  First Wave Of Aerial Attacks Against The Taliban In preparation for the attack of Kandahar, the first wave of aerial attacks against the Taliban was launched on October 7, 2001, at 6:30 pm local time. A group of United States Air Force (USAF) bombers consisting of five B-1s and ten B-52s took off from Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean. They were complemented by twenty-five United States Navy (USN) F-14s and F/A-18s strike aircraft from the aircraft carriers USS Carl Vinson and USS Enterprise in the North Arabian Sea. The Royal Air Force (RAF) and USAF provided L-1011s, KC-135, and KC-10s to...

read more
The Men Who Fought in the Battle of Belleau Wood

The Men Who Fought in the Battle of Belleau Wood

In June of 1918, a fierce battle was waged at Belleau Wood, an ancient hunting-reserve of old-growth oaks, surrounded by wheat fields, located about 60 miles outside of Paris. The Germans were launching their spring offensive to overwhelm the Allies before they were fortified by fresh American troops. The Americans were arriving at a rate of about 250,000 per month. The Battle of Belleau Wood has since achieved near-mythic status in U.S. military history, particularly for the U.S. Marines. Founded in 1775 during the American Revolution, the U.S. Marines Corps had a reputation for discipline, excellent marksmanship, and, as the Germans would find out at Belleau Woods, tenacity. During the Great War, they were also very young. A The New York Times article from July 1918 cites a report stating that "nearly one-third of the recruits obtained by the Marine Corps since the United States entered the war were under twenty-one years of age." The article goes on to quote Secretary of the Navy...

read more